Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or One Piece. Oda, Kishimoto, you two guys wouldn't give a crippled crab a crutch.
Chapter 47: Trust in Me
"Princess!" Soren bellowed, standing at the very front of the Natural Disaster and pointing straight ahead at oncoming ship that had already fired at them, "Straight ahead, and steady as she goes! I want the nose of this ship to be right! Up! Their! Ass!"
"We don't have a traditional melee ram on the bow and you got rid of the only person that can power the bow's weapon!" Vivi shouted right back at the acid-generating warrior, "Why the hell would you want to ram them?"
"I'm getting onboard that thing to beat their asses and take their swag, and I don't want to risk fucking up and falling into the water!" Soren shouted, stomping on the deck several times before turning to leer predatorily at the enemy vessel, "I want to see the terror in the whites of their eyes when they realize they're screwed."
He was a situational psychopath.
Usually this wasn't a problem. At certain times, like right then when Nojiko wasn't in the proper condition to scare common sense into him for instance, it became an issue.
"I'm in!" Spectral Perona chirped cheerfully as she floated around the helm being steered by Nefertari Vivi, "It's been so long since I've done a good old-fashioned raid. I wonder what they have."
Vivi banged her pretty blue-haired head against the wheel and moaned piteously, "We're not pirates…" In return she got unanimous scoffs and snorts from Soren, Perona, and Paulie, "What? We're not! Naruto always says we're not!"
Paulie held his cigar away from his mouth and blew his smoke away before moving closer to Vivi to let her in on the cold, hard truth, "I hate to break your adorable little heart, but we're so totally pirates. We steal things and run away on a ship. Case in point for example, when Johnny and Yosaku fixed that sword fighting tournament a while back and stole the prize money. That was piratey. That happened right after I joined up."
"Except for the doctor lady, ghost girl, and the tar-lunged shipwright we all have bounties. High bounties. We fight Marines all the time. Our humble captain broke his foot off in Admiral Aokiji's taint if you don't remember," Soren pointed out with a swirl of his finger, "That's some pirate shit right there."
"And besides, I don't see why you have any problems with it," Perona said, her ghost form floating upside-down in front of Vivi's face, "If it helps, just think of it as pirate-on-pirate crime."
Paulie grinned at that bit of reasoning, "If a pirate robs another pirate in the middle of the ocean and no one's around to see it, is it really a crime?" A rousing round of 'oohs' from those that were intrigued by the paradoxical rhetorical question only made Vivi bang her head on the wheel once more.
"By a show of hands," Soren said, "Who wants to go over there and steal all of their shit?" Perona and Paulie raised their hands, "All opposed?" Vivi of course, but it was three against one, "Those not on the deck don't count, the ayes have it, let's do this."
"I wish Naruto was here…" Vivi said.
Soren just rolled his eyes, "You heard Uzumaki's clone. He was going to just sink the ship, plunder and all. You don't sink the ship until after you get the loot. That's day one stuff. What kind of pirate is he?"
"We're not pirates!" Vivi insisted with a serious pout, "We're not!"
She was gleefully ignored.
(Meanwhile – With Naruto – Isle of Women – Amazon Lily)
Laying on his back, head resting on Kurama's sleeping form, Naruto stared up at the sky while waiting for Marguerite to request to return to the island.
'Fuck, this is boring,' He thought to himself, almost wishing that Kurama was awake so that the fox could bitch him out over the reason that he'd been angry about earlier. Getting into an argument could be better than doing absolutely nothing, 'Then again, Kurama usually doesn't understand it when I say that I've got to do what I've got to do.'
Sighing to himself, in reality Naruto was dreading the shout and bite fest that would ensue when he tried in vain to explain why he used Rinne Tensei no Jutsu when he did and why he did.
A bolt went off in his head, sending him a clone memory of looking overboard before being unceremoniously dispelled, "…Soren."
On one hand, he could go back and completely emasculate Soren in front of not only their crew but the crew that he had eradicated Naruto's clone to fight with in the first place. That would be fun. On the other hand, he'd promised that he'd be a hostage until Hancock wanted Marguerite to return. While that hostage stuff was mostly empty, because if he was a real hostage the sky was also made of premium liquor, it was still a promise. When you were trying to establish a rapport with an organization like the Kuja Tribe, things like that though small in the grand scheme of things could go a long way.
Anyway, Naruto's crew was tough. Even with Johnny down they didn't need him to run in. If these were people he needed to protect every step of the way he'd have never taken any of them with him.
Byron was way stronger than anyone else figured either, and it was time that someone other than him got to see just what that man could do. He had been a captain on the Grand Line in his own right before he'd been captured as a slave after all.
It would be hilarious to come back and see if Soren reacted to seeing that his spot as tippy top dog first mate was threatened by the unassuming musician guy supplying his alcohol vice. It might persuade him to spend less time idly drinking and maybe bear more of the load that didn't directly revolve around fighting.
"So are we going to talk about the very, very stupid thing that I know you did, or are you going to procrastinate and fail to lie to me?" Kurama asked lazily, though his tone held no sense of playful mocking. He was evidently still quite heated about what he'd discovered with Naruto's physical state of being.
It was better to get this out of the way now. At least in Amazon Lily there was less of a chance of Kurama trying to transform and give him a beatdown. He wasn't sure how much of the place would be left standing if he did.
"Fine," Naruto admitted with a sigh, "I used it. I used the Rinne Tensei."
"On an entire village that got slaughtered by these pirates we ran into."
"You didn't even find out the name of the village you used it on, did you?" That was a question that Naruto honestly couldn't answer. It was quite unfortunate, because he was about to be presented with another one, "How many people did you save?"
"A few hundo tops."
"Oh dear sage… he wasted his life force on a few hundred people," Cue a nine-tailed slap to the head, "You're lucky you dumbass! You never used that jutsu before on anything! Ever! Why there and why them?"
That was an easy question, one that Naruto was more than willing to defend himself against.
Blue eyes set on Kurama in a glare as he sat up off of his friend, Naruto spoke, "They weren't pirates, soldiers, ninjas, or anything. They didn't pick the sort of life where you've gotta expect to die. They were just people born on the Grand Line; the wrong place to be with all of the freaks and jerks that drift through. I don't regret what I did, so you can be as pissed as you want to. You can just get over it."
Kurama growled at Naruto, his eyes taking a demonic glow to them for a few seconds before remembering who he was trying to swell up against. He could admonish Naruto for being dumb, but when push came to shove he couldn't actually scare him at all, "Like I said, you're lucky. I've noticed that many of these humans have a distinct lack of developed chakra systems. If you had to do the same thing to people that were actually powerful, it would cost you your life to restore them."
"Break that down for me a little more, and be specific," Naruto requested, "I didn't ever find out how it worked other than the ways I could actually see up close."
"I'll use your crew as an example. You could restore all of the women on your crew, but the blonde, happy one would be extremely costly to you, more so than any others. The men are markedly more difficult, even though the blonde woman by herself would be harder to resurrect than all of the men other than the acid man."
All of this talk about what-if scenarios brought about one that Naruto's wizened mind had thought of multiple times in the past, seeing as how if things kept going the way they were he would outlive them all, "Could I bring them all back if I had to?"
The 500 million beli question.
Kurama did not mince words. He didn't need Naruto wasting himself trying to give people a shot at the second-chance sweepstakes.
"They're too strong all together. Bringing them all back would kill you. Just bringing back the acid-spitting one alone would suck an extreme amount of life out of you. It would take me time to restore you to a workable degree, because you would 'Nagato' yourself. Even then I'm not certain if I could put you back to the way you were if you brought back anyone around your level so to speak."
You were only supposed to get one use of Rinne Tensei, and you could bring back multiple people, but it would kill the user upon completion. Naruto somewhat cheated because of the unique composition of his body makeup, his overwhelming amounts and force of his chakra, and the underdeveloped chakra of the people he'd restored. Bringing back actual warriors though was something else entirely.
"Are you trying to scare me? You've got to know better than that," Naruto said with a small grin, "I'll keep all of that in mind though."
He'd keep it in mind. It didn't mean that keeping it in mind would keep him from doing it regardless, because Kurama had answered his question, even indirectly. He could do it, it just wouldn't have a very happy ending.
"I'm just saying; you can die," Kurama stated informatively for Naruto's benefit, "If you hid on the mountain with the toads you would probably live forever, but you would never do anything so boring. If you pull a Rinne Tensei and die, and kill me while you're at it, I will torment you in the afterlife until I respawn. I'm only making sure you realize that."
"Got it," From where he'd set his head back down on Kurama's torso, Naruto could hear a low rumbling from his vulpine partner, 'What the hell?'
Sitting up, Naruto looked over the other side of the fox to see that a woman's hand had sprouted from the ground to rub Kurama's neck. Robin. He wondered how much of that she heard, and from the fact that she could form any part of her body on any given surface such as ears or anything, she probably heard quite a bit.
How she managed to sneak up on him he had no idea. Probably a mix of her being naturally sneaky due to how she had to survive as a child, and her completely lacking any sort of malice to him whatsoever.
"Kurama bites people when they try to pet him Robin-chan," Naruto warned aloud, feeling a second arm appear to pet him as a joke, "I might too, but then you might like that better."
"Do you gain power from lying out in the sun?" Robin asked with a calm smile on her face, one that hadn't been there since he'd found her at Tequila Wolf. It was good that it was back. She was much prettier with that aloof air she had often kept before everything had gone to pot, "It would explain a lot if you did."
"No… but now that you say that I'm thinking there's probably a way I can do something with that," Seriously, that had him thinking. How hard could it be to harness the power of the sun for his own purposes? People did it all the time back home for solar energy and things like that. It was worth looking into later, "Hmm. Anyway, what's up?"
"Come with us to Marineford."
Squinting his eyes while looking at someone for the first time in a long time, Naruto regarded Nico Robin closely, "I'm kind of supposed to stay here until the Marguerite girl wants to come back. I'm a hostage."
"Boa Hancock is insisting that you accompany her as she takes Luffy and Rayleigh to Marineford," Robin said as she leaned against the wall nearby, "I can see why. If she left you alone, what would keep you from just teleporting home?"
As if to insinuate that Hancock could stop him if it really came down to it. She baited him, and it was almost a reflex for him to say what he did next.
"Nothing's stopping me from doing it now really."
"So you're admitting that this entire 'hostage' excuse is a farce?"
Damn it. Him and his ego. Naruto thought he'd fixed that little problem of his after Aokiji had given 30% of his body frostbite, and yet he walked straight into that one. That was a really sharp woman. She didn't even have to stop or slow the conversation to get him with that.
"Fine," Naruto grumbled, as this was going to be quite the journey, "But why-?"
"You saw the wound Luffy had, didn't you?" Robin wasn't asking. She was flat out declaring that Naruto had seen it. There wasn't any need of assuming that he hadn't, "He would do anything for his crew. For us. If he wants to send a message to the others, it doesn't matter if he has to go back to the place that caused him the most pain in his life. I would just feel better knowing that he had all of the people around him for this that he could."
Ugh, whenever she started lowering that stone cold calm demeanor of hers to speak from the heart it always absolutely wrecked him.
"I've got a crew of my own," Naruto reasoned, "I've got to do right by them first you know. You want me to take 'em all the way to Marineford as a distraction? Or leave 'em all alone while I run off and do my own thing?"
While he loved making his fair share of trouble, marching his way up into the face of the Marine HQ to give the chance for a message to be sent just spelled lunacy, even by his own standards. And while it would have been fine for him to do it on his own, theoretically he'd have his own crew with him when it occurred.
It wasn't like they'd be fans of him saying he was heading to a place like that all on his own, so even if he tried to make it an order to wait him out they would go along regardless.
He didn't even mind that such a thing would more than likely occur. At heart he resented the idea of leaving them behind more than any other plan anyway, even for a few days. He'd already left his loved ones before already, and the idea of doing the same and leaving them high and dry for the benefit of another grated him intensely, even for just a short time.
"I don't know what I'm asking of you," Robin eventually said, "You've done more than enough for us in the past as it is. You've done more than enough for me. The favors still have yet to be returned."
"I don't do what I do because I want something back," Naruto explained, "I do it because I care," He let out a sigh while Kurama snorted to hide a stymied chuckle, "I can't drag my crew into some danger like that, but I can do something for you to try and loosen things up."
(Meanwhile – Onboard the Natural Disaster)
"Just for reference's sake-," Byron said as he finished loading a cannon with Soren stuffed into it, "-The princess has a serious problem with your course of action."
The bandanna-clad acid-spitter poked his head out and shot his eyes over at Vivi who was pouting with her back turned to the entire affair in protest. Despite the bullets and cannon shot flying at their ship from all around, she did not budge an inch. Someone was clearly too tough to care about trifles such as firearms any longer. Good for her.
"Her dissention is duly noted," Soren droned before dropping back into the cannon, "Alright, Tekkai's ready! Fire this fucking thing!"
"Aye…" Byron said with a sigh, before lighting it and plugging his ears as it went off a moment later.
In a blast of gunpowder, Soren was shot through the air, a rope connected to his body as he whooped and kept his body curled for aerodynamic benefit. Tied to the other end of it, Paulie let out a sigh and lit himself a new cigar before he found himself jerked through the air by the Soren cannonball.
"Idiots," Vivi muttered to herself before realizing how much she sounded like Nojiko right then. Planting her hands back on the wheel, she began to maneuver the ship around for the battle at hand.
If she could avoid the headwind, she could start finding a way to circle the enemy ship safely. There wasn't a ship faster than the Natural Disaster that she'd seen and by now she knew how to take advantage of that.
While Vivi was unaware of it, she had become a very serviceable helmswoman. Despite thinking that she needed Naruto to direct her, she was used to being the one in control of something like this. As subtle as it was, such a hands-on practice was an allusion to her to-be ruler status. She was the one with control over where they went and how they moved.
"Princess Vivi," Byron asked, placing a hand over his heart in a gesture of intent, "My blood is beginning to boil with the passion of battle. May I inquire as to your directions for me once we get close enough to the enemy vessel?"
It caught the poor girl off-guard at first, as she had forgotten what it was like to be spoken to in casual conversation with such a formal vocabulary. She quickly recovered however, "Uh, I don't really have anything for you that I need done Byron-san. What do you want to do?"
"I want to FIGHT!"
"…Err… okay," Who could have seen the gentleman musician as one so battle-hungry? Then again, he had been a pirate captain in the past, "I'll be fine here, but I kind of need someone here to help me man the helm," That seemed to disappoint the former slave, something that Vivi quickly picked up on, "...I promise that if something happens you can go do your thing, and as it is it's just you and me right now in case we're boarded."
Byron's eyes lit up with an all new fire in them, "By God you're right princess. As of now you and I are the only thing keeping the hounds of the enemy from assailing our comrades inside! I will not fail you or them as the main guard!"
Well that little situation had been handled, though Vivi admittedly really did want to see just how Byron fought. She knew that he used his hair as a weapon due to a Devil Fruit, but how he did so was still lost on her and many of the others.
How strong could he have been though? Captain or not, she'd seen pirate captains that couldn't lace up the shoes of some of the other lower-level pirate members of other crews. But for some reason none of the active experienced fighters on the crew had ever questioned whether or not Byron could handle himself or not.
She'd find out eventually she assumed.
(Onboard the Firetank Pirates' Ship)
To the amazement of the mafia-looking pirate crew once they stopped firing at their designated target, only two members of the target ship's crew came to fight them.
The consensus opinion after seeing their eyesore of an orange ship with tree-like masts was that the members of that crew must not have been wrapped too tight. Only too late did they begin to recognize who they were messing with when they saw acidic steam flying off of the body of the figure that had fallen from the air, shot at them from a cannon.
Paulie landed smoothly in his own right, though he'd bitten through his own cigar mid-flight, making him rather cranky upon landing, "We're the Foxhound Pirates, blah-blah-blah… here for all of your valuables-," He was not a fan of all of the rifles and pistols being pointed at them and let his opinion of such be known, "-Pipe Hitch Knives!"
From his sleeves faster than a gunshot flew several long ropes with sharp blades tied into the knotting, cutting and tearing into the enemies surrounding them before they retracted back from whence they came.
Soren let out a whistle, as he was going to do that, but Paulie had beaten him to it, "Yeah, what he said, only not as nice," All he got in return were groans of pain and discomfort. Turning to Paulie he gestured to the downed enemies, "…Is this it, or do you think there are more below-deck?"
Paulie shrugged and watched Soren exude acid from beneath his boots to create a hole in the deck that he dropped down through, "…Won't know until we start looking," The shipwright then followed the crew's first mate into the opening.
It wasn't a great fall at all by their standards, ten feet at the most, but they seemed to land in an extremely posh trophy room, or a large office or lounge of some sort. There were all sorts of upscale paintings and sculptures. Lounge games, including a pool table, were situated around the vast ship room.
What the hell? It was like the entire underside of the deck was just this lounge. Where the hell did the crew reside? Even lower? There had been at least fifty guys on the upper deck. This ship didn't seem big enough to fit them all if there weren't any rooms on the top floor.
"Holy shit, open bar!" Soren said, using Soru to blur his way over to the glass display featuring all sorts of aged alcoholic beverages. These Firetank Pirates knew their stuff. No cheap swill on this ship, "We're coming back for all of this."
Paulie rolled his eyes but decided that if it would shut him up they could come back. It would at least cut down on the amount of work Byron had to do in order to keep Soren supplied with booze, for the time being anyway.
From the far end of the room, the door opened to reveal four more firearm toting Firetank Pirates flanking one man in particular. A short stocky man with grey stubble, sideburns, and slicked back black hair wearing a black and white pinstriped suit and hat, a green scarf tucked into his jacket.
Hands tucked into his pockets and a cigar in his mouth, his beady black eyes panned back and forth between the two Foxhound Pirates, "Yare… my guys didn't sink you yet? What the hell am I paying you rubes for?"
"Sorry Father!" The Firetank Pirates said before opening fire on Paulie and Soren. Paulie ducked and covered behind the sturdiest thing he could see to protect himself while Soren simply stood statue-still and activated his Tekkai, putting it to the test.
Fifteen seconds later when the murderous fire ceased, Soren was still holding up the neck of a shattered bottle that he'd been planning to sample before it had been shot by the now dumbfounded Firetank Pirates, "Drink up, it's Saturday!"
"Spoken like a true alcoholic," Paulie said, popping back out from behind cover, "It's not Saturday."
"Alright, it's Sunday then," Soren reasoned, "Jesus had wine at the Last Supper."
"It's not Sunday," Paulie deadpanned.
"Monday then?" Soren said with a shrug of the shoulders, "First day back at the job."
"It's not Monday either."
"Whatever day it is. Tuesday? Crew's getting on my goddamn nerves. Wednesday? Hump Day. Thursday? It's almost Friday, time to celebrate. Friday? Thank God!" Clearly Soren always had a valid reason to be drinking, for one reason or another.
Paulie sighed before hearing the sound of guns being reloaded, "Oh, that's right. This is happening," He shot out several ropes from his sleeves, wrapping them around the arms of the well-armed pirates before sharply pulling them all inward, "Rope Action: Round Turn!"
With one yank he jerked them all inward and smashed them together with scary force. How much force? Well there was blood on the floor where they all landed. A fairly unnerving amount of blood.
"You're going to want to get them a doctor," Paulie said, continuing to smoke his stogie.
"I don't waste space with having doctors here," Bege said, not sweating the devastating injuries that had been dealt to his men both on the deck and right in front of him, "If I need more guys I replace 'em, simple as that. You think taking down seventy or eighty guys matters much? I've got to have some people out running the ship after all."
"What the hell are you talking about tubbs?" Soren asked with a shrug, "You're saying you've got more guys?" This ship couldn't fit many more than what they'd already gone through. It wasn't that big, and this room on its own took up most of the entire floor of the ship they were on, "Where?"
As he asked this, Bege smirked, a row of miniature gunports forming all across his torso in the direction of Soren and Paulie, tiny cannons aiming their way. Yes, it was quite a freaky ability, however after having seen what they'd borne witness to throughout their journey it wasn't really that impressive at first glance.
As far as Devil Fruit powers went, while it was one of the more unique ones it wasn't as intimidating as some others.
"Are you serious?" Soren asked aloud, "You might as well shoot me with a B.B. gun those cannons are so little. It'd probably do the same amount of damage."
Bege just smirked and plucked his cigar from his mouth to speak clearly and concisely, "…No pirate has the natural firepower I do."
The cannons were fired, and from then on out there were officially no more jokes to be made. While the cannons might have been small, after it left his body, the ordinance was full-sized.
(Meanwhile – Onboard the Natural Disaster)
Vivi could only look on with stunned eyes as an entire side of the enemy ship was blown off entirely. She hadn't requested Byron to fire a single shot with any of their guns, so it wasn't her. It had come from the inside of the vessel.
Did Soren and Paulie find the place where the Firetank Pirates kept their armaments? No, because they wouldn't have tried to sink the ship while they were still looting the place. Blowing things up wasn't either of their styles anyway.
The door to the interior of the ship flew open to reveal Miss Valentine after hearing the sound of the deafening explosion from inside. It took her only a matter of moments to realize what had begun to happen while she'd been making lunch for everyone, "…Wait, did we get into a battle while I started cooking?"
She didn't know if she was more concerned or put out that a fight had started without her. She did tend to get a bit engrossed in her meal preparation when she was working for everyone on the crew.
As far as Vivi was concerned, having more hands on deck was just fine with her. Soren, Paulie, and Perona were gone. Yosaku was inside dead asleep, Johnny was still badly hurt and being watched over by the Kuja girl, Nojiko's head was still splitting itself apart from the inside, and Naruto wasn't there.
'I can't believe this. Naruto's not here, Soren's not here, and Nojiko's under the weather,' Vivi thought to herself, gritting her teeth at the sight of the smoke and fire coming from where three of their crew members had gone, '…Does that mean I'm in charge by default?'
Miss Valentine wasn't really a leader despite the fact that she was the most powerful fighter currently onboard. She was the type to go with the flow, and she wasn't one to issue any sort of command to anyone for anything.
Well if Vivi was the one who was technically in charge that meant that she had to take responsibility for everyone else. She was a princess, someone who was supposed to be able to lead others, so she had to step up to the plate. Now was when it counted, and even if she wasn't the strongest there had to be something she could do.
'Right. I'm in charge. And with everyone else with me there's nothing too tough for us to handle.'
She wasn't alone, and she wasn't about to let anyone down if she could help it. She just hoped that the others were alright.
To think that anyone would have been willing to inflict such devastation on their own vessel, it was maddening. Sure, Capone Bege had a ship roughly the size of the Natural Disaster, but not a single member of the Foxhound Pirate crew would have ever been willing to use an attack powerful enough to take out the entire starboard side of their method of travel, of their home.
Floating up through the floor of the ruined ship level, Perona took advantage of her spectral form to search through the wreckage caused by only one attack from the mafia-styled pirate. While Soren and Paulie had been cleaning house, she'd been locating the enemy treasure stash.
Then Bege blew most of the left side of the ship away with a cannon volley from inside of his own body that could have blown the walls off of a Marine base.
"Oh no…" The ghost girl mumbled to herself as she floated around the afflicted zone of devastation. Much to her surprise she was actually concerned. She was concerned for them. Imagine that, "Ugly acid-man and ugly rope-man, they couldn't really be-... could they?"
Why in the world did she care? They were just some silly crew, and they'd tied her to the front of their ship!
But that had been quite some time ago and she hadn't been down there for very long… and they weren't bad. Sure, she wanted to take that pretty little princess from Alabasta down a peg, and the men were all ugly brutes to her, but the women were all nice enough, Kurama and Carue were both adorable, and Gekko Moriah was nowhere to be found.
Being with them was so much better than being alone on what was left of Thriller Bark. At times it was even fun.
"Tch," Her attention was drawn to Capone Bege, who wandered out from behind a mostly destroyed wall, "Those idiots just had to piss me off. Now I've got to take out another ship and restaff it all over again. I have all of those things with me already, but that isn't the point."
"You ugly jerk!" Perona shouted at him, flying through the air only to pass through him near-harmlessly once she reached him. She then remembered that her astral body wasn't dangerous without her utilizing her attack ghosts and she immediately readied herself to get him back, "I'll make you wish you were never born!"
"I'm supposed to be afraid of a little girl?" Bege asked, tapping the ash off of the end of his cigar as he ignored the creepy feeling of having Perona fly through him, "Why don't you just float off like a good brat?"
Gritting her teeth as tears of anger and a bit of regret pricked at her eyes, small ghosts broke themselves away from Perona's astral body and began flying around frantically, like bees buzzing around a hive. If he wanted to blow something up, she'd give him something with some bang to it; her Mini Hollows.
Any inclination she had to fight for some bit of revenge faded when she heard the disgruntled order come from a pile of debris nearby.
"I thought I said this guy is mine. That means you too ghost-girl."
She didn't think she'd ever be happy to see or hear Soren of all people, but her heart lifted when she saw him render a pile of the ruined ship to a bubbling mess, dragging Paulie by the neck of his jacket.
Paulie was out cold, and Soren looked as if he'd rolled around in a furnace, but he was still standing and seemed more pissed off than injured. Damn that Tekkai was effective to stand up to that many cannon shots at once.
"Hey dandy-dick…" Soren said, grinning with his sharper than average canines, "…You might have a lot of big guns in there, but your aim sucks. Only four of those hit me at most."
'Only four?' Perona thought to herself, as she floated over at the unconscious Paulie, trying to get his vision to focus on her. He was a grumpy, surly old deckhand, but he hadn't been that bad to her after the initial prisoner phase had worn off. He was like a gruff uncle, "Are you alright?"
"…Remind me to take a refresher on that Haki stuff from the Kuja girl…" Paulie muttered, "I really think I wouldn't have taken the blasts so badly if I knew how to do it."
Soren's eyes set on Paulie for a moment before his glare returned to Bege. He spit onto the floor and ignored the sizzling noise of his loogie melting through, 'This was all my fault.' He thought to himself. Yes, he was an asshole, but he honestly hadn't expected any of his actual crew to get hurt. Short-sighted things like that… apparently joining a crew hadn't taught him much about team accountability until right then. All of his fights had been solo efforts.
For once he'd fought someone with an overwhelming attack ability and no qualms about using it without trying to precisely aim it. It was a lesson almost too hard to have learned. If he himself hadn't been iron-tough, Paulie might have bitten the big one.
Some first mate he was.
Soren couldn't bring himself to be upset at Bege for doing what he had to do, he was a pirate after all, but that didn't mean he wasn't about to get his ass handed to him.
He was angrier at himself than anything else, but since he didn't have sadomasochistic tendencies he'd have to make due with beating the daylights out of someone else and directing his rage elsewhere.
First, he had to make sure that Bege's stupidly-destructive powers wouldn't hurt Paulie again. Perona would be fine, she was in her ghost form, but a few more errant shots like the first one and the shipwright would be pushing up daisies.
'Hand-to-hand it is then,' Soren flexed his fingers with audible cracks before darting forward with Soru. A large doorport opened up right in the center of Bege's chest, and Soren's eyes widened as he saw the black metal of a larger cannon poke out. It was the only warning he got before a shot was fired.
The shot missed, but it forced Soren to cut out from his attempt to attack. It also gave him a moment to analyze what he could of Bege's powers, 'When he opens those doors it doesn't matter if what's behind them is small or not, when it leaves his body it's full-sized ordinance.'
What a dangerous power. And he hadn't moved an inch for any of his assault.
Bege shook his head and threw the stub of his cigar away, "This is why I hate fighting my own solo battles. Guys like you always think they can analyze me and come up with a way to win. There's nothing to analyze. I've got an army inside of me. That's all there is to it."
Sneering, Soren gestured for Bege to bring it on, "Well you'd better call out every last one of 'em right now."
It was big talk, because while Bege seemed to have no issues with destroying what was left of his own ship just to kill him in a one-on-one, Soren still had an out-of-it Paulie that neither he nor Perona could get to safety.
Rising to the challenge, drawbridge doors opened on Bege's body next, prompting rifle fire from the miniature underlings he had inhabiting his body. Soren turned on his Tekkai to endure the bullets for a short time until he saw what the doors had been opened for.
An entire cavalry of armed men charged out of Bege's body and immediately became full-sized.
Gritting his teeth in alarm, Soren turned off his Tekkai and took to the charge head-on, channeling Soru to his arms, "Soru: Hyaku Higyou Yama (Hundred Mountain Strikes)!" One hundred rapid-fire punches obliterated the sheer man and horsepower of the mounted troops, "That's enough of this crap!"
"Oh what are you going to do about it?" Bege asked casually despite the devastation of his crew members. Another series of gunports opened and shot more cannon blasts at Soren, but he continued to come forward, allowing the blasts to explode around them as long as he kept moving ahead.
"Rip your head off!" Soren answered with a bellowing cry as he finally got close enough to Bege to unleash a vicious melee assault, 'I've got him with his stupid doors wide open! Now die!'
The moment Soren's hand got close enough to even feel some of the heat from the man's body, Soren's acidic claws met nothing but air as he felt himself fly and fall a considerable distance due to a sudden loss of footing on the floor.
Yelling in panic at first out of sheer confusion, Soren's body smacked off of a hard stone floor as he rolled to a harsh, crashing stop against the wall.
Well that wasn't very graceful. It was rather embarrassing to have his attack dodged like that. The guy didn't even look that fast, but lo and behold Soren was the one eating dirt so he had to have some kind of fleetness of foot.
"That guy is so getting a Tiger Jackhammer for thi-," Soren stopped himself when he realized that the floor was stone, not wood. The floor of the ship they'd been fighting on wasn't stone, "Huh?"
Looking up and back from whence he came, Soren saw a large drawbridge close up and seemingly meld with the rest of the stone wall.
Amid his confusion, hundreds of armed guards came swarming from every room inside of this apparent fortress, armed and ready to eradicate him. Wherever Soren was, he knew for sure that he wasn't on the ship any longer.
"What the hell's going on!?" He pondered aloud as he began defending himself appropriately from the onslaught.
Perona couldn't believe what she'd just seen.
Soren was about to take Capone Bege's head off, and just like that he vanished right in front of her eyes.
"What?" The pink-haired girl said to herself and a barely-aware Paulie, "But nothing even happened! That guy didn't even do anything!" She'd been watching the entire time, and Bege had hardly blinked. All that happened was his stupid drawbridges closing a second or two after the Foxhound Pirate first mate had disappeared.
"I don't have to do anything," Bege responded, "Like I said, I've got underlings to do everything for me. All inside of me. Your friend is about to find that out firsthand,"
"What are you talking about?"
"Do I have to spell it out for you? You must be as dumb as he is thinking that he actually had a chance at hurting me," The well-dressed pirate don said, lowering his hat on his head, "My powers, when they're on, anything that gets close enough to me is considered a part of my fortress. Your friend is stuck inside now, and there's no way out except in a bodybag."
Soren was trapped inside of Capone Bege's body as a result of his powers, with all of his pirate crew and no idea where he was. If he lasted five minutes, in Bege's mind it would have been a miracle. Even if that bastard was a Supernova, just how many guys could he go through all on his own? He had a thousand guys inside of his body.
From the starboard side of the ruined ship, the Natural Disaster's distinct orange paint job floated into view as a blonde woman leapt from its deck and landed on Bege's, floating gently down with an open umbrella.
"Hello~!" Miss Valentine's voice sang happily as she landed, an intimidating shadow over her face despite her bright demeanor. The impatient tapping of her umbrella on her shoulder was the only sign anyone would have had that she was displeased, "This seems to be quite the party and silly me with no invitation, kyahahaha!"
"Another one?" Bege said, not taking Valentine seriously in the slightest judging from his unchanged demeanor and response to her arrival, "Tch, they're like roaches or rats."
"Sexiest rat you've ever seen."
"I've seen better than you."
In response, Miss Valentine started cracking her knuckles, eyes closed in her eerily pleasant grin until Perona flew directly in front of her to keep her from moving toward Bege, "No! You can't touch him! Ugly acid-man tried to get close and now he's trapped inside of him!"
Miss Valentine froze and stared at the large-eyed Ghost Princess before leaning forward to stare through her spectral body at their would-be enemy, "…That guy trapped Soren?"
"…Inside of his own body?"
"Yes! It's like he's a human fortress!"
Miss Valentine just stared hard at the Supernova for several more seconds before leaning back and turning her head to the skies, "Kyahahahahahaha!" She hadn't laughed so earnestly and healthily in a very long time.
"This isn't funny!" Perona insisted, waving her arms around childishly, "How can you laugh? Soren's trapped with who knows what, and ugly rope-man is-," She stopped upon noting that Paulie was no longer where she'd left him. He was gone, "-Where'd he go?"
Continuing to laugh, Miss Valentine merely pointed over her shoulder back to the ship where Vivi sprinted across a boarding rope with Paulie on her shoulders. Wow. Naruto really had trained her well. If she' was a little bit more bloodthirsty or inclined for battle she probably could have attacked Bege if she could do all of that without being noticed.
Then again she probably had something against attacking people from behind. A noble's pride or some sort of complex like that.
"What's wrong with him?" Perona suddenly asked, noting a pained look coming over Bege's face as he held his temple, beads of stress sweat dotting his face. He did his best to keep a stoic outlook, but there was no disguising his obvious discomfort.
Miss Valentine looked at him, stifling her laughter before tilting her head in mock curiosity, "I think we can rule out Nojiko's migraine for headache of the century now."
(Meanwhile – Inside Capone Bege)
Countless cries of pain and horror rang out through the great castle hall that Soren had originally found himself in after being sent inside of Bege's body. Acidic steam flew off of his unamused body as every single Firetank Pirate that had tried to attack him writhed in pain on the floor, their flesh melting off of their bodies.
Hey, it was their fault. He had a hell of a defense mechanism in that his bodily fluids were inherently acidic. It just so happened that he could release acid from his pores on demand.
"Ibi Ibi no Bakuhatsu (Rot Rot Explosion)… jerks," Soren said, looking around as his acid stuck to every surface in the room, eating away at the walls with a loud hissing noise, "I've seen some freaky powers before, but this might take the cake for a while. Is this guy really a fortress?"
It seemed like it. So now what? He had to get out. Staying in there for too long wasn't on Soren's list of things to do.
Walking through the puddle of acid on the floor that he created and ignoring the carnage he'd caused with his Devil Fruit power, Soren figured that there had to be some way out. Maybe through the mouth or something. There had to be some sort of constant ventilation inside for the guys that lived there.
If that were the case then he had to find a way upstairs, because he'd be damned if he was going downstairs to find a way out. Not a chance.
Taking the opening to down a quick vial of lemon juice after depleting a good portion of his body's acid stores, he started climbing the long flight of stairs to reach the upper levels.
And on each level he had more goons to deal with. Bege certainly believed in quantity over quality, but once Soren got on a roll there wasn't much they could do to stop him with their guns and knives.
He hadn't even bothered to try and count them. After a while it would have just been a practice in monotony. Just as long as he found a way out, that was all he really wanted.
Eventually, he assumed that he'd reached the man's head. He thought it was at least because there were no more stairs heading upward, and there were two large, oddly reflecting orb-esque windows that he could see Miss Valentine and Perona through.
"Kill him! He can't get away with running around inside of 'Father'!"
Turning around, Soren jumped away from the stairs in enough time to backflip and throw a pair of tearing kicks at the incoming Firetank Pirates charging up them, "Rankyaku: Kiba o Youkai (Storm Leg: Dissolving Fangs)!"
The long twin blades of compressed air flew out vertically from the flip and touched from floor to tall ceiling as they ripped through the floor. The stairs were hit, including the men just coming over the crest of them. The walkable portion of steps that hadn't been destroyed slowly melted away from the forceful and liberal application of a powerful dissolving agent.
In other words, there wasn't going to be anyone else getting up there that hadn't already been there to begin with.
And from the way the few up there regarded him upon his arrival, with serious concern, along with the fact that no one had come from anywhere else to attack him, Soren would have put money on the twenty or so manning what seemed to be communication controls being the only ones with him.
'Den Den Mushi?' Soren thought to himself when he saw all of the snails situated on the tables. He then noted that Bege couldn't have possibly called his own guys out. Even if he'd opened his gunports and things, how else would they know what to do? 'He really did turn himself into a fortress.'
He put Den Den Mushi speakers throughout his body and had the guys in his head somehow in contact with his battle intentions judging from the headsets they wore. They could see the fighting happening from behind Bege's eyes, and they were the ones that issued the orders from their boss to the rest of the Firetank Pirates.
How long did it take him to get all of this? And how long would it take Soren to make a big mess of what was left of it?
"Ibi Ibi no Ame (Rot Rot Rain)!" His cheeks quickly swelling up, Soren fired a spherical shot up at the ceiling. As it hit it exploded into a downpour of acid that precipitated down on everything in the room, coating the walls and floors with the caustic fluid.
It had more of an effect than he thought as well, as on the outside, Bege wiped at his eyes as they teared up from behind. He could feel this?
…He could feel this. Did that mean that he could feel everything?
That control panel was more than just a large desk. It… had to be connected to, or had to represent, something very important.
Without a second thought, Soren started opening and quickly downing every vial of lemon juice he had left on his person. He'd need to make more, but that was a small price to pay for leaving Bege with quite the parting gift.
What's wrong with him?" Perona asked, venturing a chance to float in front of Bege and wave her ghostly hand in front of his face, "He's not even paying attention."
Miss Valentine stood patiently, twirling her umbrella idly as her green eyes seemed to try and penetrate Bege's form. She couldn't figure out what was happening, other than the fact that shop was thoroughly being wrecked inside of the man's body.
At one point, Bege stopped fretting over the obvious discomfort that his entire body was in, downward up, and eventually seemed to go blank for lack of a better term. It was strange. It occurred over a matter of less than five minutes, but the progression was intriguing.
Perhaps he'd managed to stop Soren?
That line of thought fell to the wayside when Perona let out a quick shriek. The reason being that Bege's eye was knocked out of the socket; dangling from the connective nerves as a miniature Soren jumped out and returned to normal size, dusting his hands off as he walked away.
Miss Valentine lightly clapped her hands as a form of light applause, violent display or not. She'd seen worse than a lost eye before.
Soren stood quite satisfied with his arms crossed, "And I did that stone-cold sober," He boasted with a toothy grin.
"No you didn't," Perona said, having seen him drink before the battle started and even while he'd been onboard the Firetank Pirate ship, "That was disgusting by the way."
"It's the only way I had out without melting a hole through his head ghost-girl, so it could've been worse."
"What'd you do to him by the way?"
"Would you believe that I melted away a chunk of his brain?" The man pointed back at his victim with his thumb, "We can get doctor girl over here to check if you don't."
Both women cringed at the mere thought of such a thing. Really? That was intense. Why did all of Soren's victories have to be so graphic in comparison to the rest of theirs? At least they didn't have to actually see it.
"You're…" Miss Valentine started to say, trying to find the proper adage for the conversation, "…A really sadistic person."
She quickly gave up and fell back on a default.
"Hey, I just wanted to steal their stuff because they shot at us first," Soren said before shrugging, "This is poetic justice as far as I'm concerned. A guy who's a fortress and gets taken down from the inside? People write songs about crap like that."
"You're not going to finish him off?" Miss Valentine asked, looking back at the brain-dead Capone Bege, "I don't know if that's cruel or merciful since you gave him an amateur lobotomy and all."
Soren gestured with his hands as if they were a balance beam, "Eh… it's either kill him and trap all of his guys inside of him since his powers won't work anymore after he dies, or let him live brain-dead but keep all of his guys alive. I'm not really pissed at the rest of the crew per se, so it's pretty double-edged. Anyway, Valentine, help me loot their swag and let's jet." The sunny blonde's disposition lit up at the prospect of ripping off their enemies and it was clear that she was onboard with the idea.
"GET BACK ON THE DAMN SHIP ALREADY!"
All three of them almost immediately did what had been demanded of them from the eardrum-rending shout that had rung clearly through the air. Perona actually did float back over to the Natural Disaster in response. They'd thought it had been Nojiko at first, until they picked up the timbres of Vivi's voice instead of the expected sniper lady's vocal patterns.
Wow, she must have been really, really pissed.
Apparently victory didn't make everything okay after all.
"…Can we steal first?" Miss Valentine asked weakly, her voice barely carrying far enough to be heard.
"YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS!"
Both remaining Foxhound Pirates immediately sprinted off to find what they could of worth to pilfer, lest they find out what she'd be willing to do with her hard to trigger temper seemingly activated. Soon after the fact, Miss Valentine and Soren would wonder to themselves how they both found their wills dominated so effectively by a teenage princess.
Much further down the line, hindsight would set on them both, in that they should have seen what eventually happened coming a mile away, even from this little event.
If it had been a bit more memorable of an incident for them, the special talent Vivi developed in earnest really would have been obvious beforehand.
(With Naruto – Isle of Women – Amazon Lily)
Onboard the flagship of the Kuja Pirates, supplies were being loaded for another trip back to Marineford, as well as medical equipment just in case it was needed for Luffy.
"Are you certain you wish to do this?" Jinbei asked of Naruto, having been re-bandaged after his short conflict with the Foxhound Pirate leader, "You don't owe anyone anything."
Naruto gnashed his teeth uncomfortably before grunting, "It's not about owing somebody something, or doing this for a favor. I can't just do nothing when one of my friends is trying to reach a bunch of my other friends. You can't ignore that. I've got to do something."
He just wished the something he had to do wouldn't have been so damn troublesome.
…Oh who was he kidding? He wanted this so bad it hurt him sometimes to think about it, but it was still ultra-irresponsible to do. At least it would have been if everyone else on the crew that knew the Straw Hat Pirates wouldn't have agreed that what Naruto planned to do was for the best.
Nojiko probably wouldn't even hit him with her pistol, shoot at him for being an ass, or call him a maniac. Since this was for Nami as well, it would be swept under the rug. It was basically a license to act like a blowhard, just as long as he got as much attention as (in)humanly possible.
Kurama was definitely down with that.
Jinbei nodded to what Naruto said but quickly excused himself upon noticing the presence of someone behind the ninja.
Naruto turned around only to find himself looking up at the face of the taller Boa Hancock. He was trying so hard not to let his eyes stray any lower, but if they did he already had an excuse ready, as looking at her chest didn't require him to look upward.
"We will see you in a matter of days, won't we?" She asked, arms crossed over her chest as she tried to look impassive and keep her face from getting red at receiving his full, undivided attention so close.
"You'd better hope not," Naruto answered with a frown, "If you see me while any of this is happening, that pretty much means I screwed up. You might see me afterwards I guess… maybe," He said, letting the question linger to try and get the Snake Princess to squirm a bit.
"I'll hold you to that Uzumaki," To what? To a maybe? You couldn't do that, "It wouldn't do to have you captured or killed so early after the Kuja Pirates have considered you and your crew allies. Return Marguerite once you've returned to your ship if you would."
Naruto nodded and jumped into the air with a heel click before landing and teleporting away in a flash.
You had to leave 'em with a little flair.
Hancock simply watched where he'd been standing before letting out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding and looking out at the ocean. What Naruto was about to do, what he'd volunteered to do to keep eyes off of her ship as she took Luffy back to Marineford, it was tantamount to insanity.
But he was so certain that it was something he could do to make things easier for them, and it wouldn't be taking his crew out of the way of where they were intending to go next.
"I used to be worried that he couldn't handle something like this as well," Nico Robin said, watching from the gangplank, much to Hancock's surprise. Seriously, that woman had her own special brand of stealth when it came to showing up unnoticed. It was uncanny, "I remember the very last time I didn't believe in him. The last time I thought that there was something beyond his capabilities to handle."
"You've known him for how long, a year at most?" Hancock asked.
"This is the Grand Line. I'm sure you're aware of just how much trouble you can cause in under twelve months."
Indeed she did. It only took her a year as a pirate to become a Shichibukai, so her original point was rather moot.
Shaking her head as she walked the rest of the way up onto the ship, Robin smiled serenely, "It's wrong of me, but I believe in him. I promised that I wouldn't doubt him again after the last time that I did, and I'll keep that promise. He keeps his own after all."
"…Even if that promise is to intentionally bring to bear the fullest wrath of the Marines that he can provoke?"
Heavy footsteps on the ship sent the view of both women to Silvers Rayleigh, the greyed legendary pirate smirking to himself as he walked past them, seemingly paying no real mind to the conversation at hand. He did choose to chime in as he departed however.
"You're speaking of the man who fought the Pirate King and his crew on a whim, for the sake of a local, legendary leviathan of all things," Rayleigh said, "When he says he's going to do something, if I were you I'd go ahead and consider it done already."
With that being said by perhaps the most respected pirate either of them knew of, there was really nothing else that Robin could add, her mysterious smile only seemingly to increase in its mirth, "You have to admit, that kind of resolve and the presence to reinforce it is very appealing."
True enough. He was going into action for the sake of his allies; the Straw Hat Pirates, and now the Kuja Pirates as well. All in order to help Luffy, and assist Hancock in lending him a hand so that her Shichibukai status was not put at risk.
"It is rather refreshing," Hancock said, rubbing the head of her snake weapon as she thought to herself.
So you guys, I'm about to do something totally absurd next chapter. I'm almost excited about it, which is notable because it's very hard to get me actually excited about things.
It'll be next chapter's big-ass extreme bash, and then we'll move this story forward into the next major story arc I've got set.
You know, after writing this chapter, it reminds me quite a bit of the episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force where Master Shake shrunk everyone else for his own amusement. Those of you that get the reference know what I'm talking about.
Anyway, in other news apparently this story has more fan art, which is cool.
There's one for Soren so people can finally see what he looks like if they couldn't picture it, and another one for Naruto/Nojiko at deviantart, with the links near the bottom of my author's page if anyone wants to look at them. I can't link to them here as you all know.
Regardless, I hope you all enjoyed, and now I'm going to go to sleep. I have ring time in the morning since Friday is my day off from work.