I love time travel fics, mostly because I love it when the good guys totally own the bad guys. I get that some people like the hopelessness of the struggle, but I prefer happily ever after's. Don't get me wrong, I love epic fight scenes as much as the next guy, but I don't want my heart to stop wondering if the author's going to actually do character death.
Anyway, my favorite fic of all time is YAWALEH by Third Fang, and one of my favorite aspects of it was that it wasn't JUST one character with advance knowledge. Most time-travel fics stick a little too close to canon for my liking, simply because it's easier to explain away. But I want to experiment, and I'm not afraid to completely rewrite the premise as long as it's just as cool as the original.
P.S. Not going to lie, this was heavily inspired by 'The Will of D' by The Animaniac Dude and 'Once again' by TheVictor, but I'm not going to blindly copy and paste, this will be distinctively my own. Just felt I should mention credit.
Sweeping Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece. This is just fun.
The Straw Hat Pirates rushed into the room, slamming the heavy steel door shut behind them. Almost immediately, sounds of banging and raised voices started outside. It sounded like an army was trying to break through. And that was because there was.
Nami slumped to the ground, her Sorcery Clima-Tact falling from her hand as she held herself up on shaking arms. Her hair, normally so glossy and well-mannered, now looked like a nest of a particularly messy bird. Dirt and dust were coated so thick that her natural orange was hidden in spots. The bottom of each strand was scorched black, and were now three inches shorter than they had been that morning.
Catching her breath, Nami threw back her head and screamed "FUCK THIS!"
Her nakama didn't even respond to her stronger-than-usual language. They either agreed or were too exhausted to comment.
The situation was pretty bleak. After the craziness on Dressrosa, Luffy and the group had been all set on the next big adventure in the New World. When they finally docked at an unassuming Autumn Island (after a brief episode of sailing upside-down), the last thing they had expected was an ambush worthy of the record books.
Akainu himself had appeared from out of nowhere, leading two Buster Call's worth of ships to surround the entire island. The crew had barely managed to evacuate the Thousand Sunny before enough cannon shells to blot out the sun had consumed the dream ship in an explosion so big it burned the clouds. Franky had cried out like a wounded animal, and it had taken the combined efforts of Sanji, Zoro, and Robin to keep him from running into the inferno that was once their beloved home.
Before they could grieve, before they could even think, the crew was besieged by what seemed like half of the entire Marine navy. Wave after wave of bloodthirsty soldiers had come for them, each certain that they were serving 'Justice'. The crew had rallied and shown the Marines exactly why the Straw Hat Pirates were known throughout the world. Zoro scattered them like leaves, Sanji burned them with the explosive power of his legs, Usopp unleashed terrible freaks of nature, Nami turned the very elements against them, Franky displayed the benefits of technological superiority, Brook serenaded and sliced them in equal measure, Robin firmly earned the unique title of 'mass assassin', Chopper proved how much of a monster he was, and Luffy crushed them like bugs.
And yet for every Marine they downed, three more rushed forward to pick up the slack. And it wasn't a massacre of the weak, oh no. These were the battle-hardened veterans of the New World. A menagerie of Devil Fruit abilities and unique fighting styles tested the skill and ingenuity of each of Luffy's nakama. And the whole while, cannon fire rained down on them, Akainu showing just how disposable he saw his men while in the pursuit of 'Absolute Justice'.
Hurt in a thousand ways, the crew had slowly been forced to retreat inland or be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Things only got worse as they had to trek through harsh, unfamiliar forests while the Marines got only more crazed with each loss. Franky had finally had to resort to dragging the whole crew on a desperate Coup de Boo, a function he had kept during his remodel. They had crash landed near what looked like an abandoned Marine base, and had for a second thought they had escaped… only to discover that Marines had been closing in from every side of the island. Exhausted and starting to feel truly afraid, the crew had fled into the base, dodging every manner of attack as the Marines followed right on their heels. At last, they had finally ducked into the room with the biggest door they could find.
As the cacophony outside the door grew louder, the Straw Hats couldn't muster the energy to care. Chopper, looking half-dead and possibly already unconscious, continued to splint Brook's snapped right fibula. The skeleton musician, even with the limited emotions a skull alone could convey, looked ready to cry. A large chunk of his afro was missing, sliced off some kind of mantis Zoan. Franky, for all his size, seemed very small as he hid his face in his hands. Usopp seemed to be squeezing his trembling lips shut as tight as he could, but the odd hysterical gibber sneaked through. Sanji reached in his pockets for his lighter, brought it up to his lips, only to stare at it as if he had never seen it before, and then threw it at the door that was already starting to dent. Robin and Zoro both had resigned expressions; she tilted her head so her hair would hide her tears, while Zoro simply clutched the hilt of Wado to his chest. The blade had snapped clean off when he'd crossed blades with a Captain with some kind of sound or vibrating ability. Luffy seemed to have frozen, his eyes stuck in the distance. His lips were moving, but not even Chopper could have heard the continuous string of "Not again," coming out his mouth.
Nami slowly pulled herself together before standing up. As she did so often, she took charge. "Robin, how long is that door going to hold?"
The only other female on the crew replied dryly. "They have battering rams. And the Fleet Admiral himself is on his way. We have five minutes at the most."
Nami bit her lip. She turned to survey the room, hoping to see some other way out, when suddenly she was blinded by spotlights.
"Ah, test subjects."
Roused from catatonia, the crew blinked until their vision returned. Only now did they see exactly what the room they had barricaded themselves in was. Several large, complicated, expensive-looking metal apparatuses seemed embedded into the walls. Several antennas, vents, and other things not even Franky could name seemed pointed at them. The roof seemed to be entirely made of fluorescent lights set brighter than sunshine, while the floor was bare concrete with a red circle drawn on it, encompassing the whole crew. On the wall opposite the still clanging door, a window of glass was set at eye level. Beyond it, they all could barely make out a shadowy figure.
"Who the hell are you?" Luffy demanded, snapped out of his crippling flashbacks by the most recent crisis.
"How rude. But if you must know, my name is Dr. Vegapunk." The voice was clearly distorted, whether by the poor quality of the speakers it emanated from or deliberate intent, they couldn't tell.
Franky's eyes widened. "Dr. Vegapunk? The genius scientist?"
"Ah yes, Cyborg Franky. You seem to have availed yourself of some of my old blueprints. I knew I forgot something back home." The figure cleared his throat, and then seemed to reach for a button. "I'll get straight to the point. This island is where I keep some of my more esoteric experiments. Your and your pursuers' presence is unexpected, but I'll make due. I'm going to interpret your barging in here as volunteering as human trials for my latest invention. I hope you don't mind."
"The hell you talking about, you shitty—" Sanji couldn't get any further before losing consciousness. Almost all at once, everyone but Luffy and Brook seemed to pass out on the ground.
Luffy looked at his nakama in shock and panic. "Guys! What's wrong? Why'd you go to sleep at a time like this?"
"Hmm," came the garbled voice. "Curious. You and that animate skeleton seem immune to my sleeping gas. Even Caesar couldn't make better, so how are you resisting?"
"Of course sleeping gas doesn't work on me! I can't breathe it in, because I don't have lungs! Skull joke, yohohoho!" Brook reached up to tilt his hat, only to clutch empty air. A stray cannonball had come within inches of his head and taken his top hat and crown with it.
"Ah, naturally. And if Straw Hat Luffy survived an encounter with Magellan, it is safe to assume that toxins would naturally have a lower efficacy against him." Vegapunk made the remark as if it were an interesting fact to write down later, not as if he were talking about other human beings. "Well, no matter. You don't necessarily have to be docile for the experiment."
Luffy grit his teeth and pulled back his fist. "Listen, Mr. Vega-whatever! If you do anything to my nakama, I swear I'll—"
"Do shut up. Flux Capacitor Test #22, begin."
In an instant, the entire room was filled with blinding light, as if a sun had been born. A mechanical whirring echoed throughout the base, making the Marines outside the door pause to wonder. After a few seconds, the light dimmed, revealing an empty room. Other than marks made from blood, there was not a single sign that the Straw Hat Pirates had ever been there.
Vegapunk waited a full minute before turning to his log. "Note. After successfully transporting nine sentient life forms into the past, and in the absence of paradoxical annihilation or tangible temporal shifts, I conclude that time travel is not a viable method to alter the present. Anything sent back simply generates an alternate reality, leaving the original unchanged." The doctor waited a second, before adding the idle thought rolling around his head. Everything generated by his mind deserved to be chronicled. "Comment. I wonder how different that other world looks."
Luffy groaned, scrunching his closed eyes. He had a headache like nobody's business. It was worse than the time he'd gotten in a drinking contest with Zoro and Nami. Every pulse of blood through his head came with a throb of unholy soreness. What the hell happened last night?
In a flash, it hit him. Akainu, Marines, Sunny dying, Nami screaming, creepy scientist!
"VEGAPUNK!" Luffy roared, leaping to his feet, ready to punch the creep into next week. Well, he tried. Instead he flopped like pancake and the pounding got upgraded to someone knocking nails into his skull. "Ow~!" Luffy moaned, bringing his hands up clutch his head.
After another ten minutes of moaning, and deciding it wasn't going to hurt any less to be awake so he might as well move, Luffy forced his eyes open. They shot open as wide as possible the moment what he was seeing processed. It had been years since he'd seen it, but he'd know that roof anywhere. Hardly daring to believe it, Luffy slowly sat up, ignoring the answering ache, and looked around. There was no mistaking it.
It was the treehouse. The one he, Ace, and Sabo built.
Luffy slowly walked over to the wheel, reaching out to touch it with reverence. The wood felt warm and familiar in his hand. He looked out through the window at the beautiful view of the forests of Mt. Colubo. It was just as he remembered. But there was no way he was really back here.
Luffy reached up to pinch his chest. He felt an unpleasant sting, almost even pain, but nothing changed. Pinching was supposed to wake you up from dreams, right? And something felt… off about his chest. Luffy laid his hand on his chest, trying to puzzle out what was wrong. There was no way. Luffy pulled off the t-shirt he was wearing (he hadn't worn t-shirts since he was 15, what was going on?), and looked down.
"No way," Luffy breathed, reaching up to trace the plain skin of his chest. There wasn't any of the manly muscle he'd worked so hard to get over the years. But most importantly, there was no scar. The mark left by Akainu that terrible day at Marineford wasn't there. Perfectly healthy skin covered his chest.
Anyone else would probably be having a panic attack or breakdown in denial, but not Luffy. His simple mind didn't raise any objections about how what he was thinking was impossible. He just connected the dots. He pinched himself and nothing happened, so this wasn't a dream. And there was no way all his adventures were some crazy dream he'd had while sleeping in the tree house. He'd been hurt there too. He was shorter, back on Dawn Island, and his chest was fine. And that creepy Vegapunk guy had said something about an experiment.
"Mystery experiment." Luffy noted sagely. "So, I went back in time." A second of silence. "So awesome!" A wild grin spread across Luffy's lips. He was back home! He'd sailed through the river of time. That was legendary. Even Usopp hadn't done that…
Luffy's grin died as realized what this really meant. He was back. Back before he left the island, before he met his nakama, before he had all his adventures. None of it had happened yet. It might be years before he saw any of them again.
But how many years? How far back had he gone?
Luffy shook his head. There were a lot of questions unanswered, and as much he hated to think (it hurt his head), he was the only one who could answer them. But to get answers, he had to get information. First thing to figure out was when exactly he was. Putting his shirt pack on, making sure Hat was snugly set on his head, Luffy hopped out of the tree house and went to find Dadan's house.
Everything was exactly as he remembered it. The trees, the smells, everything. Well, not exactly. Luffy had Haki this time. A little focus and he could hear the voice of every animal around, so he had no problem running around them. Not that he couldn't go for a quick bite, but he left all his hunting gear back in the house. Besides, he needed to have his questions answered.
Luffy realized just how much he took his strength and speed for granted. By the time he finally made it from the tree house to Dadan's lodge, he was breathing hard and the sun had noticeably shifted in the sky. The day before… or after… later… whatever, he could have done the whole trip in a couple minutes without breaking a sweat. He had a lot of work to do if he was going to get back in the shape he was used to. But how long did he have to work before he had to left? Gah, this is why he hated having to think and ask questions! It was so annoying until you found the answer! He had no idea why Robin and Chopper seemed to like it so much.
Dogra was sweeping the front porch when Luffy slowed. Down he looked up and gave a smile. "Hello, Luffy. Don't suppose you'll actually do some of your chores for me, will you?"
Luffy ignored him. He was going to answer this question already. "Dogra, how old am I?"
The dwarf quirked a brow. "Are you really asking that question?"
"Just tell me how old I am, damn it!" Luffy shouted. The headache never really went away, and it was only getting worse the longer the question was floating around in his head.
Dogra sighed. "You're 14, Luffy. That means you have to wait three years before you can follow after Ace. Well, two and a half since you're birthdays are close. It's only been two days since he left and you're already this impatient? You need to learn to slow down, appreciate life passing around you."
"Uh-huh," Luffy muttered, not hearing anything after the first sentence. So, he was 14. Since he woke up alone, that meant Ace already left. He had three years to train and think through all the other questions. Knowing he didn't have to worry about leaving the very next day, Luffy smiled and happily stopped thinking. He had plenty of time.
The rest of the day was like a particularly vivid memory. After hugging Dadan (something she'd blustered at, but he knew it made her day), Luffy had run out into the forest to hunt for his five daily doses of protein. He tested on one wolf to see if his Conqueror's Haki still worked, and was pleased to see he had as much control over it as when Rayleigh had finished training him. For the rest of the pack, he worked to get them the old-fashioned way. He needed the exercise.
After bringing back the biggest as 'rent' and devouring it alongside the rest of the Dadan family, Luffy decided to sleep there to save time. The next day he did almost the exact same thing, only he went after crocodiles. Then the day after that he did boars. It was almost too easy to slip back into things.
Luffy panicked on his fourth day 'back' when it took him a couple seconds to remember Brook's name. The image of a skeleton laughing had popped up, and he'd been confused until his musician's name had followed after. He'd dropped what he'd been doing and ran straight to the tree house, the safest place he knew.
Luffy took a deep breath and turned his brain back on. He'd almost forgotten about his nakama! It might hurt to think, but if he didn't, all those precious memories could slip away, now that he couldn't see them every day to remind him. With Rayleigh, it had been different. He'd been doing it in order to see them again. He'd had purpose. But the last few days, he'd just been having fun, reliving his childhood. Too much, it seemed.
Luffy pulled Hat down over his eyes and closed his eyes. He needed to work some things out.
Fun as it had been, he couldn't just do the same thing he'd done the first time around. If he did that, he'd end up the same way he'd been last time, too weak to save Ace. He had to do things different if he wanted things to go different.
And Luffy was sure he wanted to do things differently this time. He didn't want to have the same adventures as last time. He wanted new ones! Besides, the 'old way' had ended with him and his entire crew almost getting killed by the Marines only to be 'saved' by Vegapunk.
Speaking of which… had his nakama gone back in time too? They were in the same room as him when that weird flash had happened. Then again, he had no idea how the mystery experiment worked. Maybe he only remembered because he'd been awake. Maybe he'd been the only one hit by the flash and the others were still there in the future. Luffy started to feel some serious steam build up as he kept thinking of 'maybe's, so he decided to plan as if he was the only one that remembered. If the other's did, that would be twenty different kinds of awesome, but he shouldn't get his hopes up.
So, how would he do things differently? He still wanted to meet all his nakama, so he'd go the same way in the Grand Line. But he'd have to get much stronger if he wanted to be ready to save Ace. Luffy wondered if maybe he could talk Ace out of it or maybe take down Blackbeard at Jaya, but he decided he couldn't. Ace was avenging a nakama. It wasn't Luffy's place to interfere. And since there was no way Ace was also back in time, he'd lose like last time. So, Luffy had to get strong enough in three years to either get all the way through Impel Down on the first try, or actually help at Marineford.
But wait… how would he get to Impel Down in the first place? Did he let Kuma blow him away to Hancock's island? Luffy screamed with his mouth closed. This was all so complicated! Nami was the one that was good at planning.
Okay, so, he had to get really strong, if he wanted to stop Marineford or Akainu's ambush from happening again. But… was getting stronger really going to solve everything? Luffy thought back to the horrible attack that had led to all this. He and his nakama were really strong, New World strong, and they still lost. Even the Whitebeard guy had lost, and he was the strongest guy in the world. There were just too many Marines.
Luffy thought about something Nami said when counting treasure. "Quality is better than quantity. But both is even better!" Luffy had always dreamed of his crew being small, about ten or so, few enough so they could all fit on one ship and know each other, and strong enough to take on anyone that came after them. But he'd learned the hard way that there's only so far being super strong could go before numbers won. If he really wanted to not lose this time around, he needed to get more nakama. The Whitebeard dude had had a LOT of nakama, Luffy remembered. And not just the guys on his ship. He had a bunch of other crews that worked for him. And that Dom Krib guy he'd fought when he met Sanji had had 50 ships before Mihawk kicked his ass. At the time, Luffy had made fun of them for thinking having more people made them stronger. But what if you had lots of people, and each of them was strong? That was pretty freaking cool, actually.
Luffy thought about it. A lot of the pirate crews he'd fought hadn't actually been all that bad. One or two members might have been assholes, and Luffy had already decided they were bad guys, but if he'd played things different they might have been friends. Buggy turned out to be kind of a cool guy in Impel Down. That hypnotist guy had been cool, but he'd been scared by Kuro into hurting Usopp's friend. Gin had been cool, but he'd got hit by the poison. And that was just the guy's he'd met here in East Blue.
Luffy wondered if he could pull off the same thing Whitebeard had done. He didn't get all the details in the rush, but he'd gotten the sense that all those guys didn't just followed the Whitebeard guy because he'd asked nicely. They'd done it because he was just that badass. If Luffy was going to convince other captains to give up becoming the King for him, he'd have to be on a whole other level.
Hmm, the Straw Hat Armada. That had a real nice ring to it. Luffy imagined himself standing on the head of a Sunny ten times bigger than usual, surrounded by other ships, all of them also having the Straw Hat symbol. He grinned wide. That would be so cool!
But it all seemed to come back to Luffy getting stronger. He'd have to get stronger than he'd ever been before he even set out if he was going to pull this off. He already had Haki, so that made things a little easier, but he still had a mountain of training ahead of him, more than he really thought he could do just chasing animals, or even doing Zoro's workout routines. To pull this off, Luffy was going to have to go through Hell. And he knew exactly the person to take him there:
Without a clear goal in mind, Luffy was a mindless idiot. But when he set his mind to achieving something, you'd have to kill him to stop him from getting it. For the next few months, Dadan and co noticed a distinct change in their ward. While still smiling and stupid, he seemed to become obsessed with testing his limits. He went after the biggest animals in the forest, and often caused riots in the Grey Terminal with the scum that preyed on those with nothing. It wasn't uncommon for Magra to open the door in the evening to take out the trash and find the straw hat-wearing boy passed out on the porch.
Softies that they were, they tried to talk Luffy into taking things down a notch. But he'd just laugh and smile and tell them that he had to get strong enough to beat Ace. In his head, he really meant rescue, but they didn't need to know that. Luffy had decided not to tell anyone about the mystery experiment, except maybe his nakama. They'd ask WAY too many questions, and his head might explode.
Meanwhile, Luffy kept working as hard as he could to get back into the shape he was used to. He had to impress Garp if his plan was going to work. Oh, and speaking of planning, Luffy had noticed that once he kept thinking long enough, it stopped hurting as much. Hmm, maybe his brain was like one of his muscles; the more he used it, the easier it got to do stuff! That was good, because Luffy had a lot of thinking to do. Garp might love him and want him to become strong, but there was no way he'd just hand away Marine secrets of training without Luffy's sworn word that he'd become a Marine. Luffy could just lie, but he didn't like lying to people he liked. Plus, according to Ace, he was really bad at it. So, he had to work out some way to trick Gramps into training him seriously without becoming a Marine.
It was a good thing Garp only visited for Luffy's birthday, because it took months for Luffy to come up with something that might work. Hey, just because thinking didn't hurt anymore didn't mean he was good at it! How did he know he'd gotten a plan that could work? He'd been asking Dadan if they could work. She was a girl, so she was smarter, right? Once she found out the reason he'd been working so hard, she'd roared in laughter. She found the thought of Luffy pulling one over on the dread Garp to be hilarious.
Finally, when dawn bloomed on May 5th, the time came when the front wall of Dadan's place broke as the only other person in the world as boisterous as Luffy walked through it like it was a paper screen. "DADAN! You haven't corrupted my grandson, have you?"
As Luffy as jerked awake by the sound of the wall breaking, he had a millisecond of doubt about turning himself over to the gentle graces of Garp's 'tough love', but he crushed it with the image of that massive fleet. To get strong enough to protect his nakama, and make even more. That was why he was doing this. Garp had turned Coby from a wimp to a decent threat in three months. Imagine what he could do to Luffy with a couple years!
Luffy popped to his feet, Hat as always safe on his head. "Hey, Gramps! Fight me! This time I'm going to beat you and you'll stop trying to make me a Marine!"
"Bwahahahaha! You think you can take me on, you little brat?" Garp flexed his fist, somehow managing to look threatening wearing a flowery vacation shirt. "Well, then let's take this outside! I don't want Dadan nagging me about breaking her house!"
"You still owe me for the wall! Why can't you just use the door like a normal person?" Dadan demanded… from around the corner, Dogra and Magra conveniently placed directly between the Vice-Admiral and the mountain bandit.
Garp quirked his head. "Hmm… not cool enough! Bwahahahaha!
Luffy grinned and ran out after his gramps. Now, to initiate the plan… wow, he sounded a lot like that shitty butler. He had to be careful with this thinking stuff. It could get out of hand.
Garp finally got a safe distance away from the lodge and turned around. "Alright, brat! Let's get this thing started. And hey, since it's your birthday, I'll even let you have the first hit!" So saying, the giant of an old man went into 'at ease' position, his hands behind his back, smirking cheekily at his grandson.
Luffy felt a tic mark pop up on his forehead, but took a deep breath. This was going to be tricky. He had to impress Garp without making him outright suspicious. Obviously, he couldn't use Haki, except maybe a little Observation. The Gears were out. Then again, from what Luffy remembered, around his first 15th birthday he still barely had any idea how to make his Gomu Gomu powers work in a fight. Maybe he was overthinking this. Blegh!
Deciding to just act like he was fighting Smokey that first time, meaning decent but without a prayer of winning, Luffy through back his fist and threw the first of many in this new time.
"Gomu Gomu no Pistol!"
Luffy's fist, backed by months of hard training and rubber recoil, whizzed through the air to make solid contact with Garp's nose. The average man would have been blown into the distance, but Garp didn't budge an inch. His eyes were wide, though. Slowly, he reached up to feel the blood flowing from his broken nose. He looked at Luffy, who only gave the cheeky grin that seemed genetic.
Garp's lips pulled up in a hard smile. "So, my cute little grandson is finally learning to how to throw a punch, huh?" Faster than any man his age had any right to, Garp rushed forward to tower over Luffy, his fist already cocked. "But you still can't beat the Fist of Love!"
Luffy had already learned through bloody scraps with mountain lions that just because he might see something coming, it didn't mean shit if he wasn't fast enough to dodge it. He 'saw' the punch before Garp even moved, but even then Luffy only barely managed to pull himself out of the way of the Armament-enhanced punch. Still, he managed to dodge. Luffy stumbled back, getting his feet back under him, while Garp looked up in surprise from the crater he'd made.
"What the? You've never managed to dodge me before!" Garp shouted, almost as if he were accusing Luffy of breaking a rule.
Luffy just smirked. "I told you I was going to beat you this time!" He knew he had no chance, though. Heck, Aokiji was afraid to fight his gramps. But he was going to make the old man work for it.
After a couple seconds of confusion, Garp threw back his head and laughed. "Bwahahahaha! So, this is going to finally be a real fight! I'm so proud of you for getting stronger! But you're still going to lose, you little brat!"
Luffy just grinned back. Then Garp moved again and Luffy was on the ropes.
Despite saying this was a real fight, it was pretty obvious Garp was still holding back. Not that it mattered, since Luffy was still barely keeping up. Between his recent brawls with the animals of both Mt. Colubo and Grey Terminal and future experience, he was already pretty much at the level he was when he first set out. Not that that was saying much, compared to a man who was offered the position of Admiral several times, but Luffy was confident he could leave at least one mark on his gramps besides the free shot.
Luffy used his basic moves like Balloon, Whip, Axe, and Pistol. Garp let them hit him, and they still barely made a dent. Meanwhile, Garp was doing some creative landscaping, with every punch breaking the ground or trees unfortunate enough to be in the way. With Observation and a bit of luck, Luffy managed to dodge most of them, but still got hit by the odd punch, each one reminding him of just how freaking strong his grandpa was.
Finally, when the sun had fully risen over the horizon, Luffy rushed in with a suicide move. He pulled back both arms and poured all the strength in his lanky body into one last attack. "Gomu Gomu no Bazooka!" he shouted, slamming both of his palms into Garp's chest with explosive force. The old man grunted, but didn't react otherwise. He used Luffy's convenient closeness to finally connect with his Fist of Love, sending Luffy crashing to the dirt.
"Owie!" Luffy shouted, clutching the goose egg on his head. He'd forgotten just how much those hurt!
Garp chuckled, before coughing. He raised a brow when he saw flecks of blood on the hand he'd covered his mouth with. Most would panic at the sign of internal bleeding, but Garp started to beam with pride as he sat down.
"Not bad, kid! I actually felt that last one! When'd my grandson get so tough?"
Luffy huffed and picked himself up. This was it. Time to try and outsmart his grandpa. This wouldn't be easy.
"Well, I've been working really hard to get strong. I'm gonna have to be if I'm gonna be the Pirate King!"
Garp frowned. "Curse that Red-Hair! Listen to me, you brat! You're going to become a proud Marine, not some grubby pirate!"
Luffy pouted. He'd been working on it with Dadan. She said he was cute as a puppy dog now, instead of just pitiful, whatever that meant. "But Gramps! Pirates are cool!"
"So are Marines! Are you telling me you really think that dumb Red-Hair is cooler than your loving grandpa?" Garp puffed his chest, as if trying to make himself look even 'cooler'.
'Yes,' was Luffy's honest answer. But this wasn't the time for honesty. This was the time for sneaky manipulation. Luffy scrunched his brows like he was thinking really hard (he didn't have to actually do that anymore!), before he tried to look like he'd just realized something amazing. He imagined Sanji actually giving him food before the girls and hoped it worked. "You know what? Gramps is actually pretty cool!"
"What?" Garp asked, looking like he hadn't actually expected Luffy to agree with him.
"Yeah! All Shanks did was take down that stupid Higuma guy. Gramps takes down huge, big-name guys! Gramps is really, really strong!" Hoping to his feet, Luffy assumed his 'challenge' pose. "I've decided! I'm going to get as strong as you one day, Gramps!"
Crickets could be heard. Then Garp broke out into hysterics. Tears streaming, laughing so loud it hurt, the works. "Bwahahahaha! A brat like you get as strong as me? Not in a million years! Don't make jokes like that, Luffy! Bwahahahaha!"
Luffy didn't have to fake the blush that lit up his cheeks. Gramps didn't have to laugh that hard. "Shut up, Gramps!"
Garp wiped his eyes with a hanky. "Sorry, Luffy. But you'll never get as strong as your grandpa all on your own!"
Luffy fought the urge to smirk. This was going exactly as he planned. Dadan really did know his gramps pretty well, to guess what he would say. He hit his palm with his fist, like he'd just had an idea. "I got it. How about you teach me how to be strong as you?"
Garp paused, quirking his head like the dogs he loved. "Eh?"
Luffy got in Garp's face, trying to look as cute and 'say-yes-to-able' as he could. "Gramps, help me get as strong as you! I want to be as cool as you! If I were as cool as you, I'd be even cooler than Shanks! I might not even have to become Pirate King to be totally awesome!" He ignored the little twinge inside when he said those words. He wasn't really lying. He was awesome, even before he got sent back. But he would never stop wanting to be Pirate King. But what was the harm in letting his gramps think he could?
Garp looked like he couldn't be happier. "That's great, Luffy! You finally got your head on straight! But I can't just give you the secrets of being strong like me! You have to become a Marine and learn them the same way I did!"
Luffy frowned. "No, no, no! I don't want to learn from some stranger! I want to learn from you, Gramps! You're the awesome one, and you're the only one that doesn't look at me like I'm an idiot!"
An uneasy expression crossed Garp's face. Luffy could almost see the steam building in his gramps's head as one of his deepest wishes clashed with his duty. "I can't do that, Luffy. I can't train you to be like me unless you're already in the Marines."
According to Dadan, this is when he should start the begging. Gramps was a sucker for begging, she said. "But I don't want to leave the island yet! I promised Ace I wouldn't leave until I was 17! Couldn't you just train me here?" Luffy comforted that twinge again by reminding himself he never actually promised to become a Marine. He wasn't lying.
He jumped up to hug gramps around the neck, and tried to imagine he was Chopper. No one could say no to Chopper. "Please, please, please, grandpa? Could you please just teach me here? I promise I'll never, never, ever for forever ask for anything else! I just want to get as cool as you, but I can't leave yet! I promised my brothers! Both of them! Please?"
Luffy felt yet another twinge from bringing up Sabo, and it was even bigger since he now knew that he'd never died. It was a dirty trick. But now his eyes were wet and that should help.
Garp looked like someone was shoving a red-hot poker up his butt. He looked into the teary eyes of his grandson for what felt like forever. Luffy held his breath. Would it work? If not, then he couldn't get strong enough, and everything would be ruined. He'd lose his nakama like last time, because he wouldn't be strong enough to change things!
"Ah, screw it!" Garp finally shouted. Shifting Luffy to sit in his lap like he was five instead of 15, Garp reached around in his pockets before he pulled out a Baby Den Den Mushi. He fiddled with the dials with his thumb before the snail woke up and started to go 'purupurupuru'. After a few seconds, it made the click sound and the snail's face became bored. Gramps called out "Mushi Mushi!"
"What is it, Garp-san?" came the voice of the creepy hat guy Luffy remembered from Water 7.
"Patch me through to HQ! I need to talk to Sengoku!"
"Right away," came the monotone reply.
The snail started making the connecting sound again, this time much longer. After a couple minutes, it shifted expressions to look pissed off. "What is it, Garp?" Luffy tried not to shiver. It was crackly, but it was the same voice as the man who had ordered Ace's death.
Garp didn't seem to notice his grandson tense. "Hey, Sengoku! I'm gonna need to extend my leave a little."
A long-suffering sigh came from the snail. "How much time do you need?"
Garp did a little counting on his fingers. "Um, about two years."
"WHAT?!" exploded the snail. "No way in hell, Garp! If you want so much time off, then just retire already! But don't try to waste the Marines' time. We need you."
"But you don't understand!" Garp whined, sounding a tenth his age. "My grandson finally realized he want to be like his gramps. I need the time off to train him to be as awesome as me!"
"Then just enlist him and take him as one of your apprentices," the Fleet Admiral ordered dismissively.
"Can't do that, Sengoku. He made a promise not to leave the island till he's 17. I can't ask him to break a promise! So I need the time off so I can train him here!" Garp replied. Luffy, seeing the snail take another breath for what was surely another 'no', decided to chip in. He tried to sound as young as possible. Young meant cute, cute meant getting a 'yes'.
"Please, Mr. Boss Seagull guy? I promised my family that I wouldn't leave until I was 17. But I want Gramps to make me as cool and strong as he is so I can be super awesome! Can you please just let him stay here? It's my birthday!" he added on, figuring it couldn't hurt.
A look of horror overcame the snail. "My God, there's two of them," it whispered. Then it seemed to shake itself and regained the angry expression. "Out of the question!"
"Please?" Garp and Luffy both asked, smiling wide as if Sengoku could see them.
There was a pregnant pause. Finally, the snail sighed. "Might as well give in now before you spend an hour begging until my ears bleed." The eyes snapped to Garp's. "I'll give you 18 months, Garp. Then I expect your ass back here doing paperwork and drills without a peep until I stop being mad at you!"
"Deal!" Garp shouted.
"And I'm cutting off your senbei and donut deliveries until you get back," the snail tacked on, looking smug.
Garp froze. He looked like he might cry. Then he looked down into Luffy's smiling face and sighed. "Deal," he muttered grumpily. Then he put the snail away.
"A-ten-hut!" Garp suddenly shouted. Luffy jumped, and suddenly found himself standing at attention. What the heck? Garp then stood up, towering over Luffy, so his face was hidden by the sun. "Now, soldier, we've only got a year and a half to try and whip you into being as awesome as me. We won't succeed, but by God we're going to get as close as we can! This is going to be the most grueling affair of your life! You WILL bleed, you WILL cry, but you are not allowed to EVER give up! If you don't think you can do that, then step out now and stop wasting my time! Are you prepared?!"
Luffy stared. He'd never seen this side of his gramps. For the briefest moment, he hesitated. Then the image of his crew, his nakama, lying defeated in that strange room came to him. Something inside of him hardened. Never again. He held his head high, looked his gramps in the eye and shouted "Sir, yes, sir!"
Gramps smiled, and it wouldn't have looked out of place on a devil. "Good. Now, we're going to go inside and bum breakfast off of Dadan. And then… we begin!"
Luffy would forever remember his time as Garp's student as the most painful, exhausting, demoralizing period of either life. If he'd thought Rayleigh had been tough on him, then the Monkey patriarch made the Dark King look like a pregnant, declawed cat on an August afternoon. Just thinking about the endless days and nights obeying his slave driver of a grandfather was enough to make him lose his appetite.
And he wouldn't have given up a second of it.
The first six months were simple enough. From 4:30 a.m. to midnight, every day, Luffy was hammered on the anvil of Garp. Conditioning that would make Zoro beg for mercy went on for as long as there was light in the sky. Endless push-ups, pull-ups, laps, all of them with time limits under threat of a Fist of Love. And Luffy had learned that Garp had been holding back on those. After all, he'd never used Hardening.
When the sun finally set, the training switched from his body to his mind. Garp had textbooks delivered, forcing Luffy to trek through huge numbers and expecting rote memorization. When Luffy had loudly protested at first, he'd gotten the screaming match of his life. "KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, YOU LITTLE SHIT! YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN MATH OR HISTORY OR SOME CHEMISTRY WILL MEAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH OUT THERE IN THE FIELD! 90% OF THIS GAME IS HALF MENTAL! YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE MUCH BRAINS, BUT YOU'RE GOING TO STUFF THEM AS FULL OF THIS STUFF AS YOU CAN!"
Even Luffy could see the irony in Garp upholding mental faculties, but he settled down.
Meals were supplied by the Dadan family, who were experiencing a collective, perpetual heart attack from having a Vice-Admiral bunking with them. Dadan had almost pulled her hair out when she realized she couldn't engage in even the tiniest heist, not with Garp around as a witness. In desperate need of funds to keep supplementing the Monkey family's appetite with market food on top of what her bandits were constantly bringing in from the forest, she'd resorted to legitimacy. Surprisingly, Dadan Tea Shoppe became the most profitable business on the entire island. Even Nobles from the city made orders for her special lemonade-iced tea mixture. And if she maybe packed a few powdered coca leaves into each batch to make it more habit-forming, well, no one had called her out on it yet.
The routine had changed once Garp deemed Luffy in 'workable' shape. Then it had been endless sparring, experimenting, and exercises. Garp didn't just make him fight, he tried to make him think, having him fight with ridiculous handicaps that forced him to come up with new strategies than just 'beat to a pulp'. Night became time for strategy games, Garp displaying a surprising level of skill in chess, checkers, and tic-tac-toe. Losing a game meant a Fist of Love, winning meant a piece of meat. It was remarkable how fast Luffy got good with that particular system.
Garp even started teaching Luffy the Rokushiki, which Luffy was overjoyed to learn. He could just imagine the looks on those CP9 bastards' faces when he beat them with their own moves. He'd have to be sure to have a Vision Dial when it happened. It would be priceless!
About eight months in, Luffy accidentally used Armament to block a haymaker from Garp. His heart had stopped, waiting for an explosion of questions and suspicion. Instead, he'd gotten a tearful hug from Garp, spouting how proud he was that his knucklehead grandson had found Haki on his own. Luffy had relaxed, thanking the Gods of Meat for the lucky break. Then the training had only intensified, as Garp had added courses on how to use Haki, all three once Luffy 'discovered' them within a couple weeks.
Rayleigh had gotten him a firm grasp of the basics of the three, but Garp would accept nothing less than absolute mastery. Luffy wasn't surprised to discover his gramps also had Conqueror's Haki, but he was surprised to learn how many different ways there were to apply it besides knocking people out. He could make people uncomfortable by exuding a 'presence', terrify them into following orders without question, and how to target specific groups in a crowd. And Hardening was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Armament. And there were some pretty freaky things to do with Observation if you were good enough.
At last, the day came when Garp had to leave lest Sengoku demote him down to cabin boy. Luffy smiled and tried to suppress his gag reflex as Garp demanded he put on a Marine uniform as a going-away present. He stood at attention, counting the seconds until Garp stopped admiring the sight of his grandson in white and boarded the ship. The old man was actually crying, blowing his nose through the opening of his dog mask. "I'm so damn proud of you, Luffy. You've grown into a real man!"
Luffy smiled, appreciating the compliment. At 16 and a half, he was more ripped than he'd been at 19 in his past life. While still thin all over, the lines of his chest and abs looked sharp enough to break skin, and his arms and legs were so densely packed that anyone that touched would think they were touching warm stone instead of flesh. But the most dramatic change was between Luffy's ears. While still cheerful and straightforward to the extreme, Luffy was now an impressive tactician, able to analyze any combat situation to find the best solution. He wasn't a genius by a long shot, but enough lessons had been literally pounded into his skull that he wasn't immediately identified as an idiot.
Garp regained his composure. "So, what're you going to do in six months?" The tone suggested there was only one right answer.
Luffy rolled his eyes. "I'm going to head out for Shell Island and look into the Marine Base there. I promised didn't I, sir Gramps?"
"One or the other, don't call me both! It sounds weird," Garp protested. But he was grinning like a loon. "You look mighty fine in that uniform, my boy. Here's hoping I'll see you in it again soon."
"Goodbye, Gramps," Luffy said, hiding the twinge in his gut. He honestly felt bad about this. His grandpa had invested so much in him, hoping to make him a splendid Marine. And Luffy didn't exactly hate the Marines; Coby and Gramps and Smokey and even Aokiji were pretty cool. But they didn't balance out all the jerks, not to mention how they just ignored the Government's evil. Besides, Luffy wasn't one to take orders.
Giving one last salute, which somehow felt more like a lie when it was in view of actual Marines, Luffy watched his gramps board the ship and sail away. He stood at attention until the boat became a speck on the horizon. Then Luffy all but tore his way out of the stuffy Marine uniform. Throwing the cap away, Luffy took Hat from his back and put it back on his head where it belonged. He'd gotten Dadan to add a string to it so it could hang from his neck.
Ignoring the stares from Foosha villagers for standing in the open in his boxers, Luffy did a quick Soru. Ten seconds later, he appeared in front of Makino's bar wearing the outfit he'd had for the New World. He walked through the swing doors, smiling as the realization that the training really was over. "Hey, Makino, can I have a drink? I want to celebrate that Gramps finally left!"
Makino smiled, looking up from polishing a mug. Woop Slap, the cranky old mayor, turned on his stool to regard Luffy with disdain. "A minor shouldn't be drinking alcohol. Especially one as destructive as you."
"For the last time, Mayor, Gramps was the one that threw me into your house! And I helped you rebuild it, if you don't remember! When are you gonna let that go?" Luffy whined.
Makino chuckled. "Well, you've been working very hard for the past couple years, Luffy-kun. I think this one time you can celebrate like a grown-up. What'll you have?"
"Rum! The whole bottle," Luffy stated as he sat down. Some of the patrons near the back surged to their feet and left when they heard that, looking like they were going to call their insurance adjustors.
"So, Luffy, what are you going to do until your birthday? Are you going to keep training even without Garp-san?" Makino asked.
Luffy finished a healthy swallow of the liquid gold, and smiled. "Yeah, but nowhere near as hard. I feel like Gramps crammed an entire century into his time off. I feel like I could take on Whitebeard!"
"You'll do no such thing!" Woop Slap shouted. "It's far too dangerous! Just because you're young and think you're invincible, doesn't mean you're ready to take on the strongest man in the world! You may never be!"
"Well, I'll never know unless I try, will I?" Luffy snapped back. The Mayor came from a good place, but he was just way too stuffy for Luffy's tastes.
Makino rolled her eyes. Men. "So, Luffy, you looking forward to leaving the island?"
Luffy smiled sadly as images of each of his nakama passed before his eyes. He'd never stopped thinking about them. They were the reason he was able to survive getting broken by Garp over and over again. "You have no idea. But now's not the right time. Not till I'm 17."
Makino and Woop Slap exchanged a glance, wondering at the odd weight in Luffy's statement.
Suddenly laughing, Luffy picked up his now half-empty bottle and stood. "Thanks for the drink, Makino. I'll pay you back once I get One Piece. Have a nice day!"
The next day, after recovering from his first hangover of this life, Luffy got to work. He started working on the Gears, something he'd kept from Garp at all costs. He had to have some secrets. Chopper had warned him that they were extremely damaging since they pushed his body to unnatural limits. Now was the time to see if he could find safer ways to use them, and maybe even find a new one.
But like he'd told Makino, training wasn't Luffy's focus for the next six months. He filled the tree house, maintained even during the boot camp from hell, with maps, sheets of paper, and crude drawings as he puzzled out the best way to change the future. One of the biggest lessons
Garp had pounded was how important the little details were in battle. A single grain of rice could tip the scale. Since Luffy wasn't sure he could do everything the same exact way even if he wanted to, and since he was determined never to lose his nakama again, he couldn't just fly by the seat of his pants and hope things worked out. He had to plan things out now.
So that's what he did. In between training with the Gears and making visits to Foosha and Dadan, Luffy wrote down every single thing he remembered from his 'first' life and worked out what would happen if he'd done things different. He considered how fast he'd get the Government's attention if he showed how strong he was. He contemplated every single strong/cool person he'd ever met and how he could talk them into joining his armada, and how to ease his nakama into that idea.
The old hope that maybe they'd come back too still hung in the background, but Luffy didn't waste too much time pining for it. It would be a blessing just to see his nakama again. Asking for the ones he remembered was just being greedy.
Luffy could appreciate now the logistical nightmare if he actually succeeded in talking everyone he wanted into joining, but he didn't care. The more the merrier, he thought. There was no joy in the world that compared to having nakama, as far as he was concerned, and now that he wasn't dead set on just having one ship, he found himself eager to have as many as possible. It would be like a big, happy family. Hmm, maybe that's why Whitebeard did it too.
In a blink, it was time. He was stopping by Dadan's to say goodbye. He smiled as she refused to face him, just like that time. The rest of the bandits looked sad, even as they worked on grinding tea leaves. They had never really gone back to thieving after Garp left, the Tea Shoppe being so successful it demanded their full attention. They would always be bandits in their hearts, though.
"Well, good-bye! Thanks for not killing me or anything," Luffy said.
"Hmph. You were nothing but trouble. I don't know why we bothered," Dadan answered, still resolutely showing him his back.
"Ignore her. Good luck, Luffy," Dogra offered, with Magra nodding.
Luffy turned around and took a few steps before pausing. He just couldn't resist. He turned around again. "I still hate mountain bandits!" Then he smiled wide. "But I like you guys!"
"Wah~! Just get out of here, you stupid brat!" Dadan shouted, now crying waterfalls that she hopelessly tried to stem with a hanky. Laughing like a madman, Luffy reached out a limb and used a simple Rocket to take off towards Foosha. He corrected his course with a little Geppo, landing at the docks in front of his raft. Makino and a few others had gathered to see him off.
"Good luck, Luffy!" Makino said, giving him a quick hug.
"You better become a Marine, you hear? If you become a pirate, you'll shame the entire town!" Woop Slap supplied.
"Hmm… nope! Still gonna be the Pirate King!" Luffy replied.
With little ado, Luffy cast off. He turned back to wave at the crowd and take one last look at the island. A niggle at the back of his mind bothered him. Wasn't he forgetting something?
With a roar, the local Sea King rose from the sea, jaws open to swallow Luffy and his boat whole. The crowd on shore cried out, but Luffy just turned his head just enough to look the beast in the eye. The overgrown eel froze as eyes even colder than those that red human had turned on it ten years ago pierced its soul.
"Get lost," Luffy growled.
Just like that, it turned around and swam like its life depended on it.
Luffy grinned and turned back to the shocked onlookers. "Look for me in the papers! I'm going to be big in no time, you'll see!"
When the town finally faded from view, Luffy turned around and put what little he knew of navigation to use. "Now, where's that whirlpool?"