Chapter 7

"WHAT THE HELL IS WITH THIS OCEAN!?" Nami shrieked furiously as she held onto the Merry's railing for dear life.

"I KNOW, RIGHT?! ISN'T IT AWESOME!?" I cackled as I yanked on one of the Merry's ropes, fighting to keep her sail open just right so that we could catch the summer gale that was blowing at us from starboard, all while we angled ourselves so that we could weave through the field of icebergs that were coming at us through the fog.

My memories had been right about the Grand Line's weather being completely out of this world, and they'd been right about how it'd start with snow and icebergs... but apparently nothing could predict the sheer scale of the madness that we were to be put through.

To put it in a few words, it was like everything decided to happen all at once. The wind kicked up into a howl, a fog swept over us alongside a blizzard-slash-lightning storm, icebergs large enough to give the Titanic PTSD did their level best to reduce us to splinters...

Or, put another way, Poseidon was having a psychotic breakdown and we were subject to the whims of his maddened throes.

It was life-threatening, it was maddening, it was so completely unreal... but above all else?

"THE WIND'S SHIFTING AGAIN!"

I braced my feet against the deck and yanked on Merry's line as hard as I could as the sail tried to yank my arms out of my shoulders, a semi-demented grin dancing across my lips. "Pffff-HAHAHA!"

It. Was. Awesome!

"YOU CAN'T SERIOUSLY BE GETTING OFF ON THIS!" Nami shrieked desperately, her nearly-crazed eyes raking the surrounding weather for some clue of whatever the heck was going to hit us next.

"THE HELL I CAN'T!" I shouted back over the howling wind. "THIS IS THE MOST FUN I'VE HAD MY WHOLE LIFE! THIS IS BADASS! RIGHT SOUNDBITE!?"

"WAY HAY AND UP SHE RISES, WAY HAY AND UP SHE RISES!" my snail roared jubilantly as he clutched my shoulder, swaying back and forth in time with the tune.

"Mmmph, geeze..." Zoro grunted as he blinked awake, stretching slightly as he got up from the part of the wall he'd been snoozing against. "Soundbite, if you're gonna sing, could you at least try and carry a- GRK!"

Zoro was cut off as Nami suddenly appeared in front of him, jerking him down to her eye level by way of his collar. "We're fighting against Mother Nature for our lives here and you're sleeping?!" she spat, sounding downright possessed in her fury.

"Uh..." Zoro fumbled for an answer in light of the here-to-fore unseen levels of rage the navigator was displaying.

Nami made to rip into the swordsman further, but instead suddenly snapped her head to the side, staring at the mad waters with a haunted look. "That wind was coming from port but now it's coming from starboard, how is that-OH SON OF A-! TACK THE SAILS! WE NEED TO TURN AROUND, 180 DEGREES! THE CURRENTS TWISTED US AROUND WHEN WE WEREN'T LOOKING!" She shoved Zoro back as she darted back to her position on the Merry's upper deck. "GET TO WORK!"

I yanked hard on the line I was holding, trying to reel in the Merry's sail a bit. "Could I get a hand here? This wind is seriously-!"

Zoro promptly snatched the rope out of my hands and jerked the sail into its proper place with ease.

I blinked in surprise at the action. "Ah... thanks."

"You really need to work out."

"WIIIMP!" Soundbite cackled.

I shrugged slightly as I shuffled my feet about in an effort to keep my balance stable. "Well, can't really argue with that! Think you could help me work out properly later?"

"Sure," Zoro grunted as he handled the sail. "When we actually get out of this-!"

"HANG ON TO SOMETHING!"

Acting on instinct, I grabbed the Merry's rigging, and not a moment too soon.

For a brief moment, the ocean became the sky, my feet came off the deck, and my entire being just seemed to float.

Then, as fast as things went crazy, everything roared back to normal, all of us crashing onto the deck as we tried to process what the hell had just happened.

"Did... did Merry just pull off a loop de loop?!" Usopp sputtered weakly.

"Actually, I think that was a barrel roll..." Mr. 9 moaned.

"PfffHAHAHAHA!" I finally managed to spit out, the sheer rush of what I'd just experienced hitting me all at once. "Holy shit, that was sick!"

"What in the literal blue hell is wrong with you!?" Miss Wednesday shrieked at the top of her lungs. "We almost died!"

"I know!" I grinned at her eagerly. "And it was beyond awesome!"

The undercover mercenary gaped at me in open-mouthed disbelief. "Are you insane!?"

"No! Nononono..." I scrambled up to the woman, grabbing her shoulders and shoving my grinning face in hers. "I'm living! For the first time in my entire life, I know what it's like to actually be alive! Back home, I was never in any kind of danger, never in fear of my life, I never put everything on the line! But here!?" I swung my arms out wide, indicating the mad, mad world around us. "This insanity, this impossibility... it's unique! Unprecedented! It's... it's legitimately beautiful!"

Without warning, the Merry bucked once anew, launching me off my feet and sending me tumbling head-over-heels.

When I landed, flat on my ass and aching slightly, I started sniggering as I stared up at the sky. "PfffHAHAHA! I'm freaking loving this! This madness, this craziness... it's awesome!" I tilted my head slightly so that I could cast a grin at Luffy. "And above all, I love this crew for getting me here! Thank you so much for letting me be a Strawhat, Luffy! I love you all so goddamn much!"

"Shishishi!" Luffy chuckled as he balanced on the Merry's railing. "Sounds like you're having fun, Cross!"

"Yup!" I smirked as I worked my way back onto my feet. "See, you guys are going to need to work long and hard in order to achieve your dreams, but me!?" I swept my arms out. "This is my dream, Luffy! This is what I've waited for all my life! The world, clear and uncut, up close and personal! I am living my dream every second we are out here and it is glorious!"

As if in response, a wave splashed over the deck, soaking me from head to toe and shoving more than a bit of seawater down my throat. I hacked and spluttered for a moment before grinning eagerly. "It's also a little bit salty!"

"Blech!" Soundbite shivered heavily within his shell.

"That's really inspiring, Cross!" Nami piped, sounding rather aggravated. "Now, if you could just do me a favor by shutting the hell up and getting to work BEFORE THE DAMN WHIRLPOOL OFF THE PORT BOW SWALLOWS US ALL ALIVE!?"

"Shutting the hell up, ma'am!" I squawked, leaping to my feet and rushing to help Usopp man the surprisingly well-patched-up mizzen mast.

"What happened to you enjoying living your dream?!" Usopp grunted.

"Nami's not a part of that dream, she's a goddamn course hazard!" I hissed quietly.

"Headstrong! NOT SUICIDAL!" Soundbite provided.

"I HEARD THAT!"

I shot a glare at my shoulder-mounted snail. "Now you see the merits of controlling your volu-GAH!" I yelped as something whiffed just over the top of my head. "What the he-?!" I trailed off as I stared at the object that had come way too close to braining me. "Is that a hailstone the size of a golf ball?"

Usopp swallowed heavily as he shot a nervous glance up at the angry gray clouds. "I really hope that things calm down soon, before your 'dream' kills us all!"

They didn't.

-o-

"WATER SPOUT, DEAD AHEAD!"

-o-

"AN ICEBERG JUST CLIPPED US!"

-o-

"Ahhh, a spot of summer sun... really hot summer sun... AGH! TOO HOT! THE SAILS ARE ON FIRE! WATER! WE NEED WATER!"

SPLOOSH!

"AGH! TYPHOON!"

"NOT WHAT I MEANT, DAMN IT!"

-o-

"Is it just me, or did things suddenly get dark?"

"Nami? Look up."

"What are you-!? AGH! SINCE WHEN COULD FLYING MANTA RAYS LITERALLY FLY!? OR GROW AS BIG AS GODDAMN WHALES!?"

-o-

"Wait, didn't we already pass that-?... Nami, when was the last time you checked the Log Pose?"

"Huh? Just ten seconds ago, w-? #!$%&^!"

" #!$%&^! #!$%&^!"

"Thanks for expanding my snail's vocabulary, Nami."

"SHUT UP AND TURN US AROUND AGA- ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?"

"Flipped us around again, huh?"

"I SAID SHUT UP, DAMN IT!"

-o-

Finally, after what felt like forever... nothingness.

The sea was calm, the sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing...

But still, it paid to double-check.

"Are we good?" I asked Nami wearily.

"As far as I can tell..." she whimpered, supporting herself against the upper deck's railing.

"Soundbite?"

"Boo-bee-beep. We're sorry, the number you are trying to call has been disconnected."

"Soundbite! Wake up!"

"Hoo-WHAT?"

"Can you hear anything lurking underneath us?"

Soundbite tilted his head to the side as he concentrated for a moment before shaking his head firmly. "ALL CLEAR!"

"We're good!"

"Oh... perfect... in that case..."

Nami promptly went limp and collapsed on the deck, followed swiftly by the rest of us.

"I can't feel my anything..." Usopp whimpered miserably.

"Lucky you, my everything is burning..." I bemoaned.

"Tsk..." Zoro growled as he massaged his throbbing limbs. "I can't believe you guys woke me up for that. Couldn't you have handled it yourselves?"

"NO!" the rest of us roared furiously.

"Soundbite, you can imitate whatever sounds you've heard, right?" Nami demanded.

"Yup yup yup!"

"Here's a direct order: The next time you hear Zoro sleeping while we're going through that kind of hell, blast a Sea King roar in his ears. All in favor?"

"Nay!" Zoro barked.

A resounding "AYE!" roared out across the ship in response.

"Oh screw you guys..." the swordsman growled.

"Shishishi!" Luffy chuckled from where he was sitting on the Merry's figurehead, looking legitimately no worse for the wear. The bastard. "Sorry Zoro! Looks like you're outvetoed!"

"I think you mean 'voted'..." Miss Wednesday groaned.

It was at that moment that Zoro took notice of the two exhausted mercenaries. "Now that I think about it, what are these two doing here?"

"YOU ONLY JUST NOTICED US!?" the pair shrieked indignantly.

"We're sailing to their home town," Luffy explained cheerfully.

Zoro blinked at Luffy before casting a flat look at the rest of us. "And none of you tried to stop him?"

"You honestly think we could?" Sanji shot back.

"... fair point. Anyways..." Zoro pinned Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday with a far too bloodthirsty smirk. "I've been thinking... what did you say your names were again?"

"Urk... I-I'm Mister Nine..."

"M-Miss Wednesday."

"Yeah, I thought so..." Zoro's grin widened even further, prompting the two to break into cold sweats. "Those names of yours, they're real familiar. They've been stuck in my mind for awhile now. Like I've heard them before..."

The two looked like they were about ready to bolt...

"Or maybe I haven't," Zoro shrugged, his grin becoming positively shit-eating.

The duo collapsed onto their backs with dual whimpers. "Demon..."

I grinned cheekily as I clapped a hand on Zoro's shoulder. "Come on, buddy, leave them alone."

"Thank you..." Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday sighed in relief.

"After all, it's cruel and unusual to torture poor, defenseless pests like them! Save it for the poor, defenseless Sea Kings."

"OH SCREW YOU!"

"Either way, come on." Turning around, I walked away and gestured for him to follow. "I'm almost certain that that madness scattered our supplies all over the hold, and I can't lift the crates alone."

"Why don't you get Luffy or the crap-cook to do it?"

"Listen up, you damn moss-!" Sanji started to snarl, but was halted by Nami placing a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't worry, Sanji, I've got this." Our navigator pinned Zoro with a frigid look. "You'll help him, or else I'll quintuple your debt. To start."

Zoro twitched furiously for a moment before marching past me with a growl. "Come on, brat. Let's get to work."

I shot a grateful grin at Nami before following the swordsman into the storeroom. As I'd predicted, the numerous crates, barrels, and sacks we were using to hold our foodstuffs and supplies were a little everywhere, though thankfully all of them were intact.

The second I was inside, I closed the door as quickly and calmly as I possibly could before shooting a look at Zoro. "Alright, they can't hear us anymore, spill it."

Zoro blinked at me in bored curiosity. "What the heck are you talking about, Cross?"

I maintained my deadpan expression as I stared at the first mate. "Zoro, you're a lot of things: you sleep way too much, you're focused on swords to an unhealthy degree, you're grumpy-"

"I am not grumpy..." Zoro grumbled, his arms folded petulantly across his chest.

"THAT'S what you PROTEST?" Soundbite asked with a cocked eyestalk.

"But one thing you aren't is needlessly sadistic," I finished firmly, ignoring Soundbite's comment. "If you psychologically tortured those two about their names, it's because you definitely knew something about them. And if you know something about them, then I want to know it too."

"Oh yeah?" Zoro's glare hardened in defiance. "And why do you want to know so much, exactly?"

"Because I want to know whether or not it's pertinent to our crew's continued well-being!" I flung my arms wide in exasperation. "Zoro, if you know something that could be important, then you need to tell us! None of us can afford to spare any information, otherwise we risk jeopardizing the crew!"

"Hy~po~cri~te!" Soundbite sang to me sotto voce.

"Bite-!" I started to hiss out of the corner of my mouth before swiftly biting my own tongue. Fool me once, shame on the little shit, fool me twice... well, you get the drift.

Nevertheless, my words did the deed: Zoro's stern expression faltered slightly for a moment before he relaxed with a sigh. "Alright, alright, no need to get melodramatic... For the record, I didn't tell anyone because I wanted to handle it on my own, alright?"

I raised my hands in a shrug. "A noble sentiment, Zoro, but that's just not how a crew works. We're in this crazy journey together, for better or for worse."

"ALL FOR ONE!" Soundbite crowed.

"And one for all, yeah yeah..." Zoro shook his head with a chuckle before adopting a deadly serious expression. "Alright, I'll explain everything to everyone, later. Just make sure that the stooges are out of the dining room when we eat, alright?"

"Can do, boss-man!" I saluted firmly.

"In the meantime..."

"WHOOF!" I winced as a freaking heavy! bag of rice slammed into my midsection.

"Get to work," Zoro smirked as he hefted a crate and slid it back into its original position, lashing it down with a length of rope for good measure. "You volunteered us for this job, might as well do it right."

"Aye-aye, sir..." I grumbled mutinously as I started waddling away under the sack's weight.

"Heave-ho, Heave-ho, Heave-!"

"Oh shut up!"

Thankfully, about an hour later, Zoro and I managed to complete our task, just in time for a long-awaited call.

"Nami-swan, it's time for dinner! HEY MORONS, GET IN HERE ALREADY!"

As we did, we rushed up to the upper deck as fast as we could, racing to beat Luffy to the dining room before he managed to shove a hefty portion of our food supplies down his throat.

Thankfully, on account of not being used to our ship just yet, Miss Wednesday and Mr. 9 had lagged behind, giving me just enough time to grab two of the plates Sanji had prepared and shove them into their hands before they entered the dining room.

"Sorry!" I grinned wolfishly. "This dining room is for crewmates and paying customers only. Free-loading passengers eat in steerage, no exceptions. Enjoy!"

And with that, I promptly slammed the door shut in their faces, chuckling at the dual cries of "HEY!" that they bellowed out in protest.

"CROSS!" Sanji snarled as he marched up to me furiously. "I can get the crown-wearing dingus, but how dare you lock out a poor lady like-!?"

"Shh!" I hissed, pressing my finger to my lips.

The cook halted in dead shock. "Did you just shush me!?"

"Yes, and I'll do it again! Observe: Shush!" Before Sanji could respond anew, I glanced at Soundbite. "Give us some white noise, would you? No chances."

Soundbite nodded firmly and proceeded to concentrate for a moment before making a grinding motion with his teeth. As a result, I could hear a faint combination of buzzing and gurgling wafting around the room's door.

Nami stared at me in confusion. "Cross, what are you doing? No chances for what?"

"I'm assuming he means no chances for those two to overhear me telling you all about just how dangerous they really are, right Cross?" Zoro asked bluntly.

I snapped my fingers and pointed at him with a nod. "Hole in one."

Now it was Usopp's turn to blink in befuddlement. "Wait, Zoro, you actually know something about them!? And... dangerous? Are you sure? I mean, sure, they had those guns before, but we left those with Crocus! How dangerous could they really be?"

"Yeah, Zoro!" Luffy mumbled out from around the full pound of food he'd stuffed into his mouth. "They're funny, not scary!"

"Them on their own?" Zoro jerked his chin at the door. "Yeah, they're not much of a threat. What I'm worried about is what they're a part of. Tell me..." He slowly swept his gaze over the crew. "Have any of you ever heard the name 'Baroque Works'?"

Everyone, myself included, blinked in confusion as we searched our thoughts momentarily before shaking our heads.

Zoro snorted and shrugged as he started to scratch the back of his head. "I'd be surprised if you did... Alright, here we go: a few years ago, while I was still a bounty hunter, I was approached by a man- not like that, damn it!" he snarled furiously when he caught sight of Sanji smirking malevolently. "A man who wanted to recruit me into the organization he was a part of on account of my skills. When I refused, he didn't take it well. As in, he tried to kill me, all because I knew about the mere existence of his organization."

"That organization being Baroque Works," Nami divined.

"And that man's name being Mr. 7," Zoro finished.

That prompted the rest of the crew to tense nervously.

"After that little experience..." Zoro continued with a sigh. "I decided to do a little research into just who these 'Baroque Works' people were, in case they ever came after me again. Not too much, I didn't want to draw any attention, but enough to give me a general understanding. To put it simply, Baroque Works is a criminal syndicate that prides itself on secrecy. All their agents have codenames, men with numbers and women with days, and the identity and location of their boss is completely unknown."

"They have a massive number of operatives who operate in the East and South Blues and the Grand Line alike, and they have untold resources to operate with." Zoro looked each of us in the eye, one after another. "Make no mistake: Baroque Works is a dangerous organization, not the kind of people you mess with on a whim."

We all lapsed into silence as we absorbed the information, contemplating the implications they posed. Well, I say all, but really Luffy just kept on eating, oblivious to the gravity of the situation.

Finally, Sanji gulped and plastered a nervous smile on his face. "C-come on, it couldn't really be that bad, could it?"

"Y-yeah!" Usopp nodded frantically, desperate to find some bright side to the situation. "A-a-after all, you managed to beat this 7 guy, right? Right!?"

Zoro grimaced slightly as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah... the guy was a master actor. He went from cordial to trying to chop my head off in less than a second. If there hadn't been a bottle nearby and I'd been a second slower on the draw, well..." He drew a finger across his neck.

We all lapsed back into silence as we mulled over the perilous facts. Finally, Sanji hissed in a deep tug from his cigarette. "You're thinking this is a trap, huh?"

"Criminals don't normally give two shits about the wellbeing or hunger of others..."

"Unless they're their own, right, right..." Nami groaned as she kneaded her temples in aggravation. "Perfect. Just... perfect!" She shot a glare at our captain. "Thanks a lot, Luffy!"

"You're welcome!" Luffy perked up for a moment before tilting his head in confusion. "But... what did I do?"

"You caused us to stumble ass backwards into an ambush set by a multinational criminal organization based on a whim," I summarized flatly before Nami could blow a gasket and try to throttle the poor bastard.

"Oh! Then yeah, you're welcome!"

"WE'RE NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO IT YOU DAMN BASTARD!" Nami, Usopp and Sanji roared.

Zoro winced and dug his pinkie in his ear. "Eesh, guys."

"I know, right?" I grimaced as I slapped one of my palms against the side of my head. "We need a doctor on this ship, I need a refresher on the symptoms of tinnitus."

"And a musician!" Luffy piped up swiftly.

"Music isn't much good to me if I can't hear it, cap'n."

"Besides," Nami jabbed her thumb at the seemingly silent snail on my shoulder. "Doesn't he kind of count?"

I cocked my eyebrow in response. "You consider the sound he makes mus-?"

"I KNOW A SONG THAT GETS ON EVERYBODY'S NERVES,

EVERYBODY'S NERVES, EVERYBODY'S NERVES!"

"ACK!" I jumped as Soundbite's 'voice' blared in my ears.

"I'm with the Commie on this one..." Usopp grumbled darkly as he glared at my shoulder.

"Anyways!" Zoro cut in. "The point is that when we reach this Whiskey Peak place, we all need to be on our guards. Trust no one, and not a word of this to the two outside. Understand?"

We all nodded and gave varying sounds of assent.

"Great!" I clapped my hands firmly. "Now, what say we divvy up what's left of our meal before Luffy finishes picking our plates clean, hm?"

"Yea- WAIT, WHAT!? LUFFY!"

SMACK! CRACK! BAM!

"OW!"

I chuckled as Luffy and Sanji fell into an impromptu brawl before starting at the tapping sensation on my shoulder. "Wh- Oh, yeah, sure, you can drop it, Soundbite."

The snail heaved a massive sigh as he ceased his ministrations before casting a look at me. "WE'RE IN deep SHIT, huh?"

I shrugged in response. "It's the Grand Line, my friend. With a few exceptions, everything in it is trying to kill you."

-o-

"WOOOH!" "HOORAY!" "WELCOME!"

My eye twitched furiously as I took in the massive crowd of people before us, roaring and cheering raucously at the top of their lungs. Credit given where credit was most definitely due, even knowing that nearly all of these people were cold-blooded killers who would slit our throats without a second thought, their cheers still sounded almost genuine to my ears.

They definitely sounded genuine to the rest of the crew, though.

"Shishishi! And you guys were worried!" Luffy cackled as he waved joyously.

"You jerks scared us for nothing!" Usopp whooped as he blew kisses to the crowd. "Pirates are heroes to these people! Heroes! Woohoo!"

"HELLO, MY LOVELIES!" Sanji swooned, completely and utterly enraptured in his 'Hurricane of Love'.

I stared flatly at the trio of men prancing about the lower deck before plastering a smile on my face and turning my attention to the other two crewmates who were with me on the upper deck. "Honeypot?"

"Honeypot," Zoro and Nami chorused flatly.

"Oi vey..." I shook my head with a sigh. "I'll sneak away and have Soundbite keep a listen out for anyone planning something behind the scenes when I get the chance. Hopefully they'll be able to keep their faces straight when I funnel it into their ears. For now though!" I straightened up and raised one of my hands into the air.

"Just smile and wave, boys," Soundbite announced through his grin. "Smile and wave."

-o-

"So just down the hall and third door on the right?" I called over my shoulder as I walked out of the room the party was roaring in.

"Yeah, can't miss it!" one of the partying bounty hunters confirmed.

"Great, thanks!" I shot him a thumbs up as I went, purposefully staggering and bumping into the walls as I went. Thank God for these guys blatantly over-acting; thanks to the commotion, none of them had noticed that most, if not all, of my drink was sloshing out of my mouth and onto the floor, rather than down my throat.

The second I reached the bathroom, I forced myself in and locked the door shut behind me, collapsing on the seat with relief. I did not want to stay in there longer than I had to; parties were... not entirely my style. Definitely not crazy ones like this one was, at any rate. Still... I shook my head firmly. Now wasn't the time to be uncomfortable, now was the time to get to work.

I placed Soundbite on my knee and grinned down at him. "Alright little buddy, ready to illegally wiretap the world?"

"Roger-roger!" he nodded firmly.

"Okay then..." I slid my headphones up around my ears. "Give me a general overview of the town, everything that's not going on in this hou... in the room the party's in. And remember, volume. Don't blow my eardrums."

Soundbite nodded anew, his ear stretching from eye-stalk to eye-stalk as he concentrated firmly.

A second later, a stream of sound flowed through my ears: crickets chirping, water flowing, gravel crunching, wind howling... and most important of all, voices.

"Okay okay okay, hear those two, the guys who sound like they're above us?" I queried.

Soundbite looked upwards for a moment before flaring a particular line of noise.

I listened for a moment before shaking my head. "No no, they're just getting another keg on account of how fast Zoro's drinking. I meant the other-!" I cut myself off as the correct voices resurged, making the things they were saying quite clear. And oh, the things they were saying.

"Jackpot," I nodded to myself. "Okay, connect me with the crew, subtly."

Soundbite clenched his eyes shut for a moment before opening his eyes and nodding firmly. "Ka-lick!"

I pressed the headphone with the microphone close to my ear. "Don't react, don't say a word, just keep doing what you're doing. I'm currently in the bathroom using Soundbite to speak to you. He's putting my words directly into your ears, so nobody can hear me but you. Now listen: I got a little bit curious and had Soundbite listen in on a little bit of everything and I heard something interesting. Soundbite, let them have it."

"Ka-lick!" Soundbite repeated firmly before letting out the voices I'd heard before.

"-much longer do we have to fucking wait!? I'm getting sick and tired of this crap, I wanna fucking go already!"

"Not yet, damn it. They're still awake, and I'm not going up against Roronoa goddamn Zoro while he's still sober. We've been able to do this for so long because we've always done it right."

"Ergh, but still..."

"Look man, don't worry. I'm sure they won't need much more before they go down. Then, once they're dead and away, it's shackles and straight to the Marines for a hefty payday! And that makes it all worth it, right?"

"... eh, yeah. Fair enough. Hey, pass me that rifle, would you? I don't think I wiped down its barrel yet."

"Here ya go. By the way, did you see that outfit Miss Wednesday was wearing? I swear, bitch and ice queen she might be, that girl is smoking-!"

"Oh-kay, that's more than enough!" I slashed my hand across my throat desperately, Soundbite complying with a lecherous giggle. "Anyways, I think you get the idea. Now, here's how I suggest we swing this-!"

Before I could say anything further, the sound of splintering everything rang out, accompanied by a very familiar "RAAAAAAAH!"

I bit out a curse as I slapped Soundbite back onto my shoulder, jumping up and darting out of the stall. "Damn it, Luffy, do you even know the word sub-!" I cut myself off as I wrenched the door to the bathroom open and came face to face with a thinly built man who'd been just about to push open the door himself, and was also frozen in place, presumably on account of both the sudden commotion and the fact that I was obviously somehow still stone sober.

As we stared at each other, I had two separate reactions.

Internally, I was ranting and raving, self-flagellating myself with reckless abandon. 'Supposedly drunk, isolated, perfect for ambush, DUMBASS!'

Externally, on the other hand...

"You're gonna want to get some air fresheners in there, ASAP. Believe me, biscuits are murder on my stomach, it's not pretty."

Thankfully, the surprisingly coherent string of words prompted the man to jump in shock, giving me just enough time to lash my right leg up and catch him square between the legs. As the guy started to crumple, I shot my right hand into my jacket, snapped out the baton Smoker had given me and rammed the rod of metal across the guy's temple, knocking him to the floor.

I panted heavily as I stared at the man's prone and groaning form for a moment before lashing out an additional kick to his face for good measure. It never hurt to be too careful.

Well, it hurt him, but that was the entire point of the endeavor, so I didn't count it.

I stood there silently for a moment as I caught my breath again before reaching up to absentmindedly tap Soundbite. "You know what, Luffy? Forget what I was saying about subtle, these guys are total dicks. All those in favor of breaking everyone and everything right here right now, say aye."

A second roar erupted from what was left of the party room, accompanied swiftly by the entire building shaking from a massive impact.

I let out a heavy huff as I cracked my neck back and forth eagerly, a heady grin splaying itself over my face. "I'll take that as an aye! Well, you heard the captain! CHARGE!"

And with that, I bolted straight towards the brawl, Soundbite trumpeting out a bugle call as I went.