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Sea of Second Chances

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Chapter 1: La Entrada

His eyes shot wide open. This was particularly unusual since the man had already died. Jinbe had lived a full life. He’d served under King Neptune. He’d committed to piracy in the name of freeing slaves. He’d become a Warlord for the corrupt World Government to protect his people. He had even joined the Straw Hat crew, seeing Monkey D. Luffy become King of the Pirates. All in all, Jinbe was perfectly happy with how he lived and died. Which begs the question: how is he still alive?

After standing up, Jinbe felt his face. His thoughts went along the lines of “Okay, I’m still a Fishman”. Looking over more of his body, Jinbe noticed that some of his scars were actually gone. He then decided to test his abilities.

Jinbe gave a roar of “Arabesque Brick Fist”, shooting his fist forward. Feeling the water around him burst into shockwaves, the Pirate was satisfied.

With a few more moves of Fishman Karate, Jinbe had confirmed that his strength was that of his prime.

“I need answers,” Jinbe thought to himself. Trying to find people, Jinbe flexed his Observation Haki, hoping to hear any ‘voices’. After a minute, he found it. There were enough ‘voices’ to indicate a small town’s worth of people.

“Perfect”, said Jinbe. With that, he set off at a leisurely stroll towards the presumed town.

Now with a destination in mind, Jinbe took in his surroundings. He was by a coastline. Judging from the distance of the ‘voices’, he still had a mile or two before reaching the town. Jinbe turned to the water, sensing just the usual presences of typical marine life. He turned forward as he climbed a hill, thinking he might get a glimpse of the town.

Once at the little peak, Jinbe found that he was on a mostly forested island, and not a very big one at that. He could see the town at the edge, which doubled as a port. While not particularly busy, it still had around half-a-dozen ships on the move. Jinbe was too far to make out anyone down there. Still, he noticed that the town had the standard hustle and bustle that comes with a healthy living.

Just as Jinbe was about to make his way down, he stopped when he sensed something unusual. He focused his Observation Haki, and ‘heard’ two presences heading to the town. Jinbe found himself a bit unnerved by the power emanating from them. For one, this power was completely unfamiliar. Still, Jinbe was more concerned by the barely restrained bloodlust coming from one of the figures.

Making a decision, Jinbe starts heading towards the figures, hoping to intercept them before they reached the town. It was at this point that Jinbe finally noticed what should have been obvious. The two were walking on the water.

Even though he was a Fishman who could bend any water to his will, Jinbe had never seen anyone who could just walk on water. Unnerved, the pirate picked up his pace.

(10 Minutes Earlier)

Halibel woke up floating on the water. While someone with her abilities should be used to that situation, the sensation was new. She had lived in the desert of Hueco Mundo after all, where the only water around would be whatever she made and held together. Soaking it in as it were, Halibel was in no hurry to get up. She took a moment to get her thoughts together, recalling her time as Queen of Hueco Mundo.

The first thing Halibel decided she wanted was to see her three friends again. Still, given that she could sense absolutely nothing resembling their Reishi, no luck there. She was so grateful that Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun had stayed with her until the end. Age had caught up with all of them, even though they were technically already dead as Arrancar. Still, she guessed millennia were bound to affect them, as Baraggan had so frequently pointed out when he was still around.

One second, she was falling asleep in Hueco Mundo. The next, she woke up in this strange ocean. Despite all the strange people and events she’d experienced, she was still at a loss as to what to do.

Her musings were cut off when she sensed a massive power above her. Getting up, Halibel drew the sword from her back, feeling its weight in her hand reassure her. Her senses on high alert, Halibel heard something come from the source of that power.

“…UUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK” SPLOOSH.

At that point, this someone had crashed right in front of Halibel. The impact momentarily left a crater in the water. Before Halibel could get closer, a twitching blue hand somehow grabbed the surface of the water. She found herself pausing at this incredibly strange figure.

For one thing, he was blue. Needless to say, that wasn’t something Halibel saw everyday. He also had sharp teeth and small, beady eyes. She then noticed something big and white on his back.

The man got to his feet and rubbed his neck. Looking down at his feet standing on the water, he commented, “Well, at least my Chakra is working fine”. He then saw Halibel, and gave a vicious smirk.
“You’re strong…I can feel it”. He grabbed the handle of what Halibel could only assume was some type of sword.

“Yeah, what of it”? Halibel couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the less savory of her fellow Arrancar while serving Aizen.

At that, the man chuckled, even though his hand didn’t move an inch.

“Name’s Kisame Hoshigaki, pleased to make your acquaintance…and you are?”

“Tier Halibel”

“Ya know…while I want nothing more than a good fight, I think I’ll settle for some answers”.

Halibel mulled it over, and decided to be honest.

“If you’re going to ask where we are…I get the feeling I know just as much as you”.

Kisame narrowed his eyes, retorting, “Well since I woke up in the middle of the sky, forgive me for assuming someone on the ground knew more”.

Halibel didn’t really appreciate the sarcasm, adding a half-hearted “sorry”.

Deciding to take initiative, Halibel gave a suggestion.

“Mind if you take your hand off your sword? I promise I’ll do it too”.

Kisame still had a suspicious look in his eye. Nevertheless, he slowly released his blade.

Once Halibel did the same, Kisame actually had a more genuine smile.

“Well, quite refreshing to meet someone who’s actually honest”.

Halibel couldn’t help but notice a hint of bitterness.

“So, if I may ask, did you die as well?”

Kisame couldn’t hide his surprise at that question, but decided to answer regardless.

“Yeah, chose to feed myself to my sharks instead of being a prisoner”.

Halibel shuddered at that, thinking of all the Hollows she’d seen devoured, and wondering what could push a man to voluntarily choose such a fate. Still, there were more important matters.

Halibel turned around and asked, “Can you sense anyone else?”

Kisame closed his eyes for a bit, while the ‘sword’ on his back twitched, much to Halibel’s unease.

He opened his eyes.

“Yeah…I sense a bunch of people that way…must be an island nearby. Samehada says there isn’t anyone too strong there.”

Halibel eyed the white ‘blade’, assuming that it was this ‘Samehada’. She nodded, wanting to see if he had similar sensing abilities to her, despite his unfamiliar energy. “How about we find some answers from someone in the town…and then we’ll each be on our way”.

Kisame chuckled, “Aww…so eager to get rid of me already”?

Halibel simply scoffed at that.

The moment the two had reached land, something slammed down in front of them. Both turned, and looked up, and up, and up. Keep in mind that Jinbe is over 9 feet tall. He was also wider than both Kisame and Halibel combined. The two instantly drew their weapons, both swinging at the newcomer’s midsection.

With a cry of “Double Water Shot”, Jinbe shot out two water drops that momentarily halted the coming blades. This prompted both Kisame and Halibel to jump back for some distance.

The Fishman glared down at the two. “State your intentions”!

Kisame growled, almost tempted to let loose just for the lack of manners. Or because he could feel how strong this giant of a man was. Or just because. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder why Samehada was unable to sense such a strong being.

Halibel kept a cooler head. “We’re looking for answers, unless you’ve got them”.

While Jinbe’s eyes softened, which both Halibel and Kisame noticed, his stance still remained firm. “I assume that the both of you just woke up after dying”.

Halibel nodded. Kisame shivered at the thought of waking up mid-fall.

As all three warriors marginally relaxed, Jinbe still gave a wary eye to Kisame, having figured out where that bloodlust came from.

“After you have your answers, what will you two do next?”, Jinbe cautiously asked.

“I’ll find those precious to me”, Halibel instantly responded. This prompted Jinbe to recall his own crews, especially the Straw Hats, wondering if they were anywhere nearby.

Kisame took a bit more time to answer that, still feeling a bit on-guard around these two. “I guess I’m looking for people too”, he said in an almost casual manner. Jinbe could still sense that bloodlust, getting the distinct impression that whoever this man was looking for would not have a good day once found.

So, intrigued by Halibel yet cautious of Kisame, Jinbe came to a decision. These two were people he wanted to keep an eye on. “Follow me, we’ll get to the bottom of this”.

Still a little away from the town, Jinbe turned to the two. “By the way, what is that I’m sensing from you two”?

Kisame gave a semi-puzzled look, and asked “You don’t know what Chakra is?”. This prompted Jinbe to shake his head.

Halibel also seemed a bit confused. “Chakra... I just thought you used some kind of Reishi”.

At that point, remembering a ‘co-worker’ with their own personal dimension, Kisame had a crazy idea spring in his head, and he was compelled to ask. “By any chance, have you two heard of the Elemental Nations or the Hidden Ninja Villages?”

“No, can’t say I have”, came Jinbe’s measured response.

Halibel just narrowed her eyes at Kisame. “You’re making those up, aren’t you?”

Hoping he was wrong for the sake of his fractured sanity, Kisame asked the million-dollar question. “Where are you both from?”

Jinbe went first. “I was born on Fishman Island, beneath the Red Line where Paradise and The New World meet”.

Kisame and Halibel just stared at Jinbe, since what he said didn’t make a lick of sense to either.

“Paradise, are you saying that you lived right next to some sort of Heaven”, Halibel asked with a visibly skeptical face.

Jinbe had to stop himself from chuckling at anyone comparing the Grand Line with the Great Beyond. At this point, it was starting to sink into the others where Kisame was getting at with these questions.

“Well, I don’t know if this will clear things up for us, but I’m from Hueco Mundo, where the restless spirits called Hollows gather after departing the World of the Living. I was Queen of the Hollows”, Halibel said in reminiscence.

Kisame laughed at that. “Well, why didn’t you say we were in the presence of royalty”, he said as he gave an exaggerated bow.

Halibel glowered at him. “Would you cut that out”?

Kisame’s face immediately went back to serious. “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to deal with the fact that I’m seeing and talking to people from entirely different worlds. Let me have my jokes, your highness”.

Halibel was visibly annoyed, more at Kisame than the general situation.

“Enough”, Jinbe commanded. Pinching the bridge of his nose, the Fishman got them back on course. “Let’s just get to the town, I’m sure we’re not the only ones from our worlds…can’t believe I just said that”.

That prompted Halibel to remember who she was searching for, so she turned away from Kisame, earning a smirk from him.

Before they knew it, they had reached the town. They turned to a sign saying “La Entrada”. Halibel narrowed her eyes at the sign, personally thinking it was a little on the nose. The biggest part of the settlement was the docks, though even those were only capable of harboring a dozen or so sailing ships at best. Right next to the docks were the shops and restaurants. Before the trio got a good look at the rest of ‘La Entrada’, they caught a whiff of something strong. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was still potent and unfamiliar.

They turned to see one ship, a sloop to be precise, unloading its haul. A cast of crabs had been caught. Most of it had already been carted off to the various restaurants. That strong scent wasn’t coming from the restaurants, but from the boat itself.

Jinbe turned to the others and asked, “Did crabs ever smell like that where you’re from”?

Both Halibel and Kisame shook their heads, admittedly curious.

On top of that, all three of them suddenly realized how hungry they were.

Once they came to the ship, an older man came to greet them. He was grizzled and balding, with a slightly disheveled gray beard. The trio also noticed that the fronts of his four right fingers were cut off.

“Ah, new arrivals…and very interestin’ ones at that”, the old man said with a jovial smile.

Kisame immediately raised an eyebrow at the friendly greeting, not exactly used to people acting as such around him, unless they were trying to pull something. The same could be said of Jinbe and Halibel, to a lesser extent.

“New arrivals?” Jinbe questioned.

“Aye…far as I know, everyone in this island, an’ every other island around for that matter, has died”.

“Oh…where are my manners? Call me Davos”, the old man said as he extended his left hand.

“Jinbe, a pleasure to meet you”, the Fishman said as he shook the man’s hand.

“Halibel”, the woman stoically said as she crossed her arms.

Kisame gave a fearsome grin as he introduced himself. “Kisame Hoshigaki, pleased to make your acquaintance”, he said as he took the old man’s hand in a tight grip.

Davos gave a slightly nervous laugh at that. “You remind me of some of my old Wildling friends…always eager for a fight that lot. Anyways, I’m sure you all have questions”.

Kisame said what was on all their minds. “Yeah. First, what is that smell”?

Davos smirked at that. “Ah, that’s me specialty”, he said as he moved back on the ship. He pulled off a cover, revealing a couple of barrels. The second the tarp was removed, that scent washed over the trio’s strong noses.

“Fermented Crab”.

“…What?” said all three of them.

“It’s fermented crab. Always keep some of it for me. My own personal share of the catch for everyone to enjoy. Why don’t you folks try it?”, Davos said as he offered a bite to each of the trio.

Still hesitant, the three accepted. Jinbe came to the conclusion that it was simply okay, just something to fill him up if need be. On the other hand, Kisame and Halibel had utterly scarfed their bits down, apparently unable to get enough. Jinbe and Davos just wondered how Halibel managed to eat with her collar still covering her mouth.

The old captain chuckled. “Why don’t we take a seat inside”, gesturing towards the cabin. “We can talk over those barrels of crab”.

Without being asked, Jinbe hoisted the barrels up as he followed Davos in. Kisame and Halibel both quickly followed. Though whether it was for answers or crab was unclear.

Once the four had gotten comfortable, Kisame and Halibel started digging in with gusto, while still listening intently. After taking a few bites, Jinbe turned to Davos, eager for answers.

Understanding, Davos took a deep breath. “Folks around here call this place the Sea of Second Chances. Title explains itself”. Jinbe nodded at that. “Didn’t take long for me to figure out just how different everyone was. Only took a few conversations to realize we were all from different worlds…as fantastic as that sounds. Just take me for example, I’m sure none of ya have heard of Westeros”.

Kisame and Halibel barely slowed down as they shook their heads. “Recently, more and more powerful people have been dropping in”. Kisame glowered at that statement before resuming his feast. “After looking evil in its cold, dead eyes…I thought I’d seen everything. Still, this place keeps provin’ me wrong”.

Jinbe stroked his chin, “Any suggestions on where to go next, or how to find our friends”?

Davos continued, setting his hands down. “If ya go east, there’s absolutely nothing except open ocean. North and south will get ya to the other “entry points” as it were. West is where things get interesting. The further you go, the more monsters there are. It’s gotten to the point where no one without…’abilities’ can go further than a few islands”.

Kisame smirked at that, eager to rip something apart that would be worth his time. Halibel rolled her eyes at her compatriot. Jinbe just thought of how eager Captain Luffy would be if he heard that.

Davos gave them all a steely look. “On the other hand, treasures are said to scattered throughout the west. There’s even a rumor amongst the sailors that a place called Fiddler’s Green is the last island. Damn near everyone has at least tried to get there. Most think it’s some kind of paradise. A safe haven from every foul thing in this Sea”.

While Jinbe couldn’t help but wonder where he had heard something like that before, Halibel narrowed her eyes at Davos. “If there’s a paradise that way, why aren’t you trying to get there”?

Davos sighed, “I’ve had enough adventurin’ and battlin’ in my first lifetime. I’ll be happy just sticking around here, helping good folk where I can. Though I wouldn’t object if I saw an old friend or two”.

Jinbe nodded at that. “So, what are our options?” he asked.

The old captain stroked his graying beard. “That depends on what you three are after. You could always just settle down here…I can tell all of you have been to hell and back, and I hope that isn’t literal in any of your cases”.

While Kisame instantly knew that offer wasn’t for him, Halibel and Jinbe seemed more considerate. Still, the two already knew their answer.

“We’re looking for people, so we can’t stay”, Halibel succinctly said.

Davos got up at that, which put a pause in Kisame and Halibel’s eating. There was only one plate worth’s of crab left, with both of them eyeing it.

“Well, how about I give you three an offer? There’s an island two days south of here that has plenty of ships. Quite a few shipwrights there too who could make somethin’ to yer liking. I already have a job to do there, so you’re welcome to tag along”.

Kisame smirked, “and what do you get for generously taking us?”

Davos gave a sly smile, “why, three fine deckhands for the journey there. I’ll even save that last plate of crab for when we make it”. The old captain then grabbed the plate. “Come on, I’ll show you the ropes…unless all three of you have worked a sailing ship before”.

Jinbe nodded, “I’ve sailed for years, what about you two”? Judging by Kisame and Halibel’s silence and averted eyes, the answer was no.

“Fine”, Kisame said as he got up. “But that last bit of crab is mine when we get there”.

Halibel glared at him. “Excuse me?” she asked in a fairly icy tone.

Davos gave a nervous laugh, “How about this, whoever is the biggest help to me will get it”.

Kisame smirked at Halibel, “You’re on”.

Halibel just stared back. She didn’t agree, but she never said no.

Jinbe sweat-dropped at the others, wondering how childish they could get.

The captain clapped his hands, “Excellent. Give me a few minutes to get some supplies, and we can leave whenever you want.”

(Later)

After a brief crash course in nautical need-to-knows by Davos and Jinbe, the four were ready to set out on their humble sloop. Immediately, Kisame started the competition for that crab.

Standing on the ocean, Kisame gave a shout of “Water Style: Water Clone Jutsu” while completing the necessary Hand Signs. As 6 clones took shape, Davos’s mouth dropped open in shock. Jinbe’s eyes went wide, while Halibel just gave a cold stare to the Ninja.

Without any prompting from the original, the clones started preparing for departure. 1 hoisted the anchor, a couple started undoing the tethers, and the others started climbing up to unfurl the sails (using Chakra to just walk up the masts). All the while, Kisame gave a mock salute to the others.

Not one to be outdone, Halibel started moving through the air with Sonido. Combine that with her walking on air, and the sails were all unfurled before the Kisame clones got halfway there. The original Kisame laughed and laughed, enjoying getting under someone’s skin. The clones simply shrugged, climbed back down, and set about other tasks.

Davos just stood there in amazement at the near-flight. “You got anything to add to that?” the old captain asked Jinbe. The Fishman shrugged, “I could ask any of the fish nearby for directions if you want, though I get the feeling you know the way.” That got some chuckles from Davos.

“Still, most of my time at sea was as a helmsman, so I’ll take the wheel with your permission.” Jinbe said as he gave a little bow.

“By all means” Davos muttered as he indicated said wheel with his left hand. “As long as you keep the ship heading due south, we’ll be fine. All the ‘entry points’ sit on a line, with a couple days’ worth of ocean in between.”

“Got it” Jinbe said as he stepped up. “It seems the wind is with us,” he observed.

As Kisame, his clones, and Halibel finished adjusting the lines and rigging, the ship was comfortably cruising away from the port.

Once the town became a speck on the horizon, Davos spoke up. “Now that we’re well on our way and have a chance to relax, I’d be happy to answer any more questions.”

Kisame took a quick look around. “Yeah, why don’t you have your own crew?” he asked in a suspicious tone.

“Oh, crews usually come with the jobs in my case. La Entrada hires me every so often to drive their crabbers out to sea. Always did have a soft spot for crabbers. I just bring the ship, and they brought the manual labor. Anyway, I’ll probably assemble another crew at our destination.” Davos explained.

“And what exactly is this destination of ours?” Halibel wondered.

“How do I put this,” Davos mused. “The people who live there have a certain sense of humor. Since it’s getting a reputation for building ships, some royal prick decided that it should be named ‘Shipwreck Cove’.”

Jinbe and Halibel narrowed their eyes at that ‘inviting’ name, while Kisame snickered at it.

Davos gave the Ninja a deadpan stare. “Glad to see someone appreciates that kind of joke. Anyway, I’ll be dropping you off right next to Burns’. A good word from me should convince him to make a ship for you three.”

Halibel raised an eyebrow at that. “Who said the three of us would stick together?” she asked with a hint of disdain.

Kisame turned to her with a taunting grin. “Oh, you wound me, your highness” he retorted.

Jinbe tried to keep an impassive face. “I’d much rather have your help in watching him, Halibel.”

“What? Afraid I’ll cut up an asshole who’s got it coming?” the Ninja skeptically asked.

The others just stared, and immediately responded with a chorus of “yes”.

Kisame just rolled his eyes, muttering about them being wimps.

An uncomfortable Davos resumed his explanation. “Once you’ve got a ship, the quicker way to find your friends would be heading west. It’d take years to search every ‘entry point’. The sea narrows the further west you go, so that means fewer islands to spread everyone out.”

Jinbe chose this point to join in. “Which would put all the best of the best as the ones closest to this ‘Fiddler’s Green’. Reminds me of what happened in the Grand Line.”

“My advice, be on your guard whenever you hit those western islands. There are more than just sea monsters that way. No guarantee that all your friends are still around” The old captain told the others.

“Trust me, I think they’ll be just fine.” Kisame said with a fierce grin, thinking of Itachi. Halibel and Jinbe were admittedly surprised at the man expressing such faith in anyone.

Halibel got up. “Regardless, my path is still clear to me.”

Davos gazed at her. “Well, I do hope you all find who you’re looking for. Anyway, feel free to make yourselves comfortable.”

Suddenly, the ship violently lurched, with the wood groaning as if in pain, knocking all four of them off balance. Halibel caught the tumbling Davos, earning a “Thanks” from the old captain.

Kisame slammed Samehada into the floor to steady himself. “What the hell?”

Jinbe started running to the deck. “That wasn’t just a wave, something hit us!” He yelled.

The others quickly followed, looking over the starboard side. A mass of translucent tentacles were pushing against the ship. Some were even snaking their way past the surface. Electric energy was pulsing out of the appendages, even to the point that everyone’s hair was standing on edge. The four’s eyes traced the tentacles back to their origin.

It was an absolutely massive jellyfish. Its head alone was easily twice the size of the mightiest of whales. The tentacles had to have been a quarter-mile.

“Seven Hells!” Davos exclaimed. “Why is something like that this far east?!”

Jinbe rushed to the wheel. “We’re being knocked off course,” he said as he frantically set about corrections.

Halibel turned to Kisame, only to notice that he and his clones were gone.

“Water Style: Exploding Water Shockwave!”

A gigantic tidal wave formed beside the ship, and Kisame was right on top. It then started careening towards the jellyfish’s head.

Halibel growled as she set off after the overeager Ninja, wanting to know what he was capable of. Using Sonido, she managed to get within earshot of him. She was not impressed by what she heard.

“Hahahaha…finally, something I can tear apart!” Kisame proclaimed as he and the clones leapt off his personal tsunami. The wave crashed into the jellyfish with enough force to wrench its tentacles off the ship.

Davos and Jinbe barely kept their balance as the sloop was violently freed. “Did you know he could do that?!” the old captain asked. Jinbe simply shook his head. “I’m just as surprised as you are,” the Fishman admitted.

As the jellyfish started to respond, Kisame and his clones quickly formed a circle around the beast’s head. They all gave a shout of “Water Style: Water Shark Bomb Jutsu” as they slammed their palms down on the ocean’s surface. In an instant, the Chakra had shaped seven sharks the size of great whites. And they were all charging at that gelatinous head.

The seven sharks slammed into the jellyfish. Still, the creature only got some nasty bruises, probably due to being naturally water-resistant. Clearly unhappy, the behemoth jellyfish raised half of its tentacles out of the water. For some reason, Kisame gave a small smile as he watched the tentacles move, not even moving to avoid what was surely coming.

Right as the tentacles touched the water again, an immense blast of electricity surged out from the creature.

“Gah!” The electricity managed to destroy all the clones, while the original shouted as scorch marks blotched his skin.

Halibel stood a few inches above the surface. “Have you learned your lesson yet?” she asked in an exasperated tone.

Kisame glowered at his new companion. “Yes,” he said with as much sarcasm as possible. “In fact, I learned something that you might like to hear, but I’ll only tell if you promise to show what you can do.”

The former Espada was taken aback by that, having assumed the brute would want the fight all to himself. She belatedly realized that she wasn’t the only one trying to get everyone’s measure. “Very well,” she thought. “I just won’t show my Resurreción.”

“Fine, now what is it?” Halibel sighed.

Kisame pointed at the creature with Samehada. “Its tentacles on the far right side are slower than the others. I think it might’ve fought something else and not fully recovered, kind of like a limp. How about this? I’ll have some fun and get my licks in, distracting the bastard, while you wait and hit the far right with everything ya got?”

Halibel turned to the jellyfish, noticing that the far right tentacles were indeed slower than the others. “Okay, I’ll wait.”

Kisame let out a boisterous laugh. “Ya know, I’ve got the perfect distraction for such a big guy.” He said this as he quickly went through Hand Signs and slammed his palm down. “Water Style: Thousand Hungry Sharks!”

Halibel’s eyes widened as the water around the Ninja rose up, forming a tidal wave with literally a thousand sharks. Jinbe and Davos were in a state of near-shock at the sight. As soon as the shark wave crashed into the head, all the constructs separated. The jellyfish was swarmed by millions of gnashing teeth.

It tried to defend itself by thrashing at the sharks with its massive tentacles. Unfortunately for it, all the damage to the sharks was instantly repaired as water was fed into them by Kisame’s Chakra.

Said Ninja was still crouching down. His hand hadn’t moved from his position, so as to better maintain a connection with all the sharks. He was honestly lucky that the jellyfish lacked the brain capacity to aim at him to end the Jutsu. Then again, jellyfish don’t have brains.

Still, the jellyfish was starting to instinctively use its electric attacks along with the thrashing. This time, any shark struck by the flailing appendages was unable to get back together. Regardless, the sharks were still tearing out chunks from the jellyfish’s head. Desperate, the beast resorted to using all its tentacles at once, unleashing the greatest surge of electricity it possibly could. This managed to destroy every remaining shark. On top of that, Kisame cried out as millions of volts surged through him.

Hearing that, Davos turned to Jinbe. “If you want to help them, I’ll gladly take the wheel,” he offered. The Fishman briefly closed his eyes. “No, I can ‘hear’ how confident they are,” he claimed as he exercised his Observation Haki. “They won’t be needing my help against that creature.”

Indeed, the jellyfish had left itself wide open. Halibel was standing in the air, dead center above where the Ninja had pointed to earlier. She unsheathed and pulled back her hollow blade. Pure yellow energy started gathering within her sword.

“Ola Azul!” she yelled as she thrust her blade forward, shooting the energy down.

The attack tore right through the already-injured creature, ending its life instantly. Despite being in pain, Kisame laughed when he felt Halibel’s power, knowing without a doubt that she’d be a match for him. Still, he sensed something odd in that ‘Reishi’.

The jellyfish’s corpse slammed back into ocean, sending a massive wave out. Seeing this, Jinbe turned to Davos. “Maybe you should take the wheel after all,” the Fishman muttered. After Davos quickly nodded and took over, Jinbe leaped into the water. Half-submerged, the Fishman assumed his stance. Once the wave was nearly on top of him, he moved.

“5,000 Brick Fist!!” The force from the punch tore a hole right through the wave. A hole large enough for the sloop to pass through untouched. Kisame and Halibel were staring in absolute shock, realizing that not a drop of Chakra, Reishi, or anything magical was involved with that. Only sheer physical force.

Davos just took turns staring at each of his passengers, wondering who he should be most afraid of. That question was soon answered when Halibel landed back at the ship, giving her usual glare. “Has the ship been damaged?” she asked. Davos found himself giving a salute. “No ma’am, though that was mostly Jinbe’s doing if ya hadn’t noticed.”

She surprised the grizzled captain by smiling. Don’t ask how he could tell through that zipped-up collar. “Good,” she mused. “We’d have been poor guests if we let our host’s livelihood get wrecked in our presence. Speaking of poor guests, where’s Kisame?”

Jinbe had gotten up and started drying himself off. He paused in this endeavor as he pointed back to the jellyfish. Halibel and Davos turned. It appeared that Kisame was poking the corpse with his white ‘sword’. “Why in the world is he still there?” Halibel wondered.

After a minute of quiet, Kisame used the Body Flicker Technique to head back to the others. The first thing everyone noticed was that he was no longer injured, despite being burned by the jellyfish. Out of the corner of her eye, Halibel swore that she saw Samehada twitch. If her eyes weren’t deceiving her, the thing had gotten bigger.

“Well, forget what I said earlier,” Davos broke in. “I feel sorry for whatever even thinks about attacking ya all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rethink all my life choices with a bottle of rum.” The old captain slowly walked into the cabin, closing the door behind him.

Kisame chuckled at that. “His world must be real pathetic if that’s enough to shock him,” he mused. Halibel scoffed at that. “I highly doubt just anyone can bend the elements to their will in your world,” she countered. That got a laugh out of the Ninja. “Well, channeling Chakra into an element is a must for promotion amongst Ninja. That or a really unique Clan ability,” he explained.

Kisame turned to Jinbe. “I’m more interested in how the hell you parted that wave,” the Ninja muttered.

The Fishman raised an eyebrow at that, and noticed that Halibel suddenly seemed very interested. “I trained.”

“Bullshit!” Kisame exclaimed.

“Please use your indoor voice,” Halibel said as a hand started massaging her forehead.

“Oh, but we aren’t indoors, your highness,” Kisame couldn’t help but retort.

Jinbe decided to nip that argument in the bud. “I use a fighting style called Fishman Karate. The physical force of my punches creates shockwaves through any nearby water.”

Kisame raised a brow at that. “Just physical force, no Chakra…Holy Crap.”

“It helps that my species, the Fishmen, are naturally ten times stronger than humans,” Jinbe elaborated.

“That looked like a lot more than ten times a human’s strength,” Halibel pointed out.

Jinbe sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Like I said, I trained,” he mumbled.

Kisame just rolled his eyes at that. “I’m sure that every little Fishman could dream of being as strong as you one day.”

“Not exactly,” Jinbe admitted. Not wanting to elaborate, he moved back to the helm, keeping the course due south.

“One more thing,” Kisame said as he turned to Halibel. “When I sensed your power, why did it feel so old?”

Deciding that he wasn’t just having a laugh at her age, Halibel decided to humor him. “I’m a Hollow, we can live a thousand years if we’re strong enough.”

“Wow…you really are an old lady. You must teach me how to keep my good looks,” Kisame laughed.

“To hit or not to hit,” Halibel pondered. While the former would give immense satisfaction, she had the distinct impression that Kisame would enjoy it. And the idea of doing what he wanted left a bad taste in her mouth. “Oh, no advice I could give can fix that face of yours,” she retorted.

Kisame just laughed at that. “Heh, I did kinda set myself up for that one,” he admitted. “Not really original though.”

Jinbe looked at the both of them. “Can you two please keep an eye out? I’d rather not have to swim the rest of the way,” he claimed.

“Sure,” Kisame offhandedly said. “Although, I’m going to be training while doing that.” Without further comment, the Ninja leaped back onto the ocean’s surface. Before getting started, he did some Hand Signs and bit his thumb. “Summoning Jutsu,” he exclaimed as he slammed a palm down.

A hefty Great White appeared next to the Ninja. “Hello Shiro, could you please go under and keep an eye out?” Kisame asked in a polite tone. “Also find out if there’s any worthy prey nearby,” he quickly added. The shark nodded and instantly submerged. Content, Kisame then started slashing the air and water with Samehada, keeping pace with the sloop.

Halibel decided on her own little stroll on the air, pulsing out Reishi to make sure that nothing was coming. She was constantly pushing herself to extend her senses, hoping for something familiar on whatever landmass came within range.

Jinbe looked at both of them, muttering about “Showoffs”. Still, his Observation Haki was on standby, making sure no ‘hostile voices’ were inbound. Part of it was the Fishman feeling a little ashamed at not catching the jellyfish before the damn thing was right on them. So, he was hoping that all three warriors with eyes open would be on top of things. With that, everyone settled in for the long haul.

(Two days later)

Surprisingly enough, the rest of the journey passed without incident. Probably because everyone was smart enough to never say it would be “smooth sailing”. The conversations never went very far, unless Davos was doing the talking. Once he got used to the idea of the ‘abilities’ he witnessed, he went back to his usual, amiable self, with the help of some rum.

Eventually, the sloop was close enough to Shipwreck Cove for the trio to sense it. Jinbe duly informed Davos that their destination would be in sight within the hour. “Forgive me for saying this,” the old captain stated, “but I’m looking forward to some trips without such excitement, and I get the feeling that won’t happen with you three around.” The Fishman laughed at that, “you’re not the only one with that feeling. Count yourself lucky you weren’t stuck on a ship with my whole crew, they attract danger like flies to old meat.” Davos couldn’t help but grimace at that lovely mental image.

To the starboard, Shiro had returned from his two day task. “Greetings Mister Hoshigaki,” the shark growled. “I take it you found sufficient payment,” Kisame inquired. Shiro gave a big grin. “Oh yes, I greatly appreciate the chance to feast on so many new species of prey. One of them even gave a good fight,” the summon recalled. “Well, thanks for keeping an eye out when you could,” said Kisame. “I’ll be sure to let the others know you’re back, we’ve been so bored without a proper summoner,” Shiro promised before it returned home in a puff of smoke.

With that, Kisame hopped back onto the ship. Halibel turned to him. “I thought cats were the only animals that could talk,” she admitted. Kisame gave her a deadpan look. “I’m starting to think the less I know about your world, the better,” he joked. “Anyway, it’s only animals that have Summoning Contracts who can talk in my world, and only like half of them at that.”

Moving on, Kisame turned towards the town. “I take it you sensed them too,” he asked of Halibel. She nodded. “Although, it doesn’t seem like anyone particularly powerful is there,” she admitted.

The Ninja looked disappointed at that. “Too bad. Guess everyone who can entertain me is west. Well, at least most of them,” he said as he leered at the Hollow. “Wanna spar before we reach town?”

Halibel rolled her eyes at that. “To be frank, I will only ever spar with people I trust. You’re not one of those people. For all I know, you’ll make it to the death, which doesn’t interest me when I have people to find.”

Kisame laughed at that. “Smart. Still, you’re honest enough not to stab me in the back, and that’s good enough for me.”

Halibel raised a brow. “What makes you think that?” she wondered.

“If you did want to backstab me, you’d lie about trusting me,” the Ninja pointed out.

“Can’t argue with that,” Halibel admitted.

“Ya know something else? You and Jinbe are far too interesting to just ignore. Seeing both of you go all out would make a trip worth it,” Kisame decided.

Halibel was quiet for a whole minute. “Are you saying you want to stick around with both of us just for the sake of a good show?” she said somewhat incredulously.

“Hell, maybe I’ll leave if I get a better offer,” Kisame teased.

“That would be such a tragedy,” Halibel said in that usual deadpan of hers, prompting snickering from the Ninja.

“Land Ho!!” Davos interrupted.

In Kisame’s humble opinion, that wasn’t quite accurate. The four were actually seeing towers of ships in various states piled on top of each other. Still, he could see a break in the formations big enough for the vast majority of ships to sail through. So, he assumed that the ships had been placed as such for defensive and intimidation purposes. Whatever land was there couldn’t be seen until they entered the cove itself. He was honestly impressed that a stiff breeze hadn’t taken out the structures.

Halibel was pulsing out her Reishi, trying and failing to find one of her friends. Jinbe had this odd little smile on his face. Davos had a face that was clearly relieved.

“Alrighty, could you kindly provide some more clones Mr. Kisame? We’ll probably need them for docking. Plus it should give the good folks there a nice shock.”

The Ninja gave an evil chuckle at that. “I like the way you think, it’s always nice to see people’s faces after I show off.”

While Kisame created half a dozen Water Clones, Davos turned to the others. “I hope the town is ready for you lot.” Jinbe and Halibel smiled at that. “I promise there won’t be any significant property damage,” the Fishman jokingly swore.

With that, the trio had completed their first cruise without killing each other, setting their eyes on Shipwreck Cove

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: A ‘Super’ Ship

Davos couldn’t help but chuckle as the ship came to a halt and the sun set. Even from here, he could see the shocked faces of the sailors at his passengers. There was even one particularly jumpy young man who screamed “Pirate!!!” at the sight of Jinbe, and dived straight off his own ship.

Said Pirate noticed the others all looking at him. Kisame was barely holding in his laughter. Halibel simply raised an eyebrow. “I presume you had quite the reputation,” she drawled. Jinbe just gave a small, resigned nod.

Davos shrugged his shoulders. “Surprised he had that reaction. Half the people around here are pirates of a sort, you’d think he’d be used to it.”

“Well, pirates have an incredibly negative reputation in my world…and for good reason most of the time,” Jinbe added.

“Let’s hope the shipwrights don’t have such prejudice,” Halibel sighed.

“Don’t worry…I’m sure they’ve dealt with far less savory characters than yourselves,” Davos assured them.

“Speaking of the shipwrights, who was it that you recommended again?” Jinbe asked.

“Ah, that would be Burns. I’ll take you to the shipyard now that we’ve docked,” Davos promised.

“Say…now that the trip is over…did you decide who gets that crab?” Kisame asked.

“Yeah Davos…who gets it?” Halibel added with unusual eagerness.

“Ah,” the old captain hesitated. “Well…the both of you did a fine job taking down that jellyfish. But the crab goes to Jinbe.”

Both Halibel and Kisame looked positively demonic when denied their course of crustacean. “WHY?!” they both demanded.

To his credit, Davos kept his cool. “Because he’s the reason my ship didn’t get a scratch.”

That response instantly took the metaphorical wind out of the two.

Jinbe hesitantly picked up the plate, unable to figure out why his new comrades loved the dish so much. “Maybe you two could share it?”

Kisame couldn’t help but leer at his compatriot. That prompted Halibel to Sonido right to the platter on Jinbe’s hand. Kisame Body Flickered at the same time.

Davos blinked…and there wasn’t even a single sliver of flesh left. Jinbe slowly handed the old captain his plate back, noticing the new black eyes on both the swordsmen.

“Moving on…how about we start heading to Burns,” Jinbe suggested.

“Yeah,” Davos quickly replied as he made his way to the dock.

As everyone got off the ship, Kisame paused, feeling something vaguely familiar. He put his hand on his blade as he kept walking.

Noticing, Halibel turned to him. “What is it?”

“I thought I felt Chakra…but I can’t sense it anymore,” he admitted with a pensive expression.

“Guess I’ll keep my eyes open,” she decided.

“Right,” the Ninja said as he stepped up his pace.

It was only at this point that the trio got a good look at Shipwreck Cove. True to its name, most of the settlement was actually over the water. Ships of all shapes and sizes had been repurposed and strung together as homes, shops, restaurants, and everything in between. The two sword users even spotted an old fashioned blacksmith hard at work, with his wares hanging throughout what had previously been a junk. A large longboat was propped over it as a roof.

Towards the outer ring of the settlement were towers of ships stacked on top of each other. Lights were coming from each level, indicating that all of them were still in use. Looking closely, the trio saw serious firepower pointed towards the open ocean.

After a couple minutes walking in silence, Davos spoke up. “Okay, Burns is right around here.”

BOOOM!!! An explosion rocked one of the towers that were closer towards actual land.

“Davos…please tell me that didn’t come from where we’re getting a ship,” Halibel nearly pleaded.

The old captain just gave an exasperated shake of the head. “Burns tells me that there’s been one a day since someone else dropped in.”

Jinbe hid a quick smile as he started jogging towards the tower, which somehow looked even more unstable.

Soon enough, the group reached the shipyard. They saw that half of the island itself had been cleared for the purpose of shipbuilding, with a lush forest covering the rest. Normally, they would take in the sight of towering ships and everything needed to make them. Today however, their sight was drawn to a crane that had just crashed down.

The top had been utterly demolished. In its place, two legs were sticking ramrod out of the ground. Kisame and Halibel could not for the life of them figure out why these legs had metal in them...or why there were only speedos on there.

Jinbe had this big smile on his face as he grabbed onto the legs, pulling out a scorched and very top-heavy man. Dazed, the man took a long look at Jinbe. Then, it was if a switch was flipped inside the man’s head (which was entirely possible given the man’s metal parts) once he was back on his feet.

“Waahh!!” The man embraced Jinbe as tears gushed down his cheeks.

“Good to see you too Franky,” the Fishman replied as he patted his friend’s back.

Halibel and Kisame were admittedly intrigued at the prospect of meeting someone who knew Jinbe, if only to find out how powers worked in the ‘Grand Line’. Their imaginations saw legions of iron men and Fishmen sailing the seas. Only time would tell if they’d get a more accurate picture.

Franky finally stopped crying and composed himself. He then slammed his massive forearms together with an almighty yell of “SUPER!!” Half the nearby dock workers joined him in his pose.

Halibel cleared her throat, putting a pause into the routine. “Is this going to be a normal thing with him?”

The Fishman just smiled. “Yep, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Having calmed down, Franky turned to the group. “I didn’t think I’d run into any of the crew so soon,” he admitted.

“Umm…aren’t you going to introduce us?” Kisame asked.

“Sorry,” Jinbe quickly responded. “Franky, this is Kisame, Halibel, and Captain Davos,” indicating his compatriots. “I woke up on La Entrada, and these three helped get me here”.

“Y’all have my thanks,” Franky said as he gave them thumbs up. “ I’m glad Jinbe met such SUPER people”.

Jinbe turned back to the others. “This is Franky. He was the shipwright for the Straw Hat Crew, which was the last crew I was part of”.

Kisame raised an eyebrow at that. “A shipwright huh…and how good are your ships?” he asked with a taunting grin to the cyborg.

Franky matched the toothy grin with his own. “How about I show you?”

“Franky” A voice echoed throughout the entire shipyard, somehow quiet yet booming with authority

The cyborg paled as he turned back to the shattered crane and then the source of the voice. “Uh-oh. That’s the boss”.

“How many times do we have to go through this?” asked a sharply dressed and clean-shaven man as he marched his way towards the group, holding a top hat in his hands. By his side was a dog twice the size of a Great Dane. The collar called him ‘Spot’.

Franky frantically held up his hands. “I can expl…”

“I go away for five minutes…and I come back to this,” The man droned in a deeply disappointed tone.

“Well…I was just putting some additions onto the Cutty Sark and…”

“What did you do to my ship?” The man resignedly asked as he hurried off towards the completed ships. Franky quickly followed.

Halibel turned to Davos. “I take it that was Burns.”

The old captain scratched his ear. “Yep, he’s usually louder when angry...must be used to this sort of thing.”

Kisame glanced towards the shipwrights running off. “We didn’t even get to introduce ourselves to him.”

Jinbe started jogging after the two, prompting the others to follow.

The trio soon made it to the Cutty Sark, which was already anchored in the bay. It was a 3-masted Clipper, narrower than the other ships in the yard. The figurehead was that of a Scottish Witch with the tail of a horse in its hand. While there were only a few cannons on the deck, Jinbe could tell that the ship would be fast and maneuverable enough to make up for that deficiency. The beams were over 30 feet, with the hull surpassing 200.

“I thought you said you were working on this ship when your experiment went wrong.”

Jinbe was snapped out of his observations by Burns, who seemed a bit perplexed at the situation.

Franky cupped his hands around his mouth. “Yeah…I flew up with my prototype before it could blow and hurt the ship,” he replied.

Burns seemed to relax when hearing that. “Well…at least there’s a brain in there,” he then added a sly smile. “But you still destroyed my favorite crane.”

“Why do you have a favorite crane?” Davos couldn’t help but ask.

That did the trick. Burns turned to the old captain. “Oh Davos, I didn’t see you there.” Spot gave an eager bark to his master’s friend. “I take it your trip went well?”

“Well…thanks to these three,” Davos replied. “They’re the reason I’m still alive.”

“What happened?”

“A jelly that could eat this shipyard almost took down my ship. Thank the Seven I was giving these three a lift.”

“Huh?” Franky cut in as he turned to his old crewmate. “You’ve already fought a sea monster? Damn, I’m missing out”.

“I didn’t do anything to the jelly,” Jinbe admitted. “Just steered a bit and punched the tidal wave that came from its death throes.”

“So…” Franky trailed off as he finally got a good look at Kisame and Halibel. “These two took it out by themselves?” he wondered.

For a moment, the Ninja had a thoughtful expression. It then turned into a toothy grin as he pointed at Halibel. “Oh I can’t take the credit…she killed the thing.”

While Halibel raised an eyebrow, Franky crouched down…and shot back up in a pose that was far too close for the Hollow. “YEOW…You’re such a SUPER Gal!”

As the cyborg started revving up his dance routine…WHACK!

The irked woman withdrew her hand from the now-collapsing cyborg’s skull, glowering at Kisame. “You knew that would happen,” she spat out.

Said Ninja gave a taunting grin. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

While Halibel tried to kill Kisame with the power of her mind, Jinbe helped Franky back up. “Did you say were modifying this ship?” the Fishman asked as he gestured to the Cutty Sark.

“Oh yeah…me and Red have been working on this ship since both of us woke up here. Well, I woke up and he fell down. Anyway, Red’s been a real help, especially with the hidden armament. Come on, I’ll show ya.”

With that, Franky leapt onto the Cutty Sark. Jinbe was right behind him. Curious, Kisame and Halibel hopped onto the deck. Davos and Burns (and Spot) just slowly made their way to the ladder, grumbling about people not walking.

Once on deck, Franky gestured towards the starboard cannons. “We made some special ammunition for most of the cannons. Also made sure that Red’s energy could be channeled. It’s the only reason half of this works.”

The group then migrated over to the helm. “I’ve got the Gaon Cannon installed, plus I’m almost done with the ship’s Coup de Burst. Aside from that though, I haven’t gotten any of the Docking Bays finished yet.”

At this point, Kisame’s eyes were drawn to the main mast. At the bottom, there was a maker’s mark.

It was a red scorpion.

The Ninja’s eyes widened, and his hand tightly gripped Samehada.

“Hey, Franky? Who’s Red?”

“Oh, he’s this guy I met when I dropped in. We worked together on some inventions. Now that I think about it, he was wearing that same cloak you’ve got when he dropped in…red clouds and all.”

Halibel noticed that Kisame suddenly seemed a lot more tense. She was also very confused, since neither of them had sensed anyone powerful when they got here.

Kisame put on a seemingly carefree expression. “Well, as much as I’d love to check out this awesome ship some more, I’m gonna have to…” His smile became more bloodthirsty. “…cut things short.”

Without another word, he vanished with Body Flicker. Davos and Burns reached the deck just in time to see him gone. “What’d we miss?” the old captain wondered. Jinbe and Halibel exchanged a look, before the latter moved with Sonido.

(10 Minutes Later)

Kisame made sure that he picked an alleyway where he was alone, and he waited.

WISH-WISH-WISH.

The Ninja jumped right before three senbon zipped to where his feet just were. Standing on the wall, Kisame gave a sardonic smirk. “You got a lot better at hiding your Chakra.” He had drawn Samehada and slammed it by his feet.

A young-looking redhead stepped out of a window, and onto the opposite wall. “Well, I had plenty of forewarning. You still broadcast your Chakra like a damned Tailed Beast.”

“Heh…well, I didn’t get that nickname for nothing. What are you doing here Sasori?”

“Making art.”

Kisame gave a deadpan stare to his former colleague. “That line is not reassuring in the least coming from you.”

Sasori allowed himself a small smile. “Well, I’m not exactly here to reassure you.”

The two Akatsuki stood still for just a second. Then, there was a flash of movement. Sasori’s head had been hit with a Water Bullet Jutsu. Kisame hunched over the dozen senbon lodged in his stomach.

From a distance, Halibel watched as the two Ninjas dissolved into sand and water. She had hoped that things would remain peaceful, clearly a mistake. Still, the confused Hollow wondered when Kisame used a Water Clone. She never let him out of her sight after Jinbe asked her to follow him. Before she could dwell on that, she heard something.

TIKKA-TIKKA-TIKAA

Halibel instantly turned around, her blade drawn. She was just in time to block what appeared to be a massive scorpion tail, attached to a hunched and cloaked figure. The second the blades had interlocked, Sasori himself appeared right behind her, one of his palms opening up.

Right before Halibel moved to counter, Kisame popped out of the ground, grabbing Sasori’s wrist. The momentum pushed the former Sand Ninja off-balance, with his open palm sending a stream of fire straight into the air.

Sasori shot Chakra Threads out of his open hand, attached them to a building behind him, and pulled himself back. With that, he dodged Samehada and Tiburon in the nick of time. All the while, he recalled his puppet to his side, keeping the stinger pointed at his opponents.

“I thought you preferred to hide in that puppet of yours. Did dying give you a backbone?” Kisame asked with that taunting grin of his.

“You’re one to talk of changes,” Sasori retorted. He then gave an interested look at Halibel. “It’s not like you to defend others.”

“Hey, no one deserves to become one of your Human Puppets,” Kisame scowled with a lot less of his usual humor. He then got a grin again. “Well…maybe Hidan does. Still, I think she can take you all be herself, if she watches for the poison.”

Halibel narrowed her eyes at her comrade. “Your confidence is duly noted, and I could already smell that poison a mile away.”

The former Sand Ninja interrupted with quiet chuckling. “You misunderstand me. I’m no longer making Human Puppets.”

He then indicated the shipyard. “In this universe, ships are put through the ultimate test. One that could stand this chaotic sea would be my ultimate work of art. Eternal beauty is to be found in these marvels of engineering.”

Halibel raised an eyebrow and turned to Kisame. “Is this normal for him?”

“Yep,” the Ninja replied instantly. “He and his partner argued for hours about what real art was.”

Kisame then turned back to Sasori. “That still doesn’t explain why you stopped with your ‘collection’,” he added with a hint of disdain to the last word.

The former Sand Ninja briefly had a thoughtful expression. “Let’s just say things were put into perspective for me when I was brought back with Edo Tensei during the War.”

That managed to get a confused look out of Kisame. “What the hell happened after I died?” he muttered to himself.

“Can you at least put your puppet up?” Halibel asked. “I’d rather have this conversation without knives pointed at our throats.”

“Hmm…reasonable,” Sasori conceded as he made a Hand Sign. With a puff of smoke, the puppet vanished with a scroll in its place. Picking it up, he turned to the duo facing him, glad that their swords were sheathed. “And I thought that only Itachi was able to balance you out. Are you two here to get a ship?”

“Yeah,” Kisame replied. “I only started looking for you because we checked out the Cutty Sark. We were travelling with a Fishman who was crewmates with Franky.”

Sasori sighed at that. “Working with that cyborg is…interesting. He brings such fascinating technology for me to examine…but I could do without the yelling and posing.”

“You and me both,” Halibel muttered.

“Aww…I think it gives him personality,” Kisame threw in, much to the others’ annoyance.

“Anyway, when Franky and I woke up, we had an altercation. The shipyard was damaged. Burns came up and praised the technical skills we displayed in battle. He asked us to help him with the ultimate creation of this sea.” Sasori left out how unnerved he was when meeting Burns and that dog, which made him more amendable to working with the cyborg.

Halibel turned to the shipyard. “Let me guess, The Cutty Sark.”

Sasori nodded. “Yes, after I learned the basics of shipbuilding, the cyborg and I got to work on it. Burns said he wanted something greater than what one world alone could make,” he recalled.

Kisame chuckled at that. “Burns must be really something if he got you to go along with him.”

“Ah, but a chance at creating a different sort of eternal beauty is something I wouldn’t miss for the world…or worlds I should say,” Sasori noted with a far-off look.

“Hey,” Kisame interjected. “Have you seen anyone else from the Akatsuki?”

“No, and I’m not particularly eager to,” Sasori retorted. “At the very least, I’ll die happy without another word of Jashin, money, or ‘Art being an explosion’.”

“Heh…they’re probably all out west,” Kisame concluded.

Halibel’s head went into overdrive as she processed everything, wondering just what this ‘Akatsuki’ was.

WWWHHHOOOOO!!! A shrill siren blared throughout the whole island just as night fell.

“No way this is just another drill,” Sasori muttered. “I’m going to ready Cutty Sark’s defenses. You two should head to the defense tower and see what we’re up against.” With that, the former Sand Ninja Body Flickered away.

Kisame and Halibel started running to the outmost tower of Shipwreck Cove. He noticed her giving a steely look. “What?” he quickly asked.

“What’s Akatsuki?”

“Wow, you don’t dance around the subject. How about I answer if you ever get to trust me enough not to follow me around? For now, let’s see what’s coming. Maybe I can cut its limbs off instead of Sasori’s.”

Halibel rolled her eyes at that, accepting that conversational deflection for now.

Plus, they’d made it to the tower. Burns was already there, calmly directing the assembled garrison to aim the artillery at a dark mass charging at the cove entrance. Spot growled at whatever was coming.

“Fiji Swarm!!” one of the gunners shouted.

“Calm yourselves,” Burns commanded. That had the desired effect of mollifying the militia.

“Ready on my mark.” The men and women had all backed away from the cannons, some holding a lit fuse.

“UNLEASH HELL!!”

BBOOOOOMM!!

Every window of the tower lit up as the barrage of artillery let loose. Within a second, holes were blasted through the coming darkness, exposing the blue sea within. However, the dark mass quickly covered itself up, though it was significantly smaller.

Kisame and Halibel finally were able to tell that it was actually a school of creatures moving in a manner similar to minnows.

“What are those?” the Hollow asked.

“Fiji Mermaids,” Burns explained. “The worst pests in the sea. We haven’t had a swarm in months. All right…RELOAD!”

The gunners scrambled to ready the ammunition, while others adjusted the line of sight.

“FIRE!”

BBOOOOOMM!!

The aim was true, and half the horde was incinerated. Unfortunately, only half the horde was incinerated. And the remainder were giving unearthly screeching echoes.

“Damn, our guns can’t dip any lower without hitting ourselves,” a gunner realized.

“Then someone will have to sail out and meet them before they reach the cove,” Burns decided.

Halibel turned, and saw that Kisame was already halfway to the swarm, freefalling as it were.

“Damn it,” she muttered as she drew Tiburon. With a burst of Sonido, she had caught up.

“Water Style: Exploding Water Shockwave!” The mass of conjured water served to cushion both swordsmen’s landings. Once they’d gotten back up, the swarm was mere feet away, and not slowing down. “Wanna show how good you are with that?” Kisame asked as he twirled Samehada.

“I don’t think you can compare to my centuries of experience,” Halibel coolly retorted while she charged her hollow blade.

“Ha! It’s on,” the Ninja laughed.

It was at this point that the two finally got a good look at the Fiji Mermaids, and Kisame wondered ‘what bastard in his right mind would name these mer-maids?’ In his and Halibel’s humble opinion, the creatures were hideous. The bottom halves were merely that of a fish, albeit with spiky dorsal fins. The torso and head were some grotesque parody of a monkey. Only clumps of fur remained unevenly scattered. Their lips and eyelids had completely shriveled, baring misshapen teeth and bulging eyes. The paws had so little flesh that they resembled claws. All of this, plus some very visible ribs, combined for a particularly emaciated appearance. And hundreds of them were charging at the two.

‘Eh…I’ve seen worse.’

“Summoning Jutsu!” Three large hammerhead sharks appeared in a puff of smoke, all grinning at the approaching horde.

“Shu, Mo, Ku…Sic ‘em.”

“Gladly,” the three girls said before taking deep breaths. “Water Style: Water Gun Jutsu!” The combined attack split the horde in two, with the hammerheads eagerly rushing in and ripping apart stragglers. Kisame went to the right, and Halibel to the left.

It didn’t take long before Samehada and Tiburon were covered in blood, even with the water rushing around them. Every swing of the sword tore through the swarm, killing one or two at a time. While it only took one serious hit to bring down a Fiji, they just kept coming. It seemed they had completely disregarded strategy in favoring of trying to take out the obstacles with sheer numbers.

Kisame and Halibel were able to keep the majority of the crowd away with barrages of “Water Bullet Jutsu” and “Ola Azul”. Still, half a dozen Fijis had been fast enough to get right on the two swordsmen. One had managed to bend back Kisame’s left pinkie to the point it could only limply sway. That one got its face caved in by a blue fist. Another was ripping off Halibel’s right sleeve. She quickly put Tiburon in her left hand, and relieved the offender of its limbs. Kisame laughed at her for that one.

While the two (and the summons) were successfully occupying most of the horde, a few dozen Fijis had broken off and were headed straight to the cove. Kisame and Halibel were about to speed away from the main group of Fijis.

“Iron Sand: Scattered Shower!!” A hail of solid black rained down on the Fiji leaders, completely pulverizing them. Coming out of the cove’s entrance, was the Cutty Sark. At the bottom of the main mast, Sasori was sitting in a lotus position, eyes closed. Chakra Strings protruded out of his back, fingertips, and open chest cavity. He was linked to the masts, rigging, sails, the helm, rudder, and even the cannons. The Third Kazekage Puppet was floating by the figurehead, its mouth closing as it retreated towards its master’s side.

“KISAME, HALIBEL!!” a voice cried out from behind the Fiji swarm. It was Jinbe, floating halfway in the water, far enough not to be attacked. “GET OUT OF THERE, AND KEEP THEM HERDED TOGETHER!”

“RIGHT!!” the two replied. “YOU HEARD THE MAN,” Kisame said to Shu, Mo, and Ku, all the while decapitating more Fijis. The three hammerheads started patrolling at the rear of the horde, snapping at any Fijis who tried to retreat. At the front, the Cutty Sark had turned broadside, unleashing a cannonade that pinned the creatures together. In the middle, Kisame and Halibel were still tearing through any who leaped past the water’s surface.

Having had enough, Halibel shook off one Fiji, grabbed Kisame by his collar, and zoomed up with Sonido. “WHOA!!” the Ninja exclaimed as he was pulled up. As she fired her Ola Azul to pack the Fijis together, she turned to Kisame. “Are you just going to hang there and gawk?” she asked, clearly irritated. “You try using Jutsu one-handed and while being dragged around!” he retorted.

Still, he went through the Hand Signs after putting Samehada back on his back. “Water Style: Four Shark Shower!” The expelled water formed into four tiger-sized sharks, jaws gaping as they closed in on the Fijis. One Fiji had the bright idea of throwing another right at one construct to disperse it. Unfortunately for them, each drop became a miniature shark that delivered death by a thousand cuts to that genius amongst Fijis. On top of the three summons and Sasori’s barrage, the Fijis were being packed together.

“Water Heart!” came a voice from under the swarm. The swordsmen could barely see Jinbe, but were able to notice a current change. After a few seconds, Jinbe moved. “OCEAN CURRENT SHOULDER THROW!!” A pillar of water erupted from beneath the Fiji swarm. They’d been so tightly packed that none were able to escape. Every single pest was trapped in the pillar.

“NOW, FRANKY!!” Jinbe roared as he resurfaced.

On the Cutty Sark, the figurehead’s hand detached, revealing the nozzle of a very large gun. “Hope this works Red,” came the cyborg’s voice.

“GAON CANNON!!” A beam of pure energy was seemingly blasted from the figurehead’s hand. The entire pillar, and every single Fiji in it, was vaporized. Halibel couldn’t help but compare such power to the most powerful Hollows’ Cero. Kisame was in absolute awe at technology being capable of such a thing. Then, he started laughing, exhilarated at the sight. Exhausted by her comrade, Halibel let go, and started heading to the ship.

“Ah Crap…” the Ninja muttered when realizing his predicament. Sure enough, gravity did its thing. “FFUUUU…” SPLOOSH! The three Hammerheads swam towards their summoner. As his hand grabbed the surface, he glared at them. “And the reason none of y’all caught me is…?” The biggest, Shu, gave a big grin. “Because this way was funnier,” she said in a deep contralto. Sighing, the Ninja gave a good-natured smirk. “Yeah, I’d have done the same…now get back home.” The smallest, Ku, swam right up to Kisame. “Thanks for letting us play with some food,” was her higher-pitched reply as she nuzzled his hand. Mo simply shook her head at how unprofessional her sisters were being. With that, the trio went back in a poof of smoke.

Jinbe had resurfaced. “You have a way with them,” he couldn’t help but point out to Kisame. The Ninja turned to the Fishman. “Well, you’ve gotta prove yourself before signing any Summoning Contract, so they know I’m trustworthy. Still, unless they’re messengers, no shark will come unless I have worthy prey for them to hunt. I’m just another member of the pack to them,” Kisame said with a shrug.

The Fishman was a bit perplexed at that, given that he’d only really communicated with Whale Sharks, who were far more peaceful. Still, talking with sea life wasn’t particularly common amongst Fishmen. So naturally, he was eager to learn more.

At this point, the Cutty Sark was starting to return to Shipwreck Cove proper. Halibel took things at a leisurely pace, strolling through the air and gently stepping onto the deck. Jinbe and Kisame were right behind her.

Once the three were onboard, Franky came up from below. “YEOW…That was SUPER!!” he bellowed as his forearms slammed together. Jinbe actually laughed at that. “I’d forgotten how much I missed that cannon,” he admitted.

As the ship docked, the strings started to retract into Sasori, their tasks done. He then turned to his old comrade. “Why am I not surprised that you jumped right into that swarm?” he wondered. “Heh…what can I say?” Kisame mused.

The puppeteer let a small grin cross his lips. “Still, you and her kept the swarm contained long enough for us to deal with them without any damage to Shipwreck Cove. You have my thanks.”

Kisame had a thoughtful expression. “Never thought I’d hear those words from you. Guess dying really does bring perspective.” He tentatively extended a hand. Sasori raised an eyebrow. Then, he accepted that handshake.

Halibel watched the exchange with interest, hoping she wouldn’t have to constantly watch her back with the puppet around. Still, she was kind of feeling left out without anyone from her world here.

Back at the tower, Burns looked at the Cutty Sark passengers with interest. Davos turned to him. “They could go far with a ship like that.”

Burns just had an enigmatic smile as he absentmindedly stroked his dog’s head.

The old captain gave a thoughtful stare. “You knew those three would come here…didn’t you? Is that why you sent me to La Entrada this week?”

Burns’ expression didn’t change in the least. “Davos is a smart man, isn’t he Spot? Yes he is.” Said captain simply rolled his eyes at Spot getting some lovin’. He would have pressed matters if not for the roar of cheering coming from the cove.

Back at ground level, Kisame, Sasori, and Halibel found the cheering to be surreal. They’d never really received any before, what with living as Ninja black-ops, criminals, or as Hollows. The three looked at each other, not quite sure how to react. Jinbe gave a subdued wave, similar to ones given at parades. Franky was drinking it all up, posing and dancing with the crowd.

“YEOW…Time to party!” cried the cyborg.

The Ninjas and Hollow all turned to him. “What?”

Franky gave a bemused look. “Don’t ya know? We always had parties after saving an island’s worth of people.”

“It is tradition,” added Jinbe with the utmost serious face. Although, a small smirk could be seen if one looked close enough.

Once docked, Franky and Jinbe got off and let the crowd lead them to a massive grill and bonfire being set up. Sasori, Kisame, and Halibel tried to stay towards the back, but the utterly confused trio were overwhelmed by people praising everything from their swords, to those ‘cool sharks’, and ‘awesome lasers’. While Sasori was being bombarded with technical questions on his Jutsu and the Cutty Sark, Kisame and Halibel had shrimp cocktails shoved into their hands.

The two looked at the cocktails, then at each other, then back to the cocktails. They took a quick sniff, making sure there was no poison, and hesitantly dipped their shrimp. It was good enough that the two marginally relaxed, taking seats behind the small crowd preparing the feast.

Halibel turned to Kisame. “This new for you too?”

The Ninja shrugged. “My line of work wasn’t exactly something to cheer for.”

“What did you do?” she asked in an apprehensive manner.

“Jobs that my village didn’t want getting out.”

Figuring he wouldn’t elaborate, Halibel turned back to her shrimp cocktail. There was a moment of awkward silence. She took a deep breath as she considered what to say.

“How many people are you looking for?” she asked.

Kisame paused in thought. “Just my old partner, I’d like to see if he’s doing alright.”

Halibel gave a considerate look. “You were friends?”

“…yeah, I guess we were,” he said with a somber smile.

“I’ll help you find him.” She didn’t know why she was saying it, but something just felt right about it.

“I feel obligated to ask, but who’re you looking for?”

“Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun. Those three ended my solitude in Hueco Mundo, and stuck with me to the very end.”

“Well, since I’m already helping you find three people, I don’t think it’s fair if you help me find just one,” he added with that fierce grin of his.

Halibel was just about to retort, when she realized that Kisame had decided to help her. Still, she’d refrain from thanks until she figured out what else he wanted.

“Finding Itachi and a one-on-one with you sounds like a fair trade.”

‘Well…so much for being surprised,” Halibel thought to herself. “I’ll…consider it after we’ve found everyone.”

“Who knows,” the Ninja mused. “Maybe I’ll find a true opponent that’ll kill me before our little quest is over.”

Before the two could continue their conversation, the crowd around them burst into song. Apparently, it was the last thing on the agenda before the main course.

YOHOHOHO-YO-HO-HO-HOOO! YOHOHOHO-YO-HO-HO-HOOO!
YOHOHOHO-YO-HO-HO-HOOO! YOHOHOHO-YO-HO-HO-HOOO!

Gather up all of the crew, it’s time to ship out Binks’ Brew.
Sea wind blows, to where, who knows? The waves will be our guide.
O’er across the ocean’s tide, rays of sunshine far and wide.
Birds they sing, of cheerful things, in circles passing by.

Jinbe and Franky had completely frozen when the song started, their eyes going wide. Sasori was the first to notice the reaction, wondering where this would go. Kisame and Halibel were already tapping their feet when they noticed.

Bid farewell to weaver’s town, say so long to port renowned.
Sing a song, it won’t be long, before we’re casting off.
Cross the gold and silver seas, a salty spray puts us at ease.
Day and night, to our delight, the voyage never ends.

“Is it possible?” asked Jinbe.

Franky was just as shocked. “This is the first time I’ve heard it, and I’ve been on this island for weeks.”

Burns seemed to appear out of nowhere, with his dog happily howling along with the song. “Someone dropped in months ago with this song. The oddest thing too.”

Jinbe was clinging to every word. “What exactly was so odd about him?”

“Well…he had such a wonderful voice…for someone without a throat or lungs.”

Franky’s eyes nearly popped out in shock at hearing that. Jinbe would’ve groaned at the cringe-worthy joke, if it didn’t give a solid lead towards reuniting his crew.

“Where’d he go?” the Fishman quickly asked.

“He was heading northwest, said someone gave him a lead on finding his crewmates,” Burns casually revealed.

Franky, who was simultaneously holding back tears and restraining himself from throttling his boss, stomped up to Burns. “Why didn’t you tell me when I first asked about my crew?”

Burns had this far too innocent look when he faced his employee. “I figured that you needed a ship before I gave your heading.”

That brought the cyborg up short. “Are you saying…”

“It’s time for the Cutty Sark to set sail,” Burns proclaimed.

Franky just stood there, stammering.

“Don’t act so surprised,” Davos nonchalantly added in. “You only saved this town and their whole livelihood. Of course you’d be rewarded.”

“Hold on a minute.”

Sasori stepped up to the Pirates, quite annoyed at the direction this was going. “You are not just going to take my greatest work of art into the most dangerous sea in existence just for sentimentality’s sake.”

Franky then chose to get right up in Sasori’s face. Although, considering the height difference, the former Sand Ninja barely reached the cyborg’s pecs. “The Hell you saying?! That friendship means nothing to you?!”

Davos started backing away with the rising tension.

“While I can’t argue with that, you misunderstand me. You’re not taking my greatest work of art without me being there to guide it to posterity,” Sasori claimed while crossing his arms.

“Hehehe…”

Everyone turned to Halibel and Kisame, since the latter was chuckling at his former companion. “I guess the only good way to prove a ‘work of art’ is a good fight, eh Sasori?”

The other Akatsuki rolled his eyes. “Must you put everything in such a crude manner? Still, you do make a fair point. Only by surviving all the way to Fiddler’s Green will the Cutty Sark be proven to be the ultimate work of art.”

Halibel couldn’t help but wonder why Burns would part with such a vessel if he was the one who wanted it built in the first place. She was about to ask, only to find that he had vanished.

“Hey Kisame?” she hesitantly asked.

“Yeah?”

“Where did Burns go?”

“I thought he was right…huh…that’s a good question.” Kisame’s face morphed into a bemused expression.

“Eh,” Franky brushed off. “We only see him when he wants to be seen. Personally, I think he’s someone who ate the Clear-Clear Fruit.”

Sasori massaged his forehead at that comment. “Still can’t believe so many of your world’s abilities come from rotten fruits.”

Kisame raised a brow at Jinbe. “Are they being serious?”

The Fishman shrugged. “Personally, I’ve never seen the benefit of eating the most rancid thing and giving up life in the water.”

Halibel glanced at Kisame. “My God, they are serious.” The Ninja’s head was spinning. “I have so many questions,” he muttered.

So, the night passed with food and drink aplenty as the lyrics of Binks’ Brew filled the air. The Ninjas and Halibel abstained from the strong stuff, leery of being caught off-guard. Franky had no such compunctions, and was leading a round of Karaoke after his second gallon, courtesy of Davos. Jinbe had found a very comfortable bench and was dozing off.

Still on edge from the crowd of strangers, Kisame turned to Halibel. “Hey, do you mind keeping an eye out for a few hours?”

She mulled it over for a bit. “Sure, I’ll wake you up if something happens.”

“Thanks.” With that, Kisame put Samehada at his side and removed his torn Akatsuki cloak. While he bunched it up into a pillow, Halibel couldn’t help but note the Ninja’s lack of a shirt. She was incredibly perplexed by the unblemished pale blue flesh. There were absolutely no scars, scratches, bruises, or anything on his chest. She knew that the Fijis had bitten and scratched everything they could, so why?

Still, that was something to consider later. Kisame had closed his eyes and started breathing deeply, prompting Halibel to remember that she promised to stand watch. That did not include staring at the man’s chest.

Halibel stayed up half the night, watching the party slowly die out. Davos and Franky were out like lights. Jinbe had claimed the bench as his bed. Eventually, only she and Sasori were up. He made his way to her.

“He ask you to keep watch?” the Ninja wondered.

“Yeah, what of it?” the Hollow snapped.

Sasori held up his hands. “Easy there. I’m just trying to figure out how he convinced you.”

“He asked.” As though that explained everything.

“Why would he even ask someone he’s only known for three days?” Sasori mused, almost as much to himself as to Halibel.

“Maybe it’s because she’s not from our godforsaken world.” Kisame’s voice snapped through the tension, startling both of them. “Thanks for keeping an eye out, want me to return the favor?” he asked.

Halibel bowed her head, visibly drowsy. “Maybe in a little bit. I do have some questions bothering me.”

Kisame raised a brow at that. “Really? Well, fire away.”

“What’s Akatsuki?”

Both Ninjas sighed at that. “How do I put this…we were the worst gang of criminals in the history of our world,” Kisame admitted.

After Halibel processed that, “How many of you were there?”

Sasori chose to speak up. “At our height, we had 10 members. Although, I heard that Tobi replaced me.”

“And all of them were as strong as you two?”

Kisame laughed at that. “Well, Zetsu and Hidan weren’t. But everyone else could at least give me a good fight.” His expression morphed into an apprehensive look. “Still, there’s three who I know could beat me, no matter what tricks I pull.”

Halibel, who had sensed how much Chakra Kisame had, was not reassured in the least by that. “And is your partner one of those three?”

“Yep”

“And you want me to help you find him.”

“Uh-huh”

“…Please tell me he’s at least reasonable,” Halibel nearly begged.

“Don’t worry about that,” Kisame assured her. “He’s a pacifist.”

“That’s rich, considering we are talking about the man who wiped out his whole clan.” Sasori couldn’t help but point out.

Kisame frowned at that. “That doesn’t change the fact that he hates violence…and I’d advise you not to talk about what you don’t know.”

Halibel was utterly confused at the contradictory picture the two Akatsuki were painting.

Noticing she was about to press the subject, Kisame decided to cut that off. “If you want details, you’ll have to ask Itachi himself when we find him. I’d rather not have to explain why a complete stranger knows his life story.”

“…Fair enough, but you do count him as a friend, right?” she wondered.

Kisame was quiet for a bit, seeming to consider. “Yeah, and I get the feeling he’d like you.”

Sasori scoffed at the exchange. “None of us joined Akatsuki to make friends, and I certainly didn’t see Orochimaru or Deidara as comrades.”

Halibel just gave up trying to remember all the names being dropped at point.

Kisame chortled at his old ‘co-worker’s’ comment. “I can’t blame you for that attitude with such shitty partners. Well…Deidara didn’t seem too bad if the subject of ‘art’ wasn’t brought up.”

Sasori settled for rolling his eyes. “Still…as long as you only seek out Itachi, and not anyone else, I won’t mind you being on the Cutty Sark. Just try to keep your fights off my ship.”

“So glad to have your approval puppet-boy,” Kisame couldn’t help but joke.

Halibel interceded at that point. “You have my gratitude,” she said as she gave a respectful bow of the head.

Sasori chuckled at the formality. “It’s been so long since I’ve met someone with proper manners.” Another moment of silence. “I do look forward to seeing your capabilities my dear. If Kisame is already speaking highly of you, I know you’ll be impressive. Should be quite the inspiration for my art.”

‘Again with the art…this boy is obsessed,’ came Halibel’s belated realization.

Unnoticed by the three, Jinbe’s eyes were open, and he had heard everything. His mind was racing. While he was fine with Halibel tagging along in the Straw Hats’ attempt to reunite, he was far more leery of Kisame and Sasori. Unlike Halibel, the Fishman made a point to remember all the names being dropped. The prospect of possibly running into 8 more people like them was definitely keeping him up.

There was something else troubling him. He’d seen organizations similar to what he had heard of the Akatsuki. And he knew that the only way to keep people as different as Kisame and Sasori together was through force of some kind or other. There had to be one person with such strength and drive that they felt they had no choice but to follow. From what he’d seen of Kisame, whoever led the Akatsuki had to at least be equal to an Admiral, or maybe one of the Emperors of the New World. Jinbe wasn’t eager at all to face such a person, not without a full Straw Hat crew and some serious help.

Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Jinbe. At least he knew that Halibel had a good heart, so he would have no issue having her or any of her friends. Plus, the Fishman was actually starting to trust Kisame, much against his better judgment. In spite of being bloodthirsty to the point of sadism, the Ninja was still honest and reliable in his own way. Plus, if Franky had managed to work with Sasori, Jinbe was confident that the puppet wouldn’t cause too much trouble. On top of that, he had a serious lead on where Brook was. All this combined for a sense of carefully optimistic hope on Jinbe’s part.

Deciding to quit with the eavesdropping, Jinbe allowed his eyes to close, and began drifting off. Sasori had walked off to work on the Cutty Sark, since sleep wasn’t a requirement for him. Halibel was flat on the ground.

“Remind me again why I agreed to let you stand watch,” she wondered.

“Because you know I’ll only ever settle for a fair fight with you, not some cheap move like attacking in your sleep.”

“True enough.” Her eyes closed and her chest started to steadily rise up and down. Kisame watched the rhythm for a bit, and then turned away for his watch. He quickly put aside his thoughts of ‘those things could put Terumi to shame,’ after noticing Halibel growl in her sleep.

This was the scene that Burns observed, a small smile on his face. Hearing a whine from Spot, Burns stroked him behind the ears. ‘I hope I made the right choice with those three.’ With that, he put his hat on, completely vanishing as it touched his head.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Maiden Voyage

Morning came, and headaches were going all around. Franky pulled some funky-looking drink out of his fridge-stomach, gulped it down, and headed off to make some final adjustments to the Cutty Sark. When he got there, Sasori was in the middle of drawing seals on the port cannons. The cyborg raised an eyebrow at the puppet. “Even though it’s been a while, I’m still amazed that you don’t need sleep anymore.”

The Ninja didn’t even bother to turn away from his work. “That’s because, unlike you, I’m far more puppet than human. I only kept my human parts because I needed them to use Chakra.”

Visibly uncomfortable, Franky moved on. “Hey Sasori…you ever wonder why we woke up like we did? Metal, wood, and all?”

He actually paused at that. “If there is someone in charge of this, I get the feeling that we are wanted at our peak strength. We’ll need it just to survive if we go far enough west.”

“Ya know,” Franky grinned, “I didn’t figure you as the adventuring sort.”

“A fair assessment,” Sasori conceded. “I’m not one for leaping before looking, but that seems to be the only way to do things in this world.”

“Well, I’m gonna make sure you let loose once in a while when we’re out there. Life’s too short for that sort of attitude.”

The Ninja scoffed before returning his work. “We only have enough materials here to finish the cannons and the Coup de Burst. If you want to complete your Docking Bay machines, we’ll have to use whatever we run into on the way.”

“Yeah…at least the Cutty Sark itself is done,” Franky noted. “So we can leave whenever everyone else is ready.”

Sasori spoke up. “I’m almost finished the seals, so I’m going to get some ammo soon. Let everyone know that they need to hurry and grab the essentials. I want to at least depart before noon.”

Franky waved his hands and turned around. “Yeah, yeah, I know…you don’t like to be kept waiting.”

Once the cyborg had departed via foot rockets, Sasori put the finishing touches on the seal of the cannon. With the proper amount of Chakra (or whatever energy worked), blasts of elemental energy could now be fired through the artillery. The Ninja gave a once-over to his armaments. Nodding in satisfaction, he vanished with Body Flicker.

Back at the site of the party, Jinbe was snoring away on his little bench. Halibel was just now starting to wake up, rubbing the back of her neck. Kisame had taken a seat, Samehada leaning against him. He looked at the Fishman.

“Would he have a heart attack if I was just gone when he woke up?” he absentmindedly wondered.

“Probably,” Halibel guessed.

Before they did anything else, Franky rejoined them. Jinbe was startled awake by the big man banging down. “All right…Sasori says the ship is ready, and he wants to leave by noon.”

Jinbe nodded. “Okay, I’ll get some provisions for the journey.” Franky walked up to his crewmate. “I’ll come with you.”

Kisame took a quick look around. “I guess I’ll head to the ship…unless any of you want me tagging along.”

Halibel considered it. “I’m just going to ask around and find out if anyone’s seen my friends.”

“Tell me what they look like. I’ll ask around the shipyard while you handle the coast,” Kisame suggested.

“We can ask around while we’re shopping, that way we can hit the whole town before we leave” Jinbe pointed out.

“Thank you.” Halibel gave a grateful nod to the both of them.

After descriptions of Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun were given, they all went their separate ways. Hours passed, but nobody in Shipwreck Cove had seen the three girls, much to the forming crew’s disappointment. The only consolation for Halibel was that she got a new outfit. Jinbe had kindly gotten both her and Kisame something, since their Espada and Akatsuki apparel had been nearly ripped to shreds by the Fijis. It kinda creeped her out that the Fishman correctly guessed their measurements. Still, she appreciated the white blouse.

Still, noon came, with the ragtag team either on or by the boat. Kisame was tugging at the collar of his plain blue T-shirt (he’d already joked about Jinbe’s lack of imagination). “So…which way we headed?”

“Well…I want to follow up that lead for Brook…if that’s alright with the rest of you.” Jinbe said this with just a hint of authority, as if daring the others to say no.

Halibel shook her head. “You’re helping me with my friends, I see no reason to impede the search for yours.”

The Akatsuki members simply gave a noncommittal shrug.

“Setting out already?”

Everyone on the Sark turned towards the dock. Burns had appeared without anyone noticing. Davos was walking up behind him.

“Yep,” Franky responded as he looked over everything after all the Cola had been installed.

The sharply-dressed man gave a sly smile. “Now Franky, Sasori…you two wouldn’t be leaving without so much as a thank-you after my generous hospitality. Not after wrecking so much of the shipyard in your little squabble.”

The two craftsmen paled at that. “Not at all,” Sasori quickly claimed as he bowed his head to the man. “Thank you for the refuge,” the Ninja added with a bit more honesty.

Franky gave a salute. “Yeah, what he said.”

While this was going on, Davos approached his trio of new friends. “Speaking of thank-you, just let me know if any of you three come back to this neck of the woods. Anything you want is on me.”

Jinbe sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Well…that’s much appreciated.”

Halibel jumped off the ship, right besides Davos. She handed him three sketches. “If you see any of these girls, tell them to meet me on the way to Fiddler’s Green.”

“And say that to anyone wearing this!” Kisame added as he waved the remains of his Akatsuki cloak.

The old captain nodded at both of them. “It’s the least I could do.”

“Thanks!” the Ninja yelled from the ship.

“Thank you.” Halibel and Davos shook hands, before the Hollow returned to the ship.

Burns cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. “There’s something you should know before heading west. A big storm is going to hit you on the first day. And before you say anything…” he cut off Kisame’s coming comment. “Yes, this happens to literally everyone going west on their first full day at sea. Consider it the first obstacle.”

Jinbe nodded confidently. “I’ll make sure to whip everyone into shape before that,” he joked.

Kisame smirked at the Fishman. “Is that a challenge?” he asked in mock offense. Jinbe gave a small nod.

Halibel sighed at the two before turning back to Burns. “Is there anything particularly unusual about these storms?”

“It will be extremely ferocious. The storms here are definitely stronger than the ones in most worlds. The Grand Line is honestly the only near comparison off the top of my head. Now, I’m not saying I don’t trust you to manage…but I have a little extra something.”

Burns pulled out what appeared to be a scroll from his pocket, and tossed it to Sasori. The puppet quickly read the cover and his eyes widened. “This is an S-Rank Wind Style Jutsu. Opening it would propel us at least a day’s journey within minutes.”

“Where did you get that?” Kisame suspiciously wondered.

“Oh, a Hokage came by months ago and made these en masse for me to give out to anyone who needed it,” Burns explained nonchalantly.

“Which Hokage?” both Akatsuki asked.

“The young blonde man with whiskers who wore a lot of orange.”

The two Ninjas gaped at Burns.

“That brat?” Sasori spat out.

“Huh…never knew the kid had it in him.” Kisame admitted.

“Regardless,” Burns continued. “Use that if you ever need just a quick getaway. I’d recommend saving it, but you’re free to do as you please with it.”

“Thank you for the parting gift. We’ll be sure to use it wisely,” Halibel promised.

Satisfied, Davos and Burns gave a parting wave. “Fare thee well,” the latter called.

Jinbe returned the wave before strolling to the helm. “Sasori, if you would be so kind as to set the sails?”

The former Sand Ninja nodded as he sat into a lotus position beneath the main mast. He opened his right chest cavity, and hundreds of Chakra Strings zoomed out towards the rigging and canvas. “I assume that you’re a competent helmsman?” he asked the Fishman.

Franky laughed at that. “Buddy, you have no idea. He could drive us through any storm with his eyes closed.”

“Please don’t,” Halibel sighed.

Jinbe slowly turned to her. “I promise to keep my eyes open in anything worse than a drizzle.”

“I’ll take what I can get,” she muttered while wondering what the Fishman defined as a ‘drizzle’.

“Hey guys,” Kisame called out as he pointed towards Shipwreck Cove’s exit. It seemed that the entire town had come out to see them off. A solitary voice rang out to the crew in the form of a song.

The King and his men stole the Queen from her bed
And bound her in her bones.
The seas be ours and by the powers
Where we will, we’ll row.

That solitary voice was joined by a choir that resonated throughout the entire island.

Yo ho, all hands
Hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die.

Jinbe and Sasori stayed the course as they listened. Kisame and Halibel were transfixed, trying to figure out what the song meant. Franky had gone below deck, mumbling about getting something.

Now some have died
And some are alive
And others sail the sea
With the keys to the cage
And the Devil to pay
We lay to Fiddler’s Green.

The whole town began to rumble as everyone stomped their feet in time with the tune, along with raising their voices so the heavens could hear.

Yo Ho, haul together
Hoist the colors high
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die.

Franky came back up from below, a folded black flag in his hand. Smirking, Sasori extended a few Chakra Strings, pulling it to the top of the main mast above the crow’s nest. The flag unfurled to reveal a Great White Shark with its nose pointing straight up, its jaws open. Franky turned to Jinbe. “I’ll put the Straw Hat flag up when we’ve found everyone…but until then…” he pointed towards the flag with a grin. Jinbe gave a small smile. “It’ll do.”

Yo Ho, haul together
Hoist the colors high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die.

Jinbe and Franky joined in with the chorus, spirits lifting as they dreamed of a reunified crew. Meanwhile, Kisame and Halibel came to a realization. This song was nothing less than a shout of defiance against the sea’s might, of humanity’s enduring struggle with the elements. Feeling inspired, the two found themselves humming along.

YO HO, HAUL TOGETHER
HOIST THE COLORS HIGH!
HEAVE HO, THIEVES AND BEGGARS
NEVER SHALL WE DIE!

At the farthest reaches of the Sea of Second Chances, as far West as West went, what seemed to be a man sat at the edges of an island. It was filled with lush green fields, and the constant sounds of an almost heavenly orchestra. Despite this, the man was irritated. He had felt the song and spirit emanating from Shipwreck Cove.

‘How dare they intrude upon my domain without knowing their proper place?’ he thought. The man (nay, the god) saw this song as nothing less than humanity’s boasting of stripping one of their betters and taking what was never theirs. He was also offended at the mere thought of three ‘mongrels’ who had the gall to claim lordship over his element. Determined to put an end to it, he rose to his feet, towering over the island. He grabbed a mighty gold trident that lay by his side. With a single swing of his weapon, the god’s power surged from one end of the sea to the other.

Back at Shipwreck Cove, the Cutty Sark had returned to the sea proper and set a course Northwest to follow their lead on Brook. Once the island was nothing more than a speck in the distance, their good mood following the stirring song was broken by the sounds of thunder.

“Well…that was quick,” Kisame couldn’t help but comment as he saw the horizon swallowed by black clouds.

The sea itself was swelling up and down. The waves were growing exponentially. Lightning was illuminating the darkness almost every other second. Whirlpools were forming near instantly. Jinbe was forced to put in more effort to stay the course. “Batten down the hatches!” he commanded.

Sasori immediately sent more strings to secure the ship’s various doors and openings. Thick ropes shot out to tie themselves off around the cannons on deck, making sure they wouldn’t get tossed around. Once that was done, Sasori shot twice as many strings as before towards the sails, giving him more room to micromanage.

“Uh, guys…” Franky shivered as he pointed out two gargantuan tsunamis hurtling towards them from opposite directions. All too soon, they loomed over the Cutty Sark. Without a word, Kisame jumped to the starboard railing, and Halibel to the port.

“Water Style: Water Wall Jutsu!” The tsunami crashed against Kisame’s defense, diverting the water safely around the ship.

Halibel simply stood midair, and delivered a single vertical slash. The wave instantly parted enough for the Cutty Sark to pass unscathed.

Franky’s eyes bulged in shock at the two, his mouth dropped open. He didn’t have long to gawk. Lightning was starting to crackle right above them, and the rain was pouring at an insane rate. The crew could barely see to the other side of the ship. With the obscured vision coupled with turbulent sea, the effect was incredibly disorienting. Figuring he should prepare for the worst, Franky went below deck to prepare and man the Coup de Burst.

Sasori was barely holding on thanks to his Strings, his entire body bouncing off the deck before he would pull himself back down. Still, he never broke his Lotus position, in no small part due to not feeling the rain with his puppet body.

Jinbe had one hand in front of his eyes as the other struggled to keep the wheel steady. Kisame had rooted himself in place with Chakra through his feet, Samehada driven into the ship for stability. Halibel had gone with the opposite approach, zooming through the air with Sonido as she powered through the pelting rain, pointing out whirlpools so that Jinbe could avoid them.

It went on like this for the better part of an hour. Just when the crew thought they were ready for the long haul, the ship was hoisted up by a tidal wave forming right under them.

“BRACE YOURSELVES!” Jinbe roared over the howling winds. His warning was timely. The second after the Ninjas, Hollow, and Cyborg grabbed onto the Cutty Sark, the ship was sent careening out of control. The tidal wave had crashed back into the rest of the sea, right into the gaping maw of a massive whirlpool.

With the water swelling around them, Kisame, Halibel, and Jinbe felt something, thanks to their own sensitivities toward water. Power. There was energy coursing through the ocean itself. It was absolutely suffocating to the trio, to the point they’d be driven to their knees. Not even the Tailed Beasts or Aizen or the Emperors compared to this sheer presence. Now that the three noticed, their enhanced senses could feel that same power in the wind, rain, and lightning. They, putting the pieces together, came to a realization. Something had created and sent the storm.

While Franky and Sasori had figured out something was unusual, they weren’t able to focus and realize what exactly. Regardless, the crew were all brought out of their thoughts by the feel of their ship careening down. Before they knew it, the Cutty Sark had been completely submerged, upside down as a matter of fact.

To the East, ‘Burns’ was looking off towards the blackened horizon. “Oh, Brother,” he said in a disheartened tone. “As easily offended as ever.”

Davos was besides him, hands shielding his eyes from the intense lightning. “I’ve never seen a storm like that. Those folks seem to be attracting danger like no one before. Think they’ll be alright?”

Burns gave a contemplative look. “I wouldn’t have brought them together if they’d fall to something as petty.” Spot woofed in agreement.

“Petty?!” Davos wondered in shock.

“Yes, you saw what those three in particular were capable of. I have faith in them. It’s as simple as that.” Having made his point, ‘Burns’ sat down, scratching Spot behind the ears.

To the West, the trident-wielder smirked as he felt the ship go under. Satisfied with himself, the massive being relaxed. He set the trident down, his intense power starting to retreat back into him at a slow pace. So sure was he that he didn’t need anything close to full power to finish off the nuisances.

Back at the Cutty Sark, the crew struggled with their vessel being turned upside down. Franky was the first to start struggling for breath. To be fair, this was in comparison to a puppet without lungs, a Hollow, and two people with gills. And even they were beginning to feel the strain of the water pummeling them from all sides. Sasori was desperately trying to keep the sails from ripping apart, rooted by the main mast. Franky joined him in the effort to keep the ship together. Kisame and Jinbe were still managing to hang on.

Halibel was hurtling around the ship, her tactical mind quickly searching for a solution. As she moved, she noticed how the waves were still pushing against the ship, to the point that the masts almost broke the surface. And there was a huge tsunami coming up again.

Halibel zoomed back to the Sark with Sonido. “JINBE, KISAME!!” she yelled to make herself heard in the water. “TSUNAMI COMING IN FROM THE RIGHT!!”

Hearing that, Jinbe had an idea and let go of the railing, shocking the others. “ALL RIGHT! LET GO KISAME! WE’RE GOING TO PUSH THE SHIP UP!!”

“YOU CRAZY?” the Ninja asked. Regardless, he still let go of the Cutty Sark, letting himself be swept back towards the others. With only a split-second to spare, Halibel grabbed the two men and got into position a few feet beneath the churning surface.

“WHEN I GIVE THE WORD, WE’LL GET A RUNNING START AND PUSH UP THE PORT RAILING!” the Fishman declared. Sure enough, the massive tidal wave crashed against the keel, tilting the ship up over 45 degrees from its original upside down position.

“NOW!” As one, Kisame, Halibel, and Jinbe shot themselves to the port railing. The Ninja encased himself in a Water Style: Water Shark Bomb Jutsu to propel forward, while the Hollow and Fishman pushed their natural speed to the limit. At the apex of the ship’s rocking, 6 hands connected to the port railing.

Thanks to the momentum from their ‘running’ start, the Cutty Sark was slowly being pushed back up. For a few nerve-wracking seconds, Sasori thought that the three would fail since the underwater current was starting to pull the ship back down.

“RRRRAAAAAHHHHHH!!!” All three warriors roared with exertion as they fought the power of a god. With a final effort, the masts and railing (both port and starboard) breached the surface. The momentum did the rest of the work. Kisame, Halibel, and Jinbe all fell onto the deck, panting from the effort. Sasori was staring at the three, startled at how easily they had managed to work together. Franky was just straight up cheering, hiding his relief at not having to resort to the Coup de Burst so early in their journey.

The ship was still a bit turbulent, but it was apparent to everyone that the worst was over. After a bit more panting, the three started getting up. Jinbe made his way to the helm, resuming his post. “Thanks for spotting that tsunami, Halibel,” the Fishman gave a polite bow of the head. “I wouldn’t have noticed until it was too late to take advantage of.”

Steadying herself, Halibel nodded. “No problem.”

Kisame started to situate himself in a comfortable seat. “You did good, Kisame. Couldn’t have done it without you, Kisame. Really appreciated the help, Kisame,” he grumbled.

“We probably could’ve flipped the ship without you,” Halibel pointed out.

“…well screw you too,” Kisame retorted with no real malice.

“Okay okay,” sighed Jinbe. “Thank you,” he added with a small smile.

“That’s more like it,” the Ninja responded.

With that, the crew finally started to relax. Sasori and Jinbe kept a steady course northwest.

Back West, the trident-wielder shot his head up in surprise. He had felt the ship emerging from the depths. He had sensed how easily the three had moved through the water. The god found himself impressed at the fledgling crew managing to power past one of his storms. Plus, that annoying singing had died down, so his hair-trigger mood had settled.

“We shall see how they handle some of the more interesting inhabitants of my sea, then I’ll know if they’re worthy of my attention,” he thought to himself. “Maybe I’ll put my back into the next storm.” Smirking, the god settled back into his rest.

To the opposite end of the Sea of Second Chances, Burns smiled as the storm dissipated. He just knew that the Cutty Sark and its crew had made it, relaying just as much to Davos.

“HA…those boys and girl must have the devil’s luck!” Davos couldn’t help but cheer.

“…something like that,” agreed Burns as he stroked Spot.

As for the Cutty Sark itself, it had a day of smooth sailing after the storm. The next 24 hours found Kisame and Halibel walking alongside the ship, keeping an eye on their surroundings. Their monotony was broken by an ungodly smell. Unnerved, the two landed back on the ship, seeing that Jinbe had noticed it too. As the ship kept its Northwesterly course, the smell grew stronger. In a few minutes, Franky started heaving when he caught a whiff. Sasori was able to completely ignore it without functioning nostrils.

With a few more minutes, the water had turned black. The reek of the rotten seeped into the ship itself. Schools worth of dead fish were limply floating on the surface. Even a pod of whales had passed. It would’ve been enough to feed entire cities for days. Jinbe had bowed his head, bitter at such a needless loss of life. Franky looked to be on the point of tears.

It was absolutely clear to the crew that the ocean had become poison. Kisame and Halibel found themselves thankful they had returned to the deck before walking over the horrid mixture. As the ship sailed on, the dead multiplied. The further into the dark mass they went, the riper the bodies. Except, no scavengers were present. The tainted flesh simply fell apart from exposure, sinking into the depths.

After an hour of this, Halibel gave out a cry of “LAND!” Aside from the numerous inlets and rivers, a small hill was the only distinctive feature. Before the Cutty Sark got any closer, the crew heard splashing. Everyone dashed to the starboard railing, and saw someone coming towards them. It was a woman, clad in a green skin-tight suit, broken goggles strapped to her forehead. Her left arm and right leg had been bent at odd angles, clearly broken. The remaining limbs were doing something resembling a breaststroke, only managing thanks to unusually large hands and feet. An incredibly long tongue was sticking out of her mouth. Green hair was trailing through the dark water. One eye had swollen shut. She was coughing up blood and struggling to breathe.

Having seen enough, Halibel vanished with Sonido. She instantly picked up the girl, and brought her back to the deck. Once the stranger was laid down, Sasori rushed by her side. While treatment was a priority, he was also very eager to analyze a poison that could be so widespread and deadly at the same time.

“BLEUGH!!” The woman turned over and coughed up a lungful of the poison, her body convulsing. Sasori took a vial and filled it up for later study. He then pushed the stranger onto her back, and began applying Chakra to stabilize what he could. Halibel was gripping the woman’s hand, and keeping her down with the other.

“What’s your name?” Halibel asked in an attempt to distract and calm the girl.

“Tsuyu Asui, please call me Tsu” she answered in a quivering voice.

“Tsu, what happened?” Sasori inquired.

At those words, Tsuyu’s eyes went wide and she started hyperventilating. “A Demon. He was a Demon!” With that, Sasori had heard enough. He pulled out a sedative and injected the girl. Her convulsions lessened and her eyes closed, everything going black for her.

Kisame looked at Tsuyu, to the poisoned sea, and at the distant island. “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: A Frog in Need

It had been touch and go for a while, but Sasori finally deemed Tsuyu safe to move. Halibel and Kisame carried her from a makeshift stretcher onto his table, with his usual chemistry set pushed aside. Until the poison had been analyzed, Sasori had advised the ship to halt its advance, maybe retreat if the situation proved dire enough. So, Jinbe and Franky were still on deck, eyes peeled for any other movement, especially from that desolate-looking island in the distance.

Sasori’s treatment was painful. He was no Medical Ninja, but he did know poison. Plus, he figured out that the grimy water was filled with heavy metals, much like his own concoction. While Sasori had deliberately added a paralysis effect on top of drawing out the time of death, it seemed no such refinements were in this grime. Another commonality was that the Ninja had put his own Chakra into the toxin to accelerate its potency to lethal levels. Whatever sort of Energy their new enemy used, it had been applied to the grimy water in the same way. Essentially, Sasori just had to make minor adjustments to the cure for his own poison. The biggest change was due to the toxin being able to enter through both oral ingestion and skin contact. Mid-treatment, Sasori noted the irony. That pink-haired Leaf brat must’ve done something similar after he had poisoned Kankurō. Still, the Ninja didn’t let this distract him.

Another notable variable was the girl herself, Tsuyu. Sasori was utterly fascinated with his patient. Her features had subtle differences from every other human that the Ninja had ever met. Aside from the obvious tongue, her hands and feet were slightly bigger than any human’s. Her eyes also seemed to have some frog-like traits. The epidermis revealed a talent for camouflage when tested. Even her skeletal structure seemed more ideal for crouching and leaping. There was also a secreted fluid that Sasori figured out was a few steps short of poisonously lethal. If the Akatsuki had to guess, the girl’s frog-like anatomy and her own tolerance of toxins were the only reasons she had even lasted this long. Anyone who was purely human would’ve died an hour ago.

Regardless, the girl had clearly been pushed past her limit, as the occasional convulsion proved. Hence, why Halibel and Kisame were holding her still. There had been screaming when Sasori basically forced the poison out with Chakra, in the exact same way Sakura had. At least, the girl had calmed down and stabilized, giving the Ninja enough time to synthesize a cure. They were lucky that the poison had been so like Sasori’s own, or they might’ve not had the materials to save her. After that, Sasori went to a closed off part of his quarters to synthesize the cure.

When Tsuyu had finally regained consciousness, Halibel started talking to distract her.

“My name’s Tier Halibel, and you said yours was Tsu, right?”

Still a bit shaken, Tsuyu settled for nodding as she sat upright.

“Where’re you from?”

“I lived in Japan. I…I was a Pro-Hero.”

“A Pro-Hero…”the words sounding foreign on Halibel’s tongue. Still, she pressed on. “I’m assuming that you saved lives.”

“Yeah,” Tsuyu answered.

“Well…from your learned perspective…are we doing a good job?” Halibel asked with a gentle smile, albeit hidden behind her collar.

Tsuyu found herself chuckling at that. “Yes…thank you.” At this point, she turned to Kisame, who was standing off to the side, a small smile as he watched. “And who’re you?”

“Name’s Kisame Hoshigaki…pleased to make your acquaintance.” He made a conscious effort to show less teeth than usual.

Tsuyu on the other hand seemed fascinated. “Do you look like a shark because of a Quirk?”

“Nah kid…my family was already unusual. I just had their traits up to eleven.”

Halibel spoke up. “I don’t think anyone on this ship is from this Japan that you speak of. And all of us have completely different…abilities as it were.”

“Oh,” Tsuyu gave a dejected sigh.

The Hollow sat down next to Pro-Hero. “I know this might be hard, but we need to know what’s going on. How about starting at the beginning?”

Tsuyu steeled herself, taking a deep breath. “I’d landed a few months ago, after I…died. I spent most of that time raising enough to get a boat. I’d heard that everyone with abilities was heading West…so I figured that’s where most of my friends were. I just…didn’t want to face this sea alone,” she finished quietly.

“I understand. I know how you feel,” Halibel gently reassured the girl. “You can take your time.”

“No…you need to know,” Tsuyu determined. “I heard a lead about a friend. People said they saw him by an iron mine. So, I went to the closest one and started asking around.”

“There’s a mine on that island?” Kisame questioned under his breath.

“I was getting supplies. Then…it happened. A giant black tsunami came out of nowhere. It…It destroyed everything. The docks, boats, shops, people…everything was crushed.” Tsuyu struggled to tell her story.

“I got some people out to high ground…but there were so many. So many.” A far-off look started developing on the girl’s face. “Even when I pulled people out of the water…there was nothing I could do after it got in their systems,” she rationalized to herself.

“Then…I saw him.” Tsuyu froze at the memory. Still, she pressed on, wanting everyone to know about what did this. “He was huge…almost as big as your helmsman. His skin was made of dark pink scales. He had a big fin on his head and a pointy chin. He wore a dark brown, fur-lined coat.”

Halibel and Kisame both made it a point to remember that description, getting the feeling they’d see the perpetrator themselves some point soon.

“He just swam through like it was nothing. The currents and poison were no issue to him. He even…” Tsuyu put a hand to her mouth as her eyes got watery, recalling the brutal slaughter in the grime. Her two listeners used their imaginations.

“He pushed everything aside…there was no mercy. He was heading for the Mine. I was so angry…all this for a mine?”

“I screamed…’why did you kill all these people like it meant nothing?!’

“They were in the way.’ He answered. I just lost it when hearing that.”

“And you attacked?” Kisame asked.

“Yeah…I know I’m not exactly the best in terms of strength…but he…he wasn’t even trying. He said something about how foolish it was to fight a Demon before breaking my arm.” Tsuyu instinctively grasped her left arm. “I tried to stay at a distance when I figured out how strong he was, but he was fast and only needed a few hits to get me in the grime. That slowed me down enough for him to knock me out.”

Halibel and Kisame glanced at each other, both wondering the same thing. “Why did he leave you alive?” the Ninja wondered.

“I don’t know…he probably thought I would die soon enough in the water. I’m not even sure how I’m alive,” the girl admitted.

“Sasori, the man who treated you, says it’s because of your frog-like qualities gave you a tolerance for poisons. I’m assuming that’s your ‘Quirk’ you called it?” Halibel noted.

“Guess that makes sense,” Tsuyu decided as she put a finger to her mouth. She then frowned as she came back to the topic at hand. “I knew I couldn’t beat him, so I started swimming. I knew it wasn’t much of a chance, but help was the only hope for me…and the other survivors.”

Suddenly, Tsuyu got out of bed and fell to her knees. She bowed her head with her hands folded beneath. “I know you’ve already done so much by healing me…but I’m begging you. Please help the people I left behind.” Tsuyu had gone far too quiet to be healthy, barely holding herself together. “Please,” she whispered.

Halibel quickly went to help Tsuyu back into bed, doing her best to comfort her. “It’ll be alright. I promise that we’ll do what we can.” The Hollow was a bit surprised when Kisame approached. He gave Tsuyu an awkward squeeze on the shoulder, clearly not used to the whole ‘comforting’ thing. “You just rest now kid.” Tsuyu couldn’t help but be reminded of some of her more eccentric friends. Comforted by that comparison, the Pro-Hero drifted off.

Sasori returned at that point, carrying a syringe and some vials filled with silver liquid. “The rest of this should be relatively painless, so you two won’t need to hold her down again.” Nodding, the two headed back to the deck.

Kisame turned to his compatriot. “You’ve already made up your mind, didn’t you?”

Halibel scoffed at that. “Don’t act like you haven’t.”

The Ninja sighed. “Well…as entertaining as this ‘Demon’ sounds as an opponent, I get the feeling he and I just won’t get along.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Halibel agreed. She gave it a bit more thought. “The second Sasori finishes, I want to move out.”

Kisame nodded. “Yeah, we’re already taking a risk just sitting here. At least we can choose the battlefield if we do it your way.”

The Hollow turned to her companion, “You’re giving this a lot more thought than I expected.”

“Well, I may love a good fight, but I’m not stupid. I wouldn’t have even lived past graduation if that were the case.”

“Fair point,” Halibel admitted, restraining from asking more about whatever ‘graduation’ meant.

Soon enough, the two had reached the deck, and told the Straw Hats everything. Jinbe and Franky appeared particularly thunderous at hearing what happened to the settlement. After the whole story, Jinbe came to a decision.

“We move, but we won’t get too close to the island. I’d rather not make it easy for this ‘Demon’ to get to us. Since Sasori is working on an antidote, you three will need to help with the sails.”

“Right,” the others chorused.

“We’ll move to the mine the second Sasori has enough antidote for all of us,” Jinbe declared.

Half an hour of travel through the grime passed. Sasori had come out, saying that Tsuyu was on the road to recovery, thanks to his synthesized antidote. Unfortunately, he still needed time to make enough if the others were exposed. They only had a couple spare vials. So, he handed them out and returned to his quarters to see if he could make more.

Deciding it would have to do, Jinbe set the course for the island. Once close enough, the Fishman exerted his Observation Haki. Towards the far end of the island, he felt a few dozen ‘voices’ hanging on. Looking around, he felt a far more powerful ‘voice’ in the mine.

Apparently, that went both ways, since that presence was shooting towards the Cutty Sark. Jinbe’s eyes shot wide open. In a few seconds, Kisame and Halibel had felt the energy coursing through their coming foe. It was almost on their level of Chakra and Reishi. Unlike their own energies, this was saturated with negative feeling, hate especially.

“Halibel, get in the air. I want to make sure at least one person doesn’t get poisoned,” Jinbe ordered. The Hollow quickly complied, taking position over the ship. She managed to see the water being displaced, with a red fin breaking the surface. Kisame and Jinbe quickly backed up from the railing. The Fishman himself injected the antidote, having a good idea of what was coming.

“Franky, protect Tsuyu and Sasori, at least until he’s finished.”

The cyborg ran down to the sick bed, knowing he’d be the final defense against this ‘Demon’. The second Franky closed the door behind him, a figure splashed onto the deck. He was just as Tsuyu described. Big, dark pink, and scaly. He was top-heavy to the point that he was stooping over, almost like a gorilla. There were even two large and pointed fins on both forearms. He glanced around the ship, eyes locking onto Jinbe and Kisame. He smirked.

“At least I don’t have to deal with anymore of those humans for a while,” he growled in a rumbling voice.

Kisame couldn’t help but feel insulted.

“My name is Torafuzar, and I’ll only say this once. Leave my territory. Do not speak of what you have seen, and I’ll let you go. We have no reason to fight.”

‘HA…he has to be lying’ the Ninja thought to himself. Aside from Kisame’s own cynical nature, he believed that no one trying this hard to keep a secret would leave witnesses. So, this just came across as a pitiful attempt to get their guard down.

Jinbe seemed to be thinking along similar lines. “And what of the others on the island?”

Torafuzar actually seemed confused at that. “And why do you care what happens to some humans?” he asked.

Jinbe saw red as memories of his old crew and Fishman Island played through his mind. He had had enough of that sort of talk in his first lifetime. “Thousand Brick Fist!” The Fishman yelled as he lunged at the Demon.

Torafuzar smirked as he raised his left forearm, easily blocking the punch. The Demon glanced to the right, and that smirk died. He was noticeably more frantic in blocking Kisame’s slash with his other fin blade. Samehada had already sprouted some of its scales, managing to painfully scrape down the fin like coarse sandpaper.

“AHH!!” The Demon roared as he jumped back to the railing.

“Hehe…Samehada says you taste rotten, but you’ll do just fine for us.”

Torafuzar suddenly felt a minor drop in his Curse Power. He turned, and saw that…thing start to tear through the bandages. He briefly extended his senses, finally noticing the woman glowering at him from midair, yellow energy forming in her hollow blade. He then sensed nothing from the big one. ‘Fine, Divide and Conquer it is,’ the Demon decided.

So, he took his chances and propelled himself forward, barely avoiding the Ola Azul fired at him. He grunted and grabbed the Fishman around the waist. With a mighty effort, Torafuzar had pushed both himself and Jinbe into the grimy water.

“Oh dear,” Kisame said with no real concern as he hopped onto the black water’s surface. “Aren’t you going to go down and help him?” Halibel asked as she tried and failed to get a clear shot through the murk.

“Nah…did you see how pissed Jinbe was? I’m just going to let our Fishman buddy get his pound of flesh for now.” Still, Kisame was crouched and ready to gut the Demon the second he surfaced.

Beneath the waves, the duel was turning into a slugfest after Jinbe had yanked Torafuzar off of him. The two charged at each other, completely ignoring the currents or water resistance.

“Water Shot!”

“Slash Arm!”

The Demon wasn’t slowed down in the least as he dispersed the attack with his left fin. “What a pitiful use of water,” Torafuzar derided. Fist met fist with a “BOOM” that was felt throughout the ocean. Evenly matched for now, both fighters swam back for some distance.

“He’s already matching me ?! One of the elite of Tartarus ?!” the surprised Demon thought to himself. “No, calm down, I just need to draw this out enough for the poison to take effect.”

Jinbe himself had simply remained in place, much to Torafuzar’s confusion. “Fishman Karate,” he rumbled as he assumed position. “Arabesque Brick Fist!”

For a second, the Demon was perplexed at his opponent punching nothing. That is, until he felt his insides shoved back. “URGH!” Torafuzar was sent hurtling back, Jinbe pursuing.

“The hell was that?! He didn’t even touch me!” the Demon frantically thought before coming to a realization. He stopped his backwards trajectory and smirked at his opponent. “You can affect the water inside a person with that Fishman Karate of yours, can’t you?”

Jinbe simply narrowed his eyes, still charging. “You’ve shown an impressive skillset, but it won’t do any good against me,” the Demon boasted as he met the charge. With that, the duel descended into a brutal brawl. Shockwaves bellowed out whenever fists clashed. The two exchanged dozens, scores, and hundreds of punches.

Jinbe saw the first opening, bending his opponent’s already bruised right fin at an angle with a powerful punch. Hissing, Torafuzar retaliated with a rib-breaking punch to the Fishman, on top of a Slash Arm that cut across the stomach. Both ignored the pain as they continued their fisticuffs.

A knocked out tooth there. A chipped scale here. Torafuzar forced the Fishman back with a head-butt, leaving a gash in his chin. Jinbe returned the favor by slamming his joined fists on the back of the Demon’s head, forcing him down a few feet. Torafuzar was barely fazed, zooming back to pummel the Fishman. While it was hard to tell on Torafuzar’s dark scales, both fighters were starting to get heavily bruised. It had gotten to the point that even blocking direct punches were starting to take a toll on both.

“I shouldn’t have let him drag me under like this. I let things get personal. All right, time for a change in tactics. I’ll need to get some distance for my more powerful attacks,” Jinbe realized.

As if in answer, a flash of blue zoomed right past Torafuzar’s back. “URGH!” blood leaked out of the new wounds on the Demon’s back. It looked like the skin had been shaved off. By the time Torafuzar turned around, the perpetrator was gone. Not one to waste an opportunity, Jinbe pushed himself back, gearing up for one of his stronger moves.

At the surface, Kisame was already drying off whatever skin had been exposed to the grime. Halibel raised an eyebrow at her comrade. “I thought you said you’d let Jinbe handle this.”

“No, I said Jinbe should get his licks in, and I think a few hundred punches more than qualifies. Besides, I can tell that he wants to get serious now, so I figured I’d give an opening,” Kisame explained. “Plus, I have been meaning to feed Samehada, and this Demon has been the only opponent with a decent amount of energy so far.”

Halibel noted the half-exposed Samehada, blue hooked scales jutting out of the bandages, black blood and grime dripping. She then turned back to where the two fighters were, just itching for the chance to nail the Demon.

Torafuzar returned his attention to Jinbe, who had just finished his preparations. The Fishman shot forward, too fast for the Demon to dodge. “He’s been holding back?!” the Demon realized to his horror.

“SHARK BRICK FIST!!”

“AUGH!!”

The Demon was nailed in the midsection, his mouth open in pain, arms splayed out. The force then propelled Torafuzar towards the surface.

“Ola Azul!” Halibel nailed him right in the wound Kisame had created, earning a roar of agony. On top of that, Kisame was running at the Demon, bloodthirsty grin apparent. Sure enough, the Ninja cut him on the side, managing to take around a quarter of his power. Desperate, Torafuzar quickly submerged, dodging what would have been another devastating slash from Samehada.

“Heh…if I know his type, he’s going to pull out the big guns real soon,” Kisame chuckled. Halibel for the life of her couldn’t figure out why her new friend looked forward to such a thing.

Back below, Torafuzar had finally noticed something about the fight. “Why hasn’t anyone succumbed to the poison?! The big one should’ve been weakened to the point of death by now!” Then, something caught his eye. The man walking on the surface (he was wracking his brain trying to figure that sorcery out) had taken something out of his pocket. Kisame quickly injected the vial into his exposed left forearm, emptying it of its silver liquid. He then turned to Torafuzar, eyes meeting. The Ninja gave a jolly wave as he showed off the empty vial.

That pushed Torafuzar over the edge. Panicked and enraged at the thought of his greatest strength meaning nothing, he began to change. He grew larger, his bulging arms now bearing a resemblance to gauntlets. Two fins grew out the side of his face, while the one already present extended down the top of his back. His scaly skin took on a more silver color, with holes appearing throughout his now bare chest. The Demon had revealed his Etherious Form.

Everyone present had sensed the Curse Power skyrocket. Tsuyu shot up out of bed when the familiar menace made itself felt. “Whoa there,” Franky rushed to her side.

The Pro-Hero had a haunted look in her eyes, but she steeled herself. “You need to get on the wheel. There’s a huge poison tsunami coming,” she said in a remarkably calm voice. She then started hopping back to the deck, Franky behind her.

Back to the grime, Torafuzar roared in fury, attracting everyone’s attention. “You may have made yourselves immune to my poison, but I’ll still drown you all! I AM TORAFUZAR THE DARK! TENCHI KAIMEI!!”

Waves of black water materialized out of nothing, merging with what was already present. Then, with a gesture of his arms, the poison tsunami charged forward. Instead of at his opponent, Torafuzar had aimed it right for the Cutty Sark.

“There’s no way this crew has seen land since making that cure…meaning that everything they have is on that ship. I have to make sure no one can counter my Curse ever again.”

“I WON’T LET YOU!!” Jinbe screamed as he charged the Demon. “Shark Brick Fist!” This time, Torafuzar matched the fist with his own, his enhanced strength now equal to the Fishman’s. Smirking, the Demon shot up above Jinbe.

“Deep Impact!”

Torafuzar slammed a fist into Jinbe’s midsection, sending the Fishman down into the murk, out of sight. Moving before his opponent could recover, the Demon turned his attention back to the wave. Within moments, it was bearing down on the ship.

“Water Style: Exploding Water Shockwave!” Kisame jumped in front of the grimy wave, belching out a lake’s worth of clear saltwater that pushed back the Cutty Sark while delaying the poison. Having bought enough time, the Ninja readied a proper defense. “Water Style: Water Wall!” His clear water stopped the crashing wave.

Unfortunately, this was only a temporary measure. The grime was melding with the Jutsu, diluting Kisame’s control over it.

Torafuzar was not impressed. He made a pushing gesture, urging the wave on. “This is the Black Water of Darkness. No mere humans can halt it.”

“Well…I have been called the Monster of the Hidden Mist…how about I show you how I earned that?” Kisame retorted. While the Ninja was seriously tempted to charge forward, he had no intention of simply letting the Demon do as he pleased to the ship.

“PLEASE STOP!!” Everyone’s attention was diverted by a scream from the ship. It was Tsuyu, who was leaning over the railing. “HAVEN’T ENOUGH PEOPLE BEEN HURT?!”

Torafuzar glared at the girl. “So you survived. I’m impressed. You must be how this crew managed to make a cure.” The Demon realized. “I WON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AGAIN!” He put more energy into his dark wave, managing to push Kisame’s defense back.

“Please stop…no more…” Tsuyu mumbled. Halibel turned to the young girl, seeing her on the point of tears. She had had enough. No more innocent girls would suffer on her watch. The Queen of the Hollows unsheathed her sword, pointing it down.

“Hunt, Tiburon!”

Reishi burst around Halibel, completely encasing her as she began to change. Everyone’s eyes were drawn to the water materializing around her. Soon enough, the water parted. She was now holding a pata that looked like a massive shark tooth. In fact, it seemed that her new form strongly invoked a shark, with her shoulders resembling dorsal fins. Transformation complete, Halibel raised her Tiburon.

“Cascada!”

An absolutely massive deluge of water formed from the air, crashing down to combat the grime. Combined with Kisame’s Jutsu, the clear water managed to bring down the tsunami of poison.

“What?” Torafuzar quietly asked. With the Demon stunned in disbelief, Kisame started spinning Samehada through the water Halibel created, absorbing enough Reishi to completely tear through the remaining bandages. Satisfied, the Ninja used Body Flicker to take Torafuzar by surprise.

The Demon managed to jump away in time…mostly. Samehada had grown so large that it still managed completely separate Torafuzar’s right foot. “AHH!”

“Huh…I’d hoped to get both feet. Still, I got enough Chakra, Reishi, and whatever the hell you use to have some fun,” Kisame laughed as Samehada’s handle started to wrap around his right arm.

Sensing the massive amount of energy pouring into the Ninja, Torafuzar backed away, starting to realize that this was a crew he couldn’t beat. Still, the Demon refused to leave empty-handed. So, he swam as fast as he could to the Cutty Sark, determined to destroy whatever it took to make the cure to his poison.

“Che…damn coward,” Kisame muttered as he started his own transformation, fins growing out of his elbows and head, tearing through his T-shirt. Oddly enough, he wasn’t worried for the safety of his crew.

“WEAPONS LEFT!” Franky unleashed a barrage that forced the Demon to take evasive action. Before Torafuzar could get any closer, Halibel appeared in front of him with Sonido, easily blocking a punch with the flat of Tiburon. The Demon’s eyes went wide, his irises shrinking as a look of utter rage consumed him. “GET OUT OF MY WAY!” Torafuzar raised his free right fist.

Before either fighter made another move, Torafuzar was stopped, his forearm covered by long tongue. Tsuyu had wrapped herself around the main mast, gaining leverage against the mighty Demon. Having been inspired by the others apparently giving their all for her sake, Tsuyu shouted her resolve. “I WON’T LET YOU HURT ANYONE ELSE!”

Halibel smiled at the girl. “Well said.” With her own free hand, the Hollow pointed at her opponent, yellow energy forming into a ball. Knowing what was coming, Torafuzar immediately disengaged, swimming away as fast as he could.

“Cero.”

An insane amount of Reishi charged forward, roaring as it destroyed everything in its path. Torafuzar hadn’t gotten out unscathed. The rest of his right leg had been blown to smithereens. It was a miracle he had still been fast enough to protect his main body. Knowing that, the Demon was finally ready to retreat, tail between his legs (or leg as it were).

Unfortunately for him, a monster had swum up right behind him. “You’re mine now.” Before he could turn around, Torafuzar was overwhelmed by the energy emanating from it. There was even a bit of his own Curse Power in that potent feeling. “This…this is as bad as Master Mard Geer’s,” the Demon thought in horror.

The transformed Kisame grabbed Torafuzar by the throat, and quickly dragged him back to the clean water made earlier. “I really must thank Halibel for all the water and Reishi, I wouldn’t have been able to do this so easily without her,” the Ninja chuckled.

“Water Prison Shark Dance.” The words sounded like a death sentence to Torafuzar.

All the clear water formed into a massive sphere, with Kisame himself at the center. Not a drop of grime was close enough for Torafuzar to manipulate. Seeing this, the Demon frantically tried to wrench himself from the monster. Surprisingly enough, Kisame let Torafuzar go. His relief turned to dread as he saw the Ninja’s bloodthirsty grin. “You’re going to find out what it’s like to be prey.”

Tsuyu and Halibel grimaced at hearing that. “Ya know, Kisame really sounds like a villain right now,” Tsuyu couldn’t help but observe. “You have no idea,” Halibel added with a shake of the head.

Desperate, Torafuzar swam as fast as he could, hoping against hope that he could at least get back to his element. After a few seconds, the Demon realized that he wasn’t getting any closer. He turned back to the pursuing Kisame with a look of growing fear. “Oh no! That monster is moving this entire ball of water, keeping himself at the center!” he thought in near panic.

Right at that moment, Kisame zoomed forward with a push of his newfound tail. The Akatsuki then sprouted spikes from the fin extended from his left arm. He swam right past the Demon, leaving gaping gashes in his side. As Torafuzar gasped in pain, Kisame smirked as he took more Curse Power. The Ninja quickly turned around for another Curse-draining run. Over and over, Torafuzar groaned in pain as he was sucked dry.

Halibel’s eyes wandered to the horizon. She noticed that the mass of black grime was shrinking. It was clear to her that it was only the Demon’s power keeping the poison active. If he was knocked out, the poison would vanish. Tsuyu also saw the grime contracting. She was utterly shocked that this crew was managing to take down an honest-to-goodness Demon.

Torafuzar himself had been pushed to the brink, both physically and mentally. Physically, he only had enough Curse Power left to pull off a couple moves, on top of maintaining the grime. As for his mental state… “NO, I did not die and come back just to be defeated again. I came to this mine to better myself and show my strength to all who wronged Tartarus. I will survive and defeat that damn Dragon Slayer…no matter what it takes!” Seeing an opening, Torafuzar made his move.

“CHOKOGAI!” Air shot out of the holes in the Demon’s chest, the bubbles obscuring him from view. Regardless, Kisame charged, knowing he just needed to take a little more to end the fight. The Ninja shot forward. Unlike the other times, Kisame was stopped dead in his tracks.

Torafuzar had completely covered himself in what appeared to be solid steel. All the bones in Kisame’s right arm had shattered thanks to how fast he’d been moving. “Son of a bitch, that’s tougher than Kakuzu’s,” the Akatsuki observed as he slowly healed himself.

Taking his chance, Torafuzar shot towards the grime as fast as his remaining leg could push. Before he had a chance to relish victory, a very angry Fishman swam up and blocked his path. “DAMN IT!” the Demon yelled as he raised his left arm to defend, having completely forgotten about this opponent.

“FISHMAN KARATE SECRET TECHNIQUE: VAGABOND DRILL!”

Jinbe roared as he slammed into Torafuzar. The move utterly pulverized the Demon’s arm, turning it into a useless appendage. It didn’t stop there as it sent an incredible shockwave through all of Torafuzar’s body. The Chokogai shattered from within. Right at his most vulnerable, Kisame and Halibel appeared before him.

“This is for my arm.” Kisame grabbed Torafuzar’s limp left arm and pulled. Then, Halibel brought Tiburon down.

“CRUNCH!” The combined strength of Akatsuki and Espada had torn off the Demon’s left arm, shattering the bone in the process. Torafuzar could only scream in pain as he clutched his new stump. On top of that, Kisame had left only bits of Curse Power. The grime had completely vanished.

As one, Jinbe and Kisame brought back their fists, spikes protruding from the latter. Halibel raised Tiburon in tandem. The three warriors slammed into the Demon’s chest with all their strength and a mighty “WHOOM!” was heard for miles around. Finally, Torafuzar lost consciousness as he was sent hurtling miles away by the sheer force of his foes.

Tsuyu’s mouth had dropped open in sheer shock, reminded of All Might defeating the Nomou when she faced a villain for the first time. Once she believed her eyes, she gave the biggest smile she could manage. True there were some tears, but a wave of relief was washing through Tsuyu. She wasn’t even fazed by Franky’s Dance of Joy.

By now, the three had returned to the ship, brushing themselves off. Tsuyu eagerly hopped to the three, hearing them mid-conversation.

“I’m hurt that you didn’t tell me you could use water in such a marvelous way,” Kisame laughed as he turned back to normal, Samehada reappearing in his right hand.

Halibel simply rolled her eyes at that. “You’re one to talk of holding something back,” giving a wary look to the eldritch blade. That wasn’t helped in the least when a happy-sounding chitter came from it.

“Well, she likes your Reishi. Mind giving us another taste now,” the Ninja leered.

Halibel stared him down. “No,” she said in a manner that broached no argument.

“Umm…” Tsuyu interrupted, drawing all eyes to her. She had briefly bowed her head to the others. “You three have done so much…I didn’t even think it was possible to beat him.” The Pro-Hero walked closer to them, extending an open hand. “Thank you.”

Halibel was the first to accept the handshake, giving Tsuyu a gentle smile. Jinbe was next, his hand almost completely engulfing Tsu’s. Kisame hesitated for a bit, eyeing the open hand. Tsuyu just stared at the Ninja, blushing at the sight of his bare blue torso, hand still extended. Sighing, Kisame accepted the handshake. “Think nothing of it kid.”

Tsuyu seemed to relax, before turning her gaze back to the island. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but the survivors will need help. Every hand is appreciated,” she put it bluntly.

Jinbe shook his head as a small smile peaked through. “Of course we’ll help.”

“Will we? Ooph.” Three guesses as to who said that, and who elbowed him.

“We’ll be glad to,” Halibel assured the girl. “Won’t we?”

Kisame rubbed his side. “Yeah, yeah.”

In a few minutes, the Cutty Sark had weighed anchor a few feet from the ruined dock. At the edge of the crew’s sight, a small group of people (around 40) cautiously made their way to the new arrivals. In somewhat familiar territory (thanks to her own experience with disaster relief), Tsuyu hopped off the ship, moving through piles of debris back to land.

Once she had gotten close, Tsuyu stood to her full height. “It’s alright. They’re here to help.” The citizens visibly relaxed at that. The one in the lead stepped forward, taking Tsuyu’s hand in his own.

“We were so worried after you charged in after that Demon. I never got the chance to thank you for saving me. Saving all of us.”

Tsuyu looked morose when she saw how small the group really was. “I’m sorry for being too slow…too weak. I should’ve done more.”

“Okay, that’s enough mental self-flagellation”. Kisame stepped forward, an unusually serious expression on his face. “Look kid, it’s damn near impossible to save everyone, especially against someone that far out of your league. It’s a miracle you managed this much. Most of the time, you won’t save everyone. That’s a damn fact.”

Tsuyu’s head bent down, near the point of tears. Halibel would’ve stepped forward if she didn’t catch something in the Ninja’s tone. “So…what’re you going to do about it? Are you going to just stand around and pity the dead, wondering about what-ifs? Or will you actually put in some effort to be better for those who are still around?!”

The Pro-Hero was silent for a moment. “Well?” Kisame asked with a hint of impatience.

Tsuyu glanced up, looking more determined. There was something else in there. “Is that admiration? Huh…feels weird to be on the receiving end,” the former Akatsuki thought. Unnoticed by the Ninja, Halibel was smiling.

Pleased with the change in demeanor, Jinbe felt it was time to get back to the reason they came. “Tsuyu here convinced us to lend a hand to you all. Our services are yours,” the Fishman humbly offered.

“Thank you. Sir, you have no idea how much this means to us,” the leader graciously accepted. “Please, follow me.” So, the crew was led to the other survivors, who were suffering from lingering effects of the poison. Thankfully, Sasori had managed to make enough of his antidote, providing treatment for the civilians. He’d also snuck in some adrenaline to get the people moving. After all, he hated waiting.

Afterwards, everyone present had enough energy to start helping. The townsfolk had cleared most of the debris in a few hours, with the help of the crew and a liberal usage of Water Clone Jutsu.

By midday, the people were already working on putting up the biggest homes, so they’d at least all have somewhere to sleep tonight. It was truly remarkable how quickly things were coming together. This was no doubt helped by the near half dozen super-humans pitching in. Jinbe and Franky certainly earned their due just from the heavy-lifting alone. The cyborg was a miracle worker once all the materials had been brought together, assembling the pieces at speeds thought impossible by the civilians. Sasori contented himself with giving the occasional Chakra String to hold some structures together. Halibel just zoomed through her tasks with Sonido. Plus, being able to stand in the air makes it much easier to hold something up. Kisame had done double-duty with his small army of Water Clones giving aid all over. He noticed Tsuyu holding things in place with her tongue. The Ninja shuddered. “That thing could put Orochimaru to shame.”

By sunset, enough shelter had been made that the people could just focus on making dinner before turning in. Thanks to some great planning against tsunamis, the foodstuffs had all been stored on high ground, avoiding the poison from Torafuzar’s Tenchi Kaimei. Once the fires had been built, the people kept it simple with kebobs.

Kisame had built himself a small fire, keeping his distance from the crowd gathered around the bigger bonfire. He saw Jinbe turn down countless offers of more food, and Franky showing off his robot parts to a fascinated Tsuyu. As he watched this, slowly roasting his own stick of red meat, Halibel took a seat across from him.

The Ninja smirked. “You going to make this a habit, sticking with me whenever we have a fire?”

The Hollow let out a tired sigh. “That depends on how you answer my question.”

Kisame paused, and indicated that he was listening.

“Why’d you go to the effort for Tsuyu?” Halibel asked, genuinely curious. When she had first met Kisame, she brushed him off as simply a brute looking out for his next good fight. Now, she knew that there was more to him. It was just a question of what.

The Ninja glanced at the girl, seeing how much Franky’s antics were cheering her up. He then turned back to Halibel, staring at her across their little fire. “She said she was too weak, and she was blaming herself for what happened. It reminded me of Itachi, my partner. I just knew he constantly blamed himself for what happened to his clan. Hell, he was probably thinking those exact same words for awhile.”

Halibel was instantly transfixed. “And did you say something similar to him?”

“No,” Kisame glumly admitted. “I didn’t even think of it until after he had died. For years, all I could do was watch him march on. He was never the most durable person, but he got sick. His condition just kept getting worse, to the point he was coughing up blood after anything strenuous. Eventually, he just committed suicide by a fight with his own brother.”

Halibel was uneasy at how quiet Kisame’s voice had gotten.

“Looking back, I wish I had said something like that to Itachi. Maybe he could’ve fought his illness if he actually had the will to live. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to watch my only friend wilt away. I just don’t know. All I know is that no one should have to go through that.”

The two were completely silent for a long time. Only the smell of Kisame’s burning kebob snapped them out of it. The Ninja quickly removed his dinner from over the fire, and started digging in as he changed the topic.

“Now that you mention Tsu, I did notice something,” Kisame noted. Halibel instinctively tensed at that. “You only changed into that stronger form of yours after she came out screaming. Can I ask why?”

Halibel actually seemed thoughtful at that. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I just snapped at the sight of her begging a monster for mercy. I had enough of that in my first lifetime.” The Hollow quickly suppressed a scowl as bad memories nearly came to the surface.

Deciding not to press the matter, Kisame returned to his meal. Halibel cooked her own stick a while longer. “I don’t feel like dealing with a crowd, do you mind me spending the rest of the night by your fire?” Halibel asked.

“Sure,” came the measured response. So, dinner passed in a comfortable silence for the two.

A ways back, Sasori was utterly confused at how trusting everyone else was being. Not needing dinner, the puppet had resorted to fiddling with the tube in his left arm. He could not for the life of him figure out why these people were so at ease with each other. He was especially shocked at his fellow Ninja actually opening up about his past to that woman. Putting his thoughts aside, Sasori returned to his work.

After dinner, Halibel started to nod off. “Kisame…do you mind taking first watch this time? I think Samehada pigged out on too much of my Reishi.”

Said sword gave an irritated chitter, as if in protest. Kisame chuckled at that. “Sounds like Samehada was actually starting to like you before you said that. I think you should apologize,” he joked.

Halibel turned to the legendary sword. “I’m sorry Samehada,” she said half-heartedly. Still, that was enough to earn a pleased chitter.

Kisame sat in a more upright position. “Sure, I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Thanks,” Halibel responded before drifting off to sleep, now sure that a decent man had her back.

Several miles into the ocean, Torafuzar struggled to stay alive. He had woken up from the impact of hitting the ocean’s surface, having long since returned to his normal form. Bleeding out, the Demon was desperate to find somewhere to recover. With just two barely-functioning limbs, Torafuzar wasn’t getting very far. On top of that, his blood had already attracted sharks. Oceanic Whitetip Sharks to be exact. They had been patiently following him for miles. He managed to punch one or two away, but other sharks took their place.

After hours of this, Torafuzar started to give up. He was finally slowing down, his limbs unable to take any more strain. The sharks were getting close. In that moment, Torafuzar started to accept that he wouldn’t make it. And it terrified him. “I don’t want to die. Not like this. I’ll do anything for more time.”

Midnight struck. Suddenly, the sharks all swam away, scared off by something massive. Torafuzar felt the water beneath him being displaced. He didn’t have time to move before he felt himself shoved off the water’s surface. The first thing he noticed was the sound. It was utterly horrible yet beautiful. It almost sounded like a pipe organ, but it was far too discordant and inhuman to be mistaken as such. The Demon found himself washed over with a sense of despair and rage that came in tune with the horrible music.

As Torafuzar was enraptured by the haunting tune, a truly massive galleon had shot out from beneath the sea. Its bow was in a state of disrepair, with the appearance of a gaping maw filled with cutting teeth. The entire hull was covered in barnacles and seaweed. The little wood that could be seen was rotting away from all the water exposure. Every crashing wave earned a groan from the ship. The cannon ports, once a shiny copper, had morphed into a sickly green that blended in with the rest of the ship. Even the sails (rife with holes) and rigging had been covered with the scum of the sea.

Torafuzar had landed on the deck of this ship when it had surfaced. His attention was then diverted from the ship itself as the water leaked back to the sea. The Demon was utterly horrified at the crew that came to greet him. Oh, they had all once been human, but that time was long gone. True, they had the upright position of humans, and the general shape, but that was it. What little skin could be seen had turned a cold, clammy gray. The vast majority were covered in barnacles and coral that had painfully latched onto them, even taking the place of limbs in some cases. A few of the smaller crewmembers were in a permanent stoop thanks to the weight of their parasites.

That was just in general. Many had had limbs mutated into fins, spikes, and tentacles. One crewmember had the entire top half of their head turned into a jellyfish, its tentacles protruding out of his eyes and ears. Another had the spikes of a puffer fish pointing out of his cheek. One’s head had assumed the form of a hammerhead, his left eye having been stretched and enlarged to fit. Torafuzar even noticed a woman. Her entire lower body had morphed into that of a sea snake’s. She tried to keep her mouth hidden with a long moss-ridden sleeve, but the Demon still noticed two large fangs sticking out, dripping with venom. Suddenly, the largest crewmember, a 9-foot behemoth with beady eyes, the nose of a sawshark, and webbed hands, grabbed Torafuzar and started to drag him across towards the Captain’s Cabin.

It was at this point that Torafuzar finally got a good look at the hull. It was filled with half-decayed faces, barnacles and coral covering everything in between. To his horror, one of those faces had its eyes shoot wide open when he passed. The creature then yanked itself off the wall with a sickening squelch, joining the rest of the crew. The Demon nearly wretched at the sight.

Suddenly, the music came to a stop. Then…”Clunk…clunk…clunk…clunk.” The barnacles and mussels all retreated into their shells as the noise became louder. Then, the door to the captain’s cabin opened. Torafuzar felt nothing less than the shadow of death at the sight of what came out.

It only had the shape of a man. What had once been a lustrous Captain’s coat had been taken over by the parasites of the sea, losing all its color over the centuries. The ends of the coat had been frayed to pieces. The right leg was that of a crab’s, making that resonating “CLUNK” every time it stepped. The left arm was in a similar state. What had once been a hand had painfully fused together into a massive and powerful claw. The rest of the exposed skin had morphed into that of an octopus’s. His right pointer finger was now a particularly long tentacle that began wrapping its way around Torafuzar’s remaining hand. A faded tricorn hat completed the imagery, giving the figure a devil-like appearance.

The Captain leaned down, giving the Demon an up-close look at his face. A mass of tentacles were writhing on his face in place of a beard, each appendage seeming to have a mind of its own. A siphon poked out from the left side of the captain’s face, bringing air in and out of the bulging sac on the back of his head. But what struck Torafuzar the most was the eyes. They were a piercing blue. Slowly, the Demon realized that these were the eyes of a human. He was terrified to see such power and hatred for the whole world in those eyes.

Then, the figure spoke, as if with the voice of the drowned.

“Do you fear death?”

Torafuzar nodded, unable to bring himself to speak.

“Do you fear that dark abyss? Where every deed will be laid bare and every sin punished?” he said while taking a deep breath through his siphon.

When Torafuzar didn’t respond quickly, the Captain grabbed the Demon by the throat with his claw. “Don’t make me ask again,” he advised.

Torafuzar frantically nodded, earning a deep chuckle from the Captain as he let go. “That’s better. Now, I can offer an escape from all that.” He paused as Torafuzar made eye contact again. “Join my crew to postpone the judgment. Serve me for 100 years before the mast…and you will be rewarded.”

Desperate, barely clinging on to life, Torafuzar managed to speak. “I will serve.”

Giving a smile that could haunt nightmares; the Captain grasped his right hand. “Do you swear your power to the Flying Dutchman, and to me, its Captain?”

“I swear.”

A burst of Curse Power erupted from Torafuzar, and was completely absorbed into the Captain. The Demon could now feel his own power merging with the ungodly energy that was already within the creature he had bargained with. Testing it out, the Captain made a gesture with his claw, and grimy water appeared around the Flying Dutchman.

Davy Jones laughed as he turned to the demon. “Hahaha…welcome to the crew, lad.”

Before Torafuzar could realize what a horrible mistake he made, his mind was overwhelmed by one thing as he blacked out.

‘Part of the crew, part of the ship’

‘Part of the crew, part of the ship’

‘Part of the crew, part of the ship’

‘Part of the crew, part of the ship’

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Hungry Hungry Hippos

As the sun rose, Halibel took everything in. Kisame was starting to wake up, his watch ended when the Hollow woke up past Midnight. Sasori had already vanished. Franky was still out like a light. Jinbe was in the middle of rolling up his sleeping bag.

To Halibel’s surprise, Tsuyu was hopping towards her. Raising an eyebrow, she turned towards the Pro-Hero. “You’re up early.”

“Well, your crew is leaving today, and I wanted a chance to talk,” Tsuyu bluntly put it.

“Oh…what’s up, kiddo?” Kisame asked as he put a new green shirt on.

Tsuyu gave a brief blush at the man, before getting back to topic. “Umm…in all of yesterday’s excitement, I forgot to ask. What are you doing here?”

“We had a lead on one of my old friends,” Jinbe stated as he joined the conversation.

“Really?” Tsuyu asked, putting a finger on her chin. “When did they come by?”

“From what we heard, it could be anywhere from weeks to months ago when he came by here,” Halibel admitted.

“I only arrived here a few days ago, so we should ask the townsfolk when they wake up?” Tsuyu suggested.

“We?” Kisame wondered.

Tsuyu’s blush couldn’t be missed this time. “Well…that kind of leads into why I wanted to talk.”

There was a moment of silence, as the three waited.

“Can I sail with you…as your student?” the Pro-Hero bowed her head.

While Jinbe and Halibel simply raised their eyebrows, Kisame’s reaction was a bit louder. “HUH?”

“I’m sorry for asking so much of you all, but I need to get stronger. That Demon was a wake-up call. I’ll have to be better if I ever want to see my friends again. And you three were so amazing,” Tsuyu continued.

Jinbe sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Well, it was a team effort after all.”

“Yeesh, you’re so humble that it’s almost sickening,” Kisame laughed.

“Anyway,” Halibel interrupted. “Are you sure about this Tsu? Because I’m not sure we can do much teaching if you don’t have Reishi or Chakra.”

“Although, I could give you a few pointers on Fishman Karate, no special energy required,” Jinbe suggested.

“Anything is appreciated.” Tsuyu gave a grateful bow. “So, is it okay for me to come along? At least for a little bit?”

“Eh…why the hell not?” Kisame shrugged. “Just don’t get swallowed by a fish or something.”

“I’m sure she won’t do anything that embarrassing,” Halibel assured him.

Jinbe cleared his throat. “Could you take us to the good folks of this town? I want to ask around for Brook.”

“Sure,” Tsuyu agreed as she started hopping back to the crowd of people, the trio following.

Eventually, they were in the middle of a conversation with the town leader, who had quite the story to tell.

“Yeah, that skeleton had washed ashore. His boat was in pieces. So, he stayed a couple weeks. Most of the time, he was the perfect gentleman. Until the last day that is.”

“What happened?” Jinbe asked, clearly concerned.

“Well, he came up to me and my wife, and said he had a question he’d been meaning to ask.” The man paused. “He wanted to see her panties.”

Halibel’s eye twitched at that. “Please tell me he got what he deserved.”

The man smirked at that. “Yeah, my wife knocked him on the noggin’ real hard.”

The Hollow visibly relaxed.

“When I went in for a swing, he started running off. Lucky for him, his boat was ready. So, he just ran on and set sail, laughing out of his ass.”

“And did he say where he’d go?” a mildly amused Kisame wondered.

“Hmm…well he did mention heading to New Nile Island. It’s a couple days’ sailing due west,” he informed them.

“Why would he go there?” Jinbe quickly asked.

“He didn’t say,” the man shrugged.

“So…anyone know anything about this New Nile place?” Kisame wondered.

“Yeah, there aren’t any towns or people on that island. For all intents and purposes, it’s a nature preserve,” Tsuyu helpfully informed them.

“Well then, we have our heading,” Jinbe decided. “Franky!” he called out. “Go get Sasori, we know where Brook is.”

Elsewhere, Sasori was journeying into the now-abandoned mine, curious as to why that Demon went to such lengths to get his hands on it. At first, he wasn’t impressed, having seen far more sophisticated ones back in the Elemental Nations. Then, he walked a little deeper. He found himself stunned at the sheer amount of crystals protruding into the passageway.

The iron ore was Magnetite, the closest thing to pure as far as the raw material went. Sasori would only need a little heat and some Chakra to turn the iron into workable steel. There was enough here to set the Ninja for life in terms of his Third Kazekage’s needs. And that would barely scratch the surface. There was even enough for the plans that Franky had shown him concerning the Dockings.

True, the extraction materials had been utterly wrecked by the Demon, but the Ninja was nothing if not resourceful. As he prepared to start mining, he noticed something. There was power in this metal. It reminded him of when that first storm had hit the Cutty Sark. However, this was far more subtle. On top of that, Sasori couldn’t help but feel that he’d sensed it before. It took a second before the Ninja came to a realization.

“Burns”

“Hey, Red!”

Sasori was snapped out his thoughts, turning his head back to the entrance. “What is it?” he asked in a clearly irritated tone.

“We have a SUPER lead!” Franky declared. “Brook was here.”

“And why do you assume I care about you pursuing an old crewmate?” the puppet wondered.

“Because that’s the direction your ‘work of art’ will be going,” the cyborg retorted.

Sasori scoffed at that. “Well, it’s not like I have another set destination in mind. Just help me cut off and seal some of this ore. There’s enough for all those blueprints you showed me.”

“Holy crap, you’re not kidding.” Franky had finally come within eyesight of the iron ore crystals and was utterly stunned at the sight.

“Are you going to help anytime soon?”

“Right,” the cyborg conceded as a drill emerged from his palm. Without another word, the two got to work.

In less than an hour, they had taken as much as could be carried (increased exponentially by a plethora of Sealing Scrolls). By the time they had reached the Cutty Sark, everything else was ready for departure. Sasori couldn’t help but be impressed with the lot. Even Tsuyu had unwrapped some of the rigging with her tongue, which had incredibly unsettled both Akatsuki.

Once the shipwrights had come aboard, the crew immediately hoisted anchor. After a round of well-wishes from the remaining residents (particularly towards Tsu), they set off. Said Pro-Hero had wrapped herself around the top of the main mast, and was eyeing the horizon. Kisame and Halibel had resumed their strolls on opposite sides of the ship. Jinbe was comfortably settled on the wheel. Franky went down below to tinker with his new supplies. Sasori had assumed his lotus position, strings spread out. With that, they had set sail.

Over the two days of sailing, Tsuyu attempted to wrangle some lessons out of the rest of the crew. Sasori gave an instant ‘No’. Everything that Franky could teach her involved extreme body modifications. Kisame was little better, saying he would only take students who could at least walk on water, but he’d be glad to start if she got that far. He did provide a short blade (a tantō to be exact) for her to practice if she felt the desire.

Halibel actually went a step further, going so far as to spar and provide pointers. Tsuyu just wished the older woman would actually stay on the ground when training her. Still, as far as traditional teaching went, Jinbe was the best, by a long shot. She was greatly intrigued when he explained Fishman Karate to her.

“It’s actually possible to manipulate water in other people?” Tsuyu incredulously asked.

“At a certain level,” Jinbe conceded. “I’ll be honest, I’m not particularly sure how far you’ll get in this discipline…considering the circumstances of different worlds and everything.”

“Wouldn’t hurt to try,” Tsuyu countered. The Fishman had no argument for that.

“All right,” he decided as he held up an open palm. “Punch me as hard as you can here.”

The Pro-Hero quickly obliged, grunting in effort. Jinbe smiled as the fist met his hand. “Very good.” That got a happy “Ribbit” from the girl.

“The most basic technique in all Fishman Karate is the Brick Fist. Though I will say you can only really damage someone once you reach the level of Hundred Brick Fist.”

Tsuyu eagerly took all this information in, having always been fascinated by what the other worlds had to offer.

“For now, you’ll need this,” Jinbe proclaimed as he put down a bucket of water. “Now put a fist in the middle of the water.” Tsuyu complied. “Keep the rest of your body still and push your fist forward in a punch. And don’t touch the bucket itself.”

The Pro-Hero nodded and started her task.

“Keep doing this so you can feel the move of the water. By the end of this exercise, you should know how every drop will react to your every movement.”

“Yes Sensei,” Tsuyu obediently said before getting back to it.

The Fishman found himself pausing at the title, before allowing a small smile to form.

After another hour, Halibel sensed something. For the most part, it was only animals she was sensing. Big ones to be sure, but still animals at the end of the day. Aside from that, she sensed one presence. If they were lucky, it was Brook. It did have a distinctly human feel to it.

Something else at the corner of the island caught Halibel’s attention. It was Reishi. Very familiar Reishi. The instant Halibel recognized it, she zoomed forward with Sonido.

“Halibel, wait!” Tsuyu croaked as she brought her fist out of the bucket.

“Huh…I thought she’d always be the one following me.” With an amused sigh, Kisame vanished with Body Flicker, presumably in the same direction.

“Those two can more than take care of themselves,” Sasori noted.

“We must be close to land, assuming her range of sensing hasn’t drastically improved,” Jinbe commented.

“Why do you think she ran off like that?” Tsuyu asked.

“Either an old friend…or an old enemy,” Sasori concluded.

Within a minute, Halibel had reached New Nile Island. It was a particularly dense forest, with a multitude of rivers crisscrossing it. Only the outer mile or so of the island wasn’t covered in trees. That sliver of exposed land had the feel of a savannah.

None of that interested the Hollow that zoomed through the trees, nor the Ninja who quickly followed. Eventually, Halibel reaches the far end of the island, no doubt helped by going completely around the foliage. In a little clearing, she sees a woman.

It’s a small woman with short black hair, wearing the white garb typical of Hollows. Her head bears a helm with a single horn in the middle of her forehead, decorated with the red crest of a Roman legionnaire. A blue lightning bolt is tattooed on her left shoulder. Reishi is emanating from the collars on her wrists.

The woman is positively fuming, to the point that she doesn’t even notice the newcomer. “Damn that skeleton!” she exclaimed as she waved around a bony left leg. “Serves him right for wanting to see my panties.”

“As easy to anger as always, I see,” Halibel can’t help but chuckle. When the woman turns to Halibel, she reveals a blue eye, and an amber eye with a red ring around it. Her mouth had completely dropped open.

“Apacci, it’s good to see you,” she quietly admitted.

Emilou Apacci rushed towards Halibel, tackling her in a hug. “I’ve been going absolutely crazy without you. It’s been weeks since I’ve woken up, with nothing but perverts, idiots, and perverted idiots for company,” she started to ramble.

“Huh…and here I thought it’d be tougher to find your girls, Halibel.”

Apacci jumped in surprise, scowling at the new figure leaning against a tree. “Who the hell are you?”

Kisame chuckled. “Are all your friends so rude? Still, I suppose I should answer. I’m Kisame Hoshigaki, pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said with a slight bow of the head.

Halibel sighed at the girl. “Apacci, you can relax. Kisame is a…colleague of mine.”

“Colleague? That’s all I am after our dinners together? You wound me, Halibel,” the Ninja said with no real hurt in his voice.

Apacci’s mouth dropped open at that. “HUH?!”

A tick mark popped onto Halibel’s head. “I don’t appreciate the false impression you’re giving to my friend,” she growled.

Apacci regained her usual composure, which is to say none at all. “You lying to me, Shark Boy?”

Kisame’s smirk instantly died at that as he flared his Chakra. “You calling me a liar?” he asked with a distinct lack of humor.

Apacci was shocked by the sheer amount of Chakra. “Holy Shit…this is worse than Yammy’s on a bad day,” she thought incredulously.

Halibel immediately got in front of Kisame, which had the effect of reining in that Chakra. “Calm down, she didn’t mean anything by it. Isn’t that right?” she asked, turning to her friend.

Apacci got back to her feet, growling. “Fine, sorry,” came her half-hearted reply.

“Well, it’s a start,” the Ninja shrugged, almost instantly back to his good mood. “Anyway, may I ask whose leg that is?” He pointed to the bony left leg, which Halibel had finally noticed.

The younger Hollow scoffed at that. “I was making my way to this island for a break. There was a storm and I needed to land. That was when I saw this little dingy start capsizing. Against my better judgment, I rushed in and scooped up the only guy there. It was just pathetic seeing the struggle. If you’re gonna try getting through this damned sea, the least you can do is know how to swim or fly!”

Halibel cleared her throat to get Apacci back on track. “Anyway, I grabbed him and zoomed to this island. Once he woke up, I thought things were starting to look up. At least he showed some damn gratitude and manners.”

“Considering the stray limb, I’m sure that didn’t last long,” Kisame couldn’t help but comment.

“THE PIECE OF SHIT JUST WANTED TO SEE MY PANTIES!” she yelled. “I promised to kick his ass, so the little coward started running.” Apacci then gave a malicious grin. “He didn’t get very far.”

Halibel was pinching the bridge of her nose at this point, while Kisame was snickering at the mental picture. “And then what’d you do to the little pervert?” the Ninja eagerly asked.

“I did promise that his ass would get kicked. So I ripped this off,” she recounted as she waved the left leg, “and delivered. I kicked him in the ass so hard with this that he fell apart and the pieces started rolling away,” she smirked.

Kisame had given up the ghost and was just laughing. “Oh, that’s just too good. I wish I could’ve seen his face. You,” he pointed at Apacci. “I like you. Anyone who can come up with something like that is okay in my book.”

Apacci seemed perplexed at that, before she started laughing too at the memory. Halibel brought an open palm to her forehead. “Please don’t encourage her,” she glared at Kisame. That response seemed enough to cow Apacci. Then, it was as if lightning struck Halibel’s brain.

“Kisame?” she slowly asked. “What did Jinbe say his crewmate looked like?”

“That he was a skeleton with an afro and wearing a very nice suit,” he replied as realization dawned for the Ninja.

“And why did that mineworker chase him off again?”

Kisame sighed before answering. “Because he asked to see his wife’s panties.”

Apacci froze at that. “Wait…you already know the bastard?”

“To be honest, he’s actually the reason that we came this way,” Kisame explained.

Seeing her friend’s confusion, Halibel picked up the slack. “The two of us woke up and set sail with a Fishman. We both agreed to help him reunite with his former crew. It appears that this skeleton, Brook I believe, is one of that crew. We were following him from Shipwreck Cove.”

“I say let the bastard rot,” Apacci vindictively said.

“As much as it would be deserved, I’d rather any of us not end up on the wrong side of a Vagabond Drill,” Kisame pointed out.

Halibel, not wanting to test Jinbe’s limits against those who hurt his crew, found herself agreeing. “Apacci, where’s the rest of him?”

The younger Hollow huffed before she started walking into the jungle, obviously in no hurry but not wanting to upset Halibel. At some point, Kisame noticed that they were following a river towards the middle of the island, walking opposite the current. It wasn’t before long that they reached the lake of origin. It was huge, and there were hundreds of pastel-colored hippopotamus cruising through the fresh water. They were far larger than any ordinary hippos. Then, against all the laws of common sense, the hippos started singing.

It’s a race, it’s a chase, hurry up and feed our face!
Who will win? No one knows! Feed us hungry hip-ip-pos!
Hungry hungry hippos! Open up and there it goes!

While the three were baffled at the outburst of song, a submerged green hippo crept up on them. In an instant, it surfaced, massive jaws gaping before it tried to chomp down on all three. The Hollows and Ninja scattered.

“What the hell?!” Kisame and Apacci wondered.

Mid-air, Halibel watched as a cloud of green smoke wafted from the side of the hippo, eventually assuming a form that vaguely resembled a face. “Good madam, could you perhaps get me out of here?”

“YOU!” Apacci screeched, confirming the others’ suspicion.

“Brook, I presume?” Kisame asked.

Before a clearly shocked Brook could ask how he knew his name, “We’re with Jinbe,” Halibel quickly informed him. “He should be here within the hour.”

“AH!” the floating ethereal head exclaimed. “Such good news. Now, back to the matter at hand…”

Before Brook could finish, Kisame had already used Body Flicker to get by the green hippo. He then swung Samehada into the creature’s belly hard enough to lift it off the ground. That sent the mammal into a coughing fit. Soon enough, a skull with an afro came hurtling out, covered in various bodily fluids. In the instant Halibel caught the skull, she quickly dunked it in the water, spinning Brook like he was in a washer. When she pulled him out, all the bodily fluids were gone.

“Blaugh!” Brook coughed out the last bit of water. “Thank you madam. I greatly appreciate the assistance. Now, I hate to ask this, but could you find the rest of me?” he questioned, clearly embarrassed.

“Uh…I don’t think we have to worry about looking,” Kisame pointed out. The rest turned towards the herd of hippos approaching. From that day, the Ninja would swear those mammals had an evil glint in their eye.

It’s a race, it’s a chase, hurry up and feed our face!
Who will win? No one knows! Feed us hungry hip-ip-pos!
Hungry hungry hippos! Open up and there it goes!

The tone of the vocalizing hippos (they were all baritone) was distinctly more menacing, no doubt aided by their massing on the group. “What in the actual hell?” Apacci wondered.

“Well then…I think this calls for some assistance. Summoning Jutsu!” Kisame slammed a hand on the water. In a poof of smoke, four Bull Sharks had appeared, all looking particularly ill tempered. Brook’s mouth dropped open in shock.

“The hell? You summon us to deal with filthy hippos?” the biggest asked.

“Oh cool it, Mei. You know it’s been ages since we’ve had a good hunt,” the smallest argued.

“Jiro’s right, plus this is a chance to one-up those damned Hammerhead sisters,” another agreed.

“Indeed, surely these are a more worthy prey than those monkey abominations,” the last pointed out.

“Fine, Zoku and Ushi made their point. I still expect some good koi to cleanse my palate after such dirty creatures,” Mei mumbled.

“And you shall have it,” Kisame promised. “Just make sure to leave the bones. We need to put this idiot together after all.”

“Hey!”

“It’ll be done,” Jiro assured him.

Behind the Ninja and sharks, Apacci leaned towards Halibel. “What else can he do?”

“Oh, just instantly create and control a lake’s worth of water, absorb the Chakra and Reishi from his enemies, make clones…” Halibel started listing off.

Apacci gaped at that. “I need to meet more Ninja,” she decided.

“Alrighty…how about we wrap this up before the others get here? What Jinbe doesn’t know can’t hurt us,” Kisame suggested.

“Right,” Halibel agreed as she drew Tiburon.

“Hey squirt, show me how good you are!” the Ninja yelled at the younger Hollow.

“Oh, you’re asking for it!” Apacci said, fierce grin in place.

Eager, Apacci took aim at the nearest pink hippo. “BALA!” A barrage of red Reishi orbs were unloaded onto the creature’s stomach. Sure enough, a ribcage was hacked up. That set of bones instantly gravitated towards the sitting skull. “Excellent. You all just need to get my bones released. Then, I can take care of whatever remains for you.”

“I’m gonna hold you to that,” the Ninja shouted as he pushed a yellow hippo into the pack of Bulls. When taken from all sides, the hippo stood no chance. Although, the Bulls made a point to spit out the unnaturally black blood shed. Mei tossed the lower vertebrae at the growing pile of bones.

Halibel swiftly decapitated a red hippo, drove her hand down its throat, and hurled a right forearm away. Apacci had found the rest of the right arm, and was currently in a tug of war with another green hippo. Having enough, she ducked her head. A mass of Reishi started to coalesce at the tip of her horn.

“CERO!”

The hippo was utterly obliterated in a flash of red, along with the tip of the humerus. “Ah…Please be careful!” Brook nearly begged.

“Be grateful I’m actually doing this, you damn pervert!” The younger Hollow chucked the bone, bouncing it off Brook’s forehead.

Slowly but surely, Brook was pulling himself together, thanks to his Revive-Revive Fruit. He was already halfway there, if you counted the leg Apacci was using to beat in another hippo’s head.

As Kisame slammed Samehada into another hippo, the rest of the massive mammals had formed up.

It’s a race, it’s a chase, hurry up and feed our face!
Who will win? No one knows! Feed us hungry hip-ip-pos!
Hungry hungry hippos! Open up and there it goes!

“IF I HEAR THAT DAMN SONG ONE MORE TIME, I WILL TEAR THEIR THROATS OUT!!” Apacci roared.

“You and me both,” Kisame muttered in agreement.

“While I agree with the sentiment,” Zoku admitted, “I feel I should point out that the foul energy coursing through them is rising with each round of singing.”

Sure enough, lights were starting to appear in the hippos’ gullet.

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding! Everyone get behind me,” Kisame shouted as he raised Samehada.

“The hell can you do against that?” Apacci asked.

“Just do as he says,” Halibel gently ordered.

The three quickly formed up around the slowly reforming Brook, who was now standing with both legs. Apacci had enough of bludgeoning for one day, so he got his left leg back.

The second the three were ready, the hippos started firing their lasers. Brook had horrible flashbacks to the Pacifista. The others were stunned by the sheer malevolence in the energy. To Halibel and Kisame, it almost matched that energy from their first storm. Unlike that time, it was far more animalistic and feral. Whether that was due to the hippos themselves, or whatever empowered them, was unclear.

Regardless, the hippos were not letting up. Any lasers that came directly for the group were absorbed by Samehada, much to the newcomers’ shock. “Halibel, Apacci…let’s put this guy together so he can actually pull his weight,” Kisame suggested. “I’ll keep him safe, you two attack from above. My Bulls should get an opening right about now.”

Just like that, one hippo was dragged down by four sets of jaws into the already cloudy water. Then, a cane was spat out towards Brook. The skeleton caught it with his single right arm, and let the sheathe drop to the ground. Kisame laughed at that. “Oh goodie, another swordsman,” he chuckled as he gave a feral grin. Brook couldn’t help but compare the blood thirst to Zoro faced with a good opponent, and shuddered at the thought of those two meeting.

Halibel and Apacci didn’t waste a second, diving into the hole. With one to the right, and one to the left, the Hollows unleashed their moves in sync.

“Bala!”

Flashes of yellow and red tore through the hippos, exposing their stomachs. With Brook’s left arm, hip, and neck, all the pieces had been found. Without a second’s hesitation, Halibel tossed the rest of the bones back. While there was wear and tear, Brook was back at full strength.

“Thank you everyone. Now, to do my part. Could you lovely ladies get some distance? I’ve got something special for those hippos,” Brook told them.

After a scoff from Apacci, the two vanished with Sonido. Brook then opened up his skull, plucking out a miniature violin. “What the hell?” Kisame wondered.

“PARTY MUSIC!” Brook bellowed out as he started playing.

In an instant, the hippos stopped firing their lasers. Eyes glazed over, the mammals started looking up at nothing. Kisame smirked, recognizing the symptoms. “You put them in an illusion with music, didn’t you?”

“Oh my, quite an astute warrior you are,” Brook praised as he raised his own sword. “But I believe you wanted to see my skill with the blade, yes?”

“I’m ready and waiting,” the Ninja said as he latched Samehada onto his back. Eager to oblige, Brook leapt above the hippos, blade unsheathed. In an instant, he was behind them, sheathing his sword.

“Three Verse Humming: Soul Notch Slash!” The second Brook sheathed his sword, the hippos cried out in pain as massive gashes spilled out black blood, the wounds freezing over shortly after. Strangely enough, as the black blood came out, the hippos started to revert to a normal appearance. They shrank as their skin assumed a more natural palate. The black blood itself shot out towards the western ocean, gone in the blink of an eye.

Brook had a serious expression. “Those poor creatures had something else’s soul driving them,” he revealed. “We’re lucky that my Revive-Revive Fruit was able to separate the parasite from the animals.”

Halibel reappeared, putting a hand on one of the hippo’s wrists. “They’ll live, provided they get some rest.”

Apacci rejoined the men, a puzzled look on her face. “What could possibly control those animals this far away?”

“I could think of a few people capable of something comparable,” Kisame remarked.

“Let’s just make sure that no black blood ends up in our systems in the future,” Halibel suggested.

At that point, her and Kisame’s heads perked up. “Well, looks like the ship will reach land soon. How do you feel about seeing Jinbe and Franky again?”

Brook gasped as he turned towards the coming ship. He hesitated for a seconds. Then…

“YOHOHOHOHOHO!!” He scurried towards the Cutty Sark, fast enough to leave a trail of smoke on land and cut across the water’s surface.

“Annoying, loud bastard,” Apacci growled as she picked her ear.

Kisame turned towards the expectant Bull Sharks, heads past the surface of the incredibly murky water.

“All that energy from the black blood is long gone,” the sensor Zoku declared. “Let us know if you ever figure out where it came from. Power like that is concerning.”

“Right,” Kisame agreed. “Thanks for the assist. I’ll send a messenger when I have the koi you want.”

Mei nodded. “That would be much appreciated.” She turned to Uchi, who was rubbing a particularly nasty cut. “Oh grow up, it’s not that bad.”

With that, the four Bull Sharks vanished in a poof of smoke, much to Apacci’s confusion. “Huh? Where the hell did they go?”

“Back home, they only stick around for a job or if it’s fun,” the Ninja explained.

“Why didn’t you summon the Hammerheads like before?” Halibel wondered.

“The Bulls are the only ones who can survive freshwater. Plus, they have experience with hippos, and are great in real murky water,” he stated.

“I noticed that they were angry when the Hammerheads were mentioned. Why is that?” Halibel asked, genuinely curious.

“The sharks aren’t actually united like the other summons. They’ve been split into tribes for centuries. The strongest and smartest species carved out their own turf, with the weaker ones trying to avoid the crossfire. You have to earn the loyalty of every single tribe before they accept the contract. Only one strong enough to pass all the tests is worthy of summoning them, at least from their perspective. It took me years, but I managed,” Kisame shrugged.

“Wow,” Apacci lamely put it. She was fascinated by the story no doubt, but her mind was more occupied with processing that fight. She’d noticed something that was still sticking out to her. Halibel had trusted this Kisame. Apacci was utterly bemused at that. She turned to the Ninja, still answering Halibel’s questions about the Shark Summons. “What has he done to earn her trust?” she couldn’t help but wonder.

“Did your partner have the Sharks Summons too?” Halibel asked, snapping Apacci out of her thoughts. “Wait, partner?”

Kisame chuckled at the mental image. “Nah, he had Crows. Trust me, those were far better for him, considering his personality and techniques. He wouldn’t have lasted a second in some of those tests, especially with his poor health and endurance.” His smile shrank, seemingly deep in thought.

“Ya know, I’m kinda jealous. You and Jinbe have already found some of your friends, and we haven’t even been at sea for a week,” he chuckled.

Halibel put a hand on Kisame’s shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll find something leading to him soon,” she assured him.

“I hope you’re right.”

With that, the trio started making their way back to the Cutty Sark, already hearing a tearful shout of “SUPER!”

 

Back in the waters around Shipwreck Cove, Davos was making his way back after another crabbing trip in La Entrada. Before he reached the harbor, something caught his eye. It was a human, falling from the sky. “Seven Hells, that’s the third time this month,” he grumbled as he turned the ship, ready to pick up and ‘debrief’ whatever poor soul had been dumped this time.

Then, the oddest thing happened. There was no splash. The person had barely left a ripple when their feet touched the water. Odd, considering they’d been going at terminal velocity. After a few minutes, the figure had walked to the side of his boat. If this had been a month ago, Davos might’ve been a little shocked at a man walking on water. But alas, he’s already becoming jaded with the insanity of the Sea of Second Chances.

It was a young man, with a slim face. Long dark hair was tied in a ponytail. His black eyes looked like they had seen hell, earning Davos’ sympathy. However, all that paled to what the old captain’s eyes were drawn to. The man was wearing a black cloak, with red clouds decorating it.

“You recognize this coat?” the stranger asked in a deep voice.

“Yeah,” the captain replied. “My name is Davos Seaworth…what’s yours?”

“Itachi Uchiha.”

Davos visibly relaxed at that, extending a hand. “Do you want to come aboard and have a seat? I have a message for you.”

Itachi suspiciously eyed the hand. “Who was it from?”

“Someone else who wore that cloak. Big, blue fellow by the name of Kisame.”

The Akatsuki froze at that. “You met Kisame?”

“Yeah, he and a couple others actually saved me and this very ship from a monster,” Davos recalled.

“Kisame saving lives?” Itachi couldn’t help but wonder. “What was the message?”

“He wants you to meet him,” Davos simply told him.

“Where?” Itachi asked, betraying the slightest sense of impatience.

“Fiddler’s Green. He started heading towards it with the others about a week ago,” Davos explained.

“What others?” an increasingly bewildered Itachi questioned.

“Oh, they weren’t anyone from your world.”

That response wasn’t what Itachi expected, so he was silent for a few seconds. “What?” he asked in the most carefully emotionless manner he could muster.

“Looks like you’ll be needing that seat. Come on up, I’ll explain everything,” Davos offered as he opened his Captain’s Cabin.

Wanting some answers, Itachi hopped onto the boat, entering as Davos closed the door behind them. There, he’d be told everything the general populace knew about the Sea of Second Chances. Of how all who died seemed to live again. How different worlds merged together. How monsters ruled the Sea. Then he heard the story of the day Kisame Hoshigaki fell from the sky. How he, the Hollow, and the Fishman had defeated a giant jelly their very first day together. How they found Sasori (Itachi tensed when hearing that) and the Cyborg at Shipwreck Cove. How they beat a horde of little pests. How they made it through the worst storm that Davos had ever seen.

Itachi sat transfixed at the tale. His old partner, the bloodthirsty Akatsuki, had actually saved people, twice in as many days. He was forming a crew and taking on this hellish sea. From what Davos said, it sounded like friendships being made. The thought seemed incredible for the Uchiha. He knew that he had to see this with his own eyes. Maybe one day, he would seek out his little brother, but for now, he knew where one friend was.

“Well…it wouldn’t do to leave my partner hanging,” Itachi decided. “I’ll need a guide.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Davos promised. “In the meantime, let’s get you a ship. You’re lucky you landed right by the shipyard.”

With that, the two sailed into Shipwreck Cove.

 

The black blood exorcised from the hippos had rushed through the ocean. It eventually came to a deep, dark cave. The location was towards the middle of the Sea of Second Chances. There was a single resident, with dark power emanating from the creature. The shadows of the cave completely obscured the figure. Except for its dark green eyes. All 20 of them were glowing.

A webbed hand scooped up the black blood. “So, my puppets had their strings cut. How amusing. And it looks like this bit of my blood has run its course.” Sure enough, the black blood stopped moving. “Pity, I’d hoped my slaves would reach the entrance islands.”

“My Lord,” an absolutely massive crocodile big enough to tear apart the enhanced hippos emerged from the water at the mouth of the cave. It bowed its head in reverence.

“Ah, Gustave,” the being hummed in its deep voice. “What news of your hunt?”

“Your Majesty, while there’s no news of the map itself, we have located one of those who made it. He’s on Old Nile. I can make it there and back within the month,” Gustave promised.

“No, once you get the location out of him, I want you to immediately fetch the chest. Then, you shall return with it in tow,” the being commanded. “We have worked a century towards this.”

“Indeed, Almighty Cipactli,” Gustave agreed. “I shall remove this last obstacle to your ascension.”

Cipactli chuckled in a deeply inhuman tone. “My most faithful servant, I’m confident you are up to the task,” he claimed. Then, all his eyes locked with Gustave’s. “Don’t disappoint me.”

The crocodile shuddered before coming out of its bow. “I won’t.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: The Grotto

Things settled down on the Cutty Sark. There had been tears from both Brook and Franky. Loud tears. Sasori was seriously contemplating murder, but he decided to focus on his latest invention, noise-canceling headphones. When Kisame and Halibel returned to the ship, Jinbe gave a grateful nod to the two, before mingling with his newfound crewmate again. Apacci took one look at the socializing, turned around to a nice corner, and tried to take a nap. Tsuyu hopped down from the crow’s nest, unphased by the walking skeleton. She was perfectly polite as she introduced herself.

Eventually, as Kisame was descaling some fish he caught for dinner, Brook explained how he got to New Nile, with some prompting.

“So Brook,” Jinbe wondered. “Why were you on that island?”

The skeleton paused. “I think it would be better if I show you.” To do that, Brook opened up his skull, earning a raised eyebrow from Sasori.

“I’d been on this sea for weeks without any leads to finding the rest of my crew. I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Brook explained with unusual solemnity. He then unrolled the canvas, revealing an old-fashioned map. It completely covered the makeshift table the crew had. The bottom left corner had been ripped clean off, but the rest was strikingly clear. On the top right corner, was New Nile Island. A dotted trail snaked its way south and west, towards the missing corner.

“I met this crazy old man named Ben. Anywho, he gave me this map, saying it led to the greatest treasure this side of the Sea of Second Chances. Tamatoa’s Horde,” Brook paused for dramatic effect.

“If the treasure’s so great, why is it still there?” Kisame pointedly asked, just waiting for the catch. The smarter crewmembers had similarly disbelieving looks.

Brook cracked a smile…or whatever counted for it on his skull. “Well…the rumor is that the guardian of the treasure is so mighty that none have beaten him.” That got a smirk out of Kisame, and Apacci too.

“And why did you decide to go?” Jinbe asked.

“Well, in hindsight it sounds flimsy but…I thought I’d see some sign of Nami if there was any treasure like this nearby. Maybe even Luffy if he heard about this guardian,” Brook admitted as his head turned down. “I truly was desperate for anything at that point.”

Tsuyu gave a sympathetic look. “Don’t worry. You made the right decision. After all, would you have met any of your crew if you just stayed where you were?”

Brook moved with more energy. “Young lady, you’re absolutely right. Thank you for that.”

“Ribbet.”

“So,” Halibel brought everyone back on topic. “Does anyone have any other leads on old friends…because I’m not seeing any options aside from this treasure hunt.”

“Well, think of it this way,” Kisame suggested. “This sounds like something that would attract all the heavy-hitters nearby. And it’s more likely that they know something than any of those average Joes at the entrance islands.”

“Point taken,” Halibel responded before returning her attention to the map. “It looks like there are four islands in between us and this Horde. Grotto City, Samebito Island, Old Nile, and the Land of Lotus Eaters. Do we have any information on them?”

“I’ve only heard that people never return from Samebito Island, or from the Lotus Eaters,” Sasori added ominously. “No specifics, which is incredibly annoying.”

“Well, I don’t know if this is true,” Tsuyu piped in. “But I heard that mermaids live in Grotto City.”

“Wait a sec,” Apacci muttered. “You’re telling me those are real?”

Jinbe, Brook, and Franky gave incredulous looks in unison. “Yeah,” the Fishman said. “We have whole islands full of them back in our world.” As if this was the most normal thing to him…which it really was.

Tsuyu found herself sitting down. “Well, I certainly need to rethink what’s possible, ribbet.”

“Regardless of whether we go treasure hunting or not,” Sasori stated. “I think it would be best to stock up as much as we can at this Grotto City, considering how little the last island had after that Demon’s rampage. I don’t see any reliable settlement beyond on this map at least.”

Jinbe got up and headed for the helm. “Okay, I’m setting a course for Due West. Judging by the map, we should reach Grotto City within three days.”

“Right,” Halibel nodded as she leaned back on the railing by Apacci.

“Well,” Kisame finished descaling his little school of fish. “I’ll be hogging the kitchen for a bit. Y’all are welcome to some of this later.” He headed off below.

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Halibel followed, her stomach giving a tiny growl.

Frowning, Apacci followed.

“Ooh, I’m so hungry it feels like my belly is empty,” Brook chuckled.

“But you don’t have a belly,” Tsuyu responded.

“YOHOHOHOHO!! Skull Joke!” He quickly started leading Tsuyu into the kitchen.

“Count me in!” Franky declared as he followed them.

Jinbe and Sasori sat in an awkward silence, still not comfortable with each other. The Fishman had raised an eyebrow at the virtual party.

“Hmm…I heard Kisame was a decent cook, but I don’t think he’ll appreciate that many people looking over his shoulder…and in such a confined space,” Sasori mumbled. He then started a countdown, much to Jinbe’s confusion. “3…2…1”

“BANG!” Brook and Franky came flying out of the door, landing on their rears.

“I SAID I WOULD COOK…NOT HOST A DAMN PARTY!” came the irate Ninja’s voice.

Tsuyu and Apacci walked out with a little more urgency to their step. Halibel simply strolled out, before turning back. “Just one fish is enough for me. Let me know if help’s needed.”

“SURE!”

OoOoO

The three days passed without incident, if one didn’t consider a pack of 100 Fijis attacking an incident. Tsuyu was the only one who was nervous at the horde, to be perfectly honest. Still, some good came out of those little pests. They would’ve been torn apart if Jinbe didn’t get an idea. After Halibel split them in half with a barrage of Ola Azul, Kisame and a score of Water Clones trapped the remainder in a series of Water Prison Jutsu.

“Now Tsuyu,” came Jinbe’s voice. “You’ll have to feel the water in the creature itself.”

“Right,” the girl responded at the edge of the starboard side.

“YA READY?” Kisame called out as he stood by a Water Prison.

The Pro-Hero narrowed her eyes, assuming her stance. “Bring it on.”

Smirking, Kisame pushed his hand into one Water Prison, getting a chokehold on one Fiji. “Here it comes!” He then chucked it right at the Pro-Hero.

The second the Fiji was close enough, Tsuyu pulled her fist back. “Brick Fist!” She slammed into the Fiji, punching it hard enough to knock it out. Still, she looked unsatisfied. “That just felt like a regular punch.”

Jinbe gave a slight nod. “The Brick Fist is not that far off from a regular punch after all. There isn’t really much of a difference until the Hundred Brick Fist. Still, you’ll feel the water force the opponent back once you’ve got it down. For now though, I just want you to get used to the stance and movement.”

“Yes, Sensei,” Tsuyu said as she got back to it. “OKAY KISAME!” she yelled.

“RIGHT!” came the shout back as he tossed another Fiji.

On the port side, there was a bit of an experiment going on. Franky and Sasori were both eager to see how their latest innovation would go, clearly inspired by the multitude of targets. Being incredibly bored, Apacci agreed to help out. Halibel was standing to the side, keeping an eye on the Fijis still stuck in Water Prisons.

“So, Miss Apacci, could you put your hand over the seal? It’s right on top of the cannon, where the fuse would normally be,” Sasori explained.

Apacci glared at the two inventors. “All that means nothing to me…there is literally nothing like this piece of crap in my world.”

Sasori rubbed his forehead. “It’s the circle of white ink and kanji.”

Apacci blinked. “I knew that,” she muttered as she placed her hand down. Halibel settled for rolling her eyes.

“Now…could you channel a bit of Reishi into that hand? Just a little,” Sasori instructed.

For a second, red Reishi made itself visible around the Hollow’s hand, before it vanished. In an instant, what appeared to be a red cannonball shot out of the artillery piece, completely missing all the Water Prisons. Apacci’s eyes lit up in surprise. “The hell was that?”

“SUPER! That’s what it was!” came the cyborg’s enthusiastic response.

“This is the latest example of what can be accomplished when two worlds’ technology is merged. With Franky’s expertise on armaments, plus my own with Chakra and seals, we were able to create a cannon that could channel a person’s energy with minimal effort,” the puppet explained. “Still, could you try the cannon again? I want to make sure that wasn’t a fluke.”

With a little bit of a smirk, Apacci put her hand down again, with that red Reishi surrounding her hand. Another red cannonball shot out. This time, a Water Prison full of Fijis, plus the Water Clone maintaining it, were blown to smithereens.

At this point, Apacci was straight up grinning. “Hell, that’s even easier than a Bala! I’ll take it!”

Franky seemed puzzled at that. “What are you…?”

Before he could finish, Apacci ripped the cannon out of its stand, hoisting it over her shoulder. She then aimed it at the rest of the Water Prisons off the port, holding the cannon like a bazooka.

Then, Apacci had the time of her life. She laughed as red balls of Reishi tore apart the Fiji horde, faster than she had ever used Bala or Cero. True, most of the shots were off, but the Hollow was starting to get the hang of it. Eventually, there was only one Water Prison left in sight. The Kisame clone gave Apacci a smirk. “Hey, how about we make things a bit more challenging? Think you can hit a moving target?”

“Hell yeah!”

“All right then,” the Clone said before releasing the Water Prison. The Fijis scattered. Most of them were still hell-bent on attacking the ship. Apacci led one Fiji for a bit, and completely missed. Growling, she aimed again. This time, the Red ball obliterated the Fiji.

With a few more ‘BOOM’s, the rest of the Fijis off the port side had been sent to kingdom come. She eagerly turned her newest toy towards the starboard side.

“Apacci,” came Halibel’s stern voice. “Not until after Tsuyu finishes her Fishman Karate lesson.”

The younger Hollow scowled. “Fishman Karate?”

“Yes…it’s how Jinbe is as strong as me,” Halibel commented.

That brought Apacci up short, her eyes widening a bit. “You serious?”

“Yes, and he doesn’t even need Reishi or Chakra or anything Magical to keep it going,” the former Espada noted.

“So…anyone could do it…even humans?” Apacci wondered.

“Well…it seems that it doesn’t matter…but those with a proclivity to moving in the water are best suited for this,” the older Hollow explained.

“Does that mean you could learn it?” came the question.

Halibel actually seemed to consider it. “Possibly, I’m sure Kisame and I could manage if we felt the need. To be perfectly frank, I think it’d be superfluous to us.”

Speaking of which, Tsuyu had finally gotten the Brick Fist down. Just to be sure, she asked the last Kisame clone to toss a Fiji. Once it was close enough…

“BRICK FIST!” This time, Tsuyu could feel the water in the Fiji move before the rest of the creature was sent flying back.

“Very good.” Jinbe was clearly proud of his newfound student. “Once you’re up for it, we’ll talk about making that the Hundred Brick Fist.”

Panting in exertion, Tsuyu turned and gave the Fishman a thumbs-up. Still, she had reached her limit. So, she took a seat, trying to keep her panting under control.

“So?” asked Kisame. “What do you want to do with the rest…?” BOOM! A red cannonball tore through the final Water Prison, scorching the Ninja.

“WATCH IT!” Kisame shouted.

“hehehe…” Apacci actually sounded sheepish. “Sorry, thought you were a clone!”

“Oh…he was,” came a reply from right behind her.

“GAH! Don’t do that!” the Hollow railed as she nearly smacked the real Kisame with her new cannon, only for it to be caught.

Halibel just shook her head at the Ninja riling up her companion.

“Well…at least the cannons were a success,” Sasori mumbled as he wrote something in a journal he had out. “Still, I should see what happens if a stronger Hollow used it.”

“Maybe some other time,” Halibel suggests.

Franky just had an unusually pensive expression. “I still don’t understand why those won’t work for me.”

“Well, no one I’ve met from your world actually has an energy like Chakra or Reishi, at least from what you told me,” Sasori responded.

“What about Haki?” Jinbe asked.

“Hmm?” Sasori sounded confused at that. “Franky never brought that up when we were discussing our worlds.” All the others were looking on in interest now.

“What is this Haki?” Halibel wondered.

To demonstrate, Jinbe blackened his exposed right arm with Armament Haki. “I’m basically channeling my willpower to act as an enhancer to my Fishman Karate strikes. It’s also my best defense against powerful attacks.” As he said that, he placed the blackened hand on the cannon, but nothing happened.

“Well…Zoro always was better at channeling Haki out than I was,” Jinbe said with a bit of resignation.

“Wait…this Haki can even extend over foreign objects?” Sasori asked as he scribbled away in a journal.

“Yeah, Zoro managed to coat his swords in it, meaning he could cut through anything.”

Kisame started chuckling at that. “Oh, you simply must tell me more about this swordsman of yours.”

“Of course that’s what would catch your attention,” Halibel mumbled.

So the rest of the day passed with Jinbe and Franky regaling the crew with tales of the Straw Hats’ exploits. Of Devil Fruit Users and Haki Masters. Of Emperors, Warlords, and Marines. Of going up to the sky and beneath the waves. Needless to say, everyone was transfixed, even the normally disinterested Sasori.

OoOoO

A day after the Fiji target practice, they came across what appeared to be a barren mountain in the middle of a mild rainstorm. This prompted Franky to look at the map, then to the mountain, and back to the map. “Well…are the rest of you seeing this?”

“Unfortunately,” came Sasori’s droll reply.

“Wait a sec. How the hell does that…” Apacci pointed to an opulent-appearing city on the map. “equal that?!” she pointed to the barren mountain.

“It is quite the conundrum,” Halibel couldn’t help but comment.

“Hold on.” Kisame narrowed his eyes towards the easternmost ridge. “Is that an opening?”

“Yeah,” Jinbe confirmed. “Looks like the cave is big enough for the ship to go through.”

“Ain’t that awfully convenient?” Kisame gave a lopsided grin, hand inching towards Samehada.

“If that is actually a trap…wouldn’t it be better if they were led into a false sense of security?” Halibel asked her fellow swordsman. That being said, she was visibly making an effort not to draw Tiburon. This prompted Apacci to rub her bracelets apprehensively.

“Come now,” came Brook’s cheerful voice. “Let us not make assumptions. Plus, we should see what is actually available…or we’re going to live off whatever Kisame and Jinbe can catch for a long time.”

“I’ll just take anything out of the rain,” Tsuyu admitted.

Sasori sighed. “Regardless, best be on our guard.” As he said that, strings came out of all his right fingers, adjusting the Cutty Sark to sail right through the middle of the upcoming cave. Jinbe was steady at the helm. Just before darkness obscured everything, everyone noticed a light at the other end.

“Okay…this really is too convenient,” Kisame muttered. Apacci nodded.

“Calm down.” Halibel’s soothing voice echoed off the walls. “We’re almost there.”

Once they were close enough, the contrast was blinding. The Mountain had been hollowed out. While they couldn’t be seen from the outside, enough holes had been drilled out to let light in. This was only possible due to the holes being higher than the clouds, near the peak of the mountain.

To Jinbe, it seemed remarkably similar to Fishman Island. Buildings reminiscent of coral stretched out as far as the eye could see, windows reflecting the light to give a glittering impression. Structures resembling seashells served as roofs for most of them. Aside from that, there weren’t actually any pathways between the buildings, just streams of water big enough for the Cutty Sark to easily cruise through.

Then, there was a flash of purple. The crew barely noticed in time to realize that it was a fish’s tail. A purple Kissing Gourami’s to be exact, if the fish was large enough to swallow a human. Even the sharper eyes amongst the crew were barely able to catch the glint of the scales as they moved to what looked like a floating bar. There was actually a decent selection of sakes and rums lining the wall. To the side, the smell of cooking Takoyaki came from a respectable grill.

Jinbe smiled. It was bigger than any he had had ever since waking up. There was just something reassuring at such a familiar setting. The picture was complete when a green-haired mermaid surfaced with an octopus in hand. She seemed to have barely seen the ship out of the corner of her eye, given her lack of reaction.

To everyone not from the Grand Line, the sight was absolutely transfixing. Even Apacci found herself blushing at such a striking figure. Kisame, honest soul that he was, would later admit that he stared at the mermaid far longer than he had ever stared at any of the girls from home, even Mei Terumi. Tsuyu’s mouth had dropped open, in utter disbelief. Halibel tilted her head, clearly fascinated.

On the other hand, the Pirates were smiling in recognition. Before Jinbe could shout a greeting, Franky stopped him. “I’m actually curious how long it’ll be before she realizes it’s us,” he whispered. Brook chuckled at that, while Jinbe shrugged. As the Cutty Sark dropped its anchor, the smiling Fishman beckoned the crew to follow.

Eventually, all of them had taken a seat. Jinbe was smack dab in the middle, with Tsuyu, Franky, and Brook to his left. Kisame, Halibel, and Apacci were to the right. Sasori hadn’t even left the ship, having no desire to eat. Still, his head leaned over the railing, meaning he could hear everything. The mermaid hadn’t even turned her head, so focused was she on this batch of Takoyaki. “What can I get for you today?” she asked in a friendly, yet professional voice.

“I’ll just have one plate of Takoyaki…it does smell delicious,” Kisame started.

“The same,” echoed Halibel and Apacci.

“Make that five plates for us,” Brook and Franky enthusiastically added.

“Six,” came Tsuyu’s quiet addition.

“I’d like some Honjozo-shu sake please,” Jinbe finished out.

The mermaid briefly turned around, small smile on her face. “Coming right up, Boss Jinbe.” Then, she went back to it.

After a few seconds, she froze. Her neck creaked as she slowly turned around, finally getting a good look at her customers. That smile had frozen as the girl’s brain slowly caught up with her surroundings.

“EH!”

Her jaw had fallen wide open, waggling tongue shooting out of her mouth in shock. Her eyes were bulging out of their sockets. “BOSS JINBE!!” she shrieked.

“And us too,” Brook responded nonchalantly, with Franky giving a thumbs-up.

“EEHH!!” The mermaid defied logic as her tongue and eyes shot out even further.

“It’s good to see you, Camie,” Jinbe made himself heard through the shriek.

That managed to calm the mermaid down, a more excited smile spreading across Camie’s face. “Same to you!” She jumped out of the water and grabbed the best bottle of Honjozo-shu in the stand. “Here, you can have the whole thing on the house, Boss!”

“Boss?” Kisame and Halibel raised their eyebrows in unison as they turned to Jinbe. Even Tsuyu and Apacci looked intrigued.

“Long story,” the Fishman deflected.

“Franky, Brook, so good to see you!” Camie continued.

“It’s SUPER to see any old friend in these parts,” Franky declared.

“Speaking of which, have you seen any of the others?” Brook wondered.

The mermaid frowned at that. “I’m sorry to say that I haven’t.” Still, she wasn’t one to stay down. “Oh, I haven’t even introduced myself to the rest of you. My name’s Camie, I’m from Fishman Island.” She extended an open hand.

“Tsuyu” The girl accepted the shake, her own oversized hands wrapping around the mermaid’s dainty ones.

“Hmm…I’d heard there were frog-people…didn’t think one would be so cute,” Camie said absent-mindedly, earning a blush from Tsuyu.

“I’m Halibel, and this is Apacci.” Neither Hollow accepted the handshake, though the latter did give a halfhearted wave when introduced.

Knowing that was the end of the matter, Camie turned to the last stranger. “Kisame Hoshigaki, pleased to make your acquaintance.” He gave a firm squeeze to her hand, flashing that grin of his.

Camie wasn’t unnerved in the least. “I’m sorry, but I don’t recognize you. I never did hang around the Fishman District.”

Kisame started laughing at that, confusing the poor girl. “Umm Camie,” Jinbe spoke up. “Kisame isn’t from Fishman Island.”

“Oh,” Camie sounded a bit dejected at that. “Must’ve been hard living on the surface your whole life.”

“Eh, I made it work,” Kisame managed between laughs.

“Camie,” Halibel was starting to sound exasperated. “Kisame isn’t a Fishman.”

“HUH?!” And there’s the face again, Apacci couldn’t help but observe.

“Butbutbutbut…” Camie stuttered.

“Someone really should push the poor girl’s mouth shut,” Halibel said quietly enough so that only Apacci and Kisame could hear. Naturally, the two found that hilarious.

“You’re saying that other worlds have Fishmen?!”

“Did she not hear what I just said?” Halibel’s head hit the bar, completely giving up on the ditzy girl. Apacci, despite laughing, was giving reassuring pats to the back.

“Um…shouldn’t someone be watching the grill?” Tsuyu pointed out.

“SORRY!” Camie’s face returned to a normal-looking panic as she resumed cooking. Thankfully, nothing was burnt. In under a minute, the mermaid had prepared six plates of Takoyaki, laying it out like the culinary expert she was. Apacci suspiciously poked one before giving an exploratory taste. Eyes widening in surprise, she started digging in with gusto. The others received their plates just as warmly.

“Everything alright?” the mermaid asked.

Jinbe gave a gentle smile. “Just as good as always. Hachi would be proud.”

Camie sighed. “I know he would.” She looked back up to the others. “So…are you all new Straw Hats?”

Apacci started choking on her Takoyaki, having heard enough stories of the other Straw Hats to know she wanted no part of that particular brand of insanity if she had a chance. Halibel slapped her back to un-choke her.

“Not necessarily,” Tsuyu hesitantly explained. “I wouldn’t call us Pirates.”

“Well then…how’d you all meet?” Camie asked curiously.

“He fell out of the sky on me,” Halibel pointed at Kisame, who shuddered at the memory.

“Fought a giant jellyfish with ‘em.” “Built a ship and beat a bunch of Fijis.” “Saved me from a Demon.” “Got pulled out of some Hippos.” “Kicked him into those Hippos.”

Camie just stared at everyone, and fell into a giggling fit. “You’re all so interesting.” At this point, she noticed that all the plates had been cleaned, though Tsuyu was still slowly chewing on her bit of Takoyaki. “My, you went through that fast.” The mermaid turned back to her grill. “Want some more Takoyaki…or one of my more exotic recipes?”

“Such as?” Kisame raised an eyebrow.

“How about Shark Fin Soup?” Camie asked in a deceptively innocent manner.

Jinbe, Halibel, and Kisame all paled at that. “I’d rather not,” the Hollow muttered.

It took a second, but… “OH! I’m so sorry. That was so rude of me.” She scrambled to make plates of crab legs. “Here”

In the time it took everyone else to blink, Kisame and Halibel’s legs had been picked clean. Camie was gaping at the two. It looked like they hadn’t even moved. Hell, there wasn’t a single scrap on Halibel’s collar. She hadn’t seen her meals taken down with such gusto since Luffy.

“So…what brings you to these parts?” she asked.

“Tamatoa’s Horde,” Kisame informed the mermaid.

“Oh…what’s that?” she asked.

Brook took the map out of his skull, laying it out as the others nibbled on their crab legs. “Our next stop is Samebito Island.”

Camie looked incredibly troubled at the mention of that. “So…you’re actually going to Samebito Island?”

“Yeah…you know anything about it?” Jinbe wondered.

She nodded. “We sent a few people over there some time ago for exploring, and we lost contact. We tried sending a few ships to see what happened, but all of them vanished.”

“Sounds inviting,” Apacci snarked.

“How about we stick around and get as many essentials as possible before heading off,” Tsuyu suggested. “I honestly don’t see any other settlements nearby…unless Camie knows about any other towns?”

“Unfortunately,” the mermaid answered. “There’s not really much aside from some small settlements. As far as I’m aware…this is the last big city to the west. At least, a big city that’s lasted.”

“How has this place lasted?” Franky absentmindedly wondered. “I mean…how was this even made?” He gazed up at the ceiling of the mountain.

Camie stared off for a bit. “I honestly don’t know, although there is a legend. Apparently, someone who wielded the power of a god carved out this mountain to give shelter to those he favored. Other than that, there’s nothing to go on.”

“Really?” Kisame asked. “Nothing to explain why it’s suddenly getting dark?”

True enough, the light was starting to dim. On top of this, rain was starting to come down. Camie’s eyes started going wide. “Come on, follow me! There’s a shelter this way.” She dived out of the bar, surfacing as the Cutty Sark crew returned to their ship.

Camie then started leading them towards another hole leading out of the city itself. Once the Cutty Sark had gotten out of the rain, flashing lights started to appear from behind, the feeling of power creeping up on the crew.

“Camie…is there someone else in here?” Jinbe cautiously asked.

“Oh yeah,” belated realization hit the normally ditzy mermaid. “There’s a witch here.”

“And why the hell did you think this was a good shelter?!” an exasperated Apacci shouted, her patience nearly spent.

“Umm…she’s actually just kept to herself. Although, when people around here run out of options, they go to her,” Camie recalled. “Just yesterday, this girl came into town, looking for her husband. She asked around the whole day, but no one had seen him. So, this morning, she went to the witch.”

“And this girl that came by,” Kisame interjected. “Did she have any…special abilities?” he wondered if she was the one responsible for the pulsating power instead of this ‘witch’.

“Well,” Camie put a finger to her hand. “It was like she had a Water Logia.”

All of the Pirates’ eyes widened. “Seriously?” Jinbe looked paler as he processed the implications of a Water-Water Fruit, especially in a world like this.

“Hey!” Apacci spoke up. “Could the non-pirates get clued in here?”

“Logia are Devil Fruits that allow someone to create, manipulate, and even become one element,” Brook explained. “They’re incredibly rare, even by Devil Fruit standards.”

“And why would a Water elemental be such cause for concern to you three?” Halibel asked what was on everyone else’s mind.

“Because everyone who consumes a Devil Fruit loses the ability to swim. Someone being able to use water like any other Logia would go against all the established rules of Devil Fruits.” Brook had a particularly troubled expression. “Anyone who could just merge with and dump the ocean wherever they wanted would be a death sentence to every other Devil Fruit.”

Kisame actually looked eager at that. “Is that right?”

“No Kisame,” Halibel replied, nearly by reflex at this point. He muttered under his breath after that.

Before they could discuss things any further, the brightest light yet shone from the back of the cave, and it wasn’t subsiding like the previous lights.

“A thought occurred to me,” Sasori spoke up for the first time in a while.

“Yeah?” his fellow Akatsuki was all ears.

“Camie? When did the raining start?”

The mermaid paused. “The rain came when she did,” a look of concern growing on her.

“And did it ever get bad enough to reach in here before?” the puppet questioned.

“Not until after she went to the witch,” Camie informed them. Hearing that, everyone on the Cutty Sark reached out with their senses. The power itself was wild and uncontrolled. It was unmistakably a sort of Water ability, given how much it resonated with Kisame, Halibel, and Jinbe. The odd thing was the way the magic’s feel was gradually changing. At the start, passion of the sort born of love was the predominant feel of the energy. Still, it had been tainted with despair, probably due to the loss of the ‘loved one’ Camie mentioned. What was cause for concern was how a sense of malice and mania was seeping into the power. It was a slow but sure process.

“We have to investigate,” Jinbe commanded, clearly concerned. With no arguments, Sasori adjusted the ship to go deeper into the cave. After a few minutes, the crew saw what lay at the end. It was an absolutely massive skeleton of what looked like a barracuda. That is, if barracudas could swallow ships. It was half-submerged, with purple coral growing through the ribcage, obscuring the inside from view. Only the emanating light could be seen.

Then, a voice was heard.

“Beluga Sevruga
Come Winds of the Caspian Sea
Larengix glaucitis. Et max laryngitis.
LA AGUA TO ME!!”

The voice was that of a woman’s. A deep and resonating voice filled with magic power. The more perceptive members of the crew could tell that she was the source of the manic malice they had felt earlier. The voice cried out again. “Now, Scream with all your power!” she commanded.

A second, higher-pitched voice did so. Her scream was so intense that the walls of the cavern started to rumble. Magic Power was shooting out all over the place. Currents of water were in complete disarray, sending the ship this way and that. The whole crew struggled to keep their footing.

As quick as it happened, the Magic shot back into the skeleton. And then, there was laughter from the deeper-sounding voice. It was such an evil-sounding laugh that Tsuyu actually found herself afraid, before she quickly composed herself. Taking advantage of the calm waters, Jinbe, Halibel, and Kisame all leaped out of the ship. They dashed towards the mouth of the barracuda.

In the distance, they saw a girl with long, wavy blue hair, on her knees at the edge of the rock. She was panting from the effort of that last burst of magic. She wore a blue dress coat with fur trimmings, and was completely soaked.

Then, another figure revealed themselves. She was far larger than the other girl. She had a faint lavender skin. At least, the top half of her did. Her bottom half was that of an octopus, black tentacles covered in violet suckers that treaded the water. The woman’s plump face had twisted into a psychotic smile as she laughed in a deep, booming voice. Her arms shot into the air, the water current following the movement.

“Ursula! We had a deal!” the younger girl exclaimed.

By this point, Jinbe, Halibel, and Kisame had stopped, making sure to stay out of sight. All three were listening intently, and were particularly focused on this Ursula. They had all realized who the greater threat was.

“Ah yes,” the witch recalled as she pulled out a golden, glowing contract. “In return for telling you where your ‘Darling Gray’ was, I shall receive your powers for a day.” Ursula pretended to give it some thought, before smirking. “Your ‘darling Gray’ is nowhere in this Sea of Second Chances, never has been.”

The girl’s eyes widened, starting to glisten. “No,” was all she could manage.

Then, Ursula started to laugh again as she vanished the contract. “True Love,” she scoffed in the middle of her maniacal guffaw. “Such a useful thing to take advantage of.” She managed to calm down. “Still, we’ve both fulfilled our end of the bargain. Enjoy living with the fact that all your searching has been for nothing.” Ursula turned to leave. “Flotsam, Jetsam, we have what we need.”

Two massive eels slithered out of the shadows, two golden eyes glowing. “What of the girl?” one asked. Ursula shrugged “It doesn’t matter to me, I’ll still have her powers even if she dies.”

The eels bared their teeth. “Well, it’s been a long time since we’ve had human.”

“Yes, indeed.”

Just as the two eels got close to the girl, a massive figure jumped in front of her.

“Arabesque Brick Fist!”

“YAAHH!” Both eels screamed in pain, before righting themselves, glaring at the Fishman.

Before Ursula could intervene, Kisame leaped at her, Samehada raised. The witch swam back with a burst from her tentacles, right into Halibel. She cleaved through Ursula with Tiburon. At least, she would’ve if Ursula hadn’t turned into water right before the blade hit.

The witch smirked as she looked at her uninjured body. She then raised an arm. “Water Slicer!” Blades of water came hurtling at Halibel and Kisame. The two managed to block with their blades, but were still pushed back by the sheer force.

As this was going on, Jinbe stared down the two eels. Then, Camie and Tsuyu surfaced from the water. The Fishman picked up the girl, handing her off to the two swimmers. “Get her back to the ship,” he commanded. Just as quick as when they arrived, the two left with the girl in tow.

Flotsam and Jetsam charged. Jinbe quickly went to the left, nailing Jetsam with a Thousand Brick Fist. As the eel staggered from the blow, its twin made a sharp turn to take a bite from the Fishman. He managed to briefly sink his teeth into Jinbe’s arm, before getting a Thousand Brick Roundhouse Kick to the face.

Ursula noticed her eels struggling, before returning her attention to the swordsmen charging at her. Before he got close again, Kisame went through Hand Signs. “Water Style: Water Shark Bomb!”

The witch had assumed that since it was an attack made of water, it wouldn’t hurt her, so she just stood in place. She was wrong. It was still a tremendous amount of force that sent her crashing into a wall, earning a shout of pain. Halibel quickly followed up with an Ola Azul that blasted Ursula into a shower of water drops. In a few seconds, all the water was converging.

“Just like the Hōzuki,” Kisame muttered. Halibel, who had fallen back to his side, gave a quizzical look. “What?”

“There was a clan back in my world that could turn into water. Slippery bastards the lot of them,” the Ninja explained.

“I assume you learned how to get the better of them.”

“Oh yeah,” Kisame gave a bloodthirsty smirk. “They were still human at the end of the day, and they still needed Chakra.”

“Okay,” Halibel turned back to Ursula, who had almost reformed. “Let’s switch out, I’ll give you an opening for Samehada.”

The instant Ursula had completely reformed, Halibel zoomed forward with Sonido.

“Water Jigsaw!” Ursula charged forward at the Hollow, a swirling cone propelling her at comparable speeds. It was enough to match Halibel, stopping her forward momentum. The witch punched the Hollow in the face, with enough force to actually give Halibel a nosebleed.

After jumping back for some distance, she pointed at Ursula. “Bala!” unleashing a flurry of golden Reishi balls. Still, the witch was able to easily evade them, the spiraling cone still going strong. Kisame got right in front of her using Body Flicker.

“You think such a basic strategy will work on ME?!” Ursula boomed as she gathered water around her hands. “Water Claw!” A deluge of water shot out towards the Ninja.

Kisame simply grinned, and slashed Samehada right through the attack. Ursula’s eyes widened as she realized how easily he tore through that. The Ninja scoffed as he zoomed towards the stunned witch. “She’s clearly never been in a real fight, if it’s so easy to catch her off-guard.”

Ursula regained composure, transforming back into Water, sure that she couldn’t be harmed. However, at the last second, she started moving to the right, sensing danger.

Sure enough, Samehada tore through Ursula’s left arm. It reformed, but the witch felt something off. Her Magic was dropping. She turned to the sword, which had already shed some of its bandages. Its blue scales were starting to peek out.

The Ninja laughed. “You’re not used to that Magic. It’s showing. You don’t know its drawbacks.”

As the enraged Ursula started to aim another attack at Kisame, Halibel appeared at her side. “Cero.” The witch was absolutely obliterated, along with the entire barracuda’s ribcage.

At this point, the swordsmen turned to Jinbe, seeing that he had the eels well in-hand. Flotsam and Jetsam were still managing to hold their own, being agile enough to avoid most blows. They had even slapped the Fishman a few times, but the resulting damage was negligible.

By now, Ursula had reformed, though it took visible effort this time around. “I can’t beat these three…at least not yet.” She came to a decision. “Flotsam, Jetsam! We’re leaving!” The eels immediately returned to her side.

“Oh no, you don’t!” Kisame yelled as he leapt towards her. Ursula had dived towards the bottom of the cave, her two eels around her arms. Then, a cloud of black ink completely obscured the witch. The Ninja slashed. There was a cry of pain, but only a single tentacle had been cut off. Kisame tried to follow up, but he hit nothing.

When the three focused, they sensed Ursula high-tailing it out of the cave, right towards Grotto City. “Come on!” Halibel shouted as she pursued with Sonido. Kisame kept up with Body Flicker. Jinbe brought up the rear.

Unfortunately, none of the three were the best sensors from their worlds, so they could never quite zero in on the witch. Plus, none of them wanted to use their stronger techniques in the middle of Grotto City. As time went on, Ursula’s Magic faded. She was clearly out of the city, long gone. In another few minutes, the ink had vanished. Having no other option, the three returned to the Cutty Sark.

By now, the girl was back on her feet, thanks to Tsuyu and Camie. She turned to the three.

“Thank you,” she managed to get out to them.

“You’re welcome,” Halibel gently replied. “What’s your name?”

“Juvia Lockser,” the young girl answered.

Jinbe kneeled down to her eye-level. “Juvia. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask what happened.”

“I understand. There’s something you all should know.” Everyone else on the Cutty Sark paused. “Ursula was after a trident.”

Camie’s eyes widened at that. “Do you mean Poseidon’s Trident?”

Juvia gave it some thought. “She didn’t say anything about Poseidon. Just that it was a trident.”

“And why would she need your powers?” Kisame pointedly asked.

“When she thought I wasn’t listening, she said something about a ‘defense’ that she couldn’t get past,” Juvia informed them.

“Camie, what can you tell us about Poseidon’s Trident?” Halibel turned to the mermaid.

“Well…some people think it was what made Grotto City. After that, the legend says that the ocean claimed its own.”

The crew thought about how much of the mountain had been gutted, and were understandably concerned about ‘that witch’ getting such power.

“There’s no way it isn’t the same thing,” Apacci realized. “And who the hell is this Poseidon person?”

“Well,” Tsuyu interjected. “I heard some people say Poseidon was the God of the Sea back in their world. Beyond that, I didn’t find out much.”

“Camie?” Jinbe quickly got the mermaid’s attention. “Have you heard anything about where the trident is?”

“Nothing specific.” She paused as she recalled something. “But if it is nearby, there’s only one place.”

“And?” Sasori asked, rather impatiently.

“It’s called the Devil’s Wall,” Camie explained. “The currents there are so strong that even I can’t get past them. Every other mermaid I know couldn’t make any progress when they tried.”

“So that’s why your Magic was needed,” Kisame concluded. “If she could turn into water, she’d be able to actually get on the other side of that current.”

Juvia had a dawning look of horror. “What have I done?” she quietly asked of herself.

Halibel put on a hand on the trembling girl’s shoulder. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to find your friends.” That actually got Juvia to stop shaking.

“Unless it gives an utter psychopath a chance at more power,” Sasori hissed under his breath.

“Dude,” Franky hissed back, exasperated by the puppet’s sheer disregard of the girl’s state.

“Alright,” Jinbe called out, getting everyone’s attention. “We’re going to have to put our hunt for Tamatoa’s Horde on hold.” He and Halibel were pissed off, to say the least, after seeing the tail end of Ursula working her magic on Juvia. It was sickening to them. Plus, there was the trident to consider.

“Which way is the Devil’s Wall?” Halibel asked Camie.

“Half-a-day’s swim due north.”

“Well, if we don’t want that witch to get the trident, I suggest we get moving,” Kisame threw in his two cents.

“Okay,” Sasori gave a begrudging nod as he took his position beneath the main mast. “Franky, once we’re out to sea and pointing due north, you know what to do.”

“Hell yeah!” The cyborg gave a thumbs-up before heading below.

After heading back out the way they came, the ship was met with rays of sunshine. “The storm’s gone?” Halibel was admittedly taken aback.

Juvia looked morose at that. “I’m sorry. I was the one that brought it,” she revealed.

Kisame turned. “You were actually strong enough to affect the weather?”

“When particularly down,” the Wizard put it simply. “In my world, everyone’s Magic is fueled by emotions, hence the rain you saw.”

The Ninja quickly patted Juvia on the back. “Try to look on the bright side. At least, you’ll get to see that liar torn limb from limb.”

While the Wizard blanched at that, Halibel lightly smacked Kisame on the head. “Not helping,” she muttered.

Wanting to change the topic, Juvia looked back at the two. “What did Mr. Sasori mean when he sent Mr. Franky below?”

Almost as if on cue, the puppet’s voice echoed throughout the ship. “Find something to hold onto, we lift off in 10 seconds.”

Both Kisame and Halibel wrapped their arms around Juvia and the railing, on top of rooting their feet as much as possible. “I think it’s something you should see for yourself,” he decided. Halibel simply shrugged; content to let Juvia be surprised.

“COUP DE BURST!”

The Cutty Sark unleashed a burst of energy from its stern, sending it flying. If it wasn’t for Kisame and Halibel holding onto her, Juvia would’ve been sent hurtling back to the sea.

“AAAAAHHHHH!!”

In the blink of an eye, the Cutty Sark had departed Grotto City.

OoOoO

Omake 1: Tests.

Halibel walked up to Kisame, who had decided not to wear a shirt as he walked on the water. “I want to summon sharks.”

The Ninja paused, and then gave a lopsided grin. “All right, give me a sec.”

One Summoning later, a wrinkled Saw Shark appeared. “Do my old eyes deceive me? Did you bring us a contender?”

“Yes, Master Noko. She’s as strong as I am.”

“That remains to be seen,” Noko the Saw Shark argued as he lifted his elongated snout. On the bottom, three names could be seen, written in blood. While the first was faded to the point of illegibility, the second could be read as ‘Byakuren’ with a little ‘1st Mizukage’ underneath. Lastly, Kisame’s own signature and fingerprints were in the middle of the snout.

“Give me a head start,” Noko said before diving straight down.

“What now?” the Hollow wondered.

“Now, you need to find and catch him,” Kisame put it simply. “Give him a few more seconds. Then get down there.”

Halibel threw off her shirt and pants, leaving just the bare minimum of coverage. Kisame had to make an effort to hide his nosebleed. With Tiburon in hand, she dived in.

Apacci walked on up. “Hey…how quick do you think she’ll…” SPLOOSH!

Noko was hanging by his tail, struggling futilely before realizing how far up he was. She had sheathed her sword, holding a few crabs in her other hand.

“YOU CAN FLY WITHOUT JUTSU?!”

“More or less,” the Hollow shrugged before squeezing the tail. “Now, let’s get this over with.”

“Fine,” Noko conceded. “Just get me back in the water. Losing my breath here.”

As Halibel let the shark back to the water, he held his snout up. She bit her finger, wrote her name, and put all her fingertips on Noko.

“Hmph, I promise the other tests won’t be nearly as easy. Give me a couple of weeks to get word out to all the tribes. After that, you’ll be reverse summoned when they’re ready. You may bring Kisame with you, since he already knows our ways, but no one else.” he grumbled as he vanished into smoke.

“That’s it?” Apacci asked.

“Yep.” Kisame nodded.

“Oh, by the way,” Halibel was now holding up her crabs. “Lunch?

“Thought you’d never ask,” the Ninja cheered as he opened the door for her. In a bit, the two closed the door behind them.

Apacci looked at the closed door for a while. And she thought about the two sitting there…alone…without any shirts.

“HELL NO!!” She opened the door to below, slamming it behind her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: Poor Unfortunate Souls

The Cutty Sark landed with a mighty CRASH! Even after Kisame and Halibel had stopped holding her down, Juvia was still clinging to the railing as if her life depended on it. She slowly turned to the others. “Is it over?”

Kisame smirked. “It’s only been over for a few minutes.” Halibel slapped him on the shoulder. “Be nice,” she grumbled.

“Well…you actually handled that better than most other first timers,” Jinbe admitted as he started to get a good look at where they landed. It certainly lived up to the name ‘Devil’s Wall’.

The ship was right on the edge of extremely turbulent water. To put it simply, the currents weren’t making any sense at all. On top of the plethora of whirlpools, the water was being pulled this way and that. A few stray boulders were rolling around, being pushed in completely different directions. Outcroppings of rock occasionally stood above the waves, only to be completely submerged in seconds. Every few minutes, a massive tsunami would crash through, sending the currents haywire right before any of the crew could figure out a pattern.

Well, Camie was able to follow it. Unfortunately, there was something deterring her from getting in. Namely, two massive Moray Eels. Their golden eyes were staring right at the Cutty Sark. Jinbe’s expression grew dark.

“Tsuyu, stay with Juvia. Keep her out of the fight,” the Fishman ordered.

“What? I have to help. It’s my mess and…”

“No arguments!” Kisame roared as he shoved the girl into the Pro-Hero’s arms.

Halibel turned to the others. “Okay. Apacci get over those two and rain fire on them. Brook, you can run on water, so keep those things distracted. Franky, stay and use the ship to bombard them. Sasori…”

The former Sand Ninja scoffed. “I will be staying with my ship, regardless of what you say.”

“Fine,” Halibel tersely replied.

Tsuyu couldn’t help but note those not already mentioned. “What about the rest of you?”

Kisame gave a notably fierce grin. “Ain’t it obvious? The three of us are going to rip the tentacles off that witch.”

The former Espada rolled her eyes. “Just because we’re killing her doesn’t mean we’ll be separating her limbs from the rest of her.”

A little uncomfortable with the casual mention of death and dismemberment, Camie turned to Jinbe, who had the utmost serious expression. “I hate to ask this of you Camie, but you’re the best swimmer here. We need you to guide us through those currents. Leave all the fighting to us.”

Still a bit shaky, and uneasy at the idea of being so close to a big fight, the mermaid nodded.

At that point, Flotsam and Jetsam shot straight towards the ship. “You’re not going anywhere!” they yelled in unison.

“HELL NO!” Apacci roared as she got above the eels with Sonido, cannon slung over her shoulder. Then, right before they could snap their jaws on the ship, a series of Bala from Apacci’s new toy forced them to take evasive action.

“That’s our cue, lead the way Camie,” Kisame decided.

Nodding, Camie’s legs turned back into a fin, and she dove headfirst into the water. Jinbe was right behind her. Halibel gave a small nod to Apacci before following. Kisame mock saluted Sasori as he brought up the rear. Within a second, the four had vanished from the sight of the surface.

Back up top, Flotsam was drawing Apacci’s fire, while Jetsam was making a move on the ship.

“Be Gone!” Sasori roared as the Third Kazekage flew into the air. At the same time, a barrage of fire and lightning unloaded from the cannons. Unfortunately, Jetsam was agile enough to dive down and avoid it.

“DAMN IT, HOLD STILL!” Apacci shouted as the massive Flotsam seemed to effortlessly avoid her red Reishi. Suddenly, Jetsam shot out of the water, right under Apacci. Before she was able to dodge…

“YOHOHOHO!!” Brook dashed across the water. “Aubade Coup Droit!” The skeleton thrust his Soul Solid forward, and the resulting air blast managed to take a chunk out of Jetsam’s side. The eel hissed in pain before reeling on Brook. The Straw Hat simply laughed as he skidded on the surface.

SPLOOSH. Flotsam tore through the water’s surface, eager to chomp down and crush the annoying bag of bones. Brook didn’t deviate from his collision course. When Flotsam was inches away, he moved. “Soul Parade!” the Pirate cried as he stopped the eel’s jaws from closing in, starting to freeze some teeth over. Still, the effort in blocking Flotsam meant that he was wide open to Jetsam. That is, if he was alone.

“You’re mine!” Jetsam snarled as he approached. Then, a Red Bala hit him right in his glowing eye. “RAARGH!” he roared in pain.

“You took your eyes off me, you little shit!” Apacci triumphantly declared.

Knowing they needed to strategize, Flotsam and Jetsam disengaged, diving out of sight.

“Slippery bastards,” Apacci grumbled. Brook found himself nodding in agreement. “They wouldn’t be such an issue if we could consistently hit them. Their agility and evasiveness is quite the bother.”

“But we’re wearing them down, I don’t see any issue with just continuing what we’re doing,” Apacci argued.

“But they will,” Brook pointed out. “So they’re going to change tactics. Go for what they see as a weakness.”

Apacci’s eyes widened when she caught the implication. At that moment, the Cutty Sark bucked as Flotsam and Jetsam hit the keel like battering rams. Thankfully, the combination of Franky’s craftsmanship and Sasori’s liberal application of seals meant that the ship sustained little damage. Still, the ship’s defense still had a limit, and it’d be best not to test it now.

Then, from the middle of the ship, a docking bay opened. A cry of “SUPER!” could be heard as a submarine with the design of a shark came out. “Let’s see those eels eat this!” Franky cried as he submerged. He caught sight of Flotsam and Jetsam, readying for another charge.

“Oh No you don’t!” he cried. While his right hand kept steering, his left fist protruded from an opening on the submarine. “WEAPONS LEFT!!”

Flotsam and Jetsam noticed the coming attack, and changed course in time to avoid most of the damage. Still, their tails were riddled with bullet holes. Not letting up an inch, Franky dove the Shark Submerge beneath the eels, wanting to make sure they didn’t dive away. Plus, keeping them close to the surface was the only way the rest of the crew could damage them.

Deciding it was time to force them up, Franky opened another hatch. “Franky Rocket Launcher!” Three missiles shot out of his cyborg body. Knowing there was no other choice, the eels went up to avoid them. Sure enough, Red Balas were there to greet the duo.

Back on the surface, Sasori prepared his next move, insulted at the eels thinking they could take down his work of art by simply ramming it. Iron Sand seeped out of his greatest puppet’s mouth. Meanwhile, Flotsam and Jetsam were completely distracted by Apacci’s barrage coupled with Brook’s hit-and-run swordplay. Perfect.

“Iron Sand Gathering,” Sasori intoned as the black particles began to coalesce into 5 large spikes. With a wave of his hand, the Iron shot out at the eels. Both screamed in pain as their fins and tails were ravaged. On top of that, one spike managed to take out Flotsam’s golden eye, effectively cutting off the eels from their master.

Still, the eels were not deterred. Flotsam shot towards Brook, since he was the closest enemy, while avoiding Balas. Jetsam, having not learned his lesson, came straight to the ship, albeit slowed due to his wounds and the poison starting to take effect. Sasori smirked as he recalled his spikes. Seeing something else hurtle towards the charging eel, the former Sand Ninja saw no need to hurry.

“Hundred Brick Fist!” Tsuyu Asui slammed a fist into Jetsam’s only good eye, covering her skin with mild poison for good effect. The Pro-Hero had learned Fishman Karate to the point that the eel felt the liquid in its eye being pushed back. Completely blinded, Jetsam howled as he thrashed wildly in an attempt to crush the girl. Noticing Sasori ready to go, Tsuyu used Jetsam as a springboard, landing back on the deck.

Silently, Sasori shaped the Iron Sand into a pointed pyramid. With a mere flick of his finger, the pyramid shot out and through Jetsam’s head. The eel died instantly. Seeing the body start to sink, the satisfied Ninja withdrew his Iron Sand back to the Kazekage. Tsuyu couldn’t help but give an apprehensive look to Sasori, having never really worked with anyone so coldly lethal before.

To the side, Flotsam was somehow managing to avoid both Brook and Apacci, much to the latter’s frustration. Still, thanks to his injuries, the eel was noticeably slower. Taking advantage, and knowing the other eel was taken care of, Franky had driven the Shark Submerge right under Flotsam.

“Strong Right!” Franky’s metal fist hurtled out of the water, right into Flotsam’s chin. The second the cyborg’s fist withdrew, Brook moved.

“Swallow Banderole!” the Straw Hat left a deep gash where the eel’s skin met the water. Then, the wound and the water around Flotsam froze, trapping him. He roared as he started to crack the ice.

“CERO!” Apacci had gotten the eel in her sights long enough to power up her strongest attack through her cannon. The beam of red energy utterly obliterated Flotsam, his charred remains sinking into the deep.

Smirking, Apacci hoisted the cannon over her shoulder as she made her way back to the ship. Brook managed to bridge the distance with a leap. Finally, the Shark Submerge had rejoined the ship, with Franky walking up from below.

Juvia looked at the others, a bit in awe at how they had taken down those monsters, while also feeling a little guilty. After all, she was the reason behind this whole mess, and she hadn’t contributed one little bit. Before she could spiral any further down that train of thought, a rumbling from below started to shake the whole ship.

“What the hell was that?” Apacci wondered.

“Could the others be in trouble?” Juvia anxiously asked.

“No way,” Franky confidently answered. “The person who can beat Jinbe underwater hasn’t been born yet.”

Suddenly, Jinbe, Kisame, Halibel, and Camie all shot out of the water. “MOVE!” the former Akatsuki roared to the rest of the crew. The stunned onlookers were all thinking along the lines of “what the hell happened?”

OoOoOoO

When the four hit the water, only Camie was able to instantly set off towards the bottom. The others were momentarily knocked off balance by the insane currents. After reflection, they realized what the pattern was. Every motion of water was directed away from a certain point.

Camie led the way, with Jinbe close behind. Halibel pushed herself forward with Sonido, and Kisame followed up by encasing himself in a Water Shark Bomb Jutsu.

In a few minutes time, they had reached the seafloor, and caught sight of a dark purple tentacle. Just as quick as they saw it, it vanished.

“Camie, you and I will focus on finding and protecting the trident,” Jinbe commanded. “You two will focus on Ursula.”

Kisame smirked as he gripped Samehada, exiting the Water Shark (which remained by his side) as he used Chakra to stick to the seafloor. Halibel merely nodded, using Reishi to steady herself.

Before they could separate, Ursula lunged right at the group. “Water Slicer!” she howled as the attack approached. The Water Shark from before swam forward, and managed to cancel out the attack by ramming it. But Ursula didn’t resume the attack. Instead, she changed her tentacles with a shout of “Water Jigsaw!” and hightailed it towards where she knew the trident was.

“Coward knows she has no chance without a serious boost,” Kisame grumbled.

“New plan. Camie, you need to get ahead of her,” Halibel spoke up. “We’ll slow her down.”

“Right,” the mermaid nodded before setting off.

Jinbe turned to the other two. “Unless my Fishman Karate works through Magic, Kisame is our best shot at actually injuring her. Halibel, we’ll focus on leaving Ursula wide open for Samehada.”

“Fine,” the Hollow muttered as she pursued the witch.

“I’m counting on you,” Jinbe told Kisame. And the fight was on.

Ursula saw Camie get the lead on her. Infuriated, the sea-witch readied an attack. “Water Cane!” A whip of water made its way to the mermaid. Camie started to slow in horror at the power aimed at her.

SWISH! Halibel appeared in front of Camie, slicing the attack with Tiburon. “Don’t hesitate for even a second!” the Hollow urged her comrade. “Keep going!”

Her resolve strengthening again, Camie paddled forward, managing to get a good distance despite fighting against the currents. Ursula was in hot pursuit, desperately avoiding Halibel. The Hollow was launching a wave of Ola Azul at the witch, who was only managing to dodge thanks to the currents fighting against Halibel.

Ursula found herself sighing in relief when the golden projectiles stopped, only to careen to the side when a massive blue fist went through where she just was. Jinbe glowered at her as he prepared another strike.

“5,000 Brick Fist!”

Going on instinct, Ursula momentarily let the current take her away. Still, she felt the shockwave rattle her insides, despite the distance. All the while, Kisame had managed to get uncomfortably close to her.

“Water Nebula!” She tried to blast him back. Unfortunately for her, Samehada tore through her attack, with some of its scales starting to poke out of the wrappings. Realizing that she only made her opponent stronger, Ursula went back to running.

“Get back here!” Kisame shouted as brought down Samehada. He slashed, catching the tail end of Ursula’s water tentacles. Not fazed, the witch simply channeled more magic to grow them back. Desperate, she tried to delay Kisame before running.

“Water Lock!” the Ninja was put in a sphere of heavy water, while the witch dashed off.

“You think a mere Water Prison will hold me?!” Kisame asked as a burst of Chakra shattered the Magic holding the spell together. Samehada feasting on the Magic certainly helped.

While the Ninja resumed the chase, Halibel constantly forced Ursula to alter course with a barrage of golden Bala, with some Ola Azul put in for good measure. The witch would’ve looked like swiss cheese already if it wasn’t for her stolen Magic. Before Ursula could make another move, Jinbe swam right over her.

“Shark Brick Fist!” This time, the Fishman was right on target, earning a pained shriek from the witch. She crashed on the seafloor, crying out.

Seeing Kisame leap forward, Samehada ready to turn her into a shish-ka-bob, she rolled to the side. Ursula still felt the Ninja’s might as the coral and bed begin to crack. Seeing an opening, the witch retaliated. “Water Nebula!”

Unfortunately for her, all she hit was a Water Clone. “What the...AGH!” Kisame had gotten behind her, and was sliding Samehada down her left arm. Once the sword had its fill, Ursula’s Magic was frantically trying to reform her into water. Before she could become intangible, Jinbe slammed into her back with a “Sharkskin Palm Thrust!” Ursula gasped from the sheer power, and the feeling of her insides being pushed forward. She slammed into another bed of coral.

Then, her eyes gleamed as a smile crept up. She saw that pesky mermaid, being slowed down by the biggest whirlpool yet. And at the center of the maelstrom, there was a bright green glow. Power was radiating off of it to the point everyone could feel it. Even the attackers paused when they got a good feel for it. To Kisame, Halibel, and Jinbe, this immense power was very familiar. It was just like the power behind that first storm on their journey.

‘That’s it!” Ursula thought as she reformed her tentacles, making it look as if a tornado of water was pushing her to that unfathomable power.

“SHIT!” Kisame cursed his carelessness. That snapped Halibel and Jinbe out of their transfixed state, and they rushed after Ursula. Wanting to close the witch’s lead, the Ninja sped through Hand Signs. “Water Style: Five Hungry Sharks!”

The water constructs sped forward, with Halibel barely dodging one, since she was right behind Ursula.

“Watch it!” Halibel shouted to her bloodthirsty comrade, who only smirked in response as he redirected the sharks. Eyes going wide, Ursula raised her arms back to counter the coming feeding frenzy.

“WATER CYCLONE!” A massive burst of water emanated from Ursula. Halibel was forced to retreat with Sonido. The Sharks were pushed back, unable to power through. Having no time to attack, Jinbe crossed his arms and coated them in Haki with a shout of “Kairagi!” Once the attack subsided, the three crewmates joined up, only to see that Ursula was nearly out of sight.

“She must have used the attack to push herself into the whirlpool,” Halibel realized. To her horror, Ursula was nearly on top of Camie. With a dash of Sonido, the Hollow zoomed into the whirling maelstrom. Right before the witch could grab the mermaid, Halibel appeared right over her, slicing Ursula’s arm clean off. Acting before the limb could reform, Halibel blasted Ursula back with a “Cero”. She pushed the witch back towards the surface, away from the glow.

“Come on!” Halibel cried out to the others. Camie was the first to start moving again. Poseidon’s Trident was sticking up out of the seafloor. From a distance, it could be mistaken for coral, what with its organic look and uneven make. One of the three points had been worn down. A shining emerald sat at the intersection between staff and prongs. Although, the jewel’s luster was slightly diminished by the big cracks inside. Its glow was pulsating with every change of current. Once she got a clear look, the mermaid realized that the currents were getting more intense, as if the trident was desperate to avoid a new wielder.

Speaking of which, Ursula had completely reformed from Halibel’s Cero. She was making a beeline straight down.

“Camie!” Jinbe called out. “Grab the trident and go!”

As the mermaid fought against the current, the trio pushed themselves to intercept Ursula. It was taking everything they had just to remain steady. Jinbe was the first to get in-range. “Arabesque Brick Fist!” The witch was sent hurtling towards Halibel, who had Tiburon ready. Ursula managed to avoid the Hollow’s strike, only for Kisame to get the drop on her. Samehada tore her in half, right through the stomach. After a brief splattering of water, ‘Ursula’ completely dissipated.

“A Clone?! How the hell did she manage after only seeing mine once?” Kisame asked incredulously.

Jinbe’s eyes widened as he saw Camie and the real Ursula both within arm’s reach of the trident. Before he could get any closer, the two grabbed it at the same time. With a burst of water and energy, the mermaid was blasted back. She would’ve painfully crashed into a bed of coral if it weren’t for Halibel.

Ursula stood triumphant, trident in hand, as the currents started pushing everyone away from her. “WOAHAHAHAHA!! At last, the power of the sea is MINE! Now, I’ll…” she paused as something caught her eye. Ursula gasped when she realized it was the remains of Flotsam and Jetsam.

“My Babies!” she cried out as her first memories after waking up resurfaced.

(Five years ago)

Ursula had woken up with a start, finding herself floating on the ocean surface. Her hand flew towards her midsection as her gruesome death replayed itself in her mind. A sense of relief spread as she realized there were no wounds on her. That relief was short-lived when she felt a disturbance in the water.

Quickly moving to the side, she saw a massive galleon shoot out from beneath. Its moss and seaweed covered visage seemed to glower down at her. On closer inspection, she saw a few cannons already aimed at her. Before she could move to flee, a powerful voice called out to her.

“Are you Ursula?” she heard from the deck. She looked up to see a horrific combination of man and sea life amongst the crew. In particular, her eyes were drawn to the speaker, with his beard of octopus tentacles and mighty claw for a left arm. Still, she would not be so easily intimidated.

“How do you know me?” Ursula asked, highly suspicious of the stranger.

The figure chuckled at the query. “Why, I’m Davy Jones. It’s my duty as Captain of the Flying Dutchman to know the dead.”

Ursula froze when hearing the creature’s identity. She had heard horror stories about the Flying Dutchman and its cursed captain all the way back to when she was a little girl. When she was older, she had brushed them off as mere stories. Even now, she could barely believe her eyes. After a bit more thought, she finally understood what Jones said. She had indeed died. A flash of anger came at the thought of that miserable little human and that accursed Ariel managing to destroy her.

“And I have heard much of you Ursula,” Jones continued. “You are the only one who has ever taken the Trident of Atlantica from its rightful ruler…for however brief a time.” He chuckled when he noticed Ursula’s dark expression at the reminder.

Patience running short, Ursula cut to the heart of the matter. “Why have you come for me?” she asked tersely.

“Hehehe…did I touch a nerve? Very well, I ask for you to join my crew.” Davy Jones proclaimed.

Ursula took a moment to observe said crew. Thanks to being a witch herself, she could sense the power emanating from Jones and his ship. She could feel it snaking its way into the minds and bodies of every single other resident. Knowing full well the consequences of letting someone else’s magic influence her, Ursula had her answer.

“No.”

There was a moment of silence before Jones started laughing uproariously. “HAHAHA! It’s been years since someone has refused. Your spirit is impressive.” The captain complimented. With a twisted smile, he turned back to Ursula. “Still, I’d still like to come to an arrangement with such a powerful figure. Your cunning could be quite the game-changer.”

“What do you mean?” Ursula said, slightly mollified by the compliments.

“First, a token to show my sincerity.” Jones waved his hand, and his biggest crewmate went below deck. In a few seconds, a hatch opened up. Then, two familiar moray eels started swimming towards her.

“Flotsam! Jetsam!” Ursula yelled as her two beloved companions swam around her. To her relief, while Jones’ magic had made them bigger, she couldn’t sense any tampering with their minds.

Her eyes narrowed as she asked herself why the captain would do this for free. The answer: He wouldn’t.

“What is your price for this?” Ursula asked.

Jones chuckled. “I seek nothing in return. All I ask is for you to hear me out.”

“Fine.” Ursula conceded.

“What if I told you there was a way to reclaim all that power you once possessed?”

Ursula was listening intently after that.

“There’s another trident.” Jones stated.

“Impossible!” the sea-witch claimed.

“Not so. You see, it isn’t just your world’s dead that ends up in these waters. Anything that isn’t eternal is fair game for showing up.” Jones explained. “These…other worlds…are capable of power and destruction the likes of which you can only dream. The old god of this realm is growing weaker,” Jones gave a cruel smirk. “Soon, new gods from those worlds will turn the seas red in their fight for dominance.”

“And where does this trident fit into all this?” Ursula couldn’t help but wonder.

“The trident is one of many weapons that could elevate one to the level of these gods, since it has the power of Poseidon.” Jones revealed.

Even Ursula had heard the name Poseidon. Her father, the previous King of Atlantica, was named after the mythical figure and founder of the kingdom. To think that Poseidon was a name to be feared in more worlds than hers was astounding.

“Why tell me this?” Ursula asked. “What do you get out of it?”

“War is coming. The power of the trident will be claimed eventually,” Jones said. “I know you, and I know the big players in this sea. You’re the better choice. It’s as simple as that.”

“Why not take it yourself?” the sea-witch tried to find the catch here.

“I cannot.”

When Jones didn’t elaborate, Ursula stroked her eels. “I thank you for reuniting me with Flotsam and Jetsam. When this war you speak of comes, I won’t forget this.”

The captain smirked, knowing full well Ursula would turn on him if she ever got powerful enough. Still, he was eager to see Poseidon’s Trident ripped out of its hiding place.

“There is an island called the Grotto. It’s a month’s journey south west of here. That’s the last known place the trident was used,” Jones finished his explanation.

Without another word, Ursula and her eels started heading that way. Davy Jones gave a cruel smile before ordering the ship elsewhere, confident about what he set in motion.

Over the next few years, Ursula put on a fake persona as a good Samaritan, slowly earning the townsfolk’ trust to the point that they felt comfortable talking around her. She listened for months for any clues to the Trident’s location. Once she learned of the dangerous waters nearby, Ursula waited and studied. She increased her knowledge of the other worlds, searching for people whose power she could take to reach the Trident.

Then, fortune smiled at her when a foolishly heartbroken girl wandered into The Grotto. It was almost too easy.

(Present)

Ursula was breathing deeply, her anger palpable to all those around her. “How dare they interfere with me! How dare they take my babies away from me! I REFUSE to allow five years of dealing with those simpering townsfolk be for nothing! I WON’T LOSE AGAIN!”

The others present could feel the magical power skyrocketing. Thanks to Juvia’s stolen Water Magic, Ursula’s own emotions were increasing her power exponentially. On top of that, the Trident’s power was being channeled through the sea-witch. The burst of power was enough to get Kisame and Halibel to sweat in apprehension. Then, a cloud of ink was released as Ursula started to grow.

“We need to leave, NOW!” Halibel started as she dragged Camie away with Sonido. Jinbe and Kisame were quick to follow. Their pace was quickened as they realized that Ursula’s power spike wasn’t slowing down in the least.

Soon, the four breached the surface, much to the rest of the crew’s shock. “MOVE!” Kisame shouted at everyone.

Wasting no time, Sasori got in his usual Lotus Position, adjusting the sails to catch the wind. Still, it wasn’t enough to completely avoid what was coming.

The clouds grew dark, covering the sky as cracks of lightning and booms of thunder started to appear. Then, the transformed Ursula appeared. Her size now completely dwarfed the ship to the point where one smack of her gargantuan tentacles looked like it could destroy the Cutty Sark.

With a deranged look in her eye, Ursula turned to the crew, and began to laugh. Her voice had become deeply distorted as it boomed over the sea. “HAHAHA!! Where’s all that power now?! You three are nothing but pitifully insignificant fools before my might!” She swirled her trident amongst the clouds, intensifying the storm. Her sheer mass sent the sea out in violently thrashing waves. “The sea will now bow to MY POWER!”

Everyone on the ship actually found themselves taking a step back. That is, until Kisame answered with a laugh of his own.

“All you did was make yourself a bigger target, you old hag.” He jumped onto the water’s surface, slamming Samehada down. Then, the legendary sword started to merge with the Ninja. “And I’ve already got enough Magic from you to do this.”

“Hmm…seems that despite what he said, Kisame is already taking this seriously,” Sasori couldn’t help but observe.

“No reason why I shouldn’t do the same,” Halibel decided as she stepped into the air. “Hunt, Tiburon!”

As his two strongest crewmates changed, Jinbe turned to the others. “Get this ship as far away from her reach as possible. Use only long-ranged attacks. The three of us are the only ones who can get close.”

The rest of the crew nodded, even Apacci. Despite her usual eagerness to help Halibel, she knew she’d only be in the way at this level of fighting. Satisfied, Jinbe jumped into the water, already rushing out to intercept Ursula.

Speaking of the sea-witch, she was already aiming her trident at the Cutty Sark.

“HAHAHAHA!!” A blast of lightning erupted from the prongs of the Trident. It was only thanks to Sasori’s evasive maneuvers that only the mizzen mast was damaged, though to the point that it collapsed onto it’s side, meaning its top was hanging off the ship’s stern.

“Damn it,” the puppeteer muttered as he sped through Hand Signs. “Mechanical Light Shield Block!” 4 planks sprung out in the shape of a cross. Runes lit up on their interior as a blue light formed a barrier between the Cutty Sark and Ursula.

At that point, Ursula had shot of another bolt of lightning. “Hold On!” Franky yelled to everyone else. This time, the power simply pushed the ship back instead of damaging it. Still, Sasori knew that the shield would only hold up for so long. His hope was that he could maintain it until he was far enough away to dodge whatever the sea-witch threw at him.

Juvia was simply sitting in shock at everything going on around her. It was bad enough to feel her own power mixed in with Ursula’s. Feeling the Trident’s power, and knowing it was her fault that a maniac had it, led to a sense of hopelessness.

“You okay?” Tsuyu asked her.

“This is all my fault,” Juvia muttered.

“We already told you it wasn’t,” Apacci interrupted. “So quit your bitching and hang on!”

Tsuyu held Juvia while wrapping herself around the main mast.

“We can talk you through this…but not now,” Tsuyu gently chided her. “Right now, we all need to be alert. Can you do that for me?”

Juvia nodded.

“Have some faith in those three. After all, they beat a Demon easily when they got serious,” Tsuyu explained.

“A Demon? Of Tartaros?” Juvia asked incredulously.

“Yep.” Tsuyu replied nonchalantly.

Recalling how much trouble those Demons had given her and her Guild, Juvia couldn’t help but feel reassured at that.

“7000 Brick Roundhouse Kick!!”

“AHH!”

Plus, the sight of Jinbe painfully knocking aside one of Ursula’s hands was quite cathartic.

“Alright…I’ll trust them,” Juvia decided.

“Hallelujah, “Apacci deadpanned. “Now get a move on!”

Back at the fight, Kisame and Halibel had finished their transformations uninterrupted thanks to Jinbe’s efforts. They were now zooming forward. Just in time too, since Ursula had backhanded the Fishman hard enough to knock him back.

“I’ll go high, you go low,” Halibel decided.

“Right,” Kisame replied before diving down with a burst of his newfound tail. “Water Style: Exploding Water Shock Wave!!” The Ninja channeled his Chakra into as much water as he could. Then, he started making the surface as unstable as possible, starting to send Ursula off-balance with tidal wave after tidal wave.

“Cascada!” Halibel raised a massive deluge of water around her, before sending it crashing down on the sea-witch.

“Water Nebula!” This time, due to the power boost from the Trident, the attack was powerful enough to punch a hole through Halibel’s water. Acting quickly, she held her pata in front of her. Thanks to the Cascada, Ursula’s attack had been slowed down, meaning the Hollow was only pushed back a little.

Before Ursula could take advantage, she felt a sharp pain on one of her tentacles. Looking down, she saw Kisame swiftly swimming along her watery limb, gouging it out with spikes that had emerged from the fins on his arm. The Ninja frowned as he came to a realization. “There’s no way I’ll be able to simply drain her magic like this. She’s got far too much now thanks to that Trident. No way my usual tactic with the Water Prison will work on something this strong.”

His thoughts were interrupted when the tentacle he was draining suddenly bucked, forcing him away. It was just enough that Ursula could now aim the trident at him. Without a word, she shot another bolt of lightning. While it technically didn’t hit him, it was close enough to give a severe shock through the water. “AAGH!!”

Trying to take use an opening, Halibel had gotten to the right of Ursula’s face, while Jinbe was on the surface to her left.

“Cero.”

“Shark Brick Fist!”

Unfortunately, Ursula saw it coming. She swung the trident into Jinbe’s side before his attack could connect, drawing a considerable amount of blood from the Fishman. As for that Cero, Ursula’s head was vaporized. That is, until water rose up and reformed said head.

“HAHAHA!!! You can never harm me!” Ursula gloated as she pointed her Trident into the storm. Then, lightning started coming down on Halibel. The only reason the Hollow hadn’t been harmed yet was due to Hierro, but even that had its limits. Powering through her skin beginning to scorch, Halibel pointed at Ursula.

“Bala.” A barrage of golden Reishi came hurtling towards the sea-witch, who quickly raised her arm to tank the attacks. She hissed as the Hollow’s attack constantly forced her to reform the limb.

“Water Style: Thousand Hungry Sharks!” Kisame quickly seized the initiative by surrounding Ursula on all sides with water sharks, forcing her to either tank their attacks, or dispel them with a swing of the Trident, which actually managed to keep them from reforming.

“Water Shot Barrage!” On top of that, Jinbe was launching countless water drops at Ursula’s face to distract her.

Unfortunately, while the attacks were fast enough to actually get past Ursula’s defense with the Trident, they weren’t doing any real damage thanks to Juvia’s Water Magic. In fact, the swarm of ‘annoyances’ only served to enrage the sea-witch.

“DIE!” Ursula roared in that distorted voice. A burst of power from the Trident completely dispelled the remaining Water Sharks, much to Kisame’s concern. Then, Ursula took back control of the fight.

“Water Cyclone!” An absolutely gargantuan mass of water started spinning in front of her. She then directed lightning to strike her attack. With a mighty roar, she hurtled the combined elements at the trio.

Acting quickly, Halibel and Kisame got in front of Jinbe.

“Hirviendo!” The Hollow managed to boil away a portion of the water out of the attack. Meanwhile, Kisame was able to absorb some of the lightning sent at them. Still, it was a ridiculous amount of electrified ocean that crashed into them.

BOOOM! The impact was such that the trio was thrown back within sight of the Cutty Sark. And it was not encouraging to the rest of the crew. “Halibel!” Apacci shouted in worry.

“I’m fine,” Halibel assured her. The ex-Espada’s left arm and leg were completely bare, their armor gone, leaving behind red scars from the lightning. She looked to her sides, realizing her comrades weren’t much better off. Jinbe’s shirt had been blasted away, with numerous bruises and a hole from Ursula constantly slamming the Trident into him. While Kisame didn’t have any scars, he was changing back to normal, with Samehada in hand. He had an apprehensive look on his face.

“Damn it,” Kisame cursed. “I used up all the energy I took healing myself from that. That’s the last time I take a lightning bolt for you guys,” the Ninja grumbled. “I don’t you about you all, but I’ve only got enough for one big attack.”

“I hate to admit it, but I’m starting to get worn down,” Jinbe agreed. Halibel simply nodded.

From the ship, Juvia heard all this, and began to despair. Rain started falling. She took a long look at how injured the three fighters in the water were. All because of her.

The sea-witch approached, forcing the crew to take action. Sasori and Apacci unloaded everything they had through their cannons, but the behemoth wasn’t even phased. Franky’s Weapons Left wasn’t even leaving a mark. Brook had stepped in front of Tsuyu and Juvia, Soul Solid drawn.

Just as Ursula started getting close, Juvia finally noticed the rain. Her eyes narrowed as memories came to the forefront of her mind. Of Gray and all her dear friends. Of everything they went through for each other.

“No”

“Ribbet,” the confused Tsuyu croaked when hearing that.

“I am a Fairy Tail Wizard. I won’t let friends fight alone.” Juvia’s entire body started radiating power, though in her emotional state, she didn’t even notice. It got to the point where the rest of the crew was shocked.

“WATER NEBULA!” Ursula shouted as she bore down on the Cutty Sark.

“WATER CYCLONE!” An immense body of water came from Juvia, and boomed as it clashed with Ursula’s attack. Suddenly, the Cyclone powered through and blasted Ursula back

“What?” the stunned sea-witch could barely respond. “Water Slicer!” Ursula tried to use the taken Water Magic…but it was gone. “HOW?”

OoOoOoO

On an island far to the north, a half-naked Wizard woke up on an icy beach, not even phased by the cold wind on his skin.

“Where the hell am I?”

OoOoOoO

Ursula’s confusion quickly turned to anger when a golden contract with Juvia’s name appeared. Before her very eyes, the words “Null and Void” were written over the deal. She knew full well the implications. This ‘darling Gray’ had appeared, meaning her end of the bargain was no longer fulfilled. “Her true love is actually in this accursed sea? NOW?! IMPOSSIBLE!”

“Water Jigsaw!” Juvia’s lower body turned into a watery tornado that sped her past the rest of the fighters, right into a collision course with the sea-witch.

“I’LL DESTROY YOU!!” Ursula roared as she started wildly swinging the Trident, sending lightning everywhere. Juvia managed to avoid every single one, either by dodging or by reforming with Water. Once she was close enough, she made her move.

“SIERRA!” Juvia brought herself and the surrounding water into a boiling point. She then crashed a tidal wave of searing water right into Ursula.

“AAGH!! ENOUGH!”

Trident glowing with energy, Ursula stabbed a specific portion of water.

“Urk!” Juvia turned back to normal, clutching a bleeding arm. Her side had already gone red.

“HAHA! Intangibility is nothing to the power of the Gods!” Ursula boasted as she brought her trident down on the girl, eager to tear her apart.

“You would think one little wound would be the end of me. “WATER SLICER!”

“AHH!” In an instant, Juvia had cut off all the fingers in Ursula’s left hand, and the Trident began to fall. Quickly grabbing it with her right hand, the deranged sea-witch started preparing another lightning blast.

With the last of her strength, Juvia raised her uninjured arm. “Water Lock!”

The entire lower half of Ursula’s gargantuan form was completely stopped by the Magic. Still, the sea-witch had control of her upper body.

“WOAHAHAHAHA!!!” YOU STOOD NO CHANCE! NOW YOU’LL NEVER SEE YOUR TRUE LOVE AGAIN!!” Ursula rose what would surely be a killing blow. The Fairy Tail Wizard closed her eyes.

Suddenly, a flash of blue sped past Juvia. “FISHMAN KARATE SECRET TECHNIQUE! VAGABOND DRILL!”

“AAUUGGHH!!” Ursula roared in pain as the water pierced her and forced her back.

The Fishman simply rubbed his hand. “That was as bad as punching Big Mom.”

At that point, Apacci appeared. She quickly grabbed Juvia and Jinbe. “Yeesh, you should lay off the shrimp, big boy,” the Hollow grumbled as she lifted the Fishman. Heading back to the ship, she smirked. “You don’t want to be anywhere near what happens next.”

The second Ursula regained her bearings, she saw Kisame finish his Hand Signs. “Water Style: Super Shark Bomb Jutsu!” A massive water shark the size of the Cutty Sark, but still smaller than Ursula, began to charge.

Having no choice, Ursula thrust the Trident forward, sending a beam of pure energy from the prongs. She smirked, expecting the attack to plow through that bothersome Ninja. But when the attacks met, despite her continuously powering the energy, they stalemated. It took her a second to realize that the shark was getting bigger. “His attacks can absorb Magic too?! Why didn’t you use this before?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Ursula saw Halibel standing in the air, Tiburon pointed towards her. “That shark was just a diversion!” But the realization came too late.

The Hollow cut her hand, and started mixing her blood with her Reishi. “Gran Rey Cero!” The strongest of all Hollow attacks came before Ursula could even move, but the sea-witch wasn’t the target. The amplified Cero crashed into the Trident’s glowing emerald. In the blink of an eye, the entire top of the Trident shattered, its power being scattered.

Without anything stopping it, the Super Shark Bomb hurtled towards Ursula. Now, it was just as large as she was. Her tentacles managed to free themselves from the Water Lock, but it was too late.

“DAMN YOU!”

The Shark sank its jaw into her left midsection, tearing out half her heart along with a few other organs. Ursula died in an instant. For good measure, all the energy of Kisame’s Jutsu violently released itself, pulverizing what was left of the sea-witch. Her body slowly sank, completely disappearing into the darkness as it shrunk.

With the Trident gone, the storm dissipated. All the currents had stabilized. The Ocean became tranquil once again. Kisame and Halibel slowly walked back to the Cutty Sark, both incredibly exhausted.

“Heh…quite the blast…didn’t know you could make one that big,” Kisame joked.

“My thoughts exactly,” Halibel retorted. “Still, I’m surprised we had to pull out all the stops so soon on our journey.”

“Well… it was the ‘power of a god’.” Kisame did the quote sign with one hand.

“Speaking of which…you felt that Trident’s power, right?” Halibel asked.

Kisame’s expression took a rare turn to serious. “Yeah…it was almost exactly the same power in that storm off Shipwreck Cove.”

“I think we’ll need to keep our ears open about this Poseidon, whoever he is,” Halibel decided.

“Right.” Kisame was more than familiar with the need to gather intelligence.

Still, the two put their conversation on hold as they approached the Cutty Sark. The entire crew was cheering. Brook and Franky were doing some weird happy dance with Camie hanging between the two tall men. Apacci was laughing as she shot her cannon into the air in celebration. Tsuyu and Jinbe quietly held their fists in the air, smiles plain to see. Even Sasori, who was patching up Juvia, had a small smirk. As for Juvia herself, a tired smile was visible. Her eyes closed as she came to a decision. “I think… I’ll stick with… this crew… for awhile.” With that, she was out like a light.

OoOoOoO

Far away, the Captain of the Flying Dutchman paused his playing of the organ. Davy Jones smirked as he sensed Ursula take Poseidon’s Trident. Still, even he was surprised when he felt the weapon get completely destroyed.

“Well, well…even the power of a god has limits,” Jones couldn’t help but relish that thought. “Ah well, at least that power can’t be used by any of my enemies now.”

“It was them,” the Dutchman’s latest recruit rumbled. Torafuzar already had small corals growing all over his body, though he wasn’t nearly as covered as the others.

“Oh,” Jones turned to the Demon.

“The three who defeated me…I sensed their power just now,” the Demon explained.

“Haahaahaahaa! This new crew is making quite the impact on this Sea of Second Chances. We’ll keep an eye on them. Soon, the ‘gods’ will send their best servants against them.” Jones paused in consideration. “While destroying that brittle old Trident is an accomplishment, I want to see if their power is sufficient for my purposes before taking any action against them.”

Torafuzar bowed his head. “As you command, Captain.”

OoOoOoO

On the last island of the Sea of Second Chances, a bearded man perked up as he sensed his own power from across the sea.

“Hmm…now that’s interesting,” he mused. “I haven’t felt anyone else use my power in eons.”

Paying closer attention, he smirked when he realized what was going on. “That must be one of my children’s old Tridents. I can’t quite remember whose it was though.”

Considering how many children he had, process of elimination would take awhile.

“Hephaestus never could replicate this Trident,” the God gripped his own golden trident. “Not since my brothers and I eliminated the Cyclops who forged it. Nothing from Hera’s child could match up to my true power. They at least served their purpose as toys for my children.”

His attention turned back to the far-away battle. “So much fuss over a broken toy,” he condescendingly put it. His eyebrows shot up though when he felt it destroyed. “Strange…the same people who powered through my storm have also broken something with a mere fragment of my power.”

Then, Poseidon started laughing. “I can just imagine those insolent mortals congratulating themselves for such a petty thing. I will enjoy it when the time comes to show them a God’s true might.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Itachi’s Odyssey (Part 1)

Things were not going well for Itachi Uchiha and Davos Seaworth. Hours after the Ninja had been briefed on the nature of the Sea of Second Chances, he decided to set out West. Sympathetic to the young man, Davos offered to take him on his own modest sloop, introducing it as Shireen. Burns made sure they stuffed every provision they possibly could, while also slapping a few protective seals that Sasori left behind on the hull. While pale, the leader still insisted on seeing them off. Plus, he handed off another of the Hokage’s S-Rank Wind Scrolls to Itachi. Said Ninja smiled when he heard who made them, deciding he had something else to look forward to in this Sea.

Just a few minutes after Shipwreck Cove was out of sight, a storm had completely blown the duo off course. It was only thanks to Davos’ frantic helmsmanship, and Itachi’s Sharingan predicting the lightning strikes and tsunamis that the ship was mostly undamaged. The storm was so ferocious that they had no choice but to head for land the instant they spotted it.

Once the ship was secured, Itachi grabbed Davos and his bag, and dashed across the water. “SEVEN HELLS! Warn me next time!” the old sailor cursed.

“My apologies,” the stoic Uchiha responded. Before he said any more, the two had already gotten on shore. Davos grumbled and cursed under his breath the second he was put back on his feet.

The next few minutes were spent quickly getting some shelter up in the form of a tent, with some seals to make sure it could take a storm. Davos was surprisingly efficient at it, considering the fronts of his right fingers being gone. When the shelter was complete, Itachi unsealed some wood that he obtained from Burns, arranged it, and used a small Fireball Jutsu to get it started.

Once finished, the duo took a seat.

“So Itachi, tell me about yourself,” the jovial sailor insisted, clearly bored.

The Uchiha looked the Westerosi Lord right in the eye. He was silent for a good while, until… “You first.” The slightest hint of a smile could be seen.

“Ah…man of many words, are ya? Still, I guess I owe ya that,” Davos admitted. “Well, not much to say about my own life.”

Itachi simply raised an eyebrow at the veteran, which didn’t go unnoticed.

“All right ya cheeky bastard. I was the son of a crabber. We didn’t have much, so I had to resort to smuggling as soon as I could row.” Davos didn’t sound particularly regretful, which Itachi couldn’t help but note.

“So I assume most of your life was an attempt to stay under the radar,” Itachi guessed.

“Yeah…but that all flew out the window when the siege happened.” This was when Itachi noticed his new friend fidget with the sword by his left hand.

“You don’t have to talk about it now if you want,” Itachi spoke up.

“Your concern’s appreciated,” Davos said. “But it does feel good to actually talk about this sort of thing.”

“It does?” Itachi wondered.

“Yeah, you should try it.”

The former Akatsuki paused before shrugging. “Sorry, maybe next time.”

Davos chuckled. “Don’t think you’re going to get away with that forever.”

“Well…I can be very persuasive,” Itachi said with fake menace.

“I don’t doubt it…especially if you were able to keep Kisame restrained for years,” Davos chortled.

“Hmm…not as hard as you think,” Itachi thoughtfully added.

“Still…he and Halibel did make things rather tense sometimes. Thank the Seven Jinbe was there.”

“I’m still having trouble believing that Kisame just happened to run into such strong water users right off the bat,” Itachi admitted.

“Well…let’s just say that this world has a habit of making the unusual commonplace,” Davos agreed.

“That so?”

Before Davos could retort, they heard a scream out in the distance.

Without a word exchanged, the two dashed out. Itachi held a kunai close, while Davos had unsheathed his cutlass. The Ninja slowed down so as to keep his comrade in sight. After around five minutes of trudging through wet sand and mud, they found someone.

It was a tall young man with a mop of black hair. All he wore was a tattered pair of pants. His muscular chest was completely bare, exposing a tattoo on his back. It was a purple cross of bones, with a mustachioed skull over the intersection. When Davos and Itachi got closer, they noticed another series of tattoos on his left arm. A. S. C. E.

The stranger was on his knees, hands clutching his head. He was hyperventilating so much that he didn’t even notice the newcomers. His freckles were splotched with trails of tears.

Having seen enough, Itachi knelt in front of the young man, and looked him in the eye. Using a Genjutsu to sooth the stranger to sleep, the Ninja picked him up and started heading back. Davos kept a hand on his sword, eyes sharp as he covered them. Even with an unconscious man in tow, they made it back just as quick, no doubt helped by the storm stopping.

The two immediately began treatment for shock, laying down and drying him off before unsealing a blanket. Let it never be said that Itachi or Davos were unprepared.

In a few more minutes, the man was starting to stir. Curious, Itachi scanned him with a basic Sharingan, and was very surprised to see no Chakra (or anything even close) in him.

“Davos…he’s not anyone from your world, is he?”

“No…can’t say that anyone from Westeros looks like that,” Davos admitted. “So I take it he isn’t a Ninja if you’re asking.”

“Hmm,” Itachi decided to put that conversation on hold when he noticed the man’s eyelids flutter.

“Wha…LUFFY!” The man started to shoot bolt upright, images of magma clouding his vision, only to be gently pushed down by the shoulders.

While Itachi restrained the man, Davos gave a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, we’re here to help,” the old sailor promised.

Taking a deep breath as he finally realized his situation, the man gave a confused look. “Who are you?”

“My name’s Davos Seaworth…and that fella holding you down is Itachi Uchiha.”

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” the Ninja added politely.

Beginning to relax, the man seemed more bemused than anything as he ran a hand over his chest and turned his head. “Is my tattoo still there?”

“Indeed,” Itachi answered. “It’s quite the unique design.”

“You don’t recognize it or me?” the stranger asked with a disbelieving look.

“Son,” Davos interrupted. “I don’t think anyone from your world is nearby to recognize it.”

“What?”

Noticing the confusion, Davos repeated for the umpteenth time that this stranger was now in the Sea of Second Chances. He quickly revealed what the general populace knew about the situation. The stranger’s eyes lit up when Davos explained how everyone strong seemed to be drawn West for a variety of reasons.

“Take your time digesting this,” Davos suggested as he finished.

“Thanks,” the stranger mumbled. He then gave a mild blush as he remembered something. “I’m so sorry for forgetting my manners. My name’s Portgas D. Ace.”

Ace bowed his head a little to the others. “Thank you for the shelter and explanation.” Still, the pirate’s expression looked slightly morose.

“It’s no trouble,” Davos assured. “Honestly, most people need a little guidance when stuck in a situation this mad.”

“Why me though?” Ace asked.

“What?” Davos wondered.

“Why me? I let one brother die…my family suffered because of me at Marineford…and my other little brother had to watch me die in his arms. Do I really deserve a second chance?”

Itachi froze as images of Sasuke popped into his mind. His expression seemed downtrodden as he accused himself of being a failure to his own brother. Every mistake played itself repeatedly in his head.

Seeing where this was going, Davos intervened, thinking along the lines of ‘Nope…not doing this.’

“Listen you two. There’s no way of knowing why. Hells, I get the feeling we’ll never know. But what does it matter?” Davos posed the question, earning his compatriots’ undivided attention. “I plan to go on, fighting as long as I can, and cleaning up as much of this world’s shit as possible. What about you two?”

Hearing that, Itachi and Ace had more considering looks. Before they could respond, a noise called out. It was a shrill mixture of whistling, chattering, and squeaking. Then, the noise was repeated over and over. The distorted chitter grew louder.

“Speaking of this world’s shit…” Davos grumbled as he picked up his cutlass, instantly drawing it.

Concerned, Itachi got to his feet, while helping up Ace. “So that’s a problem?” the Ninja wanted to confirm.

“Aye…get ready to fight,” Davos gravely declared.

All three exited the tent, looking out to the horizon. While Davos could only see a distant disturbance of the water’s surface, Itachi’s Sharingan got a clear view of what was coming.

Firstly, he saw that it was a pack of around fifty dolphins making that noise. Now he understood why Kisame hated them so much. Back to his observations, the dolphins were all bigger than usual. Their mouths were misshapen by overly large teeth protruding out of their snouts. Scars and horrible gashes completely covered each dolphin’s skin. Their fins had been filed down to a razor-sharp point, much to Itachi’s befuddlement. And the tails were beating at an unnaturally quick rate.

Then, Itachi gazed upon the riders of the dolphins. They had the general size and shape of fully-grown humans, what with their upright positions, four limbs, and a head. Their skin was varying shades of gray, with black war paint on some of their faces and arms. Thanks to some with bare chests, Itachi saw that they had gills on the side of their torsos. Their nails had grown to the point they could be mistaken for claws. Most of them had small, beady green eyes. Mouths full of sharp teeth shouted out war cries as the pack edged closer to the island.

Not wanting to be surprised, Ace reached out with his Observation Haki. While not the best at it, he was still able to get a general sense of things when exercising that power. Still, that was enough to understand the ‘Voices’ of the coming pack. He could just feel the sadistic bloodlust emanating from these guys. There was something else though. Ace was barely able to tell, but it seemed as if some greater malice was driving these creatures.

“What the hell are those things?!” Ace loudly asked.

“Samebito pack,” Davos grumbled. Seeing something, the veteran stepped to the side. Just in time too, as an arrow flew right through where he was. “Damn scavengers.”

“Kill Them All!” came the gravelly voice of the Samebito in front. “Take what you can before we head back to the army!”

“Army?” Ace raised an eyebrow.

“Seven Hells,” Davos cursed. “If they’re organizing, then something big is brewing.”

“We can worry about that later,” Itachi decided as he drew shuriken. “Fire Style: Phoenix Flower Jutsu!” With a quick breath, the metal was thrown and wreathed in flame. The barrage nailed the apparent leader and a few others, leading to them falling off their dolphins.

“REEAGH!” The remaining Samebito screeched as they started waving a variety of blades in the air. A few got out bows and arrows. Before they could reach landfall, Itachi dashed out onto the water, much to Ace’s shock. By the time the pack realized what was happening, the Ninja was already amongst them. He was towards the back, showing off astounding agility as he hopped from the back of one dolphin to the next. He started by exclusively targeting the archers, who were not prepared in the least.

Still, that didn’t deter a couple dozen Samebitos from dismounting and charging at Ace and Davos. The old sailor instantly moved his cutlass to intercept a hatchet. As he managed to parry and cut down the offending Samebito, Davos couldn’t help but smile at how much better he was with a lighter blade. Back in Westeros, his training had been limited to the broadsword, and that was after the fronts of his right fingers were cut off. As a result, he was a poor swordfighter compared to most of the other lords and ladies he called friends. But here, Burns had once suggested the cutlass. With a little training, it fit him like a glove. Back to the present, Davos was tearing through the monsters coming at him. It only took one or two moves for him to bring down each individual Samebito.

As for Ace, he just stood there as the beasts came at him, wanting to test something out. Thinking it was an opening, one brave Samebito lunged at the Pirate with a scimitar. Unfortunately for him, the Pirate turned into fire as his momentum sent him through the now-intangible man. Horribly burned, the Samebito screamed before he fell lifeless.

“Well…still got the Flame-Flame Fruit at least,” Ace muttered to himself. Then, he sighed as he noticed the Samebitos still charging, not learning from their comrade’s fate apparently. He crouched down, and pointed at the crowd, thumbs up. “Fire Gun!”

The Samebitos were all scorched by the barrage while Ace turned to hit every single one of them. Davos raised an eyebrow after cutting down another brute. “Huh…two fire users on my ship…let’s hope they get along,” he muttered as he offhandedly relieved another Samebito of its blade (and hand along with it).

Back on the water, Itachi was down to the last few riders. Finally comprehending the futility of their situation, the Samebitos pulled on the reins. “Come on!” one of them shouted. “We need to warn the others about these wretches!”

After slitting another throat, Itachi noticed the fleeing figures. At the same time, Davos and Ace finished dealing with the Samebitos on land.

“Fire Style: Fireball Jutsu!”

“Fire Fist!”

Davos looked at the others, feeling left out. “Go team,” he halfheartedly added.

The two attacks met right at the decimated pack. The conflagration consumed every last one of them. Itachi gave a dispassionate gaze to the crowd of burnt remains, making sure they were finished off. He then walked back to the others, noticing Davos holding up one injured Samebito, his cutlass pressed to their throat.

“Why were you this far west?” Davos questioned.

The Samebito growled, and spat in the sailor’s face. Davos simply pressed his cutlass, actually drawing blood. Noticing the impasse, Ace decided to join in.

“Look buddy…you can make this easy on all of us…if you’re smart,” the Pirate suggested. The Samebito started feeling uncomfortably warm around where Ace was patting his back.

“A lowly soldier wouldn’t know anything of worth,” Itachi argued as he rejoined the group. He brandished a kunai. “It’d be better to get rid of him now and move on.”

“Hehehehe,” the Samebito began to chuckle despite his growing pain. “When our army is done with Captain Usopp, they’ll come for you and everyone on these miserable ‘entrance’ islands. YOUR WORLD WILL BURN!”

“Funny you should use those words.”

Without warning, Davos leg go of the prisoner and backed away. Then, Ace’s hand completely turned into fire, alighting the Samebito. His screaming was brief, since Itachi cut his throat to put him out of his misery.

“Well…did either of you get anything meaningful out of that?” Davos asked as he began to clean his cutlass.

Ace brought a hand to his chin in thought. “Something he said sounded familiar.”

“Even if he did act cooperative, I’m sure someone like him would’ve only given us lies,” Itachi surmised.

“Wait…lies?” At that point, realization hit Ace. “I know who that Samebito was talking about,” Ace announced. “Usopp is my brother’s crewmate.”

“And who is your brother?” Itachi asked out of curiosity.

The pirate grinned at the thought of his adopted kin. “ Luffy…he called his crew the Straw Hat Pirates.”

Davos actually perked up at that. “Wait…Jinbe was on your brother’s crew?”

That got an epic reaction of shock. “WHAT? You met Jinbe? He’s a Straw Hat?!”

“Unless you know any other big, blue Fishmen who can throw the ocean over their shoulder who were also Straw Hats,” Davos couldn’t help but tease.

The Pirate just gave the veteran a look.

“Still…to think we would have a lead on them so soon,” Itachi mused.

“Huh…why are you so interested in my brother’s crew?” Ace couldn’t help but be suspicious.

“My partner is traveling with them. He and Jinbe woke up on the same island,” the former Akatsuki explained. “It’d be nice to see him again.”

“That so?” the Pirate asked.

Itachi settled with nodding. “Maybe I can help this man reunite with his brother,” he thought, seeing a chance to make sure that at least one brotherhood stayed together.

Davos smiled at the two. “Well…it seems you two are ready.” He was relieved that his two comrades had braced themselves for the coming challenges, instead of wallowing in self-pity like earlier. Hells, he was glad for that Samebito attack getting their heads on straight. The old sailor got up. “Come on, I don’t know how long the sky will stay clear, so let’s make the most of it.”

Nodding, Itachi and Ace packed up their shelter. The Pirate had a look of utter fascination when the Ninja sealed the tent into a scroll, and stuffed it into a pocket. “How’d you do that?”

Itachi raised an eyebrow. “All Ninja are taught the basics of the Sealing Arts in the Academies,” he said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

“Hmm.” Ace had seen the Ninjas of Wano in his homeworld…and none of them could do that. Plus, he couldn’t recall anyone else in the Grand Line who could simply create and control fire without a Mythical Zoan. Heat maybe…but never straight up fire. These other worlds’ capabilities seemed fantastical to the Grand Line veteran. Curious, Ace pried.

“Is fire a common ability in your world?” the Pirate wondered.

“Yes. All Ninja had an inclination to either various elements or to clan abilities, sometimes both. Fire is my family’s usual element.”

“How about your partner?”

Itachi actually chuckled at that. “Kisame could barely make a fireball big enough to cook dinner, let alone fight with. No, he was the most skilled Water Style Ninja in my time…and the strongest Swordsman I ever worked with.”

“Strong, huh?”

“Indeed…I only ever beat him with misdirection and illusions,” Itachi admitted. “Although, we never did use our strongest moves against each other. Perhaps my Mangekyo could overpower him.”

Ace paused in consideration, though he was baffled when the Ninja mentioned he could use illusions too. The very idea of such a diverse power-set seemed foreign to someone used to just his Devil Fruit and Haki.

“What about this Jinbe?” the Ninja wondered.

Ace laughed as he recalled meeting the Fishman. “We actually met in a fight. The two of us went at it for five days straight.”

Itachi was shocked at the sheer length of time, knowing he didn’t have anything close to the stamina needed to pull that off. “What kind of a world makes people that strong without any Chakra?”

At this point, they were done packing. In another few minutes, the trio was on The Shireen, deciding on a course of action.

“That Samebito pack came from west by southwest,” Itachi recalled. “If we want to aid this Usopp you speak of…that’s our best bet.”

“Don’t really see any other options,” Ace had to admit. “Unless you want to just try and find Jinbe and Kisame.”

“From what Davos tells me, considering how the sea narrows, we’ll eventually meet them as long as all of us head west,” Itachi informed the Pirate.

“It’s settled then,” Davos clapped his hands together he headed to the wheel. Ace brought up the anchor, while Itachi quickly ran up the mast to set the rigging. Once the ship had set sail, Itachi settled into the crow’s nest, eyeing the horizon. Ace had fallen asleep, standing up. Davos chuckled at the two, sure they’d be just fine.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: The White Castle

Juvia woke to find herself back in The Grotto. Wondering how long she was out, the Wizard pushed the blanket off and stiffly stood up. Walking over to the port railing, she saw that floating bar/grill. It looked like most of the ship’s crew was enjoying lunch. The only person she couldn’t spot was Sasori, though she made a note to thank him for treatment later. As she made her way down, she started hearing their conversation.

“You sure you don’t want to come with us?” Franky asked.

Camie nodded with a sad smile. “Yeah, I’d only weigh you down…especially if you’re going to Samebito Island.” The mermaid knew she wasn’t a fighter, plus she just couldn’t forget how she failed in her task of beating Ursula to the Trident.

“Shame…we could’ve used a great cook,” Apacci sighed as she dug into a seafood ramen bowl, though she didn’t sound too broken up about it.

Halibel rolled her eyes at her friend. “Still…we thank you for your hospitality, and the efforts you went to in helping us.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Camie laughed. “Anytime you come by, all of you can have a plate on the house.”

“Just a plate?” Kisame teased.

The mermaid sweat-dropped as she looked at the mountain of remains. Kisame and Halibel had completely torn through her entire stock of crab legs for the day. “Yeah…”

The group heard chuckling behind them and all turned. Slightly embarrassed, Juvia brought a hand to her mouth, though she was still smiling.

“Hey, didn’t think you’d be up so soon.” Tsuyu stated.

“Yeah, mind if I take a seat?” the Wizard asked. The second she did so, a plate of Takoyaki was laid before her. “Thank you.”

“Young madam?” Brook waved to get her attention. “If I could ask, would you show…?”

Before he even finished his sentence, Halibel and Apacci glared at the skeleton, hands twitching over their blades. Feeling a shadow of death upon him, Brook stayed quiet. Kisame was actually waving him on, as if daring him to finish what he was saying. Wondering why her new companion got quiet all of a sudden, Juvia turned around. All she saw were three friends innocently finishing up their lunch.

Jinbe cleared his throat. “If I may, I do have some questions for you.”

“Of course, it’s the least I could do,” Juvia agreed.

“Those powers of yours…what do you call them?” the Fishman wondered.

“Oh…it’s just my Water Magic. I don’t really know how else to explain it. I’ve had it since I was a little girl and it became a part of me,” Juvia explained.

“Do you have to consciously turn into water…or is it automatic?” the curious Jinbe asked.

“Well, it used to be conscious, but I guess it became instinct by the time I joined Fairy Tail,” the Wizard recalled.

“Fascinating,” Jinbe mused as he stroked his chin.

“A little off-topic…but what’re you going to do next?” Tsuyu chimed in.

“Well,” Juvia paused as images of her friends popped into her mind, settling on one in particular. “Oh, my Darling Gray!” The Wizard suddenly blushed up a storm and swayed back and forth. Kisame, Halibel, and Apacci all started inching away, very uncomfortable with such over-the-top affection. The Straw Hats were all laughing, even Jinbe chuckled.

“Oh…how I wish to be in your cool arms again! Now that I know you’re in this Sea, nothing will stop the Power of LOVE bringing us together again!”

Completely unfazed, Tsuyu pressed on. “Anyone else you’re looking for aside from this Gray.”

“Umm…”Juvia snapped out of her love trance. “There are quite a few old friends I’d like to see again.”

“Hmm…seems to be a bit of a running theme here,” Kisame grumbled.

Halibel gave him a decidedly un-amused look. “I don’t want to hear it from you, Mr. I’m finding my old partner.”

“You want to stick with us until you find them?” Tsuyu offered. This out-of-the-blue suggestion sent Apacci into a coughing fit. After a quick slap on the back from Halibel, the young Hollow righted herself.

“Since did we become the express lane West?” Apacci indignantly wondered.

“To be fair…it’s incredibly rare for a ship to make it this far past the storms and monsters,” Tsuyu retorted. “There aren’t that many guaranteed ways to actually get West. All of us were just incredibly lucky to meet on the Cutty Sark.”

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” Juvia hastily added.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kisame dismissively waved a hand. “Besides, I’ve been looking to find some variety in my Water Jutsu. You’ll be the perfect opponent for that.” The grin he gave the Wizard greatly unnerved her.

“Kisame,” came Halibel’s stern warning.

“Oh, I promise not to use Samehada on her…much.”

“You’re not going to make this easy, are you?” the elder Hollow sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“Anyway,” Jinbe’s commanding tone put a stop to that little debate. “According to Brook’s map, Samebito Island is over two days away. So, we should leave when we’ve finished lunch. Did we get everything we needed?”

Franky nodded. “Yep…got enough provisions for months out at sea. Can’t believe that this Grotto had everything.”

By now, everyone’s meals were done. As Camie started saying her goodbyes, Sasori leaned over the railing, looking impatient. “If we want there to be any daylight when we arrive, hurry up. I don’t like to be kept waiting.”

Frowning, Juvia thanked Camie before walking up. Tsuyu followed after a firm handshake.

“Well…we’ll tell the others we ran into you. Hell, maybe we’ll all come back this way,” Franky gave a light hug to the Mermaid. Brook tipped his hat.

Apacci gave a mock salute before heading up.

“Thanks for the crab,” Halibel and Kisame bowed their heads and took their leave.

Finally, Camie embraced Jinbe. “If you run into Hachi…could you send him my way? I miss him.”

“Sure.”

After a few seconds, the two let go. As Camie waved goodbye, Jinbe hopped onto the ship and returned the gesture.

Sasori scoffed at the sight, taking his Lotus position beneath the Main Mast. By the time his Strings had all connected, everything else was set. With that, the Cutty Sark made its way out of the Grotto, heading south by southwest.

Over the next two days, Juvia found herself enjoying her time on the Cutty Sark. While Sasori and Apacci were their usual abrasive selves, everyone else was at least welcoming. Most of her days were spent in Tsuyu’s (excuse me, Tsu) company. The Wizard was admittedly fascinated by the concept of Fishman Karate when told about it. Still, she didn’t ask to be a living test dummy for the Pro.

“Hundred Brick Roundhouse Kick!”

Juvia gasped as she was forced back, her own Magic working against her, considering how Fishman Karate was twice as effective on her compared to regular people. Agitated, she decided to take Kisame’s advice on a new move, pointing her finger with the thumb raised up.

“Water Gun!”

“HA! I knew it wasn’t just Hozuki who could do it!”

“Pipe down and watch Kisame,” came Halibel’s irritated voice. “We’re supposed to be giving advice, remember.”

Unfazed, Tsuyu simply hopped onto the mast, earning an un-amused look from Sasori.

“Hundred Brick Tongue Slap!” In an instant, the unnaturally long tongue whacked Juvia across the face, flooring her.

“Excellent technique!” Jinbe actually clapped at how innovative his student was.

“Thank you Sensei,” Tsuyu stoically replied. Kisame and Sasori both grimaced as they watched Tsuyu retract her long, slimy tongue. This didn’t go unnoticed by Halibel.

“Something wrong?”

While Sasori tried to hide his discomfort, Kisame gave a wry grin. “Well…let’s just say I knew a snake who could do that. Creepiest man I ever met…if he even was a man.”

Halibel found herself wondering just how unsettling this snake was to give Kisame and Sasori of all people shivers. Before she could ponder it further, Apacci came running back on the air.

“We Got Trouble!”

Taking his cue, Jinbe stretched out his Observation Haki. To his concern, a hundred ‘voices’ of unspeakable malice were charging at their ship.

“On our starboard!” the Fishman called out. As the whole crew turned, they finally lay eyes upon the Dolphin-riding Samebitos. Their dark grey skin, ragged appearance, and shrill war cries would’ve sent any lesser crew on edge. Still, Juvia knew what these creatures were.

“Samebitos. I thought they only raided in smaller groups.” The Wizard was admittedly concerned at the implications.

Unfortunately for the raiders, Halibel wasn’t impressed. She pointed a finger, and Golden Reishi became visible. “Cero.”

The middle of the pack was vaporized. Still, only the ones right in the center of the explosion were gone.

“Well…looks like they’re not just average Joes.” Kisame grabbed Samehada. “This’ll be fun.”

“Everybody,” Jinbe commanded everyone’s attention. “Let’s all move as one. That should be enough to beat them.”

“Che…fine,” Apacci grumbled as she unlinked her wrist collars. “Pulsera Cuerno!” The younger Hollow threw her blades, managing to bring down a few before they returned. Deciding on a more direct approach, Apacci grabbed her trusty cannon, and unloaded Balas on the crowd.

“Strong Right!” Franky pulverized another half-dozen, sending them flying off their deranged dolphins.

“Dual Hundred Brick Fist!” Tsuyu knocked two Samebitos in their faces, crashing them into their fellow raiders behind them.

Brook appeared right behind some more. “Three Verse Humming: Arrow Notch Slash!” He sheathed his sword and deep cuts suddenly appeared throughout the crowd.

“Water Jigsaw!” Juvia charged at the raiders. “And a Water Claw!” Another dozen Samebitos fell to the passionate Wizard.

Around a score made their way to the ship.

“I don’t think so,” came a coolly dispassionate voice. Sasori opened all the hatches, with streams of fire and lightning annihilating all the raiders too close.

Realizing they were already down to a third of their strength, the remaining Samebitos turned to flee, only to find Jinbe, Halibel, and Kisame blocking their way. The Ninja frowned. “Already trying to run? Pathetic.”

With a swing of Samehada, Tiburon, and a solitary punch, the Samebitos were all beaten. Only one was still on his dolphin. Before he could even blink, Kisame was already grabbing his throat.

“What should I do with you?”

“Go To HELL!” the Samebito impotently raged.

“Ooh…a talker. Wonder if you’re a squealer too?” Kisame tightened his grip.

“That’s enough Kisame. I would prefer his throat be functional.” Halibel added.

“I don’t need your pity, you lowly bitch!” the Samebito spat black blood on the Hollow’s face.

“On second thought…do what you will.” Halibel wiped the blood off and scowled.

“Hold on!” Jinbe pleaded. “We need to know if there’re more of them.”

“Thousands more,” the Samebito started to chuckle. “Once Captain Usopp’s fortress is destroyed, nothing will stand in our way!”

Jinbe’s eyes widened at that. “Where is your army?!”

“It’s too late. By dawn tomorrow, we’ll put that cursed sniper’s HEAD ON A PIKE AS WE BURN THE WHITE CASTLE TO THE GROUND!”

Enraged, Jinbe slammed a fist into the Samebito’s stomach. Somehow, the raider found the strength to grab his dagger. Unfortunately for him, Kisame still had a hand on his throat when he noticed. In an instant, the Ninja crushed his neck.

Looking frantic, Jinbe leaped back to the ship.

“Apacci…which way did they come from?”

The younger Hollow pointed south by southwest. Brook’s eyes widened (that is, if he had eyes) as he pulled the map out of his noggin’. “As I feared…those ruffians came from the direction of Samebito Island.”

“We should be seeing it within the hour, if the scale of distance is accurate,” Tsuyu pointed out.

“Everyone…get ready for a fight,” Jinbe commanded as he took the wheel.

Sure enough, within half an hour, Tsuyu gave a shout of “Land Ho!” from her perch on the Crow’s Nest. The keener-eyed members were able to spot a cluster of white mountains, with miles of plains stretching between them and the coastline. They could just make out a similarly colored multi-layered castle in front of the biggest mountain. Upon closer inspection though, that wasn’t quite accurate. There was half a castle. The rest was apparently in the mountain itself.

The crew didn’t admire the sight for long, because they spotted what was coming. Hordes of Samebitos were already marching in formation on the vast plains. Even more were coming up out of the water. Jinbe counted at least Ten Thousand! On top of that, they were bringing in catapults and towers that could latch onto the main castle wall if they got close enough. All were being drawn by massive Polar Bears, whipped as they were forced to pick up their pace. Above it all, the pounding of drums could be heard, keeping the army in step. The sound of stomping feet added to the cacophony.

It truly was an army. Already uneasy, Jinbe stretched his Observation Haki into the fortress. There, he ‘heard’ a familiar voice.

“Usopp’s in there!” the Fishman cried out.

“What?! We need to get in there now!” Franky roared.

“Hold on,” Halibel interrupted. “They haven’t completely closed off the castle yet. You might be able to make it there without fighting if you’re quick.”

“Easier said than done,” Kisame pointed out a mass of Dolphin-riding Samebitos heading straight for the ship. “Must be the rearguard.”

Despite there being several hundred, possibly a thousand, of screaming Samebitos heading for the ship, Apacci smirked. “We can take ‘em on.”

“Not all of us,” Tsuyu pointed out. “Some of us need to join up with Usopp and whoever else is in that fortress. By the time it’d take to get past this rearguard, that army would already destroy the castle.”

“Jinbe,” Halibel came to a decision. “You go ahead and lead a party to aid the castle. I’ll stay with the ship and fight what’s coming.” She drew Tiburon. Instantly, Apacci appeared by her side.

Kisame chuckled. “Well, who am I to get in the way of Straw Hat bonding? Besides, that last bunch put me in a bad mood…and I’m dying to take it out on someone.” He hopped onto the water’s surface, slamming Samehada down.

Deciding that would be enough to deal with the thousand angry dolphin-riders, the rest formed up. Jinbe jumped into the water, full speed ahead. Franky shot forward with the rockets in his feet, with Brook quick to run after him, both eager to see Usopp again. Tsuyu hopped onto Juvia’s back. Then, the Wizard thrust forward with a Water Jigsaw, quickly catching up to the others.

Kisame, Halibel, and Apacci turned to the screaming horde. Sasori barely twitched his finger to open all the hatches. “Hmm…I’ll take the 800 on the right, y’all can share the rest,” Kisame smirked. Apacci growled at that, “Screw you!” Then, the three warriors charged.

OoOoOoO

The Straw Hats, Wizard, and Pro dashed out of reach of the Samebito army. In just a few minutes, they could begin to make out some of the figures that stood on the castle wall. All of them were aiming at the little group.

“Hold your fire!” A voice cried out amongst the castle defense. “They’re friends! Open the Gate!”

Instantly relieved at the familiar voice, Jinbe felt a smile. Still, even he paused when he saw the absolutely gargantuan door. Steel and wood came together to create this near-impenetrable defense. Then, with an almighty groan, the door barely parted enough to let the five through.

Once they had stopped, over two dozen burly fighters pushed the door shut with all their might. Even more were needed to put the bars in place.

“You Guys!” Someone hopped down from the top of the outer wall, running full-speed. He tackled Jinbe, Franky, and Brook in a hug. It was a young man, with a long nose, and a large black slingshot holstered on his back.

“Usopp!” the rest of the Straw Hats cried out as they returned the hug.

“Wow. They’re really affectionate,” Tsuyu couldn’t help but observe.

“I know! It’s so sweet,” Juvia gushed.

“Umm, Usopp?” A new voice made itself heard. “Mind introducing us?”

Two tall, ivory-skinned, and raven-haired women walked up. One wore nothing but a red leotard, with her hair tied in a spiky ponytail. She wielded a staff with one hand. The other was a complete contrast in skin coverage, opting to wear a lady’s business suit. Mechanical gauntlets sparked as she took in the newcomers.

“Momo?” Tsuyu hesitantly asked.

The staff-wielder lit up in excitement and waved. “Tsu!”

They had a brief hug. “Are you all right?” Momo wondered.

“Yeah, thanks to these guys. How long have you been here?”

Momo Yaoyorozu grimaced. “I washed up here a few months ago. My only real option was to make this place as defensible as possible. Even then, I’ve barely managed to do enough.”

“Come on,” the other woman scoffed. “Don’t sell yourself short.”

“Yeah,” Usopp broke from his pirate hug. “We’d all have been crucified if you weren’t here.” The sniper nervously laughed at his own overactive imagination, noting to himself that he should stop thinking like Robin.

“Oh, sorry!” Momo babbled. “Tsu, this is Asami Sato. She, Usopp, and I have been coordinating the defense here.”

The inventor/businesswoman removed her right gauntlet, and extended a hand. “It’s a pleasure. Any friend of Momo or Usopp is a friend of mine.”

Once introductions were made all around, Usopp noticed something. “Guys, you hear that?”

“I don’t hear anything,” Jinbe quickly said before he grasped the implications.

“Exactly,” Usopp hopped back on the outer wall. Once there, he got a good look at the Samebito army. They’d completely stopped. The drums weren’t beating. One figure moved to the front of the army. “That must be the general,” Usopp concluded as he zoomed in with his goggles.

He saw a Samebito that was at least a foot taller than the others. At least, he would’ve been if he wasn’t stooped over. His left arm was malformed to the point that it was permanently in a sling. He was also walking with a noticeable limp in his left leg as it rubbed against his sword’s sheath.

“General Gomog!” A slightly taller Samebito with mangy hair and a scimitar called out.

“What is it?” the leading Samebito growled.

“The catapults are loaded.”

“Good,” Gomog leered at the White Castle. “I want this fortress to be rank with fear before we crush them.” He raised an arm. “BRING THOSE ARCHERS AND CAPTAIN USOPP DOWN!”

As one, every catapult launched balls of coral.

“TAKE COVER!” Usopp yelled. The second everyone hit the deck, the coral balls sailed over the outer wall. They crashed and exploded in a haze of shrapnel. Only Jinbe, Brook, Franky, and Juvia managed to stay completely unscratched. Everyone else lost at least a few drops of blood.

“THEY’RE RELOADING!” Usopp called out, as he slammed his Black Kabuto down and pulled. “Green Star: Devil!”

His aim true, Usopp destroyed a catapult with his oversized Venus flytrap. On top of that, another dozen Samebito nearby were devoured. Unfortunately, that still left dozens of catapults, and they were all ready for another strike.

As most of the fighters hurried inside, Momo used her Quirk to create a metal dome for the Cutty Sark crew and Asami. As the barrage clanged against Momo’s shield, Jinbe turned to the girls.

“How many fighters do you have?”

“Around 500,” Momo quickly replied.

“My wife went out a few days ago to an Atlantean outpost to gather reinforcements, though I doubt she’ll make it before sundown,” Asami chimed in.

“All right. Give the order for anyone capable of long-range strikes to join up with me,” Usopp called out from his perch. Once the order was heard, around fifty soldiers from various worlds climbed up the outer wall.

“We need another 50 to man the cannons!” Usopp yelled over the shattering coral implosions.

Once everyone was in position, Usopp held up his arm. “On my mark.” While his legs slightly shook, his voice was steady.

“FIRE!” The cannons (made courtesy of Momo) roared as they tore apart the first line of catapults. There were even a few Ninjas, Wizards, Benders, and a couple of Soul Reapers launching a variety of Spells.

Unperturbed, General Gomog narrowed his eyes at the defense, noticing where the greater clusters of attacks were coming from. He turned to his lieutenants. “Concentrate our fire at those intervals,” he pointed to a few spots throughout the outer wall. “Then, have our towers move on the opposite ends first.” As the aims were adjusted, Gomog gave a nasty smile. “Add a little something extra to our barrage.”

Laughing, the Samebito soldiers poured black oil on the coral balls. Then, they lit them on fire before hurtling them to the Castle.

A cluster of fighters a few meters to the right of Usopp were obliterated by the first explosion. Just as the rest of the balls were about to crash, “WATER SHIELD!” Juvia instantly conjured up protection for everyone else. While it did put out the fires and slowed the projectiles down, the shrapnel still grazed most of the fighters, with those closest not being so lucky.

At this point, Asami was getting to her feet. “Can any of you fly?”

“Count me in,” Franky gave a thumbs-up.

“Good, follow me. I’m going to need cover.”

Asami ran across what appeared to be a runway in the middle of the courtyard, opening up a sizable shed at the end of it. Inside was a biplane, loaded up and ready to go. She hurried into the cockpit and revved the engines. “We’re going to take out those catapults. I’ll need you to bring us back if the plane goes down.”

“All right. After this though, you have to show me the blueprints for this SUPER design!” Franky quipped.

With that, the two mechanical geniuses blasted over the castle wall, heading right for the catapults. Seeing this, some of the Samebitos shot fiery arrows at the duo. With some evasive maneuvers, Asami was able to avoid them all. As for Franky, the arrows just bounced right off.

Asami then prepared for a strafing run. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled the trigger. Guns on both wings unleashed a barrage that tore through a few more catapults. Not one to be left out, Franky joined in with a “Weapons Left!” that took out some more.

Unfortunately, there were still over 50 catapults to deal with, and half were aimed directly at the aerial defense. Frantically avoiding the coral projectiles and arrows, Asami noted Usopp preparing another volley. She signaled for Franky to ascend with her. Once they did so, a devastating wave hit the front of the Samebito army. Everything from Cannonballs, to Jutsu, to Kido, to Spells, to Elemental Projectiles slammed down.

As Asami and Franky focused on another line of catapults, General Gomog barked more orders. “HURRY UP WITH THOSE TOWERS!” With more cracks of the whip, the polar bears drawing the breaching towers picked up their pace, coming at the castle in a reverse-arrow formation. Despite the barrage, nothing was damaging the coming towers.

“Green Star: Impact Wolf Grass!” That is, only Usopp’s direct hits were managing to destroy them. Even then, the enemy catapults were still forcing the defensive artillery to scramble just to stay alive. Needless to say, that severely hampered the ability to return fire.

By now, Asami and Franky were down to one row of catapults. Before they could wipe them out, the enemy managed to get off another round, focused at the ends of the outer wall. The concentrated fiery coral blew away all the defenders, leaving the sectors wide open for the towers. They slid right up to the wall, their hatches latching on. Screaming Samebitos then came storming out, beginning to cut down the outer wall defense.

“Damn it,” Asami cursed. Distracted, she was unable to avoid the fiery arrows that tore through the canvas. Making a quick decision, she tied the yoke and hopped out of the plane. As Franky grabbed her, the fiery biplane crashed in the middle of the catapults, which had already been loaded with fiery coral. A chain reaction led to a spectacular explosion that destroyed the rest of the Samebito’s artillery, but the damage was done.

Seeing the hostile army start to push back the outer defenses, Asami turned to Franky. “We need to get back now.” Nodding, the cyborg powered past the flaming arrows back to base.

On the wall, most of the fighters were turning to deal with the Samebitos. For now, the soldiers were holding their own against the monsters, whether it be by the sword or magic. Clangs of steel were heard as close combat ensued. As his comrades fought on, Usopp kept his aim at the main army. He narrowed his eyes as a coral battering ram was brought up.

“Green Star: Sargasso!” The resulting mass of tangled seaweed caught many of the enemy, but it did nothing to slow down the army as a whole. General Gomog cleanly sliced enough to open a path. More Samebito grabbed the battering ram and trampled over those who were caught in the seaweed. With a mighty boom, they crashed into the door.

Seeing that it wasn’t budging an inch, the assault pulled back for another run. As they ran forward, Usopp pulled his Black Kabuto back again. “Green Star: Bamboo Javelin!”

All the Samebitos fell mid-run as they were quickly impaled. Still, more Samebitos rushed to pick up the ram, and completed the run. Despite all that, the door still didn’t budge.

“How can they just run over their comrades like that?” Usopp asked himself. As he was distracted, a Samebito tried to cut him down.

“Hundred Brick Fist!” Tsuyu immediately put a stop to that, sending the unfortunate grunt falling back to his army.

“Thanks!” Usopp gave a thumbs-up as he saw Tsuyu and Brook start to push back the Samebito on the battlements. He then readied his next shot. “Green Star: Skull Bombgrass!” The second another failed run ended, an explosion consumed the group. This time, the Samebitos were hesitant to rush up, with some even running back.

Gomog grabbed one of them. “What are you doing? USELESS SCUM!” Seeing Usopp shooting “Green Star: Shark Arrow Devils”, the general used the hapless Samebito as a shield. Tossing the corpse aside, he railed on his lieutenant. “Get back there, and bring that door down!”

“But Sir…the sniper is too strong. And that door can’t be breached.”

Gomog smirked as an idea sprang to his mind. “Bai Tza will breach it.”

That even got the lieutenant to grin in return.

Gomog turned to the rest of his army. “Bring up our Goddess!” he shouted.

As the order came down, two dozen armored Polar Bears popped out of the water, all harnessed to the same thing. They pulled, revealing a gargantuan aquamarine statue. It had the appearance of a monstrous mermaid, with a snarling inhuman face and glowing red eyes. Her hair was carved in the form of tentacles, with two fists level to it. Every tentacle and fist had water whirling around it, despite the rest of the statue being dry. With the statue placed horizontally, the face, hair tentacles, and fists were all pointed right at the door.

Then, the polar bears started pulling the statue closer. It swayed from its suspended position.

“BAI TZA! BAI TZA! BAI TZA!” Every single Samebito started chanting as one, raising their weapons in sync. Their voices boomed over the battle. Morale boosted, they stepped forward with more purpose.

Usopp found himself stepping back at the ominous visage, legs trembling. “No, I’m still a brave warrior of the sea!” Looking back at the statue, Usopp figured out the best way to actually hit it. Once it was in range, Usopp loaded every single type of Pop Green he could. “Pop Green: Total Barrage!”

Unfortunately, the statue was completely undamaged, and the Samebitos were quick to form up in defense of it. Realizing what would happen, Usopp turned back. “Jinbe! Get ready for a fight down there!”

The Fishman nodded as he took his place in front of the 200 fighters, Juvia by his side. He fought the urge to simply aid his fellows on the outer wall, flinching at every defending casualty. Still, he told himself that Brook and Tsu could at least keep them contained. As he steeled himself, Franky, Asami, and Momo joined up. While Momo opted for a simple spiked staff, her comrade had returned in a full-on mech suit. It elevated Asami to the point she was eye level with Franky and Jinbe, with the girth to match. The mechanical hands sparked with electricity.

On the other side of the door, hundreds of Samebitos pulled the chains back, still chanting “BAI TZA!” No matter what Usopp threw, the statue wasn’t damaged in the least. Plus, for every Samebito he shot down, more would rush into its place. Then, all the Samebitos let go. The Bai Tza statue swung forward, hitting the door with a mighty “BOOM!” The door shuddered from the sheer force, and cracks started spreading from where there was direct impact.

Immediately, Usopp saw the statue being drawn back again. “BAI TZA! BAI TZA! BAI TZA!” It had gotten to the point that Usopp was the only person left able to keep firing from the outer wall. The others were giving everything they got to the Samebitos pouring in from the towers.

“BOOM!” From the inside, Jinbe could see the door begin to cave in from the sheer force of the statue. Then, he heard the massive battering ram get dragged back as hundreds of feet stomped in unison. “BAI TZA! BAI TZA! BAI TZA!”

“CRASH!” The top of the door was completely pulverized, debris and splinters flying everywhere. Juvia found herself greatly unsettled by the image, feeling as if those glowing red eyes were staring directly at her. She wasn’t the only one. Several soldiers were sweating in fear, and even taking steps back.

Noticing, Momo slammed her staff to the ground. “STAND FIRM!” Her level tone did much to alleviate the anxiety of those around her, and not a moment too soon.

With a final “CRASH!”, the door was completely forced open. From beneath Bai Tza’s statue, two dozen armored polar bears roared in anger as they charged forward.

“NOW!” Jinbe cried out. The front line concentrated its fire at a few of the polar bears, managing to bring them down with the sheer number of attacks.

“RAAGH!” The pack of polar bears trampled over their fallen brethren and began to smash anyone that got close. Jinbe, Franky, and Asami’s mech were the only ones able to match the bears individually. Juvia kept herself intangible, while Momo used her acrobatic skills to avoid one bear’s swipes. The rest had to keep their distance, lest they get crushed by the bears’ jaws or paws.

Seeing the enemy fall back, Gomog gave an evil smile. “Move into the castle. Kill all in your path.”

With that, a horde of Samebitos poured into the opening, crashing against the line of warriors opposing them. From then on, it was chaos. Thanks to the bears, the heavy-hitters were unable to aid their comrades against the Samebitos. As such, despite inflicting heavy casualties, the men and women were slowly being pushed back. Bodies were beginning to pile up.

Juvia nearly wretched at the sight before steeling herself. “WATER CYCLONE!” She managed to bring down two of the bears, only to immediately turn intangible when a few more bears started attacking.

One young-looking Soul Reaper paused in his healing of a Mist Ninja as a Samebito stomped to him. “Hadō #58: Tenran!” The scalpels he’d been using quickly formed a tornado that sent the monster hurtling back.

“Wow, ya got some moves kid,” the Ninja commented.

“Well,” the healer nervously chuckled. “The 4th wasn’t just doctors and nurses…so I picked up a few things.”

Jinbe positioned himself so that the bears he faced were in a straight line. He quickly channeled Armament Haki into his arms, recalling a move he invented after joining the Straw Hats.

“Black Shark Skin: 5000 Brick Fist!” The combination of Haki and Fishman Karate punched a hole through two of the bears, while blasting back a few more.

Franky and Asami were tag-teaming more bears off to the side. The latter couldn’t help but be amazed when she saw the honest-to-goodness cyborg Suplex a bear. Still, she was focused enough to electrify a bear that got too close. “Come on Korra, where are you?”

The fighting continued for around half-an-hour, with neither side really slowing down. Just as Asami gave a devastating haymaker to a roaring polar bear, another one came up from behind, sinking its jaws into the mech’s right knee. Undeterred, Asami simply turned her Mech’s torso 180 Degrees, nailing the bear with two electrified fists. But the damage was done, and the mech fell to its knees.

Just as another bear moved to crush her, Asami popped out of the hatch, grabbing its nose with her own charged fists. The resulting voltage completely floored the beast. Still, without the mech, Asami now found herself dealing with waves of Samebitos. Using every martial art she could think of was the only thing keeping her relatively unscathed.

Jinbe, Franky, and Juvia were doing all they could to bring down the bears. A “Water Nebula” here…a “Strong Right!” over there. Unfortunately, that meant they were unable to deal with the Samebito horde coming down on the others. Realizing what had to be done, Asami turned to Momo, who had just blinded another bear with her spiked spear. “Give the order.”

Understanding, Momo quickly conjured a megaphone. “FALL BACK! Fall back to the Keep!”

As one, the fighters disengaged from the Samebito frontline. To prevent Usopp and those still on the wall from being cut off, Jinbe aimed. “ARABASQUE BRICK FIST!” After a second of silence, a massive hole appeared in the enemy formation as brutes were sent flying back. “Now’s your chance!”

With a nod, Usopp, Brook, Tsu, and the 30 remaining fighters leapt off the wall, quickly joining up with the others. One intrepid Ninja even used ‘Earth Style: Landslide’ in conjunction with an Earthbender to crush more Samebitos on his way down. When most of them had retreated, the remaining bears and Samebitos surged forward.

“Ribbet!” One bear had managed to leave nasty gash in the Pro’s side.

“TSU!” Moving quickly, Momo pulled a bazooka from her stomach. Then, she utterly obliterated the bear that dared to harm her friend. Once that was taken care of, Momo scooped up Tsuyu in a bridal carry, running into the Keep.

“Party Music!” The army that had made it past the castle gates all froze as Brook’s illusion entranced them, becoming completely vulnerable. Franky turned to the right. “Franky Rocket Launchers!” Jinbe turned to the left and readied his Haki. “Black Sharkskin Palm Thrust!” The two attacks blasted back the enemy army enough for the doors to be shut and locked.

Once secure, Asami turned to Momo. “The Remote?” The Pro-Hero used her Quirk to create a simple remote. There was only a single red button, and an antennae. She grimaced as she handed it to her ally.

Asami smirked. “Y’all might want to cover your ears.” Without further ado, she pushed the button.

BOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!

The entire castle shook from the sheer force of the explosion. Franky’s eyes were wide. “What did you do?”

“Momo here was able to create dozens of mines when we first saw the army come,” Asami proudly pat her new friend’s back. Tsuyu looked utterly amazed at how far her friend had pushed her Quirk.

The Creation Hero blushed at the praise. “All I did was create the raw materials. You were the one who could actually put it together to make them work.”

Franky looked back and forth between the girls. “When this is over…I’m gonna have a LONG talk with the two of you. Got some blueprints I always wanted to finish.”

As this discussion was going on, Jinbe pushed open the doors to see the results. It was utter devastation. The ground looked like it had been hit with a meteor shower. Every single Samebito that had breached the castle lay dead. Plus, all the bears had been taken out. Encouraged, the warriors all stepped back into the courtyard, ready for another round despite their exhaustion.

Beyond the gate, and the still statue of Bai Tza, General Gomog was fuming. He cursed the weakness of his own soldiers. All told, about half of his army was gone. All of his catapults were inoperable. There were only a few bears left throughout his whole force. His own sense of haste had prematurely sent in the bulk of his beasts. “This was supposed to be an easy conquest. I was going to stomp those ants on my way to crushing the ‘entrance’ islands. I would’ve been welcomed back as a mighty conqueror.” Gomog roared in fury. “I won’t let them take that from me!”

“KILL THEM ALL!” With a mighty roar, over a thousand Samebitos started charging at the remaining defenders. Gomog smirked to himself. “They’re already getting tired. Plus, there’s only a couple hundred left in fighting condition. This battle will still be mine.”

Just before the battle could be renewed, a shadow fell over the island. Looking west, everyone realized that the sun was setting. At least, they would’ve seen the sun if there wasn’t a ridiculously massive tsunami careening right towards them.

Usopp looked out, and was able to make out three figures surfing on top. “It’s Korra! She’s back!”

Asami brought a hand to her mouth as she cried tears of relief, but something seemed off. Momo had similar thoughts. “Wait…how can she be making such a big wave? She isn’t in the Avatar State is she?”

The sniper seemed puzzled as zoomed in. “There’s a blonde swordswoman and this real scary Fishman with a big white sword by her!”

“Kisame’s not a Fishman,” Jinbe and Tsuyu said in unison before comprehending what Usopp said. Juvia and Brook sighed in relief, while Franky slammed his arms together for a “SUPER!”

Back at the apex of the wave, Kisame laughed as the tsunami crashed towards the Samebito army. “HAHAHA! You didn’t tell me you could use water in your base form!” the Ninja called out to the Hollow.

“I thought you liked those sort of surprises. Still, I admit it isn’t anything near my Resurreción. I would’ve been forced to transform without our new friend here,” Halibel pointed out.

“Speaking of,” he turned to the woman surfing in front of them. “We simply must have a spar later. I wanna see if you’re as strong as you look.”

The young woman turned and smirked. She was noticeably muscular. Although shorter than Halibel, she was stockier. Her short black hair waved as the wind picked up around them. “Maybe later. Not really a swordsman.” She turned further back. “General Vulko?”

A lean man in blue, scaly armor rose to the surface. He gripped a harness to a massive Hammerhead mount. “All two thousand riders are ready.” Upon closer inspection of the tidal wave, one would find similarly armored riders on every kind of shark imaginable. There were even a few hundred on large seahorses.

“Good,” Korra looked down, and decided they were close enough. “Kisame, Halibel. Let them have it.” With that, Bender, Ninja, and Hollow released their hold on the water, jumping up. It then crashed down onto the Samebito army. Those that weren’t instantly swept away were ravaged by the Atlantean cavalry. Vulko could be seen bashing several Samebito away with the intense spinning of his lance actually creating a circle of water. The ocean itself darkened as Samebito blood gushed out.

Korra landed, and quickly dashed to the few thousand Samebitos that hadn’t been crushed. “Now, GET AWAY FROM MY WIFE!” she roared as Fire, Earth, Water, and Air combined into an all-consuming maelstrom that tore apart anything that got near it. Her kicks, dragging along streams of water, sliced all the evil army’s weapons. Her fists were covered in fire as she burned dozens of enemies at a time. Every time one Samebito got too close, she’d use Airbending to dodge and throw the enemy off balance. Every stomp of the ground sent earth flying forward.

Asami blushed at the sight. “Geez…you can be such a handful sometimes.”

Kisame, cutting his way through, laughed at the sheer carnage. Halibel, also opting to stick with swordplay for now, didn’t seem so amused. She noticed Apacci joining them with a barrage of Balas from her cannon.

“Take that, ya little shits!” Apacci yelled.

“Apacci, please conduct yourself with a bit more dignity,” Halibel urged her.

“Dignity? Screw that!” Kisame yelled. “You let ‘em have it, Apacci!”

Going by the continued shouts, Apacci seemed to have taken the Ninja’s advice. Halibel glowered at him for that. “Could you not encourage her?”

Kisame just laughed at that, much to Halibel’s chagrin.

Back at the castle, General Gomog was in a state of near-breakdown. “This can’t be happening!” He saw his army being completely overwhelmed by the Atlantean reinforcements. Then, he turned to the castle garrison, who had started to push back his original front line. Enraged, the general saw the wounded Tsuyu towards the rear. Unsheathing his sword, he began to charge, making impressive distance despite his limp. “These wretches will PAY!”

“Tsu!” Momo ran to intercept the mad Samebito general. She raised her staff, blocking his first strike. Snarling, he quickly raised his sword again, bringing down a much stronger strike. The crippled Samebito easily cut the staff in half, along with leaving a severe gash on Momo’s collarbone and breast. Kicking the Pro aside with his good leg, Gomog began running forward again, eager to at least cut one of those interfering bastards apart.

Then, a massive blue blur punched him in the stomach, hard. “Leave my student alone,” came Jinbe’s coldly furious voice. The Fishman roared as he leaped forward, the Samebito general screaming in pain. He slammed Gomog on the face of the Bai Tza statue. Not done yet, Jinbe called up his Haki. “Black Shark Skin: 10,000 Brick Fist!!”

“AAUUGGHHH!” CRASH! Jinbe had used Gomog’s body to utterly obliterate the massive idol. The pieces came crashing down, and the water dissipated without the demonic statue’s power. The general’s pulverized corpse flew over his whole army, meaning everyone realized what had happened.

Even Kisame paused at the sight. “Wow, wonder what he did to piss off Jinbe so much?”

Seeing both their general and goddess so easily destroyed, the Samebitos ran for it. Their retreat turned into utter disarray, making them easy pickings for the Atlantean cavalry.

Within minutes, the few Samebitos left had run off on the seafloor. The rest lay dead, the receding tide bringing their bodies back to the ocean. At least, what was left of them after the sharks had their fill. Just like that, the battle was over.

Korra ran into the castle, head turning frantically. She saw Asami, who just finished welding together a gash on Franky’s arm. “Huh…there’s something you don’t see every day.”

“Asami!”

“Korra?”

The Avatar zoomed forward, and started spinning her wife around. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Asami ran her fingers through Korra’s hair. “Don’t know how long we’d have lasted without these guys showing up.” She gestured towards Jinbe watching over Tsu and Momo being treated. To the side, Franky, Brook, and Usopp were talking and laughing. Juvia was already starting to help patch up the breaches in the wall.

Asami frowned as a thought came to mind. “How did you get past the rearguard so quickly?”

“That’s actually a funny story,” Vulko walked up to them, bowing his head slightly. “By the time we got here…those two had already taken care of them.” The Atlantean pointed out Kisame and Halibel, who were already attracting stares from the Ninja and Soul Reapers present.

“Those two had taken care of them,” a voice mockingly imitated Vulko. “Am I a JOKE to you?” Apacci stomped up and got in the man’s face, cannon strapped to her back.

As Vulko began to apologize, Halibel simply sighed at her rambunctious friend.

By now, the sun had set. With the defenses reasonably patched up, those who weren’t the night watch were heading to the barracks for some rest. They deserved it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: Perspective

Dawn broke over Samebito Island, signaling an end to Halibel’s watch. Once her relief had shown up, she made her way to the makeshift hospital tents.

“AHH!”

A short figure had walked out at the same time, bonking his head against her breasts before falling down again. Annoyed, Halibel glowered at the newcomer. Turns out, he was a Soul Reaper, judging by his black garb, which agitated her even more.

“What are doing?” she asked, frigidly.

“Umm,” said Soul Reaper was utterly terrified. “Well…I was just finished up with my patient and uh…she wanted me to find her friends…and uh…”

Shaking her head, Halibel walked past him. She opened the tent to see Jinbe and Juvia sitting next to Tsuyu and Momo. The Pro-Heroes were bandaged up, and had recovered enough to sit up on her bed. Momo’s arm sat in a sling. All four turned to the new arrival in the middle of their ‘Fishman Karate’ conversation.

“I see that you’re recovering. Have they been treating you well?” Halibel questioned her new friend.

“Don’t worry about me, ribbet,” Tsuyu responded. “Hanatoro knows what he’s doing. He says I’ll be ready to fight again tomorrow.” She gestured to the young Soul Reaper, who squeaked when Halibel stared at him.

Jinbe raised an eyebrow. “Do you two know each other?”

“Uh…well…that is to say…I’ve heard about Queen Halibel…but…” Hanatoro stumbled over his words.

“No,” Halibel’s tone immediately shut the young man up. “I made it a point to avoid Soul Reapers and Quincy as much as possible.”

The girls’ eyes widened, having been unaware of their friend’s former royal status. Jinbe simply gave an exasperated sigh.

“Come on Halibel, you’re scaring him,” the Fishman pointed out.

The Hollow scoffed, thinking to herself that this had to be the most pathetic Soul Reaper she’d ever seen. Granted, she’d only ever seen the forces brought to bear against Aizen and Yhwach, plus the rare captain sent to check in on her.

Halibel turned to Hanatoro, who quickly stood at attention. “Thank you for treating my friend.” The humble Soul Reaper was absolutely stunned as she bowed her head.

“Hoo…is this really happening?” Hanatoro asked himself. “Is the Queen of the Hollows really bowing to me? I don’t know what to say…I don’t know what to do…I don’t know…”

“You’re much more skittish than any other Soul Reaper I’ve met,” Halibel couldn’t help but point out.

“Ehehehe…”the healer nervously laughed. “Well…you’re not exactly what I expected either.”

The Hollow raised an eyebrow at that. “And what does Soul Society have to say about me?”

“Umm…” Hanataro paused, not exactly sure if he should be a gossip with such an intimidating woman.

“Go on, I won’t bite,” Halibel softly added.

“Funny you should put it that way,” Hanataro mumbled before slamming his palms over his mouth, blushing in embarrassment.

“Elaborate,” the Hollow narrowed her eyes, having a feeling about where this was going.

“Well…I heard that you were a giant shark-monster that drowned and devoured anyone who dared to enter Hueco Mundo…and that any male Hollows that tried to mate with you would have their…” Hanataro didn’t get any further as he squeaked in terror. ‘Holy Crap, she’s really close now!!’

“For your sake…don’t finish that sentence,” Halibel coolly ‘advised’ him. In the back, Jinbe was hiding his chuckling. The girls were shivering at the ‘lovely’ mental image of Halibel doing…that.

‘Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to Rangiku’s stories at the bar,’ Hanataro frantically thought to himself. ‘WAIT…did the Lieutenant say that just to MESS WITH ME?’

Far away to the West, a busty Soul Reaper with long, orange hair sneezed in a bar.

“Bless you, my…bosom…buddy,” A large man with a mane of long, white hair gave a lecherous, drunken giggle at his own pun.

“Aww…thanks, Jiraiya!” Rangiku slurred as she passed him more sake.

Back to the story, Hanataro trembled before he remembered the rest of that drunken conversation, with an irate Captain Hitsugaya coming in and setting the record straight.

“Wait! That’s not it! You’re remembered as a strong and honorable warrior. To actually bring order and stability to Hueco Mundo is completely unheard of. And camaraderie amongst Hollows…Wow! You achieved the impossible!”

Halibel raised an eyebrow at the young Soul Reaper’s rambling, honestly surprised that such a positive outlook was present amongst the Hollow’s sworn enemy. Plus, she’d always dealt with suspicion on the rare occasions she met with Soul Reaper captains, who remembered the battles against Aizen and the Espada.

“Ahh…I forgot…Momo!” Hanataro stumbled over to his patient, with Halibel side-stepping to avoid his clumsy walk. “The collarbone is going to take awhile to get back in shape, although I’ve managed to repair the torn muscles and ligaments.”

“I see,” Momo smiled at the healer. “Thank you for your efforts. You’re really a miracle worker.”

“Oh, it was nothing…just a nasty cut was all. You’d have been okay without me…” Hanatoro mumbled.

“Nonsense,” another patient laughed. “Don’t sell yourself short, you’re a fine medic. Only the Leaf had better back in my world.”

This stranger sat up, revealing himself as a Ninja. A younger Ninja who was wearing a headband that was very familiar to the Cutty Sark’s crew, minus the scratch mark of course.

“Pleased to meet y’all…name’s Kiri,” the Mist Ninja said.

Halibel and Jinbe raised their eyebrows.

“Yeah…my parents were feeling patriotic when naming me,” Kiri chuckled. “Although…I’m surprised you know enough about the Ninja World to get that.”

“To be completely honest,” Tsuyu interjected, “Kisame hasn’t really told us that much about his home.”

The Mist Ninja grimaced when he heard that name. “So…that really was him.” Kiri couldn’t help but shudder.

Hanataro walked over to his friend. “What’s wrong?”

Kiri ignored him and gave a hard look towards the others. “How long has Kisame Hoshigaki been traveling with you?” The previous humor in his voice was completely gone.

On guard, Jinbe answered. “Halibel and I ‘woke up’ at the same time he did. We were all at La Entrada.”

Kiri sighed. “Look, you all seem like good people, and I’m grateful to you all saving this Castle. So, I’ll give you some advice. Watch your backs…and don’t let Kisame Hoshigaki out of your sights.”

“Why?” Halibel felt compelled to ask, though she had a feeling she knew the answer.

“Did he do something wrong?” Tsuyu asked.

Kiri gave a mirthless bark of a laugh. “Girl, that monster was the worst traitorous criminal in the Hidden Mist’s history. He killed hundreds of his own comrades before he even joined those damn Akatsuki. Everyone left had either lost someone or knew someone who did. Thank God that Lady Mei was there to drive him out.”

Tsuyu and Juvia were sitting in absolute shock, wondering if their new friend was truly capable of such a thing. Momo put a hand to her mouth, not trusting herself to speak. Jinbe’s fists clenched, recalling that bloodlust he sensed the first time he ‘heard’ Kisame. Still, the Fishman reminded himself that Kisame had done nothing on their voyage to indicate untrustworthiness. Didn’t make it any less concerning to hear though. Halibel looked at the closed tent flaps.

Kiri’s voice rose as he continued. “When the villages united to finally stop the Akatsuki from taking over…Kisame snuck in and stole intelligence on our entire army. Thousands died because of what was on that scroll of his.” The young man shook before suddenly stopping. “Sorry…bad memories.” Hanataro put a soothing hand on his shoulder.

“No,” Tsuyu’s voice softly broke the silence. “He wouldn’t.”

“He did,” Kiri coldly replied. “Get it through your head. Kisame Hoshigaki doesn’t give a damn about loyalty or comrades…not after everything he did to his country. And if he’s led you to believe otherwise…he’s a liar. I’m begging you all to make sure he can’t hurt anyone else.”

Hearing something, Halibel started walking out. “Your honesty’s appreciated,” she said before exiting.

Jinbe turned to Tsuyu and Juvia, and spoke low enough so that only they could hear. “Listen, while there’s obviously more to this story, this young man has no reason to lie to us.” The two girls met his gaze in surprise at that. “Before either of you say or do anything to Kisame you might regret…I want you to consider this. This is still the man who put himself on the line to help us bring down Torafuzar and Ursula.”

Tsuyu and Juvia looked down contemplatively. Jinbe continued. “I’m not asking you to blindly trust him or treat him with suspicion. Just keep an open mind…and trust in your own judgments.” He paused, wondering how often he’d heard those sort of words about Humans before finally taking them to heart.

Tsuyu met her Sensei’s gaze. “All right.”

“Well,” Juvia mused. “This is called the Sea of Second Chances after all.”

Jinbe couldn’t help but chuckle at that viewpoint. That in turn lent a small smile on Tsuyu.

After a few steps outside the tent, Halibel paused. “I assume you heard all that.” It wasn’t even a question at this point.

“Yeah,” Kisame responded before he grinned. “Who’d have thought that the Soul Reapers had such interesting stories about you?” He chuckled when Halibel growled at that.

The Hollow sighed. “You’re smart enough to know that wasn’t what I was talking about…so please quit deflecting.”

Kisame’s grin quickly vanished as he bowed his head.

“What could I say…that the kid was right?” Kisame wondered. “I’m the Monster that the Hidden Mist always wanted. There’s no redemption for what I did to earn that title.”

Halibel waited, but Kisame didn’t elaborate further. Admittedly, she was unsettled at how quiet he had gotten. The Ninja started to walk away.

“Wait,” Halibel spoke up. “Did you think that the words of a complete stranger would be enough to break my trust in you? Do you really think that little of me?”

That got Kisame to pause. He slowly turned back to face her, surprised.

“I want you to listen to me,” the Hollow stated with the utmost seriousness as she looked him right in the eye. “As loath as I am to admit it sometimes…you’re my friend, Kisame.”

Halibel couldn’t help but chuckle at how shocked the Ninja looked.

“Huh?”

“I mean it,” Halibel asserted.

Kisame gave a smile far softer than his usual toothy leer. “Thanks.” The two stood there silently for a bit.

“Anyway,” Halibel changed topics. “Did you come by to check on Tsu?” He nodded. “She’s alright and is able to move again.”

“Good to know,” the Ninja muttered.

By that point, the two had wandered to the other side of the castle, where raised voices were breaking the usual tranquility of the dawn.

“NO!” Apacci’s shouting could be heard.

Halibel sighed. “What now?”

To her bemusement, she saw Apacci clutching her cannon like a newborn, constantly trying to keep it out of arm’s reach of Asami.

“Can I please just get one look at it?” Asami nearly begged. The inventor was just dying to know how the thing worked, fascinated at the prospect of two worlds’ tech already being merged within it.

“NO!” Apacci walked back. “You’re not dissecting my baby!”

“It’s not dissecting,” Asami insisted. “At most, I’ll just make an incision and…”

“I KNEW IT! You DO want to take my baby apart!” The younger Hollow seemed beyond reason at this point as she pointed an accusatory finger.

“Korra…could you help me here?” the inventor pleaded with her wife.

“Sorry,” the Avatar shrugged from her seat. “This tech stuff is all way over my head.” She seemed far too amused with her wife’s so-far futile efforts.

“Franky…can’t you talk some sense into her?”

The cyborg didn’t respond, so engrossed was he in examining one of Asami’s mech suits. Usopp was walking him through the basics of the technical marvel. Sasori stood off to the side, trying and failing to seem disinterested. Giving up the ghost, the puppet master took out a notebook and started jotting his observations down, particularly interested in how such powerful electrical bursts could be manufactured without Chakra. Brook simply tuned his violin, somehow blocking everything out.

“Apacci,” Halibel’s stern voice came out of nowhere, causing everyone to jump, much to Kisame’s amusement. “Let Asami do her examination. I’m sure she’ll give it back just as it was. Won’t she?”

“You have my word,” Asami answered without hesitation.

Still reluctant, but not wanting to disappoint Halibel, Apacci put the cannon down.

“Thanks,” Asami told Halibel before kneeling down. Just as she was about to begin…

“Excuse me,” General Vulko wandered up.

Asami took a deep breath as she clenched and unclenched her fists. “Yes?” she asked through gritted teeth.

“You available to discuss our agreement? We need to iron out the details of what exactly we need to bring you back from Atlantis, on top of establishing a more permanent military presence,” the general insisted.

Korra got up. “I can handle that…you just have fun with your new toy,” she kissed Asami, who sighed as she got up.

“No, I need to be there. Can’t have you messing up the little details,” Asami snarked.

The Avatar gave a look of mock-offense. “What? You don’t trust my political expertise?”

“What political expertise?” Asami gave a good-natured smirk.

“That’s mean,” Korra pouted. “You’re sleeping on the couch tonight.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“HMM” Vulko cleared his throat, not comfortable with where that conversation could go.

“Yeah, yeah, we’re coming,” Korra assured him.

“Before that though, Ms. Halibel, Mr. Kisame,” Vulko called out to them. “I’d like to have a word with you and your crew.”

“Sure,” Halibel replied. “I’ll go get Jinbe and the girls.”

A few minutes later, the whole crew had assembled. Tsuyu and Momo’s sides were covered in bandages, but they seemed to be moving around just fine. All of them had taken a seat, with the Atlantean at the head of the table.

“First,” Vulko gave a slight bow of his head. “I can’t thank you all enough for your efforts in protecting this Castle and its people. You have Atlantis’ gratitude.”

Jinbe returned the bow. “Happy to help.”

“If you ever run across any Atlanteans on your journey, show them this and mention my name.” He handed the Fishman an official-looking sealed scroll. “They’ll help you with whatever you need.”

“We appreciate the gesture,” Halibel gave a little head-bow of her own.

“Speaking of your journey, are you truly going to head to Tamatoa’s Hoard?” Vulko asked with a hint of concern.

Kisame raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, what of it?”

“If it’s about the guardian,” Franky interjected, “I’m sure this SUPER crew can take it down.”

Vulko didn’t seem convinced. “Regardless of the guardian…there’s something else. What most people don’t know is that a few have managed to get past the monster that lives there.”

“Really?” a confused Juvia wondered.

“Granted, none of them actually beat Tamatoa himself, they did it by tricking him. But that’s not the issue.”

His audience waited with bated breath. “If what I’ve heard is true…that treasure is dangerous. Everyone who took even a piece of gold was driven mad, by what I don’t know. Every single man and woman eventually went back…but Tamatoa does not forgive those who parted him from even a single coin.”

Korra and Asami looked around to see the reactions to that little ominous tale. Usopp and Hanataro were shaking in their boots, while Momo, Tsuyu, and Juvia couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. Jinbe, Franky, and Brook seemed a tad apprehensive. Halibel and Apacci exchanged a look. As for the Ninjas, Sasori couldn’t care less. As for Kisame…

“Hehehe…sounds fun. Now I’m even more excited to get there,” the former Akatsuki gave a ferocious grin. Halibel and Jinbe gave him a look that seemed to say ‘Are you serious?’ before sighing to themselves. Usopp and Hanataro were slowly backing away from the Ninja.

“I’ll admit,” Vulko continued. “I’m just going off of rumors, but I’m a Historian, and I know when there’s truth behind wild stories and tales. So, please be careful.”

“Thank you for letting us know,” Juvia told the General.

“One more thing,” Vulko pulled out another folded up piece of paper. ‘Seriously, how deep are those pockets?’ Apacci asked herself. ‘Are there even pockets on that thing?’

Jinbe opened it up to reveal a very comprehensive map of the Sea of Second Chances. It showed islands of varying sizes spread out in a vaguely triangular shape, with miles upon miles of sea separating them. Outside of that, it was nothing but open ocean. Jinbe was scanning it, finding Atlantis somewhere in the middle, and glanced at the far western tip of this triangle. There were two black dots, labeled Scylla and Charybdis. Vulko had drawn in a little circle beyond that, with ‘Fiddler’s Green?’ written over it. Seeing nothing else of note, Jinbe stowed the map away.

The Fishman then offered a hand to the General. “We humbly accept this gracious gift of yours.”

“Think nothing of it,” Vulko chuckled as he shook the big blue hand. “Still, I know you’ll be needing it.” He paused, before looking back to the others. “I think that’s everything. Let us know when you’re departing, we’ll get enough supplies for you to last til the next settlement.”

“We will,” Jinbe promised as he started leading the Cutty Sark’s crew out. Eventually, it was just Vulko, Korra, Asami, Momo, Usopp, and Hanataro.

The Avatar raised an eyebrow at the sniper. “What’s up?”

“Um…well…I,” Usopp struggled with his words.

Asami gave a gentle smile. “I know you want to head out with them.”

“But, but, but,” Usopp stammered. “There’s still a ton to do. I can’t possibly leave when we’re rebuilding.”

Momo clapped his shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll be fine. Come on, it’s your crew…your family.”

Usopp was quiet for a minute. Then, he gave a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

“I assure you that my garrison will protect this island. You and the crew can come back anytime,” Vulko promised him.

“I…I don’t know what to say,” the Sniper took a seat to get it together.

Moving along, Vulko turned to Hanataro. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

“Umm…” the Soul Reaper gave a weak smile. “What?”

“I’d like for you to go with them.”

“HUH?! Why?”

Vulko lowered his voice so only the Soul Reaper could hear. “The way they’re going, that crew is going to attract a lot of attention…and not the friendly kind. They need a healer.”

“But why would the Hollow Queen and her equals need a wimp like me?” Hanataro gave a dejected look to the ground.

“Because you’re better than you think you are. You’re the only reason this garrison was able to fight on until Usopp and Momo dropped in. And even the greatest warriors can get hurt.” Vulko’s tone quickly changed. “And we both know how dangerous this sea can get. Sooner or later, they’ll need help getting back up again. I know that you’re more than capable of being that support.” ‘And I don’t trust that redhead who says he’s their healer,’ Vulko added to himself.

The Atlantean knelt down to eye level with Hanataro. “My boy, you’ll do us all proud no matter what you do.”

Nearly overwhelmed by such faith, Hanataro shut his eyes to stop the tears. Not trusting himself to speak, the Soul Reaper settled with a nod.

“I’m sure you’ll fit right in with that lot.”

(Next Morning)

“HELL NO! We’re not letting this little bitch of a Soul Reaper tag along!”

Hanataro had put himself into a Corner of Woe at Apacci’s harsh words. Halibel pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation.

“Until you can learn to put someone’s arm back in place…I don’t want to hear that from you,” the elder Hollow sternly told her junior. “And you will give your due respect to anyone travelling on this ship. Is. That. Clear?”

Apacci scoffed and stomped up to the Cutty Sark. The ship had been loaded up and was ready to go. All that was left was ‘goodbye’.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” Tsuyu asked Momo. Unlike the frog girl, Momo was still heavily bandaged up, with her arm in a sling. Juvia stood nearby, making sure that Tsuyu really was all right.

“Yeah…I’d only weigh you down like this. Besides, I want to help out here just a bit more.” The Creation Hero paused as an idea sprang to mind. “You know, maybe I could set this up as a sanctuary for anyone from our world.”

Tsuyu smiled. “That’s a great idea. I hate to admit this, but not all of our classmates would make it very far in this Sea without help.”

“Of course. With Atlantis’ help, I’m hoping we can create a line of defense around the ‘Entrance’ Islands, so we can keep the civilians safe at least.”

“Speaking of which…have you seen anyone else from 1-A?” Tsuyu wondered.

“Oh yeah, Uraraka came by a few months ago with this blind swordsman called Issho. Lord, this man was almost 3 meters tall. There was a Samebito raiding party…and he just squashed them flat…literally.” She realized she was getting off-topic. “Oh, here…” Momo created a blank sheet of paper, and started writing down a series of numbers. “This is Uraraka’s. When you get the chance, give her a call, I know she’ll appreciate it.”

“Umm…Momo,” Tsuyu hated popping her overeager friend’s bubble. “Our ship doesn’t have a phone.”

The frog girl was taken aback when Momo simply chuckled. “Don’t worry…Asami’s taking care of that.”

Further down the pier, Kisame and Halibel were staring, completely befuddled. “Asami,” the Hollow wondered if she should question the inventor’s sanity. “Why are you giving us a snail?”

“And why is that other snail giving me the stink-eye?” Kisame asked. Behind Asami, a shorter, stockier snail was indeed glowering at the Ninja.

“Don’t mind Brain,” Asami waved it off. “He just doesn’t like strangers. I promise that Pinky is much more friendly.”

Jinbe’s mouth was hanging open. “How were you able to get your hands on a Den-Den Mushi?”

“Well,” Asami started scratching the snail’s head, earning a look of pure adoration form the creature. “These little guys washed up from a shipwreck, just skin and bone. Their tech had been completely shattered. It took me months to figure it out and repair it. That’s when I realized that the snails had a psychic connection with each other that could reach all across the sea. Apparently, my smart little boy had told every snail around that there was an island where they’d be taken care of this way. So more of them stowed away on every ship that came. And here we are.”

“Fascinating,” Jinbe gently picked up Pinky and the tech attached to him. “It really is a nice reminder of home.”

“Wait a second,” Kisame interrupted.

“You’re telling me that all of the Grand Line’s long-range communications was done by snail?” Halibel finished for him.

“Nonsense, snails only did most of it,” Jinbe replied. “Some of it was through albatross and bats.”

Kisame and Halibel face-faulted. “That’s not the point!” both retorted in unison.

“HMM” Asami cleared her throat and held out a paper with a number. “If you ever want to contact us…just call. Someone will always be within hearing distance of Brain.”

Not done yet, Asami held out three Baby Den-Den Mushi.

Jinbe eagerly took them, passing one to the Ninja and Hollow each. “I’ll distribute these around the crew…so we’ll always be in touch.”

“Remember…those are only good for a few miles,” she was now addressing Kisame and Halibel, who were now gingerly examining their new living accessories. “Oh…and I’ve already made sure there’s enough lettuce for them.”

“You really don’t do anything halfway,” Korra couldn’t help but comment.

“I say that it’s much appreciated,” Jinbe jokingly came to Asami’s defense.

“See,” said inventor was gesturing to the Fishman. “At least he seems to think ahead consistently.”

“Hey,” Korra gave a look of mock-hurt.

Jinbe laughed at the couple. “I hope you two do well. It was truly a pleasure meeting you.”

“Yeah,” Korra gave a surprisingly strong slap to the Fishman’s back. “If you three find everyone you’re looking for, why don’t y’all come back this way? I’m dying to test my Waterbending against you.”

Kisame smirked. “Please…my little sharks could manipulate water better than you. You wouldn’t stand a chance against me.”

“Oh yeah?” Korra gave her own confident smirk.

“Really, Kisame?” Halibel put a hand to her forehead. “Can’t you go one island without taunting anyone? It’s like you enjoy riling people up.”

The Ninja started slowly clapping. “Give the Hollow a prize, she figured it out.”

Having had enough, Halibel walked up to the ship. “You know, you’re truly insufferable sometimes.”

Kisame turned back to Korra and Asami. “Seriously though, I’d love to fight you someday. I know you’d make it fun. So stay alive until then, got it?”

Korra grinned. “Sure!”

Asami shook her head. “I just don’t get it,” she mumbled.

“Come on, pipsqueak,” Kisame sighed as he slung Hanataro (incidentally removing him from the Corner of Woe) over his shoulder and plopped him onto the deck.

“Well, thank you again for the shelter and provisions.” Jinbe bowed again.

“Don’t mention it. Just send any Benders you meet our way, and we’ll call it even,” Asami decided.

“I will,” the Fishman promised with utmost sincerity before walking up.

With that, the whole crew had boarded. After Sasori grumbled about them ‘keeping him waiting’, he got to his usual position. The rest of the crew, except grumpy Apacci, waved ‘goodbye’. Even Halibel gave a small wave with Kisame doing a mock-salute.

Back on shore, Momo gave a momentary glance to Kisame, and turned towards Kiri in the crowd, remembering his words from the day before. Sighing, she turned back towards Tsuyu, deciding to trust in her friend’s judgment. Despite that, she couldn’t quite squash the sense of unease. ‘Maybe I’ll share it with Uraraka when I call tonight. Shoto did say it wasn’t healthy to bottle these things up.’

(Later that day)

“OH MY GOSH, TSU!” the Den-Den Mushi gained a blush and large brown eyes as it nearly screamed at Tsuyu. “How are you? I’ve been worried sick about everyone.”

“I’m fine,” Tsuyu assured her. “Hanataro patched me up real good.”

“Patched up? Oh my goodness! Are you hurt? Who was it? What was it? Was it a Samebito or Fiji or animal or…”

“Ochaco…you’re starting to mumble like Midoriya.”

“Oh…sorry. Anyway, I’m so happy to hear from you. What have you been up to?” Uraraka wondered.

“Well…” Tsuyu walked her old friend through everything. It was hard to talk about what happened with Torafuzar, but the frog-girl lightened up considerably when she started regaling Uraraka of the Cutty Sark’s adventures.

“Wow, your crew sounds so amazing,” Uraraka gushed. “Especially this Jinbe guy…and he’s your sensei too…that’s so sweet!”

Tsuyu heard a door opening on the other end. “My, my, young Uraraka. You’ve been in here quite a while. Must be a real friend you’ve got there.” The Den-Den Mushi had assumed a more wrinkled face, and its eyes suddenly lacked pupils until the other speaker came on the line.

“YES!” Uraraka shouted in surprise. “Yes, Issho-Sensei.”

“Puhpuhpuhpuh! I can ‘hear’ how much lighter your voice is. It’s good that you’ve found some friends from your world doing well. It’ll help your focus and training.”

“Hehehe…Oh! Tsu…this is my sensei, Issho. Issho, this is my friend, Tsuyu Asui.”

“Ah,” Issho smiled over the Den-Den Mushi. “Nice to meet another of the infamous Class 1-A.”

“Ribbet, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear from earlier. Did you say your Sensei was Jinbe?” the former Admiral Fujitora wondered.

“Yeah, he’s teaching me Fishman Karate,” Tsuyu replied in that matter-of-fact way of hers.

“Puhpuhpuh…seems I wasn’t the only one who had the idea to train a Pro-Hero. Although, I’ve always wondered how effective that martial art is for non-Fishmen.”

“Hold on, Issho-Sensei. You know this Jinbe?” Uraraka asked.

“Not personally. At most, we ran into each other once or twice when…” Memories of the final battles that rocked his world to the core played through his mind, when the horrible truths of the World Government were revealed to all. “…when everything changed.”

His student gave a sympathetic pat to her Sensei’s arm. “I’m fine, Uraraka.”

Issho got up. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Tsuyu. Give my regards to the rest of your crew.”

“I will. Thanks for taking care of Uraraka.”

“TSU!” her fellow Pro-Hero did her best to sound indignant.

“Puhpuhpuh! Anytime, Tsu.”

“Alrighty…sorry to cut this off, but I do need to get to training. Can you believe Issho-Sensei’s already got me to where I can use my Quirk for half-a-day without puking? At this rate, I’ll be able to keep up with Kagura-senpai any day now.”

“That’s amazing Ochaco. I’ll call again sometime this week. How about Friday?”

“Sounds good. Maybe we’ll be able to arrange a face-to-face meeting next time.”

“I’d like that,” Tsuyu replied. “See you soon.”

“Catch ya later,” the Den-Den Mushi beamed at Tsuyu before a “Gacha” and the snail fell asleep.

OoOoOoO

“HUH?!” All the Straw Hats were utterly shocked when Tsuyu told them about the conversation. Even Jinbe’s mouth had fallen open.

Usopp got right in her face. “Your Friend’s Being Trained By AN ADMIRAL?!”

Tsuyu put a finger to her chin. “Guess so. I take it they’re strong?”

Jinbe decided to clarify things. “Tsuyu, the Admirals were THE strongest fighters in all the Marines, surpassed only by the Fleet Admiral himself. A single one of them cutting loose is enough to destroy an entire island. Even I wouldn’t be able to defeat anyone who held the title. And unless they got ridiculously lucky, I doubt Kisame or Halibel could either. At best, all of us working together could bring down one...but it wouldn’t be without cost.”

That last bit got everyone’s attention, since it gave a stark frame of reference for those not from the Grand Line. Even Kisame paused, having enough respect for Jinbe’s strength and intelligence to be worried at such a bleak chance.

Tsuyu tried to process the idea of her friend under such a powerful Sensei. “What about Issho himself? What could he do?”

Jinbe brought a hand to his chin. “I heard that he ate the Stomp-Stomp Fruit, allowing him to control gravity. He’s also a master of Observation Haki, and no slouch at Armament, which is quite effective when combined with his swordplay.”

“Gravity huh?” Tsuyu wondered as she looked up. “Someone must be looking out for Uraraka. Her Quirk is ‘Zero Gravity’, meaning she reduce the gravity of anything she touches with all five fingers.”

“Sounds impressive,” Brook admitted.

“Yeah…but she gets nauseous if she overuses it. Still, she says she’ll surpass her fellow student if she’s able to get that under control?”

“Fellow student?” Franky asked.

“Yeah…I think she said her name was Kagura,” Tsuyu recalled.

“Wait…you can’t mean,” Juvia spoke up.

“Come on, spit it out,” Kisame egged her on.

“Kagura Mikazuchi was Mermaid Heel’s Swordswoman,” Juvia explained. “She had Gravity Change Magic. She was a dependable ally after the Grand Magic Games, but is it really her?”

“Considering this sea,” Apacci piped up. “That’s a sucker’s bet.”

“Hmm,” Halibel sat in thought. “Don’t you all find this pattern odd?”

“What pattern?” Usopp asked.

“Think about it,” Jinbe picked up, figuring out what Halibel was getting at. “Two Gravity-wielders just happen to run into my world’s master on the subject.”

“Not to mention,” Kisame added as he gestured to his fellow water-users. “The three of us woke up at the same island, on the same day, at near-exact the same time.”

“Okay…that’s weird now that you mention it,” Franky admitted.

“Let’s not stop there,” Kisame went on. “You and Sasori just happened to wake up in a Shipyard, the most convenient place for your skills to be put in use.” Said puppeteer glowered at his fellow Akatsuki for the insinuation.

“Oh, shit.” Apacci quietly started putting the pieces together.

Halibel and Jinbe were now very deep in thought.

“What are you saying?” Hanataro asked, finally starting to get the courage to speak up.

Halibel had an angry look in her eye. “Someone is pulling all our strings.” Needless to say, she didn’t appreciate the feeling of being manipulated again after so many centuries after Aizen.

“But why this way?” Brook wondered. “Jinbe, I’ve seen your Fishman Karate and Haki are getting stronger. And I’m sure that’s because of Kisame and Halibel pushing you. I’m sure that applies to every other group like ours. So why would this higher power put so many powerful people in a position to become stronger?”

“A blunt instrument,” Kisame quickly concluded. “We’re all being pointed at something.”

“But what could possibly require so many different worlds’ worth of warriors to bring down?” Halibel anxiously wondered.

“I’ve got a feeling that we’ll find out eventually,” Jinbe predicted.

OoOoOoO

Back at Shipwreck Cove, Burns had collapsed. His entire body was shaking. Spot was whining at its master’s pain.

“SIR!” A couple of toga-wearing dock workers ran over and picked him up.

“Thank you,” came the weak reply. “Can you get me back home and lay me down?”

“Sure, but isn’t there more we can do?” one man asked.

“Yeah,” Burns took a shaky breath. “Send word to my wife, Persephone. I don’t know how much time I have left.”

“Don’t talk like that, Sir.”

“I’ve used up what little power I had left,” Burns solemnly noted. “But it’s not enough. I need…to…keep it going.”

Thanks to his influence, Burns had another pair of souls meet up. A Ninja Swordsman and his Ice-using protégé landed on an island run by one of Burns’ allies. He took a deep breath. “Damn it…that’ll have to do for now.”

“Sir, if you push yourself, you’ll die before Persephone gets here,” one of the workers pointed out.

“I know. Just take me home, for now,” ‘Burns’ decided. Spot led the way.

“At once, Lord Hades.”

(A few days later)

“Hmm…so this is Old Nile,” a deep voice mused as he closed in on a humble island. He could see a modest town at the mouth of a river. Beyond that, there were miles of forest and savannah. It almost seemed like his old home.

“Master Gustave!” A large jaguar called out from the ship behind him. The crocodile turned to listen. “All of us are ready to depart.”

“Very good, Balam. Remember to keep everyone alive until we find Mr. Silver, we’ll need to interrogate them if he’s not in the town.” Gustave started shrinking, with his limbs growing out.

“I’ll remind our soldiers,” the jaguar bowed his head. As Balam turned, Gustave finished his transformation. Now, he appeared to be a mix of man and crocodile. He carried himself like a human, but his teeth and claws were still present. Plus, his scaly skin and tail remained to bolster his strength. A long snout sniffed the air.

“Soon, I’ll find the last remnant of the Heathen Gods that defeated my Master. Then, Lord Cipactli will truly become invincible. Not even Poseidon or Jones will be able to stop it,” Gustave proclaimed as he stomped onto the beach, his pack of enhanced animals behind him.

(An hour later)

The Cutty Sark had halted in its course. “GUYS!” Usopp called out from the Crow’s Nest, his Observation Haki going haywire.

“What’d you see?” Jinbe quickly asked.

“There’s 50 monsters tearing through the town on Old Nile. And one of them…his ‘voice’ was strong…as strong as any of yours’.” The sniper glanced at Jinbe, Halibel, and Kisame.

“What are they doing?” Hanataro wondered.

Usopp focused through the many ‘voices’. To his surprise, none of them stopped, meaning that not a single soul had perished. “Half the monsters are rounding up the villagers without killing them. The other half is starting to spread out through the forest and plain.” The sniper paused.

“They’re looking for something…or someone,” Kisame realized. “The dead don’t speak after all.”

Jinbe brought a hand to his chin. “And where’s the leader?”

“In the center of town,” Usopp observed. “Where all the people are being taken.”

“Describe the Island to me.” Jinbe ordered his crewmate.

“Around twenty square miles. Aside from the town, which has around 100 buildings, it’s six miles worth of plains. The rest is forest.

“How are the monsters distributed?” Jinbe pressed on.

“Ten are in the plains. Fifteen are in the forests. The rest are either surrounding the town, or with their leader.” Usopp informed them.

Jinbe took all this information in, weighing it against what he knew his crew was capable of.

“All right, I’ve got a plan,” Jinbe declared as he handed Halibel and Kisame a baby Den-Den Mushi each, while also pocketing the last one for himself. “With a little luck, we’ll be able to end this without any casualties.”

So, the Cutty Sark prepared, ready to take on this new threat.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: Divide and Conquer

Gustave stood atop a building at the center of town, observing his troops. An enhanced Howler Monkey walked up to him. “Sir, we’ve scoured the town, but no sign of Mr. Silver. All residents have been assembled for questioning. Balam dispatched 10 of us to the plains, and is personally leading 14 others through the forests.”

“Very good,” Gustave rumbled as he leaped down from the roof, the ground shaking when he landed. He then turned his attention to the hundred or so humans.

“Hear me, and rejoice!” he bellowed to the people. “All of you have the unique opportunity to give meaning to your worthless lives. Tell us where Mr. Silver is, and we shall bestow the blessings of Lord Cipactli upon thee!”

Not a single man, woman, or child even looked up at the offer. The man-crocodile hybrid glowered at the lack of reaction, roughly grabbing the closest man and bringing him to eye-level.

“GAH! I don’t know who this Mr. Silver is!”

“You dare impede the grand design of my master?!” Gustave asked, his temper rising. Still, he knew that simply killing the humans wouldn’t do any good to his goal.

“We’re not impeding anything!” a young girl protested. “We’re just trying to make a living.”

A glare from Gustave quickly silenced her. Throwing the man aside, Gustave stalked towards her. He knelt down, looking her dead in the eye. “Tell me…have you seen a big man recently? His right arm, leg, and eye are all metal.”

The girl tensed at that. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh…I think you do. Only people about to lie tense up like you did. And not very good liars at that,” Gustave grinned, showing off sharp teeth.

“Well, men!” Gustave spoke up. “It seems this town has a dirty little secret.” The joke got a round of mean-spirited cackling from the enhanced animals. “Mr. Silver was here…and these quaint little townsfolk know it.” The humans all tensed.

“Make them pay for daring to stand in Lord Cipactli’s way. Burn everything down,” Gustave commanded.

Before his animals could follow his command, a bright yellow flash erupted from the plains. At the same time, Gustave heard the screams of his fellow animals coming out of the forest. “What is happening? Who DARES stand in our way?” Picking up a new scent, Gustave turned to the entrance of the town.

(Earlier)

Halibel and Apacci stood in the air, far enough away from the island to not be seen by Gustave’s brutes. The younger Hollow tapped her foot impatiently, her fingers rapping on her trusty cannon. Halibel put her own hand on Apacci to calm her, also not wanting the sound to give away their position just yet.

“Puru-puru-puru. Puru-puru-puru.” Halibel brought the Baby Transponder Snail out of her pocket and pushed it. “Gacha…Hey, Halibel.” The Snail adopted a ferocious sharp-toothed grin.

“Kisame,” the Hollow replied. “Are you two in position?”

“Yep, Brook and I are ready to go.” The Ninja chuckled over the line. “It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to use stealth.”

“For all our sakes, you’d better not be out of practice,” Halibel said in that deadpan of hers.

Puru-puru-puru…Gacha. “This is Jinbe. I’m ready and waiting for your signals. Usopp just called to give the all-clear.”

“All right…give me one minute,” Kisame said as he hung up.

In the forest, Kisame made a single hand-sign as he remembered Jinbe’s plan. “All right, Kisame and Brook…you two are the best of us at stealth. So I want you to handle the animals in the forest. Use the terrain to your advantage.”

“Hidden Mist Jutsu,” Kisame whispered. Mingling it with the already present dawn-dew, the Ninja steadily pushed his Chakra out. Sure enough, the animals started stumbling at the sudden loss of significant vision. A few were even knocking into trees. Still, they were starting to shift into using their enhanced hearing or smell.

Balam halted his advance. “SOUND OUT!” He received twelve distinct calls from his group. “Wait a minute,” the enhanced Jaguar realized. “There were fifteen of us.”

At the back of the group, Kisame stepped past his second victim, their slit throat leaking black blood as they regressed to a regular animal. While his Silent Killing technique wasn’t quite at Zabuza’s level, he was no novice at it. He then gave a hand-signal to Brook.

The skeleton followed his direction, unsheathing Soul Solid. Then, just as quick, he emerged from the other side of the mist, already sheathing his blade. “Song of Scratches: Blizzard Slice.” In the mist, another two animals fell, with the exorcized black blood freezing around the now-normal creatures.

Balam stood, shaking in rage. He turned to the front, noticing a barely-discernible figure. The Jaguar pounced, and clawed the figure. To his disbelief, he didn’t smell blood from the cut, but water. A second later, it fell into a puddle of water.

Behind him, he started to hear the screams of his fellows. “That was just a distraction to separate me from the others,” Balam belatedly realized.

Kisame watched as another four animals formed up, trying to close any blind spots. Unfortunately for them, the former Mist Ninja appeared right in the middle of all them. With a single mighty swing, Kisame snapped all their necks.

Sensing only six animals left aside from the leader, Kisame began lifting the Mist, directing Brook towards the final group. They’d been lashing out, but the trees were constantly standing in their way. Brook couldn’t help but note how easily Kisame dispatched the animals. How brutally efficient he was at the art of murder. Still, Brook decided to shelve that conversation in favor of finishing off the creatures.

Having an idea, Brook calmly walked up to them. Then, he pushed out his very essence. With the power of the Revive-Revive Fruit, a massive ghostly specter appeared above him. “YO-HO-HO-HO-HO-HO!” ‘Huh…didn’t even need a guitar this time,’ Brook thought to himself, briefly wondering why that was.

The animals howled in horror as the ‘ghost’ zoomed at them. As it passed through, black blood came gurgling out of their mouths. They all shrank and reverted back to their regular selves.

Balam stared at the scene, giving a furious look at the shark-man casually walking up to him.

“That’s it…why don’t you show me if you’re worth my time?” Kisame raised Samehada.

OoOoOoO

Over the plains, Halibel rolled her eyes when the screaming started. “He could’ve easily killed them all with no fuss…but he just has to toy with them.” She recalled her own part in Jinbe’s plan.

‘Halibel, I just know that Kisame is going to ‘indulge’ himself in his assignment. So, when that happens, I want you and Apacci to take out the animals in the plains before they can even react to the screaming. You and her are the fastest of us, plus you’ve got that ‘walking on air’ ability.’

“Apacci, corral them together,” Halibel decided.

“Right,” the younger Hollow aimed her cannon.

Then, Apacci let loose her Bala Barrage. A shower of red Reishi began grazing all the animals. Panicked, they began backing away from the bullets. They failed to realize that the Balas were all being fired in a contracting circle. By the time they caught on, it was too late.

“Cero,” came a coldly dispassionate voice.

In an instant, the massive blast of golden Reishi obliterated the 10 animals. Halibel turned to Apacci. “All right, you go help out at the town. I’ll tell Kisame to hurry it up.” As the Hollows sped off with Sonido, Halibel recalled the last bit of Jinbe’s plan.

‘Once the isolated animals are taken care of, I’ll lead Franky, Juvia, Tsuyu, and Hanataro in. We’ll make it look like just a simple assault. I’ll make sure to draw the leader’s attention. If Usopp’s right, only one of the three of us can take him on.’

True enough, Jinbe burst into the town with a mighty cry of “Shark Brick Fist!” Half of the animals surrounding the hostages were blown away by the shockwave, crying out as they landed.

Gustave smirked as he stomped towards the Fishman, noticing that he was just as tall as he was. “What a quaint little show of strength. You must think yourself my equal.” When Jinbe didn’t respond, the crocodile-man bared his teeth. “It seems I’ll have to teach you to respect your betters.”

In an instant, Gustave was in front of Jinbe, his tail swinging in. It was only thanks to Observation Haki that the Fishman responded in time. “Sharkskin Palm Thrust!” The attacks clashed with a mighty ‘BOOM’, canceling each other out.

The leering Gustave didn’t waste a second and slashed with his clawed right hand. Jinbe avoided the claws by jumping right, watching as they cleanly sliced through and destroyed a nearby house. ‘Hmm…seems Usopp’s estimate of his strength was accurate. Good thing I’m the one fighting him.’ Jinbe thought to himself.

With Gustave sufficiently distracted, the rest of the crew moved towards the hostages. The enhanced Howler Monkey screamed as it led most of the remaining animals towards them, leaving four to guard the humans.

Franky and Tsuyu simply held up their fists. Hanataro shivered before gripping a plain katana. Juvia started doing Hand Signs. “Water Style: Water Trumpet!” The Wizard blasted the howler monkey back with such force that he lost consciousness. Franky and Tsuyu then leapt into the new opening, opting to simply stick to their fists. Hanataro gave a war cry as he started parrying a tapir’s tusks.

Eventually, that creature managed to get a lucky hit, slashing through the Soul Reaper’s midsection. To the animal’s confusion, it didn’t smell any blood. Rather, water was now dripping from the tusks and the apparent wound. Hanataro gave an unsettling grin that didn’t look right on his face at all, before falling into a puddle of water.

‘Kisame, I want you to create some Water Clones and transform them into Franky, Juvia, Tsuyu, and Hanataro. They’ll come with me to give the illusion of a head-on assault. That will draw out the majority of the enemy. The real ones will take advantage of this, take out anyone guarding the hostages, and get all the people out safely’.

The pattern repeated itself with the others. ‘Franky’, ‘Tsuyu’, and ‘Juvia’ all liquefied and splattered whenever they were injured. They had even managed to take out another three animals before being dissipated. By the time the animals realized they’d been had, they heard the humans.

“Strong Right!”

“Hundred Brick Tongue Slap!”

“Water Slicer!”

“AAHHH!”

Turning, they saw that all four of the guards had already perished. Tsuyu and Hanataro were quickly leading the hostages out of the town. Both were clearly showing the experience gained from handling crowds in disaster scenarios, offering quick comfort and first-aid as they kept the people moving. Juvia and Franky were hanging out at the rear, keeping an eye on the last dozen enhanced animals.

Infuriated at being fooled, the beasts blindly charged forward.

“BALA!” A ridiculous amount of red balls of Reishi pummeled the line of animals, instantly killing half of them.

“You guys are taking too long!” the shorthaired Hollow shouted at her compatriots, her barrage not slowing down in the least. Juvia rolled her eyes while Franky gave a competitive grin.

“Oh yeah?! Weapons Left!”

“Water Cane!”

The three combined attacks were enough to finish off the pack. Apacci didn’t seem too impressed. “Remind me again why we’re evacuating everyone when we beat them that easily.”

As if in answer, a massive object came hurtling forward, crashing right in front of the three. It was Gustave, and he didn’t look any worse for wear, getting up as quickly as he fell. The crocodile-man snarled as he turned towards them, having realized what happened to his troops.

“That’s why…” Franky gave a deadpan response.

“OH SHIT!” Apacci cried out as she unloaded her cannon at point-blank range. The Bala didn’t even slow him down, his monstrously thick skin not showing a single scorch.

“Strong Right!” Gustave effortlessly caught Franky’s extended hand, and began to slowly crush it. He raised his other fist up, and was just about to pummel them.

“5000 Brick Fist!”

“Grr,” Gustave immediately raised his arm to block, only being pushed back a few inches. Still, he was forced to let go of Franky, which gave the opening to the others to fall back. While the Fishman Karate wasn’t having as much an effect as it normally would, thanks to his thick hide and sheer strength, Gustave was still starting to feel some of the internal effects of the water within him constantly being pushed back.

On the other hand, the few blows that the crocodile had managed to land on the Fishman were already starting to bruise. ‘He’s definitely stronger than Torafuzar,’ Jinbe noted. ‘Plus, he’s far more experienced in combat than Ursula. At this rate, I won’t be able to beat him on land. Guess I’ll have to draw him into the water. My Fishman Jujutsu should be able to finish this.’

Oddly enough, Gustave was thinking up a similar strategy. ‘I’ll be quicker and far more agile in the water. Then, I’ll be able to rip this cretin apart for his blasphemy against me and Lord Cipactli’s followers.’

As the two behemoths clashed again, the action was wrapping up elsewhere.

Balam was in a nightmare. Every time he started to outrun that blasted shark-man, he’d turn to see him easily closing whatever distance he gained without even trying. To be sure, the jaguar had tried to fight back. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t even force the Ninja to break a sweat. Kisame had back stepped from every claw swipe with ease. He’d then graze Balam with Samehada at every opening, black blood dripping to the ground as the Jaguar’s energy was absorbed by the weapon.

‘Hehe…in another life, this second-in-command could’ve matched a decent Jonin…but that’s simply not enough to entertain me.’ Kisame bemoaned his weak opponent.

After being cut enough, Balam simply bolted back to the town, his only hope being Gustave handling this monster. He didn’t get very far before he felt his head separate from the rest of his body.

Halibel flicked her hollow sword to rid it of blood before sheathing it. She turned to give an unimpressed look to her comrade. “Couldn’t you have just finished him off sooner…we still need to deal with the leader.”

“Aww…I was going to finish him off before you came barging in.”

“Sure you were…come on…don’t you want to see who’s actually managing to match Jinbe?” Halibel tried appealing to his battle-lust, and it worked like a charm.

“Oh?” Kisame actually perked up at that. “One of these jumped-up animals can actually take him on?”

“To be fair, Jinbe isn’t in the water yet,” Halibel noted what she sensed.

“Ah well,” Kisame shrugged as he sped forward with Body Flicker, Halibel staying by his side with Sonido.

Back at the fight, Gustave was incredibly unhappy, and was no voicing those thoughts.

“YOU WEAK FOOLS!” He roared at his unconscious troops as Jinbe dodged another of his punches. “You dare sully our Mighty God’s name with your incompetence?!”

Wanting something to vent his anger on, the crocodile-man’s eyes narrowed on the Fishman. “Otherworlder TRASH!”

‘Wow,’ Jinbe couldn’t help but think to himself. ‘The second things go wrong, this creature starts blaming others. How immature.’ Seeing another quick punch, Jinbe quickly covered his right arm in Haki to block. ‘Seems that this enemy relies on sheer physical might and brute force. All right.’

Jinbe threw his own quick punch, deliberately overstretching himself. Gustave sneered as he slammed a fist into the Fishman’s stomach. His expression changed when he didn’t feel the flesh giving way, eyes widening at the sight of Armament Haki stopping him. Before Gustave could pull away, Jinbe already had a drop of water leaking from his palm. “Water Shot!”

At the last second, Gustave moved his head, barely avoiding his eye being obliterated. Seeing his opponent open, the creature swung around, slamming his tail into the Fishman. Blackening both arms, Jinbe managed to catch the tail before it could send him flying. The sheer force moved him a few feet, his grip on the tail still strong.

Jinbe quickly let go, with Gustave’s jaws snapping at where they used to be. The creature didn’t let up an inch, managing to slam another fist, this time in the Fishman’s face. Jinbe went flying back into another building, pulverizing it.

“You see,” Gustave boasted. “Your might is nothing compared to my blessings from Lord Cipactli. Once, I was a mere animal like you. But when I met Him, I was ascended. The strength and intelligence he granted me is nothing that mortals can hope to gain. Submit, and I might consider granting you the honor of becoming a mindless thrall of My Lord.”

The smoke cleared. To Gustave’s shock, Jinbe was simply standing there, looking no worse for wear. “A mere animal…huh?” The Fishman raised an eyebrow. “That’s rich, coming from such a thug like you.”

“Aww…I think there’s something to be said about a good thug,”

Gustave jumped at the voice from behind, and didn’t have time to dodge a massive white blur.

“What the hell?!” Kisame shouted as Samehada failed to pierce through Gustave’s scales, simply scraping off of them.

Gaining his smirk back, Gustave slammed his tail into the stunned Ninja. Before Kisame could crash, Halibel got behind and stopped him. “Hmm…that’s some tough skin.”

“No Shit!” Kisame retorted.

“You know, I could’ve just let you crash,” Halibel coolly replied.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kisame got back to his feet, a look of pure murder in his eyes. “I’ll find a way to cut up that damn crocodile if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Too late…It and Jinbe already dived into the ocean,” Halibel casually revealed.

Kisame quickly looked around…only seeing a distant splash of water. “HUH? When’d that happen?!”

“When you got sent flying. Jinbe isn’t one to waste an opportunity after all,” the Hollow duly replied.

Kisame started to stomp off, only for Halibel to grab his shoulder. “Let Jinbe handle it. He’s far better at fighting underwater than either of us anyway. Besides, I get the feeling that his Fishman Karate is the surest way of beating that armored skin.”

“Fine…but if I see one scale of that crocodile, I’ll pay him back for that slap,” Kisame growled as he kept his eyes peeled on the ocean surface.

Sure enough, in the open ocean, Jinbe and Gustave were still grappling with each other. Admittedly, it was rather odd that both had the same idea of moving the fight, yet here we are.

As their arms interlocked, Gustave lunged at Jinbe’s throat, eager to rip it out with his teeth. Foreseeing that, Jinbe covered his forehead in Haki, and slammed the crocodile’s jaws together with a head-butt. He hit with such force that Gustave lost a few teeth. On the whole though, it just made the creature angrier.

Gustave roared as he whacked Jinbe with his tail, managing to get the Fishman away from him. Jinbe stopped his careening, and took his Fishman Karate position. “Arabesque Brick Fist!”

A few seconds of nothing before…”AARGH!” Gustave howled as he felt his insides get pushed back. Powering through the pain, he stopped and shot himself forward, his tail and legs beating rapidly.

Jinbe barely dodged the charge, and only with Observation Haki at that. ‘I’ll need a diversion before I can nail him with a decisive blow,’ The Fishman thought to himself. ‘Let’s hope I got this technique down watching Kisame.’

Before Gustave could turn for another run, Jinbe cupped his hands. “Water Heart,” the Fishman proclaimed as water started to gather within his palms, driven by the accumulating currents. “Shark Pack!”

Jinbe threw his arms forward, and as the water he threw separated, the drops formed into sharks, complete with gaping jaws. He had managed to create around 50 sharks, and this was the Fishman’s first time trying the technique in battle. ‘I really must thank Kisame for helping me master this so soon.’

With no time to dodge, Gustave crossed his arms to tank the barrage of sharks crashing into him. As shark after shark came at him, the creature finally noticed bruises starting to form on him. “IMPOSSIBLE! Lord Cipactli granted me this defense! How can it be failing?!”

In the midst of his ranting, he failed to notice Jinbe swim up to his side until it was too late. The Fishman pulled his fist back, blackening it with Haki. “Black Shark Skin: 7000 Brick Fist!”

CRUNCH!

The bones in Gustave’s left arm were completely shattered as he was sent flying back from the blow, on top of the last of the sharks pushing him.

“YOU DAMN ANIMAL!” Gustave roared at Jinbe. “I don’t need arms to tear you apart!”

In an instant, Gustave reverted back to his true form. His arms and legs shrank, with his left arm still hanging limply. His tail and snout extended. He gave a feral roar as he finished becoming a 50-foot crocodile. Then, he swam forward.

Jinbe’s eyes widened. ‘He’s even faster than before!’

The Fishman was barely quick enough to cover his arms in Haki and catch Gustave’s jaws before they closed in on him. It took all his strength to simply keep the crocodile’s mouth open. Gustave laughed madly as he slowly brought his jaws together.

‘Damn it…no choice,’ Jinbe realized. Then, his right hand let go. Gustave chomped down on the Fishman’s left arm. Blood spilled out as Jinbe hissed in pain. It was only thanks to his Haki that Jinbe kept his limb at all.

“Hehehe…while I don’t need my arms, can you say the same?” Gustave couldn’t help but taunt as he bit down harder and started twisting his own body, intent on tearing the Fishman’s arm off.

Jinbe didn’t respond to the excruciating pain as he brought his fist back. Gustave’s eyes widened as he saw it turn black, realizing his mistake.

“Black Shark Skin: VAGABOND DRILL!”

“AUGH!” Gustave screamed in pain, incidentally releasing Jinbe’s arm, as the water was shot clean through him, having been pushed to ridiculous speed and force with Haki. On top of that, the Fishman Karate was doing its job of painfully pushing the water in Gustave’s body back.

The crocodile almost seemed stunned in disbelief at the sight of its own black blood, even when he stopped falling back. “NO! How dare you draw Lord Cipactli’s blood!”

Losing all semblance of reason, Gustave roared and charged forward.

Powering through the pain, Jinbe brought his mangled left arm to his right, preparing for his strongest move.

“Water Heart!” On Jinbe’s command, the currents themselves seemed to bend to his will.

“You know not what you’re interfering with!” Gustave shouted, ignoring the coming attack as he charged.

“Ocean Current Shoulder Throw!” Jinbe had spun and sped forward. He then released the attack right on Gustave’s wound.

“RRRAAAHHH!” The crocodile screamed in pain as the water dug past his scales and sent him hurtling back. The attack had such force that Gustave was rendered unconscious as his body was flung out of the sea, repeatedly flipping in the air. A few seconds later, it crashed back down, miles from where he had fought the Fishman.

Jinbe clutched his left arm as he slowly made his way back to shore. Kisame and Halibel met him halfway. “Wow…must’ve had quite the bite to get through your Haki,” Kisame couldn’t help but comment.

Halibel rolled her eyes at the insensitive remark. “Come on,” she grabbed Jinbe under his good arm, and moved back to the others with Sonido. Kisame gave another look to the horizon. After pushing his senses for a while, he sighed at the realization that Gustave wasn’t coming back. With nothing else to do, he headed back for land with Body Flicker.

Halibel gently sat Jinbe down by Hanataro, who immediately started treatment. Tsuyu quickly hopped over, followed by Franky and Brook. “Are you all right?” the girl asked.

“It’s fine,” Jinbe claimed despite his flinching at the disinfectant.

Franky scoffed. “You take so many hits from a guy who did THIS,” he pointed to his crumbled fist, “like it was nothing…and you say it’s fine.” He shook his head, chuckling. “When was the last time I told you how SUPER you are…ow.” Franky had tried to slam his fists together in his pose, only to stop at his fist flaring up.

“All the same, I have to admit, I’m impressed,” Halibel complimented her crewmate. “100 noncombatant’s lives on the line, and not a single one lost. Quite an efficient plan,” she added.

“Please, it wouldn’t have worked without all of you,” Jinbe started to stammer at the praise.

“Yeesh, just take the compliment,” Kisame couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “Still, wish I could’ve had my shot at the crocodile.”

Hanataro’s eyes widened. “Even after seeing the damage he did?” He held up Jinbe’s arm for emphasis. “You’d still want to fight him?”

“Hehehe…there’s nothing in the world I don’t want to cut up,” Kisame put on his scariest grin as he looked right at the Soul Reaper. Poor Hanataro was having flashbacks to a certain Captain. That is, until Halibel intervened.

“Knock it off,” she told the Ninja. “Apacci has already traumatized the poor boy enough, we don’t need you adding onto it. I’d rather he not faint mid-treatment.”

Kisame sighed. “Sometimes, you’re just no fun.”

Jinbe cleared his throat, wanting to direct the conversation back to the present situation. “I’m curious. Have any of you fought enemies like that back in your worlds?”

“Whatever they were,” Kisame responded. “They didn’t use Chakra.”

“Nor Reishi,” Halibel added.

“It wasn’t Magic either,” Juvia pointed out.

Tsuyu put a finger to her chin. “Well, I have heard of Quirks that gave people more animal-like traits. But this was different. No humans could’ve moved like these guys did. Only those who’d been animals since birth.”

“Which begs the question,” Jinbe picked up. “What could possibly be boosting mere animals to such extremes?” He let the question hang in the air before resuming, the implication of something ascending a creature to Jinbe’s level of monstrous strength leaving a tense silence. “During the fight, that Crocodile kept going on about this ‘Lord Cipactli’, does that name ring any bells?”

Everyone else present shook their heads. “Was there anything else unique about this crocodile?” Brook asked.

“Well, when I finally managed to injure him, he was bleeding black blood,” Jinbe informed them, noticing the sparks of recognition in half those present.

“Wait a minute, those hippos,” Apacci chimed in. “Their blood was black too.”

“And they became regular animals too once it had been expunged,” Halibel recalled the hippos that hadn’t been too severely injured in the brawl for Brook’s bones.

“You think that crocodile will do the same?” Kisame frowned.

“No,” Jinbe immediately answered. “The bleeding was too slow to have any effect like that.”

“If that’s the case…you think he’ll be back?” Halibel wondered, asking herself why Jinbe hadn’t simply killed the beast if he could claim victory over it.

“Who knows?” Jinbe shrugged. “Still, best be on our guard.” He raised his voice so the whole crew could hear. “If any of you hear or find out anything about this ‘Cipactli’, I want you to immediately tell the whole crew.”

“Right,” everyone responded in unison, even Kisame.

OoOoOoO

Gustave had woken up again, his bleeding having slowed to a trickle. His left arm would still spasm in pain. His insides felt jumbled up after so many blows from Fishman Karate. He was laying on the bottom of the sea floor.

Not wanting to put it off any longer, Gustave opened his mind. Then, he heard his master’s voice.

“Gustave, I’m disappointed,” Cipactli’s booming voice echoed in the crocodile’s head, a massive slit green eye staring down at him.

“Yes, my Lord.” Even though he wasn’t physically present, Gustave still felt the need to bow his head in shame.

“I’ve given you intelligence and strength because you were a lowly creature in my image, and this is how you use it?” Cipactli raised his voice.

“Master,” Gustave’s own voice was cut off.

“I don’t need to hear your explanations or excuses…I saw the whole thing after all.”

Gustave flinched at the reminder, something which Cipactli didn’t seem to appreciate.

“Are you forgetting that a God such as myself must be all-knowing in concern to his subjects?”

“No,” Gustave fearfully replied. “Of course not, Sire.”

“No indeed,” Cipactli sighed before continuing. “Still, I have to admit the strength of your adversaries was impressive.”

Gustave’s left arm twitched.

“But that is no matter, you failed to find Mr. Silver,” Cipactli put it matter-of-factly.

“Sire,” Gustave quietly replied. “His scent was still fresh, despite there being no sign of him. He can’t have left more than a few days before we got there.”

“Hmm…at least the trail is still fresh,” Cipactli conceded. “Very well, I shall allow you to continue the hunt.”

“Oh Sire,” Gustave barely held back his relief. “I’m unworthy of your forgiveness.”

Suddenly, the crocodile felt an immense pressure. “Do Not mistake my benevolence for forgiveness,” Cipactli coldly told his soldier. “It’s only because of your years of loyalty that I’m even allowing this second chance.”

Gustave kept his head bowed, not trusting himself to speak as that looming green eye narrowed.

“I’ll be sending the Leopard, the Jackal, and a Chimera Ant with 500 of my troops to aid you,” Cipactli informed his servant.

“What? You’d have Otherworld Trash join in my holy crusade?!” Gustave couldn’t help but bristle. “Those three have no loyalty to you!”

“You Forget Yourself!” Cipactli’s sheer will cowed the crocodile. “You dare to question my grand design?”

“No, your majesty,” Gustave submissively answered.

“As much as I hate to admit it, we need the Otherworlders. You knew that from the very beginning,” Cipactli continued. “You will work with them, and you will all stay in line. Do I make myself clear?”

“Completely Sire,” Gustave raised his head.

“Once you’ve met up with the others, I’ll relay what my Caracara spies tell me. I already have one stationed around Poseidon’s Island of Lotus Eaters. Don’t disappoint me again,” Cipactli’s voice resonated as 19 more green eyes made themselves apparent to the Crocodile, before all vanishing.

Gustave woke back up in the real world, body trembling after that encounter. He was honestly shocked at still being there, having seen first-hand what happened to those deemed less than worthy in Cipactli’s eyes. Before he could contemplate any further, something in the distance caught his attention.

Acting fast, Gustave buried himself under the sandy bottom until only his eyes and nostrils were visible. At that point, the crocodile nearly paled.

It was the Flying Dutchman. She was slowly cruising under the water.

‘What the hell are they doing here? Now, of all times?!’ Gustave panicked thoughts were racing.

Just as the ship passed over him, he could make out the figures on the deck. He was startled to find that he didn’t recognize some of the crew. There was a woman with the fangs and bottom half of a sea snake. His eye was also drawn to two very big creatures stomping across. One had a very pointy nose, while the other had one leg of coral, and an arm of a starfish as replacements for lost limbs.

‘So, Jones has been recruiting otherworld trash,’ Gustave realized. ‘What’s he after?’

Speaking of the devil, Gustave saw the good captain at the helm. Then, Davy Jones turned and looked right at him.

The crocodile felt his blood run cold, not even daring to blink. He knew he was too injured to put up much of a fight if it came to that. Even at full strength, Gustave would’ve never attacked the Dutchman alone.

Jones brought his tentacle hand up, and tipped his hat to Gustave.

Quickly as it came, the Dutchman had vanished.

‘Don’t tell me,’ Gustave panicked. ‘Is he after the treasure too?! This is bad! At this point, I’d gladly work with a hundred otherworlders rather than let Jones get his hands on it. Such power absolutely cannot fall into the hands of Cipactli’s rivals.’

Back at Old Nile Island, Jinbe’s treatment had finished. With the all clear to move, Jinbe walked towards the civilians, who’d all been just outside the town until the fight moved into the sea. When they saw him, he was immediately swarmed with ‘thank-you’ and cheers.

Barely repressing a smile, Jinbe raised his hand for silence. “I’m sorry for bringing this up so soon, but we need information about the creatures who attacked you?”

There was murmuring amongst the crowd, before that little girl who tried lying to Gustave stepped up. “What do you want to know?”

“Who were they after?” Kisame asked.

Slightly taken aback at the bluntness, the girl hesitated before answering. “They wanted Mr. Silver.”

“Who the hell’s Mr. Silver?” Apacci impatiently wondered.

“Another sailor like you lot,” an older gentleman answered. “Big man. His right arm, leg, eye, and ear were all cybernetic. Made some delicious stew for us all.”

“Really?” Franky asked, clearly intrigued.

“He and the other two passed through this week,” the little girl helpfully added.

“What others?” Juvia knelt down to the girl’s eye level as she asked.

“Well, one was this blonde chef who exchanged recipes with me. Had the curliest eyebrow I’d ever seen,” a young woman recalled. “Couldn’t really forget it when he basically threw himself at me.”

“Sanji?!” Brook and Franky exclaimed.

“Yeah, that was his name,” the woman remembered. “At least he shut up about loving me whenever Mira talked about her grog. And let me tell you, it was the best damn grog I’ve ever had.”

Juvia looked up at that. “What did this Mira look like?”

“Tall, long white hair, prettiest face I’ve ever seen,” the little girl blushed as she went into detail.

The crew noticed Juvia gasp.

“I take it Mira’s from Fairy Tail,” Jinbe assumed.

“Yeah,” Juvia couldn’t stop her smile at the prospect of finally reuniting with a Guild Mate.

“When did they leave?” Halibel asked to get them back on track.

“Two days ago,” came a voice from the crowd. “They were heading southwest.”

Curious, Brook opened his skull and pulled out the map. “Hmm…if that’s true, then Silver, Sanji, and Mira could all be at the Land of Lotus Eaters by now.”

“If that’s the case, we should get ready to set sail,” Jinbe decided. “We don’t want to miss them.”

After a round of farewells, and Hanataro checking all the civilians for injuries one last time, the crew departed.

The crowd of people was waving at them on the shoreline. The older gentleman turned to the young woman. “You didn’t tell them that Silver was leading the others to Tamatoa’s Horde.”

The woman flinched at the accusatory tone. “Come on, I’m not just going to send our saviors straight to their deaths. You’ve heard the stories.” She sighed. “Hopefully, they’ll catch the trio before they leave the Lotus Eaters. Maybe they can convince them to stop.”

The older man still seemed skeptical. He sighed, knowing there was nothing he could do about it now. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder why so many people like Silver and that Gustave would seek the treasure despite the rumors.

OoOoOoO

Far away to the west, a small schooner was making its way through the water.

“Come on!” a silver-haired man whined. “How much further until we get there?”

“For the 20th time, we’re still a week away from Tamatoa’s Horde,” a darker-skinned man wearing a mask impatiently replied as he counted money. “Now shut up before I kill you.”

“HA! How many times are you gonna repeat that stale threat, you damn fossil?” the younger man raised a red triple-bladed scythe.

The other man settled for growling. “You know, I’d have thought you actually dying would’ve given some perspective. After all, I could simply chop you up and leave you to starve to death. Guess I grossly overestimated your capacity for thought.”

“The Hell?! You calling me an idiot?!”

“What do you think, you damn zealot?!”

“Well, right back at ya, blasphemous miser!”

Suddenly, a blue blast of energy shot out from the other end of the ship. “Hidan, Kakuzu, If I have to hear another argument between you two,” another young man’s voice growled as he walked into view. He had wild blue hair, matching eyes, and a fragment of a skull over his right jaw. A sword hung loosely in its holster on his side. “I’ll sink this ship and leave all you to rot.”

“Hey, come on Grimmjow,” a softer voice came from the helm. It was a young woman with long orange hair, wearing nothing but a bikini top and jeans. “Can’t you bear it for one week? We’ll all be out of each others’ hair after we get to Tamatoa’s Horde.”

“Would you cut it out with that fake smile, Nami?” Grimmjow scowled at her. “The only reason I’ve kept you around is because you know ships and where to go. Don’t tempt me.”

Nami’s face fell into a carefully neutral expression as she focused back on navigating, nervously tapping her Clima-Tact. Already, she was trying to figure out a way to leave these three high and dry with the guardian while she had the treasure at the end of the day. Still, it’d be tough to keep up this charade.

Despite the threats, Kakuzu, Grimmjow, and Nami had agreed to set their differences aside for the sake of finding the greatest treasure around. Well, Kakuzu and Nami did. Grimmjow was just curious about the guardian and whether it’d be a decent opponent. Notably, none of them had made a deal about what came after.

“Fine,” Nami replied. With that, she comforted herself with visions of golden baths and silver plates, not caring in the least about whatever rumors or curses kept people away from what was soon to be her treasure.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: To the Lotus Eaters

SWISH! “AHH!”

Juvia fell to a knee after Samehada passed through her, taking quite a bit of Magic.

“Come on,” Kisame sighed. “Move your Water Body apart before Samehada actually hits you.”

“Right,” Juvia replied as she got back on her feet.

Again, Kisame gave a lazy swing of Samehada. At first, it seemed that Juvia was managing to part her body. Then, halfway through, Samehada started splashing.

“Looks like your transformation speed is what needs the most work. At least you’re getting the process down,” Kisame commented.

This had been the routine since leaving Old Nile. At the moment, spars were ongoing all over the deck.

“900 Brick Tongue Slap!”

Jinbe blocked Tsuyu’s strike with his right arm, since his left was still bandaged up. He then followed up with a sweeping kick. She gracefully avoided it, rebounding off the main mast (sailing right over Sasori’s head incidentally). “900 Brick Roundhouse Kick!”

Taking the hit on the head, Jinbe was barely moved. Still, he gave an encouraging smile. “Very good, Tsu! It looks like you’ll reach the Thousand Brick phase of Fishman Karate in no time.”

“Ribbet!” Tsu happily replied.

“Still, things get exponentially harder after that,” Jinbe declared, deciding not to sugar-coat it. “You’ll need to work on strength first and foremost.”

“Yes, Sensei,” Tsu bowed her head.

Closer to the bow, Halibel and Brook were engaged in a pure swordsmanship duel. Halibel didn’t draw on her natural Hollow powers, while Brook refrained from his Revive-Revive Fruit’s abilities. Both were done for the purpose of refining their technique. Despite the handicap, Halibel’s centuries of experience were still enough to easily force her opponent on the defensive.

“Oh my!” Brook exclaimed as he switched into a flurry of straight-up fencing thrusts. “I can honestly say that no woman in my world comes close to your skill with the blade.”

Halibel raised an eyebrow as she let Soul Solid pass through Tiburon’s hole. “I thought Jinbe said this ‘Big Mom’ character had a sword,” she mused as she turned Tiburon with enough force to wrench her opponent’s blade away.

Brook scoffed (which is impressive for someone without a tongue) as he dashed around the Hollow, pulled Soul Solid back out, and attempted a strike to the back. “Please, that woman treated her sword like a baseball bat. No technique whatsoever. She only got away with it thanks to that ridiculous strength of hers.”

Halibel hummed as she blocked the attempted strike without even turning around. Righting herself, the Hollow retaliated with a series of slashes. “Sounds like half of the other Espada,” she muttered under her breath.

As Brook was forced back on defense, Apacci glowered at him. She was currently being forced to sit down as Hanataro applied Reishi to some nasty looking gashes on her side.

“Why did you just charge at Kisame?” the long-suffering Hanataro felt compelled to ask.

“Hey!” the short-tempered Arrancar snapped. “I had him!”

Hanataro sighed as he decided to give a bit of advice. “In my experience, if someone that strong has an opening…it’s a trap.”

“And what’d you know about that? I didn’t see you helping out in the Quincy War,” Apacci scathingly reprimanded.

Hanataro bowed his head, but still kept treating the Hollow. “Because this was all I could do. I had to see hundreds of my comrades die because I was weak. I couldn’t even do the basic techniques like Flash Step or the lowest of Kido. That’s why I spent the thousand years after that constantly improving myself. Even now, after all that, I’m still not sure if I could stand up to you or the Sternritter.”

Apacci flinched, remembering how disastrously her and her friends’ fight with Quilge went. And they’d heard that he was one of the weaker Sternritter.

“Hey,” Apacci said in a much quieter voice. “Sorry for what I said,” she mumbled.

“Umm…” Hanataro stumbled for an answer. “Don’t worry about it.” He quickly went back to applying treatment as the Hollow averted her eyes.

Finally, Franky had put the finishing touches on his new fist; with the old one that Gustave crumbled slowly being detached. Usopp was helping keep the metal in place until the unscrewing was complete. When the last screw popped out, Usopp gently laid it down.

In an instant, Chakra strings shot out, grabbed the hunk, and brought it flying back to Sasori (still in Lotus position as he steered the ship). Right before it landed, the Ninja had unrolled a scroll for it. With a single Hand Sign, it vanished as Kanji spread out on the scroll.

“Hey! You could’ve just asked,” Franky huffed while his fellow shipwright rolled up and pocketed his scroll.

Sasori simply settled for rolling his eyes, not even bothering to respond. Still, his mind was already racing at the possibilities and planned tests for the metal created by Dr. Vegapunk himself. Even through second-hand accounts, the craftsman couldn’t help but respect the inventor.

“Rude,” Usopp couldn’t help but comment. “I don’t get how you could work with that guy to make all this,” the sniper gestured to the Cutty Sark as a whole.

“Well,” Franky mused. “He gets SUPER motivated when he’s got a project going. And that’s something I can respect.”

Sasori didn’t deign to respond to that, instead concentrating back on the ship.

At that point, Usopp’s head shot up. “Hey Guys!” he said loud enough to pause everyone. “I’m sensing land. And Sanji’s there!”

Brook and Franky started cheering along with the Sniper. Jinbe let a small smile grace his expression.

“Oh,” Kisame turned with a grin. “Is this the chef who fought off swords with his feet?”

“I believe so,” Juvia nodded.

Halibel sighed. “Kisame, please behave yourself here. You had your fun at the last island.”

Giving his own overdramatic sigh, Kisame hooked Samehada back onto his back. “I suppose I can go one island without tearing someone apart.”

“How generous of you,” Apacci deadpanned.

Despite that, the crew managed to sail on, seeing the island without issue. To put it simply, the island looked like a paradise. Palm trees were spread out over a sandy beach. If one could see far enough, they’d notice the majestic waterfall that fed into a smooth river. All manner of beasts flocked to the mouth, enjoying a bountiful feast. Noticing the trend, the crew looked down. The water was crystal clear, revealing a great coral reef, filled to the brim with exotic fish. The sun was shining. The temperature was comfortable. Birds, including a Caracara, were circling and chirping.

A near-intoxicating smell wafted towards the ship. Following their noses, the crew spotted what appeared to be a resort. The main building was painted with a stunningly pink shine. Hundreds of people looked they were having a good time. Jacuzzis were strewn about with couples enjoying themselves. Others were simply chilling out either on the beach itself or amongst the gentle waves rhythmically caressing the coast.

The biggest crowd was right outside the main building. And in the center, a massive grill was letting off that enticing smell. Two figures were blazing through the cooking meat. To the left was a towering man, and the girth to match his height. His right arm shined in the afternoon sun, metal shifting from fingers to a peeler as he added cuts of potatoes to a stew. To the right, a blonde-haired slimmer figure flipped a massive salmon steak by kicking the oversized spatula. It sizzled so loudly that everyone on the Cutty Sark could hear it.

Amongst the crowd, two more figures were meandering through. One was a tall white-haired woman, with a tray of margaritas topped by lotus pods. Her long flowing hair did much to accentuate her attractive figure, especially since she was also wearing a bikini. Not far away from her, an even taller and more muscular man was handing out cheesecakes and ice cream.

At this point, the Cutty Sark was close enough to drop anchor, making sure to keep its distance from the other ships. Then, the crowd spotted the crew as they hopped onto land. Unusually, Sasori decided to join them. Although, he released and wrapped himself in his Hiruko puppet.

“Welcome!” all of the people shouted as one. Kisame was admittedly unnerved by that. Something about this whole scenario seemed wrong to him, but he couldn’t quite say what. Noticing that discomfort, Halibel made sure to walk within arm’s reach of the Ninja, just in case.

“Mira?” Juvia hesitantly asked.

The white-haired woman turned and waved. “HEY JUVIA!” She made her way over, drinks still on her tray, and hugged her guildmate. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Juvia quietly responded as she tightened the hug.

Eyes drawn to the scene, the muscular man ran at them, desserts in hand. “Tsu?”

Said frog-girl narrowed her eyes. “Sato?”

The fellow Pro-Hero hurried over. “It’s so good to see you!”

Ignoring the girls meeting their friends, most of the Straw Hats rushed to the grill. “SANJI!”

“You Guys!”

Then, something happened. In their eagerness to reunite with Sanji, the other Straw Hats all missed it. But Jinbe didn’t. As he ran over, Sanji knocked someone’s plate onto the ground, spilling food everywhere. He didn’t even pause to clean it up.

That immediately got the Fishman suspicious. Before any of the residents could notice, Jinbe quickly gave a look to Halibel and Kisame. Message received, the two then made the effort to act normal, politely introducing themselves to everyone.

“OOHHH! HALIBEL SWANNNN!!” Sanji immediately started going crazy. “Let me be your prince…so that I may sweep you off your feet and take you to our happily ever after!”

Halibel blinked, completely stunned at the odd behavior. She turned to Kisame as an out, only to scowl at the sight of him holding in his laughter. ‘Traitor,’ she couldn’t help but think.

Sanji leaped at her, only for Apacci to ground him with a dropkick. “No one just leaps into Lady Halibel’s arms!”

“Thank you, Apacci,” Halibel said in a tone as dry as Hueco Mundo. That was not helped in the least at Kisame chuckling at her.

“OOHH! Apacci Swan! So assertive!” Sanji got right back up and was now doing his ‘love tornado’ routine around the younger Hollow instead.

“Sanji, my boy!” the larger cook beckoned with his arm as his cybernetics squeezed lemons over the salmon steak. “While I can appreciate your hospitality to these fine ladies, I don’ have enough free hands for that salmon!”

“Right. On my way, Silver.” Sanji got back to the grill and put the finishing garnishes on the main course after removing it.

‘Silver?’ Jinbe wondered. The Fishman restrained himself from immediately asking why Cipactli and Gustave were after him. He had questions about this island first. He approached Mr. Silver, but before he could ask any questions…

“Here…compliments of the house!” Silver handed a bowl of stew to Jinbe. The Fishman noticed a slip of paper hidden under the meal. He quickly pulled it out.

‘Don’t eat the Lotus.’

Before Jinbe could inquire further, he turned and saw Juvia, Tsuyu, Usopp, Franky, and Brook digging in after their friends insisted. Even Hanataro was nibbling on a Lotus from one of Sato’s desserts.

‘Great…just great,’ Jinbe fought the urge to bang his head on the table. At the very least, the Ninjas and Hollows had managed to abstain from the Lotuses due to their own paranoia. Sasori was just shoving whatever was pushed his way into Hiruko’s mouth, fooling the residents into thinking he was eating.

“Guests, Welcome to my resort!” A female voice boomed out from the double-door entrance. She was tall, with long smooth black hair. A backless black dress reached down past her knees. With dark eyes, she gazed at the newcomers. “My name is Circe…and I present to you the greatest hospitality this side of the Sea.”

Circe’s gaze lingered on Jinbe as she stroked a hamster in her palm. She then made her way over to the crew. “My dear fellows, make yourselves comfortable. Your friends are already fitting in nicely. Whatever you want, we can provide.”

Kisame gave his best smile as he extended an open hand. “I’ll hold you to that. Name’s Kisame Hoshigaki, pleased to make your acquaintance. Hope that I’ll enjoy myself here.”

“The pleasure’s all mine,” Circe bowed instead of taking the hand. “And believe me, you’ll have the time of your life.”

Halibel swore that she saw matching gleams in their eyes.

“And what’s your name, Handsome?” Circe moved on over.

“Jinbe,” the Fishman quickly replied, not exactly used to such a forward manner.

“Well, Jinbe…let me know if there’s anything I can do to make you more…comfortable,” Circe started to lean into him.

“Umm…sure,” Jinbe tried to disengage in as polite a way as possible.

Halibel eyed this woman, wondering what her game was.

“You seem rather tense,” Circe looked right back at the Hollow.

“It takes a while for me to get ‘comfortable’ with strangers,” Halibel admitted while emphasizing Circe’s previous word choice.

The hostess chuckled, with the hamster squirming in her hand. “I’m sure that the peace you desire can be found here.”

‘Now, that’s interesting,’ Halibel thought. ‘Never once did I mention that as something I wanted…and yet she knew.’ She restrained from even touching Tiburon’s handle, so as not to give herself away.

“Well, I shouldn’t keep you,” Circe claimed as she moved to return inside the resort. “Please, join your friends, and dig in.”

The doors closed behind her with a mighty ‘WHOOM!’

Sighing in relief as she left, Silver leaned towards Jinbe.

“Sorry bout not introducing myself all proper,” the cyborg apologized while extending his robotic hand. “Captain Silver, at yer service.”

“Would you please fill me in on what’s going on?” Jinbe skipped the formalities, already very concerned for his crewmates. At the moment, the Straw Hats, Tsu, and Juvia were starting to truly relax, lulled into the trance.

“That Circe’s a damn witch,” Silver crudely put it. “I can’t figure out how she makes those Lotus though. I tried sneaking off…but I couldn’t get too far.”

“Why?” Halibel cut straight to the point.

“I noticed that Circe always goes to the opposite end of the island whenever she thinks everyone else is asleep, taking one person with her each time. I was only able to follow the one time,” Silver explained. As the cyborg talked, Jinbe couldn’t help but feel Silver was deliberately leaving something out. ‘Why was he the only one unaffected?’

“I kept my distance, and saw her go into a cave. Before I could follow her in, the guard appeared,” Silver continued. “It was a Manticore.”

“What’s a Manticore?” Halibel quickly asked.

“Really big lion, but it had a stinger tail and a man’s face,” Silver shuddered at the memory. “Heard the damn thing talking before it started turning in my direction. I had to hightail it. The only way they wouldn’t be suspicious was if I ran back and acted like the others.”

“Okay…we’ll wait until nightfall to make a move,” Jinbe decided. “I’ll stay here and make sure that everyone is safe. And Sasori…will you help us here?” The Fishman eyed the puppet, recalling how he refused aid on their last island adventure.

Sasori let out a chuckle, deepened in tone by Hiruko. “Sure. After all, this ‘Lotus’ has such a fascinating effect on everyone, chemically speaking at least. I’d be grateful if you gave me the chance to properly study it.”

“Don’t make me regret this,” Jinbe added dangerously. He then sighed. “You and Kisame are the most experienced at gathering intel. So I’ll let you two take point on this. The second we have enough information, let me know.”

“Sure thing,” Kisame grinned and settled in, giving the appearance of relaxing.

Halibel leaned in and lowered her voice so only the Fishman could hear. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” her eyes darted over to the Ninjas.

“If they get out of line, I know you can handle it,” Jinbe reassured the Hollow.

“I could if it was just Kisame, but I’m still not so sure about Sasori,” Halibel admitted.

“I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for now.” Jinbe still heard Kiri’s words in the back of his mind. Mulling it over, he wondered what sort of organization Akatsuki was to accept such a reputation in its ranks, which led to more doubts concerning Sasori. The Fishman had to remind himself that neither Ninja had done anything questionable towards the rest of the crew. Plus, they were in the Sea of Second Chances after all. Whatever crimes they committed, Jinbe felt that their short life and first death would suffice as punishment.

Jinbe shook his head, getting back to the situation. Halibel gave a concerned look before sighing. “Very well, I’ll trust the rest of the crew to you. Apacci, with me.”

The Fishman watched as the Ninjas and Hollows tried to blend in with the enchanted. He then turned to Silver, noticing his mechanical glint.

“How long have you been with Sanji and the others?” Jinbe asked, deciding now was the time for probing.

“Spent a couple a years by myself, wandring’ round the entrance islands. Then, I heard this strange noise.” Silver paused for dramatic effect. “Turns out, Sanji boy was fawning o’er Mira there. I offered them a ship, and we headed west.”

Jinbe couldn’t help but notice the gaps left in Silver’s story. Still, he had more pressing concerns.

“Back at Old Nile, we ran into a group looking for you. Maybe you’ll recognize them. Went by Gustave, said he worked for Cipactli.”

“Nah…can’t say as I have.” If it’d been anyone else, Silver might’ve fooled them, he was that good. Still, Jinbe caught that he was lying.

“Here’s the deal,” Jinbe proclaimed in his most serious voice. “We’re going to bring down this island’s operation. Sanji, Mira, and Sato will most likely join our crew. And…you will give me a straight answer once we’re through here. Is that clear?”

Completely nonchalant at being caught out, Silver removed his hat in an exaggerated bow. “Alright, then. Just let me know when the fight’s going down.” Jinbe noticed a saber peaking out of the cybernetic arm. “I’d love to get back at Circe for makin’ a fool outta’ me and my crew.”

“For now, you’re going to stay where I can see you…along with everyone else,” Jinbe’s tone gave no room for argument. Still, he couldn’t help but note that the cyborg referred to the others as ‘his’ crew. That’d be something to look into later for the Fishman.

So, the rest of the afternoon passed in relative tranquility. All those who had eaten the Lotus were content to simply eat, drink, and relax. The Ninjas and Hollows patiently waited for night, observing the residents falling asleep where they stood. As if being directed, Mira, Sato, and Sanji carefully arranged the leftovers so that the scent of Lotus would be the first thing everyone else woke up to. Then, they too began to slumber.

Of the crowd, Jinbe and Silver were the only ones awake. The Ninjas and Hollows had given the crowd the slip, replacing themselves with Water and Sand Clones. Granted, with the distance from the casters, all they could do was give the illusion of sleep. Still, that’d be enough for now.

Right after the sunset, Circe reemerged, had her escorts grab the first man they could, and began walking down the shoreline. She was unaware at the four presences following her.

The four only stopped pursuing when Circe entered a cave at the bottom of a sheer cliff on the opposite side of the island. Once she was out of sight, something else came out and started pacing. It was the Manticore, and it was almost as big as Jinbe. The scorpion tail swiveled in the air as its human face scanned the surroundings.

Deciding that a more stealthy approach was needed, Kisame bit his thumb. “Summoning Jutsu,” he whispered and slapped his hand on the ocean surface. When the smoke cleared, two Wobbegong Sharks sat in the shallow water. Both were a little bit shorter than the Ninja himself.

“Gensō, Gazō.” Kisame bowed his head. “Could you two go in there, figure out what’s going on, and report back to us?”

A deep chuckle could be heard from both of them. “Sure, it’s been awhile since we’ve been summoned…or had the chance to test ourselves.”

One second later, Kisame felt the Chakra pulse out from the summons. Just like that, they’d vanished. He turned to his comrades. “Don’t worry, Gensō and Gazō are the best Genjutsu specialists out of all sharks.”

“The question is…how will they compare in this Sea?” Sasori wondered.

To find out, the four watched the Manticore. Over the next half-hour, the creature didn’t deviate from its pacing, indicating that it hadn’t noticed the Wobbegong brothers.

“Now, we wait,” Halibel surmised. Kisame and Apacci marginally relaxed at the words. Sasori kept his eyes on the Manticore, Hiruko’s ‘tail’ poised at the ready.

Inside the cave, Gensō and Gazō were slowly making their way towards Circe, making sure their Genjutsu also covered their disturbances of the water. At the end of the cave, there was an eerie green light. Upon closer inspection, the light was coming from candles arranged in a circle. The light illuminated an absolutely massive Lotus Pod, with smaller pink plants blooming around it. Although, some clearly had been picked earlier that day. Guards kept their eyes peeled towards the entrance of the cave. In the center, Circe was putting down the hamster she’d been holding earlier.

After feeding it a pill, she snapped her fingers. In an instant, a naked man had appeared in the hamster’s place, shivering. Acting quickly, Circe removed a vial from her pocket. She then forced the man’s mouth open, letting the black liquid pour down his throat.

Backing away, Circe began to chant, gathering magic power. With a roar of exertion, the witch slammed her hand down, the magic lighting up the bizarre symbol with green energy. Then, all that light converged onto the hapless man.

Screaming in agony, he began to transform. His skin turned gray. Clumps of his hair fell out. Gills began to appear on his sides. Teeth sharpened to fine points. Nails turned into claws. Eyes became small, beady and green. All sanity seemed to leave the man as he devolved into growling and snarling at everything he could see.

“What in the name of the Sage is that?” the younger Gazō quietly asked his older brother.

“I don’t know, let’s hope that Master Kisame can fill us in,” Gensō replied.

Visibly disappointed, Circe quickly knocked him out with a blow to the head. Once out, the creature was dragged off by a guard. “Dammit…another failure,” Circe mused to herself as she brought out a notebook. “Mixing in human blood with the Samebito’s proved insufficient. Subject still lost all semblance of intelligence.”

Circe paused as a presence swept through the cave. She immediately knelt down.

Unnerved, the Wobbegong brothers didn’t dare to move.

The smoke billowing from the candles coalesced into a womanly figure. The only truly distinctive feature was the eyes. They were a fairly dark blue that seemed to stare right through the prostrate woman.

“Lady Hecate,” Circe announced as the other guards all bowed in turn.

“Circe, report,” Hecate cut straight to the point, her voice reverberating off the cave’s walls. Her very words seemed to be brimming with magical power.

“My Lady. I still haven’t been able to completely recreate the process of Samebito birth,” Circe’s head was still bowed in obedience and apparent shame.

A sigh seemed to emanate from the smoky figure. “You’ve had this base of operation for years…I generously enhanced your shape-shifting abilities…and this is all you have to show for it?” Hecate’s voice hadn’t risen in the slightest; it didn’t need to.

“My Lady…I’ve perfected the physical transformation…I just need a little more time to steer the subjects’ minds through it,” Circe nearly begged.

“Very well…but remember the consequences for disappointing Lord Poseidon,” the specter representing the Goddess of Magic seemed more contemplative. “We need to perfectly recreate the enemy’s masses before directly engaging them.”

“I understand…Tiamat’s forces won’t know what hit them by the time I’m done here,” Circe attempted to put on a brave front.

“See to it,” Hecate’s smoky hologram began to fade. “By the way, dispose of your eavesdropper,” the Goddess pointed right at the Wobbegong brothers.

“Damn it, our Genjutsu didn’t fool her! How is that possible?!” the brothers frantically thought.

Circe fired a beam of green magic at where Hecate pointed, hoping to transform one of the unseen intruders into a guppy. Instead, Gazō went back to his home in a poof of smoke. With the cover, Gensō managed to dart out of range of the witch, powering through towards the cave entrance.

“A Summoning Jutsu?” Hecate observed. “Circe, you have Ninjas snooping around. I expect word from you the second they’re dealt with.” Not waiting for a reply, Hecate cut the connection, dispersing the smoke.

Enraged, Circe sent a mental signal to The Manticore. “Thorn! Catch the little spy!”

OoOoOoO

At the edge of the cave, Gensō was swimming faster than he ever had before, sensing imminent danger. Sure enough, the Manticore was about to land right on top of the shark.

Tikka-tikka-tikka-tikka-tikka

The Manticore leaped to avoid a barrage of strange-smelling needles. He growled when he realized that the Wobbegong had evaded him. “COME OUT!” the monster roared in frustration.

Sasori (still in Hiruko) landed with a SPLOOSH on the water, his Chakra keeping the puppet dry. Apacci stood on air a ways back, making sure the Manticore didn’t leave.

Thorn the Manticore raised an eyebrow at his opponent’s ‘tail’. “My, my…quite the sharp appendage.” The creature tried to give off an air of sophistication…but fell short in the Ninja’s eyes.

“I’d rather you skip the pretensions…I don’t like to be kept waiting,” the former Sand Ninja snarled.

“Very well then,” Thorn growled. Without another word, the Manticore began firing needles out of the tail. In response, Sasori tore the cloth off Hiruko’s mouth, letting loose a barrage of his own. Apacci glowered as she used Sonido to avoid any stray needles.

While that was going on, Gensō finally made it to Kisame and Halibel.

“What happened?” Kisame quickly asked, noticing the Wobbegong’s frantic state.

“We were spotted. Someone incredibly powerful by the name of Hecate contacted Circe and pointed us out. She said she was working for Poseidon.”

The swordsmen’s eyes widened at the name. “Did this Hecate say she’d be coming in person?” Halibel wondered.

“No, she ordered Circe to handle matters herself, probably to give a chance to prove herself,” Gensō theorized.

“What do you mean by that?” Kisame hurriedly asked.

“Circe’s been running experiments on the humans. I saw her turn one into this gray, misshapen creature. A Samebito I think she called it.”

“What? They’re making Samebitos?” Halibel incredulously wondered.

“Trying,” Gensō corrected. “Apparently, Circe’s shapeshifting abilities aren’t enough to make the transformed more than mindless beasts. Hecate said they were simply ‘recreating’ the enemy under someone named ‘Tiamat’.”

“So…this ‘Tiamat’ is in charge of the Samebitos and sent that army to the White Castle?” Kisame surmised to himself. “And this Poseidon is an enemy of theirs?”

“We can ponder that later,” Halibel turned back to the Wobbegong. “Did you see anything else in there?”

“Yeah, two dozen guards. And there was an absolutely massive Lotus Pod at the end of the cave, with many smaller plants blooming around it. They looked like they’d been plucked,” Gensō revealed.

“Alright then,” Kisame drew Samehada. “Thanks for the recon, Gensō. I’ll be sure to send a payment of King Crabs first chance I get.”

“That would be much appreciated,” the summon replied before dispelling itself.

“Halibel, could you transform into your Resurreción. I’ve got an idea,” Kisame had put a hand on the ocean surface.

OoOoOoO

Circe fumed as she stomped towards the entrance, her guards keeping their distance from the infuriated witch. ‘How dare that wretched Goddess look down on me! How dare those simpering men fail my experiments! How dare those intruders not leave well enough alone!’

Midway through her mental rant, Circe heard a sound at the end of the cave. It steadily grew louder and louder to the point it became a roar. The witch’s eyes widened as she saw that it was a massive tidal wave. The crest was so high that it was scraping the ceiling. Having no other choice, Circe quickly used shapeshifting magic on herself, taking the form of a dolphin. The guards around her were quickly swept away by the water. Then, the tsunami crashed into the end of the cave. The candles maintaining the magic circle were smothered out instantly. To her horror, all the Lotus Pods (even the big one) were ripped from their stems. Before her eyes, the magically-charged flowers wilted away, torn from the earth.

“NO!”

OoOoOoO

“Ya know, I was thinking to myself,” Kisame mused. “Why do I have to fight in a dark, cramped cave…when we could simply flood the whole thing and force everyone out?”

Halibel allowed herself the rare smirk at the sight of some guards drifting out. “I must say…you do have your moments, Kisame…as rare as they are.” She raised Tiburon, having the feeling that Circe wouldn’t go down so easily. While her gut instinct said the witch wasn’t someone that required the full might of her Resurreción, better safe than sorry.

Off to the side, Sasori and Thorn had leapt further inland the second Kisame and Halibel started gathering power, still firing needles at each other. The Manticore was absolutely flabbergasted at someone aside from Poseidon wielding such an incredible amount of water with ease. Sasori simply rolled his eyes at his fellow Akatsuki going overboard as usual.

OoOoOoO

On the beach by the resort, all the Lotus flowers were wilting away. Noticing, Jinbe gave a slight grin to himself. Granted, that expression didn’t last long as everyone who’d eaten Lotus began coughing. Rotten looking petals were vomited up all over the place.

“Wha…what happened?” Sanji was the first to regain his senses. “Jinbe…when’d you get here?”

“Sanji?” Silver gave a curious look to his fellow cook. “You don’t remember anything?”

“Wait…it’s starting to come back to me,” Sanji replied. Then, a look of utter rage instantly formed. “That woman had me POISON food…” his teeth grinded as he came to a realization about Circe. “THAT WOMAN HAD ME POISON FOOD!!”

“My boy, take it easy,” Silver assured Sanji. At the point, the Straw Hats, Wizards, and Pro-Heroes had joined them. “Besides…we’ll all get a shot at her soon enough.” The cyborg’s right eye gleamed as his right arm pulled something out of his prosthetic leg. When the components joined, Silver had a mini-Howitzer at the ready.

“Come on, her lair is this way!”

“YEAH!!” The entire crowd roared in rage. While some started burning and dismantling the resort, others followed Silver, Jinbe, and their crews towards a direct confrontation.

Sato and Tsuyu cracked their knuckles. Juvia formed a Water Blade of her left arm, while Mirajane transformed with Satan Soul. Brook drew Soul Solid. Franky banged his new fists together. Usopp and Hanataro, despite their shaking legs, managed to balance that out with sheer indignation at being fooled. As for Sanji, the very soles of his shoes were leaving smoking holes in the sand.

OoOoOoO

Back at the cave, Circe chittered as she dragged a guard to the surface. As she breached, she transformed back into a human, tossing the man aside. She had sensed the spell being lifted with the Lotus being destroyed.

Near the end of her mental rope, she barked at the hapless guard. “The potential subjects have broken free. Release the failures on them.”

Too afraid to protest, the guard scurried off to do so.

Circe then finally got a good look at two figures standing on the water, waiting for her to make a move. She snarled when she recognized them. “How did you not fall under the Lotus’ spell?!” She just had to know.

“Because we’re not idiots,” Kisame gave his trademark toothy grin. “I mean, really? Putting all your eggs in one basket like that…looks like the victims weren’t the only ones lacking in brainpower.”

Circe bared her teeth and flicked a forked tongue. Halibel rolled her eyes…both at the taunting and the predictable reaction.

“I’ll make everyone on the island SCREAM FOR THIS!” Circe instantaneously transformed into a massive green sea serpent 5 times the size of a human, lunging at the two.

In an instant, Kisame managed to block Circe’s newfound fangs with Samehada, venom dripping from them.

At the same time, an unearthly chorus of screeching was heard. In a flip of demeanor, Circe began to chuckle. “Your friends are all going to suffer now. I’m sure I can restart my operations with all of your blood.”

Looking out, Halibel saw hundreds of misshapen attempts at Samebitos emerge from the cave. A few of them already had blood dripping from their teeth, probably from the hapless guard that set them loose.

“Go on…I can handle this witch,” Kisame reassured Halibel as he forced Circe back. As she submerged, she geared up for another charge.

Nodding, Halibel departed with Sonido. She reappeared by Apacci, who was still observing Thorn’s attempts to harm the Puppet. “Come on, we need to join up with the others…more enemies are incoming.”

As Apacci began to follow her mistress… “I didn’t give permission for you to leave!!” The Manticore had leapt at the Hollow, only to maneuver his tail and block Sasori’s own.

“And I didn’t give you permission to turn your back on me…” Sasori gave an inhuman growl through Hiruko. Both tails gave a horrid scraping sound as they clashed for dominance.

OoOoOoO

Thankfully, Halibel and Apacci made it back to the rest of their crew with time to spare.

“Jinbe…this whole island was a trap to try and create Samebitos. Circe is releasing all the failures to try and wipe us out,” Halibel quickly summarized.

“Samebitos?!” Sato exclaimed. “How many?”

“A few hundred,” Apacci simply put it before turning to the rest of the crowd. “Get Ready! The fight’s coming to us.”

All the former residents geared up with whatever weapons they scrounged out of their belongings and the resort itself.

“All right Jinbe.” Sanji walked up to the front to stand beside him. “Just don’t take out too many at once. I have some anger management to attend to.”

At that moment, the men and women heard the distorted screeches.

OoOoOoO

Before the duel resumed in earnest, Circe hissed at Kisame. “Your friends are all going to be torn apart.”

To her surprise, Kisame laughed in her face. “Hehehe…They can handle anything that an idiot like you could come up with.”

With that, the shapeshifting mistress of old and the Monster of the Hidden Mist clashed.

 

Omake: A visit from Freddy

“Hehehe…a whole new world to terrify”, a horribly burnt man with a right hand of knives, wearing a sweater and a fedora laughed. “So many more people and dreams…the possibilities are endless!”

He felt a pull. “What’s this? A whole crew asleep…this’ll be fun.”

And so, Freddy Krueger entered his first dream for the night, deciding to start with the weird-looking girl.

“Ooh…a slumber party? I’ve always loved those,” the spirit leered. True enough, he saw six girls huddled around together, briefly pausing at just how PINK one of them was.

“WELCOME TO YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!” Freddy bellowed as he started changing the surroundings.

Tsuyu just looked at him. “Hey…wanna play a game of Truth or Dare?”

Bemused, Freddy opted to play along. “Alright…dare.”

“Okay,” Tsuyu looked as unfazed as ever. “I dare you to stand still and take the shot.”

“Wait what?”

BOOM! ‘Did that busty girl just make a DAMN CANNON?’

Freddy found himself being hurtled out of the girl’s dream. ‘Okay Freddy, everyone has their off days. I just need to try with a different victim. No big deal.’

Next, he chose Juvia, making sure to take the form of Gray.

“Oh Darling!” Sure enough, the blue-haired girl came up to him. ‘Perfect’

“It’s time for dinner. The kids are waiting,” Juvia led him along.

When he entered the idyllic house, Freddy was utterly baffled. ‘WHY DOES THIS WOMAN WANT SO MANY LITTLE BRATS?!’ To his horror, a literal tidal wave of kids was now coming at him and Juvia, complete with Ice and Water Magic.

“Daddy, play with me!”

“Daddy, I’m hungry!”

“Daddy, Sis won’t stop picking on me!”

“DADDY, DADDY, DADDY, DADDY, DADDY!!”

“HELL NO!” Freddy instantly changed back to normal and bolted.

Back on his own, the shaking specter was trying to get it together. “Come on, you’re better than this. It’s about finding the right victim.”

Settling on Sasori, because he looked more wimpy to the delusional Freddy, he went in.

Not even ten seconds later, Freddy ran out. ‘Never again...and I thought Pinhead was scary.’

“Okay…maybe I should just stick with the girls…they’re always easier to terrify.”

He entered Apacci’s dream…and saw lush green fields, a herd of deer prancing.

“Hmm…I can work with this,” Freddy was about to work his magic.

“HEY SHITHEAD! SCRAM!”

…only to see an angry deer-woman pointing another god-forsaken cannon at him.

With a flash of red, Freddy was exorcised yet again.

“Okay…last girl…this has to work,” Freddy tried assuring himself before plunging into Halibel’s dream. When he landed, confusion was the first thing to pop into his mind.

“Ooh…who’s a good girl? Who’s a good girl?” Halibel was scratching a baby shark behind the fin as it cradled in her lap, while the rest of the infantile pack was nuzzling her.

Suddenly, she noticed the newcomer, who was still dumbfounded. Glaring, the sharks all turned to Freddy (they were all flying by the way).

“Get him.”

“AAHHHH” Freddy barely made it out alive, and a shark was still chomping down on his arm after he exited the dream.

“Okay…so girls got a little tougher since I’ve been gone. No big deal. Just gotta get into the groove again.”

Sadly for him, there was no getting back into the groove. Because he started with Jinbe. And he was immediately taken aback by being in the water.

‘Wait a minute…this isn’t water…it’s Sake?’

Jinbe came into view, doing a leisurely backstroke as he drank in the Sake he swam through. He then saw Freddy.

“Forget you saw this,” Jinbe growled.

“EEEPP! Yes, Sir!” Freddy bolted.

Once safe, Freddy’s sanity was near its end. “THAT’S IT! If I can take down the scariest guy here…then I’ll be able to take my place as the King of Nightmares!”

With that, Freddy entered Kisame’s dream.

And he was instantly lost. Freddy found himself surrounded by a thick mist and was standing on water.

DU-DUN.

The specter paused at the sound of the horn. Something about it seemed familiar.

DU-DUN. DU-DUN.

The horns were starting to speed up and get louder.

DU-DUN DU-DUN DU-DUN DU-DUN. At this point, drums and other horns were joining in. And Freddy finally recognized the tune. At the same time, he realized that he was standing on the ocean.

‘Oh No.’ With the mist, Freddy couldn’t see a damn thing. ‘Wait…what’s that?’ He could barely make out something resembling a fin protruding out of the water, before it submerged just as quickly.

DU-DUN DU-DUN DU-DUN DU-DUN DU-DUN DU-DUN! The music was quickly reaching its crescendo, sending Freddy into a full-blown panic. Then, he felt something grab his foot.

DU-DUN!!!!

“AAHHH!” Freddy’s screaming was cut off as he was dragged under.

And so, the record for shortest life in the Sea of Second Chances was broken by Freddy Krueger.

Next morning, a very cheerful Kisame walked up on deck. In one hand was a brown fedora, and his right already had the five knives on.

‘Oh great’ Halibel thought. ‘As if he needed any encouragement.’

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: Answers

“REEAAHH!!”

Screeching echoed throughout the night. The former victims of the Lotus bravely stood their ground. The crew of the Cutty Sark began to step up.

“Hold on,” Sanji held a hand in front of Jinbe. “Let me have the first crack at ‘em.”

“Make that ‘We’, Sanji,” Mirajane powered up, transforming into her basic Satan Soul. It was a testament to how pissed off he was that Sanji didn’t even get a little nosebleed.

“Yeah…nobody makes us poison food without getting their skull cracked!” Sato had inhaled a small pack of sugar, buffing up with his Quirk: Sugar Rush.

“Alrighty, ladies and gentlemen,” Silver raised enough for all to hear. “Let me punch a hole in their line first. Then…you three can go to town.”

As soon as he said that, the mutated subjects began to appear. While a few of them were completely identical to Samebitos, it clearly took Circe a few dozen tries to finally get the turn down. For one, some of them had extra limbs, eyes, and even a head in one case. Their sizes also varied from barely knee-height to towering over Jinbe of all people. A few had the faculties capable of running, while the rest either ambled or crawled their way towards food.

Once most of the horde was visible, Silver cocked his howitzer…

CLICK-CLICK. BOOOM!!!

And a fifth of the charging beasts had been obliterated as an orange-gold beam reaped destruction.

“Blast,” Silver panted. “Only got one more shot like that before I need a recharge. Just gotta hold out til sunrise.”

Not wasting a second, Sanji, Mira, and Sato charged into the opening. “Mira-swan!” the cook exclaimed.

“Right!” said Wizard replied.

Both started flying up into the air. Meanwhile, Sato was tearing his way through the subjects. With his boost in strength from the sugar, his punches easily surpassed the abominations.

“OOOORRRRRAAAAAA!!!”

With a roar of effort, Sato grabbed one creature by the leg, slammed it down into another half-dozen, and started lifting it up and down like a metronome on the crowd of creatures. He kept going until the poor Samebito prototype was basically falling apart in his hands. “Puny fish.”

Up above, Sanji and Mira were ready. “Evil Explosion!” The Wizard formed a ball of dark purple energy, letting it hover momentarily. Sanji quickly set his right leg ablaze with Diable Jambe. Then, he slammed it into the Magic Orb. “Bien Cuit: Grill SHOT!”

Now on fire, the Magic sphere accelerated far faster than it ever had before.

FFWWOOOMMM!!

The combined attack slammed into the ground, absolutely decimating any Samebito prototype close to it.

And just like that, two cooks, a baker, and a barmaid had taken out half of the horde.

Halibel raised an eyebrow. “You know, Jinbe. We could’ve just saved them the trouble with a big Cero…or one of your ‘crowd-control’ moves.”

The Fishman shook his head. “I’m well aware. But they needed to take that anger out on something. It just isn’t healthy to bottle that stuff up.” He gestured to his left arm, still bandaged up. “Besides, Doctor’s orders to go easy on it.” His right arm got into position. “Doesn’t mean I’ll just sit this out.”

“Fair enough,” the Hollow decided, Tiburon drawn from the sheath.

The rest of the C.S. crew followed suit, and quickly joined with their friends to finish off the mutations. Even the other victims, who now outnumbered the Samebitos thanks to the earlier attacks, were pushing their way through.

OoOoOoO

Thorn was becoming increasingly frustrated. Not a single one of his needles had even come close to the Ninja. ‘All right…I’ll just have to get close.’

The Manticore pounced, only for Sasori to quickly leap back.

Landing with a THUMP, Sasori gave Thorn a decidedly unimpressed look through Hiruko as it closed its mouth. “Is that really the best you can come up with? Are your powers so limited that you can only shoot needles or use brute strength?”

Those words sent Thorn into a tizzy. Truthfully, he’d only ever took on Demigods in his first life…and his natural strength and speed was enough to match them. Now, he didn’t know how to react to such a different opponent.

“I could just end you right now,” Sasori put it, as casually as if he was discussing the weather. There wasn’t a hint of anger or sadism in it, just a statement of simple fact. That also threw Thorn for a loop, considering how morally upright most those Demigods and Huntresses were.

“No,” Thorn steeled himself. “It is you who shall face such an untimely end for daring to mess with powers beyond your understanding.”

“Hmm, well if you’re one of these ‘powers’ elite, I’m not impressed,” Sasori replied.

Having had enough, Thorn leaped forward, throwing needles at a particular angle. This forced Sasori to maneuver his tail in defense of his left. That meant that Thorn lunged to the Ninja’s left. Seeing that coming a mile away, Hiruko’s head was turned to unleash a point-blank barrage.

Thorn simply tanked the shots, with most bouncing off his hide. Albeit, a few still managed to pierce the skin. Unperturbed, Thorn swung a massive paw. To his surprise, pieces of wood and metal were whacked off instead of flesh.

“Hmm?!” Sasori leaped back again, inspecting the damage. “Well…I guess your physical strength is at least up to par, if you managed to damage Hiruko. Very well then…” With a poof of smoke, Hiruko vanished, the puppeteer standing in its place.

“Ah…twas merely a shell to hide behind,” Thorn quickly surmised. “And it would appear zat your defense isn’t nearly so formidable now.” The Manticore leered as he raised his tail.

‘How is the poison not affecting this creature yet?’ Sasori couldn’t help but ask himself. ‘Is it because of his own toxin? In any case…maybe I should count this as a blessing. After all, I haven’t tested my own body in this sea. And it wouldn’t do to become so dependent on the 3rd Kazekage.’

Having made his decision, Sasori removed his Akatsuki cloak, earning a gasp from Thorn.

“What in Tartarus’ name are you?”

“This form is merely the final work of art I created in my first lifetime,” Sasori boasted before chuckling. “Well, I’ve made some modifications of course.”

On edge, Thorn sent a flurry of spines.

Smirking, Sasori raised a single hand, with a hole opening in the palm. For a brief second, it appeared that the puppet’s forearm was bulging. Then, a massive blast of wind neutralized Thorn’s barrage. “I really must thank the cyborg for his innovative design accommodating natural wind. Saves Chakra while still being effective. Still isn’t as quick as I’d like.”

Infuriated at not being taken seriously, Thorn lunged again, more needles firing.

With a look of indifference, Sasori raised both hands, and pipes appeared out of his palms.

FFWWOOOMMMM!!!

Fire belched out of the Ninja’s palms, incinerating all the needles. With Thorn as close as he was, it was inevitable that his fur also caught fire.

“AAAUUUUGGGHHH!”

Thinking quickly, Thorn landed on the sandy beach, rolling to put the fires out. While black and singed all over, he was more than capable of continuing the fight.

“Hehehe…taking a direct blast from my fire and still being able to duel me…your endurance is something to be admired,” Sasori noted as he strolled towards the Manticore. The first scroll on his back had disappeared.

“DIE!” Thorn, absolutely done with the Ninja’s voice, trampled forward. Pushing himself to the limit, the Manticore was right on his opponent in an instant. He plunged his tail into Sasori’s head, while biting down hard on the torso.

Thorn began to chuckle to himself. Then, he realized that he didn’t taste blood. The Manticore released his grip, spitting out sand. He became very confused when ‘Sasori’ dissolved into a pile of sand.

“Wha..” SNRKT!

Thorn looked down, and saw a thick steel cable protruding from his chest. A pointy end had driven itself into the ground beneath him. Only able to turn his head, the Manticore saw Sasori quickly reeling himself in on the cord protruding from a cavity in his former belly. 10 blades spinning like propellers carved into Thorn’s back.

‘HURK!’

The Manticore was dead before he hit the ground.

“Don’t worry…you’ll still be useful,” Sasori assured the corpse as he withdrew the blades and stinger. He opened a fresh scroll, drew the appropriate seals, and moved the body onto it. With a single hand sign, Thorn’s remains had vanished. “With a few additions and hidden weapons, a Manticore would be a fine addition to my collection. Course I’ll need to repair the damage, but I should have enough time after leaving this island.”

BBOOOOOMM!

“Seems like the rest of the crew is finishing up tearing that honey trap of a resort down…which reminds me.” Sasori glanced towards the cave entrance. “I hope at least one of those Lotus plants survived. The narcotic effects were so fascinating…it’d be a shame if I couldn’t replicate them.” Without another word, he walked through the entrance, completely ignoring his fellow Akatsuki clashing with the witch.

OoOoOoO

Circe lunged forward in her sea serpent form, fangs bared. The grin on that accursed creature’s face was irritating her to no end.

Kisame easily avoided her attempted strike, further aggravating the witch. “Too slow!” the Ninja kept taunting her.

Circe hissed as her serpentine body completely breached the surface. With a burst of magic, she quickly changed back to human mid-air. Next second, she fired a beam of her shapeshifting magic, hoping to turn this lowly man into a pig.

Kisame lazily raised Samehada, easily absorbing the magic. Said sword began to chitter under the bandages, a few scales starting to protrude.

“Didn’t you ask yourself why, out of all the crew, I was the one to stay and fight you?” Kisame asked, thoroughly enjoying the look of shock on the witch’s face. “You really should put more effort into analyzing opponents. Guess you’re just an amateur after all.”

‘Fine!’ Circe thought to herself. ‘Guess I’ll have tear him apart with my bare hands!’

This time, Circe transformed into a massive eagle, inspired by the creature strong enough to rip out a Titan’s liver. She quickly gained altitude before plunging down, talons bared.

Kisame was forced to move a little quicker to block, matching the talons with Samehada. Then, the spikes came out, forcing Circe to let go. The Ninja quickly took the offensive with a swing. No time to dodge, Circe transformed into a turtle, quickly retreating into her shell.

WHACK! And it’s out of the park!

Turtle-Circe was sent all the way back to land, her shell all scratched up and punctured, but it had done its job of reducing the damage. She kept bouncing off the ground until finally coming to a stop. Still a bit dizzy, she changed back to human.

The second she did so, Kisame got right behind her, having used Body Flicker to keep up with the flying turtle.

Thinking fast, she dove down, changing into a mole as she did so.

“Hehehe…come on,” Kisame chuckled. “Surely you can do more than that.” He did a few Hand Signs. “Water Style: Water Bullet!” The Ninja started flooding the hastily made hole.

In an instant, a tiger burst out of the ground, and was close enough to actually scratch the Ninja. “Oh look, you finally managed to get a hit,” Kisame still kept grinning though. “If it were anyone else, I’d say it was impressive.”

“Then what would you call it this time?” Circe demanded, her voice distorted in her tiger-form.

“Pity.”

“RRAAGGHH!” The witch quickly changed into a bear, roaring at her new full height. Kisame smirked when she brought both paws down, easily stopping them with Samehada, spiking through her hands again.

Circe jumped back, transforming back into a human, albeit more slowly this time. “You seriously think that’s the limit of my powers?”

“Well, yeah,” Kisame bluntly replied as his single wound closed up. “Sure, you’ve probably got some neat creatures in that imagination of yours…but you’re a one-trick pony.” He then exerted his Chakra, to the point where Circe could feel it. “Let me be absolutely clear…the only reason you’re still alive is because I want whatever information you have on Poseidon.”

“And you think what I’d have to say will actually help you against a God?” Circe began to chuckle, before abruptly snarling and flicking a forked tongue. “Ridiculous!”

‘I’ve only ever transformed into regular animals until now, but I have no other choice.’ So, Circe turned into one of the most horrid creatures in her homeland’s memory. Her body was covered in scales as she grew two more heads, necks extending like a serpent. As her height and mass increased, she took on a more lizard-like quality. Fingers became claws, and teeth became fangs. Now, she towered over Kisame with her completed form.

“Now, that’s more like it!” Completely unfazed, Kisame laughed as he dashed forward. The three heads all breathed a stream of fire. “Water Style: Water Wall!” The Ninja quickly created a cover, and ran around the resulting cloud of steam.

With one swift motion, Kisame decapitated the right head, smirking at the sight of it plummeting down. ‘That was odd,’ he thought. ‘She didn’t even try to defend herself.’

Then, something happened that even took the veteran Ninja off guard. From the open neck, two more heads sprouted out, lunging at their target.

‘Ooh…seems that she can even replicate special abilities…but I wonder why she didn’t bust this out earlier?’ Kisame mused as he leaped aside, back onto the ocean surface.

‘Wait a minute…’ a thought occurred to the swordsman. Grinning, he asked the million-dollar question. “How much magic is this taking out of you?”

Judging by the enraged roar and streams of fire, Kisame guessed that he hit a nerve. Moving to counter, he sped through Hand Signs. “Water Style: Four Water Shark Bombs!”

Once the fires were extinguished, Kisame took the offensive. “Water Style: Exploding Water Shockwave!” The tidal wave of water crashed through the beach. While it wasn’t enough to completely submerge Circe, she was still sent off-balance. That was more than enough for Kisame to instantly slice off all four heads at once. Samehada started tearing through most of its bandages.

He watched as eight heads began to pop out. This time, the regeneration was much slower for some of the heads. Regardless, the middle head immediately breathed fire once it could.

“HAHAHAHA!!” Kisame laughed as he got close enough to the point where Circe couldn’t use fire without hurting herself. So, she settled with lunging all eight of her heads, hissing as the Ninja gouged out a bit of her side.

Ducking under, Kisame sliced off one more head, and counted the seconds it took to regrow. All the while, he avoided the fire blasts of the other heads, jumping from beach to cliff to ocean.

‘That time, it took a whole minute for her to regrow one head. And all of them are starting to slow down.’ Kisame scowled. ‘How disappointing. She’s clearly never been in a serious fight before. I bet a few animals were always enough for whatever weak fool she picked on before.’

The Ninja gave a look of disappointment. “I’m bored now.” And Circe didn’t respond too well to that if her screams were any indication. “And there’s the hissy fit. Honestly, you’re acting like a brat…whining when things don’t go your way.”

Her frustration peaked, Circe’s nine heads howled and all shot fire.

Kisame simply let himself sink into the ocean, dodging with plenty of time to spare. With a few Hand Signs, he slammed both palms to the surface. “Water Style: Nine Shark Shower!”

Nine pillars of water shot into the air, quickly taking a shark form once high enough. Then, with their jaws open, the sharks all tore through the targeted throats. Seeing the heads all slowly regenerating, Kisame took his sweet time getting to the body. He then casually strolled around it, dragging Samehada through Circe’s hide.

At a certain point, he noticed that only one head was regenerating now. ‘Must’ve taken enough magic.’ And now, Samehada was giving a happy chitter, satisfied with its meal.

Desperate, Circe’s final head tried breathing fire…but nothing came out. ‘NO! My magic is limitless. This is Impossible!”

“Heh! You really don’t know anything about energy in a fight,” Kisame couldn’t help but taunt her. “Besides…your magic provided quite the meal for Samehada. In terms of sheer quantity, you were just a little weaker than the One-Tails.” Kisame then frowned. “But your lack of skill made that totally worthless. Plus, you didn’t even notice me draining you this entire fight…which means that you’re somehow not familiar with the feeling of the magic you use.”

The Ninja narrowed his eyes. “Your power was simply given to you. You didn’t even have to work and train at it…and it shows.”

Content, Kisame holstered Samehada onto his back. “I’ve had my fill.” Then he turned and started walking away.

Seeing this as a chance, Circe lunged forward, reverting to a smaller sea serpent form. Kisame smirked, knowing what was coming.

“CONCASSÉ!”

“SUGAR RUSH: 100%!”

Sanji, his legs aflame, came from above. Sato moved from below. Together, they slammed the snake’s jaws shut, cutting off a roar of pain. Kisame didn’t even flinch at the shockwave emanating from the attacks colliding through Circe’s head.

Kisame’s gaze wandered to the left, seeing Mira and Silver charging up the finishing blows in tandem.

“Soul Extinctor!”

“Take this, you witch!”

Silver’s Howitzer blasted a beam of golden energy, combining with Mira’s dark-purple Magic. It nailed Circe’s entire serpentine body.

When the dust cleared, Circe lay there in a heap, bloody and bruised.

Sanji flinched. “Did I just kick a woman?”

The rest had caught up at that point.

“No,” Tsuyu bluntly put it. “You kicked a reptile. Would a real woman make you poison food you put so much effort into cooking?” She’d heard about Sanji from the other Straw Hats, and was hoping appealing to cooking would settle him down.

Said cook turned to the Pro-Hero. “Your logic is sound.” To put himself at ease, Sanji took out a cigarette, and lit it up.

Halibel finally got a good look around the area, and counted exactly 15 heads scattered about. “Kisame…why are there so many heads?”

“I cut them off her,” he pointed to Circe.

“Yes…but why?” Halibel was feeling the beginnings of a headache.

“Because it was fun,” Kisame simply put it.

“…you’re just trying to aggravate me, aren’t you?” the Hollow gave the Ninja a halfhearted glare. His grin was all the answer she needed. Apacci was struggling to hold in her own giggling.

“All right you two,” Jinbe sighed as he checked Circe’s pulse. Satisfied, the Fishman hoisted her over his shoulder. “Now, how are we going to restrain her before she wakes up?”

By now, Sasori walked out of the cave, pocketing a stem and a few pink petals. “I have some Chakra-restraining seals,” he took out a few slips of paper, quickly slapping them on Circe’s wrists. In the process, he also removed a small journal from Circe’s pocket.

“Okay, we’ll put her in the brig for now,” Jinbe decided. “After Hanataro stabilizes her. Then, we’ll interrogate her when she wakes up.”

“Wait a sec,” Sanji paused. “Your ship has a brig?” he gave an incredulous look to Franky.

Both Franky and Sasori turned. “You can’t be too careful,” they said at the same time while shuddering.

Thoroughly creeped out, Sanji slowly backed away.

Juvia chose this point to speak up. “Not to put a damper on things…but what about all the people we just freed? We can’t take them with us to Tamatoa’s Horde.”

Tsuyu put a finger to her chin in contemplation. “I think the safest place for them would be the White Castle.”

Jinbe nodded. “Good idea, Tsu. Let’s give them a call and let them know.”

Above them, a Caracara had heard the conversation, and flew away to its master.

OoOoOoO

The two crews had huddled around Pinky the Den-Den Mushi, who was currently ringing.

“KA-CHA! This is Momo Yaoyorozu speaking,” came the professional response.

“Hey, Yaomomo!!” Sato eagerly waved at the snail.

“Is that Sato? Oh my, it’s good to hear from you,” Momo gave a warm smile through the snail. “How did you find him?”

“Well, that’s why we wanted to call you,” Jinbe got straight to the point, regaling Momo with how they brought down the Lotus Eaters, and all the failed Samebito prototypes. All the while, Silver rhythmically tapped a finger on the table.

“So…can White Castle support another hundred people?” Tsu asked.

“Yes,” Momo quickly answered. “Atlantis is nearly done with setting up their base, and Vulko returned home to set up a steady supply line.”

“Very good,” Halibel agreed. “The people will stay here until a detachment can be sent to pick them up. We did just dispose of one of Poseidon’s subordinates…so he’s likely to send a storm. It’ll be better if the people are sheltered on land when it hits.”

“Alright,” Momo came to a decision. “I’ll make sure that at least three Atlantean squads are sent to join up and lead them back home. That’ll be around 30 soldiers and their steeds.”

“Okay,” Jinbe turned to the rest of the crew.

“I’ll stay with them in case something happens,” Sato took everyone off guard with that remark.

“Are you sure?” Tsu wondered.

“Yeah, it’ll be a chance to see Momo. Besides, I’m not strong enough to go much further West yet...if this island was any clue. The White Castle will a good place for me to train,” Sato explained.

“We could stay and help you with that,” Mira volunteered, gesturing to herself, Sanji, and Silver.

“Nah, we’ll be fine. Besides, you should go with your old crew and guild,” Sato shrugged.

“Aww,” Mira stepped up and hugged the Pro. “Just make sure you give us a call when you get there.”

Sanji started swooning. “Mira-SWAN is so cute and caring!” His face went back to normal. “But seriously Sato, keep in touch.”

Silver patted Sato on the back, his finger still tapping the table. “My boy, don’t forget to knock everyone out with that parfait recipe I showed you.”

“Thanks y’all.” Sato simply put it.

“Sounds like a SUPER plan,” Franky concurred. “By the way, how’s Asami doing?

“Oh,” Momo paused. “She and Korra went to check out a ship that just pulled in. Make sure they’re not a threat and all that. And here they come right now…”

“Man,” Korra’s boisterous voice came through. “I haven’t seen anyone use fire like that in years. You’re really something.”

“It was nothing,” an older male voice claimed. “All I did was eat a rotten fruit and worked with what I got.”

“Hmm,” a deeper, more monotone voice joined in. “The more I hear about your world, the less sense it makes.”

Jinbe and Kisame both completely froze at the new voices, much to Halibel’s concern.

“Oh Momo,” Asami’s voice broke the silence. “Who’s on the line?”

“It’s Jinbe and the rest of his crew…”Momo started to answer.

“Jinbe?!” only for Ace to barrel past Momo, sending the poor girl tumbling in his eagerness to get to the snail.

Said Fishman cleared his throat, getting his bearings back. “It’s…good to hear from you, Ace.” Jinbe was trying his utmost not to tear up.

That cued the rest of the Straw Hats being clued in, since Sanji and Usopp had barely recognized his voice. “ACE?!” they all cried in unison.

“OY! Who the hell is Ace?” Apacci was very irritated at being left out.

Brook deigned to answer. “He was the big brother to our Captain.”

“Wait…” Juvia started catching up. “Your Luffy had a brother?”

“Two actually,” Franky interjected. “Didn’t even know about Sabo until he ran into us.”

This time, Ace was the one taken aback. “You’ve met Sabo? Is he alright? God, I can’t even imagine a kid like him taking this sea on.”

“Umm…Ace,” Usopp decided to clear the air. “We first met Sabo back in Dressrosa…when Luffy beat Doflamingo.”

“Wait a minute…Sabo was alive?!” Ace was barely keeping it together…before recalling the rest of what the sniper said. “Hold on…Luffy beat that crazy bastard Doflamingo?”

“Well yeah,” Jinbe joined in. “He even brought about Kaido and Big Mom’s downfall. After all, he did become King of the Pirates.”

Ace sat there, completely stunned at his little brother’s achievements.

“Okay, I think that’s enough revelations for Ace now,” the deeper voice came through, the sound of him sitting Ace down could also be heard.

“Hehehe…as caring as ever, Itachi,” Kisame chuckled.

A moment of quiet. “And you are still so easily amused, Kisame.”

Both Akatsuki gave a small smile.

Halibel found herself raising an eyebrow, curious where this would go.

“So, Kisame. I hear you’ve made some friends,” Itachi’s amusement could clearly be heard in his tone.

“Heh! They’re certainly an interesting bunch. Think I’ll hang around with ‘em at least until you get here,” Kisame answered.

“Really? I’d heard that you only ventured west in the hopes of finding me.” Itachi raised an eyebrow.

“Well, I’ve already made a promise to help find a few girls. So, I can’t really back out of that now. I’ll even get an epic one-on-one out of it.” Kisame chuckled. Apacci was taken by surprise at that comment.

Halibel sighed. “That fight is still a maybe, at best.”

The snail paused. “And you must be Ms. Halibel. Has Kisame given you much trouble?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” the Hollow grumbled. “I left him alone for a few minutes today, and there were 15 heads just laying about…all from the same person.”

Itachi’s eyes widened at the mental image.

“Don’t worry, she’s still alive,” Kisame assured his old partner. “As for being in one piece…” he fell into a fit of chuckling.

“I don’t know if I should be relieved or concerned,” Itachi put it mildly.

“How did you manage being his partner for years?” Halibel asked.

“I’m a patient man,” Itachi put it simply.

“That’s putting it lightly,” Davos’s voice came through as the sound of something else joined.

“The hell?” Korra questioned.

Franky joined in. “Davos? What’s that?”

Ace answered, chuckling. “So…we ran into a school of Fijis right before docking. Davos punched all the teeth out of one. Now, it’s trying to gum him to death through his boot.”

The whole of the crew paused at the sheer ridiculousness of that mental image.

“If we’re done with the socializing,” Sasori cut through. “Perhaps we should wrap this up before sailing to Tamatoa’s Horde.”

“Ahh…about that,” Silver spoke up, his finger still tapping.

“You going to come clean to us?” Jinbe raised an eyebrow at the cyborg.

“If these folks on the other end are planning on heading there too, aye…” Silver spoke with an unusually serious tone. “You asked why Cipactli was after me?”

“I should start from the top. There are six Gods and Monsters in this sea that you absolutely Do Not mess with. Poseidon, Davy Jones, Tiamat, Jormungandr, The Morrigan, and Cipactli. I don’t know how, but those six somehow managed to take over and split most of the Western half Sea of Second Chances between themselves and their followers, killing any opposition in their wake. Normally, those six leave each other alone, but there’ve been stirrings. They’ve been a lot more active in pushing out their turfs. Skirmishes are starting to happen between their followers.”

Everyone on both ends of the line was utterly transfixed.

“But that’s not what you wanted to know. You wanted information on Cipactli himself.” Silver sighed as he kept tapping. “I heard that he was the strongest of all monsters in his world. He ruled until he was beaten by two Gods, the brothers Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. I assume that after dying, he woke up here like the rest of us,” Silver theorized. “But none of the Gods that beat him ever woke up here, meaning no one from his world could balance him out. At any rate, Cipactli was strong enough to establish himself, creating followers like that Gustave fellow you ran into.”

Jinbe rubbed the arm in his sling.

“In my travels, I ran across a chest from the Aztec. They worshipped those who beat Cipactli. Gustave was sent after me because I know where it is. I don’t know why Cipactli is interested in this chest in particular, but he wants it bad.”

Jinbe felt compelled to ask. “Where is it?”

Silver dropped the bombshell. “The chest is in Tamatoa’s Horde, under the guard of a Child of Tiamat.”

The whole crew was quiet for a solid minute.

“If a being like Cipactli is putting such effort into finding this chest, we obviously can’t allow him to reach it,” Itachi put it simply.

“But you said that this Tiamat was a peer of Cipactli. Why would she have something he so desperately wanted?” Juvia pondered.

“Probably insurance,” Sasori answered. “Balance of power is not so easily maintained…so this Tiamat most likely took measures in case Cipactli broke the peace.”

“But if that were true…Cipactli would know where the chest was,” Halibel mused. “She must have a reason for keeping it secret.”

“Regardless,” Jinbe came to a decision, recalling his disgust at the wanton destruction and violence reaped by Gustave on Cipactli’s order. “It’d be best if this chest was kept out of that monster’s hands. We’ll assess the situation at Tamatoa’s Horde. If the measures are sufficient, we’ll simply leave the chest be…if not…”Jinbe left it up to the others to grasp the implications.

“If time is of the essence,” Itachi decided. “Your crew should go ahead. We’ll join up as soon as possible. Make sure to keep in contact and let us know where you are.”

OoOoOoO

Elsewhere, on a rusty-looking ship with a skeleton for a figurehead, a black Den-Den Mushi was relaying the entire conversation to a pair of eavesdroppers. But the words weren’t what concerned the pair. The shorter, stouter man with a bald head had a pair of headphones on. He was also writing down the pattern of taps that Silver was doing. His companion, a taller and thinner man with a wooden eye, was deciphering the taps. Within a few minutes, the code was cracked.

‘Took out Poseidon’s facility. Joined another crew. They will serve as distraction. Chest found in Tamatoa’s Horde. Cipactli on my tail. Will reach chest in three days. Extraction necessary.

Finished, the two rushed up on deck. “Captain!”

At the wheel, was an older man dressed in a sharp, black 18th Century captain’s attire. A dark plumed hat shaded his face, which held a scraggly beard. A sheathed sword hung on the left side of his belt. He grabbed and quickly read the code, eyes widening.

“Good work, Pintel, Ragetti. Back to your stations.”

“Aye aye Captain.”

“Emerald, Compress!” the Captain called out.

A dark-skinned woman with long, braided green hair and red eyes scoffed at the Captain. “What is it?”

A man dressed like a stage magician, with the top hat and staff to match, followed. “I’m assuming it has to do with our next job, Captain Barbossa.” Mr. Compress gave an overly dramatic bow, the mask doing wonders in hiding a look of disdain.

“Indeed. There be a chest on an island three days from here. There’s going to be a massive fight over it,” Barbossa revealed.

“You do know the two of us aren’t exactly meant for face-to-face combat, right?” Emerald retorted.

“Aye…the job is for you two to slip past everyone else, and grab the chest before those scurvy dogs even realize you’re there.”

“A simple enough task,” Compress rose back up.

Barbossa got real close to Compress. “Don’t indulge your taste for theatrics…and it will be simple.”

Compress gulped. “Message received.”

As that conversation played out, the Queen Anne’s Revenge made the course change.

OoOoOoO

Gustave was not happy. He’d been swimming for a full day. His arm and chest wounds had painfully festered in the interim.

Then, he spotted the ship he’d been looking for. Quickly climbing aboard, he saw a crew of animals tending to the ship. Three passengers gazed at him.

The first one had a dark red skin and short black hair, with distinctly inhuman ears. His legs ended with two unusually rounded toes, and were covered. He displayed an incredibly muscled torso with his lack of shirt. Said humanoid gave a dispassionate gaze.

The second was a shorter, blonde man. He had the ears, forearms, and legs of a yellow canine. His eyes gave an insane glint as he sneered at the crocodile.

The third was the one who put Gustave on guard the most. In terms of height and weight, this man seemed perfectly average. That is, at first glance. Beneath that was a bloodlust that even Gustave found disconcerting. His face, framed by a strange goatee, gave a look of indifference. He was completely covered in a white suit and top hat. A pigeon on his shoulder wore a complementary design.

“Well, well, looks like someone was able to beat up Cipactli’s precious pet,” the blonde man laughed.

“Must’ve been quite the opponent,” the red man mused, before shooting an irritated look at the blonde. “And Jackal, could you cut it out with your laughing…it’s bothering me.”

“Or what, Youpi?” Jackal questioned. “You gonna try hitting me with Rage Incarnate again? Because that worked out so well for you last time,” the Demon retorted in a painfully sarcastic way.

Noticing Menthuthuyoupi begin to rise, the third man got between them. “We have our orders about infighting. Save it,” he spoke in a way that offered no room for argument.

“Thank you, Lucci,” Gustave grumbled, switching back to his half-human form so a nearby medic could begin treatment.

Before he could get any further, Gustave felt the call in his head, and closed his eyes.

“Gustave,” Cipactli’s voice rang out in his mind. “My Caracara spy has returned to me. The crew that defeated you has joined up with Mr. Silver at the Land of Lotus Eaters. They’re heading to Tamatoa’s Horde.”

Gustave’s eyes widened at the implication. “You mean a child of Tiamat had the chest this whole time?”

“Possibly,” Cipactli mused. “I don’t know if the chest is there or not. The crew might be heading there for an unrelated reason. Regardless, that’s where Mr. Silver is going. However, if the chest is there…take it…and leave no survivors.”

“I understand, My Lord. But won’t this be a declaration of war on Tiamat?”

“If she truly has taken the chest without my knowledge…then yes.” Cipactli said no more on the matter.

“I’ll be watching through your eyes…so don’t disappoint me,” Cipactli’s slit green eye vanished from Gustave’s mind.

Gustave turned to Youpi, Jackal, and Lucci. All three recognized the signs of their new master entering a vassal’s mind. Gustave turned to the helmsman (a gorilla in case you were wondering).

“Set course for Tamatoa’s Horde,” Gustave commanded. Everyone in earshot stood rigid still, grasping the implications of sailing to Tiamat’s territory.

“Aye sir,” the gorilla hesitantly said. “The journey should take about three days.”

“Good,” Gustave replied before turning to the three heavy-hitters. “When we get to the island, I’ll be leading the assault. Before you join the rest of us, Jackal, I want to destroy the ships of anyone there.”

“Che…fine…wouldn’t wanna be cooped up with you losers too long anyway,” Jackal scoffed.

“Lucci, Youpi…if the chest we’re looking for is there. One of you two will need to grab it.”

The former Cipher Pol agent got right up in Gustave’s face. “Let me be absolutely clear. The only reason I’m following Cipactli is for the chance of a good fight. And I certainly don’t take orders from lapdogs. So if there’s an interesting opponent…that’ll be my first priority.”

“You play a dangerous game,” Gustave growled right back. Oh, how he wanted to rant and rave about all these cretins’ lack of genuine loyalty. It absolutely sickened him as a bona fide subordinate to his God. He was someone who had willingly gave himself to a higher purpose. These three simply went along while still pursuing their own interests. But, they were still necessary. Still, Gustave would relish the day their service was no longer required.

“Maybe,” Lucci gave an inhuman grin in turn.

Below deck, cages of creatures jostled. They had the appearance of wolves, bears, scorpions, and ravens. Although, their fur/feathers were completely black. Their most distinctive feature were white bone-like growths around their heads. Their orange eyes darted around, reacting to the negative emotion emanating from Gustave, Lucci, Jackal, and Menthuthuyoupi.

Now, Cipactli’s force was on the move.

OoOoOoO

At Fiddler’s Green, Poseidon walked along the beach, when a mirage appeared before him with dark blue eyes.

“Hecate, I assume that something has happened,” the God prompted the newcomer.

“Indeed, Lord Poseidon,” the smoke and mist coalesced into a form vaguely resembling a woman kneeling. “Circe’s facility has fallen. She’s now in the hands of the crew that destroyed one of your tridents.”

“This is troubling,” Poseidon put a finger to his chin. “And there was absolutely nothing you could’ve done to prevent this?” he turned to the Goddess of Magic.

“Nothing,” Hecate quickly replied. “I was too far away to provide any real aid.”

“Hmm,” Poseidon gave a long, calculating look at the mist. “Very well.” He then quickly stirred his trident in the water, before gesturing to the Eastern Sky. “I’ll send a small storm, let them know my displeasure. And what of the progress on the Samebito process?”

“All lost,” the Goddess quickly replied.

Poseidon remained silent for a bit, weighing his options.

“What of Circe herself? She’s still alive,” Hecate wondered.

“Leave her to rot. Let the magic you lent her run its course. If she does something noteworthy in that time…then maybe, I’ll consider welcoming her back to our side.” Poseidon decided.

“As you wish. Is there anything else you require of me?” Hecate’s mist started to disperse.

“Alert me if any of the other Olympians show up in this world.”

“Understood, my Lord,” and Hecate’s dark blue eyes closed.

“What’s her game?” Poseidon couldn’t help but ask himself before returning to his stroll along the shores of Fiddler’s Green.

OoOoOoO

After making sure there was sufficient shelter for Sato and 100 residents until the Atlantean squadrons could arrive as escort, Sanji, Mira, and Silver joined the Cutty Sark’s crew.

Without much fanfare, the crew had finished preparations, and Sasori had taken his position beneath the mast.

Once they were back in open ocean, Hanataro came up from below. “Circe’s asleep in the brig. I’ve completed treatment, so she should be waking up in a few days.”

“Good…let’s make sure someone’s always watching her…so we’ll know when she wakes up,” Jinbe decided.

“I’ll take first watch,” Halibel moved towards the door.

“Brook, how far does that map say we have until Tamatoa’s Horde?” Jinbe turned to the skeleton, who popped said map out of his skull (much to Mira and Silver’s shock).

“Hmm…I’m guessing around three days, but I can’t be too sure with the corner ripped off,” Brook replied.

“Here,” Silver pulled out something from his pocket, which completed the map. It had the image of an island with several cave openings along the coast. A red X marked a cave on the southwestern corner of the island.

“Okay…how?!” Apacci asked, clearly aggravated.

“Because I’m the one that made the map,” Silver nonchalantly revealed. “I took this piece off and kept it with a friend for safekeeping. I’ll save my question of how you got it for later,” the cyborg gave a pointed gaze at Brook.

“Did you make any other copies?” Kisame couldn’t help but ask.

“Just one other…but it was stolen. That’s why there’s the urgency to get to Tamatoa’s Horde.”

“Stolen by who?” Usopp asked.

OoOoOoO

Three days later, a small schooner docked along the southwestern corner of a barren island.

Nami, her pilfered copy of Silver’s map in hand, took a look at the various entrances.

Kakuzu gave an impatient huff. “Well?”

“That one,” she simply said while pointing.

Surprisingly, Grimmjow had no biting remark for the others. “Well…there’s definitely something strong living here.” A fierce grin was in place as he started heading down the indicated path.

Nami quickly followed, eager for the treasure while making sure there was a meat shield.

Hidan gave an annoyed glance towards his old Akatsuki partner.

“Not yet, only after the treasure has been found,” the old miser decided.

“Che, fine. But afterwards, I’m gonna sacrifice at least one of those bitches to Jashin. It’s been ages,” Hidan whined

“Do what you like then. I couldn’t care less once I’ve got my money,” Kakuzu growled.

The Immortal Duo of the Akatsuki brought up the rear. Before that though, Kakuzu turned outside. “Earth Style: Mud Wall,” and he sealed the entrance, meaning no one would get out without his say-so.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: Interlude (Fire and Ice)

Back at the ‘Entrance’ Islands, another duo of dearly departed wandered on the beach. They weren’t in a particularly good mood, considering they’d woken up mid-air and hadn’t stuck the landing. One was tall and muscular, with bandages wrapped around his mouth. An absolutely massive blade was strapped to his back. The other was a smaller, more effeminate fellow with long black hair.

“Master Zabuza,” the younger hesitantly spoke up.

“Hmm?”

“Do you think we’ve been revived again?” he wondered.

“I don’t think so, Haku,” Zabuza guessed. “This feels different. We’re not being given orders…and I don’t feel a compulsion to kill.”

“So…is this the afterlife?” Haku gazed at the open ocean.

“More boring than I’d thought it’d be,” Zabuza wasn’t impressed...having expected to be thrown into a pit of hellfire and brimstone.

“I don’t know,” Haku decided to be a contrarian for a bit. “This is honestly a nice change of pace.”

Suddenly, the two saw a massive cloud of mist appear on the horizon. Haku gave a quick look to Zabuza. “You were saying about being bored?”

Ignoring that jab, Zabuza slammed Kubikiribocho on the ground. He then raised a single Hand Sign. “Haku, conceal yourself.”

Once his protégé had vanished with Flash Step, Zabuza called forth his Chakra, using his own Hidden Mist Jutsu. Once the two clouds of mist collided, the Swordsman relied on his ears and sensing ability. He needn’t have bothered.

“Oh…an Otherworlder tha’ can actually manipulate mist,” an Irish accent pierced through the fog. “Intriguin’”

Making an effort to have his voice ring out (so as not to be zeroed in on), Zabuza replied. “Who are you?”

The stranger laughed. “My, my…in’ it rude to ask without introducing yourself?”

Before Zabuza could even move, the mist (both his and the stranger’s) was completely dissipated with a burst of power that knocked the Mist Ninja off his feet.

Quickly righting himself, Zabuza saw a modest ferry (almost like a gondola). The ferryman had placed the oar to his side, and was walking on the surface of the water. His single passenger was a young man with spiky black hair, and a toned body that was accentuated by a tattoo on his right pectoral. He was dozing off with his arms crossed.

The ferryman himself was older, with the decent white beard to prove it. He wore a simple white cloak, with the hood pulled down. A sword in scabbard swung at his side. Zabuza was immediately on edge at the power casually emanating from this stranger.

“I’m Zabuza Momochi, Demon of the Hidden Mist,” the Ninja got straight to the point, Kubikiribocho still at the ready.

“Indeed,” the ferryman took a bow down. “And I’m Manannán mac Lir.” The god revealed himself. “And once your little friend introduces himself…we can get down to the reason I’m here.”

Zabuza gave an almost imperceptible nod, signaling his protégé to come out. “I’m Haku.” The Ninjas still gave suspicious looks to the newcomer.

“Oho…I thought that I’d only be able to collect the Wizard before returning,” Manannán indicated the solitary passenger. “But here I find two Ninjas with such remarkable potential…Hades is truly outdoing himself.”

“What are you blabbering on about?” the irritated Zabuza raised Kubikiribocho, while motioning Haku to get behind him.

“Ah…where are me manners?” Manannán chuckled to himself. “Welcome to the Sea of Second Chances, where dozens of worlds’ dead come together for one last chance. For now, I’ll act as your ferryman.”

“And where would you be oh-so-generously ferrying us?” Zabuza remained healthily skeptical.

“To my home, the Land of Tuath…where you can meet fellow warriors and prepare.”

“Prepare for what?” Haku had raised an eyebrow.

“War,” Manannán simply put it.

While Haku cringed, Zabuza visibly trembled in suppressed rage. “You’re telling me that the only reason Haku and I have been allowed a second chance is to serve you in war?” Considering what he’d been forced to do with Edo Tensei, the Ninja was remarkably restrained at the prospect of a repeat performance.

Manannán’s eyes hardened. “No. I’m not like that duplicitous Kabuto hiding behind revenants. I merely offer a choice. By all means, feel free to head on West by yourselves. But know this…” With a snap of his fingers, the mist returned in full force, completely obscuring everything except the four of them. Zabuza and Haku couldn’t help but gape in awe at the sheer power pulsing through the Mist.

“You quiver at my might…yet my own strength pales in comparison to those who rule the Sea. If you do indeed head West, with the strength you have now, at best you’d be nothing but lowly tools to them.”

Zabuza growled at the very idea of being a simple ‘tool’ once again. Haku looked at his Master in concern. Still, neither could argue after that display of power.

“But if you come with me, you’ll both have the chance to gain the strength to stand for yourselves. With me, you two can still maintain your humanity. While my greatest desire is for you two to join in the fight against those Heathen scum…I will still give you the option of forging your own path once you have the strength to do so,” Manannán offered an open hand.

Zabuza weighed his options. If this sort of offer had been given in his first life, he would’ve simply told them to screw off (violently or otherwise). But, there was Haku to consider. As proud as he was of his student, Zabuza didn’t want Haku to face such fearsome opponents just yet. If this Manannán character was offering a shelter where he could get Haku to S-Rank level in relative peace, then he would take it. Doesn’t mean that he’d be completely trusting of the Celtic Deity though.

The Ninja didn’t accept the hand, but he gave a deep nod. “Fine, we’ll come with you for now…but we will leave in an instant if we don’t like the lay of the land.”

Manannán sighed as he put his hand down. “Tha’ was honestly a better answer than I was expectin’. Alright then…if we leave now, it’ll only take a few hours to get back.”

The god returned to his humble vessel, picking up the paddle. Zabuza and Haku followed on the water, earning a raised eyebrow from the other passenger. “Ninjas can walk on water?” the young man asked, his eyes widening slightly.

“Yeah,” Zabuza gruffly replied. “And what’re you supposed to be?”

“Name’s Gray Fullbuster,” he held out a hand with a little ice replica of his tattoo, “and I’m a Fairy Tail Wizard.”

Haku’s eyes widened. “You can use ice too?”

“Yeah,” Gray let a little smile grace his normally sullen appearance. “Maybe we can spar when we get to…wherever Manannán is taking us.”

“By the way,” Haku couldn’t help but observe. “Why aren’t you wearing anything? Is it to build up cold tolerance?”

“HUH? AH SHIT!” Gray frantically put his shirt back on, earning a chuckle from Manannán.

Zabuza gave an exasperated sigh. “I’m already regretting this.”

OoOoOoO

Elsewhere, two perverts were indulging themselves as they walked on the beaten path to a town.

“Oh,” Jiraiya wrote a little bit down, with Rangiku looking over his shoulder.

“No, no, no…you need to write it like ‘OOOHHH,’” the Soul Reaper let out a loud moan, startling whatever poor creature was close enough to hear.

“Ah…but Rangiku…I still got 20 more pages in this scene. We need to build up to that sort of thing,” Jiraiya gave what was an almost a condescending shake of his head.

“But the readers would already be shipping these two at this point. The pace should pick up,” Rangiku pouted.

“Haven’t you heard the phrase ‘good things come to those who wait’?” the Toad Sage raised an eyebrow.

“That’s what the last 200 pages were for,” Rangiku retorted. “At some point, the readers will be thinking along the lines of ‘get on with it’.”

“But a proper romance needs time,” Jiraiya was remarkably patient with someone criticizing his writing skills (probably because she had the greatest rack he had ever seen).

Rangiku sighed at the rebuttal. “Yes…but this is the culmination of all that development. You’ve firmly established their chemistry…so it’s time to get it on.”

Jiraiya had a thoughtful look. “You do raise a fair point. I’ll go ahead and shorten the ‘foreplay’ by a page or two.”

“Ooh, goodie,” Rangiku was instantly back to her usual cheery mood. At this point, they had reached the town. The Soul Reaper brought out a sketch (a silver-haired man with closed eyes and a sly grin), her smile fading as she gazed at it. “Can we hold off on asking around like usual for now?”

Jiraiya’s expression softened, his own sketches of his old student and their wife in his pocket. “Sure…I bet there’s a decent bar we can crash at before finding an inn.”

“Much appreciated,” Rangiku mumbled.

At the bar, the Ninja and Soul Reaper found themselves eyeing something peculiar. Normally, Jiraiya would be going crazy over a cute girl wearing nothing but a bikini over her top, revealing the tattoo on the left of her flat stomach. Still, even he was shocked at the sight of the stranger guzzling down a literal barrel of booze. And it wasn’t even her first one…if the half-dozen other empty barrels rolling around were any indication.

“I don’t think a single Soul Reaper ever drank that much,” Rangiku whispered in awe.

“Tsunade’s got nothing on this,” Jiraiya thought in a similar vein.

“Ooh heey…there’s hic plenty to go around…don’ let me stop ya’,” the girl was only just starting to slur.

“Suuuure,” Rangiku gingerly stepped around the barrels. Jiraiya, more perturbed than excited, was bringing out a notebook, finding the weirdest source of inspiration yet.

“Um…Miss…?” the veteran Ninja began.

“Name’s Cana old timer,” the young Wizard grinned.

“Rangiku…a pleasure,” the Soul Reaper got a shaky handshake for her trouble.

“Oh, well,” Jiraiya started getting his groove back. “I am the Hermit of Mt. Myoboku, one of the Legendary Sannin, and THE TOAD SAGE, JIRAIYA!!” As the man struck a pose, the distant sounds of Kabuki could be heard fading away.

“Isss that suppose’ to mean anythin’?” Cana gave an incredulous look.

Jiraiya went into a Corner of Woe. “Will no one appreciate my introductions anymore?”

“To be fair,” Rangiku consoled him. “You kinda need Ninja World context to really get it.”

“Guess you’re right,” Jiraiya conceded. “Speaking of which…what’s your world?”

“Earthland…the one with the Wizards,” Cana provided.

“Well…we haven’t run into anyone else from there,” Rangiku shrugged.

“Shame…” Cana sipped the last of her barrel. “How bout y’all?”

“Soul Reaper.”

“Ninja.”

“Neato…” Cana threw her now finished barrel to the side. “Ran into another Ninja few weeks back…and she was absolute crap at playing,” she absentmindedly recalled as she fiddled with a deck of cards.

“Was she blonde? What was she wearing?” Jiraiya was showing a lot more investment.

“Yeah…”Cana scratched her head. “She wore something green, with a big ol red dot and some symbol on her back.”

Jiraiya’s smile was the biggest it had ever been since falling into the Sea of Second Chances. “Any idea where she went?”

“Umm…I drunk her under the table…but she was gone when I woke up…sorry,” the Wizard apologized.

“Well…at least there’s one familiar face to look forward to,” the Ninja mused.

“Speaking of familiar faces...” Rangiku brought out her sketch. “You ever seen this man?”

Cana narrowed her eyes in concentration (fighting through the buzz). “No…sorry.”

“C’mon Rangiku,” Jiraiya moved to cheer her up. “Let’s have a drink.”

“Sure…but just a few this time,” Rangiku settled into her seat.

It wasn’t just a few.

The next morning, a Ninja, a Soul Reaper, and a Wizard were all still knocked out. They’d be regretting all their life choices once they woke up to their hangovers.

OoOoOoO

Ochaco Uraraka was struggling. At the moment, her and her two companions were training. Or rather, their Sensei engaged in the exercise while the two students attempted to emulate. The three figures weren’t traveling by boat, but by riding on pieces of rubble floating through the air.

Former Admiral Fujitora turned to the others. “Keep pushing Uraraka.”

Fighting her queasiness, the Pro-Hero nodded.

“Issho-sensei,” the taller, more stern-looking woman called out, heavily sweating from the strain of her Gravity Manipulation Magic. “How far to the next island?”

Issho exerted his incredibly astute Observation Haki. “At this rate…less than an hour, Kagura.”

“Good,” Kagura was obviously relieved.

“I’m…not gonna make it,” Uraraka started floating herself towards Issho’s biggest piece of rubble. Once she was close, she released her Quirk. The few pieces of rubble under her control fell into the sea, along with the contents of her stomach.

At the sight of Uraraka hurling, Kagura’s own control began to falter. Granted, she held out for another half-hour. But even she couldn’t maintain her Magic for so long.

Issho gave a gentle smile to both his students. “You’ve both done very well. At this rate, you’ll be able to go from island-to-island on your own power in no time.”

“Re…Really?” Uraraka was shocked at the very idea of becoming so powerful.

“Indeed…I have quite the eye for talent after all,” Issho chuckled.

“Did you just…?”Kagura was about to call out the pun, only for Uraraka to start giggling. The Wizard just rolled her eyes.

With a half-hour of recovery, the trio was all ready to go once land was in sight.

Unfortunately, there was something else there. It was massive, four times the size of Issho. The creature mostly resembled a human, except that the head was smaller in proportional terms. A single bulging eye stared right at the trio. Grabbing a mighty club, the Cyclops glowered at them.

“Issho-Sensei…let me handle this,” Kagura stepped forward, her blade Archenemy in its sheath, ready to use Undrawn Sword Style.

“Kagura?” the ex-Admiral raised an eyebrow.

“May I have this chance to show the fruits of my training against a real opponent?” the Wizard asked, her head bowed in respect.

Quickly, Issho took out a single dice and a cup. He threw it in, shook it around, and put the cup down.

“Call it.”

Kagura smirked. “Evens.”

Issho lifted the cup. “Uraraka?”

“It’s six.”

The ex-Admiral chuckled. “With fortune smiling on you, how could I say no?”

“Wait…as a Pro-Hero, I can’t exactly just stand by,” Uraraka stepped up. “But I’ll let you take the lead on this. So, prove what you feel you need to.”

“Well,” Kagura had a faint smile. “Guess both of us will get to show off for Sensei.”

The two girls then faced off against the giant Cyclops. With a bellow, it swung the club down. Kagura and Uraraka split, dividing the creature’s attention.

“RAH!” the Cyclops turned to the Swordswoman. Club and undrawn Archenemy clanged and clashed as fast as the eye could see. Every so often, the club would be sent off course by a particularly powerful parry on Kagura’s end. Whenever that happened, debris would be cracked out of the ground. Unbeknownst to the Cyclops, Uraraka was quickly touching every single stray bit of terrain that was dislodged.

Without even tapping into her Magic yet, Kagura’s strength was enough to match the blows of the mighty creature. “Is my strength at the level of Issho-Sensei’s world yet? Am I actually closing the gap between us?”

The Cyclops quickly tried to bring a strike down, only for Kagura to dodge this one, providing more debris for Uraraka. This process went on for the better part of an hour, neither side giving an inch.

Running out of patience, the dimwitted Cyclops tried targeting Uraraka…tried being the key word here. With years of being a Pro-Hero combined with training from an Admiral, the club strikes seemed like they were in slow motion to the girl. She even took advantage by managing to get even more debris created.

With a nod from the Pro-Hero, Kagura realized it was time to wrap things up. She did a deliberate feint towards the Cyclops’ right leg. It stepped back and brought down the club, confident she couldn’t react in time.

“Slashing Form!” Kagura, with Archenemy still in its sheath, completely decimated the club being wielded. Even more angered, the Cyclops tried to reach out with his bare hands.

“And now,” Kagura thought to herself. “To see my Magic’s improvement.” “Gravity Change Magic!” In just a second, the Cyclops collapsed to its knees, feeling its own weight increase tenfold.

“Alright!” Uraraka cheered her fellow student on. “Now it’s my turn.”

Pushing her Quirk to the limit, Uraraka had brought every single piece of debris up to the level of the clouds. Then, she brought her finger pads together.

“Meteor Shower!” She brought everything down with such force that all the pieces looked like they were asteroids burning up on reentry. This was only possible due to her adding gravity to her debris, a newly acquired skill discovered in Issho’s training.

“RAH!” The Cyclops was pummeled into oblivion.

Once the enemy was destroyed, Kagura released her Magic. “Most impressive, Uraraka.”

The Pro-Hero was breathing deeply. “Thanks,” she gave a shaky thumbs-up, unable to resist the urge of pushing things up to eleven and currently facing the consequences.

The two heard Issho stand back up and start clapping. “Wonderfully done, you two. You both have improved so much since I took you on. You’ve already made me proud…and I know that you’ll continue to do so.”

Kagura and Uraraka beamed at the praise.

OoOoOoO

Far away, a pink-skinned girl with bright curly pink hair, two small horns, and black eyes was at the wheel of a humble sloop. Granted, she wasn’t exactly a veteran at navigation, but she was the only one even capable on this ship.

“Ashido,” a man with spiky red hair, a scar over one eye, and pointy ears clutched his stomach. “Could you at least try and keep it smooth? HURK” He leaned even further over the side.

The concerned Pro-Hero gave the gentlest smile she could. “Erik…this is as smooth as it gets. Not sure what to tell you.”

PPPPFFFFTTTTT!

The disgusting noise from inside their cabin sent Erik over the edge.

BLURGH!

Mina flinched at her crewmates’ unstable bowels, and turned towards their restroom.

“Hey, Gelly! You alright in there?”

“Oh…I’ll be fine,” a deep voice replied.

“If this keeps up,” Mina decided to put her foot down. “I’m not going to put my Acid in your lunch again.”

“But it tastes so good…OH!” the deep voice tried to protest, only to get back to his duty.

“I’m serious…you’re spending hours on the toilet every day,” the Pro couldn’t hide her concern over the disturbing habit.

Finally, the toilet flushed, and the door opened. It was a tall man, with fake horns and bat wings. His face bore a remarkable resemblance to a mandrill’s. A hand covered in a metal gauntlet cradled his stomach.

“Uuhh…at least keep a little Acid in your soups…they’re so good,” Magellan, former Warden of Impel Down, nearly begged.

“It WAS just a little Acid, that’s the point,” Mina looked very unimpressed.

“How about I just have some of Erik’s Poison instead with dinner?” Magellan tried negotiating.

HURK!

“He’s not going to be poisoning anyone as long as we’re on this ship,” Mina pointed out.

Suddenly, Magellan’s whole demeanor became serious. “Well…we’re nearing land, so he might need to.”

Once within eyesight, Mina and Erik got why their newfound friend was so focused. Something was very wrong. What used to be a small town was now smoking ruins. But there was something far more disconcerting.

“I can’t find anyone,” Mina announced to the others. Despite clear signs of settlement, not a single human being (dead or otherwise) was left.

“All the scents here are still fresh,” Erik narrowed his eyes. “It can’t have been more than a few hours.”

“Which means that whoever did this is most likely still here,” Magellan surveyed his surroundings.

In her heart, Mina wanted to search for survivors, but her more logical side sensed how futile that course of action would be. “I’m not sure us lingering will do anyone good,” she suggested.

“You’re probably right,” Magellan started to move back to the ship.

“Hold it, I hear something,” Erik brought up a hand, readying his Poison Dragon Slayer Magic. “What the Hell?!”

Suddenly, the ground started to rumble and crack apart.

From beneath the earth, thousands of hissing white serpents burst forth. The ones closest to the trio unhinged their jaws, with blades protruding out of their throats.

“SHIT!” Mina exclaimed as the trio jumped back. With the snakes slithering in, she bought them some space. “Acid Veil!” the Pro instantly dissolved the nearby snakes, buying time for her friends to build up their moves.

“Poison Dragon Scales!” Erik took the offensive and obliterated another hundred serpents.

It looked like the snakes would get close, until Magellan stepped up. “Venom Cloud!” In an instant, the Venom-Venom Fruit wielder created enough poisonous fog to cover all the serpents.

Writhing in pain, every single snake hissed as their lungs began to fail. Mina and Erik stood in awe, still not quite used to their companion’s sheer scale of power.

The Dragon Slayer’s eyes widened. “We’re not done!”

Thanks to Erik’s warning, the trio was able to avoid a gargantuan white snake that slammed its way out of the ground.

Acting quickly, Magellan stood in front of the others and covered himself in Poison. The snake started to take a bite, but reared back in pain once its mouth made contact.

Seizing his chance, Magellan conjured his signature move. “HYDRA!” With the snake momentarily stunned, the former Warden easily engulfed it in a devastating combination of poisons and toxins.

The snake began to dissolve, but not before something happened. A pale white hand started protruding from the giant snake’s mouth. It was attached to an incredibly pale man. He was lean and tall, with long dark hair reaching to the small of his back. His eyes were gold with slits. He was covered in the bile of the poisoned snake, but seemed to be completely unharmed.

The creature turned to the trio, eyes lingering on Erik. He leered at the Dragon Slayer, an overly long tongue licking his lips. “My, my, such a potent level of energy coming from you. And it feels Magic. You must be one of those Dragon Slayers I’ve heard so much about,” the man chuckled in a low, raspy voice as he turned to the others.

“Strange, you two are capable of manipulating so much poison, yet I’m not sensing anything from you two. What worlds are you from?”

Mina was absolutely terrified, trembling where she stood. Noticing, Magellan put a hand on her shoulder, reassuring her.

“That’s no concern of yours,” Impel Down’s mightiest guard glared at the creature in the shape of a man. He was reminded of the absolute worst prisoners he had had the ‘luxury’ of guarding down in Level 6. The sheer bloodlust and power emanating from this creature was putting him on edge. Someone like that could easily overpower his newfound companions if they had the chance. Magellan absolutely could not let that happen. With that in mind, he made his decision.

Magellan stepped forward. “Mina, Erik, give me some room. I’m going all out.”

“No!” Mina protested. “We’re not just going to leave you alone!”

“DO AS I SAY!” Magellan bellowed. “I’m not even sure if you two could survive this…so be careful.”

Once Mina and Erik had leaped back, he raised his hand. “VENOM DEMON!”

The creature laughed at the sight of the poison coalescing around his newfound opponent. “Magnificent! Such power without even tapping into an energy source like Chakra or Reishi. I simply must find out its limits.”

His stomach began pulsating, causing the creature to barf up a sword through his throat. Grabbing it, he awaited the coming Poison Man.

Within seeing distance, two other figures observed the brewing fight. One was a man with black and white face paint, an incredibly ornate headpiece, yellow eyes and the black Haori of the Soul Reaper. The other was a more modestly dressed woman with dark hair and eyes, currently taking notes.

“Nemu,” the man spoke in a high, shrill voice. “Are you detecting any energy signature from the girl? Or the big man?”

“None,” the woman replied.

“My, my, no wonder Orochimaru is so eager to run tests on them. I’m feeling generous so I’ll allow him 15 minutes to play with them on his own. After that, I’ll begin my own experiments. We’ll pool our data afterwards.”

“Of course,” Nemu submissively agreed.

Mayuri Kurotsuchi looked back and grinned as Magellan and Orochimaru clashed, truly relishing the scientific possibilities of this new world.

OoOoOoO

On yet another far off beach, a solitary figure was wandering aimlessly. He was incredibly pale, with green eyes, dark neck-length hair, and half of a helm resting on the left side of his head.

Ulquiorra Cifer had just woken up and wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. Not sensing anyone for now, the former Espada asked himself what was going on. Surely, there wasn’t another afterlife after his existence as a Hollow.

Before he could ponder further, he noticed an eyeball open up on the tree. Ulquiorra waited, knowing that something had to follow up such an action. Sure enough, a mouth appeared in a flurry of petals. “Did you just wake up?” a cool, collected female voice emerged from the mouth.

“Yes,” Ulquiorra was on edge, not particularly familiar with handling himself in such a bizarre situation.

“Do I have your word that you won’t attack if I reveal myself?” the mysterious greeter asked.

“Maybe,” Ulquiorra was suspicious, but he didn’t feel like lying.

“Guess that’ll have to do,” the eye and mouth vanished in another flurry of petals.

Within the next few seconds, a woman emerged from the foliage. “How could I not sense her?” Ulquiorra asked himself.

“My name is Nico Robin.” She was tall, with long black hair, an incredibly curvaceous figure, and stunning blue eyes.

“Well, Nico Robin, what business do you have with me?” the Hollow carefully asked.

“I’m here because I am under the employ of someone wanting to keep an eye out for new arrivals. Speaking of which, I never got your name.” Robin kept her eye on the man while one hand reached into her pocket.

“Ulquiorra,” the Hollow answered in a deep monotone.

“Well…I’m know this is sudden, but please bare with me. I’m contacting someone who can explain everything,” Robin pulled out what she’d been carrying.

Frankly, Ulquiorra questioned the woman’s sanity when she pulled out a snail. Then, he began questioning his own sanity when a peculiar noise emitted from said snail. When the snail made a different “gacha” noise, its eyes opened up.

“This is Nico Robin. I’ve found another one needing debriefing.” She held out the snail.

Ulquiorra gingerly plucked the snail into his own hand, raising an eyebrow as it gave him a long, pondering look.

“Ulquiorra Cifer,” a stern, commanding female voice spoke up. “My name is Athena. We have much to discuss.”

OoOoOoO

The Shireen had been blown off course by a severe storm. Despite the best efforts of Itachi, Ace, and Davos, there was only so much that could be done. It was honestly a miracle the ship was still intact and sailable. Now, they were coming across an icy island.

“Seven Hells, we’ll have to drop anchor for a few hours and wait for the storm to pass,” Davos said at the helm.

“It can’t be helped,” Itachi mused as he tied up the rigging.

“Damn it,” Ace muttered as he took care of the anchor.

Once taken care of, the three retreated to the cabin. “Don’t worry, I can still make the course corrections to Tamatoa’s Horde once we sail again,” Davos reassured them.

“Hmm,” Itachi nodded. “I’m sure they can handle themselves for a few hours longer.”

“Yeah,” Ace’s usual positive attitude was coming back.

“Oh…I’ve no doubt,” Davos chuckled.

“Really? You saw what they could do?” Ace found himself curious.

“Yeah…big ol’ jellyfish didn’t stand a chance,” the old sailor recalled.

Itachi chuckled. “Let me guess…Kisame was the first one at it.”

Davos gave a half-hearted stare. “However could you tell?”

“Just years of experience as his partner,” Itachi began to sip from his tea.

“Umm,” Ace spoke up. “When you say partner…do you mean…?”

Itachi did a spit-take at the implications. “No,” he coughed before getting his breath back. “No, we were simply assigned together on missions for the Akatsuki. And our lifestyle didn’t exactly encourage such amorous thoughts.”

“How so?” Davos pried.

Itachi sighed. “Because Akatsuki was made up of the absolute worst criminals from all over the Elemental Nations. It was a life on the run, to put it simply.”

“Man…that’s harsh,” Ace offered sympathy, holding back his question on what Itachi did to become a criminal. For all he knew, it could’ve been a situation similar to his own. But, once he got to know Itachi better, Ace would definitely ask.

Before the conversation could continue, the room began to instantly grow cold. Hot drinks froze over, and breaths could be seen.

“Oh…Gods, no,” Davos’s eyes went wide, having felt this sort of thing before.

Outside their window, the trio saw flashes of fire and ice emanating from the shore.

“What is that?” Ace shivered.

“We need to get out! NOW!” Davos began to frantically run up to deck, undoing everything despite the storm.

“Davos, you know we can’t set off now,” Itachi tried to speak in a firm voice as he stopped him.

The old sailor still trembled, and not necessarily from the cold.

“You know what’s causing this,” Ace deduced.

“Aye…it’s the foulest thing that ever came from my world. Nearly wiped out all of humanity with its power,” Davos recalled.

“What did?” Itachi asked, a growing sense of urgency.

“Him,” Davos pointed at the dune overlooking the frozen beach. There was a figure in the shape of a man, wearing old-fashioned armor. An icy spear was clutched in its gaunt hand. What skin could be seen gave off an inhumanly pale sheen. Its bald head had protrusions that gave the impression of icy horns. But the worst part was the eyes. Even from here, Itachi and Ace could feel a cold, penetrating gaze emanating from those shining blue eyes.

Below, absolute carnage was unfolding. Two people were holding out against a horde. One was a young man with half red hair, half white. He was currently using fire and ice in concert with each other. Supporting him was a young woman with long white hair, wielding some sort of rapier that was shooting off blasts of energy.

But the horde itself was what really caught Itachi and Ace’s eyes. For the dead themselves were attacking the duo. No matter the state of decay, no matter what was missing, they just kept coming. Glowing blue eyes seemed to be the only constant.

Oh, the two had done a magnificent job surviving this long, but they were running out of room as the dead pushed forward.

Feeling how distressed the two were with Observation Haki, Ace leaped forward. “FIRE FIST!” The Pirate reduced half of the revenants to ash.

“Fire Style: Majestic Destroyer Flame!” Emulating his mighty ancestor, Itachi made sure that the other half followed suit.

Seeing the undead crumble, Davos actually felt a smirk creep up. “What the hell was I worrying about? These two can handle themselves no problem.”

Ace reached the duo first. “Are you two all right?”

“Yeah,” the boy panted. “Thanks for the assist. I wore myself out with the first horde.”

“We both did,” the girl agreed.

“May we have your names?” Itachi asked.

“Shoto Todoroki,” the boy answered.

“Weiss Schnee,” the girl gave a quick bow.

“Call me Ace,” the Pirate gave a warm grin to the two.

“Itachi…and did you say you both already destroyed a horde before we got here?”

“Yeah,” Weiss nodded. “Wasted too much of my Dust on them.”

“You won’t have to worry about that particular brand of enemy,” Davos spoke up, eyeing the one who would’ve brought a frozen apocalypse on his world.

“What exactly are we dealing with here?” Itachi felt compelled to ask.

“The Night King.”

Seeing his horde obliterated, the Night King raised an arm, smirking as he did so.

RRAAAHHHH!

Suddenly, a massive something flew down from the sky. It was a Dragon, eyes shining blue. Whatever color it had in life was replaced with a deathly pale blue. The Night King quickly mounted, and the Dragon flew up in an arc.

Then, it began swooping down towards the five.

“GET CLOSE TO ME!” Itachi commanded.

WHOOSH!

The Dragon unleashed a stream of blue fire from its mouth as it flew over. Just in time, Itachi had formed the Susanōō ribcage. Even with such protection, everyone could still feel the intense power behind the attack.

“Davos,” Ace shoved Shoto and Weiss into the old sailor’s arms. “These two are worn out, get them to the ship.”

“No,” Shoto started to protest, only for Itachi to glare at him.

“With how tired you two are, you’ll only be a hindrance,” the Ninja bluntly put it.

Weiss turned to her comrade. “He’s right…we have to leave this to them for now.”

“Damn it,” Shoto cursed.

With that, Davos led the two teens away, eyes glancing back at the Dragon circling overhead. “You know he’ll just come after us the first chance he gets,” the old sailor pointed out.

“We know,” Ace pointed to Itachi. “We’ll make sure to keep it over the island.”

“Alright, but be careful. That monster has been terrorizing my world for millennia,” Davos cautioned before taking his leave with the others.

Turning to the Night King and his steed, Ace smirked. “You ready to show me what ya got, Itachi?”

“Only what’s necessary to destroy this abomination,” the Ninja glared at the Night King. “Still, we should not underestimate him.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ace pulled his fist back.

RRRAAAHHHH! The Dragon roared as it began another swoop, and the fight was on.

 

OMAKE: Thanksgiving (Charlie Brown Tribute)

Apacci was bouncing an American football in her hands, very bored. Catching sight of Hanataro coming on deck, she smiled as an idea came to her.

“Hey, Hanataro!” she beckoned the Soul Reaper over.

“Yeah?” he nervously asked.

“Wanna participate in a Thanksgiving tradition?” the Hollow gave her most innocent look.

Still cautious, Hanataro nodded.

“Alright!” Apacci stood up the football on the deck, her finger keeping it balanced.

“In America, there’s always a traditional game of Football to entertain the masses as they feast. Would you like the honor of giving our crew its own traditional kickoff?” Apacci grandiosely put it.

“Aw, gee! I’d love to!” Hanataro was being taken with enthusiasm.

He ran back for some distance, and then sprinted to the ball. Right before his foot made contact, Apacci lifted the ball up. Without any resistance, Hanataro found himself flipping repeatedly in the air thanks to the power of his kick.

“AAAUUUGGGHHH!”

The Soul Reaper slammed down on his back. Apacci walked over with a smug grin. “Isn’t it sad how traditions just fade away?” She left with a noticeable skip in her step.

Hanataro simply groaned. “Good Grief.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: Tamatoa’s Horde

Kisame had this nagging feeling. Something about the crew’s whole situation was off. Having a good idea about what it was, the Ninja eyed one of their latest passengers. Oh, Silver was the perfect gentleman and cook to everyone, helping out around the ship whenever asked. Still, Kisame couldn’t help but recall the incessant tapping he did during their Den-Den Mushi call. With his time in the Hidden Mist Cypher Corps, he knew a pattern when he saw one. Granted, the tapping didn’t match up with any code from the Ninja World, so he wasn’t 100% sure.

It was dinnertime, meaning Silver, Mira, and Sanji were in the kitchen. Halibel was currently on duty guarding Circe, who hadn’t woken up. So, seeing a chance, Kisame turned to Jinbe.

“Can I talk with you…alone, for a bit?”

Noting the unusual seriousness, the Fishman obliged.

“I’m just going to ask, straight-up? How secure are Den-Den Mushi lines?” the Ninja posed the question, wanting to be absolutely sure.

Jinbe sighed. “I figured you’d be suspicious. In my world, there’s a subspecies of Black Den-Den Mushi. They were expressly bred for the purpose of eavesdropping.”

Kisame pondered that. “And how easy is it to get one?”

“Black Den-Den Mushi are incredibly hard to breed and maintain,” Jinbe explained. “Only purebreds would have all the necessary functions, leading to all sorts of issues when the snails had no other option but to inbreed for a time. The only people I know of who had the knowledge and resources for dealing with that was the World Government. Although, I’m sure each of the Emperors got their hands on a few.”

Kisame’s eyes narrowed. “So what you’re saying is that only someone really powerful in your world had these things?”

“Yes…and that’s why I haven’t simply kicked Silver off this ship,” Jinbe growled.

“Hold on…you knew he was spying from the very beginning,” Kisame realized.

Jinbe simply nodded.

“Was the code he used from your world?” the Ninja wondered.

“No…I couldn’t make heads or tails of it,” the Fishman admitted.

“Does Halibel know?”

“Yes, I informed her when she shared her own suspicions, and she’s the only other one in the know so far. I’d like to keep it that way,” Jinbe spoke in a way that invited no argument.

“Oh…were you just gonna leave me hanging in the dark? Still don’t really trust me yet?” Kisame gave a teasing grin.

Jinbe’s pause was telling.

“Let me be absolutely clear,” the Fishman calmly replied. “The only reason you’re still on this ship is because I’m trusting you with a chance. I would throw you off with my own two hands if I actually thought you would endanger my crew. But understand that I’ll only go so far with someone accused of killing comrades…at least for now.”

Kisame’s grin immediately turned into a carefully neutral expression. “Fine, I get why you wouldn’t tell me or Sasori, but why keep it from the others?”

“Because Halibel is the only other person that has a ‘poker face’ good enough for what I’m planning,” Jinbe put it simply.

Kisame couldn’t help but think of the overly-fearful Usopp and Hanataro, the overly-expressive Franky and Brook, the trusting Tsuyu and Juvia, and the perpetually-angry Apacci, seeing that Jinbe had a point.

“Not even trusting your own student?” Kisame raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not sure how good she is at being deliberately unsuspicious,” Jinbe justified. “And Silver absolutely can’t know we’re onto him, if I’m going to root out whoever from my world is backing him. I’m sure that Silver will slip up, and the best way to take advantage is him not knowing we caught that slip.”

“Regardless,” Kisame interrupted. “I don’t like the idea of just letting that liar walk around the ship.”

“I get the feeling we won’t have to deal with it for long. Whoever Silver is in contact with, I’m sure they’ll be making their move, probably when we reach our destination,” Jinbe concluded.

“Great,” Kisame mumbled. “On top of Cipactli and Tiamat, we’ll be dealing with an entirely unknown interested party. I still say we string up Silver and pump him for everything he knows.”

“No,” Jinbe firmly set his foot down. “I don’t want to do anything hasty until I figure out who’s backing Silver. Besides, there will surely be other underlings heading for Tamatoa’s Horde, rather than this supposed enemy, and I’m sure they’ll have more answers if they’re higher up. Plus, I’ll make sure Silver’s story is straight with whatever this other player reveals.”

“Oh, come on!” Kisame was about to argue further, but Halibel opened the door from below. “Circe’s waking up,” she abruptly revealed. Both men quickly followed the Hollow.

OoOoOoO

After grabbing a bowl of dinner from the kitchen, the three were looking at the chained and bound sorceress. Hanataro was on standby in case their captive’s injuries acted up. Her hair ragged, her midsection bandaged, her eyes narrowed at her captors. “What do you want?” she asked in a hoarse voice.

“Information,” Halibel simply put it.

Deciding this was the best way to ensure her survival, Circe feigned compliance. “On what?”

“Poseidon…who is he?” Jinbe asked.

Circe found herself on the edge of a knife, metaphorically speaking. She knew something substantial would have to be given, but she absolutely couldn’t afford to divulge anything on her master’s current activities. So, she settled on the compromise of retelling an old legend, with the added benefit of buying time for her.

“Long ago, beings called the Titans used to rule my world. Their King was Kronos, who had overthrown the previous King, his father Ouranos. Over time, Kronos turned on those who had aided him, paranoid about keeping his throne. Then, he heard a prophecy about a child that would usurp him, just as he did his own father. His wife Rhea gave birth to three daughters, and three sons. Kronos ate them.”

Jinbe looked green around the gills. Halibel narrowed her eyes in disgust. Kisame smirked, eager to hear how this backfired on that asshole.

“But Rhea managed to save one child, Zeus, leaving a decoy in his place to be eaten. Years later, Zeus returned as a powerful God, and forced his father to vomit up his siblings, who were all fully grown, having protected themselves from Kronos’ digestion with their own incredible magic power from birth.”

Circe took a breath before continuing. “Zeus and his siblings rallied everyone wronged by Kronos, starting a war. Once Kronos lost, having been chopped to bits with his own scythe, the Gods drew lots on how to divide the world amongst themselves. Zeus himself gained dominion over the Heavens, becoming King of the Gods. The oldest brother, Hades, was named Lord of the Dead and Underworld. The middle brother was Poseidon, and he was crowned God of the Seas.”

The three stood silently, processing what they just heard.

“What a bloody beginning,” Jinbe couldn’t help but note.

“How do you know all this?” Halibel asked.

“Because my father, Helios, was one of those Titans that turned on Kronos,” Circe simply put it.

As fascinating as this all was, Kisame couldn’t help but note how little Circe was giving away on Poseidon specifically. “What about his abilities?”

The demigod began to laugh. “You ask as if this information will help you. Poseidon IS The Sea, with power beyond your comprehension. His mighty Trident has granted him complete dominion over the ocean and all its creatures. You three would be squashed flat in an instant,” Circe gave an ugly sneer.

Before they could continue, a shout came from above. “LAND HO!” Usopp bellowed.

“Hanataro…stay with Circe for now,” Jinbe ordered before leading the others up.

The witch gave a twisted smirk to the Soul Reaper.

OoOoOoO

A small mountain peeked its way over the horizon, with a humble beach surrounding it. Once close enough, the crew spotted a small sloop anchored on the other side of the island.

“Someone else got here first?” Usopp sounded anxious.

Silver zoomed in with his mechanical eye. “Not ringin’ any bells.”

“Give me a minute,” Halibel closed her eyes, and reached out with Pesquisa.

Inside the mountain, she felt something startling. One presence was very faint, probably a human. Two of the others felt strange, giving off a vibe similar to Kisame and Sasori. “So, Chakra…and quite a bit from both of them.” One being was a whole lot bigger than the others...and was reminding her slightly of the genuine Samebitos (not Circe’s botched experiments). But the last presence was what surprised her.

“Grimmjow.”

“WHAT?!” Apacci screeched. “That asshole?!”

“Who?” Jinbe pried.

“Grimmjow and I were both Espada, the ten strongest Hollows ever created.”

“Hehehe, another Hollow at your level. I might just get to go all out. This must be my lucky day,” Kisame laughed.

“Don’t be so eager, Kisame,” Halibel burst his bubble. “There are two Chakra-users in there too…and they seem to be around your and Sasori’s strength.”

“That so?” the puppet raised an eyebrow.

“Aside from that, there’s just a human and some massive creature. I’m assuming it’s the guardian,” Halibel finished. “And given how much it feels like the Samebitos…I can assume it truly is Tiamat’s (if she really is responsible for those brutes).”

“Guess things are gonna be kicking into high gear,” Kisame looked excited.

“Alright…Usopp, Franky, Tsuyu…you three stay with Sasori and Hanataro on the ship. Call us if anyone else approaches the island,” Jinbe declared.

“Yes, Sensei,” Tsuyu bowed her head.

Jinbe sighed. While he knew that Franky and Sasori worked best with the ship, and Usopp would be suitable as long-range/lookout, the Fishman desperately wanted to keep his young student out of fights with Kisame and Halibel’s equals.

“As for the rest of us…we’re going in. Silver…lead the way,” Jinbe beckoned the one-legged man forward, doing his best to conceal his suspicion.

OoOoOoO

Once at the shore, Silver gave a perplexed look. “The entrance is gone!” he exclaimed while stomping forward. The pirate put his mechanical hand over the rock.

“Wait a minute,” Kisame had an unusually serious expression. He pushed Silver aside, gave the wall a close look, and lightly tapped Samehada. It chittered, confirming his thought. He recognized that Chakra.

“Shit,” he whispered. “Halibel, you said there were two Chakra-users, right?”

“Yes,”

“Great, just perfect,” Kisame grumbled. “Damn Zombie Combo.”

Everyone else froze at how uncharacteristically on edge the Ninja was. Although, Kisame suddenly grinned as he eyed two of his comrades.

“Say, Brook, Juvia…how do you two feel about fighting an Akatsuki?”

Said comrades trembled in fear at the mere prospect. “Wha…?” Brook couldn’t even finish a word.

“You honestly think we can take on someone that strong?” Juvia did her best to remain calm.

“Yeah,” Kisame answered nonchalantly.

“Why them specifically?” Halibel quickly asked before Jinbe could pop a vessel.

“Because they don’t bleed. That means they’re the only ones who can face Hidan without any fear,” Kisame sounded certain. “He’ll be the one with the scythe,” he added in response to the confused looks.

“What about the other Akatsuki?” Apacci piped up.

“You wouldn’t last five minutes against Kakuzu,” Kisame turned back to serious. “That greedy bastard is dangerous. And he got nearly a century of experience fighting Ninjas before he kicked the bucket. It’ll have to be Halibel or Jinbe who faces him. He’d drag out a fight with me, but he won’t know how either of you two fight. Plus, you’re strong enough to actually match him. Just don’t let his threads get you…and be prepared for multi-elemental assaults.”

Kisame raised Samehada. “The second I break his Jutsu…Kakuzu will know I’m here. Are you ready?”

With no more than brief hesitation, everyone nodded. Satisfied, Kisame brought Samehada down. With a CRASH, cracks quickly formed as the Jutsu crumbled.

For a moment, the revealed tunnel was completely dark. Then, light burst forth.

“THUNDERBOLT TEMPO!”

“SHIT!”

“LIGHTNING STYLE: FALSE DARKNESS!”

The Straw Hats froze when they heard the scream.

OoOoOoO

(Earlier)

After walking a fair distance, Grimmjow, Nami, Hidan, and Kakuzu all had to squint. They had stumbled into the heart of the mountain. It was a massive open space filled to the brim with glittering jewels and precious metals, with a single hole above that allowed the sunlight to reflect off of them. The ceiling had stalactites with all manner of rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and sapphires embedded. Silver and pearls beckoned under pools of clear water. Not a single strip of natural rock could be seen on the floor, there were so many riches.

“Holy Hell!” Hidan couldn’t help but exclaim. “It’s a literal shit ton!” Even he was impreseed.

But the crowning eye catcher was in the direct center of the room. It was a mound, and it had all the gold in the room on it. Coins, shields, swords, statues, and crowns made for an uneven slope up the mound. Nami and Kakuzu both quickly calculated what 100 square feet worth of gold could bring them…and that was lowballing it. They then proceeded to moan in pleasure, much to Grimmjow’s disgust.

Still, their eyes were drawn to the summit of the mound. There was an ancient stone chest, with Aztec carvings evenly repeated along the sides. Symbols of their Nahuatl language were spread across the massive slab that served as a lid. Most disconcerting of all, the four would swear to their dying day that they heard something from the chest.

As enticing as all this was, the four weren’t idiots…well, three of them weren’t.

“What the Shit?!” Hidan shouted. “Where’s the son of a bitch that’s supposed to be guarding this thing?”

“Could you, just for once, shut up?!” Kakuzu yelled back. “If he isn’t on his way thanks to your obnoxious shouting, approaching that chest will probably alert him.”

Grimmjow closed his eyes…but his Pesquisa was going haywire. Apparently, the enemy’s energy was all around them.

“He’s already here,” the Hollow realized.

Nami brought out her Clima-Tact, fully extending it. For a moment, all four stood still. It was utter silence for a full minute.

“Well,” the Navigator came to a decision. “I’m going to stuff my pockets as quick as possible…and get the hell out of here.” She walked up the gold mound, with a voice in the back of her head suggesting she open the chest. Erring on the side of caution, Nami instead bent down to pick up the gold on the floor. She had scooped up enough coins to fill her pockets, before trying to bring up a pure gold shield. No matter how hard she tried, it just wouldn’t budge.

The others had walked onto the gold mound, and noticed that all the significantly sized pieces of gold weren’t budging an inch.

That is, until the entire mound started to tremble. Without any other warning, the entire mound of gold began to rise. Nami was sent on her side, off-balance. Hidan and Kakuzu quickly sent Chakra to their feet. Grimmjow simply took a few steps up into the air.

“I get it now,” the Hollow thought to himself. “I couldn’t narrow down where the guardian was…because he’s just that big!”

5 legs popped out from beneath the mound, with the 6th one already cut in half. Two massive claws moved faster than they had any right to, snapping repeatedly to try and find the insects stomping around on its back. Nami tumbled off, while the Akatsuki duo leaped onto the nearest stalactites.

Grimmjow moved with Sonido, getting his first good look at the guardian as his head poked out of his gold-encrusted shell, the Aztec chest still perfectly centered on his back. It was a Coconut Crab…with eyes as big as Grimmjow himself. Said eyes narrowed as a slight frown crossed the crab’s mouth.

“Such a drab getup,” the crab said in a slightly effeminate voice. “White is just such a plain color. Still…a snack is a snack.”

Grimmjow slightly exerted his Spiritual Pressure, but the crab didn’t even flinch. That reaction earned a smirk from the Espada. “You’re no pushover…what’s your name?” he raised a hand.

“Surely you already know,” the crab gave an impatient huff. “It is MY horde after all.”

“Right, dumb question,” Grimmjow started gathering energy. “Well, Tamatoa, I’m not just gonna let you eat me…so, come and get it!” He quickly fired off a Bala. The mighty crab shielded his face with one claw (not even singed), and struck with the other.

Grimmjow drew his sword and blocked. Tamatoa hit with such force that the Hollow was pushed back a few yards.

“I’m gonna enjoy this!” Grimmjow declared.

“You can try, try, try,” Tamatoa retorted in a sing-song voice.

The two clashed again and again with claw and sword, their very blows giving off shockwaves thanks to the sheer power behind them.

Down below, Nami was backing away from the stomping crab legs, earning a disdainful scoff.

Hidan was already in a foul mood with his lack of sacrifices recently. Seeing the ‘bitch’ making her way to the exit was the final straw, so he leaped to intercept. “I hate cowards,” he mumbled mid-Body Flicker. “They’re shitty sacrifices, but she’ll do.”

“Going somewhere?” came a decidedly un-amused voice behind the pirate.

She saw the scythe coming out of the corner of her eye. Nor surprised by this turn, Nami found herself grateful for her foresight and prep. “Mirage Tempo.”

“I’M DAMN TIRED OF YOU, YOU LITTLE BITCH! KAKUZU’S NOT GOING TO STOP ME NOW!” Hidan roared as he slashed. It looked like he had cut her in half, only for the image to shimmer and dissipate.

“The hell?”

Kakuzu rolled his eyes at his old partner’s antics, and focused back on the stomping Tamatoa. Now that the guardian was occupied with Grimmjow, the old Akatsuki took the initiative. A white mask surrounded by black threads emerged from his sleeve. He aimed at the back of the crab. It opened its mouth.

“Wind Style: Pressure Damage!”

The concussive blast managed to make a small crack on the exoskeleton, causing a slight stumble in Tamatoa’s stride. Grimmjow paused his attack, and glared at him. “Stay out of my fight, Kakuzu!”

“Hmph,” Kakuzu clearly wasn’t impressed with the attempt at an honorable fight. It was beneath him as a Ninja. Still, he’d let Grimmjow lie in the bed he made. And Tamatoa would surely be weak enough for an easy kill on Kakuzu’s part afterward.

Seeing Kakuzu with his creature aimed elsewhere, Hidan futilely searching for her, and Tamatoa occupied, Nami saw the perfect opportunity. Having only ever seen Kakuzu use one creature, she assumed that was all he was capable of. She aimed her Clima-Tact at all three…knowing she’d only have one shot.

“THUNDERBOLT TEMPO!”

“SHIT!”

“LIGHTNING STYLE: FALSE DARKNESS!”

Initially, it looked like things were working out for Nami. She hit Hidan without issue, hence the loud cursing. But she realized that the shouting sounded more annoyed than anything else. As for Kakuzu, she was not expecting the second masked creature. Nor for it to counter her lightning strike like nothing. The ensuing blast sent the Pirate flying back into the wall.

Still sparking, Hidan heard the impact, and lunged forward. “Just stay still, you little bitch!” He slashed and she screamed, all the better to sell the act.

“HAHAHA…what the…NOT THIS SHIT AGAIN!” Hidan began to frantically look again after the Fata Morgana faded. That is, until he noticed something. There were a few bits of blood on the edge of a diamond jutting out of the wall. ‘The bitch must’ve scraped herself when she slammed back. Perfect!”

Hidan quickly drank the blood and started drawing Jashin’s symbol. His skin turned black and white.

Nami, having never seen this ability, and not knowing she’d lost blood, decided that hightailing it would be preferable. However, everyone paused when they heard a shout.

“Hidan!” Kakuzu yelled. “Hurry it up! We’ve got company!” ‘That Chakra,’ Kakuzu realized. “It can’t be!”

CRASH!!!

A massive white object pierced through the floor, destroying Hidan’s circle. With no other choice, knowing full well what would happen if the bandaged blade hit him, the cultist leaped back closer to his old partner. Whatever damage would’ve been done to Nami, Hidan would be far worse off with Chakra depletion, and he knew it. To his irritation, his skin faded back to normal thanks to the circle’s utter destruction.

“YOU!”

At this point, even Grimmjow and Tamatoa paused in their duel, wondering what all the fuss was about.

Nami froze at the sight of the newcomer. The blue skin, sharp teeth, and beady eyes with an insane glimmer brought back some particularly bad memories. Still, she came back to the present when realizing just how different this ‘Fishman’ was. “Wait a minute, Hidan and Kakuzu recognized him. Were there Fishmen Ninja in their world?”

“Wow,” came the stranger’s sardonic voice. “Picking on a little girl…you two have sunk even lower than I remember…quite the accomplishment.”

“Kisame Hoshigaki,” Kakuzu growled. “Your Earth Style has improved, since you got here so quickly after breaking my Jutsu at the entrance.”

“Fish-faced Bastard!” Hidan exclaimed. “I’ve got a sacrifice to make…and you RUINED IT!”

“Calm down Hidan,” Kakuzu removed his cloak. “What are you doing here, Hoshigaki?”

“Enjoying the sights…making new friends,” Kisame teased, amused at how much he was irritating the ‘Zombie Combo’.

“Hmph…you and that damn Uchiha always had a habit of pissing me off,” Kakuzu narrowed his eyes. “Hidan…we’re going to have to work together. He is another Akatsuki after all.”

“I know, I know, I’m not a damn idiot,” Hidan cursed and pointed his scythe at Kisame.

“Says the only man I know who let himself get decapitated…repeatedly,” Kakuzu deadpanned.

“OH SHUT UP!”

“The usual, Hidan,” Kakuzu got him back on track.

“Right, right,” the cultist grumbled in response.

“You two seem to be mistaken,” Kisame gave a crooked grin to his former co-workers. “I’m not the one you’re fighting.”

Before either Akatsuki could react, two figures instantly appeared behind them.

“Sharkskin Palm Thrust!”

A massive blue palm slapped Kakuzu in the side, sending him flying into the cave wall.

“Gavotte: Bond en Avant!”

Hidan was cut with such force that he was pushed in the opposite direction. “The hell?!” he exclaimed when he saw his wound freeze.

And just like that, the Immortal Duo had been separated. “Heh…they always were a bit more careless than the rest of us,” Kisame couldn’t help but snicker. He had known they would focus on him if he revealed himself, watching every move that he would make. So, he deliberately had them face away from the entrance to look at him, allowing the others to quietly rush in.

“Now then,” Kisame turned to Tamatoa and what he instantly realized was the Espada (the flying was a dead giveaway). “I’m getting some ideas for dinner.”

Towards the back, Nami was stunned as she realized who this ‘scary Fishman-looking dude’ had brought along. She couldn’t believe her eyes at first.

“NAMI-SSSWWWWAAAAANNNNN!!!”

And that killed all of her doubt.

“Wha…Sanji!” For once, Nami wholeheartedly accepted the cook’s embrace.

“Aww…you two look so cute together,” a white-haired woman joined them. “Name’s Mira, pleasure to meet you,” the Wizard quickly shook her new friend’s hand.

“Don’t worry,” Sanji got back into serious mode. “These guys are all with me. You won’t have to worry about those two bastards.”

Nami felt utter relief at finally being reunited with at least some of her crew, having spent weeks scrounging and making whatever deals she could to get west, in the long-shot hope of finding the Straw Hats. True, she’d been mildly distracted by the prospect of Tamatoa’s Horde. Even now, she felt her eyes drawn to the Aztec chest on the top of the crab. She wasn’t the only one.

Silver was zooming in with his mechanical eye. “That’s it! At least we got here before Cipactli or his rotten blighters. Now…how to get it out of here.” The cyborg gazed around at the fights brewing.

For now though, Sanji, Mira, and Silver stood back. They had been told to only intervene if a fight started turning towards the worse. Plus, there was always the possibility of more ‘uninvited guests’, so they were the reserve for now.

Up above, Halibel and Apacci appeared close enough to Grimmjow for him to notice, but not too close to startle him. Surprisingly enough, he gave the two a grin. “Well…I was wondering when I’d run into you.”

Halibel narrowed her eyes. “Grimmjow, it’s been a long time.”

Before he could reply, he blocked a backhanded (or is it back-clawed?) strike with his blade. The Hollows then quickly used Sonido to avoid the follow up with the other claw snapping.

“Hmm, hmm, hmm…more tasty treats,” Tamatoa grinned at all the newcomers. That cheery mood didn’t last long. The crab grimaced in sudden pain, because Kisame had cut off the very tip of a right leg. Granted, Tamatoa was still able to perfectly balance himself, but it still hurt.

“Are you kidding me?!” Grimmjow started raising his voice. “Is it too much to ask for me to have a decent one-on-one after spending weeks with those morons to get here?!”

“If I may,” Halibel spoke up. “I can vouch for Kisame’s strength. He’d be a far better fight for you than this monstrosity.”

“Hey!” Tamatoa protested, his claws still snapping as the Hollows had a conversation while dodging. Grimmjow couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at Halibel speaking so highly of someone.

“Besides…he won’t just sit around as everyone else is fighting…so the only fair fight possible for you today is with him,” Halibel spelled it out. “I promise I won’t damage Tamatoa too much. That way, you can have a fair fight with the crab later.”

Grimmjow scoffed, but he didn’t argue. After all, the two had managed coexistence for the better part of a millennia after Yhwach was beaten. He quickly used Sonido to head to the ground, leaving the two female Hollows to dodge Tamatoa.

“Did you just set Grimmjow on Kisame?” Apacci turned towards her senior.

“Yes, I can tell just how pent up Grimmjow is…and that could be dangerous for all of us if he isn’t satisfied. Besides, Kisame’s been begging to have a proper fight with me. Maybe having to actually face an Espada will get him to back off,” Halibel explained. “I’ll kill two birds with one stone this way.”

“Umm…there might be a problem with that,” Apacci had a rare disagreement with Halibel. “Kisame will probably be more excited to face you after fighting him. And what if they actually get along?”

The former Espada’s eyes momentarily widened. “What have I done?”

After that ‘nightmare scenario’ passed from her head, Halibel focused back on Tamatoa, who was actually starting to speed up his strikes. “Hmm…I might’ve underestimated this crab. Still…I wonder how he tastes.”

Grimmjow stomped onto the ground. “Don’t you know it’s rude to interrupt a fight?”

“Sorry,” Kisame sounded genuine. “But I just couldn’t resist.”

The Hollow looked at Tamatoa’s severed tip, and saw that all the meat inside was gone.

“Did you seriously interfere…for a snack?!” Grimmjow could hardly believe it.

“Yes.”

A brief pause.

“You know what…screw it!”

CLANG!

Samehada and Pantera clashed in a haze of sparks. Manic grins began to spread on both blue-haired combatants.

OoOoOoO

“Son of a bitch!” Hidan punched his wound, shattering the ice with the aid of Chakra in his fist. It was crude, but it got the job done. He then turned to his newfound opponent, and was stunned at the sight. “The hell are you supposed to be?”

“My name is Brook,” said skeleton gave a fencer’s salute before adopting an unusually fierce expression. “And you were trying to kill a crewmate!”

“So?” Hidan seemed perplexed on why that would matter.

Brook sighed. “I truly do despise those who put no value on life.”

“Life? HA!” Hidan started laughing. “The living’s only purpose is to act as sacrifices for Almighty Jashin! And I Will have a sacrifice today.”

Without another word, the two rushed forward. Brook began by parrying the frenzied slashes from the scythe. “This madman has no form…but he’s so fast that he doesn’t need to. However, he’s still leaving a ridiculous amount of openings.”

Suddenly, Hidan pulled out a retractable spike from his sleeve, and threw it right through Brook’s suit. Normally, that would have pierced a lung. When it didn’t, Hidan was flabbergasted. On top of that, the spike had absolutely no blood. “HUH?!”

“My, I lost my breath there…or I would’ve, if I had any lungs. YOHOHOHO!” Brook chortled as he resumed the duel.

Hidan easily blocked the blade, but his mind was racing. “Shit…did Hoshigaki find this freak just to take me on? The Hell am I supposed to do to someone without any blood?!”

Juvia kept an eye on the fight. Her job was twofold: Provide Brook with long-range support if he should need it; Keep Hidan away from everyone else. At the moment, her intervention hadn’t been necessary, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t taking her task seriously. So she watched, and observed.

OoOoOoO

“Damn. If I hadn’t used Iron Skin at the last second, one of my hearts would’ve been in serious trouble,” Kakuzu thought as he dislodged himself from the wall. Thanks to his last-minute defense, there was no serious damage. He then took a moment to get the measure of his opponent, noting how absolutely massive this ‘creature’ was. “Hmm…a Fishman…because of course Hoshigaki would run into one.”

“Tell me…how did Hoshigaki actually manage to convince you to aid him?” the old Akatsuki asked. “You do know what he’s done to ‘comrades? Right?”

“I didn’t need convincing…you were just going to allow a dear friend of mine to suffer a horrible death,” Jinbe coldly replied while shoving his doubts aside for the moment.

“Hmph…your sentimentality will be the death of you,” Kakuzu coldly replied. Knowing he’d need to get serious against someone this strong, he instantly released three hearts. He gave a simple mental command: “Kill them all!”

Just like that, the three creatures took flight and scattered. One blasted wind at the Hollows and Tamatoa, forcing them to momentarily disengage. The Wind Mask then started heading towards Nami.

“DEMON BLAST” Mira managed to keep the Wind Mask away, but it quickly avoided her blasts, working its way around the room.

Another rained fire at Kisame and Grimmjow. Scoffing, the ex-Mist Ninja easily formed a quick Water Wall with one Hand Sign, shielding the duel from interference.

The last one shot Water Bullets directly at Brook. “Water Slicers!” Juvia countered the Water Mask’s attack, but wasn’t quite fast enough to zero in on it.

To be honest, Kakuzu was hoping that the Masks going after his comrades would at least momentarily distract the Fishman. But Jinbe kept his glare on the Ninja, raising his fist. Knowing what was coming, Kakuzu crossed his arms, coating both with Earth Style: Iron Skin.

“Arabesque Brick Fist!”

Kakuzu was puzzled at the Fishman punching the air itself. That is, until he felt himself get pushed back not a second later. “URK!” his watery insides forced his body backwards. Once again, the Iron Skin had managed to lessen the damage enough that the Ninja could still fight without hindrance.

“Earth Style: Mobile Core!” Kakuzu slammed a foot, sending Chakra directly under Jinbe. The 20 square feet around the Fishman fell into the earth, but not before Jinbe leaped aside, easily avoiding the trap.

Taking his chance, Kakuzu rushed forward with his hardened fists. With time for nothing else, Jinbe covered his arms in Haki. Fist met fist in a barrage of punches.

“This Ninja’s technique is quite similar to the application of Armament Haki…but how?” Jinbe wondered. “Could it be a type of Earth Jutsu…converting minerals into a hardened shell? Most likely.”

“So…this is the Pirate World’s Haki…willpower made manifest. Impressive,” Kakuzu grudgingly admitted to himself.

Both put more power into their punches, blackened knuckles slamming into blackened knuckles. It was getting to the point where small shockwaves were emanating from the clashes, blasting away any small, loose pieces of treasure nearby.

Around the 50th punch, Kakuzu noticed something. He began to feel his hands sting, and saw small cracks starting to form. “He’s overpowering my Iron Skin with nothing but brute strength?! IMPOSSIBLE! No, don’t panic…just find a way to disengage.”

All of a sudden, while Jinbe’s hands were engaged, the Lightning Mask popped out from behind Kakuzu. “Lightning Style: False Darkness!”

Thinking fast, the Fishman managed to coat his whole body in Haki. Regardless, it was still a point-blank lightning strike…so it hurt like hell. But before Kakuzu could retreat, Jinbe smacked his Haki-encased forehead onto the Ninja’s.

“GAH!” Kakuzu was sent yards away by the sheer force. He landed on his feet, and brought a hand to his head. The Ninja was quite surprised to see his own blood so early in the duel.

Jinbe released his Haki, breathing heavily while recovering from that lightning.

Both took the brief reprieve to catch their breath.

“I have to admit…I’ve never fought someone with such monstrous physical strength before,” Kakuzu said. “I can’t help but wonder if I could grow stronger with his heart. What would happen if I took an otherworlder’s heart? Only one way to find out.”

“Hmm,” Jinbe opted not to engage in petty banter, having a feeling it’d be pointless.

Suddenly, his Observation Haki went off. Jinbe quickly moved to the side, watching as a fireball soared past where he just was. Turning to face the Fire Mask, he saw it shoot another Fire Style: Searing Migraine. “Water Shot!” The attack managed to cancel out the coming fire, but the Mask flew away, back towards the rest of his crew.

In the meantime, Kakuzu had readied his own mask. “Lightning Style: False Darkness!”

Dodging, Jinbe came to a realization. “After seeing me up close, this man is just going to keep bombarding me with long-range Ninjutsu. I need to figure out a way to either take out the Masks before he moves in, or land one of my stronger attacks on his main body before he has a chance to defend.”

OoOoOoO

Tamatoa was fast. Faster than any creature his size had any right to be. Plus, he was fighting smart, using the confined space to his advantage.

“My, my…lively little snacks, aren’t you?” the crab still wasn’t taking this seriously as his claw scraped across Tiburon, pushing the Espada closer to the wall.

To be fair, neither was Halibel. Him keeping all his attention on her suited the Hollow just fine. Granted, Apacci was a little more frantic in dodging, but she still had avoided any damage.

Suddenly, Tamatoa spun quickly enough so that his side was right beneath the Hollows. He then did the crab equivalent of hip-checking the two. Both Halibel and Apacci were hit with enough force to slam them into the wall. While Halibel’s own Hierro meant she wasn’t even scratched, Apacci had a bruise and some scrapes.

Before the Hollows could retaliate, the Wind Mask came flying back for another strafing run, blasting craters into the wall with repeated Wind Style: Pressure Damage. The two Hollows quickly avoided the blasts with Sonido.

“Apacci, destroy that interference.”

“With pleasure,” the younger Hollow dashed off, firing a barrage of Bala. The Wind Mask managed to counter with its wind blasts before fleeing into the maze of stalactites. Apacci quickly pursued, beginning what was basically a dogfight.

Tamatoa had taken the opportunity and was scuttling towards the biggest group of people, i.e. Nami and Sanji’s trio. His mere steps were causing trembling in the cavern. All the other duelers had to quickly disengage to avoid the rampaging crab, only to rejoin in battle.

Before Tamatoa could even get close to those not currently fighting, Halibel got right in front of him, golden energy instantly forming around a pointed finger. “Bala.”

It was only by sheer luck that Tamatoa didn’t lose an eye. He was blinking when the attack hit. Still, his eyelid was completely destroyed, meaning he wouldn’t be able to shield his eye like that again.

The crab turned to the Hollow. While he was still grinning, it was clear that it was a strained façade. “Well, well, well…little girl’s got some power. You think you can beat a thousand-year old decapod? I lived and died in Lalotai, the realm of the monsters. Only the strongest lasted longer than a day.”

“A realm of Monsters, huh?” Halibel clearly wasn’t impressed. “Well…I was the Queen of my world’s monsters for a thousand years!”

Putting more power into her arm, Halibel slashed Tiburon with enough force to create a blade of wind. Said wind blade went to Tamatoa’s side, cleanly cutting off a layer of gold on the leftmost tip of his shell, leaving it a bare red.

The crab’s whole demeanor shifted in a millisecond. He had worked CENTURIES to create the perfect shiny shell…and this little insect ruined it like it meant nothing.

“When I eat you…I’m going to enjoy it more than devouring my own grandma,” Tamatoa snarled as he lunged forward.

OoOoOoO

Kisame was having the time of his life. Finally, after weeks on this sea, he was having a proper duel with a swordsman that could match both his power and technique.

For some reason, he and Grimmjow had come to an unspoken agreement, sticking to pure swordplay. The Ninja wasn’t using any of his Jutsu, while the Hollow was keeping his feet on the ground and refraining from Cero and the like.

In the years following Yhwach’s defeat, Grimmjow had wandered the desert of Hueco Mundo, devouring any murderous Hollow he ran across to become stronger. On top of that, he constantly sought to hone and improve on his technique, driven by his obsession of beating Ichigo fair and square. As for that rematch…I’ll leave it up to your imaginations.

Now, with so many other worlds’ worth of warriors, Grimmjow wanted to know where he stood. And so far…he was disappointed…at least until coming to this island. It had been so long since he’d fought someone decent…and he was relishing the chance to show off his hard-earned strength.

Kisame came down with an overhead strike. Grimmjow was forced to block with one hand on the flat of his own blade. “Holy crap, that thing’s heavier than it looks,” the Hollow mused about Samehada. “And the strength to wield that so easily...quite impressive for a human. Although…is he even human?”

While Grimmjow pondered that, he angled his sword downwards, using Kisame’s own strength against him. Once Samehada had slammed into the jewel-covered ground, the Hollow used Sonido to get right behind his opponent.

Seeing that coming a mile away, Kisame quickly drug his great blade across the ground as he turned, sending all sorts of precious stones into Grimmjow’s face.

Despite the distraction, the Hollow leapt over Samehada, managing to keep his legs. Midair, he then kicked the Ninja in the diaphragm.

“Oof!” Kisame drove Samehada into the ground, stopping his backwards momentum.

Grimmjow, mad grin in place, lunged past. He even managed to give Kisame a small cut on his bicep.

The Ninja uprooted Samehada, managing to scrape Grimmjow’s thigh for a second.

The two used Body Flicker and Sonido to get back, and both immediately rushed forward.

Samehada and Pantera sang with the repeated clashing. Every slash would be countered. Every perceived opening would merely be a feint. Neither was giving up an inch.

CLANG! The blades briefly shuddered as the two pushed for superiority, grins never faltering. Not getting anywhere, Ninja and Hollow leapt back again.

“Your swordsmanship’s good…better than anyone I’ve fought in this world,” Kisame praised his opponent.

“That so?” Grimmjow felt his own grin stretch, having always appreciated compliments.

“Well…I’m sure Halibel’s better, unless you want to prove me wrong,” Kisame smirked.

“I know you’re playing me…but you’re right, I do want to prove you wrong,” Grimmjow began stepping up into the air, crooked grin still in place as he pointed.

“Oh…we actually going to use our powers now?” Kisame slammed Samehada into the ground, and began his Hand Signs.

“Yep…Bala.”

“Water Style: Water Wall!”

The Bala barrage destroyed the Jutsu, but was cancelled out in the process. That allowed Kisame to slam a hand on one of the pools. “Water Style: Water Shark Bomb Jutsu!”

Grimmjow avoided the shark at the last second with Sonido. “Yeesh…he even shapes his water into sharks. All right then, let’s see how he handles something with a little more ‘oomph’.”

“Cero!”

For some reason, Kisame just stood completely still. Then…SLASH! Grimmjow’s eyes widened as the Cero completely vanished.

“The Hell?! Did my Cero just get EATEN?!” Grimmjow wondered incredulously. “Where did Halibel find this guy?!”

“Those looks of surprise never get old,” Kisame put Samehada on his shoulder, feeling it chitter.

“Most of my long-range won’t get past that sword. All right, I’ll have to mix it up with hand-to-hand…make it so I hit him before that thing can take more of my Reishi.” As a precaution, Grimmjow put a little more energy into his Hierro…hoping it’d be enough.

The Hollow sped forward, and Kisame side-stepped to avoid him. Samehada gave Grimmjow a glancing blow, but the Ninja raised an eyebrow when noticing no wound. “Oh…he strengthened his Hierro. Looks like I’ll have to actually put my back into it if I wanna cut him,” Kisame observed.

Once again, Pantera and Samehada slammed into each other with a mighty CLANG!

OoOoOoO

“Land Ho!” the crow in the crow’s nest cawed. The entire crew of animals started baying, hollering, and roaring. 4 of them were more subdued, but no less eager. Gustave, Rob Lucci, Jackal, and Menthuthuyoupi all smirked.

“It’s here,” the crocodile-hybrid simply said. Noticing the two ships anchored, he turned to the crew. “Release the Nevermores.” An anaconda, scorpion, and leopard scurried down below deck of the massive ship.

An earsplitting screech emanated as a door on the side of the ship opened up, not unlike a hanger bay’s. And absolutely massive ravens began to pour out. They were also unusual in that their talons were bone white. On top of that, their heads were covered what appeared to be a skull-like mask, shielding glowing red eyes.

“Jackal…you know what to do,” Gustave rumbled.

Too excited to argue, the Demon hopped off the ship and onto the biggest bird’s back. With his own ill intent, he was able to direct the beasts towards the anchored ships.

“All of you!” Gustave barked at the crew. “Pick up the pace…the three of us are going ahead. When you land…KILL THEM ALL!” He leaped off, morphing back to full crocodile and swimming ahead full speed.

“Moonwalk!” Lucci easily kept up with his kicks into the air.

“Che…” Youpi scoffed as he grew wings out of his back, and brought up the rear.

OoOoOoO

“We should be seeing the island in a few minutes,” Captain Barbossa concluded as he brought up a spyglass, Jack the Monkey perched on his shoulder.

“Captain…”Ragetti hesitantly spoke up. “Are you sure we should be going near that chest again?”

“I understand yer’ concern, but we don’t have any other choice,” the gentleman (in his mind at least) pirate was about to elaborate, but he caught black specks on the horizon. He quickly opened his spyglass, and his eye widened at the sight.

“Cipactli’s cockroaches are already here,” he whispered to himself. “ALL HANDS…BATTLE STATIONS!”

The crew of the Queen Anne’s Revenge scurried about.

“Compress, Emerald…you two better be ready to go in under fire,” the Captain growled.

“Grimm weren’t part of the deal!” Emerald shouted at the sight of the black creatures.

“You still have a job to do…or are you the type to renege on a bargain struck?” Barbossa gave a pointed look.

“No,” Emerald lowered her head.

“Good, the Revenge will cover you until you and Compress get inside the cavern,” the pirate glared at the Quirk User. “And if I find that even a single medallion is missing from that chest when you bring it…I’ll have your guts for garters.”

Mr. Compress gulped. “Understood.”

Barbossa turned back to the island. “If I had my way…I’d just sink that accursed chest to the bottom of the sea…but I have orders.” So he took a deep breath, and braced himself for the coming hell.

Chapter Text

Cutty Sark Crew:

Tia Halibel: Queen of Hueco Mundo, former 3rd Espada.

Series: Bleach

Species: Arrancar

Class: Mid-S Rank.

Equipment: A hollow blade named Tiburon. Transforms into a pata, resembling a shark tooth, when Resurreción in effect.

Energy manipulated: Reiatsu

Former affiliation: Espada (10 mighty Hollows who served Sōsuke Aizen).

Abilities: Master Swordswoman. Monstrous strength and endurance. Flight. Super speed (with Sonido). Incredible Durability (can be bolstered with Hierro). Energy detection (Pesquisa). Limited healing. Energy blasts (Ola Azul, Trident, Cero, Bala).

Resurreción: With command of “Hunt, Tiburon,” Halibel channels all of her Reishi to assume a stronger form. On top of greatly enhancing all above abilities, she gains incredibly powerful hydromancy, even able to conjure tsunamis worth of water mid-air. Signature moves include Cascada (mid-air tsunami), La Gota (a smaller blast of water), and Hirviendo (altering water temperature).

Goal: Reunite with her three subordinates/adopted daughters (Apacci, Mila Rose, Sung-Sun)

 

Kisame Hoshigaki: The Monster of the Hidden Mist. The Tailless Tailed Beast.

Series: Naruto

Species: Human (NOT a Fishman)

Class: Mid-S Rank

Equipment: Samehada-a legendary Ninja Sword that can absorb the energy of an opponent, and allot it to its owner, healing any injuries he may have. Can also merge with Kisame, boosting all of his abilities.

Energy Manipulated: Chakra

Former Affiliation: Hidden Mist Village (as one of the 7 Ninja Swordsmen), Akatsuki (organization of the worst criminals in the Ninja World).

Abilities: Master Swordsman. Tremendous Chakra levels, leading to remarkable stamina. Super Speed (with Body Flicker). Incredible strength. Limited energy absorption (even without Samehada). Moderately skilled in Earth Style Jutsu. Can Summon sharks to act as fighters, supplementary support, or messengers. Also skilled in stealth and espionage.

Water Style Jutsu: Allegedly the greatest user of Water Style Jutsu in his time…even to the point of not requiring an existing source. Has the tendency of shaping attacks into sharks. Signature moves include Water Clones, Water Shark Bomb, Shark Shower, Exploding Water Shockwave, Water Prison, and Hidden Mist Jutsu. His ultimate move is Super Water Shark Bomb, a massive attack that also absorbs the energy from any attack.

Goals: Having a good time. Keeping his promise to Halibel. Joining up with Itachi.

 

Jinbe: The Knight of the Sea. Boss

Series: One Piece

Species: Fishman

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: He doesn’t need any.

Energy: None.

Former Affiliation: Neptune Army (resigned), Sun Pirates (dispersed), Seven Warlords of the Sea (disbanded), Big Mom Pirates (departed), Straw Hat Pirates.

Abilities: Expert Hand-to-Hand combatant. Top-tier physical strength. Massive endurance and stamina. Skilled Helmsman. Observation Haki grants limited precognition, allowing improved reflexes and evasion. Armament Haki bolsters Jinbe’s already impressive strength, while also allowing him to connect attacks towards elemental shapeshifters and intangible foes.

Fishman Karate: With his mastery of his species’ martial art, Jinbe gains control over any nearby water. It’s even to the point where he sends shockwaves through the water of his opponent’s bodies. This, combined with shooting water from his palms, can cripple all but the most strongest. Examples include Arabesque Brick Fist, 10,000 Brick Fist, Shark Brick Fist, Water Shot, 7,000 Roundhouse Kick, Sharkskin Palm Thrust, and the devastating Vagabond Drill. When underwater, Jinbe is even capable of Fishman Jujitsu, manipulating all the water around him. Ocean Current Shoulder Throw and Shark Pack are powerful demonstrations of the art.

Goals: Reuniting with his Straw Hat crew.

 

Franky: Cyborg Franky

Series: One Piece

Species: Human (New and improved)

Class: Low to Mid A-Rank

Equipment: He IS the equipment. Although, his WapoMetal is incredibly versatile. With it, he can create and store rocket launchers, machine guns, laser beams, air cannons, shields, and nipple lights (truly an innovation).

Energy: THE POWER OF COLA!

Former Affiliation: Tom’s Workers, Franky Mafia Family, Straw Hat Pirates.

Abilities: Master craftsman, inventor, and shipwright. Cyborg enhancements greatly increase strength and endurance. As a result, he’s quite proficient in physical brawls, with moves such as Strong Right, Southland Suplex, Strong Hammer, Franky Iron Boxing, and Iron Suplex. Also plays a mean guitar.

General Franky: With the top-of-the-line technology, Franky created a machine unlike any other. A mecha Franky can pilot that is essentially a SUPER version of himself, enhancing all his usual moves.

Goals: Reuniting with the Straw Hats. Sailing the Cutty Sark to Fiddlers’ Green.

 

Sasori: Sasori of the Red Sand

Series: Naruto

Species: Formerly Human

Class: Low to Mid S-Rank

Equipment: His puppets contain various hidden weapons and mechanisms such as senbon, kunai, razor-blades, saws, and gas pellets. All of the above is coated in poison. While his Hiruko is the most commonly used puppet, the 3rd Kazekage (with its manipulation of Iron Sand) is easily his most powerful. As of now, while he hasn’t resumed his creation of Human Puppets, he’s still eager to experiment, as the Manticore could attest

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliation: Hidden Sand Village, Akatsuki

Abilities: Super Speed. Incredible Agility. Skilled Chemist (specializing in poisons). Moderately skilled in Wind Style. Sand Clones. Moderate strength and stamina. Master craftsman and inventor. Intelligence and ability of a master spy.

Puppet Master: With Chakra Strings, Sasori is able to control any of his puppets to act as devastating support. Lined with poison, a small cut is all it takes. If he kills a powerful opponent, he can create a puppet that retains their abilities, like the Third Kazekage.

Goal: Proving that the Cutty Sark is the ultimate work of art.

 

Tsuyu Asui: Froppy

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human

Class: High B-Rank (although she is growing stronger with Fishman Karate)

Equipment: Super suit allows for longer journeys underwater, with protective goggles allowing perfect eyesight.

Energy: None

Former Affiliation: UA High’s Class 1-A. Pro-Hero Association

Quirk: Frog: Tsuyu can do anything a frog can. While not much of a strength enhancement, her agility and flexibility are astounding. Her favorite move is to shoot out her elongated tongue, wrap it around an enemy, and slam them down. Additionally, she is also capable of secreting a mild irritant. Her ability to stick to walls and secreting a mild poison also derive from her Quirk. All the above is only possible due to extensive physical training.

Goal: Gain the strength to survive the Sea of Second Chances. Reunite with Class 1-A.

 

Emilou Apacci: One of the Tres Bestias.

Series: Bleach

Species: Arrancar

Class: Mid to High A-Rank

Equipment: Her Zanpakutō, Cierva, takes the form of Chakrams around the wrists.

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliation: Aizen’s Army, Halibel’s Tres Bestias.

Abilities: Super strength, endurance. Super Speed (Sonido). Flight. Super durability (Hierro). Energy Detection (Pesquisa). Limited Healing. Energy Blasts (Cero and Bala). Pulsera Cuerno (her Chakrams get thrown out like boomerangs, nailing whoever it hits).

Resurreción: With a command of “Thrust, Cierva”, Apacci assumes her ultimate form. All the above abilities are enhanced. Additionally, when cooperating with her fellow Bestias, a technique called Quimera Parca allows them to create an S-Rank chimera monster called Ayon.

Goal: Serve Halibel. Find Mila Rose and Sung Sun

 

Brook: Soul King

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Low to Mid A-Rank

Equipment: Carries a guitar, occasionally a violin. He wields Soul Solid, a sword hidden within his cane.

Energy: None

Former Affiliation: Rumbar Pirates, Straw Hat Pirates

Abilities: A skilled swordsman, particularly in fencing style, with moves such as Arrow Notch Slash, Soul Parade, Song of Scratches, and Bond en Avant. Enhanced strength, speed, and durability. Additionally, thanks to his Devil Fruit, he can enhance whatever music he plays to the point where it has a potent affect on all who listen.

Revive-Revive Fruit: With this, Brook is able to bind his soul to his skeletal husk. His preferred usage is to channel the ‘chill of the underworld’ giving an icy addition to his attacks. When pressed, he can channel his soul outwards for a variety of effects, like exorcising foreign souls in vessels.

Goal: Reunite with the Straw Hats.

 

Juvia Lockser: Juvia of the Deep

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Human

Class: High A-Low S Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Magic (in form of Ethernanos)

Former Affiliation: Phantom Lord (defunct), Fairy Tail Guild.

Abilities: Above-average speed, endurance, and strength.

Magic: Water: She can create, manipulate, and become water, much like a Logia Devil Fruit. While intangible to attacks, she can send out water in the form of blades (Water Slicer), whips (Water Cane), a cyclone to propel herself (Water Jigsaw), scalding pools (Sierra), and a tsunami (Water Cyclone). Her Water Body is what allows attack to go right past her without damage.

Goal: Repay the Cutty Sark crew for helping her. Reunite with her ‘darling Gray’ and Fairy Tail

 

Usopp:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid B-Rank

Equipment: His massive slingshot, Black Kabuto, allows him to be the most effective Straw Hat in purely long-range combat. Incredibly proficient in the use of Pop Greens, flora that rapidly grows once fired to serve a specific purpose.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Straw Hat Pirates

Abilities: Enhanced Observation Haki allows him to an incredibly broad range of sight and sensory abilities, greatly aiding in his already-incredible sniping skills. He’s also got the standard durability, strength, and speed of a New World level pirate.

Goal: Get back to the other Straw Hats.

 

Hanataro Yamada:

Series: Bleach

Species: Soul Reaper

Class: Low B-Rank

Equipment: His Zanpakutō takes the form of a katana named Hisagomaru. Unlike other blades, it can heal whatever it hits, taking the energy of said injuries into itself (although Hanataro has learned to use it as a regular katana, picking and choosing who gets healed). When it assumes Shikai, it takes the form of a scalpel that can unleash all of its accumulated energy in a great blast (much like a Cero).

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliations: Soul Society’s Gotei 13 (4th Division)

Abilities: With a bit of training, Hanataro was able to at least bring his abilities past the average as far as Soul Reapers are concerned.

Goal: Help out wherever he can.

 

Sanji:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: His own two legs.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Germa 66, The Baratie Café, Straw Hat Pirates

Abilities: With his tremendous strength, speed, agility, and endurance, Sanji was easily one of the strongest of the original Straw Hat crew. He has innovated an extraordinary martial art known as Black Leg Style (with moves such as Collier Shot, Anti-manner Kick Course, Concasse, and Sky Walk). Going even further, Diable Jambe can allow Sanji to utilize fire in addition to his ridiculous leg strength (with Grill shot, Collier Strike, and Hell Memories being prominent). His skill with Armament and Observation Haki only makes him that much more dangerous.

Goal: Be the best damn cook to his crew.

 

Mirajane Strauss:

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Human

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Magic (Ethernanos)

Former Affiliations: Fairy Tail Guild

Abilities: With her super strength, speed, endurance, and durability, Mirajane is quite the effective brawler.

Takeover Magic (Demon): With this, Mirajane has assimilated and taken the strength of any ‘Demon’ that she has defeated in the past. All the various forms provide an tremendous boost in all her abilities. Satan Soul allows flight and the usage of devastating Darkness Magic (like Soul Extinctor or Evil Explosion). Halphas focuses on sheer physical ability. Sitri combines strength, flight, and fire. Seilah enables her a degree of control over opponents and the ‘weak-minded’. Alegria is her ultimate form, bringing her physical power to the max, but it is heavily exhausting.

Goal: Reunite with Fairy Tail Guild, especially her younger siblings, Elfman and Lisanna.

 

Nami:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid B-Rank

Equipment: Sorcery Clima-Tact allows Nami to conjure up wind, lightning, mirages, and clouds in any combination (such as Gust Sword, Thunder Trap, and Milky Ball)

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Arlong Pirates (defunct), Straw Hat Pirates

Abilities: In addition to her navigational and meteorological skills, Nami is an exceptional thief. As such, she’s no slouch when it comes to stealth and agility. While her strength and speed are moderate by New World standards, it’s more than enough to outclass average soldiers and mooks.

Goal: Get RICH! Also see the Straw Hats again.

 

The Shireen Crew:

Itachi Uchiha:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: Standard Shinobi Setup. Carries an assortment of Kunai, Shuriken, and the occasional Paper Bomb.

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Leaf Village, Akatsuki (double agent)

Abilities: While not quite up-to-par in terms of raw physical strength and endurance, Itachi more than makes up for it with skill, precision, speed, and intelligence. His Super Speed is thanks to a mastery of Body Flicker. He also has a natural proclivity to Fire Style Jutsu. Thanks to his Sharingan, he’s also able to copy any other Jutsu not specific to the wielder, along with gaining a level of precognition.

Mangekyō Sharingan: The evolved Visual Jutsu grants 3 devastating abilities to Itachi, although each takes a considerable toll in Chakra. Tsukuyomi places the victim in an Illusion that feels however long Itachi deems fit. Amaterasu is a devastating black fire that consumes all it touches. Susanōō is an ethereal armor that can form itself around Itachi as a near-impenetrable defense.

Goal: See Sasuke and Kisame again. Atone.

 

Davos Seaworth: The Onion Knight

Series: Game of Thrones

Species: Human

Class: Mid C-Rank

Equipment: A Valyrian Steel cutlass.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: House Baratheon, House Stark, Royal House of the Seven Kingdoms

Abilities: As a smuggler in his prime, Davos had to be great at navigation, evasion, and stealth by necessity. He’s also incredibly intelligent, rising to a position of advisor for royalty. In his second life, Davos found the means and style to become an effective fighter, able to easily handle himself against any common soldier.

Goal: Make it through this ‘bloody madness’.

 

Portgas D. Ace:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment:

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Spade Pirates, Whitebeard Pirates

Abilities: As a Commander of one of Whitebeard’s Divisions, Ace was undoubtedly one of the strongest pirates in the New World. Super strength and endurance were off the charts. Skill in Armament Haki greatly bolsters both. Super speed and reflexes, the latter partially thanks to Observation Haki. On top of that, he has Conqueror’s Haki, allowing him to knock out crowds of soldiers at once with sheer willpower.

Flame-Flame Fruit: After consuming the fruit, Ace was able to create, manipulate, and become fire. His favorite moves include Fire Fist, Fire Gun, Flame Commandment, Firefly, Saint Elmo’s Fire, and Great Flame Commandment: Flame Emperor (his greatest move, capable of annihilating an island on its own).

Goal: See Luffy, Sabo, and the Whitebeards again.

 

Shoto Todoroki:

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human

Class: Mid A-Rank

Equipment:

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: UA High’s Class 1-A, Pro-Hero Association

Abilities: Thanks to hellish training at the hands of his father, Shoto is an incredibly keen fighter. He’s stronger, faster, and far more durable than the vast majority of his class.

Quirk: Half Cold, Half Hot: From his right side, Shoto can create ice (his Heaven Piercing Ice Wall is the biggest). From his left side, he can create fire (Wall of Flames). He’s developed enough to control to instantaneously switch between the two. A favorite move is cooling the air, then quickly heating it with fire, expanding the air into a superheated blast (Flashfreeze Heatwave).

Goal: Reunite with 1-A.

 

Weiss Schnee:

Series: RWBY

Species: Human

Class: High B/Low A-Rank

Equipment: Myrtenaster is a Revolver/Rapier that contains six slots for Dust bullets (which can create a wide range of elemental effects, though she usually sticks to ice).

Energy: Aura (which forms as a shield around users)

Former Affiliations: Beacon Academy, Team RWBY

Abilities: Despite her lack of endurance, Weiss more than makes up for it with variety, speed, and hitting power. She’s both a good marksman and swordswoman (preferring a fencing-like style).

Semblance: Glyphs: Allows Weiss to create glyphs that provide many supplemental affects (such as boosts in speed or midair platforms). She can also use them to summon the essence of any enemy that she’s defeated, and direct it towards an opponent or obstacle.

Goal: Reunite with RWBY. Help out wherever she can.

 

Poseidon’s Forces:

Poseidon:

Series: Greek Mythology

Species: God

Class: X-Rank

Equipment: THE Trident.

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: The Olympian Pantheon

Abilities: So far, the only demonstration of his power is sending absolutely MASSIVE storms anywhere he desires in the whole of the SoSC.

Goal: Unknown

 

Hecate:

Series: Greek Mythology

Species: God

Class: High S/Low X-Rank

Equipment: Unknown

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: The Olympian Pantheon

Abilities: So far, she can communicate across vast distances, in the form of a smoky visage. She can also see through enchantments of all sorts, such as the Shark Summons’ best Genjutsu.

Goal: Unknown

 

Circe:

Series: Greek Mythology

Species: Demigod

Class: Low-Mid S-Rank

Equipment: Usually carries around a potion/pill that can transform humans to and from animals.

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: None

Abilities: She specializes in Shapeshifter Magic, which allows her to transform into whichever animal she thinks can give an advantage. Depending on the animal, she can increase her speed, strength, or endurance. So far, her most powerful transformation was into The Hydra itself. She’s also an incredibly skilled chemist.

Goal: Survive

 

Thorn the Manticore:

Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Species: Manticore

Class: Mid-High A-Rank

Equipment: His stinger tail comes with a near-endless supply of poisoned darts that can be shot at his leisure.

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: Kronos’ Army

Abilities: As a Manticore, Thorn can fire an endless supply of poisonous needles from his tail. On top of that, he had the strength and speed to easily contend with Demigods.

Goal: Weather the coming storm behind the biggest power in the sea…Failed.

 

The Flying Dutchman:

Davy Jones:

Series: Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Species: Formerly Human

Class: High S-Rank (Steadily increasing each day)

Equipment: All he carries is a sword, with which he’s incredibly proficient.

Energy: Whatever his crew has.

Former Affiliations: East India Trading Company (under duress)

Abilities: Virtually immortal and invulnerable. A fearsome swordsman. Thanks to the magic of the Flying Dutchman, his strength, speed, and endurance have all increased significantly. He can also phase in and out of anything on his ship, along with teleporting to any ship within eyesight. In short, unless his heart is found, he cannot fall, cannot tire, and cannot stay down.

Goal: Unknown

 

Torafuzar:

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Formerly Demon (specifically Etherious)

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Curses

Former Affiliations: Tartaros Guild (destroyed by Fairy Tail)

Abilities: As a Demon, Torafuzar has unnatural strength and durability. Due to his physiology, he is also an expert swimmer and can breath underwater. He’s a master at Hand-to-hand, using his gauntlet-like fists and the blades protruding from his forearms to devastating effect (such as Deep Impact or Slash Arm). His particular Curse, Tenchi Kaimei, conjures a massive pool of toxic black water. His opponents lose their breath, are slowly poisoned, and are completely outmaneuvered by Torafuzar’s swimming.

Etherious Form: When assuming his real form, Torafuzar’s speed, strength, and durability take a dramatic rise. When in a particularly bad situation, he can utilize Chokogai, which allows him to cover himself in an incredibly thick metal armor.

Goal: Get back at Fairy Tail and the Cutty Sark for beating him.

 

Cipactli’s Horde:

Cipactli:

Series: Aztec Mythology

Species: There is only Cipactli.

Class: X-Rank

Equipment: Unknown

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: None. NO ONE from his world ever teamed up with him.

Abilities: So far, the only ability revealed is empowering animals with his own blood. Once enhanced, he has a degree of influence, insight, and communication with them.

Goal: Unknown

 

Gustave:

Series: OC (Inspired by a real-life crocodile named Gustave that was allegedly responsible for hundreds of human deaths).

Species: Crocodile

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Whatever Cipactli uses.

Former Affiliations: None

Abilities: Absolutely monstrous physical strength and endurance (partially thanks to an enhanced hide of scales). With moderate intelligence derived from Cipactli’s blood. He can also transform into a half man/half crocodile hybrid that allows him to move on land. While still reduced in speed and agility when compared to water, he still possess the monstrous strength and endurance needed.

Goal: Carry out Cipactli’s will.

 

Rob Lucci:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: World Government’s Cipher Pol

Abilities: Rob Lucci is possibly the strongest assassin that the World Government had in his lifetime. As such, his incredible strength, speed, and endurance are matched by very few. His most distinctive moves are derived from the Six Powers, which include Moonwalk (semi-flight), Shave (super-speed), Paper Art (evasion), Iron Body (heightened endurance), Tempest Kick (Razor Wind), and Finger Pistol (Appendage gains the strength to drive itself through most human bodies). After his defeat at Enies Lobby, Lucci intensified his training, acquiring Armament and Observation Haki.

Cat-Cat Fruit (Model Leopard): Thanks to this fruit, Lucci is able to either fully transform into a Leopard, or go into a Hybrid form that exponentially multiplies his already impressive strength, speed, and endurance.

Goal: Stick with Cipactli, allowing him to indulge his bloodlust.

 

Jackal:

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Demon (Etherious)

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Curses

Former Affiliations: Tartaros Guild

Abilities: As a Demon, he has the standard super strength, speed, and endurance (but those aren’t much compared to other Demons). What makes him really dangerous is his Bomb Curse, allowing him to effortlessly create devastating explosions wherever and whenever he wants nearby (Exploding Spiral and Landmine Curses are his favorite).

Etherious Form: Jackal assumes a more animalistic appearance (more like his namesake), with a boost in all his physical stats. Also, whenever you touch him, a bit of his energy gets in his opponent, which he can detonate at his leisure (Bomb Impact).

Goal: Blast all humans to oblivion for his own entertainment.

 

Menthuthuyoupi:

Series: Hunter X Hunter

Species: Chimera Ant

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Aura (harnessed through Nen)

Former Affiliations: Chimera Ant Royal Guard (for King Meruem)

Abilities: Youpi has absolutely monstrous physical strength and durability. His speed and reflexes are nothing to scoff at either. Youpi also has the ability to push parts of his body through Metamorphosis, allowing him to create and alter any part of his body (he prefers to create more eyes to prevent blind spots and longer arms so he can hit EVERYTHING!).

Rage Incarnate: Depending on his level of self-control, Youpi can swell up either a part of or his whole body as he becomes more enraged. At a certain point, there will be a devastating explosion of pure Nen. He can constantly reform himself after these blasts. Once sufficiently experienced, he can keep this into a concentrated beam rather than an explosion.

Goal: See through Cipactli’s plans, for reasons unknown.

 

Grimm:

Series: RWBY

Species: Grimm

Class: Known subsets can range from low C to low S-Rank depending on the type.

Equipment: None

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Queen Salem

Abilities: Grimm come in the forms of any animal (such as Nevermores being giant ravens or Beowulf being Wolves)…with the accompanying strengths.

Goal: Devour all life.

 

Queen Anne’s Revenge:

Captain Barbossa:

Series: Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Species: Human

Class: High B-Rank

Equipment: The Sword of Triton: allows the wielder to completely control everything that’s part of the ship (and any other ship close enough), usually in the form of riggings and sails.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: The Black Pearl, British Royal Navy (privateer)

Abilities: Barbossa is an exceptional pirate captain (with exceptional navigation and helmsmanship skills). Along with being an expert shot, he’s the best swordsman from his world in terms of pure skill. His ship also has highly effective flamethrowers.

Goal: Survive whatever his ‘superior’ has in store. Procure the Aztec Gold for reasons unknown.

 

Pintel/Ragetti:

Series: Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Species: Human

Class: Mid C-Rank

Equipment: They usually carry standard cutlasses and pistols.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: The Black Pearl

Abilities: The two are more than capable of taking down any standard soldier and monster. On top of expert marksmanship, the two are moderately skilled at swordsmanship.

Goal: Survive with Barbossa.

 

Long John Silver:

Series: Disney’s Treasure Planet

Species: Cyborg

Class: High B/Low A-Rank

Equipment: His cyborg half contains a number of weapons such as cutlass, a flintlock, a howitzer, a flamethrower (that is also a welder), and various cooking utensils. His eye also contains top-of-the-line visual abilities.

Energy: Solar-powered mechanics.

Former Affiliations: R.L.S. Legacy

Abilities: On top of his species’ incredible strength and endurance, his cyborg half allows him more options in terms of moves available. He’s also a cunning and duplicitous pirate.

Goal: Get the Aztec Gold.

 

Emerald Sustrai:

Series: RWBY

Species: Human

Class: Mid B-Rank

Equipment: Emerald wields Thief’s Respite. They are a pair of green revolvers with metal tucked under. When extended, the metal can turn the end into a sickle or attach it to a chained Kusarigama.

Energy: Aura

Former Affiliations: Salem’s Faction (specifically serving Cinder Fall)

Abilities: She is incredibly gifted at thievery, with the speed, stealth, and agility to match. She uses this to more than compensate for her lack of strength and durability.

Semblance: Hallucination: Emerald can modify the sensory information that a brain is processing, essentially giving her the powers of illusion. If she strains herself, she can use this on more than one person. Although, she tends to be unable to use this when concentrating on a fight.

Goal: Survive.

 

Mr. Compress: Atsuhiro Sako

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human

Class: Low B-Rank

Equipment: He has a habit of carrying a staff (despite not needing any assistance with walking) that has a variety of tricks.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: League of Villains

Abilities: He’s mostly a support fighter, not having quite the strength or durability of his fellows. However, he’s fast and agile enough to avoid most hits. He’s also quite intelligent and gifted in terms of stealth (able to take almost anyone in his world by surprise). It’s only his own sense of theatricality that sometimes ruins the stealth.

Quirk: Compress: Anything this villain touches will be shrunken down into a small marble that he can easily carry without damaging it (including people). He has to snap his fingers to undo it for one or more marbles. This skill is what earned him Barbossa’s attention. Compressing himself also means that no one can detect him.

Goal: Survive.

 

Tiamat’s Army:

Tiamat:

Series: Mesopotamian Mythology

Species: She existed before species.

Class: X-Rank

Equipment: Unknown

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: Herself and her brood.

Abilities: Unknown

Goal: Currently Unknown.

 

Tamatoa:

Series: Disney’s Moana

Species: Coconut Crab

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: a golden covering that acts as a supplement to his already tough shell.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: None

Abilities: Tamatoa possesses incredible strength befitting his massive size. Thanks to his shell and treasured armor, he’s also one of the most durable things this side of the SoSC. He’s also deceptively fast with the reflexes to match.

Goal: Be SHINY!

 

Samebitos:

Series: Japanese Mythology

Species: Samebitos

Class: most around low C-Rank, while leaders have reached high A-Rank

Equipment: Anything sharp and pointy that they can get their claws on.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: None

Abilities: Along with gills to breath underwater, they also possess a degree of enhanced strength, speed, durability, and ferocity.

Goal: Serve Tiamat. Wipe out all humanity.

 

Hades’ Alliance:

Hades:

Series: Greek Mythology

Species: God

Class: Mid S-Rank (and falling)

Equipment: The Helm of Invisibility, forged by the Cyclops and essential in the defeat of the Titans.

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: The Olympian Pantheon

Abilities: He has been the one directing various souls together in the Sea of Second Chances.

Goal: Currently unknown.

 

Manannan mac Lir:

Series: Celtic Mythology

Species: God

Class: Mid-High S-Rank

Equipment: He wields the sword Fragarach (ever since the Emerald Isle was created).

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations:

Abilities: Yet to be revealed.

Goal: Currently unknown.

 

Zabuza Momochi:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: He wields the Kubikiribocho, one of the Legendary Seven Swords of the Mist. This blade can take the iron from all the blood shed of its victims, growing stronger with every slain enemy.

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Mist Village (as one of the 7 Ninja Swordsmen)

Abilities: Zabuza was the most gifted Ninja in stealth out of the whole Hidden Mist. As such, he’s mastered the Hidden Mist Justu and the art of Silent Killing. He has the super strength (strong enough to easily use his blade one-handed), speed, and endurance to back that up. He’s currently the only other Mist Ninja who can match Kisame in pure swordsmanship. His Water Style is also highly effective (with Water Clones, Water Prisons, Water Bullets, and Water Dragons).

Goal: Ensure Haku is strong enough for the SoSC.

 

Haku Yuki:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human

Class: Mid A-Rank

Equipment: Haku always carries hundreds of senbons, which he uses to great affect thanks to a combination of precise aim and his expertise on anatomy.

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Mist Village

Abilities: Trained by Zabuza himself, Haku is incredibly gifted in the Shinobi arts. Personally, he prefers relying on speedy and precise strikes. As a Yuki, he can utilize Ice Style (including Demon Mirrors or a Thousand Needles OF DEATH!).

Goal: Serve Zabuza.

 

Gray Fullbuster:

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Human

Class: High A/Low S-Rank

Equipment: Whatever his Ice-Make creates.

Energy: Magic (Ethernanos)

Former Affiliations: Fairy Tail Guild, Avatar Guild (double agent)

Abilities: As a powerful Wizard, Gray definitely has the strength, intelligence, durability, and speed befitting his position.

Ice-Make Magic: Gray can create as much Ice as he wants at will and shape it any way he sees fit (such as Lances, Walls, Arrows, Swords, Geysers, Prisons, and Cannons). Ice Devil Slayer Magic takes things to the next level and instantly freeze anything it touches, also allowing him to consume any ice to strengthen himself (such as Zero Long Sword, Zero Destruction Bow, and Zero Destruction Fists).

Goal: Get stronger. Reunite with Fairy Tail, specifically her wife, Juvia.

 

Athena:

Series: Greek Mythology

Species: God

Class: Low X-Rank

Equipment: She carries her Aegis (with Medusa’s face carved into the shield) and a xiphos (one-handed straight sword used in Ancient Greece).

Energy: Unknown

Former Affiliations: The Olympian Pantheon

Abilities: Yet to be revealed.

Goal: Currently unknown.

 

Nico Robin:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid A-Rank

Equipment: At most, she may carry a pistol or dagger, but that’s on rare occasions.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Baroque Works, Straw Hat Pirates, Revolutionary Army

Abilities: Nico Robin is quite possibly the smartest of the Straw Hats. This means she has quite the gift for strategy and tactics. In addition, her reaction time is impressive, going along with respectable speed, strength, and endurance.

Flower-Flower Fruit: This Devil Fruit allows the user to sprout and control body parts anywhere within a certain range. Her favorite techniques usually sprouting arms on her opponents. It can be anything from one (Un Fleur) to a hundred (Cien Fleur). With enough arms, she can coalesce them together into hands or feet big enough to crush people, or wings to fly with momentarily.

Goal: Reunite with Straw Hats.

 

Ulquiorra Cifer:

Series: Bleach

Species: Arrancar

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: His Zanpakutō, Murcielago, takes the form of a katana. When in Resurreción, it completely vanishes.

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliations: Aizen’s Espada

Abilities: As an Espada, Ulquiorra is exceptionally strong and intelligent. He’s also very skilled with both swordsmanship and hand-to-hand combatant. He’s mastered Sonido, even more so than most other Hollows. His Cero and Bala are incredibly effective. Hierro gives an impressive defense against anything less than S-Rank attacks. Pesquisa has heightened his senses enough to avoid most danger. Lastly, unlike most Espada, he’s kept greater regenerative properties, in contrast to increased strength and endurance.

Resurreción: With a command of “Imprison”, he transforms into his first form. He gains bat wings, on top of enhancing all his other abilities. In addition, he obtained Segunda Etapa, a form even beyond Ressurreción with enough Reiatsu to induce despair in opponents. Now, he can utilize Lanza del Relampago, powerful enough to obliterate an island.

Goal: Currently searching for one.

 

White Castle:

Korra:

Series: Avatar: Legend of Korra

Species: Human

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: Doesn’t need it.

Energy: Chi

Former Affiliations: Team Avatar

Abilities: As the Avatar, she has mastered Air, Earth (including Metal), Fire (including Lightning), and Water Bending. She also has a measure of spirituality that allows communion with otherworldly beings. Thanks to her training, Korra has incredible physical strength, agility, speed, and endurance (possibly the greatest in her world).

Avatar State: Korra can tap into the experiences and powers of previous Avatars. When in this state, all the elements are wielded with incredible power at minimum effort.

Goal: Protect White Castle and whoever else she can.

 

Asami Sato:

Series: Avatar: Legend of Korra

Species: Human

Class: Low B-Rank

Equipment: She usually carries Equalist gloves that carry quite a high amount of voltage in them.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Sato Industries, Team Avatar

Abilities: Along with being quite proficient in hand-to-hand, Asami is a master inventor. She’s also quite the skilled driver/pilot of whatever she makes…which range from anything like mechs to automobiles to planes. She’s also quick and agile enough to get around most defenses long enough to apply that glove.

Goal: Stay with Korra and help out where she can.

 

Momo Yaoyorozu:

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human

Class: Low A-Rank

Equipment: Anything she wants!

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: UA High’s Class 1-A, Pro-Hero Association.

Abilities: She is incredibly intelligent, possibly the smartest of all of Class 1-A. Her ingenuity and variety are more than enough to keep up with those stronger and more durable than her. She can use a plethora of weapons, but she does have a preference for bojutsu (staffs).

Quirk: Creation. With this, Momo can create any inorganic material/item she wants by converting her own lipids, and having it emerge from her skin. The catch is that she has to understand her creations down to the molecular level. Incidentally, she can get quite the appetite in order to replenish lipids for her to use.

Goal: Create a safe haven for all those too weak to journey farther west.

 

Rikado Sato:

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human

Class: Low B-Rank

Equipment: At most, he’ll carry spare sugar with him.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: UA High’s Class 1-A, Pro-Hero Association.

Abilities: His Quirk: Sugar Rush allows Sato to fight with greatly increased strength and endurance, at the cost of intelligence.

Goal: Get stronger, then head back west to help Tsu and the rest of 1-A.

 

Vulko:

Series: DC’s Aquaman

Species: Atlantean

Class: Low A-Rank

Equipment: He wields a trident.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: Atlantean Royal Household

Abilities: He’s an incredibly skilled duelist with his trident. Also, due to being an exceptionally strong Atlantean, he has a limited control of water (usually used to facilitate incredibly fast and agile movement underwater). He’s also got a measure of super strength, and the durability to not be impeded at all by the great pressures of the abyss.

Goal: Serve Atlantis and its King.

 

Kiri:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human

Class: Mid B-Rank

Equipment: Standard Shinobi Setup.

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Mist Village

Abilities: He’s moderately skilled in Jutsu, specifically Water Style.

Goal: Help out at White Castle.

 

Independent:

Grimmjow Jaegarjaques:

Series: Bleach

Species: Arrancar

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: His Zanpakutō, Pantera, takes the form of a katana.

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliations: Aizen’s Espada

Abilities: Grimmjow is a master of hand-to-hand, and is no slouch at swordsmanship. His Hierro, Pesquisa, and Sonido are all more than up to par, with strength and endurance to match. His Bala and Cero are nothing to scoff at either.

Resurreción: With a command of “Grind”, Grimmjow transforms into a stronger form that enhances all his abilities and strengths. Along with gaining claws, blades start protruding out of his arms and calves. He can fire sheer concentrated Reiatsu from his elbows, and detonate them. His Ultimate Move is Desgarrón, producing ten long claws of pure Reiatsu to slash whatever’s in front of him.

Goal: Prove his strength.

 

Kakuzu:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human (Debatable)

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: He doesn’t need it.

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Waterfall Village, Akatsuki

Abilities: Kakuzu has the strength, speed, and endurance of an incredibly dangerous S-Rank Ninja. He’s also brutally effective with his Elemental Mastery. His favorite is Earth Style: Iron Skin (where he covers himself in a layer of incredibly durable material…giving both a fearsome offense and near-impenetrable defense).

Earth Grudge Fear: With the Hidden Waterfall’s Forbidden Jutsu, Kakuzu was able to turn his body into an assortment of thousands of black threads, allowing himself to separate and restructure as he pleases. But the greatest asset is his ability to steal the hearts of powerful enemies, allowing him access to whatever Chakra Nature they had in life. Thanks to living on the run for almost a century, he’s mastered all 5 elements (though he does tend to prefer Earth Style-most likely his original). His hearts can take the form of masked creatures that fly and blast his enemies with devastating elemental blasts (Fire Style: Searing Migraine, Lightning Style: False Darkness, Wind Style: Pressure Damage, and Water Style: Water Bullet).

Goal: Hoard all the treasure that he can.

 

Hidan:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human

Class: Low S-Rank

Equipment: He carries a triple-bladed scythe (designed for drawing blood) attached to a long chain, allowing him to send it any which way he pleases (regardless of the laws of physics). He also hides at least two retractable spikes (usually reserved for rituals).

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Steam Village, Akatsuki

Abilities: Hidan is Immortal (not an exaggeration). As such, the only way to stop him is to completely sever his body parts apart, but good luck with that. Despite claiming to be the slowest and least agile of the Akatsuki, Hidan is still incredibly skilled in melee. This is due to a combination of not needing to worry about his vitals being hit, on top of his wild and uncontrolled fighting style with his scythe.

Jashin’s Curse: If Hidan can ingest an enemy’s blood, and stand in the blood-drawn symbol of his God, the cultist can create a link. Any injury he receives, his enemy does too. Since he’s immortal, he can keep this up as long as he wants.

Goal: Continue his sacrifices to Jashin. Get back at that ‘pineapple-haired bastard’.

 

Issho: Admiral Fujitora

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: Within his cane, Issho conceals a blade that he can wield in tandem with his Devil Fruit powers.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: World Government’s Navy

Abilities: As an Admiral, Issho’s strength and fighting ability are top of the line. His Observation Haki is quite possibly the best out of the entire Marine force, having used it for decades to compensate for his lack of sight (even to the point where he can get a general idea of people’s thoughts and feelings). His Armament Haki is nothing to sniff at either, especially when channeling it through his sword. In general, his speed, endurance, and swordsmanship is exceptional.

Stomp-Stomp Fruit: This fruit allows Issho to manipulate gravity itself. He is skilled enough with it to actually bring a METEOR hurtling down at his enemies. Gravity Blade is his signature move, allowing him to direct gravity anywhere, also lightening or intensifying it for any specific object.

Goal: Train Uraraka and Kagura to at least Vice-Admiral Level.

 

Ochaco Uraraka:

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human

Class: High B/Low A-Rank

Equipment: Her supersuit contains features in the helmet, wrists, and neck that stimulates the pressure points, countering her nausea from using her Quirk. Her boots also contain a shock-absorbing cushion and a spring in the heel.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: UA High’s Class 1-A, Pro-Hero Association.

Abilities: Her speed, strength, and endurance are respectable. She’s also quite perceptive at times.

Quirk: Zero Gravity: Anything she touches with the pads of her fingertips is rendered weightless, beginning to float. In her first life, her limit was three tons before she’d start to feel nauseous. With training, she can use the Quirk on herself for a limited form of levitation/flight. With a call of “Release”, whatever she’s holding falls straight down. Her strongest move is Meteor Shower, where she touches all the nearby rubble, waits until she has enough, and brings it hurtling down all at once.

Goal: See Izuku again

 

Kagura Mikazuchi:

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Human

Class: High A-Rank

Equipment: Archenemy, her

Energy: Magic (Ethernanos)

Former Affiliations: Mermaid Heel Guild

Abilities: Kagura is gifted in Magic (with Gravity Change as her specialty). Despite that, she prefers sticking to swordsmanship. She is incredibly skilled, with the strength, speed, and durability to back it up. Her style is Undrawn Sword Style, usually keeping Archenemy in the sheath, which does impede the slashing power, but not to the point her power her completely negated. (Slashing, Power, and Flying Form are her basic moves).

Goal: Surpass her strength in her first life. Make Issho proud.

 

Jiraiya:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: Standard Shinobi Setup, along with whatever seals he has at the time.

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Leaf Village

Abilities: Despite his perverted eccentricities, Jiraiya is definitely one of the most powerful and intelligent Ninjas in the history of the Hidden Leaf. He is THE Sealing Jutsu Master. In addition, he has mastered the 5 elements (with Fire Style being his favorite). He can also manipulate his long mane of white hair to act as a defense or offense in the form of needles. He can also use the Rasengan (usually as a finisher). His signature moves tend to rely on his Summoning Contract with The Toads (who can basically serve any purpose depending on the individual summoned).

Sage Mode: By channeling the energy of nature itself, Jiraiya can enhance his strength, speed, endurance, and Jutsu. In this mode, only Kage-level fighters even have a prayer.

Goal: Find Tsunade, Minato, Kushina, and Naruto.

 

Rangiku Matsumoto:

Series: Bleach

Species: Soul Reaper

Class: High A-Rank

Equipment: Her Zanpakutō, Haineko, is in the shape of a straight-edge katana. When released in its Shikai (with a Command of “Growl”), it turns into a cloud of ash that can be manipulated at will. Neko Rinbu is one of her more effective moves, creating a tornado of ash.

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliations: Soul Society’s Gotei 13 (10th Division)

Abilities: Rangiku is an expert swordswoman. On top of that, she wields super speed (Shunpo), significant strength, and enhanced durability. She’s also moderately skilled in Kido (with such spells as Bakudō #77, or Hadō #31).

Goal: Find Gin?

 

Cana Alberona:

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Human

Class: Mid-High A-Rank

Energy: Magic (Ethernanos)

Former Affiliations: Fairy Tail Guild

Abilities: While Cana is nothing spectacular in terms of physical abilities, she more than makes up for it with speed, evasiveness, and clever use of her powers. Still, she is capable of using the incredibly devastating Fairy Glitter.

Magic Cards: With her deck, Cana can create virtually any magical affect she can think of, as long as the right card is drawn in the right combination. This includes elemental blasts (like Thunderbolt’s Fate, Prayer’s Fountain, Wind Edge, Explosion Cards, and Sun’s Strength). She’s also capable of more esoteric effects (Call Cards to communicate with specific people, Sleep Card, and Card Dimension to trap enemies)

Goal: DRINK! But also reunite with Fairy Tail.

 

Magellan:

Series: One Piece

Species: Human

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: World Government’s Impel Down

Abilities: Magellan had the strength and endurance to be trusted by the World Government to hold down its absolute worst prisoners (including Jinbe himself). As such, while he’s not the fastest, he is able to keep taking hits from S-Rank level opponents while retaliating just as hard.

Venom-Venom Fruit: Magellan can create and combine any sort of poison that can come to mind. His favorite tactic is to cover himself in a slurry of poisons (making it impossible to actually touch him without exposure) while launching mid to long-range attacks such as Hydra, Chloroform Ball, and Venom Cloud. When things get bad, he can unleash the Venom Demon: Hell’s Judgment, his ultimate concoction that he shapes into a massive version of himself. The poison is so infectious and corrosive that anything that comes in contact is done for.

Goal: Currently in search of one.

 

Erik: Cobra

Series: Fairy Tail

Species: Human

Class: Low-Mid S-Rank

Equipment: None

Energy: Magic (Ethernanos)

Former Affiliations: Oración Seis Guild, Crime Sorciere Guild.

Abilities: Erik is definitely one of the most effective Wizards in existence. His skills in hand-to-hand are matched by few. As such, his strength, speed, and endurance are all top of the line. He’s also quite efficient at Sound Magic, to the point he can literally hear thoughts. He also has a limited ability to manipulate sound into walls or palms.

Poison Dragon Slayer Magic: With this, Erik can create, manipulate, and consume any poison. His preferred concoction can corrode anything it touches. Signature Moves include Poison Dragon Roar (an overwhelming blast), Scales (Poison projectiles), and Twin Fang (both hands covered in poison before clapping together on an opponent).

Goal: Reunite with his guild.

 

Mina Ashido:

Series: My Hero Academia

Species: Human (Don’t let the pink skin and horns fool you)

Class: High B-Rank

Equipment: Acid-proof shoes that have holes enough to let her shoot acid out of her feet.

Energy: None

Former Affiliations: UA High’s Class 1-A, Pro-Hero Association.

Abilities: In terms of sheer physical ability, Mina is the best girl out of Class 1-A. She’s got respectable strength, speed, agility, and durability. Incidentally, this makes her a magnificent break-dancer.

Quirk: Acid: She emits Acid that she can alter according to viscosity and solubility. Non-corrosive acid allows her to slip and slide how she pleases. Her favorite moves include Acid Veil (a shield), Acid Shots, and Acid Layback (she melts the ground she stands on, making it easier to spin and unleash a barrage of Acid).

Goal: Reunite with 1-A, protect her friends like a Hero should.

 

Orochimaru:

Series: Naruto

Species: Human (at least we assume he was born human)

Class: Mid S-Rank

Equipment: On top of the Standard Shinobi Setup, Orochimaru wields the Blade of Kusanagi (a legendary sword that can cut through almost everything and is also quite the effective Chakra channeler).

Energy: Chakra

Former Affiliations: Hidden Leaf Village (possibly ROOT), Akatsuki, Hidden Sound Village.

Abilities: Orochimaru is the most gifted scientific mind in the Ninja World. As such, he’s an innovator of Jutsu. This, combined with his incredible power, made him alone a threat to Hidden Villages and Akatsuki alike. He has incredible strength, speed, endurance, and variety. Thanks to experience, he has mastered all 5 Chakra Natures (though Wind seems to be preferred to the others). Thanks to taking a Zetsu, he now has Wood Style. He’s also skilled in the usage of Sealing Jutsu (creating the Curse Marks from his study of Sage Jutsu). Finally, he has a Summoning Contract with the Snakes (anything from one that can hide in his sleeve, to the gargantuan Manda).

Power of the White Snake: After years of study, Orochimaru was able to achieve a form of immortality. His real body is now an amalgamation of white snakes, able to reconnect himself from many injuries while emitting a deadly poison. He can also transform parts of his body, such as a tail for his lower body allowing for faster movement. His strength and endurance were enhanced. He can also emerge from any body too injured to continue, completely revived (like a snake shedding skin). Also, this is what allows him to invade others’ bodies, taking control.

Goal: Learn all there is know, and master every technique in existence.

 

Mayuri Kurotsuchi:

Series: Bleach

Species: Soul Reaper

Class: Low-Mid S-Rank

Equipment: Anything he wants (with prep time).

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliations: Soul Society’s Gotei 13 (12th Division Captain)

Abilities: In his time, Mayuri was the most scientifically gifted member of Soul Society. While his physical strength, endurance, swordsmanship, and speed aren’t much compared to the other captains, he more than makes up for it with incredible intelligent and his inventions. His own body has been heavily modified. He’s also a master of Kido (even to the point of not needing the incantations).

Ashisogi Jizō: Mayuri’s Zanpakutō is one of the most deadly in all Soul Society. In its Shikai, it releases a paralyzing poison that only Mayuri knows the cure for. When in Bankai, it becomes a baby-headed abomination. It is capable of emitting anything from the most lethal of poisons or a barrage of blades. With modification, Mayuri is able to create any version of his Bankai immune to the abilities of whatever opponent he is facing.

Goal: Procure and experiment on all the species of the SoSC.

 

Nemu Kurotsuchi:

Series: Bleach

Species: Artificial Soul Reaper

Class: High A-Rank

Equipment: While she carries a sword, she very rarely uses it.

Energy: Reiatsu

Former Affiliations: Soul Society’s Gotei 13 (12th Division)

Abilities: As an artificial creation, Nemu is equipped with Bio-Augmentation as her ‘father’s’ ultimate creation. As such, she has tremendous physical strength, speed, and endurance. This means that she leans more towards hand-to-hand combat. On top of that, Mayuri has placed all of his poisons inside of her. By necessity, she’s become an expert in all things chemical (incidentally giving her a bit of healing ability).

Goal: Serve her ‘father’ Mayuri.

 

Ursula:

Series: Disney’s Little Mermaid

Species: Merfolk

Class: Mid B-Rank (A-Rank with Water Magic, Mid-High S-Rank with Trident)

Equipment: None, until she gains the Trident (an artifact wielded by one of Poseidon’s children, granting strength, power, water and lightning-wielding abilities)

Energy: Magic

Former Affiliations: Atlantica (exiled)

Abilities: Ursula is a witch that makes her way by constantly taking advantages of others. As such, she specializes in magics centering around The Deal. With her mastery of alchemy and brewing, she can create a number of effects (which are virtually unlimited as long as the other party gets something seen as ‘equal value’).

Goal: Seize control of ALL THE OCEAN!

 

The Night King:

Series: Game of Thrones

Species: Formerly Human.

Class: Mid-High S-Rank

Equipment: A spear and sword of ice (both reinforced with enough magic to shatter steel).

Energy: The life force of all he’s subjected.

Former Affiliations: The White Walkers

Abilities: Incredible strength and endurance (unless Dragonglass (obsidian) or Valyrian Steel is involved). Skilled swordsman and spear-wielder. Can summon and control massive blizzards. His greatest power is necromancy. With a mere gesture, all the dead around him will rise as his servants, no matter their species. Conversely, killing him will stop his army of the dead, but due to his near-immortality, easier said than done.

Goal: Wipe out all human life (and all of its knowledge)

Chapter Text

Chapter 16: So Many Sides!

Circe narrowed her eyes at Hanataro. It was easy to see how nervous he was, even from the other side of her bars. The witch wracked her brain for a way to turn this to her advantage. She couldn’t do anything blatant just yet. For now, her hands fiddled with the binding. That, and she played for time.

“So, are you the one who tended to me?” Circe asked the young-looking Soul Reaper.

“Ye…yeah,” Hanataro nodded.

“I have to admit, you’re a talented healer,” Circe gave an apparently grateful smile.

“Oh, it was not…nothing really,” he scratched the back of his head.

“My boy, in my world, nothing short of The Gods and their progeny could do what you did.”

While she laid on the praise, her hands kept fiddling with the Chakra-binding. She was careful not to move any other part of her body, so as not to incur suspicion.

“Really, I’m nowhere near as good as Captain Unohana, or Ms. Isane for that matter,” Hanataro was blushing at the compliments.

“That so?” Circe couldn’t help but pause at the thought of such a skilled medic. ‘It seems that these other worlds have barely begun to show what they’re capable of.’

“Yeah, and Ms. Orihime just blew us all out of the water. She could even regrow limbs and organs blown to dust,” Hanataro reminisced.

“Very impressive,” Circe admitted. From behind, her hands were starting to make some leeway against the paper.

All of a sudden, Circe was completely frozen.

“Hanataro, get back on deck. The medic should be on standby whenever half the crew is in a serious fight, don’t you think?” A far colder voice interrupted.

“Oh, of course!” With a quick Flash Step, the Soul Reaper was gone.

Circe glanced down her body, and saw strings with a light blue glow attached to her.

“You know, if you’d had a few more minutes with that idiotic Soul Reaper, you might’ve gotten out,” Sasori gave an amused smirk.

“Such a low opinion of your own comrades,” Circe sneered.

“Comrades is stretching it,” the Ninja muttered. “But enough of that, we have much to discuss.” He pulled out a small book from his sleeve.

Circe’s eyes widened. “That’s mine.”

“It was. Such fascinating insight into the interactions of ‘Mageia’ and the human body. I’m assuming ‘Mageia’ is your word for Chakra or something of the like.”

Circe gave no response beyond a glower.

“However, that’s not what interests me at the moment.” Sasori paused, before taking out a half-wilted lotus out of his pocket. “How about we start with this?”

“Why the Lotus?” Circe couldn’t help but be curious.

“I consider myself an exceptional chemist, but I’ve never come across anything with such narcotic effects. I simply wish to learn more,” Sasori put it simply.

“To what end?” the witch wondered.

“That all depends on if you will translate some of the more…arcane entries in your journal. I’d rather be in possession of all the facts before making any major decisions regarding the Lotus,” Sasori explained.

“That may be so, but even you won’t get any use from that sample. Not after the main root and pod were destroyed by that bloodthirsty friend of yours,” she grinded her teeth at the thought of Kisame’s taunting grin.

“Perhaps, but if you inform me on this flower’s biology, such as dietary and environmental needs, I could recreate the plant. At least, after I’ve analyzed the chemical makeup of this single Lotus. And if I’m successful, I’m sure we could come to an arrangement,” the Ninja offered. “After all, I reward those who aid me.”

Seeing this as her best chance, Circe began to divulge the secrets to growing, pruning, and maintaining a Grecian Lotus. When she was about halfway through detailing the ideal fertilizer for planting the seeds, the two were interrupted.

“Hey Sasori!” Franky’s voice echoed across the ship. “Usopp spotted a BIG ship heading to the island. And there’s some weird-looking birds coming right for us, with this blonde guy riding the one up front!”

Sasori’s eyes momentarily widened. In an instant, he unlocked the cell, wrapped Circe up with his stinger intestine, and ran up to deck.

To his relief, the birds weren’t white, and it was short blonde hair rather than long in a half-ponytail. Still, he could feel a certain manic energy coming from the rider.

“Sasori, why’d you bring her out?” Tsuyu gave him an appraising look.

“Because I’m not letting her out of my sight,” the puppeteer coldly replied as he unrolled a scroll. With a single Hand Sign and a puff of smoke, a new puppet was revealed. It had an incredibly bulky chest with six arms and a horned head. A flick of his finger opened the chest to reveal a hollow compartment. He threw Circe inside, quickly closed the chest, and slapped another Chakra-restraint Seal on his Puppet.

“Black Ant should be sufficient. And I’ll know if she tries to escape.” Sasori slightly raised his voice to be heard over the indignant shrieking of Circe over her new prison.

As this was taking place, the black birds shifted course. “Wait a minute, they’re heading for the other sloop,” Usopp realized.

In less than a minute, they heard a shout. “EXPLODING SPIRAL!” With a single motion, Jackal annihilated the sloop with a “BBOOOOMMM”. Half his job done, Jackal then directed the birds towards the Cutty Sark.

“Because of course he uses explosions,” Sasori grumbled to himself. “I did not come all this way just to have my greatest work of art turned into a thing of fleeting beauty. Everyone!” he suddenly shouted. “I’ll handle the leader!”

Usopp found himself turning back to the enemy ship, and saw three figures sprinting ahead of the others making their way to shore. Upon closer inspection, the pirate instantly recognized two of them.

“FRANKY!” he shouted from the Crow’s Nest. “IT’S ROB LUCCI! HE’S WITH GUSTAVE!”

The cyborg paled as he dashed to the railing. He indeed saw the three leaders, with hundreds of enhanced animals either swimming or rowing behind them.

“If what you said about Lucci is true, there’s no way our friends can handle Cipactli’s troops on top of the Guardian and whoever else they’re fighting now,” Tsuyu bluntly put it.

“What do we do then?” Hanataro was weighing the options.

“Franky…get below and prep the artillery! We and Sasori can handle the birds!” Usopp shouted down. “You two try and thin out Cipactli’s numbers, or get the others out of there!”

“Right!” Tsuyu, and Hanataro linked arms, before the Soul Reaper took off with Flash Step. As this happened, Franky proceeded to ready the ship’s armaments.

Growling at the sight of half his prey breaking off, Jackal directed some Nevermores to pursue.

“Green Star: Platanus Shuriken!”

In an instant, the two leading Nevermores were cut into pieces, shrieking as they dissolved in black dust.

Jackal smirked and pushed his steed to the Crow’s Nest.

TIKKA-TIKKA-TIKKA-TIKKA-TIKKA!

An iron spike sailed through the bird’s head, and Jackal was barely able to sidestep it. Feeling his mount dissolve, he quickly hopped onto the nearest Nevermore, assuming direct control. Jackal gave a crooked grin at Sasori, who merely narrowed his eyes as he kept the 3rd Kazekage close, his Jutsu creating an Iron platform for him to stand on mid-air.

Meanwhile, taking advantage of his opening, Usopp brought out a Baby Den-Den Mushi.

OoOoOoO

‘BBOOOOMMM!’ The inside of the cavern rumbled to the point of giving everyone pause.

Kakuzu narrowed his eyes. ‘Judging by the distance…That was MY SHIP!’ he frantically thought. Seeing his options dwindle down, he picked up the pressure on that annoying opponent of his.

“Earth Style: Earth Dome!” Kakuzu slammed his Hands together and stomped the ground.

Jinbe watched the earth rise around him, and quickly sent Haki to his arms. Not even bothering with Fishman Karate, the Pirate easily tore through the wall. He then charged at the Akatsuki, who attempted jumping back.

‘He’s slower than before. Most likely a Clone then,’ Jinbe realized.

Sure enough, with a “Black Shark Skin: Thousand Brick Fist!”, ‘Kakuzu’ crumbled into pebbles. Not surprised in the least, Jinbe was already covering his back in Haki.

The real Kakuzu popped out of the ground, yards behind Jinbe, and readied his Lightning Mask. “Lightning Style: False Darkness!”

Thanks to his caution, Jinbe was merely bruised by the strike, instead of charred to a crisp.

“Hmm…you were barely thrown off by my Clone. Did Kisame blab about what Ninjas could do to you otherworlders?” the old Akatsuki growled.

Not responding, Jinbe jumped forward towards Kakuzu. At that moment, the Wind Mask suddenly appeared behind the Fishman.

“Wind Style: Pressure Damage Barrage!”

Jinbe managed to avoid most of the wind, thanks to his Observation Haki, but he wasn’t completely unscathed. The Mask had been quick enough to at least draw blood from glancing blows.

“GET BACK HERE!”

Suddenly, Apacci roared as she unloaded her Bala cannon towards the Wind Mask, pursuing with Sonido. It quickly evaded and flew back into the maze of bejeweled stalactites. The Hollow wasn’t far behind.

In the meantime, Kakuzu had rushed forward. His palm flattened as he covered the limb in his Iron Skin, all the better to jab the Fishman.

Moving far faster than his size would indicate, Jinbe managed to sidestep, allowing Kakuzu’s own momentum to work against him. His left palm batted the Ninja’s outstretched right hand.

“Black Shark Skin: 5000 Brick ELBOW!” and he slammed his Haki covered elbow into Kakuzu’s mouth.

“GAH!” The mask came clean off, and the left side of his mouth had torn open. Some threads were simply hanging limply, while others frantically tried to repair the damage. A tooth was completely gone. ‘I don’t want to imagine the damage if I hadn’t started using Iron Skin at the last second,’ Kakuzu thought to himself. ‘At this rate, I’ll have to combine my Hearts to get some actual lethal blows.’

Jinbe simply assumed his stance, ready for whatever the old Akatsuki would do.

OoOoOoO

Hidan was utterly furious. Never before had he faced an opponent with no blood. Then, his eyes turned to Juvia, who was standing off to the side. Smirking at his new idea, the cultist picked up the pace against the skeleton.

Despite holding the initial advantage, Brook was being pushed back. The pirate could not believe that this madman was the slowest and weakest Akatsuki. If this man was their idea of weak, the mere thought of their idea of “strong” sent a shiver down Brook’s spine. At least it would, if he had a spine…Oh wait, he does.

Anyway, Hidan’s speed and strength were more than enough to force Brook on the defensive. The pirate didn’t even have time to build up to his more special moves, it was all he could do to simply deflect that three-bladed scythe.

Then, a retractable spike suddenly shot out of Hidan’s sleeve, forcing Brook to block. With his opponent completely occupied, Hidan sent his scythe flying with a flick of his wrist. It came right at Juvia from behind. The cultist grinned at the thought of finally getting some blood again.

Unfortunately for him, Juvia reflexively turned into water. Her own body parted as the scythe sailed back, completely dry.

“Huh, guess that training with Samehada paid off,” the Wizard couldn’t help but observe. She was about to turn her full attention to the Ninja, but the Water Mask started flying to the aid of Kakuzu’s partner.

“Water Slicers!” Juvia managed to fend off the mask for now.

Hidan’s response was a bit less eloquent as he finally realized what happened. “WHAT THE FU...?!”

Before he could finish his curse, Brook pushed the spike back and slashed. “Swallow Banderole!”

Hidan barely moved his hand back in time, but the cord connecting to the scythe was completely frozen over, and shattered when it fell to the ground.

“Oh! Now you’re PISSING ME OFF!” the cultist roared as he leaped over Brook, grabbed his fallen scythe with both hands, and charged back.

Brook reacted! “Soul Parade!”

Scythe and blade clashed, sending small shockwaves throughout the cavern.

OoOoOoO

Tamatoa skittered his way to Halibel. In an instant, she used Sonido to get behind him. She found where his shell had cracked from Kakuzu’s attack.

“Ola Azul!”

The crab was fast enough to at least make sure he wouldn’t be hit in the same spot. Still, his shell still got another small crack.

Not wanting any more surprise attacks, Tamatoa picked up his speed.

In a dazzling display, Halibel seamlessly switched back-and-forth between parrying the claws with Tiburon and blasting them back with Balas.

CLANG!

Tiburon clashed against the right claw. The Hollow simply didn’t budge, until she did. She let the claw sail by her, and set her feet down on the offending limb, still giving that perpetually unamused look of hers.

“Get Off!” the crustacean slammed his other claw into her, only to see her use Sonido to get right in his face.

“Cero.”

Miraculously, Tamatoa was fast enough to retreat into his shell, allowing it to take the brunt of the damage. Yet more gold came tumbling to the ground as slivers of his natural shell began to peak through. Some of the precious metal had even melted down completely from the sheer temperature of the Reiatsu.

At this point, Tamatoa began lashing out again. This time, he didn’t even care whenever he hit the walls, nor did he pause at the shuddering whenever he did so.

‘That prideful fool,’ Halibel thought. ‘He’ll bring the whole island down on us at this rate.’

CRISSHH!

“Well, at least some of us are having fun,” Halibel scoffed.

OoOoOoO

Kisame and Grimmjow were indeed having fun. To be honest, they were the only people within miles actually enjoying themselves.

The Hollow was starting to switch things up. He wielded Pantera one-handed, while punching with his Hierro-covered fist, or kicking with equally enhanced feet.

The Ninja stuck to keeping both hands on Samehada, constantly overpowering the smaller blade’s thrusts and slashes while narrowly dodging the brawler.

“OOF!”

Grimmjow managed to slip a punch past Samehada, right on Kisame’s stomach. “Haven’t been punched that hard since I fought that odd green beast,” the Ninja couldn’t help but groan as he countered with a slash of Samehada. This time, he managed to get a scratch on Grimmjow’s outstretched forearm, despite the Hierro.

“Huh…so that’s how much force is needed to break your Hierro…neat.” Kisame gave an experimental swing of his legendary blade before showing a bloodthirsty grin.

Looking at his injury, Grimmjow licked the blood, giving his own unsettling smile as he turned to his opponent. “I guess that’s to be expected from a sword that takes energy. Still, I wonder if that could actually get through any Hollow’s Hierro.”

“Well…from what Halibel told me. If that Nnoitra guy had the strongest Hierro, then yes,” Kisame guessed.

“Oh? Halibel told you about him?” Grimmjow raised an eyebrow, while his smile slightly strained at the thought of that waste of space.

“Yeah…sounds like a real asshole to be honest. Hell, he seems like the ‘Hidan’ of Hollows…going on and on about being invincible,” Kisame remarked.

Grimmjow gave a look at the cultist as he fought Brook and Juvia. “Huh…you’re right. No wonder I hate him!”

“I HEARD THAT!”

“BLIZZARD SLASH!”

“DAMN IT!”

Kisame and Grimmjow both laughed at Hidan’s indignant outburst and subsequent evasive action, at least until he got serious again.

“Ya know, I still don’t understand how you and that Nami girl managed to stay sane sailing with those two,” Kisame admitted as he swung Samehada.

“The promise of a good fight with the guardian was all that kept me going whenever they’d start an argument,” Grimmjow replied as leaped over the blade, taking to standing on the air.

“Let me guess, Hidan would whine like a brat, and then Kakuzu would snap at him. And then the insults of ‘heretical miser’ and ‘damned fanatic’ would get thrown out,” Kisame mused after he spat a “Water Style: Water Bullet”.

“Wow…it’s almost like you know them or something,” Grimmjow laid on the sarcasm as he zoomed around and countered with a few precise Bala. “But you know what, I’d gladly suffer that obnoxious voyage again.”

“Oh?” Kisame paused after absorbing the Bala, a few scales beginning to poke out of Samehada.

“Because this is the best fight I’ve had in this whole damn sea!” Grimmjow gave a joyous shout as he zoomed forward with Sonido.

Kisame blocked Pantera with Samehada, while catching the attempted simultaneous punch. “Aww, you’re making me blush,” he laughed as he gave a head-butt.

Grimmjow barely flinched, still grinning that grin of his.

OoOoOoO

Puru-puru-puru-puru. Gacha!

“Hey, what’s up?” Sanji picked up the Den-Den Mushi. Mirajane looked up, having just finished patching up Nami. Silver kept an ear open while eyeing that chest on top of Tamatoa.

“Sanji!” Usopp yelled through the line, panic evident in his voice. “You’ve got company! It’s that Gustave guy!”

“You mean the crocodile who put Jinbe’s arm in a sling for a week?!” Sanji asked.

“Yeah! And he’s got hundreds of animals with him! Green Star: DEVIL!” Usopp interrupted himself by taking out a Nevermore. “He’s got a flock of birds and a bomber hitting the ship. But that’s not all. Rob Lucci’s here!” the sniper revealed.

Every Straw Hat in the cavern instantly turned pale, before the chef gained a steely look. “Thanks for the heads-up! Let me know when things calm down on your end.” He then hung up.

Sanji quickly spun his feet around, instantly unveiling his Diable Jambe. “You three, get some distance.”

Noticing Mira and Silver’s hesitance, Nami got up. “He’s right, the best we can do against someone like Lucci is long-range support.”

“Fine,” Silver huffed. “But you be careful my boy!”

Sanji nodded and turned back to the entrance.

“Thump-thump-thump-thump,” the chef narrowed his eyes at the noise.

“Thump-Thump-Thump-Thump!” it was getting louder and quicker.

“THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP!”

And Gustave came stomping out, sprinting right towards Jinbe.

Sanji kicked off with a “Sky Walk!” He then shot forward to the crocodile-man. “Flanchet Stri…!”

“SHAVE!”

Suddenly, a hand reached to grab Sanji’s leg mid-attack.

“Hello, Black-Leg,” Rob Lucci sneered at the Pirate.

The chef barely managed to avoid the assassin’s hold, and brought his leg back for another attack.

“Collier Strike!”

“Tempest Kick!”

The force of the colliding attacks blasted Sanji back into the wall, while Lucci was only pushed back a few feet.

Meanwhile, Gustave was charging right at Jinbe. Apparently, crocodiles can hold a grudge.

“Soul Extinctor!”

Gustave simply raised an arm to cover his face, not even slowing down. Granted, the attack was singing his scales, but he was on a mission.

“Jinbe, look out!” Mirajane shouted.

The Fishman quickly jumped to the side as he disengaged from another barrage of punches with Kakuzu.

“What the…?!”

With the Ninja taken completely by surprise, Gustave slammed a punch all the way through his chest.

“GAH!”

As he felt his Lightning Mask crumble away after taking the hit, Kakuzu was hurled into the wall.

Seeing that Jinbe was waiting for him to make the first move, Gustave raised his voice and glanced at The Chest. “Child of Tiamat!” Tamatoa turned to face the crocodile. “Relinquish that which is Cipactli’s!”

Already in a foul temper, Tamatoa snarled at the crocodile.

“I don’t take orders from stinking reptiles!” the crab turned and started charging at the two.

“Cero!”

A golden blast sailed beneath Tamatoa, heading right for Gustave. At the last second, the crocodile-man leaped to safety. At least, it would’ve been safety if not for an irritated Fishman.

“Arabesque Brick Fist!”

Gustave landed and ran to the side just in time to avoid the brunt of it, allowing Tamatoa to take the hit in one of his legs.

Halibel appeared with Sonido, standing back-to-back with Jinbe.

For a brief moment, the four glowered at each other. Then, the Fishman and Hollow zoomed forward.

OoOoOoO

Rob Lucci took another look around the cavern, licking his lips at the sight of all the fighting. He sped towards the most intense duel, drawn by the carnage.

At this point, Kisame and Grimmjow were still clashing, all their attention on each other.

Unfortunately, that’s what allowed Lucci to grab them both by the head and fling them into the nearby wall.

He waited for a few seconds, and he gave a disappointed scowl when nothing emerged from the dust cloud. He turned his gaze back to the Chest, the reason they were all here.

“Moonwalk!” he started to make his way to it.

“CERO!” VVOOOMMM!

Lucci only avoided the massive blast of blue energy with his Observation Haki.

Grimmjow stepped out, no worse for wear, and showing an angry snarl.

“I have spent MONTHS wandering around this accursed sea. I have been shot at, stabbed, blasted, and punched by utter losers. I had to listen to THOSE TWO argue every hour for the past four weeks.”

The Hollow was tightly gripping his sword.

“And when I finally start having fun, YOU have the GALL to butt in!”

For the briefest moment, Lucci’s dispassionate gaze reminded the Hollow of his cold senior amongst the Espada, which did nothing for his temper.

“I HAVE HAD IT! GRIND, PANTERA!”

A burst of Reiatsu sent all the loose change around him into the air.

Off to the side, Nami gave an uneasy laugh. “Yeah, this is why I never tried stealing his wallet.”

Lucci smiled at the sheer power. Deciding to respond in kind, he activated his Cat-Cat Fruit: Model Leopard, assuming his Hybrid Form.

When finished, Grimmjow’s appearance was now more bestial. Nails had grown into claws, while his feet were now paws. Blades peaked out of his forearm and hind legs. Wild blue hair unfurled behind his new pointed ears.

“Hmm…that’s neat,” Kisame walked up, nonchalantly rubbing his neck. “Hey Grimmjow, how about we settle this after all the annoyances are gone. Besides,” he slammed Samehada down, “I’ve got a score to settle with that crocodile over there.”

“Alright,” Grimmjow gave a slight smirk. “But don’t die before I have a chance to kill you myself.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” the Ninja gave a mock-salute before running off.

Then, Grimmjow shot forward with Sonido. Lucci matched him with Shave.

With a covering of Haki on his claws, the assassin halted the Hollow’s attempted slash, with the shockwave being felt throughout the cavern.

OoOoOoO

Apacci doggedly pursued the Wind Mask, blasting Balas at it.

“Stay still you jerk!”

Not heeding the command, the creature made an abrupt course change. The Hollow’s eyes widened as it started heading for the chest.

“Oh No you don’t!”

As Apacci bore down on the Wind Mask, the Fire Mask appeared right behind her, already priming up a “Fire Style: Searing Migraine!”

“SHIT!” Apacci didn’t have time to evade.

Suddenly, an open purple palm went through the Fire Mask, crushing it when making a fist.

Youpi flapped his wings as the threads fell apart into a heap. An arm sticking out of his chest had done the deed. His right forearm had transformed into a scythe, while his left arm stayed normal.

The Chimera Ant turned to Apacci, who belatedly realized that she was between him and the chest.

“Out of my way.” he growled as the fist that killed the Mask lunged at her.

Apacci was just about to shoot her cannon, but something came up.

“I felt that a woman was about to get punched. NOT TODAY! Poele a Friere: Spectre!”

Sanji’s barrage of kicks managed to reduce the extra arm to ash.

Hearing something, Youpi grew a few eyes out of the back of his head, and they widened at the white-haired witch behind him.

“Evil Explosion!” Mirajane tossed a black orb.

Enraged at these interferences, Youpi’s left arm mutated into an amoebic sac with a grotesque face taking the place of his shoulder. With his Rage Incarnate, he sent a blast of pure golden Aura out of its mouth that countered the Magical Attack.

“The hell was that?” Sanji raised an eyebrow.

“I can convert and channel my rage into pure Aura,” Youpi gave a mean smile. “So go ahead, keep pissing me off and see what happens.”

As the cook and barmaid faced off against the ant, Apacci got back to her assigned task, only to find that the Wind Mask was gone.

“Huh…where the hell is that little shit?!”

OoOoOoO

Kakuzu groaned as he got to his feet, the Lightning Mask’s remains leaking out of him. “Damn, I’m already down two masks. Time for some drastic measures.” With a mental call, the Wind and Water Masks flew back to Kakuzu. Then, they both dived into his back. The old Akatsuki shuddered as the stitching on the skin of his arms came undone. Wads of thread were all that connected his hands, elbows, and shoulders. Some were even peeking out of his Glasgow Grin. From the web of threads on his back, the two Masks peeked out. For the finishing touch, the threads beneath his Masks coalesced into wings. His transformation complete, Kakuzu took flight.

Then, he headed back towards the three-way fight. He saw Jinbe deflecting Tamatoa’s claw with a “Sharkskin Palm Thrust!, while Halibel was pushing Gustave back with an unending barrage of Balas.

Seeing an opportunity, both his Masks opened. And what could only be described as a storm descended on the four. The roaring wind combined with pelting rain forced the four on the defensive.

Avoiding the crab’s claws, Kakuzu flew right at Jinbe. ‘His heart is MINE!’

Suddenly, an arc of golden Reiatsu cut through Kakuzu’s waist, separating him from his legs. Thankfully for the Ninja, none of his Masks were hit, so he simply sent out more threads to reconnect himself. Still, he glowered at the former Espada as he flew around for another go.

Gustave moved to take advantage of the opening, nearly bringing his fist down on Halibel.

SLAM!

Out of nowhere, Samehada rammed into Gustave’s chest, sending the crocodile-man stumbling back from the sheer force.

“I got this guy. Just get Kakuzu out of the air!” Kisame shouted.

Jinbe briefly gave a salty look. “How come I’m the one dealing with Tamatoa? I don’t even like crab all that much,” he mumbled.

“All right,” Halibel pointed her sword down, knowing it was time to get serious if she wanted to beat the Akatsuki quickly. “Hunt, Tiburon!”

Golden Reiatsu formed around her, turning into an orb of water that fell throughout the cavern. The water was now knee-high.

With her transformation done, Halibel spotted Kakuzu coming back, both Masks’ maws open.

“Wind Style: Great Breakthrough. Water Style: Great Waterfall!” Kakuzu then combined them. “Great Maelstrom!” The wind and water came hurtling down.

Halibel glared at the Jutsu, infusing Tiburon with Reiatsu. “Trident!” With a mere three slashes, the Jutsu was cleanly cleaved in half, revealing a shocked Kakuzu. ‘Where the hell did Hoshigaki find these freaks of nature?’ thought the man with extra hearts.

Seizing the initiative, Halibel got a lot closer with Sonido. “La Gota!”

Kakuzu frantically evaded the high-speed water with a flap of his thread-wings. He slammed a palm on the ceiling. “Earth Style: Falling Earth Spears!”

In an instant, brand-new stalactites shot towards Halibel. She simply stood her ground, as the Jutsu failed to even pierce her Hierro.

However, the attack was meant as a diversion, giving Kakuzu the time to appear behind Halibel, an Iron Skinned thrust aimed for her stomach.

She turned in time for the attack to merely take out a small chunk of her side right beneath her ribs. Ignoring the pain, Halibel pointed a finger at Kakuzu’s face.

“Cero.”

VVVOOOOMMM!

When the glow subsided, Halibel didn’t see Kakuzu, but a large ruby fall to the ground. “Damn Substitution,” she grumbled.

“My, my,” Kakuzu leapt out from a newfound hole in the wall, with an Iron-Skinned Karate Chop coming down. Halibel blocked with Tiburon. “You even know the name of some Jutsu. You must be someone special for Kisame to blab to you. I wonder how his old village would feel, seeing the monster they made to kill snitches so freely giving secrets,” his voice now carrying a distinctly mocking edge.

Halibel angrily narrowed her eyes. “Bala!” The golden Reiatsu tore through Kakuzu. “I won’t dignify a mere Clone insulting my friend.” As said Clone crumbled, the Balas didn’t stop as they cratered the ceiling.

Having no choice, Kakuzu popped out of another hole, his hiding spot rendered useless.

The Water Mask gave a quick blast, but Halibel raised her sword. “Hirviendo!”

Just like that, the Jutsu evaporated into nothing.

‘Damn, that narrows my options,’ Kakuzu thought to himself as he flew off. Halibel quickly pursued.

Midflight, Kakuzu’s Wind Mask turned around and began pelting Halibel with “Wind Style: Pressure Damage.” The first one hit hard enough to daze her, but she managed to avoid the others as she flew after him.

OoOoOoO

Down below, Nami and Silver had found some cover as the battles raged around them. Both still had their minds on that chest, wondering if it could be taken away from here.

However, those thoughts were abruptly halted by the sound of shrieking coming from the tunnels.

From the darkness, black creatures with white bone masks came charging out. They mostly took the forms of wolves and bears, although there was the occasional gorilla.

“What the hell are those things?” Nami asked as she readied her Clima-Tact.

“Grimm! Don’t give ‘em an inch!” Silver replied as he brought out his Howitzer.

“BOOM!”

“Thunderbolt Tempo!”

At the very least, the front line of the Grimm was obliterated. Still, that did nothing to slow down the others. On top of the dozens of Grimm, hundreds of Cipactli’s regularly-enhanced animals were coming within sight.

The creatures came up fast enough that Nami and Silver were forced into melee combat. With a cutlass taking the place of his right arm, Silver began to take down all the Grimm within arms reach. Nami, while not quite keeping up with her newfound friend’s body count, was still managing to handily keep all the Grimm away from her as she let out an occasional Weather Egg. Once her set up was complete…

“Yukigumo!” A snowstorm appeared and quickly froze the nearby Grimm, meaning Nami could shatter them at her leisure. She never got the chance, as the other Grimm and Cipactli’s raiders trampled over their frozen comrades.

Just as they got near Nami, a barrage of red Balas came hurtling down. With the new opening, Apacci zoomed in, grabbed Nami and Silver, and fell back.

She set them down as the line of animals recovered and prepared to charge again.

“Alright, try and stick to long-range attacks, keep those little shits bunched up at the entrance!” Apacci roared as her cannon let loose. Still, she was careful not to use Cero, lest the entrance collapse.

Not willing to argue, Silver quickly changed hands into a pistol and started aiming for the heads. Nami kept up a barrage of wind and lightning. For the most part, the animals were contained…for now.

OoOoOoO

Still, a few animals were able to break off and go to the nearest target.

“SCREW OFF!”

Unfortunately, that ‘target’ was Hidan.

With barely any effort, the Akatsuki completely tore through the Grimm with his scythe, not impeded in the least on his way to Brook.

At this rate, Hidan was steadily pushing Brook back. To be honest, the only reason that the skeleton hadn’t been overwhelmed was thanks to Juvia’s occasional long-distance attacks at Hidan.

Case in point, “Water Claw!”

Hidan managed to leap above the Magic attack, and immediately raised his scythe to block Brook’s attempted surprise attack of “Aubade Coup Droit!”

The blast of air gave Hidan some minor cuts where he couldn’t block, but overall, the attack did little to slow him down.

“I don’t care if I can’t use my ritual on you! I’m gonna chop you to pieces!”

With that threat, Hidan pressed the attack once again.

OoOoOoO

Outside, the Queen Anne’s Revenge approached the island. But first, Cipactli’s mighty galleon needed to be dealt with. Even with the vast majority of its fighters off the ship, it still was preventing any other ships from getting close.

Down below, Pintel and Ragetti were barking orders to the cannoneers. “Port Side, Load! Prepare for broadside!”

As the pirates did so, the two took their positions at the Queen Anne’s secret weapon.

“I just got an idea,” Ragetti’s face lit up and he whispered in his comrade’s ear.

Giving a mean laugh at the idea, Pintel ran up and asked Captain Barbossa for permission. The wily Pirate gave an evil smirk. “Yes, that’ll do nicely. Very well. Proceed.”

Eager to get on with it, Pintel hurried down. “All right you maggots! We’re getting the Wildfire!”

A wave of cheers and jeers were heard throughout the deck. Very carefully, the crew brought a few jars filled with glowing green liquid. Pintel and Ragetti sealed them in timed blast-proof containers and put them in the cannons. With nary a word, the duo fired them onto the ship.

Midair, the containers broke apart as scheduled. As a result, the glass containers shattered when they hit the enemy ship. The animals briefly smelled and looked at the strange green liquid starting to cover their ship. They then started scrambling to their own cannons.

Back with Barbossa, Emerald had loaded a single long-distance Fire Dust cartridge. “Ms. Sustrai?” the Pirate gave a slight bow as his hand gestured to the enemy ship. Not able to resist a smirk, Emerald gave one shot.

The second the bullet hit the enemy deck, it exploded.

BBBOOOOOMMMM!

In the blink of an eye, with a flash of green light, Gustave’s ship was reduced to splinters. The vast majority of those onboard had perished with the explosion. Only a few were still alive, and judging the green fire still burning them in the water along with their screams, they wouldn’t last long.

“Now then, the second we get close enough, you and Compress hop onto the shore. Get in and get out with the chest,” Barbossa got back to the helm. “We’ll lay a bombardment on all the animals onshore.”

“Understood,” Emerald nodded, feeling a little more confident.

“Very well, I’ll turn into a marble to avoid detection. Throw me out when we’re at the chest,” Mr. Compress gave a theatrical bow. “I’m putting my life in your hands…literally.” With that, he used his Quirk to shrink into his trademark glowing blue marble.

Emerald pocketed Mr. Marble. “Leaving me to do all the hard work,” she grumbled. “At least this’ll make my illusions easier to manage.”

OoOoOoO

Tsuyu hopped forward, with Hanataro running by her side. They’d been caught off guard by the explosion, but were pressing forward.

“Do you think the others can handle all those animals and scary fighters?” the Soul Reaper wondered.

“Yeah…I believe in them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help,” Tsuyu laid it out.

Before they could further discuss, they were now within eyesight of the horde of animals. Sniffing them out, a group broke off and started charging.

Tsuyu assumed her Fishman Karate stance, until Hanataro tackled her. “COVER!”

Then, a cannonade tore through, with one blasting through where the Pro-Hero was just standing. The rest decimated the animal horde.

Hanataro got back up. While giving a helping hand to Tsu, his eyes widened. “It’s heading for the Cutty Sark!”

“Franky!” Tsuyu shouted in worry.

But the Queen Anne’s Revenge closed the distance, and flames spewed out from two openings in the front, obscuring their ship from view.

As Tsuyu and Hanataro watched on in horror, a small empty hole appeared in the animals’ ranks. It slowly made its way towards the entrance to the cavern.

The animals themselves split up between charging into the cave and dealing with the Pro-Hero and Soul Reaper.

Having no other choice, Tsuyu brought back a fist. “Thousand Brick Fist!” she watched with grim satisfaction as the first animal was sent hurtling back. Still, there was no time to celebrate as the animals didn’t let up. Hanataro was right behind her with his katana.

To their relief, they heard cannon fire from their ship, meaning Franky was unleashing his own artillery.

And so, the stage is set.

Franky and the Cutty Sark pounded back against the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Usopp kept up the defense against the Nevermore flock.

Sasori engaged with his Iron Sand against the Mad Demon Bomber, Jackal.

Circe struggled against her bonds as the world roared around her.

Tsuyu, Hanataro, Apacci, Nami, and Silver held off Cipactli’s horde of minions.

Sanji and Mirajane double-teamed Menthuthuyoupi.

Brook and Juvia desperately attempted to contain Hidan.

Grimmjow and Lucci slashed and bit and clawed at each other.

Halibel flew after Kakuzu, who rained down Jutsu indiscriminately.

With Kisame and Jinbe stuck in a three-way battle with Gustave and Tamatoa.

All the while, The Gold called to them all.

 

Omake: Sea of Second Chances Alternate Universe #1

After waking up, Naruto Uzumaki wasn’t in a great mood. I mean, who wouldn’t be if they saw a giant snake coming at them?

“Well…I’m in a different world…let’s see if this works,” Naruto started forming Hand Signs after biting his thumb. Granted, he could’ve handled it himself, but he was unsure of what worked and what didn’t in this second life.

“Summoning Jutsu!”

In a poof of smoke, something that definitely wasn’t one of his summons appeared.

“Hello, my name’s Tsuyu Asui. Please, call me Tsu.” Naruto stared at the frog girl.

“HUH?! Who the hell are you?”

Seeing the snake, Tsuyu grabbed a nearby log and bonked the snake’s head with it. Then, she gave an intense look to Naruto and walked up real close.

“I. Said,” she narrowed her eyes. “Call. Me. Tsu.”

The Ninja gulped, having learned to keep a healthy fear of angry women. “Yes Ma’am…I mean Tsu!”

Tsu patted him on the head. “Good boy.”