A huge snail came sailing beside the Sunny, coming to a stop beside them. On it Sanji could see a huge man with a golden helmet hiding his face, his long hair-like mane around his face giving him an imposing look.
He gritted his teeth and glared at the man.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Sanji growled out, rage radiating from him like a furnace. He thought he didn't have to see this man's face ever again especially not after the whole episode with Big Mom.
But this time is completely different. This time he has his whole crew at his back and he was home on the Sunny. Just that is enough to help him push back his fear and hatred for the man before him.
"I'm here to see you, son." The last word was grounded out slowly, like he didn't want to say it but have no choice to. But it doesn't matter to Sanji anyway, he never want to admit this man as his father.
"Don't call me that!" He spat. "I'm not your fucking son. I want nothing to do with you."
Sanji stomped towards his ship but halted when a voice called out.
"Nice to see you again little brother." Niji sneered. He along with Yonji jumped from their ship onto Sunny with one easy leap.
"So this is your captain's ship? Looks like a joke if you ask me." Yonji laughed as he took in the large figurehead of Sunny and the colorful textures of the ship.
"Well, no one asked for your opinion and I damn well don't give a fuck. More importantly, get the hell off Sunny, you're not welcome here." Sanji growled.
Ichiji and Reiju stood near Judge. Reiju watched the scene with amusement whereas Ichiji's expression is covered by his sunglasses. Nevertheless, he seems to be watching the scene intently.
"Trust me, if it wasn't for father's decision, I wouldn't even want to be here." Yonji frowned, he didn't understand his father's intentions but he didn't care as long as he got to fight. Still, seeing how his father wanted to meet up with his brother made no sense considering there's no need for this failure and Yonji made it clear in his tone when speaking to is brother. "I don't understand why father even want to bother with this failure." He muttered under his breath but loud enough that Sanji heard it.
"Fuck you." Sanji growled out. "Want me to kick your face in again like I did last time?"
Sanji enjoyed the look of embarrassment and rage that flashed across Yonji's face but before any fight could break out, Judge's voice stopped all of them.
One word was enough to halt all of them. His tone is filled with authority and power which is understandable considering he is still the king of the Germa kingdom albeit a fallen one.
"Stand down Yonji. I didn't bring you here to start a fight." Judge ordered and Yonji obeyed with an annoyed clicked of his tongue.
"So?" Sanji started. "What the hell are you here for? Didn't you promise not to approach me and my friends ever again?"
"I did." Judge admitted curtly which surprises Sanji since he didn't think the man could ever admit to anything, especially if he was in the wrong.
Sanji raise an eyebrow, gesturing for Judge to go on.
"I came here because I want you to return to the Germa." Judge said slowly, his voice low and careful.
Sanji was shocked beyond belief.
Did Judge seriously just say that?
Seeing Sanji silent, he continued.
"It seems that I have miscalculated. You're not as much of a letdown as I've thought of you to be. After witnessing your fight against Big Mom and her crew, you have demonstrated that you're strong enough to match up against your brothers."
Niji and Yonji open their mouth to protest but were stopped by their father raising a hand to silence them.
Was that supposed to be a praise? Sanji can't help but wonder. He wanted to laugh at the irony of things. When he was a child, all he wanted was his father's approval and praise, and when he couldn't meet his father's standards, he threw him away like dirt. Now, after suffering with blood, sweat and tears (literally), he managed to get to where he is today. The power and strength that he got through hard work and determination is nothing compared to the scientific technology his brothers possess. However, he was content with the strength he'd worked hard to obtain instead of given.
He didn't want his fucking praise. He didn't want anything from him.
Judge continued on, ignorant of Sanji's inner rage at his words.
"Even though you're a failure from birth, your power is above an average soldier. With proper training, you'll grow to be a great asset for the Germa kingdom."
Of course. Sanji scoffed. It's always about the fucking Germa with him. He wanted to kick that man in the face so hard that it'd leave a dent but he refrained from doing so, he doesn't want to drag his crew mates into another fight especially after everything that he'd put them through.
"Father, our strength is already enough. We don't need to snoop so low into asking that worthless failure for help." Yonji whines and was immediately shut up by a glare in his direction.
"That worthless failure managed to kick a dent into your face! Or do you not remember that?" Judge shouted.
So he still sees me as a failure in his eyes huh? Sanji muses but couldn't help but smirk when he remembered that win against Yonji; that messed up face of his when he kicked him in the face. He had longed to do that when he returned, payback for all those years of torment he suffered from him. Though of course this was not enough to satisfy him but he couldn't be selfish right now.
"Hey! Sanji's not a failure!"
Sanji's heart warmed and he allow himself a small smile when he saw his captain stand up for him. His crew were all behind him now, some having been drawn out from below deck by the commotion he was making. They all knew who that man before them was. They now knew the story behind his departure from the crew. They scolded him of course, but also welcomed him back with lots of hugs and tears.
All the things he never received from his biological family.
"His food is the best! The meat he cooks are always delicious and he's always looking out for us!" Luffy pouted angrily and crossed his arms with a huff.
"People of loyalty shouldn't be cooking like commoners, especially the heir of the Germa kingdom. It is not right." Judge simply said.
"Oh for the love of—!" Sanji shouted, his hands flying up in exasperation.
"Get off your high horse Judge! First of all, I'm not a loyal. I'm a cook and the first class chef of the Strawhats. Get that through your thick head!"
Judge opened his mouth to say something but was quickly cut off.
"Second, there's nothing wrong with cooking! It's a useful survival skill that everyone should have but I guess you're too full of yourself to see that." He glared.
"And last and most importantly, I'm not your damn son! The only man I ever see as a father is the old man! You threw me away when I was 8 so don't think you can just waltz in to my life now and expect me to follow like one of your mindless soldiers!"
He couldn't help his voice as it grew louder and louder with each word. He hated this man. Hate the sight of him and everything he stands for.
Judge stared at him, looking down at him as though he was a child throwing a temper tantrum.
"So what...." He drawled. "You're just going to spend the rest of your days gallivanting around aimlessly in pursuit of something that might or might not be real? How meaningless...." Judge questioned with a disgusted tone.
Sanji face reddened and he could not express his fury into words.
How dare he mock our dreams! He wanted to scream but was beat to it by his Captain.
"We're not going around aimlessly." Luffy laughed, tone as easygoing as ever. "We have a brilliant navigator by our side and I trust she'll get us to where we're going."
Nami blushed at the compliment.
"And we have lots of adventures on the way! It's not the goal we're pursuing—well, it is that but what's more important is the journey that makes everything worth the effort." Luffy finished with a satisfied nod of his head, not knowing what he just said by it felt right all the same. He didn't notice that all his crew members are staring at him in shock for saying something so profound and so unlike him.
But that's just their captain isn't it? Unpredictable but he always have the best intentions for the crew.
Judge just grunted in disapproval. "Nonsense. And what if you found nothing in the end? Won't that mean your journey is meaningless—a waste of time?"
Sanji wanted to bash his head on something, or more satisfyingly, bash Judge's face in for being so stubborn. Nothing they say will get through that thick helmet of his.
Luffy opened his open to say something but was cut off by the Cook. "Enough Luffy. There's no use talking to him." Sanji glared at the man who he used to call 'father'.
"Why don't you just leave us alone and go back to your beloved kingdom. I wish you all the best O'Great King of the Germa." He said the last part with as much venom as he could muster and turned to leave. He had enough of looking at the man's face.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have a meal to prepare." He finished with a parting glare and turned his back towards him, briskly making his way to the gallery.
Everyone flinched that the sound of the gallery door slamming shut and sighed. They've never seen the Cook that angry and freaked out before.
Everyone was quiet for a moment before Judge sighs out loud.
"I'll never understand that kid. Why would he want to waste his time on such meaningless tasks when he can get others to do it for him?"
"Now see here—" Nami shouted, she was quite fed up with this man's high and mighty attitude. She can't believe this man is the birth father of Sanji.
Sanji; the most kind-hearted man she ever met and has the pleasure of traveling with. He may be annoying with his constant flirting attempts but he's never a person who looks down on others or uses them as he pleases. He never purposely hurt others—unless they deserved it—or treats them unfairly due to their status.
"Why don't you try to understand him?" Luffy cut Nami off.
Judge gave a questioning look at the Strawhat Captain, wondering what's going through this weird teenager's mind.
"Come and join us for lunch!" Luffy offered, grinning from ear to ear. "See with your own eyes how great my Cook is!"
Nami and the rest stared at Luffy with mouths open.
"What the hell Luffy?!" Usopp cried. "How could you just invite the enemy onboard and ask them to join us for lunch?!"
"Yeah! They hurt Sanji!" Chopper agreed.
"Yohohoho~ What an interesting turn of events." Brook laughs, content with going along with whatever his Captain decides to do.
"Cook-bro is not going to be happy about this..." Franky could only hope that the blond would not take his anger out onboard the ship otherwise he'll have a lot of repairs to do.
"Luffy...." Nami clamped a hand on his shoulder. "Are you sure you know what you're doing? This is going to hurt Sanji-kun...."
Her Captain turns to face her with a confident and reassuring smile. "Don't worry Nami! I'm sure it'll be fine! Sanji's strong and he's an amazing cook. I want his family to know that too!"
Nami immediately understands what Luffy is trying to do. He wants to make his family recognize him for who he is and in doing that would help him leave his past behind and move on from the hurt. This was something Sanji would have to face. He can't keep running from his family forever as much as he never wants to see their faces or hear their names mentioned.
Judge seems to consider this a moment before nodding. "Very well. I shall accept your offer."
Yonji's mouth dropped as he stared horrified at his father while Reiju just smiled. She was happy to see her baby brother again. The only one in the family who carried their beloved mother's soul and legacy in him. As much as she wanted him to stay away from anything associated with the Germa—including herself—a selfish part of her wanted to be part of her brother's life, to see him happy with his nakama.
And right now she's given the perfect opportunity to do so. She smiled fondly at the Strawhat Captain who continued grinning widely.
"And besides," Luffy's expression was still grinning but his eyes held a glint of danger. "If they try to make my nakama sad again, I can always kick their ass out. Shishishishi~"
"The fuc—" Niji started but Judge raised a hand to shut him up.
"Let's go." He said in a tone that no one would dare argue. "And on no account will anyone attack or harm anyone on this crew."
"Yes father!" The 3 sons answered—albeit rather reluctantly especially for Yonji and Reiju smiled, saying nothing but feeling happier than she ever had.
The atmosphere in the galley was tense and filled with anger that the people waiting at the table could practically see it rolling off their Cook in waves as he busied himself in the kitchen.
The Cook had argued of course when he first heard that Luffy invited the Vinsmokes to join them for lunch but Luffy being Luffy, had won the argument using the Captain's card.
Thus here they are in the galley, a shroud of tense friction hanging over the room. Everyone was quiet, not knowing what to say in fear of provoking the very pissed off chef. Said chef is in the kitchen preparing some last minute dishes to accommodate to the increase number of people at the table. Despite his seething hatred, he is still a chef and he'll damn well do his job to feed everyone on board, enemy or not. So he chopped the vegetables with unnecessary vigor till he left deep marks on his cutting board and he sliced the meat up with such violence that everyone watching was wincing for that poor dead animal.
The Vinsmoke—for the better part—was quiet as they watched their wayward family member work with such efficiency and skills that showed how well-verse he was with his trade and the joy he takes in doing it. Aside from Reiju, every one of the Vinsmoke was not pleased with how he does it although Ichiji hid his disapproval behind his shades while the other two younger Vinsmoke outright display their disgust on their faces.
Sanji ignored all of them of course. Here in his kitchen, he is safe. This is his domain and he's not going to let them ruin his mood while he's cooking. So he hummed and cooked, feeling his tension slowly ebb away with each twirl of the knife.
Before long, Sanji had already prepared 5 additional dishes to add onto the crowded table. His mood has improved significantly while cooking and he came to a conclusion to just ignore the bastards in the room just like how he always dealt with the marimo.
"Lunch is served you bastards~" He grinned as he walked out from the kitchen with arms full of plates. The aroma filled the room with its mouth-watering smell and soon Luffy and a few others are drooling with anticipation.
"MEAT!!!" Luffy yelled and stretches an arm over to snatch something off the Cook but Sanji already knew what the rubber idiot was going to do and twisted his body, letting his arm fly harmlessly over his head.
"Damn shitty rubber. At least wait till I put the plates down!" Sanji yelled and added a swift kick to the head for good measure.
The atmosphere in the room quickly returned to how it always was during mealtimes with Luffy snatching food off everyone's plates, Nami screaming at the idiot for doing so, Sanji yelling at him and sometimes the marimo for their table manners, Brook laughing as he watched on, Chopper looking worried as he tried his best to stare too much at the Cook, Usopp trying his hardest to protect his plate from the onslaught of rubbery hands flying across the table, Robin chuckling fondly while sipping on her tea at how cheerful the crew's being and Franky joining in the laughter with Brook with his own additional 'super!'.
The Vinsmoke observed and was not pleased by what they see.
"This is disgusting." Yonji sneers.
Judge said nothing but seemed to be in approval with what his son said.
"I can't believe you eat like this. You're all like a bunch of uncivilized animals." Yonji continues earning a smirk from Niji. The crew quietens down but instead of getting mad at the comment, they are more wary of their Cook's temper.
"You're the last person to talk about being civilize when you don't even know how to treat a woman right or have any fucking table manners at all." Sanji said, pointing to the scraps of food spilled over Yonji's plate and around his mouth.
Reiju snickered as well as a few daring members of the Strawhats at the mess the youngest Vinsmoke made. Even Niji couldn't help but mock his brother at how much of a mess he is when eating. Ichiji just stared at his brother, no emotions on his face and even if there is any, it was hidden behind those red sunglasses of his. Judge glared at his youngest disapprovingly and shook his head in disappointment.
Yonji turned beet red and threw an accusative glare at Sanji but Sanji just smirked it off. As much as he hates his family, mocking them was actually pretty stress relieving.
Thankfully, Yonji learned to shut his mouth for the rest of the meal but kept throwing glares over to the blond which he obviously ignored.
Sanji was sort of surprised that he wasn't feeling as vex as he thought he would. He knew he has some....mental issues whenever he hears the name 'Vinsmoke' or see his so-called brothers idiot faces due to the abuse he had suffered during childhood. The memories haunted him even after he escaped the Germa and even then he has not completely recovered as he thought he would. He hated that these bastards managed to carve a deep scar into him, one that he's still struggling to get rid off—both physically and mentally. But like all scars, it'll never truly go away. It'll be a miracle if he could even manage to cover it up but every time he looks at it, it reminds him of his brothers, of how much of a failure everyone thinks he is.
But right now these thoughts are chased away to the furthest part of his mind. He didn't even have time to think about them due to all the crazy adventures he was having. And right now he felt calm and collected because he knows that he's safe within his kitchen, his home, his safe haven. But overall, main reason he can be here right now was because of these crazy lunatics he calls nakama.
He could feel their concern gazes on his back when they thought he wasn't looking. He could see their worried looks whenever they didn't hide it quickly enough. He could see that they're trying hard not to get angry on his behalf because that's the last thing he wants his Nakama to do.
He doesn't want anyone to fight his battles for him, least of all his Nakama. He doesn't want anything to happen to them, especially from those Germa scumbags. They knew that too, that's why they're holding in their rage for his sake.
Time with the Strawhats has indeed changed everything for him. Even after everything he did and said, Luffy still wants him back. If that's not acceptance, he doesn't know what is.
Luffy—his rubbery, idiot Captain—now stuffing his face with even more meat than he could possibly carry looked over at the youngest Vinsmoke's plate with a sly glint in his eyes.
He lunges with outstretched hands and snatched up the food with astounding accuracy before stuffing it into already full mouth.
Normally, Sanji would scream at Luffy for not having any manners and stealing another's food but since this is Yonji, he allowed his captain to do whatever he wants with a grateful smile.
"Hey!" Yonji yelled angrily but it was too late. The food's all gone into Luffy's mouth and the other's snickered at the look on the Vinsmoke's face.
"You Fu—" Yonji yelled in indignation but was immediately cut off.
"You dare say one word of insult to my captain and I'll gladly throw you off this ship." Sanji growled in Yonji's face with an expression full of fury.
Yonji wasn't fazed one bit.
"Hah. I like to see you try." He sneered back, pushing his chair back to stand.
Tension started building between the two and everyone in the room was quiet. Luffy continued on as though nothing happened but Zoro's hands were on his katana's hilt, ready to protect his crew if needed be from these unwelcome guests.
"Yonji." Judge said only one word and he backed down with a snarl.
The rest of the meal continued in silence except the loud munching from the Strawhat Captain.
"This is good."
Sanji felt as though his ears have just failed him.
Did he just hear the damn Judge praise his cooking?!
But it seems he did not hear wrong because his crew mates' all stared in shock at the man.
"Yes, this is delicious." Reiju agreed, sending a warm smile towards Sanji.
Sanji felt his heart melt a little at the praise from Reiju. Out of all his family, he could never truly hate his sister. Not because she's a woman, but because she's the only one who showed him any kindness when he was just a scared child. She's also the one who freed him and started everything.
In a way, he could say he owe her his life.
"Thank you." He smiled. "I have more if you want."
"That'll be great. Thanks."
Sanji went back to the kitchen to get more food he prepared but didn't put out. It's always good to have extra food hidden at the back from Luffy, in case the others didn't have their fill.
He didn't realize he was still smiling as he went about the kitchen scooping up plates and food to take out.
He never thought he had the chance to sit down with his sister and have a nice meal together. The one in Germa Kingdom doesn't count. He was being threatened and he hated every moment he was there. But now, on the Sunny; his home and with his true family, he was glad to have a chance to show his sister the wonderful Nakama he found. (Or he guess it was Luffy who found him.)
He took out another warm plate of pasta he prepared and set it down in front of Reiju.
"Thank you." She smiled gratefully and he returned the smile.
"You look just like Sora when you smile."
He stilled and the smile was immediately replaced with a snarl. He hated whenever Judge mentions his mother. He was the one who caused her death. He was the one who made the children she loves monsters.
"Shut up." He growled, trying to control his rage. "You don't get to say her name, not after what you did to her."
"I only did what's best for the Germa Kingdom. She understood that when she married into the family."
"And that ruined her life...." Sanji muttered under his breath, fist clenched and trembling with rage.
That man didn't feel any regret for putting his wife through all that pain and suffering! Everything goes if it's for his stupid Germa Kingdom! Even his wife!
And Sanji felt disgusted for even being related to a man like this. For a moment, he was almost feeling sorry for his bastard brothers for having a father like this. It's not their fault that they were born without emotions. He was the exception; the 'dud' as they called it and for a long time, he believed that.
But now he knows that he's special, a result of his mother's sacrifice and her legacy. And nothing his damn father says was going to change that.
Judge sighed again, as though tired of arguing with a petulant child but it's Sanji who wants to tear his hair out taking to a lowlife like him.
Whatever small part of him that still wishes to reconcile with his family was long gone and this talk had just drawn the final straw for any hope to even see eye-to-eye with one another.
He'd never understand why his sweet mother would ever marry someone like this man and even have his children. But he'll never question his mother's choice. After all, love is something that can't be explained.
"Father, he has made it clear that he'll never be like us so why are we still here on this filthy pirate ship?" Niji questioned his father.
"Hey! Don't insult my Sunny!" Franky yelled.
"By all means, please leave. I don't want you here anymore than you do." Sanji gestured towards the door.
Judge heaved another tired sigh. "Sanji, you'll soon regret your choice. To abandon your right as a prince to be a filthy pirate...." He shook his head. "I'll never understand your actions."
"I never expect you to." Sanji growled. "Now, if you had your fill, please leave."
Judge slowly got up and his brothers quickly followed. They walked out of the door to the deck but Reiju stayed behind.
"I'm sorry about father. I know you never want to see him again but he insisted on coming to see you." She muttered.
"You don't have anything to apologize for Reiju. I'm glad that I at least got to see you again."
Reiju's eyes widen at his honestly and soon her eyes were filled with tears.
"I'm so glad you found them. They mean a lot to you right?"
Reiju’s eyes turned to look behind him where he knows his crew mates were watching, lending him their silent support. Just having them there gives him all the strength he needs to face the Vinsmoke and for that, he is truly grateful for their presence.
"Yes. I'll give my life for them and I know that they'll do the same for me. They saved me."
Reiju has never seen his brother smile like that before. As he spoke of his nakama, his eyes turned soft and bright, his smile genuine and Reiju can tell he is really happy to be here.
"I'm happy you found your place. Good luck with your dream and I hope you stay well my brother." Reiju smiled sadly as she turned to rejoin her father waiting outside.
"Wait Reiju." Sanji grabbed her arm, stopping her. Sanji didn't know why he stopped her, but what he does know, was that he didn't want her sister going back with that monster where she'll be used as a tool for murder.
"No Sanji." Reiju put her hand on Sanji's, her eyes met his and she knew what he was trying to do. "I've too much blood on my hands. Even if I leave the Germa, I'll have nowhere to go." She said softly, her tone a resigned one and it made Sanji's heart clench in pain.
"Then you can come with us." He found himself saying. "Luffy will definitely accept you on board."
Yes, Luffy will definitely accept Reiju as one of his crew because that's how Luffy is.
However, she shook her head sadly.
"No. This is your family now and I don't want to intrude on the happiness you found for yourself. After all, I am still part of Germa. The sins I committed can never be washed away but it doesn't matter. I've already accepted the life I have."
Sanji opened his mouth to argue but her sister put a finger to his mouth to quiet him.
"No. I had already resigned myself to die at the wedding but because of your kind heart, you saved both me and the Germa. You have already done enough Sanji. You don't have to look out for everyone you know. Just look after yourself. You deserve it after everything you've been through." Reiju patted his brother's hands and reached up to plant a soft kiss to his cheeks.
"I always wanted to do that. Don't think the others would appreciate it that much." She chuckled lightly.
"Reiju!" Ichiji called impatiently from the deck. Judge, Niji and Yonji has already returned to their ship but only Judge was left on the ship's deck.
"Goodbye Sanji, don't ever lose that kind heart of yours." Reiju gave a last parting caress on his cheek before walking out and jumping back onto the Germa with one hop.
Sanji glance sadly at his sister and wished he could have done more for her. Her sister might not have been the best, but she did try discreetly to take care of him when he wasn't able to protect himself.
He was surprised to find Ichiji still here on Sunny's deck and talking to him. His oldest brother has always been more of the quiet one, silently observing before making any moves. Though it was mostly Yonji and Niji who tortured him when they were younger, Ichiji had sometimes joined in too and did nothing to stop it the abuse.
"Why are you still here?" He growled back. "You're master is over there so get going."
Ichiji said nothing but stared back, his eyes silently observing him from behind his dark shades. It seems like he was contemplating on something but what, Sanji does not know. Ichiji was always a hard one to read.
After a moment or so, he finally moved towards his ship.
"I'm looking forward to see what this failure can do in the future. I hope you won't disappoint me Sanji."
With a parting smirk, he hopped back to his ship and it started to move.
No words were exchanged between father and son as they stared each other down from their ships.
There was nothing else to be said. He never wants to see them ever again. Never want to be part of them. Never want to even be associated with them. His name is 'Black-Leg Sanji'; a name is carved for himself through his own hard work and he is proud of that title.
Too bad his bounty poster is now 'Vinsmoke Sanji' but he'll soon change that. Doesn't matter how many marine heads he has to kick or which marine headquarters he has to raid, he'll soon get his name across to them—his true name.
Soon, the huge snail carrying the Germa Kingdom was only a small speck in the distance and Sanji finally let out a huge sigh he was holding. He felt all the tension leave his shoulders and he felt freer than he ever had. Talking with his sister had really helped and he was glad that not all Germa people are scum—well, the women living there definitely aren't.
"Shishishi~ You feeling better now?" Luffy clung onto his back, his rubbery arms hanging off his shoulders.
"....Yeah...I am now Luffy." He grinned at his idiotic captain and wondered what he did to deserve such a wonderful friend by his side.
"Great! Now give me more meat!"
The happy moment was immediately broken and he snapped.
"Damn it Luffy! You just had lunch!"
"Ehhh....But I'm still hungry....." Luffy pouted.
Sanji shook his head in exasperation. Just what did I do to deserve this? He sighed.
"Sannnjjjiiii......" Luffy whined.
"Fine fine.....you damn rubber." Sanji said but couldn't help but smile. Their captain is never going to change and that's what he likes about him.
Luffy's like a rock to them.
A solid, unmovable rock they're bound to so they'll never get lost, so that they can always find their way home.
So they'll always be sailing onward to their dreams together.
But they are more than a pirate crew. They are more than comrades in arms fighting for their dreams. They are more than any of that.
They are Nakama.
And that's what makes their bonds strong.