Nighttime Declarations

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Prologue

The sound of wind chimes lulled the elderly men on the porch to sleep, beer mugs half full, laughter ringing in the background — people cheered and sang and had an overall good time. A few men sat huddled in the back, whispering inconspicuously to one another. Some woman at the bar, low cut top and all, muttered seductive words into the some poor virgin's ear, who would no doubt awake in horror in the morning after only then realising her profession past his intoxicated state.

It was the stereotypical Friday night. Men came drinking after a long days work, some to drown their sorrows and others simply looking for a good time. Lone Marines, all lowly ranked, of course, came scurrying down from the docks after 5 as they usually do. The barmaids topped their drinks when they asked, and widened their fake smiles as they nodded along to their obviously bogus stories.

And one child sat alone. Right at the back of the pub, squished between two other booths, she sipped her lemon iced tea quietly.

Hair stuffed under a hat, sharp eyes scanned the nightlight — the darkest blue, like they were cut from sapphires themselves. Said eyes drifted to the Marine's directly in the centre of the bar, just as one let out a loud burst of laughter, tears no doubt welling up in eyes.

The tiniest of smiles curled up on her thin lips, and she kicked her legs in amusement, white sundress ruffling alongside.

"How ya doing darl'?" At the sound of a thick-accented voice, she lifted her gaze, landing on the busty barmaid before her, who gave the girl a knowing smile.

She blinked her sapphire eyes in slight surprise before her features softened into a lazy smile. "Bit bored, but nothing a nap can't kill."

The woman clearly didn't expect such a response, but the girl only saw this revelation through her eyes as her picture-perfect face betrayed nothing. The barmaid had obviously trained herself to show no emotion other than seductive smiles and beaming happiness.

The girl could respect that.

Usually, in the town they were in no one asked questions. The Grand Line was full of shady people and it was just an unspoken rule that people should just mind their own business, almost everyone followed this rule. However, the barmaid couldn't help the tug of concern she felt towards her when she saw the little girl sitting alone in a bar, on a Friday night, surrounded by all manner of ruffians.

So, she broke the cardinal rule and asked. "How old are ya hun?" Though her face displayed her textbook pleasant smile, the girl could hear the concern lacing her voice. "Are you with anyone?"

The child just smiled up at the woman. "I'm seven miss, and no — I'm not. Haven't been for awhile, it's just me, but don't bother yourself though." The girl rested her chin in her hand and gave the woman the purest smile that, for someone unknown reason, she knew she shouldn't trust. "I'm just dandy."

A million thoughts raced through the barmaid's head, but they all fell flat at the girl's expression. Every inch of the barmaid's body told her not to trust this child but she saw nothing but honesty in the child's eyes — so she caved.

"Right... just, gimme a shout if ya need anything, 'kay?" She couldn't help adding.

The girl just smiled at the woman, "Of course. Thanks, Miss."

"Kana... my name is Kana." She added hesitantly, glancing around as if to see if anyone was listening in.

The child's smile somehow grew, bordering a full-blown grin but not quite. "Nice to meet you, Kana-san — I'm Tohara Shiori!"

Kana saw no need for last names, as she herself didn't give one. "You're... an honest child, aren't you?"

Shiori just sipped her lemon iced tea. "I try to be, Miss." Shooting back a few smiles here and there.

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