Zrocker119: Wow! Can you all believe that its been nearly two years since I started this story? Damn, time sure does fly!
-A True Devil on the High Seas-
Not for the first time in her rather short life, Nami was at a loss for words. While the source of her current mental state could be traced back to a number of today's events, it was the battle taking place before her very eyes that hammered the final nail in the coffin.
It had begun in an instant.
Dante had been the one to kick everything off by blitzing towards the flaming demon, him being the one who had called it such, with Rebellion poised for a thrust. The ground beneath his feet shattered from the sheer force he exerted.
She hadn't even had the time to blink before the tip of his blade collided with the flaming monstrosities fist. The shockwave generated from that first collision had nearly been enough to launch them all flying back and the few remaining trees in the immediate area were torn asunder.
From there, things had only escalated.
Dante had become a literal blur to her eyes, dashing and dodging about the clearing. The only time she could actually see him was when he performed some flashy and over the top move.
Even the demon, Balrog it had called itself, was much faster than its immense size would suggest. Though Dante was moving all over the place, the demon was able to keep pace with him, lashing out with punches and kicks with a precision that would put any martial artist to shame.
The accompanying waves of fire scorched the earth and melted stone, turning the surrounding area into a literal hellscape. And even though they were well out of the way, Nami and the rest could feel the intensity of the battle.
This only served to tell Nami one thing. The display of sheer destructive power that Balrog was casually throwing around was well above anything that they had ever faced. Self-proclaimed monsters like Arlong didn't even register when compared to this true monster.
And Dante was going toe to toe with it, laughing all the while.
"He wasn't lying."
Vivi, being the closest, was the only one to hear Nami's words.
"When I first met Dante, he told me that he was a demon hunter." She was no longer keeping her voice down, allowing everyone to hear the navigator's words. "He said that he had fallen out of a portal from hell after killing a demon."
"Up until now I thought he was crazy, but seeing this...I'm inclined to believe him." Another wave of heat washed over them, forcing the group to shield their eyes.
"So cool!" Nami almost felt like crying. Of course her captain found this situation to be amazing. Why couldn't he take this seriously!? "Hey Dante! Ask him if he wants to jo-"
The excitable captain was unable to complete his order as Nami clocked him on the back of his skull.
"No! You are not doing this!" She roared, her still smoking fist raised. "We have enough craziness as it is and we don't need you adding more! And in case you haven't noticed, we can't even get near that thing without getting burnt to a crisp! How do you expect it to be around us!?"
"B-but big fire guy," Luffy whined, rubbing the newly formed bruise.
"I'm with the witch on this one, Captain," Zoro said from his prone position, earning a nod in agreement from Usopp and a quack from Karoo. "Besides, this Balrog seems hell-bent on killing the old man. Now, can somebody help me? I'm kind of bleeding out right now."
Nami let out a sigh. Sharing a look with Vivi, the two of them grabbed the swordsman by the arms and hauled him further away from the ongoing fight between man and demon. "Just make sure that nothing else sneaks up on us. Last thing we need is to be caught off guard again."
While all of this was going on, the four members of Baroque Works were having an even harder time understanding just what was going on.
"H-how?" Mr. 3 watched as Red Coat fought the giant flaming monster. With every clash, more and more of the area was reduced to smoldering rubble and ash. "He only has a bounty of $25,000,000. How is it that he's this strong!? We need to- what are you doing, Miss Goldenweek!?"
The girl in question had long since removed the blindfold placed by Red Coat and watched the battle with unrestricted eyes. This wasn't the cause of Mr. 3 outcry. That was due to the fact that his partner had somehow, in the span of a minute, managed to set up an entire picnic and was now munching on a sandwich.
"Watching," was her response in between taking bites of her food.
"But why are you eating!? Now is not the time nor the place for that!"
"...The old guy could have hurt me, but instead made sure that I was out of harm's way. I don't think he'll let anything bad happen. We'll be fine." She reached to grab a cracker, only to find herself grasping at air. Looking over she saw Straw Hat had taken up the space beside her and was helping himself to her snacks.
The two shared blank stares. For a moment all was silent before Luffy quickly shoved another handful of crackers into his mouth.
Miss Goldenweek pouted quite cutely at him. "Those were mine."
Placing his palm against the flat of Rebellion's blade, Dante braced as a flaming fist as large as himself impacted the demonic steel. The strength behind the blow sent the Legendary Devil hunter skidding back several meters, his feet carving up a trench in the burnt earth before coming to a halt. Lowering the blade, he smirked.
In his thirty-plus years of hunting the scum of the underworld, Dante had a pretty good understanding of the power structure of hell. And more often than not, the many devils that made up the upper echelons were born with their power.
And while he had no doubt the Balrog had power, Dante could tell that his current level of strength wasn't the amount he had started with. He had actually worked for it.
"I see that someone's been juicing. So what's your secret?" Dante asked, resting his blade on his shoulder. "Push up? Sit-ups? Human blood cocktail?"
Though his features were still obscured by raging hellfire, he instinctively knew that Balrog was sending him a sharp-toothed grin. "When it comes to the lifeblood, quality is superior to quantity. And you have no doubt noticed that the mortals of this realm are extraordinarily powerful."
"But despite their power, they too were burnt to cinders. For over a millennia I have lived on this island, feasting on the essence of those unworthy of surviving. But where the weak fell, they fueled my growth."
Balrog raised a massive foot and stomped on the ground. The dirt beneath him heating up was Dante's only warning before a massive pillar of hellfire erupted at his feet, but the hunter was quick to dash to the side and avoid the flames.
Before his feet could even touch the ground, Balrog was upon him. For a devil of such immense size, he sported an almost startling amount of speed. Anyone else would be struggling to keep up.
Too bad for him, Dante was still faster.
Dante batted punch aside the demons and with a flash of steel, scored a slash across Balrog's extended limb. Though the wound barely registered as a paper cut when compared to the demon's size, the action alone was enough to earn him a growl.
"Come on now, don't tell me you can't keep up," taunted Dante as he continued to dance around blows, all while retaining his flamboyant attitude. But to his surprise, Balrog didn't appear to be angered by his taunts.
The flames that had washed across the recently made clearing began to converge on the demon, lowering in intensity as they receded within, allowing the devil hunter to see more of Balrog's features.
The ancient evil was vaguely human-shaped with ashen skin that was reptilian in nature, not unlike that of Dante's devil trigger. Balrog had a very muscular build, with steel-colored scales around his arms and legs that glowed like magma.
Balrog's head was interesting to look at. While he had the fang-filled maw and horns that Dante had expected, the demon's eyes weren't located at the head but were instead socketed in his shoulders.
The Straw Hats and Baroque Works took in the appearance of the towering Demon with various degrees of fascination and horror. Though, unsurprising to the rest of his crew, Luffy had stars in his eyes.
"You are as skilled as I anticipated." A rumble emanated from within the demon. Given how his chest rose and fell in rhythm with the sound, it was clear that Balrog found something humorous. "You truly are of Sparda's lineage. But don't think for a moment that I am giving up, for this is what I have been waiting for! To face a true opponent!"
The demon clenched his fists and dozens of pillars of hellfire erupted all around him. The earth beneath their feet began to soften, becoming lava before everyone's eyes. As such was the power of hellfire. "I, Balrog, ruler of the burning throne of the fire hell, find you worthy of facing my true flames!"
The air grew even hotter. Even with his insane resistance to extreme temperature, Dante began to feel a trickle of sweat drop from his brow. If he was beginning to feel the heat, he couldn't even begin to imagine what his crewmates were currently experiencing.
Guess he just has to cool everything off then.
Stabbing Rebellion into the ground, Dante held out his hand. The air seemed to displace above his open palm. And in a flash of blue light, an old friend dropped into his waiting hand. It was a tri-nunchaku, then ends of which appeared to be made of ice and was connected to a central ring by what appeared to be mist.
A cool vapor emanated from the weapon, showing to Dante that even in this level of heat, the power of the ice hell still held strong.
"Time to take the puppy for a walk!" Twirling the nunchaku about, accompanied by stereotypical, but very necessary kung-fu shouts, Dante flicked his wrist, sending one of the rods out. The ethereal chain extended, allowing the rod to reach the intended target. The ground directly before his crewmates.
Upon impacting the ground, the melting earth and nearby flames were instantly frozen over, providing some much-needed relief to those spectating.
Jumping into the air Dante allowed himself to be reeled in and landed with his back to his fellow Strawhats. "Should've known that you guys wouldn't have listened to me and run like I told you."
Despite almost drowning in his own sweat literally seconds ago, it was impossible for Luffy to keep a smile off his face. "Shishishi, like we would miss this! Why didn't you tell me you've fought devils!? That's so cool!"
Dante gave an uncaring shrug. "Told Nami when we first met. After that, it never came up." With a flurry that surpassed even that of a master, Dante sent a wave of ice towards Balrog.
The ruler of fire responded with a punch, his fist colliding with the encroaching glacier. For a moment fire and ice battled for supremacy, but flame won in the end and the demonic ice was reduced to vapor.
Balrog examined his fist to see small flakes of ice sizzling on his scales. "This ice...it is from one of the Cerberus tribe. Do you truly believe that some lowly mutt can humble me!? The mighty Balrog!"
"Oh, come on. No need to get all salty," Dante answered, appearing before the demon in a burst of speed, poised for a duel dropkick. Balrog was unable to react in time and the devil hunter sent the demon flying back.
Dante wasn't finished though. The moment his feet touched the ground, Dante sent several spears of ice at the demon. While most melted before they could get close, a few managed to piece Balrogs thick hide. "Besides, Fido's got some cool tricks!"
The battle between demon and man resumed, moving at an even more breakneck pace than before. With every exchange the land was either left scorched by fire or encased in ice.
Zoro did what he could to keep track of it all and while he could keep track of Balrog easily enough, due to the demon's sheer size, Dante was another matter. The man just didn't stop moving. Not a single movement was wasted as even when the man taunted, he did it with the grace of a showman trying to entertain the masses.
His train of thought was interrupted as Vivi patted him on the shoulder.
"There you go." Wiping away the accumulated sweat from her forehead, the princess took a breath. "I've done what I could to stop the bleeding, but try and take it easy until we can get your ankles properly stitched up."
Zorro gave a grunt. "You seem to be holding everything together just fine given..." He jabbed a thumb towards the battle.
"Oh, I'm this close to freaking out," Vivi said with a strained smile. "I-It's just, how? Living on the Grandline, I've seen a lot of crazy things. But how can something like this even exist?"
"I know," Luffy shouted. "Isn't it exciting! I hope we run into more!"
"I don't!" Usopp exclaimed. The very thought of encountering any more of these monsters had the sniper visibly shaking in his boots. How Dante was going toe to toe with one of their apparent kings and not scared in the slightest was something that he couldn't begin to understand.
Nami pinched the bridge of her nose. Something told her that things would only escalate from this point onward. Strangely enough, though, the sentiment brought a small smile to her lips. Never a boring moment with this crew.
It was at that moment, that lightning began to rain from above. Its abrupt entrance startled the entire crew, making them focus on the battle once more.
Dante, at least for the moment, was in a crouched position. In his hands appeared to be a tri-segmented staff of sorts, with bolts of purple lightning connecting them all.
Unbeknownst to them, during his tenure in hell, Dante had encountered the progenitor of all Cerberus demons. And while the King Cerberus, as it had called itself, had been a cut above the rest of its tribe, he too had fallen and been subjugated by the Son of Sparda.
Twirling his newest weapon about, Dante began to rain blow after blow onto Balrog. The attack was so sudden and fierce, that the ruler of the fire hell couldn't form a proper defense and was forced back.
And though he had enjoyed the opportunity to cut loose a little, Dante saw that it was time to bring this show to a close. Slamming the ends together, the segments formed into a long staff, one end of which had flames burning at the tip.
Leaping so that he was at head level, Slammed the burning tip down onto Balrog's horned dome, sending the demon crashing to the ground. Changing back to lighting mode, he rained down dozens of lightning before finishing it off by freezing the demon over. Only its head was left unaffected.
Balrogs breathing was long and heavy as he lay there in defeat. "For a millennium I have gone uncontested...and it would seem...that time has made me arrogant. For I should've known...that I would be unable to defeat the one...who bested my former master."
Dante raised a brow. He was certainly handling this ass-kicking much better than he thought he would. "You ah, you doing okay there big guy?"
"G-hahahahaha! Ghahahaha-ha!" Balrog, for the first time in his entire existence, laughed. It wasn't one filled with remorse or self-loathing, but one of genuine joy. "Do not pity me, Son of Sparda! Never before have I felt such jubilation! To have been felled by one such as yourself is of the greatest honors!"
Balrog was enveloped with ethereal light, his form converging in on itself till only a red orb remained.
Knowing what was about to happen, Dante stored away Cerberus and held out his hand. The orb shot towards him, entering the veteran devil hunter's chest, bathing him in bright light. When it faded, his crewmates saw that he now wore metal gauntlets, greaves, and shoulder pads, with the gauntlets having a yellow eye located on the back of the hands.
Balrog's booming voice echoed throughout the area, allowing all to hear his final words. "I find you worthy of being my master! But know this! As you grow stronger, so too shall I! And when the day comes, I will challenge you once more!"
Dante looked over the latest addition to his arsenal before smirking. Casually slipping into a boxing stance, he shifted from one foot to the other, throwing several jabs while doing so. Each punch caused the gauntlets to start heating up, quickly reaching the point where they burst into flames, creating swirls of superheated wind that increased the power of his punches exponentially.
As he threw out an experimental kick, the horned shoulder pads teleported so that they now connected to the greaves. The sudden change didn't cause the hunter to pause one pit as he switched to a style that greatly resembles capoeira, incorporating several, dance-like kicks and cart-wheels, before ending it with a heel drop that caused the ground for several meters around him to shatter.
"Hm, I'll take that." Dismissing his newest devil arm, Dante retrieved Rebellion from where he had impaled it and strode over to his slack-jawed crewmates. "So...anyone else hungry?"
"THAT WAS AWESOME!"
Dante smirked while the more sane members facepalmed at their captain's outburst.
"You little ones really helped us out of a bind."
With all of the excitement over, the gathered crew decided to follow the giant Brogy back to his camp, all while supporting his friend Dorry on his shoulder. Turns out the other giant hadn't been dead like they all thought but had instead fallen unconscious due to the wounds sustained from the giants' previous bout.
While Dante hadn't the slightest clue as to what they were going on about, he was happy nonetheless that they had apparently settled whatever grudge the duo had spent the last century fighting about.
"Gahahaha, I had completely forgotten about the bounties placed on us," Dorry said in good nature. "To think people would still be after us."
Vivi looked down in guilt. "It's my fault. Baroque Works is after me and the two of you got caught in the crossfire-"
She didn't get to finish her self loathing due to Nami pinching her cheek. "Don't you go starting on that now." She jerked a thumb over to everyone else, who had set up a small feast and were laughing along with the giants. "No one's blaming you for any of this."
"If anything I'm more concerned about that Balrog character." Nami looked over to Dante, who was currently seated on a log with a sandwich in hand. "Care to shed some light on the subject?"
The white-haired devil hunter paused mid-bite. After a moment he shrugged and stood. "Sure, but let's wait until everyone's here. There's a lot and I mean A LOT to go over, and I don't wanna explain everything more than once."
It took Nami and Vivi a moment but the two soon realized that they were indeed missing a person.
"Oh right, where is Sanji anyway-"
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
As if summoned by her words, Sanji came skipping into the camp. "I'm so happy to see that you're both alr-WHAT IS THAT!?" The chef came to a screeching halt at the sight of the two giants casually interacting with his crewmates.
"Sanji," shouted the young captain with a wave. "You missed all the fun!"
Taking a moment to collect himself, Sanji struck up a cigarette before taking a seat. "Alright, while I would love to learn what happened while I was gone, I've got some really important information to share with everyone."
Sanji then went on to explain how he had stumbled upon Baroque Works' hidden base while hunting for food to restock the ship. Not only that, but he had accidentally intercepted a call from Mr.0 himself.
"Wait a moment. You're saying that you actually spoke to Crocodile," Vivi said in disbelief.
"Sure did," Sanji confirmed. "He confused me for somebody called Mr.3. Seeing an opportunity, I told him that we had all been eliminated and that there was no need for further pursuit."
Dante suddenly spoke up. "Speaking of Baroque Works, what happened to those guys? They just sort of vanished."
"I can answer that," Zorro said with a raised hand. "Saw them scram shortly after you started freezing everything over. Let's hope that they won't be able to get a hold of their boss anytime soon to tell them what actually went down."
Vivi looked toward the ground. "Too bad it doesn't really matter. By the time we can actually leave this island, it will already be too late."
Sanji looked on in confusion as everyone became somber at the princess's words. "Why? I mean," rummaging around in his jacket he produced an object that he had managed to swipe from the enemy base. "I did manage to steal this from them."
Everyone's jaws dropped, even Dante, as they stared at what appeared to be an eternal log pose in the chef's hand. One with the words Alabasta neatly printed on the bottom of it.
"AN ETERNAL LOG POSE TO ALABASTA!"
"This is amazing," Vivi threw herself at Sanji, enveloping the man into her warm embrace. "Thank you so much, Sanji!" Tears nearly spilled forth but she managed to contain them.
Sanji had a goofy smile on his face, not really sure what everyone was celebrating about but he wasn't going to complain about it one bit.
"Alright everyone, we need to set sail immediately." Snatching up the log pose, Nami took charge. "For the moment, Baroque Works thinks we're dead. Let's try and get as close to Alabasta while we still have that advantage!"
"Aye! Let's set sail!" Luffy ordered, leading the charge back towards the ship.
"Gahahahaha! You're quite the busy lot! Well, Dorry and I wish you the best of luck!" Brogy said as he waved.
"I hope your country fares well, princess," Dorry called out. The two warrior giants watched as the rambunctious pirates ran off into the forest, no doubt setting sail within the hour.
"...If they wish to leave the Island, they'll have to do so from the western side." Dorry looked to his friend with a knowing gaze.
"Yes," Brogy responded with a smile. "Well then...can't leave our new friends to fend for themselves. While that white-haired fellow is certainly a magnificent warrior and could no doubt look after the lot of them, honor demands that we pay them back for saving our lives."
"How's everything looking?"
Dante gave the ropes a good tug, finding them tight and secured. "So far so good."
"Good," Nami looked towards the front of the ship. "We should be coming up to the western side of the Island any moment now."
True to her words, the forest soon gave way to reveal the sight of the open ocean. To the Straw hats' surprise, however, they also say the familiar forms of two giants standing on either side of the river's mouth.
"Be warned little ones!" Brogy booming voice echoed throughout the area. "The reason why so many of you small folk don't make it off this island lies ahead!"
"No matter what happens, you must sail straight and true!" Added Dorry, hefting his massive sword onto his shoulder. "On our honor as warriors of Elbaf, we swear that you will continue your journey!"
While the crew was confused by the words of the giants, they all nodded and did as instructed. If there was one thing they learned from the short amount of time they had spent on this island, it was that the giants took oaths very seriously.
They were in good hands.
That feeling of security however was put to the test when the ocean in front of them began to rise. As if something was coming up from below. This proved to be true when the case when the water exploded upwards, revealing the gaping maw of a...goldfish?
…Were they about to be eaten by a giant goldfish?
While Dante was more than confident that he would be about to cut them out of the thing, it still wasn't an experience he would be looking forward to.
"We're going to get swallowed!" Nami screamed in terror. "Usopp, grab the helm and get us around it!" When the ship still held its course, she looked up to see Usopp had yet to move. "Usopp!"
"N-no! I won't." Though he was literally shaking in his boots and sweating up a storm, Usopp kept a look of steely determination. "Brogy and Dorry told us to stay the course and that's what we're gonna do! Right, Luffy?"
Luffy looked at his friends and smirked. "You bet."
"Are you two insane!?" Nami grabbed Luffy by the shirt. "We need to change course right now! Do you trust the words of those giants that much?"
Seeing that she wasn't getting anywhere, she released Luffy and fell to her knees while clutching her head with tears in her eyes. "Why can't I have a sane crew?"
"Wait, are they serious!?" Vivi looked up to see the sea king was seconds away from swallowing them. She turned and began to make her way to the helm. "We need to-"
An outstretched arm barred her path. Looking over, she saw that it was Dante. And despite them about to be eaten alive, the white-haired devil hunter retained a confident smirk. "Relax, princess."
Vivi didn't get a chance to speak as the mighty sea king's jaws came down, swallowing the ship wholesale and plunged the crew into complete darkness.
But it was only for a second.
Not even a moment later, an enormous hole was blasted through the sea king's body. The following pressure wave was so powerful that when it caught Merry's sail, the ship was propelled out of the belly of the beast and into the sky.
Keeping a tight grip on the ship, Dante turned around and peered through the hole in the sea king and was greeted by the sight of the giants bellowing out in laughter, even as they dropped their now shattered weapons.
To think that they had been capable of unleashing such a devastating attack. He had no doubt that if it wasn't for the poorly kept state of their weapons, that move was one they could've used often.
This world truly was incredible.
"I swear," Usopp began as the ship finally touched down on water once again, "that I'll visit Elbaf and see the village of warriors!"
Luffy came up and threw an arm over the sniper's shoulder. "Of course! We'll go for sure one day!"
While those two were as excitable as ever, Nami felt like her legs had turned to jelly and sat against the mast. "I think I've had enough excitement for one day." Grabbing the log pose, she passed it off to Vivi with one hand and held her head with the other.
Though she was utterly exhausted, Nami still managed to offer the younger woman an encouraging smile. "Looks like we'll be able to head straight for Alabasta now."
"Yeah." Vivi developed a look of determination. With this, the last two years of working undercover wouldn't be for nothing. She would make it in time to spread the truth. "I just have to survive until then."
"What's with the look?" Vivi looked to see Dante leaning against the mast. Arms crossed and still smirking. "Don't you know yet? You've got the most badass pirate crew this ocean has ever seen watching your back. So stop worrying."
"Couldn't have said it any better myself." Sanji approached with a tray of snacks he had whipped up. "We've got your back, Vivi! Now, how about some food?"
With the offer on the table, the crew gathered around and began to dig into the ever delicious food provided by their resident chef.
As the crew enjoyed the assortment of snacks and began to unwind, Nami developed a thoughtful look. "That's right! I almost forgot!"
"What is it," asked Luffy. "Did we forget to grab something?"
"What? No," The navigator pointed at Dante, who currently had his mouth full. "You promised to explain about that demon you fought."
Holding up a finger, Dante waited till he had finished chewing before opening his mouth. "Ah, I guess I did. Well then."
With a flare of his coat, Dante backflipped up and onto the railing of the upper deck. As this happened, the weather suddenly shifted. Dark clouds rolled in, nearly plunging the sea into complete darkness.
A small opening formed in the clouds, allowing a single, narrow beam of light to pierce through. One that just happened to land on Dante himself, much like that of a spotlight. It would seem that the heavens themselves wanted his story to be told.
With one arm raised towards the sky and the other rested on a cocked hip, the man spoke. "Come one, come all! Gather around while I, Dante, tell you an epic tale full of adventure, action, and possibly love."
"Now our story begins like many do...with a sexy redhead throwing a dagger at my face!"
Zrocker119: And boom! That's a wrap! Chapters over! Hope you enjoyed! Like, Favorite, and Review! Till next time!
ps: To clarify, Dante is only telling the evets that led up to him being trapped in hell. Aka, DMC2. The full reveal of his origins will come at a later chapter.