Tell it to the Marines



Chapter 58



Horses, Sanji decides, are far from the ideal mode of transport in the desert. No camels, no giant crabs, no person-launching-shitty-captain. Just man's most trusted animal; forget dogs because horses are where it's at. That Nami-sawn and Vivi-hime move in such interesting ways when they're riding them has nothing to do with it, not at all! They'd look sublime riding on anything, Sanji is sure of that. The only downside is that Ri-flower is not there with them!

"This is it, Alubarna!" Their horses shoot up the stairs, the ride rough and Sanji grimaces, rolling the cigarette in his mouth back and forth. The rebels had agreed to hold fire, just long enough for Vivi to speak to the king, to speak to her father. If the shit-head won't get his act together, then Sanji's not above kicking a sense of moral decency into his head too. It is a grand piece of architecture, this capital city. Situated on a raised plateau that Sanji might have appreciated more if they didn't have to waste time racing up it. Even with the rest that they've got from riding the horses, that means nothing in the face of his aching legs. As much as he hates to admit it, he needs to train more. The Shitty swordsman is throwing his all into it and, if he wants to be able to protect the lovely goddesses that reside upon the Merry, then Sanji will have to put his best foot forwards in that regard too. No more slacking off. He'll get better at fighting, he'll crack this Haki thing before the Marimo and Nami-sawn will be swooning for him.

"Duck!" Launching himself from the saddle, Sanji slams his foot into an aggressor, scowling ferociously when he takes note of the fucker's previous aim. He'd been trying to shoot Vivi-hime! Not on his watch! No one would harm either of the lovely ladies that'd been entrusted to his care. He just hopes that Luffy will ensure Ri-flower gets the care she needs. It pains him to have left her in the care of their… exuberant captain, but they'd grown up together. There's a love between the two of them as younger brother and elder sister that, that Sanji never had the luck to experience. In all truth, when he'd seen the Revolutionary, when he'd seen Fire-Fist… he'd been jealous. Whatever shit Luffy had suffered through in his life, it can't be worse than what Sanji'd faced. Simply because he's got elder siblings who actual give a fuck for his general wellbeing. He's jealous but he can't let it show. Otherwise there'll be questions and Sanji'd rather die before admitting his blood family. It's exactly why he needs to have a talk with Riskua.

'You're the kindest person I know and that's good. Judge is wrong.'

He hadn't chased it up, hadn't dared to while Fire-Fist was occupying her time (the fucker). She'd been delirious, muttering away. And she'd still known. How, how had she known?

"Sanji! What's going on?" A sweeping inspection shows several downed men, all with some kind of red power around their faces. Familiar red powder.

"Usopp was here." Which means both he and Chopper are still here. If this is Crocodile moving against Vivi-hime's country, then they need to kick it into high gear. The girls seem to be of a similar opinion, as they too take off running down the street, Sanji in the lead.


He has to kick three henchmen to the side, but they arrive in the main square, situated just below the palace. There, Chopper and a man with bird-like features (it's gotta be some kinda Devil Fruit) both stand before a started looking man, several combatants downed around them. Last but not least, Usopp is precariously balanced upon a balcony, stupid slingshot out and armed with those little bullet-pepper things. Perhaps the most startling thing of all is the sheer number of people that are on the ground with that stuff around their face.

"Wha- What the hell!"

"Oh, thank god you're here!" Dropping down from the balcony, Usopp comes staggering over on unsteady legs, knees trembling and a thousand-yard stare in his eyes. Sanji doesn't have a clue why; there's only a few scratches on him and none of the guys he's downed look particularly… important.

"Usopp took down almost all of them!" Chopper declares, his… arms(?) stretched open wide and there's practically stars in his eyes.

"T-That Haki thing told me where they were all coming from," Usopp mumbles and, much to the blond's disgust, throws himself into Sanji's arms. "There were so many of them! But the great Usopp pulled through!"

"He even had tears in his eyes from how heroic he was being! It was impressive, for a human that is!" Even with Chopper's hastily tagged on line, Sanji's pretty sure those tears had nothing to do with being heroic. Probably scared shitless at the thought of having to face all of these guys with only Chopper as back-up. And there are a fair amount of them.

"U-Usopp took all these guys down?!" Nami-swan's disbelief is utterly understandable; Sanji's a little in shock too. Is this the power of Haki? If it improved Usopp that much, then how much better will Sanji get?

"The great Usopp-sama and his thirty-thousand followers did indeed take them down! No need to fear, he and his underlings will defend the king!"

"Underlings," Sanji hisses through clenched teeth, the ash of his cigarette fluttering to the sandy earth. Though, come to mention it, the startled looking man does bare some resemblance to Vivi. It's set in stone when she dashes forwards, throwing herself into his arms.

"The rebels are on their way; they'll fight with us against Crocodile," Vivi proclaims, staring up into her father's eyes before she turns her attention on the bird-guard.

Sanji turns his attention back to their surroundings the second he notices Usopp do so; the other has sensed the approach of an enemy and Sanji springs into action. He cannot allow someone to threaten Vivi-hime or Nami-swan. Usopp's pepper-projectile lands smack in the man's face a mere moment before Sanji's foot crashes into his nose. Blood vessels pop, red liquid flowing free as the man falls back. It's a good thing he's not in his usual suit; cleaning out blood when it dries up is a hassle and it's not exactly like he has the time to stop for a dry clean right now.

"These are all low-level henchmen; my guess is the bigshots will have run into Luffy and the lot on their way here," Nami-swan mutters, running a hand through her gloriously short hair, frown on her delicate face. Yes, Sanji could see Ri-flower decimating Crocodile's thugs with every move of her graceful self, those tightly coiled black fists would pummel them effortlessly. A warrior goddess in every sense of the word!

"Usopp-sama was very brave!"

"Usopp-what?!" Sanji screeches, twisting to stare at the long-nosed sniper who doesn't have the slightest clue on what to do with the two women who have just draped themselves over him. Sanji gawks, his heart shattering in his chest. "No! It's not fair!"


It is only when Nami-swan's delicate hand graces his face that Sanji snaps out of it. He listens to the King's request, Vivi-hime's father who asks them to please lead the rebels in aiding the people, in ensuring all of Crocodile's underlings are dealt with. Sanji agrees without hesitation, more then happy to aid them.

"Oh god, it's Crocodile!"

Head snapping up at the declaration, Sanji grits his teeth at the sight of the Shichibukai; he'd had no idea the man was so big. Even from this distance, his form blocks out the sun as he descends on them. Spitting the cigarette from his mouth, Sanji launches himself up, aiming a round-house kick at the man. It connects with his cheekbone for a mere-moment, then the man's skin bursts into sand, particles flying in all directions. Shit, so he's like Smoker and Fire-Fist then? That renders him almost useless. Gritting his teeth, Sanji flips, aiming for a landing as close to Vivi-hime and Nami-swan as possible. If needs be, he can always act as a human shield for them-

"Get off me!" Sanji snarls, shaking his leg and desperately trying to dislodge the limpet that is Usopp. God damn it, he needs his legs free if he even wants a hope in hell of being able to fight!


Of course, that's when their captain somehow descends from the sky.



Leading with a Haki-coated fist, Luffy lands a face-first punch on Crocodile, hammering him not just with the power of his muscles, but with the force of his fall too. He can feel the man's jaw rattle about under his knuckles as he's forced down and away from Vivi, away from the palace and the rest of Luffy's crew. Riskua follows shortly after, abandoning the bird in favour of throwing herself down after him. Her hair's tucked up under her hat again, otherwise it's be streaming behind her like a tail. The thought makes him smile, though the worried frown on Vivi's face soon kills it.

Sticking the landing on yet more sand, Luffy presses down on the brim of Shank's hat, cutting off the sun that's threatening to sear his eyeballs. This is why he's going to be the Pirate King and not the Bandit King; he can't stand being on land for too long; the sun's always getting in his eyes and the sand is awful. It suits Croco perfectly. Dropping into a secure stance, legs bent and muscles coiled, Luffy watches the warlord bastard clamber out of the hole he'd just been punted into, an ugly look crossing his scared face.

"Strawhat. You recovered quickly."

"A little sand isn't gonna stop me! I'm gonna kick your ass, sandnado or not!" Slamming one closed fist into an open palm, Luffy tenses his legs and then shoots forwards. Crocodile disappears in a swirl of sand and Luffy huffs, stretching out with the mystery power, with Haki, to find the bastard.

"Gum Gum Pistol!" Shooting off a Haki coated fist, Luffy scowls at the miss, fist slamming into the building and leaving a big hole. Oops. A wave of sand sweeps up from the ground, catching at his feet, clawing at his ankles and it's almost like the wax guy's attack. Only this doesn't just warm his feet, it's like it's trying to peel his skin off and Luffy is not a fruit. With Haki gathering in his legs, he Geppo's up and out of there, kicking into the air, twisting to bring his leg down in a battle axe attack. This time he finds his target, heel slamming down on the crown of Croco's head, sending him plummeting towards the ground once again. Only this time, 'Skua is there, daggers in hand as she slashes upwards, cutting deep into Croco's sides. Blood spurts out, glimmering in the desert sun but Luffy pushes on. He's bled plenty of times but that never meant he was down for the count and it surely doesn't mean the same from Croco either.

Sure enough, a spear of sand comes racing at him and, try as he might, Luffy can't Geppo out of the way. It slams into his shoulder, piercing right through and he grunts with the pain. It hurts, it hurts a lot but Luffy grits his teeth and pulls himself off the sand; 'Skua is keeping Croco busy so he can't press his advantage.

Peeling himself off the sharp point, Luffy takes a single moment to prod at the unwelcomed hole in his body before he forces himself to continue on. He's injured but he's not dead so like hell is he gonna stop.


'Skua leaps back and out the way just in time for Luffy's furious fists to rain down on the warlord, hitting sand and ground and flesh. People around them are screaming and scrambling back but Luffy knows his crew have got his backs; they'll deal with anyone else that wants to get in the way, like the hand woman. Zoro can handle her.

Smoke rising from his fists, Luffy lands again, dropping to one knee to lessen the impact. He's not worried for his bones (they're made of rubber like the rest of him, duh), but he might need to push up and off and that's easier with on leg half curled up already. 'Skua flips back and away, completing several twists as a stream of furious sand snaps after her, catching on the ground three times after him.

"Don't let your guard down, Kinglet," she mutters, twisting the daggers until she's got a funny backwards grip on them. Then, she shoots forwards, slicing quick and sharp, opening a hole in the mass of sand for Luffy to send a fist rocketing through. He makes contact with Crocodile's face and a victorious 'ha!' escapes his lips, even more so when he manages to close his fingers around the warlord's shoulder and begin reeling himself in towards him. Luffy goes for another kick but Croco catches him, blood dripping from his nose and a look of fury on this face.

"You little bastard. I'll kill you."

The sharp point of a hook comes for him but Luffy forces his way back, a Geppo kick right to Croco's chest. The air blasts through him, forces him to shatter into sand as Luffy retreats, sandal feet skipping across the ground. The next moment, it's rushing up, surrounding him and clawing at his skin, stripping it free of his bones, inhaling him as his body screams in protest, as Luffy screams in protest.


Suddenly, the sand is gone and 'Skua is hovering over him. One cheek is purple, the eye near it smaller than the other but both just as worried. Then, she's gone. Water splashes at his face a moment later, rough hands he recognises as Zoro cupping the back of his skull and forcing him to drink. The water is everything, it's just what he needed and it strengthens him, powers his limbs like nothing but meat has ever done. Heart pounding, Luffy grabs hold of the barrel, guzzling down the contents, barely able to acknowledge Zoro releasing him to go and do… something. He just drinks and drinks and drinks.

The last droplet of water hits the back of his throat and Luffy stands, feeling the drink swash around in his guts. It feels funny but at least he knows Croco-bastard won't be able to pull the same trick twist on him. Throwing the barrel aside, Luffy clenches his fists and squints against the desert sun, spotting the whirlwind of sand that is the bastard Crocodile. 'Skua's on a balcony but she's only got one dagger, the other isn't there and he hastily glances around the place to find it. The black weapon doesn't shine in the light like Zoro's swords, it's a mystery metal made for stealth, so people don't know 'Skua's drawing a blade until she wants them to know. Spotting the missing item lying in the doorway, Luffy ambles his way over as quickly as he can, frowning at his expanded waistline. He hadn't drunk that much water… had he?

"'Skua!" Throwing her the dagger, Luffy leaps back into the fray himself, legs coiling to spring him forwards. It's odd having to work around his water-gut but Luffy manages, twisting to hammer a fist into Crocodile's jawline at the same time that Riskua lands a kick to the other side of his face. Crushed between the two of them, Croco can do nothing but grunt in pain, his hook-hand coming up to slash in Luffy's general direction. He makes sure to twist out of the way of it, burping when the water swirls a little too much in his tummy.

All three of them drop back to the earth, 'Skua sticking the landing but Luffy just bounces. Croco falls apart into sand, sand which is quick to rocket towards Luffy and surround him. The pressure it puts on his stomach has him throwing up some of the water he just drunk and the pain stops. Huh. So, water makes Croco's sand useless then! Thumping a fist into his palm, Luffy stares around the area with a squint. Croco's on his own, surveying the land with a sneer on his face but 'Skua's not there anymore. Instead, she's facing off against the hand-lady; arms grow from the ground like strange human flowers, snatching and clawing at 'Skua.

Scowling, Luffy makes for Croco again, hammering his fists forwards but absent of the Haki for now. He can feel his reserves are dipping low; he's never had to keep using Haki like this in a fight this long before. There'd never been a challenge as big as this one. A grin steals across his face as he continues to plough onwards, a low hiss escaping through clenched teeth when the sand tears at one leg, peeling back a layer of skin.

"That hurt!" Luffy snarls, launching himself forwards again. A fist of sand slams into his chest, forcing him back and away; it doesn't hurt (he's rubber after all), but he can't stop being thrown back by the force. Feet digging into the sand, Luffy clenches his fists and reaches for his Haki again, snapping through the restraints that Croco's turned his sandy hand into. He looks up just in time to spot his crew on the balcony and the wave of sand that engulfs them.



The hairs on the back of Riskua's neck stand up. It's the only warning she gets before a veritable wave of conquerors washes over them all, slamming through her guts and dropping the few guppies of Crocodile's that haven't been smart enough to get out the way yet. Riskua feels it hammer against her own mind, just as Ace's had done all those years ago. Knowing Luffy has Conqueror's Haki and experiencing Luffy's Conqueror's Haki are two very different things.

Squatting low, Riskua doesn't miss the fact Robin's extra limbs have all disappeared, doesn't miss that the woman is staring at Luffy in what can only be described as horrified awe. It's all the pause Riskua needs to make her way up to the rest of the crew. Zoro's safe on the ground, safe because he's away from the majority that Crocodile has targeted. The desert sun is hot on the back of her neck and Riskua is once again thankful for the tanned skin she inherited from her father; the burns won't show up as much. Suncream in the desert is a must, but they'd hardly had time to stop and apply it right now.


She can see Nami's hand, hear her muffled voice calling out from the sand that has stopped in its movements; no wonder given the show Luffy is putting on right now. Stab wound or not, you don't fuck with Conqueror's Haki and, given Crocodile's history with Whitebeard, he must undoubtedly know that. Twisting the daggers in her grasp, Riskua considers the cocoon of sand with narrowed eyes, sweat slicked strands of her hair pressed flat to her forehead. She slashes with an upper-cut, carefully chipping away at the mass of sand. Sanji's blond head is the first thing she spots and Riskua sheaths one blade, clamping her fingers around the chef's shoulder instead. One foot planted on the cracked marble of the balcony, Riskua heaves, peeling the chef free. True to form, the chef is half curled around both Vivi and Nami, the latter having hefted Chopper into her grasp in an attempt to shield him. It's heart-warming. A little less so when Usopp is reeled out by his death-grip on Sanji's ankle.

"You shitty little- how the fuck am I supposed to protect the ladies if you're clinging to my feet!" The heel of one polished black shoe collides with Usopp's head and the sniper slams face first into the floor which, given his nose, must hurt.

Riskua doesn't bother to watch the show they put on, too busy checking them all over. Nami has some terrible bruising on her back and wrist, Sanji seems to be favouring one leg over the other, and Usopp… she's not quite sure how to describe the disaster that is Usopp. But they're all okay, they all seem to have survived their time venturing through the desert of their own and there's a certain set to their shoulders that seems to imply they're feeling pretty confident right now.

With her whole body screaming at the thought of having to continue fighting (she must, must, must work on her stamina), Riskua turns back to Luffy and Crocodile at the sound of a thunderous crash, utterly unsurprised by what she sees but awash with pride all the same.

Crocodile is on the floor, down and nearly out, an impact crater far bigger than it has any right to be spreading out from beneath him like a gigantic spider's web. Standing above him, Luffy's half hunched over, hands on his knees and a worrying amount of blood around the puncture would in his shoulder. His hat is still upon his head and he's still standing, victorious.

Riskua watches his limbs tremble, watches the blood drip down from his clenched fist, watches her little brother and captain stand before the Warlord he has defeated. This is it. This is the moment Strawhat Luffy really begins making a name for himself.

Clearing the balcony fencing, Riskua falls into a rough tuck and roll as she hits the floor, coming up a little bit away from Luffy. She twists to get a look at Robin but the taller woman is still standing exactly where she had been before. There's nothing to her posture that indicates she'll continue fighting; in fact, she's just staring at Luffy, lips slightly parted and face slack. Riskua ignores her. She continues to walk towards Luffy, continues to plod onwards and she gets there just in time to throw one rubbery arm over her shoulders. Luffy slumps into her side, head against her neck like he can no longer find the energy to keep it up.

"You did good, Kinglet, you did good." People are staring, the very few that have dared to come out of their houses. Crocodile's hired thugs (what few of them that Luffy didn't force into unconsciousness) have disappeared, leaving only the royal guards armed. Well, the few that have managed to pick themselves up off the floor that is.

A presence pings in her mind and Riskua shifts through the multitdue of Haki signatures she recalls in an attempt to figure out just who is heading this way, fast. It's not a signautre she's particularly familiar with, though it's clearly important if she's remember- oh shit.

"We gotta find somewhere to hid; Smokey's on his way here."

"Smokey?" Luffy repeats in a muffled, sleepy sort of voice. Yeah, Riskua's haivng flashbacks to seven year old Luffy who'd decide it was nap time and just drop. Didn't matter what he was doing, exploring of tidying or building. Nap time made no exceptions.

"There's a bomb, in the clocktower."

A still moment passes between them before Riskua manages to twist both herself and Luffy around to eye Nico Robin. With her blank face and cold eyes, it's difficult to decide what she's really thinking.

"Excuse me?"

"Sir Crocodile was going to ignite the flames of civil war, use a bomb to ensure the citizens' trust was well and truly broken, and then he would complete his takeover with the assurity that none would be apposing him as a result of the insabiltiy of the capital and the events within."

"Shit, that's a problem and there's a Marine captain making his way here right this moment." As if on cue, Luffy announces his state of unconsciousness with a roar of a snore; it rattle around in Riskua's aching head and she honestly does need some sleep. God, how long has she been awake; there'd only been that nap in the carriage and it hadn't been long enough, it hadn't.

"I'll remove the bomb, it's within my skill-set." Then, Nico Robin is gone, vanished form the deserts of Alabasta and Riskua can only hope she's not cocked things up with the woman who is supposed to become a Strawhat.


Short, but it was like pulling teeth. It was so, so difficult to write this chapter, it really was.

Coolfire30 - you're continuous reviews as I was writing this kept me going; thank you.