Thanks to everyone who still reads this story. It warms my heart to see that is still being enjoyed. I apologize for my late update but I've been busy and I've been struggling with finding my will to write but I'm back now and I hope I don't disappoint.
One of my fav supporting characters is in this chapter. I want Jimbei as my cuddly husband! He's so cute and he's got cute whale sharks as his pets. Plus he's like a squishy cuddly bear that I don't want to let go of. Hands off my cute Jimbei; I claim him for this chapter and in the future!
That's it or now; so please enjoy.
"And in the knocking of fate; we riot the oceans in search of an answer. I'm waiting at an open door; still knocking for an answer." aKing
'The World Government in Desperate Panic!'
"'Several days ago, Vice - Admiral Smoker of the World Government Marines announced that Monkey D. Luffy - The Legendary Pirate King - had been travelling with Akakami Yonkou Shanks. Breaking news suggests that a fatal alliance has been formed between the two most powerful men on the Grand Line and in the world. After dropping into the ocean with the aid of a coating their whereabouts have been rated as unknown at the moment. Not even the Government have an inkling of where they are headed and what they are planning. In hopes of capturing the Pirate King they are said to have increased their guard worldwide.
'Monkey D. Garp has declined several interviews with a guffaw and a declaration that his grandson was old enough to do what he wanted. The old Vice-Admiral sanity is being questioned once again but being the one to bring in Gol D. Roger all those years ago he is kept confined to the small village where Monkey D. Luffy hailed from. Any further pursuit for another interview has been declined. The world will have to satisfied with the fact the legendary Marine Monkey D. Garp has washed his hands of his beloved grandson. Looking at the history and animosity between grandfather and grandson the battle at Marineford was the starting point of the Pirate King's true recognition and the indifference between the two. They themselves had fought in that battle against each other and it was rumoured that even though Luffy had just been a Rookie had taken down his own grandfather.
'It is still considered that the alliance between Monkey D. Luffy and Akakami no Shanks have not yet reached further than their recent contact right before their decent into the world under water. An unconfirmed report from several years ago stated that at the end of the Marineford War it had been Akakami no Shanks who had turned the tides on the war and had inadvertently saved the Pirate King's life in the process. No one knows whether that had been his true aim or not. Their allegiance to one another are still in question, yet the heavy security of the Marines suggests that the World Government are feeling threatened by the newest Pirate Alliance. In hopes of quelling the publics' fear of the man who had broken into Impel Down and released several dangerous criminals; they have set up safe stations across the world protected by top Marine Vice- Admirals.
'The only question that now remains without answer is why the Pirate King is now collecting notorious pirates under his flag and what he is planning on doing with his newly found power?'
Silvers Rayleigh chuckled heartily as finished reading out loud the newest article about his legendary apprentice. Sipping at his glass of whiskey at Shaki's Rip-Off Bar with no care in the world. The Marines were no longer after him or they seemed to have forgotten it was him who had trained Luffy all those years ago. That or maybe they were too afraid to be caught up in the wrath of the Pirate King. Everything the World Government suggested that they were deeply afraid of the young Pirate King and despite their technology cannot even capture him.
"Just what are you up to now my dear Luffy?" Rayleigh asked himself mostly with a chuckle of amusement. Shaki had left the bar several hours ago to stock up on her supplies. Rayleigh wondered what would happen when the World Government found out that Shanks and Luffy had practically known each other since Luffy was younger than seven. Oh, the amusement he would find in that situation. He could see the headline already:
'Yonkou Shanks the hidden inspiration for the Pirate King!'
"I am up to nothing Mater Rayleigh." A small but powerful voice announced before the Mei-Ou became acutely aware of the powerfully lashing Haki that brushed against his skin teasingly. He shivered; it was still the same uncontrolled powerful rush of pain, desperation and endless amounts of love and affection. He masked his surprise by sipping at his drink and not turning around. Four other auras' he recognized immediately. One, the most powerful of them all gathered there belonged to his apprentice Luffy. The second was a gentler controlled Haki that he knew belonged to Shanks. The third more wild but disciplined belonged to Jimbei the Knight of the Seas. The fourth was wild with uncontrolled emotions and the deadly aura of a barely controlled demon and that was of course the legendary Pirate Hunter Roronoa Zoro. He could sense the others as the crew dispersed across the island to most likely distract the Marines from their true purpose there.
"Luffy! My, my I wasn't expecting a visit from you so soon!" Rayleigh cried happily before he spun on his bar stool to finally face those who had gathered in the empty bar. He froze however as his smile fell from his face to be replaced by a worried frown. He knew that look; the way Luffy's slumped shoulders, the way he leaned heavily against a carved cane and how those dark eyes not only hidden by the brim of his straw hat but also by a dark red silk blindfold. It took him a moment's notice that those trembling lips and slightly shaking shoulders were all that was holding together the young Pirate King in that moment.
"All of you OUT! EVERYONE BUT LUFFY!" Rayleigh boomed loudly and suddenly. His sharp eyes did not miss his apprentice's flinch to the volume. There were several protests rife in the air but Rayleigh promised to talk to them afterwards. Jimbei was the last to leave reluctantly and the sorrow in the fishman's eyes was something that struck Rayleigh in the chest. This must be worse than he thought. To get Jimbei that upset meant that something was not only very wrong but Luffy himself was barely holding himself together. It was after all the two of them who had to look after the distraught teen after his brother's death. They knew exactly what it was that the young Pirate King hid from those around him.
Once the silver haired man was sure the strong auras had subsided into the distance of the island where they could not overhear what was about to happen; he tentatively approached his apprentice as if walking towards a wounded tiger. His steps were confidant; alerting his student to his approaching presence. He did notice the way Luffy tensed when he got closer; closing his eyes after a pang of hurt at the action - Rayleigh stopped mere inches away from the trembling form before him.
"Luffy," He said gently and opened his arms. He wasn't surprised when a trembling body fell into his arms and pressed desperately against his chest for comfort. He could feel his anger spike; just what the hell had made Luffy like this? Could one of his crew have died? No that wasn't it. This was something else; he could feel the self hatred and fear pour off of the kid in waves of hurt and desperation.
He was expecting a calm but trembling explanation as to why he was here, a lashing of deadly anger but nothing had prepared the Mei-Ou for the desperate break that occurred in the young Pirate King the moment he had given him comfort. It was a break he had only seen once and it lasted the first few nights of their training then. Now, this was different. Rayleigh had also dealt with a distraught Luffy then who did nothing but cry and wail and scream over the loss of his brother. Being careful to catch Luffy's falling cane and the boy's weight as he collapsed; the older man lowered them both of them to the floor. He did nothing; did not say anything just sat there as a silent pillar of support. He knew that was what Luffy wanted. Not the words that 'everything will be alright' or 'don't worry, nothing will happen to you anymore'. No; Rayleigh knew exactly that Luffy just wanted to cry and wail and scream without being judged and coddled for his behaviour.
'Luffy if you ever need me; you know where to find me. If your life twists upside down I will be the constant that always waits for you no matter where in world you sail.' His own words from several years ago echoed through his mind. When he had said those words, no matter how much he meant the, never once did Rayleigh believe that Luffy would actually come to him so soon. He still had no idea what was going on and why Luffy was like this but he went with the flow. No matter how desperately he tried to decipher the words that came tumbling out of Luffy's mouth in rapid succession he wasn't able to catch a single clear word to figure the reason for his crying.
"Monkey-Chan?" A soft voice echoed through the room; Rayleigh tilted his head up to catch a glimpse of the bar owner leaning against the door frame with a look of utter surprise on her face. Luckily only Rayleigh had heard her over the din of Luffy's cries. He waved Shaki out before he rested his chin on soft black hair and stayed stoically quiet no matter how hard he wanted to offer more than just bodily warmth and familiarity. Counting his lucky stars that Shaki had not asked questions and just left them be; Rayleigh easily picked up Luffy's smaller frame and laid him on the couch. The straw had rolled on the floor somewhere and exposed the beautifully crafted silk; his fingers traced the running golden dragon with a slight smile. He smiled indulgently when he heard soft snores drift across the bar; it seemed the young Pirate King had tired himself out. Grabbing himself a nice bottle of expensive rum; he sat on the couch next to a sleeping Luffy; he had a feeling that this was going to be the third time in his life that he going to be truly drunk. He better get an early start on that one. The first time was when Roger died; the second when Ace and Whitebeard died and now with Luffy.
The silence was stretched thin until two hours passed and the kid on the couch started stirring; first it was a flash of a pained frown before a startled gasp echoed through the empty room. Nothing went unnoticed by the Mei-Ou; not the way those fingers blindly fumbled for the straw hat that belonged to Luffy. Giving a sigh; Rayleigh took pity on the distraught kid and place the straw hat in searching fingers. Once they closed around the brim he watched as tense shoulders relaxed and the pained look on delicate features faded.
"Thank you." Rayleigh replied softly before he waited for Luffy to start. This had to come from Luffy; he wasn't supposed to ask the imposing questions. No, right now Luffy needed to come out and tell him himself. But his nature had already hazarded a guess of what had happened. The full story he had yet to be told so he merely waited. It wasn't long before that soft voice drifted in the air.
"Sorry for bothering you Master Rayleigh but you said I could come by when..."
"I know what I said Luffy;" Rayleigh pointed out calmly. "It's no burden to have you come visit but please enlighten me as to why I just had to pick you up from the floor in a tattered mess?" Rayleigh cursed himself but pressed on anyways. Maybe he had too much to drink already...His words may have sounded harsh and uncaring to the outside world but there was no touch of cruelty, malice or hate in them. The old master watched as his young student finally relaxed his shields; shoulders slumping in a weight of pain and sorrow and confusion written across his forehead.
"Several weeks ago I was kidnapped from the Sunny." Luffy began softly. He would never admit it but he liked the fact that Mater Rayleigh could be blunt like that. So he began his tale from what he remembered and tried to keep it as short as possible.
"You might know him as the Leopard Zoan of the World Government but I know him as Rob Lucci. I was taken captive by him because he wanted revenge for my victory several years ago. I was taken away for two days before being tossed in the ocean." Luffy said as calmly. Inside his heart was beating a tattoo against his chest. He was going to admit out loud for the first time and he didn't like it; it sounded too permanent.
"I don't remember much of the torture except..." Here Luffy trailed off. Not knowing if he should continue.
"Except what Luffy?" Rayleigh prompted softly. Luffy could hear the soft concern in his pseudo-father's voice and he took a deep breath. It was now or never and for once Luffy felt that he had to say it. It wasn't going to make the fact that he was blind any worse than already was. So out of courtesy to his Master; he reached up his hands to the back of his head and undid the knot in the silk material before letting fall to his lap.
"I was blinded several hours after my capture." Luffy said with a small hitch in his voice; his fingers now gripped in his shorts to hard that his knuckles were turning white. He did nothing when calloused fingers traced his scars tenderly; a haggard breath the only indication that Rayleigh was just as unsettled as he was.
Feeling the temperature drop inside the tavern; Jimbei's eyes narrowed at the feeling of hate that crept across his skin. It seemed that the prejudices of the world were still rife in Saboady Archipelago. Ignoring the stares and whispers were easy but ignoring Zoro's irritate grumbling and Shanks drunken conversation was another thing.
"Who said he could just take Luffy away!" Zoro shouted in anger.
"Yeah!" The Red Haired Captain chorused with the first mate as he slurred his words already. Rubbing his temples where he felt a headache building Jimbei took a deep breath; his webbed hands clenching at his sides.
"Damn it you two! We just escaped another platoon of Marines and you talk so loudly about the one that everyone wants to capture! Have some sense! Luffy will get into trouble if you keep going on like this." He said softer. "Let him have his moment with his adopted father. As far as everyone knows he needs it more than the trouble you two keep causing." Jimbei admonished the two pirates harshly. Not caring that either one of them were much stronger than him; but that didn't mean anything. He knew they would not attack him. Throwing caution to the wind; Jimbei stepped over bodies laying on the floor of the tavern and headed outside. The unconscious and dead Marines did not phase the gentle hearted whale shark Pirate. That was what happened when more than seven people gathered that were extremely protective over one man. Several hours had already passed since they had left Luffy with the old man and it was time that he too faced the silver haired man.
Night was falling over the Saboady and the crowds were dissipating into various night life holes and secured homes. He chuckled; who would have thought that the people of the Archipelago were actually afraid. But then again; this was where most pirates gathered this time of the year. He had forgotten that it was the infamous 'Rookie Week' and that the security should have been tighter but then again the article in the papers had once again worked in their favour. The Government never really guessed the most obvious place they would arrive next.
He was just as surprised as the next fishmen when he had been called out from his home by King Neptune himself. When he got there he was stunned to see the arriving parties. Akakami no Shanks was standing next to Luffy and the two crews were mingling as if they had known each other for years. But then again; he knew that Luffy and Shanks shared a long past together and seeing them together wasn't so surprising. He had offered his home for the overnight stay and Luffy accepted immediately; with a bow to the King he had latched an arm onto Jimbei and asked that he was lead there.
What followed had been a flurry of explanations, fighting emotions inside of the young Pirate King and two overly worried and protective men wanting to be at his side constantly. He had to literally drag Luffy away from Shanks and Zoro just so that he could talk to the black haired pirate in quiet. He had not been told exactly what happened or who did it but when Luffy had tugged at the blindfold to show him that was all he needed to know what had happened. Jimbei did nothing even though he wanted to put the kid away somewhere where he knew he would safe for a long time and shielded from more cruelty but something inside of himself stopped him like it had prompted him years ago to comfort the boy after his brother's death. Luffy wouldn't appreciate being coddled this time; he needed to face the hard facts of reality by himself and no matter how much Jimbei wanted to help him through the grief - it was not his place this time.
He had no doubt that Luffy had suffered a break like that the moment they had left Shaki's bar because he could see it build inside of the young Pirate King since yesterday when they left for the Archipelago together. His geta rapped on the stone walkway when he approached the bar; he was expected to be turned away but instead Rayleigh let him in with a sigh. Accepting the peace offering of a good cup of sake he walked over to Luffy to see if he was alright only to find him curled up on the couch fast asleep. The blind fold gone and those terrifying scars standing out on pale skin.
"He told you?" Jimbei asked after a while. He could see that the Mei-Ou was close to being very drunk but he ignored it. Knowing that the man hardly ever got drunk unless he was truly in distress himself.
"He did." The silver haired man's voice was gravely with his own emotion but Jimbei - out of courtesy to the man's pride - did not point it out.
"Is the bastard dead?" Was all that Rayleigh asked.
"That was my first question as well." Jimbei noted. "But, yes. He is dead. I believe that Zoro had caught up to him before he could disappear. According to Shanks he had smelled of death and destruction and the blood was so noticeable that he had to send him away in fear of distressing Luffy more."
"I don't want to know when Dragon find out about this. There will be no world left to stand on." Rayleigh remarked as he took another swig out of his second rum bottle. Shaki was going to kill him but he didn't much care about that right now.
"He already knows." Jimbei said before seating himself at the bar.
"God help us all; our mortal souls and fragile bodies. He's going to tear apart the world." Jimbei said nothing of the way Dragon had visited Luffy but left the next morning. He could already guess just what the man was up to. Not that that thought had ever occurred to the Mugiwara or Akakami crews. Dragon was notorious - just as Luffy - for protecting those he loved so fiercely that even the government was wary to step on his toes. And now; they had just given him a reason to start the revolution that he had been planning for years upon years. And Jimbei's guess that it was going to be the Cipher Polls that were going to collapse first; especially the disbanded C - P 9.
When Luffy awoke to chatter around him; he groaned in annoyance. He had actually slept well and now he didn't want to wake up but someone was shaking his shoulder rather rudely. He turned around and away from the one trying to wake him; his hand slapping away the fingers that were curled around his shoulder.
"Come on Luffy-Kun; wake up." Shifting beneath the warm blankets Luffy grumbled sleepily before sitting up. Rubbing at the sleep in his eyes but when he reached up there was nothing there but the scars that were now left behind. Cursing his stupidity and forgetful nature he quickly searched for his red blindfold only for his hands to come up empty handed. He was about to yell in frustration when he felt cool fingers trail across his forehead before silk followed it soon after and it was tied securely in place by webbed hands.
"Thank you." Luffy croaked; wincing when he noticed that his voice was worn out and raw with emotion.
"My pleasure Luffy-kun; but we really should get going. It's been two days and someone has discovered Zoro's presence on the island. We need to move before they realize that you are here too." Luffy nodded; once again thankful to the man passing him his cane before he was offered a hand. They were big, cold and the man next to him smelled of the ocean. It was definitely Jimbei; he could hear Rayleigh shuffling in the back whilst muttering and cursing. He couldn't help but smile. The two men that had done so much for him when his soul had shattered that day; years ago.
"Bye, Mater Rayleigh! I'll see you again sometime." Luffy yelled; he was upset that he had to leave again but knowing his Master the silver haired man would follow him towards their next destination anyways. That was just the type of person Silvers Rayleigh was. Leaving the bar behind him; Luffy pulled his hand out of Jimbei's and settled it on his cane with care.
"I want to learn to do it on my own." Luffy said as he began following Jimbei's clacking geta whilst feeling his way around the path with the long walking stick. It was a start but that did not stop the young Pirate King from tripping over his own feet a few times as well as missing a few ditches and rocks. Luckily Jimbei did not point out his mistakes and when they got to a part of the path where it would be impossible to do it alone; the whale shark fishman merely took Luffy's cane and started leading him through the obstacles.
"Finally! Is everyone here?" Nami's voice shouted across the ship as a chorus of shouts answered her. Getting onto the Sunny went smoother than Luffy thought possible but he said nothing when he felt another presence take him away from the open air. In the distance he could hear the sails dropping and the sticky substance of the coating slipping against his sandals. They were ready to set sail already? The first echo of a cannon blast far away in the distance when the pressure changed and they dropped into the water. The gentle water lapping against the hull of the ship was a soothing comfort for his exhausted limbs but Luffy said nothing.
"You should rest Luffy."
"No; I don't feel like it." Luffy mumbled even when he was manoeuvred onto his soft bed; the bed dipping under Shanks weight as the older Pirate pushed him back into the mattress. Luffy was gearing up for a fight but stopped when he felt the weight of Shanks' head rest against his chest. Feeling uncomfortable at the sudden intimacy of the moment; Luffy tried to fight away the darkened blood he knew was rushing to his face. He chuckled when the red haired man started purring when he ran his fingers through blood red locks.
"You may have been asleep for almost three days Luffy but the rest of us did not. So shut up and let me rest." Luffy pouted; since when had he become Shanks impromptu pillow? Not that he was truly complaining but it felt strange that he was for once needed in a different way than just being the strong captain to his distraught crew. Is this why Shanks found comfort in him? They shared the same responsibilities that they couldn't escape from? Knowing that if they broke so did their crews? Luffy cringed; he had just lost himself completely and he had yet to see Shanks so anything of the sort. It finally dawned upon the young Pirate King; Shanks was doing everything in his power to make sure that Luffy was alright and him being cooped in Shaki's bar for two days whilst he slept was enough for the older Pirate to worry about his state of mind and his bodily health.
"I'm fine Shanks." Luffy whispered softly to the air before him. The man now sleeping on his chest mumbled something intelligible and nuzzled closer to him; the action making the darkness spread across his cheeks.
"At least for a while." Luffy admitted truthfully after a while. He couldn't lie to this man no matter how much he tried.
His heart stopped; he was barely in his twenties and already he was having a heart attack. Dark blue eyes searched frantically for the kid he had just lost. No, not kid. His friend; the little ball of light that had attached itself to his heart and refused to let go. Little Luffy had become his world in a few short weeks that they spent at the port of Fuusha Village. His frantic heartbeat was threatening to tear apart his soul with concern and worry. Fingers curled in Ben's shirt as he tugged at the material frantically.
'What are we going to do? Luffy-Chibi's gone!' He yelled frantically. His mind was spinning out of control; he had barely started his adventure and he was already responsible for the life of an innocent.
'Calm down Captain; I'm sure we'll find him.' Comforting words he did not find any comfort in at all. Growling in frustration Shanks stalked off to the only place where the kid could have gotten to. In the distance on the horizon glittered something in the bright sun; dark hair and a knife. Shanks heart raced as he jumped into the water without second thought. His little Luffy was in great danger.
'Luffy!' His voice carried through the tossing and turning of waves as he watched the darkness rise over the horizon and the boat floating broken on the waves. It was all it would take; nothing was going to stop him. Never before had he swam with so much determination. He just managed to grab hold of the little child before blinding pain erupted through his body but he ignored it with a will power not many possessed.
'Get lost!" He growled loudly; power dripping from his tongue without him even putting any effort into it. After the large beast disappeared with its tail between its legs Shanks finally turned his attention to the desperately sobbing child in his arms. A soft smile drifted across his heart.
"Why the tears little Luffy? You are supposed to be a grown man; men don't cry." Shanks admonished softly.
"Y-your a-arm! It- it's..."
"It's but a small price to pay to see you alive my Luffy-Chibi."
Flickering eyes observed the wanted poster now resting in his hands; it was finally here. The Rookie he had been waiting for. A crooked smile and a declaration of celebration had Mihawk rolling his eyes but Shanks just ignored him. Little Luffy was finally living his dream of being a pirate. So it seemed that he had escaped his grandfather's tight hold. What Shanks wouldn't give to be able to have seen the look on the man's face when he discovered the dreaded wanted poster on his desk that morning.
Blood; fear and desperation was rife in the air. The war cries of falling soldiers and dying pirates an echo into misery. Blue eyes caught sight of the body not far away; dark messy hair and so much blood but a gentle smile on those lips. For a moment Shanks thought it was his little Luffy but what he soon saw was worse than discovering that it was his beloved. No; this was Portgas D. Ace. Luffy's beloved brother.
"Oh Luffy I'm so sorry I couldn't get here earlier." He whispered to himself as he picked up the stray straw hat that was rolling around his feet. Pain flashed through his mind as he bribed an old friend to give back what rightfully belonged to Monkey D. Luffy.
"Captain are you sure you don't want to see him? It's been ten years."
"No. Right now that would be breaking our promise." Shanks admitted defeated. He had no right to comfort the little ball of sunshine because he couldn't arrive on time to stop the death of Ace. No; he would live with that guilt for the rest of his life. Not only did the ocean lose a great Pirate it had also lost the heart of light that was now sure to be shattered.
It was only days later that Shanks heard what Luffy had had to endure to get to Marineford and with saddened eyes he thanked the Okama Queen before he set sail for the New World.
"I want to stay here!" Shanks said; stepping off of the gangplank onto the Sunny. He wasn't leaving now that he had finally found Luffy and once again the self blame burned his throat with bile. How many times was he going to fail this boy? How many times was he going to cause him unnecessary pain?
"His crew is not going to like this."
"To hell with what they would like. I'm not leaving him again!" Shanks yelled; taking a seat beside the sleeping form - pale and unresponsive against the pristine sheets of the infirmary. Blood red hair; his bangs shaded with grey, covered his hands as he rested his forehead on his own palms. His shoulders shook with many turmoiled emotions. Emotions he knew no one should ever see, just this once when the doors were closed and the ship settled down for the night did a single tear streak across his scarred cheek.
Helplessness, hopelessness and absolute failure...
Stray fingers, memorising the image of his mentor stilled when a distinctive moisture touched his thumb. Luffy said nothing; his thumb merely swiping away the emotional evidence before he rested gentle fingers across supple lips. The moist breaths teased his fingertips but he did not move his fingers. He didn't want to. If he did then it felt like this moment wouldn't be real and Shanks would disappear again.
Unseeing eyes were trained on bloody red hair he could not see; the comfort from the closeness to this man eating away at the wall around his heart. What was becoming of him? Where did they go from here? So many answerable questions. Too many that it made Luffy's mind spin at the implications. He had done what he wanted to but now he was giving that over to someone else. He had seen Jimbei and Rayleigh; the two he knew would settle his fragile heart for a least a while so now what?
"Take me on an adventure with you Shanks." Luffy said softly; his fingers saying nothing when he felt another drop of moisture on the tip of his fingers. This time he brought it to his lips and ran a tongue across his fingers to taste the reality of the situation.
"I'm your now; take me with you." He repeated. A smile resting across wary lips; his forefingers still resting in his mouth as he buried his other hand in bloody red hair again. The emotions that Shanks were giving off were rubbing against his own as well and even though it didn't bode well for him; Luffy did not move away. He stayed where he was.
Next chapter I'm still working on the plot but I'm sure that you'll enjoy it; it'll be a happy twist to the darkness that has been rife in this story at the beginning of this story.
That's all I have for now but I hope you enjoyed it. If you did then please leave me a review; I would greatly appreciate that.