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The Butcher Bird (One Piece SI)

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"White Fang!” Herman shouted, swinging Amakatta forward. The blade of air cut down a squad of rebel infantry, their blood steaming in the night air. For a moment, there was relative silence, and he took the chance to look around.

Dammit, he shouldn’t have let Jack and Gin have the first pick of the crew. He’d been stuck with the damn Steel Shield recruits, and while their captain had been a hell of a fighter, he hadn’t passed much of that strength on to his crew. The Steel Shields tried , but they didn’t have stealth, or speed, or strength like the rest of the crew did. Kaneki would fix that.

If the poor bastards survived, that was, with how their inability to kill whoever they came across quickly was stirring up the hornet’s nest. Nobody had been seriously hurt yet (well, nobody on their side, the rebels were thoroughly dead) but it was only a matter of time.

Dammit, they needed to find the Poison Fangs, not waste time fighting these delusional shitheads. They were almost where the crew was said to bunker down…

He realized everyone was staring at him. Waiting for orders.

He groaned internally. He was good at breaking things, not leading people. “Keep moving,” he growled, marching onwards. “We’ve got a lot to do.”

The men exchanged glances, and then fell in behind him. A couple looked back at the bodies - not in concern, but calculating whether it was worth the time to loot the corpses of whatever of value was on them. Not likely. The rebels were poor as dirt, a far cry from their leaders. And they didn’t have the time to pillage.

He held up a hand, halting the group, before pointing forwards. The Poison Fang Jolly Roger was an ugly thing, a snake’s head with fangs bared, splashed in green paint on the side of a bombed-out building.

The pirates arrayed in front of it were pretty ugly, too.

They were definitely Poison Fangs - not just because they looked like tougher customers, but because a good two-thirds of them were wearing snakeskin jackets that truly redefined the meaning of 'fashion disaster’.

No taste whatsoever. Had none of them heard of the color black?

Amakatta seemed to purr in his hands as he grinned at the enemy. “Nice night for a little bit of fun, isn’t it?” he said lightly. “Boys? Let’s kill them all.”

The Fangs didn’t even have the chance to pull triggers before the Nightmares were on them, quick, economical uses of Shaves taking them right into melee range. Finger Pistols, Impact Dials, and Tempest Kicks cut them down where they stood. Herman held back from the brawl, waiting.

The brawl shattered down the middle as a tall, very thin man with the double-jointed arms of the Long-Arm Tribe cut down two of his boys with the scimitars in his hands, bursting through the Nightmare crew.

Herman lunged forward, Amakatta cutting downwards and slamming into the Long-Arm’s hasty guard. “Laskaris 'Acid Breath' Vehrlovoss,” he said with a grin as he pressed downward. The crossed scimitars held, but the Long-Arm took a step back.

A distant part of Herman’s mind noted that the battle was separating around them both, forming a makeshift circle.

“Bosque ‘Berserker Hound’ Herman,” the Long-Arm shot back, grinning just as widely. “Shall we?” The Long-Arm shoved upwards and dodged to the side, barely avoiding Amakatta as it swung back downwards. The enemy captain’s arms whipped around, and Herman snarled as a stinging line drew itself across his bicep. Amakatta crashed back into the man’s guard, chopping off one of the scimitars at the hilt and sending the Long-Arm flying into a nearby building.

“Captain!” came the cry from the assembled Poison Fangs. Herman swung his sword. The whining was replaced by gurgling noises and screaming. Much better.

The dust stirred, and Herman dodged to the side as a gigantic scaled head ripped through the air, followed closely by the rest of the serpent’s gigantic body. Amakatta scraped and sparked against greyish scales, and Herman threw himself flat as the tail whipped through the air at head height.

Fast. Very fast.

The massive serpent coiled up, the other fighters - mostly Nightmares now - making room for it. It was grey-scaled, lighter on the belly, and its head was larger than Herman’s entire body. It smiled.

“Not many can force me to use this form,” Vehrlovoss rasped. “Congratulations...now die.

Herman barely had time to put Amakatta between him and the snake before it moved and a scaled head hit him at speeds he couldn’t even see , sending him hurtling back.

A building crumpled around him, and he lay there for a moment among the rubble, breathing heavily.

This...might be a problem.

 

----

 

Power.

That was what the world ran on.

That was what Vehrlovoss loved.

Power. Not gold or beri, not weapons or a rabble of weaklings to surround him, but his own, incomparable might.

The Snake-Snake Fruit: Black Mamba Model. That was power. Power enough that the white-clad warriors who’d swept his weakling minions aside found themselves helpless. Techniques and blades of air failed to penetrate his scales. Fire barely scorched him. Only their impact techniques - probably stolen from Happo or something - had any real effect, and even that was barely more than a bruising blow, easy enough to absorb by simply letting his flexible body move with the impacts.

He grinned as his tail whipped through the air, smashing those who weren’t fast enough to react away. His body coiled up as someone lunged at his head with a palm strike waiting, then snapped back down. The unfortunate man wriggled on the way down.

“Cujo. HOWL!”

The black-furred hound that rocketed down the street was to dogs what Vehrlovoss himself was to snakes, its shoulders nearly half the height of the buildings. It bulled into him, fangs and claws trying to grab hold, but skittering off his steel-hard scales.

Vehrlovoss reared back, and struck. His fangs buried themselves into the hound’s shoulder, pumping venom into its veins before the creature howled and managed to throw him off. Drops of the venom spilled from the tips of his fangs, hissing as they ate pockmarks into the cobblestones.

The hound shrank, fur turning back into clothing as the enemy Zoan shifted back to human form. Vehrlovoss’s fang marks stood out, branded into the man’s shoulder, leaking greenish poison.

He smiled at Bosque. “You have ten minutes. At best. After that, my poison will stop your heart.” His tail flicked through the air, decapitating a trio of white-clad attackers.

Bosque’s glare of hatred was excellent. He loved it when the people trying - and failing - to kill him were filled with wrath. It made them stupid.

“White Fang!”

The attack deflected off Vehrlovoss’s head, the winds dissipating harmlessly. He chuckled. “You’ll have to do better than that. I doubt you can cut steel properly, after all.” He’d already discounted the destruction of his poor scimitar. Honestly, he went through those things like popcorn anyway. Cheap steel, and all that. If he ever found a named blade that was actually not another damn katana variant, he’d snap them up in a heartbeat.

Pity that Bosque’s giant hunk of metal was one of those. It was a pretty nasty piece of work, Vehrlovoss reflected as wind blades and physical strikes rained down on him and failed to so much as chip his scales. Still, in the hands of someone who lacked focus, it was merely a sword.

Bosque fell to one knee, his blade embedded into the ground as he panted. Vehrlovoss cocked his head. “Oh, did I forget to mention? Strenuous activity spreads the venom. Like trying and failing to even scratch me. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go and finish off the rest of these...interesting little morsels. You sit there and melt.”

What? He was a snake right now. It wasn’t cannibalism...technically.

The rest of the white-clad pirates were yelling something. Presumably in horror. Either that or they were - again, ineffectually - preparing to attack him and insisted on shouting those silly names while they did so.

A dozen of them lunged forwards at the same time. Ah. Attacking, then. From all sides, even better.

He swapped into his human form as quick as breathing, leaving all of his attackers quite literally behind him. That’s what they got for not going for his head. He spun on his heel, arm lashing out with his remaining scimitar clenched in his fist. The resulting wind blade caused a rather satisfactory rain of blood and body parts, as well as a lot of screaming.

Unfortunately, the scimitar shattered under the stress. Mercifully, the shrapnel added to the damage inflicted on the Nightmares.

Like he said. Cheap steel, like popcorn.

“Kill...you…”

Vehrlovoss glanced at where he’d left Bosque. Huh. He honestly hadn’t thought the man would be capable of moving at this point, but hey, he was actually on his feet!

And brandishing that absurdly outsized sword, but that wasn’t important. It wasn’t as though he had the strength to swing it.

Vehrlovoss took a sudden step back as the blade embedded itself in the ground, narrowly missing his everything.

Hm. Well, Bosque was a Zoan, if a fairly boring one. He hadn’t yet poisoned any Zoans, except for that one praying mantis one. And that one had been exploded by the Marines shortly afterwards, so it didn’t really count in determining how much Zoan durability affected his venom’s virulence.

“KILL. YOU!”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Vehrlovoss said as he dodged another haymaker of a sword technique. “Can’t you just die quietly? You’re barely standing as it is, what makes you think you can kill me?”

Bosque’s response was another attack aimed at taking Vehrlovoss’s head from his shoulders. He sighed. “Come now. This is not exactly sporting. I’m unarmed, after all.” The minor detail that he was that way because he’d just maimed or killed several of the annoying berserker’s weakling crewmates was left unstated.

“RAAARGHLBE!”

“Those aren’t even words!” Vehrlovoss dodged again, absent-mindedly backhanded another Nightmare into a wall, and shook his head in despair. “Really, now. Is rage going to actually help? All it’s really doing is spreading the poison more, and once your adrenaline wears off it’s going to really hurt. I should know, people’s screams always reach very high pitches when it does.”

Bosque stopped.

“So you’ve taken my advice and accepted the inevitability of your demise. Good.”

The dog-man smiled.

“Something...like that.”

 

---

 

Venom burned in his veins.

You’re a fool, boy.

His heart pounded, every beat weaker than the last.

A damned fool, with no pride or ambition.

His body ached, his wounds burning.

Your rage is weak, your will unfocused.

His vision was dimming.

You’ll fall if you hesitate. You’ll die if you retreat.

He could barely lift his blade.

What can you do, boy?

He was in too much pain to shift form.

What use are you?!

And, he realized, none of it mattered.

“I will give you...one last chance…” he rasped.

“Oh?” the serpent asked.

Run.”

The serpent paused, watching, then shifted form at the speed of thought, striking with fangs bared.

He would not be able to lift Amakatta to block in time.

It didn’t matter.

...

He had been doomed from the moment he’d decided to fight.

At last. Insight.

That was a simple fact.

He was no swordsman.

He was no wise warrior.

He was no skilled navigator.

It didn’t matter.

There was an enemy in front of him.

That enemy would die.

That was what would happen. That was what he could take pride in.

Nothing else mattered.

“Shepherd Style.”

Reality protested as he moved his body far faster and with more strength than his battered muscles should’ve been able to manage.

“Shear.”

He told reality to get the fuck out of the way.

He cut.

Still alive.

Heh. I chose well.

Reach heaven through violence, pup. It’s your best hope.

Herman’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed into the pile of gore that had been the Poison Fangs captain.