Chapter 34: The Last and Strongest of CP9
Luffy didn't know how long he stood there, but the tears finally slowed down enough that he was able to rub his red and swollen eyes, feeling tired and hungry at the same time.
"You ok?" Ace asked gently as he rubbed his shoulder in a comforting way.
"Y-yeah," Luffy croaked out as he glanced at him. "I'm sorry. I know that I was…" he shook his head, unable to believe what a crybaby he was acting here. "I just miss you," he said in his choked up voice. And it was true. Seeing his strong big brother standing here in front of him, looking like he had always did awake the pain of loss inside him.
At that moment, he didn't care of Ace thought he was still a crybaby anymore as he flung his arms around his neck. But surprisingly, Ace didn't say anything like that as he held him close as well. When he spoke, his voice was warm and soothing. "I know," he said, "But I told you. I'm not sorry how it ended for me. If I had to pick a way to die, I can't think of a better way."
"For me?" Luffy asked bitterly, as Ace continued to rub his back in a comforting way.
"If it were the other way around, I know you would've done the same thing," Ace answered him and the tears were slowly stopping as Luffy breathed in his brother's slightly smoky smell. "You don't need me to protect you anymore. And I wouldn't change anything if I could. So stop blaming yourself for things that I did alright?"
"I just…" Luffy said, no longer feeling ashamed of his tears. "I went through all that… I wanted to be there for you for once…"
"And you were," Ace reminded him. "You saved me twice that day right? You stopped them from killing me two times. You were there trying to save me, and that's all that matters here."
"But why did you turn back then?" Luffy asked him, a stab of anger going through him. "Why didn't you just run?!"
Ace sighed as he held him tighter, Luffy could feel Ace's rib cage rise and fall with the air flowing through his lungs, as if he were still alive. "I just… couldn't," he confessed. "Remember the night of the Terminal Fire?"
"How could I forget?" Luffy asked him quietly. "I really thought you were dead there."
Ace actually chuckled. "Yeah," he muttered, "You were scared of fire for the longest time after that. Ironic isn't it? It was the same situation as back then. I refused to run and stayed until that bastard Bluejam was beaten. I only made it out of that mess alive thanks to Dadan. You think that I'd learn my lesson… but no. I guess that I really haven't changed since I was a kid."
Luffy rubbed his eyes until they stung. "And in a lot of ways, you're still that same crybaby you were then?" he teased and Luffy laughed a little at that.
"But seriously," Ace went, patting his back in a calming way, "I know it was stupid and selfish. It's just that hearing that bastard mock Pops was something I couldn't ignore. Pops died to protect all of us, and then that Marine jackass just bad-mouthed him. If it had been Shanks he was insulting, you would've turned back too wouldn't you?"
Luffy blinked. He didn't think about that. If it had been Shanks that he was badmouthing, would he had turned back and kept wanted to fight?
"Besides," Ace said as he finally pulled back and had his hands on Luffy's shoulders. "I had something important right behind me when I turned to face that bastard. I couldn't run and risk losing it."
"What was it?" Luffy asked in confusion, but Ace just smiled and flicked his finger on Luffy's forehead in a teasing, but gentle, way.
Luffy finally cracked a smile, but it faded when he said, "I'm sorry," he said, "For being an awful brother to you. Just when we were leaving Thriller Bark, I saw the Vivre card burning, and I found out that it was because you were in trouble. My crew offered to take a side trip and see if you were ok. But I said no, because I knew that would make you angry. I mean… if I had gone then maybe…?"
"I was already in Impel Down at that point," Ace informed him. "I'm still amazed and horrified that you were able to sneak into that place at all. Did Boa Hancock really help you get in?"
Luffy blinked. "How'd you know that?"
"She came to visit me while I was in my cell," he explained, "And she told me that you were there and trying to find me. God, Luffy, what were you thinking?"
"I couldn't think of any other way!" Luffy yelled at him. "I couldn't live with myself if I just sat back and did nothing after I heard that you were in trouble! So I asked Hancock to sneak me inside there."
"Damn," Ace said shaking his head, looking ready to laugh. "Is there anyone you can't eventually win over?"
"Huh?" Luffy asked in confusion as Ace laughed even harder.
"Nothing," he said, shaking his head. "But I can't tell you how scared out of my mind I was when I heard that. And I was so angry… I just wanted to beat your head… if Impel Down didn't kill you, I was gonna." He grinned at him as he asked, "After all that… how could you ever be called a bad brother?"
Luffy stared at him before he hugged him tightly once more. To be able to yell and scream at him, to be able to apologize to him just once was more than he could say. He felt as if a great weight was lifted off his chest, like he had been chained to some Sea-Prism Stone and suddenly set free from it. In fact, it was so freeing that he felt light-headed and he finally smiled a true smile.
Ace chuckled as he pushed him back gently, holding him out at arm's length before he wiped the tears from Luffy's face.
"Feel better?" he asked and Luffy nodded.
"I'm still mad at you for this," Luffy told him and Ace grinned.
"I'd be worried if you weren't," he told him as he let go and walked back. "Now, are you ready to go on? We only have a little time left here, and we have to finish this fight before you have to go. You ready?"
"Yeah," Luffy said, his heart beating hard again, his blood starting to race as he stood his ground and waited.
Ace's eyes shone wildly and then he sent a stream of fire from the palm of his hand. "Heat Haze!" he cried out and Luffy jumped up high to miss the flames.
He was grinning again, feeling lighter than he had in a long time. He touched down as he coated his arm in Haki before he charged at his brother. "Now that that's outta the way, I'm gonna kick your ass!" he yelled.
"I'd like to see you try!" Ace taunted as he sent held up his index and middle fingers of his hands, and pointed them at him like guns. His fingertips turned to flames and shot bullets of fire at him. "You may be able to bounce bullets back, but try to bounce these babies! FIRE GUN!"
But Luffy just kept coming at him. He was going to beat him, he was going to show him how much he's changed. How he didn't need anyone to protect him anymore. He was going to do the protecting from here on out.
"I won't lose!" he yelled as the fire came right at him. "AND I'M GONNA PROVE IT!"
"THAT WAS AMAZING!" Brook cried out, his skeletal face practically glowing at the sight of seeing Rocketman making that jump and crashed into the Tower. "YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT YOU ALL CAME UP WITH THAT ON THE SPOT?! YOU COULDN'T HAVE TIMED THAT BETTER IF YOU PLANNED IT OUT!"
"I still don't know what the hell we were thinking," Nami said, shaking her head with that same smile on her face. "That was the worst ride yet. I swear it was worse than the first time we jumped that thing. At least then we weren't hanging onto to front like that."
"It got us across didn't it?" Zoro asked, "It served us well getting there."
"The first time?" Franky asked in confusion. "What, Rocketman flew before that?"
"It was just when we arrived," Sanji said in irritation, glaring at Zoro. "The front doors were shut, and Moss Head here told that overgrown frog to bend that fence and then we went flying right over the gates."
"Oh, the pain," Usopp whispered to himself, making sure that Chopper didn't hear him, knowing that he would be asking what he was talking about since he was 'Sniper King' at the time.
"Wow," Franky whistled impressed. He wished that he had seen that.
"But what I liked most, what really touched my heart—not that I have one—Yohohoho, is how you said that you really wanted to keep living, Robin-san," Brook said as he looked over to her. In fact, tears were forming from his empty eye sockets. "It was so… so beautiful. To see such a bond…"
He broke down sobbing with Franky once again as Robin turned her back on them all. But as Nami looked carefully, she could see a single tear running down the side of her face and she smiled in understanding.
"You going to be ok after seeing all this, Robin?" she asked as she put her hand on her friend's shoulder.
"Yes," Robin answered, her voice calm as it always was, but Nami could just see the watery smile on her face. "In fact, I feel better than I had all evening," she added. Robin remembered only all too well, the pain she had to live with for all those years. Forced to run from place to place, never able to sleep in peace, often going hungry… forced to run from bounty hunters, marines, any money-grubbing adult, and the pirates that she had made enemies. For twenty long years running was all that she could do… she had never be able to find any place to call home, or anyone she could trust completely.
Until that day…
"There's no place for me to go or return to. So I decided, I'll join you…"
She shut her eyes as she wiped the tears off, unable to stop the smile. When she made that deal with CP9, she really thought that what she was doing was for the best. To die and be free from her pain; to have died as a part of the Straw Hat Pirates before they would one day betray her… as well as letting the others live on without the burden of having to constantly fight for her sake.
She had never been so happy to have been wrong about something as she was here. Even after all the hell they went through to try and save her, to be able to want to start a war with her enemies all for the reason of wanting her to stay with them. Once she realized that, she had realized something else. She came to the realization that day that she wanted to live… she wanted to go back out to sea and sail with them. She wanted to chase her dreams with them all by her side… she didn't want to die at the hands of the World Government.
"That's a day," she whispered, "That I'll never forget. For as long as I live."
"Living isn't always easy," Brook sobbed, arm-in-arm with Franky, "But dying won't solve anything. And as long you can keep living, just keep going, then the day will come that you will truly be glad to be alive."
"Very poetic, Brook," she smiled, turning back and her face held such happiness that the others couldn't help but smile along with her.
"In other words," Zoro shrugged, "You can complain all you want, but you're stuck with all of us whether you like it or not. So just deal with it."
"You didn't have to say it like that you insensitive idiot!" Sanji yelled at him.
"Sensitivity isn't my strong point," he said, rolling his eye. "And besides, it's all over now isn't it?"
"I know," Robin laughed a little. "I'm a member of the Straw Hats. It's a burden that I'll find some way to deal with." She now understood Saul's words, and found the reason she kept living in this world even though the rest of the world never wanted her to. "Not that I mind though," she added as they all laughed with her.
The memory soon reappeared and they looked around to see that they were in a large stone room, large enough to fit a whole house inside, and it was filled with Government men and Marines.
"This place…?" Chopper asked, trying to remember where it was.
"It's inside the Tower," Franky said firmly, recognizing this when he was forced to walk in with Robin before. "It's also…?"
He stopped and realized that it was strangely quiet around them before there was an almighty blast from the wall behind them and they spun around in time to see the Rocketman come barreling right through the wall.
"Oh yeah!" Franky cheered as some of the others ran to get out of the way and crying out in shock at the sight of it. They had forgotten that they were impervious to what was going on, but it still sent the fear of death through them when they saw the boulders to come flying at them and not feel a thing.
The Marines around them screamed in terror and ran, practically trampling each other to get out of the way—abandoning the hall they were guarding. They could hear the screams of their past selves as the Rocketman hit the floor with a loud bang and continued with its wheels no longer moving, screeching and throwing off sparks, before it finally tipped over and crashed on its side. And this time, it wasn't getting back up.
This half destroyed tower would be its resting place.
"Oh no!" Brook cried once the shock wore off. "Was anyone hurt?!"
"Relax," Sanji cut in, "No one died."
"But…?" he gasped, unable to see anything with all smoke and the echoing booms of the train as the sounds bounced off the mostly destroyed room.
"Still, I could think of less terrifying entrances," Nami said as she rubbed her butt at the reminder of how painfully she had landed.
"But it sure sent CP9 a message!" Chopper said happily, "Not sure what kind of message though…?"
"That we were taking back what they took no matter what," Zoro offered, "And if that means destroying anything else in our way, so be it."
"Do you have to be so scary when you say that?" Usopp mumbled as they heard memory Franky's voice ringing out desperately through the smoke.
"Hey! Talk to me! You guys okay?!"
They turned around and as the dust cleared out, they could see the full damage of the place. The train lay there, smashed and crumpled, looking like a mess of tinfoil and now stuck on its side as it continued to smoke. Past Franky was kneeling by the front of Rocketman's flatten face as he shook Granny Kokoro and Chimney, both laying face-down.
"Oh no!" Brook whispered in fear. "They got hurt?" He couldn't believe after all that, they ended up suffering because of them.
"Don't get too far ahead of yourself there, bro," Franky said, still a little irritated at what happened next. "Trust me, it'll take a lot more than that to kill them off. Wait for it…"
"Come on you old hag! Start moving and just what the hell do you think you're doing?!" memory Franky yelled, shaking them harder to try and get them awake, "Pulling a flat-out stupid stunt with Rocketman like that?! I mean, thanks for saving us and all. Hey? You hear me? Get up!" There were tears in his eyes. "Please! Don't die! Don't die you old hag!"
"Nothing says 'I care about you' more than you calling them an old hag," Nami said shaking her head, half amused and the other half annoyed.
"I panicked!" he retorted as the three on the floor all groaned slightly and sat up in time for them all to have a slight trickle of blood dripping from their noses.
"Bloody noses," Kokoro and Chimney both said with Gonbe mewing and Brook fell over at those words.
"YOU'RE DAMN LUCKY A BLOODY NOSE IS ALL YOU GOT!" past Franky yelled at them.
"And it's hard to believe after all this," Chopper said incredulously, "Was that bloody noses were all they got."
"Chimney said that she was having the time of her life as they ran around the tower and we were fighting for our lives," Nami sighed, still unsure how she should feel at that. "It's just like when Luffy was little, he'd probably be having the time of his life running around here too."
"Hey, maybe she'll join us next time we see her?" Chopper offered happily.
"She'll be a hoot to have around," Sanji said, as he thought that over, "And I'm sure that she'd be up for any adventure, but she she's not exactly a fighter is she?"
"Give her time," Franky said with a laugh. "She's tough as her granny."
"I don't know," Usopp said as he thought it over. "Having our captain ready to go on any adventure is bad enough, can you imagine if there were two?"
"Fair point," Sanji said thinking it over. "We'd be dead in a week."
But before anyone could think of a counter to that, a large pile of rubble behind them moved and they looked in time to see Luffy breaking right through it. "ALRIGHT!" he cried out, "WE MADE IT!" And then he let out a loud battle cry, sounding ready to take on everyone in the tower if he had to.
"I see that he's raring to go, as always," Nami said, a faint smile on her face. That idiot… what would they do without him? He had them all wrapped around his finger didn't he? And he didn't even know it.
"I guess he's fine," memory Franky whispered as Granny and the little ones got to their feet and were cheering at the sight of him, waving merrily before Luffy looked at them.
"Thanks for the ride across Monster Granny!" Luffy called before he turned to the rest of the rubble and they could see their arms sticking up through it weakly. "Come on you guys! Get up already!" Luffy yelled at them, "You've been through worse than that!"
"You know, he's right," the current Franky pointed out with a laugh as he remembered everything else he had seen. "This was nothing for you guys."
"Oh, shut up," Sanji grumbled, "It still hurt."
At the end of the line, they could see Sanj's arm twitching slightly—though they couldn't tell if it was from pain or anger. "Oh, sure," he groaned out, with his voice muffled by the rock. "That's easy for you to say. You're made out of rubber. We're lucky we not in pieces now after a crash like that."
Yet despite that, they all ended up bursting right out of the wreckage, one by one, screaming just as loudly as Luffy had.
"See, you're all just fine," Luffy answered calmly.
"You know," memory Franky said shaking his head, "You guys are a bunch of weirdo's."
"Like you're one to talk!" Nami said to him loudly. "If we're weirdo's what's that make you?"
"A SU~PER cool dude!" he said proudly, giving them a thumbs up.
"No one on this crew is normal though," Robin pointed out in amusement. "I'm starting to think that's its mandatory that you're as different as possible to join up."
"A former pirate hunter who uses three swords, a degenerate ex-thief woman, a liar, a talking reindeer who transforms, a perverted cook and a skeleton with an afro, a woman who's been on the run for twenty years, a rubbery captain, and a cyborg…" Franky counted off on his massive fingers. "Yeah, I can see why being weirdo would be a requirement."
"Who're you calling degenerate?" Nami demanded.
"I felt I should point that out," memory Franky added when they looked at him.
Luffy ignored him as he pointed to the staircase behind Franky and told them that they had to move it if they were gonna find Robin. The rest of the crew blinked after him before they realized where they were before they went running after him. But they hadn't even made it to the doorway when they heard another voice.
"Not so fast!"
Everyone stopped dead and were looking around to try and find the speaker of the voice.
"Where…?" Brook began before Zoro pointed and they looked up to see that Fukuro was up in a corner of the room, holding onto the sides of the wall on either side of him.
"Who the hell is that?" Luffy asked as they looked up at him.
"Annoying as hell!" current Franky called, "Trust me! I know!"
"Chapapapa," Fukuro laughed, and they were surprised to hear that he had a slightly girlish voice despite his bulky size. "So you invaded the Tower of Law. There's no point in going on! You won't ever find Nico Robin. Lucci's already taken her to the Gates of Justice. Oh, and the chief's with them too." He seemed to have added that last part as a side note.
"Lucci's the one to be worried about," current Nami said nervously, not forgetting what Robin said about him. If Robin was right, and she was more than convinced she was, then Luffy was up against a seriously powerful and dangerous person. The reason it took so long to finish the fight, and why Luffy was so injured. She remembered how brutal the fight it was with Crocodile, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to see another battle like that.
Her past self looked frustrated at Fukuro's words, but then she smirked. "Really?" she asked, "Thanks for telling us where we should start looking."
Fukuro seemed to realize what he just said. "Chapapa, why'd I tell them that?" he asked himself.
"They did call him the gossip-loving owl, or something like that," Robin said as she tried to remember.
"But, owls don't care about gossip do they?" Sanji asked, blinking at that.
"Why doesn't he just zip up his mouth if he doesn't what to tell us anything?" Chopper whispered as his past self whispered, "He's not too bright."
"He doesn't need to if he's a trained killer," Zoro pointed out. "That's all the government cares about. They don't want someone who's gonna question their actions all the time. I guess they wouldn't want someone too smart on their side…" He remembered Lucci and Kaku and added, "Or maybe they just need people who are blood-thirsty."
"I guess that sums CP9 up," Robin muttered sadly.
"It doesn't matter!" Fukuro went on once he recovered, "I might have told you where they're headed, but I'm not gonna tell you how to get there."
"If we asked long enough, I think that he might've," Franky pointed out. "He's such a big mouth."
"In other words, he can't keep a secret to save his life?" Sanji asked in surprise. "Well, I'm not sure if that's better or dealing with a stupid wolf who lies almost as bad then Usopp."
"Hey!" Usopp yelled at him.
"And you'll never make it past our CP9 agents!" Fukuro said smugly, "We've been given direct orders to eliminate you, Chapapa. You want Nico Robin? Then you're gonna have to fight your way through every single one of our agents if you want to succeed."
"And minus that Blueno character outside," Brook said worriedly, "That still leaves six members right?"
"Well, six members to worry about," Robin said, her eyes narrowing at the thought of Spandam. "Their chief was nothing more than a coward. I bet even a child could've taken him out."
"Duh!" Luffy yelled up, "I liked it better when you were telling us stuff we didn't already know!"
"Yeah, I think that's how it usually works when we're dealing with the bad guys," Usopp sighed.
"Chapapa," Fukuro laughed at Luffy's words, "You got some fire in you. But…" he held up a finger, "I've got one more thing to tell you!"
"Well, say it," Luffy said, "We're listening."
Fukuro looked surprised by that. "Ah, well thank you."
"Why's he thanking us?" Chopper asked in surprise.
"I have a guess," Sanji muttered, "He follows orders and that's it. I doubt that the government really cares about any of them. Almost feel sorry for the assholes, if they weren't such bastards."
"Ah, give me just a sec," Fukuro went on before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small key, "Take a look at this!"
"A key?" memory Chopper questioned.
"Oh," Brook said, "You mentioned something about keys before! So… these keys are important?"
"Understatement," Nami said as memory Sanji asked what the key was for.
"For all you know, it might be the key to unlock Nico Robin's Sea-Prism Stone handcuffs," Fukuro teased
"Sea-Prism Stone?" memory Franky repeated as the others looked horrified but a look of understanding came over them as well.
"I see," Brook said, also in understanding. "That's how they were able…?"
"That's how they were able to keep me under control," Robin nodded as she rubbed her wrists again. "Spandam especially loved to torment me because of that."
"Only because you couldn't fight back," Franky said, smirking at the memory of seeing Robin grow those arms out of his chest and slapped that dumbass's face.
"If he's still walking after all this, I'm gonna break his legs," Sanji vowed, his hands tightening up at the thought of anyone doing something like that to such a beautiful lady. Meanwhile, memory Nami was quickly explaining to Franky what Sea-Prism Stone does to Devil Fruit Users.
"Well, now we finally know why Robin hasn't been fighting back," past Chopper said looking at them, looking upset at the situation. "I knew it wasn't adding up."
"Yeah," past Sanji agreed, "She's not the type to give up so easy. I'm sure she'd be mopping up the floor with those ugly mugs if she had a choice."
"I'm glad to know you all think so highly of me," Robin smiled. "But… I didn't really do much of anything. In fact, I was the cause of all this."
"Don't think about it," Zoro told her. "Just thank fate that you weren't taken away. Besides, if that never happened, then none of us would have gotten such an increase in bounties."
She chuckled at that. "True," she agreed, "I had been wondering when they were going to update my bounty's photo. I guess some good came out of it after all."
Memory Chopper was looking really guilty as he looked to the floor and said, "She must feel so helpless."
Robin nodded. Yes, that had been eating her up inside. If she could only get those stupid cuffs off, she could've taken Spandam out easily and met up with the others and helped them escape much sooner. But she remembered what Zoro said and did her best to just remind herself that she was safe now.
"Well, that sucks," memory Franky summed up for all of them.
"I think that's the best way to describe this whole thing," current Usopp said knowingly.
"Even if you were able to get passed us and save her in some imaginary world," Fukuro called, "That Sea-Prism Stone is tougher than a diamond! She'll have to live with them on her wrists for the rest of her life!"
Robin shivered at the thought of never being able to use her arms again. The truth was, she knew that Fukuro was right—Sea-Prism Stone was harder than even diamond, so breaking them would've been near impossible. Living with those shackles would've been too painful for words.
"Nami?" Chopper suddenly asked, "Couldn't you have picked those locks?"
Nami thought that over as their past selves all gasped softly at the new information. "Hard to say for sure," she said, "I mean, I can pick locks and safes, but I need to see the lock first. Sometimes it can take me a long time to pick them. And we were short on time… as well as missing Robin. No… I think it worked out well. The key got those shackles off in no time didn't they?"
"Yes," Robin answered, "To be honest, I'm surprised that they were the real thing. I was kinda thinking that they were fakes."
"Yeah, that crossed my mind too," Nami nodded, before she jerked her thumb at Zoro and added, "Until we found the key that unlocked the shackles to Zoro and Sniper King."
"Huh?" Brook asked in surprise.
"It's all stupid," Zoro said before he glared at Usopp who shrugged helplessly at that.
"Anyway, the point is there's no way they could've thought to have fake keys made up by the time we arrived," Sanji stated with a wave of his hand. "They needed to buy time and what better bait than the key?"
"Chapapa, why do I keep telling them this stuff?" Fukuro asked himself.
"He really is dumb isn't he?" memory Chopper asked them.
"I rather deal with a dumb agent than a smart one," Usopp whispered, feeling a little shame that out of all of the Straw Hats who had been at Enies Lobby, he was the only one who didn't take out one of the agents.
"So be my guest!" Fukuro challenged, "Go try to save her if you think you can! Chapapapa!"
"Fine!" Luffy yelled as he threw his arm back, "GIMME THAT KEY!" and he shot his arm out but Fukuro vanished just before Luffy's fist hit and broke through the wall.
"We were short on time, but we had to be careful, Luffy," current Chopper said, staring around for the agent.
"Guess all the CP9 guys can use that move," Luffy muttered angrily as he pulled his arm back.
No sooner were the words out of his mouth did Fukuro reappear, landing near the hole where they came bursting through with the Sea Train. "Don't be hasty!" he said cheerfully. "You don't know if this is the actual key I've got here!"
"WHAT?!" Brook screamed out in shock and he wasn't the only one.
"YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FREAKING KIDDING ME HERE!" they all yelled furiously at him, including Kokoro and Chimney at his words. But Fukuro seemed to be enjoying himself as he began to spin around happily in a dance and sang:
"It might be the key to another pair of cuffs, for all you know, Chapapapapa!
In this great tower of LLLLLLAAAAWWWWW!
There are five members of CP9 including me!"
And he began to jump up, using the Moon Walk in the air so that he was hovering right above them—with memory Franky dancing a little in the background.
"You mind telling me what the hell that was?" Usopp whispered to their Franky who shrugged in embarrassment.
"I thought it was catchy?" he offered before Fukuro finished up:
"And each and every member has their very own key,
So let's play a game of hide-n-seek!"
"So," past Zoro summed up for them all, "You're saying we have to beat each one of you guys and then try every key on her handcuffs and that's the only way we're gonna find the real one?!"
"It is actually clever," Brook said softly.
"You're not supposed to agree with them!" Nami retorted angrily. "Do you know how much trouble that was?!"
"What a stupid way to keep us busy," memory Sanji hissed, "While we waste time on your key-hunting game, your chief is gonna escape with Robin through those gates."
"That's exactly the plan!" he sang out before he added to himself almost angrily, "Ah, why can't I keep my mouth shut?!"
"Again! You've got a zipper on your mouth!" Usopp called, though he knew that they couldn't hear him, "Why not use it if it's such a problem?!"
"I say let him talk all he wants," Sanji disagreed. "It was good for us. He pretty much told us everything we needed to know."
"Retrieving Robin is our first priority!" memory Nami declared, drawing everyone's attention onto her. "If we focus on getting Robin back first, we can worry about getting the keys afterward. Let's just ignore that weirdo and start searching."
"Not the best thing I could've said," present-day Nami winced.
"Chapa? Chapapapa," Fukuro said, and he looked annoyed; you could almost see the words hanging over his head. "You've got some brains but I'm afraid if you do that, then you'll leave me with no choice! I'll toss this key into the ocean! Chapapapa!"
They all froze, knowing that this wasn't a bluff—he would've had no problems tossing that key away.
"We're kind enough to give you guys a sporting chance!" Fukuro said crossly. "See ya!" and then he took off, Moon Walking right out of there and disappearing somewhere into the tower.
"Hey! Get back here!" Luffy yelled, looking ready to fight everyone until memory Zoro grabbed his face to keep him from going after him.
"You know, they were kind, most wouldn't do something like that," Brook pointed out.
"I suppose," Chopper whispered, "But they were still jerks."
"I never said otherwise," Brook sighed. "Fighting them must've been very difficult."
"Hold on Luffy!" past Zoro yelled, as Luffy's stretched out but he continued to try and run in place, fighting to get free. "Would you just hold on a second?! Stop running and listen to me! Let's decide what we're gonna do before we split up!"
"Shut up!" he called back, his voice slightly muffled, "Just let me go!"
Sniper King ran over to hold him back as well, telling him to get a hold of himself as the others all turned to each other to figure out what to do.
"I'm guessing Lucci's that pigeon guy?" memory Sanji asked Franky.
"Yeah," he admitted, folding his arms again and smiled grimly, "That's him."
"I never liked that guy," current Franky stated. "I never trusted anyone who let someone else do all the talking for him."
"Technically, he was talking the whole time, the pigeon was almost like a prop I guess," Robin offered.
"He never once moved his mouth!" Franky called out. "That's not normal!"
"From what that freak told us, he's the only one they got guarding Robin," past Sanji went on thoughtfully, "Our best bet would be to send Luffy after him." Both Zoro and Sniper King were having to fight to keep Luffy from running off, but they wouldn't be able to hold him back for much longer.
"Luffy?" past Sanji asked, "Since you're raring to go, you can go hunt down that pigeon guy."
It was hard to tell if he heard him or even understood, but he was running even harder and was just about to break lose, and he kept chanting at them to just let him go.
"You better hurry, Sanji," Usopp pointed out, remembering how it felt like his arms were about to get ripped off with the effort.
As if he heard him, memory Sanji turned back to the others. "Excluding Luffy, we got a headcount of six," he said, "He said that there's only five CP9 agents with keys. So I say we spread out, take them down, and then met up with Luffy."
"If memory serves me, I think it was the number 5 key that we needed to find," current Franky said as he thought it all over. "Who won that one?"
"That was me," Zoro said, feeling glad that he could do something that was sure to make the cook angry, "Typical that the strongest in the tower had it."
"Thank you, Zoro," Robin smiled at him.
And Zoro was right, Sanji looked ready to start bursting into flames over the fact that he couldn't be the one to win the right key. But that wasn't important anymore. Their past selves were all nodding in understanding as Sniper King said loudly, "If they drag her through those gates we'll never get her back! It's a race against time!"
"And we were wasting it by standing around talking," current Zoro commented as his past self finally let Luffy go, who ran Sniper King down and charged ahead with the others all splitting up and running off in different directions. Zoro heard his past self call out before they went running after Luffy, "Take 'em down or die trying!"
"Good luck!" they heard Chimney call happily as they went running up the stairs and watching how Luffy was now running around like a maniac around the tower.
"I forgot that this place was like a maze," Nami panted, "Finding anything here was such a pain!"
"Most of the rooms were empty anyway," Sanji growled as he remembered trying door after door only to come up empty. "Just a waste of space."
"It was made to intimidate the criminals who come through," Robin answered.
"They must have taken Robin this way!" Luffy panted to himself, "They couldn't have gotten ahead! I'm not gonna let them take you through the Gates of Justice, Robin!"
And they followed him. He went up flights of stairs, and down several of them, dashed across hallways, getting his head caught in strange places—it was a madhouse.
"QUIT HIDING FROM ME YOU PIGEON LOVING JERK!" he screamed out in frustration as he kept going up, "COME OUT!"
"If he isn't angry enough to fight Lucci before, he will be now!" Chopper panted, his tongue rolling out of his head as he was struggling to keep up, "Why… do we always… have to run though?"
"Well, we didn't have time to just walk," Sanji offered before they finally found their way up to the top of the tower and were in the room that led to the balcony. It had to be because they could see the giant holes in the window.
"How did you get out there anyway, Franky?" Usopp gasped for breath, glad for a chance to be able to rest.
Robin chuckled to herself, though disgusting, it was funny. Franky looked ready to tell them the whole story before Luffy started speaking again.
"Wow," he panted as he looked around, "Looks like I made it. Well, at least I hope so. I've had enough of these stairs." He ran further into the room. "ROBIN! HEY ROBIN! IT'S MEEEEE!" Getting frustrated, he ran to the balcony where she had been standing not long ago. He jumped up to the ledge and continued shouting, "Hello?!"
"He didn't honestly think that you'd still be there did he?" Sanji sighed.
"They couldn't have gotten too far though," Nami said, looking around, worried of where they were going to next. "He caught up to them soon enough didn't he?"
"If it wasn't for Lucci, he would've," Franky said. "He was waiting for him inside the tunnel."
"Tunnel?" Brook asked.
"Damn, too late!" Luffy said, glaring around. "Guess they left already. That jerk…" His eyes narrowed, clearly thinking of Lucci before he seemed to have an idea. "Oh, wait a second, that's right! It doesn't matter because I know where they're going. All I gotta do is head to the Gates of Justice and I'll catch up to them in no time!"
"Glad to see that he's using his brain, but where's the entrance again?!" Zoro said as Luffy jumped down through the window. The memory faded slightly for only a moment before they were back on the ground and behind the Tower—and they could see the Gates of Justice right in front of them. Luffy was standing at the edge of the water where they could see massive whirlpools swirling around violently, but no way across.
"No walkway?" Brook said, "I can't believe my eyes how big those whirlpools are! Oh! I don't have eyes. Yohohoho!"
"There's a secret passageway," Nami said, looking around, "But how did he…?"
But before she could finish, Luffy ran over to a small rowboat and jumped in.
"IS HE NUTS?!" Usopp yelled out, as Luffy began to row out, "HE'LL NEVER MAKE IT! AND IF HE FALLS IN, HE'S SCREWED!"
"Never knew you were a prophet," Zoro said sarcastically as the waves from the whirlpool splashed into the boat and before Luffy realized it, he was quickly sinking.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" Franky yelled.
"How does he get out of that?!" Nami cried out, staring around but not seeing anyone around. "He'll drown!"
No sooner were the words out of her mouth did the boat sink and he was now floundering in the sea. But thankfully, just when it was looking bad, a small crate off to their side burst open and Chimney and Gonbe burst out of the box happily.
"Where'd they come from?!" Brook cried out as they looked around excitedly before they spotted Luffy out in the water.
"Whoa! Are you ok, pirate guy?!" Chimney called, "You're not looking so good!"
"He's drowning! What do you think?!" Chopper cried out. But she took a running jump and dove into the water. She was obviously a very strong swimmer, going right through the water like an arrow and grabbed hold of him by the back of his shirt.
"Wow, she's good," Brook said impressed, "And she's so young too."
"It's in her blood," Nami said, sighing in relief, "Since Granny Kokoro is a mermaid."
Brook stopped as he thought that over, trying to register what he just heard. "What?" he asked, looking at her.
"Old Lady Kokoro… is a mermaid…" Franky muttered, "Remember? When mermaids turn thirty or something, they're legs split in two and they can live on land. Apparently Kokoro married a human and Chimney is a quarter mermaid."
Brook stared at him as he let his mind wander to the thought of seeing Kokoro as a mermaid. He screamed as the image he created.
"That was my reaction too," Usopp whispered. "I thought that it was a nightmare at first."
"And she saved all of our lives before this mess was over? Don't you dopes remember that?!" Nami demanded hotly. "We never would've made it out of there alive if she didn't bail us out!"
"I'm not saying we're not grateful," Sanji said, as he tried to shut that terrifying image away. "Just that we didn't see it coming…"
She glared at the boys before she looked away. What babies all of them.
Chimney pulled Luffy back to shore before she and Gonbe started to push hard on his chest to help get the water out.
"Geez," she said, as he started coughing and spluttering, "There was no way that little boat was gonna make it across there! Are you stupid or something?" and Gonbe chirped next to her in agreement.
"If even a little kid could see that, I don't see why he wasn't able to," Zoro hissed, running his hand through his hair in a frustrated way.
"He never thinks!" Sanji explained exasperatedly. "That's his biggest problem!"
With his eyes streaming and water coughed up, Luffy pushed himself to his feet, telling them that he had to hurry and get to the gates before it was too late. He turned to a cannon and they could see it in his face what he was going to do.
"There is no way that he would've made it if he tried to rocket himself over there!" Chopper cried out in panic. "He can fly far, but not that far!"
"Don't worry," Franky said as Chimney was crying out for him to wait and that they came to tell him that they found a way to get to the gates safely. That got Luffy's attention alright, but when he was distracted, his arms retracted and he ended up in the water again, so that they all sighed.
"Just let him drown next time," Sanji muttered darkly as Chimney jumped in and pulled him back out a second time. Once he recovered she led them over to the crate, and they looked down it, startled to see that it was actually hiding a set of stairs. Chimney and Gonbe led the way down it and through a secret door at the end of it to show another flight of stairs.
"I got a question," Usopp said, "How was it they were able to find this so quickly?"
"No idea," Franky said with a shrug. "Not that I'm complaining. If not for them, we never would've found the right way."
"What is this place?" Luffy asked her. "Some kind of basement?"
"It's an underground passage!" Chimney said happily. "This takes you under the ocean and over to the Gates of Justice!"
"Huh, is that so?" he asked, "Right!" and he was off, but he didn't get far before Chimney called after him that he didn't even know how to get there.
"Yes, good idea," Usopp said, knowing that Luffy was bound to get lost unless someone told him where to go. Luffy stopped and came back so that he pulled both of them on piggy-back and carried them down the stairs.
"She's something isn't she?" Brook said happily. "She's gonna make something of herself someday I bet!"
"Yeah, true enough," Nami laughed. "She's ready for just about anything and has fun doing it. I wonder how she's doing these days?"
"She's the new conductor of the station," Franky laughed. "I got a chance to meet Tom's brother Den back on Fishman Island and he stays in contact with Granny Kokoro. He let me know that they were all doing alright."
"Oh, good," Brook said happily. "So Den-san was your master's brother?"
"That's right," Franky said, as they made a sharp turn down the stairs and made a left. "Tom mentioned that he had a younger brother living at Fishman Island who was training to become a shipwright and I always wanted to meet him."
"Good for them," Robin said kindly.
"You're the awesomest for showing me this tunnel!" Luffy panted, "How'd you know about it anyway?"
Chimney laughed. "We caught Lucci going down the stairs with that noisy servant of his!" she said happily, "That guy was talking and laughing so much that he didn't notice we were behind them! Lucci and that black-haired pirate lady went through the secret doorway too!"
"I see," Robin said, nodding at the reminder. "Spandam spent the whole walk down to the Gates of Justice bragging and laughing. I'm not at all surprised that he was so wrapped up in himself he didn't notice anyone was following us."
"But you think that Lucci would've noticed though," Usopp pointed out.
"He did," Robin said softly.
"Wait, he knew?!" Chopper cried out, stumbling a little before he caught up with her. "Then why didn't he stop them?"
"Because I think that he wanted to fight Luffy," she answered calmly, "He said so himself that he let them go after they followed us to the door."
"Because the rest of CP9 was in the tower and having fun fighting, he didn't want to be left out," Zoro concluded. "If he's as blood-thirsty as you say he is, then it doesn't surprise me." If it had been him, he'd probably do the same thing. To see just how far these guys were willing to go to reach their goals. He hoped that Lucci was as cocky and arrogant as Blueno was though. Because fighting him wasn't going to be nearly as easy for Luffy to fight as that Bull.
They ran on for a few more minutes before they finally reached a large door, tall as the room and made of a thick steel, and bolted shut.
"So this is it huh?" he hit it with his fists, "Man, this door is pretty thick." He looked to Chimney and asked if she knew how to open it. She walked over to a control panel next to the door and told them that she saw them mess with the controls here, but realized that they needed a key to get it to work. But Luffy wasn't deterred, instead he cracked his knuckled together. "Alright," he warned, "Stand back!"
"Oh, here we go," Sanji said knowingly, ready to watch him go to town on that door.
"Why?" Chimney asked curiously as he readied himself, "What are you gonna do?"
"This is the way we need to go to get there right?" he asked as she suddenly looked nervous. She nodded before the two of them backed away and Luffy bit down on his thumb. "THIRD GEAR!"
He then took a deep breath and blew air into his arm, making it grow at an unnatural rate so that it was ten times his size. With a wild grin on his face, Luffy threw his arm back and slammed his fist into the door so hard that it crumbled and broke as if it were made of cardboard instead of solid steel.
"Cool," Franky whispered with a grin on his face as the door burst apart and smoke filled the room.
"Simply amazing!" Brook cried out, his face practically full of sparkles at the sight of it. "He's so strong it makes my heart go all aflutter! Not that I have a heart anymore! Yohohoho!"
"I can't believe that he never thought of doing something like this before," Usopp stated, "He blows his belly up all the time. You think that he would've thought it over a long time ago?"
"Sometimes it takes a little inspiration," Robin said comfortably as she tried to see through the smoke. "After all, it can take years to master your powers perfectly."
"Yohohoho, that's true," Brook said cheerfully as he looked at his boney hands. "After all, I had the potential to use these powers for over fifty years and I never even knew!"
"It's open," they heard Chimney whisper and by the time the smoke finally cleared, they could see Luffy down to his child-sized form.
"I forgot that used to happen to him," Nami said with a sigh, as the others laughed. Though he does look cute like that, she could never take him seriously when he looks like that.
"It doesn't happen anymore does it?" Franky asked as he snorted with laughter. "I mean, he using his Gears a lot more often but the side effects aren't anywhere near as bad."
"We really owe Rayleigh for whatever he taught Luffy over the last two years," Sanji stated with a shrug.
"Alright!" Luffy said in a squeaky voice that caused another round of laughter, "Time to head out!"
"NO WAY!" Chimney screamed as she and Gonbe freaked out at the sight of him. "HOW'D YOU MAKE YOURSELF ALL TINY?!"
Luffy ignored her as he headed right down the path as if he had this planned out. Still chuckling to themselves they walked after him, even though he was running, his tiny legs made it so that he couldn't go very fast.
"You sure are funny Mr. Pirate guy!" they heard Chimney call after him.
It was just a short time though before Luffy began to grow, like watching grow up all at once and soon he was back to his normal size. "Alright!" he cried out, "Back to normal! Hold on, Robin!" he breathed hard, "Stupid pigeon guy! I can't wait to kick your ass!"
"I have to say that I'm looking forward to it too," Sanji said firmly. "Screw this whole tower, it was a nightmare running around."
"Speaking of which," Brook asked, "What about all of you? You were alright weren't you?"
"Well," Nami answered, "We all split up and were running around the tower looking for the agents. If you think this place is big on the outside, it's even bigger on the inside! It was so annoying trying to find anyone!"
"It didn't take me long to find Kaku," Zoro grinned.
"You probably got lucky," Sanji said firmly, "That's all you're good for!"
"Not at all," Zoro said with an evil grin, "My swords were thirsty… for the taste of blood. And they led me right to him."
Chopper and Usopp both turned white at his words and the wicked look on his face and ran a little faster to put some distance between them and him.
"Psycho swordsmen aside," Nami sighed. "I've always wondered just what happened to everyone in that place." She looked to Robin, "Why don't we start with you Robin? What happened after you were taken from us?"
Robin sighed, but she did explain about how Spandam dragged her off to the Gates of Justice through this very tunnel, but before that, he told the other agents that they had permission to kill all the others. Scared that they would catch up to him though, he made Lucci come with them to protect him.
"I don't get it, if he's so weak, how come he can boss that pigeon guy around?" Chopper gasped.
"Lucci does whatever the Government tells him," Robin answered, "And thanks to his father's connections, Spandam was made the leader of CP9, and so Lucci does what he tells him. Though if what I heard about him is right, then that might not be such a good thing anymore."
"What do you mean?" Zoro asked her in confusion but she shook her head.
"Later," she said, "I think its better when I tell you what I know about them after this is over."
"What about that weird sword of his?" Franky said, thinking back, "It turned into an Elephant, right?"
"An elephant who ate a Devil Fruit?" Chopper asked.
"Funkfreed," Robin answered. "And no, according to Spandam, it's the other way around. He claimed that it was once a sword that ate the Elephant Elephant Fruit."
"Like when that Mr. 4 and that mole woman said a gun ate a Devil Fruit!" Usopp said, thinking bitterly of that thing. "I still don't get how that's possible! How can an object eat a Devil Fruit when it doesn't have a mouth?!"
"No idea," Robin confessed. "It's something that you'd have to ask Dr. Vegnapunk."
"Well," Franky said, pointing a thumb at himself, "I was stuck looking for the kitchen!" And he told them about how he used up almost all his cola supply and was trying to find some to refuel. But when he finally found the stupid place, he ended up running into that Fukuro bastard.
"Rotten luck," Nami panted as she also added that she met up with that Kumadori guy in a part of the tower that looked like a dungeon. But he was so loud and annoying, barely able to speak in long, drawn-out sentences. She was easily able to steal the key off him without him noticing—but the real problem was that he kept chasing after her before Chopper came to her rescue.
"Did you, Chopper? Not bad," Zoro said as Chopper blushed and rubbed the back of his head.
"It wasn't anything special, and just for telling me that that, it won't make me happy, so don't bother!" he cried out, that big grin on his face and almost skipping along.
"And you, Zoro-san?" Brook asked curiously.
"Like I said before," he said, "I found Kaku easily enough in some kind of study." And he told them that Kaku claimed to be the best swordsman in CP9 so it only made sense that the two of them fought. But what really surprised him was that Kaku used a four-sword style by using two swords and his legs with the Tempest Kick. They were having a real fight before the idiot transformed into a giraffe. But the weight was too much and they ended up crashing right through the floor.
"I'm actually impressed," Robin said, "After all, he only had eaten a Devil Fruit shortly before you all came bursting inside but he was able to get control of it. Kalifa also had one as well—I guess that it was their reward for their successful mission. But I suppose that it would be difficult for him to have complete control over it right away."
"Hmm," Nami said, "Kalifa sure seemed to have control over her powers."
"Yes, but that's had to say for sure," Robin agreed.
"Oh, so that's what happened," Usopp whispered before he cleared his throat and said that Sniper King told him how he was fighting with Jabra, who transformed into a wolf, and the ceiling broke apart and the two of them crashed through.
"Really?" Chopper asked. "I remember that! I saw Sniper King and Zoro running from them!"
"You were running?" Brook asked in surprise.
"Hey now, it's not my fault," Zoro said bitterly before he gave Usopp a hard hit on the head.
"OW! What was that for?!" Usopp yelled out angrily.
"Since Sniper King isn't here, you'll have to do!" Zoro retorted angrily. He then snarled to the others that how ridiculous Kaku looked, everyone was distracted and when Sniper King tried to help, he ended up making things worse by accidently cuffing him with some Sea-Prism Stone cuffs because his aim was ruined when he laughing at Kaku. And because he was so annoyed that everyone was laughing at him, Kaku lost his temper and used his Tempest Kick to slice right through him toward in half.
"So he was the one who did that?" Nami asked, remembering seeing the damage.
"Amazing!" Brook said in awe, "He was really able to cut right through the tower?!"
"Don't sound so impressed!" Zoro said in annoyance. "I went to help Sniper King and when we knocked together, he got cuffed with the other half of the shackles!"
"Oh, so it was Sniper King's fault it happened," Nami said darkly, giving Usopp a hard look.
"Hey!" Usopp exclaimed, "Sniper King told me that he was just trying to cuff the Devil Fruit users with those things! If it had worked, then you'd be able to take them out no problem, Zoro!"
"I didn't need them to be handicapped to beat them," Zoro said in annoyance. "That comes off as cheap if you ask me."
Usopp stopped and looked away embarrassed before Zoro went on about how they found out that the keys and the cuffs were all numbered so that they knew which pair went together. And the cuffs that they had on, needed the number 2 key, which—naturally—Kaku or the wolf Jabra didn't have.
"That's just our luck isn't it?" Usopp sighed, now really growing tired of running.
Chopper spoke up, telling them that he went wandering around the tower for a long time but never found anyone until he saw Zoro and Sniper King running from the two of them and they told him to find the right key. After that, he helped Nami from Kumadori, who had her trapped in his hair.
"His hair?" Sanji repeated, sounding lost.
"I've read about it before," Chopper explained as Luffy let out several grumbles of frustration of how long this tunnel was. "It's called Bio Feedback. Or something like that. It means that you can control every single part of your body, like he was able to control his hair and move it around like an octopus."
"Sounds weird," Sanji muttered.
"Anyway, I led him to the kitchens and locked him up in the fridge," Chopper finished up.
"And ran into me and that Chapapa weirdo fighting," Franky said, looking annoyed all of a sudden. "I remember that! You kept giving me all that stupid stuff to drink! I told you it was cola only!"
"I thought that you were just really thirsty," Chopper giggled a little as he thought back and wondering if he could see what would happen if he sipped him other drinks.
"Don't look at me like you're gonna slip me something later just to see what would happen antler head!" Franky snapped at him.
"What were you doing, cook?" Zoro demanded Sanji. "Normally you like bragging about the guys you beat."
"Oh, like you're one to talk, Moss Head!" he shot back.
"He picked the wrong door and ended up running into Kalifa and beaten to a pulp," Nami said in annoyance.
"What?" Zoro groaned out, knowing that was the worst match-up for the Prince Nosebleed.
"Hey! It's not that simple!" Sanji said quickly.
"Yeah?" Zoro demanded, "And what were you doing up there? Drinking tea with her?"
"No!" he countered, though he was fighting not to turn red. It was true after all—but it wasn't his fault. She put a spell on him, he was sure of that! There was something in the tea… that had to be it.
"Anyway," Nami said rolling her eyes, "Sanji can't bring himself to hit her because she was a woman and paid dearly for his chivalry by getting a beating, turned into a kinda rubbery doll and then thrown down the tower."
"Say what?!" Usopp cried out, stumbling a little. "Turned into a doll?!"
"She ate the Bubble Bubble Fruit," Nami explained, "In other words, she could create Bubbles from her body which weaken enemies, can harden into soap, or transmute your body into a kind of doll."
"That's stupid," Usopp whispered as he thought that all over.
"It's not important!" Sanji snapped at him so hard that Usopp shut up at once.
"Ok," Franky said, not sure he liked the 'I will kill you look' on Sanji's face, "Moving on…" He cleared his throat and quickly told them how he had run out of fuel and Chopper's first Rumble Ball wore off so after he locked him in the fridge, they joined forces to fight. And after a few slip-ups, he threw some cola to him, and he was able to punch Fukuro right out of the building.
"That was so awesome, Franky," Chopper said, his eyes bright. "You knocked him right through those walls like it was nothing!"
Franky grinned as he pressed his nose down and created his old, shark-fin hairstyle. "It was nothing for someone as SUPER as me! And taking out that Chapapa idiot was easy after that. He tried to knock me over the falls, but I took him out with a little 'Coup De Vent' cannon before I got the key. It was nothing!"
"At least you were doing something helpful," Nami said, a dark look at Zoro and Usopp. "At least he wasn't handcuffed!"
"I thought that my new sword worked out well," Zoro smirked.
"New sword?" Brook asked in confusion.
"Yeah," Usopp hissed, a muscle going in his head, "He used me—I mean Sniper King as his new sword! He used him as a weapon instead!"
"You rather that we played rock-paper-scissors instead?" he asked him in annoyance.
"No," Usopp whispered fearfully.
"How is playing rock-paper-scissors a bad thing?" Chopper asked curious.
"Whoever lost had to chop his own hand off," Zoro answered a rather sinister look on his face and Chopper and Brook screamed in fear at the sight of it.
"What took you so long, Chopper?" Usopp demanded hotly at that, remembering the terror that went through him. If CP9 didn't kill him, than Zoro was sure to do so!
Chopper looked down at his running feet and told them numbly that he didn't remember too much that happened. "See, while Franky was fighting, that hair guy came out of the fridge by eating his way out and I was forced to eat another Rumble Ball to try and fight him. I used my first Rumble Ball too soon."
"Too soon?" Brook repeated in confusion. "You mean you can't keep taking them?"
"No!" Chopper cried out firmly. "See… eating two Rumble Balls like that, in those days made it really difficult for me to transform! Not even I knew which of my forms I would appear in next. I had no control and because of that, I got beaten bad. Even my strongest attack couldn't beat him." He sighed and told them all shamefully, "The only choice I had left was to eat a third Rumble Ball and use my Monster Point but I blacked out after that. I don't remember anything."
"And that's why you went around the island and destroyed everything in sight," Franky muttered in understanding. Well, he could forgive the little guy for doing that. If it had been him, he probably would've done the same thing.
"I see, a hard choice for you to make, Chopper-san," Brook said softly.
"But you did it! You crushed Kumadori and threw him across the island!" Franky pointed out. "You took that bastard out!"
Before the rest of them could say anything else, Luffy was letting out a roar of frustration. "ROBIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN!" he screamed out at the top of his lungs.
At the sound of him screaming her name, his voice echoing off the walls, Robin smiled once again. She knew that she hadn't heard things when she was forced to walk down this tunnel. But at that, she also remembered seeing the twisted look of excitement on Lucci's face when he also heard it. She realized that it was true, Lucci wanted to fight Luffy again. Whether it was to see how far Luffy would be able to go, or simply to satisfy his bloodlust, she didn't know; but that was the reason he let Chimney and Gonbe go.
After that, just over a minute later, they finally came to what they thought was a dead end at first. But when they got closer, they realized that it was a large doorway blocking the path.
"A door?" Luffy panted when he saw it, "Well, at least it doesn't look like it's made of iron this time."
Franky chuckled, knowing exactly what he must've done and he was right. With another battle cry, Luffy put on an extra burst of speed and kicked the door in; he hit it with such force that they went flying through it with a crash, knocking the door clean off its hinges.
"Yohohoho! No one can beat you when it comes to making a grand entrance!" Brook said proudly as they went dashing through the doorway. The first thing in it was that they were in a large room that was filled with crates—obviously some kind of storage area—and with a familiar figure sitting up on one of the crates with his pigeon on his shoulder.
At the site of him, there was a chill going through each one of them when they saw his cold, merciless eyes. But what really set them off was the dark smile on his face, like how a monster cat would look when it spotted its prey.
As soon as Luffy saw him, his eyes narrowed and he gritted his teeth. "I FOUND YOU, PIGEON BASTARD!"
"I still don't know if that's a good thing," Usopp whispered as Chopper nodded firmly by his side. Lucci tilted his hat up, and smirked down at him in amusement.
"Glad you could make it," he said, and they could hear traces of a purr in his voice, the murderous look in his eyes appeared to be even more sinister.
"He's giving me the creeps," Nami whispered, hoping that Luffy knew what he was doing here. Lucci calmly jumped from the crate and stepped lightly onto the floor opposite of Luffy.
"I must admit," he answered, and there was a little more respect in his voice than there had been before. "I underestimated you. I never imagined you could've made it this far. And by yourself no less."
"What are the rest of us?" Sanji demanded, "Chopped liver?"
"Who says I'm by myself?" Luffy answered and Sanji felt more appreciative at that; however Lucci looked curious to Luffy's words.
"I couldn't have made it here without my friends," Luffy answered, "And even if I could, I wouldn't want to. But you wouldn't understand that because all you people think about are yourselves!"
"You tell him, Luffy!" Chopper cheered.
"Again, you could take a humility lesson or two from him, Usopp," Sanji offered.
"What?" Usopp demanded, "I'll have you know that no one is more humble than me!"
"You just proved our point, Usopp," Zoro pointed out.
Just then, Lucci pulled out a baby Transponder Snail from his pocket and they saw that it was ringing. "I hope you can excuse me for a moment," he added, "This won't take long."
He turned to his side and looked directly at the snail as they heard the voice on the other end yelling, "Hello? Hello!"
"What is it, chief?" a female voice answered, and they knew that it was Kalifa.
"Oh, now I get through," Spandam said in irritation, "This was the one I was trying to use! Not that it matters anymore, there's no turning back now. I pushed the button! Of all things!?"
"What did he do?" Brook asked, though he had a horrible guess in mind.
"I triggered the Buster Call!" Spandam shouted in annoyance.
"That idiot pulled out the Golden Transponder Snail and pressed the button by accident," Robin whispered with disgust in her voice. "And he refused to call it off because he didn't want to admit that he pushed it."
"What a dumbass," Zoro said rolling his eye. And he wasn't the only one who was looking annoyed, Lucci looked very much the same way. But he didn't say anything as they continued to listen.
They heard memory Robin's voice yelling as well, "You have to cancel it right away! Don't you realize what you've done!? Stop it immediately!"
"Hey, that's Robin's voice!" Luffy said in surprise, with Lucci still ignoring him.
Memory Robin's voice continued on screaming, "Everyone is going to die!"
"Everyone?" Brook gulped at the thought.
"Cancel it? Pah! Are you kidding?!" Spandam demanded with a taunting laugh before he said, "Who the hell do you think you're talking to!? You can't boss me around!"
"I'm sure I could if I ever get my hands on him," Sanji snarled, punching his fists together.
They heard Spandam laughing again. "And so what? I mean, what's wrong with the Buster Call anyway? There's no reason for me to get worked up over this. Making that call was well within my power! I am the chief of Cipher Pol Number Nine after all, to ensure that your transfer goes over smoothly, I requested a Buster Call! There's not a thing wrong with that!"
"You wouldn't be saying that if you were still on the island," current Robin said, shutting her eyes and hearing the sounds of cannons from her memories that made her insides freeze.
"Who cares if it's a little overkill?" Spandam asked, "Better safe than sorry… it's a small price to pay to make sure those pirates get eliminated!"
"Small price?!" Chopper screamed out in outrage. "He's gonna kill all the other soldiers and people on the island! And there are a lot more of them than us!"
"That, my friends, is how Absolute Justice rolls," Franky said furiously, "They don't give a damn how many people die in order to get what they want."
"But that's beyond cruel!" Brook gasped out.
"Unfortunately, he's right," Robin said sadly, opening her eyes. "Willing to destroy whatever they consider to be evil. Pirates, in their eyes, are all evil to the core. And therefore, they must die. That is how they think."
"Like their methods are any better!" Nami said angrily. "I mean, they can be just as bad, or even worse, than any criminal!"
"This is their mindset," Robin sighed. "Listen and I'm sure that he'll be more than happy to go into full detail about it."
Her past self was yelling, sounding close to screaming, as she cried out, "You're a fool. I told you before! That won't be the end of it! This is an attack without mercy! Without humanity! The Buster Call with burn everything on Enies Lobby to the ground! The people, the buildings, even the island itself! It will sacrifice anything and everything in its path! The nightmare won't end until nothing remains! That's the power you're invoking! If you had any idea what happened to Ohara years ago, you would not be doing this!"
"Was it really that horrible, Robin?" Usopp gulped at the thought. Robin was tough as nails. She had faced all sorts of enemies during their time together and she never flinched. The thought of the Buster Call when it destroyed her home… then he shook his head. Yeah, thinking about it, if he saw his home island and everyone who lived there killed…? That would mess with his head. He almost lost it once before didn't he? When Kuro and his men came to the island?
"I prefer not to remember that day," she said darkly. No one dared to say anything else as they heard Spandam's voice going on, practically bursting with laughter.
"The government is well-aware of the sacrifices involved," he bragged on, "That's how important this mission is! Since Cutty Flam burned the blueprints for Pluton, we can't afford to make a mistake!"
"Please, they've made their big mistake by taking Robin in the first place, and their second mistake by underestimating all of us," Sanji stated. "They've already lost here."
"You're the last hope we have for reviving the ancient weapons!" Spandam cried out, "We're talking about a whole military power that can turn this whole era upside down!"
"A future with him in charge is not what I have planned," Franky said, fully understanding why Tom and all the other shipwrights who carried the blueprints all these years, kept them hidden. If they fell into the hands of a power-hungry dumbass like Spanda, then the world is screwed.
"Even if we have to sacrifice a few thousand soldiers, it's better than letting you slip out of our hands again! I know the consequences, I just don't care!" Spandam laughed hysterically.
"He's mad," Brook said as Chopper and Robin nodded with anger in their eyes.
"He is, and I should know," Franky growled, "He framed Tom years ago. And it was because of that, that he was sent to Impel Down."
"He did what?!" Nami yelled in shock. They all stared at him as he glared at the Transponder Snail, having the urge to break that bastard's face in all over again.
"Don't think of it as murder, it's a sacrifice to protect the future," Spandam said, "And speaking of protecting the future, my promotion is depending on this as well."
"Murder is still murder," Zoro said darkly as they all felt rage going through them. His damn promotion means more to him than every single person on this island? What scum.
"Think about this! Human lives are at stake!" memory Robin screamed desperately.
"Allow me to remind you, CP9 can kill in the name of justice," Spandam stated smugly. "Therefore, if we think one hundred deaths are needed to save one thousand lives, then we will kill those one hundred people without question."
Brook's hands clinched tightly on his cane. He remembered fighting that Ray Fishman during their trip to Fishman Island and how he was killing his own men. He couldn't stand people like him! Like he said before, he couldn't even stand the smell of them! Not that he had a nose! But he was too angry to make a skull joke to it.
"Absolute Justice has been known to drive a person to madness," Robin said, remembering the words that Aokiji once said to her when he decided to let her go that hellish day. He spoke the truth back then however. She just wished she knew what went on in that man's head sometimes.
As for Rob Lucci, his own eyes were narrowed, probably preferring other methods to end this fighting rather than risk destroying them along with everyone else.
"For true justice, you must be merciless sometimes," Spandam continued to brag on.
"Well, you're a heartless, soulless bastard who can't do anything on his own without wetting himself," Franky said rolling his eyes. God, he hated this guy.
"Besides, if those idiot soldiers couldn't even stop a few pirates from invading a government base of this size, then they're better off dead anyway!" Spandam laughed again.
"I can see why they put him in charge," Robin said darkly, "They want someone with such an ugly soul who doesn't mind doing anything to get the job done. I'll be very surprise though if they still let him stay in the Marines after he said all that."
"What do you mean?" Brook asked before memory Robin's voice asked, "I think the line is still connected on your Transponder Snail."
"Huh?" he asked.
"You mean that thing was connected the whole time and he never realized it?" Brook asked as Franky roared with laughter at how dumb this guy was.
"And not only that," Robin said, "But the entire island, everyone on it, heard every word."
There was a long silence from the other end before Spandam screamed out, "OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FREAKING KIDDING ME!"
They all had deadpanned expressions and some of them slapped their own foreheads in exasperation.
"Idiot doesn't begin to describe this guy," Zoro said, one of the people who had smacked his face. Seriously, what was the government thinking putting that moron in charge?
"EVERYONE HEARD ALL OF THAT!?" Spandam continued to scream.
"What did you think?" Nami demanded, wanting to just slap this guy. "If you had the Snail in your hands and was talking, what did you think would happen?"
They could all hear Spandam clearing his throat before he said jerkily, "Ah… by the way… this is Straw Hat Luffy speaking by the way!"
"That has got to be the most pathetic thing I've ever heard," Sanji said as some of the crew fell over when they heard that.
"He doesn't think that anyone with even half a brain to believe that does he?" Nami asked loudly.
"Well, he doesn't even have half a brain now does he?" Sanji asked as the others were so taken aback by this guy's stupidity that they couldn't think of anything to say.
"EVERYONE GET OF THE ISLAND! HURRY!" memory Robin's voice screamed, "A BUSTER CALL HAS BEEN INVOKED ON ENIES LOBBY! IF YOU DON'T GET AWAY FROM HERE IMMIDATELY YOU'LL DIE!"
"I'm surprised that you warned them," Zoro whispered to their Robin, "Considering how much you hate the World Government."
"A Buster Call is something that I wouldn't wish on anyone," she said simply. "I didn't think they should die because of someone like Spandam."
"Fair enough," Zoro commented as he thought it all over. "Decent thing you did though. It probably saved all those people."
She smiled, a part of her wondering if by doing that, had helped to make up for all the terrible things she had been forced to do over the years. She sighed as she thought back. She had dark memories that haunted her mind, memories that she wished she could just erase from her mind—she had done a lot of things that might never be forgiven. But at least this act helped to ease some of that crushing guilt.
"Hey! Don't tell them things they don't need to know!" Spandam suddenly screamed out and the Transponder Snail fell asleep after they heard Robin's cry of pain from the other end.
"You mean to tell me that bastard hit you, Robin?!" Sanji demanded, his body now practically in flames.
"Pretty much," Robin answered, "But his punches didn't hurt me at all." And it was true. His Elephant sword did most of the physical damage… and his words hurt a hundred times worse than any punch or kick he gave her.
"I've said it before," Usopp sighed, "Luffy was probably born under an unlucky sign to have luck like this." He glanced at Zoro and saw the interested look on his face, like he was having the time of his life fighting against super powered assassins before the entire island went up in flames, before he added, "But on the other hand, he probably likes it this way."
"What's not to like?" Zoro asked, "No sense in crying over anything you can't change."
"You two were practically made for each other," Nami sighed, a hand to her head as if she had a headache. "I swear, you both have like the same mindset."
"Hey, wait a second!?" Luffy said at once, still glaring at Lucci, who still stood there with his eyes closed, as if he was fighting a headache now from dealing with having such a shitty chief. "If that was Robin talking, where is she?!"
"Right behind these doors of course," Lucci answered casually, still not bothering to look at him. His pigeon Hattori took off and fluttered out of harm's way before Lucci finally turned to look at him, his expression cold and merciless as before. But Luffy had already charged, trying to aim a kick at him, which Lucci blocked with his elbow.
'You better be careful here, captain,' Zoro thought worriedly. 'He's no ordinary opponent. A simple trick isn't gonna beat him.'
"As you seem to have surmised, you'll have to go through me first," Lucci stated as Luffy moved back slightly before he aimed a punch for Lucci's stomach, which he didn't even flinch at. The worst that it did, was cause Lucci's top head to go flying off.
"I don't like this already," Usopp said nervously. "Luffy's fought some tough battles before, but Lucci's a real monster."
"It's not like he can run though," Franky declared quickly. "He's the only one of us who even has a chance of being able to match him in strength, if he doesn't fight him here, then that bastard will come after all of us."
"I get now why he wasn't able to get to the Gates of Justice when we saw them opening," Nami said worriedly.
"He's no joke," Franky said, still wincing at the memory of when his stomach was punched by that leopard. "And he can't even use his Gears or anything to get past him with how bad the side effects are…"
"He has to fight and hopefully wear him down with his strength and endurance alone before he goes for the finisher with his Gears," Sanji said firmly. "That's really the only chance he has."
"Not only is he strong, but Lucci still had his Devil Fruit!" Chopper gulped, fearful of seeing that guy in his leopard form again. "I treated Luffy after that fight, and I don't think I've ever seen him push himself so far through physical force like this!"
"I hate to see how strong Lucci has gotten if he survived Enies Lobby," Zoro stated, thinking it over. The two were going at it, seemingly evenly matched. The two tried to punch each other at the same time, their fists clashing together, creating a shockwave so strong that they could all feel it. In fact, it was so powerful that all the crates around them shattered into pieces and they were both sent flying backwards and crashed into the damaged crates.
"The fight barely started and already it's scaring me," Brook gulped, feeling that man's strength made him feel a little lightheaded. If he had been fighting him himself, he'd be a pile of bones on the floor.
"We're in for one hell of a show," Franky said knowingly.
After pulling himself from the rubble, Luffy glared at Lucci. "Outta my way!" he said venomously. "I'm not gonna let you keep me from Robin any longer!"
"Say what you like," Lucci said, looking amused by that last attack. "This is the end. You'll never see her again."
"You wanna bet on that?" Sanji yelled.
"You beat him, Luffy!" Chopper cheered on. "Take him out!"
"I made a promise," Luffy declared firmly, "And I'm not gonna break it! I'm coming for you, Robin!"
Though she felt a sting of guilt inside over everything that has happened, knowing that it had been all her fault, Robin couldn't help but feel as though she had drunk a cup of Sanji's famous hot chocolate. Warm and full inside.
The battle had become a stare down. Both of them glaring at each other, waiting to see who would make the first move. Luffy cracked his fingers, stretching out like he did when he fought Blueno… and then he attacked. He ran at Lucci, surprising him when he grabbed him and threw him right over his head into a pile of crates that hadn't been smashed yet before he took his chance and ran to the door, calling Robin's name.
"He can't really think that's gonna work does he?!" Franky yelled.
"He's more focused on getting to Robin than actually fighting anyone," Zoro said knowingly. But Lucci was up, even taking the time to dust off his clothes before he shot forward. He was barely able to keep up with Lucci's movements, but saw how he shot forward to the door, and kicked Luffy back, sending him crashing this time.
Lucci then touched down, landing gently on his feet, as graceful as a cat, and not even glancing in Luffy's direction. Through the dust and smoke Luffy threw another large crate at him—with Lucci not even turning his head… only his eyes glancing to see what was flying at him.
But throwing the crate had all been a ruse. Luffy was right behind it and punched right through it, using his Gatling Gun as a way to try and take him by surprise. But as if he had Observation Haki, Lucci casually moved from side to side, missing each and every attack before he threw a punch this time and Luffy stopped his barrage of punches to hold up a leg and block it.
Their own fights with CP9 were tough, but there was something different about this one. They truly were evenly matched at this point—perhaps with Lucci as the stronger one. It was almost impossible for them to keep up, both of them fighting so hard and fast that even Sanji and Zoro were having a hard time seeing the whole thing. Every time one of them threw a punch or kick, the other would block it. At one point, Lucci did a hand stand like how Sanji would before he kicked Luffy so hard in the stomach that he was sent flying straight up and crashed hard into the ledge that led to a balcony above them, and then fell back with a painful smash to the floor.
"I think he's ripping you off, Sanji," Usopp said, wincing at that, knowing that if that had been him, he'd be either dead or writhing around in pain.
"Just another reason to hate this guy," he retorted angrily.
Luffy rolled to his feet, holding his stomach in pain as he glared at Lucci, who also got back to his feet. He was looking rather smug, lightly rubbing his thumb across his face, as if to tell Luffy that this fight wasn't even a challenge. Luffy charged again, this time throwing his arms back and used a Bazooka at him, which Lucci blocked with his leg before he kicked Luffy down into, yet, another crate.
"The nerve of him," Nami said angrily when she saw Lucci dusting his clothes off again.
"He can do that because he can!" Zoro said, though he was also feeling irritated at seeing how cocky Lucci was acting here. Luffy's arms were on either side of the crates next to him and he launched himself forward like a slingshot, punching rapidly all the while. Lucci just smirked before he moved elegantly out of the way as that Luffy spun around and their fists clashed once again.
Maybe this punch wasn't as powerful as the first, but Lucci was still able to kick Luffy back—neither one willing to give up. Never once losing the smile, Lucci just blocked each one of Luffy's punches with his own hands, moving so fast that it was as if they were blurred. Now almost roaring in frustration, Luffy tried to bite him.
"He didn't," Franky laughed.
"In a fight to the death, anything works," Sanji said darkly, and he was glad to see that smirk wiped off Lucci's face. Even though he was able to dodge it, there was a faint trail of blood flying from a cut on his cheek.
"Not acting so high and mighty now are you!" Usopp yelled, but at that moment, Lucci kicked Luffy hard in the face before he grabbed him by his shirt and threw him over his shoulder like he was a sack of flour.
"Or maybe not…" Usopp whispered, rubbing the back of his head. Lucci seemed slightly surprised by the fact that some of his blood was spilled. He reached up and brushed his thumb over the cut before he looked at the blood and tasted it.
"What is with him tasting blood?" Chopper gulped when he remembered the sicko when he tasted some of Luffy's blood back at the Galley-La mansion.
"He's sick in the head! That's why!" Usopp said firmly.
"Perhaps he was curious as to how his own blood tasted since I doubt that anyone's been able to spill it before," Zoro said. "Either case, that's not the important thing here."
Back and forth the battle went before Lucci finally kicked Luffy right towards the door, where he tried to make a wild grab for it. But of course Lucci appeared in front of him again and kicked him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him, before aiming a hard punch to the gut.
"He's not even able to keep up anymore!" Brook cried out anxiously, wishing that he could jump in to help.
"I thought we went over this," Sanji said loudly, "He's focusing on getting to Robin more than fighting Lucci, and it's really starting to take its toll."
Lucci just stood there with his hands in his pockets, waiting to see if he still had the guts to fight. Hattori, who had been fluttering around, landed on top of the rubble that Luffy was currently buried under. "The best chance that Luffy has right now, is to focus on fighting this guy and leave the rest to us," Zoro said, glancing at Franky. "You came after Luffy didn't you?"
"Yeah, and boy that was far from easy," Franky nodded, "After we got Chopper back to normal, Chimney showed me the tunnel and I just came through here. Lucci didn't want me to go through that door though, I'll tell you that."
Just then, Luffy burst through the wreckage, causing Hattori to take flight again. Their rubbery captain was crouch down like a wild animal as Lucci smirked. They were stuck in a complete stalemate.
"Damnit! I can't get through!" Luffy yelled in frustration, "Robin's waiting for me!"
"Just give it up," Lucci informed him, looking like he was enjoying this fight, "You'll never see your friend again. This is as far as you're gonna get."
Luffy growled in anger before he went and threw another punch, this time Lucci blocked it with his foot before he used his other leg to kick Luffy's chin upwards, and then kicking him so he flew backwards. But Luffy landed and ran forward with a Gatling Gun, however, he might as well tried punching the wind for all the good it did. They only saw slight flashes of Lucci almost dancing around to avoid the onslaught.
"That isn't going to work on me," he smiled evilly, grabbing his hands and pulling him backwards like a lasso and sent him knocking into the destroyed boards.
"That's what Eneru did! And he's not even using Haki!" Brook cried out as glared at Lucci from where he lay, spitting out blood.
"I hate to see what he could do if he could," Robin said nervously.
"Hasn't it sunk in yet?" Lucci asked, the purr back in his voice, "You can fight as hard as you possibly can, but I am not going to let you through those doors."
"No!" Luffy countered, "You're wrong! 'Cause no matter how hard you fight, I'm still gonna get past you!"
"You don't need to bro!" Franky yelled, punching the air. "Just hold him off for me and I'll take it all from there!"
"You're sure taking your sweet time to show up!" Nami called. Though, thinking about it now, she supposed that it would wouldn't it?
"I doubt that we'll ever agree on this," Lucci said irritably, "So that there is no sense in discussing it."
"And I don't have time for talking anyway!" Luffy yelled, throwing himself forward again. "GUM GUM GALTING!" But again, Lucci was sidestepping each hit, Luffy growing more and more irritated as he spun in the air. "Stamp!" he hollered, putting his foot down before he swung the other leg, "Whip!"
When Lucci moved, Luffy put his feet together. "SPEAR!"
But when he came flying at him, Lucci punched his gut once again and hit him into the ground so hard that he left a large crater there.
"Oww," Brook winced sympathetically.
"He sure knows how to take punishment," Franky said as Luffy popped out of the hole. On it went, neither one making any progress until they heard footsteps behind them and they all turned in time to see someone come bursting into the room from the tunnel.
It was Franky…
"Oh, good!" Chopper said in relief, "Now you can help!"
"Not that he'd let me," Franky said as his past self was looking around wildly. "But at least now I know how long it's been. That Fukuro and octopus-hair man have already been taken out."
"And so had Kalifa," Nami added quickly, "And we got the number 2 key to you guys, Zoro. So, Franky went on ahead to take the keys we won to Robin already."
"Which means that we should still be fighting the wolf and the giraffe back in the Tower right about now," Sanji nodded in understanding. "Glad that we're caught up with all that."
"And you must tell me more about what happened after this," Brook said firmly.
"Did I make it?!" memory Franky yelled before Luffy was slammed into the wall right next to him. Pulling himself out of it, roaring with anger, memory Franky yelled, "Whoa! Calm down, Straw Hat!"
At the voice, Luffy glanced up and rolled his eyes when he saw him. "Ah, Franky," he said in annoyance, "I've got enough jerks to deal with! Get lost!"
"What?!" memory Franky roared at him. "You mean to tell me you're still playing tough after all we've been through?! We're bro's now! Just deal with it!"
"Damn, after all this, he still holds a grudge?" Sanji said rubbing the side of his head.
"Well, you can't say that Franky doesn't deserve it," Zoro pointed out, "Since their fight was never decided, and that he did beat up a member of his crew at the time, Luffy takes it personally. But at the same time, he's got more important things to worry about than a stupid grudge."
"Well, he trusted me enough to let me help Robin out," Franky said as his past self noticed Lucci standing there.
"Lucci's huh?" he asked, as Lucci smirked once again. "He giving you a hard time or something? By the way I brought you two keys. I guess Robin's not here?" He held up arm, ready to fire, "Should I lend you a hand?"
"Even if he needed it, he wouldn't let you," Zoro said perceptively. "Getting involved in another's fight is something that he takes seriously."
And like he said, Luffy told him firmly, "No. Leave this guy to me. You should go after Robin." When memory Franky looked at him, Luffy added, "You can get to the Gates of Justice through the door behind that pigeon guy. Robin left a while back so we're running out of time. Keep going and don't look back!"
"Yes," Nami nodded, "And with Luffy having his hands full fighting the pigeon guy, that left you Franky."
"You couldn't have come at a better time," Robin added, looking at him as she smiled at the memory of how he had saved her from those bullets.
"I won't complain," Franky smirked darkly, a smirk that would make Lucci proud, "If I didn't, I never would've had the chance to kick Spanda's ass."
Past Franky grinned in understanding. "You can SUPER count on me, brother!"
"EAT THIS!" Luffy cried as he charged forward at Lucci with his Gatling Gun once more.
"Paper Art," Lucci said calmly as he headed forward, almost drifting to avoid the attacks. They collided again, with Luffy's fist being caught by Lucci's hand, and when Lucci tried to kick him, this time Luffy caught it with his other hand. Luffy sent a Pistol at him once he was freed, yet Lucci appeared behind him with his Shave technique so that he could aim another kick which Luffy blocked. But the next kick knocked Luffy down, who almost hit Franky when he was making a mad dash for the door, and tripped.
"Straw Hat!" Franky called worriedly, but he got back up and charged for the door again.
"Its strange hearing you call him, 'Straw Hat', instead of Luffy," Chopper couldn't help but speak up.
"Well, I hardly knew the guy back then," Franky admitted, "And the time that we did meet up back at Water 7, we were trying to kick each other's asses."
"Yohohoho, it's strange how this stuff works out," Brook said, but there wasn't much amusement in his voice. Meanwhile, Lucci was now going after Franky by kicking out several Tempest Kicks.
Franky tripped again, but the smile on Lucci's face faded when Franky came running out of the cloud of dust before he held up his left arm and fired at him. Of course, Lucci dodged it easily and Franky was skidding dangerously as Lucci appeared in front of him with his fist pulled back.
"No!" Usopp cried in panic, but Luffy rocketed in and blocked the attack by jumping between them.
"So that's what happened," Franky said as his past self seemed stunned to the whole thing. It all happened so fast, he was never completely sure what had happened. Luffy had tried to use a Bazooka on him again, and soon their hands were locked together, Luffy doing everything he could to hold him back.
"Hey you got him!" memory Franky said startled, before he held up his arm once again, ready to fire. "Good! Hold him right there and I'll blast him!"
"Yeah, looking at it now, I doubt that it would've done any good," current Franky nodded.
"He probably would've killed you," Robin offered casually.
"Geez, thanks for the vote of confidence, sis," Franky said, rolling his eyes.
"Forget it!" Luffy called, struggling to keep Lucci there. "I said I'd take care of him, right? Come on, go! Stick to the plan and leave this guy to me!"
"Get serious man!" past Franky called back, "This guy's too strong! We gotta work as a team on this one!"
"That's enough!" Luffy yelled, "This is my fight! Not yours! I can't lose to him! For the last time, you gotta get outta here and find Robin now! I'm counting on you! If you can't help her she's gone for good!"
A very strange expression washed over memory Franky's face, and the current one knew just what it was. He was remembering how desperate he had been to save Tom, how he had been taken away from them and how helpless he had been when he had been unable to do anything to help. He knew just what Luffy was going through at that moment, that desperate desire to do anything to save someone you care about.
"This is the only chance we're gonna get!" Luffy declared.
"Straw Hat…" past Franky whispered before he seemed to come to the conclusion of what needed to be done.
"Aww," Robin smiled, "You're like a crew member already."
"What can I say?" current Franky laughed with a shrug. "He can be very convincing. Damn, how does he do it?"
"I think we all ask that question," Nami laughed a little as she shook her head. Typical Luffy… risking his life for someone else. He sure puts on a strong front… but after all this how has he always managed to stay so light-hearted? She knew that even a few hundred years from now, people will always see this as a declaration of war… but at least they would all know that it was for the sake of a friend.
Well, he may be a pirate, but he's completely different from the rest. Why else would she want to come along with them?
"Ridiculous," Lucci said, finally breaking free from Luffy's grasp by kicking him once again, "You can't escape." He turned his attention back to Franky, but Luffy jumped up to his feet and wrapped his arms and legs around him several times to keep him from going anywhere—screaming at Franky to get going.
"Are you sure?" memory Franky asked worriedly.
"Of course I am!" Luffy yelled as Lucci struggled. "GOOOOOO!"
"Alright then," past Franky said in acceptance before he nodded. "Good luck!" he called as he headed straight for the door.
"Yeah! Once you save Robin then you can come back and help!" Brook called determined.
"And get us all killed?" Zoro asked, his eyebrows raised, "Were you not watching? If we had tried to get involved, who knows what would've happened?"
"I already told you," Lucci said as he jumped, turning backwards and using his Moon Walk to slam Luffy into the ground behind him and leaving another giant hole in the ground. With that, Luffy wasn't able to hold on any longer and forced to let go, which left Lucci ready to try and attack Franky once again.
"Oh, hell," Sanji cussed as he saw the familiar attack Lucci had when he held his finger up in the shape of a gun. But thankfully Luff stretched out his hand and grabbed his arm to stop him dead in his tracks.
"You better hurry up and leave Franky," Nami said anxiously.
"Believe me, I was trying," he answered, "But Lucci was the one who didn't want me to go!"
Luffy was still on his knees and gasping for breath. "Get back here," he looked up dangerously, "If you wanna fight, you fight with me." He then rushed forward with another kick, but the pigeon bastard blocked it with his forearm this time. Their captain tried to counterattack with a punch, but then Lucci appeared right at Luffy's side and thrust his finger into Luffy's chest.
"Have I ever mentioned how glad I am that Luffy's made of rubber?" Usopp said worriedly, seeing how Lucci's attack didn't do much good.
"No, but it's a lot more powerful than a normal bullet," Nami said, hoping that Luffy was feeling as creative as always.
Luffy glanced up and yelled, "I told you, that won't work!"
Now, Lucci most likely knew that. But he kept going anyway. He began to hit him rapidly with his finger, hitting him so hard with those multiple hits that they knew that if he hadn't been made of rubber, he'd so full of holes that he'd make a sponge jealous.
"Even without his Devil Fruit powers, he's so strong!" Brook cried out in shock.
"He's not normal," Sanji sighed, "I thought we settled that."
"Straw Hat!" memory Franky shouted, looking like he wanted to run over and help, but he stopped. "No, wait," he muttered to himself before he turned and ran for the door again, "I can't worry about him. My only concern is getting through those doors and fast!"
"I never realized how cold I sounded here," current Franky said.
"You were just following orders," Zoro commented, "It's one of his crazy whims. You get used to them eventually."
"Hey, I'm still not used to them," Franky laughed as his past self kept running, but Lucci stood in the way once again.
"Oh, come on!" Usopp yelled out. "Doesn't he know when to give up?! He's scaring me!"
"I guess not!" Nami cried out.
"It is no use," Lucci said forebodingly. "There's no way you'll ever get past me."
"We'll just have to see about that won't we?!" memory Franky yelled as he raised his arm. "STRONG…!" he began, but Lucci had already put up his 'Iron Body' before Franky finished, "HAMMER!"
But thought he hit him squarely in the gut, it didn't even make Lucci grimace. He just stood there tall, with his arms behind his back, the spot where Franky hit him smoked slightly, but other than that there was nothing.
"No way!" Chopper yelled in disbelief, his eyes budging out of his head, "He didn't even move!"
"Nope," current Franky muttered bitterly to himself. "That's how I knew how different he was from Fukuro. There's no contest."
"No way. He didn't even flinch?" his past self gasped, "That same punch sent that Chapapa freak flying."
"Ah, I see," Lucci said calmly, perhaps a little bit impressed by what he heard. "You defeated Fukuro along the way? Sorry to break it to you but my power level is five times his." He held up his hand at that, but none of them were completely sure what happened because it was so fast. But from what the two members of the Monster Trio saw, Lucci's hand had hit him a number of times, and so hard that he was coughing up blood and his eyes were threating to roll into the back of his head.
"I remember that," Franky muttered with a growl as Usopp, Brook, and Chopper yelled in fear. He rubbed his stomach and chest at the memory. "And most of my body's steel too."
"He was barely even trying though!" Usopp yelled. Seriously, how freaking strong was this guy to be able to do that to a cyborg? Why wasn't Luffy a pile of mush after all this?
"Oh, I'd love to face him again," Franky said darkly, itching to use a beam on that self-satisfied look on that jerk's face. Bad guys shouldn't be allowed to smile that much!
"You think you can beat him now?" Robin asked him curiously.
"I don't know," Franky confessed, "But I'm a hell of a lot stronger than I was here and it wouldn't hurt try."
"Actually, I think it would hurt you," Nami countered.
"Still, I'm impressed you defeated Fukuro," Lucci complimented as memory Franky coughed and bleed; Chopper wanted to run over and examine him already, he hated watching memories when he couldn't do anything. "Bringing down any agent of CP9 requires super human strength."
"Should I be flattered or not?" current Franky asked.
"He may be scum, but he at least respects those who are strong," Sanji said, having picking this up after watching him fight. "Not that that's enough to stop him from kicking your ass."
"No matter whose side you're on," Zoro said, "There's always a thrill of fighting a worthy foe, though Lucci's still not taking this whole fight seriously just yet. He still thinks that Luffy doesn't stand a chance."
"Well, don't complain," Nami said firmly. "Anything to keep Luffy from dying."
"Now, you die," Lucci said sinisterly as he moved in to kill. But at that moment, they heard Luffy's voice from behind them, "Gum Gum JET PISTOL!"
Something came flying at Lucci so fast and hard that he never saw it coming. He was hit directly in the face, and was knocked backwards so hard it was as if he had been shot out of a cannon.
"Oh yeah! I bet he felt that one!" Usopp cheered on as the others began to applaud at seeing that arrogant freak get what he had coming to him.
"What the hell!? What happened?!" memory Franky screamed, getting their attention. He was staring at Luffy with wide eyes, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. They all glanced back to see Luffy back on his feet, his skin glowing red and steam billowing out of him. "A-And what's with all that steam!?"
"That was one hell of a shock I'll tell you that," the current one said, shaking his head. "Never saw anything like it."
Luffy didn't look at him, still in his horse stance, one fist on the ground. "Second Gear," he said ominously. He slowly raised his head as Lucci was getting back up, a hand holding onto his face where he had punched him. He didn't appear to be in any real pain, but he looked ticked off here. He was done with playing around—that last attack seemed to just make things personal.
"I can't keep my body like this for long," Luffy warned memory Franky. "But I'll damn sure stop him, so go on ahead, and hurry! Robin's waiting!"
Past Franky still seemed to be in shock before he snapped out of it, remembering what was going on. "Right!" he yelled, holding up a hand, "You got it! I have no idea what you're doing, but keep it up and finish him!"
"Why do I get the feeling you just wanted to get out of there?" Sanji asked him, though he already seemed to know the answer to it.
"Hey, this was some freaky stuff," Franky reasoned. "Awesome… but freaky."
Memory Franky headed to the door again, but through the smoke, Lucci finally got serious by turning into his monstrous leopard form. It was bad enough to see it at the Galley-La mansion, but he was just as terrifying here as he was back then. Chopper, Brook, and Usopp all hugged each other as they stared up at him as Nami moved backwards to stand behind Zoro and Sanji. Even though they knew that Lucci wasn't really here, even though they knew they weren't in any real danger—seeing him standing there with his glowing red eyes made most of them feel a little sick with fear.
"I said you'll never get past me," Lucci growled like the beast he had become, or perhaps had always been. "Didn't I?"
"Yeah, but since when do pirates need to ask for permission to do anything?" Zoro demanded.
"AHHHH! ANOTHER GUY WITH DEVIL FRUIT POWERS?!" past Franky screamed in terror, and his current self was a little embarrassed at that. Not that he fully blamed him for it. His power level just hit the roof now.
"First, thing first. Time to die, Franky!" Lucci said evilly before he disappeared. Memory Franky and all of them were staring around, trying to find him, but Sanji and Zoro spotted him just above Franky—and Luffy obviously must've seen him too.
"JET WHIP!" Luffy yelled as he kicked Lucci, knocking him right into the wall.
Now growling in irritation, Lucci swiped at the air as he got up, and Luffy had landed. But it was here they noticed something was wrong with Luffy already, he was staggering a little, walking with almost a limp.
"This isn't good," Sanji said, biting his lower lip.
"Why?" Nami asked worriedly, "What's wrong?"
"Have you forgotten something?" Lucci asked, cutting off their conversation. "Back at the Galley-La building this was the form I was in to defeat you with a single blow."
'Oh, I sure as hell didn't forget that little trip,' Zoro thought to himself angrily, remembering how he was sent flying across the city and crashed into that roof.
"Yeah, sure," Luffy informed casually. "But I was real hungry that day."
"I bet he loved hearing that," Robin said, glancing at Lucci. And she was right… he was liking it just as much as she thought he would. His eyes narrowed and he disappeared again, to try and attack him with his clawed finger. Because it was sharp, they knew that this attack would finally do some real damage. But before he could strike, Luffy had vanished this time and appeared behind Lucci.
Lucci performed an Iron Body, yet it didn't do any good this time.
"JET BAZOOKA!" Luffy screamed. Luffy's attack was so strong that it went right through his defense and knocked him over for once.
"Now it's a real fight!" Usopp cheered, punching the air.
"Remarkable!" Brook whispered in awe, "My skin is covered in goosebumps! Ah! Not that I have skin anymore! Yohohoho!"
"Luffy doesn't need to worry about going after me anymore," Robin said, glad that their captain wouldn't have his attention divided anymore. "Now he can concentrate on fighting at full power."
In the confusion around them, memory Franky bolted, running straight to the door and finally reaching it.
"Franky!" Luffy shouted, looking back at him. "You gotta save her!"
He pushed the doors open and charged out of there. "JUST SUPER LEAVE IT TO ME!" memory Franky yelled in promise as he took off down the tunnel, and out of sight.
Lucci glared off after Franky, but didn't do anything else as he turned back to Luffy.
"Strange, you think that he'd be going after me," Franky muttered, thinking of how hard that he worked to keep anyone from reaching that door.
"I think that he's more interested in taking down the bigger threat and then kill you later," Robin answered.
"Again, thanks for the vote of confidence, Robin," he growled back at her.
"Robin will be fine. I know Franky can take care of her," Luffy said firmly, and he was grinning now, no longer having to worry about what was going on outside these walls.
"You bet!" Franky laughed confidently, thumping his chest with pride, "She was in safe hands with me!"
Lucci didn't say anything for a moment as he looked over him, seeing how tired Luffy was acting already. "Whatever you're doing seems to be taking its toll," he said, "What a shame. The fight was just getting interesting."
"I don't care what happens," Luffy answered, his eyes narrowing, "As long as I can beat you."
"But we all care, Luffy!" Chopper scolded, wanting to knock their thick-headed captain upside the head for not thinking more about his safety.
"I see," Lucci said in amusement, as if he could imagine anything funnier. "How stubborn." And without another word, he vanished into thin air.
"Bastard!" Luffy yelled as he also disappeared.
"I hate not being able to see anything!" Usopp yelled, gripping his hair in frustration, "It's like looking at an empty room with invisible people or something! You know they're there, but you can't see them! It's driving me crazy!"
"Then get to work learning Haki," Sanji offered, able to keep up with them both.
"Give me a break!" he yelled back at him, "It took even you guys two years to learn it! What hope do I have?!"
But though they couldn't all see what was going on, the room was still taking a beating. The attacks and just the after-effects of the fighting was tearing it apart. Zoro and Sanji were able to see Luffy hit Lucci with a Jet Whip, knocking him into the wall behind him—and causing the others the others to yell in shock at seeing him implanted in the wall seemingly out of nowhere.
Luffy suddenly reappeared as he landed, breathing hard, and looking worn-out as if he had been in the sea. Before they could really register what was going on, the room started to shake a little, as if there was some kind of avalanche going on outside. But Robin looked up, and felt a pang of fear inside her as she stared up, to a hole which led to an upper floor. These shockwaves were most likely the reverberations of the Buster Call starting to warm up.
"We're running low on time," she said nervously. "The battleships are here."
"Damn," Zoro cursed, glancing back at the fight, "I thought that booming sounded familiar.
"YELLOW LOTAS!" Lucci yelled and he used his clawed finger to try and impale Luffy several times at once. Luff was able to dodge them, before jumping out of his range, and doing a Jet Stomp when he was above him. With no other choice, Lucci did a rather clumsy dodge and landed in what was left of the crates.
"Why would anyone be keeping empty crates down here?" Chopper asked wonderingly.
"I think we've got more important things to worry about than that," Nami said as Luffy stopped again to take a few deep breaths. Lucci threw the crates that had been on top of him, against the wall. They shattered as he got up, looking at Luffy with a strange look of realization on his face as if he had figured something out.
The two fought for several more minutes, but with every second, Luffy was becoming slower and more tired.
"Luffy," Chopper said worriedly. He knew that his Gears were hard on him, but this only proved it. He had already spent a much longer time with this power than he did in his battle with Blueno. And they were nowhere near the end of it either.
"This isn't going to be serious is it?" Nami asked anxiously. But Chopper didn't seem to be able to answer her as he stared ahead. Their fists clashed together again, and Lucci was flying backwards as Luffy landed on his feet—yet Lucci got back up and went flying at him, with Luffy forced to use another Jet Pistol to knock him back. Both of them hit the floor… and to their horror, Luffy couldn't hold onto his Second Gear form anymore and he returned to normal, breathing harder than they had ever seen him before.
"Luffy-san!" Brook cried out fretfully.
"I figured as much," Lucci said as he got back to his feet and held onto his stomach where Luffy's last punch had hit him. "It's like you're doping yourself with your own blood. You use your legs like pumps to accelerate your blood flow. Good thing you're not an ordinary human. That kind of blood pressure would be enough to make your heart burst. But since your internal organs are made of rubber, you can handle it. A technique that only someone like you can use."
"That sounds more painful coming from him than when you explained it, Chopper," Nami shivered, hugging her arms.
"But he is clever if he was able to figure all that out by just watching," Chopper muttered under his breath, now biting on his hooves as he quickly remembered how badly hurt that Luffy was after they escaped.
"Meanwhile, most of us didn't know a damn thing about it until now," Zoro said irritably as he began to pace around, itching for something to do. He hated all this watching and not be able to slice anything up. When next that slime thing showed up, he was going to hack it to pieces. Damn, they still didn't know what they were supposed to do here on this ghost island or whatever it was. Why did they ever come to this stinkin' island in the first place?
"But that doesn't mean you should," Lucci went on, "It's obvious you're pushing your body too far. And I doubt you can take much more. Not very clever are you? You're shortening your life span just for a few minutes of strength."
Chopper felt ears burning at his eyes as he looked away, knowing that it was all true.
"Is that true?!" Brook cried out, and if he still had eyes they would be bursting out of his head. "Is Luffy-san killing himself here?!"
"I told you!" Chopper yelled out, and they could hear the sound of hurt helplessness in his voice. "It's not as hard on his body now as it had been here, but he's still destroying it when he puts himself into this state! It might not do much to him now, but it could have long term damage later on! He could end up shortening his life."
They stared at him before they all decided. Even if they had to beat his head in, they weren't going to let him use Second Gear unless he had no other choice. Yeah, it was powerful, but risking his life like this wasn't worth it all. Luffy, however, had his eyes closed for a moment, before he looked up at Lucci with a faint smile back on his face. "It's better than letting you take away everything I care about! I'll do anything to keep that from happening!"
"Luffy, you idiot," Nami whispered to herself, feeling her eyes burn a little at what she was hearing.
"But you've still lost! Even if you defeat me!" Lucci exclaimed and Luffy looked startled at that before he went on, "You must have felt that explosion earlier. It's a pretty safe bet that was a battleship doing a warm up shot. Shouldn't be too much longer before they launch a full-scale bombardment."
Robin felt cold shivers go up her spine at the reminder.
"And for all we know, your friends in the Tower of Law could be dead already. Maybe they already got out," Lucci added, his eyes going to the door that connected them to the Tower. "Maybe they're already running through the underground passageway, trying to get here in time to help you." And at those words, a sinister smirk appeared on his mouth again, one that could only mean one thing… it wasn't good for them. And without warning, Lucci performed a Tempest Kick and cut through one of the walls and water suddenly began to gush inside.
"You've got to be kidding me," Zoro hissed in resentment. He had tried to cut through that damn wall before and hardly made a dent.
"What did you do!?" Luffy demanded loudly, the water already rising so that it was up to their ankles. At this rate, they were going to be underwater in no time.
Lucci glanced back at him. "You might defeat me," he said, though he sounded like he highly doubted it, "But you can't stop this seawater from filling the tunnel and drowning anyone who happens to be in there."
"He didn't!" Brook cried out.
"He did!" Nami yelled furiously, "Now I finally know where all that water came from! We almost drowned down there!"
"Not a pleasant memory," Usopp said as Chopper nodded firmly by his side.
"Oh," Franky said, "So that's what happened when Kokoro pull you guys out. I wondered why you almost drowned."
"And it's because of Kokoro that you didn't swallow all that water," Robin said in slight amusement as they all seemed to freeze at her words, with Brook looking on in confusion. "They saw Kokoro underwater in her real form and they fainted from shock," she added when she saw Brook's confusion.
"Ah!" Brook nodded before he thought that over and almost ended up passing out as well.
Luffy's eyes widened in horror at Lucci's words. "You bastard…" he said.
"Face the facts, Straw Hat. Nothing will go your way," Lucci said compliantly. "But don't let me stop you from trying; I'm interested in seeing how far you'll go in your misguided attempt to save your little friends."
Luffy's face was contorted with rage. "THIS ISN'T A GAME WE'RE PLAYING, DAMNIT!"
"To them, it is," Sanji stated sourly. They spent most of their time toying around with them after all. If they had treated them seriously from the start, things might've ended differently. Just then, the whole room was shaking violently and they all looked around, having a good guess to what was going on.
"The Buster Call," Robin said through numb lips.
"The way that everyone talks about it, you make it sound like this attack was thought up by the Devil himself," Brook whispered gulping in fear.
"Not a bad guess," Robin answered, feeling her heart beating painfully in her chest. Neither Luffy nor Lucci could waste their energies worrying about the Buster Call; not since the room was quickly filling up with water. They were jumping on the wreckage from their fight, before jumping to the ledge above them. But with such little space to move, neither one could really fight.
The water rose higher and higher, and they were rising up with the water. With it now practically licking their heels for a second time, Lucci glanced up and said, "Whether your friends die in that tunnel or not anyone, there's no way anyone will make it here now."
"YOU BASTARD!" Luffy screamed at him as Lucci only grinned wider.
"Took the words out of my mouth," Zoro said softly. He was all for risking your life for a fight, but when you get everyone else around you involved like this, that's when he drew the line.
"Even this room will be submerged before now," he taunted before he used the Moon Walk to jump up in the air. He went right up to the hole in the ceiling and jumped up to it where it was surly above sea-level—with Hattori fluttering up after him.
In fury, Luffy glared up after him. "YOU GET BACK HERE NOW!" he screamed as he stretched his arms out and grabbed a ladder before he went racing right up it—they could hear him hitting the metal hard and fast as he continued to yell out in anger as he gave chase. They glided up after him until they ended up standing in a large room, looking very much like the one below them.
"Is this really wise?!" Usopp yelled out intently. "I mean, following this guy?!"
"Nope!" Nami yelled, shaking her head. "Then again, what other choice is there at this point?!"
Naturally, Lucci was there waiting for him. "We're above sea level now so we can finish this fight without the fear of drowning," he said as the pigeon cooed from his shoulder. "You can you hear them, right? The rumble of the ship's cannon fire?"
He was right, they could hear it all. The sounds of the cannons going off and the cannonballs obviously hitting the island. Lucci was wasting no time as he started to taunt Luffy again, this time by asking him questions that he knew were bothering him.
"I wonder how your pirate crew is fairing up there?" he asked, almost in a teasing way, "And Nico Robin, I wonder what happened to her? I'd be pretty concerned if I were you."
"Well, you're not him!" Franky yelled, looking forward to this fight more than ever. "You should be more concerned about the beating you're about to get!"
They watched as Luffy turned his head and looked down the hole that they took, and when they looked down, they could see that it was now full of water.
"He sure doesn't play around, that Lucci, does he?" Brook asked. This guy was nuts…
"I won't stop you if you want to run off and save them," Lucci said nonchalantly, but they knew that he was lying. He wasn't leaving this fight unfinished after all this.
"Call me cynical," Nami said, narrowing her eyes, "But something tells me that he won't let Luffy go, even if he did want to leave!"
Luffy glanced back at him. "I'm not taking my eyes off of you until you're down for good," he said and, for the first time, Lucci seemed startled by the answer. "No matter what's going on, my friends can survive anything that's thrown their way!" Luffy said confidently, his head held high without any signs of worry. "But… if I turn my back on you now, all you're gonna do is try to kill them!" He crouched lower, ready to charge again, "So I'm not going anywhere until you and I are through!"
Nami, Usopp, Chopper, Franky, and Brook were all shocked by his confidence in them—their eyes bursting out of their heads, their jaws wide open—but then they all turned red. It made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside like they slipped into a warm bath.
The rest of them were all touched by Luffy's confidence, and for some reason had the urge never to let that assurance go to waste. Even though he knew that could be in danger of the water, he kept fighting Lucci because he was sure they could manage on their own and that if he let that pigeon-loving freak go, who knows how many of them could've been killed?
The room was shaking once more, pieces of the walls around them were starting to crack. But everyone was focused on the fight. Finally, Lucci cracked a smile and chuckled a little. But it was different this time, it sounded more impressed than belittling. "You got some determination," he said, "It is almost a pity that you are on the wrong side of the law. If only a certain idiot could've heard you. Although, let's see if you can back up those big words."
"Wow," Chopper said in awe, "Even he complimented him?" It just seemed completely out of character for Lucci to say anything like that. Up till now, he's done nothing but demoralizing or taunt them.
"He's impressed with Luffy here," Sanji explained with a smile, though it wasn't a happy one. "He should be. He's showing him that we have more trust in each other than they ever will."
"And I'm guessing that the certain idiot that he's talking about can only be…?" Zoro stated knowingly.
"Spanda," Franky said, rolling his eyes. "Please, that coward could never be a real leader. He couldn't do one thing on his own."
"IT'S GONNA TURN OUT THE SAME WHETHER YOU LIVE OR DIE!" Lucci declared, yelling at the top of his lungs as they threw themselves at the other once again. The battle was becoming more vicious the longer they watched. Both of them were punching and blocking, still as even as they had been before. Each punch they felt shake the room, at one point, when Lucci threw one, Luffy was forced to jump back to miss it, but then Lucci kicked him into the air, before he appeared above him and kicked him down to the ground with his knee.
"I don't care if he's rubber or not! That still had to hurt!" Franky yelled as Lucci dove after him, with his clawed finger raised. "FINGER PISTOL!"
Luffy almost danced out of his way, but Lucci sent another Tempest Kick—though this time he used his tail, so that it looked just like a spiral flying at him. They saw Luffy's eyes widen in horror before he got hit right in the stomach.
"Why didn't he move?!" Usopp cried out.
"Dummy, how can he move when he's in the air like that?!" Nami yelled as the crashing and destruction around her was so loud that it was hard to hear anything.
"Not just that!" Zoro yelled, biting his lower lip, "Luffy's just too tired. His Second Gear took a lot more out of him than we thought!"
Lucci was far from over as he appeared behind Luffy again.
"YOU REALLY THINK YOU CAN DEFEAT ME?" he screamed as raised a leg for a kick from behind. Thankfully, Luffy recovered enough to stop the kick with his own leg, having it stretch around to trap Lucci.
"I CAN'T PROTECT ANYONE UNLESS I DO!" Luffy screamed. "NOW GUM GUMMMM… RIFLE!" and he then slammed his twisted up fist into Lucci's chest. It looked like it would work this time, but Lucci had already used his Iron Body to stop it, actually puffing out his chest, and Luffy's attack rebounded so that he was forced back, skidding on the ground before he had to stop an catch his breath.
"This is a whale of a duel!" Brook cried out in shock as most of the others screamed and cheered out words of encouragement.
Lucci began then disappearing and then reappearing in front of him, and before Luffy could move, he wrapped his tail around his neck and lifted him off the ground.
"NO!" Chopper screamed out in terror, about to run in and help until Robin held him back and shook her head, silently reminding him that there was no point. Chopper looked ready to start crying as he tried to fight her off and run anyway, but Robin wouldn't let go.
"Even though you're going to die, you did well to make it this far against the World Government," Lucci said with that sadistic grin, tightening his tail so that Luffy couldn't breathe. "Still, you're no different from any other pirate I've thought. You've got guts, but it takes more than that to defeat someone like me."
"Hell, it took a lot more than guts to get us this far!" Sanji roared in anger, wanting to drop kick that stupid kitten for all that he was doing. Luffy was rasping for air, before he started to spin the lower half of his body rapidly like a propeller. His feet touched the floor and then he grabbed Lucci's tail before he let himself unwind. Not seeing this coming, Lucci wasn't able to do anything before he was spun around like on a merry-go-round. And when he finally let go…
"GUM GUM PISTOL!" Luffy shouted punched fiercely.
Lucci recovered from the ride and vanished to avoid getting hit. Luffy charged again, before Lucci smirked and held up his clawed hands—which glinted in the light. They weren't completely sure what happened, but all he had to do was flick his thumb, and shot some kind of bullet at Luffy, and this time, they saw blood fall and Luffy crying out in pain.
"What happened?!" Nami cried out, her eyes wide. "Bullets can't hurt Luffy! And he doesn't even have a gun!"
"A projectile version of the Tempest Kick I'm guess," Robin answered, "I see it. He's using his claws to compress air and then fire them."
"And since they're made of sharpened air, they're able to work on Luffy," Chopper said his eyes wide. Lucci was only getting started. He flew across the room and continued to shoot at Luffy from every angle—and with Luffy so exhausted at this point, he couldn't do anything but try to protect himself. By the time that he was brought to his knees, Lucci reappeared in front of him and held out his arm, his other hand holding onto his wrist tightly.
"Flying Finger Pistol… Fire Sting," he said, and it was the same thing as before, only this one burst into flames and when it hit Luffy, it burst out look like an X before he was slammed into the ground in a cloud of smoke.
"Now he can set them on fire?!" Usopp shrieked in terror.
"My guess is through friction," Robin said, but there was worry in her voice as well.
"I'd be sorely disappointed if I was expecting any kind of real challenge from you!" Lucci taunted, now seemingly sure that he was about to win. "I bet you wasted all of your strength on those leg pumps earlier didn't you?"
But through the cloud of dust, they could see Luffy back in his horse stance, and looking ready to keep going.
"NO!" Chopper yelled, terror going through him, "He can't use his Second Gear again after all this!"
"Even if he did, we wouldn't be able to do anything about it now!" Zoro called.
"So you were looking for a real challenge huh? Well I got one more trick," Luffy said, with that same glint in his eyes that only meant that he was about to do something stupid. He bit down on his thumb. "Just remember this was your idea. Ha! Third Gear!" He then stretched his arm out as he took a deep breath and blew into his thumb. "Bone Balloon!"
"Balloon?" Lucci questioned, looking baffled by that.
"Is this move hard on him too?" Usopp asked Chopper quickly.
"No," Chopper answered, "At least it's not doing the same kind of damage to his body that Second Gear does. But the side effects…?"
"Yeah, imagine being stuck like that when up against your enemy," Sanji said, and he pulled out his last cigarette and lit it, unable to help himself anymore. He took a deep puff on it and at once he could feel some of his tension fade away.
Usopp thought about being stuck in a shrunken down version of his body, and up against a great big shadow for an enemy before the turned white as a ghost. His home village had been right, his imagination was a bad thing.
"The power to moves from one bone to another," Luffy explained as he moved the air to his chest and then to his left arm. "Take a look! My left arm is now… THE ARM OF A GIANT!"
"Cool!" Franky yelled, his eyes wide, and knowing that they were in for a big boom. Luffy threw his arm back and threw his punch…
But Lucci held his ground and refused to run. "You can't intimidate me with your tricks!" he yelled out at him before he held up his arms to try and protect himself with an Iron Body…
And then he was hit. The punch had been so powerful that he didn't stand a chance—and neither did the wall. The noise was incredible, destroying most of the tower as Lucci was now sent flying right through the wall as everything crumpled around them. Some of the present-day Straw Hats screamed in terror, thinking that they were gonna be crushed.
"GOT HIM!" Franky cheered, punching the air.
"You think that idiot would've moved!" Nami cried out, but she remembered that this fight was far from over.
"Good luck dodging that fist when it's flying towards you!" Sanji yelled over the noise as he shielded his eyes to watch Lucci flying through the air.
"And I guess that he thought that it was all for show!" Brook said, thankfully, "I mean, who expects a balloon to hurt after all? Yohohoho!"
As Luffy pulled his giant fist back, they ran to the edge to get a good look, wanting to see what happened. Had it been under any other circumstance, Lucci would've landed in the sea for sure. Luckily for him however, they were surrounded by battleships, and he had landed on one of them—destroying half the deck in the process.
"Just our luck," Sanji hissed. Damn, if it had only been a few yards more, they could've gotten out a hell of a lot easier than how they did. They heard Luffy grunting behind him, and he had pulled all the air from his fist back into his chest and was flying upwards like a hot air balloon.
"That is so weird," Usopp said, shaking his head as Robin laughed.
"I can see what they mean when they think that he's fooling around," Zoro snorted as he watched Luffy hover over to the battleship. The rest of them stood back in the ruins of the destroyed tower, not really eager to get close even though they knew they were safe.
Usopp pulled his goggles down to get a good look and was telling them all what he was seeing. From what he could tell, Lucci was getting up on the deck and back in his human form as he threw his jacket off; glaring up at Luffy with a look that clearly said that he was dead meat.
"He's still ok?!" Brook yelled in shock.
"There's no way an attack like that would've had no effect on him!" Chopper yelled, staring around at the half destroyed tower.
"Oh, I bet it did do some damage, but not enough to win yet," Sanji said firmly. "That bastards build like a brick shithouse."
"AH HA! There you are!" they heard Luffy's voice yelling as he floated right over the battleships. They could see the flashes of lights bouncing off Luffy and they realized that it was the Marines shooting up at him.
"What is it gonna take for those Marines to realize that bullets don't work on a Rubberman?!" Franky yelled, rolling his eyes. "This is just getting old!"
Luffy must've thought the same thing. "Yeah right!" they heard him yelling. "My Bone Balloon is too strong!" And he lifted his foot and this time, air filled it up so that it grew. "GUM GUM GIANT AXE!"
He put his foot down alright. And when he did, it almost ended up shattering the battleship right in half. It broke and splintered, while Marines were sent flying in every direction—usually right into the sea. It was a battlefield watching and the more excitable Straw Hats were cheering Luffy on.
Despite all the damage that was going on, Lucci spun his way up to mast; he then jumped up and performed a Tempest Kick that Luffy narrowly missed. That was when they realized the big flaw of this new power… he moved so much slower than before.
This was proven again when Lucci turned into his full leopard form and flew at him, biting him in the shoulder, causing Luffy to scream in pain.
"Now that was low," Zoro said in disgust.
"OWWWW!" Usopp yelled as he hugged himself at the thought of razor-sharp teeth sinking into his body. Thankfully, Luffy pulled the air back into his chest to get Lucci off him before returning it to his foot and used a Giant Whip to take out all four of the masts on the battleship, but missing Lucci.
"Those two are destroying everything!" Nami cried out, pointing out and realizing how strange it was to see such a large limb attached to a tiny body. Usopp yelled out in pain again when he saw Lucci shooting Luffy with his Finger Pistol technique again; this time going right through his shoulder and spilling more blood. He then kicked Luffy downwards so that he hit the destroyed ship before he sent another Tempest Kick at him. But this time, the attack resembled a bird as it went soaring down at Luffy and actually sliced clean through the broken mast.
"What happened? What happened?!" Chopper screamed out, jumping to Usopp's shoulder and unable to take listening to hearing him tell them what was going on.
"HE MISSED IT!" Usopp cheered in joy. "HE GOT OUT OF THE WAY!"
"Any later and he would've been split in two," Robin pointed out and they all flinched at the thought.
"Don't say such ill-omened things!" Brook cried out fearfully. Just then, the other Marine battleships around them began to fire upon their ship. Luffy finally let out the air and went flying, able to avoid the bombardment like someone had let go of a balloon.
"What are they doing?!" Brook screamed out, staring in horror at what they were seeing. They were open firing on their own ship? But there had be at least a full battalion of their own men on there!
"They know what they're doing!" Robin yelled over the noise, "They just don't care! This is Absolute Justice! And they don't want 'evil' to thrive! They were so frightened of Luffy, that they were willing to kill all their men just for a chance to destroy one pirate!"
"And they didn't even get that done!" Nami yelled, shutting her eyes and covering her ears over at what was happening before the whole ship exploded. But in her heart she said a silent prayer of thanks for that. He may be a rubbery idiot, but he was their rubbery idiot… and she wasn't going to let some Marines kill him off if she could help it.
"I can't believe this," Brook whispered, shaking his head and no longer wanting to see this. He couldn't believe the brutality that he had been forced to witness. He felt Zoro clap a hand on his shoulder as he slowly turned around, feeling sick to him stomach… not even wanting to make a skull joke at that. How could they do something so cruel and then use justice as a scapegoat?
Franky gritted his teeth, remembering seeing the ship blown to pieces while he was with Robin on the Bridge of Hesitation. He hoped they were proud of themselves… not only did all those soldiers get a one-way trip to the morgue, but all their families were sure to be lied to… probably being told that it was a group of pirates that killed them all instead. How did those lousy government people sleep at night? Do they have any shame? Regret? Even guilt? Or where they just so rotten on the inside that they didn't feel anymore?
With a crash, Luffy landed back in the damaged tower and he had shrunk down once again.
Breathing hard he stared up at the sky. "Too close!" he gasped to himself as he sat up and stared off in the direction of the sinking, burning battleship. "What's the deal with them shooting their own ships? Are they that dumb?" he asked.
"As you can see, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that what they're doing is sick!" Sanji yelled out. But maybe most of those Marines were able to escape from when Luffy and that overgrown kitten were fighting. He could see a lot of them being tossed into the sea…?
At the moment, Luffy glared down at his tiny hands. "Oh great," he muttered, "I got small again. Third Gear's a really cool idea and it's really powerful, but talk about lousy side efforts. I was pumped up and big for about a minute, so I guess I'll be shrunk down for about a minute too."
"Lousy nothing!" Usopp yelled, "That's gonna get you killed! You might as well paint a great big bull's eye on your head!"
As fast as his tiny legs will go, Luffy ran inside the tower, muttering that he had to hide until the side effects wore off before he'd be stomped like a bug. He found some crates that hadn't been destroyed yet and ducked behind them, but almost instantly Lucci was back and sniffing around for him. It happened so fast that all they knew for sure was that now Luffy on the ground, moaning in pain.
"Damn it, I suppose that his senses would be superhuman now as well!" Nami said, biting her nails anxiously. Just when she thought this guy couldn't get any more dangerous.
Lucci was looking like he was close to laughing at the ridiculous state that Luffy was in. "So that power of yours demands as much as it gives," he asked, "Seems like a pretty fair trade thought. One must always pay a great price for a great power."
"Pfft. I'll give him that," Zoro stated, feeling a little dirty for agreeing with this guy.
"Paper Art Life Return: Fighting Form," Lucci stated almost lazily, and his body did something strange. His hybrid form slowly began to shake so that his leopard body looked more humanized than beast.
"That's what that Kumadori guy did!" Chopper yelled out, remembering how he could change from being fat and skinny in a matter of seconds. Luffy was forcing his body to sit back up just as Lucci stabbed his tiny body with his finger and causing blood to burst from his mouth before he was slammed into the wall behind him.
"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Brook screamed out in panic. "HE GOT HIM!"
"DO SOMETHING, LUFFY!" Nami screamed out, her heart beating almost painfully in her chest.
"Time to give up," Lucci said, holding Luffy against the wall by holding his throat. "If you continue these ridiculous attacks I'll have to…" Lucci started to lecture before Luffy punched him in the nose. It was so weak that it didn't even make Lucci blink.
"No," Nami whispered, shutting her eyes, knowing that it wasn't going to end well for Luffy. She was right…
In anger, Lucci slammed Luffy so hard into the wall that he could move—his limbs trapped—before he jumped away several yards and ready to finish the fight.
"I… I can't move!" Luffy yelled as he tried to get his feeble body to hurry up and move. "Not good!"
"You should've let him brag a little more before you hit him!" Sanji yelled out, "With the way that he goes on, you'd be back to normal before he finished!"
"I apologize," Lucci exclaimed, though he didn't sound at all sorry. "But I've got to kill you in that stupid form. Now… DIE!"
"Not the most heroic way to die," Zoro stated.
"HOW CAN YOU BE SO CALM AT A TIME LIKE THIS?!" Nami yelled at him, before she noticed the hand gripping his swords was shaking slightly. "Zoro…?"
Lucci ran at him, using both of his hands to create rapid fire attacks and ready to pierce him with his claws. They all held their breath as Luffy cried out, "Change back body," he cried out, "Come on! Hurry up! Or we're gonna die!"
But at that moment, they caught their first break. Lucci stumbled, falling to his knees and blood squirting from his mouth.
"What happened?!" Chopper gasped, falling to the ground in stunned disbelief.
Zoro looked at Lucci, also wondering that, before his eye widened. "Looks like the damage he took from Third Gear finally kicked in," he said, "I had a feeling that attack had to do something to him."
"It damaged his legs!" Brook cried out ecstatically. And to rise their spirits even more, Luffy's body chose at that moment to turn back to normal. Though they knew that Lucci's damaged legs didn't guarantee his victory, it bought him enough time to give him a second chance.
"Thank god," Nami sighed, hand over her heart. She was going to kill Luffy for putting them through all this.
"You see, it worked!" Luffy grinned, ready for the next round now—seeing Lucci on his knees for once gave him a major confidence boost. "Looks like I messed you up after all." He laughed as Lucci pushed himself back to his feet. "That really messed up your legs didn't it?"
Lucci glared, a muscle going in his head. "I see," he growled as he panted for air, "That ridiculous fighting style of yours isn't just fun and games as it appears to be."
"Nope," Sanji grinned. "Though that is a common thing to think…"
"Ever hear the saying don't judge a book by its cover?" Robin smiled as she looked at Luffy and feeling pride go through her. "He may be small, he's got a big heart and he doesn't give up no matter what…"
"But don't underestimate the strength and resilience of a Six Powers Master," Lucci warned, "In order for one to execute such powerful techniques their body must be powerful enough to sustain them."
"None of that matters to me," Luffy said as he flew at him this time. He tried to punch him, but though Lucci's legs were hurt, he was still deadly as he used his foot to block before he kicked out, "TEMPEST KICK VICTORY BIRD!" and he sent the same attack that was shaped like a bird straight to him so that Luffy was forced to run for his life.
The battle got even more intense if that was even thought possible. They were determined to beat the other now, no matter what the cost was. Both of them were heavily damaged through how long this battle was going on, but they couldn't land solid blows and they were growing increasingly more exhausted.
But to their despair, Luffy took his chance and turned so that he was in his horse stance again and pumping his legs.
"No!" Nami cried in fear. "It's too dangerous!"
"That's Monkey D. Luffy for you," Sanji growled, "Does whatever the hell he wants!"
"This is gonna be the last time," Luffy pronounced as his wounded body turned to the lobster red color and steam began to billow out of him. "I won't stop until I bring you down ok?!"
"Your body can't take this, you'll kill yourself," Lucci asked nonchalantly.
"What?!" Usopp gulped, now suddenly thinking that he had been too harsh for Luffy to get back up and keep fighting. And he wasn't the only one upset, they were all looking angry, but this time it was at Luffy they wanted to fight at that moment.
"Maybe," Luffy answered honestly, although it was clear to the rest of them that he honestly didn't care what happened. "But I guess there's only one way to find out. Now…" he said seriously, as the steam came bursting out harder than ever, "Second Gear!"
"If you had died, Luffy, then I'd kill you!" Nami screamed at him furiously.
The two glare at the other, waiting to see who would move first. But then Luffy took the first stop forward… he charged. "GUM GUM JET PISTOL!" he yelled as he threw a punch. Lucci jumped back in time to curve most of the damage he would've taken, and was able to bounce back for the rest of the fight.
"Clever," Sanji said grinding his teeth together. "He jumped back so that the punch wouldn't hit him as hard!"
Luffy was moving around from side to side like a blade of grass moving in the wind, missing Lucci's strikes. Lucci roared in irritation as he threw a punch—making Luffy catch it before he let out the yell of fury and punched him back… only for Lucci to block it with his arm.
"JET BULLET!" Luffy screamed as nailed Lucci, only to follow up with his Twin Jet Pistols and slamming into him—which left imprints of his fists in his gut when Lucci hit the wall. But the only thing that it really seemed to do was piss pigeon guy off.
Luffy charged again as Lucci glared up at him; when he threw his arms back as he ran towards him, leopard man got to his feet.
"It's time to end this," Lucci growled through the pain, "My next attack will push CP9's killing arts to the limit! The Six Powers Extreme!" he knocked a large piece of rubble off him. "SECRET TECHNIQUE!" Lucci shouted as he disappeared and reappeared right up in Luffy's face. Luffy was so startled at his sudden appearance that he didn't react in time as Lucci held up his fists. "SIX KING PISTOL!"
It was as if Luffy had just been hit with an Impact Dial. The shockwave, or whatever it was, burst in front of him with such force that blood burst and he was sent flying—the entire memory fading in an out—until he landed painfully on his back and no longer moved.
"LUFFY!" Chopper screamed and rushed to his side to check for damage.
"What was that?!" Brook cried as they all stepped forward as the memory was becoming blurry. "What did he just do?!"
Robin shook her head, unsure of what to say. It was a shockwave, but exactly what it was, she didn't know. But it appeared that it took its toll on Lucci as well, as he was breathing hard for air. Not that it stopped him from trying to finish Luffy off with a Tempest Kick.
"LUFFY MOVE!" Usopp yelled out, and as if he heard him, Luffy was able to dodge just in time; with the attack splitting what was left of the tower open. They all stared at Lucci, still breathing hard—that last attack taking a lot out of him.
"He's not normal," Zoro said darkly, feeling as if someone was squeezing his insides. "He makes all the other agents here look like weaklings."
"We wouldn't have stood a chance," Chopper shivered at the thought. "And I don't know how Luffy does it. But it's like he just always knows who he has to beat if we're gonna win."
"I noticed that to," Zoro nodded, thinking back to when they watched him fighting that electrical freak Eneru. "The rest of us are usually stuck with the scraps, taking out the lower members, so that there's no one left to get in Luffy's way as he fights the strongest one."
"He has the instincts of a wild animal," Nami said softly, staring over at Luffy's shaking form. "Even more so than you do, Chopper."
To add to everything else happening, the tower began to shake and they could clearly hear the cannon fire blazing in their ears.
"What now?" Lucci asked as the wall started to collapse.
"The walls are…" Luffy said startled as he stared around at the shaking building.
"What's that?!" Brook cried out, staring around, not understanding what was going on.
"The Buster Call is in full effect by now," Robin said shakily. But through the giant hole in the wall, they heard a familiar voice screaming out from above them. "Hey Luffy! We made it!"
Staring up at once through the mostly destroyed wall, there they were… memory Zoro, Sanji, Franky, and Sniper King all standing on what was left of the Bridge of Hesitation; and each one looking like they had fought their way out of a war zone.
"Oh, thank goodness you're all safe!" Brook sighed in relief. He had been so worried about them all—and it made him want to sing to seem them all alive.
"Just barely," Franky said, moving up his sunglasses to get a good look at themselves.
"Everyone got to the bridge safe and sound!" memory Franky hollered down at him. He cracked a smile before he added, "Don't you worry, we're all doing fine!"
"We even rescued Robin like we said we would!" Sniper King yelled.
"All you gotta do is beat that guy!" past Sanji shouted, punching the air.
"Typical that he keeps us waiting!" the current Sanji said, smiling at them all. "Like always."
They all smiled a little before Robin added, "Luffy will always be Luffy."
"We'll be waiting! I know you can do it!" past Franky screamed.
"Don't give up, Luffy!" memory Zoro suddenly yelled in encouragement.
"We're all gonna make it!" Sniper King screamed out louder than ever before as memory Sanji finished, "We're all going back!"
"YEAH!" Chopper cheered, his heart beating so fast that it felt like he had been running a race. This dreadful memory would be over soon. All Luffy had to do was finish what he started and they make the break for it.
As for Luffy, he stared at them in amazement before he smiled in relief. Everyone was safe, and they got Robin back. Now he could fully concentrate on this battle without any other fear weighing him down.
"So that's what you meant when you said Kokoro-san saved you?" Brook asked, remembering their talk from before.
"That's right," Nami sighed, running her hand through her hair. "I remember seeing that wave of water filling up the tunnel and we were all running from it before it overtook us and we almost drowned. She got us out of there and over to the battleship that was going to take Robin… we turned it into an escape ship."
"And you all got out?!" Brook asked eagerly. They all looked at each other, and Brook felt the optimism fade at that. He knew that look very well by now… it always meant that something bad was about to happen.
"Well," Zoro admitted, "We got out alive, but not how we planned it."
Before Brook could ask, Lucci spoke again, but he didn't seem particularly bothered. "It seems it's just as you said. They all survived. I have to admit I'm rather am impressed." Luffy glared back at him as he finished evenly, "But now, I'm gonna put this little rebellion of yours to an end. I will not allow any evil to prosper in this world!"
"Oh, please! You're hardly what I call the picture of morals buddy!" Franky yelled as the memory Straw Hats began the battle on the bridge—determined to hold out until Luffy joined them. But with all the pain that Luffy was in now, he was hardly able to keep up, his attacks not doing anything near the damage they had done before, and Lucci was able to block more easily.
"Come on, Luffy! Bro, I know you can do better than that!" Franky yelled again.
"He's too tired!" Chopper yelled, mentally kicking himself for letting Luffy push himself to this extreme. "And on top of all the damage he took from this fight, it's too much!"
"And this is through sheer strength and endurance too," Sanji added as Usopp was biting down on a handkerchief in anxiety.
"I'm starting to think this fight's never gonna end though!" Brook cried out, his bones knocking together in fear.
"No," Zoro said firmly, "They're both on their last legs. Neither one can keep this up for much longer. Now it's simply a matter of seeing who caves in first."
"What's the matter?" Lucci taunted, when Luffy used his Gatling Gun again, but was too weak to put much behind his punches. "Don't tell me that blood pumping technique of yours is losing its edge already? It is pointless to struggle," and now he was sounding like an adult scolding a child for misbehaving. "You never stood a chance against the World Government in the first place! Face the facts!"
"That's just what that giraffe freak said too," Zoro stated, rolling his eye. "And we don't do well with facts now do we?"
"GUM GUM JET AXE!" Luffy shouted out, bringing his foot down, with Lucci dodged when he jumped into the air.
"I don't care if this island is burnt to the ground!" Lucci declared as Luffy went with another Gatling Gun while Lucci countered with a stream of Tempest Kicks. The attacks burst in midair when they collided and shook the room. "As long as that woman is wanted by the World Government, I'll chase her to the ends of the earth if need be! That is the meaning of Dark Justice!"
"I thought it was called Absolute Justice!" Chopper asked in fear as he clung tightly to Robin, as if afraid that if he let go, she'd disappear.
"Different names, same thing," Robin said shaking her head. "They really think that what they're doing is all in the name of justice, but they resort to disgusting tactics to make sure that they follow through any mission they're given. I think that Lucci's well aware of the fact that he's not a 'hero'. But he doesn't see himself as evil either."
"That's all on your point of view I guess," Franky said, not sure what to think anymore. But even he knew that betraying someone who thought of you as a friend was the lowest thing you could ever do. And these guys betrayed, not only Iceberg, but all of Water 7.
"YOU WON'T BE CHASING ANYONE!" Luffy screamed out, "I'M PUTTING AN END TO THIS RIGHT NOW!" He disappeared and was right on top of Lucci as he attempted a Jet Stomp, which Lucci evaded. He then appeared at Luffy's side and put his fists up again. They knew right away what he was going to do and some of them shouted out warnings, but it was too late. Luffy didn't have time to miss it.
"SIX KING GUN!" Lucci hollered. This time, the attack was more destructive. Blood burst from Luffy's mouth like a fountain, before he was hit against the wall before ye lay there without moving. They all watched in horror as Luffy was still trying to get back up… but it was as if he was drunk. He staggered, unable to really move. He was gargling up more blood as he fell to his knees in agony. And like a broken puppet he fell to the floor and lay there without moving.
Nami stared, her hands over her mouth and her eyes wide. Tears began to fill up as she thought, 'You idiot… just what are you trying to do? Kill yourself?'
No one could think of anything to say as they watched the blood drip from Luffy's mouth and pooled around his face. Still trapped in his Second Gear, he was rasping as if he was close to choking on the blood. The memory around them almost blacked out and they could hear a ringing noise that almost blocked out the sounds of the explosions.
"Someone has to do something!" Brook cried out as Chopper was trying, in vain, to help Luffy… ready to stand between him and Lucci if he had to. Memory or not.
"Well, someone thought to do something," Zoro confessed, and no sooner did he say it did that familiar voice scream out.
"LUUUUFFFFFFFYYYYYYY!" someone from the bridge had shouted. "Can you hear me?! Luffy! Get up!"
They glanced up, and through the blackening memory they could make out memory Usopp standing there. He was a mess, but he had finally removed his mask and was standing there, looking furious.
"Usopp… I didn't know… you were here too?" Chopper heard Luffy croak out from next to him and tried to tell him not to speak. But he might as well told the wind not to blow for all the good it did.
"Don't get the wrong idea!" memory Usopp yelled out suddenly, "I just came to save Robin, that's it alright?! I didn't come to see you or your stupid face understand me?!"
"You idiot!" Zoro snapped, giving their Usopp a hard wack over the head. "Was your damn pride worth so much to you that you said that?! I don't see you doing better!"
"That's a mean thing to do Usopp!" Chopper finished for them as Usopp seemed to become smaller and smaller.
"I get it alright?" Usopp mumbled from his place on the floor. But still… he couldn't pretend that he was still a Straw Hat Pirate when he knew that he wasn't. He left the crew of his own free will, and it's as simple as that. Yet… he wanted to help Robin. He just couldn't let it go down like that. He couldn't fight beside them as Usopp… no real captain would allow a deserter back even if his reasons were fair. It wasn't good for the rest of the crew and…
He stopped and looked up to his past self. This was still something that he needed to say. And if Sniper King couldn't get through to him, then Usopp had to.
"Hey you, the CP9 boss cat!" memory Usopp hollered as he lay his knew slingshot over his shoulder, "I KNOW YOU HEAR ME! FROM HERE ON OUT, I'M YOUR OPPONENT! COME AND GET SOME!"
"Ok, you're redeeming yourself slightly in my eyes," Franky said watching as Lucci watched him out of the corner of his eyes. "I can't tell if you're really brave here… or just… nuts."
"Nuts," they all said as Usopp gave each of them hard glares.
"Y-Yeah! That's right!" memory Usopp went on, trying to taunt Lucci into going after him. "You mess with Robin, you mess with me to! Now listen and listen good! I'm a fierce some pirate, a warrior among warriors and I command an army of over eight-thousand men! I am… THE GREAT CAPTAIN USOPP!"
"Yeah… something tells me that's not gonna work," Nami said, shaking her head. "Were you trying to get yourself killed?"
"I just… wanted to give Luffy the right motivation," Usopp mumbled. "I knew that he'd never let this fight end like this without a good excuse to get up?"
Lucci was unimpressed as Usopp continued to go on about how great he as Lucci spat on the ground. Finally, he crossed the line when he yelled out, "NOW COME UP HERE AND FIGHT ME IF YOU GOT THE GUTS! OR ARE YOU JUST A SCAREDY CAT?!"
His eyes narrowed in hatred. Now forgetting about Luffy he began to stroll over to the ledge and jump up to the bridge.
"No… wait… hey get back here… you leave him alone," Luffy said quickly, fear in his tone. "This is between you and me got it?"
"You've already lost, I have no business with you," Lucci stated, hardly glancing back. "I'm going to kill every last one of them. And save you for last so that you can watch it for last."
"He's horrible!" Brook whispered fearfully.
"Yeah, a true sadist," Zoro frowned as Luffy was now trying to move again—growling in silent rage.
But memory Usopp was still taunting Lucci to come after him. "Come get me boss kitty cat! I am gonna take you out!"
"You realize that if he did get up there, he was going to kill you?" Sanji asked him as he shrugged back.
"Yeah… but I had to do something to get Luffy up," Usopp said, and truthfully he was scared to death. He had never seen Luffy that badly injured. Seeing all that blood… looking like he was about to die… he just couldn't take it. He had to do something to encourage him even if he was too proud and this was all that he could think of.
Luffy coughed up more blood before he spoke up as loudly as he could to Usopp, "You idiot! Shut up already! He's gonna kill you!"
"You shut up!" memory Usopp screamed at him, "What the hell are you going to do about it, huh?! You're almost dead!"
"You think that you would have said that in a gentler way?" Nami offered, feeling her stomach turn at seeing how much blood Luffy was spitting up.
"No, this is getting Luffy's attention alright," Sanji said, seeing the anger back in Luffy's eyes, "And when he's done with Lucci's he's gonna want to beat you up, Usopp."
"Not in that state," he answered back, "But if it got him up again, I'd be happy to take a beating from him.
Luffy was panting hard as he said a little louder, "That pigeon bastard's mine! I'm gonna kick his ass all over the place!"
"Then get up!" past Usopp screamed down at him, and they could hear him choking back sobs, as if he was about to start crying. "Show him what you're made of! Stop coughing and laying around like your about to die!"
"I'm sure he's not doing this because he's enjoying it, pal," Franky pointed out before he froze. Luffy had been trying to push himself up but fell limply and laid there as blood spewed out of his mouth. Chopper screamed, calling for a doctor, before he remembered that he was the doctor and actually started to sob at how his hooves went through him like air.
"That is not the Luffy I know at all!" memory Usopp continued to scream, hoping that he could somehow get through to him. "Even though it's filled with smoke we can still see the sky! We can still see the ocean!" Luffy tried once more to get up, but he flopped back down as if gravity was holding him down… now losing so much blood that they were now worried about him bleeding to death where he lay. "This place isn't hell! I can't believe you'd let it end like this!"
Luffy turned his face up towards Usopp who was now screaming at him, his voice cracking, "SO STOP LOOKING LIKE YOUR ABOUT TO DIE YOU STUPID BASTARD! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?! WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE US WORRY?! GET UP AND FIGHT!"
"So you do care, you just have a shitty way of showing it," Sanji said, nodding. "Well, if it works… I'll forgive you for being such an idiot here."
"Thanks… I think?" Usopp said slowly, wondering how he's supposed to take that.
Lucci stopped at the ledge, looking up at Usopp. "Finished with your little speech?" he asked, as if giving him time to pray for mercy. "Then I suggest you get ready to show me what you've got."
Memory Usopp looked afraid as Lucci was ready to jump. But a weak voice behind him spoke up. "You're right, Usopp."
They turned at once to see that Luffy was back on shaky legs, but he wasn't going down. Lucci turned and seemed surprised to see him back up. "This place isn't hell, it's not even close."
"Could've fooled me," Nami said, gazing up at the black smoke filing the sky.
"FINISH HIM!" memory Usopp yelled determinedly. "THEN WE CAN ALL LEAVE THIS PLACE TOGETHER!"
Luffy looked up, a wild look in his eyes like some kind of beast. "I'LL WIN NO MATTER WWWWHHHHHAAAATTT!" he screamed so loud that their ears throbbed, and steam was pumping out of his body so thick and fast that they almost couldn't see anything.
"I'm surprised you can stand," Lucci stated, not looking thoroughly annoyed at this point, like he could imagine better things he rather be doing.
"I'm never gonna give up," Luffy grunted, struggling to breath, but that insane look still shone bright, "You hear me? Until I defeat you… I won't… drop to the ground… ever again!"
"Big words," Zoro said quietly to himself, before he thought, 'Let's see if you're able to back them up, captain…'
Lucci's body began to grow so that it looked like it had before, a monstrous and bulky form of the leopard. "This annoying farce of yours has gone on long enough," he said, and they could all hear the aggravation in his voice. He wanted to end this fight for good already. It had gone past the point of being exciting for him. "I'll crush you with a single blow and end this once and for all! Oh, and don't worry about your little friends," he added, "Just as you wish, you'll all be reunited again very soon."
"I don't think I want to hear this," Brook gulped.
Lucci's sinister grin was back, as if imagining horrible things. "Once I kill you, they're next. Then you'll spend eternity together in hell."
"If that's mercy, I hate to know what cruelty is in his book," Usopp whispered fretfully.
"We can do without his brand of 'kindness'," Zoro said. But this was the final stage of the fight, he was sure of it. Lucci vanished and tried to strike Luffy with two punches, but Luffy caught them, stopping them with his own fists. Yet another deadlock… until both were shot back… finally they both began to scream wildly before they charged and began to punch randomly, and so fast that it was impossible to tell if they were hitting anything.
No one could take their eyes of the battle, their arms blurred and moving so fast that even Zoro and Sanji were finding it impossible to keep up. The two fighters weren't even bothering to try and protect themselves as they kept up their rapid-fire attacks, screaming so loudly that they drowned out the sounds of the battle going on outside.
"I can't watch!" Chopper screamed, covering his eyes when he saw even more blood being splattered on the floor.
"Then don't!" Zoro yelled, his blood running through his veins at the thought of fighting a worthy foe like this.
"This is pure offense now!" Robin called over the yelling, "They forgot all about fighting with strategies! Now it's all about seeing who can push their bodies to and beyond their limits! And not let it kill them!"
She was right, it was more of a battle of strength and endurance now rather than any actual idea to how to win. They were pushing themselves beyond their physical limits, but both were refusing to back down. "GUM GUM JET PISTOL!" Luffy shrieked, throwing his punch to hit Lucci's chest. But that attack did more harm to him than the overgrown cat. He was coughing up more blood and seemed to be on the verge of screaming in pain.
"He can't take it!" Chopper screamed, almost ripping his hat in half as he grabbed hold of it to keep his hands from shaking.
Lucci appeared at Luffy's side again, and they saw his fists held up just like before.
"Not again!" Nami cried, her eyes wide, "Luffy! Get out of there!"
He noticed this as well and had already moved back, but this was when they found out that having a tail comes with its advantages. He grabbed Luffy around his waist with it and trapped him before he held up his fists again.
"LUFFY! DO SOMETHING!" Usopp and the others yelled, but too late.
"ULTIMATE RADIUS SIX KING GUN!" Lucci roared, and he hit him so hard that the memory shook and blacked out so that they couldn't see anything for several long seconds… the ringing in their ears was worse than ever. This third attack was so great that more blood than ever burst from Luffy's mouth and his eyes rolled into the back of his head… blood was pouring down his wounded body… that the shockwave had gone out his body and crashed into the remaining parts of the wall behind him and left a deep crater.
They were so stunned, they became speechless, and words failed them as Luffy hung there in Lucci's tail like he was melting and blood was dribbling down his mouth. Lucci's tail loosened and he dropped Luffy onto his feet and walked right passed him—no longer concerned about him getting in his way. Luffy staggered forward, his eyes unfocused and empty… he stopped and began to fall backwards as the memory around them became so foggy that it was difficult to see anything.
"LUFFY!" Nami screamed out, frightened at what was happening.
But Luffy stopped falling by crouching down and jerking around violently like he was fighting hard to be sick. He stared at the floor as he opened his mouth again and more blood gushed out. They cringed at the sound of blood hitting the floor, before he reared back his head and roared, everything clearing for a moment.
"Luffy…?" Usopp whispered as Brook's, Nami's, and Sanji's jaws dropped open.
Slowly, Luffy turned around where he stood and gazed hard at Lucci's back. They could see the pigeon bastard's face. And for the first time, there was fear. His eyes were wide in shock and incredulity as he slowly turned back to Luffy, his teeth grinding together.
Luffy didn't say a word as he gave him a cold glare. They then heard a familiar voice speaking, but it was as if it was echoing around the room… it was Aokiji's voice…
"Keep a close eye on Nico Robin. Eventually, she'll grow to be more than you can handle."
"What was that?!" Chopper cried out, startled.
"Aokiji?!" Robin gasped, but she didn't see him anywhere.
"We've experienced this before, remember?!" Sanji cried out. "I think that Luffy's just remembering Aokiji's warning from before!"
Luffy was taking a deep breath. "Now Gum Gum…" he began, and more echoing words rang throughout the memory. This time it was Robin's voice they heard…
"No, it's over. This is the last time you'll see me."
Then it was Lucci's own voice they heard. "This is World Government business. People like you should stay out of it."
"She did it all for us you know!" Nami's voice suddenly screamed, "She's gonna sacrifice herself!"
"Why's he remembering all this right now?!" Usopp shouted.
"I don't know, but if he needed extra motivation, now's the time!" Zoro shouted.
Luffy went into a kind of bow before he began to attack—and this time it was the final one. If this didn't work, he was as good as dead. And then he put all that he had left into his fists… he just threw them out and began to attack.
"IRON BODY!" Lucci as he stood his ground, but he couldn't stop his eyes, as they widen in terror. Just before the punches hit, they heard more voices echoing…
"You're all gonna die!" Spandam's voice screamed, "You morons can't challenge the entire world and expect to win!"
"So long as that woman is wanted by the World Government," Lucci's voice echoed across the memory, "I'll chase her forever!"
"I WANT TO LIVE!" Robin's voice screamed out at the top of her lungs… and then Luffy's fist collided. As if he was putting each one of those memories into his fists, he broke right through Lucci's Iron Body—the memory froze for a moment. As if someone had stopped time and they saw what looked like Lucci being hit with multiple punches all at once…
"JET GATTTTTLLLLLLLLIIIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGGGGG!" Luffy screamed out, and he continued screaming the whole time. He kept throwing out countless punches—Lucci took each and every one of them. But he quickly crumbled. He was slowly forcing him backwards until he hit the wall behind him and continued to be relentlessly pummeled. The Straw Hats were cheering, screaming at him to keep going. And with one more loud scream, he had done it.
This time, it wasn't Luffy or Lucci who gave out first… it was the wall. Lucci went right through it, this time blood poured from his mouth and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Whatever was left of the building, shook and broke apart under just the sheer, brute force…
With all of his strength now gone, Luffy fell to the floor as he finally stopped his Second Gear.
"Luffy-san!" Brook cried out at once, ready to run forward. But as parts of the building crumbled and fell, Luffy didn't even try to move as he lay there, the shaking worse than ever.
"Now, that had to hurt," Sanji whispered in amazement.
"Finally," Zoro said, unsure of what else to say.
"But what happened?!" Brook cried out in shock as the dust began to clear. But the first thing that any of them heard was a Marine yelling over speakers.
"ATTENTION ALL SHIPS! I HAVE AN URGENT REPORT! JUST NOW, ROB LUCCI, THE MOST POWERFUL AGENT OF CP9, SEEMS TO BE LYING FACE-DOWN AN UNCONSCIOUS IN THE FIRST TOWER! I REPEAT! ROB LUCCI HAS JUST BEEN DEFEATED BY STRAW HAT LUFFY!"
"OH YEAH!" Usopp screamed out as he, Chopper, Franky and Brook all jumped with joy. Nami hugged Robin, who laughed… and Zoro and Sanji smirked. Now they had all been aware from the start that Luffy won, but to see it all happen… to know that a mere crew of six pirates (plus Franky) took out CP9, declared war on the world… and escaped to tell the story was mind-blowing.
There was shouting and screams of shock calling from the Marines, but their focus was solely on Luffy, who had managed to roll over onto his back so that he could breathe. They went to his side at once, breathing sounded almost painful coming from him. But still, he was able to speak… rasping out, "It's over… we should… be ok now…"
"Yeah, thanks to you, captain," Nami said, wiping a tear of relief from her eye and laughing a little. "But I'm going to give you the beating of a lifetime if you scare me like that again, you idiot."
"You're so awesome, Luffy!" Chopper cried out in amazement. That finishing move was just the coolest thing he'd ever seen!
"Yohohoho! I too was amazed! My eyes almost popped right out at seeing it all! Not that I have eyes to pop out of in the first place! Yohohoho!" Brook laughed happily.
Luffy then took a deep breath and he shut his eyes as he screamed out at the top of his lungs, "WE'RE ALL GOING BACK TOGGGEEEETTTTHHHHHEEEERRRRR! ROBBBBBIIIIINNNNN!"
And it was here they knew that every single person had to have heard his words. There was no chance that anyone, especially Robin, missed it. Their Robin smiled, tears filling up her eyes at seeing all this again. Luffy and everyone in this crew had become such a precious part of her… the last two years of being away from them was more painful than anything else she had expressed. Every single day seemed to stretch on forever. It had been almost painful… and she realized now why that was after seeing these memories. It was because she had found the reason why she lived in this world… the reason she found hope for a life that most would've given up on a long time ago. She wanted to see, not just the New World, but everything. She wanted to be by her crew's side forever and sail even beyond death if that was remotely possible. All she knew, all she cared about, was that she wasn't afraid anymore. She was never going to give up hope again. Though her heart still ached at the loss of Ohara and everyone there… she was able to smile and laugh again thanks to a tiny band of pirates. The reason she lived was for them…
"THAT WAS A SU~PER ENDING TO THE FIGHT!" Franky yelled, striking a pose. "THAT DUMB CAT NEVER SAW WHAT HIT HIM!"
"He did! He just couldn't do anything about it!" Sanji roared with laughter, his heart feeling lighter than it had for a while now. His cigarette now almost used up from all the puffing he had to do to calm himself during the battle. Luffy was still breathing hard, but a bit smile spread across his face while they heard memory Usopp screaming out in the distance…
"HE WON! LUFFY WOOOOOONNNNNNNNN!"
(I know that it has been a long wait, but I've gotten sick and I couldn't even get out of bed. So I hope that this chapter is enough to tide you all over. I hope that you liked the battle scene, one of my favorite moments in One Piece history. In the next chapter… it will all be about Merry and Sunny. So I hope that you're all looking forward to it.)