A/N: Please read the Foreword in the Auxiliary Volume before reading. Thank you!
The first opening of One Piece played as the ending scenes of the anime was shown on the tablet.
Ace D. Goldstein found himself crying and smiling widely at the same time as he watched the last episode of his favorite story, One Piece. He already knew this was coming. He read the ending of the manga months ago. Seeing it in the anime just made it more real.
One Piece has ended. The story that gave him life, made him keep living, a story that has aired for more than twenty years, has ended.
The intense emotions he was feeling were too much for him, it seems. As the ending credits rolled to its end, he started coughing. He covered his mouth with his hand as a sign of respect, taught to him by his beloved parents. Though he doesn't remember the exact memory, he knew they were the ones who taught him. They were always there for him. In every step of his life.
Even until the end.
"Nurse! Nurse! Help!"
His mother screamed outside the door of his room in the hospital he stayed at for the past ten years of his life. He lived half of his life here, so it feels like home for him.
He stopped coughing and took his hand off his mouth. It was filled with semi-solid clumps of blood.
Ace paid no attention to his worsening condition. He was still happy even though he knew his death was inevitable. A few hours left until he dies; he could feel it. Still, seeing his family beside him who joined him as he witnessed the ending of his favorite story made him feel he will leave this world with no regrets.
He watched his father, always with the small smile on his face, calmly reach for the little gadget at his bedside that called for a nurse.
"I called for the nurse now, honey. Don't panic."
His father soothed his mother. She was usually calm and smart in almost any situation, but she was rather emotional when it came to Ace and his father. The three of them were the only family they had, so she was rather overprotective of her two loved ones.
The day they discovered that Ace was dying because of an unknown and unnamed disease was the first time Ace saw his mother break down as if the whole world ended. In a way, her world really did end.
Ace's mother broke down crying after panicking. Her shoulders hunched as she made herself smaller. She found support by leaning on his father's chest. Ace never liked seeing her that way.
Ace watched his father hug his crying mother tightly; it was all he could do. Ace really didn't like the mood, so he tried to lighten it up.
He called out to his parents with arms wide open; they accepted, of course. They enveloped Ace in their warmth. He felt them squeeze him as hard as they could without hurting him.
They broke off the hug when the nurse came in. She checked his condition and made him drink something to relieve the burning pain he felt every time he breathed. The nurse left soon after she was done. The doctors really couldn't do anything for Ace at this point besides making him feel as little pain as possible.
The three of them were silent. There were no words needed to be said. They already knew that Ace would die within the week.
Then, his mother asked something that almost broke him; but he stayed strong. He wants her last memory of him to be smiling and happy.
"Was I a good mother, Ace?"
His parents didn't watch all of One Piece. They only watched the arcs after Wano with Ace here at the hospital. Hearing his mother say such a familiar line with his name, a name present in the story he loved so much, made him feel a myriad of emotions.
"Of course you were, mom!"
Ace proudly answered with a smile. His mother beamed a smile at him too. She hugged him again. His father watched them on the side as tears rolled down the sides of his face. He quickly wiped it off, though. Then, it was his turn to lighten the mood.
"So, that was the last episode?" he asked me.
"It was. I'm glad I got to see it."
"Your wish was granted."
Ace smiled when he remembered how he told them jokingly back then that he wished he would get to see One Piece end before he dies. He's happy his wish came true. He knew his parents were happy for him too.
"We should celebrate," his father said. "One Piece ended, and we watched it as a family. What do you want, Ace? I can sneak in whatever food you want without the doctors knowing."
Ace laughed at how his father showed his goofy grin whenever he played around. His mother would usually interfere and stop him. But strangely, she said nothing as she smiled along with him.
"Then… I want my favorite!"
Ace didn't need to say what it was; it was his mother's special homemade spaghetti. They weren't surprised to hear what Ace wanted to eat. He always requested it.
"I guess I'll borrow the hospital's kitchen again," his mother said as she stood up and went to cook what he requested.
"And… dad?" Ace called out to his father after his mother was gone.
"I want to drink with you, too. We never really drank, did we?"
"No… we didn't."
Ace couldn't drink alcohol, of course. The doctors wouldn't allow it even back when he requested for it as much as he could three years ago for his eighteenth birthday. Legal drinking age and all that.
Ace's father stood up and grinned at him.
"I'll go and buy the good stuff, okay?"
"Think you can take it?"
"Of course! I bet I can down more shots than you!"
"We'll see about that," he said before heading off to buy 'the good stuff' they'll drink.
Of course, he didn't leave Ace alone. He pressed the button again to call for a nurse. But for now, Ace was alone. He laid down on his bed as he clutched the tablet to his chest. It was where the three of them watched the Final Saga of One Piece every time a new episode came out.
Ace decided he should rest up and gather strength. He felt weaker every passing day. He should be strong later for their little celebration.
One last memory before he goes…
But it never happened. Ace closed his eyes one last time.
That was the last memory he had before waking up in the middle of the stars.