"Alright, get some rest and eat your greens and you'll be good," said Law as Johnny pouted, then sniffed and rubbed at his nose; earning a chuckle from his mother.

"We will definitely be having more of that in the future, won't we?" she said, ruffling her son's hair. Kid looked like he had just sipped curdled milk, and Law could not help but smile. No kid likes going to the doctor, no matter who they are.

"Meds are there." He handed Johnny's mother a small bag, containing some antibiotics; with Marine labels on them.. "Take 'em once a day with food, and your symptoms should go away. For now." He held out his hand, and it glowed blue, a small room forming around Johnny and Law. "Room. Shambles."

And Johnny let out a sigh of relief as mucus fell into a waste basket. "Thanks Doctor Law."

"Don't mention it. It's what I'm here for."

"Of course, thank you." She nodded as she stood up, took her son by the hand, and led him out of the surgery. Law leant back in his chair and stretched out his arms, feeling contentment swell within him; then poured himself a cup of water. He could hear En and Anna down the hall. muttering excitedly; with Anna calling out Daikorobo's attack moves.

A girl being interested in super robots. Who knew?

He downed the water, then headed down the short corridor to the den. He leant on the doorframe, watching the pair at their reading. Anna was reading Volume 20, the Komski run, grinning from ear to ear; while En was on Volume 5 of the Cartrice run, smiling with similar though more controlled vigor.

"Enjoying them?" Law asked, the two perking up.

"Oh yes I am Law!" Anna exclaimed. "I've never seen comics like this in my life! Sora and his adventures with Gull and Daikorobo, it's amazing!"

"Komski did horror stories before Sora, as you can probably tell," Law replied. "En, how's the Dark Sora arc coming for ya?"

"It's…okay," replied En awkwardly, Law frowning at his response. "Don't get me wrong, it's good; just not as good as the others."

"How so?" Law's frown deepened a little, having found that particular storyline to be quite engaging.

"Well…" En paused, clearly embarrassed. "The whole storyline, Germa making a clone of Sora and having him do evil deeds to frame him? It's an old classic; that is, it's been done to death. I wish they'd made it a little less…obvious?"

"You mean how their evil Sora is portrayed?" Law asked.

"Yeah. It's kinda over the top." Izuku even showed off part of the comic, pointing to Dark Sora, standing atop a building, a speech bubble making it clear he was laughing evilly.

"Hmm…you're not wrong," mused Law, sipping from his cup. "Catrice was a long time fan of Sora, and that was his first shot at a serial comic. I guess nobody's at their best the first time. The Onna run is a lot better plot-wise. Still I thought the concept was interesting."

"Thanks." En nodded. "But something just bugs me overall."

Law quirked an eyebrow. Where was En going with this?

"I…well…" En trailed off again. This wasn't awkwardness; this was something deeper. "Law, I know you love this comic, and I love it too. But…it's propaganda, for the Marines. It's dripping with it, page after page."

He looked hurt, as if he half-expected Law to hit him, or yell at him, or throw him out, or heaven forbid, use his powers on him.

"Yep, it is," Law replied plainly, and took another sip of water. "It's propaganda, cover to cover; trying to get kids to join the Marines. But do you see me joining?"

He shot En a smirk.

"Sure, Sora was meant to be propaganda, anyone with eyes can see that, but he's so much more than that," he went on. "Over the years he's grown beyond it; with every storyline, every plot twist, every new writer. He's not just a fictional character, he's…"

He trailed off, as he realized he didn't have the words. What was Sora to him? He's been a part of Law's life for so long, so much a part of him, that he didn't know how to describe it.

"He's a Symbol?" En asked. Law blinked, stunned.

"Yeah… I guess you could call it that." This guy understood, that much was clear.

"Law! Law!" The door to the clinic came down, and Law turned as Anna and En perked up.

"Marcel? What's wrong?" Law asked, as he saw a man with glasses and an afro standing in his doorway; looking scared out of his mind.

"Marines! They just docked at the harbor! They're coming into town, armed!"

Marines? Here?

'Guess Heavensward has had enough. First the Slingers, now this?' Law thought, growling as he grabbed his nodachi from its rack on the wall. He turned to leave, then saw Anna pulling on her brown jacket; while En carefully tidied up the volumes and put them back on the shelf.

"You sure you wanna come? If things get dicey you could end up being labeled as accomplices," he asked, as Anna put on her Hanya mask, then pulled on one of his spare white coats.

"If those Marines mean to hurt people, then yes," En replied, his eyes hard.

"That's right!" Anna added, trotting up to join them. Law turned from them, and glanced out of the window. He could see Marines stalking into the town, muskets in their hands and cutlasses on their hips. A little rat-faced man in a lieutenant's coat was at their head, with a look on his face that Law did not like.

"Suit yourself," he said, looking back at En and Anna. "What do you want?"

"Hm?" En looked back.

"Money? Guns? Info?" Law asked, having given this same speech many times prior under similar circumstances. .


Law blinked, his mind momentarily blank. He raised an eyebrow, wondering if he had truly heard right.

"You want something in return for this, right?" he hazarded. "No one just randomly helps out a bunch of strangers without something in return."

"Well, we do," replied En plainly. "We don't take payment for helping people."

Law could scarcely believe it. En was actually standing there and saying that.


"Because that's what heroes do" declared En. "They help people."

"That's right! And that's what we are!" cheered Anna. "Heroes!"

Those eyes; no longer hard, but strong like polished steel. They meant every word of it. They actually wanted to help others; just to help them.

Just like Corazon.

For a moment Law felt something inside him stir, which he was quick to shake off, though the smile on his face was a little brighter.

"Thank you," he said, and meant it. "But I thought you guys wanted to keep your heads down."

"We do," answered En. "But I have an idea."

Law stared, as a black gleam began to flicker over En's body; like the penumbra of a shadow. His mouth almost dropped open as the shadow shifted, forming into black tendrils; rising from his arms and back, and coiling around him.

Was it a Devil Fruit power?

Law looked back at the window. The Marines were in the middle of the square, forming a loose cordon around their lieutenant. He could see the people peering out of their windows and around their doors; wondering, fearful.

Time to do something about it.


"Greetings people of Swallow Island!" Ratel bellowed out.

He turned his head and body, scanning his eyes over the buildings around him. This village wasn't much to speak of, but the buildings were in reasonable shape. The walls seemed solid, and plenty of the windows had glass in them, and wooden shutters. The people watching him nervously from their windows wore clean clothes, and he saw no signs of hunger among them. There was even a restaurant, with the name Mess Nest on the sign over the door.

What a hideous name for a place to buy food.

Regardless of that, things didn't smell right; literally or figuratively. A backwater hovel like this, not part of a nation aligned to the World Government, should not be so well put together. This place had a secret.

"We have come here to save and protect you from a particularly foul pirate crew, who have been spotted in these local waters!" Ratel went on, stroking his peach fuzz. "They have been ransacking our ships, stealing from decent people trying to make an honest living on the sea! Thus we would greatly appreciate your cooperation in locating them."

He could see and hear doors opening, some of the menfolk emerging into the square. Their pants looked familiar, and so did their boots. He almost scoffed. They weren't even trying.

"Are you the commanding officer of this unit?" asked an older, scar-faced man, as he walked cautiously towards them. His eyes were wary; and well they might be.

"Indeed. Lieutenant Ratel from Branch 93. And you are?"

"I am Ash, the mayor of this town," replied the old man. "I assure you sir, we have had no trouble with pirates. We are simple folk, and we have nothing worth stealing."

"Nothing at all?" Ratel sneered in feigned surprise. "Clearly you know nothing of pirates, Mister Mayor. They'll take anything that isn't nailed down, even a fine pair of boots like those." He nudged Ash's boot with his polished toecap. "Very fine boots indeed. Standard issue. Got family in the Marines, have you?"

Ash flinched, and Ratel leered. What a bunch of blank-eyed peasants!

"Here's what I think!" he declared. "I think you've been patronizing those thieving pirates! I think you've been lounging about on this quiet little island, living off the proceeds of their crimes; while good Marines fought and died against the likes of them!"

Not died, at least not from what Trafalgar did to them; but some had quit from the trauma. Semantics really at this point and really it was just an excuse in the end.

He glanced around his landing party; his lip curling in satisfaction as he saw the looks in their eyes.

"Marines!" he barked and snapped his fingers. "Take back our property! With interest!"

"Now hang on!" Ash protested, then yelled as Petty Officer Hobbs knocked him to the ground. Cries of horror rang out, but the Marines pressed on, spreading out across the square. Some of the men tried to bar their way, but the Marines knocked them down, beating them with musket butts; while others kicked and battered at the doors. Women shrieked and children cried; all to no avail.

"You can't do this!" pleaded Ash, then yelled again as Hobbs drove his musket butt into the old man's stomach. Ratel laughed, both at Ash's pain and the look in the petty officer's eyes. Hobbs had fought too many pirates, seen too many friends die at their hands, to have much pity for collaborators.

"You brought this on yourselves," he sneered down at the whimpering mayor. "Had you accepted the authority of the World Government, none of this would be happening. But you all just had to be tax dodgers, didn't you? And wearing stolen Marine property on top of it, do you enjoy mocking the men who risk their lives to keep you safe?"

He looked around again, enjoying the spectacle. A small child was standing nearby, clutching a Sora action figure - he couldn't be bothered to remember which one - and staring at him with frightened eyes. A young woman with pink hair, her face covered by a black mask, was striding down the street, eyes hard.

"Why, even that lass over there could make a good living in Blackgate," he went on, gesturing towards her. "Sure, the hours are long, the nights are late, the clientele a little rowdy. But what's life without a few kicks to the nuts, eh?"

He laughed at his own joke.

"Leave us alone!" A group of men were trying to bar the Marines' way. But they were clubbed and beaten aside, and forced to the ground. One of them tried to rise, then froze as he saw Seaman Cranitch's musket muzzle, aimed right between his eyes.

"Do it," growled Cranitch, his cutlass scar bulging as he spoke. "I dare you."

"You call yourselves soldiers of justice?" Ash hissed. His eyes were bitter now, angry. All around, women wailed and screamed as their homes were ransacked, men yelled as they were beaten, and children sobbed and whimpered.

"Oh please!" scoffed Ratel. "You chose to live as a pirate's lackey, and don't live under the Four Orb Cross. Therefore," He drew his pistol and pulled back the cock, hearing the familiar click-clunk as a fresh cartridge slid into place, and aimed it at Ash's head. "You have no human ri-EEEEEEEEEEGHN!"

Ratel's world became pain, as something slammed into his crotch. His body contorted, his pistol firing wide, and he slumped onto his back. Above, he saw the pink haired woman turn on Hobbs, and send him flying with a roundhouse kick.

"L-lieutenant Ratel!" shouted one of the Marines. Others piled out of the houses, readying their weapons.

"M-My-Myyyyyyy~!" Ratel coughed, eyes wide and jaw agape.

"Get out of here!" the pinkette shouted. Ash scrambled to his feet and limped away. Ratel could hear yells of pain and surprise, gaping as one of his Marines flew headlong out of a window.

Then he gaped, as a human head rolled in front of him. It was wearing a Marine cap, its eyes blinking in confusion. Nearby, a headless body was stumbling about.

Ratel screamed, as did the head. He scrambled away, his stomach churning, and a couple of Marines hauled him to his feet.

"Sir, your orders?" asked Hobbs. He had a nasty bruise covering half his face, and blood running from his nose.

"Kill them you fools!" Ratel shrieked. "They're defying the Marines! Defying Justice!"

Despite the call to arms, more and more Marines flew out of the windows and doors, landing in a heap in the square. The few that remained fired into the buildings, but to no effect.

Then Ratel saw it; emerging from one of the doorways. An enormous figure, dressed in a white doctor's coat over a brown jacket and funny-looking red pants. A demonic white fanged mask, lined with blue hair, covered its face; and in its hand was a massive club.

"M-Monster…!" Ratel barely managed to choke out at the demon before him.

"You think you can waltz into my town doing whatever you want?" came a sneer from behind him. Ratel spun round, and saw Trafalgar Law striding into view; holding a blubbering and sniveling head.

"L-Lieutenant help meeeee~!" wailed the head. Ratel vaguely recognized it; it was one of the Seaman Apprentices they had taken on before heading out. He opened his mouth to shout an order to fire.

Then he hesitated, as he saw what was striding up the main street towards them behind Law. A hulking shape, a Marine officer's coat hanging on its shoulders, fists clenched at its sides; its bearded face twisted in a scowl. It moved fast, calmly, heedless of the Marines flying past it. Charging ahead to a dead sprint.

"Shoot them!" Ratel wailed, pointing at Law. Nearby, his men raised their weapons. Law's eyes widened, and he raised his hand; blue light sparking along it. He did not seem to have seen the monstrosity approaching him from behind.

"Gryaaah!" roared Captain Tosa, drawing back his fist and swinging at Law. Ratel's heart leapt, knowing only too well what awaited the unsuspecting pirate.

Then he gaped, as his captain's mighty fist stopped in mid-air with an almighty clang. Wind gusted over Ratel, almost throwing him back on the ground. He rubbed his eyes, and looked to see that masked monster from before; standing before Tosa, its club blocking his blow.

"Captaaaain!" cried Ratel and the Marines, overjoyed.

"So this is your pet monster, isn't it, Trafalgar!?" snarled their captain. He tried to push the club back, his muscles bulging, his shoes digging into the earth. But the masked monster didn't bulge.

"Oh, let me guess," scoffed Law. "You captured Weysel and his goons the other day didn't you, the snitch."

Tosa growled as he redoubled his effort, but the monster would not back down. Ratel stared, eyes wide, as Tosa actually began to slide backwards. Tosa, one of the strongest captains in the North Blue, was losing!

Just what was that thing? What had the Heart Pirates found?


"You alright?" Reiju asked, as she pushed open the Mess Nest's door and hustled Ash inside. She could see children hiding under the tables, and the adults heaving open one of the wall panels. Behind it lay a storage compartment, with racks upon racks of muskets and pistols.

"I'm fine." Ash sighed with relief, collapsing into a chair. "Thank you Sora. You saved my life."

That feeling again. When she helped Izuku and Yamato on that island with the Stonefish.

"Not a problem." Reiju patted him on the shoulder and strode over to the windowsill. She peeked out, just in time to see Yamato send Tosa flying across the square with a single swing of her club; smashing into a nearby building. Tosa arose, his beard full of dust and chunks of plaster, eyes blazing as he tore off his coat.

"I will have your Monster's head on my bow! This town will be crushed for supporting you, down to the last man, in the name of Absolute Justice!"

On the other side of the square, Bepo, Shachi, and Penguin were battling the Marines. Bepo was dancing around, lashing out with kicks and cries of Hai-ya!. Shachi swigged from a jug, and spat bolts of water, while Penguin was fighting with a cutlass. All around them, Marines fought and fell; whether hurled back by Schachi's spit, kicked away by Bepo, or cut down by Penguin.

They fought well together, for all that their methods were strange.

"You're welcome to try," sniped Law. "I have no intention of dying any time soon." He snapped his fingers, and a black blur slammed into Tosa. The big man's eyes bulged, and he yelled in agony as the impact threw him back across the square, down the main street, all the way to the harbor. All watched, mouths agape, as Tosa smashed into the ship's foremast, then its mainmast. Both toppled over, crashing down as the rigging snapped and whipped, Marines scattering for their lives.

But Reiju wasn't looking at the ship. She was watching the black monster, her blood running cold. It was on all fours, its body a mass of flailing tendrils from which black flames coiled and leapt. Its only feature was two eyes; blazing white and wreathed in green flames.

It was horrid. It was inhuman. But it was familiar, somehow.

"Izuku?" Reiju thought to herself, hardly daring to believe it. Was that thing really him?

The Marines were converging on Ratel, some running, some staggering, some being carried or dragged by their fellows. They stared at the monster in utter horror, aiming their guns - those that still worked - with shaking hands.

"Wait, is that… Black Beast Parl?! From those comics?!" one Marine asked.

"That has to be the reason why the Germa 66 is on a warpath! It has to be!"

"Germa made some kind of super science war beast?! And Trafalgar stole it from them?!"

"S-Sir! Your orders!" another asked, looking to Ratel. But the lieutenant gave no answer. He was transfixed, horrified to the depths of his cruel, cowardly soul.

Reiju hurried out of the Mess Nest, as a crowd began to form behind Yamato and Law.

"Get out of here Marines!"

"Thieves! Thugs!"

"You suck!"

The crowd jeered and made rude gestures. The Marines looked to Ratel, waiting for orders, and Reiju's nerves flickered. If he mastered himself, and ordered his men to fire, those people would get hit for sure.

But he didn't. Ratel just stood there, legs trembling, blubbering like a man who had lost his mind.

"R-Retreat! All men retreaaaat!" he shrieked, turning on his heel and sprinting back towards his ship. His men dashed after him, and the townsfolk cheered. Law lifted up the severed head he was carrying, and snapped his fingers; returning it to its body. The young Marine froze, as his eyes fell on the mob, and the two things standing to either side of Law.

He screamed, and bolted after his fellows. Down at the harbor, the marines already had the oars out, and were rowing as fast as they could. The young marine dived into the water, swimming after them like the devil was on his heels.


"The day is won!" Shachi yelled. "All thanks to the Heart Pirates!"

"Hell yeah!" Penguin clasped his hand, while Bepo grinned.

"Huh, weren't so tough. They sent a few here."

Law looked back to En as he stood up on his actual fee,t and the black shroud retreated back into his body. Then he remembered; Black Beast Parl, from the Elden James run of Sora.

Germa 66 was on the warpath, destroying pirate ships wherever they went. And En was playing at being Black Beast Parl.

"En, I have some questions I want to ask you."

"Umm, sure." The youth, himself once more, turned to him. "What's up?"

"Law!" Ash ran up. "You saved us… you, and your new friends!"

"They're not my friends. They're my guests," Law replied curtly, sheathing of his sword. He turned towards the masked duo. "That said, thanks for the help, again."

"Not a problem" En replied. Anna gave up the double peace sign and giggled. "You said you wanted to talk?"

"I do as well," Ash replied as Law nodded, gesturing to the clinic.

"Follow me." He looked over to Bepo and the duo. "Bepo. Round up whatever munitions the Marines left and bring them to the armory. Edwell and the others will sort it out."

"Aye aye sir!" Bepo called out. Law led the way towards the clinic, which fortunately was intact. Meanwhile, the townsfolk helped his crewmate gather up the dropped weapons.

"Law, I can't thank you enough for everything that you've done for me and my town," the old man said, once they were all inside and the door was closed. "But Heavensward will be back, and in greater numbers. I'm afraid…I'll have to talk to the people about moving away."

Law winced. "And you want us to go now, don't you?"

"Yes." The old man smiled sadly. "I know how much you've wanted to go to the Grand Line, and find out who you are. Well now's the time."

"Ash…" Law felt his heart clench. "I didn't want this to happen. I didn't want everyone to have to uproot themselves." He looked away. "But I let you down. I'm sorry."

They had taken him in without question. Even with his illness, they had invited him into their home. And now they were about to lose it, because he had made the wrong enemies.

"Everything you did, you did for our sakes," Ash assured him. "Thanks to you, we have clothes on our backs and food on our tables. You're our hero. And I don't want you to worry about us."

He felt En and Anna's eyes upon him. It was all he could do to look Ash in the eye, as he took off his cap and ran a hand through his hair.

"Are you sure you'll be okay, Ash?" he asked.

"We're hardy men of the North Blue," replied Ash, smirking. "We won't fold that easily. We'll get ourselves a ferry and be away from this place before you know it. He turned to the duo nearby. "And thank you both too. You helped us once again."

"Not a problem!" En beamed, eyes curved up.

"Yep! No thanks necessary. That's what heroes do!" Anna added with a V sign.

Heroes. That word again. Is that what they call themselves?

"Uh, about that," Law cut in, turning on the pair; eyes hard. "You remember what those Marines said? About how the Germa 66 was on the warpath?"

"Yeah, that surprised me too. What's up with that?" Anna asked, apparently confused. "They mentioned Black Beast Parl too."

"En." Law faced the shorter boy, looking him in the eyes. "Are you…some kind of experiment under Germa's control?"

There was a very long and very awkward pause. En looked like Law had just asked him if he came from the Moon.

"Law?" Ash sounded thoroughly bewildered. "What are you talking about?"

"Germa 66 has been attacking pirate ships all across the North Blue," Law went on. "No warning, no questions, no nothing. They just move in, kill everyone, and burn the ship to the waterline. Almost like they're looking for something."

He paused, eyeing the pair. En's eyes widened, and Anna looked down at him. There was something in their eyes, something in the look they were exchanging.

"No," En replied, just a little too firmly. "This is new to me."

Something wasn't right, about either of them. They knew something, but he hadn't a clue what it was.

"So, those black tentacle things," he asked. "Is that a Devil Fruit power?"
"Yes!" Anna spoke up, making En jump. "He ate the Dark Dark Fruit a while back! So he can create dark matter all over his body!"

En blinked. So did Law.

"Not… the first thing I would expect from a Devil Fruit," Law mused. Wouldn't it just involve shadows, or darkness in general? Then again, the tendrils were fairly black.

"But yeah, I have special powers," En added awkwardly. "Hehe."

Law took a deep breath. This was getting fishier and fishier. But he would play along for now.

"So, you mean it when you say you're not connected to the Germa in anyway whatsoever?"

"On my life." En replied, eyes hard. He would get no answers there, not this way anyway.

"Alright then." He took a deep breath. "In that case… we'll need to get ready to leave and say goodbyes." Law sighed as he shouldered his nodachi. "Ash, we have an extra cache of supplies atop of Birdback Peak. They're yours."

"Wait, aren't they yours?" Anna asked.

"Not anymore." Law replied. "Besides, I have more caches elsewhere." He turned to leave the clinic, then paused as he saw the pink-haired Sora standing outside. "Yes?"

"Hello, is the Mayor here?" Sora asked. " I'm just wondering if he's okay at all." She was holding her arm.

"Ah Miss Sora! Thank you for saving me from that Marine earlier,." the old mayor said. "But… as a reminder for next time… maybe not do a crotch shot?"

"I apologize." Sora blushed. "My body moved without thinking."

"Oh! You're not hurt are you Sora?" Anna asked, trotting up to her.

"That was very dangerous what you did there," En said sternly.

"I know but, I couldn't stand by and do nothing," insisted Sora. Anna perked up, and Law could tell that she was beaming behind her mask.

"Oh! Is that how you got your name Sora?" she suddenly asked. "Did your mother name you for the famous comic book hero?"

En gaped, and Sora looked away; rubbing her arm.

"The name Sora…is very special to me and my mother, yes," she replied. Law sighed, and looked out of the window. There were his crewmates, mingling with the townspeople; people they might never see again.

"It's all right," Ash said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Birds have to leave the nest sooner or later."

Law sighed, and nodded.

"All right," he said, steeling himself. "I'll need to talk to my crew. En, Anna, Sora," he turned to the three. "How were you planning to leave here?"

"Well, our ship has been destroyed," En lied again. "We were hoping to travel to the next island, see what we can see. That's…kinda what we've been doing…exploring."

Law thought for a moment. That was twice they had lied about their fictional ship; which meant they were almost certainly lying about not knowing about Germa. He probably shouldn't trust them.

But they had risked their lives for these people, and for him and his crew. And if there was some secret behind them, he was more than a little curious about it.

"Do you know your way around a ship?" he asked.

"Oh yes! We do!" declared Anna, then froze as she saw En glaring at her. "I mean, we know our way a little bit…a few things…"

"Well, I have to go get my emergency supplies over on Rubeck. There's a little port there that takes in ferries from across North Blue. The next one should be arriving there by tomorrow night." He crossed his arms. "You sail with me, I'll drop you off there."

"Oh thank you Law!" Anna gushed, bouncing up and down.

"Thanks Law, we appreciate it." En bowed low.

"Least I can do. But, on my ship, my orders." He pointed at them. "I am the Captain after all."

"You got it." Anna beamed behind her mask, and gave him a thumbs up.

"I'll do what I can to help, just say the word," Sora added.

Law nodded, content with that much. But the rest was going to be hard. He had come to Tailfeather as a child, while Bepo had come from some giant walking island-elephant named Zou; or so he always claimed. But Penguin and Shachi had been born here. This was their home. How was he going to tell them?

Yet tell them he had to. It was a captain's duty.

And as Ash had said, birds had to leave the nest sometime.


The next few hours were rife with activity, as the people of Tailfeather prepared to leave their home.

Bags and boxes piled up outside the houses, as the inhabitants gathered their worldly goods. Those with fishing boats had already set sail for Minion and Rubeck; while the rest would leave on the ferry Ash had booked.

Izuku watched, as Law went from person to person, family to family; handing out money, food, medical kits, and other supplies from his stash. All received them gladly, with smiles and clasping his hand. But he could see their red eyes, tear-streaked faces, the mournful looks at the homes they would probably never see again.

It was bittersweet at best. Twice in as many days they had defended this town; but still it would have to be abandoned. For the Marines would surely return, and with revenge on their minds.

"Don't worry yourself over it Izuku" Yoichi said. "It's for the best."

"Anna," Izuku spoke up. "That was good work back there, going through the houses and taking out the Marines. I would have gone on the other end, but Law's crew had that handled."

"Not a problem." Yamato grinned, and continued munching on her sweets. "So…Germa's attacking pirates. I wonder if the World Government's paying them."

"I don't think so," Izuku replied, cupping his chin as he thought. "Remember what they said, and how they said it. They knew what Germa was doing, but they didn't know why. And that's weird too. Why would Germa be cruising around attacking random pirates like that?"

"It does seem strange," Yamato agreed. "From what Law said, they weren't taking prisoners or even looting the ships. That's a lot of weapons and treasure going to waste, not to mention perfectly good ships."

"It's to our advantage though" Nana cut in. "Judge is spreading himself thin doing whatever he's doing, meaning once we get to his kingdom, he won't have as many soldiers to defend himself."

"But the Marines are on alert for that too," En mused. "They clearly don't have a problem with what Germa's doing. Even if we catch them with their pants down, we have to assume the Marines will come running."

They would, Izuku was sure. How like them to rush to the aid of a kingdom of murderers, while ignoring the suffering of the powerless. Just because one was a World Government member and the other wasn't.

Then his train of thought derailed, as he saw a cookie in front of his face.

"Want one? They're good," offered Yamato, smiling behind her mask. Izuku took it, lifted his mask, and bit into it. It was indeed good.

"Thanks," he replied, glad of the distraction. He gave her a smile, and Yamato giggled; starting on another cookie. They ate in silence for a while, watching the people as they packed up their lives. Yamato seemed to be at ease, and he was glad of it.

"Hey Sora," he called out, as he saw Sora approaching, bag packed and ready.

"I'm all packed," Sora replied. "I see you too are as well."

"Yep. Let's go." Izuku stood up, pulled on his backpack, and led the way to the harbor. There was a crowd gathered, and they had to gently push their way through. At the center was a boat shed leading into the harbor, with Law and his crew standing outside. Law was going from person to person, shaking hands and bidding farewell. Shachi and Penguin were doing the same for some young ladies, while Bepo was getting ear scratches from the kids.

"Ah, you three," Law greeted them as they approached. "You about ready to go?"

"Yep!" Yamato waved, grinning.

"Yeah, thank you for putting up with us," Izuku replied. Then he paused, as Mayor Ash approached.

"Law, I just want you to know," the old man said, offering a fatherly smile. "While Tailfeather Bay will be empty, it will be your home. Your home is an idea. Not just a place. We'll always remember what you've done for us."

"How you healed my husband," an old woman spoke up.

"How you took care of my son when he was sick," added a man.

"Or when you helped mom!" young Ray cut in. "And got me a Sora Figure!" He held it out, and Izuku saw a crude coloring on the figure's cape.

"What happened to it?" Law asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"I put your Jolly Roger on her cape!" Ray turned it around, showing the Heart Pirate Jolly Roger on it's back; over the Marine's winged emblem. "Sora wouldn't fight for those bad guy Marines. He'd fight for people like you Law!"

Law blinked, then smiled, ruffling the boy's hair. "Don't muck up action figures like that in the future okay? They can be valuable." He rose back up.

"Thank you for taking me in!" Bepo added. "I never knew what home was like! But you made me feel like I had one! So…" He blubbered, tears in his eyes. "So…!"

"Yo Bepo… don't cry man…" Shachi added, gulping hard.

"Gaaah I have something in my eyes!" Penguin rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. Law chuckled, a warm nostalgic smile on his lips.

'He looks so much at peace when he smiles.' Nana mused. 'He should do that more often.'

'He can do whatever he wants,' Bruce muttered.

'Hush up killjoy' retorted En.

Ash laughed heartily and sighed. "We'll all go our separate ways when the Ferry arrives and takes us to Lvneel. The taxes there are reasonable, and with our funds we can homestead and carve out a new life for us. Law, Shachi, Penguin, Bepo. When you go to the Grand Line, I cannot wait to hear of your exploits."

"Yeah! Hope you find the One Piece!" Creak cheered.

"And those sexy Mermaids, hehe~" Old Craft chuckled.

"Hope you beat up some strong pirates too!" Young Ray added.

"Hey Mr. Law!" River called out, as Law turned as the young girl ran up.. "You've helped take care of us a lot when we get hurt or sick. Will you keep on doing that? Being a good doctor, even if you're a pirate?"

Law blinked, then knelt down and patted her on the head.

"Of course I will. Who says I can't be a good doctor and a good pirate?" He smirked, and Izuku couldn't help but smile behind his mask.

Bepo opened the door of the boat shed, and Shachi and Penguin headed inside; while Law paused a moment longer.

"When I finish what I want to do. I'll come back and find you all," he said. "That's a promise."

"Just take care of yourself, alright?" Ash said as he squeezed Law's shoulder. Law sighed, clasped his hand one last time, then turned towards the boat shed; pulling his cap down over his eyes.

"Come on you three, we're setting sail," he ordered, and headed for the door.

"It's okay to cry," Izuku said. Law froze, then rounded on him; eyes red. But Izuku did not falter. "I got called a crybaby a lot. But crying…it just proves that you're alive. That you're human."

Yes, he'd done plenty of crying when he was younger. Sometimes for no reason, sometimes for the best of reasons. He'd cried because he was happy, or because he was sad beyond measure, and he'd cried for those who had deserved tears. Law took a deep breath as they looked eye to eye.

"Whatever," Law muttered, looking away. "Come on, come see our ship."

He stepped through the doorway, and Izuku followed him inside. The shed was a large, enclosed dock, open to the harbor at the front; with a ship docked inside it. It was a sleek schooner, painted dark blue, with a single cannon at the prow and smaller guns set on pintles along the gunwales. Bepo was at the wheel, while Shachi and Penguin were readying the sails.

"This is the Arctic Unicorn," Law declared proudly. "Our own dear ship, and for the course of your journey, yours too."

Izuku looked it up and down. It wasn't a bad little ship by any standard, but it looked more like a refitted fishing boat than a pirate ship. It was tiny compared to the ships he'd seen at Melville, or the armored monstrosities docked in Onigashima's harbor.

It was…

"So, want to feel the wind on your face on an actually good pirate ship?" Law asked.

The mirthful chuckles he got in response were inviting, but also…

He looked confused, almost as if he was wondering if he was missing some joke…


"Ggnnnngh… it… stings…!"

"Sorry sir, this is the best we can do until we can get to Heavensward," pleaded Ensign Michael.

Ratel glared at his subordinate. Best meant being stuck in a wheelchair, because one kick from that pink-haired bitch had ground his pelvis to powder. He had a horrible feeling that wasn't the worst of it. Not until he got administered into Heavensward's hospital.

Worst still, he had to command the ship, or what was left of it, while Captain Tosa slept off his beating.

Damn Trafalgar Law! Damn that masked gorilla! Damn that black…whatever it was! And damn that pink-haired whore!

All that treasure, all those riches, out of his grasp!

He gritted his teeth. No point in dwelling on it. He'd called in to Heavensward, and there was a frigate on its way to rendezvous and tow them home. And while that was going on, Vice Admiral John Giant would show those tax-dodging rapscallions what it meant to defy the Marines.

And once the dust had settled, he would have that treasure; come hell or high water. He would retire nicely, with ladies and pina coladas on a nice sunny beach. Nothing would keep him from it.

If he could just get back to Heavensward alive, and without losing the Seahorse. A vengeful Klabautermann was the last thing his benighted soul needed.

Ratel glanced back over the stern. Swallow Island was far behind, sinking below the horizon. Below, he could hear the crew hauling on the oars. Seahorse wasn't a proper galley, and the oars were only meant as a backup. But two of their three masts down, it was all they had until their tow arrived.

It was enough to make him wish slavery was legal. They could use the help.

"Ship off the port bow!" called some petty officer whose name he hadn't bothered to learn, from the makeshift crow's nest atop the mizzenmast. Michael wheeled Ratel up the deck, and he craned his neck to look out over the sea.

It was a snail. An actual Giant Aquatic Snail. He had only ever seen them in pictures, and never one that size. What on earth was it doing out here, all by itself?

Then he saw the stone tower on its back, and the black flag with the blue cross billowing from its flagstaff.

"Morse code lieutenant!" called the petty officer. Ratel squinted, and could just make out a light flickering from the top of the tower.

"What are they saying?" he shouted back.

"They're asking what's wrong with our ship and offering assistance!"

"Tell them to come alongside!"

The petty officer used his lamp to reply. Ratel watched as the enormous snail came about, and the helmsman brought the Seahorse alongside. To the west, the sun was starting to set; turning the sky orange. He could just make out the figures on the tower far above; the masked soldiers of Germa 66.

A rope ladder dropped with a clatter, and one of the soldiers climbed down. Ratel watched, heart pounding, as the soldier stepped off the ladder and stood to attention in front of him. A paragon, lantern-jawed and muscular; his white cowl and gloves gleaming, his black tunic spotless.

"Permission to come aboard," he said, flatly.

"Permission granted," Ratel gritted out. It was pointless now, but he wasn't going to back down. "I am Lieutenant Ratel, currently in command of this ship. Our captain is wounded and indisposed."

"I am Captain Upsilon of the Germa 66," replied the soldier. "We saw that your ship was damaged. May I ask what happened?"

If Ratel had not been laid up in a wheelchair, in extreme pain, with his genealogical prospects in extreme doubt, he would have killed the man there and then. Everything about him, from his perfect bearing to his spotless uniform, even that lantern jaw, made him want to spit. Damn fancy-pants Germa troopers, swanning around the oceans in their gigantic snail cruisers, killing all the pirates and taking all the…!

Ratel had an idea. Ratel had a horrible, wonderful idea.

"We had ourselves a run-in with some pirates," he said, and his heart leapt as Upsilon perked up just a little. "Swallow Island's a pirate haven. We tried to take down the Heart Pirates, led buy Trafalgar Law, but he and your pet beast attacked us!"

"Pet beast?" asked Captain Upsilon. "And I do not know of the Germa Kingdom having pets."

"Well your little Black Beast is over on Swallow Island if that's what you're looking for! Ghahnn!" He writhed in pain, cradling his crushed crotch. "Maybe you'd like to take it back, and maybe show them what happens to those who consort with pirates. Starting…" he took a breath. "With that pink-haired swirly-browed cunt!"

"Lieutenant!" Michael planted his hands on his shoulders, pressing him down. "We should get you to bed. We have orders to rendezvous at Termina Atoll."

"We are on the hunt for pirates," Upsilon replied, unperturbed. "We will handle this issue at Swallow Island. I wish you well Lieutenant Ratel, and good sailing."

He snapped his heels together, then started back up the rope ladder. Ratel watched, tight-lipped, as he reached the tower; and the ladder was pulled up. The snail cruiser heaved away, heading for Swallow Island; and Ratel allowed Michael to wheel him to his cabin.

Worst case scenario, those Germa snots got the same treatment he got; and he'd feel a lot better for it. Best case scenario, they slaughtered those pirate-loving peons down to the last man, woman, and child; then went on their merry way.

Leaving his treasure there, unguarded, and unnoticed, waiting for him to come back and collect.

Maybe his luck had changed.

Big thanks to Juubi-K , IKnowNothing , and WildJoker000 once more.

We repel the typical One Piece villains of a smol arc. Bigger One Piece villains now on high alert. Reiju helps save people, and our duo take on more masked guises as they are)(for now) forced to sail with the Hearts.

And Law and co. are forced to leave their island earleir than expected... what comes next? Well, only we four know...

Also, Law doesn't have the Polar Tang yet. That's a Grand Line caliber ship and no way does he start off with that. Not to mention a submarine which in this Age of Sail is immensely OP. Now for those who are saying "But the novel" I didn't know the novel until like, a little while ago and that's non-canon, so I can disregard that entirely.

I can safely say we are halfway done with the North Blue Saga though! Gonna be hitting that sweet home stretch and getting to the good stuff.

For now, I'll see you all in the next one. Back to Honkai Star Rail(Kafka my mommy...) and the NBA Playoffs.