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The Trouble With Eastern

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Two days Sanji had been on this ship and already a fight had broken out. He was busy cooking in the kitchen but he could hear the squabbling clear enough. It seemed to be an argument mainly between Luffy and Nami but Usopp was getting a word in every so often, which only seemed to annoy Luffy more. The cook was getting ready to separate them all when,

“Oi Sanji, come out here!!!”

Luffy’s voice was deafening, Sanji rolling his eyes, drying his hands on his tea towel as he stepped out onto the deck. “What’s up Luffy?”

Sanji found himself suddenly with Luffy’s shoe thrust in his face. “What is this?” Luffy demanding, shaking said shoe.

Before Sanji could answer, Nami was shaking their captain. “I’m telling you, flip-flop is the sound it makes. It’s not what it’s called!”

“No it is!” Luffy shouted back, pouting. “Everyone calls it that!”

“No, it’s a sandal,” Nami stressed.

“That’s stupid!”

“Nami, it’s pronounced jandal,” Usopp cut in, shrieking when Nami rounded on him.

“This?” Sanji asked in confusion, examining the shoe closely. “It’s a thong, isn’t it?”

“Ha!” Zoro suddenly cried, grin wide. “I told you!”

“Aww, not fair,” Luffy whined, begrudgingly putting his shoe back on. “That makes it two against one so Zoro’s the winner. It has to be a thong now.”

“W-w-wait!” Sanji stammered incredulously, jerking a thumb at Zoro. “This mosshead also calls it a thong? Then…I’m calling it what Nami said!”

“You don’t even know what she said!” Zoro yelled while Nami cheered, giving Luffy a wink.

“Sorry Luffy, but it looks like sandal wins.”

Luffy sulked, folding his arms and storming away, all the while grumbling, “Well Ace and Sabo call them flip-flops too so there!”

No one knew who Ace or Sabo were but still the argument was settled…for now. Needless to say, it would come up again with each new crew member they gained. But then they had four new words – chinelos, smaguls, slops, dacas – and Nami declared the war over before it even began. And if flip-flop somehow ended up becoming the most accepted word, well, no one really minded.

 

***

 

“Everybody stop!!”

The Straw Hats all stopped mid-bickering, turning around to face Chopper with inquisitive looks. The poor reindeer had not long been on their crew – they’d just plotted their route to Jaya – and he looked stressed out of his mind.

“Chopper?” Robin asked delicately. “Is something wrong?”

“They’re wrong!” he cried, pointing at everyone else with a shaking hoof. “They’re making my head hurt.”

“We are?” Luffy and Zoro said, head cocking to the side.

“We’re not even being that loud!” Usopp agreed.

They hadn’t been, it was true. They’d just been sharing ideas on what they thought lay ahead on the Grand Line, what kind of treasures they could hope to find, what paths would lead them to their goals. It had been an enthusiastic conversation, but they hadn’t been screaming or fighting or anything of the sort.

“Are we too loud for your reindeer ears or something?” Sanji asked, earning an excited noise from Luffy who then proceeded to jabber on about super hearing or something.

“I think,” Robin cut in, “He’s more annoyed that you’re speaking Eastern, a dialect I’m sure Chopper doesn’t.”

The five east-blue residents froze, glancing between each other and then at Chopper sheepishly. “Uh, sorry?” Nami offered. “I guess we’re just not used to not speaking it.” Her eyes flicked to Robin. “I take it you speak Eastern?”

Robin smiled serenely. “A little, as well as several other languages. But I’ve picked up far more since joining this crew. You all speak it so fluently.”

“But I don’t!” Chopper wailed. “And I don’t understand what anyone’s saying!”

Luffy laughed, crouching down and patting Chopper on the head. “Sorry Chopper. I know it’s hard. Gramps only speaks to me in Linian and I used to hate that. Learning a language is hard.”

“You’re good at Linian now,” Chopper offered.

“I’m really not,” Luffy chuckled because no, he really wasn’t. Zoro had picked up Linian – the language of all the seas, drawn from the name Grand Line – in his bounty hunter travels, Nami had learnt it from her cartography books, Usopp was self-taught after trying to be a pirate like his father, and Sanji had had it drilled into him by Zeff so they could handle all customers at the Baratie. The fact that he also spoke Northford had yet to come up but Jaya would change all that; not that they knew that. Luffy though…Luffy had only had sporadic visits from his grandfather and Shanks. His exposure to anything other than Eastern was severely limited.

“But for now,” Luffy said, slapping his hands on his knees. “If we all drop back into Eastern just yell at us, okay?”

Chopper frowned. “Well, only sometimes, perhaps. Because you can’t forget!”

“Deal,” Luffy grinned, shaking Chopper’s hand. “Oh, and Chopper?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re my treasured crewmate now.”

Chopper wouldn’t be able to translate the words for months but the way Luffy said it had his eyes tearing up anyway. He gave a tight nod. “Yeah!”

 

***

 

Sabaody was perhaps the craziest place they’d ever been. Since all paths to the New World converged there, people from all over the world converged there too. Languages got tossed back and forth like no man’s business and while the vendors and shopkeepers all spoke Linian, the pirates and travellers didn’t. Some spoke their native language purely because it was the only one they knew, others because it gave them comfort, and others again because they didn’t want people overhearing their plans.

The Straw Hats had long since adopted some bastardised version of Linian, bastardised because there were Eastern words randomly thrown in from time to time. Luffy was the worst offender but he tried. It didn’t help that Franky’s rough Water 7 accent was sometimes hard to understand and that Brook’s wording was a little more outdated than the one currently used. Luffy had been seen nursing many a headache trying to wrap his head around certain conversations and if Nami occasionally had to translate, no one criticised him for it.

Which was obviously why he’d decided to team up with Eustass Kidd and Trafalgar Law, two people even harder to understand than the rest of them combined. Kidd had a thick Southern drawl and Law a rounded Northford lilt that held a little something that Robin knew meant his native language was different again.

“I’ll save you guys. I’ll clean up the mess outside so you don’t have to worry.”

For someone like Luffy, those had been fighting words and apparently Trafalgar Law had thought so too, marching out of the auction house right alongside Luffy to face the Marines. Kidd gave an unimpressed snort, “I’m telling you two to stay back.”

“No, you stay back!” Luffy snapped, cracking his knuckles.

“I’ll obliterate you if you tell me what to do again, Eustass-ya,” Law drawled, raising a hand and ready for battle.

“Yeah, well-”

“What’s the ‘ya’?”

Both rival captains paused, Kidd tossing some Marines away with a flick of his hand while Law shifted his grip on his sword. “I’m sorry, what?”

“’Ya’,” Luffy repeated, frowning. “You said ‘ya’ at the end of my name and you do it for Kidd too. Is it a thing in your country?”

Law stiffened before scoffing and turning away. “None of your business.” He threw up a room and severed a rather alarming amount of limbs from their bodies. “We’re hardly here to socialise.”

“Surprisingly, this punk-ass’s right,” Kidd agreed.

“You guys are so weird!” Luffy complained, stretching out a leg and ploughing down a line of navy officers. “And you speak Linian wrong. Speak it with a Grand Line accent or no one can understand! Are you guys idiots?”

That did it, Kidd and Law rounding on him, Kidd’s accent becoming so thick it was barely recognisable as Linian while Law started venting in a whole different language all together. Luffy stared at them both for a long moment before bursting out laughing.

“You know what? Never mind, I like you both! You’re funny.”

Law tossed a still screaming head his way before taking his leave of the battle. Kidd was right by his side, taking his own crew and beating a hasty retreat. Luffy shook his head with a smile. What funny guys!

 

***

 

Two years later and Law brought a whole new dynamic to their ship. Luffy’s Linian was much improved, what with having only Rayleigh to talk to for two years, and he was able to go toe to toe with the Warlord far more easily now. ‘Trafalgar’ still proved to be a complicated name, too hard to get the pronunciation just right, so Luffy had shortened it to ‘Torao’ and left it at that. Law hadn’t minded too much, accepting the name change along with the reason.

But it became readily apparent that Linian wasn’t the first language on his sub. It had taken Nami a day or two to recognise his accent; a much stronger version of Sanji’s, meaning his roots were in North Blue too. Law had recognised the same thing and had coerced Sanji into speaking Northford, the cook doing so grudgingly at first before seemingly resigning himself and swapping back whenever Law addressed him. Speaking Northford was like riding a bike to Sanji, wobbly at first but quickly falling back into the rhythm.

Law was far more talkative in Northford than in Linian, something that annoyed Luffy to no end. It didn’t take long for Luffy to try and ban the two from talking, standing between them with an expression that was a cross between a scowl and a pout.

“Is he always like this?” Law inquired.

Sanji gave a huff of laughter. “Yeah, actually. But it is his ship. What he says goes.”

Luffy was tugging Law’s arm before he could reply. “Stop it!!! No more secret languages.”

Law coolly slid his arm free and tapped Luffy on the nose. “Don’t think I haven’t seen you speaking to Zoro-ya in Eastern. You two are worse than Blackleg-ya and I.”

“But Zoro’s my crew mate!” Luffy protested. “I can talk to him how I want. You can’t hog mine!”

“Ah, ħyud!” Law snapped, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Luffy’s eyes widened when he saw Sanji also looking confused. “Ooh, that’s a different one again, isn’t it? What language is that? What language is that?”

Law very much didn’t answer, striding past Luffy and making for the library. He managed to hide in there for several hours before Luffy came back, Law smothering a groan. But, to his surprise, the other captain actually looked serious, hands awkwardly twisting together in front of him as he spoke.

“Something bad happened, didn’t it?”

Law frowned, closing his book. “In what way?”

Luffy matched his frown. “I don’t know but…you mutter away in that weird language when you’re grumpy or sad or thinking too hard.”

“It’s not a weird language,” Law growled. He made to stand but Luffy pushed him down by the shoulder.

“It’s your language, isn’t it?” Law didn’t answer. “It’s where you came from, right?”

Yes,” he eventually ground out. “It’s Flevish.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Luffy admitted.

Law thanked someone, anyone, for small miracles. “Then do me one thing Straw Hat-ya, promise me you won’t try and find out. You won’t even ask Nico-ya.”

Luffy looked particularly cornered. “But-”

“Promise?”

“Fine,” Luffy grumbled. “But you have to promise me something in return.”

Law folded his arms, one eyebrow arching up. “And? What am I promising you?”

“To teach me some.” Law went ghostly white. “Even if it’s just a word or two a day.” Luffy’s hand came to curl over Law’s. “I wanna learn Torao’s language so he won’t be sad alone.”

Law had to bite back something that was a little too close to a sob for his comfort because he’d heard those exact same words thirteen years earlier. When Cora-san pushed too far and he’d scream at him in Flevish. When they’d visited one hospital too many and Law had chanted “enough, enough!” over and over until he nearly blacked out from lack of air. When he’d woken up from nightmares of Flevance burning and could only cry out in his home language, distraught and beyond comfort.

And in the end Cora-san had had enough, sitting him down one day and telling him they wouldn’t move until Law taught him at least two phrases. The phrases Law had chosen had been less than appropriate and Cora-san hadn’t been blind, had picked up on it straight away, but damned if that had stopped him from using them. In fact, he’d used them so often that Law had taught him basic Flevish just to get him to stop. It had been Cora-san’s plan all along but by that point, Law didn’t even care. It was nice to have someone to talk to.

Of course Cora-san had then had to go die but…Law’s eyes flicked over to Luffy, seeing in him so many of the characteristics Cora-san had had and…

Hmwk.”

Luffy blinked in confusion, Law tugging the younger captain’s hat over his eyes to hide the smile that crept onto his face.

“This,” he said by way of explanation. “Hmwk.”

When Luffy repeated it back, it was nothing but a butchered syllable that held only the barest of similarities. Still, it felt like home.

 

***

 

Dressrosa had been entire disaster from the second they’d made landfall. There had been too many oversights, too many things they hadn’t been made aware of, simply too much going on. The Straw Hats were seemingly capable of handling themselves, something Law would forever be grateful for…Mostly because he had been in neck deep with Doflamingo and Admiral Fujitora at the time. He’d fooled himself into thinking he could squirm away from that and had ended up full of lead for his troubles. It was as he was dragged to the palace and chained up that he realised one of his biggest oversights:

The Donquixote family didn’t speak Northford anymore.

He’d just assumed that because they’d spoken it when he was a child that they still would. Doflamingo had only spoken Linian at Warlord meetings but here, on Dressrosa, he’d made the island his own, going so far as to adopt the native language. And Law didn’t speak a word of Dressri, not one. He cursed his own foolishness as countless plans were discussed right in front of him and he was none the wiser as to their meaning.

Oh sure, Doflamingo had spoken to him in Northford when he’d wanted a response or a rise out of him but any other time he could be spilling all their secrets and Law would have nothing to show for it. He’d never been happier, or perhaps angrier – because he was here to die and why hadn’t they run?! – to see Straw Hat in his life when he came bursting through that window.

It would take them an agonising amount of time to climb back to the top of the palace but they’d made it, Law drawing Kikoku and holding it out in front of him, eyes locked on the man he’d once worshipped and aspired to be.

“D will stir up a storm again.”

He grinned at way Doflamingo’s vein popped because maybe he’d never learnt Dressri but Cora-san had spoken in the Holy Speech of Mariejois to himself when he thought Law was asleep. Law had taken meticulous notes in his head but never dared to bring it up.

In the years since Law had wondered if that was partially why Cora-san had chosen to become mute – slipping into Holy Speech too much of a habit to break or accent too recognisable to those who knew. God knew Law had never been allowed to speak it, Cora-san slapping a hand over his mouth the one time he’d attempted and looking like the ground itself would swallow them. Although, that was before Law had known it was the language of the Celestial fucking Dragons.

Doflamingo’s grin turned a little more forced. “Why Law, it’s like you’re his ghost, coming back to haunt me.”

Maybe Law smart-mouthed his way into that next round of bullets, maybe Doflamingo would have done it regardless, but either way, he felt strangely satisfied. After all, he could still rattle the Heavenly Demon. That had to count for something.

 

***

 

There was one thing the Straw Hats had always wondered but never had the courage to ask when it came to their captain. It wasn’t like the subject was taboo, but for some reason they all acted like it was. It was, simply put, the fact that Luffy sometimes didn’t use language that sounded like his own. Yes, it was Eastern, even occasionally Linian, but it was just so out of place.

“Hey Sanji, these muffin-things are delectable!” “…what?”

“But Nami, aren’t clothes supposed to be, uh, complimentary?” “Huh?!”

“So captain, the rate of decay increases faster and faster-” “Oh, it’s exponential.”

And then came Dressrosa and they were introduced to Sabo. Suddenly, it all made sense. Sabo came from a noble family, had had private tutors, and spoke a more refined vocabulary than Luffy and Ace and their bandit guardians – honestly that revelation had explained so much. But as Luffy and Ace’s rough talk had rubbed off on Sabo’s, so Sabo’s had inherently rubbed off on them. Even years later, Luffy was still using the words he’d heard as a child.

Robin smiled serenely as Sabo finished his story. While she’d known him two years, he’d never mentioned being Luffy’s brother. Not that she’d mentioned being Luffy’s crewmate either so fair was fair.

“What?” Sabo asked, seeing her expression.

Her eyes crinkled up as her smile widened a little more. “Nothing. I think I just understood Luffy a little more though.”

Sabo flushed, eyes flicking back to where Luffy was sleeping and he suddenly turned dead serious. “I wasn’t in time to save Ace, but I’m not going to lose him. I’ll make sure of that.”

“Get in line.” The comment came from Zoro and instead of being offended, Sabo bowed his head.

“Of course. I suppose, at this point, you’ve known him longer than I have. He’s very lucky.”

Zoro was pacified, leaning back on his hands and letting his gaze find Luffy. There was a fond smile toying with the corners of his lips. “You know Luffy still speaks like you.”

Sabo frowned. “Speaks like me?”

Zoro waved a hand. “Just…some words here and there. I know he didn’t learn them from us.”

“I-I-I didn’t teach him those words!” Sabo spluttered. “That was Ace! It was all Ace!”

The Straw Hats exchanged looks, bewildered for a moment before understanding, Usopp going bright red while Franky grinned broadly. Zoro and Robin found a middle ground and Sabo almost immediately realised he’d made a misinterpretation somewhere along the line but they weren’t about to let it go.

“Oh? So what was it Ace-bro taught him?” Franky asked eagerly.

Sabo waved his hands frantically in front of himself. “Nothing, nothing!”

“Very convincing,” Zoro drawled sarcastically.

“If Luffy hasn’t said then I’m certainly not repeating any of it!” Sabo declared, getting to his feet and tugging his hat over his eyes. “You guys are the worst.”

They all laughed but gave him some slack. They also brought it up again later with Luffy, the captain scrunching his head in thought before lighting up, words coming out rapid-fire fast. Ten seconds later Robin slapped a hand over his mouth even as Nami was visibly firing up. Robin managed to talk the navigator down over Luffy’s stammered protests because, as she said, they were the ones who had asked. Luffy helpfully tacked on that he knew the words were bad, hence why they’d never been spoken before. Nami had finally excused him but it had left them all a little knocked off kilter. The non-verbal agreement was made:

If Luffy ever got a partner, never ask for the sexy details. Never.

 

***

 

After Dressrosa had came Zou, then Whole Cake Island, then Wano, where their crew was finally reunited for the first time in months. Wano was a mess, obliterated by Kaido and falling more day by day. The Straw Hats had had their time to celebrate Sanji’s return, to nurse the cook’s battered body along with his shredded emotions. Luffy had mostly been healed by the time the Sunny had dropped anchor but that hadn’t stopped Law from checking him over, despite Chopper’s protests that he’d already done it. Luffy had just laughed Chopper off and let the surgeon fuss over him.

Law had been intending to spend the night talking strategy but Zoro had shut that down quickly enough by dragging Sanji across the kitchen and jerking a thumb at the calendar tacked to the mast. Sanji froze, fingers halted just in front of his lips. “I didn’t…”

Zoro just shrugged. “You got any meat in the freezer? Any?”

Sanji swallowed thickly before nodding. “Yeah, I do.” He then aimed a flaming kick at Luffy, sending him flying. “You shithead!!!” Luffy was bouncing back into a seated position even as Sanji was stomping over, fists clenched. “How dare you let me forget your birthday.” A couple of gasps. “It is today, you idiot, and we are not going anywhere until we celebrate!”

Law made a noise of protest. “Oi Blackleg-ya, this isn’t the time! We-”

“My captain, my say. Not yours.”

They made not have understood the words but Sanji’s tone was enough to have them all a little taken aback, as well as impressed. Luffy just blinked at him several times before bursting out laughing, clutching his sides as he rolled around on the ground. “Sorry, sorry, I forgot! I was too busy thinking about samurais and…” his gaze lifted in what Sanji would almost believe to be shyness. “And how happy I was to have my cook back.”

Sanji very much didn’t bite back a sniff. “Dammit you shitty piece of rubber.”

Luffy just continued to grin, Sanji’s cheeks flushing before beginning to prepare what could only be described as a banquet. Their Wano scheming session was put on hold but, really, there couldn’t have been a better reason for it. Even Law came around in the end, his crew immersed in the festivities alongside Luffy’s. He sat himself at Luffy’s side the one time he was still, Luffy beaming at him but not breaking the silence.

“Happy birthday.”

Luffy’s head snapped over, eyes wide. “That…That’s Eastern! How do you-”

“I speak of it a little.”

“You speak it a little,” Luffy corrected, chuckling at Law’s frustrated face. He pacified the other captain by letting his head drop onto Law’s shoulder and swapping back to Linian. “But your pronunciation is good.”

“A small victory, then.”

“Hey Torao?”

“Yes, Straw Hat-ya?”

“Will you teach me how to say ‘Happy Birthday’ in your language?”

“…one day.”

Luffy allowed his heart to swell at that because good. It meant Law was sticking around. And that was very good indeed.

 

***