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Summary: It must be a kind of madness, Kuma decides, that drives these children to take turns vying for death. Sabaody Archipelago arc spoilers.

The Parting Gift

Kuma removes his glove and stares down at this supposedly infamous crew.

Straw Hat Pirates. What are they, really? Just nine strangers, misfits, banding together for nine foolish dreams. Kuma's seen seas upon seas of pirate crews, many far stronger, but there is something strange about this one. Pirates do not scream at each other to run and to live until their voices give out. This is beyond Nakama. This is something else entirely, something far more dangerous, and Kuma can see it glinting through their frenzied eyes. It must be a kind of madness, he decides, that drives these children to take turns vying for death.

None of them stand a scrap of a chance, and every single one knows it. How strange that knowing it only makes them more fevered to sacrifice themselves. Even when one falls, another broken body draws itself up as a shield and Kuma marvels at the way they watch one another out of the corners of their eyes. It is with a seething love so potent it borders on hatred: Die and I'll kill you. Madness, the madness.

Kuma considers himself a man of principle and honor, but he has never felt bound by either. The boy is Dragon's son, and this could matter, if he lets it. If he doesn't, he could kill them here or let them be killed. He could send them, one by one, to the blank spaces on the maps where their names will fade out like ink in the sun.

Monkey D. Luffy smashes his head against the ground and the strangled keening sound he makes shudders on the air like a small death. Kuma has never witnessed grief like this. It is too vehement, too unnatural in its excess. He might as well have severed the boy's limbs, or carved out his heart.

See your son, Dragon. So young and already so frightening. He only needs time.

Kuma's hand flexes and at last descends to rest on the boy's messy black head like a blessing. Like grace. An odd tenderness fills him, even as the power pulses through his fingertips, leaving behind a patch of empty earth. Monkey D. Luffy, it's a pity I won't see what you will become.