Walk with the Dead

Disc.: Poor Roger would turn in his grave if I'd claim what's probably his favorite swim suit. I don't care much for swimming anyway. So no, I don't own One Piece.

A shout-out for my awesome betas, preases and 31esser. They're golden.


In the end, you die.

There's a plan, somewhere, but right now you're a mouldy mess and one that's about to die, too. It might be one of those desperately-noble-and-really-stupid things. You hope it's not, because that would create a mess on a whole different level of selfishness and you're not ready to go there.

This is the point where you ought to reflect on your life, right? Decide that you've changed for the better and think about how you're not regretting a single thing or some other crap. But your life is a wreck, and this had better work, since you'd rather not die. Even if the dying bit is sort of essential.

In the end, it's complicated.

It's simple.

You're a mess.

You die.

Your death won't save what's been dead all along.

Part 1. We've got Company

"Do you think we'll have an adventure when we're bigger?"

The innocent question hung in the air. You watched the almost perfect arch her projectile flew and only answered after it had returned safely to her hands.

"I think we have plenty of adventures as it is."

She pouted. "I mean a real one, somewhere that's not here."

You opened your mouth, but he was faster, returning with the fruit she had just cut loose at her first throw.

"If you look for it, you can find adventure everywhere, right?"

At her frown, he laughed and tousled her hair. "Tell you what, if you decide to go out, we'll come with."

"Of course!" she piped indignantly. "It's no fun alone!"

"Fine." You heaved a deep sigh yet still couldn't help but smile. "As long as we keep each other company."

1.1. The Girl

The day everything went downhill was probably the day after Remi died.

Sure, technically, Lana's life had been doomed long before this fateful day. She could easily list a handful others from the past which were decidedly worse, and more than responsible for pushing her onto this messed up path. But those were another matter entirely and since cursing them over and over again had gotten pretty old, this one would have to do as doomsday from now on. If it weren't for this particular day, she'd still have her quiet little life on that beautifully dull island in South Blue: where everything was perfectly fine and utterly uncomplicated.

Maybe it would be more accurate to curse the day Remi had actually died, not the following one. It was, after all, the simple act of dying that jump-started all the trouble. However, this had happened to be Lana's day off, and it had been a very nice one. Good workout and fabulous weather included.

How was she supposed to know that at the same time, some god-damn brat was taking her last breath?

In fact, she had been counting on the no-dead-people situation of this stupid island, which was so remote and peaceful with a tiny population, the only way to drop dead was of old age or quite possibly, of boredom.

Or, in the case of some idiotic nine-year-old; by finding what might've been the only deadly poisonous plant on the entire mouldy island and proceeding to eat it, in a baffling stroke of genius which probably came down to "what's-this-oh-let's-eat-it-and-see-what-happens". If the girl hadn't already died, Lana was sure she'd somehow do it again, too. But that didn't mean people weren't in a state of mourning, it was a small town on a small island, and one was bound to know each other one way or the other.

As such, the downtrodden mood couldn't escape even Lana's notice while she served food and drinks in the common room.

"Hey, Jet?" she called and entered the kitchen balancing a tray of empty glasses. "D'you know why everyone in there is so quiet? They're usually a lot more vocal."

The owner of the tavern turned from his conversation with their cook. Defying his name, he was a man of a size he'd eclipse the sun outside whenever he entered a room– simultaneously eclipsing any thoughts of trouble a patron might have been stirring up.

"You haven't heard?" he sighed and grimaced, "Maria's little girl passed away yesterday morning."



... Little girl passed away yesterday.


"Lana! Be careful!"

"You better clean that back up the floor of my kitchen, girl!"

Lana looked down at the mess of gleaming pieces of glass at her feet and back to her traitorous hands. "Sorry," she murmured numbly. Her heart was racing, threatening to jump right out of her ribcage.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit dammit. She was supposed to be good. There had been no twitches of any treacherous body parts at the mention of someone five feet under in ages, not a single one. She'd gotten rid of it, so damn long ago, right along with her fears.

She'd been safe.

Do something useful, her brain commanded. Scratch that, do anything at all, or your legs will take matters in their own hands.

She was supposed to be bloody safe.

The shards twinkled back at her from the floor, mocking her. They needed to go.

Jet's voice was soft. "Did you know Remi?"

"Who?" She glanced at him in confusion, hands on the half-opened door to the spacious broom cupboard and intent on finding something to eliminate the sparkling evidence of her mishap.

The cook snorted. "Well, there's your answer." He shook his head and returned to his daunting task of neatly chopping some vegetables.

Lana frowned at his back. What was his name again? Harold? Harry? Henry? Something with a 'H'. She couldn't recall, especially with her mind being preoccupied with trying to convince the rest of her body to resist the damn urge to panic. As in, to not drop everything then and there and make a run for the hills.

"I have no idea -"

"Remi. The girl who died," Jet interrupted her.

She blinked.

"Oh." That ... actually made sense.

Jet nodded and miraculously produced a pair of dustpan and broom from under the counter, handing them to her over the sea of shattered glass. Why the hell they had been there and not where they belonged - for example, the broom cupboard - was anyone's guess.

"I thought you might've known her, with the way you reacted."

She did react that way, didn't she? Stupid. There was absolutely no reason to freak out.

Yet, a voice in her head supplied helpfully.

Quickly, Lana crouched down and swept the glass together.

"Uhm. No," her mind scrambled for an answer. "It's just ... you know, shocking to hear someone so young dying, I guess?" There, that seemed vague but satisfying enough.

Jet sighed. "Right you are. Such a shame, too ..." He trailed off, then shook himself.

"Well, I guess life must go on. I'll go back behind the bar now. If you're done here, bring some replacement for those tankards from the cupboard, alright?"

"Sure," Lana mumbled and Jet squeezed her shoulder in passing. It was probably meant as a comforting gesture, but it didn't do the job at all.

The cook furrowed his brows at her when she scurried past him and dumped the remnants of five formerly perfectly usable tankards.

"You look like you've seen a ghost," he informed her.

Lana gave a shaky laugh, choking on the damn irony. "Let's mouldy hope not."

She ignored the raised eyebrows and the accompanying look, because the damn cook had no mildewed clue and it was better that way. He'd hopefully forget the incident right after she stepped out of his kitchen. Maybe she could even manage the same. After all, it didn't need to mean anything. A girl died, so what? Didn't mean she could get involved. Sure, there was a slightly higher chance she'd remain given the young age, but that was it: A chance. Nothing proven and nothing certain, not at all. Certainly nothing to panic over. No, it would be utterly silly to worry herself over something so insignificant.

Straightening her apron, hands with tray not shaking in the slightest, she nodded to herself and re-entered the common room. The calmest person on the entire island, yes.

The people were dressed in muted colours. Muted. Colours. Black, really, but she was trying to be calm, so muted it was. And then the whispers!

"So full of life! You know, I've talked to her just the day before! I never would've thought-"

"It's hard to believe, I know-"

How could she have missed the whispers?

"Where did she get that stuff anyway?"

"You've got to go some way inland to find that plant–"

Okay, so they were allowed to speculate, but...

"Heard the parents aren't taking it so well–"

"I don't know what I'd do if Tommy would–"

... did they have to do it so damn excessively?

"Poisoned! Just imagine–"

For crying out loud, Lana thought and returned to the bar for some refills. What happened to mourning in peace and quiet? The brat wouldn't come back to life, even if they talked each other's ears off about it.

"Oh, come on!"

Someone apparently agreed with her wish for a change of topic.

"You're no fun at all!"

Sadly, not so much with her appreciation for silence.

"I'm bored! You're acting dumber than grass, just do something!"

Lana set down her tray on the bar top with a little more force than was necessary, narrowing her eyes in the direction of the high-pitched voice. A little girl - with her blue hair in pigtails of all things - was hovering at the elbow of some woman, her face a picture of disapproval. Said woman wasn't even batting an eyelash. The girl resolved to express her discontent in growing volumes and Lana found her ears assaulted with increasingly creative whines and insults employing various forms of greenery. She had just reached comparing the woman to a poplar, when Lana towered over her.

"Could you knock it out? Some people are trying to enjoy their meal."

And perhaps start mourning in peace, she added silently.

The girl blinked comically and clamped her mouth shut. Lana smirked in triumph.

... Until she turned to the woman and found her staring openly.

Lana scowled. "Staring is rude."

The woman's eyes widened and she exchanged glances with the two others on the table. Lana's stomach began to churn uncomfortably. This was familiar.

"You can see me! Awesome!"

There it was. Lana closed her eyes briefly. "I just talked to air, didn't I?"

She didn't wait for the confirming nods. She didn't need to, just as she didn't need to do a double take on the girl. Fat load of good would noticing the slight glow and lack of shadow of that little girl do her now.

She whirled around and fled, but Pigtails was right on her heels.

"How come you can see me? Who are you? Where are we going? Oh, are we playing catch? Great!", the girl babbled away, tearing after her past the bar and a bewildered Jet, who Lana barely took the time to call a quick "Sorry!" to before slamming the door behind her.

Maybe that would hold the girl up - figuring out how to get past obstacles. She hadn't been dead for very long, so chances were it hadn't crossed her mind that walking through any solid matter was a definite option now. Lana didn't stick around long enough to find out. She made for the stairs, taking three steps at a time. She had just reached the landing when she heard another high-pitched "Awesome!".

So much for that solid matter.

In the split second she had, she sprinted to the only room she could use to hide effectively. The door was quickly shut behind her, but since this wasn't an obstacle any more, Lana prayed the girl would be held back by the number of rooms she needed to search. Lana rushed over to the window and onto the outer windowsill, her eyes on the branch of a tree growing beside the house. Thankfully, she hadn't slacked off these past years and so jumping over and pulling herself up went smoothly. She scrambled higher and higher, until she had to stay still, afraid that any more movements might her alert the girl of her hiding place. Only then did she tell herself to sit tight and breathe.

She didn't need to wait for long.

Pigtails's head popped through the window which had fallen shut behind her. Lana could barely make her out through the foliage separating them, but she saw how the girl turned this way and that, before letting out a disappointed sigh.

"Oh, bilberry! I suck at hide and seek," Lana heard her whine. "And she was the first who would pay attention to me, too!"

Lana exhaled slowly.

She expected her to retreat and search the other rooms, but the spot of sky coloured hair remained where it was. The wind rustling the leaves was the only sound for a while. It was loud enough for Lana to almost miss the girl's voice when she spoke again, timidly.

"Why doesn't anyone want to talk to me anymore?"

Her heart dropped and Lana closed her eyes for a second. It had nothing to do with her, she would not get involved with another one ever again if she could help it, even if it was a goddamn kid. This wasn't her fight to fight.

Go away, she thought with all her might.

And as if she'd heard her, the head finally disappeared. Lana kept her thoughts carefully blank and waited several more minutes that never seemed to end. Then she carefully made her way back down to the lowest branch and let herself drop the last two metres.

Pigtails might have given up looking for her - for now. But that didn't mean Lana could go back into the common room just yet, most likely, the girl had returned to trying to get someone - anyone - to notice her. If Lana showed up while she was still there, her successful getaway would have been for nothing, so she needed a place where she could stay and be informed when the room cleared out. She nodded to herself and headed for the backdoor.

Five minutes later, Lana was sitting on an overturned bucket in the broom closet.

She buried her face in her hands and forced herself to take deep breaths.

"Shit," she mourned. Shit, shit, shit.

A spirit.

A bloody spirit of a bloody kid on a bloody closed-knit island.

There was a reason to freak out after all.

She should've known it had been too good to last. Even if she had been so sure ... she had trusted that - and there had been nothing, not a single one the entire time, the entire mouldy time -

She groaned. There it was, her lapse in judgement. Almost three years without a single ghost had lulled her into a false sense of security. She had wanted to believe she had seen the last of them, that she was safe.

Hell knew she'd had enough of them to last a lifetime. Apparently, three years was all she'd get. Maybe there really wasn't anywhere where she'd be free of them. Everywhere people died, and everywhere there would be someone who wasn't quite done with this world yet.

And of course it had to be a kid. A kid without any idea how she wouldn't be talking to anyone anymore. No idea she was dead. What would happen when she found out? Because it was was a matter of when and not if, kids her age weren't dumb. She would feel so lonely ...

Don't go pitying anyone now, Lana chastised herself and lowered her hands. The girl was dead, and she'd learn to deal with it and hopefully move on soon after. There shouldn't be much holding her back.

Until then, she'd just ...

The door to the cupboard opened and bright rays hit her so hard she instinctively raised her hands. Only to find that the person appearing in the doorway was already shielding most of the light.

Jet blinked.


She smiled awkwardly. "Err ... Hi?"

"What are you ..." Jet stopped and shook his head, taking in her position. "La-na," he deliberately pronounced the syllables of her name and the corners of his lips twitched. "Are you hiding in a broom closet?"

"Well - it's not like it's being used for the broom or the dustpan," Lana murmured and fiddled with a lock at the back of her short hair. "Err ... Yes?"

Jet chuckled. "I guess you really can't deal with death, can you?"

She opened her mouth and closed it.

"Bolted right after recognising her, didn't you," he saved her from asking, "Seems like you got a nose for mourning people, the way you sniffed out that girl's mother."


Wonderful, she acted like a weirdo right in front of the one who was already in an overly emotional state.

Jet sighed and smiled wryly. "I guess if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can stay away from the bar 'till tonight. Most have left by now, anyway, since the ceremony's starting soon."

She had the best boss in the world.

"Thank you," she breathed and got up. "I'll just ... be outside, I guess."

He squeezed her shoulder again, and this time, it did feel a little comforting.

Your small hands pushed the door to the special storage open, as quietly as you could.

"There!" your partner in crime whispered. Following his outstretched finger, you spotted the carefully wrapped bundle.

Your target.

"Do you think Daddy will buy it?" you asked, scurrying over for closer inspection.

He nodded and helped you uncover the fine linen. "For sure! It's supposed to be a very rare one, so we could sell the seeds for a huge profit!"

Your scoff was stopped short when you've both finally pulled aside the last layer.

"Wow," you breathed in awe. "I've never seen this variety before!"

It was reminiscent of an avocado in shape, but that was where the similarities ended. Dozens of what seemed to be curled seeds glowed a bright purple. They spiraled all around the form, round and round to reunite, at last, in an elegantly curved stem at the top.

It was wonderful. It was exotic.

It was looking absolutely enticing.

"So they're going to get it for the seeds, right?" you said, not taking your eyes of the fruit.

His face was as mesmerized as yours. "Yeah, it's useless for anything else, it's only one fruit."

"So," you licked your lips. "It doesn't matter if we take just one bite, right? Before it starts to mould."

He hesitated, but you were already reaching out.

It was going to be the last exotic fruit you'd try for a very long time.

When Lana left the tavern, she couldn't fathom how little the issue was from being over and done with. The real shit only hit the fan later.

She'd done what she'd told Jet in the kitchen and had walked right out the back door, past a few houses and fields, until she'd reached the light forest covering the inner island. Then, she ran.

Over hedge and ditch she went, somersaulting over roots and tree trunks, ducking under branches or using them to swing herself forward. Dodge this pitch, pay attention to those twigs, make no noise. Concentrate. It wouldn't take her long to cross the woods this way, it never did, no matter how different the paths she took each time might have been. She kept moving, never stopping, only the sound of leaves in the wind and her breathing in her ears, as she circled back, close to the forest line.

Understandably, she was entirely unprepared for the sudden scream in a very familiar, high-pitched voice.

"Stop it!"

Lana missed a step and stumbled, cursing. Her right arm caught onto a wayward branch just in time to save her from landing in the mud.

"I said stop it! What are you doing?! Just stop!"

Where the hell - the cemetery. She never had a reason to stay away from it, or make a detour far around where the final resting place of the dead met the trees. None of the ghosts she had the unfortunate pleasure of encountering had ever indicated preferring to lurk around their graves, no, it might even the safest place one could be to avoid them, so why -

Lana pushed herself up and peered over the bushes separating her from the cemetery wall. Half of the village appeared to have gathered at the other side of the yard and from the looks of it, they had about just finished lowering a small coffin into its grave.

Much to the chagrin of a little blue-haired girl with pigtails.

Well, there. Looked like the funeral party had an uninvited guest - who just happened to be the lead character.

"That's me in there, didn't you see? Mummy! You can't -" Her voice hitched, as she tried to pull on the sleeve of the woman from the bar. Her hands went right through, but she only kept on trying. Heavy sobs were shaking her small body as she balled her fists and turned to try and pommel the man next to the woman.

But there was no impact, would never again be any impact. She fell through him to the ground - and he just went on to shovel the next heap of dirt down the gaping hole.

"Why are you doing this!? Please, stop it!"

Lana felt the air temperature around her increasing and closed her eyes. "Damn it all."

As if on cue, the wind started to pick up. The branches around her rustled in alarm, chiming in into the first movement in a raging symphony of spiritual despair. If she didn't do anything anytime soon, Lana would have a violent thunderstorm on her hands. There was no time to wonder about the strength of this mouldy girl's spiritual activity - not longer than it took her to curse it's nasty habit of changing the weather for the worse.

She followed a small trail leading through the bushes to the wall, which was low enough for Lana to mount and jump down on the other side. She dreaded to go near the party, no less their leading mourners, plus, she was probably dressed quite inappropriately for the occasion and might even smell a little bit from her free run. When the crowd began to notice her approach, it was quickly accompanied by frowns and disapproving glares. It almost made her turn on her heels right there and leave.

But the wails of Pigtails were echoing around the graveyard and a faint rumbling echoed in the distance, so she pressed on, walking around the gathering.

The girl had fallen through the bodies of her parents, her fists hammering on the earth. Lana was glad she didn't have to go right to the edge of the grave with the added attention. She crouched down behind the couple.

The girl didn't see her until Lana reached out and stopped her arms from flailing. Her head snapped up and reddened eyes widened in recognition.

"You -!" The girl hiccuped.

"Come on, Pigtails," Lana told her in a low voice. "Let's go."

"No!" She shook her head vigorously, her pigtails flapping around and hitting the sides of her face. "I need to stop them!" Sniffing, she pointed at Lana with her free hand. "Stop them!"

Lana sighed. "I can't." She looked at the girl and grimaced. "I'm sorry."

"Please!" the girl begged, staring at her with a tear-stained face.

Wordlessly, Lana took her other arm as well and pulled her up, ignoring the looks she received from the few who were watching her. The girl started to resist when she guided her away from the grave, but Lana kept an iron grip on the struggling form. She felt like she was wrestling with a bloody howling wolf the entire way across the graveyard.

Just before they reached the wall, the girl went limp. Grateful as she was for it, Lana didn't feel like figuring out how to get her over the barrier and settled for a small stone bench on the path running along the wall. She dragged the girl over and dropped her, and just in case Pigtails decided to run off, Lana took hold of her small hand.

But the girl pulled her hand away and flung her arms around Lana instead, sobbing into her shirt.

"There, there," Lana said and awkwardly patted the girl's back. "Calm down now."

Pigtails ignored her in favour of soaking her clothes and Lana resigned herself to waiting patiently. The sky had started to clear up again, thanks to the strong winds in this area and the loss of the distressing aura. Lana found herself sighing in relief. She didn't need to get any wetter than she already was. As for the root of the mess … for whatever reason, the girl had just attended her own funeral. She had probably blindly followed her mother or something. The people here seemed quicker to bury their dead than anywhere else Lana had been. Maybe that justified a little meltdown on the girl's side, but to throw a violent fit as this ...

Full of life, alright.

A small hand crept up and clutched her left shoulder right at the base of her neck, and Lana winced at the quick, tugging pain. She grasped the wrist of the girl reflexively and pushed it back down, meeting her imploring eyes.

"No hugging my neck," Lana told her sternly.

"Why?" the girl snuffled and used the hand instead to wipe her nose, smearing it on Lana's shirt.

Lana made a face. "Just a scar. No touchy."

"You have a scar?"


The girl rested her head on Lana's upper arm, staring at her with wide eyes. "What from?"

"One of you guys." Seeing her scrunch up her nose in indignation, Lana elaborated quickly. "A ghost."

Pigtails's face cleared and she nodded, rubbing the rest of her tears on Lana's arm in the process. "So I'm a ghost now, and there are others, too?"

"Aren't you a little genius."

"So …. " the girl hesitated and looked over to the funeral ceremony. They had finished filling up her grave and were slowly walking down the path to the gate. Only her parents remained, hand in hand, her mother holding out a bunch of white flowers. "That means I'm dead, doesn't it?"

"Yeah." Lana regarded her out of the corner of her eye. "You okay now?"

"Calla Lilies," the girl whispered.

Lana blinked. "Huh?"

"The flowers. They're called Calla Lilies."

"Okay." Lana shrugged. "What of it?"

The girl glanced at her as if Lana had just dribbled on her shirt. "They're symbolic. Like, they use them funerals, but also for marriages and stuff."

Lana raised an eyebrow. "Nice."

"Didn't you know?"

Watching the woman lay down the flowers, Lana tried to remember what flowers had lain on the last grave she'd seen, but gave up quickly when her throat became painfully dry. She had had other things on mind that day.


"Oh." The girl's eyes jumped from the retreating backs of her parents to the flowers in front of her gravestone. After a pause, she added: "They're also poisonous."

"Nice," Lana repeated.

"Daddy is a gardener," the girl continued, and her voice grew small. "They won't ... ever see me again, will they?"

The gate creaked in the distance as a breeze closed it after the black clad figures.


Nodding, the girl fell silent. Lana listened to the way the wind whispered as it swept between the rows of tombstones, having long given up to make sense of it. A blackbird fluttered by and landed not to far on a stone withered with age, scolding them in its unmistakable chant.

"So ... who're you, then?"

Lana turned to see Pigtails inspecting her face.

"I mean, I've seen you, you're Lana and you work at the tavern, but you're not from here, are you?" The girl tilted her head. "Where you're from, does everyone see the dead?"

"That's a lot of questions," Lana observed.

"Not really," the girl retorted and smiled cheekily.

Lana sighed. "Well, I'm not from here, you're spot on. But ... no, where I'm from, nobody can see ghosts, just like here. It's a pretty unique trait."

"Why d'you have it?"

"Because I was a nosy girl too, once, and I ate a fruit I shouldn't have. To be fair, though, how was I supposed to know the difference between a normal exotic fruit and an absolutely disgusting devil fruit? They're supposed to be a legend."

"Huh." The girl's face darkened and she looked away, reminding Lana of the murmurs in the tavern.

She gave her a nudge. "Heard you poisoned yourself 'cause you messed with a plant you shouldn't have, is that right?"

Pigtails buried her face in Lana's side. That would be a yes, then.

The dimming light made Lana cast a glance to the sky, which was darkening by the second. She would have to return to the bar soon, so she'd better figure out what to do with Pigtails.

Lana sighed. "So what's your name, anyway?"

"Remi." The girl's relief at the change of subject was evident in her voice.

"Well then, Remi. What's next?"

The girl looked up. "Don't you know, since you see ghosts all the time?"

"First of all, I don't see them all the time, thank God. Most people just move right on to wherever the hell people go when they die." Another breeze swept some of her curly bangs in her eyes and she blew them back. "Only some stick around as ghosts, but don't ask me why - if it were for me, they would all be taking the non-stop ferry straight across the river."

"So you don't know?"


The girl scrunched up her face in thought. "That's silly. You should know, so you can help the ghosts."

"Hey, I'm not some goody two-shoes," Lana objected with a huff. "I don't like ghosts. D'you know how it makes me look on the outside, talking to you guys? It makes me look a weirdo, a freak, that's what. 'Cause to everyone else, I'm conversing with empty space."

"But you're not," the girl reasoned.

Lana rolled her eyes. "Well, tell them that. Oh wait. They can't hear you."

"You're mean."


Pigtails stuck out the tongue, but didn't seem to be done yet. "You're always alone, right?"

Lana raised her eyebrows. "Why?"

"Because lonely people are always mean. Like the old man by the oaks. He's always mean when we come and help, because he's always alone."

Lana didn't know who the guy was, nor did she care. "You've got it wrong, kid. Lonely and keeping to yourself isn't the same thing. I for one, like having some peace and quiet." Not to mention saving herself awkward explanations.

"But that's boring!" Pigtails protested and started to swing her legs back and forth. She really had gotten over the whole being-dead thing fast, considering all the fuss she had made only moments ago. But for some reason, Lana couldn't find it in herself to feel much relief. Especially not when the girl suddenly stilled, a brilliant smile slowly blooming on her face.

Something told Lana that she wasn't going to like whatever thoughts the kid had cooked up. She should better make herself scarce while she still -

"I'm gonna stay with you!"

Lana stared at her, horrified.

"It's obvious!" The girl squealed in delight. "See, I know this ghost story, where a ghost was only there because he still had things to do, you know? He couldn't move on because of it. And now I know what I have to do!"

"Do you," Lana managed to bring out.

"Yes!" the girl nodded with great enthusiasm. "You're lonely and now you have me, so you won't be lonely anymore! I'll stay with you all the time now!"

Lana choked. "No! No-no-no-no. You don't have to. Really!"

"I'll be like your guardian angel! A really, really awesome one!"

"Please don't," Lana groaned.

She could already picture all the problems she'd have with this one hanging around her twenty-four seven. Awkward conversations and slanted looks were just part of it. She didn't need a rotten kid demanding her attention -

"... And I can do all sorts of things! Did you know I can walk through doors and stuff?"

Lana jumped to her feet and shook off the kid's arms.

"Yes and no," she said as firmly as she could, "No, you won't stay with me."

"But why?"

"Because I don't want you to," Lana argued irritably, as she made her way to the wall and climbed over. "And because you need to move on."

"You can't know yet." The girl stepped straight through the solid stone behind Lana. "See? You're going to change your mind!"

Desperately trying to ignore her, Lana sprinted down the path at the edge of the forest. But part of her knew she was fighting a lost cause. She wouldn't be able to hide from Pigtails anymore. The girl had, after all, all the time in the world to look for her.

"It's gonna be so daisily awesome!"

She just had to go and land herself in a mess again, didn't she.

To the west of some beautifully dull island in South Blue, a small ship made its way through the waves, quietly and steadily. It was loaded with various more-or-less useful knickknacks, a few barrels of sake and rum and dozens of boxes containing other things living people needed to, well, live.

Only ... out of the three passengers on the ship, just one was actually alive.

Or how alive one might consider a man with lanky hair and an empty, haunted look in his eyes, who was drooling slightly out of the corner of his mouth.

"Are you sure he can reach the next island?"

The other spirit grinned. "Oh, don't worry. He's quite alright."

"Hm. Thank you for the passage, then."

"So," he waved the topic aside. "What was this you told me about looking for someone?"

"Yeah, my brother is probably still around -"

"No, not him. The other one."

"Oh." The spirit leaned back and tipped his rather peculiar, orange hat. "Just the person who can talk to us ghosts. It's supposed to be a girl. I need her to help me find him."

A smirk grazed the features of the other spirit.

"Oh, she'll be of help, alright."

A/N: Hello! Welcome to the adventures of one hothead's afterlife. There's a Plot with capital P, lots of canon allusions and -characters, but plenty of new stuff as well.

Now, just to be clear, I started this story long before chapter 731 came out - let it be known that I called it, ha! It only made this officially and totally canon compatible.

Reviews make me happy.