One Piece: Treasures of the Heart

Yoshiko Takara is Luffy's childhood friend and the daughter of "Red Haired" Shanks Le Roux. Shanks made sure she kept her mother's maiden name so his enemies and the Navy wouldn't find out about her. She is very gifted with a blade and is a Devil Fruit user. Takara's Ryu-Ryu fruit gives her the abilities of a dragon; including breathing fire, growing a pair of leathery wings, and forming scale like armor over her skin. She creates a strong bond with Roronoa Zoro, promising to protect him so he can pursue his dream of becoming the world's greatest swordsman. Will she keep that promise? Or will a shadow from her past tear them apart?

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6. The Worst Day Of The Year

Takara gave a grunt as she threw Zoro into the air towards the targets Usopp was firing using Frankie's newest invention. The swordsman made quick work of the sacks of sand, sending showers of dust and stones hurtling into the sea below. As he began to fall, Takara swooped forward to catch him. The redhead had been drilling him relentlessly for the past two months. Their afternoon sessions quickly became the source of "before dinner" entertainment for the entire crew. Even now, Luffy cheered and bounced with excitement as he watched the pair perform routines they had been experimenting with.

"Ok," Usopp called out, "that's all the targets we have for today. Why don't you two come on in?"

The dragon woman nodded, gliding gently onto the deck and releasing Zoro. He sheathed his blades and turned towards her with a smile.

"Well done," he said, "though you're still taking too long to catch me. I'm vulnerable in the air, so I'm counting on you."

"Right."

The green haired boy blinked in surprise as she merely walked past him towards her cabin. No snappy comebacks. No "see you later". Not even a smile.

"What's up with her," Usopp asked, turning to share a glance with Chopper, "I've never seen her so down before."

"It must be that day," everyone glanced at Luffy in utter shock as he spoke in a tone he rarely ever used, "what's the date today?"

"I believe it's the fourth of the month," Nami paused to check her day's newspaper, "yeah. It's the fourth."

"I knew it," Luffy sighed, frowning, "I could tell when I saw her this morning."

"What do you mean," Robin asked, "what's wrong with our Miss Swordswoman?"

"Oh," Sanji swooned, "what ails my beloved Takara-san?"

Luffy sighed once again, lowering his head so that his hat covered his eyes, "It's the worst day of the entire year....it's her birthday."

The crew remained silent for many moments before Brooke took a cautious step forward, "But birthdays are a time for happiness and parties, aren't they?"

"Not Takara's birthday," the captain frowned, "to her, it's not just the day she was born, but also the day her father broke his promise.....five years ago to this day."

"So she's twenty-one now," Chopper marveled, "but she looks so young! Maybe we ought to do something for her! You know, to get her mind off her dad!"

"That's a great idea," Nami smiled, "we could throw her a party!"

"I could provide pleasant music," Brooke giggled, pulling his violin seemingly from nowhere, "for her to dance to."

Sanji stood tall with a fire of determination burning brightly within his eyes, "I'll cook her the most exquisite meal she's ever seen! And a cake with eight layers!"

"Usopp and I can handle the decorations," Frankie offered, "we'll make this party look super cool!"

"I know they're just hand me downs," Robin smiled happily, "but I have some clothes that would make perfect birthday presents."

"She's been needing some down time," Zoro nodded in agreement, unable to keep the smile from growing on his face, "this party is a great idea!"

"No," the Strawhats froze as Luffy snapped, "it's best to just leave her be today. She'll be better by tomorrow. Until then, no parties. No presents. Don't even wish her a happy birthday. Just act like it's any other day."

 

Zoro sat up in the crow's nest later that same afternoon, chipping away at a block of wood with a carving knife Usopp had let him borrow. Though his eyes were on his work, his mind certainly wasn't. Thoughts of a certain red haired swordswoman haunted him; her lost gaze, her empty eyes, and even her soulless voice caused an unfamiliar pain to grow deep within him. He hated to see any of his Nakama upset, but the fact that it was the normally fiery warrior made his stomach twist painfully.

As the wood became smaller and smaller, it began to take shape. A square head atop a long, slender neck came down to join a broad chest held up by strong looking legs. A pair of wings brought the entire dragon together along with a thick tail. As Zoro made some finishing touches on the dragon's scales, he heard the familiar squeak of the door to the crow's nest as Takara climbed inside.

"Oh," she paused as soon as her eyes locked onto his, "sorry. I didn't think anyone was up here."

"Wait," Zoro spoke quickly, hiding the small wooden dragon behind his back, "you can stay if you'd like. I'll leave."

The green haired man rose to his feet, taking small steps towards the door. As he reached for it, he gasped in surprise when he felt a trembling hand grasp his wrist.

"Please," Takara's voice was small, almost nonexistent, "stay with me....for a little while?"

He watched as she refused to meet his gaze. Saying nothing, he nodded and took a seat beside her. The pair of them leaned again the walls of the crows nest, listening to the sounds of the ocean harmonizing with the cries of seagulls that passed by. Takara said nothing, finding herself unconsciously leaning against Zoro's muscled shoulder. The swordsman swallowed uncomfortably, but remained silent. Normally, he'd be leaning against her in any other situation. He didn't have the heart to move her.....but did he really want to?

This is definitely a new feeling, Zoro admitted to himself, but...it's not an unpleasant one.

"I know Luffy told everyone about today," Takara sighed, pulling herself away from Zoro and leaving behind a pleasant warmth on his skin, "that's why they're all acting weird."

"In our defense," the swordsman smirked, "you were acting weird first."

She blinked in shock before giving a smirking accompanied by a tired sigh, "I suppose so."

The pair fell silent for a few more moments before Zoro sent a cautious glance her way, "Sometimes...it's good to talk about things that bother you. Even if it might hurt a bit."

"It's just another day," the redhead snapped, turning away from him, "there's nothing special about it!"

"It's your birthday, Takara," Zoro snarled, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to face him once more, "I don't know about you, but I'd say that makes today pretty damn special."

"What's so special about the day my father abandoned me?!"

"Are you seriously going to let one bad experience wipe out all the good birthdays you've had up until then," Takara blinked in shock, finding herself locking her emerald gaze with Zoro's own eyes, "What about all those years you spent with Luffy? And the years with your dad before he left? Surely you haven't forgotten those times, have you?"

The redhead didn't answer, instead forcing her gaze to detach itself from her fellow swordsman to instead look out the window of the crow's nest.

"Yes, your father broke his promise," Zoro continued, "but today is a great day, because without today you wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have met you without today, and honestly that would suck."

Takara couldn't suppress the giggle that rose up in her throat. Zoro was never good at sappy shit, she knew that, so hearing him ramble on like this made her chest flutter with happy amusement.

"Here," she turned back in surprise as he pulled the small dragon carving out from his belt and handed it to her, "happy birthday, Takara."

Slowly, she accepted the gift with a shaking hand. The tiny creature was well made and seemed ready to spring to life at any second.

"I haven't heard those words in four years," she said quietly, smiling softly at him, "it's...good to hear them again and believe them. Thank you, Zoro."

He gulped, finding himself blushing beneath her watery gaze, "Oi, oi! Don't start crying over something like this!"

"I'm sorry," she said quickly, wiping away the tears with the back of her hand, "you're right. I've been a fool for the past few years."

The pair fell into a silence that seeped into every corner of the room. Zoro continued to watch as Takara seemed to gather herself before standing up, still staring at the small carving in her hand.

"Come on," she suddenly said, her eyes blazing with determination, "I have an announcement to make."

Zoro quickly scrambled to his feet and followed Takara out of the crow's nest and onto the deck below.

"Everyone," she called out, "come here for a second!"

Sanji, of course, was the first one to arrive after hearing his "beloved Takara-san's" summons. Chopper and Brooke weren't far behind him, with Usopp and Frankie jogging up from below deck. Luffy, who had been perched on the figurehead of the ship, merely stretched his arms and flung himself across the ship towards where his nakama was gathering. He landed unceremoniously in a heap at Takara's feet, unable to keep a giggle from escaping his throat. Robin and Nami were the last to arrive, still engaged in whatever conversation they had been in when Takara called all of them together.

"Thank you everyone," Takara began, "for trying to make this day a littler more bearable for me. But," she glanced back at Zoro with an almost shy smile, "someone has brought it to my attention that I need to get my head out of the past and appreciate the present-"

"OI! YOU STUPID MOSSHEAD," Sanji erupted into a fit of rage as he turned to attacked the swordsman, who barely brought up one of his blades to block the kick, "HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO TAKARA-SAN LIKE THAT!"

"Yeah Zoro," Usopp joined in, encouraged by the fact that it was Sanji leading the supposed charge, "besides, we were supposed to treat today like a normal day, stupid mosshead!"

Even Chopper quipped in, "Yeah, stupid mosshead!"

"You guys looking to die today," Zoro snarled, eyeing each of them coldly, "because I'll gladly oblige you."

"Please don't get angry with Zoro," the crew fell silent as Takara quickly stepped between the trio and her friend, "he only told me what I've been needing to hear for the past five years. I was so angry at my father, that I associated my birthday to the day he abandoned me. But in doing so, I threw away all the good memories I had. The memories of him spending my childhood with me, memories with Luffy as we grew up together," her captain seemed to smile as his eyes glazed over with fond moments, "I want to start making new memories, with all of you. That's why....I want to have a birthday party here on the ship!"

 

It didn't take long for the crew to completely decorate the Thousand Sunny for the party. As promised, Sanji cooked the most elaborate banquet anyone had ever seen. Usopp, Brooke, and Frankie strung lights and streamers all around the main deck. Robin and Chopper spent most of the afternoon wrapping gifts. And Zoro kept himself busy with guarding the kitchen from Luffy's multiple attempts at sneaking a few bites of food. Nami, nearly bursting with excitement, decided to dedicate the entire afternoon to dressing Takara up for the occasion and ordered everyone to wear their best clothes. The thief had found an elegant dress made from black satin that fit Takara like a glove. A single strap held the dress up, and while it came to a stop at her knees a large slit in the side revealed most of her right leg. A pair of fishnets and heels brought the entire look together. As Nami worked on her makeup, Takara tried to keep her breathing in check. She would be lying to herself if she said she wasn't even a little bit nervous. It had been many years since she celebrated her birthday and she had completely forgotten what it felt like to anticipate the fun and games that would surely come. She missed it, truly.

"Oi," Takara turned to see Zoro peeking into the room, "we're all set out here. Are you-"

The swordsman's words caught in his throat as his friend stood up to give him a full view of herself. His eyes widened at the sight of her exposed skin. Her hair had been pulled up into a gorgeous bun, a single white rose woven into the strands and giving her a regal appearance. Zoro himself wore a suit (which Sanji had practically forced upon him) and he was once again regretting the bow tie.

"Zoro? You okay?"

Nami smirked as her nakama shook his head viciously, "Just get your asses out here before Luffy eats all the food."

Sharing a giggle, the girls followed Zoro out to the main deck.

"SURPRISE," the crew shouted, standing aside to reveal a gorgeous eight layer cake, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAKARA!"

She laughed, "You guys didn't have to yell surprise. I knew about the party, remember?"

"Just shut up and enjoy this," Zoro smirked, giving her a small nudge, "it'll only happen once a year."

"I look forward to it."

The evening was then spent in revelry, Zoro quickly consuming mug after mug of his favorite sake. With Brooke providing Takara's favorite tunes, many members of the crew got up to dance. Luffy once again tripped over his own feet while his best friend attempted to lead him. Sanji held Nami close to his body, trying hard to keep the blood in his nose. Even Robin had claimed the dance floor, Frankie happily twirling her around and dipping her. Usopp played a pair of bongos Brooke had lent him while Chopper provided beautiful panflute music. Zoro's eyes never strayed from Takara, watching each flick of her wrist or thrust of her hips. How he wished it was him dancing beside her instead of Luffy.

Wait, he blinked in surprise, am I jealous of Luffy?! Nah, must be the sake getting to me.

"Hey Zoro," Luffy's voice suddenly erupted into his thoughts as he felt the captain's iron-like grip crush his shoulders, "why don't you dance with the birthday girl for a bit? I need food!"

"Wha?! No no NO! I don't dance!"

"Too late!"

With his final words, Luffy threw Zoro onto the dance floor. The green haired man snarled as he landed face first at Takara's feet. She laughed, kneeling down to help him to his feet and taking his hands in hers. Zoro glared over his shoulder at Luffy, who shot him a wink and a thumbs up in return.

"Sorry," he glanced back at Takara in confusion, "I'll try to go slow for you."

He scowled, "The hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Oh," she blushed slightly, avoiding his gaze, "I just heard you say you couldn't dance."

An idea suddenly popped into the swordsman's head as he turned to give Brooke a curt nod, "I said I didn't dance. I never said I couldn't."

Within seconds, Brooke had signaled the rest of the crew to leave the dance floor. He offered Robin a keyboard, which she eagerly took, Usopp an accordion, and took up his violin for himself. In one fluid motion, Zoro ripped off his bow tie and snapped the first two buttons of his shirt open before standing in front of Takara. The redhead's eyes glossed over with excitement as she quickly realized what was coming.

 

Their bodies were as fluid as water, desire evident in every twist and turn they made. All around them, their friends watched in awed silence as they flowed to the music. Zoro's breath was hot on her face as their noses brushed against one another more than once. Takara had honestly expected to lead him in this dance but, much like their training sessions, he quickly gained the upper hand. He held her close against his body, their hearts nearly beating as one. Nami and Robin shared a knowing gaze while Sanji sat in the corner bawling his eyes out.

As the song came to an end, Zoro couldn't stop himself from giving her forehead a gentle kiss. He felt her freeze under his touch, her cheeks exploding into color.

And as he pulled her back into a standing position, Zoro leaned into her ear and whispered, "Happy birthday, Takara."

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