6/25/15: If you've gotten this far, then let me tell you, you're going in the right direction. If not, then I won't bother telling you anything, because it won't reach you anyway. On the other hand, it means we can say whatever we want about you and you'll never know. That may not make sense, but you're not here to point that out, are you?

Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece. Not even close.

Chapter II: The Pirate King and the Great Swordsman

As her ship sailed towards Shells town with the two unexpected passengers, Nami was desperately trying, for the sake of her own safety, not to comment on the stupidity of a person actually trying navigate the sea without a map, compass, or general sense of direction. But as Luffy casually estimated the chances that he would have made it to the island on his own without dying of hunger or thirst and washing up on shore as a corpse (and his estimation was very low), Nami couldn't contain her sentiments anymore. While Coby was sweating in exasperation, she abruptly turned to him with a scowl on his face.

"That's not something to laugh about you dumbass!" she screamed. Luffy stopped laughing and looked at her. Nami recoiled and covered her mouth with her hands. Crap, she thought as Luffy stared at her for a few seconds.

Then the strangest thing happened. A fond smile broke out across his face, and then he chuckled.

"No, I guess it's not," he said. Nami recovered, confused. Had she completely misread him? So far since they set out he hadn't made any move that could be considered hostile. He had just been chatting amiably with Coby the entire time. The only time the two of them had interacted was for introductions. When asked her name, Nami replied that it was Nojiko. Luffy nodded and accepted this without further question and Nami concluded that he was a bit dense, which was good to know. There was no point giving him any information that he could potentially use to find her, and the chances he'd ever set foot on her home island were slim, so the name she had picked was irrelevant.

But now she wondered if she had simply misjudged him. Sure, he was unnaturally strong (in fact she was pretty sure she'd seen her do a couple things that were 100% impossible, but it was hard to see from that angle), but strong people didn't necessarily have to abuse their strength, even if most did. She concluded from this that he wasn't a pirate at least, but she still had to be cautious around him.

Nevertheless, she was now comfortable enough to ask some simple questions. "Um, Luffy?" He turned to her.

"Hey, what's up?" he replied.

"Why are you heading to Shells town? What business do you have there?" She wouldn't tell him that she herself was going to steal a map of the grand line of course. That was something he really didn't need to know.

Luffy smiled brightly at the question. "Oh, I'm meeting up with a friend. Maybe you've heard of him. His name is Zoro."

Two sets of eyes widened at this new information. "As in…?" Coby started to ask but trailed off. Nami recognized the name too. It wasn't exactly common.

"Roronoa Zoro. He's known as the Pirate Hunter," Luffy confirmed.

Coby broke into a cold sweat. "He's a friend of yours, Luffy?" Luffy nodded to him. The thought of the Pirate Hunter having friends sounded very farfetched to him. Nami was thinking the same thing, but now she was also wondering if he was a bounty hunter. That would explain his strength, but then why didn't he turn in Alvida's bounty? Was it not high enough for his tastes? Nami started to frown at the raw stupidity of that notion while Coby silently wondered how someone who was aiming to be Pirate King had ever ended up friends with the most infamous bounty hunter in East Blue. That just sounded like a betrayal waiting to happen.

When they finally arrived on the island, Luffy locked onto Zoro's aura. It was easily the most profound presence on the island, towering above the others like a god amongst men. Was Zoro even trying to suppress it? Probably not, he decided. There were no other Haki users in East Blue, so this was basically a giant fluorescent beacon signaling for Luffy to come find him. He frowned for a second. Were they really the only ones? His thoughts drifted momentarily to Smokey. Luffy was pretty sure his Marine rival had awakened both types of Haki by the time of Marineford even if he couldn't utilize them very well.

He had done the same even if he didn't realize it, starting with Conqueror's Haki in Sabaody and Amazon Lily, Armament Haki in Impel Down, and finally observation Haki in Marineford. He found it interesting that they manifested in the order of his eventual proficiency with each of them. But he couldn't exactly tell when Haki users had awakened the ability if they had achieved it before him.

On the way to the bar he listened in on some conversations as he walked down the street, gathering information on recent events, one of which seemed to be the topic of almost every conversation he eavesdropped on. He pretty much knew what happened from the moment he sensed Zoro in a civilian environment rather than the Marine base, but what he heard confirmed his suspicions.

Zoro had managed, or more accurately, decided, to escape from the marines and raise hell in the base, plowing through unfortunate marine soldiers with his sword sheath and finally knocking an enraged Marine Captain Morgan out cold. The entire town had been stunned by the news. This marked the end of Morgan's reign of tyranny, and it had happened so fast. While the Marines were grateful, they were also slightly disconcerted at the level of strength he had so casually displayed, as if he had just been putting up with their crap the entire time. Luffy knew that in reality he couldn't have escaped from the beginning, but Morgan's fate had been sealed the moment Zoro's mind had been flooded with the memories of his future self. When they asked him what he intended to do while in the town, Zoro had replied that he was waiting for a certain man to arrive, and couldn't leave until then.

"It seems Zoro caused quite the ruckus here," Luffy said smugly. Coby and Nami had taken to following him silently, and now looked at him with confused expressions. Luffy continued. "Apparently Marine Captain Morgan, who was in charge of the marine base here, was abusing his rank to oppress the townspeople." Coby looked baffled and somewhat angry while Nami just narrowed her eyes, not really surprised. "His idiot son, Helmeppo or something like that, also used his influence to gain special privileges, and when Zoro put him in his place for harassing the townspeople, he threatened to start executing them. Zoro agreed to be locked up for a month in the marine base without food to avoid having civilian deaths on his conscience, but Helmeppo never intended to let him go. When he found out that they were planning on executing him anyway, he escaped and beat the crap out of Captain Morgan. The Marines decided to apprehend Morgan right then and there."

Coby looked outraged now. Luffy didn't really want to destroy the kid's admiration of the Marines, but the sooner he came to terms with reality, the better. Luffy knew he wouldn't end up following that Absolute Justice crap, but it was better that he understood what kind of organization he would be working for sooner rather than later.

Nami turned to him with curious eyes. "How do you know all that anyway?" Luffy scratched his head.

"It's a skill that I've picked up on. I listen to fragments of conversations while walking through crowds to try to gather a full picture of what's going on in the area. It's pretty useful."

Nami nodded, wondering if she should try to learn how to do that. Coby was impressed. "That's amazing Luffy! Where'd you learn how to do that?"

Luffy put on a sad smile. "A friend taught me how. A long time ago…" Nami and Coby decided not to push for more information after that.

Luffy sighed. While his proficiency with the skill was naturally much higher with the use of Observation Haki, Robin had it down to an art form. She was capable of flawlessly picking up on information as she walked innocently through the streets without the aid of anything other than her eyes and ears. Luffy was no Enel; he couldn't pick up on conversations from a mile away (an ability that he attributed to the self proclaimed God's Devil Fruit), but gathering information while he walked down the street, while not an ingrained habit like with Robin, was child's play if he just paid attention.

When they arrived at the bar that the aura was pulsating from, Luffy absently noted that Zoro had sensed his presence as well. His aura was flaring with excitement, even if he'd never show it for the world to see. Luffy walked in, followed closely by his two traveling companions. He stopped behind the bench on which the subject of his search was seated and the bartender, a woman with brown hair and eyes looked at him with a nervous smile. A little girl that Luffy knew as Rika stared at him in wonder from behind the counter.

"Yo, Zoro," he said casually, with a hint of amusement. The green haired man took a long swig of his sake and then turned around in his seat, his eyes meeting Luffy's. For a while they just stared at each other assessingly, as if sizing each other up. Everyone in the bar had put their conversations on hold and looked on, including Nami and Coby. They watched apprehensively, as if expecting a fight to break out. Finally, two wide grins slowly graced the two men's faces, and the tension seemed to cease as if never there.

"Ririka, can I get two more rounds over here?" The bartender nodded, looking relieved, and poured two more cups as Luffy sat down. Luffy had begun drinking sake fairly recently, but he had quickly discovered that his tolerance was almost as high as Zoro's.

"So," he began, "How has your day been?" It was an innocent question, but Zoro easily caught the meaning behind it.

"Well," he began, "I woke up tied to a post, and quickly found myself being taunted by some dumbass kid who truly wasn't as stupid as he looked." While others listening in were confused by the odd contradiction, Luffy recognized this as an insult to Helmeppo's looks rather than a compliment to his intelligence, and struggled to reign in his laughter.

"I had to restrain myself from strangling him with the ropes that he was thoroughly convinced I couldn't escape from." This time, Luffy couldn't contain his laughter. There were some things that Zoro simply couldn't cut unarmed, but ropes were not one of them.

"Don't worry," Luffy said as his laughter died down, "He'll grow up soon enough." Zoro grunted his acknowledgement of the statement that they both knew was at least partially true. "You didn't cut the Marine base in half did you?" Luffy asked. Zoro scoffed, while Nami and Coby wondered if they had interpreted the ridiculous question correctly. What was with this conversation? Finally, Zoro's gaze fell on Coby, and then it moved on to Nami, where it lingered for a bit. Nami shifted uncomfortably under his scrutinizing gaze.

"Who are your friends, Luffy?" he finally asked, breaking off the eye contact, much to Nami's relief.

Luffy nodded at each of them as he introduced them. "The kid with the pink hair is Coby. He wants to become a marine. As for the girl, she doesn't want to tell me her real name."

He said it as if it was the most trivial thing in the world. Nami on the other hand, had immediately tensed up and her posture became more guarded. He saw right through me and went with it! She didn't know whether to feel amazed, fearful, or infuriated. Zoro raised a questioning eyebrow at Luffy, but the latter just shrugged. A silent conversation seemed to pass between the two, and Nami felt incredibly out of her depth. They could be plotting her death in great detail right now and she wouldn't even know.

Luffy spoke up after a while. "Well Zoro, I really only have one piece of advice for you right now." Zoro looked at him curiously, and Luffy grinned. "Don't get stabbed by Buggy." Zoro now glared at him as if willing his own eyes to burn a hole through Luffy's head. Several people in the bar stiffened at the killer glare, but Nami was more focused on the piece of advice itself. She only knew of one person named Buggy…

Luffy just looked back at him with the same amused smile and after a few seconds Zoro looked away and scoffed again. Then he did something their observers would never forget. Pirate Hunter Zoro burst out laughing.