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The Love Life of Lady Long Nose

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After what had gone down in Wano, there were three things that had taken place: Jinbe and Carrot had officially joined the Straw Hat Pirates as the helmsman and brawler, respectively. Momonosuke had joined as well, becoming Luffy and Zoro’s pupil so that he could attain the strength he needed to assume his position as Wano’s future daimyo. And, lastly, the Straw Hat Pirates had established an alliance with not only the Heart Pirates, but also with the Kidd, On Air, Hawkins, and Drake Pirates.

 

Currently, all the pirates were moored on land and were stuck here for the unforeseeable length of time. Some of the ships had sustained grievous damages and were undergoing repairs. So, it had been decided that everyone would take a breather and stretch out their legs while the shipwrights would work their magic.

 

Sunny had been one of the few ships that had received not so much as a scrape, so Franky had been quite ecstatic by the idea of getting to work on ships that weren’t his own, which he had been determined on doing so regardless of how the other shipwrights had felt about the matter. Meanwhile, as the Straw Hat cyborg had merrily flounced away with his toolbox tucked underneath his arm, the rest of the crew occupied themselves with their own choice of activities.

 

Usopp, Luffy, and Chopper, in particular, were immersed in their game on Sunny's deck. How the game was going, however, wasn’t smooth sailing.

 

“That’s not fair!” Luffy whined, slumping forward. “I want a rematch!”

 

“You swore up and down that you wouldn’t protest whatever the end result would be,” Usopp countered, her brow twitching. “Just take it like a man!”

 

In a truly dramatic fashion, he wailed, “Noooo!”

 

She sighed. She should have figured that this would have happened, but she had been willing to give Luffy a chance to see if he had stopped being a sore loser since two years ago. As it would appear, apparently not. The man couldn't take a loss of a game like how he couldn't take a loss of his meat.

 

Well...given what the winnings were, Usopp couldn't really blame him.

 

"Hey, it's my turn!" Chopper said, giving Luffy a stern look, but Luffy wouldn't budge.

 

“Okay, how about this?" Usopp presented. "After Chopper and I play, we do one—and only one—redo.”

 

Luffy promptly straightened up, his face serious with a glint in his eyes. “You got yourself a deal.”

 

Usopp nodded to signify that the transaction had been accepted, signed, and secured. As she leaned down to retrieve the necessary items, a large presence neared them. Thinking that it was Jinbe, Usopp pulled back up and opened her mouth to greet the fishman; however, the greeting turned halfway into a squeak when she saw who it really was.

 

"What the hell are you doing, Straw Hat?" Eustass said, raising a brow. His hulking figure eclipsed the sun, and his shadowed visage heightened his intimidating front. Usopp felt Chopper press his small body into her side. Usopp sucked in her lips and averted her eyes to the floor.

 

"We're gambling," Luffy claimed. Reflexively, Usopp slapped her forehead.

 

Eustass snorted. "Heh. I didn't think you had it in you."

 

"I'm a pirate, so of course I'd gamble! 'Cause that's what pirates do," he retorted, sounding put off by the condescension that dripped in the other man's tone. Usopp herself would have bristled in annoyance if it weren't for the fact that: one, Eustass was a notoriously bloodthirsty man; two, Eustass had a honking metal arm that was three times the size of his real arm. A significant thing to be noted was that his real arm was a bulging mass of muscles that could very easily crush skulls like they were grapes.

 

"You act like a kid who imitates what his mommy and daddy would do," Eustass sneered. "Are you sure it's really gambling or are you playing pretend?"

 

"At least I don’t wear lipstick like a certain jagged-haired bastard!"

 

"It's not lipstick, monkey bastard!"

 

"Are you trying to be a lady by wearing nail polish? Too bad—you're too ugly to be one!"

 

"Screw you, Straw Hat! I'll wipe the floor with you!"

 

"Scary," Chopper whimpered.

 

Before Usopp and Chopper could witness a beatdown between two powerful captains, Drake sauntered by and calmly chided, "Please reign in your destructive tendencies. We don't need the ship capsizing because of your disagreement."

 

"Disagreement" was putting it lightly...

 

Surprisingly, both Luffy and Eustass heeded to the older man's warning and pulled back, the tension in their shoulders leaving. "Hmph. Fine," Eustass said, but then, in a darkly interested voice that made Usopp break into a sweat, he said, "I'll join and see for it myself."

 

Usopp and Chopper exchanged panicked, wide-eyed looks. They didn't want the scary red-haired man to get involved! To their fortune, though, Luffy huffed out, "No way."

 

"What, scared that I'll beat you?"

 

And to their misfortune, Luffy replied, "I'm not scared! I'll take you on!"

 

A white toothy grin stretched across his pale features, looking every bit like a serial killer. "Great," Eustass said, dropping down to take a seat and crossing his legs. His eyes flickered to the bag that sat next to Usopp and asked, "Those the goods?"

 

She flinched. "Y-yeah..."

 

"That's a big one. Looks like I'll be spending a whole day at a tavern with my earnings," he chuckled.

 

Luffy frowned. "You can't buy drinks with cookies, stupid."

 

There was a pause.

 

"Cookies? You're gambling for cookies?" Eustass sputtered incredulously. "Who gambles for freaking cookies?"

 

"We do," Luffy answered pertly, and then he added, "Besides, if we were gambling with cash, Nami would've been here to dominate every round."

 

That was true, which was why they had to settle with something of close equivalent value. It was convenient that Usopp was a girl and Sanji was a sucker for girls; otherwise, they wouldn't be able to make wagers with tasty treats, what with Sanji only freely complying to requests that the girls would make. Although, Usopp could always just get Sanji to whip up something for her whenever she pleased, but that took away the fun of the game.

 

Previously, she, Luffy, and Chopper, with Franky and Brook's occasional participation, had placed bets on brownie bites, cinnamon buns, fruit tarts, and, of course, a variety of cookies. Today's winnings were Chopper's favorite—triple chocolate fudge cookies. And by the work of Sanji's magical touch, the cookies should still be nice and warm as if fresh out of the oven.

 

Eustass scowled. "And you call yourself a pirate? To hell with this." He propped his arm on his knee and was about to push himself up, but he stiffened when Luffy began to snicker.

 

"What, scared that I'll beat you?" Luffy taunted, shooting back Eustass's own words.

 

"As if you can, Straw Hat! I'll take you on!"

 

The hopeful gleam in Chopper's eyes vanished, and the reindeer bore an expression of pure aghast. Usopp pitied him. And to think that Chopper had once been so gung-ho about being this challenge's victor.

 

"Hey, dino-man, you should join!" Luffy offered.

 

"Luffy!" Chopper cried out in open devastation.

 

A mix of emotions flitted across Drake's face as though he was considering whether to go for it or not. After a few seconds of deliberation, Drake elected to take a seat between Chopper and Eustass, giving the group a curt nod. At this point, Chopper was now trying to merge his face into Usopp’s ribcage like a growth. Why would a serious and stony-faced man like Drake be willing to join their game, Usopp had no clue, but she figured it could be because he was curious. Although...

 

"You do realize this means there's an even bigger chance of you not getting the cookies, right?" Usopp deadpanned, looking at Luffy.

 

A wrinkle formed between his brows. "Oh. That's right," he said. "Okay, jagged-hair, dino-man, I change my mind. Get out of here."

 

"Like hell I am!" Eustass snapped. "Just for pissing me off, I'm gonna get those cookies and eat them right in front of you and not leave a single crumb out."

 

"You're not gonna get those cookies," Luffy retaliated with a snarl, "because I am!"

 

"Oookay!" Usopp intervened loudly with cheer that she did not feel. "How about we get this show started?"

 

Luffy and Eustass traded one more glare before turning away with a huff.

 

"So, Chopper, think you can do this?"

 

"I guess," Chopper said glumly, peeling his face off of her. "I mean, I should at least try."

 

"That's the spirit!" she exclaimed. Usopp grabbed the half-empty bottle and placed it in front of him. "Go ahead.

 

Before Chopper could make a grab for it, Eustass interjected with a bemused, "Aren't you going to deal out the cards? What's the bottle for?"

 

"It's for flipping, duh," Luffy said. "We’re gonna flip water bottles.”

 

Eustass's blank gaze was telling, but he apparently felt obliged to inquire, “Why?”

 

“We’re using it to gamble! Keep up, would ya?”

 

Eustass's face crumpled into exasperation once more. "The frick—I can’t believe this. This isn't gambling, you morons!" the redhead snapped. “This is just a baby’s game!” Pointing an accusing finger at them, he declared, "You're all a bunch of babies!"

 

"We are not!" Luffy retorted. "And how can I be a baby when I'm going to be the Pirate King?" And he said it with such gravitas because of course babies couldn't become pirates or kings, much less Pirate Kings. Yet, despite how much that truth rang for Luffy's ears, Eustass evidently believed in another reality.

 

"Because I'm going to be Pirate King!" was Eustass's retaliation.

 

Just before Usopp could seal her fate in bearing witness to yet another tennis match of who was going to be Pirate King, Drake asked, "So, what are rules to this game? Do you only need to flip the bottle?"

 

"A-ah, yeah. Wait, no, it's not just that." Usopp flailed a bit before getting a hold of herself. "What you need to do is hold the bottle by the neck, flip it in the air so that it does at least one spin, and get it to land. I'll demonstrate." She took the bottle and pinched at the cap, swung it back and forth to gain momentum, and snapped her wrist. The bottle rotated once in midair before it landed upright back onto the floor, its contents sloshing inside. "You see?"

 

"And I'm assuming that the less amount of water there is in a bottle, the greater the challenge," Drake noted, his eyes flickering over to the other bottles that lied next to her.

 

Never let it be said that the dinosaur captain was not quick on the uptake. Usopp nodded, pleased that she didn't have to explain all that much. "Yup. Each player flips three times in succession. If it ends up as a tie, we up the ante by getting them to flip the harder ones."

 

"Seems simple enough."

 

"Simple is overstating it," Eustass huffed.

 

"As if you'll be able to do it," Luffy mocked.

 

Contrary to what Usopp had expected, Eustass did not burst into fiery flames of anger like how he normally would whenever Luffy (or anyone, for that matter) egged him on. Instead, Eustass let out a derisive bark of laughter and grabbed the bottle from Chopper. "Just watch."

 

He flipped the bottle. It landed on its side.

 

Everyone stared at it.

 

"I meant to do that," Eustass said. He tried again, and it landed on its side again. "That one was just a practice round, okay?"

 

Luffy frowned. "You get only three turns, you know?"

 

"Those two were flukes, alright?" Eustass snapped. "I get three more chances!"

 

Three attempts turned into five, which turned into seven, and then nine. At that point, Luffy was rolling on his back as he heartily churned out guffaws, incredibly amused by the streak of losses the other captain had accumulated. Eustass scowled, got up, and stormed off, which prompted Luffy to laugh even harder. Usopp wiped her forehead, relieved that Eustass didn't march back to throttle Luffy.

 

In the end, when it had come down to Usopp versus Drake, Drake won by managing to successfully flip an empty bottle three times. As amazing as that was, Chopper was nevertheless despondent by his loss. But to his luck, Drake commented how he wasn't a fan of sweets and handed his prize over to the reindeer. Chopper had never smiled so brilliantly before that day.

 


 

With the weather so lovely and the skies so clear, Usopp had turned down Nami and Robin's offer to go shopping in favor of fishing. Jinbe and Bepo had thought that this had been a great idea, so they had joined her down at the dock.

 

Usopp was swinging her legs above the water, chatting amiably with Jinbe. Bepo, after soaking in the sun's warmth, had dozed off a while ago; despite this, the Mink had kept a good grip on his fishing rod. Sitting to the side was a cooler where only two caught fishes swam within in. As disappointing as it was that they hadn't managed to catch that many, the day itself wasn't. It was nice to just sit all day long and be idle, especially with pleasant company.

 

Yet what was supposed to be a lazy afternoon made an abrupt turn for lively.

 

Usopp's line tugged, and she excitedly drew herself upright by the potential catch. But all of a sudden, her rod was yanked downwards, and Usopp found herself lurching towards the waters and off of her seat. Had Jinbe not caught her in time, she would have been submerged.

 

"Eeeek!" Usopp shrieked.

 

Bepo's snot bubble popped as he jerked himself awake. His head swiveled around, appearing like he blearily comprehended that there was some kind of commotion going on, and then he noticed Jinbe trying to pull in Usopp, who was trying to pull in her fishing rod. The fish, or whatever it was, happened to be relentless in breaking free, causing Usopp to nearly lose her grip. Bepo abandoned his own rod to hurry over and wrapped his paws over Usopp's hands.

 

"This is certainly a big one," Jinbe said through his gritted teeth.

 

"I think my arms are gonna tear off!" Usopp lamented.

 

"Mine too!" Bepo whimpered.

 

How the rod and line hadn't snapped could only be accredited to Usopp's ingenious idea of fortifying them with spider silk steel. However, in that moment, she wished that she had never done so. In fact, she wished that she had released the rod when she had the chance.

 

During this game of tug of war, all Usopp could hear was the pounding of her heart resounding in her ears and the grunts and cries that all three of them were emitting. Hence why she didn't notice Eustass coming up from behind until he said, "What do we have here?"

 

"Eustass Kidd, great timing," Jinbe managed to gasp out in between his inhales from the exertion. "We could use your ability right about now. Attract the hook that’s in the catch’s mouth quickly!"

 

"Heh. Now why would I do that?" he drawled with palpable amusement. "From where I'm standing, I'm getting a good show out of this."

 

This sadistic, edgy-looking, eyebrow-less bastard...!

 

"We'll give you the first serving if you help us!" Usopp bit out, desperate. "A huge piece on a platter! Bigger than what Luffy'll get!"

 

"Sorry, but not a fan of fish."

 

"But, Captain," said another person, "didn't you say that you were craving for fish?"

 

"Shut up, Heat!"

 

Usopp instantly latched onto that. "I'll get Sanji to cook it, and you know that he's an excellent chef!" she appealed. "You had his cooking before!"

 

After a bit of wheedling, Eustass eventually capitulated and strode next to the three. With a quick glance over Bepo's shoulder, Usopp could see that the redhead appeared to be quite disgruntled by handing out aid. In any other circumstance, she would have been intimidated, but she couldn't care less right now. Her arms had gone numb at some point and she could really use a break.

 

"My share better be bigger than Straw Hat's, you got it?" Eustass growled.

 

"Got it!" Usopp, Jinbe, and Bepo chorused.

 

Eustass harrumphed. He held out a hand—the non-mechanical one—and directed it to the sea. For a couple seconds, nothing happened. Just before Usopp could bring herself to question what Eustass was doing, her arms slackened. The rod was no longer bent over into a severe curl, but instead returned to its slight arc, and the line was no longer drawn taut. After a minute of not having to pull on the fishing rod with all their might, Jinbe set Usopp down and Bepo stepped back.

 

The muscles in her arms ached like crazy, and she was certain that there were going to be large bruises around her waist from where Jinbe had grabbed her. Even so, there was a satisfying sight of a dark figure breaking the surface of the waves and careening towards them from the horizon. Usopp pushed through the pain to take the handle and crank it with lightning speed, reeling in the excess line back to the spool.

 

As the figure grew larger and larger, ascending higher and higher from the surface, the slower Usopp’s spinning became. Because her catch? It was flying right at them.

 

The fish—a dark brown speckled trout that was about the same size as Going Merry—had leaped into the air and soared over the distance that separated it and them. Judging by how everyone got a solid view of the trout’s underbelly, it was going to hit the dock, no doubt about it.

 

"Gyaaah!" Usopp and Bepo screamed.

 

“Oh shit,” Eustass cursed. “Repel!”

 

As though hit by an invisible force, the trout was flung backwards and hurtled into the waters. While saved from getting flattened via fish, they weren’t spared by the splash that the trout then created. A tidal wave reached over them like an underwater monster’s claw and came crashing down on them without mercy. Water engulfed the entirety of the dock, and Usopp's limbs helplessly thrashed around as the wild currents dragged her.

 

When the waters receded, Usopp gasped for air and scrambled onto her knees. She flipped her tresses out of her face and looked around. The water had pushed her further away from the docks as it had done for Bepo and Heat. Jinbe and Eustass, however, were missing.

 

“Oh gosh,” Usopp whispered. “Oh gosh.”

 

There was deafening silence, and then…

 

Being flung over from the sea and onto the dock was Eustass, and Jinbe shortly climbed up.

 

“Phew,” the fishman exhaled, “made it in time.”

 

“Jinbe!” Usopp rushed over to his side, careful not to slip on the wet planks. “You’re alright!”

 

“And so is Eustass Kidd,” he said, nodding at the unconscious man. “Oh, and I got the fish.”

 

Floating on its back kilometers away was the trout. Usopp gawked at it.

 

“I reckon we give the man an honorary seat in our ship’s dining hall, yes?” Jinbe suggested.

 

“The poor guy definitely deserves it,” Usopp agreed faintly.

 

As everyone trudged down the dock, with Jinbe towing the trout behind him and Heat carrying Eustass on his back, Bepo dawdled next to them and wearily commented, “I think I’ll take a break from fishing for a while.”

 

Later that night, Eustass was given the plate that he had been promised with and haughtily stuffed his face in front of a glowering Luffy. Dinner then turned into an inane eating contest that preceded a massive food fight. Usopp found herself thinking that perhaps she too shouldn't fish for a while.

 


 

After inspecting the array of knives, Usopp contemplated on what to do. As nice as they looked, she wasn't sure which one she should get. She hadn’t liked the eager gleam that the store clerk had in his eyes, reminding her too much of Nami whenever she would swindle people, so she had dismissed him on the account of being able to select her own weaponry. But the problem was that Usopp knew next to nothing about knives.

 

Many of them appeared to be like miniature swords with decorative handles and sheaths. Some of them even bore engravings along the blade. While they were quite nice to look at, Usopp wondered if she should go for something more understated. The understated were more practical, right? Or did it not matter in this case?

 

Deciding that she should just get Zoro’s opinion on the matter, Usopp turned around and headed down the aisle. However, she paused from taking another step when, rounding a corner and striding in front of her, was Eustass. Likewise, he stopped and stared down at her.

 

"What are you doing here?" they asked in tandem.

 

"Shopping," they answered in tandem.

 

"Quit repeatin' what I say!" Eustass barked at her, causing her to flinch.

 

"I-I didn't mean to!" she yelped, backing away.

 

"Che." The staring contest resumed. For Usopp, it was out of terror. For Eustass, it was out of expectancy, which in turn confused her greatly and caused her to stare at him now in confusion. Ten seconds of staring later, a vein began to throb on the side of his temple. He said testily, "Well?"

 

She blinked. "Huh?"

 

"Answer my question!"

 

“B-but I did!” she squeaked out, bewildered. “I said shopping!”

 

Eustass opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, and then bared his teeth, looking more pissed than before. Seeing the reddening hue crawling all over his face and the additional throbbing veins caused dread to fill her stomach. Usopp shrank away and her eyes frantically darted around, trying to determine what would be the best escape route to take. Maybe if she was fast enough, she could spin around and make a run for it—full blast speedy getaway.

 

Before she could cement her decision, a voice piped up from behind, saying, “Excuse me.” Without thinking, Usopp shifted to see who it was. The clerk was there with a polite (business-ready) smile; yet, despite this, there was an obvious trace of wariness in his eyes and the way he wrung his hands. "I hope there aren't any problems...?"

 

If not now, then there was going to be a big one if she didn’t get hell out of dodge. But, to Usopp’s ever-increasing surprise, Eustass shook his head, his pallor returning as soon as a person could blink. In fact, he seemed as though the onset of his colossal fit had never occurred, leaving Usopp to wonder if she had imagined their interaction. Full of cool nonchalance, Eustass said, “Nah, we’re good.”

 

The clerk perked up at that. “Oh, I see," he said. "I’ll leave you two to it, then.” With that said, the clerk left, leaving Usopp and Eustass alone. And for that moment, Usopp was certain that everything that happened up until the clerk's appearance was just a matter of her fear projecting a demonic rage monster onto Eustass and that everything was alright. But she was wrong again because Eustass reverted back to that demonic rage monster.

 

"Tell anyone about this," he said with a husky voice that promised of violence, "and you'll live to regret it."

 

Bewildered (again) and frightened (again), Usopp could only nod numbly in response.

 

"So," Eustass began with the same front that he had pulled on the clerk, and thus disorienting Usopp with his constantly changing moods (talk about a major whiplash), "what're you shopping here for? I know it's a weapons store, but this place shouldn’t have anything that a sniper would have use for."

 

Many questions surfaced in her mind. For example, why did he want to know? Eustass wasn't the kind of person who would ask for the heck of it, was he? And why did he suddenly get angry at her like that? She literally did nothing to him, and he was about to fly off the handle! Did everything incur his wrath so easily? And how did he know that she was a sniper? As far as she knew, the only Straw Hats that Eustass had bothered to pay attention to were Luffy, Zoro, and maybe even Franky. And why was it that him being here had to coincide with her being here?

 

“I wanted to buy stuff. Knives,” she answered stiffly, awkwardly.

 

He raised his nonexistent eyebrow. “What would you even do with knives?”

 

"Uh, after Wano, I kinda got inspired by the ninjas that we've encountered.” She shrugged. “They threw knives at us without us noticing them, and I wanted to be like that. All sneaky and whatnot.”

 

“So, you, what, thought that throwing knives would help you with that?” Eustass snorted, rolling his eyes and effectively hurting Usopp’s feelings with his denigrating tone.

 

“It’s—it’s not a bad idea!” she defended.

 

“Wrong. It is a bad idea—a real stupid one,” he retorted. “Look, throwing knives has nothing to do with sneakiness. You can wield a sledgehammer and still catch people off guard.”

 

She frowned at that. “I don’t see how that’s possible. Wouldn’t a sledgehammer create a loud sound by the time it smashes against something?”

 

“No duh, but I wasn’t referring to that. Outside of your Observation Haki, how’d you notice the ninjas?”

 

“I guess it was the sound of their knives cutting through the air,” Usopp reluctantly admitted.

 

“Yet you didn’t notice them prior to that, yeah?” Eustass pressed on. “And why do you think that is?”

 

Oh gosh. She knew just where this was leading to, and she really didn’t want to feed this guy’s ego by giving him the answer. Nonetheless, Usopp had to admit that he got a point, and a good one at that. “They didn’t shout out their attacks,” she grumbled out monotonously.

 

“There ya go,” he said with a nod. “If you want to be sneaky, just shut your trap every time you shoot someone.”

 

Okay, what? No, that was so hypocritical! As much as she didn’t want to summon the demonic rage monster again, Usopp couldn’t help herself by letting that one go. “You got no room to judge,” she countered, irked. “You shout out all of your attacks!”

 

Rather than be annoyed in return, Eustass smirked down at her. “That’s because I’m not the one who cares about being sneaky. I can afford to be flashy and loud with my attacks because I’m just that strong. You? Not so much.”

 

“Are you implying that I’m not?” she demanded. “I’ve been training for two years not for nothing, you know!”

 

“Then you must’ve been super weak from before.” He gave a light cackle as he ambled past her. “Because if what I’ve seen back at Wano were the fruits of your labor, then it’s a real mystery as to how you got yourself a bounty.”

 

Usopp scowled and clenched her fists, fuming at the way he patronized her. Although, knowing that getting under a person’s skin was just something that Eustass got a kick out of, she held herself back. Usopp breathed in and out, mitigating her frustration. There was no need to create an unnecessary altercation, especially here in a store full of sharp metal objects that Eustass could use in his arsenal. But aside from that, she didn’t need Eustass’s validation that she was strong. She knew that she was strong. Eustass was just too much of a jackass to recognize that.

 

“If you want throwing knives, then you gotta go to the next aisle.”

 

Usopp jolted and turned around. Eustass gave her that same expectant look that he had given her a few minutes ago, but, this time, there was nothing waspish or intimidating about it. His arms were crossed against his chest and he cocked his head to the side. The debris of her anger now completely fled out of her system, only to be replaced with her returning bewilderment.

 

“The knives here aren’t meant for throwing, just so you know,” Eustass added as though in clarification.

 

“I…” She blinked. “Huh?”

 

“Just get over here.”

 

The next thing she knew, Usopp was receiving tips on how to handle knives from Eustass Kidd of all people. They then went to the counter together, made their purchase together, left the store together, and walked back to their respective ships together. And this had all been done without another jibe coming out of Eustass’s mouth. Which was nice, but… What? What on earth?

 

Usopp had never felt so confused before in her life.

 


 

Because it was Luffy's turn to train Momonosuke, both of them were planning to go to the woods. This inspired Usopp to evilly rub her hands together and devise a plan.

 

It was simple; it was basic; it was cliché. Yet! It was a classic. And because it was cliché, no one would expect it! Therefore, Usopp decided to create a pitfall trap.

 

With the help of Carrot and Chopper, of course, because she wouldn't be able to dig a ten-foot deep hole and get out on her own.

 

"Are you sure that this'll help them?" Carrot asked as she shoveled dirt over her shoulder.

 

"Of course!" Usopp chirped. "Trust me—Luffy and Momonosuke are going to appreciate this."

 

Carrot and Chopper had been easy to convince; all Usopp had to do was tell them that they were going to provide an obstacle to challenge Luffy and Momonosuke's skills, therefore giving them an opportunity to learn how to overcome any more difficulties that would come their way in the future. The Mink and reindeer had been touched by such thoughtfulness and had agreed to assist her, wholly oblivious that they had volunteered to be her accomplices in pranking.

 

Carrot, however, was beginning to express her doubts, although for the wrong reasons, much to Usopp's amusement. "It's just... It's so simplistic..."

 

"Don't worry; it won't be so simple for any longer," Usopp assured. After Carrot and Chopper climbed out to the top by her gesture, Usopp rolled out two barrels by the lip of the hole. She tugged off the corks, and a slimy liquid poured out into the depths. It was to her luck that there had been leftover cooking oil for her to collect from all of the ships. The cooks had given her a strange look for her request but had complied nevertheless with no questions asked. Sanji, of course, just gave it to her with a twirl and a song.

 

"Oooh. That’ll definitely make it hard to get out,” Chopper observed, peering into the hole.

 

“Right?” she said, grinning proudly.

 

After promising Carrot and Chopper that she would tell them how the, ahem, obstacle would go, Usopp bid them a farewell and went to finish the rest of the trap. She placed a wooden lattice over the hole and piled leaves, grass, and dirt on top. Once the trap was camouflaged to her liking, Usopp rolled away the empty barrels and tucked herself away in a dense thicket. She wasn’t too close to the trap for Luffy to notice her presence, but she wasn’t too far to not be able to witness the prank being put into action.

 

Usopp smiled to herself in anticipation. It would be until a few more hours until Luffy and Momonosuke would arrive, but she was willing to be patient. Besides, she ought to brush up on her drawing skills while she waited. It had been a long time since she had made a sketch of, well, anything, so she might as well take advantage of the spare time she had on hand.

 

What Usopp didn’t take into account, though, was her falling asleep.

 

When she jerked herself awake, she briefly panicked before hastily peering through the foliage. Whether her timing was lucky or unlucky, she managed to catch the sight of someone falling into the trap, the lattice snapping in half under the person’s weight, and leaves flying in the air. Elated, Usopp scrambled out of the thicket and to the hole.

 

“Ha! Got you this time, Luuuuuu—” Her eyes widened at exactly who it was in the hole. “—Euuuustass…”

 

“The fu—”

 

“Oh, gee, look at the time,” she declared, glancing at her naked wrist. “I gotta go. See ya.”

 

“Get back here!”

 

As powerful as Eustass was, the man couldn’t leap out of the hole like how Carrot could, what with his bulky form being too much of an obstruction. Additionally, he couldn’t climb out because of the pool of oil that he had fallen into; he just kept slipping and falling. And his Devil Fruit power? What use did he have for that when they were in smack-dab in the middle of the forest? Eustass, however, was unhindered by all these things. Why? Because he had Usopp frantically going around and trying to see what would help him get out.

 

In the end, when it was fast approaching evening, Usopp was sweaty and exhausted. She was also anxiously trailing after a disgruntled and filthy Eustass. It was a shock to see that the redhead hadn’t skinned her alive for what had happened, not to mention how much of a complainer he turned out to be.

 

“So, this is the thanks I get for helping you pick out your knives,” Eustass grouched for the umpteenth time. “See if I ever help you again!”

 

“I told you, the prank wasn’t meant for you! Honestly!”

 

Down along the pier, they came across Luffy and Momonosuke, who both greeted them cheerfully.

 

Usopp gaped at them. “Where were you?” she cried out.

 

“Huh? Whaddya mean?” Luffy tilted his head, puzzled. “I was training Momo like I said.”

 

“B-but you said you were going to do it in the forest.”

 

“Oh, that? Yeah, I changed my mind. I figured that, since Zoro usually takes Momo out in the woods, we change things up a bit,” he said.

 

“We have been working hard at the farmlands,” Momonosuke chimed in with a nod.

 

“By the way, Chopper and Carrot told me that you got a surprise for me in the forest. Is that why we haven’t seen you all day?” Luffy leaned in with interest sparkling in his eyes. “What is it? Is it meat?”

 

Before Usopp could muster up the words to respond, a heavy hand landed on the top of her head. “Too bad for you, Straw Hat,” Eustass sneered with a boasting tone. “I happened to be the recipient of that surprise. You were late to the party.”

 

Now, Usopp was gaping at him.

 

“What?” Luffy looked at Usopp with betrayal. “Usopp, how could you?”

 

“First come, first serve, monkey bastard.”

 

“Screw you! The meat was supposed to be mine, jagged-haired bastard!”

 

If there was anything to lift Eustass’s spirits, it would be getting the upper hand on Luffy, Usopp noted bleakly, whether for the better or for the worse.

 


 

Usopp hastily ducked and rolled out of the room, thanking her lucky stars that neither Brook nor Apoo had noticed her departure. Then again, both men were too occupied in having their contest to see if their unwilling judge was paying attention.

 

She was in Scratchmen Apoo’s ship along with the rest of her crewmates and a few others, accepting the invitation to come aboard by its long-armed captain. But where she had intended on exploring the place like how everyone else had been, Usopp had ended up being dragged into an inane musical battle between Brook and Apoo. On any other day, she would have enjoyed witnessing such a thing, but…she just wasn’t feeling it today.

 

Usopp walked down the unfamiliar corridor, hoping that she would run into her crewmates or any friendly faces. Not that the On Air Pirates were particularly scary—they were quite amiable, actually, like the Heart Pirates—but they were nevertheless strangers, and Usopp was more at comfort being around those who she knew.

 

Usopp rounded a corner...

 

...to find Eustass Kidd sitting on his haunches with a half-empty water bottle.

 

She stared.

 

"It's not what it looks like, okay?" Eustass barked at her, a vein forming at his temple.

 

"I didn't say anything," Usopp quickly said, holding her hands out in placation.

 

“You better not tell anyone about this!”

 

“I won’t!” And if Usopp’s self-preservation instincts were still as fresh as they were when she had been seventeen, she would have left it at that and moved on. However, after Fishman Island and Punk Hazard and Dressrosa and Wano, her sense of self-preservation had been slowly turning into a washed, wrung, and worn-out rag with its edges fraying. Hence, it was why she asked, “But why here?”

 

“I don’t need to explain myself to you!” Eustass returned. Usopp didn’t make a move to leave and Eustass didn’t make a move to stand. He cleared his throat and added, “But just so you know, I found this bottle lying here and I thought I’d try flipping it.”

 

She felt herself perking up at that. “Oh! How’s it going? Did you make a flip?”

 

“That’s none of your business.”

 

“Ah.” She rubbed the back of her neck. “Um, if you’re interested, Luffy, Chopper, and I are going to hold another game tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that Brook’s going to join too. Uh, um, so if you want to join, you can come by at Sunny after breakfast.”

 

“Oh, please. As if I’d want to get involved with you babies and your ‘gambling’ again.”

 

For some reason, Usopp had a feeling that what he had said wasn’t quite the truth. She didn’t know what compelled her to say this, but she found herself offering, “If you want, I can help you flip bottles if you hadn’t mastered it yet.”

 

“I don’t need your help.” This time, he pulled himself to his full height and turned his back to her. “What I need is for you to butt out and stay out of my way, got it?” Eustass proceeded marching down the corridor. Usopp remained in place, watching the man huff and puff like a grumpy cat.

 

Said man then turned around, approached her, and grunted with a tone heavy with reluctance, "Yeah, help me out."

 

For the remainder of their time together in the corridor, Usopp taught Eustass how to flip a half-empty water bottle. Because of his forcefulness, the bottle would undergo a series of too many flips and drop to its side; sometimes, the bottle wouldn’t even spin. He was channeling his aggression into the bottle, which proved to be a failure. Before Eustass would give in to his frustration, Usopp gently showed him how it was done.

 

It was under her ministrations that Eustass was able to soften the way he flipped the bottle. Not only that, but he was able to use the weight of the water to build up momentum to his advantage. A swing of the bottle, quick flick of the wrist, and release.

 

After many, many attempts, Eustass finally managed to get the bottle to land upright.

 

“Holy shit, I did it!” he crowed ecstatically.

 

“You did!” Usopp grinned at him.

 

“Ha! At this rate, I’ll show Straw Hat who’s boss!” Usopp, by default, would side with Luffy and cheer him on. But after spending time with Eustass and teaching him, she couldn’t help but feel like rooting for him instead.

 

“Kidd? What are you doing?”

 

Standing before them was Killer. His expression was hidden behind a helmet, but it was easy to imagine him raising an eyebrow at them. Usopp and Eustass traded looks before quickly getting on their feet.

 

“Nothing,” Eustass supplied nonchalantly.

 

“Right.” Judging by his voice, Killer didn’t buy that. “Anyway, if you’re done, let’s get going.”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Eustass moved to follow his first-mate, but then lingered by. He gave Usopp a sideways glance and said to her, “See you tomorrow.”

 

Usopp blinked, and then nodded rapidly. “Tomorrow! Erm, yes, see you tomorrow.”

 

He nodded curtly and left.

 


 

Despite his vast improvement, Eustass didn’t win the game. But he wasn’t displeased by that since he won against Luffy, who kept accusing him of cheating.

 

“Just take your loss like a man, Straw Hat,” Eustass huffed. “I didn’t think that you’d be this much of a baby.”

 

“Rematch!” Luffy yelled. “I want a rematch!”

 

“Heh, fine. But it’s not like you’re gonna win, anyway.”

 

Usopp rolled her eyes at the men’s antics as she munched on a snickerdoodle.

 


 

After one long week for the ships to be fully repaired, there were three things that had taken place: Brook and Apoo had decided that they were platonic soulmates, destined to be the ultimate musical duo. All the shipwrights had banded together in their shared hatred for Franky (for reasons that were still unknown), to which Franky had gleefully accepted (for reasons that were still unknown). And, lastly, Usopp’s continual and coincidental meetings with Eustass had developed an unusual relationship between the two.

 

Usopp wouldn’t quite describe what they have as friendship, but…there was something, alright. And though she knew that the only Straw Hats that Eustass would bother to pay attention to were Luffy, Zoro, and maybe even Franky, she knew that she was at least on his radar. Perhaps not as someone of formidable strength or of interesting qualities, but, well, someone who had helped him flip a bottle.

 

Oddly enough, to her, that wasn’t so bad.

 


 

Years later…

 

"Why do we gotta tell him?"

 

“It’s only proper! You have to ask him for his blessings so that we’ll be able to proceed.”

 

“He’s not gonna give me his blessings, woman. He’s gonna try to put a bullet in my noggin.”

 

“Oh, hush,” Usopp tutted as she finished straightening the lapels of his jacket. “He will do no such thing. I’m here, after all.”

 

“Which will give him an even bigger reason why he ought to shoot me.” Kidd looked heavenward, aggrieved. “I told you the story of how I lost my arm and got these scars, right?”

 

“Because of the Red Hair Pirates; yes, I know. But it was your fault for antagonizing them, if you recall.”

 

“And your dad will see this as a form of antagonism.” He gusted out a sigh. “It just won’t be an arm that that’ll be taken from me, you know.”

 

“As long as you’re on your best behavior, I’ll do whatever I can to mitigate the situation.” Usopp patted his chest and looked up at him in amusement. “It’s a bit strange to see you scared like this. Dad and the others have been retired for quite some time.”

 

“That doesn’t mean his skills have deteriorated.”

 

“Land ho!” Luffy’s voice could be heard from outside.

 

Usopp grinned. “Looks like we’re here. Time for us to tell Dad the news,” she said, holding up the golden band on her finger.

 

“Hopefully, he won’t shoot me for knocking up his daughter before I get the chance to ask,” Kidd said dryly.