To the common man of the world, the announcement of a new face in the roster of the Seven Warlords was not earth-shattering news. With still less than half a fortnight having passed since the Marineford War against Whitebeard it was just another small event in the tide of what had been the most chaotic news week of the past decade.
In fact, for three of the four Blue's, a relatively unknown being promoted to the title was met with little interest and somewhat of a 'wait-and-see' style attitude. There was a minute bit of intrigue that he was a bounty hunter and not a pirate which broke the mold of tradition somewhat, but beyond that it just wasn't worth talking about over the breakfast table in light of all the other world-shaping things going on.
That is..until his name was still in the paper the following week.
And the week after that.
And the week after that.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. For right now, it has only been a day.
Caeba Kingdom, South Blue
"EEHHHH?! No way!" Petty officer Abrella slammed her hands on the counter at the picture of Jack in the paper. A W-W-Warlord?! HOW?! Not even a year ago he was in here turning in his first bounty! T-There's just no way!
How can someone the same age as her, someone she joked around with as he brought in street punks, suddenly share the same title as Dracule Mihawk or the 'Pirate Empress'?!
Sure there was that news of him assassinating a King...but that was a mistake! It was some rogue Cipher Pol guy! They just used Jack's name on accident! The fact that the wanted poster kind've looked like the Jack she knew was just bad luck! She was sure of it! Her coworkers didn't quite believe her, but she was certain a retraction would be printed any day!
"Um..excuse me." Abrella's head snapped up to a teenager standing at her booth window. One hand was awkwardly scratching his hair while the other was clutching tight a copy of the very same article she was just reading. "Hi, uh, my name's Barker. I hope I'm in the right place." he briefly looks up at the massive 'BOUNTY' sign shining brightly above her post. "My friend once mentioned to me this was where he got started."
The youth sidestepped for a moment to show a bound up man with a scowling bruised up face slumped along the back wall. A gang member she recognized as being worth a clean 50,000. Gus Yagoo-something or other.
"Can you give me the rundown on how all this works?" the kid, Barker, laughed a bit nervously. "I'm actually kind of new at this."
Mirifield Officer Academy, South Blue
"I'm so proud of you dear." He feels his wife's lips on his cheek and Mori will readily admit, it's been a long couple of months.
It's only a small ceremony, what with there only being 22 graduates in his division, but even now there's still hooting and hollering going on as the new officers can finally mingle with their families again. He swears, for some of these youngsters it's like they've never been away from their loved ones before. Heh, just wait until their first deployment..
"Daddy I like your new jacket," his daughter chitters in his ear, fiddling with his epaulettes while he bounces her on his arm.
"Thank you sweety. I like it too." he gives her tummy a little tickle, sending her into a giggle fit. "It's a coat though."
Lieutenant Junior Grade Mori. Not a title he'd ever imagined himself having. Heck, a year ago he could scant imagine making it too far beyond Chief. He thought maybe by the time he was ready to retire they'd have given him 'Warrant Officer' just as a gift for years served. And now here he was, even two ranks beyond that.
It was invigorating. Uplifting even. And he's not just saying that because he's in the best shape of his life. Shoot, he bets he could run circles around that prick Jorgen now, no assistance from Jack required.
The hypothetical makes him smile. Imagining a panicked confused orangutan struggling to fight back. Totally outclassed in every way. Pheh, he laughs to himself. Shame it'll have to remain a fantasy.
There's a break in the crowd and Mori spots an outlier among the ceremony. Some type of government agent type who's lounging along the back wall nursing a cigarette, seemingly waiting for things to die down. It's just a gut feeling, but Mori's almost certain that's the man he was warned would be here. One of the Rear Admiral's staff that would supposedly be waiting for him.
"Here honey," he passes off his daughter to his wife's arms. "I gotta go talk to someone real quick. Be back in a second."
"Don't be long." Cheryl smiles at him. "We've got a cake waiting you know." His daughter gasps excitedly at the sudden news. Apparently she hadn't known.
"Pardon me. Excuse me." he makes his way through the crowd, nodding politely at his fellow freshly commissioned as he passes them by. "Hello there," he greets to the onlooker. "Are you the one I'm looking for? Yukimura's man?"
The agent spares Mori a quick glance before turning to douse his cigarette in a nearby ash tray. "Alright," the man breaths out. "Let's have a look at you then," he speaks before scanning Mori with a critical eye. Seemingly assessing the new officer from top to bottom. The Lieutenant's never been the overly prideful sort, but even he finds himself puffing up a little. He's worked hard these past weeks and months and he knows-
"Pathetic." The man grunts out, thoroughly slashing the wind in Mori's sails. "Even if its just for support staff, is this really how desperate we are on recruitment?" he mutters somewhat under his breath. "Fine then." he speaks louder. "You're accepting the position right?" he asks "Good. Here's your orders packet." the man pulls a manila envelope from his blazer. "They'll supersede whatever posting you were billeted for in your graduation papers."
The man leans off the wall and grabs his hat off a nearby table. "You and the wife better start packing. Your ship leaves in five days. Oh, and here," he shoves a newspaper against Mori's chest. "Better study up. I know recruits in these programs don't really get a lot of news."
He walks away, giving Mori a single pat on the shoulder as he departs. "One final thing rookie, call it advice if you want," he intones, striking up a new stick of tobacco. "You better keep pushing that training up. Secretary work or no, that levels just not good enough for where you're going."
With a deep frown Mori tucks the envelope under his arm and then peels the paper off himself to take a peak at the day's headline. When he does, his eyes nearly pop straight from his skull.
A Certain Island, The Grand Line
"Gah! Who does this flashy punk think he is! So he took out a few known names, pheh!" he tosses the newspaper into the wind. "Certainly he's no match for me, the unstoppable Captain Buggy!"
"Buggy!" "So cool!" "Master Buggy!" "I'll follow you anywhere captain!" "Buggy! Buggy! Buggy! Buggy!"
As the ex-prisoners of Impel Down circled around their new ruler, chanting his name in unison, one man in particular, an inmate from Level 3, sat quietly in the back, reading his own copy that he'd gotten from the News Coo.
So, the first man to ever beat him in hand-to-hand was a Warlord now? Good, that's good. Strong fighters deserve to be recognized. Nash, the ever-silent once right-hand of Hornigold adjusted his glasses and smiled genuinely.
He'd been going over the fight in his head ever since he lost and the conclusion was an obvious one. He'd had the proper technique but just not the raw power to have it matter. A problem he was already taking measures to fix.
Nash tucks the paper under his arm and takes off for a stroll. He hopes he can meet Sparrow again someday. He'd love a rematch.
Maybe they can even trade pointers!
Sabaody Archipelago, Grove 16, Pirate Bar 'Treasures End'
Heat frowned as he watched his last remaining friend fume over the day's news, his attitude getting worse by the passing second. "Killer.." he tried to broach.
The 'Massacre Soldier' crumbled the paper into a rag and then smashed his drink against the wall.
Entrance to The New World, The Grudge Dolph
"Oi oi, that ain't funny." "The 'Roar of the Sea' is dead?!" "Didn't we just see his ship a few days ago?" "His bounty was almost as high as Captain Hawkins'!" The pirates crowded around the paper, each shoving to look at the article.
"...this marking the second of the 'Supernova' rookies who've fallen to..wait the second?" The one holding the paper read off before pausing. "Who was the first?" "Idiot, didn't you hear Eustass Kid bit it?" "They're saying it was this guy? I thought it was Kizaru!"
Ezrulie, the crew's second-in-command, spun around with worry in his face. "Captain! What are your orders!"
The deck of cards riffled underneath expert hands, not a corner out of place as 'The Magician' went through his ritual with the perfection of a lifetime of practice. "Battle: Probability of defeat," he announced impassively, extracting the top card with a gloved hand. "94%"
Cries of disbelief met his reading but Basil Hawkins paid them no concern. He'd already placed the first result away and moved on to the second. "Battle: Probability of death, 27%."
The second tarot joins the fist, magically suspended before him on a thin piece of straw. "Defense: Probability of escape, 0%." He lingers on the result for a moment, his eyes glancing sideways to really assess the card. 'Lower than a single percent? Peculiar. Even engagements at sea don't have such low odds. Sparrow must be a relentless sort.'
So combat as a whole was undesirable then. Very well. It wouldn't be the first name he'd have to work to avoid. With a flourish the deck is cut twice before the fourth card is pulled. A change-up on his readings. "Path: Chance to encounter within one week, 5%."
The fourth card is placed among its siblings, before one last one is drawn to close out the reading. "Path: Chance to encounter within one month, 13%." 'Acceptable. He is not bound for the New World quite yet.'
"Maintain the current heading." He finally speaks to the crew. "We have no need to adjust at this time."
The Calm Belt, Along the Coast of Amazon Lily
'Moria. Teach. Jinbei. That was three seats open. Now it's already down to two.' And what an unexpected pick at that. He doesn't know what sort of game the World Government is playing at. What kind of crazy backroom schemes are going on. Looking at the pictures, the name change, it's easy to see how the average person wouldn't notice the similarities.
Law wasn't fooled though. That's the Ex-Cipher Pol assassin who executed Eustass Kid in front of him. He's certain of it. Looking at the article again he inspects the picture of Scratchmen Apoo's already damaged ship being scuttled by Navy cannons. His fellow 'Supernova's' underlings bound up in manacles while the most basic of white sheets covers the corpse of the captain himself.
The article doesn't say it but Law's seen enough cadavers in his days to tell. The man was damn near cut in half.
'Troublesome. If the super rookies are 'Sparrow's' choice of target then there may not be much time at all.' He'll need to get his plans in motion quickly if he wants to secure one of those remaining two chairs. And more importantly the immunities that come with it.
"Anything good in the papers?"
The tone is friendly, as is the smile of the old man who spoke it, but Law just can't relax around this man. It was like trying to sleep with a live dragon in the next room over. Truth be told he wanted to gather his men and cast off the moment the 'Dark King' swam ashore. Straw Hat wasn't in danger of expiring anymore and he'd already outlined the recovery plan to those watching over him.
At this point the only reason he hadn't left yet is the unplanned second patient who's still unconscious inside the Polar Tang. A refugee picked up when they surfaced briefly in The Calm Belt for an air exchange. His condition had been near just as bad as Straw Hat's. Potentially worse even. By all accounts he should have died.
Guess that fishman physiology really was good for something.
"Uuughh…" A low groaning catches his attention as the main door of his submarine slowly creaks open. 'Well you know what they say about 'Speak of the Devil..' and all that.' An overweight blob in a floral print shirt stumbles onto the deck, his body covered in bandages and one hand cradling his head. "Where in the hell.." he squints his eyes away from the sunlight, not even noticing his onlookers.
"Yo," Law smirks down at the stranger. "Finally up and around I see. Sorry I couldn't fully save the leg, I had another patient that needed my full attention."
The blue-skinned fishman turns his head up at the doctor, some form of question on his lips...but then has his expression widen as he notices at the older gentleman standing behind him.
"I see," Rayleigh smiled, pouring sake into the small cup in Sunbell's hand. "So those two got to relive the old days one last time ey?" he glances off at the sea, past where the young doctor's ship just disappeared into. "I'm glad. If only we could all go out on our own terms like that."
The fishman brought the small dish to his lips, a comedic sight considering how oversized his hands were. "If only I'd arrived just a little sooner." he breathed with some regret. "Who knows what might've gone different? Could've got Roger's boy out of there before Borsalino of all people showed up."
Rayleigh says nothing, just silently refilling Sunbell's cup when he offers it. "What about the other one?" he eventually asks. "The kid. Who was he?"
"Dunno." Sunbell sips at his drink. "Braxton knew him. Momora didn't really say a lot about him when he called me. Seemed like a good lad though. Helping a bunch of old timers like us out." he knocks back what's left in the dish and sighs in satisfaction. "Kind've an oddity though."
Sunbell's expression screwed up in thought. "Well, maybe this should be taken with a grain of salt. I was admittedly a bit delirious at the time. But I could have sworn he had a Devil Fruit at the last minute. Pulled out a whole bunch of stuff from nowhere. A change of clothes, this wooden contraption thing, it was weird. Kind've reminded me of that fatty Blamenco's Pocket Fruit to be honest."
Rayleigh hummed. "We've seen powers that are similar before. That's nothing new."
"Nah, Rayleigh, you're focusing on the wrong part." Sunbell laughed softly. "I told you earlier. I'm the one who pulled him from the water. The boy floats. Same as any of us can."
For the first time in the conversation a small frown tugged at Rayleigh's lips. His eyes turning downward as two fingers rose to his chin in contemplation. "A way around the curse..?"
"Either that or whatever it is he can do...it ain't no Fruit." Sunbell relaxes back on his hands before taking a brief glance at the folded newspaper on the ground next to them. "Oi! Oi oi! Rayleigh! That's him!"
"Hmm?" The 'Dark King' looks over.
"That's the kid!"
The New World
"Zehahahaha! I see!" Marshall D. Teach laughed amongst his men. "So that's his name. Sparrow! I'll be sure to remember it."
"Captain." A tap dancing man tipped his hat. "Give me the order and I will happily bring this man to you. Augur and I could have him at your feet within a fortnight."
"Zehaha, let's not be too hasty, Lafitte." The soon-to-be Emperor smiled back with missing teeth. "There will be time later. For now there's plenty of work still to do! Losing Vasco and Doc set us back but not by much. We need to keep the promise I made to the world! The next step towards My Era!"
Holy crap Dials are fucking broken.
Well, that is, the air ones are at least. Let me explain. I've been running some basic tests on how these things recharge. Impact, you already knew about. Put force in, get force out. Simple. It's a container. All Dials are just containers.
The Flame Dial stores fire, a Light Dial stores light, it's all simple concepts. Even if whatever mechanism they somehow operate by makes no sense to me. It's magic. Whatever. Two plus two equals fish and all that.
So, one might ask, how does a Flame Dial get flames stored inside? Do you just let it slowly recharge from ambient heat over time? Is it a magical vacuum type situation? Can one just throw it in a fire and call it good?
Initial tests say idea #1: Yes. #2: No. #3: Maybe.
Not right now 'garasu, I'm rambling. Where was I? Oh right, the air ones. Fuckin' stupid. These things recharge by air flowing over them. If they're kept stationary and in a calm environment, its a trickle charge rate. You can easily run them dry since only the ambient air currents are going to be putting anything back in to the equation. If it's a particularly windy day...ehh more testing required.
That's not the point though! The point is what happens when they're not in a calm stationary environment. What happens when they're strapped to a flying machine, cutting through the air at top speed, and having artificial winds constantly rolling over them?
"Oi idiot. Idiot. Dumbass."
The answer? Infinite power. The net charge rate becomes greater than the net discharge. Truthfully, I'm actually a little concerned about it. If I were to come across even more Jet Dials and push my top speed even further, could the charge rate reach so high that the Dial's insides could become pressurized and burst? I know from my experience with the Impact Dial that these things have a limit on them somewhere. If you try to take things too high, they will break.
I think right now -through sheer dumbass luck- I might be operating in some sort of 'Goldilocks' zone. At top speed with the charge being just slightly slightly more than the discharge I can effectively operate continuously without-
"Don't you fuckin' ignore me."
A heavy sigh escapes my lips. "What?"
"Where we going?"
I do my best not to glower at the talking katana that's strapped in next to me. "I have already explained that."
"Yeah, but I was distracted. Kept checking your face for signs of brain damage. Maybe a chromosome issue. Would explain how you got a crow mixed up with a toucan."
Exasperation builds in my throat. "Oh come on. Are you still on about that? I got caught up in a thought experiment! Excuse me, for getting the wrong genus Mr. fucking picky."
"Genus? Bitch you didn't even get the right Order. You do recall how that all works right? Kingdom, Phylum, Class, and all that shit?"
My eyes screw shut. I swear if I wasn't flying right now I'd be rubbing my temples. "How do you even know about that? You were a sword."
"Fuck you, that's how. Now where are we going?"
A deep breath through my nose. "As I said before. The plan is to head backwards through Paradise, sinking every black flag we come across until we eventually hit Reverse Mountain. Then I have a brief detour up in East Blue I want to take care of. There's a group I parted with that I want to clear the air with. Among other things."
The orange bill sprouting from the sword seemed to purse its beak and hum at that. Wait- how does that-? Toucans can't- "Well, if you ask me that sounds fuckin' stupid."
I growled under my breath. I swear I'm going to throw this thing in the fucking ocean!