Luffy was gasping and blood pooled onto the rail of Whitebeard's last standing ship. Ace and the men who had survived were yelling and fighting was still raging around him, but his world was deathly silent. He closed his eyes. He was just so…tired.
"LUFFY!" Ace practically screamed out as the boy fell from the ship. Roaring sounds of mortar bombs exploding in the fading battle field covered his cry and the splash the youth's body made as he fell into the blackened ocean. Ivanokov noticed after a moment that a presence had disappeared and he looked over at Ace who staggered to the side of the deck. Ace looked back at him with desperate eyes. "Luffy…! He fell!"
Ivanokov's eyes widened and fear shot through his body. "No!" he roared and peered over the side of the boat. "No! Straw-boy!" It was too late, he couldn't see the body and recognizing anyone who was not a fruit user would take forever as they were the majority of the survivors and everyone melded into one image of blood. Ivanokov gripped the rail and fell to his knees. "No…" he breathed. "You're body…it finally gave out." Tears welled in his eyes. "I warned you! I did! I…I…" he gasped. Marco who was propped against the mast, limped towards them. Even with his blurred vision he could tell something had gone terribly wrong.
"What happened?" he said hoarsely, looking at Ivanokov's and Ace's wretched expressions.
"Luffy..he!" Ace choked and his body convulsed and he fainted. The day had proven too much, this was the last he could bear…
Marco was still, disbelief froze his mind. "No……how?" he whispered and then cried out, searching Ivanokov's eyes.
"The boy…he was amazingly strong. Any man would have died after being poisoned like he was….then he even had the strength to break out of that prison…..that in itself was a feat of fantasy. Then he came here and actually succeeded in saving Ace…." Ivanokov's voice broke. "I gave him two doses of adrenalin hormones and before that, aided him with his recovery from the poison…but most of that was his sheer will to live." The man was basically speaking to himself, but Marco understood enough of it to guess what had happened….he had collapsed and fallen off the ship…and drowned. No one had been able to even attempt to help him, after that selfless boy had risked it all to help save Ace! He growled and bit the side of his mouth until blood flowed down his chin. The additional blood loss made him dizzy. Damn it! Whitebeard and such a promising youth in one day! Damn it! He felt so useless, as did the others who knew of Luffy's loss.
There was a lot of murmuring in the corner of the pub and it managed to catch Nami's dejected attention. She peered over a few heads by standing on her table. The thud made a few men turn and then automatically help the attractive girl who had collapsed. She was hyperventilating, and they tried to calm her down but she didn't even know that they were there. One of the men scowled at the wanted poster and the macabre expression that glared from the blood painted face of the rooky Straw-Hat Luffy.
"That…" that can't be him….Nami thought, losing her voice. Tears welled in her eyes and she trembled. And it had to be a lie! Luffy…dead?
She sobbed and the men fretted around her, helplessly.
The rest of the Straw-Hats held similar reactions when they found the posters. They all knew it had to be a lie….Luffy…their captain would never abandon them like that. And…they couldn't feel the image of his smiling face and the sound of his warming voice, leave their hearts. Determination took the place of their despair and sorrow. They had to return…their crew had to unite!
Back into the recent past….
He had seen the boy fall…limp and lifeless, into the sea. The time the boy had saved him from a similar fate flashed through his mind. Smoker whipped around, eyes searching for the clumsy, glasses-wearing girl. She wasn't in sight and his anxiety rose. He wasn't that far from the place the boy had fallen, but he couldn't swim! He cursed in desperation, stupidly considering trying to swim anyways, but then he spotted Garp. He flew over to the old man, beginning to speak before he had reformed.
"Your brat! He fell in the sea!" he pointed to the direction. Garp forgot to remember that Luffy was a pirate and he that was a Marine, and he dove into the violent water. The sea had become viscous from the amount of ash and gunpowder that had fallen into it, making it difficult to swim, but it slowed down Luffy's body as it sank. He was only five or six feet under the water when Garp blindly grasped his shirt.
Garp gasped as he saw Luffy in his hand, not only at his condition but at the unbelievable chance of him actually being found in that turbid water…while alive. On land again, Garp didn't bother to wipe off the black soot and water mesh that coated Luffy and himself, instead he carried Luffy protectively in his arms. He almost made it to the remains of the stand on which Ace was supposed to have died, but another vice admiral spotted him.
"Garp…why are you…?"he looked at the old man's state and then turned his eyes to what he was holding, with a closer look he gasped in disbelief. "That's Straw-Hat Luffy!" he cried out. "How did you manage to…?" he was cut off by a chilling glare. It was easy to figure out the situation. Garp hadn't captured the boy, that was ostensible…an easy facade. Garp had saved him. "Garp….!" He growled in fury and disapproval following the man as he continued to walk. "He's a pirate! Get it through that thick sentimental skull of yours!" he continued to curse and protest, but Garp ignored him.
At the wreckage of the stand, Garp stared defiantly into Sengoku's eyes which were not exempt from disbelief and surprise. "Garp." Sengoku said, recovering. "You would bring him here directly…" he continued slowly, but Garp broke in.
"It would be foolish to even attempt to hide him from you…and from all marines. I've come to tell you," his voice was callous, "that I refuse to see one of my grandsons almost put to death before my eyes, again. There are alternatives for removing him from society."
Garp's posture was resolute, and Sengoku hesitated at the thought of making Garp his enemy. "Fine." He said, startling the other vice admiral. Garp didn't react, his emotions had been numbed by the day's events. The discarded sea stone cuffs that still bore some of Ace's drying blood, locked onto Luffy's wrists. The boy was unresponsive as he was surreptitiously removed from the battle field, and from known existence. Posters flaunting Luffy's mortality and death replaced the one's that would have spoken of Ace's. Most were unnerved by the news and the posters themselves….the Marines were obviously displaying another component that was sure to ignite another war. Not like Whitebeard, Dragon was not restricted by age. Unknown to society and the Marines, a blue haired princess stood by her father, dried tears burning on her cheeks. They stood before the royal army, without a ceremony, all of Alabasta knew that they had to avenge their savior, and the ships were sent out. Another unpredictable enemy shook with rage. Red hair covered Shanks' face as he spoke to his men, telling the ones who had never known Luffy, that he was one who could have really become the Pirate King. Blood was going to be paid with blood.
Two Giant captains were horrified and enraged when the pamphlets were dropped from the sky by a carrier bird. They contacted their crews for the first time in one hundred years. A snowy island let a single ship of the villager's only warriors, into the sea. Sky Islanders were exempted, no bird could come to them, but those saved by Luffy and his crew came together now, eyes burning with purpose.
Angst that had not developed in the last war as there had still been hope, burned deeply in the hearts of many.
The first Grandline-scale war was about to commence…out of hatred and loss…destruction could be its only result. But no one knew that everything was playing into the suspecting hands of Monkey D. Dragon himself. The Revolutionist had commenced his revolution.
The doctor had been transfixed when he had begun to examine the boy. The Marines including the admirals and vice admirals and Sengoku, noticed. When the doctor was questioned as he held a stethoscope to Luffy's chest he started.
"He's…he…what is he?"
This quieted and shocked the room.
"What is it?" growled Garp, apprehension building with his slight fear of the actual capability in his grandson.
"I…I can't hear his heart…but he's still breathing!" the doctor was pale and shaking.
"What?" a few exclaimed, Garp ripped the instrument from the doctor and listened. His face became stark but then relaxed and he shot a look of disgust at the doctor. "Your ears haven't been trained well enough. A doctor battles death, he should be able to hear as well as any warrior." He threw the stethoscope at the doctor roughly, but his eyes remained troubled. Luffy was very close to death. Garp's eyebrows furrowed with his rising anger. They had pushed the boy too far, made him so desperate, and he had done nothing! Luffy had fought alone, with only strange new Nakama…if he truly had made any, Garp thought.
"Too bad." Kuzaro sighed but smiled his usual unpleasant smile. He sighed again, deliberately aggravating Garp.
Suddenly a loose group barged into the room, ignoring the protests outside. Hancock's eyes were torturous as she saw Luffy's bloody body, but her face was blank. The others, excepting Hawkeye and Kuma who was now only a mindless android, did not mask their thoughts, their interest. Crocodile scrutinized the fragile looking body, confused at how it had managed to exact so much damage towards the Marines. The Marines, meanwhile, had taken Crocodile back as they were reminded of his power and saw that he could be kept in check by the other Shichibukai. Doflamingo noticed his disturbance and decided to irritate it further, he sauntered over to Luffy, ignoring Garp as he glared at him.
"Ho ho! What have we got here? Is this boy really Straw-Hat?" he brought his hand to his chin, a grin on his face. "Crocodile, how could you have been beaten by something so pitiful?" he jumped as a piercing voice threw itself at him.
"Don't you dare call him pitiful!" Hancock exclaimed, coloring with fury. "Your words are hateful! Those such as yourself have no right to speak!" she pointed at him with accusation.
Those in the room eyed her, used to her outbursts and then still disturbed by this one, but did not leave a silence after her words. Doflamingo's grin returned. "What could I have done to anger you so? Hime?" his voice was sardonic and caused Hancock to glare even more darkly at him. (trans. Hime=princess) He would have continued to goad her, but was silenced as Sengoku demanded why they were here, disturbed as all of them came together willingly now, when it was so hard to force them too. They all had shared interest….that was disquieting, the thought setting alarms off in his mind and in the minds of the Marines who looked at the pirates with hostility.
"Why?" Doflamingo's voice almost seemed to mock Sengoku, deriding his question. "What he's done! Really, it blows one's mind!" He looked greedily at Luffy. "Son of Dragon? Grandson of the Legendary Garp? Adopted brother to the Pirate King's son? He's defeated two Shichibukai. He defeated Enes Lobby. He broke into and out of the Great Gaol Impel Down and released well over two hundred pirates, and then went raging through Marineford, taking Fire-Fist right from the Marine's hands, all in a single day! Captured by the Marines, and yet he hasn't been killed?" the pink feathers rustled as he cackled. "It's simply interesting and entertaining! It's amazing! What will happen now? How will his false death bring about consequences for the Marines?"
"Shut up, Doflamingo!" one of the vice admirals shook with rage. Doflamingo stopped his insane laughter, but he continued to ask a question.
"What would his bounty be? I wonder…" he looked at Sengoku in the eyes through his sunglasses. "I would really like to know….I don't know of any other pirate who had this much to his name within his first year on the Grandline." Then his smile widened as he thought of something, Sengoku paused expectantly, shocked and perturbed when the pirate kept quiet while continuing to smile spitefully.
"That is of no concern," Sengoku glared, "He doesn't need one. He's legally dead and he's under our control." He turned away from the grinning pirate with disgust. "Doctor, can you now continue to treat him?" He wasn't really asking, to his annoyance the doctor had been simply standing and starring at the wall.
"Oh!" the timid doctor flinched and went to Luffy, pausing as Doflamingo was in the way. He cowered when the pirate stared at him, refusing to move. Sengoku began to order Doflamingo to move, but he was interrupted.
"This shitty doctor? Really?" his face was cold, analyzing the pathetic man. "Get a better one else Straw-Hat's going to die, and that's just boring." He leered at the Marines. "Unless that's precisely what you want, then he's perfect."
"What?" the doctor breathed, exceedingly offended, but Sengoku shut him up. His eyes darted to Garp who was seriously considering the Shichibukai's words.
"Fine, Garp." Sengoku wanted to make sure that Garp thought that he wasn't trying to trick him, that he was being honest and true to his word. "Get the boy a different doctor if you can find a better one." The old man nodded, but didn't want to leave the room when Luffy was so helpless. Garp conversed with one of the Marines that stood at the door, the young man saluted and ran down the hall. At least I have Coby…Garp mused and he glanced at Boa Hancock.
Kuzaru laughed at the fuming doctor who left immediately. As his laugh died, his insistent smile remained, as always. "He's pretty incapacitated, but you're sure that leaving him with only a few guards and those cuffs is enough?"
"Yes…" Sengoku said slowly, trying to read the other man's intentions.
Akainu growled, breaking his steady habit of silence. "If he wasn't Garp's grandson, he'd have been imprisoned and we would be preparing his execution and not his living arrangements right now." He glared at nothing, respecting Sengoku and Garp enough to spare them this.
Garp frowned, but he and the rest of the room knew that this was the truth.
"He's gone against the Marines deliberately, as a whole, only now to save his brother." Aokiji took the complete attention of those in the room.
"What do you mean to say?" Akainu said coldly, he hated the softness he had always seen in Aokiji, it worried him.
"He's gotten rid of pirates who were posing threats for people, saving many when it should have been the Marines doing so."
"Enes Lobby!" someone spoke up, and Akoji shook his head, not looking anyone in the eye.
"There was corruption within the Marines in the Enes Lobby incident. They took Nico Robin, picking a fight with him. He defended her, but he never initiated anything against the Marines, even to this day." Aokiji's eyes traveled to Luffy who was breathing softly under a white sheet, his cuffed arms on top of it. "He isn't a potential hazard to society."
"He hit one of the Tenryuubito." Akainu reminded the room, calmly but with power in his words. "Keeping him alive…we have to lie to them. Can we even do that?"
Sengoku's eyes narrowed, he had been tormenting over the same thought. Garp scowled, while no one noticed Hancock's face drain of color. The hardness she held in her eyes made it less noticeable, and could have been overlooked if someone had looked at her directly.
"That wasn't…"Aokiji began, but Akainu interrupted him.
"Aokiji! If you continue to defend this pirate, you will only be harming yourself!" Akainu barked, grimacing as he knew that the Shichibukai were seeing the instability of wills within the Marines. "Don't try to justify him against the Tenryuubito! Don't be a fool!"
Aokiji eyes glazed over as he fought a battle with his morals and emotions, he frowned externally.
"So this is the heart of the issue." Hawkeye stated, Hancock and Crocodile glanced at him. Stubbornly, the Marines tried to ignore him. The sound of Garp's cracking knuckles were the only sound in the room.
"You should leave." Sengoku coolly gazed at the pirates, addressing all of the Shichibukai.
"You order me?" Hancock's color came back and her temper flared. There is no way I will part with my beloved, she convinced herself.
"Yes, Boa Hancock….I am."
Hancock was ready to refuse and argue with the Marine, but Doflamingo's mocking voice broke in quietly, speaking only to her.
"What is this boy to you, Hime? You interfered as the Marines attacked him at Marineford…I saw, as did a few other people." His smile made her want to smack him and shiver at the same time. "Watch out, Hime. You're going to end up in big trouble." His eyes flashed, and Hancock's determination broke.
"Fine! I shall leave of my own will. You should be thankful." She huffed and turned with her dignity in hand and left with Hawkeye, Kuma, and seemingly Crocodile, but he stopped at the door. He noticed Doflamingo remained where he stood.
"Doflamingo, what is the meaning of this?" a Marine was already rebuking him.
"I said that I am quite interested." He said quietly, making the vice admiral that had spoken to him, flinch. "Now the Marines will lie, go against even the Tenryuubito? Just to keep him alive? A freaken pirate?" his eyes were wide, disguised by his sunglasses while a manic grin made the Marines uneasy. He laughed at the fear that sparked in a few eyes.
"Get out!" barked Sengoku, his face was beginning to pale with anger and anxiety. This situation….it's the worst of the worst, Sengoku thought bitterly to himself. And to his annoyance, he spotted Crocodile who lingered at the door as Doflamingo left cackling. Those two….! Does this mean even more chaos is about to be unleashed into this ragging hurricane I have led us into?
Sengoku glared at the boy, but felt guilty for placing all of his frustration on him. Aokiji's words echoed in his mind. Sengoku broke up the gathering, mentioning the odd shadow that remained in the room and the Shichibukai's persistence, and then claimed that he needed time to think. He ignored Akainu's comment about how they didn't have any, and he left. He headed for his office, picturing his desk covered with filed reports about Straw-Hat Luffy. I need to know who this boy really is…Sengoku concluded. It would determine his future decisions, and the boy's fate.