It was a very late and dark night. The air was still and dark clouds shrouded the light of the moon and the stars. The wind blew slightly, picking up only a small cloud of dust from the barren earth.
Deep within this pit, a cavern sits open, like a vast, gaping maw of a vicious creature. There appeared to be no sign of life within...but then, it happened: someone emerged from the mouth of the cavern, panting breathlessly as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him. He glanced back, his eyes wide and manic before he continued to look ahead. His heart pounded loudly in his eardrums and his throat was dry. As he ran...something else leaped out from the cave behind him...something huge and black with fiery red eyes.
It leaped after the man, spreading gigantic wings to gain a bit more altitude, and before long, it caught up to him, blocking his path. The man yelped as he tried to run the other way, but alas, a long, whip-like tail fell before him, intercepting him once more. The man gasped as he glanced up to the creature, its eyes staring at him with malice. He whimpered as he dropped to his knees, his hands gripping the back of his head as he curled up into a fetal position.
"No more...!" he whimpered. "Please...don't make me see it again! I've had enough!"
In his mind...the image of a young boy appeared, tears falling from his frightened eyes...as he sank into a deep pit of thick mud.
"Papa!" he cried as he reached out to him. "Papa, help me! Help me, Papa!! Please!!!"
And yet...no help came for the boy. He sank, deep below the depths of the pit...and the young man, his father, only gaped in horror, frozen at the edge.
"...Tobias...!" the man whispered. "I...I let him drown...! I wanted to save him, but my damned cowardice wouldn't let me! It's my fault!! IT'S MY FAULT MY SON IS DEAD!!!"
On that, he sobbed as tears came cascading from his eyes and his nose ran. The creature only glowered down at him...before its eyes glowed, and soon after, something appeared before the weeping young man. It looked like some sort of cup...with a small flame in it.
"...Put it out..." it told him in a deep, unearthly voice. "End it...if you feel as if you can no longer live with your despair...then end it all. Snuff out the very flame of your soul."
The man panted as he glanced up at the shadowy creature, then at the flame. He almost appeared to be contemplating the offer, seeming hesitant...but then, he carefully picked up the cup, held it up to his face, and, after a few more moments of hesitation...he gently blew on it until all that was left was a wisp of smoke.
THUD!! The man's eyes rolled into the back of his head...and he collapsed. Meanwhile, the figure seemed to chuckle darkly before spreading its wings and flying off...the red gem of its golden collar shining bright as the man's face appeared within, screaming in torment.
As the beast flew away, it didn't appear to notice that a small, white cat with glowing yellow eyes sat on a rock...glaring at it almost hatefully.
"...How many more souls must you take?" she asked. "How many more innocents will you drag back into the very pit of their despair?" She then glanced at the sea...just as the sun was beginning to rise. "One day...one day, someone will be strong enough to break the spell you put on them...Kovar."
"Sanji~! I'm starving! I want meat!!"
"Yeah, yeah, you told me a thousand times, already! Sheesh!"
Monkey D. Luffy, who was wearing an orange, short-sleeved, hooded shirt, a pair of mahogany shorts with his yellow sash around his waist, and a black strap around his left wrist, groaned as he lied on the deck, whining like a pathetic dog, clutching at his stomach while it growled deeply. He had already eaten lunch, and now he was just waiting for his snack...which consisted of a roasted leg of meat, just to keep him satisfied until dinner. Until then, Sanji and the rest of the crew were forced to deal with their captain's hungry whining.
"Need meat now...!" Luffy groaned.
"Will you stop your whining?!" Roronoa Zoro questioned, doing a bit weight-lifting training. His attire consisted of an open dark green vest with a red bandanna tied around his forehead while his usual black bandanna was tied around his bicep. "I'm trying to concentrate, and your damn groaning isn't helping!"
"You know Luffy," Nami said as she sat in her lawn chair, reading a book and wearing a light pink bikini halter top with Berry signs on them, as well as a short, white frilly skirt. "He's not happy until he gets something in that bottomless pit he calls his stomach."
"Well, what can you do?" asked Robin, who was wearing a light blue shirt with flower petals on the front and a leather jacket, as well as a pair of low-rise blue jeans, as she brushed Monkey D. Aika's hair.
"Ow!" cried Aika, who was wearing a gray-blue shirt with the word "HOWL" in big black letters and had big paw prints on the side and a pair of lavender shorts, as the archaeologist pulled the brush down her scalp. "Aunt Robin, that hurts!"
"Then don't fidget," Robin scolded, lightly.
"Ow-ow!!" Aika cried.
"Aika, I didn't even touch you," Robin pointed out.
"Well, it still hurts!" Aika complained.
Blizzard, wearing a green scarf with lighter green stripes on it, sighed and shook his head while Kumi laid in between his front legs, chewing on her squeaky burger toy.
"Sometimes, I wonder about Luffy," Blizzard said.
"I wonder about a lot of things," Kumi added, randomly.
At that moment, Sanji came outside, wearing a dark blue shirt with light blue stripes and a pair of dark green pants with a pocket chain dangling out of the left pocket and holding a plate that held a smoking slab of meat on the bone.
"Here you go, Luffy," the cook said as he put it down on the deck. "Eat up."
"Finally!" Luffy exclaimed as he began to eat it. "Mmm~! So good! Thanks, Sanji!"
"Whatever," Sanji muttered before he glanced over at Usopp, who was wearing a yellow-and-red striped tank top, his usual white sunhat, and a pair of sand-colored, baggy pants, and Chopper, wearing his usual hat, a pink tank top with hoofprints printed on the front, and a pair of light blue shorts, who were sitting on the railing with their fishing poles in hand. "How's it going, you guys?"
"So far, nothing," Usopp answered.
"I pulled up a couple," Chopper spoke up, "but they were really tiny."
"Well, we better catch something soon," Sanji replied. "Our food supply is running pretty low. I estimate that we'll only have enough to feed us for at least 3 more days, and the next island could be weeks away."
"Eh?!" Aika questioned. "Weeks away?! Really?!!"
"I hope we catch something before then," Chopper said, worriedly.
"Yeah, like a nice giant sea beast!" Usopp spoke up. "You know, that reminds me of this one time I fought such a creature. I was 13 years old and it was a blistering summer day. It was at least a hundred degrees in the shade and I had barely a bite to eat. Death was sure to be knocking on my door any minute!"
As the Straw Hats listened to another one of the sniper's tall tales, Franky, wearing a purple open shirt with orange zigzagged stripes, a black Speedo, and his hair styled into what looked like flames, stood at the helm, steering the Sunny to their next destination. He couldn't help chuckling as he heard Usopp spin his story. Sure, they weren't real, but they were certainly entertaining and fun to hear.
"Guy's gotta have a hobby," the shipwright muttered before he looked up to the Crow's Nest. "Hey, Bones! How's it going, up there? See anything yet?"
"Nothing, so far!" Brook called back, looking through a spyglass. His outfit consisted of a lavender shirt with the words "BONE TO BE WILD" with musical notes and bones around it and a pair of indigo pants, as well as a pair of sandals.
"Keep looking!" Franky said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to find an island to resupply, soon!"
"Understood!" Brook answered as he kept looking. "Hmm...nothing so far..." He then seemed to spot something off port. "Oh...oh, wait! There seems to be something over there!" That's when he grabbed the intercom.
"Attention! Attention, Straw Hat Crew! There is an island off portside! I repeat! Island sighted off portside! That is all!"
"An island?" Aika repeated.
"Where?!" Luffy asked as he ran to the portside rail, and sure enough, he spotted it: an island, looking rather small in the distance, yet it seemed to be growing in size as the ship slowly drifted towards it. "Oh! There it is! I see it!"
"Doesn't look like much, does it?" Zoro asked.
"Well, it might be worth exploring," Nami answered. "Who knows, we might find a town there to restock our supplies."
"Guess it wouldn't hurt to look," Robin added as she tied Aika's hair into a ponytail. "After all, it's been a while since were last on land."
"Does this mean we get to go on an adventure?" asked Aika, excitedly.
"Shishishishishi!" Luffy laughed. "You bet it does, Aika!"
"Well, I guess we better get ready to disembark," Nami replied. "Hear that, Franky?"
"Got it!" Franky replied as he began to steer the Sunny closer to the island while everyone went to get their backpacks, Luffy momentarily glanced at the island...only for him to pause as he spotted something in the distance: a black figure, soaring above it before it seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye.
"Huh?" Luffy muttered as he turned to look at Nami.
"You okay?" asked Nami.
"Uh...yeah," Luffy replied before he looked back. "I...I thought I saw something, that's all."
"Maybe it was a bird or something," Nami said.
"...Yeah...maybe," Luffy mused before he smiled at his navigator. "Anyway, let's get ready and go!"
"Yeah," Nami nodded before they headed to their rooms to get their backpacks.
However, as the Straw Hats sailed towards the island...they didn't notice a white cat, sitting on the sandy shore.
"More visitors," she said. "I wonder...how will they fare here?"
TO BE CONTINUED...