He gave her the blade.
Not that Crocodile mistrusted Nico Robin: throughout the years of cooperation, they built a peculiar relationship based on mutual benefit and respect – in short, it was a win-win for both. Nevertheless, he never divulged his plans to the end as he sensed she perfectly comprehended her role and her significance in his projects. Besides, Nico Robin easily guessed his intentions, while Sir Crocodile couldn’t pry into her head. His ultimate goal, Pluton, that is, a huge and highly advanced warship capable of mass destruction, may have remained a mystery to her, but it wouldn’t cause any commotion in her. He, on the contrary, strayed trying to plow through the well-concealed purposes of this inscrutable, enigmatic woman. Of course, Crocodile was mightily vexed – and frequently came to the conclusion that his associate might very well vie with him and beat him in his own game.
In his game, the rules of which they asserted together: the whole idea of the notorious Baroque Works did belong to Crocodile, but Robin was the one who managed to improve the opaque notion and make it real. Moreover, she had offered candidates for officer agents, accentuating a certain bounty hunter known as Daz Bones – who eventually revealed his best qualities and evinced brilliant training. On the other hand, instead of relief Crocodile experienced a vague sense of paranoia, thinking that Robin might be nosing into his private affairs, ingratiating herself to become his trusty sidekick. What if she was an undercover agent working for a yonko? What if she is contriving a plan to get disposed of him, going by the command of the strongest? Judging by her personal profile, Robin did have an experience in ruining gangs from the inside, infiltrating into the influential people’s circles.
Nevertheless, he did give her the blade.
Robin, imperturbable as ever, was wearing a transparent black gown with a white silk neckerchief. She stood behind the enormous armchair, scrutinizing a hefty straight razor with a blade made of seastone.
Normally, Crocodile didn’t need any assistance, but this time she’d failed to abscond – and he didn’t banish her. Brushing her thumb across his two-day stubble on the chin, the woman raised her sapphire eyes and hummed.
“You’re ruining your public image,” she said.
Crocodile did not respond. Reaching out for the negligently scattered lighter on the nightstand, he motioned his stump in the direction of a wide Blackwood closet in the farthest end of the office. When did he stop wearing his hook in her presence? The sight of his mutilated hand didn’t cause any repulsion in her, did it? Never had he spotted a sign of disgust or utter disdain in her eyes. Even the rough scar of the crudely stitched wound didn’t inculcate fear in her. He very well recalled that her finger did not twitch their first evening together.
Robin silently walked over to the closet, and moved the glass panel, fetching a straight razor with both her hands.
“Looks like a parang to me,” she drawled pensively.
She was suspiciously well-versed in weapons.
The pirated leaned back in his armchair, eyeing an elephant stone figure on his desk. A grateful resident gave it to him, claiming that it was a very ancient relic found on the outskirts of Whiskey Peak. Actually, he didn’t care whether it was antique or not, but Robin, who distinguished some old inscriptions upon it, recommended to keep the souvenir. Ah. That passion of hers.
“A little higher.”
A hand materialized out of nowhere, and the backside of her dry, warm fingers tenderly glided underneath his chin, thus gently raising his head. As usual, her swarthy palms exuded flowers and hot sand.
“How often do you do that?”
The expression on her face didn’t seem to change. Crocodile, content with her brief reply, took a long drag on his cigar, hauling another pile of documents over to him – it had already been assorted. Of course.
Clearly relaxed, he exhaled and closed his eyes for a moment. Suddenly he felt a soft touch of the ash on his knee – with a swift, impulsive motion, he swept the ash away. At this very moment, he immediately realized that the seastone razorblade slithered underneath his jawbone. Pressing his hand to the gash, Crocodile sharply turned to the woman.
“What are you waiting for?!”
Robin didn’t seem to hear his visceral growl: when enraged, Crocodile never shouted; instead, his voice dropped down a notch and turned into a threatening whisper that, flying out of his thin lips, sounded much more menacing and baleful than the most terrifying roar. Staring absent-mindedly at the crimson-painted blade, splattered gems in his rings, and the thin rivulets of blood running down his massive neck, the woman put the razor aside and took off her neckerchief. Two pairs of hands were already rummaging in the closet, trying to find a medicine that could stop the bleeding. With a quiet clank, the fingers fished out a tiny vial. Bending over the incision on the pirate’s neck, Robin softly pulled his large hand off the skin, and, moistening the neckerchief with an acrid-scented liquid, she delicately but firmly pressed it to the wound. The fabric rapidly turned red.
“Be careful next time,” the woman advised wiping the blood drops off her fingers. “If not for the solution, you would’ve bled to death.”
Crocodile couldn’t quite discern whether she was joking: the danger seemed improbable, such a pathetic cut would have never done any harm to him, but the razor did slide close to an artery. Had she pressed a little harder–
The warlord, holding the neckerchief, glared at the tall, opaque silhouette. Any other woman would’ve curled in a ball in the farthest corner of the room, but this one was audaciously staring back at him with a faint grin upon her lips.
“I could have pulverized you for that.”
“You very well could have.”
Robin did not contradict: she understood the jeopardy that threatened her every second of her existence; she never doubted Crocodile’s resolution if he ever wanted to get disposed of her – he would not demur. However, she sought his company. When they spent time together, the woman appeared to relish the deliberate conversations and peaceful evenings at the library: he sorted the casino reports, and she was breezing through books. Miss All Sunday may not necessarily share his opinions, but their discussions never exhausted him, even though she occasionally preferred to bandy civilities instead of answering direct questions. Despite the hardships she had faced in the past, Nico Robin never painted the world in dull shades of black: on the contrary, she became a sober-minded, shrewd, and wise individual who could fathom the sophisticated mental traps of renowned sages on both sides of the fence.
The slash was tingling, but Crocodile’s trademark annoyance for some vague reason dispersed without a trace. Robin stood beside him, awaiting an order as if nothing had happened between them.
“Leave,” he drawled calmly, nibbling on the cigar and examining the documents with tight lines of words. “I’ll have to be finishing it by the evening.”
She nodded subtly and, not breaching the taciturnity, left the room. After a while, Crocodile realized he had been seizing the white blooding neckerchief, emitting the weak fragrance of her perfume.