There´s a big thump that resonates in all the restaurant. Is so strong that Sanji and the Cooks jump and immediately turn to the dinner hall, where Zeff and the client were (There was only a client this early in the morning as they hadn´t opened yet for the day.)
She was a young lady whit fiery red hair and stormy eyes that had asked to speak with the old man, insisting that was something important. Which is why Sanji huffs, and with ruffled feathers, storms towards the dinner hall, ignoring completely the worried looks the cooks (Carne and Patty) exchanged before following him.
Zeff is facing Akane, the table that was between the two of them is smashed, and the young woman is arching an eyebrow at him, after a few moments of tense silence Zeff´s face goes through a lot of emotions until he sets on a somewhat sheepish expression just as Sanji enters in the room.
“Old man,” Sanji growls. “What the hell is happening?”
Of course, his interruption catches the attention of the two adults. Both of them turn to face him; Zeff expressions fall and a frown takes place. On the other hand, the beautiful redhead´s face lips up and she´s smiling at him with so much happiness and joy that Sanji blushes and forgets completely about what he was trying to do.
An angel, he thinks with admiration and a quickly developing crush.
“Sanji-kun!” The angel´s voice is and melodic and Sanji´s heart skips a beat when she approaches him and kneels so they can see each other’s eyes. “I´m so happy to finally meet you!”
“Akane.” Zeff warns.
Akane huffs, her lips forming a playful pout. “I´m just saying as it is, Red Leg. No need to be so on the defensive.” As she looks back at the chef before returning her attention to the blushing mess that was the blonde. It seems like Sanji already worshipers women.
She clicks her tongue but nevertheless smiles again. Eyes crinkling in amusement.
“One day, sometime in the future, a boy with a straw-hat will come and ask you to be his Nakama. If you accept, you will roam through the Grand Line. You would live amazing adventures as well as face uncountable dangers.”
Sanji´s eyes are big; surprised, full of childish wonder. All children dream to be pirates at some point in their childhood, the young Germa Prince was not different.
But more than that…
The Grand Line meant the opportunity to find the All Blue. The spark of his dream come to life one more time, with the force of a storm, making him forget for a moment the decision he had taken two years ago: Stay with Zeff and built a restaurant together. Make sure the dream of his saviour come true.
His expression falls.
Akane sighs; grey eyes full of understanding. Her smile a little more sad, but nevertheless genuine and warm.
“It´s going to be alright.” She promises, ruffling his head. “By the time this boy comes to this place, the Baratie will be thriving and its name will be known in all the Blues. Even for some in the Grand Line.”
Sanji looks at her like she´s holding the moon and the stars. In a way, she is.
“Really?” Sanji was such a cute boy.
A shame that Zeff would likely murder her if she tried to hug him (the angry vibes were enough proof of this. Red Leg was such a protective parent. Akane really felt satisfied with this, Sanji deserved someone who loved him.)
Zeff rolled his eyes at the expression of happiness and joy that his team (The cooks and Sanji as well.) had at the news Akane had given them. He was a more seasoned man and could comprehend that relying on visions and empty promises were dangerous.
Even more when you allowed yourself to accept them as a reality.
“Sanji.” Zeff yelps; not overly aggressive but with obvious intentions of separating his adopted son from the Pirate Captain. “Why you don´t bring Akane some food?”
The young blond´s face lips up. “Please wait! I will bring you the best soup you have ever tasted!”
Akane chuckles as the boy tugs the cooks back to the kitchen. She looks back at Red Leg, rolling her eyes. She´s amused at the other pirate protectiveness. Mostly because it´s not necessary; the only thing she wants is to help them. But she´s a very intrusive person.
And afterwards everything she said. It was as clear as the sky that she´s a treat.
He wanted her gone as fast as possible.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Akane says, returning to her seat. Facing again the old man. “I truly appreciate it but I can´t stay long. My crew and I need to be going.”
“Taste the food,” Zeff grumbles; hard eyes on her. “Sanji is a good chef and it will mean a lot to him.”
Akane concedes with a tip of her head. Not bothered by the awkward silence that engulfed them. The hard part of the conversation had already passed and she was happy to wait in silence until Red Leg made up his mind. Sanji´s interruption is already forgotten.
“Are you sure he will be alright?”
“For what I could see. King Vinsmoke will not be aware of his survival until afterwards he joins my son in his travel.” Akane tells with a shake of his head. “But I prefer you are aware of his blood in case it becomes relevant before that happen.”
For Sanji´s safety.
“I understand.” Zeff can agree with her on this point. “What I don´t get is that.”
“…the treasure box?”
Zeff eyebrow twitch.
“…is a gift?”
“Do you want me to kick you out?”
“The Baratie as a renowned restaurant in the four Blues.” She says, voice full of mischievousness. “That´s what I want. Is a gift to you so that can become a reality as soon as possible. My sons are young right now but they will grow up soon. And when they do. They will come and I want them to experience the best you can offer.”
It´s a shame they can´t taste it now. But well, is too soon in the timeline.
Zeff likes it better when she´s selfish. He´s a weird man.
Akane likes him a lot.
“Here!” Sanji returns with a big smile. “Hope you like it!”
“It´s delicious,” Akane says, genuinely amazed. “The best I´ve eaten in a long time. Five Star quality for sure.”
Sanji preens under the praise.
“Prepare food for a crew of twelve.” Zeff orders to his team, ignoring the way Akane is emitting flowers and stars as she eats, too lost in her own world to care about them.
“You too, Sanji.”
“…Yes, old man.” He mumbles, frowning at him, before following the older cooks.
Zeff sighs, returning his attention to his client.
“You always eat like that?” He asks curiously.
“Huh?” Akane says unintelligently around her bite.
“Oh, fuck.” She curses, shaking her head. “No, no. Ah. I normally have manners. But, this is truly magnificent. And well…food is my guilty pleasure.”
The smile on her face is sheepishly and Zeff snorts.
“Yes, I get it.”
This time the silence was more comfortable.
Akane enjoys the food. And smiles brightly when they offered a packet. “Thank you.”
“No, Akane. Thank you.”
“Zeff sends us this.” Akane informs Cora-san as she returns to the ship. “It´s for you and the kids.”
Rocinante´s smile is blinding. Like the sun.
Akane returns it without thinking. “Where are the kids?”
“In their room.”
“Ah, so they´re plotting.” Akane nods.
Cora-san snorts. “They´re always plotting.”
Their children love to plot. Well, Sabo and Law do. And Ace, Luffy and Bepo are happy to stay with them and add their own brand of craziness to the other´s plans.
“Is this a book?”
“A book?” Akane asks interested, looking over Cora-san´s shoulder to see what he was referring. “No fucking way!”
“Is not a book, but a diary,” Akane explains with a feral smile on her lips. “It has written Red Leg´s adventures during his stay on the Grand Line.”
“He gifted it to you?” Corazon asks bemused. If that was true there were many people would kill for this kind of information. It was not something a man like Zeff would give away so easily.
“I can´t believe it either!”
Cora-san sweatdropped at his Captain amazed expression but nevertheless smiled fondly at her and the childish emotion that was written in her face as she whips through the diary.
“Thank you, Arukne!” She hugs the diary against her chest. “This will make things so much easier. And we can follow this to make sure we sail safely.”
It had been a worry they both had. Because for all Cora-san had been a Marine and had navigated for the Grand Line for while a few years ago, he only knew the way of the Government. A way they couldn´t use, for obvious reasons.
Zeff´s diary would certainly help them.
Cora-san hugs her and kissed her hair, smiling as his partner relaxed into his embrace.
“Well, we´re here,” Rocinante said with a reverent tone the place deserved. “Loguetown.”
His words were shadowed by the excited shriek that left Akane´s lips. She was so delighted she was incapable of staying still; she was practically dancing all over the place and it was difficult to say who had the biggest smile, Luffy or her.
“The town of the beginning and the end" Akane laughs, lifting her youngest son. “A place every pirate must visit at least once.” The boy giggled as she whispered conspiratorially, bopping their noses. “For it´s the city that saw the Pirate King born and die.”
Ace, of course, wasn´t happy to be there. But the other children had stars in their eyes as they heard what Akane had said. It was something all of them had known beforehand but the reality hadn´t hit them until their Captain reminded them of the importance of the place.
The place that had seen the beginning of the Great Pirate Era. The place where the Pirate King was born.
Rocinante sighed and pinched his nose.
He truly doesn’t see why it´s so interesting about the city. He could even say he finds it distasteful…and he´s not ashamed to admit that it may be for his upright as Marine ´cause Gol D Royer´s last words provoked an arise of evildoers like his brother.
Bad people that only wanted to destroy. Scum.
“We´re staying a week or two so the marines don´t find our activities suspicious.” He continues as he rolls his eyes, having given up the pretence of sobriety. “Please, guys. Try to not pick up any fights while we´re here, alright?”
His plea is in general for all the members of his family are (or act like) D´s.
“We will. If you do the same, Cora-san.” Law throws back, mischief shining in his golden eyes.
Rocinante huffs, deeply offended, and his coat puffs as it was a living bird. Akane giggles at the sight and not-so-subtly highs five with Law.
Luffy laughs brightly and so does Sabo even when he is just as confused as Ace is towards what Law´s talking about –They had yet to see Cora-san´s showing off his fiery temperament.
Akane, still having laughter on her lips, turns towards the vibrant city that unfolds in front of them. Her eyes glint with hunger and her smile turns a little sharper than before. Loguetown was a critical point in her journey; the first step on what promises to be what she always wanted.
She´s an adventurer.
Always had been. In her late world, she travelled as much as she was able. Experimenting. Discovering. Going and going until she found herself in the face of a forgotten God and was given the chance of making a wish.
A wish without rules or limits. Once she is enjoying entirely. She has no regrets nor doubts. Is completely happy with what she has made for herself in the year she´s been in the world of One Piece.
…at the same time, she wants more. And the Grand Line promises that.
She can barely contain her emotion.
She isn´t trying very hard, tough.
She can´t wait ´till she can see more of the magnificent world she has declared as hers.
Loguetown is beautiful. Akane loves the open streets full of people who smile and chat away without worry, the endless stores and malls, the easiness of the people that feel safe even when pirates are all over the place.
It´s weird. Such a fascinating and enchanting thing.
They easily fell in the pace of the city. They´re tourists. And aren´t afraid of making it notice. Acting like rich civilians (Not nobles, tough, never acting like them.) that are in the city for curiosity and their only interest is having fun.
She enjoys spoiling her family and seeing them happy; acting like the children they are. Seeing Cora-san laugh and smile; free of the burden of Doflamingo´s shadow and his duties as Marine.
She likes being on land. Have soil under her feet, dance over the grass and sing along the leaves that fall over the place. She enjoys sailing, of course. She loves the feeling of the breeze on her face and hearing the calling of the ocean in her heart.
But there´s also a disconnect that she can´t shake off when she’s on the seas.
Being a pirate is belonging to the world and finding your home in the seas, but she couldn´t help herself some times.
It´s three days after they arrived at Loguetown when Akane asks Cora-san to take the children (but Ace) with him for the day; she has an especial plan for her freckled son.
She doesn´t like playing favourites like this (She likes including all her children in the activities she planned and in the bonding moments.) but is necessary. This place is important. Ace needs time to explore his sentiments about Roger (He´s anxious and moody since they arrived. Almost as he had returned as he was before they meet.) and Akane thinks she has a way for him to finally let go of the late Pirate King´s shadow.
She takes him to have his favorite breakfast, then to shopping -they go to see the weapons. Ace likes knives and Akane doesn’t mind his interest.- and as the day goes Ace starts to relax a little. It´s good. Akane has found that Ace adores having ice-cream and that his favorite flavor was cookies-and-cream.
Ace is walking by her side eating the biggest combo the store had in existence. Many parents are seeing them with big incredulous eyes and the children have jealously in their eyes. Akane chuckles and proceeds to ignore the stares. Ace is unaware of it as his attention is focused on the dessert.
She´s happy that he can feel safe at her side.
She stops to buy some red flowers from a young lady; she holds the bouquet against her chest and puts some coins on the other woman´s hand. Her free hand goes over Ace´s back and softly guides him until they´re in front of the execution platform.
Ace´s expression sours as he notices.
“This place marks the beginning and the end of an era,” Akane says, severe. This is as good grave as anything can be. A memorial of a great man. “This is the place where Gol D. Roger died with a smile on his lips. He was a monster. But so are all pirates, starlight. And civilians are blind pathetic little things that believe what the World Government decided it´s the truth. That´s why their words should not be considered the truth.”
She rips apart the flowers.
“He loved Rouge. I´m sure he would have loved you if he had had the chance to meet you.” Akane gaze never leaves the platform. “But he´s long gone. It´s time for you to say Goodbye. You´re not his anymore, Ace. You´re mine. My son.”
She places some petals on the raven´s hands. He looks at her with big wet eyes. Ace knows Akane loves him; she makes sure to say it frequently, reminding them all that she holds them dear. But he can´t shake the heavy burden of the hate against this man that follows him everywhere he goes.
Because if people knew whose son he is, he would be hunted and killed. He hates it. Hates it so much that what matters the most is his blood and that
no one just a few special people would care for him just for being him.
“Goodbye.” Ace whispers as he lets the petals fly.
“Let Calypso have mercy on your soul King of Pirates.” Akane does the same, closing her eyes for a moment.
Red petals fly over the platform; a parting gift for the man who inspired so much.
Akane clapped three times, opening her eyes. “Now, let´s go back to our family.”
Ace looks a last time towards the platform before taking Akane´s hand, he´s smiling. A little gesture that makes Akane thanks the gods because her little boy deserved to be as happy as possible.
They reunite with the others and after resting a little they went all to have dinner together and the others sighed in relief at noticing the change for when Ace was unhappy the entire family disposition felled. Luffy and Sabo were more accustomed but still liked much better a happy Ace than a bitter one.
Sabo hugged Akane in thanks. It´s the first time the young blonde initiated the affection and it made Akane go all gooey much to Cora-san´s and Law´s amusement.
Later that night, before they went to bed, Ace asked: “What do you think of Flourite D. Ace?”
Akane made an unholy noise and hugged her son, crying and laughing at the same time, poor Ace ended up having tears all over his hair.
“It has a nice ring on it, Ace.” Cora-san´s eyes twinkled in happiness at seeing the cute interaction.
Ace is a blushing mess when the others agree.