Part twenty of a fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Note: And here we are at last, for real this time: the final chapter to this ridiculously long epic. May I just say, thank you guys so much for sticking it through to the end. Special thanks to my Anonymous viewers...I'm sorry I could never respond to you guys, since you all had very interesting comments, but I love you all too :)
Music Box: For the 'funeral' at the end, I had particularly envisioned this piece:
.com (slash) watch?v=zaLoBdqcvVY
It's cellos, not violins, but it's definitely still soulful enough.
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, One Piece or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs solely to Eiichiro Oda. The only thing that belongs to me here is the concept for the story.
"I just know there's no escape now
Once it sets its eyes on you
But I won't run, have to stare it in the eye
Stand my ground, I won't give in
No more denying, I got to face it
Won't close my eyes and hide the truth inside
If I don't make it, someone else will stand my ground."
~Stand My Ground, Within Temptation
March 21, 658 AOS
Today is a joyous occasion. After years of study, I have finally passed the final initiation into the ranks of the Dream Oracles! I am simply delighted at my success. Ever since I was a child and attended the ceremonies at the Dream Chapel in Remia, I have dreamed of becoming a worthy priest of the order. My new masters tell me this is precisely what they look for in dedicated Oracles, and that with hard work, effort and caring I will climb the ranks. They tell me I could even be a Master Oracle myself in ten years. I am exhilarated and will certainly do my best to contribute to the order and help the citizens of Asteria in any way I can.
Sadly, today is not joyous for everybody. Thirty initiates were brought to the Great Seer for the final test: entry via meditation into the Dream World, to prove our faith in ourselves and our devotion to the people. Only twenty-three returned. The final seven were unfortunately not skilled enough to protect the desires of their hearts, and their dreamcores were stolen from them forever. While it is possible to recover them, the Great Seer does not seem to think it will happen. It is a sad thing, but I feel he is probably right. The Dream World is vast, and the Queen of the Night knows it far better than even the highest ranking members of the order. It is her native homeland, after all. She is familiar with every aspect of the world, even the beautiful places within it that she detests, and her children know it well too by proxy. She has likely already stolen away to the far corners of the World with the cores, waiting patiently for the trapped, desperate souls to wander closer so that she might feed upon their misery. A cursory search by Master Oracles will of course be performed, but if they find nothing in the span of one day, the still-muttering bodies of the fallen will be put to their final rest to keep the Queen from growing even more powerful. There is simply nothing we can do for them.
But alas! Now is not the time for such sorrows. Seven brave souls we have lost, but twenty-three we have gained—including, I am happy to say, myself! Most of my fellow initiates will be sent around the island to various chapels to assist the Oracles there until such a time when they might at last take over in leading worship, but the Master Oracles have decided to keep me here, within the Temple of Dreams. They are impressed with my devotion and skill and wish to keep me close for further training. I am so happy to finally be living my dream!
April 15, 658 AOS
It has been some time since I have written of my Oracle duties. I have been incredibly busy aiding the Master Oracles in any way possible, and it has left very little free time for myself.
Recently we have begun receiving many concerned messages from the Oracles located throughout the villages on Asteria. It seems that although the citizenry is well enough during the day, at night they are plagued by the Queen's children, seeing them more and more within their dreams. This is a puzzling turn of events, and the Master Oracles have had me consulting the prophecies and the ancient records searching for clues. For now, the citizenry is safe: one of our many duties as Oracles of the Dream is to shield the less fortunate with our own, mighty dreams, in order to protect their sleeping moments. But something must be done soon to resolve this issue, or it will eventually become a problem. Although no one person can enter the World of Dreams in full without intensive training, the barrier is weakest when a person sleeps; a clever child of the Queen, especially her cruel Generals, can torment the barrier and reach through it enough to tug a sleeper fully into the World if they are persistent enough. From there, the sleeper is helpless. It takes years of training to master the World fully, as well, and while the Queen and her children are prepared for it the sleepers most certainly aren't.
The Great Seer says this is a bad omen. It is a sign that the Queen is becoming more and more restless, angry with her lot in life. I am sad to say I am not terribly surprised to hear this. The Master Oracles claim that we are in a great Age of Dreaming, an Age of Strength, and that we possess more people with strong will and passion now than ever before in recorded history. We are able to resist the great Queen and her despairs and sorrows now more than at any other moment, and surely that makes her hungry. But that also makes her desperate, and I am afraid of what she might do when she herself becomes tempted.
I must return to my research. Hopefully we will find a solution before long.
April 23, 658 AOS
I have had no luck with my research, nor have my other fellow initiates. We are still protected from the Queen of the Night, but it is starting to take more effort than before to hold our barrier of will and belief and keep her at bay. My fellow initiates and I have even been called to attend sessions with the Master Oracles, duties that normally would not be imposed upon us for another year or two, until we are more prepared. Even worse, Oracles that enter the World of Dreams have returned from their meditative trances to report that the world is shifting, and that even the beautiful, calming parts of the realm are becoming warped and twisted, overgrown with the Queen's influence.
More frightening still, some Oracles do not come back at all, and their bodies lie dormant, whispering about the things that have been stolen from them. It is almost unheard of for skilled Oracles as these to succumb to the power of the Queen. They are always strong of will, and have the knowledge to repel her children, but now they are as lost as citizens or newly inducted priests.
The Queen grows more restless, and still we have not found an answer as to why.
May 13, 658 AOS
Still no success with our research, and nothing on that front has changed. However, something else unexpected has happened: people have come from the outside to Asteria.
It is rare for visitors to come from the outside world. Although our own culture thrives, the patch of sea Asteria Island is a part of is extremely dangerous and extraordinarily difficult to navigate, and people rarely come and go. We have seen increases on ships coming to our harbors in the past ten years or so, but our island is still largely isolated from the outside. Visitors are something of a special occurrence then, and this is an extremely noteworthy visit: it is not just one ship, but dozens. It seems a military fleet from the outside encountered a fierce battle on the open seas, damaging many of their ships and men, and then they were caught in a storm following. Their fleet is in severe disrepair, and their men are starving and desperate.
Naturally, Asteria's citizens are fully willing to help them. The ships have barely managed to limp into our harbors, but now they are safe, and our craftsmen can begin to work with the military's shipwrights to fix their enormous battle ships. Our people don't have much skill in the way of ship crafting, but we will do what we can for these poor men. In the meantime, the soldiers have been brought onto the island proper that we might treat their wounded and feed them properly. Most of the men not suffering any particular injuries have elected to stay on the shores, or in the small fishing villages by the edges of the island. However, we have transported the wounded to the village of Remia, exceptionally well known for its healers and devoted Dream Oracles, and the officers have accompanied them in order to keep watch over their men.
The Great Seer and the Master Oracles are still busy with the issues regarding the Dream World and the Queen inside of it, and cannot be spared at present to meet with these men from the outside, however rare the occurrence. However, I am excited to write that they have selected me, as the most devoted and skilled of the initiates, to act as an ambassador to the visiting fleet. I leave first thing tomorrow morning to head to Remia, where I will remain with the leader of the fleet, Commodore Noroma, until they are prepared to leave. I have been instructed to offer them every possible courtesy. I am sure this will be most exciting!
May 17, 658 AOS
I have spent several days in the company of Commodore Noroma and his officers, which has not left me with much time to write.
These military men are extraordinarily grateful for, and very surprised by, our help. It seems that without our aid, their entire fleet would have been lost for certain, either to the ocean itself or to starvation. I simply cannot imagine such a barren existence, nor can I contemplate why anyone would turn these men away when they required aid. Our harvests have been bountiful, our island is not in want of supplies for repairs, and our people are skilled in the arts of healing both bodies and minds with patience and kindness; why would we ever refuse these men in their time of need? Perhaps I am merely naive. Asteria has always been a peaceful place. It is rare for even the commoners to engage in fighting, and only the Oracles practice combative techniques with any regularity, out of necessity for the Dream World. It seems the outside world is much harsher than what I have grown used to.
When I explained to the Commodore and his officers that it was simply part of our doctrine to help anyone in need, they seemed intrigued and inquired into our practices. As a devoted Oracle I was of course more than happy to explain about the strength of dreams and the beliefs we have drawn from them. At their request I obtained the fastest carriage I could find and brought them to the Temple of Dreams to illustrate our doctrine further, hoping to perhaps spread our beliefs to the outside as well. Perhaps if the world beyond had our doctrines they would be less inclined to fight and kill each other, when they could instead learn to follow their hearts and use that strength to help others.
Some of the officers seemed interested in the entirety of my lectures. However, Commodore Noroma and his followers seemed particularly interested in learning about the World of Dreams as well. They were shocked to discover a secondary world parallel to our own, and always their questions returned to it. I myself was a bit puzzled by their fixation. The existence of other worlds connected to our own is no real secret; it takes but a little faith to know that there are gods and goddesses on higher planes than our own, and our more ancient recordings speak of visiting shamans and priests skilled at projection into astral planes, as well. The World of Dreams exists just beyond sleep, in the deepest reaches of unconsciousness—this has always been known to us.
But the Commodore was especially fixated on this point, and no matter how many times I tried to continue with the lectures he always came back to it. In particular he seemed interested in knowing if we, the Oracles, traveled there physically in body, and seemed especially disappointed to discover that we do not. Aware of my orders to satisfy our visitors, I added that long ago our strongest Oracles had been able to travel there in body, but the risk became far too dangerous; the Queen of the Night grew a taste for flesh as well as for despair, and the practice had been forbidden for centuries. Only the Great Seer was granted the right to look at the recordings that described the process, and not even he was permitted to use that knowledge. The Commodore seemed satisfied with this answer, but I find myself growing uneasy. Something about this does not feel right.
May 21, 658 AOS
Another few days have passed with the Commodore. The uneasy feeling I possessed before is beginning to grow stronger. Commodore Noroma has called me to him several times now to describe the World of Dreams to him, and to inquire as to the exact structure and placement of the land-masses inside of it. I did my best to explain, but as I am still a novice, and have only visited the World twice more since my initiation, I am still not very familiar with its organization. I had hoped this would deter him from asking more questions, but the Commodore was very persistent. He brought in rough maps and charts of our island, and questioned me thoroughly about the Dream World's locations in conjunction with those of the land around us. I was asked to stay with him for hours, until one of his officers was able to sketch out a rough map of the Dream World based on my descriptions. Commodore Noroma seemed very satisfied with the results.
I am beginning to grow worried by this obsession. Tonight I will write a missive, to be sent to the Master Oracles and the Great Seer, to inquire into what the Commodore's curiosity might mean.
May 22, 658 AOS
Received word from the Master Oracles. They commended me for my message and warned me to be cautious about the information I reveal in the future. They, too, sense that something is out of place, and do not wish to bring trouble down upon our peaceful island by meddling in the affairs of much more violent men. Thankfully the wounded are healing nicely and our craftsmen have rapidly picked up the skills of the fleets' shipwrights, speeding along the repairs. It is unlikely that the Commodore and his fleet will be with us for much longer than two weeks, now.
May 25, 658 AOS
Commodore Noroma is becoming more persistent with his questions regarding the Dream World. He has asked me how large the World is, and whether or not people could enter it from one location and leave it from another. I avoided answering his questions, claiming ignorance due to my status as a novice. In actuality I am now growing very worried. Based on the Commodore's questions, it sounds as though he is considering using the World of Dreams as a sort of tunnel or overland route, for ease of traveling in the real world. I fear his is vastly underestimating the dangers of the World of Dreams, and the power of the Queen of the Night. The raging seas might be dangerous, but they are infinitely preferable to the great Queen's wrath.
May 29, 658 AOS
I am growing very concerned now. It is approximately a week until the Commodore and his men will be able to leave, but Noroma has not once spoken about his plans for that day. I informed him that our people would of course be happy to provide his fleet with fresh water and food supplies, as well as additional herbs and medicines for those still requiring some care, but it was as though the man never once heard me. Instead he requested that I schedule an appointment for him to meet with the Great Seer himself, and the Master Oracles as well, at the Temple of Dreams. I am in shock, but cannot refuse, and have already sent the request into the city. I pray the Great Seer will know how to handle this better than I, a mere novice.
It shames me, as an Oracle of the Dream, to write such a thing, but I am beginning to regret that I ever tried to teach Commodore Noroma our doctrine. When he and his fleet first arrived they seemed genuinely grateful for our help. Now they disregard our aid and delve deeper into dangers they seem incapable of understanding.
May 30, 658 AOS
Today has been a day of terrible misfortune. I am simply appalled at the actions of our guests—if indeed we can even call them that anymore.
I received a return missive from the Temple of Dreams. As expected, the request for a meeting was denied: the Master Oracles and the Great Seer are still working hard to protect our citizenry, and discover a way to stop the Queen in all her restlessness from causing even more damage than before. I informed the Commodore at once, but he refused to see reason. He, his officers, and the handful of healthy soldiers stationed at Remia promptly seized all of the carts and carriages in the village 'in the name of the Alliance' and marched on Oneirosa. I sent a message ahead at once by bird to give warning, and thankfully our Oracles were able to clear the citizenry away in the city itself so that they wouldn't be injured. We have no standing military; I dread the thought of what the Commodore might have done to our people if he had felt opposed.
I was unable to reach the city in time myself for the encounter, but I am told afterwards that the Commodore demanded access to the records regarding physical transportation into the Dream World. The Great Seer naturally refused him, and warned the Commodore that the World of Dreams is extremely dangerous. Commodore Noroma seemed angry at first, but was eventually pacified, or so the other initiates claim. Having spent quite some time with the man now, I am very familiar with his obsession, and I do not think this is the last we have seen of it.
Commodore Noroma has insisted upon taking rooms in the Temple of Dreams itself. I have returned to my own quarters in the Temple in order to keep an eye on the man.
June 3, 658 AOS
More trouble from our visitors. It seems Noroma has his own means of communication, and overnight several of his units camped at the shores have moved forward closer to the city, occupying Remia and the other surrounding villages. I am truly beginning to see how utterly shameless the man is. He has not threatened our citizenry yet, but our people are beginning to grow afraid. That is bad enough in and of itself, but worse when the Queen of the Night and her children are still hungry, and growing ever more restless. We have started receiving more and more reports of common folk with their dreams stolen away in the night, reduced to ranting emptiness with their cores gone. It is because their fear weakens their will, and attracts the Queen to them.
Commodore Noroma has not tried to gain audience with the Great Seer again, but he has done his best to grow unusually friendly with the Master Oracles. Most of them reject the man's attempts out of hand, but one or two have become susceptible to the Commodore's promises of power and a life outside the island. I am horrified that a Master Oracle could fall for such tricks—can they not see that Noroma is a liar? I have tried speaking with them, but they reject me roughly, claiming I am ignorant because I am a novice. These are the same people who praised me at my initiation for my skill and maturity. Surely the world works in cruel ways.
But I must not allow myself to lose focus. If I fall to despair, the Queen will only become stronger. I became an Oracle to follow my dream, and protect my people. I will continue to do so, even if the enemy I face is not the one I first expected to fight.
June 10, 658 AOS
Noroma grows more insistent by the day. He is frenzied now, insisting that it is possible to use the World of Dreams to travel between islands on this 'Grand Line,' presumably the stretch of dangerous waters we are a part of. Even some of his officers appear unsettled by his insistence that he has seen visions of this type of travel, though they continue to follow him mechanically. What worries me far mores is that two of our Master Oracles are beginning to believe him as well, and are seriously beginning to aid Noroma in rediscovering the process. This is sheer insanity!
For my part, I am deeply concerned that there is more to Noroma's visions than meets the eye. His insistences are strongest at dawn, when he first wakes. I fear he has come too close to the World of Dreams in his sleep, and this is influencing his decisions. It borders on blasphemy to say it, but almost I wish that he would simply be taken by the Queen's children already, and be done with it. Sadly, I fear the implications are far worse...the Queen is enormously clever in her old age, and I am sure she has discovered Noroma's importance on the island. While I have no proof, I am positive it is the Queen's doing that is bringing these visions to Noroma, and that she is up to some vile, terrible plan.
I wish we had never accepted these men upon our island. I wish we could order them to leave; their ships are prepared now, and their men healthy enough. Unfortunately, those soldiers are still stationed amongst our innocent citizenry, and to cause any trouble would mean to effectively sentence them to death. Noroma is holding our entire nation hostage for his foolish plan. I fear what he will do next.
June 14, 658 AOS
The worst of tragedies has occurred! The Great Seer was found dead this morning in his own bed. There was not a mark on him, and his body was found cold, meaning he had died well into the night with his dreamcore intact. The Great Seer was old, and the Master Oracles in Noroma's shadow insist that he simply died of age after a long, eventful life. Myself, and a few of my own Masters, believe otherwise. The Great Seer's death was too convenient during a time of danger. I believe foul play is at hand.
June 15, 658 AOS
The new Great Seer ascended today. I fear corruption in our ranks since Noroma's arrival: instead of Oracle Velsik ascending, as the Great Seer had intended and as the Master Oracles' ranks implied, Oracle Ogoma took his place instead. Oracle Ogoma was among the first of the Master Oracles to fall for Noroma's promises. More and more by the day I feel that Noroma has become an agent of the Queen of the Night herself, unintentional or no. I am certain she whispers false promises to him now, all for the hopes of some plan that I cannot begin to fathom.
June 19, 658 AOS
The atrocities continue. Already Ogoma abuses his power: he has looked upon the ancient records depicting physical immersion into the World of Dreams, and has announced that all of the Oracles will devote their time to using these skills to build a doorway into its depths. Oracle Velsik and his followers, including myself, are appalled. Such practices have been banned for hundreds of years for the safety of all involved, but Ogoma will not see reason. He insists that we live in a new age now, and that we must serve the might of the Alliance of the outside world. He claims that our knowledge of the Dream World will make it much easier for Noroma's "noble" soldiers to invade their enemies without warning, allowing an already old battle to finally be finished with minimum casualties. He is mad. The Dream World was never meant for such cruel acts—despite the presence of the Queen of the Night, it has always been a gift to strengthen will and calm the hearts and minds of man. Who knows what using it for such malicious intent will cause? Our stories have always taught that the Queen feeds off fear and sorrow and despair, but I am sure she will find anger and hatred quite to her liking, as well. If these soldiers attempt to ender the World of Dreams so foolishly, I am sure they will die.
June 23, 658 AOS
All our attempts to argue with Ogoma to see reason have failed. Several opposing Master Oracles, including Oracle Velsik, have died mysteriously. Ogoma claims that they lost their way with their oppositions to the new era, and their dreamcores were consumed due to their cowardice. I know better.
The people are growing afraid. Oracles from the village chapels send desperate messages daily, begging for help. Their people are being taken more and more every day, left empty and hopeless in their beds, awaiting only to be sent to their final rest. The soldiers do nothing to reassure them. Not even the Master Oracles dare to travel to the World of Dreams anymore; the Queen must be too powerful now by far to risk it, and the whole World has likely been blackened by her evil taint.
It feels like the world is slowly dying. Both worlds, even.
Worst of all, perhaps the blackest omen I have seen yet, is the construction of the doorway that Ogoma and Noroma desire. Ogoma has requisitioned the finest Hallucite for its construction—the same crystal that our own Temple of Dreams is created out of. It is enormously difficult to obtain, and used only for the holiest of procedures, but I call this usage anything but holy. As if to desecrate the Temple even further, Ogoma has the audacity to build the doorway within the very worship hall of the Temple of Dreams itself. This can only lead to disaster.
June 26, 658 AOS
The doorway is completed. May the dreams and souls of those who use it remain intact.
June 27, 658 AOS
It seems a god or goddess somewhere has answered my prayers, though only in part. The doorway does not work as it was intended to. Men walk through it to no effect. Noroma is furious. Ogoma cannot fathom what has gone wrong. I am simply grateful that this madness will finally be over with.
June 28, 658 AOS
It seems I spoke too soon, and I have been a fool for it. Since the doorway did not work, it was left alone and unguarded while we Oracles attended to our own tasks, regardless of who we served. This was sheer stupidity. When entering the worship hall the next morning for the dawn prayers and lectures, I was appalled to find the bodies of several initiates, horribly mauled. They were scattered about the doorway, as though something had tried to drag them through the crystal arch and found it impossible. Ogoma claims it was wild animals, but I suspect otherwise. I was one of the few to examine the bodies, and while they were torn almost beyond repair, I was struck by four unusual puncture marks in each of their chests, identical across all the corpses. I do not intend to let the doorway go unwatched again.
June 30, 658 AOS
Disaster strikes everywhere. All of the initiates I assign to keep watch on the doorway have been killed, in much the same manner as the first, despite my warnings to not reveal themselves and to come find myself or one of the Master Oracles at the first sign of danger. Additionally, frantic Oracles from around the island have begun sending in reports as well, of strange attacks and mutilated corpses, always found at the coming of dawn. No one has seen the beasts responsible yet, but I am beginning to have my suspicions. Tonight I will order the doors of the Temple closed. Such a thing has not happened in decades, other than for special ceremonial events, but if my suspicions are correct it will be for the better. Hallucite rejects many evils; that is why the Temple is built of it, and why it is used for all our holiest ceremonies.
July 1, 658 AOS
Ogoma is dead. His body, what was left of it, was found torn to pieces in the worship hall. The Oracles are beginning to grow afraid at the bad fortune that has befallen us since the building of the doorway and desire to take it down. Noroma, the fool, is insistent upon protecting it until it can be fixed enough to allow us to pass into the World of Dreams. His men have camped in the worship hall and threaten to shoot any man that approaches.
There is rioting in the city streets. The people are terrified now, with the sudden onset of beast attacks in addition to their friends and neighbors losing their dreamcores. Their fear and panic is almost tangible, and there are too few Oracles now to shield them with our skills and our dreams. I am deeply afraid of what so much horrible negativity will cause. They beat upon the closed doors of the Temple, begging entry, demanding answers, cursing us for abandoning them in their time of need. How can I possibly explain that it is because of their time of need that the doors are closed to them; that I am trying to save them from things they can't possibly begin to understand?
The Temple is shaking. This is unprecedented in the entirety of Asteria's history. I must investigate.
We are doomed.
I am afraid that the terror and panic of our citizens, and the anxiety and strife of our Order, was too much for the Queen of the Night to resist. I suspect up until now she had merely sent her children through the doorway to recover food for her. But the tantalizing sensation of so much raw, negative emotion must have given her the strength to drag herself through the doorway, even though it should have shattered naturally under the pressure of so much raw, terrible power. I fear Ogoma, too, was used by the Queen in the end, tempted and twisted enough to taint the Hallucite so that even the mighty Queen of the Night could abuse it without feeling pain.
She is in our world. I doubt she is as strong as she was in her native world; passing through to ours has to have taken something from her, would demand she divide some portion of her strength for her to simply sustain herself here. But even weaker, she is far too powerful for our world, far too malicious, and far too hungry.
Noroma was the first casualty. I suppose it is justice, but in the end I almost feel sorry for the fool. I witnessed his sheer terror as the Queen of the Night had his dream ripped free, fed upon his panic, his horror, and then when he had died of it, his flesh. More of the soldiers followed, as her children harvested those poor souls for her, fed them to her one at a time. I may only have a few moments left in life, but nevertheless, that is a vision I will never forget. Already, the Queen of the Night becomes more and more bloated and gigantic as she feeds, surrounded by her clamoring, eager to please creations.
I tried to do what I could to prevent the disaster. On my own dream, I swear it so. The Temple doors had been shut tight, and although the Queen's creations continued to swarm out of the doorway to the World, as long as they could not leave the building its people would still be safe. The sacred Hallucite that the Temple is built of will still repel the creatures, kill them if they keep contact for too long. They would be trapped forever.
Unfortunately, it was once again the soldiers who destroyed this last chance to protect our people. The ones who had survived the Queen's initial entry tried to run, bursting through the doors into the crowds of people waiting outside, and in their foolishness they unleashed a horde of Nightmares upon the world.
There are too many of them. By now they will have swarmed to the outer reaches of Asteria, and I weep at the thought of them savaging our citizens, stealing their dreamcores and hauling them back to their bloated Queen for her to feed upon their despair and flesh alike. I myself am alive by the grace of some divine presence, though I know not who, or what. I managed to protect a small group of citizens, mostly families with children, and lead them to the records room in the great Temple. It is built of Hallucite, with a vault of the same crystal to protect our most divine and holy relics and records. I will hide my journal inside the vault and pray it is kept safe; it borders on desecration, but I am sure just this once I will be forgiven. The room will repel the Nightmares from us for a while, and they will be distracted by easier prey out on the island proper. But eventually, this place will become our tomb.
I do not think the Queen will go beyond this island, and for that I pray and thank every god and goddess in the higher planes. The doorway has allowed her entry to this world, but it comes at a price. She must constantly channel her energies into it, in order to sustain her enormous powers and form here, and the farther she moves from the doorway and her native World the more difficult it will be to support herself. Her children, always her eyes and hands in the world around her, will be sustained by her own presence and will be able to travel much farther, but I do not think they will be able to leave the island, either. I am thankful that this horror will be trapped on Asteria, but the Queen of the Night is not known to give up easily, and she is very patient. I fear she will find other ways to lure travelers into her web.
I must record fast, now. I can feel and hear the Queen's evil children coming ever closer. I do not know why I even bother; the likelihood that this record will ever be found, with those creatures rampaging outside, is unlikely. But I desperately do not want my people to be forgotten forever, and so even if it will only be remembered on parchment that no eyes will ever gaze upon again, I will record anyway.
If you are reading this, the chances that the creatures have been destroyed or at the very least weakened are high. Although I am most likely dead, I thank you on behalf of myself and my people of Asteria. Your skill and strength are commendable; my people would truly consider you powerful. Do not ever give up on your dreams. To do so invites disaster, such as the one you have no doubt seen all around you here.
If it is at all possible, burn the archway in the worship hall as soon as you can. Intense flames and pressure will destroy Hallucite. It is blasphemy to reveal this, but it is safer for the world for that doorway to be destroyed. Crush the remainder, and scatter the ashes; this should prevent future disasters. And although it might be forward to ask favors when I am dead, please respect what remains of my people. I believe we have suffered enough.
To those of you reading my final words: I am Rezzik Nazuul. My dream was to protect the people of this island. Now, I fear I have doomed them all instead.
Robin's voice slowly fell silent, and for a moment the whole world felt perfectly still, empty but for the nine of them. Not a one of them moved. They barely breathed, and it seemed like every single one of their gazes were fixated on the little notebook in Robin's lap, where her translation of those terrible words lay quietly.
For her part, Nami felt cold horror building up thickly in her stomach, the same feeling the Nightmares had forced her to feel when they unleashed their terror-calls, or when she had gazed upon the Queen of the Night for the first time. To know the origin of the terrible creatures was not reassuring. If anything, it made them even more horrifying than before, to know they had wormed their heartless, cruel way into the world because of human violence and malice. To think that such a peaceful nation had been ripped apart, replaced with such a terrible evil.
It was truly frightening, to know things could happen that way in the world.
Chopper was the first one to break the silence, after it stretched on for so long Nami was almost sure her own thudding heartbeat could be heard by everyone else. "That's...that's horrible," the reindeer whispered softly, tears glittering in his little eyes. "To think...all those poor people...they must have been so scared..."
"Poor Oracle-bro, too," Franky bawled, one meaty hand to his face as he tried hard to hide his own tears. "He tried so hard to save everyone and it didn't do anything in the end...waaah, I'm so sorry, bro!"
Franky was perhaps the most vocal about it, but Nami could see that the others were affected in their own ways by the tragic recordings as well. Usopp's eyes were watery, and he sniffled loudly. Brook's head was bowed quietly, and Nami suspected he was able to empathize with being an only survivor, though this Rezzik hadn't survived very long past his own people; after all, Brook was the only one left from his old crew to deliver a message and make good on a dream, too. Robin traced her handwriting carefully with her fingers, as though committing the words forever to memory, and having seen her dream firsthand Nami understood how important it was to her, as well, that people never be forgotten. And Luffy, Zoro and Sanji-kun were all dead silent, their faces perfectly, carefully blank, which was a dead giveaway that they understood the solemnity of the situation as well as everyone else.
"He would be reassured of one thing, I'm sure," Robin said finally, quietly closing her notebook. "It may have taken centuries, but his story was indeed uncovered, and we know the truth of these creatures. I think that would be a comfort to him." The others nodded quietly in agreement. Even if no one else knew, they at least would remember. Nami just hoped it would be enough to appease the dead here.
She blinked in surprise when Luffy stood abruptly, and turned wordlessly to head back into the Temple of Dreams. "Where are you going?"
He turned to look at her, and then around at the rest of his crew. His face still had that blank, solemn look, and he said with perfect, straightforward sincerity, "The old priest guy asked us to do a favor, so we're gonna do it."
Zoro shrugged and stood up as well, resting one of his hands on his swords as he wandered over to his captain's side. "Sounds fair to me," he said. "We'd better get started, this'll probably take all night."
The others were coming to their feet as well now, looking determined, and Nami couldn't help but smile slightly, wearily, as she came to her feet. "You're right," she decided. "It's the least we can do. Robin, you were reading about their religions—are we supposed to handle this any special way?"
Robin smiled softly as well. "As a matter of fact, there is a way," she said. "We must be respectful, but we need to hurry—all of our preparations must be completed by dawn."
The Straw Hat Pirates worked non-stop for the entire night to meet Robin's translated requirements, and yet for all of that, despite all of the activities each of them had been a part of during the day, not a single one of them felt tired. Nami was glad for it, because they had a lot to do in order to meet Rezzik Nazuul's final requests.
The first was relatively simple. The crew carefully cleared the patch of the Queen of the Night's nest where the crystal archway still lay in shattered pieces, brushing the bones and Dreamshards respectfully aside until the remains of the arch lay alone on the cold stone. Sanji-kun, unable to help with any of the other preparations due to his broken leg and ribs, had been put in charge of making sure each piece of the arch was melted and shattered. His skill of working with fire for cooking was easily transferrable to making sure the right amount of heat was applied to the crystals. He set to the task with malicious satisfaction, and cursed the 'shitty Night Queen' with every flicker of fire.
The rest of them set to the much more time-consuming task of clearing out the great worship hall. Robin told them that the Asterian culture's holy burial ground was set just outside the city, at its Easternmost side, where the sun first touched every moment when it rose. She, Luffy, and Franky departed to the location to begin digging massive graves, but not before Franky constructed a makeshift cart out of some of their supplies, sturdy enough to carry many sets of bones at a time. Chopper was hitched up to this in Walk Point, and waited patiently as Zoro, Nami, Usopp and Brook loaded the cart up with the bones scattering the halls as respectfully as they possibly could, keeping sets together when it was obvious they were connected. When the cart was full Chopper would pull it outside of the city, to the burial grounds, where Robin would use her many hands to unload them and place them respectfully into the graves they were digging. Sometimes Zoro went with Chopper; his strength was required to transport several sets of bleached giant bones that simply could not be moved in any other way, but he did it stoically, without a hint of complaint.
It took them the better part of the night to move all the bones—there were thousands of them, from the tiny rodent and bird bones to the giant bones Zoro was forced to carry. By the time they had cleared the worship hall of the once-living remains, Nami estimated there were only two hours left until sunrise, and that meant the crew had to hurry.
And so they turned next to the Dreamshards.
Sanji-kun's task had finished much earlier than the others. He'd managed to completely destroy the archway only a few hours into the rest of the crew's bone transportation, and collected the ashes together in a tightly bound cloth for scattering later. He'd spent the remaining hours while everyone else worked unpacking every single bag, box and pack the crew had brought with them, laying their supplies aside neatly in stacks and piles while he dumped the containers themselves together in the center of the room.
When the bone collection was finished, every single member of the crew returned to the Temple of Dreams, and began collecting the Dreamshards. They scooped them up in handfuls, pried them out of the walls, and stuffed them into their packs, filling the bags and boxes to the brim with as many of the glittering gems as they could hold. These were loaded into Chopper's cart, and when every single possible container had been filled Chopper was hitched up to the cart once more and headed back for the burial grounds, with the crew following. The Dreamshards were unloaded into a careful pile on the ground in the center of the gravesite, and then the Straw Hats returned to the Temple once more, beginning the collection process anew with once again empty bags.
They worked steadily, but there were thousands of dead Dreamshards, and in the end they barely managed to finish collecting the gems before the sun rose. They made it back to the burial ground with their last load just in the nick of time, scattering the last of the Dreamshards into the enormous mound of gems, and just barely managed to take their places in time as Robin instructed.
The first rays of sunlight slipped through the trees a moment later, and as they struck the mound of Dreamshards it was as though the pile of them was set alight with flames. They glittered brilliantly, so brightly it was impossible to look at them, and even with her head turned away Nami had to squint or let the myriad of colors blind her. The others were the same, squinting against the brilliance in their midst, but nevertheless every single one of them, even Luffy, remained focused on their assigned tasks.
Robin began speaking first. Her voice was cool and calm, almost musical as she recited the ceremonial funeral rites buried in the holy documents she had discovered in the Temple of Dreams. Nami understood none of it—every single word was in some sort of other language, although Robin spoke it without a hint of a stutter or uncertainty, as though she'd been born into it. She spoke the words fluidly, made the correct gestures and signs with exact precision, and finally finished speaking some ten minutes later, just as the sun was starting to creep a little higher, and the first of its rays touched the walls of Oneirosa behind her.
Then she nodded to the others, and as one everyone took to their assigned tasks. Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, and Chopper were all armed with the shovels that had previously been used for the excavation in the Temple of Dreams. At the appointed signal they began shoveling the waiting piles of dirt back into place over the weary bones, putting them to rest at last. Brook accompanied them on his violin, playing such a heartfelt, soulful dirge to send the long-dead spirits to sleep that Nami felt her own heart twisting inside her, bringing up memories of Bellemere once more—not unhappy, sorrowful ones, as the Nightmares had, but fond ones, if not exactly cheerful, that she would never forget.
And Franky and Sanji-kun, with a note of finality, set the pile of gleaming Dreamshards alight, shielding their eyes from the brilliance as the gems caught fire. It happened faster than Nami expected, like they'd soaked the little crystals in oil even though they'd done nothing of the sort, and the flames flashed in a wide display of colors that seemed utterly unnatural, impossible, as they fed upon their unusual fuel source. The fire was bright in its own way, but seemed to temper the shining brilliance of the gems, made it possible once more to stare at the pile as it burned.
It was still burning when Nami and the others finished burying the dead, an hour later, although its intensity had lessened somewhat. The crew came and stood around the fire, watching patiently, as though they had to—as though they owed it to these thousands of dead souls to see them finally to their rest. Robin said that according to the religious texts, there was always an Oracle to see off a dead Dreamshard, no matter how long it took. The ancient texts had been very familiar with the little gems, from the days when the priests had traveled to the World of Dreams physically, and had ways to deal with the passing of a dreamless person and their lost goal. There were no Oracles anymore, after centuries of Asteria being gutted, but the Straw Hats would do what they could, anyway. Hopefully it would be enough.
It took another two hours for the gems to be completely burned away, reduced to nothing but ash. Like the crystal archway, they too were susceptible to the fire, if left to burn long enough; Robin had discovered this in the old texts, too. So they waited, silent as the night, even Luffy, who respected these dead dreams far too much to make light of it. And when the fire finally died and those brilliant little gems were gone, they took the ashes and buried them alongside the bones of their masters.
With their respects paid, there was only one thing left to do, and as they headed back to the Temple of Dreams to recollect their things Luffy took care of it with a note of finality. Now that they knew the Temple of Dreams was constructed of Hallucite on the outside, and indestructible to everything but fire, Luffy quietly accepted a cloth-wrapped package from Sanji-kun and stretched his hand far, as high up as he could manage, fastening it firmly around the tall crystal spire of the Temple. He rocketed himself up to the top, wrapped one arm around the spire for balance, and with a note of finality unwrapped the cloth package and shook it as hard as he could. Its contents—the ashes of the crystal archway that had cause the island so much trouble—burst free and scattered in the wind, twirling away in miniscule streams, and after a moment there was nothing left at all of the object that had let such a monster into their world.
There was nothing left for them in this place after that. They had fulfilled Rezzik Nazuul's final wishes, and the people here had been remembered, even if only by a band of scruffy pirates. With that, the Straw Hats unanimously agreed that it was probably time to leave. So they recollected their supplies from where Sanji-kun had stacked them earlier, and Robin carefully cleaned up the records room, replacing the old parchments she had studied, satisfied with the knowledge she had translated into her own notebook. And they left, without the intentions of ever looking back.
Intentions, it seemed, that were not meant to be fulfilled. Halfway out of the city, Chopper suddenly lifted his head and said, "Sanji, this is the place where we found that building..."
"Oh," the cook said, looking a little surprised. "Right. I forgot about it, with all the preparations...perhaps we should let Robin-chan see it, first?"
"The important building you were talking about?" Nami asked, reminded suddenly herself. Both Sanji-kun and Chopper nodded, and she said, "Well, we might as well take a peek while we're here. I mean, if there's other information we could use to help Asteria be remembered, if only by us..."
She let it hang, but the others understood, and Luffy said with a grin, "Let's go look!" His excitement had returned, replacing his oddly solemn cast after the dreams of the dead had been sent to their rest, and he looked enthusiastic about the prospect of even more exploring.
So they did, detouring for another ten minutes until Sanji-kun and Chopper stopped before a building and announced that they had arrived. They had been right: it did look different, important and imposing, like some sort of government facility. Robin studied it with interest and reported a moment later that it did seem like a center of governing. "The religion was intrinsic here, but it did not seem to be a theocracy," she observed. "Perhaps this was where regular day-to-day affairs were handled. If there are papers inside, it would divulge a good deal more information about Asteria's culture."
The building was very unstable, just as Sanji-kun and Chopper reported. Age had not done it justice, and its roof and walls appeared to be crumbling from where Nightmares had crawled across it too many times. But Franky declared it would be easy to reinforce, and with Usopp's help he managed to make it safe enough to explore in a matter of hours. The crew spread out inside the building, searching for another vault that would hopefully contain some of Robin's papers to shed a little more light on ancient Asteria.
They never found records, but Nami was able to discover exactly what the building was for all the same, when she carefully pushed open an old stone door ten minutes into the search. Eyes wide, she stared at the contents of the windowless, cold room, contents that had been hidden for centuries and yet still remained relatively intact after all that time.
"Oh my God," she whispered. "This wasn't a government building. It was a center of trade. This is a bank, or a treasury, or something!"
She called for the others frantically, and they came rushing, only to freeze in place and stare at the room's interior. It was filled with gemstones, ordinary gemstones, of every imaginable kind: diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and dozens of other lesser gems lay in scattered, undisturbed piles, organized neatly by kind. They glittered dully in the handheld lamps the Straw Hats carried, as if unused to light after centuries locked in the dark.
"This is...this is..." Nami was in awe. They weren't Dreamshards, worth a person's head or more for each gem. But they were still precious stones, and worth a veritable fortune in and of themselves. Her eyes lit up with delight, and she darted into the room, scooping up the nearest pile of gems (emeralds in this case) with glee. "I'm rich! I'm rich! These are positively gorgeous!"
"I'm so happy to have been of service, Nami-swan!" Sanji-kun crooned, but she was too busy scooping up the next closest pile of gems, this time rubies, to notice.
Zoro snorted in disgust. "And I was almost getting used to her not getting greedy over jewels, after handling all those Dreamshards. Guess I was wrong."
"Don't you dare speak that way about Nami-san, marimo! She absolutely deserves all the treasure she wants after everything she's been through!"
"Tch. None of us would have gone through any of this if it hadn't been for her in the first place, curly-brow!"
"You are just asking me to beat your head in, shit swordsman—"
"As if you could, love-cook, wobbling around on those crutches—"
"Shut up!" Nami ordered them sharply, and they complied sullenly, allowing her to turn back to her precious piles of gems. It hadn't been a dream, thank goodness—every single one of those jewels was still there.
"Intriguing," Robin said. "It seems Asteria had a thriving trade of gemstones, after all—just not the ones we initially expected, based on Adamantina's stories."
"We can keep them, can't we?" Nami said, almost childishly. She was a little wary, after the incident with the Dreamshards, but these gems were all so pretty and they were worth so much—
Robin smiled, looking vaguely amused. "The people here believed in something much like karma. They believed if you did a good deed for someone, and helped them take a step towards their dreams, you would be paid with a favor in return. Perhaps Rezzik Azuul is simply thanking us for performing favors for him, and helping his people to their rest."
That was as good as a yes to her, and with a triumphant grin Nami turned on the boys, ordering sharply, "Alright then! Start gathering everything up then, and don't you dare miss a single gem, no matter how small. And if you scratch any one of them, you will pay for it, and the price will be very steep. Are we clear?"
Sanji-kun trilled, Zoro grumbled, Luffy laughed, and the rest set to work, stuffing the valuable gemstones into their packs, pockets, and anywhere else they could find space. Nami supervised, grinning all the while. Okay, so she still sort of wished they'd never come to Asteria Island, because it had definitely been a terrifying ride. But if they had to suffer through all of that, at the very least they had managed to make a little profit out of it.
They finished gathering up the abandoned gemstones fairly quickly. Nami had them sweep every square inch of the building from top to bottom, in case there was another hidden treasure trove somewhere, or a jewel had been missed. But there was nothing else, and the Straw Hats had been very thorough with collecting their new pirate treasure. Satisfied, they left the merchant building and Oneirosa behind, allowing the ancient city to at last fall silent and sleep, empty once more.
Two days later they arrived back at the Thousand Sunny once more. The crew had taken its time to return back to the shore, enjoying the comforting quiet of Asteria Island, and they were in no particular hurry now that the Nightmares were forever banished from it. They returned their supplies to the ship and spent one last night camped out on the island. It was one of their classic bonfires on the beaches, when Sanji-kun made barbecue for dinner and the younger members of the crew played tag up and down the beach and Robin identified constellations and Brook played cheerful songs all night long and Franky danced ridiculously and Nami got in a drinking contest with Zoro that, as usual, was never actually conclusive. It was a truly enjoyable night after all their hardships; indeed, it was probably all the more enjoyable for all the things they had been through on Asteria, because they had survived, and that made the world so much brighter, always.
In the morning they cast off from the island one last time, leaving it behind forever. The Straw Hats would not forget, not ever, although they would wait for some time yet before they began spreading the news that Asteria was safe and inhabitable once more. The island had suffered for centuries; it deserved a chance to rest, before it welcomed real life back onto its island. Until then, the Straw Hats would remember. And Nami was sure they would return here one day, when all of them had fulfilled their dreams, to give the island's dead some peace of mind and its new inhabitants hope.
The wind was favorable, and the seas were calm as they sailed. Nami was sure the monstrous storm that had dragged them there would not return, just like the Queen would not return. Its unnatural strength had been a result of the evil creature's conjuring somehow, though Nami wasn't entirely sure how, and with the Queen gone the seas would be normal once more. Asteria grew rapidly smaller in the distance, and the whole crew stood on deck, quietly watching it recede as they sailed away.
Then Luffy took a deep breath, cupped his hands to his mouth, and yelled loudly as he leaned over the rails of the Sunny, "Don't worry, old priest guy! I'm not gonna give up, just like you said! I'm gonna be King of the Pirates!"
It was music to Nami's ears to hear that enthusiastic, absolutely sure declaration again, and she could practically feel the warmth and confidence of Luffy's Dreamshard once more, this close. Without even thinking about it she threw herself at her captain and wrapped him in a squishy hug, and she felt several of the others crashing into her and Luffy as they did the same. He grinned widely and seemed to understand, letting his crew pile on without argument, and even Zoro and Robin—never the hugging types—were still smirking and smiling respectively at Luffy's promise.
And on the horizon, even though there was no wind to speak of, Asteria Island's flame colored trees seemed to wave in answer, as if restored to peace once more.
Fun Fact: The first Great Seer dies on my birthday, and the construction of the gate happens on the birthday of one of my OC's, whom I derive my pen-name from. Fun times!
And that's a wrap! Another epically long fanfiction by Velkyn Karma, finished. I hope you all enjoyed it :) I've also got another surprise in the works that should be posted in a couple weeks. Hint: If you enjoyed Mindshattered, you'll want to keep an eye out for this one.
As usual guys, the end of the fic is the only time that I will ever request reviews. I worked very hard on this story, and since it is now completed, I would dearly love to hear you feedback!