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Seeking a Dream

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East Blue, Dawn Island

 

- Kitsune -

 

A lone boat drifts across the sea. Lounging on the roof of the small cabin, a young man stares across the wide landscape of sea. One could almost mistake him for a young teenager. He stands at about 5 feet, 2 inches. The wind rustles messy side-swept blonde bangs and threatens to knock off the boy’s grey beret. The rest of his hair gleams black and hangs bound in loose tail at the neck. The tattoo of a mustached Jolly Roger grins on his left temple as the bangs part. Stretching his sinewy frame, wicked silver-blue eyes twinkle.

 

“Someday is today. Three years across the Blues and the Grand Line. Wonder how you’ve grown, baby brother?”

 

The young man gracefully leaps and lands to the deck below. He leans over to snatch a dark grey coat he discarded earlier; the bright blue tee disappears from view as the young man fastens the silver buttons to the waist where the coat billows out. The remainder of his outfit is simple: black trousers and soft black moccasin boots buckled to mid-calf with golden beadwork along the straps. The hilt of a kodachi peeked from under the coat.

 

On the horizon, a black dot marks an island. The young man smiles a white, sharp-toothed smirk.

 

Makino’s Party Bar

 

“Hey, Makino.”

 

The young, green-haired woman managing the bar starts at the sudden appearance of a young bereted man at her elbow. She blinks in sudden comprehension after taking in his distinct hair color, eyes, and familiar grin.

 

“Kitsune?”

 

“At your service, Makino,” greets Kitsune with a bow. “Have you’ve seen my brother Luffy? He said he would be setting off here, but I have yet to sense his presence.”

 

“Luffy? Oh, you just missed him. He set off on his own just an hour ago.” 

 

“…”

 

Kitsune groans, scrubs a hand down his face, and perches himself on a stool.

 

“Why am I not surprise? Luffy probably couldn’t wait to start on his adventure after three years,” he grumbles. He sweeps his beret off and sketches another bow. “Thank you Makino for the information. By you any chance know where he went?”

 

Makino laughs at the disgruntled young man whom she once knew as the boy that would snipe at the antics of his youngest brother. “He took a small boat and headed east, but I’m not sure which island he is heading towards.”

 

“I doubt Luffy knows himself. At least I’m a decent enough navigator to steer my captain in the right direction. Luffy…No matter how many times Haruta, Marco, or even Sabo tried to teach him, Luffy would only give us that cheeky grin and laugh without an ounce of comprehension. Then he would steer our practice vessel into a reef and say sailing is a mystery. I think I can manage if he is only an hour out. Thank you, Makino, for the directions and also for the care and kindness you have shown to my brothers and me during our childhood.”

 

Makino blushes at the young man’s next grin. The smile does not hold any of his usual cockiness or shrewdness. It is genuine; the smile gleams with mischief and joy. The boy pays for a quick meal to go before leaving. Makino closes up the bar and watches as another young man of their island leave. Just as the boat shoves off, several people rush from the forest. Apparently their childhood caretakers were lingering long after Luffy left the island.

 

Kitsune laughs as he waves good bye to Makino and the Dadan Family. He can still hear Dadan yelling at him to not get Luffy or himself killed or drowned, as the island shrinks to a silhouette.

 

One hour later

 

How do whirlpools form in the middle of the ocean? And why didn’t Luffy notice SOONER?! Kitsune had just caught sight of Luffy. He yelled in joy and surprise, catching the attention of the young pirate in a rowboat. Then the yells became frantic. Kitsune tried to speed his boat closer with a bit of telekinesis, to no avail. Luffy finally did notice the GIANT swirling vortex of death, but not until he was well and truly caught in the current. The last Kitsune saw of his youngest brother, the idiot went and sealed himself into a barrel of all things. Kitsune had to look away for his own ship began to pull toward the vortex.

 

Kitsune barely escaped unscathed. The whirlpool caught a hold of his ship, but Kitsune’s abilities kept his ship on the outermost currents. But, it still took more than an hour for him to finally pull himself free.

 

Tired, but more concerned, Kitsune scans the area for his brother; he senses a large mass of presences some ways away. Before he could direct his scan to a different direction, his Observation haki picks up the faint traces of his brother’s distinctive energy just around the same group of presences. Great. That hostility and greed and crudeness screams ‘pirate’. You couldn’t just wait for me like I asked of you, could you? And you forgot to pack a transponder snail, too.

 

Hideout of the Alvida Pirates

 

-Luffy -

 

Voices rouse the young pirate king-to-be.

 

“That was a great nap!” yawns Luffy, bursting through the barrel. “All that spinning must have lulled me to sleep. At least I survived. Eh, what’s with those faces, guys?”

 

Several pairs of eyes gape at Luffy.

 

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?! AND WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN A BAR-”

 

“BACK TO WORK YOU LAZY ASSES!” A flying club accompanies the shout, but before it could slam into the cabin, Luffy had already dashed out the cabin and flung a blackened fist out, slamming club back in the direction it flew. A distant shout could be heard.

 

“What a wake-up call!” laughs Luffy. He turns to the once more gaping men that rushed out of the cabin. “So, I’m Monkey D. Luffy, future king of the pirates!” Luffy spreads out his arms to emphasize the last.

 

“Kid,” sputters one of the men who finally recovers from his awe, “I don’t know the hell you are, but I doubt you’re anyone important. Pirate king? Ridiculous.”

 

“Yeah, some scrawny kid like you could never make it as a regular pirate, never mind a pirate captain or, to even imagine, the pirate king.” The man draws his sword. “I don’t know how you did that, but you’ll be sorry. You’re not even worth Lady Alvida’s time.”

 

“I hope you don’t have any kind of ill intentions towards my little brother,” nonchalantly calls out a voice. All five heads turn. A figure leans against a tree in a familiar and lazy slouch, but there is an air of danger and about the man. A grey beret sits with the small bill overshadowing the face.

 

“Kit?” The figure tilts his beret to the right, revealing silver-blue eyes and a Cheshire smile.

 

“Did I not make it clear that you should wait for me at Dawn Island?”

 

“Awww, but Kit, you took too long. And I thought you said to meet somewhere near Dawn Island.”

 

“I said near Foosha Village.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Hey!” Luffy narrows his eyes. The three funny-looking men are scowling and brandishing their weapons.

 

“What?” asks Kit in a dangerously soft tone.

 

“You two are intruders! Lady Alvida will not be pleased with a bunch of kids finding our base. Do you know who we are?” sneers the blonde-haired man. “We are pirates, members of the infamous Alvida Pirates. You kids better not give us trouble or-”

 

“Seriously?” remarks Kit. His voice had the all too familiar note usually preceding a beating from the older boy whenever his younger brothers acted up. “I think it is you who should not give us trouble.” Kit grins. “In fact, why don’t you give me a hand, Luffy? I don’t think these fine pirates will give us much of a fight, but I do not appreciate their civility.”

 

Luffy chuckles. Before three pirates knew it, the brothers were on them. Luffy smacks one right through the cabin. Kit clucks his tongue at Luffy. At his feet laid the other two, large bumps rising on their heads.

 

Shishishishi! Sorry, Kit. I guess I over did it.” Kit came over and knocked Luffy on his head, the quick hardening of his fist emphasizing his point.

 

“Honestly, hasn’t Marco, Uncle, and Pops teach you restraint in these past three years?” scolded Kit with a faint smile curving his mouth. “Come on. I stashed my boat a little ways away.”

 

- Kitsune -

 

The two brothers walked into the woods until a nervous voice behind them shouted for them to stop. Kit and Luffy looked over their shoulders. A small, pink-haired boy gasped. Kit inclined his head to the side.

 

“Hey, weren’t you with those pirates back there?”

 

“N-no, I m-mean, yes but,” stuttered the boy. He stopped and took a breath. “I’m Coby. I guess I am a pirate. But not of my own choice – kind of,” rapid-fired Coby.

 

“Speak up and slow down,” advised Kit, shaking his head. This guy sure was nervous. “What do you mean by ‘kind of’?”

 

“Well, what happened was this. One day I wanted to go fishing, but I boarded a pirate ship by accident. In exchange for my life, those pirates made me work as their cabin boy. It’s been two years since then.”

 

“Why didn’t you try to escape?” asked Luffy while picking his nose. Kit smacked him, adding another bump.

 

“I-I-I’ve been building a boat! But, I just can’t find the courage to take it and go. I’m afraid of what Lady Alvida would do to me if I tried to leave.”

 

“So, you’re a coward and a wimp and clumsy,” stated Luffy.

 

“Ignore him,” muttered Kit. In a slightly louder voice, Kit said “So you have the means to escape but not the guts to do so. How sad. So, why are you here bothering us?”

 

“I was hoping you might help me escape. Err, Luffy, did you really mean what you said back there? About being the future pirate king.”

 

“Yep,” stated Luffy with a D grin. Coby stared at him.

 

“NO WAY IS THAT POSSIBLE! I THOUGHT YOU WERE JOKING OR BLUFFING!” Coby shook his head and hands to emphasize his point. “To be the pirate king is to make the world bow down to you. You would have wealth, fame, power – does that mean you’re after ONE PIECE?! There’s no chance. Every pirate in the world is after Gold Roger’s famed lost treasure. You would have to enter the Grand Line to find it.”

 

Kitsune let Coby rant for another minute. Then Luffy punched him, knocking the kid onto the ground.

 

“Luffy,” warned Kitsune. “A bit excessive today?”

 

“Hey! Why’d you hit me?”

 

“I didn’t like what you had to say. I’m going after One Piece and become the pirate king even if I die. That’s okay. It’s my dream.” Luffy pressed his straw hat against his chest. “I will become pirate king. And no one will stop me from achieving that dream.”

 

“True,” remarked Kitsune. “I don’t have a proper dream like my brother Luffy, but I do know that I will help Luffy pursue his dream. I had figured that I will find my own dream on the way.” Kit’s eyes went distant, his thoughts turning back to the day of their promise. “Someday Luffy WILL become king of the pirates. And I will be there every step of the way.” Kitsune’s smile widened. “Besides, my lack-wit little brother would probably end up getting eaten if I was not there. Heck, he almost got swallowed by that whirlpool. Which reminds me,” A haki-infused hand cuffed the top of Luffy’s head, “you are an idiot, sometimes. A BARREL?! If Ace and Sabo knew…” grumbled Kitsune. At Luffy’s puppy dog eyes, Kitsune smirked. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell them. Unless they ask.”

 

Coby looked speechless.

 

“Hey, we’ve told you our dreams. What of you? What did you dream of before those pirates kidnapped you?”

 

“M-My dream? Well – no, no – you’ll just laugh at me.” Luffy and Kitsune only grinned. Heartened, Coby smiled a little bit. “I-I-I wanted to become a marine!” Coby looked away with tears spilling over his face.

 

“A marine, huh?” mused Kitsune.

 

“Marines?”

 

“Yeah!” Coby stood up. “One day, I’ll sail the seas as a marine, and the three of us will be enemies. I know that I may n-not be all that brave. But that has been my dream since I was little!” Coby waited with his eyes squeezed shut. Kitsune shook his head. He walked over and patted Coby’s bubblegum-colored hair.

 

“Not a bad dream. Not a bad dream at all.”

 

“Well, well, what do we have here?” One of the ugliest woman –is that a woman? – I have ever the pleasure to meet arrived with a horde of lackeys, including some from earlier. “Is that the bounty hunters you hired? I bet you intruders are here for my head, eh?” Her gaze passed over Kitsune and landed on Luffy. “Well, you two are definitely no ‘Pirate Hunter’ Roronoa Zoro.”

 

Huh? Pirate Hunter? Luffy and Kitsune exchange puzzled glances. The wide D grin that splits Luffy’s face in the next minute set Kitsune’s older brother senses tingling.

 

“Oi, Coby!” Luffy, don’t- “So, who’s the tough and ugly looking fat ass?”

 

The pirates dropped their jaws in point blank astonishment. Kitsune felt like groaning.

 

“Luffy, you may want to take some lessons on manners,” mumbled Kitsune, thinking of the botched attempts with Makino. “I believe this is the Lady Alvida those pirates mentioned earlier.”

 

Coby’s shock wore off faster than their audience’s. He ran over to Luffy and began to shake him. “Take it back! Lady Alvida is-is…” Coby’s trembling stopped. He looked over to Luffy and Kitsune. Something sparked in his eyes. “Lady Alvida is…THE UGLIEST OLD MEATBAG TO EVER SAIL THE EAST BLUE!”

 

The ugly old walking lard loomed over Luffy, Kitsune, and Coby.

 

“You-You…YOU PIECE OF SHIT!” She swung the iron club. Kitsune rolled his eyes as the club slammed onto Luffy’s head.

 

“Good for you Coby.” Luffy had that particular look again. The look that promised pain to all those idiotic enough to mess with our friends.

 

“Gum-Gum Pistol!”

 

A rubber fist sent the pirate captain flying into the distance. The stunned pirates could only stare. Their gazes drifted over to the bereted pirates. Kitsune shot them a crazed grin. They scattered. 

 

East Blue

 

- KASL -

 

“Alright. So, Captain, where shall we go? A crew of two can travel the Grand Line alone – at least when it’s us – but we should consider plenty of other nakama. I can’t exactly act as a jack of all trades for a full voyage.” The two pirates and Coby opted to take Kitsune’s small craft instead of Coby’s deathtrap boat or any of the Alvida Pirates’ ships.

 

“Hmm, good question.”

 

“So, Luffy,” stuttered Coby. He still didn’t feel that comfortable talking to such powerful pirates. “Did you eat a devil fruit?”

 

“Yeah,” grinned Luffy. “I ate the Gum-Gum Fruit! I’m a rubber man. Kit ate one, too.”

 

“Correct. I ate the Dog-Dog fruit, model kitsune. I more or less turn into a mythical fox with a certain number of tails. I can do all sorts of tricks.” To emphasize his words, Kitsune let a little of his will-o-wisp illusionary fire flicker in the palm of his hand. He playfully tossed the colorful fireball at Coby, who yelped and almost fell out of the small boat when the fireball burst into a puff of harmless sparks.

 

“Hey, Kit!” Kitsune inclined his head toward his captain. “I think we should check out that ‘Pirate Hunter’ guy!”

 

“’Pirate Hunter’ Roronoa Zoro?! That guy is the greatest swordsman in East Blue!”

 

“Hm, indeed. I have heard of this guy since I returned to East Blue,” mused Kitsune thoughtfully. “They say Roronoa is some sort of demon. Right now, the marines of Shell Island have the bounty hunter imprisoned at the marine base there. Might encounter complications getting to him.”

 

“Well, if this guy is a good guy, I’ll ask him to join our crew!”

 

“Luffy! This guy is a PIRATE HUNTER! Pirate hunters and pirates do not normally mix too well.”

 

“Whatever you decide, Luffy,” stated Kitsune serenely from his new spot on the roof of the small boat cabin. “I advise you to make no judgment until you actually meet the pirate hunter, however,” Kitsune stared off into the sea, “I think that your instincts will steer you well. I have a feeling that our little crew will grow in this next venture. If not, then we can always go to another island.”

 

Shishishishi! Let’s go to Shell Island! I hope the pirate hunter guy is a good guy!”

 

“Gah! Luffy, Kitsune, they call him a DEMON for a good reason! He is not a good guy!”

 

“There worse names than demon. I do swear that several people have called me a demon, actually. And the rest of my family for that matter.”

 

“…What kind of family do you guys have to be named demons or worse?”

 

“A pirate one.” Kitsune flicked the bangs hanging over his left temple to reveal the Jolly Roger tattoo. Coby stuttered and sputtered for two minutes.

 

“Th-That’s-That’s WHITEBEARD’S MARK!”

 

“Yep,” popped Luffy. “We’re the sons of Whitebeard. But, we’re going off on our own as a pirate crew of our own right. See I have one, too,” Luffy pulled down his red vest to reveal the signature cross of Whitebeard between his shoulder blades. Coby just fell to his knees in utter shock. Kitsune rolled over to his back and serenely watched the clouds as Luffy laughed at their little friend as he regaled the shocked boy of their adventures on the Moby Dick.

Chapter Text

Shell Town

- Coby -

 

These two pirates were real monsters. One had rubber powers and the other could make fire and transform into a fox! A magical fox! But really odd monsters. Luffy acted so strange; one moment laughing and joking with his brother, the next glaring at Lady Alvida with such intensity. And Kitsune! He can act so calm and joking, making witty commentary and pretending to be a much-burdened older brother with Luffy, but Coby couldn’t help but remember the sharpness of his smile and the wild look in his eyes when he confronted those pirates. More than once, Coby questioned why he had agreed to accompany them to Shell Town.

 

Speaking of which, the island came into view. It was good that Kitsune and Coby knew rudimentary navigation skills. Luffy more than proved disastrous in that skill set. He exclaimed loudly how he was amazed that they actually arrived at their destination. Kitsune threw his hands up in a wordless gesture that said ‘he’s hopeless!’ 

 

The three of them had just settled at a restaurant. Coby discovered another crazy thing about his travelling companions. They had black holes for stomachs! They ate plate after plate. Once Luffy and Kitsune had full bulging bellies apiece, they finished eating.

 

“So, we part ways here, am I right Coby?” asked Kitsune, who leaned back into his chair, hands clasped behind his head. He looked utterly relaxed.

  

“Y-yeah. Thank you Luffy and Kitsune for taking me this far.”

 

“Yeah! No problem. Think Zoro-” *Crash!* “-is here?” Coby, Luffy, and Kitsune turned their heads. Their fellow diners had smashed plates and toppled tables at the name of Zoro.

 

“Mm, looks like it.” Kitsune gave the scared townspeople a bemused grin. “I suppose we shouldn’t say his name too often, though.

 

“Uh-huh,” whispered Coby, “we shouldn’t. He’s probably being held at the marine base. I heard on the streets the name of the base commander. He’s Captain Morgan.”

 

*Crash! Clatter! SMASH!*

 

Once more, the diners jumped at the mention of someone’s name. Coby couldn’t understand why they acted so nervous. Zoro was a famous bounty hunter with a demon’s reputation. But, Captain Morgan was a brave marine. Right?  Kitsune crooked his head thoughtfully.

 

“Well, well. I guess Zoro isn’t the only tabooed name around here. Something about the good captain must not settle to well with these people.”

 

- Kitsune -

 

The three of them headed off for the marine base. Coby voiced uneasiness about their destination. Luffy just laughed. Kitsune rolled his eyes at his younger sibling. He agree with Coby, something was not quite right with Shell Town and its base.

 

“Hey, Luffy?”

 

“Yeah, Kit?”

 

“Mind if I catch up later at the marine base? We need more supplies. Coby, make sure the rubber-brain doofus doesn’t get in too much trouble, please. Knowing Luffy, he would go and antagonize the good marine captain. And the last thing we need is publicity at this part of our journey.”

 

Shishishi! ‘K. Bring back lots of meat!”

 

“Sure, sure. Plus, vegetables. And you will eat them, Luffy. Remember to not go picking fights – unless the situation calls for it. Bye!”

 

Kitsune felt like his ears twitched as Luffy only chortled at him.

 

Marine Base

 

Kitsune had just finish packing the last of the supplies and walked over to the marine base. One moment he was calmly approaching the wall where Luffy and Coby were peering over, the next a little girl came sailing over it! Kitsune jumped and caught her in midair. As he touched back down, he scowled in the direction from which she flew. Who in the world would toss a little girl over a wall? Even pirates usually have more honor…well, we do at least. Looking around, he saw Luffy was gone. Kitsune put the girl down and scaled the wall.

 

“-Aww, come on! Join my pirate crew!”

 

“No. Why should I join your crew? If I survive one month, then those marines will set me free.”

 

“One month? I would starve to death in a week, I think.”

 

“And that’s the difference between you and me. I won’t lose this bargain. I’ll do whatever it takes to survive. Because I will fulfill my dream.”

 

“Dream? And what dream would that be?” inquired Kitsune, slinking in from the swordsman’s blind spot. The man jerked his head to the side. “Well? A dream is not something to be taken lightly. I know that too well – that’s why I don’t have one yet.”

 

The ‘Pirate Hunter’ only glared at the smirking man.

 

“My dream is to one day be the world’s greatest swordsman.” Roronoa Zoro gave a devilish smile. He turned to Luffy. “Do me a favor. Give me the rice ball. Every last piece.”

 

Kitsune watched silently as Luffy picked up the muddied rice ball pieces and fed them to Roronoa. The guy ate every last bit as he promised. Then he told them to give his thanks to the little girl.

 

- Luffy -

 

Luffy was mad. Rika told them how Zoro saved her from that stupid-looking guy and his pet wolf. Then that Helmeppo-guy went and bragged about making Zoro an example. He was going to go back on his word and kill Zoro tomorrow! Luffy didn’t regret punching that jerk, not one bit. Kitsune and Coby barely could hold him back.

 

The Helmo-guy went on and talking about a lot of dumb stuff – Luffy didn’t care and didn’t really listen to all the boring stuff the guy said. He scoffed when he heard the part about the guy telling his father, though.

 

“A true father let’s his sons fight their own battles,” noted Kit with one of his not-smiles. “He doesn’t let them hide in his shadow because some day they may not have that option anymore.”

 

“Like Pops,” remarked Luffy. “Our dad is really strong, but we don’t use his name to solve our problems.”

 

Now, back at the marine base, Luffy ran through the halls, marines in pursuit and the sissy jerk from earlier guiding him. Kitsune promised to keep an eye on Zoro for him while the young captain barreled through the base.

 

“Sword, sword, where is that sword?” Against the wall stood three of them. “Hey, Helmet-guy! Which is one is Zoro’s?” But the jerk had passed out, mouth frothing.

 

Umm…? Which one to take. Oh well.Shishishi! I guess I’ll just take all of them.” 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 While Coby sawed through the ropes, Kitsune focused his attention on the marine base. He could sense a lot of movement with his Observation haki. Luffy’s energy stood out and was somewhere on the upper floors. Kitsune shook his head. Typical Luffy. Just rocketed ahead, telling Kitsune to wait for him, and then he went and probably broke that statue earlier. An image flashed in his mind’s eye. Metallic blurs, a spurt of blood. Kitsune had his dagger in one hand and his kodachi drawn in his left. He spun protectively over Coby, deflecting the hail of bullets.

 

 Kitsune didn’t react when he felt marines spilling out from the direction behind him. Not yet. His instincts were never wrong. A hail of bullets sung with their fatal scream.

 

 - Roronoa Zoro -

 

 These pirates were unbelievable. The younger, skinny one – Luffy – had stubbornly refused to listen to him! He had balls, the pirate hunter could give him that.

 

 Something about the other one also stood out. He didn’t give his name, just stood there most of the time. But he watched. Those silver-blue eyes were sharp and aware of everything despite the relaxed posture and manner of their owner. Not to mention, the guy was a fellow swordsman. He had a kodachi peeking under that coat of his, strapped to his back. Even his movement telegraphed the grace of a fighter, a well-trained one. It didn’t make much sense for someone whose aura practically screamed danger would submit to someone weaker. So, the other guy must be something to have the shorter, albeit more dangerous, man deferring to him as captain.

 

 The pink-haired kid had just finish telling him about how the marine brat was going to betray Zoro when the pirate – Kitsune, the kid named him – suddenly spun around and took position by the two of them. It took only seconds. Only a moment more and a bunch of marines were shooting at them. If the kid had been a bit slower- Zoro shook off his thoughts and watched Kitsune deflect the bullets. He tipped his head in respect to the swordsman’s skill. Then a volley of gunfire came from the other side. Coby’s eyes widened further.

 

 A red blur got between Kitsune and the marine reinforcements. Zoro widened his eyes. The young captain from earlier took the gun fire, but the bullets just stretched his skin out before scattering in all directions.

 

“You couldn’t arrive earlier?” chided Kitsune who sheathed his dagger and threw out a hand. Fire raced and sent several marines stumbling back in fear.

 

 The kid pouted at the shorter man. “Aww, Kit. There were a ton of doors. Couldn’t find his katana anywhere for a while until I ran into this guy,” whined Luffy, “and then I couldn’t figure out which sword was Zoro’s.”

 

“What kind of humans are you?”

 

“The very best,” answered Kitsune in false solemnity.

 

“One who’s gonna become the pirate king,” stated Luffy.

 

Luffy turned to the still-tied up swordsman.

 

“Which one is yours? I couldn’t figure that out, so I took all three of them.”

 

“They’re all mine. I use three swords.”

 

“Resisting the marines? THAT WILL MAKE ALL OF YOU OUTLAWS IF YOU DON’T DIE HERE!”

 

“Like we weren’t already,” muttered Kitsune as bent over to check on the comatose Coby.

 

Zoro came to a decision. “Are you guys the sons of the devil? Never mind. I won’t simply die here…I’d rather take up that offer of yours. I’ll become a pirate under your flag.”

 

“Yay, I finally get a swordsman!” His captain threw up his arms in excitement. To the side, Kitsune dragged a hand down his face in exasperation.

 

“Hurry up and get these ropes off me!”

  

Zoro could hear the marines muttering in fear. Captain Morgan was one of the few unaffected by Luffy’s odd abilities. He said something about devil fruit before ordering his men to attack.

 

“As you wish, swordsman.” A white blade gleamed.

 

- Kitsune -

 

No sooner he parted the ropes binding the swordsman while Luffy tossed him his swords, than Roronoa display his own skill. The man blocked several blades.

 

“Move, and you’ll die. Listen up, you two. I told you guys that I’ll become a pirate. After today, I will be a criminal no matter what. But, I still have my own dream. I will become the world’s greatest swordsman! Mercenary, pirate, bounty hunter, it doesn’t really matter what the world will call me so long as I hold that title. Interfere in my dream, and I’ll cut you down as repayment!”

 

Kitsune gave the swordsman a genuine smile. Not bad. Not New World worthy – yet. Maybe the guy can one day take on Uncle Hawk. Maybe. “World’s greatest swordsman? I think you have an interesting dream. A crazy one, but Luffy’s is even more ridiculous, after all. Either way, a dream is a dream.”

 

Shishishi! The number one swordsman in the world? Great! Nothing less for the crew of the pirate king!”

 

“Well said.”

 

“That was actually quite well-spoken.”

 

“Wait, why didn’t you free him earlier? Sword and daggers aside, you have freaking fire powers!” shouted the much putout Coby. Kitsune only gave a close-eyed smile.

 

Shahehehe, I guess I could have. Didn’t feel like it. Or maybe not. Maybe I had other motives to wait on freeing Roronoa.”

 

Then an annoyingly, brash voice interrupted them.

 

“What are you guys standing around for? Finish them off!”

 

Kitsune’s smile turned vicious. Nodding his head in Luffy’s direction, more flames alighted his upturned right palm. Luffy grinned.

 

“Zoro! DUCK!”

 

“Foxfire Blaze!”

 

“Gum-Gum Whip!”

 

 Kitsune let loose a trail of fire that circled around them and pulsed outward. Luffy’s stretched foot followed. The combination of fire and rubber strength sent the marines flying or fleeing. Kitsune grinned with a hint of something else behind his eyes.

 

“What in the world are you?”

 

“I’m a rubber man!” replied Luffy.

 

Kitsune spared Zoro a cheeky grin and answered, “And I am a kitsune. That goes by the name Kitsune, coincidentally. Ate a fruit and now I can transform and use all sorts of abilities.”

 

“These guys are monsters!”

 

“They’re too strong!”

 

“Whoever said that,” growled Captain Morgan, “Get a gun and kill yourself. That’s an order.” Kitsune narrowed his eyes.

 

“I don’t need useless and weak soldiers.”

 

Luffy charged. Kitsune stood beside the swordsman and watched. Luffy didn’t need him to teach scum like him a lesson. Luffy dodged swing after swing of that great big axe.

 

“People without status do not have the right to question or oppose me! You are nothing! I AM THE GREAT MARINE LIEUTNENANT ‘AXE-HAND’ MORGAN!”

 

Luffy only grinned wider. “I am Luffy. Nice to meet ya.” He kicked out with both feet, scoring a hit in Morgan’s face.

 

“Aargh. You-YOU LITTLE BASTARD! GO TO HELL!” The next swing missed as Luffy only sidestepped to the left. He twisted his arm and punched.

 

“Not dead yet.” Morgan had fallen hard onto the ground, Luffy crouched over him. Luffy’s eyes had that dark cast. “Great marine, huh? You ruined Coby’s dreams. Even Grandpa is a hundred times a better a marine than you.” Luffy drew his arm back for another punch when Helmeppo decided to take the coward’s way. He held a gun to Coby’s head.

 

“WAIT!” Luffy hit Morgan anyways. “Wait, you idiot. If you move, I’ll shoot him! I really will!”

 

Kitsune let a small smile grow on his face when Coby announced that he didn’t want to be a burden and that he wasn’t afraid to die.

 

At the moment Luffy let loose his Gum-Gum Pistol, several things happened at once. ‘Axe-hand’ Morgan loomed behind Luffy. Kitsune let a little of his aura loose on Helmeppo, momentarily stunning the stupid son of Morgan long enough to drop his gun. Luffy knocked him out the moment he regain coherency. And Zoro struck, taking out Morgan. “Leave it to me, Captain.”

 

The marines looked stun. Whispers of Captain Morgan’s defeat ran through them. Coby looked scared again, but Luffy and Kitsune held a relaxed posture.

 

“What, do you guys still want to arrest us?” said Zoro. Suddenly the marines cheered.

 

Turns out that Axe-hand Morgan had a long history of bullying his subordinates and subjugating the island under his brutal tyranny. The marines all hated the guy, but none had the strength or courage to fight back. Zoro fell over at one point, but a good meal after nine days of starving was just the treatment.

 

- KASL -

 

“How can you two eat so much?”

 

Rika’s mother offered to let the pirates eat for free. The two skinny pirates took that to heart and were on their fifth helping. Frankly, this was a bit much for the swordsman. Coby shared a sympathetic look with the swordsman he once so feared to even speak of.

 

“Yeah, should have seen them earlier,” he laughed. He turned to their hosts. “I’m sorry. I ate quite a bit as well.”

 

“No worries. Eat plenty. You guys saved the town.”

 

“Captain,” asked Zoro, putting his fork down, “where to next?”

 

“The Grand Line,” simply stated Luffy.

 

“Luffy! You’re saying crazy things! How can only three men navigate the pirates’ graveyard?”

 

 “Pssh, I traveled the Grand Line and the four Blues by myself quite fine. Had to jump quite a few ships, but it’s not impossible. All you need is a strong crew or a bit common sense. On second thought, stick with the first one when you have a living danger magnet.”

 

“True. If we’re aiming for One Piece, we need to head off in that direction, anyways.”

 

“Now you two speaking nonsense!”

 

The fox shapeshifter couldn’t help but snicker into his napkin at Coby’s expression.

 

“Ugh! Can’t I…Can’t I worry about you guys? I mean, even if we’re parting here, and we may not know each other all that long but-”

 

“Shishishi! But we are friends, aren’t we?”

 

“And friends are entitled to worry about each other,” added Kitsune.

 

Coby looked utterly flabbergasted.

 

“Yep! We may not be together, but we’ll always be friends.”

 

Kitsune stared at his younger brother. “That may be the wisest thing I’ve ever heard from you, Luffy.”

 

“Yeah. You guys taught me to believe in my dream.” Coby blushed slightly.

 

“And that’s why we need to head for the Grand Line,” pointed out Luffy. Zoro and Kitsune nodded their agreement.

 

“No one would take us seriously if we don’t brave those seas. Don’t worry,” interjected Kitsune at Coby pinched expression, “Luffy and I lived in the most dangerous part of the Grand Line for a good part of our lives.”

 

“Yeah, and first of all,” Zoro poked Coby with the hilt of his sword, “you may want to worry about yourself.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Chore boy you might have been, but you were still a pirate, a small pirate, but a pirate nonetheless. Those marines find out, and they’ll never let you join.”

 

Coby gawked at Zoro. A moment later and the door opened to reveal a horde of marines.

 

“Excuse me,” said the new marine base captain, “did you fellows say you were...pirates?”

 

“Yeah. Just found my second crewmate. We’re officially a pirate crew,” answered Luffy with his usual oblivious attitude.

 

“Even though you pirates saved the town, as marines we cannot tolerate your presence any longer. Leave, immediately. You’ll be sure that we report what happened to Headquarters.”

 

Luffy, Zoro, and Kitsune thanked Rika’s mother for the meal and made to leave when the marine called out to Coby.

 

“Hey, aren’t you with them.”

 

“…”

 

Coby looked down at his feet. /“We’ll always be friends!”/

 

“I-I’m not with them!”

 

“Hey you! Is he telling the truth?”

 

Luffy stopped.

 

“I know what this guy used to do. He worked for two years for this really fat and ugly lady. Her name was Alvida, and-”

 

“SHUT UP!”

 

Coby looked at his fist in shock. He just punched Luffy. Luffy got up with a grin plastered to his face.

 

“Take this!” Luffy snapped his fist. “And this and this and-” Zoro grabbed Luffy’s shirt, pulling him away. Shock crossed his face for a moment before he hid it behind his usual scowl. Kitsune cocked his head, eyes intent. During their stay on the island, he had not once let his bangs fall out of place due to years of practice. Best explain later. None of the marines can see it, at least, and Zoro knows how to school his expression a lot better than rubber-for-brains.

 

“You went a bit overboard, Captain,” said Zoro.

 

“Enough!” yelled the marine. “Clearly, he is not your friend. Leave the town immediately!”

 

The Harbor

 

“Good acting, brother,” complimented Kitsune tilting his beret slightly forward.

 

“Yeah. This way the marines will accept him even though he was a pirate,” remarked Zoro.

 

“I want Coby to go and fulfil his dream. He needs to be able to act independent of his history.”

 

“Time to go, Captain. Who knows what will happen next?”

 

“Wait!” screamed a familiar voice. Coby came huffing. He saluted them. “Thank you very much for…everything. I’ll never forget you for the rest of my life!”

 

“A marine saluting pirates?” commented Zoro with a smile.

 

“A rare sight,” grinned Kitsune.

 

Shishishi, good luck, Coby. We’ll meet again someday!”

 

The pirates waved farewell to their friend. Suddenly a group of marine lined the docks.

 

“Group salute!” 

 

The pirates shoved off, heading for the Grand Line. More townspeople came to cheer and wave farewell. Kitsune laughed as his sharp ears caught the new base commander’s punishment of half rations for a week for saluting pirates.

 

East Blue

 

“…”

 

“Anything you would like to ask, Zoro?”

 

“…That mark on Luffy’s back…”

 

Kitsune gave a dramatic sigh before shaking his bangs, letting his family’s mark come in to view.

 

“Mark of Whitebeard, right? I can see you already knew what it signifies. Luffy and I used be a part of the family.”

 

“Yeah. Pops and Marco and everyone took me and my brothers in after a bunch of slavers caught us!”

 

“Slavers?”

 

Kitsune leaned against the ship’s railings. “Hmm. Bad childhood experience. But, it was worth getting a family that loves us unconditionally and will always have our backs, even from afar.”

 

Zoro sat with legs crossed. “When you said ‘brothers’ earlier…”

 

“Yep. I’ve been Luffy’s brother since we were young. Shared a cup of sake to seal a bond as close as that of blood. And this was before we met Pops and everyone.”

 

“Hmm.” Zoro looked at his two companions with an unreadable expression. “The sons of Whitebeard? Well, that explains your strength and weirdness.”

 

Shahehehe! You have yet to see Luffy and mine true power. But, Marco kind of nailed it into us to keep low profiles for a while, especially in the Blues. Can’t have a fleet on our backs quite yet, you see. At least not until we return to the Grand Line. Paradise should be okay.”

 

“Paradise?”

 

“First half of the Grand Line. You’ll see why later. We’ll probably have to come up with a training schedule of some sorts, too. The Grand Line is not for the weak of body or heart.”

 

“…”

 

“Any more questions?”

 

“Yeah. Why does Luffy always act, well, like himself? You certainly act better, and you’re younger-”

 

“Just because I am only a little over five feet, does NOT make me younger than Luffy. I am actually 21 years old or so. My birthday in another half a year. Any short remarks will be met with the appropriate level of pain and misery. Understand?”

The swordsman wisely nodded.

 

“Good. Hey, Luffy! Why don’t we tell Zoro some stories about our time in the Grand Line?”

 

Shishishi! Yeah! And you can tell me all about what you did since you last visited the Moby Dick.

 

For the remainder of the day, Kitsune and Luffy wove tales of adventure, family, and nakama. Their swordsman listened intently, asking questions and explanation here and there, especially when Kitsune mentioned haki or when Luffy noted their experience with Hawk-Eyes Mihawk, the one who helped train Kitsune in the way of the sword.

Chapter Text

East Blue – Somewhere out at Sea

 

- Kitsune -

 

Luffy will never ever be allowed near the food storage ever again. Even if I have to lock up the fridge and cabinets and the kitchen itself, grumbled Kitsune.

 

They had been out to sea for a several days and had been without food since day two of their voyage. Turns out that the captain had snuck past the sleeping guard fox curled up at the foot of the kitchen door. He ate every scrap of remotely edible thing from their couple weeks’ worth of food. Kitsune even made sure to estimate roughly how much they would need with two D’s and the possibility of two or three more people. And Luffy ate all of it. ALL OF IT! All they had left was a few barrels of water. Kitsune swore to beat some sense into his brother once they had some more food aboard.

 

And booze, amended the fox as he looked down on their latest member. Roronoa Zoro seemed like an okay guy. A bit rough around the edges, insufferable when asking Kitsune to spar with him, a bit dense like Luffy, but Roronoa seemed fair enough in spite of all these annoying habits of his. And the guy did seem to have the will and familiar stubbornness to make his dream reality. Kitsune could respect that.

 

When Kitsune shared his few months of apprenticeship under Hawk, Zoro practically interrogated the older swordsman. Zoro wanted to know all about the man he would one day fight, and Kitsune saw no reason to sugarcoat his opinion on the matter. In short, Zoro had absolutely no chance against Mihawk Hawkeye. Nope. Not even half a percent. The fox loved riddles and ambiguities, but when discussing plans, training, and so forth, the fox shiftshaper was as sharp as his blade. He punctuated his point by taking Fuzakeru Kasai, aptly named Playful fire and one of the 21 great blades, and cleanly sliced one of the normal steel knives he kept around the small ship.

 

/ “This is nothing compared to what Hawkeye can do. Just a little spark to a roaring wildfire. And, I did this without haki, the force that every serious person on the latter half of the Grand Line can use. Do you think that you, a swordsman of the weakest of the four Blues, can beat someone who can make cutting steel child’s play? If you want to achieve your dream, then I suggest you prepare yourself for years of pain, sweat, and blood. Train yourself to your limits and then exceed them. Falter in the world of piracy – in battle, in mind, in will – and you will fall,” spoke Kitsune after he sliced the knife from several feet away, from tip to hilt. “Not only you but also all who stand by you if you’re not too careful.” Zoro only smiled, his eyes holding that gleam the fox remembered back on Shell Island.

 

“I won’t,” promised the swordsman. “I will beat Hawkeye and become the world’s greatest swordsman. Now, tell me all about Hawkeye, your training, and what exactly this haki is.”

 

Kit raised an eyebrow and stared intensely at the younger man, inspecting his worth. “Alright. How about when I first met Uncle Hawk…” /

 

Kitsune made himself comfortable and tried to ignore the grumbles of his stomach. The wind had died down for the past few hours, so the ship sailed at a sluggish pace. Below, Kitsune could hear Zoro and Luffy grumbling about their lack of food and drink.

 

“Gum-Gum…!”

 

At the sudden shouting, Kitsune slit one eye open and watched as the red blur of his brother slingshot into the sky and…get caught by a bird. A bit bigger than what Luffy must have thought, thought Kitsune with a grimace. The bird was flying off with Luffy! And Luffy (hopefully) would realize that falling while over the ocean would not be a great idea. Nope, not at all.

 

Kitsune leapt off the roof of the cabin and rushed to take out the emergency oars, shouting orders at Zoro. Kitsune grabbed a pair of oars and flung one to Zoro and started rowing on one side. Their boat cut through the ocean until they suddenly rammed something. Or someone. A couple of clowns were drifting in the ocean and managed to cling to the boat and climb aboard. Kitsune spared their threatening stance only the barest glance.

 

“Zoro, I’ll take your oars, if you will…?”

 

Now those two were graciously rowing the boat to the next island – destination: Orange Town.

 

 As the three pirates rowed, Kitsune learned a few interesting pieces of information. One, these Buggy Pirates didn’t sound very intelligent if these two were any kind of indication to the typical Buggy pirate. Two, there was a very accomplished thief sailing around the area. And three, Buggy ‘The Clown’ was a fellow devil fruit eater. Honestly, the name Buggy did stir a flicker of memory, but nothing-solid came to mind. Kitsune decided to shelve that thought for later. Chances were, Buggy was not that important of a person if he left such a flimsy impression on the nearly eidetic Kitsune. Speaking of unimportant persons, if those pirates didn’t lead the two of them to Luffy after they made the older brother lose sight of his little brother, there will a reckoning.

 

Orange Town

- Luffy -

 

Oh, wow! That bird flew a long ways with his belligerent passenger. Luffy was not a complete idiot. He knew that if he really tried to struggle, the bird would probably let go of his head…and drop him straight into the sea. As Luffy tried to figure what to do, fate intervened. Or, rather a cannonball did 

 

*Boom!*. The startled bird opened his beak, and Luffy plunged right the middle of some pirates and a girl.

 

After a choice punch or three, the pirates laid knocked out and bloody. No one touched Luffy’s precious hat, no one! The weird girl Nami led Luffy to an empty house and gave him some food. Then she once more asked him to join her. And she was a navigator, just what Luffy’s crew needed. But then she got scary when Luffy yelled about being a pirate. She really didn’t like pirates, but Luffy never believed in giving up. For some reason, she started giving Luffy this really big smile and said she would consider being his navigator if he helped her out.

 

Now Luffy sat tied up and in a metal cage.

 

“Hey, let me out of here! And let me have some of that food!”

 

“Sorry, but I need that map a lot more than I need you. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll just sell you.”

 

Luffy stilled. If there was one thing Luffy hated more than almost anything (besides traitors and World Nobles), it was slavers and people who bought other people. Especially after Kitsune got that scar around his neck… His face darkened. Before Luffy could speak, that stupid clown came over to the cage.

 

“Man, you really have bad taste in partners. I’m afraid your fate is looking none too good. Gyahahaha! For stealing my treasure…LOAD THE BUGGY BALLS!”

 

Buggy balls…? Luffy tilted his head in confusion. When he glanced over to Nami, her face turned chalk white.

 

*WHOOSH! BOOM! CRASH!*

 

A whole row of houses were destroyed! And now Big Nose had the cannon aimed toward him. Luffy thought. Mama Marco warned him not to use his haki too much while in East Blue. He probably wouldn’t die if that hit him. Probably.

 

“Nami, as a show of good faith, YOU will be the one firing the buggy cannon. Just one little flame and *BOOM!*” snickered Big Nose with a widespread of his arms for emphasis.

 

Nami paled and started trembling. Luffy grinned.

 

“Not too smart are you?” proposed Luffy. “You should have come prepared when facing pirates.”

 

“Prepared? Prepare to what? Kill?”

 

“No,” stated Luffy, eyes closed in his characteristic smile. “Prepared to put your life at risk!”

 

Luffy did not expect Nami to go and knock out a pirate. She was a lot stronger than Luffy initially thought. But now they had an angry Buggy and his pirates and…THE FUSE WAS LIT!

 

Just as Nami was about to be overrun, a figure came and knocked them back.

 

“Zoro!”

 

“You guys can’t handle one girl? Pathetic. Pfft, Captain, how do you get yourself in these situations? You okay?”

 

Shishishishi! Phew, I thought I was going to be a goner. I’m fine. And, Kit always said I had a knack for creating really stupid situations and dragging him into it.”

 

The pirates standing back broke out in a sweat. Then Big Nose came and muttered some nonsense about his bounty and something about his infamy increasing or something. He attacked, but Zoro sliced him in several pieces! But those pirates were smiling. Luffy frowned. He activated his Observation haki. Big Nose…was still alive?! One of the hacked off hands began to tremble then levitated into the air.

 

“Zoro, watch out!”

 

Just as the knife was going pierce Zoro, it stopped just inches away. Luffy could actually see it struggling against some sort of hold.

 

“Shahehehehehe! What’s with starting the fun without me? A circus act isn’t complete without a few twists and a sadistic trick or two, would you not agree, Captain?”

 

The grin the young man sported was anything but the friendliness his tone projected 

 

- Kitsune -

 

Of course. Buggy. The same Buggy from Shanks’s stories. His stupid friend that ate the Chop-Chop fruit. Good thing Kitsune remembered in time, or else that knife would have pierced right through Zoro in and none too pleasant place. Kitsune hopped down from his place on Luffy’s cage, form shimmering into existence. The look on Buggy’s face was priceless. Kitsune barely stifled another attack of giggles. What pirate worth his salt would have a bright red nose? Just leaving one’s self open to all sorts of jokes.

 

“So, what do you think you’re doing executing such a dishonorable maneuver? Striking someone with their backs turned?” Kitsune’s grin turned feral. “Cowardly, if you ask me.”

 

Buggy’s face turned bright red and steam began to simmer from his head.

 

“Honor? We’re pirates, kid, there is no such thing as honor among pirates! And you’re a naïve fool if you think that,” sneered Buggy.

 

Kitsune did not let his smile fall. He held out a hand in front of him and curled a finger in a come here gesture. The struggling hand suddenly popped open, and the knife zoomed toward him. Kitsune deftly snatched it out of the air just before it would have pierced him. Twirling his new knife, Kitsune turned to his flabbergasted audience.

 

“Two can play at the devil fruit game.”

 

“Devil fruit? Hah, should have known. But whatever it is, it can’t compare to my own powers! I, Buggy ‘The Clown’, ate the Chop-Chop fruit and am now a chop-chop human. Slice me all you want, I will just put myself back together.” Buggy brandished his other hand that held four similar knives to the one Kitsune just stole. “What if you have some sort of telekinesis ability? You won’t be able to stop everything at once!”

 

“Whatever Big Nose! Kit can totally kick your ass! Zoro, Nami, hurry up and free me so I can kick this guy’s ass, too!”

 

Stunned silence.

 

“Y-you-YOU DARE CALL ME BIG NOSE!” The hand full of knives went straight for Luffy.

 

*CLANG!*

 

Zoro had his three swords crossed and blocked the attack. “Quit being dramatic Kitsune, and help save our idiotic captain,” he grunted around his sword.

 

Aah, well, I guess he has a point, noted Kitsune. He turned to the cannon whose fuse had burned almost to the very last. He flashed a positively evil grin. Buggy’s floating hand suddenly flung right back into its owner’s face. The other hand soon followed. In the next moment, Kitsune stood by the buggy cannon and gave it a swift upwards kick. The whole thing flipped. The end was pointed at the Buggy Pirates.

 

*BOOM!*

 

It blew the unfortunate pirates and their captain clear into the building behind them.

 

“Alright, now then,” said Kitsune, turning back to Luffy in the cage. He reached back and unsheathed his kodachi. White fire licked the edge of the blade. He slashed the air in front of him three times. The air seemed to shimmer where the blade sliced. Suddenly the bars of the cage fell apart as if something cut right through them. Even the ropes fell into several pieces.

 

Shishishishishi! Thanks Kit!”

 

“Come on, I want to go grab some supplies from town before those goofballs try anything. Although I do really want to see their faces when the other half of my surprise triggers. Oh well.”

 

- KASL -

 

From the smoke and rubble, several forms crawled out. One of them was a very irate Buggy.

 

“Damn, those punks. When I get my hands of them…”

 

“Captain!”

 

“Eh?” Buggy turned to the poor pirate that dared to interrupt his captain’s monologue. “What could possibly be that important?” The pirate in front of Buggy trembled, his legs making audible clicks.

 

“Uh, S-sir? I think one of them left something behind.” Scattered across the roof was several very small brightly colored balls of light. Buggy knelt and grabbed the nearest one.

 

“What the h-” The little ball pulsed, and a flash of light from all the firebombs covered the area. When it faded, not only were all the pirates extra crispy, but in the area surrounding each explosion, paint made rainbow splatters on everything and everyone within the blast radius.

 

- Kitsune  

 

“Owowowowow! Let go! Let go!”

 

Kitsune shook his head at the continued idiocy of his little brother.

 

They had stopped in town while Kitsune foraged around for supplies. He sent Zoro with Luffy to go check out the other side of town, and Nami tagged along with them. By the way she would eye him out of the corner of her eyes, Kitsune guessed that she was a little more than wary of him. Not surprising. Kitsune may act silly and facetious at times, but any thief worth their weight in gold knew better than look only on the surface. And a thief Nami was very much. A good one, too, if her run-in with the Buggy Pirates was any indicator. But her naivety and morals would get her killed if she continued on as a solo act. But she seemed competent enough Luffy had the right idea trying to recruit her. Luffy’s instincts were good like that.

 

Kitsune just finished picking through some of the better-looking stores (leaving some berries – he was a pirate, not a lowlife crook no matter what the navy said), and he found Luffy with a dog. Or rather, he found the Luffy struggling with a dog that found his rubbery arm a very nice chew toy. Zoro and Nami just watched the young captain yell his head off. Taking pity after another minute, Kitsune strode over to captain. One glare and bared teeth later, and the dog let go of Luffy, backing away with a rising growl.

 

“Wow, Kit, you’re good with dogs!”

 

Zoro snorted. “Probably because he is one.”

 

“~Care to say that again swordsman?” sweetly crooned Kitsune with one of his daggers twirling between his fingers. Zoro just answered with a toothy grin.

 

“I don’t even want to know,” muttered Nami.

 

“Hey you! Leave Chou Chou alone!”

 

Some guy who gave a real close impression of a poodle in leather armor walked toward the group. Turned out the dog Chou Chou had one of the most heartrending stories of doggy loyalty and stubbornness. Mayor Boodle (seriously?) was one of the few townsmen that came down from the temporary encampment just to take care of Chou Chou. Kitsune knelt by the dog. Chou Chou growled low. The fox stared long and hard into the dog’s eyes. Then he smiled. I’m such a sucker, idly thought Kitsune as he absentmindedly petted the dog, ignoring the warning growls.

 

 The group had just walked off in the direction of one of the stores recommended by the mayor when they heard a crash. Smoke was quickly billowing into the sky from the other direction. The four rushed back to the pet store. There was nothing but fire and rubble of the old store. Chou Chou sat bruised and beaten up, barking as his home burned.

 

“Hey you! Captain Buggy wants a word with you four!”

 

Kitsune flipped a dagger into each of his hands. Approaching the pirates and thief was a man covered in white hair astride a large lion.

 

“I suppose you were the one responsible for this,” asked Kitsune.

 

“So what? Richie wanted a snack and that mutt there bit me. Me, the great Mohji ‘The Beast Tamer’, first mate of Captain Buggy.”

 

“Never heard of you.”

 

Mohji face-faulted. “Why you-”

 

“What’s with that silly outfit?” asked Luffy. “Are you trying out for a part as a polar bear or something?”

 

“…THIS IS MY REAL HAIR! Richie, get them!”

 

The lion lunged, claws outstretched. Luffy waited and sidestepped the massive animal. The look in Luffy’s eye – Kitsune remained on the sidelines and watched. Luffy reared an arm back.

 

“Gum-Gum Pistol!” His fist sent the lion flying.

 

“What the hell?!”

 

“What are you?”

 

Nami and Mohji gaped at the rubber man. Luffy turned to face them and giggled.

 

“I ate the Gum-Gum fruit and became a rubber human!” Luffy’s grin faded. He looked hard at Mohji. The pirate begged, but Luffy would have nothing of it.

 

“Forgive? That store was a treasure to that dog. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back.” Luffy slowly walked to the backing, crying pirate. “I’m going to kick your ass! And the ass of your captain!”

 

One beat-down later.

 

“I think you overdid it a bit little brother,” commented Kitsune as he watched the barely conscious and bloodied pirate totter away after Kitsune separated the two. “Save it for Buggy. The guy does not like your guts I would say. Plus, we kind of need that map of his if we want to make it to the Grand Line from here. I can’t say I know how to sail to the usual entrance, honestly.” 

 

“Big Nose? He’s not that strong.”

 

“Yes, but we are trying to keep ourselves inconspicuous.”

 

“Inconspeculous?”

 

“Never mind. Marco said not to stand out. So don’t go beating up every single damn idiot that makes you mad. There is a better way. Honestly, you can be as hardheaded as Grandfather. Remember, most everyone on this side of the sea are leagues out of their depths compared to us.”

 

“Okay,” pouted Luffy. Kitsune smacked Luffy on the topside of his head. Ignoring Luffy’s indignant yell, Kitsune sat down on the cobblestone and gently stroked the injured dog. Faint blue wisps glowed around the appendage. The dog gave him a look before walking off with the bag of dog food that Luffy managed to find with Kitsune’s help.

 

Mayor Boodle had an intense and thoughtful look on his face for the past several minutes. Suddenly, the old man yelled in frustration.

 

“I cannot stand by anymore! This is my town, my home. As mayor, I must do everything I can to take it back from those no good pirates!”

 

“Err…Mayor Boodle?”

 

“You guys and Chou Chou…I will no longer sit back while people like you are actually doing something for this town. Am I wrong, kids?”

 

“Chill old man,” said Nami. But, Luffy had a different approach.

 

“You’re right, old man,” grinned Luffy. Nami began yelling at Luffy, too.

 

The man went on a spiel about the town’s history, and the mayor’s role in protecting the town. In the middle of his speech, a high-pitched whizzing sound rapidly grew in pitch. One of Buggy’s special buggy balls nearly hit the group, but Kitsune had jumped in the last second and aimed a spinning kick, sending the projectile crashing to the far left of the group. The impact caused several nearby houses to shake and windows to break.

 

“THAT’S IT! Over 40 years of struggle and hard work, and those ruffians come here and try to destroy it. No, so long as I am mayor of this town, I will protect it!”

 

After that, the mayor ran off to go and confront Buggy.

 

“Things are getting exciting,” said Zoro with a smile.

 

“Well then, we’d better go make sure Mayor Boodle doesn’t die, right?” murmured Kitsune.

 

“Yeah! Shishishishi! I really like that old man, so I won’t let him die!”

 

- Nami -

 

What is wrong with these people? Nami thought once more with disturbing regularity. Buggy had freak powers that were a hell of a lot more impressive than Luffy’s, Kitsune acted like a cross between a kid and a devil, and Zoro was a bloody demon with the way he just smiled at the prospect of a life-and-death encounter. But sticking to these guys would probably lead to treasure. And there was hardly nothing that would stop Nami from getting her gold. Not if she wanted…/Flash of a smiling woman with a Mohawk, two little girls giggling by her side…A malicious face full of sharp teeth/...Nami shook her head clear. The alliance would only last long enough for Nami to get a big enough score. Then she would ditch these pirates. After all, pirates were nothing but scum. She had to remember that.

 

Buggy’s Base

 

The group arrived just as Buggy was strangling the Mayor with his disembodied hand. Luffy rushed in and separated the hand from the mayor. Nami watched as Kitsune and Zoro moved in to flank their captain.

 

Her eyes widened as Luffy spoke. “I keep my promises, Buggy! I’m here to kick your ass. So you’d better be ready!”

 

“Same here,” smirked Kitsune.

                                                                 

“Just here for the treasure and map,” mumbled Nami as she stood back from the three men.

 

Buggy scowled up on the roof of his base. His face became nearly as red as his nose.

 

“You guys don’t even have a trace of fear. You morons…YOU’RE ALL DEAD OR WISH YOU WERE BY THE TIME I GET THROUGH WITH YOU!”

 

Nami gulped. Buggy ‘The Clown” was still a real monster. Then, again, so were the three people in front of her.

 

Mayor Boodle climbed to his feet.

 

“NO! This is my village, and I will protect it as the chief. Do not interfere, or-”

 

Kitsune leaned over and chopped at the mayor’s neck. The man instantly went limp and fell back down to the cobblestone.

 

“Why did you do that!” yelled Nami to the unabashed fox.

 

“What? He’s in our way, just as Luffy said. I just made sure he would be safe and sound while we deal with the tomato nose here.”

 

Silence. Then, “FIRE THE SPECIAL BUGGY CANNONBALL! FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!!”

 

Nami whimpered and began to run. “Are you trying to get all of us killed!” she screamed.

 

“Ttch,” Nami looked back at the three pirates. “Luffy, hot air combo?”

 

Nami just stopped moving as she watched the straw-hatted boy pop up like a balloon with a yell of “Gum-Gum Balloon” and sent the cannonball packing back to the Buggy Pirates. Kitsune jumped on top of Luffy, landing hard and making him expel air.

 

“Foxfire Scream!” The fox exhaled a torrent of fire and smoke bolstered by the air coming out from Luffy. The combination of the explosion and fire destroyed the building.

 

Nami fell to her knees in utter shock. Her thoughts froze. “How, what, HOW? Are you guys even human?”

 

“I thought we went over this already,” remarked Kitsune. “Luffy ate a devil fruit, a cursed fruit from the Grand Line. Those who eat it such as Buggy, Luffy, and myself gain mysterious powers depending on the fruit. He ate the Gum-Gum fruit and became a rubber man. Buggy said he ate the Chop-Chop fruit, so he can split himself or allow another to split him into many parts without dying. It even becomes an advantage! Me, I guess I didn’t mention it, did I? I ate the Dog-Dog fruit, model kitsune. I can turn into a type of mythical fox spirit, or demon as they say. Pretty rare power, as you can imagine. Highly ironic name, too, but I digress. I can use a ton of cool powers and abilities like fire and illusions from earlier. And a few more, but stick around and you will get to know them all, I bet!”

 

Nami just stared wordlessly. Monsters, all of them. I’ve sided against one and now I am surrounded by two more. Plus that idiotic swordsman.

 

”HAHAHA! Devil fruit powers? That would explain how you four took out my best officer, Mohji! Hmph, quit your chitchat! It’s as though you have no fear for me, ME, the Great Buggy ‘The Clown’!”

 

“We don’t,” bluntly stated Kitsune. The smoke cleared to reveal Buggy and a man in a brown cloak and blue-checkered scarf.

 

“To use your own men as shields…!” exclaimed Nami. The cruelty of pirates never failed to surprise her or make her loathing for them deepen.

 

From the rubble, that weird furred guy crawled out and proceeded to freak out about his lion that Buggy’s crewmate used as a shield. The next thing Nami knew, Buggy threw Mohji straight at them! Luffy, the jerk, kicked the guy in her direction. She just managed to leap out of the way. Then the other man came at Zoro with a sword and on a unicycle. As Zoro fought the other swordsman and Luffy and Kitsune engaged Buggy, Nami decided to hang back and go get her treasure in the midst of the commotion.

 

- KASL -

 

“You shouldn’t underestimate us, Buggy ‘The Clown’,” said Kitsune. He decided to leave his sword sheathed for this fight and flipped a dagger from one of his sleeves into his left hand.

 

"Hah! Are you trying to be scary, kid? I sailed on the Grand Line back in the day! I fought opponents far worse than two green rookies.” Rookies? Hardly rookies. Kitsune let a little madness leak into his smile.

 

“So what? Luffy and I are hardly strangers to the New World or Paradise.” 

 

“So I see,” grumbled Buggy under his breath. Considering the Grand Line was a mystery to most everyone in East Blue, only someone who had sail those seas knew the fine difference between the two halves of that monstrous sea. Buggy subconsciously tightened his grip on his knives. “Then I won’t hold back, you brats! Chop-Chop Cannon!”

 

Luffy and Kitsune dodged a hand full of knives flew at them. Attack after attack came at them as Buggy cut, swiped, and separated various body parts. Luffy was a bit too careless and a hand barely missed him but scored a hit on his beloved straw hat. The hand flew to Buggy who eyed it with a flicker of recognition. “This hat looks a lot like the one that red-haired bastard wore.”

 

Luffy extended his leg at him in a powerful kick.

 

“DON’T TOUCH MY HAT! How dare you damage my treasure? Shanks gave it to me!”

 

“It is the hat of that bastard,” Buggy sneered as he dodged out of the way. “He and I sailed on the same ship, you know, back in our apprenticeship days-” But then Kitsune appeared above him and kicked the clown back to Luffy. The rubber man lunged and pinned Buggy to the ground.

 

“Don’t dare compare yourself to Shanks. He is a great man and pirate, unlike you!”

 

“Great? Don’t make me laugh. I have every right to insult the bastard. That guy stole my treasure and made me what I am-”

 

“Shut it.” Kitsune had walked over during Buggy’s monologue and plunged his dagger right next to Buggy’s face. “I already know this story. Luffy would, too, if he wasn’t snoring while Shanks told it to us. You and he sailed together on the Grand Line. Someone found a devil fruit, but no one wanted it in particular. You offered to take it – probably for the 100 million berries bounty – but an incident caused you to eat it actually. Shanks also mentioned something about you and a map?”

 

“You’re absolutely right,” gritted Buggy as his teeth clenched. “That night, I had planned take the fruit to sell, and I just got a map from that crew we ransacked. The map showed the location of a great treasure located on the seabed. I was all set when Shanks had to ruin it!” yelled Buggy in a scream of frustration and anger. “That bastard…I had just swallowed a fake fruit and was planning my grand scheme when he showed up. I had to hide the fruit quickly, so I put it in my mouth. He left after a little bit. Just when I thought I was in the clear, Shanks came back and startled me. I swallowed the fruit! Not only that, but my map flew off the ship. I chased after it, but fell into the sea…”

 

“And Shanks saved you,” finished Luffy.

 

“Saved me? That jerk lost me not only my ability to swim but also my treasure map. I will never forgive him!”

 

“That’s…just stupid,” pronounced Kitsune to the increasingly vexing pirate clown. “You lied to your crew, tried to run off, and then you end up eating the fruit anyway and lost your map. Sounds like you earned that misfortune.”

 

 "You-” Buggy cut off when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Nami had just sprinted by with a huge bag of treasure. Buggy ominously floated in the air in silence. Then:

 

“YOU BASTARDS! Stealing my treasure and my map!”

 

Buggy swooped down on the defenseless Nami. Luffy eyed the lower half that remained on the ground. Kitsune grinned a bit.

 

“Urk!” The malevolent pirate fell just before he could lay a single blow on Nami. “Damn you!” Aah, that really had to hurt, man, Luffy…

 

“AAAAAHHH!” Kitsune flicked several wisps of bright red fire onto Buggy’s feet. “HOT, HOT, HOT, HOT!” The toppled lower half- stumbled, half-ran as the fire burned. The upper half writhed in pain.

 

“Luffy, I had enough of this second-rate pirate. Looks like Buggy learned nothing when sailing with Shanks.” Kitsune cracked his hands. Fire formed a shield that encompassed the area around the three and their opponent’s halves. “Nami, I suggest to stay right there. Don’t worry, we’ll take of this clown in a jiffy.”

 

Buggy finally managed to smother the flames. “Why you-you-you LITTLE BASTARDS! CHOP-CHOP FESTIVAL!”

 

Kitsune and Luffy stood nonchalantly as body parts flew all around them. Kitsune turned to the younger man.

 

“You know, I went easy with the fire there. I don’t actually want to burn him to death. But making him crispy,” remarked the fire user, “is an option. Grab those feet, and I’ll give this clown a real show.” A flash of smoke and a sleek black fox took the place of Kitsune. Luffy turned his head and saw the walking feet. He grinned and grabbed them. Buggy, so caught up in his own magnificence and his anger of Nami, he didn’t even notice his feet’s capture. Until Luffy began to tickle, pinch, and smash them. Meanwhile, the black fox manifested several colorful balls of fire.

 

“Fireworks Foxfire!”

 

His colorful art display may not pack too much punch but it did nicely as a wide range and painful and most importantly flashy attack. While the pirate froze in mid-grab of Nami’s sack, Luffy smashed his foot into the clown’s face. The stubborn pirate wouldn’t stay, down, though. He tried to reassemble himself. Tried. But Nami and Kitsune had already fixed that situation while the pirate was distracted with talking to Luffy. They neatly tied up his body parts, so now a diminutive Buggy with only his head, hands, and feet stood.

 

“Gum-Gum Bazooka!” And that marked the end of the fight. Zoro, without any injuries, had soundly crushed his cheating opponent as no amount of lame tricks can beat a demon of swordplay.

 

- Kitsune -

 

Luffy walked over to where his hat had fallen. Three nasty cuts tore the top of it. He just grinned and put it on. Nami offered to fix it, which deepened Luffy’s smile. The four began to talk about what they should do next when Kitsune tilted his head to the side.

 

“Does anyone hear a bunch of loud yells?”

 

A huge mob of townspeople had finally arrived. Luffy acted, well, like Luffy, and now the four were running from the crowd. Idiot. No subtlety or sense in his rubber brain. They just rounded into an alleyway when Chou Chou plopped himself behind the fleeing group. The loyal, smart dog barked at the townspeople, halting the mob in their tracks.

 

Thanks, Chou Chou. After smacking those three idiot Buggy Pirates that so graciously rowed the two Straw hats to the island, the four set sail. From the shore, the mayor had yelled both an insult of their intelligence (kind of true upon reflection) and to shout his gratitude.

 

East Blue

 

Kitsune had just settled on his usual place on the cabin when he heard shouting below. He rolled over to his stomach and peered down.

 

“YOU IDIOT! HALF OF MY TREASURE, GONE! HOW COULD YOU HAVE LEFT IT BEHIND?”

 

The corner of the Zoan’s eye twitched as he held back a snicker. “Lay off, Nami. Luffy meant well. Do you really need all ten million berries?” Stupid question. Nami threw a boot at him. Kitsune didn’t dodge since she would only hit him later if he did. Kitsune swore that Nami emanated a touch of haki when her temper really got a hold of her. Not much, though – only a subconscious glimmer of a glimmer. But enough to know that Nami had potential. Nami went back to trying to drown Luffy, and the first mate and swordsman laughed at the continued antics of their captain and navigator.

Chapter Text

“Normal speech”

/Flash back/

Thoughts

‘Kitsune’s Telepathic speech’

*sounds from now on*

 

East Blue

 

- Nami -

 

Is travelling with these weirdos will always be this insane? lamented Nami for the hundredth time since she agreed to join Luffy’s adventure – for now. That last island was insane – who would believe there was an island full of things like a rabbit-snake or a lion-pig?! Compared to them, the man stuck in an empty treasure chest for 20 years was actually somewhat normal. It was sad to think the guy had guarded the island for a treasure that someone else had already taken long ago, leaving nothing else, but empty chests.

 

Nami still did not understand the pirates she had allied herself to. Luffy, Zoro, and Kitsune acted nothing like the pirates she had tricked over the years. Luffy even went so far as to offer Gaimon a place on his crew. The former pirate declined in favor of protecting the weird animals that inhabited the island. Before they left, Kitsune handed Gaimon a transponder snail and a list of numbers of “people you can trust no matter what” as well as the number to the few snails Kitsune kept around the ship.

 

Pirates were heartless, murderous monsters. But these ones flew in the face of every preconceived belief and experience that Nami harbored. Nami shook off her thoughts before she could consider any deeper. She could see the shadow of the next island off the horizon.

 

East Blue, Syrup Village

 

- Luffy -

 

Nami had the best navigation ability that Luffy has ever seen (even better than Sabo’s). Luffy couldn’t really make heads or tails of all those shapes, so he was happy that Nami decided to join them. While sailing, Nami and Kitsune agreed that their crew needed a few more members, a better ship, and more supplies before they could go into the Grand Line. Luffy agreed, too. He remembered what Marco and Rayleigh pounded into him about sailing in the Grand Line. They needed a better boat, lots of food, and good Nakama if they even wanted to make it past Paradise. Hopefully they might find a new ship soon at this new island.

 

Luffy stretched his limbs once they reached shore.

 

“Huh, we made it!”

 

“Of course we made it. We just had to follow the map!” *Thump!* Luffy rubbed the back of his head. Kitsune could hit really hard when he thought his brothers were goofing off.

 

“Luffy, you are the most hopeless navigator, second to Zoro.”

 

“What?”

 

“Well, my green-headed fellow, you somehow managed to get lost when we stopped at that one island for a spar. We barely docked for more than five minutes! I just said to follow the coastline to that plateau. You end up in a cave several feet below ground in the center of the island! Even Luffy is not that bad with directions.”

 

“I wasn’t the one the lost. Everyone else just has a lousy sense of direction.”

 

“Wha-ah-argh! Never mind.”

 

Luffy laughed. His calm and cocky brother was flustered from just trying to counter Zoro-logic.

 

“You guys are funny. So, who are those four? Three kids and someone around our age?” asked Luffy nonchalantly with a thumb pointing to his left toward the guys crouching on the cliff.

 

Nami jerked her head in surprise. Zoro just raised his eyebrow but looked unsurprised. Kitsune just nodded his head. Good catch. You’ve improved in your unconscious use of Observation haki.’ Luffy nodded his head, quirking a brow to relay is unspoken question. ‘Ehh, felt like using telepathy. Still can’t do more than send my own thoughts maybe just several meters away with someone new, whether receiving or sending. Not too useful until I get more acquainted with our growing crew. Good for combat, not for long-range coordination. I’ll try it out some more just before we leave for home.’

 

Luffy turned toward the newcomers. Three of them were little kids that jumped and screamed and ran off. The last one was somewhat familiar. Hmm, who does he remind me of? ‘I would say he looks like Yassop. In fact, he looks like an older version of that son that Yassop kept thinking of when he visited us so years ago. If his name’s Usopp, then he must be him.’

 

“I am the Great Captain Usopp. I have a pirate fleet of 80 million men and guard this island as my home base. You’d best leave this village alone because I and my 80 million men will not forgive you!” ‘Told you. Seems to have his knack for tales, too.’

 

Nami and Zoro sweat dropped. “You’re lying, aren’t you?” stated Nami.

 

“Aah! How did you find out?”

 

Luffy broke into laughter. What a funny guy. “You’re really funny.” You didn’t believe him, did you brother? Haki aside, 80 million men, really?’ Mmm, maybe for a minute there. ‘Hopeless,’ deadpanned Kitsune before going silent. Luffy just gave his signature grin. This was going to a really fun adventure!

 

- Kitsune -

 

Not for the first or last time today did Kitsune feel like smacking his forehead against a tree. His brother could be the oddest mix of serious and goofy, wise and completely idiotic naiveté. 80 million people were probably close a good portion of the population in East Blue, never mind a tiny island like this one! Running a hand through his loose bangs, Kitsune loosed another exasperated sigh before addressing the younger man aiming a slingshot at them.

 

“You’re Yassop’s kid, right? Your dad told my brothers and me many tales when we were younger. I bet you have his talent for sniping if your confidence with a measly slingshot is any evidence.”

 

“Y-you know my dad!”

 

“Shishishishi! Oh yeah! Yassop is an awesome sniper on Shanks’ crew. He even taught Sabo, Ace, and Kit how to shoot. Sabo preferred his pipe, though, Kit doesn’t like guns because of his powers, but Ace has really good aim.” The son of Yassop gaped and began to ask Luffy for more stories of his old man, inviting the group for lunch.

 

Local Café

 

Usopp wasn’t too bad of a kid. Luffy ate up his fantastical stories like meat, and they certainly amused Zoro and Nami.

 

“So there I was, the great ‘Captain’ Usopp, surrounded by a dozen strong armed men and…”

 

Kitsune tuned out Usopp for a moment as he let his eyes wander around. He had the vaguest sense of unease. The fox in him did not bare its teeth quite yet, but the feeling made Kitsune wary with his ears laid back. There was a sense that someone with a deep and cruel malice was on this tiny little island – one that has passed through this little dining spot in recent times. If Kitsune dared to stretch his senses, he could detect many more similar but smaller presences out at sea. And they were coming closer. The older D made a note to mention this to his crew in private later today. He turned back to the conversation when he heard Usopp’s exclamation.

 

“You guys are looking for comrades to join your adventure? Cool. And you need a big ship, too.”

 

“Yup. We need a cook, a musician…”

 

“And a doctor if our crewmates keep flirting with death so much,” added Kitsune. “With the way you and Zoro act, I believe there is a 99.9% chance that one of you two will sustain some sort of serious injury on our journey before we even reach the Grand Line. I can manage healing minor wounds and even help with some major ones, but not without a serious drop in my own stamina. On the Grand Line, we need every sort of person from support to field combatant.”

 

Shishishi, right Kitsune. We really need a musician!”

 

“A musician? Err, that’s not exactly a top priority right now…”

 

“But pirates need to sing! Music is important for the adventure.”

 

“…I give up. But I am sure we will find one later on in our journey. Why don’t we concentrate on finding people willing to join a bunch of crazy kids heading for the Grand Line?”

 

“Well,” interrupted Usopp after the two brothers quit arguing, “I don’t know about crew members, but there is a decent-sized ship on this island. It belongs to a wealthy family. The owner is a young and weak girl bedridden from sickness. She lost her parents to sickness, and now she lives off her inheritance with ten servants in a big mansion.”

 

“How sad,” murmured Nami.

 

“Wealth and status does not exclude one from the sorrow that every person faces in their lifetime,” hummed Kitsune, eyes locked onto Nami.

 

She looked pained. She muttered that they should go look for a ship on another island and the D brothers agreed. The long look on Usopp face flickered away, replaced by its usual brand of cocky confidence.

 

 “You know, I always wanted to be a great warrior of the sea like my dad.”

 

 “Oh, why don’t you join us?” asked Kitsune after exchanging a nod with his captain.

 

 “Sure. I’ll join you if you let me be the captain!”

 

 Kitsune treated the liar with a closed eye smile. “When I grow grey hairs first in my black.” Usopp looked crestfallen for a moment before going into a tirade of his qualifications. Kitsune just replied with a toothy grin.

  

A while later…

  

“Pirates!”

 

 Kitsune had just dug into another serving of rice balls when three kids rushed over to his crew’s table. The raven-blonde nibbled on his rice ball and stared at the angry, stick-bearing brats.

 

 “Where and what did you pirates do to our captain! You’d better give him back or…!”

 

 “Mmm, good meat!” commented Luffy. The kids’ faces paled. Kit snickered into his tea.

 

 Zoro grinned at the three kids with malice. “We ate him.”

 

 “…?!” The face fault of the three children was too much. Kitsune dissolved into full-out laughter.

 

 “Quite the difficult choice, I aa-haha-ssure you. Shahehehe! He was a bit on the lean side and quite odd in taste,” joked Kitsune.

 

 “AAAAAAAHHHHH! CANNIBALS!”

 

 *Smack! Smack*! Kitsune reeled in his seat after Nami knocked him down. She then turned to Zoro with a demonic expression. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE TWO OF YOU? TELLING SUCH THINGS TO THOSE KIDS. I ought to…” Kitsune hung his head in apology. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the three village children had fainted. Still was funny.

 

 - Nami -

 

 Those two weirdos…The three children were apparently part of the Usopp Pirates, Tamenegi, Piiman, and Ninjin. According to them, Usopp ran off at this time to go meet the sick heiress. Apparently, he went there to “go tell lies” which they insisted was good thing.

 

 / “How is telling lies a good thing?” asked Kitsune. “I know it can be necessary at times but generally speaking, it is not socially acceptable.”

 

 “I guess lies aren’t really a good thing, but the way the captain does it is good. He tells Miss Kaya lies about his adventures across the sea. They make her happy.”

 

  “Ahh,” sighed Kitsune with his eyes half-closed. “Kind of like when Thatch and Pops told us bedtime stories while we were stuck in the clinic. I am 45% sure that half of them were made-up and amended for our young ears. Even if most of us (not Luffy) knew a lot of them could not possibly true, they still entertained four bored children whenever we were stuck in bed for a while and didn’t give us nightmares.”

 

  The four straw hats considered a bit more on the new information on their prospective crewmember. Then Luffy stood up and thrust his fist in a familiar pose.

 

  “All right, let’s go to the mansion and get a ship!”

 

 *Smack!* “Are you nuts? I thought you weren’t going to do that?” / Luffy just laughed at her.

 

 Now, the four of them and the three children trudged up the hill to the imposing mansion. Nami gaped, berry signs forming within her pupils. There had to be a lot of expensive stuff in there. Then she noticed Luffy hopping the iron fence.

 

 The orange-haired girl along with the rest of the crew and kids raced after the stubborn pirate captain.

 

 “Hi Usopp!” The long-nosed man jerked from his sitting position. Leaning from an open window was a young pretty girl. Nami only needed to glance at her pale skin and spindly frame to guess at her ill health even without Usopp’s story from earlier. Suddenly the glittering mansion seemed a little less tempting.

 

 “Err, hi Luffy. Kaya, these are new members of my crew!”

 

 “We aren’t,” deadpanned Kitsune. “We’re here to make a request, actually.”

 

 "A request?” asked the young heiress.

 

 "Yeah! We need a ship and…”

 

“WHAT ARE FILTHY PEASANTS LIKE YOU DOING HERE?!”

 

Nami started at the yell. Approaching them marched an older man in a formal black suit and thin-framed glasses. His entire outfit screamed pomp and upper class servant. The man look quite disgusted with them. Nami unconsciously hung back as the man Klahador disparage Usopp for his pirate of a father. Nami may hate pirates, but that didn’t mean people should treat innocent children of them as criminals. The man would not stop insulting Usopp until the normally cocky and easy-going man lost it and punched the bastard in the face. Serves the pompous ass right thought Nami without an ounce of sympathy. Bloodline gave no one an excuse to treat another person like trash.

 

“Hmp, like father like son. Both of you are unruly and violent liars,” scorned the butler as he made that odd gesture to readjust his glasses with only the palm of his hand, plainly disregarding the blood running down his head.

 

“ENOUGH! I KNOW MY DAD WAS A PIRATE. AND I AM PROUD OF THAT – PROUD TO BE A SON OF A PIRATE! I KNOW I LIKE TO LIE, BUT I WILL NOT PRETEND THAT A PIRATE’S BLOOD DOESN’T RUN IN MY VEINS. MY DAD WAS A BRAVE WARRIOR OF THE SEA, AND ONE DAY I WILL BE ONE, TOO!” shouted Usopp with steel conviction in his eyes.

 

“How ridiculous,” replied the injured man, “is that you would think that pirates are ‘brave warriors of the sea’? Pirates are nothing but scum and value money alone. I had thought your motivation was Miss Kaya’s…but this changes nothing. In fact, your heritage makes your expulsion from these grounds all the more reasonable!”

 

“Why you…!” Usopp went to threaten the man, but Kitsune darted in between the two, holding a hand to back down the angry son of a pirate.

 

“Think, Usopp. Would you really want to do this here?”

 

“Usopp,” sobbed a voice from the side. “Usopp! Please, stop! Do not use more violence!” Usopp paused at her words, guilt mixing with his anger. “Klahador is a good man and is only looking at my best interests. This is why he is acting so extreme.”

 

Nami’s fists clenched. What must be going through the poor girl’s head when two of the most important people in her life were fighting? Klahador straightened himself and loudly cleared his throat. Nami narrowed her eyes. Exactly who is acting like scum here?

 

“Leave, now,” coldly ordered the butler. “Savages like you are not welcome here. I’ll let you leave with a warning, but you will not return to this place again!”

 

Usopp froze. His face darkened. “Fine. I would have left without you telling me so. I know where I am not wanted.” The long-nosed man turned and walked away. “Don’t worry. I will never come back her ever again!”

 

The three brats then tried to run at Klahador, spatting insults the whole time. Nami just calmly grabbed the three before the man could do worse to them. Kitsune glared balefully at the butler.

 

“ALL OF YOU LEAVE AT ONCE!”

 

Roadside

 

- Kitsune -

 

What malice, thought the fox shape-shifter. Just before they left, Kitsune let a little of his haki bleed through, and he felt that the wave of malice from earlier centered about the well-mannered manservant. Something about the guy rubbed his imagined fur wrong. Ordinary men did not usually give off this level of energy, and never a simple butler! Not only that, but Luffy had run off to find Usopp, probably at the seashore if the two children were correct about Usopp’s habits. But, at least his younger brother could be depended upon to take care of himself.

 

The Zoan considered the little information he had on East Blue. Never once, had he explored this sea after that one trip the brothers took on their grandfather’s orders, so the shapeshifter had little information to work with beyond some tidbits he gleaned from research and rumor. That one gesture in particular sparked remembrance. But where? Increased shouting tore fox’s from his thoughts. Heading toward the group was the frequently absent Tamanegi.

 

 “BAD NEW! Huff, puff. THERE’S A MAN…BACKWARDS…!”

 

 Kitsune tilted his head in askance at the two other children that just shrugged.

 

 “What are you on about now, Tamanegi?”

 

 “There’s this weirdo that is walking backwards along the road!”

 

 “What?”

 

 "Liar!”

 

Kitsune carefully climbed to his feet from his perch on the wooden fence and stood. There in the distance he saw a curious man in a casual violet hat and jacket with heart-shaped yellow sunglasses. He was indeed strutting backwards.

 

The man faced the pirates and children. “Weirdo? Hey! Who are you calling weird?”

 

“Obviously you,” drawled the pirate in quiet amusement. This man had an oddly strong aura (for East Blue), but not particularly malevolent as Klahador’s. Come to think of it, the butler’s aura was a whole level higher, maybe minor menace level in Paradise.

 

The man was not amused. “Shut up! I am but a humble hypnotist.”

 

The boys looked at the man in awe.

 

“Wow, a hypnotist?” exclaimed Piiman.

 

“What can you do?” asked Ninjin.

 

“Yeah, show us!” cheered Tamenegi.

 

The man expressed affront at the suggestion of showing off his hypnotism then…showed it off anyways. Kitsune hopped over and silently strode over to the children’s side.

 

“Stare at this,” ordered the hypnotist as he took out a metal loop attached to a steel wire. The gleam of the metal told Kitsune that the ring was actually edged as a blade – a chakram. More and more curious.

 

“At one, two, Jango, you will all fall asleep. Ready….!”

 

The idiot put himself to sleep. Kitsune nudged the unconscious man and shook his head. “Hey, you three, watch this.” The kitsune knelt by the hypnotist with a sadistic light illuminating his silvery eyes. The silver-blue bled black at the edges as an unnatural glow took hold of them, and they turned to slits.

 

“Hear me well,” sweetly hummed the fox child, “of voice and thought. Flames caught. Fire blot. Vision awry in a red sky. Until the count of three. Now, awaken thee!”

 

The man jerked up and began to bat at his clothes in a panic. He ran in circles, screaming about fire everywhere. The fox took pity (after ten minutes of watching this display) and counted to three. The man stopped, blinked twice, then twirled around in confusion. He turned to the pirate leaning casually against the fence with an uneasy look. Kitsune just smirked at the man, who cursed once before striding off.

 

The boys looked at the devil fruit eater in awe. “Teach us that!” Kitsune waved the three off, telling them that they could not do what he just did but promising to teach them some sleight-of-hand tricks that they can learn later.

 

“To be completely honest, the whole rhyme thing was totally unnecessary except for dramatic effect,” admitted Kitsune.

 

(After the unmasking of Captain Kuro)

 

Kitsune had just headed along the road to find his wayward captain and friend when said friend dashed past him.

 

“Hey! What’s the hurry?” Kitsune had a bad feeling. He turned to Zoro and Nami. “Deal with that, please, you two. I will be right back.”

 

“Hey!” Kitsune ignored Nami’s protests and broke into a run.

 

Along the coast

 

Walking along the high cliff, Kitsune stretched his haki-enhanced senses. There! Judging by the noticeably calm energy, Luffy was either asleep or unconscious. Kitsune peered down to see his comatose little brother snoozing upside down. He leapt down. A minute passed.

 

*Clobber, crack!* One haki-infused fist sent the captain slamming into the rock face. The body slid and twitched as soon as it landed.

 

“OW! KIT!” The annoyed straw-hatted captain straightened into a sitting position. “Why’d you hit me with haki?!”

 

“And why were you sleeping?”

 

“Sleeping? Oh yeah. There was this weird guy with that stupid butler. Jungo, or something. He was talking about killing Usopp’s girlfriend at dawn with his crew. But the butler was calling the shots. Called himself…Ero? Kero?”

 

“Kuro,” muttered Kitsune under his breath. “The famed pirate captain Kuro of ‘One Hundred Plans’?” At Luffy’s blank expression, the exasperated first mate ran a hand through his hair again. “Never mind. I will explain this when we find the others.”

 

- KASL -

 

The two brothers shortly found the others. The three pirates, thief, and three children gathered and waited on the missing liar. They saw him walking along the road around sunset.

 

“Captain Usopp!” cried the three children.

 

“Hi, everyone,” cheerfully greeted Usopp. Kitsune didn’t miss the tears running down the younger man’s face before he wiped them away. “I- AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD?!” yelled Usopp as he pointed at Luffy who only looked at him blandly.

 

“Kitsune woke me up. I guess I fell down that cliff when that weirdo hypno-pied me.”

 

“Hypno-TIZED,” emphasized Kitsune. “Did a little memory digging among other things. So, Klahador is the infamous Kuro of ‘One Hundred Plans’? And I suppose that was Jango, his former first mate and current captain of the Black Cat Pirates.”

 

“We have to warn everyone!” shouted the three children.

 

Usopp remembered what happened earlier.

 

/* Slap!* / “How could anyone believe you when you act like this?” / “Get him!” “Don’t let him escape!” “He went too far this time!”  /

 

“Pirates? Don’t be ridiculous. I was just lying and-” Kitsune scooped a rock from the ground and bounced it off the sniper’s head. Usopp’s head snapped back and he gave a shout of pain.

 

“Why’d you-”

 

“Think before you speak. Lies will do you more harm than good. Lying when you’re nervous has its place, but Luffy was there, remember? If you are trying to protect Tamenegi, Piiman, and Ninjin, I understand, but they are not that stupid,” berated Kitsune in an even voice.

 

“Wow, Kit is really mad. He usually only talks like that when Ace was depressed, Sabo was too caught up in his head, or I did something really dumb.”

 

“And don’t you forget it,” muttered Kitsune, “unless you want me to direct my anger on you?”

 

The straw hat waved his apology. “No, no. Just keep looking at Usopp.”

 

Kitsune carded his fingers through his bangs once more before addressing the group. “Alright, you three,” said Kitsune with his gaze pinning the three frantic children, “do not tell anyone of Klahador’s intentions or plans. I suggest the three of you go home for now. Frankly, the three of you are too weak for Klahador to pay much attention, but ‘crying pirate’ will only get you three in trouble with the village.”

 

At the three’s protests, Kitsune knocked them on the top of their heads. “Listen up. We cannot afford to tread on three brats while we’re fighting. None of you anything to offer. In other words, dead weight.” Silence. The boys looked accusingly at Kitsune for his harsh words, and shot betrayed glances at Usopp who had not said a word the entire time. The three then declared that the two were not the men they thought they were and that they needed to head home for dinner.

 

Kitsune sighed and traded a glance with his fellow liar. “And that is when and how you lie to protect others. They really won’t get in our way too much in the whole preparation stage, but they’re still little brats with not a clue of the dangers. White lies are best when mixed with truth.” Stifling another sigh, the first mate waved his conspirators around to form their countermeasures against the incoming pirate invasion.

Chapter Text

“Normal speech”

/Flash back/

Thoughts

‘Kitsune’s Telepathic speech’

*sounds from now on*

 

Western Slope

- KASL -

 

“Okay, this is the only way into the village,” said Usopp as the group of pirates (and Nami) settled along the rocks of the beach. “We need to protect this slope. If we can hold off the invasion here, then no pirate will make it to the village. We need to guard this place with our lives!” declared Usopp with (honest) determination.

 

“So,” he continued, “what can you guys do?”

 

“Slicing.”

 

“Stealing.”

 

“Stretching.”

 

“Sneaking.”

 

“Hiding.” Usopp stated, much to the displeasure of the four others.

 

“YOU’RE FIGHTING, TOO!”

 

Pre-Dawn

 

Usopp examined the slope one last time. The western slope gleamed in the pre-dawn light. For a good portion of the early morning, Usopp had slicked the slope until even the nimble Kitsune had trouble scaling the oily earth. Just as Usopp made the finishing touches, the pirate’s dozing form in one of the nearby trees went from sleeping to alert in a single second.

 

“Damn, we messed up! Usopp, Luffy, did any of you noted where the pirates were docking? I know you guys said Captain Kuro and Jango met here, but they could arrive at a different coast.”

 

Usopp blanched. “Err, well, the only other slope is to the north.”

 

Kitsune glanced toward the direction of the northern slope. “…Suspicion confirmed. I sense a large number of hostile presences from that direction.”

 

“Presences?” inquired Usopp. “What do you mean by that…?”

 

“Later,” snapped the beret wearer. “Let’s go- Nami, Zoro!”

 

Nami and Zoro had just tried to dash when their feet suddenly slipped out from under them. At the thought of their unguarded ship, Nami reached out and yanked on Zoro’s green band, pulling herself forward. Without a second thought, she used the momentum to send her jumping off the unfortunate swordsman head and followed after the rubber man and sniper.

 

“Sorry, but my treasure is in danger!”

 

The swordsman cursed. “Nami, I will kill you for this-!”

 

“Hold still.” Zoro froze at the command. A spark lit up the oil around him in red fire. In moments all the oil burned away without a single burn on the swordsman. At the top of the slope, Kitsune waved off the smoke clinging to his fingers and dashed after his brother and friends.

 

Northern Slope

Dawn

 

- Jango -

 

“’Bout time you showed up,” commented an all too cheery voice.

 

The current captain of the Black Cat Pirates narrowed his eyes. There in front of the Black Cat Pirates were a five snot-nosed brat. The shortest one with black and blonde hair sported a way too cheeky grin.

 

“And what is that supposed to mean, man?” 

 

“We’ve been waiting for you,” hummed Kitsune, “and now we can move onto business, pirate business.”

 

“Wait, did Captain Kuro send you? Excellent. Taking care of the village and that rich heiress will eas-” A pachinko ball struck the hypnotist right in the face.

 

“YOU WILL LAY A HAND ON LADY KAYA OVER MY DEAD BODY!”

 

That brat! The kid with the long nose blinked in shock at what he just said, sweat beading over his face. Captain Jango smiled sharply, his forehead crinkling in agitation.

 

“Clearly, we have some sort of misunderstanding. Stand aside kids, so the adults can play.”

 

“Ttch, Usopp, quit trying to be intimidating until you have something to back you up.” The shorter kid disappeared. And reappeared just in front of Jango. 

 

“Let me make this clear. You will have to deal with us before you take a step any further toward Syrup Village.”

 

“What?! Are you brats trying to pose as some sort of bounty hunters? You’re way too young to even think of competing with the likes of the Black Cat Pirates. I, Captain Jango, am a wanted man of renown.”

 

The kid narrowed his eyes. “Brats? Bounty Hunters? Well, I suppose Roronoa once fit that bill, but we, my fine gentlemen,” enunciated the brat with a sweep of his arm, “are pirates, too. And we are not letting a bunch of brutes of your like to come and hurt our friend’s village. Plus, we would kindly like to take some sort of compensation, too, for our wasted time.”

 

That’s IT, thought Jango. “Men, take care of these brats. We are already late as it is. Leave the little one to me,” shouted Jango as he brandished his chakram. Suddenly, the little punk grinned and disappeared with the barest trace of smoke in his place.

 

The men that rushed forward had no chance. Jango stood there and gaped. The green-haired one named Zoro made short work of most of them alongside a familiar lanky kid with a straw hat-

 

“AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD?!” screamed Jango without thinking.

 

Shahehehehe, of course not. One little fall off a cliff wouldn’t stop my illustrious brother. Ever hear of devil fruits? Two members of our crew have already eaten of them. Care to guess whom?” Jango gripped his chakram and slashed around, trying to pinpoint that mocking voice.

 

He hit only air, and the kid’s mocking laughter seemed to come from every direction.

 

A few minutes later and every one of Jango’s men laid in moaning, barely coherent heaps.

 

“That it?” asked the swordsman.

 

“Apparently, Zoro. Nice aim, Usopp, I think you knocked out quite a few of them...Nami…is doing what she does best I see. Luffy, you managed to not overdo it, nice job brother.” The little beret-wearing kid had the audacity to materialize just in front of Jango with his back turned. Jango clenched his teeth with an audible clack.

 

“Men, get up and fight! Look into my ring. At one, two, JANGO! You will all heal and fight with the strength of a hundred men. One, two, JANGO!”

 

Now those damn brats were done for.

 

- Kitsune -

 

“AAAARGH! WROOARR! *Crash, bang*!

 

The pirates that Kitsune, Zoro, Luffy (and Usopp) just downed got back up and went on a supercharged rampage after that stupid guy in the heart glasses hypnotized them. Kitsune only rolled his eyes after one smashed a rock. I am fairly certain my brothers and I could do that when we were little kids, forget about the rest of our family. Then he heard panting from next to him. The trickster slid his blank gaze to his brother – who had fell under Jango’s hypnotism once again. The smirk grew. ‘Go get them, captain.’

 

“AAAAAAHHHH!!!” Luffy bulldozed through the crowd, pounded away at them, and tore off the Black Cats’ bow. Kitsune chuckled.

 

“A bit of a two-edged sword, Captain Jango. Why don’t I take a crack at it before my captain tears that ship of yours apart?” Kitsune flung out his hands to the sides with the palms up. Two balls of black fire swirled into existence before changing into the exact same shade of silver blue edged with black that shown in Kitsune’s irises. Kitsune’s smirk widened as most of the Black Cat Pirates (and the hyper Luffy) were caught in the effects of the foxfire. “~Luffy, snap out of it. All the rest, take a rest for a while. Sweet dreams ~.”

 

Many of the pirates conked out of it after the last syllable. And Luffy woke up but unfortunately lost his balance – letting the huge bow collapse right on top of him, knocking him unconscious. Jango just watched all of this play out with his hands clenched and his body visibly shaking in rage.

 

‘”Damn brats, we do not have time to waste. Dawn has long past. You are all in for it. SHAM, BUCHI!”

 

“Yeah captain?!” shouted a shrill voice from the Black Cats’ ship.

 

“Do you have a job for us?!” asked a much lower pitched voice. 

 

“GET DOWN HERE! Some snot-nosed punks decided to trash our ship’s figurehead.”

 

A low leveled aura of menace washed out from the ship. Impressive for someone from this sea, remarked Kitsune silently. All around him, the fallen pirates (who escaped his trance) smirked and giggled. According to them, he and his crewmates were in for a different level of fighters. And with Luffy out of the loop – well, this was still the East Blue after all.

 

“COME DOWN…NYABAN BROTHERS!”

 

Two black shadows somersaulted from the ship’s bird’s nest and onto the deck of the ship.

 

“You punks are in for it! No one beats the ship’s guards!”

 

“Yeah, Sham and Buchi will crush all of you!”

 

One figure was large, pudgy and wore a fluffy cape and a bell at the neck. The other was painfully skinny, had green hair and an orange bowtie. Both of them wore the distinct black cat ears, and they sported clawed gloves.

 

“Alright, Buchi, Sham,” said Jango with a with his body only half-turned to the newest arrivals that had jumped down to shore, “these brats are blocking the passage through the slope, so go and destroy them!”

 

The two men sweated and cringed away in what appeared to be fear.

 

“No way, captain! We’re just the ship’s watchmen.”

 

“We can’t beat them, can we Buchi?”

 

“No way, these guys look really tough!”

 

“Yeah and-”

 

“SHUT IT AND GO SHAM, BUCHI!”

 

“Aye, captain!”

 

The skinnier one, Sham, began to wail as he charged straight for Zoro. Kitsune grimaced and glanced at the befuddled swordsman. ‘Yo, Zoro, this is Kitsune. Communicating through telepathy, it’s one of my powers. Don’t let down your guard around these crazy cats’ bluff. Tall, clawed, and skinny probably moves faster than he seems.’

 

Zoro blinked for a moment at the beginning of the message, but replied with a grin. He drew another of his swords the split second the Black Cat pirate’s demeanor shifted.

 

*Clang*! One sword blocked an incoming claw and the other swept high as the pirate tried to balance onto the first sword’s blade.

 

“Drat, I thought I had you fool!”

 

“Well,” remarked Zoro with that familiar gleam as he clashed his two blades against Sham’s claw swipes, “I have a good first mate. Your act may have fooled Usopp and me for a moment, but you would have to do a lot better to beat a pirate from the Grand Line.”

 

“Grand Line? Impossible. And your first mate is that whimpering fool behind you?”

 

“No, he’s the tiny cocky-eyed one.”

 

Kitsune pouted. “I am not short. I am lanky like my father. Stop commenting on my height, alread- Watch out!”

 

Buchi, seeing his brother’s predicament, opted for a surprise assault.

 

“Cat Technique, Drop Kick!!!”

 

Zoro barely separated in time to dodge the large man as he plummeted down on the two fighters. Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly escaped unscathed.

 

Sham gave a devil’s grin as he brandished the swordsman’s two blades. Zoro clutched shoulder as red blood began to bead along the long cuts.

 

“Aww, missing something?”

 

“GIVE ME BACK MY SWORDS!”

 

“But, you already have one at your waist.” The cat-man grinned with a mouth of sharp teeth. “One is enough, don’t you think.” The pirate flung the two blades to the side. And gaped.

 

Kitsune couldn’t help but laugh at the Black Cat Pirate’s face, as he nimbly snatched the swords in air just behind the pirate. He made his form fade with his grin coming last to disappear and walked over to Zoro, reappearing just as slowly.

 

“Alright. We wasted enough time. What do you say to Four Swords-Style?” Zoro responded by fastening his final sword into his mouth and grabbing the two swords. No injury was going to daunt the combatant of their crew. Kitsune reached for Fuzakeru Kasai. “I say we end this now.”

 

The two pirates snarled and leapt at the swordsmen.

 

“Cat’s Clown Technique!”

 

Pathetic. Kitsune only dodged around, sticking his foot out to trip one of the brothers into the other. Circling back to Zoro’s side, Kitsune tightened his grip ever so slightly around the kodachi’s hilt. White fire blazed down the blade. Zoro crossed his blades into a familiar stance.

 

“Four Swords Style Combination: Crossing of Two Demons.”

 

The two sprinted, their paths cutting across the other in a zig-zag pattern. They were blurs of white and green.

 

They stopped just behind the two pirates as slashes and burns appeared on their two bodies. Both pirates toppled over unconscious.  ‘Not bad. At least we got some practice on that island.’

 

Kitsune adjusted his beret, flicking off a few drops of blood that dripped onto the grey silk with a grimace. He glanced to the side to see the angry Jango. But then, his expression morphed from one of anger to one of absolute panic and fear.

 

“I-I-I can explain…”

 

“Oh, really?”

 

Zoro and Usopp turned quickly to see the butler Klahador – Kuro – standing at the top of the slope.

 

“WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!”

 

Kitsune frowned. “What do you think? Two pirate crews, one small island, do the math,” sassed the annoyed first mate. “Aside from Luffy, who frankly did that to himself, Zoro, Usopp, and I quite handedly defeated every one of your crew except for Jango (Mostly because we haven’t decided to engage him yet went unsaid but was implied). 

 

“Pathetic. To think that a bunch of kids can do this to a seasoned crew of hardened pirates.”

 

“E-Easy for you *huff, huff* to s-say, Captain Kuro.” Kitsune looked over to the Nyaban brothers. He and Zoro went easy with that last move. Enough to put down most for the remainder of a battle, but the larger brother’s mass must have softened the blows. The large man even now staggered to his feet.

 

“You are no longer our captain in fact. You haven’t been our captain for three years. You’ve gone soft in your cushy butler position. I doubt even you could do much better against these monsters. Sham and I have spent these years looting. Fighting. KILLING!” With a surprising burst of energy, Buchi ran headlong at his captain. Kitsune curled his lip. Runner-up to world’s greatest idiot. Can’t any of them feel the energy rolling off the man?

 

Buchi’s attempt to kill his former captain failed spectacularly. He managed to cut up Kuro’s briefcase, but the man in question managed to sneak just behind him with his own bladed hands at the fallen pirate’s throat.

 

“Soft? Perhaps you’re right. I certainly don’t move like I did those years ago. And I am no longer your captain, but your client, so I’ll give you all a most generous chance. Five minutes. Defeat these children or…I think you can fill in the rest, hmmm?” Kuro withdrew his hands with a contemptuous sneer and kicked the injured pirate away from him.

 

- Jango -

 

FIVE MINUTES? These guys…we’re all going to die! thought the panicking captain of the Black Cat Pirates. They really had no chance. The two swordsmen laid out his best men like child’s play and the monster of a captain rammed his hypnotized subordinates like they were straw dolls and tore up their ship.

 

“Cap-Captian Jango?”

 

The unexpected voice snapped Jango from his lamentations. At his feet, Sham had somehow dragged his body over to him and forced himself to his knees. But the pirate was breathing heavily.

 

“Captain Jango? Hypnotize us! Those damn brats must pay.”

 

Skeptic, but obliging (considering him against three was not good odds) Captain Jango let his chakram dangle and slowly rock back and forth.

 

“At one, two, JANGO, you will heal all your injuries and come out stronger than ever before. One, two…JANGO!”

 

Both fallen pirates roared. Jango smiled grimly. They had a chance, at least.

 

- KASL -

 

With the two swordsmen occupied, Captain Jango watched patiently. It would definitely do him no good to get torn apart by running in between the two pairs of fighter.

 

The Nyaban brothers were on top of the two swordsmen. Zoro locked blades with the enraged Buchi on one side while Kitsune fended off the quick and unpredictable slashes of Sham. The two suddenly found themselves separated. But neither pirate was going to give up. No, this was just fine for them.

 

Zoro battled sheer brutish strength with sheer brutish strength. His opponent was incredibly buff, but this only made the demon smile wickedly.

 

“Quite some strength you have there. But this is the end.”

 

“Three Swords Style: Tiger Hunt!”

 

Kitsune drew his dagger and blocked blow after blow with sword and knife. The fox enjoyed the fight. The overpowered pirate fared much better than the others he had fought in the East Blue. He enjoyed the fight enough to consider letting it drag for a bit.

 

Usopp couldn’t stop his shaking. What was with these guys? Luffy could stretch his arms like crazy and take on all those pirates like they were nothing! And his crewmates were just as crazy. Zoro was like a demon – he grinned the whole time even as Buchi came near to slitting his throat! And Kitsune had the audacity to mock the pirates at every turn. Who – no what - in the world did I ally myself with? And where was Nami?

 

“Two minutes!”

 

The two Black Cat pirates registered the voice on some level as their blow fell even heavier and swifter. But then…

 

“STOP!”

 

Kitsune, for a split second stumbled on the uneven ground. A claw flashed before his eyes. To only have a rubber arm sling out and slam Sham into the rock face, unconscious.

 

“Luffy.”

 

“Be more careful, Kit! Just like you tell me all the time, shishishishi.”

 

“Good idea.” A second later and the trickster fox would have lost an eye probably. And it looked like Zoro had dispatched Buchi. A murmur of voices drew the two brothers to the top of the slope. Standing behind Kuro was Lady Kaya.

 

“Stop, Klahador! Just stop it. Meri told me everything!”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Kaya, RUN! These guys are after your life. You should-” cried Usopp but Kaya cut him off. 

 

“No, Usopp. You’re all risking your lives for mine. What happened back in the village shouldn’t have happened. I still don’t really believe it, either, that Klahador is a pirate.”

 

“You need to leave and hide!” begged the liar.

 

“You’re all fighting for my sake, and your wounds!” Well, Zoro and Usopp weren’t exactly unscathed from fighting so many opponents at once earlier, and the Nyaban brothers scored a few times on Zoro, too. Luffy intervention saved Kitsune from sporting some nasty wounds for himself.

 

“KLAHADOR! IF YOU ONLY WANT MY MONEY, I WILL WILLINGLY GIVE IT TO YOU! JUST LEAVE EVERYONE AND THE VILLAGE ALONE!”

 

Kuro only adjusted his glasses.

 

“I’m sorry, Miss Kaya, but it was never just about the money. I like this peace. For these three years, I have earned the villagers’ trust. I feel content here. My goal is to achieve not only your money but also this “peace of mind”, and I can only fulfill this plan by having my crew attack the village and staging your death.

 

“RUN KAYA! You can’t reason with this guy!”

 

Kaya stared in horror for a moment after Klahador’s casual reference to her death. But when Usopp began to plea for her to leave, she hardened her will. She pointed her pistol into her former servant’s direction.

 

“Oh? I see you have found in yourself some measure of strength. Can you really forget everything I did for you? All I did for these past three years as your loyal butler?”

 

The insidious croon of Kuro weakened Kaya’s grip but his blatant denouncement of their time together broke it. The gun fell.

 

“NO!!!” Usopp had had enough. He launched himself at the butler. And missed.

 

“Hmmm, you still owe me for that punch earlier. It hurt quite a bit, too.” Ten blades swooped on the defenseless son of a pirate.

  

*Smack* Luffy hit the man squarely. Kuro laid stunned on the ground. Three figures suddenly leapt out.

 

”AAAARRRGH- Hey!” Before the vegetable trio could converge on the downed pirate, Kitsune grabbed the three and lifted them off the ground.

 

“Again? When you three short stacks see a wanted man, you do not go and try to pummel him even if he is downed. It doesn’t mean he is exactly neutralized.” The three began to yell until Kuro rose from the ground.

 

“That was quite an unusual move there,” he commented casually, adjusting his frames once more. “Devil fruit users?”

 

Kitsune stared calmly at the man. Luffy grinned.

 

“Yep! I ate the Gum-Gum fruit and Kit ate the Dog-Dog fruit!”

 

"Two devil fruit users. Will wonders no longer cease? Well, Jango, it seems we’re a few minutes over the time limit.” The air around Captain Kuro seized with a wave of menace. “How unfortunate. No one will be left alive. Jango, I still need you to hypnotize Miss Kaya into signing away her inheritance. Leave the rest to me.”

 

“S-sure captain!” Jango hurriedly ran past Luffy, Zoro – who had collapsed from blood loss – and headed straight for Miss Kaya.

 

*SSSShooosh*

 

“It’s not going to be that easy.” Kitsune had materialized just in front of the Black Cat Captain.

 

“I got this guy. Luffy handle the former captain. Usopp, grab Zoro and take everyone else into the forest. Stop gaping and GO!” commanded the first mate of Luffy’s crew.

 

“Go ahead and run,” sneered Kuro. “Once we take care of the two of you, we’ll neatly take care of your injured crewmate and that liar. Then Miss Kaya will be ours.”

 

Kitsune huffed indignantly, “The best plans plough forward one step at a time. Focus on defeating the two of us first.

 

“How hard can it be? You’re just two snot-nosed brats. I am Captain Kuro of ‘One-Hundred Plans’.”

 

“I wonder,” murmured Kit as he pushed his beret back and simultaneously swept his bangs back. The proud mark of Whitebeard showed on his left temple.

 

A moment of silence.

 

“Th-that mark…that’s i-impossible!” Captain Jango had paled.

 

- Kitsune -

 

“Impossible? Didn’t you listen to Zoro? My brother and I came from this sea originally, but we spent a good portion of our childhood on the Grand Line as members of one of the world’s greatest living pirate crews.”

 

“Shishishishi! Thatch would say you’re being really dramatic, Kit But, yeah, we’re sons of Whitebeard!”

 

Kuro clenched his fists to his sides. “Ridiculous. It must be fake. Why would such a legendary figure send his men to this sea, much less a couple of children?!”

 

How typical. A back corner of Kitsune’s mind acknowledged that the two of them would probably go through this song and dance routine several times over while in East Blue and in Paradise. Outwardly, Kitsune scoffed in indignation.

 

“Whatever. You had your chance to back down.”

 

“Regardless of who you are, I cannot allow mere children to meddle in my plans, plans three years in the making.”

 

“I would bet,” retorted the Kitsune as he twirled his dagger between the fingers of his right hand. “Let me take a guess. When that marine came back and supposedly captured the great Captain Kuro of “One Hundred Plans”, you arranged it?” 

 

“Exactly. Do you know what the life of a pirate is like? Constantly running without but the briefest moments of peace as the navy chases your heels. Coming up with plan after plan. I had enough, so I staged my death with my first mate’s help. That fool believed himself to be me and that marine was awarded with a promotion.

 

Miss Kaya’s parents foolishly believed me a helpless and hurt man bereft of home and a way to sustain myself; their demise was not of my undertaking but was quite convenient with their sickly heiress. All I needed to do was earn the villagers’ respect and confidence before unveiling the last step of my plan – a plan to live a life without having to check over my shoulder for the colors of the marines, a life free of worry, a life where I had the “peace of mind” I always desired. A plan which,” Kuro’s sneer darkened with each syllable, “you children have the nerve to try and ruin!”

 

“Ttch,” muttered Luffy. “If you didn’t want the trouble,” Luffy grasped his arm as he pulled back, “Then you shouldn’t have been a pirate!”

 

“Gum-Gum Pistol!”

 

Kuro deftly avoided it, but ran straight into a barrage of cuts and slashes courtesy of Kitsune. Kitsune grinned as Kuro parried his sword and dagger before separating entirely; Luffy slammed into Kuro with a Gum-Gum Rocket seconds later.

 

"Agreed. You coward, you do not earn the title of pirate. In the Grand Line, a pirate would chew up someone of your weak will and spit it out on principle.” Kitsune straightened his beret as he turned back to his original opponent. “Who do you think is better?” asked the trickster to the hypnotist. “The sweet tongued illusionist or the bumbling one-trick performer?”

 

 Kitsune could actually hear Jango as he clacked his teeth together angrily. The captain assumed an air of menace as he clutched his chakram. Poor odds and an even poorer man once the mythical fox got through with him.

 

- Luffy -

 

That butler was no pirate; no true pirate would give up the life for such stupid reasons! So what if it got hard? What if marines chased you? They were pirates and that was what pirates did. Luffy waited as the butler-guy stumbled back to his feet with a look of fury on his stupid face. The tackle flung the butler against a rock and broke several of his claws.

 

“You stupid boy. I will not hold back anymore.” Then he did something weird. He loosened his stance, stood there, and let his arms sway side-to-side.

 

“No! Captain Kuro, don’t use that!”

 

“We’ll all die at this range!”

 

“Stop, we’re too close, Captain!”

 

“SHUT UP. I AM NO LONGER YOUR CAPTAIN.”

 

“Shakushi.”

 

Kuro suddenly disappeared in a blur. *Shing* A rock behind Luffy had it top half slide off from a slash as though something cut through it like a knife through butter.  Screaming had the young pirate captain whirling around to see the Black Cat Pirates under attack. Gashes and gouts of blood began to appear on several of them. Their cries and pleas angered Luffy. 

 

“Why’d you do that for?!”

 

Kuro reappeared. “What do you mean why? They are just pirates, members of my old crew. A pirate’s crew is nothing more than a group of pawns that live and die at my command. Their lives ultimately serve to further my goals.” Kuro swayed once more and disappeared in a blur of speed.

 

Just at that moment, Luffy spotted a familiar figure peeking around the Black Cats’ ship.

 

Sometime during the earlier scuffle with the Black Cat Pirates

 

- Nami -

 

After she had checked to see their treasure was secured, Nami eyed the neighboring vessel. She had heard about the Black Cat Pirates’ exploits, especially about the amount of treasure they have robbed from innocent people over the past few years. Those monsters probably could live without her to help them.

 

Man, the gods of money and gold had to be smiling on her. That idiot straw hat scared the living daylights out of her when she saw him rushing toward the ship scant feet away from her hiding place. Then there were those guardsmen.  She was just about to board the ship when those two showed up and went to fight Luffy’s crew. A moment sooner and she would have been caught! Nami put a hand to her heaving chest and stifled her surprise with the other one.

 

The thought of treasure moved her feet forward. And what a score! Gold, coins, bills and jewels filled the hold. 

 

“Jackpot.” Nami stuffed a bag full of it with a silent promise to come back for the rest.

 

She waited for a while first after for the sounds of battle to decrease before daring to climb off the ship. She was just about to run back to Kitsune’s ship when it happened. A brief flash of metal. Screaming. But not anyone’s but hers.

 

“You’re wrong.”

 

Nami had thought she was done for, her eyes glazed in fear until she noticed the blades stopped by a tanned hand clutched tightly to the pirate’s black coated arm. Luffy had somehow saw through Kuro’s speed… and matched it. But something was different about him. Was that…steam?

 

 “Nakama means more than pawns. Nakama are your family, your friends and comrades. They are NOT disposable. They are invaluable. And I will make you see this if I have to snap every last one of your claws.”

 

Luffy’s hat had fallen off when he ran over. Without it, Nami could see very clearly that look of utter rage. Luffy in one smooth motion flung Kuro away from her. Nami could only just gape at her savior as she slowly slid to her knees as fear sapped her strength.

 

“And don’t ever threaten my nakama.” Luffy’s skin seemed to flash red for a moment. Then he was gone.

 

- Kitsune -

 

Kitsune danced around the amateur hypnotist as he flung his chakram, slicing the trees just behind the wily fox. Kitsune had played with the hypnotist, allowing the man to drive him close to the tree line. Just as the oak behind him began to topple the fox dashed behind it and gave it a kick. The tree plummeted just next to Jango.

 

“Shit! Quit playing around, kid!" 

 

“Why?” Kitsune laughed. “If you’re such a great hypnotist, then make me.” Kitsune nimbly skipped over to where Jango had fallen over in his shock from his near death by tree.

 

“How about this? I won’t even move.”

 

“You brat, fine! At one, two, Jango, you will fall deeply asleep. One, two, JANGO!”

 

Kitsune stared deeply into the swinging chakram. His eyes slid shut. His weapons seemingly fell out of relaxed hands. His body fell limp. He fell to the ground. Triumphant, Jango slashed his chakram down; it only met air as the ‘body’ burst into a cloud of smoke.

                                                                                                 

‘Wrong eyes.’ Jango twisted around as he heard that odd echoing voice. Lounging on the ground was a small black fox with brightly colored tails. His eyes, though, shone with that distinct unearthly silver blue irises…edged black.

 

Kitsune stared without pity as the hypnotist began to scream in false pain. The fox had no mercy for men like him. The hypnotist had a bad memory as he once more stared straight into the three-tailed fox’s eyes just before they began to fight. Not even shades unless made with sea prism stone would work. He had skimmed through the man’s mind lightly in order to use telepathy, and the first mate discovered just how ruthless the man would have been. Not even the kids would have been spared. After a moment or two, the first mate strode over to the writhing body. A brief flare of smoke covered the black fox and parted to reveal a heavier golden fox that casually swatted the prone form into a tree with a satisfying *thunk*. His illusion lifted the moment he had changed forms. Allowing the man to acknowledge the greater pain of reality – one of the key flaws with his hypnosis where the victims hardly felt any pain, or anything really, outside of the illusion.

 

From the sound of cracking behind him, Luffy had taken care of Kuro. Kitsune gave the body at his feet another disgusted look.

 

“I know you guys are there.”

 

“What? There’s n-no one here!”

 

“…”

 

Usopp poked his shivering head out from behind the tree a little deeper in the forest. The three boys and Miss Kaya followed suit (albeit with a little more courage).

 

“You’re really with Whitebeard? The most powerful man in the world?”

 

“Old news, Usopp. I will be sure to tell you some stories later.” The golden fox flashed a devilish smile that did nothing to reassure the sharpshooter.

 

“It’s over, Miss Kaya, Usopp. I’d say Luffy taught that bast - pardon my language Miss Kaya! - that deceiver a lesson he will never forget.”

 

At the coast sometime later

 

“It’s a sheep.”

 

“But don’t you think it’s an awesome sheep?!”

 

“It’s a real live caravel!”

 

“A decent ship, especially considering what we sailed in.”

 

“Touché, swordsman, touché.”

 

After the whole Black Cat fiasco, Miss Kaya had offered their crew a ship! Just as they wanted in the first place. It was designed by Meri, a rather…fluffy fellow that reminded the fox of a tasteful (tasty) hoofed mammal. But, the sheep design did hold its charm, especially for a crew of miscreants as they. Kitsune was probably one of the most sadistic members on board, but  he was also the same man with a habit of entertaining kids with some of his harmless illusions – a fitting ship.

 

“The Going Merry. The design is old but it has a staysail. The controls are in the back. To control it…”

 

Meri’s attempt to teach Luffy, the captain, did not exactly compute. Kitsune and Nami intervened, explaining that they would listen to the explanation and handle navigation.

 

They had just loaded the last of the treasure (including all of the Black Cats’ loot to Nami’s evident delight) onto the ship when they heard shouting:

 

“SOMEONE STOP ME!” Zoro – now bandaged from the earlier fighting – and Luffy lifted their feet to halt the rolling green ball. Unfortunately, their feet landed just on Usopp’s face. 

 

“So, you’re planning to set sail on your own?”

 

Usopp puffed his skinny chest. “Yeah. Don’t try to stop me, or I may never get the nerve to do this again. I want to be a great warrior of the sea just like my dad!” Usopp smiled and blushed slightly as he rubbed the back of his head.

 

“And when I come back to this village, I will have tons of stories more fantastic than lies.”

 

“Do you really think you should set off on your own?” inquired Kitsune, laying on top of Usopp’s supplies and startling the younger man off his feet. “Armed with only a slingshot that would be a great tale to tell…if you survive it.”

 

“T-that’s not exactly encouraging!” Usopp shouted at the lazing pirate who only smirked.

 

“I’m only making a harmless remark on what would make a good story line.”

 

“Oh well- Okay! I guess this is goodbye. I’m sure we’ll meet again!”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Get on board. We need to set sail already.”

 

“What?”

 

“I thought you already knew. It would indeed be foolish and reckless for someone to set sail with only a slingshot alone. But one with a crew is another story.”

 

“But-But you’re with Whitebeard! What would a powerful man like that want with someone like me?”

 

“Knock it off already, shishishishi! My crew is my own, independent of our pops. I am captain. And I like you. And you’re already part of the crew, aren’t you?”

 

Usopp’s jaw dropped. He stuttered for a minute there. Then he began to run from his little ship and giant bag with a whoop.

  

“NO WAY! I’M THE CAPTAIN! Right?”

 

“NO!” shouted everyone on board the Going Merry.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions from now on*

 

 

East Blue

 

- KASL -

 

 

/ While Kitsune was taking an impromptu nap in the bird’s nest, Luffy and Usopp decided to test out the cannons. The large *boom* unfortunately startled the slumbering fox so badly that he nearly fell from the top of the mast. With a puff of smoke, the fox took on the scowling visage of the crew’s resident Zoan. Kitsune barely held back the rising curses when he deftly snagged his transformed claws into the netting along the mast.

 

“Usopp! Luffy!” The fox was not amused. “Warn everyone when you have the bright idea of having target practice! Did anyone of you think of scouting out the target before firing willy-nilly?! That rock island is sizable, so someone may have decided to rest there, for instance. What if you had hit them? We’ll be passing by it in a few hours, so I suppose if you had disturbed someone, you had better apologize! Both of you. Now scatter. We’ll have a crew meeting sometime before then, though. For now, go away and do something. /

 

 

‘Meeting in the kitchen in five minutes.’

 

 

Usopp nearly tottered off his chair. What in the world..? ‘This is Kitsune. I am telepathic. Unfortunately, I am limited by my familiarity with the people I am contacting. So far, I can only communicate with everyone, except for Luffy, at a distance not much greater than the length of the ship. If we have any meetings or I need to relay information quickly, I will attempt telepathy first. So, meeting in three minutes.’

 

 

Usopp rubbed his now aching head that he smacked against the table. This crew was really weird. Guys that can sleep even when they fall off a cliff and now people that can talk with their minds! Crazy, absolutely crazy, concluded the sniper as he quickly packed away his tools.

 

 

Nami was definitely not expecting Kitsune suddenly to start talking to her with his freaking mind powers. But she was no stranger to weird, and the treasure was worth it. Nami kept these thoughts in mind as she took a seat at the table. Zoro and Luffy were already seated. Usopp slipped in with a sheepish smile. Nami imagined that he was still recovering from their surprise earlier.

 

 

“Everyone’s here? Great. Why don’t we get started?” A stool placed to the left of Luffy was engulfed in smoke before revealing the grinning first mate.

 

 

Kitsune had a thing for dramatics. He knew this and loved to show off because this meant they had nothing serious going on to sour the trickster’s mood. The whole appearing in a cloud of smoke was a classic one. Scanning his crewmates, Kitsune was satisfied by the startled looks from Usopp and Nami. Zoro was sleeping, and Luffy always knew when the fox shapeshifter was going to appear if he didn’t purposely hide his presence. Now, onto bigger things.

 

 

“As Usopp probably saw and heard, but not you, Nami, I shall be explaining my brother and mine pirating history. In short, Luffy and I come from a pirating family – we are in fact sons of the one and only Edward Newgate or ‘Whitebeard’.” To accentuate his point, Kitsune lifted his left side bangs to reveal the mark of Whitebeard. Nami’s eyes widened. Usopp was nervously gulping air. Eyeing the still snoozing swordsman, Kitsune made a note to play a little prank on him later.

 

 

“Whitebeard? As in the World’s Strongest Man?!” gasped Nami.

 

 

“Yup,” answered Luffy absentmindedly as he picked his nose. Kitsune took exception to his brother’s actions. He threw a small fireball, incinerating the booger and singeing Luffy’s fingers a bit.

 

 

“OUCH! Why’d you do that, Kit?!”

 

 

“What did Izo say about picking your nose? It is an absolutely disgusting habit, especially when people are speaking!”

 

 

“I’m the captain!”

 

 

“Doesn’t mean you can go and throw manners to the wind!”

 

 

Nami and Usopp exchanged similar glances of bewilderment. These two were sons of one of the most feared pirates, and they were arguing like little kids.

 

 

“Err, Captain? First Mate Kitsune? Are we still having a meeting?”

 

 

Kitsune stopped mid-word with a flush of embarrassment – eliciting a round of snickering from Luffy. After shooting Luffy a dark look, Kitsune addressed Usopp, “No, sorry for letting that get out of hand. Luffy does have a way with him. Now, as I said, Luffy and I were taken by Whitebeard, the man accepted as the most powerful man in the world, as his sons.

 

 

We were a part of his crew for many years, ever since Luffy was about seven, and I was 12 years old. We had a bit of an incident where we and our two brother were left stranded on the Grand Line. Long story short, we owed the Whitebeard Pirates our lives. They gradually became our family in those early weeks of sailing with them. When you meet them – which you will one day – you’ll see what I mean. They along with a great many people we regard as friends taught us everything we know.

 

 

Now, we need to establish what everyone here will formally do. Luffy is captain, of course. I will act as first mate, however my role falls somewhere between first mate and captain, really, since Luffy will defer to me on matters of strategy and planning. I guess you guys can think of me as the passive co-captain of our crew, but officially, I am the first mate and scout if anyone asks. Zoro is our main combatant and next in command after me. Nami will serve as the navigator for as long as she remains with us-”

 

 

“What? Isn’t she a part of our crew?” sensibly asked Usopp.

 

 

“Technically, Nami never confirmed whether she was joining our crew. For now, she is like a temporary crewmate that Luffy will probably charm into joining us in the near future. Once a member always a member until Luffy says so.”

 

 

“Hey! Don’t I get a say?”

 

 

“Sure. Not that it matters the slightest what you say to Luffy. He’s stubborn like that,” chortled Kitsune in spite of the fire flaring in Nami’s eyes.

 

 

“Uh, if you guys are the sons of Whitebeard, does that mean we’re part of his crew?”

 

 

Before Kitsune could answer, Luffy chimed in. “Nope. Pops’ crew is Pops’ crew. And my crew is my crew. Not even Mama Chicken has a say. Maybe we can make an alliance later, but for now we’re on our own!” Luffy exclaimed. “Besides, the future pirate king can’t sail under another’s flag, shishshishishi!

 

 

Silence met Luffy’s outburst. Mama Chicken? The crew’s slacked jaw expressions seemed to say. Kitsune used the moment to flick a stone at the still sleeping swordsman. After an intermission of cursing, wild laughter and chasing, and some head pounding /”Are you guys children?” screamed a less than pleased Nami.”/, the crew pulled back together to continue the meeting.

 

 

“Well, Luffy can you think of any more revelations to heap upon our poor crewmates?”

 

 

Shishishishi, nah. I think all we need now is pirate flag and name to make our crew official.”

 

 

“Some colors would be nice,” Nami remarked. “A respectable pirate crew wears their colors high and proudly.”

 

 

Luffy was the most horrid artist. The flag looked like the product of drunk surrealist. Usopp tried his hand, made one that looked like himself before Zoro and Nami’s glares had him redo it, and now a proud Jolly Roger of a straw-hatted cartoon pirate skull flew from the main mast.

 

 

“What an awesome flag.”

 

 

“Hn, not bad, Usopp.”

 

 

“A perfect flag for the crew of the future pirate king,” remarked Zoro with a smug grin.

 

 

Shishishishi! It’s official now. We’re the Strawhat Pirates!”

 

 

A little while later, the ship was abruptly boarded.

 

 

 

On the Deck of the Going Merry

 

 

- Nami -

 

 

“Those wounds don’t look too good,” noted Kitsune. The navigator spared him a glance before going to the man whose sword was pressed perilously close to the first mate’s neck.

 

 

“Explosions and unprovoked attacks do that,” gruffly retorted the swordsman.

 

 

Kitsune raised an eyebrow but before he could respond, Zoro finally came down from his post in the crow’s nest.

 

 

“Johnny? What are you doing here,” asked the swordsman.

 

 

The sunglasses-wearing swordsman started. Kitsune used the distraction skip out of reach of the man’s blade, nonchalant expression never faltering. Nami had the funniest feeling that the first mate let Johnny pull a blade on him.

 

 

“Zoro-bro! Are you with these pirates? Are they your latest bounty or something?”

 

 

“No, no…wait! Where’s Yosaku?”

 

 

“Zoro-bro, *sobs* it’s terrible.”

 

 

Nami navigated the ship closer to the wreckage of the rocks to where a ship laid anchored a little ways away. Zoro and Johnny leapt onto the other ship and returned supporting another man. His complexion was horribly pale.

 

 

“What’s wrong with him?” inquired Kitsune, the first mate’s eyes not leaving the newcomer. “Did this happen because of those two who shot the rock island?” Usopp and Luffy blanched. They both bowed deeply

 

 

“We’re so very, very sorry!”

 

 

“No, no. This began a while ago. Yosaku’s teeth began to fall out then his old wounds began to tear open and bleed. We took refuge on that rock but then this ship shot that cannonball. I-I’m nnot s-ure if he’ll make it…Will this be the end of the story of two of East Blue’s greatest bounty hunters?”

 

 

Nami’s eyes widened in realization. Falling teeth and wounds reopening? “God, don’t any of know anything!”

 

 

“Don’t make a mockery of my partner’s illness…!”

 

 

Nami was surrounded by morons. She heard a sudden whistle. Apparently the first mate left sometime during Johnny’s story because he came back to the deck with a bucket full of juice. Lime juice.

 

 

“Luffy, Usopp, the two of you help me tend to Yosaku here. The lime juice should be just the thing.”

 

 

Idiots the lot of them, except for Kitsune. The fox smiled in acknowledgement of the thought.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

Luffy chugged the juice into Yosaku’s mouth as Usopp held his head up, so he wouldn’t choke. Nodding his head in satisfaction that his brother could handle this small task to turned to the rest of the group.

 

 

“Big Sis, Big Bro you’re angels!”

 

 

“How did you know what to do?” asked Luffy. Kitsune mentally slapped the back of Luffy’s head.

 

 

 “Scurvy is one of the most common ailments on the sea, when a crew does not pack appropriately for an extensive journey,” explained Nami. “It comes from a lack of nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Out at sea, a crew’s greatest challenge is to plan out enough supplies to last until the next island. It is a very easy to treat disease, but deadly. I think we caught it in time. How can you not know when you’re set to sail the seas?” she scolded.

 

 

“I know about it,” answered Kitsune. “That’s why I bought a barrel of limes from the last island. Citrus fruit are easier to get and the ones with thick peels are hardy. I learned a bit under Thatch, the head chef in our family, but cooking is not my thing. We should probably look into adding more crew members, come to think of it, before heading out into the Grand Line.”

 

 

Nami, Usopp, and Zoro nodded their assent while Luffy looked deep in concentration.

 

 

The conversation stalled as the formally inert man was now wide-awake. Johnny and Yosaku formally introduced themselves as the bounty hunter duo of East Blue. Nami yelled when Yosaku over did it and made him sit down on a barrel. Luffy finally came to a decision in his thoughts, it seemed, as he restarted their earlier conversation.

 

 

“Okay, Kit, what kind of crewmates do we need?”

 

 

“A chef for starters,” volunteered Nami.

 

 

“It might be nice to have a doctor, too,” added Zoro.

 

 

“But most importantly of all, we need a musician!” Kitsune didn’t even look in his direction when he tossed a small fireball at his brother.

 

 

“Priorities, Captain,” chided the older D. Dealing with his younger brother’s unique brand of intelligence could be taxing.

 

 

“S-some more strong crewmates would be i-ideal,” stuttered Usopp. Guess the more fragile crewmember was still a little nervous about such blatant displays of devil fruit power.

 

 

“You know,” commented Johnny, “I don’t know where you would find a musician, but not too far from here you can find some pretty tough chefs. They cook on the ship the Baratie, the floating restaurant on the seas. We’ve been there a few times, they have pretty good food there.”

 

 

At the word food, Luffy began to drool. “Let’s go, then!”

 

 

Kitsune rolled his eyes. “Alright, Captain, set sail for the restaurant on the sea.”

 

 

The Baratie

Some days later…

 

 

“That is a marine ship,” commented Kitsune. A marine ship had just pulled up alongside the Going Merry as they drew closer to the restaurant on the seas. The fox Zoan frowned as the cannons from the other ship came into view.

 

 

“What an unsightly view. I’ve never seen that flag before,” muttered the man aboard the marine vessel. “You there. Who is your captain? I am a lieutenant of marine headquarters, ‘Ironfist’ Fullbody. Show yourself.”

 

 

“I’m Luffy. We just made our flag a couple of days ago.” “And I’m Usopp.”

 

 

Kitsune snorted back a laugh. Fullbody did not look so appreciative. He focused his glare on the bounty hunters.

 

 

“You two. I’ve seen you around headquarters. You’re…Yosaku and Johnny, two small-time bounty hunters. Finally been caught by some no-named pirates?”

 

 

One act of foolish pride later…

 

 

“You two are idiots,” Kitsune told the two beaten up swordsmen. “Seriously, marine lieutenants are not people that just anyone can fight. And you’re still recovering, Yosaku!”

 

 

The first mate made a disgruntled noise. Several wanted flyers littered the deck from the bounty hunters’ pockets. The thrashing probably had dislodged them. From the corner of his eye, Kitsune noted Nami’s paling face as she snatched up and looked over one of the posters. Kitsune frowned. There was a story there… The annoying marine was talking again, but Kitsune paid him no mind, too lost in his own thoughts.

 

 

“Sink them.” Kitsune jerked his head up. *Bang!* The cannonball zoomed toward the ship, but Luffy intercepted it.

 

 

“Gum-Gum Balloon!”

 

 

“Luffy!”

 

 

That idiot! He redirected the cannonball into the restaurant!

 

 

- Luffy -

 

 

“Oh…my bad, shishishi…” “LUFFY!” Kit looked mad. His older brother glared at the younger male.

 

 

‘Apologize and make amends. Marco and Pops taught you better than to endanger other people.’

 

 

 A little while later, the two ships docked at the restaurant where a group of chefs stormed aboard and grabbed Luffy.

 

 

One confrontation later…

 

 

Kitsune rubbed his head and scowled. The head chef had given Luffy a good thrashing and then kicked the first mate into the wall when he got between the two. The old man was not impressed by the young man’s interference.

 

 

/“One year,” he announced. Luffy and Kitsune gaped at the older man. “I will forgive you for my wounds and injuries if you will work doing odd jobs around the ship for a year.”

 

 

“NO WAY. I waited for 10 years to become a pirate captain! One week. I’ll work a week then you’ll forgive me!”

 

 

“Do you have water in your ears, boy? One year, no more, no less.”/

 

 

Kitsune regretted the moment he came into the picture.

 

 

/ Kitsune had rushed after his idiotic captain of a brother, yelling at Zoro to keep an eye on everyone and grab a table. The older D had just entered the living area when Luffy came hurtling through and slammed right into him.

 

 

“Get off, Rubber-Brain,” snapped Kitsune, his voice a bit muffled with Luffy’s straw hat laying his face. He shoved the rubber man off.

 

 

“Eh? More ill-mannered brats?” In front of the two young men stood a slightly disheveled (and rather injured) old chef.

 

 

Kitsune blinked. The guy had a pretty decent aura, much better than any of the ‘pirates’ they’ve met so far. The old man also looked rather familiar.

 

 

“Pardon, my intrusion. I was just collecting my captain…”

 

 

“~Kit! This old guy is trying to make me work for him for an entire YEAR!”

 

 

“Your captain’s fumbling cannonball did me grave injury. I’ll need to pay for all these medical bills. And,” the old man directed his look at Luffy, “you also need to pay for repairs.” Oh, brother…

 

 

“Err, good Sir, as a new crew, my brother does need to spend these crucial first months building his reputation, not working in a restaurant. Frankly, it would probably do yours and the state of restaurant better not to hire my captain.”

 

 

“Fine. You can help, too.” “Pardon, what?!” “You want to get your crew out of here faster? Then help your captain repay his debt.”

 

 

“…Can’t I just heal you, and just give you some gold to pay for repairs?”

 

 

“You’re welcome to play doctor, but I will not change my mind. You and your captain can work for me to compensate for the damages. Or else, I will not forgive either of you.”

 

 

“What do you mean, “either of you?” I don’t recall doing anything to you or the ship!”

 

 

“You’re the first mate?” “Yes.” “Then as first mate, your first duty is to keep your captain in line. Don’t complain!” *Thump!*

 

 

The Zoan was knocked into a wall. Luffy grinned. “Look, you’re fine. So just forgive…”

 

 

“Shut up! Only I can decide whether or not to forgive the two of you. You either work for me, or you can leave one of your legs behind as recompense,” stated the old chef of the seas with a meat cleaver in his hand.

 

 

“No!” “Are you insane, sir?”

 

 

“I’ll teach you two why no won’t take you anywhere in this world…Head Chef Drop Kick!  /

 

 

The bastard kicked them through the floor/ceiling and into the dining room below!

 

 

A while before

 

 

- Sanji -

 

 

What a shitty bastard. No one wasted food on Sanji’s watch. It was an insult to a chef of the seas.

 

 

“Sanji!” Great, now Patty was going to lecture me again. Blah, blah, the customers are gods, et cetera. Who cared? Wasting food and insulting a cook deserved a beat-down.

 

 

“If you’re going to report on us, then I really have no other choice than to kill you…”

 

 

Sanji wrestled with his fellow cooks until…*Crash*! Old man Zeff and two other bastards came through the ceiling!

 

 

“Ugh, what’d you do that for?!” muttered the shorter of the two strangers, blonde and black hair mussed up and a beret perched precariously on the young man’s forehead.

 

 

“Man, you’re as scary as Thatch!”

 

 

“You idiots! The ceiling of my beautiful restaurant…This is your entire fault, brats!”

 

 

“YOU’RE THE ONE THAT DID THAT!” yelled the two hatted strangers. Sanji could feel a migraine begin in the back of his mind. Great, more drama.

 

 

“Sir, please help stop Sanji!” Oh great, now the old geezer?

 

 

“Sanji! What did I say about running wild?”

 

 

“Shut up, shitty geezer!” retorted Sanji.

 

 

In response, the shitty geezer kicked him clear across the face with his damned peg leg. At least he kicked the bastard from earlier, too.

 

 

“Lieutenant Fullbody! Lieutenant Fullbody! Forgive me, but the prisoner, he escaped from the hold...!” Suddenly, one of the new bastards (that came through the damned ceiling) appeared behind the marine and threw someone over the frightened man. A bloodied, scraggly man crashed into one of the tables, a gun clenched in his right hand.

 

 

“Bastard…” croaked the newcomer. A pirate, if Sanji remembered his wanted posters.

 

 

“What a cold one,” commented the man who threw the pirate into the dining room. The bereted bastard smirked as he looked back on the unguarded marine. “Be grateful I’m not in the mood for more accidents today.” The marine fled.

 

 

The pirate glared and aimed his pistol at the insane idiot relaxing by the doorway. “Try anything, and I will-” The pistol suddenly flew from his hand and into the other guy’s hand, the smirk suddenly becoming dark.

 

 

“Pardon? What will you do?” The smile vanished. “Don’t throw threats so casually. Why don’t we forget about this whole incident and sit down for a meal? You look a bit peaky.”

 

 

“Do you have any-” started Patty until the younger man reached into his coat pocket and tossed a small bag that clinked. “Satisfied?”

 

 

Fullbody tried to argue, but a customer was a customer. He promptly got kicked out of the restaurant and off the ship.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

“So,” spoke the well-dressed waiter/assistant head chef.

 

 

 Kitsune had just made the ragged pirate and his brother sit out on the deck. No need to make the other guests any more upset.

 

 

“Hmm?” Kitsune had taken to sitting on the edge of the railing. The cook passed a plate of full of food to Luffy and other pirate. He leaned on the rail next to Kitsune with an offered plate of food.

 

 

“Why’d you pay for his food? After all, he did just try to shoot you.”

 

 

Kitsune snorted. He brandished the purloined weapon, flipped it once, and tossed it to the owner sitting crisscross the deck. The man spared it a glance but was too focused on eating to grab it.

 

 

“Did you take a good look at him? Way too pale, skinny, and black and blue to be healthy. I could practically hear his stomach growling from the marine ship! No one should starve, not even such a cold bastard.”

 

 

“Thanks to you both.” Kitsune and the cook started in surprise. The bedraggled pirate had tears running down his face and a wide smile.

 

 

“I thought I was going to die…So many days without food…And so good!”

 

 

“No problem. I can tell no one would have served you, especially without any money.”

 

 

“Damned good, right?” Sanji seemed to puff up a bit.

 

 

“You’re a really good cook! Join my crew!” insisted Luffy.

 

 

“Sorry, but I must refuse that offer. I have my reasons for staying.”

 

 

“NO. I refuse your refusal.” Aaaannd, there was his brother’s stubbornness in action.

 

 

“What?! You can’t make a decision like that. Listen…”

 

 

The bemused Zoan grinned. He snuck a bite of food while he watched his captain act like the selfish bastard he was. He made an appreciative noise. Not bad at all.

 

 

“Not too bad, cook. Maybe even better than Thatchy’s food.” The two finally stopped arguing.

 

 

“Damn straight…err, who’s ‘Thatchy?’”

 

 

“The head cook on our Pops’ ship. Had to cook for a hell lot of people but always kept his pride as one of the finest chefs on the sea. Bit of an admirer of Chef Zeff, actually.”

 

 

“Really, Kit?”

 

 

“You should pay more attention, Luffy. Zeff is rather infamous, even if he had retired some time ago.” The first mate blinked sheepishly and rubbed the back of his head. “Pardon, I don’t think any of us properly introduced ourselves. I am Sol D. Kitsune, first mate of the Straw Hat Pirates.”

 

 

“I’m Luffy! Captain, shishishi! I’m going to be king of the pirates! Join my crew!”

 

 

“Sanji, assistant head chef. And, no.”

 

 

“…I’m Gin, a part of the Krieg Pirates.”

 

 

“Krieg?” Luffy cocked his head.

 

 

“Hmm, sounds vaguely familiar. One of the hot shot crews in the East Blue, right?”

 

 

“You should take care,” warned Gin darkly. “The Krieg Pirates dominate the East Blue. And, if your goal is One Piece, then give up going to the Grand Line.”

 

 

Kitsune cocked his head to the side. “Why should he?” questioned the first mate with genuine curiosity. He could detect a trace of defeat about the pirate suddenly spike when Luffy repeated his favorite phrase.

 

 

“You d-don’t understand the danger. You two are young. Go explore the other seas. You have plenty of time to enjoy yourselves with the rest of the world seas.”

 

 

“A bit cowardly for a pirate,” commented Sanji.

 

 

Kitsune added his two bits. “I suppose you know of the dangers, then?”

 

 

“I-I d-don’t know anything! That’s what makes it so dangerous…!”

 

 

The pirate refused to say anything more on the matter. Sanji scrounged up a small ship, and Gin left later that day.

 

 

Intermission.

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

“Luffy!” Kitsune finally relented to help Luffy pay off his debt to Chef Zeff. They cooks first assigned the two brothers dish duty…until a dozen dishes dashed across the floor. Luffy forgot to check the temperature and burned himself when he tried to clean up some pots and pans. Patty finally banished the straw-hatted captain to waiting on tables.

 

 

“Just do what I showed you, errand-boy!”

 

 

“OK,” piped Luffy. To his astonishment, his crew was eating good food without him! Then Zoro tried to make him drink boogey water.

 

 

Kitsune shook his head at the antics of the younger brother. “What did you expect? Petty acts deserve even pettier paybacks.”

 

 

Sanji did not appreciate the straw-hatted errand-boy’s stubbornness. Then the shitty old geezer had the nerve to tell him to go and be a pirate! They got into a fight (Zeff kicked his ass into a table), and the shitty pirate captain went back to badgering him.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

On break from work, Kitsune dug around his backpack until his hand wrapped around a familiar curl of a snail shell. He dialed the frequency into the transmission device.

 

 

*Purupurupurupuru…Gatcha!*

 

 

“Marco, first commander of the Whitebeard Pirates.”

 

 

“Hey, Mama Pineapple Chicken.”

 

 

“What’d I’d tell you about that name?!”

 

 

“Good thing I’m way out in East Blue.”

 

 

“Haven’t heard from the two of you since you sent that short message, ‘Found him a while back. Stupid Algae-Brain, and stupider Big Nose.’

 

 

“Just got into a few fights along the way. Had to explain about you all before calling. Luffy and I found a swordsman, a navigator, a sniper, and a chef, maybe.”

 

 

“Good starting crew,” commented Marco. The kids have really come far. “You should probably recruit more, but you can probably do that in Paradise.”

 

 

“We’re going to head to Reverse Mountain. It’ll take a while, but we should be home in no time.”

 

 

“Not soon enough. Is Luffy there?” Said rubber-brain fell from somewhere above.

 

 

“What’cha doing, Kit?”

 

 

“Good timing.” Kit handed the speaker to Luffy who proceeded to chatter away about all their adventures so far. Eventually, some of the crew and even Zeff came looking for the two brothers.

 

 

“What is this, social hour?” muttered the old chef.

 

 

“No way, is that Captain Zeff?” asked a familiar voice. Thatch had finally got on the line just in time to catch Zeff. “Hi, I’m Thatch, head chef on the Moby Dick and fourth commander of the Whitebeard Pirates.”

 

 

“Ah, one of Whitebeard’s brats. Heard you weren’t too bad of a cook.” The old man turned to Kitsune. “Didn’t think some East Blue brat had such high connections.

 

 

“Never know who will meet on the wide open ocean,” responded Kitsune airily. Zeff narrowed his eyes but said nothing more on the matter.

 

 

The crew gaped. Apparently, it hadn’t quite sunken in until now that their two crewmates, their captain, and first mate no less, had connections to some of the acknowledged best and most dangerous pirates of the sea – that the two of them knew some of the commanders personally. Even Sanji picked up on this fact after listening to only a couple of exchanges between the brothers and their ‘big brothers.’

 

 

“So, Kit, Luffy just finished telling me you and he took on one of Roger’s cabin boys. Buggy, was it?”

 

 

“Clown-bastard tried to shoot buggy balls at us! But Kit just shot them right back.”

 

 

“A member of Roger’s crew, hard truth to believe with his power levels. But enough about us. How’s everyone, Pops and Ace?”

 

 

“Good, good. Ace’s off the ship trying to dig up the whereabouts of Teach. Teach had been sighted in Paradise according to all reports. I’m actually scheduled to join him shortly. Maybe we’ll meet up.”

 

 

“Good. Then you can meet my nakama,” chirped in Luffy. Thatch laughed.

 

 

“I’m sure they’ll be great like the two of you. I’ve gotta run. Pops got another snot-nosed brat trying to challenge him.”

 

 

“Bye Thatch.” “Bye Thatchy!” *Ga-click*

 

 

Several days later.

 

 

- Luffy -

 

 

Stingy Sanji. He wouldn’t let Luffy eat any of the food in the kitchen while he worked after he nipped on some meat. No fair! They let Kit stay in the kitchen. And Sanji asked him to listen, then said he wouldn’t say why he refused to join. Luffy really wanted the older male as a part of his nakama. He was even funny! He made Usopp mad, made good food (even if he gave away the really tasty ones to Nami), and he could fight. A perfect chef for his crew. Now, how to get him to join…Ugh, thinking hurts…

 

 

“No way” “T-that’s-” “It’s Don Krieg’s pirate ship!” “Why is he here?!”

 

 

Glasses crashed and a bunch of people stood up and panicked. Luffy cocked his head. “Wow, what a big ship.”

 

 

“And damaged,” noted Kit. The young man had left the kitchen to investigate the origin of the ruckus.

 

 

Sanji remarked, “No way could humans cause that much damage. Must have been a natural storm.”

 

 

“You’d be surprise what comes out of the Grand Line,” responded Kit. Luffy nodded in understanding. “Quite a few people could easily make that level of damage child’s play.”

 

 

*Crash!* The doors to the Baratie slammed open. In walked Gin and a really beat-up looking man who leaned heavily on Gin.

 

 

“Sorry for the intrusion. Could I have some water and food…? Money is no object…” The man suddenly collapsed forward.

 

 

“Don Krieg!”

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

Of all the things to happen today, Kitsune was not expecting meeting the infamous Don Krieg, pirate fleet admiral of 5000 strong and vicious men. He kept his expression aloof, even when the large man suddenly fell over. Patty laughed.

 

 

“Perfect, just perfect. So, this is the infamous outlaw Don Krieg?”

 

 

“Please,” beg Gin, “someone my captain food. We have money, we’re paying customers!”

 

 

“No way! Someone contact the marines!”

 

 

The customers and chefs stood against the two pirates.  Angry mutters, and comments began to escalate around the two pirates. Gin was crying and even his infamous captain bowed his head for mercy. Then Sanji stepped in. The softhearted cook kicked Patty aside, ignored his fellow chefs, and gave some food and water to Gin for Krieg. Kitsune approved of his high regard to his morals but all the same let one of his daggers slide into the palm of his hand.

 

 

 

“Nothing good will come of this,” said one of the chefs. “Ruler of the East Blue, Don Krieg made his debut as a pirate by escaping prison disguised as a marine and taking out the marine officer of the ship. He has no honor. He attacks towns under a marine flag and will hang white for an ambush. The man has no heart and no mercy. That is how he managed to rule these seas.”

 

 

The man’s agitation increased. “You should let such a monster starve! It would have been for the good of the world if he had died of starvation!”

 

 

Sanji scoffed, “No one deserves to starve.” Suddenly Don Krieg attacked the cook without any warning.

 

 

“Sir! You promised not to harm the restaurant. And that man saved us-!” Krieg cut Gin off with a chokehold. Kitsune narrowed his eyes. This guy is a top pirate captain of the East Blue?

 

 

“Gin!” shouted Luffy.

 

 

“Nice ship. I’ll take it.” announced Don Krieg. The tension in the dining room tightened.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I own naught but my original characters and the plot, therefore One Piece belongs only to two people: Master Oda and the pirate king.

 

Remember, KASL refers to either a third person omniscient or multiple POV’s in the section.

 

 

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds or actions*

 

 

The Baratie

 

- Sanji -

 

 

Sanji gave a small groan. That bastard can sure hit. He carefully sat back up as the infamous Don Krieg showed his true colors.

 

 

“Really nice ship. Mine’s all worn out, so in recompense for your lives, I’ll take this one off your hands.”

 

 

“What about your promise Don Krieg…?” cried Gin.

 

 

Krieg ignored his crewmate’s words. “I have about a hundred subordinates aboard my ship. With a combination of severe injuries and starvation, several have died and others are not too far behind, so prepare food and water to feed all of them. Best make it quick!”

 

 

“Who do you think we are? You’re asking us to feed men who will come and attack us as soon as they’re done! We refuse!” retorted Carne.

 

 

“I’m afraid you misunderstand,” replied Krieg, a cruel smile appearing. It was replaced with a hard scowl. “I’m ordering you,” a hush fell upon the group, “and no one disobeys my order.”

 

 

Sanji heard enough. He got up and walked to the back.

 

 

“Sanji, where do you think you’re going?”

 

 

“To the kitchen to cook 100 meals.” The reaction was simultaneous. *Click* and over a dozen pistols aimed for him. Sanji drew short.

 

 

“Who do the hell do you think you are?” “We won’t put up with this anymore!” “Enough with your insanity!” Every chef on deck had their weapons aimed for him. Sanji smiled and closed his eyes.

 

“Very well. Shoot. Go on. They may be pirate scum, but why bother so much on deciding whether or not to feed someone?” Sanji’s expression hardened. “A cook should feed anyone who’s starving.”

 

 

*CRACK!* Patty somehow snuck behind the blonde chef and landed a punch to his head. Sanji’s vision swam black for a moment. Long enough for two chefs to hold him down. The chefs watched as Patty brought indigestion meatball cannon to bear on the infamous pirate.

 

 

*BANG!*

 

 

Smoke billowed. A hush fell in the dining room.

 

 

“Now what?” questioned Sanji. “He has a bunch of subordinates waiting outside.” Before Patty could reply, Kitsune spoke up.

 

 

“Heads up.” The younger pirate fell into a loose stance. The smoke cleared to reveal Don Krieg in gleaming golden steel armor.

 

 

“What a shitty dessert to serve…worst food ever.” Don Krieg had not a scratch on him. All the chefs mindlessly charged him, and the bastard’s armor opened up to reveal dozens of shotgun barrels.

 

 

No!!!

 

 

*Pop! Pop! Pop!* An image of bright red flashed into Sanji’s mind until he heard:

 

 

“Flame Edge Style: Hell’s Mirror!”

 

 

A flash of white steel and fire.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

Idiotically proud chefs hissed the kitsune. He snatched his sword into his hand when he saw the chefs charged the strongest known pirate of the East Blue. In seconds, the Straw Hat pirate appeared between them and death.

 

 

“Flame Edge Style: Hell’s Mirror!”

 

 

The white blade caught alight and disappeared in a stunning display of fast-paced blocks, and every bullet was redirected and set alight right back at Don Krieg with an extra push of power. The man was pushed back, but with his annoyingly gaudy armor, only had a minimum of indentations.

 

 

“You-! You shitty little brat!” The man shook his fist. “I’m the strongest. A steel body, these steel arms, these diamond fists…I am the fleet commander of over 5000 men and 50 ships. No one else is more worthy of the title ‘Don’ than I and…NO ONE DARES TO DEFY ME!” The Straw Hat only narrowed his eyes and gave the bastard a smile full of razor sharp teeth.

 

 

“Well, I just did.”

 

 

“Hmph, bunch of brats…”

 

 

Kitsune raised an eyebrow as Owner Zeff strolled through the wrecked dining room with a large sack.

 

 

“Here.” He dropped the sack before Don Krieg. “About 100 meals’ worth of food.”

 

 

“Owner Zeff!” “How could you…?” “Why…!”

 

 

Sanji scrambled from his position on the ground and stood by the errand boy. “Shitty old man…” he muttered.

 

 

“Owner Zeff! If we feed those men, they’ll just come and take our ship!”

 

 

For a brief moment, the old sea salt met the cold silver blue eyes of the Straw Hats’ first mate.

 

 

“Sure they would…if they still had any fighting spirit to take it. Isn’t that correct, defeated warriors of the Grand Line?”

 

 

“Y-you! You’re ‘Red-Leg’ Zeff!”

 

 

- Zeff -

 

 

Brats. The old former captain stared disdainfully at the young’un who dared make a mess of his restaurant. The golden brat continued to speak.

 

 

“So, you’re alive. You were once an infamous captain and cook of your own crew.”

 

 

“So?” parried Zeff. “I am obviously no longer a pirate. I am but a simple cook.”

 

 

“Obviously…I suppose it would be obvious that you no longer serve as a pirate with such an injury.

 

 

The name of ‘Red Leg’ Zeff is to speak of a master of kicking, a man who refused to fight with his hands. Not even bedrock could stand against the explosive power of your kicks. Against steel, imprints of your boots would be gouged. The title in of itself came from the red blood of your enemies saturating your legs after a fight.

 

 

They say you died at sea. You might as well. With the cost of one of your infamous legs, you shouldn’t be able to fight anymore.”

 

 

Zeff scoffed at the impudent brat. “Ttch, I may not be able to fight, but these two hands can still cook. But, what are getting out, exactly?”

 

 

“’Red-Leg’ Zeff, you were a man who braved the heart of the devil’s nest, the Grand Line itself! And you returned without injury.  You must have kept a logbook of your adventures, which is what I am getting at…HAND IT OVER TO ME!”

 

“You’ve been to the Grand Line?” asked the straw-hatted serving boy.

 

 

“Yes…and yes I kept a logbook, but that logbook represents the hopes and pride of myself and my men. I will not hand it over to you. It is far too precious to hand to a brat like you.”

 

 

“I’ll just take it then!” shouted the stupid, arrogant brat. “My crew and I may have returned defeated, but I am the might Don Krieg! I had enough power, enough manpower, and enough ambition! But what I lacked was knowledge. That was my flaw! With your ship and your logbook, I should be able to conquer that sea!”

 

 

“You’re such an idiot.” Zeff raised a brow. The other brat with the beret was scowling at the much larger pirate. “If you failed with so many numbers, then you obviously lack the will to survive Paradise, much less the New World.”

 

 

“Paradise?” croaked Gin. Zeff smirked.

 

 

“Kid’s right. Even my crew couldn’t make much headway into the second half of the Grand Line. Met some interesting folk, though, like these two’s family.” The other chefs began to shout again in defiance of Don Krieg.

 

 

Don Krieg clenched his fists and teeth. “SILENCE!” He towered over the impudent little shit mocking him at every turn. “The difference between our strengths is huge. What makes you think you can fight me?” The brat actually laughed in the face of a hostile pirate. What a shitty eggplant, just like the one that won’t stop following me around.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

“What? Too scared to acknowledge the truth. To be honest, my little brothers have far more potential when they were little kids than you have right now. Are you really sure about the whole ‘Greatest’ title?”

 

 

Don Krieg gnashed his teeth and the next thing Kitsune knew, the idiot grabbed the collar of his coat and held the fox aloft.

 

 

“I’ll teach you to defy your betters, boy! Once I have Zeff’s logbook, I will gather my pirate fleet and sail once more for the Grand Line. I will conquer it, find One Piece, and reshape this entire era of Piracy!”

 

 

“Hold it.” All faces turned to my dear younger brother. “You’re not going to find One Piece, because I am going to become the pirate king!”

 

 

All the chefs began to gape at the reckless behavior of the most ridiculous and stubborn pirate of the East Blue.

 

 

“Who the hell are you?”

 

 

“My youngest brother,” answered Kitsune. “Of all of my younger brothers, Luffy had the most potential. In time, he’ll even surpass myself, our older brothers, and maybe even Pops.” Kitsune let a little of his aura flare. “So, don’t underestimate my family.” The arm holding him up began to pull back for a throw. As quick as a flash, the fox let himself slide out of his coat the moment the arm released for the throw. A hand darted out and grabbed the coat.

 

 

“Here, Kit.”

 

 

Kitsune smiled and took the coat from his brother. He adjusted the white scarf normally hidden under the collar before putting the coat on. From their table where they still haven’t moved:

 

 

“Need a hand there, Captain and First Mate?” asked Zoro as he nonchalantly slid Wado partly from its sheath.

 

 

“’Cause where raring to fight, too!” blustered Usopp.

 

 

“Ttch.” Kitsune just tipped his beret forward.

 

 

“No thank, maybe later, but we got this.”

 

 

The large pirate scowled. He scooped up the large bag of food

 

 

“I’ll be back to take care of you weaklings,” he sneered, “All I need beside this food is Zeff’s log book and the ship. I feel generous, fortunately for you. I’ll return after tending to my subordinates…”his face came alight with cruelty, “and if any of you want to live, then scram before I come and my subordinates return. If any of you weaklings want to fight…I’ll send you all to the bottom of the sea if you really insist.”

 

 

- Sanji -

 

 

The blonde chef sighed before lighting a cigarette. “He’s not going to take that lightly.”

 

 

The smaller one snorted. “If he did, then he has even less spine than I thought. Sorry, Cap, for taking over there.”

 

 

Shishishishi, no problem. You were always better with words than me. Zoro, Usopp, Nami, any problem with this?”

 

 

To answer, the lovely Miss Nami let sail the nearest object – a plate – at the young sea captain. Sanji’s eyes widened. The smug bastard actually swallowed it! How could that be humanly possible? He even had the nerve to spit it out clean of its food. Sanji made a noise of disgust at the saliva-covered dish. You know what, never mind. Crazy things have happened before. He turned to the Straw Hats’ first mate.

 

 

“So, how did you do that?”

 

 

“Do what?”

 

 

The other chefs joined in. “Yeah, kid. How’d you set your sword there on fire? And you moved so fast. More than a few of us owe you for stopping those bullets from turning us into Swiss cheese.”

 

 

“A trick I learned from a famed pirate.”

 

 

“Sanji…” The chef narrowed his eyes. Gin was still kneeling at the entrance. “Forgive me! Please! I didn’t know that any of this would happen…I…” *Thunk!* The shitty short one was standing over Gin, fist raised from where it slammed into Gin’s head.

 

 

“What’s done is done. Quit crying about it because tears will not earn you Sanji’s forgiveness or respite from your captain.”

 

 

At the brat’s words, all the chefs seemed to rally. “The kid’s right,” commented Patty. “We can’t just sit here and cry about our misfortune.” Patty the bastard turned to Owner Zeff. “Owner, I have no idea why you would give such a menace as the Don Krieg Pirates food, but…” More chefs joined in the criticism. Sanji nearly snapped his cigarette in two until…

 

 

“SILENCE, YOU BUNCH OF MORONS!” Owner Zeff took a breath. “Do you have any idea what’s it like not to have enough to eat? The pain, the slow burn of an empty stomach and the fear of the next meal. In the middle of the ocean, without food or water…?”

 

 

/ A ship full of diners…Little Sanji criticizing his fellow chefs…Pirates boarding the pleasure ship…Waves rearing high and sweeping everything in its wake…The horrible rock bare of food…Hunger, pain, barely enough strength to shove that last piece of moldy bread…Captain Zeff and his missing leg, sacrificed, so Sanji would have enough food to last until their rescue… /

 

 

The clang of metal stirred Sanji from his memories. Patty and the other shitty cooks had pitchforks and other motley weapons to bear.

 

 

“You idiots! You won’t be able to defeat Don Krieg! You need to run away!”

 

 

“Shut up.” Gin started. “I’ll tell you something about my code. I’ll feed anyone starving who comes, but the one attacking the ship are already fed. Don’t complain if I kill some of them.” Gin gaped at the blonde chef. Sanji’s gaze became granite. “I will not let anyone take this ship. I’ll kill them without a second’s thought, you included. Got that?”

 

 

“Twisted logic, Sanji,” commented Patty.

 

 

“Makes sense,” Sanji jerked slightly at the sudden voice coming from just behind him. The smug bastard swordsman was sitting just behind him on the table. “Your honor, that is. If anyone is so ungrateful as to bite the hand that feeds them then they deserve it when the hand decides to slap them down for their impudence.”

 

 

The black-and-blonde-haired man took a sip from a mug before continuing. “Nami, go and keep an eye on Merry if you will. Usopp, Zoro, stay here for a bit.”

 

 

“Uh…Captain, First Mate…not to insult your skills or anything, but how are we going to take on one of the most dangerous crews in the East Blue?!”

 

 

“Cool it, Long Nose. Our opponents are injured pirates,” countered Zoro. Sanji had to give the stupid Moss-head a nod to his logic; even his shitty fellow chefs can handle a few healthy pirates, dozens of injured and recovering pirates shouldn’t be too hard for the seasoned fighting sea cooks.

 

 

“Hey, Gin,” the still crouched man turned to Sanji, “you said you didn’t know anything about the Grand Line, but didn’t your crew go there?”

 

 

Gin wringed his hands, fear taking hold of him once more.

 

 

“Yeah, but I was telling the truth…we don’t know anything. The Grand Line…I’m not sure I know the difference between what was real and what just a nightmare... In seven days, we faced weather from hail, to endless draught-like sunlight, to endless sea-churning storms. Then…then we faced that man.” The chefs leaned in.

 

 

“I still can’t believe it…All 50 ships of the Don Krieg Pirate Fleet were devastated by a single man!!!”

 

 

“What!?” “IMPOSSIBLE!” “How can a single man cause that much damage to the flagship out there, much less 49 other ships?!”

 

 

“Thought so,” cut in a single, soft voice. “I recognized the blade work. Yep, had to be that man. ‘Member him, Luffy?”

 

 

All eyes turned to the two brothers.

 

 

“Who?” *Sweat-drop.* How can he be that oblivious…? How many people does he know that can slice ships apart?

 

 

Kitsune apparently wasn’t that astonished. He turned to Gin. “I bet it was sudden, without warning or even a chance to defend yourselves.”

 

 

Gin nodded warily. “Yeah. I don’t know how we even survived. I suppose that storm was a godsend and the only reason we and who knows any other of our ships survived. I can’t erase those eyes, though, those sharp, piercing eyes!”

 

 

The Moss-Head stiffened.

 

 

“Ah,” spoke Owner Zeff, “had to be him. The hawk-eyed man, without a doubt.” Hawk-eyed man?

 

 

Kitsune nodded his head.

 

 

“Oh, you mean Hawky!” “Luffy, didn’t Mihawk tell you to stop calling him that in public?” “Who?” “Why do I even…? Dracule ‘Hawk-Eyes Mihawk! The acknowledged greatest swordsman of the world and one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea! Not Hawky!”

 

 

“Shishishishi! Ooooh…Hawky then.”

 

 

“You know, I give up. Yes, Uncle Hawky.”

 

 

“Hawk-eyed man?” questioned Sanji.

 

 

“Yes, a man whose glare was not only as sharp as a hawk’s but also with the strength to easily tear thought a fleet. It most certainly was him.

 

 

“The man I have been searching for…” muttered the Moss-Head.

 

 

Then the idiots went on about the one piss-drunk customer whose eyes turned red [*eyebrow twitch*]. The Moss-head looked disappointed then.

 

 

“So,” Sanji said over the laughter of his fellow chefs, “what did you guys do to make the man destroy your fleet?”

 

 

“Nothing. We didn’t do anything! He just attacked us suddenly.”

 

 

“You probably just disturbed his nap, or maybe he was bored,” remarked Owner Zeff.

 

 

“I vote for the latter. I’d probably do the same if I didn’t have Luffy here to preoccupy me.”

 

 

Sanji sweat-dropped. What is wrong with these pirates?

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

The fox grinned. He was about to comment on the stunned face of his future crewmate when he felt it. The two Grand Line-raised pirates stilled. An immense presence preluded the sudden spike of energy.

 

 

*Shing! Crash! Screams*

 

 

The Baratie shook as waves pounded it. All the chefs and pirates rushed outside. The last remaining galleon of the Don Krieg Pirates was sliced perfectly in half. Pirates were scattered all over like so much debris. Upon seeing the destruction, Gin collapsed.

 

 

“Nooo…noo. Did he really follow us all the way out here?!” moaned the man.

 

 

Kitsune’s eyes widened. ‘Zoro, Usopp, Luffy, men overboard!’

 

 

The three Straw Hats rushed to the deck, and there was Yosaku and Johnny struggling amidst the tumultuous sea.

 

 

“Brother Zoro! Brother Luffy! Brother Kitsune!”

 

 

“What happened?!”

 

 

“Hurry up and help fish them out.” Kitsune directed some coils of rope with his mind and lassoed the two bounty hunters. He had Usopp and Luffy help pull the men onto the deck.

 

 

The two men panted on the deck. “Sister…*huff, huff*…Nami. She took the ship…”

 

 

“WHAT?!” shouted three of the four Straw Hats. Kitsune sighed. He knew something was up. Nami had a fight/flight feeling since the day they first found the two bounty hunters – specifically after she picked up one of the wanted posters. Kitsune let his crewmates yell for a few moments before slamming the hilt of his kodachi against the deck railings.

 

 

“Enough! I notice Nami acting funny for a few days. And the ship is still visible.”

 

 

“Kit’s right. Yosaku, Johnny, you still have your ship?”

 

 

“Yeah…?”

 

 

“Zoro, Usopp, go and prepare take off after the Going Merry,” commanded the captain. Before the two could protest, Luffy simply said, “She’s our navigator. Temporary crewmate or not, it’s my decision to let her go or not. And she doesn’t have my permission to leave!”

 

 

Zoro face palmed. “Fine, fine.”

 

 

“Not, yet, Zoro. We have company.”

 

 

Sailing silently among the ship’s remains sailed a single, small black vessel lined with candles. And in that ship, lounged the familiar dark figure of the most skilled swordsman of all the seas: ‘Hawk-Eyes Mihawk.

 

 

“Heya, Hawky!” Kitsune felt like knocking his head against deck railings.

 

 

“Luffy!” The normally stoic man spared the bumbling youngest KASL brother a rare slip of a smile. He turned to Kitsune.

 

 

Kitsune bowed slightly from the waist. “Master.” Mihawk acknowledged his bow with a nod.

 

 

“Good to see you made it to the East Blue.”

 

 

Yelling from the sides drew the hawk-eyed man’s gaze.

 

 

“Y-you! Why did you attack us?!”

 

 

Mihawk leveled a stare that sent shivers through Kitsune metaphoric fur. “To kill time.”

 

 

The Krieg pirate retaliated to such a callous answer with a round of gunfire.

 

 

- Zoro -

 

 

/ “You know, Zoro-bro, they say that man visited there once - the red-eyed man with the hawk’s gaze.”

 

 

Zoro’s own stare lit with anticipation. After hearing all of Kitsune’s stories, the swordsman itched to trade blows with such a powerful blades master. He wanted to experience for himself the true divide between their strengths. Even if he would most likely die as a result of such a duel. /

 

 

The great black blade was drawn.

 

 

“How…?”

 

 

“He’s redirecting the trajectory of every bullet ever so slightly.” Zoro had leapt onto one of the wooden remains of the galleon. “I’ve never seen such grace except for maybe in Kitsune’s blade work.”

 

 

“A compliment, young man. A sword without grace has no strength. Kitsune was a fine student, even if not a traditional one. He has the talent but not the intrinsic drive of a swordsman. But I would hope he had learned something of my own style under months of my tutelage.”

 

 

“And you cut this ship in half.”

 

 

“Yes, indeed.”

 

 

Zoro grinned and grabbed at the bandanna tied to his arm. He continued to speak as he looped it around his head. “I set sail to finally meet you!”

 

 

Mihawk tilted his head. “You know my student long enough to discern elements of my own tutelage. Tell me, what do you aim for?”

 

 

Zoro’s grin turned feral. “To be the greatest.”

 

 

The pirates around him stood dumbstruck in recognition. “It’s-it’s Roronoa Zoro. Roronoa Zoro of the Three Sword Style!” Even the shitty cook looked astonished at his name.

 

 

“We’re both strong swordsmen. You said you were killing time, so let’s have a duel.”

 

 

The greatest swordsman scoffed. “Kitsune, tell me, what do you think of this man?”

 

 

The first mate crooked his head in contemplation.

 

 

“Well, Roronoa is a strong swordsman for the East Blue. He has potential and given a little seasoning and some Grand Line instruction, he may indeed fulfill his dream. But now? I could quash him with but a fragment of my true strength. Nevertheless, I have taught him some swords techniques he can adapt into his own style in addition to the bare basics of haki.”

 

 

“Hmm.”

 

 

Zoro turned to the irritating first mate. Kitsune shrugged without apology for his honest words.

 

 

“In retrospect, my former student must think much of you. He does not hand out compliments much, especially to weaklings such as yourself. Do you still challenge me?”

 

 

“Of course,” answered Zoro without a second’s hesitation. For Kuina.

 

 

“Very well. Let’s see the difference in our strength.” Mihawk did not draw the black blade, though. Instead, he reached over and drew a simple katana.

 

 

At Zoro’s shocked expression, Dracule Mihawk explained, “For a swordsman of the East Blue, I would not normally even consider a sword, but Kitsune has made me curious. Let us see how well you’ve trained for this day!”

 

 

Zoro gave a toothy grin, eyes shaded by his headband. “Fine by me.”

 

 

Mihawk smirked. “What drives you, I wonder? Stupidity, vanity, pride…or conviction?”

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

The two men clashed blades. *Clang, clang!* Zoro was totally and utterly overmatched. Blood began to soak his shirt form numerous cuts from just one counter maneuver. The swordsman’s eyes came alight.

 

 

“Three Swords Style: Two Demons Hunting!”

 

 

Kitsune smirked in appreciation. An adaptation to Kitsune’s favorite trick. Using speed and a trick of light, Zoro could emulate the same move Kitsune used with his illusions. The audience gasped as two pirate hunters seemed to attack the great pirate. But, Zoro’s mimicry lacked the skill honed by years honing blades at nearly indiscernible speeds. The tip of Mihawk’s katana pierced Zoro’s chest.

 

 

“Why do you not step back? Do you want me to pierce your heart?”

 

 

“I-I can’t. I have this feeling…to back down now would be to end my path even if I were to live.”

 

 

“That is a part of defeat.”

 

 

“I will not step back.”

 

 

“Even if you will die?”

 

 

Silence. But then again, true masters of the sword didn’t need to speak.”

 

 

“And your name, young man?”

 

 

Kitsune watched as Zoro aligned his blades in a move he has never seen before.

 

 

“Roronoa Zoro.”

 

 

“To pay my respect to a fellow man of the blade, I will finish you with my black blade.” Kitsune grabbed hold of Johnny just as Luffy wrestled Yosaku down to the ground.

 

 

A single swing.

 

 

“Three Sword Style Secret Move: 3000 Worlds!”

 

 

*Clang! Crack!* Two of three katana shattered. Kitsune and Luffy stood frozen.

 

 

Zoro sheathed Wado and faced his fate with a proud smile.

 

 

“Hmm?”

 

 

“A wound on one’s back is the shame of a swordsman.”

 

 

Mihawk smiled. “Well spoken.” Blood splashed once more.

 

 

“ZORO!” shouted the four spectators. Kitsune reached out with his telekinesis and barely caught the swordsman.

 

He dragged the man towards them slowly, concentrating extra hard to not jostle the gravely injured man.

 

 

“Yosaku, Johnny, GO! I can’t carry people like this for long. I’m about to drop him!” The two bounty hunters jumped. The strain was too much. Kitsune dropped Zoro into the sea.

 

 

 Wasting no time, the first mate hopped across the wreckage to where the small ship sat anchored. Yosaku and Johnny managed to drag the semi-conscious man aboard. He placed both hands over the worst of the wounds.

 

 

“Kitsune-bro, what are you…?”

 

 

A warm dark blue light suffused his hands. Before the men’s awed gazes, the many minor wounds sealed. The major ones faded in color as the skin slowly knit itself together. The shapeshifter spared a wan smile.

 

 

In order to achieve full healing capability, Kitsune had to make some sacrifices. He could do a half-shift to perform his more mental skills, but he will never again transform into the large blue fox. And that may be for the best. Kitsune remembered how vulnerable he could be in that state. The great blue fox did not move quickly or with great physical strength. At the most, he could sustain the full transformation for three minutes. Then, the form would take its toll. Too risky in the long run. Maybe one day, but not now.

 

 

Kitsune pulled away when the light dimmed. His powers had their limits. Just as his golden fox could not achieve true flight through telekinesis, his blue fox’s healing light could not cure the gravest wounds, only encourage the body’s naturally healing capabilities to their peak performance. The first mate nodded to the two men and Usopp.

 

 

- Luffy -

 

 

The Straw Hat captain clenched his fists. But, he knew Hawk-Eyes didn’t do these things without purpose.

 

 

“Do not worry, young Straw Hat.” Luffy snapped his head to the warlord. “He will live.”

 

 

A moment of silence. Hawk-Eyes looks toward the downed pirate. “I am Dracule Mihawk. It’s much too soon for you to die. Take this reprieve to learn about yourself, the world, and become strong, Roronoa! I shall await you, no matter how many months or years pass, at the top of the world. Go! Experience the wealth of this world, hone your skills and conviction to a point as sharp as my own blade. When this happens…COME AND SURPASS ME, RORONOA!”

 

 

“Captain!” Luffy wrenched his head around to this injured crewmate. Kit finally had finished healing Zoro.  A single blade thrust toward the sky. “C-can you hear me?”

 

 

“Yeah!”

 

“Sorry for making you w-worry. If I don’t become the greatest swordsman in the world, I will only bring shame to you…so I swear! I swear that I will never fail you again!” Tears poured down the pirate hunter’s face.

 

 

“I swear to never lose until the time comes for me to face him and win! I will not lose again!”

 

 

Kitsune was only blankly staring at his patient. Luffy met the eyes of his older brother. A silent acknowledgement of the responsibility they shared.

                                                           

 

“Well, pirate king?!”

 

 

Luffy smirked. “Nope, shishishishishi!

 

 

His big brother finished and in the next moment was beside his mentor and friend.

 

 

Mihawk leveled his brother an unreadable look.

 

 

“What do you dream of, my student.” Kit grinned.

 

 

“Well, I’ve been puzzling about that for quite a number of years. Watching Zoro fight, I think I finally come to a decision. Luffy will be the pirate king, Zoro will be the next world’s greatest swordsman, and I…I have heard hundreds of people speak of their dreams, but how many of them are heard?

 

 

I dream of meeting every kind of adventurer along our journey and recording their stories. I’ll collect the greatest stories in the Grand Line and share them with the world. Be they noble or rogue, saint or villain, if they have a worthy story, then I’ll write it down. Even if the story lies buried beneath the tides, if the World Government itself buries the secrets beyond the grave, I’ll do my damnedest to ferret them away and show them to the world. And let my crew’s story, the story of the future pirate king, be the best of them all.”

 

 

Mihawk’s eyes imperceptibly widened. Then he smirked. “A fine set of dreams for a fine crew. I am glad you finally found your fire, my student. You’ve always did have a secret love for stories. You and your younger brothers have taken very difficult paths in life, but they are fitting. Even one whose dream is greater than surpassing me…” Luffy pulled a face.

 

 

“I’m gonna do it, and nothing will stop me from doing it! Blehh!” “Luffy!”

 

 

In a moment, Kit was right next to him and slammed the hilt of his sword against the younger’s head. Luffy groaned. Damn, Kit’s haki…In between the ringing, Luffy could hear Hawky’s laughter.

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

Mihawk tipped his hat and began to stride away. Don Krieg decided to take offense.  A second slash tore the seas and the ship wreckage apart. Once the sea settled, ‘Hawk-Eyes’ Mihawk had vanished.

 

 

During the chaos, the crew parted ways temporarily.

 

 

“AAAAAHHH!”

 

 

“GO!” shouted Luffy over the crashing of waves. “The four of you go ahead and get Nami!”

 

 

“Yeah, Luffy and I got this. Just don’t do anything stupid, like piss off pirates bigger and a whole lot stronger than you – that means YOU, Usopp!”

 

 

“We’ll definitely get Nami back, Captain, and Kit!” replied Usopp with the barest trace of a tremor. “So, go and get us our chef and meet back up with us. With six people in our crew, we’ll set sail for the Grand Line!”

 

 

Most of the Krieg Pirates managed to keep their footing in the wreckage and began to approach the Baratie.

 

 

“Damn,” muttered Sanji. “Those bastards are finally coming.”

 

 

“Oi! Old Man!” shouted Luffy. “If Kit and I take care of these pirates, will you let us off our debt?”

 

 

“Hmph. Fine. Do as you wish,” grumbled Owner Zeff.

 

 

The Krieg Pirates stirred with discontent. After the crew was so utterly pummeled, the once fierce pirates were not so eager to follow their leader in taking such a weird ship in addition to returning to the Hell seas of the Grand Line. *Crack!* One of the more vocal dissenters fell into the water, dead. All the pirates fell silent.

 

 

“Any more questions?” threatened Don Krieg. “No? Obviously, that Hawk-Eyes fellow was no ordinary man to cut a galleon in half. He probably ate a devil fruit and gained a mysterious power. So, SHUT UP AND LISTEN! The Grand Line is full of devil fruit users. Those fellows there, the straw hat and beret-wearer are but a few examples of the many dangers inhabiting the Grand Line. ‘Red-Leg’ Zeff spent an entire year in the Grand Line. He must know some tricks to deal with such monsters. With his log, we will know those same methods. He might even know something about One Piece!”

 

 

The Don Krieg Pirates rallied. They shouted, “Yeah! Let’s go and take that ship!”

 

 

On the Baratie, Kitsune snorted at their opponents’ antics. “Really? Even Paradise might be too much for such stupidity.”

 

 

Shishishishi! Yeah, I don’t even think they would last very long. Ready, Kit?”

 

 

Kitsune smirked wide, silver blue irises suddenly slitting and teeth turning razor sharp. “Just don’t be an idiot and fall in the water. I can’t exactly rescue you if you do.”

 

 

Luffy laughed. He gripped and the railings and…

 

 

“GUM-GUM ROCKET!”

 

 

Kitsune slapped a hand over his face. “Rubber-brain dolt,” muttered the older brother darkly.

 

Luffy twisted in the air, extending his arms wide.

 

 

“PROPELLER!” A good chunk of pirates scattered in all directions as Luffy spun into them. The whirling arms caught onto one of the masts.

 

 

“LUFFY!”

 

 

The remaining Straw Hat pirate snarled, and exploded in a sudden haze of yellow smoke. A yellow blur raced across the debris. Next to the freaky youth appeared a large, slender, yellow fox. The fox crouched over the enemy captain and made a series of yips.

 

 

“What in the world is he?”

 

 

The Krieg pirates scrambled back at the display.

 

 

“I said, SHUT IT!” The pirates fell still. “Idiots, what did I say before? Those two probably have some sort of devil fruit power.” The captain of the Don Krieg Pirates turned to the Straw Hats. “Isn’t true that those who eat of the fruits of the devil are forever weak against the sea?”

 

 

“Perhaps,” spoke the golden fox, “but does it really matter? We both can maneuver rather well after living on the seas for many years. I think it should be you who should be worried here.”

 

 

“We can’t swim, but I can stretch, and Kit can do lots of different things.”

 

 

*Thump.* One of the seven fluttering tails smacked the straw-hatted pirate.

 

‘Luffy, don’t announce what we can do every time we fight. I think our opponents get the idea without you telling them.’ Aww, but Kit… ‘No buts!’

 

 

/ A weird fish-duck-shaped ship attempted to attack Don Krieg Pirates, manned by Patty and Carne. While the two men were distracting the pirates, the Baratie opened up the ‘fins,’ a set of extra deck flooring perfect for fighting en masse. Unfortunately, for the two sea cooks, Don Krieg found their efforts less than amusing. He sent them flying until Sanji kicked them into the fins. By the time, the three chefs quit arguing, all the remaining chefs fell under the onslaught of pirates. /

 

 

- Sanji -

 

 

Carne and Patty needed to quit messing around. While those two wasted time arguing with Sanji’s method, all their fellow cooks were beaten. Finally, the two charged into the fray. They actually made quick work of a lot of the pirates standing on the fins. Then some weirdo showed up.

 

 

He was red-haired and…shiny? The new pirate was decked out in some sort of pearl and iron armor. He cleaned their clocks. The smug bastard then struck a ridiculous pose and declared himself:

 

 

“I am ‘Iron Wall’ Pearl. No man has ever beaten my invincible iron wall. I come out of every battle without a scratch!” The bastard’s high voice was giving the blonde a headache…

 

 

One of the shitty pirates then tried to steal Patty’s knife. Sanji was on him in an instant. The pirate flew back from a vicious kick. Sanji held up the knife.

 

 

“A kitchen knife is the soul of the chef. Filthy hands as yours shouldn’t even think about touching one.” Sanji demolished the lower ranked pirates. Then Pearl stepped up.

 

 

The idiot talked and talked about his so-called invincible defense until in between Sanji’s kick and his block, errand boy came flying in and slammed the guy’s face into his own shield.

 

…Blood gushed out from the pirate’s nose.

 

 

 -Kitsune -

 

 

East Blue pirates were pretty pathetic. While Kitsune did say to minimize their use of haki here, Luffy still shouldn’t be so oblivious as to let Don Krieg nail him with an iron flail. Kitsune deftly dodged around the enemy captain, not even really paying any heed to his words. His eyes stayed on what was happening on the fins. His ears twitched forward. Even Don Krieg stopped with a curse on his lips when he took in his newly injured crewmate.

 

 

The weird pirate…freaked. Fire suddenly began to fly.

 

 

“Is he trying…?”

 

 

“…to burn the ship we’re trying to steal,” finished Don Krieg.

 

 

The fox’s tails curled over themselves. Kitsune inclined his head as he watched Sanji dart forward heedless of the inferno. Don Krieg reared back the arm holding the flail. Kitsune narrowed his eyes grabbed the spiked ball with his telekinesis. He flung the weapon and Don Krieg into another floating pile of wood shards with a satisfying thunk.

 

 

A mast fell over to crack upon Pearl’s head. The pirate toppled over.

 

 

“Enough.” All eyes turned to where Owner Zeff…laid, subdued by Gin with a gun held to his head. “No matter how great he used to be, in the end he’s another cook vulnerable as any other to bullets.”

 

 

Not always. If Zeff made it to the New World, he would certainly not be just any cook. Gin had the audacity to demand their surrender. Sanji refused. Then Pearl got back up.

 

 

- Sanji -

 

Damn, Gin. Sanji couldn’t risk the Old Man’s life. Flashes of memory bombarded his mind. No. Zeff risked his life, gave his leg for Sanji’s sake. The sea cook refused to let some shitty pirates take the shitty old geezer’s treasure. Pearl took a swing at him.

 

 

ENOUGH.’

 

 

“Racing Foxfire!” A blur of white and gold rushed past and slammed Pearl away. A sudden flash revealed the bereted pirate in its place. “I said, ENOUGH!”

 

 

Sanji swallowed a breath. “Stop, Gin has the old geezer at…!” Something silvery flew by Sanji’s head and landed in the palm of the shorter man – a pistol. He whirled around to see a dumfounded Gin without his weapon. Suddenly, an arm shot out and forced Gin away from the old geezer or risked a black eye.

 

 

“What is going on?” “How did he…?” “So that is the power of devil fruit users?!”

 

 

The two pirates stood by each other and grinned.

 

 

“Yup~ I ate the Dog-Dog Fruit: model kitsune.

 

 

“Yeah! And I ate the Gum-Gum Fruit! I’m a rubber-man!”

 

 

The fox met Sanji’s startled gaze. “Anyone who takes another’s precious treasure with such cowardly tactics just asks for trouble. A good pirate should man up and face their mistakes, not run away or try to avoid them.” The last was directed at Gin.

 

 

How did you know that? Kitsune – a demonic fox if you want to put it that way. Lots of nifty tricks depending on the number of tails, but the telepathy is universal. How’d you think I got all of your attention before? Or am talking to you without speaking, right now?’ Sanji blinked in comprehension. So you can read people’s mind like this whenever you want? ‘No, afraid not. Broadcasting is the easiest compared to personal communications like this. I really need to know someone for a private conversation at a certain range. I’m pushing it already with you. Anyone else besides my crew and family, and the connection fizzles.’

 

 

Sanji decided to put aside this craziness for later. Right now, they had a ship to protect and pirates to pulverize. He inclined his head to the two Straw Hats in gratitude.

 

 

The silver-blue eyes of the older Straw Hat pirate shone with an inhuman light when they turned back to the surrounding pirates. They then slid to the dark eyes of the younger. Then a wave hit them. Sanji felt his legs almost buckle under the pressure. All the remaining pirates fell over except for Pearl, Gin, and Don Krieg. The other cooks and Zeff were unaffected. What the hell..?

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

The Straw Hats have had enough. The two pirates unleashed the barest trace of their ace: Conqueror’s haki. The blast knocked over all of the pirates except for three. Kitsune raised an eyebrow when Luffy let the trace reach the blonde cook, but held his question. His captain knew what he was doing most of the time. Sanji met the unspoken challenge well. His knees trembled, but now as much as Pearl or Don Krieg. Gin surprisingly held up as well as the chef.

 

 

The Straw Hat took a look around and sighed.

 

 

“I guess your crew wasn’t much, huh? Beneath the rumors, the Don Krieg Pirate Fleet was just a bunch of low-leveled pirates outnumbering every other crew in the East Blue. Three competent members among thousands do not make up for the sheer ineptitude of your forces.” Don Krieg did not appreciate that. He took leapt onto the fin and took a swing at the devil fruit user. Kitsune just ducked. The air from the passing arm did manage to dislodge the black-and-blonde haired man’s bangs. As he straightened, a gasp rang out among the pirates. Don Krieg even blanched a bit.

 

 

“That mark…” “No way, it can’t be…” “THAT’S THE MARK OF WHITEBEARD!”

 

 

Kitsune blinked. “And…?”

 

 

“Boy, how can someone like you have the mark of the most infamous pirate crew in the world?! Are you just playing around, or…?” Kitsune pulled his bangs back a little more to bare the whole design. Luffy giggled and turned back with his low cut red vest pulled away slightly to show the fist-sized mark between his shoulder blades.

 

 

“Nope,” he said with a pop at the end. “Luffy and I are the sons of Whitebeard. Not that it really matters. We parted ways with the crew upon our seventeenth birthdays. We’re part of his family, but we are a crew of our own power.”

 

 

“So that’s how you guys manage to fight off my crew. The Grand Line is host to such monsters.” Don Krieg stood stiffly. “If I can defeat the two of you, it will signal to the world that, I, Don Krieg, best two pirates of the world’s greatest pirate crew.”

 

 

“Keep dreaming, shishishi.

 

 

“Yes, even the weakest of our brothers beats a few dozen of your men, Shahehehe. Stick to the East Blue.” Kitsune turned to the surrounding cooks. “Sanji, think you can handle Gin? Mr. Pyromaniac is mine. And captain vs. captain to settle this affair. Everyone else, stand back and watch. We don’t want anyone else injured accidently.” Time to get somewhat serious.

 

 

- KASL -

 

Pearl set himself ablaze once more. The Krieg pirate knew that mark meant trouble at the very least, so no taking chances. He bared his ironclad fists.

 

 

“Fire Pearl’s Special Treat!” He shot flaming pearls straight at the Zoan without warning. Kitsune stared impassively at the flaming projectiles. Seconds from collision, the pearls split apart. In the fox’s left hand shone the same blade as before: Fuzakeru Kasai. White fire danced along its edge. In the other hand, a black blade equally flared. The steel reflected an impossibly wide grin.

 

 

Pearl stepped back. Too late.

 

 

“Flame Edge Style: Beast of Hades.”

 

 

Pearl screamed as the afterimage of a great flaming canine charged. *CCRR-ACK!* The invincible shield shattered. Deep gouges marred the man’s body. Pearl collapsed and did not get back up. Kitsune sheathed his sword. The rictus of a smile faded. Kitsune turned to the others.

 

 

Sanji and Gin were locked in combat. Neither man yielded in their strength of ideals. One man fought for the sake of the treasure of his mentor. The other fought to uphold the admiration and loyalty of his captain. One was a chef, a cook of the sea while the other was a pirate commander, the ‘Demon’ of the Krieg pirates.

 

 

Sanji had to take care of the tonfa the pirate sported. The power each blow pack could shatter his bones. He dodged and kicked, unleashing a full dinner of attacks. The two were locked in a battle between equally skilled adversaries.

 

 

To the side, Sanji vaguely noted Straw Hat somehow deflecting the sharp edged weapons of Don Krieg. Sanji suddenly had the impression of some sort of black armor forming around Straw Hat’s arm. The moment’s distraction was enough. Gin’s tonfa slipped through to land a devastating blow against Sanji’s abdomen. He doubled over in pain. A second blow slammed him into the splintering floor. Gin held him down for one last attack. Then he hesitated.

 

 

“Gin! Finish him!” yelled Don Krieg, the pirate admiral barely escaping Luffy’s next Gum-Gum Pistol. Kitsune flexed his claws but waited.

 

 

Gin looked stricken. He raised the tonfa. Sanji reflexively closed his eyes. Nothing. Wetness dripped on him. The blonde cook immediately opened his eyes to see Gin crying over him. The cold, practical demon of the Krieg pirates couldn’t kill the man who saved him. He couldn’t follow his captain’s order.

 

 

“Don Krieg…Please, I-I can’t kill him! I-I can’t do this.

 

 

“What?! Care to repeat that?”

 

 

“Sanji saved my life. They saved all our lives. I have no intention to betray you, and I do not ever doubt the decisions I’ve made in your name. I have admired your strength and am grateful to be your second-in-command, but…I cannot kill him. Isn’t there even the slightest possibility we can just go and restart somewhere else?”

 

 

“Y-you. My most loyal subordinate dared to defy me…!” Don Krieg lifted his shield. Gin paled.

Luffy and Kitsune hung back, wary.

 

 

“MH5,” whispered the shocked pirate.

 

 

“One of the most effective weapons on the seas,” announced Don Krieg, “is not delivered by physical hands but by steel barrels. MH5 is a particularly nasty mix of chemicals. A poisonous gas guaranteed to wipe out a small town.”

 

 

“You can’t! Most of our men are unconscious! They won’t wake in time!”

 

 

“I can always find more men. Those felled by a bunch of cooks and two boys clearly do not have what its takes to serve on my crew.”

 

 

“Don, these people saved us! They-”

 

 

“Throw away your mask, Gin. You are no longer a part of my crew.” The words were like a physical blow to the man. He stumbled back and fell to his knees in shock.

 

 

Kitsune glared at the gaudy pirate captain. “Do you not even care a bit for your crew? Most will not escape. Gin is responsible for your current well-being. Do you not even feel a bit of empathy for him? You’re nothing but a wea-”

 

 

“No!” All gazes turned to Gin. “No. Don Krieg is the greatest pirate. Even I could never hope to beat him. I deserve this. I failed to follow his orders.”

 

 

Sanji snapped his cigarette in half. “Gin…”

 

 

Don Krieg plowed on regardless of the glares from all around, including his (conscious) subordinates. “Fine. Die, then.”

 

 

Luffy did not miss a beat. He launched himself at the rival captain. A barrage of punches and kicks assaulted the man. Don Krieg sneered. Missiles fired upon Luffy.

 

 

“You will not be able to stop me!” The shield fired. Luffy closed his eyes and gave the captain a D smile.

 

 

“I may not. But he will.”

 

 

Fire devoured the bomb. The multicolored flames licked at Don Krieg’s heels. He staggered away from the hungry fire. Nothing but ash remained of the Don’s ace.

 

 

“How…?”

 

 

Shahehehe, I don’t think you will risk anymore lives,” trilled Kitsune. The cold eyes gave lie to the cheerful tone. “I could have taken your life, if I really wanted. But, my captain would not like that. The honor of your defeat and humiliation is his to take.” The fox strolled over to Sanji and Gin. The latter looked wide-eyed at the fox.

 

 

“Do you really think your captain can defeat the greatest pirate in the East Blue?”

 

 

Kitsune spared the man a raised brow. “Really? You really doubt us, even now? We lived in the second half of the Grand Line, and positively thrived as children in the seas of Paradise. We’ve yet to even demonstrate a tenth of our combined power. Luffy will wipe the floor with Krieg, I promise you.”

 

 

“I agree.” Old man Zeff hobbled over with a crutch. “Watch this battle carefully, Eggplant.”

 

 

“Not a damn eggplant,” muttered Sanji, but he obeyed.

 

 

Luffy placed his straw hat onto his head in a deliberate motion. Krieg repressed the instincts telling him to back down, to run with his life. Those cold eyes held no mercy.

 

 

“A man who throws away his nakama is not a captain at all,” said Straw Hat.

 

 

“A subordinate that does not follow orders is no subordinate of mine,” countered Krieg. Without further thought (especially to the ones screaming for him to cut his losses), Don Krieg formed his great war spear and charged the grinning boy.

 

 

The concussive power tore the fin apart where the spear hit. Kitsune created a wall of fire to divert the damage away from the spectators. As the smoke cleared, a barely damaged Luffy stood. Don Krieg screamed in fury. He charged again. The same result ensued.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

Kitsune watched carefully, a small smirk on his face. Little brother has improved. I think Marco actually managed to grill a little bit of tactics into his stubborn rubber-addled brain. He’s drawing Don Krieg away from the Baratie. Luffy had manage to lure the Don onto one of the larger pieces of the galleon a good distance away. The piece, however, drifted in a more remote part of the wreck.

 

 

“No more running, Straw Hat. This is the end.”

 

 

“You’re right.” Shadows overtook the younger pirate captain’s features. “It’s time to end this, shishishishi.”

 

 

Don Krieg lifted his spear once more for his next blow. His final blow, hopefully. And it was. Luffy twisted his arm back. The fox leaned forward. Red suffused Luffy’s body and the younger man suddenly began to emit steam. “Second Gear:”

 

 

“Gum-Gum Jet Bazooka!”

 

 

The near invisible speed of the attack multiplied the incredible power of the move. The spear and shield broke.

 

 

“That is the power needed to sail the Grand Line,” commented the old sea salt to his protégé. “To have the will to risk everything, even their very lives. That is conviction.

 

 

Blood marred Luffy’s hands from the many spikes, but Luffy stood tall and proud. Several of the now conscious pirates attempted to ambush the young captain until Sanji and Kitsune knocked them out again.

 

 

Don Krieg could only stare, completely and utterly taken off-guard. Luffy did not spare him any more time.

 

 

“Gum-Gum Jet Gatling!”

 

Don Krieg tried to shield himself with some sort of spiky cape, but to no avail. The cape and armor were crushed under the impact of hundreds of blows. The greatest pirate of the East Blue fell.

 

 

Onboard the Baratie, the chefs cheered. Gin was in shock. The remaining Don Krieg Pirates were shocked. Their captain of 17 million berries bounty had lost to a no-name captain of an impossibly small crew. Kitsune smiled – for all of a few minutes.

 

 

“Luffy!”

 

 

- Sanji -

 

 

The crazy bastards did it. They stopped the Krieg pirates. Errand boy and Kitsune demolished the pirates like they were nothing. To think people like them infested the Grand Line.

 

 

“Conviction, huh?”

 

 

“Luffy!”

 

 

The shout startled the man from his thoughts he looked at the great veteran of the Grand Line begin to run back and forth.

 

 

“What’re you doing just standing there, Eggplant? The chili pepper there isn’t exactly dancing around for nothing. Those who obtain power through the devil fruits are forsworn by the sea. They’re hammers in the water and can’t swim.”

 

 

… “WHY DIDN’T YOU MENTION THAT EARLIER?!”

 

 

“WHY WEREN’T YOU LISTENING EARLIER? DON DOOFUS THERE PRETTY MUCH MONOLOGUED IT EARLIER!” shouted an irate and panicked first mate of the Straw Hats. “IT’S NOT LIKE I CAN GO AND RESCUE HIM. I EVEN MENTIONED IT BEFORE HE WENT ALL OUT ON KRIEG!”

 

 

Sanji dived.

 

 

Two days later

The Baratie

 

 

- Luffy -

 

 

The young future pirate king sleepily woke up. A haki-infused fist to the skull greeted him.

 

 

“Oww! Why’d you do that, Kit?!”

 

 

“What did I say about being careful? HAM-MER. We cannot swim. So why didn’t you check to see if you had anywhere to land after the rebound from those moves. And that’s another thing, what was that out there?”

 

 

Kit was scowling. He had a journal open in his lap with a pen abandon in the middle of a line. Luffy smiled.

 

 

“Oh, I call it Second Gear. I pump blood really quickly through my body, according to Rayleigh. I discovered it after watching some of these marines run really fast. Cool, huh? Oh, and about the other thing…I forgot.”

 

 

The younger brother laughed as the elder just slammed his head against the bedpost.

 

 

“Where’s Gin and everyone?”

 

 

“Hmm? Gin? He took Krieg and the rest of the crew on a tiny ship. Hadn’t given up quite on Don Krieg, I suppose. A shame. He could be a great captain in his own right, I think, or serve a better one. But, loyalty is loyalty. He left yesterday. You really exhausted yourself - too much blood loss and lack of oxygen. Yet, you somehow managed to keep eating the whole time. I am really glad you don’t have the same case of narcolepsy as Ace. You’re just…prone to sleeping deeply and quickly. I’m really glad I outgrew it for the most part except for the frequent habit of napping. But seriously, don’t scare me like that. I’d rather you didn’t die before we even leave our home seas.”

 

 

“Kitsune’s right. You really are an idiot.” Standing in the doorway was the familiar blonde chef.

 

 

“Sanji!”

 

 

“He said, ‘Let’s meet again on the Grand Line someday.’”

 

 

“Ah. He said that to you?”

 

 

*Smack.* “No, dumbass. He said that to you.”

 

 

“Owww. Kit!”

 

 

“Only when you become as smart as Sabo.”

 

 

“Aww, that's impossible! No one is as smart as Sabo, or you, or Mama Pineapple, or…Oh, Sanji! I’m not the errand boy anymore! So…do you wa-”

 

 

“No. I’m not becoming a pirate.”

 

 

“Awwww. Why not?”

 

 

“I’ll remain a cook here until the old man recognizes my skill as a chef.”

 

 

“Okay…”

 

 

“Luffy, let go of his collar!”

 

 

A little later…

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

“So, what’s keeping you here, really?” The three had moved to the balcony after Kitsune had pried Luffy off of the stubborn sea cook.

 

 

“After that debacle? The cooks here can’t be relied on to defend the ship by themselves.”

 

 

“They didn’t do too badly. Freak incidents all around. A once in a blue moon event.”

 

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

 

Shishishishi, right, Kit!”

 

 

“You, know, I do intend to explore the Grand Line one day.”

 

 

“Oh, then you should join us and go now!”

 

 

“Not yet. Hey,” Kitsune and Luffy looked to the smiling chef, “have you heard of the All Blue?”

 

 

“That old fairy tale? The head chef on the Moby Dick told us about it. I don’t all together recollect it…”

 

 

“What?!” “Luffy…”

 

 

Sanji happily spoke about the All Blue, the miracle sea where fish of all four Blues gathered.

 

 

/ The next scene proceeded as in canon. The chefs faked hating Sanji’s soup. Sanji lost his temper a bit with Owner Zeff. And Zeff punched him. Sanji listened in on them trying to get rid of him by making him hopping mad. /

 

 

On Deck

 

 

- Sanji -

 

 

“They mean well, don’t they?” Sanji started at the voice. Just above him hung the upside-down first mate of the Straw Hat crew. “Sometimes, a parent has to give that last push forward.”

 

 

Sanji said nothing, and Kitsune honored that silence. Then:

 

 

“ABABABABDABABABEBABABABADEBABABA!”

 

 

Kitsune slipped from his hanging place and stood up next to Sanji. Something hurled straight into them.

 

 

“AGGHH!”

 

 

“What in in Gold Roger’s name?”

 

 

“Is that a mermaid?”

 

 

“Y-yosaku?! What are you doing in a pandashark?”

 

 

One recovery later…

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

“So what happened?”

 

 

Yosaku was finally extricated from the pandashark with minimal damage to either party (unless you count later preparations for dinner).

 

 

“Well, we did lose sight of Sister Nami, but judging by our headings, we had a good idea of where she was going…”

 

 

“And…?”

 

 

“It’s…not good. The place is incredibly dangerous! I’ll tell you guys more, later. We’d better hurry and catch up to everyone else. They will need your strength. Please, we need to hurry.”

 

 

“Okay. I have absolutely no idea why you sound scared or what’s going on in general, but let’s go and find the others!”

 

 

“Okay. We already took care of the Krieg pirates. I suppose if Sanji won’t change his mind-”

 

 

“I’m coming, too.” The three looked to the blonde lounging by the wall.

 

 

“I said, I’m coming, too. Take me with you.”

 

 

“What?” questioned the surrounding chefs.

 

 

“I’m saying I accept your offer. I’ll come with you on your journey to become the pirate king. All of us have crazy dreams. May as well come with you and fulfill mine on the way to One Piece. I’ll be your cook on the ship.”

 

 

“…”

 

 

“Luffy?”

 

 

“YAY! I finally have a cook!”

 

 

Kitsune ignored his brother’s elated prancing. He watched as the chefs, Sanji, and Zeff interact. Huh, they kind of remind me of how the four of us act most of the time…

 

 

Carne and Patty’s sudden sneak attack also reminded the fox of the good ol’ days of his childhood.

 

 

“Take care, brat.”

 

 

A heartbeat…

 

 

“Owner Zeff!” Sanji bowed on his hands and knees. “I’ll never forget all that you’ve done for me. Thank you for taking care of me for so damn long. And, I’ll never forget the debt I owe to you and everyone!”

 

 

“Shut it! You bastard! See what you’ve done. Now we’re all crying like little babies.” “I’ll miss you!” “Take care!” “We won’t forget you!” “Better earn yourself a bounty like real pirates of the sea!”

 

 

“Let’s meet again on the sea! I’ll come back with new recipes and fish from the All Blue!”

 

 

“Okay! Let’s set sail!”

 

 

“You heard the cap- Luffy! Stay out of the kitchen! Sanji, remind me to go get about a dozen or so heavy locks for the Going Merry’s kitchen.”

 

 

Nami, we’re coming.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries or dream sequence/

*sounds and actions*

 

East Blue

On the sea

 

- Kitsune -

 

“What had you so rattled earlier, Yosaku? You did say you would explain. And, please quit crying.”

 

They had boarded Sanji’s ship and were headed to Conomi Island. Yosaku hadn’t stopped crying since they left the Baratie.

 

“B-but that parting between Brother Cook and the chefs of the Baratie really was t-touching. A truly treasured good-bye.”

 

“Okay. I can understand that, but you did say you would explain why Conomi Island is so dangerous.” Something about the name sounded familiar to the fox.

 

“Yeah, you were really freaked out. You even risked death by pandashark to come and get us,” said Luffy as he picked his nose. Kitsune flicked a little flame at the offending snot.

 

“I would like to know, too.” The chef lit another cigarette. The fox winced. I like fire and smoke, but I will never get why people breathe in such nasty smelling fumes. At least my smokescreen smells somewhat pure for lack of a better word. Blehh.

 

“*Sniff, sniff,* well... about that…”

 

“I’m sure it’s not that bad. No matter what, I want Nami as our navigator to take us to the Grand Line!” exclaimed Luffy.

 

“Are you sure you have enough people? They don’t call it the pirate’s graveyard for nothing.” And we’re off track.

 

Nevertheless, Kitsune went along with the turn of the conversation. “I survived perfectly well on my own when I traveled along the Grand Line.” Although, I did have some close calls with the marines. And those insane pirates that keep picking fights with everyone…and that one really crazy guy… “Maybe more crewmates will be good.”

 

“Nah, we can always find more when we get there, but I want to go now, shishishishi!

 

“Good point. Paradise will certainly have some interesting people we can try to recruit.”

 

“Paradise?”

 

“Paradise?!”

 

Sanji and Yosaku looked flabbergasted at the casual naming of the most dangerous sea in the world. Kitsune kind of enjoyed that look, especially when rookies find out why the first half was called Paradise. Yosaku’s face then froze as if something just occurred to him.

 

“Wait, you’ve been to the Grand Line?”

 

“Ah, you weren’t there when Luffy and I made calls back home, and the four of you left right before the big revealing. Well, Luffy was born to this sea, and I was eventually raised here, too, but we spent over half of our childhoods in the Grand Line. A pirate crew more or less adopted my brothers and me.”

 

“Brothers? There are more of you?” Sanji was no doubt picturing two others with the D appetite. Not that he was wrong.

 

Shishishishi, yeah. Besides the rest of our family – the crew – I have two older brothers besides Kit: Ace and Sabo. Ace stayed with the crew and serves as one of the commanders while Sabo went to join the revolutionaries. They’re both way stronger than me. Kit was the strongest back then.”

 

“Rather infamous sounding brothers,” commented Sanji dryly. The chef took a drag of his cigarette before continuing. “I’d hate to imagine how much stronger they are than you. And Kitsune, the little shrimp, the strongest?”

 

“You two can call me Kit, as well. I really don’t mind since I think of you as friends and nakama. I’m going to tell that to the rest of crew, anyways. But call me shrimp or any variant of the meaning, and I will burn all your suit jackets.”

 

“Hey!”

 

“I’m not kidding. Did that to Thatch’s shampoo and conditioners. I am short, not deaf.”

 

Yosaku tried to calm the two battling men down before the two began to come to physical blows. Once everyone calmed down, Yosaku finally got the courage to ask the questions that had been bugging him for a while.

 

“Being a part of a pirate crew does explain why you guys are so strong, but, well, errr… not to pry, but how do you guys know ‘Hawkeyes Mihawk, though? Not just any crew associates with a Warlord, much less the one called the World’s Strongest Swordsman.”

 

“Mm-eh, that’s because we’re the proud sons of Whitebeard.”

 

 

Yosaku looked really pale and shocked. Kitsune slipped from his seat on the side of the both and slapped him a few times.

 

“Ow! You guys…you guys are the sons of WHITEBEARD?! The World’s Strongest Man? Captain over thousands of pirates and an ally of many more. One of the FOUR EMPERORS, Captain Edward ‘Whitebeard’ Newgate?”

 

“Yep. The one and the same - in other words, Pops. If you freak out any more, you might be taking another unexpected swim in as many days, Yosaku,” deadpanned Kitsune. During the rant, Yosaku walked back and forth across the deck, wind milling his arms in wide gestures to emphasize his points. At the fox’s bland tone, the man finally collapsed back into a sitting position.

 

“If you don’t believe Kit or Luffy, they do have the mark of Whitebeard. Kit’s mark is even on his forehead.”

 

“It never gets less funny when people freak out,” teased Kitsune. “You know, I have yet to answer your first question. Before we get to that, we know Mihawk since the crew ran into him numerous times in our childhood. My tutelage into the art of the sword is a whole other story I’ll share later, maybe. Luffy and I have met quite a few Warlords, actually.  Remind me to share our story to the Island of Women, later, you might appreciate it, Sanji.”

 

“Island of Women?” Kitsune made flames dance along his fingers in warning to love-struck cook’s evident fantasizing.

 

 “Later. Anyways, Paradise refers to the first half of the Grand Line. Quite the meaning behind the name. They call it Paradise on account of the second half, the New World. People who have journeyed or lived in the New World call the first half Paradise for a good reason. Paradise earned the title of the pirate’s graveyard, but the New World is a whole other level of danger.

 

The Grand Line plays host to some of the most messed up weather. Practically anything and everything can happen on those seas. But the New World contains the most radical weather between the two halves. Plus, the islands are wilder, the monsters greater, and the opponents somewhat of the same nature as Mihawk: terribly hostile, discerning, and utterly merciless when the mood strikes them.

 

Personality-wise, Mihawk behaved much better than many of the elite pirates of those waters. At least the Krieg Pirates escaped with their lives more or less, if the initial strike didn’t destroy them. I can think of a few who would not be so kind.”

 

“And you want to go back?!” yelped Yosaku.

 

“Hm, interesting sounding place, the Grand Line,” remarked Sanji.

 

“Brother Cook!”

 

“The Grand Line is a whole lot of fun, shishishi!”

 

Yosaku looked like he was going to rip out his (nonexistent) hair. Then he took a breath and sat there in silence for a minute.

 

“Okay. In light all of that, I think you guys definitely can handle the Arlong crew.”

 

“Who?”

 

Yosaku’s visage grew grave. “The Arlong Pirates – an all fishmen crew. They rule Conomi Island and the surrounding area with an iron grip. I saw Nami reading his bounty poster that time.”

 

“Ah, so that’s why she went so pale.”

 

“She stared at the poster for a really long time. Since she took all the treasure, I bet she has some sort of connection to-”

 

“Fishmen kind of look like this! Or was it this?” Luffy showed Sanji a few poorly drawn pictures of fish with legs and arms in various orientations. They burned to nothing in an instant.

 

“Namur does not even look anything like that. And you’ve known him for years!”

 

“Anyways,” restarted Yosaku, sweat dropping, “he has the highest bounty in the East Blue at 20 million berries. According to the rumors, Arlong once sailed with another warlord, Jinbei, captain of the fishmen pirates. The marines captured him, but in exchange for his acceptance into the Seven Warlords, Jinbei had them set loose that monster.”

 

“Fishmen? Like Fishman Island? That place is a very popular tourist destination and home to the beautiful mermaids,” commented Sanji with a goofy look on his face. “Maybe Nami is a mermaid~” daydreamed the sea cook.

 

Kitsune burned Luffy’s new drawing and simultaneously kicked the distracted chef. “Knock it off, or I’ll burn the lot of you!” The kitsune made sure to straighten out his two goofy crewmates before returning to the conversation at hand.

 

 “Fishmen Pirates? Well, Jinbei does lead a crew of fishmen and merfolk, but they’re called the Sun Pirates. As for Arlong, I don’t think I’ve met him before. Must be before we joined the Whitebeard Pirates. But we have met Jinbei. I can’t say he’s the type to endanger people like that.”

 

“No way! Jinbei is great. He’s really strong and scary. But! Jinbei isn’t bad. Nope. He even rescued me and my brothers.”

 

“On account of the trouble you accrue, dear brother. The Sun Pirates are fairly tolerant of humans, if I recall. Their first captain was renowned for freeing many slaves from the World Nobles at one point, including humans and other races. I can’t imagine Jinbei condoning crimes against any people, fishmen, human, or other.”

 

Yosaku gripped his chin in contemplation. “Well, I guess that doesn’t matter right now. After the deal, they came to the East Blue a decade ago and terrorized the surrounding seas. Conomi Island was the first island to fall under their shadow, and they have their home base, Arlong Park, there.”

 

“I bet if they’re anything like Namur, they’ll be really strong!”

 

“Err, Luffy-bro, you might want to take them a bit more seriously…”

 

“They won’t be a problem. We just need to go get Nami,” insisted Luffy with a wide D grin.

 

“Luffy-bro! You guys are really strong, but Arlong is powerful! He’s not a normal man!”

 

“Shishishishi! It’ll be fine. If Ar-loon gives us any trouble, I’ll just knock him out.”

 

“Luffy-bro!” “Luffy!” yelled the two men.

 

The chef spared the three a disdainful look. “You idiots. In any case, it’s lunchtime. What do you guys want to eat?”

 

“Meat on a bone!” “Stir-fried bean sprouts!” “Some spicy noodles for me, please!”

 

“Okay. Leave it to me.”

 

“I’ll go contact Jinbei and see what I can find about Arlong while you cook. Luckily, I had the transponder snail in the bag I took with me onto the Baratie.

 

Conomi Island

Surrounding Seas

 

- Usopp -

 

“We-we’re here!”

 

“A-are you sure Nami’s here?” whispered Usopp from his crouched position.

 

“First things first,” announced Johnny, “we need to find the Going Merry.”

 

Zoro began to unsheathe one of his swords with a gleam in his eye. “And then we cut our way in?”

 

“What?!” “NO!” “Are you insane?”

 

Moments later

 

Usopp stood tall and proudly with the binoculars locked on the form of the Merry. “We found her! She’s docked over there!”

 

“That’s a pretty strange place to have her docked.”

 

In the background, “Untie me, now! Why the heck did you idiots tie me up?”

 

“Calm down, calm down. Kitsune healed you up, but you’re still recovering. Let me, Captain Usopp, handle this.” Usopp’s voice wavered as he tried to reassure his tied-up crewmate. Why do I feel like I’m going to regret this later? But he still put an uneasy smile on his face.

 

The ship drew close to the Going Merry. Just as Usopp was going to hop off… “Fishmen!”

 

Usopp and Johnny quickly redirected the ship past the surprised pair of fishmen.


“Hey! What do you guys think you’re doing? You just went past the Merry!”

 

“What do you want me to do? They’re freaking fishmen! Arlong Pirates! They’ll break a guy like me in two! NO WAY are we going to go picking a fight with one, no less two of those monsters!” screamed Usopp right into the pirate hunter’s face.

 

*Sweat drop.* “Shouldn’t I be the one hopping mad? You know, since I’m FREAKING TIED UP!” growled Zoro.

 

“What are we going to do now, brother Usopp?” asked Johnny, ignoring the bound Zoro.

 

“I don’t know… I- HOLY GOLD ROGER!” Two fishmen were swimming right for them! Without further ado, the sniper and the bounty hunter dove off the ship.

 

Usopp cut through the water as quickly as possible. In the distant, he could hear shouting.

 

“Uhh, don’t worry Zoro, I’ll pass onto Luffy the tales of your heroics,” lamented Usopp.

 

“We’ll never forget your brave actions, brother Zoro…!” sniffed Johnny with an upraised arm on his head.

 

In the distance: “Okay, I guess we’ll take the trespasser to Arlong for now…!”

 

*Sweat drop.* Kitsune’s going to kill us.

 

Gosa

 

The village looked like a storm tore through the center of it.

 

“Whoa… What happened to the town? The houses are upside down!”

 

“This must be Gosa Village,” extrapolated Johnny. “Fishmen are born with 10 times the strength of a man. The village couldn’t pay their tribute, so the Arlong Pirates destroyed it two weeks ago.”

 

“I’d hate to meet one of them for real.” The skin at the back of Usopp’s neck tingled. He turned back and saw Johnny run off. Don’t look, don’t look…

 

“Almost got away. I guess you must be the exiled human’s companion.”

 

Oh, crap. The sniper did what he did best. He ran. He ran and ran until something tripped him over.

 

“Ouch. Watch it, kid!” grumbled Usopp.

 

“Fishman… I’ll avenge my dad’s death!” Holy Gold Roger, the kid had a huge knife! I’m dead!

 

“Die, you rotten fish-”

 

“Don’t attack the fishmen!” A slap stopped the kid’s attack. A purple-haired woman crouched down next to him. “Look closely. He may resemble Arlong, but he’s human.”

 

“Than-”

 

“But just barely.”

 

“BARELY?”

 

“Hey, you!” Crud, he followed me!

 

Usopp was about to release the ammo on his slingshot when- *smack!* The world went dark.

 

Outskirts of Cocoyashi Village

 

/ Big, blue-grey skin. Razor-sharp teeth coming towards him. Laughter. A slimy scaled hand reaching for him... / “Aaaah!!!”

 

Usopp jerked up, heart leaping, lungs heaving.  His eyes darted back and forth. He wasn’t dead; he was actually in a pretty ordinary looking house.

 

“Nightmare?” There was the girl from earlier.

 

Usopp blushed, but hid it as he puffed out his chest. “Who are you? You’re that woman from earlier… WAIT!  What happened with that fishman?”

 

“I’m Nojiko. I grow oranges here. As for the fishman, don’t worry, we managed to lose him.”

 

“Oh… But didn’t you knock me out?! To think I even considered trying to the brave thing and rescue you…”

 

“Why did I risk such trouble, and I was the one to save you. Hey kid,” Usopp only then just notice the boy that tripped him and almost killed him! “You’re from Gosa Village, right? You of all people should know better than try to attack the fishmen. You’ll only die.”

 

Usopp never saw anyone with eyes. The boy was there but wasn’t there. His eyes locked onto nothing but horror.

 

“Yes, but they killed my dad! I can’t forgive them. They destroyed my village and tore other families apart. I hate them. Their monster was something I never saw before. It came and ripped right through Gosa. The fishmen then came after it and pillaged and killed so many people. I can’t ever forget that. I swore vengeance!” A huge MONSTER is what gouged the center of the village?! I really don’t want to meet it them. But knowing my captain, something tells me I’ll be seeing the fishmen and their pet monster.

 

The boy kept talking, mind trapped in the memories, “They say the fishmen brought the monster from the Grand Line. I-I-I went to Arlong Park, too! But, this witch, a female member of the Arlong Pirates came by and stopped me. She prevented me from taking revenge. If I see her again… I’ll try and kill her!”

 

“Whoa, whoa, a little kid like you shouldn’t be trying to kill people!” It was official. People under Arlong’s rule were missing a few screws, what with women randomly knocking out people and children trying to kill people for revenge.

 

“…Go ahead and die, then,” remarked the crazy lady.

 

“*Pffffttt!* What?” Juice squirted out from the startled Straw Hat pirate. “He’s just a little kid.”

 

“Doesn’t matter. If you know that you’re going to die, then feel free to act on your suicidal drive and gain your revenge.”

 

Usopp couldn’t help but sputter in indignation on behalf of the younger boy.

 

“But, you should remember the actions of myself and that witch probably saved your life.” The kid looked sullenly at his feet.

 

“Hey, what about your mom?”

 

*Sniff, sniff*… S-she’s still alive.”

 

“I bet she’s worry about you. Go on. Go and take good care of her, then.”

 

Once the boy left, Nojiko turned to the sniper.

 

“So, what brings an outsider to a small village like this? Especially with fishmen crawling everywhere.”

 

Usopp puffed up his chest. “I’m Captain Usopp of the Straw Hat Pirates! I have a crew of several hundred men and defeat many more. I’m actually looking for our navigator, Nami, but...

 

“Oh, Nami? But, I doubt she’ll come with you. She’s a member of the Arlong Pirates.”

 

… “WHAT?!”

 

“In fact, this is the house she grew up in. The witch and I are foster sisters.”

 

Usopp astonishingly had no words. He just kept staring at the woman with a completely dumbfounded look.

 

“THIS IS HER HOME? AND YOU’RE SISTERS?”

 

“Yup, we were orphans adopted and raised in this very house. Our mother died a long time ago, but we were once a happy family, the three of us here in Cocoyashi Village.”

 

Then why…? “Why would she join the very pirates who enslaved her home? Why would she betray her hometown?”

 

Usopp’s expression tightened in thought.

 

“To think…she has been deceiving us the entire time! Protecting my village…laughing so happily while sailing with us…all of that was an act just for the treasure! That thought really pisses me off!”

 

Nojiko wore a considering look.

 

“SHE DESERVES A PUNISHMENT TO FIT HER CRIMES! I’LL TREAT HER LIKE AIR AND IGNORE HER COMPLETELY!”

 

“Err, if she didn’t care for your feelings before, how is that a punishment? You better not be thinking about messing with the Arlong Pirates, though. We already had a close call with them today.”

 

“Right!” Usopp agreed readily.  No righteous indignation was worth facing off against one of those monsters. “Alright, then. What I came here really for was my ship, anyways. Since I found her, I should probably leave as soon as possible.”

 

“Right. Well, is it that one there?”

 

The Going Merry! The ship was anchored just out beyond the orange plantation.

 

“Ah, if I remember correctly, the village we passed by after Arlong Park must have been Cocoyashi Village center. The Going Merry was stationed just east of it between Cocoyashi and Gosa, and…” The sniper stopped talking. Realization hit him with a ton of sweat.

 

“Uh-oh…”

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Well, my crewmate was lost to the fishmen on the way to Gosa Village. They captured him alive, but he had grave injuries from an earlier skirmish. Considering how he usually like, I’m concerned he may just get himself killed anyways.”

 

Later

Cocoyashi Village Proper

 

You idiot! Berated Usopp to himself. He just had to play hero.

 

/ Arlong was huge! He had razor sharp teeth and an extreme temper. Genzo was going to die for hoarding weapons! Usopp could understand why he took the risk, but…

 

Oh, no! The sniper could not, not help. Clambering up on the roof, the sniper took aim, hands trembling, and heart drumming a deafening beat…

 

“Gunpowder Star!” The smoke bomb exploded into the fishman’s face with a pop.

 

“I am Captain Usopp, a brave and courageous warrior of the sea! 8000 men follow me, and the world itself fears me!” He was insane. And definitely dead. /

 

The very house he stood on trembled. Arlong heaved and began to fling it!

 

“How dare you, human scum! We fishmen are superior beings!” Usopp wasted no time. He ran and ran, hopping the rooftops until they abruptly ended as the house in front of him lifted. I’m dead. Usopp leapt to the side and ran like the wind, scores of fishmen chasing after him out of the village.

 

Before

Arlong Park

 

- Zoro -

 

The swordsman laid back the Arlong’s throne. He thought back to what happened earlier. The witch should have let him drown if she truly was a loyal subordinate of the Arlong Pirates. But she didn’t. Nami saved him, convince Arlong not to kill him immediately, then let him loose. The question was, why?

 

Zoro then noticed:

 

*TOOOOT, Ta- TOOOT!*

 

Over the wall, the former bounty hunter saw the weirdest fishman he had ever seen.

 

“Hey, did you blow that trumpet?”

 

“Why yes. W-who are you? Oh, I’m Hacchan. Call me Hachi! I’m the charming octopus fishman of the Arlong Pirates. I’ve seen you somewhere…are you with the marines? Or, are you a guest?”

 

Huh, well… “You can call me more of a guest.” Zoro could work with this.

 

Present Time

 

- Usopp -

 

I’m dead meat a hundred times over thought Usopp as the Arlong Pirates surveyed the damage. This had to be Zoro’s work. Arlong was none too pleased to put it mildly.

 

“MY BRETHREN?! WHAT HAPPENED HERE?!” Scores of injured fishmen laid injured throughout the compound. Arlong knelt down to one of his semi-conscious crewmates.

 

“R-ro-Roronoa Zoro…”

 

“What? Roronoa Zoro? Had he come for my head?”

 

“No…he…he was the prisoner…*gasp*…we brought…*cough, cough*…earlier…” Yep. Usopp was going to haunt Zoro after this. The fishman strangling him approached Arlong.

 

“Chuu - Cap, I finally caught up to this runt. So, the prisoner was Roronoa Zoro, huh –chuu?”

 

“Maybe Nami arranged this. The pirate hunter did say he was after her. And she spared his life,” suggested the big fishman with ray fins.

 

The surrounding fishmen grumbled in agreement of the witch’s treacherous ways.

 

The rayfish fishman continued. “She is a betrayer by nature. The fact is that she has betrayed so many over the years but not this crew – it does not put her into a favorable light.”

 

“Hey!” Speak of the witch. Usopp did his damnedest to glare at the traitor. “That’s enough. Talking about me behind my back…what of your loyalty then, Kuroobi? I swore eight years ago on this tattoo to serve this crew faithfully. I almost have the promised amount of 100 million berries. I have no reason to risk that.”

 

Arlong laughed. Usopp could feel a chill arch up his spine.

 

“Of course, of course. My bad, *chuckle* how could I possibly think that of my precious cartographer? I apologize if I ever doubted you for a second there. You have been a loyal crewmember all that time, so you have a reason to be angry at us. So,” Arlong walked over and seized Usopp, “I guess we need to deal with two people: Roronoa and his companion here!”

 

“AAAAAHHH! HELP ME, SOMEBODY!” The knife’s point dug a little into the liar’s neck, a single drop of blood welling up. The sniper prayed to all the gods for someone to save him.

 

“So, where is Roronoa Zoro? It’s not surprising to learn my 20 million bounty lured someone like him here, but Roronoa hardly presented himself as the smartest or craftiest guy around…To think he could come here, take out my brothers, and escape while I’m gone…!”

 

“EEEeep! I-I don’t know where he is! I don’t know who this Zoro guy is!”

 

“Stop lying - chuu. I advise you it would be to your best interests. You already attacked Arlong. You’re not getting away after that.”

 

Usopp’s struggled halted. Sweat began to bead rapidly on his skin.

 

“Okay! Okay! Zoro and I are best of friends! Muss one hair on my h-head, and he’ll come here and kill you!”

 

“So, Roronoa would definitely come here to avenge you?” grumbled Arlong.

 

Wrong idea! Wrong idea! “NO! Zoro would definitely come here to rescue me. Which, he can’t do if I’m dead! Nami, help, please!”

 

Nami stayed silent. Usopp narrowed his eyes, fear forgotten (or shoved into the corner of his screaming brain) for a moment.

 

“Yo-you witch! Luffy and everyone trusted you! How could you betray us! Was it all a lie? Luffy and Kit even trusted you after you left and stole the ship and the treasure. They wouldn’t hear about leaving you behind!”

 

Nami smirked. “Sorry, but the only think I trust is money.”

 

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?!”

 

Things went from bad to worse from there. An octopus fishman showed up and revealed that Zoro was looking for Usopp, which was great if the sniper wasn’t surrounded by the enemy waiting for such a confirmation. Arlong had relaxed his grip! Usopp pulled free, readied his slingshot, and…

 

*Smack!* Nami nailed him with a staff. Then threatened to kill him. In that case… Usopp reloaded his slingshot.

 

“Certain Kill: Big Black Smoke Bomb!”

 

Kitsune and Usopp have been working on these. A big upgrade on the usual smoke bombs the sniper carried. They could only make two, but the resulting cloud obscured everything. Usopp made sure to note where the bay was. Just as he was about to slip away, Nami came at him. Blood sprayed, but Usopp didn’t feel a thing. He let his body fall limp. The fishmen were hacking from the noxious fumes, but it cleared enough for them to see the ‘dead’ sniper. Nami then kicked his body into the water.

 

On Sanji’s Boat

Heading Toward Conomi Island

 

- Kitsune -

 

Sometimes, Kit couldn’t believe the idiocy of his brother. Or himself. A huge sea king showed up during their lunch and tried to join them. By eating their lunch. Safe to say, the hungry pirates didn’t let the monster eat any. Luffy then lassoed one of its horns and ordered it to pull them along. Even without haki, the small sea king obeyed the scary pirates.

 

Unfortunately, neither of them knew how to slow the creature down. The shore of Conomi Island rapidly approached.

 

“AAAAHHH!” screamed the four men.

 

*Crash!* The cowfish sea king dove under the water just before they crashed, and flung the small ship high into the air.

 

The fox held tightly to the ship with his claws and tried to focus enough to slow or control their descent. The ship heavily fell to the earth and skidded deep into the forest. Kit just caught a running figure in their path when the ship bumped and finally came to a stop.

 

“LUFFY!” Oh. It was Zoro, after all.

 

Kitsune hopped from the wreckage and pulled the injured swordsman up. The first mate cracked a few of his bones back into place.

 

“Ugh. Next time, let me convince the sea monster to pull us along. We did not need to crash right into the shore, you know!”

 

“Oh, damn it! We don’t have time for this!” yelled Zoro as he made to dash off.

 

“Uh, what’s wrong?” inquired Luffy. “Where are Usopp and Johnny?”

 

"The idiot got caught by Arlong according to the villagers. He’ll be killed if we don’t-”

 

“WE’RE TOO LATE!” snapped Johnny from behind them. “They did… Brother Usopp was murdered by Nami!”

 

Kitsune frowned. He tilted his head to the side. If he stretched his senses just so… The eldest D met his captain’s eyes. They confirmed what he already could sense.

 

“Enough!” yelled Luffy. He came up to Johnny and grabbed his collar. “Nami would not kill Usopp! She is a part of our crew!”

 

“Brother Luffy, you may not like it but…”

 

“A part of your crew? Don’t make me laugh.”

 

Pirate and bounty hunter turned to the newest arrival. Nami.

 

“Why did you come here?” Nami bit out.

 

“To get you, of course,” answered Kitsune.

 

“Yeah, we’re crewmates, aren’t we?” Luffy wore his odd mixture of innocence and determination.

 

“Again, don’t make me laugh. You guys are nothing but annoyances. Listen, I played your navigator to trick you out of your gold. I-”

 

“Nami!” exclaimed the sea cook, “Don’t you remember me? I came here for you, so let’s sail together~” Zoro, thankfully, distracted their lovesick cook.

 

“I told you so! She’s nothing but a good-for-nothing witch. She’s a member of the Arlong Pirates, and is willing to kill! We can’t trust anything she says!”

 

“Usopp’s not dead.” Johnny turned angrily on the fox.

 

“Look, I saw her stab him! He’s dead because of her!”

 

Zoro interrupted the raging man. “Witch or not, I want to know where Usopp is.”

 

“At the bottom of the sea,” answered Nami calmly.

 

Zoro lost his temper, but Sanji intervened on her behalf with a swift kick. Kitsune had enough of these dramatics. He stepped in-between his dueling crewmates and pushed the two them apart with nothing but air. Then, he turned to Nami.

 

“Can’t fool us, Nami. Luffy and I know for a fact if any of our crewmates die within a vicinity. If you had not run off, we would have told you this.”

 

“Stop bluffing, Kitsune. You’re just upset that someone as smart as you missed the snake you let onto your ship. Just go. All of you should leave. The island does not need outsiders interfering in our affairs. I only joined for the gold and money. Once, I had both, I left you guys to die. Take the ship, if that’s all you came here for. Bye.”

 

Nami walked away. Kitsune waited until she disappeared over the next hill before turning back to the stunned group.

 

“Captain, permission to go and get Usopp? He isn’t very far.”

 

“’Kay, Kit. Hurry up!”

 

“Wait!” “What?” “How do you know that?” “He died!” Only Zoro refrained from doubting the D brothers. He inclined his head to the first mate. Kitsune returned the gesture.

 

On the Outskirts of Cocoyashi Village

 

- Usopp -

 

Usopp couldn’t understand it. Nami betrayed them. So why did she save you? The sniper kept running. He needed to stop Zoro from getting himself killed! Something darted past him and then *Snatch*! Someone grabbed him! Usopp began to struggle until a familiar voice yelled at him.

 

“Quit struggling! I’m not even really holding you now.” The hand let go. Usopp spun around. An irate Kitsune greeted him.

 

“Kitsune! Oh. I wasn’t scared or anything, I was just manly trying to get myself free in case you were a fishman and…”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Come on, get on. You worried the hell out of the crew. They think you’re dead, actually, except for me, Luffy, and possibly Zoro.”

 

“They think I’m DEAD?!”

 

Impatient, the first mate burst into yellow smoke. Usopp jumped. He never was this close when the older man used his devil fruit powers so casually! The golden fox was lean and almost delicate. It snorted and pawed the ground. Mustering his courage, the sniper carefully climbed onto its back and…

 

“AAAAAAHHHH!” The world felt like it was rushing around him.

 

After Kitsune Left…

 

- Luffy -

 

The straw-hatted captain had no doubt about Nami’s loyalty in spite of all the evidence. He trusted his instincts. His instincts never failed him before. It told him Bluejam, Teach, and even Kuro back in Usopp’s home village was bad. Nami definitely didn’t feel anything like them. Furthermore, Usopp was definitely alive! His Observation haki clearly identified the fearful aura of his sniper, and it wasn’t even too far from here.

 

Luffy took a deep breath and fell back to the ground the moment Kit sprinted off.

 

“Luffy-bro, should you really be relaxing? I know Kitsune’s really smart and all, but even he could be wrong!”

 

Shishishi, Kitsune’s the smartest after Sabo and Pops and Marco! But I trust him. Oh, he also said you guys can call him Kit since we’re friends and nakama and all.”

 

“Luffy-bro…” interjected Yosaku sadly.

 

“Just wait for Kitsune. He’ll be here soon.”

 

“…Alright, brother Luffy.”

 

Sometime later, Usopp and Zoro got into another fight! They had just struck out when something fell right in-between them.

 

- KASL -

 

“USOPP-BRO!” “You’re alive!” “What happened?”

 

‘Oops! Sorry, Usopp! Forgot you can’t hold on like my brothers,’ apologized the golden fox standing a few feet away.

 

Once Usopp came to after the (near fatal) collision:

 

“Hey, sorry for worrying everyone,” said the sniper, rubbing the back of his head, “but you wouldn’t believe what happened! Nami saved my life!”

 

“But didn’t she stabbed you?!” questioned Johnny.

 

“I bet she stabbed herself.” The bounty hunter rounded on the fox who began to shift back to the familiar form of Kitsune.

 

“What?”

 

“I said, she probably stabbed herself and made it look like she stabbed Usopp with the blood. She had her left hand heavily bandaged. I doubt she got a wound like that so casually.”

 

“Kit’s right,” agreed a grave Usopp. “I don’t think her reason for leaving us is so simple. She must have some other motivation than money to join the Arlong Pirates.”

 

“It doesn’t matter what her motivation is. You cannot break Arlong’s rule over this island.”

 

The group turned to the lavender-haired woman.

 

“Who’s she?”

 

“That’s Nami’s sister, Nojiko.”

 

“~Nami’s sister?!~ No wonder she’s such a beauty!”

 

“Explain,” bluntly ordered the fox.

 

“If you want to understand, then in exchange for her story, you must leave this island and its affairs alone.”

 

Luffy just left. Kitsune raised an eyebrow but opted to settle against a tree. Everyone else stayed to hear out the witch’s sister.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

Conomi Island

Cocoyashi Village

 

 

Nojiko

 

 

Eight years ago, my sister and I lived with our mother Bellemere. She was a former marine who found us after a huge battle. Despite her injuries, she took us onto a ship by herself during a storm. Somehow, she made to her home village of Cocoyashi. She begged for the doctor to save us first, even as she still bled heavily from numerous wounds. We survived. She adopted us and took care of us as if we were her own children.

 

 

Nami…was a precocious child. With only the stipend from her retirement from the marines and the tangerine orchard, we didn’t have much. My sister would resort to stealing around the village. And when she was caught, Bellemere would have to pay for whatever she took. Nami was a real brat, even back then!

 

 

One of her favorite thing to steal were books, particularly books on navigation. She would always draw these maps whenever she had the time. After one of those thefts, she got into a big tiff with Bellemere. She said she hated being poor, hated being my sister, and that she wished someone else adopted her. She ran off to Genzo’s. Genzo looked like he had a talk with her, and we were about to return home to Bellemere’s to make up when they arrived.

 

 

Fishmen. The infamous Arlong Pirates came to our island to make it their own. They demanded 100,000 berries from every adult and 50,000 for each child. The villagers just barely had enough to pay the tithe, but Nami and I knew Bellemere didn’t have enough money for the three of us. Luckily, the Arlong Pirates were about to pull out of the village after collecting from the villagers. At least, until they noticed the smoke from our house.

 

 

Bellemere tried to fight back, but she couldn’t measure up to a fishman’s natural strength and cruelty. Arlong snapped her arm and further brutalized it. Genzo came to explain the payment demanded by the fishmen. Since Nami and I didn’t come from this village, and the registry listed Bellemere as unmarried and without children, the fishmen didn’t know about us. According to Doc, for Bellemere to live, we had to leave the island forever. Bellemere did have 100,000 berries, however…she told the fishmen the money would pay for her two children, not herself. Genzo tried to fight back, but in the end, we lost our mother.

 

 

Then, I lost Nami. One of the things the fishmen sought was well-drawn navigation charts and maps of the seas. They believed a map of the world seas would aid them in the fishmen’s domination over the seas. They found Nami’s maps. The villagers and Genzo tried to save Nami, but the fishmen easily beat them. Nami disappeared. The next morning, Nami returned to the village, money in hand and the mark of the Arlong Pirates on her shoulder. She made up this story about joining the Arlong Pirates for wealth and material things.

 

 

But, at Bellemere’s grave, Nami told me the deal she made with the Arlong Pirates. Her loyalty, her skills as a navigator, and 100 million berries in exchange for the freedom of the village and herself. She swore to save the village and never again to shed another tear. She swore to fight, and fight alone. Year by year, Nami gathered each painstaking berry swiped from numerous pirate crews over the East Blue.

 

 

By the end of the story, the blonde, Sanji, was hopping mad.

 

 

“So, that’s why you need to leave. Nami risked everything for our sakes. Do you realize the amount of pain and despair she had to have? She was barely 10 years old. And she is so close. You guys are just going to mess things up! You shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of our village! And be sure to inform that captain of yours, too.”

 

 

“In order to protect her village, she sacrificed her freedom and joined the very pirates who killed her mother.”

 

 

“THOSE FISH SCUM! TO THINK THEY MADE MY NAMI MAKE SUCH A PAINFUL DECISION. I’LL KILL THEM!”

 

 

Irked, Nojiko slammed a fist into the blonde’s head.

 

 

“OW! Why’d you do that for?”

 

 

“What did I just go through telling you guys? Don’t interfere! Because of your words of comradery and running amok, the pirates doubt Nami. All those years, every drop of sweat, tears, and blood shed for her hard work is in danger!”

 

 

“Yet pirates are said to be without honor,” softly stated Kitsune. The shortest of the pirates had a unreadable look in his eyes. “I doubt she has any idea what pirates from the Grand Line are like. As good as Arlong’s word may appear, I get the feeling he has quite a few reassurances in place. No, if the man so desires a map of the world seas then his promise may only be worth gold leaf; pretty to look at but only hiding the cold iron and steel beneath.”

 

 

Something in her shivered at the coldly delivered words. The feeling didn’t leave even after Sanji swiped a black-clothed leg at the pirate nor after she ran back home.

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

The 22-year-old watched solemnly at the events taking place before them. His jaw clenched as the orangette took her dagger and stabbed at her accursed mark.

 

 

“ARLONG! ARLONG! ARRRRLLOONGG!”

 

 

Luffy stepped in, seizing her arm. He only stared silently as Nami tried to persuade him away from the seemingly doomed village. Finally, she gave in to her true emotions.

 

 

“Luffy… Help me… please…” cried the broken girl. Luffy did something Kitsune had never once witness. He grabbed his beloved straw hat and set it on her head.

 

 

“OF COURSE I WILL!” vowed the captain of the Strawhat Pirates.

 

 

 Kitsune dropped from his place on the neighboring roof. He wore his semi-shifted form of his dormant blue fox. He knelt down and placed the tip of his claw against the wound. Little blue flames sparked to life, grew, and spread across the area of the tattoo. Nami jerked, but Kitsune kept a gentle but firm grip with his other hand. The flames flicked out to reveal a bloodless, distorted mark. He pushed Nami’s face up as his features morphed back into his normal human appearance.

 

 

“If you don’t believe anything else, believe in us. We’ll pay those pirates back double the pain they caused you.”

 

 

Kitsune shifted his beret to allow a small glimpse of his mark before his bangs fell back over it. He smiled confidently at the weeping girl, then let his smile drop into a steely cold eye look. He stepped into place by his captain’s side

 

 

“Let’s go!”

 

 

“Roger!” answered the four crewmates.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

Arlong Park

 

 

- Arlong -

 

 

*CRASH! BOOM!*. The fishmen started as their front doors were shattered to pieces. Arlong glared at the latest intruder’s audacity. After his subordinates had trashed those weaklings from before, these ones had the balls to come and fight them?

 

 

“Where’s the bastard, Arlong?”

 

 

“Arlong? Well, that would be my name…”

 

 

“I’m Luffy.” Interrupted the puny human. He had a scar under one eye and looked rather weak with his noodle limbs and boyish face. But those eyes…the fishman captain wanted to bash them in for their lack of fear or respect.

 

 

“Luffy? So what of it? Who the hell do you think you-”

 

 

*Ka-CHUNK*

 

 

A dagger buried itself into his chair, mere centimeters from his face.

 

 

“Careful,” chuckled a cheerful voice. “Sometimes my hands will slip. Maybe next time I’ll score you instead of the chair.” Another even shorter human leaped down from the roof of the base.

 

 

“Such impudence,” snarled Arlong.

 

 

“We’re pirates,” responded the bereted human. “Kind of a part of our code, wouldn’t you agree?”

 

 

Both humans strolled forward into HIS base as if it was nothing! Several of his men came to intervene, but the two easily knocked them out.

 

 

Arlong slowly rose to his full height. “What do a couple of pirates want withe me?”

 

 

Their answer left the saw tooth shark fishman ablaze in rage. To think some humans, lower lifeforms, would dare to hit him?!

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

Kitsune grinned impishly after he and his younger brother sent Arlong shooting across the floor. They hardly put any strength behind those punches. And Kitsune wasn’t a brawler like Luffy. And then the fishmen came to their captain’s aid.

 

 

“Why you-!” “How dare a bunch of human-!” “GET THEM!”

 

 

“Small fries like you should just stay the hell back!” derided the Straw Hats’ chef.

 

 

Zoro just grunted disdainfully, “Che.”

 

 

The Sanji slammed then into the tiled floor.

 

 

Sanji took a drag from his cigarette. “Honestly, Kitsune, I expected better of you than to run off alone.”

 

 

Kitsune smiled. “But isn’t it good to shake things up every now and again? I can’t risk being predictable.”

 

 

“Dumbasses,” muttered Sanji.

 

 

“Quit whining love cook,” countered the swordsman.

 

 

“The both of you pay attention, or I’ll assign you as partners during the midnight watch duty,” scolded Kitsune. The first mate had not lifted his eyes from the seething fishman on the ground. “Arlong, our primary goal is to take Nami back as a member of our crew. But now you went and made her cry.”

 

 

“And no one should make members of my crew, cry,” finished Luffy.

 

 

“Ohoho, so you’re only here to take my navigator? The one that betrayed you? SHAHAHAHAHA! What can mere human pirates do against us? We, the mighty members of the fishmen race!”

 

 

An octopus-type fishman began to trumpet.

 

 

“Oi, oi, COME OUT, MOHMOO!”

 

 

And out popped out the same cowfish sea king that the Straw Hats beat up earlier. A large bump protruded from where it probably had crashed against the rocks. Tears streamed from its eyes. That bump probably is unpleasant.

 

 

“AAAAAaaaahhhh!” shrieked Usopp.

 

 

Kitsune smiled good-naturedly at the little sea king. It eyes popped out. It turned and around and began to swim away.

 

 

“Mohmoo! Where are you going? What’s wrong?!”

 

 

Arlong glared at the sea king. Then he smiled evilly. A few taunts and the sea king was back and raring to fight.

 

 

‘Hey Kit, how about I-’

 

 

‘NO, YOU RUBBER-BRAINED BROTHER! If you do that, you’ll just get stuck until someone frees you! Honestly…anchoring yourself by thrusting your rubber feet through concrete… Do I really need to get Sabo to talk some sense into you?’ ranted the elder through his telepathic connection with Luffy.

 

 

Silver blue met the crimson red of the rampaging sea cow. The sea king stilled. Waves of intense emotions honed in on it. The great sea beast gave a whimper. If you would so kindly, beat it before I come over there. The sea king dove under the water and swam off as fast as it could managed.

 

 

“Whoa?! How did you do that?” exclaimed the sharpshooter.

 

 

“So that’s it,” chuckled Zoro. Kitsune had discussed some things of about haki during his training fights with Zoro.

 

 

“Conqueror’s haki,” growled Arlong.

 

 

Kitsune turned to address the angered captain. “Oh? That’s right. You used to sail in the Grand Line alongside Jinbei and your late captain Fisher Tiger. I bet you must have run into quite a few kings-to-be. But I can see why you, a seasoned veteran of the Grand Line, would come here, the weakest of the four Blues. After all, you lost to the marines and ended up captured. Sir Jinbei had to bail you out as part of his deal with becoming a Warlord. In the end, you were too weak to make it as a captain in the New World or Paradise.”

 

 

Oops, I guess the truth hurts. Arlong looked like he would became steamed shark by how much he turned red with anger.

 

 

“Men, tear these humans apart!”

 

 

Luffy grinned wickedly. Kitsune transformed his hands to blackened claws. Sanji stretched out a leg, and Zoro unsheathed his swords.

 

 

“Gum-Gum Gatling!”

 

 

“Three Swords Style: Demon Slash!”

 

 

“Collier Shoot!”

 

 

“Demon Claws!”

 

 

The fishmen didn’t have a chance. The four cut them down with ease. Luffy cracked his knuckles. “Who’s next?”

 

 

Arlong started to laugh. “To think my men would be fell by pathetic humans. Fine. I wanted to wipe off those smirks since you two first walked in.”

 

 

 Three other fishmen walked forward. Kitsune analyzed them.

 

 

Kitsune addressed his crewmates, “Zoro, Sanji, Usopp, think you guys can handle these ones? I think they should be within your level to defeat. Just avoid the water, and they should be sushi in no time.” Usopp predictably began to shake in his boots.

 

 

“You have quite a bit of confidence, young man,” noted the ray fishman. “Sit back please, Arlong.”

 

 

“Yeah, we’ll take care of these guys.”

 

 

“If would be bad to let you fight in that state. You’ll just wreck all of Arlong Park.”

 

 

“Don’t worry,” teased Kitsune. “Leave the wrecking to us.”

 

 

“Why you- Octopus Ink!” The four men dodged the black sludge easily – Usopp was too far away for the shot to hit him. Maddened, the octopus hauled a huge piece of concrete and threw it.

 

 

“Takohachi Black on the Rock!”

 

 

Sanji’s footwork split it down the middle.

 

 

“What a pain…I have two cocky brats as my captain and first mate-

 

 

“Hey! I’m older than you!”

 

 

“-but at least following them is better than being part of such a brutish crew who would harm a lady.”

 

 

“Harm a lady? You have some excellent combat potential, but a pirate shouldn’t be spouting such outdated drivel.”

 

 

“Is that so, Mr. Fish?” commented Sanji. “Outdated, huh? Would you care to see a demonstration of how outdated I am? I may not seem like it to you, but I have lived half my life as a pirate.”

 

 

“You are fools. Humans like you cannot compete with fishmen. I am Kuroobi, an officer of the Arlong Pirates.”

 

 

“Quit joking around,” shouted the octopus fishman. “This is Arlong Park. Don’t think you can barge in, make a mess, and expect to leave in one piece! I, Hacchan, will demolish you!”

 

 

“Is that so?” Zoro had sneaked up behind Hacchan as he went to throw another piece of flooring. “Why not play with me, octopus?”

 

 

“Roronoa Zoro! Don’t think I forgot how you tricked me, and beat all my brethren!”

 

 

“So I guess that leaves you - chu.”

 

 

Kitsune sighed as Usopp turned into a statue in fear. The last of the three officers stepped forward. And broke the spell. Usopp’s fingers slipped and released the ammo he had loaded onto his slingshot earlier. A firebomb exploded into the fishman’s face.

 

 

“You’re dead – chu.”

 

 

There went Usopp and the Chuu fellow. Leaving Arlong to Luffy and Kitsune.

 

 

“You impudent humans will beg for death!” threatened the fishman. “You haven’t a chance against me!”

 

 

Luffy and Kitsune exchanged grins. “You wanna bet?” they said together.

 

 

BWAHAHA! You humans haven’t a clue, have you? Don’t think I can’t recognize where those powers of yours originate. A body too pliant to be natural, and the ability to change your hands to claws? You two are devil fruit users! The moment you enter the domain of the fishmen, your fates were sealed!”

 

 

Arlong launched himself at them. Both brothers step to the sides. Arlong relentlessly pursued the two pirates with his enormous teeth.

 

 

“Can’t you understand the depth of our differences?!” shouted the fishman.

 

 

Kitsune managed to finally entangle Arlong with his tails and throw him back.

 

 

Luffy stood there confidently and stated, “Your nose, your jaw…no, it’s your webbed hands!”

 

 

*Sweat dropBONK!*

 

 

“No, captain, I don’t think that’s what he means!” chided the fox. Luffy reared back in pain.

 

 

“Kit,” he whined.

 

 

“IT’S OUR RACE!!!” Arlong arrowed at them like a thrown spear. “Humans like you are inherently weaker than fishmen. You can neither independently survive the depths of the sea, nor can you equal our strength. You’re inferior.”

 

 

Kitsune scoffed in return. “Really? You really believe the nonsense you spout? Luffy and I have fought Namur to a standstill, and we were making headway against Jinbei. I think humans can do just fine with the right motivation.”

 

 

“How do you know those two?!” questioned Arlong. “Namur is a fishman of Whitebeard, and Jinbei is a Warlord! I can understand you finding the information on my past, but you cannot expect me to believe you!”

 

 

Kitsune tossed his head back. For a split-second, his bangs parted around his mark.

 

 

Arlong froze in his tracks. Then he continued fighting. “I see,” he snarled. “You two are subordinates of that human, are you?”

 

 

Luffy laughed. “No way! Pops is our Pops, but the Pirate King is the captain of his own crew!”

 

 

“It just so happens to be that quite a few famous figures acted as our babysitters when we were younger,” added Kitsune. “Hey, Luffy! Since we are fighting a bona fide veteran of the Grand Line – who’s not Buggy – why don’t we let loose just a little?”

 

 

The roof above them came crumbling down at Arlong’s next attack.

 

 

Shishishishi! Sure, Kit!”

 

 

Outskirts of Cocoyashi Village

 

 

- Usopp -

 

 

Why did I do that? Whimpered Usopp in his mind. He accidently blew a bomb into the fishman’s face, and now the angry monster was on his tail! Then he let loose his Flame Star on purpose when the guy tried to attack the villagers. He was so dead!

 

 

“Come back here! You wanted to be killed so badly, so come and face me - chuu!”

 

 

“AAAAaaaah!!!”

 

 

“Fine then – chuu!”

Abruptly, the fishman made a beeline for the rice paddy fields alongside the path. Usopp looked back to see the fishman begin to swallow a huge volume of water. Oh no, that guys going to-!

 

 

“Water gun!”

 

 

The water bullets out toward the distant running figure of Usopp. The pirate seemingly goes down. Once Chuu turns his back and walks a safe distance away, Usopp picks himself up.

 

 

“*Huff, huff* so glad I had that ketchup star for things like this. Now, I can escape. Maybe I should make a better showing of a great fight?” Suddenly, images of his crewmates’ determined faces flash before the sniper’s eyes. He clenches his hands and looks up to the sky.

 

 

“What would you guys expect from someone like me? For me to fight that guy…” Tears began to run inside his goggles and down his face. Usopp stood up.

 

 

“YO! STUPID FISH! WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING? I’M STILL ALIVE, SO COME FIGHT LIKE THE DAMN MUTANT FISH YOU ARE!”

 

 

The fishman turned back, eyes cold with killing intent.

 

 

“Oh? So you survived then – chu? Not for long.”

 

 

“Certain Kill: Flame Star!”

 

 

The fishman easily blocked the attack and knocked Usopp to the ground. Chuu began beating on the seemingly defenseless sniper. But, Usopp’s bag of ammo had fallen just above his head.

 

 

/ “Whatcha working on there, Usopp?”

 

 

The sniper looked up to see the first mate’s silver-blue eyes mere centimeters from his own.

 

 

“Gah! A little more space, Kitsune?”

 

 

“Oh year, sorry,” apologized the fox. “So, what’s with all the ingredients? Going to fill the place of the ship’s cook?”

 

 

Usopp chuckled nervously. “No, no! I’m only half-decent at cooking since I had to cook for myself for many years. What I’m doing is making some ammo.”

 

 

“Makes sense. I suppose a sniper like you must invest in a lot of tricks and techniques to fulfill the needs of a given situation. Although, you might want to rethink that formula there. Too much gunpowder may be a bit too explosive.”

 

 

Usopp sighed. “Yeah, I know, but I need a more powerful weapon than my Flame Stars.”

 

 

Kitsune looked over the notes the sniper had made so far. “Usopp, did I ever tell you about some of my favorite fire-based pranks?”

 

 

The two worked through the night until at last, Usopp had a few extra-special tricks to add to his bag. /

 

 

In his fist, Usopp had a bunch of black beads. He threw them up, and the beads exploded once they made contact with the fishman’s water drenched face.

 

 

“AAAGGH!”

 

 

A special cocktail of chemicals would expand rapidly once the water diffused through the shell. In addition to that, a sticky greenish sludge would attach itself to any wet surface. It was Usopp’s new Water Sludge Poppers. The fishman howled in pain as the acid goop stung his skin. As quickly as possible, Usopp slip dove into the woods, tossing his Certain Kill: Lead Star bottle to the fishman officer.

 

 

I must be catching Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji’s craziness! hysterically thought the sniper as he the fishman leveled most of the forest. Unfortunately, sticking his head out to gape at the carnage left him wide open for the guy’s 100-Shot Water Gun. He barely made it back into the shelter of the tree as water bullets tore through the tree line. Is this going to the end? Usopp cowered in fear. NO! Damn it! I made a promise to one day become a great warrior of the sea. I can’t disappoint my former crew or Kaya. “It’s time to stop playing around and be a real pirate!” screamed Usopp.

 

 

Chuu had tired of shooting and took out Usopp’s hiding tree.

 

 

“Huh? Did you say something, human?”

 

 

Usopp chuckled darkly. “You know, my last attack scattered rum all over you…do you know how flammable alcohol can be?”

 

 

“Certain Kill: Red-Eyed Firecrackers!” Thank you, Kit! Just as they’ve done during his last experiment, the little packets exploded in a grand fiery burst. The alcohol lit aflame, but the real pain came from the red dust scattered. A curious compound, the dust wouldn’t burn, and it would burn the heck out of anyone at the site of the explosion.

 

 

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!” shrieked the fish fishman as fire raced all around his body, and his eyes bulged an angry red. “WATER, WATER!”

 

 

Usopp chased after the fishman after watching him run into several trees, trip a couple of times on rocks, and got more dust into his eyes.

 

 

“USOPP HAMMER!”

 

 

Usopp knocked the fishman down with his hammer then rapidly proceeded to give the guy a concussion from repeated hits from the hammer and a rubber band. Finally, the fishman collapsed forward into the water field. Usopp fell back onto the earth and cheered.

 

 

“What did I tell you?! I am a might warrior of the sea! Me, the great Captain Usopp! Not even a damned fish can bring me down!”

 

 

Arlong Park

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

While the two brothers dodged the barrage of attacks, Zoro and Sanji held their own. Zoro’s Three Sword Style neatly sliced the Six Sword Style user to a bleeding mess. The swordsman had to remember to thank Kitsune for tending to his wounds. They still ached like hell, but the swordsman may have been in a worst position had they let nature take its course. As for the love chef, Kuroobi’s fishman karate sent the chef into the pool at one point, but the chef was a hell of a lot smarter than some fish. He managed to block his air passages (i.e. the gills), forcing the fishman to retreat. The next stage of the battle proceeded on land where the chef gave the fishman his full kicking course of attacks. The ray fell.

 

 

All that remained was Arlong.

 

 

The saw-tooth shark fishman was hopping mad. One of those brats knocked out his teeth. He grew another set, but he couldn’t let the insult stand. He spit out two sets of teeth.

 

 

“Take this! Gum Tooth!”

 

 

Kitsune sometimes couldn’t believe his little brother. The rubber-brain dummy snatched one of the sets of shark teeth and stuck it in his own mouth. Nurse Mara would beat him black and blue if she knew Luffy put someone else unsanitary teeth in his mouth.

 

 

“OWWWW. I got bitten by a shark!”

 

 

“Of course you did! Stop messing arou- WATCH OUT!”

 

 

“Shark on Darts!” shouted the fishman as he torpedoed out of the water. Both Straw Hats dove to the sides.

 

 

Kitsune smirked. “Such incredible speed and power…for the East Blue.” When Arlong plunged at them from his base, Kitsune and Luffy just stood there.

 

 

*CRASH*!

 

Dust scattered around for a moment. As the air cleared, the onlookers by the gates gasped. The slim blade of Fuzakeru Kasai took the full blow of the attack without a single scratch while one of Luffy’s blackened hands easily held Arlong’s head in place.

 

 

Shishishi, ready, Kit?” The first mate nodded to his captain. Black stretched along the white blade. Luffy reared his right arm back.

 

 

“Flame Edge Style: Black Fury!” Fire climbed along the sword blade to form the image of a harpy-like figure as he quickly withdrew the blade and thrust it forward.

 

 

“Gum-Gum Jet Pistol!” Luffy’s body burned red rot, and his arm swung with nearly imperceptible speed.

 

 

The two attacks slammed into Arlong, thrusting him directly back into his base’s lower floor. Both pirates smiled wide. Kitsune twirled his blade to his side.

 

 

“Think he finally got the message, brother?”

 

 

“If not, we’ll just have to beat it into him some more,” answered Luffy, smashing a fist into his hand. Something began to move amidst the rubble.

 

 

“You, *pant, pant* impudent, weak bastards!” huffed Arlong. He hefted an incredibly long sword, no more like a fancy looking saw.

 

 

“Luffy, Kit!” screamed Nami. “Watch out, that’s Arlong’s Kiribachi!”

 

 

“Where the hell did he get that freaking big saw?!”

 

 

The sons of Whitebeard didn’t even flinch as the fishman charged at them with his saw blade. They simply leaped back as the blade came down over and over again, carving into the base’s walls and roofs. Finally, the three combatants found themselves inside the topmost room

 

 

“Hmm?” Kitsune’s eyes darted to the sides. Maps, sea charts, and sheaves of notes laid strewn about from their loud entry. “What is this place?”

 

 

“Yeah,” remarked Luffy with narrowing eyes. The straw-hatted captain could dimly sense waves of sorrow imbued into the air here with his Observation haki.

 

 

“This is Nami’s room,” leered the shark man. “For 8 years, she had painstakingly drawn each and every one of these maps. We fishmen are foremost experts on gathering sea data and the application of it, but not so much on drawing maps. You can understand why the girl is so valuable to me, can’t you? The human Whitebeard has many talented navigators, I’m sure, but none probably would match up to my Nami! She is truly a genius at her art.”

 

 

“…these are no good,” stated Luffy blankly, picking up a pen as he sat down

 

 

“None of this is any good,” agreed Kitsune. He winced slightly at the pen. “That pen…there’s old blood crusting it.”

 

 

Arlong frowned as he placed his Kiribachi at their necks. “No good? Nonsense. Nami will be my key to taking over all of the East Blue. Do you think you can have any better use for her than I-!”

 

 

Arlong tried to swing his blade, but a single hand held the saw teeth at bay. The scrawny raven pushed the blade back without any visible strain. The black coating on his hand prevented any damage.

 

 

“Use?” he whispered. “USE?” The blade tip snapped off. Kitsune’s form blurred in red haze. A monstrous red fox stood in his place, the five tails it had whipped harshly behind it.

 

 

“What-?!”

 

 

The fishman didn’t even have time to speak. A hail of Gum-Gum Gatling and fireballs rained down on him with relentless fury. The entire building came down in fire and rubble.

 

 

“LUFFYYYYYYY!” shouted the Straw Hats and Nami. Everyone in the surrounding area broke out in coughs as the dust cloud settled.

 

 

“Did those two survive?” wondered Usopp aloud.

 

 

Zoro scoffed, “Those two monsters wouldn’t let a little thing such as a crashing building stop them here. I’m sure they’re fine.”

 

 

Flames burst from the center of the structure. Luffy and Kitsune rose from the center of the wreckage with only a few wounds and scratches. Kitsune reached down and dug something out of the debris. With a smug grin, he tossed the prone body of Arlong in front of them. He turned to his captain.

 

 

“Satisfied?”

 

 

Luffy nodded with a determined look on his face. He stared down the assembled crowd.

 

 

“NAMI!” he bellowed. “You are a member of my crew, alright?!”

 

 

Nami sniffled. “Yeah, aye-aye, captain.”

 

 

The crowd exploded with cheers.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

It was invigorating to witness the shackles of the fishman pirates fall off the villagers. Now, if only those corrupted navy men didn’t interrupt… After the Straw Hats beat them all up (Kitsune especially enjoyed Nami’s blow to the arrogant mousy one), the people of Cocoyashi Village tore down the remaining marks of Arlong’s reign.

 

 

Kitsune went back the Going Merry.

 

 

*Purupurupurupuru- Gatcha!*

 

 

“Yo, Jinbei. Here to report what happened. Arlong really was a bad seed. Went and took over Cocoyashi Village among others in his “territory”, and he had some marines eating out of his pockets. Luffy and I spared his life, but please don’t try saving him this time, Uncle. He tarnishes the honor of his kind with his despicable actions.”

 

 

“Understand, Kit.” Silence hung in the air for a moment. “Thank you for stopping him when I could not.”

 

 

“It’s not your entire fault, Jinbei. You may have freed him, but only Arlong is responsible for the choices he made after being freed. Plus, we got a good crewmate out of the whole affair. You might like here. Nami is strong, independent, a bit of a wild card when it comes to money, but a good soul at heart.”

 

 

“Was...was she hurt by Arlong,” hesitantly asked the Warlord.

 

 

“Yes.” Kitsune wasn’t going to sugarcoat the truth. “Maybe more than anyone else on the island. But, I think it would be better to find out her stance with you in person. I won’t tell her if she doesn’t ask, but I also won’t actively deceive her.”

 

 

“Alright. I wouldn’t have asked that of you, Kitsune. Did anything else of interest happen?”

 

 

“Oh yeah! If you happened to meet with Mama Bird or Pops before the next installation of new bounties, you might want to warn them about the marines we kind of assaulted just now.”

 

 

“Why am I not surprised,” grunted Jinbei with an edge of amusement. “Always the worst troublemakers, you and the straw-hatted brat.”

 

 

“Always and forever,” chirped Kitsune. “See you soon in the Grand Line, Jinbei. Give the crew my regards.”

 

 

The islanders celebrated. Saki flowed, people danced, and Luffy ate everything in sight until Kitsune threatened to burn his mouth with Usopp’s pepper bomb. Kitsune spent a good portion of that first night reigning in his stupid crewmates now that he thought about it. They were lucky the fox had healing powers, or else the first mate would have tied them up in the infirmary in the case of Zoro, Sanji, and Usopp. Kitsune showed no mercy when it came to applying his less than pleasant antiseptic salves.

 

 

Luffy ran off at one point to find a raw ham melon, but he returned back with a curiously contemplative (for Luffy) grin, completely forgetting about his search for meat for once. Luckily, Kitsune packed quite a few in the ship’s kitchen for their next voyage.

 

 

Finally, it was time to leave. They only needed Nami, their navigator. Kitsune had to say, the orangette certainly could make a goodbye memorable.

 

 

“Hey! Where’s my wallet?!” “What?! Mine’s gone, too!” “Nami!”

 

 

 She even stole the wallets from everyone in the crowd she ran past.

 

 

“Goodbye everyone! I’ll be off! Be sure to expect me to be the first person to chart all of the world’s seas!”

 

 

“Remember what my captain told you, sir Genzo!” called out the first mate of the Straw Hat pirates.

 

 

Everyone but Luffy looked at the fox in confusion.

 

 

“What did you tell Genzo?” asked Nami quizzically.

 

 

“Oh, I asked Genzo to hang one of our flags up when we get a name for ourselves, shishishi.”

 

 

“It’s a thing commonly done in the New World,” explained Kitsune. “Islands would claim protection under one of the big names. Pops did this a lot. Like I explained to everyone before, we lived with the Whitebeard crew when Luffy and I were children. By claiming ownership or alliance of an island or village via a hung flag, a pirate crew would essentially be telling everyone not to mess with the place or face their wrath.

 

 

Luffy and I agreed on this a while back before we met Zoro, actually. We can’t have marines or other crews threatening our loves ones, so I asked every village head to hang one of our flags once our crew finally made it into the New World. I’d figure we make a big enough name for ourselves by then. Knowing Luffy and mine personalities and battle prowess, we’ll be having a big bounties on our heads soon enough, especially since we didn’t hide our use of haki in this last battle.”

 

 

Kitsune chuckled at the last comment. “Which reminds me, first thing tomorrow morning, I’ll explain about our training regime. But for now, we’ll relax a bit and set course for our next destination.” The elder D turned to the younger. “Where are we off to next, captain?”

 

 

Shishishi, let’s go to the Grand Line!”

 

 

The crew broke out into a round of smiles.

 

 

“Aye, aye, captain!”

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

East Blue                                 

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

The first mate lazily lounged along the frame of the sail. He and Nami agreed to leave the official logbook entries to her and any interested member of the crew (excluding Usopp), and Kitsune would proof them. Kitsune would still write the story of their travels himself, but the first mate’s book, while well written, would be more impersonal as opposed to the logbook entries.

 

 

He had just finished proofing the latest entry and decided to indulge in a new piece of literature he picked up from Cocoyashi’s bookstore when someone started to yell insistently at him.

 

 

“Yo, Kit! Where are you?”

 

 

Sighing, the first mate bookmarked his place and dropped straight down to where Zoro and Sanji stood.

 

 

“There you are. Are you always going to be a bastard to find?” remarked the chef as he took a drag from his cigarette.

 

 

“Maybe,” sniped Kitsune with a fox grin. “What do you two need?”

 

 

“You said we were going to learn haki today, remember?” reminded Sanji. Kitsune nodded.

 

 

“Ah yes. Best go get the rest of the crew. I kind of need all of you to learn this by the time we near the second half of the Grand Line.”

 

 

All six members of the crew assembled onto the deck. Kitsune laid an arm around the captain and pulled him out to the front.

 

 

“Okay, as promised, today I will teach you all the basics of haki. Luffy and I learned of haki while traveling with Pops’ crew when we were children. I will give you a word of warning: haki is not something easy to learn, nor is it something you go into halfheartedly. Haki emerged as the product of human potential. All humans have the dormant power within them. It is a power that allows a common man to oppose the almost supernatural powers of devil fruit eaters and nonhumans alike. And it comes in three types. Two of them we’ll teach you how to unlock them, but the third type is something that one either has or does not have. First lesson: Observation haki.”

 

 

Kitsune suddenly struck out in blinding speed with his sword. Instead of connecting, Luffy managed to steadily and smoothly lean, jump, and dodge out of the way of the blade.

 

 

“Observation is the evolution of the senses. All living things exude energy. Observation haki perceives the intentions and predicts of the movements of people and things based on this energy. It is a type of spiritual awareness. Some would regard it as the perception of one’s presence or aura. Don’t believe me?”

 

 

Kitsune pulled a handkerchief from his coat pocket. He tied it around his head.

 

 

“Have at it, little brother.”

 

 

Shishishi, okay, Kit. Gum-Gum Gatling!”

 

 

Nami gasped. Usopp looked with his jaw hanging straight down. Zoro merely grunted in appreciation. Even Sanji had dropped his cigarette in the face of the sheer velocity of the two combatants.

 

 

Kitsune weaved in and out of the barrage of rubber punches, not a single one connecting. Suddenly, he darted right in Luffy’s face and struck back. Luffy just smiled and jumped out of the way of the blade. The two stopped, Kitsune removing the blindfold.

 

 

“Now, to awaken it-”

 

 

“N-no way can we do that!” gulped Usopp, sweat trickling off his forehead. “No way no how, can someone ordinary like me can do that!”

 

 

Kitsune chuckled. “You know, that’s not the only application of Observation haki. While useful in direct combat, a sniper like your father used it to track and locate enemy pirates and marines. Then it was simply a matter of reach and skill to make the shot. Don’t you want to prove how good of a sniper you’ll be, Usopp?”

 

 

 

Usopp froze in mid-rant.  To be an awesome sniper like my dad? If he can do that, and I, as his son, should be able to, too! “Okay! Teach me, Masters Kitsune and Luffy!” begged Usopp, doing a complete 180.

 

 

Kitsune sweat dropped. “Okay, okay, that’s why we’re here. And scratch the master. Now, to awaken the power of Observation, you’ll need to practice with blindfolds. Basically, try and dodge or block while blinded as someone continuously wallops you. Eventually, you will begin to enter a state of mind where you’ll sense the next blow before it happens. Some variants of it also include the power of empathy. You can sense people intentions, and to an extent, their emotional state with enough skill and practice. For non-combatants or lesser fighters, Observation haki is very useful for avoiding people with a lot of killing intent or sheer power. In a case like Nami, she could theoretically use it to better steal stuff from under a pirate’s nose if she can predict their movements and state of awareness.”

 

 

For the next couple of hours, Luffy and Kitsune set the crew up for the first day of Observation haki training. It went as dismally as predicted. Kit and Luffy reassured the depressed crewmates.

 

 

“Why can’t I get this?!” Sanji leaned against the deck railings after Kitsune delivered yet another smack with his blade sheath.

 

 

“I said haki training wasn’t easy. My brothers and I took months to first unlock our haki, and it took the better part of a year to get anywhere on training. I believe Luffy took three years in total to reach competency, a little less for our other brothers, and about two year for myself. Luckily, Luffy and I have a natural gift for Observation haki. Most people actually specialize in one branch over the other, but I find both skills very useful.”

 

 

Heartened, Sanji continued training, trading partners with Roronoa after a while.

 

 

The broke for lunch. Once everyone ate, Kitsune proceeded to the next phase of training.

 

 

“Alright. We’ve established Observation haki is based on perceiving the spirit of others. The next form is Armament haki. It works by using the spiritual energy, or life force, of the user to create armor around the body, parts of the body, and weapons. The most prominent use of haki in the Grand Line is against devil fruit users such as myself or Luffy. Haki-infused attacks use spirit energy to reach the body of a target, thus nullifying the defensive or evasive powers of devil fruits. So long as the devil fruit power is effecting that which a part of the eater’s body, it will do damage. For example, I am able to physically cause bruises and bumps on Luffy with less power than one would expect against rubber skin because I infuse a touch of haki into my punishments.”

 

 

To demonstrate, Kitsune leaned over and pinched Luffy’s face with visibly blackened hands, eliciting a grunt of pain from the straw-hatted captain. Then he stretched the skin gently.

 

 

“Armament will not nullify the devil fruit power like the sea or seastone, but it does allow me to harm Luffy. However, armament will only be useful for defending one’s self against attacks produced or controlled by devil fruit users. If the body is not part of the attack, armament haki will not do damage. I can throw this fireball,” Kitsune flicked a little red fireball, “and throw it at Luffy. He can disperse it with a haki-infused fist and not take damage, but I am not harmed. But, this is definitely advantageous against Logia-types.” Kitsune stopped lecturing when he saw the puzzled faces of the crew.

 

 

“What exactly is a Logia-type?” finally asked Usopp.

 

 

Kitsune blinked. Ah, I forgot. East Blue. Not many devil fruit users here to begin with. “Good point. Devil fruit powers are general sorted into three types: Paramecia, Zoan, and Logia. This is also the order of rarity. Paramecia-types are like Luffy and Buggy are the most common type of devil fruit user. Paramecians have the power to change part of their body or affect the environment. They tend to be the most difficult type to train due to the often unconventionality of their powers. Successful Paramecia-type users need a great deal of creativity in order to use their powers to full effect. For example, for the longest time, our other brothers thought Luffy’s devil fruit was pretty useless for fighting since you need incredible strength to stretch rubber significantly. Didn’t help with Luffy unable to hit a thing at the beginning. I cannot tell you how many times he accidently flung himself into a pool of water in our childhood.

 

 

The next type is Zoan. I am a Zoan for I change my shape entirely into that of an animal. Zoans also have two special subcategories: Ancient and Mythical. Ancient Zoans transform into extinct animals such as dinosaurs. Mythical Zoans are the rarest of all devil fruits. These users may shapeshift into mythical animals. Since I change into a kitsune, a spirit fox, I am a Mythical Zoan-type. Most Zoans only have three forms: human, beast, and hybrid. From my travels however, I have witness users who may transform parts of their body through training or drugs, thus creating more forms. I am the exception. My devil fruit naturally gives me the power to access several types of forms based on the odd number of tails. We are, as a whole, stronger, faster, and have more developed senses. Since Logia devil fruit are so rare, most people will seek Zoan devil fruits for their ready combat skills as a result.

 

 

Finally, we have Logia. They are the most sought after devil fruits because they enable users to become their elements. Extremely difficult to fight someone made of insubstantial elements of fire, air, mud, et cetera. Which brings us back to our topic. Haki will pierce through to the true body of a person, so the incorporeal body of a Logia can be forcibly solidified upon impact. Haki may be used on weapons such as swords or ammo, as you saw with my swords, and body parts but this is not extended to incorporeal attacks produced by the body. So, I can throw fireballs at a Logia all day, but unless my power is naturally superior in element, it won’t do me a bit of good. Until you guys gain Armament capabilities, don’t try attack a Logia unless you can counteract their element.

 

 

Training for Armament is mostly a life-and-death thing. Actually, many haki users developed their haki in such circumstances, the power emerging to protect one’s life, or in the face of extreme trauma. I recommend simply boosting your own strength first to help compensate for the energy Armament haki derives from the body and spirit. You know when you’re using Armament haki when you attain true awareness of your own energy circulating throughout your body. Then it becomes a matter of controlling and extending this energy to specific parts of your body, or things connected to your body to harden or reinforce them.

 

 

I should warn you, however. Spiritual energy is finite since it’s derived from your life force. Overuse can strain the body. One of the most important things for haki users to remember is to know their own limits. Once used up, the only thing one can do is wait until you recharge your spiritual reservoirs. During the interim, the user will be open to attack, especially if exhausted to the point of collapse.

 

 

I think that’s enough for today. I’ll save Conqueror’s haki for another day since only a select few are born with this power. It’s what Luffy and I used to knock people out. Similar to killing intent, but much, much stronger.”

 

 

The warning made Usopp and Nami very wary of continuing their training, but Sanji only enquired about if Kitsune would be able to gauge if he’s coming anywhere close to attaining it (to a certain extent, yes). Zoro just asked Kitsune to help him in the whole “life-and-death” situation. He replied that Zoro will have to wait until they find some deserted islands as usual. Also, it would only be fair if the first mate and captain extended this opportunity to the rest of the crew such as Sanji.

 

 

After quelling another fight between the two men, the crew alternated between working on their training and seeing to their own activities.

 

 

A few days later…

 

 

- Nami -

 

 

The navigator had her lawn chair out in the perfect spot to read the latest newspaper she bartered from the news coo. Zoro and Kitsune were out on the deck trying to awaken the former’s haki, and Sanji was protecting her precious tangerines from Luffy’s grubby hands. Usopp flopped around due to his tobacco star ammo spilling into his eyes. She just leafed through to the next page when another news coo flew by and tossed out a few new bounties. She leaned over and saw:

 

 

Wanted: ‘Straw Hat’ Monkey D. Luffy – 55.000.000 Berries

Wanted: ‘Grinning Fox’ Sol D. Kitsune – 46.000.000 Berries

 

 

“AAAAAAAAaaaahhhh!!!”

 

 

Grand Line, New World

Moby Dick

 

 

- Marco -

 

 

“Marco! Ace! Yo, Pineapple head and walking barbeque. Did any of you see the latest bounties?”

 

 

Marco looked up from the latest pile of paperwork he pushed toward the irresponsible second division commander knocked out in another narcoleptic fit. He spared the fourth division commander his characteristic lazy eye roll.

 

 

“Not yet - yoi. Why? Anyone interesting - yoi?”

 

 

To answer, Thatch with a flair of dramatics unrolled the two wanted posters in his hands. Two familiar faces grinned. A pop signaled the awakening of their char-boiled brother.

 

 

*Snort. Yawn*. “What’s going on?” Ace shoved his paperwork to the side and leaned over.

 

 

“No way!” said Ace with a laugh. “Did anyone show Pops? To think, my runty brothers have blown away the highest bounties in the East Blue.”

 

 

The fire starter snatched the wanted posters and ran off to laud his brother’s accomplishments to the rest of their families. Marco just looked off to the side with a proud grin slowly spreading across his face. His brats have grown up. All four brothers now had targets on their heads and looked happier than ever.

 

 

On Luffy’s poster, he smiled a goofy grin like always, and Kitsune also sported wide grin, too, but his had an edge to it. If one looked closely, one would see the silver blue eyes lit like fire and looking straight at the photographer, smirk baring a few sharpened teeth.

 

 

The cheering had evolved from boisterous praise to a true cacophony of noise. It looked like the first commander would be on idiot watch tonight. Someone had to make sure only a few of their brothers would fall off the ship with the amount of alcohol about to be consumed.

 

 

Grand Line (Unknown Island)

 

 

- Dracule Mihawk -

 

 

The sight greeting the world’s greatest swordsman was a familiar one. Pirates laid strewn about the dense forest foliage in various state of inebriation.

 

 

“AAaaah! It’s Hawk-Eyes” “What is he doing here?!” “Wake up, you deadweights!”

 

 

Hawkeye pursed his lips in distaste. “Calm down. I do not have any business with you. Where are your officers?”

 

 

After a few moments, he located where Red Hair recovered from what smelled like another party.

 

 

“Well, well, Hawk-Eyes Mihawk. What brings such an illustrious man to the Red-Haired Pirates? I’m not in a great mood at the moment but…have you come for a fight?”

 

 

“Why would I?” disdained Mihawk. “A man with only one arm could not settle anything between us. No, I just stumbled across a few familiar acquaintances of ours.”

 

 

Mihawk showed the two latest bounty posters to the red-haired captain.

 

 

“Whoa! It seems Anchor and Kit finally made their appearance. Excellent. I can’t wait to see them again when they finally get here,” grinned Red Hair.

 

 

“Hey! Everyone! Let’s break out the booze and party again!”

 

 

“Captain, you were just getting over your hangover from last night,” reminded Benn.

 

 

“Bah! Who cares? How can any man worth his salt not drink on such a day? You, too Hawk-Eyes! Let’s celebrate the brat’s first bounties!”

 

 

East Blue

 

 

- Nami -

 

 

“Yippee! Shishishi! Look, look, Kit! We have bounties now!”

 

 

Kit was smiling indulgently at the big goofball. “Uh-huh. Pretty substantial ones considering this is East Blue. Arlong held the highest bounty easily, but the marines must have wised up to our power level somewhat. Yours is nearly three times his.”

 

 

“And yours is more than twice,” moaned Nami.

 

 

Luffy giggled some more while Usopp remarked on his turned back caught in the picture. Sanji was sulking at his lack of recognition.

 

 

Nami snapped, “None of you understand this at all. You two have a combined bounty over 100 million berries!”

 

 

Kit walked over and patted her shoulder gently. “I know, Nami. We definitely can’t stay in East Blue any longer. Every marines will be after us for the threat we pose in such a low-level sea.”

 

 

“Hey, what island is over there?”

 

 

Nami shook off her depression and peered over. The outline of an island slipped into view on the horizon.

 

 

“There it is,” stated Nami. “On that island is Loguetown, the town of the beginning and end.”

 

 

Luffy “Shishishi, yeah! It’s where Gold Roger was born.”

 

 

“And the place where the marines ultimately executed him. Loguetown, the entrance to the Grand Line from East Blue,” remarked Kit. The fox devil fruit user hopped onto the railings.

 

 

Nami turned to their captain. “Shall we land, captain?”

 

 

Loguetown

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

“Everyone, gather what supplies you need. We’ll be entering the world’s most dangerous seas, so make sure you get all the food we need, clothing for all sorts of weather, and tools and equipment for everything else.”

 

 

The crew nodded in acknowledgement.

 

 

“I’ll go and shop for some ingredients and food. They look like they have great marketplace,” remarked Sanji. Kitsune nodded.

 

 

“Loguetown is the gateway to the Grand Line for East Blue. The currents and the trade admit all sorts of food and such from the others seas to circulate here. Just remember to buy for a crew with two scary big eaters.”

 

 

“Okay! I’ll go and buy some equipment,” announced Usopp as he walked off.

 

 

“I’m going to execution stand.”

 

 

Kitsune frowned slightly at the straw-hatted captain. “Just remember to keep a low profile. Not too many people will recognize us right away since our bounties are fresh from this morning, but there will be plenty of marines ready to imprison us. Plus, if I remember right, Captain Smoke the ‘White Hunter’ is here. He ate the Plume-Plume Fruit, a logia-classed devil fruit, so please try not to get into much trouble? No one but you or I can fight him, and I rather we not rouse the anthill any further before we actually cross the Red Line.”

 

 

Luffy nodded his head rapidly up and down.

 

 

Kitsune turned back to Nami and Zoro.

 

 

“Yo, Zoro, you need some swords, right? Since Uncle Hawky broke your other two. Why don’t I come along? I can help supplement whatever our resident thief and treasure keeper deigns to give you.”

 

 

The former pirate hunter grunted his acceptance of first mate’s offer.

 

 

“Alright! I’ll lend you money at 300% interest!” cheered Nami.

 

 

Kitsune laughed. “Okay, okay, Miss Navigator. Have fun shopping.”

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

Luffy wended through the streets until he finally came to the center of the town. There it stood, the execution stand looming over everyone.

 

 

“Wow,” breathed Luffy. “There is where the great pirate king met his end – the place where the greatest pirate in history was put to death…and where the pirate age began…”

 

 

A Little While Later…

 

 

“WHOAAAAAAAAA!” Luffy peered over the milling crowds from the top of the execution stand, completely disregarding official below.

 

 

*Clunk! Thud.*

 

 

Luffy blinked as a black mace crashed into the fellow yelling at him.

 

 

“Don’t be such a bore, Mr. Police Officer. Well, well, Monkey D. Luffy. I’ve been looking for you for some time.”

 

 

A pretty lady dressed in a white and pink heart cloak and matching outfit hefted the iron mace over her shoulder. Luffy cocked his head in confusion.

 

 

“Do I know you?”

 

 

“Now, don’t tell me you forgot this face?”

 

 

Luffy put a hand at his chin and thought. “Nope. Would have remembered meeting a pretty lady like you. I think. Maybe.” The straw-hatted captain thought her aura felt somewhat familiar but he couldn’t place it.

 

 

The lady frowned. “I could never forget you, though, Luffy. You were the first man to lay a hand on my beautiful face. I can’t forget how breathless it left me.”

 

 

The crowds around her swooned.

 

 

“Tell me. Who is the most beautiful flower among the seas?”

 

 

“Why, beautiful you, of course!!©”

 

 

Luffy began to tune her out as she rambled on. Miffed, the pirate captain interrupted her mid-rant. “Will you shut up, already? You keep going on and on, but I don’t recognize you at all! So tell me who you are!”

 

 

*BOOM!*

 

 

Something exploded. The rubble crashed into the pretty (annoying) lady, but it slid right off of her. Luffy gaped.

 

 

“Apologies, but as luck would have it, your beautifully smooth skin remains untouched. Isn’t that right, my lovely Lady Alvida?”

 

 

Lady Alvida…? An image of an obese woman popped into Luffy’s mind. “Alvida? Where? I don’t see that old harridan anywhere.”

 

 

The pretty lady huffed, “He’s calling ME Lady Alvida!”

 

 

Luffy scratched his heads and gestured at himself. “You seemed a bit…different.”

 

 

“Oh? You’ve noticed?” gushed Lady Alvida. “It’s all thanks to the Smooth-Smooth Fruit. Not a single attack can ruin my perfect complexion, although my beauty is otherwise unchanged. I thank you for pointing out the removal of my freckles!”

 

 

Luffy shook his head in confusion. “Not what I meant, but okay…?

 

 

“You know, if you want to a man to stand by my side, then you would have to defeat this man here.”

 

 

The men behind her threw off their cloaks to reveal…

 

 

“Oh. Just Buggy then.”

 

 

Buggy in question screeched, “Why you cheeky brat-! You haven’t changed a bit have you?”

 

 

*Clunk! Click.*

 

 

Someone actually snuck up behind the future pirate king and locked him into a stockade. Luffy grunted as his head slammed down. Kit is not going to be happy…

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

“Man, Zoro, you certain scored a good set of swords. And for free, too.”

 

 

The two men walked side-by-side. It was a good thing Kitsune had left off his coat back on the Merry and tied the white scarf normally tucked into his collar around his beret and head for a makeshift turban. The two swordsman had all the luck to run into a marine officer soon after they went sword hunting. Zoro looked perturbed when they ran into Tashigi, but Kitsune made no comment on it.

 

 

Then they ran into her again at the shop. Kitsune had to admit, Zoro was scary confident guy. The cursed sword Sandai Kitetsu didn’t slash his arm to pieces, earning him one of the 50 skillful-grade blades Yubashiri out of respect from the owner of the sword shop. Kitsune decided he actually like the crabby man even after he tried to rip off Wadou Ichimonji from them. Kitsune’s own Fuzakeru Kasai would have stirred up more fuss if he had not spelled it beforehand. Definitely would have been suspicious if two of the 21 great blades were here. Tashigi had some morals behind her and a good dream. Although, she might need to work on her skills of observations since she actually mentioned Zoro’s reputation as a user of the Three Swords Style.

 

 

All in all, the first mate was pleased about their crew’s newest acquisitions. The five members of the crew met up near the edge of the square. Kitsune’s smirk flipped as he noted the lack of people in the streets. His gaze slid to the sizable crowd gathering in the square.

 

 

And groaned. “Anyone want to bet my darling little brother already got into trouble?”

 

 

Nami slapped a hand to her face. “Really? Can’t we leave him alone for an hour or two without getting into trouble?”

 

 

The rest of the crew gawked. Up on the execution stand was their captain, locked into a stockade.

 

 

“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” yelled Usopp, nearly dropping Sanji’s giant fish.

 

 

“WHY THE HELL IS OUR CAPTAIN DOING?!”

 

 

‘Good question. Care to explain, Monkey D. Luffy?’

 

 

One rapid-fired answer later, Kitsune dropped his head into his hands as he listened in on the conversation between his rubber-brained brother and the arrogant clown bastard.

 

 

“Okay. Change of plans. Nami, Usopp, go secure the Going Merry and our stuff. Zoro. Sanji. Time to clear a path to our IDIOT over there!”

 

 

“W-wait! Aren’t the two of you really strong? Why can’t Luffy go rescue himself?”

 

 

“Good question. One, Luffy kind of needs to be able to move in order to break free with haki. He can’t stretch well like that, and it take time for him to squeeze out of small spaces. And two, from what Luffy told me, Buggy ‘The Clown’ must have raided a marine ship or base recently because that thing has enough sea prism stone to nullify Luffy’s rubber powers a bit. Not completely, but he can’t stretch properly. Luckily, my brothers and I desensitized ourselves to sea prism stone a bit, or Luffy would be really useless. Let’s hurry up before we’re a head short of rubber-brained captain!”

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

He struggled and struggled, but the metal restraint wouldn’t budge.Trying to pull his head out didn’t work either. The thing made him feel weak and hazy, meaning it had sea prism stone, too! Buggy stood above him and raised his sword.

 

 

‘Luffy!!!’

 

 

“LUFFY!!!”

 

 

Luffy grinned at him crewmates. “Sorry, guys… But it looks like I’m dead.”

 

 

*CRACKLE! CRASH! BOOOOOM!*

 

 

A fork of lightning descended from the sky and struck the execution stand. Luffy felt a tingle run through his body. Huh, that didn’t really hurt was his last thought before the whole structure fell.

 

 

- KASL –

 

 

Everything seemed to stop as the blade was centimeters from Luffy’s neck. Then the world fell away in a black of lightning. The straw hats stumbled back in the face of the deadly glare. The three men found themselves in front of wooden wreck.

 

 

Shishishi,” giggled a familiar voice. “Oh, good. I’m not dead, after all~”

 

 

A moment, then: “YOU RUBBER-BRAINED, IDIOTIC, KLUTZY, CARELESS, BASTARD OF A BROTHER AND CAPTAIN!!!” berated the relieved Kitsune as he attempted to strangle the younger D brother.

 

 

“THERE THEY ARE! SURROUND THE SQUARE! DON’T LET ANY OF THEM ESCAPE!”

 

 

‘Run!’ mentally shouted Kitsune to his crewmates. For good measure, he threw several smoke bombs to cover their escape. Luffy hobbled ran awkwardly due to the stockade still attached to him.

 

 

Zoro fell back when they ran into Tashigi. The three other kept running until a bike cut them off.

 

 

“The ‘White Hunter’, Captain Smoker.”

 

 

“You pirates are under arrest,” Smoker rumbled around his cigars. “I see one of you heard of me. I have to say the same. ‘Straw Hat’ Monkey D. Luffy and ‘Grinning Fox’ Sol D. Kitsune. A total bounty of over 100 million berries. Neither of you are going anywhere! White Out!”

 

 

Plumes of smoke billowed out and snatched up the two wanted pirates. Sanji useless kicked at the white billowing arms. Shit! Kitsune wasn’t kidding about Logia! I can’t touch this guy! Smoker grunted disdainfully and used White Blow to smash Sanji to the side. “I don’t have time for small fry.”

 

 

Black smoke swirled around Kitsune’s hands for a moment. He dug claws laced with solid black into the smoke.

 

 

Smoker howled in unexpected pain and released fox devil fruit eater. Several colorful glowing balls flicked over to explode in the Marine captain’s face. His other hand let go reflexively.

 

 

Luffy tumbled into a heap on the ground. Shouting drew the three pirates’ attention to the sides. Shit thought the pirates as a hoard of marines headed towards them!

                                                                                         

 

Kitsune let go of the illusion and drew his blade with a grim look. In the pouring rain, he was at a disadvantage. Rainwater disrupted his kitsune powers, especially his fire-based techniques. Furthermore, the two Straw Hats had to fend off the marines from themselves and Luffy, who still couldn’t fight. During the battle that erupted, Luffy and Smoker were separated from that group.

 

 

Really, really bad! thought the currently helpless captain. Smokey managed to corner the helpless pirate in an alley leading off from the other street.

 

 

“Nowhere to run, Straw Hat.”

 

 

Luffy kicked out and dodged, but eventually the marine captain had him pinned to the ground.

 

 

Smoker prepared to finish off the pirate captain when someone seized his jitte.

 

 

“I think not,” spoke a deceptively amused voice.

 

 

Luffy stilled. “Sabo?!”

 

 

Both men turned their heads to see the scarred face of a tall man looming over them.

 

 

“Luffy- Oh, good, you found him,” chirped Kitsune as he dropped into the alley from above.

 

 

Smoker felt himself suddenly lift as the revolutionary threw him into the stone wall. Before Smoker could recover, an iron pipe collided with his head.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

The fox shapeshifter smiled widely at both his younger brother. The past few years have done Sabo good. The young man dressed in a blue outfit, black coat, and signature top hat and goggles like a satire of the noble he once was.

 

 

“Kit, Luffy! Getting into trouble again I see.”

 

 

Kitsune’s grin sharpened. “And you’re not? What brings you to Loguetown? I can vaguely sense a much stronger presence, too!”

 

 

Sabo nodded and replied, “Yes, I came here with Dragon on the off chance we would meet again. I saw the bounties. Ace even called me up and tried to talk my ear off.”

 

 

“Uh-huh,” hummed grinning fox Zoan. Sabo and he helped Luffy up. Kitsune hissed when his hand slipped onto the stockade.

 

 

“I hate when I’m right sometimes. Definitely has some sea prism stone in it.”

 

 

Sabo grinned and flashed a set of keys. In a minute, Luffy was springing out of the stockade and glomping onto both older brothers.

 

 

Shishishishi! Thanks Sabo, Kit. Who knows what would have happened if the two of you weren’t here.”

 

 

Sabo tried to pull the enthusiastic jellyfish off of them both. “Hahaha, good to see the two of you, too. But, Luffy, Kit, you need to leave soon. This storm will be reaching its climax soon. Your ship needs to leave now if you want to beat those marines to the Red Line.”

 

 

Both brothers nodded to the top hat wearer. A sudden gust ripped through the streets.

 

 

“What are you two doing?!” snapped Zoro and Sanji as they ran into the alley. “We need to go and- Who’s this?”

 

 

Kit gestured to the top hat wearer. “Zoro, Sanji, meet Sabo, Chief of Staff of the Revolutionary Army, and my second youngest brother. Sabo, Zoro the ‘Pirate Hunter’, and Sanji, fighting sea cook. And they’re right. Time to go.”

 

 

Kitsune tipped his turban and helped Zoro drag Luffy off.

 

 

Luffy laughed the whole way out of the alley. “Bye Sabo! See you soon. I’ll tell Ace you said hi!”

 

 

The young revolutionary smiled at the antics of his brothers.

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

The seas roared. The entire crew worked to keep their little ship from capsizing.

 

 

“See that?”

 

 

“Whoa, it’s a light!”

 

 

Nami smiled at the crew. “It’s the “Light of Guidance” – a lighthouse marking the entrance of the Grand Line.

 

 

Usopp gulped. “A-are you s-s-sure w-we should be entering the G-grand Line in the midst of a raging stor-?!”

 

 

“I think we should commemorate this moment,” interrupted Sanji as he placed a barrel before them. Each and every Straw Hat grinned as they put their foot on the top of the barrel, pronouncing their dream to the audience of the wind, waves, and crew.

 

 

“To find the All Blue.”

 

 

“To be the greatest swordsman of the world…”

 

 

“T-to become a brave warrior of the seas!”

 

 

“To draw a map of the world!”

 

 

“To record the stories of everyone and share them with the world.”

 

 

“To become the pirate king, shishishi!

 

 

*Crunch!*

 

 

“We’re off to the Grand Line!”

 

 

- Dragon –

 

 

The world’s most dangerous man watched the shrinking dot of his son’s ship disappear into the storm. A large grin overtook his face. Below the striking man stood his subordinate and the waking Captain Smoker.

 

 

 The marine went from still to combat ready within a few seconds. “Wha- STRAW HAT! Where is he?”

 

 

“Long gone,” smirked Dragon’s right-hand man.

 

 

“The Chief of Staff of the Revolutionary Army,” seethed Smoker. The marine looked up and blanched slightly. “And Dragon. Why would the Revolutionary Army be interested in some rookie pirates, especially the top two officers?”

 

 

“You shouldn’t interfere,” reprimanded Sabo.

 

 

“Hahaha… Pirate king? If that is your desire, then let nothing stand in your way, Luffy.”

 

 

Smoker glared up at the thorn in the World Government’s side. “Answer me, damn it! Why are helping him escape?!”

 

 

Dragon chuckled. “And what reason do you have to prevent a young man from setting off for his destiny? It’s too late. The winds are howling. The seas scream. Too many things have fallen in place for you to stop him.”

 

 

Marine and revolutionary alike watched as the Going Merry fade from sight, bound for the wildest of seas.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

 

East Blue

 

 

- Nami –

 

 

“…and so in order to enter the Grand Line, we need to enter the waterway climbing Reverse Mountain.”

 

 

“A WATERWAY? Are you freaking kidding me? No way can a waterway climbs up a mountain!” squawked Usopp.

 

 

*Bonk*

 

 

The sniper shot the first mate a dirty look. Kit looked utterly unrepentant. Nami frowned at the two’s antics.

 

 

“Maybe the map is wrong? I mean, we stole it off Buggy of all people,” remarked the swordsman.

 

 

“Nami couldn’t be wrong. If she says that what the maps says, then it’s what the map says.”

 

 

“Shishishishi, Reverse Mountain is a magic mountain, right Kit?”

 

 

Nami shook her head. “Okay…what can you tell us Kit? You said you used to journey around the four Blues and the Grand Line.”

 

 

“True. Usually, I took the Calm Belt, but I know of Reverse Mountain. Ships can sail up the mountain due to the water currents.”

 

 

“Water currents?” said Usopp in askance.

 

 

Kit nodded. “The currents from the other Blues are forced up the mountain. They meet at the top and converge straight into the Grand Line.”

 

 

“Why can’t we go across the Calm Belt?”

 

 

Nami slammed a hand on the table. “WE CAN’T GO SOUTH! People use the entrance for a reason. It’s because of-”

 

 

The room began to shake.

 

 

“-the ravenous and gigantic sea kings populating the Belt. They don’t take kindly to intruders in their feeding grounds. Which, is why we should probably get out of here soon,” interrupted Kit as he peered out the window.

 

 

Nami ran over. The storm had completely cleared. Her face paled.

 

 

“GRAB THE OARS AND START ROWING US OUT OF HERE!”

 

 

“As you wish, my dear Nami~”

 

 

“…Kit, did you say ravenous and gigantic sea kings?”

 

 

“Yes! Hurry up and get the oars.” Shit, spoke too late! The entire ship shuddered again. A mass of sea kings rose from the depths. Their tiny ship perched on the snout of one. Nami took one look and clung to the main mast.

 

 

“Shhhhhh, guys! Don’t try to grab any of their attention. The two Calm Belts surrounding the Grand Line are their breeding grounds.”

 

 

Luffy and Kit exchanged glances. They got up and strode off the ship.

 

 

“You idiots,” seethed Nami in fear.

 

 

Then she felt it. A wave of power, just like back in Cocoyashi. The sea kings scattered, except for the one they were on top of. Was it… was it intimidated?

 

 

Calm Belt

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

“Lesson three,” announced Kitsune. “Conqueror’s haki. Born in one out of several million people, this is the manifestation of one’s will - the determination and voice of their spirit. The proof of one’s right to rule, as some might say. Those of weak will bow and even succumb entirely to the undisciplined power of such a user. You witnessed what happened to Arlong’s lower ranks. They fell unconscious. An unconquerable will can devastate an army. Only those of either strong wills, or those deliberately spared, can stand up to this. Think killing intent but multiplied a hundredfold. A strong will can even create enough pressure to affect one’s surroundings. Wild beasts run in fear, and the larger ones will acknowledge the dominance of an experienced user. That is the power Luffy and I will employ here. This sea king will drop us off back in seas of the East Blue because we asked it to.”

 

 

“Incredible,” remarked Zoro.

 

 

“Scary,” whined Usopp, still clutching the ship’s railings. Nami secretly agreed. She still had a death grip on the main mast.

 

 

Sanji was taking another whiff of his cigarette. “Say, first mate Kit.”

 

 

Kitsune tilted his head. “Yes?”

 

 

“I take it you used Conqueror’s haki to cross the Calm Belt?”

 

 

“Sometimes. Depends on whether it’s just me, or if I’m on someone’s ship. Curious to know why Luffy and I don’t just travel through the Calm Belt?”

 

 

Sanji nodded. Kit looked off into the distance then laughed. “Shahehehehe, good point, master chef! Honestly, we could. But we won’t. How many times can you say sailed up a mountain? It’s part of the experience. Not many people from the Blues can just waltz through the Calm Belt without a care. Sure, several marine ships can because they have sea prism stone layering their bottoms, but it would be a shame not to ride up Reverse Mountain just once as a crew.”

 

 

“I-I agree w-with Kit,” stuttered Usopp.

 

 

‘Hah, you’re just scared of the sea kings. They won’t come back, not while Luffy and I keep them away,’ giggled Kit from within Nami and Usopp’s minds

 

 

Quit mocking me! the two responded with a ‘yell’. Kit smirked but relented. The sea king began to move. Usopp still refused to let go of the mast until the beast safely dumped the ship back into stormy waters.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

After nearly smacking into the mountain (thank Rogers for telekinesis), the crew hung around in awe.

 

 

“Amazing, isn’t it?” reflected Kit. “I’ve been through this waterway a few times, granted as a lurking stowaway, but actually seeing the climb is exhilarating. Truly a magnificent sight. Four Blues, four currents, rushing through this mountain. The range itself is a winter island. Had we missed, well, we would be joining the sea kings in their nap.”

 

 

Everyone had their eyes glued to the front as the currents dragged the Going Merry to the top. Then they tilted down, the Grand Line’s wild seas dead ahead.

 

 

*BUOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH*!!!!!

 

 

Kitsune frowned. Smoke briefly surrounded his head. A pair of golden fox ears swiveled. What is that?

 

 

“Did you hear something?”

 

 

“Who cares? Let’s go faster!”

 

 

‘See anything, esteemed sniper?’

 

 

Usopp gave a slight nod as he adjusted his eye scope.

 

 

“Is that… Nami, mountain dead ahead!”

 

 

“Mountain?” Nami asked.

 

 

Vision enhancing, Kitsune could make out a black wall. No, not a wall, an…

 

 

“Island whale!”

 

 

“A freaking whale?” muttered Sanji. “Do we fight it?”

 

 

“Considering it could treat us like so much gnats…” flippantly replied Kitsune.

 

 

“Rhetorical question!”

 

 

“Quit arguing, love cook, crazy fox. I can see a small passage around it.”

 

 

“But the rudder’s out!” cried a panicked Usopp.

 

 

Kitsune pulled himself on top of the upper story rails. He focused his powers. He felt for the currents and the ship with his Observation haki. Then he pulled. The ship lurched to the left and back.

 

 

“Go, Kit, go!” cheered Luffy. The rubber-brained idiot then got the bright idea to fire the cannon.

 

 

“LUFFY! You are not the marksman! And shooting at the goliath is not the smartest of ideas!”

 

 

 Between Luffy’s cannon, and Kitsune’s power, the ship stopped just before they hit the whale.

 

 

‘What are you just standing there for? Row!’ commanded Kit through his telepathy, voice strangled from using sustained telekinesis. He flopped down on his front.

 

 

*BOOM*!

 

 

Kitsune looked down to the deck. Luffy smiled widely, his right hand scratching his face. A tell.

 

 

“Luffy…”

 

 

“Sorry!” The giant eye they passed in front of stared directly at them.

 

 

The whale’s mammoth mouth opened.

 

 

*BUOOOOOOHHHHHHHH*!!!!!

 

 

And Luffy fell right off the ship.

 

 

Red Line

Belly of a whale

 

 

*Blink, blink. Scrub eyes. Blink some more*

 

 

Nothing changed. The ship calmly drifted through what looked like a sea with an island at the center. Kitsune’s nose wrinkled. He could faintly scent gastric acid in the water. So…not dreaming. He looked closer.

 

 

“Neither the clouds or those birds are moving.”

 

 

“Hmm, you’re right. Is this someone’s idea of a joke?” mused Sanji.

 

 

A few moments later, a giant squid tried to take Usopp and Nami, only to be speared through. The island house doors opened to reveal...

 

 

“Old man Crocus!”

 

 

Zoro, Sanji, Usopp, and Nami stared pointedly at the first mate. Kit smiled without a care.

 

 

“Guys that would be Crocus. My uncle Ray told me about him. He even had a few pictures of him from back in the day. Crocus was a ship doctor back on the same crew as my uncle. I haven’t met with him myself, though.” Mostly because I was hopping ships when they crossed the over the Red Line.

 

 

“He looks like a flower.”

 

 

“Is he the one who painted the interior of a whale’s stomach?”

 

 

One stare off and conversation later…

 

 

Kitsune sighed as he restrained the gentleman chef and short-tempered swordsman.

 

 

“Old man Crocus, as enlightening as your personal information is, you wouldn’t mind helping us out? I heard about you from Uncle Ray.”

 

 

“Ahh, that old lecher still alive then?” inquired the flower headed doctor.

 

 

“Yep!”

 

 

“Ah, then you must be Kitsune. That old scoundrel sent me letters on some of you brats’ adventures. I heard you have three brothers in addition to the rest of your monstrous family.”

 

 

“I would introduce you to Luffy, but I’m sure he’ll be here shortly. Now, about that exit…”

 

 

“Hmmph!” grunted the old man. “If you want an exit, sail that way.”

 

 

A huge metal door stood against the stomach wall.

 

 

“Wow! It really is just paint.”

 

 

Crocus didn’t look back up from his newspaper. “What? I’m an old man entitled to my own forms of amusement.”

 

 

“Why in the world are you in here, anyways?!” questioned an irate Usopp.

 

 

*BUOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH*!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Kitsune clutched at his head. Ears sat flat against his skull. The constant bellowing at this range grated against his sensitive hearing. The sea of saltwater and gastric acid pitched. Crocus’s island shifted to reveal iron lining.

 

 

“So he started this again,” grumbled the old man.

 

 

“Err, exactly what again? You should give us an explanation. Preferably before we dissolve into goo,” sniveled Usopp as the next tremor nearly dislodged him from the boat. Kitsune extended a yellow tail in response. And winced. Owww, it’s not that bad, Usopp! Usopp was pulling on his fur.

 

 

Crocus regarded his guests with the same stern gaze. “This whale has an awful habit of ramming the Red Line with his head. You probably saw those scars outside? This is how he gets them.”

 

 

Kitsune didn’t hear the following discussion. His mind was locked onto the whale’s emotions. He could sense a great well of grief, sorrow, denial, and steely determination. The whale was suffering. More than that, it was suffering from denial and grief.

 

 

“He jumped in!”

 

 

“Is he mad? He’ll dissolve for sure!”

 

 

Kitsune shook his head. He looked down to see the disappearing figure of Crocus.

 

 

 “Doubtful. The whale’s stomach acid is really diluted from his saltwater intake. It would take most of the day before the squid begins to dissolve, for example. Crocus will be fine. We probably should head out. Get the oars out (again), and I’ll steer the ship.

 

 

Then three people dashed out from the smaller door.

 

 

“Luffy?!”

 

 

Earlier

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

With his Gum-Gum abilities, the straw-hat captain easily catapulted away from the gaping maw. Unfortunately, he couldn’t say the same of his crew or ship.

 

 

“Guys? You- You damn whale! You ate my friends! GIVE THEM BACK. Come on, hurry up, and spit them back out, you stupid oversized fis- whoa!”

 

 

The black surface began to tilt. What do I do? He’s going to dive! Luffy rapidly scanned the area. There a little ways away was a steel door.

 

 

In the whale’s interior

 

 

Metal walls and floors created passages throughout the inside of the whale.

 

 

“Hmmm,” hummed Luffy. “Why does a whale need hallways for? Oh well. I need to find everyone!”

 

 

One…two…three, four, five! His crewmates were only a bit away. Luffy could also sense two unfamiliar auras ahead. Not that they mattered. Probably.

 

 

After barreling through several halls and nearly tumbling into the waterway, Luffy was on a collision course with the two strange people he sensed earlier.

 

 

“Get out of the way! I can’t stop!”

 

 

*THUMP*!

 

 

Arms flailed as the straw-hatted D flung through the air.

 

 

“Luffy?”

 

 

“Zoro, Kit, Guys!”

 

 

*Splash*

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

“So, who have you barreled into this time, little brother?”

 

 

Zoro and Usopp had towed Luffy and the two strangers aboard the Going Merry. They were dressed oddly, one in prim green formal wear with a crown of all things, and the other in a fur-lined off-white coat. She looked oddly familiar to the first mate.

 

 

“Don’t know. Kind of just rammed them when I slid on that slippery floor,” answered Luffy as he picked his nose. This prompted Kitsune to smack his brother’s head.

 

 

“I told you to quit that!

 

 

“You no good brats will not harm Laboon. Not while I still live!” affirmed Crocus.

 

 

The crew started. When had he return? And how did he get on the platform?

 

 

The two strangers’ response was very much not appreciated. They fired their bazooka at the stomach lining, but the old man physically blocked it.

 

 

*POUND! THUMP!*

 

 

Luffy and Kit downed them with a single strike each.

 

 

The crew gathered on old man Crocus’ island.

 

 

“Whales of this size are called island whales. Normally, you only find them in West Blue. This one is named Laboon. Those two rogues are from a town from a nearby island… They’re after Laboon for his meat. An island whale could feed their village for a few years.

 

 

But, I will not let them do that. Laboon is part of a promise I made years ago – promise which drives him to bash his head against the Red Line and bellow at the sky.

 

 

I have served as a lighthouse keeper for many years. I was minding my own business when a group of amicable pirates crashed down from Reverse Mountain along with a baby whale, Laboon.

 

 

Laboon had followed the pirate crew on their journey in West Blue, but the crew decided to leave him behind because of the danger posed by the Grand Line. Or, at least they thought they did. Island whales swim together in pods, but this one considered the crew his pod.

 

 

Their ship had accrued severe damage since their arrival, so they had to spend several months here for repairs. We became rather good friends during that time. When they prepared to leave, the captain asked me a question:

 

 

“Will you please watch over Laboon for 2-3 years in our place? The Grand Line is too rough for such a little guy. Once we sailed around the world, we’ll return for him.”

 

 

Laboon understood their reasoning. He patiently awaited their return. Weeks turned to months. Months into years. Years into decades. 50 years has passed since they left the Red Line…

 

 

“He’s still waiting for his friends,” realized Nami. “He believes they will return, so he’s bashing his head against the Red Line and bellowing in defiance of the truth.”

 

 

“I think you have the measure of it, young lady. Here, I’ll lead you guys out of here.”

 

 

Grand Line waters

 

 

The Straw Hats dumped the two rogues into the sea.

 

 

Kitsune paid half an ear on the Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday’s ranting as he contemplated the island whale.

 

 

Luffy’s gaze drifted down to where a strange bauble had rolled along the wooden deck. He picked up a familiar-looking round glass compass set on a watch-styled wristband.

 

 

“Where have I seen this before? Nope. Can’t remember. Maybe those two dropped it…?”

 

 

The crew watched huge black whale bellow once again. The chef took a long drag from his cigarette.

 

 

“To think he has waited for them for 50 years. Do you really think he believes they’ll come back for him?”

 

 

“They’re taking a while, aren’t they Sanji?”

 

 

“Idiot.”

 

 

Kitsune nodded in agreement. “He’s right, rubber-brained doofus. This is the Grand Line. Most pirates never make it past Paradise. And 50 years have passed. When 2-3 years become five decades, the chances any member would return dropped to…well, I think even you can understand what I mean.”

 

 

“Probably long dead, by now. They won’t be returning for him…” reasoned Sanji.

 

 

“Sanji! How cold can you be? Maybe one or two did survive. Maybe they’ll really come back here! Don’t you have a heart? Doesn’t the tale of a whale who so strongly believes in his friends’ promise mean something to you?”

 

 

Crocus shook his head sadly. He responded, “No, the truth is far more cruel. A reliable source reported to me they long ago left the Grand Line.”

 

 

“W-what?!”

 

 

“Left the Grand Line? Then they had to have gone through the Calm Belt…!”

 

 

Crocus turned a solemn eye to the young pirate crew. “Yes…yes it would. I do not know if they survive the journey or not, but they would not dare to ever return to this place. This is the Grand Line. This is where the seasons, climates, currents, the very essence of nature rages and frenzies without a care to reason. Common sense falters and fails in these waters. Here, the faint-hearted quail before theses seas’ might.”

 

 

“They were coward, in other words. Their concern for their own lives outweighed their desire to keep their promise. So, they left the Grand Line to never return again…”

 

 

Laboon refused to listen to the truth. No matter how many times the old lighthouse keeper had explained, the island whale still waited for them. And Crocus could not simply leave Laboon be, not with his injuries.

 

 

The crew fell silent. To think, this was the sea to drive countless crews to cowardice, to withdrawing their honor for their own lives.

 

 

Even Luffy was silent. Too silent. Kitsune’s head suddenly came up at the same time Luffy disappeared from sight. The first mate just slapped a hand halfway over his eyes, as his captain reappeared right over Laboon’s latest scrape. A rubber arm reared back and…

 

 

*SMACK!*

 

 

Luffy’s blackened fist slammed directly against the bloody gash, splattering old and fresh blood. Laboon writhed and shook in pain.

 

 

“WHAT THE HELL?! ARE YOU TRYING TO GET KILLED?”

 

 

Luffy pummeled a fist against Laboon’s huge eye. The whale’s thrashes hit Luffy dead on, smashing him into the Red Line.

 

 

“Kid, what the hell do you think you’re doing to Laboon?!”

 

 

Kitsune held the old man back. “Don’t. They’ll both be fine.”

 

 

“Shishishishi, IT’S A TIE!”

 

 

Laboon blinked.

 

 

“I’m tough, don’t you think? This fight isn’t over yet, so we must fight again someday. Your old friends are all gone, but you have a new rival today, me. My crew will travel to the end of the Grand Line. We’re sure to meet again when we return here. I promise. Then we’ll duke it out again.”

 

 

One messy and badly drawn painting later…

 

 

“There!” announced Luffy proudly. “This will be a sign of our promise to meet again. You can’t go ramming into the wall, or else the mark will disappear. Okay? Good!”

 

 

Kitsune regarded his brother’s latest masterpiece with a smile. ‘Seems like someone decided to channel a bit of Sabo today. Nice work, Luffy.’

 

 

Everyone (except for Zoro) busied about, getting ready for their journey to the first island of the Grand Line. Kitsune had taken a tall stack of fish over by Laboon.

 

 

“What’s wrong with this thing? The compass’s needle is spinning all over the place!”

 

 

Kitsune had wended his way over to their distraught navigator sometime after Crocus began to explain the Grand Line’s convoluted navigation system.

 

 

“He’s right. An ordinary compass will never make it here. All navigators of the Grand Line use the log pose, a special free spinning needle that locks onto individual islands’ polarity.”

 

 

“It looks like a round glass ball, right Kit?”

 

 

Kitsune hummed, “Yes, a log pose looks just like the object…you’re…holding… Luffy where did you find that?”

 

 

Nami smacked both D’s. Kitsune for failing to explain earlier. And Luffy partly because Nami was mad that idiot found one out of the blue, but mostly on principle.

 

 

Kitsune rubbed his aching head. “Nice. I think you’re making some progress at haki training. You haven’t really produced true haki, but you did gather some of your life force into your fist just for a moment. Now if only you could do it consciously…”

 

 

Zoro looked affronted. “How can she be so far ahead of us? The money grubber isn’t even much of a fighter.”

 

 

Kitsune chuckled. “It is how it is. Although, I doubt she’ll reach true awakening of her haki before either Sanji or you. Doesn’t quite match up to her style of fighting, at least right now.”

 

 

 “Where did I find the log pose thing? Ooooh, those weirdoes left it on our ship. I guess they must have accidently dropped it. Why did you hit us, though?” whined Luffy.

 

 

 “It was instinct. Any sort of idiocy from the two of you warrants a good thumping after all the trouble you guys raise. So, how does this thing work?”

 

 

“Those two brats – or at least the one in the ridiculous beret – probably know this already, but I’ll explain,” grumbled Crocus. “Islands dot the entirety of the Grand Line. As I mentioned earlier, the rich minerals of each island produces a magnetic field. In order to navigate between islands, you need to record the electromagnetic interactions between them. Once the log pose stabilizes, you can proceed to the next island in the chain. This is the only safe way to travel on the Grand Line. Here on Reverse Mountain, you have the freedom to choose one of seven islands. Each magnetic field will lead to a different chain of islands, however all paths converge to a single island: Raftel, a legendary island only once confirmed by none other than the late pirate king and his crew.”

 

 

“Is One Piece there then?!” asked Usopp excitedly.

 

 

“No way of knowing since no one else has ever reached it.”

 

 

“Enough talk,” interrupted Luffy. “We’ll just see it for ourselves then, shishishishi!”

 

 

Another piece of delicious fish was shoved into Luffy mouth. He stretched a rubbery arm for more, but felt nothing.

 

 

“…Luffy, you idiot! You ate all my wonderful fish! You shitty captain, I cooked it for Nami’s pleasure, not yours!”

 

 

*Crack! Crash.*

 

 

A moment of utter silence. *Splash*. Two bodies were kicked into the sea.

 

 

“The log pose... Don’t we kind of need it!” voiced Usopp with a tremble.

 

 

“What do we do now?!” shouted Nami.

 

 

Kit patted Nami’s shoulders in reassurance. “Don’t worry, Nami. Don’t you remember? I came to the East Blue from the Grand Line. Even though I tended to ship hop, I did sail on my own. I came here on my own ship, remember? I have a log pose back on the Merry. You can use that one.”

 

 

“Uh, did it happen to be in a little wooden box?”

 

 

“Yes, Usopp, why?”

 

 

“Because I think I saw Luffy trying to pry it open the other day. He might have, sort of, kind ofaccidentlysmashedit,” mumbled Usopp.

 

 

‘You did what?! Monkey D. Luffy! You better be listening to me. I told you not to go rifling through my stuff!’

 

 

Sorry Kit…

 

 

“Too bad. Don’t worry. I will give you one as a sign of thanks for what your captain did for Laboon.”

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

Kitsune still had his yellow fox ears out. So he heard it when something exploded offshore. Furthermore, he heard four people finally gasp out for air.

 

 

The man, Mr. 9, and his partner Miss Wednesday were in bit of trouble. Turned out, they didn’t have a second log pose… or a ship. The first mate eyed the two with open suspicion.

 

 

“You want us to take you to Whiskey Peak?”

 

 

“Y-yes…”

 

 

“Hah,” interjected Nami. “Why should we? Like Crocus mentioned earlier, this is the only point where we can decide where to go from here on out.”

 

 

“Technically, that statement applies to just this side of Paradise. The New World poses other issues, but I’ll explain when we get there,” recollected Kitsune.

 

 

Nami huffed but didn’t press the issue. “Plus, the two of you have been trying to kill Laboon here. You haven’t even apologized to Crocus for blasting him or for all the trouble you two have caused for him.”

 

 

“Who exactly are you two, anyways?” added Usopp, “Mr.9 and Miss Wednesday don’t sound like proper names to me.”

 

 

Both rogues kowtowed. “We humbly apologize for our actions against you. But, we cannot say! Please, take pity on us and return us to our town. We promise to repay you for this favor!”

 

 

Miss Wednesday offered, “We would rather inform you, but our organization is very tight-lipped. “Secrecy and mystery” is our motto. But can any of you find it in your hearts to extend a hand toward us?”

 

 

“Ttch, you should ignore them. I swear they’ll bring nothing but trouble on your crew. As the kid said earlier, you won’t be able to pick your path again until you reach the other end of the Red Line,” disparaged Crocus.

 

 

Kitsune snickered as Nami played with the two suspicious people. He inclined his head when Luffy said they’ll take them along, but whispered, ‘Don’t let your guard down, captain.’

 

 

I won’t. I remember what happened last time I did…

 

 

Unconsciously, Kitsune fingered the scar running underneath the scarf tucked into his coat collar.

 

 

“You sure Luffy? Kit and Crocus said we won’t be able to choose our path after Reverse Mountain,” insisted Usopp.

 

 

“Shishishi, yeah, I’m sure! We could circle back around and try again, too, if we want to go another route. Bye flower gramps!”

 

 

“Thanks for the log pose!”

 

 

“Thanks for putting up with my crazy crewmates!”

 

 

- Crocus –

 

 

The old sea salt watched the rookie crew take off. Behind them, Laboon bellowed farewell.

 

 

So, maybe those brats will be the one. Their captain has a curious air to him. And the fox-eared brat certainly has his uncle’s intelligence and strength. Are they the ones you’re waiting for, eh Roger?

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

Whiskey Peak, Cactus Island

Grand Line

 

 

- Kitsune -

 

 

After a flash snowfall, the ship turning 180, a killer storm, and so on, the Going Merry just barely survived the voyage to the first island in the Grand Line. Cactus Island certainly lived up to its name. Kitsune could see towering green cactus structures dominating most of the island. Then he frowned.

 

 

“Whoa. Those are huge cactuses! Don’t you think, Kit?” giggled Luffy from the top of the sheep-shaped figurehead.

 

 

Kitsune shot his younger brother a contemplative look.

 

 

“I suppose so,” he mused. ‘Luffy, be sure to take a better look at the spines when the ship heads up the river.’

 

 

Oh? Why?

 

 

Slitted silver blue eyes flashed when they met the pair of dark ones. ‘Don’t take things at face value. Trust your instincts, but do not let your guard down. A friendly face could hide evil. Just like Teach, and just like that bastard trickster crewmate of his.’

 

 

Okay, promised Luffy, eyes dark and serious before regaining its goofy expression. Kitsune nodded and turned back to the front.

 

 

Yo, first mate? Can you hear me? Kind of feeling stupid just thinking this.

 

 

‘Hearing you loud and clear, you lazy swordsman.’

 

 

Hey! I did wake up-

 

 

‘- after I screamed into your head and projected. Who would have thought an image of a kissy- faced Love Cook would have done the charm?’

 

 

That damn prank of yours…I almost fell off the ship, too!

 

 

‘How can you sleep through a raging storm? You’re nearly as bad as mine and Luffy’s hotheaded brother, and he has a worse case of narcolepsy than the two of us combined!’

 

 

Whatever, you annoying fox. Anyways, I recognized those codenames, Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday. They’re agents of Baroque Works.

 

 

‘Mercenaries. Figures we would have that kind of luck. Well, keep an eye out for trouble then. We’re probably just waltzing into a trap, then. ’

 

 

Aye-aye First Mate.

 

 

Speaking of the two troublemaking mercenaries, Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday had climbed on top of the railings.

 

 

“Thank you for taking us here. Just drop us off here, honeys. Maybe fate will have our paths cross again!”

 

 

Both weirdos smirked. “Bye bye, baby!”

 

 

Most of the crew sweat dropped at their dramatic leave-taking.

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

“What freaks,” muttered Nami.

 

 

“But the lovely Miss Wednesday was such a cutie!”

 

 

“U-uhhh. Kit, Luffy, t-there wouldn’t happen to be any m-monsters on this island, would there?”

 

 

Kitsune hummed, “Don’t sense anything like that. I never been here myself, but I don’t think you should be worried about any dangers from nature.” Just humans.

 

 

“Oh good!”

 

 

“It wouldn’t matter anyway,” explained Nami. “We need to stay on this island for a set amount of time for the log pose to set.”

 

 

Shishishi, enough boring talk! Let’s go already!”

 

 

“WELCOME!” shouted a crowd of people. “THIS IS WHISKEY PEAK, THE TOWN OF WELCOMING! BE WELCOME TO OUR ISLAND, PIRATES. LET US BE THE FIRST PEOPLE TO WELCOME YOU TO THE GRAND LINE!”

 

 

“Huh? There aren’t monsters, but people greeting us.”

 

 

“Odd,” considered the chef. A group of women cheered, “Oooh, such lovely ladies!”

 

 

Agarappoi, the mayor of Whiskey Peak was a tall man with the oddest hairstyle. Kitsune scrunched his nose as the man came closer.

 

 

“Welcome to Whig- Ahem! Ma-ma-maaa- Whiskey Peak, our town of liquor and music. I must say, you all seem like such brave pirates to enter the Grand Line. Please stay, drink, eat, and share your stories with us. We have a lovely banquet set for tonight, don’t please don’t hesitate and enjoy yourselves.”

 

 

“Excuse me! How long does it take for the log pose to set?” inquired Nami. Their gracious host waved off her question.

 

 

“Worry not! This is a time for celebration and festivities. Why not relax from your journey?”

 

 

Suddenly, the man grabbed Nami’s shoulder and declared, “Everyone! Prepare a feast worthy of such courageous men and woman. Let us have a grand feast equal to the name of the Grand Line!”

 

 

Liquor flowed. Nami and Zoro dueled the townsmen in contests of sobriety. Chefs collapsed in the face of Luffy’s appetite. Sanji flushed red from the attention of 20 or so ladies. And Usopp and Kit spun stories of their adventures in the East Blue. In seemingly no time at all, the crew of the Straw Hats collapsed in a stupor, soon on their way to dreamland.

 

 

Late into the Night

 

 

- Agarappoi –

 

 

“Such a pleasant night, once more. The moonlight glistens on the cactus rocks.”

 

 

“Poetry, Mr. 8…?” A group of shadowed figure approached the “mayor” of Whiskey Peak.

 

 

“Ah, so the two of you have finally returned.”

 

 

“The pirates?”

 

 

“They have deeply fallen just a little while ago…deeply fallen into the depths of Hell, that is. They won’t be waking up anytime soon. We spiked the food and drink, just in case.”

 

 

“Ttch, why didn’t you just let us get rid of them at the harbor? This town’s larders are already strained. Especially in the face of those two’s empty hands. We can’t count on getting some whale meat anytime soon, it seems,” criticized Ms. Monday.

 

 

“Hey!”

 

 

“We tried our best, doesn’t that count? Those irritating pirates interfered!” added Mr. 9

 

 

“Now, now, despite our Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday’s failings, they did net us some berries. I did some research. Their captain and first mate equal a little over 100 million berries together,” explained Mr. Agarappoi with a grin.

 

 

The three mercenaries’ eyes bugged out.

 

 

“O-over 100 million berries! How can a couple of rookies have such ridiculous bounties at the edge of the Grand Line? Especially since they came from the East Blue!” exclaimed the Ms. Monday.

 

 

Mr. 8 clucked his tongue at his colleagues’ nearsightedness. “Appearances do not necessarily advertise the strength of a person. To think otherwise would be very foolish, my dr- Ma-ma-Maaaa- my dear. Killing them would lose us 30% of the bounty since the World Government loves their spectacles. Send some people to secure their ship. Take whatever treasure they have.”

 

 

“We should hurry up and tie them up then,” pointed out Mr. 9.

 

 

“Yeah, those shitty pirates could wake up anytime, right Mosshead?”

 

 

The four Baroque agents froze. They turned their eyes to the building behind them. Two men, the curly-browed lecher, and the heavy drinking swordsman relaxed on top of the roof.

 

 

“Anytime…if they were still asleep that is, Love Cook.”

 

 

Mr. 8 blanched. Several of their men came running out. “M-Mr. 8! The pirates have vanished!”

 

 

“Hmph, drugging our food and drink. I am a fighting chef from the Baratie. If I didn’t know tainted food, the shitty old man would have kicked me off a long time ago.”

 

 

“Hmph! I don’t remember things ending up like that. In fact, I was sure I saw Kit using his hocus pocus on you, too,” disputed the swordsman. “Hah, the two of us again 100 of them. Looks like a bunch are headed toward the Merry, too.”

 

 

“Wasn’t Usopp talking about taking shelter there?”

 

 

“I’m sure he’ll be fine. I think I saw Kit lending him some stuff for his explosives.”

 

 

Mr. 8 clenched his fists at the pirates’ audacity. They were completely ignoring them!

 

 

“If you guys are done, where are your leaders? Your captain and far- Ma-maa-maaaa- first mate?”

 

 

The blonde idly blew out a stream of smoke. “Our shitty captain and first mate? I’m afraid those two probably won’t be joining us for now. We told them to let us take care of this.”

 

 

The swordsman grinned and added, “We don’t need them, anyways. Baroques Works will serve as fine opponents for our training.”

 

 

H-how did he know that name! Agarappoi grimaced while his fellow agents start in surprise.

 

 

“You shouldn’t know that name,” he stated plainly.

 

 

A devil’s grin grew on the swordsman’s face. “You don’t say. Well, I was approached by them back some years ago when I was in your line of work. I refused, of course.”

 

 

The blonde scoffed. Ignoring it, the swordsman continued. “It’s an organization whose members only know each other’s codenames and nothing else about their fellows’ identities. Even your boss’s true identity and location are safeguarded even more rigorously. That is the criminal organization Baroque Works, a group who demand absolute secrecy and obedience from their members.”

 

 

“…which Kit told us about after he knocked out those guards and woke up our crew,” finished the chef.

 

 

The faces of the Baroque Works agents darkened with every word.

 

 

“Oh, I’m sorry. Hehehe, was that supposed to be a secret, too? Not much of one if my first mate and I know it, then.”

 

 

“…it seems we must prepare more stones for the cactus rocks this night,” solemnly pronounced the false mayor of Whiskey Peak. The two pirates didn’t react much even as the hundred people below scrambled. Then they disappeared.

 

 

Mr. 8 panicked. “Where did the pirates go?!”

 

 

“They’ve disappeared!” “How could they- Ack!”

 

 

The blonde pirate swept one agent’s feet out from under him, bowling over several more in the process. The other one, in the meanwhile, had played for dramatics. Mr.8’s eyes bugged as much as Mr. 9’s when the swordsman suddenly reappeared in their midst.

 

 

“Let’s get started with all of you. Hmm, I’m still not fast enough, though. Maybe you guys can help me with that?”

 

 

None of them could catch the two novice pirates! That brat swordsman nearly got him killed, too, when he stepped in next to the Baroque Works’ officer. Mr. 8 had no choice but to use his own artillery to defend himself from the collection of weapons aimed for him.

 

 

Coast

Going Merry

 

 

- Usopp –

 

 

Worse. Hiding. Spot. Ever! Usopp blubbered in his head A few dozen men and women approached the Merry, weapons bared and gleaming in the moonlight. Why did Kit tell me to go watch the Merry? I would have been fine just snoozing while everyone else fought. Didn’t I tell Kit I had I’m-Afraid-of-Deadly-Pirate-Hunting-Mercenaries Syndrome? They were getting closer and closer!

 

 

 Okay, remember, you’re captain Usopp, brave warrior of the sea! You’re on the crew of two former members of an EMPORER. You can’t wimp out now! Usopp reached into his ammo bag and took out several tiny gray balls and a red one with a white flame mark.

 

 

First shot. Several gray balls flew into the air, bursting to reveal even more tiny little balls. Usopp quickly followed through with the red ammo.

 

 

“Take this, you bunch of no-good liars! Certain Kill: Red Spark, White Bursts!”

 

 

The red ball turned to reveal the quickly disintegrating fuse. *Boom*! Red flames scattered over the ammo of the first shot. One by one the tiny gray beads exploded with a devastating white flash. The Baroque Works agents were thrown into chaos. Usopp smirked and laughed in relief. It actually worked. It was alike a domino effect: the flames would light some of the gray pellets, exploding them. The little white flames from the explosions would scatter and set more pellets alight.

 

 

 A shiver suddenly ran down his spine. Without even thinking about it, the sniper swung around and launched one of his hot pepper ammo just as someone tried to board the Merry from the sea. For good measure, Usopp fired off more white burst and red spark ammo. How did I know that? Intuition? Or maybe…

 

 

Whiskey Peak

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

The two D brothers sat some distance away from the heart of the fighting. The beret wearer smirked at his younger brother.

 

 

“Some fighters, huh?”

 

 

“Yeah, shishishishi. Sanji and Zoro are the best!” replied Luffy.

 

 

Kit nodded. He whistled as the swordsman’s newest blades cut through the ranks of Baroques Works like so much paper. Not even the well-muscled Ms. Monday could match his sheer strength. Sanji’s kicks easily hammered past Mr. 9’s iron bats. The showy man flew several buildings away after taking one devastating blow. Eventually, only the false mayor, a blue-haired lady and a large duck remained standing. Kit’s human ears perked up as their two crewmates confronted the two last Baroque agents.

 

 

“Admirable job, Mr. Samurai, Mr. Chef, but this ends here. You may have taken out everyone else, but you will not win against us.”

 

 

Zoro scoffed, “You think so?”

 

 

She smirked and stood on top the duck’s back. She began to dance.

 

 

“Behold the patterns on my body! Captivating Dance of Dizziness!”

 

 

Kit was unaffected, but everyone else… The fox Zoan clucked his tongue at the sight of his captain suddenly flopping off the building. He leaned over the edge of the roof.

 

 

“Yo, Luffy! Stay there for a while. I think I should go and help the other sitting ducks there. You’re made of rubber, so you shouldn’t be in much danger, anyways.”

 

 

With another sigh, Kitsune stood up and ran over the rooftops to where he saw the other two idiots of their crew flail under Miss Wednesday’s spell. Lucky for them the duck had a poor sense of direction. The Peacock Slasher attack harmlessly passed by them.

 

 

But the duck’s behavior didn’t stop making the two tempting targets for the other one.

 

 

“Aparappa!”

 

 

White fire hissed as the saxophone blast was cancelled.

 

 

“Kit, I thought we told you we can handle this!” snapped the chef as he struggled to regain his balance.

 

 

“Mmm, perhaps I should work in some mental training on top of haki training if you guys keep falling under spells like this. It’s embarrassing for everyone when some of our strongest members flounder so easily under a simple illusion.”

 

 

“Shut up,” grumbled Zoro.

 

 

Kit laughed. “Don’t be so sour. I’ll be watching from over there from now on. Luffy will be on his way, too, once he recovers. Honestly, what should I do with all of you? Shahehehehehe.”

 

 

True to his word, Kit silently disappeared, reappearing on top of a building a few streets away.

 

 

Zoro regarded his crewmate with a wearied look. “Okay, don’t make things damn difficult tonight, Love Cook. I’ll take on the girl if you can’t while you take on the joker here.”

 

 

Sanji flicked away his used cigarette. “Fine by me, Mosshead.”

 

 

‘Don’t forget the bat-happy guy. And some more Baroque agents are heading your way. You sure you don’t want me to intervene?” inquire Kit, but he already knew their answer.

 

 

“Ttch, stay out of this, Kit.”

 

 

“This is a matter between us and these losers – not including you, beautiful!”

 

 

The two handedly knocked out the remaining stubborn agents without too much trouble. This time, Zoro kept in mind to close his eyes as he took down Miss Wednesday and Mr. 9 (again) along with a few handfuls of Baroque Works agents. Agarappoi’s hair arsenal nearly got the jump on the gentleman chef, but Sanji’s speed and agility training through fire worked wonders in translating to heavy artillery fire.

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

Stingy Kit, leaving me here, grumbled Luffy as he finally shook off the dizzy spell. The straw-hatted captain began to stroll in the direction where he sensed two stronger presences drawing over to where Kit, Zoro, and Sanji were. The young pirate captain frowned. They don’t seem very friendly. Luffy decided to pick up the pace.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

Kitsune felt the two presences draw closer. They were much stronger than any of the presences they felt so far. And he wasn’t the only one. Thanks to all their training, Zoro and Sanji began to develop the faintest touch of Observation haki. Nothing very apparent yet, but their skills ranked around something of a sixth sense. Zoro began to stand up from where he swilled a bottle of saki. Kitsune made a decision then. He slipped off his own perch and leapt over to where the two men watched the scene playing out below.

 

 

The newcomers were an odd pair: one wore a burgundy trench coat with number five stamped in three places and wore matching shades; his companion had a distinctly citrus theme with a lemon printed dress, lemon shaped bucket hat, matching earrings, and rather yellow and purple striped parasol. One of the cardinal rules Kit had learned traveling the Grand Line was this: the weirder the personality, sense of style, et cetera, the more likely they had the power to back up their eccentricity. These two seem to fit the bill for decent power, at least compared to everyone else on Cactus Island.

 

 

“Wow, you guys are pathetic. One swordsman and one martial artist against, what? 100 of you guys and four named agents?”

 

 

The struggling Mr. 8 flinched the moment parasol lady spoke. He choked out, “Ms. Valentine?! Mr. 5?!”

 

 

The man with the shades replied, “Shouldn’t you be answering us? Did you weaklings pull back or something? Or did all of you really lose out to only two lowly pirates without a single berry to their names? Well?”

 

 

Kyahaha!” giggled the identified Ms. Valentine. “Now, now, Mr. 5, you shouldn’t expect these guys to measure up to us. They’re located at the edge of the Grand Line for a reason, after all.”

 

 

Agarappoi, Mr. 9, and Miss Wednesday struggled up despite their injuries. Kitsune was impressed by their tenacity; Sanji and Zoro had moved beyond the level of East Blue, and they didn’t hold back all that much tonight. The Straw Hat scowled as he read their intention from their mind.

 

 

“Sanji, Zoro, looks like these guys might be a bit more troublesome.”

 

 

Sanji slid his gaze over the crouching man. “Oh?”

 

 

 

“Lower numbers, the more powerful of an opponent, I take it?” posed Zoro. A demon smile widened. “Sounds like they could be fun.”

 

 

A pebble bounced off the swordsman’s head. “Knock it off, Mosshead. Unless we get the go ahead, we should stay the hell out of it.”

 

 

From what it sounded like, one or more of the agents from Whiskey Peak harbored ulterior motives. A royal agent from Alabasta, mused the elder pirate. He thought some of them looked familiar.

 

 

Agarappoi wasted no time firing off his hair artillery before Mr. 5 could reveal the traitorous Baroque Works agent’s identity. It wasn’t going to nearly enough. Ms. Valentine floated above before striking down at Miss Wednesday, breaking her hairclip apart. Behind the lady, Mr. 8 fell.

 

 

“Igaram!” she cried.

 

 

“The names of our spies are none other than Igaram, the head of Alabasta’s royal guards, and Nefertari Vivi, Alabasta’s own crown princess!” announced Mr. 5.

 

 

Mr. 9 was a better man than the first mate initially thought, as the roughed-up agent stood between the princess and the two other agents. But it wasn’t nearly enough.

 

 

“Nose Fancy Cannon!” *Boom*!

 

 

Sanji, Zoro, and Kitsune both made faces.

 

 

“Man, what a dangerous bogey,” remarked Zoro.

 

 

Kitsune deadpanned, “No kidding? We might want to relocate if we don’t want to get caught up in this. Plus, someone should check on Usopp.”

 

 

The three pirates dropped down to the streets below to make their way back to the docks. Someone latched to Zoro’s foot. Igaram.

 

 

“Please, Mr. Swordsman, Mr. Chef! You all demonstrated remarkable feats of strength tonight. I know you of all people here can do what needs to be done! Please listen to my unworthy request!”

 

 

“Hey! Quit hanging onto me! Why should I help you, even if you are groveling?” retorted Zoro as he shook his captive foot.

 

 

“Please! I cannot hope to combat two ability users on my own! Please protect the princess in my stead! I beg of you!”

 

 

Zoro shook his leg more vigorously. The sudden rapid and fading tapping told the Zoan before he raised turned his head of the chef’s disappearance.

 

 

“I’ll save you my beautiful, fair princess!”

 

 

“You damn Love Cook! Get back here!”

 

 

Kitsune rolled his eyes then turned to the injured man. “Just because Sanji left, doesn’t guarantee her safety beyond this island.”

 

 

 “If you can escort the princess back to the security of her kingdom, Alabasta to the far east, I can swear to you a great reward!” cried Igaram in desperation. “Please kind sirs, find it in your cold hearts to save her!”

 

 

“Great reward, you say?” chirped a greedy voice from above. Nami casually sat on one of the rooftops, a wide smirk and wink greeting her crewmates below. “Well, well, deal! How about we discuss terms, then? Say, starting a billion berries?”

 

 

- Nefertari Vivi –

 

 

Vivi held on tightly to her steed’s feathers. Carue was fast, one of the fastest in the kingdom, but those guys were monsters.

 

 

“There she is, kyahahaha!

 

 

“Faster Carue, faster!” urged Vivi. Someone came up the side of the road.

 

 

“Ms. Monday?!”

 

 

The tall, muscular Baroques Works agent held up a plank of wood and gestured for the two to pass.

 

 

“Go on, Miss Wednesday. Beyond here, the docks should have a boat for you to board and escape the wrath of our bosses.”

 

 

“But…”

 

 

Ms. Monday shook her head. “I’ll take of these guys for as long as I can. Those Straw Hats’ victory means everyone here would be punished anyways for failing in our mission,” dryly remarked the strongwoman, “so if I have to fall, then I rather go protecting a friend…! Now, GO!”

 

 

An explosion went off behind them. The rogue princess stifled her tears.

 

 

 

“Don’t think any of you will escape Baroque Works! You guys are nothing but a stain on the name of this organization! Nose Fancy Cannon!”

 

 

Before it could hit, someone rushed in between them and kicked out, sending the booger off to the side before it exploded.

 

 

“Mr. Chef?” gasped Vivi. The black coated man composed himself and grinned solemnly.

 

 

“I could not help but answer a lady’s cries of distress.” The pirate turned to glare at Mr. 5. “What kind of scum attacks a princess in such an undignified manner?”

 

 

“Dignity, pirate?” sneered the agent.

 

 

The pirate chef lifted his leg in warning. “A true man doesn’t harm a lady. If you want the princess, you’ll have to go through me.”

 

 

“And good thing.” The short young man with the beret from earlier suddenly appeared next to the chef without warning. The latter nearly fell over in surprise.

 

 

“Gees, Kit? A little warning?” Kit laughed.

 

 

“Zoro should be here shortly. Thanks for taking one for the team, it would have been mortifying to cut a booger in half. Organic bomb or not, that’s just nasty.”

 

 

Sanji raised a brow. “Oh? So why are you guys intervening? I don’t ever get your motives half the time, but Mosshead didn’t look all too interested in helping.”

 

 

“That witch blackmailed us into it,” muttered aforementioned Mosshead as he ran up to them.

 

 

Vivi felt completely out of the loop now…

 

 

“Nose Fancy Cannon!”

 

 

*BOOM*!

 

 

Kit stood with a loose stance at the site of the explosion, not even slightly ruffled from the attack. Kitsune tilted his head with a frown.

 

 

“We were discussing something. How rude of you to interrupt.”

 

 

The silver blue irises held an unnatural glow. Carue unconsciously backed off. Who are these guys?

 

 

- Baroque Agents –

 

 

What are these guys? once more questioned the Kilo-Kilo fruit eater. She had dropped down with her 10,000 Kilo Press, only to suddenly be bounced back. She fell on her rump in a totally undignified manner. Yet another thin, unassuming man had interfered in their mission!

 

 

The explosions have tapered off for a while now. Ms. Valentine may have a lot of confidence in her partner’s ability, but something about the bereted pirate unsettled her.

 

 

“Hey Zoro! Didn’t you guys say not to get in your way?” asked that damned Straw Hat.

 

 

The swordsman grunted, “Change of plans. We’re rescuing the princess over there.”

 

 

Luffy cocked his head. “Oooohh, I think Kit mentioned something about that.”

 

 

 

“Then why did you ask?!”

 

 

Ms. Valentine gritted her teeth in annoyance. “Why you…take me seriously here!”

 

 

She dropped down on them, but the swordsman only swatted her weight aside like a fly. She pulled herself from the rubble, terror making its way across her face. This guy was only playing with her! To think, a man without a bounty and this level of strength… And the one with a bounty was fighting alongside another one against Mr. 5!

 

 

She didn’t even have time to register the swordsman’s movement. All she felt was a slash, and darkness.

 

 

- Nefertari Vivi –

 

 

These pirates… Princess Vivi had no words for them. They hardly broke a sweat fighting the two agents. They really didn’t have a chance from the start. Ms. Valentine laid slumped amidst the rubble, and Mr. 5 looked no better.

 

 

“Not a bad job, boys!”

 

 

An orangette walked up to the other pirates with a cheery smile. The smile turned to her.

 

 

“They sure did a good job protect you, huh? Just in accordance to the deal.”

 

 

…What?! “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

 

The orangette nodded and replied, “Of course you don’t. Let me explain. How would you like to form a contract with me?”

 

 

- Nami –

 

 

The navigator frowned as the princess explained about her war-torn country’s situation. A civil war had plunged her kingdom into poverty, and Baroque stood in the shadows, silently maneuvering it into further bloodshed.

 

 

“So, who’s the mysterious boss guy who’s messing with your home?”

 

 

“Luffy!” warned Nami with a telltale headache beginning to make itself known, “we don’t want anything to do with shadowy villains and civil wars! This Mr. 0 guy must be pretty dangerous if he plans to take over an entire country.”

 

 

Vivi nodded. “Yes. Make no mistake, you guys might be strong, but the Royal Warlord Crocodile is a harsh and unforgiving man to get on the bad side of.”

 

 

….

 

 

“You said his name aloud…” stated Kitsune with a face palm. “Guess we’re involved now.”

 

 

Something rustled above them. An oddly dressed vulture and otter exchanged glances, and flew off.

 

 

 

 

“What the HELL?! Why were there an otter and a vulture just now?!” snarled Nami as she shook the loose lips back and forth.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

The first mate shook his head at the turn of events.

 

 

“Nami! You shouldn’t get so upset!” appeased to Sanji to no avail. Nami tried to stomp off, but the otter returned, sketched several good likings of them, and took off on the vulture again.

 

 

I’ll never hear the end of this until after we deal with Crocodile. Mama Pineapple won’t be pleased with us when he finds out, noted Kitsune with a sigh. He eyed the two animals in the sky, reared an arm back and *Fwoosh*. The fireball hit dead-on. The two Unluckies fell back to the earth. Kitsune eyed the two speculatively.

 

 

“Hmm, would fried vulture and otter taste good, Sanji?” Even unconscious, the two animals flinched in fear.

 

 

“Why not?” humored the sea cook. Kitsune grinned and bent down. In a moment, all the sketches burned to ash.

 

 

“Good going, Kit!” complimented Nami a bit too enthusiastically.

 

 

‘Not like I can erase our names from their minds. I don’t particularly care to turn two semi-sentient beings into food, after all. And my hypnosis only works until I transform back into some other form than my black fox. Then the spell breaks completely. Besides, any nearby agents we didn’t get can always get the word out on just our crew’s Jolly Roger.’

 

 

Nami’s shoulders slump in resignation.

 

 

“Like it or not, we’re involved. I’m pretty certain those two aren’t the only ones with sketches. I sensed several other presences scurry off this island. Mr. Crocodile will have the name of our crew at the very least.”

 

 

“So we’re on Baroque Works’ hit list either way.”

 

 

Nami slumped even more if possible.

 

 

“Fear not!” exclaimed the unfamiliarly dressed Igaram. He looked like a caricature of Vivi in the farthest stretch of the word. “I have a plan for how you can leave this island~ Although, we should make haste. I’m not sure if you are all aware, but Crocodile does not have a bounty as of now because of his status as a Royal Warlord, but in his heyday as a pirate, he accumulated one of 80 million berries.”

 

 

“We would have to fight him sooner or later. Guess sooner is better, shishishishi!”

 

 

“Stop laughing!” shrieked Nami. “I don’t see how this is in anyway funny! He had a bounty FOUR TIMES Arlong’s!”

 

 

“If you combine Luffy and mine, ours if higher.”

 

 

“Don’t be so nonchalant!”

 

 

Igaram took the eternal log pose to Alabasta and sailed off with several dummies. The pirates watched silently until…

 

 

*BOOM! FWOOSH!*

 

 

The ship became embroiled in flames.

 

 

“Look like we had pursuers sooner than we thought,” hissed Kitsune, eyes slitted dangerously.

 

 

“Everyone, back to the Merry!

 

 

 

Vivi stood stock-still in the face of the distant conflagration.

 

 

“Come on! We have to hurry if we want to honor Igaram’s last wishes!”

 

 

Kitsune gravely nodded. “I can still sense his life force. I think he will be fine, but we have to leave. We’ll only bring greater trouble onto him otherwise.”

 

 

 Coast of Cactus Island

 

 

All the Straw Hats made it back to the Going Merry in one piece. Usopp didn’t look very well after Sanji and Kitsune explained their situation. The clinging fog slowly dispersed as morning came.

 

 

*Tap, tap*

 

 

“You might want to take care. There are many hidden rocks near these shores.”

 

 

The Straw Hats with the exception of Kitsune and Luffy started.

 

 

“My, my, Nico Robin. We meet again.”

 

 

“Ohoho, ‘Grinning Fox’ Sol D. Kitsune, if I’m not mistaken. Still hopping ships?”

 

 

Kit gave her a wicked grin. “Hardly. This is my crew’s ship, after all.”

 

 

“Be careful,” warned Vivi, “she’s Miss All-Sunday, partner to Mr. 0 himself.”

 

 

“Oh?” hummed Kitsune as he disappeared and reappeared just above the Devil Child. “A member of Baroque Works? How unusual. And, so high in the chain of command!”

 

 

Nico Robin laughed. “So, you’re helping the little birdie who trailed me not so long ago.”

 

 

Vivi gritted out, “It’s as I thought. You knew Igaram and I were following you in hopes of finding out Mr. 0’s identity.”

 

 

“How could I not? You looked so pitiful back then. The princess of a broken kingdom so desperately fighting to save her people that she risked her own life to find out the truth. Do you know how funny it is? For one princess to try and take on an entire organization for her kingdom…”

 

 

*Click. Shing. Twing.*

 

 

Sanji had a pistol aimed straight at Nico Robin, Usopp had a projectile set to explode, and the other three subordinate pirates had their weapons bared. Fire began to dance around Miss All-Sunday after she threw Usopp and Sanji off onto the main deck.

 

 

“Careful now. Your Flower-Flower fruit won’t do you any good against fire. You feel it when they burn, do you not?”

 

 

Nico Robin didn’t stay for long. She gave them the spiel about “Little Garden”, but Luffy didn’t budge an inch from his position, especially after she tried to steal his straw hat. He crushed the eternal log pose without hesitation.

 

 

“No one determines where I sail,” was all he said in explanation. Nami didn’t take it very well, but that was that.

 

 

Grand Line Waters

 

 

Kitsune sprawled in one of the citrus trees. The entire night spent running around instead of sleeping made him rather groggy.

 

 

“Kit, you have a minute?”

 

 

The first mate tipped his beret back and answered, “Sure?”

 

 

The whole crew settled under the orange trees. “What do you know of Miss All-Sunday?” bluntly started Sanji. “You two obviously know each other. You called her Nico Robin.”

 

 

Yawning, Kitsune recollected his thoughts, memories flitting into his conscious. “Mmmm, been quite a few years since I met her. Over three years, to be precise. The ‘Devil Child’ Nico Robin. The World Government has her a bounty of 79 million berries for supposedly sinking six Marine ships. She had traveled as a wanted woman for many years, constantly moving and never staying in a single place for long before tragedy befalls it. A cursed lady.”

 

 

“’Supposedly’?” questioned Sanji.

 

 

Kitsune smiled. “Very astute as always. There’s more to the story, but that’s irrelevant right now. As you all know, I used to hop ships in order to travel by myself on the Grand Line. I met her on one of my sojourns in the Grand Line. She could have ratted me out as a stowaway, but she just smiled and left me alone until we reached port. I helped her out a bit in return.”

 

 

“S-she’s scary! She knocked us off without touching us!”

 

 

“The Flower-Flower fruit. It allows the user to bloom parts of their body parts a certain distance away. Very startling when you don’t know the origin of an attack. But like all devil fruits, it has its own set of weaknesses aside from the standard water and sea prism stone. Her body parts transmit pain back to the user. Logias and devil fruits with corrosive long range abilities would be troublesome for her.”

 

 

“Hence the threat with fire.”

 

 

Kitsune stretched before giving the affirmative. “I have no doubt we’ll face opponents of the same level of power. From here on out, we had better take training seriously. Paramecia, Zoan, expert combatants, they’ll most likely have an edge with abilities like hers. Sir Crocodile himself is a Logia. Everyone better be prepared to fall over almost dead until a day or two from the next island!”

 

 

This was met with a mix of groans (Nami), whimpers (Usopp), and cocky grins (everyone else but the innocent Vivi), but the spirit fox wasn’t at all discouraged. He had every confidence in his crew’s power, skill, and sheer stubbornness to prevail against oversized and egotistical bullies like Crocodile.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

/Flashbacks or summaries/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

 

Little Garden

 

 

- Nami -

 

 

“Are we there yet?” asked the muffled voice Usopp from his place flat on the deck.

 

 

The navigator didn’t feel too much better. Kit wasn’t kidding about training. The fox Zoan had them dodging freaking fireballs for the past few days. While they didn’t scorch clothes (courtesy of the Zoan’s control), they did smack them into the deck on more than a few occasions. Princess Vivi looked overwhelm and a little bit guilty. Probably because Kit’s not making her participate in these insane “exercises,” grumbled the disgruntled voice in the back of her mind.

 

 

Kit seemed to take sadistic delight in provoking her in particular. Any time she managed to dodge one of those flaming orbs, the kitsune would suddenly appear at her shoulder and trip her up. Frustrated, Nami swung her fist at the Zoan only for him to catch it and then disappear off again. He did this all the time with Zoro and Sanji, but he usually just threw more fireballs at Usopp when he dodged successfully. Nami was seriously considering whether she would rather deal with the flames or the fire fox himself.

 

 

And don’t get her started on when that giant dolphin showed up. Luffy thought it was a fish and tried to catch it!

 

 

Three days from the next island, Kitsune did as he promised and let them all take a break. But she and Usopp still felt dead tired and aching from phantom bruises. Kit’s healing ability apparently could only temporarily relieve exhaustion. A few hours later, and the weakest crewmembers felt like someone dumped a pile of rocks on them.

 

 

“Second island, dead ahead!” called the devil himself from the crow’s nest.

 

 

Well, a place called Little Garden can’t be that bad, prayed Nami.

 

 

“K-k-ki-kit?!” stuttered Usopp. Kit reappeared right next to the sniper, causing him to jump and nearly fall over himself.

 

 

“D-don’t do that, Kit!” gasped Usopp.

 

 

“Didn’t you call me down?”

 

 

Usopp took another deep breath. “Yeah…do you know if this island has any monsters on it?”

 

 

“Worried about Miss All-Sunday’s warning?” asked the fox Zoan gently.

 

 

“Perhaps we should be careful,” cautioned Princess Vivi. “While Miss All-Sunday is our enemy, I don’t think she was lying when she said the next island is dangerous.”

 

 

The Zoan frowned. “I can’t really say much about it myself. I never went one route through the Grand Line. As I mentioned before, I used to hop ships to get around these seas. A lot of times they were cargo ships with eternal log poses. This particular stretch of sea isn’t the most familiar bit, either. I think I traveled mostly on some of the other routes. Although, Little Garden… hmm, I’ll have to think on it some more. Either way, we’re almost there.”

 

 

Nami’s eyes widened as the mountainous, wild island dominated the horizon. Soon, their ship entered one of several rivers coursing through the land.

 

 

Little Garden,” she murmured. “Who would call this little?”

 

 

“Thick jungle as far as the eye can see, and a heavy humid atmosphere – seems like a wild place,” commented Roronoa with a feral smile. Nami scowled at the crazy swordsman. Great. Knowing him, he would try convincing their maniac first mate to fight it out with him again. And there goes the jungle.

 

 

“Awesome!” laughed their idiot captain.

 

 

*SCREEE!*

 

 

“What was that?!” yelped Nami. Something blue and feathered with claws swooped high in the sky before disappearing back into the dark canopy.

 

 

*Grrr…rrr…*

 

 

On the far shore, a huge tiger collapsed in a thick pool of blood.

 

 

“A…tiger…?!” wheezed Usopp.

 

 

Kitsune, the demon, just grinned wider. “Oi, Luffy!”

 

 

“Yeah, Kit?”

 

 

“Think they have bigger tigers?”

 

 

“Bigger!?” screeched Nami. “Why would you want bigger?”

 

 

“Because,” explained Kit with a straight face. “It would be interesting to see if any of them could measure up to the Tiger Lord.”

 

 

“Tiger Lord?” inquired Sanji.

 

 

“Tiger Lord!?” squeaked Usopp with dread, imagination running wild.

 

 

“Tiger Lord. Biggest darn cat on our home island back in East Blue. We called it home even if we weren’t raised there entirely. Dawn Island is a bit of an anomaly, to be honest. Oversized and monstrous animals fit for Paradise. A bit bigger than that kitty there, but he made a good sparring partner for my brothers and me. His kin made good skins to sell, too.”

 

 

“No wonder you and Luffy are so monstrous,” muttered Usopp. “Fighting monstrous animals, growing up with the crew of an emperor… so scary!”

 

 

“No way are we landing on this island!” asserted Nami.

 

 

“Sanji, pack lots of pirate lunchboxes!” ordered Luffy. “I smell a great adventure just waiting for us here!”

 

 

“Eh, why not?” Nami groaned as their first mate agreed with the lunatic.

 

 

“Wait a minute! What are you guys talking about? Adventure? No, no, no!”

 

 

“May I accompany you?” asked Princess Vivi.

 

 

It was official. I’m surrounded by weird people. “Are you guys insane?”

 

 

“Don’t worry, Nami,” assured Vivi. “I’ll have Carue at my side.”

 

 

 

“Quack?!”

 

 

“Sounds fun,” commented Zoro. “I think I’ll go off on a walk. Care for a spar, Kitsune?”

 

 

“Wait, if you guys are going on land, why don’t you keep an eye out for some animals that look decently edible. Luffy keeps raiding the pantries,” called out Sanji.

 

 

“Sure,” agreed the swordsman backhandedly. “I’ll go catch some chow you don’t have the spine or talent to collect yourself.”

 

 

“What did you say, Mosshead?!” snapped the irate cook.

 

 

After a minute of back and forth between the two idiots, the first mate finally had enough.

 

 

“Both of you, SHUT IT! If you want to hunt, then hunt. Make a contest out of it, if you want, but just bring back enough to fill the storage. I lined some of the boxes down there with ever-cold ice crystals I found at this one winter island, so aim to take down some big game. Just take care. Remember, the whole of Baroques Works is after us, so don’t let down your guard. To make this interesting, try and take down your prey by only using haki. No fancy sword moves or footwork. Think you can manage?”

 

 

Sanji scoffed, “Do you think this green-headed moron has the patience?”

 

 

“What did you say?”

 

 

Nami scooted a bit away as the fox Zoan’s eyes flared yellow. Both boys suddenly found themselves flung into opposite sides of the river bank.

 

 

“GO,” scolded the Zoan, “and I’ll keep watch with Usopp and Nami here on the Merry. Make sure to take care of yourselves out here. Jungles are notoriously infested with all sorts of bacteria and parasites, so try not to bleed too much when we don’t have a ship’s doctor on board.”

 

 

“Fine!” harrumphed the two grown men.

 

 

Nami and Usopp exchanged tear-filled glances. Why was everyone leaving? At least they had Kit, but the Zoan was…. She prayed their first mate didn’t have any plans. The devil fruit user turned to the two.

 

 

“Honestly,” he muttered, obviously a bit piqued with dealing with those pair of kids. “Don’t you worry. Luffy and I will keep an eye out for the ridiculously large animals on this island. Our family left us on a island with even large animals than on Dawn Island for an entire year and a half. There’s nothing too wild we can’t handle.”

 

 

 

Nami prayed the kitsune had not jinxed them all.

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

Luffy whistled happily as the two plus one walked along a riverbank. Something gleamed from the river. With a noise of interest, Luffy carefully launch a rubber net hand into the cool stream. The water weakened him, but he held his stance and reeled in his arm.

 

 

“Wow, look at this Vivi!”

 

 

The blue-haired woman looked wide-eyed at his awesome catch.

 

 

“What do you think of my snail-squid?”

 

 

“Actually, Luffy, this looks like an ammonite…”

 

 

“Ammy-knight?”

 

 

“Ammonite,” asserted Vivi firmly. “But these are an extinct species of sea life!”

 

 

* Crack! Crunch! THUMP! *

 

 

They turned around. A long snake-like neck towered over the surrounding trees.

 

 

“Is that a land-version of a seaking?”

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

Kitsune eyed the Giant carefully while keeping his stance loose and carefree. Nami and Usopp stood paralyzed with fair.

 

 

“I said, do you have any rum?” rumbled the blond giant.

 

 

“I-I-I-…” fumbled Usopp.

 

 

Calm down, calm down. It’s just a giant.

 

 

Then said giant suddenly crouched down, placing his large head directly facing the two cowardly pirates at the bow.

 

 

 

 

“GYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”

 

 

“NUAAHHHHHH!” shrieked the giant. Some sort of large...dinosaur had taken a bite out of his posterior. With a mighty swing, his axe cleaved its head right off.

 

 

“AAAAAAAhhhhh!!!”

 

 

The giant laughed boisterously over his victory, rumbling out, “I AM ELBAF’S STRONGEST WARRIOR, BROGY! GABABABABA!”

 

 

“Ooooh,” said Kitsune. “We must be on one of those islands.”

 

 

Those islands?” squeaked Nami

 

 

“Yep. Like your book said, the inhabitants would regard this gigantic jungle as a “little garden.” Some islands on the Grand Line hold really exotic wildlife. Here, time had stood still, preserving life long dead in every other part of the world. Isn’t it cool?”

 

 

 

“No!” yelped both pirates.

 

 

“Now little ones,” rumbled the giant as he turned back to them, “don’t you think this is good meat? Why don’t I welcome you as my guests?”

 

 

* Thump. Thump. *

 

 

“Err, don’t mind them. I think all this excitement from meeting such a great pirate veteran as yourself is a bit much for them,” apologized Kit with sweat drops running off his brow, beret unconsciously being pulled forward to hide his face.

 

 

- Usopp –

 

 

The sniper scooted a bit closer to Kit on the log. He couldn’t believe it. They were sharing a meal with a giant. And eating a freaking dinosaur the guy had just casually lopped the head off of! They declined, but Kit enthusiastically sat down to eat…how was Kit eating faster than a giant? The fox Zoan had already chowed down over half their piece of dinosaur!

 

 

“S-so Mr. Brogy...”

 

 

“Hmm?” mumbled the giant around a bite of the dinosaur ham.

 

 

“You wouldn’t happen to know when the log pose will finish recording this island’s magnetic pole?”

 

 

“One full year.”

 

 

Usopp wanted to cry again.

 

 

- One story later on Elbalf giant laws –

 

 

* KABOOM! *

 

 

Brogy eyed the volcano with a gleam in his huge eyes.

 

 

“Oh? Time again to settle our dispute,” explained Brogy as he rose.

 

 

“I see. You decided to dictate the start of your duels these past 100 years by a volcanic eruption?” murmured Kit from atop the bone of his meal.

 

 

“Yep. Neither Dorry nor I remember why or when, but we decided on using the middle volcano as the signal for our battles.”

 

 

Kit nodded his head solemnly. “Honor is something few pirates have these days,” murmured the Zoan as the giant steadily walked off into the deeper part of the jungle. Soon, great clangs and crashes from the battle sounded.

 

 

“To think those guys have been fighting for 100 years…”

 

 

“They’re- their every blow is aimed for a vital spot! They’re trying to kill one another with a single decisive attack!” gasped Usopp.

 

 

/ “Reason? We forgot the reason long ago!” /

 

 

“Come on, Usopp, Kit! We can escape now!”

 

 

“We could have escaped at any time,” reminded the fox Zoan.

 

 

“No…”

 

 

“Pardon?!”

 

 

Usopp crossed his arms. “No. This is a true man’s fight! Metaphorically, a flag has been raised in their hearts. They may not remember why or how, but these flags mean everything to them. They don’t want these flags, these emblems of themselves, to break! So, they’ll fight with everything they got with no regrets. For these flags, they’ll give up their very lives. And for 100 years! This had evolved to become a matter of pride between two great warriors of the sea!”

 

 

“Good point, Usopp,” said the Zoan. Yellow smoke briefly cocooned his body until a lanky yellow seven-tailed fox stood with its head held high.

 

 

‘Climb on, Usopp, Nami. I bet we can watch the better from atop the treetops.’

 

 

“You’re both insane,” whined Nami, but she dutifully climbed behind the star-struck pirate. Usopp didn’t pay any mind, his eyes locked on the battle. The fox grinned as it nimbly jumped up, hopping from tree to tree until it found a good vantage point.

 

 

Both weapons lunged forth, only to be lost as each opponent dodged. But the giants were not deterred. They launched their shields against the other.

 

 

“Amazing,” gaped the sniper. “You know, I think I would like to see their home island one day. To think, a whole island full of such brave warriors of the sea.”

 

 

‘Elbalf is quite a sight,’ agreed Kitsune. ‘Giants make excellent storytellers and warriors. Very bullheaded but their determination and way of honor is what makes the warriors of Elbalf so fearsome.’

 

 

The two finally collapsed.

 

 

Brogi bellowed, “73,466 battles…”

 

 

“And 73,466 ties,” joined in Dorry with a peal of deep well-meaning laughter.

Chapter Text

“Speech”

‘Telepathy’

Thoughts, emphasis, proper names of non-persons, or significant temporal/spatial scene changes

~Decided to use these to signal hypnotic commands since they use a sing-song kind of voice~ (will edit later)

/Flashbacks, summaries, haki-based precognition/

*sounds and actions*

Oratory or newspaper stories/information

 

 

Little Garden

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

Giants are awesome fighters! Luffy never visited Elbalf, but the teen thought it would a great place to visit if it had people like Dorry and Brogy. The two giants didn’t give the other an inch.

 

 

Dorry returned once he and the other giant tied again.

 

 

“Little ones, would you happen to know of Brogy’s guests? He has three people sharing a meal with him: a long-nosed fellow, a woman, and a short young man wearing a beret.”

 

 

“Yep!” answered Luffy with a wide smile. “They’re my crewmates, Usopp, Nami, and Kit. Although, I thought Usopp and Nami didn’t want to go on an adventure? And Kit said he was going to guard the ship. Hmm… I guess they must have changed their minds then!” said Luffy with utter conviction in his statement.

 

 

“Good people, these small humans. I guess I must extend my thanks to the two of you as well for the drink,” acknowledged Dorry with a deep rumbled laugh.

 

 

“I hate to interrupt, but I must have something clarified; the log pose will not set for an entire year, correct?” asked Princess Vivi.

 

 

“Yes, that would account for a vast majority of the skeletons strewn about the island. Most of you little folk die before the log sets for whatever reason; starvation, heat exhaustion, illness, dinosaur attacks, and even a few have tried to take on us giants. Either way, an entire year spent on this island seems too much for such small folk as yourselves.”

 

 

“Oh no!” despaired Princess Vivi. “Even if we do survive an entire year, what will happen to my people in the meantime?”

 

 

“An entire year? Ehh, I don’t have that much time to spend for just one island. I would rather continue our adventure through the Grand Line. Mr. Giant, isn’t there another option?” whined Luffy

 

 

“Hmm,” rumbled the warrior. “The only other way around that is an eternal log pose. I happen to have one, but it only leads to my home island of Elbalf. One could say Brogy and I are fighting over it. Do you plan on stealing it, little ones?”

 

 

Luffy shrugged. “Nah, we’re going to Alabasta, not Elbalf. We need a way to reach the next island, so following a course to your home wouldn’t help us at all. Besides, it wouldn’t be fun to sail in some direction without seeing other islands.”

 

 

“Yes,” agreed Vivi dishearteningly. “We can’t leave our course, or else this whole journey and my people’s sacrifices would be for nothing.”

 

 

GEGYAGYAGYAGYA! Aren’t you two something? Well, I guess you could always leave your path to fate and choose a direction. If you’re lucky, it might just work!”

 

 

Luffy began to laugh with the giant.

 

 

‘You better not be considering it, Luffy!’ chided the fox Zoan.

 

 

But, whyyyy?

 

 

‘Because Nami would really try to dunk you into the sea. We have enough trouble navigating without adding the “lost at sea” bit, dear brother.’

 

 

But-

 

 

*BOOOOOOOM!!!*

 

 

‘What was THAT?’

 

 

Smoke poured out from Dorry’s mouth, and blood streamed forth.

 

 

“MR. DORRY!” “MR. GIANT”

 

 

- KASL –

 

 

The first mate leapt to his feet as soon as his ears picked up the explosion in the distance – the same one also echoing through his mind link with Luffy.

 

 

“Kit?!” squeaked out Usopp. It was really eerie to have the fox Zoan speaking to him while holding another conversation in his head. He was there but not there. Those silver-blue eyes of Kit’s turned oddly hazy when he did it, kind of like when someone was going through the motion of listening (but they were really asleep or daydreaming).

 

 

“Eh, I don’t think that was in any way good. Or painless,” muttered Kit.

 

 

The Zoan began to pace back-and-forth. Suddenly, he dashed over to where Brogy left another barrel of rum. He opened up the barreled, sniffed, then suddenly set it afire!

 

 

“Are you nuts?!” screamed Nami.

 

 

“Whoa! What are you doing little guy?” asked their giant host.

 

 

Kit must have an explanation, reasoned Nami, more to reassure herself than actual belief. He was a monster raised alongside Luffy, after all, and a hundred times worse than their captain in terms of unfathomableness.

 

 

Kit glared at the smoldering remnants of the keg, his foxfire quick to leave nothing but a black smudge in the grass.

 

 

“Rigged,” he said flatly.

 

 

“What?” rumbled Brogy, brow furrowed in misunderstanding.

 

 

“Rigged. Sometime between when the three of us left and our return here, someone got to the remaining rum supply. Explosives set to go off once expose to stomach acid, I would hazard to guess if the explosion came from Dorry’s side of the island. It seems we have company. Dangerous company.”

 

 

“Someone got to Dorry?” rumbled the giant, temper mounting to full-blown rage. To think anyone would be so low down as to-!

 

 

“I am very sorry, Brogy, sir,” apologized Kitsune, beret swept off as he bowed slightly from the waist, “for your old foe, rival, and friend would not have suffered if we had not paid more attention. It seems our enemies chose to take another direction in their silencing of my crew.”

 

 

“Kid, people are responsible for your own actions. You didn’t put bombs in the rum. No, some other rat did. And when I get my hands on him I’ll-!”

 

 

A familiar blast interrupted the giant’s angry tirade.

 

 

“It’s time for another battle…” declared the giant quietly (for a giant). The normally jovial man frowned deeply.

 

 

But if Dorry drank the rum, he would be pretty badly hurt on top of today’s injuries!

 

 

“But it is the will of Elbalf,” intoned Brogy despite the deep disquiet his words left. “We promised to fight to the death. Besides, I need to find out what happened from him. Then, we need to find those rats of yours.”

 

 

“Mr. Brogy? May I make a suggestion?”

 

 

- Usopp –

 

 

Why did he want to follow these crazy guys again? Because you wanted to become a great warrior of the sea like your dad replied his traitorous conscience. Kit had volunteered to offer medical aid, but only after they had smoked out their enemies. Considering the two giants were fairly infamous pirates back in the day, the Baroque Works’ agents would surely try and collect the bounties on their head if given the opportunity. Brogy and Dorry were okayed to fight, but the Zoan cautioned the giant to draw out the battle so that they may either find the rats themselves or lure them out. In the meantime, Kit left to locate their friends.

 

 

The first mate told the two to stay out of trouble and stick together.

 

 

I guess we kind of failed at both commands. A huge killer dinosaur had charged out of the brush just shortly after the giant and Kitsune departed. Usopp had a ton of experience fleeing for his life, so in no time he outran Nami in the jungle.

 

 

And now this.

 

 

“KYAAAAAAHHHHHH!”

 

 

A scream. From Nami. Whom he kind of left behind running for his life.

 

 

“Nami? Nami! Nami! Please, don’t be playing games with me!”

 

 

 

 

It was official, Kit’s going to definitely kill me for letting our chief navigator get eaten by dinosaurs.

 

 

“HEEEEEELLLLLLLLPPPPP! KIIIIITTTTTT! LUFFYYYYYYYYY!”

 

 

“Usopp?”

 

 

Startled, the sniper tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face. The blood dripping down his face didn’t deter him or his hysterics.

 

 

“Luffy! Nami was just with me when she suddenly disappeared. I think she got eaten by a dinosaur!”

 

 

“Really?!” gasped Luffy from where a huge skeleton pinned his rubbery body down

 

 

“Wait- Why are you under there? Never mind, how do we get you out of there? Aargh! I just left her behind to die! My very own crewmate!”

 

 

“Calm down, Usopp. Did you actually go back and check to see if she was eaten? You did say she disappeared before then,” reasoned Princess Vivi.

 

 

Usopp cried, “What?! How could I go back there? The dinosaur chasing us had rows and rows of spiky teeth and several friends trailing him. I was way too scared to even consider it. Knowing this crazy island, some other beast could have eaten her!”

 

 

“Focus Usopp!” yelled Princess Vivi, slapping some sense back into the panicked sniper. Usopp sniffed, hand to his redden cheek, but kept his head down in shame.

 

 

“Now, think back. We know Baroques Works’ agents should have tailed us by now. They probably have targeted only Nami because the Unluckies didn’t catch sight of you, and you kept out of sight from their agents for the most part.”

 

 

“Oh, great to know,” sighed a suddenly exhausted Usopp. Honestly, this whole situation was mad, but the two devil fruit users must have desensitized him a bit to outrageous and dangerous situations. But just a bit. “Kit mentioned the possibility. Did a barrel of rum explode recently?”

 

 

“Uh huh. I guess I forgot about talking to Kit when it went off in Dorry’s stomach.”

 

 

“It went off in his stomach and he didn’t die?!” Giant are waaayyy tougher than he thought. “So it’s true! Dorry went off to fight despite his injuries. This fight has lasted for over 100 years! They’ve fought with every ounce of strength and pride. We can’t let their fight end this way on the terms of some sadistic bounty hunters!”

 

 

It deepened the well of respect the sniper held toward the straw-hatted pirate, to know his captain honored the battle between the giants nearly as much as he did. Whoever interfered would pay!

 

 

“Alright, let’s go!”

 

 

“Is that really necessary, brats?”

 

 

Usopp stiffened as a man in a red coat with fives in several places and a woman in citrus-themed attire stepped out from the jungle. The man hefted up something large and threw it down before them.

 

 

“CARUE!” cried Princess Vivi.

 

 

“What a useless thing. You can have him back,” smirked the man. The woman giggled. Usopp ground his teeth.

 

 

“He was-! How could you do? Carue is innocent! He had nothing to do with this!”

 

 

“Exactly. The useless bird wasn’t even a speck in the light of our mission. Thing is, Straw Hat there is a problem. He beat back Ms. Valentine’s attacks with ease. And the other brat didn’t even flinch against my most powerful attacks. So, to get to the princess, we had to lure you away using the duck.”

 

 

“Unfortunately, your useless companion wouldn’t say a peep,” giggled the woman. “No matter how much we roughed him up, your dumb pet kept his big beak shut.”

 

 

“But Straw Hat is pinned down, the fire blade user is nowhere in sight, and you only have this weakling here.”

 

 

“Carue…” The princess knelt down by her companion’s side.

 

 

“So, these are the agents from Baroque Works? You, guy in a red trench coat! Kit said you had the power to explode things! Did you put a bomb in the rum barrels?!”

 

 

The man and woman sneered. “Of course, we did. But why should it matter to a no-name kid? And he’s not on the list of people we managed to scrape together after that debacle in Whiskey Peak.”

 

 

“Probably just a crewmate. We should kill him just to be sure he won’t be trouble later.”

 

 

“You people… I won’t forgive you for what you’ve done!” screamed Usopp despite the fear causing his legs to tremble.

 

 

Both of them attacked despite the clear power gap between two normal humans and two devil fruit-using bounty hunters.

 

 

- Brogy –

 

 

Damn it! Those little humans were right. They had rats on the island, a bunch of lowlifes with no respect for the pride of a warrior. The devil fruit user felt no guilt for his part in rendering the giant’s longtime friend and rival into this pitiful state. Dorry looked like a bloody wreak, but Brogy hoped his own injuries from the earlier duel would spare Dorry enough to live and see a proper rematch. And Brogy had done as the clever human had asked and drawn out the fight a bit, conserving a bit of energy for when the criminals would show their faces. Alas! The wax was as hard as rock and wrapped about giant’s body. And more poured out to join the rest.

 

 

“Human… just what are you doing,” grumbled the giant from between clenched teeth.

 

 

“Hmm? I would doubt an over-muscled brute like you would understand, but I’ll try and make it simple. I’m painstakingly preparing my wax to make another great piece of art. Impressive, no? You should be honored to a part of it.”

 

 

“Why you little worm,” growled Brogy. He strained to no avail. No matter how much he heaved, the wax would not break.

 

 

“Give it up, already,” sniggered the wax-man. “My Candle Jacket is like iron once it hardens. Even a giant’s strength cannot prevail against it! Anything caught in my wax is doomed. How unfortunate for you to have let your guard down when drunk from your victory great Brogy the ‘Red Ogre’!”

 

 

Brogy seethed with anger. But he had to be patient, despite the mounting desire to crush the human who clearly knew nothing about the rules dictating the combat between two warriors. The small human had warned the people chasing them were dangerous as a whole. Including the girl who had stayed silent for the most part.

 

 

“You wretch. You despicable specimen of humanity. How could you get between two warriors in an age-old match of pride? And or what? Money?”

 

 

“Fuhahahaha! Honor? What would a pirate know of honor?”

 

 

“So, this was your plan all along, Mr. 3!”

 

 

Two more strange humans entered the clearing with blue-haired woman he never seen before, but Brogy recalled Dorry mentioning one with the same look.

 

 

“Well, looks like Mr. 5 and I are not the only ones to snag our quarry!” hummed the yellow woman. “She and her friends put up quite a fight, but I think we taught those no-good pirates a lesson. The first fight must have been a fluke,” she dismissed.

 

 

Rage. Brogy knew these humans had tricked Dorry and him but having it confirmed fanned his anger to a blaze. The wax-man let loose more wax to trap the blue-haired woman, and then he oozed copious amounts into the shape of some giant pumpkin candle set on top of a tiered tower. The two bounty hunters departed briefly to fetch two more prisoners. One of whom Brogy recognized.

 

 

They trapped the humans into the wax of the lowest tier.

 

 

*Hack! Cough, cough! Wheeze…*

 

 

“What – cough, cough – are you doing to us?” hacked Nami as bits of candle dust fluttered down around them.

 

 

“Something spinning above us!” pointed out the woman, Princess Vivi.

 

 

“Isn’t is something? I doubt plebeians like yourselves would appreciate the wonder of my candle service. The flames of above melt and scatter wax dust onto your heads until eventually you’ll be nothing but more wax figures to add to my collection! Absolutely perfect statues no mere human hands can ever hope to create. Those souls of yours will give my art true beauty!”

 

 

“No way!” screeched Nami. “Brogy, don’t just lay there! He’s going to turn you into a wax statue, too!”

 

 

“Why bother asking this lug? He seemed to be under shock still. You see, he just recently discovered how one-sided his victory was. For 100 years, he had dueled his friend. Yet, he was happy enough to shed some tears! What a fool. Or, perchance you cried for the loss of your friend? Pathetic.”

 

 

“How dare you… How dare someone as weak and utterly spineless as you interfere with our duel. I knew with my first swing that Dorry tried to conceal something from me,” snarled the giant.

 

 

“Oh? But how strange then, when you levy pitiless attack after attack. Hmph, what a liar you are, and a poor one, Mr. Brogy.”

 

 

“You, a dishonorable runt cannot ever understand the depth and breadth of a duel between warriors. Dorry shrugged off his injuries and fought to the fullest! HOW COULD I FIGHT ANY LESS FOR A WARRIOR WHO WOULD HIDE HIS PAIN AND FIGHT ON?!”

 

 

‘Now.’

 

 

The human had once more besmirched the honor of their duel, and the strange voice was all the encouragement the giant needed.

 

 

*Crack!* The bit of power he still had focused to a point for one more heave. And the wax shattered.

 

 

“I WILL SHOW YOU EXACTLY HOW I PLAN TO PAY MY DUE RESPECTS TO MY DEAREST OF FRIENDS!”

 

 

“Mr. 5, Ms. Valentine! Do something,” beseeched Mr. 3, but the two agents stood strangely still. Suddenly, they both collapsed.

 

 

“About time,” yelled the swordsman. Two teens, each bearing a hat, stepped into the clearing.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

“So, you’re the brilliant mastermind behind this?” asked Kitsune. His light tone and smile betrayed none of the anger brewing just below the surface. He surveyed the scene before him.

 

 

“Yo, Zoro, didn’t I send you and our eminent ship on a supply run? ‘Cause wax cake is not winning you any points.”

 

 

“Yeah, yeah,” waved away Zoro. The white substance dotted their clothes, but had not encased any body parts. Yet.

 

 

Mr. 3 swiveled his head between the giant and the fallen devil fruit users. The Wax-Wax user looked quite pale and a bit panicked. “Did you have anything to do with this?”

 

 

“Are you stalling for time? But yes. Those two idiots shouldn’t have messed with my nakama.

 

 

/ Mr. 5 and Ms. Valentine had made short work of the sniper and princess, pummeling both into the dirt. Luffy struggled and struggled, but the huge bone was just too much, even for a monster like him. Mr. 5 smirked darkly as he approached the trapped pirate.

 

 

“I guess this is the end for the two of you. A shame I didn’t get to teach your fire friend a lesson, too.”

 

 

“What lesson would that be?” said Kitsune just behind the Baroque Works officer. Mr. 5 nearly stumbled back when he turned about and saw the small man just standing there. Ms. Valentine was shocked; she didn’t even notice the Zoan sneaking right past her to her partner’s side.

 

 

“Need I really ask the big questions?”

 

 

“Kit!” groaned a barely conscious Usopp. “These guys attacked Carue, us, and rigged the barrels of rum!”

 

 

“I figured,” replied Kit in a deadly soft voice. “You not only threatened my friends and family, but also used underhanded tactics and all for money. Right?”

 

 

Mr. 5 and Ms. Valentine couldn’t stop the shudder instinctively running through body as those strange eyes began to flash. Suddenly, the edges of the irises turned solid black while the silver-blue distorted into fire.

 

 

“~Listen up, Baroque Works agents. You will obey me, ‘kay?~”

 

 

Both agents desperately struggled against the soothing voice, their faces twisting in pain. But it was futile. Slowly, Ms. Valentine and Mr. 5 turned fully toward the Zoan.

 

 

“Okay,” hummed the fox, perky tone still not matching up with the anger flickering in his eyes. “Usopp, Luffy, Vivi, I have an idea for our wayward assassins. ~You two, listen up, because I have quite the list of commands. First of all, you won’t remember any of this until I lift the spell…~” /

 

 

“Why you- How dare you pirates make a fool out of Baroque Works!” sputtered the outraged man with a silly three-shaped hair-do.

 

 

“Says the guy with a candle for hair. I mean, Mr. 5 uses boogers – which is gross – but at least it serves a purpose for his abilities. You? You willingly walk around with a sign proclaiming your 3rd place ranking,” mocked Kitsune. Mr. 3 did not like that one bit.

 

 

“Why- you… CANDLE LOCK!”

 

 

A sudden stream of wax encased Kit’s wrists and Luffy’s feet.

 

 

“Aha! According to the reports from the Millions, you released some sort of flame from your sword. Since someone else already ate the Flame-Flame Fruit, your sword must be culprit. Its name means Playful Fire, so it would follow as such,” gloated the idiot smugly.

 

 

Kit exchanged a long look with his captive crew mates. Without further ado, flames burst along his wrists, melting away the candle wax. Luffy didn’t even bother with that.

 

 

Luffy grinned and happily cheered, “Thanks, weirdo candle guy!”

 

 

Luffy latched himself around the standing giant’s leg.

 

 

“Sorry, Mr. Giant! Need some momitimes!”

 

 

“Mom-MENTUM, Luffy!”

 

 

“Gum-Gum Hammer!” Luffy went hurtling straight for Mr. 3.

 

 

Panicked, the Wax-Wax user splattered more wax in front of him.

 

 

“Candle Wall!”

 

 

*BOOM*

 

 

The momentum generated from swinging sent Luffy’s wax-trapped feet flying straight through the barrier. The wax shattered, but Luffy’s fist got through and smashed into Number 3’s face. The agent went soaring.

 

 

- Luffy –

 

 

That wasn’t too hard. Now, the giant candle cake… Luffy leaped, narrowly avoiding the large fist smashing into the ground next to him.

 

 

“Mr. Giant?”

 

 

‘Damn it! The little girl used some sort of weird-smelling paint. Not sure how, but she managed to make a black mark on Brogy’s forehead. She tried to use it on me, but a combination of will, mental discipline, and odd Zoan brainwaves countered whatever subconscious influence she exerts. Be careful to not g- Watch out!’

 

 

Luffy stiffened. His mind became foggy. Kind of like when Kit hypnotized him but different.

 

 

“Colors Trap, Betrayal Black. Even his best friend and brother will be perceived as his worst enemies,” explained the little girl with braided pigtails as she munched on rice cake.

 

 

Luffy turned to the Zoan user whose sword barely kept the giant’s great axe from clobbering him.

 

 

“Gum-Gum Pistol!”

 

 

The Zoan unfortunately saw the attack and rolled out of the way. Luffy ended up smashing into the axe instead.

 

 

“For the love of D! That’s it! Mental discipline lessons will be MANDATORY once we get off this prehistoric throwback of an island. Luffy, snap out of it! I’m your brother! Quit attacking me!”

 

 

Luffy deadpanned, “No.” All thoughts of brotherhood twisted into a desire to attack, to go against this person’s wishes.

 

 

Kit slipped out of the way of the axe as it crashed down once more only to for a rubber-powered fist to clobber him into the tree line. Luffy didn’t smile, only continued the combined assault.

 

 

- Nami –

 

 

“…how long do you think Kit can last,” finally asked Nami after she could no longer stand the tense silence descending on them the moment Luffy turned on the kitsune.

 

 

“Kit’s a devil of a fighter,” started Zoro.

 

 

“But?”

 

 

The former pirate hunter sighed. “But, Luffy is Kit’s baby brother. And Kit told us he was the eldest. You’ve seen their interactions. Kit may grumble, occasionally punch, and discipline our rubber-brained captain, but he ultimately loves and protects Luffy when the situation calls for it. He won’t use his full force against him. Kit actually is a bit stronger than Luffy, intelligence-wise. In an all-out battle, Kit said Luffy beats him easily in terms of sheer stamina, especially since rubber powers absorb blunt attacks, no energy exerted in reflexive healing like him. Luffy also has a height advantage as much as Kit likes to ignore. Look.”

 

 

Kit dodged about, sword biting into Brogy’s fist while he ducked another pistol to the head.

 

 

“Our idiotic first mate isn’t fighting with his sword.”

 

 

“Not against Luffy,” agreed Zoro.

 

 

“And Kit is facing off against not only his brother, but a giant as well,” pointed out Princess Vivi with a gasp.

 

 

“Not good,” whimpered Usopp.

 

 

 

 

“USOPP!”

 

 

“Shhhhh!” warned the sniper. “Kit told me to go ahead and try to free you gu- Zoro, why are your legs bleeding?”

 

 

“Because the idiot decided he didn’t want to just sit and wait for a rescue. Sometime between the one-sided match with Mr. 3 and this latest mess, Zoro decided to try and chop his way to freedom,” bit out Nami.

 

 

“Oh,” replied Usopp. He rubbed his neck awkwardly. “Anyways, I got the stuff to free you!” Usopp pulled his ammo bag to the side and flipped the top. He pulled out a glass jar full of red fire.

 

 

“According to Kit, he keyed the flame to disintegrate wax and nothing else. So, I’ll just tip some over and-”

 

 

Nami jerked away and flailed her arms.

 

 

“No way am I letting you set me on fire!”

 

 

Usopp frowned. Nami glared. Zoro eyed them both with exasperation, but Nami chose to ignore it in favor of telling the sniper why this wasn’t a good idea.

 

 

‘Nami, as your first mate and leader of the crew when the captain is…indisposed, I order you to let Usopp do his job! I-”

 

 

*Crack!*

 

 

The four looked up. Brogy’s axe had torn through the pillar keeping the candles above them. Nami felt a glimmer of hope…only to have it fall down just like the rotating candle decoration spinning even more wildly directly above them.

 

 

‘NAMI, DO IT!’

 

 

Nami shot Kit a withering look before nodding her assent to Usopp. Trembling hands tore off the lid and turned the glass to the side. Red flames gradually began to spread around their legs.

 

 

Oddly, the flames felt cool rather than hot when they burned through the wax. With a little help from Usopp, the three prisoner got up from their wax prison.

 

 

‘What? My foxfire burns what I want it to burn. Unless I completely lose it, the flames are harmless illusions until I say so,’ answered the fox Zoan smugly, despite the barrage of rubber fists going for his head. ‘Is that bloo- Never mind. Zoro, keep Luffy occupied. Usopp, aim for the little girl while she’s distracted. Your latest little chemistry experiment should do it. Nami, keep an eye out. Candle bastard’s still alive and itching for a fight. Clear?’

 

 

Aye, First Mate Kitsune! chimed in the Straw-Hat Pirates.

 

 

- Kitsune –

 

 

Their timing couldn’t be better. Zoro dove into the fray, swords blocking Luffy’s next punch, and Kitsune could now turn his full attentions on the giant. Priority and all. While Kit could control his foxfire, a certain degree of focus was needed to not accidentally burn the wrong things. Kit instinctively taught himself to not burn people (on account of practically raising Luffy since the kid was three), but burning paint off a moving and large target area and fending off Luffy? Foxfire could burn harmlessly, but when it did burn, it burned very well. Enough to hurt Marco well. And he was a freaking bird of fire!

 

 

With that in mind, Kitsune dodged the swung axe, leaping onto the blade and quickly dashed up the handle and onto the giant himself.  / A large meaty hand closing in / Kitsune slipped into his golden fox form, the abrasion of worn flesh brushing the tips of his ears as he dashed away on fours.

 

 

‘Racing fox flames!’

 

 

The lean deer-sized yellow fox was swallowed by yellow flames before disappearing, speed making him invisible to human sight. In seconds, the fox perched on top of the giant’s helm. Red smoke wound around his form briefly before the giant red fox-human took its place. The five tails levered his body up for a better view down. A huge black mark was splattered across Brogy’s tunic – how the little girl did that was a mystery to be solved later. For now… Kitsune held both hands out. Flames gathered between them. Brogy’s face was blank, but he clearly knew where the Zoan had gone. The large hand came up to swat him. Almost, almost! Brogy hand closed in just as the fox finished his preparations. Red flames arced down onto the black symbol.

 

 

A flash. *Sizzle* Nothing was left.

 

 

“Huh?” groaned Brogy as he came to his senses finally. “Little human?” Brogy brought his fist to his face to see the Zoan just barely keeping the fingers open with his five tails. The giant immediately relaxed his grip. “Oops! Well, good thing I woke up when I did, huh?”

 

 

Kitsune smiled. “Suppose so, Mr. Brogy.”

 

 

Quit messing around with the giant and get back down here! Luffy’s not fighting at his worse – no haki – but his rubber powers make it hard to keep his down! Without a moment’s hesitation, Kitsune jumped off Brogy’s open palm. His body became a missile, slamming right onto Luffy as the two fighters below had separated. Just as Kitsune wrapped himself around Luffy, flames rose off his body.

 

 

“Kitsune!” “Luffy!”

 

 

The flames parted to reveal the two brothers minus the black mark drawn on Luffy’s battered vest.

 

 

“What I tell you? Trust me,” chided the Zoan once more. He nodded in Usopp’s direction. The sniper chuckled a bit in embarrassment, the painter snoozing next to him as they planned in those few seconds. Similar to the knockout drug from Whiskey Peak, Usopp’s Sleep Time Gas Pellet could send anyone to dreamland. One pellet for one kid or teen.

 

 

*THUMP, THUMP!*

 

 

The pirates turned to the large white figure stomping into the clearing. “Introducing, THE CANDLE CHAMPION! Miss Goldenweek, I need-” whatever the wax-man had to say died off. Zoro eyed the devil fruit user with an evil look, blades making a sharp *shinging* sound as he tested their blades together. Nami brandished her foldable staff, and Princess Vivi’s Peacock Slashers didn’t look too friendly.  Kitsune figured he must have looked pretty forbidding, too.

 

 

And Luffy? Well…

 

 

So cool! Are you some sort of robot?” gushed Luffy in awe. Must resist urge to knock little brother into a tree. Again.

 

 

Mr. 3 must have mustered the little courage he had from his inflated ego, because he pounded his waxy gloves together.

 

 

“I do not fear any of you! Not when I’m in this armor! I am invincible! My Wax-Wax powers made this suit as hard as iron!”

 

 

The stars went out from Luffy’s eyes. He placed a hand on his straw hat, shading his eyes further. Kitsune put a hand on Luffy’s shoulder, a gentle reminder.

 

 

“I think we all know who had a right to fight Mr. Self-Esteem Issues-”

 

 

“Excuse me!” exclaimed the fuming Baroque Works agent. Kitsune levied a deadpanned expression.

 

 

“You are a head sticking out of a giant wax statue a dozen time bigger than you. What else are you compensating for, hmm?”

 

 

“AARGH!” Mr. 3 charged. Only to be flung into the tree line by Brogy. A moment later, Mr. 3 charged back out.

 

 

“Do you mind,” huffed the wax-man.”

 

 

“You heard the fox-kid. Your battle is with me.” To emphasized the point, Brogy hefted up his battle-worn axe.

 

 

But Mr. 3 only started to laugh. “Do you really think I put this on without accounting for you strength? Not even giants can shatter it.”

 

 

Brogy’s answer was to slam his axe down. The Wax-Wax user grabbed the blade. It was a contest of wills, a bounty hunter’s greed vs. a warrior’s honor.

 

 

*crack. Crack*

 

 

Mr. 3’s face paled as his gaze slid to the left. Tiny cracks quickly spread into larger ones. With one final heave, the axe shattered through the armor.

 

 

Lucky for the agent, the axe missed his actual body. The coward scurried out of the wrecked wax shards and fled into the jungle.

 

 

Luffy looked Kitsune in the eyes. Kitsune didn’t have to say a word. Luffy clambered after their rat.

 

 

“Urggghh, what happened Mr. 5?”

 

 

All the Straw-Hats turned to their former captors/captives. The woman froze as seven pairs of eyes trained on her (Carue had wandered in after finally waking up from Kitsune’s rushed healing session). Mr. 5 began to stir as well.

 

 

“Hmm, what shall we do with you two saboteurs?”

 

 

- Post-Battle –

 

 

“Hold still!” ordered Kitsune. Dorry had luckily woken up sometime after the remaining Straw-Hats and Princess Vivi had laid an epic beating on the two devil fruit users. They really had no better chance than their last true fight. Them ambushing people didn’t count. Anyways, the giant wanted to nail the Wax-Wax user, too, but Kitsune forbid him from doing anything until he saw to both their wounds.

 

 

Blue foxfire trailed the parts of their body where Kitsune manually applied it. His time with Oars’ Jr.’s crew taught him some interesting new limits to his powers. Normally, internal wounds were tricky since his powers didn’t like working within people. But since Kitsune could reach into their wounds (gross, but true), he could spread the flames a bit more internally. Once they could reasonably move without tearing just-healed wounds or bruises, Kitsune got to work on his own crewmates. Generating blue foxfire tired him quickly, but Kitsune had enough energy to heal half-severed limbs (/ ”Why would you do this to yourself? If you the time and energy to hack your legs, then why don’t you try weakening the wax? It is still wax, I bet a little haki could have driven your blade through!” /).

 

 

- KASL -

 

 

Kitsune currently laid flat out on the ground, his long coat discarded on the grassy field before joining the battle.

 

 

“Tricky little guy, aren’t you,” chuckled Brogy. “You didn’t even singe my clothes! Which is good, since we don’t exactly have a tailor out here. Thanks to all of you for your help.”

 

 

Gegyagyagya! Wish I could have seen that! Not too many humans can claim to have the strength to hold off Brogy’s axe strikes. You know, I didn’t think anyone would have remembered our old bounties after 100 years. Even I have forgotten about them.”

 

 

Princess Vivi smiled sadly, eyes downward. “Oh, but you shouldn’t have to feel obliged to help us. It’s my fault. If I had not brought those agents to Little Garden…

 

 

Nami grabbed Princess Vivi’s cheek. “Don’t go thinking like that again. You shouldn’t blame yourself for other’s choices.”

 

 

“Yeah, don’t look so down! We beat them all, didn’t we? Let’s party! Look, we have all these rice cakes and everything.”

 

 

“Not to interrupt your consumption of Miss Goldenweek’s snack food, but has anyone seen Sanji? I don’t think those clowns knew about him. Apparently, we concussed them pretty badly in the last place. I may have also scrambled their memories a bit, to-”

 

 

“Wait a minute,” fumed Nami. She glared at the Zoan sprawled before her. Years at sea had not dimmed the respectful fear the kitsune felt toward angry female allies.

 

 

“Y-yes?”

 

 

“YOU COULD HAVE MESSED WITH THEIR MEMORIES? I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOUR HYPNOSIS WAS TEMPORARY!” screamed the navigator, shaking the Zoan by his collar.

 

 

“It is! The memory thing is actually branched off my standard telepathy powers. But it rarely works and never completely. Sanji made less of an impression since he stayed by the princess’s side while we fought the agents. For some reason, you are quite unforgettable for most of the agents’ minds except for Ms. Valentine. And Usopp wasn’t there…” trailed off the kitsune, suddenly sweat dropping faster as he realized what he just said.

 

 

A black fist nearly crashed into the Zoan’s head.

 

 

“Hey! They’re not my thoughts!” Foot. In. MOUTH, Kit!

 

 

/ Sanji arrived after finishing his call with Mr. 0. He had the eternal log pose they so desperately needed to get to Alabasta. Lucky for Kitsune as he barely had dodged Nami’s fists. Zoro and Sanji did get into an argument about their hunting catches, but Kitsune quickly broke them up and said the winner was Usopp since he actually and accidently took out a brontosaurus earlier when testing his knock-out ammo – while almost being eaten. So now they were ready to be off. /

 

 

The two giants stood like sentinels at the mouth of the river.

 

 

“We forget one last detail in our explanation of why so few travelers ever make it to the next island,”

 

 

“and it lies straight ahead,” finished Dorry.

 

 

“Do not falter, little ones.”

 

 

“You all risked your lives to preserve our pride as warriors,”

 

 

“And we can do no less. Whatever the enemy...”

 

 

“DO NOT LET YOUR OWN FLAG OF PRIDE FALL, EITHER…!”

 

 

“GO FORWARD. PUT YOUR FAITH IN US. SAIL STRAIGHT FORWARD NO MATTER WHAT!”

 

 

“We hear you! No matter what, we sail straight ahead!” ordered Luffy, every inch the pirate captain he was.

 

 

“Farewell, our little friends.”

 

 

Kitsune peered over from his perch in the crow’s nest, coat slung carelessly over his shoulders. He tipped his beret down and to the right. The giants grinned widely at the sight of his left temple.

 

 

“May we meet again on the seas…”

 

 

“…in the future. If Elbalf wills it, it shall be.”

 

 

A huge seaking carp rose from the depths. Nami, Usopp, Carue, and Princess Vivi flinched at it gaping maw, but Kitsune and Luffy simply grinned.

 

 

“You guys are out of your mind if you think…!”

 

 

“Straight ahead, no matter what!”

 

 

“…I’m…going to… Ugh!” The orangette backed away. Luffy was one thing, but two Ds were more than enough for any sensible person to handle. The oversized goldfish swallowed their ship whole. Or almost did.

 

 

Energy blades of blue and red light crossed through the monster.

 

 

“Supreme Kingdom!”

 

 

And the Merry flew free of the goliath.

 

 

*Crack!* Both blades shattered off.

 

 

“GO! FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS FORWARD. LET NO ONE BREAK YOUR WARRIOR’S SPIRIT.”

 

 

GABABABABA!”

 

 

“GEGYAGYAGYA!”

 

 

The Straw-Hat Crew had continued once more on their journey with two more friends in their hearts.

 

 

Now, if only they could have held onto this feeling of happiness and contentment a bit longer.

Chapter Text

- Takes place sometime during the next chapter -

 

 

Hot. Kitsune seldom felt the heat as part of his devil fruit’s more passive abilities. The last time he did…it wasn’t nearly as bad as this. Was someone yelling his name? It felt like his entire body burned, yet he was shivering uncontrollably.

 

 

Sick. He must be sick. Wasn’t he sick before? His thoughts felt cottony, like a sheep. Sheep… Kitsune didn’t like sheep too much after that happen. The same thing to push the Zoan to physical illness.

 

 

Six Years Ago

The Grand Line

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Kitsune shoved the bill of baseball cap low. For Luffy’s upcoming twelfth birthday, they had gotten permission from Pops to host two different celebrations. One between just the four brothers, and one with the whole family. There was an island nearby begging for the KASL brothers to explore (terrorize). It was a fairly large fall island full of wildlife and deep jungles, kind of reminiscent of their home back in East Blue. It had a few villages, but no one from the Moby Dick had ever visited this the island. A perfect place for them to have an adventure.

 

 

Even now, Luffy practically tried to launch himself out of their boat until Sabo had enough and thunked the rubber-brain good on the head with his pipe.

 

 

“Relax, Luffy, we’ll land in just a few minutes,” sighed Sabo. He glared at the unhelpful older bastards just smirking at the two youngest brothers’ interactions. He jabbed the end of the pipe in their direction.

 

 

“If Luffy falls into the water, I’m sending one of you two after him,” he threatened.

 

 

Kitsune full-out guffawed, “Shahehehe, if you do, then you’ll have to drag two anchors from the depths. I suppose you could tie a rope to the other brother, but we’re liable to burn it, you know.”

 

 

Kitsune neatly caught the black end of the pipe hurtling towards his face.

 

 

Chantra Island

 

 

What an odd name, thought Kitsune idly. Most islands in the Grand Line had a name related in some way or fashion to a particular theme or feature. A good way to advertise themselves figured the Zoan. But Chantra sounded like someone’s name. Maybe some eldritch god?

 

 

The fox Zoan shuddered. He would rather stay far, far away from supernaturally-influenced islands, thank you very much.

 

 

Barely thirty seconds since they made landfall, Luffy had darted into the forest with Ace hot on his trail. The birthday boy had a conspicuous orange hat sitting on top of his usual straw hat. Sabo and Kitsune had stared for a moment, exchanged a glance, before hopping out of the boat and anchoring it ashore. Then they proceeded to head for the nearest town for a snack. With any luck, the two idiot ravens would cool their energies and bring back something to eat.

 

 

Kitsune had just settled in a particularly large bough when Ace and his hat came running out of the forest. Without Luffy.

 

 

“Kit!” A bright yellow straw hat laid clenched against the fifteen-year-old’s chest. In less than a moment, the fox had leapt from his tree and onto all fours in flash of yellow smoke.

 

 

‘Ace, what happened?’

 

 

The freckled teen gestured wildly as he narrated. “Luffy and I just finishing sparring with a good-sized alligator we were thinking of bringing back for lunch. I took my eyes off him for only a moment to see if our catch was big enough. Usually food keeps Luffy’s attention. I turn back, and he’s gone, his hat and mine still sitting on the shore where we left them.”

 

 

“That…is not in any way a good indicator of what happened,” remarked Sabo darkly from behind the fire user. Ace nearly stumbled while standing.

 

 

“Geesh, a bit of warning?”

 

 

“Work on your haki, then,” parried Sabo. The top hat wearer stared grimly into the forest.

 

 

“Odd. I can’t sense him from here. Something’s…something’s not quite right here,” muttered the blond warily.

 

 

Kitsune rose from a crouch to his full height. His head still fell short of his younger brother’s chest, but he was still a good-sized fox, even if a bit skinny. He tested the air. Then reached out with his mind.

 

 

‘Agreed, Sabo. No scent or presence of our baby brother. But I think I can hear him a bit. Faintly. Follow me, Ace. Sabo, hang back a bit just in case things go south.’

 

 

Ace scowled. “What am I, chopped sea cucumber?”

 

 

‘More liked an ash’ed member of the Echinoderms if you keep delaying,” deadpanned Kitsune.

 

 

Sabo stifled his snickers. Ace groaned, “Why can’t either of you speak plainly?”

 

 

Kitsune thwapped both brothers soundly with his tails. ‘Hurry up. Luffy’s somewhere on this island. Alone. With some weirdo, probably.’

 

 

Why was Kitsune always right?

 

 

The three had trekked through the densest part of the jungle only to arrive to a lively village unmarked on any of their maps.

 

 

And Luffy happily held a tall woman’s hand, munching on some chicken drum legs. Another young girl about the same age as Luffy tagged behind them.

 

 

“LUFFY!” exclaimed the three brothers.

 

 

“Sabo! Ace! Kit! Look what I got!” cheered the little imp.

 

 

The woman smiled gently. “Are you gents familiar with this little boy? He kind of snuck up on me and my sister while I was using a nearby lake for some private time. Said my singing was “nearly as awesome as my big brother’s!” I take it he means one of you?”

 

 

Kitsune, Sabo, and Ace blushed furiously as they absorbed what the woman just implied. Kit reacted first, pulling his cap low (belatedly) and murmuring an apology for Luffy’s behavior. But the woman waved it off.

 

 

“No problem. He’s such a precious little child, isn’t he? I can tell he’ll grow into a real handful when he’s older, wouldn’t you say?” suggested the woman with a wink as Luffy hung off her arm. Red. Kitsune was going to be as red as his fire fox by the time the conversation came to an end.

 

 

“Luffy, forgetting something?” hastily asked Ace before his freckled face gained anymore heat.

 

 

“My hat!” cried Luffy, stretching an arm out to snatch his precious straw hat from Ace.

 

 

“Thank you for watching over our brother,” expressed Sabo with a bow. Ace and Kitsune followed suit with their own thanks.

 

 

Once they pried Luffy off, Ace turned back to the woman. “Seriously, how can we thank you?”

 

 

The woman had a contemplating look. “How about stay in the village for a bit. We so seldom get visitors, and tonight’s going to a banquet!”

 

 

“Will there be lots and lots of food?” chirped Luffy, drool and images of meat already taking over Luffy’s capacity to think.

 

 

“Of course,” laughed the woman. “In fact, visitors hold something of a place of honor at these things. Please, we’ll be ecstatic if you would do us the honor of celebrating with us.”

 

 

“Pleasepleaseplease!” begged the little girl alongside Luffy.

 

 

ASL turned to the eldest D brother. Kitsune frowned. Something tickled in his mind from earlier, but he couldn’t recollect what. He shrugged it off. “Why ever not? We four were going to hold our own festivities for Luffy’s birthday, but a party here sounds great, too.”

 

 

Once the sun set, the youngest sons of Whitebeard found themselves seated amidst a huge crowd of people. The woman from earlier was transformed. Where she once wore lightly beaded shawls and a skirt like most of the other village woman, she now had a skimpy outfit made of mostly silk, feathers, and gems. It did nothing to hide her ahem assets.

 

 

*Thump, BA-thump, BA-thump, THUMP, THUMP*

 

 

A drum slowly but loudly came to life. On cue, flutes began to croon. The woman shook her hips from side-to-side. Sabo had elected to bury his head into his food and pointedly not at the woman walking down the strip of ground leading straight to them. Luffy, oddly enough, kept his eyes glued to the woman, his hat lolling off his head. Hat. Wait, what compelled Luffy to leave his hat behind in the first place? The lady said something about Luffy thinking she sounded like Kitsune when he sung. Kitsune thought he had a pleasant enough voice, but Luffy loved that hat. Not right. This place doesn’t feel right. Heck, the forest didn’t feel right…at…the beginning.

 

 

Then the woman sang. Her voice was saccharine, cloying and dizzying at the same time. Kitsune’s head began to throb. For the first time in years since he first received his devil fruit, his inner kitsune yowled in alarm.

 

 

The little girl from before, Sitra, frowned. “You okay mister?”

 

 

“Not really,” groaned Kitsune. He stubbornly dug deep against the little voice whispering into his subconscious. Unfortunately, Sabo, Luffy, and Ace had already lost the battle. As one, they stood up. The crowd got up from their places and made room, a large rough circle forming around them. Kitsune’s eyes darted around in alarm.

 

 

“Lucky, aren’t we? Normally, we live comfortably off the tithes offered by the other villages for the blessing of Chantra, but who can say no to a few hundred thousand berries?” said the woman aloud, laughing at her puppets. All but Kitsune. She eyed the Zoan critically.

 

 

“A shame you’re not making this easy. Teach said he wanted you alive, but I can do everything short of killing you. You’re the oldest by all reports, and one of the hardest to defeat naturally. A mythical Zoan beats Logia for rarity for a reason. But, why don’t we make things fair. Two devil fruit users and one competent fighter against you should be fair? Don’t you think?”

 

 

A Fire-Fist blew into Kitsune’s direction without warning. Kitsune still couldn’t tap into his Observation haki, but he had a nose for fire. If only he didn’t have an assault on his mind on top of this. He ducked under a haki-infused pipe, only to have a rubber fist trip him. He rolled away in time to avoid the sudden barrage of fire. Taking a deep breath, Kitsune sent out a scream through his telepathy, stunning everyone in the village center. Ace fumbled a fireball, Sabo fell to his knees briefly, and Luffy tripped. But most importantly, the enchantress’s attack halted. Without missing a beat, Kitsune changed. Billowy smoke as dark as night shrouded him. The master illusionist of his transformations leapt out. He breathed a sigh of relief when his barriers held off the woman easily. He charged at her, only to bat against Sabo’s pipe.

 

 

The black fox glared, tails lashing in fury. So that’s how you’re going to play this, snarled Kitsune. To get to the Goddess Chantra, he had to beat down his younger brothers. Seeing how his hypnosis failed, physical attacks it was.  Good thing he was the eldest. Although, in retrospect, his shadow fox was also the smallest of his forms. Ace managed to nail him in the side, but a little fire only burned off against his black coat. Kitsune paid more attention to the blackened pipe trying to smash into his skull and the rubber fists nearly clipping him in a barrage of rubber fury.

 

 

With a quick apology, Kitsune had no choice but risk another transformation. He slipped seamlessly from fox to human to fox again. Crimson red, the behemoth fox charged at Ace. The Logia didn’t have a chance, foxfire being dominant over Flame-Flame fire. Ace slammed into the nearest tree. The fox reached out with his weakened telepathy. A flickering set at the back of the D’s mind. Ruthlessly, Kitsune snagged it and brought it to the forefront. Ace’s eyelids sagged, then closed altogether in a triggered, (hopefully) temporary narcoleptic nap.

 

 

One down. Two to go. Stabbing pain in his head reminded Kitsune of the multiple battle fronts he had to field. The fox roared in outrage at the woman, and Kitsune took its place.

 

 

He seized Sabo’s pipe in one hand and grabbed Sabo’s fist in the other. Sabo must have retained some of his faculties because the next instant, the top hat wearer deftly swept Kitsune’s feet out from under him. A pipe followed. Kitsune bit back a cry as the steel slammed into his stomach. Sorry, Sabo. Fire encircled him then pulsed out. Sabo slammed into a tree and fell slump. Unconscious. Good. Kitsune turned to his final opponent.

 

 

Dodge. Dodgedodgedodgedodge, leg sweep. Slam into ground. Luffy was the hardest to fight. A rubber body made conventional fighting tactics hard to use, and his smaller body made actually connecting hard. Even when his haki-infused strikes met flesh, Luffy shrugged off the pain with frightening ease. The most chilling part, though, was Luffy’s face. It wasn’t blank.

 

 

No, that would have made things a bit easier. Instead, Luffy’s face showed the childish conviction Kitsune always admired from the youngest D. No matter how much Ace and Sabo mocked his “lame” power, Luffy was utterly convinced in rubber’s merits. How too true, hissed Kitsune as Luffy’s body suddenly steamed red. The fighting got worse. Luffy now had unreal speed on top of his monstrous stamina and enchanted determination. Kitsune wouldn’t be able to counter forever. And slamming Luffy into things wasn’t working, either. All those bruises and scratches made something inside him cringe.

 

 

“AAAAAHHHHHHH!”

 

 

The decidedly feminine scream drew the two fighters’ gaze. The little girl from earlier had driven a sword into the elder.

 

 

“W-hhy…?” gasped out the enchanter.

 

 

“Because, you enslaved all these people and tricked the rest to do your bidding,” said Sitra sadly. She pulled the sword out. The woman tried to say something else, but the bubble of blood cut her off.

 

 

Kitsune shuddered. As a pirate, he’d seen worse acts on independent missions for Pops, but this? Luckily, Luffy snapped out of the spell after the whole betrayal stunt.

 

 

“Kit…? Why is Ace asleep? And Sabo, too? And where’s my hat?” Oh. Luffy must have dropped his hat during the fighting.

 

 

“Here,” offered Sitra, the straw hat with its red ribbon held in her other hand. Luffy ran over immediately. Her gentle smile widened. Kitsune acted before he thought. He pushed Luffy away just as the sword arced up.

 

Kitsune reeled back, fire making a line across his neck. He threw a hand up, pushing his little brother back as a fireball sent the girl flying back.

 

 

Luffy looked utterly confused, hat dangling from his hand and swaying. Luffy was too pale. He collapsed. Alarmed, Kitsune ignored his injuries in favor of sending blue flames through Luffy’s battered body. He took so much a worse beating than the others because of too much stubbornness, too much resilience to pain, too much recklessness retained for an enchantment. Kitsune had done a frightening amount of damage. And not only to Luffy. Ace’s mind was a mess from his rough telepathic attack, and Sabo had some bad burns. He healed them all. Then, utterly exhausted, Kitsune gave in to his own injuries, blue flames flickering weakly over him.

 

 

Later

 

 

“…high…won’t wake…

 

 

“…the idiot! How could he act so…!”

 

 

“…will he…soon?”

 

 

“…sune!” someone cried.

 

 

Kitsune slowly slitted his eyes open. The familiar white walls of the Moby Dick’s clinic greeted him. That and his three brothers, slumped in the next cot over.

 

 

“You had us worried – yoi.” Kitsune regarded the phoenix blankly, mind still piecing together what had happened.

 

 

“Did she survive?” The first commander nodded.

 

 

“Sabo woke up just in time to knock her off her feet and back to dreamland again. He took the phone you had to contact us. I came personally in phoenix form to airlift you because Sabo reported you turning red with fever. It frightened everyone since you’ve haven’t gotten sick since we rescued the four of you several years ago. And you understandably had been recovering from sea prism stone on top of starvation – yoi.”

 

 

Kitsune blinked. Then blinked again. “I…I got sick?” Kitsune startled as he finally registered the rustle of cloth. Bandages wreathed his torso and neck. He gingerly touched the ones at his neck.

 

 

Marco growled, “I nearly forgot myself when I saw the blood collaring your throat. Any deeper, and you wouldn’t be alive - yoi.”

 

 

Kitsune let out a shuddering breath. “Thank Roger for my reflexes and D luck. So, what do you have for me?”

 

 

He pointedly ignored the stink-eye the commander gave him and waited. Relenting for now, Marco somberly recounted what their prisoner had revealed.

 

 

Chanya was the name of the deceased sister, and Sitra was the younger girl. Thus, Chan-tra. It was a title for the two women born in their family every generation. One could enchant vocally. The other attacked mentally. Both of them had the power to suppress sensory input reported from the five senses to the brain. The younger girl even had the power to numb haki of all things.

 

 

Apparently, someone had issued a discrete bounty and offer for a position on their crew for anyone who could get their hands on the four youngest members of Whitebeard’s crew. They could be in any state, but preferably alive. Especially the Zoan and Logia. And could you guess who initially announced the prize, thought Kitsune rhetorically. They had kept an entire information network just for this man.

 

 

Kitsune had fallen into a deep healing coma for a week after his body finally fended off the infections from his wounds. Apparently, overusing his healing power to this extent compromised his immune system, leaving it wide open when this badly injured or exhausted. What blessing of health he had as a D failed utterly in this instance. Quietly, Marco admitted Luffy, Ace, and Sabo wouldn’t have gotten off as lightly as they did if Kitsune hadn’t intervened.

 

 

The phoenix left. Kitsune swallowed his breath. One, two…three…four… A sob escaped. He let his head fall in his hands. He couldn’t get the image of Luffy’s broken body, Ace’s unnaturally slow breathing, or the seared skin joining Sabo’s prominent burn scars. He was the eldest…and he had done that to them. He almost failed to save Luffy when the innocent-looking girl had his brother’s hat, her psychic assault no doubt weaving insidiously into Luffy’s brain in the absence of the siren song.

 

 

Never again, vowed Kitsune silently, eyes never leaving his brother’s faces. Even if it costs me, I won’t go that far. I can’t. To see those kind of wounds on them…to have to beat them down over and over because they’re them…nothing short of total exhaustion, pain, and serious damage would have sufficed for Luffy.

 

 

Kitsune wiped away his tears, sealing the memory deep in his mind where it wouldn’t distract but neither be forgotten. What a terrible day-week-whatever. And we didn’t get to celebrate Luffy’s birthday like we wanted. To think two children – because the older sister was actually sixteen – could ruin Children’s Day.

 

Chapter Text

Grand Line

 

 

- Princess Vivi –

 

 

What an experience! Princess Vivi smiled as the strange captain danced about with his crewmate, the sniper loudly declaring that one day he’ll visit the home of the giants. Next to her, the navigator sighed, disgruntled by her crewmates’ antics.

 

 

“Those guys, acting like such kids all the time.”

 

 

Vivi just smiled and chuckled lightly.

 

 

“Ladies, would you like an afternoon snack? I made a wonderful dish of petit fours to whet your appetite until lunch is ready. For a drink, we have tea or coffee,” announced Sanji in his own elegant (and somewhat flatteringly exaggerated) way.

 

 

“Thanks, Sanji.”

 

 

“Excellent fare as always,” complimented the princess.

 

 

Sanji was quick to direct the two drooling pirates to the kitchen for their snacks.

 

 

Princess Vivi was just about to bite into her cake when she remembered someone else who might enjoy the treat. She suddenly got up, much to the chef and navigator’s surprise.

 

 

She offered them a reassuring smile. “I thought your first mate might also enjoy a snack. With Captain Luffy and Usopp already in the kitchen, if would be polite to at least offer him one before he has to brave the kitchen himself for more food.”

 

 

If she remembered correctly, the first mate habitually rested by the shade of the tangerine trees at this time of day. There, curled on his side, slept Kitsune, his back facing her and beret tilted over his face. Just as she was about to announce her approach (although the Zoan would have heard her long ago), she heard something – what sounded like a quiet but painful whimper. Immediately, the princess knelt by the pirate, one hand moving the beret up and the other reaching for the pirate’s forehead. She barely brushed the unusually flushed skin before withdrawing her hand with a hiss. He was practically burning up!

 

 

“Guys, we have an emergency! Kit’s down with a high-grade fever!”

 

 

Sanji and Usopp helped to carefully lay the Zoan across the bed normally shared by the girls.

 

 

“How long has he had this fever?” asked the chef as he reached for a spare wet towel offered by Princess Vivi. Luffy frowned deeply and gently stroked a hand across the elder’s face.

 

 

“Definitely hotter than normal.”

 

 

“But what exactly does he have? And is it contagious?” queried Sanji further, frown deepening as he rolled his signature cigarette in his mouth.

 

 

“CONTAGIOUS? DO YOU MEAN ANY ONE OF US CAN COLLAPSE WITH THIS SCARY HIGH FEVER?!” fretted Usopp.

 

 

*SMACK!*

 

 

The sniper reeled in pain as Nami fist left a hefty bump on his noggin.

 

 

“Don’t exaggerate. We would have all probably have shown symptoms by now!” scolded Nami.

 

 

Princess Vivi paid them no mind as she placed another cool towel on the first mate’s forehead. The fox Zoan was terribly pale where he wasn’t flush with a temperature, sweat soaking him. Every now and then his whole body would shudder before he went terribly still.

 

 

“I don’t recognize the symptoms for any particular illness… if Kitsune wasn’t as familiar with the Grand Line as he says he is, then I would say the extreme climate changes would be the cause, but since that’s not the case…” Vivi trailed off helplessly. She was a princess of Alabasta, someone groomed in a vast array of subjects and had the entire future of her country on her shoulders! A very large part of her mind whispered Kitsune wouldn’t be in this position if she had not begged for help from these kind pirates.

 

 

“I guess it goes to show, no matter how famous or strong a pirate you are, we are but mortals and prey to the whims of nature. To die helplessly in the arms of illness has been the fate of many pirates in these waters,” she finished heavily.

 

 

The Straw Hats shared looks of worry and uncertainty.

 

 

“Don’t you have someone versed in medicine on this ship?”

 

 

Usopp and Luffy pointed to Nami. The navigator and royal shared equal looks of exasperation.

 

 

“Look, I picked up the basics of treating someone on the high seas because I sailed on my own before I met you guys. But, I’m hardly qualified to diagnose a real illness beyond what every sailor should know, much less treat it. All I can recommend is the old standby of rest, keeping him cool, and keeping him hydrated.”

 

 

“Oi, Sanji! Shouldn’t meat help him a lot? Kit likes meat, and I know I feel better after eating some!” asked Luffy cheerfully. But Vivi, with her years at court, could recognize the tension stretching that grin a little too wide.

 

 

“I have every intention to tailor Kitsune’s meals accordingly with light but nutritious meals a sick person can easily digest…but without knowing what is wrong with him in the first place, all my efforts will at best give him relief from the symptoms, not cure him. And just so you know, I do prepare my meals to best account for everyone’s particular tastes and nutritional needs…even though I put 100 times the efforts for the girls’ meals with their leftover ingredients and whatever not quite spoiled given to you lot,” explained Sanji with a huff on his cigarette.

 

 

“…WHAT?!” yelped Usopp with indignant anger. Luffy just laughed.

 

 

“What I’m trying to get at, is that I make sure everyone receives the nutrition they need to keep going. No will suffer from malnutrition under my watch, so Kit’s illness has nothing to do with what he has been eating.”

 

 

“Sanji’s right. He is our dependable chef after all,” wheezed their very ill patient. “I’m…very sure he has…done his best to prepare our meals…despite what he prepared them from, so cool it…” The first mate broke out a long series of shudders wracking his whole body.

 

 

Vivi gasped, “His fever has gotten worse! He has a temperature of forty-two degrees!”

 

 

“Your country has doctors, right? How much farther are we from Alabasta?”

 

 

Vivi could only shake her head. “Too far. More than a week’s away at best, but if Kitsune’s fever keeps rising like this…!”

 

 

“…you know, I can’t recall ever getting sick before. I know I got a virus once when my brothers and I escaped those slavers, but I was kind of out of it the whole time, anyways. Sabo always said I must have suffered partial am-thesia that wiped that part from my brain.”

 

 

“Am-NESIA,” corrected Nami.

 

 

“Can’t really say I’ve been sick myself,” added Sanji and Usopp.

 

 

Vivi shouted at them, “What, are you guys even human?!” astonished at how little experience the pirate crew had with illness in general.

 

 

Luffy’s face darkened as he considered the situation. “…although, Kit shouldn’t get sick like this anyway.”

 

 

Vivi blinked. “What do you mean by that?”

 

 

“Because of his devil fruit,” clarified Luffy. “ ‘cording to Kit, he naturally has a body temperature two degree higher than everyone else’s. He says it’s because of his inner foxfire circulating throughout his body. Same thing helps him heal really well most of the time. But he does get sick. Twice. Normally, Kit burns out any germs at and below the surface of his skin unless one of two things happen. One, he’s tied up with sea prism stone. Or two, Kit’s inner fire is exhausted. And that’s only happens when he overuses the blue healing flame.”

 

 

“I’m guessing collapsing after healing those giants was a sign of Kitsune overdoing it, I take it?” deadpanned Zoro.

 

 

Luffy nodded. “His immune system is way more vulnerable than a normal person when it happens. But, he didn’t get this sick before, even when we were all starved, sun burned, and almost dead.”

 

 

The crew stared at their captain’s words.

 

 

“…I’m going to have to ask you two for this story later, but right now, we need to get Kit to a doctor quick. Little Garden was a prehistoric, jungle-type island. Who knows what kind of exotic diseases infested place, including whatever Kit caught!”

 

 

“AAAHHHHHH!!! KIT’S GOING TO DIE!” blubbered Usopp as he and Carue began to panic.

 

 

*THUMP!* A rubber fist pounded a hole into the wall.

 

 

“Kit is NOT going to die,” vowed the unusually serious-faced captain of the Straw Hat crew, every word laced with iron-clad faith and determination.

 

 

Carue and Usopp stopped dead in their tracks,

 

 

“…Uhh…Aye, aye, C-captain?” stuttered Usopp.

 

 

“W-what’s with the fuss?” wheezed Kitsune as he gradually sat up.

 

 

“Kitsune! Please, you need to save your strength and rest! If you get any worse…!” pleaded Vivi.

 

 

But Kitsune waved off her concerns and took a breath before continuing. “I’ll be honest; I’m probably not going to get better on my own. Even if I recover my strength, my inner fire doesn’t work as well to rout out a sickness already infecting my entire system. I’m as helpless against nature as any other man like this. But, we can’t just mollycoddle me when we have an entire country at stake. Right, Nami?”

 

 

The navigator paled. “Vivi…I probably should have shown you this earlier...Luffy, there’s a newspaper on my desk.

 

 

Vivi knew with every word she read, her skin paled until it was nearly white.

 

 

“No…”

 

 

“Vivi-swan? What’s wrong?”

 

 

The princess shook her head in agitation. “According to this…as of right now, 300,000 soldiers from the Royal Army of Alabasta have transferred sides. Where 600,000 members could have held off the rebel forces at 400,000 men strong, the situation has completely turned on its head!”

 

 

“The condition at Alabasta has begun to swing into dire straits. With this turn, it has become essential that we deliver Princess Vivi to Alabasta as soon as possible,” quietly added Nami, eyes hooded as she turned in Kitsune’s direction unconsciously. “The paper was from three days ago. Kit and I agreed to hold off telling you the news since we set the ship to sail as quick as we dared.”

 

 

“You understand what we’re going to have to do, right Luffy,” Kit asked in a hoarse whisper, voice broken by body-shaking coughs.

 

 

“Things could get bad any day,” answered the younger D grimly.

 

 

“But Kit, if you don’t get proper medical attention…”

 

 

“Usopp, as first mate of the Straw Hat crew, I took into account the dangers any of us would have faced. Luffy decides our course, but Nami and I are the ones to figure out the logistics…and frankly, my life is hardly the value of an entire kingdom of people’s welfare and happiness.”

 

 

Kitsune laid back down and wordlessly fell back to sleep. The crew was stunned to silence.

 

 

Vivi knew she should have got back up, but the words in ink held her eyes captive even as her mind raced with terrible visions of their meaning. This was her people at stake. This latest turn of the tides would mean a full-blown civil war was not an option but an inevitability unless something drastic happened.

 

 

“I-I…If we don’t do something soon, Crocodile will have his way with my country, and all of Alabasta will be his!” She couldn’t hold it in anymore. She crumpled forward, newspaper crushed close to hide her tear-stained face. “I can’t just return alive…if I don’t come forth with the intel I and Igaram have sacrificed so much for, then over a million people will be embroiled in a war that should have never had to happen!”

 

 

“Whoa, a million people?!”

 

 

Sanji knelt carefully by the princess, a handkerchief held at ready.

 

 

“There, there, Princess. I know this must be a terrible burden…but you’re not alone.”

 

 

One by one, everyone left the room save for the princess still kneeling by the sick Zoan’s bedside. Kit groaned.

 

 

“Kit…? Can you still hear me?”

 

 

“…Yes?” whispered the Zoan, voice heavy with sleep and fever.

 

 

“You know, I care a lot about the safety of my people, right?”

 

 

“Of course, you do. You spent a good deal of time among the enemy for their sake.”

 

 

“Then, I hope you can understand the decision I’m about to make.”

 

 

- KASL –

 

 

The crew were dishearteningly milling about the deck when Princess Vivi finally emerged.

 

 

“Everyone, may I have your attention? Good. I have a request to make of all of you. I know I have business making such demands when you already have let me on this ship at all, but please bear with me a bit longer. As you know, the emerging crisis in Alabasta swings to its fatal last stage unless I arrive there as quick as possible. We cannot spare a single moment in hesitation! Which is why, I ask you to head to my country as quick as this ship can sail!”

 

 

Nami put on a brave face. “We did promise we will, Vivi!”

 

 

“…and in order to do so, the crew cannot be held back. Thus, I recommend we turn this ship to the nearest island to procure a doctor as soon as possible!”

 

 

Nami stared at her friend in surprise. The rest of the crew had turned from resigned to astonished as well.

 

 

“My people are in danger, but so is Kitsune. As princess, I cannot overlook how this affects the crew. So, we need to see to the first mate’s health as soon as possible. Only when he is better, can this ship hope to make it to Alabasta as its fastest speed, right everyone?”

 

 

The crew cheered in agreement as Princess Vivi pressed on how they needed to see to Kitsune’s well-being above all else.

 

 

Cheers morphed into yells as a huge cyclone suddenly erupted in the middle of the sea. Without Nami’s earlier direction, the ship would have sailed right into it.

 

 

“Everyone, hurry up and get ready to head South! We need to find a doctor as quick as possible before we can continue our journey! I don’t want to see anyone messing around!” ordered Nami.

 

 

A single day passed. The weather turned frigid as snow began to pelt down on the Merry.

 

 

Most of the crew grew antsy as the temperature lowered even as Kitsune’s own fever remained steadfastly hot.

 

 

“Zoro! Can you see a doctor from up there?” called Luffy from the main deck.

 

 

Usopp threw his captain a look of utter annoyance and resignation. “Really? Of course, he can’t see one from up there, you ignoramus!”

 

 

Zoro shook off the snow gathering on him as he lowered the binoculars, face as serious as always. “Guys…exactly how would a person stand in the middle of the ocean…?”

 

 

“…”

 

 

“A person standing ON the ocean? Maybe you been drinking a bit deeply into the grog. And why the heck would you ask that in the first place?” shouted Usopp with his head still facing up toward the crow’s nest even as his body turned forward.

 

 

Nami walked over to see what all the commotion was and paled as soon as she looked over the two men’s shoulders.

 

 

“And how exactly would you call that up ahead?” countered the swordsman.

 

 

Luffy and Usopp turned forward and…

 

 

“What in the Blues?!”

 

 

“Hey, how is he doing that?”

 

 

Lo and behold, an oddly dressed man in a white fur coat, some of it dyed blue around the upper border and around the wrists, and a green and blue formal ensemble stared at with an odd expression. It looked like he wore some sort of jester-styled hood, and he had a case of green-fletched arrows and a blue bow strapped to his back. Like Zoro reported, the man stood still on the water’s surface even as waves tossed around him.

 

 

“Don’t you think it’s quite a cold day, today?” greeted the strange man.

 

 

“I…suppose?” replied Usopp as he exchanged a bewildered glance with Luffy.

 

 

“…Yeah, a really cold day, though North Blue winters can be pretty bad, too,” answered Luffy.

 

 

“Huh, didn’t know that.”

 

 

An awkward moment passed. Then, without warning, the man plunged up as an enormous ball-shaped metal object rose from below. The odd man had been standing on top of a mast! The ball unfolded to reveal a massive ship. The Jolly Roger showed a white skull somewhat reminiscent of a monkey with its tongue licking metal bolt-decorated lips. A royal crown topped the weird image.

 

 

“MAHAHAHAHA! Aren’t you guys surprised? This is my submersible ambush-ship “Tin Can King!” What? Have I left you all speechless?”

 

 

Sanji cursed as the ship suddenly heaved to the side. With a quick move, he hauled the bed, Kitsune and all, up off the floor before the patient could tumble out.

 

 

“What the hell is on?! Kitsune nearly rolled into Vivi-swan!” shouted the chef. Then he paused. His newly semi-functioning sixth sense, or Observation haki, suddenly rattled. He could feel a whole lot of company on the main deck and not the friendly kind.

 

 

“Princess, stay down here, okay? I need you to keep an eye on Kitsune while I go and help those morons with the situation on deck. Keep safe and don’t open the door for anyone but the crew.”

 

 

Vivi barely managed a nod before the chef flew up the stairs and into the nasty problem stirring outside.

 

 

With a steady expression, Sanji lit a match and applied it to his cigarette calmly. “Well, well, what is going on out here…?”

 

 

“We got ambushed,” reported Luffy with equal calm despite all the rifles held to each crew member.

 

 

“So…this one makes five altogether,” bit out a strange man as he chewed a portion of meat off his dagger – along with most of the metal blade.

 

 

The large man was wider than he was tall, rather squat in general, was covered in metal armor, had a metal mouth of all things, and wore a whole white fur cape of some sort of hippo creature.

 

 

“I hardly think this many people can steer this entire ship, but who cares? I have but one question to ask of you…”

 

 

Luffy raised an eye at the oafish pirate’s table manners.

 

 

“Wow, he ate through that knife…”

 

 

“Ugh, my mouth aches just watching him eat!”

 

 

The strange pirate carried on without paying any mind to their muttering. “You see, we are heading for the Drum Kingdom. We know it’s somewhere in this general area, but alas, we are set adrift without direction. An eternal log pose, or even a log pose in general would be a most charitable donation from you peasants,” said the pirate as he swallowed the rest of the knife.

 

 

Sanji huffed on his cigarette. “No. We never even heard of this kingdom before now.”

 

 

“We don’t have time for this! If that’s all your asking, then hurry up and get off my ship!” warned Luffy.

 

 

The pirate chuckled, “Really? After we just met and all? You know, there’s no need to rush through life, even as short as it can be. If you don’t have it, then I suppose we’ll just take all your treasure and this ship in lieu of a log pose.”

 

 

“What?!”

 

 

The weirdo taking a literal bite out of the Going Merry was the last straw – pardon the pun.

 

 

“DO. NOT. EAT. MY. SHIP!”

 

 

Luffy, without a backwards glance, launched a simple rubber punch into the foolish rifleman aiming for the pirate captain. His companions didn’t take that too kindly.

 

 

The rest of the Straw Hat Crew – save for Usopp who had slipped off to the main mast – grinned widely.

 

 

“Don’t know why we bothered letting that guy yap,” remarked Zoro as he drew his blades.

 

 

“Yeah, we’re kind of in a hurry,” agreed Sanji. “So, we’ll beat your asses real quick and painfully.”

 

 

Like the chef said, the battle was quick and painful for the other crew. Sanji and Zoro handedly knocked out all the men without even needing to resort to haki. Not even the power of the other captain’s Munch-Munch fruit could bite through the rubbery body of Luffy. Without preamble, the partly eaten captain let his arms rebound, sending the so-called ‘Tin-Plate’ Wapol into the sky.

 

 

Princess Vivi rushed out of the cabin the moment she heard the gunfire. She arrived just in time to watch Luffy send the man she vividly remembered careening into away and into the distant sea.

 

 

The enemy crew panicked, swore vengeance, then went to fetch their captain before his curse would consign him to a murky grave.

 

 

Sanji took watch as the rest of the crew did their best to repair the partly eaten ship – a phrase becoming frightfully less weird as they spend more time in the Grand Line.

 

 

According to Princess Vivi, the weather was a sure sign they were approaching an island. Like Kitsune mentioned a few times between training sessions, the islands of the Grand Line generally ranged between four seasonal types – summer, spring, fall, and winter. Though, he also muttered under his breath about islands of the extreme sort, especially in the second half, but Sanji chose to focus more on this side of the Grand Line for now. So, the stable snowy weather and lack of extreme phenomena meant a winter island probably laid dead ahead.

 

 

And the sight to greet the chef certainly confirmed it. In the distance, he could see a white, snow-laden island just a few hours away.