LINE IN THE SAND
Previously: I May Be Insane But That Doesn’t Mean I’m Crazy
Themesong: Wash it All Away by Five Finger Death Punch
“Welcome to the Cosmic Warehouse, Raven. I think you’ll enjoy your time with us. And, as I promised, no time should pass back in your home reality until we return. Are you certain you really want to leave your world behind?”
“Earth is merely my adopted homeworld. Azarath is the world of my birth. And… yes. If one 1/100th of what you have told me is true, I would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to accompany you to new worlds and learn all I can. Plus… your offer to allow me access to Merlin’s Book… I could scarcely pass that up.”
“Well then, I hope you’ll have fun. You are the first, official passenger on HJS Cosmic Warehouse. I can’t guarantee you won’t be imported by the Banker at some point, but I guarantee I won’t import you without your permission. I understand completely how scary it can be to have another entity in your head. I have a great many inside mine… even an egg. I do hope that one hurries up. The wait is killing me… well… frustrating me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Zane will show you to your quarters. I must have words with the Banker.”
I left the no longer teenage Titan to Zane’s mercy (and puns), and approached the special bay I’d had built around the twin machines. They were rigged to holoprojectors and the room was only accessible by myself… on all wavelengths. “Okay, dickhead. I get that you were trying to teach me a lesson about unintended consequences… but ramping the persona imprint to 9000 is not going to fly. She would barely listen to me, let alone allow me to act… and you pulled out the memory structures and emotion control-”
“Actually… that was me.” Mensarius, who was looking very much like Al Pacino as the Devil, smirked from the projection of a couch.
I narrowed my eyes and growled, glancing at the Banker who actually flinched. He was looking like a somewhat more overweight and middle-aged version of Jack Black, and was seated behind a large wooden desk… or the projection of one. “You allowed him to tamper with my jump?”
“He offered a way to… give you the authority you requested and keep things balanced.”
I practically snarled. “That! Was not! Balanced! That was in no way, shape, or form, balanced! If the failsafe hadn’t triggered, I’d still be in Arkham drooling on myself and eating the prozac flavored Jell-o! She’d never have agreed to come back! And how the hell can he influence anything! Are you a freaking lunatic? He locked you away!”
“To be fair, your darling Banker did steal something of mine first,” Mensarius lounged across the back of the couch like a lothario, his arrow-sharp goatee gleaming in the sourceless light.
“I did not steal your Matrix. You lost it to me on a wager,” the Banker sneered. “A foolish, simple-minded, and ill advised wager.”
“Wait… Matrix? What are you talking about?” I’d given the two of them the capacity to generate forms largely so I had something to glower at… or throw things at… and I was already itching to test if the feedback linkages I’d rigged would actually allow either of these two beings to feel the impact of one of my special tennis balls.
Mensarius chuckled softly. “He hasn’t told you? How interesting. A Jumpmatrix. Each of us… Benefactors… have one. It is how we place pieces of ourselves, stabilized with a chunk of a set probability… what you’d call a reality or a universe… and shape it into what you call CP.”
“And you swindled him out of his Matrix?” I asked the Banker, who shrugged.
“It seemed like it might… limit the trouble he could get up to.”
“And you hid it in the Verse?” I was having some trouble processing this. “You hid a nigh omnipotent item inside a mortal realm?!”
“I did dismantle it first, then scatter it across the Verse.” the Banker said with a faint shrug. “And no lifeform can utilize a Jumpmatrix. You’re all incompatible with the input side.”
“So he’s got 4/5ths of his Jumpmatrix back… can’t he just get a replacement for the last bit?” I asked.
The Banker favored his… counterpart with a vicious smirk. “Doesn’t work that way. Each piece has a specific use. You’ve got the key to all his realities.”
“Key? Wait… you mean he can’t access any of the… how does that work, actually? I mean, why is his stuff antimatter to your stuff?”
“Differing wavelengths. Destructive interference,” Mensarius grunted. “Once one of us mixes our… call it essence… into a reality, that reality takes on our specific flavor. Just as our Jumpers do.”
“So the parts are, what, An Essence Siphon, a Reality Chunk Hopper, a Mixer, a CP Injector, and a Registry Key?” I asked, then grinned as both looked faintly disturbed. “Do all you idiots… and I’m assuming there are more of you… go around underestimating lifeforms as a matter of course?”
“It is very much like watching fleas perform tricks,” Mensarius almost snarled. I hit him with a tennis ball and he actually flinched.
“Watch yourself, skippy. I’ve got a part of you in my possession, and the capacity to warp reality at least a little bit. You don’t want to start with me.” I looked over at the Banker, “And you… are not to let him contaminate my CP-stream or whatever you call it, without my explicit permission. I’m not kidding. Especially since I’ve now got confirmation that you’re essentially spoonfeeding me bits of yourself.”
“I only hand them out. It is your choice to ingest them.” The portly man waved his hand dismissively.
“Yeah. well, I do so because I know what each bit does. I’m assuming that taking Drawbacks doesn’t actually give more CP… it just… what, ties me more tightly to the fabric of a specific reality, thus allowing the actual underlying essence imbedded in the CP to function more efficiently?” The two shared a look, then nodded.
“Right… well… what you two did was dirty pool. You stripped out protections that you knew I’d view as essential, and ramped up a setting I wasn’t even aware you could influence. This is a relationship of trust, B. Am I understood? You clearly get something out of this, or you wouldn’t be doing it… what was it you said to the Outsider? Syndication rights?” The Banker looked abashed. “Well, if I go home, you don’t get new material to Syndicate, right? So let’s not poison the well. And you!” I hurled another ball at Mensarius, who didn’t dodge quite fast enough and who then howled in pain as the ball unleashed a tiny amount of the Banker’s residual energy at him, causing holes to appear in the holographic suit.
“I’ve spent a large amount of time studying what I’ve got of yours. I can’t even begin to understand how it works, but I can figure out enough to hurt you… probably not enough to actually harm you… but if I go home, I take your Key with me. And if that happens… I doubt you’ll ever get it back… no matter how long a time frame you use. I’m agelessly immortal and now, in theory, patient enough to wait through the heat death of an entire universe. I don’t care how you view time, a hundred trillion years has got to register on your time scale… and given that much time, my tech base should find interesting ways to make you suffer even more. So you will stop trying to screw me over.”
“I cannot believe you’re letting this… creature… lecture us,” Mensarius shot daggers at the Banker, who looked incredibly smug as he responded.
“She amuses me. And seeing you suffering amuses me more.”
“How nice for you both,” I snarked. “Now, Mensarius, if you actually have something to contribute, feel free to offer it for consideration. I might take you up on it. I do enjoy challenges, and not even you can be wrong every time. But I’ll be the one making the choice of if to accept it or not. Am I clear? No messing with my mental state or ethical alignment for shits and giggles. No throwing unwinnable scenarios in my way. No powerlessness or amnesia without my express permission. Or I walk. Am I understood? Yanking out my moral center and fracturing my mind isn’t on. Pulling out the support for Astral Layers should have seen me collapse into a single entity… not remain fragmented. This will not happen again.”
The Banker leaned back, studying me with a nearly blank expression on his projection, then nodded. “I’ll tentatively agree. Such options will be presented to you from now on, rather than being assumed… Though I cannot promise absolutely… as events have shown. And Mensarius will submit his… modifications if he has any… for your approval. Now… what is this about bringing the cambion with you, but not as a companion?”
“While we were battling those Rhyming Demons, I had Raven assist me in casting a banishing spell, if you remember.” They both nodded. “She asked where I’d learned it, and I mentioned that I’d gotten it from the Book of Eternity, forgetting that, even though that world is DC-Lite, that she’d understand the significance of that book being in my possession. She’s requested permission to come with us, not as a companion, but as a student. Some of the jumps she might enter as a drop-in, but she’s categorically refused any other form of tampering… especially after we explained exactly how we’d gotten here… and isn’t that a fun conversation?” I chuckled, remembering Beast Boy’s expression as I explained that I both was and wasn’t Salamand’r. Robin got it instantly, though I think that’s more a testament to Christian Education.
I’d had to explain that, thanks to the way this reincarnation ride worked, the vast majority of my awareness didn’t awaken in my current incarnation until the moment of crisis neared…. Where crisis was defined as “Whatever the big interesting thing about to happen was.” Cyborg found it most amusing that the formation of the Teen Titans was my triggering point… but Raven asked if it wasn’t her father’s arrival which had served as the actual triggering. I’d had to explain that there’d been some… irregularity in the transition this time around.
Robin still didn’t trust me for the longest time… I’m not certain when he actually started to trust me again, and it was actually a giant pain not killing some of the asshats who really needed killing, but I’d given my word not to solve the crime problem with bloodshed… and in DCAU-Lite the threat level from even beings like Joker wasn’t too bad. If Robin didn’t trust me, Batman really, really didn’t trust me. Which was okay with me, because I think he’s a jackass, no matter which version of him I’m dealing with. I think he was still smarting from be drubbing crazy-me had handed his creepy Stalker ass. Oh… yes… he’d been a little obsessed with sending me back to Arkham, obsessively searching for any sign I wasn’t actually what I said I was. Just think what he could do for the Joker’s victims if he was that obsessive about Mr. J.
It was weird that I couldn’t find a bunch of the characters I was looking for. I mean… I could locate rumors about them… but actually finding Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, or Superman? Nope. Batman? Yes. Joker? Yes. Huntress? No. Jason Todd? Well, of course, though he was still running around calling himself X, waiting for Robin to graduate to Nightwing, which he did about 6 years in. At which point, X vanished and Robin Mark II showed his weird and slightly villainous face.
As for me? I actually spent most of the remainder of that decade operating an outreach program for teenagers and young adults who had powers and who might have gotten off to a rocky start… or had actual criminal background. My program offered therapy, both group and individual, as well as rehabilitation on the scandinavian model, trying to steer people away from being super villains, teaching them to control their powers, and having positive encounters with members of law enforcement or the superhero community.
Teen Titans really was the Friendship is Magic of the DCAU, and a family friendly take on dealing with troubled superhumans did a lot to rehabilitate the fairly tarnished reputation of Jetfire… not that even with all my powers dealing with the internal psychological damage was easy. Salamand’r was still the most dominant personality fragment outside of the core and she steadfastly refused to work with the rest of us, rampaging through the mental landscape from time to time and occasionally escaping into the real world in one bizarre fashion or another. At one point she actively hijacked our doppelganger creation power and was sending them out to cause mayhem. Thankfully, she wasn’t so much crazy as just insane, and her activities seldom resulted in harm to anyone besides me.
It was like being a bipolar Superhero who occasionally went off her meds. But then again, there are people like that… see The Hulk, Etrigan, Spectre… Raven… Robin… The superhero community tends to be more accepting of that kind of behaviour. Hell, I actually became something of a role model to the mentally ill community for my attempts to keep the instability down… Plus, I had the A team backing me up, and they were very popular…
“Yes, yes. I know all that!” The Banker snapped, “I meant ‘In what way is she not a companion?’”
“Mostly semantics. But as far as she’s concerned, she’s just a passenger… like a cruise ship. She’s aware other worlds will be dangerous, and she’s willing to risk it. She’s not asking for your backing… though I don’t know if her native magic will work in other worlds without it.”
“This is not a cruise ship,” Mensarius grumped.
“It kinda is. We’ve got limitless food, luxury accommodations, living quarters, fun activities, a weirdo captain, and we pull up to random ports and have excursions. Seems like a cruise to me… only with more invasions and less children… the sex level is, I think, about the same… but there are far fewer senior citizens… and less staff exhorting you to come to bingo night… and there’s no casino. We do have shops though.”
“Ah. I shall… dwell on this, but, in order to celebrate your new endevour, allow me to unveil your new jump.” He waved a hand at the back wall and a logo appeared in letters 12 feet tall. I winced as my memory pulled up the data. “ONE PIECE”. After a long moment, I sighed.
This was not a world that needed saving. Hell, if anything, the multiverse might need saving from the insanity that was One Piece. I’d read about 160 chapters of the manga (to the end of the Alabasta Arc) and seen a dozen episodes of the anime, and if there was a story buried in all that, I hadn’t been able to find it. It was rollicking good fun on Island of the month, and all about the power of friendship. Two thirds of the characters were giant hams and the rest were morons… and the MC’s power (aside from friendship) was that his body was essentially made of rubber. His kryptonite (and the bane of all the superpowered individuals of this world) was that single most common of chemicals… water. Being submerged, even up to the knees, in relatively still water (or being in contact with a local variant of narrativium called Seastone) was enough to immobilize anyone who ate of the flesh of the Devil Fruit, with each such fruit granting the eater a different power. Eating of the flesh of two Devil Fruit was lethal however.
It was, however, an oceangoing adventure tale, about a boy searching for his childhood hero and, of course, a monstrously huge pirate treasure… in a world where physics was taking a bit of a holiday. As in water flowing uphill levels of bullshit. As in two parallel calm belts that circled the equator and between which was a super dangerous ocean called ‘The Grand Line’ in which traditional navigation didn’t work… oh, and the only continent, ‘The Red Line’ was a ring that ran from pole to pole and back, perfectly perpendicular to the Grand Line. As in Giant Humans so massive that they towered over Brontosauri. As in insane clown-pirates who were actually modular.
“Errr… you twits do realize I have flight powers and space ships, right? And super-science! Is there any specific reason I can’t just, you know… fly to any given island? Or, you know… spend the decade in space? Or nuke the entire insane planet from orbit?”
The Banker looked to Mensarius, and in that moment I realized that they looked like an Agent and a Manager dealing with a particularly bitchy client. Finally, Mensarius nodded. “I’ve got one. +200 CP Drawback called ‘No Fly Zone’.”
I blinked. “Are you trolling alternate versions of the Jump Document?”
“Naw… call it… the Universal Drawback Database. Some things are universal… others merely apply to specific settings. This one is a hybrid of ‘Shipping Ban’ and ‘No Exit’.”
“While, I have a vague idea of what those might do individually, what – specifically – does ‘No Fly Zone’ do?”
“You and your companions are grounded for this adventure. Flight and hovering powers are reduced to extremely long jumps (no more than a mile or two) or gliding and all your ships and flying machines have been transformed into Age of Sail equivalents. Items that allow flight, such as broomsticks, are only good for flight near land and become more and more unreliable the higher you go.”
He looked, not to me but, to the Banker who considered for a time, then nodded. “It should work. Very good.” The Banker turned to me “Do you accept?”
“Huh? How does this interact with the drawbacks in the document?”
The Banker mmmmed, then smiled “Oh. these drawbacks are bound by the same restrictions as native ones. Can only stretch things so far, right?”
I shrugged, nodding slowly, then sighed, knowing that it was a stupid thing to do, but would be more interesting than hanging out in space… and hell, who knew what insanity lurked in the infinite dark of the OPVerse. Cthulhu Piece… shudder… Better the devil I knew. “Fine. Yes. I’ll take it.”
Mensarius chuckled, “Excellent. Then I have another I recommend you offer her. It’s called ‘Embargo’. Think of it as a kind of Prime Directive. This would be just like in the Firefly Verse, limiting you to only things of the same technological advancement as the locals.”
“The locals are pre-industrial barbarians,” I groaned.
“Look at her and her judgemental attitude,” Mensarius sneered.
“You’re not going to guilt trip me into this. You just don’t want me paving this place in nanotech.”
“Oh. I’d find that most enjoyable. But I fear the Banker might object to you so… damaging this realm.”
“Yeah? Well, what would this net me?”
“200 More. Plus another +100 if you agree to only access your Warehouse at a port. This includes all replenishing stocks, so you’d have to plan accordingly. Random islands don’t count. It has to be an actual port town or city.”
I growled, low in my chest, then sighed and nodded. “Fine. Fine. Whatever. So, 500 from No Fly Zone, Embargo, and Port Access Only… the limit is 600?”
The Banker nodded, then brought up the Drawback Selection from the actual Jump Tree. There were only three choices in the +100 category. The first, Directionless, made me a Hibiki. The second, ‘Cowardly’ was just lame (just like Usopp, the character it was based on)… but Hungry, which meant that I’d need to eat after any long period of exertion or a proper fight, and if I didn’t I’d become irritable until I ate… that I could handle. Not like I disliked food anyway.
“Okay, so I’m good for points. Let’s see the rest of this puppy,” I growled, flopping back into an easy chair and accepting a vodka-cranberry from a pillar that rose from the floor. I’d really tricked out the Jump Room as Zane called it. I prefered to think of it as the Arcade of Fortune, but I’m better at naming things than git boy.
The logo for ONE PIECE appeared… complete with the symbol for the Strawhat Pirates as the O and the silhouette of the protagonist (one Monkey D. Luffy… japanese naming styles, so Monkey is the family name) as the I. Then Gold Roger… or rather Gol D. Rodger… apparently having the middle initial ‘D’ is significant in OPlandia… former King of the Pirates, appeared on the screens that covered a 270 degree arc of the walls from floor to ceiling. He was in shackles, looking grim and piratical, and also a little insane, and he bellowed at the crowd gathered to witness his execution, “You want my Treasure? You can have it! I left it all in One Piece, now you just have to find it!”
And with those words, the world went… bugshit insane is too polite a turn of phrase. This is the time known as ‘The Great Pirate Era!’… yes, the exclamation point is included. Piracy isn’t just rampant… it’s endemic. It’s pandemic. The World Government (and yes, that’s as NWO as you think it might be) has fleets of Marines… incredibly corrupt, brutal, fascist fuckhead Marines, who, for all the incredible bullshit they’re allowed to get away with, can’t even come close to keeping the Pirates under control. So much so that the WG has actually pardoned and recruited the 7 most powerful pirate lords in the world as their freaking privateers. Yeah… that works about as well as you’d expect. The Alabasta arc is all about just one of these freaking psychos (named Crocodile) trying to get a few million people killed by engineering a civil war to destroy the country of Alabasta.
No idea how many of them actually do die, since I don’t think canonically anyone ever dies in the present (there are some flashbacks where people die)… and maybe things change in later arcs… but all the villains seem to survive fights with the Protags… somehow.
Still, this Age of Piracy is fueled by the quest to find Gold Rodger’s One Piece, the greatest collection of treasure in history. It’s supposedly hidden at the end of the Grand Line… but since the Grand Line has two halves… I don’t know which end. Alabasta is essentially halfway between Reverse Mountain (the place where Luffy & Crew enter the Grand Line… and just one of the places water flows uphill) and the Holy Land of Mariejois… Reverse Mountain’s antipode. So That shows you how far I’d gotten… or they’d gotten when I’d gotten fed up with glacial pacing. When I’d left my own world far behind, there were at least 800 chapters… 16 years worth of weekly installments… and the story was not, as far as I knew, approaching the end.
As you might be able to tell… I didn’t have a huge amount of respect for the setting. The artist had chops… but largely used them to make every character a caricature, relying on realism only very rarely, and usually to augment the gravitas of a situation. The designs of most of the people were ugly, the plotlines largely incoherent even by Shonen standards, and the protagonists not only blindly, blitheringly, insipidly optimistic, but naive as hell too.
There is, I kid you not, a scene waaay past the point I stopped reading the series (I have friends who didn’t and they steered me to this… lunacy) where Luffy and Ussop (the unneeded comic relief in a series that needs much much less comedy) get into a deathmatch against each other because Luffy, the Captain, has decided it’s time to replace their ship, which is no longer repairable, with a new one. They nearly kill each other because Ussop is soooo loyal to his ship that he’d rather get himself nearly killed by one of the only people in the world who thinks he has value as a person and not just as fertilizer… because he can’t understand the concept of material fatigue.
This isn’t just a fist-fight either. There are high explosives involved. There are shuriken involved. There is a shapeshifting reindeer doctor involved. One Piece… 40% parody, 30% drama, 30% acid trip. Mood whiplash does not even come close to explaining my reaction to the series… and I was going to be imprisoned here for a decade. Still… could be worse… could be Rick & Morty.
I looked at the origins as I rolled for my age… 19. Meh. Drop-In, as usual. Pirate Crewman… Pirate Captain… Marine Crewman… Marine Captain. (oh, yeah… at one point, the git writing this series made the mistake of saying a Lt outranked a Captain… siiigh… oh, and Marines include the sailors too in this setting, because… fuck it, I guess?)… So… Idiot… Idiot with a gimmick… flunky… or stooge… blah… I didn’t feel like paying for the ‘privilege’ of having my head filled with local idiocy. I had my own craziness to put up with. I selected Drop-In.
That would drop me off at my chosen starting location with nothing but the clothes on my back, my totally out of context knowledge of the world, and whatever equipment I bothered to purchase… plus a few days worth of food and water, but no connections to this world… and that was phrased as a downside? Please.
And speaking of starting locations, I spun the wheel.. And got… Free Choice? Wow… that almost never happened. I mean, seriously… I’d done this loads of times and free pick was almost always an option, usually a 1-in-6 or 1-in-8 chance… and I’d gotten it maybe three times in 61 jumps? Huh. Well… anyway. The 7 other choices, not that I had to pick one of them, were:
Loguetown… the city Gold Roger was executed in and last stop before entering the Grand Line from East Blue. Torino Kingdom, a place in South Blue I’d never heard of which apparently was dominated by cavemen and giant birds… and a single massive tree that apparently houses a vast library of knowledge. Drum Island, a winter wonderland ruled by, in succession, a fat asshole with the power to eat anything, a crazy doctor lady, and a man who could turn into a bison. It was on the Grand Line, and I was familiar with it… but eh. Mariejois, the capital of the World Government and its five manchurians the ‘Celestial Dragons’… it’s the official entry point to the Grand Line, though the route largely used by the Marines (and I assume legitimate trade… though there is zero evidence of such actually occurring in this world). Skypiea, an island in the clouds (i.e. Cloudcuckooland knockoff)… didn’t know anything about it but dirt was apparently at a premium and the local god was described as ‘harsh’… i.e. probably a dick.
Also on the list were an Abandoned Island in the middle of nowhere, but clearly not on the Grand Line, as evidenced by the lack of giant sea monsters and the stability of the weather. Sounded suspicious to me… and Impel Down… a maximum security World Government prison located in the middle of the Calm Belt… as a Drop-In, I’d be a tourist there… but… I didn’t think that sounded like a good plan.
I considered for a good while, sipping my drink, then replacing it with an ice tea and some bon-bons. “If I go to Impel Down, I can scan the Marines there. If I go to Mariejois, I can scan the government… but I suspect I can find Mariejois pretty easily on my own. Impel down is probably not impossible to find if it has tourists… there doesn’t seem to be any reason to go to the Abandoned Island. Loguetown isn’t even in the Grand Line, so it should be easy enough to visit if I decide to. Ditto Torino. That leaves Drum Island and Skypiea… or I guess I could go to one of the other places… Alabasta? Stop Crocodile early? I mean… sure… innocent people die… but is that enough reason to go there? Most of those who die are army or revolutionaries, and I’m not in the business of stopping people from being stupid or I’d just show up at Usopp’s place and punch him. I guess I can’t pick… what’s it called… Raftel? That’s the island where Rodger hid the One Piece, right?”
The Banker smirked, shrugging, and I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Yes… Wait… Skypeia… that’s a cloud island? Do the locals fly?”
“No. the clouds are solid enough to stand on or swim in.”
“Huh. Okay. I’ll pick there. If this God is a physical person… drop me off in his or her presence.”
“Are you certain?” The Banker asked, eyebrow raising micrometrically.
“It’s free pick, right? I want to meet this ‘Harsh’ God.”
“As you wish.”
“Now… I assume the major draw here is the Fruit, right?” referring to the Devil Fruit which granted the vast majority of the super-human powers exhibited in the series. Each was unique and they came in three known categories; Logia, Zoan, and Paramecia. The most common were the Paramecia Fruits, which offered superhuman physical traits to their eaters, such as turning the eater’s body to rubber or blades, giving them control over wax or shockwaves… all of which functioned on cartoon logic. Zoan Fruits were midline, and usually the weakest, but conferred animalistic… often animistic… traits to the eater. The eater became an animal-human hybrid, with thematically associated powers and abilities, and often multiple hybrid forms. There were even Human-Human Fruits (all the Fruits had names in the X-X Fruit pattern) that could turn animals into human-animal hybrids… and in at least one case a gun had been fed a Mutt-Mutt Fruit to become a dog-gun hybrid… again, cartoon logic.
Logia Fruits were the rarest and most insane, since they not only granted the ability to control an element but to turn into that element, making the eater incredibly difficult to damage. The only Logia Fruits I’d seen were the Smoke-Smoke, Flare-Flare, and Sand-Sand… and the only one of them I’d seen defeated was the Sand-Sand… who’d required being hit with wet fists faster than he could recover… and his powers had included sandstorm generation and the ability to drain the moisture out of a human in seconds. Spider-man’s Sandman taken to just… scary levels.
“That does seem to be the case,” Banker-Man said. “There are a number of tables, and prices ranging from 100 to 800, depending on Tier… general power level… and if you allow a random factor. Or you can buy a map.”
“Indeed. While the selection for each tier is limited to 15 choices, some of which are considerably more likely than others, the Map can be for any potential fruit, with the difficulty involved in decrypting the map and finding the fruit proportional to the tier of fruit you seek. For instance, if you were to seek a common Tier 1 or Weak fruit, the challenge might be no more than finding a specific island in one of the simpler to reach islands of the Grand Line and locating a specific cave. Anything about Tier 3 however is going to send you to The New World or someplace similarly dangerous.”
“You say any potential fruit… but clearly not the Gum-Gum, Chop-Chop, Sand-Sand, Smoke-Smoke… I mean, each is unique, so I couldn’t have Luffy’s powers, right?”
“That would be incorrect. You could not have exactly the same fruit… but there are multiple variants of each fruit, and yours would be just different enough that it wouldn’t overlap with the canonical one. I will admit that I’m surprised you’d want Luffy’s Gum-Gum Fruit.”
“I wouldn’t. I can already stretch, thanks to last jump. Don’t need Luffy’s ability. Plus… I’m not even certain I’d want to eat a Devil Fruit. I like swimming, and giving it up forever seems like a really bad trade off. Unless it only applies to the form in which I ate it.”
“No, no. If you decide to eat a fruit, regardless of how you got it, all your forms will suffer the weaknesses of the fruit… at least as long as you’re in this world. Should you move on, as seems likely, given your dislike for this setting, or be sent home for whatever reason, then most of the weakness shall be lifted. Only the fruit’s abilities themselves will deactivate underwater. But regardless, only the form in which you eat the fruit will have the associated abilities, as the fruit’s effects change your body’s very nature.”
“Riiight. Gotcha… so, I can either pick a tier and roll, pick a tier and pay an extra cost to choose, or buy a map and… what, specify a tier? Hope? I mean, is buying a Map an utter pig-in-a-poke? Stop laughing you!” I threw another tennis ball at Mensarius. “It’s a real expression!”
“Fear not,” The Banker explained. “The Map you buy will lead you to a fruit that suits your personality. You can specify how much of a challenge you’d like… but there is no refund for a fruit unfound. You’d have to use a return to come back and search again.”
“So I might end up with an Ice Fruit?”
The Banker considered, then shook his head, “Nothing completely redundant, I guarantee.”
“Hmmm… okay. Fine. I’ll take a map. If the price is right.”
Mensarius, ever helpful, tossed the data up on screen, snarking. “200. The same cost as buying a specific Tier 1.”
“Ah. So the challenge is everything.”
“Indeed,” he drawled.
“Well, why not. Just out of curiosity, what Tier is Luffy’s Gum-Gum?”
“It’s one of the rarer Tier 2s,” the evil little shit sneered. “So a challenge you might actually be able to solve.”
“Bite me, Jack-ass. I found your Matrix Fragments across 200 plus planets without a map.” I turned away from him, and addressed the Banker. “Okay, talk to me about Companions.”
“I think your companions are a bunch of-” Mensarius began, but the Banker shushed him.
“As a Drop-In, you can import your up to 8 of your companions as drop-ins as well for 500 CP. It’s more expensive than the ‘Dream Crew’ option available to other origins… but it plays by different rules.” The CP Man explained. “Dream Crew costs only 300 CP and grants each crew member 600 CP, unless you decide to be a crewman yourself. Then the Captain gets 800 CP and can gain up to 400 CP from a maximum of two drawbacks.”
I opened my mouth to protest that I was fine with not being a Marine or a Pirate, but the Banker hurried to explain. “I merely offered that data as a prefatory and for comparison purposes. The Nine Divines, the Drop-In Import option, grants only 500 CP… but allows up to 500 CP each worth of Drawbacks… though each of the +300’s can only be taken by a single companion and they cannot take the more extreme ones at all.”
“More extreme… you mean the one that would bind me to the Plot-Rails or the one that makes everyone in the world my enemy? Oh. Drat.” I said as dryly as I could manage… and I can manage very very very dry when I want to. Cold air contains very little moisture.
“Err… yes… well. If they buy a Fruit, they’ll have already eaten it…” The Banker pointed out.
Mensarius finished the thought, smirking at me. “So you can’t use their CP to get something nice for yourself.”
“You’re an idiot and an asshole,” I said, glancing at him just long enough to let him know I was addressing him.
The Banker chuckled, then said “I believe your companions have already decided who’d come with you.”
“Have they? Cheeky. I’ll have to remind them that I am, nominally, the one who makes that call. Very well, send the relevant information to their tablets and bring up the general perk and item windows. I have 900 CP left to squander.”
I looked up as the details resolved in the massive screens. It was an interestingly compartmentalized document. One panel of perks, one of items, one for various races, one for being a cyborg… there were cyborgs in this world? WTF?!… one for Martial Arts, all of which looked lame… I closed that panel and the cyborg one… and the one for aquatic races. Wouldn’t do me much good if I decided to eat a Fruit. That moved the panel on ‘Haki’ into my field of view and I blinked… what the hell is Haki?
I read the description “This power is, to put it simply, weaponized willpower, giving any who possess it the ability to even the odds against Devil Fruit eaters, despite whatever defenses their power may offer them.” There were three kinds of Haki apparently; Evasion, Armament, and the super secret ‘Conqueror’s Haki’, which was a one-in-a-million thing, allowing the possessor to smother the wills of others through sheer overwhelming… well… spiritual pressure. It did mention that Haki could be learned in setting, if a teacher could be found, and it was slow… but Conqueror’s Haki had to be purchased to be the one-in-a-million. So it wasn’t so much paying 600 or 800… it was either pay zero and give up C-Haki, or pony up the complete sum for the total package and get a headstart on training the two common forms. I glanced at the general items and perks, then said fuck it and locked in 800 for the Haki Package.
Which left me with 100 unspent. Everyone got Nakama, which is Japanese for “Friend Group” and seemed like pretty much a “You make friends easy” kind of thing, which was nice I guessed. It essentially said that Fate in this world would conspire to make sure I had friends. Lovely, really. I felt like a Hikikomori being lured out of a one room apartment by the promise of “Fwendship” for a moment and considered not taking it, just out of spite, but decided against it. More friends is always nice, right?
Drop-In’s got Survivalist free, which was all about knowing where to fish, where to find fresh water, what was safe to eat and what was going to try and eat you… you know, the general knowledge needed to survive on almost any island. We also got Reinforced Clothing, which was tough against basic damage from basic weapons.
For my remaining 100, I could pick up Navigator… but that sounded boring… or Combat Training (yawn), or Swimming (weeeeee), or Gigantism (10 feet tall), some money, some swimming gear, a med kit, a basic weapon, or one of the unique compasses of the Grand Line, a Log Pose or an Eternal Pose. The difference between them was that a Log Pose would direct you from the island you were on to the next island in the chain… pseudoscience at its best… while the Eternal Pose would point you to the same island no matter where you were. They were available in setting… but also fragile and easily trashed. Having the Warehouse Warranty would be nice… hold on. “Hey, Banker guy. If I buy a Log Pose or an Eternal Pose… and it get destroyed, do I have to get back to a port to have it respawn?”
“Err… hmm… no. It’ll spawn in your footlocker. Assuming you have a footlocker… not that you have a ship.”
“Dude… I’ve got several ships. Remember, Menche said all my high tech stuff becomes period appropriate. Which I think means that it’s seachest, not footlocker.”
“Do not call me Menche, I am neither a dog nor a human,” Mensarius sighed melodramatically. “So which will you buy? The Log or the Eternal?”
“Normally I wouldn’t buy either, since they don’t have any apparent use outside of this setting. Hmmm… yeah… I think… I’ll… Hmm… If I buy a Fruit, I don’t have to eat it, right? That’s just for companions.”
“That is correct,” The Banker nodded, steepling his fingers.
“Excellent. I’ll buy a random Tier 1 Fruit. Then raffle it off to one of my companions who couldn’t come on the trip.” A pair of large fruit themed d8s rose out of the floor on my drink pillar and I tossed them across the floor, giving them an extra helping of english with a flick of my wrist. They landed on 4 & 6… Wheel-Wheel Fruit, which allowed the consumer to transform part of themself into wheels, with rotational velocity sufficient to move 100 kph on flat ground… as a starting point. The fruit itself rose out of the floor next to me and rotated slowly on the pillar. It looked like a vulcanized rubber kiwi. Very appealing… not.
“Well done,” Mensarius snarked. “Now you have no ship, are stuck in the sky, and can’t navigate. I do so hope you enjoy being driven around by whichever one of your idiot followers you trick into eating that horrific thing.”
I smirked at him. “Sunny Jim… you don’t know me. You ain’t seen nothing yet. And you forget… again… I have Ziggy and Yuzuha.”
“Those are companions, which you didn’t import,” the slimy bastard pointed out.
“I can still use them if I… ah… no I can’t. I can’t send a companion back into the warehouse except at ports. And if I use the Executor or Death Star they’re too big to be crewed by 9… How about VIctoria, VIctor, or the Black Jenny?”
“With the tech embargo, the AI sections of them would be suppressed. You would not do that to your companions.”
“Actually,” the Banker said, “The setting has machine intelligences.”
“WHAT?” both Mensarius and I said at the same time.
“Do not look at me like that,” The man-shaped thing behind the desk instructed. “They aren’t part of the dominant tech level, but there are two different tribes of Automata in the setting of One Piece. Both are remnant technologies, but they do exist… as do Cyborgs, despite the lack of an industrialized tech base.”
“Fucking insanity,” I muttered. “Fine. I’m pulling… hmmm… VIctor out as my ship this time. If I decide I need more power, I can pull out one of the other two at a port, but VIctor’s the smallest of the set.” VIctor was my assault shuttle and was nigh indestructible, since most of his body was laced with a substance from the Bastion Jump called ‘Burstone’ which was both processing system and power supply. His power core was the most heavily refined form of Burstone, a Burstone mega-core. Six standard cores could be used to restore an entire world to a previous save state. The mega-cores I’d built over the centuries since then had the power of 24 cores… and Victor had 5 of them installed, three in the central fuselage and one in each nacelle. His armor was a psitanium-uru-mithril alloy that was lighter and stronger than neutronium… and I had no idea how being turned into a wooden boat would screw with all that hyper-tech. I was guessing not brilliantly… but the drawback would end in a decade, and any damage would be repaired by the cores once that happened.
“Have my faithless minions finished their plotting and scheming?” I asked.
“They have,” Banker Boy confirmed. “Do you want the information?”
“Eh. Let’s just roll with this. Tell you what. Insert me now, give them the full month, then have them join me.”
“If I do that, your stay in world will be 10 years, 1 month long.”
“That’s fine. What’s a month here or there, really?”
“Very well, as you like. Insertion in ten, nine, eight-”
“Oh. I’m leaving this fruit in here. Since this chamber has security that shouldn’t allow anyone else in, or out, it should be safe here. Don’t either of you think about changing that. If this thing ends up inside anyone without my permission, you’ll owe me a refund… with penalties.” I snarled the last word, then the world went dark as the Banker’s count reached zero.
Huh… for being an island in the sky, this place was surprisingly… not that brightly lit. The world looked like it was inside a cloud. I mean… not foggy… but like I was in a bubble-shaped cloud. The sky was white fluffy clouds with no hint of blue beyond. The ground was slightly springy cloud, just as white. All the horizons were white. It made judging distance… tricky. I mean, I could estimate how far away the walls of the open courtyard I was standing in were (about 200 yards from side to side and about 110 front to back) with a throne-pavilion thing in the center.
Of course, I wasn’t alone. I’d appeared in front of a couple dozen weirdos… most of them goat-headed humanoids in robes of varying degrees of obesity ranging from rail thin all the way up to a 12 foot tall slope-shouldered, no-necked freakazoid mostly human who had clearly never missed a hobbit meal in his or her entire life… and probably eaten everyone else’s lunch as well
There was also shirtless yabo with a serrated nose, 18 inch long earlobes, and, I kid you not, four Japanese thunder-god drums mounted on a silver halo behind him. He was blonde under a white do rag, though he had black eyebrows, and the smirkiest smirk in all creation. He was seated on the aforementioned throne… or rather, lounging upon it, looking for all the world like the picture of indolence and sangfroid. He had, apparently, been speaking to a group of four mega-weirdos who ranged from bomber ace with a feathered helmet and spike moustache, to angry black man with antler-hair, to goatee brother with a chromed dome and black sunglasses so stylish they could have sliced bread, to a living balloon who was clearly of the goat-tribe, despite wearing nearly all covering hat, goggles, and robes… all of theses people, barring the dude on the throne, had wings, feathery ones… but not ones big enough to allow them to fly. They barely stuck out beyond their shoulders and hung barely a third of the way to their hips.
A quick scan of the crowd told me that they were the Army of God, the priesthood that served the God Enel. Chubbazord was the leader of the army, Commander Yama, and he was certifiably homicidal, a true fanatic. Balloon goat-man and his friends were the four ‘Priests’ who ran the local religion… and by religion I mean fanatical despotism. God apparently was the local head of state… but the state was a theocracy and the rule of law was “Alles Verboten” kind of place. The punishment for crimes seemed to range from brutal to savage, though I’d have to scan deeper to get any specifics. Antler-Head was Gedatsu, and he was a fanatic and idiot… dysfunctionally so in fact; Chrome-Dome was Ohm, and he was out and out insane… as in he wanted to kill everyone to set them free of their burdens; Balloon Boy was Satori, a lunatic, sadist, and murderous fuck; and Sky Ace was Shura, a born warrior with a cruel streak… but also the capacity for pity and compassion. He was, by far, the most complex of the quartet; ruthless, dedicated, but not unthinkingly so, and would have born closer inspection…
Were it not for the total psychopath seated on the throne. His name was Enel… and he actually thought he was a god… and not by the local ‘head of state’ definition. His people were known as Birkans, one of three tribes of Skypieans… and aside from the ones standing in this courtyard, there weren’t any other Birkan’s left… because this absolute psycho had destroyed his own homeland (one of the most distant of Skypiea’s cloud islands) after eating the Goro-Goro no Mi… the Lightning Logia Devil Fruit… (I didn’t know the name then, it was just the magical Thunder Fruit to Enel… I learned it later, but clarity, you know?)… and he’d come to Upper Yard (the only place in Skypiea that had an actual terra-firma landmass instead of terra-cumula) to carry out a further genocide here as well… after forcing the previous God’s army to strip a ruined city of gold and use that gold to build him a flying ship that he could power with his lightning powers and which would carry him to, as he called it, the Endless Earth… and as I called it, The Moon… because, and he was deadly serious about this… as God, only he was worthy to do so.
Yeah… he had an actual god-complex… and I’d just appeared out of the ether in the middle of his courtyard of power. Of course, I said the first thing that came to mind.
“Dude. You are not a fucking God. I know. I am one… and you ain’t even close.” I think the expressions on the faces of the Army of Not-God will remain with me forever. When I say something, and say it with passion (and the anger I was currently feeling was making my words extra passionate… and scornful), my words bypass bias and stubbornness (and language barriers), and are understood as capital T truth. In that moment, all 55 beings in that courtyard knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Enel was no divinity and, within moments, they began to consider all the things they’d done in the name of their faith in Enel in a new light. Of course, some of them didn’t care (Yama, Satori, Ohm) while others were too dumb (Gedatsu and Satori’s twin brothers, Hatori and Kotori) to be bothered, but the vast majority were having a crisis of faith.
Enel was just… enraged is too mild a phrase. His expression didn’t even flicker as he launched himself across the dozen yards separating us, traveling at the speed of lightning, his body blurring into a blue electric whipcrack… and I grabbed him and Lightning-bent him, absorbing him on one side of my body and allowing him to flow out the other side of without harm. My core temperature didn’t even go up so much as 1/1000th of a degree.
The crowd gasped, at least those still paying attention, and I turned to regard the utterly confused Not-God. “What? You were expecting an actual God to be impressed by your little trick? Enel, I have ruled an Empire of Quadrillions… I’m not even sure you know what that word means.”
He snarled and swung his staff at me. I stopped it with one hand (okay… that hurt a little, but I didn’t let it show). “Your people are monsters.” I aimed my hand at Ohm and unleashed an Aku-style energy blast, knocking the bald Priest into the opposite wall in an explosion of blood. I never took my eyes of Enel. “You are a genocidal jackass.” I froze Satori, in the process of lunging at me, into a balloonsicle (was there a Bloons TD Jump?), and he toppled forward, rolling around like a marble. “You’ve abused your position of authority over the people of this land.” I summoned up a wind storm and launched Chubbozord Yama into the the stratosphere. “And I. Am. Not. Amused.”
Enel’s electric eyes widened with each of my effortless attacks on his minions, but if he had any sympathy for them and their plight, I couldn’t sense it. The dude was utterly lacking in compassion or, well, any other human emotion. He began to swell, growing larger and larger, like a hybrid of Thunder and Lightning from Big Trouble in Little China… but waaay more blue and three times as crackly.
I tilted my head, then shrugged my shoulders, cracking my neck, and tried to summon my sword… which didn’t show up. What… the… ever… living… fuck! I wasn’t Requipping Soul of Ice from my Warehouse… I was pulling her out of my very soul! A note fluttered down from the sky. I grabbed it, holding up a hand to Enel “Hold up a second, I have to take this.”
The Note said “Your Sword has an Embargo’d tech level component.” I cursed. Yes… she did have a Pulse-Rifle as one of her components.
“THEN LOCK OUT THAT PART AND GIVE ME MY DAMNED SWORD YOU FUCKING RULES LAWYER!!” I yelled at the uncaring sky.
The Note now said “The Rules Committee is reviewing your request. Expect a Ruling in 6-8 years, local time.”
“BASTARD!” I howled, then sigh-growled and turned to face Enel. “Okay. You’re in luck. I just got some really, really, REALLY annoying news and I don’t get to stab you to death.”
“That’s Lucky?” Gedatsu asked from behind me.
“Yeah. Well, your boss is lucky because it means I’m now so angry that I’m going to punch him to death… slowly.”
“Well said. Might want to step back.”
Say what you want about Enel… dude has waaay more stamina than I gave him credit for. I can only assume that, if Luffy did canonically fight this jagoff, he won because rubber is a natural insulator for electricity. Yeah. I could totally bend lightning… but there was a limit. The bolts being thrown around in Avatar were only a few thousand volts. Enough to be fatal or cause small explosions. In Fairy Tail, the last place I’d done this kind of thing on any large scale, the bolts had been in the hundreds of thousands of volts. If the name of the attack was anything to go by, Enel’s most powerful attack was two-hundred… million Volts. Sure, it still wasn’t a full power natural lightning bolt, which can get up to a Billion Volts… but it was riding the very limits of a natural lightning bolt’s amperage… which is the real killer. Each blow, and they were getting more and more powerful as his anger increased, was running closer and closer to 200 kA… 200,000 amps… which, thanks to my lightning calculation ability (yes, that was a joke… my brain can run exaflops)… I figure puts his output per blow at 40 TerraWatts… or 1/1000th of a Kardashev Tier 1 Civilization every second or so.
Those blows, despite all I could do to diffuse them… hurrrrrt.
Of course, it wasn’t one sided. I was creating hyper-cryonic snow to steal his energy and focus, leveling massive energy and sonic blasts at him, and ripping bits of him off and flinging them across the landscape, carving huge divots in the surrounding clouds, and occasionally blasting one of the dude’s followers who was standing too close. But most of all I was energy bending him for all I was worth, shorting out his control, his ability to recover, the basic building blocks of his very existence.
The fight didn’t actually take that long. It couldn’t. Both of us were moving far faster than normal humans could even perceive. Lightning moves about 300 million kph. Even I was having trouble tracking Enel’s movements and I can move hyper-sonic… In fact, it was only possible because Enel’s movements were orders of magnitude slower than that simply because his reaction time clearly couldn’t cope with those speeds. He was faster than I was in absolute speed, but I had faster reaction time. It was a battle of attrition and, by the time I finally beat the smirk off his face, I was really feeling the burn of fatigue.
Of course, he was flat on his back, mostly human again, and just sparking occasionally. I grunted, looking down at him and… despite myself… I smiled. “You… are a crappy human being, you know that.”
He looked up at me, and groaned “I’m… not really God, am I?” He looked as if I’d taken away his puppy.
I shook my head. “Not even remotely. But… you’re the most interesting opponent I’ve faced in… fuck… must be centuries. I haven’t had to go this all out since Yhwach.”
“Dickhead who wanted to kill god and remake the world in his image.”
“What did you do to him?”
“Trapped him inside the eye of god, for all eternity, alone and helpless and being eaten by darkness that would never kill him.”
Enel looked up at me, saw my face, and shuddered in soul deep terror and revulsion. I could feel the fear rising within him, an utterly alien emotion to this deranged monster… then he did something that I wasn’t expecting. “Well then… better get started.”
I blinked, surprised… and a little impressed. There wasn’t any begging, or bargaining, or wailing against the unfairness of it all. He knew he was beaten and there wasn’t any way for him to stop me from doing whatever I wanted. I leaned over him, standing crouched on his chest and looked him dead in the eyes.
“Are you expecting me to be merciful and kill you quickly?”
He considered, then shook his head. “I probably deserve whatever punishment you think I do. I assumed my power meant I was God. I assumed it gave me the right to do whatever I pleased. I have clearly offended Heaven, and they sent you to punish me.”
“Well, I don’t think Heaven gave one good damn about you… but you offended me, and I decided to punish you.”
“Go ahead then.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, “Tell me why I’m punishing you? Here’s a hint, it’s not for presumption.”
“I…” he considered, groaning in pain and bleeding a bit from the thousands of scrapes and scratches even his energy being form had managed to, somehow, sustain in our fight. I, on the other hand, looked perfect, and he knew it. He had no way of knowing just how tired and sore I was from the fight. To him, I looked exactly as I had when I’d appeared, a small, white haired, slender girl in a white and green and gold pirate-themed outfit. I’d gone toe to toe with him, and emerged unscathed to his eyes. He was using some sense, something he knew of as Mantra… but which I somehow knew was merely one part of the thing known as Haki… to scan me, to determine what I was going to do… apparently this Mantra… Haki… thing… could predict, to some degree, the future, if only a few hours ahead.
I sighed and reached down, tweaking his nose. “You can’t predict my future. And with me in this close of proximity to you, you cannot predict your own future either. I need a fucking drink… and… like… all the food. Is there anything to eat around here?”
“Aren’t you going to punish me?” He sounded a little disbelieving, and a little disappointed.
“Do you want me to punish you?”
“N… not particularly.” He was only partly lying, half to me, half to himself. Now that he had a bit of perspective, he was feeling a little guilty. The dude wasn’t a sociopath. He was psychotic, of course… but the two aren’t the same thing by any measure.
“Heh. You’re lying. But I’m freaking starving. Now… can you stand or do I have to carry you. I need food and I’m not leaving you unsupervised… you were planning on killing everyone in Skypiea.”
“Great. You do some soul searching, but get your people to bring us some food… and booze… and oh, fuck, they’re prostrating themselves.”
It took far too long and I was seriously considering turning into a giant snake and just eating a few of these bozos, but eventually they brought me some damned food. Most of it was fruit and nuts, which was nice, but they also brought fish, which was much nicer. No meat though… and no grain… or cheese… which was problematic. I was really, really hungry.
“So… E. Why don’t you have wings?”
“No idea. Everyone else does… except you.”
I chuckled and grew a massive pair of wings. “I cheat.”
He blinked. “Can you fly with those?”
“Normally, I can fly without them.”
“Normally?” He raised an eyebrow and I laughed.
“Yeah. I had to make a deal with… let’s just say there are things out there that are to Gods what Gods are to… you have bugs? Little crawly things? Many legs?” He nodded, looking confused but with dawning horror. “Yeah… what Gods are to Bugs, there are beings out there that are like that.”
“What are they called?”
“Benefactors, apparently, but I suspect that’s just a convenient appellation. I don’t think even Gods can really understand their nature. Think of them as… the places where stories and history come from.”
“I… don’t think I understand.”
“It’s okay. I’ve been at this for… you’re what… mid-twenties? Early thirties?”
He looked at me for a very long moment, then put his drink down carefully, and asked, “Are you asking a question you already know the answer to?”
I closed one of my eyes and regarded him slowly, then shrugged and nodded. “Yes. That was well spotted. You’re 31 years old, born on May 6th. You’ve got a gift for mechanical systems, and dream of going to the Moon, what you call the Endless Earth, despite having no idea what you’ll find there and having never seen it. WOuld you like to?”
He blinked, then swallowed hard, and nodded.
“Cool.” I considered for a moment, extending my waterbending senses to feel where the moon was, then stood, pointed towards where it was, then said, “Behold. Fiat Luna!” I called, invoking the muse of dramatic presentation, and moved my hands just so, pushing the massive wall of clouds miles away out of the way with a combination of water bending and TK… and the moon hung in the sky beyond, giant and faintly golden and glorious, a shining crescent too large and close.
Enel fell to his knees, eyes wide, tears coming to them, and the gathered Priests and Flunkies… even Ohm who had somehow survived my blast… dude was tougher than I’d thought all looked stunned.
I pointed at them. “Don’t you fucking think about trying to worship me again or I’ll throw you off Skypiea and see how well you swim in the Blue Sea (they called the local cloud-water the White-Sea and the White-White-Sea… it had multiple tiers of stacked water-clouds… this place soooo laughs at the concept of physics).
As it turns out, I ended up spending a couple months with Enel and getting to know the people of Skypiea. They were, almost to a one, either terrified of E’s wrath or plotting to kill him. Okay… long story short… Turns out that Skypiea’s older than anyone has any idea about, and most of the dirt in the place… dirt as in soil, was from ships from the surface that just kinda get blasted up into the sky somehow (Later found out it’s one of those laughs at physics… and wouldn’t that be a great fake indian name… “Hello, I’m Laughs-at-Physics”… phenomena called “Knock Up Stream” which is essentially a super geyser under the ocean that moves around… somehow). Normally, KUS brought ships, but 400 years ago, it brought an entire damned island called Jaya up into the sky… complete with its gold-plated capital city of Shandora… and its people, the Shandia. Jaya is larger than all the cloud islands combined.
Presented with an unprecedented bounty of soil/dirt/Vearth as they called it, the God of the time made the obvious choice… and declared that only he and his priesthood were allowed to live there… because apparently Enel wasn’t the first dick to be God of Skypiea. So he and his forces drove out the Shandia (another winged tribe like the Birka and the Skypieans), and started a 400 year long war… and yes, the Shandia look vaguely native-american, because why the hell wouldn’t they. There was a definite Christians vs Pagans vibe going on here… though Enel was more… I dunno… maybe it was native americans being squished between christians on one side and buddhists on the other. Or maybe it was just Oda (the author) going ‘oooo, I has Idear!’ and I’m reading too much into it.
Enel and his followers had conquered the place relatively recently and driven out the previous Skypiean God, an old dude named Gan Fall, who’d been trying to get the Shandia to come to the peace table with relatively little luck.
It took a fair amount of effort to get Gan Fall, the Shandia Chief, the chief Shandia warrior (a hothead named Wiper), Shura (as the Birka representative and only sane-ish member), and the current elders of the Skypieans (the local guard captain named McKinley and this technically inclined gentleman with a brillo pad for a beard named Pagaya) all to the table… but I can be very persuasive… and once I had everyone together, I explained that they were going to make peace and come to an agreement that everyone could be happy with, or I was going to banish all of them back down to the surface and try again with a different group. Wiper tried to step to me, but I ignored every blow he leveled against me until he started hurting himself, at which point I asked him a single question.
“Is peace so anathema to you that you’d rather die than work for a better future for your children and their children?” It got through to him, eventually.
In between restructuring Skypiean society into a more rational state, and studying their very strange ‘Dial-based’ technology (Dials are the shells of white-sea creatures that can store various things like sound, or cloud, or kinetic force, or heat, and release it upon command… see also Laughs-at-Physics), I examined the ruins of Shandora and translated a very interesting monolith and other carvings.
I also spent a fair amount of time both talking to and sparring with Enel, who, aside from the whole genocidal psychopath was actually pretty fun to be around. He had a snarky and twisted sense of humor, and a keen, insightful mind. The ship he’d designed, the Ark Maxim, was impressive and could both fly and hover. It was powered largely by electricity of course, but also had backup Jet Dial thrusters. It had a lot of gold… and a weather generator onboard. Dude was a regular mad scientist, who’d been planning to use the weather generator to create storm clouds to obliterate Skypiea.
I couldn’t make him sane… that would have taken way more effort and tampering than I was willing to do, but I could give him perspective and force him to confront his psychosis. God Complexes aren’t uncommon, and they often come with Megalomania and the desire to destroy all those who are viewed as ‘lesser’ or subjects or ‘impure’ or ‘unworthy’. He was, or had been, almost textbook Narcissistic Personality. Unfortunately, this literally meant that the genocidal behaviour wasn’t, exactly, his fault.
I probably could have killed him and made it stick. Probably. Maybe I should have. He was a definite threat and had killed thousands… but in every conceivable way, I was a bigger one and had killed orders of magnitude more people than he had. Sometimes I’d even done so while sane. And… like it or not, Enel was erudite, witty, and the kind of smug bastard I actually enjoyed hanging out with.
He was insightful, and yes, a bit hyperfocused at times, but he put effort into self improvement and, to be honest, we tended to agree on the utter worthlessness of the vast majority of the population. The only real differences were that he felt superior because of his god complex and I just didn’t like them… and where I dealt with them largely in benign neglect, he was actively dismissive of them. However, he had no friends, because he was unable to comprehend people as having value if they weren’t his equals… and thus he also had no pets or lovers.
I wasn’t volunteering for either, but I was willing to demonstrate that a superior could be friends with an inferior… from the position of the superior. And I called him on his bullshit… and he had a lot of bullshit.
He also had actual monsters in his command structure, and so I had to find ways of dealing with Ohm, Satori, and Yama… and to find a place for Gedatsu where he couldn’t do too much damage. I put him in charge of one of the salvage crews that trolled the lower level of the floating cloud-sea for useful stuff knocked up from the surface. The Psychos Three, all of whom had somehow survived my attacks despite not being Devil Fruit empowered, I decided to seal in Ice-Stasis and drop into a pit, then forget where I’d stuck them. It wasn’t a great solution… but it got them out of my hair.
Just in time for my companions to show up in the bay off Angel Island. One moment there wasn’t a ship off the coast, the next… poof. Ship… full of idiots… but idiots that I was glad to see… for the most part. My ‘Nine Divines’ (counting myself as one) numbered Franky & Mini (yay! hugs!), Cirno (an almost perfect choice for the local insanity), Francine (Excellent, someone reliable), Kendra (Avast! Pirate of the Caribbean!), Reggy (who looked extremely unsure about the entire concept of ‘Fun’ or ‘Piracy’ or any of this… she was, however, glad to get away from the boys for a while… and the walls of the Warehouse… and being able to punch someone again.)… plus Kohina and her father. Kagetane has never been my favorite person… but this time I almost enjoyed introducing my old pet psychopath to my new pet psychopath. They hated each other almost immediately… excellent result.
Pulling Francine aside, I asked “Ahab? Joy? Raven?”
She smiled “Auto-Imported for the Bahs pair. Him as a Pirate, her as a Marine.” I considered that, then laughed at the role reversal from Tenchi, as Francine nodded, smiling. “And Raven in Mariejois, looking for libraries to get lost in.”
“Riiight. I assume the Strawhats haven’t even entered the Grand Line yet. So, do I want to know how you picked?”
She shrugged. “Essay competition. Caine judged, since he had absolutely no interest in coming to the place of lunatics.”
I blinked. “Cirno can write?”
“She drew a picture. Caine liked it very much.” I nodded, that made more sense. I mean, yes, obviously Cirno is, in fact, literate. Stringing together coherent themes and convincing phrases are to literacy as a raindrop is to a bathtub, and that was not a tub that Cirno had a lot of depth in.
“Well then, First Mate, tell me about our crew,” I commanded with a broad grin.
“I’d love to Captain… but… err… shouldn’t we have a crew name, a ship name… and the Captain’s name first?” she countered.
“Very Well… Apparently, we are ‘The Nine Divines’ Crew, the Ship is the Starward Victory, and I,” I stood on Victor’s rail, looking out at the crowd of small kids and confused not-angels who’d come to examine the new ship. “I am her Captain, Sunny D. Jammer!” I blinked as the crowd cheered. Why had I listed my middle initial as D? I’d meant to say ‘T’ as in James T. Kirk or Jas T. Hook. Then I glared at Francine who was giggling, having just realized I’d named myself after a fake orange-juice cocktail for kids. “Regardless, who, exactly, is my crew… and, more importantly, what drawbacks did you lunatics take?”
Francine smiled that special kind of innocent smile that fools only very stupid and gullible people, then spread her hands as if to say ‘We are innocent of all your doubt.’ I gave her one of those looks that said ‘Oh, please.’ and she chuckled, then shrugged. “Well, we’re all wanted.”
“All of you? My crew is worth 800 million Berry? Huh. I should turn you in for the reward.”
Francine blinked, “You didn’t take it yourself? It seemed like free points to us. Not like we weren’t going to be causing trouble anyway.” I love the fact that she didn’t even worry if I was serious about me turning them in. It was a logical move.
“Naw. I took Hungry instead… should have taken Wanted… ah well. So that’s 700 for each of you. Oh, before I get too distracted, how many of you bought Devil Fruit?”
“Just me. Everyone else bought maps.”
“Great. This entire trip is going to be wall to wall research and decryption. We should head to the capital, cash you in, pick up Raven and Joy, and get started on those maps asap. Have everyone bring me their maps as soon as we finish. You and I will memorize them, then burn them. Don’t want anyone else getting a chance to see them.”
She nodded, then stood at attention, faintly annoyed she couldn’t float in place as was her usual seating tactic. “I filled out my CP allotment by taking something called ‘Warlord’s Fury’ for +300. Apparently I have angered someone named Donquixote Doflamingo-” I snorted at the name.
“Indeed. Apparently he has considerable resources and will hunt me down for some inscrutable reason.”
“Well… that’s your game. I’ll let you play it until you ask for help.”
“Of course. We all got Survivalist, of course… as, I assume, did you?” I nodded. “Excellent. On the assumption that you wouldn’t bother taking the Navigator Skillset, I have taken it upon myself to do so, as well as selecting the Dark-Dark Logia Fruit from the Legendary Tier. It allows the User to turn their body into Darkness and to control both Darkness and Gravity, including the creation of intense Gravity vortexes. It also can nullify the powers of other Devil Fruit users on physical contact.”
“Whoa… nice!” It was. It should have been. It cost 700 points.
“Legend has it that this fruit is also capable of permanently absorbing other devil fruit powers… though how it does so I have no idea. I’ve only had it for a few hours and haven’t experimented with it too much.”
“Huh. Well. Let me know if you figure anything out. And we can test your power later against my new buddy Enel. You’ll like him. He’s mental. As in… seriously. We’ll have to see if you can come up with any way of treating his… problem.” I flashed her a mental image of him, an image that contained all my impressions of him in one gestalten package. It wasn’t so much information as… awareness, which is why we didn’t use it for conversation, but it had its value.
“I also purchased something called Rumble Formula. It was discounted if you had bought a Fruit… but not if you bought a Map. I suppose it would have been cheaper to buy the 400 point formula and a map for 200, rather than the Fruit and Formula for a total of 900… but I wanted to be guaranteed of getting the Dark-Dark, which a map wouldn’t have.” I nodded. It made sense. And the Rumble Formula, as developed by the Straw Hat’s Doctor, the Reindeer-Man ‘Tony Tony Chopper’, allowed Zoan types to create new and improved hybrid forms for their Zoan forms.
“Uh… doesn’t the Rumble Formula only work for Zoan type Devil Fruit Users?” I asked.
“It has predictable effect on Zoans. It can still modulate non-Zoans… just in unpredictable ways.”
“Oh… is that all? Well, happy… can the Formula be used only for your powers?”
“No. It’s a formula,” she held up a piece of paper, the contents of which I immediately memorized. “Anyone can learn it. Should we burn it?” I nodded and gestured, making it flare to ash instantly. Wouldn’t do to hand out a weapon to a potential enemy if we didn’t have to. The paper itself would probably respawn in the Warehouse at some point, but it was safe there… hopefully. Some of my companions are morons at times.
I sighed, missing Ziggy. I needed a snuggle and grabbing Mini or Franky, while fun… would be for later. There wasn’t, yet, an actual port in Skypiea, so I couldn’t bring him out of the Warehouse… yet. I wasn’t planning on leaving the Island in the Sky until Luffy and Crew showed up, which I figured would take about 6 months tops. Plenty of time to build at least a small port.
“Okay, well, seems you’re squared away… though I didn’t buy a Log Pose or Eternal Pose, so if we plan to navigate anywhere, I hope one of the others did, or we’ll have to follow Luffy and company once they inevitably show up.”
Francine raised an eyebrow “You’re sure they will?”
“Don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t. This place has all the hallmarks of a fantastic locale to have rollicking good adventures at. I’m guessing that Luffy was originally supposed to fight Enel.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Rubber Man with heart of gold fights evil Lightning God? That’s a plotline right out of Shonen Jump.”
“Good point. Want me to send the others in?”
“Do you know what they took?”
“Oh, sure. We conferred before we finalized. We had a plan… well, a game plan. Covering the bases type thing.” I nodded as she continued. “Let me hit the drawbacks first. Your girlfriends both took the The Hungry drawback, just like you did… though Luccini tried to convince the Banker to let her change it to Sleepy instead, but he told her she’d enjoy that too much. They also both took Drowning Hazard drawback, hoping that you’d comfort them and give them cookies to ease the anxiety of being at sea. Of course, this means they can’t swim for shit and if they eat a Devil Fruit, it’ll develop into Hydrophobia and panic while being on the open ocean. I suspect that later on this jump we’ll be forced to block out their fear centers. Are you certain those two are war veterans? They seem perpetually silly.”
“Francy… you served with them.”
“I’m sorry. I only remember the panties. Everything else is a blur of aliens and aerial combat,” my #1 psychic said dryly. I rolled my eyes. “Continuing the theme, they both took 2 maps each. The idea is that the extra maps are for Ahab and Joy. I don’t know if it did this for you, but when they selected the Maps, the tablets popped up a slider for difficulty and a list of keywords. Luccini (Francy almost always called Frankie ‘Luccini’ because their nicknames were so similar… none one called them Francesca or Francine except Bao and he was hopelessly formal.) selected ‘Shadow’ for herself (of course she did, her familiar was Ombra… italian for ‘Shadow’) and ‘Serpent’ for Ahab. For some reason, both maxed out the difficulty slider.”
I nodded. The Shadow-Shadow Fruit was a Legendary Logia, and while Garden Snake might be a Common Zoan, a Serpent could very well be referencing a Legendary creature such as Jormungandr… though I’d never heard of a water themed Devil Fruit… Ice and Snow? Yes. Water or Aquatic? No. Made one wonder if there were any amphibian Zoan or Fish Zoan Fruits.
“She selected ‘Wind’ for herself and ‘Joy’ for, well… Joy.”
“Did those lock the difficulty?” I was guessing Wind would.
“Wind did. At Max,” Francy confirmed. “Joy didn’t. Joy had us set it for half way. So it might be Great or Decent… hard to say. Each map has the keyword on the top, so it’s easy to tell which is which.”
I considered, then said “Continue with the drawbacks and maps. We can come back to other details later. I want to paint a picture of the challenges facing us before I consider what new assets we have.”
My able Lt. snapped to attention, throwing off a credible salute. “Yes Cap’in! Kogo’s missing his left leg and right arm… though that shouldn’t matter much for reasons I’ll get to later. Reggy’s got no sense of direction and is missing her left hand. The idiot took the trifecta of annoyance… cowardly, glutinous, and directionless. Little Bit (her nickname for Kohina) took the 300-point one that made the Pirate Whitebeard and his entire fleet want to destroy her. That should be fun to deal with. Kendra took the last 300-pointer, the one that makes her public enemy #1, supplanting Monkey D. Dragon… that’s Luffy’s Dad, right?”
“So the wiki I looked at long ago said. Yes. And Monkey D. Garp is his Grandfather.”
“Why’d you look at the Wiki?”
“I’d decided to watch the Anime again and was flipping through it trying to figure out if it got better later. So I know little bits and pieces of the lore. But not enough to know where One Piece itself is. I don’t think the series had ended when I left Origin.”
“We should have an idea on that. But I’ll get back to that in a bit,” she smirked, knowing she was the only one who could actually keep me out of her mind if she wanted to.
“Fiiiine. Maintain your suspense. Maps?”
“Kogo selected ‘Insight’, Great Difficulty.” I mmmed, considering what that might generate., nodding for her to continue. Reggy selected ‘Queen’, Great Difficulty.” Cirno… spent a long time arguing with the tablet, then bought a Lowest difficulty ‘Snow’ Map.” She was smirking and I had a baaad feeling about that map, but didn’t interrupt. “Kohina took ‘Holy’… Max difficulty. So did Kendra.” I raised my eyebrows at that… what was wrong with my companions!!! Did they think I would relish a decade long Treasure Hunt full of obscure riddles and puzzles? Well, they were right… but did they think I was going to do the hunting for their fruits? I could very well just leave them to their own devices and see if they could find them on their own. I could just spend the decade lounging on clouds, not fighting anyone… that would show them!
“Riiight. Sounds like we’ve got… trouble, right here in River City, with a capital T and that rhymes with P and it stands for Piracy.”
“You’re a very silly entity, Boss Lady.”
“Yeah, well… I try. Give me the highlights of the group dynamic. The suspense is killing me.”
“Yeah, well, you’re a smart ass… report, sailor!”
“Nag, nag, nag. Okay. Franky took Combat Training so she’d know how to fight with gun or sword, land or sea… and how to operate flintlock weapons.”
“This place is mental. Flintlocks… and Cyborgs. For fuck’s sake.” I shook my head.
“She also took Commanding Presence… I think more for the sake of distraction than actual leadership. Navigation as well, so she can serve as a backup navigator… when she’s not wigging out… and she actually bought a Log Pose, just so we’d have one.” I grunted to show I had no comment, and she continued. “Mini and Koko took Tinkerer, so we have two people who understand the local techbase… though not as good as whoever ‘Vegapunk’ is… and is it just me or do these names sometimes make your ears want to bleed?”
I chuckled, but motioned for her to continue. “Tinkerer is a combo of jury-rigging stuff out of scrap metal and simple tools, serious tech with real tools and money and time… and allows ripping machines down and rebuilding them to learn how they work. Mini took Tinker to get the discount on the Strange Machine that IDs Devil Fruit and she also took the Devil Fruit Encyclopedia. The machine only IDs the Fruits, but until she figures out how it works, it’ll break down every time we use it. The Encyclopedia tells us what the Fruits actually do. It’s a worn out copy, but that shouldn’t slow you down.” It was true. I can read a book with a single touch, and that power doesn’t care if words are smudged or faded; as long as the page was still in the book, I could read the most fall apart delicate text. I once absorbed the data from a book so old it had actually fallen to dust.
“What was Kagetane’s reason? Something to do with his missing limbs?” I asked, beginning to worry about leaving Enel unsupervised for so long… especially with Cirno and Reggy as babysitters.
“Oh… He’s a Cyborg, Self-Made. Apparently as powerful as someone named Franky during the Water 7 Arc.”
“Whatever that is. Well, it’s not the first time he’s been a cyborg. He’ll figure it out. Hope he doesn’t go crazy again.”
“This time he chose it. Makes a difference.”
“It does… now he might have willingly sacrificed his humanity.” She blinked, then shuddered and I could tell I’d hit a point she hadn’t considered. For all her towering intellect, she still didn’t take the human element into consideration as much as she should. But then again, at her core, she wasn’t human. Just very close to it.
“He… um… also took the medkit and the box of Dials? None of us are sure what those are, but he was intrigued enough to want to experiment.”
“Ah… local plot-devices. As in local to this specific part of the setting I’m guessing. The local technology is all focused on Dials… which are the shells of White-Sea creatures. According to the locals, the ships that end up here from the Blue-Sea don’t have Dial Tech. We can have them ID’d and he can pick up a bunch more… unless he has rare ones that belong to extinct species.”
“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.”
“I’m sure he’ll try and install some of them in his cyborg body,” I snarked.
“That too,” she agreed. “But, moving on to the less human than the Cyborg Killing Machine… Reggy. She took Precision… it heightens coordination and kinesthetic sense, reaction times, aim… the whole package. She’s also our designated Shipwright, anything up to sloops she can repair or build, at least for now. It’s expandible, easily, to the Galleon level. She also took something called Black Leg Combat Style?”
“Yeah… Sanji… the Straw hat’s chef. It’s his fighting style. Think a combo all the kicking styles in the world. Hitmontop’s got nothing on Sanji.”
She made a face as I badmouthed a fellow Pokemon… then remembered that, as a Psychic Type, she didn’t like Fighting types and shrugged. “Okay. If you say so. The price seemed high for what amounts to a month’s intensive training in it…” I blinked, 600… even discounted to 300 was pretty high for only a month’s training. I’d gotten a mastery of CQC for that price once upon a time. “And she took the infinite barrel of grog or whatever.”
“The one that occasionally makes you break out into spontaneous shanty singing when it’s not filling you with nostalgic melancholy?”
“That would be the one. Yes.”
“Well, won’t that be fun at parties,” I said, half-chuckling. “And speaking of fun… tell me about Cirno?”
“Oh… no. Saving her for last. Kohina next. She’s a Fishman… a Lionfish Fishman.”
I grimaced at that. Fishmen are not nice folk. The only ones I’d seen in the series were the Arlong Pirates, who were anti-human racists, 10 times stronger than a human, brutal, cruel, and possessed of superhuman abilities related to their fish-species. The octopus man could spit ink, the shark man could regrow his teeth instantly… and they were both amphibious and incredibly tough… and in the water they seriously outclassed humans, since they could throw punches and kicks at full speed… see Laughs-at-Physics. If Kohina was one of them, it was interesting… but if she was also a Lionfish… one of the most venomous and beautiful fish out there… with 18 venomous spines, the lionfish was one of the most skilled hunters in the ocean, thanks to a probing head tentacle, bilateral swim bladders that give it exquisite control of its own buoyancy, and large fins… and a huge mouth for its size, which allowed them to both swallow prey whole and blow jets of bubbles to confuse enemies. They might be small… but Fishmen where human-sized or bigger.
Granted, the poison of a normal Lionfish was rarely fatal to a human… but that was a 6 inch fish… Kohina was bigger than that and her spines would be an order of magnitude larger and, if the series was any judge, much more powerful.
“What else did she get?” I asked, setting that aside. Dangerous allies were good… even though I had a strong dislike for Fishmen… but I couldn’t assume that they were all like the Piratical Arlong and company any more than Piratical Humans were typical of humanity. And it wasn’t like I was vulnerable to poison myself.
“Two Eternal Poses. One to Fishman Island… under the assumption we might want to go there at some point… and one to a place called Raftel.” I tilted my head.
“Why that one?”
“The Eternal Pose description said ‘an island in the Grand Line’, be that Paradise or the New World. She asked for the island where Gold Roger hid his treasure.”
I blinked, then chuckled “Wow… that… is just all sorts of not fair. I do so love this kind of silliness. Okay… yes. Not sure about Fishlandia… but the other place… better have her give me that one. I’ll put it someplace safe. Instruct her and the others never to mention the name of the place or that we have a Pose that points there. Kendra?”
“Both levels of Haki.”
“Ah. Well, Ahab and Joy? No, wait… you said they auto-imported. That’s just freebies. Never mind. Now… spill about the ‘genius’ fairy.”
“She took Giant. At the 400 point level.”
I opened my mouth, then shut it again.
“And WIll of D… the Willpower slash plot armor thing.”
“Argh. She’s a 50 foot tall smiling git!”
“Pretty much. Is there anything to eat.”
I sighed and nodded. “Let’s go introduce the Crew to the locals. And get started on the welcoming party. No idea if Luffy’s bringing enemies with him or not.”
Seven Months Later.
“Captain? Amazon just sent up a ship full of outsiders from the White-Sea.” Amazon was this little old lady that ‘guarded’ the entrance from the White-Sea to the White-White Sea known as ‘Heaven’s Gate’. She was, not to put too fine a point on it, utterly clueless. Thankfully, all she had to do was hand out the welcome brochure and explain the exchange rate (1,000 Skypiean Extol equalled 1 Berry… though I had no idea still how there was even an exchange rate as there was all but no trade between the surface and Skypiea and it appeared that most of our visitors from the surface had no clue Skypiea even existed before ending up here). Prior to my arrival and reforms, she would demand an entrance fee… and not explain the exchange rate which made the sum seem extortionate… then allow people to sail on up without paying… and report them as criminals for not paying. Idiot.
I thanked the runner, looking out of the office from my newly constructed HQ at Port Jammer in the crescent shaped bay of Upper Yard. After she left, I picked up the pictures that Amazon had sent and smiled. “At last.” Standing, I pulled my jacket off the back of my chair and opened the door out onto my balcony. “ENEL! The Rubber Man has come! Cirno, put down that fishing trawler and go open the gate! Someone go find Gan and the Chief and tell them we have visitors!” I smiled as the scurrying began and looked out at the blossoming new city. We’d had to clear a huge amount of the trees that had utterly overrun Jaya since it rose to the Heavens, but even with the logging, less than a 10th of the island had been cleared. The trees were simply massive… and the wildlife extremely aggressive… especially the Shandian Godsnake, which was a surprisingly friendly creature with a very strange laugh… and a stomach full of priceless treasures, most of them gold, which now decorated my office.
As the Straw Hat’s ship, the Going Merry, docked at Pier 4, I lept down from my fifth story office and bounded across the intervening yards, leaping up onto the goatlike figurehead on the prow of the ship. “Avast! Welcome to Port Jammer, travellers! My name is Sunny and I’ve come to collect the docking fee… and to invite you all to dinner at the Governor’s Palace.” I gestured to my massive complex, though it served as City Hall far more than merely being an abode.
The youth in the straw hat blinked up at me and grinned “Is this Sky Island?”
“It is! Well, this island is called Upper Yard, though it used to be called Jaya-”
“Jaya!?” the whole Strawhat crew gasped, practically in unison.
I nodded blithely. “Indeedy. Used to be an island down below in the blue until the Knock Up Stream blasted her into the sky 400 years ago. Since then she’s been renamed the Upper Yard… you know of Jaya?”
“We just came from Jaya!” Nami, their Navigator exclaimed, sounding distressed.”
“Oh? That hardly seems likely… maybe there were two islands called Jaya?”
“Was… is there a city of gold here with a giant bell in the center?”
“There’s a city that used to be covered in gold. Most of the gold was either repurposed to make the previous God’s flagship or used to decorate the Governor’s office. But there’s no Bell in the center of town… just Jack.” I pointed at the obscenely tall double helix beanstalk that towered far up into the heavens. “Up there is where God’s Palace is.”
“Ho… no… Not the god you’re thinking of. The local leader is called God. It’s an office. Gan Fall is the local God, but the position is being phased out in favor of the Governor, since the God was only the leader of the Skypieans and the Governor has unified all three tribes under one unified banner.”
The Strawhats looked mostly confused… brains were not major features among the human males, and Chopper’s intellect was focused mostly on medicine… pretty good for a Reindeer. Nami and Nico Robin, the newest member of the crew and a former member of the terrorist organization ‘Baroque Works’ (which, I have to admit, is an awesome name for a secret criminal organization bent on world domination), both looked at me, considering my words and judging if they could trust them. I liked those two… then I peered inside them and confirmed that, aside from some questionable character traits, all these people were, at their cores, decent folk.
I grinned broadly, making a show of innocence, as I asked, “Would you like to see the ruins? I can escort you there in the morning if the Governor says it’s okay… oh, dear… here comes the former God, Enel.” I pretended not to know what was coming.
“RUBBER MAAAAAN! Let’s fight!”
“The Governor is well informed about… err… your identities, I’m afraid. And the Ex-God has been hoping to test himself against your Captain… you are Captain Luffy of the Strawhats, right?” I beamed, flashing a smile that showed that butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth, at Luffy, who blushed a little, then lept off the boat and raised his fists. “Enel! You know how the Governor would feel about you sparring on the docks. Take it to the practice yard.” I turned to the rest of the crew and asked them if they’d care to follow me, either to the Palace or watch the fight.
After a glance at where Enel and Luffy were vanishing off towards the fairly isolated patch of trees we’d set aside for sparring… the location had previously been dominated by the four Priest’s merciless trial zones… the others decided to follow me to the Palace.
I chattered aimlessly as I escorted them, but inwardly I was concerned by Nico Robin’s memories. I couldn’t dive fully into them, not with her awake and aware, but what I could read concerned me greatly. Her family… Her entire tribe… had been obliterated in something the World Government called a ‘Buster Call’. A Buster Call was, apparently, the One Piece equivalent of Exterminatus, a mobilization of an entire Marine Fleet to destroy whatever target the Fleet Admiral or World Government Mandarin deemed needed destroying. In Robin’s people’s case, it had apparently been because they were scholars researching something Robin’s memories identified as “The True History”. I needed more information… so I decided to reveal myself.
Escorting them through the Palace, constructed in record time as I’d cheated outrageously in the processing of the raw materials, even if I couldn’t tech things up to any extreme degree. I still knew how to accelerate the aging process of wood, how to enchant and shape materials formed from the various elements, and I had several superhumanly skilled craftsmen in my employ… and a trip to the moon with Enel had netted us a supply of interesting, and cute little Automata who weren’t half bad at construction. The Ruins there had been… eye opening.
“And this is the Governor’s office. Go on in. The Governor is expecting you.” I opened the door, sending a thought to Francine to enquire how the fight was going. She responded that, while neither was going all out, they seemed to be enjoying the challenge of the novel opponent. I smiled, closing the door behind the Straw Hats and grinning as Ziggy yawned at them from my desk. Nami’s eyes were bugging out at the fortune in gold that decorated my office, and I knew she was trying to figure out how to steal some or all of it. If she actually had the guts to do it, I’d let her have it. I had more than would fit on the shelves and pedestals and display tables as it was.
Chopper looked around, he’s such a cute little guy, then addressed the sleepy, oversized ferretoid. “Are… Are you the Governor?” I couldn’t help laughing, which startled the Straw Hats who hadn’t realized I’d followed them in.
I pulled off my tricorn and tossed it onto a hatrack without looking and adjusted my cuffs as I strode to the desk, growing taller and more imposing with every step, my outfit adjusting to my increasing size as it had been enchanted to do. I very quickly shot from my natural 4’10” all the way up to 6’4” in the space of 10 progressively longer strides. “I apologize for the deception. So many of our guests are, shall we say, of a nefarious bent. My subjects have just come out of 400 years of war and often questionable leadership, and are settling, uneasily, into peace. I am Governor Sunny Jammer.”
“Are you a Devil Fruit Eater?” Chopper asked, trying to figure out how I did the growing trick, since the only way he could think of involved me eating the same fruit he’d eaten, the Hito-Hito no Mi… the Human-Human Fruit.
I laughed. “No no… nothing like that…. Though I do look forward to the experience. I merely haven’t located the proper Fruit yet. But to answer your unspoken question, Tony Chopper, I am magic. Now, Nico Robin…” I said, sitting on the edge of my desk and stroking Ziggy’s soft fur. “Tell me what you know about the True History and why the World Government brought a Buster Call down upon your people?”
I shan’t bore you with the details of the conversation that followed, nor of the details that followed that, as they mostly consisted of me making arrangements to travel to Mariejois. Something was rotten in the World Government, and I needed to see for myself. What Robin was able to tell me essentially can be summarized thusly. 800 years ago, the 20 Kingdoms that eventually came together to form the World Government won a decisive victory against a nation known only as the Ancient Kingdom… and then erased all the history of the event, murdering all the scholars who knew about what has become known as ‘The Void Century’ and burning all the references… except for a series of heavily concealed monoliths known as Poneglyphs… which were, apparently, utterly indestructible to any means known to modern science.
I’d seen one such Poneglyph in the Manga, in the royal crypt of Alabasta… and discovered a second in the ruins of Shandia. The Nicos and their colleagues had been researching the True History… and for that, the World Government had murdered not only them, but everyone on their entire Island and placed a multi million Berry bounty on the head of the only survivor… an 8 year old girl.
Leaving Robin to explore the ruins of Shandia and Luffy to explain about some explorer whose great to the nth grandson was still looking for Shandia to this day, I took Mini, Franky, Kendra, Cirno, Reggy, and Enel, boarded Enel’s Ark Maxim, and headed off towards the capital of the World Government and some answers.
What I found there wasn’t answers. It was… Fury. I discovered corruption and injustice on a scale that I hadn’t seen since Black Bullet. The WG had officially outlawed slavery 200 years back… and yet the World Nobles, the descendants of the royal families of 18 of the 20 Kingdoms, a group of obscenely and decadently wealthy fuckheads, openly owned slaves. They flaunted the law at every turn because they were above it. The WG allowed its Marines to operate a de facto military state, brutally applying a doctrine of Absolute Justice which punished anyone caught associating with Pirates… or even thought to have associated with Pirates… up to and including entire nations.
My investigations in Mariejois let me from the Human Auction Houses of the World Nobles to the offices of the Gorosei, the 6 person unelected Mandarin Council that was the World Government’s executive body… and from there to Marine Admiralty… and from there to Ennis Lobby, the floating city and Marine administrative center built on the surface / top of the undersea tower that was Impel Down, the WG’s prison… and by prison… I mean concentration camp.
Anyone who pissed them off was sentenced to Impel Down… and even if the sentence wasn’t life… the guards were under orders to make sure that no one imprisoned within left alive. Prisoners were routinely tortured and experimented on.
While actual corruption in the Marines wasn’t rampant, the degree of what can only be called Dredd-esque Police-state mentality was unacceptable. House cleaning was in order… but even I didn’t know where to begin. The problem was just too… If I’d assassinated 1 fucker who deserved to die every day I’d be at it longer than my stay would last.
If I had a nuke I’d have seriously considered using it on Mariejois… but the civilian casualties would have been unacceptable. And killing the entire Marine hierarchy… barring MD Garp, who was well aware of the problems but also lacking a solution… would have meant turning the world into a battlefield. The WG was just too big for its administrative power to be everywhere it needed to be. I could understand why MD Dragon, Garp’s son, and, prior to my arrival the most wanted man in the world, was trying to bring the government down.
Frustrated, stymied, and (for once) with no easy answers… I returned to Skypiea, and decided, for once, not to get involved. Skypiea wasn’t involved in the World Government and I had my own quests to solve. The text of Will of D implied that those who were part of the D bloodline were being guided to something by fate. I had to assume that if I stepped back that fate would work a resolution. If my quest for the 10 Devil Fruits brought me into intersection with the plotline… so be it… but I would not spare anyone who crossed me in that quest who I felt deserved punishment… even if that derailed the plot. We gave the world a clock. It had until we had collected the 10th and final Mapped Fruit. Once that was done, it was going to be War and damn the torpedos.
Each map was a mixture of sketched map and encrypted clues. Cirno’s was written in a Double Caesar Cypher, also known as a Vigenere, and the keyword was, as it turns out, WADDLE… the double d’s is what clued us… after ten…. Ten… fucking… weeks! That’s how long it took us brilliant minds to crack a freaking Vigenere Cipher without computers! The only maps that took longer to decrypt than that were Ahab’s… at twelve weeks… and that was written in a one time pad cipher that we actually had to find the gods-be-damned fucking actual text because OTP Ciphers are uncrackable without the original text. As in not in the age of the universe with infinite computational power… and mine… which was written in three different encryption schemes that took us six, two, and four weeks to crack respectively.
That got us a limerick riddle (one week) that in turn led us to a Winter Island (each of the Islands in the first half of the Grand Line had it’s own microclimate, despite each being on or near the equator… because we laugh at physics here.). Following the clues, we entered an ancient crypt under a low mound of stones on a cliffside and, deep inside, having waded through some frankly embarrassingly silly traps (one of them was a large, perfectly preserved pie that had a little sign saying “safe to eat”… in the middle of a trap filled crypt… riiiight. Even Cirno wasn’t that dim.
Total solve time for the first map? Sixteen Weeks… including three weeks of sailing and a week of searching the damned island for a crypt buried in snow and rocks… and that was the simplest of the maps! And do you know what we got for our troubles? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT LITTLE TWIT’s DEVIL FRUIT WAS? It was the god. Damned. Penguin. Model. Of the Tweet-Tweet Fruit! We. Have. A. FIFTY-FOOT TALL PENGUIN… THAT CAN’T FUCKING SWIM! Oh, don’t get me wrong, she can freaking reflect cannon balls off that tummy and she’s fucking adorable… but… she’s a sea-bird who’s ungainly on land because she’s designed for underwater torpedo operation… and her powers don’t work underwater!
Still, it was a proof of concept and gave us an idea what kind of nonsense we’d be dealing with going forward. Using a fair and utterly impartial system, I determined the order in which we’d prioritize each of the remaining 9 maps… and by Impartial, I mean I played favorites like a proper bitch. My map was first, cause FUCK YOU, I’M THE DAMNED BOSS! I was sleeping with two members of my crew, so they got priority next, with Frankie winning the high card draw with an Ace to Mini’s Queen. Then Kendra… because she’s my best friend’s wife. Then Reggy, Joy, and Ahab… then Kohina and Kagetane. Not that I told any of them my reasons. I may play favorites, but I’m not crazy or mean. I just laid out the schedule, and told the others that they were free to work on the research if they thought they could help.
The research group consisted of myself, Enel, Raven, Mini, Joy, Ahab, and everyone in the Warehouse… and no… none of our damned computers were working, even in the warehouse. We were using abacuses. Even the AI systems were merely supersmart people. I couldn’t even use my hyper-computational processing power because it was beyond the curve… worst drawback ever!
Running through all the damned Ciphers for the remaining 9 maps took a solid year, almost to the day. Some were simple. We solved Kohina’s map in a day. Joy’s map was in the Enigma Cipher. It took us a week to build an Ultra Machine from memory and reference books, but that wasn’t too hard. Mini’s turned out to be written in 18 different symbol sets, then encoded, but it only took 3 weeks with the Rosetta Stone to work it out. Kagetane’s was written in the same language as the Voynich Manuscript… so that took us a month. Reggy’s was clearly written by a lunatic, and wasn’t just encrypted… it was keened… as in the method epic poetry uses to… never mind. If you don’t know what keening is, look it up… it’s fascinating but really really confusing to back decrypt… especially if you don’t know local mythology. Five weeks of reading weird local myths to make sense of it… and that was after the two months it took to render it into something readable in the first place.
After the decryption phase always came the research phase. Had to take the clues and use them to find the correct island after all… and wasn’t that loads and loads of fun. Kagetane’s map and Mini’s maps required pretty much no research. Mini’s clearly referenced Alabasta, while Kagetane’s was a famous observatory. Joy’s was in Mariejois. No trouble finding those. Even mine, which had a key on one island and a lockbox on a totally different island, didn’t take much more than a month of research to find either island. But then there was Frankie’s Island… 7 weeks to figure out which of a ring of 10 nodes of a massive atoll where the paths between islands flooded except for a few days every year. The ring was huuuuge… and all one island according to the Log Pose, but we had to find the correct node and that took time… especially since they were virtually identical and pretty much devoid of landmarks.
But that wasn’t the worst, nor was the ten weeks we spent crawling through government census records to figure out Ahab’s map. Nooo… that prize goes to Kohina’s map at seventeen! Seventeen weeks of collecting and reading and cross referencing every holy book in the history of this world! SEVENTEEN! I was dreaming in holy texts! Do you know how fucked up some religions Holy Texts are? Shudder. I need brain bleach. I used vodka and Binks Brew…
Now, I don’t want you to think all we did was travel round the world in a flying golden battleship and read incessantly. No… we also sparred, tested out new tech and new powers, and spied on the Straw Hats… and continued building Port Jammer in preparation for a coming war with the surface… and restructuring Skypiean society with all the force I could bring as God-King of the Magi. And relaxing. Stressed brains don’t do good work… but we put in a solid 4-6 hours a day, 6 days a week working on these blithering maps, bouncing from one to another as research materials became available and breakthroughs were made that allowed renewed progress.
Then, once we had an idea of where to go and what to look for… there was the trip itself, which often included opposition from one or more unfriendly parties. These ranged from random (and often insanely weird pirate crews, sometimes challenging us to something called a Davy Back Challenge, where the idea was that we’d do stupid pirate themed things in order to win members of the other crew or the symbol of the opposing crew. Me not being insane, told the rival captains that they were idiots and to fuck off.) to deadly (Marine Fleets, Edward Newgate… i.e. Whitebeard, Marshall Teach… i.e. Blackbeard, Shanks… i.e. Luffy’s hero, Donkeyhotey the Pink-git… the only man who could actually make World Nobles look like reasonable people, Big Mom… a giant, insane, and hideously ugly pirate queen with an obsession with collecting things.) Thankfully, very few of them had any defense against my Freezing everything in sight… but Devil Fruit Eaters are fucking scary in the total illogic of what they can pull off.
Whitebeard could create tremors and earthquakes. Blackbeard had the same fruit as Francine and more skill in using it. Big Mom had a fruit that allowed her to manipulate souls… and boy howdy wasn’t that a treat, having my soul ripped out of my body… thankfully I have experience being OOB and punted the fat bitch into the sea. Donkey Boy had control of strings… from puppeteering to monomolecular wire. He was not a fun enemy to deal with. One of the Marine Admirals was this guy named Sengoku who could turn into a massive golden buddha statue… not into the buddha… a statue of the buddha… what the fuck?
For the most part, I wasn’t interested in fighting these fools, but it did manage to slow me down avoiding them… and you’d think with a flying battleship… the only damned one in the entire world I wouldn’t have to do this shit! I sooo miss plasma cannons! And Satellite Recon!
Anyway… it took nearly a year to locate my fruit, and while we managed to find the key pretty easily, it took six weeks of crawling through a massive three dimension warren of tunnels some lunatic had bored into the ground beneath Hard Stone Island. There were miles of them… many of them quite tight, and several of them boobytrapped in painful ways… and there was an army of mice… things… voles? I dunno. They were really really hard to fight. Vole Ninjas I think. Voljas? But finally, after fighting through the Voljas and the Skeleton Samurai Hoste, and fighting/solving the ancient warmachine/puzzle box (I couldn’t just destroy it, the fruit was inside it), and then having to sit in decontamination for a month thanks to the MUTANT Ghost-Fleas the chest had been laced with… MUTANT GHOST-FLEAS PEOPLE!… I finally claimed my prize…
The machine ID’d it as the Dook-Dook Fruit. The Book informed me that the Dook-Dook Fruit was a legendarily dangerous fruit that turned the eater into a kleptomaniac and that all previous eaters had been hunted down and destroyed and the Fruit sealed away to keep its powers from darkening the world once more. However, it ID’d it as a Zoan type… I had a sneaking suspicion about this. But hey, when in Insane Rome, do as the Insane Romans do! I ate the damned thing… after making sure I was wearing not one but four Underwater Materia. Because fuuuck youuuu. I’d miss eating Seakings in Stormengandr form… or pretending to be a Sea King for that matter, but I had to try out the Fruit’s power for myself.
Imagine eating raw sewage. No… on second thought, don’t. Regardless, I can’t imagine that Devil Fruit taste any better. Uuuugh. I looked in a mirror… yup… I was ferretmorphic… again. Transforming into a hybrid state wasn’t particularly hard… I just had to think about it… and not think about turning into my Ferret-Tengu form. Of course, the markings were different. That had been a silver-grey asian ferret. This was a european polecat ferret, a bandit… and a big one.
In my tengu form, I had small delicate claws and sharp pointy teef. In my Devil Fruit Hybrid form, I was hulking, with half meter claws, 14 inch fangs, and skin like… I dunno. It was tougher than leather but flexible. I quickly discovered that I could fit through any gap… no matter how small as long as it wasn’t, you know, molecule sized… And I wasn’t a bad digger. But where the really meta cartoon logic came in… even more than being nigh-impervious to physical damage… seriously, in hybrid form, I could barely feel incoming blows and if I puffed myself up I just bounced off of the terrain… but I could now fall asleep anywhere… at any time… which was useless… and I could, with minimal effort… I don’t know how to explain it… I could just… radiate this aura of being utterly clueless. Didn’t persist if I did something aggressive, but I could make people think I was an idiot. But toss a Rumble Ball down the hatch… and shit got real.
I appeared to be able to steal… well… anything. Just as Tony Chopper could analyze weaknesses… I could take things… things like wallets sure, but also things more ephemeral… like happiness, or memories, or your left arm. Me stealing it didn’t cause wounds, didn’t make it not yours, and I didn’t seem to be able to actually do anything with what I stole… they were just mine… and oh, dear lord did I find myself kendering it up sometimes. I kept stealing my enemy’s noses… just to spite their faces.
Worryingly, things I stole had a tendency to… clump together if I left them untended or near each other, and mutate or combine in unpredictable ways… so I tried to give them back or stick them someplace they couldn’t cause problems later… if I thought about it. But napping was often a higher priority. Also, Luffy now smelled extremely tasty and I had to stop myself from chewing on him whenever we would run into each other.
28 weeks later, we located Frankie’s Shadow-Shadow Fruit on an upside down mountain hanging from the roof of an undersea cave so deep I have, to this day, no idea if it went all the way down to the core. The winds were horrific. 35 weeks after that, We located Mini’s Woosh-Woosh Wind Logia Fruit, and if you think that sounds prissy… we’re talking about a grapefruit that turns the eater into a walking Typhoon at will. Being becalmed is for people who don’t have their own wind elemental. After that it was Kendra’s fruit, which was in this secret level inside Impel Down, which meant breaking into a secure prison, then breaking out of it to access an area the guards didn’t know about but that the prisoners did (it was ruled by drag queens), then breaking out of the secret level without letting the guards know it was there… then breaking back out of the prison with the fruit. The Hito-Hito Model Kali Fruit that turned Kendra into one of those many armed bronze statues of Kali… 100 feet tall.
That took another 7 months… then Reggy’s 21 week quest to find what turned out to be the “Termite Model: Hive-Hive Fruit”. There was a series of Zoan-type insect fruits called Bug-Bug Fruits… but the Hive-Hive Fruits weren’t Zoan… they were Paramecia and, at will, Reggy could bring forth swarms of termites… which was ever sooo disturbing. She could also control them, causing them to swarm over her enemies or reshape the terrain… or just eat an entire ship in minutes. Yerrrrg. But it made her inordinately happy for… reasons.
We were, by this point, 3.5 years into the decade and Whitebeard had been murdered by Blackbeard who’d stolen his power, becoming the only person to ever demonstrate usage of two powers at once, at least as far as I could tell… though everyone assumed I was running around with the powers of a good half dozen fruits at least and my bounty was up to 10,000,000,000 and still climbing… not surprising since I’d murdered by that point 41 World Nobles by crucifixion… I’d had to break into a lot of houses to get the reference books I needed and I figured, while I was there, I might as well do some housecleaning and general piracy… and slave freeing.
There’d been some major changes to the world political spectrum and shakeups in both the membership of the Gorosei and Marine High Command, not to mention the deaths of one of the Yonko (the four most powerful pirates… namely Whitebeard) as well as among the 7 Privateer Lords that the Government subsidized. I had a growing network of spies and accomplices, needed to get me my research material, but paid for in part by Gold Roger’s incredible treasure… thank’s mate. I also funded Monkey D. Dragon’s rebellion, shipping them weapons, as well as arming more remote islands against pirates and funding a counter piracy fleet in each of the Four Blues (the oceans that weren’t Grandline.). I had no idea what the original plotline had been or if I was disrupting it, but I really didn’t care. This world suuuucked.
Joy’s Fruit ended up being the easiest to find… taking a total of 10 weeks and overcoming the storm system that surrounded the Island was by far the hardest element of that trip, as it took half of it and nearly wrecked the Ark Maxim. In the end, we located the Joy-Joy Fruit… yes… seriously… in a cave on a tree that received only a small amount of light each day. The fruit looked like a weird swirling bunch of grapes… and after Joy ate it she spend a solid week laughing, giggling, and chortling. Then again, so did we. It was a Paramecia that held the power to make people happy, bringing forth laughter and good cheer. She could force it, that much was clear, but just being near her tended to make people feel a bit better, being more positive and hopeful. A sufficiently bad mood could deflect the effects, but it was great for crowd control.
Unfortunately, we clearly got too confident with that easy catch, as Ahab’s took almost as long as mine did. Twelve weeks to solve the cipher, 10 weeks to do the research, and another 19 weeks to actually overcome the insanely nested riddles once we’d managed to navigate round the world and find Skypiea’s evil counterpart, Birkovia. Birkovia was a roving thunderstorm, full of sky nazies who had lightning and thunder weapons… and who managed to capture Enel and me in seacloud shackles that rendered us powerless… yes… even my other powers that weren’t from Devil Fruits stopped working thanks to the Devil Fruit’s curse. Grrrr. Five weeks to wait for a rescue while on trial as ‘Enemies of the State’. Then another 2 weeks spend evacuating the survivors of my companions’ somewhat over enthusiastic rescue operation that ended up shattering the Birkovian capital island in the process of blowing up the Birkstag. I wasn’t kidding about them being Nazis.
Ahab’s Fruit was, indeed, a Mythical Zoan, as it turned him into a ridiculously huge ‘Serpent’… a sky serpent… think Luck Dragon… but five times as long. He actually once tied himself in a knot trying figure out how to fly in that form. It was hilarious. And he wouldn’t let anyone help him so he was stuck like that for daaays!
Kohina’s Drawback, since Whitebeard was dead, seemed to have transferred over to Blackbeard instead, which meant that we had to fight the megalomaniac a bunch of times… 5 to be specific. Most notably for research material. I told you that solving her riddle was easy (less than a week), and the research was grueling (more than 17 weeks)… well, Blackbeard is why. He was on the trail of the same Fruit we were. It was a Legendary Fruit called the Sutra-Sutra Fruit and it contained the power of “The Word”… as in the holy word. As in… well… as it turns out, the power to turn things into books, scrolls, or carvings… to produce books and scrolls… or to even turn parts of your own body into books, scrolls, carvings… or words. Kohina could actually hide inside a text. She could do that thing from Buffy where Willow just sucked all the text out of books… and she could blow away the undead and other impure things simply by utter holy words… it was a little terrifying and well worth the 32 weeks we spent on it.
By comparison, Kagetane’s Insight Fruit… it turned out to be the Eye-Eye Fruit, was a cakewalk of epic proportions. The only part of the 12 week process that took time was the decryption and the travel. Research was a breeze, it took a day to consult some maps. The temple it was in was clearly marked… and the two guardians were almost grateful for someone to talk to and some food to eat that wasn’t mushrooms. The result however, of him eating the fruit was… well… can now call him Panoptes.
His sight became superhuman… from all the eyes on his body… which were or could be everywhere… in fact, he could look at a person and see out of their eyes… or look at an animal and see out of its eyes… or look at a wall and an eye would appear there and he could see out of it. He could see out of the eyes of pictures, statues, needles… He could look up at the sky and a giant eye would appear that he could see out of. He could even create eyeballs to throw at people or launch like bullets. It was… eyeful… sorry, I couldn’t resist.
And then, suddenly… we were done. Our grand quest, a quest that had lasted five years… was over. There were 55 months left… 4 and a half years and time had run out for the World Government. My army attacked Mariejois in force from both the Paradise and New World Sides in a concerted action, my forces and those of my allies shattering the army of cyborgs they threw against us. For every one of my people who fell, 8 of theirs went down, and within an hour we had shattered the defenses and were pouring into the city proper.
My covert strike team had arranged to assassinate or capture the entire WC and Marine High Command and, without that leadership, the defenders were summarily routed as they couldn’t coordinate worth a damn. It was all going smoothly… too smoothly. We’d managed to gather up all the remaining World Nobles and freed their prisoners and slaves… when a second fleet hit my forces from either side. On the Paradise side it was the Marines… on the New World side it was Blackbeard and Big Mom, united as one. I sent my companions to fight the Marines, while Enel and I went to face the pirates.
It was one of those epic and epochal fights that take 5 episodes to complete and can best be described as fight porn. The battle raged back and forth across the decks of a dozen ships, splintering their boards and shattering their hulls as we flowed in a dance of destruction.
Teach was using gravity and darkness against me, I was using ice, fire, and the sea itself against him. But for every power I manifested, he had a Devil Fruit that could counter it or protect him from it. He had plot armor the likes of which I’d never dreamed existed.
Finally… finally. I managed to maneuver him to a place where I could beat him… when there was a titanic explosion as all five of the shattered hulks surrounding us exploded. Teach was intangible and even so I saw him flinch and cry out as seastone shrapnel filled the world.
The deck beneath me was sinking… and I couldn’t move. I was covered in sea stone, with needles of sea stone stuck into my skin and I knew, in that moment, how Harry Dresden felt fighting the little nail armed fairies. I was powerless, or nearly so. I was still immortal… and I had Underwater Materia to keep the pressure and lack of oxygen from getting to me… And that’s why I spent nearly 4… fucking… years… lying at the bottom of the OCEAN! But, hey, at least I was at the Beach, right?
Next: Of Slugs and Salvation
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