I know, I know, I am suuuuuuuper late. I'm working on it. This past semester has been really crazy for me and I just haven't had time to write. That week back in October just crushed me after me and my roommates had to be temporarily removed from our apartment. Bedbugs. Yeah...everything just kinda went down hill after that. Luckily, I made it out alive.
And I'm kinda upset because it's like 20 minutes into Monday right now, BUT WE ARE PRETENDING THAT IT IS STILL SUNDAY OKAY.
So I'm posting a lot of stuff right now, including a new One Piece story and a new Attack on Titan (so many ideas, WHEN DO THE PLOT BUNNIES STOP?!), please go check them out. ~shameless self-advertising~
This chapter is mostly Ace. Like 95% of this chapter is Ace. Though I'm pretty sure that you guys are okay with that. Anyways, there is a whole lot of stuff that happens in this story and there are a LOT of hints in here about things to come. If you've read the origin story, they should be pretty easy to spot and understand, though you don't have to read it to pick up on them. (But you should totally go read it if you haven't anyways)
To my guest reviewers:
Guest(1): I updated! Sorry for the delay!
Guest(2): BOOM! Update. :)
Kouru-Kage: Nope. I meant underestimating. The crew didn't really understand that the government was declaring war - or at least a more open war - with the Revolutionary Army (as opposed to the Whitebeard Pirates). And sorry for the typos! Sometimes they just slip past me...:/ As for Garp, weeeeeeellllll, you're definitely right that his reaction will be...interesting. He definitely plays an important roll in the story because of all of the reason the you've pointed out as well as some you haven't, but that will come a bit later. And yes, the Marines have no idea how much they've just screwed themselves. Because they only accounted for the Revolutionary Army. Not TWO Yonkos. So. Don't want to be a Marine right now.
Guest(3): Luffy is precious and will forever be the most precious thing on this earth. Yeah, Ace went to the one person who would, without a doubt, help him break into the most secure prison in the world. Also because I wanted to include Hancock. Because even though I think she turns into a complete ditz around Luffy, she is still a total badass. And I likes my badass ladies. ;)
anonymous: Yes it is indeed Hancock. And no, I will not be revealing the status of anyone's lives at the end of this story. (Sorry)
ClioClover: First off, thank you for taking the time to leave such a nice review! And yes, Thatch is the most magnificent troll that ever trolled. The origin story definitely contains hints about what is going to happen and you can start to see them in this chapter. Yes, it's Hancock and yes, Ace's infiltration is going to be COMPLETELY different from Luffy's. Though a lot of the same people will be involved, there are differences in how they get involved, etc. Sorry it took me so long to get up, I hope you like it!
CHRISTINA bISHOP: It is indeed!
teengens: Sorry for the delay! I hope it lives up to your expectations! :D
Have I ever mentioned that you guys are awesome? Because you totally are.
Warnings: Ace and Hancock being the most badass bros in the history of badassness, BEWARE THEIR BADASSARY, seriously, don't mess with them, they are some BAMFs, also suspense, because that is a thing that happens and seems to happen more than I intend it too
Disclaimer: This is my story. You steal it and you better start sleeping with one eye open because I WILL FIND YOU.
When you want to save something precious, you have to be willing to dive into the deepest of darks.
Ace stares at the woman before him. Were he someone else, he might think she is the most beautiful person in the world. But for all he outer beauty, he knows that on the inside, she is just as damaged as anyone else. Besides, he doesn't see beauty as others do and he certainly would never admit aloud that he found her attractive regardless.
Boa Hancock sits before him, cool and regal as always. Her sisters stand on either side of her, expressions smug as they look down at him. Part of him wonders how much they know about his relationship with their sister; how much they know about her relationship with Luffy.
His heart clenches and he sees something flicker across Boa's eyes. Her fingers twitch and he knows that she's barely holding back from grabbing him and demanding to know why he's broken their agreement.
"Leave us," she say coolly, waving her hand in dismissal. The guards leave and she stands, walking towards him. "Why should I help you?"
Ace holds her eyes for a long moment, sees her contempt for him swirling in her eyes mixed with an underlying curiosity. Slowly, he bows his head to her.
"Please," he whispers.
He can feel her eyes on him, intense and burning.
"Come," she says after a long moment, turning and walking towards a side door.
Ace stands and follows her, relief flooding his veins. She will help him. He knows, even though she has not said so. He must have reached her before the news did. She would not be as calm otherwise.
"Sister!" Sonia and Mari exclaim in surprise.
He ignores them and follows the Pirate Empress. Surprisingly, she leads them to her private chambers. Ace has only ever been here once and the experience was…interesting to say the least. They weren't going to repeat it. Or speak of it. Ever. Boa's sisters have been protesting and questioning the entire way and she has ignored them with practiced patience. Which surprises him, but then again, Mari and Sonia are female and her sisters to boot, so maybe she loves them more than everyone else. Probably. Except maybe Luffy. It's debatable.
"Enough," she finally says, waving her hand as she lounges against Salome. Her sisters fall silent. "What is it you want from me?"
Ace raises an eyebrow. She clearly hasn't changed over the years, blue eyes still cold as ice, her face a disinterested mask. On the surface at least. He can feel the beginnings of turmoil churning in her heart. Part of him feels guilty for getting her involved, for being the one to tell her. But he knows he can't do this without her help. So he sighs and reaches into his back pocket.
"I'm surprised you don't know already," he says, pulling out the folded up newspaper article and handing it out to her.
Her brow furrows and she reaches out hesitantly to take it, holding his eyes with hers as she unfolds the paper. He watches her as she glances down to read it, sees the way her ice cold mask slips, the way her eyes widen, the way her breath catches in her throat.
"What is this?" she whispers, horror making her smooth, velvety voice crack, her hand clenching around the paper, crumpling it.
"Sister, what's wrong?" Mari asks worriedly.
"What have you done, Man?!" Sonia spits, looking ready to attack.
Ace ignores both of them. "You're going to be asked to oversee it," he says, voice deceptively calm.
Her head snaps up and she glares at him. "I refuse!" she hisses, "I will not take part in such a – !"
"You will!" Ace snaps, cutting her off, stunning her to silence. He sighs, running a hand through his hair. "Look," he says, calmer, "You're a Shichibukai. You have sway in the government. We can use it."
Her eyes narrow. "Use it?"
Ace smirks, eyes dark and vengeful. "To get him back of course."
Boa leans forward. "I'm listening."
"Are you sure about this, sir?"
Dragon doesn't dignify the question with a response. Of course he's sure. This is his son – not that he'll be telling anyone that anytime soon (though he has this sinking feeling in his gut that it won't matter if he doesn't tell them; people are going to know) – he's always sure when it comes to his son.
One of his lieutenants sighs behind him. "It's just – well, we're not ready for a move this big, sir."
No they aren't. Not yet. It's too soon to make their move. Much too soon. But.
"Which is why we will not be making any big moves."
They can't just sit back and do nothing.
"The World is waiting for our answer, gentlemen. It would be rude not to reply."
"Absolutely not!" Mari protests, furiously.
"Do you even know what you're asking of her?!" Sonia yells.
"Yes," Ace replies calmly.
"Very well," Hancock says, interrupting the argument before it starts, "I agree to your terms."
"But sister!" Mari and Sonia protest.
"Enough!" She says coolly, glaring at her siblings, who shrink in on themselves under her gaze, "This is what I have decided." Turning back to Ace, she continues, "If what you say is true, then the dogs will likely be calling soon. They have been calling for the last five days. I have been ignoring them," she announces haughtily.
Ace smirks. "You would."
"Oh how I have missed your sharp tongue," Ace drawls, a teasing twinkle in his eyes and a devilish smirk on his lips, "You wound me, princess."
"Pity," Hancock shoots right back, voice indifferent, "I was aiming for maiming at the very least."
"Sister, I do not understand," Sonia says, "Why are you helping him?"
"We have a common goal," she replies easily, still glaring daggers as Ace, "Someone we care deeply for is in danger. We are going to save him."
"Him?" Mari asks, eyes wide.
Hancock hums, a slight flush rising in her cheeks. "Monkey D. Luffy," she says.
"The only man to have ever won the Snake Princess's heart," Ace says, smiling cheekily.
"He is the only reason I tolerate you," Hancock hisses.
"I know. The feeling's mutual."
The ring of the den den mushi cut across the room. Ace and Hancock freeze, eyes locking, before Hancock mechanically picks it up.
"What?" she asks, all confident pirate and haughty princess.
"Boa Hancock, the World Government requires your presence at the execution of – "
"And why should I care about some worthless man's execution?" she sneers, "It's beneath me."
"Boa Hancock, you are a Shichibukai and as such are required to obey the orders of the World Government. To disobey would mean surrendering your position."
"Do not presume yourself worthy enough to speak to me in such a tone," Hancock hisses, "Has the government become so depraved that pirates must oversee the execution of pirates? You marines are truly worthless if that is indeed the case."
"You overstep your bounds, Snake Princess," the marine on the other end of the line growls.
Hancock sneers and rolls her eyes. "Please," she drawls indifferently, "If you marines were more competent, you would not require my aid or that of my peers." Here she pauses, glancing at Ace. "However, seeing as you have come to grovel, I will consider the government's terms under one condition."
"…And that is?" the marine asks.
"I wish to see the man I am going to war for," she says imperiously.
"The World Government is not going to – "
"Do not mistake me for a child," Hancock cuts off the man's protests, "The government would never call the Shichibukai to an execution unless they felt the need for extra security. They fear and attack. If I am to put myself at risk, then I have the right to look the reason for it in the eyes."
"…Very well. We will honor your request. The execution is in ten days' time. If you wish to see Mugiwara before he is taken to his execution, we must leave quickly."
"I am aware," Hancock says, "I will meet you once I have prepared."
She hangs up before the marine on the other end can protest.
"Well that went well," Ace says as he stands, "Guess it's time to get to work. Looks like you'll have front row seats, princess," he drawls, bowing only slightly mockingly and offering her his arm.
"Oh? To what?" Hancock asks, eyeing his arm disdainfully.
Ace grins. It's not a nice grin by any means. "To watch the world burn of course."
Hancock smirks and reaches out to take his arm as she stands. "Then by all means, shall we?"
Mari and Sonia exchange looks as their sister and the strange man walk out of the room.
"I do not know about you, sister, but I feel sorry for anyone who crosses the pair of them," Sonia murmurs.
Mari nods. "Indeed."
Vice-Admiral Momonga watches as the Snake Princess Boa Hancock boards the ship, head held high. Behind her is a thin whisp of a woman, caramel skin and cropped blond hair. She is petite, only barely making it to her captain's shoulders, her body all shallow curves and soft lines, but he knows from experience not to underestimate a woman based on appearance. Especially a Kuja. The consequences can be deadly.
"Snake Princess," he greets, warily. She had, after all, turned his entire crew to stone only days before. And judging by the smirk on the blond woman's face, she knows just what happened to.
"Vice-Admiral," she returns coolly, eyeing him like he is the dirt beneath her shoes, "I wish to leave at once."
"Once I have my crew back," he deadpans, crossing his arms over his chest.
She scowls while her companion attempts to smother snickers behind her hand. "Fine," she says, turning to the crew and undoing the stone curse with a wave of her hand. The reaction is instant and his men fall over themselves groaning as they crash to the deck. "We can leave now," she says imperiously.
"We will leave soon enough," Momonga grumbles, not moving ant inch, "Who is your companion?" he asks, nodding in the girl's direction.
The Pirate Empress throws her head back haughtily. "I refuse to be surrounded by nothing but filthy men. She is to stay with me until we reach Marineford."
He raises an eyebrow. "And where do you expect her to go afterwards?"
"She will return here, of course. And she will not require your assistance," she answers shortly, "Come, Alice. Someone show me to my quarters!"
His crew scrambles to obey, tripping over themselves in their eagerness to please The Most Beautiful Woman In The World. He shakes his head in disgust. His men need more discipline. Much more discipline.
He jolts in surprise when he sees the young blond girl – what had Boa called her? Alice? – watching him. Her crimson eyes bore into his for a long moment and unease begins to coil in his gut. But then she looks away and the moment is gone as she trails off after her captain.
He shakes his head. He will never understand pirates. Especially the Kuja.
Alice sighs as the door closes behind them, leaving them alone in the room. "It never ceases to amaze me how idiotic men become in your presence."
Hancock scoffs, turning up her nose. "They are filthy, disgusting animals that only follow their base instincts," she says, "They are not worth my time."
The blond shrugs. "Can't say I disagree."
"They truly are idiots if they cannot even see the fact that you aren't a woman."
The 'woman' blinks. "Really?" she asks, "I thought I did a pretty decent job."
Hancock rolls her eyes. "You look the part," she concedes, "But you still hold yourself like a man."
"Hmmmm, in my defense it's been awhile since I was last a woman; don't really remember what it's like. Do you think anyone noticed?"
She just glares at him.
"You're right. They were too busy ogling you."
"It's disgusting and degrading," Hancock murmurs, lips twisted in displeasure.
Alice shrugs. "As you said, it's human nature," she says.
Hancock sneers. "And you would know all about that wouldn't you?"
Crimson eyes stare at her, old and sad and knowing. "Yes," Alice whispers, "I suppose I would."
Hancock scoffs, ignoring the love filled cries of the marines with practiced ease. "They are repulsive," she says coolly, "May I petrify them?"
Momonga sighs warily. "Please don't. The marines don't need any more humiliation."
Alice snorts behind them. Hancock's lips twitch ever so slightly in response and Momonga doesn't even try to wonder about their inside joke.
"Your condition for helping us was that you wanted to see the man at the center of these events, Monkey D. Luffy, correct?" the vice-admiral asks, plowing ahead, "I told you before, but this place is usually strictly off-limits to pirates, even the Shichibukai. Once you enter, you will be restrained with seastone shackles. You will also have to go through a full body check at the entrance. We cannot let you free any of the inmates or anything, after all."
The Snake Princess's expression tells him that, were she a lesser woman, she would be rolling her eyes. "I am not dull; you do not need to repeat everything that I already know."
"Just part of the procedure," Momonga says, tone just as cool.
Alice moves closer to Hancock as they enter the gate and she sees Hancock tense.
"The air is heavy here," the Shichibukai murmurs.
"It's pain," Alice replies softly, "Mortals trying to create Hell, to twist and use for their own purposes."
Hancock frowns ever so slightly. "And how does it compare?" she asks curiously.
Alice scoffs. "It's a pale imitation; the real thing is so much worse."
"What does that mean for him?"
"He's probably sitting in his cell laughing," the blond says with a roll of her crimson eyes.
Hancock makes a sound that is one part scoff, one part laugh, and all parts fond. "That sounds like him."
Alice smirks, eyes wondering over the walls as she listened to the faint echoes of screams that bounced off them. She doesn't pay any attention to the Vice-Warden, his words muffled to her. She's here to find him, not listen to idiots talk. She is here to find Light; her Light. The Light in the Darkness, hidden in the depths of this fake Hell. He's here, she can feel it in her bones, knows it in her soul.
"Come, Alice," Hancock says, pulling her from her thoughts.
Silently, she follows, discreetly leaning over to whisper. "His Light is here; it burns brightly."
Hancock nods, the only indication that she has heard.
"Our prisoners are all sent into this cage where they are stripped of their clothes and lowered into a pot of boiling water," their escort – Domino? - explains, "We call this process the Lukewarm Bath of Hell."
Alice rolls her eyes, now they were just trying too hard. Still, the air in this place made her skin crawl. There is something dark and vile here and it's festering, growing darker still. The part that scares her is that it feels familiar; she knows it. She doesn't remember, but she has felt this before and she does not like it. It is fundamentally wrong, out of sync with the World. But she can't say why exactly.
"Even among those prisoners there are some who are tougher than others," Domino goes on, "A few of our recent inmates: Mugiwara no Luffy, as well as the Shichibukai Jimbei, and the former Shichibukai Crocodile all went through the baptisms without even battling an eyelash."
Alice's eyes zero in on their guard at that. Hancock shows no reaction, but glances at her from the corner of her eyes. Jimbei is here. Jimbei who is their friend and teacher and brother. Why is he here?
Before her thoughts could take her further though, they reached a door.
"Here we are," Domino says as she opened the door, "Guests check-in in this private room. Don't worry."
The room is small and impersonal, not that Alice expects anything different. They are in a prison after all.
"Please remove your cloak," Domino instructs as she closed the door, "It is the easiest way to conceal someone, so please hand it over to me."
Hancock raises a delicate eyebrow.
"I have no reason to suspect you," Domino explains, "But if you were thinking of pulling anything suspicious we have monitoring transponder snails all over Impel Down," she says, pointing to one of the snails on the wall. "They transmit everything they see to the security monitors." She pulls out two pairs of shackles. "Now please put these on."
"I am no prisoner," Hancock sneers, "I will not be treated as such."
The guard remains unmoved, holding out the shackles. Hancock glares for several seconds, Alice watching silently. Finally, she sighs, shoulders slumping in defeat.
"Very well," the Snake Princess murmurs, and when she looks up her expression is innocent and nervous and vulnerable, "Please, be gentle with me."
The second the flush rises on Domino's cheeks, it is over. The woman is stone and, as Alice finds upon glancing up, so are the den den mushi.
A smirk steals over her face. "Not bad," she says.
Hancock huffs. "Don't underestimate me," she says before he face falls ever so slightly, "It seems this is as far as I can take you."
Alice shrugs, her smirk gentling into a smile. "You got me in; that's more than enough."
She hums, a frown on her face. "You better not mess this up."
Alice chuckles, crimson eyes glowing. Her image wavers, a man's figure overlapping hers. He steps away, leaving Alice's shape behind, and grins down at Hancock.
"Me?" he asks innocently.
Hancock ignores him. "How long will it last?" she asks, eying Alice's form. Nothing has changed except for her eyes – dull and still.
"Until you dismiss it," he says, reaching out and placing a hand on Alice's forehead, "It will slowly dissipate the longer it remains, but it won't completely vanish until you give it permission too. 'Alice' will last you until Marineford."
She nods. "Good. I will be disappointed if I see him there," she warns, eyes narrowed.
He laughs. "I'm a little jealous, you know. You're going to get to see him before I do."
Hancock smirks for a brief moment. "If you get caught, I won't be able to help you."
"Careful, I might start to think you care," he teases.
She scowls. "Just go before I get you caught myself."
He grins. "You wouldn't."
She raises her brows. "Would you like to test me?"
"Then go, before they figure out something is wrong."
He stares at her for a moment, long and hard, before leaning in and pressing a chaste kiss to her cheek. "Thank you."
"Bring him back, Ace."
The Demon nods, crimson eyes bright. "I will."
Ace creeps silently down the hall, sticking close to the shadows, letting the familiar darkness hide him from prying eyes. Surprisingly, it isn't long before he runs into trouble. Seems that someone managed to break out and Ace recognizes him from somewhere, but he's not about to risk getting caught for someone he's met once and doesn't even particularly like. So he presses himself into the shadows and watches Buggy the Clown run past, chased by guards. He waits a moment before moving on.
He moves quietly past the cells, his expression twisting when he sees the condition of the people inside them. This is only the entryway and these people are already so broken. So much for justice. This is just the merciless dictator punishing those that are defiant. There is nothing justified about this. The Demon inside him churns, angry. Displeased. Mortals have never understood what it is to keep balance, to keep order.
The first level this all sharp edges and broken glass dyed crimson with the blood of the fallen. He walks through the spikes effortlessly and painlessly knowing that he is the only one to be so lucky. The second level, in his opinion at least, isn't even considered a punishment. The beasts here a tough and vicious, true, but they don't hold a candle to the ones he fought when he was a child. Still, it is better that he not attract attention, so he doesn't attack them and wills them not to attack him. They slink away as he passes, conscious that something is wrong in the way that humans are not. They still retain their sixth sense. They can hear the silence. So when the Demon comes, they bow and let him pass.
The third level is calm in comparison, quiet. It is warm and Ace feels the heat building beneath him. It makes him smirk.
"Why is it, that they always think that Hell is unbearable heat?" he mumbles to himself, one part amused and one part exasperated.
He's cut from his musings when he hears footsteps and…laughter? It's almost loud in the miserable silence that's only broken by sounds of pain. Curious, he stalks forward and peers around the wall, only to reel back in surprise.
Because it is Zoro that was prancing around on the other side of that corner.
Zoro who is his brother's crew mate. Zoro who is loyal to a fault. Zoro who is strong and fierce and wild. Zoro who is his Light's protector. Zoro who has been separated from his captain and should not be here.
Brows furrowed, anger bubbling up inside him, Ace reaches out and snags the imposter as he passes, pulling him into the shadows. He struggles but Ace reaches up and wraps a hand around and squeezes. Hard.
"Shut up before you get us both caught," he hisses and the man in his arms stills.
"Who are you?" the imposter asks.
And it's Zoro's voice. Swiftly, Ace shoves him into the wall pinning him there, his anger heating his skin, steam rising from his shoulders. "Why are you wearing that face?" he growls, eyes glowing, "It's not yours. Why do you have it?"
The imposter squeaks, voice changing as he speaks. "It's my Devil Fruit power! The Mane Mane no Mi!"
Ace narrows his eyes. "And how did you get the form of my brother's nakama?"
The man blinks, raising his left hand up to his face. Ace watches as Zoro's form vanish, replaced with someone with black hair and gaudy make up. "Your brother?" he asks, perplexed, squinting at him before blinking, "You mean Mugi-chan?"
Ace deadpans. "If you mean Luffy, yeah, he's my brother."
"Ah! Mugi-chan and I shared some adventures in Alabasta!" the man exclaims in excitement, "He was on the most noble of quests, helping a friend you see, so I sacrificed myself to help him on his way and now here I am~!"
Ace gets the distinct feeling the man would be twirling if he wasn't holding onto him. "So you're a friend?" he asks cautiously.
"The very best!" It's said with a wink. "Say, if you're Mugi-chan's brother, what are you doing here?"
Ace releases him and takes a step back, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'm here to break him out."
The man blinks. "Break him out?" he asks slowly before panic steals over his face, "You mean Mugi-chan is imprisoned here?!" he shrieks.
Ace whacks him over the head, sending him tumbling to the ground. "Shut up you moron!" he hisses, "And, yes, he's here. On the lowest level most likely."
"Oh, I see," he says, sitting up from his place on the floor, "Please allow me to accompany you! There was already someone that I wished to free in the lower levels, but now that I know Mugi-chan is also in danger, it is my duty as his friend to help return him to the free blue sea!"
Ace tilts his head to the side, examining the person before him. He can't sense a lie or any malicious intent. "Fine," he says, "But who are you?"
"Ah! You may call me Bon Clay!" he says springing up and giving a deep bow.
"Ace," the Demon replies shortly.
"Wonderful!" Bon Clay says as he twirls down the hall, "Mugi-chan! We're on our way!"
Ace shakes his head, a small smile on his face. Luffy always has picked the strangest nakama.
Luffy sits in his cell, eyes closed, head leaned back against the wall he's chained to. Jimbei is in the cell with him now. His fishman friend had not agreed with the government and had made it known. Luffy just laughed when he heard; everything is going to take its course and trying to change it this soon won't work. Though he's grateful for the company; as fun as arguing with Crocodile has been, he's just not nakama.
"Luffy-kun," Jimbei murmurs softly.
Luffy opens his eyes and turns when Jimbei nods toward the figures approaching their cell. Magellan is leading the way, several guards following him as he explains what this floor of the prison is. The Angel wonders when they started offering tours of this fake Hell.
"You have a guest, Mugiwara," Magellan says as he stops outside the cell.
Luffy tilts his head to the side, curious. He hears the jeering cries and the wolf whistles and the laughs. "Guest?"
Magellan steps aside to reveal a tall woman with ample curves and long black hair and a smaller, thinner woman next to her. A woman with dull, blank crimson eyes. "This is Shichibukai Boa Hancock. She will be present at your execution," the warden explains before stepping back.
The Snake Princess steps forward and Luffy feels a smile tugging at his lips. It's been a while since he's seen her. Her eyes wander over his form and he knows what she must see; the bruises and the cuts and the blood and the grime. He can see the fury building behind her eyes, but she keeps her body relaxed and her face blank, giving nothing away.
"I was worried your Light had dimmed," she says softly, not trusting the guards even though they had stepped away, "But he said it still burns bright."
Luffy's grin widens, eye flickering over the shorter woman's frame before turning back to Hancock. "Oh?"
"He is very angry you know," she huffs, "He barged into my kingdom without so much as a warning."
"Sorry," Luffy says, looking anything but.
A small smile makes its way to her face briefly as she leans forward. "He's coming," she whispers, "Please be safe, Luffy."
Luffy just smiles. "Thank you for the visiting, Hancock."
Hancock flushes and leans back, clearing her throat. "I have seen what I came for," she says, holding Luffy's eyes for a long moment, "I am done here."
She turns and begins to walk out, leaving the guards scrambling after her. The other prisoners call after her, shouting lewd and suggestive comments which she ignores expertly. Luffy stays silent though, lips pulled up into a wide grin, eyes wild and bright.
"Luffy-kun?" Jimbei asks quietly.
"He's coming~," the Angel singsongs softly, "She said he was angry," he muses with a chuckle, "I wonder how much of this fake Hell he'll destroy."
Ace shakes his head at the pits of fire and the walls bathed in red light. Mortals and their perceptions. He doesn't know if he should be angry or amused. Bon Clay is chattering away about Level Four and the Blazing Hell and how dangerous it is because of the heat and so on. Ace would be more concerned if he wasn't made of fire.
Bon Clay is suddenly gone from his side and he springs to the left, a heavy club land where he stood only moments before.
"It's the Minotaur!" Bon Clay shrieks, "Ace-chan, this is very bad!"
Ace's eyes narrow as he dodges another blow. This creature isn't like the others from Level Two. Those felt natural, had retained their sense of the World, still had a voice. This creature before him doesn't have any of that; its eyes are vacant and its soul is quiet.
"It's fast!" Ace exclaims as he dodges a blow that makes contact with the wall, shattering stone as if it were glass.
"It's the Demon Guard!" Bon Clay yells, "They toss the prisoners around and whack them with that giant club!"
"Routine torturers, eh?" Ace wonders aloud, fire racing up his arms, "Sorry, but we don't have time to play with you."
Ace charges forward, launching fireballs that just seem glance harmlessly off of its thick hide. He ducks the club swinging at him and lands a solid, fiery punch in the beast's gut. Then Bon Clay is there, kicking it in the face and making it topple to the side.
"Have a taste of my Okama Kenpo!" Bon Clay exclaims, taking his fighting stance, "It is both beautiful and deadly!"
Ace feels his lips quirk up into a slight smirk. "It's not done yet," he says as the Minotaur climbs back to its feet.
"Then we should remedy that, Ace-chan! Mugi-chan is waiting for us!" Bon Clay declares.
"We've attracted some attention," Ace says, looking up from the Minotaur's unconscious form.
The sound of rushed footsteps and shouting echoes down the hall.
"This way, Ace-chan!" Bon Clay calls, pointing down a darkly shadowed corridor.
Ace ducks into the corridor after the okama, grabbing him by the elbow and dragging them both back into the darkness.
"Does the corridor lead anywhere?" he murmurs.
Bon Clay shakes his head. "Not where we want to go," he admits, "But it's better than standing in the main hall waiting to get caught."
"Fair enough," Ace whispers.
The sound of the guards draws closer and Bon Clay makes a move to retreat farther down the corridor only for Ace to hold him in place.
"What – " he starts to ask only to be cut off by Ace's hand over his mouth.
They press back against the wall, guards finally showing themselves in the corridor entrance. They look around shine a light here and there mumble a few things, eyes passing right over them, before retreating back into the hall. They wait a few moments before Ace releases Bon Clay, who stumbles forward in surprise.
"What just happened?" Bon Clay asks, perplexed, "They looked right at us but didn't even react!"
Ace smirks. "It must have been too dark."
"But they had flashlights and everything!"
"Well, while you try to figure it out, I'm going to rescue my brother," Ace drawls, walking away.
"Ah! Wait for me, Ace-chan!"
It is a close call, but the pair manages to make it past Magellan without alerting him to their presence. It helps that there is an apparent jailbreak on the upper levels, if the rushed conversations they overhear are anything to go by.
The fifth level is all ice and snow and chilling wind. It's still a horribly mediocre imitation, but this level is the closest yet to reaching what Hell truly is. That being said, it still falls awfully short. Ace doubts that – even without his devil fruit – he would be horribly affected by this Freezing Hell. His body temperature has always been naturally hot. Bon Clay, however, does not have the luxury of a high body temperature or a devil fruit possessing an ability involving heat. His prison uniform is woefully thin and clearly not made to withstand any of the tortures concocted in this prison. He's shivering and his face is flushed, nose dripping as he sniffles.
So the first opportunity he sees, he takes. A lone guard is patrolling the cells and one punch and he's out. Ace strips him down and tosses the obviously warmer clothes to his companion, who immediately bursts into tears, blubbering about kindness and true friendship. Ace yells at him to knock it off before his eyelids freeze shut.
Ace has underestimated the strength of this fake Hell. He doesn't notice it until it sneaks up on him, but he's suddenly hit with so much exhaustion that he stubbles, nearly falling face first into the snow had Bon Clay not grabbed him.
"Ace-chan?!" Bon Clay exclaims, alarmed.
"I…" he trails off, not knowing how to explain what's just happened. He just suddenly feels so heavy.
"What's wrong?" Bon Clay presses, worried eyes running over his form and Ace marvels at it because this man is virtually a stranger to him. And yet there is so much compassion there. It's easy to see how he is a friend of Luffy's.
His brow furrows as he tries to remember the question. "I…don't know," he says slowly, shaking his head, trying to regain his bearings, "The air…" he whispers, struggling to think clearly, "It's…heavy. There's a weight here…"
And now that Ace thinks about it, he remembers how unsettling the air had been when he stepped through the gates. It's slowly been getting worse, he realizes, but he's been so focused on reaching Luffy that he hadn't noticed. Until his body can no longer take the strain of something so…unnatural. This place is wrong. Wrong in so many ways. Something inside him is rearing up in protest, something long forgotten and painful stirring in his chest.
"There's no balance," he whispers, having to force the words past his lips.
And has he says it he realizes it to be true. There is no order here. Nothing. It's all chaos. He remembers, he thinks, that mortals have always had difficulties with balance. And this place is so far out of balance, it is only a breath away from falling over and collapsing in on itself. There are always two sides to everything: white and black, order and chaos, light and darkness. And the World exists in a place in between. Each half always carries a part of the other within it.
There is an island somewhere in the New World that has a symbol – A yinyang. They are two halves of the same whole, forever intertwined. The yin carries a small portion of the yang within it and the yang carries a small portion of the yin.
The brightest of lights can shine in the darkness just as easily as the deepest of shadows can hide in the light.
It is a scale, and here it is tipped. Dangerously so. Ace has been able to ignore it, but now it is too much. There is too much weight here, the scales are tipping too far and he is not ready to hold the weight; doesn't know if he would ever be ready to carry this much weight.
(But a small voice in the back of his head whispers that he already has. He has and it hurt. So much.)
"You stay away from Ace-chan!"
Bon Clay's cry drags him back into awareness.
There are wolves, quite a few of them, but they too feel wrong. They are not like the beasts from Level Two, who can feel the unrest of the World, or the Minotaur, that is a false beast to begin with and therefore has no sense of the World at all. No, these beasts are those that have lived in this fake Hell for far too long.
They have grown deaf to the World, Ace realizes with a sick jolt. They cannot hear the silence or feel the weight. They can no longer tell that something is wrong.
But Ace loses his pity when Bon Clay gets bitten. The wolf's teeth sink deep into flesh and Bon Clay cries out in pain. Ace can't seem to make himself move; he's too heavy. But then Bon Clay goes down and the wolves move in and Ace sees red.
"Get away from him!" he yells, eye glowing crimson as he pushes his will out forcing the beasts into submission.
For a long moment, he sits there in the stillness, the numbing wind howling. He tries to stand, to walk, to crawl over to Bon Clay's fallen form, but there is a weight on his heart. He can't breathe and his vision starts to blur. His eyelids are becoming too heavy for him to keep open anymore. The last thing he sees is the startling brightness of orange against the white snow before they shut.
And he falls, the Silence ringing in his ears.
Someone is calling him.
It feels close and like it should be loud, but it's not. It's muffled, like it's far away and buried. And that worries him. Because when he tries to find the sound, his body won't move the way he wants it to. He's heavy and weighed down and the first thing he thinks is that all of this weight is wrong when he remembers.
Ace's eyes shoot open and he tries to spring up, but his body only lets him go so far before he falls back against a makeshift bed.
Ace blinks sluggishly, trying to clear his hazy vision, to find the source of the voice.
"Bon…Clay…" he chokes out, struggling to draw air into his lungs. It feels like there's a weight on his chest, crushing him, pressing down so hard he can't breathe.
"Easy, Ace-boy. Ve need you to rest. To stay calm," says a new voice, one Ace – even through the haze – is positive he does not know, "You are no use to anyvon this vay."
"It's heavy," he mumbles, "Too heavy…"
"He keeps saying that," Bon Clay says, worried, "What's it mean?"
"I do not know," the unknown voice replies, "But if vat you are telling me is true, ve do not have much time."
Why isn't there enough time? Ace's thoughts are hazy and sluggish and he can't remember why he has to hurry. He knows the voice is right, but he can't remember why. What is so important that he would try to endure this awful, crushing weight?
(He remembers. He has to carry it. He needs to carry it. Or everything will fall. Even…)
Ace's head clears immediately. He forces himself to sit up, willing the Weight away. The effort leaves him gasping for breath. He doesn't have time to waste, lying here like and invalid. The Weight isn't going to go away (He knows. He waited for it to stop, to end. For everything to be right again. It didn't.) he has to carry it.
"Luffy," he gasps, moving to stand, only for hands to suddenly be holding him down.
"Easy, Ace-chan," Bon Clay says, hands gentle but firm on his shoulders, not forcing him back down, but not letting him stand either.
"So he finally vakes."
Ace looks up, panting. There's a man before him with a rather large head and curly purple hair in a ridiculous pink outfit.
"Who're you?" he asks.
"I am Emporio Ivankov, the Queen of the Okama," he answers.
"He's amazing!" Bon Clay gushes, "He was imprisoned years ago, but he just disappeared from his cell one day and no one knew what happened!"
"Ve have created a home for ourselves," Ivankov explains, arms crossed, "This is Newkama Land; ve are betveen Levels Five and Six."
Ace blinks, brow furrowing. "Level Six? I thought there were only five levels."
Ivankov waves a hand dismissively. "Zat is vat most people think. Level Six is a myth to most anyvon not actually imprisoned there."
"That's where they have Mugi-chan," Bon Clay informs Ace earnestly.
Ace looks at him for a moment before nodding and asking, "How do I get there?"
Ivankov blinks. "Vat? Vhy would you want to go zere, Ace-boy?"
"My brother is there," Ace replies, forcing himself to stand. He stumbles under the Weight pressing down on him, shifting his shoulders and waiting for it to settle. He's still not completely used to it, but it's less of a burden than it was. "I'm going to save him."
Ivankov looks decidedly unimpressed. "Zat is suicide. Even if you could get to you brother, zere is not vay you vould be able to get out."
"But we have to save Mugi-chan!" Bon Clay cries.
But Ace only grins up at the Okama Queen. "You think so, do you? This fake Hell doesn't belong. If they don't let us out," Ace says eyes flashing, grin turning feral, "then I'll just tear it down around their ears."
Ivankov laughs. "Tear it down? A little boy like you?"
Ace's expression doesn't change, still feral and wild and dangerous. "I'll find the way on my own then," he says, turning to walk away, refusing to let himself flatter under the Weight.
"Ace-chan – !"
Everyone turns to see a man dressed in all black, a black fedora on his head shadowing his face.
"Who are you?"
"How did you get in here?"
Protests went up, but the newcomer doesn't spare them a glance. He takes out a letter and simply says. "The Boss has a message for you."
Ivankov's eyebrows shoot up in surprise. "Really?! Vat is it?" he asks, snatching the letter and ripping it open.
The cavern is silent as the Okama Queen reads. Then Ivankov suddenly goes very, very pale, eyes wide in shock. "Vat is this?"
The stranger simply shrugs. "I was only told to make sure you received it," he says, "I must return now."
And then he simply walks away.
"Does that happen often?" Ace asks, head cocked to the side.
"No," says a woman coming up to stand beside Ace. The Demon looks at her closely; one half of her outfit is white. But the other is bright orange. "He is a messenger," she continues, "from the Revolutionary Army."
Bon Clay blinks. "Revolutionary Army? Iva-chan-sama is part of the Revolutionary Army?!"
Ace just blinks. "That's lovely and all, but I have places to be so…"
"Hold it right zere, Ace-boy," Ivankov says, stepping in front of him, "You said you vere going to rescue your brother?"
"Yes," Ace says simply.
"Vat is your brother's name?"
"Monkey D. Luffy."
Ivankov blinks and says nothing for a long moment. "VAT?!" he suddenly yells, startling everyone, "Impossible," he mutters, "Zere's just no way…"
Ace frowns. "Is there a point to this? Because I'm on a schedule."
"Vere vas he born?" the Okama Queen asks, suddenly so serious that Ace lets the answer slip past his lips without even thinking about it.
Ivankov lets out a strangled gasp and staggers back a few steps. "Dragon's son…"
Ace's glare is sharp and the Weight on his shoulders suddenly seems non-existent as his hand snaps out and grabs Ivankov's collar and drags him down. "What did you just say?" he hisses, eyes crimson, anger pulsing through his veins ready to lash out at the slightest sign of danger towards his Angel. His Angel with blood as tainted as his own.
"Easy, Ace-boy," Ivankov says, lightly patting the hand gripping him and holding up the letter, "Dragon-san told me himself."
Slowly, Ace lets him go though he still looks wary.
"Inazuma," Ivankov calls, "Make the preparations."
The white and orange woman smiles. "Of course."
"Preparations?" Ace asks dubiously.
Ivankov grins. "To help you break out Mugiwara-boy of course."
It can't be real. It can't.
He doesn't want it to be real. Because then everything is wrong. Everything. There is a hole in his chest and the Weight on his shoulders suddenly seems to have doubled.
(It's wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. They've been ripped apart and left broken and shattered like it never mattered in the first place. Just like before. Just like – )
The chains hang limp against the cold stone wall.
He's too late.
Luffy looks up at the sky for the first time in what seems like forever.
It's cloudy and dreary and gray.
And the World is still Silent.
He feels the sudden anguish and pain laces through his heart as he feels the scales tip ever so slightly more. He's too light, he's carrying almost nothing and Ace is carrying everything.
(Just like before. When everything broke. When everything changed.)
But, as painful as it is, it's too soon.
So, just like the World, the Angel waits.
Bam, chapter. And a whole lot a stuff just happened too!
To clarify some things about Hancock, she met the boys early on somewhere in the Grande Line. They've met up several times and gone on a few crazy adventures together (Luffy's fault) and are allies of a sort. Hancock is still head over heels in love with Luffy, which Ace finds annoying and he doesn't like it when she talks about marrying HIS Angel. She doesn't like Ace because of his closeness with Luffy as she sees it as him interfering with there love (He never leaves them alone together, because there is NO WAY that he is letting someone near HIS precious little brother).
Basically, Ace and Hancock hate each other, but if Luffy is in danger you better get as far the fuck away as you can because they will kick the ever loving shit out of you and then. Luffy is the one thing they agree on they only come together for him, but BEWARE because the will end you. (i.e. They are the Baddest Badasses To Have Ever Badassed)
And because I know you guys will ask this, YES, Hancock does know about the Angel and Demon thing. It was part of one of their adventures.
Feel free to leave questions, comments, and concerns. Because I know you have them.
Until next time,