A/N: I think I may have overdid it a smidge with the bold text in this chapter. I usually try to avoid that. I think it's a tool that should only be used sparingly. Jack is pretty angry tho. It just felt so appropriate in so many places. Eh. What can ya do?
The image flickers. It destabilizes and wobbles and my legs nearly buckle as my extended awareness crashes back into me like a speeding vehicle.
Noise noise noise noise. There's suddenly so much noise around me! Presences everywhere! Every direction! Hack's yelling but he's being drowned out. People are whispering in their houses. Those minion mercenaries from the fight are groaning in the street. Two dogs are scrapping in an alley. A wife laughs at her husband's joke. A child sneaks out of her bedroom. A man complains about his bum knee. A bartender peaks out his door. A mother gives thanks the gunfire's stopped. A patient groans from a makeshift clinic.
My hands clutch at my ears to try and shut it out. 'Turn it off turn it off turn it off' The Haki is completely uncontrolled. Picking up everything and everyone just like Koby's did in the aftermath of Marineford. 'Turn it off turn it off turn it off'
Somehow whatever esoteric piece of my being that controls this new power responds and everything slooowly fades down into background noise. It's still present, soft whispers in the wind, but infinitely more manageable compared to the raging cacophony of before. In it's place though an odd weight blankets over my psyche. A weariness of the soul that has nothing to do with Health, my VIT score, or even the physical sapping the [Rokuōgan] inflicted.
It wants rest. I'm not sure how I can tell that but I can. Whatever mystical muscle is involved in enforcing one's will over reality, it's far too raw and shriveled to be used actively again so freshly after awakening. My breathing is heavy. It's all but demanding that rest be had right here right now lest-
It doesn't matter.
We're pushing through it.
'I have my target.'
Hack's final objections fall on deaf ears as I go soaring across the sky. That shooter won't be escaping me. Nuh uh. Not today.
I see the palanquin before they see me. The royal shitstain responsible for employing Mengsk in the first place is lounging in his portable throne looking almost bored as the procession lazily meanders in the direction of the palace steps. He chatters about some inane thing to his retainer, the only other man present who isn't dressed like a disposable serf, but I ignore it. I only have eyes for the scoped golden gun sitting at his armrest. Loafing there just like the man who used it.
The ground in front of them explodes as I make my entrance, an actual crater forming in the packed soil. The monarch yelps as his chair is carelessly dropped and he tumbles over the side. His escort of poorly dressed lackeys –really just slaves with prettier titles- scatter in a terrified panic. Their flimsy fear-based loyalty being nothing compared to the threat of real danger that I'm putting off.
King Edmund Rosenwald, Ruler of Yateron, Lv. 7
Verdugo Peguero, Royal Guard, Lv. 29
Credit where it's due, the retainer Verdugo, the only one not to flee, springs into action immediately. A puff of displaced air materializes beneath his feet as he kicks off with Geppo -making him the first besides myself who I've seen actually know the technique- and a second burst against the sky has him rocketing towards me.
The royal guard's right arm reaches out and I watch through slowed time as his fingers morph into black talons. Feathers sprout beneath his arms, razor teeth glint from a scaled snout, and in no time at all he's pulled a full Ancient-Zoan transformation into a legitimate cretaceous-era raptor.
On any other day, I would take a moment to admire the novel sight of a dive-bombing dinosaur. Or perhaps publicly lament that such a cool Fruit is wasted on someone so weak.
But right now?
I'm so not in the fucking mood.
[Adrenalin Rush] Activated!
STR (510 +70%) → (867)
My leg connects with the dino's midsection, delivering not just a ribs shattering blow but a point blank [Rankyaku] as well. Spittle splashes from the reptile's throat as blood erupts in a wide arc across his chest. The blue cutting wave carries him up the stone steps of the palace, carving a vicious trail of rock and dust in its destructive wake, until it finally comes to a wall and 'detonates'. Chunks of white masonry collapse atop the Ancient Zoan, burying him from sight. I keep an eye on the pile, half expecting him to leap out of it despite his mediocre level, but the mass of rubble doesn't so much as twitch.
'Works for me.' With that seemingly taken care of I turn my gaze around. Back to the real reason I'm here.
Rosenwald dusts himself off while staring at me with severe annoyance. Something that only pisses me off further. Not fear. Not anger or contempt. Annoyance. "Well then," he starts. "Who the fuck are you supposed to be then? Another rebel upstart? "
"I'm Jack fuckin' Sparrow. And you shot my bird. Any last words?"
He scoffs, his eyes rolling with exaggeration. "Oh please, spare me the insipid theatrics. A low-born peasant like yourself cannot hope to threaten-" His breath catches as suddenly I'm in front of him. My fist pulled back as the muscles grotesquely bulge outward, ballooning in unnatural ways. This isn't going to be like Luffy punching Saint Charlos. No. That nobleman survived. I'd like to see this one pull the same trick with a skeleton that's been reduced to powder.
My fist barrels up into his stomach, his eyes are wide, a face you'd expect from a man who's just realized he's dead...but something is immediately off. The little retort I had queued up about not actually giving a fuck about his last words is abandoned for puzzlement when my hand meets absolutely zero resistance. Not the 'barely anything' resistance of a Lv. 7 but literal zero. No clothes. No skin or muscle. No anything. The only thing present at all is an oddly damp yet breezy sensation fluttering around my hand.
A downright predatory smirk morphs over Rosenwald's face as his entire being suddenly dispels into a stream of light blue mist that slithers into the nearest alley.
'Oh...joy.' My teeth grind in aggravation. 'My first Logia.'
The air bends to my will as the 'moonwalk' technique lets me easily keep pace with the fleeing royal. Meanwhile anger, frustration, and logic all brawl against each other in my head. Logic is trying to quietly insist from the corner that this is a mistake. It wants me to recognize that maybe it's a good thing Rosenwald wasn't reduced to red salsa by my fist. Such an event would surely have consequences.
I can barely hear little Logic's voice though. The much louder Anger and Frustration duo are both screaming how do I kill someone made of mist?
The obvious first -barely needs to be even stated 'Option A'- is the amateur Haki newly at my disposal. Armament and Observation are just opposite sides of the same coin that everyone can unlock right? If I've access to one, how hard could it be to just flip it around?
A spiked twinge racks through me at the attempt. That ephemeral piece of me that still wants rest rebelling extensively at the very idea -the simple notion- that it could be used 'actively' again so soon.
We'll just have to big brain this. Logia's aren't invincible. One just has to figure out a proper counter. Crocodile's was moisture. Enel's was rubber. Gasparde's was flour. Caribou's was being a dumbass.
Heat. That might work. A confined space with lots of heat that has nowhere to go? Mist wouldn't be a tenable option in such an environment. As everyone's favorite animated superhero Frozone once said, "There is no water in this air!"
But how would we generate it though? And how best would we trap him? Man where's a couple of Flame Dials when a guy needs 'em?
A change in Rosenwald grabs my focus. His body starts to reform into a human shape and I speedily shift to a far more immediate idea. Pulling a large wooden keg from the depths of the [Inventory] I break it above my head with barely a thought, drenching myself in a waterfall of seawater.
I don't super expect the saltwater-covered axe-kick to work. Things we designate as 'Plan C' rarely do. But sometimes life can surprise you.
Unfortunately today's not the day it seems as I pass straight through my target like I would a thin cloud. 'Not done!' With a growl I extract a second barrel and aggressively swing its contents his way instead. Just to be sure if this idea is a bust or not.
There's a hopeful moment where the seawater splashes over him. He's wet. Dripping. Doesn't look weakened though. My [Shigan] enters his forehead and still hits nothing solid.
'Fuckin' inconsistent seawater rules.'
"If you're quite finished then.." he speaks. Mist builds up around us and starts to thicken with density. Enough so that it would have to be reclassified as fog. And then it thickens further still. My eyes flit around as I track his presence. I may not be able to use 'active' Haki at the moment but the most basic 'passive' of being aware of the direction of his 'voice' is still available. 'Heat. Back to the heat plan. What do I have? I have weapons that can spark. I have combustibles. And plenty of things that are flammable. I'd need to somehow lead him into a tight space...somewhere he can't… can't… some...what in the…' A hand goes to my head as I lose the thought.
I blink a few times as I try to refocus. My angry breathing is dying down. '..what...what was..oh right. Heat. I need a way to make some heat. To...to what? Why did I need-' Instinct screams in my ear and I roll away from a disembodied hand holding a knife. A "Tch" of annoyance sounds from somewhere around me and..I'm not quite sure where it..I'm not quite...
I glance around confusedly at the white vapor around me. Watching it softly roil and ebb and flow. Ever so slowly wafting and drifting. '..What's going...I was definitely... doing something..a fight?...No it was something with heat...why would I need heat though... I wonder...what do I wonder...wonder something...about heat? No that can't be right.'
"Ah! Jack Sparrow!" The voice speaks again from somewhere and nowhere. "I recognize the name now! You're not one of my citizens at all. You're that rabble rousing little Bounty Hunter. I see. I see. That was your animal I mistook for a buzzard. I'd say I was sorry but...it was just a bird. No need to get all upset about it."
My head sluggishly rolls around to look for the speaker. Someone's definitely talking right now. Though I don't see anyone... That's so weird. Where is this place?
"Aww what's wrong little hunter?" The voice asks with faux concern. "Are you having some trouble thinking? Is it all suddenly muddled and slow? Would you say your mind..is in a Haze?"
"Gah!" The tiny blade stabbing into the left side of my upper back brings a brief spark of pain induced clarity. Just enough to pierce the mental fog and slam the eject button. [Geppo] rockets me out of the dome of mist and high above the swirls of white.
'Shit shit! Note to fucking self: Opponent's mist is a goddamn mental hazard. What did he call it? A Haze?' With a grunt I rip the tiny blade free from my shoulder blade. 'That's so stupid! Haze and Mist aren't even caused by the same phenomena! I don't care if people use them as synonyms!'
I catch my breath as I try to think of my next move. I use the word 'try' because there's several notifications in the corner that are..well… they're not good.
Alert! You have been Poisoned!
Poison level: (Severe).
[HP Regen] has been temporarily disabled. Time Remaining: 20 mins.
'Resistance to Poisons and Toxins' is in effect.
Damage per second is being reduced. (-10 HP) → (-6 HP)
Okay. Okay okay okay. We need to stay calm and assess. Don't freak out. Math it out instead. Damage per second is six. Times 60 seconds in a minute..
That's three hundred and sixty... and then twenty minutes until my regen comes back..
'Seven thousand and- Oh fuck me that's a lot of damage.' I don't suppose there's any chance my 'resistance' to poisons can level up is there?
Because as it stands I am barely going to pull through from just this one little pinprick. If I'd been stabbed with this when I first started my journey I'd be dead in under three minutes.
My breath hisses in as the affected area starts to throb and burn. What in the unholy mother was that thing coated in? Is the wound going to start wafting purple smoke? Anime poisons always seem to do that don't they? Fuuuuck.The burning worsens and I resist the urge to clutch at my back.
Damn it all. I guess the safest option is to up our VIT as best we can and just try to wait it out. Gods, I hope when [HP Regen] comes back it also means the posion stops. Because I happened to notice the pop-up had them listed as two separate things.
Somehow I don't think I'll be that lucky.
Points to spend (35) → (0)
VIT (408) → (443)
Max Health (8,160) → (8,860)
I can feel Rosenwald's eyes on me from the street. He's got that special smug look plastered over his face. The one that only a nobleman can make. As if he knows the insect before him is already done.
'Well. Fuck. Him.' I heft a massive gorilla-sized bazooka out of the [Inventory]. The kind that can only exist in a universe as cartoonish as this one.
Now do I expect this to do anything at all besides maybe tickle him?
But it'll make me feel better.
Orange light and dark smoke obscure the Logia as the payload hits his feet dead center and that wonderfully iconic One Piece explosion sound rocks out. Rosenwald is consumed by the resulting dust cloud and despite knowing it's pointless a part of me hopes the brief flash of fire somehow at least mildly affected him.
If that were true it would at least make me expressing my displeasure feel productive instead of just petty.
But of course he just walks out like nothing happened.
Because that's how today's going.
"And what exactly was 'that' little tantrum supposed to accomplish?" Rosenwald smiles. "A final cry of defiance before you run with your tail between your legs? Or maybe you'd prefer to stay and try and beg for the antidote? I have grown to love some good groveling these past few years."
"Y'know Edmund," I spit as I come to a landing on a rooftop, shucking the worthless weapon off my shoulder as I do. "I heard once upon a time you weren't a half-bad guy. Grew all the way up from a bitch boy Mariejois clerk to a reformist King who was turning this place around. What happened, one morning you woke up and just decided to be another generic royal cunt? Why do all those years of work for the people just to throw it away?"
Just to be clear. I don't actually care about his answer. Not even a little. I'm trying to keep him occupied for a few seconds while I think through options. Those '-6 HP!' notices are still steadily coming in, but like fucking hell am I gonna retreat -even temporarily- from a Lv. 7 who killed my bird. Knowing what his Fruit can do though to my mind, I'm not sure a confined space is such a great idea anymore. We need a 'Plan D'.
Luckily -for once today at least- it seems my question hit a rather passionate nerve.
"Oh don't get me started on the oh so precious 'people'." Rosenwald spat. "An unwashed crowd of whiny ungrateful little shits!" he continued. "I gave them schools and they complain there's no jobs! I commissioned clinics and they wail that there's not enough hospitals!"
Rosenwald's lower torso turns to spritzy mist, letting him rise off the ground as he gets into a full powered rant.
"One of my advisers came to me once and demanded -he fucking demanded- that I do something about the food shortage! How dare he! How dare that insipid little insect demand anything of me! I have the blood of the gods running through my veins! This country was a filthy shithole when I assumed the throne! I spent years digging it out of that cesspit and all those worthless ants want is more more more! They needed to be reminded who is in charge! They need to be reminded just how bad life can be! They need to be reminded that I rule this land! Through the divine blood of my grandfather I will reign unchallenged, uncontested and unquestioned until the day I d-"
[Soru] throws me forward off the roof! There's only a few meters, maybe no more than 5, between me and where he's floating in the air.
Time seems to slow. Even more than [Bullet Time] allows for.
My hand pulls 'Plan D' from the storage space.
His mouth is open. Wide open as he spits and raves.
I thrust the Bird-Bird Fruit Model: Toucan forward. His eyes recognize it for what it is.
He knows it means death if he so much as licks it.
The first fleshy bits of the multi-colored guava brush the edges of his lips.
His jaw evaporates into a haze of blue.
I screw up the landing as my anger spikes again. I tumble over the dirt street as frustration floods my core.
'Damn it!' My fist beats against the ground.
'I almost had him!'
'So god-damn close!'
'Shut. Up. [Game]!'
The white dome is surrounding me again and I quickly rise to my feet and toss the Fruit back into storage. Already the cognitive delirium of the Logia's power is trying to seep in and I jump away to escape it.
An involuntary spasm from the building poison racks my muscles just as I try the technique and causes a misfire. The [Geppo] is small, barely there, and Rosenwald easily maneuvers his territory to keep me within.
I try again! [Geppo] fires perfectly fine this time but directions have gotten all...wibbily wobbily.. I'm not sure where I shot myself but I'm still in the mist. I can't stay here! Two more uses of the 'moonwalk' propel me away… and straight into a wall.
"You're dying little hunter." The voice sounds giddy.
'Shit..shit.. He's right.' This can't just be the stupid Haze shit again. Now that I'm aware of it I can somewhat resist it. But the poison's having its own secondary effects. Things outside of just my lowering health. Convulsions. Loss of coordination. Blurred vision. Other...other things...things like...like...Fuck! Focus! Resist! Keep the Haze away!
"That was a good trick you almost pulled. I'll admit you nearly had me." The mist starts to snicker. "Chin up little hunter. Maybe in your next life you'll know not to aim above your station."
'...my next life..' His words give me something to focus on. A lifeline to grab onto as my head starts to swim and annoying dark rings creep into the edges of my eyes.
That's right. I still have three.
We can always get him in the next life.
Or the one after that.
I know what he can do now.
We can just get him next time.
The only real problem is...well…that idea right there...
Is something a Loser would say!
And I. Am. Done. With. Loss. Today!
Pain ravages my body as I grab that mystic muscle that objected so violently before and force it into submission. Psychic needles stab at my brain as the laws of reality fight back! The Will of the World vs. The Will of a Man.
Foreign System Detected In User!
I ignore the pop up!
I don't care about the consequences.
They can go fuck themselves!
All I need...
All I need before this poison knocks me down further...
ALL I NEED!
My legs spasm as I force one final multi-kick burst out of them and latch onto where the 'voice' is strongest in the mist. My hands reach onto something solid and I suddenly find myself hovering just in front of Edmund's stupid fucking face.
Two shining black fists press flush against his nose and the King's eyes nearly pop out of his head in terror. "Waitwaitwaitwaitwaitwait-"
From the deepest part of my soul. The well of rage erupts from my throat.
The effect is instantaneous. Edmund's face crumbles as blood gushes from every orifice on his head. It goes beyond the cliche of eyes whiting out and a simple nose bleed. The nobleman has no defense. No built up durability. He likely hadn't even been injured since the day he ate his Devil Fruit.
The swirling mists around us linger a few extra seconds before dissipating but their creator doesn't last even that.
He's dead before gravity even puts his feet on the ground.
My breathing is ragged and shaky even as the pop-up appears in the corner.
With an unsteady turn I tilt my head to read it.
With my vision darkening I'm a little slow in making out the words.
It's not what I expected.
Due to continuous exposure your 'Resistance to Poisons and Toxins' has increased.
Damage per second is being reduced. (-6 HP) → (-5 HP)
'Heh.. heh heh..'A mirthless chuckle escapes me.
Well what do y'know? The ability can get better. How funny...I was... I was just kinda joking when I thought of it earlier.
I slowly turn on my heel, determined to be done with this wretched fucking day when exhaustion slams into me like a ten ton anchor over the shoulder.
I fall to my hands and knees. The [Rokuōgan]'s. The Poison. Beating the Haki into obedience.
All those bill's have come fuckin' due.
"Oh come on..." I manage to weakly mutter, even as the dark circles worsen. "No way am I passing out now.. that trope is the fucking worst.." I try in vain to push myself back up.
'Don't you dare Jack. Don't you da-'
My eyes flutter open.
'Where...' I'm in a room. Brown walls. Soft sheets. A cabin.
I push my blankets aside and the world rocks slightly.
A familiar motion. Waves. I'm on a ship. Who's ship? When did I-?
"'bout time you woke up." The huff brings me to focus and I rise upright off the pillow. Three men share the room with me. There's an unknown among them. An unusually tall man with an angular face dressed in a green cloak with eyes obscured beneath a giraffe hat. I take note of his name and level before dismissing him and focusing on the two faces I do know.
Hack, leaning against the left wall with arms crossed, still just as grumpy as ever.
And Bunny Joe, sitting backwards with his arms resting on a chair. His demeanor is professional but it's clear that underneath he isn't happy.
My mouth is dry. My lips feel cracked. The man in the giraffe cap, George, silently offers a bottle of water. "How long-" I croak.
"You know Mr. Sparrow you're quite lucky," The senior revolutionary in the chair cuts me off. "Can you imagine for me really quick what could've happened had we not been prepared to hastily extract you? As it stands Hack had to call upon four embedded agents to uproot themselves just to help transport Mengsk, your pet and yourself out of the city. Considering we only had five in Nadhurpal to begin with, we're going to be nearly blind to goings on in Yateron's capital for the next few weeks. In what is sure to be a very tumultuous time for the Kingdom no less."
A jolt stabs my chest at the mention of the word 'pet'. I open my mouth to ask but Bunny Joe reads the question off my face. "My men found a spot for a shallow burial near the river just outside the capital's walls. Hack -luckily for you- had the presence of mind to remove the animal from the city but you can't expect retreating men to haul three hundred pounds of carrion all the way to the coast." My fists tighten at the sound of Kiwi being classified as 'carrion'. The sheets twist angrily between my fingers but I swallow any bitter words. I know why he's mad. I'm not apologizing though. That fucker killed my friend. I'll sit through a lecture. I know I deserve it.
"If that sounds harsh to you, if you have objections to that," Bunny continues, not even attempting to hide displeasure anymore. "Then maybe you shouldn't have run off to act like an overemotional sledgehammer when we specifically hired you to be a scalpel. General Lindbergh and I thought we were contracting a professional not a-"
A calming hand from George rests on Bunny Joe's shoulder before anything else can be said. The so-far silent giant turns my way and offers a weak smile. "Please forgive my colleague. It's been a stressful few days. Command decided to push several operations across the globe forward in the wake of Enies Lobby's fall and initial results have been poorer than we'd hoped. News of your...Pyrrhic victory.. in Yateron is just the latest in a line of difficulties the R.A. will have to endure."
Bunny calmly removes George's hand from his shoulder and stands straight. With a long breath through his nose he regains his equilibrium and returns with some effort to the stoic business-like persona he wore when I first met him. "I've spoken with the General and he would like me to communicate that -and I'm quoting him here- "despite the hiccups" you held your end and so he will hold his. One favor for you to call upon should you ever need it. In the meantime, in approximately two hours this ship will meet up with Korka's Dreamwinder. They will take custody of the traitor for his impending court martial whilst we head for East Blue. Once there-"
"Woah woah woah woah," I finally interject, having hit my limit of condescending exposition being thrown at me. "I'm sorry the job wasn't quiet like you wanted. I think there's an argument to be made that the moment Mengsk busted down our door that the 'covert' part of the mission was a bust, especially when he referenced his past with Hack in front of a crowd, but I'm sorry all the same. And while I won't apologize for why I went off script at the end, I will say I'm sorry if it makes things awkward for you . But all that aside, why on earth would I want to tag along with you guys to East Blue?"
Hack growls from the corner. "Have you still not grasped your situation Jack! Did you honestly think that just because Rosenwald was hated by his people that this would stay quiet? That the consequences would be minimal? You murdered a King. An appointed ruler of one of the 179 countries that make up the World Government. And more than that you killed a Logia with your bare hands using a technique that we are all frankly baffled that you know. Or did it slip your mind that you shouted its name out for all the world to hear? Lindbergh and I could understand a bounty hunter somehow picking up 'Soru' in his travels. Perhaps even one or two of the other 'Rokushiki' if he were lucky enough. It's one of the reasons he hired you. But you knowing the fabled 'Rokuōgan' just beggars belief. We weren't even certain it existed outside of rumor. If not for your actions I might think you really were CP9.."
The fish-man shook his head to refocus himself. "Whatever. Your secrets are your own. It's not our place to grill you on your past. But here's the short of it. A week ago, nobody outside of South Blue knew who you were. Well except for those well-read few that go past the 'front page headlines.' Now, you've been seen using Haki in conjunction with multiple secret marine techniques outside of the Grand Line to kill a man who was loosely connected to the Celestial Dragons of Mariejois. I wouldn't be surprised if the 'Five Elder Stars' have had a conversation about you."
As Hack spoke my face started to pale as the facts were laid out in front of me. That..that couldn't be right? Could it? The bastard was just some clerk acting as a regent. He wasn't even a real Celestial Dragon. He was...he was...
It's almost a pleasant distraction when a sharp knock at the door interrupts us. A fourth revolutionary enters, salutes Bunny Joe, and hands over a pair of papers for the officer to review. The frizzy haired man gives them a brief perusal before fixing me with a stare that was anything but good. "Vice-Admiral's Yamakaji and Lacroix's battleships have just crossed the Calm Belt and are heading into South Blue. It's as we suspected might happen. This ocean is no longer safe for you."
A cold sweat forms on my skin. "Y-you're joking right?" I think of Kivuruk. Of Barker, Rika, and Guilford. How will this affect them? "They wouldn't send a Vice-Admiral after me.." I think of the marines I've befriended. Mori, Yuriko, Abrella. What would they say if I saw them again? "..let alone two...and isn't Lacroix a Giant?...there's no way I warrant that kind of-" I think of all the times I've turned down joining. I think of a disappointed and aggravated Kong sitting in his office, writing me off as a lost cause..
The revolutionary lets loose a humorless laugh at my expression. "And now he finally understands. As my colleague said, last week hardly anyone outside this ocean knew who you were."
He starts to turn the second paper he was handed around for me to see.
A paper that only now, in the dim poorly lit bedroom, am I realizing is brown.
DEAD OR ALIVE
'MONARCH KILLER' JACK PARKER
"This time tomorrow?" He continued. "There won't be a single person in the world who doesn't."