Hello, everyone! It's, uh, it's been a while, but I'm excited to say that I've finally started climbing out of the box of writer's block that has kept me trapped for too long. Looking back, trying to fully rewrite the whole story was poorly timed and too demanding. I'm not a group that can split the load like the Cross-Brain and stretched myself too thin. But you all have waited patiently for me to return, and now you can see the fruits of my labor. Even more chapters are up on my P atreon, so if you get started and want more, they are right over there, but for y'all, it's finally time!
And I want to thank all my wonderful Patrons who stuck with me through the wait: Alex P, Avery Arp, David, David Bowling, Emi Stafford, Fenrir ragnarok, GODA98, Jacob Benson, JEP1010, JONATHAN VICARS, jordanitos, Joseph Baty, Joseph Morrison, Kevin Calderon, Korakas, Lamont Hale, Matthew Burley, Nathaniel Oppegaard, Notadeadguy, Riley Bolerjack, and Willthamann.
You all are amazing and your support keeps me going.
Finally, a warning: This story will contain suggestive themes, blood, gore, death, and other such implications.
Without further ado, here is:
Coby's Choice 2:
New World, New Choices
Gol D. Roger, the King of the Pirates, obtained every treasure that the world had to offer. Smiling, even as he stood upon the scaffold, he issued a challenge to the world. "You want my treasure? You can have it! I left everything in one place! Now you just have to find it." Now, those who dare to dream hoist their flags and sail into the Great Pirate Era!
But, all pirates searching for the treasure One Piece must brave the second half of the Grand Line. These wild and dangerous seas are known as the New World. Gold Roger and his crew were the only ones known to chart these waters at the end of the world. For the rest of the Pirates in the world, this has proven to be the end of the road, a graveyard of dreams. Now, Monkey D. Luffy, a man whose body turned to rubber after eating the Gum-Gum Fruit, sets sail into the New World with his faithful crew.
"Oh Goda, my head," a low tenor moaned, the voice's owner bringing one arm up to cover his eyes. He was laying in a plush bed, one he was all too familiar with, with the familiar beat of a hangover banging a rhythm inside his skull. "Waking up hurts."
"Five more minutes, hot stuff," another voice muttered, this one distinctly female and very close.
"What she said," another woman groaned from the other side. "You aren't leaving yet."
The man in this pile of bodies and sheets was a pink-haired youth of 18 years, his hair more messy than usual and down to his neck. His forehead had several scars, the most notable being an X shape on the left side of his temple. At full height, he stood just over six feet tall with a body many men and women had lusted after, few truly knowing who he was, however.
"Leaving?" he asked, the word cutting through the haze of his thoughts for a reason he couldn't place. "Leaving... Oh shit, they're supposed to start getting here today!" He bolted upright, the covers falling away to reveal his toned, sculpted torso and the many light scars that adorned it.
"Ugh," the black-haired beauties on either side of him whined, their bodies as naked as his own, the one on the left muttering, "Miltia, I think it's too early to deal with this shit."
"I agree, Melanie," the other responded with a wince, shading her eyes. "You'd think we'd be used to Coby's early rising by now. Uhhhh, that SkyRum feels so good going down, but not coming back up."
"Shit shit shit!" Coby chanted, gathering his clothing off the floor while trying to stuff himself into his pants. "You had to get me smashed the night before, didn't you?"
"Of course we did," Miltia grinned, fighting down her headache to sit up and smile at the fretting pirate. "You're our favorite toy and you're leaving us. None of our usual lays have anything close to what you're packing. And when you change-"
"Can we not?" Coby cut her off, wiggling into his shirt, a baby blue beach shirt with fruits all over it, open at the front to show off his figure in the summer climate, which did nothing to help him be serious. "I'm getting ready to leave for the New World and I'm doing it hungover because of you two."
"But it was so~ worth it," Melanie offered, sitting up to lean against her sister. "Sure you can't give us one more round before leaving?"
"No," the Zoan answered firmly, strapping his swords to his back. "Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful for everything you two and Junior have done for me these past years, but I'm sure this" -his hand moved between himself and the girls- "is going to bite me in the ass. Today, possibly."
"Oh, right," Miltia nodded. "That whole talk with the redhead you mentioned. What was her name? Gladys? Ginny?"
"Grace," Coby corrected, worry in his voice. "And if her sister finds out about this, she's going to kill me. And if Grace finds out, she's going to make me kill me."
"Meh, you're a pirate," Melanie waved off easily, since it wasn't her problem. "Live a little and look at the bright side."
"What bright side?"
"When you and that Grace girl do bang, you now have the skills to rock her boat." Melanie winked. "You can satisfy two girls at once; focusing on one is going to blow her mind. Just remember us when you come back around to destroy Mariejois, m'kay? We can have our own celebration. Grace can come, too."
"You two are impossible," Coby moaned, sitting on the bed with his head falling into his hands.
"Coby, listen," Miltia whispered, placing a hand on the pirate's shoulder. The sisters had long since learned to avoid touching the massive scar that covered his back and the wingtip burns that survived on either side below his shoulders, the remnants of those four days two years ago. "Every time you've slept with us these past two years, we've woken up with hangovers. We had to seduce you after you were drunk every single time. This was our idea, not yours. Just take the skills we taught you and go. We aren't going to hold you back."
Coby gave a small smile, wrapping the twins in a hug. "Miltia, Melanie, you two are the ones that kept me sane after Rayleigh's training and the Dragons' weekly bullshit, so thank you."
"Oh stop that," Melanie laughed, pushing out of the hug. "Our gang couldn't have started raiding Dragons' tributes without your help. That cash cow was your baby and you've pulled us out the fire plenty. Now get going, Dino-boy. You've got a crew to meet up with."
"Yeah," Coby nodded, a wide, genuine smile stretching his cheeks. "Yeah, I do."
"You sure you don't want us to get Junior and the boys on those imposters running around?" Miltia asked as Coby pulled away. "Their fake you is an insult to your masculinity."
"Nah," Coby waved off, his smile not wavering. "Trust me. It might take some fire off us. I suppose I should go tell Junior bye before heading to Rayleigh and Shakky's."
"Don't you have that concert you were begging us to get a ticket for in a few days?" Melanie asked. "We even got you into the front row. Sure you don't want us to sneak in with you?"
"I can't believe I almost forgot about that," Coby blinked, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small, bone-white ticket for the Sabao Dome.
"You never did tell us why you like that Soul guy so much," Miltia commented. "He makes too many bone puns for that fake undead getup of his."
"I'll let you in on a secret," Coby smiled, turning to the girls and putting a finger up to his lips. "That Soul King is actually the 'Humming Swordsman' Brook, the musician of the Straw Hat Pirates, and an honest-to-Goda bonified skeleton thanks to his Devil Fruit. His world tour is what set the date for our reunion."
"Be careful out there," Melanie said, she and her sister standing to give the young man a kiss on each cheek. "Don't get yourself killed in that big, bad world out there."
"You don't have to worry about me. I'll be fine. Everything works out in the end. That's just how the Straw Hats roll."
"So it's been two whole years, huh?" Shakky sighed, blowing out a lungful of smoke. Rayleigh sat at the bar across from her, a drink in his hand. "You and I haven't changed a bit, but I bet all the rest of the Straw Hats have gone and grown up like Coby. How is he, by the way? I haven't seen him for a while."
"I gave him the last few days to get his stuff in order," the old pirate waved off, sipping his drink. "You know he was the one helping the Red Embers attack the Celestial Dragon tributes. He needed a little time to fully pull out of that whole job."
"Yeah, I got the memo," Shakky grinned. "I got a call from Junior this morning whining about losing his best boy and begging me to convince the kid to stay. Apparently he was good for their club, too. He's become quite the looker and the patrons appreciated it."
"Yeah," Rayleigh yawned. "I'm aware. I've had to drag his drunk and drugged ass back more than once."
Their conversation ground to a halt as the creaky door to the bar swung open, a man in green stepping inside. Shakky and Rayleigh turned to look at him, a little surprised.
"Well," Shakky smiled, setting a mug of nondescript booze on the counter. "I didn't think you would be the first one back."
"Eh?" the man questioned, the three swords at his side rattling as he fingered them out of habit. "What? Did those idiots go and get themselves lost?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Shakky smiled. "I think you're just very early. Oh. Would you look at that. The reunions have begun."
At the same time she spoke, Zoro tensed, turning to see a figure at the bottom of the hill. The two made eye contact, holding it quietly until the lower bent his knees, jumping most of the hill and kicking off the air to cover the rest of the way. The two were eye-level now. The same height.
"You're taller, Shrimp," Zoro smirked.
"I'm not a shrimp anymore, Zoro-sensei," Coby responded with an equal smile. His smile turned watery, however, the roset throwing his arms around the man who had started his path as a swordsman. Zoro tensed, fighting every instinct to cut. "It's you. It's really you. I've missed you all so much!"
"I... Oh, calm down!" Zoro's smile wavered for only a moment, patting the young man on the back. Grabbing his shoulders, Zoro pushed Coby out to arm's length, inspecting him. "You've grown up a lot, Coby, and I bet you're stronger now than when we split."
"I can feel how much stronger you are, Zoro-sensei," Coby said. "Rayleigh has helped me hone my Observation Haki a lot. I bet I could give you a good fight now, even with the skill difference between us."
"Heh, we'll have to test that theory."
"Are you two gonna stand out there forever or come inside?" Rayleigh asked, causing the pair to chuckle and step into the bar.
"Mr. Zoro!" a man in a full-body cast greeted, wiggling his fingers as best he could since that was the only part of his body that could move. "We handsomely defended the Thousand Sunny through day and night, risking life and limb so you would have a ship to handsomely return to!"
Zoro blinked. "Who's this guy?"
"That's Duval," Coby answered in a whisper, still heard by Zoro over the sudden weeping of the Rosey Life Riders (because life was not rosey in that moment). Zoro shrugged, all but dragging his grown student to the bar.
"Where have you been, Zoro-sensei?" Coby asked, taking a seat in the spot he'd all but claimed while living on the Sabaody Archipelago. Coby leaned on the bar, accepting a drink from Shakky. "I've been here with another new shitshow every week."
"I lived with Mihawk."
The drink Coby had intended to swallow didn't survive the end of the statement, the roset doing a spit-take and choking. Zoro turned to him as if he hadn't just mentioned being around the man he wanted to defeat for two whole years.
"You what?" Coby coughed.
"I ended up at Mihawk's home," Zoro shrugged. "There were these monkeys there that knew how to use weapons and were crazy strong. They gave me a good workout every day."
"I... Well, this is the Grand Line," Coby nodded. "I suppose that's par for the course. You know Kuma used to be a Revolutionary? He technically still was one when he split us up, so he probably did that on purpose."
"I'm still mad at him," Zoro noted.
"Speaking of Kuma, have you been by the Thousand Sunny yet?"
"I don't know what that has to do with anything, but no," Zoro answered. "It took me five hours to get across this grove because it's so damn big. I needed a drink before going anywhere else." Coby bit his tongue, refusing to mention that any normal person could cover the diameter of this grove in ten minutes.
"Yeah, well, Sunny's gonna be happy to have us all back. She doesn't know too many words at the moment, but she wouldn't let me out of her ropes for a good hour when I first came back."
"I'm not surprised," Zoro replied. "There are so many people on our crew who are big ol' softies."
"That's-" Coby cut himself off, another presence entering his scope of Observation Haki. Coby smiled as Zoro sensed it too, a half-second later. "Hey, Zoro-sensei. Let's go greet our shipwright."
A couple days later
The bar was a shady, smoky structure where few civilized people visited. This wasn't much of a problem for the bartender, a large man on the wrong end of general looks, though it did keep the permanent population of the Sabaody Archipelago away. Most of the bar's patrons didn't exactly care for the law, so it was quite the surprise when a beautiful woman strolled into the establishment with a child in her arms. A giant duck of some sort quacked at her side, as tall as her or a little more. The duck was yellow as corn with red, rooster-like facial features, a long, green tail, and wore a saddle. The animal glared at everyone who looked at them funny.
At first glance, many of the patrons thought the small creature in her arms was a monkey of some sort, but closer inspection revealed the confusion to be the result of an admittedly-cute onesie. Though the woman was beautiful and in her early twenties with long, orange hair and an hourglass figure some women would kill for, no enterprising customer wanted to deal with the mess a child, more of a baby really, brought to the table. As a result, the orange-haired woman was left alone to sit at the bar and order a shot of whiskey and a cup of milk. The duck sat at her feet.
"What's brought you 'round here, doll?" the bartender asked, setting the cups before the young mother and child. "This ain't no place for moms or their brats."
"You don't have to worry about me," the woman replied, cradling the child to her amble, bikini-top-clad bosom as she took a sip of her drink. "I've been in more than a few seedy bars before. I can handle myself. And Billy here is plenty protection." She pet the bird beside her, the fowl cooing and pressing his head into her hand.
The man didn't respond immediately as he weighed his options. The woman was at risk in a place like this, but that wasn't his problem. On the other hand, she was a beautiful woman, the first he'd seen in the bar in over a month, and the kid was asleep and the bird seemed docile enough. He shrugged.
"Anything I can help you with?"
"I wouldn't mind some information," the woman smiled, batting her eyelashes at the man to loosen his lips. "There doesn't seem to be nearly as many lawmen around as there were a couple years ago."
"Yeah, that's an effect of the war," the bartender answered. "Marine HQ has relocated to G1 on the other side of the Red Line, right into the territories of the Yonko. Orders of the new Fleet Admiral, you know. He's a big shot with big ambitions."
"That explains why there aren't many marines anymore."
"So what draws a woman like you to a place like this? And with a kid, no less."
The woman swirled her drink. "I'm meeting up with my husband and some friends. We've been separated for a-"
Her words stalled as a gunshot rang from her left, the sudden bang waking the child. He jumped, tears of fear already forming in his brown eyes, so like his mother's, as he grabbed the strap of her bikini top. Billy the duck stood, placing himself between the gun and his master and her child, sparks popping over his feathers.
"Mommy, that's scary," the boy whimpered, surprisingly calm and articulate for a child that looked as young as he did. Her arms tightened around him.
"Shh, it's ok," the woman cooed, keeping her son's eyes away from the bleeding body on the floor a few tables away. "It's ok, sweetie."
"Do you know who I am?" the fat man holding the smoking gun asked, either to the man he'd just shot or to the bar at large. His voice carried a light lisp, so his words didn't come out quite as powerful. "I am 'Straw Hat' Luffy, the son of Dragon! I don't have time for measly worms worth any less than 70-million Beris!"
"Da-?" the kid began at the sound of the name, but his mother was quick to shush him, bouncing him on her knee.
"No, Sweetie. Ignore him."
"Wah..." Billy muttered, eyes narrowed at the man in the wide straw hat.
"55-million?" 'Luffy' laughed. "I've known preschoolers with bigger bounties than that! Take your ass back to pirate daycare!"
"We're the chosen ones, boy-o," an off-proportioned old man with a blue pompador said, his arms crossed. "We can't accept any old riffraft that wanders by."
"That's how these things go," a fat man with curly black hair and a long nose chuckled. "Sucks for you."
"You... bastard," the downed pirate hissed, hands firmly pressed into the new bullet wound. "I'll get you for-"
"Shut up and die!" Another shot rang out, this one final.
"Billy, here," the mother muttered, bringing Billy around to her other side where she set her monkey-onesie-clad child on his saddle. The woman then reached into her purse, the little toy ship she pulled out -a brown and red sloop- instantly distracting him. From his place on the duck's back, the child could sit and play with some measure of freedom, his mother's form between her son and the fresh corpse so he couldn't see it.
"Gad'er up all'a da crew~! Gad'er up all'a da crew~!" the boy sang, not really knowing any other words to the old shanty. The ship in his hands swung back and forth in motions only a child's play or the Grand Line could replicate. Billy the duck sang along in wahs, bouncing the child gently.
"Hey, bitch!" a woman's voice insulted, tearing the mother's gaze from her happy toddler and aerial companion. It settled on a short, portly woman with shoulder-length orange hair on her other side. "Your brat's being annoying. Shut him up!"
"He's not hurting anyone," the mother rebuffed with a wave. "Let him sing a little."
The other woman didn't take too kindly to this, grabbing the taller woman's glass and smashing it on the floorboards at their feet. Like earlier, the sudden loud noise shocked the child into silence. Billy jumped to his feet, careful to keep the child on his back, and spread his peacock-like feathers threateningly.
"Do you know who I am?" the portly woman questioned with a scowl. "I'm Monkey D. Nami, the daughter-in-law of Dragon the Revolutionary! When I tell you to shut your brat up, you shut him up!"
"Yeah?" the mother questioned, turning to face the smaller woman. "Why?"
"Bitch!" In a second, 'Nami' had a pistol in her hand, the weapon pointed between the eyes of the young mother. The patrons at the closest table stood and moved away, but the mother didn't flinch. "Do you want me to make your brat an orphan?"
"I'd rather you not wave that around in front of my son," the mother growled, staring the shorter woman down through the corner of her eyes. "Be careful. Billy can produce electricity freely, and he's gotten very good at controlling it recently."
"Hey, babycakes!" 'Luffy' called from across the bar. "You're feisty. I like that. Why don't you ditch the brat with the bird here and come party with us? We'll show you a real good time."
"I'll pass," the woman refused quickly, batting the gun out of her face. "I'm waiting for my husband and some friends."
"What?!" 'Luffy' demanded, standing. His bulk moved the table in front of him, spilling drinks and food. "Do you know who I am? No one can refuse me!"
"Please. I'm way out of your league anyway."
"Wah! Wa-wah! Wah!" Billy quacked. His tail danced with little bolts of lightning, a few stray bolts burning lines in the bar and floor. One shot upward, shattering a lightbulb. Its broken glass rained down on the table below, sending nameless thugs scurrying away in fear.
"Boss, maybe we shouldn't invite her," a reedy man with tanned skin and an overly-simplistic face muttered, eyeing the bird. His hair was black and thinning despite his attempts at making an afro by squeezing it together with a gray yoga sweatband, a clear bald spot on the back of his head, and his eyes were simply two dots. He was dressed in grey with a pair of small tonfa strapped to his legs and had massive battery tied to his back. "Sure, she's hot, but I don't think we need to deal with a kid or that electric bird. We have to get going, anyway."
"You, right, Gin, my, man," a short human who was as wide as he was tall commented, panting. This one had pink hair a few shades off from maroon and was dressed in green lizard leather, two simple swords strapped to his back. His chin jiggled at he talked. "I, wanna, get, out, there, and, find, a, few, more, punks, to, smack, around, 'til, the, time, comes."
"I still wanna deal with her!" the portly woman yelled, gun still aimed in the general direction of the mother and child.
"Excuse me, miss," the bartender interjected, 'Nami' turning her weapon on him. The bartender cowered, raising his hands. "I'd l-like to stay in b-business and you're welcome to come b-back tomorrow, but..." He gestured to the body on the floor and the electrical burns on the counter.
"Yeah, fine, I get it," 'Nami' huffed, crossing her arms with the gun still bared. "We've got a rally to get to." She turned to the young mother. "I better not see you again or I'll have my darling Luffy kill you, your pet, and your damn brat!"
With her threat given, 'Nami' returned to 'Luffy' and their 'crew', the troupe leaving the bar without taking the body. With their backs turned, Billy relaxed, easing his tail back into its resting position.
As they left, a woman in all black clothing entered. She wasn't short but stood no taller than 5'7" with a generous, if somewhat petite, figure. Her hair, a single braid down to her hips, was primarily red, but her highlights covered every color in the rainbow. Or at least they seemed like highlights even though the roots themselves seemed to be the same color. Her eyes, too, were a kaleidoscope, constantly shifting colors. She walked with a purpose to the bar, sitting next to the young mother at the counter.
"Barman," she murmured in a rich voice with seductive undertones. "A vodka martini on the rocks. Shaken, not stirred."
"You sure you're old enough to drink?"
"You sure you've got enough customers to be picky?"
The man shrugged after a moment, deciding it wasn't his business to ask questions considering there was still a dead pirate on his floor. He set about filling the girl's order. The redhead glanced at the mother, offering a hand.
"Miss, I think you dropped this," she said, a wallet in her palm.
"I...!" The mother blinked. "That was at the bottom of my purse. Who... wait. Grace?"
"In the flesh," the mostly-redhead grinned as her drink arrived. "Nowadays most people call me the Magpie of Color. It's been a long time, Nami." The two women all but jumped into a hug, relishing in the contact. Billy did a small dance, conscious of the weight on his saddle.
"What happened to you, Grace?" Nami asked as she pulled away. "How...? You managed to pickpocket me!"
"Two years as a specialized spy and thief with an organized syndicate will do that to you, but I see I'm not the only one who's been busy. Who's this little guy? ...Oh my Goda, he's so cute in that outfit!"
Nami's face broke into a grin as she lifted her son from his playing and onto her lap, the boy's eyes now looking between his mother and the other woman. "Sweetie, this is your Auntie Grace. Grace, this is my son, Monkey D. Ace."
"Auntie Gwace?" Ace asked, blinking. "Mommy say'd you a painter."
"He's adorable!" Grace all but squealed, fighting the urge to play with his cheeks. Instead, she picked him up by the armpits and plopped him down on her own lap. "And so smart, too! He can't be more than two years old and he's already talking!"
"Watch this," Nami insisted. "Ace, tell Auntie Grace the biggest thing you know."
"Mommy's really happy 'bout this, Auntie Gwace," Ace began. "I know 'bout at-mo-spher-ic phe-no-me-na. It's when the clouds and sky do weird stuff!"
"Oh my Goda, he's a genius..." Grace muttered, turning an eye on Nami as she lowered her voice. "You're sure this is Luffy's kid?"
"Excuse you," Nami replied, insulted. Billy also seemed insulted at the implication.
"Sorry, sorry," the younger thief apologized. "Do the others know?"
"Some of them," Nami admitted. "You reacted the same way Franky did since I stopped by the Sunny. She's totally alive, by the away, even if our separation stunted her growth."
"Yeah, I got the memo."
"And Zoro knows now. It was great to see him finally surprised. Then he started muttering about babysitting duties."
"Uncle Zowo is funny!" Ace offered. "An' Uncle Fwanky is so big! He's a big robot! It's so cool!"
"He's just like captain!" Grace laughed. She waved her hand in front of his face, little balls of color seeming to bloom out of nothing. She poked one, making it ripple. His short attention stolen, Ace started playing with the chemical bubbles. "Does he know?"
"I... haven't been able to get in contact with him," Nami admitted, noting the new power and to ask about it later. "I tried, but Rayleigh said wherever he was, he didn't have a transponder snail big enough to talk. I think I want to tell him in person, anyway."
"So Luffy doesn't know he's got a kid? It must have been hard for you."
"Meh," Nami waved off as Ace stuck his toy boat on a blue bubble, pretending it was an ocean. "Ace is a certifiable genius and I basically controlled Weatheria the whole time I was there. I had plenty of help and Billy tracked us down almost as soon as we arrived here. He's basically a walking crib for Ace. Besides, I managed to call Garp and-"
"You called Garp?!" Grace demanded.
"Oh calm down," Nami placated. "I needed information. He was over the moon but promised to keep quiet until we left. He can't go putting his great-grandson at risk until his protectors are all together, now can he? I think the war shook him bad. On the snail, he tried to quote some other language but fumbled it badly. Maybe he's finally losing the last of his marbles? I'll explain everything when we're all back together. But that's enough of that. What happened to you?"
"I'll explain everything when we're all back together," Grace parroted. At that moment a new patron entered the bar, his tall and muscular form on display for all to see, as obvious as the long nose on his face.
"Mommy, look!" Ace said, pointing. "Long nose! That Uncle Uso?"
Ace's words and pointing attracted the man's attention which zeroed in on the two women, duck, and child. Grace leaned back against the counter as he approached.
"Well, look what the Sea Kings dragged in. You've gotten your exercise in. And here I thought you were dead."
The powerful words Usopp had prepared died on his lips at the accusation. "I'm not dead and I'll have you know Kaya was very appreciative of the picture I sent!" He blinked. "Grace? Nami? Billy?"
"Right, it is you," he nodded. "And...?" He gestured to Ace, who grabbed his hand as it passed, shaking it in some copy of a handshake in the most literal sense.
"I'm Ace! My daddy's gonna be King of the Pirates! Giihihihi!"
"..." Usopp stared for half a minute, trying to get his jaw to work. "I would die for this child," he finally muttered, surprised at himself.
"And I expect you to if it comes to that," Nami stated firmly. "We're taking him with us, and I won't hear any arguments about it. I won't have my son grow up without his family like Luffy or me or anyone else on our crew did."
"Ah, right. That works for me," Usopp nodded, taking his hand back. He knelt, coming nose-to-eye with the toddler. "Hi, Ace. I'm your Uncle Usopp. I'm gonna help make you a brave warrior of the sea."
"Ok!" Ace smiled, and it lit up the whole bar because, while Ace had his mother's eyes, he had his father's smile. Usopp smiled back, a single happy tear leaking from his eye.
"I can't believe it," the sniper said, emotion welling up in he voice. "It's been two years. Two whole years. I... You've got a... No, the crew has a kid now. We're back, and it's time the world knows it."
"And they will soon enough," Grace replied, finishing her martini in one drink. "I don't know where you've been, but a couple of us have made names for ourselves. Our reunion is going to make waves."
"Well," Nami jumped in, scooping up her son, "we've got places to go and people to see. Let's find everyone else."
"Are you still mad?" Merry asked, skipping her way through Grove 30 with a companion, cotton candy in hand and a backpack on her back.
"'Course I'm still mad," her companion responded, his own duffel bag in hand. "Madder'n a poked hornets' nest. I loved that job."
"Well, it was you that got caught working on that Navy ship."
"How was I s'posed to know that battleship had a klabautermann? Marines don't usually do that! Frickin' G-8."
"Meh, It'll be fine," Merry bleated. "Luffy'll love having you on. And I'm sure Coby's been looking forward to seeing you again."
"Don't say it like that," the man beside her begged. "Just 'cause we bonded over false stereotypes don't mean we're like that."
"Whatever you say, Kaku."
Merry had grown up, the everlasting bonds of her crew and the freedom of not having a host ship allowing her to go from being a little girl to a young woman. The klabautermann of the Going Merry now looked like a girl around 16. Standing at 5'5", her wavy white hair now fell down to her back and petite, yet noticeable, curves showed through her clothing. Her horns had grown as well, now a full two and a half spirals with a point poking out of each. She was dressed in mostly white and brown, a pair of stone-head hammers stuck in loops on her tighter khakis held up by suspenders. Her torso was covered in a simple white shirt with various stains and the red words "NAILED IT", the T being a nail in an underlining board. Finally, her new Heart hung from the choker around her throat, a tiny heart made of Adam Wood that glowed slightly in the dark.
Kaku beside her was the same as ever, though he had switched his Galley-La shipwright outfit for the standard suit he'd worn as a CP9 agent with a white tie, making his clothes and Merry's contrasts of each other. Despite his formal attire, he had two swords at his hips, one on each side.
They had had the unfortunate situation of Kaku being called to inspect a Navy ship because everyone else was otherwise preoccupied, but while there, the ship's klabautermann (which was itself a misfortune because so few ships have them, and even fewer Marine ships) had recognized him as a runaway and made his wanted poster fall into the lap of the commander in charge. Luckily, Merry had been preparing to sail that same day, so they managed to escape together. Iceberg had later called them to say Galley-La had managed to pass themselves off as ignorant of 'Spring Wind' Kaku's identity as a runaway to Vice-Admiral Jonathan, but Kaku's run there was over. On the bright side, his severance pay covered their fare for the trip and then some.
"And for the record," the former assassin began for the who-knew-how-many-eth time, "I am not joining your crew. I'm just hitching a ride until I find where I belong."
"I still think you belong with us," Merry poked, elbowing the square-nosed Zoan. "That is, unless you're going to run off with the Vinsmokes and Germa. 'Oh Reiju! I've missed you so much! Your poison can melt my lips any time! Can I have a special color, too?' Baaahahaha!"
"You squirt!" Merry danced under Kaku's instinctive Finger Pistol, her own Paper Art keeping him at bay. "Coby or Reiju, pick one to tease me about! Ya can't keep flippin' like a pancake!"
"It's just something with you and pink hair, Kaku. Baaahahaha!"
"Yeah yeah. Laugh it up, lamb chop! I am not gaga over Poison Pink! And not Horn, neither!"
"Aww, cute! A pet name!"
Merry opened her mouth to retort with another clever tease but paused as something lit up in her senses. Her eyes turned to the source, a small creature who was sniffing the air while holding cotton candy in one hoof. The klabautermann stopped short, the creature recognizing the smell and turning to them. The two made eye contact.
The horned duo rushed each other, the humanoid reindeer jumping into the fairy's arms where she spun him around. Kaku stepped over as they finished, Merry setting the doctor back on the ground.
"You're so tall, Merry!" Chopper gushed, waving his arms with excitement. "If you've changed this much, I can't wait to see everyone else!"
"You don't look like you've changed a bit," Merry countered. "Except getting even more cute! Even so, I bet you've learned so much and gotten a lot stronger in the last two years."
"I don't like it when you praise me, you jerk~!" Chopper danced. "But I'm way different! Watch this!"
Chopper jumped, shifting into his Walk Point which now stood over many of the crew in height, Merry included.
"You're so big!" Merry laughed, throwing herself into a hug around his neck. "I bet I could ride on your back, now!"
"I'm not an amusement park ride!" Chopper denied. He sniffed, his nose picking up the subtle scent of the man beside them. He turned, seeing the square-nosed agent. "Usopp?!"
"Ya've got me mixed up with Long Nose," Kaku waved off. "I'm the CP9 agent y'all 'kidnapped' from Enies Lobby, Kaku. Merry 'n' I got found out on Water 7 and had ta skedaddle on out of there, so I'm tagging along for a bit since there's a bounty on me now. 'Spring Wind' Kaku worth 76-mil."
"Oh, ok! But I'm going to need to give you a physical so I can be sure to care for you. I am the doctor, after all."
"Sure thing, Doc!" Kaku saluted, causing Chopper to dance again, which looked very wrong in his Walk Point.
"That doesn't make me happy, you jerk~!"
"Oh, would you look at that," Merry blinked, gesturing to a group ahead of them. It consisted of what looked like discount members of their crew, specifically Zoro, Sanji, Robin, Chopper, Amy, Grace, and Merry. "We've got competition. To be fair, their Sanji looks like his wanted poster."
The Amy of the group looked like the fake Sanji's sister, frail blonde hair cut into a bob and a simple blue dress with an umbrella, but her thin form depicted her as too weightless to the point of being anorexic. She had a cleft chin with a massive, pointed nose sticking out of her face and curving over her mouth.
The fake Grace staggered on the other side, frizzy red-almost-pink hair in what looked like it was meant to be pigtails, but the hair wasn't cooperating. She had tribal paint slathered over her cheeks and forehead, not quite hiding the many warts and beauty spots all over her face. She was dressed in a too-big smock that looked brand new and was carrying a large bottle of something, drinking from it every few seconds.
Finally, the fake Merry of the group was... male? They stood at only three and a half feet and had clearly-masculine features, a hat with ram's horns glued to it resting on their head. Despite the short stature, the fake Merry walked at the head of the group, dressed in a white raincoat.
"What?!" Chopper gasped, his eyes moving between the fake Merry and the real one whom he was standing beside. "Wha? But? How?"
"They're fakes, Doc," Kaku offered, making Chopper jump since he forgot the man was there. "I'd bet the moon there 're fakes for the rest of y'all out there, too."
"That's not nice at all!" Chopper cried. "Is that animal supposed to be me?"
"At least you're the right gender," Merry commented. "But hey, look on the bright side."
"What bright side?"
"The marines around here are so dumb, they should fall for it. That will distract them while we get away."
"I don't..." Kaku trailed off, his mouth opening and closing. The trio moved to the side of the road as half of the fake crew passed them without a second glance. A couple marines in obvious Marine garb followed the fakes, barely hiding. "I stand corrected."
"Not for the first time," Merry giggled. "Oh, I've missed this kind of chaos."
"No, not that ship!" a voice called in the distance, the man dressed in sackcloth tilting his shaded eyes up to see a fisherman fretting by the waterside. "Oh no, that man! I thought my instructions were clear! I've doomed him to death!"
"Please, sir, calm yerself," the robed figure muttered, stepping up to the fisherman's side. The local jumped, having not heard the religious man approaching. The man's features were hidden by the brown robe with a hood he wore, but little lightning bolts were stitched into the fabric at the bottom hem and across the back like wings. His hands were folded into the sleeves in front of his chest, and his voice was quiet, large red beads forming a chain around his neck. Though the rest of his skin could not be seen, the skin showing through his sandals and on his chin were a dark brown tan. "All we do is guided through tha rivers o' Fate. What's gnawin' at yer soul, friend?"
We leave their presence, yet you still maintain this façade?
"Oh, I've made a terrible mistake!" the fisherman told the monk. "There was a man here just now who was bored waiting for some friends to show up, so I invited him to fish with me! I pointed to my boat and told him I'd be there in just a minute, but when I came out, he'd gotten on the pirate ship next to it! They're already below the waves on their way to Fishman Island and I bet they're gonna kill him!"
"Friend, could ya describe this man ta me?"
"He, uhh, he had green hair and three swords, and a scar over one eye and a big one across his chest."
The monk smiled, his hood shifting. "My friend, ya need not worry 'bout that man. He will return. I know that man personally, an' Fate has cursed 'im with misdirection."
"I don't know how that's going to help!"
"Just wait. Fate'll not take 'im today. That man still has an ambition ta fulfill."
"Hey, you!" a new voice called, the conversing duo turning to see a smoking blond in a suit. The monk's smile widened further. "I need you to sell me some fish. I hear you've got the best stuff at the best prices."
"Fer whom do ya cook?" the monk asked, turning fully to face the blond, his upper face still shadowed.
"The lovely ladies of the world and a future king," the chef answered. "What's it to you, holy man?"
I'd certainly call you holy, since you're missing a few screws up top.
"Ya haven't changed a bit, I see," the man chuckled, lifting his hands to pull the hood back. His skin was deeply tanned, his black hair in cornrows and a small soul patch resting under his lip. As the onlookers watched, electricity sparked between the rows of braided hair. "It's good ta see ya again, Brother Sanji."
"Gin!?" Sanji balked, almost losing his cigarette. "You're a monk now?"
"A lotta stuff happened, yeah," Gin smirked. He tried to keep his eyes off the smoke rising from Sanji's lips. It reminded him of the nicotine withdrawal he suffered in Berka since they didn't have tobacco there. "I've spent tha last two years in a monastery in tha sky. That don't make me any less of a pirate, though. I've come back ta pledge mahself ta tha future king."
"Do you two know each other?" the fisherman asked.
"Yeah," Sanji answered, smiling. "We're shipmates, but we've been separated for the last couple years." Sanji's face shrunk, as if he was reliving a horrible time. "I've been in Hell itself."
"I guess I was in Heaven, then. Godland Berka, actually."
"You got angels and I got demons," the cook growled. "That's not fair at all!"
"I'm sure it wasn' that bad," Gin waved off.
"You don't know, Gin," Sanji muttered with a thousand-yard stare. "You don't know."
Kukuku. I'd pity the poor chef if I didn't enjoy his despair.
"What is that?" a voice in the distance asked, it's owner pointing out over the water. Following their finger, Sanji, Gin, and the fisherman saw that the water was bubbling fiercely. As they watched, two halves of a galleon broke the surface, the center cut clean through. "That had to have been a Sea King attack!"
"No way!" another bystander denied. "It looks like it's been cut!"
"But what sort of person could cut a ship that big?!"
Gin and Sanji turned to look at each other, the former with a grin and the latter with a scowl. Sanji muttered a curse under his breath. "Damn. Of course I run into him before any of my beautiful mellorines."
Ah, and here comes the wayward swordbrain. Gin twitched
"Shuddup, ya bastard," Gin whispered under his breath, shaking his head.
"What was that, Gin?"
"Nothin', Brother Sanji."
"Why?!" a panicked voice cried from the sinking ship. "We didn't do anything to you, you monster, and you crushed our dream of going to the New World without a second thought!"
"It was your own bad luck," the swordsman in green replied, replacing one of his three swords. "You have no one to blame but yourselves."
"You got on our ship!"
I always did like this one.
"Brother Zoro!" Gin yelled, waving an arm at the pirate. "It's good ta see ya well!"
"Oh, you guys are finally here," the swordsman blinked, jumping on land next to the shocked fisherman, the ship sinking in the background. "You're Number Seven, Gin. And you're Number Eleven, Curly Brow."
"And what number were you, Mosshead?" Sanji growled, prompting Zoro to smirk.
"Huh, bu...?" Sanji sputtered.
"New outfit, Gin?" the swordsman asked, indicating his robes.
"New scar, Brother Zoro?" Gin rebuffed, gesturing to his eye.
"Really leaning into that monk aesthetic," Sanji commented before turning to Zoro. "You're uglier than ever, Moss Head."
"Like you're one to talk, Swirly Brow!"
"Hahaha!" Gin laughed. "How I've missed y'all!"
For once, we agree. Kukuku!
"This is suuuuppeeerrrr!" Franky all but yelled, striking his famous pose. The ship he stood on, coated in a rainbow-translucent film of sap on the coast of Grove 17, literally roared in approval, ropes from the rigging doing some copied version of clapping without actually making any sound. Franky struck another pose, inciting another roar.
"What the Hell?" a woman's voice asked from above, cutting through the yell. Franky turned, but couldn't find anyone on the shore. "You look totally stupid right now."
"Ow! That's super not nice, you know!"
"Rah!" Ropes that had been clapping shot upward, wrapping around a woman floating there to drag her to the deck gently. The rope set her on her feet, letting her go but still nuzzling her like an animal might, the ship itself purring.
The woman was blond, her hair curled down to her shoulders and a soft, instinctive smile on her lips. A pink parasol with frosting-like swirls stretched over her, shading her from the sun so the shadows could show off her pink dress decorated to look like a cake and a hat with a decorative strawberry on top. Her dress clearly showed off her new-and-improved assets.
"Easy, Sunny," the blonde giggled, stroking the ropes as she lightly bounced on the sap coating the ship. "Easy. I'm back. Oh, this must be the coating I've heard about."
"Well well!" Franky smirked, walking toward her. "If it isn't our super Weightless Woman and chocolatier, the beautiful Amy Palant!"
The air around the ship was still as the cyborg finished his declaration, striking his pose once more. Amy blinked, then blinked again, raising her legs to float in place with the use of her powers.
"You look ridiculous, Franky. What happened to you?"
"Oh..." Franky slumped, drawing small circles into the ship's coating with one giant, metal finger. "I thought I looked cool. He and Sunny liked it."
"I think he looks fine," a new voice offered, turning Franky and Amy's attentions to a woman in a black dress and white hat. Sunny happily roared again, ropes reaching for the woman who waved them off with arms sprouted from the ground.
"Robin!" The pirates on the ship cried, the woman casually blooming limbs to form a bridge to the deck. The ship rumbled beneath their feet as Robin arrived, her eyes lighting up at the bubbly sap that kept her from standing on the grass.
"I see Rayleigh has been here," Robin commented as Franky walked and Amy floated over in her direction. "It's good to see you, Franky, Amy. I see you two have changed a bit."
"I've upgraded myself a lot!" Franky smirked. "I've spend the last two years in a former lab of Vegapunk, so now I'm a whole lot more suuupppeeerrrr!"
"While you were holed away in a lab," Amy began, "I've been training in the New World."
"You've already been?" the cyborg gaped as Robin let out a small laugh.
"Well, ah," Amy muttered. "Yeah, but maybe we should avoid that place as best we can. I kind of made a promise I don't want to keep."
"It can't be that bad," Franky waved. "It's not like one of us has to get super married or anything."
Robin laughed, breaking the tension that had formed, and they silently agreed to deal with whatever the promise was when they got there. "It's great to be back," Robin smiled. "Is there anything else we should know?"
"We aren't the first ones here," Franky offered. "Coby spent the last two years here, helping comfort Sunny. Zoro was the first one back and Billy and Nami are here, too. She's got something suuupppeerrr to tell everyone, but I'm sworn to secrecy. I bet others are on the archipelago, but they haven't made it to Sunny, yet."
"By the way, have you seen this?" Robin asked, holding up a music poster advertising the final stop of the Soul King Brook world tour at the Sabao Dome there on Sabaody. It was scheduled for later that day.
"What?" Amy demanded, snatching the poster. "How have I not seen this before?"
"Yeah, I've seen it," Franky sighed, walking over to a deck chair and sitting down, opening his stomach fridge to pull out a cola. "Brook doesn't look like his wanted poster anymore and he's made a new name for himself. I don't know if he'll leave stardom and come back to the crew today."
"Hrrmm," Sunny whined beneath them as each of them considered the odds.
A figure in a cloak of spotted white fur stood on a dock on Sabaody's Grove 27, a backpack of completely normal size and proportions against his back. Off of this backpack hung an orange cowboy hat with two blue buttons attached to it. He smiled, looking up to the trees as he remembered first arriving here two years ago.
"I'm here everyone. Just wait for me. It's time to show the world that we're back."
End of Chapter 1
There you go, the first chapter of the next half of this adventure! Just like that, we've seen how all the new crewmembers have changed, but there's so much in store down the road! Feel free to theorize and guess about any of the breadcrumbs I've hinted, since I love hearing your speculations! And don't forget to,
Read and Review!