Chapter 2

Yeutton Port, Caeba Kingdom, South Blue

I hopped off Dan's boat and smiled at the clap of my shoes hitting the wooden dock. Eight days at sea wasn't terribly long but I was well ready for it to be over. My eyes swept idly across the mercantile harbor and an impressed whistle managed to escape me. It was like a living organism. Sailors of every stripe hurried to and fro as they hauled heavy sacks over their shoulders from place to place. Massive wooden cranes ferried supplies overhead and street side vendors were running about, touting over their wares and the reasons why one should buy them. 'Wow..been a while since I've seen this many people.'

Ding!

Quest Complete!

Quest: Take Dan up on his offer and leave the safety of Kivuruk Isle for the small Kingdom of Caeba. Is this the start of a brand new adventure or really just a simple mercantile trip? The only way to find out is to say yes.

Reward: +1 to every stat but LUK, 440 Exp, and 15,000 Beri.

Ding!

You have reached Lv. 16!

You have 5 points to spend.

A quick murmur of [Status] later and I distributed 3 points to STR and 2 into VIT. Until I see a reason to change my mind those two are going to be my main focus. Plus, I've started to get really curious to see if anything happens when one of them finally reaches 100.

STR (87) → (90)

VIT (59) → (61)

Max Health (590) → (610)

"Hey Jack!" Dan calls from the bow of his ship. "You gonna stand around gawking or are you going to help us start unloading?"

"Be there in a second captain!" I shout back. "Just taking it all in."

A few hours later night has begun to settle in and I find himself standing alongside some sweaty and completely knackered shipmates. Many of whom are laying on the deck taking huge gulping breaths from moving heavy crates all day.

"I just..don't get..you Jack." one man said inbetween breaths. "How can you..not even..be sweating?"

'90 points in strength' I answer internally with a not insignificant amount of personal satisfaction. Though on the outside my only response is nothing but a casual shrug. "It was just carrying some boxes. No big deal."

"Each of those crates was over 250 lbs!" Another man, this one named Tom, sputtered out somewhat indignantly. "It took several of us just to move one!"

I had to work extra hard to suppress my grin. It would threaten to split my face if I let it out. "I really don't see what the issue is. You guys knew I was stronger than I look."

Tom sighed morosely. "Yeah Jack we know but...there's a limit man."

Before more could be discussed good ol' captain Dan remade his appearance and brought everyone's eyes onto him. "Alright boys good work today! Tomorrow morning we set up the stall and then it's time to sell sell sell! As always you can lodge on the boat for free or if you want something more comfortable than your rack there's a few hotels just a couple blocks up the road. Either way I'll see you all here at 8:00 AM sharp!"

Despite a chorus of grumbles and groans the crew slowly rose to their feet and started shuffling their way back onto the ship. None of them wanting to blow a small piece of their pay on a fancy bed.

Except for me of course.

I'm sleeping on a fluffy queen-sized mattress tonight if it's the last thing I do.

"Jack? You coming?" Dan asked in a friendly tone. "We've got beef stew on the stove. Carrots aren't the best quality but it'll fill you up good."

"Nah. I think I'll try my luck in town." I reply with a look over my shoulder. "I'll see you in the morning captain."

Dan gave a tiny shrug. "Suit yourself. Remember 8:00."

"Right! 10 AM you got it."

"8:00"

"Heard you the first time boss. 9:30."

"8:00 Jack."

"You really don't need to keep repeating yourself captain! My ears work fine. 8:45 on the dot." I joke back as my feet set off in the opposite direction.

I don't really plan on being late, it's just too much fun to tease him. Dan's a bit of a stickler for punctuality. 'Although I'm not ruling out 8:20.'

You know for a city that had such an incredible hustle and bustle just a few hours ago the night life is surprisingly quiet. There's a few lights shining through the occasional window but besides that the place seems to almost be devoid of any life. The word 'eerie' would not be inappropriate.

Maybe I should try to think of it as 'peaceful' instead? The only sound being my boots on the pavement and the waves of the ocean in the background does create a small sense of tranquility.

It's about 50 minutes later when I peer down my third alleyway and I'm really starting to worry that I've missed a turn somewhere.

'...shit. Another dead end..' I curse in my head. I'm getting a touch annoyed at this point. 'How hard can it be to find a string of hotels? Aren't they supposed to be decently tall buildings with bright neon signs out front? They shouldn't be this hard to miss!'

"Um..[Gamer] powers? I don't suppose you have a hidden mini-map feature do you?" I whisper to the air half jokingly. "Waypoints? Goal markers? Anything like that?"

My only response is an alley cat knocking over a trashcan.

I hung my head low and sighed dejectedly. "That's what I thought..."

Ding!

New Skill Acquired!

Detect Bloodlust Lv. (1/50)

-You can detect when someone wishes to do you harm. Works within 10 meters.

My eyes squint as I scrutinize the sudden pop-up. "Wait..what?" I mutter beneath my breath. A shiver suddenly traverses up my spine and I can feel the individual hairs on my neck all stand up on end.

I pivot around on my heel and tense as four silhouettes emerge from the shadows across the street. The moonlight glints menacingly off the daggers each of them hold in their hands and more than one malicious grin is visible.

"Alright stranger. Here's the deal." the tallest one says as he approaches, flipping the knife around in his hand as he does so. "Take out your wallet, place 10,000 Beri on the ground, and you get to leave in one piece. Normally I'd take everything but I'm in a pretty generous mood tonight."

"Isn't boss such a nice guy?" one of the others asks while the remaining two break out into snickers.

I'm sure my face was decidedly unamused by the byplay as my eyes flitted from one underling to the next before finally resting on the big guy. "[Observe]" I whispered subaudibly.

Thomas Poliver, Gang Leader, Lv. 8

The younger of the two 'Poliver Brothers', Thomas is a mean-spirited all around bastard who, along with his older brother Reggie, have harassed the people of Caeba's port town for many years. They have escaped Marine custody through a combination of always setting up an alibi beforehand and sheer dumb luck. Both he and his brother have been laying low in recent months though ever since the local government finally issued a minor bounty on the two siblings heads.

Health: 130/130

STR: 19

VIT: 13

DEX: 10

INT: 7

WIS: 3

LUK: 11

I finished reviewing the stats and let me tell ya, I wasn't impressed. The STR was a smidge high and the LUK was good but nothing else stands above normal civilian standards.

"Look man, I don't know who it is you think you've stumbled upon tonight but I can assure you I'm not what you would call 'easy prey'. Why don't you and your little girlfriends crawl back in the gutter you came out of and fuck off?"

Now, was that the best thing I could've said for a peaceful conflict resolution? Probably not. But sometimes you just can't control the words that come out of your mouth.

"Why-you little!" one of the grunts sputters indignantly and then haphazardly rushes forward with his knife.

I sidestep the one pathetically choreographed slash before wheeling around and slamming my foot into the side of the mans head.

It is times like this that one truly appreciates living in an anime universe because there is absolutely no way in hell I would have landed that kick so perfectly had I still been on Earth.

The thugs body was sent flying and the poor idiot crashed face first into the nearest building. A small crack forms in the stone wall from impact and the unconscious mans body slumps down a moment later.

+15 Exp!

"I'm not going to ask nicely again." I warned. My face was the picture of calm confidence but underneath that facade I was practically giddy with excitement. 'Come on! Bring it! Give me that easy Exp!'

"Kill him!" the leader snarls in anger.

'Well that seems excessive.'

You know, in my 'first life' I'd probably have shit my pants at the sight of a trio of armed men charging me with lethal intention. Unfortunately for them this is not my 'first life'. I may be missing the iconic skills of Gamer's Mind and Gamer's Body that the original [Gamer] Han Jee-Han possessed but I'm not worried about a damn thing. These morons are the lowest forms of mooks. I can take 'em.

'This is just too easy.' I think as I slip around the knife attacks with barely an effort. 'These guys move so slow.. Is this because I have a DEX in the 40's? Hmm perhaps I should consider focusing points in that after STR reaches 100.'

Enough of this. My hands shoot out, latching tightly onto the wrists of the two dagger-wielding lackeys. Now that I've got them all that's needed is just a little twist. The men in question both let out sharp cries of pain as their joints snap and their weapons clatter noisily on the ground. I follow up the maneuver by grabbing both men by their hair and slamming their heads together to silence them.

And exactly as I'd expect from this world, the pairs eyes white out and the two collapse bonelessly onto the pavement.

+15 Exp!

+15 Exp!

The younger Poliver suddenly stops his assault as his eyes go wide and panic-stricken. Complete disbelief on his face that his two allies were neutralized in a manner of seconds.

He drops his own weapon and raises his hands in surrender as he starts to back-pedal away. "Okay! Okay! I get it! Not easy prey at all, I understand! Just let me go and you'll never see my face again!"

Now it's my turn to let loose a predatory smile. "Ohhh...we are so past the point of bargaining my friend. Just take your beating like a man...I'll make it quick."

Poliver's eyes widen even further and he stuffs a shaking hand into his jacket. Not two seconds later that same shaking hand is wielding a flintlock pistol and I find myself suddenly before the barrel of a gun. "You stay the hell away from me!" the street thug screams.

I did in fact halt my approach because of both fear and...curiosity. 'I think this is the first time in either life that I've ever had a gun aimed at me...hmmm...yep, It's the first time. I can't say I'm a fan. I wonder if a DEX of 44 is high enough to dodge firearms? Probably not. My DEX is only 4x that of a normal civilians and bullets travel something like 2,500 feet per second right? I'm nowhere near fast enough yet. Though it is an old timey flintlock so the shot is probably significantly slo-'

I saw Poliver's finger tense and I twisted sharply to the left. The crack of a gunshot fills the air and a searing burning pain flares through my side as the bullet grazes me and embeds itself into a wall somewhere behind me.

-36 HP!

Skill Lv up! Physical Endurance Lv. (3/30) → (4/30)

-Your body's durability to damage from physical sources. Resistance increased from (9%)→ (12%)

HP Regen Skill Active!

-Current speed: 0.1% max health per minute.

"Gah-! Fuck!" I practically screech as my hands fly down to clutch at the wound. 'God-! CHRIST that shit burns! Okay! Not fast enough to dodge bullets! LESSON LEARNED!'

I turn my head around to the man who almost put a bullet in me and glared. Even though my [HP Regen] skill would fix me good as new in just under an hours time it did absolutely nothing to deaden the pain.

Thomas Poliver whimpered a pathetic little squeak and his legs crumpled beneath him. He tossed his smoking gun to the side and attempted to scurry away on his hands and knees.

"Ohhhh no. No no no. You aren't going anywhere. We're not done yet." I mutter darkly as I reach out and drag the man back by his ankle.

It's six minutes later when a small contingent of five Marines, presumably from the towns local branch, blockade the entrance to the street. Looking down the alleyway they were presented with the scene of three unconscious men along with a fourth getting the ever-loving shit beaten out of him by yours truly.

Needless to say, their first impression of me is not the best.

"This is Chief Petty Officer Mori of Marine Branch 4-6-8!" The leader bellows through a loudspeaker Den-Den-Mushi as his four compatriots all silently level their rifles in my direction. "We are responding to reports of a gunshot! Drop the man and place your hands over your head immediately!"

I spare a quick glance between the marines and Thomas's remaining health bar. He still has 22 points of his original 130 so I'd only mostly beaten him within an inch of his life. I'd say the guy's probably learned his lesson.

I released my hold and let poor Thomas sink onto the cold floor before complying with the officers demands.

+75 Exp!

'Not right now game!' I internally groan while dismissing the blue notification.

The four rifle bearing marines lifted their guns away and all began a slow approach. "Identify yourself stranger! What happened here?" the Chief demanded.

'Let's see how well I can talk my way out of this. Assault shouldn't be nearly as big an issue in this world as it was back on Earth.' "Good evening Chief. My name is Jack Parker. I arrived here earlier today on a merchant ship from Kivuruk. Got lost while looking for a hotel. These fellows tried to mug me and I took exception to that. The gunshot was from them. I never intended to cause any trouble."

"Oi Chief. This guy's one of the Poliver brothers." One of the Seaman spoke up. "We've been looking for him. I'm pretty sure there's a reward of 70,000 Beri for bringing him in."

Chief Mori nodded grimly while peering at the various weapons scattered across the scene. "You took on all four by yourself?" he questioned with the smallest hint of disbelief in his voice.

"I'm stronger than I look Chief." I replied noncommittally.

Mori's entire demeanor suddenly shifted from serious to amused and he barked out a single laugh. "Ha! That's what I like to hear! Always good to see these gutter rats get knocked down a peg. You ever consider joining the Marines son? We're always looking for new talent. I'll even put in some paperwork to have you start as a Seaman First Class. Skip right over the recruit and apprentice ranks."

New Quest Alert!

Quest: You've been given the chance to join the Mar-

I mentally slam down on the [DECLINE] button so fast the text box didn't even have time to fully form. In a different place, a different world, I may have joined the military. But in the One Piece universe? Hell no! Heeeeeell no! Too few pros, waaaayy too many cons.

"Sorry Chief. The Marine life's just not for me." I replied respectfully.

Mori barked out another short laugh. "Ha! Can't blame ya. There are some days I wonder why I joined myself. Well come on then, lets get you down to the station. We'll need to take a statement from you for the incident report."

It was over a full hour later that I found himself sitting in front of Chief Mori's desk as the Marine finished jotting down the final words of my statement. "Is that everything you needed from me Chief?" I asked.

Mori hummed to himself. "Almost. One final item to take care of. Would you be interested in collecting the bounty on Thomas Poliver? 70,000 Beri won't make you a rich man but it's not exactly a pittance either."

I could feel my forehead scrunching up in light confusion. "Do I even qualify for it? I didn't exactly turn him in. You guys just showed up and took him away."

Mori shrugged. "Sure. The only reason he's in Marine custody now is because of you. That's good enough for me. Others might be more of a stickler on the technical details but I'm not that stingy."

"Well...then I suppose I'll take it." I reply trying not to show too much excitement. Would you turn down free money?

"Right then." Mori mutters as he scribbles something down on a sheet of paper. "Take that note to Petty Officer Abrella down at the bounty office tomorrow sometime between 0800 and 1930 and she'll pay you."

"Bounty office?" I ask curiously. Now that I think about it, the actual payment on captured bounties is a seriously overlooked aspect of the One Piece universe.

"You don't know it? Follow me." Mori commanded as he rose from his desk.

A short walk and a few hallways later I'm presented with what appears to be a bank teller booth that looks like it belongs in an amusement park. Bright flashing multicolored lights flicker on and off bringing attention to a massive 'BOUNTY' sign hanging overhead.

The entire thing is far too ostentatious for the otherwise drab military base.

'But then again it is One Piece...'

Next to the booth stand two large message boards covered to the brim with wanted posters. The one on the left features major pirate captains and crews who plague South Blue as a whole whereas the one on the right seems to be reserved for smaller much more local issues.

"This is the bounty office." Mori explains as though the giant flashing billboard didn't make that obvious. "If you look on the left here you'll see all the big names that roam our waters."

I nodded as I studied the list. '17 million...23 million...45 million... holy shit 72.5 million! This isn't even the Grand Line! 100 Beri says he's got one seriously nasty Devil Fruit.'

"And here on the right we have the minor bounties. Thugs, bandits, ruffians, murderers, and all around troublemakers who are wanted by the local Caeba government or one of our neighboring islands. Smaller bounties like these that don't make the newspapers are the lifeblood of the bounty hunting business."

"Ah. That makes sense." I murmur, the minor epiphany being obvious in hindsight. "Most bounty hunters can't make a living testing their luck on big names so they have to stick to the small fry."

Mori gave a hum of agreement. "A word of caution Jack. You should be on the lookout for this man." he intones while pointing to one wanted poster in particular. "Reggie Poliver. Thomas's older and more temperamental brother. Bounty: 115,000 Beri. He's gone underground for the moment so we don't have a clue as to where he is. Admittedly we're not looking that hard though. The Marines are focused on frying much bigger fish. Still, when he learns his brother was caught I've no doubt he'll resurface and go looking for whoever was involved."

"I'm not worried." I easily reply. The stereotypical biker profile on the poster looked practically like a harmless kitten in comparison to the major bounties on the other board.

Mori barked out another one of his signature laughs. I'm getting the feeling that it might be his character shtick. "I didn't think you would be. Well It's about time for my shift to be over so I'm heading home to the wife. You know where the hotel is at now right?"

"Yeah, sure. Thanks for the help Chief." I say without really paying attention. My eyes were still glued to that picture of Reggie Poliver.

Bounty: 115,000 Beri.

Between the two brothers it's enough cash to more than double my savings.

'Huh. The bounty hunting business... This might be fun.' I thought with a gleam in my eye.