Cold fire raged with a ferocious anger. Trembling voices shook the white sands. Who were they and why did they call out his name? Impossible. He never walked this barren wasteland, so devoid of life that the atmosphere stole the water from his tongue.
"Who are you?"
"How do you know my name?"
His eyes narrowed. The white smoke of the intense flames clumped together. Faces?" They surrounded the ebony swordsman whose skin blackened with each step. Their mouths moved with zombie moans. Sluggish groans impossible to truly decipher over the massive flames. He reached for his two swords, but could find neither Tizona nor Colada. Two swords his former master assured would follow him through the afterlife.
"I'm dead?" He called out.
"Am I dead?!"
But only the sluggish moans of the damned could answer. That's right, Salazar remembered. He fell from the highest peak in the world. An icy mountain which surpassed all others and pierced the heavens. His swords...they were there. Probably burried under a ton of snow next to his frost bitten body.
He failed and paid for his failure with the only price equal to such a feat. "My arm..." he moaned. His right arm felt as light as a feather. As if it was no longer attached to his body. He couldn't twitch his fingers nor clench his wrist. It was nothing more than dead weight.
"It seems this is where my story ends." Salazar sat in the warm sand and closed his eyes. Smoke slithered from the fire, forming the claw of a dragon around his chest.
"M-master?" He whispered. The claw vanished with the gentle touch of a woman.
"There are no masters in death my savior." She whispered. Her motherly voice warmed Salazar's soul. His eyes opened slightly to see...
"I'm sorry. I couldn't save you and bring that bastard to justice." Salazar cried.
"Shh." She grasped his hand. "You're not finished yet. It took death to release your chains. This is nothing more than the end of a chapter."
"How can I? I can't even feel my arms...I can't wield my swords - I don't even know where they are!"
"They're right beside you. And the weightlessness you feel...that's freedom."
Salazar's eyes shot open when a bright light overwhelmed his vision. There, he laid in a room covered in bandages. The smell of battle surrounded him...but he felt peace. He saw families rejoice and sing under the familiar flag. Salazar looked to his side and noticed Tizona and Colada resting against the wall. He lifted his bandaged arm up and placed it against the light. It felt like the world had been taken from atop his shoulders.
"So she came."
The Awakening Edit
"Nearly a week has past since the battle upon Wano between the Fleet Admiral, Kurama and previous Shichibukai, Salazar. Daddy L. Legs had been instrumental in his survival. When, in his last moment of life, she appeared, she was said to have stopped the very flow of time itself," A pirate of her crew spoke as he walked around the large castle they seemed to have been occupying. Banners of ancient samurai and shinobi clans hang gallantly throughout. Banners that such pirates had no attachment to.
The other pirate, a woman dressed in nothing but exotic garbs, expressed disbelief. "Listen, no one loves our Empress more than the Kuja, but to stop time itself? Do you know how absurd that is?"
"Well, how fucking else would she have saved the fucking pirate AND stop the Buster Call?" the male pirate inquired aggressively.
"I don't know! Maybe her generals helped her."
"Shush!" The Kuja stood at attention. "She's coming this way."
Her footsteps were large, causing trembles upon the marble floors as she danced across them. Her very presence itself was magical, bringing with it a charm that warmed the cool air around them. Their breaths grew quiet as she came closer.
She nodded and proceeded into the room they guarded.
"So, it seems you've finally awoken. I had hoped the rumors were true."
Salazar turned his head to his savior and dear friend, smirking at her gigantic frame. This warmth felt nice in her presence. He looked upon her with sincere eyes without fear of retribution from the government.
"Thank you, Legs." Salazar winced as he sat himself against the bed. "I didn't think you'd come. But I owe you my life." He took a sip of his sweet tea and a bite of bread. He halted, noticing that his body felt extremely weightless; disregarding whether it came from lack of nurishment or a lack of training or perhaps....
"What- " Salazar rubbed his temple in pain. "What happened that day, after I fell in battle? I saw the newspaper...the world thinks I'm dead. But how'd you succeed in saving me and taking this island?"
Legs took a seat next to the bed. Her face was relaxed, and her smile as serene as the calm day before them. The sun pierced through the windows, illuminating her as she walked into the room, as if she was some sort of messiah and savior. To many in her fleet, she was.
"Oh, Salazar. I could never abandon such a righteous, noble soul," Legs replied calmly, her smile, her voice, and her scent working in tandem to bring about a sort of sincerity typically unobtainable by most.
"Though, before you thank me, you should thank yourself. Your message, and your distraction, allowed my fleet to sneak up on the marines and attack," she informed, folding her legs as she continued. "Kurama was distracted and unable to assist until his fleet was almost in ruins. I'm certain his ship was the only one to survive and escape...barely."
Legs looked into the distance blankly. "Oh, what an amazing soul his would have been," she muttered, before turning her attention back towards Salazar.
"Anyway, the people elected me, through some instruction of my own, Shogun of this country for saving them. They finally realized that their corrupt rulers could do nothing to protect them, thus there was no longer any need for them," she informed, her tone indicating that those details were perhaps rather broad.
"That isn't the issue at hand however. How is your arm doing? I take it the medicines are helping?"
Salazar enjoyed the sun's warmth on his dark skin, for once he actually felt like a human. He could only ignore her kind words, for he knew that Yonko were known for their poetic words. But overall he felt a certain gratification eminate from the entire island. To know he had a hand in saving hundreds of lives, well Salazar almost teared up. He smiled.
"Through some instruction of your own?" Salazar joked. "We both know what that means...But I can understand the other reasons for electing you. Hell, you've more than proven yourself a capable emperor." At the mention of his arm, Salazar's attention darted to his destroyed limb. He winced at memories of that final attack, the shooting pain as if Kurama had sent a meteor within his body. But something felt different. Her weird medicine definitely helped...
"It feels..lighter." Salazar thought. "It'll heal eventually, no doubt. But I feel both stronger and faster. I don't know it feels weird...my whole body feels like this."
“It should,” Legs interjected. “Remember our encounter not too long ago, Salazar?” She stood up and approached the window, she, herself, pulled into her own memories. “I share my story with all of my allies, not because it matters who I am now, but how I got here. I once told you that your dream is my reality. This very palace is where the leaders of my country planned to kill me and my people. There is a prison only a few miles from here that I was housed at, and it currently is being destroyed.” There was a noticeable tinge of pain in her tone as she spoke.
“I’ll never forget that just because I now rule this country. I will never forget the rulers that sought to end my life because of a what if. I’ll never forget the faces of the jailors who tortured me because of my right to defend myself. Yet, I refuse to let those same individuals weigh me down,” Legs explained. “Your arm, your body, it’s all weightless because you let go of those burdens that once confined you. You refused to let yourself be a slave to the nobles, to the World Government any longer, and that act of defiance saved an entire country Salazar.”
Legs, smiling, turned to face the former Shichibukai. “You once told me that the masters are those who control the past to gain hold of the future, the ones that abuse their sword in the name of false justice. I’ve always agreed with that definition, Salazar, and there are millions of other beings who too agree with you. There a millions of individuals who believe that life can be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward, yet those millions are unable to make that philosophy a reality, because of the swords that those masters abused,” she exhaled passionately.
“You may have believed you to be free, but until you made that philosophy a reality, you weren’t. But now Salazar, you truly are free, weightless. Now, you have the ability to make your dream a reality, to make your dream your story, just as I have." Legs snapped her fingers, and with that the infamous mark of the Dragon dripped from his body, onto the floor and dissipated into nothing. "Your mark, your former life, don't let it be a burden on your freedom anymore."
Salazar listened intently, honored that someone of such a powerful rank would open up. In truth, this was the first time he was able to listen to the Yonko. Their spirits melted and mingled, becoming a single energy comprised of different experiences. Honestly, they lived similar lives - Salazar felt as if he was looking at the future version of himself. Could he reach such a high mountain? One that could rival the one which he recently fell. He was in a similar position...should the government find out that Salazar lived, those who he onced serve would plot his downfall. They would send every hound and wasp after the swordsman.
In truth, he was now what he once hunted. But her very words were accurate; she lived the life Salazar wished to follow. To sail the seas, land on an island and do whatever his heart desires. No longer would someone give him orders or force him to do their bidding. Her words created an illusion for Salazar, a small movie of what his life could be. Perhaps one day he could even become an emperor capable of toppling the World Government. He sensed her pain and it soon infiltrated his heart.
Soon his body became nothing more than a feather, watching his former mark disappear into nothingness. Years of torment and suffering gone with a snap of her fingers. But he fought for it...and this was his reward. No longer could they control him. Hell, Salazar wanted to wrap that mark up and send it back on top of a Sea King's ass. But his pettiness would have to wait. Her words made sense...it became a picture of what he was supposed to do.
"You're correct." Salazar started. "But it was only through your sacrifice and suffering you were able to achieve your freedom and ultimately save me. Now I must follow in your steps. And just as you've said, there are millions who are where I once stood and I will become what you are to me." He smiled. "I'm not submitting myself to you, especially not after achieving true freedom so soon. But that's too many people trapped before the swords of those who abuse their power. Ultimately you were the one to save me after being struck down...and I think it's my job to go and return the favor."
"I'm so grateful to you Legs, believe me. And I'll work my ass off just like you did bcause now I know how you felt when in the prison. But I'm going to spread this freedom across the world. I have to destroy them and take those swords away, give them to the people who deserve to wield them." He chuckled. "I just have no idea how."
A woman with black hair and a noble presence rushed through the nearby corridors. She appeared before the guarded door, and bowed towards the two guards who allowed her in. As she entered the room, the woman took the blade at her waist and placed it on the ground, and bowed towards the Yonko.
"Yonko Daddy L. Legs, on behalf of my lord Kozuki Masamune, we are very grateful for you saving us from this Buster Call. My name is Gozen Shizuka, please inform me if I can be of service to you." She raised her head, and with it, the white ribbon atop of it. As she stood, carrying her katana, one could see a simple, elegant cherry blossom kimono with darker flower motifs across it, and a simple pair of black hakama around her lower body.
Although her somewhat immature face may have given the impression of a pampered princess, the aura she exhibited was that of a trained warrior. Her keen focus on Legs was, however, quickly interrupted after seeing the condition Salazar was in. "Ah, Sir Salazar, you are awake." She made a quick bow once more, "Lord Masamune will be very pleased."