Clarobell: Well, that certainly took a while. Sorry for the wait, but as I've said a billion times before, lots of home trouble and such. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the next installment of Baroque!
VTM: Indeed it's been a while, but the story is certainly taking shape! :3 We worked hard! So be sure to review! BC Or else! Fufufufufufu!
No Going Back
By VTM & Clarobell
Robin flicked the worn page on her latest history book, glancing to the side as Luffy let out another enthusiastic cry. They had been sailing for over a month now and the boy had finally settled down – well, as much as Luffy could settle down. They had entered the Grand line some weeks ago and since then had collected several more potential baroque recruits. Some came willingly through the promises of riches, power and paradise, whilst others, like Luffy, were taken by force.
The raven haired woman couldn't help the amused smile that quirked her lips as another enthusiastic cry sounded, followed by a splash and numerous shouts of surprise and anger. This too, was a regular occurrence. Luffy's excitement would often get the better of him since he had settled. In their month's journey, he had been carried off by birds three times, eaten by seakings twice and almost drowned countless times. He was quite a handful, but it kept the recruits on their toes to say the least.
The small group of fighters, both normal and devil fruit users, didn't seem interested in socializing once they had formed their alliances among the recruits. There were almost three dozen men and women, though several that had been taken by force were still being held below deck in the brig. The remaining people were free to roam the ship, numbering at around 20. Though they all seemed to have formed small groups and alliances, whether based on social status, abilities or attitude, Luffy seemed to be singled out by them all. There was a difference between the boy and the others that Robin could see as the reason, and for that, none of them were willing to accept him. Despite the age gap (the majority being aged around thirty years) the boy didn't seem interested in reaping any of the benefits Baroque offered. He constantly harped on about his promise to his brother and his dream to become the Pirate King. Even now, though he had stopped his constant escape attempts, he still insisted that he would be escaping the first chance he got. To the others, Luffy was a foolish and ignorant child, and so none made any effort to associate with him.
Robin couldn't help but think of Luffy as the 'runt' of the litter. With his small size and lack of visible muscle, he stood out like a sore thumb amongst the recruits. The fact was however, that it was far from the truth. The rubber boy, in Robin's observations, appeared to be the strongest of those she had collected thus far. Despite his obvious clumsiness and lack of experience, the boy's fighting skills were far advanced beyond his years. The recruits often fought over little things, betting whatever valuables they may possess. Robin had only seen Luffy participate a couple of times, and that was when several men had run out of possessions and had put their food rations on the line. It had been quite shocking to watch such a little body tossing aside the muscle-bound thugs that fought the most. Through that fight she had seen the boy's potential, and though his technique was a little sloppy, with some training he would surely advance to become one of the numbered members of Baroque in no time. That thought once again lifted the historian's lips. She chuckled softly as several Baroque agents once again hauled him from the sea, sopping wet, but no worse for wear.
She tried not to show it, but it was fairly obvious that Robin, or Miss AllSunday as the agents knew her, favored their 'runt' among the new recruits. It was unlikely that Mr. 0 would also take so well to him however. Though Luffy possessed phenomenal fighting ability for his age and was a devil fruit user, he had also caused them numerous delays through his many escape attempts, and had almost alerted the marines onto their suspicious activities through the events in Logue Town. They were so far behind schedule now that Mr. 0 had even sent out three bananawani to 'tow' the ship along. Robin doubted he would let Luffy's resistance slide unpunished. She just hoped the boy would prove himself in the Baroque Works 'boot camp' recruit trials, and hopefully impress Mr. 0 with his talents. She didn't have much longer to wait either. With the help of the three oversized crocodiles, they would reach Arabasta by the next morning.
"Here are the daily reports, Miss AllSunday."
Robin sat back in her chair, gently closing the thick, aged book she had been reading all day. "Good." She muttered. "Is everybody in their cabins? We'll be arriving at Arabasta tomorrow, and Mr. 0 has requested that we continue our journey through the deserts rather than the city docks to avoid any unwanted attention."
"Yes ma'am. All recruits have settled into their cabins for the night—"
"YAHOOOOO!" came a sudden cry from the deck followed by the clatter of footsteps and several crashes. Robin raised a delicate eyebrow.
"Everybody?" she questioned.
"All except the rubber boy, Miss AllSunday." The agent replied, squirming a little. "We… haven't been able to catch him, yet."
Robin sighed and stood. "I will take care of it." The sun had set over an hour ago, and the anchors were dropped. This too, was a regular occurrence with Luffy. On any other day she would tolerate his childish antics, but they would be sailing again at dawn and the last thing Robin needed was a cranky teenager on her hands. The agent, noting his dismissal, gladly scurried from the room, barking out orders to the other men as Robin followed him out onto the deck. Luffy by now had scaled the mast, rubbery legs wrapped several times around the thick wooden pole as he laughed giddily, and enjoyed the view.
"Wow…" he murmured, eyes wide and bright. He suddenly felt a hand close around his wrist, followed by several more around his legs, arms and shoulders. "Huh?" he noised, intelligently. Robin smiled, her arms crossed in an 'x' over her own chest as her devil fruit limbs quickly dislodged Luffy from the mast and passed him easily along the deck to her feet.
"Aww, Robin, you're no fun!" Luffy grumbled.
"I thought I told you not to call me that?" Robin answered, ignoring his childish complaints.
"Well, it's your name isn't it? It's nicer than 'Miss AllSunday', anyway!"
"If you must call me that, then be sure to do so in private, Luffy." Robin replied, sapphire eyes glinting dangerously for a second. "When we are in the presence of Baroque agents and civilians, you will refer to me as Miss AllSunday."
"Alright Ro—" he stuttered, pouting slightly. He hadn't missed the warning in her eyes. "…Miss AllSunday."
"Good boy. It's time for bed." Robin chided, causing Luffy to puff with indignation at her babying tone.
"I'm not a little kid!"
"Then perhaps you should act your age, hm?" Robin replied, her eyes once again shining with mischief. She knew exactly what buttons to push with Luffy to get him to behave. Most of the time, anyway. She chuckled softly as the boy huffed and turned his back on her. "We'll be arriving at Arabasta tomorrow."
"Arabasta?" Luffy repeated, turning back to face Robin, eyes wide and excited. "You're not gonna drug me again, right?"
"So long as you behave yourself."
"What if I try to escape again?"
"The agents meeting us are not as lenient as the one's you've come to know."
"Shishishi! I could kick their asses any day!" Luffy gloated, flexing the muscles on his skinny rubbery arm."
"Perhaps." Robin replied, as she eyed him warily. "But for now, you will go to bed, or I will make you."
"Aww, but it's too HOT!" the teen whined, wiping at his forehead where a shine of sweat rested.
Robin didn't budge, and after a short staring contest, Luffy pouted and grabbed both of his cheeks. He stretched them out as far as his arms would reach and stuck out his tongue.
"Bleh!" he noised, before he released the skin, letting his cheeks snap back into place. Without another word, he turned back towards the cabin's and head below deck. Robin sighed softly. In some ways Luffy was so mature, but in others, he was still just a child. She hoped the training ahead wouldn't change that in him.
By the time the ship had docked the next day, it was late morning. The group, following orders from Mr. 0, were to travel to Rainbase. The first half of the journey would take them until nightfall, and the rest would be made on the backs of Banawani.
Robin watched as the oversized crocodiles that had towed them most of the way here slinked into deeper waters once unshackled from the ship. The majority of the crew and recruits were on land now and seemed to be feeling the heat. All that remained was the lead the recruits who were still resisting out in chains and then they would be on their way.
"Oi, Miss AllSunday," came a loud whine from her side, and the raven haired woman had to resist the urge to roll her eyes. Since entering the island's climate, Luffy had been constantly complaining of the heat. "Why do we have to wear all these extra clothes? It's too hot!"
"I've already explained, Luffy." she replied, patiently. "The desert sun is dangerous, and could deal painful, perhaps even fatal burns if the proper precautions aren't taken."
"But it's sooooo hoooooot!" Luffy whined as he wiped sweat from his brow. He looked up at her and gave a small pout. "Why did we come to this place? There's nothing here but sand!"
Robin smiled. "Our orders from Mr. 0 are to make the journey to the base through the desert. I don't like this place either, but let's just consider this training, hm?"
"Training?" Luffy whined, he didn't took too impressed. "I don't need any more, I've had enough!"
"Is that so?" Robin asked, frowning a little. With that kind of attitude, Luffy wouldn't last long under her boss' command. There was nothing she could do now though, and so with a small smirk, she decided to twist the truth a little, to make it seem more appealing to the grumpy teen. "If you're not interested in joining us, I suppose you can just stay here on the ship. Perhaps try to man it yourself to go home? The food supplies are low, and you can't navigate, but I'm sure you could find a way."
"Damn right I could!" Luffy stated, folding his arms across his chest. "I'll just find a navigator. I need one for my crew, anyway!"
Robin had heard all about Luffy's plans and ideals for his future. She wished she could share the boy's ignorance sometimes.
"Yes, you stay here, and the rest of us will continue on to the secret base." She replied, smiling as Luffy's eyes whipped straight to her face.
"Secret base!?" Luffy gasped, eyes sparkling with anticipation. "A real secret base!? Cool!!!"
Robin laughed a little. "Of course. Any recruits who make it through the training will also attend a feast."
Luffy swallowed visibly, stomach growling loudly before his eyes trailed back to the ship. He raised his hand to his chin, cupping it between his thumb and forefinger in thought. Robin watched, the smile never vanishing from her face. Suddenly the boy pulled his hand away from his chin, face lighting up with a grin as he curled his fingers into a fist and stamped it into his other open palm.
"I've decided!" he stated. "I'll go to the secret base, train to get stronger, eat all the food and then find a navigator and go home!"
"An excellent idea." Robin replied, chuckling softly at Luffy's naivety.
"Yosh!" Luffy cheered. Robin watched him for a few seconds more before reaching into her pocket, stepping away from the crew and calling her superior on the baby Den Den. After a few rings, the receiver picked up.
"…What?" answered a gruff voice on the other end.
"Mr. 0, we have arrived in Arabasta." Robin spoke.
"Good, start your journey to the designated location. Whatever recruits fail to make it, are to be left behind. They're not worth my time." said the deep voice of Mr. 0. "We have some 'interesting' recruits from some of the other blues already, anyway."
"That's good to hear, sir. I believe I've found someone interesting myself." Robin said with a small smile.
"There are several more, but one in particular seems to have a numbers potential." Robin explain.
"Is that so? Well then, let's see if this recruit survives training."
"I have a feeling he'll be just fine." Robin said with a slightly mysterious tone. "We are making our way to the Spider Café, the billions will stay there, and I'm going to take the recruits over to Rainbase by Banchi Coach."
"Very well." A click sounded signaling the end of the call.
Putting the Den-Den away, Robin then noticed Luffy running over to her, looking excited.
"Robiiiiin!" he called happily, but paused at Robin's sharp look. "Err, I mean, Miss AllSunday! Look what I found!" He then held up a hand full of plump red berries. "They look tasty! Especially this really big fat one! I'll share them with you if you want!" he said with a grin.
"Oh…?" Robin looked at the berries, but then her eyes widened and with a swift swipe, scattered the berries all over the sand. "Luffy! Those aren't berries!"
The berries then suddenly sprouted long thin little legs and scurried away.
Luffy watched in shock. "The berries…they ran away…"
Robin gave a relieved sigh. "Those weren't berries; you found a family of 'Desert Strawberries'. They're a kind of spider, if you eat one, you'll die several days later."
Luffy blinked in shock before letting out a bewildered cry. "Wahh! I almost died and I haven't even had the feast yet!"
Robin blinked before chuckling softly again. Really, this boy was too much. "Is all you think about your stomach?"
"Nope." Luffy replied, utterly serious. "I think about Ace and pirates and One Piece, too!"
Robin laughed again and shook her head. She couldn't remember the last time she had laughed so much. "Well, let's get going, shall we?" with that said, she turned back to the rest of the group and Luffy couldn't help but notice how her face and voice hardened. Robin was such a strange woman. She acted mean and did some bad stuff, but that was okay, because she was nice around him. He'd do the stupid training and then eat all the food. Then he would leave with Robin, because she was smart and would make a great member to his crew.
Pleased with his decision, Luffy trailed after the group, feeling very sneaky with his devious plans.
The desert sun was harsh and unforgiving, the heat left travelers drained and exhausted, and if one dared to expose themselves from their protective clothes in hopes of feeling the breeze, they would soon pay the price. Small but fast gusts of wind whipped sand around like miniscule rocks, slapping the grains against burnt and tender skin. As the group moved on, they left a trail bodies behind. Recruits stated lagging before dropping like flies, and if they were still alive, but too tired to go on, they were left to die and decay anyway in the burning sand. There was no sign of remorse on Robin's face and Luffy was too occupied with his own thirst to really notice. Most of the surviving recruits made no effort to so much as look when one o their comrades fell. It wasn't until late afternoon when Luffy really noticed their dwindling numbers. He stayed beside Robin most of the time, only venturing away when he spotted a weird looking cactus or any form of living creature. He soon joined back with the group though.
The Baroque Works billions, along with their leader, Miss AllSunday, all had their own canister of rationed water. No water had been offered to any of the recruits by Mr. 0's orders, and that had been a main factor in the loss of most. Luffy had been thirstily eyeing Robin's canister for hours now, but with the tense, silent atmosphere, even he had stayed quiet. Finally, licking his dry lips, he turned to the dark haired leader of the group.
"Ro-...um, Miss All-Sunday...! It's too hot!" he whined. Tongue dangling out of his mouth like a dog. "Can I have some water?"
"No Luffy, we have to keep going."
"Please?" Luffy begged. "Just a drop, ne?" he licked his lips again, swallowing dryly, blinking sweat out of his eyes. Why was sweat salty, anyway? If it wasn't, he could just drink that!
Robin gave Luffy a harsh glare, but she couldn't be too mad at him, he was after all, the youngest in the group. He didn't look too bad off, but it'd be a waste if he were to fall in this desert. "Okay, but just a small sip, understand?"
Luffy nodded with a smile. He took the canteen and took a good sip from it. Robin didn't scold him. She hadn't actually expected him to take a 'small sip'. If there was one thing she'd learnt about the boy, it was with him, it was big or nothing.
"Oi!" called out one of the others, voice gravelly and dry. "How come that kid gets a drink!? Look at how many of us were left behind!"
"I don't have to answer to you." Robin said coldly, offering him nothing but a stone cold look.
"Like Hell you don't!" the recruit then rushed at her, hands out, ready to strangle the woman.
"Foolish man." Robin chided, folding her arms across her chest in an 'x'.
"Cinco Flur… CLUTCH!"
A sickening crack sounded and the recruit fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, groaning in pain.
"Anybody else care to question my judgment?" Robin asked. "They were weak. The desert weeds out the weak from the strong. If you have a problem with that, then head back to the ship."
"But that's suicide!" called another man, one of those still cuffed.
"Then keep going. Or would you rather die a coward?" Robin said coldly.
Luffy watched Robin silently as she turned around again and began to walk. Nobody else moved to follow for a few seconds and the teen stared after her expressionless. "Yosh!" he said suddenly and raised his fists in the air. "I'm no coward!" He declared, and with that he continued to walk with Robin.
The others watched on in shock. To be out done by some brat? Not while they were still breathing. They continued on.
Around midnight they had finally reached Spider's Cafe. Thirty-two out of fifty weary Baroque agents followed by fourteen exhausted recruits. After all, only the strongest were welcome in Baroque, so if the current agents could be taken down by the new ones, they obviously weren't fit to be there. Robin had said nothing hearing her comrades startled cries as sever recruits jumped them, stealing their water and fighting amongst themselves for a drink. They had lost more recruits and agents to fights than to the desert. The survivors were rewarded for their efforts with drink and food. Paula, the 'owner' of the cafe and also a Baroque agent herself shook her head at the pathetic sight. She stood next to Robin, and offered her a mug of coffee, smoking her pipe. "The coach will be here soon."
"Thank you, Miss Doublefinger." Robin said with a small smile, sipping gratefully at the coffee. Though the day had been burning hot, after the sun had fallen, the night winds were ruthlessly cold.
"Honestly, I can't see any potential from this ragtag group you've collected." Paula added.
"It's a good thing it was my job to pick them out then." Robin began. "You can't always judge a book by its cover, Miss Doublefinger."
"That was good!" Luffy said suddenly as he leaned back and patted his full belly. Robin chuckled slightly at the sight of the boy. Honestly, his rubber body truly was amusing. The agent known as Miss Doublefinger blinked in surprise at the sight of the teen that now looked like an oversized beach ball with arms and legs.
"Perhaps." Paula replied, glancing to Robin. Her baby DenDen suddenly came to life, and Miss Doublefinger quickly pulled it out, answering and muttering a few quiet words to the other person on the line. "Yes, sir." She muttered as she disconnected.
"Mr. 0?" Robin inquired, and received a nod in response. Robin stood and walked to the window, pulling a curtain aside, spotting the cloud of dust in the distance. Their ride was here.
Paula then clapped her hands to gain everyone's attention. "Oi! I suggest you all go outside now, your ride will be here shortly."
The recruits began to file out of the cafe, sated by their full stomachs and knowing they would soon get this 'training' out of the way and reap the benefits they had been promised. Robin followed, Luffy sticking close to her, as usual.
"So how do we get to the Secret Base?" he asked, eyes sparkling again at the prospect of seeing a real secret base.
"By Banchi coach." Robin replied, then pointed ahead.
Luffy looked to where she pointed and could see a cloud of dust and sand quickly approaching. His eyes widened as the cloud screeched to a halt. Standing before them was a huge hard faced turtle; it had piercing eyes, a hat on his head, and a cigar in his mouth.
"S-SO COOL!" Luffy cried, running forward as fast as his oversized belly would allow, trying to get a better look at the giant turtle.
"This is the Banchi coach." Robin explained, smiling at the boy's antics. She then headed for the coach but then stopped when she saw Luffy perched stretch his arms up and rocket himself onto the turtles head.
"I like this spot!" Luffy said with a grin, patting the turtles head. "you don't mind, right Mr. Turtle?"
The creature let out a noise and Robin shook her head, though couldn't help but laugh. As soon as all of the recruits were on board, the Banchi coach set off again. Robin made sure to sprout a few extra arms around Luffy, to keep him in place as he slept off the day's events. Tomorrow would decide if the boy lived or died, after all, so he deserved his sleep.
Rainbase was famous for its casinos and restaurants. Colorful flashing lights, the passing of money back and forth, and delicious smells and food all served as a spectacular mask, for what laid hidden beneath.
Unknown to the inhabitants of Arabasta, below the hustle and bustle of Rainbase, was the underground headquarters of Baroque Works, as well as its training camp. Secrecy; that was the key word. How else could you prepare pawns for combat without raising suspicion?
Robin's recruits had been assembled with all other collected from the other blues in the main training area. The initial evaluation session would segregate the groups into ranks amongst the billions, based on their abilities, strength and other determining factors. The training instructor walked along, glimpsing at the faces of the recruits that were brought to him for training. Bounty hunters, bandits, thieves, possibly even a pirate or two.
"You're all the sorriest bunch of fools and weaklings I've ever seen!" he spat.
Finally reaching the end of the line the instructor spotted Luffy, who yawned in boredom, picking at his nose with his pinky finger. "What the Hell is this!?" the instructor shouted as he roughly prodded Luffy in the chest with his meaty finger. "They're sending me children now!? You better pray to whatever Gods you believe in, you bug-eyed little bastard!"
Luffy glanced at the instructor in annoyance through half lidded eyes. He hadn't got much sleep last night and this guy was too noisy! At least he wasn't as bad as Gramps, though. This secret base wasn't as great as Robin had made it out to be either. Upstairs it was all colourful and exciting, but down here, it was just plain boring! Ignoring the man twice his size and age, Luffy rolled up the booger he's picked and flicked it away, ignorant to the fact that it had just landed straight on the instructors face.
"Why, you little…!" the man roared, clenching his hand into a fist and punching towards Luffy's face.
Luffy (who had resumed picking his nose), bend his body backward, blinking in surprise at the unexpected attack. "Oi, why are you attacking me?"
The instructor ignored Luffy's question and sprung into a flurry of attacks on the boy, each one dodges as easily as the last. Finally, Luffy frowned in annoyance and sidestepped the furious giant, catapaulting himself onto the man's shoulders before pulling his head back and headbutting him in the back of the bead. The man fell like a sack of flour and Luffy stumbled back to the floor, humming in disappointment. The other recruits stared in shock as the instructor went down. Some even began to laugh at the spectacle.
"Aww, you're not so tough." Luffy whined.
Robin watched with a personal satisfaction as the other agents gawked shamelessly. Luffy certainly was a rough diamond, but with a little shaping, he could become a fine fighter. She glanced up to the observation window, noting the shadow present there. Hopefully, the boy would also impress Mr. 0 in the coming days.
The next week was full of nothing but yelling, push-ups, chin ups, combat training, and obstacle courses. Too easy, this stuff wasn't hard at all. Work of the farms, training with his Grandpa and years of play and rough housing with his brother made such tasks a breeze. The other trainees could only stare in awe and wonder just how the hell a mere kid could do such things and still have so much stamina.
"Yahooooooooooo!" Luffy called as he rocketed himself over a wall that was to be climbed over.
The (new) instructor blew his whistle. "Brat! I said no devil fruit powers! Get you worthless ass back here and do it over again!"
Luffy huffed and walked back. He then climbed the wall with ease, perching himself at the top; looking back at the instructor he gave a cheeky grin. "Happy?"
The instructor went red in the face, but made no comment and instead turned his attention to another recruits.
Not far from the training area, there was the observation room Robin had been so focused on not long ago. With a window that was disguised like a mirror, none of the recruits new of their spectators. Standing in the room was Robin and a very intimidating man. He was tall, with grayish skin, had long slicked back hair and a long scar across his face in a horizontal line. He wore a heavy, dark coat lined with thick fur, which was rather odd for the climate of the desert kingdom; he had a golden hook for one hand, and a collection of rings on the other. He was the boss of it all, the founder of Baroque Works. This man was Mr. 0 or better known as Sir Crocodile.
"What the hell is that kid doing?" Crocodile said as he watched from a window. "He's totally uncontrollable." He then looked toward the woman who was casually leaning against a desk in the room.
Robin smirked mysteriously. "Though he has a stubborn streak, he definitely can be of good use to us."
"Hmph… What makes you so sure about that?" Crocodile said, giving the woman a cold, dark glare. "The brat has potential, but I need loyalty. From your reports, he is the one that caused all of your delays."
Robin was unfazed. "He has more than potential, sir. He has bloodline."
"Get to the point, Miss AllSunday. I'm losing my patience."
"Have you heard of the 'men of D'? It's a strange family line. I don't know much about it myself, but what I do know is they are capable of frightening strength and power. It's almost as if they can twist fate itself."
"You expect me to be impressed by a legend, Miss AllSunday?"." Crocodile said as he placed a cigar in his mouth, glaring at the woman. He picked up the boy's file, glancing over the details. "Monkey D. Luffy. Why does that name sound familiar?"
"His father and grandfather, sir."
Crocodile's eyes once again fell to the paper and he flipped a page, finding the information he was looking for. His eyes widened in disbelief. Robin, after hearing on whom Luffy's grandfather was, invested some time into researching his background. There wasn't much to know, but she could at least confirm that he was who he said he was.
"You expect me to believe this runt is Dragon's boy?!"
"He didn't say so personally. I don't think he knows his father, but he is adamant that Monkey D. Garp is his grandfather. The people in the town also claim that fact as true."
Crocodile frowned, looked out the window again, seeing the kid outrun everyone on the obstacle course. "As you said, Miss AllSunday, it seems we have found a rough diamond." His eyes narrowed. "That spirit of his could be dangerous."
Robin said nothing. This had been what she was worried about. Luffy truly was a potential asset to Baroque Works, but agents had to be loyal and obedient. Through she could see the boy's loyalty was strong, it was only for things and people he believed in. She doubted she could convince him to fight willingly with Baroque. The boy still believed he could get home.
If Crocodile took an interest in Luffy, the boy would be broken down until obedient. If he didn't, the boy would be dead.
"Is there anything else you need, Mr. 0?"
"Yes." Crocodile replied, watching as the recruits finished up their days training, though Robin couldn't help but notice his eyes fixed on Luffy. "I want to talk to that brat."
Robin made her way down to the bunkers feeling oddly numb. She had been so careful, so cold for so long. How had Luffy wormed his way past her defenses? She cared about the boy, enough to care about whether he lived or died, and in this day and age, that could be a dangerous liability. Mr. 0 had requested a private audience with the teen. She knew he would test the boy, perhaps hurt him. Robin pushed back the regret. What did it matter? It was too late to take him back now, anyway. This would be a fine opportunity for him. He would be rich, powerful, have opportunities people only dreamed of. If only she could get him to behave.
Robin opened the door to the bunkers and walked in, spotting Luffy reclining on a top bunk not far away.
"Luffy," she called, "Can you come here, please?"
The boy smiled widely at the sight of his friend (and future crewmate, but that's a secret).
"Yo! Robin!" he greeted, jogging over to her, ignoring the bad looks he received from the other men in the room.
"You seem to be adjusting well, Luffy." she replied. "How are you finding the training?"
"It's too easy! I've been doing this stuff since I was little! Gramps used to make me and Ace train all the time!" the boy gave a small huff, once again ignoring the onslaught of glares from around the room. "It's not so tough out here. Why would Ace want me to stay home?" Suddenly, Luffy gasped, eyes widening. "You don't think he wants to be pirate king too, do you!?"
Robin gave a small laugh. "Luffy, though it's good to have confidence, I don't think you should underestimate the sea. There are many who are a lot stronger than you and many things you don't know."
"Eh, really?" Luffy said with a surprised blink.
Robin gave a nod. "I think your brother was really trying to look out for you. If you're not careful, you can easily get killed out here, especially on the Grand Line."
"Huh. That's what Ace said, too. He said there was lots of stuff I don't know." Luffy replied, frowning. "I'm not gonna have to study, am I?"
Robin chuckled softly, "I doubt it." She spoke, before her tone fell serious again. "Luffy, I've been sent to collect you. Mr. 0 has requested a private audience with you."
"Huh? Me? How come?" the teen asked, scratching his scalp in confusion.
"He was impressed by your little display in the training sessions." Robin smiled. "Now, let's go."
Luffy followed after Robin as she left the room and kept up with her brisk pace. "Ne, Robin? What kind of dangerous things are out there? I'm strong, y'know. I could probably kick their asses!"
"Strength isn't everything, Luffy" Robin chided gently. "Intelligence, skill, experience. There are many more factors in life than simply strength."
"You're smart." The grinning boy replied. "So if I stick with you, I should be fine, right?"
"You can't expect to be 'looked after', Luffy. Depending on people can be a dangerous thing."
"People here, they would sooner stab you in the back than shake your hand."
Luffy looked thoughtful. "I better get a crew quick then, to watch my back. "
Robin stopped, blinking in surprise at the boy's words. Luffy almost bumped into her and blinked curiously as she turned to face him.
"I told you, you can't trust people to take care of you."
"Yeah, but I can't become Pirate King all by myself!" Luffy replied. "I told you, I need a swordsman, a navigator, a musician…!"
Robin listened to Luffy prattle on blankly. She noticed how the boy seemed to light up when he spoke of his dream, and how his confidence became less arrogant, and more respectable. She could see Luffy truly believed what he was saying. There was no doubt in his mind that he would become the Pirate king. Crocodile was right. His spirit was a dangerous thing. She hoped it could survive.
"In fact," Luffy said suddenly. "I don't want to stay here anymore. Maybe I can even find Ace; it could be fun being on the same crew!" He then grinned at the thought.
Robin gave a small sigh. She knew it would come to this, and she had to think of a way to lead the boy on a little longer. If he tried to escape now, he would be killed on sight. She had seen the new 'numbers' agents Crocodile had assembled, and though they weren't yet a complete set, the current numbers were frighteningly strong. Luffy wouldn't stand a chance.
"You still haven't found that navigator, and have no crew yet." Robin stated. "I've already told you, the sea is dangerous. Your brother wouldn't be too happy, if you went out there just to get yourself killed."
Luffy stuck his tongue out at her. "I don't care about that! I'm strong! I can take care of myself!" he the pouted and looked away from Robin. "Besides, it's your fault anyway; you guys took me away from my village!"
The dark haired woman resisted the urge to sigh. Luffy immaturity, though endearing, could at times be trying.
"Well, I thought you'd want an opportunity to get stronger." Robin began, finally getting an idea on how to get to the boy. "After all, if you stayed in your village, how could you push your limits?"
Luffy gave her a puzzled look. "Push my limits?" He cocked his head to the side.
"It'd be hard to improve yourself by staying in a small village. To grow in strength you need training and experience." Robin explained. "Why don't you stay with us just for a little bit longer? Besides, didn't you say you wanted to eat that feast when the training is complete?"
Robin smiled knowingly as Luffy faltered. She knew he had been tempted with the idea of getting stronger, and to put food on top of that was practically irresistible. She had the boy hook, line and sinker.
"I… guess I could stay until the training is over." He finally relented.
"Excellent!" Robin smiled warmly. "It would get a bit boring without you."
Luffy could feel his face warm up suddenly and quickly averted his eyes. "But just until the food! Then I leave! And that's that!" he said stubbornly.
Robin nodded, knowing no such thing would be taking place and continued on, leading Luffy to the Crocodile's jaws.
Clarobell: This chapter is officially meatbun approved! Thank you all for beingso patient. It's nice and long. Hopefully, we'll pop out another chap soon.
VTM: 83 Cliff hanger! XD Fufufufu! Can't wait to see what happens? Too bad! Wait until the next chapter!