A/N: Allllllllright, another update! This is a very lengthy one, so get comfortable and pace yourself! I'm going to take a moment here to say that I'm likely going to have to retcon some things as I write this story. For those of you not familiar with the term, it basically means I'm going to go back and alter previously posted areas to better fit with what I'm doing now. I don't plan on altering large events, and to give an example of what I mean, I'm going to have the time frame from where Rederick leaves the bar to when Zoro sees Robin at the entrance be a few minutes rather than a couple seconds (chapter 9). Since this is a very large story that I'm working on as I go (plus I've been working on it for a long time) there will be differences from what I plan to what gets written. Hopefully I won't have to make many changes after this, but you never know. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know what it was and where. I've also slightly changed the discussion with Robin and the new guy at the end of last chapter since that part was the rushed area and it didn't feel clean to me (most importantly I changed it so they were in a back alley instead of being out in the open). Well that's enough of the insane author's note, so enjoy!!


"Your devil's fruit power is as dangerous as they say it is, let's see whose is more so."

The voice was certainly that of the man that should have been crushed, Nico Robin had no doubt in her mind about it. The fact alone that his body was shattered into black fragments was enough to disturb the archeologist, but now he was directly behind her? Not the greatest discovery.

Robin bolted forwards to get out of arm's reach while looking back to see if her suspicions were true. The grinning visage of a man with short, jet black hair proved the strawhat right in her guess and Robin jumped forward while turning back to face her opponent. Surprisingly, he hadn't made a move to pursue her since she'd begun making distance and Robin guessed that he hadn't even flinched at her reaction, something that did not bode well for the woman.

"Jumpy, are we?" The man cocked his head to the side and grinned eagerly at Robin. "Good to see that you're not going to try to run away, not yet at least. I've been itching to do something fun ever since we docked at this island."

"We?" Robin asked, picking up on the word he'd used. At the moment the raven haired archeologist had only been able to learn of four people in this mystery crew, Callos who she had run into, the large man accompanying him, his companion inside the bar that she had followed and now this character. Should he decide to talk, Robin felt she could gather some much needed information from him.

The jet black haired man held one arm while tapping his chin with the other, considering something. "Hmm… I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you a little bit, seems only fair considering I busted up your arms before getting a chance to introduce myself."

Robin looked down, raising her arms palms upward to inspect the damage her opponent had just mentioned. Though he'd definitely exaggerated the extent of her injuries, Robin's arms had certainly had seen better days. Spotted areas along the two limbs had blood begin to form, some more seriously than others, and there were a couple areas where the blood began streaking down the arm.

"Well, for starters, I am Raldios Wells, member of the Falken Bounty Hunters. As I'm sure you've surmised from the introduction, we're a group of bounty hunters. Under normal circumstances you wouldn't have anything to worry about since our crew's policy of chasing a bounty is to pick a specific target and track them. As of right now the Straw Hats aren't on our radar."

Raldios gestured back to the Clock's Hand. "However, I find it disturbing you would tag one of my crewmates. Even if you didn't know he was one, the fact remains he is a bounty hunter and I doubt a pirate such as yourself would gain anything of value by following him. What reason did you have?"

"Why don't you tell me?" Robin asked, smirking.

"Oho," Raldios chuckled, taking the flipping coin from earlier out of his pocket, thumbing it in his hand, "looks like you had a reason, one way or another." The bounty hunter thought to himself for a moment before narrowing his eyes and glancing briefly at the archeologist. "I wonder if…" he paused again, deep in thought. "It's possible…"

Raldios turned his attention to a clearly confused archeologist. "Tell me, did you and the rest of your crew come to this island of your own desire or was your course… altered?"

The question stunned Robin and a surprised grunt escaped the raven haired archeologist. She didn't know what he was piecing together, but the strawhat got the impression it wasn't something she'd like.

"I guess that settles it then…" Raldios flipped the coin into the air and caught it. "I can't let you leave." He spoke dispassionately, indiscriminately, and kept his eyes half opened on the coin in his hand. Suddenly he looked dangerously at the archeologist. "I guess I'll have to go against crew policy and collect your bounty early."

The bounty hunter raised his right arm up into the air and thrust it into the ground below him, the earth giving way effortlessly as if he were punching through a cloud. Robin, startled by the sudden gesture, jumped backwards to get herself moving and to extend the distance between herself and her new foe, her specialty in fighting being long distance and avoiding close encounters.

Robin made it halfway through her jump backwards before something grabbed a hold of her right ankle, causing her to get thrown into the ground on her back. The archeologist landed hard and had the wind knocked out of her, however what alerted her more was the jabbing pain in her right ankle, likely twisted from the fall.

The raven haired archeologist looked incredulously to her hurt ankle, gasping wildly for air, to see that a hand protruding from the ground had it firmly in its grasp. Not understanding but having a sneaking suspicion of the source, Robin looked wearily at the bounty hunter not 20 feet from her and noticed that his arm wasn't so much penetrating the ground as it was merging with it.

Raldios looked up from the ground with a devious grin on his face. "Surprised? I don't blame you, quite honestly. I've yet to come across a person who hasn't been." Reaching up with his other hand, Robin saw the man's limb fade to black as he bore it into the ground at shoulder width from the other.

The archeologist shrieked in agony as she felt something sharp pierce through her right arm above her elbow from the ground underneath her. Gasping heavily and grabbing at the wound, Robin looked to her side and saw a rough, jagged, and black spike dripping with her blood. It looked familiar to the archeologist, however the blood from her arm made it difficult to ascertain why and the horrendous pain clouded her judgment.

The raven haired woman heard a guttural, bloodthirsty laughter coming from her opponent.

"Did that hurt, Nico Robin? It didn't look too bad on my end, but it sounded amazing. You have quite the voice; it's almost music to my ears to hear you scream like that. I'd love to hear it some more, but I'm afraid another yell like that and I'll have to speed things up; don't want to attract too much attention before the right time, now do I?"

Robin opened her mouth to call out regardless, feeling her chances of escaping the situation better if there was a large commotion than being alone with this psycho, regardless if marines were to come or not. Before the raven haired archeologist could even utter a sound, she felt her ankle let go of and a second spike shot from the ground less than an inch from her mouth. The strawhat stifled her yell.

"That's more like it; you're finally starting to understand. I'd prefer to take you in alive for the larger sum of money, but don't forget I have no obligation to do so. Try that again and I'll make sure the next one goes through your throat."

Without warning the jet black haired bounty hunter stood up and withdrew his arms from the ground. With his arms came the spikes from where Robin was, a second extremely potent pain nearly overwhelming the archeologist. To prevent herself from crying out from the spike's removal, Robin covered her mouth with both of her hands and rolled over face-first onto the ground, using that and her hands to muffle as much of the noise as she could. Aside from not wanting the bounty hunter to follow through with his promise, Robin more so wanted to deny the fiend the satisfaction of hearing her scream again.

"You're a quick learner, I'll give you that." Raldios stretched his arms out in the air before continuing to do so with the rest of his body, loosening up his muscles. "Though I do have to profess a certain disappointment that I didn't get to hear that beautiful scream again," the man paused, looking morbidly at the strawhat, "perhaps I'll just force you to do it and then kill you. I do feel a bit weird simply threatening you without following through in any way, it just doesn't feel right."

Robin mostly ignored what her adversary was saying, instead trying to take advantage of his inactivity by standing up. Her right ankle still throbbed in pain from before, and the archeologist found it even harder to prop herself up without placing any weight on her right arm. She could hardly move it, let alone do any hard work with it.

Raldios furiously rubbed his head. "Gahhhh, I can't decide whether or not I want to kill you." He looked irately at the raven haired woman. "Oh well, I guess I could just knock you around a bit, see if I can make up my mind." The bounty hunter then smiled as he recalled the threat he'd made earlier. "Or perhaps you'll make up my mind for me."

The Falken crewmember bolted at the nearly incapacitated strawhat, a wild look in his eyes. Robin had almost made it fully into a standing position, however she knew that she wasn't going to make it in time to do something before her attacker made it to her. Slumping back on to her knees, the archeologist crossed her arms, her right arm lower than the other, and concentrated on her powers.

Two arms, one more bloodied than the other, sprouted from the ground slightly ahead of Raldios and clutched his ankles as he ran, similar to his affront against the archeologist, throwing the gruff individual headfirst towards the ground. Robin sprouted another two arms from the man's lower back as he fell and grasped around his face, pulling back and protruding his chin so that he would land on it first. The archeologist hoped that the impact would snap the man's neck backward; breaking it with a force she could not currently muster. It was a grisly way to end the encounter, but better it that he died than her.

Raldios slammed into the ground, his chin still extended from the archeologist's efforts, and wheezed upon impact. Much to Robin's horror, the bounty hunter's neck did not bend backwards at an impossible angle, rather it hardly moved at all as the man landed. Instead, the injured woman watched as the man's neck and chin turned black and into a stone of some sort just before impact, fragments of said stone chipping off of the man's chin as he hit.

Raldios continued panting heavily as the arms dispersed around him and grabbed at his chin hurriedly, blood starting to flow from in between his fingers. At this particular moment Robin could have sworn she heard the noise resemblant of a building wall getting destroyed off in the distance, but put it to the back of her mind.

"Shit, you really did a number on me there. Looks like I shouldn't get ahead of myself here, you're just as dangerous wounded as you are normally, if not more so. A cornered rat might put up a hell of a fight, but they don't hold a candle to a cornered snake." Raldios sneered at Robin's negative reaction to the last word he used. "Don't give me that look. You've rightly earned that title through your life, Nico Robin. You may be in a better place now, but a snake is always a snake, no matter how many times it sheds its skin."

Robin continued to glare at the man, clearly insulted and pissed off. Raldios shrugged his shoulders and looked apathetically to the angered woman.

"Don't be so offended. Or do, whatever, I don't really care." He brushed the dirt off of his pants. "It was a compliment if anything, since you must really be in a good crew now to have such a vehement response. I wonder what kind of people they are…"

"Don't you even THINK about the others!" Robin spat out, seething in fury. "Trash like you doesn't even have the right to talk about them. If you even think of doing anything to them I'll kill you."

Raldios straightened up, flicking his hand to get as much blood as he could off of it. The man placed his fingers in his mouth, drawing the rest of the blood on them into his mouth, spitting it to the side afterwards. Having cleaned most of the life fluid from his hand, Raldios wiped off the rest on his black pants.

"Kill me, will you? Looks like you just tried, sweetheart; how did that work out again?" He began lightly touching his chin to see if it was still bleeding, patches of his skin missing from the impact. "If you've been holding back, I suggest you stop doing so now. I know I will be."

It looked as though the bounty hunter was about to renew his assault, something Robin was not entirely prepared for yet. She needed some time to think, to analyze the situation and come up with a plan, she needed to distract the man who was likely going to try and kill her in just a few moments.

"Your power…" Robin began, noticing that her opponent paused in his advance, "a devil fruit, I presume?"

"Obviously."

"I'm interested in it, to be honest. I've never seen a power apart from my own able to sprout limbs like that." Robin gestured to where the bounty hunter had thrust his arms into the ground, simultaneously feeling her strength start to recover. "Care to explain?"

Raldios began to laugh. "Explain? I don't know what kind of people you've been fighting, Nico Robin, but I doubt many of them gave away the secrets of their devil fruit power so easily."

Robin grinned at her opponent. "You'd be surprised."

Raldios spread his arms out to the side and shrugged his shoulders. "I'm sure I would be." He narrowed his eyes, inspecting the archeologist. "Even still, I don't think I'll be giving up my advantage so easily, especially against someone like you."

The raven haired archeologist chuckled. "What, you mean that I don't know about you being an Onyx man?" She renewed her grin with extra vigor when the bounty hunter looked back at her aghast. "Interesting power indeed, I guess that's why you were able to use your power through the earth."

"Oho, you really are as good as they say," Raldios said cautiously, preparing himself for any tricks the pirate across from him might come up with. If she already knew about his power, she might have an idea of how to counter it. "What gave it away?"

Robin pointed to where the bounty hunter had fallen. When he looked to where she indicated, Raldios noticed small chips of his onyx laying on the ground that had split from his chin.

"You were able to tell it was onyx from just that? I'm impressed."

Robin tossed back a loose tuft of hair, looking triumphantly at the bounty hunter. "I am an archeologist, after all. It would also explain why you were able to transfer your arm through the ground like that. Since onyx is based off of quartz, the second most abundant mineral in the earth's crust, it would make sense that you could merge your body with the earth."

The Falken crewmember softly applauded the raven haired archeologist's deduction. "Fascinating. It's a real shame you're not a part of our crew, we could really use somebody like you."

Robin began clenching her right hand. Though it was still badly injured, the strength that had all but left the limb was now somewhat returning. "No thanks, I've seen your type before. Always biting off more than they can chew; reaching for the stars while forgetting to keep their feet on the ground. The kind that dies young."

Raldios's features twitched. "Die young?" he repeated mockingly. "You must have me mistaken for that piece of shit captain you have. If anyone is going to die young, it's him."

If the jet black haired individual had thought the archeologist was angry before, it didn't compare to how she looked now.

"Now that I think about it," the bounty hunter smugly continued, "I get that vibe from the rest of your crew as well. Cyborg Franky, Black Leg Sanji, Demon Cutter Zor—"

"YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH, YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!" Robin bellowed at the Falken crewmember. "If you say another word about them, I'll make sure you never say anything else again, living or not."

"Really now? And how would you go about doing th—"

The bounty hunter got no further in his dare when two arms sprouted from his body, one from his stomach and the other his upper back. The arm from his back bent around the top of his head and snatched his mouth while the one from his stomach clutched the bottom half, his jaw.

"I'll rip it right from your mouth," Robin answered the challenge coolly, her composure finally returning. "It's ungraceful and barbaric, but I swear it will happen if you ever speak ill of my crew again. It's one thing to say those things about me, but don't you dare say those things about them."

Just as suddenly as they appeared the hands disappeared in an array of petals. Reprieved from the dangerous clasp on his mouth, Raldios coughed heavily while kneeling to the ground.

"So what's so special about Roronoa Zoro?" he finally asked after a moment, his voice a little shook up.

Robin said nothing in reply, though her question was still conveyed to her assailant all the same.

"You didn't react until I mentioned his name. Something special between you two?"

"Frankly that's none of your business."

"True enough, you remind me of someone else who used to be in my crew." Raldios stood back up and his eyes glossed over, deep in thought. "Just as hot as you are, if not more so. Calm and collected most of the time, but rile her up and holy shit she was a bitch. I think she had the hots for another person in my crew before she betrayed us, and somehow I imagine the two of them as what you and Roronoa Zoro must be like." His darker eyes sharpened, again focusing on the woman before him. "Strange how it works like that, isn't it?"

Robin shook her head. "I wouldn't know."

"ZORO! YOU BASTARD, I'LL KILL YOU RIGHT HERE AND NOW!"

The yell came from off in the distance, and Robin surmised that it had come from… the bar the person she had been tailing entered? Robin swore profusely under her breath and the only thing she could think about was that the taller bounty hunter had run across the swordsman and that the two of them were fighting right now.

Raldios looked over in the direction of the Clock's Hand before smiling in amusement. "Very strange how things work out like that…" he looked back to the archeologist, a bemused smile covering his face, "isn't it?"

Again, Robin did not answer the jet black haired man, however for different reasons this time. She no longer had any time to spare on the individual, more pressing matters had arisen. She found it ironic how she had earlier been struggling to gain extra time, now she could afford none.

Another intruding noise entered the alley the two were fighting in, the noise of a man crying out in pain and the smashing sound of wooden doors slamming open. The two dared a glance at the source, able to see nothing. Afterwards, both looked grimly at the other.

"I agree with you," Raldios spoke, breaking the silence, "we should end this now. Things sound like they're about to get pretty heavy; it would be bad for our fight to continue going. Wouldn't want the town patrol breathing down our necks, now do we?"

"Can't say I do."

"Finally, we agree on something."

"Never thought it would happen."

Raldios began to chuckle before charging at the raven haired archeologist. The strawhat called out to her powers and formed arms on the bounty hunter's body that arched around his face, covering his eyes and blinding his vision.

The jet black haired man sneered viciously and yelled out loudly. Robin felt a sharp, stabbing pain across her arms and immediately dispersed them, seeing afterwards that the bounty hunter had formed spiky protrusions from his head, sharp enough to pierce skin. Robin cursed her luck, she wouldn't be able to pull off the same tricks again as easily as before.

The raven haired archeologist felt the blood on her arms running down a little more freely than before and a thought struck her. Raising her arms, the strawhat swung them forcibly at her attacker moments before he made it to her, the blood streaking down them getting flung off from the force.

Droplets of blood cascaded into the jet black haired man, pelting his face while a couple lone drops hit him in the eyes. The man grunted, but otherwise did not falter with his assault. Focusing on his onyx fruit power, the bounty hunter turned his right arm into the gemstone and swung forcefully at where he knew the archeologist was. Despite his inability to see, the bounty hunter felt something give way to his fist and a grin appeared. He took the time to clear out his eyes to see a building wall half-collapsed in front of him and it dawned on the jet black haired bounty hunter that it was what he had struck, not the archeologist.

Turning around quickly, the Falken crewmember saw that his opponent had easily sidestepped his blow and was now at a distance, closing her eyes and crossing her arms.

"Cien Fleur!"

The bounty hunter didn't know what the woman was planning on doing, but knew that he couldn't allow her any time for attacks. The woman was a brilliant fighter, relying on her surroundings and observations for victory, that much Raldios understood. Since she had learned certain things he could do, most notably protecting his body from her abilities, Raldios knew she was avoiding physical confrontation.

Raldios raised his right knee upwards, his foot still pointing downwards, before stomping into the ground. His foot merged with the ground and he sent it travelling through the ground to under the archeologists left foot, having it protrude from under it. His foot threw the archeologists left leg up into the air, throwing off her balance and forcing all of her weight to be placed on her injured ankle. She cried out in pain from the sudden altercation.

The bounty hunter took advantage of the distraction, running up to the woman, closing the distance between them. The Falken crewmember heard an extremely loud thud and felt the earth tremble as what he presumed to be a large chunk of the building he'd punched through crashed into the ground behind him, where he'd moments before been standing. When he made it to the archeologist he ducked and swept his leg across the ground, knocking the raven haired woman into the air by kicking out her leg. As she floated in the air, Raldios continued the spinning motion, hardening his left arm and punching the pirate in the stomach as he finished the rotation.

Robin coughed out as she was thrust back a couple of feet from the strike. She quickly brought herself to her knees, clutching her stomach and wheezing, before finally standing up again.

"I have to give you credit, Nico Robin. You're not half bad at close range fighting; you should really give it a chance sometime. That was a nice move you did there, using your own hands to take most of the impact from my punch."

Robin smiled weakly, looking down at the multiple hands she had summoned onto her stomach to dampen the blow. Her palms burned from taking the brunt of the punch, but better that than taking it full-force to the gut. She dispersed the hands in a shower of petals.

Raldios grinned widely. "I think it's time to finally end this." He held his right arm outwards, bending it forwards slightly. "Onyx Sickle!"

Robin watched as the bounty hunter's arm hardened and then sharpened into a black blade of sorts. The jet black haired man had essentially turned his arm into the edge of a scythe, however the archeologist saw him move it around like a normal arm.

The man charged again at the strawhat, laughing wildly as he quickly closed the gap between them. As he reached the archeologist, Raldios brought back his arm before swinging it forward in an attempt to cleave the woman in two, only to hit air.

Robin had bent herself backwards to dodge the blow, however her ankle had given out and now she lay on the ground on her upper back. Her feet were still planted on the ground and her lower body was out in the air.

Raldios looked down at the archeologist. "Nice dodge, too bad you sealed your fate with it. You won't be able to avoid this in the condition you're in. Farewell, Nico Robin."

The bounty hunter brought up his bladed arm and swung it into the ground at Robin's neck in order to behead her. Raldios again missed his target, his blade hitting and digging into the ground next to two arms protruding from the ground. Raldios swore, she had used her arms to push her up from the ground on her back to avoid the strike.

Struggling at first, the jet black haired bounty hunter took his arm out from the ground and saw that Robin had retreated back to the building he'd damaged earlier. He stretched out both of his arms to the side.

"Onyx Pistons."

Both arms, including the one that he had turned into a sickle, hardened and turned into onyx, still in their normal shapes. He moved them around, bending each arm and clenching his hands to make sure no mobility had been lost by the transformation. Satisfied with the results, Raldios charged at his opponent again.

"I guess you're too quick for the blade, but all I need to do is land one punch and you're done for! It was your misfortune that you got placed against me."

Robin threw a stone from the building at the bounty hunter as he charged her. Laughing, the Falken crewmember mockingly smashed the stone in midair and was coated in dust from the piece of the building.

In that moment of brazen carelessness, Robin had taken a larger piece of the crumpling wall in her hand and charged at the jet black haired man. As the dust cleared from the destroyed chunk of rock, Raldios looked expectantly to where the archeologist had been but was shocked to discover her right in front of him, running right towards him.

Before he could react to the sudden turn of events, Robin used as much force as she could to thrust the chunk of wall into the bounty hunter's face. The two collided at full sprint and the chunk of stone smashed into the bounty hunter's mouth and nose, flinging his head back. Robin, already weak from exhaustion, was spun around from the impact and flung to the ground.

Raldios clutched at his face, blood streaking down his nose and out of his mouth from the painful blow. He spit a mouthful of blood to the ground.

"Bitch, that hurt!" he spat out, looking vehemently at the archeologist. Seeing her lying crumpled and exhausted on the ground, the bounty hunter smiled a bloody smile. "Looks like you've reached your limit, though. It's a shame, I was quite enjoying myself."

Suddenly Raldios felt an energy surge inside of him, a magnificent feeling he'd only encountered once before and one he'd been dearly looking forward to ever since it was first experienced. He bent his head backwards and erupted into maniacal laughter at the sensation.

Meanwhile, Robin felt herself tremble from the horrible aura that was permeating from of the bounty hunter attempting to kill her. She knew, somehow, that her opponent was gaining an alarming amount of strength, permanently. How he was accomplishing this baffled the archeologist, but what she fully understood was that she was barely able to move anymore and now he was overflowing with power.

The strawhats eyes furiously darted back and forth across the area, desperately looking for something to either turn the tides or help her escape. She felt confident that if she was at full strength she could defeat this opponent, however the sudden assault coupled with his mysterious power had caught the raven haired archeologist off guard.

"Sorry, Nico Robin, I'm afraid I can't spare you any more time. Prepare yourself."

Raldios moved to finish off the demon child of Ohara, only to be stopped by a strong hand grabbing him by the shoulder.


Rederick's head was racing like crazy, too many things had happened within the span of the last hour or so and the younger man had no idea what to make of it. The recent conversation he'd just had with Garand still buzzed in the red haired bounty hunter's mind and worried him more than he'd have cared for.

"Edel said he sensed the prize on this island, Red." Garand had caught the red haired bounty hunter as the two had entered the bar, surprisingly almost at exactly the same time.

"Really? Hah, it's about time."

"No kidding. Listen to me though, Red, I'm here to warn you, as a friend."

"Warn me? About what?"

"I'm sure you've noticed it, but Edel has been getting less and less stable lately."

"Well, I figured it was because of the whole incident with—"

"Don't bring that shit up again Red; what you're suggesting isn't why and you know it. Also, I know what you did and what Kaelyn did, too. Before you say anything, that's not important right now; what is important is that Edel is making his move and I'm worried."

"What, you think Edel is trying to get us all killed?" It was a joke, Rederick knew his captain had been off lately, but he knew the man would never do something like that.

"Honestly, I don't even know anymore. Red, it's getting to the point where I think he might just do it himself."

"What. You can't be fucking serious, you know what would happen… he knows what would happen."

"We all know what would happen, it's a godsend that it hasn't happened yet already."

"I dunno, Garand. I just can't picture it… Raldios, sure; but the others?"

"There's no telling what's going on in their heads… Callos and Andy should be fine, but I don't know about the others."

"What about Jade and Erick? They're siblings for Christ's sake, you think they'd just—"

"I don't know, Red, that's the thing. These devil fruits have been messing with us ever since we ate them."

"Don't remind me… if I could go back in time and—"

"That's in the past, nothing you or any of us can do to change it now. All we can do is work with what we got. Anyways, I just came here to give you a heads up and to tell you to keep your guard up. I have a bad feeling."

"Yeah…"

"Oh! And one more thing, if you see Callos, stick with him until I get in contact with him, okay?"

"What for?"

"Just do it for me, please."

"Okay, fine. I'll do it, don't worry."

"Thanks, Red, I owe you one."

...

To top it all off, he'd just met with the legendary pirate hunter, Roronoa Zoro, and almost got into a fight. If that wasn't enough, now one of his crewmates was dead and he had no idea who it was.

Rederick cursed under his breath. If only he had a better sensing power like Kaelyn or Raldios, he'd be able to find out the truth once and for all. The younger man furrowed his brows at the thought of Kaelyn, he didn't know what he'd do if it was her.

Out of the corner of his eye, Rederick noticed a strange commotion occurring at an alleyway not too far from the entrance of the bar. Going against his better judgment, Rederick found himself hurriedly wandering over to the alleyway in question to see something he would never have expected.

His crewmate, Raldios, was engaged in a serious fight with what appeared to be Nico Robin. He wouldn't have believed it at first, but considering he had just talked to Roronoa Zoro, Rederick didn't find it that hard to believe the swordsman's nakama would be in the area as well.

A sudden anger began welling up inside the bounty hunter for reasons he didn't quite understand. Sure there was the fact that Raldios was going against the Falken creed by attacking a pirate that wasn't on their target list, however the anger was much more deeply rooted than that. For whatever reason, Rederick found himself reminded of Kaelyn by the raven haired archeologist; perhaps it was because Zoro sort of reminded him of himself and the green haired swordsman clearly had a strong bond with this woman.

Whatever the reason was, Rederick found that he could no longer tolerate the two fighting, knowing his crewmate well enough to understand that he was likely the cause of this encounter.

Walking over, the red haired bounty hunter forcibly grabbed his crewmate by the shoulder, jilting the individual out of his focus.

"The hell are you doing, Raldios?" the red haired bounty hunter growled. He was then taken aback by the visage of his crewmate, blood flowing from his mouth and nose and his chin had been busted up.

"Oh, Rederick, how nice of you to be here!" Raldios looked back and spat some blood on the ground. "Sorry about breaking the code and all, but this one is directly tied in our affairs here. Don't worry; I'm sure Edel will give the heads up to grab the Straw Hats once we all meet up again. Consider this… a precautionary step." The jet black haired man gave an empty smile to his comrade.

"Stop spewing bullshit, Raldios. What reasoning do you have for your statement?" It didn't matter what the man would say, Rederick knew it wasn't going to change his mind. He didn't loosen his grasp.

Raldios turned to face the red haired bounty hunter and smacked his hand aside off of his shoulder bitterly.

"Can't really explain it, pal. You'll just have to take my word for it, she's involved."

"First off, I wouldn't exactly call us pals. Second, even if we were, you think that flimsy excuse is enough for what you've done to this woman? Look at her." To emphasize his point, Rederick directed the jet black haired man to the archeologist behind him, painfully clutching her wounded arm and avoiding placing any weight on what appeared to be an injured leg. "You did that because you had a hunch?"

"Yes… I don't see what you're getting at." Raldios looked back at his crewmate, his visage relatively unchanged from the sight.

"I know you don't," Rederick sighed, "but I guess that's the point." He perked up, remembering something more important. "Besides, you felt it, right?"

"I did."

Rederick looked wildly at the other bounty hunter. "Well, who was it?"

Raldios straightened up, looking off to the side indifferently. "It wasn't Kael since I know that's what you're asking, Rederick."

The red haired bounty hunter sighed audibly in unsuppressed relief.

"Well, don't you want to know who it is?" Raldios tilted his head to the side, smiling amusedly at his comrade's reaction. "Or do you not care, now that you know it wasn't her?"

Rederick glared angrily at his companion, who began laughing once he had done so.

"Haha, don't get your panties in a bunch, Red. I wasn't going to tell you anyways."

The red haired man looked painfully off to the side. "Some crew we've become, huh?"

Raldios patted the troubled bounty hunter on the shoulder. "I know it seems like we're heartless, but given the circumstances I don't think it could have turned out any differently. It's been a hell of a past few months."

"That doesn't justify it…" Rederick continued to gaze off to the side.

"Maybe not, but it is what it is." The jet black haired bounty hunter looked back to Robin. "Looks like we're out of time, Nico Robin. You can relax for now, though I'm not too sure for how long." He looked in frustration at his red haired companion before going back to the raven haired archeologist. "I'd consider myself lucky if I were you. If it were up to me you wouldn't be leaving this alley by yourself."

"That's enough, Raldios," Rederick stated, done with his musing. Looking back to Robin, he called out, "By the way, your crewmate is in that messed up bar. I'd go to him if I were you." Beginning to walk away, the bounty hunter barked to his companion, "Let's get back to the meeting place."

"Fine, fine." The jet black haired bounty hunter began following his crewmate, only calling out to the archeologist just before he went out of the alley. "Until next time, beautiful."

Robin almost collapsed to the ground, relieved that it looked like she was going to be alright. A nagging suspicion that she was being tricked by the two tried to wend its way into her head, however the archeologist felt like the red haired individual wouldn't try something as base as that, whoever he was.

The woman suddenly remembered hearing Zoro's name called out in a fury earlier and again worried about his state. She trusted in his abilities; however these were no ordinary opponents, if Raldios was to be any example. Even worse, that red haired person had said that Zoro was in the bar, implying that he had seen him in person. Zoro could certainly hold his own against one opponent, but the archeologist couldn't help but worry that he'd been teamed up against.

Hobbling as quickly as she could on her injured ankle, Robin eventually made her way to the entrance of the Clock's Hand. The building was in much worse condition than when she had first seen it, holes formed in its walling and a few windows broken. The main doors were also all beat up and one was hanging off of its hinges, about ready to fall off.

She finally found herself pushing through the one half-decent door with her left shoulder, still clutching her right arm, and started to look around the interior before she heard a drink fall to the floor.

The noise grabbing her attention, Robin quickly looked over to see the incredulous and horrified look of her nakama, Roronoa Zoro. His mouth hung agape and if the swordsman had been in mid-drink Robin had no doubt it would be running out of his mouth and onto his red shirt. Red?

Everything else aside, her wounds, her encounter, the death threats to her and the swordsman, even the red shirt, the raven haired archeologist could have imagined no greater sight than the concerned visage of the green haired swordsman at this moment.

Robin limped forward a couple of steps before the last of her strength finally left her. Her legs wobbled and eventually buckled under her weight. The archeologist would have fallen hard to the ground had the swordsman not reacted instantly and darted across the floor, catching her in his grasp; a firm hold with surprising care and gentleness behind it. She welcomed his warm embrace as his voice began to ask her too many questions that she didn't care to answer at the moment. She smiled, safe again.

Ending note: Phew, glad to be done with this one. A lot of work went into it, although I don't know how strong of a chapter it is. It certainly didn't go the way I expected it to (the events that happened were pre-planned, it was the interaction that was different than how I pictured it to be), however the words just kind of found their way onto the paper, so I think that if that's how it felt it should come out then that's the right way. We'll be touching base with the other strawhats from here on out, so it will be a little bit before things come back to these two. I think that even though the issue isn't completely resolved that this isn't really a cliffhanger anymore that I'm leaving it on (in regards to Zoro/Robin). Or maybe I am, I don't know, heh. In any case, I really started to delve into some larger things this chapter. I can safely say we are now officially in the thick of the story. As always, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter and I look forward to hearing what you thought of it! Until next time.