A/N: As always, sorry for the long wait. Unfortunately, nothing much happens this chapter either. All reviews are still greatly appreciated! Once again, I've failed to get a beta, so feel free to point out errors.
Warning: Some plot holes. Irresponsible writer.
Disclaimer: This is all respectfully borrowed from Oda's genius.
(Below deck, WG Vessel 8)
They were stuck in a cell again.
More accurately, they were stuck in a seastone cage, in the hold of a military vessel, in the middle of the Calm Line. The wooden floorboard was cold and damp, but a good deal more tolerable than the hard, grimy stone of the dungeon cell. There was a lantern in the corner, glowing so weakly it did little more than deepen the shadows all around. The silvery moonlight filtering in from the few portholes contributed much more to the illumination of their miserable condition.
"Some rescue," Leo sniped bitterly at the man sitting on the far end of the cage, breaking the oppressive silence.
The (now former) royal guard offered a non-descript grunt in reply. To say the least, he didn't seem very pleased by the way things had turned out either, but then again, he didn't seem like he'd ever be very much pleased about anything at all.
The actual royal guards had stripped him of the hooded uniform cape, so Leo finally got a good look at their would-be rescuer. He had a face that could have been cut from granite; heavy brows and thin lips set in a hard, humourless line. His hair was midnight black and cropped military short. The strangest things were his eyes, which were a sinister yellow with enlarged pupils, like a cat or a cold-blooded reptile in the dark.
"…L-Leo…?" Luffy finally stirred from his position on the floor beside her. The boy had slept through the entire ordeal, including that odious St. Zephyrus's smug self-congratulatory speech about the feebleness of their escape efforts and the impossibility of getting out of his hands. Those World nobles were all insufferable bastards, but that one must be the cream of the crop.
"Don't move," she laid a restraining hand on Luffy when he struggled to get up, "I put a lot of effort into patching you up. You better watch it, kid."
He stilled compliantly, catching his breath from the attempt to move and taking in the surrounding with curiosity. There wasn't much to look at, so he homed in on the only other person present almost immediately.
"Who are you?" he asked quite bluntly.
"I'm a member of the revolution," the man replied slowly with his low, gravelly voice, "…I'm here to help." Leo raised a skeptical eyebrow but refrained from commenting. The man hadn't been much help so far.
"Eh…" Luffy tilted his head, as if confused, "I meant, what's your name?"
"Amon," his bright yellow eyes glittered in the shadows as he inclined his head in greeting.
"I'm Luffy," Luffy responded warmly, "I'm going to be the future Pirate King! And this is Leo. She's a Marine, but she's really nice."
"I know. You father sent me." Without any warning, Amon got up from the far end of the cage and came up to them. His movement was so swift and silent Leo was startled into shrinking back defensively, but he only gave her a dry look and sat down before them.
"Listen carefully I'll only say this once," he started speaking in a soft, dull whisper which they had to strain to hear. "We are currently headed for Zaroff Island where the Tenryuubito hold their annual Hunt. Once there, we will be their game. The Hunt lasts three days. According to their rules, any prey that survives shall be set free. So far, none have. But that does not matter. It should all be over before the Hunt ends; we only need to survive till the Revolution comes."
"Oh, is that the plan?" Leo questioned bitterly, "What was that rescue business before all about?"
"…I have to be with him, to protect him on Zaroff."
"That's comforting to know," Leo couldn't keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "Except that the first thing you did was lead us into a trap." She wasn't quite sure why she was antagonising him, but there was something about him that unsettled her. She hadn't seen him in action, but the little clues were sufficient to confirm that he was strong and extremely skilled. Dangerous.
"Zaroff cannot be avoided. We have to go there."
"Whatever you say. I bet the Tenryuubito have no objections as well."
"Woman…" Amon's voice came out almost as a growl.
"I have a name," Leo scowled in return, not backing down in the least, "That's Dr. Beatta to you."
"Is it only us?" Luffy suddenly asked, breaking up their escalating argument, "Are we the only ones being hunted?"
"No," Amon answered shortly. Then he paused and added, "It's a big event. I don't know the figure for this year but last year there were 50; mostly slaves and prisoners. They like to hunt those with higher bounties...adds to the thrill."
"They kill them?"
Luffy lapsed into silence. Leo looked down at the young pirate, wondering what he was thinking. But she couldn't really see his expression in the dark. It was silly, but she wished they could have given him a better, kinder answer. But they were stuck with cruel reality.
"We're going to change this," Amon broke the silence, speaking with an uncharacteristic taint of fervour and determination, "That's what we're fighting for. What your father is fighting for. The Revolution."
(The Habour, Mariejoa)
Brook adjusted his hat and brushed invisible lint off his trousers as he prepared for his grand performance.
"That's pretty far out," Zoro squinted at the Pearl Gate and the sentry guarding it, too small to be seen from their current position but undoubtedly there, "Are you sure it's gonna reach them?"
"Heh, it is going to blast out their ears," Franky declared as he set up the last of the amplifiers he'd built specially for the occasion. When he plugged Brook's modified electric violin in, sparks flew. "Take it away Brook! SUPER!"
"Before I begin, I think it would be advisable for everyone to put these on," Brook started handing out a bunch of ear plugs.
"Eh, we're two sets short," Usopp informed him after the safety device got passed around.
"Yohoho! The ladies won't be needing any."
"What's this about? What exactly does your music do?" Nami demanded uneasily.
"It makes all girls show me their underwear! Hohoho!" Brook replied cheerfully. He'd wink if he had eyelids.
"Awesomeeee!" Sanji immediately gave his full approval.
They were both smashed into the floorboards by Nami with a merciless punch.
"Be serious about this! We're right outside the heart of the World Government!" she hissed.
"I sincerely apologise!" the skeletal gentleman bowed low after picking himself up from the floor. He dug in his pockets and produced the required sets of earplugs, "I have your earplugs right here. In return, would you perhaps, kindly allow me to view your panties?"
He received another hard punch for his effort.
"…are you sure this is going to be ok?" Usopp whispered uneasily to the swordsman beside him.
"Just let him do what he wants. If it doesn't work…I get to try out my new sword," Zoro's grin was decidedly bloodthirsty as he let his hand rest on the hilt of a charred and evil-looking katana hanging by his side. He licked his lips and looked very much like he'd prefer if Brook messed up and they had to cut a bloody trail up into the city instead. Usopp shivered and hurriedly stuffed his earplugs into place, once again reminded that his crewmates were a bunch of monsters.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Brook announced, elegantly flourishing his violin bow, "I present…The Devil's Thrill."
It was a pity that none of his crewmates could hear a single word. Robin and Nami were on the waver, revving it up and waiting Franky's cue. Usopp, Chopper, Sanji and Zoro were onboard the Mini Merry II, waiting to follow Nami's lead. And they all had their earplugs on.
It was a pity because he was about to give a concert to remember. He'd written this piece in Harahetternia and had played it only once, against the Longman Tribe. Music was powerful and this was powerful music. They had truly believed that he was the devil after that performance. But that experience taught him an important lesson…this wasn't a song he would want his nakama to hear.
Maybe I should wear some earplugs too…but I haven't got any ears! Hohoho! He tipped his hat at Franky and settled his violin onto his bony shoulder. It'd taken time for him to get used to not having any flesh to cushion the instrument, but now it fit the crook of his neck quite snugly. Franky gave a thumbs-up and cranked the volume up to maximum. Nami, noting the signal, sped off with a splash, drenching Usopp and company in the tiny steam peddler behind. Brook pulled the first note.
Hauntingly beautiful music washed gently across the Habour.
Navigating the waver carefully through the narrow channels between abandoned ships and wreckages, Nami's eyes lit up as the port came into view. "It worked!" She cried excitedly, then blushed when she realised that no one could hear her as they all had earplugs on.
As far as she could see, every single person on the port had collapsed, littering it with motionless bodies. The deathly stillness that had taken over the usually busy habour was discomfortingly eerie. The closer they got, the more anxious she became, her blood beginning to run cold when she realised that the dark shadows around the fallen people were actually puddles of blood. What exactly did Brook do? You couldn't possibly kill people with just a song, could you?
Chopper immediately rushed to the nearest body upon coming up to the port. He visibly breathed a sigh of relief when he signalled to his crewmates that the person was still alive. He checked a few more and confirmed that all of them had merely passed out, despite all that blood. The perceptible tension among the Strawhats lightened, not that they would have been frazzled by the brutality, but simply because they did not expect such cold-bloodedness from affable, good-natured Brook.
Without anymore hesitation, they began their race against time up the Red Line, heading straight for the Holy Capital.
Back abroad the Thousand Sunny, Franky shut down the speakers on Brook's cue and peered curiously into the silent night. The rest of their crewmates must be heading up the cliff by now.
"What'd ya do? Put them all to sleep?" he asked the musician.
"Something like that," Brook chuckled, merrily clicking his bare teeth together, "You know how, when you have a nice dream, you get excited and start having nosebleeds? I gave them all very nice dreams, if you know what I mean...Yohoho!"
"… …" Franky raised a thick, synthetic eyebrow at his companion and tried to convince himself that he was only creeped out by the grinning skull. He didn't think too much about it though— he had a big job to do. He needed to find some way to get them out of here later.