Chapter 10 - Perfect

The palace was lit up so bright; it shone like a star on the hill top. The small artificial lake in the front garden had hundreds of tiny boats with coloured candles floating on it and the reflections danced over the white marble of the palace and pushed the darkness all the way back to the darkest nooks in the rose garden.

It was the night of the Sultan’s monthly banquet.

Inside the halls it was just as bright as if it was day, torches were lit along every corridor and servants dressed in flowing white robes and gold jewellery rushed from room to room adjusting, placing, stocking, planning and bossing like their lives depended on it.

The harem girls were all in their dressing wing, a huge hall full of mirrors, pools and perfumes. They were chatting excitedly and trying to pick out dresses that matched each other and the Sultan’s usual beaming golden attire. The fussed, brushed, preened, twitched at errant hems and complained that Zoro was not allowed into their private chambers. Why was life so unfair?

At least Sanji would be cooking for them. He was sweet but way too hung up on girls. Obviously gay but who was going to tell him that? Not me while he makes such a gorgeous parfait that’s for sure! Perona offered to spice the evening up with a few negative hollows and was soundly told off by Robin, who was the only one who had the sense to take her seriously.

Nami lounged on a pink brocade couch in her chosen emerald green frock. She laughed and joked and cajoled with the rest, and all the time her mind was whirling - arranging, manipulating and putting the finishing touches on her greatest heist yet.


Zoro stared blankly at the tapestry hanging on the wall behind the harem girl’s head. He couldn’t remember her name… Melanie, Melody… something like that. Either way, she was annoying. She had long curly red hair and eye lashes that were about a mile long. Her voice was too high pitched and she didn’t seem to need to breath at all. He was trying to figure out how best to get away, when a familiar voice cut through Manity’s monologue.

“Ah, Swordsman-san. You are enjoying the dinner?” Robin enquired politely. When Zoro didn’t reply, she continued, “Do you mind if I sit down?”

“No,” Zoro said. What did he care?

“Jasmine,” Robin said firmly to the annoying redhead, “there are some dishes that need to be presented to the Sultan waiting in the kitchen. The redheaded girl opened her mouth and then closed it again, scowling fiercely as she got to her feet. With one last long look, she turned and flounced off and before Zoro could blink there was another girl seated in her place; blonde this time.

“Now that we have a bit of quiet,” Robin smirked, “are you having a good time?”

Zoro just looked at her. She tilted her head like a bird and her eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

“I guess. It’s a bit… shirty.” Zoro explained, pulling at the elaborate ruffled silk shirt that he had been stitched into that afternoon. It itched at his neck and generally got on his nerves, yet another reason to get out of here as soon as possible.

“It won’t be long now,” Robin nodded towards the centre table; “just the speeches and then you’ll be free. You have a big night tonight, ne?”

Zoro stared blankly. Big night? What does this woman know? “What do you mean?”

“I’m sure that you will find out,” Robin said, before she floated to her feet in a cloud of fabric and wafted off into the room.

Zoro reached out to have another swig of sake. A pair of the biggest blue eyes he had ever seen met his glance. Was this blonde girl just going to stare at him?


The swordsman looked around trying to source the noise between the hubbub of music and voices.

“Zoro!” Nami hissed, as she leaned out from behind a pillar and beckoned him over.

Here we go… Zoro thought, as he put his plate down and dodged the servants and dancing girls between them.

Zoro didn't know much about Nami's part of the plan, only what he had heard when he was spying on her and the cook in the garden. Sanji had told him a little more but not much. Despite Zoro’s offer to help, Sanji had said that they would figure it out themselves. All he had to do was go along with ‘anything Nami says’. This made Zoro nervous. What exactly, Zoro had asked, might Nami ‘say’? But Sanji had just smiled and kept on blowing smoke rings.

In the end, the swordsman decided that he’d know it when he saw it… and he was definitely seeing it now.

“ZORO!!!” Nami shouted in a horse whispery voice, entirely defeating the point.

I’m coming! Witch!

He ducked behind her appointed pillar and scowled down at her, “What?”

“One of the girls has smuggled in a weapon, I’m sure of it!” she said, her eyes wide with concern. “I think that she means to harm the Emperor!”

What the hell?

Even though this sounded ridiculous, he was a bodyguard so he had to take it seriously. Also, Sanji had told him to do what the woman said. Her ridiculous plan, whatever it was, had to go off without a hitch. Zoro braced himself and put his best stupid face.

Stupid girl crazy idiot.

Nami grabbed him by the ear and pulled him closer to her, “Well?!”

“Well, what?”

“What are you going to do? She has a concealed weapon!”

“I guess I’ll… take it off her…”

“Good,” Nami let him go, “It’s that blonde that was sitting opposite you at dinner.” She smiled sweetly at him. It made his skin crawl just a little.

He suppressed a shudder and made his way back to his seat at the table. The blonde girl was still there watching him eagerly. He approached her and stopped just behind her, closing off any possible avenues of escape.

“Miss,” he said, trying to figure out how eyes that big didn’t just fall out of her head, “I have to search you. Please stand up.”

The girl’s face split into a smile as wide as her doe-eyes, she leapt to her feet a little too quickly and fell in a giggling heap onto Zoro’s chest. She had clearly had a little too much to drink.

“You can search me,” she said, regaining her balance and straightening her dress. She smiled coyly and held her arms out towards the flustered swordsman.

I can't believe that I actually have to do this.

He began to pat her down gently as professionally as he could given she was wearing a red dress that was pretty much see through. He focussed his mind, just checking anywhere that a weapon might be concealed. Underarms, sides, arms, back, stomach, outer leg, inner thigh…

An ear splitting scream pierced through his concentration,

“You BITCH!!!”

Suddenly Zoro was surrounded by a flurry of purple fabric and a howling screeching noise that made his teeth ache. The blonde girl stared past him and met this blaze of fury head on, beginning to scream herself,

“Get away from him you ugly cow! You know he likes me better!!!”

Ah. The redhead with the curly hair was back.

Now he had one screaming banshee on one side of him and one on the other. The girl that he had just finished patting down was hanging off his arm as if to make a point. He just wanted to shrug her off and get the hell out of here but he was meant to be helping the cook. That meant he had to do what Nami said and he was pretty sure, now that he was in the middle of a screaming fight, that this was exactly what the witch had in mind.

Does that mean I just have to stand here?!

The muscles on his face twitched involuntarily as the redheaded girl hit a particularly grating note. Some more girls had come over, at first he thought they were trying to break it up but pretty soon they were also hanging off him. He was literally being pulled back and forth by about five spoilt drunk girls and the number was growing by the second. Broken dishes and shoes began to fly around his head as the screaming escalated into an all out brawl.

Zoro stood, immobile in the middle of the wailing, undulating wave of breasts.

Sanji, he thought, I hope you can see this.

Shitty sexy cook.


Sanji stood in the foyer and adjusted his clothes one more time in the polished white marble. They were perfectly and exactly dishevelled. He had been hanging back after cooking the h’ordeuvres making a show of talking too loudly and swigging from a bottle of strong apricot brandy. Now was when it counted though, time to make Nami proud.


He stumbled into the main foyer in front of the vault, he headed south-west, came up against a vase that was at least 800 years old and stopped. Well, his feet stopped, the rest of him careened off in a completely different direction and finally, he came jarring to a halt in the middle of the room.

“You alright, cook?” One of the soldiers asked, a huge fellow with long purple hair.

Sanji half lifted his head and groaned in a deep rumble, “Ssssooorrrright.”

“Goo..” the guard began, as Sanji crumpled slowly to the floor.

“Oh Kami, why is it always on our shift?” the other guard grumbled. He was shorter, younger and blond, his face tanned by the desert sun. “I’m never doing a night run with you again I swear.”

“It’s not my fault! Anyway, why don’t we just leave him there? He’s got to move eventually,” the purple haired guard huffed.

Sanji moaned dangerously and thrashed about a bit on the ground, he waited until one of them – the younger one - got just close enough and with a startled squeak of, “Are you sure you’re alriiii!” the guard hit the floor.

“Don’t you touch me!” Sanji screamed, in his best dramatic boom. “Get orf me you… toucher! I don’t want to be.. not going… nowhere! Not nowhere! I want to stay here!” He thrashed about and tried to suppress a giggle as the guard he had just thrown got slowly and painfully to his feet.

“Look, that’s quite enough of that!” The big fellow shouted, “Don’t go making a fuss you idiot.”

“I’m not doing anything! He’s the one who is all touching! Orf me!”

“Look here. Don’t make me have to do anything you’ll regret,” the big soldier grumbled.

“Oh,” the cook said, suddenly sitting up and then reeling just a little for effect, Sssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhoorry.”

“That’s quite alright, but if you’d please just leave th..”

“Sing with me!” Sanji shouted merrily and then he slowly slid to the floor again. He lay there, in a position that would have been punishing to anyone without his flexibility, and groaned.

“I’m not carrying him, he might be sick,” said the bigger soldier.

“Never again. Mark my words,” the other man replied, as he hefted the cook up by his arms.

Sanji struggled and wriggled and kicked out.

“You’ll have to give me a hand, he’s a pain in the ass,” the younger guard complained.

“Ok. Ok.”

The other guard left his station and grabbed Sanji firmly around the ankles. Between the two of them, they managed to wrestle the shouting, wriggling, lurching bundle up the corridor and slowly out towards the living quarters.

Mission complete.


Chapter 9 ~~~~~~~~~ Back to Zoro/Sanji ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 11



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