Hey friends and fans! Kairomaru is bringing you another chapter of The Logia Brothers! Time to cross the vast desert of Sandy Island! How will the Straw Hats react to the state of Alabasta? Will crossing the desert go better or worse than Canon?
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Chapter 30 – Erumalu and the Desert
A blue-haired woman wearing a bandana sat behind the bar of the café. She quietly read a book while a sonata was playing on a record player in the corner. Her glasses gave her a non-threatening look, which was reinforced by her colorful print tank top and her plain jeans.
"Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas! Oh I'm pooped!" An older woman exclaimed as the door to the café burst open. "What a journey! I'm exhausted! My back is killing me! It's all your fault, Mr. 4! You're too slow! Oh, my back! You idiot!"
"Er…sorry…about that…" The large man next to the woman spoke slowly.
They were a rather odd pair, a stout, middle-aged woman with red hair. She wore a white shirt and a necktie that resembled a Christmas tree, which went along with her codename. She also donned a large pair of purple-lensed sunglasses, a basket strapped to her back, and sandals. This was Miss Merry Christmas.
The man was rather tall and fat, had noticeably big lips, and wore a green shirt that covered most of his body with black pants and gray running shoes. He had brown hair, wore a yellow scarf around his neck, and had a large weapon strapped to his back. This was Mr. 4.
"Hello, Miss Merry Christmas, Mr. 4." The woman behind the bar greeted the pair as she stood up and put her book aside.
"Yes, yes, yes." Miss Merry Christmas spoke rapidly, in contrast to the slow speech of her partner. "How's business Pola? The place seems kind of empty today! That's 'Empty' with a capital 'E'!"
"You have the place to yourselves for now," Pola, the proprietor of the Spider's Café informed the pair. "You'll have orange pekoe and you prefer apple tea, right Mr. 4?"
"I don't want it too hot!" Miss Merry Christmas started slapping the bar top. "I want to be able to drink it right away! Now hurry it up! Bring it out! Bring it!"
"You seem well," Pola chuckled at the impatient older woman while she made their drinks. "How's work going?"
"In our business, you fail, you die!" Miss Merry Christmas instantly downed her whole cup as soon as it was set in front of her. "I'm doing splendidly, you idiot!"
"Of course, how silly of me." Pola grinned as she placed Mr. 4's tea in front of him.
The two women turned to face the door when they heard noise coming from outside. Pola moved a few steps over to see out the window only to sigh. Mr. 2 was leading his subordinates through the desert towards the café while doing ballet routines of all things!
"Hello!" Mr. 2 greeted the café at large as he opened the door and took a ballet pose. "How deux you do?"
"Are you crazy?" Pola questioned the okama with a deadpan stare.
"I'm not crazy, Pola!" Mr. 2 patted the bar top with a laugh. "I'm just happy! I'll have an octopar."
"An 'Octopar'?" Pola had never heard of such a thing.
"An octopus parfait! Isn't it obvious?" Mr. 2 chuckled at the look Pola gave him. "All of you may return to the ship!" He waved his subordinates away.
"Aye aye!" The men saluted their leader and started heading back through the desert towards the ship that was docked not too far away.
"Oh? What are you doing here Fatty and Old Bat?" Mr. 2 questioned the pair of Officer Agents.
"Shut up! That annoying voice of yours makes my back ache!" Miss Merry Christmas yelled at the okama from where she was lying on top of a table and getting her back massaged by Mr. 4.
"So, I heard that Mr. 1 and his partner are coming." Mr. 2 grinned at Pola. "I've never gotten the chance to meet him before. I'm super excited!"
"But everyone's afraid of him." Pola raised one of her eyebrows at the okama.
"Oh, that doesn't matter to me!" Mr. 2 exclaimed with a wide smile.
As the evening wore on, and the eight o' clock meeting time drew nearer, the Agents that had shown up already found ways to spend their time. Mr. 2 eventually decided to see how long he could continuously twirl in place. This didn't sit well with Miss Merry Christmas who demanded he stop because his twirling was making her dizzy. The two got into an argument and were about to come to blows over it, much to Pola's exasperation.
Right as the clock struck eight, two men slammed through the door of the café, beaten and bloody. Mr. 2 and Miss Merry Christmas quickly reacted and faced the potential enemy. Even the slow Mr. 4 had his hand on the weapon across his back. As the dust cleared it was revealed that the men in question were Mr. 2's subordinates.
"Hey! What's the big idea?! Why'd you crash in here like that?" Mr. 2 demanded only for one of his men to point to the man that had thrown them through the door.
"Friends of yours, Mr. 2?" The relatively tall, tanned man with long, thin limbs and fingers questioned. The man was very muscular and his head was shaven. His most striking feature was probably the black unibrow, right over his round eyes. He had large lips, though not to the same degree as Mr. 4. There was a tattoo on his chest and torso of the kanji for the number '1'. His attire consisted of a sleeveless dark coat with golden edges and white motifs on the front, over very loose beige pants held up by a white sash around the waist. His pants were tucked inside some bandages wrapped around his calves and partially around his shoes. "I found them slinking around in the desert. They're not dead." He looked around at the other Agents in the café. "You all seem to be getting along." He walked over the beaten and bleeding men as he stepped further into the building. "Don't waste your strength in pointless fellowship."
"Those are my subordinates!" Mr. 2 declared angrily, glaring at the man before launching towards him.
"Stop, Mr. 2!" Miss Merry Christmas cried out to the other Agent.
"Swan Arabesque!" Mr. 2 launched a flurry of kicks at the man, forcing him to jerk back to avoid the attacks.
The shaved man threw a punch at Mr. 2's head. The okama bent at the waist, tilting backwards to avoid the heavy blow. His response was a double handed strike that the tanned man leapt over to avoid. This suited Mr. 2 perfectly as he knew where the man would land.
"GRAH!" Mr. 2 lashed out with a full power kick. The tattooed man blocked the blow with his crossed arms and went sailing through the wall and into the desert outside.
"You demolished the wall!" Miss Merry Christmas yelled at the two fighters.
"I guess you want to die…" The bare-chested man stated with a cold glare as he splayed his fingers out.
"Wait Mr. 1," Pola stepped in front of the now named Mr. 1. "Let's all calm down."
"Don't get in my way Miss Doublefinger; I'm going to kill him." Mr. 1 declared as he glared at Mr. 2.
"Get off me, Fatty!" Mr. 2 was being pinned down my Mr. 4's full weight to stop the okama from attacking Mr. 1.
"Mr. 2, calm down!" Pola barked at the thrashing Agent. "It's eight o' clock and all the Agents have gathered. Our orders have been delivered to the Spider's Café." She pulled off her glasses and her bandana, revealing that her hair was rather wild and bushy when she removed the tie that kept it in the previous ponytail. "Now we'll go to Rainbase, the town of dreams. The one we call 'Boss' whose face we've never seen, is waiting for us there."
-'Green City' Erumalu-
"We're here, it's Yuba!" Luffy declared while looking at the abandoned city that seemed almost half-buried in sand. "Whoa…it's a real ghost town."
It was true. Not a single soul still resided in Erumalu. The buildings were destroyed, damaged, or left in disrepair. Everything was dried out and withered. What might have once been a plentiful oasis was now nothing more than a land of sand and death. Viv's mood noticeably dropped seeing the state of Erumalu.
"Now…where is this rebel leader?" Luffy turned to look at Vivi and the rest of the crew as they disembarked from the Going Merry.
"We haven't reached Yuba yet, Luffy." Vivi shook her head. "It's still just over half a day through the desert to reach it on foot."
"Half a day on foot?!" Usopp goggled at the distance and the heat they'd be travelling in.
"We just sailed up the Sandora River to the northern tributary," Vivi showed them on the small map she'd drawn up for the group. "We're in the 'Green City' Erumalu right now."
"It doesn't look very green…" Luffy looked over the remains of the city.
"It used to be." Vivi lamented as she thought back to her memories of the once beautiful city.
"Is that a turtle…or a seal?" Usopp questioned as he looked at the animal that had just leapt out of the water and onto the shore.
"That's a Kung Fu Dugong!" Vivi exclaimed at seeing the creature.
"Kung Fu?" Usopp blinked only to stumble back in a hasty dodge as the Dugong took a swing at him.
"They're dangerous!" Vivi warned slightly too late as Usopp shuffled backwards and drew one of his pistols. "It's the code of the Kung Fu Dugong to become the apprentice of anyone that defeats it."
"A disciple of the Martial Arts, eh?" Zoro looked slightly amused at the animal.
The cross between a seal and a turtle let out a bark and dozens more of its kin hopped out of the river. There had to be thirty or more of the creatures facing the Straw Hats now. Among all of the barking done by the Kung Fu Dugongs, Luffy and Chopper listened in two different ways, Luffy with his Observation and Chopper with his actual ears.
"They want to challenge one of us." Luffy and Chopper stated in unison.
"Chopper, you can understand animals?!" Nami blinked at the newfound knowledge.
"I was originally an animal, so I can understand other animals with only slight difficulty based on their species." Chopper confirmed for the group.
"Can you pass on a message for me?" Luffy grinned at seeing the large pack of Dugongs. Luffy crouched down and whispered into Chopper's ear for a moment.
"I'll try, Luffy." Chopper walked over and gave a similar bark to the Dugongs. It was followed by a much more deer-like sound afterwards as Chopper conversed with the aquatic mammals. After several moments of the conversation, Chopper turned back to Luffy. "He says they'll do it if you can prove yourself."
"What're you doing, Luffy?" Mikita questioned her lover with a curious look.
"One sec," Luffy grinned at her before stepping up before the entire pack of Kung Fu Dugongs. They all felt the shockwave of Luffy's unleashed Conqueror's Haki for a moment and watched as every single last Dugong hit the sand unconscious. "That should do it."
"What the hell are you doing?" Sanji blinked at the unconscious Dugongs and then at Luffy.
After the Dugongs began to wake up, Chopper helped translate and the deal was struck. What was the deal? The Kung Fu Dugongs would watch over and protect the Going Merry until the Straw Hats came back. In exchange, they would be given a huge amount of food to fill their bellies with once the Straw Hats retrieved their ship.
"Now, on to Yuba!" Luffy declared with his fist in the air as they started walking away from the large group of Dugongs and the Merry. True to their word, the Kung Fu Dugongs were already surrounding the ship, both on land and in water, while several also climbed onto the ship itself.
"If it was anybody but you, Luffy, that definitely wouldn't have worked." Nami chuckled with a gentle shake of her head.
"Those Dugongs are weird. Do they live in the river, Vivi?" Sanji questioned as the group walked through the decimated city of Erumalu.
"No, the sea." Vivi replied as she sadly looked over the once green city. "Many years ago, the Sandora River nourished these lands all the way until it joined with the sea. But in the last few years, the river has lost quite a bit of its force. The lack of rain up north has weakened the river. It is slowly being overcome by the sea."
"Then the water back there is…" Sanji looked back at the shrinking form of the Going Merry.
"That was sea water," Vivi confirmed with a short nod. "You can't drink it or water crops with it."
"Is that what made this city dry up?" Zoro questioned as he looked around the dusty, sand-strewn ruins.
"No," Vivi shook her head. "There used to be enough rainfall to sustain the city. Until recently Erumalu was green and full of life."
"What changed?" Usopp questioned as they continued to walk through the desolate city remains.
"In the last three years, not a drop of rain has fallen in this region." Vivi informed the group as they trudged onwards.
"But that port city looked fine." Chopper looked up at Vivi confused.
"Nanohana gets its water from the neighboring oasis of Katorea." Vivi smiled down at the reindeer. "Until recently, Alabasta never suffered through prolonged droughts. There were short ones, usually around a month in the height of summer, but never more than that."
"I sense a 'but' coming." Mikita looked over at the princess with a grimace.
"One place got plenty of rain," Vivi breathed deeply and exhaled slowly. "Alubarna, the capital where the King's palace resides. The people called it the King's miracle, until the day of the incident…" She clenched her fist so tightly her knuckles audibly popped. "The day my father was framed for using Dance Powder."
"Dance Powder?" Luffy tilted his head at the unfamiliar term. "What's that?"
"It's called the powder that summons rain." Nami answered her lover. "It was developed by a scientist in a land where it never rained. When burned it rises up into the sky and triggers ice to form in the clouds and then fall as rain."
"A mysterious powder that summons rain, huh?" Luffy chose the simplest explanation of the powder.
"Artificial rain." Nami corrected with her eyes closed.
"A powder that makes rain sounds like exactly what Alabasta needs right now." Usopp mentioned as he motioned to the dried up city around them.
"At first people rejoiced in the land where Dance Powder was invented," Nami turned to look at the Gunman. "Until they discovered the terrible side effect of making artificial rain. All of the areas surrounding that land started suffering from droughts."
"Wait…you mean it stole all of the rain from the surrounding lands?!" Usopp caught on to the problem of Dance Powder fairly quickly.
"Yes," Nami gave a sharp nod. "When the people of the surrounding lands found out that their rain had been stolen, they went to war and many lives were lost. The World Government banned the production and use of Dance Powder from then on."
"When the incident occurred, rain hadn't fallen anywhere in the country in months, except in the capital." Vivi informed the crew with downcast eyes.
"So the people naturally assumed the worst and thought the King had stolen all of the rain for himself." Zoro commented on the successful plot to frame the King.
"We didn't know it at the time," Vivi looked sadly upon some dried up human bones off to the side of the main path. "But a large amount of Dance Powder had been snuck into the palace too. It was all a part of Crocodile's scheme! Just as he wanted, drought ravaged the kingdom. The anger of the people grew as their thirst, hunger, and desperation did. Ultimately a rebellion broke out and Alabasta entered a civil war."
"Vivi…" Mikita placed her hand on the princess' shoulder gently.
"The people lost faith in the Royal Family, and the peace of the land was shattered!" Vivi exclaimed with grief and rage in her voice. "We lost many towns…and so many people…" She fell to her knees and grasped at the hot sand beneath her. "The one behind all of this misery was Crocodile! I'll NEVER forgive that man!" Vivi pounded the sand with both fists and everyone felt a flicker of her Conqueror's Haki wash over them for an instant.
"Then let's track him down and end this." Luffy spoke as he stood before Vivi with his hand held out to her. "We'll help you save your kingdom, Vivi."
"Luffy…" Vivi looked up at the straw-hatted Captain. His eyes were shadowed by the brim of his hat. The look in his eyes was one of unwavering determination, it filled Vivi with more hope than any mere words could hope to bring. She took his hand in hers and let him help her to her feet. "Thank you." She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a hug.
"You're my nakama, Vivi," Luffy returned the hug with his arms around her back. "I'll help you out, you just need to ask."
"Oh~" Mikita and Nami shared a look between them at the hug that Luffy and Vivi were sharing.
"Luffy! You bastard! Unhand Vivi this instant!" Sanji still hadn't forgiven Luffy for somehow getting Mikita to join in the relationship the Captain had with Nami. He wasn't about to let the slightly younger man somehow ensnare Vivi too!
"Shush, Sanji." Nami hushed the blonde as her eyes glinted with mischief.
"It's…so…hot…" Usopp panted as he used a walking stick to hold himself up.
"I think I'm gonna die…" Chopper was almost unconscious on a hastily tied together sled that Zoro was dragging behind him. "I'm adapted to the cold…"
"We get it, but we have to keep moving," Nami called out from atop the sled they'd made to drag their supplies through the desert.
"Yeah, if we don't make good time we'll run out of water before we get to Yuba." Mikita noted from her place right next to Nami.
"Easy for you to say!" Usopp retorted pointing at the women as they rode with the luggage. Luffy, impervious to heat like this, easily pulled the sled along through the desert.
"Stop complaining, Usopp," Sanji looked over at the longnose. "The ladies' comfort is more important than your whining."
"I wouldn't complain if it wasn't for these dunes, they're like mountains!" Usopp heaved out as they made their way over another dune.
"This is an ancient desert," Vivi remarked from her place between Nami and Mikita. "The tallest dunes are over three hundred meters tall."
"Three hundred meters!" Usopp gaped at the height. "Isn't that literally a mountain?!"
"We can rest in the shade for a bit in the next crags that come up," Vivi offered Usopp, Chopper, Sanji, and Zoro a respite from walking through the desert. "We should be about a quarter of the way to Yuba. I remember some fairly large crags around this area, as long as they haven't been completely swallowed up by the dunes over time."
Honestly she would be down there walking with the men normally. This was her homeland and she was much more used to the heat. But Mikita and Nami had pulled her atop the luggage-laden sled to be given a ride through the desert. The two were being slightly more teasing than normal for some reason too. The poor princess was flushed more from their words than the desert heat.
"You alright, Luffy?" Nami asked and Luffy turned to smile at his lovers and Vivi.
"I'm good, just sipping my water when I get thirsty." Luffy patted the small personal barrel at his side. He wasn't even sweating in the heat!
The crags Vivi mentioned appeared from the heat haze of the desert after they crossed over a large sand dune. The Straw Hats headed for the shaded area at a slightly faster pace to get out of the heat. Luffy led the way as if he wasn't dragging the most weight behind him. Once they were in the shade everyone let out sighs of relief. The women hopped off the luggage containing their rations and supplies while Usopp and Chopper happily collapsed in the shade. Zoro sat on a flat rock with a sigh and Sanji checked on the ladies with a heart-shaped eye.
"Graak…" Everyone turned at the sound to spot eight crane-like birds lying in the sand.
"Are they sick?" Usopp questioned as the group looked at the birds.
"I can try and help them." Chopper pulled off his backpack with his medical supplies in it.
"Don't go near them!" Vivi cried out and everyone turned to look at her. "Those are Evil Herons! They steal supplies from unsuspecting travelers!"
"Graak!" The birds, seemingly sensing that their scheme was up, tried to take flight.
"I'm hungry," Luffy had an evil glint in his eyes and before anyone could react lightning leapt from his outstretched palm and electrocuted the eight birds before they could get away. They fell to the sand with their feathers blackened and lay still. "Sanji, can you cook these?!" He looked to his Chef with a wide grin.
"I think so…" Sanji looked over the herons. "You better not have scorched their meat, Luffy! Dry poultry isn't fit to grace the palettes of Nami, Mikita, and Vivi!"
As Sanji set about removing the feathers and cleaning the dead herons, Luffy watched on eagerly. The Chef showed off his impressive skills as he made perfect cuts of the birds with only the tools he had on hand. The sun scorched rocks made rather excellent natural grills and soon the smell of fragrantly spiced meat was filling the air.
"That smells so good…" Luffy drooled along with Usopp and Chopper.
"Is that Dukkah?" Vivi smiled at the familiar smell.
"Yeah, that's what the merchant called it." Sanji beamed at the smile on Vivi's face. "I wanted to try using the spices and recipes of Alabasta while we're here."
"I haven't had it since I left Alabasta." Vivi was taken back to happier times by the nostalgic smell. "Thank you, Sanji."
"Of course, Vivi~" Sanji's heart-eye was practically popping out of his head at the attention of the princess.
In short order the birds were cooked up. Sanji doled out the first helpings to the ladies, of course, while kicking Luffy away from the rest of the meat. Only after everyone else's plates were full did Luffy get a whole bird dropped on his plate by Sanji.
"Thanks, Sanji!" Luffy smiled widely at the roasted heron. "It smells great!"
"Yeah, yeah," Sanji smiled at the praise to his skills. "Just don't steal food from anyone else you glutton! We can easily share this much meat, you don't have to eat it all!"
"Mmm! So good~!" Luffy cheered after taking a huge bite out of the roasted heron.
"Don't ignore me!" Sanji had sharp teeth in his mouth at Luffy ignoring all else to stuff his face.
"It's wonderful, Sanji!" Vivi praised the Chef with a bright smile. "You used the Dukkah so well on your first try!"
"Oh your praise is too much, Vivi~!" Sanji pirouetted around their resting spot in the shade.
"It's good," Mikita grinned at her food. "Has a hint of nutty flavor too."
"A little bit of salt really brought out the flavor." Nami smiled happily as she ate.
"Seconds!" Luffy declared while holding out his empty plate.
"Already?!" Usopp and Chopper cried out at the speed that Luffy had eaten a whole heron.
"It's pretty good," Zoro noted while enjoying his food. "I'll probably want seconds too."
"Make sure you all drink enough water while we rest," Vivi reminded the group. "We'll probably not make it to Yuba before nightfall and the desert gets very cold after the sun sets."
"Should we rest here for a bit longer?" Nami questioned Vivi as the meal continued. "Would it be easier or harder to travel at night?"
"The heat is sapping us of both moisture and strength, but freezing cold like Drum Island will make travelling in these clothes a challenge." Mikita noted as she gestured to their cloaked forms to keep the sun's harsh rays off of their skin.
"Chopper would be able to travel better in the cold, but everyone else would be freezing." Vivi sipped her water as she thought about the course going forward.
"OH NO!" Luffy suddenly yelled after finishing off his third helping of spiced-roasted heron.
"What?! What is it?! Baroque Works?!" Usopp jumped to his feet with a pistol in each hand.
"I totally forgot!" Luffy punched the sand beside him.
"What did you forget, Luffy?!" Chopper cried out, the Doctor worried that some vital supply had been forgotten back in Nanohana or left on the Going Merry.
"I forgot to remind Ace that my starting Bounty was higher than his!" Luffy wailed to the sky as he grabbed his head. "It was my only chance too! If I try to bring it up the next time we meet it'll just be old news! NO!"
"Luffy, you idiot, I was actually worried!" Nami threw a rock she picked up from the sand at her Captain's head.
"But I really wanted to rub it in!" Luffy dodged the rock without even breaking from his whining.
The rest of the crew -barring the gentle Vivi- all started tossing whatever rocks they could get their hands on at their Captain.
"Don't worry us like that, dumbass!" Zoro grumbled, after Luffy dodged the rock he'd thrown at the Lightning Man.
"Why do we love him again?" Mikita questioned both Nami and Vivi playfully. Nami leaned into her ear and whispered something while Vivi just blushed brightly at Mikita's question. "Oh yeah~ That! Kyahaha!" The Kilo Kilo no Mi user laughed as Nami leaned back with a naughty smile on her lips.
"I heard that…" Vivi looked down at her lap bashfully.
"We know~" Nami grinned at the princess.
"Nami!" Vivi covered her face with her hands.
"Kyahaha!" Mikita laughed again at how easy it was to tease the younger woman.
Things are going a bit differently now, aren't they?
The trek across the desert is much easier with a heatproof Luffy.
The ladies get a ride on the luggage sled pulled by Luffy. Zoro drags Chopper behind him on his own little makeshift sled. Sanji and Usopp carry their own supplies and keep pace.
This time the thieving birds didn't get to snatch the Straw Hat's supplies! They became a meal for the ever ravenous Luffy! Sanji gets to flex his Chef skills and even use spices from Alabasta for Vivi who has been away from her homeland for years! All good things!
For those of you that are wondering about the camel that Nami named 'Eyelashes' in Canon. No, he isn't dead and eaten by the Sandora Dragon. He just never left his last owner. He's still in the safety of town.
Now that the Officer Agents have gathered and are on their way to Rainbase to meet Crocodile, how will things play out?
Keep reading to find out!
Until I get your reviews, later!