The second Ace heard about Rain Dinners, he had to grin.
"I think we can solve a few problems at once," he said.
"What do you mean?" asked Nami.
"Your ship needs some repairs done, and your funds are too low to buy most of the needed supplies. And going with you directly to deal with Crocodile would be overkill, never mind that it implies I don't trust Luffy to handle himself in a serious fight. Which is why we should split up, at least partially."
Luffy grinned at that.
"You're going to hit that casino and rob them for everything they have in a way they can't come after you for," he guessed.
"Yup," said Ace smirking. "Naturally any winnings I get I'll use to buy the supplies to fix the ship, and this way you can go on your adventure without having to worry about someone stealing the Merry...like the Marines. And if you actually beat Crocodile, I may split my winnings with your crew."
Nami perked up at that. She looked at Luffy.
"How good is his luck?"
"He was banned from any gambling establishments in Oyaji's territory as well as Shanks, never mind the unofficial poker night the crew held," said Luffy immediately. "Our luck tends to go from chaotic during adventures and almost godly when it comes to gambling."
"I call it the 'Midas Touch'," said Ace helpfully.
"Midas?" repeated Chopper.
"It's an old myth about a king who loved treasure so much that the gods granted him a blessing. Anything he touched would turned to gold...and I do mean anything. One day he accidentally touched his daughter with the hand that had been blessed and she became a gold statue. The only way to reverse the transformation was to put her under running water," explained Ace.
"Wasn't that one of the Greek myths you told us?"
"Yup," said Ace.
"Those guys were messed up," said Luffy.
"What do you mean 'messed up'?" asked Nami.
"There was this one story about a hero who married a princess, only to drop her for a younger woman. The princess was so distraught over what happened she killed her own kids," said Luffy grimacing.
Vivi was understandably horrified by that.
"You're forgetting the guy essentially raped her. The princess in question was forced to fall in love with him due to the influence of the goddess of love because he was on a quest. As a result she murdered her own father and brother to help him, and when he found a younger woman more to his liking he essentially dumped her, despite having two children with her. Naturally the spell she was under broke at that point, and when she realized what she had done she snapped and killed her children," said Ace. "And don't get me started on the tale about the guy who fell into the ocean with wax wings."
"I don't think I want to hear any more," said Nami green. Vivi nodded emphatically at that.
"You sure? I have a ton of Greek mythology and Luffy knows most of them," said Ace grinning.
"Why wax wings? And how did that even work?" asked Usopp.
"A father and son were trapped in a tower by a king. To escape, he took the feathers left behind by the birds and some wax to create a pair of fake wings to fly away. Somehow they managed to make it work, but the son wanted to see how high he could fly and got too close to the sun. The wax melted and he fell to his death in the ocean, to his father's despair," said Ace.
"I bet your favorite story is about the immortal who brought fire to humans!" said Luffy.
"Eh, Prometheus was a good story but I always liked the cautionary tales more."
"Can...can you just stop? Please?"
"You sure?" said Luffy.
"And to think I haven't even gotten into the expliots of the god that ruled that particular pantheon, or his family!" said Ace far too cheerfully.
"Don't forget the musicals! Has the crew forgiven you for introducing them to that one musical about meat pies?" asked Luffy wickedly.
Ace cackled wickedly. The Whitebeard crew still refused to eat meat pies unless everyone was accounted for, to the amusement of Pops. Sometimes Thatch sent a few of them out on errands without telling anyone to freak them out.
"What musical? On second thought, never mind," said Nami after thinking about it. She was going to have nightmares, she just knew it!
"What's a musical?" asked Chopper.
Ace patted his hat.
"A musical is a story told with a lot of singing involved," said Ace helpfully.
"I'm almost afraid to ask what musical you introduced them to that had them terrified of meat pies," said Nami.
"It wasn't the plot that disturbed them, but the way they disposed of the large number of corpses they created," said Ace.
Sanji was the first to get it.
"How would that even work? I mean how did the customers not know what they were eating?"
"The time period they were in wasn't the cleanest and you would be lucky to find a restaurant that didn't have massive health code violations. Never mind the fact that there's a very good reason pigs have been used as human analogs for years, outside of the fact burnt flesh can smell like pork," said Ace.
Nami looked like she was highly contemplating swearing off pork forever, as did Vivi.
"What was the story about?" asked Zoro. The girls shot him a glare.
"A barber was thrown into prison on false charges because the judge wanted to sleep with the man's wife. As such he went away for fifteen years before escaping, only to find out that his wife was 'dead' and his daughter had been taken in by the man who threw him into prison and raped his wife. His only thought was to get revenge and get his daughter back, and what better way to do that than to slit the man's throat while he was in for a shave? The problem was that the young man who saved him at sea basically tipped the judge off his ward was planning to run away, and the judge became furious."
"So how do meat pies come into the equation?" asked Sanji.
"The woman who owned the shop just below where he worked as a barber recognized him, and suggested the best way to deal with the bodies they created was to cook them up in her food and serve them to people, since apparently her cooking wasn't good enough and meat was hard to come by at the time."
"So how did it end?"
"He kills the judge, the old beggar woman who hovered around certain areas turned out to be his wife who had lost her mind from the poison she had consumed to kill herself only to fail, and the woman who cooked people was thrown into the oven herself," said Ace. "The daughter ran away with the sailor who saved her father's life and it's debatable if she even knew the barber was her father."
"Ugh...don't you know any other stories?" complained Nami.
"I have an entire library of romantic comedies, and murder mysteries with a romantic subplot. It's just guys tend to enjoy a good horror novel every once in a while," said Ace grinning.
"You will be sharing those," said Nami ominously.
Luffy wondered if he should warn Nami of Ace's habit to play pranks...like switching the covers of his books so that the contents didn't match.
The guys, save for Chopper and Usopp who didn't like scary things, all asked for horror stories. Or in the case of Luffy, more mythology.
Ace felt strong vindictive amusement as he was swiftly bleeding Crocodile's precious casino dry...without having to cheat once.
It wasn't to say he didn't know how...it was just that with his luck it wasn't truly necessary. That, and he might have been a little overboard insuring that the other poker players remained honest by basically insuring their ability to cheat was heavily compromised.
It had taken three different major players being 'escorted' out by less than amused guards before the others caught the unspoken message he was sending. Play honest or else.
By the end of the day, once Luffy had drawn out the big fish (how he had gotten caught in a seastone cage Ace didn't want to know, but at least his baby brother had the sense to hide his magic from Smoker. The Marines didn't need to know Luffy was now partially immune to it.) but it ended well thanks to the fact that Luffy's crew was competent.
Ace's next move was to go get the supplies needed to repair the ship.
"You sure you'll be okay?" asked Ace.
"I'll be fine Ace-nii."
"Just remember, once you guys get back I'll start teaching your crew about Haki," said Ace.
Luffy perked up at that. Teaching CPR was one thing, since he had seen Ace do it so many times and had the special dolls to help. But Haki required someone who knew what they were doing.
And Ace, to the amusement of everyone else, was a natural teacher.
"By the way, would you mind taking Jack with you?"
"Who's Jack?" asked Vivi.
"Oi, Jack! Go with Luffy for a bit will ya?" Ace called out.
A magnificent red and gold bird flew out of a ball of fire and onto Luffy's shoulder, where it started preening his hair.
"What is that?" said Nami fascinated.
"Jack is Ace's familiar. He's a phoenix," said Luffy, stroking Jack's feathers with the ease of long practice. Jack trilled happily.
"Oh, and before I forget... Chopper, come here a moment," said Ace.
"What is it?" asked Chopper. The weather here was murder for his poor body.
Ace handed him a vest.
"Put this on."
Chopper swapped out his vest and put on the one Ace gave him...and his eyes went wide.
"It's... It's cold!" he said happily. He felt so much better.
"I put a special permanent charm on that vest so that it can regulate the temperature for you. As a cold-weather creature, desert islands are going to be really dangerous. The threat of heat-stroke goes up exponentially, especially with that fur of yours. After all, it wouldn't do for the crew's doctor to become sick because of the heat right?"
"Ace-nii is so awesome!" said Chopper enthusiastically.
"Wait, how did you make that?" asked Nami.
"I got pendants for the rest of you that does the same thing, and I have special canteens that hold a lot of fresh water since dehydration is one of the leading causes of death in a desert island for outsiders. I actually sold a vest like this to another crew who had a mink that came from a cold weather island."
Bepo was amusing, and he had made quick friends with Law once he realized Ace had a solution to the issue that kept making his crew member sick. Being able to talk shop with a pirate doctor put Law in a good mood for days.
That...and Ace may or may not have given Law the snail number to Sabo who was in the Revolutionaries so that he could track Donflamigo's whereabouts.
People really underestimated the value of reliable communication.
"You seriously have an awesome older brother Luffy," said Usopp, feeling the blessed relief of cold air instead of the oppressive heat.
"I am a doctor, after all. It wouldn't do for my little brother's crew to get killed because they were overheated or dehydrated. Oh, and before I forget Luffy... Crocodile is a logia user like me," said Ace. "And considering you're challenging him as a full pirate captain, don't hold back. If necessary, feel free to use 'that'."
"Got it big brother!" said Luffy, his expression determined. Unlike the goofy, loveable idiot there was a true pirate.
He hadn't spent several years with the Whitebeards learning the in's and out's of the Grand Line to die here and now.
Ace went to work on the ship, adding a few fun surprises for his baby brother to find when he got back.
"So Luffy, how long have you known Ace?" asked Vivi.
"Ace-nii practically raised me," said Luffy. "Gramps brought me to Dawn island when I was a baby, and Ace got really mad when he found out that I was left with the bandit gang...mostly because they didn't know how to handle kids at all. He taught me how to fight and healed me up every time Gramps showed up."
"Sounds like you really love your brother," said Vivi smiling.
And it was pretty clear from the way Ace acted around Luffy that he really cared about his little brother.
"You kidding? If you got Luffy started on his brother he'd never shut up for hours. Though now that I've met him, I can see why," said Nami.
"Yeah, that Ace guy certainly lives up to the hype Luffy's made of him," said Zoro, impressed in spite of himself.
Normally he'd take the sort of things Luffy said about his brother with a grain of salt, but apparently his captain hadn't been exaggerating.
"Why were you clutching your left arm, Luffy?" asked Vivi.
"This is my weapon against Bon Clay. When he turned into me earlier, he didn't have anything on his left arm, right?" said Luffy.
Nami's eyes widened.
"Wait...you were wearing a longer sleeved shirt than normal when he turned into you," she said in realization.
"Everything else was in the wash," said Luffy in annoyance.
"That's right, Bon Clay's version of you didn't have anything on the left shoulder," said Zoro in realization.
"But when he turned into me, he had the same tattoo..."
"Because he knew it was there," said Luffy grinning.
He carefully slipped the bandanna on his shoulder down...to expose the mark of another pirate captain.
Vivi's eyes went wide, because she had seen that exact same mark enlarged on Ace's back once they left Drum island.
"I took Oyaji's mark before I was fifteen. He was fully supportive of me being a pirate captain in my own right and said that if anything ever happened I was welcomed to come back to his crew. No matter what, I'm still considered one of Whitebeard's sons," said Luffy proudly. "I just hide it because I want to make a name in my own right without having to rely on Oyaji, and because if the Marines knew I was one of his they'd send people that the others aren't quite ready to deal with just to spite him."
Nami was grinning.
"So if we run into Bon Clay and he tries to pretend he's you, we can bust him by checking his arm."
"So what's the deal with the bird?" asked Zoro.
"Jack is probably bored, and this way Ace knows I have a special trick up my sleeves in case we need to stabilize someone in a hurry," said Luffy. "Phoenix tears have healing powers, and if you drink them they can cure any poison, toxin or venom."
"What about that haki stuff Ace mentioned?" asked Zoro.
"It's a pretty standard ability in the other half of the Grand Line," said Luffy. "There's three types, but only a select few can use the third type. The other two are known as 'Armament Haki' and 'Observation Haki'."
Unknown to Luffy, he had fallen into Ace's usual lecturing stance.
"Observation Haki allows you to see and hear a lot of things that you would otherwise miss...like Nami's ability to pick up on weather patterns before they happen in a split second. Armament Haki is something I know Zoro is going to be rather interested in...it's an ability that allows even ordinary people to be able to hit a devil fruit user, regardless of what ability they have."
Seeing he had their full attention, Luffy grinned.
"I'm so used to fighting Ace-nii that I've learned to use Armament Haki like it's second nature in order to actually hit him."
For the first time in a long time, Vivi felt the spark of hope become a conflagration.