When Aria opened her eyes slightly, everything was hazy. She could feel the sun radiating her damp skin, the sand sticking to her skin, and she could feel someone pounding her chest rapidly. She felt too exhausted to react. She blinked once to get a clear vision of who was doing this to her. She could only see a silhouette. The person had spiky hair and he was shirtless. Suddenly, that person pinched her nose, then she could feel a pair of lips on her own. She held her breath in surprise. When that person moved his head, she got a clear view of that person's face.
It was Taichi.
Taichi breathed a sigh of relief when she fully opened her eyes. "Thank god, you're okay. We thought we were going to lose you for a second," Taichi said with a big grin.
"You're not hurt anywhere, are you?" Chopper asked.
When Aria glanced at the reindeer doctor, she noticed people surrounding her. It was then Aria realized, everyone had gathered around. Everyone was watching Taichi giving her CPR. Not to mention, her parents were right in front of all of them. Aria's face turned deep red. Could this get any more embarrassing?
Riko got down on her knees and placed a hand on her cheeks. "Are you okay, Nee-chan? Your cheeks are red."
"E-Eh?" Aria lightly patted her cheeks in hopes of removing that blushing stain. "R-Really.."
"That's enough surfing lessons for today," Robin said while glaring at Usopp.
"Okay, I guess I'll take responsibility," Usopp raised his hands in defeat.
"You guess?!" Nami raised her voice.
Usopp squealed in fear. "It's all my fault!"
Zoro crouched down next to his daughter. Aria was hoping for a long lecture from her father, but instead.. "So, how was it like seeing a sea king for the first time? Was it cool?"
A hand, preferably Nami's, slapped him upside the head. "Baka! That must've been terrifying for her!"
"I thought it was cool," said Taichi.
"Didn't look as big as I expected it to would be," Zero added. Nami shuddered. To think that their twelve year old sons would think something like that was too small. She remembered when she was around their age, she was terrified just to see just one sea king, no matter the size.
"Oh, that was just a baby one. There's a ton more bigger ones out there," Luffy said.
Nami slapped him upside the head harshly. "Don't tell them that!"
"If only I was out there. I'd kick it to another sea and save Aria-chan," said Syo.
"Oh! That's my son!" Sanji cheered on.
Robin sighed heavily. "I think I've had it for one day."
"The sun's almost setting. How about a bonfire?" asked Kaya.
"That sounds like a great idea, Kaya-san! I have so many bone-fire songs! Yohohoho!" said Brook.
Aria sighed. She expected everyone to go hectic and leave the beach immediately, but thankfully that didn't happen. They were already used to giant sea kings and anything unexpected happening. She should've expected Uncle Usopp to brighten up the mood or Uncle Luffy to make a joke out of it. Either way, at least the mood lightened up.
Taichi placed his hand out for her to reach. "Can you stand up?"
Aria accepted his hand and pulled herself up. Accidentally, she tripped over her own foot, resulting to her falling on Taichi's chest. Taichi was caught by surprise, but luckily, he maintained his balance and kept the both of them up.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Taichi asked. "That sea king didn't scare you that much did it?"
"Just a bit shaken up," Aria replied with a comforting smile.
"Dad's watching. I wouldn't go any farther than hugging if I were you," Zero murmured to them. Aria gasped. She glanced at the others and saw her father eyeing the both of them. She pushed herself away from Taichi and immediately regretted it. It wasn't like the both of them were dating or anything. Taichi, on the other hand, seemed confused as to why she would push him.
"Taichi-nii-chan!" Anna ran to her older brother.
Taichi crouched down to her level. "Did you see me out there, Anna? Your big brother's cool isn't he?"
"Yeah! That fish was so big and you and Zero-chin were so cool!"
Taichi chuckled. "I bet I'm way cooler than Haru, right?"
"Un!" Anna agreed. Taichi grinned triumphantly.
Haru overheard. He clicked his tongue in annoyance. "Tch, a little thing like that? I could do waaay bett-" Anna's stomached growled, interrupting what Haru had to say.
"Yooosh! Let's get you something to eat!" Taichi walked away while holding on to Anna's hand.
"Ignored?!" Haru said in disbelief.
Aria gently patted Haru's back. "Don't let him get to you."
When Aria regrouped with her mother and Riko, she noticed the absence of two more people. "Oh? Where's Dad and Zero?"
"They went with your Uncle Luffy and Yasopp to find some wood for the fire," replied Robin.
"Aw, I should've went."
"I think you've had enough adventures today." Robin patted her head. "Remember, you're not as skilled as your older brother yet."
Aria pouted. "Its not like there's anything dangerous in the woods."
Robin sighed. What she said was the truth. Even Zoro hasn't given her her own katana yet. Zero was a fast learner and earned not just one, but two katanas that could fit his fighting style. On the other hand, Aria wasn't as fast of a learner as her brother. Though, she was really flexible. Probably the most flexible out of all the kids. Robin glanced down at her youngest daughter. Unlike her older siblings, she took no interest in swordsmanship. Just like her herself, she was interested in books. Something Robin was thankful for. She had enough swordsmen in the family already.
"What are you reading?" Robin asked.
"A story about a man who's trying to avenge his father's death. Its really intriguing." Robin smiled and gently patted her head. Riko was more mature than the other kids around her age. She would follow Zero and Aria where ever they went, but she was quiet most of the time. She reminded her of herself when she was her age. Without real parents or siblings, she spent most of her time alone. Some kids would bully her when they found out about her devil fruit. Every time, she would ignore them, even if they would come back. Thankfully, Riko doesn't have that life. However, she was so small and fragile, Robin would worry about her sometimes. Zoro, Zero and Aria are protective over her, Aria plays with her all the time, and the other kids adore her.
"Riko-chan! Do you want to come fishing with us?" Syo yelled from the beach.
Riko placed a bookmark at where she left off. She set it down on the blanket before taking off to meet with Syo, Kaito, Taichi, and Anna at the beach.
"You know how to fish, right?" Syo asked while handing her a fishing rod Franky made.
"It's pretty easy," Taichi said. "You'll get used to it. Even Kaito's getting the hang of it."
Riko accepted the rod. Just like when she saw Uncle Luffy and Uncle Usopp fish, she threw the line into the sea.
"See, you're getting the hang of it already." Taichi, on the other hand, was helping Anna keep the rod steady. Although the rod was too big and heavy for her, she wanted to fish along with them.
"I wonder if we'll catch a big one," said Syo.
"If you don't catch anything, don't even bother coming back for dinner! ...That doesn't include Riko-chan and Anna-chan!" Sanji yelled from his little cooking area on the beach.
"I guess we better catch a big one," said Riko.
With Luffy's group, he along with Zoro, Zero, and Yasopp left the others to go find some firewood. They've been walking around for a long time, and Yasopp's starting to notice the sky getting darker. Come to think of it, they've passed so many trees. They have two swordsmen in the group, yet neither of them have done any slicing and dicing.
"Why's it taking do long for us to get some wood? Let's just cut down a tree and head back," said Yasopp.
Luffy chuckled and shook his head. "You don't understand, Yasopp. We have to find the perfect tree! We're gonna have a huge bonfire! Just like the one we had on Sky Island!" said Luffy.
"Oh, so that's what we're going for?" Zoro asked. Luffy, who was leading the group, finally stopped upon seeing the tallest tree they've come across.
"Yosh, Yasopp! Cut down that tree!" Luffy exclaimed while pointing to the tallest tree.
"Isn't that why we brought along swordsmen!" replied Yasopp.
"Doesn't look hard," said Zoro. "Zero, you can handle it, right? Can you use the new attack I showed you?"
"I've only seen you do it twice. It might be a little scratchy, but I'll give it a try."
"Yosh! Go Zero!" Luffy chanted.
Yasopp took a couple steps back. He watched as Zero jumped high from where he stood. He had his grip on the handle of only one of his katanas. Yasopp hardly saw what he did with it. He was so swift, he couldn't keep up. Zero started falling back down, but there was no change to the tree. He landed back to where he was just standing, next to his father.
One by one, starting from the top, pieces of the tree fell into a pile. Up close, the cut was perfect. There were no rough edges, nor was there any different shapes. They all looked identically the same.
"Not bad," said Zoro. "Some of the edges are slightly slanted though."
Yasopp was amazed by Zoro's statement. He couldn't find anything wrong with the wood. Zero was very skillful for his age. Being the oldest out of all the kids in the group, he should've had more experience.
"Any way is fine with me," said Luffy. "Let's bring all of this back to the beach. Its getting dark out. Yasopp, help us out."
"Huh? Uh, coming!"
When the sun finally set, the fire was lit and the food was served. The fire was nearly one and a half stories high, lighting the area all too brightly. Luffy, Taichi, and Haru were devouring their food more rapidly than the others. As expected from the Monkey boys.
"Jeez, I see you're traits were passed down as well," said Sanji. "Thankfully, Anna-chan's not as disgusting as her father and brothers, right Nami-san?"
Nami glanced towards her only daughter. Because of her tiny mouth, she had difficulty biting into her large piece of meat. Her cheeks were stained with meat, but she looked adorable either way. Nami giggled and lightly patted her head. "I have a feeling she'll be a big eater too."
"At least she'll look cute while doing it..where as..." Sanji glanced back to the boys.
"What? We're hungry!" Taichi said with a full mouth.
"Dad taught us to eat as much as we can in case something were to happen," said Haru.
"You're dad grew up in the mountains and lived with bandits. I don't think following his influence matches your situation," said Nami.
"What do you mean, Nami? We've learned to live with that!" Usopp said with his own mouth full. Beads of sweat were rolling down Nami's temple. Not only Usopp, but Yasopp and Chopper too were following Luffy's lead. Now that he mentioned it, she almost forgot how a meal went on board their ship. It was a "take-what-ever-you-can-before-Luffy-takes-it-all-for-himself" battle. Although Luffy was considerate enough to never to touch the girls' plates, it was a war with the guys. Ultimately, that was passed down to their kids, considering their father's lack of table manners.
Brook sighed deeply after taking a sip of his tea. "Now that everyone's almost finished with their meal, how about some ghost stories!"
"Yeah!" Syo agreed.
"Noo!" Usopp and Yasopp said in unison.
"You still have some ghost stories up your sleeve?" asked Zoro.
"Well, of course! But this time, its actually a rumor I heard while I was in town."
"So this is real?" asked Zero. He was interested in where this would play out, especially since it caught the old skeleton's attention. Brook did mention that some of his ghost stories were real and that he's actually witnessed them. However, they could never tell which was real and which weren't.
Brook smirked. "Maybe? Maybe not?"
"I want to hear this."
"Wait, is it that one rumor about the mountains and that ghost?" asked Vivi.
"You've heard it, Vivi-chan?" asked Sanji.
"I heard it around the grocery stores in town. Everyone's been talking about it."
Brook cleared his throat. Slowly, he raised a lit match below his jaw to make it seem more dramatic.
"Now this story was taken place long before we arrived on this island. Just like the people today, they were going about their everyday lives. Housewives cooked, although sometimes the men cook. The young kids went to school, and got picked up from their parents as usual. Hm, I wonder when that school was built because it looked older than me, yohohoho-"
"Ah! As I was saying, one girl in particular did not fit in with the crowd. Everyone thought she was too pale for a normal human. She had long black hair that flowed against her back. She wore a white one piece dress, and she hardly looked any older than six years old. One day, she was walking home from school when a group of guys walked up to her and bribed her with candy. The next day, the townspeople found her body up at the mountains. She was dead. But after that, everyone that's been going up to the mountains would suddenly disappear and never return. Some say the ghost of that little girl still lives and kills anyone that walks by the spot she where was found. Some say she does it for the candy. No one has lived to tell the true story... DUN DUN DUUUNN!"
"That's obviously a fake," Nami said.
On the other hand, Luffy and Taichi were out of their seats with an all too eager expression. "I want to see!" the father and son said in unison.
"The ghost of a girl still living. Interesting," Riko murmured to herself.
"I want to see this too," said Aria.
"You sure?" Zero raised an eyebrow. "So far, all of Brook's stories have scared you."
"That "rumor" has gone to full extent to even be called a rumor," said Franky.
"I want to see and find out with my own eyes," said Zoro.
"Don't you mean 'eye?'" Sanjii teased.
Anna and Yasopp were clutching onto the legs of their respectful mothers. Chopper was tightly holding onto Zoro's arm, afraid where all these reactions will lead them.
"Zoro, don't go!" Chopper begged.
Robin giggled. "Actually, I want to see this as well."
"Yosh! At the break of dawn, we're hiking up that mountain to see if that ghost girl really does exist!" Luffy commanded.
- Taichi and Haru compete a lot, aka "sibling rivalry."
- Riko is very fragile and small and very skinny. Unlike the rest of her family, she can't hold her ground when in a fight.
- Though Syo is only a year younger than Taichi and Zero, he's short.