A big thanks to all those who decided to click on the follow and favourite buttons for this story. Also, a big thanks to "Lusamine", "NaRuKo-InuTaiSHo-XD" and " " for leaving reviews!

(X)(X)

CHAPTER 4

"What would you do if you had to fight a guy that turned into dust?" Luffy asked her brothers over the fire.

"Are you still on about that dust guy from the bounty poster when you were a kid?" Ace mocked her, before tearing more flesh from the bone with his teeth.

Luffy pouted "Hey!"

"I think it's a good question" Sabo stated, getting into a thinking pose. "What is the enemy of dust…? Um…."

"A duster?" Ace snickered.

Luffy stuck her tongue out at him. "That'd never work. You'd be dead!"

"Agree. Maybe water? It would make the dust heavy and hard to control, I think. It might make the person easier to hit"

"Oooooh. Good idea Sabo!"

Ace cocked his head, finally seeing an interest in the game. "Then what would you do against a bad guy that could turn into water?"

"Fire? It would turn into fog!" Luffy proposed.

"Good idea. But it would turn into steam, not fog. And what if they could also control the water in the steam? It's still water, right?"

"Whatever… Um… I guess… But it would still be worth a try…"

"What about someone that could turn into ice?"

"Oooooohhh. So hard! Ice is really cold. You would need even more fire, wouldn't you?"

"Probably. What about lightning?"

"Meh, wouldn't need to do anything. Rubber beats lightning any day."

"Hahahaha, that's true Luffy. When did you get that smart?"

"What about fire then?"

"Well, that would be water too, right? I mean, makes sense."

"Probably."

"Hey, I just remembered why did we never think of using earth?"

"Uh?" Two dark heads tilted simultaneously to the right, eyes blinking in incomprehension.

"Honestly, you two. Dirt soaks up water, just like water moist the dust. It would be harder to use either one. And if you throw dirt on top of something on fire, it will smother it and kill the fire. Actually, for a fire you could also take out all the oxygen and it would die too, but then so would you, and I don't think we want that."

The other two shook their heads vigorously.

"This is fun… so many ways to fight them… Let's think of other ways to beat devil fruits!"

"Alright!"

(X)(X)

"Purupuru-purupuru-purupurruuuupuuuuu. Purupuru-purupuru-purupurruuuupuuuuu. Purupuru-purupuru-purupurruuuupuuuuu." The snails ring tone came from the corner of the kitchen, where they had made a little habitat for the invertebrate communication animal. Stretching up her arm, Luffy picked up the mouth piece while continuing eating her dessert. "Hello! This is Monkey D. Luffy, Captain of the Straw Hat Bounty Hunters!"

"Straw Hat. I was told you had a pirate to give us over on the way to Arabasta. I am anchored just by the side of Nanohana and can take over your burden."

The voice was familiar. "Oohh. Is this Smokey?"

"You damn straw hat!"

"Shishishishishishi!"

(X)(X)

"Amazing! Let's have a party! Show us more faces!"

The ballerina twirled around and gave a new performance, changing appearances every time his right hand touched his face.

"That's sooo cool!"

Luffy blinked, as a shadow fell over them. A big number 2 decorated the sails of a new ship that blocked the sun from view.

"Mr. 2 Bon Clay-sama!" Came a shout from the ship. "We finally found you!"

"Oooooohhhh. I'm so sad… My new friends, I must leave you. Even though it was brief, our friendship will not be measured by time! Sayonara!"

Usopp and Chopper cried as they waved the ballerina away, but Luffy could only blink in surprise and meet Zoro's eyes. Her first mate nodded face serious.

It took the others five more seconds until they were all screaming "Mr. 2!" in surprise.

(X)(X)

"So, we meet again, Straw Hat!"

Smokey was… smoking. Like always.

Their ships were anchored side by side, but they met on his ship, Luffy with Zoro by her side caring Wapol over his shoulder, while Nami, Sanji and the others made preparations to go to land back on the Merry.

"What are you going to do here in Arabasta, Straw Hat?" Smoker asked, as he supervised the exchange of the prisoner.

As they didn't want to take any chances of Wapol escaping, they didn't risk removing his bounds, and so Zoro calmly took a substitute seastone chain from Tashigi, nodding stone faced at the sword fanatic that couldn't help but take a few peeks at his own swords.

"We came here to give a ride to the Princess of this country, Nefertari Vivi. She paid us for it. Or will pay for it. Or something like that."

"Ummm. Is that so?" Smoke billowed out and around her, making her frown slightly. Thankfully none of it came even close to her nose

"Yep. Now we need to stop a revolution caused by the Shishibukai Crocodile and his evil criminal organization called Baroque Works."

"You got it right for once" Zoro teased her with a grin, prompting Luffy to stick her tongue out with an eye closed in protest.

A cigar fell down, being promptly stomped on by a very attentive marine subordinate.

"WHAT?"

(X)(X)

"So let me summarize." Smoker sent out a puff of white air, looking down at Vivi who had been summoned over to the Marine's ship with the rest of the Straw Hats. "Crocodile has been illegally leading a criminal organization called Baroque Works, where he uses the codename Mr. Zero. This organization only uses codenames based on numbers for men, or days of the week or year for women."

"Yeah, they're sexist like that" Luffy said, scratching at her nose.

A sudden silence ensued, as everyone looked at her. "What? Only men have numbers based on ability, while women are seen as their partners. Isn't that sexist? What if the women partner of Mr. 1 was stronger than Mr. 1? Why wouldn't she be Miss 1 and him Mr. New Year or whatever?"

"Hem-hum." Tashigi recovered quicker for once. "That is a wonderful point to bring up Miss Luffy, I agree with your opinion. But I do believe that right now the situation with Arabasta is more pressing."

"Ah! Right."

"Anyway. Continuing. This Baroque Works have taken several legal jobs such as bounty hunting, but also several illegal activities such as the import and export of several illegal materials."

Vivi nodded. "That is correct."

"The final objective of this organization is to take control of the Arabasta Kingdom, and create a new nation with Crocodile as its leader, and the Baroque Works agents as the main force of power. Is this correct?"

Another nod. "Yes, this is what I was able to uncover. As the Straw Hat's crossed paths with me, I had just been discovered as an undercover agent, and was being attacked by Mr. 5 and his partner, Miss Valentine."

"What is your next move, Princess?"

"We plan to head to Yuba, the last known location of the rebel base, in order to explain to them the situation. If we can make them understand when the real enemy is, then we could make my people come together to fight against Crocodile and Baroque Works."

"Ummm. It's an idea. But it might not be the best one. Your information could be outdated, you have been infiltrated for a few years. I suggest that you go gather your supplies, while I have my men do some reconnaissance and information gathering. Let's meet together here by the end of the day. Do you agree?"

"I... Yes. But Mister Smoker sir, are you saying that you will help?" Vivi asked, feeling surprised. Usually, marines didn't interfere with internal affairs of the Kingdoms, which was why she hadn't even considered asking them for help.

The marine captain breathed out his smoke-filled lungs. "This is a pirate that is involved, doing criminal acts, so yes. I will involve myself. Before you leave for the city, leave one of your members here who can describe well all the members of this organization that you crossed paths with."

The straw hats looked at each other, trying to see who would be the better option.

Finally, Nami sighed. "Well, Sanji can't be it because he missed all of them, and we need him for food. I need to go too, or these guys would get lost. Zoro is hopeless with descriptions… You know what? Usopp would actually be the best guy to describe them, I guess? What do you think Luffy?"

The captain nodded. "Yep. Usopp is the best at making pictures, he could draw them for you and explain all their devil fruits."

The sharp shooter puffed up importantly at the praise. "Yes! Leave it to me!"

"Alright! Let's go then!" Nami shouted, excited for the adventure.

"Actually…." Luffy interrupted, looking sheepish. "Do you have some food I could buy from you Smokey? I'm really hungry…"

"You idiot!" Nami punched her captain on the back of her head, sending it bouncing to the floor. In front of Luffy, Smoker and Tashigi could only blink in surprise at the interaction. "You can eat in the city! Let's go!"

"But Namiiiiii! Fooooood!"

(X)(X)

So Usopp was giving descriptions to the marines.

Laboon was guarding the ship from Baroque Works agents.

Nami was looking for a map shop.

Sanji was looking for food with the help of Chopper.

Johnny and Yosaku were looking for ammunitions, ropes and other supplies that Usopp had requested.

Zoro was with Vivi keeping out of sight.

Or more like Vivi was keeping out of sight and Zoro was with her so he wouldn't get lost.

And Luffy? Luffy was looking for a restaurant, guided by her nose.

(X)(X)

It was so hard to find a restaurant!

She found stalls selling food, and bought a lot of it to eat on the way as she looked for a place to seat down and finally have some MEAT!

She could almost cry!

Finally, a tantalizing smell made its way up her nostrils, and Luffy took off at a run with a cry of joy.

"MEAT!"

Using her devil fruits powers, Luffy vaulted over the pedestrians on the street and flew into the establishment. She ended up crashing into something, but she was too meat deprived to care.

"Old man! Give me meat!" She cried, climbing into a bar stool. "Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat" She sang in happiness, her mouth-watering in excitement.

(X)(X)

She had already destroyed half a dozen plates when she finally understood the old man's looks and comments about the destroyed wall.

"Oh, I did that? Sorry old man, I'll pay you back and leave some money for your neighbours too. I was really hungry and didn't control my powers enough. Shishishishishi" Luffy bowed as much as she could while sitting, rubbing the back of her head in embarrassment.

She had been really hungry…

Really.

The old man seamed kind of happy and kind of surprised, but he still looked kind of worried at the same time? Why would that be.

"Straw hat…" A menacing voice came from the destroyed wall, making Luffy look up.

Smoker was standing there, not looking pleased at all.

"Oh! Smokey! You were here?"

"What do you think you are doing? You dare punch me through the wall?"

"Oh! Really?" Damn, that was not good. She wanted Smokey to be her friend. Thinking it was better the give some use to Makino's lesson's, Luffy got up to give a more proper apology. "I'm really sorry. I was sooooo hungry and I smelled the meat and just had to get here as fast as possible! I didn't see you at all! Sorry!" She gave a sheepish kind of bow, but a bow none the less, and made her eyes go huge in a way that had always made Ace and Sabo forgive her for everything.

Smoker seemed mollified, because he sighed and took the time to get a new cigar from his stash.

"Fine, since you are here, you can help me with…"

"Hey LU! I found you!" A new man came from the rubble, wearing only pants and a cowboy hat.

"ACE?"

Luffy and Ace hugged each other, celebrating their reunion and completely ignoring the smoking marine standing just a couple of feet beside them.

"You look so cool Ace! How have you been?"

"I've been good? What about you? You really did become a bounty hunter after all, uh? Did you gather a good crew?"

Luffy nodded. "I sure did! They're the best"

"Straw hat? What is this? You are fraternizing with a known pirate?"

Luffy turned to him, instantly adapting to the situation and putting on an innocent face like only someone who had survived Monkey D. Garp could. "Fraternizing? What is that?" She asked, slightly cocking her head to the side.

Well, she did know what the word meant. Cause the old Mayor back in the east blue used to say that Makino was fraternizing with the enemy. Even if that was kinda stupid cause Shanks was not an enemy.

"You are in contact with a known pirate." The marine was frowning, his posture clearly ready to fight at any time. Well, that was normal. Ace was a pirate. Not that she would admit that she knew that.

"Am not. Just saw and spoke to Ace for the first time in more than three years! It's been so long since he left our home island in the East Blue looking for adventure! But you're a pirate now? Oh My GOD!"

Ace laughed, getting into the game and rubbing her head. "Things have changed a lot since then you know?"

Luffy huffed. "I bet! You didn't use to go around without a shirt on. Are you trying to get some girls by showing of your muscles Ace? Didn't know you needed to go so low for that."

"Shut up! What would you know about something like that! You're not allowed to date until you're thirty!"

Smoker's neck vein seemed to be throbbing. Was he getting annoyed? That wasn't good.

"Enough. Portgas D. Ace, I did not come here looking for you, but I cannot let you pass, on my honour as a Marine Captain. Straw Hat, you may not interfere, or I will consider that you are aiding a pirate!"

Luffy shrugged, sitting back down on her stool. "Sure sure, no interest in interrupting your fight. Go ahead. Not interested in capturing Ace either. Too much trouble. And my meat is going cold, I need to eat it before that happens."

Ace sent her a happy wave, giving her a wink before dashing outside.

Smoker frowned at her, before turning into smoke and giving chase with a muttered "Tsk" of annoyance.

Luffy went back to eating, ignoring the old man's shout of "Eat and run!?"

Not her problem!

Back to her lovely meat!

(X)(X)

Luffy met back with her nakama on the ship and after telling Laboon to be on the lookout for a weird guy with an orange hat and no shirt, she climbed aboard as her friends were discussing the strange pirate they had seen.

"He had Whitebeard's symbol tattooed on his back, and was asking for you." Informed Zoro. "And later we saw a huge ball of fire and smoke over the city. It was definitely not normal."

"Shishishishishi! Yep! That was Ace and Smoker fighting it out."

"Ace? Who's that?" Asked Chopper"

"My older brother!"

Everyone on ship suddenly blinked back at her.

"OLDER BROTHER?"

"Shishishishishishi!"

(X)(X)

"Aren't you worried about him being caught by Smoker?" Yosaku asked after Luffy explained how she had met up with Ace and Smoker at the restaurant.

"Nah! Ace is strong! He used to beat me up all the time, and that was before he ate a devil fruit!"

"Really?"

"Yep!"

"Thanks for the confidence Lu! I'm touched!" A new voiced sounded, as Ace jumped over the railing.

"Shishishishishi! I always knew you were a bit touched!"

"Hey!" Ace bumped her head with his fist affectionately. "And what is it with you telling your whale to expect a weird guy? And you have a whale?"

"Shishishishishi! It worked, didn't it? Laboon recognized you!"

"Weeeeee-ooooooonnuuuuunnn!"

"Shishishishishi! See, she agrees that it's weird to dress like you do!"

"What am I gonna do with you… You haven't changed a bit!"

"Shishishishishishi! You love me~!"

(X)(X)

"So, what are you doing here, Ace?"

"You didn't get my message in Drum?" The older boy asked, taking a sip of his drink.

"Eh!? You were in Drum? What were you doing there? I mean, why are you on this side of the grand line?" Luffy asked in surprise. Now that she wasn't so hungry, her mind had rebooted and started to bring up questions again.

"I would also like to know that" A new voice came from the top floor, making them all turn around.

A very frowny Smoker stood there, half his body still smoking around the other half.

"I see you are still harbouring pirates. That is even more of a crime as fraternizing with them is."

"Shishishishishi. I'm not harbouring Ace, cause I'm not hiding him from anyone or anything. I'm just not doing anything while he sits there. He's very strong you know? I fear for my life" She sighed dramatically. "I'm being careful and not attacking the big bad pirate that could harm me and my crew. That's not a crime."

Beside her, Usopp and Chopper sniggered, Zoro and Sanji smirked and the others sweat dropped at her ridiculous display.

"Your acting skills are terrible" Smoker grumbled, finally pulling himself together. The Marine still looked dissatisfied, but it looked like he was more interested in finding out the reason for Ace's presence than to try to capture him or nag Luffy about her friendly relationship with the pirate. "As our battle as proved impossible, I will not attack you at this moment, but you must leave this island by the end of this day."

And well, Luffy hadn't been wrong. She was a pirate hunter, not a Marine, so she didn't have to fight him if she didn't want to. As long as she didn't exactly help him, no one could say anything against her.

"So, fire fist. Why are you in Paradise?"

"Tch." Ace narrowed his eyes. Why was this guy hanging out around his little sister? "I'm following a pirate named Teach, also known as Blackbeard. He used to be part of my division of the Whitebeard pirates, but recently he murdered a crewmember, stole a devil fruit and fled to the beginning of the grand line. I'm here to bring him to justice for his crimes against the crew."

Smoker snorted. "Didn't know you knew what a crime was."

Ace narrowed his eyes. "You might think we are all monstrous men, but that is not true, and if you used your head, you would know it. Pirates have their own sense of honour and duty. And Blackbeard did the most heinous thing possible. He is a Nakama murdering traitor. If a pirate is scum, then he is worse than scum.

Luffy nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly. "Makes sense. That was the pirate that the people of Drum described. He ravaged their island and killed a lot of people, with a crew of just five people. He is the reason Wapol fled the island and turned to piracy."

"Uhmmm. And you believe him to have been to Arabasta?" Smoker asked, coming down the stairs. "Do you have a picture of him? We could update his bounty."

Ace nodded, pulling a picture from his pants showing a round face with lots of black hair and beard. "He was last seen in Yuba. I'm hoping to travel there and find out more information."

"What a coincidence! We also need to go to Yuba!" Vivi stated.

A puff of smoke travelled around the deck as Smoker sighed. "I have news about that. I consulted with the Marine Intel and got some information. Yuba as recently fallen to the desert. The winds, the sands and the lack of rain have finally made that city collapse, like most others on that side of the Sandora river."

"What… no… it's… it's not possible… Yuba?" Vivi's face was stricken with horror and sadness. More bad news to pile on top of all the others. And that list was not short.

"Could Blackbeard have helped the process?" Ace asked, face stony.

"Unknown." The marine responded stoically.

"What should we do then? Where are the rebels staying now?"

"I… I don't know…" Vivi cried, the shock clearly still on her face.

"Uhmm" Luffy sighed, sitting down with her legs crossed. "Let's take a seat, and think about it."

(X)(X)

The Straw Hats and Ace sat on the deck of the Going Merry in a circle, with Smoker somewhat maintaining his dignity by standing up leaning against the mast, slightly apart, but still very much part of the conversation.

Luffy fixed her hat on top of her head as all the others looked attentively at her.

Will this be one of her rare moments of genius?

Was what was going over the minds of her nakama. Well, they were kind of right.

"Before we focus on Arabasta, Ace was looking for Blackbeard, and heard his name connected to Yuba, but if Yuba is part of the desert now, does it make sense that he was there?"

"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing." Ace said, rubbing his shin with his hand.

Smoker eyed him suspiciously. "From your descriptions, it is very unlikely that Blackbeard was here. He did not hide his presence in Drum. If he had been in Yuba the survivors that sought refuge in the neighbouring towns would have mentioned him. However, I did not hear anything. The mention you heard was probably simply a stray rumour gone wrong, or information told to you simply to please you."

Ace sighed. "Yes, it looks like it doesn't it?" He shook his head. "I'll stay to hear your discussion and give any input I might have from my observations of the island, and then head out."

The others nodded, going back to the main problem they faced.

"So, what do we know? There is the king and his soldiers. Then there is the rebels and their army who are against the king. And then there is Crocodile and Baroque Works. And finally, us, with Vivi and the Marines. There are four sides, each one with a different goal. So now we need to figure out where each one is, and what their goals are." Luffy rubbed her nose.

Nami nodded, understanding what Luffy was trying to accomplish, and her bossy, no nonsense personality immediately prompted her into contributing for the conversation.

"Right. Vivi, what can you tell us about all these players?"

The blue headed girl bit her lip, trying to focus on the current issues. "The King is in Alubarna, that is the capital of Arabasta. Honestly the King and the royal army simply try to do their best to protect the population and care for the people. From what I know they only have problems with the rebels when there is a direct confrontation, and don't go looking for them on purpose."

The audience nodded, waiting for more.

"The Rebels are displeased with the King for his inability to solve the problems that are facing the nation, and their goal is to overthrow him, and establish a new form of government. They have been fuelled by the lack of rain, the drying up of the oasis, but most of all several bad rumours started by Baroque Works against my father and the royal guards" She sighed. "As I said, their base used to be in Yuba, but now if the Oasis has dried up… They would have to have moved out."

Everyone looked at the map, to see the position of the different groups.

"And Baroque Works?" Smoker asked through his cigars.

"Baroque Works is the organization created by Crocodile to infiltrate Arabasta and create this chaos. They create rumours, incite violence, and many other things. Crocodile himself is based in a city called Rainbase, where he owns the biggest casino in the city. The city itself is surprisingly the most prosperous city in the country, with the biggest water reserve. Their goal is to take over the country and build it to their image, the perfect criminal Utopia."

Ace cocked his head "Still, it seems like such an effort simply for a country… There are so many deserted islands in the grand line, as a Shishibukai he could probably make his own country with the support of the world government. It happened before you know?"

"Uhmmmm. Really?" Luffy asked, turning her head to look over at Ace.

Smoker nodded. "It is true. It feels like there should be something more to it."

Vivi sighed. "Even if you are correct, we will never know what it is unless we interrogate Crocodile himself. And that would be very difficult to do. He is like a hero to the people of this country. To simply fight him for no apparent reason… that would be bad…"

"Oh! By the way, what are this guy's fighting powers like?" Zoro asked, suddenly remembering that it might be helpful to know.

"Ah! Right! He had a bounty before he became a Shishibukai didn't he" Johnny pulled out his copy of the Grand line posters and started flipping the pages looking for Crocodile.

"It's not there" Luffy stated, as she stretched her arm out to go over the top floor railing. Still sitting down, Luffy used her stretched arm to open the door to her quarters and grab another self-made book from her shelf. "That collection only has active bounties. I have this one that will have what we are looking for."

She showed them the new bound posters stating 'Retired Dangerous People – And Those Fake Pirates from the Government'.

Smoker let out a huff, that prompted Luffy to look at him suspiciously. Was that an almost laugh from the stoic Marine?

Anyway, back on track. Luffy started flipping pages looking for the right one. "Here I have those that don't have active posters anymore for some reason. Sometimes the Marines recall the posters, I don't know why."

"Apart from the seven Shishibukai, there might be several reasons for that." Smoker stated after being bombarded with the suspicious looks of the crew.

Luffy raised her eyebrow. "Riiight. Anyway, this is it. Crocodile. 80 Million."

She showed the picture of the man with the scar across his nose to everyone.

"So that's how he looks…" Usopp muttered. "Does he have any special powers? Like, did he eat a devil fruit?"

Smoker nodded. "He ate the Suna Suna no mi, the sand devil fruit"

"Eh? He can turn into sand?! Are you thinking what I'm thinking Ace?" Luffy was suddenly excited, turning an expectant gaze towards Ace

Her brother snickered at her. "What?"

"I'm just remembering something we used to play when we were kids."

Ace raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

Luffy nodded, as the others looked on in confusion.

With no patience to wait Nami, pulled her hand back and slapped her captain in the back of her head. "Stop being so mysterious you idiot! Just spit it out already!"

"Shishishishishi!" Luffy rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment. "Sorry, sorry! When we were kids we used to play a game called 'What would you do against that devil fruit!'"

"Uh?" While everyone was sporting the most confused face in existence, Ace broke down laughing.

"Waw! I almost forgot about that! Brings back good memories! Good luck with that Lu! You're gonna need lots of water!"

(X)(X)

"Bye Ace! Take care! Use the den den mushi I gave you to call me back!"

"Alright Luffy! Keep the card I gave you close!"

Luffy waved at her brother. They had planned and planned, and were ready to go, so there was no more reason for Ace to stay around.

"So, lets review!" Luffy cried in excitement, turning back to her Nakama. "Smokey and the Marines will split, and half will go to Rainbase and half to Alubarna. They will take to Alubarna lots of water in preparation.

"Sea water." Vivi reminded, her face serious, but more relaxed, now that they had a purpose. "We can't waste drinking water in the desert."

"Right! Our crew and Vivi will make our way across the desert to Yuba, to see if there is anyone that stayed behind that can give us a clue to where the rebels have gone to. Then we will check with Smoker to figure out the next steps."

Smoke slithered around them as smoker's cigar burned on. "You sure you want to take the time to go there?"

Vivi nodded. "None of us heard anything about where the new rebel base is, and that is very important. Since usually the people don't leave all at the same time, there is a good chance that there will be someone there, or that we can find someone leaving."

"Alright! We will go back to Nanohana and buy some camels, that way we can get there faster!"

"Very well." Smoker pulled out his cigars and looked down at Luffy. "I will wait news from you. Don't make me wait too long."

"Shishishishishishi! Alright Smokey!"

(X)(X)

Deserts were awful!

The snow was much better!

She was so thirsty and tired!

She had shared a camel with Zoro, cause her first mate didn't trust Sanji not to be a pervert, while Sanji shared with Usopp and Chopper, Johnny was with Yosaku, and Nami was with Vivi.

It was good that they did have the camels, cause she would have died of thirst and tiredness if they didn't.

They managed to get to Yuba in a couple of days with the help of their mounts, only to find a ghost town.

They also did find an old man that had the information they needed. So at least they didn't waste the time getting there.

But still. All this was fishy. Seemed strange, like Smoker said.

There was something else going on.

(X)(X)

Vivi wanted to go to Nanohana, but Luffy disagreed.

What was the point in stopping the rebels, if Crocodile was left to do whatever he wanted?

Vivi didn't understand, but Luffy knew she would soon. Her nakama was still too scared of people dying, and didn't want to risk their lives.

But people died every day. What mattered was that they died like they chose to, so Vivi had to accept that they chose to risk their own lives too, and let them do it!

She was their Nakama!

(X)(X)

"Hey Smokey! It's me!"

"What do you have for me?"

"We found out that the rebels are in Nanohana now. But we are running out of time to try and stop them. We decided that it is better to try to stop Crocodile himself, so we will join you in Rainbase!"

"Fine. Get here then. We will tell you what we found when you arrive."

"Okay!"

(X)(X)

They'd faked not knowing each other, pretending that Smoker was chasing Luffy, Zoro and Nami into the casino, while the others had stayed behind to fight off the Baroque Works agents that were trying to get Usopp and Vivi.

Tashigi and the other Marines were supposed to pretend to come up to the commotion and then help to apprehend as many of the agents as possible, trying to thin out their numbers.

Everything had gone as planned, until they followed a Bounty Hunter's sign and ended up inside a seastone cage.

Well, everything had ended up alright in the end.

Nami had been thief after all. A flimsy lock like that wasn't gonna keep her in. As soon as the sand threat was gone, so were they.

(X)(X)

What did not go to plan, was the almost kidnaping of Vivi by Crocodile's weird hook just as they started their journey to Alubarna. She'd managed to get Vivi back on the awesome giant Crab, letting herself be carried away in the wind.

"Luffy!"

"It's okay guys! Get going! I'll meet you there!" Seeing their uncertain gazes, she turned a serious look towards Zoro and said clearly. "Go!"

Zoro did not look exactly happy about it, but he nodded. "Chopper! Let's go!"

As the giant crab took away her nakama, Luffy steeled herself for what was to come.

She only had a small amount of water with her. It was stupid, she should have been more prepared, but she had thought Crocodile long gone, and so she had not kept too much water with her. Most of it had been sent with the Marines on the way to Alubarna from Nanohana, while the Straw Hats had only kept what was essential for their journey.

And of course, since she had a devil fruit power, she didn't carry around any seastone with her…

So, basically, she couldn't win with the amount of water she had. And just trying could be risky. It would take away the surprise effect and could make the Croc more aggressive towards the others…

How unlucky…

No, it was better to pretend to lose, while suffering the minimum number of injuries possible. The candle guy back in the casino had looked like a mummy, and while that looked painful, the guy had been okay after drinking some water…

WHAAAAAA! SO ANOYING!

She wanted to wiiiiinnnn!

But without water her rubber body was no challenge to the sand…

So fake loss it was.

She gave some smack talk.

She tried her best to hit the Croc guy and failed – as expected.

She was eventually caught when he decided to spot playing with her and ended up as a mummy.

Then came theatre time where she rolled around moaning in pain and disbelief eventually stopping and falling silent.

Thankfully, the croc guy bought it, because he left after a comment on how disappointing the fight had been.

(X)(X)

She was chugging down the water the old man from Yuba had gifted her when the other girl arrived.

The Miss something-Sunday.

She seemed surprised to see her mostly well, and said something weird about the will of D.

Well, all her immediate family had a D in their name. And they all had strong wills, that was true. But so did Shanks, and Zoro, and Nami, and Sanji, and all her other Nakama, and none of them had a D in their name, so that was kind of a stupid thing.

Then the bird guy appeared and everything started moving again.

"By the way… arm lady!" Luffy called out to the women climbing up the huge lizard. "If you come across any marines, be kind to them yeah?"

The older woman paused for a moment, but then continued on her way without another word.

(X)(X)

She almost arrived late to the fight, but in the end, she considered that she arrived just in time.

The city was a mess.

People fighting in the main square in front of the Palace, and in every street leading there.

Sand billowing everywhere, blocking their view from who was a friend or a foe.

Dead and injured lining the pavement, making you stumble and fall if you weren't careful.

Luffy would have said it was the worst sight she had ever seen if she hadn't spent part of her childhood running in the slums of the Goa Kingdom.

But as it was, the world was a cruel place, and Luffy was not new to these sights.

Sometimes she could still smell the fire from the Gray Terminal.

(X)(X)

The fight itself went more or less as expected. Even with water, Crocodile was strong, and she almost lost again.

But she had a will to become stronger. Much stronger than him!

To be the freest person in the world, freer than even a pirate king, she needed to become stronger. So strong that no pirate or marine could stop her.

So, even if she had to use her own blood to solidify the sand bastard, she would do it!

(X)(X)

"What do we do with this thing now?" Nami asked lifting an eyebrow at the small chunk of seastone sitting innocently at their kitchen table.

Luffy scratched her head in contemplation. "Honestly, the chackles and the chains are pretty straight forward, but this one I think it would be best for you actually."

Nami spluttered. "M-Me?"

Luffy nodded, and beside her Zoro did the same while Sanji simply swooned at her cute expression.

"I guess it does make sense" Johnny said, striking a ridiculous pose with Yosaku's collaboration.

"That's right Nami sis! You are too vulnerable with just your staff, it would be better to upgrade it with a seastone tip!"

Nami blinked, still not understanding their thought process. "But... wouldn't it be used better if it was inserted in one of you guys weapons?"

Zoro shook his head. "It's not that simple. Luffy has a devil fruit, so her having a seastone weapon could be dangerous. And my swords… well, it would be kind of a sacrilege to just alter them in that way… That sword freak in the Marines would probably kill me for just considering it."

"And my fighting style doesn't use weapons. We will have to really think about a way to incorporate seastone in my fighting style."

"Leave that to the great captain Usopp!" The long nosed young man puffed out his chest in self-importance. "But yeah, I'll have to figure out something for me as well. Such a small piece of seastone is not that useful for my fighting style."

"And we have our swords too Nami sis. I mean, I guess we could put some seastone in the buts of the hilts, but I think it would be better for you to have it!"

"Yeah, Nami sis, I think with a new staff, you could really help out the crew with the seastone!"

"Leave it to me! I'll make you a new weapon Nami!

The read headed navigator looked around at her nakama e stifled the tears that were threatening to come out of her eyes.

"You guys… thank you!"

(X)(X)

More changes to come, now that Robin is here. DO you think there is any possible way that she becomes a part of the crew?

What have the Straw Hats learned from their experience in Arabasta? How will this affect the rest of their journey?

Leave a comment with your thoughts! :)