Marine brothers who participated in the War of the Best
That day─ the day of Portgas D. Ace's public execution.
Around 100,000 marines were mustered, and among them were us brothers.
Luffy and Ace. And me and my brother.
At Marineford that day, there were two sets of brothers, perfect opposites of each other─
The plaza before Marine Headquarters.
With his back to the giant seagull and two characters for "Justice" painted on the castle wall, Portgas D. Ace awaited the time of his execution.
The whole port was filled with tens of thousands of elite marines and inside and outside the bay were 50 battleships.
Just below where Ace knelt on the execution platform, the Marine Headquarters' "Greatest Military Powers," the three Admirals, where positioned and in the front row facing the harbor, five members of the Ouka Shickibukai were lined up.
The scale of this collected Military Power was telling of the magnitude of opposing the Whitebeard Pirates.
Coats of "Justice" crowded the plaza, and if you looked out from the Marine Headquarters to the squads located on the left, that was where I was positioned.
"Don't let your guard down! Something could happen in the next three hours! Then it will all be over!" the Giant Vice Admiral, John Giant, reprimanded with a thunderous voice, and we marines raised our swords and responded with a shout.
With the soldier's morale raised, the leading officers also felt attentive.
After that, their hearts were undisturbed and they could calmly face the enemy.
I returned my sword to my hip and quietly took a deep breath, striving for peace of mind.
Just at that time, a voice I didn't really want to hear reached my ears.
"Whether it's over a million pirates or Devil Fruit Users, I won't retreat! I'll definitely show them!"
Without even looking back, I knew that was my little brother's voice.
That idiot. Can't he just shut up and wait for the battle?
My frivolous little brother's voice was interrupting my peace of mind, so without thinking I clicked my tongue at him.
Weeks ago, me and my brother were stationed at a branch in the West Blue when we received the summons to come to Marineford.
Ace's public execution. If this was to happen, Whitebeard was sure to come to take him back. This was a mission to meet that enemy. Those who weren't marines prepared for their duty called the summons an honorable thing.
But when I received the summons, I felt more afraid than proud. The man holding the position of Strongest in the World at that time, Whitebeard, and the Marines' Greatest Military Powers were set to clash head on. The probability of losing my life would be higher than any other mission I had experienced in the past.
My little brother also got the summons, but he was naively happy about it.
"They're not calling on just anyone. They won't call in those who can't perform or lack ability. This means headquarters values my power, Nii-chan," he lied while visiting my office at the branch.
"It's not 'Nii-chan.' How many times do I have to tell you to call me 'Commander' before you get it? Me and you are superior officer and subordinate."
I've always hated how frivolous my little brother is. He's fairly capable, but tends to show off more bravado than warranted. For the Marines' Justice that he carries on his back, from his big brother's perspective, he is a man who takes it too lightly.
Why didn't you refuse the summons? Even if you go, all you'll do is lose your life. I wanted to say that to him, but it would do no good. If I die, I die, that's just the kind of man he is.
We're not even blood related. He was the child of my step-mother when my father remarried. There was only a five years' difference in age between us, so as children we lived under the same roof, but at that time, he was an unfamiliar opponent.
I shook my head, chasing the thoughts about my little brother away. I have to focus on the battle.
In the battle that was about to begin, there was bound to be unheard of, unprecedented things happening…
As I expected, no it'd be more accurate to say my expectations were overturned, the battle's scale and aspects were incredible. Whitebeard caused a tsunami, Aokiji froze it in a second, Hawk-eyes' slashing attack ran along the frozen sea, cutting it into pieces, only to be stopped by "Diamond" Jozu.
Spears of ice, marbles of light, chunks of ice the size of small islands, and magma all came raining down.
What occurred at Marineford that day should be called a chain of natural disasters rather than a battle.
And then one more thing came raining down.
Straw Hat came raining down.
"Aaaaaaaaaaace! I'm coming for you!"
That exceptional rookie made an exceptional entrance.
Along with prisoners from Impel Down and a battleship, they fell down right into the center of the battlefield.
"Why is Straw Hat here?!"
"Shouldn't he be in Impel Down?!"
"O-oi! Look at who he's brought with him!"
Astonishment spread across the battlefield.
I have no clue as to how Straw Hat managed to break through the iron walled prison of Impel Down, but his reason for coming here was obvious. He came to save his older brother.
Inside the bay, the Whitebeard Pirates and the Marines were already fighting in close quarters and it was spreading. Luffy and the prisoners from Impel Down were thrown into this and were spurred forward by the battlefield's chaos.
"Don't come here, Luffy!" Ace screamed from the execution platform. "Go home, Luffy! Why did you come here?!"
Luffy's reply to being asked why was, "Because I'm your brother!"
Luffy was dedicated body and soul to saving his brother.
While taking hits from senior officers like Rear and Vice Admirals, while dodging attacks, Luffy kept driving forward towards his goal, the execution platform. And while the Shichibukai, Moria and Hawk-eyes, tried to arrest his advance, his allies helped him break through, moving forward towards where Ace was.
Even when he finally confronted the three admirals at the same time, Luffy's will did not waver.
"Give Ace back!"
Why? I muttered in my heart as in the melee, I swung my sword, cutting down pirate after pirate that appeared before me.
His opponents were the Admirals. The Shichibukai. In other words, fighting these people meant death. And yet he didn't run away. He didn't give up on taking back Ace. He didn't even consider failure.
Why would he go so far for a brother he's not even blood related to?
Luffy's behavior was beyond my understanding. More than his limbs stretching like rubber, his tenacious drive was foreign to me.
I heard that voice unexpectedly on the battlefield.
Somehow, past all the bellows and gunshots, that detested little brother of mine's voice reached my ears. My eyes flew towards the source of that voice and through the dust I saw my brother surrounded by pirates. He was swinging his sword at his opponents and it was connecting, but it seemed he was quite wounded. Outnumbered, he found his big brother's figure and without thinking called out for rescue.
I clicked my tongue. That wasn't something I could just say. He wasn't prepared to come to this killing ground, so this was the result.
It's not Nii-chan! Didn't I tell you to call me Commander?!
I didn't intend to save him. I had my own fights to worry about, so I turned away from him.
"Nii-chan!" I could still hear him crying out.
Don't you know? If you die, you die.
He's not my beloved little brother. We're not real brothers. It's tough going over here too. I cut down the pirate before me. One down, another one…
"Because I'm your brother!"
"If I don't save you, you'll die!"
Damnit! What is this?!
Why is Straw Hat's voice echoing in my ears? My sword's momentum slowed.
"Please save me, Nii─chan!" my brother still called.
Damnit, call me Commander! You're a dead man!
I desperately swung my sword, trying to be absorbed by the battle.
This is fine. There's nothing wrong. That's what I told myself.
Luffy and Ace. Me and my brother.
Pirate brothers. Marine brothers.
We really were complete opposites.
Over there, the little brother was trying to save the older brother, yet over here, the older brother was going to watch the little brother die.
The little brother was plowing forward toward the older brother who told him not to come against the older brother ignoring the little brother screaming to be saved.
Opposites. Complete opposites. But that's fine. Pirates and marines. Opposites are fine. Not saving him is fine.
We're opposites, yet─ I swung my sword up and rushed towards where my little brother was.
Because love is the same, no matter what.
As I charged forward, a memory came back to me.
We brothers unrelated by blood came to live together at our parents' convenience. I always thought I disliked it, but that little brother of mine constantly hung around me wanting to play together.
You always wanted to wear the same clothes as me, read the same books as me, and then you─
"I'm going to enter the Marines, just like you, Nii-chan!"
Through the dust, I saw my brother's sword get sent flying from his hand. A giant pirate swung a giant saber down at my downed little brother.
I slide myself in front of my brother. I braced my left hand against the top of my sword and using both hands stopped the saber. Fireworks flashed in my eyes, the heavy impact pushing down both of my shoulders.
"Nii-chan!" my brother half cried, half screamed.
"I told you to call me 'Commander,' idiot! Now pick up your sword and take a stand!" I screamed in reply, pushing the saber up and plunging my sword into the pirate's chest. That one attack brought the pirate's large body crashing to the ground.
"Listen here! I don't want to go home and give a eulogy for a weak idiot like you! So don't you dare die!" I shouted back at my little brother.
"Yes sir, …Commander!" my brother shouted in reply, after which we threw ourselves away from each other and back into the battle.
Since that fight, I was extremely stressed.
Devil Fruit Users, those who weren't, fighting to the limit, fighting to the death, to take Ace off the execution platform, that was why there was such resistance in this fight.
And amidst all that, the reckless and thoughtless Luffy's charge with aid from his "nakama" came to fruition.
That creative little brother finally arrived at his big brother's execution platform and completely freed him from his restraints.
Fate did not allow Ace to leave the grounds of Marineford alive.
Admiral Sakazuki's fist was driven through Ace's body. The older brother became a shield, taking the hit from the magma fist striking at the little brother.
In the arms of the little brother, the big brother, Portgas D. Ace, died…
The Whitebeards' retreat, the collapse of Marine Headquarters, the arrival of Blackbeard, Whitebeard's death, and the intervention by Red-haired Shanks─ even after Ace lost his life, such convoluted "events" occurred on the grounds of Marineford.
What these "events" meant for the future, I honestly didn't know. Of course, one officer's idea doesn't really amount to much.
If a single officer like me could say something about this decisive battle at Marineford, it would just be this: Me and my little brother were able to return home alive.
There was a knock on my office's door, so I responded and my little brother's shabby face appeared.
After saluting me at my desk, he entered.
"Um, Nii-cha─ no, Commander, thank you… very much… for saving me that one time…"
It's been a month since the day of that decisive battle.
Since, after the battle ended, me and my brother were receiving treatment at a special hospital, today was the first opportunity for us to speak calmly with each other.
To my brother who was thanking me again, I said, "No problem," a few times.
Remembering the figure of Luffy trying to save his brother, his voice, I'm not sure I could have watched my little brother die. If I did, I probably would have regretted it for the rest of my life. In that sense, you could say that Luffy was my benefactor.
And that benefactor, last week, returned to Marineford and rang the bell 16 times, signaling the beginning of a new era. He seemed to be saying that even with the heartbreak of his older brother's death, he still hasn't given up on the road to becoming the Pirate King.
"Time for training," I said. My brother let out a surprised squeak. "You've thanked me plenty enough for that one time. So rather than do that again, let's train. We have to get stronger." To chase after our benefactor.
"Yes sir, Commander!" my brother says with a salute, looking somewhat happy. The edges of his lips pulling towards a smile.
You idiot… I click my tongue at him mentally. It seems I said something sweet.
But that's fine. That smile will disappear the moment training starts.
What am I going to do with my little brother?
Nothing of note. This was fairly straightforward.