Sanji opened the kitchen door gently and got out. The wood creaked lightly, disturbing the silence that had settled in. It was a perfect day. It was one of those days when the crew was quiet. As if, by mutual agreement, they had decided that this day would be calm, with no yell, no loud game, no new invention, no training marimo, nothing. The cook stood still, embracing the sound of the sea that greeted him outside.
These kind of days were extremely rare, because this crew was an energic one, with a will to live that translated in an ever-loud effervescence. Sanji was fine with the noise because it was the way his nakamas were, it was how he liked it too. He loved to see Luffy racing up and down the boat, Usopp and Chopper on his tail, with Brook playing the violin and Franky laughing loudly at something Robin had say. But even an energetic crew knew when to rest, and every now and then, Luffy refrained from yelling, and Brook from playing, and Franky from laughing, and they all would stay silent for a while because the sea would beckon them to enjoy the moment. On those kind of days, Sanji loved to spend some time out of his kitchen.
Not everyone was on the deck, on this afternoon. On the low deck, seated on the boat ramp, were Luffy and Usopp, the inseparable duo, fishing their afternoon away. They were making little sound, giggling softly with every fish they caught. Robin was seated at a table, in the shadow of a sunshade, reading a heavy book of an unknown subject. Their cartograph was lying in a deckchair, completely still. Sanji noticed the legs of their swordsman sticking out of behind the mast, sleeping in the shadows. Everyone had heard the kitchen door opening, but nobody moved an inch, except Luffy who flashed a smile at his cook before focusing his attention back on his fishing rod. What a miracle that Zoro wasn’t snoring.
Sanji breathed in the salty smell of the sea. Bliss flashed on his face when he turned his gaze to the sea. It was the bluest sea they ever sailed across. Sanji couldn’t help but smile. This part of the journey was his favourite one yet. They had travelled very far and for very long, and Sanji was not surprised if their odyssey was close to an end. They had learned must from each other and their strength had kept them safe. Now, Sanji was sure that soon, they would arrive at Raftel.
He lifted the tray with the drinks he was carrying. He then slowly walked to the table where Robin was seated. Sanji presented the purple glass to the archaeologist, keeping the orange one for the other lady on board. It clinked when he placed it on the table. The umbrella in the drink rolled, following the movements of the ice cubes. Robin raised her eyes from her book and smiled at him.
“For you, my lady.”
Robin looked away, laying her book on her legs to rest. The exchange had been quiet. Sanji himself had almost whispered his own sentence, setting aside his woman-loving usual self for once. He carefully raised his plate with the other glass on it and stood straight, face-to-face with the sea. Nami sat up and lifted her immense floppy hat. She stretched. The deckchair creaked. She turned to talk to the blond but stopped herself when she saw his expression. She couldn’t break the moment, her drink would wait.
It was Luffy who finally broke the silence.
A splashing sound came from the low deck, then a giggle. There was a hushed conversation between Luffy and Usopp and finally, when they couldn’t keep the discovery to themselves anymore, they called for the blond.
“Oi, Sanji. What is that?”
The cook took a good look at the wriggling fish in Luffy’s hands but, much to his horror, he discovered that he couldn’t identify the fish’s species. Or, more precisely, the fish was from a species that couldn’t be here.
“I don’t... I... I can’t see it well from here.”
“Well,” Usopp intervened. “We think it’s a Sky Fish but... there’s no way we’re right... Right ?”
Sanji leaned down the railing, with the tray still in his hand. He was too caught up with this mystery to notice that he hadn’t given her glass to Nami yet.
“You’re right, it’s a Sky Fish... How did he end up here?”
Then the cook took notice of the basket of fish that the duo had gathered and Sanji... was lost. It didn’t make any sense. There was every kind of fish in there. Bone fish, gyoriiza, sea slug, and every kind of fish he had ever met.
The plate slipped from his hands.
“LUFFY!” Sanji yelled.
Everyone jumped, surprised by the loud noise. Usopp almost slipped from the railing, and Zoro’s leg jerked too before disappearing behind the pillar. He raised his head, hand on his katana as he was expecting an enemy. Even Robin bounced slightly. She had caught the drink and the plate before it tipped over but had jumped like everyone with Sanji’s outburst.
“You’ve caught a Sky Fish!” Sanji yelled again, stating the obvious. He couldn’t say anything else.
He couldn’t say that there were too many fishes in the basket, with too many colours; that the fishes they caught should not have been there at all, because all of them came from all around the world.
Sanji opened his mouth one last time but found himself unable to speak. He was waiting in the hope that his captain could understand his silence.
At this point, Sanji was clutching the railing, waiting for a reaction from his crew when suddenly; he was overwhelmed with the need to see it by himself, to feel it in his bones. After all, this was the ALL BLUE!
He turned his head and filled his eyes with the vision in front of him. The sea was calm, contrasting with the unstoppable beating of his heart. An oil slick sea, with a light breeze. The water was peaceful, unaware of the richness in its belly. The sun was sending golden hints on the sea and in his eyes. A glimpse of bliss flashed in his grin. It was the purest blue he had ever seen.
Sanji couldn’t wait. He had to jump!
The cook leapt ahead. He took off his shoes on the run, without stopping to take care of them correctly. They flew who knows where, forgotten in the adrenaline of the moment. He jumped on the railing, built his strength in his legs, and dived in.
The world ended with a splash. Water engulfed him and shaped him like a second skin. Muffled sounds superseded the quietness of the outside. As the bubbles ascended, water played with his hair. Sanji opened his eyes.
There were few fishes swimming below the waterline, and those who did were small and frail, but curious as well. They came to take a look at the blond cook and swam around him, scattering at every movement and regrouping gradually. A few fishes picked at his hair. A particularly large one faced him before disappearing behind him. He recognised a red and golden fish that came slaloming between his fingers and another as one of the first fish Zeff correctly taught him to cook. A school of fish danced around him before dashing up and out of the water, only to fall back in the sea once gravity took its toll.
Sanji dove further down. A panda shark swan near him, showing no sign of harm. He sank deeper, where the bigger fish where. At this point, the fishes were bigger and louder. When they swam near him, Sanji could hear a low roar resonating in his ears. They were swimming down with him and when he stopped, they all hovered around him skittishly. Two large Sky Fish, one grey and the other blue, passed below his legs. He stayed there, floating in the blue, carried by the water until his lungs cried for help. He stayed longer, even when he knew it wasn’t safe. He knew he could come back, but leaving this enchanted vision was breaking his heart. Finally, with one last look, he swam up and broke out of the water with a gasp. He coughed a few time, feeling a little light-headed and, still caught up in his own world, he didn’t notice his nakamas at first.
Everyone had come up on the deck to know what had happened. They were whispering between them, obviously talking about Sanji’s behaviour. It was strange to see his nakamas all lined up, waiting for him to explain everything.
Chopper was crying in distress, howling at him bits of sentences like “breathe slowly” and “are you ok?”. He was obviously dying to get Sanji on board again. Zoro was wide-eyed with his foot on the railing ready to dive in after him. And the rest of the crew just looked kind of surprised, but not too worried. Sanji smiled wide, both to reassure them and to try to explain the situation. Looking out over each of them, his eyes landed on Luffy and his captain started laughing loudly, to which Sanji answered by laughing loudly himself. The crew seemed to understand at least.
The sea, which was once perfectly still, rippled with echoes of their laughter.