WARNING: The following contains spoilers for One Piece Chapters #967 and 968 by Eiichiro Oda, Stephen Paul and Vanessa Satone, available in English now from Viz Media.
One Piece has lasted longer than its target audience of teenagers has been alive, but its consistently compelling characters, unexpected plot twists and underlying mysteries have both kept old fans and attracted new ones for over 20 years. But all good things must come to an end, and One Piece is closer than ever before to its conclusion. The set-up for the final section, and the Straw Hats' triumphant journey to Laugh Tale, the island that holds the One Piece treasure, is basically complete.
While the finer details have yet to be revealed, we can figure how a lot about what might be coming for the story's conclusion based on what the manga has set up already. If Oda is to actually finish the story within the next few years, how will the Straw Hats finally obtain the One Piece?
The most obvious hint towards the treasure has been the appearance of the Road Poneglyphs, giant red stones that each lead to a location on the known map. While this doesn't seem overly helpful at first, once all four locations are found, the crew can draw lines between all four spots, forming an "x" shape. For pirates, "x marks the spot" -- in this case, the location of Laugh Tale. The Straw Hats already have two of the Poneglyphs: one from Zou, and the etching they stole from Big Mom. Kaido currently blocks the way to the third Poneglyph, but once he and Big Mom are defeated, finding the fourth Poneglyph should be as easy as a sea breeze -- though getting close enough to read it may be a challenge.
Chapter #967, "Roger's Adventure," showcases that Roger Pirates, upon arriving at Laugh Tale and completing their circumnavigation of the Grand Line, found out everything: the missing century of history, the truth behind the people of the D and even the ancient weapons. These are secrets that Luffy's crew has already begun to discern. Of the ancient weapons, Franky revealed that Pluton was a ship, and Robin figured out that Poseidon referred to a mermaid with the power to command the Neptunians -- aka Shirahoshi, Princess of Fish-Man Island -- leaving only Uranus as a mystery.
This showcase of Laugh Tale and its naming not only confirms that travel there with just the Poneglyphs is completely possible but also hints that the treasure may not be gold or jewels -- or at least not all gold and jewels. Perhaps it is the knowledge of the truth that is the treasure. Of course, the treasure could also be something humorous, given the way the sight of it makes Roger's whole crew laugh.
If the treasure is knowledge, the Straw Hats may be well on their way to claiming that treasure. Robin is already beginning to piece together the history of the Void Century from the rest of the Poneglyphs they've encountered in their journeys. It's only a matter of time before she shares her findings with the rest of the crew, perhaps finally explaining the story of Joy Boy and why Oden declares in Chapter #968, "Oden's Return," that Wano's borders must be opened before Joy Boy (re)appears. It's likely this knowledge will offer a way for Luffy and friends to change the world for the better.
There will certainly be more bumps in the road before discovering the One Piece treasure: the "incident" mentioned at the end of the Dressrosa Arc with the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, the great ship Noah's purpose, the mystery of just how exactly the Blackbeard Pirates manage to obtain multiple powersets. However, Luffy is now on the fast-track to finding One Piece and rightfully earning the title of "King of the Pirates." The path to Laugh Tale couldn't be clearer -- but as always, the map fails to show every hazard that lines the way. We'll just have to join the journey and see for ourselves.