Author's Notes:

plain italicized = Blackthorn Ashe

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This Chapter was beta'd by the amazing Blackthorn Ashe and the equally wonderful Black' Victor Cachat, they did the greatest job on editing and sharing ideas with me and keeping me motivated. And me. It was as always lots and lots of fun working with them. I am very lucky to have them with me and eternally thankful for their support! Love you!

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And Special thanks to the one and only amazeballs XD Syrisna for the holy transcendent art. Check the new Cover image. Isn't just dead drop gorgeous?! Syrisna did few cover images to my stories, including my own profile picture and we are co-writing a story too. I am lucky to have such amazing friends. Check her work and stories, please!

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I don't own One Piece. No duh.

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The Spade pirates will be given the awesome voice that was created by Stormy1x2, especially in her story The Ten Years Difference (if you haven't read her stories, then do yourself a favour and go read them) and in addition we have more information about the crew that can be found in the wiki of the Spade crew. I am combining the "two crew" to the one that I want, because I can (and I am a badass and an evil Genius mwahahaha.)

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Warnings:

Ace's self-worth issues, cursing and English is my fourth language (and the uncontrollable urge to knee slap in laughter XD) Warnings may change in the future.

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Thank you all for the encouragement and the amazing reviews!

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Guest

Thank you for your review.

I have no intention of stopping, but life and responsibilities (specifically deadlines) always waiting for me, so it may take some time.

Hope for your continuous enjoyment, looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Please, read the notes at the end!

Hope you enjoy,

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He's bored. Utterly and completely bored.

Ah! Such a truly fearsome sickness; boredom.

It can make people do things they've never even considered before such as him being stuck in this waiting room. An impressive one but a waiting room nonetheless. Well technically, it's a conference room.

Truly, him coming to this ant-hill-like building covered with the yelling and stomping marines is yet another whim decided by his overwhelming need for something to do. He usually doesn't bother himself with marines' affairs. Why should he? But the thought of something to ease his monotonous life wins him over.

Dracule Mihawk, the shichibukai famously known as 'Hawkeyes,' regards the other two occupants as they bide their time waiting for the Fleet Admiral to grace them with his presence.

His eyes are the only thing that moves as he scans them from where he is sitting. His blank face allows for no thoughts or agonizing boredom to bleed into appearance. A swordsman is just like a pencil; the only way to express himself (or herself) is to draw his thoughts and visions on the white canvases that is the world. However, the only color any swordsman has ever chosen was RED.

But that's how he lived; by the sword, for the sword, and in the end, die by the sword. Not that it would be anytime soon, judging by the newbies he's meeting these days.

Although it almost feels like waiting for this insufferable meeting to start will do the trick, Mihawk thought sourly.

Analyzing his fellow Warlords for the hundredth time didn't make the dullness he's feeling any less prominent.

A few seats down on the left sat Bartholomew Kuma, a quite vicious pirate and a former king who has earned himself the title "Tyrant" for his atrocities. In his hands he holds a golden Bible -which he always carries with him- open in front of him. Every few minutes there is a soft, almost inaudible sound of a page flipping. He seems to be very engrossed in his book, which baffles Dracule. As demonstrated by the crucifix around his neck, he has his own religious beliefs, and respects others who have the pride to display their own faith. It was just that he could not comprehend how someone would read the same book again and again, without dying of boredom.

Although Hawkeyes isn't sure engrossed is the right word to describe it. The Tyrant's expression never changes as he reads his book for undoubtedly the thousandth time. Hawkeyes has never gotten a read on him, which makes Kuma an enigma.

Crouched on the table to his right, is a smugger than normal Donquixote Doflamingo. Doflamingo has also been eyeing both of them and his annoying high-pitched laughter has been echoing around the room every few minutes for seemingly no reason at all. Doflamingo had tried to start a conversation with both of them at the beginning, but after getting no response or any kind of reaction, he had seemed to lose interest and had probably gone off into his own creepy world. Hawkeyes has no doubt that he already knew the reason for them being here. His strings are connected to a lot of webs - the ones he had a hand in making, and the ones he had invaded-, especially in the underworld.

Mihawk looks up at the giant seagull-shaped clock that irritatingly shows that twenty minutes had passed since he had been escorted to this room by a few lowly soldiers, and told to wait. "The Fleet Admiral will see you shortly," the fidgeting marines had called back while fleeing in fear. Pathetic. No wonder they were so desperate for pirates to help handle the other pirates.

He scoffs. Shortly, my ass.

Another agonizingly slow minute passes by, and Hawkeyes' boredom has reached new levels that make him consider the wisdom of picking a fight with the two in front of him. On one hand, he could probably lose his title and the 'safety' it provided and on the other, the fight promises to be entertaining. They would be powerful enough to put up some kind of resistance. He had heard rumors that Kuma had agreed to be experimented on by Dr. Vegapunk, and Doflamingo is known for his ruthlessness, power, overzealousness, and overall batshit craziness.

Grr...he will give the Fleet Admiral another five minutes. Just five and only five. After all, he would not have called them here for anything less than a disaster that he didn't want the marines to be seen too involved in. That's what had brought him here: the promise of something exciting and different from his dull everyday life.

One minute...

Two minutes...

Thre—

"You're here," announces a voice from the door, cutting off his musing.

The Fleet Admiral finally arrives, followed by a few aids. Likely Vice Admirals Dracule guesses, despite the lack of visible rank. A truly weird trait for a military organization. Sengoku's eyes linger half a second more on Hawkeyes (longer than the other Warlords) as he passes by, and he sits at the head of the conference table. Probably surprised to see him here as one of three shichibukai present, as he is notoriously known to being an absentee to such meetings.

"You took your time, Sengoku…getting too old?" Doflamingo snidely calls, not moving from his crouching stance, whereas Kuma closes his worn book and stares in the Fleet Admiral's direction, awaiting for further orders. Hawkeyes stays at his place, arms folded in front of him, like a statue.

The Fleet Admiral doesn't directly acknowledge any of them, and instead he says,

"We need you to find and bring in, preferably alive, but not necessarily, this man." He gestures to the people behind him.

Two aids move carefully around, putting a Wanted Poster in front each of the three Warlords.

Hawkeyes can smell the new ink; the Wanted Poster had just been brought from the press. On it was a man with long black hair, golden eyes, black/purple lips, and a sharp creepy smile.

"This man is known as Caesar the Clown. He was a scientist working under Dr. Vegapunk. I won't bore you with details."

He has no intention of sharing with a bunch of low-life criminals, Hawkeyes translates to himself.

"They had a falling out, and in defiance of Dr. Vegapunk, Caesar performed an experiment involving chemical weaponry on Punk Hazard, an island in the New World. The experiment destroyed the island's entire ecosystem, and left many prisoners dead."

An experiment that even the World Government thought was too extreme. Even if it was on prisoners and most probably pirates. How interesting.

"Your job is to apprehend this dangerous criminal. Our last known intelligence shows that he was last seen- "

"I know where he is," cuts in Doflamingo with apparent glee, making the Fleet Admiral pause; he's clearly caught unaware.

For the first time since he entered this room, the Fleet Admiral looks up from his papers and seeks eye contact as he demands, "Where?" His tone is clipped and cold.

Doflamingo's smile widens, and stays quiet for few long seconds as if seemingly enjoying all the attention on him.

"With me~," Doflamingo almost sing-songs arrogantly. Even behind his sunglasses, he is clearly assessing the Fleet Admiral for any reaction.

The only response is the narrowing of his eyes, as he asks in the same clipped tone of voice.

"Is he officially a part of your crew?"

One of the perks of being a Warlord is that anyone joining you, in some cases even incarcerated prisoners, are off-limits to the marines' reach. Hawkeyes has never done so, and can never see himself using this so-called perk. Followers are troublesome.

Doflamingo raises his hand deliberately and uses his middle finger to lower his glasses to the edge of his nose as he tilts his head forward; only to arche his eyebrow, his smug smile not flattering a bit.

"I see. Then you are dismissed." The flat expressionless fleet admiral says as he stands up and leaves, his aides hurriedly following behind him.

"Hey!" Doflamingo shouts after him, "At least apologize for the wasted trip!" His laughter echoes as he also stands up and leaves. Kuma follows behind without even glancing around him.

Hawkeyes resists the urge to utter a long-suffering sigh.

It has been another wasted trip, in more ways than one.

He also then stands up from the vacated table, exits the room and slowly strolls to the direction of his boat, considering what his next step should be. Go home? At least he can enjoy a vintage wine, and sparring with the apes had been more amusing than anyone he had met lately.

He is about to make up his mind when his sharp ears catch a few fleeting words spoken by unseen marines on the other side of the dividing wall.

"...Portgas D Ace…"

A D. The name even sounds familiar to him.

"I heard about him..." Another voice says.

"Yeah, me too... A rookie from East Blue..."

The marines were even worse gossips than drunken pirates, and that said a lot considering his 'drinking buddy' is Red Hair Shanks.

"So he will be a new Warlord? Isn't he still too new?"

A new Warlord instead of who? The current roster is full. So either the Government had quietly discarded one of the seven, or intends to do so. He tries to keep up with the news and he had heard nothing to indicate such a move, which honestly isn't that surprising, considering who controls the news.

"No, you moron! We just said he refused the invitation Vice admiral Draw delivered."

Sound promising. A new rookie getting recognition from World Government, and refusing the title of Warlord.

Maybe I should look for him, welcome him to the New World.

"'Flamethrowers' Draw was sent to recruit him...Wow! He refused?"

"That means Ensign Isuka was with them too."

"Nailing Isuka? I heard about her. Vice admiral Tsuru is keeping eye on her."

"Yeah, they fought against this rookie pirate."

"Fought? Wasn't it an invite?"

"When he refused… Well, you know how hot headed the Vice Admiral can be!"

"If he's just a rookie, why would we want him as a Warlord?"

"Well, he is strong. Called 'Fire Fist Ace.' …He has the power of the mera mera no mi.."

Hawkeyes can hear the mental shrug in the man's voice.

"It's a Logia-type Devil Fruit that allows the user to control fire," another explains.

"Still...he's been a pirate less than year... Don't know what our bosses are thinking..."

"Hshhhhhh… someone will hear you…"

"The last intelligence said he arrived in the New World… after his fight with the Vice Admiral…"

"Yeah, heard he's somewhere near Red Hair's territory..."

The words fade off as the men drift away.

Hmmm...it had been a while since he had last visited Shanks.

True, he wouldn't be able to fight him like they used too.

Hawkeyes has almost no standards as to who he fights. Anyone who wishes to attack him is welcome to try, except they cannot complain if they get cut as a result. Literally. But with Shanks, he couldn't bring himself to fight him now, when he could remember his abilities as a once whole person. It matters not that Shanks is still more skilled and capable than half the losers that call themselves swordsmen combined. Any fight now would be lacking. It will be an insult to the great fights when steel met steel in a beautifully equal dance, once upon a time.

Hawkeyes leaps to his boat, his next destination is set.

The future promises not to be boring.

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XXXXX

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Birds to the left… Some kind of animal to the south of him...south-west…

Ace strains his ears to listen as he lies down on some kind of prickly grass.

Something is buzzing above him.

Insects, maybe. The animals in this place are strange. Not that he has personally laid eyes on them.

After two weeks, he has been slowly but surely getting used to living in total darkness.

He isn't really sure if it had been two weeks, he's guessing really. His perception of time has been screwed up completely by now.

He tries to guess the time by the animals' behavior around him, and how much has remained of the herbal cure Shanks had given him to get a handle on his narcolepsy. The man had been almost horrified to learn that Ace had been planning to take on Whitebeard while suffering from a condition like that and yelling how Ace could have fallen asleep mid-battle. But Ace hadn't been sure of even that, he has no way to tell when a day ends and when another has begun. He had known nothing about the new island that Shanks had brought him to train in. Animals could be active at night or day, or….

Ace sighs. Not being allowed to use his eyes is truly harder than he thought.

To live in constant darkness. Not even a ray of light is able to reach his eyes. Ace has no doubt the blindfold around his eyes has been made specifically for this.

The clearing that Shanks had brought him to is eerie to say the least. He can't even feel the rays of the sun on his skin. Feel warm or cold. It's as if the temperature and humidity are staying at precisely the same temperature no matter what.

What kind of place is this?

At least I don't need a hat, he muses to himself.

He had contemplated for a long while if he should take his hat with him, or leave it with the crew. He hadn't been sure where it would be safer, on his head, or on the ship with his stupid, moronic, loveable crew around. In the end, he hadn't been sure what kind of training Shanks planned, so he asked Ray to keep it safe, and had almost regretted it immediately. Ray is the happy go lucky sort; loyal, eager to please, has a one track mind, very clumsy, and is always happy and excited about something. Too much even, and boy, did he cheer when he was offered the hat. He had promised a few thousand times not to let any harm touch it. Ace couldn't change his mind – seeing Ray's crushed face was not something he could take – but for his extra peace of mind, he had asked Dusty and Deuce to keep an eye on it as well.

He sighs again and for the hundredth time goes over the conversation he had with Shanks before he left him here.

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"As my former crew's first mate told me when he first started explaining Haki to me as a young rookie in his crew….Haki is a power that lies dormant in all the world's creatures…'Presence', 'fighting spirit,' and 'intimidation'...They are not different from the things that humans can naturally sense…It is the 'act of not doubting'. That is strength! Ahmmm..."

Shanks coughed at the end; his eyes had an amused and sentimental look to them.

Ace had been entertained by the whole thing. Shanks had clearly taken a different tone to the explanation as if he was mimicking someone, even fisting his hand at the end to show his 'strength'.

Shanks continued explaining by clearing his throat and added in his normal voice, "Broadly speaking there are three kinds of Haki. Two of them can be trained, and the third one, either you have it or you don't."

Ace nodded, as he stretched his legs in front of him. He knew at least this much. You couldn't arrive in the New World without hearing whispers about 'Haki'. But rumors and half-assed stories didn't tell much.

This promises to be a long lecture. I better get comfortable as much as much I can on this stupid stump.

Shanks was sitting directly in front of him on a big log and seemed as comfortable as Ace was (which wasn't much).

"First, Observation Haki allows those that use it to sense the presence of others, even if they are concealed from view or too far away to be seen naturally. If you know the person, then you can even pinpoint him or her in the crowd… their aura will seem different to you…unique…If you hone it, you may be able to foresee attacks seconds before they come into contact..."

Ace had a confused yet intrigued look, so Shanks elaborated.

"Ahem...you can perceive when an attack is coming, and where it is coming from seconds before it actually happens."

Ace nodded and ignored the murmur of "Benn's better than me at this". His mind busy trying to absorb everything. It would be a winning card to know the timing and the place of an attack. Was everyone I met in the New World able to use this?

"One can also predict the amount of damage that will be done by the attack. Ahh...a fight between two people who have mastery over Observation Haki is truly a sight to see. Both of them knowing where the other will strike next. If the users are proficient enough, they can also read the feelings of the person they are up against."

Shanks paused, letting it sink in, and adding as an afterthought, "Katakuri, one of the top commanders in Big Mom's crew -the other Yonko- can predict not only what people are going to do, but the future itself for a few seconds ahead, or even longer."

Ace nodded again, slowly this time. His mind racing. This is the Yonko standard. That's what I'm up against. How can one fight someone that sees the future? Is there even a point in such a fight?

Yes, there is. Ace felt excited at the prospect of fighting someone like that. It was always fun to be the underdog. To be the challenger. To make all these people who didn't think he could make it and succeed in life eat their words and to show that them all that he isn't weak, useless, or worthless. He wants to make all the people that dismissed him and looked down on him see that he is not the monster son of his bastard of a father. His own name Ace D. Portagas will outshine the bastard name, and overshadow his father's bullshit legacy.

Katakuri of Big Mom, he would remember the name.

Ace was beginning to realize the gravity of what Shanks had been trying to tell him all along.

"Armament Haki...is your spirit, I guess...Your will…that can be used to coat your body like an armor. It can be used to increase the user's own physical attacks, even to project it ahead of the user as pure brute force, or imbued it into anything you are holding. All that needs is physical touch. I can harden my Gryphon...my saber."

Ace eyed the Saber with appreciation. Gryphon was in blue sheathe on Shanks's right.

Things that were given a name were important to the holder.

Shanks stood up as he spoke, took out his saber from his sheath, moved close to a big grey stone, and in a swift strike he aimed at its middle. Ace heard the harsh screech of steel against stone. Shanks moved aside, and Ace had seen that the stone was intact, except for a small cut on top of it where the blade had met the surface of the stone.

That was Haki? It was disappointing. Is it even worth learning?

"Using Haki on my saber can let me cut things that it can't normally cut."

Ace arched his eyebrow confused; did he not use it already? He was about to ask—

Shanks raised his hand, and in front of Ace's eyes, the blade changed as a darker colour slowly spread across it until it became entirely pitch black.

Shanks then moved his hand down slowly, until he reached the ground. The stone was no better than air as it laid sliced into half in front of Ace's feet.

Ace hadn't let his jaw drop, but Shanks had seemed to catch on to how much he was impressed.

"Some even use it to harden their whole body, the 'ultimate defense' they call it."

From his tone, Ace thought that Shanks didn't seem to agree with the last statement he himself said.

"It's important because it give us normal folks a fighting chance against Devil Fruit users."

Ace snorted at the word 'normal.' The more he got to know Shanks, the less normal he seemed.

Right now, he had no doubt that no matter what kind of devil fruit was up against Shanks, the one at disadvantage would not be the 'normal' red-headed man.

"Just like Seastone, it allows those who use it to touch the body of Devil Fruit users, even if he was fire like you, or smoke…Using Armament Haki you can fight them and hurt them… Just like your grandfather with Luffy," Shanks grimaced, while adding the last bit quietly.

Ace was so busy considering all he heard about the uses of Armament Haki, that he almost missed the last bit. He looked at Shanks and grimaced but didn't comment, instead he said. "I think I used it before… I didn't know it was Haki…I was fighting... and I didn't do it intentionally..." Ace murmured hesitantly.

"OH?" Shanks said thoughtfully, curious.

"Is it weird...?" Ace felt a bit self-conscious and it seemed to have reached his voice as Shanks hurriedly answered him.

"Not at all!" Shanks said and explained, "it's very natural actually. Usually when you are in stressed situations, or in times when you are afraid for your life, then your 'will to live' can be at its highest, or its lowest…" Shanks trailed off.

"Tell me what happened!" He asked abruptly.

Ace took few minutes to put his thoughts in order.

"Amehh.. There was this bastard called Draw...a vice admiral or some shit like that… Him and Isuka… she is an okay marine..." Ace shrugged.

Shanks raised an eyebrow at the unasked-for proclamation. Did Ace just blush a bit?

"Yeah...anyway… they gave me some bullshit invitation from the World Government when we were waiting for our ship to be coated in Sabaody Archipelago. They wanted me to join the Shichibukai."

It was clear from his voice alone how disdainful Ace is of the idea.

"I refused of course, so the bastard attacked me, trying to kill me...He used some kind of machine, flamethrowers attached to his arms... His fire was stronger even than mine…"

He said the last bit from behind gritted teeth. He didn't like to admit it, but it was the truth.

"The bastard set the slums aflame while attacking me. There were a lot of poor homeless children there. He didn't care. Marines are supposed to stand up for justice and help the unfortunate..." Ace snorted, anger coloring his voice.

The whole disaster reminded him of his childhood. Of Luffy and Sabo. Gray Terminal and The Fire that those noble bastards used to kill those they deemed as trash. Not again! Never again! He isn't weak like in the past!

"I went to help the kids there... In the slums I mean… Isuka also helped me… but the bastard wouldn't stop… So I attacked him...but I couldn't over power him… I struggled against him. I realize now that he had been using Armament Haki. He stopped my Fire Fist attack with his bare hands. H...he...used Haki, and that's why he felt more powerful than…"

He trailed off, before clearing his throat and starting again. "A..and while fighting, he somehow grabbed me by the neck, and was about to kill me," Ace looked down at his hands clenching them. "But I used my flames and with Deuce's help….the one with mask… We caused the fuel tank he was using on his back to explode. We all got injured which was weir...weird, because fire isn't supposed to hurt me…"

Ace paused to consider this once more. Shanks nodded and explained, "You being fire doesn't mean that a powerful kind of explosion, or other kind of fire-based attacks won't hurt you. One of the admirals uses lava. How do you think you would fare against him? Believe it or not, you aren't immune to heat... Of course you can also strengthen your devil fruit attacks by using your Haki. Well...after you master it. Then we can experiment…" Shanks petered off, and gestured for him to continue.

It made Ace realize once more, that his devil fruit wasn't all-powerful. That he was still weak. Still couldn't protect all that he wanted. But that was why he chose to be here. He would become stronger and would keep his promise to Luffy and Sabo. His promise to himself.

"We fought hand to hand after that. At first it was like before, but little by little I was able to equal his strength, and then I overwhelmed him. I had thought that it had something to do with his injuries...but I think I used Armament Haki too." Ace said.

"It seems like you did. As I told you, to awaken the ability, you need to be able to actively use your will. Life and death situations that mentally and physically put you under a lot of strain show what kind of mental strength you have so you end up using it unconsciously in some cases... It will get better with training and after a while, you will be able to use it at will."

Ace hummed to himself, considering how his attacks would look like with both Haki and fire. So cool.

"That's good news though! I was considering how I should help you awaken it for the first time, but now there is no need!"

An ominous chill ran down Ace's spine.

"How would you have awakened my Haki?" Ace asks, dreading the answer, flashbacks of his childhood running amok in his mind.

Shanks had let out a forced laugh, his only hand coming up to rub the back of his head.

"A life and death situation..." he said hesitantly, and then cheerfully added as if to cover his tracks, "But there is not a need now … so no need to worry."

Ace eyed him suspiciously. Shanks cleared his throat.

"What is important is that you had used Haki before. That's really good news. The first time is the hardest and as you experienced, if two people fight with Armament Haki, the one that has more will, and more mastery of it, will win."

Ace nodded along.

"One more important thing, both Armament Haki and Observation Haki are not limitless. Haki is proportional to the amount of spiritual life force an individual possesses. That is, the more Haki you use, the faster it will be depleted..."

Ace was not surprised, since everything comes with a price. It makes sense that the more you use something, the less you have. Meat for example. The more you eat, the more you have to steal when the supplies end.

"The last one is…."

"The one that you used." Ace said immediately. His fists clenched beside him.

'Weak and helpless' resounded in Ace's mind. The feeling of him drowning, unable to do anything...hardly able to breathe. Facing this third type of Haki was what had brought him here, Ace reminded himself.

I will not be cowed. I will not be weak for long.

Shanks nodded and repeated, "The one I used."

His eyes were guarded as he examined Ace.

"Conqueror's Haki… is the one that either you are born with it or not. It's very rare... Only one in a million have it and some people may have it but never find out. This usually manifests itself in a very dangerous situation..."

"Life or death…" Ace repeated obediently. He was getting the hang of this. He had always lived with the odds stacked against him. He did name his crew The Spades for a reason, ya know. And no matter what Dusty says, It wasn't because 'Ace of Spades' sounded cool. Well, not just for that reason.

"Ahh yes. Some say it manifests in anger too. It's an echo of your emotion and will..." Shanks said a bit apologetically. "Whitebeard even has it. Not that the old man needs to use it…"

Ace flinched, but looked at Shanks with unwavering resolve. He knew the old man was strong, yet Ace has no intention of backing down. He would prove his existence with his own hands.

"Conqueror's Haki is exerting your willpower over others… which mean anyone with less will than the user's own, will be knocked out cold… That is what most achieve. Those that have the strongest wills, and are able to refine it, can do physical damage to the surroundings. Like...ahh...anyyyyy...physical object…." Shanks seemed to struggle to find an example.

"A Ship?" Ace suggested.

"Yes," Shanks gave a relieved sigh. "It can damage the mast, rails..."

"Can you?" Ace cut in.

"I can, and so can Whitebeard." There was no hesitation in his answer.

Ace nodded, his face blank.

"How can I find out if I have it or not..."

Shanks opened his mouth.

"Oh, right, life or death situation," Ace quickly answered his own question.

Shanks nodded sheepishly and stood up, marking the end of the explanation.

Ace nodded back and stood up, moving his legs around to get rid of the numb sensation while Shanks had gone back to drag up the bag that they brought with them this deep into the forest.

Finally Ace asked out loud what had been on his mind since Shanks had begun explaining.

"Aheemmm...Shanks... Do you think that Shitty Gran—Garp training us...me and Luffy...as kids was about making us awaken our Haki? It was a lot of life and death situations…" He trailed off and feeling a bit stupid when he said it out loud.

"Hmmm...maybe…maybe..." Shanks said thoughtfully, a frown appeared between his eyebrows. "I think it was more that he wanted to strengthen your will…spirit...and yeah...if you want to strengthen the will to live, you need to face uncertainness. And if you begin at a young age, and it works, then you will be stronger. So maybe that's why...but that doesn't mean I agree with his methods!" Shanks added the last bit forcefully.

The old man was trying to make them strong in his own way. So, the torture had a purpose...

"Ace, from what you told me about your childhood tort—training…and the things you faced, have you ever been in a dangerous situation where you knocked anyone out without touching them? A person or an animal, or made someone kneel, or somehow become weak?"

Ace shook his head, his mind blank, "No, nothing of the sort."

Shanks shrugged. "Worth asking," he murmured to himself, and cleared his throat after few seconds. When Ace looked at him, he said, "What we are going to do now is play a simple game of hide and seek."

That didn't sound so bad. With the whole threat of a death defying challenge, he was preparing himself for the worst. In fact, it sounded too easy. What kind of training was it? Would it really help him get stronger? Will hide and seek help him learn these Haki techniques?

"I am going to hide in one place on this island. I am not going to move or change places. All you have to do is find me."

Ace waited to hear the rest, waiting for the inevitable catch. When it sounds too good to be true, then…

"Of course, you will be wearing a blindfold the whole time."

And here it was.

"How would you know if I take it off?"

Of course, being a pirate, cheating is the norm.

Shanks had a pleased look on his face.

"I wouldn't...would I? It's your choice, of course. If this simple exercise is too much for ya...then..." a look of challenge was written all across his face.

Ace knew he was being manipulated.

"Like hell would I take it off!"

But it didn't matter.

Backing out wasn't in his nature.

"Great, then there is no problem," Shanks said cheery, not hiding his satisfied amusement.

Ace forcefully gritted his teeth as Shanks took out a thick, black blindfold from the bag beside him, and tossed it in Ace's direction.

Ace caught it. It felt cool in his hand, but he wasn't sure what kind of fabric it was made from. Thankfully it did not feel like it would chafe his skin. He was about to put it around his eyes—

"Ahhh… And one more thing."

Ace raised an eyebrow, looking at Shanks expectantly.

Shanks was rummaging around in the bag. "Here is it," he yelled triumphantly as he raised his one hand with some kind of handcuff.

Ace was taken aback.

"Is that…." he asked uncertainly. He suddenly had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

His smile reminded Ace of Luffy before pulling a prank or stealing all the food that Ace had just cooked behind his back.

"Yeeeeuup, seastone handcuffs. Loaned from our dear friends in the marines." Shanks supplied with a twinkle in his eye.

Ace was able to read his eyes very clearly, "You didn't think it would be this easy, did you?" Shanks took one more glance at Ace's face and started cracking up a little. "You did!? Oopsy."

Ace never thought he would say this: he was beginning to miss Garp's way of training. At least it was straightforward.

With a sigh of exasperation and slight trepidation, Ace obediently held out his arms in front of him and waited.

Shanks trailed his finger along the handcuff's exterior, and just raised an eyebrow in amusement. You're sure?

Ace just obediently waited.

He knew about seastone and their effect on those who had Devil fruits, yet he had never experienced their effect himself before. Their existence had always fascinated him more than made him afraid. Maybe it was because he had just not experience the scary nullifying effects yet. On one hand, there was a Fruit that could give you an unimaginable power, or a stupid one (like Luffy's), but on the other hand, there was a stone that could null its power (of course there was water, except stone is still cooler). The world had always found a way to balance itself, no matter how crazy or unbelievable it becomes.

With the first touch of the stone on his arm, Ace felt his power drain, not only his devil fruit power, but … he couldn't explain it. He just felt tired, exhausted, and even though he forced himself not to flinch, he felt himself slightly recoil. He forced his hands to stay still, as Shanks fastened the handcuff to one hand and then the other. Then he helped Shanks tie the blindfold tightly around his eyes by holding it in place.

Ace couldn't see anything. It was pitch black.

It hasn't been the first time he has been blindfolded, but even then, he usually saw something like a bit of light on the edges. Not with these. It was unnerving.

Ace was sure they were made this way internationally.

He felt some rustling and stayed still.

He heard Shanks clear his throat. "Well… I should get going. In half an hour… hmmm...count to 1000, and then you can come look for me..."

Ace nodded, and then remembered that he couldn't see if Shanks was looking at him, and he opened his mouth to affirm that he was ready.

"Good luck," Shanks said, as the sound of fading muffled steps could be heard.

Ace suddenly remembered something important.

Very important.

Extremely important.

"Ehmmm Shanks….you have the key to these bloody handcuffs, right?" he asked loudly.

He heard nothing for long while, and he began to suspect that Shanks had already left him…

Then he heard a laugh.

"I wonder!"

.

.

Ace has been looking for him since then without much success. A few times, he could swear he had somehow seen Shanks. It was strange. He didn't exactly see him. It just felt like he did. He saw a halo of Shanks's shape.

The first time the halo appeared Ace was sure he was hallucinating.

Some kind of light appeared in his mind, and he could see it, feel it, and he even knew where it was, except whenever he began to run to its direction, it would sometimes suddenly fade, or other times if he lost his balance and fell, it would also disappear. He had concluded that he needed to concentrate to keep it there -inside of his mind- but still he had no idea how to summon or awaken such an ability. How to use it at will. Control it.

Having the seastone on didn't help matters either, he always feels exhausted and also kind of dispirited, like he doesn't have the will to do anything. Everything is too much trouble. The effects of seastone are scary, but with time he was able to 'fight' it somehow. Remembering the challenge in Shanks's eyes had helped. A lot!

Without his fire and eyes, hunting for food was harder, and even finding fruits using his nose and his cuffed hands were hard, and Shanks hadn't said anything about this island. Not a damn thing. Were animals and plants poisonous or not? Were they edible? Ace had realized these things after he was left alone in the clearing.

The first day had been the worst. He had been really tempted to take the blindfold off, and shout Shanks's name demanding more information. But he was a survivor. Is a survivor. He had learned since he had been a toddler how to survive on his own. Neither needing or trusting someone else. (It was Luffy and Sabo who taught him that there were better ways, yet that did not mean he had forgotten those lessons). So, he adapted to his new limitations, to the unknown environment that was thrust upon him.

The first thing he did was find a water source. He remembered passing by a stream on their way here. So moving slowly and stumbling every bit of the way, he had found it. It is his camping ground for now.

Second, he armed himself. Shanks had asked him to leave all his weapons on the ship, so he didn't even have a small knife on him. He found several round or oval stones, and sharpened them by rubbing them against each other or any flat surface he had found. It took him several tries but now he is armed.

He had tried to catch a fish to eat on the first day, but had given up fairly quickly. Without free functioning arms, seeing eyes, the seastone and the water's combined effect, it was almost impossible. He had survived on eating plants and fruit that grew near the stream where the animals roamed. He had been lucky until now not to be poisoned. He had caught some kind of injured bird once that wasn't able to escape, and using the stones, he ate the little meat, with a few feathers still stuck to the body.

Still, the test is anything but simple, he needs to learn to survive with only four senses, three and half, and then somehow use Observation Haki to find Shanks.

The bastard is probably drinking and eating without a care right now. Ace will find him. Soon.

The only thing Shanks had left him was some kind of herbal cure that was supposed to help with his sleep attacks. And it did, he thinks. He hadn't experienced one since he took it, he thinks. He had enough for another week (he thinks). He is using the 'when' he took to the cure to mark the passing of time. Except he still can't be sure if he took it on the same day or not.

Shanks had had a faraway look when he explained about the cure, and how his once Captain had had the same sleeping attacks as him. Their doctor had then tried everything until he found this herbal cure that helped him, and was helping Ace now, he thinks.

Ace wonders what kind of Captain and First Mate Shanks had as a rookie, before he formed his own crew. He seems to respect them a lot, and the way he spoke about them had a tinge of awe and sadness in his voice, which made Ace hesitate in asking him about it. It felt too personal.

Maybe he will ask him in the future...when they feel more comfortable with each other.

But right now...he is hungry.

And there is a small animal close by…some kind of rabbit maybe…Catching it will be tricky; he needs his timing to be perfect.

He doesn't have his fire powers and lighting a fire maybe not impossible, but it will take a lot of time, and it is very risky. He knows all too well what uncontrollable fire can do. So, cooking is out.

He will use the sharpened stone to gut the animal, fish out the blood, and eat its entrails.

Eating raw meat is not a new experience to him unfortunately, for as a child, he had seen the animals eat each other, and for him it had seemed the most natural thing to eat them raw. When Dadan had caught him 'in the act' once, she had gone into hysterics, had been so sure he would get sick and die, and that she would die by Garp's hands as a consequence. But he had pointed out that the "animals eat each other all the time and never get sick."

Dadan hadn't listened, and had forced cooked meat down his throat, which he had actually liked better because the meat had been tender and wayyyyyy easier to chew. With raw meat he had had to chew slowly and carefully.

He will find a way. He will survive.

The animal moved.

Nearer…almost...but not yet.

Now.

..

.

XXXXX

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..

...

The party is going in full swing. It has been going full swing for more than two weeks. The sounds of the party are a dull roar that ebbs and flows to the crews' alcohol content.

Drinking, partying, and betting on anything and everything. Some of the pirates are knocked out for a while due to either their blood alcohol content (BAC) or lack of sleep, but they always eventually wake up and continue from where they had stopped. There's something to be said for the tenacity of a good party.

Masked Deuce theorized that the Red Hair Pirates were working on some kind of planned shifts. That is, some slept while the others party, and then they'd switch places. The party should always go on and on it seems.

It is amusing how fast the two crews fit together. Merged. If Ace ever decides to join the Red Hair crew, or even an alliance, no one from both pirate crews will ever say a word of protest. Even the first mate of the Red Hair's, Benn Beckman, the only one that seems to be able to install some kind of freaking order in this freaking mess, seems to somehow approve of the Spade Pirates.

Deuce will bet he knew what kind of reaction the crews would have to such an announcement.

One guess, really.

They will wildly party. Probably even harder if that's even possible.

"Hooray, Hurray. Banzi! Let's party! Bring more sake!"

Deuce snorts his amusement, and moves around the ship to check what kind of bets they were making around this time. He intends to document these kinds of information for his adventure book. He is sure someone will find it useful; and if not, then amusing.

If you want a pirate to be creative, fill him with sake, and tell him "let's bet." The results are always hilarious.

The two crews are scattered either on the Red Force (Red Hair's ship) or on the beach, where the cooks are busy cooking on the fires, and the temporary shelters had been built, for them to sleep in. Not that anyone had entered it except him. They were too busy partying to look for a bed. They slept where they had been sitting or standing.

'Call me Benn' had impressed him with how he could operate the chaos that was this huge crew, making everything work, yet still utterly chaotic. Last he saw him, he was mumbling about a damn key…and cursing his own captain.

Deuce looks around, searching for either Ethan or Yasopp. Yasopp had actually taken the young man under his wing as promised, but shooting -for god's sake not the telescope- wasn't what he was teaching him.

He never thought he would see Ethan with a note and pen... And Deuce had tried, really tried to educate the crew. They needed to be able to read -more than 5 people per crew- for them to read his masterpiece in the making. It is impossible, he had concluded in defeat after several brave and creative tries. Even the lure of reading their own Wanted Poster didn't help.

But here was Ethan.

Scrabbling on a little notebook, writing down lists of names, bets or dares, amounts of money, and all kinds of information that Yasopp had instructed him to write.

It is a sight to see.

He finally found him behind a group of dancing pairs, it seems they were trying to step on each other feet without falling or stopping their romantic waltz dance (who taught them to waltz?!). The winner is the last one standing. The creative cursing and the loud hiccups dim the effect of romance usually associated with waltzing. The horrible singing of the most rhythmic song ever (and different lyrics and tones) utterly ruin it:

"Shiver My Timbers,

Shiver My Souullllll

Yo Ho He Ho

There are men whose hearts as bright as gooooooollllddd

And they sailed Red Force across all the bluesssssss

Yo Ho He Ho

A blood haired Captain and a …..

The ship then bursts out into a cacophony of noise as each person says something different.

"Cut throat…~"("what's that even mean?")

"Loyal…~"

"Yonko…~"

"Skilled…~"

"The best ever…~"

"Awesomest…~"

"Best partiers…~"

"Strongesssst…~"

"Lamest…~" ("Hey, my crew is not lame, your crew is lame!")

...creeeeeeewwwwwwww.

It's a darker tale as was ever told

Of a lust for treasure and a love of gcgccoooooooldallllllll…"

He thinks it was gold, it makes sense if it is gold, love of gold~. But he could swear he heard 'coal'.

Deuce stops listening. His head aches too much from trying to decipher the words to be worth the effort. He maneuvers around, only bumping into a few guys before he reaches his goal.

"Ethan, how's it going?" he shouts, except his voice is drowned out by all the loud cheers around them.

He tries again and again, he even pats him on the shoulder from behind without success, and finally turns him around by force using the telescope and rifle still on his back.

"Hey Deuce, how is it going?" Ethan cheerfully greets showing no sign of remembering or hearing the other attempts to get his attention.

At least he isn't as drunk as before where he had hiccupped every two words.

Before, Deuce had asked him, "How much did you drink?", he had answered, "Don't know….Yasopp," hiccup "give me...said sniper need to be" hiccup "able to…shoot even" hiccup "drunnnkk."

Yup, he had taken him under his wing, alright.

He looks around now searching for the know-it all-MR.-sniper, but with loud cheers and people mulling around, he can't glimpse him. But Deuce is positive he's near. When you find the star pupil, the teacher isn't far behind.

"What's going on with the bets?"

"Ohhh… ahemmm…." Ethan squints at his notebook and mouths the words trying to decipher his own terrible, unreadable handwriting. Deuce considers taking it from him, and trying to read it himself when Ethan word vomits.

Deuce has him repeat it a few times for him to be sure. It basically turns out to be:

"How long will it take a live soup turtle to make its way across the ship floor?"

They had special turtles for soup?

"Wanna bet?" Ethan excitingly asks, his hand with the pen hovering above the notebook.

Deuce venomously shakes his head.

"Why not two turtles racing each other?" he asks instead.

"They were two...no, three…a lot...but Louis …and the big guy Lucky Roo the one with chunk of meat..."

Lucky Roo isn't hard to miss, nor is the endless supply of chunks of meat he has access too that seem to appear from thin air.

"Say no more..." Deuce says, feeling his stomach turning.

Poor daft Louis, whose brain has been so thoroughly pickled by years and years of drinking. His brain basically stops functioning if you give him complicated instructions. With him, you can never go wrong using the KISS rule. Keep It Simple, Stupid. One thing at a time, please.

He bets someone, Spooky or Tyger most likely, had shouted eat it and well...

Louis is an alright guy, very loyal ,and gets along really well with Ace, but he's not the sharpest tool in the box.

"Was the turtle cooked before they...?"

"Huh...I... "

"No. No, I don't want to know. Forget I asked."

"Yasopp saved one… We wanna see when it arrives to the other side…to know who wins..."

"How are you timing...the turtle..."

"Everyone said how much time it will take for it to arrive… Kimel said a lonnnnnnnng time… It had 8 n's in long...and also Ducky Bree said that, but with 15 n's…I asked… and Rockstar said too damn long, I'm gonna go take a nap…."

"And how would you time this?" Deuce asks.

"Ohhh… Yasopp said if he wakes up and the turtle didn't finish, Rockstar loses..."

Of course, so obvious. Deuce snorts.

"Ray said two days, and Biggie said three days and half cause it gonna ...sleep."

If he was a betting man, he will bet on Biggie winning.

"What other bets are going on right now?" Deuce asks curiously. This is the most intriguing thing happening at the moment, and this is for the sake of his book, and the education of future generations.

"Ohhh..." Ethan squints back to the notebook, and turns the pages slowly...

"Ehmmmm … how many stars shine in the sky at night."

"Wasn't this an old bet from last week...?"

"Yeah… they are still counting..." Ethan shrugs.

"Still?"

"Yeah… Someone always get distracted... Or forgets what number is next ... Or they don't agree on what number's next...and they have to begin again…or the sun shines...and there no stars so Skull wins cause he always says zero…but then the sun set and they do it all over again..."

Typical. Deuce snickers.

"How much did Skull take them for…you know, won?"

"Yasopp said to stop counting after 10 thousand beli…" Ethan shrugs again.

"When did you stop?"

"The first day."

Deuce let out a loud laugh. Never mess with Skull. The Skull he wore on his head was a warning for the fate you will receive with dealing with him.

"There is another drinking game…" Ethan intercedes, checking the notebook.

There is always one.

"Is it Tyger and Spooky again?"

"Ohhh…. Noooo… Dusty forbade them… He dragged them somewhere… He was pissed…Banshee was participating ….and Gerkin…. Can't read the other names..." he mutters to himself seemingly upset. Probably afraid of disappointing his Sniper Guru.

Gerkin is a lovable little scamp, if a bit unreliable (let's just say, don't put him on a washing duty if you don't want a lot of vivid colors on your white undies), and he can get 'dragged' along when drunk to participate in utterly stupid shit.

"And there's the popular bet with….Tyger's….turban.."

"What?"

"There is a bet on what Tyger has hidden inside his turban!"

"Really? Nothing is up there...except his baldy head!" Everyone knew that, didn't they?

Deuce pauses, and suspiciously looks around. He was sure Tyger would appear in full fury any second now.

After a few seconds of fearful waiting, when the murderous midget refuses to appear, he adds, "...Someone always knocks it from his head everyday…only three times if he's lucky..."

Mostly Spooky's doing, though sometimes Ethan too.

"Yeah, but Red Hair's crew don't know that… that what Spooky said… he even gave instruction to our crew…"

Spooky giving orders, what a sight he had missed. That man can be downright bossy.

"Nobody touches the turban, nobody mentions the turban…speak of no turban and no harm shall befall you…" Ethan mimics Spooky perfectly, shaking his finger and tisking appropriately.

Deuce laughs and Ethan grins and adds in a conspiratorial tone, "I saw Tyger actually smile. He tried to hide it behind the turban but forgot it isn't a hat with a brim. He smacked it, making it almost fall off of his head to show his baldness! Hahaha, Spooky was panicking!"

Deuce laughs harder, clutching his stomach. He can't believe he had missed such a spectacle!

Deuce's laughs slowly regulate to a normal breathing pattern that doesn't border on hyperventilation and he takes the chance to ask, "What about Ray?"

"Oh! He made a bet too!" announces Ethan grinning.

Deuce raises an eyebrow questionably. I have a feeling I know what this'll be about.

"The bet is finding things more orange then the captain's hat!" Ethan doesn't even need to check the notebook before blurting it out like he is apt to do.

Yup, no surprise here. Deuce shakes his head fondly. "It's still on his head? Intact?"

Ace had made him promise. He had looked so pitiful, saying his goodbye to Smiley-Frowny adorning his hat. Dusty and him had been hard pressed not to burst out laughing with how serious he had been, and Ray hadn't helped matters, yelling promises of vengeance and eternal doom to those daring to touch the sacred orange hat. Her holiness shines brighter than the sun. He had loudly whispered that little tidbit in a corner like it was his precious. The hat had been still in Ace's hands though.

"Yeah, last I saw," Ethan confirms.

"How is his bet going?"

"Not so good…."

"Oh?"

How hard it is to find orange things?

"Doesn't matter what they bring. Ray says it's not orange enough… not shining with fire and life enough...I think everybody has given up."

Deuce thinks that the only thing that can win would be Ray himself, the peach of sunny cheerfulness.

They suddenly heard Ethan's name being called, repeatedly.

It takes them a few seconds to pinpoint the source which is -surprise surprise- Yasopp waving his rifle in one hand, and a bottle occupying the other.

"Need to go. Master is calling." Ethan hurriedly says as he runs towards the obviously drunken man.

"'Master?'" Deuce mutters incredulously under his breath.

He looks at Ethan go, bumping into people without a care as he hurries past. He almost steps on the turtle to the ire of the crowd and finally reaches his beloved 'master'. Shoulder by shoulder they run to the endless sunset, he narrates in his head, as he watches Puppy Ethan (™) follow his Master around, wagging his figurative tail.

Deuce sighs, looking around and glimpses a brown cowboy hat on the other side. He moves swiftly, dodging drunk people and indeterminable flying things. Probably some other bet this idiotic of a crew has thought up. Flying paper plane or something. Nothing is too stupid or too dangerous for this bunch.

"Dusty!"

"Dusty!"

"Dusty!" he calls repeatedly.

Dusty turns around suddenly, his body ready to pounce.

"Oh it's you, Deuce..." he mutters as he deflates.

"Hoping for someone else?"

Dusty just shakes his head in defeat.

"Nah...just lookin' for Spooky and Tyger...again..." he curses.

"They gave you the slip again?" Deuce mutters knowingly and with no little sympathy.

"Those shitty trouble-magnetic bastards…" is all what Dusty says.

"Do I wanna know what they did now?" Deuce asks hesitantly. Sometimes not knowing is the best defense; it gives you deniability.

Dusty's face says it all.

"Not that it really matters… I mean look 'round...I thought our ship was a madhouse..." mumbles Dusty.

Deuce took the time to scan him. He looks tired. He has prominent red rings around his eyes either from lack of sleep, or drinking. In his case, Deuce would bet both.

"Yeah...ours is a tiny one..." Deuce agrees and adds cheerfully. Trying to change the mood.

"Look at the bright side..."

"Ah..." Dusty looks suspiciously up at him. He seems to have lost faith in humanity and all other creatures.

"If this is how a Yonko's crew behaves, then Ace has cherry picked the best of the best…"

"Yeah… my future looks bleaker by the s'cond..." mutters Dusty. He seems to have reached the same conclusion way before.

He tries to stand up straight but he sways, and Deuce reaches his arm out to balance him. Dusty just leans on him full body, almost making him lose his own balance in turn and begins muttering in despair.

"How da hell would I manage a Yonko crew and make it look like we know what we are doin'? I mean...I'm not sure we know what we're doin' right now… No scritch that...what the freakin' hell are we doin'? Us as a feared Yonko crew… Do ya see Ace as a Yonko… ACE….'magine him meeting allies or another Yonko… He'll begin snorin' mid-sentence and oh boy… why? Why on Oda's Grand Line, did I agree to be da first mate of this here crew!? I'm gonna jump into the cold blue sea and let the waves take me! Yes thatta be better...I'll be free at last! They say the Cap'n should sink with the ship…I volunteer to take Ace's place...He can handle this clusterfuck…it's his damn crewwwwwwwwww..." Dusty rants become muffled sobs of unrecognizable words.

"Maybe you should have another talk with Benn...yeah...it will be better...you'll see." A put-off Deuce says carefully.

Drunk Dusty continues to sob on Deuce's shoulder, while Deuce mutters more soft, calming words, as he searches for the elusive Red Hair's First Mate and Biggie. He really isn't equipped to handle this.

He quietly wonders where Spooky and Tyger, the banes of Dusty's existence, have disappeared to.

Oh well, whatever they are planning couldn't get any worse than this.

..

.

"Hey…what do we have here?" Tyger gleefully announces, as Spooky and Rockstar walk up to where he is sitting.

"Shiny~ Is it…?" Spooky asks, hope and glee filling his voice.

"Dammit...only keys…lots and lots of keys," Tyger curses while Rockstar snorts, amused.

They are in some storage room that Rockstar had brought them to, looking for some beli or treasure or anything really that they could use for betting. They aren't choosy right now.

They had lost everything except their clothes and Spooky's rifle. EVERYTHING.

EVERY- DAMN-THING.

Even though the turban bet promises to balance some of the losses, Dusty had not been impressed when he heard they had betted the ship. It's not like they betted the whole thing in one go. They are not stupid, you know.

They betted the mast first, then the rails, sails, and the captain's cabin etc etc...they were very thorough and careful.

The treasures stored on the ship they betted slowly and measuredly, and of course they used some of the crew… They lost Gerkin in the tapping contest (they didn't know the rules, and still didn't know them now) and had lost Ray almost ten times, but for some reason the Red Hair Pirates kept giving him back and mumbling about 'too energetic and shiny, keep him please'.

Skull refused to give them any more money. Then they found out that the Red Hair Pirates had a "finder keeper" rule, and decided as guests, that they were indubitably almost permanent residents and part of the crew basically in just 2 short weeks (but who's counting?). They determined that such a beautiful and just rule applied to them, so they had gone to explore the ship, but surprisingly could find nothing of value, almost as if someone had known of their planned search.

Spooky had been sure it had been the Red Hair's First mate. Benn had that shrewd known look in his eyes that made Spooky want to screech 'Mommy!' and hide behind her skirts.

In their despair over the failed looting, they were found by Rockstar who had been on his way to nap. He had generously brought them here, to this huge storage room, and has even stayed to help.

"Ahhh...you found the keys box...I've been looking for it for a while," Rockstar murmurs.

"Yours?" Tyger asks.

"Nahhhh…Benny was looking for it."

"Why?" Spooky asks. Keys? Why the hell do you need so many keys? What does the scary first mate want them for?

"Dunno...probably looking for a key," Rockstar answers amusedly.

Tyger snorts and adds, "Hey...we can use them for betting."

"Keys?" Spooky says in disgust.

"It's not like we have money…" Tyger reminds him.

"Not bad… at least it's better than the coals you suggested…" Rockstar says helpfully, gesturing at Spooky with the bottle in his hand.

"Everything is better than coals," Tyger agrees. "At least with those keys, we can trick some to think it's actual beli...if they are drunk enough."

"Or you can use them as a bet…." suggests Rockstar.

Tyger eyes him with suspicious. They are discussing tricking his crewmates, and he doesn't seem to give a damn.

"Huh….what kind of bet do you suggest using these keys for?" Tyger finally asks.

"How far can you throw them?" Spooky suggests offhandedly.

"Nahh… keys open things...right….whoever finds which keys open what wins…." Rockstar says.

"Throwing them sound better…." Spooky whinely insists.

.

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So… what do you think of the training? And the crews bonding? Anything special you have noticed and want to share? *wink, wink*

Personally, I feel sorry for Dusty..

Did you pay attention to the details in my new cover image by the one and only awesome Syrisna.

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Important notes about the chapter:

1. We are meeting more of the Spade crew. My Spade crew is built on the crew that was created by lovely and talented Stormy1x2 and the info from Spade Pirates wiki page. Gerkin and Louis that we met here are all from the genius of Stormy1x2. I am merging the two 'crews' into one awesome crew if I do say so myself. The wiki page of the SPADE crew is getting more and more expanded. The fight between Draw and Ace are from the page (I did not make it up).

2. MasterQwertster has just translated One Piece: novel A(ce) 1 to english and posted it here in FF. We are very grateful to his effort! If you want to check out Ace's journey, do read it. It's on my list to read. (Ashe)

I already wrote the chapter when I found about it, so things here are not one to one as the novel.

3. I am going to build the crew according to what I want, so I am going to use/discard any of the new merging information according to what I see fit.

4. The song that the crew sang is taken from "Shiver My Timbers -The Muppets". I tinkered it to fit what I want.

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Leave me a review and you get to Hug poor, poor Dusty (Bepo and depressed Shanks unfortunately aren't available because .. *Luffy and Ashe whistling at the sky*) Bepo is mine~~~ *whispers in dark corner* My precious~~~