Welcome to the Grand Line! It took us forever but we're finally here. And the first island on the list goes by the name Flamenco Skies~ An aviary far beyond the reach of normal humans, of music and festivities, of thieves and kings, and the Spade Pirates find themselves at the dead center of it all.

The theme/song of this island, because this is one of the islands I'm most exciting about writing (I had this island in mind since chapter one) and I couldn't help but pick one out, is: Oasis - Guitarra Azul.

Which I recommend playing towards the end of this chapter.


"Listen up," Quinn clapped her hands, standing up on the railing of the ship, which- now that she was up there, she was just now realizing what a bad idea it was because keeping her balance was… definitely trying, "I've got important info to share about the Grand Line that you should all keep in mind if we want to survive."

It's actually a little cute how they all perk up at her announcement. Makes her feel like a guest speaker before a class of… well, kindergartners, but she means that in the nicest possible way.

She smiles. Oh so innocent children, none-the-wiser to the hardships at hand.

-Sue her, she's being dramatic but hey! She's allowed to be. Kind of. Okay, so she doesn't really know what she's getting into either, not really, but she's probably better off than even Kat's vague childhood memories.

She raises her hands, clenched, and then opens them as she drops her wisdom: "Shit's wack."

"..."

"..."

"..."

Aa, she's struck them speechless.

"...Hah?!"

"You heard me." She huffs, hands on her hips. She'd exchanged her normal clothing for something more heavy duty already- for once, even, she was wearing pants instead of shorts. A tough, thick material that made a chafing sound with every step but, hellooo~ it was waterproof and had a significant amount of pockets, so that was hardly noteworthy in her mind. Even if it was a bit of an ugly grey color with slightly yellowish, thick geometric lines around her hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. She'd coupled it with a baggy yellow-orange muscle shirt that she'd bought from the same place as Kat's alien shirts, which was why it had an ironic 'Out Of This World!' phrased across it, over a heavy black tank top, tucked into her belt; a pair of rubber, waterproof boots with purple laces that matched the ones on her compression sleeves, and her hair done up with a similarly colored scrunchy to keep it out of her face. All in all, it was an outfit that she planned to absolutely ruin with the weather of this place alone but, by the gods, would she be comfortable and prepared whilst doing so. "This place is going to hit us and hit us hard. So we should be prepared for any and all of its weirdness- best way to do that, in my personal opinion, just go with it!"

She falters when she sees that they're all staring up at her blankly.

"...Guys? Why am I losing you here?"

She watches as Spice makes a face and Ace frowns at her feet, brow furrowing. Apparently, they're still completely stalled from her starting announcement because Quinn is one-hundred percent sure she just saw a bewildered and absolutely flabbergasted-looking Ace mouth the words 'shit's wack'.

"Guys, c'mon."

Neither of them seem willing to say what has them on a hang-up. Thankfully, Kat has no such qualms. "Do you mean… wack as in, it's going to wack us really hard or something?"

All three of them can't help but wince as they see something like hope- that they hadn't even realized was there in the first place- die on her face.

"I…" Oh, they winced even harder, it was like watching a cloud of gloom form above her head. "I guess you guys wouldn't have heard that term used like that before, huh?" She mutters, despairingly. Once again, being hit over the head with the differences between her and them, all the way down to their pop culture and even, hell, their lexicon because… Just ugh. She wants to groan and curl up into a ball. "Don't worry about it. It just means that- stuff's crazy, man? The Grand Line is crazy and weird and sometimes it's going to suck really bad. And sometimes it's going to be cool and sometimes it's just going to straight up not make any sense and…"

She shrugs, hopping down from the railing and is impossibly relieved now that she doesn't feel the wood shifting beneath her feet anymore. That had been a bad idea. "Well, don't get hung up on it? At least not in the moment. 'Cause stuff here gets wild and if you tried to explain everything in a way that makes… any logical sense compared to the rest of the world? You'd be stuck here for the rest of your lives."

"That seems like an exaggeration." Spice grunts from where he sits and her gaze snaps over to him. "I'm sure it makes some amount of sense."

"Maybe if you turn your head and squint," Quinn snorts, "the only logic to be found is despairingly vague or just illogical in itself. It's almost like some guy is just writing a story and throwing stuff together for either fun, plot convenience, or because he thinks it's cool. Well-written and creative? Yes. Logical and easy to understand? Give and take."

That's an oddly specific comparison.

"Kat, back me up here."

"Quinn's right." He says, unsure if she actually is- it's just the world, isn't it? He doesn't think it's so backwards. A bit of human sized hail and random cyclones was normal, wasn't it? It was the East Blue that was weirdly calm.

And, really, the giant dolphins his mother used to tell him stories about weren't so strange.

Look at Laboon for hell's sake!

"See?"

"That's not good enough. Kat would agree with you no matter what."

"Well, I don't know about 'no matter what'…"

"He's only on my side so much because he knows that, obviously, I'm always right. I could be wrong and I'd still be right." She taps a finger to her forehead as if she's dropping some knowledge on him. "Sorry, just the way it works."

"Uh-huh."

Spice's flat expression has her bemused. "You realize I'm joking, right?"

"Oh," he makes a disappointed sigh, "you're telling those now?" He clicks his tongue. "...Unfortunate."

"He-y."

Ace still isn't over the phrase 'shit's wack' and it shows on his face. But- "No worries, Quinn! I'm sure we can handle it."

"See, that's actually the attitude I'm afraid of-"

"Don't be such a worrywart! Whatever chaos this sea throws at us, we'll be ready for it!"

On the one hand, Quinn is a little miffed by being waved off and knows that he's completely unprepared and completely unaware of what's coming. But, on the other hand, she can't wait to see Ace's face when everything goes to shit- she's honestly surprised that it hasn't happened yet- and she doesn't really want to argue. So, she guesses, she'll just have to hold her tongue until the inevitable 'I told you so's.

"Need luck?"

"Nah." Ace.

"I'm sure I have enough naturally." Spice.

"Sure!" Kat. She loves him. The only one that listens to her.

She hangs her head as Ace turns to look off at the sea, already tapping marks of gold across her shoulders and hands because she knows she's going to need them, just… all of the luck she can get. Quinn grimaces at the mental hindrance that comes from keeping track of so many marks. It's weird- trying to describe it. Little notifications just waiting to ping.

She wonders, distantly, that if all of them got used up at once, if she'd vibrate like an alarm.

...She's- deleting that mental image from her brain.

"Aa, Luffy would be so jealous~" Ace grins, tossing himself over the railing, chin resting on his palm and legs thrown lazily behind him. Only balancing and keepin onboard by centering his gravity on his stomach. "Chehaha, I'm closer to the One Piece than he is! Still can't believe he wants to be Pirate King…"

"Pirate King?"

Ace's shoulders jump in a sudden tension.

Spice tilts his head down at him, both brows raised in a muted shock that's a tad flabbergasted. "The little brother that you mentioned… he wants to be Pirate King?"

"Shit. I shouldn't have said that…" Ace grimaces, tugging on the brim of his hat. "Aa, yeah. Been sayin' it ever since he was a kid."

"That's a bit-"

Spice doesn't finish. Honestly, that's more than enough to still get his point across.

"Crazy, right?" Ace's smile is almost wistful. "But- ah! Only I can say that, it's his dream and, sure, I've teased him for it before but-"

Spice raises a hand to stop him. "You forget that I have siblings too. I know how it is, don't worry." It relaxes the defensive spiel that'd threatened to burst forth and Spice snickers quietly at him, causing Ace to blink- before his brow twitches in offense, mistaking it as making fun of him or Luffy, but Spice only grins. "You're a good older brother, aren't you?"

Ace flushes. "I…"

"Heh. I can tell."

"...I…" he falters and Spice's grin drops. "...I honestly don't know if I am. I try to be but… since it's me, probably not."

Spice frowns.

That particular breed of negativity- that self-doubt burrowed deep within a person's psyche- with this crew, he was noticing a trend. Katsura's was a fragile brand, still healing with the possibility of something stronger building beneath his skin. Quinn's was an all-encompassing shroud that hung over her like a cloud that refused to be banished.

And Ace's was hidden, but not well enough. It was always jumping to a head, vulnerable, especially when someone took a second to look for it. Like someone had eclipsed his sunshine and swallowed up even the barest rays of light and, then, with a blink, it was gone-

Fading away as Ace's expression melted into something warmer with his thoughts stuck on his brother. There's a softness to his gaze that Spice had never seen on him before. "He's planning on setting sail in a couple years, I don't know if I told you?"

"You've mentioned it. A couple times now." Usually to Quinn, the only one who could stand to listen. Somehow. It was definitely one of her weirder qualities- because both Spice and Kat doubted that anyone else in the world would be able to listen to Ace's gushing and, you know, actually listen.

(They could stand it once or twice. But when you've heard the same story of 'how my brother shot watermelon seeds at farmers like a gatling gun'- or 'Luffy beat his first bear by accident'- or 'I stole Dadan's sake and Luffy swallowed the bottle, glass and all, to try and hide it when she came searching'- a couple dozen times, you start to grow a little sick of it.

Or, a normal person would.

At least Quinn was already known to be clearly not a 'normal' person. Really. What sort of eldritch abomination did she make a deal with to gain that particular brand of patience?)

She seemed to make due.

It was a bit incredible actually.

Spice tries to hide his groan as Ace descends into a rapid fire tale involving his brother, his brothers rubbery limbs, and his brothers startling idiocy and, frankly, otherworldly creativity with what was likely an incredibly well-hidden combative instinct and battle intelligence that just screamed "raw potential"- somehow all wrapped up in a story featuring a giant tiger, a bunch of bandits, and a garbage heap. And Ace getting nearly crushed to death by a tree? Apparently?

He'd already checked out, not quite knowing how all the details fit together without context. If he asked Quinn, she'd probably know but- he didn't know if he even did want to know.

"...hey, Kat. You know what's going to happen, don't you?"

Speaking of, Quinn is staring at Kat with wide, desperate eyes that are just begging him for a good answer.

"Oh, yeah. But what's coming- that's normal, isn't it?"

Good answer has been found!

Unfortunately, not without… concerns.

"N-No, no it's not."

"Huh."

Quinn doesn't know whether to be afraid or relieved.

"Hey, I wouldn't worry too badly, Quinn! I mean, what's the worst that could happen?"

Of course, that's when Katsura realizes that the ship has been turned completely around.

"Ah, shit."

-0-

A crash. Kat hangs onto the side of the ship, desperate to get out of the suddenly freezing water. It's borderline hypothermic- he can hardly feel his toes and aaaa, it had even begun to seep under his skin! A quivering mess with a blue tinge to his gils, now that he's leapt from the sea and to safety he can feel the color beginning to return back to him.

The sudden shift in temp is shocking to the system. He's surprised that they're not dealing with windstorms from the clashing climates. It hadn't even been a second before he noticed the sudden, painfully cold, sharp change nipping at him-

That was- It was just impossibly sudden.

"Yikes. Y-Yikes." He chatters, trying to rub warmth back into himself as his breath comes out in bright white puffs of air. "We just entered an arctic zone or so-s-something…!"

The proper terminology escapes him. 'Cold as balls' is close enough though.

"You okay down there?" Spice calls from above, leaning over the railing and… ignoring the apparently cackling Ace as bursts of flames shoot out from over his head. From the dripping and sudden slickness rolling down the side of the ship, Kat was willing to bet that Ace was having a field day- having an excuse to throw his fruit powers around. Not that he really needed one.

"Y-Yeah," Kat's voice continues to stutter with chills, and he ignores the look that Spice sends him, like he's two seconds away from passing him a cup of hot cocoa and- actually… that sounds kind of nice; what was he saying again? "There's some evidence of thermal vents in the area 'cause I definitely saw some sharks living deep, deep down there and it would be too cold for them otherwise… I'm gonna need to be on the lookout for some bad currents up ahead and I'm worried that the winds over here are going to turn dangerous." He stammers.

The last thing they needed was whirlpools, supercurrents, or cyclones. But Kat wouldn't discount them as a possibility.

So stuck in his own head, mulling over his thoughts and slightly panicky because of the 'oh shit, I'm the navigator, I have to account for all of this' realization suddenly hitting him in fullforce, Kat nearly misses Spice's hum. "Oh, you're forgetting one thing by the way."

"Huh? What's that?"

"Icebergs."

"Wha-?"

Kat looks ahead and screams.

Nothing like some good ol' fear to kick the crew into action, huh?

"What is this?! The Titanic?!"

This time it's a thud.

All of them, but especially Quinn, stare with wide eyes.

It's kind of hard not to actually.

The large chunk of ice- the size of a large toddler, maybe- had fallen just inches away from what would have probably been a very painful knock to the head. If fleeting. Because she would be dead- As she was sure it would have knocked her out, if not killed her outright, given its size.

Damn. It could barely be called inches too. Quinn felt it was more like centimeters. And those were the kind estimates because it had come down at an adjacent angle and she'd definitely, definitely felt her hair move as it went by. "I am so-" she wheezes, arbitrarily breathless from just the heart attack, but the crashing wild waves and the intense rocking of the ship that made it a struggle to keep her feet were not helping either. "-so glad that I had a final luck mark for that."

She'd be dead in a ditch without this fruit, she was sure.

Ugh, not even hit in the head yet and she's already starting to feel a little light headed, especially when Katsura points and says, in what should be noted is his 'commanding navigator' voice: "I've got news, guys! We got big-ass hail from the sky!"

She supposes that's the scientific term, huh.

"We can see that, Kat."

"We gathered that much."

A gasp from Spice, faked. "No, really?!"

Kat sniffs.

"...I just wanted to feel included. You guys don't have to be mean."

Quinn simply shudders with all the force of someone feeling a spider crawling on their skin. "How should we-"

Whatever she had been planning to say, she won't end up remembering.

Another thud.

This time followed by a thump.

The trio of boys all gape.

Then winced.

"Ooh, that's gotta hurt."

Because, this time, Quinn unfortunately does lie unconscious from a piece of hail. Thankfully not as big as the one before, but enough to draw a startling pool of blood beneath her head.

Quinn, resting her painfully throbbing head against the bar counter, slumped over in her seat, almost misses the noise. She would have, if she actually had been sleeping, but she can't find any slumber because of the pulsating reminder of her skull being nearly cracked open so she definitely hears it.

It starts off with someone taking in a quiet intake of air, the sound of someone dropping from a hammock- after all, it was night, and all of them, except for Spice who was on watch, should be sleeping- and hitting the floor with light steps that, just based off the sound, she guessed was supposed to be tiptoeing.

She remains unmoving, simply listening to the person move about behind her, over to her and- she feels fingers brush across her face and lift her hair up, checking if she was actually asleep, and she studiously fights back the urge to blink her eyes open and take a look at whoever was up.

Though, based on the sounds of the feet moving to her right and the sound of the fridge door opening, she thinks she could hedge her bets.

She finally lifts her head and it's a… losing battle trying to keep the amusement out of her voice.

"...What are you doing, Ace?"

Caught red-handed, the thief freezes in his tracks, swallowing the mouthful of food he'd had squirrelled away in his cheeks, looking not unlike a chipmunk.

A wide eyed, not-at-all-guilty looking chipmunk.

She winces at her own breathless laugh.

He just feels bad that he'd gotten caught! "Oh, Ace… you're just full of bad ideas, aren't you?" She can't help but ask. Because this can only end in disaster. What had he planned to do in the morning when Spice inevitably noticed the food missing?

He kept a list! Quinn kept a list!

Ace breaks out into a cold sweat, glancing towards the door that separated them from Spice. "-Th… This is all a dream, you're just dreaming- sh shh-"

Wow, she knows she must look sleepy with the whole 'concussed' thing going on but she thought he'd try better than that.

"-go back to sleep, Quinn."

She would fucking cackle if she thought her head could handle it.

"How can I "go back" to sleep if I'm already dreaming?"

"Aa."

He clearly hadn't thought that one all the way through.

"Hm, well, I'll tell you what- make me a sandwich and maybe I won't call for our lovely, dear Spi-!" He lunges forward, slapping a hand over her mouth, though he's careful of her aching head, she takes note with a grateful look in her eyes; her voice having risen a couple octaves towards the end there.

"Okay, okay!" He hissed, even more sweaty and panicky than he was before. "I'll make you a sandwich just- uck!"

She licked his hand.

(Quinn is very concussed right now.)

"Did you just-?!"

"Careful, now I have the taste of human flesh- if you don't hurry, you might start looking like a snack."

"Blackmailing your Captain now? I can't believe you."

"Yes, aren't I just a despicable little pirate?"

For good measure, she sticks her tongue out at him. It's just the right amount of silliness that it wipes the disgusted look off of Ace's face and turns it into something fond that she, admittedly, has a bit of trouble looking at. She puts her head back down on the counter as Ace rustles around to try and hide the self-consciousness now burning inside her. "...Ham." She adds on, as an afterthought and giggles as Ace curses and peaks an eye open to see his first attempt end up stuffed into his mouth. That one had been turkey.

The finished product is a sloppily put together piece with too much mustard and too little meat- likely because he was stealing slices before they even made it to the bread- and looks like it'd fall apart if she tried to pick it up.

"Thank you."

It's one of the best things she'd ever tasted.

Oh, it's terrible, don't get her wrong. The mustard burns her taste buds and the lack of filling is horrendous but still-

"I've never actually made a sandwich before… we usually just ate it all separated. Or, you know, just smashed it together and had it in one bite."

"Really? I couldn't even tell."

Ace visibly brightens. Too tired himself to notice the lie, especially as she's careful to keep a sarcastic or teasing tone out of her voice.

-it's absolutely delicious.

It makes her almost feel bad. But her sense of humor wins out in the end.

"So you won't tell Spice then?"

She pats him on the cheek, just shy of condescending as she smirks. "Oh, Ace…" he falters, suddenly paling as he glimpses something in the reflection of her slightly glazed over eyes, "I don't need to. After all…"

"I've already seen you."

"Spice?!"

It was already much too late by the time Ace had reached the fridge. A midnight snack was fine. A midnight dine-and-dash though? Ace should learn to not be so greedy. Especially on his own ship.

Quinn delights in the sight of Spice grasping a well-placed broom and chasing a yelping Ace all the way back to his bed, tossing a snack at his forehead and telling him that was all he was going to get for the next morning too if he tried to steal from the fridge again.

"Oh, and Quinn?"

"Yes?"

"Don't indulge his sneaking around."

"I would never." She lies, blatantly. Taking a bite out of her terrible, wonderful sandwich.

Spice rolls his eyes, muttering something about Ace's dietary plan clearly not covering enough calories if he still wanted a midnight snack. Quinn thinks it had more to do with Ace's metabolism being on overdrive twenty four seven but, if that truly was the case, she was sure Spice would arrive at that conclusion soon himself.

"...Hey, Quinn."

"I'll grab you some dried fruits. But that's it."

Ace certainly looks cheered up by that prospect.

Ow. Her head hurts.

Spice takes a deep meditative breath as he waits for the sounds of the others to join him. Quinn and Kat. There's a whetstone waiting in front of him, cleaning supplies, and treatment options for blades. Kat didn't need the lesson, not really, since he already knew how to do it but, when Spice had offered to teach Quinn, he'd insisted on joining despite already knowing how to take care of his own weaponry.

"Hey, it's always good to get a reminder!"

Quinn did not come with the same perks.

In fact, she'd taken one look at his supplies and asked: "What is that?"

"It's a whetstone."

"Right..."

Which was telling.

"We're here." Quinn sighs, dropping into a seat across from him, with a skipping Kat not far behind her. It was the first break they'd found in the day, between the onslaught of weather and just general life on the ship, all their shoulders were tense with stress and paranoia- waiting for the inevitable drop or rise in temperature that would give way to nasty, wild weather that they were all just so done with.

It wouldn't have been so bad, if their route had ended with an island a day in, but it was the third day already and everyone was tired. Maybe getting two to three hours on average of sleep before they were up again, battling the choppy seas and near passing out standing up because they weren't even really able to switch out with each other since they needed all hands on deck. The issues with only having four crewmembers and a ship that was easy to capsize due to it's small size.

But as tired as all of them were, they were still filled to the brim with a giddiness that said none of them regretted sailing into the Grand Line's seas.

"Where's Ace?"

"Napping. The lack of sleep and schedule- it's really messing with his narcolepsy."

And that was putting it lightly.

Ace was like a dead man walking around. A ghost, even. It was almost funny, in a turn your head and squint kind of way. He was always popping up out of nowhere and scaring the shit out of someone and then disappearing again. Or, even worse, he fell asleep up in the crows nest- which they were starting to figure out was one of his favorite places on the ship- and was liable to fall all the way back down to deck. That had ended up with a couple too many close calls and Spice and Kat getting very good at listening to Quinn's callouts, which were always on point.

(She was very proud of that fact, actually.

It was starting to become an instinct- a somewhat creepy one, admittedly- always knowing when Ace was awake, asleep, or on the verge of sleep, or about to be hit by a narcolepsy attack.

But it was beyond helpful. Because she could see the lurch in his step, the blink and slackening of his eyes, and the tension in his back and was able to figure out the moment before it happened when an attack was coming on. From there, all she needed was a shout and to take a couple steps forward. Most of the time.

Sometimes they just weren't able to rush fast enough.)

"So, do we have everything? Because I honestly can't tell," Quinn glances down at the setup on deck, her still sheathed tanto lying across her lap. "I've never done this before."

Yes, he'd gathered that much.

"First off, have you got a name?"

"...Quinn Varela?"

"For your sword, dingus."

She makes an offended noise.

(Had anyone ever even called her a dingus before? Maybe in first grade or something.)

"Why does my sword need a name?"

Spice huffs, "I've already told this to Kat, who has-"

"I've named mine, Quinn! It was kinda hard to think of one that fit… it might take you awhile too?"

"Which is fine, however-" He pulls his own sword free, the broad blade gleaming in the morning light. "-names hold meaning. Whether it's a tribute-"

His own.

"-a memento-"

Katsura's.

"-or some other third thing."

Quinn.

"They're important. It's what separates a weapon from being just another item and makes it a sword. A proper one. It means you respect it, you connect with it, and that you're prepared to allow it to be an extension of yourself-" They eye the blade with slightly wide eyes. "A weapon is just a means to an end, but a blade-a sword. That is something that only cuts when the wielder allows it.

It's discipline. And honor. And, while you could manage just fine without naming your blade, it will always just remain a toy in your hands."

Quinn doesn't know what to say to that. Her mind is a little blown that he'd said even that much because she didn't know there was that much to say.

...It was a bit intimidating. Not that she would ever admit that to him.

"I thought swords were supposed to come with a name."

"Famous ones." Spice snorts. "But do these look like famous swords to you?"

"Sure as hell ain't Wado Ichimoji." Quinn grumbles, failing to take note of Spice sending her a surprised and mildly impressed look.

"You know more than I thought you would…"

"A name then?"

"A name."

She chews on her lip. Sparing a glance towards Kat and contemplating just asking for his thoughts before deciding against it, based on Spice's flat look she was guessing that this was something he wanted her to do on her own- without any outside influences.

"You don't have to come up with one right this sec-"

"Yellow Jacket."

"Huh?"

"That's their name: Yellow Jacket."

The raised brow Spice sends her tells her that he notices the pun.

Does he appreciate it though? ...lil' bit.

It's fairly on the nose. More descriptive than anything and, honestly, she thinks it both fits and is good enough to keep, despite her coming up with it on the fly and even if she couldn't get any more literal unless she named it Bumble Bee.

Spice shrugs and then lifts up the whetstone, letting that be that, and asks, "Tell me, what's this for?"

"Uhh… Sharpening?"

"Good. Now, when should you use it? And when shouldn't you?"

That's a harder question for her to answer.

Surprisingly, Spice is a good teacher. Or, perhaps, that's not so surprising considering his relationship with his younger sisters but he's succinct, to the point, and doesn't pretend to think that she knows more than he thinks she does- clarifying whatever he assumed would be a new topic to her as he went through the cleaning and sharpening supplies. But here's the thing-

He does it without being condescending.

Shocking, she knows.

Especially 'cause it's Spice.

She half expects him to start jabbing her with a stick again. Thankfully though, he doesn't, and she thinks it's only partly because Katsura is there. Because there's still a… tense atmosphere, not just from ocean-related paranoia, but it's definitely more settled than what it was.

"Thanks. For this." She rubs the back of her neck, fingers unconsciously finding the back of her freshest scar. "Did I thank you for the sword? I don't know if I did."

He waves her off.

And it's semi-comfortable for a while- of course, that's when a mini-cyclone touches down inches from the deck of their ship. The resulting screams are enough to have all their ears ringing.

Ace breathes out slow, adrenaline pumping through his veins and a strong urge to bounce on his heels slowly growing. He doesn't. More for the fact that a warm back is pressed against his and keeping him centered as they look out over the chaos on deck.

"This is so weird…"

"Tell me about it."

They must cut a cool figure. Quinn and Ace, back to back, him with a flaming hand and one of hers glowing gold as her other reaches back to grip her tanto- Yellow Jacket-their shoulders tense and frowns etched deep onto their faces. The expression that Quinn sports is one of being already so done with this whole situation and Ace's burns with an edge of barely concealed excitement behind a determined gleam.

"Something tells me they're not friendly… but hm- I don't know quite what it is." Quinn mutters, brow twitching. "Just really- I have zero clue why I think that. It couldn't possibly be the swords, could it? No, no, definitely not the swords."

"Well, whatever it is," it sounds like Ace is struggling to keep laughter out of his voice, "ready up."

What else would they be doing whilst completely surrounded?

Hardly a couple days in and the Grand Line was already hitting them hard.

Raided by sword-wielding octopuses- sorry, octopi.

Just…

What.

Ace thunks his head down onto the counter, limbs heavy and eyes drooping. He wants to sleep. To nap and just- rest for a while because even as good as he is, even he can only handle so much before it starts to really weigh down on him.

Kat giggles a little at the sight.

He groans. Excessively audible. Receiving a pat on the back for his troubles. "It's okay, Ace. Couple more hours and then you can go to sleep!"

See: The difficult part of dealing with narcolepsy, especially for someone like Ace, who has to stay up to keep the ship moving efficiently in conjunction with everyone else, is that one of the ways of actually managing it, and the one that's proven to be the most helpful for Ace personally, was sleeping on a schedule.

Well, a schedule that's a bit of a struggle to maintain considering that narcolepsy lives almost solely to mess with it. Causing bouts of unwanted insomnia or long spells that simply make it harder and harder to fall asleep when he's actually supposed to.

"So…"

Quinn drawls, voice slow and almost sing-song.

Ace groans even more.

"I s'pose that now would be an excellent time for I told you so." She smirks, despite the clear bags under her eyes, more like deep bruises from her own lack of sleep. "Don't you think?"

Ace can't help, brow twitching, the thought: 'She is such a brat,' hitting him. But neither can he help the tired smile that almost lazily grows on his face, hidden by his ducked head.

"Eat your takoyaki."

"Nah, I'm good. You can have it."

"Really?!"

She doesn't even see his hands launch out and steal her food.

Katsura doesn't stick around them for long, shaking his head at their antics and more amused than anything. Fingers absentmindedly playing with the strap of his log pose, making sure that he's still able to see the needle in his peripheral even as he doesn't pay it much attention. The needle, when they had first arrived, had been incredibly shaky but it had still pointed to their destination. Now though? It was a stable point indicating their pathway that moved only when he himself, or the ship, as it was bound to do, turned around.

He closes his eyes as he opens the door out onto deck, sucking in a deep inhale of the brisk air outside. It was chilly, that much was obvious, and he half expected it to snow- even if he didn't think that they would be stumbling upon a winter island. But, given the weather, he wouldn't be surprised if there was somewhere up ahead that winter reigned, far beyond the horizon but still close enough to affect the general area.

He blinks his eyes open slowly. Half of him is waiting for a drop of water to fall on his face and signal rain, hail, or some other climate. The last couple hours of the day, they hadn't been as rough as they could've been, and Katsura hopes that that- in conjunction with the needle shaking less- was a sign that meant the first island was soon upon them.

He lets the chill settle over him- It was better now that he wasn't suffering from taking an unwanted dip in hypothermic waters- and he almost misses it. He would've missed it, if he hadn't been looking up.

"Hey… what is that?"

There's no one to answer the question.

Quinn and Ace are inside with Spice, who's concentrating on cooking sheets and sheets of takoyaki and so isn't exactly in the frame of mind to speak or listen to anyone, too stuck in his work. So the question falls as a rhetorical before long, not that it would matter much if someone had answered him.

"Wha…"

Because the flash of color among the startling white of the clouds drifts and sways and falls down towards him.

It takes a while, he's lucky that the ship was already heading towards it in the first place, to catch up with it as it falls; flipping and tumbling over itself, it's weight catching the wind and nearly sending it shooting away and out of reach. He narrowly manages to snap a hand upwards, fingers clutching it before it can get tugged away by its own descent and, subsequently, smashing it in his own grip.

It's broken when he opens his hands. The shaft bent and folded over on itself and, if he wasn't holding it by his thumb still, he was sure that it would fall into two snapped pieces.

It's still obvious what it is though.

"A… feather…?"

A bright pink one, for the most part. It's colored by a gradient of white towards the bottom, the downy barbs a stark color that stands out against the green and pale color of his hands.

He stares, turning it over in muted curiosity.

He's not good with animals. In fact, he can't think of any kind of bird off the top of his head that has pink feathers, he's sure one exists but the name doesn't come to mind and… the feather is awfully large. Even bent and smooshed and folded like it was, it was still as large as his head.

Kat glances up, wondering if there's some bird flying around that he'd missed and, instead, gasps.

"That's-!"

He can't even say it out loud. Can't put a singular word to it.

And he didn't know how he hadn't noticed, even with his gaze fixed on the feather in his hand instead of around him, because it was just-

Like snow, fluttering pink feathers drift from the sky. Impossibly slow and glinting off the light from the sun, casting pink shadows across the world.

It was like cherry blossoms that fell upon a pond every spring. Melting, fluttering pink petals that flooded the seas with their bright, elegant colors. The only thing missing from the image was the iridescent backs of koi swimming beneath the surface but the white sands beneath the clear pink water more than made up for it- colors of red and orange speckling the deep, filled with starfish and coral and sea urchin that shifted just beneath. It was like a dance that the feathers performed as they fell in tandem, a pink bloom from the clouds above that looked as if someone had painted the very sky itself.

And swaying above the small island that they were fast approaching, the only sound that broke through the imagery and revealed it as its own reality- was the creak and moan of a bright red ladder. Metal, flexible cords that moved with the winds that howled above the white, tiny patch of land and the ladder- catching the sunlight and gleaming with sparkling rungs- reached far upwards, disappearing into the clouds. Somewhere that, even if he strained his eyes, he could not see beyond.

There's a click.

Small, quiet. And if he hadn't been witness to the breathtaking sight that had made his own heart stop in his chest, then he would've missed it.

The log pose spins. Magnetic fields are recorded.

And a new location is chosen.

Kat remains gaping, not knowing quite how to respond.

The needle, losing the stability it had just received, shakily points upwards. Into the pink, downy heavens above them all.