A/N: I'm not dead, and I am still writing :)

Chapter 39


"We'll be disbanding for a few years," was the unexpected announcement when the crew gathered around Dr. Crocus' house after Shanks' examination.

"WHHAAAT?" came the chorus of disbelief.

"Dahahaha!" Shanks roared in laughter at the looks of shock and horror on his crew's faces. "Not right away," he explained further, "but the plan is to scatter before meeting back together at, uh, how about Sabaody's? And two years sounds good, I think."

"Captain, why - !"

"Captain, what's this supposed to mean - !"

"It's not a plan if you don't even know where we're to meet up, Captain - !"

The ocean of protests and demands for explanations swelled amongst the pirates as their captain watched with his trademark grin before finally Dr. Crocus came out with a stern look and hollered,


It was certainly effective, as finally jaws snapped closed in the face of a very angry looking flower.

"Thanks, Doctor," Shanks said cheerily before turning back to his men. "Now look," he started, his smile dropping into a more serious expression. "I'm not giving up on being a pirate – it's our life, and I don't plan on changing that, but I can't ignore the fact that losing an arm is going to have to change something. I'm weaker now, there's no denying that, and the lot of you are just so damn strong that I won't get the chance to overcome this handicap even if we go back to the Grand Line. I'm not saying I can't depend on you," he added firmly, when it seemed some of his crew was upset at the implication that the ship couldn't survive just as well with them fighting for their captain. "I chose each one of you because you are strong and because I need a crew to depend on, but on the same note, I refuse to be a captain my crew cannot depend on in turn. In two weeks, our ship will dock at Barbses Isle where we will split up for two years to meet again at Sabaody, the tenth grove. Start thinking about what you guys want to do, whether you want to split up into groups or if a few of you want to try going solo. That is all." And with that, Shanks reached up to tip his hat, only to ruffle his hair with a chuckle when he realized it wasn't there, before turning around to go back into Doctor Crocus' home.

Murmurs started when Shanks was out of sight, pirates practically shuffling awkwardly around with confusion and shock at this strange turn of events.

After a few minutes, Harry decided to ignore it all. He was pretty sure some people would be allowed to stick around Shanks for the next two years, like Beckman for one. Cantora wanted an adventure, which would mean sticking around the infamous pirate captain. Roxy… well, Roxy was interested in him, or rather, his magical abilities, so he'd be stalking Harry, who would be traveling with Spaz regardless of other arrangements.

Which actually made a good argument for Harry to stick around Shanks, too. Surely the man wouldn't condemn him to dealing with the ex-marine stalker on his own? Sure he could just apparate away, taking Spaz with him, to some other island, but really, that'd just be bloody troublesome. Not to mention, since he wasn't technically a member of Shanks' crew, the pirate captain couldn't pull rank to order him away. And with that, Harry nodded decisively to himself before turning to start preparing dinner. Dr. Crocus had caught yet another ridiculously large fish for them.

"So where are we going, then, Shanks?"

"We?" the pirate captain echoed. "And what makes you think we'll be traveling together?"

Harry responded with an unamused look. "And I suppose your plan was to sail the Grand Line, looking for trouble with a skeleton crew of yourself and Beckman, huh?"

Shanks grinned. "Yup, pretty much!"

Beckman entered the room at that moment with Dr. Crocus and fresh bandages.

"Idiot boy," Dr. Crocus grumbled. "Worse than Roger, you are! He had a bit more sense in that thick head of his. How the hell are you supposed to run a ship with only three arms between the two of you, huh?"

Beckman just chuckled around an unlit cigarette, handing the bandages over when the old ones were disposed of.

"Neh, so, so?" Spaz swung down from the rafters. "Where are we going then?"

Harry turned to look at his oldest friend of this world. "Aren't you supposed to be with Cantora?"

Spaz shrugged as he jumped up and down in place. "Laboon's watching over her. I think she's trying to convince him to give her a tooth or something, 'cause she wants to try carving something other than wood, and she doesn't like carving marble or rock or stuff but since she's disbanding her business, she doesn't want to trigger a new ivory trade by requesting any from her usual contacts, except now I think she's actually trying to make a trade with Laboon which is really funny because I don't think Laboon actually wants anything 'cause he's a whale, ya know?"

The pirates in the room grew quiet.

Shanks coughed. "She is Old Man Merchant, after all. If she can transport her ship as easily as the rumors say, a whale shouldn't be a problem…"

Dr. Crocus firmly shook his head. "That's not a good idea. Right now, Laboon only attempts to knock down Reverse Mountain by ramming into it, which is something I can limit when it gets out of hand. If he were to actually return to West Blue, I don't know what he'd do from there. He won't find the Rumbar Pirates – attempting to cross through the Calm Belt at their level was nothing but suicide. I know they're dead, and really, Laboon knows it too. But if he were suddenly in West Blue again and unable to find any sign of them, well, he might actually try and search the Calm Belt himself, which is no place for a lone blue whale, regardless of his size. I can't protect him from that."

Shanks sighed, and brought up his remaining hand to ruffle through his hair. There was a moment of tense silence as no one knew what to say, Harry and Spaz still a bit confused about the whole story behind the large whale but not quite willing to ask.

"So? Where are we going?" Harry prompted, when Dr. Crocus finished re-bandaging Shank's shoulder. When they had first arrived, the doctor had given Harry a long look under raised eyebrows at the injury, but eventually announced that he would perform surgery to amputate the stump off. There wasn't enough of an arm left to be of any use, not even for holding a prosthetic fitting, which Shanks didn't want anyway. As such, it would be safer for both the pirate captain's future health and future battles to have everything from the shoulder socket down removed cleanly and the wound stitched professionally.

"Eh, I was thinking of dropping by Kuraigana Island," the pirate finally replied.

Beckman snorted. "He's gonna kill you, Captain."

"Dahahaha! Probably, probably!" Shanks grinned, looking not the slightest bit worried about his impending doom.

"Visiting a friend?" Harry inquired, hoping to get a bit more information as well as encourage Shanks to keep talking. The man was good at being decisive – an important skill for a leader, but until he's actually prompted to make a decision, the pirate captain seemed to prefer going into just about anything without an actual plan. It really made Harry wonder how the red-head had managed to survive for so long.

Well, no, Harry knew it was likely because he was very good at picking the right friends. That was, after all, how Harry had managed to live so long. Shanks, however, seemed a bit more capable when it came to returning the favor.

"Yeah," Shanks replied, breaking Harry from his morbid thoughts. "We spar all the time – we're practically infamous for it, really. People have already started calling him the Greatest Swordsman in the World, and a lot of the time I believe it!"

Harry nodded, vaguely remembering such a title being mentioned before. Funny how this world actually labeled such people. He was pretty sure back home people didn't bother, believing in the "there's always someone stronger" philosophy. But, well, Merlin's pretty well known as the strongest wizard in history, so maybe he just hadn't spent long enough in the muggle world to have heard of an equivalent?

"So, you think he'll help you out with learning to fight with only one arm?"

Shanks and Beckman exchanged glances.

"Well… maybe?"

The port was bustling when the Red-Hair Pirates arrived at Barbses Island. Over the course of the past week, most of the crew seemed to have accepted their Captain's decision and were actually looking forward to doing some of their own exploring around to improve their own skills.

"I'll be entering a few sniping competitions where I can, maybe some firearms duels," Yassop bragged. "'Course, if we're let loose for two whole years, I might just visit home!"

His fellow pirates jeered at him teasingly, though a few volunteered to join him to make a group large enough to maneuver a small ship on their own when necessary. Being pirates, it was a little harder trying to hitch a ride anywhere on someone else's boat.

Farkas Gregory had stopped by the kitchen a few times during the week for last minute training spars and ship fare preservation tips. He would be traveling in a group with his friend Alvin with the hopes of picking up a few more specialized skills, like cooking, carpentry, medicine, etc, because "it's stupid that the best chef, doctor, and repair man on our ship doesn't even call himself a Red-Hair Pirate." Harry chose to be pleased with the indirect compliments and that Greg apparently accepted him as part of the group, rather than be irritated at the indirect demand that he should join the crew as one of Shanks' pirates already.

A surprising number of pirates ended up disembarking onto Barbses with no plans at all. Harry just hoped they could all make it to the meeting place alright. Traveling almost halfway around the world by oneself with no mode of transportation to call your own seemed a needlessly daunting situation when you had crewmates in the same position. Harry supposed, though, that this was the kind of reckless mentality attracted to the life of a pirate.

"And you're sure it will restore itself exactly as it was?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "As long as you don't shake it too vigorously, Roxy, yes," he replied, for the umpteenth time. Since Harry was staying with Shanks and Roxy was going to follow, and the pirate captain refused to even consider leaving his ship on Barbses Isle for a smaller one which would be easier to sail with fewer people, the former Marine and his companions Korr and Mona were invited to join Shanks, Beckman, Harry, and Spaz aboard the pirate ship. Roxy asked only that they figure out a way to bring his boat along. Thus, Harry obliged yesterday morning with a four-part rune scheme to keep the furniture in place followed by a shrinking charm so that the small ship was the size of a small Den-Den Mushi, and likewise could be kept in Roxy's pocket. The man hadn't stopped exclaiming over it since.

"But it is indeed fascinating."

"Isn't it?"

Harry groaned and hurriedly walked away from Cantora and Roxy's excited discussions about his magic. Fortunately, he could see Spaz and Beckman returning to their docking area.

"Shanks!" he called out to the pirate captain on the other side of the deck. "Beckman's back. I'm going to go with Spaz to see if we can stock up on fresh food supplies now. Don't go picking any fights, alright?"

Upon seeing Shanks grin and wave in reply, Harry apparated off the ship to the dock behind some crates.

"Seems you've had some luck," Harry greeted, as he walked out to see that Beckman and Spaz had returned without their burdens from when they had first departed. Since the ship would only be holding less than a dozen people for the next two years, most of their livestock were pretty unnecessary. The crew had eaten all the pigs and roosters last night for barbeque, but the dairy cows would be worth more in beli than meat.

"We did," Beckman replied around a freshly lit cigarette. "A large ship of newcomers was at the market place looking for a steadier food supply, so we managed to sell off all the cows at a good price rather quickly. We'll have to buy some good alcohol."

"It was so cool, Harry, yes sirree! There were people there selling cows, and pigs, and chickens, and goats, and sheep, and, and, I saw this really big bird that had the longest neck and legs but stubby wings which was so weird, yes sirree, it was, and it couldn't fly but it could run a lot faster than any other bird I've ever seen and look -!" Spaz thrust out a hand holding a green and white fluffy feather about the size of his forearm. "Its feathers are huge, Harry! Yes sirree!"

"That is impressive," Harry admired. Even coming from a world where quills of all colors and sizes were common writing utensils, he had never seen one quite like this. The wizard turned back to Beckman for a second. "I left your Captain up on the ship with Roxy and Cantora. It's only been a minute or so, but you might want to hurry back and join them. I'm going shopping with Spaz now, if that's alright?"

"Sure," Beckman smiled good-naturedly at the teasing about his Captain's propensity for finding trouble, his rifle still lazily propped on one shoulder. Still, he walked awfully fast towards his ship after waving goodbye.

Harry shared a grin with Spaz, who had also noticed the first mate's behavior. "Come on, then. The last and only time I've had access to so many spices and other goods since we decided to tag along with Shanks was when they pillaged that trader's ship. I've brought some of my own cash along, so let's have some fun."

A/N: So, new stuff's happening. Unfortunately, I've no idea what just yet . But, well, I keep getting new followers and stuff, so thank you all! I'm going to do my best to keep updating. You may see some stuff for my other stories go up first, since I've still some things planned for those, haha.

834 reviews, 10/10/13

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