A/N; Chapter 27. Sadly, this Chapter was far easier than the previous chapters. No comments about Nundu? Seriously HP fans, siriusly. Ah, well, more of Aki's 'crew' gets introduced. Tell me if what you think of them.
Chapter 27: Unseemly Sailing With Stupid
Grand Line -Paradise -Sky Island
Nundu was not a happy cat for all that he appeared to be a kitten. He was a genius by human standards but that meant nothing to him. He had come to a frightening realization of what his apathy to the humans around him had caused. He had just realized that he was stuck watching over these human rookies. They weren't even people he liked! He was going to demand lots of many things in payment. This was a concept he understood. Lots. Sleep, pampering and all the food he could eat. His favorite person would be sad if they died because humans were silly that way –not that this made his 'job' any easier.
He knew that rookies often made stupid mistakes but to swim in a cloud that they had gone through with the knock-up stream? Stupidity of the highest caliber. If he was human, Nundu supposed that he would be engaging in the time-wasting panic that two-leggers went through when worried. However he was a cat. So after the long nosed human was retrieved he set about correcting the stupid.
"Do you suppose you could have done anything less ill-thought out?" Nundu asked the long-nosed human as another human plucked the sky-fish away from him. "Cloud seas obviously don't have a solid floor –unless you count the ocean's bed far below us. Otherwise the ship and all of us would have been crushed against it before falling some several thousand meters to the open ocean." He informed the humans and the one two-legger on ship. They all grimaced. Good. "Try to remember that even if Skypeia and that place are here –this cloud is still on the Grand Line. Anything is possible." He even refrained from adding 'you twits.' Humans were weird and his lack of human civility would cause the humans to act against him and be more stupid.
"Are you going to give us advice Mr. Cat?" The rubber human asked with a frown on his face.
"No. You're free to make your own mistakes. As a cat, I really don't care what happens. My human would be sad for a while and then she'd get over it."
"You're a silly kitty aren't you?" He asked. "So why are you staying with us then?"
"No. I'm a barely civil cat and I don't feel like leaving." Nundu informed the rubber human coolly.
"Nah. You're a silly kitty." The rubber human replied as he poked the small cat. Nundu looked at the finger as it was coming close. It poked him again. "See, you don't mind at all do you cat?"
Nundu smiled widely, showing off all his teeth.
Nundu bit down, expanding his head enough through his logia nature to engulf most of the human's hand in his jaws. The small cat absently noted that atmosphere being less dense could be a problem for his abilities as he hadn't wanted to engulf that much.
"Ah! You stupid evil cat!" The silly two-leg yelled as he tried to shake the kitten-sized black cat with the now much larger head off his hand.
"… I can't place why, but this seems familiar for some reason (1)." The swordsman commented.
Nundu overheard this and timed a flail just right so that he landed –feet first- on the male's shoulders. "I can't place where though." The swordsman continued.
"Ah, déjà vu. Here I thought it might have been something interesting." Nundu commented as he was returning to his normal feline form. He leaped from the swordsman's shoulders and down to deck.
The swordsman just stared mouth agape. There is nothing quite like being ignored by a cat especially as he quickly ate the sky-fish that had been left on the deck in two bites. Nundu took a few steps towards the mast and looked towards the angry two-leggers. He licked a paw to start a bath for himself as was proper after a meal. "Don't you have an island to find?" The cat asked.
As they scrambled to sail the ship Nundu decided that his favorite person owed him lots. This would not be enjoyable.
Unfortunately as they scrambled the furry two-legger noticed someone coming towards them. A local human. Interesting. However, the intent from this human was hostile. Wonderful. As a cat he wasn't easy to find with humans using haki using his abilities for more than minor feats would make him as noticeable beyond his intellect should he choose to employ it (2). If Nundu was a person he would curse his kitten-sized body but as he was a cat, Nundu let the humans deal with human problems. After all, this human could be a cat-person. He had been told by various humans that he was a cute cat if one could discount about nine kinds of creepy especially when he smiled like a person. Nine wasn't a large number since humans often counted far more than that. He understood the purpose of numbers but a cat never really had to count beyond a few things. A normal cat anyway. Since eating that fruit he had had to learn numbers and math.
As he watched the strongest three of the rookies get beaten, Nundu realized that the thinness of the air was getting to the rookies. At least they were smart enough that he didn't have to inform them of that. Having to watch over dumb rookies would make him drop them all overboard –or eat them, but they'd die after a while. At least this 'Knight of the Sky' proved interesting, if unhelpful beyond dropping off a whistle and scaring off the hostile native.
"So how do we get up to this White-white sea that Knight of the Sky guy mentioned?" The navigator asked.
"Are you asking me? I'm unaware of exact method. All islands are different, but I'm sure you can figure it out."
"You're useless cat!" The less sensible human female yelled.
"No, I'm just being a cat and you're being a silly human. The armored fellow was actually being cheap for mercenary work."
"Is there a conversion rate Mr. Cat?" The more sensible human female asked.
"As money is a human invention, there's no need for a cat to pay attention that much attention to it. I just remember hearing complaints about it. They interrupted my nap." The cat told her.
"Interesting…" The sensible female replied. Any further conversation was killed by his favorite person's 'little brother' being an idiot.
"Hey! These clouds are soft!" The rubber man yelled as he bounced on the few that seemed to be far denser than the ones they're sailing on.
Nundu just wanted his favorite person to show up so he wouldn't have to watch over these two-leggers. He would much rather be with his favorite person no matter that she was being foolishly human and weak. He had a feeling that staying with these two-leggers that his day was only going to get worse.
As a genius by human standards, being right was a predictable outcome to most things. As a cat, he just wanted to take a nap. Nundu was sure that if he was a person that he would be dismayed to have to watch over such rookies. That was the normal human reaction to difficult tasks.
He went over to the trees to take a nap in them while the two-leggers he was around tried to get to Skypeia.
There were times Nundu was a very unhappy kitty or as unhappy as a genius cat could be. Being on a ship that was captured by a giant shrimp and taken up to this white-white sea was one thing. The shrimp thing getting away and him not being able to eat it made him very sad or as sad as a genius cat could be. There would be another giant shrimp to eat elsewhere. Where there was one there was bound to be more. Once the shrimp had swum away they had sailed to the beach. As a cat, he was one of the last off board and he approved of the caution of the swordsman and the more sensible female. Attaching himself to the sensible female he kept his silent companionship with the crew.
The crew met with nicer natives, and honestly Nundu thought about revealing himself as more than a cat to the natives but every island was different for all the similarities that sky islands maintained. He had never been to one as the usually method of having a roc-hawk carry them didn't work as he had tried to eat roc-hawks and had eaten one before, but several of the people that his favorite person considered hers had been and his curiosity had been peaked since he found out that these two-leggers were using a different route. Needless to say, as soon as the native mentioned Upper Yard the curiosity inside every cat had been hooked. Pirates weren't immune to this either. Enel the lightening logia would be there… he couldn't use his ability without killing himself against Enel. It was a bad match-up. His logia element conducted electricity better than his normal form if he kept himself in a liquid state. He supposed that he could take advantage of the atmosphere and expand further if he went gaseous but he didn't know if and how well he would still conduct electricity when his density was less. However his element was pretty useless when completely condensed into a solid form… it needed a hot humid environment to be at its best when gaseous.
He'd stay with the crew for his favorite person was sure to home in on them soon. This proved to be a good decision as they went back to the ship and have the native male fix the human-contraption, no, it was a waver retrieved from yesterday's salvaging. Nundu as a cat had never quite gotten the concept of money. Authority by the government was something that was also something he had never gotten the hang of since cats didn't have that either.
That said, he had no problems stealing the equipment of the officials that the rubber man had knocked out before he joined the sensible female on the ship again. He really should try to remember their names but it was hard for the feline to really see the need. He knew the difference between the two-leggers around him; they could infer who he was talking about so that was that. Names just made it easier for two-leggers to know the two-leggers he was speaking of. Enel was an exception as he was promised dinner even if the cat didn't know what he looked like.
As the ship started to rock in a way that he was familiar with from Jubilance's exuberance and he saw another shrimp capture the ship before it started speeding away. As it was moving at such a fast speed he doubted that he'd be able to catch and eat it, even if he was able to dive in and swim after the shrimp. How annoying. He wasn't able to eat his fill of people food earlier either…
He joined the pirates going off of the altar of sacrifice by clinging to the male swordsman. He was a cat –they weren't sacrifices. The sensible female often stopped to investigate human ruins, but he saw no point in making observations aloud. He was more interested in finding something to eat and ate a number of frogs and rats while the humans did human things. So when the less sensible female lead them to the coast and showed off half of the house just confirmed that this 'Upper Yard' was really part of Jaya. If she had asked, he could have told her this as the sounds and smells were exceedingly similar to Jaya and despite the size so were all the flora and fauna. Jungle rot was a unique smell to each jungle. The kitten-sized cat's reaction to this declaration was an urge to find some place to nap as he had eaten his fill of critters although shrimp would be nice...
It was decided that they would go back to the ship, and regroup. This was easier said than done as the swordsman had to be dragged back to the correct path a few times. The silly swordswoman that his favorite person called Birdbrain was similarly impaired but not to this extent, hence why she was now Duckling. Once they had regrouped they had a camping trip as they reviewed what they knew and learned.
Nundu slept through the meeting and party afterwards. He woke up when he felt something wasn't quite right at the ship. A quick jump over there saw the kitten sized cat at the ship and something else. He was sure that most humans wouldn't be able to see it –which was one of the reasons his favorite person was his favorite person. She was foolish to hold onto such foolish human sentiments but she knew how to see past them. Not every human had forgotten how to see beyond the material.
"Hello, Klabautermann. Do you wish for assistance?" The cat asked. The Klabautermann answered in a way that no human or those deeply touched by humanity would ever understand. Nundu wasn't human and he didn't have a human's disconnect from the spiritual world and affection for the material world. He was a cat and he could see and communicate on both. It seemed that he would 'earn his keep,' to use a human phrase but only because of how hard it was to use his ability to create and 'build' things. It was better used to 'eat' things. The Klabautermann materializing would shield his activities from the false-God person after all. The false-god person was only human after all and Klabautermann only showed themselves to those who loved them.
After the work was complete, the cat went to sleep. While the ship wasn't truly fixed, it was in far better shape. It at least looked like it hadn't been mauled and repaired with whatever was at hand. Some of the 'wounds' the ship had made him wonder exactly how had the ship gained them? The question was then put off as something he wasn't that interested in pondering while there was sleep to be had and so the cat slept.
It was a very good sleep until the humans and the two-legger started making too much noise. Oh, that's right. They'd be happy about the ship looking better wouldn't they? Nundu went back to sleep. Two-leggers didn't make all that much sense. Even the sensible ones.
Grand Line -Paradise -Enies Lobby
Two Days Previous
"Did you have to do that?" Jim asked his older companion referring to what she did earlier to get their accommodations on the sea train. That hadn't been mentioned in the rough idea of a plan they had barely hashed out before they had left Sabaody. After all, how do you hijack a train and not get caught by any officials? It was feasible, but it required some supplies that they picked up before closing the shop and way before they ever reached the Lobby.
"… No." She eventually replied.
"Gah!" Jim complained –it was out of character but they had this part of the train to just them. It was practically right next to the engine room. If they could get there, they could easily sabotage the controls. If not, then Fuu could do something from here although they ran the risk of messing up the wrong part…
This would be bad as Fuu's special personal ability with technology was wrecking it. She had gotten better at not doing so to the point of being able to create finicky log-poses and eternal poses and other things exceedingly quickly due to her devil fruit but that didn't explain her natural ability to destroy tech that was purely mechanical in nature. It was what his boss had dubbed a natural destructive talent. It was at least useful at times –unlike Celia's natural negative cooking talent with any dish that didn't have some seafood in it. Celia's negative cooking talent made him glad that plenty of people on board the 'crew' knew how to cook things other than seafood even if Celia was the only one that claimed to be a chef only. Sharing that food was a different matter entirely which made breakfast hectic as fish wasn't breakfast food. The arguments were fun to watch.
The next few minutes were spent in silence as the train was loading passengers heading towards Water 7 from the Lobby.
"James…" she said so low that he had to strain his ears, "I will scoping the controls soon. While I'm doing that, can you cripple the Den Den Mushi systems?"
Jim raised an eyebrow at the easy task. He was thirteen –that was young- not stupid. He had been able to pull off what she was asking for since he was seven. The only reason they were crippling possible interference was to keep any official presence to a minimum and to prevent interference from slowing them down. Being early was preferable to being on time or late. Fuu was a striking individual and her devil fruit ability made her an unparalleled sniper now that she knew how to use it –not that she was no slouch with more conventional means in conjunction with her abilities either, but it wasn't her strong suit but still damn effective. His boss wouldn't allow that kind of oversight.
"Good. Depending on the types of controls we might have to stay there for a while. Prepare to ask many questions and to be intelligent about them."
"You say that like I'm an idiot." He complained to his frankly very pretty and very exotic companion to most people. In comparison to the 'crew' Fuu wasn't the most exotic or even most eccentric looking.
Being from Windia she had wings like all peoples native to sky islands did. Those from Windia had larger and sometimes even functional wings than the vestigial wings that most sky island natives did –although Fuu's wings were far darker than the usual white wings being different shades of purple that ranged into black which he was pretty sure was her natural wing color and not just because of her devil fruit. Fuu's wings were pretty large to begin with allowing her to glide short distances even with a passenger but the size of them beyond that depended on her devil fruit though.
Fuu's skin was pale, her eyes a striking green and her hair was blond with bangs to frame an angular face and long enough to reach slightly past mid-back. She wore an elegant sleeveless dark blue dress that had a high collar like neck but had what was called a keyhole neckline. It was pretty dress that was oriental in design if plain which explained the decorative belt she wrap around her waist twice which was where she kept a lot of her ammo. The dress had a wide slit for her left leg to show all the way through and possible flashing was kept down to a minimum thanks to two thin black belts that held the dress partially closed. It also showed off her well-made soft leather boots with open toes and heels. She had more expensive and ornate clothing, but those weren't available to them at the moment (3).
He knew her figure was one that attracted a lot of attention, especially since he knew for a fact that out of all the women on his boss' 'crew' she was the most endowed –and the most shy provided she had had her morning coffee. He knew that fact from sharing ship space with several women for parts of the past two years and Ryoko who deserved her own special category complete with horror, shock and awe. Ryoko had no issue complaining about the fact that 'Fuu-chan didn't flaunt and show off her blessings to the world.' Too bad that Fuu was a complete bookwyrm –and that was an intentional misspelling of the word as wyrm meant dragon and Fuu was protective of them.
He had actually cleaned up a bit from his average, daily wear –but it was still unusual to wear a heavy coat in the warm weather of summer weather in most of the Grand Line for this time of year. The idiots just didn't know how cold flying got when a guy didn't have feathers even though the Grand Line itself was nice and warm. He had less than legally obtained a new and nicer coat –his old one was placed into his new bag that he had his 'tutor' carry along with all of his other functional but not appropriate for this con-job like clothing, shoes and a number of other tools and weapons that couldn't be hidden in his new clothing.
There was no way they could get away with this con-job if he looked like he usually did. Messy dark blond hair, shaggy eyebrows, wearing mechanist coveralls with an oversized and well-aged brown jacket and work boots would not work here. Now he looked like a young lording –and those guys were a force of nature onto their selves. He had quite a bit of experience seeing some tantrums first hand on Sabaody of the most spoiled nobles around so preforming as a minor noble was easy and produced similar results –especially given Fuu's overall appearance, countenance and manners. It lent a hell of a lot of credence to his claims that were nothing but fiction. Thanks to his boss, he could claim to be a number of 'heirs' to various business and the family would be counted among the 'new rich' because really, having to resort to claiming bloodlines would have been a disaster –so he was grateful that no one thought to ask.
"It's something I've been doing since I was a kid." He replied back in the same almost inaudible tone. "It's not that hard."
"Then we shall head to Cloudview Island and pick up a bird once we arrive at Water 7." Fuu intoned. This made sense to Jim as he knew that his boss was currently ship-bound and not keeping up with the ship was a good way to loose profit and comfort and everything on board. This was why planning was important before ever leaving. Grabbing the relevant poses was a must, and so was hashing out a plan to hijack a sea train and not get caught while doing so. This actually wasn't going to be as bad as he thought so long as they didn't end up causing a huge crash at the end. That was totally possible.
"Then off to Jaya." He replied. "What's at Jaya aside from Mock Town?"
"That, only Kurenai-sama would know." Fuu reminded him before she told him in a more normal voice to 'study his books' and stay in the cabin in a manner that could be overheard –but the true directions were in ship-speak.
Ship-speak was confusing enough to most people, but the fictional twist was a nice touch. She had basically told him to knock out communications at his leisure but before she returned. Even so, ship-speak wasn't something that wasn't easily learned –and also showed who really were the rookies on 'crew' for all that they hadn't raised their own colors. Ship-speak made things fun.
Ten minutes later he had wrecked communications although it truly didn't take him that long as he was keeping character, and then another ten after he had crippled communications, the compartment door was opening. Fuu and one of the workers on the train was also there –presumably to either deny him or let him into the engine room to learn first-hand how the trains worked since he was going to be heir to one of the businesses that shipped a lot of their products through the trains and wanted to know more about them. At least that was his story. He wasn't the heir. He managed them and managed them well enough that the people who ran them thought he owned them. Idiots. Boss had her fingerprints well-hidden to everyone that wasn't made aware of how she marked what was hers and those were all over certain businesses. To someone close or in on certain networks, the signs might as well have been flashing neon. He knew them all. Confusing at times, especially when it intersected with other businesses and professionals and what they were allowed to know but worth it.
Then as luck would have it, that was when the train accelerated like mad and tossed Fuu into him and caused the engineer person to clunk his head into the compartment door in what sounded like it was going to be a nasty bump. Like hell, that wasn't conveniently timed.
After getting his act together and Fuu's boobs away from possibly smothering him –he hadn't thought that boobs could do that previously and he was obviously going to have to become a leg man which wouldn't be a hardship- he went straight into character.
"What the heck is going on!?"
"I believe that we're experiencing some technical problems." Fuu spoke while keeping a poker face that would make 'Poker Queen' Alice envious as she regained her composure and helped the engineer to his feet –or she was until he had a nose bleed from the view down her shirt. The engineer had just found out that the dress was a Ryoko-special dress as it tailored to show off and support everything. Jim then thought that he had obviously spent far too much time with women if he knew about womanly concerns like support. Hell, he even knew Ryoko's various tailors.
"I do hope that they're able to be resolved." Fuu commented blandly but her eyes were full of mischief and her smile coy. Translated from ship speak meant that her primary objective was secured and that it shouldn't do any permanent damage and would be able to be fixed shortly before the train ride ended but not any time sooner. Fuu had gotten good at things like that. There was still a damn good chance that this ride would end in a fiery crash –for everyone else, but that would be drawing attention. The most annoying part of this job was the fact that they were seen boarding the train and were remarkable. They also had to be seen leaving.
"That was obvious!"
Two hours and some odd minutes later the 'fault' was finally fixed –twenty three and a half minutes before they plowed into the Water 7 station at almost top speed. Fuu had gotten good at timing things like that. Most people didn't even know that anything had gone wrong on the train unless they had ridden it before. It gave the train conductor enough time to slow the train down to prevent crashing. They still came into the station a little faster than they should have. Hmm… the Galley-La people would show up soon if they hadn't already, since as soon as the 'fault' was fixed he had restored communications. Logistics and support was his domain.
As they left the station in an affronted and imperious manner while dissing the competence of the conductors on Fuu's part with him complaining to Fuu that he thought that the ride was fun –and that was actually easy for him to pull off, Jim noted. They then quickly cut through the assembling crowd. They borrowed a nearby bull and took a ride to the top of the city so that Fuu could make use of the thermals in a few minutes, although they made it look like Fuu was herding him. That was the benefit of traveling in this direction at a certain speed. They had made good enough time that it was still lunchtime here despite having left early in the morning even after several hours of traveling.
They were skipping what would be 'lunch' as they had 'brunch' on the train. That didn't mean he didn't pick up something to eat for them both for later as Cloudview Island wasn't inhabited by people until recently and restaurants weren't high up on the list of things to be built. Even if they spent the night on Cloudview –and storms might mean that they had to- they should reach Jaya within the day.
They kept supplies on Cloudview, but any experienced and veteran member of the 'crew' knew where a number of rest-stops were and might not have restocked afterwards. The fact that these rest stops often looked like they came straight from a travel magazine was irrelevant as that fact had more to deal with the trio of kleptomaniacs. They were very interested in making things both pretty and functional even from junk and how they ever got all of the supplies there to carry out the projects that they assigned their selves was beyond him. They were also certified over-achievers of the worst kind –hence why they were kleptomaniacs and not just plain thieves, bandits and acquirers of goods. They were kleptomaniacs –or at least that's how the nocturnal and oldest looking one of the trio explained it. Not that the rest of the 'crew' could claim standard or mediocre achievement so they really didn't have all that much room to talk.
The duo quickly worked their way up the tallest nearby building on onto the roof –churches were such handy and nice looking buildings for all that he was an atheist- and with food on his back and him on hers they set off for Cloudview. He handed the eternal pose Fuu had made for Cloudview before ever leaving Sabaody to her prior to take off –not that Fuu needed it when flying while using her devil fruit to its fullest capabilites but doing so here just would be too eye-catching. Even the half-way was too eye-catching and so she was stuck with a partial that tired her out far faster than a full use of it would –that wouldn't happen until they at least until they got out of sight. Fuu had a most spectacular devil fruit in his opinion.
Cloudview was an island that was hard to get to in the Grand Line on a ship due to all the mist, rocks and whirlpools in its area. In short, it was shipwreck central. There was only one place where getting to shore was feasible, but landing there on even a small ship wasn't possible due to the rocks and shallows that were just deep enough to cover most people's heads unless it was high tide and people wanted to risk being stranded. This left the risk of taking a shore boat or swimming ashore and the rip currents there were just nasty. Even after reaching Cloudview's small rocky beach, there was a massive thousand meter cliff to climb before reaching the top of that plateau which had a small amount of livable area on it. The cliff and plateau pattern repeated itself until the plateaus reached the clouds. The terraced nature of the island was pretty unique as the plateaus spiraled creating small overhangs. He had no idea why it was named Cloudview instead of something like Winding Spire or Skyscraper isle or something.
The island had numerous beasts on it and numerous dangers as benefitted any island on the Grand Line, but the most interesting and useful ones would be the flight of birds-creatures kept there. They were native, from what he knew of them. He wasn't that big of a bird person, beyond the usefulness and capabilities of them but they weren't roc-hawks. These were more in line to eagles than the giant fishing birds that fished for and fell on sea kings like a murder of crows.
For now though, he had a long flight to endure.
Several hours later they had landed at Cloudview and made use of the rest home which either the kleptomaniacs or locals had seen fit to expand recently. It didn't have that addition the last time he was here. They were stopping for a nap at least, because halfway through the flight they found a thunderstorm in this part of the sea. That actually meant that hurricane season this year should be excellent when the 'season' finally started, as much as the Grand Line had one. While they weren't hit by thunder thanks to Fuu's abilities, being caught in the storm did mean that they were soaked, only a little air dry and a lot chilly.
Surprisingly he and Fuu weren't the only ones making use of the rest home, judging by the smell from the kitchen. A spicy stew of some kind, his nose told him. After stripping off the wet clothes and changed into drier –and more comfy- clothing while Fuu made use of the shower, he investigated with a mug of hot cider. The Doc had obviously been by and might still be here along with the crew's nurse who also happened to be the ship's arsonist, bookie and several other things. However he had seen some signs that those two weren't the only ones here. Some of the clothing he had found was worn by the Doc and the nurse and some of it was too small for Potemkin as it fit his style somewhat. The big guy was off with Albel.
The answer came through the front door wearing a muscle shirt, trousers that he suspected allowed for a full range of movement; greaves, black boots and round clear glasses over clear aqua eyes. Red-brown hair. The muscles and aura of gentle strength informed Jim that he has no damn chance in a fight against whoever this was. So he was going to take every advantage he had of still being a kid. It was surprising how many people underestimated him. Bah! He had his pistols, a knife and several other smaller tools on him usually. They weren't for show either. Still, this wasn't someone he could take in a fight. Didn't mean he was up for trying if he had to.
"Hi there! I'm James Hawking. Call me Jim."
"Diaz." He replied as closed the door behind him.
"That name… isn't familiar to me in the least." Jim informed him.
"You'd be far more familiar with his epitaph." The Doc informed Jim who had become far too used to such antics to react. When and how the Doc had gotten in the building, much less made had the time to lounge on the back of the couch, Jim didn't know.
The Doc was wearing a dark pink button up shirt, plain grey trousers and his lab coat. Oh, and a pair of sandals that had seen better days. The Doc has also been neglecting his personal hygiene again as his beard looked like five days' worth of whiskers and his dark shoulder length hair that was getting that shine that said it hadn't been washed in a while. With the dark green headband saying 'FREE,' in white, the poison yellow rectangular glasses on his smug face, the jewelry and ornamentation on his ears and the fact that he was munching on a giant lollypop sucker the Doc didn't look anywhere near his capabilities in the field. "That'll be Black Wing by the way." He added.
"The former merc? The one boss claims as a friend and has been trying to recruit for years?" Jim asked for clarification, because him being the Black Wing would be good or bad. Likely both. "The one who made Honryuu and Enkiri? Wasn't he sick? Like the dying dead kind and being a total bastard about it?" Jim also knew the guy as the one to refuse any health treatment even though his behavior totally put his boss in a terrible mood. Between Doc's genius, skill and innovation and other members learned skills and methods of inducing faster healing and various cures there was very little that they couldn't do unless the disease was viral in nature. A number of crew knew more far more than basic first aid boss included. Boss believed in cross-training.
"He's the genuine article." The research doctor confirmed.
"Sour." The Doc cut in. Jim internally winced. Ouch.
"Huh?" Diaz asked.
"You're supposed to say something like savory, Black Wing." Doc informed his unwilling patient. There were a multitude of reasons that learning ship-speak was so damn complicated. Throwing people off track like that was not only allowed, but encouraged. The results of interpreting things wrongly prompted faster learning of the confusing sub language. Ship-speak was all about communicating with each other and testing the other's temperament, character, learning their capabilities and how to work with or around each other without giving what was being 'said' away. At least that was part of the rationale behind it.
Diaz shot doc a vicious glare. "So you work for her too?" The former mercenary asked Jim.
"Yeah. Much better than what I was doing." Jim admitted. A street rat that didn't fit in with the others because he once had it far better than they ever knew about –it had gotten him stabbed and nearly killed a few times while he was still soft and stupid. Then he bit back. Sometimes literally. "You still undecided?"
"Things happen for a reason. I was perfectly happy wi-" Diaz coughed heavily, and collapsed to his knees while the fingers of the hand covering his mouth became red with blood.
"Is he contagious?" Jim asked the Doc.
"Not unless you count stupid." The Doc replied as he cracked the candy between his teeth. "He's the living example of why vaccination is important." So it was viral in nature and they already had immunity.
"Ah. Need anything Diaz?" Jim asked. "Glass of water? Help to bed? Doc's head on a platter?"
"I died and I'd have liked to stay dead, so that guy's head would suffice for now."
"Yeah, I want it too. Sorry, but I think you'll have to just toss him off the island if you can. Doc is not only hard to kill but rather obsessive with his patients. If you're his patient you're not dying unless he kills you."
"Especially since when I picked him up he was already dead and had torn oodles of muscles. Going to that island to study the regenerative properties of the monsters there was such a good idea."
"Doc." Jim stated flatly as he helped the former mercenary to his feet. "You're not supposed to go around breaking natural laws like that. Did you even ask for permission?"
"Yes. That's bad karma." Fuu chided with her hair wrapped in a towel. "Shower's open, Chibi-sama." Fuu-chan informed Jim. She had already dressed into one of her spare outfits that were kept in the house, or it might have been one of Ryoko's backless shirts that didn't try to break common decency laws. They existed, rare as they were.
"Don't call me that!"
"Well, he had been dead for a while… I honestly hadn't intended to revive him. Beyond that he broke a promise to the boss dying like that for all that it was done for good reasons, so I was still well within my rights to use his corpse as I pleased. Returning him to life was not my intention. I'm excited about the fact that he shows little sign of memory or cognitive loss. Some minor brain damage is likely, but he already had one of the worst cases of terminal stupidity I've seen." The Doc explained.
That did not make Jim feel any better. Their Doc wasn't a 'help at the hospital and do surgeries doc' although he could do that –he was a research doc before whatever happened to cause boss to pick him up. Fixing up a corpse and 'accidently' reviving it was actually mild for him. A research doc having a psychotic break from reality could do some major medical mojo, beyond knowing how best to slice and break people. Hence why he had a massive bounty beyond his combat skills. Skills that were only enhanced when he decided to use his devil fruit. Unless haki or seastone was used, decapitation wouldn't stick. Damn scientist.
"That is hard to believe. Did you use South Blue's necro process?" Jim asked as there were a few ways to revive the dead, but they all had their drawbacks.
"I couldn't have. I don't have the equipment for it and the procedure is only now becoming successful again. After the guy who invented it died, the process had to be reverse engineered and it is finicky and complicated. The success rate is under twenty percent and the results aren't pretty." Doc explained. "Now all that is left is for him to recover from what was killing him in the first place. He's being very stubborn about it. It was easy enough to knock and keep in remission. I really should publish this as the vaccination was important since all those unvaccinated that obtain the disease and have it progress past a certain point all died."
"You might want to leave out the accidental necromancy Doc." Jim told him. Doc was absolutely crazy, but he was often far more sane than this. This was research mode that failed ethics on a scale that was practically incomprehensible. Debts and deals were far more practical.
"I'll consider it. Diaz's own physical condition and will isn't to be underestimated either which could skew things… as could a number of other factors." The doc considered aloud, "That's also bias, so I really need to find a population to test this technique on, allow it to progress to stage three… but I've been banned from infecting people outright and grave robbing is rude… So, exactly why are you two out here?"
"Kurenai-sama requested use of my talents to reach a destination nearby. As she's is on Jubilance, the ship also needs to be picked up or watched over. Nundu is already in the area she wants to go and so is unable to render assistance."
Jim noticed that Fuu made no mention of Kuina's boyfriend that the swordswoman hadn't seen in years.
"Hmm… I'd offer to join but my patient keeps trying to kill us both and so we need Ya-chan to stay too."
"Unimportant. Massage. Now." Fuu demanded of Doc. Between her natural endowment and the strain that a partial use of her devil fruit placed on her back, even before considering she was carrying him, this was beyond expected.
"But I'd be neglecting my other responsibilities." Doc whined with a gesture towards the kitchen and Diaz's direction.
"I'll be fine without you." The former mercenary informed him.
"You'd be dead. Die later, like after you're well again and not my patient. Your stupidity means that at best your full recovery will bring you up to seventy six percent of previous capabilities based on what I calculated your limits to be based on your reputation and current condition, but I'm a pessimist. I also wasn't referring to you. I was referring about my responsibilities to the food."
"I'm cooking the rest, and then I'm hitting the shower." Jim replied, knowing that the Doc had a tendency to over-spice things and also unsaid was that he'd snack on what he was cooking and put some aside later for after his shower that better not get messed with or the next time he might forget to acquire something that someone needed. Or he could eat with them… "That means someone else can do dishes if Yaone would wake us up early enough that we can get a bird over to Jaya by noon. Preferably before then."
Jim specifically asked for Yaone to wake him up. While he was unsure if his boss was having him on or not the idea of having Doc wake him up was not one he wanted to consider. For all he knew he could wake up in an ice-bath and missing a kidney if he did that for all that he trust he had in the doc's ability to heal. The 'crew's' Doc was more than a little lacking in ethics.
Grand Line –Paradise –Near Jaya(?)
Aki was bored. She was also edgy. Part of that was that she had nothing to do, and part of that was from using the den den mushi off and on throughout the day. She wasn't on the den den mushi the entire day. She had done various chores around the ship –magically, but really no one had to know that. After calling Jim, she had called various contacts, caught up on some business, made a few tentative business deals that would require further communication, had one surprising call and fun conversation around six in the evening when she was cooking dinner and had later notified her father what Blackbeard was likely up to. Admittedly due to being on different sides of the world, there was about a ten hour time difference on that call but the lack of sleep really didn't affect her. She hadn't slept properly in months. Naps do not count. Even if she did get about seven hours a day –they just weren't consecutive. Then again, any sailor or soldier learns how to instantly wake and sleep so short naps were easiest as she was manning the Jubilance by herself.
Most of the afternoon went to managing her various businesses and networks. A number of the information networks had been put under one of her subordinates, which lessened her workload immensely, as he was excellent at his job. She wouldn't accept anything less than that. Her preparations for tomorrow –no, it was a few hours past midnight now so today- and work had killed most of an afternoon and the evening, as magic made quick work of every chore on ship.
She spent part of the evening doing kata as some meditation before the drive to do that left her as she settled down to what was really bugging her, after calling her father that is which would have been about one in the morning. Her worry about Ace was causing her to fret. She hated it. One lesson she had learned well over her lifetimes was that showing weakness was a declaration of stupidity, trust and strength. What was being shown depended on who and the situation.
The whole situation with Blackbeard made her edgy in the way that it set off all of her war-veteran instincts. The guy had been a pirate longer than Ace had been alive. This by itself wasn't that impressive. A number of no-name and infamous pirates 'retired' to various places for various reason each year. Certain facts gathered by her skill with the colors of observation and other talents tuned to hunting purposes combined with the knowledge that Blackbeard had purposely acted in the way of a good son of Whitebeard for beyond her own physical age painted a much more disturbing image.
Blackbeard wasn't anyone's friend, comrade, nakama or even ally. Aki was damn certain that he only marginally cared for what crew he had assembled. Enough to endear himself to them, and have them work to make him keep doing so. Otherwise, he'd kill them. Cruel but effective as such a system encouraged infighting if the captain wasn't a ruthless bastard –not that Teach had that problem. To have been a part of Whitbeard's family for over two decades and then not only leave but do so by killing Thatch over a piece of loot? That was beyond cold. Thatch was a nice guy for a renowned pirate. Just because she liked him for his character didn't mean that he didn't earn his reputation. She also liked him for all that he wasn't her type, and Blackbeard had killed him. Actually, from what Ace had told her about the body, Thatch was clearly assassinated. One attack to the back through the lung. Blackbeard favored a claw like attachment for a weapon hence how her father ended up with those scars on his face. Blackbeard being larger than average sized, had a proportionally sized claw. The spacing of each blade was just perfect for slipping through the rib cage of the average sized male. At least this claw was. Shanks' scars wouldn't be as close together if it was the same claw for all that she hadn't been told that Teach caused them. It was hard to mistake certain auras for others no matter how faded the auras were especially when marked with malice.
While highly unlikely that anyone else would see and know what, much less be able to match auras of people no matter how faded… Marshall D. Teach might currently be hidden from more mundane methods of finding people, from a magical perspective the man's trail could light up the sky. To someone who knew magic well, karma had that effect.
Tracking the impossible to find was her pride and ability for all that she was known as a phenomenal bounty hunter. Most bounty hunters had a territory that they 'hunted' in and stuck to that. Some better ones tracked others down but those were usually political as she knew from experience. She proved she was the best every time she tracked down Dragon. Seriously, even with all the resources the WG threw into trying to find the man, they usually failed as did everyone else. He was most recently in North Blue. She had 'abducted' the man away from his work which caused some protest. Then with a quick bit of work, she had changed his appearance and dragged him out for wolf steak stew which if she hadn't hunted the wolfies down would have cost her more beri than she had on her. Luffy's appetite was clearly a 'D' thing or pretty damn genetic as she knew Garp's appetite too. She needed to meet more that had that initial to be certain of it. Teach didn't quite count. He lacked a certain depth that she associated with that initial. Remnants of Roger had it –she saw them everywhere. Hell, even Rouge's grave had that feeling that she was associating with that initial. Teach didn't.
There was a trick to sensing and matching the auras using haki, and it wasn't without drawbacks. Keeping her own aura so restrained and muted allowed her a much better picture and understanding the area and people around her as it would be done without the interference of her own aura. In other words –in order to truly listen, one had to first shut up. Easier said than done. The main drawbacks was that as her aura wasn't there to buffer more malignant ones unless she let more of it loose which made her more 'vulnerable' seeming and she was –her range of observation haki and her overall fighting capacity were proportionately diminished. Shutting up meant having less of a 'voice' and less 'power.' Teach's aura and her own sensitivity when she was paying attention to them meant he was pathetically easy for her to find and avoid –she wouldn't hunt the man down as that was Ace's responsibility. She might need to have words with Whitebeard again, but those could wait.
Still that was Ace's 'contract' for as long as the old man was alive. Not that she'd let him know that. Infringing on a contract was more than bad luck. Superstitions had their basis in fact after all. This world was practically saturated with magic for all that the people here couldn't use it. Not even the Tenryubito for all that they were descended from the 'creators of the world' whatever that meant. Even wild magic had its rules as mutable as they were. Breaking understood but informal contracts like agreeing to be Whitebeard's son, much less breaking it to such an extent made it easy to notice such a trail. At least as Blackbeard didn't have magic, wild contractual magic couldn't do much to him as he had killed Thatch before eating his devil fruit. Say what you will, but magic was both prompt and persistent. Some bad luck and that was it. Magic was wonderful but it made things complicated as much as it uncomplicated things. She was not amused to find out after Nundu ate one that devil fruits technically bound a person to a magical contract that would break upon the eater's death. It did explain a lot of her questions and concerns about devil fruit though. Like why water and sea stone had the effects it did on fruit users.
For now though, she had a turtle to direct to Jaya… she shifted focus to the turtle. She'd have to let him rest soon, which put her on Jaya around nine in the morning if she was doing her math right and gave the turtle most of the night to recover. She ran the figures over in her head once more since most things in the ocean kept swimming asleep or not. Yeah, those seemed correct. She leaned on Jubilance's railing and took a bite of the killer key lime pie she had baked earlier. It was good.
"The best thing about this pie is that I don't have to share it with anyone, so it's all mine." She commented aloud. She took another bite to shake off heavy thoughts and intentionally thought of lighter topics. Honryuu got remarkably heavy when she was thinking about things like that and the turtle didn't need to be slowed down.
Grand Line –Paradise –Jaya
Okay, so her math was wrong. Not by much. The newly dubbed Snapper had snagged a surface current inside of Jaya's magnetic territory. It was about ten minutes off and she had directed the turtle to the bay. She might have crashed the turtle into turtle into what looked like a hotel, but after jump off the turtle she had Snapper retreat into the bay while she quickly disappeared from the destroyed place.
She had changed into clothes that looked nice and allowed her to fight in while not compromising her identity. A dark navy long sleeve shirt, brown cargo pants and boots that would support her ankles. A colorful sash –she got it from Sabo's first mate so it was eyesearing- holding Honryuu who had a far longer length of chain attached to the hilt than the sword did yesterday. Using metal much less adding more metal to fight someone who was lightning would be considered suicide, but there was a method to her madness and Honryuu wanted it even if the excess length of fine chain was loosely wrapped around her left hand. Magic used during Honryuu's creation granted it greater awareness and abilities but also made it into something of a diva. Drawing a blade from the same side was unwieldy at times so she was actually wearing Honryuu on her right hip. Enkiri was resting on her left, mostly concealed by the sash.
Her large caliber gun was on her left leg, while her smaller one was concealed in the small of her back. Her hair was left loose and fluffy today. As Jubilance wasn't on the water, there was a limited amount of water being filtered on board for hygienic purposes. She had a bath, cooked and washed dishes which had drained the tank. It left her short of water to soak her hair with before the night's tangles were brushed out. Sure she could conjure water, but a lot of elemental magicks were easier where magic ran wild. In a town on an island she could get a nice glass of water and it would work fine. Out on the sea, she'd get a good few gallons of water. In the Grand Line just made a localized flood. Vanishing the water didn't work so well either. She could use magic, but in a far different form than what she was used to. Honryuu when the blade wanted to cooperate worked as an amplifier. It wouldn't be so bad if Honryuu wasn't extremely reactive anyway, much less that Honryuu was able to work mental magicks on a large scale should the blade want to.
After eating breakfast, the bar-fight that happened after, her paying for her breakfast and damages using the losers' money, she found a nice place to sit and wait. She had no idea why any pirate town like Mock Town she had been to never had a working fountain. Lack of public concern as the public was traveling pirates?
She closed her eyes and began a conscious recall of all that she had sensed. Nundu and Luffy had been in here more recently. Luffy had knocked some mad dog off his high-horse. One of Doflamingo's minions. Echoes further back say that Luffy and Crabgrass –she might need to find him a new nickname- had lost some blood and gained some injuries but it was intentional. A bunch of idiots, Teach and Teach going after Luffy.
Damn. This however was hours ago, but Luffy hadn't been in any distress from Teach and she'd know as she was observing Teach's trail. A sense of irony and resignation and try again later let her know that Teach had found Luffy and missed.
"Hey, pretty thing. How about you and I get to know each other better, if you know what I mean?"
Aki opened her eyes. He wasn't bad looking but the personality and intent in his body language dropped his chances to the negatives.
"I'm not interested in you." She informed him as she walked by. "Your head's too little." At only fifteen million, he was very small fry.
Aki didn't care to hear what he had to say and threw him through the nearest building. A few people perked up to see what was going on and her identity was figured out by the smarter pirates. The cock-sure idiots all charged. There was a good distance to the small skiff on the docks she had seen while Snapper was pulling into the harbor. As Jubilance was still on Snapper's head and she had just realized that she couldn't meet up with Fuu here, now at any rate. Spying the charging mass of piracy and seeing the ramshackle nature of the town an idea of how to inform them formed and made her want to break out into a cackle. This seemed fun, and after a certain distance, Snapper would come back to follow her.
Grand Line –Paradise –Near Sky Island
After a rolling brawl that had destroyed part of the town and knocked out a lot of the pirates, Aki had left Mock Town. She had lamented to one of the stronger guys who was left conscious that it was a shame that her mark passed through so quickly. Weaklings and most rookies didn't interest her at all, but with the bounty hike on one of them she was curious enough to look even though she was on vacation.
Now she was triangulating the distance she had to go, while still keeping her heading to this Sky Island. The skiff had got her to Snapper and then was promptly abandoned. Jubilance was a fine ship and Snapper was dismissed to below the waves. He wasn't far below, but feeling that something huge below water was normal for the Grand Line. The fact that he was a turtle was even better. He wasn't as murderous as some fish. So he was easily dismissed.
She was setting the ropes up so that she could have Jubilance properly picked up by the bird when she sensed the bullet and moved so that it would whistle by her ear –and into her hair where she kept it- camouflaged by her movements so they seemed rather erratic. She had to hand it to the sniper. He had good aim considering the winds and distance. A quick play dead and quickly cutting off her aura from leaving her body and entering a meditation known as the corpse meditation she pretended that she had died. At least to anyone with haki, if they were using it.
Still, had she been found a group of pirates who had been shipwrecked? As Teach's aura moved closer she amended that assumption –he was having a subordinate push the remnants of his ship along by swimming. Her concerns mounted. Informal contracts wouldn't allow her to without obtaining consequences and Blackbeard didn't have a bounty on his head which would null the possible consequences. How best to work with this?
The body on the rigging smiled. Honryuu gleamed. The water surged and Aki fell on the pirate boarding Jubilance. Enkiri tasted blood and then the pirate was tossed back to his Captain before he could react. All of them were taller than her, she noted. Even the guy who looked but didn't feel like he was about to die soon along with his pretty pony.
"You should keep better watch over your crew's zealousness." She chided. "Committing piracy is what pirates do, but you'd think with all the time in the New World you've spent you'd choose your targets better. After all, attacking a girl enjoying her vacation is bad form. Don't you agree Teach?"
A/N; It's the one year anniversary. Go me!
I going to be curious about the reaction to the fact that I'll be including a lemon soon. It's plot relevant to happen, but I could work around it. Should I add it or not in order to comply with the rating guidelines because being explicit makes this MA instead of M?
1. Remember way back in Orange Town where Luffy fought Buggy? How the dog bit Luffy after being poked? This is what Zoro is referencing.
2. Nundu is a cat. He's also a very in the moment cat for all of his intelligence. He's also small –so he can be very difficult to detect with haki. It is described as hearing 'voices' for most people, but it is harder to hear an intelligent cat than a person, much less a cat being a cat. Enel has the greatest haki mastery on Skypeia. In combination with his devil fruit, Enel can overhear everything that is said on Skypeia with a few exceptions such as Gan Fall's place which is either out of range and Enel is lying or there's something in the area that shields people. Nundu being aware of who and what Enel is and can do is being overly cautious.
3. Fuu-chan looks like Nina Windia from Breath of Fire II. This is intentional. She's somewhat based on Nina.