Chapter Four: The Liar
"The Breath of Death!"
Zoro growled as he ducked under the fire breath of the so-called 'Swordsman'. The guy was a real circus freak, cheap tricks and all.
Cabaji took the chance to launch a kick at Zoro's side with his pointed boot but stopped his attack as he saw Zoro raise a sword to block.
Buggy's second mate jumped back with a smirk, "I call my next circus trick... Murder at the Steam Bath!"
Zoro watched with disinterest as the Acrobat did a flashy spin of his sword to kick up a cloud of dust around himself. He blocked as his opponent lunged out of the cloud in a direct attack with his sword.
Zoro deflected the blade, and struck back with his own, landing a shallow cut on the chest of the Acrobat.
"Now you'll taste my greatest circus tricks!" Cabaji shouted as he flipped open his coat with a flourish, "Dance of 100 Kamikaze Tops!" He cried as dozens of tops were launched at Zoro, each one spinning rapidly as they traveled toward him.
Zoro grunted and cut one down, which caused it to explode like a firecracker in the air. He growled as the rest grew near and settled into his sword stance, quickly cutting through the tops at a rapid pace, not letting a single one touch him.
"This guy is a freakshow." Naruto commented as they watched the small 'duel'. He was pouting slightly, as he had hoped to see a real swordsman's duel. Not... whatever this was.
"It's disappointing," Yugito agreed, "The 'Acrobat' must know he can't possibly match Zoro in swordsmanship if he resorts to such cheap tricks."
"Shishishi, I think it's pretty cool." Lufia giggled, watching the Acrobat like she would a circus performance, rather than an actual fight. Zoro's opponent was pretty funny to watch. Boasting about how he was going to defeat the famous 'Pirate Hunter' while ignoring the fact that he was a grown man riding around on a unicycle.
Nami was watching the fight with growing disbelief. Her mind was still trying to comprehend the 'Devil Fruit' user beside her, and the fight between the two men wasn't helping. "Those guys are insane..." She muttered as she watched them move and fight at a fast pace. She almost had trouble keeping up, "There's no way I could do that..."
"Eh?" She looked to the side in confusion as she heard a voice respond. She hadn't noticed she was speaking out loud.
Naruto gave her a small smile and turned back to the fight. "'If you can't do something. Then don't. Instead, focus on what you can do' It's something my Old Man used to say."
She turned back to the fight with a speculative look. 'What I can do...' Her eyes looked over a small building behind the Inn and a brief memory flashed through her mind. She remembered the three grunts from before had mentioned a place that Buggy's treasure had been stored... A wicked gleam re-entered her eyes. She wasn't a Thief anymore, but she was a pirate now right? Pirates steal too.
She tapped Lufia on the shoulder, "Hey."
"I heard that there's a building behind the Inn that they use to store Buggy's treasure... I'm gonna go steal it." She said with a small smirk. If there was one thing could do... It was stealing from pirates.
Before Lufia could even respond Naruto burst out in laughter. "Hahaha! I knew I liked you for a reason! Stealing his treasure and taking his bounty. That's perfect!"
Nami gave a smile in response. It felt good when other people approved of her actions for once.
Lufia nodded sagely, "I completely agree. A brilliant plan."
Naruto snorted, "You were sold on the word 'Treasure' weren't you?"
Lufia turned to him with a pout, "But we're pirates! We're supposed to have treasure!"
Nami started to step away from the group giving a quick wave, "Then I'm off. Good luck!"
"Wait." The voice of Naruto stopped her in her tracks, "Why don't you take Yugito with you?" He wasn't entirely sure why he had called out to Nami. Just a gut instinct. The memory of the last time Nami tried to steal from pirates flashed through his mind, and he'd feel more comfortable with Yugito along with her.
"Me?" Yugito looked surprised.
Naruto sent her a glance and a shrug, "You aren't really doing anything right now, right? Would you mind going with Nami?"
Yugito looked at him for a moment and then shook her head. She didn't really care. These circus freaks didn't really interest her much.
Nami and Yugito shared a glance. "Not that I'm complaining..." She said carefully, not wanting to insult Yugito by mistake. "But why? I'm perfectly capable of stealing the treasure myself."
Naruto sent her a pointed look, "Just as you were perfectly capable of stealing from Alivda?" He saw her wince and continued, "Buggy's bounty is much higher than Alvida's. Three times, in fact. The general rule is 'The higher the Bounty; The stronger the Pirate'. So you could assume that Buggy, is at least three times stronger than Alvida."
Nami blanched as she remembered her last slip-up in Alvida's cargo hold. She nodded at Naruto, "Right. Sorry. Please come with me Yugito. We'll slip around back, while they are distracted."
The Cat-Woman shrugged and followed Nami as they slipped between the buildings.
"Are they going to be okay?" Lufia asked. She hadn't really understood most of that conversation, but she sensed something was intentionally being left unsaid. Naruto had a look of small worry in his eye.
He smiled at her, "They'll be fine. Yugito is really strong."
Lufia accepted her partner's words and turned back to the fight.
Zoro watched from the corner of his eye as the Acrobat rode his Unicycle to the wall of a tall building, and frowned. The tops were just a distraction.
"Circus Trick: A Hike in the Mountains!"
"Do you really need to call that one out?" Zoro grumbled as he watched the man cycle up the side of the wall.
"Circus Trick: Fireworks in the Cool Summer Breeze!"
The Acrobat launched himself into the air with another technique name, and flew just above the Swordsman. He placed his sword straight down, aiming at Zoro, "And finally... Circus Trick: Sting of the Unicycle!"
Zoro braced to dodge.
"Low Flying Chop Chop Cannon!" Buggy shouted as he finally got sick of watching. His hand broke off his arm and flew at Zoro, "Cabaji! I'll hold Zoro down! You finish him off!"
"With pleasure!" The Acrobat responded as he started his descent.
"Shit!" Zoro swore under his breath.
Buggy's hand flew forward as he tried to grab at Zoro. It was brought crashing to the ground as Lufia appeared, pinning the hand under her foot with a powerful stomp. She looked up with a smirk, "Big Nose! Keep your hands off Zoro's duel!"
Buggy let out a wail of pain as Lufia ruthlessly crushed his fingers underfoot.
'Lufia...' Zoro let out a small chuckle as Lufia saved him.
He ducked to the side as Cabaji descended, dodging the strike as the Acrobat hit the ground. Zoro turned to him with a glare. "I've had enough... of those stupid circus tricks!" He rushed forward and slashed at Cabaji's unicycle, forcing the Acrobat to hop off.
"Fine! I'll finish you with my real swordsmanship!" The man declared as he lunged at Zoro, preparing a strike.
Zoro didn't even acknowledge the words, and crossed his arms as he prepared one of his main techniques. "Oni..."
In a flash of steel and blood, Zoro was past Cabaji, and the man had a crisscrossing gash on his chest, "...Giri!
"I-Impossible..." The Acrobat muttered as he collapsed, fainting from the pain.
"CABAJI!" Buggy screamed as his second mate was ruthlessly cut down.
Naruto whistled as Cabaji hit the ground. That was a pretty awesome sword technique. Very quick.
Lufia had gone forward, presumably to kick Buggy's ass, so he was left to watch the fights by himself. Maybe he'd join in if he felt like it.
"Well well... What do we have here?"
Naruto turned to see a strange looking man... riding on the head of a massive lion.
The man looked over at the fight and his eyes widened as he saw Cabaji on the ground, in a pool of blood.
"Wha-!? Cabaji?! He was defeated?! Impossible!" He turned to Naruto with a murderous glare, "Was this your doing!?"
Naruto scratched the back of his head, "Well technically that was Zoro... But he's a member of my crew so I guess I'm partially responsible."
The man and lion both gave him dark looks. "Do you know who I am?"
"Well, not rea-"
"I'm Mohji." The man introduced before Naruto could respond, "I'm Buggy's, first mate! They call me the Lion Tamer."
"Oh?" Naruto looked him over carefully with a fox-like squint. "You don't look stronger than that cabbage guy, and Zoro kicked his ass with ease. You sure you're really the first mate?"
"Of course I am!" He shouted down at the blonde. The lion let out a low warning growl from beneath him.
"Oh..." Naruto frowned at the lion. He guessed that was the real reason the man was 'First mate'. The lion probably fought all of his battles for him. How annoying.
Well, Naruto could at least have a little fun with this guy. Naruto concealed a smirk and looked up at the weird man. "I understand the whole 'circus' theme, but don't you think you're overdoing it with that weird bear costume?"
"COSTUME?! This is my hair!"
"That just makes it worse."
"Shut up!" Mohji shouted, "Richie! Kill him!"
The lion looked at Naruto with a long stare. Then he moved forward slightly, bringing his head just in front of the blonde. Naruto watched the lion with interest as it gave him a few testing sniffs before backing off with a small whimper. Naruto smirked widely.
"Richie!?" Mohji looked down at his mount with irritation, "I said kill him!"
The lion shook his head rapidly and laid down on the ground, hiding his face with his paws. He let out a low whine.
"Richie?! What's gotten into you?"
A soft chuckle brought Mohji's attention to Naruto who looked up to meet his eyes. "I think you might be in over your head here," Naruto said, as he started his Devil-Fruit transformation. Eyes turned slitted red, nine long bushy fox tails slipped out of the gap in his orange robe, and six whisker marks appeared on his cheeks.
"What... What the hell are you?!" Mohji said as he saw the blonde transform. His mind made a connection, but he didn't want to believe it, "You... you ate a Devil-Fruit didn't you? Just like the Captain."
Naruto gave him a feral smirk, "That's right. You shouldn't blame your little kitten. He just knows when he's facing an Alpha Predator. It's not his fault. It's just instinct."
"Kitten?!" Mohji yelled in outrage, his anger pushing down any trepidation about the blonde, "Richie is the strongest lion in the world! Show him, Richie! This man can't hurt you!"
Naruto shook his head and approached the massive lion without fear. The lion tried to shrink back as he approached, but Naruto slid up to him before he could get any ideas about running.
A loud rumbling purr came from the lion's body as Naruto started scratching the beast behind the ear. Richie gave out a pleased noise as he found a sweet spot. You could say Naruto had a little experience dealing with 'cats'. Maybe he'd keep the lion. Give him to Yugito as a present or something. He was sure she'd be amused.
'Although... I don't think he would fit on Hunter...' He pouted momentarily as he realized he couldn't actually keep Richie. 'We'd probably have trouble feeding him too. Who knows what this guy eats...'
"What are you doing to Richie!? Stop that!" Mohji cried from his perch on the lion's back.
"No. I'm just petting him and he likes it."
"Impossible! I'm the only one who can get close to Richie! I'm the Lion Tamer! There's no animal that won't follow my commands! Richie, kill him already!"
Naruto frowned as Richie gave another weak whine, clearly torn between obeying his 'Tamer' and his instincts. "Richie." He said, catching the lion's attention. His lips curled into a small smirk, "Roll over on your side."
The lion looked confused, but did as the blonde said, flipping over on his side to expose his stomach... and throwing Mohji off in the process.
"Richie!" The Lion Tamer shouted, betrayed. He fell to the ground, landing on his back in surprise.
The lion didn't even hear him, too busy with pleased whines and loud purrs as Naruto gave him a belly rub.
"Who's a good kitten? You are~! Yes you are!" Naruto busted out the 'baby voice' as he gave the lion a belly rub. He snickered as Richie's leg started to kick into the air with pleasure.
Mohji was fuming. The blonde had questioned his skill, doubted his rank, mocked his pet lion, and even insulted his appearance! He was in a rage.
"How dare you?!" Naruto didn't even turn around as Mohji rushed at him, infuriated that the blonde had dismissed him so completely. One singular, yellow fox tail raised in a lazy manner, as Mohji lunged at him with a fist cocked.
A resounding smack echoed through the area as Mohji was lashed across the face with a deceptively powerful tail. He was knocked clear off his feet, flying back a solid ten meters before he crashed into the wall of a building. The wall cracked as he impacted it and he slid down in a slump, unconscious.
Naruto turned to look at the unconscious form of his 'opponent', slightly surprised, "Wait seriously? Just one hit? I figured you were weak but really? I didn't even hit you that hard! It was supposed to be a love tap!"
The lion let out a sad whimper beside him. He clearly wanted to assist his Master, but his instincts were screaming at him to stay down. Every fiber of his being was bowing in submission to the blonde. His senses felt as if the small human form was just a disguise for a fearsome monster.
Naruto shrugged and turned his attention back to the lion. "Stand up."
Richie obeyed, getting to his feet.
"Hup!" Naruto jumped up, landing on the lion's head. He sat down cross-legged, and pointed back to the Inn, "Onward! Let's go get a better view of the fight."
Richie let out another mewl and slowly walked toward the ruins of the Tavern. Leaving his Master behind.
"Stop right there!"
Nami and Yugito froze and turned to see a large group of circus-themed pirates aiming a large variety of weaponry at them. Swords, knives, maces, axes, they would have had the appearance of common thugs if not for the flashy colors and make-up.
"We saw you two slip away!"
"Thinkin' yer gonna steal our treasure?!"
"Damn," Nami cursed, "I thought the crew was unconscious..."
The pirates let out a small set of laughter, and one spoke up, "Unconscious? Just from a little fall like that one? We're the Buggy Pirates, we're much tougher than that."
A brave one stepped forward with a large saber in his hands, "You two ladies are out of luck... The penalty for stealing from Captain Buggy... Is death!" He rushed forward with his blade, swinging at Nami.
Nami stood frozen in shock as the blade came swinging down. Memories of her last experience flashed before her eyes, and she hesitated to move.
Suddenly, the pirate stopped in his tracks. He let out a pitiful wail before falling backward. As he landed on his back, the whole group could see four large slashes through his clothing, blood already seeping out of the wound.
"What the hell?!" Another pirate cried as he hit the ground.
Yugito stood protectively in front of the new Navigator, brandishing her hands threateningly. As the pirates looked her over they noticed, in place of her fingernails, were long razor-sharp claws, dripping with blood.
"Y-Yugito?" Nami looked at her in surprise. Both that the woman had protected her, and that she was now wielding fearsome-looking claws on her fingertips.
The blonde woman sent her a look, "Well? Are you just going to stand there all day, and leave these guys to me?"
Nami's first instinct was to say 'Yes' and let Yugito handle it. It was clear the woman had fighting experience. Before she could even open her mouth however, another memory flashed in her eyes. A positive one, this time.
"Lufia...Do you think...You could help me become strong?"
Her new Captain hadn't had a single moment of hesitation. She looked at Nami as if it was such a simple thing 'to become strong'. Like she was certain Nami would be strong. Now Yugito was sending her a look, expecting something from her, and for some reason, she didn't want to disappoint.
"No," Nami said, pulling up the side of her skirt to reveal a holster she had strapped to her thigh. She slipped out three long sections and quickly assembled her own weapon. A staff.
She pushed down whatever doubt she had in herself and twirled her staff around, pointing it at the pirates, "Leave some for me too."
Yugito let a cat-like smirk reach her lips and turned to their opponents, "I like your style."
The two girls stood together, facing the group of pirates without fear. The pirates exchanged looks, feeling slightly less confident facing the armed women. Their eyes were locked on the sharp claws of the older woman, fear seeping into their minds. They muttered amongst themselves, quietly.
"Hey... you don't think..."
"There's no way... Buggy's the only one around here..."
"Yeah but... Those claws..."
Yugito could hear them easily, "Something wrong boys?" She gave a Cheshire-grin, exposing her elongated canines, "You look like you've seen... A Devil."
A shiver went down the necks of the pirate crew.
Both women could see a wave of uncertainty pass through the group of pirates as Yugito's words set in. Before they could doubt themselves any further, a loud one spoke up.
"Come on boys! They're just two women! It doesn't matter if they have weapons, there's no way they can fight us! We're The Buggy Pirates!"
His words had the right effect, and the crew regained their confidence. Calls of agreement rushed through the crowd, and they all raised their weapons with renewed strength. With a loud cry, they charged.
Nami's heart was pounding in her chest as the first one dove at her. She grit her teeth and ducked to the side to avoid a sword swipe. She took the chance and swung her staff hard, cracking the man in the face. Surprisingly, he went down.
She stared at his collapsed form with shock. She had been expecting a much harder fight. She shook out of her stupor as she heard the next one approach and prepared herself to continue the fight.
Nami fought carefully, dodging attacks and waiting for openings to strike back. It took a while, but she was learning how to deal with the pirates. She struck down at least half a dozen without any serious injuries to herself. As she cracked another skull with her staff, she was feeling pretty good about herself. These guys were weak.
She flicked her eyes over to her companion and quickly found herself staring, awe-struck. Yugito was much better than she realized. The woman was effortlessly taking on dozens of men at a time, gracefully stepping between blades with ease, and slicing down her opponents without mercy. The woman moved with almost supernatural grace, displaying a great amount of flexibility as she bent, spun, and flipped through the pirates' attacks, responding with her own powerful slashes.
The woman's expression was stoic, only letting a small wicked smile appear every now and then as she struck down a pirate in a particularly vicious manner. Nami's eyes widened and her jaw dropped as she watched her crewmate tear through the ranks of The Buggy Pirates. That... was something she couldn't do.
The war-cry of a pirate snapped her attention back to her own fight.
"Shit!" She cursed under her breath as she ducked under a sword. She had been caught staring. That was a stupid thing to do. Luckily, her new position provided her with a target, and she ruthlessly swung up with her staff. Striking the man between the legs. The man went down with a whimper.
Nami buried any surprise and tore her eyes away from Yugito. She was sure the woman would be just fine. She needed to focus on her own battle.
A few minutes later and Nami had her hands on her knees, huffing as she tried to regain her breath. She did her best to slow her rapid heartbeat, coming down from the adrenaline.
"Not bad." Nami looked up to see Yugito's approving gaze. The older woman's eyes swept over the bodies of a dozen unconscious men, scattered around Nami. She offered a smirk, "You're pretty good with that staff."
Nami gave a weak smile, "Thanks... but I'm no match for you." She looked past the blonde, where a pile of at least fifty men were all groaning in pain, blood soaking their clothes.
"Well, I guess you could say I have a bit more experience. Don't worry too much about it." Yugito said, flicking the blood off her claws and letting them sink back into her fingers. She was pleased to see a lack of blood on her fingerless gloves. She was always careful about that.
She let Nami catch her breath and looked off toward the building they were aiming for, "Is that it?"
Nami nodded and slipped the segments of her staff back into her thigh holster, "Yeah. Let's go steal some treasure!"
"You bastard!" The loud voice of Lufia reached Naruto's sensitive ears.
Naruto had caught the majority of Lufia's little scuffle with Buggy. He wouldn't exactly call it a fight, since Buggy had spent the majority of it trying to antagonize Lufia. He had to admit, Lufia's poker face was flawless. She didn't seem to take him seriously at all, something that drove Buggy wild.
Unfortunately, Lufia was caught slightly off guard by a quick 'Chop Chop Harpoon' which entailed Buggy launching his hand, with knives between his fingers, at Lufia. She didn't dodge quite fast enough, and the daggers flew past her head. Barely cutting Lufia's straw hat. Then she finally got angry.
He was learning that there was only one real trigger that set Lufia off. It was when someone either insulted someone else's dream, or messed with their 'treasure'. Treasure could refer to a lot of things. For Lufia, as he just discovered, it was her hat. For Coby, his dream was also his treasure, the one thing that he wanted more than anything else in life. To become a Marine. When Morgan had corrupted that treasure, Lufia got angry.
They say you should 'beware the fury of a patient man' and in this case, a cheerful woman. There wasn't much that got Lufia angry, but when she did get pushed to her breaking point...
"Damn you! You knicked my hat!" She shouted, looking at the small cut on the edge of her hat.
"It's that important to you, eh?" Buggy said with a smug look. His hand, still floating with his Devil-Fruit powers, was sneaking up behind Lufia, still carrying knives.
"This hat is my treasure! Nobody damages it!" She shouted, her eyes screaming murder.
Buggy's hand threw the knives at Lufia's back. The sound of steel whistling through the air caught her attention, and she moved to dodge.
Unfortunately, they were standing in the ruins of the Inn, and her leg got caught on a piece of timber. She fell forward with a curse, dodging the knife, but dropping her hat in the process.
Buggy launched his other hand with a 'Chop Chop Harpoon' and shouted with glee, "Then you should take better care of it!"
Lufia's blood ran cold as she saw him looking, not at her, but at her hat. His hand of knives flew at her defenseless hat, as it flew through the air. She reached out in vain, her arm not fast enough to grasp her hat before Buggy's hand reached it.
Buggy screamed in pain as his hand was mercilessly stomped on... again.
Naruto whisked the hat out of the air as he crushed Buggy's fingers with his sandal. "You okay, Lufia?" He asked, looking at the small cut in the hat.
"Naruto..." She said weakly, her eyes were watery as she remembered the promise she had made to Shanks. The promise to watch over his hat, until she grew strong enough to return it to him. The promise she had just almost broken.
She wiped away her tears and got to her feet, "Yeah... Just fine. Thanks for saving my hat."
He gave her a bright smile, "No problem... Partner."
The words struck a chord in her and she looked at him with a thoughtful face. "Hey... Naruto?"
"Keep my hat safe." She said, cracking her knuckles as she turned a murderous glare to Buggy. "This won't take long."
He chuckled and put more weight on the foot crushing Buggy's hand, "You got it."
"Hahaha...!" Buggy let out a laugh, weakened by the pain of his hand being crushed, "You call that stupid straw thing a treasure? You must be blind! Real treasure is gold, jewels, and stacks of Belli!"
'Yikes,' Naruto thought, 'That was probably the worst thing he could've said to Lufia.' Buggy had just stepped on a landmine and he clearly didn't even know it.
"Shut up!" She yelled as she ran forward, "I promised I'd take care of that hat. Then return it to Shanks!"
The words of Lufia shocked both Naruto and Buggy. The rubber-girl used the chance to close the distance.
Buggy let out a high pitched squeak as Lufia used his shock to get in close enough to plant a powerful kick right between Buggy's legs. Naruto winced and placed his free hand over his groin protectively. 'Man, what is it with women going for that place?! I know it's a weak spot but seriously... I'm in pain just watching it happen.'
Their fight continued, with Lufia dealing far more damage than Buggy in their exchanges. Lufia had literally beaten into the clown 'Don't touch my hat!'.
Buggy got a moment of peace from the onslaught of attacks and launched into a long tale. It was mainly about himself, but he mentioned how he and Shanks were 'equals'. Both were apprentice pirates under the same Jolly Roger. Gol D Roger's Jolly Roger.
As he ranted into his tale, the truth slapped Naruto across the face. 'Shanks'. No wonder the name sounded so familiar. They were talking about Red Hair. One of the feared Yonko. The name had rung a bell when Lufia had mentioned it before, but he couldn't quite place it.
'Shanks..?' Naruto looked down at the hat in his hands in a different light, '...so that's what happened to his hat. Everyone was confused when Red Hair lost an arm and his signature hat, but no one really knew what happened.' He had been young at the time, so he didn't really understand the big deal, but as he grew older, the stories of the infamous 'Red-Haired Shanks' captivated him. He was almost as legendary as Whitebeard himself.
For such a man to lose an arm and his most precious possession, without any news of how it happened... It made some serious waves in the world. Stories and rumors ran rampant, but Shanks himself had said nothing.
It was starting to get interesting. He was getting bits and pieces of the story, and the scraps he was fed only left him wanting more. He wanted to ask, but it was a bad time. He'd wait till they had a moment of peace, or Lufia approached him about it.
Buggy apparently being a member of the Roger Pirates was another shocking revelation. Naruto could hardly believe that this clown was a member of the legendary pirate crew that conquered the Grand Line. As well as being 'friends' with a Yonko.
That was about as interesting as the conversation got. The rest was about how Shanks had 'disgraced' Buggy by accidentally causing him to swallow a Devil-Fruit and lose his treasure map.
To Naruto and Lufia, it just sounded like the whining of a spoiled child. Things hadn't gone his way, so Buggy blamed everyone else. The man clearly held grudges, since he still held anger for Shanks, even after two decades had passed. Naruto's opinion of the man sunk to a new low when Buggy accidentally revealed that Shanks had actually saved his life.
"-If I can't get the treasure that's in the sea, I'll just have to take all the treasure on the sea." Buggy declared, breaking apart at the waist and flying high in the air, "Using my Chop Chop Power."
His eyes turned to the side and spotted the two women of the crew, "I don't care who you are... No one touches my treasure!" He shouted as he flew off to the side, aiming at the two girls that had just finished their looting.
"Shit!" Nami swore as she prepared for another fight. They had stripped Buggy's treasure room for all it's worth, and had managed to see most of the fight. They had arrived just when Lufia's hat had been nicked.
Nami had watched the fight with disbelief, seeing two 'Devil-Fruit users' in action was shaking her beliefs to the core. She hadn't believed in the rumors, but she had watched two living examples of the Devil's power fight each other. Their powers boggled her mind.
One made of rubber, with the power to stretch her limbs on command. Using it both to increase the range of her strikes, and using her flexibility to dodge, pulling herself with her arms when she needed a quick escape.
The other was a 'Chop Chop' man, with the ability to separate his body parts at will. Something that was obviously impossible. He could break apart any portion of his body, using it in an almost perfect defense, and somehow gained the ability to fly with everything above his feet.
It was insane. Far beyond the grunts she had taken down herself. She felt far out of her element watching.
Yugito had seen her disbelief and filled her in on what exactly Devil-Fruits were. She had explained the abilities of the two combatants, as much as she could infer from the battle, while they watched. Yugito had also mentioned her own powers, giving her sharp claws and enhanced senses, and Naruto's powers as well.
Nami's eyes nearly popped out of her skull as she saw the blonde sitting atop a fearsome lion, with blood-red eyes and nine bushy fox tails. Those certainly weren't there before. He had hopped off his lion as Lufia found herself in a pinch, and intervened in the fight just in time to save the girl's hat. Nami silently cheered the blonde on, knowing just how much that hat meant to Lufia.
"I'll kill you!"
Nami cursed and reached for her thigh holster, assembling her staff in a flourish.
Yugito was faster, slipping past her and bringing out her claws. She slashed at Buggy's throat.
"That won't work on me!"
His head smoothly separated from his shoulders as her claws reached his neck, letting her attack pass through harmlessly.
"Damn." Yugito cursed as she blocked his knives with her claws, "How am I supposed to hit him?" She had seen his little trick during the fight. His body split apart on its own, it was a perfect defense.
'No.' She banished that line of thought immediately, 'No defense is perfect.' She just needed to figure out the trick.
"Yugito." The voice of her Captain was quiet, but easily reached her sensitive ears, "His powers are the opposite of Lufia's."
'Opposite..?' She reflected on Naruto's words as quickly as her mind allowed. Lufia's powers were rubber. A silly power at a glance, but allowed her to take blunt attacks without any damage. 'Wait... That's it. I see it now... If he's opposite to Lufia's powers then...'
"That's right!" Buggy declared proudly as he put more weight into his knives, "I'm a Chop Chop man! No blade can touch me. I can't be cut or sliced! There's no way to-ARRGH!"
Yugito pushed his knives aside as he boasted, and let her claws retract back into her hands. She wound back one gloved fist and struck him with a good old fashioned right hook. Buggy's eyes went wide as Yugito's fist plowed painfully into his massive nose, sending his torso flying back to Lufia.
The black-haired girl smiled widely as Yugito sent his top half back at her. Lufia reached out with a hand as Buggy came within distance. She grasped his head in her hand and slammed it down into the ground as hard as she could. A loud crashing noise filled the air as she smashed his face into the foundation of the ruined building. When she pulled back, his body was slack. He was unconscious.
"We won!" She didn't hesitate to let out a cheer, throwing her arms in the air.
"Well done Lufia!" Naruto clapped as he approached her. Richie was following behind, looking sadly at the collapsed form of his crew.
"Shishishi... Where'd you get the lion Naruto?"
He gained a teasing smile, "Ah well, I found it in town and it reminded me so much of Yugito that I just had to bring it along, y'know?"
Yugito appeared behind him, slapping him lightly on the shoulder, "Idiot," Her small smile betrayed her words, "You really can't resist the cat references can you?"
"Nope!" He replied without shame.
Yugito shook her head and slipped a large bag off her shoulder, one they hadn't noticed before, and set it down on the ground. "We really snagged a lot. Buggy had a surprising amount of treasure stored up."
Nami appeared with a slightly smaller bag, and placed it down next to Yugito's with a huff, "How can you even carry that? These things are heavy!"
Yugito shrugged, "I train hard."
Lufia stepped over and picked Nami's bag up with one hand, "This isn't that heavy."
Nami's shoulders slumped, "Fine... You carry it then." She had thought she was pretty strong for a girl, but these two just weren't fair!
"How can you even do that?" Nami said, referring to both Lufia's strength, and the crazy fight she had just seen, "Your arms are even lankier than mine!"
"Shishishi... I'm strong!"
Nami looked ready to pull her hair out in frustration. Naruto let out a chuckle, "You should get used to it Nami. We're all monsters here." The word was accurate for the whole crew, except their newest member. Naruto didn't care, he figured Nami would turn into a monster soon enough.
Nami sighed in resignation. She could feel a large number of headaches coming her way in the near future.
"Hey... Where's Zoro?" Lufia asked, looking around.
"Now that you mention it, I haven't seen him since we left during his fight," Yugito said.
"Hahaha! He's over there." Naruto pointed a thumb over his shoulder, and the group turned to see the green-haired Swordsman sitting on the ground, leaning his back against a building.
Soft snoring reached their ears.
"He slept through all of that?!" Nami asked with a sweatdrop.
Yugito shrugged, "He hasn't slept since Shells Town, so it would make sense that he would be exhausted. That fight he had probably took the last of his energy."
Naruto nodded, "Yep. He passed out pretty quickly, telling me to wake him up when it's over... Speaking of which, we should find a place to settle down for the night. We've all had a long day."
The rest of the crew gave their agreement easily.
They turned to see an old man approaching them. He was dressed in brown armor and had scraggly white hair. He pushed his glasses up on his nose as he looked around the area. He saw the ruins of the Pirate's Hideout, bodies scattered all over the place, and finally, Buggy himself on the ground. His eyes went wide as he identified a few more of Buggy's officers. Cabaji was lying in a pool of his own blood, and Mohji was slightly embedded in a wall, both had clearly been beaten.
He turned to the group with a testing look in his eye. A large group of villagers had rallied behind him, each carrying makeshift weapons.
"Care to explain what happened here?"
The remainder of the day flew past quickly. Lufia happily declared they were pirates, setting the villagers on edge. Naruto hastily amended that they meant no harm and that they were only there to get Buggy's bounty. As much fun as it would be to have a group of villagers chase them out of town, they were tired and needed a place to rest.
After which, the villagers happily threw a party. Celebrating the end of Buggy's reign over the town.
The old man from before, the mayor as it turns out, showered the group with a million 'thank yous' and gave them a place to rest up for the night. He offered his own home, until the rest of the villagers protested and lead the group to a big enough house for all five of them.
They slept well, taking a well-deserved rest from the long day. As Naruto fell asleep he couldn't help but let out a small chuckle, 'The heroes of two different towns in just one day. Things are definitely going to be more interesting from now on...'
The villagers quickly tied up the remainder of The Buggy Pirates, Richie included, and sent a message to the closest Marine Base. They claimed that Buggy himself had slipped away. An excuse that would let Naruto turn in the bounty himself, after they left.
The next morning found them at the docks, getting another tearful 'thank you' from the mayor and the villagers.
"Shishishi... It's no problem! Take care of yourself old man!" Lufia said, standing on the edge of the boat to wave goodbye to the villagers.
"You stupid brat!" The mayor said without malice, wiping the tears from his eyes, "No respect for your elders!"
Zoro was still asleep in his seat. He had walked to the boat on auto-pilot, then promptly fell into a seat and slipped back into a deep slumber.
Nami was helping Yugito strap down the treasure sacks, and set their next course.
Naruto was found in the back of the Hunter. He had opened a large compartment in the back, just before the engines. Usually, it was used to store provisions, gear, or even fish, but in this case...
"Yeah, yeah... I hear you." Naruto careless tossed the gagged head of Buggy The Clown into the compartment. His limbs were still separated and bound very carefully to prevent any escape attempts. They discovered that he couldn't move separated pieces of his body so long as they were restrained somehow. In this case, Nami had gleefully tied his pieces together, preventing him from reconnecting them.
Naruto ignored the muffled protests of his Bounty and picked up a small bucket he had kept in the compartment. Leaning over the edge of the boat, he scooped out a bucket full of Seawater.
"Sorry about this Buggy..." He said, his voice completely unapologetic, with a cheerful smile on his face, "But I can't take any risks."
Buggy's face filled with horror as Naruto smiled down at him from the edge of the compartment and the blonde tipped the bucket over. His body went slack as a bucket full of Seawater drenched him to the bone. Buggy's new prison was covered in an inch of saltwater, preventing him from using his Devil-Fruit powers, or moving in any way.
"Just sit tight, Buggy. We'll find you a nice, cozy, cell to sit in real soon."
Buggy could only weakly glare at the blond as he shut the lid of the compartment, trapping the Clown in darkness.
"...I still can't get used to that..."
Nami muttered as she sat down on the right side of the Helm. She was watching as Naruto entertained Lufia with his tails. His fox tails. His fox ears would twitch and a small purr would escape his throat as Lufia 'groomed' his tails, carefully brushing them. His eyes were squinted closed as he leaned back in the seat which, combined with his whiskers, gave him the appearance of a fox.
She thought it was cute, despite the strangeness, as he slowly melted to putty in Lufia's hands. She was still struggling to believe this man was the very same one who had cut down those pirates so ruthlessly. He had a completely different personality! Was it that simple? Just like flipping a switch? One moment he was a casual, relaxed blonde and the next, he was a ruthless killer. The revelation of his Devil-Fruit powers just added more confusion to the mix.
A thought entered her mind. She had heard Yugito say their powers were the same 'type' of Devil-Fruit... Yet she hadn't seen any Cat-like features besides Yugito's eyes.
"Hey, Naruto?" She decided to just ask. No sense in trying to figure everything out herself.
"Why do you have tails?"
"Hm. This is my 'Hybrid' form of my Devil-Fruit." He didn't bother to open his eyes, too busy enjoying the feeling of Lufia's hands running through his fur.
She nodded, "I understand that. I was just wondering why you stay in that form instead of your normal one."
"This is my normal one."
"Huh?" She tilted her head in confusion.
"Well..." He opened his eyes and sat up, sensing that it might be a long explanation. "Yugito explained the various types of Devil-Fruits to you, right? Paramecia, Logia, and finally, Zoan."
Nami nodded. Yugito had given her a quick run-down as they watched the battle between Lufia and Buggy. The Cat-woman had been quick, but concise so Nami got the idea. That being said, it didn't explain Naruto's tails.
"For a Logia-type, their bodies are transformed into a natural element, and they can change back into their 'physical' forms at will. The rules for a Paramecia are much wider in variety, usually giving them some other type of strange power. Lufia and Buggy are both Paramecia-types." He explained.
"Zoan-types are different. They, like Logias, transform the user, but instead of an element, they transform the user into an animal. Anything from a simple dog to a massive lion. The general rule of Zoan-types gives the user three basic forms to use. A 'Human Form' that is basically just your regular form. The one you had before you ate the fruit, although sometimes they keep a few features of their animal. Then, an 'Animal form' this is a full transformation. In Yugito's case, she can easily take the form of a cat."
"And then a 'Hybrid form'?" Nami asked, starting to get the picture.
"Yep. This is a mix of the two. Normally people stay in their Human forms because they find it more comfortable. As you can see, I'm different. I don't really know why, but my Devil-Fruit seems to be an exception to this rule. Instead of my Human form being my default, my Hybrid Form is. I can still take my Human form at will, but if I keep it up too long it starts to take a toll on my body. I can't really tell you why it happens. It just feels like my body 'rejects' the standard Human form."
"Maybe it's because your fruit is based on a kitsune?" Zoro spoke from his seat. He had been brought out of his meditation by their conversation. It caught his attention quickly.
"You're awake?!" Nami jolted in shock, not expecting to hear a voice from behind her.
Naruto nodded in agreement, "That's what I was thinking as well... I'm surprised you made that connection. No offense, but you really don't seem like the type to know that kind of stuff."
The Swordsman shrugged, "Folklore interests me..." His attacks were based on demons, so naturally, he had to get inspiration somewhere.
"Yeah me too." Naruto agreed with the Swordsman, "Although, that may be just because of my Devil-Fruit. After I ate it, I tried to do as much research on foxes as I could. I got pretty into it, and ended up reading a bunch of old stories, involving all sorts of different folklore. I figure my little 'Hybrid problem' has to do with the stories. That would make sense."
Zoro nodded along in agreement.
"I'm not getting it..." Nami said with slight embarrassment. Their small chat was going over her head. She wasn't a knowledge freak or anything like that, but she still didn't like finding a hole in her knowledge. Especially when she was being left in the dark by Zoro of all people.
Naruto relieved her plight, "It's an old piece of folklore. The stories are widely different but most share common themes. One of the themes is a Kitsune that can transform into a person, to disguise itself in public. The stories usually end with the fox getting discovered somehow. Usually by either getting drunk and accidentally revealing its tail or the illusion breaking somehow. The general theme is 'it's hard for a kitsune to hide its tails'."
"Oh. So that's why you think you're stuck in your Hybrid form?" Nami said.
"Yep. That's the only answer I can think of. Even with my shapeshifting, I have trouble concealing all of my physical traits. If I don't leave some 'tell' like my red eyes or whisker marks, it gets really taxing to maintain the transformation."
"You can shapeshift?" Zoro asked with a quirked eyebrow.
He nodded, and gave a little demonstration. His fox features disappeared, much to Lufia's disappointment. Her pout quickly turned to an excited smile as his hair turned to a short, mossy green. His clothes transformed into a simple white shirt and black pants. A black bandanna covered his head, shadowing his slitted red eyes. A near-perfect copy of Roanoa Zoro gave them a fox-like smirk. Which, on Zoro's face, looked more like a bloodthirsty grin.
"Creepy," Zoro commented.
Nami nodded her head in agreement. 'Zoro looks terrifying with red eyes!'
"That's so cool! Do me next!" Lufia chirped happily. She spun in her seat, sitting cross-legged facing him to watch.
He rolled his eyes and transformed into a copy of Lufia... well almost. "I don't like turning into girls." The male twin of Lufia said as he placed a straw hat on his messy black hair. Like with Zoro, his eyes were still blood red and slitted.
Lufia had a wide smile as she looked over her male form. She looked pretty badass if she did say so herself! "Why not?" She asked as she looked over his form, poking at his body to test if it was solid or not.
He gave her a blank look, "Do I really need to answer that?"
She tilted her head innocently.
He slapped his face as he turned back into himself. Of course, Lufia wouldn't see the problem.
Nami did. "Don't ever turn into me! Got it?!" She shouted, already prepared to reach for her staff just in case she needed to pound her threat into his skull.
"Yeah, I got it. Don't worry, Yugito already gave me the 'Don't use your powers for perverted reasons' lecture."
Yugito looked over her shoulder to send Nami a wink and a small thumbs up.
Nami smiled back and relaxed in her seat. "So... Your Zoan-type is for a Nine-tailed Fox... Why not just a normal fox?"
"That's where the folklore comes in." He replied, "There are three different 'Types' of Zoan Devil-Fruits. The most common ones are your standard animal fruits. Dogs, Cats, Horses, that kind of thing. After that, the next type is 'Ancient' Zoan-types. They are incredibly rare and allow the user to transform into an Ancient animal. From what I understand, they are usually Dinosaurs. T-rexes, that kind of thing."
"Really?" Nami paled at the thought of real, living Dinosaurs. She couldn't imagine attempting to fight that kind of thing, much less if it had a human mind behind it.
"Yep. I haven't met one personally, so I can't tell you much about them. Even rarer than that, is the last type. 'Mythical' Zoan-types. These allow the user to transform into beasts of Myth. Granting unbelievable powers of legend."
"Mythical..." She muttered, imagining large fire-breathing dragons. Wait... Her eyes widened as she came to a conclusion. If folklore applied to his powers... "Then that means..."
"Yep!" He said cheerfully, "I ate the Dog-Dog Fruit, Model: Nine-Tailed Fox. A Mythical Zoan-type."
Nami leaned back in her seat, digesting the new information.
"I did as well." Yugito spoke up from the Helm, "The Cat-Cat Fruit, Model: Two-Tailed Cat. Another Mythical Zoan-type."
"No way..." She said weakly in shock. "So you two have some of the rarest powers in the world?"
"Yep," Naruto said casually.
"You two must've been quite lucky to run into each other... How did you two meet?" Nami instantly regretted the words the moment they left her mouth. A small depressing aura seemed to wash over the Hunter. Naruto's cheerful smile was gone in an instant, and even Yugito seemed bothered by the question. A stark difference from her usual stoicism.
"Uh... Sorry." She hung her head, not sure how to disperse the awkward situation.
Naruto shook his head, "It's fine. We just met in a... less than pleasant situation. I guess you could say fate just kind of threw us together a couple of years ago. We've stuck together since then. Neither of us really had any good reason to separate. So, we didn't."
Nami nodded in understanding but didn't ask anything else. Not wanting to make the situation any worse.
Zoro, surprisingly, was the one to break the silence, "You said you gained Shapeshifting as well... Does that mean you get other kitsune powers?" If the stories were safe to go by, Naruto had the potential to gain some pretty powerful weapons.
Naruto looked over and gave him a foxy smirk, but didn't answer.
Zoro snorted, that was all the answer he needed. He looked around the ship in thought, his eyes drifting toward the Helmswoman. Yugito. She had said she ate a Mythical Devil-Fruit as well. The Two-Tailed Cat. He shivered as he made the connection. 'That's why I was getting such a bad vibe from her. A Nekomata, huh? Terrifying.'
"Hey." Zoro looked over to see Naruto giving him a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Wipe that look off your face, Swordsman."
Zoro obeyed. He sent a small smirk to Naruto, vanishing his thoughts, "Oh yeah? Or what?"
He smiled in response, a real smile this time, and raised a bottle he had produced from somewhere, "Or I won't share my Sake with you."
Zoro snorted and slipped across the walkway, sliding into the seat behind Naruto. The blonde spun around in his seat and passed him a saucer.
"Are you two really going to start drinking?" Nami asked in disbelief.
"Yeah?" Naruto said and tilted his head, "It's...what? Eleven in the morning?"
Zoro nodded sagely, "Sounds like a good time for a drink to me."
Naruto filled both their saucers and they raised them together.
"You two are unbelievable." Nami shook her head, "It's too early in the morning for that!"
The two men shrugged and spoke in unison, "It's five o'clock somewhere!" They started on the first round.
Naruto took a simple sip of his own, while he watched Zoro drink his entirely in one gulp.
He sighed and shook his head, "It's Sake, not Rum, Zoro. Take it easy."
The swordsman smacked his lips and shrugged, "Booze is Booze." He offered his saucer to Naruto.
The blonde rolled his eyes, "Suit yourself. But I'm not letting you drink the whole bottle." He said as he refilled Zoro's drink.
"Hey!" Lufia tugged on a tail to get his attention, "Me too!"
Naruto turned an eyebrow, "You drink, Lufia?"
She shrugged, "Makino owns a bar, remember? And Pirates love to drink!"
Zoro grunted in agreement, "Can't argue with that logic."
Naruto chuckled and pulled out another saucer, "Fair enough." Only Lufia would want to drink for a simple reason like 'Because Pirates like to drink.'
Nami massaged her temples in a vain attempt to halt the growing headache. Part of her was worried for the innocent girl being handed alcohol. The other part knew the girl had a bottomless stomach, so she wasn't too worried. She turned to Yugito, "Can you believe those two? I'm glad we have another level-headed girl in our crew. I think I'd go insane if I was trapped with those three at sea."
Yugito nodded and raised her own sake saucer in agreement, "I'll drink to that." She sipped on her drink lightly, keeping a close eye on the controls. She barely concealed a snicker as she heard Nami gasp in shock.
"What?!" Nami's eyes bugged out as she noticed Yugito was drinking as well. "Where did you get that?"
Yugito looked back at her with confusion, "Naruto handed it to me while you were talking, weren't you paying attention?"
Nami looked back at the blonde, who was still sitting in the same spot, happily chatting with Lufia over some random thing. She turned back to Yugito, who had turned her head back to the controls. Nami frowned, "Don't you need both hands to steer the ship?"
Yugito shook her head and took another sip, "No. The left stick controls the rudders while the right controls the speed of the engines. I can lock either in place if I need a free hand. So long as I keep feeding it fire with my left hand, we'll keep our speed." Normally, controlling the engines with one hand would be taxing, but they weren't moving too fast today. Yesterday had been rather chaotic, so they were satisfied with a slower, relaxing speed.
Nami relented with a sigh. It wasn't like she hated alcohol or anything. She was an experienced drinker herself, she had to be in her profession. The best way to knick someone's purse was to get them falling-over drunk. She had built quite the tolerance in an effort to keep her head while 'working'.
She just wasn't that big of a fan of casual drinking. Usually, when she drank it was to get other people drunk, not to get drunk herself. But, if her crew was happy to drink then she wasn't going to be the wet blanket. In fact...
"Naruto." She stomped over to the seat, "Pass me a saucer! I'll show you how it's done!" She pushed Zoro over in his seat and sat down with them.
Naruto gained a wicked glint in his eyes and complied, filling another saucer to the brim. He passed it to her with a knowing grin, "You might want to-"
She ignored his warning and knocked it down in one gulp. Just as fast as Zoro had.
"Ack!" She choked immediately, coughing up a fit. "What the hell kind of Sake was that? That burns."
The rest of the crew had a laugh at her expense while he explained, "It's Firebrand, a family recipe. Pretty strong stuff. So, as I was about to say, you might want to take it slow."
She looked at the other four people, drinking the Sake without any problems. "You're all freaks..." She muttered, but she gained a small grin and held her saucer back out, "...give me another..."
The crew let out another bout of laughter as they all settled into a small drinking party.
Yugito looked back at them as Nami joined in on their drinking. She turned back to the controls and let a wide smile stretch across her lips when she was sure Nami couldn't see her face. She set her empty saucer on the dashboard, and reached down between her legs. She pulled out a Sake bottle of her own and refilled her saucer with a soft chuckle, 'That girl is going to be too much fun to mess with.'
They passed the time with happy conversation, enjoying the relaxing boat ride as they made their way to the next island. The four settled in their seats swapped stories and shared jokes, with Yugito contently listening in. They were sure to steer the conversation her way a few times, keeping her from feeling left out. Not that she minded. She was more of the 'listening' type when it came to conversation.
Nami had come back up to the Helm every so often, ensuring they were keeping their course. Yugito didn't really need the help, but every crew member had openly acknowledged Nami's skill when it came to Navigation. The girl certainly knew her stuff when it came to the ocean. Nami's input helped them reach their destination fast, and they reached the next island within an hour.
They were headed to a small island, with only one town. 'Syrup Village'.
"We're here!" Lufia declared as the boat slid up to the shore. She was sitting on the very front tip of Hunter, something rather dangerous when you considered her powers. She didn't seem to notice.
The rest of the crew piled out of the ship, dropping the anchor to prevent their boat from washing away.
"Hmm..." Naruto hummed in thought as he looked at the hills of the island. It was certainly smaller than he thought.
"Why'd you want to come here Naruto?" Nami asked as she stepped up beside him. "Do you really think we'll find a ship here?"
He shrugged, "Not really... But I hear there's some rich family that lives here. I figured it wouldn't hurt to try. Maybe they can point us in the right direction."
"If you say so." Nami didn't seem too trusting.
Zoro stretched his limbs happily as he finished anchoring the boat. "Solid ground at last!"
"We were only in the boat for a few hours..." Lufia shook her head at him.
"Nevermind that..." Zoro placed a hand on his swords as his eyes wandered up the nearby cliffside, landing on a small group of people, "What do you think is up with those guys?"
The spotted group of onlookers jumped out of their hiding place in surprise. Apparently, they thought they were well concealed. The group was a man about their age with a long nose, and three kids.
After a bit of arguing amongst themselves, the oldest headed down the cliff to meet them.
"Ah- Sorry for spying on you. We thought you were pirates..." He said with a slightly embarrassed laugh.
"Hm?" Lufia tilted her head in confusion, "We are pirates."
The boy visibly paled, his expression frozen on his face as he started sweating. He stood there for a few moments, visibly shaking before mustering up the courage to speak. "O-O-Of course I knew that! That's why I have my 80 million men ready for battle! So you'd better leave now, and forget about invading!"
"Liar," Nami said.
His expression morphed to terror, "She saw right through me!" He screamed, clutching his head in panic.
"See? I knew it."
"Ah! I admitted that I lied! She's a master of interrogation!" The boy continued his mindless panic.
He froze at the sound of laughter and turned to Lufia who was clutching her sides.
"You're funny!" She laughed at his expense.
"Hey! Are you making fun of me?!"
Naruto decided to have mercy on the kid, and spoke up, "Relax. We aren't here to invade anything. We just stopped by to see about getting a bigger ship."
The boy immediately calmed down. "Oh is that all?" He said with relief.
'He's far too trusting!' Naruto thought.
"My name is Captain Usopp!" He declared proudly, pointing to himself.
"I'm Lufia! Nice to meetcha!" She offered a small wave, which was then weakened by the loud growl of her stomach. "...I'm hungry." She fell to her knees.
The boy gaped at her for a second, before offering a smile. "I can show you somewhere to eat. I know all the best restaurants in town!"
"Yeah!" He puffed out his chest in pride. 'There's only one restaurant in town though...' He conveniently forgot to add.
Lunch was about as chaotic as you would expect with their crew. Usopp had led them to a place with a sign that simply said 'Food' and they got a large booth.
Lufia put away food faster than a starving man, Zoro put away booze faster than a man dying of thirst, and Nami tried to maintain her sanity while eating.
Yugito helped in that regard, keeping conversation with the Navigator as they ate. Eventually, Usopp launched into a tale about the rich family Naruto had heard about. Turns out the parents had died, and their daughter, an only child, was the only remaining member of the family. She lived alone in a massive mansion, with plenty of servants, but was sick and bedridden.
As the story ended, Usopp jokingly offered to join their crew as their Captain. His 'offer' was shot down immediately.
Though he was clearly kidding, Naruto could see he did seem to want to set sail someday. Which was probably why he introduced himself as 'Captain Usopp'.
Eventually, the conversation slowed down and Naruto rose from his seat. "I'm going to go check out the town." He said casually, offering a small wave as he slipped away from the booth. Yugito quickly joined him.
Lufia nodded absently, not really paying attention as she waved down a waiter, "More meat over here!"
"And booze!" Zoro added.
Nami watched them go with slightly narrowed eyes, but didn't comment. She turned to Lufia in exasperation, looking at the girl's thin figure, "How do you eat so much?!"
"So that's him, huh?" Yugito asked they sat on the massive wall surrounding the island's only mansion.
They were watching a thin butler through one of the building's windows. He seemed to be preparing lunch for the house's lady, and both spectators frowned as they watched him slip something into the food. The man clearly thought he was alone, and his entire person screamed 'suspicious'.
"Yeah. See him push his glasses up with his palm? That's a habit he supposedly got because of his choice in weapons."
"Claws..." Yugito rolled her eyes and frowned in distaste.
It was ironic in a way. That they came across someone who used claws as a weapon so early in their journey.
The mansion wasn't actually their intended destination when they slipped away from the restaurant. Naruto had taken a small bag of food down to the ship to feed Buggy. As much as he disliked the Clown, he wasn't going to starve the bastard. He figured leaving the Clown to soak in Seawater was punishment enough, knowing just how uncomfortable it was from his own experience.
'Feeding' Buggy was more or less just Naruto attaching Buggy's head to his torso, and then stuffing apples into his mouth before tossing him back in the compartment. Any protest the Clown had was cut off by the fruit.
A commotion in the yard drew their attention, and they looked over just in time to see Lufia climb over the main gate.
"What is she doing?" Naruto heard Yugito whisper as she slapped her face in disbelief.
He let out a small chuckle as Zoro, Usopp, Nami, and three small kids entered the grounds through a small hole in the fence, following Lufia.
The lady, Kaya they learned, opened her bedroom window to speak to them.
Lufia had only just mentioned finding a ship, when the butler revealed himself, calling them intruders and telling them to leave immediately.
The conversation quickly spiraled down from there, with harsh words being tossed around by both parties.
Naruto frowned as 'Klahadore' dismissed everything his 'Mistress' said. Instead, giving orders as if he was the one in charge. He wondered if that was a normal thing for them. If so, he certainly pitied the girl's life living with the butler.
He struggled to contain his laughter as Usopp lashed out with a solid punch and knocked the butler off his feet. That would certainly cause some trouble, but damn if it didn't feel good to watch! He had been itching to go down there and kick the butler's ass himself from the way things were going. But that would have to wait a bit.
The rest of their crew was finally kicked out of the mansion, after Kaya herself asked them to leave. Usopp was clearly fuming from Klahadore's taunting of his father, while the rest just followed along.
"Well, that was interesting," Naruto said as he dropped off the wall.
"So, what's the plan?" Yugtio asked, getting straight to the point.
They both turned to see an irate Nami walking up to them.
"Where have you two been?" She asked.
"Feeding our prisoner." Naruto replied, "And then we dropped by the mansion just in time to see that mess."
Nami nodded, "I saw you guys on the wall. You could've joined us down there."
Naruto and Yugito shared a glance, "It's better that we didn't." He said with a small smile.
Nami looked between them with a frown, "You're hiding something." She accused.
Naruto shrugged, "We weren't really hiding anything, we just didn't let you know ahead of time. If you had asked I would've told you what was going on."
Nami didn't seem pleased by that answer but let it go. "Alright, fine. Then what's going on?"
He fished into his orange robe and pulled out a few rolled up papers. He tossed them to her, and patiently waited for her to take a look at them.
She opened them up immediately, recognizing them as things he had taken from Captain Morgan's office and started to read. "Captian Kuro?" She asked, reading about the Captain of the Black Cats.
The first paper was a simple profile. It listed everything the Marines knew about the Captain and his crew, including Jolly Roger, fighting tactics, and notable pirate raids.
"Yep. The next page is the important part."
Nami switched pages and started reading again, her face quickly losing color as she started to piece together the situation.
The next page was Captain Morgan's personal notes on his 'achievement' of bringing in the dreaded Captain Kuro. A page he had stolen from Morgan's stache of hidden documents. One that went into detail of Kuro and Morgan's little plan together. About how Kuro had effectively defeated Morgan, but struck a deal with the disgraced Marine.
Kuro would be 'arrested' by Morgan, when in reality it was a body-double, and in exchange, Morgan would keep quiet about the affair. The remainder of the page was detailing Kuro's plan. A plan that involved posing as a butler and usurping the wealth of a prominent family.
Nami lowered the papers with shaky hands, "...You mean..."
Naruto nodded grimly, and gestured back to the papers, "Take a look at the last one."
She did as instructed, and revealed the last paper. A Wanted Poster for Captain Kuro. She took a sharp breath as the near-perfect image of Klahadore stared back at her, with a manic grin on his face and a clawed hand pushing up his glasses.
Suddenly Nami's knees felt weak, as she realized she had been within arm's reach of a dreaded Pirate without even knowing. She had felt something off about the man, but she had just assumed it was his apparent hatred for Usopp that gave her that feeling. Now she knows it was more than that.
She met Naruto's eyes and he gave her a small smile. "Relax Nami. We're going to make sure he doesn't get to do as he pleases."
She stared at him for a moment, and gave a small nod. Surprisingly, his words had made her feel a lot better about the situation. She had to remember that she was with a group of powerful pirates. They could handle this.
Her thoughts paused briefly as she realized just how outrageous such thoughts would have been to her just a few days ago. Had she really changed that much? Before, she would've been caught dead before even thinking about working with a pirate... and now she was placing her faith in them? It was crazy... but she found herself not minding the change.
She met Naruto's gaze and nodded, "So? What's the plan?"
He gave a fox-like smirk.
Kaya buried her face in her pillow as she coughed.
She couldn't believe Klahadore! She knew he hated Usopp, but why? Why did he have to be so cruel to the only person in the village that didn't treat her like glass? Usopp was the only one who seemed to care how she felt.
He was her one and only source of joy in this village, and yet he had to hide from her staff to see her. It wasn't right.
Klahadore had taken it too far this time. She knew Usopp's family was an extremely delicate subject from one of the only times she brought it up. When she had, he had clammed up instantly and left in the middle of one of his famous stories. She didn't see him for a few days after that. It made her sad.
Yet Klahadore must've known this, in fact, her butler seemed to know a lot about Usopp's family. But the butler didn't care, he stood there and openly insulted Usopp's pride in his family, in his father.
She knew she should've stopped it before things escalated, but they escalated far too quickly. It got out of hand before she could do anything, and Usopp ended up resorting to violence.
She knew it wasn't right, but a small part of her cheered when Usopp punched her servant.
But a larger part of her saw one of her family's most trusted servants get attacked, and it broke her heart. How had things gotten so bad? She sent Usopp and his friends home, and locked herself up in her room.
She was supposed to be in charge here! But Klahadore ignored her pleas. She knew she should be firmer with her caretaker. Good intentions or not, she was his boss. His employer. He shouldn't walk over her like that!
But... despite her frustrations, she knew it was her fault. She still saw Klahadore as one of her best and most trusted servants. When she remembered all of the good times she had with him, it was hard to put her foot down. She had never been very assertive, and it was especially hard with him.
Kaya was brought out of her internal turmoil by the soft sound of a light bark. She looked around her room, but couldn't find the source of the sound. Just as she was about to chalk it up to her imagination, she heard it again.
She turned to her window, and gasped. There, sitting on the branch where Usopp would usually hide, was a small golden fox. It met her gaze and wagged its bushy tail happily. It yipped again at her and she softly smiled at the sight. It was cute. She wondered what its fur would feel like...
She gave the door a small glance, as if expecting Klahadore to immediately burst in and scare the small animal away in his usual 'mother-hen' way. She pushed the thought from her mind and stood up off her bed, walking to her window, she opened it up to get a better look at the fox.
It was cute. She had never seen anything like it before... She didn't know their little island even had foxes. Strange. The small creature stole her thoughts away from her butler, and she was grateful for it. "Hey there little guy..." She spoke softly, trying not to scare it away, "How'd you get up in that tree?"
The fox yipped in response, as if understanding her, and turned to face the trunk of the tree. With two quick hops, the fox was back on the ground.
She frowned as she thought the fox was leaving, but it turned back to face her. Giving what she could've sworn was a smirk, it dashed forward, using its claws to grip the bark, and ran straight up the tree. She gasped in shock as it made its way back to the branch, and settled in front of her.
"Wow," She said, "You're pretty good."
The fox raised its nose in the air smugly, and she let out a small giggle.
"I wish I could keep you around..." Kaya said softly, "I've always wanted a pet. It gets lonely around here."
The fox tilted its head at her words. Its blue eyes watching her carefully.
Were fox eyes normally blue? She didn't know.
"But Klahadore says having animals around would just make my sickness worse." She frowned, placing her arms on the windowsill to lean on it. "He's always so overprotective. It's like he doesn't want me to have any fun..."
The fox let out a whine and she gave a weak smile, "Sorry... I guess you don't want to hear me complain, huh?"
The fox tilted its head again, and looked at the window. Then at the branch, and the window again. It backed up a few steps on the branch. It leaned down, as if preparing to-
Kaya jumped back with a shriek as the fox quickly dashed across the branch, leaving it with a leap. It cleared the distance between the branch and the window easily, flying into her room. She stumbled back and landed on her bed just as the fox touched down on her floor.
She clutched her hand to her chest to slow her rising heartbeat and looked at the fox with disbelief. What had possessed it to do something like that?
The fox sat down on the floor just before her bed and looked up at her.
She paused in consideration, taking another glance at her door.
If Klahadore came in and saw a fox in her room...
She didn't want to imagine what he'd do.
But on the other hand... She looked down at the fox again. She had never really had any experience with animals before. And this one was far too cute for her to simply push away.
The fox let out another small whine and stepped forward, prodding at her leg with his nose.
Just a little bit wouldn't hurt anything, right?
Tentatively, she reached her hand down to touch his head. 'Soft.' Kaya thought as she ran her fingers through his fur. She had expected the fur to be rough and knotted, but it was soft and silky. Honestly, it was softer than anything she had ever felt, and she was instantly enthralled with petting him.
Before she knew it, the fox had leapt up to her bed, and crawled into her lap. But she didn't mind. She didn't consider her bed getting dirty, or her butler coming in. She was lost in her experience with the small animal. She cooed as he started to purr in her arms, and she scratched behind his ears.
To her, it was something she hadn't known she needed. To simply forget everything for a moment and do something she wanted.
But sadly, something had to come along and ruin her perfect moment.
A loud knock nearly had Kaya jump out of her skin, and the fox stiffened in her arms.
"Miss Kaya? I heard you scream, is everything okay?" The voice of Klahadore made her subconsciously grip the fox tighter. She didn't know why she felt so uneasy around him recently, but something felt wrong.
"I'm fine." She answered in a clipped tone, making it clear she didn't want to talk.
"It's time for your lunch, Miss Kaya..." His voice carried through the door.
"I'm not hungry." She replied.
He sighed loud enough for her to hear it, and spoke firmly, "I'm coming in."
She froze in panic. Realizing that her newest friend was about to be chased away. But luckily for her, the fox seemed to understand the danger, and jumped out of her arms swiftly. Before she could even move, the small animal dashed under her bed, hidden from sight.
"You know you'll upset the cook if you don't eat." Klahadore said as he entered without permission, "He works-" The butler paused as he inspected the room, looking for anything amiss.
"What were you doing, Miss Kaya?" He asked, noting her spot on the bed facing the opened window. "Is that trespasser back? I'll have to call the guards." His voice was laced with distaste.
"Usopp is no trespasser." She shot at him, "He was always welcome until you-" She broke off her sentence before she said something she couldn't take back.
The butler sighed again, as if disappointed in her, and moved the food cart closer to her bed. He left it beside her bed and walked over to her, "You know that liar is no good for you Miss Kaya. He and his good-for-nothing fath-" Suddenly Klahadore's speech was cut off as his foot was caught on a small box sticking out from beneath her bed. He tripped and fell forward, face-planting rather ungracefully on the ground as he failed to catch himself.
Kaya snuck a glance over at him but didn't say a thing. Normally she would've been rushing to his side, making sure he was okay. But today... she didn't feel like it. Especially when he was bad-mouthing Usopp in front of her.
A small smile almost made its way onto her lips, but she concealed it quickly. No matter how upset she was with him, she wouldn't laugh at his expense.
Klahadore pushed himself off the ground and turned to look at the box that had tripped him. He was certain that box wasn't there a moment before. He was always careful about his movements, it was a byproduct of his fighting style. Had his senses gone dull? Impossible.
He picked himself up and moved to push the box safely beneath the bed again, "You should really keep your room clean, Miss Kaya. It is unbefitting of a lady to leave her things about."
She said nothing, not in the mood for a scolding from her caretaker. She was slightly curious about the box. Had she really left it out? She didn't remember touching anything under her bed in weeks at least. Her thoughts strayed to her small little guest. Could the fox have done that? Maybe it had moved something around while it was hiding.
Klahadore moved beside her and gestured to the bed, "May I sit?"
The butler frowned and pushed his glasses up with his palm. It seems his 'Mistress' was too upset to see reason, he would leave her to think for a while. He gave one last try, "I understand that you think that boy means well. But I assure you nothing good will come from associating with that boy-"
He froze as a soft noise reached his ears. It sounded low and rumbling, like a small animal growling. He caught Kaya stiffening out of the corner of his eye and he turned his gaze to the bed. His brow furrowed as he walked to the other side of the bed, beside the food cart. He quickly crouched down and peered beneath the bed.
Kaya froze in worry as Klahadore went to investigate the sound. What was the fox doing? Why was it growling at him? Wasn't it trying to hide? She was lost in her worry, and nearly jumped out of her skin as she felt a weight suddenly land on the bed. She managed to conceal her squeak of surprise, and looked over to see the fox had jumped up just as the butler looked beneath the bed. It gave her one short glance before burrowing beneath her mess of pillows, hidden from view.
She couldn't contain a small smile, and was glad her back was to her butler so he wouldn't see it. "What are you doing Klahadore?"
The butler got to his feet with a huff, "I heard something. Must've been a mouse." He said curtly.
"I think I would like to be alone." She said. A polite way of telling him he had overstayed his welcome. Not that she had welcomed him in the first place.
The butler gave a small nod, "As you wish." He promptly left the room, closing the doors behind him.
The moment the doors closed, a small fox peeked out between the pillows.
She climbed up to lay down on the bed beside him. "You scared me... I thought he would've found you for sure. Why did you growl at him?"
Her question was met by the fox crawling forward and nudging her hand. She lifted her hand to scratch behind his ears and the fox purred happily.
She smiled softly as the fox once again took control of her thoughts, dragging her away from any unpleasant feelings she had.
He nipped at her hand, and jumped to his feet, running around on her bed.
She watched him run around her on the bed, "You want to play?"
The fox yipped in agreement.
She bit her lip as she looked down at her freshly cleaned sheets. She knew she probably shouldn't. She should probably take the animal back outside. It was probably wild, and she didn't want to cause trouble for her servants.
But on the other hand... It seemed nice enough. And she thought it felt clean when she was petting it...
Maybe just a little bit. It wouldn't hurt anyone.
I know the 'Buggy being 3x stronger than Alvida' thing might be a bit of a stretch but I figured it was a good rule in general. From what we've seen in the show, Bounty price dictates strength pretty accurately. The only exceptions being the Warlords.
Just to clear up a few things. People have been a bit confused about the Impel Down situation. This is a quote from the wiki, referring to the final level of Impel Down, 'It is where prisoners who are insanely powerful, have caused crimes extremely atrocious, and/or whose mere existences have become a major threat to the World Government itself are kept.' This basically means that, in order to get tossed into Eternal Hell, Naruto only needs to check one of those boxes. So he doesn't necessarily need to be extremely well-known and/or powerful. He simply needs to be viewed as a threat to the World Government.
Someone like Ace, the son of Roger, would likely get tossed into Eternal Hell or executed even if he didn't have a bounty. Simply because they view him as a threat.
So yes, Naruto isn't necessarily on the level of some other Grand Line pirates like Crocodile. Is that realistic? Honestly, I think it is. He was inside Impel Down for a full year, and then spent the year after recovering from the ordeal. So that's two years of 'training' lost.
Simply being on the Grand line at one point in your life doesn't suddenly make you some superhuman fighting machine. Buggy is a prime example of this. He was a member of the most powerful crew in the world... yet he gets his ass kicked immediately.
Also, when considering his fight with Lufia. Both of them only used very basic stuff. I didn't want to reveal all of his abilities immediately, because I thought that'd be boring. He still has tricks up his sleeve, don't worry.
As for Naruto's Sake, I figured it would be appropriate since pretty much everyone in the crew drinks in One Piece. The name Firebrand isn't original, but a ton of stories I've read on Naruto Fanfics either call it Firebrand or Mount Myoboku Sake or something like that. I didn't really want to come up with some original name.