Chapter 7 - Echoes

The Sultan pondered his hands. They were weathered by the years of toil that his father made him endure before he would trust his Kingdom to a ‘mere child’. It had been worth it in the end. It had helped him to see the lives of his subjects and understand the troubles that filled their days: the sore backs, the empty stomachs, the long hot days under the baking desert sun… Maybe he had been too easy on Luffy. He didn’t seem to want to do anything but play. He followed the bodyguard like his very shadow but he couldn’t tell if it was the love of a brother, nakama or something more.

What was he to do with the boy?

“Trouble my love?”

Robin gazed up at him with her knowing eyes. She lounged with her head in his lap, her dark hair blending in to the ink silk. They usually met to eat and discuss the day. As the shadows began to creep across the lawns, they sat and spent a quite minute in a day filled with formality and responsibility. It was a simple joy that Robin made splendid, her company was something he always looked forward to.

“Luffy.” He said.

One word would be enough; she knew just how he felt. He found that many wives simply asked these questions because they felt obliged to; Robin asked because she genuinely wanted to know. Often, she even knew the solution to his problems before he did. She was certainly a rare bird in the oasis that he had created.

“Ah,” She smiled at the thought of her errant adopted son, “Luffy will be fine.”

“But how can you say that? He has no direction! No drive!”

“That’s not true, my Lord. He is always dreaming of the seas and the adventures that he will have when he becomes the Pirate King.”

The Sultan sighed, “That’s not a career, it’s a fantasy! He might be strong but look what happened to the last Pirate King. He’d be killed…” He put his head in his sweaty palms and felt the warmth of many hands caressing his brow.

“Maybe it is not his drive that you are concerned about,” her wide pale eyes were full of sympathy, but as always her words were clear and to the point. “…maybe you are more concerned that his endless ambition will lead him to a gory and untimely death, perhaps by keel-hauling or drowning or maybe even being drawn and q..”

“Please, my dear!” The Sultan gasped. Sometimes she was a little too clear.

“You have always told him that he has a choice in his future. Now you must decide if you are ready for him to lead the life that he has chosen or if you intend to try to make him change his mind.”

As always, she was right.

The Sultan sighed and contemplated his knuckles. So many years of toil. He could have fallen from a tree or been crushed by a block of stone… Life was always dangerous. I was true that even being Sultan carried its risks. Being a pirate had to be more dangerous, surely! Was he ready to let his son go, knowing that he may never return?

“Come on,” Robin cajoled, “don’t you want to know what I’ve been up to with Nami-kun?”

That sounded much better.

“Please, do.”

“I think she is up to something cheeky you know…” Robin stroked her many hands lightly over his chest and grinned. Interesting.

“Nothing I need worry about too much?”

“You, my lord? No.” She smiled and started twirling her hair absentmindedly.

“Well then, tell me everything!” He spluttered.

She was such a tease sometimes!


Zoro was cursing his stupidity. Aside from falling asleep under the fig tree, he had done a lot of stupid things in the last few days.

He thought that getting Sanji a job as cook would make things better for him. It would give him just a little more time to work the lust out of his system. It wouldn’t matter if he was sleeping with Sanji if he wasn’t part of the harem anymore. He owed the Sultan one hell of a favour though.


He had been stupid giving in to it; his lust got the better of him. The cook job seemed like the best solution at the time: figure out how to avoid getting fired and then just get it over with so that he could get on with his life. Once he’d had the cook’s perfect body under him a few more times, he was sure to get over it and be able to move on to new and exciting things. Like fighting stupidly tough pirates and making a name for himself.

It all seemed so simple until he realised the fatal flaw in his plan: Sanji.

The damn blonde was so unpredictable! First he had been all over Zoro and now he got what he wanted he seemed to be over it. It made the swordsman feel like a total idiot. He had been that man so many times, the one that got what he wanted and never wanted it again… What was Sanji’s problem? It’s not like he wanted to marry the guy!

The swordsman huffed and turned over. He could hear the sound of meat frying and ladies giggling. Every now and then the sound of Luffy whooping cut through the laziness of a still, hot Sunday afternoon. It smelt incredible, everything that Sanji cooked was delicious after-all but Zoro wasn’t hungry.

Stupid cook did nothing but fawn over the ladies. Day in day out he was no-where to be seen. Not that Zoro needed to see him, the sound of him fawning like a desperate teenager was practically deafening. All the ladies seemed to love him, too. Zoro didn’t understand it. If he were a woman he would certainly want a real man, not some… chef!

The only woman who didn’t just fall under the blonde’s spell was Nami. She seemed to find all Sanji’s attentions a little bit much. She put up with him and bossed him around like a pro but when it came down to it, it seemed pretty obvious it was a tolerance more than anything else. Her disdain didn’t dampen the cook’s enthusiasm at all, if anything it just made Sanji worse.

He was so naïve! Any idiot could see that Nami had much more interest in ladies than in men. She and Robin-sama had been practically joined at the hip since she arrived, something that he still found a little bit scary. Nami had already got him in a lot of trouble, now she had the ear of the first wife… why the hell had he borrowed money off her?!


The swordsman couldn’t figure out why Robin put up with her. The first wife was calm, intelligent and quite astute whereas Nami was loud, annoying and raved about maps all the time, that and treasure. She was just a little too keen on knowing the details of the Sultan’s coffers. Oh, she kept it to herself most of the time but the way her eyes lingered on antiques and jewellery, you could practically see the berri symbols in her eyes. Zoro tried not to notice, he was just meant to be guarding the girls after all. Whatever the hell she was up to, he didn’t want to know.

A particularly loud whoop issue from over the hedge and Zoro yawned, stood up and scraped the fig from his head with a sigh. He wasn’t sleeping anyway. He considered the remains of the fig tree. It was mostly just leaves and woodchips. He had carved it to pieces out of sheer instinct when it deposited the over-ripe fruit on his head. Yuck.

Shower first and then he’d see what Sanji was up too. Rude bastard hadn’t even offered him lunch! What an asshole.

Oh well, whatever. He wasn’t the type to get all flustered over some frothy idiot. He’d come around. Zoro just had to keep his nose out of anything suss and bide his time.



The smell of the fresh herbs wafted up to caress Sanji’s palate. His sense of smell was so acute that he could taste the sweetness of coriander and the soothing warmth of rosemary. The world was alive with colour and sound, all beautiful bikinis and soft giggles floating on the herb-scented breeze. The garden was now his kitchen, the ladies had petitioned the Sultan to allow him to cook in front of them. He had been so flattered that he had almost pulled a hamstring but somehow, he had recovered.

His daily meal preparation was now something of a spectator sport and he revelled in the chance to dress up and show off to some of the most gorgeous girls in the Kingdom. Right now he was wearing a silk number that took inspiration from traditional chef’s attire in France. He looked incredible.

Everything was going his way. In fact, everything was perfect. Too perfect. The food was too delicious, the girls too beautiful, the colours too bright.

Shitty swordsman.

He was nothing special really but he had struck a nerve in a big way. Sanji was miserable, he told Zoro and Zoro made his problem go away. No one had ever done that before. He’d lived a miserable life surrounded by hate and violence. He loved women, true. It was a desperate kind of love though, not returned. Until now he had believed that it was all he could ever get. Love in the form of pity.

He couldn’t get his head around it. Why would a guy who only cared about fighting and sleeping want to help him? The only answer he could come up with was for the sex. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d have trouble getting laid.

During his time as concubine his ability to daydream - to be somewhere else - had been his saviour. Now that he was in a situation that he liked it just seemed to torment him. Images of Zoro begging the Sultan to help him, saying that the cook was too talented to be locked away like a piece of meat. Standing up for him when he never asked for it, when he didn’t even deserve it. He was just a whore after all – why would anyone want him to be happy?

He didn’t want to think about it. Everything he had ever done was built around that belief: that he was worthless. He had spent his whole life just building up skills that would allow people to tolerate him. To make his presence easier on the eye, to make his words more tasteful to those who deserved to be happy. To make himself less of a burden to others and allow him to live a life without feeling guilty for just breathing in and out. He knew it was stupid and melodramatic. He felt like a fool for being so down on himself when he knew he was something special but the emptiness weighed so heavy on his chest…

And now his whole life had been thrown into question with that one gesture by a man who didn’t even cuddle after sex!

What the fuck!?

But that was ok; he had a lot to distract him. He’d ignore the bastard and he’d go away. No point pining for something that would never happen. He had a lovely life to live after all. The girls were a constant source of wonder and delight. At the moment they were bathing. Again. Vivi shrieked as Perona sprayed her with water, the flowing silk of her summer dress clinging to her body… in this case ignorance truly was bliss.

Speaking of such….

“Sanji-kun…” Nami came sashaying up to him, her long eyelashes fluttering in the breeze. The way they kissed her cheeks with every sultry blink made his heart flutter.

“Mellorine!” Sanji’s knees went weak.

“Shhh!” She grabbed his face, squashing his lips up like a fish. “I need to talk to you in private,” she whispered conspiratorially.

“Enmi shing phorooou mahder,” Sanji burbled.

“Good.” Nami leaned in close and whispered in his ear, “Meet me at midnight by the fountain at the west gate.” Then as soon as she had come, she let him go and walked away, laughing as if they had shared a private joke.

A midnight rendezvous?

Exciting and probably very dangerous.

But what the hell would he wear?




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