Hello again! I just wanna say thank you to everyone who's decided to follow along on this crazy adventure! I hope you're enjoying Hazel, she's been a lot of fun for me to write lol Things pick up a little more in this chapter, and it's only going to get better from here! Anyway, without further ado, here's chapter 2!
And so our fledgling crew left Shells Town, waving goodbye to one friend, but saying "Hello" to a brand new one. Ambitions as large as our captain's, the future World's Greatest Swordsman was a welcome addition to our-!
"So, I suppose this means you're the first mate?" Zoro asked suddenly, startling Hazel from her notebook.
"Eh?!" Her gray eyes widened and she furiously shook her head rather childishly. "Of course not! You can be first mate!"
"What? I have no interest in that! Besides, you were here first!" The green-haired man protested, acting no better than the woman in front of him.
"It doesn't matter if I was here first! I'm the captain's big sister! The last thing we need is Luffy's role as captain plagued with doubts of nepotism, right Luffy?"
"Right! I don't need to be flayed with pots of nep-nepo-nemotodes!" Luffy grinned, proud of himself. Hazel just swung her blank stare in Zoro's direction.
"You see? It's an unspeakable offense…"
"Woman! Stop trying to shirk your duties onto me!"
"I'm not! I've got other duties! And don't call me woman..." She pouted. "Besides, what else are you gonna do on the ship, huh?!"
"Hazel, he's the swordsman! That's important!"
"He can be both!"
"I don't want it, dammit! Unless the captain says I gotta, I'm not doing it!" And with that said, Zoro plopped himself on the floor, closing his eyes as though to take a nap. Luffy just snickered at the way Hazel fumed, appalled at the way the swordsman was already snoring. How the hell did he manage to fall asleep so fast?!
"Whatever, as far as I'm concerned, he's the first mate...even if I'm the only one who thinks it."
"Shishishi it's fun having a real crewman!"
"What am I, chopped liver?" Hazel deadpanned, but Luffy just kept laughing. Rolling her eyes, she settled back against the mast, returning to her notes. Eventually, their captain settled down, resting against the bow of the little boat as they drifted across the waves. After a few hours, the sun long set, Hazel looked up to see him passed out.
She set her notebook down, reaching into her pack for a blanket and placing it over him. She hadn't been able to pack much, and most of their things had been lost in the whirlpool anyway, but she'd at least made sure to pack some essentials. Sitting back in her seat, she turned to see Zoro awake, watching her.
"Can I help you with something?" She teased, the argument from earlier long forgotten. The man was silent for a moment.
"So…" He started, leaning back against the side of the boat. "What made you decide to follow the captain?"
"I mean, we've established he's my brother, right?" At his sharp look, Hazel let out a short bark of laughter, quickly covering her mouth to muffle the loud sound. Luffy wouldn't wake up to it, but it was still jarring on the silent, dark, sea. "I believe in him. It's really as simple as that. Luffy's going to be the King of the Pirates...and I'm gonna write the whole thing down."
"Like a record-keeper?" He asked, intrigued. Hazel nodded with a hum.
"Sorta? It's my dream to write the greatest story ever told...the obvious choice for me is to write my baby brother's journey to become the Pirate King! I guess you could call me a record-keeper, but I don't plan to make it a boring read." She beamed, and Zoro could feel some of that brightness once again. It seemed to be a family trait. "I suppose adding your journey to become the World's Greatest Swordsman will only add to the excitement factor, huh?"
"Heh, make sure you take down every detail then!" He matched her grin.
"Hehe, you got it!" She leaned back against the hull, using her pack as a sort of pillow. "So, then, what's your story? Why 'World's Greatest Swordsman'?" Zoro was silent, and she sat up a second to see if he was paying attention. "Zoro?"
"Ask me again another day…" was all he said, confusing the woman.
"O-ok…" She lay back down, staring at the stars with a small frown. "But you know if you want me to 'take down every detail', I'm gonna need more than that...right?" She asked, not unkindly. He hummed in acknowledgement.
"I'll probably tell you someday, just...not today," He seemed distant, like he was stuck in a memory, and so Hazel didn't pry. "Go to sleep, I'll keep watch."
It was as if he'd pulled the yawn right out of her, as her mouth opened wide right as he spoke. "Alrighty...g'night, Mr. Pirate-Hunter-Turned-Pirate…" Zoro just smirked, unseen, and huffed a small laugh. Hopefully the nickname wouldn't stick.
"I'm starving…" Luffy whined the next morning.
"We forgot to stock up on food before we left Shells Town…" Hazel grumbled, followed by a similar sound from her stomach.
"Don't you think it's strange that you guys can't navigate?" Zoro asked, leaning on the side of the boat. Hazel had to roll her eyes at that; he'd flat out told them he wasn't a navigator either.
"No, drifting has worked pretty well, so far," Luffy answered.
"Ya know, except for the whirlpool…" Hazel muttered.
"Yeah! But we survived, so it's ok!" Luffy grinned at her, and she just shook her head.
"What about you?" Luffy asked, turning back to the green swordsman. "You're supposed to be the 'Holy Terror of the Seas'!"
"I don't recall ever calling myself that. I followed a pirate I was after out to sea," Zoro explained. "But I couldn't find my way back to my village. So I made the best of things. I went after pirates that were in the area. I had to earn money somehow…"
"Hmph! So you got lost?"
"And you're lecturing us about navigation?!"
"Oi! You don't have to put it like that! Anyway," He deflected. "What kind of pirate doesn't know how to navigate a ship? It's ridiculous! At this rate we'll never make it to the Grand Line." Hazel continued glaring in his direction, choosing to withhold her comments about how he was also a pirate who couldn't navigate now. "We've gotta recruit a navigator as soon as possible."
"On that, we can agree…"
"And we need a cook, and a musician, and-"
"THOSE CAN WAIT!" Apparently wiped out from the conversation, the two men flopped onto their backs, tongues lolling out of their mouths.
"We'll find food as soon as we land…" Hazel promised, not knowing when that would be, but offering comfort where she could. She bit her lip as she scanned the sea around them; the vast, endless, blue sea...her stomach gurgled as she let out a sigh.
"Hey, it's a bird…" Zoro suddenly said, staring up at the sky.
"It looks pretty big…" Luffy noted. Hazel looked up to see what they were talking about, only to see a big, bright, pink bird flying right above their ship.
"What kinda bird is that?" She asked, but the boys ignored her. "Ya know, this better not become a theme, you two…" She grumbled.
"Let's eat it!" Luffy shouted suddenly, springing to his feet.
"Leave it to me! I'll catch it!" Luffy yelled, stretching his arms to grab the top of the sail. "Gum gum…" He sprang off. "ROCKET!"
"Okay…" Zoro muttered, shielding his eyes as he and Hazel watched the boy fly through the air. He zoomed toward the bird, straight as an arrow, only to suddenly stop short.
"What?!" The two said in disbelief. Squinting so she could see better, Hazel found his legs dangling in the air, suspended by the bird who had Luffy's head...in its mouth?
"HELP!" Luffy shouted.
"LUFFY! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO CATCH IT, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, YOU FLUFFIN' NOODLE-BRAIN!"
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! DAMMIT!" Zoro grabbed the oars, immediately rowing after the bird and Luffy at a speed that knocked Hazel off her feet.
"Oof!" She rubbed her bottom as she hit the boat, her elbow sore as it had hit the side of the boat. "Warn a girl next time, please!"
"No time!" Was all he said.
They weren't rowing for very long before they heard voices. Squinting past Zoro's green head, Hazel spotted three men flailing in the water, screaming, "It's a ship! Hey wait!"
"Huh?" Zoro turned his head, spotting them. "Shipwreck survivors? at a time like this? I can't stop! Just grab on, and climb in!"
"Wait there's no room!"
"What'd they say?"
But there was no more time to dwell on it as Zoro rowed right through the men, barely giving them time to grab hold of the dinghy. The three men scrambled inside, forcing Hazel close to the swordsman to make room. Curling herself into a ball, she glared at the four men occupying her space before moving her gaze back to the bird still flying in the sky.
"You made it! Good!" Zoro said to the three men, without looking back at them.
"You would have left us to die!"
"What kind of person are you?" One of them huffed, all three trying to catch their breaths from nearly drowning.
"Hey, stop the ship," the man in the middle commanded, drawing a sword. He was wearing a winter-styled cap, with a clown-like jolly roger printed on the front. "We're pirates of Buggy the Clown!" Guess that explained the jolly roger.
"Huh?" Zoro said as Hazel cracked her knuckles with a grin.
A few well placed thwacks later, and the opposing pirates were singing a much different tune.
"We're sorry Mr. Pirate Hunter Zoro, sir! We didn't realize who you were!" Hazel scowled.
"I'm the one who hit you…"
"O-of course! Mr. Pirate Hunter would have a strong woman as well! S-sorry ma'am!" She growled. Why does every pirate they come across think she's someone's "woman"?
"You bozos made us lose my brother!" She scolded, clenching her fists.
"Keep rowing! If there's any land nearby, he'll get there." Zoro commanded the three, who'd been forced into rowing the boat for their rudeness. Hazel turned back to the sea, trying to ignore the worry creeping through her. Hopefully that bird didn't decide to drop him into the water...they'd never find him then. "So, how did you pirates end up soaking in the middle of the ocean?"
"I'll tell you how! Thanks for reminding us!" Jolly Roger Hat said, more than happy to answer Zoro's question if it meant not incurring either pirate's wrath.
"It was that woman!"
"It was all her fault!"
"She was a real looker, though!" The three men spoke at once, drawing Hazel's eyebrow up. A woman got the better of three pirates?
"We had just finished raiding a merchant ship…" The man with a sort of flattened afro started. "We spotted a boat not far from us, and there was a woman laying inside!"
"She seemed helpless!" The last man, the one with facial hair, continued. "She was asking us for some water and bread; she looked like she was about to keel over!"
"She offered us her treasure chest of gold," Jolly Roger Hat continued the story. They were good at picking up the narrative, Hazel would give them that. "And we jumped to her ship to see what was inside it, only...she-she snuck onto our ship while we were distracted and started sailing away!" Hazel would admit she was a bit impressed at the mystery woman's plan, but at the same time seeing these three in front of her...it couldn't have been all that difficult.
"The chest didn't even have any treasure in it!" Flat Afro cried.
"And then, almost as if she were a sea witch who called the storm herself, we were capsized by a sudden downfall!" Facial Hair finished. "And that's the whole sad story! Just awful, ain't it?!"
"Amazing. She used the weather to her own advantage. She must really know the seas…" Zoro wondered. Hazel nodded along, impressed by the story. "She'd make a great navigator…"
"Indeed, though I'm a bit wary about asking her…" Hazel added, considering she was already a proven trickster.
"We think she'll make a great corpse!"
"What'll we do about the treasure we lost?!"
"If we return empty-handed, Buggy will be furious!" Hazel rubbed the space between her eyes to try and stem off the headache brewing at their shouting.
"Who's this Buggy guy, anyway?" Zoro asked, causing Hazel to groan slightly. She wanted the information, but she also wanted silence.
"Only the most ferocious pirate in these parts!" Jolly Roger Hat explained. "Haven't you heard of Buggy the Clown? He ate the fruit of the devil!" Hazel raised an eyebrow at that.
"...The fruit of the devil?" Zoro questioned. Conversation, thankfully, fell into a lull after that, everyone focused on getting to their destination. Hazel kept gray eyes on the horizon, ready to go the second they spotted land.
"This is it, Master Zoro!" The men said, once again ignoring Hazel's involvement. At this point she just rolled her eyes; no good getting worked up over such idiots.
"It looks like a ghost town. Where is everyone?" Zoro inquired. Now that Hazel thought about it, it was really quiet here. Normally a port town like this would be bustling with at least some activity.
"Well you see, sir...we've taken over this town." Facial Hair explained while the other two muttered about their captain, this "Buggy" character.
"C'mon, take us to your captain," Zoro interrupted, startling the men a bit. "Maybe he knows where Luffy is."
"Let's hope so, I haven't seen that bird in ages…" Hazel muttered, chewing her bottom lip.
"I'm sure that idiot is ok," Zoro whispered. "He survived getting shot at, I'm sure he can survive almost getting eaten." Hazel furrowed her brows.
"Those aren't exactly comparable," she pouted. "I just hope he wasn't dropped in the ocean…" She trailed off, and Zoro said nothing, so she let the conversation go as they were led through the empty town.
The walk was mostly silent, until all of a sudden an explosion ripped through the buildings the next block over, sending bits of wood and debris everywhere.
"What the hell?!" Hazel cried, shielding herself. Not wasting any time, she and Zoro took off running in the direction the explosion had come from. By the time they reached the roof (of a bar, from what Hazel could tell at first glance), her lungs burned in her chest, but when her eyes landed on the situation at hand, she found them easy to ignore.
Luffy was in a small, thick cage, his arms bound to his body by rope. A cannon was pointed directly at him, and a young girl with bright orange hair had her hands around the fuse, a circus of pirates ready to descend upon her with swords. Literally a circus, if their costumes were anything to go by. Luffy was screaming for the girl to look out, but just from looking Hazel could tell she'd never move out of the way in time.
Hazel and Zoro rushed in, Zoro holding back most of the pirates about to attack the girl without even unsheathing his swords. Hazel landed two consecutive kicks on a pair of stragglers, hitting them both in the throat and knocking them to the ground. Her blood was singing at the prospect of finally getting a fight, and she braced herself for more, but none came at the moment.
"How many pirates does it take to deal with one girl?" Zoro quipped, mocking the circus they'd run across.
"Luffy!" Hazel yelled, pulled out of "fight mode" and running over to where he was caged. "Are you alright?"
"You hurt?" Zoro asked the young woman at the same time.
"No, I'm ok…"
"Phew! I'm glad you found me! Now get me outta here!" Luffy yelled.
"Always goofin' around…" Zoro said casually, resting his sword on his shoulder while Hazel inspected the cage. "First you fly off with some bird, and now you're playing in some cage...idiot!"
"Luffy, what the hell happened?!" He didn't answer her, distracted by the circus muttering about the "Pirate Hunter".
"The crewmate he was talking about…" the orange-haired girl muttered in disbelief. "That was Zoro the Pirate Hunter? What's going on here?"
"And you are?" Hazel asked, interrupting her thoughts. The girl let out a small squeak, but was saved from answering by another's voice.
"So you're Roronoa Zoro, eh?" The man said, sizing up her crewmate. Hazel suddenly understood the whole circus theme; this had to be Buggy the Clown. He was dressed in an orange captain's coat, with a red and white striped shirt underneath. But what really garnered attention were his large red nose, and face paint under his bright blue hair and orange captain's hat. "You must have come to capture me!"
"I gave up pirate hunting. I have no interest in you."
"Well, I am interested in you," Buggy said as he twirled a knife between his fingers. "Killing you will be a nice feather in my cap."
"Back off before I pluck all your feathers."
"Is now really the time for banter?" Hazel called casually, still not finding a way to free Luffy from his cage. "Jeez, Luff, what did you get yourself into this time?"
"A cage!" Hazel facepalmed.
"Get 'im, Cap'n Buggy! Cut 'im to pieces!"
"Give me all you've got, Pirate Hunter, 'cause I'm about to get a look at your blood!" Buggy yelled, gearing up to slash at Zoro.
"You asked for it!" The swordsman drew all three swords, placing the white one between his teeth; but when he slashed at the clown, the man split apart like you'd expect, except…
"Hey! That was too easy!" Luffy yelled.
"No way…" the mystery woman whispered. Buggy's men just began to chuckle, and Hazel got the distinct feeling they were about to become the butt of some joke they weren't in on. Buggy's sliced body fell to the floor, but his men just continued to laugh amongst themselves.
"Hmph!" Zoro huffed. "That was almost disappointing…"
"Hey, Zoro!" Luffy called. "Help get me outta here!"
"I dunno if he'll be able to help, Luff…"
"She's right, we can't open this without a key. The bars are too thick for me to cut through," Zoro explained. Hazel stood up to look around for a key as the circus began laughing in full. "Very funny," Zoro started, focusing on the laughing men. "Now hand over the keys to this cage before I get cranky."
"Those guys are kinda creepy." Hazel was about to nod, when she caught movement from the corner of her eye.
"Zoro! Watch out!"
She was too late, though, as one of Buggy's severed hands went flying into the swordsman's torso, holding a sharp dagger. The man fell to his knees, blood spurting from his mouth. He hadn't even been able to draw his sword in time to block it.
"What the-! That hand-!"
"What's going on…?!" Zoro ground out, the dagger leaving his body as he tried to stand up.
Hazel made to run over to him, but he sent her a look that said to stay away. Fair enough, she didn't have a weapon to counter; but she readied herself anyway, just in case. "Watch out for the floating hand!" She called, not actually being as sarcastic as she sounded. Zoro just clutched his side, eyes wide as he tried to figure out what was going on.
"The Chop-Chop fruit…" Came a familiar voice, and looking behind Zoro, Hazel saw what should be a rather gruesome sight. Severed parts floating in the air, Buggy the Clown was talking and moving as if Zoro's swords had never touched him. "That's the devil fruit I ate!" He yelled as his pieces formed back together. "You can slice and dice me, but you can't kill me! I'm a chop-chop man!"
"His body is back together again!" The other woman yelled. "I thought the stories about devil fruits were just a myth!"
"Chop-chop man?" Luffy said. "That guy's a freak!"
"You're not one to talk, rubber-man!" Hazel shouted behind her.
"Roronoa Zoro! You never had a chance!" Buggy continued his banter, ignoring the shock of his enemies. "Looks like I missed your vitals...but you still took a serious wound!" Shouts from the circus began to ring out.
"Captain Buggy! You're the greatest!"
"Finish him! Finish him!"
"STABBING SOMEONE IN THE BACK...THAT'S FIGHTING DIRTY! YOU GOT THAT, BIG NOSE?!"
The entire circus froze, faces frozen in fear. The orange-haired girl even turned back, fear apparent on her face as she whispered, "You idiot! That's the one thing you never-!"
"YOU DARE CALL ME BIG NOSE?!" Buggy yelled, falling apart where he'd been sliced earlier. His arm went flying, still clutching the dagger that stabbed Zoro, straight into Luffy's cage. Hazel had been too far away to stop it, and her heart nearly stopped as she heard Zoro yell his name.
"L-Luffy?!" But when the rubber-man looked up, he held the dagger between his grinning teeth.
"I swear...I'm gonna kick your ass!" Hazel let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding, and carefully made her way over to Zoro to help stand him up.
"Heheh, kick my ass?" Buggy taunted, before bursting into a fit of laughter. "HAHAHA! Kick my ass?! Don't make me laugh! You four are about to die flashily!" He continued laughing as Hazel leaned Zoro against her shoulder, buckling against his weight for a second before steadying him on his feet.
"You're a lot heavier than Luffy…" She muttered, giving a small smile at the weak glare he sent her.
"HAHAHA!" Luffy laughed back at the clown. "No way! I'm not gonna die!"
"And just how do you intend to beat me now? Ain't that a laugh boys?!" He and his circus continued their loud laughter.
"ZORO! HAZEL! RUN!" Luffy yelled suddenly. The two just looked at him, confused.
"What?! I'm not going anywhere! We're trying to save you! They'll kill you the moment we go!" The woman yelled in shock.
Hazel was about to agree with her, until she noticed the grin on Luffy's face. Tilting her head in his direction as subtly as she could, Hazel smiled when she saw understanding cross Zoro's face. "Oh...gotcha…" He grinned, and the two took off running towards the cannon, holding off Buggy's wayward hand with Zoro's swords. A couple times, Hazel managed to punch the hand away before it reached him, her small fist managing to avoid the sharp dagger so long as she aimed right.
"Roronoa Zoro! You won't get away that easily! Chop Chop Cannon!" Suddenly both arms came at once, each brandishing weapons, but Hazel kicked them both away while Zoro held them off, giving her a perfect opening.
"Ahahaha! Zoro and his woman are running away!" Hazel grit her teeth at the phrase.
"They won't escape Captain Buggy!"
They finally reached the cannon, Zoro getting underneath it to push from one side, while Hazel pushed from the other. With combined strength, they were able to flip the cannon completely, even with Zoro's injury. Seeing the cannon pointed their way, the Pirate Circus began to flip out.
"Ahh! The big cannon's pointed at us!"
"YEAH! And it's loaded with one of my Buggy Balls!" Buggy yelled, eyes wide with fear.
"Yeah!" Luffy yelled from inside his cage.
"Light this thing!" Zoro yelled to the other woman, who after startling for a moment, quickly got to fulfilling his request.
The rooftop burst in a shower of rubble as the cannon went off, cutting off the yells of the circus, but leaving the other four intact.
"Now's our chance!" Zoro said, still clutching his side. "Who're you, anyway?"
"I'm...a thief…" The orange-haired girl seemed reluctant to share.
"Actually!" Luffy started. "She's our new navigator!" Apparently, Miss Thief didn't agree.
"What are you talking about?! Are you crazy?!" She yelled. "And shouldn't you be trying to get out of that cage?"
"She has a point, Luff…" Hazel spoke up. "We also may wanna get away from here before discussing new additions to the crew."
"Oh yeah, maybe you're right…"
"I'm not a 'new addition'!"
"No problem," Zoro grinned, not minding the blood falling from his mouth. "You just stay in the cage." Hazel raised an eyebrow.
"I suppose sans key there's not much else he can do…"
"You're not going anywhere!" Came suddenly from the cloud of dust behind them. Buggy stood wiping his face, scuffed from the explosion but otherwise intact.
"Zoro, don't do this! Your guts'll squirt out!" Luffy warned. Zoro grunted, wrapping his bicep around the bars of the cage.
"Then I'll just shove 'em back in!"
"How can you do this?!" Miss Thief shouted in concern.
"I do things my own way!" Zoro finished lifting the cage onto his shoulder, the wound in his side gushing more blood as he did so. "So don't give me any lip about it!"
Hazel just shook her head, grabbing the two not currently in a cage by the sleeves and urging them to run while they still could. They ran down a few rooftops, settling between two gables as they heard the circus continuing to chase after them. Zoro finally dropped the cage, clutching his side as he sat down.
"Damn it!" Luffy yelled. "If only I could get out of this cage!"
"We're in a...fine mess…" Zoro panted, worn out from the run and his injury. "Now we gotta finish what we started."
"Here, lemme look at that," Hazel said, gesturing to his side. She held a roll of bandages in her hands, having had the foresight to bring them along this time. It wouldn't be perfect, she was no doctor after all, but she could at least help stem some of the bleeding.
After a moment's contemplation, Zoro maneuvered so she could have a better angle, raising his shirt and lowering his haramaki just enough for her to see the wound. She began wrapping the bandages around him as best she could, trying not to go too tight, but it was a tad awkward with the position they were in. Zoro wasn't being much help either; in fact, he seemed to be thoroughly ignoring her as she worked. When she finished she sat back a bit, admiring her work before declaring, "All done! Now your guts aren't in danger of falling out." He just grunted in thanks, and readjusted his clothing, settling back against the roof for a moment. "We need to get off this roof and get somewhere safe!" She said, wishing she could give Zoro more time to rest; but if they stayed here, they were asking for trouble, and they needed to find a way to free Luffy.
Zoro nodded, taking a deep breath to steady himself before raising the cage once again. "Think it'll hurt if I throw him?" He asked, eyeing the distance. Hazel shrugged, ignoring Luffy's whine at the prospect.
"He's been through worse…" She reasoned.
"Hey, guys! Don't throw me-!" BANG Luffy's cage hit the ground, and sure enough, the rubber boy was perfectly intact, if a little shaken. "Woah! I bounced all around this thing!" The other two climbed down, rather slowly on Zoro's part, and when they reached the ground Hazel picked up the other end of the cage, ignoring his protests.
"Oi! I got it!"
"Look," she started, sticking her hand on her hip. "I may have patched you up, but you're in no position to be lifting this much weight on your own! I'm helping, get over it! Now, let's move out men!" Zoro just shook his head at the bossy woman, picking up the front end of the cage and leading their group down the street.
"We should be far enough away from that tavern," Zoro said after they'd been walking for a short time. "They probably won't catch up to us too soon...We got away...for now…" He was beginning to pant again, losing his breath. Hazel furrowed her brows as she stared at his wound, hoping the bandages would hold up. "What are we gonna do about this cage?"
"I can't do anything stuck inside this thing!" Luffy yelled between trying to gnaw through the bars.
"If only we had found that damn key…" Hazel growled. Suddenly, Zoro collapsed, causing Hazel to lurch when his side of the cage fell.
"Zoro!" She set Luffy down, running over to inspect the swordsman.
"It's no use...lost too much blood…" Sure enough, when Hazel checked the bandages she could see them already unraveling, red pooling underneath. "Got to...rest…"
"Hey, uh-uh, wake up, Tiger!" She urged, shaking him slightly. He groaned at the movement, but opened his eyes, only to be met with a white, furry face.
"Huh?! What's with you, dog?" Zoro yelled, feeling much more awake now and sitting up.
"Dog?" Luffy asked. "Hey, a dog!"
"...puppy…" Hazel said quietly, resisting the urge to scratch its ears.
They had stopped outside a pet food store, and the dog was at a standstill outside the doors. Luffy continued to stare at the dog, but it remained unmoving. "Is it real? It's not moving…"
"Who cares…" Zoro grumbled, situating himself against a column. "It's his business whether he moves or not. Our business is to get you out of there." Hazel sat down beside him, taking the opportunity to rest her muscles. Who would've ever thought that iron cages would be so heavy?
"Maybe it's dead," Luffy said, poking the poor dog in both eyes. It was like flipping a switch, and instantly the dog chomped onto Luffy's face. "YOW! Dumb dog!" He bat it away, but the dog only latched onto his rubber hand. "Lemme go! Lemme go!"
"Luffy, stop playing around!"
"There, there, Mr. Puppy, he's just an idiot, please let him go!" Hazel tried soothing, rubbing the top of his head gently until he was pacified enough to let Luffy go. Both men fell to their backs, muttering about their respective problems, and Hazel just sat back scritching the dog's ears, his tail wagging despite the angry look still on his face.
"Look at you three," Came suddenly from ahead of them. Looking up, they saw Miss Thief standing there, looking at them pityingly. "I don't mean to criticize, but is the middle of the street really the best hiding place you could come up with?"
"Hey, it's our navigator!" The three yelled, causing the orange-haired girl to shout.
"I never agreed to that!" She took a breath. "I just wanted to thank you for saving me…"
"Thank us?" She threw something to the ground. "The key! You stole the key to the cage!" Miss Thief just huffed.
"Yeah sure, I got the stupid key, but I left the map and all the treasure." She seemed to be pouting.
"This is great! I never thought I'd get out of here!"
"Then the rescue...was a success after all…"
"If it's any consolation, Miss Thief, now that we can free Luffy, we could always make an effort to help you with said treasure…" The girl's eyes sparkled at that, and Hazel couldn't help but laugh. That is, until the dog decided the key looked like a nice, tasty treat.
"COUGH IT UP!" Luffy shouted, choking and shaking the poor animal. "THAT'S NOT FOOD! GIMME THAT KEY!"
"Luffy! Choking him won't help!"
"Dern whippersnappers! Don't you pick on poor ol' Chouchou!" The group looked up to see an old man yelling at them from a little ways down the street. He was short-statured, with a gray mullet and glasses, and wearing a ramshackle, brown suit of armor with a spear.
"Chouchou?" Luffy asked from between the dog's teeth.
"Who're you, old timer?" Zoro asked.
"Who am I? I'm the mayor of this town, that's who!"
"The mayor?" Hazel questioned. "So there are still people in town?"
The old man was about to answer, but just then Zoro fell over, passed out completely this time. "Injured, eh? Ahh, here...pick him up and follow me!" He said, and Hazel did as she was told. Kneeling so she could pull him onto her back, she found herself struggling to stand back up; this guy was much heavier than Luffy. Gritting her teeth and groaning through the effort, she finally managed to stand up fully, though wobbled and nearly fell back over before righting herself. Luckily, the mayor didn't lead her very far; just into a house about a street over. Hazel quickly deposited the man on the bed, immediately stretching out her back muscles after doing so with a pop. Once she'd been up, it hadn't been so bad; but she was still glad to be rid of the extra weight for now.
The mayor insisted on bandaging Zoro's wound, and as he seemed more experienced with it, she let him, choosing to wait in the living room while he worked. The room was decently furnished, though beginning to accumulate dust after being unused for what she assumed was a while. Plates were still situated at the dining table, indicating the mayor had left in a hurry. Things were beginning to click into place.
"Alright, that's the best I can do fer now!" The mayor said, entering back into the room. "He woke up fer a minute, there, but he insisted on just sleeping it off."
"Do you mind if I wait for him here, then? I don't trust him to not immediately overdo it after he wakes up…" Hazel deadpanned, already used to that behavior thanks to a certain rubber brother of hers. Come to think of it, Ace had been kinda like that too when they were kids…
"That's probably a good idea. The kid needs a doctor, but I won't force it on him." Hazel nodded along. The mayor left after that, and Hazel settled into one of the dining chairs. She couldn't see Luffy or Miss Thief from here, but she could see the back of the pet food store, and she figured if anything happened, she'd at least be able to hear Luffy.
She'd nearly started dozing in her chair when she heard it - a loud roar. "What the hell…?" She muttered, trying to get a better look out the window. She still couldn't see, but all she kept hearing was the weird roaring. "Well...I don't hear any screams yet…" But still she bit her lip in worry. That was her baby brother out there, stuck in a cage and unable to fight since Chouchou swallowed the key, but she didn't know anything about the situation! As much as she may enjoy kicking ass, she didn't wanna run in there half-cocked. She heard another roar, and what sounded like loud crunching.
Hazel grabbed the doorknob, ready to run outside when she finally heard "Hooray! I'm free!"
"Oh, thank goodness…" She'd spoken too soon, however, as suddenly one of the houses across the street caved in the middle, and spat Luffy out onto the street outside her window.
"Wow! What an impact!" The boy yelled, sounding more impressed than hurt. "He knocked me through that house and into the next street! But at least I'm out of that cage!"
"Luffy! Are you alright?!" Hazel yelled through the open door.
"Oh! Hazel! There you are! I'm ok, and now I'm gonna show all of these clowns…" He grinned, raising his fist. "And make that thief, Nami, our navigator!"
"Need any help?" Hazel asked, his grin infectious.
"Nah! You stay here and wait for Zoro! This won't take me long!"
"Ahhh!" Came a scream, drawing the siblings' attention. "You're still alive?!" The mayor shouted.
"How the hell did you manage to survive?!" Miss Thief - Nami, had Luffy said? - screamed, eyes wide and accusatory.
"Why can't I be alive?" He asked, not seeing the issue.
"You smashed through a house, but you seem to be perfectly fine, which is too weird!" Ahh, she didn't know.
"I don't care if it's weird…"
"What is your purpose here?" The mayor asked, halting the argument. "Why are you fighting those pirates?"
Luffy grinned his trademark grin, "I just chose my goal a moment ago! I'm getting the Grand Line map and a navigator!" Hazel leaned against the doorframe, sharing his enthusiasm. She only hoped said navigator warmed up to them...Zoro hadn't wanted to join either, after all, but look at him now!
"Hey, Hazel!" Luffy said suddenly, causing her smile to drop in question. "That fur cap guy seems to be looking for Zoro! Keep an eye out!"
"You got it!" She nodded, giving him a thumbs up despite not knowing who "Fur Cap Guy" was.
"Where are you going, you idiot?! You're gonna get eaten by the lion!"
"Excuse me, lion?" Hazel asked, eyes widening. Was that the roaring she'd heard?
Conversation halted when they heard something...strange. It was like a low roar, different from the apparent "lion" from before, with some faint crackling. Hazel thought she could smell smoke, and looking up at the sky, her eyes widened further.
"Fire!" Hazel yelled, drawing everyone's attention to the pet food shop. It had been engulfed in flames, quickly spreading to the nearly collapsed house Luffy had shot through. They could hear faint barking from the other side, and so the three ran to check, leaving Hazel behind to continue babysitting.
The flames quickly died down, thankfully, and she could still hear some of the barking and some shouting, though she didn't know what was said. She kept watching the smoke rise from the remains, almost as if she were waiting for it to put itself back together; but when miraculously nothing happened, she sighed, and turned back inside the mayor's house.
She'd been sitting on the edge of the bed when the explosion happened. She'd heard it break through the roof, and in the split second that followed, ripped Zoro from the bed and out of the cannon's direct reach. The movement had woken him up, and as the building's debris fell around them they both did their best to shield each other. They were lucky; both had managed to avoid major injury from the blast.
"Hey! Zoro! Hazel! Are you alive?!" Came Luffy's desperate cry. Hazel groaned from under Zoro's torso, holding her head as she shook herself clear from the blast. She was physically unhurt, but it had disoriented her a bit. Zoro similarly was holding his head, rubbing his eyes clear of both dust and sleep.
"Man, that's one hell of an alarm clock!" Hazel let out a short bark of laughter.
"That's one way to put it…" She joked, shakily.
"You're alive!" As the dust cleared, Hazel could see the relief plain on her brother's face, and felt similar feelings for herself.
"How could anyone live through that?" Nami asked.
"To be fair," Hazel started, voice stronger now the adrenaline was wearing off. "I'm pretty sure he took the brunt of it." She indicated towards Zoro. "How's your head?"
"It's fine…" He grumbled, still rubbing at it.
"That tears it!"
"I can't take anymore! I won't lose a second town to those sea rats! These pirates show up, think they can do as they please, but I won't let 'em wreck 40 years of hard work! I'm the mayor! I won't take this sitting down! It's time to fight!" The mayor quickly stood up, immediately beginning to walk towards where they'd last seen the pirate circus, but Nami reached out her hand and grabbed him.
"Mayor wait, please!"
"Let me go, Girlie!"
"Getting yourself killed won't accomplish anything! You're being reckless!"
Suddenly, the mayor whirled on the girl, surprising her. He had tears gushing from his eyes, a desperate look upon his face, "I know I'm being reckless!" He turned back around. "Buggy the Clown! Prepare to face the mayor!" And he took off full speed towards the town.
"The mayor...he was crying…" Nami muttered.
"It didn't look that way to me!" Luffy grinned.
"Things are finally gonna get fun!" Zoro chimed in, finally feeling better after the explosion.
"Hahaha! Yeah!" Hazel just shook her head, smile on her face.
"This is no laughing matter!" Nami scolded, turning her gaze on all three of them.
"Don't worry, I like that old man!" Luffy tried to reassure her. "I won't let him get killed!"
Nami still had her doubts, however. "How can you just stand there laughing?! What do you get out of this, anyway?!"
"We're headed for the Grand Line!" Luffy said, getting serious. "We'll steal that map back, and then we can go there together! Join up with us!" He said, holding his hand out for the girl. "You want the map and all that treasure, right?" Nami just stared at him, and his hand, for a moment.
"I won't become a pirate!" She slapped his hand away, though not altogether unkindly. "Let's just say we'll join forces...work together for a common goal!" Hazel raised an eyebrow, feeling unsure. Something about this girl seemed...off to her, but she couldn't put her finger on what. She only hoped this "partnership" wouldn't turn out to bite them in the ass later.
"Well then, let's get going!" Hazel stood up, putting the issue on the back-burner in her mind for now.
"You're coming too?!" Nami shrieked when Zoro stood as well. "What about your injuries?!"
"They got better." He said simply, reaching for the bandana wrapped around his bicep.
"I'm more worried about my reputation than my guts right now. I've got a score to settle!" He finished tying the bandana around his head and grinned. "Let's do it." Hazel found her grin growing as she cracked her knuckles.
"I can't wait!" Luffy yelled, doing the same.
"You three are crazy!" Nami barked, but she followed behind them all the same.
The scene the group came upon was not pretty. Buggy appeared to have the mayor by the throat in a vice grip, dangling him in the air as he shouted through the pain.
"I WON'T LET YOU WRECK THIS TOWN! COME DOWN AND FIGHT ME!"
That was the only cue Luffy needed, and so he ran forward and pried Buggy's severed hand off the mayor's throat, setting the man to the ground as gently as Luffy was capable of.
"The kid in the straw hat?!" Buggy yelled from his perch on the rooftop.
"I'm back!" Luffy called, taunting grin on his face. "Told you I'd kick your ass!"
"I don't believe it! You all must enjoy pain...but this time, you won't escape me!"
"Have fun fighting, you three…" Nami called. "I'm just here for the map and the treasure!"
"Whatever…" Zoro growled, but Hazel squinted at the woman.
"I think I'll leave the fighting here to these boys," She said, not completely telling the truth. She'd been itching for a fight, but this was more important. "I'll accompany you, Nami. Just to make sure you don't run into any trouble…" She smiled at the younger girl.
"O-of course! A bodyguard could be a good asset in this case!" In truth, Hazel wasn't sure she trusted Nami yet. She knew the boys both did, that much was obvious, but she couldn't be sure Nami wouldn't decide to make off with both the map and the treasure while the rest of them were distracted. That wouldn't make for a very fair "partnership"...
And in the event Nami was trustworthy, then it couldn't hurt to offer her some extra protection. Hazel figured the girl could take care of herself, she was stealing from pirates after all, but there was safety in numbers.
"You young whippersnappers…" Came the mayor's voice, gasping a wheezing from Buggy choking him. "You're outsiders...not your fight…It's my town and I'll protect it!" He suddenly shouted, catching his breath. "So don't you interfere!"
That's when Luffy slammed his head against a wall.
"Mayor?!" Nami shouted.
"Oof...a little hard there, wasn't it, Luff?" Hazel grimaced, watching as the old man fell to the ground unconscious.
"Argh! You-! Whose side are you on?! Why'd you do that to the mayor?!" Nami seethed, turning her glare to both Luffy, who'd done the deed, and Hazel, who was nonchalantly turning the man over with her foot so he lay on his back. Luffy turned and grinned at the girl.
"He was in the way!"
"Good thinking," Zoro commented, wholly unconcerned with his captain's actions. "He would've gotten himself killed; he'll be safer unconscious."
"YOU'RE TOO RECKLESS!" Nami screamed at the pirates, but they paid her no mind. Hazel was already pretty used to her yelling. Luffy turned back to the clown, ignoring Nami once again to face his opponent.
"HEY YOU! BIG NOSE!" Everyone in the vicinity was a collection of gasps and grimaces, and Hazel felt herself scrunching her face as she groaned.
"KILL HIM FLASHILY!" Buggy shouted from the rooftop. "GIVE HIM THE BUGGY BALL!"
The cannon was already loaded, shooting the explosive cannonball right at the rubber-man. Luffy continued to stand there, grinning menacingly at the clown he'd just insulted.
"You idiot! Don't you know when to shut up?!"
"Luffy! Get out of the way! You're gonna get hit!"
"Dammit Luffy! Stop being dramatic and do something!" His grin just widened.
"That measly cannonball's not gonna work on me!" He took a deep breath. "Gum Gum...Balloon!" Suddenly, he puffed up like a balloon, taking the cannonball directly in the stomach, but not taking any damage from it. The pirates on the roof were freaking out, while Hazel just huffed behind him, annoyed.
"I really wish you'd stop waiting until the last minute for these things…"
Luffy just ignored her as he bounced the cannonball back to the roof, much to the further surprise of the Buggy Pirates.
"You could've at least told us what you were planning…" Zoro grumbled, hiding his face in his hand. "Made me worry for nothing…"
"You'd think I'd be used to it by now…" Hazel grumbled next to him, pouting at her brother's smiling face.
"That evens the odds a bit! Let's get 'em!"
"What are you?!" Nami shouted from where she knelt on the ground. Before anyone could answer her, the building crashed to the ground in a pile of rubble, crushing the bodies of the pirates under its once-sturdy beams. The four stared at the wreckage for a moment before Nami continued, drawing their attention once again. "Wow, I thought there was something strange about you...I mean, you did pile drive a lion! What kind of human being could do that? How can you inflate yourself like a balloon?!" She demanded.
Luffy smiled, speaking as if it was the simplest thing in the world. Maybe to him it was. "That was the Gum Gum...Balloon!"
"BUT HOW DO YOU DO IT?!"
That's when they heard the cracking of the debris in front of them. Turning towards the noise, the group were surprised to find some of the pirate circus standing back up. "You've got some nerve…" Buggy said menacingly from behind the bodies of his fallen crew.
"He's using his men as shields…" Nami gasped. Hazel glared in his direction. How low do you have to be to use your own men as human shields?
"Cap'n, this is the worst disgrace we've suffered since you formed our crew…" An odd looking man with a weird side-shave said from behind a large - green?! - lion. Though, Hazel supposed they were all rather odd looking…
"I'm so mad, I can't even speak…" Buggy said, looking down at the body below his foot. Glancing behind the two, Hazel saw another man standing up. He was even weirder looking than the other two, with fur-like hair all over his head, and was that his shirt or more hair?
"Where am I? What the hell happened?!" The man asked, winded from the fall.
"Mohji, you're still alive?"
"Cabaji! What are you doing to Richie?!" The furry man, Mohji, yelled.
"The kitty?" Side-Shave asked, unconcerned by his crewmate's glare. "I was using him as a shield. Didn't wanna soil my raiment." He dropped the lion to the ground, and Mohji ran to check if he was ok. He turned to yell at the other man, but he stopped when his eyes caught sight of Luffy and the others.
"It's the kid in the straw hat!" He gasped. "Cap'n Buggy! Watch out for him! He's got special powers from eating the devil fruit - just like you! He's a rubber-man!"
"Rubber-man?!" Nami gasped, turning to Luffy. He and Hazel each stretched one of his cheeks out.
"Yep, see?" They said in unison.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?!" Buggy yelled suddenly, tossing his furry crewmember and drawing their attention away from Luffy's stretchy face.
"I tried to!" Mohji yelled as he soared through the air towards Luffy. "Outta my way!"
"Outta my way, fuzzy!" Luffy reared his foot back, landing a kick to Mohji's cheek and sending him far behind them. Nami had to jump out of the way, nearly knocking into Hazel as she did so. "The battle begins!"
"Buggy's second mate, Cabaji the Acrobat!" Side-Shave came racing towards them on a unicycle, sword drawn at his side. "I'll cut 'em to mincemeat, Cap'n!" He was stopped from impaling Luffy by Zoro jumping in the way, blocking the attack with his own weapon.
"If it's a sword duel you want, I'm your man!"
"Roronoa Zoro, as one swordsman to another, it will be an honor to cut you down."
"Hey, Zoro…" Hazel started, glancing at his wound. She didn't want to say anything out loud and draw attention to it, but she doubted he was up to a real fight right now. They'd used the last of the bandages she'd brought at the mayor's house too, so if he got worse right now, things could get dicey.
"Zoro, maybe you should rest." Luffy said, having noticed too. "Let me handle him." But Cabaji was moving before Zoro could acknowledge either of them.
"'The Breath of Death'!" He yelled, blowing fire in Zoro's face. As the swordsman backed up from the attack, his opponent's foot came crashing into him, connecting perfectly with his wound.
"Dammit!" Hazel yelled as Zoro screamed, falling to his back in agony. Blood pooled behind the bandages, and Hazel grit her teeth.
"Hmm...I didn't think I kicked you that hard…"
"That's dirty! You're aiming for his injuries!" Nami scolded, though it fell on deaf ears.
"I call my next circus trick…'Murder at the Steam Bath'!" Cabaji yelled, kicking up dust with his sword.
"What kind of circus trick is that?!" Zoro huffed from the ground. "You're just kicking up dust!" He stopped talking to cross his swords, blocking the other swordsman's attack just in time. Unfortunately, this left his side wide open.
Zoro shouted again as he fell back a ways from his opponent, holding his wound, blood pooling around his fingers through the bandages. Hazel watched in horror as he slumped to the ground, fighting every urge to jump in and pummel the guy. Zoro would hate her if she interfered, she already knew that even if they hadn't known each other long...maybe she could steal the guy's unicycle out from under him?
"He did it again!" Nami yelled from beside her. Hazel just continued to stare wide-eyed at the scene, biting her cheek to keep herself focused.
"What kind of man screams like a woman?" Cabaji taunted their swordsman.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" Hazel yelled, unable to help it. Damn sexist pirates…
"Your matey's odd talents caused us quite a bit of trouble." Cabaji continued, ignoring her, and standing up on his unicycle. Now Hazel was really itching to knock it over. "So you're the big, scary 'Pirate Hunter'. Well, this'll teach you to mess with Cap'n Buggy's crew." Zoro just continued to huff on the ground, struggling to pull himself back up.
"Zoro's hurt bad! How's he supposed to fight?!" Nami complained, turning to Luffy. "How can you just stand there and watch your friend get killed?!" But Luffy just stood there, appearing calm as a rock. Seeing she was getting nowhere with him, Nami turned to his sister. "What about you?! One of you has to do something!"
"Nami, please…" was all Hazel could get out before the opposing swordsman interrupted.
"Roronoa Zoro!" Cabaji yelled, readying to attack. "Prepare to be well done!"
Zoro stood up quick and sudden, knocking the other man right off of his unicycle. Hazel let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. These kids were gonna give her gray hair before her next birthday...
"How…?" Nami gasped.
"Yeah!" Luffy cheered.
"Just know I've been wanting to do that for a while now!" Hazel called out to the grass-headed man, though he didn't acknowledge her. Fair enough.
"You're a very annoying person…" Zoro said to the acrobat. "I hope you enjoyed kicking my wound." Then, he struck at his own wound, slicing through the bandages and causing blood to spill out over his side.
Everyone grimaced, except Hazel, who shook her fist at the man and yelled, "WE DON'T HAVE UNLIMITED BANDAGES YOU FUCKING IDIOT!"
"Hooooph!" Zoro let out a breath, barely seeming affected otherwise. "My goal is to be the World's Greatest Swordsman…"
"What are you talking about...?" Cabaji asked, bewildered.
"Is that enough of a handicap for ya?" Zoro continued, placing his white-hilted katana in his mouth. "Now I'll show you some real swordplay."
"Wow! Zoro's cool!" Luffy cheered, while Hazel continued to grumble about the man.
"Hmph, so Roronoa Zoro...you want to make a fool out of me?"
"I'm getting faint just watching this…" Nami complained while Luffy cheered. Hazel could only nod, checking for gray hairs in her periphery. None yet.
"I can't lose, not even once, to anyone who calls himself a swordsman!" Zoro said, determined. The other man smirked, holding his sword in front of him and readying for the fight.
"So you injured yourself as insurance for your reputation...well, don't worry, your wounds are severe. They'll make an excellent excuse when you lose."
"It's the other way around!" Zoro yelled, his other two swords at his sides, facing away from him towards the ground. "If I lose to the likes of you when my wounds are only this light, then I may as well give up my dream right now."
"You scurvy dog!"
"Hey!" Nami spoke up suddenly, drawing Luffy and Hazel's attention. "That shack behind the ruins of the tavern…" the orange-haired girl pointed behind them. "That's where they keep their treasure, and Buggy's probably got the map of the Grand Line. I'll get their treasure and make my escape. I've got to do it now, while they're all knocked out…" Hazel raised an eyebrow. Did she forget she agreed to let Hazel come with? "Whether you guys win or lose this battle...I don't really care!" Yup, she must've.
"Hold on a minu-"
"But if you do get that map from Buggy…" Nami continued, ignoring Hazel's scowl. "Then- and only then- will I consider teaming up with you again. Good luck, you guys!" She grinned, running off down an alley.
"Wow, thanks!" Luffy said happily.
"Hey, Nami, wait! I'm supposed to go with you!" Hazel yelled, chasing off after the girl. She managed to keep pace with her, and didn't miss the small pout on the younger girl's face. "I realize you're probably used to working alone, but this is still a partnership, Miss Thief!"
"O-of course! I just figured since Buggy's men were knocked out, you would rather wait with Luffy! That's all!" Nami tried to play it off, but Hazel wasn't convinced, and she let it show on her face.
"You never know what can happen. I'd rather help keep you, and any treasure, safe. Those boys, stupid as they can be, can handle whatever that clown throws at them."
Nami stopped suddenly to hide behind a building, and though confused, Hazel stopped beside her. They were still close to the battle, though being on this side Hazel could no longer hear what was being said. She could hear Luffy and Buggy's voices though, and assumed they'd begun their fight. Had Zoro won his?
Hazel nearly slapped herself at the silly thought. What was she thinking, of course that idiot won. He'd better have, for all the trouble he was gonna be in when she patched him up again later.
Suddenly, one of the buildings next to them shattered as Luffy was thrown into it. He popped his upper body out of the rubble easily, hands in the air and holding his straw hat. Hazel watched him stand fully, placing the hat back on his head. "Damn," he said. "How am I supposed to whack you when you keep flying into pieces?"
"What a fight…" Nami whispered. "It's like I'm seeing things…"
"I promise, you're not," Hazel assured her. "We'd better keep moving before these losers wake up." She thought she could already see some of them moving, but when no one stood up she assumed her eyes were playing tricks on her. Just as well, as Nami remained rooted to the spot, eyes transfixed on Luffy.
"Chop Chop Cannon!" They heard Buggy yell, sending his hand at Luffy. It was holding three knives between the fingers, aimed right at his face. Luffy caught the hand at the last second, but it was no use when Buggy yelled, "Separate!"
The palm detached from the wrist, the knives nicking the edge of Luffy's hat as he dodged. He crashed back into the rubble, pausing for a second to inspect the cut along the brim
"Damn you!" Luffy yelled, glaring daggers at the clown. Hazel couldn't hear his response, but she assumed it was taunting. "That does it! You nicked my hat!" Luffy shouted, rage clear on his face. Buggy didn't seem to realize the gravity of his crime. "THIS IS MY TREASURE! NOBODY DAMAGES THIS HAT!"
Hazel flinched at the emotion in her brother's voice. He'd always been so protective over that hat, ever since he was given it 10 years ago…
"It's that important to you, eh?" Buggy asked, louder this time.
Nami's hands covered Hazel's mouth in time to muffle her shout, having noticed the same thing she did but not wanting to give away their position. Buggy's hand, previously forgotten, was now rising above the rubble, flying with its knives straight at Luffy. He noticed as well, luckily, and got out of the way in time. But, his hat…
Hazel quickly covered her mouth to suppress her gasp; Luffy's straw hat sailed through the air, impaled by all three of Buggy's knives. The hand holding them sailed back to its master, and if it weren't for Nami holding her back, Hazel would've been running right after Luffy towards the damned clown.
"I promised to return that hat to Shanks!" Luffy yelled, voice cutting straight into her. Buggy said something in return, but he was back to his previous volume, and Hazel couldn't hear anything but the sounds of the fighting continued. That is, until Luffy shouted once again, "Don't put yourself on the same level as him!" Hazel took the opportunity to glance around the corner of the building, happy to see Luffy absolutely wailing on the man.
"Oh no! We got caught up watching the fight!" Nami said suddenly, drawing Hazel's attention back to her. "I have to steal the treasure and make my escape!"
"Uhh we have to steal the treasure and make our escape! Heh…"
"That's what I thought you said," Hazel said kindly, causing Nami to flinch.
"Here we are!" Nami whispered as she led the way into the cellar. The women had run down another side alley, to a dilapidated house with a boarded cellar door. Hazel stood back, letting the orange-haired girl enter first. The room was occupied, but only by one guard, and he seemed to be passed out drunk. Nothing to be too alarmed about. Nami made her way over to the door at the back of the room, readying her bo staff to break the lock. Hazel was just about to follow, when suddenly she felt a weight on her shoulders.
Whipping around with a gasp, the weight left her shoulders, only to settle across from her in the street. She supposed it looked like a man, underneath the heavy face paint, and he was dressed head to toe in skintight spandex; a kaleidoscope of primary colors colliding in crazy shapes and patterns as they converged into tinkling little bells.
In short: he was an eyesore of a jester. And he was laughing at her.
The jester stood balanced on one jingling toe, posing for her, and giggling a bell-like laugh to match those on his clothes. Hazel braced herself, steadying her breathing, and chanced a glance behind her into the cellar. Nami was nowhere to be seen, and she assumed the girl was past the locked door by now and gathering the treasure. Good; Hazel could handle this better if she didn't have to worry about collateral damage.
"Who the hell are you, Jingly?!" She demanded, fists poised in front of her face. The jester only laughed louder.
"Why, Chester is my name,
You funny little girl,
Prepare for this jester,
To throw you for a whirl!"
Great, he rhymes! Hazel thought, as Chester the Jester launched himself at her. He was fast, very fast, and Hazel could barely keep her eyes on him to block his attack. All she could make out was a blur of color hurtling towards her, but right as she was about to strike out and hit it, the blur changed direction, practically disappearing before her eyes. If it weren't for the tiny tinkling of the bells, Hazel never would've known to look behind her.
She struck out with her right leg, nearly making contact; but the damn jester jumped over her attack, perching casually atop her leg as if it were the top of a wall. She jerked, surprised, and tried to shake him off. Chester landed easily, and jabbed at her with pointed fingers, taking advantage of her confusion.
His hit landed on her left pectoral muscle, instantly shooting pain through Hazel's entire arm. She let out a short scream, stumbling back as she held her shoulder with her other arm. She could barely feel her left arm; it was just a dangling, tingling, mass.
"What the hell was that?! What'd you do to my arm?!" The jester only giggled in that annoying way of his.
"To ask an opponent about his techniques...
'Tis indeed quite admirable.
Unfortunately for you, Girlie,
It's also quite unanswerable!"
He launched again, but this time Hazel was more prepared. She kept her ears focused, trying to follow the tinkling of his clothing as he raced around her. If she tried to follow with her eyes, she'd fall for his game; he was trying to confuse her.
"Tch, if I could just land a hit on him…" She muttered under her breath, and the jester cackled in her ear. She stumbled back in fright, nearly tripping over her own feet, and Chester took his opportunity to jab her again, this time hitting beneath her right shoulder blade. "Fuck-!" Hazel gasped as her breath flew out of her. It felt as though she'd been stabbed in the lung, but she knew he'd only used his fingers. Before she could regain her breath, the rhyming fiend landed two more hits along her elbow and her wrist, immobilizing her right hand completely.
"Poor little blossom,
Say it ain't so!
I'm afraid, little blossom,
It's time for you to go!"
This time when Chester lunged, he aimed for her throat. Hazel's eyes widened and she ran to avoid it, ducking down a nearby alley away from the dank cellar. Her arms may feel useless right now, but he'd neglected to take out her legs. If she could just get a moment to catch her bearings, she could probably hit him easily! She just needed time to think!
"No no no, my dear,
No running away!
If you leave now,
We won't get to play!"
"Argh! I'm sick of 'playing'!" She shouted, turning on her heel to face him. He gave her a toothy grin beneath the one painted on his face as he lunged towards her once again. But this time, she was ready for him, and when she heard the bells veer next to her, she leapt. Her foot landed on his shoulder, much as he'd done to her earlier, and using his momentum against him, Hazel pushed the jester into the ground. Her own landing was a bit shaky, her arms still hurt too much for her to use them properly, but she'd hit him…"And your rhymes suck!"
Chester the Jester pushed himself up, no longer grinning as he wiped blood from his nose. He glared at her from beneath his pointed, jingling hat; Hazel could practically feel the daggers his eyes were shooting through her. "Heh…" He laughed, spitting blood onto the ground next to him. "You're gonna have to do better than that, Girlie."
All at once his demeanor changed, seeming to better match his clown-like persona as he gasped and covered his mouth at what he'd said. His eyes widened, distraught, as he looked Hazel's way; tears even glistened in his blue eyes. Hazel just glared at him, frustrated that someone so pathetic had basically been kicking the shit out of her.
"HEY! IF YOU'RE GONNA RHYME, DO IT ALL THE TIME!" She seethed, before copying his stance. "Dammit! Now I'm doing it too!" Good thing no one else was here to witness this!
Chester just laughed again, ignoring the woman's frustration as he stood up fully. He seemed mostly unaffected by Hazel's earlier kick, at least from a glance. Hazel took a better look; sure enough, his whole body was shaking. It was taking all the man's willpower to stand up right now.
Now Hazel understood her opponent perfectly. He relied on his speed to land precise hits, immobilizing his opponent before they could strike back; but he himself was weak, and only able to take a couple hits from a strong enough fighter. Luckily, Hazel had been taught by one of the strongest fighters in the world.
If there's a God, don't tell Gramps I'm thanking him...
Hazel took a sudden running start at Chester, startling the cackling man. Good, time to put him on the defensive!
"Ha! Run all you like,
You can't match my speed!
If you run at me, little blossom,
Your loss is guaranteed-huh?!"
He'd been ready to meet her head on, palms at the ready and aimed for her abdomen; but right when he was about to touch her, she jumped, avoiding it. Hazel leapt over him, reaching out despite the pain still surging through her arms, and grabbed the jester by the face. The momentum she'd built up propelled her through the rest of her jump, but it also brought his head to the street below them with a sickening crack! Hazel fell to her feet, still holding the man's face. When he didn't move again, she finally pulled back her shaky limbs, trying to shake the feeling back into them.
Hazel sat for a moment, pain finally subsiding and feeling returning to her arms. "I swear, if I ever hear another rhyme, I'm committing a lot of crimes…" She jolted. "Fuck!"
"I win!" Came Luffy's shout as Hazel rejoined the group. Buggy was nowhere to be found, but Nami and Luffy stood near each other conversing, and from what Hazel could see, neither were hurt. Luffy's hat on the other hand…
With a heavy sigh, Hazel plopped on the ground next to Zoro, who miraculously was asleep. She kinda envied him; she was exhausted. Hazel sat rubbing her sore arms while Luffy and Nami continued their brief conversation, not in any rush to start moving again now the trouble was over.
"Oi! Hazel! There you are!" Luffy yelled, waving at her as he headed her way. She raised an arm in return.
"Hey, Luff. You kick his ass?" His answer was a wide grin and a nod, and Hazel smiled proudly at him. "Heh, good job."
"What about you? When I left the cellar, you were nowhere to be found! What happened?!" Nami asked, sounding genuinely concerned. Well, she hadn't taken the treasure and run, so that was a sign in the girl's favor.
"Creepy jester dude...nobody rhyme anytime soon!" Nami waited for more of an explanation, but that was all Hazel said, and all Luffy needed.
"Shishishi I bet you kicked his ass easily!" Hazel couldn't help the bashful smile that spread across her face.
"You always think so highly of me," She said, sheepishly, but Luffy had already moved on.
"Hey, Zoro! Wake up!" He nudged the sleeping swordsman. "Let's get going!"
"Hm?" Zoro hummed, sitting up and taking in his surroundings. "Did you take care of things?"
"Yeah, and I got the map and the treasure." Zoro tried to stand up, but faltered as he strained his wound.
"It's no good. I don't think I can walk."
"I can't carry you this time, sorry. That fucker really did a number on my muscles," Hazel pouted, causing Zoro to raise a brow in her direction.
"Who did you fight?" He grunted.
"Creepy rhyming jester guy with really jabby fingers." Zoro just looked confused. "Yeah, don't ask…Point is, I can't move my upper body real well right now. Some rest should fix me up!"
"Jeez, with the way you guys all fight, it's no wonder you can't move! If you could, I wouldn't believe any of you were human!" Nami scolded them, hands on her hips.
"You didn't even see me fight though!" Hazel complained.
"Hey! Don't lump me in with them!" Luffy whined.
"You're even less human than they are!"
"Oh yeah!" Luffy said suddenly, turning away from the irate woman. "I'd better wake the mayor!" Hazel had completely forgotten about him. Whoops…
Before Luffy could get near the mayor, a voice called from down the road. A group of people brandishing various weapons stood staring at them, but they didn't seem hostile. Yet.
"We're the citizens of this town." One said, near the front. "Did the pirates mutiny or something? C'mon, you, talk!"
"The townspeople?" Nami questioned, a plan formulating in her mind. "That's a relief! Thought you might be more pirates! We'll tell you what happened, but it's a long story…"
"Hey! It's the mayor!" Someone yelled, cutting her off. The group ran past the pirates, rushing to check on their leader. "Mayor! Are you hurt?"
"What happened here?"
"It was those lousy pirates!"
"No it wasn't…" Luffy said casually. "I knocked the old man out!" Hazel facepalmed as the townspeople turned to glare at them.
"Luffy! They didn't have to know that!" Nami yelled at him.
"Well, you saw me."
"True! But I wasn't going to tell them!"
"Nami, meet Luffy…" Hazel muttered, but the girl didn't hear her over the villagers' shouts
"You did this to the mayor?!"
"Who are you? Pirates?"
"We're pirates!" Luffy answered simply, causing Nami to stumble back in shock. Zoro burst into laughter, clutching his side, and even Hazel had to grin and chuckle along, shaking her head.
"YOU IDIOT!" Nami screamed.
"We are pirates!" Luffy answered. "Run!" Without another word, he threw Zoro over his shoulder along with a bag of treasure and ran off. Nami yanked Hazel up by her arm, causing a pained protest from the violet-haired woman, but soon they were following after the two, the shouts of the townspeople at their backs.
"Don't let them get away! They'll pay for attacking the mayor!"
"Why do you always have to complicate things?" Nami asked as they ran.
"These are good people!" Came Luffy's answer, but all it did was confuse the girl.
"They're all worked up…" Luffy explained. "Because they love their mayor! It wouldn't matter what we told them!" Suddenly, Luffy veered off down an alley, the others keeping close to his heels despite the abrupt change in direction. They heard the group follow them, but growls stopped their pursuers. Hazel chanced a glance behind her to see Chouchou blocking the townspeople's path.
No matter how much the villagers protested, the dog would not budge, allowing for the trio turned quartet to make a clean getaway to the docks. As they reached the outskirts of the town, they finally began to slow, transitioning into a brisk walk as they spotted two boats in the harbor.
"That was too close!" Nami sighed, relieved. "Chouchou really saved our necks! Why are we in this mess, anyway?"
"It's ok, we did what we needed to do, right?" Luffy asked, carrying Zoro at his side now. Said swordsman remained slumped at his captain's side, and Hazel grew concerned at his state once again. Had he passed out again? "Hey, is this your ship?" Luffy asked Nami, noticing the boat docked next to their little dinghy. "It's great!"
"I've seen better...I stole it from some stupid pirates!" That jogged Hazel's memory.
"Hey, wait a minute...pirates?"
"We've been waiting for you, Girlie!" Came a shout from Nami's boat. The three men Hazel and Zoro had come across so much earlier stood glaring at the girl. Nami stared at them, sweat running down her brow.
"Y-you guys…" She stuttered out. Hazel glared at the three men from where she stood behind Luffy and Zoro, not in the mood to deal with them again.
"We knew you'd come back to the ship!" Flat Afro said, hands on his hips while Jolly Roger Hat laughed.
"Imagine our surprise, finding our stolen ship docked here!"
"You haven't forgotten about us, have you?" Facial Hair taunted.
"Friends of yours?" Luffy asked.
"Not so much…"
"Now, that's not nice!" Jolly Roger Hat yelled. "Our fates are intertwined! I see you brought some friends. Then they'll get the same treatment as you! We'll learn ye to steal ships!" Did they not see Hazel there? Or had they already forgotten that morning? "What ails ya?" Jolly Roger Hat asked, coming up to Zoro and patting him on the head. "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" Zoro did as he was asked, Hazel poking her head out from behind him to match his glare at the men.
Upon seeing the two, the idiot pirates jumped scared into the water, swimming away like their lives depended on it. "Idiots…" Hazel muttered. They set about preparing the boats, tying the two together so they wouldn't get separated. There wasn't enough room on the dinghy to fit all four of them, after all. At least, not comfortably.
Hazel sat next to Zoro, wrapping him in the backup supply of bandages they had. She'd have to pick up more at their next location, if she could. "Now, these are the last of the bandages until further notice, so please don't go do something stupid like cutting through them again, got it?"
"Tch, I had to do it." Hazel glared at him.
"You did not have to slice through them! You made it harder for yourself, you idiot!"
"All right! Let's go!" Luffy's shout came before Zoro could answer, but Hazel would've ignored him anyway, as she went back to treating his wound as best she could. He hissed a little at the antiseptic she used to clean it, but other than that he remained stoic through the whole procedure, and settled back against the boat when she was done. "Hey! Your sail has Buggy's mark on it!" Luffy shouted again, this time towards Nami.
"It was his ship!" She shouted back. "I'll replace it later!"
"Hey, kid wait!" Came a shout from the shore. This was becoming familiar. "I have something to say to you!"
Sure enough, Mayor Boodle stood panting on the shore, no longer dressed in his armor. It seemed he'd just run a marathon, trying to catch up to them. "Thank you! I won't forget it!" He yelled, tears running down his face, but with a wide smile as well. The pirates, plus Nami, smiled back, and the captain took a breath to shout back.
"You're welcome, mayor! Take it easy!" As the two ships drifted further away from the shore, Nami turned to count her treasure; but her face fell when she noticed one bag missing.
"Hey...what happened to the treasure…?"
"Oh, I left it with them!"
"WHAT?! You left the treasure?!" Nami screamed, jumping over to their boat.
"Yeah, but their whole town was wrecked. They'll need a lot of money to rebuild it."
"That was my treasure you gave away!" Nami picked Luffy up easily, trying to toss him overboard. The rubber-man gripped the side of the boat to prevent him going over, and Hazel quickly stood and tried to pull Nami back from her brother.
"Hey, Nami, quit it! He can't swim!"
"Take it easy!" Luffy yelled, eyes wide with fear. "If you really want it, let's go back and get it!"
"It's too late! If you ever do anything like that again, I'll kill you!"
"Nami!" Zoro burst out laughing, and Hazel turned her attention to him.
"Stop laughing so hard! I don't have anything else to fix your wound up, dammit!"
Luckily, Nami stopped her tirade on Luffy, leaning back against the boat herself with a smile. "Idiot!" She said, ignoring Luffy's rather comical glare.
"Heehee! No, I'm not!" Whack!
"That didn't hurt…"
With a shake of her head, Hazel sat herself down in the cramped quarters as well, pulling her notebook out of her pack. She had a lot to write down.
Chester is fun haha let me know what you guys think so far! I hope to be back soon with chapter 3!