Vinci gaped. What the hell was that whale doing? Dancing? And...that was definitely a smile.
He grinned as the crew panicked, screaming about the 'angry' whale, and laughed. Kaneki clearly was doing something right.
Gin whistled. "Your first mate?" he asked.
"Hm. Let's hope the whale's dancing doesn't wash away what's left of my ship." He walked away.
Vinci watched as Laboon settled into the water, slightly less deafening in his bellowing. A speck of red detached itself from the massive bulk of the whale and fell into the water, before rocketing towards the shore. Kaneki hit the beach at a fair clip- and barely avoided one of the bonfires the crew had set in the process, before tripping over a chunk of driftwood and faceplanting into the sand at Vinci's feet.
"I'm okay!" he declared, voice slightly muffled.
Vinci chuckled, and hauled the ghoul to his feet. "What'd you say to the beast?"
Kaneki smiled. Not the usual all-too-joyful fighting grin...something smaller, and more peaceful. "Told him about someone he misses dearly," he said. "Also...got a bit off my shoulders, metaphorically speaking."
"Going to tell me about it?"
"What do you think?"
"Given your tendency to bottle everything up and never talk to people, likely no," Vinci quipped.
Kaneki laughed. "Fine, I deserve that. Still not going to tell you, though…"
"That's just unfair," Vinci complained, which just made Kaneki laugh harder.
"H-hey," the ghoul said, containing his amusement. "Where'd Gin go off to?"
"Said he was going to collect his stuff from the ship."
"Hm." Kaneki sniffed at the air. "Got to wonder how he's still alive. Poison, shipwrecks, starvation…"
"People are tougher than you might give credit," Vinci said with a smile. "Just because you keep getting injured doesn't mean it happens to everyone else."
"Heh. Still thinking on getting him on the crew?"
"Unless he wants to take over from the old man in managing the lighthouses or something, definitely."
"Same reason I let the Bertram girl on. Want to see what he becomes."
"That why you asked me to join?"
"Oh, no. You're already interesting."
"Huh." Kaneki stood there in silence, watching the still on-going celebrations. "We...do have a Log Pose, right?" he eventually asked. "Can't remember if you got Jack to buy one."
"Three, actually," Vinci said, pulling one from one of his coat pockets. "Only way to navigate that doesn't involve the stars, I've got no intention of being without one."
"Good. Got any idea where to go?"
Vinci grinned. "Not a clue. Never found any maps. You?"
"Only thing I have is an Eternal Pose to my master's old kingdom," Kaneki said. "I know there's seven possible routes...and one is apparently an early dead-end, but that's it."
"Well, best pick one at random when we're ready to go, then," Vinci said lightly. "Hopefully it'll be somewhere we can pick up work...or loot, if we're desperate."
"Raiding...not sure I like that, captain," Kaneki said. "I know we're pirates, but do we really…"
Vinci shrugged. "People'll fall in line. Won't kill unless we have to."
Kaneki sighed. "Fair enough, captain. Maybe we'll get lucky and some rich asshole on the next island will pay you to save him from a life-threatening illness."
"It'd have to be an exorbitant amount. And honestly? Who'd charge that much?"
Two islands down the Grand Line, a certain mountain witch sneezed.
"Eh, fine. We'll figure something out, anyway," Kaneki said. He whistled, and one of the dogs- Kant, Vinci recalled- trotted over.
Right...he still had no idea why it did that.
"I'm gonna check out the lighthouse," Kaneki said. "Yell if Gin decides to do something stupid."
"Why do you think he will?"
Kaneki shrugged. "Until proven otherwise, I will assume people will make the dumbest possible decision provided it makes things more dramatic."
"And your proof…"
"Look in a mirror, captain. Come on, Kant."
Morning dawns clear and surprisingly cold, and with Kant trying to nuzzle me awake.
"Gerroff, dog," I mutter, shoving the Saint Bernard away as I sit up on the edge of my cot. Feh. Need to stop drinking coffee late, it's fucking with my ability to wake up…
I crack my knuckles, pull on fresh clothes, and head out of my cabin and onto the deck.
There's no Laboon offshore. Actually, there's no shore at all, just water all around.
Nobody on deck. Kant's gone. Even the waves...are...still…
"This is a dream, isn't it?" I ask out loud. "Joy. So, what's going to happen? Fighting my own subconscious or some bullshit?"
"No, nothing so simple," an echoing voice says.
I turn, and sigh. "Let me guess. ROB. And taking the appearance of Truth? Really?"
The pure white figure shrugs, smile never vanishing. "It seemed fitting."
"So you can talk to me. Why here, why now?"
"Far easier to do it on the Grand Line than anywhere else...I'm sure you understand why."
"Hmph. Fine. What's your game, Bob? Why turn me into...this? Leave me stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere?"
"Do I need a reason? Perhaps it was simple amusement."
I feel a vein throb in my forehead. "What. Do. You. Want."
"What I want, little wyrm, is simple. I want change...and your course is already set to cause a great deal of it…"
"Then why the hell did you start doing this? I'm already doing what you want!"
"The old man. You haven't told your companions the truth, and yet you told him everything. It is...interesting."
I chuckle. "So you aren't omniscient after- grhk!" I claw at my throat as pressure cuts off my supply of air.
"I would suggest you keep a more civil tongue in your head," ROB says flatly. "The old man. Why."
The pressure vanishes, and I drop to my knees, breathing heavily. "Because he'd understand," I rasp. "Because I needed to tell someone, actually use the knowledge that's left in my head for something useful. Because my crew hasn't seen the Grand Line. Not yet. Once they have, maybe I'll be able to tell them."
"Hmph. An acceptable answer. I expect a great deal from you, wyrm. You know that." In an instant, he's in front of me, and his hand's in my chest-
"I will not allow you to forget it."
I wake up with the smell of sizzling flesh filling my nostrils, and someone hammering on the door.
"I'm up, give me a second!" I shout, getting to my feet and ignoring the rapidly fading pain that's covering my torso. What the hell had it-
I catch sight of my torso in the small mirror that's in my cabin, and gape.
What the fuck did the bastard brand me with? Four circles, arranged in a column, increasing in size until they hit this weird horseshoe-shaped thing at the bottom. The highest and smallest touches the bottom of my throat while the roots at the bottom of the horseshoe trail off to the sides of my ribcage.
The hammering increases as I walk over to the door and open it the slightest amount. "What the fuck do you want?" I growl at Pravilno, who takes a sharp step back, sweatdropping.
"Sorry, but the captain needs you," he says sheepishly.
"He didn't say. Was talking to that Gin guy beforehand."
I drag a hand over my face. "Alright. Fine. I'll get over there."
Pravilno nods. Then his eyes drop to- oh for fuck's sake.
"So, uh, you sleep in the-"
He vanishes, and I slam the door shut.
Black turtleneck sweater. And pants.
Alright. Let's see what the fuck is going on with Gin.