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The Butcher Bird (One Piece SI)

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I lean back slightly in my chair as one of Grenzer’s commanders- the boring one in the suit- drones on about armaments across the armada and ammunition counts.

A quick glance across the other assembled captains and officers shows that most of the others, save for Jack and Grenzer’s own commanders, are equally ill-at-ease. Even the Gears and Rangers, whose ships have rejoined us as we’ve drawn closer to the Archipelago and whose captains haven’t had to put up with this bullshit for as long, look annoyed.

I sigh, and tilt back forwards, catching the eye of Grenzer and most of the other captains as I start tapping my fingers on the table. The bureaucrat stops talking, and Grenzer starts glaring.

“You wish to say something, Yoshimura?” the old man says flatly.

“Yeah, let’s lay it on the table. Why’re we wasting time with this?” I ask. “Counting weapons and gunpowder and bullets isn’t something we need to handle personally.”

“Logistics are the foundation of any campaign, Yoshimura,” Grenzer growls. Little hint of condescension there, if I’m not mistaken.

I grin. “Yeah, for you, maybe. But you’re all about numbers, aren’t you? If you’ve got to plan a police action, or an occupation, with only your own supplies, sure, we’d have to ration the damn bullets. But we’re contracted out and we’ve got a royal and his kingdom’s treasury backing us. We shouldn’t be personally handling logistics, we should be training to take on whatever’s waiting for us!” I stand up, glaring at the old man. “We still don’t have the slightest damn idea what’s waiting for us, what state the Royal Guard is in, hell, the only map we have doesn’t take into account what areas might be under rebel control, and the Marquis hasn’t told us shit. We can't get info because apparently the Doge locked down all the ports and News Coos once the rebellion started, so we have no idea what we're stepping into. One hundred, two hundred, even your five hundred, they’re fodder, against strong fighters on the Grand Line, and you should know that. The real fight is going to be down to the captains and officers, and instead of training for that, we’re wasting time with...this.” I wave my hands at the bureaucrat, who looks vaguely offended, and take stock of the other captains.

Knutte is leaning forwards, looking approving. Skantarios is impossible to read under his hood, ditto Clare in their armor, but Doppel is smiling thinly. Vinci, too. Grenzer just looks pissed.


“I’m older than you, human,” I hiss, eyes turning black. “Do not patronize me.” I meet the eyes of the non-Tercio captains, one by one. Getting their measure. Finally, I turn my gaze back on Grenzer. “I’ll follow my captain’s orders, and he says we’re going to work under you. But I’m done with this nitpicking bullshit. I’m going to go back to the Ends , and train like hell. Anyone who wants to join in and pick up something that’ll like as not save their lives, you can come with me.”

Vinci nods. Almost invisible, I barely catch it, but I know what it means.

He's planning something.

I turn, and walk out the door, closing the entrance to the meeting room behind me.





Herman and the Steel Shield captain were going at it hammer and tongs, Herman for once the smaller one in the fight and forced to actually dodge the much bigger man’s axe.

Pravilno just lounged on the quarterdeck and watched. Didn’t have a stake in this spar (literally, some of the crew had started betting pools on who’d win what match), and besides, he was on break.

And he’d lost most of his cash betting that C would’ve taken down that Gear Pirate in armor. Should’ve known that bronze would’ve turned out to not be magnetic. She’d beaten the kid down hard with her bare hands and some giant-ass clock hands she’d pulled out of nowhere, and the blood still hadn’t been scrubbed out of the deck entirely.

Heh. Between the kid and Kaneki, the deck was going to end up red, no paint required.

He needed a smoke. There was something in the air lately, whenever there was a headwind, like there was at the moment. Freezing cold, even worse than home in the South Blue.

His hands shook slightly as he hauled out the lighter, a bare tremble, but it was there. He controlled it with an effort of will, and grit his teeth around his cigarette.

They’d been shaking since Crucix. Since the captain had hauled him back from the edge of death. Or back over it.

His hands were fast, his aim was still decent...but it wasn’t what it’d been before.

And it was getting worse, damn it, despite the training and the pills that should’ve healed it like they healed everything else.

He exhaled a cloud of smoke, watching the ongoing spar. Herman was faster than his size would indicate, but the same could’ve been said of Knutte, and the Steel Shield captain had the longer reach with his longaxe than Amakatta could manage.

Herman was keeping ahead, though. Largely, Pravilno figured, because the big guy was fueled by spite and the tears of his opponents.

The headwind blew stronger, and Pravilno shivered, clutching at the worn fabric of his white jacket as if it’d keep the heat in better.

“Not exactly a pleasant place we’re headed to, judging from the weather.”

Pravilno turned to face Kaneki, who had acquired gloves and a bright red scarf from somewhere, the length of scarlet fabric hiding everything below the lenses of his mask. “Thought you didn’t mind the cold,” he said.

Kaneki shrugged. “There’s something in that headwind I don’t like. C, too, even the Oni. It’, and not just the cold.” He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and exhaled, breath misting in the air. “Still. No matter what, we’ll have a fight at the end...and I’m getting tired of jerky.” The lenses flared red. “You got any plans?”

Pravilno leaned back against the rail, and took a drag on his cigarette. “Don’t think we’re going to have time for shore leave, boss,” he said with his best attempt at a smile. “If the place isn’t colder than the South Pole, maybe I’ll take a look around. But no plans, not really...heard a lot about the Archipelago, though. Mechanical wonders, the buildings heated from the earth itself, the towers of that giant church they’ve got...plenty to see and do if we do have the time, I guess.”

“Hrm. Five islands linked by bridges and a single Log Pose’s a strange place. Heard their mines pull up all sorts of stuff, too,” Kaneki supplied. He held up a hand. “Let’s see...they call the place the Spice Archipelago for their mines, still don’t get that, but there’s the Bronze Spice that Jack says the Marines buy up in huge quantities, Red Spice that they use as a dye or a toxin, Blue Spice that glows and apparently results in agonizing death if you look at it too long and also gets bought by the World Government, White Spice that I’m pretty sure is just another name for Amber Lead...what else…”

“Black Spice,” Ostavila said, thumping her way up to the quarterdeck to join them. “They burn it for heat, I hear.”

“Heh. Funny, they mine all that and only two and a half of it is actually useful,” Kaneki said with a chuckle. “Who wants to bet that the reason there’s rebels is because the mines are killing off too many people?”

“Sucker’s bet, and you know it,” Pravilno said, suddenly feeling weary. “Where’s your pack of demons, mate?”

“Belowdecks working on Iron Body. Which mostly entails hitting each other with a chunk of piping,” Kaneki said, utterly deadpan. “I’m only up here because they bent it around my head and so gave up on trying to actually inflict lasting damage.”

“And I thought you were bad at that,” Ostavila said with a smirk.

“Eh. Figured out how to make it click,” Kaneki said lightly. He looked over the ship, towards the source of the headwind. “Only a day before we make it there,” he said softly. “Who knows what we’ll find?”

“So long as it includes loot, drink, and women, I’ll be pretty happy,” Pravilno said. “You?”

Kaneki was silent for a moment. Then he cracked his knuckles. “Food’s out...but I think I’ll go looking for that church you mentioned,” he said. “Wonder if the people there’ll be as accommodating as that monk back on Murky.”

“A man can hope, eh?”

“I suppose so.”