Just like last time:
Yari = Spear
Chapter 6 – The Heat of Battle
There was a momentary silence where the sound of wind was the only thing audible.
That silence was broken as Arlong pushed away the tree that had fallen on him and slowly stood up, his face not visible.
The crowd of people that had previously gathered began to back off, the ones at the back choosing to run away entirely.
The fishmen collectively stared in shock.
"You..." A savage growl cut through the air as Arlong walked forward, his steps sounding more like stomps despite looking no different than before.
A prominent vein pulsed on the side of his neck as his eyes focused on the new human in front of him, his visage seeming more and more like that of a predatory animal.
A casual observer would laugh if he saw the current scene. A four foot tall child standing off against an eight foot tall behemoth of a fishman. He would think that the child was being silly as all children usually tend to be but the atmosphere around the two was anything but silly.
Arlong turned and spat on the ground. He looked at the red-tinted spit for a moment then glowered at the boy "You made me bleed." He bit out, his large hands itching to tear into the offender "Who are you, boy?"
Luffy cracked his knuckles "Monkey D. Luffy. Here to kick your ass."
The fishman suddenly relaxed as he stopped walking. He threw aside the coat he was wearing and cracked his neck. "Brothers." He said to his waiting crew as he once more stalked forward "I changed my mind. Destroy this village. It's an eyesore."
Smirks appeared among the crowd of fishmen as they advanced towards the crowd of onlookers. The villagers quickly realized the situation and panicked as they started running towards their homes. Genzo gritted his teeth as he gave one last glance at Nami before joining the running crowd.
Luffy glared at the fishmen and prepared to knock them out but his senses suddenly blared in alarm.
His plain haki-covered fist met Arlong's gigantic fist head on and a boom sounded as Luffy slid back on the ground, his feet leaving trails in the dirt below. His arm shook slightly as he held back the fishman's fist.
"And you" Arlong growled as his already sharp teeth grew sharper, his eyes looking animalistic in his fury.
"Hehe. I was surprised for a moment when that kid pushed Arlong-san back but he's dead now. Arlong-san is angry! Hahaha!" A fishman said as he leisurely walked on the path leading to the rest of the village, his brethren following behind him.
"Heh. You said it. It's never a pretty sight when Arlong-san is angry. Probably good that we got out of there." Another one said in reply.
They all watched the humans run towards their village, following their first instinct of getting to a safe place, their homes being the ingrained first option.
"Eh, this is boring! I'm going ahead!" One of the fishmen said as he charged towards the fleeing crowd.
A middle aged woman at the back of the crowd screamed as the fishman came towards her, a hand extending out to grab her neck.
Two pipes crashed into the charging fishman's face and stopped him in his tracks.
The fishman held his nose with both hands as he stumbled then fell on his back, groaning in pain. The fleeing woman gave a grateful look to her rescuers and continued to run.
Ace and Sabo stood in front of the group of fishmen, their pipes in their hands, ready to fight.
"More kids? What is with this village and kids?" The leading fishman from earlier asked no one in particular as he and his brethren stopped in front of the two brothers.
"Where's Luffy, you fish bastards?!" Ace shouted at them.
The leading fishman's face twitched and he scowled. He smirked as the question registered in his head "Ah, the other brat? He's about to be killed by the captain any moment now. Why? You wanna join him in the afterlife?" His companions snickered.
Ace gritted his teeth as he glared at them before attempting bypass them to get to Luffy.
A bluish leg swept into his middle out of nowhere. The sudden force lifted him off the ground and Ace's mouth opened with a harsh gasp.
He was abruptly thrown into Sabo who caught him with a surprised stumble. Ace coughed repeatedly as he stood up shakily, holding onto his brother's shoulder. He looked at the culprit warily.
"Now now. What's the hurry? You can go join him later. How about we get along and play for a while instead?" The bluish leading fishman said bringing his leg back down, his smirk looking more menacing than before.
Multiple fishmen cracked their knuckles and necks, the harsh sounds resounding ominously.
Sabo frowned in worry as he looked at Ace rubbing his chest and the enemies in front of them.
A fishman, multiple times stronger than regular humans...
His eyes took in the couple dozen fishmen facing them.
This is gonna be our toughest battle yet.
His gaze then shifted towards the only house he could see on top of the hill. His frown tightened.
And Luffy's fighting the strongest of them all.
He noticed Ace standing on his own now and gripped his pipe tighter. Sabo briefly looked behind him and saw the village nearby, people scrambling between the buildings.
Ace gave voice to his thoughts "Luffy's fighting the boss and too busy keep the village safe." He crouched slightly and looked ahead, his face filled with determination "It's up to the two of us to do it instead."
Sabo ducked his head slightly in agreement "We can't always be the ones being protected." He murmured under his breath.
Ace said nothing. He sprang off the ground in a dash towards the one who hit him earlier.
The bluish fishman scoffed as he swept a leg out once more, the size of his enemies forcing him to use his legs insead of his arms.
Ace however ducked under the sweeping leg then swept his pipe upwards, hitting the back of the knee.
The fishman lost his balance as his leg was abruptly raised higher and flailed his arms. Ace took a step to the side and raised his hands high, his pipe almost reaching behind him.
The pipe smashed into the fishman's knee as Ace put his entire body into the blow.
He was rewarded with a pained scream. As the fishman crouched down and held his broken kneecap, Ace reared up and smashed his pipe into the enemy's face. A satisfying crunch sounded out as blood erupted from the fishman's nose and he fell over backwards, unconscious.
Ace stepped back in satisfaction. He looked at Sabo who was blinking in shock at the fallen fishman "These guys are stronger but that doesn't mean they're better fighters."
He faced the glares directed at him and grinned eagerly, the freckles on his face stretching, his black eyes glinting in anticipation.
"It just means we have to hit harder."
Two fists collided in a boom.
One big, one small.
Arlong sent fist after fist, punch after punch, at the child that dared to fight him head on.
Luffy met each fist with his own, each punch with his own.
And each collision pushed him back little by little.
Nami pulled an unconscious Nojiko towards their house and leaned the blue haired girl on the wall. Nami stood in front of her and gulped as she felt the aftershocks of the collisions.
Truthfully, she wanted to run. She wanted to just run away from the place. But she couldn't. For many reasons.
One of the reasons was right behind her. Nojiko, her sister. Nami couldn't just leave her here unconscious and vulnerable.
Another reason was lying on the ground a bit away from her. Bell-mère, her mother. Her body lay untouched on the dirt and Nami couldn't bear to just leave her there and flee.
Nami wanted to drag her nearer but she was too scared to do so because that would mean getting nearer to the fight between the horrible fishman and her rescuer.
Finally and more practically, the path away from the house was blocked by the two's fight and Nami wasn't physically strong enough to carry Nojiko all the way.
So Nami opted to just stay still and be as less of a distraction to the fighters as possible.
It was all she could do at the moment, her fear-ridden mind giving her no other way to safety.
In a straighforward contest of strength between Luffy and Arlong, the rubber boy reluctantly admitted that unlike the last time they'd fought, he was not the fishman's match.
Arlong was older and better built. He was also a fishman, the heritage alone making him stronger than the average fighter.
Luffy was not his match.
In a contest of strength, at least.
But as a fighter, Luffy met him head on.
Haki compensated his weakness significantly. Armament Haki, despite not using Hardening, enhanced his strength enough to at least not lose miserably. Observation Haki enhanced his reflexes enough to dodge the devastating blows, even if it was by the skin of his teeth. And finally, his own bodily flexibility enhanced both aspects.
Luffy was not winning the fight. But he was not quite losing either.
He increased the pace instead.
For the first time in the fight, Luffy took a full step back after the last collision and threw his hand back, the arm stretching beyond normal limits. A moment later, he met Arlong's advancing fist with his returning one.
The subsequent collision made the fishman take a step back.
Arlong narrowed his eyes as he scrutinized the boy "A devil fruit." He stated matter-of-factly. "And a paramecia by the looks of it."
He then dashed forward and stomped towards Luffy. The rubber boy jumped to avoid it but had to immediately put up his guard as Arlong's fist slammed into his crossed arms.
Luffy bounced off the ground and with a backflip, landed on his feet. He rubbed his forearms cautiously, the hit having caused some minor pain despite the haki coating and his rubber powers.
"No wonder you're so cocky, brat. A devil fruit would put you above most humans in this backwater sea." Arlong said casually as he dashed forward once more.
"Sadly for you, I am not most humans." He raised his hands high "I am a fishman! I am above you humans!" A double-handed hammer strike surged downwards at the rubber boy.
Luffy's eyes almost glowed with Observation Haki as he stepped forward into Arlong's space, his arms stretched far behind him. "Gomu Gomu no…" The incoming hammer strike passed harmlessly between his arms behind him and Luffy happily took the opening.
Aimed slightly upwards, his open hands slammed into Arlong's abdomen.
The fishman spat blood as he flew back, his body rolling on the ground for a second before he jumped onto his feet and slid back.
He stood straight as he rubbed away the blood stain near his mouth, his posture looking menacing despite the moment of weakness.
Luffy glared at him, his hat hanging from his neck behind him "Do I look like I care if you're a fishman? I'm gonna beat you down no matter who you are!"
A growl was his immediate reply before he had to jump out of the way. A loud snap sounded next to him as Arlong's jaws closed where he was standing just a moment ago.
Arlong's hand slashed out towards the rubber boy but Luffy ducked under it and rushed forward. "Bullet!" His stretched hand aimed at Arlong's chest but was blocked by the fishman's other arm.
Luffy was suddenly and violently kicked into the air. He let out a cough but had to quickly focus when his Haki warned him of an incoming bite.
Luffy abruptly sucked in a large amount of air and inflated. Arlong couldn't get his jaws around the bloated boy and ended up using his sharp nose to stab him at an awkward angle.
A small gash appeared on Luffy's stomach before he let out a large steam breath right into Arlong's face, simultaneously propelling him away from the fishman and rendering Arlong unable to see.
But Luffy held onto Arlong's nose with both hands as his feet stretched behind him in the air.
Arlong's head snapped backwards as two sandaled feet slammed into his face and Luffy let go of his nose, both of them flying in opposite directions.
Both of them landed on their feet. Luffy fingered the small wound on his abdomen while Arlong grabbed his jaw and twisted his head left and right, small cracking sounds being issued forth.
"Perhaps you have a right to be as cocky as you are." Arlong said casually before he put a hand in his open mouth. A set of teeth disconnected from his mouth into his hand before a new set quickly grew, picked again by his other hand before another set of teeth grew once more.
Arlong snapped the razor sharp sets of fangs in his hands as he smirked at his opponent "But not against me."
Luffy clenched his jaw stubbornly and readied himself once more.
Despite Ace's earlier words, it was not as simple as just hitting harder.
While part of it was accurate since the fishmen truly were not especially better fighters than most other pirates, at least on land, what they did have was a familiarity with each other that Ace and Sabo had not seen before in other crews such as Bluejam's or Cutlass'.
Ace sidestepped an uppercut and smacked his pipe into the opposing fishman's jaw. The blow disoriented the fishman but before Ace could capitalize on it, a fist smashed into his cheek from the side and he was sent flying.
Yet another fishman attempted to headbutt the flying boy but Ace landed on his face feet first and smacked his pipe into the fishman's ear. He sprang off the stunned fishman's face upwards and smashed his pipe with full force into the opponent's face.
He landed on his feet and seeing his opponent still not down, he hit the fishman's groin. The pale red fishman moaned in pain and fell down.
Ace couldn't even be satisfied with his work before Sabo crashed into his back and sent both of them tumbling down the trail towards the village.
The two stood up carefully with equally pained groans. Ace looked at the village and saw people hurriedly boarding multiple large sailboats. He groaned "Are these people stupid? The enemies are fishmen. Obviously, they're better in water than land."
Sabo shook his head to ward off the dizziness "Maybe they don't know? Did the newspaper say anothing about that?"
"Well no but… come on. It's obvious!"
"Not everyone is a fighter, Ace. They don't think like us. As far as they care, fishmen are bad news whether it's land or sea. They just want to run." Sabo said sadly.
The two watched the fishmen advance down the hill. Their numbers had decreased to a little more than half the original but the remaining ones just looked angrier.
Meanwhile, Ace and Sabo looked like they'd fought an army.
Sabo's cheek was starting to swell and he was slightly limping, a few scratches on his arm slowly bleeding. His top hat was lost at sea long ago and his shirt and sleeves were starting to look like rags.
On Ace's side, blood was slowly running down his face because of an earlier blow to his head and from the side of his mouth. His arms and legs were heavily bruised, looking almost purple entirely.
And yet they both stood tall, ready to duke it out with the fishmen once more.
A crash echoed from far away and Ace and Sabo watched in worry as they saw Luffy being blown away between two trees. However he quickly latched his hands on the trees and rocketed back into the action out of sight, another crash echoing.
Ace gritted his teeth in frustration as he turned back to the group of fishmen. "We're not strong enough. Damn it, why aren't we strong enough?!"
Sabo didn't have an answer for him. Despite all the training that they had put themselves through, despite all the things they'd been through…
We aren't ready for this level yet.
Both of them knew it. At ten years old, neither of them were ready for this level of fights yet. It was even more crushing when they realized that this was still just the East Blue.
Not the Grand Line.
Not the greatest sea in the world.
This was still just the backwater East Blue.
Their frustration grew at the realization. But neither said a word.
Standing defiant in front of the fishmen, they had no choice but to get through this obstacle. They couldn't let their youngest brother fight all their battles. They had to improve.
And facing nearly insurmountable odds was perhaps the best way to do so.
So they stood. And they fought.
"Hurry! Hurry! Board quickly! We don't have time!" A man yelled as he guided his fellow villagers into the boat.
As multiple people guided the others into the boats, a crash sounded out from afar. The villagers looked back and saw one of the children that was fighting the fishmen – the blond one - groggily stumble out of a broken wooden wall and run back towards the fight.
"Hurry!" One of the men yelled urgently once more.
Among the panicked crowd however, one man stood silently. His eyes shadowed, the pinwheel on his hat not spinning for once.
"Genzo-san! We need to hurry up and leave! The fishmen could arrive any moment!" A middle-aged man next to him urged him.
Genzo however had other plans "No."
His companion looked flabbergasted at the response. "Wha – What do you mean no? They will come! Those kids can't hold them back for long!"
Genzo's hands tightened as he glared at the man. "And you want me to be thankful?!" He yelled.
The people around him stopped for a moment and looked at him. Genzo glared at them all. "We are letting children fight our battles! Aren't you all ashamed of yourselves?!"
No one replied. Many of them lowered their heads.
But Genzo continued "I am not grateful. I am ASHAMED! I am angry at myself!" He shouted. "They are children! And they are fighting foes that even us adults fear! And they're not even from here! They are putting their lives on the line for strangers!"
A woman cautiously raised her voice "But Genzo-san, what can we do? We're just villagers. We can't fight –"
"SO CHILDREN ARE MORE QUALIFIED THEN?!"
The woman quietened. She had nothing to say.
Genzo angrily pointed at the commotion, his point emphasized as one of the children - the black-haired one - went flying and smacked into the edge of a fence. The people heard his pained moan but watched silently as he shakily stood up and walked forward using his pipe as a cane, heedless of his injuries.
"That could be your child! That could be my child!" Genzo shouted, his voice slightly wobbling. "That could be Nami or Nojiko! AND WE'RE LEAVING THEM AND RUNNING?!"
Genzo panted. He put his hands behind him and removed the two guns he kept holstered. He turned away from the boats and began to walk. "No more."
"I'd rather die with them than let them die alone."
Sabo panted, his breath coming out in harsh gasps as he watched Ace poke a fishman's eye with his fingers. The black-haired boy then stood on his blinded opponent's shoulders and repeatedly smashed his elbow on the fishman's head, the large being falling over after a few hits.
Ace smacked into the dirt face first. He laid there for a moment, just silently breathing before he put his hands on the ground and pushed himself up, his pipe lost in the chaos of the battle.
They were barely a dozen fishmen left standing. Not many of them left. The battle was slowly coming to an end.
Sabo dashed forward, grimacing at the pain that shot through his leg. He threw the only wood bomb he'd saved up until now at the green fishman's face as he swiftly slid between the fishman's legs. He didn't even bother getting up nor seeing the results of his bomb and swung his pipe upwards between his opponent's legs.
As the fishman fell to his knees, Sabo heaved himself up and stepped to his side before breaking the fishman's nose with a full-powered swing of his pipe.
Before he could do anything else though, a hand roughly grabbed Sabo by the neck and lifted him up. The blond boy coughed out blood and struggled.
"Let him go!" Ace shouted as he limped forward but several water bullets suddenly hit his legs and he fell to the ground with a yelp.
Kuroobi held Sabo by the neck and looked at Ace unimpressed, a young Chew smirking at the boy from afar. "What damage you two children have caused to our crew… This cannot be forgiven." He grabbed Sabo's arm, the one still clutching his pipe tightly.
"No! Stop! Don't you –"
A scream cut through the air as Kuroobi forcefully pulled Sabo's arm out of its shoulder socket, dislocating it entirely.
Kuroobi casually caught the pipe that fell from the boy's hands. He looked at it carefully, ignoring the blood and scratches on the construct. He shook his head dismissively "A child's toy" He turned to his brethren, only a small portion of whom were still standing. He turned back to the pipe in his hands with narrow eyes "Yet quite effective."
He clenched his fist and snapped the pipe in two, the pieces falling to the ground.
"Perhaps I overestimated my brothers. Perhaps I should have stepped in and taken care of you two earlier, regardless of my brothers' desires to fight on their own." The ray fishman said, his voice sounding calm despite the whimpers from the child in his hands.
"You…" Ace started angrily before he was kicked into the ground by one of the few remaining fishmen.
The gray-skinned fishman above him raised his foot to smash it into Ace's head but before he could…
Two loud bangs sounded out as everyone turned to see a man wearing a hat with a pinwheel on it holding two smoking guns.
The fishman above Ace tilted back and fell to the ground, the two new holes on his chest bleeding profusely.
Ace slowly got up, holding his aching chest with one hand, his red tank top torn to shreds long ago. He looked at the new entry incredulously "You… Why did you come back?" He asked in between panting breaths.
Genzo reloaded his flintlock pistols as he glared at the fishman holding Sabo. "I refuse to flee like a rat when children are fighting battles adults should be fighting instead."
He pointed his guns at Kuroobi and roared "And as the sheriff of this village, it's my duty to fight for this village!"
"Hmph." Kuroobi snorted disdainfully at him.
Before Genzo could pull the trigger, water bullets slammed into his midriff and he bent forward in pain. A purple fishman suddenly appeared in front of him and slapped him aside.
Ace sprang forward and swept the fishman's legs out from under him. Once the fishman was on the ground, Ace stomped on the fishman's face as hard as he could again and again.
A water bullet slammed into his back and Ace tumbled forward into the ground. Genzo used the opportunity to put a bullet in the fallen but not yet down fishman's head.
As the two humans, one child and one adult stood up shakily, Kuroobi shook his head disappointed. "Humans. Always struggling until the end."
However, he was interrupted by a yelp from one of the other fishmen. He turned and stared as a yellow-skinned fishman covered one of his eyes, blood slowly flowing from it.
Below him was a small bloody stone.
As he turned towards the village once more, he saw the villagers who had previously run away standing on the rooftops with stones in their hands and in heaps beside them.
"You all…" Ace looked at them all in wonder. Even Genzo was looking at them as if he was seeing them for the first time.
The villagers were still too scared to get nearer to the fishmen.
But that still left them the option of using ranged weapons.
And so stones rained down on the few standing fishmen, a few people throwing whatever sharp object they had – such as knives or daggers – and one illustrious fellow even using a bow and arrow.
The fishmen tried to find cover but they were standing in the open street and couldn't find any.
"How annoying. Did you forget that I have a hostage?" Kuroobi lifted Sabo higher and squeezed his neck. The blond boy gasped, using his still functioning left hand to try to reduce the pressure.
The bombardment stopped as everyone collectively hesitated.
Most of the fishmen were lying on the ground, having sustained quite a bit of damage from the attacks, only a few even standing straight.
Ace angrily rushed toward Kuroobi but the pale blue water-spitting fishman from earlier suddenly appeared and kicked his head to the side. The boy fell down face first and grunted as a foot pressed down on his head.
He twisted his head up and saw the ray fishman still squeezing Sabo's throat, slowly increasing the pressure. Ace's brother struggled ineffectively with one hand, his other hanging uselessly on his right.
"How predictable." Kuroobi said carelessly.
Genzo kept his guns pointed at Kuroobi, despite not finding the opening to shoot. "You don't think you can get away with this, do you? The Marines will get you and you'll regret everything then." He shouted, more to buy time than anything.
Kuroobi smirked, his eyes glinting ominously "You would think so, wouldn't you? Unfortunately for you, that's not how the world works. In this sea, we can easily pay them off and they'll happily look the other direction."
Sabo's face twitched.
Genzo's hands trembled, his face a mask of rage "You –" He pulled the trigger on the gun on his right hand, the bullet hitting Kuroobi's chest and not even properly drawing blood. The ray fishman scoffed disdainfully.
A water bullet hit his left wrist and Genzo shouted in pain, the loaded gun in his hand falling to the ground next to the trapped Ace.
Chew sneered as he smacked his lips. "How stupid. Trying to buy time?"
"Stop it!" Ace yelled with a hoarse throat as he saw Kuroobi lift Sabo higher.
"Hmph." Kuroobi snorted once more and tightened his grip on the blond boy's throat.
Sabo's pained face reflected in Ace's eyes.
Red sparks shined in his pupils.
A wave of willpower surged out, the force passing through everyone there.
The few remaining non-officer fishmen swayed for a moment and fell to the ground, their eyes rolled up into their heads.
Genzo slowly stepped back, holding his head and rubbing his temples.
Chew stumbled back, feeling heavily dizzy all of a sudden.
Kuroobi squinted and put a hand to his head, a painful headache having formed out of nowhere, the hand holding Sabo being lowered to his side, his grip loosening.
Twin shots of adrenaline surged through both children.
Sabo hooked a foot under the broken pipe on the ground and threw it upwards. He caught it with his left hand and unconsciously coated it with tiny bits of Armament Haki as he stabbed the sharp broken end into the fishman's knee.
Kuroobi shouted in pain as he fell to a knee, releasing his hold on Sabo in the process.
He looked at the pipe sticking out of his knee and threw an angry look at the boy responsible.
Sabo spat blood into his eyes.
The ray fishman's head snapped back, temporarily blinded.
Sabo bent down and picked up the other half of the pipe.
Meanwhile, Ace grabbed a stone someone had thrown earlier and jumped to his feet. He turned and slammed the stone into the smelt-whiting fishman's groin.
Chew groaned amidst his dizzines and fell on his back, his legs pulled up and his hands holding the aching part gingerly.
Ace bent down and picked up the gun next to his feet.
Sabo stood in front of the blinded and flailing fishman and lifted the broken pipe with his left hand, his eyes glaring at the large fishman.
Ace shoved the pistol into Chew's prominent mouth, his eyes burning with fury.
A bang and a squelch echoed across the street.
When Genzo opened his eyes again, he saw a pipe sticking out of one of the ray fishman's eyes. He watched in horrified fascination as the fishman slowly fell backwards and onto his back. Dead without a doubt.
On his side, he saw the water-spitting fishman from earlier laying flat on the ground, his eyes unseeing and copious amounts of blood pooling behind his head. A gun laid silently on the ground next to the body.
Ace and Sabo looked around themselves.
No fishman was still standing.
They locked eyes with each other.
Ace slowly shuffled toward him.
Sabo slowly limped toward Ace.
As they closed the small distance between them, tears welled up in their eyes.
Ace rushed forward just as Sabo lost his balance, catching him in a hug.
Their voices, both hoarse, both tired, wobbled as they held onto each other and cried.
All the emotions, all the frustration, all the exhaustion, everything came pouring out of them as they cried in each other's embrace.
And as tears fell down their faces, they savoured their well-earned victory after the hardest battle they'd ever fought.
Genzo fell on his butt, his eyes not leaving the crying children even as cheers erupted around him.
They did it.
The man had no illusions that he or his fellow villagers actually contributed anything noteworthy to the battle. Almost the entire battle was fought and won by the two children in front of him.
They actually did it.
Tears came to his own eyes as well but he stubbornly refused to let them fall.
They saved us.
Hatchan hid behind a building as he looked at the people cheering.
He knew that technically, he should be angry. He should be boiling with rage at the death of his brothers and he should be there, killing off every last one of the humans.
Arlong pulled the trigger and Hatchan watched silently as the brave woman died in her daughters' place.
But as the scenes of recent events ran through his head…
"Destroy this village. It's an eyesore."
Kuroobi squeezed the boy's throat and Hatchan watched the boy scream.
Hatchan watched silently as the villagers all celebrated, tears falling everywhere. He watched as the two children who were responsible for it all held onto each other and sobbed their hearts out.
He looked at the top of the hill where another child fought his captain to protect a young girl from being exploited.
"Nyuu…" Hatchan looked down.
This wasn't what he wanted. He didn't follow Arlong just to torture humans for his brethren's pleasure. He didn't want to avenge his brethren just for the reason that their victims fought back to protect themselves.
He didn't want any of this.
He jumped into the sea next to the village and swam away.
And as he fled, tears fell from his eyes, even Hatchan himself not knowing the reason why they fell.
Luffy leaned back and avoided the snap of the detached fangs.
He jumped back to avoid the snap of the other set and as he flew back, he threw his leg out and issued forth a Stamp on his adversary's face.
Arlong growled and tried to bite the foot on his face but Luffy retracted his leg quickly.
Not quick enough however as one of the fishman's hand fangs brushed against his leg before it fully retracted.
Luffy winced as another wound was added to his already wound-ridden limbs. Long wounds criss-crossed his arms and legs. None of them too serious but all of them hindering his combat capabilities.
Despite Luffy's fighting prowess, his Observation Haki was not good enough to detect far enough in advance to avoid all attacks. And his young body was not fast enough to avoid each and every attack that he did detect.
And once Arlong figured out that sharp attacks worked better than blunt attacks, the situation only worsened.
Luffy jumped into the air and twisted one of his arms behind him. Arlong took the opportunity and advanced, his hand fangs surging forward to take a bite of the boy.
The rubber boy however stretched a hand forward and grabbed Arlong's foot and pulled himself forward. Deftly avoiding the fangs with a twist of his body, Luffy landed heavily on his feet and aimed upwards.
A rapidly spinning hand slammed into Arlong's jaw and blasted him up into the air.
Luffy moved forward and turned, aiming at Arlong's unprotected back.
Two fists dug into the flying fishman's back and he let out a gasp of pain.
But Luffy was still not done.
He jumped up and aimed his joined feet horizontally at the fishman's head.
Luffy's feet stabbed like a spear into Arlong's head and the sawshark fishman's body spun forward in a front flip.
Arlong crashed into the ground headfirst. Luffy landed on his hands and backflipped onto his feet. Immediately, he pushed off the ground and dashed forward, his hands extended for a Bazooka.
However, Arlong suddenly pushed himself off the ground from a lying position straight into the air, his limbs spread-eagle, Luffy's attack passing harmlessly below him as he landed behind the boy.
"Shark on Darts!" Arlong aimed his sharp nose at Luffy's back and launched himself at high speed towards the boy.
Luffy bent forward and fell flat on the ground, the shark dart passing above him. Arlong didn't let up.
"Shark Teeth!" The fishman stopped his forward momentum and turned on the spot to bite down on the boy's head.
Luffy hurriedly pushed the ground with his feet, sliding right between Arlong's legs and avoiding the bite.
Arlong growled and sent his hand fangs under him. "Tooth Gum!"
Luffy twisted to avoid the two sets of teeth but one of them caught on the shirt tied to his waist.
He yelped as he was suddenly thrown up into the air and he spun around and twisted to regain his balance. When he did, he saw Arlong crouching on the ground.
"Shark on Tooth!"
The fishman launched himself into the air, spinning at high speeds, his jaws aimed straight at the rubber boy in the air.
Luffy thought quickly and inflated himself then quickly blew out the breath below him. The reactionary force pushed him just high enough that Arlong's spinning form passed inches below him.
He landed on the ground safely as Arlong did the same a distance away from him.
Luffy panted. His stomach growled and he grimaced as he held it. Although Luffy didn't expect this fight to be easy, he was having quite a hard time landing hits on Arlong and the battle wasn't looking to be ending anytime soon.
Add to that his hunger and the various wounds adorning his body and slowly leaking blood, he was becoming weaker the longer the fight dragged on.
But that didn't mean Arlong was faring any better either.
Several bruises adorned the sawshark fishman's body, Luffy's haki coated attacks dealing more damage than they usually would. Blood stains dotted Arlong's body, his own bloody coughs coating him in the life fluid. His face was slightly swollen because of Luffy's targeted attacks at his face.
But despite all the injuries, both of them glared at each other.
Neither of them said a word as they rushed towards each other once more.
"Haki improves in the heat of battle."
Luffy remembered Rayleigh's words as he ducked under one of the hand fangs and spontaneously decided to get rid of them first.
He wound his right arm around Arlong's left forearm holding it in place and abruptly pushed himself off the ground and stomped the fishman's face. He carefully avoided the sharp nose as he stood on his opponent's face then reared his left fist back.
It flickered black.
He slammed the sadly normal looking fist into the fishman's immobilized wrist. Arlong grunted as he lost his grip on the set of teeth.
Luffy didn't let the failure bother him as he jumped to avoid the other set of hand fangs, bringing his hands up into the air above him. They flickered black once more.
His hands slammed into the guarding forearm, pushing it into the fishman's face and his entire body into the ground.
Luffy landed in front of the fishman and took a deep breath as he threw his fists forward once more.
Arlong who had lost both of his hands fangs quickly rose and countered both fists with his own.
But Luffy wasn't doing a test of strength this time.
Both of his fists slammed forward again. Arlong countered them again.
They slammed forward once more. This time, the fishman countered only one, the other hit him in the chest.
Luffy threw his fists forward again and again.
The fists came at Arlong faster and faster and he was able to counter less and less of them.
More and more fists hit the fishman's face, chest and limbs.
Luffy's arms started to blink black. One among every few fists hitting harder than usual.
"Gomu Gomu no…"
His fists hit faster. His punches hit stronger. And Luffy's heart beat faster.
Arlong could do nothing under the storm of fists assaulting every inch of his body, his sense of pain and touch not fast enough to detect where every punch was hitting.
Luffy ended the rain of fists and blitzed forward into the fishman's guard.
His strongest bazooka yet slammed into the fishman's abdomen and despite not enhanced by Hardening, it still sent Arlong flying away from him.
Luffy panted as his stomach growled once more. He looked warily at Arlong as he fell to the ground some distance away from him.
Nami wanted to run up to the boy and cheer because the fishman didn't seem to be getting up. But she stayed where she was because her hero didn't look like he had won the battle yet.
And he was right.
Arlong slowly got up once more. Blood dripped down from his head as he stood, his breathing heavy and his body visibly tired. Just like Luffy's.
They had been fighting for a long time now. The area around them was riddled with craters and tracks. Trees were toppled, fences broken and a once well-maintained garden now looked desolate.
Arlong and his crew had arrived at the village sometime in the late afternoon but by now, the sun was slowly beginning to set, the sky slowly turning orange.
The fishman spat some blood to the side as he stood straight once more, his bare chest showing off the mark of his former crew, the Sun Pirates
"You know the thing with you protector type of bastards?" Arlong said slowly as he pulled out another set of teeth, a new set taking its place but growing much more slowly compared to earlier and he didn't bother with his free left hand. He cracked his neck.
"You all have the same weakness." He said and smirked.
Luffy had just enough time to blink in confusion before Arlong shot off the ground sideways.
"No!" Luffy launched after him urgently. He was a step behind Arlong but catching up fast.
Nami could see death coming towards her. A sharp dart-like nose piercing toward her from afar reflected in her eyes. She was going to die.
But Luffy wouldn't let that happen.
Luffy appeared from Arlong's right and slammed his right foot sideways into Arlong's nose, just a few feet away from Nami. The force pushed the fishman's momentum sideways, away from Nami.
The smirk on Arlong's face was his first warning.
Observation Haki blaring in alarm was his second warning.
The shine on the detached teeth was his third warning.
Luffy abruptly put more force into his foot, willing it to Harden but failing and trying to push himself away quicker.
He was not wholly successful.
Three fangs slashed deep into Luffy's chest as Arlong flew sideways and crashed into a tree, his hand losing its grip on the set of teeth once more.
Luffy stumbled back as he looked down at his chest.
Three very large gashes went from his left shoulder to right hip and Luffy thought he could almost see bone in one of them. However, they quickly welled up with blood and started to pour out.
"Shahaha! Didn't I tell you? You all have the same weakness! The very person you're protecting!" Arlong shouted gleefully as he got up again, ignoring the pain in his nose.
Luffy touched his chest and observed the blood on his hands silently. He turned back and saw Nami staring at him in horror, her hands covering her mouth. But Luffy ignored that and checked her for injuries.
Finding none, he sighed in relief and turned ahead once more.
"There is no such thing as fairness in a pirate's fight!"
He remembered his own words to Katakuri so many years ago. Indeed, there were no rules in a pirate's fight and anything was acceptable.
Luffy looked at Arlong with a calm fury.
"How about we try that again?" The fishman asked with a smug smirk and shot forward once more.
Nami panicked and whimpered "No… Run! You can't – You can't – again –"
Luffy stood silent as Arlong came straight.
"Haki improves in the heat of battle."
Observation Haki shined in his eyes as Armament Haki flowed fluidly.
Nami's fear increased the closer Arlong came. She could see the fishman's fangs shining, his nose ready to pierce her saviour's heart.
"Run! You can't beat him!"
She was wrong.
Arlong abruptly stopped in his tracks, his feet being thrown up into the air by the sudden stopping force.
Luffy slid back on the ground and stopped just inches in front of Nami, his back almost touching her. Nami couldn't move, frozen as she was by what she was seeing.
Two black hands steadily held onto Arlong's sharp nose in front of Luffy's face and stopped him from advancing or retreating.
"It doesn't matter if I can't beat you…" Luffy said slowly, his eyes glaring into Arlong's. He held the nose with one hand as he raised a fist behind him.
"I'll beat you down anyway!" A black fist crashed into Arlong's face.
And with a guttural roar, Luffy punched Arlong away from him.
The nose remained in his hand.
Nami winced as a harsh scream rang through the air. She glanced at the fishman rolling on the ground screaming but stared worriedly at the blood falling on the ground at the boy's feet.
Arlong pushed himself to his feet, one hand holding his bleeding nose as he glowered at the boy responsible "Why are you even doing this? Why are you fighting me? For her?" He pointed at Nami who cowered behind Luffy's back.
Luffy let out a bloody cough as he panted "I made a promise to keep my friends safe. No matter what. That's all."
Arlong snarled in rage "Friends?! Do you even live here?! The girl looks like she doesn't even know you!"
And indeed, Nami didn't know the boy protecting her. She hadn't ever seen him before.
"See?! She doesn't know you! For that matter, do you even know her?!"
"NO, I DON'T KNOW HER!" Luffy yelled, his chest aching with a pain that had nothing to do with the rapidly worsening wounds present there.
"Then WHY?!" Arlong shouted in frustration, feeling like he'd incurred so much damage for nothing.
"BECAUSE SHE'S MY FRIEND!" Luffy screamed as he panted. His voice then softened "And I'd rather die than let my friends die."
His words made no sense, Nami thought distantly. She didn't know him and he didn't know her. And yet, he considered her a friend. Just like that.
And he would die for her if he had to.
Nami didn't know what to say to that kind of resolve. Standing next to these two entities, their wills dwarfing hers by an unimaginable margin…
She felt small.
"So if I have to beat you down to save her…" Luffy started, taking a deep breath.
He lowered his center of gravity and stomped a foot forward, a sudden bulge running up his legs.
Steam started to rise off his body as his heart beat faster, the wounds on his chest spilling out more blood than before.
His skin took on a reddish hue as blood circulated faster than before.
Gear Second roared to life as steam circled his body.
"Then that's what I'll do." Luffy finished as he raised an open palm towards Arlong, his other hand cocked back.
Luffy knew he couldn't extend this fight any longer. He was losing strength too fast and he had no more time. He had to end it now.
Arlong snarled at him, ignoring the steam for the moment as he put a hand on the ground and crouched. "Stop dreaming, brat. It's high time you die."
"Shark on Tooth!"
He shot towards the rubber boy, his entire body spinning, his sharp teeth leading in front, ready to tear into his enemy.
Luffy saw it all in slow motion.
"Gomu Gomu no…"
The fishman came closer and closer.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Luffy opened his eyes.
And his fist turned black one last time.
An explosion. That was the only way Nami could describe it.
A blast of sound rang in her ears.
And with her eyes, she saw a tunnel.
Anything and everything within the tunnel bent in the same direction. Be it grass, trees, wind or even the ground itself.
And finally, she saw the scene in front of her for what it was.
A path of destruction.
Even the mere aftershocks of the impact had thrown some small trees aside. At the end of the path, she could barely see the fishman laying on the ground, unmoving.
Such was the power contained within that fist.
Nami looked at the boy who stood in front of her. There was no more steam coming from his body and as he stood there, battered and bruised, filled with wounds small and large…
He looked a storybook hero having faced and defeated the terrible evil.
Nami remembered his name.
Monkey D. Luffy.
He turned to her and Nami's heart beat faster as he looked her over in concern and grinned in relief.
The boy – Luffy – dragged his feet towards her and Nami could only stand still, wondering what he would –
He hugged her. There was no force in his hug. It was gentle and caring and reminded her of Nojiko's hugs.
"I'm glad you're safe." He said, her no longer ringing ears picking up his relieved voice clearly.
Nami didn't know what to say. She opened her mouth to say the first thing that came to mind, a simple 'thank you'.
She didn't get the chance to.
His hands around her slackened, his head slipped off her shoulder and his body fell down.
Nami was left standing silently, her dress thoroughly bloodied.
She looked at the boy on the ground. He was laying face down.
Blood was pooling underneath him.
Nami's eyes darted towards her mother, the area around the body being one of the only places left untouched throughout the fight.
Her eyes came back to rest on the boy bleeding out in front of her.
She slowly understood what was happening and her eyes started to fill with tears once more.
He wasn't moving.
A/N: This chapter isn't my best work in many ways. First of all, it's longer than usual. I tried my best to make the fight scenes vivid. As in, anything different than "A punched B. B punched A." Not sure how good it turned out because I can't be the judge of my own work but do tell me how it turned out.