Chapter 1: The Summit of High West
The "Summit of High West" has been mentioned by Gan Fall as a means to reach Sky Islands, but we don't know much more about it. Here's my theory !
Sato and Bato are my own OCs.
Oden has been plotting something with the Captain, Buggy's sure. He doesn't know why, but they've changed course recently and Rayleigh has been more antsy than usual. He exchanges about his findings with his bunkmate and the two Minks after lunch. "So, what do you think ?", he concludes.
Shanks says hopefully, "Could be a new treasure they haven't told us about yet ?"
Inuarashi scratches his chin, humming thoughtfully.
"Could be they're after a Poneglyph ?" Nekomamushi supplies.
"Why would they hide anything from the crew ?" Buggy frowns.
Inuarashi sighs. "Their study is forbidden by World Government."
"Who cares, we're pirates !" Shanks announces proudly.
The dog Mink chuckles. "Sure, but not everyone wants to defy them directly."
"And they're pretty hard to find, much less to decipher, which doesn't ease the task", his fellow adds.
"It's a task for pirates, then", Buggy says. "We'll keep our eyes open."
"Island in view !"
And it's an autumn island, much to Buggy's taste, where they dock and furl the sails.
After a quick examination of the place, deemed safe – no Marine fort and no jolly roger in view –, the Captain and a small search party including Rayleigh and Oden leave the ship.
Shanks nudges his younger nakama. "Say, where do you think they're going ?"
"Looking for information, as usual. Probably drink a jug or two along the way." Buggy huffs. "Adults."
The search party comes back after a couple of hours, Roger wearing a wide smile. Back on the deck he orders, "To the Summit of High West !", leaving a few crewmates puzzled as to what to do.
Rayleigh explains, "Our next destination is the highest point of the island. A huge mountain located inland, which we have to reach with the ship."
It's not the first time the crew is being ordered to do something crazy, so after a moment of silence everyone run to their post and start unfurling the sails, ready to make waves.
They take a river backwards and progress into the island, discovering a few villages along the way that don't seem so scared at seeing pirates, rather encouraging them and showing them the way.
Shanks is exhilarated.
Buggy thinks it's fishy. He keeps his eyes peeled in case something happens.
As they exit the villages and reach the countryside, the crew is amazed by both the view inland and the fact that their trip is going so well.
On cue, another pirate ship – kinda wrecked, this one – gets down the river and comes to their side. A man wearing a tricorne harangues them, "Oi ! Turn the ship back ! You don't wanna go there it's too dangerous ! Go back to Paradise !"
That makes Roger even more curious, and without sparing them another glance he orders to move forward.
After a few hours they reach the infamous summit, and understand why it's called this way : it's a mountain whose top is so high, it's surrounded by a ring of clouds.
Buggy starts, "Don't tell me it's another Reverse Mountain, I didn't sign for this."
Oden provides, "Apparently at the top of this mountain there's a passer that allows you to travel to new islands."
"Why don't we simply follow the Log Pose ?" Shanks asks.
"Because then we'd be predictable to the Marine", Roger wisely answers, winking at the straw-hatted teen.
"How do we bring the ship up there, though ?" Buggy asks.
"Old-fashioned paddling, my young friend", Rayleigh says.
After being ambushed by mountain brigands who were defeated in a blink, killing a few larger-than-usual crocodiles and avoiding strong currents, they get the ship to a calm body of water where paddling is easier.
Then they move on to another river and they climb the mountain with force determination and strength, the upward slope being a challenge in itself.
At last they reach the top of the mountain. Going through the mist created by the clouds, they discover a small plateau at the top. There's a medium-sized house whose chimney fumes, and various contraptions between the house and the shore, plus ropes, planks and nails, and a fairly surprising amount of shellfish scattered everywhere.
Shanks can't help but wonder how they all got here.
An old man wearing an eye-patch gets out of the house and studies them silently. After a while, he asks, "You here to get up there ?", lifting an eyebrow. "It's been a while since I took care of such a mighty ship", he adds with a smile. "Most people don't make it out through the brigands. Pirates usually have trouble with the crocodiles. You don't seem to have a scratch despite making it out of the whirlpools alive... I'd say you're pretty good at this, who are you people ?"
A split second, then the whole crew answers proudly in unison, "We are the Roger Pirates !"
"Oh my, a mighty crew such as yours... Of course you'd reach here", the old man laughs brightly.
Shanks asks, "Oi, old man, do you collect shellfish ?"
"No kiddo, those are called Dials and I'll be using 'em to get your ship to Sky Islands."
Along with roughly a half of the crew, Buggy starts. "Sky-what now ?"
Roger beams. "Now we're talking business."
Shanks excitedly grabs his friend's arm and starts jumping on the spot. "Buggy, Buggy, they're real and we're going there ! They're real !"
Buggy doesn't move, instead recalling the book he read a few months ago about Sky Islands... Stories of winged people, stories of foreign technology, stories of gold ! A smirk creeps up his face slowly. He's going to be rich !
Rayleigh pats the kids on the shoulder. "Calm down, we're not there yet."
"That's my job", the old man on the shore says, "and I'll do that for a nifty prize. I'm Sato by the way."
Roger gets down the ship and starts negotiating with the old man right away.
Shanks and Buggy run to their Mink friends a bit further on the deck.
Nekomamushi is elated. "I can't believe we're going to Sky Islands ! I've heard of those but never dreamed of actually going there !"
Inuarashi seems to be as thrilled as his fellow, "Can you imagine what it's going to be like ? To be far over the clouds ?"
"I read a book about 'em a while ago, I remember the pictures and now I can't help but wonder to what extent it was real", Buggy muses.
"I read it too, when you were sick. It was really great to imagine winged people living in the sky... Now that I think about it, maybe the Dials the old man told us about are from there ?"
"Yeah, and remember the part where they had gold ?", the blue-haired cabin boy says excitedly. "I bet we're gonna find lots of treasure there !"
Roger comes back on the deck and explains they'll have to prepare the ship for a very special trip.
They moor on the plateau's shore, and the crew rope up the Discovery in a complicated contraption allowing for a complete view of the bottom of the ship. When they're done they all gather around Sato to listen to the rest of the plan, cabin boys and Minks on the front row.
The old man says, "Travelers, I'm Sato and I will be your passer to the White Seas."
"The White Seas ?" Buggy asks.
Sato scratches the eyebrow above his eye-patch, "Oh my, are you newbies of the White Seas ? I can't believe it !", and laughs. "Alright, I'll let you in on the details later, but first, I'mma tell ya how to get your ship up there. She's a beauty, by the way. We're gonna be roping her up like a bondola, then we'll attach-"
"What's a bondola ?" Shanks asks.
"It's the way people who aren't renegades or pirates travel to Mariejois and cross the Red Line. Haven't you ever been to school ?"
"Nope, I've always been a pirate", the redhead answers proudly, tilting the hem of his straw hat up.
Sato shakes his head in disbelief. "Anyway, we'll rig it over there, where you can see the big ass ropes dangling from the clouds. Those aren't actually Sea Clouds, but you can't tell from here."
"Sea Clouds ?" Nekomamushi frowns.
"They're also called Ocean Clouds, and they are what form seas in the sky. They're slightly less dense than water but you can still sail on it. There are two seas up there : the White Sea, located seven thousand meters above the Blue Sea which you come from, and three thousand meters above it there's the White-White Sea. I'll actually bring you up to the White Sea and my brother Bato, who'll collect half of the price to get you up... you'll have to get to the White-White Sea by your own means !" Sato winks at the audience. "So... where was I ? Right, rigging up the ship in our elevator. Then we'll attach numerous Jet Dials to the-"
"What is a Dial ?" Inuarashi asks.
"Geez, keep interrupting me and you'll never see what it's like, kiddo. Dials are the main technology employed on Sky Islands. They look like shellfish but some of 'em are really powerful tools. Here we'll be using Jet Dials, that can produce strong winds. Is that all with the questions ?" Sato squints around him. "Good. Now, those Jet Dials are to be placed all around the ship, on the railing, facing downwards. They'll give you a boost to help you up while I activate the elevator and hoist you up with the ropes. Are we good ? I'll need a few volunteers to help me attach those Dials."
The volunteers quickly make work of rigging up the Discovery in a bondola-like manner after finally being explained what it looked like, and help Sato install roughly a hundred of Jet Dials around the ship.
As the night is coming down, Roger decides to set sail for Sky Islands the day after. He calls for a banquet and invites Sato to join them, decreeing it's a good occasion to learn more about their destination.
The old man tells them around a mouthful, "I've been there a few times. Been through dangerous ways to get there with my bro' and our crew. We were pirates back then." He swallows and continues, "When we retired Bato decided to live up there, and I wanted to get back to the Blue Sea safely. So we built this whole contraption, allowing for one ship to go up, and another to go down, simultaneously, so we could visit each other and help people travel to Sky Islands and all the way back to Paradise. The way to the Summit of High West isn't that easy though, so I don't often get visits." He laughs brightly. "But when I do, it's always a great time, and my bro' thinks so too."
Questions fuse about life up there.
Sato takes the time to answer all of them, explains them the way people salute, the currency used there and how they don't consider gold as valuable as Blue Sea people do. He warns them about the lesser density in oxygen that they'll have to get used to, about the toll they'll have to pay to enter some islands and the militia they'll have to face if they don't.
Rayleigh quietly takes notes of everything as everyone is captivated by the old man's tales.
"But such great pirates as you don't have to worry about a thing, now, do you ?" Sato concludes with a wide smile.
The crew explodes in laughter and exclamations of joy.
Tomorrow will be a great day...
Chapter 2: Kororia and Samsara
Since Roger's crew hasn't taken the same route as the Mugiwaras, doesn't it make sense that they've visited other islands ? ^_^
Kororia and Samsara are my invention, Erin and Ekata are my own OCs.
Ekata means "oneness" in Sanskrit ;)
Finally, morning comes and the crew is more eager than ever to set sail. They've been instructed on proper maneuvers once they reach the White Sea by Sato, and entrusted with the task of manipulating the Jet Dials once the old man would activate the elevator.
Shanks and Buggy have their own Jet Dial to action, and it's itching them to just try them for fun.
The old man on the shore bids them goodbye and walks to a huge lever located behind the house, pulls it down, and with a loud mechanic rustle the ropes dangling from the sky start stretching and pulling.
The moment the ropes become tense enough to stand straight, everyone actions their Jet Dials and a huge gust of wind surrounds the ship. The wind hits the ground and lifts up the Discovery just enough for the ropes to finally start hoisting it up. The crew cheers loudly.
Sato waves at them from the ground.
Shanks and Buggy wave at the old man with their free hand, wide smiles on their faces.
The ascension is slow. One crewmate relays another when they get a cramp at holding the Jet Dial open for so long.
The four teenagers are on a break from their Dials and are arguing about the time remaining until they reach the White Sea.
"Old man Sato said it was seven thousand meters above the Blue Sea, it's going to take ages !" Buggy complains.
Shanks reasons, "But we're traveling vertically, seven kilometers aren't that long when you travel them horizontally."
"We're going slow though", Inuarashi points out.
"And I have trouble breathing just like the old man says, I hope it's not gonna get worse..." Buggy whines.
Nekomamushi tries to comfort them, "Don't worry, we'll get there eventually."
Just when Buggy's patience is about to wear out, they finally enter the clouds...
The mist is thick and it doesn't help that they're going slowly, they can't see a thing for a few good minutes. After a while though they finally exit the fog and discover the view above.
"I can't believe it ! We're above the clouds !" Buggy exclaims, looking over the railing. How much longer is it going to take ?"
Scopper Gaban puts a hand on the kid's shoulder. "Look up there, kid", he says, pointing a finger upwards.
Most of the crew follow the motion and discover another sea of clouds, this one much thicker. And just above them lays the end of the ropes, attached to a large contraption's pulley system. The ascension nears its end !
Just when they're reaching the last meters, a head pokes up from above them and the clouds, then an upper body that waves at them. "Oi ! You can stop the Dials now !"
The crew execute themselves. The ropes tense and stretch to their maximum as the ship suddenly slows down. The now half-dried wood creaks and laments at the treatment but holds on, and after a few excruciatingly long minutes the Discovery finally reaches the White Sea.
An old man resembling Sato minus the eye-patch greets them. "Welcome, fellow travelers !"
Roger sits on the railing, observing the house on the clouds, pretty similar to that a few kilometers underneath them, and turns to the old man, "Hi old man, you're Sato's brother, Bato, right ?"
"That would be me !" The old man beams.
"Here's your half of the traveling fee", the Captain says, throwing a decently-sized leather purse at the old man. The gold coins inside clink as the old man catches it. "Now can we get this ship on this sea of clouds ? I have a crew that's eager to sail again."
"I guess the elevator isn't everyone's favorite transportation means", Bato laughs. "People, I'll need you to remove the Jet Dials located on the railing, and give 'em back to me. Then I'll go action the machinery to bring your ship up on the shore, and I'll need volunteers to maneuver her. After that, you're on your own !" He laughs again.
The crew rapidly dispatch to execute their tasks, and the Discovery is officially in the White Sea in less than an hour.
"Say, old man", Shanks asks, "Where did you get all those shell- um, Dials ?"
"They all come from Sky Islands. Are you guys first-timers ?" Bato asks, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.
"Yup", the straw-hatted redhead nods.
"Haha, wow, impressive for a kid your age. As I was saying, Dials are from Sky Islands. We collected tons and tons of 'em with my bro' when we were pirates. Oh, let me see..." Bato searches his overall's large pockets. "There. It's a Lamp Dial, look, if you push here it delivers a warm light."
Shanks opens wide eyes and gapes a little. "Amazing !"
Buggy runs to his friend's side and asks the old man, "Oi, are there like Gold Dials that produce gold ?"
Bato laughs brightly. "Unfortunately not, but you'll see that gold has little to no value up here, you can trade some for items of the Blue Seas. That's how we got most of our Jet Dials too, sky people tend to see Blue Seas artifacts as rare and valued."
"Then let's get rich !" Buggy exclaims with a devious laugh.
"Thanks for the help, Bato, and the further information you gave us. You and your brother are really nice.", Roger says, "but now we have to move on. Ready to set sail, people ?"
"Yeah !" The crew answers with enthusiasm.
"Unfurl the sails, and... to Sky Islands !"
Sailing the White Sea is a bit trickier than sailing the Blue Sea : the wind doesn't blow quite as much above the clouds, and things tend to drown quicker. There are creatures up there too, Sea Clouds monsters resembling balloons or being flat, having evolved in accordance with their environment.
They manage to catch some bubble-like fish and cook it for lunch. Most of the crew progressively adapt themselves to the lack of oxygen until... Finally, an island is in view !
Buggy runs to the railing and examines the speck of clouds adorned with buildings and houses. "What's that ? They're floating above the clouds ! Just like in my book", he says excitedly, turning to Shanks at his side.
"I know, I know ! I wonder what life is like up there..."
"And if they have gold", the blue-haired cabin boy responds enthusiastically.
Close by, Nekomamushi snickers. "Always after the treasures, ain't ya ?"
Inuarashi joins the two cabin boys in their shared answer, "That's because we're pirates !"
The four teenagers laugh together.
They moor under the curious gaze of the people on the shore, all wearing bright clothes, each one of them wearing a specific color of the rainbow.
Under the scrutiny of his crew, Roger gets down the ship and calls the nearest person for information on this island. "Hi there, do you know the time needed for the Log Pose to set here ?"
The person clothed in dark blue huffs at them and hurriedly walks away.
The Captain is kinda put off by the other's lack of answer and wonders if they're going to be welcomed this warmly everywhere they'll go.
Another person wearing red clothes approaches them. "Excuse the Indigo, they think they're so superior. Are you people from the Blue Sea ?"
"Yes we are", Roger says proudly, "but we're first-timers here, so we might need a bit of guidance."
The woman chuckles. "I could tell, because of your clothes and your ship, they don't look like anything we have here." She grins wide as she speaks next, " Welcome to Kororia, my name is Erin."
"Why, that's very nice of you. I have a question though, why did the other person just walk away from me ?"
Erin sighs. "That's because of our system. Our society is divided in seven groups, each color of the rainbow representing a grade in society, Red being the lowest and Purple being the highest. People like me are seen as lowlifes and dispensable members of society, so I don't care what they think about me talking to you... I'm just a farmer. Oranges and Yellows might talk to you as well but don't count on Greens or the rest."
"Oh, I see. Thanks for being helpful, then."
"Life is boring when you're Red, and I like to meet new people. Especially people from the Blue Sea, they have so many stories about things I've never seen..."
"Curious one, eh ?"
Erin sheepishly smiles, "I plead guilty."
"First things first, do you know how much time the Log Pose needs to reset ?"
"Well, if I recall correctly what the last ones said... it should take about half a day for your compass to work."
"Great, then we have time to explore a bit", Roger declares with a smile.
After being instructed by Erin as to where to go, where not to, who to talk with and who not to, a few groups scatter around the town, Roger's group being led by Erin.
Shanks, Buggy and the two Minks are being chaperoned by Crocus.
An Orange approaches them. "Are you from the crew that arrived this morning ? I heard about pirates on the shore."
Crocus speaks first, "We're just traveling, no need to worry."
"Ah... that's what most say... but the higher-ups tend to freak out about Blue Sea people, they say they're threatening our order."
Just on cue, a couple of Greens passes by, whispering among them while blatantly staring at the small group.
"Nice town", the doctor sarcastically comments.
"Eh... I, for one, don't mind that you're here, but um, you know. Stay low." The man gives them an awkward bow and resumes his walking.
"Well, kids..." Crocus turns around. "Kids ?"
The teenagers scattered during the conversation and are nowhere to be seen.
The doctor sighs and shakes his head. "C'mon, I've been talking for just a minute. They're gonna give me premature white hair..."
Buggy snickers. "At last we can explore by ourselves, t'was so boooring to be chaperoned."
Shanks beams, "Yeah, we're old enough to take care of ourselves."
"But we're gonna get grounded when we're back", Inuarashi reasons.
"Not if we stay out of trouble..." Nekomamushi winks at his fellow.
The group of four soon finds a shop whose window showcases a large variety of Dials. They enter it to satisfy their curiosity.
The tenant, a middle-aged man wearing yellow clothes, is pretty surprised to see Blue Sea people in his shop, and even more so that two of them look like animals.
After a bit of perusing the items on the shelves, Shanks turns to the tenant and asks, "What do all these do ?"
"Lots of things, young man. This one", the Yellow says as he grabs a small Dial, "is a Flame Dial, it's able to store and release fire. This other one", he switches to a bigger Dial, "is a Breath Dial, capable of storing air currents."
Buggy interrupts the man, "Like a Jet Dial ?"
The Yellow seems startled by the kid's knowledge. "Actually... yes, pretty much like them, but it's a weaker wind you'll get from a Breath Dial." He regains his composure and continues, "If you want to know the use of any Dial don't hesitate and ask me."
Just as he finishes his sentence and the kids get back to exploring, the couple of Greens from earlier pass in front of the shop.
The tenant is the only one that sees them, the teenagers being far too occupied to notice anything else than the displayed items.
One of the Greens notice the young pirates and nudges his companion, who quickly motions at a Blue passing by to come closer.
As the group of three high-ranked colors approach the shop, the Yellow tenant decides Blue Sea people aren't worth his shop or his head, and he grabs a Dial for a last demo to the kids. "Oh, and there's this one you might like", he says shakily.
The two Minks frown, feeling something is amiss.
"It's called a Flash Dial. See, when you press here-" The Yellow activates the Dial, releasing a bright light and effectively blinding the four teenagers. He next addresses the Blue and Greens standing at his porch. "They're all yours."
Unable to see a thing, the cabin boys and the Minks wriggle and struggle against their silent opponents' grips, but are soon knocked out by solid hits to their heads.
Crocus is dead worried. He's been searching for a couple of hours, asked a few Reds and Oranges about the kids but noone saw them – either that or they're pretty good at hiding it. He's just about to run to the ship and mount a search party when he notices a certain straw hat laying on the ground in front of a shop. He breathes deeply and walks as casually as possible towards the entrance.
The tenant opens wide eyes at seeing another pirate in the same day. He coughs awkwardly but welcomes him nonetheless.
The doctor squints at the Yellow, his Observation Haki may not be as trained as his Captain's or Rayleigh's, but he's pretty good at reading people. This one's hiding something. He walks towards the counter behind which the tenant is, leans over it and puts an elbow on the counter, holding his chin in his hand. "You wouldn't happen to have seen Blue Sea kids today, would you ?"
"N-no, I haven't", the other stutters, but a single drop of sweat running down his temple gives him away easily.
Crocus drops his hand on the counter with a solid "thunk" and explains, "See, I'm supposed to be their chaperon and I'll be in trouble if the kids don't come back with me. But you know what's worse ? The whole island is gonna be in trouble if our Captain learns that something bad happened to them."
The Yellow audibly swallows.
"Either you tell me where they've been, or I'll tell Captain this is the place where they've last been seen. Your pick."
"They-they've been taken, I'm so sorry", the Yellow cringes. "They were looking at my Dials and then the higher-ups came in and-"
"Where did they take the kids ?"
"I don't know, I swear-"
"But I- uh... my guess would be the prison ?"
"Where is it ?"
"Downtown underneath the city hall. But it's impossible-"
Crocus doesn't hear the end of the sentence, already outside – straw hat in hand –, running towards his next destination. They better have them or else they'll see the wrath of the Roger Pirates.
The city hall is huge, finding a backdoor wasn't that easy. But Crocus is in, and found a way into the prison using service stairs. Seriously, who wouldn't guard such an entrance ? Newbies. He soon learns the rest of the prison is similarly unguarded, prisoners left to their own demises behind closed doors apparently deemed enough to prevent all evasion. The doctor earns a few curious gazes from the people in their cells. Mainly Reds, Oranges, and even a few pirates. Reaching the end of a corridor, he takes another stairway down, hoping to find the kids soon.
"That sucks", Buggy complains, knees held tight against his chest.
"At least the cell isn't crowded", Shanks sighs. "That time with the human traffickers was horrible, our cage was overcrowded and it stank like hell."
Nekomamushi muses, "We're pirates, thus outlaws, is ending in prison that surprising ?"
Inuarashi huffs. "No, but I'd rather be outside."
"Someone will come to save us", Shanks reasons.
"I can't believe I'm saying this but- I wished we'd stay with Crocus-san", Buggy broods.
"And this is why you get a chaperon", the doctor's voice echoes from the end of the corridor.
The four teenagers scramble to get up and run to the cell's door.
The doctor sighs of relief but scolds the kids. "Can't you stay put for a minute ? I've been running up and down the town at least twice before I got a hint as to where you were. You're impossible." He lockpicks the door and frees the cabin boys and the Minks.
Running through the city draws a bit of attention from the crowd, so Crocus decides to alert Roger via a small Den Den Mushi. "Captain, we're coming back to the ship but we may bring trouble..."
"Ah... I'll tell everyone to get ready then." -kacha.
As the kids and their chaperon reach the Discovery, the crew is indeed making preparations to set sail. And they'd better !
A rowdy crowd of the coldest colors of the rainbow follows them with various shovels, spears, makeshift weapons of any kind, some of them including Dials and announcing nothing good.
Roger's group meet up with them just down the ship, Erin looking alarmed. "Please take me with you", she says then, "I'm going to be in so much trouble if I stay here, I can't stand being a Red anymore, just drop me at the next island and I'll start anew there."
Roger lifts an eyebrow. "You sure, miss ? What if the next island is even worse ?"
"Ah..." She frowns, but looks at the pirate Captain with fierce determination in her eyes as she says next, "I don't care, I'll wait until the next one, and the next one, until I find a nice place. I'll make myself useful on the ship, I promise, just take me out of here, please."
Roger glances at the crowd of Blues, Indigos and Purples gathering towards them. He sighs. "Everyone on board !"
Erin sighs of relief and follows everyone to the main deck.
The Discovery circles the island twice before the Log Pose finally sets, allowing Erin a final view of her homeland before they depart to the next island.
The Discovery reaches the next shore and is greeted by colorful temples and people wearing bright robes, everyone wearing hues of red and orange.
Erin is shocked, comparing the view to her own culture, but the idea somehow appeals to her.
They moor under curious gazes but this time people welcome them warmly, gathering around the ship and offering them smiles and greetings.
Roger is the first to set foot ashore. He asks, "Is it okay for us to stay while the Log Pose resets ?"
An old woman answers, "You can, as long as you respect this place and its residents. We're pacifists and vegans, and our hosts should be too, as long as they're on the island."
Roger shrugs, "I can take a meal or two without meat if that's the only thing you'll ask from me."
"Then welcome to Samsara. I'm Ekata", the old woman says with a gentle smile.
Erin perks in, curious, "Can you tell me more about life here ?"
Ekata nods. "Here we have the belief that each and every one, each and every thing, is one and the same. All citizens of Samsara are equal and treated decently, and made a vow to never hurt in any way. That includes lying, speaking rudely, gossiping, injuring and killing, that's why we're vegans. Loving kindness is our primary fuel, and through that path we've achieved a harmonious society."
The former Red really likes the idea of living in peace and harmony with the nature, she's a farmer after all, used to grow vegetables of every kind. She explains, "I'm not part of their crew, they helped me get away from my homeland Kororia and I'd like to start anew somewhere."
"Are you ready to follow our principles of peace and integrity ?"
"Well, I'm not vegan yet but I'm almost there. The meat was expensive in Kororia, so I ate some only twice a year and could easily ditch it. The rest seems like common sense to me. And I'm a farmer, I can grow anything."
Ekata opens her arms for a warm embrace. "Then you're more than welcome to join us. The tired and the hurt are taken care of here, I'm sure you'll find your place in a matter of time."
Erin accepts the hug and sighs of relief, letting a single teardrop fall on the old woman's shoulder.
A few other people on the beach join in a collective hug around Ekata and the emancipated woman.
Roger, close by, declares with mirth in his eyes, "That calls for a party !"
The crew cheers loudly.
They party on the beach 'til sundown, and sleep there since they've been allowed to. In the morning the Log Pose is set, pointing slightly upwards, much to Roger's excitement, and they depart towards the next island with one last dreamy look at Samsara...
Chapter 3: Skypiea
Finally, Skypiea ! It was nice to write about it while Eneru wasn't here yet... No Ordeals, no law-enforcing crazy Priests... Waiting for you up ahead : more peaceful times under Gan Fall's rule :D Also, Competent!Buggy because people are making this a tag now and I agree, love it, and want to contribute to it <3
Nagaya, Daisuke and Hassun are my own OCs.
Nagaya is Pagaya's younger brother, he's 24.
Daisuke means "big help" in Japanese ;)
Hassun means "stone" in Algonquian, he was named like this because he's hard-headed :')
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Why is it so long ?", Shanks complains.
"Keep whining, that's gonna help", Buggy retorts.
"I'm bored", the redhead continues while staring at the Sea Clouds. "I wonder if...", he trails out.
"Wonder if what ?", his younger bunkmate frowns, turning his head to see Shanks's face.
The older teen beams.
He's up to no good...
The redhead then removes his straw hat, his shirt, and promptly hops on the railing, gazing at the White Sea. "Wonder if I can swim in there", he declares, and dives into the Sea Clouds.
Buggy freaks out. "SHANKS !!" He detaches an arm and sends it flying to the rescue.
After exchanging a worried look with his Captain, Rayleigh runs to the blue-haired teen and uses his Observation Haki to locate Shanks. "To the left, down under, a bit further... There !"
Buggy struggles to drag Shanks back : his range is limited, he can't see what he's doing, and his arm is immersed in water, thus losing strength. But he holds on tight, mustering all his forces to bring his nakama back. "Shan-ku-suuuu", he grits his teeth in the effort.
"Up, up", the Dark King presses him, and-
The redhead finally emerges from the White Sea, coughing and spitting water. He lands on the deck as Buggy's detached arm returns to its owner. It takes Shanks a good minute or two to regain a semblance of composure.
Roger approaches the teenager. "May that be a lesson for you", he says somberly. "No more diving in the White Sea, kid." He pats Shanks on the shoulder, "You gave us a good fright", he softly adds.
Shanks pants from the lack of oxygen, the lesser density of air forbidding him a quick recovery. "Sorry", he mumbles, and a cold shiver runs along his spine.
Crocus provides a warm blanket he fetched from the infirmary.
"Thanks, doc", the red-haired teen says, not daring to look at his benefactor.
Buggy grits his teeth, mentally insulting Shanks but nonetheless glad he's okay.
The Log Pose leads the Discovery through the Sea Clouds, its needle still pointing upwards.
"So we're really aiming for the White-White Sea Sato told us about", Roger murmurs to himself.
"Captain, there's something weird onward !", the watchman shouts.
Roger walks to the prow, grabs his long-view and glares at the horizon. He sees a... pillar of some kind, all white and climbing higher up into the clouds. He decides to approach it and orders the crew to maneuver the ship towards the foreign contraption.
Crewmates relay themselves on the prow, taking bets about what the white column really is.
"A very weird cloud !"
"Another elevator !"
"Cloud candy !"
"A gigantic stairway !"
As they approach the designated site, they encounter themselves with a maze of weird grey clouds floating above the White Sea.
Buggy examines them from afar and wonder if they're like the ones they're sailing on. He decides to send a flying hand at them, and is very surprised when he reaches them. "Oh, hey, they're... soft, and bouncy. Warm, too !"
Shanks opens wide eyes. "Bouncy ?" A grin appears on his face, he hops on the railing and subsequently onto the nearest grey cloud. Landing on top, he rebounds indeed, and exclaims, "It's amazing !", laughing in the wake of his own bounces.
The blue-haired cabin boy squints at his nakama – what if he falls into the White Sea ? – but jumps towards the cloud nonetheless, shortly followed by the two Minks.
From the deck, Rayleigh shakes his head but decides to let them have their fun time for now, after all, they're just kids.
The four teenagers bounce up and down until they can't breathe from too much laughing and shouting.
Roger smiles at seeing the youngsters enjoying their adventure so much, and wonders what else the skies have in store for them.
Rayleigh finally calls after the kids, so they get back to the ship in order to move forward through the maze of grey clouds.
After a bit of navigating through the dense clouds area, they discover what they thought was a pillar of some kind is instead a huge waterfall made of clouds, as large as two or three warships. There's even a huge gate at its bottom end sporting a huge sign with "Heaven's Gate" written on it, and someone waiting for them.
"Heaven ? I'm not a religious man but I'm curious", Roger muses, an eye on his Log Pose that points all the more upwards. "Onward, crew !"
Heaven's Gate is in fact a huge arch with decks on both inner sides, and on the left one a middle-aged woman is sat on a chair, seemingly waiting for travelers to pass by.
Buggy opens wide eyes as he examines the woman. "Oi, Shanks", he nudges his bunkmate in the ribs. "Look, look, she has wings !"
"Damn, you're right. Does that mean she's an angel ?"
"Is this really Heaven we're headed to ? Scary..."
"We're not going to die, baka", Shanks assures him.
Roger pats the kids on the shoulder and smiles at them. "Not under my watch." He then makes his way to the prow and waits until the winged woman is within hearing distance. "Oi ! What is this thing ?", he directs at her when he's close enough.
The middle-aged woman first presents herself, "I am Amazon, the appointed lookout of Heaven's Gate." Then she motions to the other side of the gigantic arch they're under. "And this is the Milky Road, your way up to the White-White Sea, provided you're here to visit respectfully."
"We ain't here for trouble, Ma'am", Roger assures her. "We came here to visit Sky Islands, we went through Kororia and Samsara already and are only following the Log Pose."
"Either way, you are required by law to pay an immigration fee, one billion Extol per person."
As most of the crew gapes at their mental calculations, Rayleigh remembers Bato's explanations on the local currency, quickly estimates the traveling fee, and nudges his Captain. "That's something you'd wanna pay, a hundred thousand berries each not to be outlaws here from the get-go", he murmurs.
Roger nods, and resumes his conversation. "I can take care of that", he muses, and fetches some banknotes from his waistcoat pocket. "But I only have Berries here, is that alright ?"
"As long as the count is right, I don't care which currency I'm paid with."
"Perfect", the Pirate King smirks. He puts the banknotes in a leather pouch and throws it at Amazon.
She catches the pouch and starts counting. "Is that all ? I believe I can't see everyone but can I trust you ?"
"I swear to Davy Jones I know how many men are on my ship", Roger declares.
"I'll take that as a yes. Now, please move forward to the Milky Road and wait at the entrance."
Roger shrugs and orders they go forward.
As soon as they've reached the bottom of the waterfall, a gigantic lobster emerges from the water and catches the Discovery in its clamps.
Everyone freaks out.
But it starts swimming, and pushes them forward onto the Milky Road.
"Meet the Speedy Shrimp. Have a nice day", they vaguely hear Amazon launch at them, perfectly unfazed.
Shanks and Buggy excitedly realize that the Speedy Shrimp is their way up and laugh brightly.
"Onward !" Roger proudly yells.
At the end of the spiraling Milky Road, the Speedy Shrimp drops the Discovery on the White-White Sea and swims back down the cloudy waterfall.
The lack of oxygen is oppressing at this height. The kids are busy trying to maintain a regular breath, and so are the Minks.
Most of the crew adapted pretty fast but a few crewmates still struggle to breathe normally.
"Land ahoy !", the lookout shouts.
Shanks and Buggy excitedly run to the railing, their fellow Minks in tow.
"Another Sky Island !", Nekomamushi exclaims, patting Inuarashi on the back and pointing at the faraway colored speck.
"I have eyes too, you know", the dog Mink teases.
The cat Mink draws his tongue out and makes a face.
As the Discovery reaches the shore, Shanks spots a flying form coming their way. "Captain !", he points at the foreign being as he attracts Roger's attention.
A middle-aged bearded man riding the weirdest Pegasus – seriously, what kind of animal is pink with red dots ?! – lands on the Discovery's deck and quickly surveys the crew from his vantage point. "Blue Sea dwellers", he launches at their attention, "what do you seek in this land ?"
Roger emerges from the curious crowd, walks towards the intruder and states aloud, "Knowledge and history."
The bearded man raises a suspicious eyebrow. "I've never heard of pirates that look only for those..."
Roger smirks. "Curiosity brought us here, we ain't here for mischief. Pirates we sure are, but we dream of adventure instead of pillage", he explains.
"Hmm. I'll see if I can trust you. Skypiea already endures its fair share of trouble."
"Skypiea ?" Shanks asks from behind his Captain, "Is that what this island is called ?"
"It is, kid", the bearded man smiles.
Buggy makes his way towards his bunkmate, frowning, "And just who are you ?"
"I'm Gan Fall, Kami of this land." He gets down from his Pegasus and pats his side, "And here's my trusty friend Pierre."
"Kami ?" Roger frowns.
"It's a title for the ruler of this land, and that means I'm entitled to protect it. I'm not in any way pretending I'm a God", Gan Fall explains.
The Discovery's Captain smirks. "That's a good thing, because I don't believe in gods."
"If you're here for knowledge, then there are a few things you need to know about this land. The area you can see from here", he motions at the nearby shore and what lays behind, "is called Angel Island. It's a peaceful district full of life and kind, trusting folks."
"Almost sounds like heaven itself", Roger ironically muses.
"True, but even we can't achieve such harmony. On the other side of Angel Island there's a place called Upped Yard, which has been the theater of a war for four hundred years."
"A war ?" Shanks frowns.
"See, Upper Yard appeared one day out from nowhere, like a gift from the Gods themselves, and we've revered it ever since. The thing is, along came the Shandia people : they're the original inhabitants of this holy land, and have been forced to fight against my people's greed to conquer it."
Roger grits his teeth. "So much for the utopia, eh ? Why do your people envy that place so much ?"
"Because it's made out of Vearth, and we consider valuable anything coming from the Blue Sea that we don't have here."
Buggy frowns. "Vearth ?"
"It's the most fertile material we know of, without it it'd be very difficult to yield plant life and we would be unable to sustain ourselves."
Scopper Gaban tilts his head. "Oh, you mean soil ?"
"Whatever you call it, the problem remains entirely, this place is at war. Which is why I suggest you remain within the vicinity of Angel Island, if you wish to stay away from trouble."
Roger huffs a laugh. "Not a chance ! You've made me curious."
Gan Fall sighs. "In that case I can only hope you won't worsen the situation with the Shandia... I'm actively working on reaching peace with them and I feel like I'm close to doing so."
"We're here for adventures, and that land is one of them. But I'm not one to interfere in local politics if I'm not invited to."
"Well then", Gan Fall says as he climbs back up onto Pierre's back, "I guess we have a deal. Until we meet again !" With that the Pegasus takes off and flies towards the far side of the cloud island.
Shanks turns to Roger, "Say, say, Captain, what do we do now ?"
"I'd say we explore that "Upper Yard", of course", he retorts with a wide grin.
And so, intrigued as they all are, the crew tries to find a way to reach the Milky Road leading to the "holy" part of Skypiea with the Discovery. They gather curious eyes as they circle around the island, and when they finally reach a small wharf there's a small crowd of winged people waiting for them.
"Are you people from the Blue Sea ?"
"Do you carry any Vearth ?"
A few questions fuse on the main deck of the wharf as Roger walks to the prow. When the crowd falls silent at his appearance, he announces, "We're travelers from the Blue Sea, yes, and we wish to travel further, that is to Upper Yard."
There are murmurs in the crowd, then a man with a white beret steps forward and... salutes them ? They have a doubt because he's putting his hand against his head and sticking two fingers up. "Heso", he says. "The Holy Land is out of reach for a ship such as yours."
Roger plucks his mustache. "And why would that be ?"
"You're not equipped for the Milky Road."
"Isn't there another Speedy Shrimp here ?"
"Actually, there's a Super Speedy Shrimp, but its use is reserved for emergencies. You'd have to get a solid Jet Dial to propel your ship."
Roger surveys the small port and notices at once, that all the ships here are powered by such Dials. "Where can I prepare the ship for such a voyage ?"
"Down by the end of the dock there's our shipwright. He should be able to help. Beware though, as you're heading there : you might encounter Shandia warriors, and they won't be as benevolent as we are."
"Actually, I knew of them already, we met Gan Fall on our way here, and he gave us permission to visit Upper Yard."
"Kami... He..." The man with a white beret seems taken aback by this piece of information. "Well, the Holy Land is his domain." He straightens up and does this weird salute once more. "Then my duty here is done. Farewell, Blue Sea dwellers." With that he promptly leaves, leaving in his wake an intrigued crowd.
Roger flashes a huge grin at the Skypieans, and hops back onto the deck. "I'm gonna see that shipwright", he informs his crew, "Everyone, stay put until I'm back."
Shanks and Buggy pout.
Inuarashi slightly growls.
Nekomamushi's tail fluffs in annoyance.
As the Captain leaves the ship, the First Mate glances at the cabin boys. "Now, now, we all know you dream of leaving the ship and exploring, but Captain ordered you not to, so I expect perfect behavior from you."
"Aye, aye", they answer in unison, ducking their heads.
"That goes for both of you, too", Rayleigh turns to the Minks.
They straighten up. "Aye, sir."
The four teenagers decide to stay in the Minks' cabin for the time being, and wait 'til their time comes.
Roger is back not an hour after, after negotiating a good deal with the local shipwright : two huge Jet Dials to be rigged up at the stern of the ship by tomorrow, for a whooping fee.
The most skilled crewmates are volunteered to help the shipwright, and a small party is designed to go ashore and restock supplies for the incoming trip.
The rest of the crew is simply dismissed for the time being, with authorization to explore a bit – as long as they don't cause any disturbances and they're back before sunset.
Our two cabin boys excitedly join the Minks near the railing.
"Say, say, I wanna see what Angel Island looks like", Shanks says.
"Me too !" Buggy jumps in place.
Nekomamushi rolls his eyes. "Then why are we still here ?"
The other Mink hops onto the railing and turns to his nakama, "I'm not waiting anymore, let's go !"
And off they go, without waiting for a chaperon to be assigned to them.
Out of the corner of his eye, Crocus catches a glimpse of the teenagers running off, sighs heavily, and hopes they'll keep out of trouble this time.
The quatuor of young scoundrels roam the streets in search of anything of interest, gathering curious looks here and there. They notice the weird way the Skypieans' hair is done with two antennae sticking out from the top of their heads. They marvel at the locals' wings and murmur between them to try and determine if they're fully functional and they can actually fly.
Finally, they reach Lovely Street, judging by the huge cloudy sign in the middle of it, and it is, indeed, lovely : beautiful houses, shops of all kinds line the road and it seems to be the main marketplace.
"Perfect !" Buggy exults, a grin on his face.
Shanks fondly smiles at his younger nakama.
They all drool in front of various food stalls, but remember they're supposed to be back on the Discovery for dinner, so they decide to investigate different shops. A Dial shop earns their attention on the other side of the street, and the quatuor curiously walks to the showcase window to examine the displayed items.
Shanks points at one that looks like a small snail shell. "Look, this one looks like a periwinkle !" Another one. "And this large whelk with a button on it ! I wonder what they're for ?", he asks.
A tall guy walks out the shop, a benevolent look on his face and a grin forming as he says, "Welcome to my shop, I'm Nagaya and it would be my pleasure to provide you guidance."
Buggy speaks first, "What does this one do ?", pointing at the periwinkle-looking one.
"It's a Lamp Dial", Nagaya explains, "capable of storing and releasing a steady light during hours."
"Nice, and this one ?", Nekomamushi points at a hand-sized one.
"A Tone Dial, able to record and replay sounds spoken into it."
Shanks is starry-eyed. "That's amazing ! The huge one, the huge one !"
"A common Heat Dial, which stores and releases heat energy. This one is already sold to be used as a power source for an oven."
Inuarashi designates a medium-sized blue whelk. "And that one ?"
"Ah ? This is a Milky Dial, and it can store clouds."
"Clouds ?" Shanks starts.
"Sea Clouds or Island Clouds, to be more precise. The former are those you sailed on, I presume, and Island Clouds are those you're walking on on this very moment."
The group of four look at their feet, and what's below.
Nagaya smiles. "Island Clouds are much more solid and workable than their counterparts, which makes for a great construction material. Everything here is build up from that type of clouds."
Buggy reveals a small pouch full of coins. "I wanna buy one", he declares.
"Of course, it would be my pleasure !", the winged man says, and shows them the way in. "So, which one would brighten your day ?"
"The Milky one, of course ! I've never seen anything like that kind of clouds down on the Blue Sea, so... Yeah, that one", the blue-haired cabin boy says with a smirk and a firm nod. "How much does it cost ?"
Shanks nudges him, "Hey, can you lend me some money ? I really need the Tone Dial."
"Later", Buggy shushes him, and hands out his leather pouch, opening it to reveal a decent amount of Berries.
Nagaya holds out his hands in a defensive stance and apologizes, "Um, sorry, but I'd rather be paid in Extols."
Inuarashi negotiates, "But the lady at Heaven's Gate said it was fine to pay in Berries ?"
Nagaya explains, "Amazon is a toll collector, and as such has the means to exchanges various currencies, I'm but a regular citizen with a small shop... Maybe you have something else you can trade, something from the Blue Seas that I can't find here ?"
Shanks hums. "Let's see... We're pirates so we have gold, jewels, but we're not allowed to touch it. We can sneak up on food or alcohol, but I suppose you have that here too."
"We do indeed", Nagaya nods. "See, my brother is getting married soon and I'd like to have a special gift for him and his wife...help me find an idea and I'll give you a Dial each."
"You've got a deal !", Buggy exclaims.
Shanks rubs his chin in his hand, gears turning at full speed. "I know !" He exclaims after a while, and runs back to the ship.
The remaining people open wide eyes at the young redhead's departure.
"Bah", Buggy shrugs, "Dunno what got into him, but when he's got an idea, he's just as stubborn as Cap'n. Let him be."
Nekomamushi cocks his head to the side. "But in the meantime, we can choose our future Dials", he muses, "What does the red one do ?"
Nagaya chuckles and goes through another round of explaining what's on his shelves to the curious teenagers.
Buggy already chose the Milky Dial and doesn't change his mind even when presented with the powerful Flame Dial.
Inuarashi decides to take a Lamp Dial, "It's useful and this one's really pretty."
The cat Mink sets his mind on a small Flavor Dial, "Because it sounds fun."
Nagaya remarks, "And your friend already mentioned the Tone Dial, so I think we're all set. I wonder what he's up to though, he's been gone for a while."
"Probably sneaking up on the crew to steal something, it's not like we really own anything", Buggy comments.
Nekomamushi squints, "I just hope he doesn't get caught."
Just on cue, Shanks walks in, hands casually in his pockets, and he assumes a winning stance, huffing through a smile as he puffs out his chest.
The three other young pirate apprentices smile in anticipation.
The straw-hatted teen pulls his closed fists up, and opens his hands to reveal two Baby Den Den Mushi lodged in his palms.
Buggy gapes. "You didn't-"
"Yeah, I did", Shanks proudly states. "Those are the extra ones, anyway."
The Minks look at each other in disbelief.
Nagaya frowns. "What are these ? Living... Dials ?"
Shanks chuckles. "They're Den Den Mushi, and they can communicate with each other when they're within range. Those little ones should get your brother and his wife to talk with each other as long as they're on the same island."
The Skypiean claps his hands together excitedly. "That's wonderful ! And I'm sure they've never even seen one before, it's an amazing gift ! Thank you so much !"
The red-haired teen smirks and lowers the hem of his straw hat. "Now, about that Tone Dial..."
The four rascals are back on the Discovery by sundown, as promised, their newly gained Dials securely hidden in their pockets. They caused no apparent trouble so they even get a quiet dinner, no adult nagging at them for faulting somehow. They discreetly snicker between them, thinking of their new belongings, and escape to the lower decks to spend half of the night dreamily conversing about what they'll do with them one they're back on the Blue Sea.
Morning comes by and preparations resume. Most of the work to rig up the big Jet Dials to the stern of the ship is done, and they'll be ready to depart in the afternoon. The restocking party has done its duty, the pantry is filled to the brim, and everyone is hyped up at the idea of an adventure in the sky.
A little after lunch the Discovery is finally ready to set sail towards its next destination. The anchor is raised, and the twin Dials soon propel the ship on the Milky Road to the Skypieans' holy land. The two-mast proudly crosses the cloudy bridge, and leads Roger's crew to a new place full of mysteries to uncover... Upper Yard is soon in view, and a thick forest seems to cover its surface : who knows where the path across the trees will lead them ?
The Discovery's Captain decides to search for a safe place to moor before going on an expedition, so they simply follow the Milky Road, going straight at every intersection, until they arrive at what seems to be the mightiest altar ever. They drop the anchor at the bottom of the stairs leading to it.
"I have good news, and bad news", Roger announces. "Which one do you want first ?"
There are murmurs in the crew, then Crocus steps out and says, "Bad news first, please."
The Captain has a low chuckle. "Alright, then. I need volunteers to guard the ship."
Groans of annoyance are exhaled by many, at the idea of not being able to explore a Sky Island after coming all this way.
"The good news is", Roger continues with a grin, "We're all be taking turns !"
Cheers explode on the deck.
"I want to cover as much ground as possible, so we'll split into three search parties, and a fourth group will stay on the Discovery. Now all that's left to do before we get ready for an expedition, is determine who goes with who, and who takes the first shift here. Rayleigh, Crocus, each of you will command one of the search parties." He adds with a grin, "I'll command the remaining one, of course. Who volunteers to guard the ship ?"
Gaban takes a step forward. "I don't mind, as long as I get my fair share of adventure later."
"Thank you. Now the rest of you split into four groups, reasonably distributed if possible", he squints at the four teenagers already stuck to each other like glue.
Nekomamushi and Inuarashi groan in annoyance but separate themselves from the two cabin boys, and go towards Kozuki Oden, who's standing close to Roger.
Shanks and Buggy have a sour face and reluctantly make their way towards Rayleigh.
Scopper Gaban gathers a few followers too, among them one of their snipers, Daisuke. The young man seems antsy as he confesses to his group leader, "Something bothers me about this place, but I can't quite place what."
Gaban has a wide smile as he clasps his hand over the young sniper's shoulder. "Don't worry, if something's fishy... we'll deal with it as we always do."
Daisuke has a weird little laugh. "Sure", he says at length. "But look at those trees ! They must be thousands of years old to be that huge. This place is ominous."
"I understand why they call it the "Holy Land"... but doesn't that make you all the more curious ?"
"Of course it does. It's just... I don't know, that rings a bell but I can't seem to remember where it leads." The young sniper scratches his head.
"We'll figure it out eventually", Gaban winks at his younger nakama.
"A'ight", the Captain's voice echo on the deck, "Now let's get packed."
Everyone rushes to their cabins to prepare whatever belongings they deem fit for their expedition, and the remaining party starts furling the sails and going to their respective posts.
The search parties regroup on the deck and are ready to go, but Roger makes himself awaited.
He finally emerges from the lower decks, wearing a sour face. The Captain moves to the center of the main deck, and drops his bag on the wooden floor. He rummages through it and retrieves two Den Den Mushi. He disposes on them on the deck, and, standing up again, he asks, "Where are the other two ? I won't punish the one that borrowed them as long as they're returned. Right now."
The two Minks inconspicuously shift to behind Oden's back.
Buggy grits his teeth in an attempt to keep a poker face.
Shanks shuffles awkwardly on his feet and feels heat rising up to his cheeks.
Rayleigh puts a hand on the redhead's shoulder and taps a slow rhythm with his fingers. "Do you have anything to say ?"
The straw-hatted teen awkwardly coughs. "What if... what if they're not returned ?"
The sour face turns to grim, and Roger takes calculated steps at the kid. "Well in that case, adequate punishment would be in order, since it would mean that person would have stolen from the crew, and more importantly, from their Captain."
Shanks audibly swallows.
"What do you have to say to defend yourself ?"
"I, uh..." The red-haired cabin boy stares at the wooden deck and feels a sweat drop running down his temple. "I traded them."
Roger takes a sharp inhale. His voice is strained when he next asks, "Traded ?"
Shanks hunches his shoulders and confesses, breathless, "I traded them against Dials... the guy wouldn't want any Berries to buy them."
The Captain lets out a heavy sigh. "What kind of Dials would you get for two Baby Den Den Mushi, eh ?"
The culprit retrieves his Tone Dial from his pocket with a sigh, and hands it out.
"What's that ?"
"A Tone Dial. It records sounds..."
Roger grabs the foreign item and presses one of the buttons.
"Buggy is an idiot !"
Shanks has the grace to flush red as his own voice raises from the Dial.
Close to him, the blue-haired cabin boy hunches his shoulders in anger, grumbling something inaudible.
Roger sentences, "What you deserve is a whole week down under, in the hold... But guess what, I have an even better idea. Since we only have two Den Den Mushi left I can't split the crew in four groups anymore, so your party is cancelled."
Loud complaints are voiced in the aforementioned group.
Roger silences them all with a dark look. "The other three parties are coming with me, your own takes the first watch, and that's all on you. I think your nakama won't like it, so here goes : they will decide your punishment themselves, I believe they're inventive enough."
Rayleigh firmly nods as murmurs of approval emanate from the now guarding party. They're left with one of the Den Den Mushi and a trembling Shanks, legitimately afraid of what's coming after him.
As the search party progresses in the forest, Daisuke marvels at the environment. "Look at all the vegetation ! It almost looks like the one we have down in the Blue Sea, but everything seems... so much bigger."
Gaban sports a ferocious grin, "I wonder if the fauna is bigger, too..."
The youngest sniper of the crew feels a shiver down his spine. "Shut it, would ya ? It just feels surreal, to find so many similar things up here..."
"Hmm. You're right. D'you have a theory about this ?"
"I dunno. Let's keep moving."
A little further down the path, Roger and Oden weigh the chance of finding a Poneglyph so high up in the sky.
Nekomamushi and Inuarashi are a bit miffed that their friends couldn't come along with them, but decided to stay clear from trouble and conceal their own Dials. They open curious eyes around them, and spot a gigantic bug near a tree trunk a few feet away.
"Hey, look at this", Inuarashi points at the foreign insect.
"That's some huuuge beetle", the cat Mink comments.
Daisuke comes over to examine said beetle. "Wow guys, it's a five-feet tall Hercules beetle ! I used to hunt them as a kid, but I never saw one this big before."
"Is it dangerous ?" Nekomamushi inquires.
"Hmm. They're not supposed to be a threat, but with that size I fear their mandibles", the young sniper muses.
Roger approaches the trio with curiosity. "A giant beetle, eh ? I wonder what else this land has in store for us."
Further exploration in the area reveals insects of every kind : ladybugs the size of an adult's fist, enormous fireflies emitting enough light to attract even bigger moths.
"Now that's an entomologist's dream", Scopper Gaban says.
"Sure is", Daisuke laughs, "But what bother's me is how they're just like ours... just over-sized. It's almost like they come from the same place !"
Roger tilts his head at that. "Do you have any ideas to share ?"
"Well, as I mentioned before, I used to hunt bugs when I was a kid, so I know a lot of them. Here insects are... pretty identical to those I used to look for, apart for the size of course. Kinda like they got over-sized in some way, but originally came from..." Daisuke trails out. "Wait a minute. No... That can't be." He shakes his head. "That's ludicrous."
The Discovery's Captain smirks. "Nothing's crazy on the Grand Line. What do you have in mind ?"
Daisuke shrugs. "Well... where I'm from, there's this story about a notorious liar, Montblanc Norland, an explorer who always came back with the most unbelievable stories. One time, as he came back from an expedition, he went to report to the king that he saw a mountain of gold on an island across the seas. The king then mounted a search party with two thousand warriors and left in search for the gold. They fought storms and sea monsters, and only a hundred of them made it alive to the shore Norland led them to. But there was nothing but jungle, no gold whatsoever, and so Norland was sentenced to death for his lies. He lied 'til the end, claiming on the day of his execution that the mountain of gold must have sank into the ocean."
Roger plucks his mustache, "That's a fine story to dissuade you from lying, ain't it ?"
"Yeah", Daisuke admits with a little smile.
Kozuki Oden steps up from the crowd that formed around the young sniper during his storytelling, and asks, "Is it just a folk tale, or does it have any historical grounds ?"
"The kingdom where Norland is from does exist, that's Lvneel, my homeland. I read his story hundreds and hundreds of times as a kid, and we're taught in history classes that he really existed a few centuries ago and fooled the king who ruled then. He's kind of a legendary liar, but I'm pretty sure he was real."
"As history is written by the winners, not every recording is reliable", Oden comments.
Daisuke shifts on his feet. "I have a theory, but it's crazy. Hear me out : Norland wasn't a liar... but instead of falling into the sea, the mountain of gold went into the sky !"
Roger squints. "When did you say he lived ?"
"Um... a few hundred years back, can't remember how many, sorry Cap'n."
"And the war with the Shandia started a few centuries ago, right ?"
"That's what the man with the weird Pegasus said", Daisuke nods.
"Skypieans can't find soil here. Somehow, a few centuries ago, this land makes its way up here and bam, they've got a holy land. Thing is, it's inhabited, and the Shandia have been fighting for their homeland ever since they've landed in the sky. Hmm, I like your theory", Roger smiles.
"But then that means-"
"The city of gold is somewhere up there", the Captain concludes.
The crew feels a wave of renewed excitement.
"That's settled, we need to find that city. We'll see if your storybook was correct after all", Roger winks at Daisuke.
Meanwhile, on the Discovery, Shanks is fuming and embarrassed all at once.
Rayleigh and the members of his party have decided, after a long discussion, how Shanks should be punished. Simple chores wouldn't be enough, and they're frustrated of being forced to stay on the ship instead of exploring, so they're not really invested in anything productive right now... that's why they decided to make Shanks do all the work. That is, giving him chores and menial tasks to keep him busy at all times, and forcing him to obey their beck and call.
"Shanks-kun ! I want another beer !", someone calls.
The one in the lookout shouts, "Sweetie, don't forget my snack !"
"I need sunscreen, cutie-chan", another one lounging on the deck says.
The First Mate observes from his post, and finds the sight rather satisfying, though he thinks the punishment could have been much worse – in other crews Shanks would have gotten whiplash, or been sent to walk the plank...
Gritting his teeth and ragingly dropping his broom on the deck, the straw-hatted teen reluctantly moves towards to his next assigned tasks. Scrubbing, cleaning, laundry, and now I'm their maid ! The whole ordeal wouldn't be as humiliating, if they hadn't dressed him up as a girl : a white dress with frills reaching past the ankle's bone that's bothering him to no end when he walks, and Rayleigh even braided his hair with ribbons in them !
From the other side of the deck, Buggy finds the sight of Shanks dressed as a girl rather alluring, but would rather die than voice it aloud. "Hey, and get me some apple juice, would ya ?" So what, it's a nice sight and he gets to order the redhead around... win-win !
"Don't leave the group", Kozuki Oden reminds the two Minks, who are currently straying from the cleared path.
"Yeah, yeah", they answer, all the while going further away.
Oden shakes his head. "Teenagers", the samurai mutters to himself as he resumes his walking.
Next to him, Roger turns his head around and frowns at the cat Mink, "Where's your friend ?"
Nekomamushi points a thumb to his side. "He's right here." A quick look to the aforementioned area reveals a void where Inuarashi should have been. The cat Mink opens wide eyes and starts, "B-but, we were- That's impossible !"
The group stops dead in its tracks and starts searching the area.
No trace of the dog Mink is to be found.
"Okay, crew", Roger says darkly. "Something weird is going on here." He retrieves his Den Den Mushi and calls Rayleigh.
Puru-puru-puru- kacha. "Aye, Captain ?"
"Inuarashi disappeared in the forest, we scouted the whole area but came back unsuccessful."
The Den Den Mushi has a serious frown. "What happened ?"
"We have no idea. One minute he was walking with us, the next he was gone. We haven't seen any assailants or anything, there's just us and the fauna."
"Hmm. You're continuing the search, I presume ?"
"Damn right we are. We'll be back at sunset but we'll make good use of our time until then. You and the others take care of dinner and keep your eyes peeled."
"Aye, Captain", the First Mate says before hanging up.
Roger puts away his Den Den Mushi and declares, "Well then, onward. And nobody strays from the path this time."
Nekomamushi sheepishly nods, already missing his dear friend.
The search party comes back when dusk colors the clouds with orange and purple hues.
Hopping off the railing, the cat Mink can't help a little laugh when he sees Shanks's current state, but it soon dies, replaced by a sour face.
Coming out of the galley, the redhead runs towards his friend, holding the frills of his dress up to his knees so as not to stumble and fall. "Say, say, tell me you found him."
Nekomamushi sadly nods the negative.
Once on the deck, Roger announces, "Tomorrow we're mounting a rescue party. We've covered a lot of ground on this side of the altar", he motions to the starboard side of the ship, "so we'll cover the other side in order not to miss anything.. Getting back Inuarashi is our number one priority." He darkly adds, "Nobody messes with my crew."
Shanks worked all afternoon, was a big help in preparing dinner for everyone, he's tired and hungry. Now all that he wants is getting back into his own clothes and have a warm meal...
But Roger catches him by the nape of the neck just as he makes his way towards the lower decks. "You little scoundrel. Your punishment isn't over yet."
The redhead hunches his shoulders in fear.
The Captain drags him to one of the masts, and sends someone to bring him some rope.
Shanks is afraid he's gonna get whiplash because his Captain is angrier than before. He shivers in his frilly dress and walks back, but is quickly stopped by the wooden mast. Once there he doesn't dare move, for fear of making the older man even madder.
Roger securely ties the straw-hatted teen to the large post, standing on his feet and facing the main part of the deck. "Now, I do believe you understand that stealing is a very serious felony ?"
Shanks firmly nods. "Aye, Captain, I won't do it again."
"To be honest, you deserve worse than that", Roger states, "but the thing is, seeing you dressed like this, and knowing all the things you did in the afternoon, I think you've had almost enough for the day. Almost, because I want to make sure you've learned your lesson. So here goes : you're staying here, until my bedtime – and let me assure you I'm not tired in the least – and we're eating on the deck tonight. Just so it gets hardwired into your brain that stealing is forbidden on this ship."
Shanks protests. "B-but then, I'll have to wait for tomorrow to eat ? What about all the veggies I cut and-"
"Oh, do you feel like we're stealing your work ? Well, that's the spirit", Roger says with a wink, but no smile.
The red-haired cabin boy deflates instantly. He's getting a taste of his own medicine, he understands he deserves it, and will never, ever, steal from his Captain again. Or any of the crew, for what it's worth.
Tables and chairs are dragged from the galley and set out on the deck, and dinner is had in front of the sad-looking redhead, though their usual cheery spirit isn't quite there with Inuarashi missing.
Around dinner, Roger explains his findings and theories, how Daisuke gave him good reasons to think that the city of gold is somewhere up here.
The crew makes bets about how filthy rich they're going to be if they find it, and go to bed with dreams and hopes lulling them to sleep.
Roger comes back to the main deck when most of the crew is already put to bed, and Shanks's head lolls as he's drifting into sleep himself. "Oi, kid, time to sleep."
Shanks startles awake. "Huh ? Um, sure, thanks Cap'n", he mumbles with half-lidded eyes.
Roger sighs and has a soft and sad look at the teenager. "C'mere", he says as he unties the redhead from the mast and pulls him into his side, helping steadying him with a hand under his arm.
Shanks almost falls from exhaustion but is glad his Captain anticipated it. He lets himself be dragged to the lower bunks, far too tired to fully process what's going on. He stumbles at some point despite his best efforts not to.
Roger decides to carry Shanks in his arms.
The redhead actually falls asleep before they've reached his bunk. He opens bleary eyes, when he leaves the warm cocoon of his Captain's arms and is carefully dropped on his bed.
Roger shows the slightest hint of a smile, though his forehead is creased with a frown. "I really hope you've learned your lesson", he quietly says.
"Aye, Captain", Shanks murmurs, tears of regret prickling at the corners of his eyes.
Roger catches the straw hat from under Shanks's head, carefully disposes of it on the nearby table, and gently strokes the braided red hair. He sighs. "Well then, good night, kid. Tomorrow will be a long day."
"Good night, Cap'n."
Then he gets up and quietly leaves, closing the door behind him.
"I'm not sleeping, you idiot", comes the snarky reply.
Shanks blinks in the dark. "Why ?"
"Dunno, I just can't. Maybe I'm excited for tomorrow." Or maybe seeing you in a dress was fun enough but tonight sucked.
"Oh. That's... normal, I guess. We should sleep so we're not too tired tomorrow, though..." Shanks reasons.
"Yeah, yeah. Good night."
In the morning, Crocus's party is designated to guard the ship, and the rest of the crew make preparations to search for Inuarashi and the lost city of gold.
Shanks has to ask Buggy for help in unbraiding his hair, incidentally taking more time than usual to get ready, which leads to a scolding by Rayleigh.
Once the rescue party has regrouped, the cabin boys and the cat Mink are instructed to stay within the group in order to avoid any unfortunate event.
As they progress into the forest, Rayleigh feels a foreign presence, and puts all his senses on alert to locate it.
Roger senses the shift in his First Mate's focus and gathers the rest of their nakama closer.
"There's a group of five hidden a few feet from us, and their intentions aren't benevolent", Rayleigh reveals as his Observation Haki finally allows him to identify the incoming danger.
Just on cue, three winged people drop down from the trees a little down the path and start charging, shortly followed by two more emerging from large bushes.
They don't look at all like the Skypieans they've seen so far, so Roger's crew instantly understands their assailants are the Shandia they've been told about.
The one leading them shouts, "To get back our land !" – confirming any remaining suspicions about their identity – and moves to attack Roger with his spear.
The Discovery's Captain steps forward and draws out his sword just to block his opponent's attack. "We have nothing to do with the war", he states aloud, "we're just explorers."
As the rest of his men are engaging battle with the rest of the expedition, the leader strikes back and asks, "Aren't you outsiders scouting for who pretends to be a God ?"
Roger blocks again but doesn't retaliate, instead looks at the Shandia's leader dead in the eye and says, "We're not here to conquer your land, we're merely tourists in passing : we come from the Blue Sea."
The Shandia warrior starts at that, visibly taken aback, "The Blue Sea ?" and draws back his spear, glancing at Roger's back. "Where have your wings gone ?"
"We don't have any", he reveals.
The leader of the Shandia seems at a loss for a moment, then he loudly whistles and calls after his men, "I don't know what sorcery is that, we'll have them explain themselves to the Chief. Let's lead them to the village."
During the walk, Roger can't help but ask the leader of the Shandia, "Why did you startle when I said we were from the Blue Sea ?"
The winged man turns to the curious pirate as he keeps walking. He wears a stern expression but a frown creases his forehead. "Old stories. The Chief will tell you all about it..."
The man on his right nudges him, "But, Hassun-"
"...provided he trusts you enough", the man – Hassun, apparently – concludes.
Roger hums thoughtfully. He needs to earn the Chief's trust in order to investigate further Inuarashi's disappearance, and potentially the city of gold. He keeps silent for a while, thinking about a plan.
Buggy is terrified. Are they going to kill us ? He's clinging onto Shanks's arm as if his life depends on it.
"Shh", the redhead reassures him quietly. "We're with Captain", he says, solid faith in his voice.
Said Captain glances at the kids and softly smiles at them.
Nekomamushi sighs through a small grin.
"By the way", Roger turns back to the Shandia leading them, "You wouldn't happen to have seen one of my men, would you ?"
"What's he like ?", one of Hassun's men asks.
"He's a dog Mink, pretty unmistakable if I dare say so."
The man who asked stiffens, but retorts, "Never seen him", and resumes his walking.
One down, one to go, Roger thinks, and his gears keep turning as how to get the Shandia on his side in order to retrieve his crewmate.
They reach a vast clearing in the woods, and Rayleigh notices that the path stops at a curious-looking bush. He lifts an eyebrow, his glasses slipping askew down his nose, and as he adjusts them he asks, "Are we going underground ?"
Hassun explains, "Ever since we've been ousted from our homeland we've been living in hiding. We rebuilt our homes under a pocket of Island Clouds and manage to live day by day..." He shakes his head and adds, "Try anything funny, and our village will be the last thing you see."
Everyone in Roger's crew curtly nods before following Hassun and his men through a maze of tunnels, and finally reaching a wide opening leading to the village.
There are tipis scattered everywhere, totems and giant beanstalks that seem to support the cloudy ceiling.
Shanks marvels at the foreign contraptions, and wonders what it's like to live between two layers of clouds.
Nekomamushi hopes he's not considered like food here.
Buggy shivers, and hopes his Captain has a good plan to get them out of here alive and in one piece.
Hassun and his men lead them to a tent in the center of the village, earning curious glances from the Shandia living around.
"Hassun is back", someone shouts, and gathers more people along their wake.
A bearded old man wearing a highly decorated wolf's head as a helmet exits the tipi at hearing the commotion outside, and gazes at the little crowd.
"Chief", Hassun speaks aloud, "We met outsiders in the forest and they're claiming to be explorers from the Blue Seas."
The old man surveys the outsiders for a moment. "The Blue Seas... What do you look for in this land ?"
"History and knowledge", Roger echoes the answer he gave Gan Fall a couple of days before. "We are just explorers, who wish to discover lands unseen. Sky Islands is like a dream for us, even though it was something we'd get laughed at, back in the Blue Seas."
The Chief hums. "What do you have to prove your words ?"
"Um, lack of wings. Berries. Den Den Mushi. You name it. Or wait, on second thought, you don't, because you don't know about them, but hey, I'm pretty sure I can find something to persuade you that we're from down there", Roger smiles as he rambles.
The Shandia Chief looks interested. "Berries ?"
"That's our currency, look", Roger retrieves a small pouch full of coins.
The Chief examines the pouch's content from afar, and says, "I don't know about their value here, but I recall stories of people coming from faraway lands with other currencies." He scratches his chin and adds, "There hasn't been people like you here in a long time. I wonder if it's a sign for something..."
Hassun frowns, "But Chief, they were nearing-" He takes a sharp inhale. "They were on our land ! Who knows if they're not working for that so-called kami ?"
The Chief turns to Roger and asks, "Where are you headed to exactly ?"
"Our ship, as soon as the sun starts to set. We're not equipped to camp out in the woods."
"Where is your ship ?"
"Near an altar, down the Milky Road."
"The sacrificial altar ?"
"Didn't know that was its purpose, but yeah, I guess", Roger shrugs.
"You've come a long way to reach this part of Upper Yard."
"That's because we're looking for a lost crewmate", Roger reveals. "Dog Mink, this height, any chance you'd seen him ?"
The old Chief sighs. "Hassun, release the prisoner."
Said Shandia warrior stiffens. "We're keeping him in case he's spying", he says through gritted teeth.
The Chief glares at the warrior. "Hassun. Now", he commands.
Hassun reluctantly goes to a distant tent and sets Inuarashi free.
The Dog Mink runs towards the group, tears in his eyes. "I was so scared !"
Nekomamushi , Shanks and Buggy all come to their friend and hug him tight.
Roger smiles at the reunion, and turns to the Chief with a soft look on his face. "Do they really look like spies to you ?"
The Shandia Chief smiles. "Of course not."
"Since we're in good terms, and we're here for knowledge, may I ask that you tell me more about the story of your tribe, and how you came to be cast out of your homeland ?" Roger inquires.
The Chief nods, and everyone sits cross-legged in a circle around him. He reveals to a captivated audience how the Shandia once were living peacefully. He mentions that they don't believe in any Gods, instead they worship their ancestors and notably a certain Calgara, whose bloodline isn't extinct. He wears a grim expression as he next explains how one fateful day, their homeland was deported to a faraway land by means still unknown.
Daisuke blinks and looks at his Captain.
Roger is so enthralled by the story he doesn't even notice his youngest sniper sending him insisting glares.
"Our homeland appeared here, on Skypiea, and weren't our ancestors mad when the residents of this place started claiming our Vearth as theirs ! Their ruler called himself Kami and decided to make this holy land his residence, and chased us all out. We've been through calmer times under Gan Fall's rule, but he still claims he's the Kami of this land."
Roger plucks his mustache. "You were originally from the Blue Seas, weren't you ?"
"Yes, we were", the Chief erases any trace of doubt left.
Now is not the time to reveal that we're searching for the city of gold. "I heard about a tale back home", Roger disguises the truth, "that an explorer discovered a great city on a faraway island but could never find his way back to it. He died thinking it had sunk into the ocean."
Hassun jumps on his feet. "What was his name ?"
The Shandia warrior silently takes a step back, sadness and frustration written on his face. "He died thinking... that Shandora had sunk ?" He wipes tears of anger and turns to the Chief, "This is exactly why we need to bring back the Light of Shandora ! We're here and we don't deserve to be erased from history like this !"
The Chief nods the affirmative. "We do, Calgara wouldn't want it any other way. That, and the Skypieans believe the war will end on itself once the island sings again...", he adds cryptically.
Rayleigh takes mental notes of everything, and decides to investigate later on.
Roger presses the matter, "So that city, Shandora, really is up here."
The Chief sighs. "It is, but it's all ruins now. You won't find anything of interest."
Roger briefly wonders if the Shandia people value gold as much as the Skypieans, which would mean not really, but decides not to reveal his plan yet. "Maybe I'll see something that you haven't. I'm still taking my chances."
"Is there any way I can convince you to go back to your own land and leave our civilization in peace ?"
"Not when I've set my mind on something, you won't", Roger says with a smirk.
Hassun steps forward and asks, "Then if you're planning on stepping on our territory anyway, why don't you help us win our land back ?"
"I gave my word to Gan Fall that I wouldn't intervene in local politics, on neither side, so that's a no."
The Chief concludes, "You may go as you please, but as you're conducting your expedition, please be regardful of what you find. You'll be walking in the path of revered people and I expect you to respect our ancestors."
Roger lightly bows in acceptance. "Thanks, Chief. We will act accordingly."
Hassun squints at the pirate Captain, decidedly not too fond of the man.
The Chief adds after a moment of silence, "One last thing : if you're entering the ruins, beware the Master of the Sky, Nola."
Roger quirks up an eyebrow. "I don't believe in gods, I won't fear any master", he states, and gets up to gather his people and get back to the Discovery.
Inuarashi is welcomed back by the guarding party, and they have a feast in his honor, some of the crew having helpfully provided extra meat by hunting over-sized wild animals.
Shanks eats to his heart's content, happy and grateful for being allowed to join in, unlike yesterday.
His younger bunkmate discreetly sighs of relief at having all his friends around him again.
Around a mouthful, Roger reveals, "I think I know where the city of gold is."
Gaban turns to his Captain. "And how would that be ?"
"Earlier, I think Hassun slipped, he said we were nearing something. I bet we were just in the right direction, and that's why he stopped us from progressing any further."
Daisuke perks in, "And, Captain, doesn't "Nola" sound kind of like "Norland" ?"
"It does, my young friend, it does indeed. The plot thickens", Roger smirks, "and we're about to unveil it all."
The day after, it's Gaban's party that's designated to guard the ship, much to Daisuke's disappointment. "But I want to see the city of gold so bad ! What if Norland was right ?"
Gaban states, "Everyone takes turn at guarding the ship, Captain's orders."
The young sniper groans in annoyance but goes to his post nonetheless.
Meanwhile, the exploring party retrace part of their steps from yesterday, until they reach the place where they were ambushed by the Shandia.
"There", Roger says, "Hassun said we were closing in to something, so there must be something valuable in this area. We'll split in four groups but stay within hearing distance, so we'll cover as much ground as possible." He looks at the teenagers glued to each other as always. "And you scoundrels, split."
Buggy immediately runs to his Captain, not wanting to be left behind.
Shanks grumbles but walks to Rayleigh, Nekomamushi goes to Crocus and Inuarashi stays with Oden.
The groups are quickly formed around the four responsibles, and they spread themselves in different directions.
Rayleigh's group soon finds a giant beanstalk in the middle of a clearing and decide to investigate it.
Shanks realizes the clearing's ground is made of clouds and tries bouncing from them. He fails miserably and hurts himself as he falls on his ass. "Laaame", he complains, "Those are regular Island Clouds..."
Rayleigh lifts an eyebrow, and only just barely refrains from laughing at the redhead's demise. As he surveys the area he notices ancient buildings on the other side of the clearing. He relays the information so that it reaches the other groups and they rejoin each other.
Upon arriving on the site, Roger re-dispatches the four groups so they explore the ruins.
Everyone notices the weird ground but just goes along with it...
...except Buggy, who's stealthily moving away from his group to try his Milky Dial. He squats behind a broken wall and holds his precious item close to the ground before pressing one of the buttons.
The Dial aspires a large amount of Island Clouds, revealing the lower part of the wall, actually covered in gold.
Buggy can't contain his excitement and starts jumping around. "Gold ! There's gold !!"
Shanks perks in not a second after, his head poking from behind the wall. "You found something ?"
Buggy frantically digs with the help of his Dial, a wide grin splitting his face in two. "Look at this !"
"Kids ?" Roger appears behind them.
The blue-haired cabin boy swiftly conceals his Dial, heat rising up to his cheeks.
The Discovery's captain opens wide eyes as he notices a flash of gold at the youngsters' feet. He smirks, "Now, now, what do we have here ?"
The two cabin boys excitedly jump. "Gold, Cap'n, it's gold !"
Buggy explains further, "You said this island was from the Blue Sea, so I thought it was weird that those ruins were built on Island Clouds. So... I dug, and, here goes."
Roger widely smiles as he ruffles Buggy's hair. "Good thinking, kid. Now we know that the actual city's buried."
The blue-haired cabin boy proudly puffs out his chest, wriggling happily.
Shanks is a bit jealous, but can't help being proud of his friend too.
"Now we need to find a place to dig", Roger concludes, and starts scouting the area for a place large enough to let people through. Once he's found a spot he deems fit, he gathers his nakama and they start digging.
Buggy is instructed to fly and determine in which direction they are in reference to the ship. He says they're on the port side, and evaluates the distance to a few miles away.
Block after block of Island Cloud is cleared from the path until someone pierces through something much less consistent... "Captain ! That's the last block, there's a ten feet fall below but I can see the ground !"
Everyone rushes to watch, and they set up ropes to help themselves down.
One after another, they slide down the dangling ropes and discover the forgotten city of Shandora. The sight is glorious : the city is almost intact, and all covered in gold.
"C'mon guys, let's go", Shanks calls after Buggy and the two Minks, and off they go exploring the zone.
"Be careful ! You don't know what might be down here", Rayleigh reminds them.
Shanks rolls his eyes and runs to a mighty-looking building.
The other three teenagers follow suit.
After giving his orders to the people remaining on the top floor, Roger hops on the lower layer of Island Clouds and hears a presence. He wildly turns his head around. "Huh ? Who's there ?"
Rayleigh lifts curious eyebrows. "Us, Captain."
The Captain half-heartedly glares at his First Mate. "No, I heard someone talking nearby."
"Are you sure ?"
"Damn right I am. If someone tries to sneak on us they're in for a big surprise", Roger darkly says.
The First Mate sighs.
Oden joins the Captain and confides, "This city is old enough to harbor a Poneglyph. I suggest we conduct a search, I wonder what this place can teach us."
"You had me at Poneglyph", Roger smiles, and asks for volunteers. Just as the small group is formed, the Discovery's Captain hears something again.
"...those who will..."
Roger grits his teeth. "There's someone here and they're making a fool out of me."
Rayleigh scans the close area with his Observation Haki, to no avail. "Captain, I'm pretty sure there's noone but us here."
"Still, I'm going to investigate. We'll search in that direction first", he points to where the voice came from, "and we'll see."
Knowing better than to argue with their Captain when he's got something in mind, the small group follows Roger through the maze of streets.
"...in heart, with..."
Roger's patience wears thin. "Again ? It's this way, I'm sure." He leads his troops through yet another couple of streets, using his hearing to guide their steps. Excitement bubbles through his chest at the idea of a possible fight, and he stops dead in his tracks around a corner. They're just behind that wall, and he can make out what they're saying.
"Keep thy motives in heart, with closed mouth. We are those who will weave history with the ringing of the great belfry."
Roger frowns because it doesn't make any sense, but decides to charge nonetheless. He's had more trhan enough of this whispering behind his back, and wants to give them a good lesson. "Onward, team !", he shouts as he launches himself forward. He deflates instantly, because he's reached a deserted place. He quickly surveys his surroundings, and at the end of the arches he's facing, lies a Poneglyph. His frustration is soon replaced by renewed excitement.
Rayleigh walks to him, an amused look on his face. "I don't know what you've heard exactly, but good job finding the Poneglyph so fast."
Kozuki Oden walks below the arches and finds himself in front of the cubical stone. He brushes its surface with the tips of his fingers and start deciphering it aloud. "Keep thy motives in heart, with closed mouth. We are those who will weave history with the ringing of the great belfry."
Roger starts. "Wait a minute. What did you just say ?"
Oden repeats himself.
The Discovery's Captain opens wide eyes. "That's what I heard ! A strong voice calling at me, using those exact same words."
Oden is impressed by Roger's ability to "read" such a language and decides to tell him more about them. "There are Poneglyphs which contain information scattered throughout the world, and others that point at a certain location, notably that of other Poneglyphs. This one certainly is of the latter kind."
A hum, then, "We need to find that great belfry", Roger concludes. "Let's search the whole place."
In the meantime, the cabin boys and the Minks are leading their own little expedition through the ruins.
Buggy is ecstatic. "Look at all the gold ! I wonder where the mountain Daisuke mentioned is."
"He was probably speaking of that huge building over there", Nekomamushi points at the largest construction in the area.
"Do you think it has rooms full of treasure ?", the blue-haired cabin boy asks with hope.
"Surely", Inuarashi excitedly says.
Shanks leads the way. "Then let's move, guys !"
And after a good hour of wandering through a maze of endless corridors, they do find a treasure, a huge one even. Inside one of the building's main chambers lays... literally tons of gold, at least ten times more than they could ever carry on the Discovery.
"We're rich !", Buggy exults.
They decide to take as much gold as they can carry, bring it back to their Captain, then guide him here.
As they exit the building, pockets filled to the brim, they find themselves facing a ginormous blue python.
"Uh-oh", Shanks says, before running to safety.
Buggy takes a sharp inhale and sprints in the same direction.
The Minks exchange a worried look and follow suit.
The python charges.
Their lungs are hurting, but the quatuor keeps on fleeing towards the rendez-vous point. Once it's in view they shout at the others' attention, "We're chased !"
A few heads turn around, among them Roger, who squints at the running forms. "Oh, it's just the kids." A few moments later another form appears behind them, much bigger. "And... that's Nola, I guess", Roger adds before casually walking towards the kids.
As the teenagers close in on the rest of the group, they can almost feel the giant snake's fangs on their heels.
The Discovery's Captain stops walking mid-way, a hand on the hilt of his sword.
The quatuor passes by him and continues straight forward.
Roger glares at the giant snake...
...and it stops dead in its tracks, pupils locked onto the pirate.
The stare-down lasts for a good minute.
Finally, Nola backs down and retreats.
"So much for being the Master of the Sky", Roger huffs before joining his crew.
The kids cheer after him, and show him their findings.
"Good work, kids, now we know where we're headed next", he congratulates them.
They all feel a burst of pride.
"Thing is, night is coming and we should get back to the ship."
Complaints are voiced.
"Tomorrow we'll send another party to collect the gold now that we know exactly where to look."
Rayleigh walks towards his Captain. "Is it alright to "collect" such gold ? You promised the Shandia Chief not to disregard their ancestors."
Roger smirks. "He was talking about the ruins, not the city underneath..."
The morning after, three groups are formed, following Roger's instructions from yesterday : one to guard the ship, one after the gold in the forgotten city of Shandora, and the last one to look for the great belfry.
Crocus stays on the ship with the two Minks, who groan in annoyance but go to their respective posts nonetheless. One of the Den Den Mushi is with them in case someone else than the crew reaches the Discovery.
Rayleigh, responsible of the treasure party, catches Shanks by the nape of his neck in order to prevent him from going anywhere else. "Hey, we need one of you scoundrels to take us to the treasure room."
The redhead grunts and wriggles to get out of the First Mate's grip. "Okay, okay, I'm coming with you", he begrudgingly says.
Gaban and Daisuke eagerly follow them, finally able to visit the city of gold.
Roger, of course, leads the small expedition to the great belfry, accompanied by Oden, and a very curious Buggy. They've left the second Den Den Mushi with Rayleigh, assuming the three of them would be able to eliminate any potential danger.
As they progress into the forest in the general direction of the ruins, Buggy tells his Captain, "You know, yesterday when I flew over the area to see where the ship was, I had a pretty good view of the surroundings."
"Did you see anything of interest ?"
"Hmm, not really, but I noticed some Island Clouds near the top of the giant beanstalk. Maybe there's something there ?"
"Smart kid", Roger pats the blue-haired cabin boy on the shoulder. "We'll start that way, then."
Upon reaching the bottom of the giant beanstalk, Oden wonders aloud, "Now how do we get up there ?"
The cabin boy offers, "I can fly over and see if there's a place I can rig up ropes to ? That way we can climb easily..."
Roger approves with a nod.
Buggy does what he just said, and takes off to the nearest pocket of clouds. Upon reaching its level he realizes they're solid Island Clouds and there are actually buildings on it. So it's inhabited... Better safe than sorry. He finds a secluded place at the end of the Island Cloud with huge blocks of rock. Perfect to hide us. He securely ties the ropes to the blocks and flies back down. "There, it's done, Cap'n."
Roger smiles, and says, "Fly back up, then, I'll bring your feet there, you've worked well."
Buggy feels a burst of pride at being praised by his Captain.
And so, Roger and Oden climb up the beanstalk, Buggy leading them from his flying vantage point.
As they reach the upper layer of Island Clouds, they decide to discreetly explore the place. Seems like a mighty domain, and they wonder who might be up here.
Just on cue, Gan Fall exits the large house and walks towards the garden on the side, a watering can in hand. He quietly whistles as he makes his way to arrays of pumpkins and starts pouring water on them.
Roger steps out of his hiding, and waves at the Skypiean. "Oi ! Hi there !"
He seems surprised to meet someone up here, and almost lets his watering can fall as he startles.
Oden reveals himself too.
Buggy swiftly goes to Roger's side, half-hiding behind him and ready to flee in case they're not welcomed.
Gan Fall frowns, "What are you doing up here ?"
"Exploring", comes the elusive answer. Roger smirks as he says so because he's not about to reveal their true aim.
The ruler of Skypiea huffs a laugh and directs a smile at them. "You came all that way up the Giant Jack just for sightseeing ?"
"If that's what this beanstalk's called, indeed ! We're looking for a vantage point over the island."
"Then you've come to the right place", Gan Fall says as he resumes watering his pumpkins. "There's a splendid point of view right on the other side of the house."
A curious Buggy asks, "Do you live here ?"
"Yes, this is my residence, it has been the home of the Kami of Skypiea for four hundred years. By the way, have you met the Shandia yet ?"
Roger says, "We did, they're interesting people. All about getting their land back, but now that I understand their history better I can't blame them."
"I'm about to reach a compromise with the Shandia Chief, that they have their land back as long as they let us use some Vearth in order to sustain ourselves", Gan Fall reveals, "But some of their warriors still argue that it's only theirs... How did your encounter go ?"
"Well, they did capture one of ours and ambush us, but that's because they thought we were scouting for you or your men. After we explained that we were merely explorers, they released Inuarashi and let us pass through their ranks."
Gan Fall smiles. "They're reasonable people, I didn't expect less of them. I'm glad you could manage the situation without trouble."
Roger mirrors the Skypiean's expression and asks, "About that point of view... Would you mind showing us the way ?"
"Not in the least !" Gan Fall carefully drops his watering can and walks them around the mansion, to a terrace with a wondrous view of Upper Yard.
"Wow", is all Buggy manages to say, speechless at the splendid view.
Roger takes a deep breath, taking in the view underneath with a contented smile.
Oden admires the landscape, in the meantime discreetly searching for the lost belfry, to no avail.
"Worth the trip, isn't it ?" Gan Fall asks his unannounced guests.
The Discovery's Captain hums thoughtfully, letting his eyes wander up. "I wonder if the view is better up there", he points to an upper level of Island Clouds, a smile playing at the corner of his lips.
"Well... I admit I barely even go there, since I have all I need here", Gan Fall confesses, "but you're free to wander around as you please."
Roger turns to his crewmates. "Shall we ?"
Buggy smiles and flies to the upper level, to Gan Fall's utmost surprise. While his Captain tells the resident of Upper Yard about Devil Fruits, the young cabin boy once again secures ropes the best he can, to help the other two up.
Roger and Oden then move to the Island Cloud above.
"I can't see a thing but I hear a voice just like before", Roger says as he examines his surroundings. "We need to go higher up."
So they climb up another level, and the next, until they've reached the summit of the Giant Jack. There they have an astonishing point of view over Skypiea, all the way down to Angel Beach.
"That voice... I swear it's closer", Roger excitedly says.
Oden opens wide eyes as he sees a great golden bell at the center of a small cloud nearby. "There, Captain Roger, it's right here", he points in that direction.
"Damn it, it's too far, we can't jump from here and can't climb to it either", Roger grumbles.
Buggy blinks. He unnoticeably slips a hand in his pocket and feels the Dial concealed there. He knows he'll be in trouble if he tells Roger about having anything to do with the Baby Den Den Mushi's disappearance. But he wants to help so bad, he's willing to take the risk. "Um, Cap'n..." He uncomfortably shuffles on his feet, and reveals his Milky Dial. "Maybe this'll help."
Roger frowns, "Is that another Dial ?"
He rolls his eyes and sighs, "I should have known that you were in this too... Now, what does that one do ?"
"It's a Milky Dial. Stores and releases clouds. Actually..." Buggy clears his throat. "It helped me dig yesterday to find the gold."
Roger raises a very interested eyebrow. "Are you saying you can make us a path to the great belfry ?"
"Aye, Cap'n", Buggy ducks his head and waits for his terrible predicament.
A few moments of silence pass, Roger pondering punishing the blue-haired cabin boy for being in cahoots with Shanks, against the possibility of letting it pass, because damn, the kid's smart. He looks up to the sky and shakes his head. "Alright, show me what you've got."
Relieved, Buggy draws his Milky Dial out and puts it to good use, creating a bridge with the Island Clouds he previously gathered into it.
Roger watches, amazed and proud, as his youngest nakama proves once more he's a valuable member of the crew.
The blue-haired cabin boy waits on the other side, not daring to step in front of the giant bell without his Captain.
Shortly followed by Oden, Roger arrives on the premises and reads – rather, hears – the Poneglyph embedded in the bell's base.
Oden quietly deciphers it, then turns to his Captain, silently asking for permission to reveal its contents.
Roger has a serious look as he gazes at the ancient stone, and he darkly says, "Some things are better left unsaid."
Buggy's eyes dart to his Captain, to Oden, and back to Roger. "Come onnnn", he grumbles through gritted teeth. I haven't come that far to deserve such a cliffhanger !
"Alright, kid", Roger concedes. "This Poneglyph tells the location of an ancient weapon."
Buggy opens wide eyes. "A weapon ?"
"The strongest weapon ever. But I won't awaken it : I have no use for it as I'm not a conqueror, and if it came to fall into the wrong hands... well, you know the rest."
Buggy's face falls.
"But I'm quite interested in its location, and we'll visit it someday", Roger cryptically adds.
"Hmm. Okay", the blue-haired cabin boy shrugs. He'd follow his Captain to the end of the world, anyway.
"We'll reach far beyond that", Roger promises with a smile, as if he'd heard Buggy's thoughts. "By the way", he turns to Oden, "If you know how to read that language it means you can write it, right ?"
"That is correct", the samurai says.
Roger smirks. "Can I leave a trace of my passage here ?"
"Adding text to a Poneglyph... That's unprecedented. But I like that idea", Oden smiles. He retrieves special carving tools from his bag and moves to the cubic stone, getting ready. "You know, only people from my clan are able to write such a language. Poneglyphs are supposed to be immutable, and their text... even more so."
Buggy asks, "Then how are you gonna do it ?"
Roger suggests, "Why don't you simply write on the side ? I suppose gold is much easier to carve than the Poneglyph stone ?"
The samurai smiles, "I suppose that would do the trick. What should I write, then ?"
"I have come here and will lead this passage to the farthest ends of the world. Pirate Gol D. Roger."
When Oden's done, the trio retreats to the top of the Giant Jack and Buggy once again uses his Dial, to erase all traces of their passage. Then they slide down the ropes until they reach Gan Fall's house.
The ruler of Skypiea is still watering his crops, and waves at them from afar. "So ? How did it go ?"
"The view is splendid up there", Roger says with a wide smile, "The most beautiful sight I've had in years."
"Have you found what you were looking for in this land ?"
"That, and then more...", Roger trails out.
Gan Fall echoes his smile. "What are you up to next ?", he inquires.
"Hmm. I think we're about done here. The Log Pose has set again and is pointing downwards, so I guess we're going back to the Blue Sea..."
"Setting sail again ?" Gan Fall chuckles. "You really are explorers, eager to discover new places..."
"Pirates roaming freely", Roger corrects him. "I wouldn't have it any other way", he confides with a smile, then turns to Gan Fall. "What are you up to next ?"
"Coming to terms with the Shandia, I hope. There's still a long way to go but I'm sure we can find common grounds."
"After all, you have a common history", Oden says.
"That, and a common belief, too, that the war will end when the song of the island will be heard again."
"The "song"...?" Buggy cocks his head to the side.
"Four hundred years ago, Upper Yard appeared in Skypiea, and at the same time resounded the purest sound ever heard. We've been at war with the Shandia ever since then, and both our people believe that once the island sings again the war will be over."
The information sinks into Roger's brain and he connects the dots. An island from the Blue Sea. Pushed up into the skies. Landed impaled on the beanstalk. Ruins scattered everywhere. The great belfry knocked off. The song. "The island will sing again."
Gan Fall has a curious look.
"Time will come, and the island will sing again", Roger asserts with a smile.
Next chapter will be the last, as they'll be going back to the Blue Seas... Thanks for staying on the ride :D
As always, feedback is appreciated <3
Chapter 4: Cloud End
Today is the second anniversary of this series and I'm thrilled to have gathered a few followers along the way ! Thanks for all the kudos and comments, they give me life <3
I hope you've liked this arc as much as them (and me !), buckle up for the next installment :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Roger and his little expedition come back from the golden bell and meet a group of Shandia warriors on their way back to the Discovery.
Hassun leads them and asks Roger without further ado, "What have you found that we haven't ?"
"A splendid point of view", the Discovery's Captain reveals – but not too much.
"Do you expect me to believe you're really just tourists in passing ?"
"I don't, because we're pirates."
Hassun straightens at that.
"...pirates who wanted to see Sky Islands, did so, and now wish to return to the Blue Seas", Roger clarifies.
"You'd better", Hassun spits. "We've got no need for outsiders here."
Buggy steps forward. "Why are you so angry at us ? Captain said we're leaving anyway."
"I don't trust any of you. My duty is to protect our land... and I do it for my son Wyper, so that he can have a future."
Oden says, "I have children too, I can relate."
Roger softly looks at Buggy.
Hassun huffs, "I still don't trust you... but Chief does." He turns to his men. "Let them pass."
Oden lightly bows in thanks.
Roger smiles and lead the trio to the ship.
Back on the Discovery the small party meets with Crocus's team.
Buggy runs to Nekomamushi and Inuarashi, and boasts about having been to the highest point of the island with their Captain and Oden.
Soon Rayleigh, Gaban and the rest of the crew are back too, holding heavy bags and crates full of gold.
"Gyahaha, now that's what I call loot", Buggy comments, a smile splitting his face in two.
Daisuke hops on the railing, a huge bag on each of his shoulders, and notices the cabin boy starry-eyed. "Oi, Buggy, help me, would ya ?"
"Sure thing", the blue-haired teen grabs one of the bags and accompanies the young sniper to the lower decks.
"So, how did it go ?"
"It was awesome. We met Gan Fall again at the top of the beanstalk, because he's living there. Then we went even further and the great golden bell was on a small cloud nearby. All golden, I swear! It was magnificent."
"Aah, that's so cool ! I, for one, am so glad we got to visit the city of gold today. I can't believe Norland was right all along ! Historical recordings suck."
"You tell me", Buggy huffs. "Speaking of which, we found another Poneglyph, under the bell."
"We saw the one in the ruins, what did this other one say ?"
"Captain didn't want me to know", Buggy lies – he's been entrusted with a secret from his Captain and will never betray him.
"Oh, shoot ! That's frustrating."
The blue-haired cabin boy shrugs. "You know Captain. When he's got something in mind..."
"Yeah, yeah", Daisuke exhales a soft laugh. "Anyway, let's get those to the main hold with the rest of the loot... We'll be filthy rich when we're back on the Blue Sea."
The loot is disposed of, and when they're all done the Captain gathers his crew on the main deck. He surveys the crowd and exhales a contented sigh. "I believe our mission here is done. We went into the sky, found islands and explored them until we reached the lost city of Shandora. It had been hidden for centuries, but we found it !"
The crew cheers.
"We got adventure, we got gold, we even got... useful artifacts", he turns to the youngest of his crewmates with a wink.
Shanks frowns, and turns to his younger nakama.
Buggy puffs out his chest and holds out his Milky Dial for everyone to see. "Without it, we never would have reached the golden bell", he reveals with a smirk to a dumbfounded crew.
"Good thing I stole the Den Den Mushi so we'd have Dials, then", Shanks muses as he retrieves his own and puts it on display just like his friend.
The two Minks hold out their own Dials in a similar fashion. There, we're in this together.
Crocus walks to the small group and gives the red-haired cabin boy a good slap behind the head.
The rest of the crew chuckles more or less discreetly.
Roger sighs heavily, glaring at the kids.
"Ouch !" Shanks rubs the painful spot and ducks his head. "Sorry, Cap'n, I'm just so glad it helped."
The Captain plucks his mustache. "Alright, you've been punished enough for that already." He turns to Buggy and the Minks. "But you three rascals better keep out of that kind of schemes, if you don't wish to spend a week in the hold... or worse", he threatens them, though there isn't much venom in his voice. "Now that this is settled... I've learned new things up here. Things that renewed my will of unveiling the secret of what lies at the end of the Grand Line." He pauses, and a smirk grows as he feels a wave of excitement through his crew. He retrieves his Log Pose and holds it out for everyone to see. "Our next destination is... down below", he says, deciding not to fully reveal their true aim for now.
Cheers and whistles at the idea of getting back on the lower part of the Grand Line.
"We'll set sail first thing in the morning. Tonight, we celebrate !"
The sun rises, and the Discovery's crew soon wakes up and makes preparations to leave Skypiea. Upon Roger's call, they raise the anchor and action the twin Jet Dials to propel them on the Milky Road for the last time. They exit Upper Yard and find themselves on the White-White Sea once again, dreamy looks directed towards the island made of solid ground, yet floating on Sea Clouds.
"Gan Fall incoming", the lookout shouts.
The Kami of Skypiea lands on the main deck and gets down from Pierre. "So you really are leaving ?"
Roger says, "Yeah, time to go back home. It was a formidable adventure we had here, and I'm sure the crew will dream about it for years to come." He chuckles, "Well, I will."
Gan Fall softly smiles. "You and you crew are peculiar people, like this land hasn't seen in decades. You managed to earn both my trust and the Shandia's, which is a feat in itself, and your hope is contagious. Which is why, I wish you back safely to the place you call home, and I will lead you there."
Inuarashi asks, "Are you coming to the Blue Sea with us ?"
Gan Fall laughs. "No, kid, I'm not. But I'll lead you to Cloud End, where you can safely depart from."
"Oh." The dog Mink cocks his head to the side.
Roger smiles, "That's a deal."
And so, Gan Fall instructs them as to how to get there, conversing with the crew in the meantime, and satisfying any curiosity they have left towards Skypiea and its history. At some point he turns his head towards the prow and announces, "There it is, Cloud End."
A wondrous arch similar to that of Heaven's Gate is dressed in front of them, though a bit smaller, and there's a rainbow above it. The view is heavenly, and enthusiasm courses through the veins of everyone in the crew.
As the Discovery reaches the decks of Cloud End, Gan Fall hops back onto Pierre and says with a warm smile, "Well then, I wish you well, Blue Sea dwellers, and luck for your next adventures... I hope I meet more people like you." With that he takes off and land on the nearby deck. Pierre gallops to match the Discovery's speed, and Gan Fall waves at the crew massed at the railing.
"Goodbye !" Buggy waves in return.
Shanks imitates his friend and the majority of the crew. "Thanks for seeing us off !"
"Take care !", Inuarashi calls after Gan Fall.
Nekomamushi joins in, "See ya !"
Daisuke widely smiles. "Thanks for everything !"
Roger hops on the railing, holding onto the cordage, and shouts, "I bet the island's song is a real beauty !"
Gan Fall laughs brightly, and shouts, "Now furl your sails and brace yourselves !"
The crew quickly do as they're told, as they're gaining speed by the minute. They pass below the large arch, and reach a fall : the Milky Road goes down on a slight slope and they speed up even more.
"Farewell, my friends ! Be careful during the fall !", Gan Fall calls after them.
...The "fall" ?
The Milky Road stops there. Or rather, it suddenly goes straight down, causing the Discovery to leave it and stay a fleeting moment suspended in the air.
Everyone on the ship gapes and fears dearly for their lives.
Then the Discovery falls.
From up above, Gan Falls retrieves a small whistle and blows into it.
A giant octopus propels himself out of the vertical Milky Road when it reaches the Discovery's height.
Everyone on board freaks out, but trusts Gan Fall not to lead them into a death trap, so they stay put.
The octopus grabs the ship with its enormous tentacles and... abruptly slows down her fall.
The crew exhilaratingly realizes the octopus is their way down and is caught in a fit of laughter and loud cheering. "Amazing !"
"This is great !" Shanks acclaims.
Buggy agrees, and runs to the railing to examine the balloon that is the head of the octopus.
The two Minks detach themselves from each other.
"T'was scary though", Nekomamushi admits.
Daisuke casts one last glance at Cloud End and the pure sunny sky above it, his heart full of memories and stories to tell.
Roger marvels at the variety of the fauna of the White Seas, and wonders where they'll land... he glances at his Log Pose and notices that they've stopped following it because of air currents. "To hell with it, that means more adventure !"
After a couple of hours of floating peacefully through the air – the Milky Road is long gone and all they can see is blue sky –, some of the crew notice that the ship is gaining speed. They inspect the octopus balloon and realize it's shrinking. "Captain ! We're falling again !"
Roger has a serious face, but smiles nonetheless. "That means we're nearing the Blue Sea !"
And so, they fall, again. As the octopus balloon deflates, the Discovery speeds up through the sky and splashes onto the Blue Sea.
The octopus falls onto the deck, much like the rest of the crew. It's much smaller now, and Roger catches it with a grin.
"Well, you're capable of such amazing things."
The octopus happily squeals.
"Thanks for bringing us back home, lil' guy."
As they regain their composure, the crew dreams about what they'll get to buy with all they money they'll trade from the gold they've gathered.
"New clothes !"
"Gear for the ship !"
Everyone chimes in with his own ideas, wishes of a wealthier lifestyle galore.
Shanks cradles his Tone Dial. "Now we all have something to prove we've been to Sky Islands."
Inuarashi inspects his Lamp Dial, actions it, and smiles as it emits a faint light. "I'll never let go of mine, but I wonder how much it's worth here."
Nekomamushi hands out his Flavor Dial. "This one ? Probably not that much, but I still think it's funny. Look, I stored yesterday's dinner's aroma, makes me hungry every time I smell that." He presses one of the buttons to demonstrate, and sighs of delight as the stored flavor is exhaled.
Buggy snickers. "See, that's why I took a Milky Dial. Imagine me, selling Island Clouds to amazed people ! I'm going to be rich !"
Shanks opens wide eyes. "I didn't think of that."
"That's because I'm smarter", the blue-haired cabin boy taunts him.
His older bunkmate draws his tongue out.
Nekomamushi nudges Buggy, "Speaking of which, I still haven't seen this one in action."
Inuarashi presses, "Me neither. Show us, show us !"
Buggy puffs out his chest and theatrically displays the Dial. He pauses dramatically, a finger upon it, and when his audience is waiting breathless, he presses the button.
Buggy's eye twitches. He presses the other button.
Shanks presses the button on his Tone Dial.
"Buggy is an idiot !", the Tone Dial repeats what he's been told a few days earlier.
The younger cabin boy jumps on his feet and catches the redhead by the collar. "Oi, what did you say, you bastard ?"
The straw-hatted teen defends himself, wriggling to get out of Buggy's reach. "I- I was just checking it still worked !"
Buggy is livid. He realizes that only his Milky Dial doesn't work on the Blue Sea, and curses Nagaya for scamming him. He raises a threatening fist in the air and shouts at the sky, "Damn you ! You're lucky I can't get back there or else...!"
Back to Paradise... more adventures await for them !
Spoiler alert : I studied the timeline and drafted another few episodes... I'm still taking prompts though, and I'm always eager to please my readers, so don't hesitate and send them in :D