line break-line break
UPDATED: 8/28/16- corrected some grammar and added more dialogue
UPDATED: 12/4/17-added cleaner transitions to some scenes and added necessary paragraph breaks for easier reading
Mihawk stepped out of the shadows and drew his sword, face intense. Someone blinked and they lunged into action parrying back and forth. The battle was quick and very experienced but ended shortly regardless, with Zoro falling to the ground, blood pooling out of his left eye.
Chapter 2: The Fate of the Dead
Slowly, Zoro came back into consciousness, the familiar rocking of a ship keeping him both relaxed and feeling at home. He kept both eyes shut, recognizing the familiar burn coming from his left eye and enjoying the feel of his three swords resting against his side.
Letting out a long breath he opened his right eye and jumped at the unfamiliar, wood planked ceiling. Sitting up he snatched his swords, ready to defend himself if necessary, but promptly dropped them when he felt a chill pass up his arm.
Looking down at his swords in alarm, he remembered everything and realized they really weren't his swords at all. Collapsing back down on the mattress, Zoro lifted his arm and felt the bandage over his left eye and sighed knowing exactly what happened.
'How could I be so stupid?' Zoro griped to himself. The love-cook called him that all the time but only now did he acknowledge his idiocy.
He knew better than to fight with swords he hadn't had the chance to examine yet. Usually, Zoro was able to discern the will of a sword immediately, but he was by no means coherent when he battled with the current katanas by his side. He must have truly been a wreck if he wasn't able to notice how cursed they felt; if he was a lesser man he would have recoiled away.
What was even worse was the absence of his swords. Every day he looked down at Wado Ichimonji, Kuina's sword, and remembered. He remembered his resolve, he remembered why he fought, why he trained, and now it was gone.
Just like his crew. Suddenly swallowing became harder and Zoro shook his head. In this…world, he had probably never even met Kuina and her father must have faced his grief alone over her tragic and sudden death.
Zoro sighed, letting the matter rest, feeling exhausted. He was still recovering from his stay with the Marine's, he could feel it. His muscles were sore and stiff but at least he was clean. Someone must have washed him while he slept and he was to tired to be embarrassed about it.
If anything, he was more concerned about where Luffy was. The absence of his treasured captain on that Marine base left Zoro feeling hollow. Where was Luffy? Considering Mihawk, who showed up and made such ludicrous claims, he wondered how different the Luffy here was.
Maybe he had different parents or maybe he wasn't even a pirate. The thought made Zoro's mind whirl, he couldn't even imagine Luffy as anything else but a pirate.
Different or not, he was going to find him, it wasn't just about being the worlds greatest swordsman anymore. It was about uniting the crew together once more and impressing upon them, using force if necessary, that they were family.
Hearing footsteps outside the closed door, Zoro sat up slowly and listened. He was currently in a small room with a mattress thrown in, and it was by no means a hospitable place. It stunk like mold and stale crackers; whoever put him in here obviously wanted him tucked out of the way.
The footsteps echoed away and Zoro decided it was time to investigate his current location.
Picking up and securing the katana's, he hesitated to call them his, Zoro got up and reached for the knob on the door. It turned and the door opened with a click as he looked down the hallway with curiosity.
It was a good sign that the door was un-locked, he assumed he was taken here by Mihawk, though the man never owned a ship that was this big. Maybe this Mihawk had his own crew for all he knew, there was already some disturbing revelations he preferred not to think about, Mihawk having his own crew was not that big of a deal.
He left the small room and slowly made his way around not really bothering where he was going. Judging by all the doors he was walking by, he must have been in a giant ship. The Sunny could be considered a big ship, but the one he was currently in dwarfed the Sunny by far.
Soon enough, he was lost and he doubted he'd ever make it back to the room he woke up in. Hearing voices, he turned and noticed a door slightly a jar at the end of the hall. As he moved closer the voices became clear;
"…awake, I want him out of here. I don't like his kind." A deep adult voice said. He didn't recognize the first voice but the second he immediately recognized as Mihawks';
"Fine." He ground out, and Zoro could imagine the man's yellow eyes narrowing in annoyance. He pushed the door open to a small, private dining area. Mihawk and the great 'Red Hair' himself sat at the only table. They both turned to look at him.
Zoro stopped and stared, immediately noticing that no straw hat rested on 'Red-Haired' Shanks head, meaning it must have been somewhere on someone else's head. A small flutter of hope grew in Zoro's heart and he stared at the man intensely till Mihawk called him over.
"This is 'Red- Haired' Shanks, Zoro, as you probably figured out. You finally get to meet! I specifically remember you begging as a child for the opportunity to meet him." Mihawk laughed, clearly trying to embarrass him.
Zoro just stared at him confused, eventually turning to look at Shanks who grunted in greeting, clearly thrilled to be in his friend's sons' presence. Zoro strode forward till he was in front of their table and looked at Shanks desperately.
"Where is he?" was the first intelligent question Zoro could think of. Shanks blinked and Zoro clarified; "The boy you gave your straw hat too."
Shanks immediately stiffened and gave Zoro a dirty look. Mihawk looked questioningly at Zoro.
"I'm not telling you." Shanks ground out. Zoro's patience was already wearing very thin, his stomach starting to turn again with fear and desperation.
"I need to know where Luffy is!" Zoro yelled down at the man who looked far to relaxed for the situation. Shanks opened his mouth to give a snarky retort before looking puzzled.
Zoros heart dropped and he urgently reached out and grabbed Shanks jacket; "The man, boy, you gave your hat too!" Zoro said fiercely, shaking his jacket lapels firmly. Shanks shoved his hands away and made himself comfortable once again before replying.
"I don't know any…Luffy." Shanks said, disgruntled. Zoro stared into the man's eyes and could only see the truth. His crestfallen expression must have made an interesting sight for the great 'Red Hair' to look irrationally guilty for admitting that he didn't know someone. Mihawk stood up and forced Zoro into a seat annoyed.
"It might take you a while to center yourself, a few days perhaps." he said, almost trying to convince himself of Zoro's strange behavior.
Zoro stared at the table mind whirling. Clearly Shanks gave his straw hat to somebody else…but whom? Zoro closed his eyes in sadness, feeling once again, that he made a stupid, stupid,choice.
"Everything is wrong." he whispered, his head collapsing in his hands as he rubbed his forehead in frustration. Shanks and Mihawk exchanged a glance and Mihawk nudged Zoro's shoulder.
"Everything!" Zoro groaned tiredly. Mihawk clicked his tongue in annoyance and Shanks muttered something about teenagers.
Mihawk pushed a plate full of food towards Zoro and ordered him to eat; or else. Zoro was much to overwhelmed by his situation to argue and started eating robotically, his mind blank.
Shanks and Mihawk began conversing but Zoro hardly paid any attention until his plate was clean and Mihawk pushed another full plate towards him. Accepting this new development, he continued eating till his stomach squirmed and pushed his plate away.
"You're not going to eat any more?" Mihawk's eyes flashed and his face spoke of a man who was willing to force feed if necessary. The look was unwelcome and Zoro glared back. He was eager to eventually ditch the man and forget about everything that happened in the marine courtyard. Leaving sooner than later would be ideal but the real question was;
"When can I leave?" Zoro asked, ignoring Mihawk's previous question. Neither of the men answered and they both shared a look that was full of meaning. Zoro couldn't accurately decipher what the look meant but one thing was for sure; it was about him and he wasn't going to like it.
When they never answered Zoro raised his voice and asked; "What? Am I a prisoner here?"
"No!" Shanks answered scandalized while Mihawk answered with a firm; "Yes."
Zoro stared at both of them before a protest rose to his lips; only for it to be cut off by Mihawk; "I am taking you home and you should pray that I don't decide to disown you and dump you somewhere."
Mihawk's hand came out from under the table and he shook a reprimanding finger in his son's face. Zoro stared on, mystified.
"Don't give me that look," Mihawk scolded, "You have been acting very contrary to how I raised you. I taught you better, then…. well, then this!"
With his declaration he pointed to the swords securely attached around Zoro's waist. Zoro glared his hand coming up and patting his bandaged, gouged out eye, in a show he understood. Mihawk looked guilty as he turned his head away.
"I didn't want to but you forced my hand." Mihawk whispered, crossing his arms and looking away.
Zoro could not believe this was actually happening. For the first time in a long time he felt like a child, because Mihawk wasn't treating him like an adult.
Mihawk had always been very vague in his dealings with Zoro, but now? He had the most disturbing impression that Mihawk was trying to coddle him. Mihawk was his rival and teacher; not his father. Zoro inwardly cried.
"You didn't have to destroy that base. I was following your presence. You had no need to get so violent; you could have easily handled the situation, escaped and kept yourself from harm!" Mihawk fired off his voice rising steadily and his attention back to Zoro.
Zoro's eye twitched and he stared intently at Mihawk. Mihawk was the type of man who wanted him to talk, Zoro thought, remembering their training with frustration. Just because Mihawk wanted him to talk though didn't mean that Zoro always did.
Instead he got up and stormed out of the room, ignoring Mihawk's protests. Mihawk stared at Zoro's empty seat and looked up at Shanks with a sigh; "Never have kids."
Shank burst out laughing and slapped his knee. "You were mopping all week that he was unconscious for so long too!"
"I do not mope." Mihawk hissed.
"What ever you say," Shanks said, taking a swig of his ale. Mihawk gave him and irritated look before rubbing his eyes; putting on the air of a parent who has lost sleep worrying over their idiot child.
"He's different." Mihawk stated, remembering the first time he laid eyes on his son after three years. The boy, usually so full of light and determination, looked dead. His eyes were anguished, his mind was broken, and he barely even recognized his own father.
Shanks shrugged his shoulders; "All little boys must grow up." Mihawk looked at one of his oldest friends doubtfully while Shanks suppressed a mad giggle.
"He's done far more than just grow up." Mihawk seethed, "he's…unstable, dangerous, yet somehow still in control. Somethings happened. He's not even acting like who the papers report him to be."
"You know you can't trust those little freaks." Shanks waved his hand dismissively. Mihawk's brow furrowed, till he realized Shanks was referring to those who wrote the paper and rolled his eyes.
"That's not the point!" Mihawk hissed. Shanks held up a placating hand and rolled his shoulders, his previous tipsy attitude washing away.
"The paper may be fused with lies but you can't dismiss the lives that he's taken," Shanks muttered darkly, "I've come across many blood thirsty individuals though and he doesn't give off that vibe. Danger, sure, but insanity? Enough for countless murder?" He shrugged and took another swig of his drink before slamming it on the table and leaning forward.
"You say he's acting different, the paper says he's insane yet we can confirm that he's not. The kid doesn't make sense."
Mihawk listened and slumped his shoulders in a very un-characteristic sign of defeat.
"Shanks, I hardly know him anymore. He's so…so…" Mihawk's words failed him as he was unable to come up with a proper adjective. After a brief pause he continued with a different train of thought; "Did you feel the curse on those swords? By all accounts he should be insane."
"Yeah. As much as I'm for the free spirit and all, you should probably confiscate those. If the boy allows it, he could become consumed." Shank's retorted mildly.
"Consumed by bloodlust." Mihawk didn't phrase it as a question but Shanks fired back like it was one, "No, consumed by something far worse."
Mihawk sat up and stared down the red haired man as the air around them grew heavy. Shanks knew something, yet was hesitant to voice it. Mihawk readily agreed that Shanks often knew more than he did about some things.
Shanks was a Captain, traveled the sea, but also ventured on and deep into islands while Mihawk rarely did so. There was something amiss with the situation, something the world's greatest swordsman didn't notice before.
"Tell me everything you know."
As the two powerful men talked, Zoro stomped through the hallways. He passed a few pirates who gave him a wide birth. Paying them no mind he tried to find the room that he woke up in but was hopelessly lost. The longer he spent searching the more frustrated he became. Eventually he sat on an empty barrel in a dark corner, brooding.
Grumbling to himself he absently brushed his fingers over the handles of the katanas, recognizing the chill he felt when he first woke up. Whoever previously owned these swords put a lot of effort into bonding with them, much like Zoro himself did, which was…telling.
The only difference between these swords and his was the fact their previous owner was dark, twisted and loved killing above all else. The swords recognized this and were absolutely seething at the change of ownership. Entering a stable synch with your chosen swords was always a challenge; however, he had never come across swords that were clearly so attached to another. Grudgingly, Zoro had to respect this world's version of his self for the dedication he had for his swords.
Running his hand across them he could feel the lives that were brutally taken. One of the swords Zoro had previously, Sandai Kitetsu, was a cursed sword and it was the only one he had. Sitting right next to him though, were three cursed swords.
It came as no surprise now that the version of himself here was considered 'Zoro the Maniac'. Zoro wondered if this world's version of him was even aware of the lack of control he had. Zoro could hardly even control his one cursed sword, but three? No wonder the man was insane.
Though, there was something. Something he was missing. It was in plain sight yet he could not see it. He knew the swords held the answer somehow, yet he was nervous.
Resigned to his fate, Zoro knew he had his work cut out for him. If he ever wanted to fight with these swords to their full potential, he not only needed a strong body but a strong mind as well. It could prove to be to dangerous and Zoro once again let his hand rest over his bandaged eye, solidifying his opinion.
"Yes, very dangerous." Zoro whispered. He doubted he could ever become synched with all of these swords at once. One, maybe, but not all three, he would end up just like the previous him who haunted this world; insane and lost. Closing his eye and forcing himself to relax, Zoro hung his head stewing over his predicament.
Time passed and Zoro jerked. His head swung back and forth and his eyes blinked rapidly. He rubbed his neck and looked around. He was still sitting on the barrel but he hadn't realized he had fallen asleep. The sleep made his head feel less, heavy, but sleeping hunched over the barrel made his aching muscles worse.
He stretched and hopped off deciding to follow a pirate who passed, thinking that he would eventually get to a destination. The pirate glanced back suspiciously and eventually they descended onto the deck. Zoro squinted his eyes at the bright sun and looked around at the busy pirates. Glancing up at the Jolly Roger, he recognized Red-Haired Shanks emblem.
"So it wasn't Mihawk's ship after all. Some things never change, I guess." Zoro whispered, staring at the flag and pondering on whether or not he would have ended up like Mihawk if Luffy hadn't picked him up the first time around.
Of course, he was thinking about his old Mihawk. Not the new one who was at the front of the ship, near the helm, yellow eyes zeroed in on Zoro.
Rolling his eyes and looking about at sea he realized they were passing an island that looked very familiar. He took the time to squint at it, but no memories surfaced. Giving a long suffering sigh he glanced back at Mihawk who was conversing with Shanks. It didn't seem as if the 'Red-Hair' wanted to stop anytime soon and Zoro could tell, just by the gaze burning his back, that it would be difficult for him to argue his way off.
Zoro sneaked another glance at Mihawk who was looking at him with suspicion. His yellow eyes skewered him and they went from his face, lowering till they rested on the three swords fastened at his side.
The man's giant gaudy hat shadowed his face but his scowl was still clear from Zoro's position. Something changed, Zoro decided, as the man that was proclaimed his father gave the swords one last pointed look before rising to look at his face once again.
Zoro wondered if Mihawk also picked up on the strangeness of the swords and the weird disconnect they had. Or maybe he was thinking about disarming him, making it harder for him to fight. This made Zoro desperate.
He was still recovering, and he couldn't afford to go toe to toe with Mihawk again. Especially knowing he would most likely lose all sense of control if he wielded the katanas at his side.
He gave the ocean a discreet glance and gave the island in the distance a searching look. It looked inhabited; inhabited enough to get lost in. Zoro mulled over the distance between the ship and the island and deemed it close enough to be able to swim.
Zoro turned his head and looked at Mihawk while walking away from the railing. The man was still warily eyeing Zoro as he stopped on the other side of the deck. Their eyes burned into each other until Mihawk's attention was taken by Shank's, who grabbed his arm and said something into his ear.
Knowing he probably wouldn't get a better chance than this; Zoro sprinted the width of the ship and jumped over the railing and into the sea. He jumped as far as he could, trying to avoid the harsher currents lurking around belly of the giant ship.
Landing with a giant splash he immediately started swimming away as fast as he could hoping Mihawk wouldn't try and follow. He knew he wasn't strong enough right now to out swim the man if he decided to follow. But Mihawk was vain, and Zoro hoped that would keep the man from getting himself wet.
Over the splashing of the sea around him, he could barely hear someone screeching and another yelling, before urging himself to go faster. His bandaged eye stung and Zoro remembered with a grimace that his eye hadn't fully healed, the salt-water making it throb painfully.
Swimming steadily and expertly he eventually he stole a glance behind him to see if Mihawk was following after him. Much to his surprise and horror Mihawk was following him in a tiny dinghy.
There was still quite a bit of distance between them, Mihawk having wasted time getting the dingy ready to follow him. But he was quickly gaining momentum in his fury. The man was peddling with two oars haphazardly making an interesting site. His arms were jerking in furious vigor and his yellow eyes seemed to be engulfed in yellow flames.
Zoro choked on sea water, the noise sounding as close to a squeak Zoro could ever come to. He increased his speed as he neared the island heading towards a dock. He noticed workers on the dock and wondered what kind of site this made.
When he finally reached his goal, he heaved himself onto the dock and waved off a man who approached him to help. Many of the dock hands were whispering and pointing at Mihawk who was fast approaching in his little dinghy.
Zoro paid them no mind and sprinted to the town. He hoped it was crowded and he could effectively disappear. Vaguely, he recognized the town but had no time to stop and scrutinize.
Stealing a hat from a hat vendor as he ran past, he placed the hat on his head barely giving it a second glance. He apologized as he ran, the vendor screaming profanities after him. Knowing he was tall with uncommon green hair, the stolen hat was the best he could do considering his situation; he'd return the hat to the old man later.
He cursed Mihawk as he sprinted past people, never once in his life having ever thought he would miss the behavior of the old Mihawk. As he ran he started hearing screams, no doubt civilians getting an eyeful of the greatest swordsman frothing at the mouth in fury.
Zoro ducked down and continued to run hoping that he was effectively losing himself in the busy market place. He didn't dare look back. Eventually Zoro ducked into a shop and hid behind a clothes rack panting heavily.
He allowed himself a peak out the shops window from the corner he packed himself in. Mihawk was nowhere in sight but knew better than to stay in sight of the window. After one last glance he shuffled deeper into the store and rested his elbows on his knees tiredly.
His body was at a big disadvantage right now. Not only was he still recovering from his starvation and other things, his eye was burning. It probably hadn't been cared for since the initial bandage. He had heard enough ranting from Chopper to know that if he let it sit like this it would get infected, and from experience he knew that could be painful.
"Hiding from an ex-girlfriend?" a stern yet feminine voice asked behind Zoro. He didn't bother turning around just groaned in agony while the girl chuckled. He turned slightly to look at her but only saw her dirty boots and pants.
He was crouching in shadow and he also absently noticed that the hat he stole in his haste was wide brimmed and keeping most of his face in shadow.
Surprisingly he found himself answering her with; "No, just an over protective Dad."
At his answer the girl cracked up obviously finding his plight hilarious. His glare remained hidden by the hat and she slapped her knee whipping tears from her eyes.
"Oh, unfortunately, I know how that is," she confessed, a sad tinge to her voice, "I like your hat by the way, the pink flower suits you."
Then she burst into load guffaws while Zoro threw the hat off his head a red tinge threatening to emerge across his cheeks. He glared at her before his eyes widened in recognition and he jumped up. She also had a look of familiarity cross her face before it morphed into pure loathing.
"You!" They both yelled in union.
Standing in front of Zoro was an average height woman with short black hair, dressed in the regular marine uniform. Still very young and not even closing to being the powerful swordswoman he knew; Tashigi.
He hazily remembered the first time they met and how she didn't recognize him at first. This one already knew him though, and judging by the way she was practically spiting in her fury, he didn't leave a very good impression on her.
"You know who I am?" Zoro asked, hoping she would shed some light on their current relationship. It was the wrong thing to say as she, if possible, became even more furious as tears lined her eyes.
"Of course I know who you are- you- you, "She struggled for a moment, trying to think of a word that could possibly describe him, "-you MONSTER!"
Zoro flinched back as if he had been struck. He had been called a monster before, sometimes by his own crewmates, teasing him about his strength. The word wasn't the problem here, it was the way she said it. The utter contempt in her voice and the way she looked at him as if he were lower than dirt. Very different from the respect they held for the other in his old life. All musings went silent, however, when she drew a very familiar sword.
Zoro's eye widened as he looked at the sword. Kuina's sword, why did Tashigi have it? Unless--Zoro's eye widened even more and he slowly backed away in shock till his back hit the wall of the store. He looked at the girl more intently and he could see it; the slight differences in the face, a different shade of hair and a less feminine build.
He didn't…he never even considered this as a possibility. The dead coming back to life. Zoro's chest was quivering with an emotion he couldn't describe and if it were even possible his heart broke in place he didn't recognize was there.
"Kuina?" Zoro whispered, vaguely hoping it was actually Tashigi, because he couldn't stand to have the girl he looked up to so much look at him the way she was. His foundation as a swordsman was all centered on her.
At her name being spoken, Kuina tensed, not expecting him to know it. She fought the urge to step back when her furious aura was crushed by the one springing off the green haired swordsman. His eye, something happened the other, stared at her and she wondered if she were strong enough yet for this confrontation.
"Did he hurt you?" The question was asked simply, yet at the same time it held so much meaning, Zoro could have been shouting. Kuina warily glanced at the swordsman she swore to kill someday, questioning his strange behavior. Zoro closed his eye as if he were in great pain;
"Did I hurt you?" he practically whispered. Kuina fell something deep inside her stir but she couldn't decipher it. The swordsman's facially expression was practically in agony and his eyes shown with guilt and regret.
Kuina recognized the guilt that was there and frustrated tears fell from her face as her hand clutching Wado Ichimonji shook. Something in her snapped and she found her self yelling at Zoro who recoiled like a cornered animal.
"How dare you! How dare you look at me with-with-with guilt!" Tears kept falling and she screamed at the man she hated, "Not after what you did, which is unforgivable! Ugh, I hate you! I hate you!"
During her shouting, she had approached Zoro who was now backed in a corner, looking horrified. She raised Wado Ichimonji over her head to strike down on the man who tore everything from her, but she couldn't.
Kuina stared down at him as her hand unsteadily kept the sword in a ready position. Her tears were falling on his forehead; she corned him and never realized how close they were.
"Defend yourself!" She hissed, looking at the intense eye which haunted her dreams, reminding her always of what she lost. More tears fell when she gazed into his eye which was also shedding tears. Zoro closed his eye and turned his head away from her;
"I can't." Zoro croaked out, his voice sounding defeated as silent, anguished tears fell from his pale face. Kuina let her hand fall limp and she took a step back. With out another word she ran out of the shop, so overcome she couldn't stand his presence anymore.
Zoro slid down to the floor and let out a shaky breath, his face contorting to match the emotions swirling within. If Kuina had let her sword fall, he wouldn't have stopped her. Never, had he felt so torn apart from the inside. He didn't even know who he was, where he came from anymore. Those he cherished, didn't know him, or in this case hated him.
The shop keeper slowly peaked out from behind the front counter where he was hiding. He laughed nervously, looking at Zoro who was still on the ground, dripping wet and miserable.
Till Next Time
AN/ It always gets worse before it gets better. Poor Zoro.