Chapter 1 : Rare and unusual.
It was one of those quiet days on the Sunny. The kind where the crew sat around and all did their own thing. Usopp was cooking up his Tabasco stars and talking enthusiastically to Franky about new adjustments to the ship's arsenal. Chopper and Luffy were listening intently, nodding enthusiastically to every suggestion with the word "beam" in it.
Nami was going over her maps in her usual recliner, next to Robin who read in the shade of her umbrella. Brook was playing his violin at the back of the ship, staring longingly at the miles of calm ocean behind them.
The crew's swordsman was reclining against the tree at the side of the stairs, the swing next to his shoulder barely moving in the breeze. Normally, Zoro would be asleep on a day like this, or at least pretending to be. Reclining back in the grass of the sunny, enjoying the sun on his face and listening to the life around him was better than any meditation when it came to inner peace.
His crewmates might be a strange and loud bunch that laughed even without a noticeable reason, but it was the feeling of belonging that stilled Zoro's heart the most.
Back before he joined Luffy on his quest to become the pirate king, he'd wandered from location to location, hunting bounties for money and often walking alone for days. Zoro looked back on that life with slight horror now, did this mean he was getting weak? Even as a child he'd preferred being alone, when did that change?
The swordsman's brow furrowed as he tapped the top of the glass bottle cautiously, letting a few drops of magnolia oil fall onto Kitetsu's blade cautiously with narrow intervals. He placed the bottle besides him and pulled up the cotton cloth, sliding it along the edge to clear away the polishing powder.
Zoro had been taught that sword maintenance should always be accompanied with meditation, a sharp blade is kept by a sharp mind. Zoning out and focusing solely on his sword maintenance, Zoro started his very own kind of meditation, filled with the soft background noise of his crewmates and-
"Oi- idiot Marimo!"
There goes that.
"What do you want, crap cook?" Zoro huffed without looking up. Despite the insults there was no actual bait in the cook's tone, it seemed like neither of them was in the mood for an argument. Zoro tilted his sword, watching Sanji's reflection in the blade. The blond was tapping his shoes into the grassy deck, frowning around his cigarette as he avoided looking at the swordsman.
Zoro smirked as he looked up. Sanji seemed strained, hands stiff in his pockets as he reluctantly looked at the swordsman. There was something similar to pain on the cook's face. Zoro leant back against the tree, allowing Kitetsu to rest on his knees. The cook needed a favor of some kind.
"You deaf curly? I asked what you wanted." Zoro mused, unable to keep his smirk from growing when the cook rubbed the back of his neck in frustration and sucked hard on his cigarette. There was a moment of silence while Sanji glared metaphorical daggers at Zoro's smug face.
"During the last Marine attack, all the magnolia bottles I had in the storage broke." Sanji tapped his foot uncomfortably as he glanced at the bottle of sword oil at Zoro's side. "It's been too long since I treated my knives. I don't feel comfortable without caring for them properly."
Zoro's smirk faded and his expression became lighter and more casual. Sanji seemed genuinely concerned about his knives and caring for blades was something the swordsman could understand. He nodded to the bottle. "I'm finishing up Kitetsu, the other two are left. I can bring you the bottle when I'm finished."
"That's going to take a shitty while." Sanji mumbled, glancing towards the kitchen. "I only have an hour or two off before I need to get started on dinner."
"After dinner then." Zoro shrugged, turning his attention back to his blade as he slid the cotton cloth firmly from the hilt to the tip in one long stroke. He watched Sanji's reflection in the blade curiously, the blond wasn't moving and he didn't look like he was breathing either.
Sanji followed the movements of his fingers for a few strokes, either looking deep in thought or like he wasn't thinking at all. Zoro would guess the latter.
"Cook?" Zoro's voice seemed to snap the blond out of his trance since the blond startled slightly and fumbled for the forgotten cigarette. Zoro could have sworn Sanji's ears were turning pink; did the cook have a fever?
Before Zoro managed to ask what was wrong with Sanji's stupid perverted head, the blond turned on his heel and stormed off to the kitchen. Zoro watched him go, confused as to why the blond was walking so stiffly and mumbling furiously under his breath.
Was the bastard angry that he had to wait for Zoro to lend him the oil? If he was, he was acting like a brat and Zoro was going to tease the hell out of him for having a hissy fit like that. The swordsman switched hands to turn the sword over, folding the cloth before he reached for the oil bottle.
Damn, his fingers had gotten all oily and slick. He'd have to wipe them off before he continued.
Less than 30 minutes later the cook returned, standing over Zoro who was applying polishing powder to Shusuui. Shadow fell over the swordsman when Sanji blocked his sunlight and Zoro glanced up to his crewmate questioningly.
Sanji was holding a leather roll up case, carefully wrapped and fastened under his arm as he flicked the ashes off his cigarette as far away from Zoro's sword as he could reach. The blond was a little awkward and chose staring out over the ocean over looking Zoro in the eyes.
"Those your knives?" Zoro gestured to the rolled up leather case with slight interest. He'd seen Sanji use his almost endless variations of knives while cooking, but never seen them all in the same place at the same time. He was slightly curious.
"Yeah, I already sharpened them, so I can't use them until I polish them." With that the cook sat down at an arm's length from the swordsman, shadow from the tree flickering strange jagged patterns onto his light blue shirt.
For a few seconds, Zoro watched the cook with slight amazement. He'd never thought the blond would willingly sit down on the ground next to him, but here he was; carefully unfolding the leather case with cautious practiced movements. Zoro's shoulders eased as he inspected the tattered and beat up roll, he'd never have imagined it belonging to Sanji if he'd seen it somewhere else.
The case opened and Zoro couldn't help but admire the knives. They were clearly worn and looked like they had been used constantly for a long time, despite that, the edges were well kept and razor sharp. Zoro knew enough about blades to tell that these were quality items.
Zoro reluctantly tore his eyes away from the selection of blades and reached for the bottle of magnolia oil, passing it to the cook who was pulling an especially worn knife from its home.
"The bottle is all slippery. You want me to drop it?" Sanji huffed softly, taking the bottle from Zoro's fingers gingerly and applying a couple of drops to his knife.
"Shut up, curly bastard." Zoro grumbled under his breath and got back to work on Shusuui. Zoro found strange comfort in hearing Sanji's breathing besides him, listening to the rhythm of both their cotton cloths slide along the polished steel. It reminded him of long nights of cleaning the Dojo's blades with Koshiro.
While Zoro finished Shusuui, Sanji managed to polish three of his larger knives and smoke two cigarettes. The silence was content and comfortable, like it usually was when neither of them was in the mood to argue. Shusuui's black edge slid into its scabbard smoothly, clicking softly when the hilt hit its home.
Sanji raised a knife with a slightly jagged edge, inspecting it's blade in the sunlight. Zoro had seen the cook use that knife for cutting bread on multiple occasions. Zoro had never used that knife himself of course. Those knives were for cooking only, no one on this ship had ever touched them.
"Those are well made." Zoro spoke without realizing he had, startling the cook visibly as the blond stared at him wide eyed. Zoro stared back, shocked that he himself had broken the comfortable silence. He almost regretted it, watching the uncomfortable shift in Sanji's posture.
"Yeah." Sanji's shoulders were still tense, but his lips eased into a slight smile. "The old man gave them to me." Zoro watched the cook slide his thumb along the side of the blade affectionately. "They're the real deal." Sanji's smile flashed into a grin for a second, before the blond got back to work.
Zoro reached for the Wado, sliding it out of its scabbard and raising it to the sunlight. He always saved Wado until the end of his cleaning sessions, he liked to take some extra time on this sword. The silence was still comfortable, but there was something hanging in the air now. Zoro could feel the unspoken words on his skin.
"That's also well made." Sanji gestured to the Wado as he lit himself another cigarette. "Didn't that Marine lady call it a- 'O Wasamono'?"
"Yeah. Wado Ichimonji is one of those 21 great swords." Zoro mused, dabbing the cherished blade with the cotton ball of polishing powder. "-but I knew she was great before that. It's that feeling, of a well forged blade." The silence returned, this time more than comfortable, it was enjoyable.
The wind rustled the trees and grass, blowing the smoke from Sanji's cigarette past Zoro's nose. The laughter and screams of the other crewmates seemed so distant, the sound of Brook's violin sailing past them on the wind. The cook looked so absorbed in his knives, treating them with the same care Zoro did for his swords.
"Can I see?" Zoro paused, placing the Wado down on his knees carefully and wiped the oil from his hands. Before he turned to the blond who was staring at him wide eyed. Zoro put out a hand questioningly, his face utterly serious as he waited for the angry ormocking comeback.
The cook glanced from Zoro's hand to his face, then to the knife he had just finished oiling and back to Zoro's hand. The swordsman could see the blond swallow thickly as he faked a casual shrug, passing the blade slowly to Zoro with a slightly twitching hand.
The knife felt weighty in his hand and heavy in a similar way the Wado felt heavy. Not physically, but burdened with something, the hopes of another person maybe? Zoro raised the knife to the sunlight, watching the rays reflect off the perfectly straight blade. The oiling was expertly done, easily as good as his own.
Sanji's eyes followed Zoro's movements cautiously, his hands twitching every time Zoro ran a finger along the spine of the blade. Zoro hummed softly from the back of his throat as he examined the knife. He wasn't surprised that Sanji was tense. He couldn't remember seeing anyone but Sanji handle these knives.
"You take good care of them." Zoro noted, passing the knife back to its owner. Sanji huffed slightly as he took the knife back, examining it to see if Zoro's fingerprints were somewhere on the blade. Zoro rolled his eyes, he had probably been taking care of blades for longer than Sanji had, he knew better than to leave fingerprints on the finish.
"Of course I do moss-brain." Sanji's expression was a little more somber than Zoro expected as the cook seemed satisfied and placed the knife back in its slot. "A cook's knife is his soul. You should understand, that sword is your treasure, right?" The cook pulled out another knife as he spoke.
"It is." Zoro raised the Wado again, reaching out for the magnolia bottle resting at Sanji's hip. Suddenly, the blond slapped his hand away and Zoro jerked his hand back in shock, growling as he glared up at his crewmate. "I need the bottle you bastard, hand it over."
Sanji was huffing indignantly, pink around the ears. "Keep your damn oil coated grubby hands off my suit Marimo." Sanji spat out as he passed the bottle, his ears reddening slightly and the corners of his mouth sinking into a frown. Zoro took the bottle and arched a brow; the blond was acting weird today.
"That sword belonged to someone you loved?" Sanji asked softly, almost like he wasn't asking Zoro directly. The blond didn't even glance his way when the swordsman's brow furrowed in slight confusion.
"It did. Before she died." Zoro grit his teeth at the memory, staring into the Wado's edge, running the cloth along it slowly. When the cloth drew away, Zoro could see the cook looking at him in the reflection. "We both made a promise to become the best, this sword is the only witness." Zoro turned to look at the blond, who was staring at the sword. "It has both our dreams in it."
There was a long silence as Sanji rolled the cigarette filter along his lips. Zoro returned to cleaning his sword, watching the cook in the reflection as the blond turned to look at his knives again.
"Then these knives are sort of the same." Sanji slid the knife into its pocket, smiling softly to himself. "It has both my and the old man's dreams in it."
"The old man believed in it too?" Zoro slid the Wado into its scabbard, enjoying the way the blade soundlessly slid inside. "The All Blue?"
"It's real." Sanji grumbled, his tone slightly bitter. "No matter what everyone else says, I know it's real." The cook's posture stiffened and he slid the oiled cloth along the final knife. It was very small and slightly curved, probably used for something fruit related.
"I'm not doubting it you idiot. We've seen plenty of things more incredible than that on the Grand Line right?" Zoro rolled his eyes, cracking his neck and yawning. "Sometimes I think that the one on this ship who doubts it the most is you."
"ZORO!" Luffy ran towards them screaming, throwing himself onto Zoro's shoulders and laughing loudly into the older man's ear. "Let's wrestle!" Chopper followed behind the captain, clutching onto Zoro's leg and shrieking in joy.
"Wrestle? No way-" Zoro grumbled, trying to pull Luffy off his back without luck. "Let me go Luffy, I don't have time to be playing around-"
"ZORO! I want to wrestle too!" Chopper laughed merrily, yanking on the hem of Zoro's haramaki with little hooves, his round dark eyes sparkling with joy and adoration. They were so large and glistening Zoro could practically see his own resolve shattering in their reflection. The swordsman groaned, rubbing his temples in frustration.
"SANJI! You wrestle too!" Luffy demanded, but the blond jumped to his feet and scooped up his knife set. He was slightly pale, probably from the very idea of being forced into some sort of childish rough housing in his favorite shirt.
"There is no way I'm going to play around in the grass like a shitty brat!" Sanji huffed, tying up his knife set and handing Zoro the bottle of oil. Luffy started whining childishly, reaching out for the blond who took a step back out of Luffy's rapidly growing reach. "I need to get dinner started anyway."
"DINNER!" Luffy jumped off Zoro's shoulders, drooling as he stared at Sanji with excited wide eyes. "I want to eat meat!"
"Then let me get to work you shitty-rubber." The cook frowned, lighting a cigarette and blowing the smoke out his nostrils with a roll of his eyes. "You brats better get to fishing later! You've eaten almost all the meat and Nami-swan says it's still two days until the next island!"
Two days later, just as Nami had said, the sunny was docked at a large island. The entire island was covered in a thick and large forest; trees of all shapes and sizes stretching out as far as the eye could see. There were high hills but no mountains, so the trees rose up against the sky like a tidal wave from the peak of the hills.
According to a man at the docks, there was only one village on the entire island, right there in the clearing of the bay. The island was a trade center right in between three larger islands, making it an ideal place to shop. They also sold delightful little sand-globes for only 20 berry, but as a great service just today, they could have one for 15 berry.
"Everybody, gather around!" Nami yelled out, standing on the platform surrounding the mast and raising her hand for attention. "I'm going to give you your allowance!"
Zoro frowned as he joined the others, hand resting on his swords as he took his place around the back of the group. Robin was smiling into her book from the back of the deck, clearly already received her share of allowance. Franky sat beside her, hammering something together a wide grin. Clearly Franky had decided to stay on boat duty.
Usopp and Chopper got their share, walking off to town while excitedly talking about herbs and spices like some sort of fanatics.
"Luffy, you still owe me for destroying my coat back on Drum Island, so this is what you get." The navigator and self-made treasurer handed Luffy his share of cash, causing the captain to whine at the amount.
"Shut up already!" Nami argued, with one hand on her hip and another one yanking at Luffy's stretchy cheek. "You're just going to spend it on meat or something stupid like a statue or a sand-globe anyway!" Luffy shut up, frowning comically as he ran out to join Usopp and Chopper and flailing his hands, yelling out something about great services on sand-globes only today.
Zoro knew what Nami would say before she even said it. It was the same every time. She waved his allowance in front of him and he frowned as she peeled two thirds of the bills out and stuffed them down her cleavage.
"This is for the interest on my loan." She winked cutely at Zoro, who in turn rolled his eyes in annoyance and snatched the remaining cash out of her money-hungry paws. He should be glad he got ANY money and he knew arguing would only earn him the same speech Luffy got. He was only planning on buying alcohol with that money anyway.
Before the crappy cook could force him to accompany him food shopping to drag the cart like a damn mule, Zoro jumped off the side of the ship, heading to town without looking over his shoulder. The cook had been insisting he'd help him go food shopping for the last few months, and today he just wanted a drink and a long nap on solid land.
The town had a few nice bars, one with decent alcohol for a modest price. Zoro bought a couple of bottles, popping the cork on one as he tucked the second into his haramaki. He walked around the town, enjoying the sights and sounds of the market while keeping an eye out for the cook. To avoid him of course, he didn't want to see him or anything like that. Nope.
Somehow, the streets snaked around and lead Zoro through several identical market squares, he'd passed a few suspiciously similar stalls three times now and each of the strange triplets had started to give him a confused look as he passed.
He was halfway through his first bottle as he passed a woman selling flowers, just like her twin sister, when an old man carrying a large wooden box on his back collapsed and fell over. The contents of the box spilled out when the box flew open at the impact with the street.
Books. Dozens of books of all shapes and sizes, various titles and yellowed pages littering the pavement of the market. The old man groaned in pain, reaching out desperately to yank a book out of the way of a passing cart of melons.
"Oi, old man." Zoro walked over to the grey haired old man, crouching next to him help him to his feet with a gentle pull at his arm. "Are you alright?" Zoro watched as the old man gave himself a thorough pat down, testing all joints and fingers before he gave Zoro a soft grin.
"I'm fine young man, it takes more than that to break these old bones!" The old man began collecting the books into his arms, carefully and cautiously stuffing them back into the makeshift shelves inside the box. It was a little like a portable bookshelf.
Zoro assisted, carefully picking up the books and piling them into the old man's arms to prevent the stranger from stressing his creaking back. The old man thanked him each time, lovingly arranging the books into their designated places until Zoro handed him the last one.
"Thank you for your help." The old man gave him a warm grin, and Zoro couldn't stop his own lopsided one from growing on his lips.
"No problem gramps." Zoro patted the strange portable bookshelf, watching the old man attempt to slip on the strange shoulder straps that made it seem more like a giant wooden backpack. "Where are you taking that mini library?" Zoro mused, sipping from the bottle as the old man struggled to regain his balance after shouldering the books.
"I'm taking these to the harbor, I'm moving to the next island over to be with my family. After my son left home, an old man like me can't be expected to live alone forever!" The old man huffed, wobbling slightly from the weight. "These books are my treasure, I collected them on my adventures on the Grand Line." The old man had this serene expression, like someone who had lived out all his ambitions.
"You'll never get to the harbor before the ship leaves like this." Zoro pointed out, remembering how many hours of walking he'd done to get to this market. "I'll carry them for you." With a single yank, the old man's arms were free from the restraints and Zoro shouldered the heavy load with ease.
"C-Careful!" The old man waved his hands frantically, concern written on his face until he realized there was no way Zoro was going to put the bookcase down. "Alright, if you think you have the time. Damn youngsters, never asking permission anymore!"
The old man must have known about a shortcut, because it only took about 20 minutes to get to the harbor from the market. Witchcraft probably. They didn't have to take more than two turns. Zoro made sure not to drop the box harshly when he placed it down on the harbor in front of a ship a little larger than the sunny.
"Thank you." The old man smiled, looking up at the ship in front of them with a peaceful look in his eyes that reminded Zoro much of Koshiro, his teacher and surrogate father. The look of an accomplished man, who had lived his dream.
"Don't mention it old man." Zoro grinned awkwardly, finishing off his first bottle and wiping the alcohol of his lips with a thumb. Why did he always end up carrying heavy things when he left the ship?
"I want to give you something for your help." The old man opened the bookshelf, pulling Zoro down by the lapels of his shirt and gesturing to the piles of books concealed inside. "Pick any book you want."
"I don't need a book old man, you don't have to give me anything." Zoro shook his head, earrings clattering softly as he attempted to loosen the old man's grip on his shirt. "These books are your treasure, right? I can't take one."
Clearly appalled by Zoro's good manners, the old man swiped the empty bottle from Zoro's hand and hit him in the head with it. "You better pick one! Young'ins today don't know the power of the written word anymore!" The old man huffed indignantly, shaking the bottle threateningly. "These books are all one of a kind, some of them ancient and priceless! You're lucky I'm going to give you one!"
Pulling away from the old man in fear of another strike of bottle to the head, Zoro frowned. Judging from the crazy old man's expression and the way the bottle wavered back and forth above them, he wasn't going to get away without taking one of those old books.
Maybe Robin could use one of them? She was a historian after all, she might be delighted to get one of those old books. If he picked something she would like, she might even be thankful enough to persuade Nami into shaving off some of Zoro's debt. Nami did listen to Robin after all.
"Alright old man, what do you have in there?" Zoro gave in, leaning into the bookcase to read the worn labels he'd caught a glimpse of before. The books were of all shapes and sizes, multiple faded colors and most of them smelled vaguely of the ocean.
"I have books and journals from around the entire Grand Line, even a few from the New World." The old man announced proudly, letting go of Zoro's shirt and pointing at a few of the thicker books. "I had to steal some of these from the World Government's annual book burnings." The old man said with a hushed tone, covering his mouth and glancing suspiciously from side to side.
"Oh, so you're a criminal?" Zoro laughed, running his fingers over the spines of the books until he suddenly stopped. There was something there, his intuition was rarely wrong. There was a heavy feeling creeping up his finger. Something restless that settled in his guts.
The book he'd stopped at was one of the thinner books, colored faded blue and the title was washed and barely readable. He plucked the book from the shelf, opening it and flipping the worn yellow pages with his thumb. It was less than 200 pages long, handwritten and the ink was smudged on the occasional spots. Zoro opened the book at the first page, peering down to read the fancy handwriting on the slightly torn and smudged front page.
"Journal of Captain Belion." Zoro read out loud, only to have the old man poke him in the head with an annoyed finger.
"It's Belon!" The old man huffed, looking at the book over Zoro's shoulder. "He was an early explorer, sailed around the Grand Line before he died." The old man sighed slightly, running a finger over the name. "He was from the South blue and friends with Mountblank Noland. He died from a strange disease he contracted on his travels and died a year before his friend did. He wrote all about it in this book, no one believed him, so he died a liar."
Zoro's interest now fully raised he flipped through the pages eagerly. "What did he supposedly lie about?"
"You might have heard about it, many people have. Even before Belon started telling people about it." The old man smiled, flipping through the yellowed pages, until he opened it at the second half. "He said he found the legendary ocean."
Zoro stared, his eyes widening when he stared at the two words written in large letters at the top of the worn page. "All Blue." Excitement tingled through Zoro's body, he kept staring at the words, unable to bring himself to read anything else for a few minutes.
"D-did he write where it was?" Zoro asked a little hesitantly, his grip on the book tightening. "Did he say where? Around what island?"
The old man stared at Zoro in bewilderment. "No. He was dying at the time so he doesn't mention the location, only describes it in great detail." The old man didn't take his eyes off Zoro as he spoke, withdrawing his hands. "Somewhere on the Grand Line is all he mentions."
Zoro closed the book, unable to stop the grin widening on his face as he stood up. "Thanks old man, I'm taking this one."
"Do you believe it exists?" The old man asked with an extremely serious tone, his thin hand clutching onto Zoro's wrist like a vice. "That book is my treasure, I need to know you believe in it."
"I think it exists." Zoro said softly and the old man slowly let go of his hand. "-and so does the one who will be keeping this book." With a simple wave to the old man, Zoro set off, heading towards the Thousand Sunny that was docked at the other side of the bay.
Naturally Zoro couldn't simply walk up to the cook and hand him the book saying 'I found this. It's about the All blue.' The idea alone was horribly awkward. No, it would be better to place it on the Sunny's counter or on the bastard's pillow or something. That way he wouldn't have to look him in the eyes when he handed the thing over.
Zoro groaned at the idea, he'd never been able to look at the damn cook when he spoke about his dream. Every time Sanji began talking about the All Blue, his face lit up his voice got soft and overly intimate. It was a little like having a perfect view of Sanji's soul and the exposure of it made Zoro uncomfortably warm. The damn blond just always looked so happy.
There was also the chance that the cook got angry at seeing it. Zoro didn't want him to think he was mocking his dream or anything. He didn't know how the cook felt about it. Zoro himself had a dream that was quite tangible, something real and no matter how difficult it was, it was possible and there.
Sanji's dream was something a little less substantial. Even if Zoro was certain that the All Blue existed, he could imagine not having even remote proof that what he was aiming for was real or not could get tiresome. He himself had the scar to prove that Mihawk was real and out there. He'd like to see someone try to disprove Mihawk's existence to his face.
Damn, how did the Sunny get this far away? It was closer a few minutes ago. Hadn't he seen this house before? It had a very familiar looking old lady watering those one of a kind heart-shaped trimmed bushes. Was this town maybe full of strange twins and triplets?
The second bottle of alcohol was calling him so Zoro paused his walking for a moment to pluck the bottle from his haramaki open it. The book resting between his thumb and index finger as he yanked the stubborn cork from the mouth of the bottle with a satisfying 'pop'.
As soon as the cork gave in and flew out into Zoro's hand, a dark figure appeared besides him, jumping over a pile of boxes and snatching the book right from Zoro's outstretched hand. For a second, both men made eye contact and the world slowed down. Zoro reached out for the thief's cape and clutched at it with a terrifying roar, but the fabric slipped from between his fingers and the thief screamed out in fear.
Without a second thought, Zoro started running, tossing the bottle away as he sprinted after the thief, jumping over boxes, carts and people that the terrified snatcher threw into his path. The streets were winding and narrow, twisting and turning through markets full of people who insisted on being in Zoro's way.
A few women screamed in horror as Zoro ran past them, others threw themselves out of his path and cursed their luck when their carts and barrels were tipped over. "Z-ZORO!?" The shrill tone of Usopp's voice barely reached Zoro's ears through the cacophony of screams around him.
"OI! MARIMO!" Sanji's voice was much closer than Usopp's and the swordsman spared a single glance over his shoulder when he felt soft fingertips on his forearm for a second. The cook was a few steps behind him, eyes wide with anger and hair tousled from the speed they were running at. "WHERE ARE YOU GOING!? YOU'RE HEADING FOR THE FOREST YOU IDIOT!"
Zoro snarled, yanking his arm out of reach as he doubled his pace, refusing to take his eyes off the caped man in front of him. "THIS DOESN'T CONCERN YOU CURLY-BROW. STOP FOLLOWING ME."
"NO WAY!" Sanji shouted through the crowd and jumped a massive cart of pumpkins with ease, catching up right behind Zoro and fumbling for the haramaki. "YOU'RE GOING TO GET YOUR MOSSY ASS LOST AND WE'LL NEVER FIND YOU!"
"I'M NOT GOING TO GET LOST!"
Both Strawhats slipped slightly when they left the paved path of the village and entered the small meadow dividing the village from the forest. The thief disappeared in between the large trees, kicking up soft dirt and bending branches, running for his life through the thick foliage.
Zoro sliced up branches that got in his way as he ran, causing the thief to shriek in horror and attempt to lose them by sliding down a hill. The man frantically scrambled to his feet and almost tripped over his own feet when Zoro ran down the steep hill after him, one sword in his mouth and two held out straight from his sides, cutting through various bushes like butter as he ran.
"ZORO! STOP! YOU'RE GOING TO GET US -BOTH- LOST!"
The thief's luck ran out before Zoro's and the caped man ran into a dead end, an almost perfectly vertical precipice with nothing but trees and bushes below. The thief realized his time was up as Zoro approached him slowly with his swords drawn, cautiously like a stalking predator.
"Hand it over." Zoro hissed around his sword, arms slightly lowered as he realized that his prey had nowhere to run. "-and I'll let you walk away you bastard."
Maybe it was the venom in his tone or just the aura of pure bloodlust, but the thief didn't seem to put much faith into his promise. Glancing from Zoro's angry expression to the crumbling cliff face behind him. In a fit of desperation, the thief inhaled sharply, jumping off the cliff and running down the almost vertical drop until he lost his balance and rolled comically down the last few feet until he hit a tree.
Zoro sighed, looking at the groaning man below struggle to free himself of his tangled cape, struggling to get to his feet. "Stupid bastard-" Zoro seethed his swords, getting ready to jump down to retrieve the offender, when a flying kick whizzed through the air in a modest attempt to kick off his head.
"THAT'S MY LINE!" Sanji howled as Zoro blocked the kick with his forearm. "YOU GOT US ASS BACKWARDS LOST YOU IDIOT!"
"I NEVER ASKED YOU TO FOLLOW ME!" Zoro spat back, taking a step back and glancing over his shoulder to watch the thief dizzily make his way into the forest below. He didn't have time for this. He pushed Sanji back, turning to the cliff and getting ready to get his book back, when the blond ran into his path and raised his leg menacingly.
"I'm not going to let you get us any more lost than you already have you moss-brained bastard." Sanji huffed, his curled brow lowered in anger and his voice rougher than usually. It was at moments like this Zoro felt uncomfortably drawn to the blond, he did look his best when he was angry.
"That bastard stole something important, I'm going to get it back." Zoro's hand was resting on his swords now and he could hear the rustle in the bushes from below. "Get out of my way you bastard."
The cook huffed, lighting himself a cigarette without lowering his leg. "Wait here you directionless idiot. I'll go get whatever it is he stole for you and come back."
"I can do it myself you bastard!" Zoro attempted to take a step forward, but the sole of Sanji's shoe brushed against his nose, and the blond pocketed his lighter and took a long drag of his cigarette.
"No." Sanji gave Zoro a determined look that Zoro was rarely treated to outside of battle. "You. stay. RIGHT. Here. I'll go get your stolen shit. That's the plan."
Zoro grumbled, there was no way he was going to get lost, but the blond had a look of finality to him; the kind that threatened his access to the Sunny's alcohol supply. He grit his teeth, he didn't want the blond to realize what the book was about, but the thief was getting further away with each second and it didn't look like Sanji was going to let him pass any time soon. Unless he was willing to risk the thief getting away; this was the only option.
"Fine." Zoro grumbled, sitting down by a tree. "Then get going curly, if you get lost, I'm not going to go looking for you."
"I never want to be told that by YOU again." Sanji huffed, grinning around his cigarette as he jumped down the cliff to follow the thief and unbeknownst to him retrieve his gift. Zoro watched the last of the blond disappear over the edge of the cliff and reclined against the rough bark as he started his wait.
The forest was quiet and seemed to stretch on forever, reaching up to the horizon as Zoro looked over the carpet of leaves in front of him. The skies were growing darker and there was something nagging at the back of his head. He had a bad feeling, an uncomfortable weight on his mind that wouldn't go away.
This forest was bad news.
A new adventure! YAY! This one is going to be a little lighter and a bit shorter while I work on another big and heavy piece.
I hope you'll join me for the ride!
Edit: I'm looking for a beta for this story, someone with good grammar, punctuation and lots of patience!