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Beta read by the wonderful lincoln time, Antony444, shados960, and MasterQwertster. Make sure to check out the stories they have done!
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Seas of Souls
Chapter 1: Amidst Endless, Boring Dunes
The barren dimension that rests between that of the World of the Living, and the afterlife of the Seireitei; and home of the monstrous Hollows. There the corrupted spirits of those failed to be taken care of by the Shinigami dwell, using their supernatural powers to hunt and devour the souls of living and Humans both alive and dead, but most commonly. . . and each other.
Under the endless moon that is the only source of light to this empty world, the Hollows know only endless battles for survival and dominance. Even if they were to leave to the other two worlds, they are swiftly attacked and slain by the Shinigami of the Seireitei. This is the life they know, and nothing—
"AARGH! IT'S SO BORING HERE!"
With a sigh, the orange feline lightly patted the complainer on his head. "Yes, yes, we know, Luffy. You're not the only one who feels that way. We're going through the same thing as you."
"It's just sand, sand, sand, sand, sand—"
This time Nami hit him on the noggin to make him shut up.
"Ow! Nami!" he pouted.
"We get it!" she snapped irritably, as her captain rubbed his throbbing head. "This whole world is nothing but endless, white sand dunes, over a forest that is nothing but the same dead trees again and again. Isn't that why you decided we should go to Las Noches, Senchou?"
With a groan, Luffy sat up from lying on the dune, nodding.
To any Human who saw them, they would've been so strange and surreal. Nami looked like an oversized, orange housecat, except covered in white bone like armor, including a mask, with a few tufts of fur sticking out. But there was also a hole that went right through where her heart was supposed to be, and all the way out her back . . .
As for her companion, he resembled a monkey, except he still visibly appeared closer to a regular Human; almost like a hybrid between them. He also wore white and dull-red armor covering most of his body, and armour and a white mask that concealed all but his eyes and black hair, yet his hole wasn't over his heart. Instead, it was in the exact center of a strange X on his chest, which was reminiscent of a scar.
Any Hollow and most Shinigamis who stopped to really look at Luffy on closer inspection would've realized the horrifying truth: this hollow was a Vasto Lorde.
The highest class of Hollows within their food chain, each one possessing incredible yet terrifying powers surpassing all but the barest handful of Shinigamis.
They are mightiest apex predators to be found here, born and drenched in the blood of thousands upon thousands of consumed souls. Creating a being of immense and monstrous power that very few denizens within this barren realm can stand up to nor have the ability to achieve the same status.
After that altercation however, it was unlikely that any observer would immediately realize it, because Nami, an Adjuchas, and thus lower class hollow, had just. Hit. Him.
All without being promptly torn apart and eaten. Or heck, even eaten alive if Luffy was impatient.
It was just not done. Nor considered even briefly by either one of them whatsoever. Which would leave any onlookers to this interaction, be they Hollow or Shinigami, utterly befuddled.
Fear should define almost every aspect of their relationship. Her cowering before his very presence, or plotting to look for a weakness to eat him if bold enough
But instead she seemed quite comfortable being around him. Which only made their relationship more paradoxical to what a hollow usually acts around their own kind.
Ignoring this fundamental law of the universe, he instead walked over to join the eight other Hollows he was traveling with. They were all relaxing right now, with a few still licking up blood or chewing up mask shards from their latest meal of a particularly large and stupid ox Adjuchas.
"Are we sure it's real though?" A chameleon Adjuchas chimed in while sitting on a dune as their Senchou passed by him. Like Nami he wore the same bone-like armor around his body with only a few crevices exposing his emerald green scales and wore a mask reminiscent of goggles that covered his reptilian face.
"Huh? Whaddya mean, Usopp?" asked a quizzical Luffy, unsure of what his friend meant.
"Las Noches. We've only heard a little bit about it from other Hollows we've fought, that it's some massive palace somewhere in the desert, where things are at least different. Except how do we know it's real, or that it'll even be interesting?" Usopp questioned with slight exasperation since his captain had been leading them on this quest to find the illusive palace for some time now.
For all they knew they were running around for nothing!
Visibly scowling even beneath his mask, Luffy clenched his fists and glared at Usopp. "That doesn't matter! It doesn't matter if it's real or not or if it'll even be better than all this sand! We're still free and exploring this place. But most of all, at least we're having some fun while we're doing it!"
While the others silently agreed with Luffy, none of the others dared to even question what they would do if Las Noches did not live up to expectations. Dimly they knew they wanted something other than this dull purgatory, yet those memories, like too many others that had flickered in the back of their minds, were shrouded in thick mist.
Only a few details remained within each of them that they knew without a doubt:
They had died.
Worse, they had failed.
Memories of what exactly they had failed at were sadly lost now; except they all still remembered they had failed to achieve their dreams when they were alive.
That word meant something integral to them.
Treasure was another such word.
Senchou, a term of respect they all used for Luffy.
Their first clear memory though, was when all ten of them had first woken up within Hueco Mundo to see each other. Each of them resembled some sort of beast, covered in white armor, with a large hole in their chests. Fatal for any other species except for their own: Hollows.
The souls of those who died and were overwhelmed by regret, guilt, hatred, rage, despair, or any other negative emotions that lingered and continued to fester within them beyond death, until they were utterly consumed by those dark emotions. Consumed, and then transformed into something monstrous. Afterward, these souls turned into monsters and were left with an insatiable hunger for those same emotions they could no longer truly feel or appreciate, yet craved all the same. In every sense of the word, their very hearts were lost to them. And all there was left was their corrupted remnants that sought to satisfy a hunger that could never be satiated.
Yet as they stared at one another, instinctively they knew what they must do: Protect.
Each and every one of them felt those individuals next to them were more precious than their own lives.
It would be a long time before they realized how impossible this moment and the powerful bonds that defined them as a whole were. It literally violated everything they were meant to be once after become these creatures.
Following their descent into supernatural monsters, their hearts were replaced by pitiless holes right through them, a Hollow was driven by an eternal and insatiable hunger to devour other souls, living or dead, to fill that void. And other Hollows were rich in spiritual energy. Leading to the cannibalistic instincts that were all too common between each other.
So ten Hollows put together in one place should only mean one outcome: a complete bloodbath, as the strong feasted upon the weak.
Moreover, each and every one of them was a Menos-class Hollow, born when the strongest of regular Hollows cannibalized each other until one massive mass of souls and identities remained: a Gillian Menos Grande.
While doing that, the souls blend together and individuality is lost. While Gillians become massive and brimming with vast spiritual power, they are also mindless. However, on the rare occasion when one of the cannibalized Hollow's abilities, willpower and ego far exceed those of the others, a Gillian that has not yet lost all of its individuality will appear. That being devours other Gillians in order to continue its dark evolution.
This process continues for some time until they become an Adjuchas class hollow. While having lost their colossal size, these Hollows commonly resembling giant animals were stronger than the normal variety, thanks to the hundreds upon hundreds of souls that made up their being.
Born with an insatiable appetite for their own kind, to both live, and to retain who they are and prevent themselves devolving back into a Gillian.
For ten Adjuchas to just suddenly meet one another without any prior memory was inexplicable, even if the inevitable outcome was obvious.
Instead . . .
—Seas of Souls—
The first one to react was one of the smallest of the Hollows, appearing like a monkey, more animal-like than later in his evolution. He stood up, and then turned his back on the others –instinctively trusting them with this action— to look around.
What he saw was endless, white dunes of sand in every direction, under a starless night sky.
"This looks boring," he declared in disappointment.
A tension the other nine did not even initially recognize lifted immediately, and they all sighed with relief.
"Guess we'll have to do something about it then, Senchou," declared a tiger Adjuchas. His white armor covering his body, while The bestial mask over his face covered one eye, and like the rest of his fur, his hair was green.
The monkey looked back at him. "Zoro," he stated, almost as if to remind himself.
"Luffy," the tiger returned with the same intention.
"Why… did you call me that? 'Senchou'?" Luffy said while scratching the top of his head in confusion.
The tiger hesitated, before shrugging. "It just seemed right to me."
"Ooooh, okay got it!" Luffy smiled and gave the tiger Adjucha's a thumbs up.
"I'm Nami," A large orange-haired cat offered happily.
"Sanji," the ram amongst them said. He gave the cat a strange look, feeling as if his response to her should be more . . . enthusiastic. Except he seemed to be lacking something to produce those feelings. Leaving him confused and slightly frustrated.
"Something wrong?" Nami asked with a tilt of her head.
"Uh no, nothing Nami…Nami-swan." Sanji replied hesitantly, unsure of what that last part even meant. But like Zoro calling Luffy Senchou, felt right somehow.
"Usopp the brave!" proudly declared a chameleon puffing his chest to appear braver than he seemed.
"Hi I'm Chopper!" Chirped a little brown one resembling a tiny deer, furrier than the rest yet.
"Robin," a multi-armed/winged falcon replied, the only other female amongst the group, softly offered.
"FRANKY!" boomed a large, burly figure exclaimed passionately, with a single horn jutting out of their mask while his armor was bulkier than the others.
"Yo, ho ho ho, Brook!" laughed a tall, spindly, boney creature that resembled a giraffe. Yet looked more lithe and skeletal than the others.
"Jinbe," rumbled the last one, a vast and hulking creature reminiscent of a shark, with large tusks on his bottom jaw.
"We…we…" The monkey, Luffy, struggled to say something, but managed to remember the words, "We are nakama. I don't understand it yet, but I know we belong with each other."
"Yes!" "yep!" "Super!" "Feel's right to me, yo ho ho ho!" "Aptly said Senchou." "hmph" "I feel the same way!" "Took the words out of my mouth." "Agreed." The cadre all came to complete consensus with the monkey Adjucha's, reveling in the strange but incredibly pleasant sensation it birthed. Although they were unable to escape the feeling something else was missing . . .
Their leader, their Senchou, took another look around. "What even is this place, anyhow?"
"I do not know," the falcon said apologetically.
"Me neither," the cat added. Both felt as if such information was their responsibility.
"Well then," Luffy declared, as he picked a random direction. "We'll just have to explore it and find out!"
And with that they set off.
—Seas of Souls—
Unfortunately their sense of adventure fell flat rather quickly once they realized every single night (there was no day) was the same.
They also quickly learned how alone they were. True they had each other, but it was a loneliness that strongly permeated in the background. As far as they traveled and covered vast swaths of the seemingly endless deserts, with no way to measure time in this eternal night, they never met anyone else they could be with. Or at least anyone who wouldn't attack them on sight.
The first time they met other Hollows, they were forced to kill them and then proceeded to eat them. The latter born of a strange hunger they only became aware of thanks to their assailants.
Those Hollows had been three other Adjuchas, who had the misfortune to meet each other at the same time, and started fighting each other when the ten newcomers stumbled upon them.
The pack of Hollows ceased their fighting immediately and saw red. Withdrawing their original dispute they collectively descended upon what they thought was their prey, tearing them apart in a mindless savagery that only ended when Sanji and Zoro caught themselves fighting over the same leg.
A flash of disgust rippled through them, before they reluctantly resumed their meal. But that incident made the ten Adjucha's realize an important concept within this realm if they were to be stuck here for the foreseeable future.
Survival was paramount.
Survive in order to protect the others they cared for.
No matter the odds and no matter the cost.
They wanted to believe it wouldn't always end like this. That maybe they can find others who were friendlier than these predatory Hollows. But as pleasing as that idea was, they all knew with a deep foreboding feeling in their minds that it would likely not be the last time they would be forced to do this.
And sadly, they were proven right…
—Seas of Souls—
"—Not my babies!"
"—illed that Shinigami—"
"Hate them! Hate them!"
Quivering with effort, Chopper fought the sense of nausea to force down the souls of the Hollow he had just eaten. The literally hundreds and hundreds of poor souls that had been contained within the six-legged, horned, corpse beside him. Which was proving to be yet again an unsettling experience. The thoughts and memories of those who had made it up, and those it had consumed at a later date. All of which shared the same emotions of anguish, despair and a plethora of negative emotions. And just like him, it would inevitably lead to battle with its 'food' to maintain any semblance of self.
A light, feathery hand brushes against his back to try and comfort him, reminding Chopper he isn't not alone, and with one final sigh he wins. He is still himself.
"Are you alright?" Robin softly asks, as concern was notable in her smooth voice.
"Yeah," Chopper quickly reassures her. "I just feel a little off today."
"Let us know if there's anything else wrong," she tells him, with a gentle sternness that was almost like a parent scolding their child.
"I will," he promised with a nod. Honestly, he should have told them before. Although usually it is not a challenge by this point. He has done this time and time again before, and by now it often only took a mere moment to subdue the souls he just ingested.
No matter how much he hated it.
It was just the ten of them, because every other Hollow they met would prey upon them if they were not killed and eaten first. Because they would have to eat the others regardless, to satiate their own longing.
With a tinge of feelings he could no longer name, much less truly feel, Chopper looked up to see the others finishing up their own meal.
Is this all there'll ever be?
—Seas of Souls—
It was almost by accident they learnt about Las Noches.
Robin, Nami, and Sanji had been sneaking up on a small band of Hollows, who were doing what appeared to be a regular meeting. None of the ones at the meeting were strong enough to eat the others, so there was an informal (alongside incredibly reluctant) truce as they exchanged news. All the while they keenly looked for any weakness in the others. It was clear that this 'truce' of theirs wouldn't be lasting for long, judging by the hunger that was quite prevalent within their gazes.
It was only a matter of when they started fighting again.
"—alace of Las Noches!" A crab-like one said almost reverently. "It's utterly massive, dominating the skyline for leagues and leagues! One day I will reach it and serve the God-King who resides there!"
"Hah!" scoffed another, resembling an anteater. "I've heard of that place, only the strong live within those regal halls! You'll never make the cut!"
"You bastard!" The crab hollow roared and quickly raised his larger claw to strike at the one scoffing his ambition.
With that insult thrown and retaliation made, the fragile détente ended, and a free-for-all broke out.
"*sigh* I figured this would happen." Nami remarked as she watched the hollows tear each other apart. Yet it was unsurprising, since it was inevitable this outcome would occur. She was just surprised their little talk lasted as long as it did.
But more importantly, she couldn't let them kill each other just yet. Not until they could learn more about that "Las Noches" place they mentioned.
Without further delay, Nami got the others, and then the ten of them attacked the whole mess. Needless to say the Adjucha's pack overwhelmed the trio and quickly started to get the answers they were seeking.
"Tell me more of Las Noches," Robin whispered to the two survivors, the ones who had talked about the place. Clutching both with her arm wings and ready to snuff them should they outlive their usefulness.
"It—It's the castle of the God-King!" rasped the crab.
"Well that doesn't tell us much." Usopp sighed out.
"Don't worry Usopp, I'm sure if they wish to avoid worsening their situation they can remember other details." Robin replied casually, yet her dark intentions were made well aware to the two Hollows.
"No…there's more to it," whimpered the other one, a cobra. He knew it was over for him, and knowing what lay ahead if they didn't comply, just wanted it to end quickly. Painlessly if possible. "It used to be an open court for the old God-King Baraggan, with no walls or roof. Except now someone else has overthrown Baraggan and taken over there. Making it their own, and rebuilt it into the massive palace that everyone now knows. The most powerful hollows are flocking there."
"Why thank you." Robin said with feign sweetness to her tone, but appreciated this one's honesty.
"Please…just make it quick."
Robin did not reply, yet nodded in understanding. Seeing there was nothing else to gain from the pair, Robin killed them painlessly as the cobra hollow requested, crushing their heads and masks with a combination squeezing with her sharp talons and strong winged arms.
"What do you think, Senchou?" she asked, turning to their leader who sat down and rubbed his chin.
"Hmm," mused Luffy, thinking long and hard, before making a happy smile under his mask . "Well, a castle sounds pretty cool, and it's got to be something new and different, so what are we waiting for? let's go there! Let's consider it our newest adventure!" Luffy declared and raised his fist into the air.
"Alright!" A buzz went through them all, as if some weight was lifted, eating the hollows as fast as they could before heading off. They did not know where Las Noches was, but at least now they had some sort of purpose. Something beyond roaming the deserts and being forced to abide by the eat or be eaten rules of this miserable place.
Finally, some excitement!
—Seas of Souls—
They never imagined it would be one of their own who would nearly kill them all . . .
That they would nearly lose everything they had cherished between each other.
It had started out like any other day:
"GRRRRAAAARGH!" snarled the oversized bear Adjuchas, swinging his massive clawed right arm down at them.
Impassively enough, Jinbe took the blow straight on, being knocked back several meters before stopping himself and remained unharmed. His tiny but powerful hands firmly latched onto their enemy's larger limb, holding him off balance.
"This guy's stronger than usual!" Usopp screeched in panic, yet still firing hyper-precise Ceros at the bear's left knee.
"And way bigger!" Chopper yelped, firing his own Ceros at the bear Adjucha's right knee as Usopp was doing. Hoping to make him fall down.
Brook vanished for a moment, reappearing right where they had been shooting, his sharp claws leaving thin cuts against the beast's thick hide, yet still managing to do further damage to the beast.
A Hollow's armor, Hierro, worked best if they were focused after all, yet this one was too arrogant in its power to use the discipline it had once had before letting his strength get to his head.
Nami added her contribution by swiftly running around the bear hollow while firing out electricity bolts to shock their prey, being the final blow to bring the Hollow down to his claws and knees; totally vulnerable. "Alright guys, finish him off!"
"Yosh, let's go!" Luffy declared and charged at the bear.
"On it, Senchou!" Zoro said as he ran with his captain.
"Not before me!" Sanji added almost competitively, trying to run faster than the green haired tiger to land the finishing blow before him.
Franky and Robin stayed back, their senses straining for any other arrivals, watching everyone's backs. If worse came to worse, they would also serve as relief.
Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji finished it, each striking the bear's white mask, shattering it and the skull underneath.
"Tch, that was way too easy." groused Zoro.
"The other's needed extra training," snapped Sanji. "We need to fight together more often ,that'll be how we stay alive."
"Still, we're definitely becoming stronger," mused Jinbe as he flexed his hands. "That was one of the strongest Hollows we've come across."
"That's not exactly a good thing…" Usopp flatly remarked.
Silently, Luffy took a large bite out of the Hollow, deciding that all this talk was getting unnecessary. Besides, he was hungry. Always.
So hungry he missed himself passing his internal tipping point.
As the spiritual energy entered him, a dam burst as his own power skyrocketed in an explosive burst, crushing everyone around him down to the sand, making them gasp for breath.
Even through his mask, Luffy's eyes widened like dinner plates in terror of what he was doing to his nakama.
He was hurting his friends!
If this didn't stop he…he…
No, No! He had to stop this before it was too late!
Immediately Luffy ran as fast as he could and fled away from his beloved Nakama before his very spiritual pressure killed them. But in the terror and chaos of the situation, they had overlooked what just occurred.
Luffy had become a Vasto Lorde.
A being so powerful that his very presence was lethal to others weaker than him.
For what seemed like an eternity, he was forced to live just a ways from the rest, as he furiously struggled to learn how to control his power. Desperate to keep this newfound strength from hurting those he cared about and be left alone.
That nightmare coming to life was worse than anything else this place could throw at them.
His nakama however grew deeply concerned for their Senchou. Worried about the guilt he must be feeling and the fear of never getting to interact with their beloved captain again without risking their deaths. Some like Nami wanted to go and see him, but others like Jinbe or Sanji kept her and the rest like her from doing so; knowing where it led to. All they could do was pray for Luffy's success in taming his monstrous power.
Luffy meanwhile called up all the discipline he did not even know he had, spending hours upon hours trying to keep his power from going wild. Yet finally after so long he managed to learn how to focus and contain it. Hide it. Keeping it sealed away, like a lock and key. And only his will was the key to letting it surface again.
And when he returned after all that time, the others mobbed him.
Nami, Chopper, and Usopp tackle-hugged him, and refused to let go. Franky, Sanji, Robin, and Brook each touched an arm and leg, and would not go, reassuring themselves with his presence. Jinbe merely sat down beside them, and Zoro curled up to do the same, yet their eyes never left their Senchou. Drinking in his face and voice after waiting for so long. All the while, Luffy in question felt something he couldn't name, but it was such a great and relieving feeling.
Making him all the more determined to never lose any of his precious Nakama.
Knowing it might happen again, Luffy started teaching the others how to also hide and manage their power as well. Ensuring they did not act as a beacon for all the predators around them. Nor risk the incident that befell him either. While some of them were better at it than others, this only made them all the more dangerous.
Yet eventually it happened three more times, if not as extensively.
One by one, Zoro, Sanji, and Jinbe also became Vasto Lordes as well.
—Seas of Souls—
Coincidentally, the final breaking point was yet another meal.
Albeit, not in a way they would have ever anticipated.
This event had a much darker context to it.
Sanji was chowing down on a Hollow, while idly repressing all the inherent souls trying to overcome his own.
But as he did like he had countless other times in the past, One in particular stuck in his 'throat.'
It was the despair of a child who had died and later become a Hollow.
His so-called drunkard 'father' had locked him in a basement and left him there until he starved to death.
Before he could even think further onto those tragic memories, pain wracked Sanji as he grabbed at his head as…something manifested in his mind. But no matter how hard he tried, these images wouldn't go away.
"Father, please let me out!
"It's dark and creepy!"
These are my memories! he knew. Beginning to realize that was him back when he was alive. Yet soon certain aspects of these memories clung onto him.
Locked in a cell with an iron . . .mask.
"No…it can't be." With growing horror he latched onto that memory of his, even as it tried to fade away once more –the sheer agony of it etched so deep into his soul that even in death it remained a part of him –and realized how he could not feel his fingers on his face.
Because he was wearing a mask.
"AIIIEAARRGGGGH! No! Not again! Get it off! Get it off!" screamed Sanji with all his hate, and ripped off his mask.
The massive burst of spiritual pressure knocked over everyone around him. Even Zoro, Luffy and Jinbe were caught off guard by the sheer volume of energy that was released from their friend. Yet in the next moment it disappeared; almost as if it were swallowed up.
Rushing over, the pack stared in astonishment as they saw that in place of Sanji was a Human.
No, he still felt like a Hollow, including a hole through his chest like before.
Except there was no mask. His face was laid bare now. The only reminder of it was two small horns atop of his head.
Gasping for breath and calming down, Sanji felt it all coming back to him. Not the memories unfortunately, only a few more scraps of it, yet now there were a few happier ones to drown out the cell in the dark.
He could feel emotions again!
Moreover, he could control the savage ones! He knew it!
With eyes of wonder he looked at the others, and in them they could see the truth of what had happened to him. Words were not even necessary as they knew what had to be done.
As one they reached for their own masks.
Arms and fingers quivered with effort, instincts struggling against doing what felt like self-amputation. Nami and Usopp in particular hesitated for a moment, before pushing away the fear and committing themselves to what they were about to do.
For above all else, a Hollow's mask is formed from the hearts they had lost as Humans. It protects the naked instinct which is left in a being after the loss of its own heart.
To do this was to gamble everything.
Except it could help them become whole once again.
To regain a majority of what they've lost.
And they were in this together, no matter what.
No matter the cost.
Nine masks broke beneath relentless fingers/claws . . .
As one they fell to their knees as their flesh peels away under rippling, bursting with newfound power . . . revealing the humans they once were underneath.
Instinctively they all know they are different somehow from other Hollows who went through this. But they do not care in the slightest.
Because above all else…they Remembered!
While Luffy could not recall the particulars of his life before, his sense of identity had finally returned. "Oh, I remember now! I'm the guy who'll be the freest man in the whole world!" he beamed.
"Yeah it's coming back…I'm to become the greatest swordsman." Zoro grimly declared, reaching for the three sheathed katanas on the sand before him.
"I'm a cook!" Sanji smiled until he realized one problem. "…One without a kitchen," grumbled Sanji, looking at the empty wastes identical to what they had seen every waking moment.
"And how am I to navigate this?" groused Nami remembering her true role in the pack. "And there's not a drop of gold or money anywhere!"
"Gold, money? What even are those?" Zoro asked with a raised brow.
"I…" Nami paused before rubbing her chin and thinking more about it. Unfortunately not finding a clear answer. "I'm not sure yet. But my point stands!" Nami affirmed with an indigent stomp of her bare foot.
"Well, I guess I'm a brave warrior here at least," preened Usopp.
"What history is here?" Robin darkly asked while crossing her arms over her well endowed chest. Becoming quite disappointed and downright angry at the emptiness they've been stuck in. Only now with these emotions could she see how truly dull this realm is. "Where are the books or libraries? How is one supposed to learn anything?"
"I don't see any tools, or any water." Franky growled, just as upset as Robin. "It's just dumb sand like Luffy said! You can't even build a sandcastle with this stuff!"
Jinbe huffed, and crossed his arms. The desert of Hueco Mundo felt weirdly alien and absolutely barren to him now. Even more than the others who shared this conclusion. "This land is ill befitting of us."
While Brook was humming a tune to try and lighten the mood, it was clear he too was decidedly irritated.
"Gaaah! This is terrible! How I am supposed to heal anyone! There's no medicine or anything I can use! This place is horrible!" Chopper wailed in both anger and sadness, as he ran in circles at being deprived of his medicines or vital instruments.
Flexing his fingers, Zoro realized his little nakama's concern might be a genuine problem. He could feel that his High-Speed Regeneration had taken a significant hit, and bet it was the same for the others. Unfortunate, but he figured there had to be some drawback to regaining their humanity and emotions.
Once more they looked around to take in the endless, boring dunes. Only now they could truly see how horrible those empty deserts were now that their humanity had been restored. This was purgatory, plain and simple. One that could never satisfy the new hunger rising up within them. Not one which made them crave the flesh of Hollows anymore; but to satisfy a new yet primal desire these ten shared.
To fulfill the Dreams they failed to achieve while alive.
But unfortunately little to no options were available in this desolate world, leaving one last tinge of hope to do so.
"*sigh*. . . Luffy I don't mean to be a buzzkill here but this Las Noches had better be worth it." Usopp declared, with a few others agreeing with their comrade. "If it's a bust…"
"I've told you, it doesn't matter. It's the journey that's important." rebuked Luffy with a soft glare. "Besides it's thanks to trying to find that La Nachos place we got these forms and our emotions back!"
"Oh right." Usopp corrected himself before realizing what Luffy just said. "Wait, La Nachos? Luffy, it's Las Noches."
"Yeah, La Nachos." Luffy mispronounced yet again, seemingly unaware or unconcerned of his verbal error.
"Okay…" Usopp sweatdropped, as he remembered his captain wasn't the brightest tool in the shed.
Yet within their conversation they both felt the same tingle in the back of their minds, wondering if they had had this conversation while alive as well.
Luffy went on. "We'll make the best of it that we can. And now that we're like this, we can have more fun while doing it!"
A shift in the sand from a breeze snaps them back to attention, scanning for potential threats, before focusing on what lay before them. For Zoro was not the only one to receive a new weapon.
One by the one the others picked up the blades in front of them. Intuitively they know what they are, how to wield them safely, and most of all, recognize the power stored within them. Their power.
Luffy's however was by far the weirdest.
A straw hat with a single red ribbon wrapped around it, though they had never seen one before in Hueco Mundo. Yet still they knew what it was.
"Crazy as it sounds, that hat feels familiar somehow." Chopper noted as he stared at it.
"Yeah I think you're onto something. But I can't remember it really." Sanji replied feeling Luffy's hat was related to something. "Oi Luffy, does that hat remind you of something?"
"Yeah, I think so." Luffy said as he tried to figure this conundrum out. But soon enough started to regain an idea to its purpose.
"I think it's because we . . ." Luffy softly said, placing a hand on the hat lying on his head. Feeling a few fragments of his memories come back to him. "We're the . . . Straw Hat . . . Pirates." His face hardened with confidence and his lips curled into a big smile. "Yes, that's what we are! The Straw Hat Pirates!"
"Right!" Everyone all chorused instinctively. While their memories remained hazy, and didn't fully even understand what the term "pirates" meant, their Senchou's declaration rang through each and every one of them as the truth.
Their confidence rising to even greater heights, they stood in a circle so they could bask in each other's presences, and the determination in everyone's eyes. The group landed in a pleasant discussion between them over these new forms they now possess and what lies ahead of them.
"Alright guys, Next stop, La Nachos!" Grinned Luffy as the sense of adventure that had unfortunately whittled down returned in all its glory.
"Sounds like a plan to me! Now what do we…um Sanji are you alright?" Nami asked as she noticed the man was trembling and looking at her and Robin oddly.
Yet it was at that point the entirety of Sanji's repressed hormones and perversion broke through all his self-realization to hit him over the head with the fact he was staring right at two gorgeous, naked women!
He remembered what was so glorious about the lovely ladies in front of him!
"AAAAAIIIE~!" he squealed in glee as his nose burst into blood.
"Huh!?" Nami yelped in shock as a fountain of blood erupted from Sanji's nose.
"Oh my." Robin blinked in surprise at their chef's explosive nosebleed.
"Ah! Sanji! Don't die!" Chopper yelped in horror as his friend lied, twitching, but oddly enough looked very elated, with hearts replacing his eyes despite not having one anymore.
"But isn't he already dead?" Robin reminded the panicking young doctor.
"Oh right!" Chopper remembered.
"Shishishishi! This is already getting fun!" Luffy laughed, at the bright start to their new journey.
—Seas of Souls—
Hi, a new crossover idea from me that I want to try, as the Straw Hats become Hollows. That said, they are not going to be falling neatly in line for anyone, including Aizen. What does Luffy care about some Soul King? Or being King of the Hollows? Nothing in there about him being the most free.
The Straw Hats' Adjuchas forms were inspired by their animal forms on the cover of chapter 651 of the manga.
Credit for inspiring me to write this story goes to another crossover, "The Vasto of White," by Parcasious. It was his work that prompted me to do this, especially after reading their most recent chapters.
I will delve more into their new appearances and abilities next chapter, but frankly it is more productive to go to DeviantArt and check out MasterQwertster's pictures. We worked out their appearances together before he even decided to draw them, and that is how they look in my mind too.
Next Chapter: "New Friends"
Please Review, and I will get back to you!