Shoutout to MomoTheDreamer and TrickyDickey for their reviews! And thanks to my amazing beta, ghostperson!
The Chariot, reversed - Lack of control, lack of direction, aggression...
Late 1519 - East Blue
Noir could come to like Fuusha village.
It was quiet and peaceful. A place untouched by the insanity of the Grand Line, a place Noir could actually relax and not worry about getting her head chopped off by a pirate nor be bothered by the other Marines.
As much as she believed in justice, in protecting those who could not protect themselves and hunting the scum who preyed on the defenseless, Noir could not forget the farce that was Absolute Justice. The world was not so clean cut as black and white, evil and good, pirate and Marine. It was a plethora of shades and colors. There were Marines that, were it not for their position, would be as reviled as Shiki and Gol D. Roger. In Noir's opinion, Akainu would beat out Gol D. Roger for the position in a heartbeat. And there were pirates, for all their crimes, who were truly good people.
Shanks was one of those pirates. Not that it would stop Noir from hunting him down and dragging him to Impel Down. She had a duty as a Marine, and Shanks had committed more than his fair share of crimes. He would face justice for them. Noir only wished she could throw a few of her colleagues in prison with him.
The first place Noir went to was the bar. As a teenager, Noir had discovered how much information could be found casually eavesdropping on the patrons. She'd kept the habit after enlisting in the Marines, and it had made her a valuable recruit. People might not talk to a Marine, but they'd usually talk to another patron.
The last thing Noir had wanted was to seem like a moping drunk, nor encourage other patrons to flirt with her. Noir could have taken a colleague with her - in fact, Garp would have preferred that - but none of her colleagues would recognize subtlety if it danced in front of their noses wearing a jolly roger.
Cards though, cards were an excellent way to blend in without having to put up with incessant morons trying to get into her pants. Gamblers didn't like it when people bothered their gambling partners. Especially since, at first, Noir shelled out a good chunk of her paycheck learning to play. Enough money that she learned to drink cheap, shitty alcohol that Roger would have cringed to see Noir drinking.
It took awhile, but Noir stopped losing money, and started winning instead. Five years into her career as a Marine, she'd become so skilled at cards that her opponents - victims - often accused her of cheating, leading to no shortage of bar fights.
Annoying as hell, but Noir had been trained by the Pirate King. She'd been able to handle a bar fight since she was thirteen, and had quite a bit of experience backing up Shanks in said fights when the red head pissed off the wrong patron. Close quarter combat was not the place for a sword. The then cabin boy had learned the value of ducking real quick.
By the time Noir turned twenty-three the bar fights had almost stopped occurring - there would always be at least one hot-headed idiot a year - and people had stopped looking over Noir's shoulder in hopes of catching her cheat.
Which offended her, quite frankly. Noir didn't cheat unless someone else started cheating first. Turnabout was fair play and all that.
Nonetheless, Card Shark Noir became well-known throughout the Grand Line underworld. Not for any actual crimes - Garp would've had her hide for that - but rather for bleeding everyone at the table dry of their beris.
Garp greatly appreciated the occasional gift of expensive booze.
Partys Bar was a nice establishment for a village as small as Fuusha. Solid round tables, sturdy wooden chairs, and clean and organized. A number of patrons were already present and drinking despite the early hour, though from the way some of them looked at the bartender, they were here less for the food and more for the green haired woman behind the bar.
Noir took a seat at the bar, ignoring the embellished seat next to her. That seat clearly belonged to someone already, and Noir wasn't so rude as to usurp that claim.
Ordering a late lunch, Noir pulled out two decks of cards and set up a game of Rouge et Noir. Slowly, conversations continued as the local patrons lost interest in her, and Noir eavesdropped on the local gossip.
It hadn't been difficult to track down where Garp vacationed. Dawn Island, of Goa Kingdom in East Blue. It was a long shot, but Noir had no other leads to follow in searching for Ace's childhood home. And Noir wasn't going to ask Garp. If he'd lied to her about Ace surviving Baterilla, she didn't doubt he'd lie about where Ace grew up.
Noir had taken care to cover her own tracks. Garp had made use of Marine transports to East Blue, leaving behind easily accessible records. Noir instead took a series of civilian vessels. It had taken two months to reach East Blue, and another month to reach Dawn, but no one in the Marines would be able to find out exactly where she'd gone without a hell of a lot of effort involved.
And there would be speculation about her sudden vacation. Noir hadn't taken a single day off in over ten years. 'Workaholic' was not an unusual description for her.
But Ace didn't think he deserved to live. And Noir needed to know who exactly had put that notion in his head.
If this didn't pan out, Noir would have to look into records from South Blue and see if she could recreate Garp's path from the beginning.
Other than the occasional polite chit chat from Makino the bartender, Noir was left alone. It was nice, and Noir felt herself relaxing.
Which was when the pirates walked in.
Noir gave them a quick once over. Years of experience in the New World where anything remotely unusual could indicate a powerful threat gave Noir a sharp eye. But nothing on these pirate stood out. Worn and faded clothing, less than quality equipment, and rather forgettable physical features. Guppies, really, and not even wealthy ones at that. Noir turned back to her cards.
Only for Makino's fixed smile to grab Noir's attention. Something was wrong. Noir stretched out her Observation Haki. The pirates' auras were… well, they didn't come close to those on the Grand Line. But Makino's aura was flickering with anxiety.
The pirate crew wasn't the rowdiest Noir had ever seen. In fact, they were downright polite compared to some. Their captain - a touch of arrogance, a coat of finer make than the others, and the rest of the crew looked to him - was rather plain. He had dark hair and eyes and a weather beaten face. He wasn't very tall for a man, nor did he have much of a physical presence. Curious. How did he command the loyalty of his crew then?
"A round for the crew, my dear Makino!" The captain called. His crew roared with approval.
"I'm not your dear anything!" Makino called back, already setting out trays of glasses.
"Stubborn as always!" The captain laughed. "But I know you'll come around eventually!"
Oh wow, Noir did not like him.
There was a particularly flinty look Makino's eye. Noir knew that look. The look of a woman who had an unwanted but persistent suitor.
Makino was a professional though, and Noir was impressed. Noir would have thrown out the idiot captain in minutes, but Makino went about delivering drinking, dodging hands and ignoring wandering eyes. Likewise, flirtations were either ignored or politely shut down.
Noir watched with growing annoyance, because damn this man was determined. Or perhaps he couldn't stand to be refused.
Under the raucous cheers of yet another toast to Makino's beauty, Noir leaned towards the bartender in question. "How often do you deal with this?" Noir asked. Makino's pleasant mask slipped, her face pinching in displeasure. But the cheers and catcalls died down again, and Makino's mask is firmly in place by the time the captain turned his attention back to her.
But that was all Noir needed to answer her question. Far too often.
Said annoyance was rapidly losing patience with Makino's stonewalling. As Makino passed him, the captain managed to snag her wrist, and the bar went dead silent.
Everyone turned to look at her. Noir blinked down at the broken glass, affecting a chagrined expression. "Sorry, Makino-san. I think I've had a bit too much to drink."
Which was utter bullshit, and both women knew it. Noir could hold her own with Shanks, and Makino knew a drunk patron when she saw them. The measly amount she'd had wouldn't even leave her buzzed.
Makino seized the offered escape. "It's alright, Noir-san. I'll get you some water and clean that up."
Flirting with the bartender was one thing. Actively impeding her from her job was another, and the captain knew it. Noir could see his reluctance as he released Makino's wrist.
Noir had to praise Makino's composure. The woman's professional mask was flawless and her hands steady as she poured Noir a glass of water before disappearing into the back room. If Noir hadn't felt Makino's Haki roiling in distress, the Marine never would have thought the bartender was fleeing.
Noir turned her attention to the sulking pirate captain. "It's rude to harass the person who serves your drinks."
The man scowled at her. "What's it to you?"
Other than not being a shitty excuse of a person? Noir could see and feel the immense displeasure emanating from the local patrons at the captain's manhandling of Makino. The only reason they hadn't interceded yet was because none of them were a match for one pirate, much less a crew of them. Not that such a disadvantage would stop them much longer, Makino's admirers especially. Noir had no desire to see the massacre that fight would turn into.
Noir liked Makino. The woman shouldn't have to put up with arrogant pirates that didn't understand when someone wasn't interested. "I hate it when thugs interrupt my drinking." Noir said.
Oh, and didn't that send them off the deep end. The crew drew together, bristling at the insult to them and their captain. It was almost cute.
The man next to the captain snapped at her. "You're talking to the infamous Captain Ward Samuel of the Sea Dog pirates, bitch!"
Was that supposed to impress her? No, judging by the man's face - the first mate, maybe? Noir didn't care enough to guess - that particular fact was supposed to be intimidating. Except, well, it's East Blue. The least threatening place on the whole planet.
"Never heard of you." Noir told them, sipping at her water. "Not that I pay attention to guppies." She had bigger fish to fry. Like Shanks. And wouldn't the Yonko laugh himself sick when Noir told him about this particular idiot.
"I've got a 10 million beri bounty!" The captain whatever-the-hell-his-name-was snarled.
Noir threw her head back and laughed.
This was sheer gold. "Poor puppy," Noir mocked, trying to reign in her giggles, "did you think that was impressive?" This guy wouldn't even be a footnote on the Grand Line.
Oh dear, it seemed Noir had offended the man. The captain brandished a katana in Noir's direction. Noir's amusement faded immediately. Things were escalating, and if she wasn't careful there would be casualties.
"I don't know who you think you are," the captain growled, "but you will not talk to me that way."
The or else was fairly explicit. Noir narrowed her eyes at the man. By the Sea, she loathed it when people tried to threaten her. She flicked a card in his direction. "If you're going to threaten me, don't do it with such a shoddy weapon."
The pirate blinked at her, before his blade fell to the floor with a clang, cut clean away from the hilt. Noir stood, towering over the man as she glared. "As for who I am," she said, "Portgas D. Noir, Rear Admiral of the Marines."
The way pirates blanched at her rank was vindictively gratifying.
"You are currently souring my vacation." Noir informed them pointedly. She wasn't one for boasting, but dammit she really didn't want to deal with these idiots right now. "Unless you'd like me to take a break from hunting the Yonko Red Hair Shanks and turn you all in for drinking money, you should leave. Now."
The pirates couldn't leave fast enough. Noir sighed and made a mental note to cover their bill. Just because they were assholes didn't mean Makino deserved to be gypped.
She would make certain to set the local Marines on them in revenge.
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