“Just as I thought—you have no idea, do you?” Usopp tilted her hat upwards to give a pitying look at the man. Trafalgar stiffened as his eyes landed on her. “Hey, you. You see an alliance as a relationship where we cooperate to reach a common goal, right?”
Trafalgar didn’t so much as respond, just kept giving her that same bemused look. Usopp continued, undeterred. “What this guy,” she said, pointing at Luffy, “sees an alliance as happens to be different from what you see an alliance as.”
“It’s like being friends, isn’t it?” Luffy chirped.
“If you’re thinking of seizing control, that won’t be so easy either.”
“That’s what they say,” Luffy agreed, shoving his pinky into his nostril.
“Once he sets his mind on something, he won’t back down,” Usopp sighed, shaking her head. “It’s a pain in the ass. His selfishness is as formidable as any of the Four Emperors.”
“Must be hard,” Luffy mused, flicking his booger. The dark speck flew into an arc and landed on Chopper’s cheek, who reacted with a start.
“Hey, bastard! Don’t flick your boogers at me!” Chopper yelled angrily from his prone position on the ground.
Luffy laughed and scratched the back of his head. “Oops! Sorry!”
As Chopper continued to snap at Luffy, Usopp pinned Law a “there you have it” look. While she had been rather apprehensive of allying with the creepy warlord pirate, she had a feeling that Trafalgar was going to have a tough time handling someone with Luffy’s level of craze. Well, it was his fault for not knowing what he was getting himself into.
Trafalgar blankly stared at Usopp for a few seconds before speaking directly to Luffy, pointedly shifting his body so that she was evidently not in his view. “Fine. We don’t have time for this. You guys go take care of the samurai.”
While Usopp was miffed at being treated like this, she brightened up considerably at Trafalgar’s acquiesce, especially when he said, “I’ll look into the drug that was administered to the children.” He then asked, “Who’s your doctor? I need someone to accompany me to research the cure behind Caesar’s back.”
A few moments later found Usopp tying Chopper on Trafalgar’s head.
“I’m sorry about this, but I can’t walk right now. I’ll be counting on you,” Chopper spoke to Trafalgar.
Everyone was laughing at the scene. Well, Luffy was laughing—gut-bursting laughter, in fact. Franky was exclaiming what a cute picture Chopper and Trafalgar made. Nami was giggling furiously into her gloved hand, apologizing for doing so but obviously wasn’t sorry. And knowing Robin, she was watching the process with an amused smile.
She couldn’t see Trafalgar’s expression, but Usopp sensed that the man was looking pretty haunted.
Never mind his pride. They got a super important mission to do! “Good luck, Chopper,” Usopp said, lifting her chin to look at the reindeer.
“You got it!” Chopper said with a confident grin.
Meanwhile, Trafalgar was making choking sounds.
As Luffy and the others sailed away to go retrieve Sanji, Usopp, Zoro, Robin, Franky, and their Wano friends boarded Trafalgar’s submarine. The Polar Tang, one of the Heart Pirates had proudly proclaimed. The yellow vessel certainly was something to take pride in—it was amazing to behold!
Franky immediately went straight for the Heart engineer, and the two men left together while animatedly discussing the inner workings of the submarine. Zoro followed the talking polar bear after asking if they had any alcohol to spare, as if he hadn’t drunk enough already back in Zou. Momonosuke, Kinemon, Kanjuro, and Raizo were swept into the crew’s revelry; the crew members themselves were quite taken with Raizo’s status as a ninja, demanding to see a demonstration of his skills.
Robin, as expected, requested to see the library.
Usopp normally would have tagged along with Franky; learning about the fine details of new machinery always piqued her interest. However, she was curious as to how the Heart Pirates managed to have a library in a ship.
With its mechanical innards running to recycle the carbon dioxide, not to mention keeping the submarine propelling through the ocean’s depths, this was a rather cramped place to live in. Still, it was very fascinating to Usopp, and she intended to explore every nook and cranny. If permitted, of course.
Her first destination was the library.
Usopp and Robin ambled after the friendly man who led them deeper into the ship. After several twists and turns, they finally stopped before a dark room. The man took out a flashlight from his pocket and roved the yellow glare across the place, revealing shelved books and magazines. The library, as it turned out, was perhaps smaller than her bathroom back in Syrup Village.
“Nothing too impressive, but it’s all we can get in this metal deathtrap,” the man said with a sheepish grin, handing Robin the flashlight.
“Oh, it’s perfectly fine.” Robin smiled at him gratefully, and the loveliness of her smile sent the man swooning. Usopp rolled her eyes. Well, at least this guy wasn’t as bad as Bartolomeo.
She shot the room one more glance before shrugging. Not what she had been expecting, but whatever. That was that. Curiosity fulfilled, Usopp was about to inform Robin that she was going to take off when she heard the woman go, “Hello, Traffy.”
She turned around to see Trafalgar without his ever-present long sword and scowl. Actually, he looked kind of constipated.
“Hey, Captain! What can I do for you?” Trafalgar’s crewmate asked.
“I’m just here for God Usopp,” Trafalgar said. “I have something that I need to talk to her about.”
What? He did? Usopp worriedly looked up at Robin for reassurance. What could it possibly be for the Heart captain to feel the need to talk to her specifically? Robin just smiled serenely at her and said, “It’s probably nothing serious. And no need to fret; I’m sure he won’t extract your heart and put it in a jar for display.”
“That’s not funny, Robin!” Usopp cried.
Robin chuckled and pushed her along after the captain who was already leaving. Usopp jolted and hurried down the hall, partly to avoid hearing anymore of Robin’s dark humor. Having caught up to him, she was now plodding after him, staring at the back of his head. There was a faint echo of the Heart Pirates’ boisterous laughter and chatter accompanied by Raizo’s ninjutsu declarations. Aside from that, silence reigned on.
There was a stifling pressure that Usopp wasn’t sure if she was the only one feeling it. Hoping to ease the tension, she casually said, “You know, you can just call me Usopp. I mean, being addressed as God Usopp is cool, but you don’t have to say the whole thing.”
Trafalgar didn’t say anything, but the way his head bobbed could have been a nod.
It came to her attention that Trafalgar had never really uttered a word to her. There were times when she had spoken to him, and he had either given a nonverbal response or talked around her. More often, he had barely interacted with her. From the times when he had worked with her crew in Punk Hazard to their arrival at Zou, it had seemed like…he was avoiding her.
Wait, that wasn’t quite true. There had been that one time when Trafalgar had used his powers to teleport them to the mink’s fortress gate. When everyone had been falling from midair, Trafalgar had caught her in his arms. Despite him recently getting his arm reattached, he hadn’t dropped her. Instead, he had settled her gently onto her feet.
Robin had been shooting knowing looks at the disgruntled Trafalgar in that duration, but Usopp hadn’t understood…until now.
It dawned on her. The reason why Trafalgar had been awkward back in Punk Hazard—the reason why he had never said anything to her—the reason why he had even bothered to save her from falling flat on her face—
Usopp slowed her steps until she came to a complete stop.
“Hey,” she croaked.
Trafalgar paused, and turned around to give her a questioning look.
“Are you…” Usopp swallowed heavily to get rid of the lump in her throat. She forced herself to continue. “Are you Water D. Law?”
His eyes widened. His lips parted in a small gape.
Reverberating through the walls, Franky’s “Suuuper!” outbursts could be heard. The crew’s racket that had served as white noise seemed louder than before in this renewed silence. Yet the noisiness almost seemed fuzzy under the palpable tension that they were in. Usopp nervously licked her lips, her stomach lurching in anticipation.
But rather than answer, Trafalgar just lifted a hand and encased them in a pale blue dome. Panicking, Usopp was about to ask what he was going to do when he murmured, “Shambles.”
In one second, the hall was replaced by a bed. Usopp shrieked when she crashed onto the mattress, the springs creaking under her weight. Next to her were sounds of feet quietly landing, but Usopp nearly couldn’t hear due to the rapid pounding of her heart.
“It's not Water D. Law, but close,” Trafalgar said from above her.
“What the hell, you bastard?” Usopp screeched, chucking the pillow at his face. Which he caught. Unfair. “You tryna give me a heart attack or something? Why would you do that?”
The man’s expression became pinched. “A conversation like that is a private matter. Anyone could have walked in on us. I preferred to have just walked to my room, but you just said that out of the blue, so I…” he trailed off, and he pulled the bill of his hat lower, hiding his eyes.
“But you—I just—” Usopp gawked at him. “Couldn’t you just have, I dunno, told me to wait until we get here or something?”
“If I told you that and those words happened to be your soulmark, then there’d be no point in doing so.”
“Oh. Right,” she embarrassedly conceded, but then she gasped. “Soulmark! You’re my soulmate! Holy cow!”
“But why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want to bear the brunt of the Straw Hat crew’s reaction in all its entirety,” Trafalgar sighed aggravatingly. “Not to mention have marines and a new pirate fleet be in the know. I’ve been meaning to, but there hasn’t been a good time.”
“Oh. I guess you’re right.” In between fighting and partying, Trafalgar would have found it difficult to pull Usopp in for a private conversation without garnering the attention of everyone. Luffy, in particular, would have been too nosy for his own good and force himself between them. And if Smoker’s marines had caught a whiff as to who Trafalgar’s soulmate was, then there’d be no doubt that she would have seen her name making headlines!
Former Warlord’s Soulmate Usopp was a terrible epithet! God Usopp was the definite winner here.
And as Usopp hated to admit, she knew that her own reaction would have been explosive, and everyone within range would have heard her. It was because of how she had come to her own conclusions that somewhat quelled the volume of her exclamations. Unless the Zoro, Robin, and Franky had heard her just now?
(Not that Robin wouldn’t have known already.)
Now that she thought about it, Trafalgar had usually appeared bemused and exhausted when he had sailed with them on Sunny Go. Feeling a bit repentant for the quandary that her soulmate—her soulmate—had to suffer from, she said, “I apologize for my crewmates’ lunacy.”
“You did warn me back in Punk Hazard.”
“To be precise, I warned you of Luffy’s lunacy.”
“A captain more or less represents his crew.” Trafalgar sat next to Usopp. When his arm brushed against hers, she felt her heart pound again, but for a different reason this time. He tilted his head as though in thought. “Well, to an extent. My own crew can be exhaustingly effusive.”
Usopp quirked a smile. “Sooo, why go by as Trafalgar Law instead of Water D. Law—or whatever your name is?"
“My real name is Trafalgar D. Water Law. There were circumstances that led me to shorten my name to just Trafalgar Law.”
“Trafalgar D. Water Law,” Usopp repeated, and scrunched her nose. “If I had a name like that, I’d definitely shorten it. It’s a mouthful!”
Trafalgar chuckled; it was a deep and throaty sound that Usopp found herself drawn to. She blushed. “It certainly is,” he agreed. “Do you have a family name or are you just Usopp?”
“Just Usopp.” She cleared her throat. “I hail from a small land with a small population, so there was never a need to differentiate ourselves outside of our given names. It’s a quaint island full of long pastures and rolling hills! A beautiful and dazzling land befitting for Captain Usopp’s humble beginnings!” she announced, punching the air for emphasis.
“Hmm. Usopp,” he tested. “Usopp-ya.”
Her cheeks burned again. “No, like I said, just Usopp.” She grinned up at him. “And I’ll call you Law!”
“If you go around calling me that, the others will become suspicious.” He sighed again, but his act was betrayed by the smile that tugged his lips. “Might as well break the news to them.”
There was a surge of delight within her. Overtaken by newfound boldness, Usopp snaked her arms around his torso and pressed herself firmly into his side. “I’m happy that I got to meet you.”
Law’s body had been pulled taut upon contact, but relaxed at her words. She felt his hand, large and strong, cradle the back of her head. “Same here.”
The two sat there, wholly at peace and comfort with one another in contrast to the earlier awkwardness that had befell upon them. It was funny how quickly their relationship evolved, but she supposed that was the power of soulmarks. Once both soulmates knew who their fated partner was, the bond—one as strong and true as the tales had expatiated—would be forged.
And Usopp felt it. The bond warmed deep within her core and pulled her towards Law. She was saddened to think that Law was one-sided in this union. All this time, Law had been waiting to tell her, to have her know who he was, and now she did. Usopp wasn’t going to have him be lonely ever again.
There might be an issue when the Straw Hat and Heart Pirates have to part, but that was what Den Den Mushis were for.
Usopp squeezed him one last time before pulling away. She beamed. “I want to see your mark!”
“Oh.” Law pursed his lips. “It’s on my thigh. I’d have to take off my pants for that.”
“Please?” Usopp stuck out her lower lip and peered at him coyly. It was the same trick that she had seen Nami do whenever she wanted Sanji to do something stupid for her. Not that Sanji wouldn’t not do it, and not that what Usopp was requesting for was stupid. She wanted to see her soulmate’s soulmark. Was that so unreasonable?
But Law had no compunction in denying her of this as he flatly said, “No.”
“I don’t want to strip.”
Usopp dropped the façade and huffed. “I don’t see the big deal. I’ve seen the guys in my crew naked a bunch of times.” Except for Sanji because, despite being a huge pervert, the guy had enough decency to not go prancing around in the nude in front of the ladies.
He frowned. “You know what? I don’t think I like that.”
She blinked. “Don’t like what?”
“You’re not allowed to see them naked anymore.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault! They just do whatever they want. Nami tries to get them to stop, but Luffy just one day decides that we gotta have a water balloon fight and everyone ends up getting soaked to the bone. Stripping down to the undies is sometimes inevitable.”
This displeased Law even more. “They saw you naked too?”
Law cupped her face and leaned in close enough for the tip of her nose to almost brush against his. His face was darkened with seriousness that made Usopp gulp. “From now on, you’re forbidden from taking off a single article of clothing. Even if you’re freezing your ass off, you’re not to show a silver of skin.”
She squawked. “Th-that’s impossible! And you’re a doctor! How can you say something like that?”
“Doctor’s orders,” he sniffed imperiously.
Usopp pouted, but an idea came to her. “I’ll do it under one condition.”
“I said no.”
“Then I won’t listen to you.”
Law sighed. “I’ll go lock the door.”
As Law slipped off the bed, Usopp grinned victoriously to herself before staring at him expectantly.
After locking the door, he stood in the middle of the room and shot her a long-suffering glare. She gave him a thumbs-up, and he rolled his eyes.
He unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, and then hooked his thumbs at the waistband, bringing it down to his knees. Somehow, him un-pants-ing himself looked kind of, uh, erotic. Once again, the blood raced to her cheeks, and she was almost compelled to turn away and hide her eyes if it weren’t for the fact that she caught a glimpse of his soulmark.
“Whoa! It’s huge!”
“Don’t say it like that.”
Confused, she asked, “Say like what?”
“Never mind,” he grumbled.
She bounced off the bed and walked over to him to get a closer look. Printed on the length of his right thigh in her handwriting were her words.
Just as I thought—you have no idea, do you? Hey, you. You see an alliance as a relationship where we cooperate to reach a common goal, right? What this guy sees an alliance as happens to be different from what you see an alliance as. If you’re thinking of seizing control, that won’t be so easy either. Once he sets his mind on something, he won’t back down. It’s a pain in the ass. His selfishness is as formidable as any of the Four Emperors.
“I remember saying this to you,” she breathed. “I said a freaking paragraph to you.”
“You wouldn’t believe how perplexed I was regarding my soulmark,” Law said.
“I bet. At least mine was straightforward enough; I just had to see that Trafalgar Law is Water D. Law.”
“When you think about it, you gave yourself your own soulmark.”
Usopp paused to register this. “You’re right—again!”
“I often am.” Law bent down to pull his pants up. “I want to see your soulmark too.”
Despite the fact that they had made their trade, Usopp was excited to show off hers. “Sure!” She spun around and lifted the back of her shirt high enough to show the lower part of her back.
“Rather inconvenient place to have a soulmark,” she heard Law say. She felt the tips of his fingers brush against the tattooed sentence, causing her to shiver. “I’m assuming that all your crewmates have seen this?”
“Some, not all. It’s not like I’m an exhibitionist!”
When he suddenly gripped her by her hips, she squeaked in shock. “Law! What are you doing?”
“Hold still,” he commanded. Alarmed, Usopp peered over her shoulder to see Law on his knees. He brought his face close to her back until her felt the heat of his breath ghosting against her skin.
The next thing she felt was hot and wet gathering at her soulmark. There was a scrape of teeth and the slurping of lips, and Usopp hadn’t realized that she had been whimpering until cold air hit her skin.
She instantly pulled away from his loosened hold and slapped a hand over where he had sucked her. Her palm came out as damp with saliva and she gawked at the smirking man.
“What the hell?”
“I gave you a hickey, just so you know,” Law smugly informed her. “Now you definitely can’t go naked in front of others.”
If her head was a volcano, it would be projecting lava into the skies right now. “I already promised that I wouldn’t!” she squeaked, appalled.
“Consider it as a safety measure.”
“You—you are so bad.” Usopp moodily pulled the hem of her shirt down and glared at him. “Terrible! The worst!”
“Indeed.” Law, in one swift movement, stood up and grabbed her wrist. He tugged her against his chest, leaned forward, and whispered in her ear, “But you’ll find out soon enough just how naughty I can get.”
For a grumpy and serious former warlord pirate, Law could certainly be playful. Usopp shivered again.
Not that she’d complain.