“Good night to all of you.” My father and I said and bowed as our underlings left for the night.
“Arigoto for having us.” They replied and left.
There were always formalities that had to be met, and as much as I hated them they had to be done. And I wasn’t about to humiliate my father with doing things my way.
“Have Makino and Daddan get you out of your kimono.” He told me after they left, “I’ll be up a little later and then we can talk, neh?”
I nodded and did as he told me to. Makino was happy about the whole thing for me, and Daddan kept rambling on about how improper I was.
I merely shrugged most of it off as they took the last of my Kimono off.
“I’ll handle the rest, arigoto.” I told them as they started trying to find suitable pajamas for me.
“Are you sure?” Makino asked me as I took my knives off.
“Awh, you’re both dismissed, arigoto.” I told them.
They nodded and left silently.
I sighed and pulled out a baggy long-sleeved, cotton striped shirt, and an old pair of basketball shorts. When I was dressed I grabbed my hair brush and a couple of hair ties and sat down at my desk.
I started brushing my hair, and when I was done I put it in to braids on either side of my head, before picking up my pen and writing the good copy of my essay for school.
I was about half way done writing it I heard my bedroom doors open and light foot steps come in, along with the soft closing of my door again.
“Yo.” I said as I greeted my father.
“Yo.” He greeted back and sat down on my bed.
It was silent, except for my pen scratching against the paper. He waited for me to finish what I was doing and come over to sit on my bed with him.
“I love you, Ceerie. You know that right?” He asked me as I sat down next to him.
I nodded, “You just don’t have all the time in the world to spend with me everyday.”
“I wish I did.” He told me, “To me it was yesterday you were coming home beaten up and crying saying that you didn’t want to cause anyone else trouble. And now you’re sixteen.” he sighed, “I feel like I missed most of your life.”
I smiled and shook my head, “You were there when it counted.” I told him, “You picked me up when I fell off of my bike, you taught me how to swim, you took me to school on my first day of kindergarten, and you comforted me when my fish died.”
“And what about now?” He asked me.
“What about it?” I retorted.
“I wasn’t there for your middle school graduation, or your high school comensment ceremony
“But you had a video taken of all of it and watched it with me later that day.” I told him, “I don’t resent you for that stuff, daddy.”
He finally looked up at me from where his gaze was on the floor.
“You don’t?” He asked like it was a joke.
I shook my head, “I love you. And I understand that you can’t always be there. But I know you try, especially when it really counts.”
“Name one time!” He ordered.
“I can give you several.” I challenged, “You were there when I was born, when I learned to walk, when I said my first word, when I almost lost my leg! Hell, you even left a very important meeting just to come and pick me up from school and take me and my nakama to Bartie’s for my birthday this year! Daddy, you’re hard on yourself. You did well with raising me, and for that I thank you. But you haven’t missed out on most of my life.”
“How do you figure?” He asked me.
I smiled sweetly, “I’m sixteen. And it was Makino that told me, my life is only beginning. And I know you’ll be there when it counts.”
He put an arm around my shoulders and dragged me to his chest.
“I don’t deserve you, Ceerie.” He said and I felt something drip down on to my head.
I smiled and wrapped my arms around his waist.
“No, I don’t deserve a loving and understanding father like you.” I told him.
He pulled away and wiped his eyes dry.
“Now.” He said and smiled at me, “What is it that puts you in such a fowl mood these days?”
I shrugged and looked the other way, “Lately I guess it’s been a mix between my sensies and everyone here either forcing me to do things I either already know how to do or really hate doing, or telling me things I really don’t like to hear.”
“Like what?” He asked me slouching to come to my eye level.
I sighed and pulled my legs up to my chest and hugged them.
“I know I have to be responsible. I know I have to be intelligent. I know I have to be proper. And I know, no matter what, I’ll eventually have to take a husband. But does everyone have to constantly remind me of those facts!? I mean what if I don’t want to be proper, or a lady, or responsible, or something.” I sighed again and looked up at him, “Daddy, if I have to be a Boss, can I still be me? Or will I have to change myself in order to have people trust and listen to me?”
He put a reassuring hand on my head and smiled at me softly, “When you become head, Ceerie, you can be whatever you want to. If you don’t like how I’m doing things, you can change them so they work for you.”
“Really?” I asked.
He nodded, “The only thing’s you can’t change are the kimonos and the stuffy meetings.”
I giggled lightly, at least I wasn’t the only one to think of them like that.
“Anything else that’s been bothering you?” He asked.
I shook my head, “What about you, daddy?”
He sighed, “Black beard.” He growled, “He’s beginning to realize just what he can do. And he’s starting to cut off our fish trade to the neighbouring towns.”
“What about a new route?” I suggested, “There’s an overgrown forest path in our sector the connects right to the next town. I’m sure we could clear any fallen logs along the way easily.”
He looked at me strangely, “We don’t have a forest path to the next town.” He told me.
“Yes, we do.” I told him, “Onii-chen and I walked along it to the next town over the break. We found it when we were kids, and would always play along it. It’s mostly flat too.”
“Really?” He asked.
I nodded, “I could show you in the morning if you’d like.”
He smiled, “I have meetings all morning,” He told me, “You’ll have to attend them with me.” I groaned, “Don’t worry, no kimono’s this time. But maybe after lunch you could take Benn and Law through it, show them.”
“Formal wear?” I asked him.
He shook his head, “Dess-y casual.”
I nodded, “Anything else on your mind?”
“Just wondering when your first meet is going to happen.” He said.
“Not for a few more weeks.” I told him, “But Smoker-sensie said he’d put me in the last round.”
“That’s where the strongest goes.” He told me.
I grinned, “I know.”
He chuckled lightly and then kissed my forehead.
“Good night, princess.” He said.
“Good night, red king.” I whispered back.
He left and I crawled into bed after turning out the lights. Tomorrow’d be a busy day, I thought as I drifted off.
And it was. I awoken by Makino at six fifteen. And after a large breakfast, and a long shower, I was dressed in a light blue button up dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up just below the elbow. A black half vest, and shorts that came to mid thigh. Black knee high socks and my regular black boots that came half way up my shin. My long hair was finally down instead of up, which I was thankful for.
“Ready?” My father asked when I came down the stairs to the foyay.
I nodded. He smiled and we left.
Most of the meetings were boring and long, and they pretty much ignored me, until the last one.
“We do need a little more than what we have.” Benn said as we were all meeting around a large table in our headquarters building, “I propose we set up a meeting with one of the other families and make an alliance.”
“We’ve done well so far without them. It’s depressing to find out we need to depend on others.” Lucky said.
“Or maybe not.” I said, making all eyes land on me.
“You have an idea, Ceerie?” My father asked.
I nodded, “After today we’ll have a direct path to the next towns. I did a little research a few years prior and found an abandon factory in a neighbouring town.”
“So what do you propose?” Benn asked me.
“That factory was specialized in making oils.” I told them, “We manly export raw fish. And while that does make us a good amount of money, I figure if we could buy that factory we could start producing fish oil. And then we have friends over seas we could get olives from and start olive oil. Then I figure in a few more years we could buy out the wine factory in the same town and go into that business.”
“That’s a strange way to think.” Yasopp told me.
“I know.” I told him, “However, I had long talks with some of the staff of Bartie’s. And they’re always looking for a good deal on wine and oils. Not to mention the over priced ones we see in our stores. If we start out in fish, then more to olives, all the while keeping local people employed, we’ll be doubling if not tripling our income. And if we invest our money correctly we could buy the wine factory in a matter of two years at the most. And that’s when we start bringing in the big money.”
“And how does this tie into an alliance?” Law asked me.
I smirked, “Big Mama made a bold move, but it’s not enough just offer something up. It’s like my father told me, ‘never show the enemy what your interested in’. We’re interested in an alliance, if I may, I’d suggest with the West family. But we aren’t going to tell any of them that. We’re going to make them come to us with the best offer that can send us to flurish.”
I heard my father chuckle beside me.
“Nani?” A asked him.
“I think you’d make a much better Boss than I, Ceerie.” He told me.
I blushed lightly and looked away, “I learned this from you.” I muttered.
He started to full-out laugh.
“Nani?” I demanded.
“It’s just good to know I’m not useless!” He laughed, “I’ll leave a lot of good for this family.”
“You aren’t useless, baka.” I muttered.
He finally calmed down and then cleared his throat.
“I think that’s the best idea there could be.” He told me, “Benn, when you get back I want you to look into the buying and manufacturing of that factory. But for right now you and Law are going with Ceerie to check out this forest path we could use.”
“Alright, you’re all dismissed.” he said, “And I expect you home by dark.” He grinned at me.
“Hia.” I sighed.
I Followed Law and Benn out of the building, but as soon as we got outside I was in the lead.
It was hardly a quarter mile away from the docks that our family occupied. It was a little grown over with the grass and a small bush that easily could be moved.
“This way!” I called to them after I pushed through the bush and was standing on nothing but grass.
“Easy access.” I heard Law mutter.
I walked about a meter in front of them.
“This path is pretty flat all along, and the few hills aren’t steep at all.” I told them as we walked, “There are a few logs on the path, but they shouldn’t be hard to move at all.”
“Neh, Ceerie?” Benn called as I jumped over a log in the road.
“Hmm?” I asked and turned around to see him and Law come over like me.
“How do you know about this path?” He asked.
I smiled, “My onii-chen and I found it while playing in the woods when we were little. I figured everyone forgot about it, why?”
He paused and looked back over his shoulder, “This path was the original one we always took for deliveries to the next towns.” He told me, “And it was lost after your mother-” He stopped himself.
“Was killed.” I finished for him, both he and Law looked at me in surprise, “I miss her at times, but I never even really knew her.” I told them, “It doesn’t bother me like it does my father. And I would hardly call this path ‘lost’ anyone with half a brain can see it behind those bushes.”
He chuckled and followed me on, over logs, and up a few gently rolling hills. I stopped at the top of one and waited for them to catch up to me.
They stopped next to me and took in the sight.
“It connects straight to the main road.” I told them, “And over there,” I pointed closer to the mountains, “That’s were the old factory is.”
“It’ll be a good set up.” Law said, “And with hiring locals will cut the salary if we hired our own to work in there.”
Benn nodded, “I’ll look into its purchas in the morning.” He said, “For now let’s go back, your father wants you home before the sun sets.” He told me.
“Hai, mom.” I said jokingly. He chuckled ever so slightly at my comment, but we walked on until we came back to the docks.
“I have some things I need to attend to here.” Benn told us, “You two head home.”
We nodded and parted.
“It was a good call earlier.” Law said from beside me, “If you don’t mind me saying you might be a little early with the time we could buy the wine factory though.”
“I’m not too sure.” I told him, “In a few months there’s going to be that festival in the next town. And you know they’ll be demanding more fish than ever.”
“And we use our connections to get other tourists to come and have them buy more fish, and fish oil.” He continued.
“And because that festival happens twice a year.” I continued.
“Our sales increase by fourty percent.” He finished, “But that’s still not enough.” He told me.
I nodded and looked around before whispering, “My father wanted me to keep this a secret, so you have to promise not to tell a soul.”
“Some of our friends from Alabasta are having a hard time finding exports for their silks. And they very fine, I assure you.” I told him, “So they’re go to send them over here and we’re going to sell them 100 belli a yard, and we get half of the profit.”
“100 belli a yard?” He asked.
I nodded, “I told you they were fine silk.”
He rubbed his temple, “For that price they better be.” He he said.
“Add that into the equation,” I continued as we walked.
“We’ll have enough.” He finished.
“If invested wisely.” I added.
He chuckled darkly as the sun started to set, “I underestimated you.” He said, “You really account for everything.”
I shrugged, “My father never kept anything from me. And because of that I guess I learned early on that you need add in the unexpected into the equation.”
“Alright.” He said and stopped when we came to a fork in the road. One way was my house the other was his, “If you’re smart, what are we going to do if the marriage between the Sweet family and the Black family actually work?” He asked.
“If they do, and Trafalgar that’s a big if, we ram Black beard again.” I told him, he looked at me like I just sprouted a new head, I sighed, “The way he spoke at the ceremony, I have the ability to read between the lines, he wanted to marry Bonney. And during the ceremony most of his forces will be guarding the temple. A lot of his followers will still be under White beard at heart so they won’t fight us. And we push him back as far as we can.”
“What if he expects this?” He asked me.
“He wont.” I assured.
“How do you know?” He asked.
I pushed the red hair out of my face that wind just blew so I could look him in the eye.
“When ever there’s a marriage all the heads gather and give blessing. It’s even more stingy to be there if it’s a Boss wedding.”
“So what you’re saying is,”
I nodded, “If the marriage happens, my father will be at the temple and giving his blessing to whomever it is. I’ll talk to him before hand, and then our forces will listen to me. And if we manage to push them back far enough, Kiado will realize he’s about to have a disadvantage.”
“So he’ll be forced to join us.” He finished.
I nodded, “I’m a lot smarter than people think.” I told him.
He nodded, “I’ll see you school.” He said and turned.
“Bye.” I said and ran in the other direction. It was only then that I realized who late it was, so I picked up the pace. I didn’t want my father to worry about me anymore than he is.
I just came threw the door in time to see a candle stick thrown at my head. I ducked out of the way immediately and pulled off my shoes.
“I’m home.” I smiled seeing a pissed off Daddan, a worried father, and a frustrated Makino.
“Ceerie!” He called and wrapped me up in a hug.
“Hai?” I asked trying to get away from his hug. I loved him, but it hurt like hell when he rubbed his face against mine like he was doing now. Stubble hurt!
“I’m glad your home.” he said holding me tighter.
“Daddy, I can’t breath.” I weezed.
“Warri.” He said and let go.
“Where were you?” Daddan asked furiusly.
“I was talking with Law on our way home from the path.” I told her, “He wanted to know what I had in mind with what’s going on.”
My father chuckled, “That’s smart.” He told me, “You have to keep your second in command informed.”
“He asked, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
He nodded, “Now about the factory?”
“Benn said he’d look into buying it in the morning.” I told him.
“Well, so long as your home safely.” Makino told me, “Dinner is on the table waiting for you.”
“Arigoto!” I said and walked in with my father. We always ate together for some reason. But it was nice.
After we ate I went up to my room and had a long hot bath. Tomorrow was going to be a long day. I could feel it.