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Lost But Found

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Prologue


Unknown Island, Grand Line (Paradise)

 

“Little one, do not mourn me. Wipe away those tears. My time may near, but yours has just begun,” whispered the woman lying on the cot. Her hair hung like a haggard black mane, and once tanned skin now shone sallow and unhealthy. Her breathing wore ragged, and the hand that lifted to stroke the crying child hovering over her was frail and bony.

 

“Live free and proud. I have already made arrangements, my precious son. An old friend will take you away to a better place. I am sorry I could not provide for you properly. Remember, your father may not be able to be there for you in person, but he will always be there on the sidelines. Be strong and true to yourself, Sol D. Silvers Kitsune. You will always be my little fox kit…” The light fled from the woman’s topaz eyes. The child beside her cried out denials of her death.

 

In the doorway, an old vice-admiral bowed his head in respect for the woman that has led a proud and loving life to the end. Slowly he walked to the eight-year-old and gathered the sobbing child in his arms.

 

“Come, now, lad. Your mother wouldn’t want you to bury yourself in your sorrow. I have a grandson whom you might like. He about three, and I’m sure you might enjoy having a little brother,” murmured the marine, but the child’s sobs have already gave away to the exhaustion of sleep.

Chapter Text


Chapter I: Making Friends 


Dawn Island, East Blue

Mt. Corvo

Four Years Later…

 

-Kitsune-

 

“Luffy!”

  

A small, dark-haired child nearly toppled off a rocky slope and into a fast-flowing stream. Just as he fell, another child - black-haired but for the odd blonde locks framing his face - pulled the younger child into his arms. The ground just about gave away when the older child made a swift leap backward onto more solid ground.

  

“You rubber-brained idiot! Neither of us can swim, so why did you try to cross over a river with that rickety old bridge? It’s barely hanging onto the rock face! Not to mention that even a champion swimmer wouldn’t survive those rocks…AARGH! Never mind. You really should stop trying to catch up to that kid,” scolded the older boy. His name was Kitsune, Sol D. Kitsune.

 

The 12-year-old shook his head in irritation of his younger sibling’s antics. The little kid may be only seven but he sure could be a handful. Already, Luffy had fallen into a pit, fell off a cliff, was chased by wolves, and nearly found out what the belly of a gator was like. And that was just this week. But, Luffy was determined to follow that Ace-guy to wherever he was going. Kitsune sighed. This couldn’t go on for forever. Sure, a rubber body from eating the Gum-Gum fruit came in handy with stuffy like bouncing off flat rocks or softening otherwise deadly blows from the forest inhabitants, but, sooner or later, with the many other dangers around Luffy would either catch up to Ace…or he’d die trying.

 

Four years ago, Vice-Admiral Garp dropped young Kitsune off on Dawn Island to stay and live with his own grandson Luffy. A few months ago, shortly after the incident with a certain pirate group, Grandfather decided that the two should stay with a bunch of mountain bandits on Mt. Corvo along with Garp’s other grandkid Ace. To this day, Kitsune wondered what in the world Grandfather was thinking. Raised by mountain bandits but insisting that they all will become marines?!

  

Shishishi. Don’t worry Kit, I can take care of myself. Someday, I’ll be King of the Pirates!” Luffy giggled, startling Kit from his musings.

 

Kitsune rolled his eyes for the umpteenth time this day. Then Luffy gave him the eyes. Kitsune dragged a hand down his face before he offered the younger boy a hand and hauled him to his feet. He gestured for the boy to climb on his back.

  

“Alright, Luffy, I give. Let’s see what I can do about this.”

  

Once Luffy settled onto Kit’s back, a plume of white smoke covered the pair. As it cleared, Luffy was no longer straddling the older boy but instead laying on top a rather large fox. It stood with furry black ear tips reaching about the height of a man’s waist. A single plumed tail lashed behind it. It stretched its white-clad body before whispering to its rider, “Hold on tight, Anchor.”

  

The young fox suddenly bounded forward, its fleet feet racing across several rocks poking out from the river below before it found an adequate spot to climb back up to solid ground. Luffy simply laughed as he clung to the fox’s back with one hand and held his straw-hat tightly with the other.

  

The fox raced through the woods with the little boy giggling the whole time. Luffy, little man, you sure are a happy guy, but do you really have to be so loud? Despite Kit’s earlier irritation, he wore a very relaxed grin (or as close a grin as a fox can make), and the fox slowed its pace for a bit. The boy, Ace, certainly was still taking some precautions in case Luffy actually managed that ravine. His scent trail seemed to loop and double back on itself. But, he didn’t account for senses keener than any human’s. The fox gave a much wider grin as his human mind picked out the general direction the scent and tracks led to. It was really about time the older boy found some answers, after all, to where the other “grandson” of Garp ran off. 

 

Ten minutes later, mid-afternoon

Somewhere on edge of the forest before the Gray Terminal

  

“You’re taking way too long to meet up here, Ace!” scolded a blue-coated kid.

  

He was blonde, wore a top hat, and definitely was not anyone Kit seen before. Kitsune crouched down with Luffy at his side.

  

They arrived to a small clearing, and Kitsune wisely changed about several meters back before reaching the two boys. Typical baby brother-style, Luffy squirmed as Kit pulled the younger boy towards him. The little brat tried interrupt the two, but Kit wanted to know whom Ace probably met on a daily basis that entailed such convoluted and deadly routes to lose his tag-along, so he slapped a hand over Luffy’s big mouth and gave him a harsh stare when the latter protested the unfair treatment.

  

“It’s not my fault, Sabo! The little crybaby keeps following me around. I think I lost him for good this time, though, since he kind of fell off a cliff…*sweat drop*…and into a river full of rocks,” retorted the soon-to-be-unconscious Ace. Kit knew the older boy was trying to kill Luffy! But before Kit lost it, the well-dressed kid – Sabo - snorted in waved off the raven-haired boy’s outburst.

 

“Well, whatever. Let’s head of and grab what loot we can for the pirate fund.” And with that, the ten-year-olds scampered off toward what looked like a massive trash heap beyond the forest line.

           

“Luffy, why don’t you stay here, and I’ll grab us some food. Those two probably will return here in a bit so don’t leave this hiding spot. It’ll be like a kind of game, like hide-and-go-seek. Just don’t move from this area, okay?” The blonde-and-black-haired boy murmured to the smaller dark-hair boy.

 

Shishishishi! Okay, Big Brother. Bring lots of meat!”

 

Yeah, why not anything else? The older boy rolled his eyes again before nodding his head in acquiescence.

 

“Meat and plenty of local greens, too, because you’re a growing boy, Luffy,” asserted Kit. “Be a good young man while I’m gone,” and with that last note, the 12-year-old vanished in a puff of red smoke, and a ruddy-coated fox more bulky than the white fox darted into the forest.

 

Some time later...

 

-Luffy-

 

This is so boring thought the young boy. For what felt like hours (about 18 minutes), the boy had explored the nearby forest where Kit had order him to remain. But waiting was so boring! After snacking on some hopefully nonpoisonous bugs from a nearby tree, Luffy decided that he was a big boy, so he should go and show Kit how much by finding his new friends by himself.

 

Luffy scampered past the forest boundaries and into the Grey Terminal. He wandered around the trash heaps, openly gaping at the fuming piles and the scraggly men that scavenged through the trash. Luffy yelled for Ace until he saw the boy sometime later enter the forest with a large sack over his shoulder. Naturally, Luffy decided to trail behind him. In a different clearing than where Luffy was before, he found the two boys. They were talking about treasure!

 

“Good haul this time. These suckers sure weren’t very strong. And look at all this gold. We’re getting closer and closer to our goal, huh, Sabo?” exclaimed Ace.

 

“Just a few more years if we can just keep getting decent loot from suckers like those two,” the top hatter-Sabo?-answered. The Sabo-guy lifted a hidden compartment in the large tree branch where even more treasure gleamed.

 

“Five years’ worth of treasure so far. We’ll need thousands, maybe millions of berries, though, for a pirate ship.”

 

Luffy couldn’t wait any more. The excitement was too much.

 

"Wow! Look at all that gold! A pirate ship? Are you guys going to be pirates? Cool, so am I!”

 

The boys startled before they trained their glares on their unwanted witness. The two boys scrambled down from the monster tree where they had perched and headed straight for Luffy, simultaneously smacking the younger boy in the head. 

 

After some scuffling and much head banging and smacking and rope, Luffy was now tied to a tree and the two older boys were in a heated discussion.

  

“Wow, so you guys are pirates? Neat. Hi, who are you buddy? Will you be my friend, too?” babbled an oblivious Luffy.

 

“My name’s Sa-It’s not buddy, and no, I will not be your friend!” yelled the top hatter. “What now? Isn’t this the guy that was following you around all the time, Ace?”

 

“Yeah, but I thought I lost him for sure this morning. Last I saw, that guy raced right off the bridge and into the ravine. How much do you think that guy knows?”

 

“I totally did not hear you guys talking about your treasure stash, or that you stole that money from a couple of guys you two beat up,” revealed Luffy in typical Luffy-chatter. “Oh, are you guys really going to buy a ship and sail as great pirates?” Luffy still remain somewhat oblivious of the tension and the effect of his words.

 

“He knows too much. We have no choice.”

 

“You’re right. We’re gonna have to kill him.”

 

Luffy stilled before blubbering in great gasps and sobs. “Please don’t kill me! *sob, scream* I don’t wanna die! Someone help me! *Waaaaaah*!”

 

Ace gestured for Sabo to do the deed, but the other boy blanched.

 

“I never killed someone before in my life. Why don’t you do it?”

 

“I never killed anyone either!”

 

“You do it! I don’t know how to kill someone!”

 

“No, you!”

 

“Don’t throw me in the water!”

 

“Seriously, you just told us that?”

 

“Are you stupid or something?”

 

Before the boys could go through whatever they planned, they heard several branches snapping, as several pairs of feet trampled through the forest and toward the sound of Luffy’s wail. The older boys’ eyes widened. They covered Luffy’s mouth.

 

/ A few moments later, Luffy is now untied and the boys crouch behind some bushes as a bunch of pirates led by Porchemy enter the clearing. Meanwhile, a very pissed-off Kit darts around the forest looking for his wayward brother. “Luffy, if you’re not dead, you will be when I find you!” snarled the worried fox child as he sniffed the air in the hope of catching his little brother’s scent trail. Luffy does the very Luffy-thing and gets caught by the Bluejam Pirates. Ace and Sabo abandon him with the thought that the little crybaby will give away their treasure’s location soon. They go to move the treasure as the Bluejam pirates go off to interrogate Luffy. Evening falls. The boys finally realize what a mistake they’ve made when Luffy fails to give away their secret. Guilty and terrified of the younger boy’s fate, the two rush into the Grey Terminal and the Bluejam Pirates’ hideout. /

 

Shack in the Grey Terminal

 

“No…I won’t tell…” muttered Luffy.

 

His bruised, bloody, and battered body hung limply. The enraged and desperate pirate in front of him was relentless with pounding the young rubber boy with spiked gloves when ordinary tactics failed to do any damage. The pirates sighed in frustration before slinging off his gloves and grabbing his large and rather sharp sword. 

 

“Alright, then. Sunset has come and gone, so there’s no more point in this. How about I peel that face of yours for recompense. Maybe those “friends” of yours will come out when they hear about it. Either way, kid, you’re de-” The door of the shack slammed open as two familiar figures leaped with pipes raised high. Ace and Sabo has just arrived in time.

 

“You bastard! Leave Luffy alone!” Ace shouted.

  

The pipes came down, beating on the pirates standing to the side. Porchemy gave a wide smirk as he lowered his blade slightly and turned to his ultimate targets. Ace intercepted Porchemy’s blade as it came crashing down. Sabo used this time to go free Luffy who could barely acknowledge his saviors beyond some murmuring of the boys’ names and lifting his head ever so slightly. Ace could barely hold off the pirate as his blade slashed and parried his pipe. Sabo noticed the dire strait of Ace and tried to support his friend. The two couldn’t hold out much longer as more pirates joined in the scuffle from the outside, but Ace refused to back down from the fight. Luffy cowered between the two boys. 

 

Just as the boys were all but overwhelmed, the entire shack suddenly caught on fire. The pirates screamed as the crimson flames licked and burned them. Suddenly a giant red mass emerged through the flaming doorway and swatted the pirates aside like bugs. The fox was monstrous. It head easily stood at chest-level of a full-grown man, and beneath its burgundy fur rippled muscle. To Porchemy, who cringed away from the burning wisps of fire, the large red fox spared no mercy. It charged. Porchemy flew through the wall behind the cowering trio of boys. Strangely, the odd fire did not feel hot at all to them. Furthermore, the fire gave off no smoke, nor did it spread from the wooden building. Heartened, Ace went over to the semi-conscious Porchemy and bashed his head for good measure. The fox trotted over to Ace, Sabo, and Luffy, its five tails lashing to the sides. A flurry of grey smoke and a very irate Kit stood in its place.

  

“You careless, idiotic, lame-brained—AARGH! Come on you three. Staying in this place may not be the best idea, and Luffy needs some medical treatment right away,” seethed Kit. The fox marched out through the hole and over Porchemy’s unconscious body. The boys quickly followed after him.

 

Cave deep in the forest North of Mt. Corvo

 

-Kitsune-

 

Kitsune took the three to a little hidey-hole that the fox kept for just these sort of emergencies. He looked over Luffy in utter horror and rage. Luffy now resembled a mummy in all the ointment and bandages that covered him from head to toe. Kit also treated Ace and Sabo for the various scrapes and bruises they got from today’s activities (namely from the day’s thefts and fighting the Bluejam Pirates). A baleful glare later and the whole story of the most reckless proportions spilled out from the three boys.

  

“What were you idiots thinking? Those were PIRATES! You three could have died! If I had not showed when I did…” Kit tugged at his golden locks of hair before plopping down on a makeshift rock seat.

 

Luffy sniffled, and Sabo looked down in disgrace, but Ace only glared at the older boy. Kit sighed. He got up and fetched some food he cooked earlier that day. “Eat, rescuing your friends takes a lot of energy.”

 

Kitsune watched as the ravenous patients devoured all his food from today’s earlier hunt…and then the remaining rations tucked away in the cave. Is that what it looks like when I eat? Huh, I don’t think I ever really paid attention to how much two D’s can eat. Sabo’s not far behind either, come to think of it. The boys rapidly chowed down on the piles of dried and salted meat, preserved fruits, and bread. They also shamelessly stole bits from one another. Perhaps Kit did choose rightly in eating his portion on the other side of the cave. Even if Luffy would sometimes use his rubbery arms to snatch a piece or two. Once satisfied, the boys sat in awkward silence. The top-hatted boy decided to break the ice.

  

“How did you save us if I may ask?” inquired the boy.

 

“I’m a devil fruit user like Luffy. He ate the Gum-Gum fruit and is now a rubber man. I, Sol D. Kitsune, however, ate the Dog-Dog fruit, model kitsune. Yes, my name is ironic. A kitsune is a mythical creature, a fox spirit, which bears a number of tails and is said to gain powers as it ages. As a devil fruit user, I can transform into a fox creature whose appearance and abilities vary according to the number of tails I manifest. The number of tails seems limited to odd numbers for some reason. At the most, I can have nine tails, but I cannot maintain that form for more than a few minutes at a time before my strength drains away or my focus breaks,” explained Kit. “I was not named for my devil fruit, just so you know. My mom liked reading about legends and myths. My powers are a complete coincidence. So what of you two?”

 

“I’m Sabo, and you know Ace, right?”

 

“Yes. If you had not figure out earlier, the little one is my brother Luffy. So, you two aspire to be pirates one day, too? If I may ask, why? And don’t you think I forgot that you two left my baby brother in the care of bad pirates,” said Kit with a trace of threat in the last.

 

 Ace and Sabo shared a look of guilt and distress. They probably did not want the formidable fox to be their enemy. The two explained they wanted to be pirates for freedom and pride. They explained how they thought Luffy would be weak and give them up, how he would probably walk away safe once he just told the pirates what they wanted. They never figured the boy would protect them. At this point, Luffy spoke up.

 

“I didn’t give you up because I want you guys to be my friends. Even when Ace ran off, called me weak, made fun of abilities, led me over cliffs, rivers, and against scary monsters, I didn’t want to have it any other way if it meant Ace would be my friend in the end. Even when the scary pirate beat me up, the pain was nothing compared to the pain of loneliness. Being alone is worse than death!”

 

Luffy’s eyes began to tear up, and Ace and Sabo surprisingly went to comfort the younger boy before Kit could. After a few moments, Luffy began again.

 

 "I have no one else. Kit’s my big brother, but most of the time he’s too tired from hunting at night to play, and he’s older than even you. I don’t have anyone else near my age! I don’t want to be alone…”

 

Kit blinked. He never noticed how lonely his little brother was. Most of the time, the brat had the widest smile this side of the East Blue. The look in the other younger boys was just as stunned. 

 

/ That night began a new chapter in the four boys’ lives. Kit, Ace, Sabo, and Luffy were now tied by bonds of shared loneliness, grief, and victory. Ace began to trust the little boy that protected him regardless of how badly he treated him. He also grudgingly accepted the older boy that so lovingly watched his younger charges. Days later, the boys would share cups of sake and seal their bonds of brotherhood. They would spend the next several weeks hunting, training, and working toward their collective goal of freedom and adventure. /

Chapter Text


Chapter II: A Change in Destiny; Slavery and Salvation


/ In a period of several months, the boys had faced many trials. Because of the Bluejam incident, Sabo has come to live with the three other boys. Grandpa Garp has come and gone sporadically, beating on the boys with his “Fists of Love” in his efforts to toughen them up and beat their pirating dreams from their skulls. Didn’t work, but it did make the four boys grow in their observation and hiding skills, even if they never could hide from Garp.

   

During this time, Ace has open enough to reveal his accursed heritage of being the son of the late Pirate King Gol D. Roger. Luffy only got stars in his eyes, and Kit could care less. He even laughed at how serious Ace acted about this fact. Ace was not amused. Kit then told the three that being Gold Roger’s son couldn’t be much worse than being the nephew of his equally abhorred first mate Silvers Rayleigh and son of “Reaper’s Hand” Silvers Lilith. The navy seemed pretty antsy about any sort of blood relationship in his opinion. Plus, his dad’s not exactly the most loved guy either (don’t ask, Uncle Ray refused to say anything more, even inebriated). Sometime later, Sabo was forced to reveal his noble lineage, much to his shame, but the boys did not care. They were brothers.

   

Shortly after these revelations, Sabo faced separation from his brothers because of his noble family and the Bluejam Pirates. Shortly thereafter, the Grey Terminal burned on the orders of the royal family of the Goa Kingdom. Sabo managed to escape his noble family during the night of the fire. Heartsick of the corruption of his fellow nobles, Sabo decided to set sail early. He nearly died when the visiting Celestial Dragon ordered fire on his small pirate ship. Ace, Luffy, and Kit were all too glad (and angry) when a mysterious man dropped off an injured Sabo several weeks after the incident.

   

The boys now have long since vacated the residence of the mountain bandits once Sabo recovered and live in their own treehouse within the forest. This morning, the shadow of a ship looms over the horizon. With it, an aura of fear and menace pulses. /

 

-Kitsune -

 

Kit groans as he slowly regains consciousness. One moment, he and his brothers had a few boars cooking on a fire, next thing he knows a whole lot of blackness. Did someone knock on his head? Peering around, Kitsune’s confusion dissipates, replaced by a wave of apprehension and fear. His brothers and he had chains shackling them. His chains had an odd blue sheen, and he felt so tired. Luffy’s handcuffs looked about the same. Ace laid against the wooden wall opposite to him, left of Sabo, and right of Luffy. One by one, the three other boys woke to this nightmare.

 

The door next to Kit slams open. A skinny and ragged man stands in the doorway.

  

“Well, my sleeping beauties have awaken. Hope you enjoy the accommodations since you will remain like this until we arrive in Sabaody. Some very nice people will certainly appreciate such fine slaves,” mocked the cruel man. 

 

Sabo’s eyes nearly pops out of his head. Ace’ glare tries to melt the man where he stood. Luffy only looks in confusion, the beginning of sobs shaking his little body.

 

Ahh…Now I remember. When we were settling down for lunch near the forest’s coastline a bunch of thugs came out from the bushes. Ace, Sabo, and Luffy naturally attacked first, asked questions too late. Those men just smacked them down with their clubs and swords. Luffy tried Gum-Gum pistol but missed and knocked himself to the ground. Those men came at them with bags and chains and rope, and I sprang into action from my hiding spot in the tree. I think I landed a few good scratches before one of them wrapped one of those odd chains around me, and all my strength fled. A club entered my vision at the same time I saw more striking down on my brothers. Then nothing.

 

Kit crinkled his brow in apprehension as he considered how strong these guys were to deal with boys that hunted monstrous giant beasts for their meals. The man – slaver - must have caught Ace’s tensing, who looked near murderous at this point. 

 

“Don’t even think about trying anything. Those chains on the oldest and youngest are seastone, the strongest material in the world and like the name suggests, carries the power of the sea. Those two won’t be causing any problems, wouldn’t you two say?” With that, the slaver cruelly kicks the now sobbing Luffy and smacks Ace for good measure.

                                                                                            

Not good. Not good at all.

  

Somewhere at sea in the Grand Line’s first half.

 

-Sabo-

  

We’re not going to make it at this rate, thought the top-hatted boy. Just a few days ago, the four boys managed to escape their captors some weeks before landing at Sabaody. Under the terrible conditions, extreme weather changes, and a diet of bread, water, and an occasional lime, the youngest brother fell deathly ill. Kitsune mimicked the younger boy - though not exactly far off from his condition - as the pirates removed the shackles of their sickly prisoners in the assumption that it may help. And really, what can two boys in their state do?

 

Kitsune was apparently not someone to mess with even when exhausted and starving. The slavers’ ship was probably somewhere on the bottom of the sea along with their chains. Free as they may be, the boys were just drifting on the ocean in a lifeboat with no land in sight. The emergency provisions had run out, and Luffy still suffered from sickness.

 

Kit laid splayed on the boat’s floor, his strength long drained from the fight for freedom. Ace barely could stay up. Sabo’s eyes began to droop. Will any of us wake to see the next sunrise? 

 

In the crow’s nest of the Moby Dick

 

-Marco-

 

All looked clear. The blonde man looked bored as he leaned against the railing of the crow’s nest. His best friend Fourth Commander Thatch actually had watch duty in the crow’s nest but bribed the first commander to accompany him because “it’s too boring to do alone”. Marco was regretting the deal because a bottle of sake was not worth doing the entire watch while Thatch scribbled in his notebook, planning the next day’s set of pranks. Nothing interesting ever happened in Paradise.

 

Marco’s eyes drooped until in the distance something caught the first commander’s attention. There swayed a small boat. Marco shook Thatch. His friend looked miffed from the sudden interruption of his scheming until Marco pointed out the incoming boat on the horizon.

 

Once word got out, Captain Whitebeard decided to send a small party out to scout the mysterious vessel heading towards them. Since Marco and Thatch first saw it, they would be the ones leading the mission. Naturally, the commanders acted disgruntled to perform such a small errand. But off they went with a handful of other volunteers and a nurse for just in case. 

 

Marco expected a lot of things. He expected either an empty vessel since he thought he saw no one aboard from the crow’s nest. He expected the chance of maybe shipwrecked sailors hiding in the shadows of the vessel. He did not expect to find four unconscious boys that seemed barely alive. He ordered his men to secure the small boat to their own while he had Thatch help carry the boys to their boat so that their nurse could care for them until they returned to the Moby Dick.

 

The nurses on the Moby Dick spared no questions as they shooed away the curious pirates and began treatment for the four young boys. Their diagnoses were not promising. The youngest had caught a terrible virus, the eldest was covered in scrapes, all infected, and all four of them suffered terribly from dehydration, malnutrition, and exposure. Their clothing was torn and ragged and hung off their frail limbs. Thatch, for once, did not smile, worry for the strange boys eating at his heart. They may be pirates but no child should suffer so. 

 

After a week in the infirmary, the second oldest raven-haired boy and the blonde finally stirred. 

 

The Moby Dick

Infirmary

 

-Ace-

 

Ace winced at the light. Somewhere nearby, he heard what sounded like Sabo groaning. He blinked his eyes a few times until the memories of the past months dawned. He sat up in a panic and swept his vision around the white room. He was laying in some cot and his brothers laid in cots next to his. All of them seemed to be hooked up to some sort of monitor with several tubes attached to each boy. Most of them also had various clean bandages replacing the old makeshift ones. Ace tugged at a cord and grimaced at the sharp pain.

 

“Don’t play with that. You might hurt yourself,” berated a tall, slim woman dressed in a pink nurse’s outfit. “The four of you are quite lucky. The youngest especially since another day at sea probably would have killed him. Now be a dear and rest. Those tubes have been feeding you some of the necessary nutrition your body lacked, but now that you’re awake, you should probably start on something a bit more filling. Oh, your other friends seem to be coming to as well,” continued the nurse lady.

 

Still unsettled and suspicious, Ace corrected her none too gently, “These are my BROTHERS. Oi, Luffy, Kit, Sabo, you up?”

 

The boys responded with some muttering and an answering groan of yes. Luffy struggled up while Kit carefully sat up, eyes half-lidded in pain from the strain on his wounds. Sabo easily enough sat up in his cot with only some signs of pain from the effort.

 

“Ugh, where are we, Ace?” muttered the top hat wearer.

 

“Oh good you’re finally awake-yoi.” a voice greeted from the doorway a little ways away from the boys. Standing the doorway was a blonde man that wore a lazy expression. Luffy took one look at him and chirped, “You look like a pineapple!” That certainly broke the ice as the four boys laughed and the man sputtered.

 

“My name’s Marco-yoi,” the man corrected, his expression still lazy if a bit more pinched at the chorus of giggles. “So, if I may ask, who are you brats and why were you drifting in the sea with basically no supplies?”

 

The laughter died off immediately. Ace and Sabo exchanged worried glances as they tried to think of an answer. Luffy’s smile vanished, and he looked like he was about to cry again. Kit could only look down at his wrapped hands. Finally, Sabo responded.

 

“My name’s Sabo, Ace is the black-haired guy about my age, Luffy’s the youngest, and Kit is the eldest. We were lost on sea. Our ship sunk, and we only had enough food and water for a few days on the lifeboat. We couldn’t find any medical supplies either,” explained Sabo. “By chance, have you seen the hats we were wearing? They mean a lot to us so…”

 

The blonde man raised his eyebrow but walked over to a set of dressers at one end of the infirmary. He reached in and pulled out Sabo’s top hat and Luffy’s straw hat. Both boys looked pleased at the return of their headgear.

 

“Lost at sea, huh? Well you’re welcome to staying on our ship until you’ve fully recovered and are ready to tell us where to take you-yoi,” Marco said with a small, gentle smile.

 

Just then, the infirmary door slammed open. An even stranger tall man strode in. The boys gaped. The man had auburn hair styled in the most ridiculous fashion they ever seen and wore a white top and pants with a yellow scarf tied around his neck. Luffy openly laughed as he asked their newest guest, “Why does your hair look like a club?”

 

Ace and Sabo inwardly groaned at their little brother’s bumbling mouth. But the man only jovially laughed at the kid’s remark and replied, “This hairstyle is called a pompadour. Don’t you think it looks good? Much better than the pineapple’s, wouldn’t you say?” At that, Marco slapped the taller man on the back of his head.

 

“Don’t encourage them, Thatch.”

 

Okay, Ace had had enough of the theatrics. “Who are you guys exactly? And where are we?”

 

“I’m Thatch, commander of the fourth division and the pineapple-guy is Marco, the first division commander. We’re part of the Whitebeard Pirates, and right now, you’re on our ship the Moby Dick. We found you four drifting on the sea and treated your wounds and illnesses. You guys are pretty lucky since this part of the Grand Line is pretty desolate and out of the way for most ships.” At this point, the pineapp-Marco interrupted.

 

“As I said before, you four will remain on the ship until you can safely travel on your own. That means staying in the infirmary for the next few days for most of you. Luffy, on the other hand, should stay here a bit longer to recover fully from the virus. In the meantime, if you guys need anything, just ask one of us commanders,” said Marco.

 

Before Ace could protest, Kit finally spoke. “Thank you all for your aid and tolerance. We are very grateful for the amount of care you have provides to us, four strangers you just found at sea. Please, don’t insist on helping us more than you have already done so.” Thatch laughed and waved off Kit’s response. 

 

“Seriously, you four are no more than kids. We may be pirates but it would be absolutely heartless even for pirates not to care about a bunch of injured and sickly children. If we want to help you beyond just treating your wounds, then accept it.”

  

-Thatch and Marco-

 

The two commanders left a few minutes later after Ace decided to ignore them, Luffy fell back to sleep, and Sabo just absentmindedly stared at the wall. Kit didn’t say anything more but his silver-blue eyes were fairly unnerving when focused solely on the two men.

 

While they walked to Pop’s room to report their guests’ condition, Thatch voiced the suspicions that have been plaguing the blonde.

 

“Hey, Marco. Those kids weren’t exactly telling the truth, were they? I, mean, not the complete one at least. The infection on the eldest was really severe, and the boys looked a fairly bad even for several days at sea with minimal water supplies. They all look a lot worse for wear, actually. Something tells me that they haven’t had a decent meal for a long time.” The first commander glanced at his friend but said nothing.

 

Standing before Whitebeard, the men gave their report along with any and all suspicions regarding their unexpected guests. The captain thought for a few moments. His sons were right to bring up their suspicions as the doctor’s report corresponded with the indication that the boys have been suffering for quite some time. Whitebeard thought some more before sighing.

 

“Those brats sound like they’ll be a bit of trouble for a while. If they have been through some sort of a bad situation, they won’t willingly tell a bunch of strangers that. Let’s try to give them some time. Try to befriend them once they’re better but avoid pushing their boundaries. I suspect they’ll distrust us for a while, but the next island is about a month out. We’ll decide when it comes time, but for now, they are our guests.”

 

Marco and Thatch nodded their heads in understanding. In their heads, a certain phrase kept replaying: What have we gotten ourselves into?

 

Chapter Text


Chapter III: On Board the Moby Dick 


Somewhere on the Grand Line (Paradise)

A few days of recovery

 

-Kitsune-

 

“Luffy! Get down from there!”

           

Everyone has finally recovered. Ace, Sabo, and Kit refused to leave Luffy until he felt better after they were initially released. Their combined brotherly stubbornness and overly protectiveness faltered a bit when the head nurse insisted they leave in that oh so sweet command that promised or else. She allowed their continued stay on the condition that the boys not crowd Luffy and behave. Now the four boys were staying in a cabin aboard the Moby Dick. The crew bought some clothes that were somewhat similar to the design of the ragged clothes the boys were wearing when they arrived onto the ship. Apparently the Whitebeard Pirates did stop by an island shortly before the boys regain consciousness. They couldn’t find any beds aside from the one, but it was big enough to fit the four, if a bit of a snug fit.

 

The older boys agreed that their devil fruit users - Luffy especially - should not reveal their abilities to anyone on the ship. The slave traders did mention how valuable their powers made them in the auctions. Kit, Ace, and Sabo shuddered at the thought of someone buying poor innocent Luffy and abusing him. This really was a discussion solely for Luffy’s benefit, as Kit knew in part that his particular abilities probably should not be showcased. He didn’t exactly remember ever seeing or hearing the mention of his devil fruit come to think of it. He remembered Grandfather saying he was a really special kind of devil fruit-user, really powerful and valued. 

 

Luffy still had trouble with his control, unfortunately. Also, Luffy and the sea had a bit of running gag between them as the youngest boy could not stop falling into it. But, like with all devil fruit-users, the boy was essentially a hammer, an anchor that sunk and drowned if someone else didn’t save him first. The boys were lucky that two of them could swim and all three had good reflexes, or Luffy would have fallen off the slavers’ ship long before their break for freedom. Which returns Kit to the boys’ current predicament.

 

Kit had a firm hold on Luffy’s shirt but not much else. Any moment now and his foot would slip off the railing of the ship. Just after the boys settled into their new room and change clothing, Luffy decided to slip outside. Luffy plus curiosity plus railings to climb equaled disaster. The boy fell off the rail, but Kit luckily noticed Luffy’s absence in time to duck his head out the door, see his little brother suddenly jerked from his position on top of the rails, and leap after the toppled boy.

 

Kit’s foot slipped a bit more from its precarious hold. As he opened his mouth to yell for any help, he felt familiar hands grip his legs. Ace and Sabo struggled to pull the two back up but to no avail. They have barely recovered from their injuries. The two boys began to slip from their grasp. Suddenly another pair of hands hauled the two up. The sudden momentum caused the four boys to fall back on their rescuer. Amidst the tangled limbs and of the four boys, was a disgruntled first commander.

 

-Marco-

 

“What were you guys thinking - yoi? Everyone on the ship is at dinner, so if I had not come to check on you four and take you to the galley…” The commander said as he got back onto his feet and shook his head at the thought. “Can any of you swim?”

 

Ace may have felt a bit grateful for the rescue, but his pride did not agree.

 

“Sabo and I can swim. Kit never wanted to learn, and Luffy’s pretty hopeless. Not that it is any of your business,” snapped Ace. Sabo placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder, censor directed at the older boy before he turned to Marco and bowed.

 

“Thank you for rescuing our brothers. We are very grateful,” Sabo expressed, forcing his other brother to bow with him.

 

Polite brat, thought Marco. “No need to thank me - yoi. You kids just need be more careful. Now, I originally was coming to grab you four for dinner since you guys missed lunch – yoi.” At this, the four boys’ stomachs rumbled. With a small smile, the first commander led the way to the ship’s galley. The boys dutifully followed, Luffy bouncing along while the older boys walked a bit in front of the younger, their stance still a bit tense and wary. Upon entering the galley, the boys’ eyes bugged.

 

The first commander chuckled. The galley was a simple arrangement where people waited in several different lines for the chefs to dish out different entrees and dishes. There were many large picnic tables to seat scattered groups of pirates that chatted as they ate. The smell of good food and the hum of hundreds of conversations pervaded every corner of the galley. 

 

The boys literally had drool pooling out from their mouths. A little ways away, the fourth division commander looked over from his group before standing up and walking over.

 

“Long time no see kids,” greeted the jovial pompadoured man. “How’s the pineapple head treating you four? He may be a bit serious, but trust me when I say he has his moments.” Said pineapple head walloped his friend on the back of his head.

 

“Just because the kids do it, doesn’t mean I’ll let you do it – yoi.”

 

“Ow. Anyways, this is the galley where you guys can get your meals three times a day. Just get into one of the lines and choose four things that you would like to eat, and the chefs will serve them onto your plate,” stated Thatch.

 

The straw hat – Luffy – pouted at this.

 

“Okay brats, four servings should be more than enough – yoi.”

 

“And we don’t let anything go to waste on this ship, especially with as many people as we have.”

 

Ace and Sabo looked uneasily at their hosts’ hospitality and kindness.

 

“We won’t be able to repay you for feeding us,” Ace bluntly pointed out. 

 

“Nonsense. We took care of you four, so we’re hardly going to let you get sick again from not eating. Those days at sea didn’t exactly do your health any good either,” Thatch countered.

 

“Still –” Sabo cut Ace off. “Thank you for feeding us. My brother protests only because he doesn’t understand that adults normally feed children under their care free of charge in most cases.” Ace glowered at the interruption but did nothing to contradict his brother except to mutter, “I’m not a child.” Marco looked on thoughtfully. Didn’t their parents feed them? Thatch filed this information away as he gestured for the four brothers to follow him through one of the lines.

 

Luffy’s eyes now shined with literal stars. “Shishishishi. Look at all this food, Ace. I want all meat!”

 

Luckily, the older brothers convinced Luffy to eat a more balanced meal. Once everyone settled and said thanks, the boys, well, literally dove into their meals. Thatch, Marco, and several surrounding crew mates gaped at the four boys. They ate with gusto, tearing through their meals with not a single word of conversation. At least until Ace snatched some pieces of meat from Sabo’s plate while he was staring off at something. Sabo’s gaze quickly darted to his plate before he retaliated by spearing some bread off of Ace’s plate. The two boys’ thieving soon dissolved to outright scuffling.

 

“Hey, you two! Knock it off!” Marco broke the two older boys apart by grabbing each by their shirt and coat collars. Both sullenly glared at the other until their stare drifted to their oldest and youngest brothers…who were snatching pieces off their unattended plates.

 

“Honestly, there’s more than enough food for everyone,” sighed Thatch as he helped the frustrated first commander separate the four brawling brothers. When Ace and Sabo saw their other brothers stealing half their dinners, the former decided to kick at Marco, surprising the man into letting go, while Sabo simply slipped his new blue coat. Sabo pounced on Kit while Ace pounded on Luffy. Now the two commanders each held a pair of sullen boys.

 

“Seriously? I know boys may not be fond of manners, but were you four raised by animals?” reprimanded Marco. “You guys do NOT have to fight over food. If you want more, you may go back in line and ask for seconds, but don’t steal off other people’s plates.”

 

Ace answered the first commander with a huff, and Luffy pouted. Sabo and Kit looked on sheepishly, both a bit red when they thought back on their behavior. The first commander felt another headache coming. Thatch only looked bemused with the entire affair. 

 

Once the brats apologized (namely Sabo and Kit as Ace only turned away until Kit smacked him and Sabo scolded the boy to remember his lessons; Luffy remained somewhat oblivious but copied his older brothers), the group settled down for dinner again. This time, the commanders allowed the brats to grab as much food as they wanted, and the kids returned with plates towering with food. The whole table then watch in a mix of stunned awe and disgust as they four boys dug in. Compared to before, the food seemed to just disappear from their plates. In a few minutes, an audience gathered to watch their guests tuck away amazing amounts of food for boys their age. Quietly, the crew members made bets on how which boy would eat the most or who would choke first (Kit and Luffy sort of tied). Marco’s bland look remained as he ignored his crew mates’ immaturity. 

 

“Where does it all go?” Thatch thought out loud. “Man, you guys sure must have some crazy metabolism to eat that much. Slow down, you’re still recovering, you know!” Well, I guess those small meals we gave them while they were recovering did their stomachs well.

 

Finally, the boys stopped eating. Thatch looked on in amazement. None of the boys really lost their skinny appearance. They may have lost the skeleton look once they’ve healed, but they still looked a bit runty and frail for young boys, especially after eating about a better half of a dozen plates each. Thatch filed these thoughts away, too. Marco and Thatch and many of the spectators did not eat much after seeing the brothers swallow whole meals in a few minutes.

 

Luffy began to sag against his raven-haired brother; Sabo’s eyes shown half-lidded with fatigue; Kit kept nodding off; even Ace had trouble keeping his head up. The boys have had a long evening. Marco and Thatch hustled the boys back into their room and tucked them in for the night. Ace tried to protest the treatment but fell asleep halfway through. The boys looked quite adorable when they were sleeping. Ace’s face softened, the broodiness and mistrust of the day gone. Luffy instinctively curled into his brothers, and Kit tried to sprawl more on his younger siblings than on the bed. The commanders closed the door behind them with one last glance at the brothers. 

 

The next couple of weeks

 

-Ace-

 

Ace could not understand it. The brothers were strangers, uninvited guests on the ship, yet the pirates treated them like they were part of the crew.

 

After the incident on the first night, one of the older boys always remained with Luffy outside of their room with constant reminders to not reveal his devil fruit powers. Luffy inevitably slipped up, but not too badly that Ace, Sabo, or Kit couldn’t cover for him. The boys grouped together, barely adventuring far from their cabin. That was until Thatch started bugging them to come out and explore the ship. The fourth division commander would usually join them during meals and show them various places on the Moby Dick. Even Ace’s iron distrust cracked in the face of the affable tall man. He found himself drawn into the pranks Thatch played on his fellow commanders and their divisions. Ace soon found himself wandering off to join Thatch for one thing or another. He may be extremely hostile, but he was also a ten-year-old kid at heart.

 

-Sabo-

 

The top hatted boy was also drawn out by the experiences on the ship. As the child of a noble, Sabo has read many books (forced and on his own initiative), but books almost never told the whole story. He noticed on the first night that the Whitebeard Pirates also included a rare sight, a fishman. The books said the race amounted to no more than beasts, but Sabo wanted to find out for himself the truth. Surely if the books had the facts then a fishman would not be able to succeed as a powerful pirate, much less a commander.

 

It took a few days, but Sabo’s perseverance paid off. He finally managed to corner the fishman commander of the eight division Namur.

 

“Hello.” 

 

The fishman did not seem to note the boy greeting him, assuming the child was maybe speaking to his brother Fossa.

 

“You’re a fishman, aren’t you?” inquired Sabo.

  

Namur blinked and turned fully to the child waving and walking toward him. He eyed the human boy warily before replying.

  

“I am. What of it? Do you need something?” Namur expected the boy to maybe mock him or just leave. He did not expect the boy to perk up and smile at him.

 

“Oh cool. I read all sorts about fishman, but I want the real story,” 

 

“Real story?”

 

“Yes, books usually don’t tell the whole tale, don’t you think so? Hearing from a fishman personally would really be something and help clear up any lies or misconceptions, so please can you answer some of my questions, sir?”

 

Namur felt flattered and interested. Humans, children especially, never really acted this way with him outside the family. He found the child Sabo intellectual and curious and quick-witted. Namur really enjoyed the conversation with the boy. Sabo knew quite a bit, and Namur soon was drawn into topics on various islands, navigation, and the rights of people. Sabo equally enjoyed the discussion. For the next several days he would meet Namur and other crew mates to discuss some of the thoughts bouncing through his head.

 

-Kitsune-

  

So bored thought Kitsune as he watched some whales swim past. Ace nowadays spent a lot of time with Thatch, and Sabo loved to discuss serious and interesting topics with various Whitebeard Pirates, Namur especially. Kit never really liked hanging around so many people, so he usually opted to keep ‘Luffy watch’ in their other siblings’ absence. Neither child felt particularly happy about their brothers’ fun. Disuse of devil fruit powers probably did not help matters. Luffy kept squirming and fidgeting with the urge to stretch and contort. Kit wanted to run, climb, and just slip out of his human skin for a bit and play with his powers. But Ace and Sabo would be on them even if they only did it for a split second. They could practice in the room, but the cramp quarters did not suit itself to a rocketing Luffy or a restless fox. So here the two were on what Luffy deemed ‘his special seat’.

 

The whale figurehead had quite a bit of room, so unless Luffy ran off of it or rolled, he probably would not fall. Kit kept close just in case, though. Suddenly a bright figure of blue and gold swooped from behind and landed before the boys.

 

“What are you two doing - yoi?” The gold and blue flames of the bird parted to reveal the First Division Commander Marco. Luffy’s eyes gleamed in delight and wonder.

 

Shishishi! Cool, how did you do that?”

 

“I ate a devil fruit and now can transform into a mythical Zoan-type, a phoenix,” Marco replied with a barely there grin. 

 

When Kit heard the word mythical, he rose from his laid back rest on the figurehead. Mythical usually referred to things of myth and legend - something like him, then. The fox opened his mouth to question the phoenix, but Luffy beat him to it.

 

“So it’s a mystery bird, shishishi,” giggled Luffy. “Do you poo-” Kit slapped a hand over Luffy’s uncensored mouth. “Forgive my little brother, first commander. He still has troubles with his manners,” mumbled Kit, his face flushed in embarrassment on behalf of his bumbling baby brother. Luffy, on the other hand, tried to squirm free and complete his thought. “Not the time to ever ask those kind of questions, Anchor,” hissed Kit to Luffy. Luffy immediately stopped.

 

“It’s not that big of deal - yoi. Brats will be brats,” replied Marco mildly. “Mythical Zoans are pretty rare, rarer than Logia. So I guess we are a kind of mystery. So where are your other brothers this day?”

  

Kit just sighed and released Luffy. “Not a clue. Thatch took Ace away on some adventure involving eggs, glitter, and the third division’s laundry. I think that Sabo ran over to Namur to discuss more on fishman politics and international relationships, or something of that nature. So it’s just the Anchor and I,” Kit responded with a heavy sigh. The middle brothers sure can make a brother feel lonely.

 

“The third division…best warn Jozu then. Well, why don’t you two find something to do to amuse yourselves like those two? You might also want to rethink about swimming lessons if you want to stay close to the edge of the ship.” 

 

“No thanks. Luffy has always been hopeless in the water, and I don’t think any amount of swimming lessons will change that. As for me…I don’t want to learn. Nothing on this ship is really all that entertaining honestly,” Kit stated with a shrug. Luffy’s owl eyes glowed with mischief and he gave a shishishi before adding, “I think this view is awesome though!”

  

Marco tilted his head before addressing the youngest kid. “What makes this view so special?”

  

“Because my special seat lets me see both the sky and sea. I love to see the endless blueness of it. Don’t you think that’s great?”

 

Kit smiled down at this little brother. Surprisingly, the usually bored looking man also smiled openly at Luffy.

 

“Why don’t you kids go see Pops –that is the captain? I’m sure he will be more than please to tell you guys a story or two,” suggested the phoenix, and he led the two brothers over to the old man’s chair where they will spend the better of the next couple weeks listening to the old man’s stories and adventures. The old man even let Luffy sit on his huge lap. Kit humored the old man and usually climbed up as well. Both loved to the storytelling sessions. Luffy loved them as Whitebeard’s stories were not too dissimilar to the stories Shanks used to tell to Luffy when he docked at Dawn Island for a year. Kit liked the stories for the gentle inflections. Whitebeard really lived a life without regrets.

 

With the boys so entertained, they did not realize the impending time of parting until the next island shown on the horizon.

Chapter Text


Chapter IV: The Real Story and the Beginning of Another


The Moby Dick

 

-KASL-

 

As the island approached, the KASL brothers waited nervously on the figurehead. In a few more hours, the boys would have to come to a decision: continue with their shipwreck story and somehow return home on their own (they probably die considering they were kids halfway through the Grand Line), tell the truth and hope the pirates might bring them home (also doubtful, the East Blue was not exactly a place for high profile outlaws), or go with the first option and find a marine to call their gramps (they REALLY didn’t like that option considering how the man may not like to find his grandsons stranded in the Grand Line; plus they might end up trapped on a ship with the “Fists of Love”). None of the boys could come up with any better plans.

 

In the middle of another Kit and Sabo idea lobbing, Thatch decided to interrupt the boys. The *harrumph* from the man startled the whispering two boys, caught the brooding raven-haired teen’s attention, and caused Luffy who was gazing over the figurehead to nearly topple off. Kit did not appreciate Luffy almost falling off the ship again as he lunged to grab Luffy. Luckily Thatch had quicker reflexes than either of the ten-year-olds, or Luffy and Kit may have both fallen over. Kit and Sabo told Ace off for being distracted. After scolding the youngest boy with a sharp *thwack* to the head by all three older brothers, the boys turn their attention to the fourth division commander.

 

“Oi, you guys probably should start walking; Pops wants to see you four and come to a decision before we make land. We’re approaching a tourist island, Clockwork, so you four should be able to get a hold of your family,” said Thatch. 

 

The boys’ gazes darted back and forth between them as they followed Thatch to Whitebeard’s room.

 

Standing before the giant of a man, the boys couldn’t help but hunch down in an effort to avoid his stare – all except Luffy who tried to squirm past Ace and Kit. Whitebeard noticed how nervous the older brothers acted and asked Thatch to leave them and tell Marco to come in a little bit. Once done, Edwards Newgate refocused his attention on the boys.

 

“So brats, what have you decided? Are you still going with your first story? I will be willing to help you guys home, if so. Or, I can have one of the commanders help you get by on the island and maybe call your parents,” stated Whitebeard.

 

Sabo, Kit, and Ace exchanged pensive glances before they morphed into that of resignation. In unspoken agreement, Kit stepped forward to speak.

 

“Our story…may not have been all that truthful. The ship that took us this far in the Grand Line did sink, however, the four of us did not regret that. We come from the East Blue, Dawn Island to be exact,” began Kit.

 

“East Blue? How did four kids from the weakest of seas end up half-way through the Grand Line?”

 

“About that. The people with whom we parted ways in that shipwreck were slavers. They apparently came to the East Blue to procure some easy slaves and took the four of us as valued commodity. We put up quite a bit of a fight the whole time, so they would beat us and starve us to make us more manageable. On board that ship, Luffy got sick. They took away his chains since he got so weak, so I decided to mimic him. Not hard since I wasn’t exactly all that well to begin with. I managed to overcome the guards, free my brothers and the few other slaves, and, well, cause the ship to wreck…or rather sink,” confessed Kit.

 

“How did one scrawny and sick boy managed to free everyone much less defeat a whole ship of slavers? Even if you had other slaves’ help, all of you must have been pretty bad off to start with?” questioned Whitebeard.

 

“Heh…The thing is that my handcuffs may have been seastone and for a good reason. I’m a devil fruit-user. I used my powers to knock down the slavers with a boost from my emotions and a lot of luck…and then used them to wreck the ship. All the slaves managed to escape on life boats, and so did we. Well? Are you mad at us for lying? I wouldn’t blame you, I mean, who wouldn’t get mad at four strangers that lied to you in the beginning?” Whitebeard stared at the boys intently. The brothers squirmed under his scrutiny. Instead of hearing the expected yells or condemnation, Whitebeard laughed!

 

Guararara. Why would I be mad at you brats? Anyone would be distrustful and suspicious of a bunch of strange pirates after what you four been through. A devil fruit you say? Well, that’s not exactly uncommon in this crew. So, would you brats like me to take you home? Or how about call your parents first of all?”

 

Ace shook his head furiously.

 

“We don’t have parents. We have shitty Gramps, but I rather not have to deal with him.”

 

“Yeah, that old geezer can be scarier than the slavers, too,” added Sabo. “Besides we don’t live with that guy either.”

 

“Yes, I agree with that Sabo. I believe Whitebeard is really asking about anyone that might find our disappearance distressing at home. Captain Whitebeard, to be frank we don’t really have anyone besides Grandfather who only visits occasionally. We used to live with some associates of his, but we have lived by ourselves in the forest of our home island for a while. It might be good to send word to Makino at least of our well-being and assure Dadan in case she is freaking out but otherwise…” Kit struggled to continue find a good way to explain their situation without saying too much. The boys still had their secrets, after all.

 

The old man gazed over the boys with a gleam in his golden eyes.

 

“Well, if you really don’t have a real home or family, why not join mine,” announced Whitebeard. “Become my sons!”

 

“WHAT?!” The boys looked flat out dumbfounded. They have never really had or wanted a home or family outside their brotherhood. Before any of the older boys could speak, Luffy recovered first.

 

“No way! I’m going to the next Pirate King! A king cannot serve under another captain,” pronounced Luffy proudly.

  

Ace knocked on Luffy’s head, and glared at Whitebeard. He never wanted a father, didn’t need one, and was not going to call this guy his father anytime soon. Sabo and Kit looked on thoughtfully. Sabo’s parents weren’t exactly saints, but the idea of a family beyond his brothers didn’t sound that bad. Kit knew from the few stories told by his dad before he left plus from the interactions with the crew that Whitebeard would treat the boys truly as his own sons no matter their heritage. Sabo, Kit, and Ace had a tensed, hushed discussion between the three, (not that Whitebeard couldn’t listen in if he really wanted to listen) and the boy came to final decision a few moments later. The three turned back to Whitebeard.

 

“We accept your offer.”

  

Guararara. Well, you boys may be my sons for our as long as you desire. Little one, you can be my son and be your own captain when you grow a little bit. Even if any of you leave the ship to make your own destiny, know that you will always be my sons. Now, I’ll have Marco make arrangements for his new brothers and send a letter to your home. Now why don’t we announce this to the rest of the crew?”

  

That night the Whitebeard Pirates celebrated the official introduction of their four new brothers. Marco drew the odd straw out and babysat the four as his brothers partied the whole night away. The blonde couldn’t help but smirk as his brothers made absolute drunken fools of themselves, although he could have done without Luffy almost drinking some booze that he thought was juice. All in all, the Whitebeard pirate could not wait to see what his new brothers will bring to the family.

Chapter Text


Chapter V: Before the New World P.1 – Tick Tock, Bad Luck


Clockwork Island

 

-Luffy-

 

The youngest of the four brothers couldn’t wait for his first island adventure.

 

The Whitebeard Pirates had taken another day at sea to party and celebrate their new brothers’ introduction into the crew. Luffy fell asleep at one point during the celebrations, and Kit tucked his little brother into his arms before following after Ace and Sabo. Marco escorted the four boys to their cabin a little after midnight. The boys had had quite an eventful day.

 

Too much drinking and dancing left a lot of pirates splayed out on the deck the next morning. The nurses did not look too pleased with the old captain’s excessive drinking and cut him off halfway through the night before he retired. Marco, as the only pirate to not drink that night, took in a spiteful bit of glee in rousing his hung over crew mates so that they could make preparations to dock at the island in a few hours. Thatch received a bucketful of water for all his flaming turkey and pineapple jokes from the night before. The chef gave his friend a long look before heading to the kitchen. 

 

Just as promised, the pirates arrived at Clockwork Island later that morning. Luffy practically bounced off the ship in his excitement until Ace shoved him. The older boys still had an edge of distrust, so Luffy could not reveal his powers as of yet. Kit told Whitebeard that he had powers, but the astute captain said that Kit can reveal exactly what he is and what he can do when he feels more comfortable. The fox had some issues in his childhood before meeting Luffy; devil fruit-users were not the most beloved people back on his home island.

 

At last docked, the commanders decided that the boys should all wear the Whitebeard mark somewhere on their clothes just as a precaution. Izo, the sixteenth division commander and crossdresser, made the quick adjustments, and now each boy sported the logo. Ace’s red tank top had the Jolly Roger stitched to the back, Sabo had the simplified cross version on his coat pocket, Luffy’s red anchor shirt had a white mark on the front, and Kit’s light gray jacket sported mark on the bottom left edge. Ready, the boys trailed after the crossdresser who would be helping the boys shop for more clothes, some more beds, and maybe some other bedroom furniture and décor.

 

They had just finished shopping. The boys only wanted one more bed and the crossdresser that accompanied the four had the shop owners mark all their sales to take to their ship later that day. As the boys walked, they gaped. The town of Mecha was not like anything they have seen before. Everything had a metallic and clockwork touch. The houses had all sorts of clocks and gadgets. All throughout the town, the boys could hear these wondrous machines clank and whir. Luffy was so entranced that he fell behind and took the wrong turn from the rest of the group. Alone, Luffy swiveled his head comically as he scanned for any sign of his brothers.

 

“Ace! Sabo! Kit?” Luffy’s shouting trickled to a whimper. His eyed began watering until something shiny caught his eyes. All sadness forgotten, Luffy skipped over to the town’s biggest attraction, the Cuckoo Plaza. All sorts of cuckoo clocks hung across the marbled platform. Luffy ran over to a particularly large clock that rivalled the size of Commander Jozu. The hour hand struck ten and before the rubber kid knew it, the cuckoo literally knocked him straight onto one of the various cushions scattered about the plaza.

 

“Hey kid, you alright?”

 

Luffy rubbed his head before looking up at the man leaning over him. The guy was a tall angular man with a scraggly beard and several scars lining his jaw and trailing below the grey-blue open collar. Something about the man made Luffy want to curl away from him. He felt like the mean Captain Bluejam! Luffy ignored the hand the man offered and scrambled back to his feet.

 

“I’m fine. I have to go find my family now.” Before Luffy could scuttle away, the man grabbed hold of his shirt’s collar. “Hey!”

 

“So you’re all alone?” The man did not see the Whitebeard mark on Luffy’s tee due to the food stains from lunch earlier that day. His smile sent an uncomfortable shiver through Luffy.

 

“Let go! My big brothers will beat you up! *Oof*!” Luffy landed a kick at the man’s head when he brought Luffy a bit too close for an inspection of the boy. Luffy managed to dash across the plaza before he felt a foot come crashing down on his back. He heard the bad man curse above him.

 

“Stupid little brat! Damn, you sure can kick.” The bad man reached down and grabbed hold of Luffy’s foot.

 

“No! Gum-Gum Pistol!” Luffy never could aim at anything – on purpose that is – but even he could clock someone less than a foot away. *Thump*. Luffy incidentally hit the man in his pride, and said man dropped the boy with an unmanly squeal of pain.

 

“You little-! Guys get over here already!” Luffy regained his footing and without looking back, ran into the town’s alleyway. The man had tears tricking down his cheeks, but soon a nasty smirk replaced his frown. Interesting. I do believe that kid’s leg actually stretched. Devil fruit-user, huh? And to think Sabaody’s just a week or two away. When the man’s companion finally rush over, the bad man had already recovered, his mind whirling.

 

None of the townspeople lent a hand to the young boy for a reason. A few days ago, a pirate crew docked at the island. The islanders didn’t mind pirates for the most part, but these pirates wanted to cause trouble. They’ve been skulking around the town, threatening shop owners, and the captain of one somehow disabled the transponder snails. Devil fruit user they whispered and just stayed out of the pirates’ way. So long as the townspeople kept quiet and acted like nothing was wrong, the pirates would leave the town in peace. So they played along.

 

Poor Luffy. The boy ran headlong through the alleyways without a single thought to where he was going. Smack! The rubber boy bounced off a wall. Luffy somehow wounded up in the shadier part of Mecha. Here the alleys and streets had very little activity. Many of shops run-down, and most of the buildings served as storage facilities. Just as the boy picked himself up, he heard an ominous laugh. Spinning around, Luffy saw the absolute last thing he wanted to see. The bad man had caught up to him and there were even more scary men with him. They had him surrounded. Luffy screamed. 

 

Meanwhile…

 

-Kitsune-

 

Kit darted in and out of shops. Where was Luffy?! The kid was just giggling behind them five minutes ago! Typical Luffy to wander off on his own. Elsewhere, he could hear Sabo and Ace calling for their little brother. They had Izo with them to make sure no one else disappeared. Kit ran right into the first commander when he burst into one of the shops.

 

After explaining how Luffy was missing, Marco pulled out a transponder snail and informed the rest of the crew. Then he joined Kit in scanning the area for their little lost brother. Marco did not transform for better coverage since the Whitebeard Pirates did try to avoid unnecessary attention on the Paradise side of the Grand Line. The marines already felt unsettled enough with one of the emperors out of the New World. Too much of a ruckus and Navy Headquarters would probably send a fleet. The pirates didn’t exactly worry so much about not winning but wanted avoid a fight for a while with four kids on board.

 

This is not working snarled Kit. He looked back on Marco who had gone across the street to question a shop owner. The first commander really seemed worry about their little brother. A particularly stubborn and none too bright shop owner got to know how fresh his produce was when Marco lobbed him into it. To be fair, the shop owner acted rather rude and made some disagreeable remarks when Kit tried to ask around for Luffy. Marco came over and took offense.

 

Kit came to a decision. His human nose was a little bit better than average, but in this warren of a city with all the grease and metallic residue, he needed his proper fox nose.

 

“Marco!” Kit called out to the first commander. The first commander raised his eyebrow a bit at this. During the entire stay of the brothers on the Moby Dick, the kid decided to take a liking to Luffy’s nickname of pineapple and addressed him as such when no one, or at least only his brothers or Thatch, were around. Kid knew where to draw the line after all. The phoenix quickly walked over to where Kit stood.

 

"Marco, there is a better way. Birds don’t have a very good sense of smell do they? But a canid, a canid can smell fairly well,” remarked Kit. “Just watch and try to keep up.” Black smoke billowed around the 12-year-old, and in his place stood a little fox. It had a black pelt, was maybe a bit on the runty size for a fox, and for some reason had three tails tipped blue, red, and yellow. The fox nodded once at the first commander before lowering its head to the ground. The commander didn’t react at the slightest at the brash display of devil fruit power.

 

‘Marco, hello? Can you hear me?’ Marco’s bored expression twitched the slightest at the unexpected strange voice that came from nowhere. ‘Oh good. I can speak telepathically in my full transformations. Still a work-in-progress for my hybrid forms. Neat, huh? I think I can trace Luffy’s trail now. Hmmm…odd, I think the scent sours for some reason up ahead. Last time it did that-’ The little black fox’s head jerked up in alarm. Before Marco could ask Kit to explain, the fox darted off. The first commander stared for a moment before cursing and dashing after the rapidly disappearing fox.

 

-Luffy-

 

/ “Aaaah!” /

                              

Just as the bad man hefted a club to knock out cute, innocent Luffy something crashed into his left leg. The man stumbled forward. Then something bashed into his chin. His fellow pirates gaped at the sudden turn of events. Their boss was being knocked about by…nothing. Then they saw the air flicker a bit to the left of their captain. Taking a risk, one of them lunged and grabbed ahold of something – furry? The unfortunate man yelped as sharp little teeth dug into the offending hand clasped around one of its tails. The flickering got worse before the man beheld a little black fox that bared its teeth in a silent snarl. 

 

‘You perverts! You bastards! No one scare Luffy on my watch. Luffy, just stay out of this. I can handle it,’ communicated Kit. ‘Let go jerkface!’ The fox turned back, and little flames began to light by the man’s face. The pirate flinched and immediately released the fox’s tail. ‘Anyone else?’

 

The captain broiled with anger. How dare a little dog try to bark back at him and try to steal his merchandise. Before the fox could react the man pulled out a gun and fired twice, once at the fox’s side and the next at Luffy. Luffy slammed back against the wall from the bullet’s momentum, and the fox cried out in anger and pain. Kit managed to shift away in reflex, enough to let the bullet graze him, but the burn from the shot stung. The fox ached to retaliate but shape-shifting again on top being wounded would only waste more energy. He tried to gather himself and flung more will-o-wisps in an effort to scare the men.

 

Think so huh?

 

“Men, don’t be such girlies. Those little flames won’t hurt you. They’re just illusions, a parlor trick really. I don’t think the little dog has too many tricks left after that shot. Now why don’t be bag these two? We should have some seastone handcuffs somewhere on the ship.” The men came closer to where Kit laid. Then a voice frigid with rage called out.

 

“Excuse me, but what do you think you’re doing to my brats?”

 

-Marco-

 

Marco never felt this kind of rage before. He knew something was wrong in this town since the shop owners he visited kept avoiding his eyes and barely spoke. The town had a bad run of pirates it seemed. And these men, these SCUM were shooting at his brats. They were not getting out of this alive. The first commander strode into the alleyway and pulling the scariest face the children have ever seen, casually asked the men what they thought they were doing.

 

“Bo-boss? That’s Marco the Phoenix! The commander of the first division of the Whitebeard Pirates!” The cowards backed away and consequently closer to Luffy and Kit.

 

“Now then, I’m sure you three weren’t going to do anything to my brats, were you?”

 

“I rather hope not,” whispered an equally cold voice. Izo, Ace, and Sabo had apparently caught sight of the racing first commander. 

 

“Now, now, I’m s-su-sure we can work something out-” Izo pulled out his gun and shot just short of the offending speaker.

 

“So, you know we’re Whitebeard Pirates. Then I suppose you are equally aware of what we do to people that mess with our brothers.” Even Ace and Sabo reflexively stepped back when they heard the intonation of the sixteenth division commander. At the sight of their injured brothers, however, the two rushed over, dodging past the stunned brutes to protectively stand over their brothers.

 

Oh damn thought the doomed pirates. The captain of them knew they had no chance against two Whitebeard commanders. Even his telepathy that could scramble transponder snail communications and give nightmares to any malcontent could not even make a scratch against the mental fortitude of the wrathful pirates before him. Before he could say anything, Marco struck out, breaking the man’s weapon hand. Izo took aim and shot the henchmen’s kneecaps. The pirates fell to the ground. Remembering the presence of the children, the commanders quickly ended the one-sided fight, Marco aiming a kick that broke the captain’s neck and Izo shooting the remaining villains in the forehead.

 

-Kitsune-

 

Kit slowly straighten from the protective crouch he took when the commanders came onto the scene. Looking back on the frightened Luffy, he quickly changed into human form and gathered the little boy into his arms despite the pain that shot through his side. His face still gave away his pain, as Ace and Sabo instantly came to his side, helping him shoulder their exhausted and crying little brother. 

 

“Luffy, you alright? Kit, you probably shouldn’t be carrying Luffy, you’re bleeding,” gently questioned and admonished a worried Sabo. During the search, the boy had horribly disarranged his coat and his hat sat at an odd angle from running.

 

“I’ll be fine, just give me a minute. Wait, Luffy, let me take a look, that guy shot you!” The three were more distraught as they carefully turned over their brother to check for the bullet wound. Izo had hurried over to help take a look at Luffy as well. Surprisingly, the boy didn’t look worse for wear except for a suspicious hole in his shirt along with what felt like a start of a bruise.

 

“How can that be? I swore that guy shot him dead-on. I mean, I’m glad that the little guy is okay…” Marco trailed off.

 

Kit directed a glance full of meaning to his brothers. Luffy had finally stopped crying and sniveled. “That hurt! But I guess it didn’t do anything ‘cause…” Luffy’s teary eyes widened before darting up at Kit. The fox only sighed and shrugged in apology to his younger but equally overprotective brothers. These guys really were family. They came to help Luffy when they had barely joined the crew for less than a day. They can know this secret.

 

“Luffy’s unhurt probably because of his devil fruit power. He ate the Gum-Gum fruit and is now a rubber-man. I obviously ate one, too, the Dog-Dog fruit, model kitsune, ironically. I believe it’s a mythical Zoan-type like Marco’s. I can do quite a bit with it. For example, I can heal myself to an extent.” The fox without further ado, let indigo and violet flames to trail his side. Once they dispersed, the burn and scrape from the bullet had disappeared to reveal pale, unbroken skin. “Can’t do it on instinct, really, or for more than a minute or two at a time, but for minor wounds it works. Works better for other people, though,” finished the wearied fox.

 

Izo just gaped, but Marco’s bland expression did not change. “Well, we better work on that then. We better check you four over at the infirmary just in case. Good thing for everyone to know we have two more anchors on the crew, although you guys were rather obvious about it the way you two avoided or dismissed even the mention of swimming lessons.”

 

Luffy stopped crying. “Shishishi.” The boy turned his large doe eyes on the first commander and smiled. “Thanks a lot for rescuing me and my brother, Marco!” The commander smiled down on their youngest brother. Eyeing the protective hold of the older brothers, the commanders thought that their youngest won’t have any problems recovering from this when he had so many loving big brothers to protect him.

 

The four exhausted boys returned to the Moby Dick. Marco had already called ahead to send some commanders to scour the town for the other scum pirates and to inform everyone that he had the kids. The whole crew was evidently worried about them as they crowded around the brothers. For once, Ace did not glare menacingly at show of emotion. Maybe this family will be good for all of us smiled Kit as Namur came over check on Sabo, Thatch congratulated Ace on being a brave older brother and Marco guided the oldest and youngest of the KASL brothers to the infirmary. Definitely more good than bad.

Chapter Text


Chapter VI: Before the New World P.2– Sabaody Archipelago


Grove #44

 

-Ace-

 

Sabaody. This was the place the slavers always talked about. A place where they would have sold the brothers. Yet it looked like nothing the boys had imagined it to be. All around were giant trees, mangroves, which made up the Sabaody Archipelago. These monsters dwarfed the trees back on Dawn Island. Ace gazed at the sights around him. Sabo admired the pearlescent bubbles that somehow came out of the ground and would float somewhere above the treetops. Right now, they were just kids taking in the new experiences. At least until they heard the sudden shouting.

 

“Oi, brat! Come down here!”

 

And there went Ace’s moment of contemplation. Gazing into the bubble-filled sky, Ace’s frown morphed into an expression of horror. Their bumbling little brother somehow ended up in one of those bubbles that kept rising from the ground. And the idiot just laughed as he looked around in awe at all the sights above and around the mangroves.

 

They had just docked at Sabaody last night. Marco had decided what divisions could have shore leave, and what the other divisions would do to prepare the ship for their next departure. Since the 12th and 7th divisions had shore leave, Marco had asked their commanders if they would watch the four children while the boys explored the island. Haruta didn’t mind, and Rakuyo said he didn’t plan for much anyway other than stocking up on his personal booze supply. Rakuyo may be having regrets now about agreeing. The 7th division commander had never spent more than a few minutes at the most with the boys, so he had no idea what trouble they could manage. Haruta, on the other hand, enjoyed watching his youngest brothers’ shenanigans. Speaking of which…

 

*Pop.* Luffy’s bubble had just broke open, and the rubber boy’s laughter cut off as he felt his body suddenly plummet to the earth. Ace and Sabo scrambled to try and catch their little brother. Suddenly the boy’s headlong dive to the ground slowed and abruptly stopped a foot above the ground.

 

“That, dearest Luffy, is why you should listen to the seventh commander when he told you to – how did he put it? – Not to do something stupid or reckless during our stay on the island. And that was only ten minutes ago,” chided a voice above the group. Carelessly dangling from one of the mangrove’s branches hung Kit. The elder boy sported a pair of yellow ears and was using seven golden tails to anchor himself to the branch. Haruta snickered at him.

 

“You’re not exactly doing much better. At least Luffy won’t hurt himself too badly if he fell. 

 

“Mmm, good point commander,” agreed the fox with a smile as he dropped down from the branch. Like Luffy, he slowed down just as he neared the ground. Rakuyo ran over to Kit and began yelling at him for being as reckless as his baby brother. Ace grumbled at the heart-stopping display. The show-off was using his telekinesis and messing with Rakuyo.

 

After Luffy and Kit sported some very interesting bumps from their sworn brothers and suffered a rant from Rakuyo, the group was off. Rakuyo warned the boys to not get into any more trouble and for Kit to change back. The boys were to stick close to the commanders as Sabaody had many dangers such as bounty hunters and slave traders. No matter what, the boys could not get separated from them. They stopped by a shop to rent some bubble bikes for which Luffy gave his best Luffy pout in an effort to persuade the commanders to buy one. Rakuyo chuckled good-naturedly and patted the young D’s head. Apparently the bubbles of Sabaody popped outside of its unique atmosphere. That information slipped right through Luffy’s rubber brain, though, and it took receiving another bump from Ace to get the boy stop nagging the commanders. Luffy had a short attention span luckily. He quickly forgot about the whole argument, as he cheered from his seat on the wagon attached to the bubble bikes. 

 

Noon Some Restaurant in Sabaody

 

They had just finished sight-seeing for the morning, and Luffy began to complain about food. Ace, Sabo, and Kit agreed with their youngest brother in a chorus of grumbles. Rakuyo smiled at the boys and said he knew just the place for lunch. Luffy cheered the whole ride to the restaurant chanting “Food, food, food!”

 

Upon entering the restaurant, a large scruffy man waved the group over to his table. The man munched on some pie as he greeted the commanders and the boys. Ace felt strange. He glanced at Luffy who had suddenly gone silent, his smile gone. The youngest D inched closer to him, hiding himself somewhat behind the older D.

 

Haruta’s eyes slid over to littlest brother that hid behind the older. He frowned before directing his attention back to the bulky black-haired man.

 

“Guys, this is Marshall D. Teach, a member of the second division and one of the original members of the crew,” said Rakuyo as he gestured to the large man.

 

Kit didn’t act normally either. Normally, the older boy gave new people his trademark grin, a toothy smile and gleaming half-slitted eyes that hinted at mischief. Kit did not smile. Ace could imagine the older boy would be lowering his ears in threat if in his fox form. As it was, the boy consciously schooled his unconsciously formed scowl to a wary frown so quickly that someone not observing him too seriously would miss the vanishing scowl. Sabo looked to his brothers with concern before introducing himself to their guest.

 

“I’m Sabo, our youngest brother is Luffy, the boy he’s clinging to is Ace, and Kit is the oldest. It is very nice to make your acquaintance.”

 

“Zehahaha. Sure are a polite one. Ehhh…is the little one okay? Seems a bit scared if you ask me.”

 

“Hmmm. Maybe he’s not comfortable with new people, Teach. So how’s the food?” asked Haruta, although he spent enough time with the kids to know that Luffy seemed to like just about everyone.

 

Zehahaha. I guess the brat just needs time to know me better. The cherry pie here is excellent, and the booze’s not half bad.”

 

The group settled down to eat lunch. Luffy ate an outrageous amount as usual but slowly, as his eyes kept sliding to the large man across their table. Kit ate normally but stared at the man out the corner of his eye. Ace frowned as finished his meal. He shared a worried glance with Sabo and the boys silently agreed that they would be sure to ask when they were alone in their room. Teach got up and gave a hearty good-bye to the commanders before he finally left the group.

 

Luffy finally stopped trying to cling to Ace when Teach left, and Kit spared the departing man one last scrutinizing look before replacing his frown with his normal smirk. Sabo was about to say something to those two when Rakuyo announced their plans to spend the remainder of the day at Sabaody Park. Luffy smiled wide and stars shown in his eyes. The boys heard how Sabaody had an amusement park full of rides, games, and carnival food.

 

“Yay! Let’s go! Shishishishi.” 

 

Sabaody Park

 

-Luffy-

 

This place was so neat. Luffy loved to dash around and point out all the cool shiny prizes and rides and games. All the boys wanted to try some of the rides at the park. Their eyes practically gleamed. Rakuyo looked a bit pale though. Shishishi. But Haruta only seemed amused and more than willing to accompany the boys on all sorts of roller coasters and rides. Luffy loved the Ferris wheel the most, though. From way up at the top, he could see all of Sabaody and even a bit of the sea beyond the furthest mangroves. Here, his dream to be the next pirate king felt all the more real.

 

-Sabo-

 

Honestly, Luffy could not be any more excitable than now. Their youngest brother practically bounced around and on more than one occasion had to be restrained before he tried to literally rocket off to the next eye-catching ride. Rakuyo actually tied a small rope to the energetic boy just so Luffy wouldn’t get lost. If Kit, Ace and Sabo haven’t taken turns at Luffy watch the boy would have already separated from the group before Rakuyo put the makeshift leash on him.

 

The top hat wearer sighed. With Luffy dragging Rakuyo to another game where he would hopelessly lose, Sabo decided to check out one of the game stands himself. The game was one of those test your strength games but not quite as simple. The various bells floated at different levels in the air. Not only did a person have to hit mallet with enough strength to send the shot flying up to a bell but the contestant would also have to have good aim to hit the bubbles that hovered in different sections of the sky. Sabo was about to leave when he spotted some of the prizes. On one stand was a rack of hats. The one that caught Sabo’s eye was a bright orange cowboy hat that had two smiley medallions, a happy face and a sad face. Next to it was a black baseball cap with a white rim. The best part of the cap was the cartoonish blue fox design that ran along the sides. Sabo smiled. According to the sign, hitting the highest bell won the contestant either one gold prize or two of the silver prizes. Each hat had a silver tag.

 

Sabo paid for a turn at the game despite the vendor’s disbelieving laughter. Fighting the tiger lord, crocodiles can’t be easier than this. Good thing Izo working on our aim with some practice on slingshots and bows. He dragged the mallet and firing device to the area where the highest target floated. 1, 2, 3…*SMACK!* The shot flew straight up into the air, popping the bubble and smashing the target to pieces. Victorious, Sabo asked for the two hats from the sputtering game vendor.

 

-Kitsune-

 

Kit couldn’t help the beaming smile that has occupied his face since Sabo presented Ace and him with their new hats. Ace received his hat with a bit of a red face as Haruta and Rakuyo commented on how cute he looked. Kit had no such protests and gave Sabo a one armed hug as he sat his new baseball cap at an angle on his head. The hats were actually a bit big on either boy, like with Sabo’s and Luffy’s, but they’d probably grow into them. This day certainly couldn’t get any better.

 

The group just left the park and were heading off to meet with some of the commanders at one of the groves. They returned their bikes before going to the park, so the group proceeded on foot. They just entered arrived to Grove #20 when the crowds suddenly went quiet. Kit tilted his head in question before the commanders hustled the boys into the shadows of an alleyway. Kit watched as the groups of people in the streets drew to the sides and bowed. Luffy tried to protest Rakuyo’s hold until the older man clapped a hand over his mouth and ordered him to hush. Ace and Sabo could feel the tension in the air. Kit felt like puffing his fur out if he had any.

 

There in the cleared path strode an oddly dressed woman that rode upon a…fishman? The woman wore some sort of suit and a bubble around her head. Her entourage didn’t seem too pleasant as several of them wore shackles and collars, including the poor fishman. Haruta muttered darkly as he drew closer to the side of the alleyway. Once the group walked far from view, the crowd relaxed. People returned to whatever they were doing as if nothing happened.

 

“Who was that?” asked Sabo.

 

Rakuyo grimaced, and Haruta answered him. “Celestial Dragons. World Nobles. The worst scum in the world. They believe themselves higher than humans and treat us peasants as no more than trash or toys for their amusements. They actually think they’re gods,” spat the 12th division commander.

 

The boys paled at the word “Celestial Dragon.”

 

“Dragon? Like the bad ones that blew up Sabo?”

 

“Hush Luffy. You said that like I’m dead. I survived, alright?”

 

“Blew up Sabo?” asked Haruta with a raised brow.

 

Kit nodded once before explaining. “A Celestial Dragon came to Dawn Island once. At the time, Sabo tried to set out early. He just couldn’t stand his home anymore, especially after the fire. His ship crossed paths with the incoming Celestial Dragon’s vessel, and well…Sabo survived because of this one guy that took him away for recovery. That’s why Sabo has that burn scar across his eye. We thought he was dead for a while. I had to help Dadan, our caretaker, tie Ace to a tree, he was so mad. And Luffy cried for nights.” 

 

“You weren’t better big brother. You work yourself to exhaustion trying to take care of us and holding in your own tears until you pass out one day,” reminded Ace with a hollow voice. Thinking about the incident always made him moody and melancholy.

 

Haruta and Rakuyo looked to the boys with new understanding. The family still didn’t know much about the boys’ childhood before the slavers took them away from home. All they knew right now was that Kit and Luffy both got their devil fruits at young ages, the boys’ guardian – Shitty Gramps, Grandpa, Old Geezer, or Grandfather depending on who was speaking – practically abandoned them and left them with the Dadan Family, and even then the boys usually fended for themselves in a forest full of vicious, giant predators. This incident certainly explained some the older ones’ over the top brother complexes. 

 

The two commanders said nothing and just gathered the boys close. After a minute or two, the group continues their way to the meeting place.

 

Shakki’s Rip-off Bar

 

-Kitsune-

 

Shakki, Shakki, where have I heard this name before? The group finally reached their destination. The commanders had to beat down a group of thugs twice since they have entered the seedier part of Sabaody. Any of the idiot thugs that managed to get to close to the four boys received a face full of foxfire if Rakuyo didn’t smack them with his flail or if they didn’t feel Haruta’s blade. The rough looking tavern didn’t impress Ace or Sabo. Luffy just thought it looked really cool. Kit could only tip his head to the side. Where have I heard of that name? The commanders just chuckled as they strode into the bar with the boys following close after once Ace shook Kit from his musings.

 

There in the bar sat several familiar figures drinking. Thatch and Marco were playing cards at one of the tables with some of the first and second division members, Fossa was having a drinking contest with Blenheim, and at the bar was Izo chatting with – Shakki!

 

/ Sitting on a stool sat a five-year-old child. In front of him, his auntie was telling him about all sorts of things going on in the world. To the side, a tall man with silvery hair was arm-wrestling with Mama. /

 

“Auntie Shakki!” yelped Kit. Sabo spared a confuse look at fox. Kit gave his brothers a sheepish grin. “Auntie Shakki, my aunt. She’s the lady tending the bar and is the owner. She’s my uncle’s wife,” disclosed Kit with a bit of a red face as said aunt smiled before coming over to give the twelve year-old a much protested hug.

 

“My, have you grown. You’re in luck Kitsune, your uncle is actually here and not gadding about the island,” said Shakki, and a silver-haired man emerged from the back of the bar.

 

“Little fox, *laugh* you look life you’ve hardly aged a day since I last saw you.”

 

“Not true, Uncle Ray! I grew plenty. It’s been seven years after all! J-just because Ace is taller than me-” sputtered the indignant fox.

 

“Excuse me, did you say uncle?”

 

Oops. Kit forgot that no one except his bonded brothers knew about his family. 

 

“Yeah. My mom was Silvers Lilith, Rayleigh’s baby sister. She used to take me to visit her brother when I was younger, before she died and Grandpa adopted me…”

 

“So wait, you’re not relate to Ace, Sabo, or Luffy?” questioned Thatch. The Whitebeard Pirates in the bar drew close to hear more about their younger brothers.

 

“Technically, none of us are related. We’re brothers by bond, not blood. Anyways, Uncle Ray, these are my brothers, Portgas D. Ace, Sabo, and Monkey D. Luffy,” clarified Kit. “The four of us joined the Whitebeard Pirates and…”

 

“Hmm. I don’t think I ever heard you four’s last names before. Two D’s? That explains some of your appetites,” remarked Marco.

 

“Mmm, three actually. My full name is Sol D. Silvers Kitsune. Sol D. Kit for brevity and for my own safety according to Mama and Uncle.”

 

“Well, isn’t this a day for revelations. Drinks are on me, boys. It’s not every day I see my favorite nephew and meet his new family,” exclaimed Rayleigh. “So Kit, tell me, how four kids ended up on Whitebeard’s ship? I thought you lived all the way in the East Blue? How was living on Dawn Island, by the way?” 

 

“Well, it’s a long story-”

  

“We got the rest of the evening before we return,” said Marco

 

All the Whitebeard Pirates in the bar gathered around the four boys as they told of their life on Dawn Island, of their adventures and hardships. The boys wove a surreal tale of giant monsters and bandits, bad pirates and good pirates, corruption and bravery. Rayleigh smiled. Portgas D. Ace and Monkey D. Luffy, huh? You sure made some interesting brothers Kit, reflected Rayleigh as he thought on his old captain’s beloved and the man that chased his old crew across the Grand Line.

Chapter Text


Chapter VII: Before the New World P.3 – Fishman Island


Sabaody Archipelago

The Moby Dick

The Night After

 

-KASL-

 

Izo escorted the KASL brothers to the Moby Dick since their original companions decided to drink a bit too deeply into the whiskey and sake.

 

He waved farewell before leaving. “Marco very well can’t drag all those drunken idiots from Shakki’s bar by himself,” he stated. 

 

The boys enjoyed the party that the crewmembers threw after story time, but the adventures on Sabaody wore them out.

 

Alone in their cabin, the boys readied for bed. After a minute or two, Ace and Sabo suddenly recalled the disturbing scene from earlier that day.

 

“Luffy, Kit, got a minute?” asked Ace.

 

When given the choice to get a new bed, the boys decided to let Ace and Sabo take the new bed while Kit usually curled himself at the end of the old bed, the blankets burying him until only his eyes shone. Kit poked his head out from his blankets with his head crooked to the side. Luffy mumbled yes through his PJs which he had just pulled over his head.

 

“So, why did you two act weird around that Teach guy?”

 

The expression on Kit’s face darkened. Luffy looked confused. The two brothers fidgeted for a minute before replying.

 

“I don’t know. That guy, he just felt-”

 

“Wrong?" 

 

“Yeah, wrong. I got a bad feeling about him. He kind of reminded me of Bluejam,” whispered Luffy with an edge of fear creeping into this voice. Kit had crawled out of his blankets entirely and did not look much better, thin wisps of fire escaping his control.

 

“That guy…set my instincts on edge. To me, he felt like the monster bear from Dawn Island. He gave off that same ominous feel. No, the monster bear made me feel threatened, but the fear felt natural. Teach…he made my fur stand on end. I felt like fighting was not an option but an inevitability,” hissed Kit. His voice began normal but gradually lowered and harshen with each syllable. The last sentence was barely a whisper but seemed to echo in the cabin. 

 

“Alright. So something’s off with Teach,” stated Sabo. Ace spared Sabo an incredulous glance before the top hatter continued. “I know the guy’s crew. That means nakama and Whitebeard Pirates believe in their nakama. But, we cannot deny that Luffy has an instinct for people’s intentions, and Kit’s really wise when he feels like it. For now, let’s just keep an eye on him. Agreed?” The three brothers nodded.

 

Shakki’s Rip-off Bar

 

-Marco- 

 

Marco groaned. He had to recruit Izo and a few of his division members to help clear out their more inebriated brothers. All he had left was a very comatose Thatch. Leaning against the bar, the first commander took a quick swig of sake. As a phoenix, the alcohol never really lasted that long to have any effects beyond the initial burn. The gesture did relax him, though. 

 

“Interesting night, Marco?” The first division commander didn’t bother to look up at the silver-haired man that took a seat next to him. Typical Rayleigh, to smile at his predicament.

 

“Hah. Well, what did you think about the boys’ stories tonight?" 

 

“Not sure if I believe half the stuff they say - yoi. Didn’t know the East Blue had giant monster-filled forests. I can’t believe their grandfather abandoned children in that place, much less left them in the care of bandits - yoi! The stories about those pirates that they’ve met in the Grey Terminal makes my blood boil. I also really hope that the Shanks, whom Luffy practically idolizes, isn’t Red Hair, but the hat says otherwise - yoi,” said the phoenix, his sleepy eyes lighting with anger. “Can’t stand the guy, but at least he treated Kit and Luffy well. Those kids have been through a lot. Whoever their grandfather is better stay out of my path - yoi. What kind of guy let’s his grandkids fight monkeys and alligators and tigers?”

 

Rayleigh’s easy smile vanished. A heavy frown took its place before he swigged a drink from the silver flask he kept at his hip. With a sigh, the man replied.

 

“I don’t agree with their grandfather’s ideas of training, either. But considering who the guy is, I’m not as surprised. That guy’s a monster, you know,” stated Rayleigh.

 

“What do you mean? Who is their grandfather?”

 

“Well, I think you’ll see soon enough. If I see the guy, I’ll be sure to deliver your message.” The gleam in the older man’s eye coupled with the shark-like grin left no doubt in the first commander’s head that Rayleigh may be a pretty lax guy in his retirement, but he was still an uncle, not only to Kit but his sworn brothers, too. Those guys left an impression on him.

 

“I’ll hold you to it. And I’ll do the same for you if I meet the guy before you - yoi.” 

 

Later that night

 

-Thatch-

 

*Thunk, thunk.*

 

The fourth division commander groaned. That party sure was great, and Shakki always had some good booze. But the after-effects of a great party left a lot to be desired. The pineapple spared no mercy for his best friend. That man positively shone with malice when he dumped a bucket full of ice water on his head. Maybe singing about cooking some pineapple chicken wasn’t such a great idea. The commander glanced at the clock on the wall. He only had three hours of sleep. Who could be knocking at this hour?

 

*Thunk, thunk.*

 

“Thatchy?”

 

That roused Thatch from thoughts of bed. He ran over to his door and opened it to reveal a teary-eyed Luffy.

 

“Little buddy, what are you doing here at this hour? What’s wrong?”

 

“I had a bad dream. I didn’t want to wake Ace or Sabo, and Kit was gone already.”

 

“Gone?”

 

“Mmm. He did that sometimes on Dawn Island. I saw him sitting by the figurehead.”

 

“Alright then. Why don’t you tell me all about your dream while we go visit your big brother?”

 

Thatch tuck Luffy into his arms and headed off onto the deck. He was so out of it when Marco dragged him back to the ship that he still wore his clothes from earlier that day which was fine for strolling out on deck. The night air carried a chill. Luffy had a blanket, so the commander tried to wrap the child a bit better in his arms.

 

“So buddy, what kind of dream did you have?”

 

“Mmm. I saw this big, dark monster. I didn’t like it. The monster kept following you and Marco and Pops around the ship. Then it ate you! It laughed, and I got really scared.”

 

“A big, dark monster stalking Marco, Pops and I? Don’t worry Luffy. I’m a pirate of the strongest crew on the seas. There’s no monster that can defeat us. This is the safest place, and no big bad monster can even think of coming on board. Now, where’s your brother?”

 

Just as Luffy said, Kit sat on the railings. He probably felt the chill in the air and partially transformed, as he had black tipped ears and a white tail. He gave no indication of acknowledgement to the commander standing behind his perch.

 

“Hey Kit. Can’t get to sleep?”

 

He didn’t turn to face the commander and replied only with a shrug of the shoulders. Several minutes passed. The fox sighed. In one swift movement, the fox stood in front of the commander.

 

“Yeah, I can’t sleep. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit nocturnal as a Zoan. Then again, I usually sleep during the night anyways. Too many thoughts running through my mind, I think,” admitted the fox, ear tips drooping a bit. His tail hung limp. He lifted his face from his toes and noticed the bundle in Thatch’s arms.

 

“What’s Luffy doing out of bed?” Kit questioned a bit harshly.

 

“Kid had a bit of a night scare.”

 

“Luffy? Do you want me to sing to you like back on Dawn Island?”

 

Luffy nodded his head. Thatch looked thoughtfully at Kit before suggesting that the boys come with him back to his cabin for the night. They could sleep with him tonight.

 

Thatch tucked himself and Luffy into the bed, and Kit simply shifted completely into human form before a puff of smoke covered him and a little black fox cuddled around their feet. Settled, the fox began to hum. A soothing melody soon filled the cabin as Kit accompanied with humming with a foreign lullaby. The mind voice had an almost chime-like quality. Whatever the words meant, the tune relaxed Luffy who soon fell into a peaceful slumber. Kit hummed the final notes.

 

“I never heard that language before.”

 

‘Mmm. I don’t know the name myself, but my dad taught it to me when I was really young. I still remember quite a bit of it, enough to carry a conversation. I’m better with reading it, though. The songs, though, those I remember best because I like to hum them when I’m alone.’

 

In the quiet of the cabin, the fox hummed another tune, drifting to sleep halfway through the song. Thatch looked to his guests with a soft smile. They’re so sweet when they’re asleep. I wonder what brought about tonight’s sleeping trouble? Well, I guess I’ll just keep an eye on them. Night, brats. Ugh, too much booze. Those stories last night…better remember to have the boys come into the clinic for a check-up tomorrow - err, today – while I’m begging for my cure.

   

Next morning

Clinic of the Moby Dick

 

-KASL-

 

The top-hatted boy glanced around the pristine room.

 

This morning he and Ace woke up to find their brothers completely gone from their room. The boys panicked, hastily slapped on some clothes, and dashed out of their room to only slam right into their missing brothers walking back to their cabin. The pompadoured commander was with him and explained that the boys had trouble sleeping, so they stayed with him last night. Ace gave each boy a knock to the head before the group walked over the galley for breakfast. They’d just finish clearing their last plate when Thatch asked them to come with him to the clinic.

 

So here they were. Thatch went over to ask the nurses for some pain meds, for which he received the coldest glares Sabo ever seen. The nurses ignored his request and asked why the boys were in the clinic today. Did he let them get injured on the island (at this point, the nurses’ gaze could turn a man to stone)? Thatch held his hands in surrender and replied that the boys were fine, he just wanted to check on a few health concerns now that they were well and settled into the family. Health concerns?

 

The nurses shooed off a few of the crew that came to the clinic for pain meds before one came over to look over the boys. She gently asked the boys and Thatch several questions: How much have you been eating lately? Several plates per meal. Have you four always been so little and skinny? I suppose…we’re not that small! And so forth. Thatch told the nurses a bit about their childhood, at which Ace and Sabo raised their eyebrows and shrugged. Luffy added his cheerful (although a bit confusing) bit, and Kit clarified their answers as needed. The fox looked a bit sleepy (Sabo had a feeling that the fox was actually sleep talking a few times). When asked about whether they knew of any existing health issues, Kit visibly snapped awake and replied that he and Ace suffered from narcolepsy, and Luffy probably will one day - maybe a milder form of it if the old geezer is any indicator. Thatch and the nurse jumped a bit when they heard the sharper tone of voice from an aware Kit. The nurse and Thatch stepped to the side and had an intense discussion. When they turned back to the boys, the nurse explained some of the boys’ problems.

 

Apparently the boys’ eating habits came from having a hyperactive metabolism. To Ace and Luffy (the latter of whom just smiled obliviously), that meant that the boys burned a lot more energy than normal people. Too little food or the wrong balance of nutrients could actually hurt them bad in the long run. In fact, that was why the four boys looked more runty than they should. With Ace and Kit’s narcolepsy, the boys had to make sure they got a full night’s rest, enough food, and to simply relax sometimes, so they could limit the number of attacks.

 

Ace tried to digest the input of new information, Kit nodded his head in understanding, and Luffy just gave that wide smile that said he didn’t understand a thing (“So it’s a mystery problem!”). The older brothers sighed in unison. Sabo decided that he would look up their problem later. Ace wanted Thatch to teach him more about what the boys should eat, and Kit actually could understand the complicated and technical details, so he chatted with the nurse to find out more. Satisfied that the boys understood their problem (3/4 at least), Thatch thanked the nurse for her help and escorted the brothers out of the clinic.

 

A couple days pass before the Moby Dick has restocked supplies and is coated. The Whitebeard Pirates head off to Fishman Island  

Several thousand feet below sea level

 

-Kitsune-

 

Sometimes being the eldest of his sworn brothers made him want to tear at his hair. Luffy had decided to stand on the railings to stare at the large fish swimming by the sinking ship. A sudden jerk sent the straw-hatted boy careening before Marco swooped in to catch the falling boy. Kit banged his head against the railing before he went back to staring at the sea. The coated Moby Dick sure did look cool. The entire ship sat within a bubble layer that kept the sea water out for submersion. According to Sabo – and by extension Namur – Fishman Island sat at the bottom of the ocean, right below the Red Line and Mariejois, the kingdom of the Celestial Dragons and the upper echelon of the World Government.

 

“Kit, Kit!” There went the end for Kit’s moment of quiet. He turned to his little brother who literally bounced up and down.

 

“Kit, do you hear that?” The fox tilted his head in question. Honestly, since the boys were in the crow’s nest, he hardly heard too much beyond the murmuring of the crew below. He knew Luffy didn’t mean that.

 

“Hear what?”

 

“The voices!" 

 

“What voi-” Kit yanked his head to the side as heard the sudden yell from below.

 

He saw Ace fallen back on the deck and Sabo tensed and standing next to him. What startled hi-Ooh. Staring right at the ship was the biggest fish Kit has ever seen. It had a bright red serpentine body and teeth a whole lot bigger than even old man Whitebeard. He grabbed Luffy before leaping off the crow’s nest, barely gathering enough focus to slow their fall. He just managed to float them over to their brothers before ungracefully stumbling by their sides, his telekinesis drained. The fish’s jaws began to open. Kit suddenly felt a kind of pressure flow past him. The fish monster shuddered before darting off for easier prey.

  

The boys were utterly dumbfounded. What could have scared a monster that size? Sabo lent a hand to Ace and hauled him back to his feet.

 

“Conqueror’s haki,” stated a voice behind them. The boys swung around and saw the first commander walking toward them. “The will power of a person manifested. Not many people have it. Pops is one of them. People with that power can cause animals to flee and people to fall over unconscious depending on how weak their wills are to the user. Hope that sea king didn’t give you boys too much of a scare. First time seeing one?”

 

“Sea king? Oh. Uncle Ray mentioned wrestling with a nest of them with Mama, but I can’t imagine how after seeing one,” said Kit with a bit of a blush. He practically shook in his sandals when he jumped down to his brothers. Luffy still trembled in his arms. 

 

“Wrestling a nest? Well, I don’t know if we ever did something as rash as that, but I bet Pops has lots of other stories about his encounters with sea kings. Why don’t you boy go and spend some time with the captain. It’ll be quite a while before we make land at Fishman Island.”

 

For the remainder of voyage, the boys surrounded Pops’ chair as he told them of his exploits and journeys traveling to and from Fishman Island, interrupted only by the occasional laughter and a particularly ‘mysterious’ fish swimming past. Between the sea king’s appearance and the story telling session, Kit has completely forgotten Luffy’s claims about the ‘voices’ he heard.

 

Fishman Island

 

Never ever, EVER, again. The little monster of a brother ate only a handful of fishman candy, and already he had managed to knock over three stands, crashed into several civilians, and ran right over one of the fishman guards patrolling the streets. Namur was practically at the end of his rope right now as he dragged Luffy yet again from the water pools scattered about the area. Ace and Sabo had quite enough as well. They were yelling at Luffy. Maybe they should tie their little brother up? Just until he burned off his sugar rush. Who knew that much sugar could turn Luffy into such a hell raiser?

 

“Okay, we should remember to never let Luffy has that much pure sugar at once,” said Sabo after suffering another bruise from their brother’s struggles. “Seriously, if Thatch ever offers to make sweets…Just no.” Ace looked pretty fed up with his hyperactive brother’s antics as he decided to hold Luffy down until he calmed down a bit.

 

Namur nodded his head in agreement. The shark fishman looked fairly worn out already from playing babysitter today, and the group had only been exploring for an hour. Kit just returned to the group and waited for the brothers to steady Luffy. Once they did, Kit pulled out a reel of strong seaweed rope he bought from a stand – which Luffy had yet to destroy – and tied Luffy up. A poof of red smoke and the group was ready to continue their tour of Fishman Island with Luffy secured on Kit’s back. Not once had the kid stopped giggling or blabbering nonsensical words.

 

A couple hours passed. Luffy during this time had fallen into a candy coma and was just stirring. Giving the boy a minute or two and assessing that Luffy was no longer more dangerous than usual, Kit had Ace and Sabo release the boy before he shifted back into human form. Luffy apparently did not recall do anything during his sugar rush. Definitely no more than very small and controlled doses of sweets for Luffy, at least until he could handle it. Luffy was back to normal, though – Luffy’s version of normal.

 

The group had just come to the Mermaid Cove. Namur had Luffy walk within the group. He did not want to play fishing for little brothers. Sabo struck up another conversation with Namur about the history and facts of Fishman Island while the group walked about the beaches. A few of mermaids swam close to the group and giggled about how cute the little human boys were. Ace’s cheeks flared red, encouraging another round of laughter. He gripped the edge of his cowboy hat, pulling it over his eyes more than usual. Kit just smirked at his brother’s embarrassment. He slipped a little snail camera that he purchased from Sabaody and snapped a quick picture. Unfortunately, Ace noticed the flash and tackled the elder for the camera. The fox just laughed and squirmed out of Ace’s hold. His little brother may be a bit bulkier and stronger, but Kit had plenty of experience slipping from his brothers’ angry grasps and today was no different. The chortling fox skipped just out of range from Ace’s next lunge. Then, with a wink for his now murderous brother, Kit scuttled up one of the numerous coral formations that towered over the cove. Ace probably wouldn’t find his way up to his spot for a while judging from how he barely could make some of those footholds. Whoops, there he goes tumbling down again.

 

Sparing Ace one last glance, Kit gazed over the cover. Suddenly he saw a red blur skit just out of the corner of his eye. Kit retrained his gaze to where Sabo and Namur watched Ace try to scale the coral…and did not see Luffy. The fox hopped to his feet. There he spotted the little idiot chasing after his straw hat that somehow got itself attached to one of those floating fish.

 

“LUFFY!”

 

Kit was off. He shifted into his seven tail hybrid with only moderate difficulty and gave chase. Ace, Namur, and Sabo gaped at the fox for one moment until it dawned on them. And there went there their plans for an easy afternoon walk about.

 

Twenty-eight minutes later.

 

“I swear Luffy that I will beg Marco if I have to for a leash to keep you from running off all the time,” snapped Kit.

 

“Awww. But Kit, the flying fish had my hat! I had to get it back,” whined Luffy, his chocolate brown eyes widened in his best conniving pout.

 

“No way. I’m not giving in to the face. Knock it off because it’s not going work this time. How many times have you wandered off by yourself now?” admonished Kit as he tightened his hold on Luffy’s hand.

 

He spent nearly half an hour tracking Luffy. Now the two brothers were hopelessly lost somewhere. Luffy nearly drowned at one point during the chase when the fish with his hat dove into an underwater section. Kit caught up to the struggling boy, and he snatched him from the water. Luffy would not stop being a brat, so Kit managed to find some bubble coral and used his telekinesis to move their bubble after the fish. Luffy had his hat back, and Kit maneuvered them to dry land just as his power failed, and he morphed back into human form. This place did not make Kit feel at all comfortable. The streets were dark and foreboding, trash littered the streets, and the few fishmen and merfolk walking around gave the two boys hard stares.

 

“Luffy, please listen to what I say. Whatever happens, do not let go of my hand,” Kit murmured to Luffy as one of the fishmen leaning against a ramshackle building began to stroll toward the lone human boys. 

 

“Hey you two. So what are two little humans doing here all alone?” sneered the alligator gar fishman. He leaned in closer to the boys. Kit drew Luffy into his arms. This creep gave the fox chills. He gave the fishman his best innocent grin.

 

“Our family is visiting the island before we head out to the New World. My little brother and I got separated. If it’s not much trouble, could you please direct us to the main city streets?” Kit asked in his sweetest tone. The prickling feeling worsen. “On second thought, I think I can find our way find. Pleasure meeting you sir, and thank you for your concern.”

 

The fox sidestepped the fishman and tried to rush past him. He felt a sharp tug as the fishman easily lifted the two brothers’ weight. The fishman dangled Kit by his shirt collar. Kit held Luffy tightly in his arms. The fishmen suddenly lifted his other hand and gripped Kit by his neck.

 

“You humans think you’re so tough. You think you can just wander where you will on our island and let your brats run amuck. Humans like you are less than trash compared to fishmen. We’re stronger, faster, better, yet humans can stroll around our island and take our kinsmen without a word of protest. Well, I will show you brats why you shouldn’t walk around so proudly on our island. Maybe then you can tell other human scum why they should fear us.”

 

Kit’s heart pumped faster. The chase has exhausted his powers. He may be able to manage some foxfire but against a fishman? The fishman squeezed his scaly hand. Can’t breathe. But if I lose consciousness or drop Luffy in this place. 

 

“Oi! What do you think you’re doing?” grumbled someone.

 

The fishman dropped his captives who crumpled in a heap as the sudden drop. There stood a large blue fishman. Kit sat up, gasping in large breaths of air. Luffy was crying. He looked to their savior. Kit guessed he was some kind of shark judging by his features and the sheer strength he emitted.

 

“Just some brats that wandered where they shouldn’t, Jinbe,” explained the fishman with his hands held to the sides. “I was just going to take them back to their family and –”

 

“Liar!” wheezed Kit. He glared at their attacker before directing his attention to the larger fishman. “We were just trying to find our ways back to our family when this guy tried to assault us. He kept going on about some nonsense about humans’ misguided pride and fishman superiority.”

 

“Is that so? You better leave before I decide to call the guard for attacking children.” The stare the blue fishman leveled sent chills down the spine. The smaller fishman wisely decided to follow his suggestion and ran down the streets.

 

“So brats, where’s your family anyway?”

 

“Don’t know. I lost them somewhere between here and the Mermaid Cove. My little brother ran off after his straw hat, and here we were. I think the old man is at the palace, though.”

 

“Hmm? Who’s your old man?”

 

Luffy had stopped crying sometime during the conversation and positively beamed at the large fishman. When he asked about their pops, Luffy interjected cheerfully, “Can’t remember his name – Newgate maybe - but everyone calls him Whitebeard.”

 

“Whitebeard? You two are with Pops? Then you’re in luck. I’ll take you to the Ryugu Palace since I was heading there anyway. Name’s Jinbe.”

 

“Jinbe? Wait, the Jinbe of the Seven Warlords? The one that the old man talks about a lot?”

 

“Talks a lot about me? Yes, I’m an old friend of Pops.”

 

“Cool! What kind of fishmen are you? Do you poo-” Kit slapped a hand over Luffy’s mouth.

 

“What is with you and that question?”

 

“Hahaha! What a funny little guy. I’m a whale shark fishman. Now come along. If your family knows your missing, they’ll be really worried. Also, we can’t have the Whitebeard Pirates tearing through the streets looking for you, either. Might cause a bit of ruckus.” 

 

Ryugu Palace

 

-Marco-

 

Back and forth paced the first commander. Why am I not surprise? Even I can’t keep track of that kid. Should’ve sent another commander with Namur just to keep an eye on Luffy. The first commander buried his head in his hands. The whole family wanted to search for the brats, but Pops said to wait. King Neptune heard about the missing children and had already informed his guards to keep an eye out for the brats. If they didn’t receive word of the kids’ whereabouts in the next hour, Pops would let a couple of the divisions to scour the island. If something happens to the brats…Marco clenched his hands into his hair. At the moment, Pops and several of the commanders stood around the throne room of the palace as they awaited any news of their lost brothers.

 

“Sire! ‘Sea Knight’ Jinbe has come to the palace gates. And he two human children with him!”

 

Marco was not alone to breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe he will take Kit’s constant nagging about getting a leash for their youngest brother. If Luffy kept this up, Marco was going to have hair as white as Pop’s mustache. 

 

That night in the Ryugu Palace

 

-Luffy-

 

That was a really fun adventure. The candy was super yummy! That bad toothy fishman scared the boy, but he really like the blue one Jinbe. Marco scolded him for scaring the family again and running off but that was okay because they had a feast to celebrate the crew’s visit and the safe return of the two brothers. Kit didn’t eat much in the beginning because he nodded off and fell into his plate of food for a while. Shishishi. Not even Sabo’s shaking or Ace’s bucket of water woke him up. Thatch laughed and took the camera in Kit’s pocket to take a picture. Before he could put it back, Thatch looked at some of the pictures and chuckled, snickered, and laughed.

  

“Man the kid has the making of an information broker. He’s got some interesting film on everyone. Nice blush Ace, by the way.”

 

Ace tried to snatch the camera from the fourth division commander who just chortled and held the camera high.

 

*ZZzzz…Snort…* “Huh?” Kit abruptly woke up, his hair and face matted with water and food. Everyone laughed. Kit noticed his missing camera and joined Ace, leaping high and snatching the camera from a startled Thatch. Thus began the game as Ace chased Kit. Luffy decided their game looked fun and joined his two brothers. He stretched his hands out and actually grabbed the camera on the return after he missed. Luffy giggled. He took the camera and dashed across the banquet table. Kit and Ace exchanged a look before they wrestled their brother into the dishes. Food flew everywhere: gravy stained Sabo’s new coat; sake spilled onto Izo; and some pineapple juice splashed onto a certain Phoenix’s head.

 

“*Snicker* Thirsty, Pineapple Head?” Said pineapple head tossed a pie at the offending red head. An epic food fight broke out and at the end of the night, no one left the party without some edible decoration on their person. Luffy would always remember his first trip to Fishman Island.

Chapter Text


Chapter VIII: Starry Night 


Behold the Flaming Turkey – Thatch’s Great Prank

The Moby Dick

 

Marco knew something was up. Thatch had hold up with the boys for hours that morning after breakfast. He would have tried overhearing their plans with Observation haki, but every time he tried he would suddenly hear someone raucously singing in his head. That damn fox could be the ultimate prankster on board if he could cloud haki users’ senses like that. ‘…La ti DOOO! La di DAAHHH!’ Shut up! I’m not trying to listen in already! Shahehehe, I know that. Just don’t call me a “damn fox” where I can “hear” it. You sound as clear as day, you know?’

 

Maybe he can bribe a cook to experiment with fox meat tonight.

 

Ahhh, poor, poor Marco. This is going to be epic, shahehehe.

 

Dinnertime

The Galley

 

“Ah, Marco, I don’t think glaring at dinner will make it vanish anytime soon,” chuckled Vista.

 

“…”

 

Thatch had decided that tonight the crew will have turkey for dinner and a flambéed pineapple pie for dessert. Everyone knew what inspired tonight’s dinner. It was safe to say that the phoenix was not too please at the moment.

 

“Hiya Marco!”

 

And there came in the four co-conspirators. Sabo tried to keep a straight face, Kit just had his trademark smirk, and the other two didn’t even try to hide their too wide grins or poorly covered chuckles.

 

“So what exactly has you four so happy - yoi?” Marco asked, his usually bland face a bit scarier than usual. He definitely knew the boys would have a hand in whatever prank the fourth division commander cooked up tonight.

 

“Well, let’s just say that dinner just an appetizer to the main entrée,” hinted the fox with a closed eye smile. “I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Thatch really wanted our first trip into the New World to be memorable. What did you think of my little concert by the way?” Marco didn’t bother to rely, opting to land a blow on the fox’s head.

 

“Oww. I guess everyone’s a music critic, shahehehe. Going to eat that?” Marco had taken all precautions, and since his friend was the head chef, he had switched his plate twice, once with one of his division members, a second time with one of his fellow commanders just to be sure. He just raised his brow in reply before eating.

 

Later that night

 

“Shhh, Luffy. My will-o-wisp spell only works so well. Marco really should have watched me practice more. Shahehehe. A little fire show beneath my irises, some direct eye contact, and ta-dah. But I could only suggest that he sleep a bit deeper than usual tonight, not to sleep all throughout the night no matter what. It only worked so far because dinner riled his emotions, plus he expected his food and drink to be spiked. You wake him and the spell breaks,” hissed Kit to his bumbling little brother. They had the pleasure of setting the room up while Thatch worked on the main part. Ace and Sabo were outside working on the final touches.

  

Shahehehe! Just wait until morning Marco. It’ll make dinner quite symbolic.

 

Morning

 

The boys and Thatch relaxed out on the deck like they haven’t a care in the world. Luffy happily sat on Pops’ lap and pointed out the fish swimming by. Soon the ship would surface. Kit couldn’t help his widening smirk as he thought about how perfectly timed the first commander’s discovery and the official entrance to the New World will be.

 

Just as the Moby Dick surfaced, the crew could hear an all too pleasing shriek in the direction of the first commander’s room. Faster than the perpetrators could react, a bright blur rushed by to seize the fourth commander.

 

“DO YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY - YOI?!” Ace snickered, Sabo barely could hold back his grin, and Luffy just rolled around the deck, hysterically laughing at the commander’s new look. Thatch had somehow gotten hold of some special dyes and decided that Marco’s pineapple hairstyle would look better with some color. The boys had to give it to Thatch; the man sure knew his paints. Marco’s hair now made him look like his head was on fire rather than its usual pineapple impression. Thatch had dyed it some glaringly lurid reds, orange, and neon yellow. Pops took one look at his eldest son before joining the laughter that chorused from the surrounding crew members.

 

“Ha, I think it’s a good look on you old buddy. You kind of did half the work. You must have lost it since the dye only reacts if set on fire. Now you won’t have us calling you a pineapple, eh walking bonfire?”

 

Marco glared before smiling. *Splash.* He apparently thought that Thatch needed a salt bath. The pompadoured man sputtered as he swam to the surface and ranted obscenities about the phoenix. The boys chortled until Marco directed his evil grin at them.

 

“Don’t think I forgot about what you four did to my cabin - yoi.” That half-lidded look Marco wore did nothing to detract from the very evil gleam in his eyes. Not even the white feathers and glitter stuck to his clothing could lessen the impact.

 

The boys began to back up from their various points on the deck. Luffy ducked behind Pops’ chair, Kit skittered to the right, and Ace and Sabo accidently backed into the deck’s curved railings. 

 

Sabo tried reason. “Come on Marco, it’s not that bad. I’m sure that it won’t take us long to clean the paint from your cabin walls.”

 

“Yeah, and the glue does wash away eventually. Your clothes will just be extra decorative for a day or two,” added Ace. The two boys had created catapult contraptions that would fling gluey glitter and feathers the minute the commander walked out with the one jacket untouched by Luffy’s painting skills.

 

*Splash.* Two more people joined the yelling Thatch. Marco turned to the devil fruit users. Luffy’s head peeked from behind Pops’ chair while Kit crouched down in the crow’s nest. *Grab. Smack. Toss. Repeat.* They wouldn’t be in danger of drowning since he threw the two right where their compatriots were still shouting.

 

The Starry Night Festival

Nox

 

The journey to the island could have done without the prank. The first commander couldn’t get the hair dye to wash out in time for tonight. His usual jacket still had feathers clinging to the fabric. At least he had the recreants repaint his pink walls back to their original colors when they finally climbed back aboard the ship. Whatever. If any of them laugh during the festivities, he’ll just extend their time on cleaning duty. Right now he had to help the crew ready for the festivities. 

 

“Wow! Why is it do dark? It was just sunny a little while ago?” Luffy sat perched on Whitebeard’s lap, dripping paint from fixing Marco’s room.

 

“This is the island of Nox. The name means night and for a good reason. In the Paradise side of the Grand Line, there is an island called Enies’ Lobby, called the island of eternal daylight. It never gets dark there. Here in the New World, we have the island of Nox which never sees daylight. The islanders have gotten quite used to the dark and developed all kinds of way to light their island as needed. Many of them have developed unique abilities to see get around their island as well.”

 

“Cool! So we’ll be allowed to explore the island?”

 

“Just as soon as Marco finishes discussing our plans for tonight, my son. You see, the navigators planned our arrival just so. You brats are in luck because tonight the island celebrates their Starry Night Festival.”

 

“Starry Night Festival?” Stars of his own shone in Luffy’s eyes. “What’s that?”

 

“A very special holiday for the island. Once a year the sky over the island undergoes a change that makes the night sky especially illuminous. The villagers love to throw a party hours before this event because the sky goes completely pitch black hours before the Starry Night Effect. They even have a contest where teams will compete to see whose fireworks displays best match the brilliance of the Starry Night.”

 

“Oooh, FIREWORKS! Can we go? Can we go?”

 

Gurarara. This island is fairly peaceful despite being one of the first islands in the New World. We’ll have some divisions guarding the ship, but people can watch the displays from almost anywhere on the island. But don’t worry. We’ll be attending the festival, which is starting shortly. Although, brat, you might want to join your brothers and clean-up.  

 

“I’m going to tell my big brothers! Thanks Pops!” The little boy hopped off Whitebeard’s lap. He scurried off to find his brothers and regale them with what he learned. Whitebeard watched his youngest son run off, chuckling in amusement at the antics of his youngest.

 

The Festival

 

Wow. The boys gaped in awe as another great fireworks display lit up the night. Thatch had come during the celebrations before and knew the best observation points. Here on the cliffs, the boys could watch the villagers prepare the fireworks. *Fwoosh, crackle *. The boys cheered as the image of Pops’ mark lit up the sky. Marco had contacted the island just before the crew came to Fishman Island, and the villagers had prepared several displays just for their much-welcomed guests. *Fwoosh, crackle. The next fireworks looked like a phoenix flying past a…Pineapple? Thatch doubled over in laughter while Marco showed no reaction beyond kicking his buffoon of a friend.

 

“Ouch. What did you do that for?”

 

“None of the stuff had washed out yet – yoi. Plus, I know you said something to the villagers when I had to duck out for a minute.”

 

“How could you suspect me of all th-” The phoenix didn’t want to hear it and just swung his friend’s legs out from under him. “You deserve it anyways – yoi.”

 

“At least you fit in with the festivities,” grumbled Thatch. It was true. Many of the villagers sported glowing or glittery decorations on their clothes. Compared to some, like the man with a string of shining beads stitched to every seam or the woman with a great big glowing feathered hat, Marco’s amended coat hardly stood out.

  

Pops just chuckled as his sons resumed their bantering. His youngest sons loved the festival.

 

Kit even decided to contribute to the festival as he transformed fully into his little black fox form. With a look of utter concentration, he lit several large and colorful fireballs which he flung high into the sky. They exploded spectacularly, the released flames dancing wildly in the black sky. The hundreds of smaller flames skittered about before forming various images from what looked some of Thatch’s pranks, to Whitebeard standing tall and proud amidst his sons, to the various adventures the KASL brothers have had with their new family: a red Luffy floating a blue bubble, Ace chasing his brothers around, Sabo winning his brothers’ new hats.

 

All the noise dwindled down as the crowd watched the sky with bated breath. Not a single light lit the island. Gradually the blackness of the sky disappeared, replaced by a large silver moon and an incredible star filled sky. The boys stared in wonder. They have never seen a night sky quite like this. The sky practically lit the island like day. Whitebeard smiled down on his children, old and new alike. No matter how times a person sees this, the night never fails to leave one awe-inspired.

Chapter Text


Chapter IX: Enter Red Hair! P1 – Yay! A Visit from an Old Friend


Some months after arriving in the New World

Moby Dick

 

-Kitsune-

 

Something was up. The crew seemed a bit more tense than usual. Even Luffy could read the atmosphere. Said straw-hatted boy went over to one of the commanders – Jozu – and asked him what was going on. Considering said commander had hefted a case of cargo larger than himself, Ace pulled Luffy back before something could go wrong – like if Luffy slipped and tripped against the commander just as he lifted the box up. Kit was glad he was standing just behind Luffy when the rubber-brained boy began to fall over nothing and steadied him.

  

“The crew is readying the ship for the arrival of a rival emperor. Red Hair asked for a meeting. Remember that crazy pirate that requested an audience with Pops a few weeks ago?”

 

“Oh. That guy was funny. He got all angry and red, and Pops called him a brat,” giggled Luffy.

 

Kit rolled his eyes at his brother’s take on the comical scene of some rookie parading about like he was something big in the face of Pops. Kit chuckled a bit when he remembered Pops tearing the guy’s letter apart and replying that the “red-haired brat” should come himself if he wants to discussing anything important. The crew had the boys staying in their room as a precaution since they didn’t want just anyone to know that Whitebeard had four brats on board. Kit only overheard part of the conversation with his fox hearing. None of the boys knew the name Red Hair, although Luffy actually looked a bit thoughtful upon hearing the name. Kid still couldn’t remember where he heard it.

 

“So who is Red Hair?” Turning backward, Kit saw Sabo had joined the conversation.

 

“Red Hair, as in ‘Red-Haired’ Shanks, captain of the Red Hair Pirates,” answered Thatch. He had noticed Jozu talking to the boys and strolled over to see what had perked the boys’ curiosity.

 

“Shanks?!” cried Luffy. The boy practically had stars in his eyes at the mention of the captain who came to Foosha Village those years ago.

 

“Hmm, Shanks. Ah! I remember him. Guy called me a dog with an overblown hairdo when I first showed him my abilities,” commented Kit. He smirked as usual, but his silvery blue eyes gleamed with something other than harmless intent.

 

“You guys know Red Hair?” exclaimed Thatch. Kit shrugged his shoulders.

 

“Luffy and I met him a couple years ago. Ace and Sabo don’t know him personally since Grandfather took us to Dadan’s Country some time afterwards. Luffy talks about him a lot, though. The Red Hair Pirates more or less made our hometown of Foosha their base for a year before they left for the Grand Line,” explained Kit. “I like the guy’s attitude, reminds me of how Luffy can be; I respect him for saving Luffy, but Luffy really liked the guy, practically worships him. He’s Luffy childhood idol. He’s the reason that Luffy’s dream is to be the pirate king one day.”

 

“Mmm, Shanks gave me his straw hat. I made a promise,” declared Luffy, his voice rising, “a promise to take good care of his hat and to one day return it when I’m a great pirate like him!” Luffy practically shouted the last part. Ace and Sabo nodded their heads, they already knew the story of how Luffy got his treasured hat. Jozu had finished loading some of the cargo and gave a small smile at his little brother’s heartfelt words. Thatch chuckled, thinking that Luffy had a big promise to keep.

 

“Well, isn’t that something little brother? Then you might enjoy the visit a whole lot more than our resident fire turkey.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Uh huh. You’ll see why. Whenever we meet up with Red Hair, the idiot keeps asking Marco the same question every time. It’s a bit of a tired gag between the two of them.” 

 

“I see,” chuckled Kit. He knew Shanks had a lot of strength and charisma but lacked a bit in his maturity. A lot like Luffy, actually.

 

“The Red Force approaches! Their pulling up to the portside,” called the lookouts.

 

The boys stopped in their reminiscing with Thatch. The fourth commander and third commander walked over to the main deck, the boys trailing after. Thatch asked them to stay with him or another commander during the initial meeting. He also told the boys to not be ashamed or startled if people, including themselves, fell unconscious. Kit cocked his head. Thatch said that Red Hair always released a wave of Conqueror’s haki when boarding the Moby Dick.

 

“Oh, like what Pops did to the sea king?” chirped Luffy.

 

“Exactly. And we don’t know what it will do to you four, so keep quiet and listen to us.”

 

“That man’s will is formidable,” added Jozu. The boys hardly ever heard the third commander speak, and his deep voice made Kit jump a little in surprise. “So stay back little brothers.”

 

All the commanders on board the Moby Dick stood in a ring around the deck. Technically only some of the commanders - first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eight, tenth, twelfth, fifteenth, and sixteenth - stood in attendance, as the rest sailed on the other ships of the Whitebeard Pirates and watched over various parts of Pops’ territories. Many members of the rest of the crew lined the sides of the main deck as well, but Thatch said that most will fall over from Shanks’ haki. Marco waved for the boys to stand behind him and some of the other commanders.

 

The air trembled. Walking over the connecting gangplanks strode in ‘Red-Haired’ Shanks. He just stepped onto the Moby Dick when Kit first felt the wave of pressure pass over him. He looked over to his brothers. They looked no worse for wear, and Luffy just practically jumped up and down in his sandals when saw Shanks. Just as promised, a series of thumps from falling bodies ensued after the wave of haki. Kit sighed in relief. The brothers were unaffected by the haki.

 

“Oi, Red Hair! Quit it! You’re making a mess of our crew!” shouted Marco. The pineapple head’s usually plain expression hinted at irritation.

 

“Oh, Marco, commander of the first division. Want to join my-”

 

“Never! Whitebeard’s my captain!”

 

It hasn’t even been five minutes and already Shanks has made the cool and collected first commander snap in anger. Kit couldn’t help but chuckle a bit as he stood behind Jozu. He could even hear Thatch snickering from his seat on the railings. A squeal and shout from the side revealed that Ace had lost hold of Luffy who had happily ran over to Red Hair.

 

“Anchor?” Kit wished he had his camera. The dumbfounded look on Shanks’s face was too precious with Luffy dancing in front of the fearsome emperor.

 

Ahh…no point in hiding anymore. Kit shrugged helplessly at Jozu when he walked around the hulking commander to stand by Luffy. Ace and Sabo got the same idea.

 

“Errr…? Kit? And more children? I guess I know the answer to my question.”

 

Gurarara! And what question were you going to ask me, brat?” called Whitebeard from his chair.

 

“Oh, I just came to check on why you’ve been sticking to safer waters. Some rookies had got it in their minds to skulk around the bordering sea between yours and mine, so I took care of them for you. So Newgate, any reason you have children on board, especially since I know for a fact that at least two of them come from East Blue? These seas are too dangerous for them! What if they get hurt in a skirmish, or even caught in a full-fledged battle? Or if the marines find out about them?” Shanks’ voice practically shook from the edge of anger and fear. The man really did worry for them.

 

“We know what we are doing, red-haired brat. My crew can more than take care of their youngest brothers. These children are more than meets the eye. They can fend for themselves until a commander comes to their aid, and we plan on training the brats. I have taken them for my sons, and I will not change that.” Pops stood up when he said the last part. Shanks shook his head in disbelief but sighed. There really is no changing an old man’s mind concerning his sons.

 

“Alright Newgate. Oi, Luffy? These guys been treating you two well? Oh, and who are these other kids?”

 

“Hi Shanks! These are my other older brothers!”

 

Ace and Sabo took a step forward to introduce themselves. They bowed low, thanking Shanks for saving Luffy when he was younger, demonstrating the manners they gained in practicing with Makino on Dawn Island.

 

“Pleasure to meet the man that saved my little brother. Thank you. My name is Sabo.”

 

“Thank you for saving our little brother. I’m Portgas D. Ace.”

 

Portgas D. Ace? Shanks smiled jovially at his new friends. “Any brother of Luffy’s is a friend of mine. Hey, old man! How about a party? 

 

Marco raised his eyebrow at the audacity of the red head. Pops just laughed, calling Shanks a “cheeky brat” but agreeing to throw a party to thank the man that saved one of their brats long ago. Thatch just clapped his unamused friend on the back.

 

“Better go prepare the food. Something tells me that we might need another supply stop if Red Hair’s crew drinks all the booze again. Those brats keep eating all the food, too.”

 

Late Hours of the Night

Somewhere on the deck of the Moby Dick

 

-Luffy-

 

Wow, it was nice seeing Shanks, thought Luffy. Right now the party was in full swing. As Luffy walked, he saw several lightweight crew members keel over from too much drinking. Shanks decided to regale the Whitebeard Pirates of the antics of Luffy and Kit from their time in Foosha Village. Kit lobbed a special foxfire fireworks ball at Shanks’ head when he mentioned a certain incident involving a ditzy Kit. Shishishi. He remembered how some rare plants that Lucky Roo found accidentally blew from his hands to Kit’s face. His big brother acted really funny then! He kind of reminded Luffy of his drunk brothers in the way he kept swaying around the bar and would smile and laugh at random things. Kit’s cheeks turned crimson because Shanks recovered and continued speaking despite his singed hair.

 

Luffy loved to party with Shanks, but he really needed to find the restroom with all that juice he drank. He didn’t want to bother his older brothers and waved off his pirate brothers’ offers to walk with the kid, stating that he was a big kid and could walk by himself.

 

*Fwoosh.*

 

The little boy looked over the railings. Drifting in the sky just in above the rails was a big and shiny thing. Luffy did not hesitate to hop on the rails and reach out for the falling shiny object. The boy just grabbed the falling object. A…feather? Suddenly, the boy felt something clasp around his back, and the next thing he knew was that he was flying. But not the good flying like when he begged Marco to give him a ride in his phoenix form. No, this type of flying made Luffy’s stomach tumble and his sides hurt from the sharp edges digging into them. He tried to shout, but the bird’s tight hold made his voice choked and reedy.

 

The main deck

 

-Kitsune-

 

“Help.”

  

Kit’s head lifted up. Luffy?

  

After he chased Shanks around the deck for several minutes, the fox resigned himself to just curling up to the side of the deck and watching the two crew party and get drunk. He shift-shaped into his larger fire fox in order to accompany the relaxing bodies of Ace, Sabo, Luffy, and Marco. Dealing with Red Hair gave the first commander headaches apparently. His fire fox warmed his brothers against the night’s chill. Luffy had just left a little while ago to find the restroom.

 

“Hey Marco.” The first commander sat up from his resting position on the large fox’s haunch. “Mind if I go check on Luffy? I thought I heard him. It wasn’t very loud, maybe closer to a whisper, but my ears picked up the word help.

 

The first commander’s expression changed a bit as he crinkled his brow in worry.

 

“I’ll go find him. Stay here, and keep an ear out for any more noises. Only an idiot would attack two emperors at once, but we can’t be too sure.”

 

Sitting on the planks sat a familiar straw hat.

 

The party grounded to a halt once Marco sent word about his discovery. Luffy would never leave his treasured straw hat lying on the ground. A watchman reported that he thought he saw a glimpse of some sort of shadow in the sky but it faded out of sight only a second later. It looked like some sort of bird. Namur searched the surrounding sea and found an odd and large feather caught against the ship. Some sort of giant bird had most likely carried off their youngest brother. Navigation reported that the nearest island was one they have yet to visit on the edges of their territories: Rocke Island.

Chapter Text


Chapter X: Enter Red Hair! P.2 – Get Back Luffy! 


 

The Moby Dick

Night of the Disappearance

 

-Kitsune-

 

Everyone scrambled around the deck in the next several hours as both ships prepared to head to Rocke Island. The island was a complete mystery. The navigators could not find any record of prior explorations to the island. The only accounts even mentioning the island only warned that ships should sail pass the seas surrounding the island. Ships that set anchor in those seas often lost one or two passengers, mostly small children. When Ace overheard the navigator report this to the captain and Marco, he…freaked.

 

Marco had to physically toss Ace into the cabin when the captain gave orders for their youngest brothers to stay put in their cabin until they came to Rocke Island. Sabo and Kit took this a little better, as they just meekly followed Marco and the struggling, yelling Ace. Once the door closed and the lock clicked into place, Ace just sat on the edge of the bed and glared at his less than helpful brothers. Sabo just shrugged helplessly, his hands held in a gesture that said ‘what can I do?’ Ace growled before looking down at his hands. Kit had enough.

 

“Quit sulking Ace! Sabo and I can’t exactly go against Marco, much less Pops! We just have to wait. Panicking will only make things worse. At least we can worry in here without making our brothers feel worse than they already feel. Can’t you understand that everyone, both the Whitebeard Pirates and the Red Hair Pirates are just barely keeping their cool? Luffy’s disappearance affects all of us. But we need to stay strong for our little brother. When we reached the island, we can all work out our brother complexes, but right now all we can do is wait!” Kit had raised his voice until he yelled the last part. His whole body shook with emotion. Sabo walked over to where Kit stood and laid a calming arm around the fox.

 

“Kit, you’re being just as bad as Ace. You need to take a minute. You holding in your emotions isn’t healthy. I know that the two of you as the oldest are trying to put a brave front, but you need to cry sometime before you explode,” said Sabo. Streams of tears had started flowing down his cheeks sometime during his speech. On the bed, Ace leaned his head down, hands clenched, as tears dripped down to the wooden floor. Kit tried to stifle a sob, but seeing his brother’s tears broke the dam. Kit let out a wail of fear and anger.

 

After a while, the brothers calmed down. Ace drew an arm across his face to wipe away his tears.

 

Head lifted defiantly, Ace declared, “No stinking bird will keep our brother away from us. Luffy is OUR little brother, and we’ll protect him no matter what! We’ve face lots of oversize animals before. That’s bird or whatever will just be chicken when we get ahold of it. 

 

Sabo nodded slowly. “Yeah! Nothing better had happen to Luffy, or that bird will pay! Luffy is definitely fine.”

 

“And we need to trust in our brothers that will get us to Luffy as fast as they can. We have two Emperors on our side. No mangy beast can stand up to Pops and Shanks. I’ll just roast any bird that tries to snatch anyone else!” announced Kit to his brothers.

 

Commanders’ Meeting Room on the Moby Dick

 

-Edward Newgate-

 

No matter how his nurses chided, Edward Newgate couldn’t relax, not when his youngest son was missing. He took a swig of sake, riling his nurses once more, before redirecting his gaze to his assembled sons. Beneath the bored expression of his first son, Whitebeard could see the evident worry that furrowed his child’s brow. All was quiet as more pirates shuffled into the room.

 

The elite members of the Red Hair Pirates also attended the meeting. The normally carefree rival captain Shanks scowled. Like Newgate, the captain cared deeply for the young straw hatted child. Once everyone took a seat, Newgate took a deep breath and began their meeting.

 

“So what information do we have?”

 

“Not much – yoi. As the navigators mentioned earlier, the island from which the kidnapper most likely originated is a total enigma. No sailor, marine, or pirate has ever successfully made shore and returned to the best of known knowledge – yoi. Nothing but fables and legends surround these waters. We’ve never investigated these seas ourselves because the severe isolated nature of the island – yoi.”

 

“The same with us. The island technically inhabits the gray boundary between our territories, and the seas here are all but empty of any human life or civilization for hundreds of mile around. One would have to prepare just to sail to the island itself,” remarked Benn Beckman, Red Hair’s first mate.

 

“Which why it made an ideal meeting place for our ships,” added Izo. “No rival crew or marine vessel would have had enough time to prepare to sail these waters by the time word got out that our ships were heading here, not before our ships finally met. The position on our joining borders makes it less than ideal for rival emperors to launch an attack when they must sail deep into our collective territories.

 

“The lack of knowledge will be a problem. We do not know what kind of enemy we will be dealing with when we finally land. I suggest that only high level officers, commander-level, explore the island at first and report back to the ships via baby transponder snails,” proposed Haruta.

 

“Good idea. What say you, red-haired brat?”

 

“Alright with us. We probably send groups of three to investigate and report back.”

 

Head nodded all around.

 

“If any one finds Luffy, you are to report this immediately, but do not pursue until the other groups arrive,” concluded Newgate.

 

“Pops!” The outburst surprisingly came from Marco. “What if the brat is hurt? There’s no telling what is happening to him now. The smithies on board agree that the feather we found is some sort of metal. A bird with feathers like that could tear Luffy apart!”

 

“I understand your worry, my son. But we cannot act rashly. An island in the New World, from which no pirate crew had successfully explored and lived to tell about it, poses a very real danger, even to us. We need to take every precaution so that Luffy can arrive safely home. And, Luffy will return home,” assured Newgate. 

 

His eldest son dropped his lazy façade in favor of a very pensive and distraught expression. The straw-hatted boy had grown on all his older sons, even the cool phoenix whom he annoyed so much in the beginning. The crews continued planning out the finer details of their plan. The captains dismissed their crews in order for them to get a couple hours of sleep as no one had gone to bed since the news of Luffy’s disappearance. In the distance, the shadow of an island appeared on the horizon. The Red Force and the Moby Dick would arrive in the early morning hours. 

 

Rocke Island

 

-Luffy-

 

“Waaaah!”

 

The weird bird flew for what felt like hours (about 45 minutes). An island came into view. It had jagged mountain peaks all over and a dense jungle that reminded the boy of the forests of Mt. Corva. I hope I don’t have to fight monkeys here, too, like what Grandpa made me do in that forest, randomly thought Luffy.

  

The bird that gripped Luffy in its talons did not resemble any bird that the boy has ever seen. It was big, bigger than Kit when he turned into that humongous blue fox; he called it his final form, and it looked bigger than a horse but not as big as Pops. No, but this bird might be almost as big as Pops. It had pretty small feet, though. Not even a rubber boy could escape the tight hold it had on him. Plus, the feet hurt. The feet felt hard and smooth and sharp-edge, and even the feathers looked shiny like Vista’s swords. Swords hurt, too.

 

Luffy had lost himself in his thoughts to what the mystery bird was when the bird suddenly plunged down. The boy shrieked in fear. His Gum-Gum rocket was not nearly as fast as this. Luffy suddenly felt the feet loosen, and then the boy tumbled into something that reminded him of a bird’s nest, a big bird’s nest. Oww. The straw hatted boy rolled until he hit the raised edge, his body curled upside-down. *Scrreee! Screeeee!* The sudden screeches startled the boy who flopped forward. Just in front of the rubber boy sat two iron grey birds. They looked like they had spikes instead of fluffy feathers. They took notice of their mother’s gift. They began to scoot toward Luffy.

 

“Nn-nice baby birdies. Nice mystery birdies. I’m not very tasty. See, I’m made of rubber.” Luffy stretched his face to show the curious chicks. One tilted its oversized head which dwarfed the little boy. *Pluck. Boing. Pluck. Boing. Screeeeee!* Oops. The birds now decided Luffy was a neat new toy. The boy screamed as their sharp beaks pulled at his body. A few of their nips left little cuts that stung.

 

 “Knock it off! Gum-Gum Bullet!” Luffy actually managed to punch one of the irritating birds, knocking it over. Unfortunately, Luffy had forgotten about the mother bird flying just above them.

 

*SCREEE-AH-EEE!* Mama Bird landed just behind Luffy. A visible shiver went through the rubber boy. He slowly turned his head. The giant bird flapped, smacking the rubber boy who flew out from the next, rolled down the mountain side, and plunged into the dense jungle below.

 

Meanie bird! Owww. Luffy now had a nasty collection of cuts and scrapes. His hands bled, and the hit from the big bird tore his shirt and ripped a huge scrape across his back. *Sssss.* The boy scrambled to his feet. And faced a large pair of narrowed yellow eyes. Kit! Ace! Sabo! Thatch, Marco, Pops! “ANYONE, HELP!”

 

Rocke Island

The Jungle

 

-Marco-

 

The brats just wouldn’t stay where it was safe.

 

Earlier when the ships finally docked at the island, the boys had intercepted the commanders heading for shore and demanded to come along. Marco shook his head and told them to stay put. They adamantly refused. Jozu went to grab Ace when Kit decided to take action. The boy had been practicing and actually managed to knock over Jozu with a well-timed tackle coordinated with pipes the other boys bought at one of the islands during their months in the New World. Jozu didn’t want to hurt any of them, and didn’t expect the boys to pull off such a stunt. The other commanders went over help Jozu with the boys, but Kit had a whirlwind of fireballs zooming around the group; one singed Thatch’s sleeve, so Kit had evidently decided not to pull back his powers. 

 

Frustrated, Marco conceded. They boys would not let them go off to the island without a big ruckus. Pops had noticed the commotion and said that the boys had a right to rescue their little brother. So long as one commander accompanied each of them, they could help search for Luffy.

 

Six of the commanders and three of the Red Hair Pirates, including Red Hair himself, had split themselves into four groups. The four other commanders stayed back on the ship in reserved. ‘Red-Haired’ Shanks decided to join Marco and Ace.

 

“Something is definitely wrong with the island,” commented the nonchalant Shanks as he slashed a huge griffin that dashed from the brush just minutes ago. Barely fifteen minutes into the jungle, and the group had suddenly stumbled into the nest of enormous raptor-headed lions that easily towered over the two men. Marco nodded his head in agreement as he changed his arms to wing to give him leverage as he kicked at another griffin that lunged. Ace covered the emperor’s back, swinging his pipe. His monstrous strength made it a far more deadly weapon than one would think. Two griffins already laid in an unconscious heap around the three fighters.

 

Between the one-armed emperor, the first commander, and a wild kid, they held off the raptors with only minimum damage. But these freaky birds were tough. And Conqueror’s haki might just rile the cantankerous bastards even more than his earlier use.

 

“Help! *Waaaaah!* Pops! Ace! Kit! Sabo! Marco! *AAAaaah…!*”

 

“Luffy? LUFFY! Get out of the way you overgrown chicken!” Fueled by fear and worry, Ace smashed his pipe against another eagle-headed griffin, instantly knocking the monster out with a *crack.* Marco and Shanks redoubled their efforts and soon they wiped out the group of griffins. Once the last griffin keeled over, Ace spared not even a glance at his companions before running headlong in the direction of Luffy’s voice.

  

“Ace! Comeback kid! Damn it kid!” cursed Shanks. Marco grabbed the young emperor as he turned to run after their young charge.

 

“Focus - yoi. One of us has to report this to Pops and the rest of the search groups. I can cover more ground in my phoenix form - yoi. There should be enough room for me to fly. I can catch up to Ace and hopefully get to Luffy sooner than you -yoi. If you stay here and wait for reinforcements, you are welcome to bail me out of any trouble if whatever that got the kid is more than what I can handle alone. Deal - yoi?”

 

‘Red-Haired’ Shanks clenched his hands but nodded in agreement. Someone had to inform the rest of the pirates, and the young brothers’ need outweighed Shanks’ worry and fear. Still, the emperor walked over to tree. He punched it, knocking it over.

 

“Feel better? Good - yoi. Here’s the transponder snail for Pops. He’ll relay the information to the others –yoi.” stated Marco. He turned toward the direction that Ace disappeared. Blue and gold flames consumed his body until a brilliant phoenix stood in his place. Giving a great cry, it shot off into the jungle depths. Shanks watched for a minute and then turned to the transponder snail in his palm.

 

“Newgate, we got a lead on Luffy.”

 

The Mountain Aeries

 

-Kitsune-

 

‘Why did we choose to explore this place again Vista?’ asked Kit. Another talon swept over the red fox.

 

“According to you, the best place to find a large predatory bird would be to look in a high place,” scoffed Thatch. The chef had two of the monster birds trying to corner him. He could barely fend them off, steel swords clashing against steel feathers. “What are these things?”

 

“I agree, Thatch, these are definitely not a natural bird species that I recognize.” Vista had already managed to knock back one bird, but another bird began to swoop down from the flock flying overhead. “But Kit did mention we’d find predatory birds. I’d say these would count.”

 

“Hmm. I think I’ve read about these birds somewhere,” remembered Kit as he downed three of the flying birds with foxfire heat seekers. The bright red fire arrows locked onto their targets and exploded upon impact. “The stories called them Stymphalian birds. Nasty creatures made of metal wings. They don’t like noise too much. I think we woke them up when Thatch caused that rock slide earlier.”

 

“You had as much a hand at it as I! And when did you know so much? I didn’t know you knew how to read, much less like books.”

 

“I do like books. You don’t see me reading most of the time because I’m usually hiding in a crevasse or nifty hidey hole. A fox can fit in a lot of tiny spaces, and are even better at finding them, you know, shahehehe. And where did you think I learned to speak so well? Uncle Ray is hardly the most elegant of speakers. Or have such vocabulary,” added the fox as he turned to the bemused fourth commander.

 

“Hmm, shouldn’t we focus more on the fight?”

 

“Good point Vista. Thatch, DUCK!”

 

During their conversation, one of the birds overhead decided that Thatch looked particularly tasty. It landed right behind the commander and snapped its bronze beak. Kit leapt into action. He gathered as much heat as he dared and launch himself at the bird with a cry.

 

“Foxfire burning blitz!” Kit’s body slammed into the bird, flinging just over Thatch who had dropped onto the ground. They crashed into the Thatch’s opponents. The heat within Kit blazed forth with an explosion. The birds gave a shrill cry as the heat melted their feathers together. Pained and cowered, the three birds staggered off with a cry. The flames coming off of Kit drove the area’s surrounding temperate skyrocketing. Even the birds above felt it and flew away in terror.

 

“Turn it down already, Kit! You’ll fry us at this rate!”

 

Exhausted, the fox extinguished the last of his fire as he crumpled into a heap. A puff of smoke and human Kit laid curled on the ground.

 

“Aa…Shouldn’t do that too often. Give me a minute guys. Don’t give me that look Thatch. That move really knocks me down a peg, but it’s temporary. I’ll be able and fighting in fifteen minutes. HEY! Vista, put me down! I can walk now,” complained Kit. While the fox exchanged glares with the fourth commander, the fifth division commander had taken the opportunity to sweep the twelve-year-old into his arms and over his shoulders.

 

*Purupurupuru.*

 

Vista stopped walking. Thatch pulled out the baby transponder snail in his pocket. He clicked it open.

 

“Marco, Ace, and Shanks found Luffy. Go to the jungle on the north side of the island. Follow the phoenix cries.”

 

Thatch and Vista exchanged a glance. Kit struggled to get down. Tightening his hold, Vista and Thatch took off down the mountains at top speed.

 

The Jungle

 

-KASL-

 

The top hatter gaped, his pipe clattering to the ground. Namur growled. Curiel just hefted his bazooka into position. No way can a snake be that big. The snake in question looked like it could even make Pops look tiny in comparison. Marco had fought the monster for some time as the wreckage and new clearing suggested. Not even haki-enhanced kicks made much of a dent on that thing, though.

 

“Hey gu- Whoa! Wonder what that thing eats? Oi Marco! Where’s Luffy?” yelled Thatch

 

“That thing ate him!” snarled Ace.

 

The boy had just raced into the clearing when Luffy rocketed just in front of him. The rubber-brained moron stopped running to wave at Ace. Then the snake hurtled into the little clearing and swallowed his little brother up. Bastard snake. Cursing, Ace held up his pipe with reckless courage…and the voice in the back of his head whispered that he had no chance against a snake that probably ate things like those griffins for a mid-morning snack. A sudden lifting force saved Ace from the reptile’s gaping maw. The phoenix arrived just in time.

 

“Why do things like this always happen to Luffy? He doesn’t taste very good, so why do giant animals eat him all the time?”

 

Sabo had finally snapped from his daze and snatched up his pipe. Without a word, the boys charged together at the snake.

 

“You are both morons!”

 

Kit could not believe how stupid all his little brothers can be. The two idiots had tried to charge a mammoth snake. The snake probably would have had the boys for a small bite if Kit hadn’t made a suicidal leap for its head. The snake angrily whipped its head to remove the offending weight. Come on powers, work. His grip just slipped as Sabo and Ace leapt and smacked the snake on the head. Didn’t do much in terms of knocking the thing out, but the initial daze allowed Kit to safely slide off.

 

“Together everyone -yoi!” commanded Marco. “Vista, Thatch, divert its attention by attacking at its blind spot along the back. Ace and Sabo, watch their backs. Kit, if you can manage some foxfire, use your will-o-wisps to confuse it. Curiel, target the head. Namur work with me to hold the thing still - yoi!”

 

The eight people executed their plan, but the snake refused to fall so easily. It body shook oddly for a minute. *Ssssss...Caaa…ssss…Ccaaa…Ss-come…SS-COME…* The snake gave a strange final rattle before it finally fell.

 

“Did that thing...”

 

“Yeah.”

 

*Sccreee! Areeee!*

 

‘Griffins coming fast from the north! More Stymalians birds from the south. I think I see some rocs – giant predatory birds – coming from the east and west! Great the snake knows how to call reinforcements!’ Kit informed the commanders through his telepathy.

 

“Don’t worry, we got reinforcements of our own,” said a pleasant voice from just beyond the tree line. Shanks. “My haki can probably take down a score or two, but we’ll need to hold out for at least twenty minutes. We’re pretty deep in the forest.”

 

“Thatch, Ace, Sabo, work on getting Luffy out from that thing’s stomach. We’ll cover you –yoi!”

 

The horde kept coming. Shanks could only knock out so many before his haki needed to recharge. And not all the birds were affected as badly. Many of the larger griffins held out, and many just took care tof fly out of range. The commanders and emperor held their ground, though. Kit managed to light a bunch of fox fire to help stifle the numbers coming at his older brothers. Thatch had managed to cut Luffy out after a painstaking ten minutes of hacking and searching with Ace and Sabo. The Ace and Sabo hugged their traumatized brother tight. Thatch had them back into the giant snake corpse for protection while he warded off the incoming birds that scented blood. During the fight, Benn Beckman, Yassop, and Izo arrived, relieving some of the pressure off the fighters.

  

At the twenty minute mark, everyone’s breathing had become haggard, their energy spent on defense. They heard a sudden crash. A troop of birds to the north toppled over in the sky. Striding through the forest came Pops and the remaining Whitebeard Pirates. Reinforcements had finally come.

 

On the Moby Dick

 

-KASL-

 

The relief of the two crews was palpable. Luffy had finally woken from his shock and cried the whole way back. He cried harder when the injured Shanks leaned over to reassure the boy. Whitebeard had Luffy cradled in his arms on the walk back. Everyone that made up the rescue parties had scratches and scrapes all over. The nurses patched them up thankfully, antibiotics going around to treat any tropical germ that may have infected the wounds during the fighting. Doctor Ana directed her staff with well-practiced efficiency to treat all of the wounded. Dozens of other pirates bore pretty nasty scrapes, but thankfully no one died during the rescue. The Red Hair Pirates had to leave shortly afterwards. They couldn’t leave their territories alone for too much longer, even with allies guarding them. Shanks stopped by the infirmary and waved Luffy goodbye.

  

Doctor Ana just had sternly told Pops to go back to bed after today’s excitement. The KASL brothers managed to convince the good doctor to let them gather around the tired Luffy on the condition that they try not to beat on him too badly. The last came up only because Ace had initially walked over to Luffy’s cot and punched the rubber boy on his head.

 

“You idiot! You had all of us worried! How could you end up in a snake?! How could you get snatched by a giant bird in the first place? No, only you can get grabbed on a ship full of hundreds of pirates and not be seen.” Sabo and Kit grabbed Ace before all he could spend all the worry and fear from the past several hours as rage. Ace took a minute to breathe.

 

“Hmmph. We’re glad you’re safe, you rubber idiot.” The three older boys gathered around Luffy and embraced.

 

“Don’t do that again,” muttered Kit. “We can’t be playing surgery with every giant monster beast that has taken a liking to you. Oh, here’s your hat.” Kit had taken the straw hat from the first commander after the phoenix found it laying on the deck. He had forgotten he shoved it into his bag until now.

 

“Thanks Kit. I can always count on my big brothers.”

 

-Thatch-

  

The chef and Marco had just entered the clinic with a few carts full of food for the boys. The boys laid snuggled on Luffy’s cot. The two commander smiled. Ace and Sabo held Luffy between them while Kit curled around their feet as a white fox. The older brothers would protect the youngest with all their might. Thatch slipped a hand into his trousers and took out a camera to capture the moment – Kit’s camera, which he may have procured several nights ago.

 

The scent of food aroused the boys not one minute after Thatch returned the camera to his pocket.

 

“MEEEEATT!”

 

Yep, Luffy was safe and sound in the arms of his family once more.

Chapter Text


Chapter XI: I Will Not Die!


The Moby Dick

 

-Marco- 

 

The first commander winced as Luffy missed the sixteenth commander and hit the oblivious crewmember walking several feet away from the training area.

 

The Pops had agreed after what happened with the birds that the kids needed to know how to protect themselves. Ace, Sabo, and Kit actually brought it up. They came to Pops’ room last week and requested some training. So now the four brothers were practicing with pipes, hand-to-hand combat, and sharpshooting. Marco had stopped by an island and purchased some pipes for Luffy and Kit since they neglected to do so themselves. Vista and Thatch took turns sparring with them, improving their swings and form. Haruta, Namur, and Curiel had left to take their turns patrolling the territories on the other ships, and now they had Kingdew, their sole hand-to-hand styled commander to teach the boys how to protect themselves with their bare fists along with Marco. Izo volunteered to improve Luffy and Kit’s aiming skill. They have made moderate progress since they started training an hour ago.

 

“Luffy, you need to aim before attacking. Kit, stop laughing. You may have some skill, but you lack the finesse to reduce your shots so you don’t outright blast them when you want to just unbalance them,” instructed Izo.

 

Well, at least Kit can hit what he targets most of the time, and Luffy had dramatically improved. He only hits other people than his target only twice out of five shots. That’s better than hitting someone every time he misses, thought the phoenix as he watched the two for a minute.

 

Marco took his eyes off the two boys and returned to his own training session. Ace and Sabo still nursed sore heads from their mistimed swings. He had the boys working together to try and land a blow on the unarmed phoenix. The boys had plenty of strength and the intelligence to outwit a normal opponent, they just had to work a bit more on how they executed their plan. Marco held back quite a lot since he was just testing their teamwork. He shook his head absentmindedly. They would have landed a blow – not one that would seriously hurt the phoenix but a blow – had Ace not made the wrong step to the left and accidently tagged his brother on the head while the other swung too low and nailed the elder’s legs. The wounded up in a crumple heap. Thus began a hot-headed shouting match.

 

A lot of their anger stemmed not from the accident but from the grip of brotherly worry. When the two presented their case to Pops, they both gave their reason that they needed to get stronger so that they could be the big brothers that could always protect their little brother. They didn’t want to disappoint Kit and be burdens to the eldest. Kit was just as determined.

 

He looked at Pops in the eye and simply stated that “I know that I can’t protect everyone or prevent everything. But I want to be able to do as much as I possibly can do. I need to be my very best for the sake of my nakama, my family.” The phoenix understood their motives very well. He was, after all, the big brother to all the crew members in essence. He had to be strong for all of them and for Pops most of all.

 

“Break it up you two. Why don’t we break for lunch? Looks like Kit and Luffy might be first in line if we linger too much longer.” That got the brats’ attention.

 

Shishishi! MEAT! FOOD!”

 

“Luffy! Wait up!”

 

The four boys ran off toward the galley, pushing and shoving at one another in their race for lunch. A hand clapped on the first commander’s shoulder.

 

“Perk up, Marco. The expression on your face reminds me of when Luffy gets lost on some island.”

 

“Those boys, Ace and Kit, especially, want to shoulder all the burden of brotherhood - yoi. They want to protect their loved ones, not depend on their loved ones to protect them. They’re only children, yet they want to fight – yoi.” The phoenix whispered the last, but the chef heard it all the same.

 

“Until they can do this on their own, they have us. Someday we will not be there, so they have the right idea. But, they have hundreds of brothers willing to raise them to be the very best right now. One day, we will have to hold nothing back or else they will never make it on their own.” Marco actually looked at his friend in surprise. Sometimes the phoenix forgot how wise Thatch can be when the man so often acted so childish.

 

“Right now, they have us to back them up – yoi. Thanks, Thatch.”

 

“Always, buddy. We’d better go to the galley before the walking black holes eat everything.”

  

Later that week

After Midnight

 

-Luffy-

 

The little boy pulled the covers closer over his head. Just across the room, Ace snored loudly while Sabo managed to snatch both of their blankets in his sleep. At the bottom of his bed, Kit stretched out, his feet dangling off the bed and his body curled slightly inward. Luffy whimpered.

 

Ever since the monster snake ate the little boy whole, Luffy had terrible nightmares. Sometimes he saw the snake eat Ace, Kit, Sabo, the commanders, and even Pops. Once it finished swallowing, it slid its yellow eyes to Luffy, its great big forked tongue flicking out. Sometimes the boy dreamed of all those nasty birds flying off with his brothers. And the worst were the ones where the giant birds grabbed him and knocked his brothers off the mountain when they tried to rescue him. 

 

Tonight was the worse one yet. Muffled sobs threatened to spill out, but Luffy stifled them. He didn’t want to keep waking his brothers up when they had a lot of hard work in the mornings. Ace had kept falling asleep during mealtimes and even had an attack in the middle of training. Even Sabo nodded off while Vista explained a particularly complex form. Kit had started to disappear in the middle of the night again, too. Luffy knew his brothers’ problems were because of him waking them up at night and making them worry. The dark room didn’t help the fear.

 

Resolved, Luffy stumbled carefully out of bed, trying not to wake Kit as he slid off the bed. The little boy grabbed his straw hat off the dresser before wrapping his blanket around him and heading out the door.

 

Tonight was cold. Luffy’s rubber body protected him a little bit, but he still shivered with only with pajamas and blanket to keep him warm. His shivering worsen. He felt that weird feeling again.

 

Zehahaha. What are you doing out little guy?” asked the second division member Teach. 

 

Luffy had ran into the man several times since Sabaody. He still did not like that man. He felt wrong. Luffy clutched his blanket tighter around him.

 

“Poor guy. I bet you had a nightmare, didn’t ya? Well, I’m not the best guy when it comes to night scares. But you know who is? I bet the first commander’s still awake.” Teach misinterpreted the shudder running through Luffy when he reached down to carry the boy. Another shiver wracked the boy at the touch.

 

Luffy stayed silent during the whole walk to Marco’s room. He really didn’t like Teach, but he wanted to see Marco.

 

-Marco-

 

The little lamp by his desk began to dim. Marco yawned but continued to write. These reports had to be finished. If the first commander slacked too much, his workload could double very quickly. It technically was already doubled since he had to manage the unsupervised second division on top of his own. No one would normally disturb the phoenix at this late hour, so the sudden knock at his door startled the man a little. He looked over his shoulder to the door. *Knock, knock.* The first commander sighed as he stood up to answer his door.

 

His eyes widened when he took in the sight of the unkempt Marshall D. Teach of second division cuddling an upset Luffy in his arms.

 

“Sorry, to be disturbing you, first commander, but this little guy was wandering around the deck. I think he had one of those night scares. For some reason, he doesn’t like me that much, so I thought it might be alright to bring him to you,” clarified Teach.

 

“Thank you for caring for Luffy. I don’t mind if he stays with me tonight.”

 

“Naw, it isn’t much of a problem to watch over our youngest brother after all,” said Teach as he handed the boy over to Marco. The seven-year-old latched onto the phoenix the moment Teach let go of him. “If that’s all, I better get back to the watch.” Teach waved goodbye and left.

 

“Hey Luffy? You okay?” The boy’s lip trembled.

 

“Did you have a bad dream – yoi?” Luffy began to shake. Marco waited a moment. The boy calmed and nodded in reply. 

 

“Want to talk about it?”

 

“Mm…I saw a ss-scary monster eat Thatch! It was huge and dark and had a horrible laugh. Then the monster started to go after Kit and Ace and Sabo. My b-brothers were trying to protect me from it. T-then…” Luffy began to wail, clutching tighter to the phoenix’s shirt. Marco just held the boy tight, rubbing his back in soothing motions and whispering reassurances.

 

“Don’t you worry, Luffy. There’s not a monster out there that can get to Thatch or you and your brothers on the Moby Dick, not without dealing with all your other brothers and Pops.”

 

Tears still dripped from the little boy’s eyes, but his body no longer shook with sobs. The boy gave a sniff. “T-that’s what Thatch said the first time.”

 

“The first time? You’ve had this dream before - yoi?”

 

“Uh huh. Thatchy and Kit helped me, too, that time.”

 

“You have wonderful big brothers all around you Luffy - yoi. Why don’t you bunk with me tonight?” Those reports can wait until tomorrow.

 

“You sure? My brothers might not like that I left. I didn’t want to wake them up and…”

 

“I’m sure they’ll understand Luffy. Remember that I’m your big brother, too. Come on, let’s get some sleep – yoi.”

 

-Kitsune-

 

“LUFFY!” Great who’s shouting at this hour? Kit grumbled a bit before he finally untangled himself from his nest of blankets. Oh yeah, Luffy went off to someone else’s room last night. Kit groaned. Ace and Sabo evidently just discovered their little brother’s disappearance.

 

“Ace, Sabo, stop trying to wake everyone up. Luffy’s fine. I noticed him leave the cabin last night, but that Teach guy found him and took him to Marco’s room. I bet we’ll see him in the galley,” rationalized the fox, his hands held in surrender when Ace glowered at the nonchalant attitude of the eldest D.

 

Before Ace could say something, Sabo grabbed his left arm. “Listen to Kit. Luffy, the idiot, probably had another nightmare. We can interrogate him at breakfast.”

  

The three brothers quickly dressed and headed off to the galley.

 

The moment Ace saw Luffy gleefully shoving tons of food into his impossibly extended mouth, the freckle-face boy marched over and slapped him on the upside of his head. An episode of choking and patting on the back ensued.

 

“Ace, I told you not to beat on your brothers until after they swallow their food during mealtimes – yoi.”

 

Ace jumped a bit. He didn’t even registered that the first commander sat across from Luffy until he spoke. Ace decided to ignore the reprimand and spoke to his now attentive brother.

 

“Luffy, why did you not wake any of us up? Or leave the room, for that matter?”

 

“I d-didn’t want to wake you three worry anymore. Sabo, Kit, and you are having sleeping troubles, so I thought I could handle the nightmares myself. I’m sorry,” sniffed Luffy. Not even an angry Ace could keep up the harsh tone in the face of his little brother’s helpless tears.

 

“You rubber-brained idiot,” sighed Ace, “you should know better. We’re your brothers, that means we’re all for you. It’s good that you went to Marco. So what was your dream about anyways?”

 

“Marco was really nice. He let me bunk with him last night. We talked about my dream. It was really scary, Ace! I s-saw this big dark monster that tried to eat Thatch, you, Kit, and Sabo. You guys were eaten because of me!” More tears slid down the rubber boy’s face. Sabo walked over and gently wiped them with a handkerchief from his coat pocket.

 

“That’s ridiculous Luffy! You have three strong older brothers, no, you have a whole ship’s worth of strong brothers and sisters. We won’t die that easily,” exclaimed Ace.

 

“But what about Sabo? He almost died back on Dawn Island, and they say the East Blue is the weakest of seas! But that mean dragon blew his ship up! And what about when Bluejam’s fire almost killed Ace?”

 

Thatch, Marco, and several commanders had leaned in to listen to their youngest brothers’ conversation. They already knew from Haruta and Rakuyo about the Celestial Dragon incident, but the information on Bluejam was spotty. The boys did not at all like to talk about this pirate or his crew from their home island. So this was the first time the commanders heard about the pirate himself trying to hurt the boys. Thatch felt compelled to inquire a bit more. 

 

“Who’s Bluejam exactly? You guys kept mentioning his crew when you told us about your childhood, but you guys didn’t exactly talk about him too much,” gently asked Thatch.

 

“He’s a no good pirate captain stuck on our home island,” said Kit distractedly, his gaze glazed in memory. “We ran into his crew after Ace and Sabo stole some gold and cash from them. Luffy nearly died when they caught him instead of Ace and Sabo. This was way back when. You guys know that story. But, that was not the last we saw of the Bluejam Pirates.”

 

“Kit.” The fox stopped in his storytelling. Sabo’s interruption reminded the boy that this was not his story to tell. But Sabo just gave him a sad smile.

 

“Let me tell you guys this next part. This is basically the catalyst to why I tried to sail of on my own and nearly died.

  

I’m the child of a noble. I never fitted in with my family. My parents never really listened to what I said and only controlled me. I felt trapped by their expectations, their dream for their noble son to increase their family’s place in society through marriage. I ran away, met Ace, then Luffy and Kit.

  

But then we did something stupid, and my father finally caught up to me. He sent the Bluejam Pirates after my brothers and threatened their lives unless I cooperated and returned home. I complied. Then the Grey Terminal was set on fire by the nobles. I never felt as ashamed as when I found out that my people were content to let innocents burn. You know the rest,” finished Sabo. “Do you hate me for being a son of nobles?”

 

The commanders solemnly listened to Sabo’s story. At his question, Thatch answered without a second’s hesitation.

 

“Of course not. Like Pops always says-”

 

“We are all children of the sea.” Pops had evidently listened in to the conversation from where he sat. Kit couldn’t help but cock his head in curiosity. Pops sat quite a ways away and sounded like he heard the story perfectly clear if his tone of voice told them anything.

 

Sabo had tears in his eyes, which he quickly wiped the moment he noticed them. Ace had looked to his two brothers with an intense look.

 

“Luffy, Sabo, Kit, listen. I vow that I will never die and leave you guys behind! A weakling like Luffy needs me to watch his back. And the two of you would be lost without me to help protect the idiot. Understand?” The younger brothers nodded their heads and join Ace in his vow. Kit nodded his head but said nothing.

 

The commanders acknowledged the young boy’s statement of never dying with a touch of sorrow. Newgate shook his head at such a naïve statement but said nothing. They trusted Ace to realize one day to know how impossible his statement was, but for now, to just let him enjoy the trust and love of his brothers. Newgate noticed Kit’s silence. Something in the boy’s eyes echoed of sorrow and age far exceeding his twelve years. He had a feeling that young Kit knew that the promise could never be kept, especially in the life of a pirate.

 

Chapter Text


Chapter XII: What’s with the Fluff? And I’m NOT a Coat!


Moby Dick

 

-Thatch-

 

Those boys have been training nonstop ever since that day they made the promise to get stronger and never die. The fourth commander shook his head. Ace hardly spared any time for fun or pranks anymore, Sabo locked himself in the room the other half of the time to read a new book, Luffy spent more time in the sea than anything trying to work on his aim, and Kit just kept trying to sneak attack commanders. Speaking of which-

 

Thatch activated his Observation haki just as Kit lunged. He sidestepped to left and the little black fox skittered past, carried forward by the momentum of his pounce. *Thump!* Thatch winced in sympathy. Kit just slid into the deck railings. The fox laid stunned for a moment, shook off his daze, stood up, and launched himself at Thatch again.

 

“Oi, stop trying to attack me, brat! Didn’t Marco ask you to stop attacking if you couldn’t successfully hit someone the first time?”

 

The fox bared its little sharp teeth. ‘Nah. I never agreed to anything. Besides, I need the practice.’ “Oh, I almost forgot!” exclaimed the fox, who stumbled over his feet in an effort to stop himself. Thatch rubbed his temples. Sometimes the fox’s switch from telepathy to outright speech could be a bit unexpected. Gray smoke obscured the little fox. Kit stood with his mischief-filled grin. “Hey, Thatch!” 

 

“Didn’t you have something you had to do or something?”

 

“Oh, yes. Navigation said that you wanted them to report to you when we a certain group of islands– whatever that means, shahehehe!” Kit gave a mocking salute to the amused fourth commander before disappearing literally from sight.

 

Kit, Kit, if only your brothers retained more of that good humor. So we’ve finally reached those particular islands, huh? You boys need a reminder that you’re still kids and this will be the perfect opportunity. Thatch allowed a wide grin spread across his face on his way to the navigation room.

 

Morning

The Moby Dick

 

-KASL-

 

Ace woke up without knowing what woke him up. He sat up to clear his bleary eyes. The moment his blankets began to slide off, the boy reflexively snatch them back up. He began to shiver uncontrollably. Damn, why is it so cold? Last night felt really warm and now it’s freezing? Ace looked over to his brother. Oops. He accidentally stole some of Sabo’s blankets. The other boy shook for a good minute before he groaned and woke up.

 

“Ace! You stole my blankets? Give them back before I turn into an icicle!” Sabo tugged away some of Ace’s blankets, but neither brother could get warm enough. Their gaze slid over to their other brothers. They shared a look and jumped into their bed. Luffy still snoozed without even flinching at the sudden impact of his two brothers landing on him.

 

“Mmm, Ace? Sabo? What brings you two into our bunk and…Brrr!” muttered a sleepy Kit. Without further ado, the shape-shifter hopped off the bed and transformed into his large fire fox. He circled the wooden floor a few times until, satisfied, he curled up and fell back to sleep. Ace and Sabo’s landing didn’t wake up the rubber boy, but the sudden loss of Kit’s warmth on his feet did. Groggy, Luffy sat up in confusion.

 

“Breakfast? Wow! It’s rrr-rreally cc-cold!” The rubber boy hugged himself tight. Ace knocked Luffy gently on the head.

 

“Duh. That’s why we came over to your bed. It’s too cold even with two people sharing a bunk. Hmm. Kit looks pretty warm.” Ace elbowed Sabo and pointed down at the sleeping fox. Without a word, all three boys grabbed their blankets and jumped onto the fox. Kit, however, did not have a rubber body, and was not amused.

 

“A little warning, little brothers? I’m not opposed to snuggling up on a cold day, but you three could have just gotten out of bed and ask to use me like a pillow like civilized apes, not leap onto me like a bunch of monkeys!” Irritated, Kit shook off the boys.

 

“Hey!” 

 

“You guys should have just ask. By the way, any ideas why the cabin feels like a freezer?”

 

“We must be approaching a winter island. In the Grand Line, every island has its own unique seasons and weather. That’s why the weather in the surrounding seas can be so crazy,” explained Sabo. “Namur told me about this a few weeks back, but I have not thought on this too much.”

 

“Winter on Dawn Island never felt this cold, though, shishishi! Kit, will you let us lay on top of you?”

 

“Not in the mood. I might be persuaded to heat the room later,” smirked Kit. Ace didn’t trust the evil light in Kit’s eyes. Then the boy had a brilliant idea.

 

“Oi, Kit! You regenerate your fur whenever it’s ripped off, right? I saw those birds back on that crazy island snatch a whole bunch of it, but it grew back after you shifted. Mind donating a little to your brothers. If we make a coat or blanket out of it-”

 

A fireball floated just in front of Ace’ face. “Finish that thought, I dare you little brother.”

  

Suddenly, the cabin door flew open. Startled, Kit’s fire ball sputtered out. The boys jumped as they took in their unexpected guest.

 

“Boys, what are you still doing in bed? I brought some winter clothes that Izo finished stitching just for this occasion. Come on and put them on. Hurry, or you’ll miss breakfast and all the fun I have plan for today. Don’t give me that look, Ace, Kit. You guys are due for a good old fashioned island adventure.” Without further ado, the chef shoved a wad of clothes at the brothers. Most of them fell directly onto the large red fox.

 

A sly eyed look flashed onto Kit’s face. Ace had a bad feeling in his gut. Clothes scattered around the room wildly as Kit shook the offending articles wildly. He only paused in his mayhem making to snap up some clothes for himself. The fox howled in delight at his younger brothers’ shocked faces. ‘Good luck finding the matching sets in time for breakfast.’ A flurry of gray smoke interrupted Ace and Sabo’s lunge for their oldest brother’s head. Somehow Kit managed to dress in the split seconds the smoke enveloped the room before bidding his brothers with a cheerful wave and walking onto the cold deck.

 

Ace sputtered in indignation at the door closing in his face. So damn close to catching that mangy mutt. Cursing under his breath, Ace went to help Sabo and Luffy scavenge for their clothes.

  

The Galley

 

-Kitsune-

 

Kit had just finished his third serving when his brothers finally trudged through the galley doors. They did not look happy if those death glares they shot at him meant anything. Thatch, who sat across from the gleeful fox, raised his eyebrow in question.

 

“A bit of a morning trick, commander, nothing harmful. Just a lesson to show what happens when you mess with a born trickster.” Kit couldn’t hold back a little chuckle. And the laser-beam glares returned to his back once more. This only made the fox chortle harder, nearly choking on his next bite of pancakes.

 

“Hmm. I’ll ask about that later,” chuckled Thatch. His brothers finally came over to their table with their heaping stacks of plates. “So,” continued Thatch, “have any of you boys seen snow before?”

 

“Snow?” inquired Luffy. “What’s that?”

 

Thatch gasped, his arms held up in disbelief. Marco had just sat down and proceeded to punch his friend on the shoulder for his dramatic display.

 

“Snow, my dear Luffy, is one of the most wonderful weather phenomena you’ll see short of candy rain.”

 

“Candy?”

 

“Probably should have left that part out, Thatch. Luffy had yet to consume the minimum five plates he requires prior to an attempt at food humor,” jibed Kit. The fox had yet to get back at the chef for dumping most of their new winter wardrobe on him. He was liable to act snarky to Thatch for the very near future – at least until he got payback.

 

“Snow? I’ve read about it in my books,” said Sabo in an effort to distract the plotting Kit. An annoyed Kit meant deep, deep trouble as this morning’s display clearly showed. “Snow is frozen rain, but is reputably soft and malleable. People enjoy the white stuff for all sorts of winter playing.”

 

“If it’s frozen rain, it can’t be that big of a deal. I really rather return to a summer, spring, or even an autumn island,” griped Ace. The freckled kid evidently hated snow without even seeing it.

 

“Aww, but Ace! The snow sounds really fun and cool. I want to play with some!” Luffy had finally finished off his sixth plate and returned his attention to the original discussion. He waved his hands up to emphasize his impatience to see the “mysterious white stuff”. Thatch who sat right next to Luffy simply patted his straw hatted head.

 

“Don’t worry little brother. The snow will not go anywhere. We have a couple weeks’ worth of winter islands, and navigation should report sighting the first winter island in another hour or so.”

 

“Yay!”

 

Ace still looked a bit disgruntled at the prospect snow. Sabo seemed mildly curious. Kit had seen snow before and began to plan all the special things he can do to get back at his various brothers, starting with Ace for his big, idiotic mouth. Hmph. A coat indeed.

 

Landing

 

-KASL-

 

All the brothers bundled into some heavy coats prior to coming to the island. Luffy had a bright red coat, Sabo wore light blue coat, Kit had a lighter grey coat due to his slightly higher body temperature, and Ace wore an orange coat. They all wore wooly white scarves around their necks. The minute the four walked onto the deck, Ace knew that he hated snow. It didn’t help when Kit turned into a white fox and kept digging under the snow, shaking it off the moment Ace got near his hiding place.

 

“Ace, isn’t the snow fun?” 

 

Ace looked at Luffy. He had worn a frown the moment his feet crunched upon the snow-covered ground. “Not even a little.”

 

Their little brother stared at the fluffy white flakes in awe. Thatch had dragged Marco, Namur, and Jozu along to watch the four brothers. After the first commander had dispatched to a few of him members to pick up some supplies in town, he resigned himself to being pulled along by Luffy who had immediately latched to his hand the moment they all walked off the boat. Finally the group arrived to a secluded clearing just at the foot of a mountain. Luffy tried to dash off, but Thatch snatched up the energetic boy.

 

“Whoa, whoa, Luffy! Don’t you want to learn how to properly play in the snow? Like how to build a snow man, for example?” chuckled Thatch. Luffy pouted until he heard the word “snow man”.

 

“Snow man? What’s that?” inquired Luffy.

 

“Why, Luffy, a snow man is a man made of snow!” Kit had just emerged from his newest snow patch, but not spraying it onto the hapless Ace this time and instead opting to just slough it off.

 

“No, no, it’s not a man made of snow! Thatch, remember, Luffy will literally think a snow man is a snow man. Luffy, a snow man is basically a bunch of snow shaped like a person.” Luffy gave that wide smile that said he understood about zero percent of what his elder just said. Kit dropped backward into the snow before continuing his explanation. “Sort of like building a sand castle, instead we use snow and shape it into a person. No? Maybe you should just show him,” sighed the resigned Zoan.

 

Thatch whistled as he rolled several balls of snow. He placed two smaller balls on top of a large one, added some rocks for eyes, a mouth, and some sticks for hands and a nose.

 

“Ta-dah!” Ace looked unimpressed. Sabo’s mouth quirked and strained to keep from laughing. The other commanders laughed outright, even Jozu chortled. Kit tried for a poker face before just giving in and snickered silently. The snow person hung a bit lopsided, and the face looked like it spent a few founds with Jozu. Thatch dropped his head until Luffy exclaimed, “I think it looks awesome! Thatchy, help me make one, too!” The fourth division commander cheered up immediately. He cuddled Luffy into a big hug.

 

“At least someone knows art when he sees it.” Marco just stared blankly at him.

 

“I bet any of us can easily make a better snow man than your poor excuse of a snow monster impression.”

 

“Why not a competition?” suggested the sly fox. “If any of us can really do much better, then why not prove it in a friendly snow man building contest?”

 

Something about the gleam in Kit’s eyes had the commanders and the brothers wondering what the tricky and merciless brother had planning. Kit had a bit of reputation for acting so very respectful and kind…up the point and after the point he had publically wreaked his drawn out vengeance. Sabo cocked his head but figured that Kit more or less had his sights set on Ace and Thatch right now.

 

“Four commanders, four children, so we should work in pairs, if everyone is all right with that?” asked the top hat wearer. Nods all around and teams were decided. Thatch had decided to take Ace, Luffy glued to Marco’s side, Sabo asked Namur to work with him, leaving Commander Jozu with Kit. Jozu looked down on the white fox grooming his fur.

  

“What are you planning, little one?”

 

“Nothing.” ‘Except a very good trick. I think a mix of unspoken and spoken communication can be agreed upon?’ asked the fox with a tilt of his head. ‘Thatch and Ace do love their pranks so. Besides, don’t you want to put the little devils in their place after they somehow secretly glued half of your commander upside-down in their sleep while the other half – including you – wound up with hair as glittering as diamonds?’ Jozu thought for a moment. What do you have in mind, my little friend? A Cheshire grin slow grew on the white fox’s face.

 

One hour later

 

“Shahehehe! Nice snow man you two.”

 

The two pranking kings looked ready to strangle the fox. Minutes earlier, the two had just finished their snow man when its head started to shake uncontrollably. Thatch and Ace stared at it blankly for a moment before diving for cover. It head burst into a shower of colorful sparks that somehow clung to the duo. Ace looked like he had neon green polka dots all over his orange coat, and Thatch sported large red splotches dotting his white coat. Jozu and Kit chortled from behind their rather large snow man.

 

“How did you get that in there? I had Ace watching the snow man the whole time. We even avoided looking you in the eyes the entire trip! You haven’t even changed in order to pull of something like this!” sputtered a very red Thatch. He got a loud bark of laughter in return. Before all their eyes, the white fox’s form distorted, and a grinning little black fox replaced it. 

 

“Turns out, Jozu’s diamond form makes a very handy amplifier for my hypnosis skills. The smallest glare of reflected will-o-wisp spell had everyone suffer a small loss of amnesia – just long enough to erase my very eye-catching transformation and to keep the two of you from seeing me sneak over. You two had the right idea to refuse to look over at us, but all this snow plus a diamond reflector equals your downfall. All you two saw was a suggestion of me still in my white fox form and helping Jozu while I snuck over and insert that experimental flash-and-splatter ball. Shahehehe! Don’t worry. I’m sure the spell will wear off – err – eventually. Maybe in five minutes – or was it five hours? I love my illusions,” chortled the clever fox.

 

Ace and Thatch threw themselves at the little fox. Kit yelped and climbed onto Jozu. Thatch eyed the large currently diamond covered man. Jozu did not feel like taking any chances.

 

“Don’t think we forgot about your part. The kid had to have asked for you cooperation since he used your diamond ability to spread his hypnosis effect. I don’t think for a minute that you didn’t know a thing about what he was doing. You even covered for his part in building the snow man. Why don’t we deal with this the old-fashion way,” threatened Thatch. He and Ace had something in their gloved hands. Snow flew. Kit and Jozu shook their head in indignation.

 

“This means war!” Kit’s form vanished under a vale of gray then golden smoke. Before it cleared, several balls of snow danced into the air. Ace and Thatch dove for cover. ‘Jozu, mind tossing up a bunch of snow into the air? Might help speed things up.’ Several of the snow ball from the two teams went astray and landed direct hits on Marco, Luffy, Namur, and Sabo.

 

An all-out snow war followed. Marco flew while Luffy pelted the pirates and boys below. Namur managed to heft snow balls at the flying duo with his great strength while Sabo covered him with his pipe. Kit used Jozu’s height to help him take aim as he flung several snow balls with his tails. Ace and Thatch watched each other’s backs as they dashed and threw at the devil fruit users and their teammates when they had their backs turned. In a last ditch effort, they charged in a full frontal suicide assault.

 

At the end, everyone had fun in the snow, even Ace who had hated the white stuff at first. The eight of them returned to the Moby Dick for hot chocolate mixed drinks, a little rum in the commanders’ and milk for the children.

 

The first snow island did the boys well. They’ve relaxed. They no longer tackled their training with almost desperate enthusiasm but took it in a more natural rhythm, choosing to take breaks and playing in their spare time.

 

Ace had measurably changed from the suspicious older brother from their first days on the ship. He spoke to his new family with relative ease these days. His lowered guard, however, lasted only until Luffy began to take note of the date more than a week later.

Chapter Text


Chapter XIII: We Cherish You for You


Moby Dick

 

-Ace-

 

Ace had just settled down for a warm breakfast, coat held tightly shut. He still wished it was warmer, but really didn’t mind the snow part. He had just shoved half of a plate’s worth of food into his mouth when Thatch strode over to the table with an oddly wide smile. Before the boy could swallow, Thatch’s next words had him nearly choking.

 

“So, Ace, why didn’t you mention to anyone that your birthday was just in a couple of days?” Sabo sitting next to him halted his conversation with Namur to forcefully pat his elder’s back until Ace was out of danger from dying by surprise. Gulping in huge gasps of air, Ace finally turned to Thatch, his expression dark and closed.

 

“Who told you that?”

 

“I was asking around for your birth dates, so that I can put them into the crew’s general log. Sabo was busy, Kit wouldn’t wake up, so that left Luffy. Made an odd comment, though. Said something about how you don’t like your birthday, but what kid doesn’t like their birthday?”

 

“I don’t. Haven’t bothered celebrating it.”

 

“As a part of this family, we have an obligation to celebrate it. I already came up with a few pl-”

 

“NO! I don’t want to have a party or anything! I much rather everyone not even mention my birthday!”

 

“But Ace-” The raven-haired boy stood up and ran out the galley in fury, leaving the commander and the crew flabbergasted. Kit and Sabo exchanged a meaningful look before excusing themselves and running after him. 

 

-Kitsune-

 

“Ace. Ace? Ace, open the damn door, you idiot!” Kit and Sabo stood outside their cabin. Sabo currently had his fist pounding on the door. “I thought we’ve already discussed this issue back on Dawn Island. Hurry up and come out. I know you didn’t eat much at breakfast, you can’t stay in there all day!” “Sabo, he’s not going to come out anytime soon.” “Aargh!” Sabo knocked his head against the door, turned around, and slid down to sit on the cold planks.

 

“Screaming and yelling at him never worked before and will hardly work now. I thought he got over this after we made our vows as brothers, but I guess that sentiment of his just retreated into his subconscious,” sighed Kit. They have been pleading, demanding, and threatening their brother for half an hour. Breakfast had evidently finished as Luffy finally bounced over to see what his brothers were doing.

 

“Hi Kit, hi Sabo! Where’s Ace?”

 

“Luffy, must you have mentioned Ace’s birthday to Thatch?”

 

“Oops. I forgot. Is Ace mad at me?”

 

Sabo shook his head. “No, honestly I think he’s well of aware of how honest you are, Luffy. He’s just upset that Thatch tried to make a big deal about his upcoming birthday.”

 

“Ace’s existential issues do rear their heads all too often. I thought he really did have gotten over it, especially after our talk a year ago. Luffy, by your blank look, I guess you still don’t understand what I’m talking about? You know how Ace hates his dad? He also believes that because of that man’s blood, he isn’t worthy of living. I figured after he stopped asking those question to every damn stranger he had finally realized that his parent didn’t determine our love for him,” explained Kit. If he had ears, they would be drooping, tail(s) trailing on the ground.

 

“We should probably just give him time,” conceded Sabo. “Luffy, why don’t we go play a game? Kit?”

 

“Hmm. No thanks. I think I will just take a nap.”

  

Hours later

 

-Ace-

 

He hadn’t heard a word outside the cabin for a while. His stomach grumbled, but the raven felt a sour twist about eating anything right now. The cabin had begun to wear on him. He decided to sneak a glance outside, saw no one at the moment, and tiptoed out for some fresh air.

 

“Finally decided to come out, hmm?” said a voice above and behind him.

 

Ace twisted around abruptly. Lying on the cabin roof laid a Kit in his black fox form. The fox shook off some snow; black smoke gathered and a semi-transformed Kit stepped off the roof. “Come on.” The fox walked off without another word. Confused, Ace followed after him. Kit swiftly walked through the ship and deep into its twisting underbelly. Ace had some trouble maneuvering around a few of the wooden and iron shafts that made up the Moby Dick’s internal skeleton, but Kit made several stops to let the younger but bulkier boy catch up. They finally came to a particularly large space somewhere in the ship.

 

“You do know how to get back to the deck, right?” mumbled Ace.

 

“Of course. I thought you looked like you needed somewhere quiet and secluded to think for a bit. Want to talk about it?” Kit worried that Ace might explode in his face, but Ace’s reaction surprised him. Ace just huffed and flopped to the ground.

 

“Maybe it’s better if I had decided to stay on Clockwork instead of letting you and Sabo to convince me otherwise.”

 

“Ace, you’re only ten, no, almost eleven. We would have never survived the Grand Line without any sort of knowledge, provisions, or weapons. Even then, I doubt we would have gotten to the next island. The old man’s offer really saved us.” Kit had a feeling where the conversation was turning to.

 

“I don’t belong here. If any of the crew knew my heritage, the name of the bastard whose blood runs in my veins-” Kit cut Ace off.

 

“Shut up about it! They seem fine knowing Uncle Ray and I share a blood relation. I highly doubt that the old man or anyone else on the crew would mind. They’ve accepted my heritage, Sabo’s, I bet they’ve even could care less about Luffy’s! So why not yours?” Ace glared at his brother; he stood up before knocking Kit onto the planks.

 

“We don’t know that! They don’t even know your entire heritage. Heck, even you don’t know it yourself. Your dad’s just someone your mom called dangerous. I don’t think they call your father a monster! Don’t even try to compare us again!” Ace heaved sobbing breaths of air.

 

Kit could have dodged his punch; he was plenty quick and reactive, especially in his black fox forms. Instead, the older boy just sat quietly.

 

“What is going on?”

 

Ace and Kit’s heads twisted around to see Marco walking into their hiding place. “Ace, you okay? I heard what happened in the galley - yoi.” The first commander quietly walked over to Ace’s side. He looked as bored as ever, but Ace could detect the tell-tale hint of worry on the commander’s face. He only spared a glare at the man. After a moment’s thought, Ace asked the man a question.

 

“What would you do if Gold Roger had a son?” The commander’s half-lidded eyes widened a moment. He didn’t at all expect the question.

 

“If Gold Roger had a son? I suppose that would depend on the son in question - yoi. Gold Roger may have been Pops’ rival, but our crews got along fairly well outside of the occasional fight. As Pops would say, we are all children of the sea - yoi.” Ace chewed on this for a moment, his brow crinkled in deep thought.

 

“Why?" 

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Why does everyone call Whitebeard father? I can understand Luffy and Kit’s motives, even I do it without thinking, but why?” Tears began to stream silently down. Kit silently stood up and put a comforting arm around the boy. The first commander waited a moment before kneeling down to look the ten-year-old in the eye.

 

“We call him father because he calls us his sons. To the world, we are outcasts, monsters. It may be only a word, but it makes us happy.” Marco treated the two gaping boys with a rare, genuine smile. “It makes us happy.”

 

Ace blinked away the new tears threatening to form. “And if I was…”

 

“Don’t worry about it - yoi.” The first commander stood up. “Who your father is doesn’t matter. You can tell us when you’re ready. Remember, if you have any problems, the old man’s door is always open and so it mine - yoi. I’ll talk Thatch out of having anything big. I think I saw Sabo and Luffy talking to him anyways.”

 

“Hey Ace,” whispered Kit. “Why don’t we let Thatch throw you a party, a small one at least? It can be whenever you want rather than on your birthday.” Ace nodded slowly.

 

“Okay.”

 

-Thatch-

 

He felt a bit confused about why Ace didn’t like his birthday but seeing how happy the kid was for the new arrangements made the chef smile. They have decided to host a small party with the boys, Pops, and several of the commanders. The boy looked absolutely surprised when the chef presented his chocolate birthday cake. The boys had never had chocolate, aside from hot chocolate, before. Ace failed to suppress the awed look at his first bite. The large, oversize cake quickly vanished. No chance of leftovers with three D’s and Sabo. Luckily, Thatch set aside the commanders and Pops’ portion, adding a bit of alcohol mixed into their versions. Luffy tried to make a grab for them at one point, but Kit pushed him into his serving of cake. Kit could smell the subtle hint of rum. Luffy pouted but then licked up the cake smeared onto his face. Thatch laughed at the antics of his youngest brothers. Apparently, Luffy’s tongue could stretch as well as his body. Kit just looked horrified at his brother’s level of disgustingness. Out of four, Kit probably had the best manners – in physically eating at least. All in all, the party was fun, and Ace looked happy.

Chapter Text


Chapter XIV: A Cry


Moby Dick

 

-KASL-

 

“Enemy ships!”

 

The boys stood nervously around Whitebeard. There has been skirmishes on and off for the past couple of months, and the boys managed to hold their own while the commanders fought off the enemy. But this enemy was different. Those others were weak, rookies not worth the upper divisions’ time, small time crews with a lot of luck and boasts. These pirates presented more of a problem. There was three ships heading towards them. According to the twelfth division, a prominent alliance of three moderate pirate crews had challenged the old man. One of the rival captains had a devil fruit power. They had already made a mess of one of Whitebeard’s islands, burning down the villages on it. The villagers escaped, but the old man could not let this stand. The crews would not be shown mercy.

 

Beside Kit, Ace had unconsciously tightened his grip on his pipe when the ships came into view. Sabo’s face showed blank. Luffy was eerily quiet. Their family would probably lose people today. The old man had argued with Marco on what to do with the boys. The first division commander had insisted that the youngest brothers stay put in their cabin during the worst of the battle. Whitebeard said that they needed to learn one of these days and better now than if one of the other emperors such as Kaido confronted the crew. The boys had trained for months. They held their own well when fighting the inhabitants of Rocke Island.

 

Marco and the captain finally compromised: the boys will be allowed to fight on the condition that one of the commanders would keep a close watch on them. So the KASL brothers had to stick close to Namur during the battle. The Moby Dick came into the range of the enemy. Cannons fired. The battle had begun.

 

-Sabo-

 

*Cries. Screams. The clang of metal. The sharp tang of gunpowder in the air.* Sabo barely intercepted a sword slicing toward his head. Kit came in from behind his opponent, steel knives flashing. Blood spilled. The wily fox held a grim countenance as he hamstrung another enemy combatant. He had donned his black hybrid form for agility and reactive skills. Behind Sabo, Ace executed a quick flick and twist that Vista once demonstrated to the boys, disarming another swordsman and allowing one of their pirate brothers to cut him down. Blood streaked Ace’s face and hair. The battle had gone on for about twenty minutes. It felt like hours.

 

*Clang!*

 

Another swordsman darted for the four brothers, thinking them easy prey. Sabo’s arms ached from the repeated blocks and swings of the pipe. A streak of colorful fire flared in the enemy’s face, stunning him long enough for Luffy to knock him unconscious with a Gum-Gum Pistol. In the air above, a blue phoenix shrieked defiance as it swooped in to aid struggling members. Pops already had dealt with one captain, but the other captains refused to retreat. They only rallied the fallen captain’s troops into a total frenzy. Not five feet from the four, a cannon ball smashed into the deck, taking out another two pirates from play. From afar, they could hear the jibes of the fourth commanders as he confronted the first mate of one of the enemy crews.

 

*ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!*

 

Sabo could barely block the sword that flashed toward his head. The swordsman seemed to…split into two?

 

-Kitsune-

 

Damn it all! All around, Whitebeard pirates flailed for a moment, trying to reorient themselves. The fox managed to hold off the insistent buzzing only by the grace that he constantly blocked off the buzzing of hundreds of voices on a daily basis. Even then, his movement slowed enough for his current opponent to nick his dagger into Kit’s side. The fox gave only a hiss of pain before quickening his pace even faster, dancing around the blonde bladesman until one of his knives scored a hit along the lower abdomen. The man fell, blood loss from a dozen shallow and deep cuts finally hitting him.

 

Kit took a deep breath. He grappled every bit of energy he had to transform rapidly from black man-fox, to human, to his final form. Royal blue fire and pale lavender flames twisted around his body.

 

A fox larger than any the Whitebeard pirates had seen before towered on the deck. The final form, the nine-tailed great fox stood taller than an ordinary man. Nine splendid tails spread behind it, a glacial blue tipped with deeper violet color. The indigo of the body had silvery streaks along the sides. Only the eyes remained the same silvery-blue of the human.

 

For a moment, all went still. The fox pulled back its head and howled, its voice oddly angelic against its frightening appearance. The pure tone cleared the minds of the Kit’s pirate and sworn brothers who threw themselves back into battle with renewed vigor and determination. Kit dipped his head and smiled. His last transformation was purely a supportive form. He could not actively hurt anyone. Instead, the great blue fox could heal the gravest ills, lend its spirit to others, and temporarily dispel spells of madness or confusion of the mind. Time’s up. Kit transformed immediately into his human form, his great fox form lasting only a little more than two minutes. His body shook with sudden fatigue before he fell to his hands and knees from exhaustion.

 

“KIT!” A man with a brown and intricately woven cape – the enemy devil fruit-using captain probably – lunged at the unguarded boy. Sabo and Ace slashed their pipes as a unit, barely intercepting the incoming blade. To the side, Luffy knocked over several of the enemy while Namur engaged a ring of pirates. Luffy noticed his brother’s trouble and ran over, unheeding of the danger.

 

“LUFFY, NO!”

 

Kit’s hypersensitive hearing heard every nuance of a shot going off. Luffy yelped in pain and fell forward, wind knocked from him. Namur viciously struck out at his surrounding enemies in an awesome display of fishman karate as he hurried over to the rubber boy’s side. Anchor…no…no…Ace and Sabo managed to stun the captain and then hurled themselves over to their downed little brother. Several of the enemy pirates and their recovered captain converged on the three.

 

Kit felt a consuming anger start to spike. He screeched out all his fear, worry, and anger. A wave of pressure built in his breast. “Luffy!” He felt unbelievable exhaustion sweep over him as the weight flew from him. Black spots dotted his vision.

 

-Ace-

 

Luffy, please be alright, desperately thought Ace. He and Sabo parried and blocked blow after blow. The downing of their little brother was like blood in the air, predators gathering in for the kill. Namur was still too far off. Suddenly Ace felt this wave of power. “Luffy!” His vision swarmed for a moment. *Thwack. Thud.* Every pirate and the remaining captain fell over, some with their mouths foaming. In the distance, he could hear even more people falling over. Even many of their pirate brothers suddenly collapsed.

 

“Ace? Ugh…”

 

“Luffy? Luffy!” Sabo knelt down to lift up his brother. Ace ran his hands over to find any holes or heavy bleeding. Luffy sported various shallow cuts and slices, but Ace could only find a hole in his shirt.

 

“Is he okay?” asked Namur. The boys had really grown on fishman, even the most annoyingly cheerful of them. He ran a worried eye over all the blood welling from the three’s shallow wounds.

 

“It must have ricocheted off of him because he’s rubber,” mumbled Sabo. “I think the impact just winded him. Wait, where’s Kit?” The three brothers ran over to their unconscious elder, heedless of the blood dripping from their own battle wounds.

 

“What happened – yoi?” The blue phoenix settled next to the brothers. “We were just fighting when this wave of Conqueror’s haki knocked out every single pirate of the enemy, one of the captains, and a lot our own brothers. Namur?”

 

The fishman turned from his crouch by Kit to answer Marco. “Several pirates had me surrounded. The devil fruit-using captain sent some sort of mental interference to confuse everyone on this side of the ship. Kit transformed into this huge blue fox and somehow countered his powers. The kid collapsed right afterwards. The devil fruit user tried to take advantage of this, Ace and Sabo desperately tried to fend him off when Luffy tried to run over to help them. Someone shot him. I think Kit reacted to his younger brothers’ danger. The Conqueror’s haki came from him. It overwhelmed his young mind which is why he fell unconscious. Luckily, his devil fruit powers healed most of his wounds. Luffy’s rubber body bounced the bullet it looks like, although he might get a nasty bruise there.” Marco nodded his head in understanding. He glanced over to the boys.

 

“All of you head to the infirmary.” Namur carried Sabo and Kit and Marco hefted Ace and Luffy into their arms.

 

After the battle

Whitebeard’s room

 

-Edward Newgate- 

 

The world’s strongest man sighed. One of youngest children laid unconscious in the infirmary. The battle this day had cost him many of his children. They would be sending their bodies off in a proper sea burial come this evening. He lifted his sake bottle to his lips. Oi, he was really too old to teach one of his brats haki, especially Conqueror’s haki. He couldn’t devote the proper time with his failing health. Although it was not exactly unexpected that at least one of his brats had it. Three of them were D’s with incredible spirits and will power. One of them even reminded him of Roger.

 

*Knock, knock.*

 

“Pops?”

 

“Come in.”

 

Marco walked quietly into his room. When the door closed, the bored expression on his face vanished. He looked exhausted, his normally half-lidded eyes heavier than usual and his brow badly crinkled in worry. Newgate patted the bedside next to him. The phoenix reluctantly climbed up to sit next to his father.

 

“What are we going to do? Those boys did well, but they’re not ready, not for these kind of battles. They’re children!” Marco buried his head into his hands. “One wrong move and one of them could have died. They almost did if Kit hadn’t awakened his haki.” Newgate patted his eldest son’s back, wrapping a comforting arm around him.

 

“They need time, son. Your brothers have the potential. We needed to know if they’re ready to handle the New World. They need more personal training than what we can give them honestly. As my commanders, you have many duties. And the other members will be surpassed by the boys too soon. If only we can find someone to give them some proper training…” Newgate brought a hand to his face and stroked his mustache in thought. “Hmm. Who else do we know that can train all four boys in haki, including Conqueror’s, and has some time on his hand?”

 

Marco jerked his head up. “Conqueror’s? Red Hair is one, but he’s also another emperor. Wait, you don’t mean...?”

 

Gurararara! Well, who else can train the boys and is trustworthy. He already considers them as much his family as young Kitsune. Why not give him a ring and ask? I believe we have his personal transponder snail frequency from when we last stopped by Sabaody.”

Chapter Text


Chapter XV: Practice Makes Perf – Ouch!


Moby Dick

 

-Edward Newgate-

 

“So do you think you can meet with us at the island?”

 

“Of course. I may not look like much, but I still have plenty of spirit to make the trip. To think my little nephew and his brothers had grown so much. It’ll be nice to see them all.”

 

“No problems at all with the plan?” 

 

“Bah. It’s not like an old retired man like me has much to do nowadays. The Great Pirate Era is a young man’s time to seize all that the world has to offer. Who am I to deny the next generation?”

 

Gurararara! Still have that cheekiness, like that Roger brat. We’ll meet in two weeks’ time.”

 

“Two weeks at Moirai.”

 

Two weeks

Moirai Island

 

-Kitsune-

 

/ “Luffy!” So much pressure building in my chest. My little brother downed by a shot. Ace and Sabo about to be overwhelm…Can’t move…Can’t protect them… No… / “No!” 

 

The sudden scream from Kit startled Luffy who had cuddled with his older brother sometime during the night.

 

“Kit?”

 

“Go back to bed, Luffy. I’m alright.”

  

“No! You keep getting nightmares. You fell asleep while you were walking along the railings! You almost drowned!”

 

“Don’t worry so much, Anchor. Namur rescued me, did he not? Besides, the Whitebeard Pirates have plenty of other people who fetch devil fruit users all the time, especially you.”

 

“Yeah…but-”

 

“Why are you guys awake?” grumbled a sleepy Sabo. Ace mumbled a bit before his eyes snapped open. “It’s not even dawn, yet.”

 

“Kit had a nightmare.”

  

“Luffy! It’s not that big of a deal. Just a bit of a night scare. We should all get some more sleep.”

 

“Not really much of a point. I overheard the navigators report that we’ll reach the island about an hour before dawn.” Sabo rubbed his eyes.

 

Kit groaned, before flopping back in the bed. He had woken everyone up again. They’re just some stupid memories. Nothing happened to us. My brothers lived through our first real battle, chanted Kit in his mind.

 

Weeks had passed since the battle. Kit’s haki kept knocking people over randomly throughout the day. It was nowhere near the devastating effect during the last battle, but at least half a dozen pirates fell over each day from small spurts of haki. Marco, Thatch, his brothers, Pops - they all reassured him, telling him that it was not his fault, he just needed some proper training. Pops instructed him to relax, that his riled emotions kept triggering the use of his haki. Everyone tried to help but to no avail. The main trouble Kit had was not keeping his emotions in check while aware; he lost control only when he slept. And his sleep attacks had increased in frequency.

 

Kit lifted his head slightly, only to slam it against his pillow. Resigned, he got up to change along with his brothers. Once they all were ready, the boys decided to head off early for breakfast.

 

The Galley

 

-Sabo-

 

This can’t go on forever, thought Sabo. Kit had fallen asleep in his eggs. He sighed, readjusted his top hat, and gave the elder a harsh shake when Kit’s body began to tremble. Alarmed by the abrupt wake-up call, Kit abruptly sat up, spilling eggs on Sabo. Sabo gave a look of disgust, annoyed at the food pelleting his face. He took the handkerchief hanging from his coat pocket to wipe his face off. He then handed it over to the sheepish Kit. A table over, one of first division members slumped into unconsciousness. The audible thump had Kit turn around and offer his apologies once the man aroused.

 

“Another one? Don’t worry Kit, the men are used to it - yoi. They don’t blame you in the slightest,” gently reminded Marco.

 

The phoenix had lingered near Kit more often these days out of concern for the listless brother. Kit spent an inordinate amount of time by himself these days. That must have worried the commanders, especially ones like Marco, Thatch, and Haruta – those on whom Kit had made quite an impression. 

 

“We’ll be docking shortly - yoi. The island is devoid of human life. Its proximity to the Calm Belt had discouraged any sort of human settlements.”

 

“Yeah, most people value their lives a bit too much for them to handle those monsters. They make delicious steaks, though,” remarked Thatch. The fourth division commander must have just finished overseeing the breakfast preparations, since most of the time the boys would arrive for breakfast and find him sitting at the table already. “Sabo, did Namur tell you anything about the island? Sabo?”

 

Sabo jumped a little in his seat. Marco’s revelation of the island’s identity had spurred a deep train of thought in the top hat wearer. The ship had not stopped at any island for the past two weeks. No one would tell the boys where exactly they were going. Even Namur had avoided Sabo for the past week. But Moirai, that name did ring a few bells.

 

“Moirai? Namur told me about it some time ago. I was telling him about Dawn Island’s monstrous animals, and it came up. The island’s beasts reputably make something like the Tiger Lord look like a house cat. A dangerous place, but no wonder. Sea king nests dot much of the seas surrounding the island. The island got its name from an old legend. “Moirai” is another name for the fates. The stories say that people of great destinies eventually wander onto the island to test their worth as ‘world shakers of the next generation’. Whether or not this is so, the island does not seem like someplace to underestimate. 

 

“So it’s a mystery island! Shishishishi!”

 

“Well, we did manage to beat the Tiger Lord before. This island will prove to be a great place to measure up our skills against its beasts, just like on Dawn Island,” said Ace. He actually seemed eager. Sabo should have known better. Ace and Luffy loved to duke it out with strong opponents, the more reckless and dangerous the challenge, the more their eyes gleamed with anticipation. Even Kit had relented from his depressive state, his eyes lighting at the mention of even larger beasts than the Tiger Lord to fight.

 

“Whoa, whoa kiddos. Before any of you run amok on the island, we have to meet someone first.” Thatch held his hands in surrender at the glare Ace sent him. Ace did not like any reference to being childlike. Even if they were no more than children.

 

“I thought you said the island was voided of humans,” whined Luffy.

 

De – voided of human life, Luffy,” corrected Sabo. Sabo tilted his head at Thatch. “Who are we meeting?”

 

“You’ll see - yoi,” said the phoenix with a small smile.

 

Landing

 

-KASL-

 

Just walking to the island shores was an adventure. The seas surround the island had an odd mix of deep and shallow water channels. A person, even a devil fruit user, could walk along some parts one moment, then risk drowning at the sudden drop of the sea floor a few hundred meters below sea level. Outside the final shallow ring of water were several sea king nests deep below in the ocean depths. Since Whitebeard had visited the island before, he knew where to cast anchor where the sea king nests were farthest. Because of the shallow sections, Marco and Thatch led the boys with a specially-designed canoe floating behind them for the deeper parts.

 

Luffy, Sabo, Kit, even Ace were impressed and awed by the sights along their walk to the island. Each section had its own unique inhabitants: crabs twice the size of Jozu crawling around the bottom of a sea trench (one nearly carried Luffy away, Thatch managed to wrangle it back to the surface for Kit to toast), a rainbow of itty bitty jelly fish floating along the shallow sands, giant clams nestled on some coral reefs (Luffy thought they were some sort of boulder until one opened up underneath him). After a half an hour walk/swim/row, the group arrived to the island. A familiar old geezer sat on shore with a sea king roasting on the beach.

 

“Uncle Ray!”

 

Even half-drenched from the various fights, Kit had plenty of energy to run the last stretch when he caught sight of the Dark King. His brothers stood stunned at the present of their unexpected guest. A moment later, they ran to catch up to Kit. The commanders chuckled behind them.

 

The silver-haired man smiled at his young nephew that dashed over to him. He swung one of his arms down to hug Kit.

  

“How’s are you my boy? Taking good care of your brothers? I’ve heard some interesting things about your adventures since Sabaody.” Kit’s wide grin twitched. He really tried to keep his smile but nothing got past the old pirate. Kit abandoned his attempt, a downtrodden expression taking the place of the false smile.

 

“Uncle Ray … I-I-I don’t know…” Tears stung the corner of Kit’s eyes. Seeing their brother’s rare show of confusion and weakness, the ASL brothers quickly appeared by his side, silently giving him their support. Kit sniffed once.

 

“I almost failed them,” he whispered. “My brothers could’ve died because I was not strong enough … I managed to activate my Conqueror’s haki, but I can’t control it. I’m lucky that it’s fairly weak when triggered by my nightmares but…” Kit’s lip trembled.

 

“Sol D. Silvers Kitsune. You’re only 12. You don’t have to shoulder everything.”

 

“The old man’s right, brother. I should have been stronger. Luffy would never had gotten hurt if I had…”

 

“Don’t you start, Ace. We all need to get stronger,” admonished Sabo.

 

“Sabo’s right, Ace, Kit! We’re really strong, but those guys were strong, too!” piped in Luffy. The older brothers blanch. Luffy actually made sense. Something in Luffy’s eyes was different as he spoke. It was one of those rare times that one could see a glimmer of the pirate he may one day become.

 

“Sabo and Luffy, you two are both right. Which brings us back to why I am here. Newgate thought it might be beneficial for the four of you to take a year to train,” explained Rayleigh.

 

“A YEAR?!” yelped Luffy. Ace and Sabo finally broke free of their trance to knock simultaneously on their baby brother’s head.

 

“Don’t parrot him!”

 

Kit just shook his head in bewilderment. “Why?”

 

“Newgate, Marco, and I discussed the issue of your training. You boys really need some more one-on-one training that the commanders and he cannot devote to the four of you. They cannot assign ordinary division members, since you four will soon surpass them in a matter of months. Everyone who does have the high enough level of expertise has duties and responsibilities that will not do justice to the amount of learning you need.

 

Since I am retired and proficient user of the three forms of haki, I have agreed to stay on this island to train the four of you for a year. I can give you all the basics and a bit more regarding haki. From there, the four of you shall gain the experience to continue your training in the New World.” The Dark King’s face grew grim. “On this island, you must listen and obey my instructions. The inhabitants of this place do not show mercy to fools or weaklings. Do any of you object to this course of action?”

 

The boys stood still in considering silence. Ace’s face gave away none of his thoughts. Sabo looked off to the distance. Luffy didn’t seem to understand, if his wide grin meant anything. Kit tensed for a moment, his eyes somewhat red from his earlier breakdown. He took a deep breath.

 

“I will train with you Uncle. I need to learn control. If I had full control of haki, if I could get stronger, then I will accept any conditions you set forth as our sensei,” Kit solemnly swore.

 

“So do I,” agreed Ace at last. Sabo and Luffy nodded their approval of their family’s choice to send them off for training.

 

“Ahh, one other thing. Some of the commanders will stop by randomly to assess your current skill levels at times. They’ve all agreed that to push you boys pass your limits, they will not go as easy as before,” warned Marco as he came up behind the children.

 

“That’s alright with me. To get stronger, I will take them all on!” Ace’s eyes glowed with determination.

 

“I will protect them all. I will not risk coming so close to losing everything, not again.” Kit’s voice had a harsh catch but a steely glint to his eyes contradicted it. 

 

“I will become strong enough to be the pirate king!” announced Luffy, who had pouted afterward when his brothers and Rayleigh chuckled. 

 

“I will get strong enough, so that my brothers and I can make our own futures.” The pipe in Sabo’s hand thrusted into the sand to emphasize his words.

 

“Well then, brats, let’s get started with the lessons.” Thatch and Marco stepped in. “We’ll be your first set of co-instructors.

 

Rayleigh asked the group to follow him into the jungle. The trees soared high into the skies, their branches thicker than a man. All around, the boys could hear the shrieks of animals, the roar of predators, and the crackle of branches overhead.

 

“First things first. You guys need a better understanding of what haki is,” began Rayleigh. “Haki is the hidden power that all living creatures share. It is not so different from the normal senses of a human. One need only gain the training to trigger it. Most people will live their lives without ever awakening this power. It comes in three forms. Two of them are common to all living things. One is the power of observation.”

 

While Rayleigh looked to the boys, explaining haki, a huge serpent slowly unwrapped itself from its tree. Marco strode right next to it. It struck. But the blow never landed. The first commander merely stepped to the side moments before the snake initiated its attack.

 

“That is the power of Observation haki; to sense the presence, the spirit, of others. The people of Skypiea, a land in the skies, call it Mantra; one can sense not only the presence of other, but a strong user may anticipate their intentions and counter.

 

The snake warily watched Marco. Its tail lashed out from the tree behind him, but the first commander had already leapt into the air and swung his leg to deliver a devastating kick. The snake hissed in agony. Its body unraveled entirely before slithering deeper into the jungle. 

 

“The other is Armament haki; this gives the wielder the ability to manipulate the energy around him to create a force that serves as invisible armor.”

 

The only warning the fourth division commander had was the sudden rustle of bushes. A heavily armored and insanely large staghorn beetle flew straight for him. Thatch brought up his hand. The momentum of the beetle’s attack came to a halt when it crashed against his hand.

 

“One can use it for both defense, to strengthen the body to a number of attacks depending on one’s personal strength; one may also use it offensively. Armament haki lends strength not only to one’s physical body, but a well-trained user may extend it to their weapons and lend it greater power!”

 

Thatch pushed the beetle back several meters before unsheathing his dual swords. A black coating covered them. He swung, cracking the beetle’s dense armored skeleton.

 

“Even the intangible bodies of Logia can be touched by a competent user of Armament haki,” explained Rayleigh.

 

“Logia?” inquired Sabo. Kit turned to his confused brothers to explain.

 

“Allow me, Uncle. Devil fruit powers usually fall in one of three categories: Paramecia, Zoan, and Logia. The first group of devil fruits are the most common type; Luffy’s Gum-Gum powers are Paramecia-based. Basically it’s an all-inclusive group where users experience a change in their bodies’ structure, make-up, or properties, or they may instead be able to affect their surroundings instead. Anything not Zoan or Logia falls into Paramecia. Zoans are users that shapeshift into animals, such as Marco changing into a phoenix and myself transforming into a kitsune. However, we two are a bit different from the run-of-the-mill Zoans since our forms do not exist outside of myth. Mythical Zoans are rarer than Logia. Another subgroup of Zoans are Ancient Zoan types. Like the name suggest, this is another rare group of Zoans that change into extinct animals. Grandpa mentioned one, I think, some sort of dinosaur-based one he met at Marine Headquarters. All Zoans receive some boost in their physical strength, speed, and recovery, I believe. The last group is considered the most powerful of them all. Logias can transform themselves into their elements. Some can become lightning, sand, ice, and so forth. They’re really powerful because of how innately destructive their elemental powers are, plus the ability to become their element allows them to avoid damage. To strike one takes either an exploitation of their elemental weakness, sheer luck, or apparently haki. Err, to be honest, the powers of Paramecia are so varied and strange that, well, most people would consider someone like Luffy really weak. But, Pops is also a Paramecia and he’s the strongest man in the world!”

 

Ace and Sabo listened intently to their eldest brother’s explanation, but Kit considered asking Sabo to translate for Luffy later since the latter had focused more of his attention on the stunned staghorn beetle that the commander had batted to the side.

 

“Very good, Kit. You did pay attention to my lessons, surprising since I explained this to you when you were seven,” complimented Rayleigh. “Armament haki uses energy to touch the substantial body beneath the insubstantial body of the user. This allows one to grapple and strike a Logia without seastone or knowledge to counter their abilities. Now, the third type cannot be taught. One either has it or not: Conqueror’s haki. This type allows a person to intimidate an opponent with sheer will power. I can teach control so that Kit can quit knocking out allies and innocents, but the strength depends not on training but purely the depth of one’s will.”

 

The Dark King faced forward abruptly as a huge leopard lunged. Kit, Ace, Sabo, and Luffy could feel the sheer overwhelming force coming from Rayleigh. The cat stopped mid-swipe. Its eyes widen as big as plates. It crouched down in submission.

 

“On wild beasts, I can make them submit to my will, essentially taming them. I may also overwhelm individuals to the point of unconsciousness if the difference between our wills is great enough.”

 

“That’s why Kit doesn’t knock out whole swathes of division members, like during the battle weeks ago; he only unconsciously released a small portion of his will. He already has practice controlling his emotions due to his Zoan’s needs; this translate into a partial control on his Conqueror’s haki,” added Marco.

 

“Boys, before we can properly train you, we need to awaken your haki. Only when the body is pressed to a certain point does haki normally activate; Kit’s emotional and physical upset triggered his Conqueror’s haki early. This will be somewhat similar. Put on these blindfolds on, boys. Time to begin.”

 

The grins on the commanders and Rayleigh made the boys squirm. Oi, what kind of craziness did we agree to? Thought the KASL brothers.

 

/ To awaken the boys’ innate abilities, the commanders stayed for a few weeks, taking turns alongside Rayleigh to attack the boys with and without warning. At the end of the month, each boy had achieved the awakening of their Observation haki, the news well received as the four bruised, battered boys exchanged friendly punches of congratulations with not an unnoticed wince. The crew celebrated with one last party before the Moby Dick departed to see to Whitebeard’s territories. When it next returned, the boys would be finished with their training. Commanders dropped by over the coming months on other ships, testing their young brothers’ aptitude and skills. /

Chapter Text


Chapter XVI: Duck and Cover!


Moirai Island

One and a half years later

 

-KASL-

 

Several monstrous beasts had Luffy cornered. The boy just grinned, tilting his straw hat forward to shade his eyes. One, a wolf standing fifteen meters high, lunged. The boy deftly dodged to the right, letting the wolf charge inches to the side of him.

 

“Gum-Gum Armored Gatling!”

 

Black coated the young boy’s fists before they vanished in a blur of seemingly endless punches. The wolf fell to the side. The circling beasts backed for a moment. An ominous growl sounded. They all leapt for the straw hatted boy. A wave of pressure struck them dumb. Another young man, raven-haired and freckled, dived from one of the trees overlooking the scene.

 

“Aww, Ace! I was going to handle it,” pouted Luffy, lip sticking out in annoyance. 

 

“To think it only took him three months to actually do that without having you make him snap,” chuckled a blue- coated boy that joined them.

 

“No, to think it took Ace two months to actually remember what happened back at the Grey Terminal,” interjected a white-eared boy. Kit grinned widely before laughing. “To think that the three of us didn’t even remember how Ace knocked out Bluejam and his men that one time, even when Marco and Rayleigh described the effects. I, mean, it wasn’t that long ago, plus who forgets a ton of pirates suddenly falling over? Sabo’s excused, but the rest of us are quite the bunch of idiots.” Ace slung a fist that Kit simply stepped to the side to dodge. “No offense, shahehehe.”

 

“Boys, the Moby Dick has docked. Thatch and another fellow has come to fetch you guys.”

 

Whatever Ace was going to say was forgotten. The boys rushed over to Silvers Rayleigh. They all bowed in respect.

 

“Thank you, sensei, for all that you have taught us,” chirped the four brothers.

 

“Hehe, you boys did well. I’ll be with you guys for a little while longer, though. My ship kind of got wrecked a few days ago. Whitebeard had offered to let me on his ship and drop me off at Sabaody. So you boys won’t be getting rid of me that easily,” laughed Rayleigh.

 

“Uncle Ray! We hardly tried to get rid of you. Even if we tried to simultaneously attack you a few times. But you did challenge us!” Uncle Ray patted his flustering nephew’s head good-naturedly. 

 

ZEHAHAHA! What an adorable scene!” Kit’s smile fell. Next to him, Luffy visibly shrunk, his cheerful face closed.

 

Hmmm. There’s something not quite right, isn’t there, pondered Rayleigh, taking in the youngest and oldest children’s unease with the large, unshaven Whitebeard pirate. Ace and Sabo also subtly tensed in response. Kit pulled back his grimace, showing Teach a poker face. He swung an arm around his baby brother.

 

Thatch cocked his head. The brats were acting strange again. He sneaked a glance at the second division member who had offered to escort their brothers back home. Teach was not a bad guy really; a little slovenly, ate too much like any D. A little bit lazy to be frank. Honestly, the guy didn’t stand out much amongst the many division members. Marco didn’t like the guy much at the beginning, but that could have been because of the lingering mood from Thatch’s earlier pineapple prank.

 

Pushing his concern aside for later deliberation, Thatch smiled jovially at his little brothers. They had grown since he had last seen them several months ago. Ace and Sabo have noticeably put on muscle and height. Luffy didn’t seem to change much at all. Kit grew only a little bit, but his mythical Zoan abilities may explain this. Heck, Marco hasn’t exactly aged a day for the past twenty odd years. The boy had grown a bit into his frame, not the same developing musculature as Ace, but a leaner kind of muscle that made him sleek and willowy rather than skinny like Luffy. Thatch betted his last berry that the boy’s transformations had fared much better. 

 

“You squirts should smile a bit more. That’s hardly how you welcome your favorite big brother.” Kit’s mouth twitched into its usual smirk.

 

“Favorite big brother? I’ve always thought that’d be either Marco or myself,” joked the fox. The white ears he had sported disappeared in a little burst of smoke. He gave Thatch’s wide-eyed expression a lopsided grin. “Surprised? I finally managed to control the whole smoke-thing, enough to limit it to my only foxlike features in hybrid form, and to vanish under thirty seconds in my full transformations. I still have to work on my switches between hybrid-to-hybrid, hybrid to different full transformation, and full change to full change. But they’re a lot better than before!” defended Kit a bit forcibly. He still remembered how Thatch laughed one time when the fox acted a bit doozy (not drunk!) the one time he tried to switch from black fox to yellow fox. Not a good idea when he had a steaming Marco closing behind him.

 

“Ah, Kit, I’m hurt that you think so little of me. I thought you like me better than that pineapple chicken.” Thatch dramatically waved his hands, placing one against his breast.

 

Ace decided to take a leaf out of Marco’s book and kicked the red head in the shin. The chef pouted, clutching his leg.

 

“Ace hardly even made a bruise,” teased the blue-coated brother.

 

“Sabo’s right, Thatchy. Come on, let’s go see Pops and Pineapple Head and Jozu and Namur and…” Kit slapped a hand around Luffy’s running mouth.

  

“Knock it off you bunch of knuckleheads,” chided the kitsune.

 

And they group was off. Rayleigh had already headed off to the ship, giving the group time to reacquaint themselves. Luffy walked alongside Thatch, swinging his arms freely. He had calmed down some, but the boy still snuck glances at the scraggly man when the guy wasn’t looking. Kit kept an eye glued to Teach the whole way to the ship.

 

/ The boy’s return was met with great cheer and celebration. The crew decided to throw a huge party to welcome their brothers and celebrate their accomplishments. Rayleigh had the boys contribute to the ship’s stock (and to show off their growth) by sending them out to a nearby sea king’s nest on a rowboat.

 

Marco looked a bit uneasy, but Thatch just slapped his friend’s back. His expression turned to one of pride as the boys worked as a unit to bring down three oversized sea kings. Pops laughed in delight and sent several more boats to round up their catch. The remaining sea kings fled when Ace and Kit combined their Conqueror’s haki. That night the crew celebrated all day and night until late the next morning. Thatch even snuck the boys some sake for a private toast in their room.

   

Several miles away, a white flag with the navy crest flew. On the front of the vessel, a dog-shaped figurehead featured prominently. “Boys, you are all in trouble. I’m gone for a year or so, and you go off and fight as pirates in the New World without even speaking to your grandpa? Get ready brats.” The man at the bow cracked his knuckles. /

 

Three weeks later

The Moby Dick

 

Luffy had just dug into his pile of meat when the strangest tingle ran through his body. They had just left Sabaody, dropping off Rayleigh. Rayleigh made the scariest remark before they left him.

 

/ Kit gave his uncle one last hug. Luffy had bounced around the two, his mind already on the next adventure.

 

“You boys be safe. Oh, I also met with your grandfather some time before we began training.” Luffy froze mid-skip. Ace and Sabo froze, horror on their faces.

 

Kit gulped. “Did y-you tell Grandfather anything about us?”

 

“Of course. He is your grandfather, after all. I told him that you boys made it alright in the Grand Line, about some of your adventures, oh, and about your new family. I may or may not have also greeted him a gentle reminder of how a loving family member should act with their charges.” Kit raised a hand to curl into his blonde and black locks.

 

“Grandpa doesn’t want us to be pirates!”  

 

“Shahehehe, we’re dead.”  

 

“Shitty Gramps know we’re living with pirates?!”  

 

"That Old Geezer will kill us!”

 

“Umm, Uncle, did you have to punch Grandfather?” Kitsune wasn’t stupid; Uncle Rayleigh even went so far as to grasp his fist with one hand for emphasis.

   

“Ehh, don’t worry. Garp took it as well as expected after I gave him a bit of a lecture on parenting. Just laughed at me and had a drink. He said he would rather avoid getting into a fight with me anyways. Didn’t even look apologetic after I remarked on his “training methods”. Said something about paying you boys a visit, though.” The boys looked kind of sickly. “Well, better head back now, boys. Didn’t Marco say something about being back on board the ship? I think he expected you boys back about five minutes ago.” /

 

“Luffy? Luffy!” The rubber boy blinked. “Man, you space out for a bit.” Ace cocked his head in confusion at his little brother. Sabo quirked an eyebrow.

 

“Luffy? What’s wrong? You just stopped eat-” The two older brothers froze. Kit burst through the galley doors moments later.

 

“Guys, we got scat!” Ace’s face paled. He hadn’t felt like this since- Oh shit.

 

“Shitty Old Man alert!”

 

All the division members looked questioningly at the sudden outbursts from their youngest brothers. Said brothers shoved the rest of their lunch in unnaturally extended mouths before fleeing. 

 

-Marco-

 

“What’s with the boys?” asked the first division commander. He had just finished his latest batch of reports and was walking toward the galley when four blurs – one red, one blue, one orange, and one grey – rushed right by him, running right over Thatch who was walking towards him. Marco helped his friend up.

 

“Don’t know. I just left them five minutes ago.”

 

The two bewildered commanders looked in question to where the boys ran off when they heard shouting from the lookouts.

 

“Marine vessel approaching! It’s the marine hero, Garp ‘The Fist’!”

 

“Oh. Wonder what that idiot wants now – yoi?”

 

“Probably just having a drink with the old man again.”

 

“Let’s go check on the brats and see what has got them so worked up before Garp begins to make a pest of himself – yoi.”

  

…Hiding somewhere in the Moby Dick (May or may not be a bit lost after blindly running through the guts of the ship)

 

-Kitsune

 

 

“We are unbelievably lucky that our Observation haki improved our Grandfather radar,” remarked a panting Kit.

 

Fear had the boy exert a lot more energy into running than normal. Beside him, Ace had slumped against one of the ship’s wooden support beams. Sabo had knelt on the ground a meter away, trying to catch his breath. Luffy decided to flop on the ground, his face pressed into the wooden floor.

 

“It’s only a matter of time before the Old Geezer finds us.” Sabo’s eyes darted back and forth, probably imagining the last time Grandfather snuck up on the four boys.

 

Kit thought for a moment. “You don’t suppose that guy has been using haki against us, do you? I, mean, the guy can land some pretty nasty blows on Luffy, and Luffy’s made of rubber! For that matter, my body never heals as well when Grandfather smacks me around… And he can always find us, even in the deepest part of the forest back on Dawn Island.” Ace, Sabo, and Luffy looked at the oldest brother in horror. 

 

Ace breathed in deeply. “Well… We’re stronger this time! We have trained with haki for over a year. We can beat the old man I bet!” Kit gave Ace an odd look.

 

“Ace, when I sailed with Grandfather on the way to Dawn Island, he tossed this cannonball bigger than most Grand Line sea kings and sunk a ship, all with his bare hands,” deadpanned Kit.

 

The fact left his brothers comically opening and shutting their mouths like goldfish. Kit would have laughed if the idea of his grandfather’s strength choked off any comedy to be found in their situation.

 

“Defense, sure. But to attack him? I think that will just make Grandpa hold back even less than normal.” Kit unconsciously tilted his baseball cap forward to conceal his eyes.

 

Sabo had grabbed his top hat off his head. His hands convulsively tightened along the brim of it. Luffy tugged his straw hat around his face. Ace’s cowboy hat fell forward on his face. A sudden tapping of feet had the boys back on high alert.

 

“Oi, boys! Where did you guys go this time? How do you guys find these places anyhow?” A familiar pompadour peeked around the corner. Thatch’s amused face followed. “Eh, nice hiding place. Might need to remember this when I’m hiding from the flaming turkey, hehe. So, Marco’s a bit busy preparing the crew for the arrival of a marine vessel, which is why you four are graced with my handsome face-”

 

“Marine?”

 

“Not to worry. It’s just Garp. Hey! What’s with those faces? Guys?”

 

The four boys went unnaturally still. Kit’s silver blue eyes clouded. One moment of silence. The four boys screamed. 

 

The Moby Dick

Main Deck

 

-Marco-

 

“Permission to board, Newgate?” asked the aged marine stiffly. Marco quirked his head to the side. Garp really had no manners, but his voice sounded a bit different. Pops seemed a bit confused before nodding his consent. A walkway connected the two ships, and Vice-Admiral Garp strode aboard the Moby Dick.

 

“So,” Garp continued in an ominously quiet voice, “where pray tell are the children I heard so much about?”

 

“Children?”

 

“Don’t play stupid with me Phoenix! I know you have the boys, so hand them over.” Marco narrowed his eyes, sleepy expression gone. He took a step forward until Pops signaled him back.

 

“We do have four children aboard the ship, but how did you find that out? Or for the matter, how are the concerns of my children any of your business?”

 

“Those children are MY business, Newgate! Headquarters received word about some children fighting alongside Whitebeard pirates from some of our recent prisoners. I had that Dark King bastard confirm it a year or so ago. When all reports of children stopped for the past year, I hoped that you pirates had finally left them behind but not two weeks ago, Sengoku received word of two brats using Conqueror’s haki and another two brats using Armament haki! Hand those boys over!”

 

Pops had enough. The old pirate stood up. Marco tensed, his blue and gold flames flaring. Garp directed his gaze to Whitebeard, fists clenched. Before anyone could react, Thatch decided to pop up from below deck just as the tensions reached boiling.

 

“Oi, Marco, Pops! Something’s wrong with the boys. They kind of freaked out after I mentioned Garp’s visit and- Oh. Never mind.” Garp’s head snapped to the direction of the fourth commander. His eyes narrowed.

 

“BOYS! GET OUT HERE AND FACE YOUR GRANDPA!”

 

*Sweat drops.* Monkey D. Garp. Monkey D. Luffy. It really was obvious. The boys even said their old man was a monster of a marine. No wonder they had terrified looks whenever someone broached the subject of their grandfather.

 

The boys in question solemnly walked around Thatch, their eyes as hollow as someone about to face execution. Kit strode ahead of his brothers.

 

“Grandfather-” 

 

“You boys are going home with me.”

 

“No way Shitty Gramps!” Ace ran over to where his gramps stood. He looked the man straight in the eyes, his head thrust up in defiance. Garp cracked his knuckles. *SMACK!* Marco clenched his hands. He felt the barest trace of haki, not just from the brat, either. Ace clutched his head, only barely warding off some of the blow.

 

“Well, well, you boys have gotten stronger.”

 

“Don’t hurt Ace!” Luffy ran at their grandfather, only to receive a haki-infused hit on his head. Luffy fell down, hands clasped over the rapidly forming bruise. Sabo and Kit ran to stand in front of their brothers, hands splayed in defense. Ace couldn’t hold back his retort.

 

“No thanks to you Shitty Gramps!”

 

“Call me Grandpa! Respect your elders, or do you need another ‘fist of love’?” Garp raised his fist, but Pops cut him off.

 

“Enough! Garp, we need to talk. Marco, Thatch, watch over the boys. Everyone else, go back to whatever your need to do but leave the two of us.”

 

Pops slammed his bisento onto the deck, the ominous tremble in the air emphasizing his command. Division members scrambled away. Marco nodded his head to his father, his gaze asking for more information afterward. Thatch gathered up the protesting Ace. The phoenix sighed as he grabbed Luffy’s hand. The little boy had not stopped shaking the entire confrontation with their grandfather.

 

Whitebeard's Office

 

-Edward Newgate-

 

“I honestly can’t say I didn’t expect you.”

 

“Oh? Your commanders seemed a bit surprised, even the phoenix.”

 

“Marco had had a lot on his plate for the past couple of years. About the boys-” 

 

“There’s nothing to discuss! I am their guardian. You have no right to keep me away from them!” Newgate leveled a harsh glare at Garp.

 

“You’re right, Garp,” he rumbled. “I do not have the right to separate family. But, you do not have the right to separate my family, either. I’ve taken those boys as my sons. Under my protection, they will grow strong. You and I both know with their history; they’re not any safer with you than on their home island. I, at least, can offer them a loving home and relative safety. You, on the other hand, had treated the boys with nothing but abuse and loneliness. They’ve told me about their childhood, Garp. How could you let four boys live in the wild, with bandits, and expect them to follow in your footsteps? They’ve come close to dying on many more occasions on that island of theirs than on my ship. No, they will not just leave with you for good.”

 

Garp said nothing for a few moments. His stony face drew tight in worry. The anger he felt drained away in a rush of mourning and loss. Several minutes passed in silence. Garp finally spoke again, guilt dripping from his tongue.

 

“I haven’t been there for the boys when they really needed me. I couldn’t even go out to save them from slavers because Sengoku sent me off to beat up a few rookies. I thank you for taking care of them. You’ve taught them haki? Good. I hardly could have. Those boys will need it if they really go through with their dreams…” Garp trailed off. His eyes glazed. 

 

Newgate shared with him a solemn look. The prospect of one day having to deal with his pirate grandchildren must have weighed heavily on the old navy soldier.

 

“Newgate. I will not take the boys from you. Sengoku has warned me several times already that any mention of Roger’s son will be dealt with as harshly as with the reports of the man’s lover. But, as you said, as their grandfather I have a right to spend some time with my family. I propose giving the boys a year. When Kit turns 15, I will come and take the boys with me for a year. I will return them when the time’s up. I just want them to spend some time with me, see what I do, maybe visit their home after all this time.”

 

Newgate deliberated on this matter. “Alright, Garp. But not for an entire year. You absolutely terrify the brats, you know. So if you make it six months, I will accept your terms. You really shouldn’t bother trying to turn them into marines, you know. I am more than aware of their heritages and their level of determination for their dreams.” Garp nodded solemnly, the uncharacteristic serious face still present.

 

“Agreed.”

 

-Thatch-

  

Marco looked almost ready to blow a gasket. Every now and then, a flare of blue and gold would light his shoulders and arms for a moment. The brats’ family really were crazy. Who’d have thought their boogeyman of a grandpa was marine hero, Monkey D. Garp. Then again, the commanders had really dropped the ball on not connecting dots when the brats told them Luffy’s full name. Speaking of brats, Ace had not stop pacing the room since Pops had ordered everyone away. Sabo was trying to read on the bed at first but threw his book at the wall in frustration five minutes ago. Kit cuddled Luffy in his lap, singing softly to the little boy.

 

*Knock, knock.*

 

The boys tensed. Marco’s grim expression confirmed what Thatch could sense with his Observation haki. Without any other warning, the door slammed open. Before the phoenix could try walloping the abusive bastard in the doorway, Garp raised his hand in a stopping gesture.

 

“Whoa, whoa Phoenix, relax. I’m not going to try and take away the boys, not anymore.”

 

The boys stared at their grandfather, wariness and suspicion etched in their faces. “I made a deal with Newgate. Boys, I do not approve of your family.” Ace’s mouth opened to yell at his grandfather.

 

“But,” Garp continued, “You boys will be spending some with me. I will be back in one year’s time, around Kit’s next birthday. We’ll discuss this further on that day. For now, I will leave you here.”

 

As Garp turned to leave, a pair of rubbery arms circled his leg. He looked down to see his youngest grandchild’s teary face.

 

“Grandpa! You’re really mean and scary sometimes! But I still love you! Even when you throw me to the monkeys, beat me on the head, and act really, really scary. But I won’t let you hurt Ace or Sabo or Kit next time! I will be strong enough to fight you next year!” Luffy announced proudly. 

 

Kit quirked an eyebrow before sighing. “Miss you, too, Grandfather. See you next year.”

 

Sabo expressed his goodbyes and even Ace grumbled something akin to a good-bye under his breath. Tears glinted at the corners of the old marine’s eyes. The usual smile appeared on his face.

 

“Take care of my boys, pirates,” warned Garp. Marco smirked, and Thatch just nodded his head. The guy was nuts, definitely nuts, but he could understand the worry coloring his words, and the regret.

Chapter Text


Chapter XVII: Blood in the Sky


The Moby Dick

 

-Sabo-

 

Kit hadn’t stopped pacing since the boys woke up this morning. Sabo frowned. No matter how much Sabo thought on this matter, he couldn’t come up for any explanation for the elder’s anxiety. He kept glancing at the sky, almost as if anticipating an aerial attack. Before Sabo could ask, Luffy yelled demands for breakfast. Kit stopped mid-step and pulled a grin, agreeing with their youngest brother. But, Sabo could tell that the smile didn’t quite fit right.

 

The Galley  

 

“What’s wrong, brat?” asked Haruta. “You hardly have touched your fifth serving.” Kit shifted his head to look at the fourteenth commander, but if the glassy look was anything to go by, Kit wasn’t seeing him, he wasn’t seeing any of them.

 

Sabo had noticed this since they sat down for breakfast, but he couldn’t get Kit to respond. Concerned, Sabo set his utensils down, leaned over the table, and flicked his older brother’s baseball cap. That got a reaction. Kit’s hand darted up to grab Sabo’s withdrawing hand. His eyes focused. And he didn’t look too please. 

 

“Sabo, what was that for?”

 

“Kit, we’ve been trying to talk to you on-and-off during breakfast for the past ten minutes. It worked, did it not? I kind of thought I would have to ask Luffy or Ace knock some sense into you,” joked Sabo, although his smile showed strained. “What is with you this morning? You can usually beat me two to one in terms of eating.”

 

Kit said nothing. His eyebrows drew up tight in thought. At last, the fox rested his head into his hands.

 

“To be absolutely honest, I do not know. Ever since I woke up, my Observation haki has acted a bit off. I cannot turn off the hyperactive input of information rushing into my head. It’s as if something about today sets off my fight or flight reaction. I just have the weirdest sense of danger, of foreboding. Eh, what’s wrong with Luffy?”

 

Sabo glared at Kit for the sudden topic changed, but dismissed it for now. A minute ago, Luffy happily gobbled everything within his considerable reach. Now, however, Luffy had slowed considerably, his eyes darting off to somewhere to the left of Sabo.

 

Zehahaha. How’s breakfast, brats?”

 

Sabo knew that voice. Ace, who had been eating and chatting with Thatch on the other side of Luffy, paused mid-word to send their guest a sharp look. Kit smiled at Teach, but there was an almost imperceptible edge to it.

 

Ace and Sabo still did not get what made the other D’s cringe or edge away. The two had not seen any sort of particularly malicious or suspicious behavior whatsoever. The guy could eat Luffy under the table, but the guy was a D, too, nothing unusual. The second division member laughed a lot, and he would offer to take night watch a lot. Not a bad guy on the surface. But, Luffy and Kit must have sensed something beneath his façade. Ace and Sabo agreed long ago to keep an eye on him, and they still did. Ace did this by glaring at the man every time he came near until Sabo bonked him on his head. Giving your potential enemy a head’s up was not the smartest of moves. The top hat wearer made it a point to speak to Teach affably and dig for some information. Still nothing.

 

“Hm. I see the little guy still doesn’t seem to like me. Zehahaha. Ah, well. So any of ya kids have an idea what kind of island we’re going to?”

 

“I believe the navigators said the island is called Seer’s Isle,” answered Haruta.

 

“Seers’ Isle?” Sabo tapped the table in thought. “I read about in my books. It’s a small autumn island. They have a single town, and people from all over the world visit it for the temple. They say that people born on the island have some small measure of fortunetelling skill.”

 

“Fortunetelling? Pfft. I wouldn’t much stock in what some stranger would say about my life. They’re probably no better than those nuts back in the Grey Terminal. Remember, Kit? That one guy told you that one day you would find true love in three months.” Ace rolled his eyes. “In three months, the only love you’ve discovered involved some giant bird you had found and kept fighting every day for a week before you finally beat it.”

 

“Oh? Ah, I remember. We had the bird for dinner. Some of the best food we have eaten in months.”

 

“Mmm. I want some chicken,” said Luffy with drool pooling out his mouth. Ace pounded once on his straw-hatted head. Kit laughed before magically taking out a large napkin to clean up his spit. The conversation managed to distract the two from whatever bad mood Teach’s presence put them in, but they still didn’t entirely relax until the man left.

 

“Maybe an island adventure is just what we need,” thought Kit aloud. Ace just playfully punched his older brother’s shoulder.

 

Seers’ Isle

 

-Kitsune-

 

“This place is kind of creepy,” commented Thatch.

 

The crew had stopped by the island to restock on some basic supplies such as food and water (the boys kept sneaking off with bits and pieces of the food stocks if Thatch or another chef forgot to lock the kitchen and storage rooms).

 

The island was actually neutral territory according to the old captain. Long ago, pirates of the New World came upon the island and tried to take it for their own. The inhabitants of the island warned the invaders to turn their path or face the wrath of the island spirits. The pirates laughed at them. On that fateful night, a horrendous typhoon engulfed the nearby seas without warning. Dozens of pirates ships crashed against the rocks and reefs, if the tearing wind had not already broke their vessel apart. None of the islanders died because the oracle of that time warned them to take shelter in the island’s mountain caves. All surviving pirates swore to never go against the Seers’ Isle ever again.

 

Every year, there is at least one pirate crew that dares to try the supernatural protections of the island. None ever survived to see the next voyage.

 

So, the crew members had to respect the culture and ways of the island whenever they visited this island, which wasn’t much different than usual except that fighting or making any sort of ruckus was absolutely forbidden while the Moby Dick docked on the island.

 

Pops made everyone promise to behave. Sabo had to nudge Ace a bit to get him to do it, but here the boys were. Thatch volunteered to watch the boys. So far, the islanders had seem a bit skittish. Many of the shops had closed signs. Several houses looked completely empty.

 

“What could have the villagers so rattled?” wondered Sabo aloud. Kit shrugged. He honestly did not feel much better than the villagers at the moment. Luffy using him as a hiding place did not help.

 

“Oi, Luffy! Please stop grabbing onto my legs. I can’t walk very well if you keep tripping behind me and then use my legs to keep your balance.” Kit aimed a stern look over his shoulder, but his brother’s whimpering made it vanish. “Lu?” The fox stopped for a moment to turn around and hefted his little brother into his arms. “Oh, Lu. You know you will get too heavy soon for me to carry,” softly clucked the fox.

 

“Luffy’s still acting up?” Ace was peering back at the two of them. Kit had lost track of his surroundings while he dwelling on his own thoughts. Thatch, Sabo, and Ace had walked a good distance away because of it. The fox gave the older raven a lopsided smirk.

 

“Luffy’s a bit uneasy, but I have him. I think we should ask around a bit after Thatch finishes ordering supplies,” replied Kit, who hefted Luffy a bit more firmly into this willowy arms before striding over to the waiting group.

 

“Good idea,” agreed Sabo. “These villagers are acting jumpier than most folk, even if we are pirates. Besides, pirates come here all the time, so we really shouldn’t be making them this tense.” Commander Thatch nodded his assent.

 

“Strange,” mumbled Thatch. The commander had finally put in all his order to the local shops. The various store clerks readily took the orders, however, their behavior made warning bells ring in Kit’s head. Thatch evidently agreed as he asked each one if everything on the island was alright. They each gave the same distinct long looks and reply: go see the temple. Even the few villagers wandering the streets gave the exact same reaction and message.

 

The Temple

 

Kit nearly tripped on another loose cobblestone brick. The path to the temple took at least an hour by foot. A stone path wound its way through a forest stretch, crossed a rushing stream, before sharply descending into an isolated valley. An old stone structure laid nestled right in the center.

 

“How old do you think the building is?” asked Ace.

 

“I think the book I read reported that the first explorers to the island arrived some five hundred years ago. Back then, the natives said the temple had already weathered a turn of an age and will stand strong for the coming of three more. I’d say it’s fairly ancient if anything those old adventurers hold true,” answered Sabo. The top hatted boy stopped for a moment to admire the architecture. Up close, the bronze spires littering the temple’s courtyard resembled the soaring trunks of jungle trees. Inlaid designs of moons, suns, stars, and various animals decorated their surfaces. The temple itself held an ominous majesty.

 

“Something about those spires make me feel oddly nostalgic,” murmured Kit. Luffy skipped to his side.

 

Shishishi! I really like this place.” This adventure had really excited Luffy. All traces of distress from this morning had vanished. Kit gave Luffy a soft smile. No one could be moody when Luffy bounced around like a rubber ball.

 

The immense iron doors suddenly slammed open. Luffy yelped. Ace and Sabo started. Even Thatch flinched a bit at the loud boom of iron against stone.

 

“Welcome to the Temple of Endings,” crooned a whispery voice. A tall, elegant woman draped in white and blue robes stood in the entrance to the temple. “I am a disciple of this holy place. The Prophet awaits you.” She gestured the group in.

  

“What do you mean ‘the Prophet awaits us’?” questioned Thatch a bit warily. His hand unconsciously strayed to the empty sword loop.

 

The lady said not a word, she only held a hand to beckon the group inside the temple. Figuring that they will not receive any answers, Thatch strode through the doors, the boys trailing closely behind him. They walked through a long and high hallway lighted by various candles. Kit glanced around carefully. He could see no windows. Finally, the group entered a large open space with a glass window taking up an entire wall. One could see a pool of water just beyond it. A little girl no older than Luffy sat on the stone floor. She opened her mouth and a surprisingly deep voice echoed through the room.

 

“Finally here? You were almost late! Oh, well. Take a seat, or stand if you prefer. Do not look so silly fourth commander. If you gape any longer, I will take you for an impression of a koi fish. You boys are not much better either. Silly boys. You look well Kitsune, Ace, Sabo, and Luffy. Maybe you have the strength for the coming days? Who knows, besides me and the Madame of that island? Now, you’ve come to hear my words, right?”

 

Thatch sputtered wordlessly for a moment. This little girl allowed him not a word for several minutes as she chattered over him. After the last question, she finally waited for his reply.

 

“Well, umm, I take it you are the current prophet of the island?”

 

“What a silly question? Of course!” she giggled. “Kit should know, right?”

 

“I do?”

 

“Silly little fox, of course. We’ve met before? Your mother was a sweet lady.”

 

“We’ve met? When?”

 

“Ahh, you do not recognize as appropriate considering the circumstances. You guys should study more on the customs and folk tales of this island. Speaking of studying, Sabo do you have anything to add?” The direct address startled the boy in question. He flustered a moment before giving a reply.

 

“Folk tales? Well, this one book did mention something rather odd. It said that the prophet had not one face. The prophet would, well, would appear as a-”

 

“A form most suited to the supplicants. They call her the mirror of the Id because she embodies the secret thoughts of her guests,” finished Kit. The fox remembered hearing this once from his mother. He did remember a shadowy memory of walking through stone pillars and his mother greeting a wizened old man who wore the same dark blue attire as the little girl standing before them. “Impossible,” he whispered too low for his brothers to hear. Thatch sent Kit a look but remained quiet.

 

“Good, good. As I promised, we meet again. Look upon the clear waters behind me. They will show you what you need to know, what you need not know, and what you may need to know.” The little girl skipped to Kit’s side and dragged him to the window. Kit gave his brothers a pleading look. ‘Help?’ Their blank faces suggested not.

 

Kit exhaled a long breath. He obediently peered down at the lake. His vision swam.

 

/ A war raged. Swords clanged and pistol shots fired. On a pedestal knelt an older man, maybe in his twenties? His face was wreathed in utter despair. That face looked hauntingly familiar. /

 

His vision faded.

 

/ A storm battered the sea. He could hear laughter ring into the air. An ugly cruel laugh. He felt like the world suddenly closed in as his vision swept over a cabin where the dark figure of man knelt over a fallen body, and in his had something dripped red. /

 

Kit felt like he was suffocating.

 

/ “It’s alright! It’s not your fault!” Two graves stood on a hill. Kit could almost read the words engraved on them. “Choose wisely,” whispered the hauntingly familiar voice. /

 

Kit gasped. He fell backward. His chest heaved in great gasping breaths.

 

“Kit!” Three pairs of hands helped to haul him to his feet. “You okay?” Kit did not even know he was crying until he blinked back tears to see a concerned Sabo dabbing a handkerchief to his wet face.

 

“What did you do to him,” said Ace coldly. He stood with his hands to his sides, hands clenched and knuckles white. “He only looked at the stupid lake for like a second and then he had a fit and fell down?!”

 

The prophet’s face show naught but pity. “I cannot say. Each supplicant sees his or her own visions, and I am unable to divine the nature of these answers for myself. I can tell you he saw things that will pass, will not pass, and may yet pass, but no more. This is part of Kit’s journey, regardless. Whether he will tell you or not, I will honor privacy in this matter.” She abruptly turned away from the group. “To answer your unspoken question, Commander, the villagers are uneasy because tonight marks a very dark omen. The sky shall bleed tonight. The day before this event shows the clearest of visions but also the darkest of them. I suggest you five return to your ship.” Without another word, the girl strode off to one of the side doors.

  

The group remained where they were. After an awkward pause, Thatch decided to break the silence.

  

“Well, I guess we have our answer. I suppose we shouldn’t impose on this loony bin any longer. Kit, why don’t you walk with me this time?” asked the commander, his jovial smile back in place. He didn’t wait for a response as he snatched Kit’s hand and led the way out.

 

At the entrance, the same woman from before stood waiting. She said goodbye and the four boys mumbled their farewells. Thatch just grinned and waved. Once the temple disappeared from view, the fourth commander turned back to the boys.

 

“Well, you boys wanted an adventure today? A creepy old temple certainly gave us at the very least some weird story to tell the crew.” Kit and Luffy actually burst into nervous laughter. Even Ace relented enough to smile at the commander’s attempt to lighten the mood.

 

/ That night, the Moby Dick drew up the anchor and casted off for the next island. Kit sat alone on the railings. Above in the night sky, a single red orb hovered in a clear black backdrop. The seer’s words haunted his dreams that night. /

Chapter Text


Chapter XVIII: Return Home Safe


Moby Dick

One week after the night of the lunar eclipse

 

/ “NO! Don’t go Thatchy!”

 

“Sorry, kid. I’ve got go and defend Pops’ name. Those no-name pirates can’t make a mess of one of our islands and get away with it.” The fourth division commander knelt down to grab the straw hatted child in a one-armed hug. “I’ll only be gone for couple of days. Time will fly, and the next thing you know, I’ll be back on the Moby Dick.” Thatch gently put Luffy down and patted his messy black hair before putting the straw hat back on Luffy’s head.

 

“You promise?” Luffy sniffed.

 

“Promise. I’ll return home safe and sound.” /

 

-Kitsune-

 

The commander had not returned after the second day. Marco assured the boys that Thatch was safe, the delay was because the pirates were dragging out the chase. The fourth commander reported in that the pirates had given the fourth division the slip and had retreated to their island base. If all goes well, Thatch would return home sometime during the third night. But no matter the how much the crew members tried to get the fox to cheer up, Kit just couldn’t shake the growing sense of wrongness.

 

Suppressing another sigh, Kit decided to climb into the crow’s nest, his newest book tucked into his knapsack sling as he shifted into his black fox form. In a matter of minutes, Kit climbed the mast, and his eyes met those of the first awaiting first commander. Marco did not indicate any acknowledgement of the fox beyond a few words.

 

“Still worried - yoi?”

 

The fox only tilted his head once before setting himself at the first commander’s feet and slipping his book out of the bag. Maybe a new story could distract him. The next story in his book of Devil Fruit Legends through the Ages displayed a swirly, purplish fruit that kind of looked like some oversized grapes. Huh. “The power that overcomes all others”?

 

-Luffy-

 

When will you come home Thatchy? The young boy reflexively pulled on the brim of the straw hat. Luffy had sat on the figurehead of the Moby Dick for the past hour. He just couldn’t work up the energy to play right now or train with one of his brothers. He felt restless. No matter what Luffy did, he couldn’t shake the sense of dread that had lingered with him since the fourth division commander had left the ship. Please, come home safe Thatchy. You promised, didn’t you?

 

Enemy Island Base

 

-Thatch-

 

Marco had grossly understated the power of these rookies, thought Thatch as he parried another slash aimed at his face. He had finally caught up to these disrespectful bastards, but instead of trying to do the decent thing and surrender, they slashed and burned some of Pops’ flags. They had the stupidity to do that right in front of the fourth division.

 

That was it. They were out for blood. Those cowards even tried to mock Pops while they did it. Thatch intercepted another cannonball, slicing it with a haki-infused slash. These rookies may not have the sharpest of minds, but they could fight tooth and nail. Even outmatched, their knowledge of the island and several well-place booby traps were what kept them alive so far. But not for long. Thatch gave his latest opponent a grim smile.

  

The Moby Dick

 

-Ace-

 

Ever since Thatch had left, Luffy had just laid around on the figurehead, distantly staring at the sea. The eldest D had acted no better. He would disappear for a few hours before suddenly reappearing on the deck or in the galley. Neither boy probably had slept very well the past two nights if the increased narcoleptic attacks during meal times was any indication. Speaking of which … Damn it! … Luffy’s head slumped forward, and Ace raced to grab his little brother’s tee. *BONK!*

 

“Oww! Why did you do that, Ace?”

 

“Rubber-brained idiot! You fell asleep while standing! It’s close to lunch time, so no one else is on deck. You’re so lucky I was coming to get you.”

 

“Oi, Ace, Luffy! Lunch is almost ready. Kit’s going to eat all the meat unless-”

 

“NO! THAT MEAT IS MINE!”

 

Luffy yanked himself from Ace, stumbled almost off the figurehead, and charged off in the direction of the galley. *Sweat drops.* He stood still for a moment before Sabo’s statement finally registered.

 

“OI! You guys better not hog all of the food!” 

 

The Galley

 

“You two have been pretty miserable these past days,” commented Izo. The sixteenth division commander had joined the boys for lunch today. “Still worried about Thatch? The big lug will be home before you know it.” Luffy actually paused in his eating. His lips trembled.

 

“Oi, Luffy. Still a crybaby,” mocked Ace, his laugh a bit off from his growing concern with the youngest D’s uncharacteristic behavior. “Where’s that goofy grin of yours?”

 

Across the table, Kit snorted. “I seem to recall a certain ten-year old becoming overwrought with his emotions at one point. Luffy’s nine, so quit it, little brother,” said Kit around another bite of his sandwich. Luffy’s mood instantly lifted.

 

Shishishi! Kit’s right. You did cry when you were older than me! Ow!” Ace gave his giggling brother a slightly haki-imbued smack in the head. “That really hurt! But still not as bad as grandpa’s ‘fist of love’. “

 

Ttch. Ace would have to become a real monster to be as strong as that old man,” said Sabo. The top hatted boy smiled, bemused at Ace’s attempt to distract the worried D brothers.

 

“Ace?” asked Luffy, his voice small.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Do you think that I can train with you for a little bit? And also with Kit?”

 

“Hmm? Sure little brother. But why the suddenness?” Kit cocked his head in question.

 

“I don’t want to be myself until Thatch returns.”

 

Ace, Sabo, and Kit exchanged a look. Crap, the three of them have been badly neglecting Luffy. The boy had been so insistent that he was fine that none of them really pursued the matter any further despite their concerns. The rubber boy had declined all invitations to play with his usual grin. Ace knew something was up, but he just didn’t act on it. Sabo laid a hand on Luffy’s shoulder.

 

“Of course we will train with you. All of us,” emphasized Sabo. Ace hid his shame behind a cocky grin.

 

“Sure, sure. But no matter how much you train, you’ll never beat any of us. You’re way too clumsy.”

 

“Na-uh!”

 

Kit wrapped his arms around Luffy, Ace, and Sabo. “No matter what we feel, we are brothers. I’m sure whatever upsetting Luffy and I off is nothing we cannot stop. Hey, Izo! Think we can train a bit on our Observation haki?”

 

“How do you suppose you’re doing that?”

 

“A little game of dodge the bullets shouldn’t hurt any of us,” laughed the fox. “It’ll be good practice for a real situation and take our minds off things.”

 

“KIT! We’re not all rubber like Luffy or regenerative like you!” Kit just kept laughing. He aimed a significant glance at Luffy, though. ‘No worries, Anchor. We will be just fine. Thatch will return home tonight.’ The boys finished lunch before following Izo out of the galley.

 

Later

 

-KASL-

 

“Boys, we’d better start wrapping this up soon.” Around the crossdresser, four boys laid panting.

 

The commander had really pushed the boys’ limits in not only Observation but also Armament haki. Ace had excellent Armament haki, but his ability to predict with Observation didn’t quite match up with his reaction time. Sabo’s Armament and Observation were good, but he couldn’t synchronize them yet. Luffy had surprisingly good Observation and decent Armament haki, yet he couldn’t bother to remember to activate them when it counted. The crossdresser shook his head in exasperation and pride. He had made sure to aim his shots at nonlethal points as a precautionary measure. But, the boys really didn’t need that. They had enough natural skill to avoid getting hit. They just needed to refine their abilities.

 

“Why the rush?” gasped Luffy. The straw-hatted boy had not once thought on Thatch’s absence with a barrage of bullets heading for him.

 

“The navigators report a bad storm from the west. We’ll be right in the middle of it in several hours, so the crew needs to prepare the ship.”

 

“Yeah, I understand. It would not help matters if the crew had to work around the five of training. Even if we were not practicing with bullets,” added Kit. He reluctantly climbed to his feet. “Alright. Ace, Sabo, Luffy, dinner should be almost ready anyway. We’d better finish a bit early if the storm is as bad as they say.”

 

Suddenly, Luffy’s wide grin sagged. “Kit, Izo, will Thatch be alright if he comes home in that storm?” Tears began to form in his eyes. Sabo and Ace had managed to pull themselves to their feet during the conversation. Hearing the hitch in the younger boy’s voice, Sabo and Ace placed comforting arms around his shoulders.

 

“Don’t be so worried. We already discussed this, remember?”

 

“Ace may be a bit of an idiot sometimes, but I agree. Thatch probably will arrive long before the storm arrives.”

 

“Really? How can you be sure?”

 

“Just trust in us little brother,” piped Kit. 

 

That Night

 

-Thatch-

 

Thatch grinned. He had just made it to the Moby Dick, and before the storm, too. All around, steel gray clouds clotted the sky. In the distance, the fourth commander could hear the rumble of thunder. He had just climbed on deck when a red blur threatened to topple them into the sea.

 

“Whoa, Luffy! I was gone for only three days.” 

 

“THATCHY! Are you alright? Did you beat those bad pirates? Did you bring anything for us? Like MEAT?” babbled the crying Luffy. Thatch could not untangle Luffy’s rubber arms from around his waist. Ace, Sabo, and Kit arrived to the deck and helped the hapless commander with their half-octopus brother.

 

"How did the mission go - yoi?” Marco received word of Thatch’s imminent arrival an hour ago, but the first commander decided to let the boys have first crack at him since they’ve been worrying so much – well, two of them at least had been visibly. Thatch pulled Luffy off of him, before answering the phoenix.

 

“Your information on those pirates was a bit off. Those guys appeared much sneakier and hardier than what the intel you gave us implied,” pouted Thatch.

 

“That happens. Get over it - yoi.” Marco rolled his eyes at the childish display. His eyes darted to the chest cradled under the fourth commander’s arm. “What’s in the chest?”

 

“Treasure?” Luffy’s eyes gleamed with stars. Kit frowned. That chest, made his skin crawl.

 

“Behold,” said Thatch with a dramatic flourish as he opened the chest, “a devil fruit.”

 

Luffy blanched before sticking his tongue out at it. “Eww, those taste nasty.” Kit silently agreed with that, devil fruits did taste absolutely without a doubt horrible.

 

“Who cares? Wonder what kind of power it holds?” Sabo looked thoughtfully at Thatch’s prize. Ace said nothing but looked impressed.

  

“There’s a proper reaction. Luffy, Kit, stop glaring at it, it’s not going to bite.”

 

“So where’d you find it – yoi?” Marco asked with a smile.

 

“Those pirates were a pain, but I think this beauty makes up for that. I found it sealed in their base’s vault. Funny, though, their captain seemed a bit odd when I asked about it.”

 

“Odd?”

 

“Yeah, the guy kept going on and on that I should not even touch that fruit. Said something about the fruit being better off lost and forgotten, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave it anywhere else but in his possession. Weird guy,” commented Thatch.

 

Kit leaned over to get a better look at the fruit. Light purple. Had a bunch of swirly patterns. Kind of looked like a demented pineapple or… a bunch of grapes. Something about that image sparked a memory. Before Kit could recall where he had seen the fruit, a cold chill swept through his body. Next to him, Luffy stopped jumping around and went quiet.

 

ZEHAHAHA! Commander Thatch, what a prize!” Striding over to the group was none other than Marshall D. Teach. “So what are you going to do with it?”

 

“Well, I haven’t decided. I like to swim, but the power might be worth being an anchor like Marco, Pops, and everyone else. I guess I will have to research this fruit a little more before coming to a decision.”

 

Teach laughed. “Sure, sure. Eating a devil fruit can be a really big decision, after all. Zehahaha!” replied Teach.

 

The large man walked off. Kit couldn’t help but tighten his grip on Luffy. The look in that man’s eye when Thatch unveiled the devil fruit did nothing to stop the chills racing up and down his frame. Luffy would not stop shivering even when the guy left. 

 

If Marco noticed to the hostility radiating from Kit, he gave no indication of it. “I think it’s time for everyone to settle down for the night. That storm’s about to break loose. No going out to watch, Kit, Luffy.”

 

The boys’ frowns broke into sheepish grins. Sometimes the two liked to sit quietly in the rain. Weird thing, though, for a fire-inclined fox and a little boy that usually couldn’t hold still for five minutes. The four boys waved their farewells to the commanders.

Chapter Text


Chapter XIX: Thatch? Thatchy!


The Moby Dick

 

-Thatch-

 

Luffy had stuck to the fourth commander like glue since dinner. Thatch was sitting at his desk, staring at the report he needed to file for Marco. Sitting on the floor next to him sat Luffy doodling on some paper. Thatch gave his report one long look before calling it a night.

 

“Luffy? Your brothers are probably worried. It’s pretty late, too. I think it’s time for you to get ready for bed.”

 

“Mmm. No! I want to spend more time with you.”

 

*Knock, knock.*

 

“Commander Thatch? Is Luffy in there?”

 

“Come in.”

 

The door creaked open to reveal a slightly wet Kit in his gold fox hybrid form. The kid had the audacity to shake himself like a dog, spraying water on Luffy and Thatch.

 

“Sorry. The rain starting to really pour in the last few minutes. Sabo thought it might be best to have someone escort Luffy back to our rooms. We can’t have him slipping off the deck again. Namur is not exactly with us right now.”

 

“Good idea. Eh, how are going to keep you two dry?”

 

“Not to worry. I can use my telekinesis to create an ‘umbrella’ around us. Didn’t bother on the way here. Mostly because I forgot.” Kit muttered the last in the semi-familiar tone of the fox scolding himself for “being as witless as my brothers!”

 

“Teleks-whatis?”

 

“Telekinesis. The power to manipulate objects with the mind, Luffy.”

 

“So it’s a mystery power, shishishi.” Kit made a noise of exasperation before walking to the sitting boy and slinging him into his arms. A nine-year-old – even one as skinny as Luffy - normally would not look like something a fourteen-year-old with a dancer’s build could lift, but Zoans strength in spades.

 

“Yes little brother, my powers are quite mysterious. So, Thatch, have you figure out what the fruit is? Or what you’re going to do with it?”

 

“Haruta may know. We’re cycling commanders soon, so I figured I’d wait until then to decide. Pops said it was perfectly fine. I found it, so I can decide what to do with it.” Kit peered around Thatch to the chest sitting on his desk.

 

“May I see it again?”

 

“Eh? Sure.” Thatch stretched an arm to the far corner and unlocked the chest. The same purple fruit sat within it.

 

Where have I seen this? “Hmm. Still looks familiar, but I cannot say where I have seen it,” muttered Kit.

 

“Well, if you remember it later tonight, be sure to tell me tomorrow morning.” Thatch shut the chest.

 

“One thing I can say is that the fruit doesn’t feel right.” The fourth commander quirked an eyebrow. In Kit’s arms, Luffy squirmed.

 

“I don’t like it that much, either. It makes me feel bad,” mumbled Luffy, burying his face into Kit’s chest.

 

“I’ll take that into consideration.” A crash of thunder startled Kit, making him almost drop Luffy when the younger boy suddenly wrapped his arms around him, upsetting the elder’s balance. “You two probably should head back before the storm gets too bad. Come on, I’ll take you.”

 

“Thatch? May I take the fruit to study tonight? I think I saw it in one of my books, and the actual fruit might help jog my memory.”

 

“I suppose that will be alright. Just don’t eat it. A person can only eat one fruit in their lifetime. A second fruit would tear them apart. Do you want me to hold Luffy?”

 

“No, no. Luffy barely weighs anything to me.”

 

“Hmph. Maybe if the fruit is a Zoan-type, I’ll eat it. You guys certainly have some amazing strength and stamina.” Thatch snatched the chest and tucked it under his arm. He opened the cabin door, and they were off. True to his word, Kit could create a force to shield the three from the wind and rain.

 

“This sure is handy. Why haven’t I seen you use it in combat?”

 

“Mm. The technique is really hard to maintain. Large encompassing shielding requires too much power and concentration to be battle-usable. I need a lot more practice and stamina. But, it does suffice for a storm. For example, a bunch of hail may get caught in the shield like nuts in peanut butter, but an actual attack will punch through it like nothing, unless we’re talking about a real weakling.” Thatch nodded his head in understanding.

 

Zehahaha!"

 

Kit’s shield faltered for a moment, letting the rain to soak the three briefly, before he composed himself. The fox jerked his head towards the laughter, yellow and white ears drawing back. Luffy dug his fingers more into his brother’s fur. Coming up the three was Teach.

 

“Bad night, eh Commander Thatch? Escorting the brats to their cabin?”

 

“I am. What are you doing out in the rain? I figured most people would be staying in their cabin until we finally leave the storm system.”

 

Zehahaha! Nah. Me and some other second division members are taking watch tonight. That the chest with the fruit? Have you figure out what you’re going to do with it?” Teach had walked right under Kit’s shield. The boy stepped back, hiding behind Thatch’s tall frame. Thatch couldn’t blame him. Teach was starting to irritate him with the way he leaned so close to him.

 

“Maybe I should take the boys’ advice and get rid of it if you ask me that one more tim-” Thatch had no warning. Teach’s right fist slammed into his ribs, and the fourth commander could hear the sharp crack of ribs breaking. He doubled up. He could hear the boys behind him gasp. Teach’s left fist collided down on his bent head. He felt disconnected for a moment, it was like he watching the traitor Teach as he leaned down to grab the chest.

 

“ZEHAHAHA! Why don’t you give me this, Commander? I would know how to use so much better than you. You see, I’ve been looking for the fruit for years, and I had figure that joining Pops’ crew would give me the best shot at it. Nothing personal, but I cannot have any witnesses, zehahaha.”

 

The knife stabbing through his back jolted the fourth commander back into full consciousness. He could hear Luffy whimpering and Kit snarling. “I cannot have any witnesses.” Thatch tried to muster enough energy to shout for the boys to flee, to get help, to just get away. All he could manage was a whisper. “Boys…run.” His vision went dark.

 

-Kitsune-

 

Traitor. No, not in Pops’ crew. Thatch… Kit felt like he was in a middle of a nightmare. The moment Teach punched Commander Thatch, the fox instinctively closed the shield tighter around Luffy and him. The rain did little to hide Teach’s pummeling of the fourth commander before brutally stabbing the barely conscious man in the back.

 

In the entire time that the boys had met the man, Teach gave no indication of this kind of power. And Kit had attended enough battles to measure the strength of the man that set his sense afire. The entire scene felt surreal. The fox felt frozen in place, the only thing he could do was to clutch Luffy tighter into his arms. He couldn’t even muster the courage talk or reassure the boys. Only when he heard Thatch’s final words did the fox come back to his senses. Teach can’t have any witnesses. Kit threw Luffy down behind him. Teach slowly approached the two with his bloodied knife.

 

Zehahaha. I honestly didn’t expect to have to deal with any of you brats. Good thing I took precautions. Those abilities of a Mythical Zoan-type can be a handful.” Teach’s right hand withdrew a pistol from his pants pocket. Kit didn’t think as he pushed Luffy away and made a desperate lunge for Teach. *Crack!* He felt the bullet pierce his shoulder. Kit tried to ignore the sudden plummet of his energy, and the fox slashed down with his claws. His vision blurred. He could feel the sudden slap of flesh, and his body soared through the air. ‘Run Luffy!’ Kit could barely reach for his telekinesis as he sent the message.

 

“You little shit!” Kit grinned through the pain. Teach wouldn’t be able to chase after Luffy. No, the man would be too preoccupied running after his precious devil fruit. That was Kit’s last thought before he his vision went entirely.

 

-Luffy-

 

Tears streamed down the young boy’s cheeks. I didn’t do anything. I am a crybaby… Luffy watched as Teach, their crewmate, their brother, stab Thatch in the back. Then Kit pushed him away before jumping at the larger man. Luffy didn’t think, he just ran off in fear, his brother’s words speeding his feet. Luffy screamed in fear when he heard the crack of a gun and the thump of a body slamming against the ship deck. ‘Don’t stop, Anchor. Go. Go to Marco, Pops, anyone!’ His brother’s voice faded. Luffy ran. He ran and banged on every door he could, screaming “Someone help! Thatch and Kit need help!”

 

-Marco-

 

He could hear someone knocking rapidly against his door. The phoenix had just finished his last report only an hour ago. He groaned and laid in his bed for a minute before registering the muffled screams. Marco shot out of bed and slammed his door open. Standing in front of him was a hysterical Luffy.

 

“Luffy? Luffy, calm down and tell me what’s wrong. Is it your brothers? I-”

 

“Th-That-Thatch and Kit are hurt!” cried Luffy. The first commander blanched.

 

“What?”

 

“Please hurry! Kit tried to save me, and I think Thatch is dying, and there was so much blood…”

 

Marco knelt and gathered the sobbing boy into his arms. He ran out into the rain. Several other confused members were already out on deck. There on his way to Thatch’s room, the next sight froze the first commander in his steps. The peals of thunder and flashes of lightning emphasized the forbiddingly still forms of a man and young boy. Several nurses worked furiously around the bodies of the fourth commander and Kit.

 

“Move! We need to prep them for transport and surgery! If you aren’t helping then go wake someone up who can!” yelled the head nurse Mara.

 

“Mara, what…”

 

“Marco, I don’t have time to explain.”

 

“My sons, what is going on?” The screams of Luffy and the shouts of the crew members has roused Pops from his sleep.

 

“Pops…It’s Thatch and Kit. Someone attacked them. Kit tried to protect Luffy.”

 

“Marco, bring Luffy along. We need to check to see if their assailant hurt him. The boy’s hysteria may be numbing any pain. In any case, we won’t be able to get anything out the poor boy until he calms down.”

  

Marco nodded his head in agreement. Several crew members stepped up to help the nurses carry their injured brothers to the infirmary. The phoenix tucked Luffy closer into his arms, trying to shield him better from the rain still pouring down from the sky. “Shhh. The nurses will take care of both your big brothers,” whispered Marco as he ran to the infirmary.

Chapter Text


Chapter XX: Aftermath


-Marco-

 

The first commander had just settled Luffy into a medical cot when the two boys rushed into the infirmary. The few nurses in the room gave their newest guest a disapproving look.

 

“WHERE’S LUFFY? WHAT HAPPENED TO KIT? DID SOMEONE REALLY ATTACK THATCH AND OUR TWO BROTHERS? WHEN I FIND THAT SON OF-” Sabo slapped a hand over his foul-mouthed brother.

 

“Sorry commander. Ace and I are just really worried with what rumors are floating around the ship. We were getting worried when Kit didn’t arrive with Luffy after an hour. Then we heard all that ruckus on deck. If you don’t mind, can you please explain what happened?” asked Sabo. The blonde always did have better manners than Ace even when as equally worried as his older brother.

 

Luffy stirred in the cot next to the commander. Giving the boy one last concern look, he faced the other two.

 

"According to what evidence we’ve gathered, someone severely hurt Thatch and Kit - yoi. The doctors and nurses have not yet report the damage as of yet since most of them are prepping the back rooms for surgery. Thatch suffered a severe stab wound in the back. Kit fared better as the assailant only managed to shoot him in a noncritical area and throw him. The nurses here are about to check on Luffy since he may have been hurt.”

 

“Right, so the three of you can stand outside in the lobby while we do that,” coldly commanded Mara from the doorway. “I will give you three until the count of five. One, tw-” Marco got up, his hands held in surrender, before strolling out the door with the boys dragged behind him.

 

Fifteen minutes passed. Ace would not stop glaring at Marco. The phoenix couldn’t exactly blame the boy for being almost as hostile as when he first arrived on the Moby Dick. Heck, he probably have a pretty scary expression if he was not the first division commander and unspoken first mate of Pops. The door to the examining room open. Standing in the doorway was the Head Nurse Mara and Luffy.

 

“The boy’s fine. I gave him some medicine in case he caught a chill from the rain. I have some sleeping pills if the boy has trouble with nightmares, but Luffy escaped from the encounter without a scratch. Kit probably distracted their attacker, so Luffy would have a chance to escape.”

 

“That’s good. Pops asked me to take Luffy to his room tonight if he well enough - yoi. How about Kit and Thatch?”

 

“Good idea. As for other Mythical Zoan, the bullet did not pass cleanly from his shoulder. We’ve found several seastone shards in the entry and exit points. They’re small but detrimental to his innate healing powers.” Marco started at this. “Calm down. The boy is an unusual case. The shards are small but any amount of seastone should completely shut down his powers. Kit’s body actually tried to burn away the fragments or heal around them. Wipe off that worried expression, Commander, we extracted the shards just fine. The child’s regenerative skills are operating to full capacity. We’re lucky that his fall only cracked two of his ribs. Give him a few days, the boy will be back on his feet. However, the biggest issue is when he will wake up.”

 

“What?” Ace and Sabo both jumped out their chairs.

 

“Kit had gone into a coma-like state. We believe it has to do with him using his devil fruit powers even with seastone embedded in his wound. The pain of it drove his consciousness deep into his own mind. He’ll probably wake up soon, whenever his body recovers. Thatch, on the other hand, may not fare as well. His condition is critical. The stab wound narrowly missed his heart but probably caused one of three broken ribs to puncture a lung. The ship’s doctors have him in surgery right now. He also sustained trauma to the head, at the very least a concussion.

 

Now, I must ask for the four of you to leave. We need to clear away all interruptions and distractions. I have allowed you three to stay past visiting hours since Luffy needed only a check-up, but he is well. And tell those outside to quit loitering by the infirmary doors. I will report Thatch’s condition after surgery to Pops directly and no one else. Everyone else will know in the morning. Go, scat!” Mara’s eyes became laser-like. Ace and Sabo cringed under her gaze. Even Marco flinched. He grabbed Luffy into one of his arms and pushed the two boys out with the other.

  

Whitebeard's Room

 

-Edward Newgate-

 

The old pirate sighed. He had checked in the infirmary earlier to only have Mara shoo him off. Even the captain had only limited authority in the domain of his head nurse. The girl even had the audacity to threaten cut off his booze if he didn’t return to bed. He snorted. Ah, but she is one of my daughters after all. Several knocks interrupted Edward Newgate’s thoughts.

 

“Permission to enter?”

 

“Come in, Marco. I see you have three of the brats.” Newgate sat up. His first son tentatively walked into his room, trying his best not to wake up the youngest brat. “Is Luffy okay?”

 

Marco’s worried expression brightened a bit. “He’s fine - yoi. Kit did a good job protecting our youngest brother,” said Marco, his voice beginning to lower at the last. “Mara said she going to come later to give you a report on Thatch and Kit, but Kit at the least will make a full recovery. Whoever attacked the two, he used seastone bullets on him - yoi. The bullets left some shards, Mara’s girls got them all out. He’s healing his wounds as we speak. The only problem is that his body’s attempt to use his powers despite the seastone drove him into a coma. Mara said he should theoretically wake up as soon as he recovers, but…” Newgate saw Marco’s struggle to not lose his composure in front of the young ones. He patted the side next to him.

  

“Marco, Ace, Sabo, Luffy, why don’t you four take a seat. It has been a long night.”

 

Without a protest, the four walked over and sat on the edge of his bed. Ace didn’t even give a moment’s protest. The phoenix took a seat directly next to him, Ace sat next to him, and Sabo pulled himself right of the elder. Ace reached over Marco let the older raven put the sleepy Luffy in-between the younger brothers. Marco tangled a hand into his hair.

 

“Pops…Thatch’s condition was not good - yoi. Mara said that the bastard who attacked them managed to break three of his ribs, knocked his head hard enough for a concussion, and the stabbing dislocated one of the ribs into a lung. On top the blood loss, Thatch may not make it. He’s in surgery right now with Doctor Ana.”

 

“Don’t give us so easily on your brother. Any leads on their attacker?”

 

“Nothing - yoi. The other men on watch were knocked unconscious from behind. Teach is missing, but there’s not def-”

 

“He did it.” The whisper was barely audible but caught the attention of the Whitebeard and Marco. Newgate looked down on Luffy who had woken fully. The boy had tears welling up in his eyes. Ace reached over to rub soothingly on the younger’s back while Sabo made comforting noises. He waited a moment before addressing their only coherent witness.

 

“Son, what do you mean?”

 

“Teach, the fat, scary guy that is always eating pie. He was the one that hurt Thatchy and Kit. He wanted the fruit, Kit tried to protect me, and Teach…” Luffy dissolved into full-blown sobs. Newgate reached over to put his poor son into his lap. He could see the shock of the phoenix, but Ace and Sabo took the information with grim understanding.

 

“Ace, Sabo? You two have something to add? I can see that this information doesn’t quite faze you a badly as Marco.” Hearing his name snapped the commander back to the conversation.

 

“Do you guys know something?” asked Marco gently. Ace and Sabo engaged in a silent debate before speaking.

 

“Luffy and Kit, well, they always had a bad feeling about Teach. They would clam up a lot whenever the guy came near, even if they couldn’t see him. Kit would always pull his face into a snarl or glare before consciously hiding it a second later. Kit described the feeling as a flight or fight reaction minus the flight. So, Sabo and I kept an eye on him. But, the guy never did anything,” finished Ace. Sabo nodded in agreement.

 

“The guy never put a toe out of line with Luffy or Kit, he took their reactions well, and he was always pretty helpful around the ship. But Luffy doesn’t lie. He can’t lie well for the life of him. If he says Teach did it, then I believe him,” affirmed Sabo.

 

Newgate crinkled his brow. He knew Luffy couldn’t lie. The boy also had superior instincts. There was one island where Luffy would hide behind Marco the whole time he talked to one store owner. Kit heard something odd below the store’s floor. Turned out that said owner was part of a slave ring and had a few children locked in the store’s basement for transport. Marco dealt with this information with the expected ruthlessness as one of his sons. Marco evidently remembered this as well as he raised a brow to his father and fisted the hand in his hair. Newgate gave another long sigh.

 

“Regardless of the attacker’s alleged identity, we cannot do anything right now. Marco, don’t argue. Thatch and Kit need our attention right now. We also need to confirm what exactly happened tonight from the two of them. Luffy’s not really in the state to talk about this, and we shouldn’t have to interrogate him. Also, this entire situation gives me an uneasy feeling. For now, we’ll spread the word to our allies to keep a lookout for any sign of Teach. Boys, you look a bit tired. Why not stay with me tonight. Marco, you go and gets some sleep, too.” 

 

Marco nodded his head in acquiescence and got up. Luffy finally stopped crying.

 

“Pops, I don’t want to go to bed.”

 

“That’s fine. Why don’t you boys listen to a story?” Marco gave a small smile as he closed the door behind him. They will be alright. All of them. Teach…you better keep running because when I find you…

 

Mara stopped by her father’s room to report the Thatch’s condition; the fourth commander had made it through surgery but had slipped into a coma.

 

-Kitsune-

 

Kit woke up on the second day. He panicked for a moment as the night of the attack flashed through his mind. He nearly set the infirmary on fire, as foxfire flames came to life around his cot. The nurses had to get Marco and his brothers to bring him back to coherency. Once calmed, Kit could gather his thoughts to ask the most relevant question.

 

“How’s Thatch?” The grim expressions of his brothers and the first commander set the boy on edge.

 

“Thatch should be fine. But, he’s in a coma like you were.”

 

“A coma?”

 

“You have been unconscious for two days. The bullet had seastone, and some of it lodged into your shot wound. Your body tried to get it out using your powers. A near impossible feat considering devil fruit powers should not work in the presence of seastone or when their users are unconscious.”

 

“Oh. I used to do that sometimes, the whole power things while asleep, not the other thing. Ace used to yell at me all the time when I accidently dragged them into my dreams when I had a sleep attack. Never had tried using them with seastone, though.”

 

“Well, it’s something to think on for later. You need to relax for a while yet. According to Mara, your devil fruit increases your regenerative ability but at the cost of stamina. So no leaving the clinic.” Marco’s bland expression did nothing to ease the iron of his words. The fox gulped. He could almost feel the first commander channeling Mara. “What can you tell us of that night?” he asked a moment later. Kit managed to sit up in the cot. His eyes glanced down before meeting Marco’s.

 

“That night well…”

 

-Marco-

 

DAMN IT. That traitor, how can one of their brothers betray them? Pops treated Teach like a son. The first commander fumed. His father’s grim expression gave away none of his thoughts.

 

“Kit’s account correlates with much of what evidence we do have. Thatch’s devil fruit is missing, and no one can find Teach. One of the life boats is missing as well. Kit could even describe his exact type of knife and pistol he usually carries. But, until Thatch makes a full recovery, we will wait.”

 

“Pops, he attacked a member of the crew - yoi! There’s only one punishment for even trying to deliberately kill a crew member. He needs to-”

 

“Enough. I understand the one law on this ship very well, Marco. But we cannot act rashly. We do not know Teach’s motives for targeting that one specific devil fruit. If he had joined this crew just for a chance at finding it, then something about the fruit must be special to risk the wrath of the crew. We will go after him when we have a more substantial plan than simply chasing him across the sea. Understand?” Marco’s expression pinched. He struggle for words for a minute. At last, he gave his acknowledgement.

 

“Understood, captain. Should I inform the others?”

 

“For now, just the commanders.”

 

Six days later, Thatch finally blinked his eyes open.

Chapter Text


Chapter XXI: Even Stronger


Moby Dick

 

- Kitsune -

 

Teach’s betrayal shocked the whole crew. To think that a man that has sailed on the crew since the early days was only using them was unthinkable and unforgivable. Many were calling for blood. Even the barely healed fourth commander insisted that he should be the one to go after Teach. At least, until Dr. Ana put him back to bed with a stern warning “only fools go haring off when they cannot even take two steps without falling over in pain.”

 

Thatch woke up a few weeks ago, but Dr. Ana and Nurse Mara laid the law down on him; under no circumstances could the fourth commander leave the infirmary until his ribs mended. Luffy, Ace, Sabo, and Kit were all too happy to spend some time with the bedridden commander. Kit was just browsing his devil fruit book when one of the earlier stories caught his eye. He had just finished reading the story the day before Thatch returned from that mission. And on the first page of the story was the all too familiar picture of a light purple fruit that resembled a cross of a pineapple and grapes with a distinct swirl pattern.

 

“Kit? Kit. Kitsune!” Kit shook off his daze. Thatch was staring at him odd. “Weren’t you going to read something from your book to Luffy and me? You just kind of flipped through that and suddenly froze at one of the pages.”

 

“Sorry, sorry. This picture … it’s the reason why I thought your devil fruit looked familiar.” Thatch’s eyes widened. Sabo who had been fiddling with his pipe a minute ago started when he heard what his older brother said and walked over to his side.

 

“It looks exactly the same. Have you read this story yet?” Kit nodded his head, a grim frown pursing his lips.

 

“The story is not a happy one. Would you like to hear it Commander? Err, I guess Luffy should be okay with hearing it since Shanks and his crew told him quite a few questionable stories before Makino came over to politely hush them. Ace, do you want to hear or not? I doubt glaring out the window will help you hear the story. Ace! Pay attention, brother.”

 

Ace had been staring out the infirmary window for the past hour. Teach’s betrayal really hit him hard. Kit knew that Ace blamed himself for not paying more attention to Teach. He saw his inability to find any flaw in the guy as the reason his older brothers got hurt and his younger almost suffered the same fate. Nothing Thatch, Sabo, or Kit said or did could shake the raven from his brooding. At Kit’s calling of his name, Ace started a bit before turning.

 

“What?”

 

“Do you want to hear about the story behind that devil fruit Teach wanted so much? I finally found the story that made the fruit seem so familiar to me.” Ace’s eyes widened a little. He nodded his head.

 

“Alright then-”

 

“Hey, Kit.”

 

“Yes, Commander?”

 

“I want to hear the story, but it might be good to have Pops and Marco hear this as well.”

 

“Mmm. Not a bad idea. The captain and the first commander need all the information they can on Teach’s motivation and new powers. Luffy, Ace, why don’t you go fetch them. I won’t start reciting the story until you guys return.”

 

On an island deep in the uncharted territories, laid a ruined kingdom. Nothing grew there. Nothing thrived. The remnants of buildings and great stone structures laid everywhere as if a great force scattered them to the four corners of the island. One day a traveler came to this land – an archaeologist. He had heard tales of this desolate place where few would come. He wanted to know more. So he bribed a crew and some fellow archaeologists and companions to journey to this forgotten kingdom. There he discovered naught but destruction. There seemed to be no end to the landscape of stone too broken to discern any of their engravings. So, too, the group did not find an end to the deadened land parched of life or water not rusted brown - until one week into their journey when they stumbled upon it. A lone temple standing taller than the rubble encircling it. Inside, they found carvings and ancient words inscribed to the whole of the building’s walls.  

 

According to the ancient inscriptions, the kingdom was called Pace, a land of peace. Clean rivers flowed to all parts of the land. Lush forests dotted the coast, and beasts tested the skills of hunters. Fields flourished with abandon. The people thrived in secluded wealth of the land. A veritable Eden in the midst of a chaotic sea.

 

 

But one day changed everything, it set the paradise onto the path of utter destruction. A village youth known for his trouble streak and charisma found an odd fruit. The purple color, the odd shape, and the distinct markings made it stand out as one of the cursed fruits of the sea. Every now and then, a villager would find a fruit and gain wondrous powers that they usually used for parlor tricks unless they could find a practical need. In such a large and desolate territory, there were not a few of them. Yet, this fruit was different. Many a wise man and woman felt a malicious aura emanate the fruit. But the youth would not listen to his elders’ warning. This fruit he found upon the shore he consumed.  

 

As the boy aged, he experimented with his newfound powers. The blackness he exuded and controlled put fear into his fellows, and so they named the fruit thus – the Dark-Dark Fruit. The darkness human grew in power. He became resentful of the people who held higher status for their age and knowledge and wisdom. He who could control a power of a sea devil did not equal a powerless man or woman. As he aged and practice, the youth discovered a most insidious skill of his power. When he grabbed another power user, their power would vanished. This event planted a dark seed of malice in the youth’s head. One event would cause the seed to grow. The boy had a friend, a brilliant young woman. She had no power but had well-honed instincts and a compassionate heart. The young man loved and envied her for her popularity and her skill. When they came of age, the village elders decided to nominate a new village leader. The darkness human may not have many friends but many flocked to him for his power. He coveted the idea of earning his elder’s recognition of his power. But, they chose her over him. The darkness human disappeared right after the announcement.

 

 

Three years later, several devil fruit users vanished without a trace. The only witness could only cry about a consuming shadow that swallowed everything. Two months later, a young black-haired man return. It was the boy who vanished those years ago. He had committed a terrible crime: he had taken the lives of his fellow villagers and somehow discovered how to steal their powers from their corpses. He came and declared himself the ruler of the island. He stated that no devil fruit user could beat him, so how could any powerful fool could hope to best him?  

 

The next several decades knew nothing but the pain and horror of war. The dark conqueror tore the land asunder. He swallowed whole villages in his pitiless force before flinging them back out at any resistance. When all was almost naught, a strange ship made land. These strangers helped the natives, not out of kindness but out of self-preservation; they acknowledged that this destruction would not end at Pace, no, it would most likely spread to other islands until it consumed the whole of the seas in chaos of the man’s lust for power. In one last desperate attempt, the remaining devil fruit users worked as a unit. The darkness human laughed and destroyed them without mercy. His arrogance was his downfall; the strangers came with and bore weapons of blue stone. Several other villagers armed themselves. Hours later, the demented light of the dark conqueror’s life faded. Above his corpse, stood his friend, a blue-gray sword plunged through the man even as a single knife dripped crimson from her breast.

 

The war was over; the strangers left. But the land could never recover for the conqueror had poisoned the land itself before his death: fields laid salted and poisoned; rivers ran red and tainted; the forests were no more than burned skeletons; no animal scurried in even the smallest crevice.

   

“We who remain shall make this land a tomb. Let no one find the resting place of the most evil of fruit. A curse on any who take it from here, and may the gods has mercy on their blighted souls.”

 

Within a secret room, a purple fruit with swirl marks sat on a pedestal. That night, one of the traveler’s companions vanished along with a boat … and the fruit.

 

“And that is the story of the Dark-Dark fruit,” concluded Kit.

 

Pops, the commanders, and his brothers sat in stunned silence. Finally, Whitebeard spoke.

 

“We cannot let Teach grow in power if this is the power of his fruit.” Heads nodded all around.

 

“To think that I could have eaten that. I’m somewhat glad that I didn’t eat on a whim or accident like everyone else,” muttered Thatch. “I guess you really should think before you eat some random weird fruit.”

 

“To think that a devil fruit exists with that kind of power – yoi. If Teach to know the technique used to take another’s power…”

 

“Let us hope he doesn’t know about it or how. But, his determination to secure that one fruit says otherwise. We should tell this to the rest of the crew. No one but a commanders should go after Teach if he has this kind of power. Devil fruit users, including you Marco, should not pursue him, or at least not alone.”

 

“That includes you too, Pops. No offense Captain, but you are not in your prime anymore - yoi.”

 

Gurarara. Cheeky brat, but I will not pursue Teach, not now. For now, we must wait on Thatch’s recovery and make a plan concerning this information. Thatch, rest until you’re fit enough to stand a chance against Teach. Boys, tell this information to no one, not until the commanders can determine the level of danger that Teach presents us.” 

 

Ace had remained quiet for most of the conversation. He suddenly spoke up.

  

“I don’t care how powerful he is. If no one will and can bring him down, I will. I will get strong enough to beat him and avenge my brothers,” vowed Ace. Whitebeard could only sigh at his most reckless and hot-tempered of sons.

  

Two months later

 

- Ace - 

 

“A Traitor among the Whitebeard Pirates?”

 

A pirate captain by the name of Blackbeard has appeared as if from nowhere in Paradise. His crew illegibly came from the New World. Reports indicate that the man resembles a long-time member of the Whitebeard Pirates, Marshall D. Teach.   

 

No one can affirm his guilt in the troubles of three islands left destroyed. Some sailors report seeing what could be his ship, but the Marines can find no witnesses from the islands to confirm.

 

If he is a member of the Whitebeard Pirates, is he possible a renegade? Rumors say that some months ago, a commander of the infamous emperor was laid low, almost killed, but no one can attest to an attack by a rival ship. The emperor had given no indication of pursuit, however. Could the old legend be losing his power? In further news…  

 

Thatch snatched the newspaper from Sabo, crumpled it, and pitched it into a corner. The top hatter volunteered to read today’s news to their recuperating friend. Tomorrow they would arrive at an island. Unfortunately for Thatch, the good doctor and Nurse Mara would not let him out of bed until the ship’s departure. Today’s news did not help the commander’s mood.

 

Ace didn’t fare much better. He went over to pick up the crumpled piece of newspaper before tearing it apart, the pieces floating in to a nearby trashcan.

 

“ACE! SABO! THATCH! We’ll be docking soon! Let’s have an island adventure.”

 

And there was the only bright point in the whole affair. Luffy had nightmares for the first several days until Thatch finally woke up. He, Kit, and Sabo had kept a close watch on the younger D for signs of nightmare. Knowing the rubber idiot, he would try to keep them quiet again. But they weren’t as bad as before since Kit constantly sang the boy to sleep, and the boys went back to sleeping together in one bed. The presence of his three brothers warded off most of the nightmares. The nightmares stopped about two weeks ago. Luffy has reverted back to his airheaded, maniacal ball of energy self. The three older brothers would keep a close eye on Luffy for a while yet, though.

 

“Alright, fine. But don’t get lost or eaten!”

 

“I haven’t been lost or eaten the last time we explored an island.”

 

“But you did fall off the ship just as we docked. Then you promptly made enough noise to make a hibernating bear come out of its cave and come to us,” pointed out Sabo. Luffy did have an amazing ability to find trouble in the most ridiculous fashion.

  

“Let’s go, let’s go! Kit has already got some supplies and is waiting by the boats.” Luffy literally bounced in place. Ace made an annoyed noise as Sabo dragged him along to follow their energetic brother. “Bye Thatchy! Get better soon. We’ll come back and tell you all about our adventure!”

 

A winter island

 

- Sabo -

 

Ace sure did not like winter islands. He didn’t hate snow per se, but he did not like the cold it brought with it. Currently, his hot-headed older brother cursed yet again at the cold wind, the feet-trapping snow sludge, and winter in general. Playing was one thing, walking was another. Sabo just held his thick blue coat tighter around him. Kit had opted to transform into his black hybrid for better insulation instead, his grey coat on but unbuttoned. 

 

“Man, Kit, I sometimes wished I had your power.”

 

“Oh, Ace? I always thought you hated foxes.”

 

“No. I just hate you as a fox when you keep shaking snow on me or use it to pull pranks on me.”

 

Shahehe, good point. I suppose if you just wanted warmth, fire power would be ideal. Although I think with your flashy arrogance, the subtlety of a kitsune’s flames would be lost on you.”

 

“What? Why you-" 

 

“Unless you want our babysitters to hear, I suggest you two quit making more noise than Luffy. And he’s the one that keeps singing that idiotic song,” chastised Sabo. Ace and Kit had begun to raise their voices. It had even begun to drown out Luffy’s song about idiots and islands. Ace and Kit glared at the top hatted brother but only gave a huff before turning from each other.

 

Pulling his hat forward, Sabo groaned a bit. All his brothers could be so childish. Maybe it’s a D thing. They all had D in their surname, and that Old Geezer could act just as badly

 

The boys had not initially been alone; Marco had asked Fossa to accompany them. Kit couldn’t stand the guy’s smoking habit, and the younger boys were tired of how clingy the commanders had been these past two months. They have not let the boys explore an island by themselves ever since Teach’s betrayal. So, Sabo came up with a pretty decent plan. Luffy and Sabo distracted the man with some random conversation while Kit practiced some of his will-o-wisp illusions. The boy had put his all into practicing some of his more difficult moves in human and hybrid form. With a lot of preparation, he could now create much larger illusions that none but the most experience haki users could detect.

 

One oblivious commander later and the boys had lost their chaperone.

 

Kit’s ears suddenly swiveled forward. He held out a hand. Sabo tensed. Kit’s instincts and senses were always dependable.

 

“Shhh. I hear something. Ace, Sabo, ready your pipes and head off to the left. I’ll take Luffy and go right.” The boys slowly stalked forward, ducking behind bushes and trees. Sabo had not mentally cursed a little for the glaringly bright color of his, Ace’s, and Luffy’s coat.

 

In a clearing up ahead on the snow mountain, sat a camp. By the scruffiness of the men and their various weapons, the boys knew exactly who these guys were. Mountain bandits.

 

Bandit Camp

 

- Kitsune -

 

‘Ace, Sabo, calling. One, two, three.’ Why are doing that?

 

‘Because it sounds better than saying “you guys can hear me, right?”’ Knock it off.

 

‘Yes, Sabo. Anyway, I can sense twenty-seven presences. Most of them are in the camp, three in the surrounding forest. The watchmen, I presume. But, I also can sense a sort of power in the center of the camp.’ Devil fruit user?

 

‘No. But two the presences near it are pretty excited. I bet we can find some awesome treasure there.’ Plan Burn and Snatch?

 

From where Kit crouched, the fox gave a toothy grin that he projected into the minds of his brother. ‘That’s would be agreeable.’

 

- Ace -

 

Chaos. The bandits looked pretty funny running around on the south end of the camp, screaming “Fire, fire!” None of it was real of course. The remainder had taken a head-dive into the snow.

 

“The spells will last for fifteen minutes. Let’s not try to linger if some of them have stronger wills than I think.”

 

The boys had snuck past the comatose sentries that Ace and Sabo had handedly knocked unconscious. They may have overdone it a little with the haki. Bah. Those guys will live, albeit a few bolts short maybe. Ace did not like mountain bandits aside from the Dadan Family. The fox waved his brothers to slow their approach of the largest tent. Ace stretched his senses, but there were no nearby presences. Kit and Sabo nodded their head in agreement. Observation haki can be so very useful. In the tent sat a simple wooden chest. Some gold and silver also laid carelessly on the floor. Suspicious, Ace went over to the chest and lifted the latch carefully with his pipe. He nearly dropped his pipe. Sabo’s mouth comically dropped, but Kit was not exactly any better with his mouth gaping open and eyes fixated on their discovery. In the middle of the chest sat a bright orange fruit with a shape reminiscent of flames.

 

“A devil fruit,” whispered Sabo. “Kit, you’re the expert in this field. Know what it is?”

 

“Not an expert, just very curious, I’d say… never mind. Well, the color and shape make me think it’s the Flame-Flame Fruit.”

 

“Flame-Flame Fruit?” 

 

“What’s that? Don’t eat it Kit, those things taste gross.”

 

“Luffy. Eating two devil fruits will kill you. Don’t you remember what Thatch, Marco, Pops, everyone had said? Never mind. Don’t eat it Luffy. If this is the Flame-Flame Fruit, it will grant its user the ability to produce and become fire.”

 

“A logia then,” mused Sabo. “Who’s going to eat it?”

 

“Well, not Luffy or I for one. Why not you Sabo?”

 

“I like to swim and rescuing the two of you from drowning. I don’t really care what we do with it.”

 

“Which I am forever grateful for after I dove for Luffy off that one cliff. Ace? You have every right to the fruit as Sabo. I couldn’t have intercepted those sentries in time if you two had not knocked them out before they could give any warning. Sabo doesn’t want it. Do you want to eat it? Or maybe sell it for millions of berries come to think of it?”

 

Ace thought deeply. Eating a devil fruit would utterly change his life. He could swim well, had to for the two hammers, but the power of fire was tempting. And he had just expressed the desire for powers like Kit’s. Fire power definitely had its benefits, especially compared to rubber. But, the money could go very far for the ship the boys once dreamed of. Although, Ace could no longer imagine saying goodbye to his family – yes family – he found in the Whitebeard Pirates. Before he could come a decision, the boys heard shouting.

 

“Eat it, sell it, chuck it over the side – decide it later. We have pocketed a lot of treasure, so we might want to consider escaping, like, NOW. Grab the chest. Those lousy bandits woke up a bit sooner than I expected. Shahehe, we probably should start running. I think it’s the ones I set on fire. They don’t feel particularly amused.”

 

The boys ran. The bandits were right on their heels. The sleep spell broke five minutes later. Kit managed to create some fireworks foxfire to distract the bandits long enough for Ace, Sabo, and Luffy to knock over a bunch of trees. The expression on their faces had the boys laughing. They had lost the bandits.

  

“Lousy bandits.” Ace definitely looked better than he had these past couple of months. “Kit, hand me the chest.”

 

Kit had stuffed the little chest into his knapsack. He handed it over without a word. Ace took the fruit out of it. He took a minute to admire the fruit. With this, can I get stronger? A devil fruit power, like Kit’s and Luffy’s and Pops’. I can protect them better if I had more power than a little pipe. This way I could protect them with my own two fists. Eyes resolute, the boy shoved the fruit in one gulp. A minute.

 

“YUCK! What is wrong with this fruit! Worse thing I have ever tasted.”

 

Shishishi! Told you it tasted gross.”

 

Shahehehe! I never did mention that you do not have to eat the whole thing, did I? Devil fruit users as a whole usually do. Don’t know why. A single nibble it all you really need- oww!”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Forgot.” Kit rubbed his new bump. Ace punched his head with a haki-infused punch.

 

“Feel any different?” asked Sabo.

 

Ace could feel a strange sensation traveling through his body. A warmth that suffused his body. *Fwoosh.*

 

“Ace! You’re on fire!”

 

“Correction, Luffy, Ace is fire.” Sabo admired his brother’s new powers. He had caused flames to flare around his entire body.

 

Ace had never felt this warm in his short life. Luffy stretched out a rubbery hand to touch the flames, which prompted Kit grabbed before it could get singe.

  

“Luffy, what did I tell you about playing with fire?”

 

“But you’re fire never hurt me before,” whined Luffy.

 

“But, foxfire is not quite the same as Ace’s fire. Remember how Marco’s flames don’t actually burn? Mine are like those flames. I burn what I wish to burn. Ace’s, however, are purely fire. They will burn anything they can, including you and Sabo if you don’t watch it, Ace. Try imagining the flames withdrawing into you. Pull them out. Don’t give me that look. I am the only fire expert right now. Why don’t you practice on our way to the ship?”

 

The boys walked back down the mountain. Halfway through the forest at the foot, Ace felt a shiver go through him. He felt a terrifyingly angry aura. Not like Gramps, but just as powerful. The fire user slowly turned around. His brothers turned with the same deliberate slowness. Alighting behind the boys was a blue and gold phoenix.

 

“Have fun boys?” said the alarmingly cool voice of the first commander. “I asked Fossa to run back to the ship immediately if he noticed you four left him behind. Do you guys understand how these stunts worry your family?” The deceivingly even voice did nothing to hide the anger and worry beneath it. Ace unfortunately chose that moment to lose control of his fire. The boy panicked as the fire spread out, nearly setting Sabo’s coat on fire if Kit had not anticipated the spike of emotions in time.

 

The first commander lifted an eyebrow in alarm. “What were you boys doing?”

 

Sabo and Ace remained silent. Kit smiled, but his ears and tails laid limp.

 

“Luffy? I have some meat.”

 

“We did not go and mess with some bandits. Nope. And Ace catching on fire without burning himself is totally a coincidence. Not like the bandits had treasure. We didn’t steal it and the gross fruit that Ace did not eat in one bite, even though he didn’t have to. Nope. Nada. OW!” The three older boys bumped the younger on the head.

 

“Another anchor on the ship. Well, there’s nothing for it. Boys, you’re on chore duty for two weeks. Ace, you’re staying with me. I’m assuming you ate the Flame-Flame Fruit. Did you even think about the consequences? You’ve only just turned thirteen! Kit for one should have been able to identify that fruit, after all. Come on, we better tell Pops about you’re little adventure.” 

 

The Moby Dick

Pops’ room

 

- KASL -

 

“…And that’s all.” 

 

“So, Ace, you decided to become an anchor like the rest of us? Gurarara! Marco’s right, you boys should have at least discussed it with one of us before eating it on a whim.”

 

“It was not a whim!” Marco and Pops raised an eye at this. “I ate it so I could get stronger. Even Luffy’s powers let him do some whacky things. If I had the power of fire, then I can protect my brothers better. If Teach’s path ever crossed mine-”

 

“Don’t even think about going near that traitor, little brother! I did not risk my life for one brother to lose another!” yelled Kit. He had stood next to Sabo initially but slowly walked over to Ace during his outburst. *Bonk!* Kit sighed. “Please promise me you will at least consider waiting until you’re a lot older. Pops already said only commanders can take down Teach.”

 

“Kit’s right, Ace. If you can become a commander, then I may reconsider, but for now, you must train your new powers and focus on getting stronger alongside your brothers. So, brat, fire power, huh? Definitely not a bad power.”

 

Ace smiled a bit. “Definitely better than rubber!”

 

“Ace, take that back! Being rubber is totally an awesome power.”

 

“Says who? The overstuffed dog toy?”

 

“Ace,” said a low voice, “I hope you are not talking about me.”

 

Whitebeard watched as his children began to wrestle. Kit took care to keep Ace’s flames away from the other two. Brats. I’d better tell the other commanders to keep an eye for fires on deck for a while. The old captain took another gulp of sake and chuckled at the thought of what mayhem his new firebrat will cause on the ship on top of his usual pranks.

Chapter Text


Chapter XXII: Return to Fishman Island


The Moby Dick

- Ace -

 

For the last couple of weeks, the phoenix and fox has been taking turns training Ace on controlling his flames – and incidentally his temper. Apparently, his emotions had a lot to do with his control over his devil fruit, as Kit discovered when one of his pranks did not end well with the freckle-faced boy. To be sincere, it involved whipped cream, berries, and a narcoleptic fit and resulted in a lot of ash and burn marks all over the deck after said victim woke up. So Ace had to keep a lid on his anger. Once he managed to separate his fire controls from his emotions to the extent that another prank like the previous one did not in fact result in a lot of burning (just the normal Ace chasing Kit around the deck), Marco has declared his control good enough for Ace to return to the boys’ cabin.

 

During this interim, Thatch could not leave the clinic. He had unfortunately jarred his ribs in a previous attempt to sneak out of the clinic while the ship docked at the winter island. So, Nurse Mara announced him “too unwell to leave bed for the next two weeks or so.” The fourth commander doubted this, but the cold stare of the head nurse halted any complaint. Nurse Mara also forbade any visitors to disturb her patient’s rest. As a result, only Thatch of the fifteen division commanders had no idea of Ace’s current new power. Kit found out this little tidbit and decided to make the fourth commander’s eventual release special. Kit had dragged the fire user into their cabin for hours at a time to plan Thatch’s surprise. Ace was a bit incredulous of what the fox asked of him, but after Kit nagged him for over an hour, Ace agreed. 

 

He was regretting it now. The fox had him stretch the limits of his small control over his flames until he could manage a “doable for now” effect.

 

- Thatch -

 

Finally, the witch had set him free. The fourth division commander hid a wince as he strolled out the door of the infirmary. The wound has long closed, but the pain still lingered.

 

“Thatch? You’re all right?” There was his bundle of joy of a little brother. Luffy almost hurled himself into Thatch until Sabo caught hold of the rubber rocket flinging past him and bonked his little brother on his head. “Ow! What did you do that for?”

 

“He just got out of the clinic!”

 

“So boys, where are the rest of your brothers?”

 

“Oh, Kit said Ace and him are a bit too busy right now. They said they’ll see you in the galley at dinner, though.”

 

“Oh.” Thatch’s shoulders slumped. He thought those two may have at least wanted to celebrate his release. The sudden wrapping of rubber arms around his waist snapped the fourth commander out his gloomy thoughts.

 

“Thatchy, I’m really glad you’re okay. Kit and Ace said they some sort of cool plan, but they made me promise not to tell you, shishishi.”

 

“Oh? And what would that be?”

 

“NO! I made a promise not to tell!”

 

*Sigh.* “Luffy, I think they meant not to even mention it at all. Sorry, Commander, we both made a vow. No bribe or offer will make us break-”

 

“Luffy, do you want some meat?”

 

“YOSH! … But Kit said not to tell anyone about his surprise for dinner. Ouch!”

 

“Come on, Luffy. Let’s get some breakfast in you before you give away the rest of their plans. Seriously, you have excellent instincts for people’s intentions, but you can see through lies as well as you can lie.”

 

“Shishishi, thanks Sabo.”

 

“Remind me to explain sarcasm to Luffy.”

 

“Right. I think I come along to the galley. I’m kind of sick of eating only what Nurse Mara offers.”

 

Dinner

 

Luffy and Sabo had done everything they could possibly think of to distract the commander. Not that Thatch minded. It was good simply to be out on the deck again. Listening to the chatter and liveliness of the ship was oddly therapeutic. Teach’s betrayal hadn’t left Thatch’s thoughts, no, but the fourth division commander trusted his father to deal with Teach. That bastard couldn’t outrun them forever.

 

He couldn’t get the two to spill about anything else about his surprise. So, it did surprise him to see Kit and Ace just chatting amiably at dinner. Thatch took a seat next to them.

 

“So brats, I thought you two cooked up some sort of surprise for me.”

 

“We did,” mumbled Ace around a mouthful of food. *Thwack!*

 

“Manners, Ace. Makino taught you better, I think. Even I can speak better than you, and I never even took any lessons.”

 

Ace’s face couldn’t have gotten any redder. Thatch chuckled at the sight. He slipped his hand into his pocket.

 

“Do you still have my camera?” Busted. The fourth commander dramatically sighed before handing over the snail camera and all its incriminating photos to Kit.

 

Before anyone could react, the fox took one look at it and then snapped a picture of Ace. Ace got up and tackled his brother to the ground.

 

“Get off you over-muscled lug!”

 

“At least I have muscles!”

 

“Ow! I give, I give. Oi, Thatch, I did promise a surprise didn’t I? Want to see a neat new fire trick?” Kit squeezed out from under his little brother. A bit of red smoke enveloped his body, briefly, before it parted to reveal a large red fox. The fox looked a lot bigger than before. It could probably give Pops’ monster dog Steven a run for his money in terms of pure size. It easily could look the tall commander in the eye. Kit sat on his haunches. Several bright red flames, from light blush red to the red of cinnamon, floated around his head. “Foxfire ring: Five-fold red rainbow.” The little flames pulsed and spread out into five large fire rings that began to circle around the standing Ace. They spun slowly, then more and more rapidly. Thatch gaped as the rings began to close on the boy.

 

“Kit! Control it!”

 

No one else in the room seemed to realize the danger. The rings closed in and disappeared, but Ace’s entire body caught afire. Thatch stood up from his bench and frantically glanced around. Okay, what am I missing? No one else cares about the burning boy? The flames around Ace suddenly detached themselves from Ace and reformed into fire rings but more in the common colors of red, orange, and yellow. Then the flames flared once and then vanished.

 

“Ta-dah!” A flash of a camera went off.

  

“Thatch, close your mouth before a fly wanders in – yoi.” Marco wore a small, pleased smile. “Ace certainly has improved his control over fire.”

 

“Control over fire? When could Ace control fire?”

 

“The boys didn’t tell you – yoi? Ace ate a devil fruit a little over two weeks ago, back on that last winter island - yoi”

 

Shahehehe! Fourth Commander, I thought you of all people would trust in me not to set my brothers on fire. Not that they could catch on fire if my flames came too close on accident.

 

“Yeah, Ace ate the Flame-Flame Fruit,” clarified Sabo.

 

Luffy clapped his hands for his brother’s performance. “He’s a fire man, now.”

 

“Okay. Definitely not expecting that. Though, it does give a few ide- Wait. Did you just take a picture of me while I-”

 

“Gaped like a fish? Yep. Just a memento of the day you escaped from our lady angel’s clutches.”

 

Thatch spent the remainder of dinner chasing the fox around the galley. Best welcome after a long stint in the infirmary yet.

  

Fishman Island

 

- KASL -

 

“Commander Marco, why are we coming back to Fishman Island so suddenly?”

 

The boys had just finished breakfast and were in the meeting room with Marco, Thatch, and Whitebeard.

 

“We’ve made this unexpected trip to Fishman Island because there have been reports of several pirates causing trouble - yoi,” answered Marco. “Since the island is under Pops’ protection, we’re here to straighten out these idiots that think they can go and mess around in our territory. I doubt you boys will stay put on the Moby Dick, so Thatch and Jiru will be keeping an eye on you. You four will help them scout out the main districts of Coral Hill and the Mermaid Cove. That means no wandering off, no challenging random punks, and no getting into trouble - yoi. Unless you want to be on chore duty for two weeks, boys, you will listen to the two commanders. And Thatch,” said the first division commander, turning to the red head in question, “Remember to take it easy - yoi. Nurse Mara has explicitly warned you not to strain your wounds. You have just recovered, so I don’t expect you to fight at full capacity.”

 

“Oh, alright, Mama Pineapple.”

 

“Thatch,” drawled Marco, his lazy expression still in place. 

 

GURARARA! I’m sure Thatch will take care of himself. These are just some snot-nosed rookies, after all. The reports indicate that they aren’t even Supernova caliber.”

 

“What’s a Supernova?” Kit never heard that phrase in the two and a half years on board the Moby Dick.

 

“A Supernova refers to anyone identified as a super rookie. Basically, they are pirates that have made their names big in Paradise with a bounty exceeding 100 million berries,” said a voice behind the boys. Jiru has arrived.

 

The boys did not know the man very well. Sabo knew him better than the rest of them, but only because he tried to talk to most every one of the commanders at one point or another. The fourteenth commander had been absent during the boys’ initial few months on board the Moby Dick and had already rotated out when the boys returned from training. He had arrived just a month ago.

 

The man seemed nice enough. He wore a red fez hat and a white robe emblazoned with Pops’ Jolly Roger. Kit chatted with him a few times, as Speed Jiru was one of the few commanders who could match his golden fox in sheer swiftness and agility. This trip to Fishman Island will at the very least let the boys come to know another commander better.

 

After Ace grudgingly gave his agreement to Marco’s terms (and Kit secretly tied an ultra-fine but strong string to Luffy; Kit did not want to relive their last disastrous visit to Fishman Island), the group departed for Coral Hill.

 

Coral Hill

 

- Ace -

 

The Coral Hill district didn’t look any different than a couple years ago. But something about the merfolk and fishmen walking the streets seemed off. Many of the younger mermaids tended to move in large groups. The fishmen seemed a bit nervous and hurried to their destinations. Kit’s gaze darted back and forth. Sabo kept his pipe strapped to his back, but his hands tapped nervously against his pants. The commanders seemed at ease, though. Thatch seemed to know just where to go as he led the way to a taxi fish and asked to go to the Mermaid Café.

 

“Why the Mermaid Café?” questioned Ace.

 

“It’s a pretty popular place here. And the Madame of the establishment knows quite a bit. She’s a renowned fortuneteller and very beautiful mermaid.” Thatch’s eyes twinkled in humor.

 

“Another fortuneteller?” muttered Ace. He had not forgotten their last encounter with a fortuneteller.

 

“Kit, do me a favor and stay away from her. I doubt she’s going to be much better than the last one.”

 

“Madam Shyarly gives very accurate predictions, although she does not do it lightly,” stated Jiru. “She has never been wrong. She even predicted the Pirate Era that would arise from the Pirate King’s death.” Ace’s eyes darken for a moment. He hated any mention of Gol D. Roger. Sabo slid his gaze over his brother.

 

“How interesting. So we can get an idea of what or where these pirates are from her?”

 

“We hope so. At the very least, she can point the way. But, remember boys, Marco said not to engage the enemy.” Jiru grew a bit stern at this last statement; evidently, the other commanders had enlightened him to the boys’ adventures.

 

“Technically, he said not to get into any trouble, don’t go beating on random punks, no running off, and to listen to the two of you,” corrected Kit with an small smile. “How is engaging our targets the same as beating on random punks or getting into trouble if it helps you?” Jiru chortled at Kit’s logic.

 

“Alright then. I say you four do not engage the enemy without permission from Thatch or me.”

 

“Understood.” Kit still had that wide crescent grin plastered on his face that promised trouble. Ace leaned over from where he stood to thump his brother on his head. “Oww. Alright, alright, no funny business. But if someone starts something, I’m finishing it.”

 

Mermaid Café

 

The madam was enormous. Jiru told them that Madam Shyarly was a shortfin mako shark mermaid. Thatch was right that the seventeen-year-old madam of the café was quite pretty. Still really big, though. She dwarfed her workers.

 

“Whoa! You’re huge! Do yo-” Sabo and Ace simultaneously covered Luffy’s run-away mouth. Kit just drew a hand through his hair; the brothers have long ago established that Luffy did not know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, especially with this recurring question popping up all the time. Thatch threw the boys an amused chuckle. Jiru looked a bit confused at the boys’ behavior but chose to dismiss it in favor of the madam sitting in front of them.

 

“Madam Shyarly, doing well I see?” Thatch bowed slightly in greeting. Ace thought it might have more to do with flattery than respect.

 

“Thatch and Jiru of the Whitebeard Pirates. My establishment is always open to you. Mm. Those four are with you?” 

 

“They’re as much as our brothers as the rest of the crew, madam. We’ve come to inquire on some trouble brewing on the island.”

 

“Ah, that. Those miscreants have hardly flaunted themselves. But, I have on good authority that they have established some base nearby the Mermaid Cove in all likelihood. I would start there. Hm. You, blonde boy.” Kit quirked his head. In his defense, Ace’s older brother had more black hair than yellow. Sabo nudged him forward. “Boy, I have seen someone who looks very much like you but older.” Kit visibly tensed. “The vision was not clear, however, and took place some years ago. In it, I saw you standing on ice, in the middle of a war where fire lit the sky. I saw you with an expression torn, at if fate was forcing you to make a terrible decision. I see. You know this already, don’t you?”

 

Ace stared at Kit. The fox refused to comment on the day they visited the Seer’s Isle. Kit only responded with a grim nod. Thatch’s eyes narrowed, but he knew that Kit would refuse to elaborate just like before.

 

“If that is all madam?” asked Thatch a bit forcefully. Kit in a war and making some sort of terrible decision settled as well with the fourth commander as it did with Ace. “Alright, we’ll head over to the Mermaid Cove.”

 

Mermaid Cove

 

- Kitsune -

 

Something did not seem right. The group had strolled into the Mermaid Cove without seeing a single mermaid. A few fishmen wandered the shores, but otherwise the coastal waters were desolate. 

 

“Something definitely is not right here.”

 

Jiru had his pike out and his shield held close. Sabo had his pipe in his hands. Kit could practically taste the tension. A sudden, faint noise. Kit strained his human ears. He waved for the group to stop for a moment. A flash of black smoke and black ears and tails adorned Kit’s human form. His ears swiveled in the direction of the noise. “Help!”

 

“Commanders! I hear someone calling for a help. The voice sounds like a girl.”

 

Jiru and Thatch acted instantly. They gestured for Kit to take the lead. With a wolf-like grin, Kit dashed forward. There in a secluded corner of the cove, they saw a bulky brunette man with a saber strapped to his side haul a large brown bag that squirmed. Jiru nodded his head toward a rock outcropping several meters away from a cave’s entrance. They followed behind the man and hid behind the rocks. He walked through one of various cave openings. Muffled chatter could be heard echoing from the cave system.

 

Jiru and Thatch had a quick, quiet discussion.

 

“Boys, it seems we’ve found our unlucky pirates. Kit, any intel?”

 

Kit took a deep breath and listened. “Another fine catch…have plenty…leave in one hour…Whitebeard Pirates seen…change of plans…load them…go.” Kit frowned before relaying the words. Jiru and Thatch exchanged a glance.

 

“In most likelihood, the pirates have planned to leave with their mermaid catch in one hour, but our presence on the island have changed that. I believe they plan on leaving as soon as they have their catch secured,” stated Jiru. “If so, we cannot just stand here and risk them getting away. Thatch, report this Pops. I’ll go in and cause a diversion until the crew arrives.”

  

“Not happening.” Kit planted himself in front of Jiru. “A single man, even if a commander, should not walk into a cave system full of pirates. They could have sentries prepared to give warning to the rest of the crew, and we do not even know the power level of them. Even if they are not super rookies, these pirates may have something else up their sleeves. Old Man Whitebeard would probably agree with me. These guys are not worth risking the life of one of us. However, we cannot risk the lives of the people under our protection.”

 

Thatch called Pops up on their baby transponder snail, and he did agree with Kit. They would arrive soon at their location, but they may not make it on time. And Jiru and Thatch alone could not fight off the pirates in such unfavorable conditions.

 

“Give the boys a chance.” Thatch looked like he was about to protest. “The boys have more than prove their courage. They have trained for this. They have fought New World pirates. They can back you two up and take care of themselves. We’ll be there in half an hour.” Ker-chunk.

 

“Pops make a good point, Thatch. I know you’re still worried about the boys since what happened with Teach, but they can handle this. We need to trust them to fight autonomously eventually.”

 

“… Kit, you’re with Jiru since you trained with him some. Luffy, stay with me. Sabo and Ace, guard each other backs.”

 

“Aye, Commander Thatch!” chirped the four boys in unison.

 

Caves beneath the Mermaid Cove

 

Kit guided Jiru through one of the caves. Each pair would head off in a different cave, using Observation haki to locate the pirates and track their comrades. On the way through the tunnel, Kit could detect an alert presence just ahead of them. He signaled Jiru. Without a word, they both charge forward with blinding speed, knocking out a sentry before he could react.

 

“Not bad kid,” whispered Jiru as he grabbed a length of cord from under his robe and tied up unconscious man.

 

After several minutes, the tunnel began to lighten. Crouching by the just out of sight, the two saw a large cavern. Several men scurried back and forth, preparing a mid-sized coated ship docked in an underground lake. Kit could see water flowing from somewhere above and the opening where a river flowed out.

 

“We made it just in time. I think they’re just about ready to leave.” Jiru nodded in head. They had a plan to follow. It was simple, really. Thatch, Luffy, Ace, and Sabo would create a big ruckus below. Jiru and he, as the fastest and most agile of the group, would sneak aboard and secure the mermaids held within the vessel. ‘Thatch, Luffy, Sabo, Ace, ready?” Ace answered with a resounding shout of “Fire fist!” His temperamental little brother had set several unloaded boxes on fire. Thus the chaos began.

 

- Ace -

 

Sabo and he leapt down from their cave opening. Their landing startled the pirates for a moment in wide-eyed blatant shock. Then they began to walk forward, their shock morphing to expressions of annoyance and cruelty.

 

“Oh look, some more merchandise.”

 

“Think they make us some pretty change?”

 

“One of them is a devil fruit user. Logia, if we’re lucky. Get the seastone.”

 

Ace just gave them his trademark smirk. Sabo hefted his pipe.

 

“Think so?” said a voice not far from where they stood.

 

“Gum-Gum Rocket!”

 

Luffy bulled over several pirates in his sudden attack, narrowly missing Ace and Sabo. Thatch had chosen to make a more sensible entrance as he sidestepped from behind another stack of crates, his katanas lashing out at an unsuspecting pirate. Time to fight.

 

- Kitsune -

 

His brothers were insane. Kit smiled as he redirected his Observation haki. He darted from around the corner. The pirate just walking to it never knew what was coming. Kit struck with his knives. The pirate fell, the generous layer of venom coating his blades paralyzing him long enough for Kit to knock him unconscious. Bingo. Kit’s senses could detect the faint noises of a struggle. He could feel several auras full of fear beyond the door that the pirate must have just left. ‘Jiru, can you handle the rest of pirates aboard the ship? I think I have found our missing mermaids.’

  

Kit swiped his claws, tearing the ropes holding eight mermaids. The girls shook in fear, but obediently kept quiet. Shortly later, Jiru joined him.

 

“Pops should arrive in a few minutes. I believe our brothers are putting quite a fight. I also interrogated one of the pirates aboard the ship. About twenty-six pirates are keeping our brothers preoccupied. However, the captain of the Ashes Pirates may prove more difficult. Apparently the crew is just waiting for him. Like the name suggest, the captain ‘White Ash’ Pompeii has devil fruit powers dealing with ash. It’s not logia. But, the captain can reduce anything he or his weapon touches to ash. He also has an assassin for a first mate.”

 

“Ace and I would have the best chance at holding off the captain until help arrives. I-” Kit’s ears perked. He could hear a sudden scream from Luffy!

 

- Thatch -

 

The captain had arrived if the evident expressions of relief on the enemy’s face gave any indication. The man strode forward without a word, a long cord of a whip uncoiling in his right hand. Crack. The whip lashed out and wrapped around Thatch’s left katana. Before the startled commander’s eyes, the blade began to disintegrate. Should have sheathed it in haki, cursed the fourth commander.

 

“Finally out and about Commander Thatch. Rumors had it that one of your own nearly did you in. I guess not even the infamous Whitebeard Pirates are immune to betrayal.”

 

Thatch loss his head for a moment. He lashed out with a swift downward sweep of his right, blackened katana. The man just laughed as he sidestepped and flick his whip under Thatch’s outstretched arm. It opened a long gash. Grimacing, Thatch withdrew a few steps. He was definitely not in top performance if he was going to struggle against some rookie. Senses heightened by Observation haki, the fourth division commander dodge left as a stream of fire rushed forward. The captain had the same idea as he dropped to the ground. Ace huffed from launching another fire fist after the dozen or so flame techniques he had already used. A crack sounded behind Ace.

 

“Ace!”

 

A slimy feeling presence suddenly darted toward the distracted boy. Ace hadn’t learned to turn to flame on instinct yet. Thatch wouldn’t make it in time as the captain took the opportunity to lunge, his whip nearly catching his arm. A sudden streak of white intercepted the slim man that had snuck up on the unprotected Ace and knocked Sabo to the ground. Jiru.

 

- Jiru -

 

No one snuck up on his brothers to aim such a low blow. Not while he was there. The fourteenth division commander vanished in a flash from the bow of the ship, his shield clashing against the large blade swinging down on Ace. Clash. Clang. A bright ball of fire suddenly flew into his opponent’s face. Jiru used the distraction to end the fight with one thrust of his lance. The man fell in a pool of blood.

 

Up on the deck of the ship, Kit grinned a Cheshire grin. No one tries to harm my brothers, any of them. Another streak of fire streamed toward the captain dueling with Thatch. The captain became disorientated from the sudden flashes of color going off behind Thatch. A single slash ended the fight.

 

Ryugu Palace

 

- Edward Newgate -

 

Whitebeard proudly looked on his youngest sons. They had fought bravely this day. They still had a long way to go before they could join the same ranks as their older brothers, but this battle proved their strength and development over two years. From the battle, Luffy nursed several scrapes from swords and tumbles but nothing else. Sabo had a few bruises, and Ace sported long scratch from inattentiveness, but his brats did well. Kit healed any wounds by the time they had arrived. For a first battle with only two commanders, the boys did very well.

 

Nurse Mara had chastised Thatch on straining his wound, but his son had managed to fend for his own against several enemy. The road to recovery would still be along one yet. Jiru, the commander most unfamiliar with the boys, shared a toast with them. The boys had a way with impressing his commanders in a very short amount of time.

 

Newgate took another drink from his bottle of sake and stood back, watching his children celebrate today’s victory.

Chapter Text


Chapter XXIII: The Deal P.1 – Out to Sea


Red Line

The Moby Dick

 

-KASL-

 

The day the boys have been dreading has arrived. Today was October 31st, Kit’s 15th birthday. Garp called Pops about two weeks ago. / I’m coming sometime around noon on Kitsune’s birthday. / Naturally, the KASL brothers were utterly freaking out. Their grandpa went easy on them during his last visit last year. The thought of being stuck on a marine ship with him sent cold chills through the brothers.

 

The boys had scarfed down their breakfast with a bit more desperation than usual. The entire crew was gloomy. Their brats would be gone for half a year, and that crazy marine would be the one taking care of them. Thatch did his best to cheer the brats, but his jokes kept falling flat. Even Luffy couldn’t crack a smile with the feeling of dread sending his instincts into overdrive.

 

A couple of hours before noon, Pops called the boys into his room.

 

“As you boys know, Garp will be coming in a couple of hours. I know you four can take care of yourselves, but just to be sure, I will give Kit and Ace each a transponder snail with our frequency recorded. Do not let Garp know you boys are communicating with us. I want you four to keep us updated every once in a while, or to inform us of any mishaps. Kit, take good care of your younger brothers and try to keep Ace from hitting on Luffy too much.” Kit and Ace gratefully took the transponder snails from Whitebeard.

 

“Thanks, old man.”

 

“Thank you very much, Pops.”

 

Gurarara! I’m sure you boys will cause those marines quite a bit of trouble.”

 

“Marine ship sighted! It’s Garp!” shouted the watchmen from the crow’s nest.

 

The brothers could feel their hearts pounding in fear. Six months. For six months they will have to fend off their Grandpa’s ‘fists of love’ while trapped on a ship most of time. They stood together by Pops’ chair, awaiting the man who would take them from their home and most likely continue his version of ‘training’.

 

Garp came aboard, and the entire crew just watched in silence. Whitebeard sat in his chair as the old Vice-Admiral walked up to him and the four boys standing next him with expressions ranging from scowling to blank. Sabo had his pipe out and at his side, Ace stood with his arms crossed, Luffy kind of hid a bit behind his brothers (not of his own choice), and Kit just nonchalantly leaned against the chair with an easy smile contradicted by his wary eyes.

 

“Remember the deal, Garp.”

 

BWAHAHAHA! Shouldn’t it be me reminding you of the terms of our deal, pirate? Boys, come on. I’m due back to headquarters just after this small errand.”

 

“Headquarters?” Kit’s face paled a bit. Ace’s hands fisted.

 

“That’s right. I thought it might be good of you boys to see my work place after all this time. Bah, don’t give that look Phoenix,” said Garp. Marco had involuntarily taken a step forward when Garp mentioned “headquarters.”

  

“You can’t be serious, Garp. Marine Headquarters is not a place to take the boys, especially boys associated with pirates!”

 

“Don’t put your feathers in a twist, brat. The boys are safe enough with me. Besides, in these past couple of years, you must have taught them something about self-defense. Unless you doubt your crew’s ability to train four young boys?”

 

Before Marco could react to that backhanded insult, Whitebeard stood up from his chair. “Enough! Garp, I gave you six months with the boys. Return to here at the Red Line by Luffy’s birthday. I expect to see the boys in the same condition as they left. If anything were to happen to them under your care…” Whitebeard punctuated his unspoken threat with a sudden thump of his bisento against the deck, causing the entire ship to shake briefly. “Do I make myself clear?” Garp just laughed and waved off the threat with a cheery “I’m not that stupid to let my grandsons get themselves killed.”

 

“Is that right?” grumbled Thatch. The fourth commander could hardly forget all the stories of the old marine’s ‘training methods’. He said it quietly, but Garp heard it all the same and laughed all the harder.

 

“Come on boys, we have a long voyage until Marineford.” The wide D smile took on a bit of a maniacal quality. Ace, Sabo, Kit, and Luffy gulped. Garp grabbed Luffy’s and Sabo’s arms, dragging them off in the direction of his ship. Kit and Ace blanched before running after them.

 

Luffy kicked his heels into the deck and let his grandpa stretched his arm a good distance before swinging around to face his family. “Goodbye Pops, Marco, Thatch, and everybody! I’m going on an adventure. I’ll be sure to tell you guys all about when I come home!” Garp gave a sudden yank as he crossed the gangplank connecting the two vessels. Luffy lost his footing and slingshot onto the marine ship.

 

On the ship the boys turned around and waved goodbye as their ship began to leave.

 

“Take care everyone! Ace and I will take good care of our youngest brothers!”

 

“I’ll keep Ace from beating up every person he meets!”

 

“Oi, Sabo! Bye Pops! Bye everyone!”

 

Many of the crew shed a few tears as their youngest brothers disappeared over the horizon.

 

Hours Later

 

-Marco-

 

“Hey buddy, you okay?” asked the fourth commander.

 

“I’m find. It kind of quiet without the boys. You’re not doing much better - yoi.”

 

“What! I’m handling their absence fine. It’s not like they’re gone for one and a half years.”

 

“Your eyes look puffy and red - yoi.”

 

“Shut it fire turkey … Do you want to go to dinner.”

 

“Nah. I think I’ll take evening watch today.”

 

Somewhere in the Grand Line (Paradise)

 

-Kitsune-

 

Man, that’s going to leave a bruise. Definitely right about the haki, groaned Kit silently. They barely lost sight of the Moby Dick when Grandfather announced, “I’m going to see how well those pirates have taught the four of you.” He promptly raised his right fist and launched a ‘fist of love’ to their skulls. Ace tried to turn to fire, Sabo barely could harden his head in time, Luffy panicked, and Kit just managed to drop to the side. Ace felt the jarring impact of a fist colliding with his head. Sabo felt to ground with his hand clutching his head. Luffy slammed into a wall. When Kit actually managed to dodge in time, Garp threw another punch but much faster. Oww. Garp spent the next hours chasing the four around the ship. The marines just proceeded as if this wasn’t something unusual to see the Vice-Admiral beating up on some kids.

 

Grandfather finally tired of chasing the boys around the ship, and he showed the boys their room. The room was small, had a bunk bed, and a closet suspiciously full of marine uniforms.

 

“But we have our own clothes,” pointed out Sabo with a trickle of suspicion coloring his words with a bit of affront.

 

“Bah! No grandsons of mine are wearing pirate gear while they’re with me.” His brothers were lucky that Kit spelled and hid their clothes during a brief interlude in their hide-and-run session with Grandfather. Garp checked their bags but could only scratch his head.

 

“Eh, what clothes, Sabo? I thought you were a bit sharper than Ace and Luffy here.” The top hatter sputtered indignantly until he caught sight of the elder’s wink out of the corner of his eye. He shook his head but quieted. ‘Ace, Luffy, Sabo, tell you guys later.’ Kit clutched his bruised head for a moment. Sending telepathic messages in human form was difficult, the aching head did not help one bit, either.

 

“Well boys, get ready for dinner in another hour. Oh, we’ll train more tomorrow,” Grandfather said, turning back to the door and leaving the bewildered and slightly panicked boy to settle in their cabin. As soon as the door closed and the boys could only barely sense their grandpa with Observation haki, Sabo sighed.

 

“That Old Geezer’s still a monster!”

 

“Your theory on Gramps’ haki was right, Kit. That guy could smack me around even after I got a handle on my logia powers to phase.”

 

“Owww. My head really hurts, Kit.”

 

“That’s the haki going through your rubber defense, little brother. You really need to work on your armament,” chided the fox even as he went over to gently brush some of the younger D’s hair back into place. “So, what can we do to survive six months of this? Grandfather is not holding back as much as on Dawn Island.”

 

“Well, we don’t really have choice do we?”

 

“Pardon, Sabo?”

 

“We need to improve our haki. That’s the only way we can defend ourselves properly. Even Luffy can protect himself a little today when he remembered to use it.”

 

Shishsishi! Oh yeah. I only started using it the last couple times Grandpa chased me around the deck.”

 

“We’re Whitebeard Pirates,” added Ace. “We need to be strong enough to take on monsters like Gramps. When we get back to everyone, we’ll be a lot stronger.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

Shishishi! One day we’ll be able to beat up even Grandpa! If I’m going to be the pirate king, then I can’t lose to anyone like this!”

 

Kit suddenly felt a familiar chill run up his spine. It was almost dinnertime. Garp had stood silently in the doorway, unfortunately during their last bit of their conversation. He cracked his knuckles.

 

“Pirates? Whitebeard Pirates? And pirate king? I think you four need another training session before dinner.”

 

This was going to be a long six months, gulped the fox.

Chapter Text


Chapter XXIV: The Deal P2 – Close Encounters 


Marineford

 

-Kitsune-

 

Whoa. That was one word to describe the base coming into view.

 

After several intense (and utterly terrifying) weeks, the ship had finally arrived to the famed Marine Headquarters of Marineford. A book Kit found on Grandfather’s ship stated that the navy base was considered the center of the world. Grandfather had to make a stop at Impel Down - the intimidating prison that hosted the most rotten and despicable men and women in history – on account of some rookies that had the misfortune not to recognize Garp’s marine ship. They then went through the Gates of Justice and entered the giant currents. Riding the currents was cool, visiting Impel Down – not so much. Luffy hid behind Kit when they first docked. Ace and Sabo just glared with the barest trace of fear at the imposing structure. No one had successfully escaped or invaded the prison since the dawn of the Age of Piracy. Grandfather explicitly told the boys to remain on the ship while he dropped off the prisoner. The boys decided to obey this one time.

 

Kit had to admit that the marines had a scary strong-looking fortress. Marine warships could be seen everywhere. Kit could practically feel his fur stand on end when his haki picked up the level of sheer power radiating from the base. They haven’t even docked yet, but eventually all the boys could sense the strength of the marines stationed at Marineford.

 

“In the history of the navy,” began Sabo as the boys looked in awe at Marine Headquarters, “no one had ever successfully taken on Navy Headquarters. To attack it would a direct assault on the World Government itself. Even the famed ‘Golden Lion’ Shiki couldn’t defeat the combined might of the Old Geezer and the fleet admiral.”

 

“Only someone absolutely out of his mind crazy would do that,” concluded Ace.

 

Kit quirked his eyebrow. “I actually could imagine at least two people who would do that,” stated the fox with a smile. Ace retaliated with a swift shove, nearly toppling the fox over the rails from where he sat. 

 

“Ace, don’t go drowning your brothers, now. GWAHAHAHA!” Ace couldn’t stop the shiver that rippled through his body. Kit could not blame the fire user. His bruises ached the minute he heard his grandfather’s voice. Luffy squealed in surprise, and only Sabo quick reflexes prevented Luffy from taking an unexpected salt water bath.

 

GWAHAHAHA! You boys might want to get down soon, anyway,” bellowed Garp. His jolly smile faded, however, as the marine donned his rare ‘serious’ face. “Right after the ship docks, I have to say hi to Sengoku. Kit, watch your brothers. Sabo, make sure our devil fruit users don’t lose their heads. I don’t want anyone to show off their powers while we’re here. Devil fruit abilities are common enough here, but you boys shouldn’t draw too much attention. Do not, whatever you do, tell anyone of your connection to the Whitebeard Pirates. Of everything I said, you must promise this above all else. Some characters at Marineford might strike you down just for that alone. There are three admirals currently visiting in the next few days. Try not to get underfoot of them. I’ll have Bogard here keep an eye on you four, just in case.”

 

The man in question walked over with his seemingly perpetual scowl in place as he regard his new charges. The marine officer probably had not forgotten the trick the boys played on him during their rare breaks from training.

 

“One other thing. Fleet Admiral Sengoku is aware in part that my grandchildren have a rather sketchy background, if you exclude Sabo here. So, Bogard keep them away from Sengoku if you can. No telling how the man might react. That guy is a lot smarter than me and will no doubt deduce that any children traveling with you are mine. I should be done sometime after lunch. Stop by the base and give the boys a tour, and I’ll try to meet up with the five of you.”

 

They had finally docked in the bay of Marineford. True to his word, Grandfather hopped onto the deck and strolled away, leaving Kit, Luffy, Ace, and Sabo alone with Bogard. After an uncomfortable glaring match between Ace and Bogard, Kit had had enough. The fox stepped right in between the hostile pair and faced Bogard.

 

“So, where first? Grandfather did instruct you to act as a sort of escort for us during our stay. I’m sure we’ll appreciate learning more about marine life at headquarters with you as our guide.”

 

“Hmm.” The man seemed a taken aback at the fox’s sudden interruption. Normally when Bogard and Ace got into a mood like this, Sabo usually was the one to break them up. Kit normally ignored it or made the tension worse. “Alright. Why don’t we go visit the town? After that lunch, we’ll go to Navy Headquarters to check on Vice-Admiral Garp.” Bogard gave no time for the boys to respond. He headed off into Marineford’s naval headquarters. Kit snatched up Luffy’s hand as the boys ran after him.

 

Marine Headquarters

 

-Sabo-

 

Ace glared with suspicion at everyone in the naval base. Luffy had a pout, but that probably was due to Bogard putting spending limits on today’s lunch for the boys. Kit smiled carelessly, but the fox never gave away anything before he had one his prized knives darting for a debilitating strike. The top hatter had no doubt that his older brother had some knives still concealed under his gray jacket even after Bogard confiscated all their weapons (Sabo’s pipe, Ace’s pocket knife, a few suspicious reels of razor sharp wire and a couple of knives from Kit). The ability to hide weapons on his person was an art form that the fox had perfected. He even snuck some leftovers from some of the other customers’ plates during lunch and slipped some to Luffy as they walked. Their little rubber brother could barely conceal a shishishi as he quickly gobbled the stolen goods. Luffy at least smiled during the rest of their tour around the naval base.

 

Their tour was a bit boring. Bogard avoided some of the more interesting places (Kit made no comment when their tour guide announced they would under no condition explore the weaponry storage facilities – or the kitchen when a certain black hole waved his hand in question), but the tour as a whole wasn’t too bad. They visited the training area where several recruits and senior officers sparred. Some of these guys, as mentioned by the Old Geezer, did display devil fruit powers. One guy, Onigumo, whom Luffy ran over to gawp at, had spider powers and used the extra limbs in his swordplay. Another marine soldier had the ability to rust anything he touched. Kit gave this one a wary eye, his hands straying ever so slightly to his empty knife sheathes. Ace just tried to burn holes everyone with his stare, although Sabo could detect a hint of awe in the sullen brother’s eyes. Bogard did open up a little more when Kit began asking (interrogating) some of the resting marines on some of their adventures. Bogard had some interesting stories about the Old Geezer and his younger days.

 

They were just walking through the hall and looking for Garp. The marine officer had just finished telling the boys about Garp and Sengoku’s fight with the ‘Golden Lion’ Shiki when the door ahead of them suddenly opened.

 

An older man with a black braided beard, an elaborate marine coat with golden epaulets, and various shiny medals attached to his white suit walked out of the door. His oddest features were the seagull on his hat and the little goat that chewed on some very important looking papers.

 

“Bogard! Garp was looking for you- Who are these children?” asked the man with a stern glance directed at Bogard. “Do they happen to be with you?” Something in the man’s eye flared and his voice had taken an edge.

 

Bogard clearly was a bit off-balanced with the older man’s questions. Sabo could see a few drops of sweat gather his brow.

 

“Excuse me, Fleet Admiral. Vice-Admiral Garp gave permission to bring the boys by the base after lunch. I was just giving the boys a tour and discussing the fine points of marine life by sharing a few tales and introducing some of the office-”

 

"These are Garp’s grandchildren, are they not?” Bogard’s face had gone blank. ‘

 

'Fleet Admiral?’ a voice whispered in Sabo’s mind. ‘Fleet Admiral as in the head of the navy, Sengoku the ‘Buddha’? The one that Grandfather warned us to stay away from explicitly?’ Kit’s mental voice trailed off in a sudden sharp cut off, as the fleet admiral turned his attention to the brothers.

 

-Ace-

 

The raven did his best to reign in his temper. This man represented danger for them all. Gramps implied that this guy knew something about each of the boys. If he knew about his, Luffy, and Kit’s heritages then...

 

“Portgas D. Ace. Monkey D. Luffy. Sol D. Kitsune. And… Sabo, is it? Garp has told me quite a bit about the four of you.” Ace’s frantic thoughts froze.

 

“I do hope you all follow the path your grandfather had all but guaranteed you four will follow. Although,” trailed off Sengoku, his voice going noticeably flat and quiet, “I doubt your blood will allow that. I have nothing against children, personally, but the moment you step a toe out of line…” Nothing more needed to be said. The older marine’s eyes sharpened. Bogard was thoroughly ruffled, a hint of worry creasing his brow.

 

Ace clenched his fists but said nothing. That damned seagull bastard threatening his brothers, I’ll- No. That might make things worse. Ace longed to lash out against that piercing gaze so like the faces of those punks when they mocked the thought of a demon’s son. Instead, the older boy stepped forward, shielding the oblivious Luffy. Sabo followed suit. Kit, on the other hand, had other ideas.

 

“I’m sure that the navy will act according to the wisdom and common sense of its leaders,” interjected Kit. “Children are innocents, no matter their bloodline, after all. A child of a demon may be evil in the eyes of the world, but a child of a human is a human. Nothing more, nothing less. As beings of free will, we choose our paths; our parents, family, friends are only a few voices guiding the adventurer on their journey. Am I not right?” Kit’s voice took on that rare tone, one that reminded Ace a little of the boy’s great fox. It held strength and power contradictive to the appearance of the lean teenager. Ace feared a little bit for his older brother’s defiant stance, another part nodding his head in agreement to the bold words reminiscent of another family member’s words. The fleet admiral remained silent for a moment or two.

  

“Well spoken. I suppose I would have to wait and see the future of Garp’s infamous grandsons. Bogard, Garp headed for the cafeteria.”

 

The seagull-wearing marine briskly walked past the group. Ace released the breath he unconsciously held during the entire exchange. Beside him, Sabo relaxed from his defensive stance. Luffy quirked his head in askance. Kit’s shoulders sagged. Bogard cleared his throat.

 

“Well, boys, I’m sure you four are a bit peckish after our tour. Why don’t we go find Garp?” All the boys nodded their heads in agreement. That encounter was a bit too foreboding for them.

 

-Kitsune- 

 

Apparently, Sengoku wanted their grandfather to stay for a meeting scheduled late tomorrow evening, and the ship needed another day after that to properly stock up for the next leg in their journey. The fox could not wait for their departure of Marineford. The place whispered of danger and peril for children with such dire heritages for three of them. Sabo may be the only odd one out, but the blonde brother would defend the others to the death. Grandfather had secured rooms at the base for the lot of them.

 

The boys were bunking down with some of the naval recruits. Some of them gave fleeting stares at their unannounced newcomers but paid little more heed to boys years younger than they. A few of the older boys, though, took exception to their unexplained guests. Kit mentally reminded himself to not react/plot evilly in response to some of the recruit’s snipes. Grandfather will not appreciate Ace beating a few older boys, chanted the fox as he grabbed Ace’s arm alongside Sabo. Nor, would he condone my own thoughts put into action. Kit had to give a gentle and silent reminder to the older raven-haired boy to control himself. They already had a few close calls with Luffy stretching, they did not need to worry about Ace burning the building down around them. Although, one of them might deserve it. Kit had malicious thoughts of using some harmless foxfire illusions on one particularly bratty recruit. Only Sabo silent disapproval kept the fox in check. The blonde did have a way to read his brothers better than Kit the telepath.

 

Marineford Bay

 

The next day was not the best. Bogard decided after one look at the disgruntled boys to take them to the bay and look over some of the docked ships that belonged to some of Garp’s friends. Kit expected some cool looking sights to see in the bay. He did not, however, predict the weird marine – probably, heck, practically everyone at Marineford was either a marine or a government worker, and the guy wore a white vest on top of a navy blue top rather than a black suit – riding on a bicycle. Kit had seen bicycles plenty of times, no the bike in of itself was quite ordinary. The problem was that the bike in question rolled on top of the water. His brothers equally wore expressions of surprise from slightly gaping mouths to a wide toothy smile and laughter. Something shimmered a bit behind the bicyclist. Kit narrowed his eyes, letting out a bit of haki. A trail of – ice? The boy spectators just stood there frozen. Bogard noticed the stunned looks of his charges and shook his head in irritation. The bicyclist finally arrived to the port and threw a hand in front of him. A trail of ice skidded up to form a ramp for the man’s bike. Luffy recovered first, as the man climbed off is bike.

 

“Awesome! Mister, how did you do that? Who are you? Do you have really cool powers or something?” babbled Luffy. Ace shook off his awe and smacked Luffy’s head with a bit of haki, so a large bump formed from a weaker punch. Luffy winced in pain, complaining at Ace who called him a crybaby. Kit ignored his younger brothers’ antics and focused on their newcomer. He smirked.

 

“You’re a devil fruit user. You used some sort of ice power to create a path for your bike across the sea. Neat.” The tall man looked a bit surprised.

 

“Well, yes. I ate the Chilly-Chilly fruit. I’m an ice man. You boys don’t look too surprise, but I suppose you have seen quite a few devil fruit users here.”

 

“Uh-huh! Your powers are so cool! Shishishi! But not as cool as-” Luffy’s giggling cut off when Sabo slapped a hand over his runaway mouth. The man glanced at Ace.

 

“Hey kid,” said the man to Ace, “Who are you? And how can a kid like you know haki? For that matter, why did you hit your friend here with it?”

 

Ace’s eyes narrowed, his expression tightening with hostility.

 

“That’s not really any of your business. And who are you exactly? It’s polite to introduce yourself fi-”

 

“A bit more tact, brat. This is Admiral Aokiji.” The boys had completely forgot about Bogard. Ace reddened a little bit, but he refused to apologize. Kit rolled his eyes at his rude little brothers. Sabo started a bit when he heard the name of the man.

 

“You’re an admiral?! One of the most elite marine soldiers and under the direct command of the fleet admiral?” gaped Sabo.

 

Aokiji nodded his head once. “So little guy, care to answer?” Kit stepped forward and pushed Ace back before he could say anything else.

 

“Hello, nice to meet you Admiral Aokiji sir. My name is Kitsune. These three are my younger brothers: Ace is the next oldest and the less than enthusiastic one; Sabo is the blonde one; And Monkey D. Luffy is the youngest with the biggest grin – I’m sure you’re familiar with our grandfather.”

 

“Hm, so you’re the brats Garp thought he lost a few years ago. I wondered why he seemed so chipper a year or so ago. You brats seem really strong, especially if all of you no doubt know haki like Ace there. Well, I can’t chat for long. Sengoku will not take lightly to my delay if I don’t arrive on time. Goodbye kids and Bogard.” The tall man waved as he strode off toward the base.

 

“That guy,” sighed Bogard. Kit looked in askance until Ace gestured for the eldest to join in their whispered conversation.

 

“So that’s an admiral.”

 

“He didn’t seem like that much.” 

 

“His ice powers were so cool!”

 

“He’s an admiral, one of the great powerhouses of the navy. The three navy admirals form one of the Great Powers.”

 

“Sabo’s right, Ace. An admiral has the power to rival that of the greatest pirate crews. Pineapple Head told me once that even he can have trouble fighting one of those guys and he’s who you know you.”

 

“You know what?”

 

“Another thing to remember. Until we return to the ship, we might want to avoid making any mention of our family while we’re in Paradise or if we visit any of the other seas. Especially here, one of the pinnacle locations of the World Government. There’s definitely no few people who would suspect us just for being kids that speak of great pirates in a familiar kind of way.”

 

“But Kit, Sleepy Mask didn’t seem that bad.”

 

“Sleepy Mask?” Eh, for nicknames that could work. The guy did have a sleeping mask of all things strapped to the top of his head. “As for trusting an admiral, well, why don’t we just avoid him? For now, at least. He didn’t give any hostile vibes, and my observation haki is a bit more acute than any you guys’.”

 

The three other boys nodded their heads in agreement.

 

“Hey brats, you done discussing?” grumbled Bogard. Kit couldn’t blame the guy for now appreciating the all too frequent and inexplicable moods of the brothers that resulted in a private conversation in the middle of a public place. They kind of forgot about the marine like this. But the marine didn’t seem to take it too personally. The boys broke up their huddle and walked over to the man. “You boys have some luck that the first admiral you’ve met is Aokiji. He’s not as bad as the others. Come on, I promised to take you four to see some of the other naval vessels here in Marineford.” Back to their exploration of the naval base.

 

 Marine Headquarters

Galley

 

-Sabo-

 

They had just settled down at a bench to eat. The KASL brothers had their trays loaded up with as much food as possible. One of the few good things about staying at the base was the food. They didn’t have to worry as much about eating a hole through Bogard’s pockets. Sabo just began to dig in when a man in a bright yellow pinstriped suit sat down next to him.

 

“Oooh, Bogard, I thought I would find you. Garp’s giving Fleet Admiral Sengoku gray hairs again, so I’d figure you were hair as well. How have things been?”

 

“Fine. Some idiot rookies tried to attack us without an idea of Garp’s reputation.”

 

“I take it that they didn’t give you any trouble.”

 

“Of course not. I probably should introduce you to the brats. Boys, this is Admiral Kizaru.”

 

Sabo nearly choked. Another admiral today? The boys were not having a great last day at Marineford if they end up bumping into two out of three admirals. Sabo snuck a glance to Kit sitting across the table and to the left of Bogard. The fox had that creepy closed eye smirk that spelled trouble.

 

“Nice to meet you, Admiral Kizaru. Doesn’t your name mean ‘yellow monkey’, though? A strange name, almost as strange as mine own. I’m Kitsune.” Times like these made Sabo think that Kit was as tactless as Ace and Luffy. But the fox never did something so stupid without a reason. Luckily Kizaru took this good-naturedly and just chuckled.

 

“Ooh, aren’t you clever. We admirals are given code names, you see. My name’s Borsalino. Our code names usually relate to our abilities or personalities, I suppose. ‘Yellow’ relates to my devil fruit power.”

 

“Oh? Devil fruit power?”

 

“I ate the Shine-Shine fruit and am now a light man. I can manipulate and become light.”

 

“So a logia like that Aokiji guy,” said Ace.

 

“Aah. You’ve met with the blue pheasant, already? Interesting guy, huh?”

 

Shishishi, I like him! He was riding a bike across the water with his ice powers. He had this weird sleeping mask on his head, though.”

 

“Yeppp. That’s Aokiji alright. He polices his sectors of the sea under ‘Lazy Justice’.”

 

“‘Lazy Justice’? I’ve come across the phrase a little bit in my studies, but I still do not understand it very well,” admitted Sabo. Some of the books he had borrowed (or purloined) had mentioned a bit about each admiral pursuing their own definitions of justice, but that part was a bit unclear.

 

“Welll, I suppose I have some time to give a little lesson to you four since you’re probably with Bogard here and Garp. Each admiral usually follows a certain motto regarding how we interpret ‘justice’. ‘Lazy Justice’ is how Aokiji operates. He prefers not to actively pursue criminals across the sea without a good reason or order. As the name implies, he’s incredibly lazy. He usually sleeps a lot, hence the mask. The other admiral Akainu operates under ‘Absolute Justice’. To him, all associates of evil are just as guilty as the entity in question. And he will use any means to pursue justice.”

 

“Oh? And what of you, if I may ask?”

 

“Heh, sure are a polite one. Well, my motto is ‘Unclear Justice’. I prefer to mete out justice with abandon, although, I find no point in pursuing something after it usually unless ordered. Out of sight, out of mind, you see? A lot of people find me hard to understand.”

 

“Isn’t that the truth,” added Bogard. The man had relaxed only a little bit as the boys conversed with the admiral. The comment only had the man showed his teeth. Sabo couldn’t tell if the guy was being sarcastic or if he really couldn’t care less about the implied insult. By Kit’s slight tilt of the head, he didn’t have much better luck interpreting their guest’s actions.

 

“Aaah, Bogard. Nice to see you as always. I’d better go. That meeting should start in another hour. Nice to meet you children.”

 

Sabo exchanged a few glance with his brothers. Ace didn’t trust him (not surprising), Kit thought he was okay, and Luffy thought his powers were cool but now as cool as Sleepy Mask’s. When asked, Sabo couldn’t really say how he felt about the admiral. Boraslino was an easy going fellow on the surface, but something was a bit off about him. The four boys put off thinking for a while as they finished lunch.

 

-Kitsune-

 

Luffy did it again. Somehow, the four boys got separated from Bogard.

 

The grim marine had really loosen up in the past two days (for him at least), and the boys had stuck close to him as Grandfather ordered. Unfortunately, none of their precautions included what to do when Bogard was called away to discuss something with one of the marines from their ship. Normally, Bogard held onto Luffy’s hand, but Kit volunteered to do this while the man went off. Bogard gave them explicit instructions to not move from their spot in the hallway. Then a marine carrying a heavy load passed by them and almost dropped it. Kit intercepted the falling weight and helped the marine to carry it a few doors down the hall along with Sabo. Doing this, though, meant he had to have just Ace keep an eye on their adventurous brother. Kit and Sabo returned to find a sleeping Ace and no Luffy.

 

Kit didn’t have time to go easy (and had no intention to do so) and sparked a foxfire firecracker illusion onto Ace’s sleeping face. The boy leapt up with a start, and only by Kit’s accompanying flames did he keep the fire user from burning the halls. Good thing few fires could match his foxfire. And that the fire wouldn’t burn anything but its intended target. Once Ace chilled and noticed their missing brother, the three could run go look for him. Kit used his nose to track him. Somehow Luffy managed to end up who knows where on what probably was the other side of the base. The boys were officially lost.

 

“You rubber-brained numbskull! Why did you go off when Bogard told us to stay put?”

 

*Thump!*

 

“Ow! But Ace, there was this cool guy with a giant sword. I wanted to go and take a better look at-”

 

*Bonk!* Luffy now sported a bump on top of a bump courtesy of Sabo. Kit slumped his shoulders before straightening and bonking both of his brothers.

 

“We can discuss this later. We’re completely lost, and the ship sets sail in another hour, if I recall. Bogard will no doubt not appreciate us disobeying orders from him and Grandfather. So, we had better find our way back first. I know I can’t use my Observation haki very well with all these people here.” 

 

“I think we might be near the admiral offices, if I remember from yesterday.”

 

“At least someone has the maturity to contribute to the problem at hand,” scoffed Kit. He really had enough of being lost like this. They haven’t even run into one marine after they found Luffy. Kit was about to just give in and transform when they saw a tall, muscular man walk towards them.

 

“What are a bunch of brats doing here? Don’t you boys have somewhere better to be? Are you just a bunch of pathetically lost recruits,” snarled the man. He wore a dark red suit over a floral red shirt. The white justice coat hung over his shoulders.

 

Ace did not appreciate the brat reference.

  

“So what? We’re not marine recruits! And we’re not brats. We can wander wherever we da-”

 

“Excuse my brother,” interjected Sabo. Kit had come over to Ace’s side and slapped a hand over his mouth before he got them in worse trouble. “We had somehow become separated from our chaperone when we all went to find our wayward little brother. Our grandpa is a marine Vice-Admiral, so if you would so please as point out the way to the harbor, we will be most grateful.” Good thing they had Sabo. He was the most diplomatic.

 

The man glowered. Kit couldn’t help but notice Luffy’s lack of response. He let go of Ace and turned a bit to regard the youngest D. Luffy’s bottom lip had begun to tremble, and when the cold stare of the man passed over him, Luffy pressed himself behind Ace. Kit narrowed his eyes at the man. The man’s eyes darted over to Luffy, and his scowl deepened.

 

“A Vice-Admiral, huh? Who is he, and more importantly, who are you four?”

 

Kit bit back a low growl. This guy grated on his instincts. “I’m Kitsune. These are my brothers, Ace, Sabo, and Luffy. Our grandfather is Vice-Admiral Garp. As courtesy suggests, may we inquire on your name?”

 

“I’m Admiral Akainu. You boys have some bad luck to end up here. The harbor’s on the other side of the base. So, Garp’s brats, huh? Well, it could be worse. I have no time to babysit brats.” Akainu snapped.

 

He gave them some rudimentary directions before stalking off. Kit quirked his eyebrow. ‘Polite guy, isn’t he? I don’t like him.’ Kit turned to Luffy.

 

“Luffy, you okay?”

 

“Mmm, ‘m okay,” whispered the young boy. His hands had begun to tug down the sides of his straw hat in an all-too familiar gesture of unease. “I don’t like that guy too much.” Ace’s eyes could burn someone where they stood at that moment. The last time Luffy said something like this…

 

“We definitely should stay away from that guy then,” stated Sabo. He rubbed a comforting hand on Luffy’s back. “Don’t worry Luffy. He’s gone. And we, your big brothers, will protect you if he ever thinks about hurting any of us.” Luffy nodded his head slowly. Ace still had a defensive air about him, but his next words were surprisingly even.

 

“We’d better go. Gramps is waiting and all.” Kit had a funny feeling that Ace wanted to put some more distance between them and the red dog.

 

Marineford became a speck on the horizon. Grandfather did not appreciate them running off. They didn’t have much time to contemplate their stay on Marineford as their crazy grandfather chased them around the deck again as soon as they set sail. Only after the boys exhaustedly fell on their bunks did they give any thoughts to the admirals they met. They all agreed that out of all them, Akainu and Sengoku were on the list of ‘Avoid at any cost’. At least until they were great pirates. Right now, the boys needed to assure that they had a future as pirates.

Chapter Text


Chapter XXV: The Deal P3 – East Blue


 East Blue

 

-Kitsune-

 

After three years, we’ve come back, reminisced Kit. His brothers leaned on the railings alongside him. In a few minutes, Dawn Island would be in view.

 

Shishishi! We’ll be able to Dadan and Makino and everyone!” giggled Luffy.

 

“Hey, guys shouldn’t we contact Pops and everyone?” piped Sabo.

 

“Hm, do you think Marco cooled down from our last correspondence?” added Kit.

 

The fox grimaced as he recalled the call the boys had sent just after they left Marineford.

 

/“Hey boys. You guys doing okay? Garp isn’t being that hard on you is he?” demanded Marco. The phoenix certainly must have worried about them if his voice gave any indication.

 

“Hey Pineapple Head,” chirped Kit. Times like these called for a little humor. “We all survived Marineford. We even saw Impel Down on our way there-”

 

“WHAT?!” Kit could hear a struggle on the other side of the transponder snail. Sabo quirked an eyebrow, and Ace smirked.

 

“Sorry about Marco,” said the fourth division commander jovially. “I guess he still has some mama bird issues.” Kit’s smirk deepened as he could clearly hear an audible smack in the background. He heard the rustle of someone else picking up the transponder snail.

 

“GURARARA! So you boys like seeing Impel Down and Marineford?” asked Pops. Evidently, the first and fourth commanders were still arguing in the background if the faint shouting of curses was any indicator.

 

“Impel Down was a scary place!” piped in Luffy. “Gramps wouldn’t let us see inside it, but the place was gigantic. He was escorting some idiot rookies that tried to ambush us on the way to Arineord-”

 

“MAR-ine-FORD,” corrected Ace. He cuffed their idiotic brother on his head. Luffy rubbed his head – more on reflex than in pain – before continuing.

 

“Ow, Ace, quit hitting me. Anyways, Pops, Marineford was awesome. We saw all these weird people. Gramps made us stay for two days. He had Cranky Pants watch us.”

 

“The guy looked like he swallowed a lemon,” muttered Ace. Kit heard Pops laugh at this.

 

Bogard,” enunciated Kit, “was kind enough to put up with the four of us for two days. He gave a tour of Marineford town and the naval base. We met some pretty strong looking guys there – but none as strong as you guys of course.”

 

“Damn straight!” joked Thatch in the background.

 

“You should have seen some of the people we met! Shishishi! I don’t like seagull man much, but Sleepy Mask was pretty cool. He had devil fruit powers and could ride a bike over the water! There was the old yellow guy who ate with us. He was really weird. I really didn’t like the angry Akeenu guy, though. He was really scary, scarier than even Bluejam or Teach.”

 

Silence on the other end. Kit took this as his cue to translate Luffy-speak.

 

“We incidentally met with Fleet Commander Sengoku during the first day’s tour of the naval base – the seagull man. The morning after, Admiral Aokiji – Sleepy Mask – was riding his bike through the bay and onto the docks while we were checking out some of the ships. He didn’t seem too bad of a guy. During lunch, Admiral Kizaru randomly decided to sit with Bogard and us during lunch. I don’t have much of an opinion on him. I couldn’t read him very well, and neither could Ace or Sabo. Luffy appeared rather indifferent. Akeenu, that would be A-KAIN-u, we ran into when we kind of got lost in the naval base.”

 

“How did you get lost?” asked Marco with a bit of an edge to his voice. Oops. Probably should not have mentioned that part.

 

“Well, Bogard had to speak to one of his subordinates in private, Sabo and I had to leave for a few minutes to help this one marine with a heavy box full of equipment, Ace fell asleep, and well…Luffy’s Luffy,” concluded Kit. “Akainu seemed really suspicious of us, I think he recognized Luffy’s hat, but he did direct us back to the docks. You know, I highly doubt all those ‘random’ encounters were by chance. Sengoku might have something, or at least a suspicion, of our less illustrious background.”

 

“Hmm. Thanks for your report Kit. Well, you boys seem well all things consider.”

 

“Pops! Aren’t you a little concern that three admirals and the fleet admiral can recognize them now?”

 

“Now, now, the boys seem to have the situation well in hand. They’ll take precautions until they return to us. The fleet commander is shrewd but will not attack the boys, not so long as they are with Garp, and he has no proof of any crimes. I understand that the boys’ connection to us among other things will one day come out, but not yet. I trust the boys to take care of themselves. This experience is good for them.”

 

The mood shifted into more lax topics as the boys in turn told of their other experiences on the marine vessel, from the pirate attack, to the various islands they visited./

 

“Mama Bird didn’t seem too happy with us,” said Luffy.

 

“*Snicker* I doubt calling him ‘Mama Bird’ for the remainder of the conversation helped. Anyways, Sabo’s right. We should do a check-in before we dock.

 

*Pururururu – Gaa-cha!*

 

“Who dares to call the ship of the strongest man-”

 

“Nice to see you too, Thatch. Marco there to see your comedy act?”

 

“Che, Mama Bird left on a mission. Took some time to let off some steam, you know. I don’t think he much likes the absence of you boys. The ship’s really quiet since you boys left with Garp. Pops is resting right now.”

 

Shahehehe! Tell Mama Bird that we’ll only be gone for four more months. Tell Pops and him hi. Right now, Dawn Island should be showing on the horizon.

 

“I heard from Old Geezer that we’ll stay here for a couple weeks before we head off to North Blue. Something about riots among some of the islands there,” stated Sabo.

 

“Psh, maybe we’ll be able to exercise our actual strength and show Gramps how strong we’ve become,” sniped Ace.

 

“I don’t think that will help with our training regime too much. Might make it worse, actually.”

 

“The crazy Vice-Admiral still beating on you boys?” inquired Thatch in an all too calm voice.

 

“Grandfather is grandfather,” explained Kit. “Can’t really change that. But, don’t worry. The four sons of Whitebeard will hardly take a few hits without giving our fair share. Our time training has at least prepared us that much.”

 

“Good to hear. Have a fun time. Maybe we’ll swing by East Blue ourselves one day for a quick vacation.”

 

“Bye Thatchy! Tell Pops and Mama Pineapple we said hello!”

 

Shahehehe! Yeah, tell Mama Bird how well we’re doing and to try not to beat up too many rookies without us while we’re gone.”

 

“Bye Thatch.”

 

“See you Thatch.”

 

*Clunk.* 

 

East Blue

Dawn Island – Foosha Village

 

-Luffy-

 

Gramps just dropped the brothers off at Foosha Village. He said he had to run a few errands or something while in East Blue. Kind of like old times. Ace, Kit, Sabo, and Luffy just took this in stride, relieved grins gracing their faces. Two weeks without Gramps, Shishishishi!

 

Luffy wanted to show go visit Makino, so the boys raced each other from the shore to Makino’s Party Bar.

  

“Hiya, Makino, Shishishishi,” greeted Luffy. The straw hatted boy clambered onto a stool and enthusiastically asked for some food. Ace took a seat next to him and proceeded to cuff the rubber boy on the side of his head. Luffy rubbed his head indignantly, a pout forming.

 

“Kit, tell Ace to quit hitting me!” whined Luffy. Makino laughed, glad to see her favorite boys home.

 

“Ace, you don’t have to use violence to bring your point across. I don’t mind feeding the four of you anyway. So why don’t you tell me about your adventures?”

 

Luffy perked up. He told Makino every detail, from their time in slavery, to meeting the Whitebeard Pirates, to all their adventures on the Grand Line, to their recent adventures on their way to Dawn Island. Kit, Ace, and Sabo interrupted here and there to clarify (and to correct) certain details and events. Luffy loved to tell these stories, though, and the older brothers left much of it to him. Luffy only stopped to inhale the food and juice that Makino brought out sometime during the retelling of their second trip to Fishman Island.

 

“- and that’s why we’re back on Dawn Island.”

 

Luffy beamed at Makino around his mouth full of food. Lounging on the stool next to Luffy, Kit smirked. The boys had scarfed down several plates of food each with only Sabo and Kit showing some semblance of dining manners. Not that Luffy really cared. Good food was good food.

 

“You boys sure sound like you’ve been on some great adventures since you have left the island. You guys are welcome to stay here if you need a place to stay.”

 

Kit shook his head. “No, no, that’s too kind Makino. The four of us would take way too much space, and we cannot burden you with the amount of food we eat.”

 

“Yeah, we’re going up into the mountains. I’m sure Dadan and the others will appreciate a visit, plus we can hunt in the forest like we did in the old days.”

 

Luffy grinned wide. “Yosh! Let’s go and get some bear meat for dinner! Oh, and we can go visit Tiger Lord.”

 

“Compared to the beasts on Moroi, hunting some bears and boars sound pretty easy,” remarked Sabo.

 

The boys thanked Makino for the food before walking off into the forest. They promised to visit again tomorrow.

 

Dadan’s Country

 

-Ace-

 

Even after a couple of years, the bandits’ hideout had hardly changed. Ace strode to the wooden door and banged on it.

  

*THUNK, THUNK!*

 

A bit of rustling. The door suddenly slammed open. Curly Dadan’s large girth towered over the four brothers. Peeking behind her was several bandits, including Dogra and Magra, with various weapons raised.

 

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU BRATS?!”

 

Have we really changed that much? “Don’t you recognize us Dadan? The ‘shitty brats’ that used to live here?” A moment of tensed silence.

 

“Ace? Sabo, Kit, Luffy? What the hell are you brats doing here?”

 

“Well, the Crazy Old Geezer thought it might be a good idea for us to visit Dawn Island, so we obviously came to see you-”

 

“Hi Dadan! Still crossdressing like Izo?”

 

“What did you say stupid brat?”

 

Just like old times. Dadan proceeded to yell, Luffy annoyed her, Kit stood there chuckling, and an exasperated Sabo broke them up.

 

*Gurgle, grumble.*

 

“Oi, you brats. Just because you guys are big-time Whitebeard Pirates, don’t expect me to feed you. Same deal as always if you guys are even thinking about staying here. I expect you freeloaders to help out with some chores and grab dinner.” 

 

Ace, Sabo, Luffy, and Kit exchanged mischievous grins.

 

“Nah! We’ll be fine in the forest. We will grab some meat to bring back and cook. Bye Dadan!” shouted the four brothers as they ran off. Dadan stood there with her mouth gaping open. Ace could faintly hear a muttered “Tch. Nothing ever changes.”

 

The Forest

 

Hunting down a bear for supper was pretty easy. Kit scouted out a monster bear by a stream. A clean smack with Sabo’s pipe and a punch from Luffy knocked the monster out cold. Kit walked over to it and dealt the death blow with one of his knives. Together, the brothers hauled the corpse back to Dadan’s Country.

 

They were about another hour to the cabin when they heard it. An ominous growl rumbled from the forest thicket. The boys slowly dropped their burden. Ace picked out glimpses of an orange hide striped with black. The Tiger Lord prowled into the open. Slowly, maniacal grins spread on the boys’ faces. The Tiger Lord roared. Without a word, Kit sprinted to the right, knives sheathed as he opted for his own claws. Sabo charged to the left. Ace and Luffy launched themselves straight at the monster’s head. The fire-user and rubber boy ducked beneath a deadly swipe and pumped their fists right at the teeth-filled jaws bared in a snarl. The Tiger Lord’s head snapped up as the blows aimed true. Sabo swung his haki covered pipe to the side of the cat’s head, and Kit’s claws dug into the cat’s side. The monster gave a screech of pain. Kit twisted his body to deliver a hard kick right where his claws scraped the Tiger Lord’s side. Ace and Luffy went in for a second blow. The monster of their childhood days fell. The young men cheered in victory. They laughed before bowing to their defeated opponent. The boys silently agreed to leave the Tiger Lord alone to fight another day.

 

Two Weeks

 

-Kitsune-

  

“Man, Dadan’s expression when you set yourself on fire was priceless,” chuckled Kit. The Dadan Family definitely did not expect Ace to suddenly catch on fire and roast their meals for them. Ace playfully punched the elder D. Of course, the first demonstration also resulted in an unexpected bath. “So, we’re saying good-bye to East Blue for a while, huh?”

  

The boys leaned against the bar, waiting for their grandfather to arrive. They spent the past two weeks running back and forth between Dadan’s Country and Foosha Village. It was an unspoken agreement to stay clear of the Grey Terminal and the city. Too many bad memories. Makino’s Party Bar became their designated hang-out area to regale the customers with the boys’ travels. Kit even had Ace practice some of their devil fruit powers in the town square. The Mayor didn’t look too please at the visiting fire performers’ practices. Nothing ever caught on fire by accident – except for one walking stick and hat that didn’t even have a scratch on them after a hysterical run around the village. Shahehehehe, good old foxfire will-o-wisps. It was really funny to see the Mayor sputter indignantly at four boys lauding the adventures of a bunch of ‘no-good for nothing pirates’. Over the horizon, a marine vessel slowly approached to take the boys once again from their home island.

 

Chapter Text


Chapter XXVI: The Deal P4 – North Blue Troubles and Introduction of the Rebels


“Speech”

Thoughts or emphasis or scenery changes or significant time gaps

*noises* (except laughter)

*actions*

‘Telepathy’ (Only for the telepath’s voice)

/ Flashback or brief summaries of events /

 

North Blue

 

- Sabo -

 

Cold. That was one way to describe North Blue. Frigid and freaking frozen was also optional. The top hat wearer pulled his winter coat tighter around as he tried to brace himself better against the chill. Ace and Kit hardly had any trouble with the cold. The former even had his buttoned shirt gaping open. Damn devil fruit powers. Even Luffy hardly paid too much attention to the below zero degrees Celsius temperatures.

 

GWAHAHAHAHA! What a nice day, eh boys?”

 

The next set of chills was definitely because of the cold. Definitely. Maybe. Who was he kidding? The Crazy Old Geezer walked over to where the boys stood.

 

“So, what do you brats think of North Blue?”

 

“Everything is covered in snow like a winter island!”

 

“No duh,” said Ace as he smacked Luffy on the back of the head. “North Blue is a lot colder than East Blue. They have longer and a lot colder winters.”

 

“A bit too cold,” muttered Sabo quietly. But Kit caught his words anyways and slung an arm around Sabo’s shoulders.

 

“Aww, poor Sabo. I guess Ace, Luffy, and I don’t really know how bad the cold is for you. Ace is, well, fire, and I can always just increase my own internal temperature. Luffy’s rubber, so he can regulate his temperature a bit. But our dearest top hat wearer is but an ordinary monster child.” Sabo aimed kick to the fox’s head. Kit only ducked and chortled. Worse, Luffy and Ace and the Crazy Old Geezer joined in the laughter. Huffing, Sabo crossed his arms.

 

“Laugh it up. At least I can swim.”

 

“I hope not in these seas.”

 

Anyways,” articulated Sabo, “now that we have crossed into North Blue, where are going, exactly?”

 

BWAHAhahaha! Alright, brats. Sengoku sent me here to North Blue in order to go investigate some suspicious activities on Angel Island. Apparently a group of criminals have been raiding islands across the North Blue, but no marine vessel had managed to catch them in the act. Reports have Angel Island in the center of their activities, so it’s most likely where they’re based. There’s also been rumors of Revolutionaries in the area. Nothing really too serious.”

 

“Revolutionaries?” Luffy cocked his head to the side. Sabo sighed and turned to his youngest brother.

 

“I overheard about these guys from my parents. The Revolutionaries. They’re a large group of rebels that have been causing a lot of trouble for the World Government for the past several years. They openly defy the government at every turn, causing uprisings and coup d’états in their wake. A mysterious and powerful man known only as Dragon leads them.”

  

“Dragon?” Luffy’s mouth turned down in a pout. “Like those Celestial Dragons?”

 

“No, Luffy,” corrected Kit good-naturedly. “His name is actually Dragon. He is considered the most wanted man in the world. Like Sabo said, the World Government considered the whole group dangerous, their leader the most evil of them. Some of the things he had done or done in his name aren’t too bad actually.” Kit shrugged. “Anyone who opposes the government, though, will not meet a pleasant fate if they don’t take care.”

 

Something odd gleamed in Ace’s eyes. It came and went in a matter of a second. Sabo narrowed his eyes. Sabo knew his brothers better than anyone, and the conversation about the rebels had made his hot-headed brother too silent. Before Sabo could poke at Ace, the elder brother suddenly nodded off. Unfortunately, Ace was sitting on the railings again.

 

- Kitsune -

 

“Well, I guess you did get to take a dip in the sea,” chortled Kit.

 

He lit a few little flames around the sopping wet noble. Ace’s unexpected swim led to Sabo diving headfirst after him. Luffy wasn’t any help in helping the two back on board. He just hysterically laughed with Grandfather. Kit did the very mature thing and snapped a picture or two with his new camera (Thatch said he lost his other one. Kit thought he saw it in Thatch’s sock drawer during one sneak-in) and then lent a hand with his telekinesis. Shaking his head in mirth at the memory, Kit tossed Sabo’s top hat back to its owner. Ace was sputtering water on the deck, trying to catch his breath. Kit looked down at his younger brother for a moment. I guess I can spare a bit of pity on him. A few more foxfire flames hovered around the cowboy hatted boy. Kit gestured with his hand, and the flames expanded and covered the two boys. In a few minutes, both boys were relatively dried without a single singed hair.

 

“No need for a change of clothes with me around, huh?”

 

“… I’m now saturated with salt,” deadpanned Sabo.

 

“Come on, salty clothing is nearly a requirement of a sailor, shahehehe.” Kit ducked the fist his younger brother half-heartedly thrown at him. “You could ask Ace to help with that.”

 

“I don’t particularly want to become barbeque, thank you very much!”

 

“Hey, it would be good practice on my fire control.”

 

*Smack!*

  

Angel Island

 

- KASL -

 

“How can a place with such an innocent name be so hellish?”

 

Angel Island was considered one of the most dangerous islands in North Blue. Winter had an eternal hold with spring and summer only somewhat warmer than the autumn. No flowers grew, and only the hardiest of plants thrived. The first explorers named the island so after one described how a severe winter frost made him so numb and delirious with fever that he imagined seeing angels amidst the deadly snow.

 

Many people died every year of frostbite, exposure, and a slew of other maladies. But people still came, for the thrill, the challenge, and for the island’s one and most coveted resource: fruit from the snow dew tree. A particularly delicate species on the island, the trees could only exist in a very precise temperature range and bore a fig-like fruit for only one week each year. This fruit made up the pivotal ingredient to many potent drugs and medicine.

 

Of course, all of this information meant little to a certain straw-hatted boy. 

 

Bogard patiently told the four boys about the island, but Luffy simply nodded his head and gleefully said the snow dew figs were a ‘mystery fruit’. Bogard face palmed, but said nothing more on the subject.

 

Garp wanted the boys to test their mettle out on the island, so the boys would accompany the old marine on this mission. Bogard fished around the coastal towns and found out that a group of thugs have hunkered down in some valley to the north of the island. The outlaws even had the audacity to hold the island hostage by threatening the snow dew trees. Not even the nobles of the island had the courage – or arrogance – to risk the precious treasure of the island. These criminals were confident and made no bones to hide their encampment from the villagers. Unfortunately, Angel Island may not be large, but it did sport a very treacherous mountain range ringing around their destination. When Bogard delivered the news, Monkey D. Garp waved off all raised concerns and told the boys to pack warmly.

 

Ice Devils’ Playground

 

What a horrible name for a horrible place, reflected Kit. The mountain range didn’t climb very high, but the snow hid treacherous pitfalls and jagged rocks. Luffy nearly fell a few times when he forgot to activate his Observation haki and plunged through a pile of snow. After narrowly losing Luffy twice this way, Kit opted to transform into his yellow hybrid form in order to snatch Luffy mid-fall. They trudged through the snow for a good hour before Sabo finally came up with the idea to melt a path. Soon enough, Kit and Ace had a muddy but clear path going for three-quarters of the way to the encampment.

  

It took a three days for the group to make their way through the mountains. By the end of it, even Ace began to feel the slow crawl of numbness through his heavy coat. They had just half a day’s walk before they would reach their destination.

 

The Camp

 

- Luffy -

 

Luffy thought he would freeze to death. During the whole trip up and down the mountain, Grandpa would not let up on their training. He had got a bit scarier over the past couple of months. But, at least he wasn’t really trying to kill them. Nope, Grandpa would train them for real, making Ace and Kit carry wood for their fire while on fire. They couldn’t burn the wood, though, or Grandpa would make them go get more. Ace was probably the worse – he made three trips back into the woods once. But, Grandpa made Sabo and Luffy go catch dinner. It was really hard to find anything. These animal were smaller but a lot smarter than the animals on Dawn Island. Good thing Sabo had some idea about how to track and better Observation haki. Luffy still had trouble keeping his activated for a long period of time. Sometimes Grandpa would make Luffy do the hunting alone, though.

 

Luffy couldn’t complain. The crazy chores did help his brothers and him stronger, and Bogard would give them pointers when Grandpa had the boys spar in the evenings. Those were Luffy’s favorite times.

 

Just one more ridge and the boys could see a wide valley nestled within a smaller ring of mountains. When they arrived, the place was in chaos. People were already scrambling around like a bunch of angry ants. Plumes of smoke made the rubber boy break out in a peal of coughs. Kit let out a small growl. Ace had his fist bared in preparation for the trouble spilling over to where there group stood gaping. Grandpa had a wide grin on his face.

 

BWAHAHAHA!” He turned to Bogard. “I guess we’re kind of late. Wonder what brats beat us here, though.” Bogard ignored the arm swung around his shoulders and walked into the fray.

 

Scowly-Face really could be cool like that. Luffy’s eyes shone with stars as the navy soldier skillfully unsheathed his swords and had one of the men knocked about and dazed. He did not once lose that grim frown the whole time. Scowly-Face dragged the guy over to Grandpa and them. He turned to Kit.

 

“Can you get anything from him?”

 

“Hmm.” Big Brother had the scary considering look he got just before he thought of a really good prank. “He’s still conscious … Alright, I think I have an idea, at least. Apparently a half an hour before we arrived, explosions went off everywhere in the camp. No one had an idea who set the bombs. Suddenly, a group of men appeared from the center of the camp with a bundle of important documents in hand. They took out the bigwigs and left the camp only ten minutes ago.”

 

Grandpa had his serious face. “Okay. Bogard I want you take the boys and pursue. I’ll catch up later after I teach these fellows a bit about threatening innocents. Don’t go overboard.”

 

“Isn’t that what we’re supposed to worry about you?” interjected Bogard.

 

Bwahaha. No worries old friend. I will only teach these brats a bit about respect and what happens to stupid kids.”

 

- Ace -

 

Fifteen minutes to running and still no sign of the mysterious attackers. Something flickered in the edge of his perception. Ace dove to the side, an arrow burying itself in the ground where he stood. Ace wasted no time snapping a fist in the direction of where the arrow came from.

 

“Fire Fist!” A shot of red flames shot through the woods. Ace smirked at the answering hiss of pain. He hit someone. A volley of arrows shot through the woods. But Kit was a step ahead.

 

“Air Gel!” All the arrows slowed to a stop, the air around them fuzzy and distorted. “Racing fox flames!” Kit’s outline blurred in a rush of golden fire, and he disappeared in the resulting haze. More curse rang out as the fox managed to dart through the trees and catch several attackers in a flurry of kicks and punches. Not to be outdone by the eldest brother, Ace, Luffy, and Sabo joined in. The attackers’ heavy cloaks and hoods hid their identities, but it was clear that some had devil fruit powers. One really big one somehow deflected Bogard’s flurry of thrusts and swipes. A sudden pulse of the air, and the older man suddenly flew back, crashing into several trees. The display had the four brothers crowding together in a defensive maneuver Marco had pounded into them. But it was a newly come slight figure’s approach that gave the brothers pause. Something was off about him. His aura felt muffled.

 

“Vell, I’ve never expected vis. Why are there brats vere?” asked the larger figure entering the fray from the other side.

 

Ace bristled at the word ‘brat’ but held his ground. Sabo hefted his pipe from defense to offense position. Kit crouched low, a knife curled in each of his seven tails in preparation for throwing. Luffy loosened his limbs into his odd fighting stance. Ace had little doubt that their opponents were still too strong for one 15-year-old, two 13-year-olds, and a 10-year-old. But they will not go without a few serious injuries. Flames arched around his shoulders and arms.

 

“What do we have here? Are you giving my precious grandsons a hard time?”

 

The seven attackers stiffened at the jovial voice. Gramps finally could pull himself away from their original criminals.

 

“There’s no need for violence.” The cool and raspy tone echoed through the forest. Their attackers paused. “Go, leave. Ivan, Kuma, make sure everyone returns to the ship safely. I will deal with them.”

 

The tall man had his face shadowed by his cloak, and not even Ace dared to see who was under it. This man…He commanded those powerful guys, and they left without a protest. The newcomer regarded the pirates and marines, his posture tense and wary.

  

“I hope you do not see fit to try and arrest me.”

 

“Brat,” grouched Gramps, “I don’t see how you’re any of my business. Sengoku only ordered me to take care of those idiots. If a handful of people could cause such mayhem, then I guess they weren’t really my time. Ah, scram brat, before I change my mind.”

 

The cloaked man tilted his head in acknowledgement. A sudden gust of wind sent snow whirling around in a hectic frenzy. For a moment, Ace could see nothing. The snow settled with not a trace of the figure left.

 

- Sabo -

  

The encounter with the cloaked figure made Sabo uneasy the whole trip back to the ship. With the miscreants tied up, the second group of marines from the ship arriving, and a transport ship heading their way, the Crazy Old Geezer could finally leave the island. In gratitude the villagers gave the old man several of their precious snow dew figs. The fruit really did not look like much and took the top hatted boy’s mind off of the events from several days prior. A fig no bigger than the palm of his hand, its skin an odd glacial blue, and textured like velvet, but dozens died each year to harvest about ten to a tree. At dinner that night on the ship, though, and Sabo finally had the courage to ask the Old Geezer the questions bouncing within his skull.

 

“Old Geezer?”

 

“Call me Gramps, Sabo. Do you need a ‘fist of love’?”

 

Ignoring the reprimand, Sabo continued. “How do you know that man in the forest? Who were those people?” Even Luffy paused for a moment to hear Garp’s answer. Garp shrugged his shoulders and shoved another forkful into his mouth.

 

“Those were Revolutionaries. The man I was speaking with was my son, their leader.”

 

“You have a son?” questioned Luffy, his eyes wide. Kit beat Ace to correcting their thick-headed brother with a flick of his finger to the forehead.

 

“Of course. You do have a dad like the rest of us, Luffy.”

 

“I have a dad?” Sabo sweat dropped. That was there brother, alright. Turning away from Luffy, Sabo doggedly kept on his interrogation.

 

“Who is he?”

 

“His name’s Monkey D. Dragon. The Revolutionary.”

 

Sabo’s brain short-circuited. They only met the man for a few minutes, but Sabo could tell that the man was nothing like the D’s at the table. His voice held too much gravity, too much intelligence. Luffy and Garp were this man’s opposite from the get-go. Dragon was known as shrewd, imposing, and calculating. Vice-Admiral Garp had a reputation for boisterousness and lack of restraint. Luffy…enough said. Kit was something of an intermediate, perfectly capable of being just as rowdy as Luffy and the Old Geezer, but retained a gleam of intelligence and shrewdness in his eyes.

 

“So my dad’s a dragon,” stated Luffy with a straight face. *Thump.* Kit smacked his head against the table.

 

“Luffy, we explained this already. His name is Dragon. Err, Grandfather, should you have said this with all your subordinates present?”

 

Sabo nearly forgot the other marines in the galley - whom were gaping with shocked expressions at their superior.

 

“Hm. Good point Kit. Forget what I said.”

 

“WHAT?!!” shouted all the marines.

 

Kit ran a frustrated clawed hand through his hair. The fox must be really stressed to lose control of his shape shifting like that.

 

“Have about this? You all will conveniently forget or block today’s memory, or I will personally do so for you. I might not even bother with a foxfire spell,” simpered Kit with a cruel smirk. Ace enunciated his point with a raised open hand that caught afire. Sabo squinted his eyes in suspicion. Neither boy looked particularly shocked at the revelation.

 

“Did you guys already know this?” accused Sabo. All he got was shrug of the shoulders.

 

“Eh, not that important really, and there was never a good time to tell you.”

 

“No one in this family is normal, is there?”

 

“Nope, shahehehehe.

 

“… Pass the salt, please.”

Chapter Text


Chapter XXVII: The Deal P5 – Pirates Are Forever 


“Speech”

Thoughts or emphasis or scenery changes or significant time gaps

*noises* (except laughter)

*actions*

‘Telepathy’ (Only for the telepath’s voice)

/ Flashback or brief summaries of events /

 

The Red Line (New World Side)

 

- Thatch -

 

Today was the day the brats return to ship. May 5th. Children’s Day. Also known as Luffy’s birthday. And if Garp was a day off, the chef would personally try to stab the old marine – even if that would probably cost him his life. The chef had his staff working all morning in preparation for their youngest brother’s birthday and the celebration of their four brothers’ return.

 

Thatch could say without a doubt that Marco probably fared the worst during the six months absence. Didn’t help when the boys kept trying (and failing) to hide some of their ‘adventures’ from them. Let it not be said that the first division commander was a total mother hen (he would kick you to Davey Jones’ Locker elsewise). The flaming turkey even had the forethought to sweep through the kitchen just as Thatch finished his homage to the phoenix – which Marco cheerfully tossed into the sea just an hour ago. What a waste. Thatch just got the piñata’s hairstyle just right

 

Thatch leaned dolefully on the railings. Still nothing in sight of the Red Line where Garp promised to meet the crew. *Sigh.*

 

‘What’s with the sighs? Did Pineapple Head not like this piñata or something?’

 

Thatch started and nearly drew his sword until the voice finally registered. Overhead, he could hear the watchmen yelp in surprise at the marine ship that suddenly appeared just to their left side. Standing just in front of the fourth division commander smirking black fox, his jaws gently fastened to an intact –and dry! – Piñata. The fox laid the paper-mache bird on the deck and grinned.

 

‘Wonder when you would notice. I swear I stood here for nearly ten minutes. I thought I could work on my invisibility powers by cloaking Grandfather’s ship just before it surfaced. Then the ship pull up next to the Moby Dick about an hour ago. Thought it might be a riot if I snuck up on someone first and my brothers agreed. Speaking of which-’ Thatch suddenly heard splashing and screaming. ‘I think Luffy managed to tackle Marco into the sea, Sabo just appeared next to Namur and dove in after them, and Ace decided to spook Rakuyo. Good to be home, huh?’ Thatch laughed jovially and snagged the lean teen into a hug.

 

Later that Night

 

- Kitsune -

  

“Happy 11th Birthday, Luffy!”

 

The birthday cake was bigger than Pops. It was red, orange, blue, and silver with gold coin-shaped cookies scattered around and on it. The mark of Whitebeard sat proudly on the very top. Luffy literally turned himself into a balloon and blew out every candle (and almost the cake itself, it pays to have telekinesis).

 

The whole family, every ally and friend the boys made in the past few years, came to celebrate the return of the KASL brothers. Booze flowed. Marco kept a stern eye on the four boys, though, since drunk fire-starters on top of three boys still under Marco’s self-imposed drinking age (fifteen) was not a good idea. Kit didn’t much like grog of any kind, anyways. The stuff made his powers go erratic the one time he tasted some. Even the small cup of sake he had in private with his brothers under the radar usually had him flickering in and out of sight. His metabolism otherwise purged the alcohol within minutes.

 

It was still funny to see grown men stumble around, make fools of themselves, and otherwise make some the funniest jokes in their lives. The fox let several will-o-wisp flames hover around the worse cases that leaned a bit too heavily against the railings. Marco threw a bun at his head the last time he made some of the crew on deck haplessly follow his fires around in circles. So the fox regulated himself to “keep the fools from falling of the ship if you can” duty.

 

Tired of watching his drunken family on this side of the ship, Kit sauntered over to the main deck where Luffy was regaling the commanders with tales of their adventures at sea.

 

“You should have seen how scary those Revolutionaries were!”

 

Uh-oh. Kit quickened his pace and appeared to Luffy’s side. He signaled to Sabo and Ace to get over here.

 

“-the big guy made Bogard fly straight through the trees! I thought we were done for.”

  

Mama Pineapple’s scowl deepened. I guess we forgot to mention that part. “It that so? And where was Garp at this time - yoi?”

 

“Beating up all those crooks at the camp. There must have been a hundred men! I wish we could have beaten them up like Grandpa originally planned, but fighting those strong guys was fun. Then my dad showed and ordered them away. He must be really strong, shishishi!

 

“…Dad - yoi?”

 

“Yeah. Kit and Sabo called him one of the most dangerous men in the world. Don’t know what looks like, he wore this green cloak the whole time. Kit said he’s not a flying lizard or one of those mean Celestial Dragons, though.”

 

“…”

  

“Oh, brother,” sighed Kit. Next to him, Sabo covered his eyes, and Ace looked like he was going to give Luffy one of those ‘are you an idiot or something’ smacks. “Ace, remember that today is Luffy’s birthday. So unless you’re wishing him well, do not go hitting him. Marco, Thatch, everyone, need a translator (I really rather not)? Luffy means to say that his dad is the leader of the Revolutionaries – Dragon, Monkey D. Dragon.”

 

Even the most drunken pirate in hearing range stopped chugging their drink. Everyone just gaped at their youngest brother. As predicted, Thatch was the one to break the silence.

 

“Always knew there must be something special about Luffy’s family. With Garp as his grandpa, it’s not that hard to imagine his old man is the most wanted criminal in the world. Nothing less for the future pirate king, eh?” joked Thatch. The rest of the crew dissolved in peals of laughter. In the end, they all were the children of the world’s most wanted men.

Chapter Text


Chapter XXVIII: Independence


A/N: I decided to cut out a few chapters to rework in a sequel. Others will be merged together. Basically, after this one, we have one more and the epilogue/sneak peek. Read, comment, and bookmark. Thank you from the depths of my creativity for your support.

 

“Speech”

Thoughts or emphasis or scenery changes or significant time gaps

*noises* (except laughter)

*actions*

‘Telepathy’ (Only for the telepath’s voice)

/ Flashback or brief summaries of events /

  

Kitsune’s 17th Birthday

The Moby Dick

 

- Kitsune -

 

Why do these guys have to crawl from the woodwork on days like today, mused the young pirate. Several strands of long yellow hair floated into his face. Kit swiped at the stray hairs, missing the comforting weight of his cap. Ace still nursed bruises for burning the fox’s baseball cap after the former misfired a fireball at the beloved cap. Apparently, Kit couldn’t trust his pyromaniac of a brother not to set his stuff on fire when he needed to groom his fur. Ah, but if Ace’s gift was nice enough, maybe Kit would stop pranking the raven. Today was a special occasion - today, Kit would turn 17; a magical number to his brothers. They all swore to go on their own adventures on their 17th birthdays.

 

The sound of gunfire drew the fox back into reality. With a Cheshire grin, Kit juggled several large fireballs and tossed them with a negligent wave of his tails. A scream and several sprays of red blood. Some of those flames may have some of his specially made daggers as an accompaniment.

 

“Good job as always – yoi,” complimented Marco, the phoenix landing just beside the lounging Kit. Kit gave a lazy-eyed grin full of sharp needle teeth.

 

“Eh, nothing but rookies. Second Division probably could have handled it without my help.”

 

“But, you single-handedly defeated their captain, someone with a bounty over one hundred million berries.”

 

“Not that I’ll let that get out quite yet.” Kit’s grin became feral. “Ace is set to stay here, but Luffy has plans outside this crew. And Sabo…he still needs to make up his mind. Me, I don’t know. So for now, I’ll just make some memory adjustments as needed. Luckily, the practice had made that particular spell a bit easier to use on this many people.”

 

“Kid, did I ever tell you how scary an enemy you would make?”

 

“Probably. I hear it a lot from friend and foe alike. To know a kitsune is to earn either a great and loyal friend or an even greater demon of a foe. Shahehehe!

 

Without further fanfare, Kit straightened from the deck railings and leapt into the air. The first division commander shook his head wryly before following suit, golden talons snagging the flamboyant idiot from the sky as he fell toward the sea.

 

Kit enjoyed the oddest of foods. His birthday cake? A perfect example. Thatch made a whole bunch of smaller cakes for Kit’s 17th birthday. Kit’s portion was separate from the rest since he enjoyed an extremely spicy pepper-laced frosting on his carrot cake. Kit could still remember the one time he baked in the kitchens and offered Thatch an innocent-looking red velvet cake. It still brought a tear and a laugh when the fox remembered how red Thatch’s face got. Then he offered some pieces to the rest of the crew, including his brothers. Luffy literally turned himself into a water balloon, Ace breathed fire, and Sabo dunk his entire head in a barrel of water. Safe to say, Thatch would never again let Kit cook in the kitchen unsupervised. He thought the cake tasted fine, honest.

 

So Kit stuffed his cheeks with the spicy cake while his family ate the more traditional vanilla, chocolate, velvet, sponge, carrot, lemon, and ice cream cakes. More for him.

 

When it came time to open presents, the first one to catch his eye was red box. It was a modest one, somewhat bigger than a shoebox. But his nose picked up the hint of satin and gold. He snatched the box from the pile and lit it on fire, carefully burning away only the wrappings and box. In his hand sat a beautifully made grey beret. The soft satin of the fabric made his palm tingle. On the left side was a medallion of gold with an embossed blue fox, its head tilted and silver eyes gleaming. Kit’s smile nearly swallowed his face. He gently placed the beret at an angle, facing the right. With his shoulder-length black hair and blonde framing strands, the beret made quite an impression.

 

“Think it’s enough to keep you from making my life hell, brother?” shouted a certain pyromaniac.

 

“Mmm, maybe yes, maybe no. I’ll have think about it. Until then, keep one eye open, Ace.” The sudden loss of color from the fire user had the fox chuckling. The rest of the crew joined in the laughter. ‘Just kidding, geesh, what am I? A no good-for-nothing pirate? Because I assure you that I’m one of the best pirates out there.’

 

Sabo got the fox a new set of black-coated knives (he had lost too many this last battle), Luffy found a neat white scarf for the fox to wear and hide his neck scars (don’t ask – the perpetrators currently found a new home with Davy Jones), Marco bought him a telescope, Izo made him a new grey coat, and Thatch presented the trickster a new camera. All in all, a good birthday. As the night wore on, Marco informed the fox that Pops wanted to see him for a bit in his room. Puzzled, the fox strolled to the familiar oak doors of his father’s room.

 

“Is there something you need, Pops?” asked the fox after Whitebeard invited him into the room. The old pirate sat at his desk in the far corner of the room.

 

“No, no. Just a few questions. Kit, you have been with our family for five years now. In all that time, we have yet to replace the second division commander. Tonight, I hope to fix that problem.”

 

“Hm?”

 

“Kit, will you do me the honor of accepting the position of commander over the second division?”

 

“…” Kit was both flattered and flabbergasted. “Why me?” he finally blurted out. “I can name dozens of other crew mates with better qualifications. I’m only seventeen and have sailed on this ship for a mere five years. So many others have more experience leading. I-”

 

“But you have more than proven your mettle, Kitsune. Just today, you brought down a Super Rookie. I have watched you grow from that sarcastic 12-year-old boy that we just rescued from the sea to a proud, intelligent, and kind-hearted young man.”

 

“Kind-hearted?” squawked the fox incredulously. “But I have acted as a pirate should. I have tormented my share of idiots and slain others.”

 

“You have never killed without reason. You have killed very few people compared to a great many of your brothers, actually, and never without a cool head. You do not torture people, Kit, you haven’t the heart to take it that far. You give only what someone deserves and even not that far – and never beyond a certain line. You have more honor than you think. That’s why I want you to lead the second division. You have the makings of a fine leader. You may have as much time as you need to consider my offer.”

 

Kit slouched against the railings of the crow’s nest. Overhead, a bright silver sliver of the moon peered down on him.

 

“So Pops sprang the decision on you - yoi?”

 

The phoenix strode over to lean on the rails on Kit’s right side.

 

“Have you decided yet?”

 

The fox spared the first division commander a deadpan look. “No. I do not know what to think.”

 

“What is there to consider?” said Marco in a neutral tone. Kit scoffed all the same.

 

“Honestly? The promotion would be incredible. I already lead the second division into battle half the time. Otherwise, Sabo and Ace do it. I know I’m young – really young compared to old salts like Pops and you.” Kit’s white ears tucked down in a sign of distress.

 

“Hey, I’m not that old – yoi!”

 

A small smile replaced the frown. 

 

“Oh? How old? You never give a straight answer when any of us ask.”

 

“A question for another day - yoi. What’s bothering you?”

 

Kit scowled at the moon.

 

“Nothing. Everything. And anything. I don’t really know. Call it intuition, instinct, or just a feeling. Maybe I’m not cut out to lead.”

 

“Kit, you lead the second division well, as you mentioned just a minute ago.”

 

“Not as well as Sabo and Ace.”

 

“You can be as shrewd as Sabo and as bull-headed and strong as Ace when you put your mind to it, Kit.”

 

“… Sometimes, it feels like life on the Moby Dick is not…quite right for me. Not that I don’t like having this family of ours or dislike the ship or anything. I just get a sense of restlessness at times. I feel like there’s something more for me out there.”

 

“At the end of the day, kid, you should trust your instincts and make the decision that leaves you without regrets. We’ll back whatever choice you make. That is what family does – yoi.”

 

Kit stared at the sky absentmindedly for the remainder of the night, and Marco opted to keep him company.

 

Morning

 

“You sure, my son?”

 

“Positive, Pops. Life here on the Moby Dick has been everything I’ve ever wanted – everything I’ve ever needed. But, I need to experience life outside the family. The Grand Line has hundreds of islands I have yet to explore on either side of the Red Line, not to mention the four Blues. Thank you guys for everything.”

 

Kit had everything packed into the small boat. If all else failed, Kit could fire the small engine that powered the paddles. On the deck, his brothers stood to wave good bye.

 

“KIT! Don’t forget to eat and bring back some awesome stories like Shanks!”

 

“Safe travels, Kit. Remember to keep an eye out for marines and the Crazy Old Geezer!”

 

“Yeah, don’t die on us. You’d better come and visit. If you ever need us, I’ll be sure to come and burn any idiot that makes trouble for you.”

 

“Take care, kid. Show those rookies out there the strength of a son of Whitebeard!”

 

“Don’t forget to keep us updated via transponder snail.”

 

“Yes Mama Pineapple,” responded Kit with an eye roll. He gave a wicked smile for his large family. “Good bye everyone! I’ll come home with a thousand and one stories!”

 

Kit hopped from the deck to ship, flames lacing his body. A sudden gust swept his long bangs to the side, revealing the concealed tattoo beneath. The proud jolly roger of Pops smiled, blue with a black outline on his left temple. Kit fixed his beret and twisted around to wave a final good bye. A puff of sapphire and amethyst smoke cloaked the entire ship. An enormous fox threw its head back and howled, the wind suddenly picking up and catching in the vessel’s sails.

 

When the ship was but a speck on the horizon, Whitebeard gave a great laugh, tears spilling out from his eye.

 

“Good luck, my son. You will always have a place here. You are a true child of the sea. Return home, safely.”

Chapter Text


Chapter XXIX: Decisions 


“Speech”

Thoughts or emphasis or scenery changes or significant time gaps

*noises* (except laughter)

*actions*

‘Telepathy’ (Only for the telepath’s voice)

/ Flashback or brief summaries of events /

 

The Moby Dick

 

- KASL -

 

“Happy birthday, Ace! Your first birthday, well, on your actual birth date, huh? I’m so proud of you little brother!” Kitsune tried to glomp onto his surly-faced younger brother who shoved a hand in defense.

 

Kitsune gave Ace a pout. “Where’s the brotherly affection?”

 

“This is supposed to be my birthday, fur-face,” retorted Ace. The sinewy 17-year-old tossed his cowboy hat back on his head with a growl. “And who are you calling little? I’m taller than you!”

 

Two years have passed since Kitsune has begun his journey across the seas. As promised, he periodically dropped in on his family.

 

The fox had developed quite a reputation on the sea. Few ever saw Kitsune’s face, much less his distinctive tattoo, but the rumor mill on the seas had quite the database. Didn’t help that Kitsune often had the urge to burn down a marine ship – periodically. And anyone he caught insulting his old man often found themselves in very compromising positions later in their lives – the next day, the next week; it didn’t matter when only that they would face retribution sooner or later. Sometimes Kit scared himself. The World Government’s lack of evidence or even a sketch made them quite put out with him; he was the phantom flitting here and there across the sea, no rhyme or reason to his appearances.

 

And Kitsune was not alone in his infamy. Ace has taken the New World by storm during the two years, gaining prominence as a Whitebeard pirate, the Jolly Roger showing proudly on his bare torso (and Kit had a laugh since Ace had been developing a dislike for shirts during his last year on the Moby Dick). ‘Fire-Fist’ Ace had a bounty climbing to 350 million berries according to the latest papers! His other brothers had not taken the limelight, which surprised Kitsune somewhat; in the back corner of his mind, Kit suspected Marco to blame for it.

 

“So how are my favorite pirates?” inquired Kitsune, signature smirk on his face.

 

“Good – yoi. Things have been a bit quieter since you’ve left although Ace and Sabo seem determine to pick up the slack; they turned Thatch into walking soap suds just last week.” Marco looked the same as always, his phoenix powers giving him an eternal air.

 

“And they regretted it since then, right boys?” sweetly sang a familiar voice. Ace and Sabo noticeably paled, but Luffy just kept laughing in his seat.

 

“So,” continued Thatch, “what have you gotten yourself into? I’ve been hearing in the news about a slew of crimes across all the oceans with nary a clue to the perpetrator. The press has been taken to calling this guy the ‘Demon Shadow’.”

 

“Not very creative are they?” quipped Kitsune. “I mean, ‘Demon Shadow’? That hardly sounds better than the title, ‘Devil Child’. Speaking of which, she most certainly a cold one. 

 

“Devil Child?” questioned Luffy with a head tilt. Kitsune turned to his youngest brother, a smile crooked in anticipation of his favorite part of his adventures: storytelling.

 

“The ‘Devil Child’ Nico Robin. She’s a wanted woman at 80 million berries. And at age 8, too! Such a crime to pin a bounty, much less 80 million, on a child. She lost her home because the World Government wanted certain secrets to stay hidden.”

 

“You mean the Ohara Incident,” stated Thatch, face sobering.

 

“Uh-huh,” said the fox with a sigh. “Stupid World Government. Always controlling the flow of information to the general public. Anyways, I ran into her in the Grand Line. She was hiding with some big name pirates of the Paradise side of things – not exactly impressive, though. I believe she ‘ditched’ them as per protocol.”

 

“Ditched them?”

 

“Ah, yes, my dearest Luffy. Nico Robin cannot trust anyone. The World Government wants her dead since yesterday. Such a life had probably worn away all but a sliver of trust. I really doubt that anyone who learns this will ever take willingly take her into their crew as a true crew mate.”

 

Luffy wore his rare serious face, lips downturned and eyes intent. Suddenly, Luffy pounded a fist into his other hand. “I’ve decided. I will find her and make her my nakama!”

 

Sabo looked at Luffy incredulously. Ace looked like he was torn between patting his brother in pride and throttling him for his naiveté. Kitsune regarded the young D with a shrewd look. Then he gave a wide grin.

 

“I expect nothing less from the future king of the pirates.”

 

Thatch and Marco exchanged an odd look, then chortled. Luffy was probably their most special of brothers. He had the innocence of a child, but the heart of a true pirate.

 

“Enough of that. Anyone want to hear a really big adventure I had recently?”

 

“Oh?” said Thatch, crowding in closer. More commanders had come to listen to Kit as he regaled them with his tales.

 

“This one took place about a month and a half ago. You remember Angel Island?”

 

“Wasn’t that the island you boys visited with Garp a few years back?” asked Jozu.

 

“Yep. I went back and help a few new friends liberate it. All under smokescreen, of course.”

 

“Liberate it?” Marco started to look a bit heated, literally. Flames began to dance around his shoulders. Ace had a rather pinched look, and Sabo wore his ‘what has he done now?’ face.

 

“Well, I ran into the Revolutionaries about two weeks prior to the whole Rebel Angel Coup. I was approached by some members of the group. Apparently they know my dad – my dad by blood. They had it on good intelligence that I might be interested in helping. I thought I had nothing better to do and stay with them until they executed their plan. As a whole, the group is pretty cool.” Sabo had begun to lean in closer as Kit outlined the actions, plans, and motives of the Revolutionaries.

 

“Basically, the Revolutionaries desire freedom of choice, an escape from the corruption that the World Government allows to fester through the world. They believe that no child should bear the weight of their parents’ sins, that slavery should not be overlooked, and that the kingdoms of the world submit themselves to a more peaceful and kinder regime.”

 

“Wow,” finally whispered Sabo. “A chance for freedom for everyone, whether noble or peasant, whether child of the Celestial Dragons or child of a pirate. A world without slavery.” Something grew in Sabo’s mind, a niggling sense of rightness when Kitsune spoke of the Revolutionaries’ ideology.

 

“Exactly Sabo.”

 

“It’s a daring dream,” remarked Thatch. “I wouldn’t mind seeing the Celestial Dragons downed a peg or eight.”

 

Marco nodded his head in acknowledgment. “What a world would that be – yoi?”

 

“A different world under the sun,” submitted Sabo.

 

“Enough hard thinking. Let’s let the rum flow!” cheered Thatch.

 

Later that night

- Ace -

 

/ Everyone had either turned in to bed, slumped over in drunken exhaustion, or was still celebrating. Pops had called Ace into his office during the wee hours of the night.

 

“You call, Pops?” inquired one of the youngest members of the crew.

 

“Yes, Ace. Sit down. I want to ask you the same question I ask Kitsune those years ago.”

 

“Eh? What question?”

 

“Ace, you have sailed under my flag for seven years. You’re family. I wish for you, my son, to take on a position of leadership.”

 

“You don’t mean…”

 

“The second division is long overdue for a commander. I know that under your leadership, the division will only improve.”

 

“Pops…you shouldn’t have such faith in me.”

 

“Will you consider my offer?”

 

“Just…just give me a week.” /

 

“And so, that’s why you wanted to chat with me on this little deserted island several miles from the ship?” Ace nodded his head, his legs crossed Indian-style and his arms clasped behind his head. He leaned back against the palm tree.

 

“Yeah. What do you think, Kit?”

 

“I think you are more than capable of leading a crew of your own if you ever had the inkling to do so,” neutrally responded Kitsune. “Honestly? I would ask you why not?”

 

Ace stayed silent for a minute. “It’s complicated.”

 

“Brother, I know you, everything about you. What’s the problem?” interrogated Kit a little more closely.

 

“Ace. Ace, look at me directly.” Ace had turned his head to the sea, his gaze pensive and his thoughts whirling. Who am I kidding? Do I really deserve a family like this? Me, the child of…HIM.

 

“You’re thinking about Roger, aren’t you? Don’t glare at me. I am your older brother. I recognize that look anywhere. You are NOT defined by your blood, Ace. Remember what Marco said those years ago? I think your best bet is to talk it out with Pops. You and I both know that Pops only speaks in humor and indignation when he told us stories about Gol D. Roger. And do not forget Pops’ motto: we are all children of the sea.”

 

After a few days, Ace followed his older brother’s advice. The reception of his parentage was lackluster; Pops really didn’t care who his blood father was; to him, Ace was his son, a very dear son. Ace accepted the position of commander over the second division. The next roll of bounty saw Ace’s bounty increase to 450 million berries.

 

The Next week

 

- Sabo -

 

“You want me to do what now?” Kitsune had grudgingly uncurled from his napping spot on the main deck to accompany Sabo below deck.

 

“I want you to take me to the Revolutionaries when you leave after my birthday.”

 

“You know I’m not leaving for over two months this time. So why ask now? And when have you been this interested in the Revolutionaries?”

 

“I-I made a decision.”

 

“Oh?” Kitsune quirked his head to the side, his face set in careful blankness.

 

“I’ve… I’ve decided to join them!”

 

“What? Does anyone else know of this major life decision you’ve just suddenly made?”

 

“It’s not sudden, Kit. Ever since we first met them on Angel Island, they have not really left my conscious. Learning about them from rumor and news story is one thing but meeting them and witnessing their activities is another thing.”

 

“True,” murmured the fox. The top hat wearer took another deep breath.

 

“I will not change my mind these next months. I have every intention to tell everyone, unlike some people.” 

 

“I’ve always been a man of instinct then intellect, dearest Sabo,” patronized the eldest D. “That has hardly changed since we were younger. I believe you, you know. I have not a doubt that you will thrive amid the Revolutionaries. Hmm. I think I can help you with finding some Revolutionaries. Better yet, I know where they are based at. Be yourself, and you, my noble brother, will be a full-fledged and official-like rebel in the public’s eye like Ace.”

 

Day before Sabo’s 17th Birthday

 

- Luffy -

 

The straw hatted teen leaned against the railings disconsolately. Ace had earned an even higher bounty and led his own division like Mama Pineapple, Sabo would leave the ship and join the Revolutionaries, and Kit had another adventure awaiting him. Suddenly his straw hat flipped onto his face.

 

“Why so sad, baby brother?” asked Kit with a frown. Luffy had been acting a bit off all week.

 

“I’m not a baby!”

 

“Sure, sure, little brother.”

 

“Quit it, or I’ll-”

 

“If you can’t back your threats,” taunted the fox, hopping on the rail in front of Luffy, “then don’t answer without at least a witty comeback. So why so glum?”

 

“…” Tears dripped from the corner of Luffy’s owl-like eyes. “I-I-I’m not upset! I’m not c-cr-crying!”

 

Worried, Kit looped an arm around Luffy. “Shhh, shhhh. Tell me what’s wrong.”

 

Luffy cried into Kit’s shoulder for five minutes. Sniffling back his tears, Luffy answered, “I’m being left behind.”

 

“What?”

 

“You are going on adventures already, Ace is a commander like Thatch and Marco, and Sabo will be joining the Revolutionaries. And I’m still stuck here for three years.”

 

“So what? Three years on Pops’ ship will earn you more experience than the rest of us. Patience, brother. These years are a part of our dreams. Yours will be even bigger. Someday, you will conquer the Grand Line, find One Piece, and become the king of the pirates. You honestly have a huge advantage over me.”

 

“What do you mean? You already have sailed to so many places.”

 

“But that does equate to a dream. Adventure and the sea call to me. I have way too much independence and wanderlust to sail under Pops’ flag, but I still have not a clue what my dream is. Luffy, why do you want to be the king, anyways? I hear you say that all the time, but I don’t think I’ve yet to capture the essence of what you mean.”

  

“…”

 

“I’ve lost you again.” Kit had that look on his face that said ‘oh, brother’. “Please tell me again about your dream, Luffy.”

 

Oh. That made more sense.

 

“Well, I want to be the pirate king, so I could have the most freedom on the sea. Because the pirate king has the most freedom.”

 

“Freedom?” mused Kit. “Freedom to what? The title of ‘pirate king’ seems like a lot of responsibility to me. Marines would chase you, every pirate out there would challenge you, seems a bit constrictive.”

 

“No. That’s not it at all.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“To be pirate king…it means to have the ability to travel anywhere because you’ve braved the greatest of seas. The pirate king answers to no one because the title means that he had done the impossible, and everyone will acknowledge that. Most of all, to be the Pirate King is to have the power to protect everyone and to go everywhere.”

  

“Luffy, I really can see you leading a ship. I think many people outside of our family will mock you, jeer, and denounce you for your dream, but I believe in it. Luffy…I don’t really have a dream of my own, but I do think I have an idea of what I will do next. In three years, Luffy, you plan to set sail from where this all began: Dawn Island. I want to be at your side, little brother. Not because I don’t believe in you, but because I do. I have seen so many places these two years, but I have done so largely on my own. If you will have me, I will await you in East Blue when the time comes.”

 

Kit stared intently at Luffy. Luffy couldn’t keep a straight face, Kit looked so serious!

 

Shishishishi! Of course, Kit. If you want to join, then sure! I’ll show you Big Brother that I will be the greatest pirate and best captain out there! And you can be my…jester!”

 

“We’ll work on that.” Kit reached out to ruffle Luffy’s messy black hair. “See you in East Blue, my captain.”

Chapter Text


Chapter XXX: Epilogue 


“Speech”

Thoughts or emphasis or scenery changes or significant time gaps

*noises* (except laughter)

*actions*

‘Telepathy’ (Only for the telepath’s voice)

/ Flashback or brief summaries of events /

  

East Blue

 

- Kitsune -

 

/ The blue and gold flames of Marco as he soared into the sky…Thatch chasing four young boys onto the deck...A large man towering over everyone else, a mug in one hand, a bisento in the other, and a great laugh rumbling around to encompass all his children…The smiling faces of a black haired teen with muscles just developing, the formal stance of a blonde, and the sight of a gangly raven hanging upside-down from the mast... “See you in East Blue, my captain.” /

 

The young man smiled in his sleep. The bright sun shone overhead. He stretched his arms above his head, sweeping long band from his face. Three years since Kit last visited his family. He called every week like clockwork, but the fox didn’t feel any reason to return. Not when he had a goal, if not the beginning of a dream, coming together. Kitsune had stayed under the radar of the World Government, stealthily sneaking onto marine vessels when the mood suited and when he wanted some more concrete information on current events. The fox had never lagged in his training. He traveled to from the quietest corners of the seas to the roughest patches of ocean in the four Blues. And not once had his final words to Luffy ever completely left his mind.

 

Luffy’s birthday was today. And that means somewhere on this stretch of ocean, Kit would meet his brother.

 

A/N: Thank you all, my loyal readers, for bookmarking, commenting, and kudoing, and even so much as reading this story. I will love to hear your input for the sequel. I have ten chapters published on Fanfiction.net, and I'll publish here, too, shortly.

All of your support had really pushed me to finish this story, so thank you sincerely for fueling my creative energies. Thanks, once more. Bibliophile030 signing out.