*Nervous chuckles*

Yeah…. Hiiiiii…..

Sorry this took so long guys. Honestly, MHA had my attention grabbed for way too long. The One Piece section has been…well…. Kinda dead hasn't it? Barely any fics updating and barely any good new ones post. Pretty disappointing honestly. Without how crazy the manga and anime has gotten that fucking shocks me.

Anyway, I've been good and stuck on Alabasta for a good while now, so hopefully this will tide you over while I consider how to solve some issues.

Come join the discord server! discord . gg / q3Br2hxgCX

Also, I recently posted a new One Piece fic named Crossed Lines, and it's a fucking bag of chaos. If you haven't already, go check it out. :D

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Chapter X: Where There's Smoke, Burn It Harder

-]|[-

"You could get it tattooed." Nami smiled at Valerie, unzipping her coat, and shrugging up her sleeve to show the blonde, "See? It's covering a scar here too." She quickly zipped back up, shivering.

"Kyahahaha!" Val couldn't help but laugh, "It's not a bad idea. Not a clue what I would tattoo it with though." She grinned, "Besides, with Chopper's medicine, it apparently isn't even going to scar as badly as the Isshi-20 thought it would." She grinned and raised her glass, "So thanks for that, Chopper-kun!"

"Baka!" Chopper channeled his inner Sanji and started to noodle around, "Praising me won't make me happy, you know!"

Robin smiled in amusement, "You look plenty happy to me." She took a sip of her drink as well.

"Shishishishi!" Luffy laughed, dropping in, and wrapping an arm around Robin and Vivi, "Glad to see you two doing better! You too, Val!"

Vivi flushed at the contact and looked away, while Robin merely enjoyed the contact. How long had it been since she genuinely felt she could trust someone? Decades? She leaned in a little unconsciously, noticing Nami eying them with a glint in her eye that she couldn't quite put a finger on. "Oh yes, after the past few days, I feel positively marvelous." For more reason than one. The conversation with Vivi had her feeling lighter than she had in years. And now that she was getting affection and not having to worry about a knife in the back? Perhaps even a little touch starved.

"Thank you, Luffy." Vivi smiled up at him from the side, "For everything."

"Shishishi! What are you thanking me for? It's what any of us would have done for each other!" Luffy replied, pulling them both in for tighter hugs.

Robin hissed, and he rapidly let go, looking at her in concern, "Still sensitive." She answered his unasked question, "But I'm okay. Just caught me by surprise."

"If you're sure." Luffy said, lingering on her in concern, before moving on, "Anyway! It's PARTY TIME! We have a new crew member!" he crowed, getting cheers from the rest of the crew.

"Two." Robin said, raising her own glass.

"Ehh?" Luffy asked in shock, "Did we pick up someone else while I wasn't looking?"

Robin giggled, "I don't know what I expected. Never mind." She knocked the drink back, "To Chopper, our little doctor!"

"THAT WON'T MAKE ME HAPPY, BAKA!"

-]|[-

"Could the weather stop changing FOR FIVE MINUTES?!" Vivi screamed ineffectually towards the sky, shaking a fist in futile rage upwards.

"Conserve your strength, Vivi." Robin chided with some bemusement in her tone. A few more days had passed, and they were both all but back to a hundred percent. Of course, the time passing brought a new problem; that being a lack of food.

"Ughhh…" Valerie moaned, "Didn't we pack for three weeks on Drum?"

Nami scowled as she sat roughly with the other women on the crew, "Yeah, or Luffy's stomach for three days." She let out an explosive sigh, "Have the fish been biting at least?"

"Noooope." Vivi groaned, "Mr. Cook has a point. We need a lock on the pantry. And the fridge. And the rest of the supplies…" She paused, letting out a wry smile, "Okay, we need to Luffy-proof the ship."

The rest of the ladies burst into laughter. It was interrupted by Luffy flying by and bashing into the rail, "Oi! Damn it, Sanji!"

"Stop stealing food, you idiot! We're going to starve!" The blonde cook roared at their Captain.

Valerie groused, "If I have to eat hardtack again I'm gonna…"

"Why aren't you whacking them, then?!" Luffy pointed at Carue, Usopp, and Chopper. All three of whom were fishing, but stiffened up at his words.

Robin sighed, "Yes, I think a lock would be a very good idea…"

"Drop anchor here!" Robin called out.

"What?" Nami turned around in surprise, "Why? This steam is harmless!"

"One, because there are shallows here from the forming island, just as you said, Nami." Robin replied, "Two, because we are close to Alabasta now. It won't be long at all. Which means we should plan the assault on Baroque Works." She waited for a reply and tilted her head slightly when no one responded. Point in fact, they stared at her dumbly. She sweat-dropped slightly, "You all weren't planning on going in half-cocked, were you?"

The five original crew members from the East Blue kinda looked at each other helplessly, "Kinda, yeah."

Robin felt a sweatdrop form on her head and Vivi outright faceplanted into the deck, "I'm going to get gray hairs before I'm twenty!" The Princess whined, gathering herself.

The crew set about doing their task, and Robin went up to her pet turtle, "Banchi, be a dear and see if you can't find us some good fish. If I have another day of hardtack I may just go spare." The chain-smoking turtle snorted smoke out, before diving. She rejoined the crew, "Vivi…" She glanced at the Princess, "The floor is yours."

"Right." Vivi sighed, "First, let me explain Baroque' Works structure so you have an idea of what's coming. As you know, Crocodile is at the head, and Robin was his right hand as Miss All Sunday."

Nami snickered, "Still a dumb name."

"No arguments here." Robin giggled with her, "Continue."

"Right." Vivi huffed, "The first thing you should know is the most dangerous thing of all. Crocodile is a Villain with GREAT publicity. He markets himself as Alabasta's Hero and Savior, all the while plotting to bring the country to its knees." She clenched a fist, "Every time pirates attack, he deals with it himself."

"Tch." Sanji lit up a cigarette, "So if we just go in and kick his ass, we'll look like the bad guys, huh?"

"That's not a problem." Luffy said without a care, "We're pirates, not heroes. Heroes share their meat with others, so I don't want to be one anyway." Nami dope-slapped him along with Valerie after they all stared at him blankly for a good five seconds.

"While Luffy is being an idiot, he has a point." Usopp shrugged, "It's not like we're expecting cheering, so that's not a problem for us. As long as you know, we're happy, right?"

"YEAH!"

Vivi smiled, "Regardless, here is how Baroque Works is structured: one male, one female. There are five Officer Agents along with Mr. Zero and formerly Miss All Sunday."

"And yes, most of the names are as bad as my own." Robin chimed in with a languid smile.

"Won't argue with you there, Robin." Valerie replied with a giggle, "Except for mine, of course! Kyahahaha!" She twirled her parasol, "Those six pairs, from Mr. Zero to Mr. Five and their partners make up the leadership team of Baroque Works. We were the Officer Agents. Below us were the Frontier Agents like Vivi and Igaram, making up the Mr. Six to Mr. Twelve pairs. Then are the Billions. The Frontier Agents are technically their superiors, but Officer Agent orders supersede theirs. There are two hundred of them. And below them are the Millions, who were the Frontier Agents underlings."

"All eighteen hundred of them." Vivi sighed.

"Cannon fodder." Zoro grunted, "You've seen what we can do, and you've gotten a hint of what Luffy can do. They won't be a problem."

"I'm not worried about them in combat." Vivi smiled, "You're right, after all. After all of your training, I doubt even I would have trouble with them!" She clapped a hand on her bicep, smiling cheekily. The other crew members cheered at her, and she giggled, before focusing up, "But that's not what I'm worried about. I'm worried about getting there in the first place. They have dozens of ships and the crew to man them. they could simply form a blockade."

"Then I'll cut them." Zoro smiled viciously.

"I'll melt them!" Luffy punched his fists together, also grinning.

"I have a cannon and I'm not afraid to use it!" Usopp crossed his arm in his 'brave' pose. The heavy sweating kinda ruined it though.

Nami facepalmed, "I used to be a nice, normal girl who just did some honest work." Not a single person there believed a word out of her mouth. Her head hung, and she held up a limp fist, "I'll throw a cyclone at them." She mumbled, getting a cheer and a hug from Luffy.

Vivi and Robin glanced at each other and traded equally-suffering sighs, "I suppose with this crew, the worry is rather unfounded." Her gaze sharpened, "But you should NOT underestimate our enemies regardless. Even I don't know how Crocodile will react to my betrayal, and he has the means with which to utterly ruin Alabasta if he so chose. Further, I have no idea if he has replaced me in name or acquired other weapons now that there is a "possible" leak, in his eyes." She uncrossed and recrossed her legs, getting Sanji to heart-eyes at her, which she ignored, "Here is what I do know: Firstly, I discovered he was acquiring some materials behind my back. Since I trusted him as much as I trusted a deadly snake not to bite me, I used my abilities to spy on him. The shipments were all separated, but they were easy enough to pin down. The materials he was acquiring could build a bomb large enough to level the entire capital."

"WHAT?!" Vivi's shriek as she surged to her feet nearly deafened them.

Robin nodded grimly, "And I rather doubt any of us could live through an explosion of that magnitude. Not if we were in the blast radius."

Vivi interrupted her, "Then it's even MORE imperative that we get there fast and put a stop to the war as quickly as possible." She soldiered on, "Baroque Works has been fermenting unrest for years now, starting with the dance powder shipments that they staged in the capital. That damn material caused all of the problems, giving Alubarna all the rain it ever needed, but subsequently putting the rest of the country into a heavy drought! Rivers dried up and crops shriveled and died." She bit her lip due to her stress, "That was where it all started. Rebels started cropping up, and my peaceful country turned on itself in a matter of months. However, we're in luck! We KNOW who the real enemy is, and the rebel army is led by an… old friend." She trailed off, looking down, "We were all but siblings growing up. I need to meet with him at Yuba. If I can just get in front of him and speak with him, we can end this before it-"

She was interrupted by something she hadn't expected at all: a noise from an unexpected source. A choking noise of sheer disbelief mixed with a snort of derision. "Stop this before…? You cannot be serious, Nefertari Vivi!" Robin stood, glaring at the younger girl.

"Robin?!" Vivi looked at her wide eyed, before minutely shaking her head, "Of course I am! It's what I joined this damn organization for!" She turned to the darker-haired woman, "Kōza knows me! He trusts me! I'll be able to get him to listen and we can end this before it turns into a bloodbath!"

"I don't believe what I'm hearing!" Robin was legitimately in disbelief, "You were a member of Baroque Works! You know how ruthless and cutthroat the organization is! You cannot be this naïve! This isn't going to end without violence!"

"H-hey, Robin." The atmosphere had gotten tense, and Nami tried to defuse it, "You have to understand Vivi. She cares about her pe-"

Luffy exhaled, interrupting his lover, "No, Robin is right." Vivi stiffened, turning around to stare at him with her lip quivering, "We're up against one of the Shichibukai, and a million people are itching to fight." He looked directly at Vivi, "Even if you convince this Kōza guy, there's no guarantee that it'll convince the ones who don't know you. People are going to get hurt, and people are going to die before this is over." He said gently, but firmly.

Vivi clenched her fists, "What's so wrong…" She clenched them so hard they started to tremble, "With wanting to stop Baroque Works from having their way with my country? With not wanting my people to die in a senseless war?!"

"Because it's not realistic, you silly girl!" Robin spat, whirling Vivi around and glaring at her.

Vivi glared back, shrugging Robin's hands off her arms "I forgave you! I offered you friendship even after everything! And now you just throw it back in my face?!" She screamed at the older woman, all but diving at her and trying to slug her.

"Yes, you did!" Robin snarled back, "Which is why I'm not about to let the only friends I've made in twenty years throw their lives away on a fool's errand!"

That almost knocked the fight out of Vivi, and the rest of the crew sucked in gasps of air at the new revelation from their most enigmatic, "B-but-"

Robin sighed, letting go of Vivi and slumping back, "Allow me to break down your plan before you get yourself killed. First," Robin stated coldly, "You haven't been in Alabasta in three years and seldom got any news due to your communications blackout. A necessity to keep your cover, but limiting in other ways. I,meanwhile, had been there less than two months ago, so allow me to explain why your plan would have failed at the first hurdle: The Rebel Army left Yuba over six months ago because Sir Crocodile has been pounding it with sandstorms!"

"HE'S BEEN WHAT?!" The fight was right back in Vivi, "That-" She looked down at her shaking fists "That MONSTER!" She took a deep breath and exhaled. She repeated it two more times, before she glared at Robin, "Where?"

"Katorea." Robin replied, glancing at her nails, "So allow me to explain the second reason you WILL fail if you continue on this foolhardy plan: Let's say a miracle happens and you succeed. You get a letter out to your father and manage to speak face-to-face with Kōza, and both of them believe every word coming out of your mouth. You all work hard to diffuse the anger of the soldiers on both sides and you're even starting to succeed!" Vivi almost smiled at the very thought, before Robin brought her crashing down, "And then one of the hundreds of Millions planted in BOTH camps start shooting and inciting violence again!" Vivi choked at the knowledge being presented, "How will you help your country with a bullet in your chest, Nefertari Vivi? In Kōza's? In your fathers?"

"That's-" Vivi was almost biting through her bottom lip in her rage and anguish, "That's not fair!" She snarled through her teeth.

"Fair?!" Valerie was the one who spoke up this time, before shaking her head, "Robin is right, Vivi. That is way too naïve. If life were fair, none of us would be in this situation in the first place." She stood and now the three women were standing in a triangle, "Sorry to steal your thunder, Robin." She glanced at her former superior and now current friend.

"By all means." Robin stepped back, holding out her hand and waving Valerie at Vivi.

Valerie sighed and stared hard at Vivi, "And the third and most important reason why stopping this is impossible can be summed up with one name: Mr. Two."

"Mr. Two?" Vivi blinked owlishly, "The ditzy Okama guy? Who dances like a ballerina and wears makeup? Loves swans? That guy?!" Sanji had a very disgusted look on his face at the description.

"Yes, and I hardly think you have a leg to stand on calling anyone a ditz." Valerie replied dryly, not laughing for once. Vivi flushed and glared back. Valerie snapped her parasol closed and leaned on it like a cane, "Mr. Two. Aka, the eater of the Clone Clone fruit, which gives him the nifty little ability to impersonate literally anyone." Vivi lost every bit of color in her face, "How exactly do you plan on convincing people your father isn't to blame when Baroque Works can literally use his damned face to burn down an orphanage or commit any other parodically evil deeds in his name?"

Vivi slumped, every bit of fight leaving her. She couldn't hold back the tears anymore, and in the silence that filled the ship her sniffles may as well have been gunshots. Her shoulders trembled, "I just wanted to save them! I wanted to save my people from a war they didn't need!"

Robin let out a sigh, and stepped forward. She pulled the younger girl into a hug, and the bluenette started to sob in earnest into her chest, clutching the older woman like a lifeline, "And you will." She said quietly, rubbing comforting circles into her back. Yes, definitely a little touch starved, "But you can't save all of them. Your enemy isn't your people. Your enemy is Baroque Works. The only way you can end this is if you take them down. They're the ones inciting violence. They're the ones causing riots. They're the ones planting evidence of treachery on both sides. You could get every single rebel and every single loyalist to listen to your voice and it wouldn't matter. They can't take Crocodile down and do you really think he would just waste all of the years he's put into this? No, he would just destroy your country and raze it down into the sands themselves."

Vivi let out a shuddering breath, "Then what do we do?"

"The only thing we can." Valerie said, parasol closed on her shoulder, "Cut off the head of the snake. Burn the body."

"And once the deed is done, then we can worry about calming your people down." Robin finished.

For the first time, Luffy stood and walked over, putting a hand on Vivi's shoulder. She turned away from Robin to look at him, "You were hoping to handle this on your own. You were hoping to just come back with all the answers. But that's not going to work. You can't do it all by yourself. We're here, Vivi. We're your friends! Let us fight with you!" She flung herself at him and buried her face into his chest next. He hugged her tight and started to gently run his finger on her scalp, something she found she really liked, "The truth is, you want to take that Croc bastard down more than anyone, don't you?" She nodded into his chest, even as she continued to sob.

When she pulled away, Vivi took a deep, shuddering breath, "Thank you…" She steeled herself, before turning to Robin, "Robin?"

Robin needed no more words from the Princess. With a smile on her face, she began to speak.

-]|[-

"Hey Nami!" Vivi smiled at the woman who was rapidly becoming one of her closest friends. "What's up? You wanted to speak in private?"

"I did." Nami smiled back, "Before we hit Alabasta and get mired down anyway."

Vivi's smile dimmed, "Is everything okay?"

Nami sat on the bed and stared up at the Princess, "I was just wondering when you started getting a crush on Luffy?"

"W-What?!" Vivi's face flamed red, "I-I don't have a crush on Luffy!"

Nami gave her such an unimpressed look that Vivi could only barely hold back the wince.

"N-no, really!" Vivi waved her hands 'no' in panic, "I don't! I never said anything about how chiseled his abs were! Eep! I mean, it's not like I ever called him my knight in shining armor or anything!" Nami opened her mouth, and then it clicked shut in bemused disbelief. The bluenette started to panic, sweating heavily, "No! No! I mean it Nami! It's not like I felt so warm and safe while he was bringing me up Bighorn or wanted to snuggle wit-!" Her traitorous mouth clicked shut, and she clapped her hands over her face. Nami let out the quietest snort she possibly could, before schooling her features again. "Oh, who am I kidding!" She said miserably, dragging her hands down her face, "I-" She mumbled, "I really do like him. He's just so strong and brave and amazing." She moaned, before shaking her head. She was going to say something else, but Nami interrupted.

"I know." She was smiling again, "He's hard not to fall in love with, isn't he?"

"L-LOVE?!" Vivi squeaked at the word, "I-I don't know about love!" She protested, and then slumped, "Not like it even matters." She said, with just the tiniest hint of bitterness, "I'm not a homewrecker Nami. I would never get between the two of you."

"I know you wouldn't." Nami got up and hugged her, whispering in her ear.

Vivi trembled minutely, "T-then why even set this up?" She whispered in response. She found a finger under her chin, tilting her head up. She flushed, realizing how close they were, "N-Nami?"

"I'm greedy. You know this." Nami smirked. Her voice was very throaty and Vivi felt a shudder run down her spine, "Sometimes I like to have my cake… and eat it too."

"W-wh-?" Vivi started to stammer and just didn't start babbling.

"So, I can't help but notice, you still haven't answered my question?" She caressed Vivi's neck, drawing a small moan that Vivi couldn't stop.

"Q-question?" Vivi licked her lips. Her throat felt incredibly dry all of a sudden. She realized what she was asking, "…Th-the care he showed us every step of the way when we were sick. Th-that was when I think I…realized…"

"I thought so." Nami smiled in victory, "Though him being such a snack helped, I'm sure."

Vivi's blush had been dying down, but it flamed back to full force, "Nami…!" Vivi whined deep in her throat.

"There's something you have to remember, Vivi…" Nami pulled her close, to the point their breasts were squishing up against each other. Vivi was almost about to pass out, "We're pirates…" Nami whispered into her ear, "And we laugh at right and proper." She heard thumping, which made Vivi panic and try to leave her embrace, but Nami held fast and instead whirled her around, presenting her to the door. She pressed up against the younger girl, putting as much contact between their bodies as possible. One hand wrapped around her waist, and the other just ghosted under her right breast.

Before Vivi could let out a word of protest, the door opened and Luffy strolled in with a big grin, "Hey Nami, what did you wan-" he stopped, staring at their compromising position. He tilted his head to the side, "What are you two doing?" He asked in confusion.

Nami smiled, "Welll…" She stuck her tongue out playfully while Vivi stared at the floor in panic, "Vivi here had something she wanted to tell you, but needed a little push."

"Oh? Why didn't you say so?" Luffy asked cluelessly, shutting the door behind him and walking forward. "What's up, Vivi."

Vivi was panicking. Was Nami really doing this? Was she really okay with this? "L-Luffy I…" She couldn't get the words out.

"What's wrong? Are you okay?" He got closer, "You can tell me anything, you know?"

"That's right~" Nami cooed into the teen's ear, "Go on Vivi. Tell him." She placed a gentle kiss on Vivi's neck, just below her ear. Luffy's eyes widened minutely at the sight.

Vivi shivered as something seemed to snap. Her hands reached out and grabbed Luffy by the back of his neck, pulling him closer as she stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. Behind her, Nami grinned, sitting back down and watching with smoldering eyes. She leaned back, both arms behind her propping her up. Luffy's eyes were open in shock, and he glanced at her. Nami nodded, and Luffy wrapped his arms around Vivi and quickly took command of the kiss. Vivi moaned into his mouth, one hand pulling on his neck and the other on his back. Unbidden, her right leg rose and wrapped around him slightly as well. Vivi squeaked as Luffy's hands dropped lower and squeezed both of her pert cheeks, raising her up into the air.

The Princess moaned deep again as she wrapped her legs around his waist, her other arm going around his neck as she pulled away, "L-Luffy I-" She panted. Her whole body felt like it was on fire. "I like you! I really, really like you!" She breathed out, before claiming his lips feverishly once more before he could respond, opening her mouth and moaning as he dominated her tongue.

Luffy strode forward, getting on his knees and shuffling onto the bed holding the Princess in his arms. Nami held her arms out and embraced the Princess as she was dropped on her lap, "And we really like you, Vivi." She nibbled on the Princess's earlobe, reaching up and gently squeezing the younger girl's breasts.

"Nami!" Vivi squeaked as she broke the kiss. She inclined herself and turned back to look at the mikan-haired woman, "I-"

Nami grasped her chin gently, "I really like you too, Vivi." She leaned down just as Vivi leaned up. Luffy all but breathed out steam from his nose in a huff as he watched the two utterly gorgeous women under him make out. He leaned down and started to suckle on Vivi's exposed earlobe, feathering kisses down her neck as he pulled her collar down slightly. Vivi let out another moan as he left a love bite on her skin where it would be unseen, hidden by her shirt unless it was really low cut. The two continued their ministrations, driving Vivi wild as they swapped kisses and love bites equally.

Then, Nami reached down and ghosted a touch between Vivi's legs, and the Princess started. She reached down and grabbed Nami's hand, pulling away from Luffy and stammering, "I-I don't know i-if I'm ready f-for that yet."

Nami immediately pulled her hand away, "Sorry." She apologized sincerely, smooching Vivi on the cheek, before Vivi reached behind her and forced another kiss from her.

"It's okay." Vivi breathed, "I'm not mad." She smiled reassuringly, "I…I don't know if I'm ready for that." She repeated, before her face slowly turned red. She squeaked, "B-But maybe I could watch?"

Luffy and Nami smirked, and Vivi fell in love all over again.

-]|[-

"FOOOD!" Luffy roared gleefully, staring at the giant animal behind their ship.

Beside him, Zoro was also slavering while in his Santōryū stance, "Our first meal in four days!"

"OH NO IT ISN'T!" Vivi bonked the both of them on the head, appearing in a pretty decent Soru.

"Ow! What gives, Vivi!" Luffy turned and glared at her angrily, before his stomach growled and he slumped, folding over the rail, and almost falling off Merry. "So hungryyyyyy."

"You can't eat it. Not that one." Vivi sighed, "Sorry, I should have warned you ahead of time. The Sea Cat is a sacred animal in Alabasta, so if you killed one you'd be committing blasphemy." She glared at Sanji, who she had seen racing to the stern of the ship as well when the Sea Cat had appeared. The blonde meekly backed away.

Luffy cried pitifully, chewing on the wooden rail as he slumped back onto the deck. "Our lunch!"

"I just said no!" Vivi roared angrily, before palming her forehead, "Besides, you'll have plenty to eat soon. Seeing one of those Sea Cats means only one thing: Alabasta is close."

"Uhh, guys?" Usopp called from the crow's nest, "We have problems!" he jumped down, a rope slowing his fall as he landed neatly, "We have Baroque Works ships up ahead!" His knees clattered together in fear.

"What?!" Vivi gasped, and she cursed when they were apparently sighted because the ships started coming towards them. "Have they-?"

"It's a blockade." Robin said simply, frowning, "I know we talked about the possibility, but Crocodile must really be feeling the frustration. This kind of thing isn't usually in his playbook. The fact Mr. Three was defeated on Drum and he still has no idea where I am…"

"He's trying to keep us from Alabasta by any means necessary." Nami concluded, before smirking at Luffy, "What do we have to say about that?"

Luffy smirked roguishly, making Vivi's heart skip a beat, "Let them try."

Minutes passed and now the ships were within range of any forward cannons, of which Luffy could spot three that seemed to have them, along with Merry of course. "Sanji, Usopp." He said simply.

"Right!" The two responded. Robin spun the wheel from afar, turning the ship slightly just as flashes burst into existence on the enemy ships. Usopp moved quickly, aiming, and firing their two "free" cannons as fast as he could. As he did so, Robin quickly used her powers to reload the cannon on her own, which Usopp quickly realigned when he ran back to it and fired once more. All three of their shots hit most of the enemy shots, blowing the cannonballs to pieces far away from anything valuable. The one that got through was racing for the main mast.

Sanji grinned as he jumped into the air, catching the iron ball with his foot and spinning, launching it right back at the enemy ship in an impressive show of strength. The men on the enemy vessel started to panic as the "return to sender" smashed through their forward-facing cannon and destroyed it in a shower of metal and wood.

Below the deck, Val fired their own forward-facing cannon with a cheery laugh. She wasn't nearly the shot Usopp was, so she didn't take out an enemy in one shot, but her shot still managed to catch the ship just above the water line. Immediately the vessel started taking water and getting heavier on one side, meaning it started to list out of its trajectory. "Kyahahaha!" She laughed as the enemy ship unwillingly rammed another of the Baroque Works vessels. Her job done, she raced back up to the main deck.

"Good job Val!" Luffy cheered, drawing another laugh from her, "Ready?!"

She plopped her butt down onto his hand, "As I'll ever be!" She pointed towards one of the ships right after sliding another pair of Usopp's goggles onto her eyes, "PULL!"

With nary a grunt, Luffy tossed her high into the air, flinging her towards the enemy ship. "KYAHAHAHAHA! I LOVE THIS CREW!" She screamed in delight as she soared through the air. She was as light as a feather, and that meant that she could utilize some very miniature Geppō if she needed to. (She definitely couldn't get even a whisper at full weight. She just hadn't been training long enough yet.) And seeing as the enemies were shooting at her? Her adrenaline and heart were pumping as she dodged bullet after bullet that the panicking Billions were firing at her. Right up until she was directly over the enemy ship.

With a slasher smile on her face, she changed to max weight in a blink of an eye, "Ten Thousand Kilo Press!" She cried out, plummeting from the sky like a meteor. She did her best to brace herself with Tekkai, but like Geppō it wasn't one she was good at yet. She impacted the main mast dead center, and the ship buckled. The mast cracked, all but splitting down the middle. The ship itself gave out a tortured groan as wood started to crack and splinter before it split in half widthwise like an accordion. The impact had also brought the ship down a good few feet, meaning when the ship started to split, water rushed in with all of the sea's fury.

The ship and men below her didn't stand a chance, being claimed by the sea, and sent down to Davy Jones. As the mast also started to sink, she leapt back into the air and started groaning as she kicked her way back to the Merry. The second she landed, she collapsed, "How do you DO it?!" She cried, massaging her screaming thighs and calves. "I weighed one kilo and I barely made it back!"

"The fact you can get it at all irks me." Nami growled, "It took that damn avalanche for me to get it, and that was after months of hard training to get me to that point!"

"Kyahaha!" She moaned, unable to even keep laughing. "Who's next?"

Robin smiled nastily, "Me." She crossed her arms, "Cien Fleur!" She chanted, and on the closest enemy ship arms started popping out, guided by eyes sprouted on the mast, "Clutch!" Groans and snaps sounded from the enemy ship as the Billions on it were all treated to a full course of joint locks. They cried out in agony as everything from their limbs to their spines were snapped like twigs as Robin forced their bodies to bend in ways they weren't meant to.

But that wasn't all she did. To make sure they wouldn't escape or be able to announce to Crocodile that she was alive on their terms, she dropped the anchor on the starboard side. She also threw the wheel, spinning it in the proper direction for the wind to catch in the worst way possible. Below the deck, she unhooked everything she could, leaving the heavy items free to slide. The side of the ship that had dropped anchor violently jerked down into the water as the anchor caught, and the stern lifted straight out of the water. The ship clubhauled violently, and everything went according to plan. The ship never righted itself due to the heavy weights flying towards one side, and the ship capsized with a mighty splash. It didn't take long at all to sink.

Vivi and several other crew members were shivering as if a cold wind was blowing on them, "I'm so glad you're on our side."

"Ufufufu." Robin laughed, uncrossing her arms, "I have no idea what you mean."

"Look alive!" Zoro called out, drawing Wadō Ichimonji, Kitetsu, and Yubashiri, "We're in their sights." The cannonade was approaching from both ends, and he and Nami were up. "Tatsumaki!" He roared, spinning his body and blades, creating a twister before the ship's starboard side.

One the port side, Nami formed an 'X' with two of the halves of her Clima-Tact, before tossing them, "CYCLONE TEMPO!" She cried, forming her own cyclone on the port side.

The heavy winds on both sides of the ship caught all of the approaching cannon fire. While Zoro's also had a cutting component to them, Nami's did not. Zoro's cannonballs were diced in half, falling harmlessly to the ocean below. He sheathed Yubashiri and Kitetsu, keeping Wadō in hand. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to capture the feeling from before on Drum. He didn't wish for a second that they had kept Goldenweek with them, instead of leaving her with Dalton and Kureha. If he couldn't do it on his own, then it was worth nothing. The world fell away, and a momentary glimmer weakly engulfed Wadō. His eyes snapped open as he raised his Treasured Blade above his head, "Yakkōdori!" A crescent moon shaped blade of wind erupted from Wadō, racing towards the panicking Billions' ship, and cutting it clean in half. Zoro grinned widely as he saw the proof of how far he'd come. "Now I just need to get faster at that."

On the other side, Nami jumped forward off the ship as her Cyclone Tempo ended. The cannonballs which had been bunched up and rising towards the sky started to fall as the winds died down. She caught the two pieces of her Clima-Tact with a grin and rearranged them. "Tornado Tempo!" Two little clockwork doves popped out of her weapon and started to spin, disgorging cool and heat balls alike. This was a technique she had needed to get together with Usopp to fix, and the result had been well worth the added cost. A sideways cyclone appeared before her this time, catching the falling cannonballs, and directing them right towards the enemy ship. The torrent of wind and metal crashed into it, shredding the enemy vessel, putting a myriad of holes into it. The force of the attack launching knocked Nami back, and she used the momentum to backflip back onto the Merry.

"Oh yes, I'm the scary one." Robin quipped, her tone entirely too amused.

"Shishishi! Three left!" He leapt into the air, "They're mine!" Instead of using Geppō, his feet ignited in plasma, sending him flying towards the enemy ships, "WHOOOOOO!" He cheered, his left hand skimming the ocean waves before he rose slightly and pulverized the keel of the ship as he burst through and into the craft. From outside, all that the onlookers could see was two beams of plasma erupting from the ship and spinning one and a half times from the inside. Then, the beams petered out, and the blackened hull was clearly separated into two pieces. And then everything above that deck rose into the air, with a jet of plasma shooting down through the bottom of the keel and into the ocean, boiling it.

Luffy carried the entire middle and upper decks of the enemy ship above his head, the panicking Billions trying desperately to keep their balance. And then Luffy threw the entire thing at another ship. The mast pierced through the ship and the vessel rocked from the impact. Water started to rush in as the ship tilted from the extra weight they couldn't possibly get rid of, and the second capsizing of the day occurred. Luffy held his hand out towards the last Baroque Works ship, and a ball of plasma appeared in front of him, "Enten Enten no… Kōen!" he roared, launching the ball forwards. It pierced the ship as if the wood weren't even there, leaving nothing more than a tiny, blackened hole.

And then a star was born, throwing waves in every direction and blinding any onlookers. When the light was gone, so was about sixty percent of the enemy ship. The rest looked charred at the edges of the spherical cutout, and both halves of it were separated from each other. The stern did a nosedive and sank, while the bow continued moving forward, before its momentum ran out and it started to sink with nothing more than burbling from the superheating water around it. Luffy turned and raced back towards his ship, cutting off the jets and flipping back onto the deck triumphantly. "Shishishi!"

"No, really," Robin said, a light bit of sweat on her brow, "I'm the scary one?!"

"SHISHISHISHI!"

-]|[-

"One of the customers dropped dead." Tashigi told her superior as they stared at the growing crowd before the quaint little eatery. "From what I heard; they think the poor guy ate something called a Desert Strawberry." She adjusted her glasses, "It's actually a spider that looks incredibly like a real strawberry. If you eat it, it bites and envenomates your stomach and kills you a few days later."

"That showcases the danger that having no information presents, doesn't it?" Smoker sighed, puffing out a bit of smoke. Tashigi wisely kept her mouth shut, knowing he wasn't just talking about the dead man. Smoker really hated this desert heat. His arm still hadn't healed over from Straw Hat's attack, and was wrapped in bandages under his coat. It was still incredibly sensitive to heat, so this climate wasn't particularly good. "So, the guy just dropped dead in the middle of dinner and everyone is crowding around him. Why haven't they moved him to the morgue?"

"They can't." She replied as they continued walking forward, "Apparently this spider is a dastardly devil. Once dead, the venom spreads throughout the body, which becomes contagious and stays that way for several hours." She bit her lip, "Anyone who tries to touch him will suffer the same fate."

"Y-"

"CAPTAIN!" One of the Marines with them was charging in their direction, "C-Captain Smoker!" He yelled, putting his hands on his knees and panting.

"You do the world no good dead, son. Catch your breath and tell me what happened?" Smoker stared at him with serious eyes.

The man took a deep breath, before looking his superior in the eye, "Sir, you're not going to believe this."

"Poor devil." One of the bystanders had his hand up in prayer, "His body just froze in the position he died in."

"He's even clutching his fork. What a way to go…" Another replied sadly, "It really kills you that qui-"

"Wubba!" The shirtless man sat up, scaring the souls out of several of the other patrons, food dribbling from his face. He looked around blearily, eyes landing on the woman closest to him.

"S-sir?" She asked hesitantly, "Are you okYAAAA!" She screamed, pressing down on the front of her dress as he pulled it up and just wiped his damn face with her apron. Thankfully for her heart, he quickly let go of it.

"Huh, whaddaya know…" He deadpanned, face still looking tired, "I fell asleep."

"WHILE TALKING?!" The rest of them cried out, "WITH FOOD IN YOUR MOUTH?!"

The proprietor laughed, "Well, thank goodness you're okay, sir. We thought you ate a deadly desert strawberry and died!"

"Nah, I know to look out for tho-" The man fell asleep again, a snot bubble rising in front of his nose this time as he leaned back.

"FINISH YOUR SENTENCES!" The crowd roared.

"So, he's not dead." Tashigi snorted, "It really was too good to be true."

"Right," Smoker said, glancing at her, "Go and gather the men for a cordon around the area. Start evacuating."

"Sir!" Tashigi saluted and ran off.

The chain-Smoker barged into the restaurant, "SO, it really is you!" The door clattered on the wall, making most everyone in there flinch and quiet down. "You've got a lot of nerve, don't you, Portgas D. Ace." Ace turned around, staring at him with an unimpressed eyebrow, "What's Whitebeard's Second Division Commander doing here in Alabasta?"

The atmosphere in the restaurant became frigid as the townspeople started to panic. They had been YELLING at him!

Ace shrugged, "Who knows?" he smirked, "Was in the area. Decided to drop in and enjoy the sights. Food ain't been bad either."

Smoker clenched his fists, "You expect me to believe that load?"

"Believe what you want." Ace said, putting a toothpick in his mouth and smirking at the Marine. "I'm not here to cause trouble. Truth be told, I stopped here since apparently my kid brother is going to stop here. Haven't seen him in a few years, you see." He leaned back, "So why don't you be a smart little Marine and back off? Or sit down and grab a pint." He raised his glass with a bit of a mocking smirk on his face.

Smoker's glare doubled, "I think not. I may not be here for your head, but as long as I'm a Marine and you're a pirate, then I'll have to-" Smoke started leaving his jacket as he prepared to fight.

Yet Ace kept that same cocky expression on his face, "Get into a fight in a crowded restaurant in the middle of the day?" He asked, "Look around you, my good Captain. Are you just another one of Akainu's goons who thinks wearing a uniform makes you just? Will you hurt these people just to annoy me?"

"You bastard!" Smoker growled, almost biting through his cigars, "You would take hostages?"

"Hardly, moron. You're the one who wants to fight a man just enjoying a good meal." Ace shot back, "I don't make a habit of crushing weaklings. Or do you think that fancy little Kairōseki weapon you got will allow you to take me out?"

Smoker made to reply, but he never got the chance. Something grabbed his collar and before he knew what was happening, for the second time in his life he was moving fast enough to break the speed of sound. And everything behind him until he finally got the wherewithal to turn into smoke, "Move it Smokey!" Luffy said as he walked into the restaurant without a care, as if he hadn't just thrown the Marine Captain hunting him more than a mile away. "I'm hungr-" He stopped, his eyes widening, "ACE!"

"Luffy!" Ace cackled maniacally, having not expected that turn of events in the slightest. He stood, an excited grin on his face, and clasped forearms with his brother, "It's been three years!" He snickered, "Still the same old hungry idiot, huh?"

Luffy turned dead eyes towards him, "I haven't had any good food in DAYS!" He pointed at the owner, "FOOD!"

Ace slapped the back of his head as he took his seat, "Manners! Makino would kill you!"

"Ow!" Luffy rubbed the back of his head, "What was that for, Ace?!"

"I just told you!" The older one yelled back, incensed. And then they both fell asleep, standing up.

"Good lord, they really are brothers!" One of the patrons yelled.

"That idiot." Nami groaned, "He just had to run off, didn't he?"

Vivi giggled, "Well, at least we planned for it." She gave her…. girlfriend? a thumbs up. Doing so showcased the bandages on her arm, which was mirrored on every member of the crew. A precaution against Mr. 2's infiltration capabilities.

"He's at a restaurant." Robin giggled into her hand, "Poor Captain Smoker though. I haven't seen someone get tossed so negligently in years."

"Smoker?" Nami blinked, opening, and closing her mouth once, "Seriously?"

Robin looked at her in surprise. Why did that make her sound so incensed? "Well, Luffy called him 'Smokey' as he was throwing him away."

Nami ground her teeth, "Bastard doesn't move an inch from Loguetown when there were pirates fucking enslaving my people, but his pride gets crushed once and he chases us to the Grand Line?" Ah, yeah that would about do it. "Fuck the marines." Nami stomped off.

Zoro let out a sigh, "Alright everyone. Let's eat and then get our jobs done."

"Kyahaha, going to be a bit hard if the town is crawling with Marines." Val spun her parasol in amusement.

Vivi deadpanned, "Also, why did we send Sanji to go get outfits for us? And why did no one talk us out of the idea before he left?"

"Ufufufu." Robin chuckled, "This should be quite entertaining. I hope he chooses something purple for me, of course."

"My, you outdid yourself, Sanji." Robin purred as she twirled in her costume; a Bedlah outfit with a very deep V cut that went down nearly to her navel, with the garment ending above her bellybutton as well. The skirt was flowing down to her calves and split down the right side. She wore gold bangles with blue jewels for a belt and necklace, and a darker colored veil over the bottom half of her face. And it was even in purple, just as requested!

Nami let out a sigh, "Honestly, I don't know what else I expected." She smiled, "I wonder if he realizes that this outfit is just going to make bedroom time more fun for me and Luffy~" She smirked gleefully as Sanji froze at her cruel tone. Her own outfit had more of a bikini top with waves on it, and her skirt was longer without the slit on the side.

"I am… conflicted." Sanji started to cry, before he cheered up, 'Nami-swan may be gone into that bastard's clutches, but my love for Vivi, Valerie, and Robin shall prevail!'

They had not yet made the crew aware of Vivi's updated relationship status. Said Princess was facepalming to hide her blush, "Sanji…" She said slowly, "We're supposed to be hiding. What part of this outfit is incognito?! These are dancer outfits!" Her top was a little bit "safer" than Nami's but not by much, and she wore more flowing cloth than the rest of the girls.

"Dancers are citizens too!" Sanji replied, ignoring the other half of the question, "No one would guess we're pirates and a Princess like this!" He love-twirled around.

"Kyahahaha, I wonder, Vivi, do you know how to work it in that?" Valerie grinned faux-maliciously. Her outfit was a yellow mirror of Vivi's, except she only had the front and back portions, leaving her legs on display. She was also covering up her right arm since the scars would probably blow her cover as a 'dancer.'

'Wouldn't you like to know.' Vivi thought to herself in a little irritation, before she blushed, 'That's only for Luffy and Nami to know.' The thought made her let out a little smirk. Sanji sure would be disappointed.

"Anyway, are we ready to move out?" Zoro asked, taking a gulp of his booze. He and the rest of the guys were dressed in more regular desert clothes. Sanji did know how to pick em when he wasn't being an idiot.

"Ufufufu, I don't think our little reindeer will be doing any moving like that." Robin chimed in, still smirking.

"Ehh?" They all looked down, "Chopper? What's wrong?"

"Dyiiiiing!" Chopper groaned, ineffectually holding his hooves up to his nostrils. "My nose feels like it's going to fall off!"

Vivi gasped, "Oh, Tony-kun, I'm so sorry! Nanohana is famous for its perfumes!" Chopper gagged, "Some of them are very potent."

"Like this?" Nami teased, spritzing her neck once with a lovely lavender perfume, happy smile on her face, "I'm keeping this."

"Please don't!" Chopper cried piteously, falling on his back.

Sanji predictably went into love mode, and just as predictably started butting heads with Zoro when he insulted him.

Usopp sighed, "Let's just go find Luffy so we can regroup."

"So then I just blasted him and we sailed off!" Luffy finished the story of Loguetown.

"Jeez, it's hard to believe Buggy sailed with Shanks." Ace laughed, "What an idiot. What, did he expect you to just sit there and let his First Mate trap you?"

"Who knows what that buffoon planned." Luffy shrugged as he finished his meal. "Man, I'm stuffed!" He dropped a jingling sack of coins on the counter.

"Ehh, paying for our food? Who are you and what have you done with Luffy?" Ace smirked, having been prepared to dine and dash with the little idiot just like the old days.

"Shishishi, I'll explain later." Luffy laughed as they stood, walking out of the building. And stopped as they stared at the company's worth of Marines standing there with the literally fuming Smoker in the lead.

Ace smirked, "Wow, you waited for us to finish eating and leave the restaurant. You even cleared the plaza out. Not bad, Smokey. That puts you up a few notches in my book. That puts you at…" And then to add insult to injury, he pulled out a pencil and a scrap of paper with a hard back and started writing, "Add the five, carry the two-" he mumbled, scribbling on the paper. He even bit the pencil lightly while Luffy tried to hold in his guffaws, "Ah right!" Ace threw both over his shoulder carelessly, "Zero. Congrats on being neutral!"

"You bastards are BOTH under arrest!" Smoker thundered, "WHITE LAUNCHER!" He shot forward, his jitte pointed at Ace's throat like a spear. "White blow!"

Ace casually inclined his head to the side, before reaching up and grabbing Smoker's hand and stopping the weapon cold. Smoker gasped, before almost vomiting as Ace buried his knee into the Captain's sternum, "I asked you earlier, didn't I?" Ace asked rhetorically, "You didn't really think you could capture me just because you had a fancy little Kairōseki weapon, did you?" He kicked Smoker away with a snort before the man could respond, "You did. That's adorable. I've met some idiots but you, my friend, take the cake at the moment."

"Ace!" Luffy's eyes were sparkling, "You figured it out?!"

"Eh?" Ace turned his head, before he realized what Luffy was talking about, "Ahahaha! Oh, you're talking about Gramps's old trick, huh?" He gave his little brother a cocky smirk, "What, you haven't?"

"TELL MEEEEE!" Luffy tried to glomp him, but they were again interrupted.

"Capture them, men! Do not let either of them escape!" Smoker roared, creating a whole hell of a lot of smoke.

"Honestly." Ace sighed, "Some people just don't learn." He smirked at Luffy, "You go on and get out of here! I'll catch up when the heat's died down!"

"I got a better idea!" Luffy shot back, grinning equally wide, "First to fifty, wins!" he shot forward, blurring from sight.

"Why you little!" Ace quickly followed, vanishing in his own Soru.

Luffy kicked through Smoker's head, but this time the man was prepared, in no small part due to Luffy's shout. He dispersed and Luffy passed through him. "You won't escape me this time, Straw Hat!" He whirled around, but Luffy was already gone, and ten of his Marines were already down for the count.

"Shishishi, how's the arm, Smokey?" Luffy laughed, appearing in front of him, "Looks like it healed up nice!"

"It'll heal up better when you're behind bars!" Smoker yelled, "WHITE BLOW!" His jitte pierced through Luffy, making him almost swallow his cigar in surprise. Only he hadn't pierced Luffy at all. The straw-hat-wearing man faded away, as if he had never been there at all. And then Smoker let out a pained gasp as Ace buried his foot into his side, launching him into a building.

"You won't escape, Straw Hat!" Tashigi yelled, her sword ready and waiting.

Luffy landed in front of her, and she tensed, ready to strike. And almost fell over when Luffy glanced at her and just said, "Nope."

"Wh-" She sputtered as he turned and went to go beat more of their men, "Damn it Straw Hat, fight me! Is it because I'm a woman?! Fight me, damn it!"

"Nope! You're Zoro's girlfriend! You'll have to wait!" Luffy called back cheerfully.

"Gi-girl-" Tashigi reddened in apoplectic rage, "You- I'll!"

Smoker barreled out of the building he'd been launched into, "WHITE GRASP!" A massive plume of smoke surrounded the plaza, looking to ensnare and trap the both of them.

"Yare, yare," Ace shook his head, "People should know when they're in over their heads." He raised his hand, "Enjomo." And then there was fire! Fire licked all around, grappling and overcoming Smoker's smoke. Fire enveloped the plaza, trapping the Marines inside. He grinned, tipping his hat to Luffy, "Well? What do you think, little brother?"

Luffy stared at him, and then he pointed, "AHAHAHAH! Ace is a copycat!"

"Wha-" Ace sputtered, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" He roared at his little brother.

Luffy smirked back, "Mine is better!"

"You little shit!" Ace growled, "You wanna go?" He raised his fist angrily.

"Nah, let's go meet my crew. I'll kick your butt some other time!" Luffy laughed, and before Ace could actually start a brawl with them, he pointed at the fire, "By the way, don't burn the city down or Vivi will kill you."

Ace raised an eyebrow, "Just what have you gotten yourself into, Luffy?" He raised his hand, and the fire closed into a dome. He waited a few seconds, before he relaxed and the fire completely vanished, being sucked back into him. All of the Marines were unconscious on the ground, both from heat exhaustion and oxygen deprivation. "Let's go!"

The only Marine conscious was Smoker, and he couldn't get up as he watched the two outlaws get away, "Damn it." All he could do was clench a fist, "I wasn't… ready. I couldn't… even touch him." he coughed, trying to find the energy to grab a cigar, "I guess… he earned… that nine-hundred million Beli bounty." Before he passed out, the only thought that ran through his mind was that Luffy had to be caught before he reached that level too.

-]|[-

"What's the hold up with Luffy?" Vivi asked Robin, face serious.

"He's on the way back." She replied blithely, "With a guest."

"It better not be the Marines." Usopp groaned, getting his slingshot ready just in case.

"Ufufufu, not quite." Robin smiled, before turning.

"Hey guys!" Luffy landed on the railing with a laugh, "We all good to go?"

"You took a while! What were you doing?" Nami asked as she greeted her lover with a kiss.

"Wow, Luffy with a girl? The world weeps." Ace deadpanned, and the crew whirled around in shock. Ace was lounging on the rail on the upper deck of the Merry. He grinned, tipping his hat, "How do you do?" They took him in; he was taller than Luffy by just an inch, and wore shorts and just about nothing else. He had a tattoo on his upper left bicep that spelled "ASCE" vertically. He never wore a shirt anymore. Not since he became a Whitebeard pirate. He was proud of the much larger tattoo of their Jolly Roger on his back. He wore a red beaded necklace and an orange hat with two blue smileys, one of which was frowning and the other smiling. His hair was messier than Luffy's and he had freckles on his cheeks.

Nami smirked, "Spoken like a jealous older brother." At that, Robin had a bit of a lightbulb moment, having known that there was a connection between Ace and Luffy but not what the connection had been.

"Ha!" Ace barked out a laugh, "She has some fire in her!" He jumped down, and his finger lit up in fire, which he used to light Sanji's new cigarette up. Sanji smirked at the action, "I'd like to thank you all for taking care of this little idiot." He put Luffy in a headlock.

"Damn it, get off Ace!" He elbowed his brother, who let out a playful 'oof.'

"Ehhh, more like he's been taking care of us." Usopp said, sweat-dropping.

Ace let out a laugh of understanding, "Ehh, it's an older brother thing. You know how it is."

"Anyway, what are you even doing here, Ace?" Luffy asked, having not asked that question while they were catching up.

Ace blinked, "I thought you didn't ask because you knew? Didn't you get my message back in Drum?" He shook his head, "Well, whatever. I'm hunting a former crewmate." The atmosphere went still, "The bastard committed the worst sin imaginable on a ship like ours. He killed a crewmate to steal a Devil Fruit he found, and then he jumped ship."

Luffy growled, "That bastard!" His crew was equally infuriated.

"Yup." Ace let out a sigh, "Teach was in my Division, so I felt responsible. I've been chasing him ever since. He's going by Blackbeard nowadays." He shook his head, "But enough about that. I wanted to invite you to join Whitebeard." He grinned, "Of course, your crew will be welcome too."

A ripple of shock spread through the crew. It was quickly dispelled when Luffy went, "Nah. King can't have a Captain, can he?"

Ace laughed loudly, "Ha! Good to see you haven't changed!" He smirked, "Unfortunately, I'm aiming to make Pops the King, so you'll have to find another dream."

"Then I'll kick Whitebeard's ass first." Luffy shrugged, and that had Ace nearly falling over in hysterics.

"Ahahaha! Man, I remember when I thought I was tough shit too." He smirked, "If you don't even know what Haki is, you won't even be able to touch Pops."

"Haki?" Luffy asked, smiling, "Is that what you did against Smokey and…" He shuddered, "What Gramps does with his Fist of Love?"

The crew deadpanned as both brothers shivered in fear. Ace shook it off and nodded, "Yeah, that's it alright. More to it than that, though. Wanna see?"

"Of course!" The crew replied eagerly.

"Alright then!" Ace grinned, and took out a blindfold, putting it on. "Why don't you go ahead and 'kick my ass' then, Luffy."

Luffy growled, and moved faster than the rest of his crew had ever seen. His pipe caused an air blast off the side of the ship from how hard he swung it. But Ace just casually dodged it.

Blindfolded.

Luffy clicked his teeth, and then the dance began. Every swing, Ace dodged with an ease that bordered on negligence. Luffy stopped, his eyes narrowed, "That's not Kami-E."

Ace smirked as he removed the blindfold, "No. No, it is not. Kenbunshoku Haki. It allows one to sense the intent of an opponent. Essentially, you couldn't hit me despite us being about equal in speed because I knew what you were going to do before you did it. But it isn't just the intent. It's a sixth sense that allows you to sense the presence, strength, and even emotions of others." He grinned at the looks of awe on their faces.

"Wait!" Nami gasped, "Wasn't Vivi doing something similar during training? She was dodging things she couldn't even see coming!"

"Oh?" Ace turned, looking at the blue-haired young woman they had all turned to stare at, "Vivi huh? And Luffy mentioned you'd want to kill me if I burned too much of the town by mistake." Vivi's gaze sharpened on him, drawing a smirk, "Last name wouldn't happen to be Nefertari, would it?" Vivi stiffened, "Jeez, what the hell did you get mixed up in now, Luffy? You sure know how to pick 'em." He snorted.

"Gonna kick Crocodile's ass." Luffy shrugged, "Bastard is trying to take over Vivi's country. She went undercover."

Ace whistled, "Brave! I like that!" He grinned at her, and she blushed, "Now, these things that you dodge without seeing them coming… why?"

Vivi scratched her chin a little nervously, "I don't know." She answered, "I just… don't really think, I just mo-OVE!" She dodged, a tiny little fire bullet dispersing harmlessly. The rest of the crew and the Princess glared at him.

"Well, I'll be." Ace was entirely unconcerned with their ire, "I don't think your Kenbunshoku is awake yet, because users conscious of it can control it much better than that. But…" he trailed off, "That was definitely something. You're still reacting, but you're reacting to something you shouldn't be able to. Which means you even have some very minor precognitive ability." He turned to Luffy, "She's definitely close. To unlock it and train it, you should fight blindfolded. Learn to ignore your eyes and ears, and just sense the world around you. The most important thing to remember is that every attack carries an intent. A hint that it is coming. It works better against animals, because other humans can deceive you or control their emotions much better. It works best if you're cool, calm, and collected. If your emotions are out of whack it'll fail. The other guys on Pop's ship helped me learn by blindfolding me and whacking at me with a club until they couldn't hit me anymore."

"Write that down!" Nami commanded, though she was also crying at the future agony incoming.

"Way ahead of you." Usopp said, a pencil and a notebook in hand. Like Nami, and two of the other three girls, he was cringing.

Ace smirked, "How funny! You better catch up quick, Luffy, otherwise one of your crewmates might get stronger than you!" He teased his little brother, who glowered at him while the crew chuckled. "Anyway." He waved nonchalantly, "The second type of Haki is called Busōshoku." He stopped waving and made a fist, which turned as black as the night, even if it appeared slightly shiny, "Essentially, Busōshoku is your spirit and your will made manifest. It is your belief in your own strength, wrapped around you like armor. This one has quite a few levels to it. Let me show you." His hand turned back to normal, "What's your name?"

"Usopp!" The liar quaked a little at being addressed, but otherwise stood firm.

"You the gunner?" Ace asked him, and Usopp nodded.

"Of sorts. Luffy calls me his sniper rather than gunner." Usopp replied, showing his new and improved, reinforced slingshot.

"Hmm, a slingshot certainly adds versatility, but you might want to get something with a bit more power too unless you dive deep into Busōshoku." Ace said a little absently, "Let me see it, please." Usopp handed it over, and (at Ace's request) two simple lead stars. "Watch!" Ace pulled back on the slingshot and fired. The little lead ball hit the rock he was aiming at, and bounced off. It was flattened and had barely scratched the rock.

"Wow…" Luffy made sure to have the most unimpressed look imaginable, "Nice shot." He said dully, making the other crew members snigger.

"Smartass." Ace rolled his eyes, and grabbed the second ball, "Let's see if you're singing the same tune after this!" His arms and the slingshot itself blackened again, and he pulled back much farther than he had the last time. He stretched it to the point that Usopp was afraid he was going to snap the band since it wasn't meant to stretch that much. But it never did. And when Usopp examined it later, he found it was just as stretchy as it had been when he upgraded it. And then Ace let go, and the crack of air made the ball sound like a bullet being fired.

Usopp's ordinary little lead star pierced the boulder Ace was aiming at. It went completely through roughly two feet of solid rock and then caused a small little explosion of sand behind it once it hit the ground. Little bits of sand rained down, before settling.

"WOAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" Every male (and some of the females) on the crew were eyeing the boulder with stars in their eyes. Luffy straight up was drooling.

Ace snorted, "Thought so~" He sing-songed, "Busōshoku at its weakest allows you to cover yourself and other items in your own Spirit. This will enhance some attacks, and allow you to bypass Devil Fruit abilities. It's how gramps could always hit you and not worry about you transforming. The blackening you saw is a step up from that, allowing you to harden whatever you want with your Busōshoku. A cheap-ass sword could become as strong as a regular old Meitō. You hit a lot harder with way more power, and depending on how strong your strikes are you can even extend their range. And like you saw, I could stretch Usopp's slingshot way farther than I should have been able to. That was because I was reinforcing the material." He grinned, "So, what do you think, little brother?"

"SO COOL!" Most of the crew chanted back, while Robin merely smiled.

He tossed the slingshot back to Usopp, "There's more to Busōshoku, but that's beyond my skill with it. Pops can not only hit someone without even touching them, but he can also destroy stuff from the inside out. That's about as high as the ability will go, as far as I'm aware. Even the best swordsman would be unable to cut pure Kairōseki. But add advanced Busōshoku? Easy as butter."

Zoro grinned widely, "Willpower, huh?" He drew Wadō Ichimonji and pointed it at Ace, "Mind if I try something?"

Ace blinked, before holding his hand out and grabbing Luffy's pipe. "Two of your crew? You really are the baby, huh Luffy?"

"Shut!" Luffy glared at his older brother.

Ace grinned as the pipe blackened, "Sure thing…. Uhh… what's your name again?" He asked after a small pause, and everyone almost fell over. After playing a quick round of meet and greet, he and Zoro went down to the sands and he turned to Zoro, "Alright Zoro, let's see it."

Zoro closed his eyes and took a few seconds to fall into the mentality he needed. Ace's eyes widened when he sensed Zoro's strength rise and saw the brief glimmer of Busōshoku. Zoro's eyes snapped open, and he charged. Unlike usual, he didn't call out an attack name. It wasn't an attack that was ready, and not one he'd likely use because of the setup time. He would name it once that was no longer the case. Instead, with a roar, he swung his blade down on Ace.

Ace swung the pipe up from his right side, stopping the attack dead, despite the shockwave that left Zoro's blade and cut about three feet deep into the sands below.

Ace grinned. His pipe was steady while Zoro's blade was straining. He flexed, and flung the swordsman away. He let out a loud bark of laughter, "Ha! Where did you find these guys, Luffy?!" he laughed long and hard, "That's some Will you've got, Zoro! What's your dream?"

Zoro sheathed Wadō, "To stand at the top as the world's greatest swordsman!"

Ace's smile nearly split his face, "Birds of a feather!" he grinned at Luffy, "Looks like your crew is as crazy as you are!" He then ruined the moment by sticking his tongue out, "And that's two out of three, Lu! You've only got one more shot, otherwise the other members of your crew will get to all three types of Haki before you! Ahahaha!"

"There's a third?!" Luffy ignored the teasing, shaking his brother in excitement, "What is it, what is it?!"

"Idiot! Stop shaking me!" He flicked Luffy on the nose, "Anyway, I won't bother showing it to you guys, because it's one of those 'one-in-a-million' type of things. Anyone can learn the other two types of Haki. The last is special. You have to be born with it, and it's called Haōshoku. Essentially, you put your spirit against your opponent." He explained, "And depending on how superior your Will is to your enemy's you can knock them unconscious without lifting a finger."

Luffy inhaled sharply, "O-or kill them outright via heart attacks." He came to the abrupt realization due to Ace's explanation. His crewmates paled.

"What?!" Ace blinked, staring at his younger brother in shock, "What is that supposed to mean? How do you know something like that?"

"Shanks." Luffy said, looking out towards the sea, "The bandits. Remember? I told you about them before."

That jogged Ace's memory, and he let out a shudder, "Holy… How powerful IS Shanks? I've never seen Haōshoku do that even to weaklings…"

Luffy started to snicker, "Well, he was pretty mad." He clenched his fist, "So… that's the level I've got to reach, huh?"

Ace snorted, "Not even a lick of concern. That's just like you, Luffy." He shook his head, "Anyway, I will say this about Haōshoku: Once you unleash the ability, you can't bottle that genie back up. Intense emotions can and WILL let the ability leak out, even after you've gotten a handle on controlling it. So before you get tothat point?" There was a dark glint in Ace's eyes, "Hope the people around you have the Will to survive it." That certainly chilled some of the crew.

The warning delivered; Ace was back to his easygoing manner. "Anyway, if you ever want to join me on Pop's ship, the invite is open." He ruffled Luffy's hair, before Luffy shrugged his arm off with a small glare, "As for Haki… training for Busōshoku is straightforward. It's not too different from Tekkai training. Just beat the hell out of each other while thinking 'There's no wall I can't bring down' or 'there's no strike which can reach me,' that kind of stuff. Though I have to warn you (and this is true no matter which type you're going for), no matter how much training you put into it, Haki always grows the fastest when you're at risk. Power only truly blossoms when you overcome great danger!"

There were the groans he was expecting to see. "Damn it!" Nami yelled out, shaking her fist impotently, "I don't want to be a mass of bruises before I get it working!" Vivi and Valerie were nodding in tandem. Robin was the odd duck out.

Ace laughed, "You should know by now there's no easy path to strength." He grinned evilly at them, "So in a few words… Suck it up! Ahahaha!" The three women glowered at him, before he surprised them by saying his goodbyes, "Anyway, "I've been here too long. Need to try to get back on Teach's trail."

"What?!" Luffy gasped, "You're leaving already? At least stay to have some food! Sanji's food is the best!"

"Not all of us have bottomless pits for stomachs like you." Ace deadpanned, smirking lightly, "So I'll have to take a raincheck on that meal." He grinned at the rest of them, "Take care of him! Kid brother like him makes an older brother worry!" He held out his hand, and gave Luffy a folded-up piece of paper.

"Ehh?" Luffy blinked, "The heck is this? Why'd you give me a blank sheet of paper?" He opened it up and saw nothing was written on either side.

"It's a Vivre Card." Ace chuckled at the fact that not even Robin apparently knew what that was, "Hold it out flat on your hand." Luffy did so, and they all gaped as the paper spun freely in his hand as Ace walked a circle around him. The paper pointed unerringly to the nine-hundred million Beli man. "Keep that safe, will ya?" Ace grinned, "As you can see, that paper will allow you to find me again!" He tipped his hat, "Next time we meet, it'll be on the high seas!" With that, he turned and jumped off, landing on a small, strange looking boat. Fire started spewing from the back and it shot forward, before it turned, and Ace directed it out to open sea.

Luffy smirked as what few Baroque Works Billions ships they probably had left (or maybe some idiot Millions looking for a promotion) got in his brother's way. Ace leapt up, sending his boat under the ships. They ALL heard the shout of "HIKEN!" As a massive fist made from bright flames erupted in front of him, driving through every vessel and sinking them in a single blow.

"So cooooool!" Several of the crew stared out at Luffy's vanishing brother on the horizon.

Nami smirked, "Well, he's certainly your brother!" She grinned, pecking Luffy on the cheek.

Luffy smiled, before turning to the crew and putting his game face on, "We ready?"

"Yes, Captain!" The crew shouted.

Luffy grinned, before pushing down on his hat and tilting his head down so that the only bit of his face that was visible was his shadowed, massive grin, "Let's go skin us a Crocodile."

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Well, hope you all enjoyed it! Shorter than you're used to for this fic, but I DID say I'd no longer be doing mega-chapters for single arcs. Hopefully the next one won't take too long.

[Press X to Doubt]

Vivi officially joins the relationship! I've been wondering what the opportune moment for that would be, and my brain just went NOW. … And amusingly enough, originally she was going to accidental voyeur on Luffy and Nami who were fully aware she was there, and just get yoinked in. Too bad this isn't a smut fic. LOL

Again, go check out Crossed Lines! Hope you enjoy that one as well! And again, come chat on the server! discord . gg / q3Br2hxgCX

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If you guys got pinged, sorry about that! There was no chapter update. I just had to edit this one because I forgot to add something.