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The Love Life of Lady Long Nose

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"Can we give it up for our volunteers?"

 

There was a round of applause below the stage. As she squinted from the blinding lights that was cast overhead, Usopp inwardly cursed at the announcer because she had certainly not volunteered. If anything, the announcer had pointed at her as she had been trying to pass through the crowd, and then had manhandled her up.

 

She hadn't been the only unwilling participant. Standing beside her was a relatively tall man wearing a heavy coat. His features were indistinguishable since his sunglasses swallowed three quarters of his face and his bucket hat dipped over his forehead.

 

Everything about him screamed suspicious, but, then again, he could one of those people who were into a certain fashion style. Given the people who Usopp happened to know, it shouldn't be surprising. Luffy was into red. Robin was into cowboy hats. Franky was into anything pants-less.

 

"We are glad to have you two here!" the announcer cheered into his microphone. He squeezed in between Usopp and the sunglasses man, which annoyed her because, then, why bother shoving them together in the first place? The announcer thrusted a finger ahead, pointing at the flat electronic screen that sat on a stand on the stage. "You see this? This is our state-of-the-art karaoke machine! With it, you'll be able to sing to your adoring audience."

 

Usopp eyed the machine critically. It looked like a generic piece of equipment, honestly.

 

Wait... Did he say karaoke?

 

Usopp blanched. Was this what this whole display was about? There was no way she could do this! She hadn't sung for three years!

 

The announcer lowered the microphone to speak to her and the sunglasses man. "The words of the song will be projected on the screen. Since there are two of you, the green lyrics will be for the lady and the blue lyrics will be for the gentleman."

 

"Um, wait," Usopp said, holding up a hand, "I don't think I can do this. You see, I have a horrendous case of stage fright and—"

 

"Then this'll be the perfect opportunity for you to overcome your fear!" the announcer exclaimed merrily. He procured two more microphones and pushed each one into their hands. "Don't worry, though; this song is a classic, so you should know it." Holding up the microphone again, he said, "Good luck!" And then he skipped away to the side of the stage.

 

Usopp's fingers trembled around the microphone, and she cautiously took in the crowd before her. From her elevated position, the people gathered below appeared like a wriggling dark mass, especially when the lighting was on her and the shadows on them. It helped not being able to see them clearly, but she was still burdened with the knowledge that they could see her.

 

The carnival was loud from laughter and shrieks, from the thundering of rollercoasters and trills of musical numbers. Yet, standing here on stage with only sunglasses man by her side, the world couldn't be any quieter. She nervously licked her lips and glanced at the man.

 

He looked at her (or, at least, she thought he did—hard to tell with those sunglasses) and shrugged.

 

She slumped. Seemed like they really were going through with this, huh?

 

Flowing out of the speakers was an introductory piano piece, and recognition dawned on her. Memories of her school days instantly flooded in her head, and Usopp stifled a grimace from forming. Oh, great. It was this song. A classic indeed.

 

On the screen, blue words flashed; watermarked on top of it was a countdown, obviously there to prevent the singer from starting too early. But that shouldn't be a problem since this song was a theatre paradigm. Practically everyone knew it; if not for word by word, then the first verses and the chorus for certain.

 

When the watermarked zero disappeared and the lyrics were in full view, the sunglasses man began his part.

 

"Living in my own world,

"Didn't understand.

"That anything can happen

"When you take a chance."

 

Usopp was startled to find that the man was a good singer. His voice was deep and melodic, and he stretched certain words perfectly to fit the melody. While this was a widely recognized song, most amateurs would deliver the verses too quickly and be out of tempo. This guy here knew what he was doing.

 

When green words appeared next, Usopp tentatively hummed into the microphone. It had been a long time since she had sung, much less in front of anyone, so she wasn't sure how her own voice would carry out. Would it crack? Would it croak? If it did, how would the audience react? Would they laugh, jeer, or boo at her? Regardless of these worries that plagued her mind, she sang.

 

"I never believed in

"What I couldn't see.

"I never opened my heart

"To all the possibilities.

"Ooh.."

 

Unconsciously, Usopp's eyes tore away from the screen, her body angled towards the sunglasses man. To her slight surprise, the sunglasses man was also looking at her, and she found herself staring at her own image that was reflected on those dark, shiny lenses.

 

"I know," they said in tandem.

 

"That something has changed," Usopp said.

 

"Never felt this way."

 

"And right here tonight."

 

"This could be the start

"Of something new."

 

With a small rise of anticipation, Usopp said, "It feels so right."

 

"To be here with you.

"Ooh.

"And now,

"Looking in your eyes."

 

"I feel in my heart," she sang, drawing out the last word with self-assurance.

 

"I feel in my heart," he echoed.

 

"The start of something new," they said, now grinning to one another.

 

Whenever they breathed into their microphones, whenever they delivered their lines together, their voices danced and intermingled, coalescing with perfect harmony.

 

The compatibility of their singing felt as though Usopp had her own rapport with the sunglasses man, which should have been shocking considering how they were strangers forced to perform by the whimsy of the announcer. Furthermore, it had only been about a minute! Yet that was perhaps the magic of music—it could forge connections among people despite who they were as individuals.

 

This man could be a civilian, a monster, a pirate, a marine. However, all of those things didn't matter at the moment; what did matter was the time that they shared together on this stage and how they were going to see to the end of this song.

 

And given how smoothly and pleasantly her own voice rang in her ears with each passing verse, Usopp held herself upright with confidence. The flame of her former passion was reignited. Her heart pounded against her chest and blood raced in her veins in response to the familiar exhilaration. She hadn't realized how much she had missed singing until now.

 

"Now who'd have ever thought that," the sunglasses man said with a sassy tone and a smirk to match. When he began swaying his hips like a dork, she felt an inexplicable fondness for him. "Mmm."

 

"We'd both be here tonight?" they sang.

 

"Oh, yeah."

 

"And the world looks so much brighter," Usopp said.

 

"Brighter, brighter," he agreed.

 

"With you by my side."

 

"By my side."

 

"I know," they said.

"That something has changed,

"Never felt this way."

 

"I know it for real," she insisted.

 

"This could be the start

"Of something new.

"It feels so right

"To be here with you.

"Oh!

"And now,

"Looking in your eyes,

"I feel in my heart."

 

"The start of something new," Usopp crooned.

 

When the sunglasses man stepped closer, she did as well. When he proffered his hand out to her, she didn't think twice about accepting it. Now, with their hands linked and them fully facing one another, it was undeniable just who they were singing this song to.

 

"I never knew that it could happen till it happened to me," he belted out, squeezing her hand. "Ooh, yeah."

 

"I didn't know it before," they said.

 

"But now it's easy to see," Usopp exclaimed, her chest heaving.

 

"Ohhhh!"

 

"It's the start

"Of something new.

"It feels so right

"To be here with you.

"Oh!

"And now,

"Looking in your eyes,

"I feel in my heart."

 

"That it's the start

"Of something new.

"It feels so right

"To be here with you.

"Oh!

"And now,

"Looking in your eyes,

"I feel in my heart."

 

"The start of something new," Usopp said, smiling gently.

 

The sunglasses man brought their entwined hands to his chin, returning her smile. "The start of something new."

 

"The start of something," they sang together, "new."

 

In that one breathless, insane second, Usopp thought that, as the sunglasses man tilted his head towards her, he was going to kiss her. It was how his head had eclipsed the lights from her and, with his face shaded at this angle, she thought that she could see his eyes behind those sunglasses, especially when he drew closer and closer. Entranced, she didn’t move a muscle.

 

Her reverie was broken by the noise that exploded below. The audience roared and cheered and whistled. The next thing she noticed was the sunglasses man standing a foot away from her, as if he hadn’t been in her space this whole time.

 

“Marvelous! Truly marvelous!” the announcer declared. “Can we give another applause for our two amazingly talented volunteers?”

 

The audience did just that. They really like my singing, Usopp thought dazedly as she stared at the crowd. To be honest, she had forgotten about them the moment the sunglasses man had began to sing. Speaking of which… She turned towards him, realizing that he was still holding her hand.

 

The sunglasses man smiled at her. He then brought her knuckles to his lips and kissed them before releasing her hand. Usopp blushed.

 

“—and because of that welcoming reception, how’d you feel like going for an encore?” The announcer twirled around from the audience to face Usopp and the sunglasses man, but he faltered. “Oh, where did the gentleman go?”

 

“What do you mean? He’s right next to…” Usopp trailed off when she noticed that the sunglasses man was gone. She nearly jumped at that. How did he vanish so quickly?

 

“Ah, disappointing, but no matter. Say, miss, how do you feel about doing a solo instead of a duet?”

 

“No can do!” Suddenly landing on stage was Luffy. The captain pulled to his full height and gave everyone a wide grin. “As much as I like my sniper getting the spotlight, we got marines coming after us.”

 

Both Usopp and the announcer gaped at him, but entirely for different reasons.

 

“Marines?” she squawked.

 

“I-I know you,” the announcer stammered. “You’re—you’re—!”

 

“That’s Straw Hat Luffy!” someone from the audience cried out.

 

“Who’s the girl? Is she his crewmate?” another person shouted.

 

“Straw Hat!” Standing on the edge of the crowd was a marine who, judging by the coat on his shoulders, was of notable high rank . Behind him was a line of officers with their weapons ready at hand. They all stuck out from the dark in their stark white uniforms. Usopp squeaked at the sight of them. “You’re not getting away this time!” the marine leader roared.

 

“Well, looks like we gotta do just that.” Luffy gathered Usopp in his arms and slingshotted out of here, all the while having Usopp scream out in terror as they narrowly dodged flying bullets.

 


 

When they returned to Sunny, Usopp was suddenly surrounded by her crewmates.

 

“Okay, talk,” Nami demanded, propping her hands on her waist. “Since when were you able to sing like that?”

 

Usopp couldn't form a retort, couldn’t actually bring herself to preen or boast or anything because, oh gosh, they saw her perform! Her face became hot and she awkwardly cleared her throat. “Um, back in my village, I used to be part of the school’s theatre club, so…” Usopp shrugged helplessly. “We did a ton of musicals.”

 

“A theatre kid. How fitting,” Zoro noted.

 

“Yohohoho! I must say that I am quite surprised, Usopp-san,” Brook exclaimed. “We must do duets later on!”

 

“I’m surprised myself. I haven’t sung in three years, not since the club disbanded,” she confessed.

 

“Clearly, you’re a natural,” Robin said with a smile. “It would be lovely to see you and Brook hold a performance for us.”

 

“Yeah! A private show!” Luffy approved enthusiastically.

 

“I heard of private shows, but never seen one,” Chopper gasped, eyes wide with excitement. “I can’t wait!”

 

“Better Brook than that sunglasses creep,” Sanji groused.

 

Usopp smiled. “Yeah, sure. It’d be fun.”

 

And it would be. While it had been disappointing that the theatre club hadn’t been able to last, she didn’t need a club to continue to sing, although she hadn’t realized that until today. Usopp would make certain to sing to her heart’s content—every day, all day—and she would have her crewmates as her audience if so willing.

 

As her friends talked among themselves about how they would set up the show, Usopp stared off into the horizon where Sunny sailed further and further away from the island.

 

The song “Start of Something New” had been one of the songs that the theatre club had Usopp master, yet, with each passing day, doubt and pessimism had festered within the club. They hadn’t had enough members; they had been on a severe budget; no one in the school had been interested in what they did anymore. Eventually, the president had decreed the club’s disbandment, and “Start of Something New” had been the last song that Usopp had ever sang.

 

To think that she would sing again with that song. For what had been a reminder of what had been lost, it now served as a reminder of what had been regained.

 

Even though the sunglasses man hadn’t intended on it, Usopp wanted to thank him for breathing life back into her. She had sung ever since she could remember, and she had sung often with her mother when she had been around. Just like sniping, singing was in her blood. Usopp couldn’t deny that part of her heritage, and she would honor her mother’s memories by always keeping a song on her tongue.

 

It was a shame that she didn’t get to learn the sunglasses man’s name. Perhaps, one day, they would meet again.


Sabo slipped into an alleyway. Peering around the corner in the safety of the darkness, he watched uniformed men hustle down the street, pushing past vendors and visitors. Things had escalated the moment the marines heard word of Straw Hat Luffy and his crew being here in the carnival. It was a good thing that Sabo had left in time before the marines could notice him, his disguise notwithstanding.

 

Sabo rubbed his chin in thought. The new and uprising pirate captain certainly was an interesting one, especially if he was able to catch Dragon’s attention. What a shame that he had yet to see Straw Hat’s face, even any of his wanted posters. Lately, Sabo had been so swamped with work that he hardly got the time to do a casual investigation.

 

Sabo made a mental note to do so when he would be on break, especially look into that girl. She was Straw Hat’s crewmate, right? It was a shame that he didn't catch her name, but, surely, she would be filed in the Revolutionary Army’s databases. Perhaps she even accrued a bounty of her own.

 

His lips quirked upwards at the thought of that. To think, a cutie with an amazing set of pipes being so dastardly that the marines had felt it appropriate to place a bounty on her head. Well, he would be pleasantly surprised, then.

 

“It’s a good thing Koala’s not here,” he chuckled to himself. “She’d yell at me for getting distracted.”

 

Koala probably wouldn’t appreciate Sabo getting smitten by someone who he had just met, but it wasn’t everyday he got to meet a girl like that.