Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognise. (But my characters are my own!)
Names without a description have been mentioned in the story because I don't like to use nameless grunts. In my opinion, it would be rather unrealistic for commanders not to know the names of their subordinates. As such, that list may grow as the story goes on, but these characters probably won't rise to any particular significance. (Unless one of their designs turn out to be particularly well received.)
Original crew :
First mate of the Devilspawn pirates, formerly a captain in his own right. Fights using knives, usually partners with his best friend Goode. Orange hair, golden eyes, fairly tall (Think Bill of the Silver Pirate Alliance just with short, lighter hair – I watched this arc only after I'd already designed Francis, and that was pretty much how I'd pictured him).
Confident leader with a good sense for humour, also a very pragmatic thinker. Has recently rediscovered his passion for art.
The youngest of the original crew, joined Francis' crew barely three months earlier. Rather insecure, hadn't developed any particular fighting style by the time ASL took over. Tall, lanky at the beginning, but quickly filling out muscle; black, spiky hair, bright blue eyes (if you've ever read Percy Jackson – Finn's practically how I'd imagine a male Thalia – without the emo clothing).
After quite a few difficulties, Finn's finally become the second commander, slowly growing into his new position and his new Devil Fruit.
First to quickly grow close to his new captains, partly due to proximity of age. His idol, however, is Francis.
A short woman in her mid-twenties, the crew's most talented sniper. She joined Francis' crew about four years ago, but due to her shyness, she only grew close to a few of the other members (particularly Goode and Finn). Emerald green hair in a pixie cut, brown eyes, usually wears fancy guns at her hips.
Since Ivy's sister Zandra blames her for their father's suicide, they've barely spoken since they joined Francis' crew. The rift between them is currently causing her quite a bit of trouble.
Francis' best friend, formerly the first mate of their crew. Has been on Francis's side ever since his friend had a fight with his father. Fights using two swords, currently the most talented swordsman of the crew. Pretty tall, muscular, tanned, short blonde hair, heavily scarred (think Stephen Lang in Avatar with a charming personality).
Sarcastic, likes to make jokes at other people's cost, but is usually tactful enough. Also works as the ship's head cook.
Ivy's younger sister, also a sniper, if not quite as talented. Fairly tall, wears her emerald green hair long.
Zandra mostly keeps apart from the crew, always seeming unhappy. Without being prompted, she's rarely seen speaking to anyone.
The crew's current head doctor, a stocky man in his mid-forties. He tends rant about the idiocy of his crewmates and doesn't understand the recklessness of many of their fights. Spends most of his time researching in his office.
The crew's head navigator. Has been with Francis from the beginning. He's rarely seen during the day due to his sensitive skin (suffers from albinism). His white, wavy hair reaches to his chin; when he's outside, he wears a large, fancy hat that shadows his entire face (like Hawkeye's, just larger).
Not a fighter, but brilliant when it comes to his field of expertise. Also diligently writes the crew's log. His most prominent character trait is constantly being annoyed.
First unit – Azure (24 members):
Former captain of the Austin pirates, fairly young for his position (around 20). Prefers close combat, can stop anything in its tracks by touching it (Devil Fruit power). Peculiar appearance – white skin, black eyes, sharp nails, dark blue hair that falls straight to his chin.
Azure's character is rather closed off, rarely shows emotions, though Luffy tends to be an exception to that rule. His father was killed by Garp after declaring his intention to become the Pirate King. As such, he's currently suffering through a very, very big break-down.
Cook of the Austin pirates, talented swordswoman fighting with one sword. Rather doll-like appearance, blond, curly hair worn in a ponytail, blue eyes, a bit taller in height than Ivy.
Quite motherly and soft-spoken, but with quite the stubborn streak. She saved Azure's life and nursed him back to health after his father was killed.
Second unit – Finn (18 members):
Leader of the people of Gem island. A talented mechanic, somewhat paranoid, but with a soft spot for children. Has a tendency to interrupt people in the middle of their sentences.
Jemima's husband and the delicate balance to her brash attitude. Wears glasses. Soft-spoken, but still carries a certain authority.
For a short summary of the first eight chapters, check out chapter 9. From there onwards, each chapter has a short flashback to its predecessor.
Last chapter, our crew was separated as Luffy, Ace and Sabo disappeared into a moving island. The crew, after long hesitation, decided to move on to the next island after waiting for one night, hoping they'd be able to meet up with their captains there.
Things aren't too rosy on the crew at the moment, though. Azure is still reeling with the revelation of his worst enemy as his captain's grandfather and unsuccessfully attacks Smoker in his rage. His unit, his former crew, mostly subsists on rumours of what has happened between him and their captains, torn on what to do and what to believe.
Luffy, on the other hand, is over the moon as he meets Franky on the moving island. Things don't stay as happy and as relaxed as he would have wished, though, as the residents of the strange moving island apparently harbour an inherent suspicion against pirates and really all outsiders who might abuse their engineering skills. A quick disguise for Ace and Sabo, now Tom and Flam, later, the three brothers are welcomed to the island by Jemima, their leader, as three boys who'd just escaped pirate captivity.
Only shortly after, though, the three boys start planning their escape with Franky. Sabo especially seems anxious to get off the island, going as far as to threaten Franky to reveal the information they need. Ace manages to somewhat defuse the resulting tension between his brothers.
Soon, a supply ship (a submarine, like the moving island itself) arrives back at Gem island, which the four are planning to steal. Unfortunately, the ship apparently comes bearing bad news, and Sabo and Ace find themselves knocked out.
Meanwhile on the Tigris, the atmosphere becomes more and more depressing as the absence of the captains becomes more noticeable. As such, Law feels he has no choice but to play a prank on Goode. He also takes multiple swims in the sea. Somehow, those two events are related.
Amaryllis finally, and very reluctantly, goes to confront Azure when they arrive at Sommerset. Azure tries to ignore her at first, but then breaks down badly. Amaryllis does her best to comfort him. In the end, she goes briefly to inform Francis not to expect them anytime soon, only to end up with a sword to her neck.
A/N: The last chapter was kinda difficult to sum up, and it's been a while. If this doesn't jog your memory, it would probably be a good idea to read chapter 11 again. Sorry.
Chapter 12: Murder, brainwashing and other dirty work
Eyes drooping, Law pushed open the door to the infirmary. It had been an exceptionally restless night … morning … midday. Whenever he thought he was used to his insomnia, it had to act up in such a spectacularly annoying way he'd almost start cursing his fate. Seriously, why couldn't he simply fall asleep during the night like normal people? No, of course, he had to lie awake with dry eyes for hours upon hours as Bepo calmly snored besides him, only for his stupid eyelids to finally drop when the first sunrays hit their ship.
And naturally, he never slept well when it was light outside. Stupid insomnia.
Now, he'd just quickly get a glance at his supplies and make sure he hadn't forgotten anything when Beckett had ambushed him immediately after he left his room. Apparently, the good doctor had deigned to wait for Law's input before heading to the town they'd docked at at some point during his unpleasant rest. However, that didn't mean the good doctor was graceful about his generosity.
"Stupid doctors with their stupid superiority complexes," Law muttered under his breath. He rubbed his eyes and opened the nearest cupboard, his eyes flying over the bottles at a painfully fast speed. The words swam into each other, ending in a jumble in Law's head. He groaned in frustration. "I need coffee …"
The sound of the door opening again drew his attention, and Law turned his attention gratefully from the frustrating cupboard to the new arrival. He smiled his best supportive doctor smile. "Need something?"
For some reason, he only received an icy glare in return. Until now, Law hadn't quite been able to figure out why, but people always seemed to suspect something hideous when he was just being nice. "Nothing from you," Zandra snapped, striding past him towards Beckett's desk.
"Thank you," Law drawled sarcastically, sweet façade dropping quicker than a lightning bolt. "That just made my day."
The woman ignored him without even the slightest flinch to indicate that she'd noticed his reply. One of Law's dry eyes twitched. Stupid people with their stupid brains. He intended to turn back to the supply cupboard to continue with his wonderful task, if not for a certain object to catch his attention.
"I think you have something of mine there."
The book disappeared under Beckett's mountain of notes. "I have no idea what you're talking about," Zandra replied, looking straight into his eyes despite the obvious lie. "Now, was there something you wanted, or are you just going to bore me to death with this useless conversation?"
"Was there something I wanted?" Law snapped. "Damn right, there was. I want my book back, and you damn well know it." Insomnia did wonderful things to his patience.
"Book?" Zandra asked cooly, lifting an eyebrow in surprise. "What would I do with a book? I can't even read." She continued scanning a sheet of paper in her hand.
For once, Law found himself at a loss for words.
What was up with that woman?
That audacity of hers!
His mouth was moving aimlessly without any meaningful words coming from it. What was up with his stupid brain? Sleepless night or not, he was not losing a battle of wits against this woman!
"I don't know," he finally said sweetly. "Maybe you're trying to light a fire to warm your icy heart."
The corner of her lip twitched. "I hope you don't get that creative during operations, doctor. That sounded awfully poetic."
"You'd be surprised at how eloquent a surgeon has to be," he replied with a chilling smile, stepping towards the table with a scalpel dancing between his fingers. "After all, somebody has to explain to the dear bereaved why the patient's vital organs ended up chopped up and stuffed inside her empty brain."
A choked sound escaped Zandra's mouth. Was she … laughing? What was wrong with that woman? He was absolutely, one hundred percent serious. This was no laughing matter.
An instant later, though, her expression smoothed over again. "How picturesque," she remarked before striding out of the room.
Law watched her retreating back for a second. "Hey!" he shouted after her, his glance dropping onto the messy desk. "You forgot my book!" He chuckled lightly when she flipped him the bird.
How interesting. He picked up his book, flipping through the unmarked pages absent-mindedly. Before today, he'd never had a conversation with the green-haired woman, nor had he ever felt any particular urge to do so. He'd certainly have never guessed that she hid an interest in medicine behind that mean façade.
They'd have to work on that, he noted with a scheming grin on his face. A doctor needed certain social skills, after all.
Speaking of social skills … "Hello?! Sunscreen! Now!" Dante complained impatiently, almost dropping one of the empty bags slung over his shoulder when he pushed up his glasses. Law hadn't even noticed him coming into the infirmary. He yawned. "You can sleep later, brat! Get to work!"
"Yeah, yeah," Law muttered unimpressed, walking back towards the cupboard to look for the requested item. For a second, he was tempted to accidentally choose the wrong product, but in the end, he decided he didn't have enough energy to deal with a homicidal navigator today. "Here you go."
"Finally!" Dante snapped, ripping the bottle from his hands. "If you worked any slower, it would be more efficient to employ snails!" He stormed from the room before Law could be bothered to speak up in his defence.
"Whatever," he murmured belatedly, looking around the room as he suppressed another yawn. It was really one of those days, wasn't it? There was no use sitting on his own in this room. It wasn't like he would get anything done, anyways.
Giving in to his desire to slack, Law strolled towards the bow of the ship, sitting down a few feet away from the bow. The ship was pleasantly quiet despite the fact that night hadn't even fallen yet. Though that little fact was understandable considering that a considerable part of the crew had left to explore the town they'd docked at.
Unfortunately for Law, Francis had decreed that it would be prudent for those with a bounty to stay on board until they knew the general mood amongst the people. Yet Law was still happy enough about his thirty million bounty to really get pissy about that.
True, it paled in comparison to those of his captains – the whole crew had gotten drunk despite the fact that the three children they were celebrating weren't even aboard. But unlike other people, he at least had a decent epithet. The Surgeon of Death. It seemed he was at least enough like his future self to earn the same badass name again.
Damn, he couldn't wait to rub that little fact in certain people's faces.
His mind relaxed and now properly amused, Law pulled out two books from his bags, opening the first one on his bookmark. The second one, detailing new breakthroughs in brain surgery, he placed carefully on the wooden deck next to him. Once he was done ploughing through rare internal sicknesses, that would be his reward.
The unusual silence on the ship was refreshing and the distant bustling in the port city meshed well with the calming sounds of the sea. Despite this not being his preferred subject, Law found himself enthralled in the book, turning page after page after page until he completely lost any sense of time.
It felt like he had only just sat down when Law closed the book, blinking tiredly when he once again registered the dryness of his eyes. Night had long since fallen – he was honestly surprised that he hadn't noticed the steady decline in light while he'd read the small black letters.
Still, the fact that he hadn't was a pleasant reminder of just how fascinating medicine was to him as a whole. Even an area that he wasn't specialised in managed to catch and hold his attention to such a degree that he forgot everything else, be it his physical needs, his worries or the entire world around him.
That was just what medicine was to him. It was such a big, impactful subject, yet it needed attention to the smallest details, reacted to miniscule influences you would have never thought would make a difference. But while it was a matter that required a love for details, it also needed a broad context, the ability to connect dots to a larger picture you never would have imagined from just the small, isolated indices.
A downright euphoric smile spread on Law's face as he put the book on the floor next to him, simultaneously reaching for the next one. He could literally spend days like this, leafing through book after book without a break for sleep and food until he collapsed. It would absolutely be worth it.
And collapse he did.
Law groaned at the sudden dull pain in his head, spreading rapidly from the sharp impact against his temple. At which point he'd hit the wooden planks, he wasn't quite sure, but the hard surface against the side of his head at least served as a bit of orientation when the world was still spinning around him quite madly.
He blinked heavily, trying to focus, and immediately tried to get back on his feet, or at least into a sitting position when he realised what must have happened. Gritting his teeth, Law put his palms against the floor, internally cursing himself for letting down his guard when they'd only just arrived at this island. Even if he wasn't the look-out, he still should have known better.
But just as he started to push himself onto his knees, any remaining, scattered energy in his body virtually flowing from him. Suddenly, it became a challenge just to keep his eyes open, any thought of fighting back muted. "Devil Fruit," he vaguely heard a voice. "As expected of the Surgeon of Death. Chain him up. He'll fetch us a nice sum."
"Whatever," a younger voice replied far too close to Law's ear, but despite the indifferent response, Law felt his arms being forcefully dragged behind his back. Cool metal settled against his wrists. Law couldn't even try to struggle. "I'll take him to the others."
Law wasn't very optimistic about the man's announcement considering that he certainly couldn't walk anywhere while shackled with seastone. Unfortunately, he soon found out that his captor was quite indifferent to his feelings on the matter, simply dragging him along when Law's knees gave way.
Who the heck were those people? Judging from the short exchange, it was likely they were either bounty hunters or slavers. Clearly, they were no amateurs judging from the way they'd snuck up on him and immediately figured out his weakness.
"Listen up." In his worried musings, Law almost missed his captor's quiet voice. "The chains are normal iron. The only thing made of seastone is my ring. Once you don't touch that anymore you'll have your strength back." For the first time, Law turned his head to look at the man dragging him across the deck, almost sweating with that small effort.
His first impression had been correct. He was young, maybe even as young as Ace and Sabo. Yet his eyes gleamed as cold as steel underneath his dark bandana, the cross around his neck at odds with the supposed innocence of a child. "Don't let anyone know, and don't make me regret it."
By now, Law was positively confused. What was the kid doing? He had to know that Law would try to escape as soon as he'd gathered his wits and his strength again. Why was he taking this risk? But he didn't get a chance to ask his questions, even if he would have been able to articulate them, instead being unceremoniously propped up against the railing on the starboard side.
As promised, Law soon felt energy rushing back into his body, though it unfortunately only intensified the dull throbbing in his head. A sharp glare from those awfully mature eyes stopped him from perking up too much, though.
He wasn't quite sure why he even listened to the kid. He had no reason to consider to his instructions, and every reason to go against them to protect the crew in his captains' stead. But something about this kid … he was somehow familiar. Law hated being sentimental, but he could empathize with his situation. Heck, he'd been in worse places when he was still below that age. The least he could do was respect his wishes for as long as he could.
Law continued blinking slowly even as he felt his senses return to normal. Keeping his eyes half-way closed, though, he started scanning his surroundings systematically, his heart beat pounding in his ears as his lips thinned. Maybe he'd have to rescind that decision sooner than he'd thought.
Blood. There was far more blood than there should be on their ship, their home, from errant splatters to disconcerting puddles to a thin, red coating where a body had been dragged along. The bodies. For that's all that was left of them, any life that had once filled their eyes, that had once lightened up the ship long gone.
Jayden. Byron. Charlie. He knew their names, but he knew nothing else about them. He knew their faces, had passed them on the hallways, had seen them in the mess hall. Those faces would never leave him now, forever be burned into his memory, joining the fleeting acquaintances in Flevance that he hadn't been strong enough to save either in his nightmares.
"So, this is the Surgeon of Death." Law found his chin turned up forcefully, staring straight into a terribly grey face. The man certainly had to have taken avoiding the sun to another level entirely. "Doesn't look very intimidating too me." For some reason, Law's nose started itching. "Then again, a lamb ready for slaughter wouldn't know anything about intimidation, would it?"
Law reflexively glared at the man, disgusted at the dirty fingers touching his face. Only a second later, he realised that he maybe shouldn't look quite this lively. "Stop playing with your food, Tyson," an elderly woman's voice scolded to Law's right.
While the man appeared so unkempt he looked like he'd spent the last few years on the streets, the woman was his polar opposite. Her short dark hair framed her face with perfect style, her lips painted a painfully bright red that turned even more brilliant in contrast with her snuggly fitting, black attire.
"Shut it, Ma," the man, Tyson, hissed at her, completely freaking Law out. No way that lady was old enough to have had a son as old as him.
"Manners, Tyson," she countered, looking positively disappointed in her son. "I do not like watching you act so uncouth." Her superior attitude quickly added annoyance to Law's current wariness. Who did she think she was, waltzing onto their ship without permission only to lecture about manners?
"But manners are wasted on walking corpses," Tyson drawled, a downright evil smirk spreading on his face as he once again peered down on Law. The young doctor did not like the haughtily approving smile on the lady's face.
"Now, then, Surgeon," he continued, a mad glint entering his dark eyes, "let's talk, hm?" Law didn't reply but defiantly stared back into Tyson's face. If he thought it was that easy to intimidate Law, he would hopefully not live to regret his mistake. "I'm looking for certain people," he said sweetly, his dirty nails burying into Law's cheeks even more deeply.
Law forced himself not to react to that statement. It wasn't exactly difficult to guess who these people were looking for. Whether they were bounty hunters or something else, their captains would certainly be a catch worth the risk to them. As if to confirm his thoughts, Tyson elaborated, "You were one of them, in fact. We treat anyone with a bounty on their heads with extra care." At the last two ominously emphasized words, he placed his free hand on Law's shoulder in what might have been a comforting gesture in any other situation.
As it was, the hard grip only served to remind Law of the dire situation they were in just now. "Unfortunately for you, your bounty is quite low, so we can afford you getting a bit damaged." As if to emphasize his point, his claws broke the skin on Law's cheek, causing a very unpleasant burning sensation. "Be a good boy and tell me what I want to know, yes?"
All that long, fancy speech did was fraying Law's already strained nerves. But no matter how annoying, it wouldn't have been enough for him to lose his shit. Another body dropping next to already three dead crewmates was, though. "Fuck you," Law growled, clenching his jaw so hard his teeth should have fallen to prevent himself from saying anything else. Words were meaningless, anyways.
Within a second, Tyson's grin turned from threateningly sweet to feral. "Wrong answer," he snarled, his hand snapping from Law's chin to cover his mouth too quickly for the surgeon to start his resistance.
His lungs burned. His eyes teared up, blurring his view of his assailant's gleeful face. His nose started itching even worse, but he couldn't sneeze. Couldn't breathe properly. His breathing was too flat and irregular as he choked on what appeared to be dry air. His mouth, his tongue felt almost numb as any saliva seemingly evaporated.
Just as he was about to black out from insufficient oxygen supply, the feeling abated slowly. Law wheezed, coughed, tried anything to get his breathing back to normal. His entire face burned from the unexpected effort, sweat pooling down the side of his face.
He didn't have nearly enough of his control again when his chin was once again turned upwards, an impatient note in Tyson's voice as he smiled sweetly. "Let's try this again, shall we?" he asked, his tone permitting no protest. Unfortunately, Law was severly lacking the air to defy him anyways.
"I'm going to ask you some questions," he continued, the sentence unnecessarily dragged out, "and you're going to answer them honestly. Simple, yes?" Law glared at the man fiercely enough to set him on fire, but his effectiveness was probably undermined by his burning eyes still pooling with tears. "Good. Let's start."
The nails were digging into Law's irritated skin again as the man's smile dropped, a murderously serious expression settling over his face instead. "Where is Daz Bones?"
It was really one of those days.
When he next woke up, Sabo was so dizzy he might have vomited, his limbs were still so heavy he might have suspected someone had tied rocks to them, and his view was still blurred. He seriously hated being drugged.
Ignoring his body's complaint to the best of his abilities, Sabo groaned and turned onto his stomach, propping himself up on his forearms as he took in his surroundings. The translucent rock wall and the people bustling around behind it wasn't exactly hard to miss. And neither was Ace, lying next to him, once again unconscious. If he weren't without a doubt watched closely right now, Sabo would have rolled his eyes. Ace seriously needed to get his shit together. Sabo would never listen to him complain about boring fights again if all he did was sleep through them. All the time.
Of course, his annoyance with his brother also warred with concern. A few testing tugs on the shackles chaining his wrists behind his back revealed them to be seastone. So, they were being careful. Bad for Sabo, horrible for Ace, but nothing they couldn't deal with.
Sabo's lower lip was trembling as his eyes darted around his cell nervously, roaming over the few people observing him in between their arguments from outside. For a few seconds, his gaze lingered on Jemima, then on Roy, a betrayed expression spreading on his face. Only then did he scramble closer to Ace, awkwardly feeling for a pulse.
It was probably redundant to continue playing his role, but Sabo was nothing if not dedicated. The least it would do was render them insecure about the assumptions they'd no doubt made about them so far.
Fortunately, Ace's heart was still beating steadily, if a little bit too slowly for Sabo's taste. But that was without a doubt the seastone's fault. He would really have to think of some way to get rid of it.
The sharp sound of a microphone being connected to the speakers Sabo had spotted earlier pierced the air. Sabo's eyes snapped immediately towards the translucent wall, his body carefully positioned in front of Ace. "Why did you come to this island, Devilspawn?"
Even through the speakers, Jemima's voice was as cold and accusing as her expression, her tone commanding. Franky sure hadn't exaggerated the islanders' attitude towards pirates. They had to get out of here as fast as possible.
Sabo refused his anger to seep to the surface, instead letting it simmer quietly. Who did she think she was, telling him what to do? There weren't many people on this planet that Sabo would ever listen to, and she certainly wasn't one of them.
"W-what do you mean?" he stuttered instead, suddenly sick of this charade. But if it would get him, get his brothers out of here, he would keep it up. "I d-don't understand. W-what are you doing with us? Please, let us out! I don't want …" Sabo trailed off, anchoring his seemingly trembling hands on Ace's wrist as his eyes snapped from Jemima to Roy and back again.
"Drop the act," Jemima commanded mercilessly, an irritated frown on her face. Roy looked deeply uncomfortable next to her, watching Sabo worriedly. It was obvious he was the one Sabo would be able to win over first. "We know who you are. Foulmouth Sabo."
"Excuse me?" Sabo couldn't stop his disbelieving exclamation.
Considering the situation, though, that might have been acceptable. As Jemima slapped three sheets of paper against the smooth rock for him to see, he permitted himself no slipup for the bounty posters.
… no matter how ridiculously satisfying they were. Horrible epithet aside (it seemed to rapidly become a trend in their family), an increase of more than a hundred million was exactly what his ego needed right now. "A 131 million bounty. Destruction of government property, several acts of piracy and harbouring enemies of the state," Jemima stated matter-of-factly.
"Don't even try to deny it," she warned, her lips drawn into a bitter line. "You might be younger than the government wants people to think, but your brothers aren't exactly subtle."
No, they really weren't. Sabo's eyes flitted to Ace's bounty poster, his expression carefully blank as the anger at being captured was fed with indignance. They had to be doing this on purpose. From this day onwards, nobody would be able to convince him otherwise – someone up high in the Marines held a close, personal hatred just for him.
Otherwise, Ace's 132 million bounty couldn't possibly be explained.
Sabo knew he was taking too much time already, but he'd been waiting for these bounties to be sent out for agonisingly long days on end. His eyes swept to Luffy's smiling face, only for said eyes to nearly bulge out of his head. "T-two hundred eighty million?" he screeched.
Eyes still wide, he quickly tacked on, "B-but, h-he's just a kid! He h-hasn't d-done anything!" Well, except for maybe almost beating up Garp the Fist, but well. It wasn't like they needed to know that. "We … we've never done anything, I swear," he continued more quietly, his eyes glistening with tears.
The look on Jemima's face was still as sceptical as ever, but Roy watched him with barely concealed sympathy. Just a little bit more … "W-we've been on the run for years, the government just started hunting Ace and Luffy, for no reason, they never even met their parents," he started rambling nervously, looking from Roy to Ace back to Jemima. "But then, these pirates caught us, and … and, they …"
Sorry, Francis, Sabo silently apologised. "And they held us hostage, and they made Ace do things he didn't wanna do but they were gonna kill us, and … and Ace …" This was getting pathetic. But Sabo was going to get his brothers out of here, and these idiots would regret ever having tried to detain them.
He started crying and bowed his head so far it was touching to rocky floor in front of him. "P-please! Please, j-just let us go! I-I … I promise we're not gonna tell anyone about you, we won't! Please, I just want to get out of here, Luffy and Ace are my best friends, my brothers, please don't hurt them! Please, just …" Sabo was at a loss about what more he could say. Maybe it was just time to let his words take their effect as he messily sobbed on the ground.
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Jem, they're just kids," Roy finally burst out. Sabo smirked for a brief second, his face hidden on the floor.
"They're pirates," Jemima protested, but Sabo could tell she was wavering. Just a little bit more …
"They're kids," Roy repeated. "Kids who're being hunted by the government for no fault of their own, just like we all were. Kids who're being terrorised and exploited by those in power, just like we all were."
Sabo's ears perked up slightly at the beautifully worded snippets of history. It didn't exactly come as a surprise to him that many people on this island had had horrible experiences with outsiders, or their isolationist policies would make little sense. He could even see why many of them would be an attractive target considering their impressive knowledge, genius and experience.
As sad as their story certainly was, right at this moment, he really couldn't be bothered to care. "They belong here, Jem, just as you and I do." Roy finished, presumably looking at Jemima expectantly.
For a few long seconds, it was quiet. The speakers were buzzing slightly, Sabo noticed absent-mindedly as he curled into as tight a ball as was possible with his hands behind his back.
"You're right," Jemima sighed. Sabo's smirk was even broader this time. "Open the doors and take off their cuffs." The speaker was turned off, and Sabo slowly lifted his head from the ground.
The door in the far left corner of his cell opened a few seconds later, revealing a few strangers Sabo vaguely recalled having met on the island. One of them hurried with the keys towards Ace while another quite unnecessarily helped Sabo stand.
Ace sighed lightly when the seastone was taken from his wrists, fidgeting slightly, but not quite awake yet. That was good. It was better than him being awake for this, for another captivity.
Jemima herself took the keys from her subordinate and moved to take off Sabo's shackles. Roy still stood at the entrance to the cell, looking quietly proud when Jemima started talking. "I apologise for the way we've treated you, Sabo. We've just learned to be cautious, but I know that's not an excuse."
"I-it's fine," Sabo stuttered, flexing his right hand as it was freed from the chain. "I understand. We c-could've been enemies. You were just being careful." Just not quite careful enough.
The engineer shook her head. "Don't make excuses for me. I don't shirk my responsibility in this."
"That's admirable," Sabo replied and meant it, twisting his left wrist to get the circulation going. "But it's true," he continued. "I'd even go as far as to say that you were wise for not trusting us." His voice was calm and even.
She shook her head again and sighed. "Thank you, I guess." She lightly squeezed his shoulder.
"Just not wise enough."
Just as Jemima dropped her hand and took a step back, Sabo moved. He moved too quickly for her to react, too quickly for most to even see him moving, and got her in a headlock tight enough to cause difficulty breathing.
"Nobody fucking move," he commanded, and it was as if time froze for a second.
A look of horror mixed with that insulting sympathy spread on Roy's face as he raised his hands in a placating manner. "Sabo," he started, his voice astonishingly calm. "You don't need to do this. We won't harm Ace or Luffy, I promise. You're safe here. Just let her go. We'll –" He took a step forward.
Sabo tightened his grip. "I said, don't. Move," he repeated, wishing he had those few missing inches of height that would facilitate intimidation a great deal. Roy dropped his hands, expression hesitant. "Good." Sabo noticed Ace's eyelids fluttering sleepily out of the corner of his eye. "Get me a Den Den Mushi. Prepare a submarine. And someone tell Luffy we're leaving," he commanded quickly, his voice cold.
Nobody moved. They did realise that a new series of commands nullified the previous one for all that needed to act, didn't they? But, of course, they were still waiting for commands from their superiors, as unnecessary as that action was. Sabo held their leader hostage – if they wanted to have her back alive, they should recognise his authority very quickly.
"Sabo …" Roy started again, his voice still so irritatingly soft. It seemed Sabo had underestimated his own acting skills.
"Stop treating me like a child," Sabo interrupted him harshly, his expression coldly indifferent. "I'm a pirate. If you don't follow my orders, she loses her head." To illustrate his threat was perfectly serious, he tilted her head a little further to the side until she flinched at the pain.
Finally, Roy's facial features hardened as he started to realise that Sabo was more than just a frightened child lashing out against those who'd hurt them. When Jemima started to struggle futilely, Sabo kicked the back of her knee without hesitation to hold her captive even more easily.
"Do as he said," Roy finally said faintly, causing the other people in the room to hesitantly jump into action despite Jemima trying to shake her head.
"Good," Sabo declared again, easing the headlock a fraction to allow Jemima easier breathing. Ace sat up behind him. "Oh, and I'd like my pipe back," Sabo added in passing. Roy nodded almost imperceptibly, the movement screaming of caution and fear.
"What's going on?" Yawning heartily, Ace stood up and walked towards Sabo, his steps slowing down bit by bit. "What are you doing?" His voice was tinged with wariness.
Shrugging indifferently, Sabo drawled, "Change of plans. They know who we are."
"Yeah, I figured," Ace muttered, but he still sounded dubious. Suppressing his annoyance at his brother's issues, Sabo resolved to tackle them later. Preferably when they were back on the Tigris, amongst their crew, not surrounded by enemies.
A dark-haired man, just barely old enough not to be called a boy anymore, entered their cell hurriedly, pressing a snail into Roy's palm before making a break for it as quickly as he could. Sabo smirked. So, he hadn't lost all of his intimidation skills, after all. "Call Dragon, Ace."
Roy's eyes went wide at the name, withdrawing his hand holding the Den Den Mushi slightly before Sabo glared at him in warning. Hadn't he already been quite clear what would happen if they didn't follow his orders?
"What?" Ace shouted incredulously, finally stepping into Sabo's field of vision. Though he might currently be relying on Observation Haki heavily enough to pick up Ace's emotions as easily as his own, he really preferred to look at people when he was talking to them. "Why on earth would I call Dragon?"
And so much for dealing with Ace's issues after they'd left this island. "Now's not the time for petty jealousy, Ace," Sabo scolded, ignoring his brother's look of outrage. "Gem island could turn the tide for the Revolution, do you realise that? They have some of the brightest minds I've seen in years, all working together on a common goal here. The things they could accomplish, the things they could change in this world with the right motivation are freaking incredible!"
It wasn't right for Ace's face to turn into a sour grimace at his words. Didn't he understand what this could mean for the war Sabo had been fighting for virtually his entire life? The World Government was strong, had had centuries to cement its power base – frankly, it was astonishing Dragon had managed to stir up as much trouble as he had.
But if they had technology that could rival Vegapunk's genius, that might be even more brilliant through the collaboration of the best their generation had to offer, they would finally be able to really stand up to the government. They would be able to change the world for the better.
The only thing necessary to achieve this victory was for these islanders to be just a little less stubborn and a little more cooperative, instead.
"We agreed that we wouldn't tell anyone about this island," Ace reminded him, scowling fiercely.
"Well, I've changed my mind," Sabo announced, meeting Ace's furious gaze squarely. "Now, call Dragon, Ace."
"Is that an order?" Ace snarled.
Why did he have to be so fucking difficult? Sabo had explained to him, quite clearly, why they needed to inform Dragon of these new developments, hadn't he? If he didn't know that it would make him seem weak, Sabo would have sighed in annoyance. "Yes. Get to it," he snapped, unwittingly tightening his hold on Jemima again.
For a little while, Sabo thought Ace was going to protest again, but in the end, he just huffed discontently and turned towards Roy. Sabo glared at his brother's back. He was worse than Koala sometimes, honestly. At least, she knew not to test him when he was already at his wits' end with the stupidity of some people.
Unfortunately, when he reached for the Den Den Mushi in Roy's hand, Ace wavered, before letting his arm drop back to the side. Sabo drew his lips into a thin line at the inaction. "Ace …" he started, before stumbling backwards a few steps as if someone had kicked him in the stomach.
Before he could recover from the sharp, focused burst of Conqueror's Haki, far more concentrated than anything he'd ever felt from his older brother, Ace was already upon him, breaking the feeble headlock he'd still kept on Jemima and kicked him into the wall.
With his breath thoroughly knocked out of him, his next sharp inhale brought both pain and relief. Sabo cursed internally as he quickly scrambled back to his feet, cradling his stomach almost unnoticeably. "What the fuck are you doing, Ace?" he growled when he looked up again just in time to see Ace help Jemima stand.
The elder raven still kept a hand on Jemima's forearm but angled his body in between Sabo and his hostage. "I think that's what I should be asking," Ace snapped, his face drawn into a frightening scowl that Sabo had for some reason always associated with pouty kid Ace. There was nothing cute about it now, though. "You've changed your mind? You don't get to just change your mind on something big like this," Ace hissed.
"Seriously?" Sabo scoffed. "Now you're going to get all prissy about your captaining rights? Do you really think this is the right time?" His voice virtually dripped with mocking sarcasm.
Ace clenched his teeth so hard Sabo almost thought he could hear them grinding. His eyes were literally burning into Sabo's with an insulted fury that … Actually, Ace had never looked at him like that. Something vaguely resembling guilt stabbed at his conscience, but the faint feeling was quickly drowned by his disbelief. "Roy, Jemima, get out of here."
"What?" Sabo exclaimed, approaching the pair with quick steps. But Ace merely pushed Jemima completely behind and then away from him. "Are you insane? They're our ticket out of here! The second they leave the room, they're just gonna attack us again!"
Roy supportively grasped Jemima's shoulder when she reached him, immediately turning to lead her from their cell. Sabo gritted his teeth and instantly moved to follow, but a grip like steel on his arm hindered his pursuit. "My brother and I need to have a little talk about how we run things," Ace virtually spat, glaring at Roy with a fervour that was clearly not meant to him. "If I even catch a whiff of gas again, I'm gonna torch this place. Got that?"
They left the room without a comment. They dared to leave the room without a single word of confirmation that Ace's threat had been acknowledged and respected, yet his brother didn't even seem to care.
Sabo decided on the only reasonable course of action in this situation.
After a bit of wrestling and some clever techniques that Ace would never get the hang of quite like Sabo did, his brother ate proverbial dirt as Sabo pressed his face against the rocky floor. But there was no time to celebrate his victory as he immediately jumped up to break into a run.
The door fell shut right before his nose.
A frigid smile lacking any ounce of joy spread on Sabo's face, his eyes slightly too wide. It was as if he couldn't move his focus from the closed door, the door separating him from his freedom, the door that dared to tell him to stay put. "Congratulations, Ace," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Your utter stupidity has succeeded in getting us locked up again."
His hands seemed to develop a life of their own, his fists closing, opening. Closing again. He needed to do something. This situation was plain and simply unacceptable. What had possessed Ace to act so unbelievably recklessly, thoughtlessly, selfishly? Didn't he have an ounce of logic, of self-preservation ingrained in his bones?
Right. Why was he even asking himself those questions? Of course, he didn't. While Ace might possess the ominous brain that Luffy at most times seemed to lack, that didn't mean he actually used it. Frustration fed even further into the flames of his anger at the disrespectful attitude Ace always had to rub in his face. "Fuck!"
The beautiful dent in the door served little to calm Sabo down, but it did show him that their situation wasn't quite as dire as he might have feared at first. This was still Paradise, after all. Not every prison was enforced with Seastone at every turn, and hardly anybody was truly equipped to deal with fighters of their level. Escape wouldn't be too difficult as long as they pulled it off before Roy and Jemima knocked them out again.
Sabo froze only for a second before chuckling bitterly. "Oh, no," he drawled cynically as he turned around to glare at Ace, who'd stood up once again. "You've lost any right to tell me to do shit. It's not like you ever gave me that courtesy, remember?"
Ace opened his mouth as if to protest, but Sabo deemed it more likely that he would once again spout offensive nonsense he did not have the patience to deal with. "You wanna stay here and play happy engineer with them? Fine. Go ahead. I'm not stopping you. But I'm sure as hell not gonna hole up here and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist like you idiots are."
Unfortunately, before Sabo could go through with his announcement and break down that annoying door, Ace asked softly, "So, even if they don't want to help you, you're going to make them join you on your crusade against the government?"
"Crusade?" Something about the way Ace had pronounced that word rubbed Sabo the wrong way. "If you mean that I plan on having them join the effort of disposing a corrupt government, abolishing slavery and overall improving the life of everybody on this planet, then yes. I'm going to make them join my crusade."
"For the greater good." Ace almost whispered.
"Yes," Sabo pronounced, cautiously relieved that his brother finally seemed to get it.
Ace silently looked at him for a long time, his expression unreadable.
"When did you turn into your father, Sabo?"
Rhythmic thuds against the wooden planks. Chains rattling against each other. A rasping cough.
She pressed closer against the wall, trying to make herself as small as possible in the hopes that the cannon's large silhouette would hide her.
The footsteps came to a halt. Mutterings she couldn't pick up. A crate being cracked open with a knife.
Her heart virtually jumped into her throat, her blood rushing through her ears so loudly she was sure the intruder must have heard it, too.
"Not here, either," the man cursed. In a fit of rage, he emptied the crate he'd opened onto the floor.
Her hand clenched around the bottle she'd picked up earlier when one iron cannonball rolled close to her, her body tensing in anticipation.
Cursing quietly, the man moved on. The footsteps became quieter with each step. The door fell shut.
Zandra released the breath she had barely realised she was holding and slowly moved her limbs to get rid of the frightening cold that had gripped her.
They had gotten complacent.
Zandra could still remember the time when their crew had been young – times when they were defeated, islands they avoided because the crews ruling over them were far too strong to even think about fighting, the concessions, monetary and otherwise, that Francis sometimes had to make to allow the crew to escape with their lives intact.
And then, the brats had happened.
Suddenly, the sea wasn't dangerous anymore. Fights could be challenging, but in the end, their lives were always protected if shit hit the fan. There were no such things as crews they couldn't defeat, fighters that were too powerful for any of them to take on.
The devil brats simply pounded all obstacles into the ground with a force they really shouldn't possess.
But now, the three brats were somewhere lost at sea, and the rest of the crew was under attack because those idiots just couldn't resist gaining higher and higher bounties on their heads. Really, what had they expected? That sailing the Grand Line was easy? That there was nobody who could match them in strength anymore?
Maybe it was time to leave.
Zandra carefully put down the bottle now that she wasn't in need of a weapon immediately and opened the gun port. It wasn't like it was actually blocked by the cannon since they never really used them – they had far more powerful human weapons to replace them by now. Still, she'd never thought to be grateful for the fact until she needed a way out of the ship without using the door.
It wasn't too far down into the water. It would be uncomfortable, of course, getting completely wet this late into the evening, but it wasn't like she had a choice or anything. She would just have to bear with it until she made it to town and hopefully managed to rent herself a room without catching the attention of whoever was attacking their ship.
While it certainly wouldn't be easy given the apparent skill their enemies had captured the ship with, if there was one thing Zandra knew how to do, it was how to disappear in a crowd. It would be doable.
Carefully, she manoeuvred one leg after the other through the gap, grimacing at the tight fit. For once, she was more than happy to have inherited the tall, but much less curvy traits from her father's side of the family, even if it had once earned her the reputation of a tomboy in spite of her behaviour.
Her arms immediately felt slightly strained when her entire weight fell onto them. For those few seconds until she was certain she could let herself drop into the water without anyone noticing, though, she would easily hold out.
"Ah, Francis!" Zandra's eyes snapped towards the railing she could barely make out above her. "Finally! I've been dying to meet you at last."
A thumping sound interrupted the footsteps she had absent-mindedly perceived before. "Gray Flake, I presume," Francis' voice replied in a strange tone.
"Very clever," the unknown voice snarled back, presumably the leader of this group. "Very clever, indeed. But you've always been too clever for your own good, haven't you? We all underestimated you. Barton's little wallflower."
Francis didn't answer, but Zandra could virtually picture the look on his face. If there was one thing Francis hated, it was being associated with his father in any shape or form.
"Like, remember that time when you stole my very best assassin and ran off to the East Blue?" The rage in the man's voice was barely contained. "Oh, I'll certainly never forget it. I don't think I've ever expressed my proper admiration for that particular stunt, have I?"
Zandra loosened her grip on the gunport and almost silently dropped into the sea.
Even at an island's shore, the Grand Line's currents were to be reckoned with. Still, she didn't dare to resurface too often to reaffirm her course and mostly relied on her gut feeling, which fortunately didn't mislead her too badly this time.
Her hair was wet and heavy when she finally dragged her feet out of the water, shivering with the cold. The sounds of the nearby town were still too far away to be anything more than muted and the light of the moon was far stronger than any man-lit lights.
After only a brief moment of respite, Zandra started moving again. The forest growing close to the shore didn't look particularly appealing to an urban child like her, but it wasn't like she had much of a choice.
She never had a choice. Or not a good choice, at least, just like she was never the good choice.
Ivy was the one people chose. Ivy was the one people wanted to talk to, who knew to be the perfect picture of modesty and grace when society required it of her, who was shy and quiet and compliant when the occasion warranted it.
Ivy was the one their father listened to, who he would have given the world to as long as she finally agreed to that one request of his. A request that would have secured her a marriage far beyond her station and would have offered her a comfortable life to the end of her days without the need of ever lifting a finger.
Ivy was the one who could rebel without consequences, who her father would never seriously get angry with no matter how stupid and downright dangerous her actions were. And Ivy was the one who caught the eye of big-shot pirates with her skills and sense for adventure.
Zandra hardly even noticed the vicious branches trying and failing to scratch any bit of exposed skin bloody. Her clothes, however, sadly weren't quite as resistant to damage.
She entered the port city through a shadowy alleyway, leaving wet footprints behind her. Grimacing she leaned against the brick wall and took in her sorry state.
Looking this way, she certainly couldn't enter the streets now and hope not to catch attention. It would probably be best if she searched for a secluded, easily protected street in this alley and waited until the morning to disappear.
Goode stood at a food stand opposite to her dark little alley.
Zandra hesitated, then turned around and headed deeper into the shadows.
"Maybe you're trying to light a fire to warm your icy heart."
Despite stubbing her toe on a stone, Zandra continued walking silently.
"Geez, no need to try and bite my head off." What a weak reprimand. "I just wanted to check up on you."
Her steps unwittingly slowed down.
"It doesn't get better." A blanket softly dragged up to her shoulders. "But you'll get used to it." An awkward laugh. "I don't really know if that's good or bad."
Her feet stopped moving.
Zandra bit her lip almost hard enough to draw blood as she screamed at herself to continue walking, to hide, to fucking finally leave. She didn't have that sense of adventure – didn't feel the sea calling to her like many pirates romantically claimed it did. What was she still doing on a ship sailing steadily to its doom?
She turned around and walked back towards the market's lights, picking up that stupid stone along the way.
Fortunately, Goode hadn't moved much, chatting amiably with the salesman. The mood would have certainly turned a lot fiercer if they'd gotten to haggling over whatever Goode had his eyes set upon. But that would have to wait.
A small, very sadistic smile spread on Zandra's face for a second as she chucked her stone into the air only to catch it, trying to get a feel for her projectile. Another second of aiming, a steady breath and suddenly, her target was rubbing the back of his head with a grimace.
After stepping into the light just long enough for Goode to spot her, Zandra disappeared back into the alleyway, shoving her hands into her pockets.
What was taking him so long? Zandra irritably clenched her fists tightly. She should have just left. Why couldn't she just leave?
"What's up? What're you doing off the ship?" Goode was just tall enough that Zandra had to look up at him. She didn't like it. Maybe it was an embarrassing remnant of her wealthy upbringing, but she much preferred looking down at people.
"Gray Flake," she said tonelessly, returning her gaze to her hands. "He's got Francis. Dunno who else was up there. Dunno who's all dead."
A weird sound tore from Goode's throat. "Fuck," he cursed. Growling, Zandra noted. He was growling. "Gray Flake himself?"
"As far as I can tell," Zandra shrugged. "I didn't see him myself, but Francis recognised him." She looked up at Goode's torn expression – torn between fury, worry, a sense of hurry and a very primal, deeply-seated thirst for a revenge.
She wondered what Ivy would say if she could see him right now.
"Didn't see him coming," she stated more than asked. If either Francis or Goode had had any word about them, she would've known.
"No." He pinched his nose aggravatedly before grabbing her wrist. "Find Dante and let him know what's going on. Get him somewhere safe. They're sure to go after him again."
"This city's too big," Zandra snapped. "How on earth am I supposed to find him?"
"You're resourceful, I'm sure you'll figure something out," Goode replied with an annoying curl of his upper lip. Zandra was very tempted to smash his face in. "If you've got the time, try to find Finn in the forest. I could use the back up."
Goode turned away to walk down the alley towards their ship, but now, it was Zandra's turn to grab him by the shoulder. "You're going on your own? You gotta be suicidal."
"Well, I got a best friend to save, don't I?" He flashed her a charming smile.
Her frown deepened in return, but she reluctantly let him walk away. "Try not to die, idiot." Why did she not just leave?
Despite herself, she continued watching his retreating back.
Franky rhythmically tapped his screwdriver against the metal plating he'd only recently encased his left leg in. The synthetic skin meant to cover it in the future was still merrily growing in the laboratory, likely already rotted by the time he got out of here if he even got the chance to access it with how things stood now.
"Can't hear you! Lalalalala!" he sang cheerfully, mildly regretful that his space was too limited for a little jig. Metal hit against metal. Shouting reached his ears only in its muffled, definitely indecipherable form through the barred door to his little hideout, originally meant for peace and quiet to perform his … more questionable experiments.
His screwdriver rang loudly against his leg again. "The beat's too loud and catching, lalalalala!" he sang again, the volume increasing significantly to tune out the unwanted interruptions. This was all turning out even more bothersome than Franky had expected when the three brothers had first arrived.
It was fortunate he'd been on watch duty again when the submarine returned with news from the outside world. It was unfortunate that it had apparently borne exactly the news Franky hadn't wanted anyone to discover.
Still, when he saw them turn on Ace and Sabo, he knew he had to act fast. So, despite the little brat's protests, he'd grabbed Luffy by the neck and dragged him to this little hideout of his. It didn't matter how much he whined – at least the two of them were safe for now. They could worry about saving Ace and Sabo and getting out of this cursed island later.
The brat didn't seem to get the message, though. "Can I go now, Franky? Pleeeeease! I'm hungry. And I gotta help Ace and Sabo!"
"Lalalalala!" Franky sang again, slightly desperate by now. "No sound will ever reach my ears, lala!"
Luffy pouted, and damn, if that wasn't one of the most dangerous weapons he'd ever come across. But Franky would stay strong. He certainly wouldn't be cowed by some little kid again, even if Sabo clearly was a freak of nature.
"If you don't let me go outside," Luffy announced suddenly, "I'm not going to take you with us when we leave."
Franky's arm halted mid-motion, though the clanging continued in his head. He had not expected the little brat to go this far, considering how fond he'd seemed of Franky so far. This wasn't good.
He needed to get off this island as quickly as possible to make his way back to Water 7. Who knew what had happened after Franky had tried to stop the Government from taking Tom? Were that idiot Iceburg, that hag Kokoro and the brave Yokozuna alright? Were they safe from the Government?
But still, even if Luffy had promised to take him off this island, he couldn't let the brat go now. The kid was what – ten years old? And he wanted to take this island of lunatics out for his blood on alone? He'd be knocked out within seconds, if not worse.
If he let Luffy go now, he might as well resign himself to a few more years in this stupid prison, and he certainly wasn't willing to do so no matter how much its inhabitants might have done for him.
Some of his shock and worry at the kid's threat must have shown on his face as Luffy's eyes grew wide. "No, I didn't mean it! I promise! I'd never leave my nakama behind!"
There it was again. "I never agreed to join your crew, Strawhat-bro." Though it didn't seem like that bad an idea the longer he spent in the boys' presence, even if Sabo still gave him the chills.
"But you have to," Luffy insisted, as he had in the past. His stubbornness was kind of cute even if it grated on Franky's nerves. "You're my shipwright. You can't not join my crew."
Again, an argument he'd heard millions of times during the last days. If nothing else, Luffy could wear anyone down with sheer persistence. "I told you, I can't. I've got stuff to do." Who knew what kind of trouble Iceburg had gotten into? And maybe, just maybe they might have news of Tom. "Besides, I'm sure you've got enough shipwrights on your crew."
"We don't," Luffy replied readily, their discussion almost rehearsed by now. Next, he'd argue that Franky was the best shipwright in the entire world, so even if they'd had shipwrights already, he'd still want Franky on the crew, so he could build the fastest ship, the coolest weapons, and kick ass with the rest of their crew. It did sound kind of fun, but Franky knew he had to decline. Too much of his future was unpredictable right now to make such a commitment.
But curiously enough, Luffy remained silent, his face strangely … contemplative. It was almost disturbing to see the usually energetic, active brat downright pensive. A shiver of apprehension rolled down Franky's spine.
"I know," he finally said in a strange tone, looking straight into Franky's eyes with a seriousness that didn't belong on such a young face. "You're worried about your family. And you're scared of the Government, especially after what happened to Tom."
The temperature in the room seemed to plummet as Franky was torn between incredulity, well-earned paranoia and rage at the implicit threat. "How do you know about that?" he finally growled through clenched teeth, settling on the last. Was he a spy? His already less than stellar opinion of the World Government dropped even further as he contemplated the implications of that suspicion. Who would do that to a fucking kid?
"I only know what you told me," Luffy replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, which it wasn't. Franky had never told anyone what had happened before his near-death experience. "When Pluton was found in Alabasta, and you had to change Sunny to fight against it."
So much about this statement didn't make any sense at all, so Franky stubbornly decided to focus on the little tidbit that did. Panic settled in. "Pluton was found? When? Why haven't I heard of this?" If this was really true, then Iceburg might be in even greater danger than he'd anticipated.
"It hasn't been, not yet," Luffy answered calmly. "But it will be." Franky didn't understand how the usually energetic brat could be so calm and quiet while discussing the destruction of the world as they knew it. "I'm from the future."
Franky had so many questions.
He selected one very brief one. "How?"
"There's a fourth weapon."
Franky's jaw virtually dropped to the floor. "A … a fourth … There's three more of these things? You gotta be kidding me, Strawhat!" he exclaimed, his heart racing in his chest. The thought of Pluton was enough to let him rest uneasy at night, but three more weapons with a capability comparable to it … that was sick.
"Yeah, but I thought you knew about two at least," Luffy said sheepishly, tilting his head to the left. "But I guess Robin might have told you about them on Fishman island." The look on his face turned wistful.
Swallowing almost felt painful as Franky forced his mouth shut, contemplating the impossible child in front of him. Somehow, despite how ridiculous and fantastical Luffy's claim was, Franky didn't doubt the truth of it for a second. However, that didn't make it any easier to process.
Robin … Nico Robin? How was she involved in this? Tom had always been wary of her, but Luffy spoke of her fondly. Who was she to the child, no, the man sitting comfortably lost in thought? Was she a nakama, family as Luffy had dubbed him immediately upon encountering for what had been the first time for Franky? Had he once … would he consider her a comrade as well?
He forcefully pushed any thoughts of the troublesome raven to the side. There were more important matters hidden in Luffy's sparse words. He was Luffy's shipwright. He'd built a weapon on par with Pluton itself to counter the awful force he'd hoped would never be found. A clash between those two … What had the world looked like when Luffy had left it behind?
Pure terror spread an icy cold through his veins, and some of it must have shown on his face. "Shishishishishi! Don't look so worried, Franky!" Luffy jumped to his feet, looking every bit the cheerful, innocent child Franky had thought him to be for so long. "That's all in the past! Nothing's gonna happen here!"
The bright grin dimmed to a strangely meaningful smile as Luffy put his strawhat firmly upon his head. "I'm not gonna let it. I'll save everyone, I promise."
He held out his small hand for Franky to take, expression turning mischievous. "But I need my shipwright for that! Will you help me, Franky?"
Franky didn't even need to think about it, really. As frightening as the future suddenly seemed, Franky had never been one to back down from a challenge. And neither was Luffy, it appeared. One child against the world … "Of course, I will, captain."
Bepo didn't like the forest on this island. He'd always liked forests – maybe it was part of being a mink, or maybe it was something that uniquely defined him. If he was honest, it didn't really matter to him when he was in a forest. Something about being so close, so uniquely entangled with nature just washed all his worries away, like the sea did for Law.
It was a pine forest. The trees didn't stand to close to each other, but their crowns were majestic and perfect and green, and both their old needles covering the ground and the freshly grown green painting creative shadows over their faces emitted their unique herbal scent, refreshing and calming all the same.
It was strangely peaceful. But quiet. So, so quiet. Bepo was reminded of the townspeople Finn had spoken to. A haunted forest, they said, unnatural, eerie, dangerous. Despite the otherwise nice atmosphere, Bepo couldn't quite disagree with them as the silence was unnerving. And the absence of any and all animals was certainly worrisome. This was the Grand Line – maybe this was a unique perk of this island? Maybe there was something on this island that allowed only humans to live, and was poisonous to every other living being?
A shiver went down his back. Not a good thought. Maybe he should have stayed on the ship. He didn't want to die on a strange, exclusively human island. "Please don't kill me," he whispered into the air. He still hadn't managed to return to his home. He couldn't die now.
A hand grasped his shoulder. Bepo grew still with terror. Was this it? Was this his final moment on this wonderful earth that had Luffy and Law in it? Was this the moment where his short life would start flashing before his eyes, where he would regret everything he hadn't had the chance to do, to discover?
"You okay, Bepo?" Bepo exhaled. The hand on his shoulder felt warm, supportive, not the ice-cold grip of death that it had been mere moments ago. He wasn't alone. He was safe. The island wouldn't get the chance to eat him as long as he stayed with their group.
With relief, Bepo looked up at the teenager next to him, watching him with worried eyes. Finn. Law's new friend. And Law didn't mind Bepo going with Finn to the island. Because Law trusted Finn, which meant Bepo could trust him, too. "I think the island's eating everything that's not human," he whispered. "That's why it's so quiet." He looked around cautiously. "Please don't let it eat me."
Finn smiled a slightly crooked smile at him. "Nobody's going to eat you on my watch. Don't worry." Bepo wasn't worried. After all, they were nakama, and even if he was scared of this forest, he wouldn't let it eat Finn either.
A slight breeze ruffled Finn's hair and Bepo's fur, reinforcing the pine scent and … something else. "We're not alone in the forest," Bepo immediately said, his nose twitching. Finn's smile dropped off his face, his eyes narrowing as he tried to smell what Bepo had. They both turned south at the same time, the rest of their group following suit. A couple of tense seconds passed in silence.
Then, a rumbling sound broke the stillness of the forest. The ground started shaking underneath them. An earthquake? Finn took the wooden staff off his back, dropping into a ready stance. Bepo followed suit as Ivy drew her guns, almost losing her balance in the process.
The roots came alive.
They shot towards them, wrapping around their ankles, their wrists, their torsos, their necks, fixing their bodies into place to leave no room for movement. Already, some of their comrades had been captured as Bepo tugged on one of the roots around his ankle, trying to tug it free. Instead, more roots appeared out of nowhere and wrapped around his busy hands.
The forest was going to eat him. He really shouldn't have come.
A sharp blade snapped his restraints, a dark hand hauling him back to his feet a second later. Just as quickly as he'd come, Cameron was gone again, dancing out of the way of some roots trying to grasp him until he was back to back with Finn, who had his eyes closed as he delivered sharp blow after sharp blow to their attackers.
It wasn't roots, Bepo suddenly realised. They were too bright, too green, and the ground wasn't broken as it should have been if they were fighting against roots.
Instead of rolling back to avoid another one of those bright green things, Bepo caught it in his hand when the next one attacked. He tugged on it to no avail. It was some sort of vine, and it certainly had to have roots that went deep. But where did it come from?
The ground, which used to be covered with dead needles was now steadily being swallowed by the green vines, growing at a speed that could in no way be natural. And he had smelled other people in the forest just before the attack. Which meant …
"Finn!" Bepo shouted, taking off towards the south again. "They're this way!" The teenager's eyes snapped open in an instant, following Bepo immediately with Cameron protecting his back. The faster they found the people behind the vines' strange behaviour, the sooner the rest of their group would be safe.
The vines didn't follow him as he got out of range of the attack. In fact, if he couldn't still hear the sounds of the battle behind them, he would have believed he'd imagined this whole thing. Once again, the forest seemed completely still, as eerily peaceful as ever.
Yet it all was only a hardly believable illusion when Bepo could smell the humans trying to surround the three of them. Without hesitation, he sprinted to his right, jumped up high and delivered a sharp kick to one of their opponents. "Hiyaah!" he shouted, falling into his familiar stance.
It wasn't the forest trying to eat him. It was just people being mean and stupid again.
His first victim stared up at him from the ground, raising his hands in surrender, his eyes wide with disbelief. Bepo barely swallowed the urge to apologise. Law always insisted that it wasn't his fault that people had never heard of minks before. So, no apologising.
"Bepo, watch out!" Finn shouted from his left even as he knocked his own opponent unconscious. Bepo swerved in his direction just in time for the sneak attack to fail, his attacker stumbling off balance as he missed Bepo with his knife. Three kicks in sharp succession threw him backwards, groaning on the ground while Bepo was barely out of breath yet.
The fight was surprisingly going very much in their favour compared to the shameful beginning of it. There weren't really that many stupid people trying to ambush them – in fact, there were too few of them. Bepo frowned. He could have sworn he'd smelt more than the ten he could currently spot lying around in varying degrees of pain or trying to best Finn and Cameron.
He tried to detect them with his nose again, but a strong herbal scent filled his nose again. Before, he'd thought it was simply the scent of the pines, but now, it seemed too strong, appearing too sudden to have possibly been present all along. What was it?
Before Bepo could investigate the mystery scent further, though, vines started attacking again, from one second to the other, catching all three of them off guard. Bepo heard Cameron's colourful curses as he tried to tug his wrists free to no avail. The remaining stupid people they'd been fighting were unsurprisingly spared, their stances relaxing with relief. "Thanks, cap," one muttered before kneeling down next to one of their fallen comrades.
A strange fluttering noise came from behind Bepo, the herbal scent increasing tenfold. "You shouldn't have let them get so far away in the first place," a melodious voice scolded. "I was still busy with the others." Soft footsteps started right next to Bepo, the fluttering noise suddenly gone.
He looked to his right, and just for a second, he stopped breathing. That human … that being had to be the most beautiful one he'd ever seen in his entire life. Certainly, more beautiful than some of the minks he could vaguely remember from his childhood. Even more beautiful than sweet Amaryllis with her big blue eyes and heavenly food.
She was small – maybe of a height with Luffy and dressed from neck to toe in tiny green leaves of all kinds, forming a coat that couldn't have been made by any hand, no matter how talented. Her dark brown skin and olive-green eyes reinforced the ethereal feeling her unique clothing inspired. Her dark hair shimmered in the sun like moss just after a refreshing rain, done up perfectly in a braid with tiny flowers woven into the strands.
The most eye-catching part of her, though, were her wings, which uniquely betrayed her as non-human. Which made sense, Bepo told himself quietly, because no human had the right to look this perfect with their furless skin and disrespect for nature. But this woman with her blue and green and golden wings, more colourful and impressive than any butterfly, this woman was nature incarnate.
Their eyes met, and she frowned. Even her frown was beautiful, though it had no right to be. Law frowned all the time when he concentrated, and Bepo thought it would be better for him if he relaxed and laughed more. It made him look less of a walking corpse as he so often did.
"What are you looking at?" she snapped. Her voice was still pretty.
"I'm sorry," Bepo muttered instinctively, unable to look away. She scoffed and proceeded to ignore him.
"Which of you idiots is in charge here?" she bellowed at Finn and Cameron wrapped up in vines a couple of feet away from Bepo.
"I am," Finn answered calmly without hesitation even as he tugged futilely on the vines. "Is this a Devil Fruit power?"
"I'm asking the questions here," she growled, grinding her teeth together. Bepo'd never seen such a pretty smile. "Tom. Knife. Now," she commanded one of the men behind her, stretching out her delicate hand in expectation.
"There you go, cap," the man replied light-heartedly, going down on one knee to offer it to her. Her gaze instantly turned blood-thirsty.
"You think I can't reach the knife if you don't kneel down in front of me? Do you?" she shouted at him, punching him in a very sensitive area. Bepo winced in sympathy even though he deserved it for offending her. "You think I'm too small to do any harm?"
"Course not, cap," Tom groaned, lying on the ground in pain. She looked like an avenging angel next to him.
"Good," she said curtly, turning back to Finn. "I don't want to hear any last words from you aside from answers to the questions I ask. You say something I don't like, you lose an eye." She positioned the newly acquired knife far too close to Finn's face, her stance unbelievably graceful.
"What?!" Finn yelped, leaning back a bit.
"Stupid pirates," she sighed, moving closer in response. "So stupid you might as well be deaf." She poised her knife in front of Finn, aiming for his eye …
"Where did he go?" she shrieked, looking around the clearing in disbelief. She looked anywhere but where Finn had been just a second ago, which was about as stupid as she'd accused the second commander of being mere moments ago. But Bepo was glad for it. Even if she was really, really pretty, he still didn't want Finn to lose an eye. The aura of deadliness had done nothing to decrease her beauty, though.
Unnoticed by the forest goddess, a poodle crawled out from underneath the collapsed pile of vines, transforming back into Finn in the blink of an eye. Before she or the few men around her could react, he'd disarmed her and tripped her, pinning her with his staff mere moments later. Bepo struggled against his vines a bit. How could he be so cruel?
"Right. Questions," Finn snapped sarcastically. "Why are you attacking us?"
"How are you even doing this?" She looked so vulnerable on the ground. How could Finn even think about attacking her?
"Doing what?" Finn asked sceptically. "Asking questions? I open my mouth and talk, just like you demonstrated to this stupid pirate."
She stared at him in disbelief. "You're immune. I've never met anyone that's immune to this whole crap. What are you?"
"I'm Finn. Nice to meet you," he deadpanned. "Does this mean we can talk like civilized people now?"
She hesitated. Understandably so, considering how rudely Finn was threatening her. What was wrong with him? "Okay," she finally answered, somewhat dubiously. "Let's talk like civilized people."
Finn scrutinized her for a while longer before removing his staff and extending his hand. She took it gracefully and let him pull her back to her feet, despite him being the one who'd thrown her to the ground before. Bepo tugged at the vines restraining him again.
Finn's eyes flickered to him at his movement. Bepo made sure to glare back, earning a surprised glance in return. What was there to be surprised about? Did he really think Bepo would be fine with his actions just now? "Would you be so kind to let my friends go now?" he fortunately questioned. Bepo was starting to get quite sick of those restraints.
The forest goddess looked rather amused at his suggestion. "I could, but I really don't think you want me to," she replied. "My men know not to act without orders. Your two friends, on the other hand," she continued, a strange emphasis on the word friend, "look quite ready to murder you for touching me."
Murder was a bit drastic, Bepo thought. But scratching him up a bit would probably be a good idea. Finn was a good man, after all – he really couldn't understand his actions from a few moments ago. It was sad to see him so misguided. How could he have attacked someone so innocent and perfect?
"Huh," Finn exhaled. "You're right. That would explain the killing intent in this clearing." His eyes swept from Bepo and Cameron back to the woman standing opposite to him. Her men moved slightly closer to her, hands on their weapons. "Devil fruit power?" he asked again.
"Yep," she replied. "Really annoying one, too. This is the first intelligent conversation I've had in weeks. Everyone else just goes braindead the instant they look at me."
"Impressive," Finn granted. "A mythical Zoan, I'd say. What're you supposed to be? An overgrown butterfly?"
"Very funny," she replied dryly. "My guess is a fairy, but it's not like this thing comes with a manual or anything. All I can tell you is that my hair stays absolutely perfect no matter how windy it is, those leaves are stuck to my skin like glue, and stuff grows like crazy when I'm there."
"How about turning back, if it's annoying you this much?" Finn suggested. Bepo still couldn't understand how they were suddenly talking so civilly. Hadn't Finn threatened her just a few minutes ago?
"Gee, thanks! I never would have thought about it! That's why I'm still stuck like this after four annoying weeks!" She crossed her arms petulantly. "Anyways, let's get to those questions I've been dying to ask you." Her sweet smile carried a wonderfully deadly note.
"Ooo-kay," Finn replied, raising his eyebrows sceptically. "I'll start. What's your name?"
"Technically, you already started with my devil fruit, so it's my turn," she countered childishly. Finn muttered something under his breath which was likely rude and entirely inappropriate. "Where's Roy?"
Finn didn't blink. "Who?"
"Who?" the woman repeated dangerously. "Are you fucking kidding me? You kidnapped him, like you kidnap men and women left and right however you damn well please! Without even wasting a single thought on the people they leave behind! And now you're going to act like you don't even know what I'm talking about?"
"I really don't," Finn cut in rudely. His voice was like metal grinding against metal in comparison to her melodious tones. "Look, lady, I think you got the wrong crew. We've only been in the Grand Line for, like, three months. When was this Roy kidnapped?"
"Oh," she visibly deflated. "Five years ago."
"Five years ago," Finn repeated. Why would he repeat her perfect words with that annoying voice of his? This was downright blasphemy. "And you're still looking for him."
"Of course I am!" she snapped. "He's practically my brother. I'm not about to leave him at the mercy of some pirates."
"That's admirable," Finn conceded, as if it was ever out of question that the forest goddess was anything but right. "But it's been five years. A lot can happen in five years."
"Stop dancing around the subject, boy. I know that reasonably, he should be dead," she rolled her beautiful eyes. "But I've done some research into this group. They have patterns in how they're moving around, who they take and what they do with them. Everyone they've taken has shown up again on different islands, doing odd jobs for them, even Roy. I think they're brainwashing them into loyalty."
"Sounds awesome," Finn dryly replied. "And you think they'll show up here soon?"
"Definitely," she nodded. "They usually come in small submarines because their main ship's the size of an island. Literally. Tom caught sightings of it a couple of days ago, so now we only have to wait for them to show up."
"An island – like a literal, moving island?" Bepo's eyes widened at Finn's question. For a brief moment, he even forgot to be mad at him. Had they finally found the trace of the captain's that they'd entered this forest to possibly discover?
"You don't sound as surprised as you should be," the forest goddess remarked.
"Well, they, erm, kind of took our captains a few days back," Finn admitted, scratching the back of his head. "How about we team up? You got some knowledge we could use and, no offense, you look like you could use some more firepower."
"None taken," she replied light-heartedly. "Like I said, it's refreshing to work with someone who can actually think for themselves unlike those braindead fools." She waved at her comrades behind them, who didn't even twitch.
"I'm Chloe, by the way," she continued, holding out her hand.
Bepo really didn't like the smile on Finn's face when he shook it.
"It's pretty," Luffy said, his eyes going wide. "And shiny," he added, his expression going dark. "Nami would have liked it."
"She would have," Robin agreed softly.
"What does it say?" Luffy asked with a curiosity he didn't really experience anymore, but felt he had to show anyways. Nothing was as interesting anymore as it had been. A bit sentimentally, he poked the shiny golden surface.
He never heard Robin's answer as everything turned to gold.
Franky was his shipwright again. Luffy grinned. Now nobody and nothing could stop them. They'd sail to Water 7 and kick everyone's asses if they even thought about getting on Iceburg's nerves. Franky'd build the Sunny again – cheerful Sunny that had always been their home more than anything else, not the weapon they had to turn her into. No, cheerful, happy Sunny.
"Come on, let's go get Ace and Sabo and get out of here!" Luffy announced in good cheer, sauntering back to the door.
Franky still looked at him as sceptically as he had before the revelation. "You do realise that there's people out there trying to throw us into a cell with them, right?"
"Yeah, but I'll just put them to sleep for a bit," Luffy promised. "Nobody's gonna get hurt. I know you like the people here."
"You'll put them to sleep?" Right, Franky didn't know about Haki yet. It was so weird having his friend back, yet somehow not. But it was still Franky. They could always build new memories together.
"Yup. There's this thing called Conqueror's Haki that I can use. Sabo can explain it later," he quickly rushed out. "I'm awful at explaining stuff."
"Eh, you're good enough, bro," Franky replied, his words as nice and encouraging as they always were when he was in the right mood. "I wouldn't have believed any of that time travel stuff if blondie'd told me about it."
"Sabo's not that bad," Luffy denied but didn't press the issue. Considering the way Sabo'd acted since they'd arrived on this island, it wasn't too surprising that Franky wasn't his biggest fan. They'd have more than enough time to get to know each other again when they were out of here. "So, let's go?"
"Fine," Franky sighed, pushing away the table that was blocking the entrance before unlocking the door. "I'm not going crazy, am I?"
Luffy tilted his head to the side. "Why would you think that?"
Franky didn't answer his question, which was weird, because Luffy hadn't intended this to be a question without an answer. A retrospective question? A retrievable question? A rainbow question? Luffy nodded to himself. "That wasn't a rainbow question."
Franky looked at him. "Yup, I guess I'm definitely going mad if there's a thing like rainbow questions."
This all got complicated and confusing really quick, so Luffy decided he'd just go ahead and knock everyone out before they continued talking. Nothing was more annoying than people interrupting a conversation with his nakama by stumbling clumsily into his path. "Why do you think you're crazy?" he repeated.
Franky still looked at the comatose bodies strewn around them, hesitating a few moments before following them. "So, I guess that was Conqueror's Haki?" Luffy nodded. "That felt really strange. Like I stood up to quickly."
"It was just a light dose, and you're my nakama, so you're strong enough to withstand that. If I really meant it, you'd probably get dizzy." Luffy shut his mouth. He didn't really like talking about Conqueror's Haki. No matter how useful it could be in a fight with uneven sides, and no matter how commonly it was used in the second half of the Grand Line, it still felt wrong. He didn't want to conquer other people's will. He wanted them to be as free as he was himself.
"Oh," Franky replied. A strange silence fell between them as Franky led the way towards the cells while Luffy knocked out a couple of people every now and then. "Any other crazy powers I should know about?"
"Not really right now," Luffy replied instantly. He wasn't good at explaining this stuff anyways, so why bother now? "We're teaching some stuff to the crew, so you can learn with them if you want." Though Franky'd never unlocked Haki the last time around, it really couldn't hurt. It was always nice to see his nakama become more badass.
His brief good cheer all but evaporated as they got closer to Ace and Sabo. They felt … not good. Really not good. "I think something's wrong with Ace and Sabo," Luffy said quietly as he tried hard not to let their anger influence him.
Observation Haki was a strange thing. On a surface level, it increased your awareness of your surroundings. As you progressed in proficiency, your awareness increased to an extent that you could predict an opponent's moves until it seemed like you were looking into the future as Katakuri was. But there was a part to it that nobody had taught Luffy ever, a part that he'd only discovered whilst reliving his childhood with his brothers.
Maybe it was because they practiced it a lot together. Maybe it was because they knew each other so well that Haki only brought them closer together, reinforced their bond. Maybe it was the Will of D, which Luffy still didn't understand, but what he did know was that he could feel their emotions intimately when they were close enough and he himself focused enough. As it was now, he could barely differentiate between his emotions and theirs.
Luffy clenched his jaw and his fists at the same time and started walking faster. Why did he spend so much time talking to Franky? He should have gone out immediately, looked for his brothers and made a break for it. But no, he had to waste time chatting with Franky and …
No. Spending time with his nakama was never wasted time. Abruptly, Luffy blocked his Observation Haki more thoroughly than he had in a while. He couldn't let them influence his feelings like that, even if it did make him mad that they were arguing this intensely. They were brothers. They shouldn't get this mad at each other. A little mad sometimes, but not this hot-burning-let's-destroy-everything-mad.
Luffy wasn't surprised when he arrived in front of their cell, looked through the fascinating translucent rock, and saw utter destruction.
Ace's upper body was bare, his skin littered with small flames running across it, not noticing or being bothered by being on fire. In fact, he was probably doing it on purpose, so Sabo couldn't just touch him without thinking.
Sabo's goggles had fallen around his neck, the right side of it broken. His shirt was partially singed, as was his hair, but it barely seemed to bother him as the shiny black of Armarment Haki spread further and further across his body, covering arms, legs and even part of his face by now.
The room itself was … well, it was lucky that there wasn't any wood in there. As such, there were only occasional scorch marks and crumbled rocks lying around, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. "What the …" Franky muttered next to him.
Sabo was breathing heavily, glaring at Ace who looked surprisingly composed aside from the frown on his brow. "I'm nothing like my father," Sabo hissed. Luffy's eyes widened a fraction. Ace had said that? "But you," he continued, voice turning into a growl, "you're just as stupid and reckless as the headless chicken that Roger was. No wonder he was only Pirate King for a year."
He hadn't just said that. Luffy paled. "He didn't just say that," he whispered out loud, but that didn't turn it into the truth.
Ace's eyes surprisingly only narrowed a fraction. "Wow. Seems like you inherited his cruelty, too. Are you really sure you're better than a Celestial Dragon?" Sabo launched himself at him with a snarl.
They both dropped to the ground before they came even close to touching each other.
Blood was rushing through Luffy's ears. It didn't sound like idyllic, crashing waves as it often did. If anything, it was like the daunting waves the worst storms in the New World kicked up.
They hadn't just said that.
They laid still on the ground like dolls whose strings were cut. No finger or toe even twitched.
"They didn't just say that," Luffy said again, though no ears but his were listening. Franky was unconscious next to Ground Zero.
"They didn't just say that."
Nobody answered him.
Hello again, my loyal readers! Unfortunately, I'm not here to stay. This little piece was merely a reprieve from writing my thesis, so I won't be back until July at the earliest.
Still, I hope you've enjoyed the chapter, even though it's been such a long time and you've probably forgotten about all the characters. Sorry again, but life kept happening and sometimes it's really hard to find the inspiration and the time to write.
Alternate chapter title: Wherein shit really hits the fan. And actually, more shit's gonna keep happening in the next chapter, because we haven't even really gotten started on the stuff that will go down on the ship. Lots of OC moments, lots of canon character moments, lots to look forward to in the next chapter (Sorry!)
And then, there's Sabo completely losing his shit. I hope this flip was somewhat understandable, though. I tried to build towards it in the last chapter and this one, so I hope it didn't come completely out of nowhere like certain other character turns in a certain other show that just showed their season finale.
I so look forward to hearing your opinions on this chapter. Even when I'm not feeling up to writing, it's always so energizing to see a new review, a new follower, a new favourite. It just really makes it fun to create stuff.
So if you're hopefully leaving a review, please give me your opinion on a couple of points that would really help me decide on the course of this story:
-) Which of the characters do you like best/would you like to see more of?
-) Are there characters you think I should kick off the crew? And, since I'm currently opening that door just in case, do you think I should strike the noname background characters and just reduce the crew to the essentials, or should the Devilspawn stay a big crew and grow to have more units?
-) Are you okay with the story having some gritty realism at some points, or would you prefer the more sunny tone that the original manga carries?
-) Just in general - what are you looking for when reading this fanfiction? What do you like/dislike?
I'm really looking forward to hearing your opinions. :)
Also, to Caraline Fisher: I'm not forgetting Brook. I'm getting there. Slowly. Very slowly. But getting there.
To marhedrarizky: Yeah, I know, Sabo longs for freedom a lot. So much that he occasionally spontaneously combusts, which is why the Mera Mera no mi fit him pretty well. So no, sorry, but he's still not getting a Devil Fruit. He's already badass without one.
To AReflectiveProjection: You know, that's a really brilliant idea. Don't know how much sense it would make that they would have Law's submarine - I mean, how would Law have gotten a submarine from a moving island - but if I find a way to kind of justify it, I might put it in here.
And thanks to all the other encouraging reviews!