Chapter 64 The Sea King Tide

One benefit of riding with a Marine vessel was the presence of fresh newspapers in the mess hall. It was something of an unwritten rule not to take the paper out of the mess hall and to just leave it there, so copies from the last few days could always be found and perused.

Rayleigh had yesterday's paper in hand as he looked over the various stories and made further attempts to make the Ship Biscuits he was served edible. Though the wooden Navel vessel had an ice room that worked as a fridge, Rayleigh, as a guest, was only served the bare-boned basics of preserves that would not be missed. Ship biscuits were essentially pieces of bread that had been slowly baked to the point they had zero moisture. This gave them a very long shelf life against mold but also made the act of consuming and digesting them a challenge. So far the best way he'd found was dipping it into a cup of grape juice and letting it get a bit soggy before munching it down.

Every time Rayleigh saw the front pages, he could not help but shake his head. Not for what was on it, but for what was missing. The News from the Grand Line had long caught on to the fact that the reckless 16-year-olds in the Grand Line were vying for front-page stories, so unless it was a really good one, they were now getting only second-page stories, even if what they did was more interesting than what was on the front page.

Another issue with putting them on the front page over and over was duration. Some of them had been in the first half of the Grand Line for over a year now but had yet to move on. This went against their credibility. The front page belonged to the best Rookies of the Grand Line, but you were only a rookie during your first year. If you did not make it to the halfway point within a year of your debut, you were no longer considered a rookie and your potential would come into question.

The main reason they had been getting the Front Page so much at first had been due to how young they were. Even the Marines didn't recruit civilians under 18 bar special circumstances, yet these 16-year-old brats had been showing up old pirate crews and Marines since they first arrived. But instead of moving to the next leg of the Grand Line, they were staying in the kiddy pool.

Of the Players, only the crews of Titan and Dragon Chef had ventured into the second half of the Grand Line with the Players who followed them. The Lightning Pirates did try their luck in the second half, but ran away shortly after.

Captain Jack told Rayleigh that within a month of entering the second half of the Grand Line, you'll likely be approached by a large Pirate crew and made to join them. If you refuse, then you have to fight your way out. Titan was invited to join the Big Mom Pirates and Dragon Chef had actually been invited to join the Beast Pirates even before entering the second half. Both refused which led to a continuous stream of powerful pirates fighting them in endless waves. These fights cost the lives of many crew members and even a Player or two, but the survivors made it through stronger.

Titan was confirmed to have the Human Human Fruit Model: Golden Buddha. This was a Mythical Zoan, just like Dragon Chef's Azure Dragon Fruit and Zoans had the effect of granting a quick recovery and strengthening the user after an intense fight, meaning both Players were quite pleased with their situation and were getting stronger very quickly. Since they had advantages that only Players had, like skills from other classes and Inventory items, they usually had a few Ace-in-the-Holes in case things went really badly which allowed them to survive and grow in the harshest part of this world.

The fact that sixteen-year-olds like them were facing the toughest and meanest pirates in the world without failing was impressive to just about everyone. Only the Players knew this was because they could stack the abilities of the Hunter Class perfectly on their Pirate Class abilities, granting them far greater strength than what should be possible for their age.

Despite being in the Mess Hall, the only location where free conversation was allowed, this vessel's mess hall was even quieter than the rest of the ship, a sign of how little the men wished to speak of or acknowledge their destination. Gilliad Island Duty was no longer a death sentence, but there were always casualties.

According to what the Marines knew, Wild King grew up on a wild island and made friends with two juvenile sea kings. One day, the Marine killed one of them during an exercise and Wild King wanted revenge. He ordered the other Sea King and that Sea King could order other Sea Kings and it started sending them to Gilliad Island every full Moon. Rayleigh had no idea if any of this was true, but it did explain how Wild King justified his abilities to anyone who asked.

Gilliad Island used to be one of the Marine's best ship-building islands as it had a crescent shape that allowed them to build many docks and a massive door on the harbor's entrance kept out sea kings and pirates. The first wave of Sea Kings destroyed that wall and every attempt to rebuild it met a similar fate.

After the first Massacre, the Marines sent Vice Admirals to kill the Sea Kings and capture Wild King alive. The problem? They never saw him. The bigger problem? Once the Players knew there would be a Vice Admiral on Gilliad Island on each full moon, they started planning big jobs on such dates, because even a single Vice Admiral not being available made a big difference.

Since Wild King was never seen during these raids and the Marines could not abandon Gilliad Island, they stopped sending Vice Admirals, restructured the island, and just told the Marines that Wild King would run out of Sea Kings eventually.

No one believed them of course. None of the Sea Kings sent were stronger than the one Wild King supposedly tamed which meant the ones sent were the younger, smaller ones. There was certainly a finite number of the kilometer-long ancient sea kings, but there was an endless supply of the ship-sized younger ones.

While thinking over this, Rayleigh fell into something of a dilemma. This plan, thought up by Captain Jack, required Rayleigh to massacre a vast amount of Sea Kings that he knew for a fact were being controlled. The problem? He really didn't want to kill them. It wasn't their fault they were being used and during his time on Tython he made friends with many animals and could not consider writing them off so easily unless he decided to make it lunch.

He had not said anything to Jack because his pacifist nature was not something he would openly advertise, but that did not mean that he could just bathe the ocean red in the blood of monsters.

So, could he turn back an army of what was expected to be over three hundred ship-sized sea monsters without killing any of them? Well, there was only one way to find out.

The ship docked on Gilliad in the morning. The attack would not begin until the sun was down and the moon was high, so they had until then to unload all the supplies and set up the defense line.

After so many months of repeated attacks, the Marines had nearly turned this into a science. They had tools to restrain and tools to attack. For attacks, they had Marine Rifles, Harpoon launchers, and the skilled swordsmen of the Marines themselves.

The ball shot from a Marine Rifle was a fair bit denser and heavier than a modern bullet. This actually increased the force of a shot by a lot, but also decreased the speed. Not that most people could tell the difference. Rayleigh figured It was some kind of in-universe justification for allowing swordsman to be better than gunman, since if a bullet traveled as fast as a modern bullet, which it should anyway since they appeared to use smokeless powder, it would be faster than a swordsman's reflexes.

The harpoon launchers had ropes at the end of each jagged spear and those ropes were tied to pulleys that a half dozen Marines could use to pull the shot Sea King to shore with so that they could be sliced up by the swordsmen. The bodies of the Sea Kings would also act as distractions, keeping other Sea Kings that got close from attacking since the nearby corpse would be more attractive to bite than the small Marines at the shore nearby.

The victory condition was to have enough Sea King body parts in the water, since the other Sea Kings would just eat those parts, get full, and leave. They usually only needed to kill about fifty or so but even then that still took around half an hour, and that entire duration would be a nightmarish hell for those involved.

Even if the Marines stayed on the shore, plenty of Sea Kings could shoot water in a jet that could pierce through ships and stones. Many had long limbs, massive powerful teeth, or even barbed tentacles and they were often much faster than the reaction speed of the defending Marines.

The ship docked on Gilliad island in the morning and everyone scrambled off in a near panic to start the preparations. The Marine ship carried supplies for the coming night and the faster they set everything up, the more assured they would feel. Massive harpoons, thick ropes, bright torches, enormous nets, and new guns crafted in the last month had been delivered to the island. Everything would be used and certain dedicated bases spent every day crafting replacements to use up again. Only in this way would the damage to the Shipyard be regulated to moderate and allow the yard to continue producing Marine vessels after each attack.

As a guest, Rayleigh would not be allowed to roam the island as he wished and was directly escorted off the ship to the command tent where the Captains in charge of the island were stationed. Rayleigh waited outside while the Marine escorting him entered and informed them of the odd situation. This was Gilliad Island. They did not get volunteers.

Two men exited the Tent. One looked like a very tall ghoul while the other had obscenely wide shoulders and oddly skinny legs, though few would notice them first as his face was covered in scars.

Rayleigh had heard of both men on the way to the island. The tall one with the ghoulish appearance was ironically considered by the Marines Rayleigh spoke with to be the most honorable man in the sea, Ship Cutter T-Bone.

The man who definitely skipped leg day was called Dauntless of the Thousand Cuts. Rayleigh was told to avoid him as the man got angry at everything and took out that anger on anything or anyone unlucky enough to be in his line of sight if he could get away with it.

(*Author's note* this one is an OC)

T-Bone was in charge of the northern half of the island while Dauntless was in charge of the southern half. The reason that Rayleigh knew plenty about both was because of the animated conversations he overheard on the way there. Those assigned under T-Bone celebrated and those assigned under Dauntless mourned. It was a very Carrot and Stick approach to discipline, ensuring that Marines would try their best in the hopes of getting assigned under the better Captain.

T-Bone was the first to break the silence and the way he did so made Rayleigh wonder if the man had been told that Rayleigh was deaf.

"WELCOME! TO HEAR THAT YOU HAVE ANSWERED THE CALL OF JUSTICE FILLS ME WITH TEARS OF GRATITUDE!"

Rayleigh would have thought the man was being sarcastic if not for the fact that his Force Empathy told him that the man was completely genuine. That and the fact that he could see traces of actual tears in the man's eyes.

Dauntless harrumphed and showed a vicious sneer. "There is no place for you in any of the assigned formations and you have no training, so you can fight down there with all the other non-Marine personnel." The man then pointed down to the southern shoreline where multiple stone pillars had been embedded into the ground. Rayleigh had not looked closely before, but now that he did, he spotted numerous chains linked to the base of the pillars. At the end of each chain was an ankle cuff and if one really looked closely, they would notice that most of those ankle cuffs were covered in blood stains.

The non-Marine personnel Dauntless spoke of were a selection of criminal prisoners taken to the island each month and chained to the front lines to provide bait for the Sea Kings. A Sea King would come ashore, eat one whole, and leave, but the chain would prevent them from getting far for a few moments, usually long enough for a few Harpoon launchers to target and fire into the Sea Kings. The prisoners were told that 10 years of their sentence could be removed if they came, but the offer was rarely made to anyone strong enough to survive.

Rayleigh felt that the man's underlying meaning could not have been more apparent. 'There is no place for you among the Marines. Go die with the rest of the scum.'

Rather than rise to the provocation, Rayleigh addressed Captain T-Bone and stated, "I have a small request. I have long heard of the magnificent sword skills possessed by the Ship Cutter. Would it be possible to have a spar with you tomorrow?"

Captain T-Bone was not at all offended by the request and stated with the same verbosity as before, "IT WOULD BE AN HONOR TO MATCH SWORDS WITH SUCH A GOOD-HEARTED PERSON AS YOURSELF! BUT I MUST DECLINE! THERE WILL BE MANY WOUNDED AND I WILL USE ALL MY TIME TOMORROW ATTENDING TO THEM TO ENSURE THE QUICKEST POSSIBLE RECOVERY! WE ARE THOSE WHO BEAR THE HEAVY BURDEN OF JUSTICE ON OUR SHOULDERS! ONLY IN TIMES OF PEACE AND HAPPINESS CAN WE AFFORD A SINGLE MOMENT TO BE FRIVOLOUS!"

Rayleigh replied, "So there is no way for a spar unless not a single Marine is injured?"

"THAT IS RIGHT!"

Rayleigh nodded and walked away before Dauntless could add his worthless input. The man looked like he wanted to rebuff Rayleigh even harsher, but T-Bone already put the point across and Dauntless had no further reason to even address Rayleigh.

Rayleigh found a place on a high wall to sit and meditate. Occasionally he would open his eyes to glance at the defenses set up by the Marines. The half dozen ships that stayed in the harbor had been turned sideways so that their cannon could face the mouth of the crescent island's port. Dozens of massive ballistas were lined up and each seemed to have at least one veteran Marine in charge of maintenance. As the sun started to go down, the mood on both sides became tense, though a clear difference could be seen from the southern and northern fronts of the island. T-Bone's raspy shouts gave confidence to the Marines under him while the guttural roars of Dauntless cowed anyone who stood out in any way. Cowering prisoners were brought to the shore at gunpoint and locked in place. Rather than a gun or even a sword, they were given a pointed wooden pole to defend themselves and many broke down crying before the sun dipped below the horizon.

Due to a lack of modern conveniences like searchlights, floating wooden platforms with massive bonfires were set around the island and the broken gate at the harbor's entrance was lined up and down with torches to enable everyone to see what was coming.

Rayleigh used his Clairvoyance to observe the area from a bird's eye view and he soon spotted the surge of currents heading this way. They were coming directly at the island's entrance, granting everyone a clear view of their approach.

Rayleigh got off the wall and started walking toward the shore. Dauntless just happened to see him walk past one of the Ballistas and shouted at Rayleigh, "HEY YOU BRAT! MOVE TO YOUR ASSIGNED POSITION BEFORE I HAVE YOU EXECUTED!"

Rayleigh ignored him and continued walking until he reached the water.

Marines on the walls started to shout, "THE SEA KINGS ARE COMING!"

Everyone started getting ready. Everything would start the moment the sea kings passed through the port's entrance and all they could do until then was wait. Rayleigh was not as patient.

Rayleigh vanished from his position and a cloud of sand erupted from where he had stood. That however was not nearly as eye-catching as the massive splashes of water that stretched from the shore to the harbor entrance and then beyond. The two Captains and a few veterans were the only ones who noticed Rayleigh's figure as he sprinted along the surface of the water past the entrance and out to meet the sea king tide in person.

It wasn't too hard to make a technique that allowed him to sprint on the surface of water, but it was very inefficient and could not be used for long-distance travel. It was still faster than Moon Walking though and looked different enough that no one would think that the two techniques were related to one another.

Once he was about halfway to the tide of Sea Kings, Rayleigh jumped and used a bit of the Force to cushion his landing on the edge of one of the floating bonfire platforms. There was just enough room to stand on the edge without getting burnt.

Rayleigh's entrance was quite noticeable and he already felt the hostility of various eyes locking onto him, but that was alright. The more they focused on him, the better.

For the first time in a while, Rayleigh used Ren and went all out. Rayleigh had long since mastered the technique of In, which hides the pressure and effects of Nen, allowing him to practice Ren even when surrounded by people without them noticing much. Thanks to this, he could practice Ren every minute of every day he was capable of, and had reached the point where he could use it for 18 hours straight out of combat, 9 hours in combat, 3 hours if he used Overdrive, and one hour if he used Overdrive and Babylon together during intense combat.

Of course, it was also possible to double or triple the amount of aura he released during Ren to concentrate the attack further at the cost of a lesser combat duration. Just like now.

In addition to going all out on his Ren, he also incorporated the effect of the skill, Force: Fear into his aura.

To the instinct-driven juvenile sea kings, Rayleigh had just become the complete and utter embodiment of death. A predator stronger than any they have ever witnessed. All sea kings have a hierarchy with the largest being the highest, and Rayleigh was giving off the feeling of a dozen-kilometer-long Sea King that just declared this area its territory. The approaching sea kings could almost visualize an island-sized mouth filled with jagged teeth opening in front of them, awaiting their entrance.

Understandably, the hundreds of sea kings came to an immediate halt.

However, they did not turn around.

Rayleigh frowned as he noticed the struggle within the sea kings. They wanted to run, but they were being told to move forward. Several of Rayleigh's 18 Wills meditated on the Force and used Clairvoyance to observe the situation and it only took a moment to spot the source.

Hundreds of meters below the surface was a well-hidden Force presence and a familiar one at that. Wild King was here.

Now Rayleigh was smiling. He had no desire to harm these creatures if he could avoid it, but a fight against one of the Pirate Players who owed him a debt was not something he would pass up. Wild King may have thought that he was safe underwater since there were no submarines or devil fruits that could reach him. Too bad he was wrong.

Rayleigh's Wills reached deeply into the Force. Since he was not harming anyone and just settling a personal debt, he could use the full power of the Force.

The Force had always been Rayleigh's strongest supporter, but Rayleigh had a hard time using it to its full potential. Since he had not been trained properly, it had taken him years to even figure out what the Perk, Balance of the Force even did. It was only after teaching the Pirate Players about the Force and discussing it with the Jedi Players at Yorknew that Rayleigh figured out how he was different and what the Perk actually granted him.

Balance of the Force allowed him to use the Dark Side as long as he used the Light Side as well. This sounded normal, but it really wasn't.

According to the Jedi, the Force was in a state of Balance when it was free from the Dark Side. The Dark Side was like a malignant tumor or a festering wound. It was not to be used, it was to be treated or cut out. The Light Side was the healthy part of the Force and the Dark Side was the sick part. The Jedi sought to bring Balance to the Force by making it completely healthy while the Sith sought to spread the disease. Using the Light Side heals the sickness while using the Dark Side spreads it. Because of this, it isn't possible to use the entire Force. This is the true source of the conflict between the Jedi and the Sith. The Jedi can only gain access to the full power of the Force by bringing balance and destroying all the Dark Side users. The Sith can only gain full access to the Force by spreading the corruptive influence of the Dark Side to the entirety of the Force.

In other words, no one could actually use the entire Force while it was in a state that contained both the Light Side and Dark Side. No one but Rayleigh. He was the only person who could use both sides of the Force without conflict. Well, the only one other than Anakin Skywalker.

And since Rayleigh literally spent every day with at least one Will meditating on the Force, his connection to the Force and control over it would only lose out to Jedi Masters with decades or centuries of training.

It was thanks to this that he had complete confidence in what he was about to do.

Rayleigh ended his Ren and stared at a spot below the surface of the water. He did not extend his hand since such gestures were unnecessary. All he needed to do was will it to be.

The sea kings did not attack once the intimidation vanished. Their instincts told them that a predator vanishing from their senses was not a good thing, so they refused to move forward. The ones in the middle of the tide noticed first and started swimming away as a bulge of water rose from the surface, like a massive hill emerging from the depths. The displaced water pushed aside the entire tide of sea kings and a minute later, a hard shell broke the water's surface. It was a turtle about the size of a shopping mall.

Once the turtle had realized it was being moved, it tried to swim away, but its massive flippers only struggled in futility against the water as it was lifted higher and higher. Before reaching the surface the turtle retracted its head and limbs, but after breaching the open air, the force that pulled it seemed to lock onto its head and jaw, pulling it out of its shell and opening up its mouth.

One of Rayleigh's Wills mused if the pressure differential would cause the turtle's occupant to get the bends, but he didn't know if the turtle had been far enough down for that effect or if the physique this world granted rendered the Players immune to such things.

Once the mouth was open wide enough, someone jumped out to the turtle's shell and then jumped again to reach the middle of the shell. Rayleigh knew an invitation when he saw one and used a Force Jump to leap off the platform and land on the turtle's back, right in front of the Player.

Rayleigh spoke up first, "Hey Wild King. You remember that Favor you owe me? You can pay it back by stopping your raids on the Marines for a year."

Wild King flatly replied, "Okay."

"Really?"

He shouted, "Of course not! Fuck You! Why the hell are you helping those fucking Marines?"

Rayleigh answered, "I'm not, I'm helping myself. They are just temporarily involved."

Wild King gritted his teeth, "Do you have any idea the kind of shit these fuckers pull?! Do you even care about all the innocents these monsters destroy?! Of course not you selfish shit! This isn't a game you idiot! You want me to pay you back? Make us even? Fine, I'll give you one warning. I'm the King of the Sea you selfish little shit. Get the Fuck out or I'm going to kill you!"

Rayleigh felt a wave of pressure against his mind, but it was, in Rayleigh's opinion, pathetic. He figured it was likely that Conqueror's Haki thing, but Rayleigh could not even comprehend the thought of losing to this guy so it was about as effective as rain on a duck.

Rayleigh calmly stated, "What's wrong with being selfish? What's wrong with doing what I want? So what if what I want is different from what you want? If you want it more than I do, you'll naturally beat me. If I want it more, I'll naturally win. Whoever wants it more will get it, that's how it should be. You're actually talking down to me because I'm only doing it for myself? What about you? When all the people you want to help are satisfied, are you going to stop getting stronger? Are you going to retire? Are you going to find some other excuse to fight and get stronger? You think you're better than me, but I'm not the one who makes up Bull Shit excuses and justifications."

To Rayleigh, if you wanted something, you put effort into getting it. So whoever wanted it more was whoever put more effort into getting it. The winner was usually the one who put the most effort into winning, so this meant that the winner was the person who wanted it more. To Rayleigh, it was that simple. You could argue about talent, rules, and unfairness all you wanted, but if you tried to do something and didn't win, could you really be certain that it wasn't just because your opponent put more effort into it than you did? Why bother with excuses?

People like Wild King that got swept up in other people's problems to this extent were nothing but SIMPs and hypocrites. They either did things for themselves and claimed it was for others or gave up on themselves and did it solely for others. He had a hard time deciding which was worse.

Wild King gnashed his teeth and stomped on the turtle's shell with a shout of, "DIE!"

The water around the turtle exploded up into a curtain as the sea kings around them received a new order and started their approach. They had a new target.

Rayleigh could not tell how strong Wild King's control over the Sea Kings was and he had to find out before he decided his next move. If the Sea Kings were completely enslaved to the point they would give their lives for him, it could be considered a mercy to free them from this SIMP. If they were not willing to die for him, then Rayleigh had a chance to chase them away.

Rayleigh's Nensaber appeared in his hand as Babylon initiated. One of Rayleigh's Wills used Shū on the Lightsaber, further enhancing the effects of the Divine Inscriptions. His Enhancement Nen already passed Hisoka and Biscuit's level of Cutting Steel with Paper and he was currently on Breaking Stone with Ice. Another of Rayleigh's Wills used Gyō while one more used En. And three more Wills used Clairvoyance, Battle Precognition, and Shatterpoint.

Rayleigh had evolved Babylon to merge the effects of these sense-enhancing effects to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Next, he had another Will use Overdrive to speed up his body.

Rayleigh could have killed Wild King at that moment but he didn't want to. No, what he wanted was to go all out against the Player's full strength and emerge victorious, forcing this self-proclaimed King of the Sea to submit.

Torrents of water shot out of the curtain that blocked his vision like spikes, propelled by what Rayleigh could sense was a combination of Control-Attribute Nen and the Telekinesis of the Force. Even with all the simultaneous Wills being used just to keep up his condition, he still had plenty more and could easily throw telekinetic smashes at any projectile coming his way. It only took a single glance for Rayleigh to turn each spike of water into a harmless splash of mist.

Disappointed with the strength of the effect, Rayleigh lectured aloud, "If you want to go all out with the Aquaman theme, use a trident to direct your control over the water. Even if it is just a normal metal one, it will help with the visualization."

Wild King could not help but get irked at the comment. He had three Hatsus. Command, Conquer, and Control.

Command was a combination of Conquerer's Haki, the Force Skill: Animal Friend, and his Control Attribute Nen. It allowed him to emit his Nen in a way that it could be absorbed by non-human animals around him. If they were more than ten times weaker than his base stats and stupider than he was, they could be controlled by him for anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on how strong, smart, and large they were.

Conquer was another combination of the same, but was used differently. If Wild King beat up an animal, he could make the animal ingest his blood and it would be under his complete control for up to a year. The only catch was that it he could not use it without limit like Command, but he could use the conquered creature as an antenna to boost the strength of Command to be ten times weaker than the monster he conquered rather than himself.

Control was just Wild King injecting his aura into things to control them better with Telekinesis. It was not limited to water and some Sith Players gave him the idea of using Tutaminis and some Sith skills to grant him control of Fire as well to make him king of the elements. The reason he could already do it so well with Water was because he had the Fishman Karate skill.

Because of this, Rayleigh misunderstood Wild King's intention and thought Wild King would focus in a specialization of Water Control. If Rayleigh knew Wild King's actual intentions his eagerness to fight would completely halt because he would feel bad for beating up a retard.

In any case, the water spears were not the real attack and Rayleigh knew it. A dozen massive tentacles from what appeared to be at least five different species of cephalopod broke through the water curtain and attacked Rayleigh directly. This is where it would get fun.

*Author's Note*

I'm sure you noticed that this chapter was almost half-info dump. The reason I stopped writing was because I realized almost too late that I had written myself into a massive corner and I didn't know how to get out.

The first issue was that at the start, I never intended to have Rayleigh fight Wild King. I just intended for him to slaughter the Sea Kings. I realized while writing it that I messed up and I went through 14 different versions of how to go through it before arriving here, something which I'm hoping has no plot holes.

That brought up a new and worse issue. I just finished a massive training montage and Rayleigh should be pretty strong right now. But I couldn't figure out how strong to make him which made writing the Wild King fight impossible. Sure, I could just make him OP right there, but then where was I to go from there? If I made him too strong, then the training parts of the following chapters would have fallen apart.

I'm also a stickler for realism, so I HAD to also include a realistic mental state for the opposing Player (whiny little SIMP) while showing how Rayleigh's character, as a Simple Enhancer, would react. And of course, I also HAD (because my writing style would not let me do otherwise) to write the whole of Gilliad island as a metaphor for the Marines which meant giving layers of detail I again tried to write in a way that did not feel like an info dump. At least with this, readers who have not read One Piece in a while will have a good idea about what the Marines look like.

And this brought up yet another issue. I had an idea of how Haki, Nen, and the Force would interact, but later I realized that I completely missed something. Sword users in One Piece make even less sense than HAKI! Try re-watching the One Piece fight of Mr. One versus Zoro. There is a scene where Mr. One sends a dozen slashes at Zoro which chops the pillar behind Zoro into pieces but Zoro seems to ignore the damage and then cuts through Mr One and wins. How did he do this? Apparently, by hearing the breath of Mr One's swords he avoided the damage and by doing the same he was able to cut through him. So yeah, One Piece Swordsman Logic allows them to cut metal using metal by being able to hear the breath of metal. I had to figure out how to incorporate that in Ray's future fights.

Getting T-Bone's spirit was also tricky and finding another Captain to spar with on Gilliad was also a dead end so I had to give up on that and make an OC.

And of course, there were the issues with the other Players. I realized way too late that I threw them into the Grand Line too early. It would not make any sense for the Players who entered the Grand Line 2 years before Luffy to take part in the War of Marineford like I initially intended so I had to move some things around and explain that as well. It took me a dozen drafts to figure out how to get that info dump through in the way that least seemed like an info dump. For the record, the current timeline is 4 months before Luffy departs and 16 months before that war.

But I did it! I got through all the plot holes and I'll try to write chapters as often as I can again.

At least until the Clone Wars. At that point, I'll need to pause and re-watch every episode of every season and write down a plot for Rayleigh and the other Players to do during that time. Suggestions are welcomed.

And finally, to everyone who messaged me and gave their support, thank you. I had the tab for this chapter's Doc open for the last 11 months and every time I got another message, the peer pressure and my OCD about leaving things unfinished helped push me back to keep working on it until I finally made it.