Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece.
Life was chess. Each person became an important piece on the checkered board; it didn't matter whether it was the king or the pawn as they all had their purposes. These pieces acted accordingly to what the other side offered, mimicking the situations that happened in life. One would save the most vital piece for victory, as one would keep another around for the ultimate goal they had in mind. Each had its own purposes. Thus because life was chess, it became just as easy to manipulate and bend to one's will and rules, the catch being, of course, if the person knew how to do so without hurting himself in the process. And as the mastermind, one could force the others to play by his rules.
The sunlight was streaming in from Ace's window as he blinked drowsily awake, rubbing his eyes tiredly. Yawning hugely, he glared at the stupid curtains he conveniently forgot to draw for the umpteenth time, wondering when this careless habit of his would end. But drawn curtain or not, it was certainly a nice morning. The rays of the sun casted a nice golden glow onto his room, and there were sparrows chirping distantly as he savored the precious silence-
Wait a second. A peaceful morning?!
He swiftly kicked away the thick blankets and leapt off bed, hastily throwing on a shirt before making a desperate dash out of his room's door because there was never a peaceful morning in all the years he spent in this apartment with his brother. Something obviously wasn't right. However, his fears were quickly quashed as he sagged against the doorframe in relief at the chaotic sight that greeted him. He let out a long sigh of relief, making no attempt to climb back up on his two feet as he watched the scene unfold.
His counterpart was busy mixing golden batter in a bowl, the other hand on the handle of the pan as he flipped a pancake. In a fluid movement, he tossed the cake high enough and snatched up a plate already piled, catching the airborne food before it hit the ground. The plate joined another few stacks next to the stove, all piled high with golden, fluffy pancakes. Without stopping, Portgas poured an ample amount of batter in the now emptied pan, continuing to make breakfast whilst humming an upbeat tune to himself.
On the other side of the room, the struggling forms of Luffy and Lu were seen. They were a tangled of stretched rubbery limbs, both fighting at the same time to undo the knots that formed. But due to their nature, they did not realize it would be better for the situation if they stopped wriggling so much first before they untangled themselves. A mildly pleased looking Sabo sat leisurely on the couch, flicking lazily through dozens of channels as he ignored them. He looked briefly away from the TV to Ace and waved. "Good morning!" he said cheerfully.
Ace suddenly found himself immensely grateful to have other people deal with Lu for once. For once he did not have to shoulder all the responsibility and raise the pet-like teen by himself; he could push it all to another person and have the rare time to relax. Waving back to Sabo, he got up onto his feet again, and with a wide grin he strode over to Portgas. "Need help?" he offered.
The other shook his head, too occupied with making sure the pancake was cooking properly. "I'm almost done," he replied, brushing back strands of hair that obstructed his view.
And so Ace wandered back towards the couch and plopped down next to the mess of limbs. "You know, if you guys stop struggling so much maybe you'd be able to untie yourself," he commented offhandedly. The duo instantly froze and began to whisper to each other.
"So," he continued, "What are you doing here, Sabo?"
The older shrugged. "I came here to make sure you're alright, since you're responsible for two Luffy's running amok in your apartment. It's a nice place you have here."
The last sentence reminded him painfully of the exquisite house Sabo owned and sent his ego plunging down into the depths of Tartarus once more as he lamented his general lack of intelligence and the more society-acceptable skills when compared to the older. He glared darkly at the TV, which was currently showcasing a drama involving a glasses girl with four other guys attempting to flirt with her. The channel changed abruptly, cutting right into a scene where a man was violently impaled by a stake in the head. Much better.
"I wasn't being sarcastic," Sabo said with a weak grin. "You really do have a nice apartment."
"Yeah, right," Ace muttered bitterly, snatching the remote control out of his hands to shut it off. He wasn't in the mood for anything.
"Breakfast is ready!" Portgas announced, as the sound of plates setting onto the table was heard. He flicked the stove flame off and waited for any response but was only met with the continuous whining from the still-tangled Lu and Luffy as they tumbled onto the ground. In frustration, he tossed the oven mitts towards the unmoving figures, the objects hitting squarely onto their faces with a satisfying resounding smack.
Ace blinked in shock from the pure absurdity of having oven mitts being thrown at his face, becoming reanimated once more. "What was that for?" he yelled in irritation.
"I'll throw the pancakes next if you two don't get over here and appreciate my hard work," Portgas warned, lifting a full plate menacingly. "And believe me, I'll do it."
At the threat of wasted food, Ace jumped up and ran to the table, grabbing the large bottle of maple syrup on the counter as he went.
Meanwhile, Sabo knelt down besides the mess with a smile. "Now, if you two behave while we eat and don't steal anything that's not yours, I'll help you untangle. Do we have a deal?" There was an underlying tone in his voice that sent chills to their spine, combined with the utterly serious eyes that regarded Lu and Luffy. They nodded slowly and went lax, not wanting to know the alternatives to that option.
With the knowledge that their food was safe, Ace and Portgas slowed their eating pace to a normal speed, choosing to cut up the pancakes into bite sizes and swirling them in the gooey syrup. They were soon joined by the other three, though the younger two were looking more sullen than usual as they inhaled the breakfast at the usual inhumane pace. Ace noted with amusement that there were a considerable amount of longing glances to his plate and tucked in even more heartily than before.
Yet somehow, the morning still seemed too calm.
Then, Lu dropped his fork and his eyes rolled back as he toppled over his chair, lying there lifelessly.
On such a bright and beautiful day, it was only natural for Marco to be in a cheery mood as he went on his daily morning trips to Oyaji's spacious mansion, a bottle of sake stashed in the back trunk though he knew it was damaging to the old man's health. He'd rant until he got his dose of alcohol every day. And besides, it wasn't like he'd drink to the point it'll be too harmful. That was the excuse Marco cooked up each time he visited if he happened to unfortunately bump into one of the many nurses that took care of Whitebeard.
With sake in hand, he walked up to the front porch and was about to knock on the elaborate door when he noticed an object lying on the floor, attached to a small slip of paper as the breeze threatening to blow it away. Bending down, he examined the mysterious thing.
It was a chess piece, albeit a broken one. The split was a rough and jagged one, suggesting that it might've been hurled or dropped than purposely split in half, and the pale white was stained curiously with a burgundy liquid that already began to dry. Cupping the rook with a gloved hand, Marco inspected it before plopping it into one of the bags he kept handy, just in case it was not just a prank but something note-worthy. As he tucked it away into his breast pocket, he picked up the slip of paper and saw printed words: This was the first.
What did that mean? There was a gut warning that cautioned him; somehow he knew that this wasn't simply an accident or prank. There was true meaning behind the seemingly cryptic words, and with the thought in mind he knocked on the door.
It creaked open, revealing a distressed looking nurse. She combed back her frizzled curly hair and said in a flustered tone, "Oh hello, Marco!" Then, she peered at the tip of the liquor bottle that poked out behind Marco's back as a sad attempt to hide it and glared venomously at the offending object. "If you want to come in, that has to go." She pointed a finger at it.
The phoenix grimaced. "It's nothing much, yoi. It won't affect Oyaji."
Groaning exaggeratedly, she smacked the palm of her hand to her forehead. "That's what you always say!" But she opened the door wider to let him in anyways and pointed to the room down the center of hall. "He's in his office like usual."
Marco slipped off his shoes and stepped onto the cool marble ground, nodding his thanks to the girl, who promptly hurried off towards the kitchen but not without casting another poisonous glare at the bottle he held tightly in his hands. Sighing, he approached the office and saw his surrogate father's large form bent over his desk. "Yo, Oyaji."
Whitebeard looked up. "It's my favorite son!" he exclaimed happily.
Marco raised an eyebrow. "You mean, your current favorite son because I brought sake, right?" he deadpanned.
The other simply laughed unabashedly. "Gurarararara! That's not true." But he held his hands out expectantly, and with another long sigh Marco handed over the bottle.
"You shouldn't play favorites either way, yoi," he said placidly as he watched the large man take a swig of the rice alcohol.
"Cheer up, brat! What's gotten under your skin so early in the morning?" Grinning satisfyingly, he set his precious sake down.
"This." With an unchanging grim expression, the first commander extracted the object he just picked up from his pocket and set it down gingerly in front of his adopted father. "I found it in front of the door with the note attached."
Whitebeard held it curiously in front of his face, his eyes darkening ominously as he caught sight of the strange maroon shade staining the piece. It was a rook, he noted and silently contemplated if there were any hidden meanings behind the seemingly random selection. Any sign of his good mood was completely erased as he scrutinized it carefully. "Has this been examined yet?" he questioned gravely.
Marco shook his head. "I just found it," he explained as he pocketed the rook and note again, "not so long ago I'd think, from how old the blood is. Two hours, at most."
Drinking the sake again, Whitebeard said, "I expect your report as soon as possible."
Bowing slightly, the phoenix replied, "Right away, sir," and in a flurry and a small gust of wind, transformed magically into a small, exquisite blue and yellow bird, zipping out the open window at a surprising speed and was soon gone from human sight.
The older man watched his son fly away with pensive eyes as his mind whirled with possibilities of the newfound clue. He could not shake off the uneasy feeling growing inside him, his sixth sense that had never failed him once in all his years working in the underground, and feared for the safety of all his adopted family. In a spur of the moment decision, he rang the hanging bell by his desk to signal one of his maids. "Give me Akagami's number," he stated simply as a particularly one young hurried in, and she quickly dashed out again after a brief adjustment of her hat.
Whitebeard drank a generous amount from his gift again as his gaze returned to the clean glass panes, bright blue sky and sun deceiving what was to come and what had already transpired before the cheerful-looking day had fully begun.
The nondescript, plain man hummed happily away as he patrolled the empty streets belonging, a slight bounce in his step. Although the sky was still a shade of gray as the sun had barely risen, he was already in a very, very good mood and could only imagine what the rest of the day would bring. First he found mail saying his day job application for a coffee shop with this absolutely-breathtakingly-goddess-like girl had been accepted, and then he received a call from said absolutely-breathtakingly-goddess-like girl saying she'd love to go out to dinner with him despite the very awkward and embarrassing way he had proposed the offer. Soon after, the first division commander Marco himself had called him and informed he would be promoted soon in the fourth division after he finished his last shift at the alley he was permanently located at.
It was a good day.
Glancing around to make sure the dingy, rundown road were in fact vacant, he grinned dopily and yelled out on top of his lungs, "I freaking love life!" The proclamation rang out loud and clear, echoing around in the empty, streets covered with graffiti, echoing several times. It just felt so great.
Drawing out his iPhone, he tapped the camera option and directed it at himself, holding up a cheesy victory sign, and snapped the perfect picture just as the sunlight streamed in, basking him in a golden glow that ran perfectly with his jovial mood. This selfie he would later upload onto FaceBook, Instagram, and all the other social networks he frequented, with the big title "I got a girl!" on it. Though, he hoped his –he still felt thrilled using this world – girlfriend wouldn't happen to stumble upon it. They weren't friended on FaceBook, and she wasn't following him on Twitter, right?
Giggling not so girlishly to himself, he swept well-trained eyes across the territory, feeling a small burst of pride once again and marveling the fact that Whitebeard had taken him in and accepted him as another of his many sons, starting up his life and career again from down in the dumps. He ran a calloused hand over his left shoulder where the telltale emblem of his gang was proudly tattooed, sleeves pushed up for all the world to see.
This decision would prove to be a mistake, however, as he heard a slight… rustle? Whirling around, he glimpsed a slight shadow glide over and looked up horrified as the "shadow" turned out to be a thickset man with flowing violet hair and an orange and black mask over the top half of his face. The man also noted a large, golden belt buckled around his waist like a wrestler. Well, he certainly did look like one, which was every reason for him to be nervous.
"Lukas Error, is it?" The wrestler-like man grinned widely, showing off rows of tiny, shiny white teeth. "Fourth division of the Whitebeard family."
Lukas knew from experience that if a man who clearly looked like a threat trespassed into your territory and knew far too much about your identity, it was enough to set off all warning alarms. He scowled as his good day just plummeted and adjusted his position into a defensive stance, hands swiftly drawing out two blades and grasping them backhanded. "Who are you and what do you want?" he hissed, eyes narrowing at the man, silently gauging and analyzing the other's abilities. Judging from his form, he relied on brute strength, and plenty of it. Perhaps not much strategy. He'll have to pull this off with speed, then, and clever tactics, but he only excelled in the latter. Lukas could only cross his fingers and hope the other was one of those simpletons with only strength to back them up. But as a precaution, a hand inched behind his back where the handy alert button was strapped…
… only to touch only the leather of his belt.
The enemy grinned impossibly wider and lifted a hand. "Looking for this?" he said, wagging a small box with a red button.
The alert button!
Color drained from Lucas's face as he took in the situation turned unfavorable. Before he could react, however, sharp pain blossomed in his leg and chest. As he glanced down he saw, horror-stricken, as blood rapidly poured out and stained his light-colored clothes, dying them an unmistakable maroon shade of blood. It was a matter of seconds before he collapsed forwards onto the ground and darkness took over his mind and vision.
The thickset man looked above to where his comrade had concealed himself on the dilapidated building and gave a thumbs up, then bent down, smearing a white chest piece messily in Lukas's life liquid with gloved hands and smashed it into the ground, shattering it into two. As he scooped up the broken pieces and shoved it into a plastic bag, the sniper had leaped lightly down next to him. "Our job is done," he said emotionlessly, kicking the still body to make sure he was definitely down, careful not to touch the sticky blood busy pooling onto the rough pavement beneath. "Let's go."Then he proceeded to draw out a touch screen phone, gracefully dialing a number and pressing it to his years.
A low, gruff voice answered. "What is it, Van Augur?"
"We're done, boss," the man replied in the same impassive tone, as if he didn't just murder a man.
"Oh really? Zehahahahahaha!" He laughed heartily. "Very, very good. Now you know what to do. I expect more good news."
"Yes, sir." With that, Van Augur hung up, hoisted his rifle over his shoulder, and walked away with his other comrade in tow, leaving Lucas to bleed to his death.
Desperately gasping for air, Lu sat up bolt right and accidentally smashed his forehead against his brother's. Ace jumped back with a frightened and pained yelp, landing ungracefully with his butt hitting the floor first, leaving the others space to crowd around the youngest protectively. His eyes were dilated from shock, breathing irregularly, and looked wildly around. "Lucas, oh my god, he's in trouble!" he gabbled randomly and struggled to jump off the couch and push away his brothers and counterparts.
"… Who?" the others echoed, dumbfounded. Several seconds later, however, Ace screamed.
"Lucas?! Lucas Error!?" he exclaimed, scrambling to his feet. "What happened to him, Lu? Was it a vision?"
The younger nodded vigorously. "He's dying! Someone shot him, and there was just so much blood."
Ace's face darkened and whipped out his phone, ignoring all the other still very confused expressions. He tapped his right foot impatiently as he waited for the other to pick up.
"Hello?" was the breathless voice as Marco answered. "Ace, what is it?"
"Lucas Error. My brother said someone shot him."
There was silence at the other end.
Rook. White. Blood. The note.
Maaaybe this wasn't the best place to leave off but… well… does the title of the chapter and the last bit make sense to anyone? I hope so. Maybe I was overly vague. We also officially began the important second half, the actual plot of the story! The pacing will become slightly faster because of … things… XD
Anyhow though, yes I realized I disappeared for something like five months, because of how busy school got and a lot of personal things I had to deal with, and then when summer kicked in I left for Shanghai for a month and spent all the time catching up with my friends, and finally, back here with time again on my hands. Please go thank Anjelle for this chapter (that should have been done last week but guests came over the whole time), because she motivated me to start writing again! Send her a P.M., review her stories…? I would also like to thank any old readers who are still reading this even though it was abandoned for so long. Thank you for still following it!
With that all said and done, till the next chapter! :D