Disclaimer: One Piece is the property of Eiichiro Oda. Many of the characters in this story are property of me. Do not use this story or its characters without my permission. Thank you.
Panic aboard the Imperial Dragon! An unknown intruder infiltrates and causes chaos! How shall the Buster Pirate Crew respond? With VIOLENCE!
"Watch yourselves!" shouted Marco, at the head of the swarm of burly men equipped for war. "We don't know what kind of enemy we're about to deal with! For all we know, it could be some kind of super-powered bastard or a maniacal reformed criminal with a dark and mysterious past, come to exact vague vengeance on all pirates for...stuff...Damn, lost my steam for a second there."
"You shouldn't have started to begin with!" a man called. The door they faced buckled. The entire crew tensed up, girded their loins and prepared to face the oncoming battle. The door buckled a second time. From the wall beside it fazed out Zan, who seemed to be in a hot retreat just then. Zan saw the company just as the door was blasted open with a powerful, forward kick.
"Attack!" Marco called. Zan dashed in front of them and held out an open palm to stop them. The stampede ceased and many pirates fell into each other, leaving Marco as the only one standing after the too-sudden halt. Bard stepped out from the burst-open doorway, without his jacket and in a frantic search all around the deck of the ship.
"It's gone" Bard said. "Dammit, how'd it outrun us?"
"I never thought I'd see the day, captain" Zan admitted. "I've known about such creatures to exist in this world, but honestly, I never thought I'd live to see something like this."
"Where'd it come from?" Bard wondered aloud.
"The other ship" Zan said. "I had a feeling that something dangerous was there when I investigated it."
"Hey" Marco said, grabbing their attention. "Captain, what are we up against?" The pirate legion behind him started to rise up at last, still battle-ready with a blazing determination glaring through all of their eyes.
"We'll fight a Sea King bare-handed if you order us!" a man shouted. "Just bring it on!"
"Well that's cool" Bard said, "but this is something different. We can fight a Sea King tomorrow!" Bard pumped up his fist at the idea, forcing a joyous roar out of his easily-enthused men. Zan took Marco aside to explain the situation.
"It's a creature from the New World portion of the sea" Zan explained. Marco's eyes went wide and his lips pursed in at the sheer terror.
"Are we...in danger?" he asked in fright.
"None too bad" Zan said. "If anything we're just set to face a significant annoyance in terms of sabotage. It was down in the Underdeck screwing around with stuff while the cargo was loaded. I imagine it came in on one of the crates."
"We should have seen it, then" Marco said.
"Not this thing" Zan replied. "I'd be completely surprised if any of us had seen this coming at all..." Bard was still rallying his troops, pumping his fist and leading a wordless chant.
"Bard!" Zan exclaimed. "Enough of that! You stay here with the men and cover the deck in case it shows up. I'll climb up the masts and see if it's up there."
"Alright then" Bard said, suddenly serious once more. "I'll trust you with that." Zan nodded and sped away, moving through the crowd like a breeze and reaching the nearest Grand Mast in little time, his motions as fluid as the ocean currents. Expected behavior from an assassin like Zan, especially in such an intense battle. "We can't get too far from the Naughtilus! Reduce speed as much as possible! Make sure they can catch up to us when we give an all-clear signal!"
"Aye aye!" a group of men shouted. They dropped what weapons they had and went across the deck to secure the sail and to the aft to lower the anchors.
"Everyone else stay on guard!" Bard commanded. "If I see it I'll point it out. It's wearing my coat, so look for the black and gold!"
"We've got a storm incoming, sir" a pirate called from within the flank. "I'd say it's no more than ten minutes off, so give or take considering the sea, we could be fighting a battle in the midst of a storm!"
"We'll figure that out when we need to" Bard said. "Just stay on guard for now! Make sure you try not to damage the ship! Aim away from secured ropes and use your sword before your gun! Most importantly, only shoot it in the open. Do not shoot each other, not even accidentally! If you're not sure, don't fire!"
"We may as well just stow the guns, men" Marco said. "This thing, whatever it is, is from The New World. Fighting it may not even be an option."
"Cram it, old-guy!" an upstart muscle-head shouted. "It's not impossible until we know it's impossible, and so far we don't!"
"Yeah!" called out another pirate. "Don't be such an ass, Marco!"
"Right, right" Marco said. "Just be careful. That's all I'm saying."
"Alright, spread out!" Bard shouted. The pirate group spread apart across the whole deck, keeping keen eyes on every flat surface for inexplicable movement. From the bow to the aft and all the port and starboard sides were covered with glancing, scanning eyes, waiting to catch a glimpse of the mystery foe. At the middle of the deck, cracking his knuckles, was Bard, more stern and attentive then he'd been seen to be on his own ship before. Zan, upon reaching the highest point of the ship's mighty masts, toed the line of iron-tough rope while carefully scanning things below. The Grand Sail beneath his feet, bound up tightly and pushed together. Zan looked from crow's nest to crow's nest and at the top of each mast's end where the flags had been planted. Neither was out of place. Both black cloths billowed in the gathering winds as normal, carried into waving motions with the golden dragon's skull on proud display.
One flag, however, seemed off the more Zan stared it down. Finally he realized the shocking truth of his discovery: It was no flag, as the emblem blew sideways. Just as Zan realized that, the object holding the billowing began to reconfigure its own form. It was no longer a pole. It had depth, form, muscle, fur...a tail too.
"So there it is" Zan said. He turned his head down to the deck to call to his comrades. The figure made a dashing leap his way and stopped him from making his call. They locked arms together, Zan without his blades, held his foe off enough to push away and faced him down on the thin length of rope, neither giving way to the terrifying height or to the waver of balance in the wind and force of their own moving bodies. Zan tried to keep his guard up while his opponent only stood, Bard's coat wrapped around its face like a muffler, with feet in perfect balance across the tiny platform they had to use.
I'm not getting out of this easily Zan thought. I need to alert them to its presence somehow, though... Zan very carefully unsheathed one of his hand-blades and made a rush at the enemy. It stood steadfast, unwavering and undaunted by his sudden rush and when Zan was close enough to punch his blade in with a slash the enemy let it happen, jumped over Zan's arm and landed behind him on the taut rope. Zan smirked and dropped the blade from his intentionally loose grip and let it fall straight down.
Hope that doesn't kill anyone... Zan thought. He turned to face his foe again and blocked a sudden series of blows. He leaned back from the punches, blocked kicks and somehow kept himself in perfect balance on top of the small rope. As he dodged and blocked the mystery-foe's offense, his knife landed point-down into the butt of a sword sheathed across a pirate's back. He scratched his head at the strange, sudden sensation but ultimately dismissed it and walked into Bard's path.
"Hey" Bard called, stopping everyone around him. He walked to the man with the blade in his sword and unsheathed it partly, enough so he could see it without taking it out of its full sheathe. "What's this?"
"Looks like Zan's blade" the pirate said. He and Bard glanced at each other, meeting eyes as if they were comparing their sudden idea. Then, along with most of the other pirates nearby, they looked straight up and saw two shadows set against a distant, dark sky, somehow still standing out against the rolling incoming storm clouds.
"Zan!" Bard shouted.
"He's fighting it!" another pirate exclaimed. Bard bent his knees down low and poised himself on the balls of his booted feet. The wood beneath him gave a light creak as all his weight came down on such a narrow point.
"GepPOU!" Bard jumped, leaving a ring of cloudy dust where his feet left the deck and went straight up, reaching just above the halfway mark between the masts. "Hang on, Zan! I'll deal with this prick too!" Bard jumped up again, going right out of sight, leaving his crew behind below...
Up on the mast Zan continued to hold off the creature. He was pushed back and assaulted by a rapid-fire succession of kicks, punches, chops and mid-jump attacks covered by a sweep of Bard's own cloak. Zan kept himself unarmed to fight the creature on equal terms but started to waver against his foe as he was drawn closer and closer to the most imbalanced part of the rope he cautiously edged himself on. The middle, where all the weight was hung, was where he and his enemy were headed, though only he seemed to worry. His shadow-clad foe was simply taking advantage of the situation.
Zan blocked both of its fists and pushed them apart, opening its guard and fully exposing its chest. Without a second of hesitation Zan ducked forward and thrust his hand at its chest, intending to meld through the skin and stab with an internal injury to turn the favor of the fight. His foe's knee jabbed up and met his unprepared wrist, jarring it into his own hand numbing over. Then the enemy crouched down and jumped up with the tension of the rope to give Zan a powerful kick. Zan flew back, unevenly and almost sure to fall, but clutched the rope with his still-good hand and forced himself to meld to it, just enough to stay on.
This is getting bad Zan thought. This damn thing is strong, just as strong as I'd suspect a creature from the New World to be! The enemy walked forward. Its eyes were shining out from under its shadowed brow, half-drawn down in a combative sternness. Zan pushed himself up and held his good hand up, keeping the injured one back as it shook involuntarily from the pain. I'll keep fighting. I'm a pirate, and above that I'm a man! My pride won't let me concede myself to a-
"ORYAAAH!" roared Bard, jumping into scene between the two. He kicked a miss and forced the enemy to retreat in an incredibly long jump backwards that let it reach safety atop the crow's nest behind. Bard grabbed onto the rope and pulled himself up to meet Zan. "You alright?"
"He's a crafty one" Zan said. "I tried using a Phantom Grip on it but it got my wrist before I could get close enough."
"I thought you were great at close-quarters combat" Bard said.
"Assassinations rarely entail full-force combat, Bard" Zan said. "Can you take over from here? Get it on equal ground?"
"Oh yeah" Bard said. "That thing has my coat, too. I'm not forgiving it easily." Bard pulled himself up and stood on the rope. He immediately started falling backwards and punched forward to keep himself on his feet. Then he drifted too far to the other side and started waving his arms. He shouted and hunched down, gripping the rope with both hands and feet close together. Zan seemed unamused.
"Don't try too hard, Bard" Zan said. "Rope-walking is a delicate skill."
"Ehhh..." Bard groaned. "Well, never mind that for now. Get to the Underdeck."
"What for?" Zan asked.
"I have a plan" Bard said. Through sheer will and force he managed to stand up and keep his balance. His feet rocked to and fro as they slid apart slowly and he took a threatening pose. "An awesome plan." Zan just nodded and fled. Bard remained to fight the creature, which came rushing at him from far across the narrow rope they stayed on. Bard couldn't see its hands or arms in the dark cloak that billowed around it. Its feet were moving so fast Bard could only make out the speeding lines that they seemed to follow in their almost unconscious motions. He could, however, see the creature's eyes and grinned as he prepared his defenses.
Zan, meanwhile, melded his way from the starboard Grand Mast all the way down to the Main Deck where the pirates were anxiously watching high up where they couldn't see.
"They're fighting!" a man called.
"You sure?" another asked. "That could just be a cloud."
"Zan, what is it?" Marco asked. Zan shook his wrist and began to descend through the floor.
"Bard has a plan" he said, placing priority on the fight rather than answering Marco. "Get to the Underdeck."
"Captain's orders are we fight" Marco replied. "We'll stay here unless he says otherwise."
"Alright" Zan said. "Just don't go in any strange rooms for now, okay?"
"Got it" Marco said. Zan fazed through the floor, leaving the pirates on their own. The storm was quickly approaching. Waves started to smash against the hull of the ship and rock the mighty craft in its glide across the ocean water. One pirate managed to get a telescope to watch the fight with but couldn't follow the fast-paced movements with his shaky hands guiding the delicate instrument.
"Looks like they are fighting" he said. "Bard's throwing lots of punches."
"Is he winning? Is he winning?" the pirates exclaimed.
"No, the other guy is just walking away from him" the pirate said. "Wait, he attacked! Oh, he got Bard right in the face!"
"No!" the pirates shouted.
"He tried again!" the narrator exclaimed. "Bard caught his hand and spun him right off the rope!"
"YEAAAAHHH!" cheered the crew.
"Wait, he got back up!" the man said. The crew stopped their cheering and grunted in a curious unison. "He somehow grabbed onto the rope before he flew off! Wait...He's back up! Bard's starting to fall!" A brief moment of extreme tension lapsed as the announcer seemed too shocked to possibly continue. Then he turned tail and ran. "Here he comes! Get outta the way!" The men, being the lumber burly fools that they were, first looked up to see that Bard was indeed in mid-tumble with his enemy close behind him in a more graceful and controlled fall. The men scattered from the surrounding area and cleared a good path for Bard to land. Their captain didn't disappoint. He blasted out a Geppou just before impact which kicked out a strong gust that swept across the deck and hit the pirates all back a step. Then he landed, both arms forward with tight fists, standing with his right leg leading. His enemy landed with a solid thud in a crouch and slowly rose up from it, unharmed from the distance it had fallen.
"Heh" Bard grunted as he stretched a slight grin from his clenched jaw. "As expected from a creature like that..."
"Captain Bard!" Marco shouted from the helm. "What is that thing?" The men surrounded them both with a respectable circle open for them to fight in. The last bit of sunlight finally left as the dark clouds covered the horizon, leaving only a dark blue remnant of the sunny sky above the ship while surrounding the floating fortress with battering waves and a churning, chaotic current. A sudden calm settled over the ship as thunder came rolling in from the distance.
"Hehehe" Bard laughed, low and in a threatening tone. "If I'd ever heard that animals like this really existed in this world, I would have made it my greatest dream to fight one of them! This is like destiny, I think, a calling from the world itself telling me to push forward and become stronger! It throws this creature at me as a test, one that I'll pass with flying colors!"
Indeed, in the Grand Line there are a variety of amazing creatures. Giant serpents that roam the seas, enormous desert crabs, ten-story-tall birds with feathers large enough to build small ships on; the creatures of the world are as varied as they are amazing and mystical. This holds even truer in the latter half of the world's mightiest ocean, The New World, where there are no pirates that are simply strong. 'Strong' there is a minimum standard, but 'exceptionally strong' or 'amazingly superhuman' is enough to pass one through the first length of time. The creatures reflect such levels of strength and have as such grown to be either ship-swallowing behemoths that defy all logic with a passion, or beasts that in a more perfect unity could easily overthrow humanity itself as a dominant species regardless of their island setting.
In the Grand Line such an animal rivals even the strongest and most cunning of men. On an island that most men don't know, one that even Marines don't frequent when they patrol into the lawless New World, an entire society of creatures exists that breaks the wall separating humanity and animals entirely. An entire civilization with no language but mutual understanding, no sport but survival, an industry of agriculture. Indeed, a truly amazing spectacle of evolution merely previewed in the Grand Line by some of the comparatively stupider colonies of sophisticated or talking animals.
This creature was such a beast that it was hard to tell it apart from any normal man until one would see it in full as the Buster Pirates had. Clad in black cloth shoddily patched together, or likely stolen from another that fit it better, this primal beast stood nearly as tall as Bard and with a thin layer of fur lining most of its body it seemed to have near his own girth in proportion. Head to foot there was hair, but not on the palms, abdomen of the nose, ears and lips of the beast. It was all an autumn shade of light-brown. It's tail whipped around in an alert state like a separate guarding arm, in complete control by the creature's will. Its feet were exposed, though they were more like palms than feet, even with prehensile thumbs. Over its neck it wore its gilded trophy, Bard's cloak, stolen in the brief scuffle it had with the young man to conceal the rest of its appearance. It could only be described, in its style of subtle infiltration and high-speed close-quarters combat and in its obvious appearance as simply the coolest possible thing to be on the ocean on any given point.
Bard had squared himself up to fight a NINJA MONKEY. And he was happy.
"A Ninja Monkey?" a pirate curiously pointed out. "Isn't that a bit...uh..."
"Awesome?" Bard said enthusiastically.
"Not awesome..." the pirate said. "I mean...that's just so damn random! Why is it here?"
"It was on the Naughtilus before" Bard said. "It must have been accidentally captured by Alan, or it purposely stowed away on some kind of secret mission. A secret monkey mission."
"I find this all to be a bit too absurd" a man said. He sheathed his sword and rolled his neck. "Farewell, comrades. I'm going to bed."
"But it's a ninja monkey!" one comrade exclaimed in sheer awe. "How often can you tell people that you got to fight a ninja monkey?"
"Stop enunciating it" the man said. "Aside from being completely outclassed I don't want to fight something as ridiculous as-" His jaw was forced significantly to the left as the Ninja Monkey delivered a warp-speed punch to his face. The man rolled across the entire expanse of the deck and smashed open the door into the room where Maxwell had been stored. He nearly collided with the comatose pirate when a sudden instinctive drive forced Maxwell to smash him to the side with his shovel, cleaning knocking him out of consciousness against a broken empty crate. The Ninja Monkey was stopped amidst the crowd of pirates, all of whom were stricken with such shock from the complete suddenness of the attack that they couldn't move. The Monkey turned as a fast stomping neared it from behind. It brought up its arms to guard and had both of its wrists grabbed by Bard who tossed him clear over his head and back into the cleared area, right where he had been standing just earlier.
"That was a cheap shot!" Bard exclaimed. "I'll admit, he kinda had it coming, but nobody screws with my crew!"
"YEAH!" replied the crew.
"Come on!" Bard shouted, striking his pose. "Let's go! You and me, alone!" The Monkey stood in silence for a moment. Its apish face was cast in a perpetual battle-ready glare with a stoic frown across its monkey mouth. It pushed aside Bard's cloak, which draped over its left arm, to reveal a metal plate of smooth armor on its upper arm. Along the side were etched the letters spelling a name, going from top to bottom. It showed Bard the armor plainly and let him read it.
"Sarutobi...eh?" Bard said. "So you have a name..." Bard's intense stance, his piercing glare and intimidating grin, all broke when he brought his hands up together and grinned with a face-stretching smile and sparkling eyes. "THAT'S EVEN COOLER! IT'S BEYOND COOOOOL!"
"We get it, captain" a pirate said awkwardly. "I mean...it's cool, but it's dangerous too, right?" Sarutobi covered its arm once more and replaced the name etched in metal with the upside down emblem of Bard's crew. Bard resumed his fighting pose and met Sarutobi's glare with a white-hot counter-intensity. A spark flew between them, flashing the signal to begin their fight. Bard rushed in and Sarutobi seemingly teleported beside him with arm already wound back. He stabbed his hand with tense, straight finger's at Bard's side, but missed.
"Whoosh!" Bard shouted. He appeared at Sarutobi's opposite, unguarded side and grabbed him by the short hairs of his head. Bard threw the monkey clear over the crowd of pirates. While in the air Sarutobi forced himself into a constant spinning backflip to coast easily through the wind and landed in three-consecutive backflips. Once on proper footing Sarutobi resumed his fighting pose and saw Bard rush almost invisibly across the deck and through his own crew of men to meet fist-to-fist. Bard grabbed Sarutobi's left wrist while Sarutobi caught Bard's right fist in mid-punch, forcing them both into a stalemate. "This is easily the best day of my life!" Bard cheered. He kicked into Sarutobi's side, forcing the Ninja Monkey to flinch and retreat a step. Bard repeated, jabbing with his knee as fast as he could, until Sarutobi countered by slamming knee into knee. Bard then pushed him away and threw a quick combo of jabs and straight punches. He ended with a hook, which Sarutobi ducked completely under. The monkey used his tail to hook Bard's ankle and yanked him clear off his feet. Bard kicked his leg up as he fell and forced himself out of Sarutobi's lock, landing in a short backflip back on his feet with fists balled up again. As soon as he was standing Sarutobi rushed in and jabbed straight-fingered hands at warp-speed. Bard edged himself away from the blows but was soon encompassed by a cloud of brown moving lines.
"Tekkai!" Bard shouted. His body hardened to receive the blows, but even with muscles hardened into iron he could feel the powerful impacts hitting him. Sarutobi continued until Bard's skin had been hit with shallow cut marks, like he'd been assaulted with many dull knives at once. Then Sarutobi jumped up and kicked Bard with a roundhouse right in the neck. Tough as he was the boy's iron-strong neck bent and sent a dreadfully surprised Bard in a stiff tumble across the deck. When he stopped he laid on the ground, motionless from fear and his own foolish inability to appropriately control his own technique.
That could have easily broken my neck! Bard realized in a shocking exclaim. He's not holding back at all! He's fighting for his life right now!...I need to be doing the same! If not for my own life, then for the lives of my crew! Said crew, of course, was doing the foolish thing by approaching Sarutobi from multiple sides with pistols and rifles armed and aimed his way.
"Don't move, monkey!" Marco, heading the fold, shouted. "You must be smart enough to know what a gun is, right? We'll shoot if antagonized! We're a whole small army of surly men forced adrift into the most dangerous sea in the world whose only goal is to fight men stronger than us until we die doing it! We've got nothing but reasons to shoot!"
"You tell him, Marco!" shouted a burly nearby pirate. Sarutobi took in a deep breath and took a long step back. With his legs wide it took a pose. His left arm, uncovered, was held up at face level with the palm facing straight up. He uncovered his right arm with a quick wave and held his palm sideways with the thumb down and palm out, aimed at the pirates. The crew shirked cautiously at the strange motion.
"Oh no!" a man exclaimed, losing all hope from his hope in an instant. "Oh NO! He's gonna use his Ninja Monkey Mystical Artsto kill us all!"
"Ninjas don't have magic!" another pirate exclaimed.
"But this is a Ninja Monkey" another pirate said with a wavering voice of dread. "Who knows what amazing things a Ninja Monkey can do! I mean...right?"
"Magic isn't an unheard of possibility" an older, wiser man said. Fantastically, and unfortunately, they were all pretty much right. Sarutobi took a step forward with his right foot and forced his right palm forward in a single, fluid, warp-speed motion. A massive wave of energy echoed out across the deck as a rippling distortion in the very air which blew the entire crew of pirates backwards and sent them head-over-heels through the air. They were scattered across the deck and spread further and further out as they tumbled across the wide deck. Sarutobi brought his feet together and relaxed his muscles, from his foot-palms up even to his still-furrowed brow. With a deep meditative breath out, Sarutobi slid his eyes open and brought his arms back down to his side.
He snapped his right arm up to block Bard's sudden punch from his left and held him in place with a shaking-tense grip.
"One good turn, right?" Bard said. He stomped forward and punched again. Sarutobi pushed Bard's right fist to the side and intercepted his strong left hook with both arms. "Or wait, is that the right phrase?" Bard continued his attack, pushing Sarutobi back with a constant striking offense. He stayed unrelenting and powerful, driving his foe across the deck and toward the burst-open door that Bard had earlier entered. Bard got Sarutobi away from his arm's range and tried a kick. Sarutobi simply caught his leg and held it under one arm and over the other. Bard grinned and leaped up with his other leg, twisting his hips enough to plant a solid blow to Sarutobi's face. They both fell, though Bard recovered as his fall was intentional. Sarutobi fell against the frame of the door and slid down a step. Before he could fully raise his guard Bard came upon him with a quick straight punch to the face. The monkey staggered back and became enraged. Bard kept a safe distance but kept pressing forward. He threw a punch and retreated before Sarutobi could catch it. Sarutobi began kicking with his feet-palms balled up and landed several blows on Bard before they managed to reach the bottom of the stairs.
Okay, that was easy Bard thought. I got him down here. Now I just need Zan to help me force this awesome bastard into a trap-room and keep him there. Easy. Once Sarutobi realized where he was, however, the fight seemed to change. No longer were they on totally equal ground, where Bard could fight all-out with his skills and strength. Sarutobi instantly vanished with a blur of muted color and hid within the shadows. Up top the rain started and woke the beaten crew. The gentle sheets of water only preluded to the roaring torrent that was soon to come...