I've read over what I have few times, and I've decided to rewrite everything. I've improved in some aspects and since I'm not terribly far ahead I've decided to do this now rather than later. Some of the events will be the same, I'll also elaborate on some events other events. So please continue to read! This first chapter does have quite a few changes in it. By doing this it'll also help me move the story along, so please bare with me.
Being jerked awake and dragged out of my bed I look at my mother full of worry. "Mom where are we going, do they need us?" I ask worried I slept through a call for me to clean up. Shaking her head at me she pulls me to follow and presses a finger to her lips. Nodding my head simply I look around the luxurious home of the Noble's we serve, feelings of hate bubbles up in my chest. Being marked for life, being forced to work for these monsters and comply with whatever their whims are or face torture and sometimes even death for refusing. Each and every one of them, are monsters, dressed as humans. I carry this silent hate inside of me. Running silently through the slave passages in the house we emerge in the backyard where my father is waiting.
"Mom what's going on?" I whisper looking around nervously. "We'll get in trouble." I mumble gripping my apron tightly. My father ignores this, sticking a key into my collar, turning it carefully I hear a click, the sound of it unlocking, pulling the hunk of metal off, he smiles at me affectionately.
"We're escaping." My dad says simply. "One foot in front of the other, and don't look back." He says grabbing my other hand to lead my mother and I in the darkness, moving along the edges of the of the trees and in the shadows we run as quietly as possible, as we end up in the backstreets we're joined by others, silently making out way through the city, I've heard nothing of this plan, but I suppose this is better than rotting away and being worked to the bone as though we're nothing more than trash.
My parents lead us to a ship which we board with everyone else and silently descend to the Grand Line.
I wake up from the nightmare drenched in sweat, my clothes are sticking to me in the early lights of the sun, I try calming my heart; it's still racing from the nightmare. I try and fail to block out the memories, the memories of what followed that night.
I push my bangs out of my face, they're sticky with sweat. Climbing out of bed I stumble my way to the bathroom. Gripping the edges of the cold porcelain sink, my elbows lock as I focus my eyes on the drain. The memories come flooding back.
I'm not sure how so many of us were able to escape, I'm not sure who thought of the plan, or got the keys, all I know is we were lucky to get away from Mariejois like we did. Though once we got down to the ocean is another matter. We'd gotten a fair distance before Navy Battle ships started to come after us, they open fire on the seven ships, each ship carrying hundreds of slaves. Four ships sank that night, the salves were either recaptured or killed, the remaining three ships were chased; the ship my parents and I were on was sinking. We managed to dock though and hide.
My parents didn't make it very far, both dying trying to help others get off, including myself. I stayed hidden on that island for days with a group, all of us frighten, fear keeping us hidden, none of us wanted to return, none of us wanted to die. It had taken me three weeks until I'd managed to get to my mother's brother. I told him what happened, told him his wife had died before we ever escaped.
Shakily I push off the sink, I turn to the bath. Stripping my clothes off I glance back at the mirror and grimace. Taking a shower I try to block out all the other memories, nothing works though.
I remember the day my parents and I had been kidnapped by slave traders, my father for his strength, my mother for her beauty, and me for my potential. We'd been taken to an auction house on Sabaody Archipelago. There we were shown as a set; bids were set on us by several noble families, all wanting to add us to their collections. After we'd processed, papers signed and money exchanged they took us to Mariejois.
My hand reaches behind my back absently as the water falls on my from the drain, the mark on my back feels just as it had when they'd seared it onto me. The pain then feels insignificant to everything that has happened since.
Stepping out of the shower I wrap a towel around myself, then quickly drying off, letting my long pink hair drape over my shoulder. I turn around and look in the mirror as I lower the towel wrapped around my body. As I stare over my shoulder I glare into the mirror, the mark that had been burned into my back, it feels like it's on fire every time I look at, and yet I'm unable to break the habit. The symbol on my back is blatantly obvious, it's sealed me away from achieving any true freedom, away from the life I thought I would always have.
I toss my long hair over my back to cover the top of the mark, quickly getting dressed for work. I've been on this island with my uncle for three weeks now, holding down this job as a waitress for most of the time we've been here. My uncle and I have been on the run for two years now; we've been fleeing the Marines that are still looking for those who'd escaped that night, for all those salves.
I make my way quickly through the village, heading towards the center of the little town. I glance around at the quiet and peaceful island; it's a beautiful summer island on the Grand Line, on Paradise. Quickly entering the small pub I head to behind the counter, pulling an apron off of a hook on the wall I set off to work.
"Azami, you're early," The owner calls seeing me wipe tables down. "Always working hard." He quips placing a plate in front of one of the regulars.
I send a smile to Hodges, the owner, and continue cleaning and setting up tables. Uncle thinks we can stay for a couple more weeks before we need to leave, drift around until we can find someplace safe for us to hide.
It's been the regular day on this little island, the regular customers that come in, the few that Hodges serves because they're a bit too lecherous. Everything had been as it usually has been for the three weeks I've worked here, Uncle comes in for lunch, but that was the end of what had been expected. A man comes in, a slight limp to his step, though it isn't because of his legs; he has a huge gash on his side, and strapped to his hip are three swords. Sitting down at a booth I walk over to get his order.
"Sake," He grumbles out, he doesn't really seem to realize how serious his wound is. I study him a moment before I head off to grab him a pint of alcohol. As I return to his table with the glass and bottle and setting it in front of him I glance to my uncle worriedly.
I walk over to him frowning, Hodges is chatting with Uncle when he notices me walking over. "We should get him in the back and stitched up." He mutters glancing at the man. "Azami, Finn, help me get him back there."
Uncle Finn nods for me to follow behind him to the man, as we reach him he passes out. "Loss of blood," Uncle says reaching to pull him up, pulling one arm around my shoulder I help to walk him to the back room.
Once there I help get the stranger onto a table Hodges set up. "Azami, man the bar." He commands over his shoulder. Uncle helps to clean the cut as I walk back towards the front room. Grabbing a rag I clean up the blood that had pooled in the booth.
It isn't until my shift ends that my uncle and Hodges reappear from the back room. "Help me get him home Azami." Finn says with a frown on his face. "Hodges we'll take it from here." Uncle says waving for me to come help.
Quickly getting the strange man into our small home and set up in the guest room. "I'll go start dinner; do you think you can watch him?" Uncle asks getting up from his chair.
I nod my head staring at said man intently, he seems eerily familiar. "We're out of fish." I remind uncle absently.
"I'll go to the market then, if not I'll buy something from the pub for dinner." He calls over his shoulder as he leaves the room. "Azami, make sure his bandages stay on, he kept trying to take them off back at the bar."
I nod my head as I grab the cloth out of the bowl by the bed, wiping the sweat off his face and blood I sit back curiously. His green hair short, the three piercings on one ear, the three swords, all of it seems like I should know who this guy is.
As I dab his face again I notice his sharp gaze watching me. "Who are you?" He asks in the same voice he had when I'd served him. "Where am I?" He continues, his right arm holding my wrist still.
"Azami, you're at my Uncles and my home." I answer tugging my wrist. As he lets go I continue to explain to him. "Back at the pub my Finn, my uncle, and Hodges patched you up." I say motioning to his side.
As I say this his other hand tries to take the bandages off. Slapping his hand hard I glare at him. "Woman, what do you think you're doing?" He asks irritated obviously from me preventing him from taking the bandages off. "They make it hard to move." He answers.
"They're supposed to." I say slapping his hands again as he tries to take them off. "Leave them alone." I say as I grab the cloth again to drab his face.
"Where is the old man?" He questions irritably as I continue to prevent him from taking the bandages off. "Your uncle," He clarifies after a moment.
"Probably at the pub buying dinner, the market most likely closed before he could get there." I answer calmly, finally satisfied with him stopping his annoying behavior.
Just as I'm about to question this presumed swordsman about his identity, I hear the front door slam open, rushing up I look out the doorway to see my uncle clutching his leg awkwardly and stumbling along the edge of the wall. The smell of blood coming off him, as I rush over to him I see the huge cut on his leg, blood pouring out. "You need to leave Azami, they're here." My uncle says as I help him to sit down.
"What?" I ask alarmed, my heart begins to race at the thought. "Marines are here?" I ask feeling my eyes widen in shock, I look behind me as I hear a grunt; the swordsman has his swords back on his hip and walking towards us.
"Azami, pack your bags, quickly." Uncle Finn says breathing heavily. "Go." He urges when I stay by his side.
Running down the hall I stuff my necessities into a bag, and hurry back out into the living room to see my Uncle talking with said man. "Take care of her." He says seriously, said stranger nods his head before turning to look at me. "Azami, you'll have to go on without me." Finn says patting for me to take my seat back.
"I can't," I whisper feeling fear creeping up on me. "You're the only family I have left." I mumble feeling tears spring to my eyes.
"I'll get you caught, the cut is too deep." He says regretfully. "You need to go, now. I'll hold them off." He says pushing me up.
The green-haired man grips my arm and tugs me away from my uncle. "We need to go now." He says running out the back of the house, I feel my legs carrying me, everything in me is screaming to go back to help my uncle. "He'll die from a wound like that; he's only helping you get away." The man says harshly.
The entire island is being ransacked; the Navy is shooting mortars at us, homes, and anyone it seems. While we're running towards the dock we get cornered by a group of Marines. "Stand back." The man holding my arm says finally releasing me.
I watch as he draws his swords, as he does this, he seems to transform, not physically, but like the air around him, how he holds himself. Attacking the Marines fiercely and without hesitation, this man wipes out the entire squad in seconds.
Sheathing his swords he turns to me, and it dons on me who he is, Roronoa Zoro. Holding his hand out to me Zoro stares at me to take it, still giving off a demonic like air; I turn to my left to see Marines closing in on us, and then back to Zoro. It's this swordsman or going back to Mariejois; two different demons. Taking a deep breath I grab Zoro's hand and run behind him towards the docks, making my choice, trusting what my uncle has set up for me.
With Marines chasing us he quickly leads us towards what I'm assuming is the Straw Hat's ship. "OI, marimo hurry up!" A blonde man yells, 'marimo' grunts in reply, stopping he picks me up in his arms and begins running, jumping over the railing of the ship. Setting me down he glares at the man. As they begin to argue I nervously stand there as the other crewmates, presumably, stare at me.
"Zoro, who is this?" An orange-haired girl asks looking at me wearily with the rest of the crew sending me similar looks.
"I'm protecting her; she and her uncle patched me up after I passed out." He says simply, much to the horror of the crew. "The man asked me to protect his niece in his place." This is also said indifferently.
"What were you doing running around with that wound in the first place?!" A small reindeer yells angrily at the swords man. "I told you to rest!"
The girl shifts her attention back to me. "It'd be best if you sat in the galley while we sail away." She says calmly. "Sanji hard to port!" the orange-haired girl commands, the blonde man, Sanji I would assume, leads me to the galley and helm of their ship. Taking a seat I listen to the girl shout orders from outside with Sanji busy steering.
My thoughts drift away from where I am and whose ship I am on, they turn to my uncle, he's sacrificed himself. Shaking my head slightly I decide to focus on the present. I'm on the ship of a pirate crew that's quickly becoming infamous; they've taken down several big shots in the East Blue, before they made their way here to the Grand Line. Here took down a Shichibukai, and obviously have lived to tell the tale.
"We need to get out of here!" I hear the girl from before yell; standing up shakily I pass by Sanji and outside, glancing over the edge of the ship I see two battle ships sailing after us. Holding my hand over the railing I release mist, a thick cover blocking the Marines' sight.
Walking back to the kitchen I close my eyes waiting for it to be over, waiting for everything to calm down again. I'm surprised when I hear the sound of something being set down in front of me, as I open my eyes I see a tea cup placed in front of me. "Thank you." I murmur accepting the drink. Things have calmed down considerably, I note feeling my nerves die down.
Before Sanji can respond Zoro sits next to me and smacks his hand away. "Hands off Ero-Cook, I'm protecting her, and that means from perverts like you too." Zoro says in a deep and slightly taunting voice, this enrages said man.
Hesitantly I watch as the two fights, each calling each other silly and insulting names. "I'm Nami, the ship's navigator." The girl from before says smiling at me friendly, the others are introduced as well; I manage a smile at them.
"I'm Azami," I say quietly, feeling the nerves from earlier return, I again doubt my uncle's idea of me staying with Zoro.
Luffy watches me from across the table curiously. "What's your story?" He asks while tilting his head from side to side.
I look down at the cup in front of me, edging my fingers around the sides of the cup I let out a long sigh. "I'm running away from the World Government." I say finally, looking up I frown even more as I attempt to find something to add on, but my words fail me.
This grabs the interest of the crew, understandably. It isn't just anyone who is running away from them, trying to escape like I am. Sanji prompts the usual question. "Why would the government want a young lady such as you?"
I open and close my mouth before I'm able to form an answer. "Certain people do not take kindly to those who run away." I answer, giving the answer my uncle probably told Zoro. "My parents and I ran away a couple years ago, they didn't make it." I answer shortly.
Their captain stares at me; nervously I look down and away from his gaze. "You're a bit weak, aren't you?" He asks bluntly, Sanji puts up some protest but I nod my head. No point in trying to refute the statement. I freeze up in front of the Navy; I'm unable to use my abilities when confronted like that. As most of the crew filters out I'm left alone with Robin and Chopper, who is steering the ship.
"You're what caused the mist, am I right?" Robin asks smiling at me, a knowing look in her eyes. When I nod my head hesitantly she sends me a reassuring look. "Not quite so weak as most would assume." She answers. "Why don't you wash up and get a bit of rest before dinner gets started?" She asks standing up from her seat. "I'll show you."
Getting up I follow Robin out of the kitchen and down the steps towards the lower deck as Sanji calls out, "I'll start dinner, Luffy get out. I'm not having you eat all the food before it's even cooked." He scolds the captain, and from the sounds of it, kicking him out of the kitchen.
"Azami-san, this is the bathroom and the way to the girls' room is just over there." She says pointing to a door down the hall. "There is warm water, but I'd be quick." She says gently.
Quickly following her directions I start taking a shower, washing off the bit of blood, probably Zoro's, and the grime off from running around. I try not to think about how this morning I'd been with my uncle and how I am no longer with him. As I dry off, I look at my back, the damned mark mocking me. Glaring at it, the simple 'Hoof of The Soaring Dragon', everything in me wishes it was gone, that I could just simply wash it off.
"Azami-san dinner is ready." Robin calls from the other side of the door, quickly pulling a set of clothes out of my bag I put them on, and I dry my hair out quickly before stepping out and following the dark-haired woman back to the kitchen.
Quietly taking my seat I stare at the table I look down at the food prepared for me and smile at Sanji. "Thank you," I tell him before taking my first bite. "This is the best food I've had in my entire life." I compliment him happily eating.
He proceeds to swoon over Nami, Robin and I about how wonderful it is to cook for such beauties. Getting up, as though second nature I gather the plates up and place them in the sink, cleaning each one carefully. Some habits are difficult to break; certain behaviors were quite literally beaten into me.
"Azami-chan, there's no need for you to do that!" Sanji calls running to my side to help. "You're a guest."
Shaking my head I smile at him. "It's a bit of a habit." I confess lightly. "I don't mind, you cooked after all." I tell him washing another plate as Sanji rinses them. He doesn't say anything more, so I remain silent and continue to clean, as I wash the last plate I begin drying the stacked plates carefully, with Sanji protesting again, to me again saying it's nothing. "I really don't mind Sanji-san."
Eventually with the last plate being put up he smiles at me, "Oi, strawberry" Zoro calls, turning around I rush to his side, staring at me weirdly he nods for me to head to follow Nami and Robin.
In the girls' room I sleep on the ground, a makeshift bed next to Nami's. Robin is reading a book by a candle, for a few moments I watch her, but with everything that had happen, I quickly fall asleep.