Disclaimer: Godzilla and One Piece belong to Toho Co. LTD and Eiichiro Oda respectively. KP360 claims no ownership of anything save for any OCs, original powers and original locations.
Thriller Bark Opening: Dead or Lie by TRUSTRICK
Color Spread: a split panel of Gylzar, one as a child training with other kids recruited into CP9, the other showing him as an adult, already enhanced by his Kaiju-Zoan's cybernetics while burning down an enemy squadron with his lasers.
His eyes struggled to stay open, the entirety of his body felt as if it would split open if he even moved one more muscle. The ground around him shook, and dozens of shouting voices could be heard in the distance. There may only be mere seconds left before the sun ascends past the horizon, and with each passing moment Gian was begging his bones to realign faster.
"Damn it… I have to get up… hurry up body…!"
Even against an enemy that overpowers them all, no one in his crew was willing to give up. Luffy and the others were still fighting a being born from a part of him, Gian cursed as his body still wouldn't cooperate.
He was the one that dragged them into all of this; he was the one that exposed his world to them, and now they were forced to clean up his mess. It just wasn't right.
"Come on…!" Gian begged internally "They still need me…! I can't let them face the monsters on their own…!"
"Unleash my power…"
Despite the situation, the disembodied voice booming at the moment was enough to jolt Gian from his despair. The voice seemed to be coming from nowhere, but he could hear it clearly. Blearily Gian cracked his eyes open. He could feel something blossoming in his chest, spreading all across his body.
"W…What…?" Gian asked feebly, but he never heard the voice again. Instead, the growing sensation in his body was becoming increasingly intense, to the point where he began to feel hot. He wanted to stand, he needed to move.
He felt powerful.
As a massive burst of energy surged forth from his pores, Gian hardly registered the burning heat surrounding him. His eyes, now burning like coals, were locked onto the undead beast that stood before him, shadowed by the rising sun.
"Grendolas… This isn't over yet!"
His panting vocal, Gian fell to his knees. It seemed luck was on his side; his shadow had returned to him mere moments before his body disappeared. A few inches ahead, all that remained of Grendolas was a pile of scattered bones. The skeletal remains of the former Kaiju-Zoan user, despite the events of the night, were miraculously undamaged.
Had the events of the night not occurred, it would be shocking to believe such a being was resurrected at all.
Gian breathed a sigh of relief; at least everything was over now. Beside him Luffy laid still, soft snores sounding as the exahaustion of the island finally overcame him, something that Gian was about to partake in as well. He tried moving his head, before instantly recoiling in pain. The feeling was as if swaths of his skin and muscles were being melted off, even the slighted of movement sent fire coursing through his body.
Then he looked down, and he had to gasp. What he thought he felt earlier wasn't exactly far off, considering the state of his body right now. The heat from his desperate form earlier had been enough to incinerate every article of clothing on him, and large patches of his body was now stripped of skin, exposing the tender muscle underneath. The intense temperature had completely cauterized his blood vessels, and every movement felt as if hundreds of needles were dragged across his body. He could feel his body's regeneration beginning to kick in, but the events of the night along with his last desperate ascension had reduced it to a crawl.
"I was in that form for not even a full minute, and it looks this bad?" Gian winced, the smallest movement sending burning pain through scorched body "Chopper is going to freak...!"
"Straw Hat!" "Beast Warrior!"
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his crew alongside the other survivors racing towards him and Luffy. The rest of the Straw Hats immediately crowded around them to make sure they were alright.
"Luffy's fine, he has some injuries but they're not threatening. He's sleeping so heavily I'd say he's sleep through a bomb blowing up next to him!" Chopper examined.
"Yeah, that goes for all of us. He's earned it though." Sanji sighed in relief before turning a more worried eye to the First Mate.
"In the meantime, what did you do?! You look like you went for a dip in a deep fryer!"
"I don't know… It came to be at the last second, I didn't exactly have to time to look over my options considering the time frame." Gian hissed in pain, causing Chopper to gasp at the sight and rush over.
"It's a wonder you're even able to talk!" Lola gasped.
"These are some of the worst burns I've ever seen!" the doctor scrambled "We need to get your wounds dressed. Does anyone here have any gauze or wrap?" The Risky Brothers immediately ran off to get some.
"No, please." Gian begged "If I touch anything it'll hurt even more! I'm already healing, just give it a couple of minutes."
"You need medical attention and that's final!" Chopper snapped back, leaving no more room for argument.
"I can't believe it, after 5 years my shadow is finally reunited with me." Brook sighed with wonder "You and Luffy-san and both so incredible! All of you are!"
"Well, we got wrapped into all of this too. And once we heard about your history with Laboon, we couldn't just leave you here." Gian mumbled, and everyone else nodded in agreement.
"Both of you fought very hard." Robin smiled "Even when we were overwhelmed it was you two that turned the tide."
"If it weren't for the fact that I literally risk splitting in half when I move I'd kiss you so hard right now." Gian chuckled.
"She's right, it was under the leadership of you two that we managed to pull through." Zoro nodded.
Lola nodded gratefully "We've been dreaming about this day for years, and now it finally happened!" She and the rest of the Thriller Bark Victims Associate quickly ran over and gave everyone a big hug "Thank you Straw Hat Pirates, how can we repay your gratitude?"
"It really was nothing at all! We were just all in the same place!" the crew protested, but their new friends would have none of that. Eventually, everyone simply enjoyed the moment of peace, knowing they've earned it after a long night.
Unfortunately for them, it wasn't quite over yet. Right when they're taking in the moment of respite, the sound of rushing footsteps once again alerted them. The group looked up to see the Risky Brothers dashing back towards them, a look of urgency on their faces.
"Captain!" One of the brothers panted "We have a situation!"
"What's going on?" Lola asked, alarmed at the anxious tone her subordinates used.
"There's someone else on this island! It's a-!"
"UP THERE!" Chopper gasped and pointed "There's something big standing above us!"
"Something…" Robin's eyes widened "or someone!"
"Wait… that's not just any person, that's Bartholomew Kuma!" Nami realized in horror "He's a Shichibukai just like Moria!"
"Another warlord?!" Usopp yelped.
And in the cold gaze of the unmoving behemoth, the Straw Hats felt yet another chill crawl down their spine. They still have one last hurdle to get over.
Above them, Kuma could feel the panic begin to rise from the people scrambling below; it was a feeling he wasn't unfamiliar with, having witnessed it multiple times before. He had expected his mission to take a different turn than what it was supposed to; the knowledge of the remains of a forbidden figure that was released back into this world was one of his main priorities. When the undead Kaiju-Zoan user once again assembled the form he took when he terrorized the seas, Kuma had half a mind to step in. It turns out he had no need to, as the Straw Hat's path of action was unexpected even from him. Not that he didn't believe something like that to happen considering the events of Enies Lobby was only a little more than a week ago, but to see them truly unite together and working in tandem with each other was an impressive display.
Which made the World Government officials who got his report very nervous. His new objective was soon shifted to a new focus, and those who gave him orders were very clear that they wanted no loose ends.
At last, Lola finally utter out as defiant as a shout she can "W-What do you want from us?"
"Where are the Straw Hat Pirates?" His blank gaze unnerved the group even further. The comment also caused the crew to take a step back in concern.
"What do you want with us?!" Zoro finally shouted. Kuma said nothing except boring his gaze into the swordsman. Within a single blinking second, Zoro was shocked to find that the giant man had disappeared.
"My task is simple." The Pirate Hunter whirled around, startled by the voice of the warlord now coming from behind him "Eliminate all on this island, including the Straw Hat Pirates."
"ZORO LOOK OUT!" Usopp just manage to scream out the warning as Kuma thrusted his palm down towards where the swordsman once stood.
"PIRATE HUNTER!" the Rolling Pirates all cried out in fear as a massive cloud of dust enveloped the area. They breathed a sigh of relief as Zoro leapt backwards out of the smoke cover, skidding along the ground.
"He's fast!" Zoro gritted as the gigantic man became visible again from beneath the obstruction. What was now implanted in the place where he stood was a visible paw shaped indent.
"And unlike Moria… he going straight for the kill." Gian gritted out as he attempted to get up. His body practically ripped at the seams the moment he tried to stand. Zoro was clearly outmatched here, not while he's battling an entire night's worth of exhaustion.
"Get away from our saviors!" others however, seemed to not let that energy affect them. The remnants of the Thriller Bark Victim's Association charged towards the giant man despite their injuries, weapons raised in defiance. Now that they have their shadows returned to them they no longer needed to worry about being under the dawn light, and Kuma will bear witness to that.
Instead, the large man swatted them away like flies with a single thrust of his palms. Lola gasped in horror as scores of her crew fell in pain, a paw shaped mark blown out of them.
"You are not worth my time." Kuma droned on. His cold gaze casted over the remaining Straw Hats, who have now realized the danger their captain is in.
"Then maybe I'll change your mind!" Sanji snarled, leaping forwards and lashing out with a foot. Kuma merely stared impassively before bringing his hand up to block. The next thing Sanji knew, he was tumbling head over heels as he skidded along the ground.
"Is this the power of 'Black Leg' Sanji?" Kuma dismissed.
"SANJI!" Nami cried out. The cook hissed in frustration as he staggered up.
"What the hell just happened? It felt as if he counterattacked but I didn't even see him do anything!" before he could blink, he felt his breath hitch in his throat as the gigantic man practically materialized in front of him in an instant. Had the cook not jump backwards, he would've been blown away by another palm thrust.
"How the hell is he so fast?!"
The warlord wasted no time before going on the assault once more. Before Kuma could strike, Zoro once again skidded in front of him, brandishing his new blade with precision as he sliced the air between them.
"Santoryu: Hyakuhachi Pound Ho!" the wind blade screeched towards the imposing figure, to which Kuma merely lifted his hand yet again, bouncing the cutting attack in a different direction as it struck his palm. The momentary occupying of his attention was enough for Sanji to leap into action, dashing behind him and delivering an Ax Kick to the top of Kuma's head. The sound of the impact rang across the island, and Sanji's eyes widened as he realized something.
"What is this? It feels like I just kicked a wall of metal!" worse still was that the staggering attack only made Kuma briefly pause before he lifted his face towards the cook. Sanji manage to avoid another palm thrust from the Shichibukai, but once he landed, the large man's attention was already on them as he dropped to a squat.
Both Zoro and Sanji gasped as they jumped around, a necessity in order to avoid the incoming barrage of air bullets the tyrant threw at them. Each paw-shaped blast carved an imprint wherever they landed, as the people around them also scrambled to avoid the relentless attack.
"What are we gonna do?" Franky gritted "That warlord is shrugging off everything Zoro and Sanji is throwing at him like no problem!"
"Look at his hands!" Nami pointed "he's literally pushing every attack away from them and sending the same forwards!"
"You are observant, 'Cat Burglar'." Kuma affirmed "This is the power of the Nikyu-Nikyu no Mi. These paw pads repel everything they touch, even the air in front of them. 'Pirate Hunter' Zoro and 'Black Leg' Sanji's attacks are no different."
"Repelling everything they touch…" Robin's eyes widened "That's how he's able to move so fast! By pushing the air, he can propel himself forwards at speeds faster than the eye can track!"
"Well it looks dumb." Franky growled as he readied his bazooka "Don't think I'm about to let a guy who tries to dress up as a cat try to-!" the cyborg was stifled when he felt the pain of compressed air tearing through his body when Kuma shot him with a single thrust.
"FRANKY!" Chopper cried out in horror as the cyborg fell on his back. The rest of the crew took a step back as Zoro and Sanji charged at the warlord once again, only to be repelled easily when their attacks struck the fleshy pads on his palms.
"Can we even do anything against that…?" Usopp shivered fearfully. By now, the warlord had already turned his attention to them. Nami, Chopper and Robin braced themselves with uncertainty, not knowing how much better they would fare against the large man.
"Damn it… I can't just lie here…!" Gian growled as he staggered to his feet. The pain in his body flared up in an instant, but he no longer cared. Luffy was unable to fight at this point, and in his vulnerable state it was up to him to step up to protect the crew, bodily harm be damned.
"Gian? What are you-?" Chopper gasped as the first mate painfully took a step forward. "You can't! Your body hasn't-!"
It felt as if his esophagus spewed out molten liquid, but he managed to fire one jagged thermonuclear ray out. The state of his injuries caused him to immediate collapse to his knees as he strained against the searing agony of his body, something that caused the remainder of the crew to rush over in concern.
"Gian, stop it!" the doctor begged "Every attack you throw is destructing your body further!"
"You needn't fight anymore! If you keep this up then-!" Robin whispered pleadingly.
"No…!" Gian's eyes were beginning to shine with a striking blue light "He's going to kill us anyway. You saw how he swatted aside Zoro and Sanji like they were flies, we can't just-!" he couldn't even finish speaking as he doubled over in pain, heaving as the ruined flesh of his body continue to ravage him.
To add salt to his wounds, the Atom Ray he just fired was promptly blocked by a single paw from Kuma, the heat ray spewing in multiple directions as the shichibukai gazed at him with curiosity.
"It's you, 'Beast Warrior'." Kuma acknowledged "The one who possesses the Kaiju-Zoan."
"You know my name then…" Gian wheezed "Then you know what I can do to you…!"
"In a healthy state, the Kaiju's power may indeed be a threat." Kuma droned out "But you are now on death's doorstep, it is quite a tragic outcome." Gian gritted his teeth at the taunt.
"You all needn't struggle. It is clear you are outmatched here." The warlord continued to address the large group "I may have orders to exterminate you all, but there is a way for you to survive this encounter."
"And what might that be?" Zoro growled.
"Monkey D. Luffy has become a prominent thorn in the sides of my superiors, his reputation and actions have brought upon unfortunate attention from the World Government." The bear-like man answered "Surrender his life to me, and it could placate their concerns. Therefore, in exchange for his life the rest of you may be spared today."
The weight of Kuma's implications were not lost on the group as they realized what it means. While the other bystanders took a step back in shock, the Straw Hats were experiencing a different emotion, and it wasn't something that pleases them.
"You're saying… you want us to trade Luffy's life for the rest of ours?" Usopp growled.
"As your captain, he would be naturally the one to represent you all." Kuma replied "It would be wise to take that request."
"Oh PISS OFF!" Gian snarled "Luffy is our captain, his life is our life. If you want his head, then you'll have to step over my corpse to do it first!"
Kuma showed no emotion as he lifted his arms "I figured that would be something you'd say. Given your reputations thus far, it was to be expected, if a foolish notion."
The crew watch in concern as a large paw print shaped bubble gathered between Kuma's spread arms. It pulsed with energy each time, pulses that became increasing intense for every inch that Kuma enclosed his arms.
"What is he doing?" Brook questioned.
"It seems that he's using his powers to condense air and compacting it." Nami noticed "You can even feel the pressure beginning to build up even from here."
"Then if he releases all that pressure…!" Robin swallowed, a hint of nervousness adorning her brow. The rest of the crew all looked on nervously; the intent was obvious, Kuma wasn't giving them any mercy at this point.
"Well… I guess there's worse ways to go." Gian whispered.
"I will request again: your lives for 'Straw Hat' Luffy's life." Kuma demanded, the ball of air now tightly compacted into a dense sphere just barely the size of his palm "This is my final act of mercy."
The crew looked at each other only briefly before answering in unison.
Kuma nodded "A pity, then." The crew stared defiantly as the tyrant released the condensed bubble towards them.
And Thriller Bark was enveloped in white.
When Gian opened his eyes again, he was surrounded by a black void. Dead silence rang around him, his body felt light, and while the pain still lingered, he barely paid notice to it.
"Am I dead…?"
His limbs won't respond to him, it feels like he was suspended in nothing. Gian blinked, unsure of what to do.
Then the voice came again.
"Unleash my power…"
"Again…?" Gian gasped lightly. He didn't see anyone, but the voice seemed to echo around him. It was deep, each syllable sounding like a miniature explosion that heralded power from a bygone time.
And then same feeling he felt from before came back, now spreading across his pores like wildfire. Gian gasped out, his scorched body still tender but the pain seemed to be melding away as more energy washed over him.
"Your captain's life hangs by a thread, break down the barriers…"
"I need to save Luffy!"
Blue flames wreathed him, surrounding his body in a swirling cloak. Gian felt his teeth sharpen, his eyes flashing the same illuminated blue as the fire around him. The pain from the aftereffects of his critical form now an afterthought as the need to decimate the one who did this to them overcame him.
The last thing he saw before he was brought back to the real world was the fiery head of something massive, leering at him with subtle approval.
"Don't you dare lay a hand on him, Bartholomew Kuma!"
When he once again opened his eyes, they immediately singled out the gargantuan Shichibukai crouching over the prone form of his captain. Gian's hand snapped up and heaved a blue fireball at the warlord, one that prominently immolated the entire backside of Kuma.
The warlord paused upon impact, as if he just registered the attack. Slowly, Kuma rose to his full height, his body obscured by smoke.
"It seems that rumors of the Kaiju's power is indeed not farfetched." The same monotonous voice, as if he didn't even consider the earlier assault.
Gian's response was merely letting out a deafening shout, the sound resonated like a mix between a man's yell and the roar of the beast he's turned into so often. His raw skin still clung to his body, pieces of exposed muscle with blood evaporating as the swirling mass of fire curled around him.
"I can feel the beast within, as if the forces you've kept inside you is starting to show its true depths." The smoke finally cleared from around Kuma's body, the man emerging from the cloud with hardly a scratch, save for a small area around his left eye seemingly peeling and revealing something metallic underneath "The World Government is quite concerned with your presence too, or more specifically what you hold within. For now I only require Monkey D. Luffy's head, enjoy your life while you still can."
The flames wreathed around him coalesced into a dense ball before Gian fired it at the warlord upon hearing that statement. Kuma nonchalantly raised another palm, the atomic fireball exploding upon impact even as much of the projectile was repelled harmlessly. Lowering his arm, it was Kuma's mouth that unhinged next, opening wide as a bright light gleamed rapidly at the back of his throat.
The next thing he knew, the laser had already fired into him, now enveloping him in another big explosion. Gian staggered briefly, his eyes still trained on the tyrant as Kuma charged up more shots. It didn't occur to him why the strange man was able to somehow shoot lasers out of his mouth, but then again, at that moment he didn't care what his foe could do, not so long as he could rip him to pieces.
Weaving around the near light-speed shots, Gian charged forwards as explosions peppered the ground. The blue flames surrounding him now gathered to form an abject torso of his Full Transformation with claws outstretched. He managed to slam both ethereal arms into the ground, but where Kuma once stood he no longer was. Instead. Gian managed to whirl around just as the Shichibukai delivered a palm thrust to his chest, causing him to blast through the remnants of a stone structure as he was repelled.
"Purely pushed on by the Kaiju's power, it seems that the World Government's fears are not entirely misplaced." Kuma remarked as Gian struggled to get up. The Kaiju-Zoan user roared a response back, the power surging through him to the point where he's unable to even muster up a retort. The warlord seemingly regarded him with curiosity, as if he was actively gauging the amount of power he holds.
"It is not your place to die here, I would prefer if you don't overextend yourself." And the worst part about it all was just how nonchalantly he goes about his business. Not a single break on that emotionless face, this whole time aside from the occasional taunt Kuma has hardly broken that façade. Crocodile had treated them with nothing but contempt, Gecko Moria had been arrogant to the end, but this warlord differs from both, there was absolutely no way to know what he felt towards the situation. Kuma's statement went ignored as the flaming construct merged together and charged up an Atom Ray. The shichibukai said nothing as he readied his own laser before meeting the flaming attack with his.
Even the resulting explosion did not faze the stone-faced man as he took the brunt of the force head on. Kuma did nothing as he waited for the smoke to clear. When it did, it was apparent 'Beast Warrior' Gian was not as lucky. The once roaring blue cloak of Aura had now puttered out to mere embers, his previously exposed burns have now ripped open and bleeding. Yet even through all this, the Kaiju-Zoan user did not take his eyes off of the warlord.
Gian took one step forwards.
Before he promptly fell face first into the ground. This time, he did not get up.
Kuma observed in silence; 'Beast Warrior's degree of control with the monster within him had been known more or less for many levels of the World Government at this point. Upon seeing just what he could do in the past hour, he could see why they were becoming threatened by it. Monkey D. Luffy is already making waves, be it from his actions or heritage, and now that he's in close proximity with a Kaiju-Zoan user by association is enough to even strike fear into some of them.
Striding over to the still unconsciously Luffy, Kuma lifted the boy before turning back to the downed Kaiju-Zoan user. Perhaps he would make a show of disposing of them both. His own agenda aside it would at least appease-.
The warlord flinched as he felt the blade carve across his shoulder. Taking a step back, he looked down to see Zoro sheathing Wado Ichimonji in a kneeling position. The swordsman was panting heavily, but just like Beast Warrior, his eyes were full of fire as he glared back at the Shichibukai.
"You're still willing to fight, 'Pirate Hunter'?"
Zoro's gaze was hard as he stood against the warlord. The first to regain consciousness, he had just managed to witness Gian falling in combat. A strong sense of duty soon pushed him on to defend his crew, even as he knew he stood no chance.
He then recoiled in surprise upon seeing the wound he dealt. The cut on Kuma's shoulder revealed an unnerving combination of metal and flesh, the steel mechanism surrounded by muscle. Kuma regarded it with little concern, as if the grievous wound meant nothing to him, and in a way it really did not.
"Those metal parts... Y-You're a cyborg like Franky?" Zoro stammered.
"In a way yes, though 'Cyborg' Franky cannot hope to reach these levels of modification the way he is now." Kuma replied "I am the subject of a World Government project that will turn me into a living weapon, this is the result of the Pacifista Project."
"Pacifista Project?" Zoro gasped "You mean the World Government is able to turn a living person into a machine?"
"Correct, this was a project helmed by none other than Dr. Vegapunk himself. My body is being slowly modified, piece by piece replaced by machinery. Soon, I will not be as you know me right now." Kuma's voice seemed melancholy, but Zoro wasn't concerned with that at the moment.
"So a warlord with a Devil Fruit power also happens to be part machine… really seems like overkill don't you think?" Zoro sighed "How are we supposed to stand against that?"
"As I stated before, it need not end in so much bloodshed." Kuma replied as he lifted Luffy with one hand "All I require is the life of 'Straw Hat' Luffy. One life to spare you all."
"So you've already told me." Zoro sighed "In that case, how about I give a counter offer?"
"And that is?"
"Take my life instead." Zoro stated firmly "My life in place of his and everyone else. That's my condition!"
"Yours?" Kuma regarded the swordsman with interest "You are of no threat to the World Government. Why would I be satisfied with your life?"
"That may be so, I have no special heritage to speak of, nor do I have any particular infamy burdened with me. I feel like it's safe to say I can't hold a candle to what Luffy will be, but he's going to be the Pirate King one day. I did promise him that I will become the World Strongest Swordsman, but it looks like now I'll have to take a raincheck."
"And you would give that ambition up just to save his life?"
"What good is ambition if you aren't willing to use it to save your captain's life?" was Zoro's answer "Luffy will become the King of Pirate, I know that much. And when he does, he'll be in good hands as well. My life is of little consequence when-!"
"Now hold on just a minute here! What gives you the right to just throw your life away recklessly?!"
The two turned to see Sanji also emerging from the rubble, battered but determined all the same. The cook had heard everything, and as a member of this crew there was no way he could just sit there as well, not when he could do something.
"Ero-cook, stay out of this!" Zoro warned.
"Stuff it, you have too much to lose, as if your dream suddenly doesn't matter anymore?" Sanji sighed "Look, I might not be at the level of infamy as some of the others in our crew, but mark my words the world will one day realize that 'Black Leg' Sanji will shake it to its roots. So for your sake you'd best get rid of me right now." the chef placed himself between Zoro and Kuma, daring the cyborg warlord to make a move "So take my life in place of theirs, I'm more than willing risk it. Those guys are smart, they'll find a new cook before they'd even-!"
But it was not meant to be, as Sanji choked out as the air was knocked out of them. Giving one last glance at Zoro as he removed the rear of his blade from his torso, the cook slumped over and fell to the ground, his vision fading to black once more.
"As I was saying, my life for Luffy's." Zoro stated again "You've seen my resolve, you have no reason to doubt it now." the swordsman gripped his swords tightly as the warlord did not utter a single word.
Finally Kuma spoke "It seems that this crew has no shortage of members who would gladly die for their captain. There seems to be something about him that bonds the people around him." He glanced over at the downed form of Gian, lying prone on the ground with one hand still reaching out in an attempt to reach the cyborg warlord "This one, even on the brink of death, was doing all he can to keep himself between me and 'Straw Hat'. Had I not ended the fight, he would perhaps not live to see another day."
Zoro chuckled "Of course he would. Out of all of us, he'd be the first to throw himself out there for everyone's sake. But he can't die, Luffy relies on him more than he thinks."
"His role in the world may not be finished yet, with the secret within him threatening to be release, he has a lot more to watch out for. My superiors will be displeased, but I will not deal his death here." Kuma droned on, turning back to Zoro.
"I will grant your request. It will be unbecoming of me to carry on with my original objective after seeing your position. However, for Straw Hat to live you will subjected to unimaginable pain."
Zoro took a step back as Kuma pressed his left palm on Luffy's chest, the captain convulsed slightly as a flesh colored bubble began to emerge from his back. It soon expanded into a massive paw shaped mass, floating ominously and larger than the already very tall Shichibukai, and as such, Zoro was completely dwarfed by it.
"…What is this?" Zoro asked with a hint of uncertainty.
"What I just did is remove all the pain and exhaustion Monkey D. Luffy had experienced tonight. His battle with Moria, the resurrected former King of Monsters, he has to shoulder all of that. Now you will shoulder it for him. It will obliterate you almost instantly." Kuma stated matter-of-factly "Have a taste."
Zoro watched as the warlord flicked a small piece of the bubble towards him. What he experienced next was indeed as if he glimpsed hell itself. The pain exploded instantly, he felt as if his entire being was being shredded at a molecular level before being put back together only to be ripped apart all over again. The swordsman tried to endure it the best he could, but the overwhelming agony soon caused him to scream out as he felt what akin to ten million needles violently impaling him.
Kuma took in his wails with no remark.
"Was Luffy really carrying such a burden? That was just one small piece, and even that…!" Zoro's breath was ragged, each gulp of air set fire to his lungs. It was certain; if he were to take it all, he would truly die tonight. Zoro tightened his fist, he only had one thing to decide.
"…Can I at least take this somewhere else?"
A bit later, Kuma stood alone as he knelt over one last objective. Looming over the now motionless skeleton of Grendolas, he noted with some irony that for a moment tonight, a nightmare from the past had nearly sundered the world once more, all due to a compatriot's hubris and recklessness. Wordlessly, the warlord gathered the remains in an air bubble before sending it to Marijoise; the heads of the World Government would not want this to remain out there in the world.
With that out of the way, the warlord thought back to the Straw Hats as he departed Thriller Bark. His dwindling personality noted with satisfaction at their behavior. While he didn't count on it, he was satisfied that they acted exactly the way he thought they would. It was those actions committed by the likes of 'Beast Warrior' Gian and 'Black Leg' Sanji that he knew he perhaps would not complete his objective, and he wasn't about to anyway. It was proven further once Roronoa Zoro plunged into his captain's suffering with nary a second thought, the World Government were right to be wary of the Straw Hat Pirates.
"It seems like your son has surrounded himself with many interesting people" Kuma mused ", Dragon."
"Urgh… something's definitely bleeding…" Gian groaned as he finally regained consciousness. His entire body still feels tender, but it was steadily beginning to heal. The ship had moved out of the fog by this point, and the survivors of the night were busy affirming everyone's presence. There was no way around it: Bartholomew Kuma had handed them a complete defeat. Nothing to do now except move on.
"I don't know what you did after, but a lot of your wounds opened up again." Chopper scolded as he applied some more bandages "I'd like to say I told you so but you'd never listen anyway."
"Yeah, well after what happened it turns out it was all for nothing after all." The Kaiju-Zoan user sighed. The memories of his final encounter with the cyborg warlord was still fresh in his mind. Granted, he was already heavily injured but even still, it was unsavory to have lost so easily.
"So, are we gonna talk about how we got completely stomped?" Franky chimed in "I guess we got lucky, I'd thought that last move he used would've actually killed us."
"You can say that again," Usopp shivered "We weren't even in the condition to fight anyway…!"
"I'm just glad you're all ok." Lola came up to them with a relieved smile "I didn't think we'd face so many challenges tonight."
"At least not all of us is in a horrible mood." Nami smiled lightly before looking over. Prancing around, Luffy was beaming at his condition.
"Guys! I feel great! I don't know what happened, but I feel fantastic! As if all my stress is gone!" Luffy laughed.
"Really had to rub it in, dontcha?" Franky scoffed.
"He's either completely recovered or all the events of last night might've damaged his mind." Robin snickered.
"Sometime I envy that boundless positivity of his." Gian sighed with affection, before sensing a much more negative aura near him.
"What's gotten your panties in a knot?" he asked. Sanji just scoffed and stood up.
"That mosshead really think he's all that, does he? Facing down a warlord in his lonesome trying to be a hero?"
"Zoro?" Gian grew concerned, only just realizing that their swordsman is nowhere to be seen "Wait, where is he?"
"That's what I want to know, the last time I saw him he was…" Sanji sprang up before finishing his statement "We need to find him." Gian immediately got up and followed, a growing sense of dread welling up inside him.
It was not until the two reached a clearing that his heart leapt into his throat.
"I see him!" Sanji didn't notice it at first, instead marching up to the swordsman rather irritably "You really got a lot of nerve!"
"…Sanji, stop…" Gian was breathing faster as he feebly raised a hand, but the cook didn't notice.
"What was your plan there?" The cook continued "Where did the Shichibukai go? Hey, are you listening to-!"
Only when he took 2 more steps did he realize the severity of the situation.
"ZORO!" Gian couldn't help himself at last.
"WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!"
And they had perfect reason to react in such a manner: what once was made of dirt and grass, the ground was now soaked in a dirty crimson as an excess amount of blood soaked the land scape.
And the swordsman looked like he'd been shoved through a paper shredder. His clothing were in tatters, hanging from him by strands. Fresh gashes lined his skin, each still seeping a river of his life essence, further dying the ground around him red. Zoro's breathing was slight, his head was leaning down as if he'd fall over at any second, though the two dare not imagine what would happen if he does.
"Where did all this blood come from?!" Sanji exclaimed frantically "What did the warlord do to you?!"
"We need Chopper…" Gian gasped "JUST WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?!"
Zoro's voice was nothing more than a faint croak at this point, but even that was enough to bring the two to a halt. The two looked at their comrade, their hearts sinking. Even in agony, the swordsman's gaze was steel, and though there was more blood in the ground than in his body at the moment, the simple sight of him was death-defying.
"N-Nothing… h-happened…" was all he uttered before his body gave way.
Even a few moments later, the ordeal still shook Gian and Sanji. By now Chopper had already taken him away to treat him; to say that the doctor got a massive fright was an understatement. They've never seen him operate on anyone as urgently as he did just then. Gian felt a pang of sympathy for the reindeer, he'd been tending to the wounded non-stop ever since last night.
"I don't understand," He sighed "What led him to do this?"
"I was there when he and the Shichibukai were facing off." Sanji muttered as he took a puff from his smoke "Bastard was about to give up his own life to save us. He was so adamant as well, but how did Bartholomew Kuma not kill him?
"Um…" the two turned to see the Risky Brothers creep out from behind a fallen rock "We saw what happened."
"Tell us everything." Gian said firmly. The two pirates then recalled everything they've witnessed, from Zoro's stand off against the tyrant, the deal he made, to his ultimate sacrifice. Everyone word from the Risky Brothers made Gian and Sanji feel as if the pain their crewmate endure was etched onto them as well. By the end of it, the two didn't know what to feel.
"So that's what happened after Kuma knocked me out." Gian seethed, sucking in a sharp breath of air "To think he'd-"
"That blasted Marimo…" Sanji gave a resigned sigh "He actually had me worried for a sec there. To think he'd go that far for Luffy."
"That explains why he feels so much better this morning." Gian shook his head "All that pain managed to turn Zoro into almost paste, and this whole time I wasn't even aware of what Luffy went through."
"Pirate Hunter really is a badass," one of the brothers exclaimed "Loyalty like that comes maybe once or twice a lifetime."
"Should we tell everyone else?" The other brother asked "I think when people-"
"No!" Sanji said sharply "Don't breathe a word of this to anyone. Especially not Luffy."
"Eh? But surely-!"
"No!" Gian added sternly "We've already been through too much in the last couple of hours. Just let it rest." He gave a painful sigh "Besides, if Luffy finds out about that he's the reason Zoro ended up like that, how would you think he'll take it?"
"Oh…" The Risky Brothers nodded solemnly "we understand." The two gave one last farewell before departing, leaving the two Straw Hats to process the information. Sanji and Gian both looked at each other, there really wasn't anything they could say, but both knew what the other was thinking:
Right now, they both wish it had been them who stepped in instead.
"…I'm going to check on the kitchen." The chef mumbled. Gian nodded before seeing him off. Looking around at the carnage, Gian gave a rough sigh before closing his eyes.
"You know, if you wanted to hear about this you could've just came with us."
A fluttering of flower petals indicates his girlfriend's power dissipating before Robin stepped out from behind the rubble. The archaeologist's face was concerned as they met.
"I didn't think it was my place."
"It's good that you know now." Gian shrugged "Though it's still a lot to process."
"Luffy is in good company," Robin placed a reassuring hand to his chest "It's clear to see now. All of us would put ourselves in that situation for him if we could. Even if not every one of us could've lived through what he did."
"I know…" Gian looked at her, his eyes growing more sorrowful "But even still…"
Robin immediately knew what he was thinking "You can't always expect yourself to be there for everyone. Everyone here holds each other up just as much as themselves, and this was a situation where we'd all step up."
"This time I was also the first to stand up again." Gian hissed, his eyes shut "I tried to stop him, I tried to stop it from happened before it did. If I didn't overexert myself before had, if I hadn't…!"
"What good is this power if the people I want to protect get hurt anyway?"
Robin wordlessly wrapped her arms around him and embracing him. There will be one day when Gian will know that the power of the Kaiju isn't there to handle all of the problems they face, that his crew and nakama are more than willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the monster. Until then, he just needs to look at it from a different perspective.
A feast was declared, after everything the denizens of Thriller Bark had to endure, it was probably the first time they've truly been able to relax in 5 years. The refreshing merriment was sorely needed, and the former victims of Gecko Moria have all the reason to celebrate. The change of scenery was good for the crew too, after what they've experienced they could use a chance for some fun.
"It's ok captain! You'll meet someone eventually!" Gian chuckled when he overheard Lola's crew consoling their captain after another string of rejections, even though the woman was hardly bothered. Lola had promptly proposed to Usopp, Franky, Sanji and even Chopper in that order, with the latter having to also remind her that he's still a minor on top of being a completely different species.
"I'd say someone should just take it for the team, she's a nice lady and doesn't deserved to be so down bad." The Kaiju-Zoan user laughed.
"Don't throw us under the bus like that just because you're already taken." The cyborg snapped. Gian just laughed before turning to a still comatose Zoro.
"How is he?"
"Still out of it, but everything seems fine." Chopper replied, after take a break from some fun dancing "The fact that even all this noise doesn't wake him up is astounding."
"Zoro's missing out on the whole party!" Luffy grinned "He's even missing out on alcohol!"
"Guess there's a first time for everything." Gian gave a shaky smile; the revelation of prior events still weighed on him, he realized he'll have to have a talk with the swordsman when he wakes up.
The sound of a piano key soon alerted the group, everyone looked up with smiles as Brook took to the grand piano at the center of the room "Yohohoho! It has been such a good time here! The happiness I'm feeling warms me to my heart, although I don't have a heart anymore! Yohoho-!"
"Is he ever going to get tired of doing that?" Franky scoffed.
"I believe some music would be good in this venue, please continue to have a good time!"
"You can play more than the violin?" Usopp asked.
"I can play just about every instrument." Brook assured them "Now here's a song you might all be familiar with!"
The moment the skeleton's bony digits touched the keys, everyone was hit by a most nostalgic piece. It was a tune that just about every seafarer recognized, a song passed down for generations that have brought peace of mind and happiness to those in long periods of longing for home atop the waves with nothing else but the people beside him.
"Ah yes! It just has to be this song!" Lola cheered.
"This is Shanks' favorite song!" Luffy exclaimed.
"Bink's Sake," Robin smiled "I haven't heard that song in a long time." Around them, the masses of pirates have already broken into song and dance, it was something you don't just sit around to while it played.
"I basically have it all memorized at this point." Gian chuckled, sighing as he remembered fond memories "Back then, after every party, it was the song the Red Hair Pirates would play."
"Clearly everyone else enjoys it as well." Robin pointed to the crowd as they all danced in contentment to the iconic song. With everything going on, it was hard to tell who was happier.
"Well then, why don't we join them?" Gian grinned as he stood up and held out a hand "Care to dance, milady?" the archaeologist giggled and obliged, and for a moment Gian allowed himself to forget the recent events as the two of them got caught up right as the music reached a crescendo. For that brief moment, they were allowed to forget the pain of the world and just be in each other's company.
For Brook, the song held much more emotional baggage than the others. While every sea-farer knows the song as an uplifting track, for him it has a much more personal meaning. His old crew had loved it like everyone else, it was the song that had been with them till the end. Even as his former captain drew his last breath, he still requested that one last song to be the one to send him off.
"It was Laboon's favorite song too, he used to love music so much." he remembered "If it did so much to bring us all happiness, I'm glad these folks can experience that too."
So engrossed in his memories, Brook almost didn't even realize that Luffy had sauntered up to him, leaning against the piano with a smile. The skeleton acknowledged the boy as well, feeling a welcoming presence from him that was similar to the one he's known from his former captain.
"It's really nice to hear that song again."
Brook smiled "It's a song of old, pretty much every pirate knew it. From the looks of it, people still do."
"So what are you going to do now? I still really want you in my crew you know." The young captain pressed. Brook chuckled at that.
"You're far too kind, and given any other opportunity I would've jumped at the chance. As I've said before though, there's still something I have to do."
"Yeah, you want to go back to Reverse Mountain and see Laboon, right?" Luffy nodded "Franky told me, he says you have a promise to keep."
"So he did, and yes that's the one thing I've not forgotten. It's been so long, at least I'll have to tell Crocus-san what happened. If Laboon really is no longer there hopefully he'll-"
"We ran into them when we crossed the mountain! Laboon's been missing you, he's even been trying to reach the Grand Line to find you! I bet he'll be so happy when he finds out you're coming to see him!"
Brook gasped upon hearing that "Luffy-san, did I hear that correctly? Did you say you and your crew met Laboon?"
"Yup! Right there at the Red Line!"
"If you don't believe him, we were all there!" Usopp smiled as the rest of the crew gathered round
"50 years have passed… Wow. He must've grown by now!"
"As big as a mountain, and probably not done yet either!" Sanji chuckled.
"Incredible, when we left him he was hardly bigger than a small dinghy! He was so cute!" Brook sighed wistfully.
"He's in good company, the old man looks after him." Gian nodded, thinking about his own interactions with the whale "Aside from a few mishaps, I'd say he's doing pretty well for himself. Though we did see how much you and your crew meant to him. He clearly hasn't forgotten you at all, in fact if it weren't for the Red Line he'd be searching for you himself."
"I miss him so much… all this time trapped here, I was worried he'd get lonely, I want to go find him right away…!" at this point, the other patrons have realized that Brook's piano playing had dramatically slowed, until the skeleton stopped altogether. The crew looked on in concern when the musician began to shake.
"I can't believe it, after all this time…!" the Straw Hats took a step back as Brook began to weep, tears of emotions rolling down his eye sockets.
"I really don't want to spoil the moment, but how is he doing that?" Gian whispered when he saw the phenomenon, to which Robin shushed him.
"I'm just… I'm just so happy to be alive right now…!" the skeleton cried. It was not over, he would fulfil his promise. Captain Yorkie, the others, he would take their memories with him and reunite them all with their beloved friend once this was all over. With that in mind, Brook stood up and took a bow towards Luffy.
"Thank you for telling me this. 50 years ago the Rumbar Pirates fell in battle and perished at sea trying to reach the end of the Grand Line, our only regret was not being able to complete our promise of sailing around the world and meeting back up with our dear friend. For 50 years I was in isolation on that ship, my will and purpose slipping away. Hearing that Laboon is still there waiting, I now have my purpose back!" Brook said firmly "I will take the memories and songs of our crew and finish what we started. So I ask you this right now:"
Brook dropped down on one knee upon saying that "Luffy-san, may I join your crew?"
"Yeah! Glad to have ya!"
"That easy?!" The rest of the group were caught off guard by just how quick it was.
Still, no one could deny that the skeleton had grown on them. By the end of the night, it was as if he's been with them from the start.
"Man, I still can't believe everything that happened! I thought we were actually gonna die!" Absalom yowled. He and Dr. Hogback had managed to slip away before the advent of Bartholomew Kuma, and with Moria in tow, they left before anyone else knew they were gone. It was unfortunate that they had to leave their island ship behind, Thriller Bark was an asset that had been too valuable. Still, the fact that they made it out without further mishaps was a blessing all on its own.
"Tell me about it, I almost got incinerated!" Dr. Hogback snapped "Everything we've built up, gone in one night…"
"We should go look for Perona, I hope nothing bad happened to her." Absalom grunted. The ghost princess had been absent ever since they left; in the heat of everything that's happened the two hadn't noticed, but when she didn't appear even as they made their escape it was enough to get them concerned.
"She's a tough girl, if anyone tries to mess with her they'll probably end up sad and enslaved by her anyway." Hogback tried to assure him "Once Master Moria feels like it, we'll start looking for her."
"He's still not taking this well, is he?"
"…" Hogback looked at the bow of the small ship, where the massive shape of Gecko Moria stared out to see, not uttering a word "Leave him for now, he's rarely been beaten before, give him time to process this."
But Moria's thoughts were not so much on his unexpected loss, but the reason leading to it. Everything had been going well, it should've ended with his ultimate weapon exterminating those arrogant pests, and yet…
"My powers hold absolution over all shadows, they belong to me! How did Project Alpha break from my control?!"
It just didn't make sense. He made a contract with 'Beast Warrior's' shadow, he did everything properly just like anything else. A shadow under his thrall has no willpower, no means to rebel against his control, Beast Warrior Gian's shadow should've been his most powerful piece.
Unless that wasn't 'Beast Warrior' Gian's shadow doing the piloting.
Moria shook his head in irritation; now that bastard Kuma's words are getting to him. There's no way somehow that just because they both happened to be Kaiju-Zoan users that Project Alpha was somehow able to regain the memories he had in life. It was all just a coincidence.
The way Project Alpha acted was exactly as if he had an agenda of his own. Hogback had told him that something was off about him, how he'd consuming shadows from the rest of their army. He'd dismissed it as merely a process in its formation, when he now knows it was trying to becoming to become more powerful. And according to Hogback, the more 'Beast Warrior' Gian spent in the vicinity of the special undead, the more independent it seemed to be. Could it be, upon seeing the powers it used to wield, the connection between the two somehow managed to reawaken his lost conscience?
And then there's the overall secrecy of it all, how the very government organization he serves seems to be actively trying to hide the subject of the beasts that once stood above them. Moria suddenly remembered back to the time just before he's found the skeleton in the middle of that sea. Even when hauling the bones aboard his ship, Moria had sensed something monstrous dwelling in those remains, but foolish as he was he'd dismissed any notion of it being a problem, instead only seeing its potential.
And the people he spoke to beforehand regarding its whereabouts were rather hesitant to reveal it also, as if just hearing its name spooked them. He'd taken it as a good omen back then, but now he realized they had a reason to act that way.
Moria growled as he looked to the horizon; there's something that he's being kept in the dark about, and it's the people he's working for that keeps those answers. He'd just recently gotten the paper as well; it seems that he'll be needed at Marineford in short order. When he does, he is going to see to it that Sengoku turns over some answers…
2 days later:
He found Zoro kneeling in the cemetery section when they first arrived on the island, crouching over a monument he built. The swordsman had placed the rusted Yubashiri on it, a final resting place for a blade that has serviced him for some time. The past few days had been given to recuperating and taking care of after events. Zoro had awoken sometime after the party, but until now Gian hadn't found a good chance to talk to him yet.
The graveyard was empty; most of the Thriller Bark Victims Association had already mourned their lost comrades the day before. Some of them had fought to see this day happen, and they made sure their sacrifice was not in vain. Aside from Zoro Gian noticed that Brook was there too, the newest member of the Straw Hats was the first to notice him. He too had been there to pay respects; Franky, Usopp and Chopper had made a memorial for the Rumbar Pirates, giving them a resting place as well.
"Ah Gian-san! Good to see you! Are we setting off soon?"
"Hi Brook," Gian acknowledge "most likely it will be soon. I was looking for Zoro, good to see that I finally found him." The swordsman didn't look up at him.
"Of course! I will give you two some privacy!" the skeleton nodded before leaving, though not before leaning in to whisper something else.
"I know it was hard to watch, I saw everything. Even though the outcome was not what we wanted, I have to admit such loyalty between friends is something remarkable." Gian merely nodded and patted the skeleton on his bony shoulder before turning to the swordsman.
"So, how are the wounds?"
"After a while I don't really pay attention to it." Zoro remarked.
"I see the sword got a funeral as well."
"I know you didn't come here to talk about that, Gian." Zoro sighed "Just lay it on me."
"Well, then. Since you already knew about it." Gian breathed "What the hell?"
The two men were now face to face with each other, their gazes rather hard.
"It was the only way," Zoro gritted "He would've killed him-!"
"-And you just went for it with no hesitation?" Gian snapped "Like you didn't even consider anything else?!"
"I had to save Luffy's life!" Zoro shot back "If it means my life gets traded then so be it!"
"So all of a sudden that whole tirade back at the Baratie doesn't matter anymore? What happened to not dying before you become the World's Greatest Swordsman? Chopper said that, for about 2 minutes and 25 seconds, you would've been physically and legally counted as dead! Hell I'm pretty sure the only reason you're alive right now is because you got lost on your way to hell and somehow found your way back to the living!"
"That damn cook said the same thing, I know exactly what I'm doing. If I can't even put my life on the line for my own captain, then I don't deserve to have that dream!"
Gian's gaze softened a bit upon hearing that "Zoro…"
Zoro sighed "To be honest, I don't know what came over me either. All I know is that at that moment, Luffy had to live no matter what."
"You could've at least considered how Luffy might've taken this if he finds out." Gian whispered "He doesn't want anything bad to happen to any of us."
"I know, but he's a strong kid. That's what makes him our captain." Zoro replied "Besides, Kuma told me before I woke up you were willing to be ripped apart yourself to help him too."
"Yeah, because I'm the one to stand up for everyone if Luffy falls." Gian reiterated "He's the captain, and it's my job as first mate to back him up the moment he needs it."
"And as his crew, it's all of our jobs to back him up too!" Zoro rasped, before taking a sigh "Look, I know where you're coming from. I know Luffy would get hit hard if any of us gets hurt for him. But for sake of everything, it's got to be me."
"You're the first crew mate he's ever gotten. You've known him longer than the rest of us. If anyone here is to survive till he reaches Raftel it's gotta be you." Zoro revealed "I owe Luffy a lot, and I'll do anything for him. But ultimately, my dream of becoming the World's Strongest Swordsman is nothing compared to his goal. I'll gladly put his dream ahead of mine if it means he'll live to see it happen. And as the person who he's trusted with that dream first, you have a responsibility to see it through with him."
"That's not true and you know it!" Gian argued "Luffy wants all of us to reach our dreams! He'll be the first to give us that final push when we need it! I get it, I've recently come across some damning information but I'll gladly face it head on if Luffy could become Pirate King. I need you here Zoro. Alive. I didn't think I'd come to say this, but if anything happens to me in the process of uncovering the truth, I want you to be there to support him."
"I get that, I think anyone here would do the same in any position. But it's like you said, you're Luffy's first nakama, and you have a responsibility to be there for him until he reaches the end of the Grand Line. You might not see it yet, but you and Luffy will one day shake this world. And if I need to die for you to realize that, then I'll do that too."
The two glared at each other for a bit, both passionate about their positions. Gian grimaced; the worst part about it was that, just like those who spoke of it before, Zoro's actions have made him look at the swordsman in a new light, one that he now realized made him aware of his own role as Luffy's first Nakama. There was no place where he could even fault the swordsman for doing something so reckless.
"You don't have any reservations about what you did, do you?" Gian accused.
"Zero." The swordsman sneered "If the dumbass cook can't convince me, I doubt you'd have it any easier."
"Jeez, how did I get myself involved in such a stubborn crew?" Gian sighed, but the two were smiling now "At least I now know I can rely on you above anyone else. I meant what I said earlier, by the way, if I were to somehow get involved too deep with the secrets I unveil, I trust you to protect everyone."
"Quit acting like your job's over. You gotta help him lead the rest of us jackasses as well." the swordsman grinned.
"Just don't get lost on the way back to the ship, we're leaving in 3 hours."
"We're all ready to go! It's finally time to leave this place and onto our next adventure!" Luffy cheered.
"Finally, I have to say I am really sick of this place. It might've just single-handedly gotten me to hate horror movies." Gian groaned in relief.
"You know, we followed those damn rules and it still got us into shit. I'm starting to think they don't work." Franky accused.
"Don't doubt the higher power, we just weren't worthy enough to receive its guidance." Gian shrugged.
"Eh, I guess."
"You guys are so energetic, it's inspiring to see!" Lola laughed as she and the rest of her crew helped with loading onto the Thousand Sunny.
"Heh, it comes with package. By the way, I managed to fix up Brook's ship a day earlier, so you can leave in that whenever you're ready." The cyborg grinned.
"Thank you, you've already done so much for us." The woman smiled "Are you sure you can't stay with us longer?"
"We'd love to, but we're heading to Fishman Island next!" Luffy grinned "it's a whole new world there!"
"YES! Time to finally meet some beautiful mermaids!" Sanji cheered.
"I would love to meet them too!" Brook swooned "I wonder if any of them will show me their panties!"
"Why did we let the second pervert onboard?" Nami groaned.
"He plays music, and now Luffy will finally stop talking about needing a musician." Chopper answered.
"Ahahaha! That really is a fun place." Lola agreed "You guys really are great to hang out with. Any of you boys there like to get married before you leave?"
"I get an automatic pass." Gian waved and pointed to the archaeologist next to him. Robin just chuckled and shook her head.
"Oh, sorry! Any of you boys other than 'Beast Warrior'-?" once again she was met with multiple denials.
"Thank you for all your help again! Let's hope to see each other soon!" Luffy waved again.
"Ah! That reminds me! I have something to give you!" Lola reached into her jacket before pulling out a white sheet. The crew watched as she ripped a small piece and presented it to Luffy."
"This is my mom's Vivre Card, I was born in the New World and my mother is a very powerful pirate there! Show her this and tell her that you know me, and I bet she'll help you out!"
"What is this?" Nami asked "It's just a piece of paper!"
"You've never seen one before! But you're already such a good navigator! Basically, the Vivre Card is made for a specific person, and as long as they're alive it will always tell you where they are! Here, place it on this barrel and see." Nami gasped in amazement as the small scrap began to shift towards the direction of the New World.
"There you go! As long as you have that, you'll always be able to know which direction the person it's based on is! Although it doesn't tell you how far they are, with the Vivre Card you'll always know which direction they're at!" Lola beamed.
"That's incredible!" Usopp gaped.
"Hey! I've seen that before!" Luffy cried out and reached into his jacket "My brother gave me something like that!"
"Hmm? I knew that 'Straw Hat' would know something about that! This seems like- oh my gosh!"
Lola's sudden exclamation made the Straw Hats alert. The crew looked up to see that the small piece of paper that Portgas D. Ace gave them weeks ago was now beginning to burn, with the corners turning into embers.
"W-What's going on?" Chopper whimpered.
"Remember when I said that, as long as said person lives, the Vivre Card will find where they are? If that person is close to death, then it will sense that too. Right now, wherever this person is, they're in danger!"
A chill swept over the crew as Luffy took a step back.
"This seems serious Luffy." Gian stood beside the boy "Do you want to look into it?" and the Kaiju-Zoan user could tell that his captain was seriously considering that.
"…It's fine!" Luffy forced a smile "Ace is strong, he'll be able to handle whatever thrown his way!" it would be much later that they would deal with the consequence of that decision, but when Luffy said that Gian merely nodded, trusting his captain with his decision.
And with a few more farewells from Lola and her crew, the Straw Hats once again set off into the sea, ready to go into new adventures. Though they had left the mists behind, they couldn't help but feel as if something was lurking just beyond their reach, just in the dense fog beyond their ship watching their every move with rapt attention…
But that would be a mystery left for another to solve, because even though the Florian Triangle is mysterious, no one truly knows how it works.
Alone at last, Gian sat in his study. On the deck, the rest of the crew were about to launch into yet another party, with Brook set to play more music. The skeleton has quickly become a welcomed addition to the crew, and Gian smiled upon seeing how big they've gotten.
Still, another thought occupied his mind. He had encountered a relic from the past, one that echoed the same beast that he held. A beast that made him realize something big was coming.
And the one who bonded with it previously seemed to know of it too.
"…its return is inevitable, the world needed to be ready… I had to do something…!"
Grendolas knew of the coming of the Progenitor, he too had seen relics of Bagan's destruction. Mu's events still fresh in his mind, Gian realized he was being pulled in a direction that somehow involved that monstrosity.
And somehow, the Kaiju as a whole is involved with this.
"This is getting complicated again. There's once again more information being unearthed, and this time it's beginning to tell a different story" Gian thought "If Kaiju-Zoans first appeared with Grendolas, then it would mean that the warning was sent out 150 years ago, and somehow Bagan was tied to it. If what he's seen is so terrifying, then the world as we know it may be under threat…"
He mused on it further before shaking his head; he'd been worrying too much lately. Right now the crew was about to celebrate once again, and soon they're be asking where he is. There's still so many pieces left to find, so much more to piece together. For now, he'll be looking forward to some simple enjoyment.
"I gotta relax, we just got out of a deadly battle. At least now nothing bad can happen for-"
"Oi, 'Beast Warrior'!" Franky's voice suddenly called out "I just remembered you borrowed that chainsaw from my workshop back on Thriller Bark, do you still have it with you?"
Gian's eyes widened.
A/N: And I'm back after another absence, this time wrapping up Thriller Bark. I've been under a lot of obligations lately, and I'm glad to say it's been paying off! I've gotten a job, I have one more class that will be finished in a couple of weeks and I'll finally be graduating university! I didn't think adulting would be so much, but life is catching up to me, I'm getting old!
Also, I have to admit that writing a rough plan has helped tremendously with formulating this chapter. While not everything planned made it in at the end, at least I'll have some guidelines going in rather than doing it blind. Overall this chapter mostly was used to end Thriller Bark. We'll be starting Strong World with the next chapter, and it'll be one of 2 movie arcs I'll be adapting!
G: We really are getting old.
So yeah, we'll see you with the next chapter in due course! Bye now!