The Kiss of Death
"Oh crap, I touched her already, and it's active!" The man in the emerald fedora who yanked me away from the shell of the Mystery Mystery Fruit looked heartbroken.
"What do mean?" Yelled Igaram, who had missed the man's explanation of why the fruit was a danger. He had been paying attention to the auctioneer, a clear violation of his duty as captain of the guard and babysitter. I never told on him.
"That evil fruit does nothing by itself. For the fool that eats it, whenever she touches another devil fruit, or devil fruit user, she'll get a scrap of power. Permanently."
"Woo-hoo!" I danced happily in a circle, a cursed fool, celebrating my new ability. Now I needed to find Balloon-Balloon girl, and all would be right in this world. My fierce joy would not last, but I can still recall that intense, happy burst of fulfillment.
"What nefarious power do you have sir?" Igaram sounded nervous.
The man who tried saving me from my fate took off his hat, and he was old. His youth was an illusion hidden by that bright green hat. He had a spiked crown of brown hair atop a bald head and an unremarkable face that looked sad. He looked like broken king.
"I ate the Sniff-Sniff Fruit. You may know it as the Devil's Due. My power and geas is to seek out other devil fruits from wherever they might be hidden, and distribute them. If I don't, my body turns against me, a slow damnation."
"What does that mean for Vivi?" Said Igaram.
"That Mystery-Mystery Fruit she ate was growing in mid-air above the All Blue. Of the fruits I've found, it is the strangest by far. It's not even in the official books! Jackson, my best friend and twenty-years partner in enterprise, had decided to retire after that trip; I need a normal man for backup because I'm a hammer. He chose that fruit as part of his share.
"He waited until we returned before eating it; no sense in making us both hammers while on the job. It was in the middle of my personal storage warehouse, where I hide fruits which are fatal. I don't mean apocalyptic logia, I mean failures like the zoan minnow fruit, where you can't breathe air and also can't swim. Jackson touched at least fifty different devil fruits, sharing in, perhaps absorbing part of their power. He found fruits I had hidden because they were essentially death. Whatever abilities the Mystery-Mystery Fruit grants, they don't include the typical protective mechanisms."
The man stopped his story in shock, and removed my hand from his.
"It is as I feared, child – you can now recognize devil fruit powers when they are close to you, and are driven to them. You won't be able to escape yourself."
It was weird. I didn't want to touch creepy crown-spike head auction guy, but somehow, my body felt a need to do so, and there I went. An unconscious compulsion I had absorbed from the Sniff-Sniff fruit, or so thought the two men. I never corrected them.
Much later I reasoned out the Mysterious Fruit must have it's own drives, for I hadn't absorbed any powers at that point, but was still driven.
"Wait, what do you mean 'no protective mechanism?' Said Igaram.
"The Mystery Mystery Fruit only absorbs a small portion of devil's powers. If she were to touch a man made of fire, her skin would burn, but she couldn't become fire enough to protect herself. It would be agony."
"Wait a second, I didn't sign up for this." My second thoughts came a little too late.
"What can we do?" Igaram sounded resigned.
"Sea stone. But that is a temporary solution if she expects a normal life. Above all, keep her away from Zoan users; she could become a mish-mash abomination if she starts touching them."
Igaram carried me out of the auction room, so I couldn't touch any other bedeviled objects. The sea stone cigarette lighter we'd bought from the leftovers sapped my energy and made me weak, but I still felt dozens of object pulling me. We never saw the Sniff-Sniff guy again.
My father was furious at me. Though he wasn't happy with Igaram either.
It wasn't about the money. Using the kingdom's money for a military advantage was a common practice among Grand Line kingdoms. Arabasta had recently received an offer from one of the Shichibukai, the sanctioned pirates, emigration in return for protection. He hadn't wanted to take it, but now it looked unavoidable. Recently, the random pirate attacks against our fair coastal cities had worsened.
Since my bid for power failed spectacularly, I wasn't taking up pirate hunting in the name of Arabasta anytime soon.
Still, King Cobra couldn't afford appearing weak at the World Government council, so the next day they took away my sea stone device and told me to stand behind father's chair during the meeting, next to Igaram. To this day, I refuse to wear clothing without pockets because of what happened. Chaka had been banned from my presence, and so I lacked a competent bodyguard. Pell remained in Arabasta, but had been informed with a secure Den Den Mushi. The friendly Zoan users I knew of were neutralized.
During the lunch break, I received my Kiss of Death.
Our dear neighbor from Drum Island, that fatass hippo-loving Wapol, decided to make a power play by intimidating little nine year old princess me.
We were out in a large courtyard area eating lunch on an elevated grassy area underneath a shade tree, and Wapol and his corrupt entourage came lumbering directly for Igaram and I, like some rampaging animal herd. Igaram, hypersensitive from yesterday's debacle, saw the danger. He tried pulling me out of the way, but some foreign force possessed my body and I didn't move.
The compulsion struck. It held me after the auction, and I suspect it is not from the Devil's Due, but a failsafe built into the Mysterious Fruit to force the wielder into power. It made me hold my ground as the King of Fatasses came over, smacked me out of the way, and ate my lunch.
Right after he bitch-slapped me away from the food, my lips turned silver, and remained so. Wapol controlled the power of the Eat-Eat fruit, a power that allowed him dominance over Drum Island. He could chew through anything, and use the material he'd eaten in strange deadly ways. He could recombine structures as well, making him a walking cannon munching armada.
Whatever. The bastard stole my lunch, bitch-slapped me, called me a stupid little desert hippo-princess, and I had to apologize to him for being in his way because Arabasta didn't want a pointless war. Wapol rather enjoyed pointless war, and was looking for one during the conference.
Yeah, it sucked so bad even incomparable Princess Vivi D. Nefertari broke out in messy tears after such a traumatic experience. I was only nine. What made me cry wasn't being bullied, but the injustice of not having power. Because of Arabasta's political situation, I had to take the abuse of that corrupt despot, and not kick his wide hipporiffic ass.
The first sign of my new power came when Igaram wiped my face with his handkerchief. When he touched my lips with the cloth, the white cotton dissolved. This surprised us both so much that I touched my own lips with a finger of my left hand in shock.
Did I ever scream. At least I didn't lose the finger, though I had a bad acid burn. I guess I should be grateful my lips didn't sink into my face and liquefy my brain, but having Eat powers prevents one from eating their own lips, teeth, and tongue. I guess it's a fundamental principle of eating that you need a mouth.
So yeah, that's how I got the Kiss of Death, and why I use sea stone chopsticks for meals. Thankfully we had enough money for that expensive necessity, which was still available from the unsold auction items. My father made me trade in the seastone cigarette lighter, scared I'd develop pyromania. I never even got to use it!
Still, the chopsticks were vital. Nothing is more annoying that biting through your fork accidentally, especially when you'll give yourself mega poisoning because you can't digest metal.
The trip back to Arabasta was hell. I mean I couldn't help it that I moved in my sleep and my lips started dissolving whatever they touched. Father made me sleep with sea stone pressed against my silver lips with a tight tied cloth. In addition to being uncomfortable, it made me weak.
The power of kissing any confinement or obstacle into oblivion is not convenient when you can't turn the damn thing off. I destroyed my favorite pillow, the one with the cute yellow duckies, when I forgot myself and collapsed in bed crying against it.
They put Chaka on a separate ship, so circumstances would not tempt me. Igaram played nursemaid, and I overheard more than one argument about how I might no longer be suitable as the Princess of Arabasta, thanks to my weird new powers.
At nearly ten years old, I had my second moment of willful awakening. Sure, my life totally sucked because I insisted on gaining the powers of the devil. I took responsibility, accepted the blame. This might be remarkable for child to do, but I can't judge; I've never thought any other way.
By my will, I decided the next life goal I had was not letting the devil drag me under. I was hammer. I could no longer swim. I could no longer use face make-up on or near my lips (trust me, this hurts when you are a young girl). The sea stone I needed to eat and rest normally with sapped energy from my body, and even sleeping had become an ordeal. My father had doubt I remained fit as Arabasta's next leader.
"I am Vivi D. Nefertari! I swear these powers are nothing, compared against my will. I will make this the best thing that every happened to me. I'll become strong. This I swear!"
No one heard that inspiring vow but me, because I was so damn weak I could barely whisper. I heard, and it was enough. Not even the Kiss of Death could stop my will.
Sounds great, right? Keeping that resolution was a billion times harder than making it.
My addled little brain didn't realize the only way back into normal life was suffering. Because given my other options, the only one that made any sense was learning and fighting the sea stone for my life. The rest of my life.
I made myself get up, despite the sea stone. Every day. At first I could barely take two steps before collapsing back onto the bed. Still, by the end of our voyage of weeks, I could walk around the ship for about ten minutes.
Father and Igaram decided to tell the people at home I'd contracted a wasting sickness at sea, one I was slowly overcoming. It wasn't far from the truth.
Chaka and Pell were forbidden from my presence, and that hurt more than anything. It made me give up on the idea of Pell as my future husband. Yet another little girl dream my impulsive thirst for power had destroyed.
The Suna-Suna remnants felt sorry for me, those that hadn't moved away seeking unsettled territory at my father's behest. They tried cheering me up, but their pity made me sad and more determined. Oddly, the one I turned to for comfort, I had ignored most of life.
My Super-Duck, Carue. Up until that time, Carue and I did not like each other. When they gave him to me, I thought he was cowardly and stupid and would never help me get strong. While cute in a baby-animal way, he smelled like pond scum and he'd crapped on the dress I was wearing at the time. Instant dislike. Now that I could no longer swim or walk far, having a faithful Super-Duck appealed to me.
It took a couple months of bringing him ducky treats and talking nice, but Carue came around. We became close friends, and he took me places I could no longer visit without collapsing from exhaustion. It was the beginning of a beautiful team, though Carue was never my equal, more like a trusty sidekick. Not that I'd hurt his feelings by saying it.
My ordeal would last nearly two years, and it isn't something another devil fruit user could duplicate. Mysterious powers again.
The end drew nigh when I woke up one morning, nearly back to my normal self. The day before, I had finally resumed my physical training, and was I ever pathetic. After carefully washing up, I realized what was wrong – the sea stone gag I spent my nights with was dirty, and the expensive mineral was missing.
For an hour I thought the lump of rock had fallen somewhere in my room when I awoke, and searched. Then I thought someone had stolen it, and called Igaram. He alerted the guards.
The truth scared me, and showed me my Mysterious Powers had finally started being useful. Such a truth would shock those prestigious researchers who make their careers on studying the powers of the devil for military advantage.
What happened was impossible.