ATTENTION: New content has been added to previous chapters. I'd recommend reading through them again to make sure you don't miss anything.

I do not own One Piece. Enjoy!


Chapter Four

"Pirate Hunter Zoro"

Two Years Ago

1520

Roan was going to kill the thief.

She was going to kill her dead and no one was going to stop her.

Loguetown was on high alert. The marines patrolled the streets. Roan didn't know how long she had to get Nami out, but it couldn't be more than a couple hours. They'd ship the thief off on a prison ship and then Roan would be left to face Arlong's wrath. The fishman would rip her to shreds for losing him his precious cartographer.

Damn it.

Roan ignored the guilt. She shoved it deep, deep down and pretended it didn't exist. Nami had brought this on herself. Roan was only helping because if Arlong killed her she'd never make it to the Grand Line and she'd never find Nora.

She'd never get her chance to destroy Joker.

Cashing in all the favor Bartolomeo owed her wasn't going to be enough. Good thing she had a pretty little nest egg saved up.

Nami owed her for this.


Present Day

They managed to get out of the base without getting caught and met up with Luffy and Coby in front of the restaurant. At some point the two had made the acquaintance of a little girl named Rika who'd gone to the execution grounds to feed Zoro some homemade onigiri.

"I didn't ask him to join yet, but he's definitely a good guy," Luffy said. "He ate the entire rice ball Rika made that the bastard son stomped on. He said it was really good, too."

Rika beamed. "I'm so happy!"

"Is he really as bad as everyone says?" Coby wondered.

"He's not a bad guy!" Rika protested. "Everyone in town is afraid of him, but he hasn't done anything wrong. He got thrown into prison because of me. Captain Morgan's son had a mean dog that attacked me. It was running loose in town and scaring everybody! But Onii-chan saved me."

"So he was only arrested because he killed that kid's pet?"

"Yes!"

"That makes more sense," Coby said. "Zoro only goes after people with bounties and there's nothing illegal about that."

"Bounty Hunters still get a bad rap, though," Roan pointed out. "We're considered vigilantes and the government doesn't condone vigilantism even if it's not technically illegal."

"People like you belong in jail," Nami said. "Zoro's not a saint, but he's leagues above someone like you. You're more of a mercenary than a bounty hunter."

"Ow," Roan deadpanned, clutching his chest, "that hurts. Right in the heart, dollface."

"You don't have a heart."

"Does she have to be our navigator?" Roan asked Luffy. "Because I can find someone else. Anyone else."

"I don't want anyone else for our navigator."

"Hahahaha! You're not bowing your heads low enough, scum! I'll tell my father on you!"

The townspeople got on their knees and pressed their heads to the ground. Roan was reminded of the Ringmaster and grimaced, looking away.

"Do you want to be arrested like Roronoa Zoro? We're going to hold a public execution for him in three days. We'll make an example of him. I can hardly wait!"

Roan gripped Luffy's shoulder. "Don't do anything stupid," he warned. He looked at Helmeppo distastefully and rested his other hand on the hilt of the well loved Wadou Ichimonji. "We'll get him out today so long as you don't do anything stupid."

"He made a promise."

"People break promises all the time."

"They shouldn't."

"You! Why aren't you kneeling? I'll tell my daddy!"

Luffy pulled himself free of Roan's hold. "You promised Zoro a month!" he accused.

"What? Where did you hear about that?" Helmeppo laughed nasally. "That promise was just a joke! He's a stupid animal for believing that."

Roan should have expected it when Luffy punched Helmeppo. It was enough of a surprise, though, that he could only stare dumbly.

"Luffy-san!" Coby shouted. "Calm down!"

"He's scum!" Luffy snarled.

Roan looked at Nami and found a mirror expression of his own astonishment. Luffy's reaction was over the top. People broke promises all the time. That was a fact of life, of human nature.

How could someone who wanted to be a pirate be so good hearted?

"You want to make an enemy of the marines?!"

Then again, it wasn't hard to be better than a spoiled brat like Helmeppo.

"I've decided!" Luffy declared. "I'm going to get Zoro to join my pirate crew."


Roronoa Zoro looked like shit.

"He's been here for three weeks?!"

'That's what that bastard son said."

Nami stared at Roronoa. "Is he even human?"

Roan stared at the beaten, starved form. The stink of feces and sweat could be smelt all the way from the wall. Despite that Roronoa didn't look broken or shamed. He hung from the post proud as a peacock, a stubborn promise in his eyes.

"His will must be incredible," Roan said. "Humans aren't meant to survive longer than three days without water."

Roronoa was going to need watching if they convinced him to join. Three weeks without water or food, being beaten every day by Helmeppo and his men, would put him at a disadvantage. They didn't have a doctor and from the way the townspeople reacted none here would want to treat him. He'd have to settle with what little first aid Roan and Nami knew.

Well, whatever he decided they were getting him out. Luffy wanted Roronoa for his crew and so long as Roan's interests aligned with Luffy's he would follow the young captain's will.

They dropped into the execution yard one after the other. Roan staggered slightly under the additional weight of the three katana. Roronoa zeroed in on the swords immediately.

"You! What are you doing with those katana?!"

"I ought to be asking you that question," Roan retorted. "How could you let an idiot like Morgan's son handle these beauties? The white one especially! Do you have any idea how much it's worth? What would you have done if he'd broken it? If you care so much about these katana you shouldn't let idiots like that handle them!"

"What I do with my katana is my business," Roronoa said.

Luffy linked his fingers behind his head. "You must care about these swords a lot," he said. "If I give them back to you, join my crew!"

"That's dirty!"

Coby ignored them all and began to work at the knots binding Roronoa to the post.

"What are you doing?" the Pirate Hunter asked bewilderedly. "If they catch you freeing me, you'll be killed!"

"I don't care," Coby said defiantly. "They imprisoned you unfairly. I can't stand marines acting like this!" There was a new determination in the small cabin boy's stance. "I am going to become a marine just like Luffy-sand is going to be the Pirate King and Nami-san is going to buy her village and Roan-san is going to the Grand Line!"

"Pirate King?! Do you even know what that means?"

"Pirate King is the freest person in the world," Luffy said with an odd solemnity to his voice and a strange half smile on his face. "I promised Shanks I would do it, even if I die trying."

Even if I die trying, huh? Roan could understand that.

BANG!

Coby and Nami screamed. Roan lurched forward and caught the cabin boy as he fell backwards. Blood stained his clothes and covered his arm.

"I've been shot!" he shrieked. "I'm dying, I'm dying!"

"Where'd that come from?" Nami squealed.

Roan pointed. "There, on the roof."

Luffy made to run off but Roan reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt. "Don't go running off," he snapped. "Nami, wrap cabin boy's arm." He settled Coby down gently and stood up, glaring towards the roof. "If you want a fight, Captain, just wait here."

Luffy cracked his knuckles. "Okay."

"You should run for your life," Roronoa said, craning his neck back to look at the base. "They're almost here."

"No," Coby huffed, pushing himself upright. "We – we have to get you free as soon as possible!"

"Quit moving!" Nami snapped. She ripped pieces of his shirt into strips and tied them around his arm as a makeshift bandages.

'There is no need to worry about me. As long as I can last a month, they'll set me free."

"They won't set you free!"

"They plan to execute you in three days," Roan said in a milt tone, as though commenting on the weather.

"What? That bastard promised me if I lasted a month he would set me free!"

Luffy frowned and crossed his arms. "He lied," he said. "I should have hit him harder."

Roronoa stared. "What did you say?"

Roan drew his sword. "We don't have time to explain everything," he said. "If I free you, help us fight off the marines. I'll even give you your swords back."

Roronoa started to grin. "Not going to blackmail me into joining your crew?"

"It's Luffy's crew, not mine, and I don't really give a damn if you join or not," Roan said. He slid his blade carefully between the pirate hunter's arm and the wooden post. "You'll have to take your refusal up with the Captain."

"Roan, hurry," Luffy said suddenly. "They're here."

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" the marines shouted. They leveled their guns at the group. "Those of you who've betrayed Captain Morgan…DIE HERE!"

Several things happened at once.

Roan sliced through Roronoa's bonds.

Luffy ran forward.

The marines fired.

BANG-BANG-BANG!

"LUFFY!"

The bullets slammed into the rubber boy. Roan lurched forward almost against his will but…

…his skin stretched

…and the bullets rebounded.

"IT'S NO USE! Ahahahaha!"

"What kind of human are you?!"

"I am the one who will become the King of Pirates!"

Roan rolled his eyes. "Enough with the chit-chat, we've got bigger problems."

Luffy, the little bastard, ignored him. "If you resist the marines here you'll become an outlaw," he said. "Or maybe you want to die here?"

Roronoa snorted as he stretched and flexed his arms, working feeling back into them. "It's a little late for that," he said. "Instead of dying here…why don't I agree to your request and become a pirate?"

Luffy cheered. "I have another nakama!"

Roan shoved Roronoa's katana at him. "Well Pirate Hunter let's see what you've got."

"If guns don't work then we'll use swords!" the marines screamed.

Nami and Coby shrieked, "DO SOMETHING!"

Roronoa Zoro moved.

The clang of metal against metal rang through the air.

Roan was impressed. Zoro had manged to stop the marines in their tracks with his three swords. And that was wielding one of them in his mouth of all places.

Luffy sure knows how to pick 'em.

"Cool!"

"All of you better not move," Zoro growled. "You move…and I'll kill you!" He looked up at Luffy from beneath his bandana. "I already said I'd be a pirate with you. Either way after this incident I'll be an outlaw. But I have my own goals! I'm going to become the World's Greatest Swordsman! As long as my name is known worldwide, it no longer matters if I am a good guy or a bad guy. If you ever get in the way of this goal I will have you apologize on the end of my sword!"

Luffy remained unfazed. "Good!" he said. "As the Pirate King's nakama, if you can't even accomplish something that small then I would be very embarrassed."

"Heh. Well said!"

Luffy swing his leg back. "Roan, Zoro, duck!"

As they crouched, Luffy cried out, "Gomu Gomu no…WHIP!"

His leg swung out and mowed the marines down like bowling pins. It was the first time Roan had really seen his captain's devil fruit powers in use.

"Not bad," he murmured. "Not bad at all."

The marines were freaked out.

"What are you?"

"Captain we can't beat these people!"

"They're too strong!"

Roan sheathed his sword, deciding he wouldn't need it, and ran forward, socking one marine in the gut. "Quite your whining," He said. "If you can't even do this much you're in the wrong career!"

"This is an order!" Morgan shouted. "Anyone who just said that…grab a gun and shoot yourself!"

Roan liberated a rifle from one of them and used it like a club, bashing them over their heads. He heard Luffy shout something and the dull clang of a fist against metal. Roan kicked one in the stomach and spotted Luffy standing off against Morgan. Some marines had managed to get past Zoro and were suffering a beat down from a pissed off Nami.

Lots of marines were gawking at Luffy's fight.

It pissed Roan off.

"Pay attention to your own fight, idiots!" he snarled, kneeing one in the groin and punching another's throat.

"Someone stop them!"

"T-they're too strong…!"

"Captain Morgan can only be kicked around!"

Helmeppo showed up. Roan couldn't hear what he was saying, but he did see Nami slam him into the ground with her staff, leaving behind a sizeable knot and possibly a concussion. At the same moment Luffy delivered a strong punch to Morgan's jaw and rendered him unconscious. Silence fell over the courtyard for a single moment.

"WE'RE FREE…!"

"Captain Morgan's defeated!"

Roan released the collar of a marine. None of them were fighting now. He looked at Nami and Coby, both alive and pale but standing. At Zoro, who looked one second away from collapsing, and Luffy, who grinned bright enough to eclipse the sun even with an unconscious, bleeding Morgan on the ground behind him.

He's dangerous, Roan thought, in more ways than one.

Roan had met people like Luffy. The things they could do…well, there were reasons a lot of them were notorious. Powerful people could make use of charismatic idiots. And those charismatic idiots earned loyalty, so if you had their loyalty you gained the loyalty of those who followed them.

Roan shivered. What a frightening thought. He's already strong enough to defeat a sea king, even just a minor lord of the coast…if he gets stronger at the same rate that Sabo does…I don't even want to think about what kind of monster he'll be in a few months. In a year, even.

He's a pirate, and stubborn, but people like the Ringmaster can break you. And he was just Joker's underling.

And people like them are far too common in this place.

Not something to think about here. Roan moved quickly towards Zoro who began to sway in place. He caught the Pirate Hunter before the man could do more than stumble.

"It's a good idea to not push your limits after you've been starved," Roan stated dryly. He shifted the swordsman so Zoro was leaning most of his weight on Roan, his arm around Roan's shoulders. The pirate hunter didn't look all that happy about it.

Pride was the giant killer, or so the Ringmaster had said. Roan had seen enough proof to believe it.

"Is Zoro-san okay?" Coby asked.

"He's fine. Just exhausted, starved, and dehydrated." Roan looked at Luffy and jerked his head at Zoro's other side in a wordless request. Luffy nodded and slid Zoro's other arm over his shoulders.

"Should we go to Rika's? I bet she'll feed us lots of good food to make Zoro better."

"Probably wise. I don't want to stick around long enough for the marines to get their acts together and decide we're the enemy."

Coby opened his mouth to protest…and then shut it, wordless. Nami's expression went dark, her hands clenched around her staff, and her shoulders stiff. No doubt she was remembering the fiasco at Loguetown.

Watch your step cabin boy; the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

They made their way to Rika's restaurant as quick as they could manage. Coby ran ahead to warn Rika's mother and inquire about a doctor. Roan wouldn't feel right leaving the island until Zoro had been examined and declared fit for sailing. Just because he didn't trust these people didn't mean he was stupid enough to leave them injured. So long as he traveled with them, their strength was Roan's strength.

'What happened?" Rika demanded when they stumbled through the door.

Roan and Luffy settled Zoro in a chair and took seats on either side of him. The restaurant was deserted. The fight at the base had been anything but quiet, not with the gunshots and celebratory screams. People feared Morgan. They were probably all camped out in their house hoping he didn't come and decide they'd had something to do with a mutiny.

Not that it really was a mutiny. His people didn't revolt – Luffy just kicked his ass and they reaped the benefits of his defeat.

Rika and her mother carried out plates of food, along with a first aid kit. Zoro dove into the food like a wild animal.

"Don't eat to fast or you'll be sick," Roan warned.

The pirate hunter grunted in acknowledgement and slowed down a little. Beside him Luffy tore into the food with equal fervor and less manners. Nami edged away from him and the flying bits of food. Coby took a plate but barely touched his food, busy telling Rika and her mother about their siege on the base. Roan kept his mouth shut. Coby was doing an excellent job of making them the heroes and he didn't know what to feel about that.

Finally Zoro leaned back with a satisfied sigh and patted his stomach.

"Full?"

"Stuffed," he said with deep satisfaction. He looked at Roan's barely touched plate and shot the first mate a questioning look. "Aren't you hungry?"

"Not particularly."

He felt a bit sick. It might have been old guilt rearing its ugly head. It might also have been the possible poison Nami put in his breakfast. Roan knew which option he preferred.

"So, what are our plans now?" Zoro asked.

"We're going to head for the Grand Line," Luffy said. "Nami and Roan got a chart to the Grand Line, right?"

"We didn't get the chart but we know where it's at," Roan said. "We'll be heading to Orange Town next. According to the reports on Morgan's desk that's where Buggy the Clown was headed towards when he was last sighted."

"I'll get that chart and all his treasure!" Nami said with a gleam in her eyes.

Zoro leaned away from her. He looked a little disconcerted by Nami's intenseness. Poor man. He was stuck with her now for however long she decided to stay. Roan didn't doubt that at some point she would abandon ship and take all the treasure they gathered with her.

"Well, I'm glad you're not going to the Grand Line already," Coby declared. "There's no way the four of you are ready for that."

Roan rolled his eyes. "The first half of the Grand Line isn't that bad. It's the second half that's bug nuts fucking crazy."

"Eh? You've been to the Grand Line? Stingy! Why didn't you say before?" Luffy demanded.

Roan didn't want to get into his history with this world's criminal underworld. It wasn't any of their business why Roan had traveled the Grand Line before.

"Didn't seem important," he said with a shrug and prayed that Luffy would leave it at that. Nami looked at him with narrowed eyes, but Luffy shrugged and let it go.

"I don't want to hear anything anyways," he decided. "An adventure isn't any fun if you already know what's going to happen."

"You're saying crazy things again, Luffy-san! How do you plan to survive the Grand Line if you don't know what to expect? The world's strongest pirates all gather there!"

"What're you so worried for? It's not like you're coming," Nami said. "Besides with me as navigator these idiots will be fine. There's no sea I can't sail."

"Except the sea of humbleness," Roan muttered and winced when a foot impacted with his shin. He glared at the thief. She smiled back sweetly.

Coby slammed his hands on the table. "Even if I'm not going I'll still worry! Even though we all just met…we're friends, aren't we?"

"Yep," Luffy said. "Even though we have to part, we'll always be friends."

Coby smiled in relief. "I never had any friends growing up…I was always picked on and no one would ever stand up for me. But the four of you taught me to live by my dream!"

Roan's eyebrows raised in disbelief. He was sure he'd never mentioned a "dream" to any of them, so for what reason was Coby including him in that? Hadn't he scared the kid last night?

"That's why we're heading for the Grand Line," Luffy said.

"That's true…no! No! What I meant is you're too reckless!"

"Shouldn't you be more worried about yourself?" Zoro asked, knocking the hilt of his sword lightly against Coby's forehead. "Even though you were just doing chores on a pirate ship, you're still a small pirate. Don't underestimate the marine's ability to gather information."

"Not to mention helping us out," Roan added. "Even if you want to be a marine the rest of us are outlaws. You could get in trouble just for associating with us."

"Excuse me!"

Speak of the devil and he shall appear. Roan casually rested a hand on his sword as a marine stepped inside.

"Are you really pirates?"

"Yes," Luffy said. "I just got my third crewmember so that makes us pirates now."

"Even though you are pirates, in reality you saved out town and base. For that we are grateful. But since you are pirates…as marines we cannot allow you to stay any longer. Please leave this place immediately. As for the events that occurred here, we will be reporting it to headquarters."

Roan sighed in annoyance. "I was hoping to get a doctor to look at Roronoa, but I suppose that'll have to wait," he said, following Luffy's lead and standing up. "What a pain." He stopped as he passed Coby and dropped a hand on his shoulder. "If things don't pan out here head to Loguetown and tell Captain Smoker that Roan sent you. He'll take you on as a recruit."

"T-thank you Roan-san!"

"Yeah, no problem kid."

"That was pretty nice of you," Nami muttered as they stepped outside.

"Don't get used to it, hon; I'm not in the habit of passing out favors for free."

"Then why did you?"

Roan pulled out a cigarette and lit it, listening to the commotion behind them. "…can't a guy just do something nice for once?"

"Please. You're a bastard down to your core. You can't do something without there being a catch."

"No catch this time. 'Sides, aren't you listening? Luffy's got him covered. He won't need to use that favor."

"That doesn't explain why."

Roan blew a smoke ring. He looked sideways at Nami, took note of the suspicion in her eyes, and sighed. "Let it go, thief. I'm not in the mood to have a heart to heart with you, okay? And I'm sure you don't want to have one with me period so drop it."

"Fine."

Roan watched her stalk off towards the pier and for a moment he drowned in guilt.

I just wanted to do something good for once, Thief. That's all.