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"I-want-meat! I-want-meat!" Luffy chanted as the crew of the Merry Go walked into a decent-looking restaurant in Roguetown. Heads turned toward Luffy and company, some with frowns.

They sat at a table large enough for all of them. A prompt waiter was already serving menus.

"I'm looking forward to getting onto the Grand Line!" said Usopp, trying to start conversation. Sanji and he began talking.

Luffy, after leaving the ordering to Zolo and Nami, was unusually subdued, as were the rest of the customers. He was listening to a lone guitarist playing somewhere. Luffy eventually spotted him, though the man in question was in a corner. The playing was very quiet, a perfect background for a moderately large dining area, yet the music was strangely penetrating and something else. Not sad, but a shifting of emotions from melancholy to relief seemed to pervade it, forcing attention and drawing people in but without any overt persuasion. A dialogua de anima--a dialogue of the heart.

"What do you think, Luffy?" said Usopp.

"Uh-huh," Luffy said. He hadn't heard anything they said.

Luffy was grateful for the beef, chicken, and rice dishes. He was starving and only meats would satisfy. He dived in and ate with gusto, almost madly.

The music continued constantly without any increase in volume.

At the end of their desserts, Luffy leaned back, happy but also listening to the music.

"Well, Luffy," said Zolo as the waiter laid down the bill.

"Hm?" Luffy said, snapping somewhat to attention.

"Pay up. It's time to go," continued Zolo.

"I haven't got any money," said Luffy as if it should be obvious.

"What?" said Zolo.

"Oh, no," said Usopp, and prepared to bolt for the door.

"He-ah it comes," said Sanji, preparing to be the restaurant's own cook to pay for their meals.

Nami prepared to pull a secret stash of money from her sock just for such emergencies.

Zolo was already arguing with the waiter, but Luffy only pouted unconsciously when the guitar music stopped.

The manager was preparing to go over to the table, already having seen this scenario a thousand times before.

A hand placed itself on the manager's shoulder. The guitarist said softly, "I will pay their bill."

The manager, knowing better, only nodded, and went over to the table.

Zolo, his hand shaking and sneaking towards one of his swords as he saw the well-dressed man who could only be the manager approach, prepared to fight their way out.

The manager approached, saw the look in the waiter's eyes.

"Your bill has been paid," said the manager with a Spanish accent. "Have a good evening."

The crew piled out slowly, Luffy not recognizing a snappy but subdued version of "There's No Business Like Show Business" from the smiling guitarist.

As they headed back to the ship, Luffy suddenly said, "Who paid for the meal?"

"I don't know," said Zolo.

"I bet it was the guitarist," mumbled Luffy, who only now realized the music stopped when they were dickering about payment.


Luffy had no sense of direction, remembered nothing, and got lost often. To the untrained eye, he gave every indication of being a moron. Yet, when he wanted to do something, he had amazing facility. The next morning, he walked directly to the restaurant of the night before and sat in the nearest seat to the guitarist and waited. The guitarist never stopped and never said anything. So, neither did Luffy. Two or three times, the music got Luffy distracted, got him thinking about people and events he hadn't thought of in years, and he became snuffly.

When the guitarist stopped for his lunch, a steaming meal with a glass of water was placed on Luffy's table. Luffy began eating it without thinking.

"Leave some for me," the guitarist said quietly. "That is my lunch."

Luffy stopped in mid-chew and put the fork down.

"Sorry," he mumbled, and chewed.

The guitar was set aside, and the young man sat down to his meal and ate.

Luffy watched the musician eat, saying nothing, erect yet relaxed.

"My name's Luffy."

"My name is Alfredo Mazzoli. Pleased to meet you."

"I'm a pirate. I'm going to find Gold Roger's treasure in the Grand Line."

"I also like to believe six imaginary things before breakfast as well." He placed the food-laden fork to his mouth.

"Hmm?" frowned Luffy.

"Sorry. A line from Lewis Carroll's 'Alice In Wonderland'. I don't believe you."

"I'm going to do it. With my crew. And you're coming with me."

"To get One Piece? Somewhere in the Grand Line?" Bite of food.


"What if I don't want to?" he said, chewing carefully.

"I don't care. I need musicians, and you're the best I've heard so far."

"Why do you need musicians, Master Luffy?"

"I don't know. I just like your music and I need it."


Luffy thought but could not reason. His skills in that area left much to be desired.

"I...I don't know. But I'll take you if I have to carry you."

"My profession is here. If it were not for the owner of this restaurant, I would have starved long ago. I owe him much."

Luffy didn't know what to say.

"I'll pay you," said Luffy. "When I find One Piece, I'll pay you in gold. I'll give you a guitar made of gold!"

"Mm. It would probably sound terrible. And the sound is what's important."

"Have you been playing for a long time?"

"Since I was a child. My father left a small inheritance to my mother. He died when I was very young. She dragged me off to operas all the time. I hated them. Well, most of them. Most operas are horrible things. Ridiculous plays. Only the music is worth it. She bought me a guitar when I was nine. And I played it until I could play all the opera tunes."

"Is she here in town?"

"Oh no. She passed away long ago. She spent everything. I had nothing when she died. I almost joined a street gang, but the manager of this restaurant heard me play once and told me to work here. I've been here...a long time."

Alfredo looked to be about thirty, much older than Zolo or Sanji. 'Real old,' thought Luffy.

Around 8:00 that night, Luffy said goodbye then left. He hid in a strategic alley with a bird's eye view of the restaurant.

Around 10:00 p.m., the guitarist left with his instrument. Luffy followed with unusual stealth.

He saw where the musician lived. A light turned on in the second storey of a boarding house-like building a few blocks from the restaurant.


The next morning, after Alfredo went to work, Luffy entered the building, went up to the musician's apartment, and broke the door down.

There were surprisingly few possessions. Luffy took everything he could carry. He bullied Usopp into helping him carry the dresser and bed to the Merry Go.

That night, Alfredo saw his apartment broken into and everything gone.

"You're coming with me," said a voice behind him.

Alfredo had a switchblade popped and poised ready for use faster than eyes could see. Luffy saw in that instant a remarkable similarity to Zolo's look when he was no longer joking and meant business.

"You're the Pirate King's musician now," said Luffy.

"Gold Roger is dead," forced out Alfredo. Then he saw Luffy emerge from the shadows. "You."

Luffy was stern, ready to fight.

"Still dreaming, Master Luffy?" said Alfredo. "What have you done with my things?"

"They're on my ship. And soon you will be too."

"I don't see any men to haul me away."

"I'm enough."

Alfredo saw the determination in the young man's face and put away his blade.

"Since I no longer have an apartment, let's see your ship," said Alfredo.

At this, Luffy brightened immediately.

"Good man!" said Luffy lightly. "I love fighting, but I didn't want to fight you."

As the two walked downstairs, Alfredo said, "Oh, why?"

"I didn't want to hurt your hands. You need to play for me."

"Of course. I should have figured that out."

Luffy only laughed out loud.


"This is Alfredo!" said Luffy when the two stepped aboard the Merry Go. Greetings were exchanged, and Alfredo listened with interest to the many near-death perils the crew had faced just to get this far. They had no alcohol on the ship yet, so Sanji offered Alfredo some cider.

Later, as Alfredo decided to play some music in a corner on deck, Zolo approached and spoke to him.

"You'll have to forgive Luffy. He's impetuous and somewhat thoughtless. I'll return your things tomorrow myself."

Alfredo nodded and began to play.

Luffy remained in his usual position, like a rag doll sprawled against the side, looking at nothing.

After about a half hour of soft tunes, Alfredo began a new one, only this time he began to sing with it. Perhaps it was an opera tune, but he certainly wasn't singing to an opera audience. More like to a lover right beside him. It seemed very sad, yet was in a major key.

After the vocal, the guitar did the recap and the piece ended.

Alfredo thought he heard something, left the guitar on the deck, and noticed Luffy at the side, crying. He approached.

"I'm sorry, Master Luffy. You're crying. I'll stop for the night."

"I miss Shanks!" Luffy said tearfully, and ran below deck to his bedroom.

Alfredo waited a minute, then went below deck himself and followed the sound of crying, knocked on the door.

"Mind if I come in? said Alfredo.

"Okay," said a muffled voice within.

Alfredo entered. Closed the door. Sat down beside a tearful Luffy laying on his bed.

"Who is Shanks?" said Alfredo quietly.

"He was my friend when I was little. He's a ship captain."

"Where is he now?"

"He set off to sea when I was a little boy. He gave me his straw hat. He...he saved my life from a giant fish. He...he lost an arm! He lost an arm saving me!" And Luffy cried again.

Alfredo nodded. "He loved you. And you love him."

"Is that what love is? When you miss someone?"

"Yes. You want to be with them, always. And you feel...diminished somehow when they're not around, but you don't really know why."

Luffy nodded. Wiped his nose.

"What was that last song you sang?" said Luffy.

"Just a little Masonic song by Mozart. He was a member of the Masons. It was a song about brotherhood."

"I want you to sing that song for me every night. It reminds me of Shanks."

"You'll be crying every night."

"I don't care! I can't forget Shanks! I just can't!" Suddenly, Luffy was hugging Alfredo around his neck. "Please play it for me every night! Please!" said Luffy.

Alfredo held Luffy and nodded.

"Perhaps it is time for a change," he said in Luffy's ear. "Good night."

Then he got up and left.


At 6:00 a.m. the next morning, Alfredo, fully dressed, entered Luffy's room and gently shook the young man's shoulder. Luffy was still in his clothes, his bedsheets scattered loose.

"Wake up, Master Luffy. It's morning," said Alfredo quietly.

"W...what time is it?"

"Six o'clock. The beginning of a new day. Come on now, I've run a hot bath for you."

"I need to sleep. Leave me alone."

"A future pirate king should set an example for his crew. If that is what you are."

Luffy's eyes opened slowly.

"Bath?" Luffy said.

"Should I assist you?"

"Yes, please."

Alfredo removed Luffy's clothes and lifted Luffy towards the great round steel tub he had placed in Luffy's room.

Luffy's eyes bolted awake as his toe touched the steaming water.

"Oh, hot!" he hissed.

But Alfredo slowly dipped him, inch by inch, into the water.

"I don't like the sea," said Luffy, settling down. "I can't swim. But I like this."

"Soap and scrub brush are beside you. Should I assist you?"

At first Luffy did a double-take, but just to test Alfredo, Luffy said, "Yes, please."

With perfect detachment, Alfredo proceeded to soap his hands and wash Luffy's hair, then Luffy's face, ears, then the rest of him.

"What time do the rest get up?" said Alfredo.

"Zolo and Sanji get up around 7:00. Usopp and Nami get up later."

Observing Luffy's body, Alfredo said, "You're thin, Master Luffy. You need exercise."

"No, I don't."

"A pirate king should be strong."

"I am strong."

"The morning is the perfect time for many things: exercise, watching the sunrise, thinking, praying, whatever your persuasion."

Luffy said nothing as his chest was being soaped by Alfredo.

"One of these days, I want to see Gold Roger's execution tower," said Luffy.

"All the more reason to do it early. Avoid the crowds."

"Hmm..." said Luffy sagely.

"There," said Alfredo after doing Luffy's legs and feet. "I'll let you clean your private parts yourself. There's a towel on the floor beside you. By the time you dress, I'll have a hot breakfast cooking in the kitchen."

"What about you?"

"I've eaten."



Alfredo was fortunate to say his goodbye to the restaurant manager. Events unfolded quickly that very day, Alfredo accompanying Sanji to a cooking competition while Luffy had a showdown with an old enemy Buggy the Clown. Luffy escaped through a timely lightning bolt to the tower on which he was held prisoner and a mysterious fog that hid the crew's escape.


Now on the Grand Line, One Piece awaited Luffy.

With Sanji's win of a giant tuna at the competition, fish dishes were the chief dinners. That very morning, Alfredo relieved Sanji's usual breakfast duties by preparing Usopp's and Nami's. The two had no complaints and that first evening at sea, Alfredo assisted Sanji in the preparation of dinner.

"I've prepared many a meal in my time, Master Sanji. I'm not without skill," said Alfredo to the chef.

"Hmm..." Sanji said, "We'll see." As time passed though, he appreciated the efficient and QUIET help. Many cooks were so chatty. It distracted from the work. Besides, he'd never been called "Master Sanji" before. He rather liked it.

As they ate dinner, Sanji asked, "How long were you at dat restaurant, Alfredo?"

"Oh, let's see. Fourteen years. Yes, that's right. I was with Enrique for twelve years."

"Who was that?" said Zolo.

"The manager of the restaurant. I lived with him."

"You lived with a man for twelve years?" said Luffy.

"Of course," said Alfredo. "He was my lover."


"You had a man for a lover?" said Luffy, still puzzled.

"Luffy." It was Zolo, an edge of warning in his voice.

"Yes, Master Luffy," said Alfredo, grinning slightly. "I did."

"Wow." It was Luffy, with a slight edge of wonder in his voice. "This is unusual."

"Perhaps. But in a sense, he saved my life. I would have found no other family except on the streets. I became his lover at fifteen when my mother died. He had just inherited the restaurant from his father who passed away."

Conversation was subdued after that revelation. Luffy remained puzzled.


Alfredo would play every night, though never after midnight. There were times Luffy would fall asleep on the deck. Before Alfredo's arrival, none of the others would even think of disturbing Luffy. Alfredo, however, did not want Luffy to get cold and picked him up in his arms and carried him to bed. He would lay Luffy across the foot of the bed, roll back the sheets, then lay Luffy down and cover him up. This done, he would walk away, quiet as a ghost. Luffy would not remember how he got there in the morning.

Every morning at 6:00, Alfredo would wake Luffy and get him up. Many times, Luffy would whine and plead. "Just one more hour. Please, just one more." Alfredo would simply cluck his tongue and say something like, "Lazy pirate king" or "Pirate king, huh?" Luffy would awaken, often angry ("rrrr...") but he would get up for his hot bath and breakfast.


It was one night like any other. Alfredo had finished playing, saw Luffy asleep on the deck, and picked him up and carried him below deck to his room. As he was at the door ready to leave, he heard a soft sound like rubber stretching. He turned to see Luffy's arm stretched across the room from his bed and wrapped around Alfredo's waist, holding him.

"Well. This is unusual," said Alfredo, mimicking Luffy's own statement. Luffy wasn't asleep after all. He was faking.

Luffy started retracting his arm, pulling Alfredo closer. Finally, Alfredo sat on Luffy's bed and looked at the ruffle-haired young man.

"I ate a gum-gum fruit when I was little. I'm a rubberman!" said Luffy, and he smiled ear-to-ear.

"Well," said Alfredo. "God bless you."

"The fruit is said to be a curse."

"What else can you do?"

"I can deflect bullets with my body. I can puff up big like a blowfish. But mostly, I just stretch. It's cool."

"I think so too. Good night, Pirate King." And he smoothed back Luffy's hair.

"Good night."


One evening, just as Alfredo entered Luffy's room to say good night, Luffy jumped from near the door and wrapped his elastic arms and legs around Alfredo, effectively pinning him.

"How you gonna get outta this one? Huh-hui!" said Luffy, his trademark cuckoo bird laugh at the end.

Alfredo pushed Luffy's body away, but when he let go, Luffy's elastic body simply snapped back tight to Alfredo.

"Hah, hah!" laughed Luffy.

"Obviously traditional methods of defense will prove to be ineffective. Looks like I'll just have to kiss my way out."

"Hmm?" Luffy's eyes widened.

Alfredo knew either acceptance or rejection of what he proposed would prove instructive for Luffy in either case. He locked lips with Luffy and began frenching him.

After initial surprise, Luffy began to relax into it and reciprocate.

Finally, Luffy said, his mouth sounding full of marbles because it was full of Alfredo's tongue, "Your strategy does not seem to be being very effective. Try harder."

"Whatever you say, Master Luffy."

This horrific struggle lasted well over two hours. In the end, Alfredo's defense proved effective after all. Not only did it remove Luffy's spaghetti-like limbs from Alfredo as the latter eased Luffy onto his bed, it also got Luffy's clothes off.


The very next morning at 6:00, Alfredo entered Luffy's room to give him his bath. As he was soaping down Luffy's chest, he said, "You know, Master Luffy, you need to develop your abilities. With your skills, you could become invulnerable."

"Oh, no, I can be cut."

"You said yourself you can deflect bullets. The same principle should apply with sharper objects. You just simply have to be ready for the attack."

"I don't know about that."

Alfredo was now washing Luffy's legs and feet.

"How do you catch a ball?" continued Alfredo. "Just before you catch it, your hand eases back slightly to cushion the impact. If you could develop enough control, you could apply the same principle. A sword or knife, for example, would never slice you if you were ready for it. You would simply relax into the impact, changing the shape of your body to conform to the object."

Alfredo dried his hands and demonstrated with the handle of his switchblade and his outstretched hand. "When you are tense, a sharp object can penetrate easily." And he lowered the hilt to his hand. "But if you change the shape of yourself, you ease into the object." With his hand outstretched, he lowered the handle again to his palm, the hand wrapping gently around the handle. "You see? If you could develop more control, any restraining devices would be rendered ineffective: handcuffs, shackles, stocks. You would be able to wriggle through a thin tube, say a drainpipe, or flatten into a sail, swallow cannonballs then jettison them. The possibilities are endless."

"I don't care to do all that. Why do you care?"

"You've told me yourself you've confronted enemies who wouldn't think twice killing you. Shanks would want you to be everything you can be. If you die because you did not develop every possible ability you have, it would be an insult to Shanks's love. He wants you to live. So do I."

The mention of Shanks brought Luffy up short, and he realized he had developed only a small part of his potential.

"A curse, Master Luffy?" said Alfredo. "Not at all. It is only by becoming everything you can be that you will get One Piece and become the Pirate King!"

Luffy, sitting in the steaming tub, thought, then nodded.

"You're right," was all Luffy said.


Thus began a new routine for Luffy and Alfredo every morning after Luffy's breakfast.

Zolo would watch the two hard at it when he walked on deck after his own breakfast. He began to appreciate Alfredo more and more as time passed. Alfredo's skills with a switchblade (slashing, throwing) were as expert as Zolo with swords, and Zolo realized he had never tried to train Luffy. He promised himself he would. Ducking little blades was one thing; swords, quite another.

Luffy relished the combat with Alfredo, never realizing how much he was being trained and perfected by Alfredo's persistence and unemotional Zen master-like demeanor.

"You don't smile much, do you?" said Luffy one morning, dodging slashes from Alfredo.

"I'm reminded of a story of a young monk who was seeking enlightenment. He asked all kinds of men for advice. He spoke to a Zen master who was said to have achieved Satori which means enlightenment. Just as he had finished asking, thieves broke into the master's house and one sliced off one of the master's arms. The master did not even flinch, did not even know the arm was gone. The young monk instantly understood and experienced enlightenment."

The similarity with Shanks who himself was unmoved by the loss of his own arm saving Luffy's life brought tears to Luffy's eyes.

Stopping the training, Luffy hugged Alfredo right in front of the eyes of Zolo and said, "I love you."

The Holy Insurgent of Uncertainty