Chapter 44: Enter the Pirate Empress: Boa Hancock
"Keep on running!" Ace taunted as he sent long lances made out of fire to force Luffy out from behind the rock he had to duck behind. Once Luffy was out, Ace put his index fingers together in a cross shape before launching a cross-shaped column of fire directly at him.
"Who said that I was running?!" Luffy yelled back with a laugh as he shifted into his Second Gear and seemed to disappear. Ace blinked in surprise, but just before he realized what happened, Luffy—who was in the air—had grabbed hold of his shoulders from behind him.
"Gum Gum… JET MISSLE!" and he retracted, crashing into his brother and sending them both into the ground.
"You always were fast," Ace smirked through a mouthful of dirt. "But like hell I'm gonna be beaten by my little brother."
And with an uppercut, he went for him, punching Luffy hard in the chin and forcing his face upwards before he kicked him in the stomach and sent him crashing through several more rocks.
But Luffy was up at once, wiping away the blood from the corner of his mouth. "Please, you can hit harder than that! You better not be holding back on me!"
Ace just grinned wickedly at Luffy. "I used to have to hold back for your sake… but not this time. You've gotten stronger, I'll say that much…"
When he had been alive before he always wondered one thing. Was it worth it? Worth becoming a pirate and going out to sea? Hell ya… every little thing that happened to him had been worth. And now his little brother, the same crybaby that he had dedicated his life to protecting and helping grow stronger, was now facing him as an equal.
Ace remembered when he first saw Luffy's wanted poster and he couldn't have been any prouder. He would brag about him to Pops and the crew so often that he knew that he drove crazy. But he couldn't help it. He had dreamt of facing Luffy as a rival someday out of the seas… but now that was impossible. This would be their last chance to fight like this… before Luffy would go back and become the Pirate King someday.
However, if he couldn't even stand up to his big brother, his future didn't look too bright.
And so Ace held up a fist and taunted, "BUT ARE YOU STRONG ENOUGH TO TAKE ME ON?!"
"Watch and learn!" Luffy cried out and if there had been anyone watching the battle from far off, they would've seen the giant ball of smoke and steam going up into the air like an erupting volcano.
"Watch out!" Nami cried out and they backed away as something—much like a meteor—fell from the sky. It crashed into the ground and as the smoke cleared, they spotted Luffy lying there on the ground, inside a giant paw-print shaped crater.
It was the same Luffy they saw disappearing from Sabaody aright. He was in the same blue shirt and there were still some dirt on his face… other than that however, his injuries from the battle with Kuma seemed to have fully healed.
"So this is it," Franky said, looking around. "This is the island that Luffy was sent to?"
"This is the maiden only island?" Usopp asked, looking at the thick jungle around him. He had been expecting something different. Maybe with pink trees or something.
"Maiden… MAIDENS?!" Sanji cried out, staring around wildly, trying to see if he could find any girls here. "You mean this is home to nothing but fair ladies? This is heaven?!"
"Luffy…" Usopp whispered, shaking his head bitterly. How'd he get off so easy here? He was on an island with nothing but women while he was being attacked by blood-thirsty plants and giant bugs? Maybe Sanji was right… life wasn't fair.
"Of course," Robin spoke up, "If what I heard about Amazon Lily is true, I don't think that it's the safest place for you Sanji. Or Luffy for that matter."
"Why?" Nami asked in surprise.
"Not only is this island home to the Warlord Boa Hancock," Robin explained, "But she also rules here as a kind of queen. And all the women who live here on this island are supposed to be man-hating amazons. Any man crazy enough to set foot on this island will be gutted before they draw their next breath."
Usopp, Brook, and Chopper all screamed at the thought.
'So the cook wouldn't have lasted an hour, if even that,' Zoro thought to himself. He looked to Sanji, still lost in thoughts of islands with nothing but beautiful girls and the swordsman shook his head. Maybe Kuma should've sent him here. The cook could've been out of their hair once and for all. At least he would've died happy.
"Ok, when you put it like that, maybe I didn't get it so bad after all," Usopp whispered as he looked down at Luffy, who groaned slightly and opened his eyes to look up at the sky with a rather empty look on his face. They could tell right away that he was completely lost as to where he was and how he got here… and after seeing his dream, they could imagine that he would be a little disoriented for a while.
But after a few minutes his memories seemed to come back and his eyes came into focus. Slowly and sluggishly he pushed himself up and looked around with a dazed expression.
"I survived…" they heard Luffy whisper to himself as he gave his head a little shake. They knew that feeling… as if there was a thick fog inside your head that made it hard to focus on anything. Luffy looked down at his body and at the crater he was lying in before he continued talking to himself, "Doesn't look like I survived because I'm rubber. And what's this weird mystery hole here?"
"Of course he would think that's the only strangeness happening here," Nami sighed, rolling her eyes, but she understood. She remembered waking up in a stranger's house, with no memory as to how she got there. All she could think of was how she was sent flying off from Sabaody before she dreamt of that crazy baseball game and how they won against Arlong before she woke up. She got off easy though… the scariest thing on Weatheria was the old men freaking out.
She wondered how they were doing right now.
Luffy seemed to be trying to get up but was so dizzy that it took him a moment to remember how to do so. Yet once he got to his feet, he seemed to have cleared the fog and was feeling better already. As he dusted himself off, Chopper spotted something over Luffy's shoulder and let out another yell of fear as he jumped up to Zoro's shoulder.
"Chopper-san, what is it?" Brook asked worriedly as Chopper pointed a hoof up and they saw a giant boar coming through the trees.
"Wow… and these girls live on an island with big things like that?" Franky asked with an impressed whistle as the boar spotted Luffy. "I guess they gotta be tough."
"You know, this reminds me of Goa…" Zoro stated with a bored yawn. Big ass trees with even bigger ass monsters… well, at least Luffy shouldn't have to worry about going hungry here. Not that it would last long… Luffy would pick that thing clean in just a few minutes.
Speaking of which, Luffy was looking around curiously, having not even noticed the boar that was coming up behind him. But it was clear that the boar had other things on its mind as it began to lick its lips when it saw their captain… it didn't take a genius to figure out what it wanted.
"Do pigs eat meat?" Usopp asked worriedly.
"He's a pig," Robin answered, "They'll eat anything. But don't worry… if I had to guess who was more likely to end up dinner here, it's not Luffy."
"What a lame way to go anyway," Zoro stated, "Getting eaten by a pig."
"In that case, I feel bad for the boar," Sanji muttered, knowing that the boar wasn't the only pig in this memory.
"Man," Luffy said, "I hope everyone else made it out safe too. But I gotta find a way back!"
And Luffy started running straight ahead not a moment too soon for the boar tried to eat him but missed.
"How does he not notice that thing there?" Nami asked with several small sweat-drops. "I mean… his senses were already pretty sharp without Haki."
"You're forgetting how absent-minded he is," Robin reminded her patiently as they began to follow after him. "I think he was more focused on finding a way back to Sabaody than anything else going on around him."
"Should I be flattered or not?" Nami asked with a smirk.
"What?" Robin chuckled, "Don't tell me that you weren't thinking on getting back to Sabaody all the time?"
Nami looked away. Truthfully that was all that she thought about until she saw everything about the weather that they were studying about. She couldn't help herself but want to learn as much as she could about it as well… yet every time her mind wandered and she thought about her crew. She supposed that she couldn't blame them here.
Everything after that was rather entertaining. Luffy kept running around, most likely in circles, asking himself where he was and which way was Sabaody like he thought that he might answer himself if he kept at it. Meanwhile, the boar was following him, trying to eat him over and over again. But Luffy was being unusually cruel… and he didn't even realize what he was doing. The boar kept crashing into things and at one point had bit down where Luffy had stopped for a moment and broke some of its teeth on the hard stone.
"Like that thing was anything to be worried about," Zoro shrugged, though he was starting to feel a little bit sympathetic to the pig. After all, they knew how tough it was to keep up with Luffy even when he knew you were there.
"Well, it's got no one to blame but itself for choosing to go after Luffy," Sanji smirked, knowing that he wasn't just talking about the boar here. "He should've quit while he was ahead… Luffy should just put it out of its misery."
"Yohohoho, that is harsh, Sanji-san," Brook said happily.
At long last, Luffy stopped dead, remembering something important. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out the tiny scrap of paper. "Awesome! I still have the Vivre Card! And everyone else had one too!" he cried out, a smile finally coming back to his face. "This is great! We can find our way back! All I gotta do is follow this thing!"
"Good boy, using what little brainpower he has in there," Nami teased, but she was glad to see that he remembered that little piece of paper. She was grateful to Rayleigh once again for giving that to them before their unexpected… vacations.
Luffy looked at the piece of paper as he set it to lie in the palm of his hand. "So this will lead me to everyone else, huh?" he asked and watched as it crept across his hand in one direction. Luffy looked up and said, "They're that way!"
And he bolted, running off as fast as he could go, with the rest of them right behind him and still laughing at the boar that they had to give persistence points for all the suffering this was going to be. But its luck ran out for him when they ended up running straight into a dead end…
Luffy so focused on following the Vivre Card that he didn't notice the side of the mountain in his way until he ran right into it and bounced off.
"Luffy… watch where you're going," Usopp whispered as the rest of them shook their heads. Half in annoyance, and the other half in amusement.
"He's going to have to be careful," Chopper said anxiously as Luffy yelled out in pain, rubbing a sore spot on his head as he looked up to see what hit him. "We're not there to help him…?"
Zoro frowned at Chopper's words, and that was the very worst part. They weren't there…
"Yeah, we're not there to keep him from getting into trouble," Sanji sighed. And look what happened… Luffy must've gone through hell without them. Why couldn't that bear bastard have sent them all to the same place? Or at least some of them? It's like he knew what was going to happen and set things in motion to make sure that they went down the way that they had. "Or to get him out of the trouble that he's bound to get into."
"Wait, it doesn't hurt," Luffy added, "But what happened?" He looked up and saw the blockade in his path. "Oh, a dead end."
"You think?" Nami asked with a roll of her eyes as the boar came running up behind Luffy, though it was panting and looking like he was wondering if this was all worth it.
"Should've run while it had the chance," Franky whispered as Luffy reasoned that the paper was pointing on the other side of the cliff and he decided to go through it the best way that he knew how… he blew air into his arm and used his Third Gear to break right through, shattering the rock until a large hole was left for him.
But what really got them laughing was the fact that the boar seemed to have finally sensed that he had picked the wrong person to try and make a meal out of. It froze where it stood and had sweat falling from his hairy face.
"Yeah," Sanji said in annoyance, "Why go around the thing when you could just make a hole in it? And he didn't even bust all the way through!"
"He's never as strong as he can be when he's hungry," Brook pointed out, and Luffy seemed to have realized this as well.
"Wasn't enough?" tiny Luffy squeaked as he lay on the ground, panting hard and back in his toddler form. "I just don't have the energy to even this much. Hey Sanji! I want some food!"
"He does know that I wasn't here, right?" Sanji sighed, before he realized what he said and seemed to be steaming at the thought. Why? Why, oh, why did Luffy get sent to his dream island while he was trapped in the definition of hell?!
Luffy slowly sat up. "Oh right…" he said in a rather sad voice. "He's not here is he? None of them are?"
At the sad tone, Sanji felt some of his anger disappear at that, feeling torn at being angry and feeling angry. He pondered that over as Luffy finally noticed the boar, who had been trying to run away, and Luffy's face lit up hungrily at the sight of it.
"Following him was the last mistake that guy ever made," Franky said with a snort of laughter as Luffy had grown back to his full size and went running happily after the boar, who was now crying in fear. Didn't take Luffy long at all to catch it, cook it over a fire, and picked the skeleton clean.
"Well, at least he should be feeling better with a full stomach," Brook said cheerfully. "Though I, myself, have no stomach so I wouldn't know the feeling."
"Yeah, but we need to stay focused here," Usopp said anxiously. "I mean… it isn't like most of the memories we've seen. It's like we're watching the memories of when Luffy was a little kid again. We have no idea as to what's going to happen. Well, we do… but we don't know too. We know what happens but…?"
"We know the ending of the story, we just don't know how it all led up to that one event," Robin answered for him and he nodded grimly.
"Might as well enjoy the happier memories while we can then," Franky sighed bitterly as Luffy finished his meal and looked almost contented. But once he remembered that he still had to get back to Sabaody, he leapt up to his feet, filled with a new energy. He went running around, trying to figure out where he was and how far he would have to go before he got back to Sabaody… but he was soon distracted by seeing some mushrooms growing yards away.
Usopp gagged a little at the sight of them, having hated mushrooms for as long as he could remember.
"Now what is he doing?" Chopper asked as Luffy went running over to them.
"Oh! I know these!" Luffy said to himself out loud, and they only realized at that moment how much Luffy talked out loud to himself. "Laughing Mushrooms!"
"Not those…" Chopper groaned out.
"Mushrooms don't laugh," Brook said, thinking that over, having never heard of something like that.
"It's like taking some of that cactus juice from Alabasta," Robin explained. "They're used in making hallucinate drugs I believe?"
"You can't be serious," Nami groaned.
"I wish," Chopper said at once, "It's not as strong as the cactus juice but that kind of mushroom is used for when dentists pull out rotten teeth… it put you into a dream-like state. Makes you think that you're happy by pumping adrenaline and causing hallucinations."
"Luffy, don't…!" Nami cried out, but too late. Luffy had already picked one and shoved it into his mouth. "Eat that…" she finished with a shake of her head. And it was too late after that. Luffy began to start laughing wildly, and even began to clap and cheer like this was all a great big game. There was no stopping him now… he began to stuff pretty much everything that his hands grabbed hold of, and threw them into his mouth.
He was laughing so much that tears were beginning to form in his eyes. He ate more and more Laughing Mushroom before he found even stranger-looking mushrooms and grabbed them as well. He swallowed so much that they were starting to grow really concerned… and their fears were right when they saw mushrooms beginning to grow on his body.
"What's that?!" Usopp cried out.
"Parasite Mushrooms!" Chopper cried out in panic.
"Parasite what?" Nami asked, not liking the sound of that at all.
"I read about them," Chopper said quickly, "If someone eats them, they start to grow mushrooms on their body and can suck all the victims and bodily fluids!"
"How terrible!" Brook cried out anxiously.
"I always knew that mushrooms were bad news!" Usopp yelled dramatically, "Poor Luffy!"
"If you get them off quickly enough then they should recover," Chopper added worriedly, but how were they supposed to help him in a memory? The memory darkened after that, showing that Luffy finally lost consciousness. They waited for the memories to come back, and they almost regretted them when they did…
The memories after that were some of the most bizarre, out-of-this-world memories that they had seen yet. In fact, it was like watching something from another world… almost too painful to even watch. Some of the Straw Hats were horrified, others laughing so much that they had almost forgotten to breath… and Sanji… he looked like he was just reliving his worst nightmare…
It was all true… they discovered that this island culture is a land of nothing but women. Which have all been raised from birth to become strong warriors and workers. Yet, if any man were to set foot on the island, they were to be killed on the spot… and when some of the women found Luffy, he was put into a jail cell after the amazons found out about his gender.
When he woke up, they saw him held in a cage much like animals at a zoo… it was then that they realized that he was on display. Sanji couldn't have cared less about anything though… he was so stunned at the sight of hundreds of ladies that he had turned back into stone, which caused Chopper to panic. As he tried to turn him back to normal, the rest watched, laughing so hard that some of them fell to their knees, their guts feeling like they were about to burst.
For when Luffy woke up he was not only in a cage, but he was also completely naked. The women were wall watching him like he was some fascinating animal and were pointing out every little thing that he did, wondering if all men could do that. Luffy especially shocked them when he took his hat back from a woman named SweetPea using his stretching arms. After he told them him his name, and answered that the thing between his legs were his family jewels… they are amazed and ask to give them up so that they could see them.
"Now there's a line you don't hear everyday," Zoro said, failing holding back his own laughter, but you could see that he wasn't the least bit sorry about finding this funny. And their laughter only increased when they had given Luffy new clothes… ones with flowers and pretty frills.
Luffy understandably freaked out at the sight of them.
"Good… if he liked them, then I'd be worried," Usopp said in relief. But Luffy's outburst wasn't the smartest thing to do. For the women all suddenly thought that Luffy was actually a vicious savage and the snake that she wore curled around into the shape of a bow and was preparing to shoot.
"Tense that one…" Franky said, feeling sorry for the poor fool who married her. One of the other girls, Belladonna, had told Luffy that they had saved them and he immediately tried to apologize and thank them for helping him. Yet they couldn't let him stay here… that there was a ban on men in this country and they should've killed him from the start.
"Well, that kinda defeats the purpose of saving someone!" Usopp yelled as Luffy tried to plea with them into just letting him go. But they started to attack anyway—leaving him with no other chose but to go bursting through the roof of his cell, and have them all start to open fire right on his tail.
"Nice place," Zoro said sarcastically as they went running right behind Luffy, the angry mob of women right behind him.
"Damn… who knew a place like this existed?!" Franky yelled as they ran with Luffy through the town. Yet as they did so, they found that he was searching through his pockets, realizing with horror that he no longer had his Vivre Card.
"No! Without that, then how was he supposed to find his way back to us?!" Chopper cried out in worry.
"Forget getting back to Sabaody," Usopp said, as more arrows continued to fly at them. "I'd just be happy to get off this place alive!" And here he thought that being on such an island would be a good thing!
Luffy was still looking around, trying to find something to help, but then he spotted a girl with unruly blond hair in the crowd and bolted straight for her.
"What's he doing?" Nami asked, before she understood. "Luffy! That's not going to win them over you know! That's only going to make them even more likely to kill you!"
"Well, I don't see how it could get much worse!" Zoro yelled, glancing back at the angry mob. "So what's kidnapping someone gonna hurt? He can't talk to them anyway…"
"That's going to make them even angrier!" she yelled, but too late. Luffy had stretched his arm out and grabbed hold of the girl—who's name they heard to be Margaret. Once he made sure she couldn't run, he stopped by next to her and yelled out, glancing back at the other amazons, "We can't talk here. Look, sorry about this. But I gotta ask you something."
"Let me go! Someone help!" Margaret screamed, but before the words were out of her mouth, Luffy grabbed hold of her and had jumped up to the mountain. They glided along after him and Margaret started screaming when Luffy took a running jump and they fell down towards the jungle… a jump that could easily kill them.
"LUFFY! I SWEAR IF YOU HURT HER, IT'LL BE THE LAST THING YOU EVER DO!" Sanji bellowed out as Margaret continued to scream, closing her eyes as they reached the ground. But then, at the last minute, Luffy sucked in some air to inflate his body and used it to break their fall and they came to a gentle stop.
"She's so beautiful… she deserves much better than to be treated so poorly by that rubber-headed idiot!" Sanji sobbed out.
"She was one of the women who was trying to kill him, you do know that, right?" Franky asked exasperatedly. "This island doesn't seem like the safest place for guys."
"Yeah…" Usopp said quickly, "As nice as the idea is as an island full of women… I choose to live! If I knew that I was going to be gutted when I got here, I rather not come at all!"
"Then you have no sense of what being a man is all about!" Sanji yelled.
"If you ask me, I say that it's just keeping your balls from being cut off on this island would have you count for being a man," Zoro said, shaking his head as Margaret was struggling for air as Luffy dusted himself off.
"Hey," Luffy said, finally noticing that Margaret was still trying to recover from the fall. "You hurt or something?"
"If she is it's your fault, Luffy!" Sanji roared out, wanting to strangle the bastard then and there.
But Margaret pulled out a knife, pointing it at Luffy and warned, "Don't you come any closer! You just… inflated yourself! How is that?!" She was still shaking as she stared up from where they jumped from and yelled, "Just what were you thinking having us jump from there?! I thought I was going to die! It's a miracle that we survived such a fall!"
"Huh… now that you mention it," Nami said, looking up at the mountain as well. "She's right." She had gotten so used to Luffy and his powers—as well as his crazy stuns, that something like this doesn't faze her anymore. But she remembered what it was like when she first met Luffy and didn't think that half the things that he did should be even possible. She supposed that you just have to get used to travelling with a Devil Fruit User.
"Really?" Luffy said, half laughing, as he looked over to Margaret, but she held the knife up and warned him to stay away from her before he regretted it.
"Man, she should relax," Franky stated, scratching his head. Luffy wasn't going to hurt her… sure he had just scared her but he'd never do anything else than that.
"You can't blame her for being afraid," Robin pointed out. "She had never seen a man before so she has no idea what they're like. And he did just kidnap her, jump over a mountain and inflated himself when she thought that she was going to die… so…?"
"Yeah, I see your point," Usopp nodded.
"Dammit, Luffy! How dare you frighten an innocent flower like her?!" Sanji demanded.
"This is gonna get old real quick," Nami sighed, shaking her head at Sanji's words.
"It got old the day that I met this loser," Zoro hissed back as Luffy held up his hands, showing her that he meant her no harm.
Margaret glared up at him before she slowly got to her feet, but she never took her eyes off him, her knife still pointed at him—ready to stab him in case he came at her. "I've heard… I've heard that men have some kind of virus!" she stated, "So can all men inflate themselves like you?"
"Virus?!" all the male Straw Hats repeated as Robin chuckled and Nami rolled her eyes.
"I wouldn't say some kind of virus… but I do seriously wonder about you men sometimes," she sighed, shaking her head.
Luffy didn't seem interested in telling her about his powers and told her that he didn't have a virus but it's hard to explain so he told her to just go ahead and believe that all men could get fat like that.
"Luffy!" Sanji yelled out furiously, "You're turning them against all men! How am I supposed to try and win her heart if she believes everything you tell her?!"
"Yeah, that's the main issue here," Zoro whispered, rolling his eye.
"Yohohoho, she just needs to give us men a chance," Brook sighed when he looked at Margaret's skimpy clothing in a pervey way.
"Anyway," Luffy said quickly, "In the shorts I was wearing before, was there anything in the pockets?"
Margaret blinked in surprise at the question as Luffy said loudly, "Please, it's something really important."
"Yeah, so do you know how we can find it?!" Chopper asked anxiously.
"She definitely knows something about it," Robin stated, seeing the recognition flash in Margaret's eyes. And she was right for she reached into the front of her top, still holding tightly onto to knife, before she pulled out the piece of the Vivre Card and asked if this was what he meant.
"Oh, good!" Brook said happily, "What a kind woman indeed to hold onto that!"
"Good thing too. Luffy's first lucky break," Nami sighed in relief. Without that, Luffy would never find his way back to Sabaody… but how did he get off this island in the first place? Luffy's eyes lit up as he ran to Margaret and took her hand.
"This is it!" he cried out, staring at the paper like it was a lifeline. "Thank god for that! I don't know what I would've done without it!" He looked back to Margaret and added, "Thanks for holding onto it!"
"Yes, we truly are grateful!" Brook added with a bow. "Now… would you let me see your panties?"
"That's practically all that she's wearing," Usopp added as both Brook and Sanji both started to have nosebleeds.
"We know…" they sighed lovingly, with identical corrupted faces.
"You know… I'm starting to think that living on an island with nothing but women might not be such a bad idea," Nami whispered to Robin, who chuckled. "I mean, at least we wouldn't have to deal with guys like them."
"But they keep things interesting," Robin reminded her patiently as Margaret pulled away from Luffy, who was still looking over the Vivre Card in relief.
"I only held onto it because there was a name written on it," Margaret informed him, watching him curiously, as if wondering why anyone would be so happy to have a scrap of paper back. "But what is it?"
Luffy showed it to her, setting out in the palm of his hand and she watched in amazement as it began to move slowly across his hand. She stared at it in fasciation as she said, "It looks like it's moving! But how?"
Luffy just sat down at the base of a tree as Margaret sat a further distance away. Although she had lowered the knife, and didn't seem to think that Luffy was going to hurt her, it was clear that she still didn't trust him.
"Well, things are going alright now," Robin smiled. "I wonder if Margaret will be able to help Luffy leave this island now that she sees that he's not as bad as she thought."
"I don't know…" Zoro said suspiciously. Even if Margaret wasn't too bad, everyone else seemed pretty much hungry to eat him alive.
"A lot of stuff happened," Luffy said at last, and Margaret looked at him—not sure if he was talking to her or to himself. "And now me and all my friends are separated. But… because we have these pieces of paper, we can find each other again. I'm sure they're all fine! The can take care of themselves."
"Yes, but a little help doesn't hurt," Brook sighed, remembered how he was once held in a cage and on display like that. It wasn't a pleasant experience.
Luffy suddenly laughed and turned back to Margaret before he asked, "Hey, I really owe you. Is there anything I can do to repay you?"
"He shouldn't have said that," Franky said as Margaret's eyes lit up and she held out her knife.
"Then… can you cut off those family jewels of yours and show me?!" she asked eagerly.
"I TOLD YOU! I'M NOT TAKING OFF MY FAMILY JEWELS!" Luffy finally screamed at her. But the Straw hats were already laughing at that. Margaret's innocent tone clearly said that she really thought that men could take them off. But you couldn't really blame Luffy for not wanting to 'give them up' just yet.
Margaret was looking severely disappointed as she whined, "You men really are stingy."
"We're not stingy, lady…" Franky said, glaring at Robin, who smiled back innocently. "It's not a fun experience to have someone try to rip off your balls."
"You really were going to cut them off weren't you?" Luffy demanded, his eyes on the knife. "Put that knife away!"
"I think that he might feel safer without it around," Chopper said as Margaret started to ask Luffy about his friends, but she still kept the knife out.
"See, I'm a pirate," Luffy said, as if the conversation over whether or not keeping his balls never happened. "Wait, you do know what a pirate is, right?"
"You're a pirate?" Margaret said in surprise. "The inhabitants of this country are all pirates as well."
"Oh, that explains a lot," Zoro stated in understanding.
"No wonder they're all tough as nails here," Usopp said. And blood-thirsty as well…?
"I get it," Luffy said, "So this is a pirate crew with only women in it?"
"What a dream ship that would be," Sanji said achingly. He could imagine serving all these beautiful women meals… making little cakes and drinks just for them… if he had been on that ship then he could die happy.
"Yeah, and give them another reason to hate men," Zoro added, looking at the face that Sanji was making.
"So, you strong?" Luffy asked.
"What a stupid question!" Margaret sat at once as she stood up and began to proudly tell him that the mightiest warriors were part of the Kuja Pirates. They are strong and elegant, each of them… with none other than the Snake Princess leading them. The strongest and beautiful woman in the entire world… their captain is the Pirate Empress Boa Hancock.
"THE GODDESS!" Sanji cried out at once, remembering the radiant beauty he saw for that brief moment at Sabaody. She truly was a heavenly maiden having come down from above to bless them with her presence. Oh, the idea of seeing such perfection once again was almost too much for him to bear. He was close to yelling for the memories to get a move on so that he could see. But as Margaret continued to talk about the Snake Princess Luffy had pulled off the bandages and they were glad to see that he was pretty much healed.
Though they suspected that the few days that he spent sleeping in the air might've helped with that. Luffy broke off Margaret's talk and said, "I really do owe you though for everything. Sorry that I can't do anything to pay you back though. But I gotta get going!" he had started to run off before he remembered what he was wearing and came back to her.
"Ah, I hate to ask you anything else, but could you take these off?" he asked, looking down at the frills and flowers on the vest.
"Your family jewels?" Margaret asked hopefully.
"You really need to be careful how you word things here, Luffy," Usopp warned.
"NO!" was Luffy's predictable answer.
"She doesn't know when to give up does she?" Chopper asked as the rest of them laughed at the scene.
"Well, we always want what we haven't seen before," Brook laughed as Nami gave him a dark look.
"Shut up, Brook," she said as Luffy pointed to the vest and was asking for her to remove all the frills and everything else stitched on. He was going to look for his friends and they'd laugh if they saw him wearing something this girly.
"Yes, please get rid of them…" Zoro said, looking at the flowers in disgust. Honestly, if anyone had seen his captain wearing something like that, he'd never be able to go on with their journey.
"I don't know…" Nami laughed, "I think it looks good on him."
Margaret looked disappointed once again at being denied, yet she took the vest and she carefully removed all the patterns off it so that it was nothing but a plain turquoise blue. "I think that they look good on you, though," she added.
"He is more in touch with his feminine side than most men," Robin chuckled, wondering if that was what drew girls to him. Maybe Sanji could learn a thing or two from Luffy on how to get a girl to like you?
Margaret soon handed the now flower-free vest back to Luffy and he was only too happy to put it back on. Though she was still looking at him with great curiosity as she added, "Disliking frills though… men really are strange creatures."
"You don't know the half of it, sister," Nami sighed knowingly.
"How are you supposed to look cool when you're wearing flowers?" Usopp asked her.
"It wouldn't hurt you to have some once in a while," Robin offered. But even Sanji, who normally agreed with everything that a woman said, couldn't help but feel there was no chance in hell that he'd let anyone see him wearing flowers… or a dress… he shivered at the memory of being brainwashed enough to wear such a thing.
"Whatever," Luffy said. "But thanks for taking them off." He turned and held up his hand in farewell, "I'll see ya! I can't relax until I find the rest of my crew!"
"You're pretty impatient, aren't you?" Margaret asked, watching his retreating back.
"Don't start with me on his impatience," Nami added, knowing that she could argue and complain about that subject for days on end. Luffy suddenly stopped walking however and it caught their attention.
"So long as everyone's alive, then that's all that matters," Luffy suddenly said, holding up a fist. "As long as we're still alive then we'll come back and fight again and again! Because we're going to go straight for the top! We're gonna surpass everyone to get there!"
"Hell ya!" Franky cheered, jumping into the air and yelling with most of the other Straw Hats. No one could disagree with words like that and were quite keen to continue on with their journey once they got off this island. But things didn't seem to be working in anyone's favor, Luffy's especially.
He had turned back to Margaret and had asked her for a boat, but she regretfully informed him that the only boat here was the Kuja Pirates ship. Amazon Lily was located in the middle of the Calm Belt, so there were no winds or waves to help a boat move. The only way that they can leave and come as they please is because the Kuja Pirates managed to tame a couple Sea Kings called Yuda. They were poisonous sea monsters that no other Sea King would come close to… and they use them to pull their ship.
"That really is clever," Robin said, thinking it over. "And it shows how tough these amazons are if they're able to tame such beasts."
"Yeah, but that means that the only way off is to ask them for a ride," Chopper pointed out quickly.
"And they rather gut him than help him at the moment," Franky nodded, seeing the problem.
"There's always a chance that he could just sneak onto the ship when it comes into port and just sail out with them unnoticed," Robin offered thoughtfully, "But…?"
"But this is Luffy we're talking about," Usopp finished up.
"Yeah, but didn't Luffy say that he became friends with Hancock?" Nami added, thinking back to what Luffy said when they first saw the Kuja Pirates helping them escape.
"Really?" Franky said in surprise, "Huh… how'd they go to friends from enemies?"
"Something that only Luffy can answer," Robin shrugged as Sanji's eyes darkened over.
"Friends with the most beautiful woman in the world?" he asked before he fell to his knees with a dark cloud hanging over his head and began to pound this fists into the ground. "It's not fair!" he cried out. "It's just not fair!"
"You're starting to look like Foxy when you do that," Usopp warned before he glanced up to see Luffy running off to try and build himself a raft to paddle his way out. But they all shook their heads when they saw the poorly constructed vessel and weren't at all surprised when it broke apart when Luffy jumped on and sank. Thankfully, Margaret jumped in to save him and pulled him to shore, asking if men knew how to swim or not.
"She really is a sweet thing, though a little naïve," Nami stated, wishing that she could met Margaret in real life. But her thoughts were soon replaced with shock when Margaret shot an arrow at Luffy, who had to dodge it quickly to avoid getting stuck in him.
"What was that for?!" Brook gasped, staring at Margaret who was looking torn. That was when they Margaret told him that she couldn't let herself get attached to him for it will bring her nothing but trouble. She then had no choice to deal with him herself. That was when she shot more arrows, easily breaking through rock and taking Luffy by surprise.
They didn't answer much as she told him that they were ordinary arrows, but the tips were imbued with Haki. Luffy didn't understand a word of what she was saying, but before Margaret could explain more, the rest of the amazons had turned up, finally tracking them down.
"Run, bro! Run if you want to keep your balls! Oh, and your life!" Franky yelled. Luffy didn't need telling twice, for he bolted… yet as they ran, Robin clearly heard the amazons behind them talking… saying that their Snake Princess would be home soon.
"That can't be good," Robin said as she told them what she heard.
"REALLY?!" Sanji cried out in joy. "THAT BEAUTIFUL ANGEL WILL BE HERE SOON? OH, HAPPY DAY!"
"Wasn't he angry just a minute ago?" Brook as the others as Sanji put on a great burst of speed and bolted ahead of them, as if thinking that if he ran faster, he'd see this 'Snake Princess' even quicker.
"Don't complain," Nami sighed, "I almost prefer him like this rather than yelling like he was before."
"I doubt that will last long," Zoro said knowingly. But hey, if nothing else, these memories were entertaining. It almost made him forget about the events that they were sure to see. But still, they must've been running around with Luffy for at least an hour. These girls were showing no mercy… and since this entire island was full of amazons, everyone here was now his enemy and he couldn't go five feet without being attacked.
Sanji was so dumb-struck by each lady he saw, that it kept him distracted long enough to make him forget about being angry with Luffy. But Luffy was still forced to keep running for his life, just dashing as fast as he could through the jungle, climb up the side of the same mountain that he jumped off from before, and was soon back to the village. He didn't dare stop though until he reached a hidden place near the mountain peak where he could rest and catch his breath.
"Ok… he's on an island filled with vicious amazons who are trying to kill him," Franky summed up. "And he has no way to get back to Sabaody. Now I would like to say that he's gotten out of worse situations…?"
"But here he's completely on his own," Nami nodded anxiously as Luffy folded his arms and seemed to be thinking about this very same problem. "I mean… he doesn't even have any of us as back-up. How did he survive here?"
"Who cares?" Sanji sighed, thinking of all those beautiful girls and knew that if there was a heaven out there, this place would be closest to it.
"Yeah, you call it heaven… but it's more like right smack in the middle of hell if you ask me," Zoro said, now actually worried for the cook's sanity. "Everyone here is trying to kill him."
"What am I supposed to do?" Luffy said, talking to himself again and they looked up to see him pacing back and forth. "I can't stay here… they'll find me again. But that girl said that there was a pirate ship here somewhere."
"Well, he's thinking things through on his own," Nami said, "I have to say that I'm impressed."
"Wonder how long that will last," Usopp sighed.
"I'm truly hoping that Luffy-san will be able to get off here in one piece," Brook said, wondering just what he would've done if he had been sent here. Well, he knew what he would've liked to do anyway… he had to fight the nosebleed that he was starting to get though… now wasn't the time.
"I could borrow it…" Luffy went on before he stopped to think that over and shook his head. "No, that won't work. Nami's not here and I'd just get lost if I went on out my own."
"Did he just admit that he gets lost? Miracle!" Nami cried out dramatically.
"Well, at least he's able to admit it," Usopp said as they all looked to Zoro, who's eye narrowed at them.
"Why are you all looking at me for?" he demanded.
"No reason," Usopp and Chopper said at once, knowing that it wasn't worth the effort to remind him what a lost moron he was.
"I know!" Luffy suddenly yelled out, getting their attention again. "I just have to ask them to give me a ride on their ship! Or even take me back to Sabaody!"
"Luffy! They'll kill you before they offer you a ride!" Franky yelled. Really, did he already forget that he was being hunted?
"I would normally love the idea of going on a ship filled with beautiful women," Brook said, "But a ship like this one…? Luffy-san wouldn't survive the trip out of port… let alone all the way to Sabaody."
"Yes, but the way that I see it, he doesn't have any other options," Robin answered, "It's better than just trying to build his own raft again and sail out on his own. What other choice does he have?"
"But what makes him think that it's going to work?" Usopp asked at once, "I mean… Hancock's their leader here right? And she hates men… so why would she…?"
"Again… Luffy must've won her over," Robin said, "It's the only explanation."
"Win her over…?" Sanji repeated, now almost crying with the pain that he's in. "DAMN YOU LUFFY! WHAT DID YOU DO?!"
"I doubt that it's anything you would've done," Nami whispered darkly as Luffy tried to think more on his plan.
"Ok… so I just have to find someone important around here," he said, "And since important people like to live in tall buildings…"
"Is that what he thinks?" Usopp asked exasperatedly.
"Well, you can't deny that's not true," Robin offered as Luffy's face was turning red and he was breaking out in a sweat trying to think.
"Is he alright?" Zoro asked lightly.
"And that, people, is Luffy using his brain more in ten seconds than he has in years," Franky said sarcastically.
"Yeah, thinking isn't one of his stronger points," Usopp said, sounding a little worried that Luffy might have a brain meltdown if he kept this thinking up for much longer.
"I've been thinking too much! It hurts!" Luffy yelled out before he finally came to the conclusion, "I just have to try the tallest building first!"
Which meant… they looked down at the town, and they easily spotted the largest building just below them… more of a palace than anything. If Hancock really was here… then that was the most likely place she would be.
"I'll try that one!" Luffy declared and he went jumping straight down from his hiding spot and went crashing right through the roof. They followed them down into the whole and they ended up crashing right into some water in a steamed-filled room.
"Luffy! If you're here to ask them for help, this isn't the best way to do so!" Nami yelled, trying to make Luffy out through this vapor. "Where are we?"
"Well, if I had to guess… I would say that we're in a bath…" Robin offered as Luffy started yelling in fear and they saw him splashing around in the water before he realized that it was shallow.
"It's not deep! What do you know? I'm safe?" Luffy said, getting up and looking around at where he was.
"Of course you're safe you idiot," Nami said in annoyance before she noticed something not far away through the steam. She couldn't really make her out at first but she knew at once what it could only be.
"Hey, who's that?" Chopper asked, also having noticed the woman who was in the water.
No sooner had he said that than Nami took action. Faster than blinking, she turned back to each of the boys and she gave each one of them a hard bashing on the head so that they were all face-down on the ground.
"IF ANYONE OF YOU LOOKS I'LL KILL YOU!" she yelled at them all.
"B-but Nami… swan…" Sanji croaked out as each one of them began to bleed from the swollen bumps on their heads.
"What was… that for?" Zoro hissed through gritted teeth as Nami and Robin both stood with their backs to the scene as well.
"Didn't you learn anything from trying to spy on Makino?" Nami demanded. "You are all a bunch of perverts!"
"I wasn't even looking!" Usopp tried to tell her but as soon as Sanji heard of a woman bathing here, he bravely stuck his head up again until Nami hit him once more to make sure that he kept his head down.
"Yo…hohoho…" Brook said in pain. "My skin is all swollen and bleeding. Ah, not that I have skin anymore. But Luffy-san… is looking?"
"And I'll kill him for that later!" Nami snapped before she heard the woman cry out, "A man?!"
"You…!" Luffy's voice yelled out. "That thing on your back…"
'Damn… he got to see her?' Sanji thought, rage boiling away inside him at such a thought. And all he cares about is something on her back… why not look at the front?!
They heard the woman's voice gasp out and the splash of water, and they could only guess that she had tried to duck down in the water but Luffy went on to say, "I… I think I've seen that somewhere before."
"You saw it?!" the woman yelled at him and they could hear the fear and anger in her voice.
"Sister!" screamed a couple voices and there was the sound of a door slamming open and footsteps running inside. It wasn't until Nami and Robin heard the sounds of someone getting out of the water and the rustle of some clothes before they felt safe enough to look. Standing in a robe, was a very beautiful woman. She was tall and slender with long black hair that fell in about her face, framing her cold eyes and long, voluminous lashes.
"That's Boa Hancock alright," Robin said, recognizing her from Sabaody. At the mention of her name, Sanji forced his battered face to look up and at the sight of her, he turned to stone and Chopper yelled out in fear as he finally got up and tried to treat everyone who suffered from Nami's wrath.
"You mean Luffy saw Hancock naked?" Usopp croaked out, his nose now bent several ways.
At the mention of such a thing, Sanji burst into flames. "WHAT?!" he roared out in rage, "YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT RUBBER IDIOT GOT TO… GOT… GOT TO SEE WHAT TRUE BEAUTY IS?! AND I DIDN'T?!"
"Sanji," Nami warned and he shut up at once when he saw her glaring at him. Robin looked to the other two women with her… There was one large woman who looked a great deal like a snake. Her head was rather disproportionally large and wide to her body, and she had a forked tongue hanging from her mouth. She had rather pretty sea green eyes that matched her long green hair…
While the other was a muscled, obese and large woman who reminded her greatly of a sumo wrestler. She had bushy brownish gold hair that was arranged around so that it looked almost like a cobra's hood… and maybe even some kind of horned helmet.
"Her sisters…" Franky asked, spitting out a mouthful of blood. "Not much of a family resemblance."
As Hancock's sisters demanded to know what was going on, Hancock glared at Luffy as she said, "He saw my back."
Now they couldn't really see why she would be so upset about him seeing her back. But when she told her sisters this, both the other two gasped in shock and their eyes widen horror before they looked up at Luffy. The larger of the two pulled out a spear and held it up, ready to strike.
"Then our only solution is to kill him," she said firmly.
"Wait, what?!" Usopp yelled out, trying to recover from his black eyes as Chopper treated his nose. "That's a little extreme! It can't be that bad!"
"Most women would kill a man when he saw them bathing…" Brook said knowingly. That was why he loved his new-found ability to become a ghost.
"Do you want me to hurt you again, Brook?" Nami asked darkly, as if guessing what he was thinking, and he screamed in fear at the thought of getting hurt again.
"Why?!" Luffy asked, taking a step back and holding up his hands defensively, trying to show them that he was harmless. "I mean, I only saw her back… but… I think I've seen it before somewhere…?"
"Luffy… stop talking," Zoro warned. But there was no use. These three had made up their minds that Luffy was their enemy who had to die no matter what the cost.
Hancock held up her harm and proclaimed, "The thing that you have seen on my back is something that we three don't want revealed even if we die!"
"Again, that's pretty extreme!" Usopp cried out, but he couldn't help but stare at Hancock's beautiful face and finding himself lost in those cold eyes.
"But why?" Chopper asked fearfully, wondering just what it was that was there that they were so protective of.
"Bad tattoo?" Franky offered.
"HOW DARE YOU?!" Sanji yelled out, furious that he would think that someone would need to ruin such perfect skin by adding anything to it.
"But why?" Luffy yelled, "Who are you people?"
But Hancock didn't bother to answer as she held up her hands and formed them in the shape of a heart. "You are taking what you've seen to the grave!" she declared. "LOVE LOVE BEAM!"
"Love…?" Nami began before Luffy's eyes widen in fear just as a beam of bright pink hearts burst from Hancock's hands and went flying at him.
"Is that like the Slow Beam? I don't want to be slowed down!" he yelled out and he closed his eyes, looking away. But none of them needed to worry for nothing happened. It hit Luffy… but it just went through him harmlessly… Luffy cautiously opened his eyes and looked at the three women before around the room, wondering just what was supposed to happen.
Much like when Eneru's lightning attack failed to work on him back at Skypiea, Luffy sucked his lips in as he looked at them in confusion.
"Did… what was that?" Zoro asked, wondering just what the point was to that. No one moved for a moment, but Hancock seemed to think that maybe she just missed or something for she tried to use that same beam on Luffy once again. But once more nothing seemed to have changed. You could see the question marks over all four heads before Hancock seemed to lose it.
"WHAT ARE YOU? WHY DON'T YOU TURN TO STONE?" she demanded, sounding shocked and outraged, "DIDN'T YOU FEEL ANY WICKED THOUGHTS AFTER YOU SAW ME NAKED IN THE BATH?!"
"Wait, what?" Chopper asked, becoming more lost by the moment.
"That is ridiculous, sister!" the larger of the two sisters yelled out, her face full of disbelief, "Regardless of their age or gender, the sight of your body would never fail to capture anyone!"
The sister with the green hair than added, "It was most likely his fear of dying that suppressed any wicked thoughts. It's pathetic… but he's lucky."
"What are they talking about?" Chopper asked, now sounding angry at being kept in the dark here.
"I've heard that Boa Hancock has the power to turn men into stone," Robin said causally. "I guess that she tried to do so…"
"But how come it didn't work on him?" Usopp asked from his place on the floor.
Yet as the three sisters argued about why the beam didn't work on him, but Luffy seemed to grasp enough that he was in big trouble and went running to the nearest window and jumped out. Hancock noticed this almost too late…
Though he was falling, she was able to send some kind of attack right at him. They couldn't see what had happened for the memory was already starting to fade out… but they heard a loud banging nose and Luffy's yell of pain before everything darkened.
"What happened?" Nami asked quickly. "What did that woman do?"
"I would guess that it was another ability," Robin said at once.
"I thought that the beam didn't work on Luffy though?" Chopper asked, still not understanding why the beam didn't work to begin with.
"That wasn't the same attack," Robin said firmly, "She's a Warlord. She didn't get that title by using the same tricks over and over. If I had to guess… I would say that now that she knows that he's here, she's not going to forgive him this easily."
"But what was that thing on her back?" Usopp asked, still rubbing his swollen head. "I mean… she freaked out about it…" But he wasn't really thinking about that. He was more pissed off at Nami for denying him the chance to see such a beautiful woman naked.
The newest memory soon appeared and they stood on top of a large platform that had a deep ditch surrounding it, while stands were erected on the other side. The stands were filled with women, all of them yelling and cheering like this was some kind of grand event.
"Looks like you were right, Robin-san," Brook said as he looked to Luffy sitting on the floor in front of them. At the sight of women, Sanji let out cries of joy, and he didn't even notice Luffy, bound by snakes, and forced to sit in the middle of the platform.
"Ah… Sanji?" Usopp offered, trying to get his attention, but it was too late. Sanji was in heaven, and nothing was drawing his attention away from the sight of hundreds of women.
"Ignore him," Zoro said, looking at Luffy with a shake of his head. Really, Luffy… leave it to you to get caught here.
"W-What are they gonna do with him?" Chopper asked nervously as he looked around at all the girls, all laughing and jeering at Luffy.
"Looks a coliseum," Robin said casually, glancing at the stands and high walls. "They have places like this in certain parts of the world. This was a form of entertainment."
"Oh, you mean like sports?" Chopper asked curiously.
"Yes, they did that too," Robin admitted, "However coliseums were most famous for where they would watch people get torn apart by warriors or animals."
Chopper, Usopp, and Brook all screamed at the thought and the others looked rather pale.
"You mean they're gonna feed Luffy-san to some kind of monster?!" Brook cried out.
"And I thought the island I was on was bad," Usopp whispered, taking back any forms of jealousy he had for Luffy when he first heard about him being sent to Amazon Lily. Really, if he had to survive with women like this for two years, no wonder he grew so strong.
"It's not the monsters that we should be concerned with," Zoro said with a frown. Hancock is a Warlord after all… and he had a bad feeling that she wasn't going to let things end that easily for Luffy.
Speaking of Luffy, he was trying to pull his arms free from the snakes that held him like ropes. "Damn! How could these stupid snakes be so freaking strong?" he demanded angrily, still tugging. But just then the women in the crowd started to scream joyously and they looked up to see Hancock and her sisters, whose names were Sandersonia and Marigold, making their appearance. Accompanying Hancock however was a large white snake with pink spots running down its body. It was also wearing a horned skull with blue hair jutting out from the back, and even appeared to be smiling as it circled up at the top of the stairs, standing over the platform and of Luffy.
It circled up and formed a kind of scaly throne, where Hancock sat down upon, her sisters on either side of her.
"It's like he's on trial or something here," Brook gulped, not liking where this was going.
"Yeah, and these women are all judges, jury, and executioners," Nami couldn't help but say. It was true… some of the girls were looking a little vicious.
"Oh, Hancock… my love…" Sanji almost sang as he went up to her kneel at her feet. "I am yours to command!"
"You know… I'm this close to knocking him out," Zoro hissed under his breath. "I don't know how much more of this I can take."
"I think I'll help with that," Nami said in deep annoyance. Really, what was with that love-sick moron? This was serious.
Hancock looked down with a cold, uninterested look on her face, as if she honestly couldn't have cared less about being here at all. "Now then, man… answer me," she said, "How, and more importantly, why did you come to this island?"
"I don't know!" Luffy answered, "I don't remember how I got here. I was sent flying back and next thing I know, I'm here!"
"Stop lying!" Hancock said loudly, "You expect us to believe such a ridiculous story? What is your reason for being here?!"
"But he's not lying!" Chopper said angrily.
"You can't blame them for not believing his story of just coming here by accident," Robin reasoned.
"But they aren't even giving him a chance to explain what happened!" Usopp said as Sanji continued to drool over the sight of Hancock.
"It's Luffy… I doubt that he'll be able to explain it in a way that makes sense even if they gave him a chance," Nami sighed.
"Look, if you want me off, then just give me a ship!" Luffy said to them, "I just want to leave this place! There's somewhere that I gotta be, and I have to be there as fast as I can! If you're the most important person here, then can't you help me out?"
"Nice and direct as always, Luffy," Nami groaned out, knowing that they won't like this. She was right… the entire crowd was furious that he dared to speak to their Snake Princess like that and were yelling at him for it.
Hancock didn't react at all as she looked down at him with that same cold expression. "You think you will leave here alive?" she asked icily. "You will die in this very arena."
"Well, at least she gets to the point," Franky said, wondering what she had planned.
But at that moment, there was a voice who cried out from the stands, "Please! Snake Princess, wait!"
They knew that voice… and were startled that she was coming to the rescue. Everyone in the memory was quiet as they looked to see Margaret standing up and running down the stairs so that she could join Luffy on the stage. She looked up at Hancock and pleaded, "He… he's not the type of person who would lie about this!" There was fear in her eyes, but she bravely spoke up, trying to get them to listen to her.
"Damn, I knew I liked her!" Franky clapped. "You go girl!"
"Oh, dear Margaret!" Sanji sighed, "You have a heart of gold coming to the aid of our thick-headed captain who doesn't appreciate true beauty!"
"One more word… Sanji, just one…" Nami whispered, wishing that he would shut up with his stupid words of love. They were giving all of them headaches here.
Hancock didn't react at all as she glared down at Margaret, who gulped a little but still went on, "Please listen, Snake Princess. I believe that he's telling us the truth here! I don't think that he means to harm anyone or anything in this kingdom!"
"Thank you, Margaret," Usopp sighed, glad that Luffy had one person here willing to stand up for him against a nasty crowd like this one. And Luffy was going to need all the friends he could get.
"Hey, it's you!" Luffy said, recognizing who it was, with a smile back on his face, "Thanks! Please tell her!"
"You," Hancock said to Margaret, not reacting in the least, "You are one of the guards are you not?"
"Yes, my name is Margaret," she said in a respectful tone.
"Then you already know that the punishment for any intruder, for all men, is death," Hancock informed her, "So tell me why are you defending him?"
"Because it's the right thing to do," Brook said at once. Margaret could see that… she could see that Luffy honestly meant no harm to these women, and simply wanted to leave. This could've all been solved peacefully couldn't it?
Margaret was quiet for a moment before she confessed, "Because… I'm responsible. It was… I was the one who brought the man here!"
"Now she's got some guts admitted that to these guys," Zoro said impressed.
"Yes," Robin said, with a frown, but she really hoped that Margaret didn't come to regret that. She knew about pirate crews… and now that they know that she was the one who brought the 'trouble-maker' in the first place, she was sure to be punished for it.
All the women gasped at the confession, but Margaret wasn't alone. The other two women—whose names they could recall as being Sweetpea and Aphelandra—both came running up and knelt down in front of Hancock with their friend.
"Snake Princess, the saga of 'There's a Reason for That'!" Sweetpea yelled as she held her head down. She was a very large, corpulent warrior with a rather masculine-like build with her hair worn up in pigtails.
"That's right!" Aphelandra added quickly, an extremely tall woman with a rather child-like face and wide dark brown eyes with curly orange-brown hair. She told them how they found Luffy covered in mushroom and thought that Luffy was one of the villagers since they couldn't see his face.
"So that's how they found him," Nami muttered, not sure if she should be glad or not about this revelation.
"So they brought him in cause they thought he was a girl?" Franky said, feeling sympathy for Luffy. You had to admit though, he's got some girlish features…
"Sweetpea! Aphelandra!" Margaret said, sounding almost angry that her friends were there.
"No, we are all responsible as Margaret for bringing him here!" Aphelandra stated.
"The saga of 'Exactly'!" Sweetpea agreed.
"Now there's some real friends," Brook said fondly, his heart feeling like it was going to burst at the thought. Though he didn't have a heart…
"Oh, you ladies are as kind-hearted as you are beautiful!" Sanji swooned, "My heart belongs to each one of you… and I swear on my life that I will… OWWW!"
Nami had finally hit him over the head with her staff, adding to the other swollen, bleeding lump from before. "Now just sit there and be quiet!" she snapped at him as Franky clapped in approval. Chopper cried out in shock and went over to treat him, but Usopp shook his head.
"No," he said seriously, "This is good for him… really, it's in his best interests."
"But…?" Chopper began, yet Margaret was yelling again, and for a second Usopp and Chopper thought that she was talking to them.
"Stop it both of you!" she cried out, "I'm the one who said that we should bring him to the village! Not you!"
Luffy couldn't have looked more lost as to what was going on around him. One would think that they were speaking a different language from the confusion he had. "What's going on?" he asked, "You tried to kill be before, didn't you? So you mean you guys are really nice?"
"They're trying to help you, Luffy," Nami yelled, "Just shut up!"
"Too late," Robin said, glancing at Hancock, who had stood up. She knew that look at once… this wasn't going to end well. Hancock didn't say anything, but she walked down to stand in front of them on the arena floor and Robin just shut her eyes… already guessing what was going to happen.
As soon as she saw her there, Margaret fell to her knees and began to plead with Hancock that she was the one guilty here, and to please leave her friends out of this. Both Sweetpea and Aphelandra looked ready to argue, but Hancock spoke.
"Enough," she said, "Now raise your head, Margaret." And she gently lifted the girl's head with a single finger and the three looked surprised by this. The Straw Hats, however, didn't trust Hancock's actions at all… Hancock said in a soft voice, "I always did like honest people. So tell me… your wish is that I forgive you?"
Margaret started to blush at the question and stuttered out a shaky yes before Hancock told them to stand up. Margaret got up as her two friends looked at Hancock as if transfixed.
Nami realized what was going to happen too late. "NO, DON'T…!" she cried out, but it was too late. For Hancock threw her hair back and caused the three women to blush once again before she held up her hands in a heart-shape.
"Love Love BEAM!" she yelled out, and the same kind of beam that she had tried to use on Luffy before in the bathroom was created. And in a blink of an eye, all three women had been turned to stone.
Most of the Straw Hats let out cries of shock and Usopp actually fell onto his butt at the sight of it. "YOU MEAN THAT SHE CAN TURN PEOPLE TO STONE?!" he screamed.
"I thought that was the case," Robin answered with a sigh. "I heard about the powers of the Love Love Fruit… she's able to transform anyone who loves or lusts after her to stone by using their 'dirty thoughts' against them."
"But they were girls, though," Chopper pointed out and Robin only shrugged back, unable to bring herself to answer him.
"In other words, Sanji wouldn't stand a chance," Franky said, as Sanji continued to sleep there. "I mean… he turns to stone even without her help."
"His dirty mind causes so much trouble…" Nami sighed, making a note to never let Sanji meet Hancock if she could help it.
"Wait… if that's the case, then how come Luffy didn't turn to a statue when he saw her naked?" Franky asked at once.
"She's so bright! She's shining like a diamond… but Luffy-san felt nothing?" Brook asked in confusion.
"Well, there's always the chance that Luffy was just scared that he was going to be slowed down by her powers and wasn't thinking of any dirty thoughts?" Robin stated, but she highly doubted that. In many ways Luffy was still a child, and since when are young children interested in romance?
"What happened?" Luffy yelled out in shock, and getting their attention back onto him. "How…? What happened? They turned to stone! How'd you do that? Why?!"
Hancock didn't say anything to him as she turned and walked back up the stairs and up to the snake—acting as her seat—looking as cold and distant as ever before.
"Hey!" Luffy yelled up at her, "What did you do?! Why'd you do it?! They saved my life!"
"And I think that's the reason why she did it," Robin sighed.
"What a cruel thing to do," Nami whispered, glaring angrily up at Hancock. She just couldn't figure out what happened. Luffy said that they were friends weren't they? How'd they go to that from this?
"Yes," Hancock answered him, "That is why they are punished. For helping you."
"Because of me?!" Luffy yelled, sounding confused for a moment before he demanded, "Well turn them back to normal!"
"And whom do you think it is you are ordering around?" Hancock asked coldly, still not even looking at him, as if he were a mildly annoying fly who wasn't worth her time.
"He doesn't care who he's talking to, he treats everyone how he wants to," Zoro stated, glad that the cook was still out, for he would probably be yelling at Luffy for his 'manners' at the woman of his dreams. Really, whose side was that asshole on?
"I said hurry up and change them back!" Luffy yelled at them, his own face becoming angrier and angrier with every second.
"This is Amazon Lily!" Hancock declared, "The kingdom of warriors! If you are powerful, you are beautiful! You're going to die here and we are going to watch it!"
And no sooner did she say that then she called for a large black panther, with yellow and red eyes, and large fangs while wearing a brown cap that went halfway down his back. When he grinned they could see the rows of sharp teeth.
"You know," Usopp said, having finally shook himself from his daydream of him with Hancock, "If we haven't had faced monsters like that since we came to the Grand Line, I'd be worried."
"I know the feeling," Franky said, looking at Luffy, who didn't seem to be the least bit worried that a hungry cat was behind him.
"This is the black panther Bacura," Hancock stated with a devious smile. "It is a carnivorous beast that is used by the empress of this kingdom as executioner for generations. When he is through with you, not even your bones will remain."
"Not a single one?!" Brook cried out in worry, looking down at his skeleton body.
"I don't suppose there would be if it was anyone else," Robin stated casually, "That cat is big enough to swallow you whole."
At the same time, either they didn't want to be eaten, or wanted to give Luffy a fighting chance, the snakes that had been holding Luffy had finally unraveled themselves from him and slithered away. Yet Luffy didn't stand up—he just sat there with his hat drawn over his eyes so that they could only see the dark shadow there…
"You should be honored, man!" laughed a woman's voice, "Bacura will eat even a monkey as small and thin as you!"
"Are these ladies in for a surprise," Franky stated, and they walked a few feet away, with Usopp dragging Sanji with him to the other side of the arena, for they knew him well enough to know which direction Luffy was going to send Bacura flying.
"Never mind that," Luffy said, finally getting up, and still talking to Hancock like there wasn't a wild animal in the arena with him. "What about them? Are you going to change them back or not?"
"I think we already know the answer to that, Luffy," Usopp said, looking sadly at Margaret and the other girls.
"And all they were trying to do was help Luffy!" Chopper added furiously, wishing that there was something that he could do. But… how were you supposed to treat someone who was turned to stone? Sure, he treated Sanji, but that was apparently from an act of passion… or so he claimed. Here, it was the effects of a powerful Devil Fruit. He never treated someone whose body had been turned to stone before. He had a feeling that Hancock was probably the only one who could turn them back…
Bacura roared out, seemingly annoyed that Luffy wasn't even bothering to look at him, as the crowd was screaming for the cat to hurry up and eat Luffy.
"Man, that's intimidating…" Usopp croaked out, not remembering hearing so many voices hate one person at once.
Hancock finally had enough and commanded, "BACURA!"
And at her words, the panther pounced, ready for his meal, but Luffy had turned so quickly that they almost missed seeing what happened. Luffy had punched the overgrown cat clear across the arena and it collided with the stands, the women screaming and fleeing from their seats as they tried to avoid getting hit.
Bacura smashed into the stands and was left in the middle of a giant crater… out cold.
"That was easy," Nami said, having not expected anything else.
"Honestly, I'd be worried if he couldn't even handle that kitten," Zoro said annoyed. Luffy didn't even break stride as he turned too glared up at Hancock, who was rather taken-back to have seen the islands 'executioner' now laying defeated with a single punch. If nothing else, that small display of power was enough to shut the screaming fans up.
"About time," Zoro said, glaring at the girls, "They were starting to really piss me off."
"Yes, I don't like seeing this side of the ladies either," Brook added, glancing at their stunned faces.
"What the hell is wrong with all of you?" Luffy asked, though his tone was quiet, they could sense the deep anger boiling inside him. "Your own friends were turned to stone by her and you're all cheering for her?!"
"Thank you! Finally, someone says it!" Nami said firmly.
"You tell 'em, Luffy!" Chopper cheered as the girls were gasping in shock that he was talking to them. They then began to yell out that they felt sorry for those three, but their Snake Princess only did what she had to do. Those three had to be punished for bringing him here.
"Didn't you hear their story?! They didn't know that he was a guy! I mean, who can tell?" Franky yelled out.
"Better not let Luffy hear you say that," Usopp warned.
"At the least, if they had to be punished, then find some other form of punishment!" Nami said loudly. "I mean… turning them to stone?! Are they even still alive in there?!"
"I don't know," Chopper answered, "It might be like they're in suspended animation. They're still alive… only… unconscious. We won't know for sure unless Hancock tells us."
"Yeah? Good luck getting anything out that block of ice," Zoro said, glancing over at the frozen woman, who was looking angrier than ever at Luffy's words.
"You think that they would at least act a little sorrier for their friends, too," Chopper added, thinking of the times that his crew had come running to his rescue when he was in trouble. Were the women on this island that blood-thirsty that they didn't care what happened to them? It could be any one of them tomorrow but they don't seem to care?
Hancock shut her eyes for a moment before she said softly, "It matters not. I will be forgiven no matter what I do. If you need to know why… it is because… I am beautiful!" she declared as she flicked her long, black hair and winked.
"Is she serious?" Zoro asked, not remembering when the last time was that he heard something so stupid.
But most of the rest of the crew seemed to have hesitation in agreeing with him. Once again, he rolled his eyes and looked to Robin and Chopper. "It's that bad?"
Robin nodded, looking ready to laugh as they heard Sanji whisper, "Oh… my sweet Hancock… I would be honored… if I could… kiss…"
And he began to drool and make kissing sounds in his sleep as the three felt sweat hanging around their heads again.
"What's with this crew?" Zoro stated, smacking his face with his hands. Thank goodness that some of them had their acts together. If only they could snap out of it… as for the cook? Well, he was already hopeless…
At her words, it was as if her turning three of their own into stone never happened. The women in the crowd all began to cry out how much they loved her and that they would forgive everything she did.
"I see what she means," Nami said, having used that tactic more than once to get out of trouble. But she would never do something this terrible would she? Sure, she got people in danger before, but they at least had a fighting chance. She wouldn't punish someone for doing the right thing… would she?
Hancock looked down triumphantly at Luffy and asked in an innocent voice, her eyes shining with a sweetness as she asked, "Don't you agree?"
"You're really pissing me off," Luffy answered coldly and Hancock was so shocked that she gasped and seemed to faint in her chair.
"This is just sad," Zoro said with a shake of his head. Really, so he didn't agree with her and she's acting like Luffy discovered her weakness or something. That was when he noticed that everyone but Chopper and Robin were all blushing bright pink and Nami gave her cheeks several hard slaps to wake herself up.
"I see that Luffy's not the only one unaffected by this," Robin chuckled as Zoro and Chopper both glanced at her in confusion. As the others tried to bring themselves out of their love-sick states, Robin answered, "It doesn't matter what age or gender you are… if you have even the slightest bit of lust for her, it will be enough to fuel the petrification. Yet, if there's no lust there… then her powers are nullified."
"Then why aren't we affected?" Zoro asked.
"My true love is history," Robin answered with a smile. "I suspect that you two aren't the type to judge one on appearance?"
"Good to know," Zoro said in understanding as Chopper knew that he really wasn't interested in human women anyway.
Robin also had her answer. She had known for some time that Luffy had a pure heart and that was the reason he was immune to Hancock's powers. It's only when Luffy's around Usopp—or others with negative influences—does he tend to act more like how you expect young men to act.
"Big sister!" cried out a voice and she glance up to see both Sandersonia and Marigold there, trying to calm Hancock down.
But Hancock had enough. She sat straight up, her face holding nothing but fury, as she declared, "This is just ridiculous! It shouldn't be possible that there's a man who can resist my charm!" She glared at Luffy and said, "I can't stand the sight of him!"
At her words, all the women in the crowd began to shout for Luffy's death as well, screaming out for blood and for someone to take his head—and his family jewels.
"Damn these girls are cruel," Franky stated, glancing around at the screaming woman. And here he thought that having girls crying out your name was once a good thing.
Hancock raised her hand and yelled, "Go! Marigold! Sandersonia! Take that man's head already!"
"Leave it to us, big sister!" Sandersonia cried out as both sister leapt down and faced Luffy.
"Two against one? That's not fair!" Nami yelled out.
"Since when has any of this been fair?" Zoro demanded. So now a real battle was going to happen. This was nothing like it had been with the stupid cat… these two were sisters of a Warlord… it was going to be anything but an easy fight.
And he saw his first signs of being right when he saw both girls transform. They grew larger with scales appearing over their bodies, their legs were replaces with long tails, and their faces grew flatter… more…
"I hate snakes," Nami said as they took a surprised step back.
"So they're both Devil Fruit Users?!" Usopp yelled, staring at them with horror.
"Yes… the Snake Snake Fruit…" Robin stated, "And if I had to guess… judging from their patterns and Marigold's hood… I would best guess that they were the King Cobra and… most likely the Anaconda models."
"Snakes… really, who didn't see this coming?" Franky sighed as the two towered over Luffy, who glared furiously up at them both. "There some kind of fetish with snakes in this place."
"What's with Zoan Users and them getting to be bigger than life?" Usopp whispered, thinking of Lucci and the other Zoan CP9 members.
"Snakes…?" croaked a feeble voice from the ground and Sanji had finally raised his head and looked around. "Where am I…?" and he suddenly let out a loud yell when he saw the Snake women there. "WHERE'D THEY COME FROM?!"
"You really should've stayed asleep," Nami sighed as Brook quickly explained about Hancock's sisters.
"So they can both transform?" Sanji said, thinking it over. Well, at least they weren't men dressed in drag… "Oh, Marigold… Sandersonia… like snakes you are able to shed off your old skin and take on new life!"
"Oh, shut up…" Zoro said angrily. "Those two are trying to kill Luffy!"
"And he better not hurt them!" Sanji declared, as if he hadn't heard him, "I will never forgive anyone who hurts a woman!"
"And this is why Kalifa almost killed you," Nami said angrily, thinking of knocking this love-sick idiot out again.
"Ah… what's this Gorgon thing they keep talking about?" asked Brook, and they stopped arguing enough to hear the women in the crowd all talking excitedly about how the three sisters fought a creature called the Gorgon and were cursed with these powers.
"Such a wondrous sight!"
"And there is the proof that the three of them slayed the Gorgon!
"Even in their cursed forms they're still beautiful!"
"That's a matter of opinion," Nami whispered, looking at their flat and wide faces, the fangs and forked tongues hanging out of their mouths… she shook her head. To each their own.
"Curse? I admit that eating a Devil Fruit is often called a curse," Robin said, "But what they're talking about doesn't exist. At least not to my knowledge."
"What is it?" Zoro asked.
"The Gorgon is a mythical creature with snakes for hair, and that could turn people to stone with a single gaze," Robin answered. "But… these powers are from a Devil Fruit… not for fighting a Gorgon." She smiled a little as she remembered how she had been a Gorgon in her dream…
"Then…?" Nami frowned, not understanding why they would think of something like that when the answer was that they ate Devil Fruits.
"Curse?" Luffy asked, looking over the two sisters. "What curse? What are they all talking about? No matter how you look at it, they're Devil Fruits Users!"
"Yeah! Big deal!" Usopp yelled out, silently glad that he wasn't the one facing them.
"If even Luffy could see that, then maybe these girls are a little less stimulated than we thought," Nami said with a frown.
"That's not important now anyway," Chopper said quickly as both Marigold and Sandersonia laughed at him.
"Sandersonia! Marigold!" Hancock shouted, annoyance in her tone. "Punish the man for daring to set foot on the Island of Women! And for insulting me! Let him fall to our war dance!"
"Oh, my sweet Hancock! You are so right!" Sanji danced around, having recovered from his quick nap. "It is a sin that we unworthy men set foot in the very heart of heaven. But, if you please, I could show you a world that you never imagined… why, I could…"
"Just shut up," Franky said bitterly. "In case you forgot, they're trying to kill Luffy here."
"Serves that bastard right for coming to heaven while I was trapped in hell," Sanji hissed and fire burned his body.
"On second thought, why not let him go to Amazon Lily?" Nami whispered to the others, "At least his last few moments of life will be enough to make him leave this world without regrets."
"I'm game for that," Zoro stated.
"I could always just swallow him," Sandersonia offered with a hiss.
"If you want, I'll strangle him to death," Marigold stated, her forked tongue hanging from her mouth.
They were expecting Luffy to start fighting right away, but he took them all by surprise when he shouted out, "Hey! Hold on a second!"
"What's the problem, bro?!" Franky yelled, not getting why Luffy was hesitating here. He'd eat his own tool box before he believed that Luffy was actually afraid here.
"It's too late to beg for your life," Sandersonia hissed.
Marigold then added, "Your sins will never be forgiven! Your fate was sealed the moment you came here!"
"Forgiven?! Sin?! What did he do that was so terrible?!" Chopper cried out. "All he did was come to the island! And he didn't even want to!"
"Some people have been killed for less than that," Robin sighed tiredly.
"It's not that!" Luffy snapped at them before he turned and when they saw where he was going, they all understood. "It's just that I gotta move these three first!" He slowly, and carefully, moved the petrified statues of Aphelandra, Sweetpea, and Margaret… moving them off the platform and over the side where they would be safely out of the way.
"What happened…?" Sanji asked in bewilderment, staring at the three statues.
"Hancock turned them to stone," Usopp said in annoyance.
"What?! Why would my dear, sweet Hancock do such a thing?!" Sanji cried out in shock as the rest of them rolled their eyes in annoyance.
Robin patiently told him about the Love Love Fruit and Sanji seemed torn between his love for Hancock and his defense to the three women turned to stone.
"She's so cold… an icy beauty…" he whispered and Zoro was already halfway to drawing his sword and lopping the cook's head off.
"Easy," Usopp said, stopping him as Luffy set Sweetpea and Aphelandra out of the way, and was just carrying Margaret, setting her down gently. "I know he's annoying here, but we can't help that."
"In either case, I'm truly happy to see that Luffy-san thought to put them here," Brook said with happiness in his voice, though he felt a pain of sadness and anger in the pit of his stomach of the fate of these three. What were they going to do to help them?
Robin glanced up to the three sisters, as well as to the other women in the crowd, and though they didn't say anything—it was clear that they seemed lost as to why he would go so far for three girls that they already consider to be traitors. Maybe they'll start to see that not all men are cruel and evil like they thought.
Once he set Margaret upright, he looked over them all and said, "You don't have any cracks, right?"
Naturally, they couldn't answer, but Luffy didn't seem to be expecting one. He stood back and looked at them sadly as he said, "I'm really sorry about this. It's because you wanted to help me that you were turned to stone. If only Chopper was here… I'd ask him to treat you guys. It's just like when me and Robin were turned to ice by Aokiji. We might be able to turn you back to normal, so you wait here."
"Could you do anything for them?" Nami asked Chopper anxiously and he looked down in shame.
"I highly doubt it," he confessed, "But if it really is like when you two were frozen, then they're still alive… but… but the thing is I don't know how Hancock's powers really work. I think that she's the only one can wake them up."
"I think that's the answer," Robin stated softly, "But Luffy was right to move them. In that state… if they shatter apart then they'll die. If Luffy can win the fight against them, then maybe Hancock will find it in her heart to turn them back."
"What heart?" Nami demanded coldly. She was starting to wonder if Hancock even had a heart in there somewhere.
"That beautiful heart that she had beating in her chest," Sanji sighed, his eyes going to Hancock's own chest and blood burst from his nose like a fountain.
"Sanji…" Chopper sighed, knowing that if he bled to death there, there wasn't any way that he could save him.
"You should be more concerned about your own safety instead of worrying about them," Sandersonia told him, her eyes narrowed angrily.
"Oh, shut up!" Luffy yelled at her. "I can do what I want!" He then jumped back up to the arena and faced them, cracking his knuckles and added, "So all I gotta do is beat you two up, right?"
"Luffy! How dare you threaten women!?" Sanji roared out before Nami said, "Sanji? Please be quiet? You're giving me a headache."
Wow, she wished she thought of that sooner… Sanji shut his mouth up at once, and instead, bowed low to her as she merely folded her arms and watched as the women in the crowd were all starting to laugh and jeer.
"Did you all hear what he said?"
"Does he honestly think he can beat the Gorgon Sisters? That's impossible!"
"I've never heard anything so outrageous before!"
"He's funny even when they're about to kill him!"
"Yep," Zoro stated, looking around, "This place is worse than the island that I got sent to." At least those baboons didn't talk back.
"You can go ahead and try," Marigold told him, having also been laughing and was now grinning evilly down at him. "If you still haven't realized that you're going to die here, I'll give you a warning. Be sure not to fall out between the audience and the arena. There are spikes waiting for you below."
"S-Spikes?!" Usopp yelled out, his eyes wide and he went running over to the closest edge and looked down before he gulped. She was right… there were hundreds of sharp, silver spikes sticking up out of the ground…
"Wow, you fall down there, and you're a pin cushion," Franky said, knowing that Luffy's powers weren't going to help him here.
"Yeah, not even a rubberman can survive a fall like that," Robin said.
Just then, Hancock spoke up. She held up a hand and said ruthlessly, "Marigold! Sandersonia! Kill him! For the crime of trespassing on this island and for the unforgivable sin of insulting me, his punishment will be death!"
"Talk about someone who can't take an insult…" Franky whispered as Brook's jaw fell open. Though he couldn't help but admit that even when she was angry, Hancock was truly stunning.
"Luffy! You better do something and fast!" Nami warned, though she knew that this had already happened.
The crowd was cheering on for the snake women as Luffy looked up at them calmly.
"Fine," he said, "But I don't plan on dying here." He then said proudly, "I still have to find the One Piece!"
His words caused Marigold and Sandersonia to laugh.
"Did you hear what he said, little sister?" Marigold asked mockingly.
"I did, indeed," Sandersonia answered back, "But I don't believe him, do you?" She looked to Luffy and added, "A man like you? Find the One Piece? What a joke!"
"They're gonna regret saying that," Robin answered in amusement as Luffy's eyes narrowed slightly.
"You guys just shut up!" he yelled at them, and Usopp and Chopper had to cover Sanji's mouth to keep him from yelling out. "I will beat you! And when I do, I'm gonna find my crew and then… THEN I WILL BECOM THE KING OF THE PIRATES!"
"That's our Luffy," Robin answered, "He keeps his promises…"
"You tell 'em, Luffy!" Usopp yelled in agreement as Franky posed with a laugh.
"Mari! Sonia! Stop wasting time and hurry up and kill him!" Hancock yelled, finally losing her patience.
"Yes, sister!" they both cried out and the battle finally began. Luffy charged at Sanderonia first, while Marigold had her spear ready. Luffy threw his arms forward with a Gum Gum Bazooka, but Sandersonia was able to dodge the attack with grace.
"We're dealing with another Haki User," Zoro said, understanding at once how she was able to dodge like that.
"Then this battle will only be harder than we thought," Brook said anxiously, remembering the fight with Eneru and how he was able to foresee all of Luffy's attacks.
"What the…?" Luffy cried out.
"Are you done?" Sandersonia asked with a smile before she slammed her tail into Luffy's side so that he crashed into the ground hard.
"Ow… I hurt just watching…" Usopp winced. And he wasn't the only one either… Luffy was pushing himself up, holding onto his side in terrible pain.
"Ow… what the… that hurt!" he gasped out. "Wait, it hurts? How? I'm supposed to be made of rubber!"
"Observation and Armament Haki…" Sanji said, finally throwing the two off him and onto the ground.
"We pretty much figured that out when we saw those women chasing him around the island," Robin stated, "And if they were all ordinary guards, then these two are bound to be…"
"A hell of a lot stronger," Zoro finished for her.
It was then Marigold's turn and as he tried to kick at her with a Gum Gum Stamp, she held her hand up and when Luffy's foot collided with it, it bounced right off and ricocheted to the railing. Luffy let out a yell of pain and pulled his foot back in, crying out questions as to why it was hurting so bad.
"So that's another thing that Haki can do?" Chopper gasped.
"It all depends on the user," Zoro answered, "But yes… if it's strong enough, it can easily be stronger than any armor. And it can work on Luffy even more because she can actually hurt him… she can get around his rubber abilities."
Both sisters were laughing at this, like it was some kind of joke.
"Hey, you're no fair," Sandersonia said, resting her head in her arms, "I'm not done playing around just yet."
"And there's their mistake," Robin stated.
"Yes, I see what you mean," Brook nodded, "People tend to underestimate Luffy-san. That often spells a downfall for them."
Sandersonia grabbed hold of Luffy's body with her tail and began to squeeze him tightly. Luffy let out a loud yell of pain, "DAMN! WHY DOES IT HURT? I'M MADE OF RUBBER SO WHAT'S GOING ON?!"
"And that's how Anaconda kill their prey," Robin couldn't help but speak up. "But squeezing the life out of them." Her eyes glance to Marigold and wondered if she had all the strengths of such a poisonous snake as well.
Chopper cried out in fear at Robin's words and each one was starting to feel rather sick at the thought of being squeezed to death. But Sandersonia was chuckling as she told him that he should've been more worried about himself. Luffy growled at her as he put his foot down and she smiled…
"A kick from your left foot…" she said, a fraction of a second before Luffy used his Gum Gum Stamp to her face. But she dodged it once again, and Luffy's foot hit the ground where she had been standing.
"It's like the fight with Eneru all over again…" Franky yelled in anger.
"Yeah, only now, he's got two of them to worry about," Zoro said, glancing to Marigold, who was looking like she was just waiting to be tagged in.
"Heavy SNAKE SLAM!" Sandersonia cried as she drove Luffy, headfirst, into the ground. Yet once Luffy pulled himself out from her old, he landed without injury.
"I thought that Haki could hurt him?" Nami said, not seeing why he wasn't hurting now.
"Because she only hit him into the ground, she didn't use it," Sanji answered quickly as Luffy looked at himself in a rather relieved way.
"I knew it," they heard him say. "So I am still made of rubber! Blunt attacks can't hurt me!"
"Yeah… not that it's helping you!" Usopp yelled. Come on, Luffy. Put some effort into this!
"Now Gum Gum GATLING!" Luffy yelled, going at Sandersonia once again.
She only smiled back and called, "Snake Dance!"
And as Luffy threw hundreds of punches at her, she waved her way around each punch like how a snake would to a charmer. The crowd of women was going nuts at the sight of such a display of power, crying out how amazing she was and cheered her one.
"Damn it!" they heard Luffy curse, "She's predicting all my attacks like how Eneru did! Damn!"
"Which means you have to get creative if you're going to win, pal!" Franky yelled out. "Try turning off your brain again! It worked last time!"
"Now don't go forgetting about me, man…" Marigold called, and her tail came flying out of nowhere. "Heavy SNAKE STICK!"
"You know, that's low! Two against one!" Usopp yelled.
"This is their home," Robin stated, "They set the rules here. And if Luffy wants to win, he's going to have to deal with both of them."
"You are nothing but talk," Hancock said as Luffy landed back in the arena. And when she brushed her hair behind her ear, most of the Straw Hats, as well as the entire crowd, all cried out to her with adoration. Sanji was almost crying with how beautiful she was. "You're but a man with the ability to stretch. How stupid."
"Shut up! You're the stupid one!" Luffy yelled childishly at her.
Hancock looked as though he had just struck her and gasped as she seemed to come over faint.
"LUFFY! HOW DARE YOU?!" Sanji roared as the fire burned his body.
"Sanji-san!" Brook cried out, "We want Luffy-san to keep living!"
"Anyone who makes a woman suffer doesn't deserve it!" Sanji proclaimed dramatically.
"WHAT?!" several of them yelled at him in amazement.
"What is with her?" Nami whispered, not even bothering to question Sanji. Hancock was the real puzzle though… how could she not take an insult?
"I think it's more along the lines of astonishment that someone is actually immune to her charms," Robin offered.
But the rest of the crowd was on Sanji's side.
"How dare that man insult our Snake Princess a second time!?"
"A sin that can never be forgiven!"
"Put him to death!"
"Talk about a rough place," Franky said, looking around. "This is like my worst nightmare!"
"I CANNOT TAKE IT! SONIA! MARI!" Hancock stood up and she did something strange. She tilted her head backwards so that she was staring up at the sky. "TAKE THAT MAN'S LIFE! AND IMMIDATELY! I NEVER WANT TO HEAR HIS FILTHY MOUTH SPEAK AGAIN!"
"Ok… what's wrong with her now?" Usopp asked. Was there something up with her neck or back?
"I don't know and I don't care…" Sanji said, having run up so that he was sitting by her side like some kind of loyal dog.
"That's her signature pose," Robin answered, "She looks down her nose so much that she's looking up at the sky…"
"Well that's stupid," Zoro said. This woman was seriously nuts to him.
"Yes, big sister!" the two answered, rounding on Luffy.
"And I wanted to enjoy this more," Sandersonia said, a hint of regret in her voice. "But it can't be helped. Its sister's orders after all."
"I guess that our fun time is over," Marigold said with a sigh.
"Fun? If this is their idea of fun, then I don't want to know what serious is!" Usopp cried out.
"Time to give him over to his despair and death!" Sandersonia cried out as her tail slithered over the side of the arena to where it wrapped around Margaret.
"What's she doing?" Nami cried out as their eyes all began to widen in horror.
"No! She wouldn't!" Usopp cried out, getting at once where she was going.
"She's gonna smash her!" Franky yelled, quickly holding up his hand, ready to launch an attack at her… but cursed himself when he remembered it wouldn't do any good.
"Leave her alone! She didn't do anything wrong!" Chopper screamed out, knowing that if Margaret was smashed to pieces then they'd lose whatever chance they had left to save her!
Luffy's own eyes widen as he realized what was going on. "Hey!" he screamed at her, "Stop it! Leave them alone!"
Sandersonia just smiled again as she brought Margaret back and held her with her tail.
"What if you break them?" Luffy demanded, "They saved me!"
"Yeah! If you want to fight Luffy, then fight him!" Franky yelled. "Don't bring them into it! Isn't it bad enough that you turned them to stone!?"
They could only watch in horror as both of the Snake Women smirked at the other and started to chuckle at the look on Luffy's face.
"That's the whole point," Sandersonia told him. "I will break them."
"Since she and her cohorts saved you, they must be punished as criminals as well," Marigold added. "This is what they deserve."
"No!" Sanji cried out, his protective nature over women winning out over his lust for the moment.
"Dammit Luffy! Do something!" Nami cried out, unable to bear the idea of seeing Margaret being smashed like this.
"I pity this girl, but this is your fault," Sandersonia told him.
"Shut up!" Luffy yelled at her in fury. "This fight is between you and me! Leave them out of it!"
As he tried to attack her, Sandersonia predicted his movements and quickly told Marigold, who was able to use her own Haki to create a blast from her palms and knocked Luffy to the ground again.
"Oh, no… the blood is going straight to his head! That's never a good thing!" Usopp cried out as Marigold wrapped her tail around Luffy's waist and held him tightly, ensuring that he wasn't going to get away… and making sure that he had a front row seat to what was about to happen.
Luffy struggled, trying to pull himself free, yelling at them to just let him go and to fight him already.
"A fight? You are the only one here who thinks that," Marigold told him, "You are out of your league!"
"Luffy! Do something!" Sanji screamed, vowing never to forgive that moron if that beautiful Margaret was killed like this.
"Now just watch," Sandersonia said as she lifted up her tail, ready to smash Margaret onto the ground. This was it… if something wasn't done now then she was history.
"I don't get it! How could you do this to her?!" Luffy demanded, "She really looked up to you guys!"
"Looks like she chose the wrong people to follow," Nami cried as Chopper closed his eyes. Neither one of the Snake Sisters answered as Sandersonia raised her tail and…
"I… said… STOOOOOOOOOP!" Luffy screamed out at the top of his lungs and right then and there they felt it… a burst of energy came from his body as he roared out. This surge of power blew and struck everyone in the stands and even Hancocks's hair was blown around wildly as if in a strong wind as the pressure made then all feel like they were being pressed down from underwater.
As soon as it came… it disappeared… there was nothing but stunned silence all around them. So heavy was this silence it was like they had gone deaf… but then…
Women in the stands all began to faint without warning. They slumped over in their seats or just fell forward onto the ground. The ones who remained awake were crying out in fear, trying to figure out what happened, and were looking around in confusion.
"The warriors just keep fainting!"
"Wow…" Franky said impressed, looking around, "I say that he took just under half of them out!"
"That was Conqueror's Haki… no doubt about it," Sanji said in relief. Thank goodness… Margaret was safe and Luffy didn't actually have to hurt any of the ladies here to do so.
"Haki is awoken through stress and experience," Robin answered, folding her arms. "Ever since Luffy started his journey, he has grown stronger and stronger. He was already very strong when we arrived at Sabaody… but after attacking that Celestial Dragon, and then with Kuma and Kizaru… seeing us all separated… that is a lot of stress."
"So when Margaret was in danger, all that tension added on top of everything else just finally broke free," Zoro said in understanding.
"Luffy is just so cool!" Chopper said with bright eyes. To think that his captain could be capable of doing something like this. And to think that he had that kind of power all along?
Both Marigold and Sandersonia were staring at Luffy in shock, and then very carefully, Sandersonia set Margaret down as Marigold let Luffy go, who jumped down and went running to check on Margaret and see how she was. He didn't even seem to notice that everyone—who was still conscious—was staring at him in shock. Even Hancock looked shaken up and was looking at him with new interest.
Chopper also went running over to check on Margaret, just to make sure that she was still in one piece.
Luffy patted the statue in a relieved way. "Oh good!" he said, "There's not a scratch on her!"
"Thank goodness," Nami said, a hand over her heart as she sighed. "I was worried there."
But Luffy then smiled up at both the Snake Women and told them, with real sincerity in his voice, "So you did listen after all! Thanks a lot for that!"
Neither women said a word as they both stared at him in shock and the Straw Hats all looked at Luffy in surprise.
"You mean he didn't even know he was the one who did that?" Franky asked, looking at the girls in the stands. Some of them were already waking up, while others continued to try and shake their friends awake. "What? Does he just think that they all fainted?"
"I don't think he's really paying attention to anything around him," Zoro said, "He's got more important things to worry about… like getting them out of this mess. He's got to stay focused on beating those two."
"You think that he would at least wonder why they suddenly did what he said," Nami said at once, "You mean he really didn't feel anything?"
"I don't know," Zoro said with a shrug. "Don't ask me. I'm just watching the same thing that you guys are."
Nami frowned at him as Luffy looked up in annoyance at the chattering standings. "You guys are all so loud!" he said, "What's with all of you?"
"How can he not realize what he just did?" they heard Marigold ask her sister.
Sandersonia seemed to be shaking herself from her stunned state and answered, "I see… he doesn't have any control of it."
"Yes, if he can't control it, it's possible that he just doesn't realize that it's there," Robin offered with a shrug.
"How can you not notice?" Franky asked with a dark mutter as Luffy cracked his knuckles and looked up at the two once again.
"I see that you guys are a lot stronger than I thought," he said, "So let's go on with the fight."
"What are you both waiting for?!" Hancock yelled at them, and snapped the two from their shocked states, "Don't let him get away with this! You have nothing to fear from that man!"
"She's right," Sandersonia said, yet she seemed to be trying to convince herself of that, her previous confidence still shaken up. "There is nothing to be afraid of, Mari…"
Marigold seemed surer of herself than Sandersonia as she said, "Even if he does have the kind of power, equal to our big sister, as long as he can't control it, there's no threat."
"Unfortunately, they're not completely wrong about that," Brook said anxiously. "Luffy-san cannot control it. So he can't use it."
"He doesn't need it to win here though," Usopp said, sure that he was going to pull through. He always did in the end one way or the other.
"If we're gonna fight, I gotta move her first," Luffy said, looking down at Margaret. "It would be a bad thing if she broke."
At those words, Sandersonia's anger seemed to come back. "You seem to be calm about all this. So it seems to me that you still don't understand the situation you're in! That statue doesn't mean anything here!"
"She was one of your own though!" Chopper yelled at her, wanting to fight her now. "She looked up to you! And she didn't do anything wrong but want to help someone!" He remembered how she had laughed and helped Luffy even after he 'kidnapped' her. She wasn't a bad person at all and he wanted to believe that Luffy could save her.
And she prepared to try smash Margaret again, wiping her tail around once more, but Luffy stood right in front of Margaret, protecting her with his own body.
If he was in any pain, he hit it well.
Marigold then said angrily, "Foolish man! Why would you protect that rock if it means taking an attack for it?!"
"She's not just a rock! She's a person and she deserves to be treated better than this!" Nami yelled furiously at her.
"She's got nothing to do with this, right?" Luffy yelled just as furiously before he looked up and yelled, "She's got nothing to do with this fight, does she?!"
"That's right! You tell them!" Usopp cheered. Luffy looked ready to fight to protect Margaret, but to their surprise, it was Hancock who stepped in, saying that they will let him move her if it meant that much to him.
"See?" Sanji said proudly, still sitting at Hancock's feet, "I knew that my beautiful Hancock has a big heart."
Zoro privately felt that this small shred of compassion was no different than pity. But it worked out well for them. Luffy gently moved Margaret's statue form back far enough so that they didn't have to worry about anything happening to her again.
"There," they heard him say to her, though they weren't sure if she could hear him—or even aware of what was going on. "Just wait a little longer. I'll figure something out as soon as I beat these two."
"You better hurry though, Luffy…" Usopp said, frowning at the Gorgon Sisters again, having a bad feeling that this might not be the last time that they do something like that. But Luffy stood up and turned to face them all, calmly walking back to the center of the arena.
"Alright!" he said cheerfully, "Go right ahead!"
"Oh?" Sandersonia asked, "Are you ready?"
"To be defeated by us?" Marigold added.
"In your dreams!" Franky yelled out tauntingly.
"I already told you," Luffy said, cracking his knuckles, "You're the ones who's gonna get beaten!"
Sandersonia laughed at his words. "As insolent as ever, I see," she said.
That was when Marigold spit some thick, purple substance from her mouth. Luffy jumped to avoid it, though Sandersonia was waiting, hitting him with her tail and sending him flying back.
"So now she's reduced to spitting?" Usopp said, thinking that maybe this proved that they were running out on tactics.
"No!" Robin cried out, taking them all by surprise. "I was afraid of this! But she's the King Cobra model of the Snake Snake Fruit! And that snake is famous for being one of the most poisonous snakes in the world."
"So that means…?!" Chopper cried out, his eyes widening as he looked to the purple gunk and could see that burning the floor slightly. "LUFFY! GET OUT OF THERE!"
"He'll be alright if he doesn't touch it though right?" Nami asked quickly as Luffy held onto his stomach, yelling out in pain from that last hit.
"Even if it doesn't hit him, the fumes could still kill him," Chopper said at once, "He has got to get up higher!"
"How? Unless he suddenly knows how to fly I don't see how," Sanji said as Marigold continued to shoot out the poison from her mouth. It was a brutal struggle to survive. The memory burned and blurred from the poison… wherever it hit it would release a strong fume of smoke. Luffy didn't realize anything was wrong until it was too late.
He struggled to stay awake as they continued to try and strike at him. At last, Marigold struck him with her spear—and though he managed to miss—her tail came whipping out and stuck him once again, smashing into the floor before he went over the ledge. And to their horror, they saw him lose his balance and fall towards the spikes below.
"LUFFY!" they all cried in panic, Usopp covering his eyes, convinced that Luffy was about to get skewered. But he reacted on instinct by stretching out his arm and was swinging around the deep pit—causing all the women to point and stare. When Marigold was told that he was still alive, she went to the ledge and began to spit out poison to try and get him. But Luffy was moving too fast… and suddenly he launched himself up high into the air, right above the arena.
"Now what's he doing?!" Sanji yelled as he took a deep breath just when Marigold sent one more shot of poison up at him.
But he avoided it just as he inflated himself up like a balloon and they could see where this was going now.
"Nice thinking!" Brook cried out as Luffy blew out a great gust of wind, one so strong that it blew all the poison puddles right off the floor and disappear. Luffy then landed, smirking as he said that he could now fight without worrying about all that poison.
"Fighting with poison is a low attack anyway," Zoro said unconcerned.
"Luffy, they don't need to think that all men are like you!" Sanji yelled out. His heart aching at the thought that all these beautiful woman believed that they were all freaks like their shit-headed captain.
"Seriously, what's wrong with you?!" Usopp yelled at him as Luffy turned to his horse stance, which could only mean one thing…
"Luffy-san…" Brook said worriedly.
"So long as he's careful with it and only in that state for a short time," Chopper said, though he sounded concerned as well.
"I'm not gonna hold back my power anymore!" he proclaimed, his skin turning red and steam beginning to billow out, catching them all off guard. "SECOND GEAR!"
"Luffy! Take them out!" Nami cheered before she screamed in shock as Sandersonia's hair began to twist, write, and coil until they took on the form of snakes.
"Now that's something you don't see everyday," Zoro blinked.
"Well, they say that some girls will kill you if you touch their hair," Franky said, thinking of his own sisters. "I just didn't think that it was meant to be literal though."
"Snake-Hair Possession:" Sandersonia said, "EIGHT-HEADED SERPENT!"
As the crowd continued to cheer for her, she lunged at Luffy, who vanished on the spot and her hair ended up biting through the railing and causing it to break apart and crumble. They heard the women all yelling out, "Did you see that?!"
"The railing's been destroyed!"
"The snakes on Sandersonia's hear are only made of her hair, but their fangs are as sharp as steel!"
"Yeah, I think that we got that part," Sanji said, after he had finally dragged himself from Hancock's side and really looked at what was going on.
Don't get him wrong… he was worried for Luffy's safety after all. But it was hard to remember that when he remembered where he had been for two years. Yet… he did his best to transfer all that hate to Kuma… why couldn't that stupid bear have sent him flying in this direction?
But he watched as Sandersonia's snake hair continued to try to strike at Luffy, but Luffy had now become so fast that they couldn't keep up with him. Luffy had jumped up and wrapped an arm around her neck before he dragged her with him, smashing her head right through the ground.
"Oww…" Franky winced in sympathy.
"I thought that she could see his moves!?" Chopper cried out in shock.
"She can," Zoro said at once with a smirk, "But Luffy's moving so fast that she can't keep up with him. He's using his speed to get around her ability."
"But he's still has to deal with Marigold's Armament's Haki now," Sanji said, frowning a little at his rough treatment at Sandersonia. He knew that there were ways around that form of Haki too. Yet could Luffy have figured out how on the fly? Then again… it was Luffy after all. He then heard the ladies in the stands continue to talk about Luffy's powers and sighed… Now they'll think that all men can create steam? He looked miserably at the girls, who were staring at Luffy with wide eyes… one girl was even writing down notes…
He lowered his head in depression. He knew at this moment that fate was a cruel, cruel mistress…
"SONIA!" Marigold cried before she glared at Luffy. "Damn you…!"
She swung her blade at him, but he vanished from her sight before Marigold turned to sister and cried out her name. Sandersonia groaned slightly from where she lay before Luffy reappeared behind Marigold. "Gum Gum…" he began when she noticed him there.
"Useless!" she said, turning to face him, holding up her hand like before. "You're attack with just bounce off me, just like before! If I can just endure your speed, then your brute attacks won't break through my guard!"
"If speed can overcome Observation Haki, then sheer brute strength can break through even a strong Armaments Haki," Zoro stated.
It was a stand-off and Luffy charged. "JET BAZOOKA!"
And they collided, now she could definitely feel that one. Her spear broke right in half as she went flying back and crashed into the stairs below her.
"Alright! He took them both out!" Chopper cheered on.
"Hold on, I don't think it's over yet!" Brook cried, pointing up.
"SONIA! MARI!" Hancock shouted, looking more impatient than ever at seeing her sisters now struggling to keep up with Luffy. The two looked up in terror at her as she demanded, "What are you playing around for?"
"That's the thing that I think that's bugging her, she knows they aren't playing," Robin answered.
"They should've tried to finish him off instead of toying around with him," Zoro stated. Really, what is with their enemies? They insist on playing around with their 'prey' like a cat instead of just eating them already. Well, it works out for their crew now doesn't it?
"B-Big sister!" Marigold cried out.
"Have you forgotten the reason you're here is to punish that man?" Hancock demanded, her face full of anger.
"Oh, please punish me, Hancock my love…" Sanji sighed longingly as the rest of them had sweatdrops at his words.
"P-please forgive us, big sister!" Sandersonia cried out, fear in her face. "We will finish him off right away!"
The two quickly circled Luffy, with Sandersonia turning her hair back to the eight snakes… but what got them all this time was that was when Marigold pulled out a match, and the fire enveloped her whole body.
Chopper screamed and clung onto a shaking Nami as Luffy looked stunned at seeing the inferno going on, and even more shocked that she had been the one to light herself on fire.
"What's she doing?!" Sanji cried out in horror.
"She's killing herself!" Chopper yelled.
"No, it's alright!" Zoro yelled over their shouting, and seeing the calm, smug look on Marigold's face. "She knows what she's doing!"
Sanji looked up and realized what was going on and sighed in relief. "Oh, I get it… she's protecting herself from the fire by using Haki… that makes sense."
"That's so cool," Franky said. She was as good as fireproof! Haki sure did come in handy didn't it?
But Luffy was far from done. He stood there, calm and collected—which was unusual for him—and they watched as Marigold's hair also transformed so that it also took on the form of snakes, yet there was only two there instead of eight.
"Snake-Hair Possession: SALAMANDER!" she cried.
"You'll never escape from us!" Sandersonia screamed out, all eight of her snake hair ready to strike, "EIGHT-HEADED SERPENT!"
The stands began to scream in excitement as they all watched anxiously. Zoro's eyes narrowed. 'This is it,' he thought, 'Someone's about to lose this fight. And if I know Luffy as well as I think I do then…?'
Luffy remained calm as they struck, as he held up his fists and yelled out, "Gum GUM…" They saw the Snake Women's eyes widen in fear as Luffy finished, "JET GATLING!"
The attack was great enough that not only did it shatter the snake heads, but the fire on the edge of Marigold's was put out. Yet Luffy wasn't done. He flipped upside down and kicked his legs out so that he hit both of them at their base of their tails and knocked them off balance. They fell forward and collided with each other and Sandersonia began to scream in pain when Marigold's fire began to burn her.
"Wow! Just one attack and he turned their own power against them!" Usopp cheered on.
"Oh no! Sister Sonia!" Marigold screamed in horror as she tried to push her sister away, "Hurry! Get away from me!"
But Sandersonia was still burning, her hands up and covering her face as she tried to put the fire out, screaming the whole time. It was unclear if Sandersonia even heard her words for she was writhing around in agony, yet she did try to pull away from her… the thing was though the more she struggled to pull away, the more that she was pulling Marigold towards her. That was when they spotted the reason…
While the two of them were distracted with the fire, Luffy had gone around and tied their tails together into a giant bow—so that that harder they tried to pull themselves free, the more entangled that they got.
"WHAT?" Marigold cried out when she saw their tails. "WHEN DID OUR TAILS GET TIED TOGETHER?"
"I didn't even know Luffy could tie a bow," Nami said, unable to stop herself from laughing as they watched Luffy, no longer in his Second Gear form, and had turned to the crowd as he made the V for Victory sign at them all.
"You moron!" Zoro laughed out. Only Luffy could think up something as crazy as tying their tails together.
"Luffy! Sandersonia's burning! Do something to help her!" Sanji yelled. "Men should never mistreat a lady!" Sanji said firmly. Now he was on Luffy's side… but he couldn't stand the sight of seeing a woman in pain.
Sandersonia was just trying desperately to put out the fire and she kept moving away from Marigold as best as she could despite the fact that their tails were tied. Marigold kept yelling at her not to keep pulling since it was only making things worse, but Sandersonia soon moved back so far that she was right at the ledge and she went over by accident.
"NO!" Marigold screamed, "SISTER SONIA! LOOK OUT! THE SPIKES! YOU'RE GOING TO HIT THEM! GRAB ONTO THE RAILING! QUICKLY!"
That time, she did hear her sister's words and she spun around just in time to grab onto the railing that connect to the stands, making a kind of bridge between the area and the audience. Though despite everything she had done, the Straw Hats couldn't help but let out relieved sighs at this. Seeing even the Snake Sisters die in that pit was something they didn't want to see.
But as Robin looked closer, she saw that Sandersonia's clothes were burning away… and her eyes widen. She couldn't see through the smoldering smoke, but if something wasn't done then everyone was going to see what was on her back. She remembered what Hancock had said in the bath… how she and her sisters rather die than let anyone else see whatever was there…
"That was a close one," Sandersonia sighed, breathing hard and the fire burning itself out. The crowd was gasping, calling her name and asking if she was alright. But at that second, Luffy jumped, flying out of nowhere and landing right on her back, the remains of the fire burning the front of his shirt.
"Luffy! Don't hurt her anymore than you already have done!" Sanji yelled furiously.
"No! It's alright!" Robin interrupted and they looked at her in confusion, not understanding the gentle smile on her face. "Watch… he's not hurting her… he's protecting her."
"Protecting?" Usopp demanded, wondering just what in the world would Luffy protect these snakes from. The audience sure thought that he was going to kill her. Yelling at what a beast he was, trying to get her to let go and impale her with the spikes.
"They're ones to talk about beastly here," Franky muttered as Brook gave a sharp intact of breath, only just realizing what was going on.
"Damn you, man!" Sandersonia hissed, twisting her head around to glare at him as he hung on tightly.
"Don't move!" Luffy commanded at once and she blinked as he breathed hard. He then added, "Even if you intend to kill me, I have no intension to kill you!"
"Damn you," she said again, "Don't be so cocky! Get off of me!" She then turned to her sister and yelled at her, "Mari! Hurry up and kill him while you have the chance!"
They had expected Mari to do so, but she didn't move a muscle. She just stood there with a horrified look on her face, staring at the scene as if she couldn't believe her eyes.
"What are you waiting for, Mari!" Sandersonia yelled again angrily, "Do it now!"
But again, Marigold didn't move. "I can't, Sonia," she said softly. "Because right now… right now that man… is protecting us."
"Protecting…?" Nami said again, before she understood. Sandersonia's clothes had burned away and revealed her back… and right now, Luffy was the only thing that was covering… whatever was there.
The rest of the women seemed to have realized this as well and they began to scream in panic that now that Sandersonia's back is exposed then the Gorgon's Eye will reveal itself and turn them all to stone.
"What?!" Chopper screamed out, horrified that there was such a thing in the world. Was that what you got from eating the Devil Fruit that these three had eaten?
"I don't think that there's an eye there," Robin said, "But whatever's there, they don't wish for anyone to see it. I believe that's the real reason why they had Luffy here… they wanted to kill him before he told anyone what he saw."
"But, he's protecting their secret now?" Chopper added in bafflement, trying to grasp just what was going on. Sandersonia had realized this as well and was staring around at Luffy with shock all over her face.
"You're covering my back?" she asked, sounding stunned.
"You mentioned this earlier didn't you?" Luffy asked, "You rather die than let anyone else see it, right? So don't move."
The Straw Hats stared on, not saying another word as they watched the scene. These women were all trying to kill him, screaming for his death, just seconds ago. He had been made into a show of this entire time and yet… yet he turns around and protects their secret—whatever it was—while Sandersonia's back was still burning.
But it was in that moment that reminded them why they chose to follow such a reckless, crazy captain… and why they would never chose to follow another.
"You dope…" Nami whispered, but she was smiling. "You big-hearted dope. What are we going to do with you?"
"This explains a lot," Zoro said calmly. So this was just how Luffy became friends with them…? He just smirked and shut his eye. "Not bad, captain. Not bad at all."
Hancock stood up and held her hand high. "The fight is over!" she called to them all, "Now everyone leave the coliseum at once! Before the Eye of Gorgon is exposed!"
No one needed telling twice. The women all gasped and turned, all of them running as fast as they could towards the exit, yelling out that if they stayed they would be turned to stone. It didn't take long… soon the stands were completely empty until it was just Luffy and the three sisters standing there… wait… there was someone else.
Up in the stands, Brook pointed out an old woman was there, watching the whole thing as well. She was remarkably small—hardly bigger than Chopper—and was wrinkled from age. She was the only other one in the entire place who remained where she was—watching with a critical eye. Whatever was going on here, she seemed to be in on the secret.
"I don't understand," Sandersonia's voice said and they looked back to see the confusion in her face as she stared down at the spikes below, looking completely lost in thought. "We were trying to kill you not moments ago. Why are you helping me?"
"The thing you don't want anybody to see doesn't have anything to do with our fight," was Luffy's simple answer.
That was when Robin heard a slight sniffle… almost a whimper and she looked up in time to see that Hancock had fallen back onto the throne-snake once again. She looked exhausted, as if she hadn't had a descent night sleep in a long… long time. Her hand was covering her eyes and she was biting down on her lip as if she was fighting back a wave of emotion.
Robin blinked, wondering just what happened for this cold woman to suddenly be reduced to, almost, a childlike state. But then again… she understood better than she cared to admit… she knew that look as well. The horrors of a past that you would prefer simply to forget about. She used to be as cold as Hancock once upon a time after all. She suddenly felt a kinship with these sisters and decided that whatever past that they had haunting their minds, she would prefer not to know.
After several minutes, Luffy glanced around and saw that everyone else had cleared out, he asked, "Can I let go now?" Without waiting for an answer, he jumped off and landed on the arena floor.
Franky, Brook, and Usopp all stepped forward to see what was there, but Robin grabbed hold of them to restrain them.
"Robin?! What the—?" Usopp yelled, trying to move.
"No," she said firmly. "No one looks. If they feel this strongly about it, then we have no right to try and see what's there."
"But…!" Franky began, however he shut up when he saw the serious look in her eyes and closed his mouth.
"I agree," Nami said, turning around, giving them some privacy as Marigold went over to pull Sandersonia back up and onto the arena floor. They all turned as well—some with no other choice since Robin still had tight hold over them.
They could hear them heave Sandersonia back up, and untie their tails before they could see the long snake tails around them started to shrink and they returned to their normal forms. They turned back in time to see that they gave Sanderson a make-shift top to cover herself and they both went to kneel at their sister's feet.
"Forgive us, big sister!" Sandersonia cried out.
"Not only did we lose, but we were saved by our enemy!" Marigold said in shame.
"It's funny that they call her big sister when they're both bigger than she is…" Usopp said, thinking of those towering snakes.
"Size is no guarantee of power though," Franky said. Look at Luffy… he's puny but he's tough as nails.
Meanwhile, Luffy had dragged Margaret back over to the center of the arena and glanced up at Hancock with a serious look on his face. "You gonna fight me next?" he asked her coldly.
"Luffy! Don't you dare talk that way to such a perfect angel!" Sanji yelled out.
Hancock's eyes narrowed as the two glared at each other. But she just let out a soft sigh. "That is enough," she said, shaking her head. "That is not my intension."
"Really?" Luffy asked before he looked over Margaret, patting down as he looked over for any cracks or chips. "She doesn't have any cracks anywhere does she?"
"No, he took a bigger pounding than she did," Nami smiled, but that didn't last long. How were they going to turn her and the others back? If what Chopper and Robin said before was true, then Hancock was the only one who could do that. But what chance did they have of having that frozen woman into helping them?
Luffy finished looking over her, and seemed satisfied that she didn't have a scratch on her before he looked up at Hancock and called, "Alright! Can you turn them back from being stone now?"
"They won't like that…" Usopp said, and he could see the anger in their faces—though Sandersonia and Marigold both seemed more surprised than angry. Hancock on the other hand was glaring down at Luffy with hatred as she hissed, "What did you just say?"
"He's blunt alright, but that's a good question!" Brook cried out worriedly, hoping that this stone-state was only temporary.
"He helped them out, it's the least they could do!" Usopp added, trying to fight the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"You should be able to turn them back, right?" Luffy asked them at once. "They were only trying to protect me! They didn't do anything wrong! So please!"
"Good luck trying to convince her to help," Zoro said as Sanji glared at him, outraged that he would dare to insult Hancock-sama.
Hancock's expression didn't change as she continued to look down at him before she shut her eyes and confessed, "I can indeed turn those three back to their old selves."
"Oh, thank goodness," Nami sighed, feeling a great weight being lifted off her shoulders.
"Hold on, I don't think that it's going to be that simple," Robin said at once, and she was right.
"However…" Hancock said as she stood up. "Didn't you say that you needed to go somewhere?"
With the three girls turned to stone and Luffy fighting for his life, they had almost forgotten about how he was trying to find a way back to Sabaody. But now that she mentioned it, they realized that she was right. But what did that have anything to do here?
"Yeah," Luffy said at once, "My friends are all waiting for me."
Why did he just assume that they were already there and waiting? They felt the shame wash over them once more when they knew that they were all, most likely, still flying in the sky.
"Oh? Is that so?" Hancock asked as her eyes were darkened and they couldn't begin to guess what was going on inside her head. "I will only fulfill one of your requests," she said at last. "Do you choose to have those three return to normal, or do you choose to leave this island? You must choose one of the two, and give up the other."
"WHAT?!" most of the Straw Hats yelled when she said that.
"She turned those three to stone and is saying that she's only going to grant one wish?!" Chopper cried out.
"How is that fair?!" Usopp cried out. He knew that this woman was cold-hearted, but damn…
"They do know that Luffy didn't have to protect them like that don't they?" Nami said in fury.
"Enough," Robin said, having a different idea as to what was going on. When she first met Luffy she had given them that Eternal Pose to test them… and if Hancock was anything like her, then she was just doing the same. She wanted to see something with her own eyes.
"But you heard what she said!" Franky yelled at her.
"Just watch," Robin said firmly, stepping forward. "That is the only way that we will understand anything."
They blinked at her as they looked to Luffy thinking it over. On one hand, he could be allowed to leave the island and finally have a chance to be reunited with his crew… but to do so would mean leaving Margaret, Sweetpea, and Aphelandra as they are… statues. But they all knew from the start what he was going to choose.
The Gorgon Sisters had triumphant looks on their faces, as if convinced they knew what he was about to say… but what he did next had clearly shocked them to the core. Luffy fell to his hands and knees and was smiling.
"Really? Thanks!" he cried out in relief. "So you can save them, right?!"
"I thought so…" Robin chuckled as all three sisters gasped, their eyes widening in shock and staring at him with dumbfounded expressions—like they had never seen anything like him before. Now most would wonder why someone would choose to help a group of people whom you didn't know, but the Straw Hats had known Luffy long enough to know why he did it.
"Thank you so much!" Luffy said with true gratitude in his voice as he even bowed his head to the ground and his hat slipped off.
"He chose to save those girls…" Nami whispered, unable to fight the smile coming.
"It was the right thing to do," Brook said softly, amazed that Luffy was willing to even bow his head to those three after all they put him through. "After all… Luffy-san was right. They did nothing wrong and didn't deserve to be treated this way."
"Luffy… you redeemed yourself slightly in my eyes," Sanji sighed. Whatever that idiot may be, he at least knew what was owed to him. He never would've forgiven him if he had chosen to leave those ladies in such a state.
As for Hancock, she continued to stare at him, shaking slightly, as if she just couldn't believe her eyes. Yet she seemed to have gotten ahold of herself as she slowly walked down the stairs and passed her sisters.
"Not just anyone would do something like that though," Robin chuckled, having a feeling that if this really was a test, Luffy passed it with flying colors. "To be willing to bow your head to someone for the sake of people you hardly knew."
Hancock walked right past Luffy, who raised his head and was smiling at her happily, and even chuckling to himself before she sighed again, holding up her hand towards Margaret like she was about to blow a kiss.
She blew softly and they heard her whisper, "Awaken…"
The effect was almost instant. The stone turned back to flesh and Margaret staggered backwards, blinking around in bewilderment as she rubbed her eyes as if tired.
"Well, at least she kept her word," Zoro stated, glad to see that the girl was alright.
"Oh, sweet Margaret… the knowledge that you are safe means more to me than you will ever know!" Sanji sighed lovingly.
"Sanji… pick a girl already… stop falling in love with every woman you see," Franky said in annoyance.
Hancock then looked over to where Sweetpea and Aplhandra were and awoke them as well, and they were just as stunned and bewildered to the whole thing as Margaret was. Luffy leapt up to his feet and went running over to the three of them, a big smile on his face.
"Man! What a relief!" Luffy said to them, "I was afraid you might've died!"
Margaret just blinked at him, as if she wasn't understanding his words. The other two were both staring around at the empty stands with stunned looks.
"There's nobody here," Alphandra said in confusion as she looked around.
"The saga of 'Is it over already'?" Sweetpea added.
"They don't remember?" Usopp asked in surprise.
"Seems like the petrification caused some amnesia," Robin offered. She knew the feeling. After she had been frozen by Aokiji and had backed out within the ice, she didn't remember a thing that had happened.
"That's probably for the best," Zoro stated with a shrug. "Like when we were all swallowed up by that damn Lily Carnation thing?"
"Don't remind me," Usopp yelled out with a shiver. "I'm gonna have nightmares thanks to those memories!"
Luffy looked over his shoulder as Hancock began to walk away and called to her, "Hey, you! Thanks a lot!"
As soon as the three girls realized who he was talking to. They gasped and went running over to kneel at Hancocks feet as if the fact that they had been turned to stone never happened.
"Don't bother!" Zoro yelled over at them, though it was pointless at this point.
Yet they got a surprise when Hancock, who didn't even turn around to look at them, said in a slightly awkward voice, "Please return and continue to protect our island's people."
All three girls looked startled at her words as Hancock continued to walk away, with Marigold and Sandersonia suddenly smiling at the scene.
"You… man…" Hancock added and Luffy blinked when she was suddenly talking to him. "Come with us… we have… much to discuss."
And she walked off without another word. Luffy looked from her retreating back to Margaret, Sweetpea and Alphandra—as if wondering if he should. Margaret still looked deeply puzzled as to what was going on, but nodded her head encouragingly to him and he went running after Hancock and the other Gorgon Sisters.
"What do you think she wants to talk about?" Chopper asked.
"Most likely it has something to do with whatever's on their backs," Zoro said with a shrug. "Luffy did see what it was… and he did just help them out here I guess."
"Yes," Robin answered. "That is the most likely reason."
No one bothered to say a word as they followed the small group out of the coliseum and reached the beautiful palace that they had been in before. Through the front doors and up to one of the highest levels until Hancock led them to a large door.
"In here," Hancock said as Luffy followed after her, Marigold, and Sandersonia. Sanji looked ready to run in, but Robin held him back.
"Is there something the matter, Robin?" Chopper asked as Sanji stared at the closing door with a heart-broken expression.
"I just don't want us to hear it," she answered.
"Oh, come on!" Usopp yelled out, trying to just walk right past her, but she glared at him and froze.
"No," she said firmly. "I already feel guilt enough over seeing Luffy's private memories. I don't think that we have any right to hear another's secrets. At least with Luffy, we're doing it so that we can try to understand him and to help him after this is over."
They all thought that over as Zoro shrugged in a disinterested way as he sat down on the floor with Chopper still looking curious to the whole thing, but he copied Zoro as the others seemed torn about what Robin said. They then heard the sounds of a clinking noise behind them and they glanced up at the old woman—Elder Nyon they believed she was called—and she was walking up the long hallway before disappearing inside the room.
No one said anything else for a moment as some of the guys were aching to hear what was going on inside the door. It was a little while, with both women standing in front of the door like guards, just daring the more pervy members of their crew to just peek in. Suddenly they could hear hysterical crying and screaming coming from inside, and judging from the sound of the voice it was from Sandersonia.
"Sister Sonia!" Marigold's voice cried out in worry as Sanji went charging in, but Nami grabbed hold of him by the back of his suit just as his head went through the door. He heard Hancock's broken voice say, "The memories keep coming back…"
Luffy's voice was ringing out, telling them that they didn't have to force themselves to keep telling him anything before Sanji's head was pulled out and he hit the floor, with Nami glaring down at him.
"What was that?" Chopper cried out worriedly. "Is there something wrong?"
"How dare Luffy made those ladies relive terrible memories if they didn't want to talk about?!" Sanji declared, having told them that scrap of news he heard.
"They trusted Luffy enough to tell him the truth of whatever is on their backs," Robin stated firmly, "And I had a feeling that whatever it is about, it was going to be far from pleasant. I can tell that these memories must still haunt them."
"When you put it like that, I'm not sure I want to know," Zoro said, having a slight feeling of pity for the sisters. After that, the only one who still looked like he wanted to hear anything was Sanji, but they waited outside those doors for some time until at last, they could hear Elder Nyon's voice ringing out insults.
Feeling that it might've been safe enough, they went through the door and into the large room. It appeared to have been Hancock's bedroom, and Luffy was there with all four of the women there. Luffy was standing in front of Hancock, who had her back to him as Marigold, Sandersonia, and Elder Nyon watched.
Luffy had just sighed as he asked, "What are you talking about? I told you I hate the Celestial Dragons."
"Well, I hate them too, but what do they have anything to do about this?" Usopp asked. No one could answer them, but there seemed to be some kind of change over Hancock. She slowly turned, and they could see the red to her cheeks and the drying tears in her eyes. But it was more than that… those eyes—who had been so cold and full of hate before—were warmer now and there was a strange shine coming from them.
And there was a true, yet soft, smile on her face as she laughed lightly. "I like you," she said to Luffy, "You had another wish didn't you? Tell me where it is you wish to go and I shall lend you a ship."
"REALLY?!" Luffy yelled out, a smile looking like it was about to split his face apart and his face shining with joy.
"So what happened?" Franky asked in bafflement.
"I don't know," Sanji said, drooling over the sight of Hancock's jacket and cape barely covering her chest, "But she's even more beautiful than before!"
"It's amazing how something simple as a smile can change a person's whole appearance," Robin chuckled. She knew that feeling all too well… how the weight of her own past seemed to become lighter when she came out and spilled her heart out to her crew. She had a feeling that after seeing Luffy's sincerity, Hancock might told one or two things about what is really on her back.
You just can't help but trust Luffy to help carry your burden with you. And it was that thought that made her all the sadder for not helping Luffy carry his burden when he needed the help.
"I guess that she's really not so bad after all," Nami said, refusing to look at Hancock as a blush came to her own face.
"It's hard not to like Luffy," Chopper laughed. "I'm glad that it all worked out well for him."
"I still wanna know what they were hiding that's so important," Usopp stated, wishing that someone could just tell him what was happening here.
"Not if your life depended on it," Nami hissed and he zipped his mouth up at once.
"The departure shall be tomorrow morning," Hancock said, and she was now sounding tired. "The Kuja Pirates will give you a ride to Sabaody."
"Our pirate ship?" Marigold and Sandersonia questioned in surprise.
"Thanks a lot for the trouble," Luffy said earnestly.
"I always knew you had a heart of gold, dearest Hancock," Sanji swooned, his eyes shining like hearts. "What else could a goddess of pure beauty have?"
"It's fine," Hancock said to her sisters as she added to Luffy, "You should rest tonight to prepare for the journey." She turned and walked towards the bed as Luffy was beaming with happiness.
"I'm getting off this island tomorrow!" he said joyfully, almost singing with happiness." I wanna see everyone as soon as possible."
"How could you want to leave this paradise?!" Sanji demanded before he proclaimed proudly, "I would gladly give my life just to see my dear Hancock and stay but a minute on this island!"
"Why would you want that?!" Chopper cried out, remembering how Sanji was willing to risk bleeding to death just so that he could look at Shirahoshi. As they dealt with Sanji, Robin couldn't help but notice how Hancock seemed to freeze at Luffy's words and her eyes narrowed as if she was angry. But perhaps she just imagined it for Luffy's stomach started to growl and their attention was diverted when they heard of the banquet going on in order to celebrate the Kuja Pirates safe return with a big haul.
"Huh, that's what we do," Brook said happily.
"Yeah, and when we get our rubber captain back, we're going to be needing a big banquet here," Nami said, also starting to become hungry and thirsty after all this. But she decided that the first thing she was going to do when she got out of here was to head straight off to bed and sleep off this bad day.
"Wait," Luffy said to her as if he was worried about something. "Are you gonna be there?"
"No," Hancock replied. "I am tired. I will turn in early tonight." And she truly looked like it. There was a weariness to her face and the memory faded when she told her sisters to take Luffy down to the banquet. In either case, Luffy was just so happy that he not only got a free ride back to Sabaody, but was being treated to a free feast.
"Damn you, Luffy…" Sanji sobbed, punching the floor as he sobbed out. That would be a dream come true… a banquet filled with nothing but beautiful women? And that moron only cares about food!
"So that's how Luffy became friends with Boa Hancock," Nami said, shaking her head fondly. Who would've guessed that it took a few small acts of kindness for him to win them over… well… she learned that the hard way as well.
"And she even offered to give him a ride back to Sabaody!" Chopper said happily, but the smile soon faded as he realized something. "But… but Luffy never made it back there though did he?"
"Which means that it had to be right after this moment did he find out about Ace-san," Brook said worriedly, and no sooner did he say that did the memory reappear. It was the dead of night and were sitting outside on some kind of balcony.
"Where are we now?" Chopper asked. Luffy was sitting on the floor with Margaret and Elder Nyon who was reading a newspaper as he was working on the large leg of meat that he had brought with him.
"AHHHH!" Sanji cried, hearts in his eyes as stared at Margaret. "Dear Margaret! I can't tell you how happy I am to see you safe and sound! I could just kiss you I'm so happy!"
"Why would you want to kill her after she got turned back from stone?" Zoro asked sourly.
Sanji glared at him and demanded, "Are you saying that my breath sticks, Moss Head?!"
"I'm just concerned for the mental damage you'll do should she ever meet you," he retorted and Sanji looked ready to give him a good kick up the ass.
Yet before they could start to do more than give each other nasty looks, Luffy interrupted them.
"WHAT?!" Luffy cried out, getting their attention. They glanced up to see that he had stopped eating enough to stare at Elder Nyon in amazement. "The seven warlords and the Navy HQ are gonna battle against the Whitebeard Pirates? What's going on? How can this be happening? W-W-W-Wait a second. That's more than I can take in at once." He turned to the table next to them and picked up a cup a tea.
"So… this is it isn't it?" Usopp asked nervously, knowing that this had to be the moment they had been dreading.
"No doubt. This must be when Luffy discovers about Ace's execution," Zoro said, sweat starting to fall. Oh, he had been afraid of this. It was bad enough to hear about Sabo's death… but to watch Ace die…?
"Ok, I really want to wake up now!" Usopp said quickly as Brook, Chopper, and Franky all nodded firmly behind him.
"Too late now," Nami said, biting down hard on her nails, understanding at once that this was going to the most difficult thing that they had seen yet. She hugged herself, as if she was feeling cold, and tried to grasp what was about to happen. Ever since she heard about Ace's death, she had thoughts about what Luffy had gone through on his own… she thought about them so much that she had started to have nightmares of Luffy being burned alive or torn apart.
Robin's eyes sadden as she saw Nami trying to comfort herself and wrapped an arm around her shoulders to try to help. There wasn't anything that they could do now… they were going to see this thing through till the end.
"What a hopeless man," Elder Nyon said with a hint of an exasperated sigh in her voice.
"You don't know the half of it, lady," Nami couldn't help but say and several of them cracked smiles, though they were a bit forced, for they were feeling a lot of things, but not one of them was feeling happy.
"There is a limit to how ignorant you can be," Elder Nyon went on. "Although it's only a speculation at the moment, the battle will certainly happen sooner or later." She looked back to the paper and went on, "The World Government has already made the first move. Whitebeard is a man who will never allow his mates to be killed. Even though they know that, they have announced the public execution of Whitebeard's elite subordinate, Portgas D. Ace!"
Hearing Ace's name felt like a dagger piercing their chests. Their breaths were caught and each lungful of air seemed to be more painful than the last.
Chopper's eyes filled with tears and snot fell from his blue nose. "A-Ace…" he cried out as Brook had to hide his eye sockets on his sleeve, fighting the tears.
"Already it feels like my heart is being torn out!" the skeleton cried. "Not that I have a heart in me… but if I did, I might want to rip it out from this!"
But nothing that they were feeling compared to what Luffy was going through. The stunned, horrified look on his face said it all for them. He slowly lowered the cup of tea and was staring at Elder Nyon as if he was sure that he heard wrong.
Margaret, who was resting her chin on her knees, noticed the look before Nyon did and asked in concern, "Is something wrong?"
"Oh, everything is wrong…" Franky said, looking away, his fists curled up tightly like he wanted nothing more than to punch something. "Every bloody thing is wrong!"
And he actually crushed the empty cola bottle in his hands so that the glass broke and shattered all over. No one reacted though, knowing all-to-well the urge to want to break something so that they could vent some of the anguish going on inside them.
Luffy didn't answer Margaret as he croaked out, "W-Who did you say?"
"Ace…" without looking up, Elder Nyon said in an unconcerned way that annoyed them all, "Fire-Fist Ace."
Luffy was as white as Brook was, looking as if the whole world around him was breaking apart and he had lost all sense of reason. "Ace is gonna be executed?" he repeated through numb lips, like he was clinging to the final thread of hope that this was all a joke, or even a dream.
"That was my reaction too," Nami whispered, now feeling sick to her stomach.
"I heard that a pirate named Blackbeard managed to join the Warlord by capturing Fire-Fist Ace," Elder Nyon said, not noticing the way that Luffy was shaking.
He just put the cup down and whispered, "Blackbeard?"
"How was it possible though?" Usopp asked them all. "Ace was always so strong! And he… he was beaten?"
"I don't claim to know much about that bastard," Zoro growled, "But he must be strong if he was able to beat Ace…"
"But why? What was the point of it all?" Brook asked them, still not understanding. "He fought Ace-san and turned him in so that he could be made into a Warlord! Yet… yet I heard that he resigned not long afterwards! So what was the whole point of it?"
"I heard of several rumors of Blackbeard," Robin answered, "And if even half of them are true, then I fear that he's even more dangerous than we first suspect."
They looked at her in confusion as they heard Luffy whisper, "Granny…?"
But Elder Nyon didn't hear such a soft whisper and went on reading, "The World Government intends to take full advantage of this large chip they gained against Whitebeard."
"Rather him than Blackbeard…" Zoro stated, knowing that if he had to choose someone to be out on the seas, he rather have Whitebeard. He didn't know much about the man, but if he was willing to rage a war against the government just to get Ace back, the he must've been on hell of a captain.
"GRANNY!" Luffy yelled, running forward and grabbing her shoulders. His eyes were wide with desperation as he shook her, crying out, "He's my brother! Ace is my big brother!"
Both Nyon and Margaret stared at him in horror as the former yelled out, "WHAT?" She then stood up in her chair, though she was still shorter than Luffy, and asked quickly, "Is it true? Is he your older brother?"
"I didn't even know he'd been captured," Luffy cried out in panic.
"Like I said before," Zoro said angrily, gripping onto his sword tightly, "I don't know anything about Blackbeard… but he's bad news."
"What do you mean by executed?" Luffy went on hurriedly, "Does that mean he can't get out of it?"
"That's usually what 'execute' means," Sanji pointed out.
"SHUT UP!" Nami yelled at him, giving Sanji yet another hard hit to the head. "Can't you see he's upset?"
"Yeah, Sanji! How could you?!" Chopper demanded just as angrily.
"I didn't mean anything by that," Sanji groaned out, nursing the spot on the top of his head. "I was just saying that if you're a pirate… especially one as famous as Ace was, then there's no way that they were going to let him go."
"Not without a miracle…" Franky sighed, his eyes grim as Elder Nyon sat back down and looked more seriously at the newspaper.
"If Whitebeard wins that battle," she answered, "he may be saved…"
"What do I do?" Luffy asked at once. "Where is he gonna be executed?"
"It says here that it will take place in the Plaza at Marineford," she answered, going over the page with new interest, "Where Marine HQ is… in a week… six days from today."
"Less than a week…" Zoro groaned. There was no way that he was going to be able to get off that damn island and get back in time even if he left the moment that he woke up.
"If this is only six days until Marineford, then that means that this was just two days after we were sent flying from Sabaody," Robin answered. "I didn't wake up until about three days…"
They all nodded, having been sometime during the third day that they arrived at their islands as well. But they weren't really paying attention to that for Luffy had gasped. "But that's too soon!" he yelled out, sounding close to panicking. "How long does it take to get to Sabaody Archipelago from here?"
She thought it over for a moment before she confessed, "If I had to guess… I'd say that it would take more than a week."
"No!" Brook cried out in despair.
"So that's why," Sanji said, shaking his head furiously. "There wasn't time for him to go back. There wasn't… wasn't any other choice."
Luffy's hands had curled up into fists, but that didn't stop him from shaking. "If it takes that long, it'll be all over for Ace before I met up with my crew!" he cried out. At his words, they all looked away in shame, for they knew that if he had gone back, they wouldn't have been there anyway… they couldn't blame him at all for just going on ahead without them.
"Then how long will it take to get to where he is from here?" Luffy pressed on, just wanting to get some answers and find out all his options here.
"Impel Down is where he's being held," Elder Nyon answered, a darkness in her voice that made them all shiver. "It would take a week by a pirate ship… and four days by a Navy warship."
"Why is that? How are Navy ships that fast?" Nami asked and was glad that Luffy asked that question as well.
"There is a current that is being used exclusively by the World Government," Elder Nyon answered. "Enies Lobby… Impel Down… and Navy HQ. This giant spiral connects these three facilities. When they open the giant gates, the Gates of Justice, just outside each of them the current runs inside, allowing ships to enter. In other words, if the gates aren't open, you would just keep drifting on the current. Pirate ships take an extended detour to avoid that current."
"So it's like a whirlpool," Nami said in understanding, putting that away for later. "So that's how it works… if they travel along the current it would be a lot faster."
"So if they had taken Robin with them through the Gates of Justice, and along that route then it really would've been impossible for us to have followed after?" Chopper asked.
"Yes," Robin nodded, trying not to think of what would've happened to her had she gone through those doors. If she was right in thinking that Luffy really had gone to Impel Down… she was about to get a glimpse of what would've been her fate.
"What should I do?" Luffy asked, and they had never heard him sound as lost as he did right there. He then blinked and reached up to his hat and fumbled with the ribbon.
"What do you want to do?" Elder Nyon asked as Luffy pulled out a burning piece of paper from under the band. It was Ace's Vivre Card and they all gasped when they saw that, the once sheet of paper, had been reduced to a burning scrap, the edges still singeing and crumbling as they watched.
Elder Nyon recognized it at once and asked, "Is that your brother's Vivre Card?"
"Is that the moving piece of paper that was so important to you?" Margaret asked him, looking at it in confusion.
"This is a different piece," he told her, and they almost didn't recognize the serious look on his face. "This is Ace's piece."
He stared at it as Elder Nyon explained, "It is also known as the 'Paper of Life'. It shows you the direction and the vital energy of its owner."
"Then the reason it's so small is because…?" Margaret asked, understanding what they were talking about.
"Is because he's in a lot of trouble," Zoro said, not wanting to think about what Ace must've gone through in Impel Down. He heard more than his fair share of rumors about that place… and knew that if that was really where they kept the worst of the worst, then it had to be hell.
"When I first got it, it was ten times bigger than this," Luffy explained and the women looked at him anxiously, wondering what he was going to do. Luffy held the paper up and looked at it, his eyes showed them that he was lost inside his own head. He then whispered to himself, "Ace has his own adventures. Me, wanting to save my strong big brother will just make Ace angry… but…"
"But what heartless bastard would turn their back on their brother when you knew that they needed it?" Franky asked, thinking of all his bro's back at Water 7. Now he could get why they invaded Enies Lobby for him… if any one of his bro's or his little sisters were taken he would've raised that whole island to the ground himself to get them back.
The rest of them stayed quiet. None of them moved a muscle as they watched him, knowing what Luffy did… even if they hadn't seen these memories, they knew that he would go without a second thought. After seeing the two of them as children, how Ace had always been there for Luffy when he needed him… it was now Luffy's turn to be there for Ace.
Luffy closed his fist around the paper before he said, "Sorry guys… I'm gonna take a small detour."
Now they knew that he was apologizing to them about choosing not to meet up with them first, but not a single one of them felt any resentment or anger.
"If there's anyone who needs to apologize it's us," Usopp whispered, his heart heavy and ran his long nose along his arm as he cried. "If anything… we should be the ones to say we're sorry! I mean, the one time he needed us more than ever and we weren't even there! We didn't even know what was going on until it was too late!"
"We weren't even there… even if he had gone back, it wouldn't have done any good since we were all still running around like morons trying to figure out what happened and where we were!" Franky yelled out angrily.
They all felt guilt wash over them like waves, but Luffy was already looking up with a new determination in his face. "I'm gonna save Ace!" he declared.
"Of course he chooses the craziest option," Nami said, a watery smile on her face. "It's what he does."
Elder Nyon and Margaret both looked long and hard at him, taken aback by his answer. "You know how reckless this is," Elder Nyon asked him, "And how big a battle it will be, right? It will be as futile as a single ant jumping into a storm. You might get cast aside without even a chance of doing anything."
"He's gonna be the future King of the Pirates!" Chopper declared. "He's gonna take everyone in his way on."
"Doesn't mean that it's not going to be as futile as jumping into a storm," Zoro whispered, "Remember how easily we were beaten at Sabaody?"
"B-But…?" Chopper began before Luffy interrupted Elder Nyon, refusing to listing to anything she had to say about this.
"I don't care about what might happen!" he proclaimed. "I wanna go anyway!" he shook his head hard and cried out, "I can't just sit around and let this happen!"
"Even going through hell has to be better than sitting around and not doing anything," Zoro stated, though he couldn't help but hope that he wasn't going to regret those words later on.
Elder Nyon just gave him a long look—as if she was trying to figure out whether or not that he was bluffing or not. But when his face held no signs of joking she seemed to realize that he was being completely serious. "Alright," she answered slowly. "Understood. So you're going to go save the most important prisoner in the world."
"Does she have to say it like that?" Usopp asked with a whimper.
"So Luffy really did go to Impel Down?" Chopper asked, having never wanted to believe it.
"Apparently," Robin said grimly. "It's the only explanation. And it would be the safer option."
"What do you mean 'safer'?" Brook asked at once, wondering just what could be worse than sneaking into such a dangerous prison. Even back in his day, that place was considered to be made of one's worst nightmare.
But it was Elder Nyon who answered that question. "If there is any chance at all… you must go to the Great Prison where he is being held without delay. Once he is moved to the execution ground in Marineford, he will be guarded by the Navy Admirals and the Seven Warlords."
"WHHHHHAAAAAAAAT?!" Brook, Chopper, and Usopp all yelled, horrified at the thought. They barely survived encounters with just one Warlord… but to face all seven at the same time, as well as the three Admirals?
"Ok, I see you point," Zoro stated, knowing that he rather take his chances breaking into a prison then face that kind of face-off.
"So in other words, if Luffy didn't get Ace back from Impel Down, he'd have to fight the entire Navy…" Sanji said in a stupefied voice, looking a little blue in the face at the idea.
"But Ace was killed at Marineford," Nami pointed out. "Which means that Luffy couldn't have made it in time!"
"Damn! Which means… oh, I don't want to think about what happened on that battlefield!" Usopp cried out, scaring himself shitless just thinking about the kind of destruction that happened there.
"The entire Navy vs. the Whitebeard Pirates…" Robin whispered, shaking her head. "Who knows how that battle could've won? But I do know that the entire Marineford was almost sunk after the war."
"They almost destroyed the whole island?!" Brook cried out. It took the entire Buster Call to do that level of damage.
"Whatever happens… it's gonna be one hell of a battle," Franky stated darkly.
"Even so, since your big brother is now the most important prisoner… the prison itself will be heavily guarded by military forces," Elder Nyon finished. "It is impossible to break in."
"I don't care what happens once I'm there!" Luffy cried loudly. "Right now, I just need to get there! I have to get there while Ace is still there!" He looked ready to tear his hair out at the confirmation that there was no way to break into Impel Down. "If I had a big enough oar, I'd just paddle there…"
"But his sense of direction is almost as bad as Zoro's," Usopp couldn't help but point out.
"Now is not the time for jokes," Franky said frowning. "Luffy is willing to put everything on the line for his big brother! That is dedication!"
"I wasn't joking around!" Usopp retorted, "I'm just telling the truth! Even if Luffy could paddle there without sinking and drowning, he could end up going the wrong way! And he can't afford that!"
"Then how'd he get to Impel Down?!" Sanji said, trying to wrack his brains around how such a feat was possible.
"Oh, it's all so touching!" Brook called. "It's so inspiring!"
"Any ideas?" Nami asked Robin, who was looking thoughtful.
"There is one chance…" Robin said, having thought it over, knowing that Hancock was the only one who could help them out. "A one in a billion chance… but it really was the only way."
"What was it?" Zoro asked just as Elder Nyon tried to calm Luffy down.
"Wait, wait!" she cried, waving her hands down at him. "This can't be solved by using brute strength alone!" Her eyes became thoughtful as she went on, "This is a slim chance as well but… until now, the Snake Princess has refused to answer the call for the Warlords to assemble. But if she were to respond… she could take advantage of it and sneak you in aboard the battleship."
"What battleship?" Chopper and Franky asked together in confusion.
"Battleship?" Luffy repeated. "There's a Navy ship here? Then I'm gonna go ask her."
And just like that the image faded with Luffy following after Elder Nyon.
"So… so you're telling me that Boa Hancock helped Luffy break into Impel Down?" Nami gasped. She had been trying to have him killed just hours before and she was risking everything by helping him?
"I find that hard to believe as well. For Boa Hancock's reputation is one of complete stubbornness," Robin answered. "I always heard of her never doing anything that the Government told her, despite the fact that she is a Warlord. She never took orders from anyone."
"Not to mention that she hates all men," Nami said, wondering just what this 'talk' that Luffy had with Hancock and her sisters.
"Then again…" Robin added with a chuckle, "Doing the impossible is something that Luffy does best. Perhaps she felt some kind of debt to him for helping them?"
Nami frowned a little, wondering if that really was the case. Something told her that it wasn't as simple as that… but if she really did help Luffy out, then it seems that she had been wrong about her from the start. She was a good person… once you got to know her.
But before she had finished forming those thoughts, something appeared out of the darkness.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Usopp yelled in panic, seeing this enough times by now to guess what it was.
"Well, Ace did say that this might happen," Robin answered as Zoro pulled out his swords.
"COULD IT BE?!" Sanji cried out, his eyes almost bursting out of his head in joy as the familiar, tall, beautiful figure appeared.
"Of all the people…" Nami whispered, shaking her head. Well, there was nothing else for it… she pulled out her weapon as the enemy smirked.
"The world will never cease to forgive my actions," the fake Boa Hancock said, throwing her long hair back. "Why, you ask? For it is because… I am beautiful!"
(Hey. Well, we finally made it to Amazon Lily and I hope that it was all worth the long wait. I know I kinda sprung the dream chapter up but I just couldn't help it. And I've been getting some questions about that, so for those of you who don't watch the anime, it's the Boss Luffy Historical Arc. It started off a special and it created several other episodes. They are episodes 291, 292, 303, 406, and 407. As for the complaints I know I'm going to get about this chapter, I didn't want to show the Straw Hats all the secrets here. The Boa Sisters trusted Luffy enough to tell him about their past… not his crew. And he never did tell anyone else. As for not letting the boys see Hancock in the bath? Please… you think that Nami would've let that happen? There's a reason I had her stand guard over Makino's bath at the beginning of the story remember? And also… I personally didn't like the beginning of this arc where Luffy was talking about his family jewels so that's why I summarized it. But other than that… I really do hope that you all loved the chapter, and we will finally get to the Impel Down arc next time. If there's any other special requests you have in mind I would love to hear them. Oh, and yes… their slimy friend is still alive… I have special plans in store for keeping it around.)