A/N: I've been having some arm and wrist pain as of late, and so have had to restructure how I go about writing. Normally I binge write, punch out a couple sections of story at a time, an will have a chapter done within a couple dedicated days. As I started this chapter I found I needed to take more breaks to rest and stretch my hands.

I'm still determined to complete this story, but obviously have had to adjust my pacing.

In anycase, thank you for your continued support and interest.

I'm proud to finally bring you chapter 4 of COTS, and hope you enjoy the first waves of change that are hitting this world.

Children Of The Sun

Ch. 4: Shimotsuki Village (Part 1)

In a certain small port town in East Blue, a rising threat to the World Government returned. The man was only just entering his thirties, but his strong facial features and angular blood red tattoo paints him as someone not to be trifled with. Despite all this Monkey D. Dragon was still only one man, and no matter how powerful he was on his own, one man could do little to revolutionize the world. To do so will take more restraint and patience than he'd like and Dragon knows that something of this scale has no chance without sacrifice.

If he were a weaker willed man, the knowledge he held would be disheartening. That he knew most of the civilians he saved from Grey Terminal would never see the fruit of their dedication, and that he'd only extended their lives a little bit. Some may call his recruitment of them cruel and opportunistic, and they'd be right. Alas, for revolution their forces needed to grow, and there would be sacrifices around every corner. Each life was precious, and while it was unethical to place a strategic value on one, the fact was that some were more necessary for the greater good than others. These were the thoughts and sacrifices that great leaders faced daily, which chipped and cracked at men's hearts until they became jaded tyrants. This was the greatest burden of leadership, of being a tactician, of viewing the whole chessboard and the factors surrounding it. It was far too easy to forget about how important, how valuable, the small and insignificant sacrifices may be.

One of the most painful sacrifices was those of inaction, of placing the good of the many before the few.

"Ivankov, Kuma: Prepare the ship and men. We need to leave tonight."

A purple haired man turned from tea he and two others were resting over, and suddenly flew to his feet with unnatural grace.

"Dragon-? What is the meaning of this? What happened to Goa Kingdom-?"

"The top levels of the Royal Palace were burned; the culprits a nobles son and two boys from Grey Terminal."

As the news struck through his audience, Dragon barely acknowledged their reactions. Even so, the seated dojo master's eyes widen behind a pair of spectacles, the bear of a man next to him frowns, and Ivankov's large face exclaims in an expectantly over the top manner.

"Burned- three children burned the Royal Palace?!"

Dragon doesn't bother to reaffirm the statement, his silence speaking for him. Bartholomew Kuma rises from his place at the tea setting, inclining his head to their host before leaving, presumably to hasten leaving preparations.

"Dragon, they didn't catch them did they? Why, no- how would they do such a thing on their own?!"

"The elder two broke into Goa's Palace to free the youngest, a boy the Nobles intended to gift to the Tenryubitto. After saving him and setting the fire, they escaped with a boat into the night."

"A gift-?" A connection is made, and Ivankov's already distressed expression darkens with panic. "It can't be…" Here in the kingdom of his friend's birth, the city was just a mountain away from the small village which he'd chosen to safehold an innocent. While Goa Kingdom wasn't alien to human trafficking, the Royal Family wasn't known for keeping slaves. That they would suddenly acquire someone considered valuable enough to please and entertain a Tenryubitto… it couldn't be a coincidence. "Don't tell me that boy was-"

"He is."

Monkey D. Luffy. One of Dragon's greatest secrets: His son.

The weight of his words is nearly too much for the King of Okama.

"Dragon, you can't be thinking of leaving him now! If they already know who he is, they'll surely hunt him to the ends of the earth! He isn't safe anymore, we have to get him!"

"You think I don't know that, Ivankov?" Dragon allows his emotions to slip out, his voice whipping the other with the force of a gale. "There is no telling where he has run to, and we don't have time to linger when there is a battleship arriving in Goa tomorrow. What we are doing cannot be jeopardized because of my own selfish desires!"

His entire travel back from Goa's smoldering kingdom to Shimotsuki had been consumed by this internal debate. Haunted by the image of an impossibly small and strong, smiling infant he'd cut all ties with eight years ago.

"Dragon…" Understanding their friend's conflict and conviction, Ivankov knows that it would be a slap in the face to continue pressing the issue. The man has already stewed over the issue, weighed every possible action and consequence, and painfully determined that the best action for them was to leave. To abandon Luffy again, this time in his time of need. To condemn three children to the cruelty of mankind as they were hunted like animals.

This was the type of world that the revolutionaries were fighting against. This was the reason they needed to grow, to succeed. Why sacrifices like this had to be made.

Shelving their own emotions, Ivankov shares a final knowing look with his leader and friend, before nodding to the man still sitting. "Koshiro-san, thank you for your hospitality. I'm afraid I need to whip some men into gear for an early departure."

The dojo master shifts his weight into a respectful nod.

"I understand. I'll be there to see you off later. "

Having excused himself, Ivankov departs to assist Kuma in rounding up their recovering, newly dedicated revolutionaries.

Left to themselves, Dragon and Koshiro appraise each other in a silence, the dire situation weighing on them both. Being men of few words, they were generally comfortable in the absence of conversation, content to think and take in the details around them.

Quiet moments of friendship were often the most meaningful.

"Koshiro…" Dragon, always the louder of the childhood duo, is the first to break the silence. His eyes reveal a rare ache of vulnerability, the emotions he was forced to repress before his comrades and subordinates trickling through. "I've no right to ask you of this, after everything you've already done, but…"

"Say nothing of it, Dragon. If they make their way here, I will do everything I can for them." Koshiro's own eyes are firm and tender, meaningful words strengthening the heart of the revolutionary. "Knowing you and your father, it should be the world bracing itself for whatever he'll bring it."

Dragon's strong jaw, furrowed in a deep troubled frown, shifts.

"Heh." Just like that, the fire is back in the tanned man's eyes, his mouth forming a vindictive smirk. "You're right. If Garp put him through even half of what he did to me, I almost feel sorry for the fools that cross him."

Even so, the weight of responsibility would not fully abandon him. The innocent child Dragon had made every deliberate effort to alienate had been dragged into his mess. He and two other children, so young they'd only barely seen a decade, had brought down the wrath and ire of an entire kingdom on their heads. No, that was only partly true. They may have made a brash and ground shaking move, but they'd only made best of the cards they were played. Cards from the game between Dragon and the World Government. There was no one to blame but his opponent.

Was there any point in him and that woman abandoning their son? Of leaving Luffy to be raised without knowing the pair that created him, who may not know much about raising children but would have gladly tried?

Dragon cuts off that trail of self-doubt. Luffy had had eight years of freedom from persecution, of living in the most peaceful of the Blues'. He had gotten as much of a childhood as he ever could, all because Dragon and his mother made the sacrifice of never knowing him.

Luffy is their child and carries the will of D. Not only that, through his freedom he had gained friends who were wild, clever, courageous and crazy enough to break into a castle and free him. His boy was forging his own path and destiny, regardless of his father's ongoing conflict with the powers that be. Luffy would be okay. His life would forever be a dangerous one, but he was strong, and would become even stronger. If he wasn't… if he was captured again or his life cut short… it would be another weight anchoring Dragon's heart and fueling his determination.

'Luffy. I will not allow your sacrifices and suffering to be in vain. For you, for every other child in this world, I have no choice but to succeed. So to you and your friends, I have only one wish.'

Dragon's smirk erupts into a face consuming bloodthirsty grin.

'Give them hell.'


As the sun dawned upon the sandy shore, three brothers stirred to wake. The remnants of a fire still smoldered near their open air camp, the scattered fish and animal bones near it all that was left of the children's dinner. Collecting the blanket they'd laid out upon, the boys gathered onto the New Dawn and were soon on their way. They'd been runaways- no, pirates- for only two days now, but they were already setting into a routine for this leg of their adventure. Yesterday had been much like their first, sailing in the morning, hunting and training in the afternoon, selling and trading in the evening. The only difference had been instead of docking at a town they'd set anchor near the beach, and so they trained at night rather than explored town.

In Luffy's opinion, they were having the time of their lives. He certainly was.

He thought it'd been great before, living with his brothers on Mt. Corvo. They'd been mostly free to do as they pleased then, but this was even better. Every moment was an adventure, a new discovery or accomplishment. Every second, he and Ace and Sabo were completely and utterly free. Sabo's dad couldn't kidnap him, and Luffy thought Ace seemed to smile easier now than ever. It had been bad when Sabo had been taken from them. Ace had become so angry, and nothing Luffy said or did would cheer him up for long. Bluejam and his gang (Luffy refused to call them pirates) had made things even worse, had said things that Luffy was confused and angry about, and convinced Ace they should work for him.

In one day, Luffy's world had been flipped and torn apart. He thought it couldn't get then worse, but it did. Bluejam hurt him, hurt Ace worse, and then he'd been taken to the snobby people in Goa that put him in a cage and treated him like an animal.

Everything had turned out for the better though. They were all free again, freer than ever, and no one could take that away from them. If they tried, they'd be sorry. Ace and Sabo were adamant about that, and that's why they were training extra hard these days. Even on the New Dawn they were training, using the uninterrupted sail time to practice their aim and close quarters combat. Luffy wasn't allowed to use his rubber powers on the boat yet, not after he'd shot off it the first time. It made him mad at first, and he'd struggled to not do what was natural for him, but once his brothers had set him to some other strength training exercises he'd all but forgotten the hardship.

Yeah, things were looking bright for the crew of "Luffy's Amazing Pirates" …

"Stop muttering to yourself Luffy, we're not using that as our crew name."

The rubber boy, freezing in the middle of practicing rope knots (with his fingers of all things), scowls up at Ace.

"It's a great name."

"No, it's not."

"Well Neither is 'Flaming Aces'!"

"Flaming Aces is way better than Luffy's Amazing Pirates! Yours sounds like a sideshow act! Flaming Aces' fits us! We burned the palace didn't we? We should be proud of that."

"Flamin' Aces' make it sound like you're the captain, and we all are! "

"Guys! It doesn't matter what we call ourselves." Ever the mediator, Sabo interjects from the upper deck. "We're not in a hurry for one anyway, so you've got plenty of time to recognize 'ASLA Pirates' as the best."

Immediately the noirettes turn on Sabo, his diversion a little too successful as Luffy flings himself at the navigator. "NOT YOU TOO!"

Having been literally beaten to the punch, Ace simply throws in his own two cents while Sabo fends off their wild younger brother.

"It's not as bad as Luffy's idea, but an acronym is still pretty childish." Even if it was one only one letter off from the acronym they'd made for the treehouse.

"ASL-Adventure is concise and straight to the point- Luffy, careful with your arms, you're gonna get us- OOF!" With a thump and a grunt from both, Sabo and Luffy find themselves tangled on the ship deck, rubber arms tangled in a knot.

"Ah. I'm stuck."


The freckled preteen simply scoffs and smirks at the dilemma.

"You brought this on yourself Sabo. Don't worry, I'll keep watch while you two get caught up."

With the sound of Luffy's calmed down laughter, and Sabo's flustered attempts to instruct the rubber boy into freeing them both, Ace climbs up the New Dawn's mast to keep a lookout. It was good, having the three of them together again. The world felt a little less broken with his brothers by his side, and the ghosts and demons in the back of his mind were not nearly as loud. Ace tries not too brood on that night very long, or the worthless feelings that continued to plague his existence, and his brothers seemed to know just how to pull him back and help him to enjoy living, rather than to live simply out of spite.

Ace lived because his brothers need him. Ace finds joy in life because his brothers remind him its possible, that it was alright.

He doesn't know what would become of him if he'd failed that night to save them. What kind of monster he would have become, had he still survived. He doesn't want to think about it, and really it doesn't matter 'what if'. The facts were that he'd succeeded, they all had, and now it was just the beginning of the rest of their lives.

Some time before noon, Ace spots something along the coastline. A grin widening over his lips, the preteen leaps down from the mast. His brothers have long since freed themselves, and gone back to playing and reading respectfully, but look up at the sound of his decent.

"Ace? Did you see something? Is it another town?"

"Maybe it's a school of fish!"

"Nah Luffy, Sabo's right. It's the next town. Shimotsuki, right?"

"You actually remembered! Maybe you should be the navigator now, Ace."

"No way! Books give me a headache. "


"Right then! You know your positions guys! Let's get the New Dawn to slow down and dock her safely!"


Shimotsuki was fairly dense town, when compared to Foosha Village. There was a much better diversity of ages there, young adults, teens and children scattered about it bustling marketplace. While they had docked the New Dawn with minimal trouble, the locals were already taking interest in the rough looking trio. After selling the animal pelts saved from the other day, they were prepared to spilt up and hunt when someone finally approached them.

"You three are a mess."

Sabo, in charge at the time, frown.

"We're not bothering you.

The girl, taller than all three of them and wielding a strange bamboo sword, continues unimpeded.

"No, but if you're planning on going into the mountains to hunt, I can't let you. It's dangerous there, and I'm not about to let three kids get killed because I let them do something reckless."

Having declared herself a threat, or at the very least an annoyance, Ace steps forward.

"Oi, who the hell do you think you are? We're not just some stupid kids playing around, so get out of our way before we hurt you."

Her expression firm, the girl keeps her weapon resting at her side, relaxed.

"I can tell that, which is why I really can't let you go doing that."

"Ace, let's just go another way. It's not worth starting trouble

"She's the one starting trouble, Sabo! Hey, bitch! You didn't answer me! Who the hell do you think you are, telling us what to do? People like you…" The freckled boy sneers, "…are exactly who we're running away from!"

"Ace no!" "Ace!"

One moment Ace is charging forward, fist raised: the next, he's on the ground, wooden sword held at his back.

The boys are silent, two with shock and the third from wavering consciousness. Fast. How the hell was she so fucking fast?

Her eyes impassive and slightly narrowed, the blue haired girl keeps her weapon steady with confidence.

"My name is Kuina, and I am the daughter of Kendo Master Koshiro. Now are either of you two going to listen to me, or do you also need a lesson?"