Robin stepped onto the small, uninhabited island that supposedly held a clue regarding the poneglypha. The rocky little outcropping was off the coast of Alabasta, and seemed to be more of an extension of the main island rather than one in its own right. As such, it did not have its own name, but was considered part of the Sandy Island (and by extension the Kingdom of Alabasta). Strangely enough, this unnamed little island had its own magnetic field, despite its closeness in proximity to Alabasta. However the land was barren and uninhabited, and considered cursed by the citizens of the country. So it lay, forgotten by the general populace, and ignored by all that knew about it.
There was a good reason for that.
To her right, Crocodile surveyed the land with a displeased expression on his face. The Warlord had made it perfectly clear that he wanted to get this excursion done with as quickly as possible. There was important business to be done that would not attend to itself. Robin suspected that the only reason he came at all was to discourage her from running away after gaining valuable information.
"This way," Crocodile growled. Robin followed silently, discreetly staying out of range from his hooked hand. Not that it would help if he really wanted to kill her, but it was always wise to take precautions. In the days since entering a partnership with one of the most dangerous men in the world, Robin had yet to come up with a way to circumvent his impenetrable defense. It was cause for worry, but she had little choice in the matter. Working with Crocodile was preferable to being handed over to the marines or killed.
They had not been walking long before some ruins came into sight. Robin's heart rate increased and the barest hint of a smile graced her lips. The last clue she needed to find the Rio Poneglyph might be found in this little town. This was her element, what she was born to do. If there was anything of historical significance here she would find it. If there wasn't anything of note, well, then it would be the quickest partnership she had ever been in.
"My source tells me that this was the site of some obscure cult of the old Alabastian religion," Crocodile said, "something about Preserving Fathers."
"I am familiar with them. They were a sect built around the keeping of the old ways during a civil war hundreds of years ago. Archivers of knowledge, if you will. They were destroyed when the Kifu dynasty took power in an attempt to purge the country of anything related to the previous kings," Robin replied.
"I don't give a damn who they were. The only thing that matters is that they wrote down where the weapon is, and that you can read what they wrote," Crocodile said with a wave of his hand.
Robin didn't argue, but a large part of her wanted to stop and give him a lecture about the importance of knowing and learning from history. Again she wished that working with such a powerful and cruel man wasn't necessary and that the stakes in doing so were not quite so large.
They walked for another fifteen minutes in an uncomfortable silence before reaching the outskirts of the town. Very little was still standing, but the foundations were surprisingly well intact for structures hundreds of years old. Of course, the arid climate was well suited for preservation.
Crocodile led Robin to what was once the very center of the town. There the remains of what was presumably a temple stood. It was by far the largest building in the ruin, and was easily the best preserved. The intact nature of the village was very curious considering that the first two kings of the Kifu dynasty had specifically set out to destroy everything even remotely related to the Preserving Fathers.
"What's wrong?" Crocodile growled.
"I'm not sure yet," Robin said after a brief hesitation. To be honest, she was surprised that he even noticed her concern. Then again, one did not become one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea by lacking perception. "It's strange that there is this much left standing. I'm not sure that your source was correct about this site."
Crocodile let out a displeased sound that was suspiciously close to a snarl. Robin's senses kicked into overdrive as she tried to predict Crocodile's next move. He gave his surroundings an angry glare before turning to her.
"We'll see about that. I know for a fact that Pluton is in Alabasta. I just don't know where it is," he said in a deep menacing voice that was famous for making lesser men run away in fear.
Robin didn't bother with an answer, but recognized the unsaid threat. It was her job to lead him to the weapon via the poneglyph, and if she didn't then he would kill her. With that happy thought she began examining the ancient temple. She was aware of Crocodile's presence behind her with every step she took, which made it very difficult to concentrate. However, with her Devil Fruit ability she made quick work of scanning the ruins. If Crocodile was unnerved by the multitude of eyeballs that she sprouted from a variety of surfaces he didn't show it.
"Here's something," Robin said a short time later. With her enhanced vision she had seen a tablet with symbols etched into its surface.
"Is this your old writing crap?" Crocodile asked when she showed it to him.
"No, these are Alabastian hieroglyphs. Similar, but unrelated to the poneglyphs," Robin murmured as she studied the old worn stone.
"Can you read it?" asked Crocodile, his tone indicating that he couldn't care less about the different languages.
"With help, yes," Robin answered. Quickly sprouting some extra hands, she pulled out a reference book, a pencil, and a notebook out of her back pack that she had brought along. Then she went about the business of translating the hieroglyphs.
Crocodile waited patiently for twenty minutes before letting out an irritated grunt. Robin didn't say anything for several seconds as she put her book away, attempting to subtly tell him not to rush her. Still, she didn't test her luck for too long before answering.
"It's a warning against thieves and the persecutors of knowledge. There is an underground cavern where the brotherhood kept their most dear secrets, and any who disturb it are forever cursed."
Crocodile's eyes narrowed and he put his hand to the ground. He grimaced slightly and looked back at the tablet.
"Read to me exactly what it says," he ordered.
"The Preserving Fathers, keepers of all things, under the Order of the Highest Sun, do protect all Things That Have Been Learned from the Forces that Destroy. Let all who enter and seek to learn the Most Precious Secrets be of pure heart and sound mind as they descend into the deeps, lest they meet eternal damnation and their souls never find rest," Robin recited.
"Hmn, is that all?" Crocodile said sarcastically.
"Well, it did rhyme in the original language," Robin said offhandedly as she put the rest of her supplies away. She pretended not to see the glare Crocodile shot her way.
"I did detect an underground passage. It goes deep, and there is some sort of water source. Do you still have doubts whether this is legitimate?" he asked as he prodded different parts of the ground with his hand.
"No. I hypothesize that the Fathers sought sanctuary on this island, and their persecutors were unable to find them due to this island's separate magnetic field. They must have abandoned the town later, probably due to lack of resources, or died of natural causes," Robin said as she watched Crocodile use his power to open up a hidden passage.
"Good. Now let's find out what these most precious secrets are. After you," Crocodile said with a mocking flourish.
There were torches hanging on the wall, which Crocodile was kind enough to light. Robin sent her eyes as far ahead of her as the limited lighting would allow. She had a sneaking suspicion that descending into the depths of the temple would not be easy. The air was cool and dry, and the only living things in the tunnels were spiders and the occasional lizard. Steadily but cautiously the pair walked onward.
They soon reached an open cavern that branched off into five separate tunnels. Crocodile chewed on his cigar in annoyance as Robin carefully examined the room.
"Well?" he spat after she finished walking around the room.
"There is no indication which tunnel is the correct one, and it is too dark for me to look down with my power. Did your source give any directions?"
"No he did not. I may have to have a word with him when we get back to Alabasta," he said.
By mutual agreement the two criminals choose the right most path. In this particular tunnel there were murals on the walls, depicting historical events from long ago. Robin desperately wanted to stop and examine them, but Crocodile seemed to have other ideas. He purposefully strode down the dark path, not even pausing to glance at the beautiful scenes surrounding him. It seemed highly arrogant of him; for all he knew the very clues he was looking for were etched onto the walls.
Suddenly Robin heard a slight click, as if something had fallen into place. Robin threw herself backwards, dropping her torch as Crocodile burst into sand. As she scrambled into a more defensive position Crocodile reformed, hook at the ready. After a few tense moments they both realized that there was no one else on the dark path. Cautiously, Robin used a few extra hands to pick up the torch and studied the walls carefully.
On the left side of the tunnel lay three shattered wooden lances. On the right wall there were three identical holes, the same diameter of the lances, hidden among the pictures. A small indentation on the ground was the only indication that they had set off the booby trap.
"Whoever enters this placed is cursed, eh?" Crocodile said. He put his torch into a holder in the wall and picked up one of the lance pieces for examination.
"It was good that you were walking in front of me," Robin said as she dusted herself off.
"What, you can't handle a few sticks?" he sneered.
"The lances would not have been an issue by themselves, but the scorpion poison that they're dipped in may have presented a bit of a problem. The smallest of cuts is fatal in minutes without an antidote."
"How do you know that there's poison? These stupid twigs must have been here for centuries," Crocodile asked, now looking at the little piece of wood with curiosity.
"The poison of the desert scorpion has a very distinct smell, and is renowned for its potency and how easy it is to work with," Robin said. Mentally she tucked away the fact that Crocodile couldn't smell the sweet, almost cloying odor the lances gave off. Had years of smoking cigars affected his sense of smell, or had the large wound bisecting his face damaged the receptors in his nose? There was really no way of knowing, and Crocodile certainly wouldn't be telling, but the information was useful nonetheless.
"Hmm, I guess you would know, wouldn't you?" he said thoughtfully. With a quick flick of the wrist the lance crumbled away into dust, "Anyway, let's get this nonsense over with. There's a country that needs taking over."
Robin watched as Crocodile picked up his torch and continued down the hall. The light of the torch made dancing shadows on the Warlord. This, along with the ambiance created a menacing atmosphere that made Robin shudder.
The hall was a dead end. Robin let out a small sigh and the pair went back to the main chamber, this time taking the next path. This one was also empty, save for a pair of skeletons. Crocodile ignored the dead and Robin followed, quietly apologizing for disrespect. The Warlord managed to set off three more booby traps. Being able to turn into sand at a whim must be nice.
The third tunnel was partially collapsed, an obstacle that once again meant nothing due to Crocodile's power. However, this path also ended without any poneglyphs. By now Crocodile was becoming visibly angry.
The second to last tunnel started off identical to the others. But as they walked the murals faded away, and the air seemed less dry. This tunnel was longer than the others, and was not straight. After taking several turns the ground changed from stone to dirt and the duo walked into a second open chamber.
It was the underground lake that Crocodile had sensed earlier. In the middle of that lake was what appeared to be a mound of earth or stone.
"Of all the obstacles to face," Robin said dryly.
Crocodile scowled. He quickly separated his hand over the lake. From the banks of the lake they could barely make out something carved into the mound. Taking the hint, Robin crossed her hands in concentration. It was no good. The angles were all wrong; it was impossible to get a good view of what was written.
"If you want me to read that, I'll have to get closer."
Crocodile let out a long suffering sigh, his displeased expression deepening. He brought his hand back and reattached it to his body. Then he began stalking the perimeter of the lake while grumbling to himself.
Luck must have been with them. They hadn't even walked half way around when the pair came across a little boat. Robin was highly suspicious of their good fortune, but they were in no position to look a gift horse in the mouth. After a quick examination showed no apparent defects, Robin stepped onto the boat. After a long pause Crocodile joined her.
The water was dark and mesmerizing. It was impossible to see what—if any—danger lurked just beneath the surface.
Crocodile and Robin learned that the hard way when a giant reptilian monster leaped out of the depths, maw open in an attempt to eat whatever had disturbed its peace.
The little boat began rocked violantly as a wave soaked them both. Robin ducked down and watched in morbid fascination as Crocodile punched the creature back into the water as he let out an impressive string of curses, where it wasn't inclined to jump after them again.
Crocodile snarled as Robin attempted to shake herself dry. Darkness enveloped them. Both torches must have been thrown overboard in the surprise attack. After a moment of fumbling Crocodile flicked his lighter on. He paused to relight his cigars before holding up the pitiful flame.
"Was that…a banana gator?" Robin asked.
"I think so," Crocodile rumbled.
"I didn't realize that they were so stealthy, or large for that matter."
Crocodile started laughing in his dry, staccato manner, "That's just a baby; you should see my collection at Rain Dinners."
If that was a baby, Robin was of the opinion that she wanted nowhere near an adult, "I'm sure they're magnificent," she said. Crocodile laughed again as a reply.
The banana gator attack had driven them significantly off course, but the lake wasn't big enough to make it a problem. They made their way to the stone. No other creatures dared to try their luck.
Finally they made it. Crocodile held up his lighter with a cruel smile on his face. Once again hieroglyphs adorned the stone, but even with only a rudimentary knowledge of the ancient language Robin could tell that this was what they were looking for.
Once again she opened up her reference book. Robin grimaced at the water damage that it had received. She was glad that it wasn't a rare or valuable text. This translation was much trickier, both due to circumstance and linguistically speaking.
After painstakingly translating the stone, Robin turned to Crocodile, "The weapon isn't here or anywhere on this island for that matter. This suggests that the old kings hid the weapon, which we already knew, but this states that kings took the secret of its location to their graves. It implies that the answers lie in the tombs where they are buried."
Crocodile's face twisted into a grin. With a dramatic flick he closed his lighter, but not before Robin noticed abrasions on his knuckles.
"Good. My plan to take over Alabasta has already started. I'll get you to the poneglyph, and you'll give me the weapon."
"Of course," was all Robin could say in reply.
The return trip to Alabasta was uneventful. Crocodile seemed to be scheming, and Robin didn't want to risk his wrath by interrupting his thought process. The Warlord's cleverness was nearly as infamous as his fighting prowess. The success of his casino alone proved that he could be a wealthy businessman without resorting to piracy or other illegal activities if he wanted to. Sadly for the world, Crocodile's ambition had grown beyond wealth and fame. He wanted power, and was willing to risk everything to get it.
Besides, Robin had things of her own to ponder. First and foremost were the strange cuts on Crocodile's knuckles. She was sure that they had not been present before their little excursion. In her mind's eye she replayed their movements, trying to untangle the secret to Crocodile's invincibility.
The only thing that possibly matched up was the banana gator attack. Crocodile had punched the beast, was that the key? Or was there something more?
Sand. Boat. Punch. Lake. Sand. Water. Water.
Crocodile had a double weakness to water
It seemed so obvious now. The desert kingdom, the ridiculously risky plan of stealing the rain, Crocodile's defeat in the New World. In a world that was mostly ocean, the Warlord was at a serious disadvantage.
Without letting on what she discovered, Robin began thinking of ways to use this weakness against him. Right now she was in a dangerous game with the highest stakes. Using the shadowy organization known as Baroque Works they would be fighting against the Alabastian government, the marines, and each other. There was no tolerance for failure.
When the pair got back to Rain Dinners, they quickly began manipulating Alabasta to its downfall. The day after their trip to the unnamed island Robin noticed a familiar sweet scent coming from Crocodile's office. A quick peek with her power confirmed that he had gotten his hand on the potent desert scorpion poison. Robin tactfully chose to say nothing, but acquired the antidote as soon as she could anonymously do so.
And so their relationship developed into a quiet cat and mouse game between a pair of notorious criminals who, by all outward appearances, had the perfect professional partnership. Neither fully trusted the other, but both were willing to do anything in their power to achieve their goals.
Operation Utopia had begun.
AN: So here starts my new project. Each will be a standalone one shot featuring everyone's favorite archeologist/assassin/pirate/mutant/super model. I'm going to mark it as complete, but I have several ideas that I want to try out, so stay tuned.
This was kinda inspired by Indiana Jones (why aren't there more adventure!Robin fics? She's like a professional adventure archeologist). As such, I have a little alternate ending for you all. (Because you were all wondering what was in the last tunnel). Also, reviews make me happy, so feel free to tell me what you thought (good or bad, doesn't matter to me!)
After reading the tablet on the lake, Robin had insisted on investigating the last tunnel. Crocodile, while unhappy, was unwilling to risk missing valuable information by not being thorough. So the pair slogged back to the main chamber, got a new pair of torches, and went down the last passage.
The last tunnel was straight, and unlike the others seemed to be going up towards the surface. It was unremarkable, and they even managed not to set off any more booby traps.
At last the passage ended, opening up too another room. This new room was smaller than the main chamber, and was perfectly circular. Robin's eyes were drawn to the center, where on a stand sat what presumably was an idol. A single shaft of light filtered down, giving the small statue an otherworldly glow.
"Well, this is disappointing," Crocodile rumbled as he sauntered towards the idol, "It looks to be pure gold, though."
"Wait! We don't know if it's rig-" the Warlord ignored her cry as he plucked the little statue off of its stand. Once again an ominous clicking sound was heard as a mechanism fell into place after centuries of disuse. A faint rumble could be felt throughout the room, and Robin wondered if Crocodile had just managed to kill them both. Well, if the trap didn't, she most certainly would for having such disrespect for the ancient artifact.
Neither Robin nor Crocodile stayed put to see what was coming next. Robin's clothes were still soaked through and through from the banana gator incident, adding extra weight and slowing her down. Crocodile, in his gaudy fur coat and heavy suit was likewise disadvantaged.
The pair rushed back through the tunnel. Robin spared a quick glance behind her, and let out a soft gasp. A giant boulder had been set free from its ancient resting place and was now rolling towards them. It gradually picked up speed as it went down the slope. Somewhere deep in her mind, the rational part of her wondered how in the world the Preserving Father's had gotten such an unwieldy stone into such an elaborate trap in the first place.
The other parts of her mind were beginning to panic because the boulder was catching up to them. Of all the situations she had diffused in the past, nothing had prepared her for this. On the bright side, whoever had designed this tunnel must have thought poisoned lances were excessive, and placed none of them on this path.
"Forget this!" Crocodile growled. In one fluid motion he shucked his coat off of his shoulders and faced the boulder head on. In a dramatic pose he put his hand down on the ground and shouted, "Desert Erosion!"
Immediately the ground began to crack and flake. The boulder first slowed, and then stopped, as Crocodile eroded it away into nothing but sand. The Warlord must have been extremely irked at all the delays he had faced that day, as he didn't stop with the boulder but continued with the walls as well.
"Um, I hate to interrupt, but if you continue you threaten the structural integrity of this entire passage."
"You're absolutely right. How thoughtless of me," he replied sarcastically.
Without another word they left the underground passage. After they got back on the surface, Crocodile once again put his right arm back to the ground. Robin could hear faint rumbles as he caved in the underground passageways.
"What are you doing?" Robin asked, struggling to keep the fury from reaching her voice.
"We can't risk anyone else learning what we just did, plus I'm really, really angry," he said with a hint of sadistic glee.
Robin could only watch as the ancient passages collapsed on themselves. She felt her nails bite into her flesh as she clenched her hands hard enough to draw blood. Once again she swore that she would never hand over the weapon to this monster.
Crocodile, being the man that he was, only laughed his dry, staccato laugh as he faced the destruction that he had caused. When he was done he looked over to her, and smirked.
"Let's go. We've got a country to overthrow."