Action filled chapter ahead. Oh, and it's actually a complete coincidence, but I found a fan character site with a character that has the exact same devil fruit as Ember in this fic. I had Ember's devil fruit in mind long before I ever saw that, and his abilities are going to be drastically different from what I saw on the fansite, but in case the person who created that character with this same devil fruit stumbles across this story- it is entirely coincidental and the manifestation of his abilities are very different, so it's basically a different fruit... I was tempted to change the name, but nothing fit what I have in mind better... well, you'll see. Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece or the characters, they belong to Eiichiro Oda.

Chapter 24

Confirmed Suspicions at the Edge of Hell

"I expected more of a fight from you, Law," Tynan chided after dropping his fifteenth comrade. He glared hard at the smirking pirate standing calmly a few meters away. "Why are you only evading me?" Law's smirk became more smug as an impatient Tynan launched at him, only to find another Marine taking the hit instead. "You can't outrun me forever. You'll eventually run out of people to switch with."

Law chuckled at the man's annoyance. He knew that his tactic wouldn't hold out for long, but he didn't need it to. He just had to buy time until Nami got her captain out, then he could fight without holding back. The others were already causing enough damage as it was; they didn't need him swinging away freely until it was absolutely necessary. His strategy was also helping them take out other Marines without much effort, giving them even more of a chance to escape without an extra fight.

"Law!" Tynan growled when he disappeared again, and Law had to react fast as Tynan managed to appear just behind him at the spot he had switched to. Law bit out a curse as he spun and blocked a strike with the flat side of his sword, his teeth gritting at the force being put on the blade. "I told you that you can't run forever."

With an enraged shout, Tynan put more power into his punch, sending Law flying across the icy courtyard. Law didn't wait to see what Tynan planned to do next before switching himself with a block of ice, landing hard on the ground where it had been resting to watch as the other man smashed it into a spray of frozen dust. He was still pulling himself up when Tynan came after him again, the man not slowing down at all in the chase. Law held his hand out and lifted a finger up, sending a wall of ice and rock up to block his path. The barrier, as he knew, was smashed a moment later, but Law had already changed positions with a Marine that had been right behind the captain.

He didn't see much of a choice at this point; he would have to fight back.

With a hard slash, he aimed for Tynan's back, intending to split him in two, but found his strike hitting the officer that was turning into an animal as he fell to the ground. Tynan had vanished from where he had been before. Law reacted fast again, spinning to block the strike he knew was coming. As he held off the dark fist intent on colliding with his face, he lifted a sharp pillar of ice up, hoping to impale his opponent with it. Tynan was still fast, though, and shifted his wait to the side to dodge; Law took the distraction to switch with another soldier and get out of Tynan's reach again.

Before the Captain could move to attack again, everyone froze in place at the sound of low rumbling growing stronger by the minute. Law and Tynan turned to look toward the base, the former curious while the latter was shocked and angry. Law's eyes went wide as a large rhino came plowing through a wall near the side of the courtyard they were in. He jumped away as the animal sprinted in their direction, its enraged eyes set on Tynan.

"Who the hell let the prisoners out!?" Tynan growled before slamming a haki imbued fist into the animal's forehead, slamming its head down into the ice, cratering it from the force. The sandy haired officer then turned to glare at a grinning Law who had begun to chuckle. "How?"

"Who knows?" Law shrugged before getting into a stance, ready to take another strike only to find that it didn't come. He observed the man closely then and saw that his attention was back on the wall, drawing Law's gaze to the hole in the wall just in time to see a stampede of animals come through. He knew none of them were Straw Hat, if only because he should be coming out with Nami, not with the other prisoners.

That was what he assumed until he saw the white cat bringing up the rear, her face set in panic, howling frantically while sprinting right to him.

"Wha-?" His eyes went wide at the twenty men giving chase, firing at her and the other prisoners. He was about to react, switch Nami out of there to get her away from the danger, but he was frozen at the flash of white that went flying by him from the direction Tynan had been standing before.

"What the hell do you guys think you're doing!?" The Captain hollered, the anger in his face as he flew toward Nami had the woman skidding to a halt. Law cursed under his breath again as he watched the Marine's fist come down in Nami's direction. "Don't you dare shoot this cat!"

Law's jaw dropped as the punch landed on the ground right behind Nami, sending a wave of ice and rock up in the air, knocking the Marines off their feet. Seeing that she was safe, Nami began to inch back from Tynan as he stood there fuming at his subordinates. The fur on her back stood on end when he glanced back at her with a concerned frown.

"Dana…" That name had Law snapping his attention to the red head still staying near Sanji's side. The person in Nami's body had only been fighting to defend herself during the battle, but now she stood still, watching what was going on with Tynan and Nami intently. Law sneered at her, realizing just how connected she was to this base, and knew he was right not to trust her. "Dana, what are you doing here?"

Tynan's quiet question drew Law back to the man to watch as Nami backed away from him further. It was curious how Tynan was reaching out to her, no malice in his posture, only confusion that increased when Nami turned on her heel to sprint toward Law. As Nami neared him, Law crouched down, offering her his hand to pull her up, letting her jump onto his shoulder as he once again stared down Tynan.

The Marine's eyes had narrowed on the scene, his jaw clenched as he looked between the pirate and the cat on his shoulder. When his shoulders straightened more, Law knew the man realized what was going on, and was definitely not happy.

"You bastard! What did you do to Dana?" Tynan growled as he attacked Law again, careful to aim his strike away from the cat as much as he could.

Law dodged out of the way, not even needing to use his power as he noticed the Marine actively restraining himself so as not to harm Nami. Even if he knew that wasn't his friend, he knew the body belonged to Dana and wouldn't act rashly in a way that harmed it. Law didn't answer, only continued to dodge and block every hit while he waited for an opening that never appeared to be coming, not unless he forced it.

"Nami-ya," he said lowly after jumping out of Tynan's way yet again, this time switching places with a Marine to get more distance while he spoke to the cat. "I need you to distract him again. He won't harm you while you're in that body."

He spared her a glance to see her frowning at him, at least he assumed that was what she was doing if the furrow of her brow was anything to go by. She gave a short nod after a quick moment of thought and stood to crouch on his shoulder while staring down a charging Tynan. As soon as he was close, Nami launched herself off of Law's shoulder, surprising Tynan who came to a rough stop to catch her in mid-air; that same moment Law vanished.

Tynan stood there, the cat held in front of his face as he glared at it questioningly. "Where's the real Dana?" Even in his anger, there was an uncertainty, a panic in his voice. He knew the body belonged to the person he knew, but he also knew they weren't in it, that something was changed.

He would figure out too late.

"Mes," Law's low voice came from behind the Captain. The man only had time to turn his head around to watch as Law shot his hand into his back. A small red cube flew from his chest while he gasped for air, the force of his heart being ripped from his body a heavy shock.

Law stood straight again as Tynan fell to his knees, dropping Nami to catch himself. As Nami went running to hide behind Law again, the surgeon called the heart to his hand where it continued its steady beating. His smile was bred from pure sadistic malice as he gazed unmercifully down at the Captain.

Tynan was staring back in anger but the look in his eye gave away the bitter resignation he had for his fate.

And then he was screaming in pain as his heart was crushed.

Man was he hungry. He could smell meat somewhere. Where was it? It had to be close.

Those were the foremost thoughts on Monkey D. Luffy's mind as he raced through the hallways of the base while doing his best to dodge the persistent Vice Admiral nipping at his heels from behind. He skidded around a corner where the scent became stronger, his eyes setting on the swinging doors to the kitchen as drool began to trail from the corner of his mouth.

His meat filled thoughts were brought to an end as he leapt up in the air, just missing a hard tackle from Ember who went careening head first into the wall with enough force to shatter the stone and lodge his head in the rock. Luffy landed on the older man's back, completely apathetic to the grunt of pain muffled by the wall, and then jumped away to enter the kitchen.

His jaw dropped at the scents overwhelming him. It was like he was in heaven. After going so long with only bananas, there was no better place than a kitchen piled high with meat. The only thing that could make it better was more meat.

Screeching and hollering in excitement, he jumped over the tables of the dining hall and dove at the forgotten serving table filled with all sorts of meat and food. It was a good thing there was so much commotion going on outside, it meant no one there to get in the way of his meal.

Well, except for one person.

"Straw Hat," the low growl that came from the door drew his attention to the seething Vice Admiral standing in the entryway. Luffy swallowed the mouthful of food as he cocked his head to the side curiously, waiting for the other man to attack. "Get back in your cage."

Luffy only howled an adamant 'no' that was only understood because of his tone, the conditions placed on his chimpanzee form still preventing him from speaking as a human would. The reaction only served to further enrage the normally calm, laid back man. The pirate watched closely as the human's snarl began to morph and intensify, fangs growing from a black muzzle.

Make that three black muzzles.

Wide eyed, he only had a second to dodge as Ember shot toward him again, his body twisting wildly in midair as it grew and morphed. His hands became large paws, razor sharp claws that glowed red tipping each phalanx, fire growing around them with each step he took toward his opponent. His three heads all shared the same expressions, their enraged snarls pulling their lips away from his fangs while hot saliva dripped from his lips.

The pure bulk of the three headed dog looked slow and cumbersome, nothing but raw power and brute force to be gained, at least at first glance. Luffy could tell there was more to that form, and as he dodged again after Ember lunged at him, he flew behind him and immediately had to dodge once more as his tail lashed toward him with a mind of its own. It was the head of a snake that came close to snapping its jaws around his jugular rather than a normal tail.

Luffy landed a few meters away, panting and glaring at the Vice Admiral who was turning in the wreckage that had been the cafeteria to prepare another strike. The pirate captain began to wind his arm around, hoping to see if his devil fruit powers still worked in that form, when Ember jumped at him again. He managed to leap up and over the Marine, pausing in the air as he swung his arm down, his fist black with haki, and slammed the middle head of the man down into the ground. He anticipated a counter from the tail and ducked just in time before flipping over to send an upward kick into the snake's jaw, leaping away immediately after it connected.

When he landed on the ground again, he found his bearings suddenly thrown off, and with shock on both of their faces, the fight came to a temporary halt as Luffy stared down at his hands… and the sudden lack of hair on them.

"AH! Tora-o must have beat up that weird captain guy!" He exclaimed with a grin, clenching his fists a few times before arching his back to stretch it. After so many weeks as a monkey it actually felt weird to be back in his own body again. He did a few more stretches and warm up punches, his excitement only growing as he felt his blood heat in his body as he prepared for a serious battle, and then gave his full attention back to the Vice Admiral still growling at him from across the room. He couldn't help but snicker as he crouched down into his stance, his fists raised in front of his face, while he took a moment to really observe Ember's new form. "Ya know, that looks familiar. Ahh, what did Robin say that three headed zombie dog was again? Mmmm, Cherbie? No. Carebus? Hmmmm."

"Cerberus. " Ember stated, his voice low, his growl not once diminishing as he spoke. "I ate the Inu Inu no Mi, Model: Cerberus." He took a step forward, lowering his form to crouch for another attack. "I am the dog who guards the Underworld. No one is allowed to leave once they enter. I will have you back in your cage, Monkey."

"Mmmm, no, I think I'll pass. The food was horrible. I miss Sanji's cooking." Luffy shrugged indifferently before letting out a yelp as Ember launched forward to attack again, the large dog unable to move as freely in the room, giving Luffy time to get out of the way and then throw a hard punch at the left most of the three heads. His hit was stopped as the snake tail grabbed his arm, piercing his flesh and holding tight as it swung Luffy back and forth before sending him flying through a wall.

Outside in the courtyard the fighting came to a complete halt as they stood and stared in shock. The Marines were surprised to see their own Captain lying unconscious on the ground, his heart just barely beating in Law's hand after the man crushed it. The Straw Hats and Heart Pirates weren't concerned with him, their eyes were on Law and the very irate Nami standing in front of him.

Law stared up at Dana's true form, his jaw dropped at the sight. Silver white hair hung to about the shoulder, the orange diamond remained tattooed over the left eye, the face was remarkably gorgeous and feminine, but the rest of Dana was anything but feminine. The lithe man's body stood at least a foot taller than Law, tanned skin clung to the hard muscle obscured by the crisp white uniform of a ranked Marine officer.

All around, Dana was a beautiful man, but his soft, narrowed face belied the strength Law could sense in that body with just one look.

"Law. Put me back in my body. Now." Nami growled from her borrowed form, his mouth snapping shut as he turned to frown stoically at where Dana stood in Nami's body a few meters away. Sanji stood next to him, his jaw dropped to a comical degree at the revelation of Dana's true identity, the man obviously conflicted over the fact he'd been swooning over the male Marine while he was in Nami's form.

Dana stared back, his face lacking any emotion or reaction, completely guarded and unlike the kindness and teasing he had displayed back on the ship earlier. Law had a bad feeling about that.

"Shambles," he said with a flick of his fingers, his eyes snapping back to Dana's real body as the minds switched places again. The men glared at each other, ignoring Nami's elated shouts as she rejoiced being back in her body, as well as her short temper when Sanji attempted to celebrate with her, the cook earning a hard punch to the back of the head when he tried to hug her.

"Return Ty-chan's heart to me." Dana ordered lowly, his voice lower than it had been before, but still carried a slightly feminine lilt. He held out his hand and waited while Law's glare hardened.

"Why should I do that, Marine? Are you having regrets for aiding us now that you've gotten what you wanted at the cost of someone you care about? Or was this part of your plan all along?" Law questioned as he slipped the heart into his coat, his other hand tightening around the hilt of his sword in preparation for whatever Dana chose to do next.

Law's eyes widened in shock at what happened next. He hadn't even blinked before Dana was gone from in front of him, his soru technique even faster than Tynan's had been during their fight. The next instant he appeared in front of Sanji, surprising the blond who didn't have time to defend himself from the hard punch aimed at his face. He was sent into a wall with enough force to crash through it and into the base. Without hesitation, Dana grabbed Nami around the neck from behind, mercilessly strangling her while his other hand pulled out a sharp dagger and held it just over her left breast, the blade cutting through her coat and digging into tissue enough to draw blood from the panicked woman.

"Give me his heart, or I'll carve out the woman's." Dana threatened, Nami's strangled cry of pain as she clawed at the forearm crushing her throat enough to tell Law that the man was serious. He glared hard, his mind working to come up with a plan that would save Nami but without relinquishing the heart he held. His eyes drifted over the red head until they settled on the holster over her thigh and the three wooden rods of her old bo staff.

He maintained his calm as he reached into his jacket, meeting Nami's fearful eyes for a moment to reassure her before he glanced to the side where he saw Zoro standing ready to attack Dana, the swordsman barely restraining himself for fear of harming Nami, too. The other man saw his look and nodded in understanding, crouching down to be ready for an opening.

"Fine," Law finally said as he began to slowly pull out the red tinted cube, "I'll agree to a trade." With a subtle flick of his fingers he made the trade he meant, his gaze holding onto Nami then as he made sure to show her the wooden rods now tucked in his coat.

He was relieved when he saw a glint of understanding in her eyes and watched as she pretended to go limp, her hands falling from Dana's arm. The man didn't notice, his grip around her neck was certainly tight enough to knock someone unconscious after a while, so he was half expecting it. What he hadn't expected was her hand falling to her holster to subtly pull out a blue rod.

Dana screamed in pain as a heat ball was searing the skin on his dagger hand, forcing him to drop the blade. He still struggled to maintain his hold on her neck, but without the threat of the blade, Nami ducked down in his hold, forcing him to relinquish his grip on her when the heat ball of her rod made contact with the flesh of his other arm. Once she was free enough, Law switched her position with Zoro. Dana didn't have a chance as he stared wide eyed at the angry swordsman before two swords swept over his stomach, cutting him down instantly.

"Nami-ya," Law called to the red head as he walked calmly toward her, his eyes sweeping over her to make sure she was otherwise unharmed before settling on the blood stain above her heart. It was small and didn't seem to be growing, so he wouldn't worry about it yet, not with more important things on his mind. "Where's Straw Hat?"

She turned to him with a slightly wary look, exasperation evident in her eyes as she hunched her shoulders with a heavy sigh. "About that… They apparently were only feeding him bananas, so…"

She trailed off and he understood immediately, his hand covering his face as he let out a resigned sigh of his own. He should have known the other captain would run freely the second he was out of his cell, still he had hoped the young man would try to stay with his navigator to escape. When the prospect of meat was in front of Straw Hat, though, he knew there was no controlling him until he was satisfied, especially not after being kept so malnourished. "We need to hurry and find him, then, before any more reinfor-"

Law was cut off by a loud explosion from the base. He snapped his head back to see a wall on the second floor blast out into the courtyard, the rubble flying everywhere. He grabbed Nami quickly and switched them both out of the way in time for two marines to find themselves crushed by a boulder that had been heading toward them. He kept Nami behind him, his sword drawn and ready as the dust cleared. The combined crews stood around him, all of them ready for whatever was coming from the hole in the base wall. Sanji had climbed from where he had fallen just before the blast and had immediately made his way to Law's side, Zoro taking a position at the captain's other side, too, the three men effectively shielding Nami and the others as they stood at the forefront of the group.

Once the dust was gone, Law's eyes went wide again. Luffy stood in the middle of the debris, his stance somewhat weak as his body steamed and glowed red, a determined expression on his face as he stared toward the base. Blood dripped from one of his arms from a puncture wound, the limb's position in Luffy's stance the weakest from the injury. But that wasn't what surprised Law the most. No, it was the large black dog slowly sauntering out of the building, the beast leaping down into the courtyard with a low snarl as his body grew even more once it was out of the restrictive confines of the building.

He was easily fifteen meters tall now.

The three heads snapped and snarled at its prey before turning to growl at the other pirates littering the area. The echoing roar he gave could be felt in their very bones, their blood going cold at the sound.

A beast straight from the depths of hell had come to drag them back in.

So, I'm leaving Tynan and Dana's actual relationship open to interpretation, but I will say that Dana is actually a rank below Tynan and they worked together very closely, anything beyond that, you are free to imagine whatever you wish. I think only one reviewer predicted that Dana would turn out to be a man, by the way, so props to you for anticipating that.

Reviews are always loved! I hope the action in this chapter was better paced than the last battle they had. You'll see what I do with this particular mythical zoan in the next chapter, I had a lot of fun coming up with it. :)