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[personal profile] phoenixfire616
ALRIGHT. My first bit of fanfiction, woo! So here's the story behind this one. I'm taking a creative writing class right now (actually my second semester of it tbh), and every class, our professor gives us these optional prompts that we can choose to do, particularly if we're running out of ideas to write about (since the class I'm taking in particular is specifically a workshopping class, meaning there's no set curriculum or anything, we are free to write our own stuff however we want)! Now, for this class, I've only ever really worked on chapters for Brotherhood (my original story), and I'll write down all the prompts we're given, but I've never really used them before; like, I might come up with ideas or something, but I don't really act on them.

Last class was different however. My professor gave us a fiction prompt that goes like this: he gives us five words, and we're supposed to write down the first thing that comes to mind when we hear each of those words. The words he gave us were: a color, an animal, a fruit, a physical characteristic, and a fear. So I in turn came up with the following: blue, a spotted seal, apple, messy hair, and losing someone important to them. And with those five elements, we're supposed to write a fiction piece. Well, I specifically had Law in mind when I thought of all of those, SO. HERE WE ARE. Now, this was originally supposed to be more like a little drabble I guess, but NOPE. It evolved into something much bigger than that, and I'm proud! I guess that's what happens when you write in first person POV! But anyway! I hope you guys enjoy this!


~~~~~


Ever since leaving Dressrosa, I had been feeling this growing sense of dread. However, it was not coming from the most obvious source. Sure, we’d inflicted Kaido’s wrath, but surely that was inevitable. Since we had defeated his most important business partner, this was a given. Things may not have gone completely according to my original plan, but we were still set on course.

The thing that was bothering me was the fact that Doflamingo was still alive. The citizens of Dressrosa were at least happy with his defeat, but just him being defeated wasn’t enough for me. The only way I knew of for me to rest easily was killing Doflamingo. And in the end, that didn’t work; I couldn’t do it. I failed with Gamma Knife. And after Straw Hat-ya gave him the final blow, I had a chance to find him and finish him off for good. But I didn’t. I didn’t take that opportunity. Instead of confronting him and finishing the job, I collapsed on the spot.

It has been several days after the incident in Dressrosa, and I have only now realized why I didn’t kill him. Simply put, I was scared. I still had the killing intent, but I think when it came down to it all, I questioned whether or not I could really pull the trigger. And what would happen to me if I actually ended up doing it? Would I become just like him? Or would I have become the man Cora-san wanted me to be? And apparently, that wouldn’t have been the case at all, at least according to Sengoku. From what he said, Cora-san really did love me, and it had nothing to do with my name whatsoever. He wanted me to be free, but the fact remained that I felt I couldn’t be free until the threat of Doflamingo was gone for good. In my mind, Doflamingo had to die.

Reaching the next new island most certainly did not quell that feeling of dread. We had reached it earlier this evening, and by popular vote, we all agreed to rest for the night and save the exploring of the island until the morning, to Straw Hat-ya’s initial dismay. At this point in time, it was the middle of the night. The air was warm, and a slight breeze blew onto my face as I leaned back against the mast of the Thousand Sunny. I hugged Kikoku close to me as I listened to the rustling of the island trees and the roaring of the ocean’s waves. The sounds were at least soothing, but not once did they help me sleep.

Most nights I could sleep for at least two or three hours at most, usually not many more than that. Tonight was not one of those nights. For the past several hours, the only thing that was keeping me awake was the thought of Doflamingo and… and Cora-san. The more I tried to stop thinking about it all, the more they would persist. It was frustrating, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t dealt with before.

My current sitting position was starting to get uncomfortable, so I pushed myself forward slightly and collapsed onto the grassy deck. There were no clouds in sight, and one of the benefits of those sleepless nights was looking up at the moon and stars. Tonight’s was a full moon, and millions of stars lit up the darkened sky. I liked pointing out the different constellations, and so I resorted to that. This time, I was finding it particularly easy to spot each of them quickly: first was Libra; next were Cancer and Orion; then Perseus, Ursa Major, and-

“Hey Torao!”

“Gah!” I bolted right back up into a sitting position and ended up bumping heads with Straw Hat-ya. It was so abrupt that my hat fell off, leaving my messy blue hair exposed. “Owww…”, I rubbed my forehead as I glared up at him. “Goddammit Straw Hat-ya, don’t do that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Haha, sorry! My bad!” He crouched down beside me and gave me a curious look. “Anyway, what are you doing out here? Can’t sleep?”

“Nah.” I picked my hat up and placed it back onto my head. “And that’s what I should be asking. Why are you awake?”

“Eh, I got hungry!” Sure enough, upon closer inspection I could see crumbs of meat stuck to the corners of his mouth. “Anyway I’m bored, so let’s go explore the island!”

“You do remember we all agreed not to leave the ship until morning, right? You even allowed this!”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to wait anymore!” He then went to grab my arm and started tugging at it. “Let’s just go Torao! Come on!”

“It’s the middle of the night, and we’d be at a tactical disadvantage if we ran into an enemy. And besides, why should I?”

“Because it’ll be funnnn, that’s why! Also, I have food!”

“Didn’t you just eat already?”

“Yep! But I can eat more! Besides, I brought some for you too!”

“What?”

He had handed me a box. I didn’t even need to open it to conclude that it was indeed filled with food; I could smell it with the lid closed shut. “See? Sanji made it for you!”

“Did he now?” That sure was nice of Blackleg-ya. However, he wasn’t always so generous when it came to feeding other men… “Straw Hat-ya, what’s the catch?”

He cocked his head. “Catch?”

“On what conditions did Blackleg-ya make this food?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, he said I could go onto the island if I brought you with me!”

I let out a great big sigh. “So that’s how it is then.” Well, I couldn’t blame him. I probably would have said the same thing if it were me. “Alright fine. I’ll come with you. But we shouldn’t stay out there for long-”

“Yay! Let’s go let’s go let’s gooooo!” Before I even knew what was happening, Straw Hat-ya had wrapped one of his arms tightly around my torso. “Here, hold the snack boxes!”

He shoved them into my right hand; the left was holding Kikoku. “Wait, why- Oh no. You’re NOT-”

“To the island!” To my dismay, Straw Hat-ya stretched his free arm out to catch a distant tree branch, and within seconds, we were off of the ship, soaring in the air towards the island in question.

“Hey! What the hell are you doing?! Put me down now!”

“But you’ll drown if I drop you now silly!”

“At this point, I couldn’t care less!”

“Don’t be stupid Torao, you know I can’t drop you! You can’t swim anyway!”

“Didn’t we just already discuss this? I don’t care if I can’t swim, that’s what I’m trying to say here, and- OH. MY GOD, LET GO NOW.”

“I’m not dropping you Torao! We just talked about this!”

“Will you turn your head around already?! Let go of the tree or we’re going to-”

Too late. Since Straw Hat-ya wasn’t paying attention, we crashed into the very tree he had latched onto. The two of us then fell several feet down and landed with very loud thud.

“Oh fucking…” My body ached all over as I struggled to my feet. I was seething at this point. “YOU IDIOT. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING DAMMIT!”

Straw Hat-ya, on the other hand, stretched his arms out over his head and laughed without a care in the world. “Sorry Torao! I’ll be more careful next time!”

“God…” To my surprise, the snack boxes were completely intact. I tossed the one labeled “Luffy” over to him and took in our surroundings. We were standing in what appeared to be a forest clearing, though the area was open enough for the moon to shine through the trees, so we weren’t cast into total darkness. Actually, the sky was still visible enough for me to see the stars.

I lifted Kikoku up over my shoulder and turned back to Straw Hat-ya. “Alright, let’s get this over with. Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know.” Straw Hat-ya turned his head around vigorously until he set his eyes on the western set of trees in the clearing. “Let’s just go this way!”

“Fine. But before we leave, we need to find out where we are.” To the east of us was the ship. I then looked up to the sky and found that Polaris, the North Star, was sitting directly above it. “Alright, when we’re heading back to the ship, we need to make sure that we’re heading north. You got that Straw Hat-ya?”

“Come on Torao, hurry up!” He waved to me from the edge of the clearing. “What are you standing around for?”

“Okay, I’m coming.” Once I caught up to him, I grabbed him by the shoulder. “Now listen here, Straw Hat-ya. Look up for me, will you?”

He did what I told him. “Yeah? At the stars, right?”

“Exactly. Now, straight up above those trees is the North Star. That signifies that straight ahead is north. And that’s where the ship is. So when we’re trying to find the ship again, we need to find the North Star and follow it back to the ship. Can you do that?”

“Sure, sure!” He looked back to me with a huge smile on his face. “We just have to find a star, right? That’s easy!”

“Alright.” I felt slightly relieved, but this was Straw Hat-ya, so I would have to be careful regardless. I released his shoulder. “Well, shall we go then?”

“Yeah!” He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the clearing and into the trees. “This way, this way!”

The walk was a very relaxing one, even with Straw Hat-ya. Actually, in a way, it was Straw Hat-ya’s presence itself that was relaxing to me. Despite his loud and care-free nature, I always felt more at ease whenever I was around him. I kind of even felt a bit safer with him, although that didn’t seem possible anymore given our situation.

After about maybe an hour or so, Straw Hat-ya finally began eating from his snack box. I was surprised he had actually waited this long to do so. “Go on Torao!” With his mouth full, he gestured to the box in my hand. “Eat your food!”

I frowned before shrugging and giving in. “Oh what the hell?” I placed Kikoku under my arm and carefully opened my snack box without spilling anything. Since it was the middle of the night, it made sense that Blackleg-ya didn’t prepare as much food for us. Also, it seemed like each box was specialized, as Straw Hat-ya’s looked to contain mostly meat. Mine had apple slices, a bit of rice, and…

I froze, staring at the contents of my snack box. Sitting inside were two of my most hated rivals. And I thought that night couldn’t get any worse.

“Straw Hat-ya! Get over here now!”

A second later, he was right by my side. “What’s wrong Torao?”

“Your cook seems to like mocking me.”

“Hmm?” He grabbed a banana from his box and took a large bite out of it. “What do you mean?”

“Look at this.” I shoved my own box right under his nose. “He put bread and umeboshi in my snack box!”

Straw Hat-ya laughed his head off. “Oh that’s right! I forgot you didn’t like that stuff!”

“Why must he do this to me? Why Straw Hat-ya, why?!”

“Well, the umeboshi I can understand! But everyone likes bread! Why don’t you like it?”

“I’d rather not say.” It was too painful and embarrassing to think about. I couldn’t bear the humiliation.

“Oh. Well okay then.” He looked down at his own food before looking back to me. “I can trade you something if you want!”

“Hmm.” I leaned over and peered at his box carefully. “Like what?”

“Well… Oh!” He reached in and grabbed a slice of turkey meat. “You can have this from my sandwich! There’s not a whole lot of it, but it should do!”

I grimaced at the sight of it. “I can’t eat that! It touched the bread!”

“What? Oh come on! Don’t be such a brat, Torao! It barely even touched the bread! Look,” he showed me the remains of his sandwich, “it was sitting between the lettuce and the cheese! It’s fine!”

“Oh no, I’m not risking that! No way!”

“Augh, you’re such a baby! Come here!” He stepped right in front of me and held the contaminated meat in my face. “Just eat it already!”

“No!” I grabbed his face and struggled pushing him back. “Get that thing away from me!”

“Eat the meat Torao! Eat it!”

“No, I refuse! You can’t make me!”

“Oh fine then! More for me!” He backed away, plopped the meat into his mouth and swallowed it instantly. “Now give me the bread and the umeboshi!”

I held my box out as far away from me as possible. “Here.”

I waited for a few minutes while Straw Hat-ya cleared away my food. Then soon enough… “Alright, it’s gone. But you have to eat the apple slices! Got it?”

“Alright.” I took it back and saw that yes, the apple slices were the only things left to be eaten. From what I remembered, they didn’t seem to be touching the bread before, so I figured they were safe to eat.

We continued our trek through the forest as I wolfed down the apple slices. Straw Hat-ya had finished with this food ages ago and was now walking in-step next to me with his hands behind his head. “Man, you must’ve been hungry Torao! Why couldn’t you eat your bread like that?”

I shot him a murderous look. “Why are you bringing this up again?”

“Relax, I’m just curious!”

“I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again: I don’t like bread. Alright? Now don’t ask me again!”

“Okay. But why don’t you like it?”

“I-I just don’t, okay?”

“I mean, have you even tried it?”

“W-well, I.. umm…”

“You haven’t, have you?!”

“Oh god, I’m not having this discussion with you! Good-bye.” I quickened my pace so I could get away from him.

Unfortunately, he caught up to me. “Oh come on Torao! You can’t say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it!”

“Who said I’ve never tried bread before?!”

“Alright then, well have you?”

“I don’t want to talk about this! Understand?!”

“Just admit that you’ve never tried it, and I’ll drop it!”

“No you won’t, you’ll just make me try it later! I know you will!”

“Well yeah, why wouldn’t I?”

“Oh my god. Just leave me alone already!” I hurried away from him again. The only thing that stopped me this time was a yelping sound coming from somewhere up ahead of us.

Straw Hat-ya caught up to me once again, but he didn’t go on about the bread this time. “What was that?”

“Shh.” I put my hand up to quiet him and listened. Several seconds later, we heard the yelping again. “I know this sound.” I waited for it to happen again. When it did, I closed my snack box, stowed it away into the depths of my jacket, and then set off towards the source of the sound. It started as quick steps, but soon I broke into a run.

“Torao? Hey! Wait up!”

I didn’t stop for him; I figured he’d catch up with me anyway, so I kept on running ahead. About a minute later, I finally found what I was looking for. Laying on the ground in front of me was a spotted seal; a little one, in fact. I rushed over, placed Kikoku on the ground, and knelt down beside the seal.

The yelping continued, but this time, the seal looked up at me. He was crying, and I only needed to just look into his eyes to understand. I placed my hand in front of his nose so that he would know I was a friend. One sniff from him, and then he pushed himself forward so that his front flippers were resting on my knees. Then my hand went to his back, and I petted him. “It’s alright. You’re safe with me.”

“There you are!” Straw Hat-ya came to a halt beside me. “Hey, is that a-”

“Yeah,” I confirmed to him. “It’s a sea pup.”

“A pup? As in puppy? That sure doesn’t look like a puppy to me.”

“No. It’s what you call a baby seal.”

“Oh! Okay then, that makes sense!” He crouched down next to me and looked at the seal. “So what’s it doing out here?”

“I don’t know. He shouldn’t have any business out here. Spotted seals are more attuned to cold weather.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, you see them all the time in the North Blue.”

“Oh yeah that’s right, I almost forgot you were from the North Blue!”

“Yeah.”

“Hmm…” Straw Hat-ya put his thumb to his chin and tilted his head to the side, looking at the seal. “Do you think he’s hungry? You could always give him some of your apple slices.”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t do that. Seals are carnivores, they only eat meat.”

“Oh.” He stood back up and looked at the trees around us. “Well… Maybe we should head back to the ship for now? Sanji can find it some meat, and Chopper could probably find out what it wants!”

“Straw Hat-ya.” He turned back to me. “It’s pretty obvious what he wants. This sound he’s making is something you’ll hear a lot up in the North Blue. Sea pups do this when they’re calling for their mothers. So what we need to do right now is get him back to his mom as soon as possible.”

He nodded. “I agree, we should definitely get him back to his family! But I still think we should head back to the ship first! Chopper can talk to animals! He might be able to find out which direction this guy’s family is!”

“Tony-ya can do that?”

“Yeah! He is a reindeer after all!”

“Oh, well I guess that’s true. Alright then, fine. We’ll do it your way.” I removed my hat off my head and placed it upside down on my lap. Then I picked up the seal and placed it inside the hat. “There. Is that comfortable enough for you?”

The seal made a cute sound and nodded it’s head. “Alright then.” I grabbed Kikoku, stood up, and hugged the hat close to me with my right arm. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home soon.”

“Ah! Hey Torao! I found the star!” Straw Hat-ya pointed up at the sky. “North is this way, let’s go!” He then bounded off for the trees ahead of us.

“Hm.” I looked up at the sky myself and found the area he had looked in. There were many stars up there, but none of them were familiar. “Hold on. That’s not right.” I then looked to the right, and there it was. “It’s right here, Straw Hat-ya! You’re going the wrong way!”

I ran off after him, all the while making sure the seal was safe inside the hat. Straw-Hat ya wasn’t too far up ahead, but he didn’t stop running. Eventually I called out to him again. “Hey! Wait up already, will you?!”

He finally stopped and turned around, jogging in place. “Man, hurry up Torao! We’ve got to get going!”

“Will you listen to me?! We’re going the wrong way!”

“What do you mean, of course we’re going the right way! I found the North Star, and now we’re going towards it!”

“No, what you did was pick a random star and followed it! Come here.” I reached out and pulled him over with Kikoku until his face was plastered right next to mine. “Now look up. Over here is the North- oh shit.” All we could see now were clouds. Not a single star was in sight. “Goddammit, now we’re in trouble.”

“What happened? Where did all the stars go? I thought it was a clear night?”

“I thought so too. What the hell…?” There was something off about this island, that was for sure. Back when we were on the ship, I couldn’t see any clouds for miles. So what was going on?

I lowered Kikoku and sighed. “If we can’t see the stars, then it won’t be as easy to navigate our way back. We’ve got no choice: we’ll just have to use trial and error to figure out which direction we came from.”

“No we don’t! We can still find North you know!”

“What? How?”

“It’s easy! South is warm, and North is cold! We just have to find which direction feels the coldest!”

“What kind of logic is that?!”

He didn’t listen to me. He walked off a little ways ahead, apparently feeling around for any signs of temperature change. In the meantime, I just stood there, waiting, for at least a minute or two. Then… “Torao! Over here! It’s colder right here! We should go this way!”

“Are you out of your- wait…” I stepped over to him to see for myself. It definitely felt colder, and the seal seemed to like it. I looked down at him. “Do you want to go this way?”

He poked his head above the brim of my hat and looked longingly in the direction Straw Hat-ya was pointing to. I took that as a yes. “Alright then, let’s go.”

“Yay!” This time, instead of going on ahead, Straw Hat-ya stayed by my side. We walked for about five minutes, all the while feeling the temperature gradually decreasing as we went. Eventually, we reached a river bank. On the other side was… what looked like a winter wonderland.

“Whoa, it’s snowing!” Straw Hat-ya ran up to the water but didn’t step in. I looked up. Sure enough, it was snowing on the other side of the river. That explained the cloud cover we had encountered earlier. “It’s like Punk Hazard! One side’s warm while the other’s cold!”

“Yeah, you’re right. But I think here, this is all natural. Maybe this island’s climate is a constantly changing one.”

“Eh, maybe.” He sounded incredibly uninterested, so I dropped the subject altogether. “Oh hey, I see some seals over there!” He pointed to a group of them on the opposite river bank. “Maybe that’s this guy’s family! Hey!” He started waving his heads over his head as he shouted out to the group of seals. “Over here!”

I think the pup noticed them, since he started yelping again, this time much more frequently. And that gained the other seals’ attention, since one of them, probably the female, began calling out to us. Then the pup started squirming inside the hat.

“Yep, that’s definitely them alright.” I knelt down by the water and placed the hat back onto my lap like before. “Alright, this is it.” I lifted the baby seal out of the hat, and before I could do anything else, he smiled at me and licked my face.

In a matter of seconds, I felt my cheeks growing hot. “Oh- uh… okay then.” I set him down on the bank. “Are you ready?”

The seal gave me one quick nod before wading into the water. Once his body sans his head was completely submerged, he started swimming over towards the other seals. It didn’t take him long to reach the other side and reunite with his mother. Then he started the yelping once again, only this time it wasn’t a cry for help; he was calling out to me and Straw Hat-ya, as if he were saying good-bye.

I gave him a short little wave before standing back up and setting off down the side of the bank. I didn’t put my hat back on though. I just continued to hold it at my side as I walked.

Straw Hat-ya followed right behind me. “Well that was fun! I’m glad we were able to find the family!”

“Me too.”

“You know, he really seemed to like you!”

“Yeah, well… I felt like I could relate him, I guess.”

He jogged to catch up to me so we were walking side-by-side. “Really?”

I nodded. “When I first found him, I looked into his eyes, and… and I saw myself. A long time ago, I lost my family and was left all alone. I didn’t want that to happen to him too.”

“I get it! And now everything’s better! We got him back to his mom, so we did good!”

I didn’t say anything else after that. We walked in silence for another several minutes until we noticed moonlight up ahead. And if there was moonlight, then that could only mean…

“Hey look Torao! The stars are back!” He ran off towards the spot where the clouds ended, and I followed suit. We ran up an incline, and soon enough, we reached a cliff where we could see the ocean again, not to mention the star-filled sky.

“Wow…” I stared in awe at the reflection of the stars on the water. “Now this is a nice view.”

“Haha, yeah it is!” We stood there, gazing at the stars, until Straw Hat-ya started poking me. “Hey Torao, look! It’s the Sunny!”

I looked to where he was pointing. There it was, on the far side of the island, sailing slowly towards us from the right. As soon as I saw it, all of those feelings of dread came rushing back to me. Once again, Doflamingo popped right back into my head, and I felt uneasy again.

“Come on, let’s go!” He turned around and was about to make his way down to the ship.

One thing was clear to me: I did not want to go back to the ship, at least not yet. Once we did, I wouldn’t be able to say a thing about this. But since I was completely alone with Straw Hat-ya for the time being, I felt like I should use this opportunity before it was gone.

Before he could leave, I placed my hat on the ground and grabbed his hand. “Wait.”

“Hm?” He turned back around and regarded me curiously. “What is it?”

“We- we need to talk. Right now. Before we get back to the ship.”

“Umm… Okay then.” Straw Hat-ya moved back towards me. “What do you want to talk about?”

I was silent for a moment until I answered him quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For-for everything. I should never have made that alliance with you on Punk Hazard. I did it on a selfish whim, and then I dragged you into my personal fight. Now all of your lives are in danger, and I can never make up for that. It’s all my fault.”

“No it’s not! Look Torao, I don’t regret kicking Mingo’s ass! I’m glad I did, he deserved it! And sure, bad things happened in Dressrosa, but you didn’t have any control over it! So don’t apologize, you shouldn’t have to!”

I felt slightly relieved at that. It was like he always saw the good in me and pointed that out endlessly. He always made me feel better about myself, just like another certain someone in my life…

I let go of his hand and sat down on the edge of the cliff, with one leg dangling over the edge and the other folded flat on the rock. “You remind me of him, you know.”

Straw Hat-ya did the same and sat down right beside me, placing his straw hat on the ground right next to my own. I could feel his gaze on the side of my face. “Of who?”

“Of… Cora-san.”

“Cora-san? Oh, you mean Mingo’s brother, right?”

“Yeah.” I stared off at the ocean, watching as the sky gradually began to get lighter. “Cora-san was there for me during the darkest time of my life. I had an incurable disease, you see, and he took me to every hospital in the North Blue just to find a cure, even if there wasn’t any known one. He was that hopeful.”

“But you did find one in the end though, right?”

“Yep. It was the Ope Ope no mi, my devil fruit. With the proper medical knowledge, I was able to cure myself. But Cora-san risked his life getting his hands on that fruit. And now he’s gone.”

I paused, looking down at the water below and saw my reflection. I almost thought I looked like the boy I was thirteen years ago. “One of the last words he said before he died was that he wanted me to live a free and happy life. And I want to do that, I really do. But I feel like I won’t ever be able to live that kind of life until Doflamingo is dead.”

“And Mingo killed Cora-san… You want to avenge him, don’t you?”

I nodded. “Ever since he died, yeah.”

“Right…” There was another minute of silence until… “Well maybe there’s another way.”

I turned to look at him. “What?”

“Maybe there’s another way for you to get closure without you having to kill Mingo.”

I looked back to the ocean. “I don’t think there is one to be honest.”

“Well why not? I mean, look. Mingo’s been captured! The marines have him now! We kicked his ass, and we won the fight! And besides, if Cora-san wanted you to be free, then just do it! Live out the life he wanted you to live! You shouldn’t need to overthink this!”

“But that’s the thing, I don’t think I can live it out until Doflamingo is gone! For good! As long as he’s still alive, he’ll always be a threat! What if he breaks out of marine custody?!”

“We’ll cross that road when we reach it! But until then, he can’t get to you! You’re safe!”

“That’s not what I’m worried about.”

“What do you mean?”

I averted my eyes from his gaze while grabbing my folded leg and squeezing it tightly. “If Doflamingo escapes, there’s no doubt that he’ll come for us. And when he finds us, he’ll kill you. And I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want any of you to die… especially you.”

I could feel the tears going down my face, and I didn’t do a thing to stop them. “You’re way too important to me now. If I lose you, I don’t know what I’ll do.” And I really didn’t. I had already lost someone important to Doflamingo, I didn’t want to have to go through that ever again.

I felt a hand on my shoulder trying to shake me. I might have heard a voice too, but I didn’t pay attention. I just watched as my tears fell into the sea, making ripples in the water. If Straw Hat-ya did end up dying, I could probably just jump down into that ocean and end the pain right there.

“Hey! Can you hear me?! LAW!”

That was the one thing that brought me back to reality. I slowly turned my head towards Straw Hat-ya and stared at him incredulously. “What?”

“Listen to me.” Both of his hands were placed on my shoulders as if to steady me. “I’M NOT GOING TO DIE. I promise you. I’m not going to let anyone kill me before I become King of the Pirates! Not Mingo, not anybody!”

Not once did I look away from him. It was times like these that I really admired him. “Y-you-you called me ‘Law’.”

“Well yeah, that’s your name, isn’t it? And another thing. You’re not going to die either! I’m not going to let anything happen to you! Not after Ace!”

He squeezed my shoulders gently. “Remember, we’re nakama! You’re my family now, and I care about you a lot!”

“But… I’m not-”

Then he did something I didn’t expect him to: he pulled me to him and hugged me tight. “I don’t care if you’re not on my crew! That shouldn’t matter! We’re family, Law! And family sticks together! I won’t ever turn my back on you! Even if we have to part ways at some point! If you’re ever in trouble, I’ll always be there to help you no matter what! You can count on that!”

That’s when the sobbing started. Tears flowed down my face endlessly, but I let it happen. I had kept everything bottled up inside for so long, and now I had finally reached my limit. So I let the tears stream as I grabbed his shirt and cried into it. I don’t know how many minutes passed, but it felt like a very long time before I started to calm down.

Eventually, once I felt I could articulate myself properly, I spoke. “Straw Hat-ya,” I whispered, “I-I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything,” he replied gently. He broke out of the hug, but kept one hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye. “And you know, you don’t have to call me that. We’re friends, aren’t we? Just call me ‘Luffy’!”

It was the first time since Cora-san that I felt this comfortable with someone else. Tears were still coming down, but this time, I felt my mouth curving upwards into a smile.

“Thank you… Luffy.”

The two of us sat there side-by-side, arms around each other, as we watched the sea. The sky turned into a beautiful blue and orange as the sun rose up over the horizon. And it got me thinking: he was always there to brighten up my day. Since we met, every time I was feeling at my lowest, he was always there to lift me right back up. The two of us, we balanced each other out. If I was the moon… then Luffy was the sun.

September 2015

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