Chapter 6

Unconscious marines lined the halls of the prison inside their base; the clanging of metal on metal as keys were frantically being swung against the bars below one of the cells locks could be heard reverberating throughout the room. Two figures stood at the edge of the cell door, both shaking slightly with nervous anticipation as the alarm was sounding around them.

Blackthorn grabbed tightly onto the bars of his cell, wishing that he were not in this predicament; outside, his loyal follower, Gail was trying to figure out which key would open the lock, with little success as of yet. There were roughly seventy keys, and she had only gone through 6 of them, and marines were fast approaching.

"Come on, hurry up!" Blackthorn said nervously. Gail swallowed hard and frantically tried to find the right key.

She had managed to steal the keys from one of the guards outside her cell and escape, but as her cell was less secure, she only had five keys to deal with, but these high security prison areas often had fake keys that opened nothing, and sometimes even broke, getting stuck in the lock, so without knowing exactly which key, it could take over a minute to unlock a door. That was a minute that they didn't have.

"THEY'RE IN HERE! GET THE ESCAPING PIRATES!" A marine yelled harshly.

"Danmit!" Gail cried out angrily. She picked a random key and shoved it into the lock, twisting it and hoping for the best. To the surprise of everyone in the room, it worked, and the cell slowly creaked open.

"Atta girl Gail!" Blackthorn said loudly, patting her on the back. She sighed heavily and tried to calm herself down and think of what to do next. Her thoughts were interrupted when marines burst through the door pointing pistols and rifles at the pirates.

"Halt, we will fire if you do not surrender immediately!" A young marine said loudly, trying to hide his fear.

Gail had no time to react; in a trice, she was lifted up by her shirt, and slung over Blackthorns back.

"BAIZO KYANO FUSHI!" (double canon knuckle) he yelled as he wrapped his fists together and slammed them onto the floor, lifting up the tiles and furniture in the room and kicking up a sizeable cloud of dust as a shockwave shot through the floor towards the marines, tripping them and causing them to discharge their weapons at the ceiling.

Gail slung herself off of her captains back and patted him on the shoulder. "Nice job Cap'n, but we gotta go, now!" She said apprehensively. Blackthorn nodded, and quickly turned, breaking into a run. He stopped as a glimmer of light caught his eye in the split-second before it hit him.

He swung both of his fists towards the middle of what was in front of him, crossing his hands after they struck; on the floor was now the broken remains of a sword, which was held in the hands of Lynch, a look of contented bloodlust on her face. She backed up slowly, giving her some distance between her enemies.

"How did you…?" Blackthorn began,

"Wondering how I got out of my cell? Well let's just say that while the bars may be made of seastone, these marines cheaped out on the locks, which broke with your little display there." She said, gesturing with her half of a sword towards the crater that Blackthorn had left. The two other pirates grimaced; they didn't have time for this, and neither did Lynch and they all knew it.

The marines began groggily getting up, and still more were pouring into the hall towards them; the pirates had to leave, but with so many armed marines, getting through the narrow passage-way to the exit would be suicide.

"Come on Lynch, we have unfinished business." Blackthorn said impatiently as he tightened his fists. The female captain smiled a rare, bloodthirsty smile as she began twirling her sword in her hand.

"Cap'n, we have to go now!"
"Gail, get out of here, I can take those marines and Lynch, I'll catch up to you before you know it."
"But Cap'n-"

"THAT'S AN ORDER GAIL!" Blackthorn yelled without even looking back at his subordinate. Tears began welling up in her eyes as she tightened her fists. The marines were almost there, and were already preparing their guns.

Blackthorn thought deeply about what had happened earlier that day…

'I'm gonna need an easy escape route!'

'Cap'n!' Gail yelled as she threw herself between him and Lynch's puppet, wounding herself to save him…'

"I won't let her waste this chance…I'll protect her, she deserves another shot!" Blackthorn thought to himself.

"Gail…" He said softly. The young pirate sniffed and wiped her eyes, before standing sharply at attention. "Go make a life for yourself." Was all that he said.
Gail bit her lips to keep from crying out 'IT'S NOT FAIR!', and closed her eyes tightly, as if trying to wake from some horrible dream; this was her Cap'n, the man that she swore to protect and serve was now ordering her to let him die protecting her. The irony was painful.

A marine cocking his pistol woke her from her trance; her senses sharpened; yes, it had to be this way…

She turned and ran as fast as she could towards the doors.

Lynch smiled at Blackthorn, before the two of them looked on at the mass of marines brandishing weapons at them, but keeping their distance.

"That was a noble thing boy, not something I would have done for my entire crew, and you did it for one pretty girl. Either she has some charm, or you're a much nicer man than you look." She said plainly, ignoring the screaming orders of marines.

"Heh, you think I'm goin' soft?"
"Hmm hmm…I seem to remember that we have an unfinished fight; I propose a contest, whoever takes the most marines to hell before ending up there themselves, wins. The prize is a proud death; what more could a pirate ask for?" She asked picking up another sword from a fallen marine.

"I think I'd like that Lynch…" Blackthorn said, cracking his knuckles. He entered a ready stance as Lynch violently slit her wrists with her sword, spraying blood all over the front row of marines, taking control of them, and using them to keep the others from firing. Blackthorn charged forward, screaming his last battle cry…

The first things that Haru noticed that was odd were the sets of sloppy, rushed footprints leading away from the door and down the mountain path, and the fact that the door was not even fully closed. As he stepped into the room, he could see why. Blood and marines were scattered everywhere, the room and most of the hall outside of it were totally destroyed, unrecognizable from their original form. The battered bodies of young marines still had terrified expressions even in their comatose or dead state; it was hard to tell which. He ran down the hall, at the end of which was a Den-den Mushi and several dropped weapons; two limp forms stood out to him. Pinned by a sword to a wall, was the heavily scarred body of Jackal Lynch, blood dripping from literally every inch of her body. She was still smiling, not peacefully… it was a terrifying, vengeful smile. Beside her, on the ground, was the bullet ridden Blackthorn, who had at least three swords in the front of his body, lying facedown in a pool of his own blood. By the look on his face, Haru could tell that he was in some sort of peace. Haru approached the Den-den Mushi, it had recorded a message which was never sent (it was an old, outdated version that wasn't capable of live communication, so it worked more like a traditional walkie-talkie, but recorded message to be saved, and then sent them) and he hit the play button. Most of it was inaudibly poor sound quality, though he could clearly hear the sound of screaming men, who knew their death was coming. It was a sound all too familiar with Haru. The recorder was giving details of the scene, begging for more troops; he was obviously terrified, and very young.

"Please, no please don't kill me, I don't deserve this, give me a chance! STOP! AAAAA-" the recording then stopped. Haru was silent, his hands shaking slightly. He knew the kind of fear that that marine felt and it haunted him still. He looked down at the boy, his death was quick, a slash across the throat, he didn't suffer much. Haru knelt down and closed the boys eyes-he couldn't have been much older then 16- to pay his last respects. He heard a slight moving, and looked behind him; Blackthorn was shifting slightly! He then looked over to Lynch and noticed something about her wounds; they were still bleeding slowly; you don't bleed for long unless your heart is beating! They were still alive! Haru knew that there was nothing he could do…he looked back at the boy who lay peacefully on the floor, his entire life taken from him. This always happened with pirates, always…

He looked back at the two captains and sighed. He hit several of their pressure points to slow their heart rate, and possibly slow the bleeding so that it would be non-lethal; that was all he could do for them…it was all he was willing to do…

Captain Bulgah walked slowly, nervously across the beach; a rare lack of rain had dispersed one cloud just long enough to let a single ray of sunshine onto the still damp sands. Bulgah took this as a good omen for things to come, but still, no need to take chances. He would finish this meeting, hopefully without inviting the Vice-Admiral into his office, and let his obviously busy superior be on his way. Simple, he never had to know about the current…situation.

The ship came into view; it was very close to the shore, but only now visible due to the incredible mist caused by the evaporated rain. Captain Bulgah put on his best, fake smile and waited patiently for the ship to dock.

The vessel was massive and intimidating, its bottom and sides lined with seastone, both for armor and passage through the treacherous calm belt; this was the ship of a seasoned marine who had been through countless battles and survived them all. It was almost…intimidating. Bulgah shook that off; nothing was going to scare him. He heard a swooshing sound in the air, before a dark mass landed on the ground beside him with a thud.

"Might I presume, you are Captain Bulgah?"

Haru tore through the last hall of the marine base, and moved towards a window looking down at the beach; after looking through Bulgah's files, he saw that he was supposed to meet a Vice-Admiral today, it didn't say who. If Bulgah was meeting with a superior marine, this would be a perfect opportunity; he didn't have time to waste. He bounded forward and leapt out of the window, began sliding down the muddy hillside and when he was close enough, leapt forward towards Bulgah and the tall figure standing before him.

"So, before we go into my office, let me tell you about the current situation with pirates in the area." Said Bulgah, clearly trying to stall for time as he had gone over that topic several times now. He could tell that his superior was getting bored, but that was exactly what he wanted; he would be less likely to stay and hear about this mess if he was bored and left soon. They soon heard a thud not far away from them, and looked toward what caused it, their eyes both widening at what they saw.
Haru, not quite twenty feet away from them, jogged towards them. His clothes were tattered and torn, soaked and covered with mud; he was panting, bruised and cut through going through the thick foliage around the marine base, and was dripping with blood. The smell of sweat was heavy on him. The Vice-Admiral looked Haru up and down under the shadow of his marine hat.

"Sir, there is something you need to know about this marine." Haru said through heavy breaths. Pop-tart ran up behind him, finally catching up to his master, and barked happily at him. "'Ey buddy!" Haru said as he squatted down, petting his dog. Bulgah's face was the picture of horror and shock.

"MARINES! This man is a criminal, seize him!" Bulgah shouted as several marines hesitantly pulled out weapons. Haru stood up, holding his dog, unfazed by their weapons.

"Forsooth, the prodigal son hath returned at long last…" The Vice-Admiral said calmly. Haru tilted his head, unsure of what he meant.

The Vice-Admiral was all but hidden under a wide cloak and a large hat that shaded most of his face, covering nearly everything but his golden goatee and tips of what appeared to be long eyebrows. Wait, that facial hair, that weird way of talking… The Vice-Admiral tossed his hat aside, and the wind blew his cloak open, revealing a man with golden blond hair, wearing Shakespearian clothing, with a long sniper-rifle length crossbow strapped to his back.

"You cocky bastard…" Haru said quietly. He then grinned widely. "Tristor Valinos! Vice-Admiral? This has to be a mistake!" Haru exclaimed.

"In the flesh my boy!" Tristor exclaimed as he and Haru embraced each-other.

"Danmit, they're on good terms! This will make killing that meddlesome boy killed quite difficult…no, I can do it." Bulgah thought to himself, his expression changing from one of exasperated shock to that of devilish glee.

"Vice-Admiral Valinos, this man is a criminal and has been causing chaos throughout my base! Please, allow me to kill him for your protection!" Bulgah loudly proclaimed with all the marine pride that he could muster, while pointing his sword towards Haru.

Haru began slowly backing away; closing his fists, ready to defend himself if necessary. "Oh, you hadn't mentioned that small detail Captain. What else have I been deceived about upon this visit?" Tristor asked seriously…well, as seriously as he could.

Bulgah began sweating slightly. He'd not thought about it that way.

"Erm… I had not wanted to trouble a Vice-Admiral with such a petty matter; it is completely under my control. Look, he is a fool, he came right to me!" Bulgah countered. Haru smiled broadly; he didn't have to do anything.

Tristor looked suspiciously towards Haru.

"What have you to say of this young man?" he asked sternly.

"This Captain has been hiring men to send pirates with bounties off to other marine bases, taking their money and bringing it back to him; he uses that money to manipulate this entire island, including the pirates; I figured out what he was planning, so he's been trying to kill me." Haru said straight-forwardly. Bulgah was now soaked with sweat, and it was coming off of him like rain; he was quivering, unable to remain still; had all he worked for been ruined? No, he would not allow that.

"Sir, this boy is a criminal, he has no proof of this, and he's obviously just made the story up to protect himself! ARREST HIM!" Bulgah said, as some marines slowly walked towards Haru, somewhat hesitant to believe the Captain, but not wanting to be punished.

Tristor closed his eyes and thought deeply; he had to choose between trusting an old friend, or a comrade. Usually that was a difficult decision, but Bulgah just seemed so…guilty. No, he couldn't pass judgment so quickly.

Suddenly, a soft static sound was heard, and then a voice, remarkably similar to that of Bulgah's said, "You see boy, I'm not going to report that you brought those pirates in, because one of my men is going to disguise himself as a bounty hunter, take them to the next island, and collect their bounties for me. And there is nothing…that you can do about it…" it sounded like a Den-Den Mushi recording…

"That's a pretty good idea…how long has it been working?" This time, they could hear Haru's voice.

"Oh my boy, me and some pals in the marines have been doing this since we started thirty years ago! Why do you think this island is so safe from pirate attack? I have so much money, that I simply bribe them to keep quiet! Of course they are good for business, because having so many pirates' means that business men and workers mussst have marines to protect their assets and families…respectively, and they pay quite handsomely. Once in a while I let some pirates run wild, just too remind those people who is in charge…it's just wonderful!" The people were quiet, as Haru pulled a young, orange Den-Den-Mushi out from behind his back (orange Den-Den-Mushi are used to record and relay message).

"There's more, but, I think you've heard enough…" Haru said quietly. Tristor's face creased into a grimace. He slowly turned his head towards Captain Bulgah…only to find him charging at Haru screaming his lungs out!

Haru lowered his stance into almost a squat, mixed with a sprinters stance, and crossed his hands, fingers outstretched, in front of his face.

"Nezu…" (Derived from Nezumi, Japanese for rat) Haru said softly. Bulgah's sword was mere inches away from his face…time seemed to slow down; Haru reached his hand towards Bulgah's blade, preparing to hook it around his hand.

"CANTO BOLT!" Tristor yelled as a flashed flew between Haru and Bulgah; suddenly Bulgah noticed that his swords blade was missing. He backed up and looked towards where the flash might have landed. He saw on the ground a bolt, like one used for crossbows, but slightly longer, which had pierced through the blade of his sword and pinned it to the ground. He looked back at his Vice-Admiral, terrified, and saw Tristor's signature weapon, Bianca, held in his hand, pointing towards him.

Bianca was similar to a crossbow in design, though it was the length of a staff, and the two arcs folded into the body of it, allowing for easy storage; it had a complex set of mechanical dials attached to the trigger, and where he loaded bolts; those were what made it so powerful, they were said to have Skypiean Dials in them.

"Bulgah…" The captain looked towards his superior with fear; the sky darkened as Tristor spoke, waves began crashing more loudly and thunder crashed in the sky. Tristor's demeanor had changed, from one of a happy-go-lucky gentleman to that of an avenger. Bulgah was rooted to the spot. He could not move his body.

"Haki?" Haru and Bulgah both thought.

Tristor loaded a thick, stone bolt into his weapon, and spun it with his left hand. "I'm disappointed in you. FLAME SONNET!" He then pulled the trigger, and a small explosion occurred within the weapon, igniting the spinning stone, and hurling it towards Bulgah, who was now screaming in terror as he watched helplessly as a spinning, massive ball of fire, growing continually, shot towards him. The bolt hit him directly in the stomach, but the flames surrounded his entire body, and he was sent back several yards away from the shore, into the face of a cliff, where a crater roughly the size of a small ship, still smoking from the heat, appeared.

Haru whistled in admiration as the flames slowly subsided, revealing the singed and veeeeeery unconscious body of Bulgah, as Tristor's men clapped with cheers.

Tristor smiled lightly, and coolly collapsed his weapon into its rod form and put it into its leather sheath on his back. He actually looked really cool…until he did a ballerina spin and faced his men, holding his arms out wide.

"Aren't I wonderful!" He asked loudly. He was met with groans and sarcastic responses.
Tristor hung his head gloomily. "They hate me. I'm a Vice-Admiral and my men don't even like me yet…" Haru walked up to him and patted him on the back.

"Nah, it's not that they don't like you, it's just that they also like making fun of you." He said…supportively…as he patted Tristor on the back.

He began smiling slightly and looked down at the young bounty hunter. "Now I seem to remember something about a bounty in that recording…pray tell, how much was it?" Tristor asked, knowing not to get between Haru and his money.

Haru smiled. "That'll be 90,000,000! Oh, and maybe you could clear my name?"

Haru's journal number three, entry 6, September 4th

Nezu: Means rat. This style is all about finding the weakness in your opponent and exploiting it. It requires you to be very steady and balanced, and focused, and has lots of useful techniques for turning your enemy's style against them. I'm pretty well suited to this style, but I still find it difficult, cause it has lot's of complicated, timing based moves that I don't usually bother with. The most useful thing about it is how effectively you can fight against armed enemies.

Well, Trellobi has been quite an experience! I'm still not quite done here, hopefully I can restock on supplies and maybe even learn some new tricks for my little ship, but so far I've started a war between two pirate crews, had a big fight with said crews captains, been cheated by what has got to be the most corrupt marine ever, made a friend of a young thief named Gubby Flin, met up with an old acquaintance (he insists that we are actually much closer), Tristor Valinos, and helped take down said most-corrupt-marine-ever. Me and Pop-tart are gonna head out soon, it'll be good to keep moving, and the pay-out was nice, but I'll miss the place. It is a bounty hunters heaven; you shouldn't stay in one place too long though, people will figure out your tactics and…that ends badly.

Haru.

(And Pop-tart too)