This fanfiction was commissioned by "The Cowardly Christian". Given the nature of the fanfic, I've decided to go with shorter chapters than usual, which means they will also likely come out faster.
The battle of Marineford, which would later come to be known as the War of the Best, had long since slipped away from any semblance of order. Too many unpredictable events had conspired to upend everyone's plans.
Many of those events could be laid squarely at the feet of Monkey D. Luffy, whose only goal was to save his brother.
But he failed. Despite driving himself beyond the point of exhaustion – or perhaps even because of it – his strength failed him at a critical moment. Admiral Akainu saw him stumble and saw his chance to destroy the spawn of Monkey D. Dragon, throwing a magma punch that would kill the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates beyond all doubt.
Ace saw it, knew it was his fault for allowing himself to be goaded into turning back, and threw himself in the way to protect his brother.
But it wasn't enough. Absolutely determined not to fail, Akainu drove his punch through the older brother and into the younger, fatally injuring both.
Ace and Luffy stared at each other's eyes one last time, understanding that they were dead. And, like the D. that they were, smiled because they were together.
And then Luffy woke up with a gasp.
"ACEEEE!" He roared, furious, terrified and very confused.
Where was Ace? Where was Old Man Whitebeard? Where was the Magma Bastard?
Where was everyone?!
Luffy's head spun around – literally thanks to his rubber body – as he tried to get a grip on the situation.
No clash of weapons. No gunfire. No screaming. No people at all. Just open seas, clear skies and this tiny boat he was in.
Actually, now that he thought about it, he wasn't feeling any pain either. The pain and exhaustion had become such constant companions since Impel Down that he'd long since stopped paying attention to them, but now he suddenly felt fine.
"WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!" He demanded of the world, his brain almost cooking from the effort of trying to figure it out.
The world did not deign to answer.
So distracted by his confusion was Luffy that he didn't notice the whirlpool he was heading towards until it was too late.
And then he drowned.
Coming to with a gasp for air that he suddenly didn't need, Luffy found himself back on his little boat.
Looking around suspiciously, he saw the whirlpool that had sucked him in… still a good distance away. He was going that way, but it would be a while before he reached it and easily had time to avoid it. Which was strange because he was pretty sure that he hadn't avoided it just now and died.
"AAAAAAAGH!" Luffy screamed, annoyed at this extra bit of confusion on top of being suddenly transported away from Marineford.
Grabbing hold of the oars, he rowed away from the whirlpool, giving it a suspicious glare as he passed.
Wait, didn't I do this before? The right neurons finally sparked, remembering a situation that was very similar to this. To be fair, it was a situation that had happened a while ago and hadn't been all that important at the time.
Luffy might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer and he might not put a lot of effort into remembering minor details, but he definitely remembered the start of his adventure!
After punching the Lord of the Coast, he'd run across a whirlpool and hid in a barrel to keep from drowning. Then he'd met Coby and they sailed to the island where Zoro was!
But that didn't explain why he was back here and not at Marineford.
"Is this death?" He pondered, frowning in thought.
Getting to go on another adventure after dying did sound pretty cool.
Luffy decided to stop thinking about it and just go with the flow. A few days later, hopelessly lost because of his lack of navigational prowess and poor preparation, he died of dehydration.
His third awakening was no longer a surprise and more of a relief. Thirst was his least favorite way to die so far.
Having had nothing to do over the past few days of being lost, Luffy tried to figure out what was going on and had hoped that the situation would clarify itself if he paid attention to what was happening as he died. No such thing happened.
"It's a mystery." He concluded with authority.
Not wanting to die of thirst again and knowing that he was useless at navigation, Luffy waited for his boat to drift closer to the whirlpool and then stuffed himself into an empty barrel (which had once held all his food that he had eaten about ten minutes after setting off) like he remembered doing the first time.
After all, the worst that could happen was that he drowned again.
Luffy tried to stay awake, but the boredom of being stuffed in a barrel quickly had him snoring. If the danger of floating in a whirlpool with nothing but a barrel to keep him from drowning wasn't enough to keep him awake the first time around, it certainly wasn't enough the second.
He was awoken by raised voices outside the barrel and burst out of it with an eerie sense of familiarity.
"RAAAGGGH! Oh, Coby. You're here." Luffy said, looking down at his friend. "And you turned back into a wimp."
"W-what?" The incredibly confused pink-haired boy stuttered. "H-how do you know me?"
"Right, looks like I went back in time." Luffy nodded to himself firmly, what he had already suspected confirmed. "It's like that mystery fog."
Robin had once tried to explain the Rainbow Mist to him, but all he got from it was that it was a mystery fog that did weird things to time. The Straw Hat captain didn't have the faintest idea of how or why he'd been sent back after dying in Marineford, or why he kept waking back up after dying, but he also didn't care.
He could save Ace and get his crew back, and that was all he cared about.
"Back in time?! What?!" Coby squawked.
"You want to be a marine, right?" Luffy bulldozed through his confusion. "Then let's go save Zoro."
"Zoro? You mean Roronoa Zoro, the notorious pirate hunter?"
"Mm, he's my first mate."
"But he's a pirate hunter!"
"I know!" Luffy barked and smacked the pink-haired boy over the head, getting annoyed. Everyone knew that Zoro was the Pirate Hunter, it said so on his bounty!
Coby immediately shrank into himself and shut up.
On the way to the life boats, they ran into a fat whale shouting about being the most beautiful woman on the seas.
"Coby! Who is the most beautiful woman on the seas?" She did it again as soon she saw them.
"It's y-you, Captain Alvida!" Coby stuttered.
"Eh, Alvida?" Luffy stuck a finger up his nose, thinking hard. "You got fat again?"
He remembered her being skinny the last time he saw her… or was that some other woman?
Time travel was confusing!
"FAT?!" Alvida roared in outrage. "I am the most beautiful woman on the seas! Say it or I'll crack your skull open!"
"But everyone keeps saying that Hancock is the most beautiful woman on the seas." Luffy said blandly, still industriously picking his nose.
Personally, he didn't really get this whole 'most beautiful woman' thing. Unlike meat, beauty couldn't be counted or measured. Unlike strength, you couldn't determine it with a fight. Luffy had no idea how people were deciding which woman was more beautiful.
Alvida didn't like his response and rushed forward, iron mace swinging.
Luffy threw a lackadaisical punch her way, not registering her as anything even close to a threat. The punch hit and she flew off the ship.
The rubber man didn't notice this, busy staring at his hand like it had betrayed him.
"I got weaker?" He wondered.
"WEAKER?!" Coby, Alvida's crew and the civilians on the luxury cruise ship shouted incredulously.
Luffy ignored them, clenching his fist and staring at it. Now that he was paying attention, he was definitely weaker.
He'd attained a much greater mastery of his rubber body during his voyage and that was still there, but he just didn't feel as strong as he used to be.
"Time travel makes you weaker." He concluded, nodding firmly.
It didn't change anything, but it was good to know.
"Coby, let's go to the nearest Marine base and find Zoro!"
Then his stomach growled.
"After we eat!"
"Y-yes!" The terrified pinkette snapped to attention.
As the straw hat-wearing teenager stuffed his mouth and then led them to a lifeboat so that they could go to the nearest Marine base, Coby's fear slowly abated, leaving behind only confusion.
"So, um, who are you?" He mustered up the courage to ask.
The strange and frighteningly powerful boy stared at him blankly for a moment before answering. "Monkey D. Luffy."
Encouraged by the lack of hostile response, Coby continued asking the many questions burning in his mind. "And what did you mean back then when you said that you came back in time? That's impossible!"
"No it isn't." Luffy retorted, uncompromisingly.
Fearing that he was stuck in a tiny lifeboat with an insane person, Coby decided to go along with it. After all, he'd just spent two years going along with Alvida's delusions about her beauty for his own safety. This was no different.
"And you knew me in the future?"
"Mm." Luffy nodded firmly. "My gramps took you on as an apprentice and you got pretty strong."
Well, it was nice to hear that he'd achieved his dreams in someone's crazy fever dream at least. "Were we in the Marines together?"
Luffy suddenly burst into hysterical laughter at the question, startling Coby badly. It was only his amusement passed did the pink-haired boy learn what was so funny. "No, we were rivals. I'm a pirate."
Oh. Coby honestly had no idea how to feel about that. Luffy didn't seem anything like Alvida.
"But wait, didn't you say you had Roronoa Zoro as your first mate?!"
Now utterly convinced that Luffy was simply insane, Coby couldn't help himself from his outburst. "But he's a pirate hunter! It's impossible, completely impossible!"
And Luffy smacked him over the head again, with an annoyed pout of all things.
"You were way cooler in the future." The straw hat-wearing pirate huffed.
Feeling strangely ashamed by the disappointment, Coby decided to stay quiet for the rest of the trip.
Eager to see Zoro again for the first time since they got scattered by the bear guy at Sabaody, Luffy rushed off towards the Marine base as soon as they docked at Shells Island.
"ZORO!" He yelled exuberantly when he saw his first mate tied to the post, just like he remembered.
"Eh?!" Who are you?" The confused swordsman demanded.
"Monkey D. Luffy, your captain, shishishi." Luffy laughed and jumped forward to untie him.
"EHHH?!" Zoro was even more confused and starting to get angry. "I don't have a captain AND STOP TRYING TO UNTIE ME! I swore I'd hold out here for a month and I won't let you make a liar of me!"
The time-looping pirate paused, genuinely hurt by the words. Even the most heinous insults would bounce off his rubbery hide easier than bullets, but hearing his nakama deny him struck deep. Luffy hadn't exactly done a lot of thinking about the implications of time travel, so it was only just now sinking in what it meant to go back in time.
None of his friends would remember him, just like Coby hadn't. He was alone.
"You want to be the world's greatest swordsman, right?" Luffy asked, much less cheerfully than before but just as determined.
Zoro's intense stare pinned him in place. "How do you know about that?"
"I went back in time." Luffy didn't even consider lying to his nakama.
"YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT?!" Zoro roared, outraged.
"IT'S TRUE!" Luffy yelled back. "We were nakama and we went to the Grand Line together!"
"LUFFY!" Coby gasp-yelled over the wall, having finally caught up. "What are you doing?! You can't just barge into a Marine base like this!"
His words were immediately undermined by a little girl doing exactly that. She climbed over the wall and gave them all a stern glare "SHHH!"
Silence demanded, she ran over to Zoro and looked up at him with a smile, completely ignoring Luffy.
"What?" Zoro demanded.
The little girl unwrapped her pair of homemade rice balls and presented them to him. "You haven't eaten anything this whole time, so you must be hungry."
"Do you wanna get killed, pipsqueak? Scram." Zoro shot her down flatly.
Luffy remembered this. He also remembered what would happen after, as well as Sanji's many passionate rants about wasting food, which he agreed with. He knew what he had to do.
"HEY!" The little girl, whose name he now remembered was Rika, protested as he snatched the rice balls. "I made those for Zoro!"
"I know." Luffy said and stuffed the homemade treats into the swordsman's mouth.
Zoro immediately started choking at the unexpected force feeding, as well as the extra unexpected sweet taste of food that was supposed to be salty.
"There, that's a lot better than easting it after it's been stomped into the dirt, isn't it?" Luffy asked.
"Eh? Stomped into the dirt?" Rika asked, confused, but then shrugged it off and looked towards Zoro again. "Was it good?"
Pinned by the child's hopeful eyes, Zoro said the only thing he could. "It was delicious."
"Oh? What's this?" A smarmy voice intruded. "Don't you know it's illegal to feed the prisoner?"
"Hey, Buttchin." Luffy ignored the words and addressed the guy whose name he'd long since forgotten, even if he did become less annoying in the future. "Give Zoro his swords back."
"Ehhhhh?!" The weird-looking blond squawked in shocked outrage. "Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is? Captain Morgan, the captain of this base! That means you have to do what I say, or else."
Luffy stared at him blankly for a second before cracking his knuckles.
Wrecking Captain Morgan was even easier than the first time around and by then Zoro was at least willing to listen for a little bit. At some point Mihawk and some of the other powerful swordsmen he'd fight in the future were mentioned and, having no better direction in his quest to become the world's greatest, went along with it. They returned to the restaurant Rika's mother operated and had a small feast while they talked and Luffy was eager to answer any questions asked of him in as much confused detail as possible.
That was a mistake.
Coby joined the marines later on that very same day and been interviewed about Luffy. Not seeing any need to lie and still not taking his rambling seriously, the pinkette had jokingly revealed the rubber man's claims about having gone back in time. There were also mentions about Whitebeard and a 'Magma Bastard' and several other things that he took to be the delusions of a fevered mind.
Lieutenant Ripper also didn't think much of it himself, but he was a good officer and dutifully reported everything further up the chain.
Unfortunately, people higher up the command ladder were less blasé. The East Blue was a calm place where very little out of the ordinary happened, but the top brass in Marineford and the Gorosei knew that the weirder something was, the more dangerous it was likely to be. For that reason, all Marine bases had strict instructions to report everything unusual, especially if it was weird.
It took a little more than a day for word of a time traveler to trickle upwards. Then it took another day for Admiral Kizaru to find Monkey D. Luffy and drag him off in chains for a thorough interrogation.
Luffy was not a smart man. He was, in fact, a dumbass. A dim bulb. A dull stone. An absolute moron.
This rather severe shortcoming was heavily offset by a bafflingly deep and simple wisdom that made him an excellent judge of character and allowed him to surround himself with highly intelligent crewmates.
Unfortunately, he didn't have his crewmates with him this time. Nobody to tell him why blurting out that he was a time traveler might be a bad idea. Nobody to gag him before he could reveal dangerous secrets.
Nobody to explain that Kizaru showed up specifically because of the rumors of a time traveler.
The loop reset on him early into the interrogation and a severely annoyed Luffy angrily stomped his way through events he'd already lived through twice now. Repeating the same adventure was incredibly boring to him and left him in a foul mood.
He once again didn't think to censor himself in regards to the time travel, so it once again ended with the appearance of Kizaru, putting him back to the start of his journey once again.
Luffy awoke back on his tiny ship, at the exact same moment he always woke up when the time loop reset. Then he very calmly sat up and began screaming his head off.
"AAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!" He yelled, digging his fingers into his scalp in sheer frustration.
He just didn't understand what was going on! Why did the light bastard keep showing up?! Normally he liked mysteries, but this one was pissing him off! And so was the fact that he had to keep repeating the same boring stuff he'd already done.
Feeling a little better after venting his anger, Luffy decided that he was going to do something different on this run. He still had to stuff himself into a barrel to make it to the cruise ship Alvida was attacking, but after that he was going the other way!
As always, he ended up taking a nap to deal with the boredom of being stuffed into a barrel while he was at the mercy of the sea and he burst out of it when Alvida's crewmates and Coby tried to open the barrel.
But this time he didn't stop to talk to Coby or immediately go kick Alvida's ass. This time, he made a detour towards the pantry and quickly emptied it, then decided to jump over to Alvida's ship to do the same there.
They had to have food, right?
To his delighted surprise, he found someone he didn't expect to see quite yet there, skulking about.
"NAMI!" He yelled gleefully, immediately rocketing forward to hug his navigator. "I didn't know you were on this ship!"
"Who the hell are you?!" The baffled, scared and angry redhead yelled, extracting herself from the rubbery grip and punching him over the head. "Get off me!"
Luffy let himself be hit with a laugh. He'd missed Nami's affectionate punches. "I'm Monkey D. Luffy."
"Hey, who the hell are you and what are you doing on our ship?!" Yelled one of Alvida's crew that had been drawn to them by the ruckus.
"DON'T INTERRUPT!" Luffy yelled at him angrily and punted him off the ship with a stretchy punch.
Nami, seeing this feat of casual strength, froze in place.
"W-w-what was that?" She stuttered. "How did you stretch?"
"I ate the Gomu Gomu no Mi. I'm a rubber man." Luffy replied blandly, bored of explaining the same thing over and over. "Join my crew."
It was hardly the first time that someone too strong to fight or immediately escape made such a demand, so Nami knew how to handle it.
But it was not okay. After testing out his level of intelligence and gullibility, Nami tricked him into staying behind while she 'prepared' the life boat she was intending to use to get away from Alvida, then she ditched him.
"Who the hell are you?!"
"I'm Luffy, the man who will be the Pirate King!"
Fail. Nami still hated pirates at this point.
"Who the hell are you?!"
"I'm Luffy and I'm your friend!"
Fail. Unlike Luffy, Nami was a suspicious and distrustful soul.
"Who the hell are you?!"
"I'm Luffy and I can kick Arlong's ass for you!"
Fail. Nami at this point still believed that no human can match a fishman. Plus, his knowledge made her freak out.
"Who the hell are you?!"
"I'm Luffy and I can help you get money!"
"Really?! Tell me more!"
Success. Nami's greed was legendary.
The bounty hunting system established by the Marines was really quite simple in principle. If you caught someone with a bounty, all you had to do was deliver them to any Marine ranked lieutenant or above.
In practice, the Marines were a horrendously corrupt organization. The lower ranks were mostly filled by people who genuinely wanted to do good, but dealing with commissioned officers was very much hit and miss.
Luffy was not surprised when Captain Morgan tried to claim Alvida's capture for himself, nor was he surprised when Nami lost her temper at the first sign of being cheated. He hadn't exactly planned it, but he'd known it would happen.
"So, I guess we're pirates now." Zoro stated calmly, standing in a circle of felled Marines.
They had freed him and gotten his swords back in the chaos of their confrontation with Morgan.
"Yep, shishishishi." Luffy laughed, glad to be back on course.
"THIS ISN'T SOMETHING TO LAUGH ABOUT" Nami yelled at them. "I CAN'T AFFORD TO HAVE A BOUNTY ON MY HEAD!"
"They won't give you a bounty for something this small." Luffy assured, knowing from experience that it was true.
"How can you be sure?" She demanded.
"They didn't give me a bounty last time until I beat up way more people." The rubber man explained.
"Eh? Last time?" Zoro questioned with a confused frown. "You were a pirate before?"
"Yeah, then I got sent back in time and now I have to do everything all over again. it's sooooo annoying!"
Unfortunately, Luffy said this while surrounded by defeated Marines, all of whom were listening intently. Admiral Kizaru caught them before they made it to the next island.
Obligatory start of new fic self-shilling!
If you have money burning a hole in your digital pockets and want to throw it my way for some reason, I have an account on the adult version of Subscribe Star. Just search for Noodlehammer.
I have also published a couple of original works on Amazon under the name of Jennifer Haze (the porny pseudonym was a big of a personal joke of mine). One is basically porn with plot and the other is a shitpost, so really think hard whether you want to buy them.