The island is on fire.
Not just part of it – no, no. The entire island is alight in flames. A wicked blur of lashing reds and oranges. A part of her doesn't believe it when she first sees it, and for the briefest of seconds she thinks the sun fell into the ocean.
It looks like a large funeral pyre floating in the rust colored sea. The smoke soars above it like a large, black crow. Overhead, the sky is polluted with the grey contamination, giving it the unmistakable look of an approaching storm.
In bitter hindsight, she should have known that those weren't storm clouds the moment she saw them. The texture was wrong and the consistency was completely unnatural, but the log pose had pointed them east so east they sailed, storms be damned.
The Merry is a good distance away from the blazing land, but she can distinctly taste the acidity of those flames from her spot on deck. It makes her blood chill for a transitory moment, a strange and distant sense of suppressed nostalgia floating over her, memories of something she doesn't recall playing over in her mind . . .
It's dispersed when Luffy says, "Wow, a fire island! Look, look! It's a fire island! I wonder if fire people live there? Oh! Do you think dragons live there? Oh! Oh! Maybe the fire people eat the dragons! I wonder if dragon meat taste good."
Nami blinks a few times; blinking the smoke away from her eyes but also to settle back into the present. She's been staring at the island for so long she felt like she was suspended in time, and with each one those distracted seconds they were slowly approaching the perishing land. She holds the rails tighter.
"Ehhhhhhh? Fire Island!? D-D-D-Dragons!?" She can't see Usopp from her spot, but she can just imagine his frightened face, his bulging eyes, his gaping mouth. Chopper is probably mimicking the same expression from somewhere close, too.
Nami rolls her eyes. "Idiots," she mumbles, then louder, "There's no such thing as a fire island. It's an island that was set on fire."
Which is all the more disturbing. She would have preferred Luffy's unrealistic imagination instead of this macabre scene.
She shouts a quick command to Sanji and Zoro to throw over the anchor and halt the ship's movement. She doesn't want to get any closer to the island than they already are. The weather is uncomfortably warm but every time she glances at the burning land she feels a shiver running down her legs.
Robin is beside her, her head tilted. She says quietly, "I wonder. What possible reason could entice the locals to burn down their island?"
The thoughtfulness of her voice makes Nami shudder. She doesn't know what kind of situation would push people to burn down their home, but she knows it cannot possibly be a good one. The cackling of the flames sounds like crude laughter to her, like the island had duped them and was basking in the success of their jibe.
Nami crosses her arms over the rails. "Who knows. What makes you think it was intentionally burned down, anyways? Maybe it was attacked."
A flicker of expression blinks across Robin's face, so minuscule that Nami thinks that perhaps it was just her imagination. But it's gone as quickly as it came, and Robin replies, "Maybe it was."
The island spills more smoke into the air, the blue of the sky fading away. The sun is near impossible to find in the grey sky, the flames replacing it as the only source of light. They are a few miles away from the island, but the thickness of the smoke already manages to meet them. Chopper has Zoro's bandana over his mouth and nose, and Nami winces in sympathy, knowing his heightened sense of smell is giving him unwanted pain. She just hopes Zoro washed that thing before giving it to the reindeer.
The whole crew is outside, watching with confusion and awe. The burning island is mesmerizing in an unexplainable way and Nami feels like she could stand on deck for hours watching it, but the stench is so horrible and her eyes are watering so badly she knows it would be better to get out of the open.
Zoro vocalizes her thoughts before she can; "We should go inside."
He's already pulling Luffy from his seat on the figurehead, the Captain's expression displeased. Luffy's eyes are red and his face pinched, the change of atmosphere already affecting him. Zoro walks toward the galley, Sanji, Chopper, and Usopp at his tail. Luffy is whining that he wants to stay outside to look at the fire island some more, wants to wait until the dragons come out so he can catch one, but Zoro ignores him effortlessly and pushes him through the door.
The island continues to burn. Nami puffs a cheek, annoyed. "Great. There goes that. I was really looking forward to a warm welcome from this island, like the one we got at Whisky Peak. I could really use like a nice resort or a spa or something – just to relax a bit, you know?"
Robin giggles. "Oh, I would think we've gotten the warm welcome part covered."
The flames stretch higher to the sky, dancing to the beat of their cracks. The smoke is like ink to the sky, its deep contrast reflecting off the ocean's surface, as if it contaminates everything it touches.
"It's quite beautiful," Robin muses out loud. "Like the prelude to an impending catastrophe."
"There is no way we're docking there," Usopp says later, his tone confidently adamant. He crosses his arms and nods his head firmly. "You hear? Captain's orders."
They sit around the table at the galley with the overhead lamp swinging to the motion of the ship. Sanji is standing over the stove, one hand over something sizzling, the other over something boiling.
Nami knocks Usopp over the head. "You aren't the captain," she tells him. "And no one said anything about docking."
No one said anything about anything, she realizes. The silence of the galley is as near suffocating as the smoke outside. The strangeness of the situation has covered them all with unease. Everyone is on edge, she thinks, chewing her thumbnail. Or maybe it's just me? The tension is so thick and heavy Nami feels weighed down by it.
Luffy rests his cheek on the table, his legs swinging under his seat. "I don't like not moving. It's booooooooring," he whines. His eyes continuously jump to Sanji, the impatience for food most likely being his source of unease. "Boring."
Zoro is sitting across him, his face bland and undisturbed. He meets Nami's eyes and jerks his chin toward her wrist. "How long?"
She picks up her hand, inspecting the log pose. "Not sure. Judging by the size of the island, I'd say we have at most three days until it resets, but it could be shorter. We can sail away from the island if the smoke gets too bothersome, but I'd rather avoid that, just in case something throws us off course. Our best bet is to just sit still and wait for the log to reset."
Her words are absorbed with frowns and groans. "So, in a matter of speaking," Robin says from next to her. "We are dead in the water for the next three days." More groans follow.
The ship sways thickly. The ocean here feels like it's made of honey, rocking back and forth slowly and heavily. The anchor managed to land on some seabed down below, but the chain has been unwound to its limit, leaving Going Merry immobilized like a dog at the end of its leash. Dead in the water. Nami wrinkles her nose. There better not be any vultures around here.
"This is stuuuuuuupid," Luffy moans. He swings a leg with every word, occasionally hitting Zoro. "Doing nothing for three days? Boring. Boring!"
Nami rolls her eyes. She's been doing that a lot lately. "You're the one who wanted to follow the log pose as soon as possible. You don't have a right to complain." She looks at the still red needle, the thing nothing but a fancy bracelet at this point.
"But I wanted adventure! Not waiting." He gives his leg a wider swing and Zoro starts from his seat. The swordsman glares, reaches down and violently yanks Luffy under the table. She ignores Zoro's snapping – "Kick me one more time and I'm cutting off your legs!" – and Luffy's less than apologetic snickering – "Sorry, sorry!" – in favor of watching Sanji move from one counter to another in almost rhythmic steps.
She sighs deeply, balancing her chin on the heel of her palm. She's loath to admit it, but the prospect of sitting still and doing nothing for the next couple of days doesn't sound very appealing to her. Sanji-kun probably won't mind – he's at his element when he's in his kitchen, regardless of whether the ship is moving or not. He can make due, and not being hindered by manhandling the ship can give him even more time to enjoy himself.
Luffy might be a problem, and by extension so will Usopp and Chopper. When those three are bored, everyone else suffers. Their whining reaches new highs, their pranks become more unbearable, and their games become more obnoxious. As long as she stays out of their sight, she could survive.
Robin and Zoro are the two people she's least concerned about – no, more precisely, they're the two people that are probably the least concerned about their predicament. Robin is always able to pass the time with a good book, unbothered and near invisible to her surroundings, and Zoro doesn't care about anything if it doesn't directly involve him. He'll probably spend the next few days sleeping or training.
Oil from one of Sanji's pans pops loudly, startling Usopp. Luffy clambers back to his seat beside him and takes back his pitiful position. His pout is more animated now, and he chants, "Boring, boring, boring. Can't have adventures like this. Maybe there's adventure on the island . . . ?"
"We're not docking!" She and Usopp snap in unison, although Usopp's voice is much higher and shriller than hers.
Luffy laughs. Pans and pots tap and clink against each other, drawers are pulled, and cabinets open and close, filling the silence comfortably. Obviously – obviously – it doesn't last for long.
"What if it was a monster?" Chopper voice is muffled from the bandana still pressed to his mouth, but the fearful tremor in it is clear. He looks from Usopp to Luffy, the two sitting beside him and holding similar expressions of curiosity. "Maybe there are dragons – maybe it was a dragon that burned the island! What if – What if it's still out there!? What if it burns us next!?"
Usopp squeaks louder than the drawers. "We're practically sitting ducks! We're gonna die!"
"Yosh! Come, dragon, come! I'm gonna kick your ass! Draaaagon!"
"Oi, Luffy – Stop, stop, stop! What if it hears you!?"
"Dragon! Dragon! DRAGON!"
"Shut up, you shitty bastards!" The piquant aroma of the food is stronger, and Sanji-kun is standing beside her, a plate of something steaming in each hand. His annoyed scowl is replaced instantly when he looks to her. "Here you go, Nami-san, Robin-chan! A dish as savory as your lovely selves! Spicy shrimp curry with seasoned bell peppers to match my burning love for you!"
Nami takes a bite from her dish and wonders if this is what the flames of the island taste like. "Fitting," she murmurs.
Sanji returns behind the counters and collects the plates for the rest of the crew. While he does so, Zoro grunts, "Three days," returning back to his original question. He has that stupid scowl on his face that he plasters on whenever he's annoyed – he's always annoyed, Nami thinks – and she braces herself for his griping.
"It's just an estimate, but it's the best one I can offer."
"This is so stupid," he glowers. Sanji comes around and places a plate in front of Luffy and Usopp, the Captain already digging into the food before the plate even touches the table. "Isn't a navigator supposed to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen?"
Which is immediately followed by a curt, "Oi, you shitty marimo! Don't you take that tone with Nami-san!"
Nami stabs her fork in Zoro's direction to punctuate every word. "The log pose can't tell the difference between a burning island and a normal one."
"A navigator should."
He ducks his head when Sanji's heel comes flying toward him but Nami is capable of defending herself so she replies back hotly, "There is no precedent for this sort of thing. Islands don't just catch on fire! There's no way anyone could have predicted this."
When Zoro's only response is a grunt, she smirks victoriously and takes a bite of her food. She is fully aware of her capabilities as a navigator, thank you very much, so she knows she isn't to blame for this situation. Who could have predicted that their next island would have been burned down? Certainly not her; certainly not anyone. She tries hard to ignore the knot that suddenly forms in her stomach.
"I – uhm, I did smell the smoke before we came up on the island," Chopper says tentatively. He hands Zoro back the bandana when Sanji places a plate in front of him. "B-But I thought it was just an attacked ship, or – or maybe someone burning their garbage? I didn't think it would be our next island! I'm sorry, I should have said something . . ."
Sanji drops a plate in front Zoro in the least ceremonious way and then takes his own seat at the head of the table. With everyone seated, the fiasco of a Strawhats dinner splashes into action, everyone instinctively shielding their dish with their arm.
Chopper seems genuinely distraught so Nami moves to console him, but Robin beats her to it. "Don't apologize, Doctor-san, you weren't in the wrong," she says, her smooth voice cutting through Luffy's obnoxiously loud chewing. "Like Navigator-san said, no one could have predicted this. All we can do is make the best out of our situation. Besides, I don't mind it. It will give us some much needed rest after the excitement of Skypiea."
"I don'th wantha resth," Luffy says through a mouth full of food, spraying bits of it all over the table. "I wanna FIGHT."
Something half-chewed flies out of his mouth and smacks Zoro in the face. "Damn it, Luffy! Swallow your food!" Usopp and Chopper burst out laughing, while Sanji scolds Luffy to not waste his food "even if it is used to piss off the stupid musclehead."
The subject of food prompts Nami to ask, "How are we with food, Sanji-kun? For the next few days, I mean?"
"Don't worry your precious heart, Nami-swan!" He gushes immediately, his body swooning in his seat. His composure restores itself when he jerks his head towards his male crewmates. "The shark these idiots caught us this morning can last us until tomorrow, and we still have plenty of food in storage to cover us for the next week – as long as someone stays out of my fucking kitchen."
"You hear that, Luffy?" Usopp asks. Luffy looks at him with a genuine confused face, so Usopp pokes him in the head and says loudly, "No raiding the kitchen! Do you understand? If you eat everything in the kitchen again, you'll kill us all."
"Waahhh! Please don't kill us, Luffy!" Chopper wails.
Not even seven minutes into dinner and already there's screaming and crying, Nami thinks, feeling her eye twitch ever so slightly. That means it'll take another eight minutes before Zoro pulls out his swords. Or Sanji starts kicking.
Robin chuckles softly and for an unbelievable second Nami thinks that the other woman must have read her thoughts. "I think we'll be alright, Navigator-san," Robin intones quietly, looking at her with a small smile. "We have nothing substantial to worry about."
"I'm not worried," Nami lies quickly and badly, earning another chuckle from Robin. "I'm not! Don't look at me like that, Robin, you're embarrassing me. I'm not worried about us at all; I know we can handle a few days at sea without movement. We've sailed for longer days without docking dozens of times before. This is nothing."
Robin takes a bite from her food elegantly, completely undisturbed. She chews, swallows, takes a sip of her wine, then says, "I see. Although, that was not where I interpreted your worry to be."
Nami frowns, picturing the burning island and wondering how many homes were burned, how many trees and flowers and lives were incinerated. "Doesn't it bother you?"
"Not necessarily. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious, though."
Someone must have said something considerably hilarious; Luffy is howling with laughter, food spilling from his mouth in the most disgusting manner. Usopp is shielding his face with his hands and Chopper hides underneath the table. Zoro is smirking in that smug manner of his and Sanji is glowering in that "I'm going to fucking fillet you" manner of his – Nami can guess what was going on. She ignores it easily.
"Well, I'm bothered and curious." She takes a rather large swallow of her wine. "I mean, what the hell, right? An entire island on fire? That's crazy. Who did that – why did they do that? I just can't wrap my head around it. What do you think?"
"I think there are various conceivable reasons that can explain it," Robin begins, tilting her head to the side to avoid a flying, half-chewed shrimp tail. "It may be perhaps like you said earlier; maybe the island was attacked and this is the aftermath of the battle. Or, perhaps an incurable plague ravaged the lands and vegetation, and fire was the only way to eliminate it. Maybe an unspeakable crime like human experimentation had taken place there and the perpetrators wanted to erase all evidence of it. It's plausible even that the presiding monarch had decided to engage in mass genocide, choosing fire as his preferred weapon of – "
" – Ok, you know what? Forget I asked you." Nami sags in her seat and groans. "Now I'm less curious and more bothered. Robin," she moans pitifully. "You were supposed to comfort me."
Robin smiles. "It's not as if the island is burning for a noble reason. Certainly you know that as well."
Nami frowns, swirling the wine in her cup, watching the red liquid sway and sway and sway. "I know, but . . . I can't help feeling like something bad is about to happen. This whole situation just feels like some awful attempt at a tragic poem, you know? An island on fire, a ship forced to stop and watch it, us being surrounded by smoke. So tacky – what's next, is a dragon really going to pop out of nowhere, with the devil riding on his back? Pft!"
She meant it all as a joke, but Robin's features are anything but amused. She takes in Nami's words with a slow blink and a slight crease in her brow. "You're anticipating a tragedy?"
"Well, considering the type of track record we've been having so far . . ." she trails off.
"A tragedy is an event that causes great suffering and distress," Robin says softly, her eyes faraway. "Tragic poems usually revolve around a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe that cause immense sadness and someone's death. One would think that the island has already experienced the tragedy. Are you assuming that we will face one as well?"
Slam! Zoro's fist bangs against the table so hard the silverware – and herself – jolt, and he's half standing in his seat yelling profanities at Sanji, who throws his own collection of colorful insults. Luffy is laughing his ass off, choking on his food with every breath.
". . . Maybe tragedy isn't the right word here," Nami murmurs uncomfortably. She sets her wine glass down and shakes her head. "I'm just – you know what? Never mind. Forget I said anything. I'm just babbling. I don't know why I said that. We'll be fine – Oi, Luffy! Swallow your freakin' food before I make you!"
Luffy jerks at her voice and covers his mouth with both hands. He looks at her, opens his mouth to reply, thinks better of it and swallows first, then says, "Sorry Nami, but Zoro and Sanji are being funny!"
"They're being homicidal, you idiot!" Usopp squeaks. "You need to stop them – AH! Luffy, you asshole! Don't take my food while I'm talking to you! Saaaanji, Luffy's stealing my food again!"
At the grating wail, Sanji turns his attention to his captain, his scowl darkening. "What the hell did I tell you about stealing other people's food, you shitty captain! Eat your own damned food!"
Eating with these fools is a tragedy to dinning etiquette, Nami thinks. She watches as poor Chopper finds himself being shoved against Usopp, who is trying to take back his stolen food from Luffy's hand, and Luffy, who is extending and maneuvering his neck like a electrocuted snake as he tries to avoid Sanji's foot. There is definitely a lot of suffering happening here.
"Anyways Nami," Luffy says when they've all settled back down like somewhat civilized apes. He licks his fingers and carelessly says, "nothing bad's gonna happen, so don't go worrying about it so much!"
She bites her inner cheek to keep from frowning. So much for having a private conversation with Robin, she complains to herself. Nothing on this ship goes amiss. Luffy grins at her, shrugging, "Even if the monster that burned down the island comes for us, I'll kick its ass no problem! Shishishishishi!"
A smile tugs on her lips unconsciously and she purses them to try and hide it. His simple-minded words of comfort are a strong contrast against Robin's logical explanations, and although the archeologist's words gave her something to ponder and answers she can grasp, Luffy's words are the ones that leave her feeling lighter. "Idiot," she mutters finally. "Who said I was worried?"
"So it is a monster!?" Chopper cries, and just the word alone is enough of a catalyst for his and Usopp's shrieking.
Nami cuts them off before their voices reach a higher pitch. "That's not how the island got burned."
Then Zoro's gruff voice butts in, "Who cares about the reasons," – and Nami is a little peeved to find him looking at her because she can tell this idiot is addressing her and her talk with Robin. Can't I have a conversation with one person without everyone pushing in with their stupid opinions!? – "It doesn't matter. It's on fire, the end. Stop thinking about stupid things."
"Asshole! Every one of Nami-san's thoughts are intelligent and fruitful and life changing and awe-inspiring! A shitty swordsman who can't even grasp putting one foot in front of the other has no right deciding what stupid is."
Zoro slams his hand against the table again, but this time Nami doesn't flinch. "That's it! Your fucking head is getting sliced off!"
She sighs jadedly and pushes her wine glass away from the edge of the table. Robin does the same when Sanji barks a laugh, saying, "Good luck finding it, you directionless dumbass!"
Swords are drawn, chairs are pushed, the table jars, silverware jump, and suddenly there are two idiots on the ground in a pile of waving limbs and dancing blades, and her bigger idiot of a captain is cheering them on while his hand stretches towards their unguarded plates.
Nami turns her head to Robin. "Well?"
Robin nods. "You were correct. Swordsman-san drew his blades first."
The other woman pulls back her sleeve and inspects her watch. "Ah. Fifteen minutes and eighteen seconds. I've lost again."
Nami grins wickedly when Robin reaches into her pocket and pulls out the small roll of bills. She counts them easily, her grin widening, "That's a new record. Luck is definitely on my side today. Heh, I should go for double next time."
"Careful, Navigator-san," Robin warns with a mischievous smile. "It is a common pattern with tragedies for the main character to possess a brash and overconfident personality, adding to the dramatic effect of their foreshadowed and catastrophic demise."
"Robin," Nami moans.