5 Chapter 5

Yanric was nimble in Rowan's eyes, extremely so.

SWOOSH! As Arlong swung his gigantic saw-like sword with power, Yanric flipped in the air before swiftly landing on the ground, lowering his body to dodge another slash, and closing in on Arlong with his knife out.

CLANG—!

However, it was to no avail. Yanric was skilled at fighting, but none of his attacks managed to penetrate Arlong's hard skin.

"Shahahaha... do you now understand?" Said Arlong with a grin, "This is why we, the fish-men, are of superior race to you humans."

Yanric didn't say anything, but tilted his head to evade Arlong's teeth which suddenly attempted to bite him off.

CLANG! Then, Yanric slammed his knife onto Arlong for another time, before backstepping to dodge a saw-like sword that slammed down from the top.

"Hah..." From nearby, Kuroobi chuckled, "He really is pathetic."

CLANG! Yanric smoothly redirected the approaching saw-like sword with his knife, before closing the distance once more.

"Seriously," Arlong, embedding his weapon on the ground, raised his arms up without any defense, "Haven't you learned yet? Your attacks have no damage on me—not at all."

CLANG CLANG CLANG! Yanric didn't yield. He slashed Arlong's chest multiple times wordlessly. Arlong, filled with annoyance, swung his fist, however, Yanric dodged with a quick reflex.

And Rowan managed to see what his father was going for.

'...Those slashes...'

When looked closely, Yanric wasn't aiming for a 'slash,' but rather, a 'stab.' Those slashes all had an overlapping region; Yanric was repeatedly aiming for the same point over and over again.

'No defense is absolute,' Thought Yanric as he swung his knife once more,

CLANG!

"Arlong, end it already," Said Chew, "Look, others are almost finished dealing with marines."

Arlong grinned, "Shahaha... fine—"

Swoosh.

Arlong frowned. On his exposed skin, a small drop of blood was generated, and he felt a tingling pain in his chest.

"...Huh?"

On Yanric's knife was blood. Arlong saw this in disbelief, realizing that the weapon managed to injure him—even if it was far too small to be called an injury even.

"There," Yanric grinned, "Not so superior as you say."

Rowan and Nami gazed at Yanric in awe.

BOOM! Arlong smashed his foot on the ground, before grabbing his saw-like sword that was plucked out of the ground due to it.

SWOOSH!

However, although Arlong's sword was strong and large, it was slow in comparison to Yanric. He, nimbly dodging all the attacks thrown at him, continuously attacked Arlong's chest over and over, widening the wound little by little.

"Arlong...!" Hatchan, worried for Arlong, said out of nervousness, "Let us join! We can end that guy right away if we were to fight together, right—"

"STAY STILL, HACHI!!!" Arlong screamed in a rage, "I don't need your help to deal with this primate—"

CLANG!

"—Tch...!!!" Arlong was beyond irked. Each of Yanric's attacks felt like a bug bite. However, they accumulated one after the other, and reached a point where they began to hurt little by little; the sense of arrogance was no longer present in him, and his eyes began to pursue Yanric actively.

Click. Arlong grabbed a pistol from his holster and,

BANG BANG BANG. Immediately shot toward Yanric rapidly. However, much to Rowan's shock—

CLANG CLANG CLANG!

—Yanric showcased an incredible display of skill, parrying those bullets with his knife. Rowan and Nami subconsciously formed exhilarated smiles on their faces, thinking that Yanric has a chance of winning—

—before Arlong's entire body shot forth abruptly.

PUK.

And then, they saw... Yanric's chest being pierced by Arlong's saw-like nose.

Rowan cried weakly, "Old... man...!!"

Nami leaned her back against a tree, closed her eyes, and covered her ears, unable to bear the sight any longer.

"...Cough..." From Yanric's mouth, the blood poured out and soaked Arlong's nose. Arlong, regaining his grin, snarled while twisting his nose and inflicting greater pain on Yanric,

"One hit and you already are critically injured." Arlong laughed, "Shahaha... one strike from mine had more effectiveness than hundreds of yours did! If this isn't superiority, then what is?!!"

Clang.

...Huh? Arlong then felt something on his chest. Pushing Yanric out of his nose and causing the man to fall to the ground nearby Rowan, Arlong looked at his chest and found Yanric's knife, which had its tip embedded in his slightly bleeding chest.

"Cough..." Yanric, holding his bleeding chest with one hand, stood back up. Arlong, taking out the knife, then angrily bit on it with his sharp teeth, shattering it in one go.

"...Damn, I guess… cough… that he really is the Arlong the 'Saw.'" Yanric, turning his head and looking at Rowan, reached into his pocket and took out 50 thousand Beli, "Live on, Rowan. Think this is it for me."

50 thousand Beli was thrown in front of Rowan. Rowan, ignoring the money, asked in a trembling voice,

"...What? Why didn't you run if you didn't have enough money...?"

Rowan cried,

"You could've asked someone else to pay for me, and go elsewhere!! Stupid old man, what's the point of being smartass!!! If—"

"...I'm sick of running away, Rowan." Yanric stated hollowly, causing Rowan to pause, "I ran away throughout my life. Yes, there was always a reason to do so. Survival is what matters the most... that's what I believed, and that's how I lived up until now. However, every time I ran, I lost something more than the loved ones."

Arlong's body was lowered, and Rowan could tell that the former was about to launch his body at his father again, and attack with that saw-like nose of his.

"My dignity... I was always the protected ones. In Oykot kingdom, by my fellow royal guards. In Rosette pirates, by my wife and fellow crewmates. But this time around," Yanric smiled, "...I'm the one who's protecting you—"

"Shark on Darts!!"

PUK.

Rowan's eyes saw at the next moment, Arlong standing behind Yanric with his saw-like nose directly penetrating the latter's neck. His father's eyes lost their gleam, and as Arlong removed his nose, Yanric fell down with a thud, dead inmediately.

"...Fisherman? Eat fish? Shahaha... look who's kissing the ground here, dead." Arlong, with his anger remaining, then slammed his foot onto the dead Yanric, repeatedly.

BOOM.

"We aren't mere fish. No, instead, to you humans, we are, by literal means, gods!"

BOOM.

"And above all, humans like you disgust me the most. All bark and no bite—hold on. No human was ever capable of biting like we can, shahahaha!!!"

BOOM.

"...Hah," The blood sprayed all over. Much of it landed on the nearby Rowan as he hollowly looked at the sight of his father being mutilated by Arlong.

"...Hahah,"

The tears from his eyes became mixed with the blood. Rowan cried tears of blood as he formed a twisted smile on his face, watching as his father was slowly becoming nothing but a bloody and gory mess—beyond recognition,

"Vahahaha!!"

Rowan laughed crazily, unable to suppress the wave of emotion any longer. He couldn't understand why he was doing so, but above all the physical pain that he was undergoing, this agony in his heart—he couldn't bear it.

"...Hu..." At one point, Arlong finally stopped. The other fish-men, having finished off all marines also, returned back to the land. Arlong walked past the pool of blood and onto the blood-drenched Rowan, before crouching down and gazing at 50 thousand Beli that lied next to him.

Arlong then grabbed Rowan by his cheeks and growled,

"...Heh, a lucky one that you are... exactly 50 thousand. You'll get to live unlike your daddy, boy."

Rowan, whose eyes were dazed off into the thin air, didn't respond. Losing his interest, Arlong let go of Rowan and stood back up. Subsequently, his shifted his eyes to Nami and grinned,

"And so, what do you think of our deal, Nami?"

__________

All the ships in the village have been sunk. The marines didn't show up, and the entire village has fallen under the Arlong pirates' control.

Nako, with his consciousness returned, was standing among the crowd of injured villagers.

"...There is no hope in this," He growled, "We must choose now—while that reckless man, Yanric, has gone off on his own!!"

The villagers looked defeated. However, Nako nonetheless shouted,

"Shall we go out fighting, braving death, or accept their rule, in which we'll live under constant fear of death, and hope that the Government will one day come to save us?!!"

"...No," Genzo, who was having difficulty standing, said weakly, "the only ones in the Government that can hope to match those monsters are those from the Marine headquarters in the Grand Line... but they already have their hands full, so hoping for them to come all the way out is useless...!"

One villager spoke up, "Yanric... that fellow used to be a royal guard... right? He hasn't returned yet after this much time passed, so he must be fighting!! What if—Nami?!"

"Nami?!!" Genzo smiled in delight, "Thank god—" before his smile froze.

Everyone turned around. On the street, three were found walking toward the villagers. One was Nami, walking at the front. Behind her was Hatchan, who was holding onto Rowan who was red from head to toe.

"R-Rowan...!!!" Nako's jaw opened wide, "What happened to you, boy?!! Y-Yanric, he…"

"...There." Nami, biting her lips, pointed at the ground in front of the vllagers, "Drop him."

"Okay, Nami." Hatchan, nodding in a monotone, dropped Rowan carefully before backing off.

"...Why is that fish-man listening to you...?" Nojiko, who was up front, running at Nami, stopped with a dumbfounded expression as Nako quickly took Rowan into his house.

"...Nami?"

"Come on, tell us! What's going on?!!"

Everyone's eyes landed on Nami. Nami looked down on the ground, and formed a shaky grin. Raising her head back up, she said,

"I... I decided to join the Arlong pirates... and become their cartographer."

"That's right!" Hatchan nodded with his two arms crossed.

"...Huh?"

"...No, you are joking."

The villagers stood still, unable to believe what they just heard. Genzo, ignoring Hatchan behind Nami, approached her and leaned down,

"Nami... what are you saying? Are you out of your mind?" Genzo asked with anger in his tone, "Did they do something to you?! Did they do anything horrible to you?!"

"...No."

"THEN THEY MUST'VE THREATENED YOU, RIGHT?!!" Genzo screamed while holding Nami's shoulders tightly, "TELL ME THE TRUTH!!!"

"NO!!!" Nami shouted back, before thrashing out of Genzo's grasp, "LET GO OF ME!!!"

While she did so, Nami's shoulder was exposed. And on said shoulder was a tattoo—the symbol of the Arlong pirates.

"I-it... can't be." Nojiko whispered.

"L-look." Nami, forcing a smile once more, took out the money from her pocket, "Look at all this money I got. They said.. they said, hehe... they'll buy me anything I like...!"

Bam.

"NAMI!!"

At the next moment, Nojiko rammed into Nami and sent the latter down on the ground,

"HOW COULD YOU EVER JOIN THOSE PIRATES?!! HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN WHAT THEY DID TO BELL-MERE?!!!"

"IF LIVING HONESTLY MEANS GETTING KILLED LIKE BELL-MERE, THEN I WANT NO PART OF IT!!!"

Nojiko couldn't bear it any further. Letting go of Nami, she stood back up and slowly took steps back. She whispered,

"...How could you say such a thing...? Did you forget that Bell-mere... she died for us...?"

"...That's enough, Nojiko."

Genzo turned around and adjusted his cap. With his eyes shadowed, he growled,

"Get out of my sight, Nami! Don't ever step in this village ever again!!!"

Nami's vision became blurry. In her sight, there was Bell-mere standing, making her meals with little of what they had, chatting with her, tending the mikan grove—

...Nami stood back up wobbly, then ran away. She ran and ran, leaving the villagers and Hatchen—one who was standing with his eyes headed downward, grimacing.

And eventually, Nami somehow ended up in one grave at the edge of the island. No word was written on it, but Nami instantly recognized it as Bell-mere's grave; she silently walked toward it, and fell down in front of it.

__________

"...Nami."

Nami flinched as Nojiko's voice was heard from her back. Nami stood darkly, before saying,

"...Do you remember what Bell-mere said to us once? She said as long as we continue to live on, we'll surely come across fun times as well."

Nami muttered,

"After Arlong took Rowan and me, five marine ships and Rowan's dad came after them. But they were all so easily sunk and defeated. I'm certain... that the Government will never send help to this island, because the Arlong pirates would easily destroy them! That's why we have to help ourselves..."

Nojiko watched in confusion as Nami turned to look at her. Nami then claimed,

"...I am going to buy the village from them with 100 million Beli."

"...What?!"

"In return, I have to join their crew and draw maps for them..."

"B-but," Nojiko refuted, "even an adult working his entire life away probably can't raise that much!!"

"It's not like I have a choice!!"

"But it will be hard!!" Nojiko said worriedly, "You'll have to work with the one who killed Bell-mere..."

Nami took in a deep breath, before smiling, "I'm... okay. I can still smile even when looking at his face... I've decided to never cry again."

The chat ended there. Nojiko was unable to say anything more; she opened her mouth, only to close it back in silence.

Soon, Nojiko turned and walked away, powwrlessly. And Nami was left alone, all by herself.

...

For hours, Nami spent her time staring at the gravestone. The sun was setting, and her stomach growled in hunger, but she didn't respond to it, for a hunger alone was nothing in comparison to what she's undergone today.

Finally, Nami stood back up, and turned around—

"...Rowan?"

In front of her, Rowan was standing with his entire body, except for his face, covered up by bandages.

"100 million, right?" Rowan's voice was hoarse and broken. He was, by no means, in a normal condition. And yet, his eyes were burning in nothing but a resolve.

Nami slowly nodded. It wasn't a surprise that Rowan knew, for he was there when she made the deal with Arlong.

"And Arlong allowed you to leave this village to earn that money."

Nami nodded again, and Rowan took a step forth,

"I'm coming with you,"

to ensure that Nami stays safe, and for him to gain strength outside this powerless village... for Rowan knew that a scum like Arlong will never keep his promise.

'...Bell-mere. Old man.'

Be it the struggle of the weak. Rowan promised to himself that he won't stay helpless any longer,

'I won't run away from it. I won't fall into a naive thought any longer. This village's freedom... I won't let a girl like Nami to bare its burden all alone by herself,'

even if it meant the so-called 'peaceful life' will no longer be possible—never again.

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