Story 01

Miss Orange Hood [Part 1]

Within this era, there are no other position as worthy as a swordsman, who is the very symbol of justice and protection. Admired by everyone, aspired by kids who dream to become as strong as them but…. In one particular village, there arrived one exceptional swordsman…

"RORONOA ZORO," the owner of the town's popular bar shouted, yet again at the casual green-haired swordsman. "Seriously, this is not a charity shop. You must definitely pay this time. Are you listening?"

The swordsman, called Roronoa Zoro finished his beer, "I'm listening. Give me another one."

The owner flushed red from anger and started to bang on the table with his fists, "you call yourself a swordsman? You're supposed to be an honourable swordsman but you can't even pay for your meals."

Zoro blinked at the owner in confusion, "being a swordsman and paying for your own meals are two completely different things."

The owner had his mouth wide-opened now, not knowing how to continue. This swordsman is clearly an idiot, the owner told himself. "A-anyhow, it's a crime not to pay and… you're probably the first swordsman to ever commit a crime in this era."

Zoro let out a smug laugh, "who says a swordsman can't commit any crimes? But, don't worry, I plan to pay off my tab."

"HOW?" the owner demanded.

Zoro slammed a pile of wanted posters onto the table, with a big smile on his face, "I'll collect the bounty on these guys head. They'll be enough to pay you."

The bar owner grunted, shaking his head and sighing heavily as he studied the wanted posters, they were all rather well-known bandits of this village. "I…I suppose, that was how you paid me the first time but…"

"Hey, owner," one of the eavesdropping drinkers interrupted, "you honestly believe this swordsman can pay you like that?"

"Well, he did it once, when he first arrived here a few days ago," the bar owner said with doubt. He shot Zoro a speculating glance.

"Ah, so you don't know," the other customer said as he chewed on his meat. "Most of the guys in those posters are either dead or probably have fled into the neighbouring village."

"Really?" Zoro questioned, "I was certain they would still be here. It's only been a few days and the one I caught the other day wasn't worth much. That shouldn't have scared them off so easily."

"Nah," the man said, "it's not you. It's the legend that got them."

The wanted posters fluttered to the floor as the owner slapped his own face with his hands. "I FORGOT…how I could forget about such an important thing. That's right, Zoro-san, I bet most of these men have already fallen prey to the legend. Which means…." The owner outstretched his hands towards Zoro, "you gotta pay me now or I don't believe you can pay me."

There was no response from Zoro as he was looking at the two customers behind him, who interrupted their conversation. The bar owner held his pose, waiting patiently, all whilst his face slowly turned a madden red.

"Hey, what do you mean by legend?" Zoro asked.

"Well, rather than legend, more like a tale," the man began, "but you see the forest that lies between our village and the next; legend has it, that there is a treasure in there. It's no ordinary treasure either, it can apparently grant one's wish."

"Ah, grant wishes it can," the other man still chewing his meat continued, "I hear there's not just one treasure, but quite a lot of it too. From what the legend states, there should be golden balls. If you get your hands on one, you'll most certainly get rich."

"A lot of people have gone into that forest searching for those golden balls," the other man took over, "and those bandits you plan to hunt, they headed straight for that forest yesterday."

"Then I'll just have to go after them," Zoro began.

"NO YOU MUST NOT," both the men said in unison.

The man with the meat stopped eating and looked at Zoro with a grave expression upon his face. "There is a ferocious wolf living in that forest. It kills anything and anyone entering it. No one has ever survived going into that forest."

Zoro started to laugh which puzzled both men and the bar owner who still had his hands outstretched towards Zoro for payment.

"I thought it was going to be something scarier, but it's just a wolf," Zoro smirked, "hey owner, I'll pay you extra with the wolf's head. Besides, that wolf sounds like a strong opponent."

"Zoro-san," the bar owner sighed, "you will most certainly be haunted by her."

Zoro stared at the owner blankly.

"Miss Orange Hood," the two men said in unison again.

"She's the ghost of the first victim of the wolf," the owner said, keeping his voice low, as though he was scared to be haunted himself by the mere mention of her. "They say her spirit haunts the forest and guards the treasure. In her blind grudge towards her early death, she haunts anyone who sees her in the forest. She will lead that person to the wolf and have them killed, to make her feel better that there are people who share the same fate as her." The owner paused and waited for Zoro to look scared or jump and scream from learning of the existence of a ghost. He blinked, seeing Zoro smile.

"So, if I see her, she will lead me to the wolf?" Zoro repeated.

"Well, that is how the legend goes," the owner said, "Aren't you scared?"

"Where can I find her?" Zoro asked.

"In the forest," the owner answered.

"What does she look like?"

"I don't know. She's a ghost, but she wears an orange hood. She's called Miss Orange Hood you know."

"Thank you," Zoro shouted as he got off his seat and made a dash out the bar, towards the forest.

"Is he heading to the forest?" the man asked.

"Probably," the other man said taking another bite of meat.

"He's going to be haunted and killed," the owner said staring at the empty space where Zoro was in just minutes ago. "AHH, he hasn't paid me yet…come back…ZORO-SAN…."

The sun had already set, but Zoro had just reached his destination. Wiping the sweat off his forehead, he began to enter deeper into the rumoured forest. "Why is it night-time already?" he groaned, "Damn those villagers for telling me the wrong direction. They said the forest was straight ahead but it was actually to the east. Can't they tell the difference, those idiots?"

Occasionally almost tripping and slipping on mud, Zoro continued to stumble through the vast array of greenery, which were all now a dark, murky-brown colour meshed together in the dark. No matter which way he looked, everything appeared the same to him. Despite the very narrow pathway that marked out the road from one village to the other, it wasn't long before Zoro had completely strayed away, now venturing deeper into the unknown parts of the forest. There was a small growling noise and Zoro stopped in his tracks, staring down at his own stomach. He frowned, unable to ignore his hunger. "That lucky wolf, he needs to thank my stomach for sparing him another night…but…where am I?" Zoro squinted his eyes and stared around him. It was so dark, the only things he could vaguely make out were the few trees around him. He considered his options and finally decided to head back to the village. "That's weird, I was sure the village would show up soon," Zoro muttered, continuing what seemed like an endless walk in the dark forest. He only stopped momentarily to confirm what he was seeing. "There's light over there," Zoro said with relief, making a run towards the light. It wasn't long before he arrived at a cottage surrounded by bushes. He knocked on the door and it creaked open, making him take a step back. He waited, but there was no answer, so out of courtesy, he knocked again, though the obvious scent of food was already enticing him to enter and the growl in his stomach only got louder. "I'm coming in," Zoro said stepping into the cottage. He stared at the food set out on the table and gulped, holding back his drools. "I'll be borrowing the food then…" It was silent so Zoro simply sat down and began eating.

A little distance from the cottage, a small pack of wolves started to gather and when a sweet humming voice signalled, the wolves would move closer to the cottage. Appearing from the shadows of the trees, a young girl walked amongst the wolves.

"Be good," her sweet voice whispered, as she and the wolves approached the cottage, to which she froze instantly and peered into the window, shocked to see a man inside her home. "A swordsman," she whispered, noting the three katana on the table. "Nope, he's just a thief." She clenched a fist, "How dare he eat my food?" Anxious and mad at the same time, the girl picked up the broomstick outside the house and inhaling deeply, she charged into the cottage. "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU SHAMELESS THEIF," she shouted, swinging the broomstick at the startled swordsman. But his reaction was quick; with one mere flick of his katana, the broomstick broke in half. The girl simply stared at the tip of the blade that was now pointed at her face. A few inches, she thought, if that thing touched my face…this guy would be dead….

"Oh," Zoro said taking a good look at the girl who just attacked him. He quickly put away his katana. "Sorry about that. You're the owner of…. MOVE AWAY…." Zoro shouted, pushing the girl to the side as wolves suddenly leaped towards them. Swiftly, he drew all three of his katana, and with a single strike, hit all three wolves in the stomach, sending them smashing to the floor. He ignored the girl's scream and smiled, seeing there were more prey outside. He raised his katana, ready to attack again.

"STOP," the girl shouted, catching Zoro's attention.

He turned around to look at her, only to meet with a surprise heavy blow to his head, knocking him unconscious. The girl watched as he collapsed to the floor, a bump forming on his forehead, where she had struck him with a pot.

"Serves you right," the girl said as she proceeded to tie him up with ropes and moved the katanas far from his reach. She checked on the injured wolves and seeing they were still alive, she smiled, stroking their backs gently. "You lot should stay outside and guard the cottage," she said, ordering the wolves to remain outside. Closing the door, she turned her attention at the tied up swordsman. "Wake up," she shouted chucking a bucket of water over him, which instantly woke him.

He shook his head, then stared at the girl. "Err, what happened?" Zoro began but shouted as soon as he realised he was tied to a chair, "HEY WOMAN… what's the meaning of this? Untie me."

"NAMI," the girl shouted over Zoro, "my name is Nami. This is my house."

"I know that already," Zoro said, rubbing his wrists violently against the rope in attempts to loosen it, "untie me."

Nami stood there, arms folded and stared at Zoro as though she was still waiting for something. Zoro stared back hard at her. Damn, this bitch, he thought, now rocking the chair around. If I only had my Katana…where are my katanas? Zoro's eyes widened and he scanned the entire room desperately. He bit his lips as soon as he spotted his katanas by the door, well away from him.

"Untie me now before I seriously get mad," Zoro demanded.

"This is my house," Nami repeated calmly, observing him.

"I said I know that already," Zoro raised his voice, "just untie me and give me back my katanas."

"The floor you were walking on was mine, the chair you sat on was mine. The food you ate was mine," Nami continued, ignoring Zoro, "the broomstick you cut in half was mine. This beautiful face you almost damaged is mine and the wolves you just hurt are also mine." She paused before saying, "there are a lot more; want me to continue."

Zoro had a pained expression on his face now, sensing some sorts of communication error between him and this girl already. "I get the point. Just untie me and give me back my katanas."

"So you get it," Nami said, her gaze never leaving the swordsman, "how am I supposed to untie you when you pose such a huge threat to me and my property."

"I won't attack you, just untie me," Zoro shouted, getting impatient and annoyed.

"Your name," Nami demanded.

"Roronoa Zoro," Zoro answered, "a travelling swordsman."

"Why are you in my house?" Nami continued to ask.

"That's what I want to know as well," Zoro complained, "I was heading back to the village and you're house just suddenly appeared instead. I was hungry and there was food, I asked and you didn't answer so I took it that you agreed for me to eat it."

Nami took one of Zoro's katana and tapped his shoulders lightly with it, "you're lying. You're actually here to steal my treasure aren't you?"

"DON'T TOUCH MY KATANA," Zoro yelled, moving to bite the katana from Nami's hand. He underestimated the power of being tied-up though and instead of getting the katana back, he fell to the floor along with the chair. "DAMN IT," he cursed, trying to move, but found it rather impossible now that his face was pressed flat onto the floor. "Hey, help me back up…no wait, let go of my Katana first," Zoro said, trying to figure out his priorities.

Nami held in her giggle. He looks hilarious right now, Nami thought, it's so funny, I'm not mad anymore… She knelt down, jabbing the Katana into Zoro's cheek and teasingly accused, "you're quite a stubborn liar. The village is in the complete opposite direction to my cottage. How did you end up here if you were going back to the village?"

"I told you to not touch my katana," Zoro growled angrily like a beast, "and stop saying I'm a liar. I was telling the truth."

The katana kept poking into Zoro's cheek as Nami humorously enjoyed herself, watching him get angry and agitated.

"QUIT IT ALREADY," Zoro shouted again, not appreciating the fact that his katana was used to mock him. "How many times do I have to tell you to stop touching my katana, you stupid woman."

"It's Nami," Nami said, whacking Zoro's head with his katana. "Don't call me stupid when you're the more stupid one here. You clearly got lost in the forest and ended up here."

"I didn't get lost…"

"Roronoa Zoro," Nami said, ignoring him again. She put down the katana, finally bored with the teasing and ready for business. "Well, I'll let you go."

"Then hurry up and untie me," Zoro said, relieved that she stopped playing with his katana.

Nami smiled at Zoro now who felt a chill down his spine all of a sudden. "On one condition," she said, her smile getting bigger.

"C-condition…" Zoro gulped, sensing something bad was about to happen to him.

"As long as you compensate me for my loss," Nami continued smiling, her eyes shining quite brightly now, "how about it? You did barge into my house and ate my food without asking. It's only polite for you to pay me some money right?"

Zoro considered for a moment. I can't deny that I did eat her food… Zero nodded slowly, "I suppose, for the food…"

"Then, it'll be 300 000 Beli," Nami stated.

"300 000 Beli," Zoro repeated, gobsmacked and eyes wide. "That's clearly a rip-off. There's no way the food cost that much."

Nami sighed, took out some paper and started writing things down. "Here," she said thrusting the paper before Zoro's eyes, "the list of payments."

Zoro began to read the paper, "entrance fee to the house, 750000, for eating the food that you've spent so much time and effort into making, 750000. For chopping the broom and scaring you, mainly for mental medication reasons another 75000. Finally, for injuring your cute pet wolves and to honour their bravery for protecting you from a stranger, i.e. me, 750000. All add up to 300 000 Beli." Zoro re-read the paper to make sure he wasn't seeing things. He stared at Nami who had a dead serious expression on her face, "I'm not paying for all this."

"You're not," Nami said, her smile disappearing to be replaced with a glare.

Zoro glared back at Nami, "I'll only pay for the damn food. Forget the rest. The prices are illogical anyway and more importantly, who keeps wolves as pets anyway?"

"Whether I have adorable pet wolves has nothing to do with this, don't change the subject," Nami said angrily, "I won't settle unless you pay for everything."

"I'll only pay for the food," Zoro insisted. "There's no way I'm paying for the rest."

Losing her temper, Nami slammed the paper onto the table, lifting Zoro back up, she raised a fist at him. She had a murderous aura about her, "are you going to pay or not?"

"Not paying," Zoro said smugly.

Nami turned away from Zoro for a moment, calming herself down. I'll have to think of another way to increase my payment then…She thought, it's not often an idiot comes by and well, I'm bored anyways. I can possibly really put him to good use.. "Fine," she slowly said, "you promise to pay for the food at least right?"

"Yeah, since I did eat it," Zoro said.

"You absolutely promise," Nami said, looking at Zoro. "You are definitely going to pay me back for my food."

"YES," Zoro almost shouted, already vexed. He simply didn't know how to deal with her.

"Agreed," Nami said joyfully, "I knew you were an understanding person." She untied Zoro's ropes and stood staring at him with a half-satisfied smile on her face. She tilted her head, held out her hand, obviously anticipating to receive her money.

"I'll pay but I don't have money right now," Zoro stated directly.

Nami's face twitched, but the smile remained, "ha-ha, it's not a very funny joke. So my 300 000 Beli please?"

"WAIT," Zoro said, eyeing Nami, "why is it 300 000 Beli? I said I'm not paying for anything else but the food."

"Ah, that's right," Nami nodded, "just for the food its 300 000 Beli. Quite obvious the price has risen since my last demand but I'm only asking you to pay for the food and you promised."

"Don't mess with me," Zoro said irritated, "There's no way that little bit of food was worth this much."

"No good," Nami sighed, "you can't even keep a single promise can you? Taking advantage of my kind heart and breaking your promise, so that's how you are…"

Zoro felt several strong stabs at his pride with each word Nami said. Keeping a promise, was his weak point, but also something a swordsman like him honoured. He literally looked at Nami in horror. This damn girl is unbelievable, Zoro thought, realising that Nami had tactfully used his pride against him. He had no choice now, but to give in and suffer from being in debt.

"I still can't pay you yet," Zoro stated with resentment. To prove that he was broke, Zoro took out his empty wallet and gave it to a shaking Nami, who just gazed blankly inside.

"Even if you stare at it for another decade, it'll still be empty," Zoro pointed out, "I used up all my savings during the journey. I still owe the bar owner for the meals too." Zoro gathered his katanas, "well, I'll pay you the 300 000 Beli as soon as I go slay myself a wolf or catch a few bandits." He let out a long sigh, why the hell am I in so much debt, he thought, I should've just killed a wild animal and ate that instead. He took a step towards the door, "Just wait for me."

Before Zoro could step out the cottage, Nami grabbed hold of his shoulder tightly. "Where are you going?" she asked, her voice low and demanding. She squeezed the empty wallet tightly in her other hand, "you're not planning on running away are you, after owing me so much money right? I'm sure you're an honourable swordsman who would keep your word right?"

"I already said I'll pay…"

"ARGHHH….."

Both Zoro and Nami opened the door and peered out into the night forest.

"That was a scream," Zoro whispered.

Nami grabbed a lantern, put her cloak on and started to run out the cottage, "hurry. It's the wolf."

"The wolf," Zoro repeated, following after Nami. "But you've got a load of wolves already."

"They're my pets, but that wolf," Nami said, "is the wolf in the legends."

"Wolf in the legends," Zoro muttered to himself and almost let out a gasp as he looked more closely at Nami. He was staring at an orange hood and remembered what the bar owner had said earlier. The ghost that leads one to the wolf, Zoro thought, Nami's that ghost…how did I not notice until now, she even has orange hair…wait a minute, which means I was swindled by a ghost. For a moment, Zoro's mind began to develop various complicated knots as he tried to understand how he managed to owe a ghost so much money. He finally ended on a happy idea that since Nami was a ghost, he didn't need to pay her.

"We're here," Nami whispered, slowing down as she approached what she was searching for.

Zoro looked ahead of him on the floor. "Quite unsightly," he commented, looking at the dead body. "So the legends were true after all." He gritted his teeth, recognising that the dead man was one of the bandits on his list.

Nami knelt down beside the corpse and hovered the lantern over it. There were clear claw marks across the dead man's chest, one that implied it was the doing of a wolf.

Zoro began to look around him, clutching his katana tighter, ready to pull it out any second, if the wolf was to reappear at the crime scene. "Aren't you scared?" he asked, forgetting that Nami was a ghost.

"I've seen this enough times to not be scared," Nami said, her hands rummaging around the clothes on the dead body.

"What are you doing?" Zoro asked, unable to concentrate on trying to sense the wolf.

Nami ignored Zoro's question and continued to search the pockets of the corpse. She smiled and pulled out his wallet, "there you are." She weighed the wallet in her hands. "Ah, there's actually a decent amount of money here. Right, we're done here. Let's go back."

"Y-you…" Zoro said staring at Nami in disbelief, "don't tell me…your stealing from a dead person."

Nami put the stolen wallet safely into her pocket and frowned at Zoro. "Do not accuse me of stealing. Haven't you heard the saying of, what you pick up from the ground rightfully belongs to you. I picked it off the ground so it's mine."

You picked it up from a corpse, Zoro wanted to correct her but decided not to. He sighed, "I never knew ghosts can be a thief too."

"Ghost," Nami said. She blinked at Zoro for a few minutes before realising what he was going on about. "Oh, you think I'm the ghost in the legend. Well it probably is referring to me but…. WAIT," Nami shouted grabbing hold of Zoro's arm. "Where are you going?"

"To follow the wold of course," Zoro answered, "it might still be around here."

"NO WAY," Nami shouted, "what about the money you owe me?"

"Ghosts don't need money…ARGH…"

Zoro rubbed his sore cheeks as he dropped to the floor. Nami had given him quite a merciless strong slap on the cheek.

"Idiot, I'm no ghost. Well, that little slap shouldn't hurt you if I was a ghost," Nami giggled, seeing the shocked and angry expression on Zoro's face. She then calmed down and sighed, "I can't believe you genuinely thought I was a ghost. Anyway, the wolf isn't around anymore. If anything, I've gotten pretty good at avoiding it. So let's go back."

"I can't pay you yet," Zoro stated, trying hard not to glare at Nami. "I also have personal business with that wolf so, we'll be going our separate…"

With a swift movement of her hand that Zoro couldn't see with his eyes, Nami grabbed one of his katanas and made a quick run for it, making a dumbfounded and maddened Zoro chase after her.

As soon as Nami arrived at the cottage, she slammed the door shut, locking Zoro outside and she immediately took the opportunity to hide his katana.

"Nami, give back my katana," Zoro shouted, banging on the door, "give it back or I'll…"

Nami opened the door, only to step back out of shock that Zoro had drew one of his remaining katana and aimed it at her. She hadn't considered it was a possibility that this would happen.

With a murderous look on his face, Zoro warned, "I told you again and again not to touch my katana. Don't you ever listen woman? Give it back."

Calm down, Nami told herself, but her body was shaking, sensing how serious and intent Zoro was. This was just a joke…but…I...I can't die here, not until I… for Bellemere and Nojiko… Nami opened her mouth but no words came out.

"Why aren't you saying anything?" Zoro questioned, suddenly more perplexed than mad. "Why are you shaking? Don't tell me you were actually scared of that corpse." Zoro sighed, "I did tell you, stealing from the dead wasn't a good idea. Anyhow, snap out of it and give me back my katana."

Nami nodded, still unable to say anything yet. She gulped and pointed at the katana, still aimed at her.

"Not this one, the one you took, give it back," Zoro demanded, finding it even harder to understand her when she's silent. He blinked a few times, when Nami began to do weird hand signs. "JUST SAY IT DAMMIT," Zoro shouted.

Taking in a deep breath Nami shouted, "Don't point your katana at me. If you're going to kill me then do it already. You're building way too much unnecessary tension."

"Kill you," Zoro repeated in confusion, "when did I say I was going to kill you." He lowered his katana, "I was going to slash your door open to get in, but you already opened it in time."

Nami's cheeks turned slightly pink from the embarrassment of herself being such a fool, to think that this green-muscle head was going to kill her. Pulling herself together again, she cleared her throat and said with a cunning smile on her face, "I'll give you back your katana as soon as you keep your promise and pay me. It's just a precautionary measure."

"Weren't you listening…?"

"If you can't pay me the money then as an alternative," Nami began, "pay me with your body."

"Don't mess with me," Zoro shouted.

"But you have no choice do you, or are you really going to break your promise?"

She's doing it again, Zoro thought, that damn promise….my stupid pride….

Seeing that Zoro remained silent, Nami took it as his agreement to the terms. "Don't worry," Nami said, "I'll make very good use of your body."