AN: Pumpkin Zucchini had the vague outline of the story, and I just polished it up and added more stuff. It was inspired by an AU from Aoihand, but I tweaked it around a little.
Forgive the ridiculous length. I'm no good with breaking things into chapters.
4-28: Fixed up the scene dividers since asterisks are apparently illegal now.
"Aah! Iceburg-san!" Paulie called, his face flushed and his breath reeking of beer. "Drink's on me today!"
"You're drunk, fool." Hattori chirped from Lucci's shoulder.
"Lighten up, Luc- UWAAH! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WEARING, KALIFA?!" Paulie's hands flew up to his eyes as Kalifa stepped up alongside Iceburg.
"Is there something wrong, Paulie-san?" Kalifa asked calmly.
"THAT SKIRT! IT'S TOO SHORT!" Paulie roared.
"Well, Robin-san's is much shorter than mine." Kalifa nodded to the woman sitting alone by the counter.
"WHAT IS THIS, A LINGERIE STORE?!?" Paulie bellowed, holding a large towel in front of Robin like a curtain to spare Iceburg from the sight. Kaku slid onto a barstool beside Robin.
"Something's bothering you today." Kaku smiled, accepting the mug of beer from Blueno. He glanced back at the other carpenters, who were eagerly chatting to Iceberg.
"Is that so?" Robin stared down at her cup of lukewarm coffee.
"You're not... going to miss this city, are you?" Kaku's voice lowered, but his eyes glinted with amusement.
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
Blueno regarded them silently from behind the counter before turning to refill a customer's keg.
Robin had arrived at the training facility malnourished, traumatized, and covered in blood that wasn't her own. Her eyes were wide with fear as she took in her surroundings, flinching each time the hand on her shoulder so much as twitched.
"Turn her in, you stupid bastard! What do you hope to gain by training that demon?" a man spat, pointing at Robin as if she were a mangled bird that a cat had brought in.
"Her intelligence and abilities will be invaluable to the Cipher Pol. Who knows? She might make an excellent recruit." the large hand tightened its grip on her shoulder and Robin started a little. "And if she doesn't meet up to the standards? Go ahead, turn her in and kill her. Kill her slowly, painfully, whatever you wish."
"There's some pirates that want their ship fixed. I'm heading over there right now to do the inspections." Kaku called.
"Sure." Paulie said absentmindedly, sawing away at a plank.
Along the way to the spot where the pirate had said the ship was anchored, Kaku paused by the bookstore where Robin said she worked. Except the store was boarded up and its sign had been torn down. Kaku peered through the grimy window. The interior was completely empty and drowned in thick layers of dust.
"Curious, aren't you?"
Kaku turned around to face Robin, who was watching him with her signature unreadable expression. Kaku laughed. "So why'd you lie about the bookstore? You knew no one would bother checking up on it, didn't you?"
"I lost interest in this business weeks ago. This store is just an empty shell now." Robin trailed a finger over the rusty door.
"And the stock?"
Robin looked up. "I burned it all."
"Ohara is dead." eight-year-old Lucci said venemously.
Robin let out a strangled sob and charged at him again, fist clenched. Lucci easily caught her attack and swiped her feet out from beneath her. He planted a foot on her head and leaned down to whisper the words again.
"Ohara is dead."
Four arms sprouted from Lucci's body and twisted his arms behind his back in a painful submission hold. Lucci winced briefly, then the malicious gleam in his eyes returned. Robin had neglected to restrain his legs.
"...!" the extra arms vanished as Lucci kicked Robin in the side. The girl coughed up blood before slowly pulling herself upright, holding her ribs with one arm.
"Don't you get it?" Lucci crossed his arms. "Forget about Ohara. Forget about everything. If you're going to be one of us, you need to forget."
A haunting voice screamed in Robin's head. "LIVE, ROBIN!"
The two eight-year-olds held each others' gazes determinedly. Slowly, Robin's fists unclenched and she hung her head.
Lucci smirked and took a stance. "Again."
And the training resumed.
Aokiji stood between two buildings, hidden by the shadows. Within arm's reach, people were cheerfully going about on their business in the bright sunlight. The Admiral remained unnoticed by them.
Then the target he was seeking out passed by him. She was definitely taller than the last time he had seen her. That was for sure. Now that his brief objective was complete, Aokiji stealthily slipped out and walked down the opposite way.
Down the street, Robin shivered involuntarily.
"Something wrong?" Blueno looked at her from the corner of his eyes. Robin paused midstep and looked behind her. No one was there but for generic citizens.
"No... it's nothing."
"Why?" Kuzan held his head in his hand. "Why would you even do such a thing?"
"With her on our side, we gain more power while eliminating a threat." the man coolly said. The Cipher Pol recruiter looked out the window down to the yard where the children were training. One of the figures suddenly fell to the ground in a spray of blood. "Oh dear, it seems that Nico Robin has lost her temper again."
Down below, ten-year-old Robin looked down at the fifteen-year-old she had just killed with indifference. There was a large jagged hole in the side of the boy's head that had brain matter and crimson fluids spewing out of it. Robin flexed her fingers. "Oh... I still haven't gotten Shigan down right."
"Gyaaahahahaha! Did you see that?!" Jyabura laughed raucously. "The idiot didn't even see it coming! Gyaaahahahaha!"
Kuzan buried his face in his hands. He pushed the thought of what Saul would say about this to the back of his head.
"Her progress is quite remarkable, really." the recruiter continued, undisturbed about the loss of one of his junior recruits. "Considering Lucci beats her up during every single one of their training sessions, that is."
The Vice Admiral gritted his teeth and looked away from the window. "Your objectives will fail. She's a-"
"-wanted criminal, I know." the man said in an almost impatient tone.
"All traces of Nico Robin's wanted posters have been torn away. All existing records of the Ohara Buster Call have been erased. As far as the world is concerned, this girl has no identity whatsoever. You could say that she doesn't even exist. No one will remember who she is." the man laughed. "Perfect for more secretive missions and such."
Kuzan said nothing more. His knuckles turned white.
"I heard you gave up on that bookstore project weeks ago." Lucci said. They were in Blueno's bar after closing hours, so Lucci wasn't bothering with speaking through Hattori.
"I lost interest." Robin shrugged.
"Oi, have you met those pirate kids yet? They're a laugh." Kaku smiled over a cup of tea, quickly changing the topic.
"I met the Hito Hito user. The reindeer." Robin said.
"Ah, yes, the little furry one."
"Where was the sixth pirate?" Lucci asked.
"At their ship. Except... he wouldn't let me get near it." Kaku frowned. "He was snarling and shouting like a rabid dog."
"Which counts as sexual harassment." Kalifa muttered. Everyone else ignored her.
"But that straw hat kid told me to check on the ship, even though it's obviously beyond repair. Maybe the long nose guy didn't know I was coming?" Kaku wondered.
"There's more to it, I bet." Lucci said.
"Eh, you're just stressed out since we're leaving this city in a couple days." Kaku said.
"Don't make such foolish assumptions." Lucci glowered at him.
Kalifa pushed her glasses up. "There have been multiple sightings of the underground boss Franky."
"He'll come out sooner or later. Since Iceberg's copies are obviously fake, the blueprints must be with him, the only other apprentice of the shipwright Tom." Kaku said.
"I'll look more into it." Robin stood up and left the bar. The other government agents watched her go.
"Does she ever sleep?" Kalifa wondered out loud.
"Not as far as we know." Lucci said with indifference.
Lucci scowled ever so slightly. He straightened up and dusted nonexistant dirt off his shoulder. "You won't get anywhere simply by dodging continuously."
Robin said nothing as she landed lightly on her feet. She raised an arm. "Tres Fleur."
Eleven-year-old Lucci raised an eyebrow as three arms sprouted from his back.
The three arms stabbed simultaneously into Lucci just as he shouted "Tekkai!" Robin frowned as the fingers bounced off his skin harmlessly. The limbs vanished in a breeze of petals. Lucci disappeared and reappeared behind Robin before she could even blink. He held a finger at her neck.
"Your defense is much too weak. Work on it." Lucci coldly said before stabbing her. Blood sprayed all over the both of them.
"Is your captain alright?" Robin asked.
"We... got in a little fight with one of our n-nakama." the orange-haired pirate said softly. "This morning we went to check on him, but he was gone. The ship was gone, too. We all can't help but worry."
Robin didn't tell them that the Franky Family was responsible. Instead, she turned to the straw hat boy. "There's a stall over there that sells the best Mizu Mizu Meat in these streets, if you are interested."
"Meat?!" immediately, the boy perked up and dashed over, drooling immensely.
"Thanks for guiding us around, by the way." the girl smiled gratefully. "We're sorry if we're any trouble."
"Oh no, it's fine."
"Waaah! She's so beautiful when- oof! ...I'm sorry, Nami-swan." the blonde man said sheepishly, rubbing a bump on his head. The girl smiled apologetically at Robin.
"Lucci-san, have you ever had dreams?" Robin asked out of the blue. The two twelve-year-olds were resting in the shade after a vigorous six-hour training session. Lucci handed Robin a towel to wipe the dried blood off her face.
"What kind of stupid question is that?"
Robin watched the younger recruits shouting and grunting as they learned their basic martial arts. "I had a dream, once. It was a long time ago, though."
"Because Ohara is dead." Lucci reminded her.
Robin showed no signs of distress or sorrow. Her eyes remained dry. "Yes."
Lucci smiled cruelly and rested his hand on her shoulder. "Our only objective now is to join the ranks of the Cipher Pol as soon as possible. Right, Robin?"
"Ow! Strawhat Luffy! Where the hell are you?" the strange silhouette on top of the bridge sang, striking equally strange poses. Two square-headed shadows mimicked his movements beside him.
"They're calling you, Luffy!" the orange-haired girl whispered shrilly, fear evident all over her face. Their Yagara Bulls were whinnying nervously and tossing their heads.
"Oh dear. You seem to have caught the attention of Franky himself." Robin said, her eyes narrowed up at the man who her collegues had spent years tracking down.
"Wait a minute... he's the boss of the guys who stole Usopp!" Luffy jumped up. "GIVE US USOPP BACK, YOU BASTARD!!"
"Chill, little bro! I'm not here to fight!" Franky called back down. "In fact, someone here has a message for you."
"Luffy!" a smaller figure wrapped up in bandages stepped out from behind Franky.
"U-Usopp...?!" the blonde man gasped.
"Luffy! We have to get out of here! The World Go- augh!" the boy was suddenly knocked off the bridge by an unnoticed arm that pushed him from behind.
"USOPP!" the straw hat boy yelled as the blonde man quickly leapt into the water to retrieve the long-nosed boy.
Robin smiled. Things were certainly becoming interesting.
Robin didn't need to ask if it hurt. Pain was not of any importance whatsoever. Besides, his wounds were already scarring over, forming a mark uncannily similar to the World Government's logo.
Older Cipher Pol members edged away from Lucci as the two walked through the halls of Enies Lobby. Even though he was only a thirteen-year-old, he had already made history. No one gave a second thought to the other youngest Cipher Pol member who constantly accompanied the other teen.
Some said they were friends. Others claimed they were rivals. Few dared to suggest they were lovers. But there wasn't exactly a word to describe that strange, silent, almost sinister connection between Lucci and Robin.
"We have Cutty Flam in our possession. The whereabouts of the blueprints are unknown. He does not have them." Kaku said to the Den Den Mushi.
"Confirmed. We are on our way to the Sea Train." Kalifa's voice replied. She glanced at Robin. "You could have killed Iceburg after we retrieved the location of the true blueprints from him."
"A minor technicality." Robin shrugged. "He had posed as an obstruction to our mission long enough." She didn't bother to glance back at the mangled body on the floor behind her with a small mouse desperately nudging it. The body's hand was still gripping a shotgun tightly, finger poised on the trigger.
"So ruthless." the smallest of smiles graced Kalifa's lips but it remained hidden behind her mask. The two women leapt out the window and landed on the wet streets.
"Oh dear. They seem to have found us." Robin said as the roar of the Galley La men rounded the corner of the building.
"YOU! YOU'LL PAY FOR WHAT YOU DID TO ICEBURG-SAAAN!!" Paulie hollered, tears running down his face.
The two masked figures suddenly disappeared, leaving the men to looked around confusedly. Paulie fell to his knees and pounded a fist against the ground.
"So troublesome indeed." Kalifa said as they stepped through the air towards the train station. Just as the train came in sight, the straw hat boy and his first mate landed in front of them. Oddly, the swordsman was covered in soot.
"I thought Lucci-san took care of you two." Robin frowned. She wondered why they were still alive.
"GIVE US BACK USOPP!" the boy screamed, ignoring Robin's statement. "GIVE HIM BACK, YOU BASTARDS!!"
"Why did you take Usopp? He doesn't even have a fucking bounty!" the man gritted his teeth with fury. "Wasn't that Franky guy enough?"
"It seemed that Franky had passed some important documents to him. It was inevitable that he would become involved." Kalifa said. Although, truthfully, neither of the female assassins could gather a plausible reason as to why Cutty Flam would slip that long-nosed pirate, the boy he had kidnapped, the blueprints of Pluton and quickly gain his trust. The closest they could guess was that Franky somehow found out about CP9's undercover mission and decided to alert the Strawhats... though none of it made much sense.
"SHUT UP! Gomu Gomu no... PISTOL!" the boy roared, his fist hurtling towards them.
"Tekkai." the boy's fist bounced off of Robin.
"Shit... Luffy, they have the same abilities as the pigeon guy. We need to be careful." the man muttered. He raised his voice. "Why don't you take off your masks, you cowards, so we can at least have the dignity of knowing who we're fighting?"
"I see no reason not to." Before Kalifa could stop her, Robin had taken off her mask. The two pirates froze.
"Y-you... you were that nice lady who took us around the city..." the boy said in shock.
"And you're probably Iceberg's secretary, huh? That's why you weren't present when all the other carpenters were sobbing about his dead body." the man emphasized the last two words venemously.
"You're quite perspective." Kalifa took her mask off, shaking her hair free. "Although, that part of our mission is over. We have permission to kill."
"You may have the first strike, if you wish." Robin smiled teasingly.
"Ladies first." the swordsman answered sarcastically.
"Very well. Rankyaku!" Robin's leg lashed out and the two men were blown aside.
The green-haired one immediately jumped back and began slashing at Kalifa with his swords with demon speed. Kalifa dodged all of them with ease.
"Shigan." Kalifa stabbed the man in the shoulder while pushing her glasses up with her free hand.
"Gah!" the man clutched the bloody hole in his shirt, breathing heavily.
"Gomu Gomu no Whip!" the boy's leg lashed into the side of Robin's head, but she hardly blinked.
"Rankyaku." Robin's leg became a blur as kicked rapidly, a quick succession of air blades hurtling straight at Luffy.
"Uwah!" the boy attempted to dodge them but his chest was slashed by one of the projectiles. He fell to his knees, panting.
"We have no further business here. Let's get on the train." Kalifa said, taking down the other man. Robin nodded and the two continued on their way to the Sea Train.
"Stop relying on your Devil Fruit powers." Lucci said, ducking and dodging multiple Shigan attacks that came from nowhere. Robin stood at a distance, her arms crossed.
"That's how I fight."
"Then what will you do if there's seastone?" Lucci suddenly produced a small chunk of blue-gray rock from his pocket. He gripped it tightly in his fist and ran at Robin, jumping over the hands that tried to grab him from below.
"Ugh..." Robin fell to her knees, drained of her energy as Lucci held the stone against her. All of the arms vanished.
"It's one thing to utilize your abilities for your own advantage and another to abuse the privilege of possessing a Devil Fruit." Lucci said, still holding the stone. "You still have much to learn."
"Wh- mph! What d-do you want with me??" the long-nosed boy asked tearfully, blood running down his face.
"Give us the blueprints, and you will be rewarded with a quick and painless death." Robin said coldly, looking down at his tied up form.
"I don't know what you're talking ab -mph!" the boy was silenced with a swift kick to the mouth. He groaned in pain and said nothing more.
"We have no need to be hasty. He can be interrogated at Enies Lobby." Blueno rumbled, watching them.
"... Very well." Robin took her seat and looked out the window. Cutty Flam had broken his chains and had escaped to the roof of the traincar. Their newest recruit, Nero, was currently attempting to subdue him again.
"That fool is taking too long." Lucci scowled, listening to the thumps and shouts coming from above.
"He hasn't mastered all forms of Rokushiki yet, has he?" Kalifa asked.
"No. I don't even know how he climbed up to our ranks." Kaku said.
The five CP9 members sat in silence, waiting for the train to arrive at Enies Lobby.
"Tekkai!" Robin shouted. She braced herself, but it did nothing to stop Lucci's fist from dislocating her jaw.
"That was always your weakest skill." Lucci said, kneeing her in the gut for good measure. Robin winced and jumped back, wheezing slightly.
"If you can't master Tekkai, you-"
"I know." Robin said impatiently, pushing her jaw back in place with a pop.
"Then try it again." Lucci dashed foward, fist poised.
This time, Lucci's punch only made her feet slide back a few inches. Jyabura and Kaku silently watched them from a window.
"Lucci's standards are set much too high." Kaku frowned. "Robin easily surpasses me in combat skills."
"That's because you're still a runt." Jyabura snorted, elbowing the sixteen-year-old.
"She can also beat you up, too."
"Shut up!" Jyabura growled.
Robin and Kalifa sat in the top floor of Enies Lobby, enjoying some hot tea. There was a loud crash a few stories down and shouting.
"The pirates have broken in." Kalifa said, gently blowing on her cup. "They must have defeated Blueno."
"That's a shame." Robin stirred a sugar cube in her tea absentmindedly. She stood up. "I'm going to go downstairs. Are you coming?"
"No, I think I'll take a bath." Kalifa said thoughtfully.
"Okay." Robin left just as Kalifa began stripping. She didn't bother to lock the door behind her, seeing as Kalifa probably wanted to test out her new Devil Fruit powers and all.
"AWOOOO!!" Jyabura's howl echoed through the entire tower, bloodlust heavy in his voice. There was a strangled shout and a body flew up onto the floor where Robin was. It was the blonde man from Water 7. He looked up at her weakly, blood dripping down his face. Surprisingly, a smile spread on his face.
"I remember you. What's a beautiful lady like you doing in a shitty place like this?" the man asked weakly. Robin could practically imagine a heart bursting out of his eye.
"I work here."
"That's too bad. I would have really liked to get to know you better." the man laughed and coughed up some blood, still laying motionless on the ground. "You were really nice to us back at Water 7, after all. Just like your other associates."
"Are you pirates that determined to rescue your long-nosed friend?"
"Yeah. He's our nakama." the man shakily got up, leaning against the stone wall for support. He gazed at Robin with his one visible eye. "Can you tell me where he is, miss?"
"I'm afraid that would be against protocol. But, since there's minimal chance of you leaving Enies Lobby alive, I suppose I can tell you." Robin smiled. "Our director is currently interrogating him in somewhere in this tower in order to obtain Pluton's blueprints from him."
"Thank you. Now all we have to do is get past these shitty assassins- not including you, of course." the blonde man bowed. Jyabura suddenly burst up through the floor, howling.
"There you are, bastard! Gyaaahahaha!" Jyabura barked. He glanced back at Robin and growled. "Stay back, Robin! He's mine! I get to kill him!"
"Go ahead." Robin shrugged. It seemed as if the man had gained a sudden burst of energy, because his kick sent Jyabura flying face-first into the wall.
"Maybe if I make it out of here, we can go for a cup of coffee?" the man asked politely, lighting up a cigarette almost casually.
Robin couldn't help but laugh gently. "Perhaps."
What a strange pirate.
"What are you doing?"
Robin flinched and slammed the book shut. She hated it when Lucci snuck up behind her like that. "I'm just reading."
"And what are you reading?" Lucci plucked the book from Robin's hands. He skimmed the cover. "Translations of Elbaf Writings? History? I thought you gave up on that shit years ago."
"Who says I can't keep pursuing my interests?" Robin shot back.
"The World Government. You do know that if you express even the slightest of defiance against their orders, I'll have to kill you." Lucci said coldly. "No one must know about your ability to read the Poneglyphs, or of the Oharan scholars who had tainted your mind with this so-called knowledge. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?" Lucci's dark eyes bore into her.
"...Yes." Robin hung her head.
"Good. Keep it that way, Robin." Lucci tossed the book into the burning fireplace behind her and walked away.
Robin watched the pages curl up and blacken into ashes in the bright flames.
"Chapapapa..." Fukurou groaned weakly, his face coated in blood and his zipper nearly broken.
"Do you think you deserve to die, Fukurou-san?" Robin asked.
"I will assume that to be a no." Robin turned on her heels and entered the next room, passing Kumadori and the fuzzy reindeer's fight unnoticed. She found Cutty Flam several hallways and rooms later, seemingly searching for something.
"Are you looking for the long-nosed boy, perhaps?" Robin asked. Franky whipped around, his eyes bloodshot and his lips curled in a snarl.
"So you know who I am?"
"I remember seeing your wanted posters when I was just a teen. They were only up for a couple days, though, before they mysteriously disappeared. It looks like you sold yourself to the World Government." Franky said, cracking his metal fist.
"What a crude way to put it."
"It's too bad you joined the same people who ruined your life, though, Nico Robin."
Robin's eyes flashed and a memory that she hadn't dwelled upon for years arose in a sudden fit of anguish. "LIVE, ROBIN!!" Something snapped inside of her.
"Shut up! You don't know anything about me or the hell I had to go through to get here!"
"Owah!" Franky grunted as Robin's fist passed straight through his artificial abdomen, crushing through metal and flesh alike. Robin stood up, breathing heavily and her knuckles red with blood.
"You don't know ANYTHING!"Robin shouted, bringing her clenched fists down upon Franky. "Shigan: Kobushi!"
Franky yelled in pain as his left arm was smashed in. "Damn it!" He tried to kick her, but she leapt back.
Robin examined his mangled body. Her shoulders relaxed. "I seem to have lost my temper there for a moment." She turned and walked away.
"Oi, Robin, I think you're working yourself too hard." Kaku said, hanging at the doorway.
"What do you mean by that?" Robin said, looking out the window.
"You haven't slept in two days. That isn't good for you, you know." Kaku entered the room and went over to stand by Robin.
"I don't need to."
Kaku sighed. "You want to match up to Lucci, don't you? That's why you always train with him, even though it always ends up with you heavily injured."
Robin unconsciously rubbed a faint scar on her neck. "Is that what it is?"
"You know what, if you want to train yourself to death, I won't stop you." Kaku sighed. "But try to remember that you can set your own standards. You can decide when you're strong and when you aren't. You don't have to surpass Lucci himself. That man is a monster when it comes to strength. And with his new Zoan Fruit, that only increases it by who knows much."
"Sure." Robin said vaguely.
"Robin... how did you even end up joining the Cipher Pol, anyways? I've been hearing rumors... that you used to be a wanted criminal." Kaku said hesitantly. "Is that true?"
"They don't want it to be. It was either this or a painful and torturous death." Robin said blandly.
"I won't pry further, but... Robin, are you happy with what you chose?" Kaku asked.
For a long moment, there was silence. Finally, Robin answered.
The reindeer had beaten Kumadori to a pulp and had fled the tower through a giant hole that had been blasted through the wall. There was a faint roar that came from outside, presumably from the reindeer.
Kumadori had slipped into unconsciousness and was laying in a deep crater in the tile floor. Robin walked briskly past him. That was two of their assassins down.
Jyabura flew by Robin, his face burned and his eyes rolled back in his head. The blonde man ran by, waved at Robin with a smile, and disappeared somewhere else.
Make that three.
Robin found Kaku and that green-haired swordmsan locked in a fierce swordfight. Kaku appeared to have the upper hand, utulizing his new giraffe form to its fullest abilities. That was until his opponent used some sort of strange ability to triple the number of limbs and heads he had to slice Kaku down in a shower of blood.
The swordsman ran through the room, ignoring his own wounds. Robin went to check on Kaku.
"Hah... he was- hah- stronger than he looked..." Kaku laughed weakly, sprawled out on the floor.
"We underestimated these pirates." Robin paused. "I didn't finish off Cutty Flam after our battle."
"Oh. So he might still be alive." Kaku whispered hoarsely.
"It was a stupid judgment on my part." Robin said. "I lost my temper."
"I see. Are you going to go after Zoro?"
"If he can cut you down with ease, then I have no chance of defeating that man."
"Hm." Kaku closed his eyes and smiled. "Lucci-san is fighting the straw hat boy. Luffy."
"They're all trying to get to the director and the long nose. Where are they?"
"Spandam's probably hiding somewhere to save his own skin."
Fifteen years had not brought Lucci and Robin any closer than they were as eight year olds. According to the other Cipher Pol members, that was.
In some ways, it was the silence and brutal training that binded the two together. Individually, they were unstoppable killing machines. Together, it wasn't much different besides the fact that the job got done twice as fast.
Over five thousand training sessions against each other, and Robin didn't win a single one.
The scars were countless, her bones were still miraculously intact, and Robin's solitary goal was to one day defeat Rob Lucci in combat.
Ohara was indeed dead.
Robin almost regretted returning to Kalifa's room to see how she was faring against her battle with the sole female Strawhat Pirate.
"KYAAAH!" the girl shrieked as Kalifa relentlessly rubbed her hands all along her body. Kalifa looked up and smiled as she saw Robin watching them from the doorway.
"I didn't know you went that way, Kalifa-san." Robin shook her head, her arms crossed.
"I'm just having a little fun." Kalifa chuckled, still holding the girl to her sudsy body. The girl's face was contorted in pain as her hands desperately clung to what appeared to be some sort of metal staff.
"Fukurou, Kumadori, Jyabura, and Kaku were defeated. Counting Blueno, that's five of us. These pirates have officially become something more than a threat."
"Is that so?" Kalifa murmured, her arms wrapped around the girl's waist.
"That's... somewhat creepy." Robin wrinkled her nose.
"Are you sure you won't join us?" Kalifa asked teasingly.
"No thanks." Robin quickly left.
"Whoa. What happened here?" Nineteen-year-old Kaku asked.
"Robin went batshit crazy on me!" Jyabura said in disgust, wiping blood off his face. The room had been completely trashed and there was a gaping hole in the wall.
"Seriously? She doesn't seem like the type who-"
"That's what she wants you to think, man! Robin is a psycho!" Jyabura hissed. Kaku sighed.
"Alright, tell me what happened." Kaku sat down on the floor and crossed his arms.
"Well, I was just kidding around with her and told her I was her long lost older brother. Just for laughs, y'know? And then Robin starts screaming stuff about her mom and you don't know anything and all this other weird shit and some place called Ahora or something and then starts whaling on me!"
"So you were making stuff up about her own past?"
"If you wanna put it that way."
"Jyabura. That's probably the stupidest thing you've ever done so far." Kaku frowned.
"Oi, shut the fuck up! I was just kidding with her!"
"You know about her temper. She's like water. The slightest touch will create ripples. As long as you stay on her good side, she's actually a sweet person."
"You've been hanging around Kumadori too much, runt."
"Whatever." Kaku stood up. "Try not to provoke Robin any more."
"USOPP!" Sanji kicked down the foot-thick iron door that Spandam had barricaded after Zoro had weakened it with some well-estimated cuts.
"Shit! The pirates got in!" Spandam pressed himself against the cold stone wall as if that would protect him.
"G-guys! You came back for me... even though I'm n-not your na-"
"Shut up, Usopp. You're still our nakama no matter what." Sanji said gruffly, untying him. His eye widened in horror as he took in the many cuts and bruises adorning Usopp's tan skin.
"What the hell did you do?" Zoro growled, a wet and unconscious Chopper tucked under his arm.
"Nothing! It wasn't me, I swear!" Spandam said desperately. He drew out his sword before they could answer and swung it at them. "As if, bastards! Funkfreed, kill them all!"
"UWAAAAAH!" a large shadow suddenly leapt in from nowhere and slammed the elephant-sword against the floor with one hand before it could grow to its full size.
"Franky?!" Usopp gasped. "You're alive!"
"I'm gonna need a lot more cola and repairs, though." Franky grimaced, one arm hanging uselessly at his side and his collapsed abdomen crudely supported by a bunch of scrap metal. He punched Spandam and the scrawny man fell to the floor, his face swelling beneath his mask.
"Guys! Usopp!" Nami, soaked through her clothes, ran into the room.
"NAMI-SWAAAN! You're alright, thank goodness!" Sanji cried.
"So everyone's here except for Luffy..." Zoro muttered.
"He's fighting that pigeon guy. But now that we've got Usopp, we can make our escape now."
"Well done." Robin stood at the doorway. The six jumped and shouted simultaneously.
"Come on, try to take on all of us!" Zoro challenged, drawing his sword and holding Chopper tight.
"You're the one who left me like this!" Franky held up his one undamaged arm.
"I can't believe I trusted you back at Water 7!" Nami shouted, her eyes fierce.
Sanji and Usopp remained silent, too stunned to say anything. Robin chuckled and held up her hands.
"I have no intentions of fighting. I could kill you all right here... but I won't."
"Wh-why?" Nami asked uneasily. "What are you planning, CP9?"
Robin's eyes searched all their faces. "I like your determination."
"That can't be it." Zoro muttered. "Tell the truth!"
"If you insist." Robin leaned against the doorway. She closed her eyes. "I didn't choose this life. All these years, I've had nothing to look for, nothing to hope for except to surpass my own physical limits. Death has brushed against me more than once."
"Then why are you doing all this?" Nami demanded.
"I'm chained to this life. It's who I am now. Nothing can change the fact that I'm a cold-blooded assassin working for the World Government." Robin opened her eyes and smiled at them. "I guess I had a change of heart just now. You have your lives ahead of you. Go make the most of it without regrets. I won't stop you."
"Nico Robin..." Franky stared at her. He shook his head rapidly. "No. You're lying. You're just another government dog."
Robin's eyes narrowed. "If you must think of me like that... then..."
"I guess I'll kill you now."
Arms were suddenly restraining the six of them, holding them into submission.
"C-crap! I knew you can't be trusted!" Zoro gritted his teeth.
"Devil fruit powers?!" Nami gasped in surprise.
"I wasn't lying when I said I didn't choose this life. But... even though I didn't choose it... it's the only thing I have now. I am... a member of the Cipher Pol 9." Robin said, her eyes shadowed. "The World Government tore me down, attempted to kill me, and ended up drafting me into their ranks. And now... I have no reason to fight it. I have nothing to lose."
Even though it didn't show on her face, Kaku knew that Robin hated Spandam. No, she didn't hate him. It was something far worse than that. There probably wasn't even a word to describe the loathing and abhorrence Robin felt towards the director.
"Oi! Where's the other people you guys were training?" Spandam demanded, wiping up his spilled coffee.
"Chapapa. Robin killed them." Fukurou said, his mouth halfway zipped. "Lucci killed one, also."
"Bitch! That makes five dead trainees in three months!" Spandam shouted angrily, glaring at Robin and ignoring the last bit that Fukurou had said. Kaku sighed and leaned back, waiting for the (one-sided) fight to begin.
"Well, they wouldn't be dead if they were competent enough to block my attacks."
"Don't talk back to me, bitch! I'm your boss!"
"It seems you lack the intelligence, as well. Would you like to see firsthand how those recruits died?"
"Is that a threat?!"
"Perhaps it is so. My, you're quite perspective."
"H-how dare you! You stupid bitch!"
"Your vocabulary is quite limited, too. Frankly, I'm disappointed."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean!?"
"Which only further accentuates my point."
The rest of the Cipher Pol watched Spandam become even more infuriated by the second and Robin casually returning his retorts, practically oozing calmness. Jyabura tried to hold back his laughter (and failed badly) when Spandam somehow stapled himself by accident.
"Bitch! This is all your fault!" Spandam yelled, yanking the staple out of his skin.
Kaku really didn't know why the director even bothered. He was actually surprised that Robin hadn't killed Spandam yet.
Luffy had won. He had defeated Rob Lucci. It was something of a miracle. It was even more miraculous that the boy was still able to move, if not a bit stiffly and with constant winces of pain.
"G-guys. Usopp. Let's get out of here..." Luffy wheezed, leaning on his knees. He looked up weakly at his nakama in the hold of many arms. "No... you..."
"I'm sorry. I can't let you leave." Robin said coldly. She slowly began to walk towards Luffy.
"No... I can't fight anymore..." Luffy panted, coughing up blood.
"My gang and Galley La should be waiting for us with an escape ship. Paulie-bro promised." Franky muttered quietly to the others. "If Strawhat-bro could just last a little while longer, we'll make it!"
"Come on, Luffy! You can do it!" Nami shouted.
"Quiet!" Robin threw her hand behind her and the arms holding Nami moved to grip her neck tightly, not quite strangling her but enough to make her feel constricted.
"D-dont..." Luffy whispered.
"How were you, a scruffy teenager, able to defeat a man that I haven't been able to harm for twenty years?" Robin asked, still taking her time with approaching Luffy.
Luffy examined Robin's face. Much to everyone's surprise, he held up a hand as if offering something. "Y-you can join my crew if you'd like..."
"What?" Robin froze.
"I can see it. You're unhappy." Luffy's lips trembled, attempting to form a smile. "You don't have nakama, don't you?"
"The Cipher Pol is my family." Robin's legs refused to move. How dare this ameteur pirate ask her, a CP9 agent, to join his motely crew?
"Are you sure?"
For the longest seconds, Robin couldn't find the right words to say.
"Lucci-san, are we friends?" a ten-year-old Robin asked.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Lucci asked coldly.
"I mean..." Robin paused. "Are we friends?"
"I'm neither your friend nor your enemy."
No. None of this was right. Nothing was ever right.
The six pirates and one cyborg watched in astonishment as the tall, dark woman fell to her knees, tears streaming down her face.
Nothing was ever right.
Lucci looked down at Robin. She was sprawled on her back in a puddle of her own blood.
"Try again. I'll show you the right techniques." Lucci held out a hand and Robin accepted it. He pulled her up to her feet and held her steady when she nearly collapsed on her twisted ankle.
"I- I..." Robin's eyes were wide and her face was soaked with tears that refused to stop flowing. It was as if twenty years of built up tears had finally burst free.
"Why am I here, Lucci-san?" Robin asked. The two children were sitting outside, the moon bright.
"What are you babbling about now, Robin?"
"I never chose to become a Cipher Pol recruit." Robin flexed her fingers. "I didn't choose any of this."
Lucci sighed through his nose. "Maybe it's what you're fated to become."
The rest of the Strawhats jerked in surprise as the arms restraining them disappeared in a gentle breeze of petals.
"I'll end this now." Zoro began to run towards Robin, sword raised. Before he could bring it down, a leg stopped him.
"Don't." Sanji said, his eye solemn. He slowly lowered his leg. "We have Usopp and the shitty cyborg. Let's just get out of here."
"What about the blueprints?" Nami asked.
"I burned them after I got them from Franky and before they kidnapped me. That guy was pretty pissed." Usopp nodded at Spandam's body.
"So they've been fighting for nothing." Zoro said, glaring at Robin.
"I still haven't forgotten how to decipher the Poneglyphs." Robin said out-of-the-blue one day. Lucci immediately had a hand around her throat.
"Don't say such dangerous things, you fool." Lucci growled. He threw her down to the ground and walked away.
The seven of them were just leaving the dungeon-like room when Luffy paused by the door. He looked back at Robin, who was still kneeling motionless on the floor.
"She's our enemy. We shouldn't save her." Franky said, glaring at the dark figure.
"But she's not entirely bad." Sanji tried to smile a bit.
"That's because she has boobs and a pulse." Zoro scowled. "O-oi! Luffy! What the hell are you doing?"
Luffy held a hand out to Robin. "You can still come with us."
Robin's head slowly tilted up. "I... I-"
There was a sudden explosion somewhere above them. Robin's arms jerked. "What was... cannonfire?" Something glinted in the corner of her eyes. It was a golden Den Den Mushi laying in the corner near Spandam's unconscious form.
"That Spanda bastard pressed that when he was interrogating me." Usopp said, following Robin's horrified gaze. "Did he call in reinforcements?"
"No..." Robin began shaking violently. "That idiot..."
"Robin, I hope you don't mind me asking, but what happened to you before you came here?" Kaku asked.
"Lucci and Jyabura were talking about how you arrived covered in blood and nearly starved to death." Kaku said cautiously, ready to Geppou away if the situation demanded it. Robin sighed and leaned back against a pole.
"So what happened?" Kaku pressed further daringly.
The pirates had escaped. The swordsman had dragged their captain away, leaving Robin behind. The cannonfire had increased and the ceiling was beginning to crack and rumble.
"Stop! Stop it, Saul!!"
So this was the end for the last Oharan. To die, in a government building, with the son of the man who had ruined her life.
"Someday, you'll find your nakama on the sea!"
The last of Ohara's memories was going to vanish from the world at last.
Seventeen years had passed since the Demon Child had been recruited, and five of the CP9 had been stationed in Water 7 to spy on Iceburg, the remaining apprentice of the late shipwright Tom.
"Our goal is to retrieve the blueprints of Pluton as subtly as possible. It will take time to gain these peoples' trust, but in the end, we will succeed." Lucci said as their ship began to near the city.
"Wouldn't it be easier to have Robin-" Kalifa began.
"Who told you?" Robin interrupted her, eyes blazing. "No one is supposed to know."
"I, ah, overheard your conversation several years ago." Kalifa admitted, pushing her glasses up.
"Reading those cursed stones is a crime. If Robin does retrieve the whereabouts of Plutons this way, we will have to kill her." Lucci said. "Do you understand?"
"Yes." Kalifa muttered. Kaku pulled his hat lower down over his eyes and Blueno concentrated on watching a school of fish swimming alongside their ship.
"Urgh... gamn piratesh..." Spandam muttered, rubbing his head. "Gah! My faish ish shwollen! Gamn that Cutty Fram!" He twisted around and his eyes rested upon Robin, who still hadn't moved from her spot on the floor. Rubble from the ceiling lay all around them.
"Finally, now'sh my chanshe." Spandam's swollen lips spread into a malicious grin. He picked up Funkfreed and slowly edged toward Robin. She didn't seem to be aware of him.
"DIE!" Spandam shouted, swinging the sword down.
A gloved hand stopped his arm mere inches above Robin's head. Spandam looked up in surprise. Blueno was watching him impassively, a bloody and mangled Rob Lucci slung over his shoulder. The rest of CP9 were behind him in the air door.
"Goodbye, director." Blueno rumbled, slinging Robin over his other shoulder. He closed the air door, leaving Spandam in the collapsing tower.
"I actually like this place." Kaku smiled, crouched on the roof. "I've never felt this... free before."
He glanced at Robin, who was looking over her shoulder every few seconds. Kaku laughed. "No one's going to kill you here, Robin. At least relax a little bit."
"Sorry. It's a habit." Robin muttered.
"Robiiiiin? Helloooo?" Kumadori waved a hand in front of Robin's face. She didn't respond. Kumadori burst into tears. "Yoyoi! It is myyyyyy fault that Robin has falleeeeen into depressiioooon! Seppu- oh... I don't have a kniiiiife..."
"Shut up! You're getting on my nerves!" Jyabura barked, limping along the tracks. They looked back to see Enies Lobby ablaze, Marine ships firing at it continuously.
"So that's what Robin went through... that's what she meant by hell..." Kaku muttered, his cap shadowing his face.
"Chapa... where will we go now?" Fukurou asked, his zipper in need of repair.
"We will find an island to get medical attention for Lucci." Blueno said. Lucci still hadn't come to. Robin's eyes were open, but they weren't looking at anything.
"Will Robin-san be alright?" Kalifa asked, her hair still slightly smoking.
"Eh, she'll snap out of it eventually. We should be worried about ourselves first!" Jyabura said, waving his arms. "We need food! Water! Sake! SAKE!"
"Oh, shut up." Kaku rolled his eyes.
Fukurou came to a stop, rubbing his temples. "Ahh... yes... chapapa..."
"Did we get stronger or what?" Jyabura asked.
"Kalifa... 630 douriki..."
Kalifa nodded and pushed her glasses up.
"Kumadori... 810 douriki..."
"Yoyoi!" Kumadori struck a pose.
"Jyabura... 2180 douriki..."
"Hell yes!" Jyabura slammed his fists together, grinning.
"Blueno... 820 douriki..."
"Hm." Blueno nodded vaguely.
"Kaku... 2200 douriki..."
"WHAT?!" Jyabura yelled. Kaku smiled and shrugged.
"Robin... 2000 douriki..."
"Chapapa... Lucci... chapapa... oh!" Fukurou's eyes widened. "4000 douriki!"
"SHIIIT!" Jyabura clutched his head. "WHAT THE FUUUCK?!"
"You've been going easy on me all these years, Lucci-san." Robin muttered as Jyabura went on a rampage.
"No. If you never trained with me, your douriki would most likely be around Kalifa's level. Be thankful." Lucci said.
"I'm still only half your skill, though."
"That doesn't mean you aren't strong, Robin." Lucci said.
"Finally. Now let's go get some sake!" Jyabura shouted.
"Shut up. He's in serious condition." Kalifa said. They were crowded around Lucci's bed. The island had recieved them warmly despite their suspicious wounds and eccentric appearances (mainly in Kumadori and Fukurous' cases).
"Robin... you okay?" Kaku asked. Robin had finally 'woken up' but hadn't said anything since.
"I'll be fine. Thank you." Robin said blankly. The doctor reentered the ward.
"His injuries are quite nasty. What were you people doing, if I may ask?" the doctor asked.
"We were... attacked... by a giant... spider." Jyabura said.
"Giant spider, eh? Okay then." it was clear the doctor didn't believe him, but he didn't question any further. He flipped through some papers. "The bills are going to add up, though."
"We'll get the money." Blueno said. He turned to the rest of CP9. "Let's go, then."
"Chapapa!" Fukurou jumped up from his seat eagerly.
"Yoyoi! I wiiiill work my haaaardest for Luuuuucci-san!" Kumadori wailed.
"What're we going to do? Get jobs?" Jyabura asked indignantly.
"Not a bad idea, actually." Kalifa said thoughtfully.
"I second it." Kaku bounded after them. Robin remained in the ward.
"Do you mind if I stay here for a bit?" Robin asked the doctor.
"As long as you don't pull the plug, sure." the doctor chuckled. He left. Robin sank down into a chair and held her head in her hands.
"I can see it. You're unhappy. You don't have nakama, don't you..."
For a moment, Robin wondered where she would be now if she had chosen to join Strawhat's crew. Her thoughts were interrupted by a small cough from Lucci.
His eyes opened weakly. "Wh-where are we?"
"St. Poplar, treating your wounds." Robin replied dully. "Enies Lobby was completely obliterated by the Buster Call."
There was a long silence, broken only by the sound of footsteps coming from elsewhere in the building. Robin's mind wandered back to what Strawhat had said.
"Lucci-san." Robin said softly. "Are we... nakama?"
"Nakama?" Lucci repeated, his brow furrowing. "You're always asking about friendship and family. Why?"
"Before all of this happened... someone told me that I would find my nakama. But I'm beginning to suspect that it was all a lie."
Lucci looked at the ceiling. "Now that the director will inevitably come after us and try to kill us for not completing our mission, the eight of us are family now. Nakama, if you want to put it that way."
"And all it took was one failed mission." a single tear escaped Robin's eye. She quickly wiped it away.
"That was always your problem. You can be cold and ruthless at times, a perfect assassin, but you're just a scared and lonely child inside. Nothing changed since the day I met you." Lucci closed his eyes. "You need for forget about your past. Put it behind you. This is now... and... we are all family."
Robin couldn't find the right words.
"Don't cry. You look weak when you cry." Lucci said.
"Understood." Robin smiled faintly.
She had never chosen this life. But, it went on anyways. She joined the people who destroyed her and learned to kill. She learned how to be merciless.
Yet there was always a seed of doubt inside her behind that cold exterior. The memories of a life she used to have continued to haunt her for years. It was that which kept her tied to her last bit of humanity, a desperate anchor holding to her last bit of emotions and pain.
Over six thousand battles against Rob Lucci, and Robin lost every single one.
In the end, it only took a single boy with a frayed straw hat to release all the pain in one rush with a single word that hadn't crossed her mind since the day Jaguar D. Saul was frozen to death.
"Chapapa! Lucci's alright!" Fukurou cheered.
"Thank you for treating my wounds." Lucci shook the hand of the doctor. He turned to the rest of CP9. "Let's go bowling."
"Gyaaaahahaha!" Jyabura burst out in laughter. "Lucci's gone soft on us!"
"Oh, shut up." Kaku said, hiding a smile. "Who says we can't go bowling, anyways?"
"It sounds like... fun." Kalifa said.
"Kalifa too?!" Jyabura said in disbelief.
"That's sexual harassment, Jyabura." Kalifa scolded.
"Yoyoi! I haaaave never beeeeen happier before in my liiiiife." Kumadori sniffled. He struck a dramatic pose. "Oh, my haaaaaappiness! Cannoooooot be measured aaaaaas such! Fragiiiiiile butterflyyyyy!"
"That's the shittiest haiku I've ever heard!" Jyabura said.
"We're all in this together now, aren't we?" Robin asked with a smile. Ohara was dead, but a new life had begun.
"Yes." Lucci said in a low voice. "All together now."
And in the end, a woman housing a thousand memories of pain was finally able to cut the strings and release the agony that had tormented her for twenty years. Twenty years of sorrow was finally shoved to the deep corners of the back of her mind.
And in the end, a stoic man with a never-ending bloodlust was finally able to accept his team as family. Family, if not a strange and out-of-place one.
The Strawhat's all recieved new bounty posters, which the CP9 examined with some amusement. The bounties had been assigned because the pirates had been able to bring a high-class assassin group to its knees.
But in the process, the pirates had indirectly brought the assassins together as family at the same time.
"What do you think being in the Cipher Pol will be like, Lucci-san?" twelve-year-old Robin asked, her arms wrapped around her knees.
"Your questions are quite tedious, Robin." Lucci answered.
"I'm sorry." Robin looked down.
Lucci exhaled. "The power... the power to kill... that's what I'm looking foward to."
"Power..." Robin mused, examining her callused hands.
"Damn you guys! You betrayed me!" the Den Den Mushi shouted in Spandam's voice, angrily waving its stubby arms about.
"Spandam." Jyabura spat.
"Director. We will return someday. Count on it." Lucci said to the Den Den Mushi.
"What are-" the connection was broken.
"So what will we do now?" Kalifa asked.
"We stick together. That's what." Kaku said, stepping away from a knocked out Marine.
"Yoyoiiii! My teeender heartstriiings!" Kumadori cried.
"Chapapa. So where are we going to go now?" Fukurou asked a little sadly.
"We have nowhere to go, and nowhere to return to." Robin said.
"That's depressing." Blueno said.
"No, because that way, we're free." Robin leaned back and smiled. "Free at last."
Lucci let a small smile grace his lips and he regarded Robin thoughtfully, absentmindedly stroking Hattori's feathers.
The eight boarded their ship and left the island, leaving their memories behind.
AN: It took me about two weeks to completely polish this down, so I really need some feedback.
I'm afraid I made Lucci a bit OOC for the second half...
Reviews will be greatly appreciated.