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The Skull Pirates - The Prince of Jeroa and the Blood Panther Pirates!
"I just never heard of something like that before," Kuzo continued to state as he entered the building behind Vance, Joshua, and Selena with Lotte and Morgan in tow. "I mean, it's kinda genius if you think about it, a lost and found for people, but you don't usual- Hey!" Kuzo greeted as he looked up and spotted three other members of his crew. "What's up, guys? Fancy seeing you here!"
Selena winced slightly at the sound of the familiar, booming voice greeting herself, Vance, and Joshua from behind. Still, she turned and gave Kuzo a quick greeting through smile. "We were told to try looking for Avril at this... lost and found place." She paused, looking at the mass of people and mess inside the building, sighing and shaking her head as she took the sight in. "Still, I'm a bit skeptical on this whole thing. Not so much that something like this exists, but how anyone can find anyone in a place like this."
Vance turned his head and smiled as Kuzo, Lotte and Morgan had showed up roughly the same time as they had, lifting a hand to give them a quick wave. "Hey guys! Heh, guess this really -is- the lost and found, huh? And it's really not that bad! There're workers here you can ask if they've seen a particular person." he added, pointing at one of a few desks strewn about.
Joshua continued to look around at the place in awe. "It's like the land of madness from the tales of rabbit holes and missed dates. Some strangely measured chaos, order in disorder. How on earth do human beings make such a thing work?" When he decided it really wasn't worth the trouble to think too much about such a quagmire he finally turned to Kuzo. "Why hello there captain, nice to see you all again. I'm glad to see you two kept miss Lotte safe. I can't possibly imagine us finding miss Avril here, but so many people from so many different places are here any one of them might have seen her on their way in I suppose."
"Well, they probably make it work 'cause they don't talk as much ya do," Morgan remarked on Joshua's long winded response to everything around him. "If ya spent as much time lookin' as you do talkin' we probably would have found her by now." Morgan's frustration at the whole thing was beginning to build up, and he has found himself now taking it out on the others even if he didn't mean it. Looking at the organized chaos, Morgan scratched his head at everything.
Having only cheerfully waved at Vance's greeting smile and otherwise occupied herself with thoughts of how useful a lost and found for people would be in her own kingdom, she was briefly snapped out of her reverie by Morgan's sharp remark, which drew from her a reproachful look. She'd promised Avril to look after him and the other boys, but he was increasingly insufferable without her around...!
Selena raised an eyebrow at Morgan's rather blunt response to Joshua. "Uh... Morgan, you gonna be okay? I mean, I know we're all worried about her, but you seem like your about to pop a blood vessel or something over this whole thing..." She paused, a small smile tugging up on the corner of her lips. "Is there something between you two that maybe we don't know about...?"
Morgan blushed instinctively, losing balance at the remark. "Eh! Uh! Oi! Kuzo! Go ask....the lady over there about Avril!" Morgan said pointing at the counter randomly without as much as looking at whomever he gestured at.
"Hmm? What? Oh, sure," Kuzo responded to Morgan's request as he approached the counter while the rest continued to talk. He was fairly oblivious of what they were currently talking about.
Vance couldn't help but cover his mouth in order to hold back the laugh that sprouted from Morgan's reaction to Selena's teasing words, the laughter instead coming out as a snort. "Mor-gan and Av-ril~"
Joshua simply shook his head, not bothering to give Morgan's rudeness a response. After a bit more observing he walked away from the crew to begin asking people about Avril.
It was at this point that Skellen walked into the Lost and Found. The Taipan had been nearly blown away, rained on, buffeted by hot sand and freezing sleet and snow. He'd experienced temperatures that nobody should on both sides of the spectrum and his luck had just been generally terrible (as per usual). Which is why it wasn't exactly a surprise that he was looking directly at his crew, who he definitely did not want to see at that moment, but neither was it a situation he was happy about.
"You have got to be kidding me."
"Mr. Doctor!" Lotte greeted happily despite the other's resignation, and she giggled at the mess he seemed to be from the weather outside- though she wasn't much better off. She'd certainly made use of Kuzo and Morgan as her defenses and her white dress had thankfully since dried off.
Kuzo returned from the counter and shrugged to the rest of his crew. "No girl with Avril's description around," He stated, slightly bummed out. He glanced around again and spotted Skellen close to the entrance. He gave the doctor a smile and a wave to walk over to them. "Skellen!"
Morgan, mostly ignoring Skellen's arrival, turned to Kuzo to refocus the naive captain. "Alright, so Avril ain't here. I figured as much. Give me a moment, alright? Ya'll can share what information ya may have found, while I gotta go ask the people a question of my own." Without as much as a wave goodbye, Morgan flung himself onto the line to talk to one of the desk workers, remembering what little information the barkeep was able to offer.
"Horse. Ciphers," A voice stated with stern emphasis in front of Morgan. He wore a long, brown cloak with a hood that hid his appearance from the fire man's gaze. He appeared to be discussing with one of the workers about something. "How hard is that to understand?"
"I've never heard of such a thing!" The worker repeated. "I'm telling you there's no such thing here, and there never has been!"
"God damn it," The man in the hood cursed, as he shuffled through his pockets and pulled out a note. "Here, from my captain. It says Hor- Oh, wait, that's not what he wrote... OK... Pony. Glyphs. Give me." He demanded and stuck out his hand.
Morgan perked up: "Well, what a friendly coincidence." Morgan cut the rest of the line, slamming a hand on the table and looking at the hooded man. "I was just lookin' for someone who was asking about this Pony glyph, horse cipher, whatever ya wanna call it things and I found 'em." Morgan's hand began to slowly spark. "Now how about ya tell me what they are? And then tell me what ya did with Avril while ya are at it?"
"What the hell's an Avril?" The man in the hood questioned. The hood hid most of his appearance, but it did reveal long red hair, and piercing green eyes to go along with a linear tattoo across his right eye. He looked down below at the man's hands as they began to light up. He grinned mischievously. "Trust me, you don't wanna do that."
"Oi! No fighting in the Lost and Found!" The worker cried out, which brought the attention of Kuzo as he saw his crewmate about to face off against the hooded man.
"What's going on here, Morgan?"
"The barkeep told me some sketchy guy was asking about somethin'. I figure if Avril was part of some scary crew and that maybe they were the same guy. Now, when it comes to pirates very few are willin' to give up information without some...persuasion," Morgan said to whole of his crew. "So, buddy, just tell me what ya know and we don't gotta fight. I ain't in the mood for wastin' time."
"Like I said, I don't know nothin' about no Avril," The man in the hood replied. "Now leave before I make you leave. Consider that your warning. My captain would call it bad form if I didn't give it to you otherwise."
"Hey, come on now, guys, we can work this out!" Kuzo said as he stepped between the two men.
While the two men faced off, a third one walked passed the altercation. The man, probably no older than eighteen, had dirt-brown hair, a beige-teal overcoat and goggles around his eyes. He looked between the group of pirates on one side, and the man in the hood on the other, and grinned as a suitcase in one of their hands caught his eye. The man casually approached the group, and when he was near enough to them, he suddenly burst forward, yanked the suitcase out of the red-haired man's hands, and bolted out of the shop. "Thank you for your donation to the Bank of Me!" He laughed as he exited the Lost and Found.
Joshua was so wrapped up in discussion that he had forgotten to return the case for his violin to his back. When it was suddenly ripped from his hand it took him a few moments to react, staring incredulously after the fleeing man before gritting his teeth. "Scoundrel! Unhand that this instant before you learn just how much of a mistake it is to steal!" He shouted before dashing after the thief, muscles straining to run at his full speed. The last thing he wanted was to delay the search for Avril by not helping, but he couldn't just let the violin go, it was too special.
"Ah, god damn it!" Morgan yelled, slamming a fire-laden fist on a desk, setting it ablaze in the office. As many of the innocent pedestrians yelped in terror, Morgan's body clenched tightly before blasting after Joshua to aid in chasing the thief. Barging through the door to the outdoors, Morgan caught up to Joshua. "Ya know this ain't helpin' in findin' much of anyone!" Morgan knew that Joshua couldn't help it, but splitting up didn't seem to serve anything so keeping the group together may have been the best option in finding Avril. He only could hope that everyone else would follow as well.
"Wow... A pirate getting robbed. I think I've really seen just about everything now," Selena sighed. A small, mischievous smile graced the green-haired cook's lips as she watched the thief run out of the Lost and Found, with Joshua and Morgan hot on his trail. She cracked her knuckles before doing a quick stretch and heading off after the two male pirates and the thief. "After all this craziness, it'll be fun to kick someone's ass!"
"W-wait, guys!" Vance called out as Morgan and Joshua dashed out of the building. Splitting up now was a terrible idea, especially when confronted with a guy like the one in front of them. Vance had a bad feeling about him. Glancing up at Kuzo, Vance nudged him with his elbow. "It looks like Morgan's found some evidence that points to this guy knowing where Avril is, but fighting someone here is a -really- bad idea."
"Like I said, I don't know nothin' about no Avril!" The man in the hood shouted angrily again. "That's the first time I've ever even heard of that stupid name!"
Kuzo looked between Selena, Morgan, Joshua and the thief taking off and the man in the hood, and shrugged his shoulders at Vance. "It doesn't seem like he really knows anything. I think we should go help Joshua!" The captain shouted, and turned around to chase after the others to the outside.
Vance looked back as Kuzo took off before looking back at the man, still looking rather suspicious. However, people around them had started glancing over, one or two of them pointing in their direction. Swallowing down, Vance quickly looked from them to the hooded man before finally spinning around and racing after the captain. "K-Kuzo, wait up!"
"Finally!" The hooded man complained and threw his arms up into the air. "Damn losers thinkin' they know better. Go after your friends and leave me be, or I might stop being so nice!" He yelled to the rest of the Skull Pirates still present.
Skellen looked at the hooded man, then back at the door that was still swinging.
"Damn it, remind me to gut you later!" Skellen said irritably as he ran out the door after the others. He would have much preferred sticking around and continuing to hunt for Avril, however he felt like he owed Joshua and that he was obligated to help him out.
Lotte had essentially tuned out of the conversation between Morgan and the hooded man entirely, being quite bored of Morgan's insufferable attitude in regards to finding Avril. She had no qualms on the search, but she had yet to settle on whether she felt the need to personally participate. At this point, what with the weather, all she really wanted was to get back on the ship where it was likely to be warm and dry and predictable.
"Oh-!" She jumped out of the way in surprise as suddenly someone snatched Joshua's violin case (Not the violin!!) and bolted, Joshua in hot pursuit closely followed by Morgan, Selena, Kuzo, and so on until finally all that was left in the Lost and Found was Lotte looking utterly bewildered at what had just happened. "W-Wait-!" She called out, taking a few half-hearted steps to follow before feeling winded just looking at the distance between her and the others that had already formed.
"..." And before she knew it, they were all but gone. ".... At least leave me your jacket!" She called out after them in vain, more for her own frustration than anyone else's as a deluge poured a brief but torrential rain over her as if to prove her point. "Eeek!!" She ran back inside the Lost-and-Found for shelter, wailing after how much she hated all the boys in their crew who hadn't a single gentlemanly bone in them!!
At the mention of a coat Joshua stopped dead in the middle of sprinting after the thief full speed and looked back towards Lotte, wrestling with the necessity of getting his violin back and the urge to help a lady stay dry. He grit his teeth and stood still for a second before he unhooked his umbrella and threw it to sail through the air and come skidding to a halt at Lotte's feet. "My sincerest apologies miss Lotte!" He shouted back at her and took off after the thief once again, running faster than before with his renewed anger.
The moment Kuzo stepped out of the 'Lost and Found', he was met with a heavy downpour of rain, one which lasted only seconds, but which was enough to throw him off on where everyone else had run off to in search of the thief. As soon as he spotted them, he sped along the streets close behind, and watched as the weather once more changed, this time to light snow, but surprisingly behind it in the distance, the wind began to pick up in what appeared to be a miniature tornado forming on the edge of the harbor.
The thief jumped and skid across the buildings, seemingly following a path he had outlined for himself. He jumped across the buildings and moved to higher elevation as he continued to run up the hills of Jeroa, to where the more lavish and expensive homes were. Kuzo also spotted a rather large palace directly in front of them, though still some distance away.
The thief jumped off the rooftops and began sprinting across the streets. His thicker coat made him easily adapt to the weather conditions, and he quickly pushed a few passersby and barrels in his way to momentarily distract his pursuers while he turned the corner to continue his getaway. "Later suckers!"
Joshua chased the thief with everything he had, he wasn't going to lose that violin so soon after finding it, he HAD to keep it. It was lucky that he loved running so much and was so used to keeping his manners in a crowd, doing his best to avoid bumping into random civilians When they descended back to ground-level. Morgan, in contrast, barged through the distractions that the thief attempted to use to his advantage. Kuzo lagged behind, but was catching up.
The scarlet-locked tailor was not daunted at all by the changing weather conditions thanks to all the adrenaline pumping in him, even the gales he began to hear in the distance were ignored. He had eyes only for the thief. Joshua paused for a few seconds in his pursuit to bunch all the muscles in his legs and leap towards his target. After that every step became a bound and Joshua finally began to gain on the thief. "First you pilfer my sanctuary, and then force me to forego my manners and you throw innocent civilians in my path? THERE WILL BE RETRIBUTION YOU COWARD!"
Skellen mentally berated himself as he leapt over barrels and jumped from person to person through a large crowd - eliciting numerous complaints and shouts of pain/surprise.
I'm not going to be finding Avril any time soon like this... I don't even know what's in the damn case!
The sounds of intense winds could be heard in the distance, even as a light snow began to fall over Jeroa.
If that sound is what I think it is, I hate this place even more than I did five minutes ago.
The thief's eyes opened wide as he noticed the red-haired pirate leap forward and almost catch him. He desperately pushed himself forward in an effort to enlarge the distance between himself and the rest of his pursuers. "Dang it, this was supposed to be easy, who the hell are you guys!?"
As the thief made another turn down the corner, he found himself face to face with a group of Marines, led by what appeared to be a Chief Petty Officer with a thin pencil mustache and thick black curly hair. Also present with the Marines was an odd man with bright red hair, clown make-up, a pair of small, rectangular glasses, small red clown nose. Seeing nowhere left to go, the thief pulled out the only card he had. He ran straight to the Marines and the clown, put on an exaggerated face of fear and pointed back to the men chasing him. "Help me! P-pirates are after me!"
"Pirates, hmm?" The pencil-mustached Marine repeated with a raised eyebrow. He clasped his hands behind his back and shook his head. "You made a mistake coming to Jeroa, scoundrels," He stated in an oddly calm demeanor. "Kill them," He ordered.
The dozen or so Marines with him moved into firing positions and pointed their rifles toward the incoming Skull Pirates. Then they rained bullets down upon them.
At the appearance of the marines, Skellen pushed himself to his maximum speed allowing him to catch up to the rest of his crew before he dropped to the ground, skidding forward until he was close to marines. Following up on that, Skellen took several razors from his canister and threw them forwards. The wet and shimmering weapons grazed many of the front row of marine and one or two in the second however none of the opponents seemed to suffer serious wounds.
One of the marines laughed.
"Is that the best you can do? What kind of an aim is that" as the marine spoke he and several of his comrades leveled their weapons on Skellen knowing that they couldn't miss at such a close range. It was Skellen's turn to laugh though
"You obviously don't know who I am" at that simple sentence and a feral smirk from the Taipan, the cut marine began to sway and stagger before falling to the ground.
One of the Marine's watched with wide eyes as his comrade began to swagger before he fell to the ground. The Marine snarled in response to the sight, quickly lowering his gun and taking aim at the doctor once more. Just as the man prepared to pull the trigger on his firearm, he was quickly greeted by a foot to the middle of his face. Selena had arrived behind Skellen and managed to save the doctor from taking a bullet to the stomach. The Marine staggered back, just in time for Selena to elbow him hard in the gut and then bring another foot up into the man's chin, causing him to fall on the ground right after.
"You should pay more attention," Selena said, glancing over her shoulder at Skellen. "Besides, it's supposed to be ladies first, you know."
Skellen chuckled at Selena, flicking another razor past her head - the poisoned weapon narrowly missing her but impaling itself in the shoulder of the marine that had come up behind her intending to hit her over the head with the butt of his gun.
"You were saying?"
A rampaging Kuzo in Tank Mode suddenly rushed passed the others on his way toward one of the Marines as they found themselves once more in an altercation that they did not start. He wondered briefly why things always started like that, but decided to put it out of his mind for now and bring his enlarged arms in front of his face to protect it from the bullets heading toward him. They bounced off of his arms like rubber off of a wall, much to the surprise of the Marine who fired the shots.
"W-what the hell?!" The helpless Marine shouted as Kuzo brought one of his massive arms behind him and then struck the Marine.
"Cannon Arm!" He yelled as his enlarged fist connected with the Marine directly to the jaw, and sent the poor fellow flying into a nearby barrel.
"This was not what we came here for!" Vance cried out as he ducked under a marine trying to cut him in half, quickly elbowing him in the back, sending him on his face. He then proceeded to roll to the side to avoid another one, coming up crouched as he thrust his arm forwards, sending a length of rope from his sleeve, which promptly wrapped around the marine's collar.
Vance proceeded to pull the flailing man towards him with a firm yank, the rope letting go and zooming back into his sleeve, at which point Vance spun around and slammed his heel into the man's side, sending him flying into a couple of his comrades. The navigator took a moment to look down at his arm, an impressed smile lighting up his expression. "Man, Avril really knows what she's do-" He only barely managed to lean backwards as a sword came flying down in front of his face, taking a few hairs off of the front of his head, after which he Impact Bulleted the man in the stomach, causing him to fly back. "G-guys, we need to get out of here! This is too dangerous!"
A certain slightly-angry gentleman had no time for fighting marines, and made a B-line straight for the thief, everything between them was simply in the way. Joshua shoved the first two marines he encountered out of the way and when he got to another pair in the line behind them he yanked on their collars and tossed them into the men he'd just bulldozed through. While the four grunts were trying to disengage from their tangled heap Joshua walked forward brazenly, trusting his crewmates to handle the rest of them while he had a civil chat.
The Skull pirates' tailor strode right up to the pencil-mustachioed CPO and didn't even spare the craven man behind him a glance. "Excuse me sir, but I regret to inform you that you've had a terrible misunderstanding. Regardless of our status in regards to society or the law, the fact of the matter is that you have unintentionally harbored and protected a thief. The case that man is carrying - and its contents - are my property both rightful and paid-for out of pocket. I still have all the documentation from said purchase if you'd like to look it over." Joshua's trademark grin was back, and shining with diplomatic friendliness as he pulled the receipt from the store on Dinas that had sold him the violin out of his wallet. "I must ask that you call off your men posthaste and apprehend the coward behind you before Jeroa's peace is needlessly disrupted any more - or, failing that, allow me to deal with him if you must."
"He does realize that talkin' that much probably allowed the thief to, uh, travel around the world like twice right?" Morgan commented to his crew mates quietly, the bullets going through his Logia infused body.
"Yeah but said thief is standing there like an idiot, so it isn't much of a problem" Skellen replied, casually sidestepping a flailing marine.
"I think the better question is why would a Marine officer chase down a thief for a wanted pirate," Selena muttered, tripping said flailing Marine and then stomping on his back with a slight twist of her foot.
"Shh! They don't know we're wanted!" Vance hissed, appearing behind Selena as if he'd been hiding behind her for a while now, trying his best to stay out of the line of fire of the marines. "Let's just grab the case and get out of here already!"
The Marine with the pencil mustache kept his hands crossed behind his back and calmly stared at Joshua as he explained his situation. He looked unsympathetic, or uncaring. With his stonewall expression, it was difficult to discern which was the case. As the rest of the Skull Pirates arrived and took care of the remaining Marines, leaving only the lone Marine and the clown, the Marine scanned silently across the Skull Pirates, before his eyes widened as he stopped on one in particular. "Hayden Vance?" He questioned as he looked upon the pirate behind Selena. "So the rumors are true then... and the rest of you must be the Skull Pirates. Your father would be ashamed if he were to come down and see you now."
Joshua's left eyebrow twitched while he looked at the ground and clenched his fists until the knuckles turned completely white. "Excuse me sir." He interjected, his tone still as friendly as before. "I was speaking with you, I'm afraid this matter has to be dealt with immediately, whether you cooperate or not, please consider your manners."
Vance's head perked up at the sound of the marine officer speaking, after they'd dealt with the remainder of the small fry. His eyes widened a little as he seemingly knew his name, and at closer inspection, Vance seemed to recognize him in return. "Fosen...?"
Immediately after this realization, Vance froze up, glancing quickly between the others. "Guys, I -really- think we should get out of here! I'm, uh... really, REALLY scared of clowns." He added, pointing at the man, so far silently standing besides the officer, before tugging on Morgan's arm, tossing his head back towards where they came from. "And we gotta go find Avril! Right?"
The Clown's eyes slowly glanced over to where Vance was standing. They widened behind his thin, glass frames. His mouth slowly slid open in shock.
"Wait, you know Avril? Wait, what am I saying?!" the clown questioned. He seemed to physically berate himself for dropping the same name that Vance had mentioned. He even went as far as to slap himself on the face, his shocked expression instantly falling off of his face and taking on one of a much more serious nature. Without waiting another moment, he quickly adjusted his bowtie before turning and making tracks as fast as he could on his blue, floppy-looking shoes from the lone, standing Marine and the Skull Pirates. "I'll leave everything else up to you! Give 'em hell, good sir!"
"Wait... did he know Avril?!" Kuzo asked as he watched the clown begin to run away.
"Hold on a minute... did he say Hayden Vance?" The thief questioned from behind the Marine.
The pencil-mustached Marine glanced at the thief, at Joshua, at the clown running away, at the other Skull Pirates, and then his eyes rested upon Vance. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if he were conflicted on what he should do. Eventually, he closed his eyes, and inhaled sharply through his nose. He stepped to the side and moved out of the way of the clown and the thief. "This will be your one and only warning, Hayden Vance. One I will give over any relationship we once had. Take these scum and leave Jeroa. You're no longer welcome here." With that, the pencil-mustached Marine known as Fosen turned and proceeded to walk away.
Vance watched Fosen turn and walk away for a few moments, glancing back at his comrades. Finally, he shook his head, more to himself than anyone else, while muttering out "As much as I want to... I can't."
The thief, in turn, quickly dropped the case he was holding, held up his arms and took a few paces back. "All yours," He stated nervously.
Joshua gasped and dived for the case, refusing to let it hit the ground. He just barely caught it, banging his chin on the ground hard and taking a deep breath. After he stood up and dusted himself off he put his hand to his face and laughed before turning to look at his crewmates again, especially Morgan. "So we're supposed to just turn around and leave now, are we?"
But Morgan was already in a dash, blasting by Joshua leaving only a trail of flames in his wake. As the Marines were obviously in his way, Morgan snapped his fingers and a rush of fire consumed the street, blasting the Marines every which way. Morgan cut through the inevitable cloud of smoke that remained, leaping over any bodies that littered the ground, closing in on the Clown that taunted the Burning King's ears with information of Avril. Normally one to chide his prey, Morgan remained serious and composed, gaining on the Clown with every step.
"My sentiments exactly." Joshua let out before turning on a heel and following after Morgan as fast as he could.
The clown glanced over his shoulder as he ran, a sharp scream escaping his lips as he tripped over his own feet, dodging one of Morgan's fireballs in the process. He wasted no time scrambling up to his feet, an act which looked rather odd in his over-sized shoes, and then took off running as hard as he could once more. He looked back over his shoulder as he ran, his eyes narrowing on Morgan.
"Sir! Did anyone not tell you that smoking like that is bad for your health, sir?!" the clown questioned.
Morgan picked up the pace ever so slightly, narrowing his blue eyes as his body erupted in a bigger, hotter flame. "I got somethin' to make your health that much worse if ya keep runnin' away from me!" He had no time for clever wisecracks as he hurled a fireball directly at the Clown's feet, hoping to singe his leg to halt the Clown's gait.
The fireball sailed straight through the air, narrowly missing the clown's leg however. Rather, it managed to land right on the toe of his left shoe, causing another sharp scream to echo out into the alleyway as he started to hop on one foot for a moment while turning the corner. Once more, he glanced over his shoulder at Morgan, his eyes practically bulging as he noticed how much closer the Burning King was getting.
"This is definitely a new meaning to the old hotfooting prank!" he yelled. "I'd love to play with you a bit longer, but I think I really need to start burning rubber!"
The silly puns almost broke what little patience Morgan had. His form was nearly lost to a fiery blaze. Channeling what little control he had, he burst forward with a large explosion, tackling the clown down in a wheel of fire. As the tumbling came to a pause, Morgan planted his foot on the neck of the Clown, and leered down with intense eyes. "Try crackin' a joke now. I dare ya."
"I... I tink the... the only one doing any cracking right now... is... y-you..." the clown gasped.
Kuzo found his way in front of the Burning King and the clown below his feet. He stuck his arm out toward Morgan's chest, despite it being completely comprised of flames. However despite feeling the intensity of the flames along his palm, Kuzo didn't seem to immediately register that it was happening. Instead, he gave Morgan a stern, unwavering expression. He felt at that moment it was more important for Morgan to understand that they were all on the same page about getting Avril back than registering any pain he might be feeling. "Easy," He stated as he tried to appease his enraged first mate. "We have him, now we'll get him to talk."
Morgan glared at Kuzo, tempted to light the so called Captain ablaze. Up until now, almost nothing Kuzo did proved he was worthy of the title. Sure, he could muster a few pretty speeches and he had his moments of glory. But he had not earned the Burning King's approval to brandish that title and bark orders. No one really did anymore. No one. "The only thing that's easy right now is how easily I can snap this Clown in half!" Morgan felt the need to spit out, citing his control over the situation. However, sense got hold of him for one reason or another as he lifted his foot off the Clown's neck. Before, his hapless victim had a chance to claw his way to freedom, Morgan picked the man up by the collar and drove him into the wall. "Well, ya heard the man over there. Talk. Where's Avril?!"
"H-How should I know, I've been in this city since we got here!" the clown shouted, trying to worm out of Morgan's grasp.
"But you know who Avril is, and I'm betting you also know where she is," Kuzo explained as he dropped down to one knee. There was a painful stinging sensation coming from his palm from when he had touched the Burning King's chest, but he ignored it now. Instead, he was focused entirely on the clown. "I'll be honest, on any other day, it might be interesting to find out what you're all about, why you're dressed like that and really who you are. But right now, I could care less about any of that. The biggest mistake you could ever make is messing with our crew, and Avril is apart of that. So talk, or the thirty of us will take turns making you wish you had."
Selena gave Kuzo a curious look, crossing her arms over her chest. "I don't think I've ever seen him make a threat like that before... But does he really think there's thirty of us?"
The clown gave a clueless look in Kuzo's direction. "Part of your crew? What are you talking about? The only crew she belongs with is ours! She's a member of the Blood Panther Pirates!"
"Uh, just so we're clear, there isn't thirty of us. Kuzo's not good with numbers." Vance commented from somewhere to the side. Glancing at the clown again, he lifted a hand to scratch the side of his head. "So the Blood Panthers must be the ones who took Avril back... which means, that if we find them..." He trailed off, glancing over at Morgan.
"We'll kick their asses and get her back," Morgan said, finishing Vance's sentence in the only way Morgan would accept. "Now then," Morgan shifted his attention to the Clown, tightening his grasp with one hand and developing a mass fire of in the other. "Where are ya'll Blood Panther Pirates hidin' out? Try and lie to me, and I'll singe ya up until ya are nothin' but a bad joke. Ya hear me?"
"Pirates?" Skellen said raising an eyebrow "I did not see that one coming. Where are these pirates because we have a mast to fix and it's more or less their fault."
The clown shook his head as a small, although obviously fake smile took his painted lips. "I don't know who you all think you are, but no one just goes and takes something "back" from the Blood Panther Pirates! And besides that, I just explained it to you! Avril isn't a member of your crew! There's no way she'd double-cross Cap'n Crimm like that, not with what he's holding against her!"
"Holding against her...?" Vance frowned, folding his arms across his chest, glancing at the others. "I think we need to find the Blood Panthers before we find Avril. If they've got leverage on her, I doubt she'll want to go anywhere until that's been sorted out."
Morgan was unmoved by stories of blackmail, Vance's desire for a careful approach and Skellen's remark of broken ships. He simply stared at the Clown with a blank expression, one hand pinning the Clown to the wall and the other doused in flames. There was a moment in which Morgan was not sure what to do. Would he attempt another weakly masked threat? Would he allow Kuzo or someone else to make that last push to get the information they needed? Or would he consider what the Clown said? If Avril was truly a part of this crew, was it really in the Skull Pirates' place to force her to come back to their side? Doesn't it make them just as bad as whoever essentially took her back by force? These thoughts rushed through Morgan's head and he was forced, whether he wanted to or not, to consider them. In the same breath of thought, Morgan's flames weakened and his physical form returned to something far more comforting for those around him.
But then, something snapped. His free hand reignited and he punched the wall behind the Clown mere inches away from his face, blasting a huge hole in what was once solid foundation. A wave of flames surrounded Morgan and the Clown, soon consuming the street where the Skull Pirates huddled around. Surprisingly Morgan was calculated in his rage, keeping the hottest and largest of flames away from his crew members. "I'm goin' to ask one last time, Clown. Where's Avril?"
The clown's eyes widened considerably. He began to visibly panic and sweat as he closed his eyes, squirming even more to try and somehow get out of this mess. When it quickly became apparent to the clown that escape was not going to be an option, he began to rattle off any information he could to Morgan.
"A-Alright! Alright! Soree! Avril, the captain, and the rest are all in Soree! It's a village on the other side of the island!" he shouted. "That's all I know! But listen to me! If you go over there, you're gonna get yourself killed!"
As soon as Morgan got the information he wanted, he released the Clown with a firm toss to the ground and the inferno of fire was lost to the sudden rush of wind. "I'll take my chances," Morgan said, before rocketing down the street to find the nearest way out of the city.
"There he goes again, off like a bat outta hell," Selena sighed, shaking her head. "Does he even know where he's going. Last time I checked we had only been here for a few hours... and with all this changing weather, it's probably gonna be tough to keep one's bearings straight."
Vance perked up, his brows raising a little. "Soree? I know where that is. Wonder why they-" He paused, noticing Morgan wandering away from the scene, at which point, he scurried after him with Selena close behind. "H-hey, Morgan, wait!"
The clown fell to the ground, rubbing his head in relief that he still had one to begin with. He sent a somewhat annoyed glance in the direction of Morgan before he picked himself off the ground and began to dust off his clothes. "My... Your friend certainly has a hot-headed temper..."
A little further up the street, Vance let out a snicker, covering his mouth to avoid himself from full-on laughing. "Okay, that one was pretty funny."
Skellen took that opportunity to walk up to the clown and kick him extremely hard in the head before he took off after Morgan.
Seeing his crew begin to take off, Kuzo took off after one last glance to the clown. He was more determined than ever now to find Avril. It was fortunate that Vance knew where the village was. Kuzo wondered briefly if he had been there before. Another thought popped into his head, as he wondered why the Marine here had let them go after he recognized Vance. Kuzo remembered Vance said he was in the Marines, so he figured that might have been it, but there started to developed a few too many coincidences.
As they were storming down one of the streets of Jeroa, Kuzo looked up to see that rain clouds began forming, and light showers followed soon after. He also was surprised to see the thief from earlier running right beside the Skull Pirates.
"Hey, are you guys really going after the Blood Panther Pirates?" He asked curiously.
"Of course we are." Joshua answered the thief without any hesitation, making sure the violin case was securely on his back so he could move freely. "And even if she doesn't want to come back with us, we're going to find out why, and if she is being forced to leave...nothing will stop us from freeing her, isn't that right Captain?"
"You got that right!" Kuzo yelled in agreement from Joshua's side.
The thief looked at the group with even more interest. "Then... are you also here to take out King Edgar?" He asked again, then pointed to Vance. "That's why he's here with ya, isn't he?"
Selena glanced between Vance and then theif. "King Edgar? Uh... I dunno anything about that. I'm pretty sure we're just here to find Avril." She paused, somehow managing throw an arm around Vance's shoulder as she ran. "And this guy here's our navigator! That's why he's with us, right Vance?"
"What can you tell us about this 'King Edgar'?" Joshua inquired. "You just may begin to make up for daring to snatch my case."
"... King Edgar?" Vance asked in a confused tone. He didn't manage to reply, however, as he suddenly found Selena's arm wrapped around his neck, pulling him closer and making it hard for him to keep up with the others. "Gack! Y-yeah, that's it! Ech. Why, uh, why don't you tell us about that Edgar guy?"
"What kind of a name is Edgar? It sounds like a sneeze" Skellen thought out loud as he ran, not particularly caring about this person's identity outside of how easy it would be to put a sharp object in a part of their body.
"Edgar," the thief repeated and gave off a shudder at the mere thought of the man. "Ever since Queen Alicia disappeared, he's been Jeroa's Viceroy, and now more recently, King. He's the absolute worst! A tyrant. He's a Marine and runs this place like its a prison and we're all prisoners!"
"That's in the job description" Skellen pointed out "Marines do bad stuff, I keep telling everyone this."
Looking over at the thief running along with them on their way out of the city, ignoring a brief amount of snow, Vance frowned at his words, looking ahead of them again. "That's horrible. Someone should stop him."
"I thought that's why you were here!" The thief exclaimed at Vance. "I mean, that's why you're here, right, Prince? To get your mom and stop your dad? You can't let us keep living like this!"
"... What?!" Kuzo practically yelled at the thief as he came screeching to a halt along the street.
Joshua stopped alongside Kuzo and looked back and forth between the thief and Vance. "Are we in the presence of royalty?"
"Maybe he just confused your name or something, right Vance?" Selena suggested, having a hard time believing what she just heard herself. "I mean, there's no way someone like a prince would just up and become a pirate."
Morgan, noticing that the stampede of steps were slowing down or halting completely, gradually came to a stop. "What the hell are ya'll stopping for?"
"Nothing important" Skellen shrugged "wait... who the hell is your father exactly?"
"I, uh..." Vance began as everyone seemed to start looking in his direction. Sighing, he came to a stop along with everyone else, planting his hands at his sides. "Okay... okay. I owe you guys an explanation, I guess."
He took a moment to lift a hand, scratching the back of his head while in turn looking at each of them. "So, uh... the reason I know so much about this place..." He paused, glancing upwards. "Oh, it'll rain in a moment." He took a moment to step into cover before continuing, the group standing very near the gates out into the countryside as it began pouring down.
"The reason I know so much about this place, is that... well, I grew up here. You know how I said I wanted to find my mother? She... was the queen of Jeroa, until she disappeared. And when she did, my dad took me away from here, several years ago, actually." He cleared his throat, shuffling his feet awkwardly while sending them all a sheepish smile. "So, uhm, yeah. I guess I am sort of... the prince."
He then proceeded to frown, glancing up at the castle resting on the top of the hill on which the city was built. "And it looks like my dad's decided to take over the country." He glanced over at Skellen. "The, uh, Marine Captain."
"Wow... So, you're a prince... Avril belonged to another crew... You all seem to be just full of surprises lately," Selena said, scratching the side of her nose. "Anything else to share about the rest of you guys? None of you are like, a Fishman in disguise or anything, right?"
Morgan scratched his head, mostly out of frustration. He wanted to get a move on, but he could understand the need to resolve this "issue" whatever it may be. Family was important, sure, but to Morgan, family was a distant memory. It was something he willingly left in order to find himself. "Alright, then. Ya are a prince. I sooner expect Joshua over here to be all royal and what not. But I want to know what are ya going to do about it?" Morgan asked, taking a step towards Vance. "What are ya gonna do about your father takin' over a country that technically belongs to ya and your mother?"
"You're gonna stop him, right?" The thief interjected before Vance had a chance to speak. "You have to stop him and take back your throne! King Edgar didn't just take over our country! He's enslaved us! Jeroa used to be a great place to live. Sure, our weather was always insane, but we endured it and made it our own!"
The thief began to have tears well up in his eyes. "I don't know how much more of this we can endure! If you speak up, you're beaten and thrown in prison. Protesting is completely illegal! There's censorship on anything he views bad against the Marines or the World Government. If you say even the slightest thing bad about him, the Marines, or the World Government, you're beaten and thrown in jail! You think I was always a thief? I had to take up this life when they jailed my dad for running a newsstand and my mom for having a food stall with foreign foods from places that were anti-World Government! I had no other way to survive! Do you even know what they'll do to me if I'm caught?!" He asked as the tears poured like a river out of his eyes.
The thief wiped away his eyes with his sleeve and sniffed a few times. "There's a rumor. Well, not really a rumor... everyone hears these things but no one publicly says it because they're too afraid. King Edgar hired the Blood Panthers. And what's more, I hear talk from someone I know in Soree that... that they have a prisoner. They take some, sometimes, but this one... this one is your mom, Prince! Queen Alicia!"
Skellen interjected before Vance could reply to the thief
"Right, do you mind if I do horrible things to your dad Vance? Because that seems like it would be the ideal way to fix this ridiculous situation."
Vance kept turning to face them each as they spoke, looking completely overwhelmed by the sudden attention, shuffling his feet a little. However, as the thief brought up his mother, Vance's brow furrowed, folding his arms across his chest with a frown.
"I never meant to come back here. When my dad took me away, that was basically the end of it for me, I thought. Coming back here would only dig up memories and not help anything." He paused, pressing his lips together and swallowing down, looking deep in thought.
"If they're just rumors... we can't really do anything. Not that we really stand a chance against an army led by my dad... and whoever these blood panthers are. But..." He paused, looking ever so slightly determined. "We need to go rescue Avril. That's what we came here for. And while we're meeting up with these pirates... we'll have a look around. If there's even a chance my mother's beind held captive by them..." His hands clenched before firmly nodding, finally looking back at the others. "Right. Plan's the same. We save Avril. Then... we'll see. Deal?"
"Don't gotta tell me twice," Morgan replied. "Let's get this over with then."
"Yeah," Kuzo jumped in with a nod of his head. He pointed forward. "To Soree we go!"
The village of Soree is a small port town on the far side of the island of Jeroa. It, in many regards, resembles any other village that one would see on the Blues or the Grand Line. It contains wealth, but only in pockets. It has prestige, but only if you know where to look. For the most part, Soree seems peaceful, quiet and unbothered by the changing climates of the island. It contains many of the adaptions present in the capital city, but in a less grandiose fashion relying on older, stable technologies and techniques that have treated the village so well for generations. Soree, in addition, seems reliant on good foundations with solid cobblestone streets, closely packed by unified buildings, and ancient yet solid structures that have stood the test of time. It proves to be clear that Soree is among the oldest of locations in Jeroa, and likely serves as the basis for urban design in the kingdom, despite its small stature in comparison to its larger counterparts.
Yet Wright D. Morgan didn't care for any of these things as the Dream Chaser pulled into the small port. It would remiss to say he wasn't at least remotely surprised that the port was as small, or plain as it was considering the erratic weather patterns the crew faced in their small voyage from one side of the island to the other. His mind was distracted, yet focused. He barely spoke to anyone, silently remarking on how the crew had abandoned Lotte entirely at the Jeroa Lost and Found. It was perhaps irony that she was left there, and likely return there at the end of everything. Morgan firmly believed it was not worth expressing his opinion, as upon finding Avril they could return to capital and handle the family ordeal for Vance. That was his intention at least, permitting Vance wanted to get involved and would request the Skull Pirates help. Morgan liked Vance, despite their limited interaction, so if he would trust Morgan to help, he would help without much question. Just it would come with the warning that things may explode in the process. Upon pulling into port and ensuring the ship wouldn't float away, Morgan perched himself on the dock and slowly made his way into the village, awaiting anyone's inevitable reaction that the Burning King was, once again, rushing into something he shouldn't.
"There he goes again, rushing off without any actual clue as to where he's going or where to actually start looking here," Selena said. The green-haired cook quickly hopped up on the railing of the side of the Dream Chaser, glancing over her shoulder at Kuzo. "Does he always just zoom off like that when you guys get somewhere?"
"No, not usually," Kuzo answered with a shrug. "But he's not exactly being himself right now... we should follow him. Better to stick together for now," With that, Kuzo jumped out of the Dream Chaser behind Morgan and clenched his fists to transform into his 'Lightning Mode' in order to catch up with the Burning King.
"Yeah... Morgan really likes Avril." Vance commented, having just finished sorting out the sails, glancing up at Selena. "I mean, we all do, but I think... he likes her a bit more." He paused, quietly looking at the village in thought, old memories and happenings resurfacing. Shaking his head, he leapt over the side, and after a quick dash, he'd caught up with the others, slowing down to their pace.
Selena shook her head at the thought, quickly hopping over the railing and catching up to the navigator. "That's all well and good, but since we don't know what we're rushing into shouldn't we be... I dunno, a bit more careful? I mean, I'm all for bustin' up some heads, but not if someone's gonna bust mine in the process."
"Trust me, I'm all for being careful." Vance muttered quietly, none the less seemingly believing in Morgan's approach.
"Kinda hard when he's being like this!" Kuzo yelled back to Selena from ahead of her. He gave her a shrug of his shoulders and offered her a smile. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"I still don't see why we couldn't go back for miss Lotte before we rushed over here, someone as delicate and....lacking in worldly experience as her shouldn't be left alone in such a place." Joshua added, catching up and closing a book after exiting the ship himself. Especially right after a fight nearly broke out. I suppose I'll just have to have faith in her, at least she has my umbrella if she has to go out in the rain again."
"Yes, because being dry is going to be a lot of protection against any enemy pirates or marines that might show up" Skellen said, chugging down the remainder of yet another bottle that looked very suspiciously like mouthwash before jumping over the edge of the Dreamchaser and running to catch up with the rest of his crew... well the rest that were present.
"Judging from how these pirate guys were described, I think it would be safer for Lotte away from here, right?" Kuzo asked.
Morgan suddenly stopped, looking at what appeared to be a crossroads, as if he heard everyone's criticisms about how he was carrying himself in this search. "Vance. Where would someone hide somethin' in this place? After runnin' around for a bit, I think it's clear they ain't hidin' out in plain sight. Any good spots in and around this place?"
Vance blinked, coming to a stop as they caught up with Morgan, looking a little uneasy about being put in the spotlight again. Clearing his throat, he looked down the three roads splitting off from the one heading to the harbor.
"Well, uh... I didn't go here that many times. I was usually in the castle with a ton of guards making sure I wasn't going to leave. I did manage to sneak out a couple of times, and a few of them, I came here. But, uh..."
He lifted a hand to scratch the top of his head thoughtfully. "There's... a large steel mill at the edge of the town. When I lived here, it wasn't really being used for anything, after the larger mill was built, closer to town. There's also several storage... areas, warehouses, on the docks, back where we came from. Could be that they've rented or bought one of them. I think a few of them might even let ships sail into them directly from the sea."
"That's as good a lead as any, I guess," Morgan said, biting his thumb in frustration. "Lead the way then!"
Vance led the way through the town of Soree with Kuzo following close behind. Kuzo kept a watchful eye around the town for anything suspicious, something he usually didn't do too often, but felt at this moment it was important to do. This was for one of his crewmates, after all. He had to be prepared for what was coming. He had to take things seriously now.
They were lead all through the town. Every time they passed an area where there were some people around, they either quickly moved out of the street, swiftly hid in their homes, or chose to outright ignore the Skull Pirates' presence completely. There was something definitely irking these people. Or maybe that's how all Jeroans were, Kuzo wasn't actually sure. By the time they were out of the main part of town, homes appeared together less frequently, and the natural part of the island became more commonplace. Sturdy, large trees and fields of grass replaced the continual row of homes, though some were still present among the fields here or there.
Eventually, they came upon the destination they were looking for, at least it appeared so from a distance. Growing ever-larger as they grew closer, the steel mill was one large building standing alone in the middle of the green field. It seemed timeworn and rusty, but upon inspection still in use, as a dark cloud of smoke seemed to steadily rise from the top, and people standing guard in front.
As the group got closer, Kuzo realized these guards were actually Marine grunts. Before he could consider whether or not to hide and approach this from a different perspective, the Marines had already spotted the group coming toward them and pointed their rifles. They seemed ready to fight right away without much warning!
"You're in a restricted area!" One of the Marines shouted to the group. "Prepare to be fired upon!"
Vance's hands shot into the air right away. "Eek! Don't shoot!"
"God damn marines, can you at least sound remotely human when you're threatening us?!" Skellen yelled, running up behind Kuzo, leaping onto his shoulders and spring boarding from them into the air, throwing a glass bottle in the general direction of the marine guards as he did so.
The marine's wildly moved their weapons skywards, thrown off by Skellen's choice of direction to attack from but didn't get a chance to shoot before the bottle crashed amongst them, a noxious green fume billowing out of the container's remains. The marines dropped their weapons, staggering forwards slightly before they hit the ground.
Skellen landed not far from the rest of the Skull Pirates
"I love that stuff."
Selena walked forward, nudging one of the now fallen Marines with her foot before looking back up at Skellen. "Um... They are still alive, right?"
"Uh..." Skellen moved to the pile of marines and bent down and took the pulse of the closest "Ah damn, it seems like they are for now. Oh well, let's carry on shall we? No point wasting time with some not-totally-dead marines."
Looking up at the large structure, Vance lifted a hand to scratch his chin thoughtfully, his brows furrowing. "Since there were guards outside, there has to be something going on, in there. There's probably going to be a ton of marines, so it might be better if we try to sneak around and find a back entrance. What do you think, captain?"
Before Kuzo could answer, Selena made her way towards the door, a wide grin coming to her lips. She turned to face the crew, placing her hands behind her back as she began to speak. "I dunno about you guys, but when I get invited to a party I don't sneak around the back. In fact, I have a habit of making a big, dramatic entrance!"
The green-haired cook made her way towards the steel mill, her green eyes quickly falling upon the door of the building. Two tall masses of rusted metal, having resisted long years of punishment from Jeroa’s erratic, violent weather. Old yet solid. Weathered but standing. The hinges are stubborn, only moving for the strongest of men and women. The handles require the greatest of persuasion to move. After all these years, the doors remain vigilant, a great protector for the workers inside. Whoever made these doors all those years ago would be quite proud to see his work still standing today.
Selena began to examine the door, her hands coming to feel up the rusted metal. Her eyes suddenly lit up as she started to knock around the doors. "Right there..."
Selena took a few steps back from the doors, the girl taking a deep breath as she turned to face the doors once more. Her eyes then snapped open as she took off running towards the door, stopping just a few inches short of her target. Selena fluidly fell back, landing on her hands for just a moment before pushing herself back up and into the air.
"Tenderizer!" Selena shouted as she began to repeatedly kick the metal, rusted doors right in the center. Each kick kept coming quick and strong, pounding into the door with a loud, metal, clanking noise. Eventually, Selena came to stop and gracefully landed on her feet, her back turned to the doors. The air around the cook and the crew was absolutely quiet for a moment, before a loud, echoing, creaky sound began to fill the area. The doors slowly began to push inward, somehow managing to come off their hinges, before falling to the ground with an ear piercing crash. Smiling at her work, Selena gave her male crewmates a satisfied smirk before making her way into the steel mill. "Come along, gents!"
Staring at the damage to the doors after Selena had, rather loudly, announced their arrival, Vance let out a whimpery sigh, hanging his head as he slowly shuffled forwards. "Why do I even bother...?"
Morgan shrugged and began to walk towards the ruined door, glancing over at Kuzo as he did: "Well, she's a keeper ain't she?"
"I would say so." Joshua added, either missing or ignoring Morgan's implications. "That was absolutely marvelous Selena."
"Definitly a fun one" Skellen added, he loved a bit of senseless destruction.
"Agreed!" Kuzo exclaimed with a grin shot at the green-haired cook. He stepped over the fallen steel doors of the mill and proceeded inside. As his eyes adjusted to the interior, he was quite surprised by what he found on the other side of those doors, mostly because he didn't quite expect it to be this operation. Men, women, and even some young children were in lines assembling goods and working across the large factory. They appeared worn out, completely exhausted, and scared beyond belief. By the large group of Marines that were watching their every moves with raised weapons and steel batons, the captain figured these people weren't here by choice.
All eyes were on the pirate crew that had just bombarded through the front doors into this worker factory, both marines and workers alike. It seemed to take the Marines a few moments to process what had actually happened before any of them bothered to react. They were probably too stunned to believe anyone would try barging into them from the front entrance.
The head Marine in charge, a large man with a seemingly permanent angry demeanor, a beige and red overcoat and a similarly red hat, reacted first. "What are you all standing around for?! We've got intruders. Make sure none leave here alive!" He bellowed through the steel mill. The workers began to panic and the Marines began to move into position toward the door. Bullets began to fly through the air.
Kuzo quicky reacted at two incoming Marines, as they wielded swords and ran at him with lethal intent. The captain bulked up once more into Tank Mode, seeing as he felt Lightning Mode would be far too useless in an actual fight as a counterattack. The slower 'Tank Mode', however, made it impossible for Kuzo to do much dodging, so as the Marines swiped at him, Kuzo lifted his bulkier arms and blocked the swords with his forearms. The swords were stopped in their place, drawing only a little blood and causing the two Marines to look on in complete shock.
"W-what the hell!?" One of the Marines yelled. Kuzo grabbed onto both of their heads, and proceeded to smash the two together with his strength, instantly knocking the pair out.
"I get that all the time!" Kuzo exclaimed to the fainted Marines with a grin.
"Gyah!" Vance cried out as the bullets flew by the ones still behind Kuzo. Pulling his arms back, he thrust them both upwards, two lengths of rope shooting from his sleeves, coiling around a walkway above them, which he swiftly pulled himself onto, landing on his feet, smiling admiringly. Man, Avril really knows her tech'.
"There's one of them! Get him!" A couple of marines shouted, running down the walkway, swords raised. "Wah! Stay away!" Vance quickly looked up, just in time to dodge a vertical sword-swing, after which, he elbowed the marine's side, sending him over the edge.
As the next three marines came at him, he dove out between two of the metal bars making up the railing for the walkway legs first, grabbing onto the top of the rail as he did, to avoid another sword swipe. Using his momentum, he swung himself back up, slamming his feet into the marine's face, followed by a length of rope each grabbing the remaining two marines by the collar and with a firm tug backwards, sent them over the side as well.
Skellen simply sidestepped slightly, the rain of bullets tending to be off in the other direction. From there he slipped into the dark side of the room, moving quickly but cautiously until he was behind a group of marines.
Smirking, Skellen rushed out from behind the marines, pulling a razor from his canister as he did so. The Taipan got to the first two before they even realised he was there, dealing them small shallow cuts. The pair of marines quickly whirled around, but Skellen was already on the move again. He jumped up, kicking one of the cut marines in the face and landing in the centre of the group, stunning the marines with the sudden attack. In a quick whirl he cut two more, a third lunging at him from behind with a sword. Skellen twisted, narrowly avoiding the sharp weapon before spinning back the other way and slicing the marine across the chest.
"What was that meant to do?" one of the marines said in a mocking tone, pressing his finger to the small incision on his skin. Skellen laughed darkly
"You'll see." He then proceeded to run for another couple of marines, leaping over tables on the way.
"Wait, isn't he-" Skellen heard from behind him as the group of marines tried to give chase, only to one by one tumble to the ground.
About time someone recognized me.
As the wave of bullets headed towards Morgan, he did nothing to dodge them. The bullets phased through the pirate, engraving themselves into the far wall. He could see the Marines that aimed for him yelp in panic, immediately realizing who they were dealing with. Morgan did not smirk. He did not really shift to notice them. As much as Morgan wanted to, and as much as he often did, something in Morgan was telling him to maintain this serious disposition. Morgan raised a single hand and small globes of flame gathered at his fingers and thumb. Swinging his arm around, Morgan shouted: "Hydra Scattershot!". Five spheres of flame surrounded a group of Marines that rushed towards Morgan. The influx of oxygen inflated the spheres into hefty balls of fire, glowing with heat and intensity. They remained controlled, established the strongest of perimeters, herding the Marines like sheep. "Boom," Morgan said, as he snapped his fingers. Each of the globes of fire exploded in successive fashion, shattering parts of the mill and flinging the hapless bodies of Marines all around the facility.
As soon as the pirates had entered the assembly area and gazed upon the forced labor Joshua began to shake his head. "So many of the people we meet just continue to disappoint." He said to no one in particular and tsking all the while as marines surrounded him. " They truly must get some much more intimidating drill instructors to pound some manners and common sense into your heads at those boot camps of yours." He had been tensing the muscles in his legs and as soon as one of the marines directly around him moved he sprang at him, using all the momentum he could muster to crack him right in the jaw, sending the man flying into several of his compatriots and then the wall.
Right before yet more bullets flew Joshua ducked and slid under the hail of gunfire, gliding towards another marine and grasping him along an ankle. "Don't you all know just how much of life is cyclical?" Most of the marines left in the circle had the sense to realize there was no time for them to reload their basic firearms, and drew their blades as they rushed towards their foe. The scarlet-haired pirate's smile remained as he lifted the man he'd grabbed with ease and began to spin him about rapidly, slamming him into his fellows all around. "Everything eventually comes full circle, even stories without happy endings acknowledge that those who bring pain where it isn't warranted will always receive their repayments with excessive interest!"
By the time his over-saturated monologue was done Joshua was surrounded by limp, unconscious bodies. One groaned and began to reach an arm up, only to have the marine-made-club dropped on him. "Now, whom else needs a lesson?"
The Marine in charge shook his head as the others slowly began to falter against this new pirate group. The action had caused many of the workers to either back away into the corners of the mill in fear, or if they got the chance flee while the Marines were distracted. When only a few Marines remained, including the one in charge, he decided to make his own presence known.
"Do I have to do everything myself?!" He cried in annoyance. The larger Marine began to go for his sword, prepped to engage the intruders with his own might. That's when he notice the destruction caused by the pirates, and their various skills and abilities. He stopped dead in his tracks and observed the mayhem. Sweat began to pour from his back, but it was cemented by the Burning King's destructive abilities through the steel mill. Most of the workers now ran out of the mill through the holes that were created, while the brave few stood behind to witness this event.
The head Marine stared at the group alone, and in fear. He appeared at this moment to be on the verge of urinating in his pants. Kuzo, having knocked down the last bit of Marines in his area, reverted back to his normal form and approached the head Marine.
"M-m-mercy! It wasn't my idea to do this to these workers, it was the King's! Please don't hurt me!" He pleaded as he fell to his knees.
Morgan took control of the situation for the moment, walking past Kuzo, almost knocking him aside with his stride. He towered above the commanding officer, allowing his body to exude a burning aura around him with the smallest fickle fluttering past the terrified Marine's face. "How about ya tell us what we wanna know and I'll let someone a whole lot nicer to decide what happens to ya?" Morgan glared at the marine with his eyes glowing in a menacing fashion as if to reinforce his point. His voice was low yet booming. Authoritative yet seething with a quiet rage.
"W-who... what do you want to know?" The Marine asked with a sniffle.
Morgan smirked slightly. "Why is a Marine lockin' up workers in some dinge-y little mill? Seems like somethin' a bunch of dirty pirates would do instead, now don't it? So how about ya tell me where the pirates are hidin'?"
"P-pirates? What pi-pirates? No pirates around here! This is a Marine base!" The Marine in the red hat answered nervously. His face was covered in sweat and snot.
"Lie to me again and bein' set on fire will be the least painful activity of your evenin'," Morgan countered, his body twisting into a mass of fire, trading its human shape for something far more explosive.
"BAAAAH!" The large Marine yelped as he saw the man's body ignite before his very eyes. "A cave! A cave by the sea, just north of Soree! That's where the Blood Panthers make port!"
"That's all I wanted," Morgan said, pleased, his body returning to a human form. "Vance! Ya decide what to do with him. He committed crimes against your people, not mine. I'm headin' to the cave." With that, Morgan pivoted and made his way towards to the broken door, dented upon meeting the wrath of Selena earlier.
The green-haired cook sighed as she watched Morgan charging off once again. While Selena had to hand it to the Burning King for his quick interrogation tactics, she still found herself wanting to leash him to stop his constant charging and running ahead. Sighing, she offered a quick wave to Kuzo and the rest of the crew, before sprinting off to make sure that he did not get lost or hurt... despite the fact that she had no real clue where she was going herself.
In the next moment, Vance landed on the ground besides the marine after having jumped off of the gangways up above. He looked back at Morgan and Selena as they left before looking back at the marine. For a moment, he looked a little uncertain, but seeing the face of the man who'd enslaved so many people, which he felt he owed something to, he raised his hand, and a length of rope shot out, coiling around the man's neck, pulling him down onto his knees in front of Vance.
The Marine grasped for his neck as he struggled before Vance with tears pouring from his eyes and snot dribbling down his nose. "G-ack!"
He took a step closer, gripping the rope hanging taut out of his sleeve. "... I want you to go to Soree and tell everyone there that you -and- your crew are leaving, and that they have no reason to fear you -or- the king anymore." He narrowed his eyes, giving an uncharacteristic glare at the man. "And if I find out that you in -any- way went against my orders or tried to alert my... the king, I'll make sure you get some one-on-one time with The Burning King. He's got a lot of aggression to get out of his system."
The Marine clung to his neck and began nodding compellingly.
With that, the rope released the man and shot back up into Vance's sleeve, at which point he turned around and strode towards the door with a steeled, determined expression on his face.
As soon as the pirates came outside, however, Vance's attitude dropped, letting out a deep, held-back breath, planting his hands on his knees. "Pfwah... I don't get how Morgan and my dad can keep up an attitude like that. It's exhausting being so tense and scary."
"I never knew you had that in you!" Kuzo exclaimed to his navigator as he followed Vance out the door. He glanced and saw the Marine run furiously toward the town, probably to convey exactly what Vance said. The captain also noticed many of the formerly-subjugated workers from the mill make their way toward the town as well, while others simply walked around the woods and fields in groups, enjoying their new-found freedom.
"Well now, that was interesting" Skellen said, joining Kuzo and Vance "I have to agree with the captain, never knew you had it in you. I always thought you were too soft"
"They seem happier," He remarked, and slapped Vance hard on the back. "You actually seem like you'd be a good Prince to them, Vance!" Kuzo then glanced toward the direction Morgan and Selena ran off to. "Looks like we should catch up to them before we get too far behind. Come on, Avril's waiting!"
Vance almost toppled over from Kuzo's slap on the back, but managed to catch himself, letting out a nervous little laughter, rubbing the back of his head. "Shahah... maybe. Yeah... maybe." He quickly looked after Morgan and Selena and nodded, glancing briefly back at Skellen and Joshua. "Right. Come on, guys!"
Joshua nodded, adjusting his hat to assure it rested properly on his head and beaming at Vance. "Impressive my friend! Everyone's in such fine form today I'm feeling slovenly and sluggish by comparison. I suppose we should catch up." His constant smile grew into a slight smirk and he chuckled to himself. "Morgan and miss Avril must have had quite the bonding before I showed up, I never imagined he would react this...strongly to anyone's disappearance, I know for sure he wouldn't for me."
"I wouldn't worry too much, I don't think he'd react like this to anybody male. He'd probably be pleased if it were me" Skellen said with a shrug before turning and running after his fellow pirates. Things were turning out to be very interesting indeed.
The Skull Pirates Arrive! - Blood Panther's Lair, Jeroa
The Skull Pirates eventually reached the alcove that the Marine they interrogated at the steel factory was referring to. Kuzo knew immediately upon seeing the ship docked inside that this had to be the place. The captain rushed through undeterred until he and the rest of his crew were standing inside the cave, with the ship right in their sights. He didn't recognize the cat-shaped skull on the flag of the ship, as Kuzo had not been entirely familiar with any crew's colors other than his own (and even then he would forget his sometimes), but he had to assume that this was the lair of the Blood Panther Pirates. And somewhere on that ship was Avril.
"Wow... This thing makes our ship look like it belongs in a bottle..." Selena whistled. She glanced towards Kuzo and grinned. "Do you think he might be over-compensating for something?"
"Looks about the same size to me," Kuzo remarked passively. He wasn't really interested in the size of the ship they were facing. "The only thing I care about is that they have two of our crew members with them. And I think it's about time we get them back."
The Captain took a step forward, and inhaled sharply. The act caused part of his ability to activate, expanding the bones in his chest slightly so that his lungs could take in more air. Then, as loud as he could, he screamed. "HEY! BLOOD PANTHER PIRATES! COME OUT HERE AND GIVE US BACK OUR NAKAMA!!!"
It was at that exact moment that Crimm (with Avril), Cid, and Kratos all three hopped off the edge of the ship and landed on the ground in front of the Skull Pirates... Well, Crimm and Kratos managed to land. Cid more or less fell on his backside as he hit the ground. The round shipwright grumbled under his breath as he dusted himself off and picked himself back up to his feet.
Crimm grinned. "Well... this saved us the trouble of hunting you all down. I take it you all must be that group of pirates I got the call about?"
Avril glanced over the back of Crimm's shoulder. She cursed under her breath at the sight she saw before her. Essentially all the crew had gathered here... Did they not read her letter? She was pretty sure she had worded it so that Kuzo would even grasp the contents.
"If ya'll got a call about us, then ya should know that we ain't foolin' around," Morgan snapped. His blue eyes narrowed down at Crimm, in particular, seeing Avril being perched there in a precarious position. Finally, she was in sight and all he had to do was bash a few heads in. That was Morgan's speciality after all. The letter lurked in the back of his mind, but he wasn't about to let a bunch of exaggerated words and ominous warnings stop him now. There was too much on the line to back down and he was the Burning King. A bunch of creepy pirates named after a cat wasn't going to scare him. That would be admitting that Edward was actually a threat. "Just let the girl go and I won't sink your ship to the bottom of the sea. Alrighty, Patches?"
Crimm began to laugh loudly. "Big words coming from you, Burning King. Do you actually think I'm going to willingly let go of one of MY possessions? If so, you're vastly underestimating who you're talking to..." He paused, adjusting his hold on Avril rather roughly. He forced the woman in front of him and grabbed hold of her head just under her chin, forcing Avril to look at the Skull Pirates. "Avril... Do you recognize these pirates?"
Avril tried to look away, but Crimm's grip on her head was a bit too much for her to fight against, She lowered her gaze from the crew, hoping that they might take a hint as she answered. "...No, I've never seen any of 'em before."
"I see..." Joshua shook his head in disappointment. "Dear Avril, do you really think the rest of us wouldn't get a clue from your letter even if the captain didn't? You can't actually think we'll go along with that ruse, in fact I think it's already fairly clear there's only one way this can go. What say the rest of you? Don't you agree?" He looked around himself at the rest of the crew, familiar smile never wavering.
"Joshua's right, Avril," Kuzo added with a nod of his head. "Whatever they did or said, or whatever you wrote," He shook his head. "That won't change anything. You're part of our crew, and we're here to get you back. No matter who stands in our way."
"We're not leaving here without you, Avril. You should know Kuzo and Morgan well enough to realize that they'd never just let go like that." Vance chimed in with a determined expression, despite being halfly hidden behind Selena.
"Well then, looks like I was wrong for once. Seems like we'll be killing Blood Panthers and not traitors today after all." Skellen removed a knife from his belt and twirled it expertly between his fingers "Any objections?"
"I don't have any objections to whipping some tail, if that's what you mean," Selena replied, an excited smile coming to her lips as she cracked her knuckles. "Seems like to me these guys are definitely in need of one."
"Well, well... It seems like they know you quite well, Avril..." Crimm sighed. He tightened his grip on Avril, slowly lifting her off the ground. Kratos glanced over towards the captain and Avril, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched silently. "Are you absolutely sure you don't know them?"
Avril gasped for a quick breath of air as Crimm adjusted his hold on her, now being forced to face the man face to face. "I... R-Really don't... know... J-Just give them a warnin' and let them go... W-We don't... h-have to kill them... They d-don't know..."
"You're such a terrible liar..." Crimm growled. Without blinking an eye, he quickly socked Avril hard in the gut, causing the woman to cough violently before he dropped her roughly to the ground. Crimm then quickly kicked the woman behind him and off to the side, glaring at her with his yellow eye. "And people who lie to their owners will be punished... As soon as we deal with these vermin..."
"Avril!" Kuzo shouted as he watched Crimm punch his crewmate.
Morgan roared. It was unsightly in many ways, hoarse and rough and hardly pleasant to the ears. Much of the charm that the man exudes vanished in that instant, replacing by uncontrolled red and orange flames dancing around his body. There was a fickle blue, as if the bottled rage that consumed his body sputtering out watching Crimm. Hearing Crimm. Not more than a few sentences exchanged between the two and Morgan's loathing of Crimm hit a critical mass. There were no words. No snappy comeback. Nothing. Nothing but a burst of flame launching the fiery pirate forward. He cocked a flame drenched fist back and thrust it forward, knocking Crimm in the face. As Crimm fell back, Morgan followed up with a simplistic tactic, unable to fathom anything but rage in the moment, placing his hands before him and unleashing a stream of fire at the pirate.
Crimm's eye widened as the flame rushed straight at him. The captain stood still as Morgan's flames quickly collided with him, engulfing Crimm quickly. Avril watched with wide eyes as this occurred, biting her lip in the process. She watched as smoke started to fume from the captain's body, filling the area surrounding Morgan and the Blood Panther pirates.
"Y-Ya guys have to listen to me! Ya have to leave now, ya can't beat these guys!" she shouted out.
"Don't tell me what I can and can't do!" Morgan spouted back. "I ain't lettin' anyone, and I mean anyone, hurt my crew, ya hear me?!"
It was at this moment that a quick palm shot out through the smoke and slammed against Morgan's chest, sending the overly confident pirate back with impressive force, dumbfounding Morgan for a number of reasons. He coughed forcefully, as he felt the wind escape from his lungs. Crimm's face remained void of any emotion as he walked forward. His clothes singed from the Burning King's assault, but his skin appearing perfectly fine for the time being.
"Is this really the power of the Burning King...?" Crimm questioned. A small smirk slowly crawled to his lips as she crossed his arms. "Either the tales of your strength have been greatly exaggerated and you gave that title to yourself... or you're holding back... Probably the first, though."
"Morgan!" Vance called out, shuffling away from his hiding spot behind Selena to bend down besides the black-haired pirate, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay? How did he... shove you?"
Morgan gritted his teeth together as he forced himself up. "Must of been his devil fruit, if he's got one but it don't matter. All I gotta do is hit him harder!"
Kuzo observed as Morgan ran forward and was eventually knocked back. It took him off guard, especially since Morgan was usually picking apart any opponent he faced. But the captain would not be deterred. He stepped forward in front of the others and pointed toward the ship.
"If you're not handing Avril to us, then we're taking her, by force!" He stated determinedly. "Like Morgan said, no one hurts our crew!"
Wright D. Morgan vs. Crimm- The Sour Taste of Defeat (featuring Avril Meads)
Morgan entered a full dash towards Crimm, blocking out everything that happened around him. He could tell that it was because of his focus on saving Avril and keeping the crew together. He would tell that it was because Crimm had insulted his name, his pride and his integrity as a pirate. He could tell that it was because that he earnestly believed that he could win the fight, and Crimm had simply gotten lucky with his first hit. These are not inherent lies, for the truth in those statements exist as a silver lining to the reality of the matter. Morgan was in a frenzy. Rage had consumed the man. Shades of the past have been haunting him for too long and the present had made the memories all too real. History was not going to repeat itself on this day. Not as long as Morgan was capable of taking a breath would he revisit that faithful day that changed everything.
Taking a leap forward into the air, Morgan attacked Crimm with a blitz of attacks, beginning with a fire enhanced roundhouse kick to the head. As he landed, Morgan delivered a left hook to the other side of the tall pirate's head. The momentum of the hook, put Morgan into a state of what appeared to be off balance, but he pivoted on his right hand, using a burst of flame to add a boost to stiff double kick to Crimm's chin, launching the opposing Captain high into the hair. Launching himself into the air with a burst of fire, Morgan matched the man's elevation. "Giant's Hammer!!" Morgan's right leg turned into a flaming mallet and the Burning King smacked down Crimm with an aerial axe kick, promptly crashing his opponent to the ground. With a flip of grace, Morgan returned to the ground with ease, looking at the small crater with determination.
Avril remained absolutely silent as Morgan and Crimm continued to fight each other. It seemed to be more of a one-sided fight for the time being. Crimm seemed quite content for the time being to simply take whatever attacks Morgan threw at him... a scene that she herself had seen play out with other pirates and Marines who tried to fight him before. She did not understand why they were all trying to hopelessly fight these pirates. Did they really think that she was worth them all getting killed over?
Only a few seconds later, the rocks on the ground shuffled as Crimm picked himself off the ground, casually dusting himself off, licking his wounds with a light smirk. "Well, well...that was a little better, but...I am still...disappointed to say the least."
"Oi, I'm just gettin' started ya du-" Morgan spat out a mix of bodily fluids as Crimm darted forward with a stiff palm to Morgan's stomach, launching the man back in a blaze of fire. Morgan rolled on the ground for a fair number of meters before leaping to his feet. "Dragon's Flame!" Charging up a mass of fire in his arms and hands, a spark of fire gathered in his hands as he channeled more and more energy. With a roar, Morgan fired a wave of fire at Crimm, taking shape in the form of a serpentine dragon. The flaming dragon swallowed Crimm whole and a fairly large explosion was left in its wake.
"Pepper-kun..." Avril whispered, her eyes focused on the crater. Her stomach was twisting up into knots as she looked away and at the Burning King. "Please... Ya really need to listen to me... Just get Vanny and the others and get out of here, I'm beggin' ya..."
"Oh, I will. After I'm done kickin' his ass. So don't worry your cute face, alright?" Morgan said with a wink, interspersed between exhausted pants. Morgan had poured so much of his energy into the Dragon's Flame attack that he had sincerely hoped the fight was done.
Avril clenched her fists, her body slowly shaking as she looked away and began to whisper under her breath. "Why are ya all so stupid... I didn't ask ya to do any of this, so what the hell are ya doin' here?!"
"Are ya really that dense?!" Morgan shouted back, feeling his rage build once more. "Ya are part of our crew now, alright? We are gonna protect our crew from whatever comes their way! Ya didn't need to ask for our help, cuz we are gonna give it to ya no matter what!"
"I told ya all not to come here, though! Don't ya get it? I was never a part of your crew in the first place! I was just usin' the whole lot of ya to follow my own orders! The only thing ya all did by comin' here is get yourselves killed! At least if ya had stayed away it would have only been me!" she snapped back.
Morgan doused his own flames and walked over to where Avril was, kneeling down to her level. He looked at her for a second or two before raising his hand up and slapping her across the face. "If I hear that nonsense one more time, I'm gonna do a whole lot worse to your darling face so please don't make me. Ya sailed with us. Ate with us. Fought with us. Celebrated with us. If ya were usin' us, ya did a real crappy job, ya know? We came here because ya are one of us whether ya want to admit or not. These jerks aren't your crew anymore. And we are gonna show what it means when ya threaten one of us," Morgan said confidently, turning to face where he expected Crimm to emerge from at any moment.
"How touching..." Crimm responded, right on cue. He stepped out of the crater and crossed his arms across his chest as his eye came to rest on Avril and Morgan. "Did you practice that little speech before you came?"
"Did ya practice being an asshole before ya came out of your little grave?" Morgan retorted. "Or do ya just naturally piss people off with your amazin' charms?"
"You must really have a thing for my Avril to be wanting me to kill you so much," Crimm replied, ignoring Morgan's verbal jab. Without wasting a further second, the Blood Panther captain quickly charged forward, slamming Morgan and pinning him down to the side of the wall. "Just how important is her life to you? Do you honestly put so much value in the life of a murderer?"
Morgan coughed forcefully, as his lungs were nearly shut down by the sheer power behind Crimm's attack and constant pressure. "C-c-cleary I put a whole more value in her than ya do," Morgan said. "I can see past her mistakes and flaws, just like she can see past mine! That's what makes her a part of our crew! So if ya get can do that then ya don't deserve her on ours." Morgan grasping for life, grabbed on to Crimm's exposed arm and pumped out as much as heat as possible, hoping to loosen the grip.
Crimm's eye narrowed as he pulled Morgan off the wall and growled. "You're beginning to annoy me, boy... If this is all you have to offer, then I think it's time we finish this little game, yes?"
A low, feral growl could be heard coming from Crimm as he held Morgan by his throat. His yellow eye began to glow, taking on a strange design. The yellow completely filled the man's eye, with a thin, black slit appearing in the middle. Black patchs of fur like hair began to grow out of his face and hair. As Morgan was held so close, he was able to hear what sounded like bones snapping from within his body. For a moment, Crimm's body hunched over as the very structure of his body and face began to change. It was with one final, echoing roar that whatever was happening to Crimm finally came to an end...
The man holding Morgan now looked far different. His coat had been ripped to shreds, jagged claws now stood on the tips of his black fingers. A long tail could be seen swinging about behind him, and Crimm made no effort to hide the sharp, razor-like fangs from his muzzle.
"A-another untrained house cat?" Morgan said, behind short breaths from his clenched throat. "Maybe ya should shave your pus-"
Before Morgan could finish his insult, the Burning King soon found himself being launched up into the air. Crimm eyed the soaring pirate for a moment, before he quickly launched himself up behind him. Within the blink of an eye, Morgan felt two sets of sharp claws slashing across his chest with ease.
"Cross Slash!" Crimm shouted before reaching up and slamming Morgan back down towards the ground. The panther was right on Morgan's tail as he followed the pirate down towards the ground, slamming both of his furry, large fists into the Burning King's chest.
Morgan struggled to rise from the ground, barely making it to his knees. The pain was all too familiar, reminding him of his fight with Millionth. The Devil Fruit that Crimm ate clearly did not give him the ability to ignore the benefits of the Logia type fruit that Morgan ate, instead resembling the one that Edward consumed. So what was it that allowed Crimm to manhandle Morgan with such ease? Some special ability? That was about the best he could make up through the pounding headache and constant pain that racked through his body. Regardless, Morgan was truly battered, and could feel the blood drip to the ground from his various wounds. With deep breaths, Morgan regained his footing and stood up as straight as he could, still hunched over in pain. "So is that all that the power that great Blood Panther has? Or are ya just holdin' back? I mean it's probably the first one..."
Crimm simply smiled... if that was possible with his current form, in response to Morgan's taunt. He grabbed the Burning King by the collar of what little bit remained of his shirt, forcing the man to his feet, before he slammed the back side of his fist right into Morgan's jaw. The force of the blow sent Morgan flying back towards another rock wall, but as he sailed Crimm suddenly began to run along side the pirate. The Panther captain jumped into the air, diving both of his hind paws into Morgan's gut and sending him crashing roughly to the ground once more. Crimm grinned as he looked down at Morgan's battered body. He reached down and began to pull the beaten pirate up, holding him in the air once more.
"I'd say let's do this again some time... But I hardly think that's going to be possible..." Crimm said in a deep, feral, raspy-sounding voice. He began to pull his free hand back, the claws shining in what dim light was visible in the cave. "Farewell, Burning King."
"N-No..." Avril whispered, picking herself off the ground. The woman's eyes were wide with horror and shock at how quickly everything was falling apart. Without even thinking, she took off running as fast as her legs could possibly carry her, making a grab at Crimm's arm. "S-Stop it! T-That's enough!"
Crimm's eye shot down at Avril, practically piercing through the woman. "You better have a good reason for this..."
Avril's whole body was shaking as she looked from Crimm to Morgan and then back again. "I... It's my fault that they all c-came here, right? Because of me... I know I screwed up, I r-really do. So... You don't need to take it out on them anymore. If you're goin' to punish anyone... D-Do it to me..."
Morgan fidgeted in the tight grip Crimm had on him. "Avril! No! Run! Get outta here!!" Morgan tried to flare up as he did, hoping to break free to succeed in his word.
Crimm glanced over at Morgan's attempt to try and break free. However, it was clear that he just did not have the energy in him to do so anymore. He looked over at Avril briefly before tossing Morgan off to the side.
"Very well... Have it your way," he growled. Crimm walked towards Avril, grabbing the girl roughly by her right arm and lifting her up to face him eye to eye. "You're absolutely right... All of this is your fault, Avril... Our entire operation being jeopardized, the utter defeat of this crew's captain and the Burning King... All because of your lies and slip ups... It is far beyond time you got what you deserved..."
A small, sinister looking grin came to Crimm's face as he turned to face Morgan. "I suppose in our little duel... Since you came in second place, I can give you a runner-up prize..."
Avril's eyes widened, a sharp gasp of pain escaping her lips as Crimm tightened his grip even further on Avril's arm. The captain of the Blood Panther pirates shoved the white-haired shipwright onto the ground, his grip remaining firm on her arm as he suddenly stomped onto her backside, as if using her for some kind of leverage. Avril closed her eyes tightly, sharp waves of pain entering her body as she felt and heard the bones beginning to pop and snap.
Barely standing, perhaps more on instinct than sheer willpower, Morgan's eyes grew wide. Internally, he believed he knew what was coming. Despite the act not coming to fruition, at least not yet, Morgan could feel the horror swelling up in his chest. He made a dash towards Crimm and Avril, but his body failed him and he fell forward, his face buried in the dirt and flames evaporating into the air. All he could muster, through the anguish and the pain that pulsed through his body was looking up to what was inevitably going to happen next.
Crimm's face remained neutral as he continued to pull on Avril's arm. She tried her best to fight back against the pain, but with each tug she could herself losing the battle. She began to scream at the sensation running through her body, the tearing flesh and snapping bones becoming too much to bare. She managed to look up at Morgan one more time, offering the Burning King a somewhat apologetic looking face before Crimm gave one more sharp pull. Avril let out the loudest, echoing scream at this point... as a sudden shift in the weight that was keeping her pinned down to the ground was finally released.
Her body shook in a mix of fear and pain. She laid on the ground, gasping and trying to catch her breath as best she could. Avril slowly, somehow, managed to bring herself up to her knees. She dared not look over to her right. Rather, she used her left hand to reach up and grasp her right arm... or rather, where it should have been. In its place, there was nothing more than air. The woman could feel her eyes starting to tear up as she slowly managed to find the courage to look over... and immediately wished she had not. Her arm was gone. She slowly glanced over her shoulder, her eyes widening in further horror as she found it dangling in Crimm's grasp.
"Consider it your second-place trophy," the captain chuckled, throwing the appendage in Morgan's face. The Burning King, in turn, said nothing. He stared blankly at what was in front of him, unable to muster any combination of movement or words. The sharp wit had left. The anger extinguished. There was only concern, fear, and the overwhelming wave of failure that existed within his heart. He failed to do the one thing he wanted to do and it was not eternally symbolized in what laid before him.
Avril grasped the wound which remained in place of her arm, her body shaking as she tried to stand up, only to fall back down to her knees. She began to cough violently, the loss of blood from her arm starting to make her nauseous and woozy. Her eyes managed to gaze up at Morgan.
"Please... Just go now," she managed to say, before the effects of blood loss took hold of her. Coughed and hacked violently again, before looking back down at the ground. "Get everyone and just go!"
With dead eyes, Morgan once again pushed himself off the ground. It was a slow and hobbled effort, with the wounded man failing a handful of times before swinging into some semblance of standing man. His two feet barely kept him up, but superhuman stamina of the First Mate of the Skull Pirates was known to flare up in moments like this. He looked straight at Crimm, with his blue eyes carrying a deadly glare. It was unlike everything Morgan ever seemed capable of doing. The smirks were gone and the jokes a thing of the past. A new man stood before the wounded Avril and arrogant Crimm. "I'm gonna make sure ya pay for this. Before the day is done, your head is gonna be my first place trophy. Ya hear me?"
Without even wasting a reply, Crimm dashed to Morgan and punched him straight in the face and to the ground. The Burning King seemed to be down and out from the final blow, at least that's what Crimm was able to deduce. He glanced back up at his ship and spotted Kratos watching with a rather neutral face to it all.
"We're done here," Crimm spouted.
"What about those other three and Cid?" the swordsman inquired.
"Leave them. They're not worth the effort and he's useless to us now. I don't have room for garbage on my ship," Crimm snorted. He walked back over towards Avril and scooped the woman off the ground and tossed her roughly at Kratos. He barely managed to catch her. "And have Hans patch that wound... I'm not done with her yet."
The captain jumped onto the ship and glanced down at the remaining three, conscious Skull Pirates. "I highly suggest you get that waste of matches fixed up. I doubt he'll be walking himself out of here anytime soon."
Turning his back on the crew, Crimm began to make his way back inside the ship with Kratos close behind. The sails on his ship unfurled, the small breeze blowing through the cavern catching them and allowing the ship to slowly start to sail away...
The Skull Pirates - We're not done yet!
The silence following the Blood Panther’s departure was broken by a splash of a water and a loud gasp of air as Selena arose from the depths heaving Kuzo onto the pier. The green-haired cook gasped for air as she climbed up behind the captain, sprawling out on the rocky cave ground with a sigh.
"Here I thought all you Devil Fruit users were some kind of super-powered tanks of awesome. Then you get a little wet and prove me completely wrong," Selena stated, glancing over at Kuzo as she spoke. "I guess this is a good thing to know if I ever have to fight one near the ocean or something, but still... Oh, and you alright?"
Kuzo felt breathless and dizzy. The combination of the lack of oxygen to his lungs and the effects of the ocean had left him feeling weak and defenseless. He couldn't believe he just left himself that wide open to that Blood Panther pirate!
"Ugh..." He groaned as his eyes glanced over across the alcove. He had spent so much time in the water that he was still feeling the residual effects of it. "What happened? Where are they?"
"They're gone." Joshua said shakily, all signs of his normal joviality gone. "They've taken Avril and..." The tailor's voice gave for a moment while he fumed, fists clenched so tightly that rivulets of crimson ran between his fingers and dripped glistening scarlet beads among the rest of the fluids scattered about. "What can you do for him Skellen?" Sticking to immediate concerns was all he could do to steady himself.
Sighing audibly Skellen pulled off his coat and dumped it on Kuzo
"That water looks freezing and your sopping wet, probably a good idea to keep yourself warm when this godforsaken place could turn into a thunderstorm or a blizzard any moment - and judging by the chill creeping into here that's probably going to happen sooner rather than later."
With that little bit of housekeeping taken care of, Skellen then looked Kuzo over quickly. It seemed that he'd somehow managed to hold his breath since he hadn't needed resuscitating and whilst the strain on his lungs couldn't have been a good thing, it seemed to Skellen that Kuzo was mostly alright and just needed to have an eye kept on him. With that in mind, he turned his attention to the rest of the crew.
"He... h-he just..." Vance muttered, staring with wide eyes at where Crimm had been moments ago, a trail of blood leading away from where Avril had been lying. He'd been on his way over, and then just dropped to his knees at the sight of what happened, his hands on his head as he let out a low whimper. "How could -anyone- fight something like that? He completely tore through... Morgan!"
The navigator seemed to snap back to reality as he scrambled to his feet, running over to the fallen first mate, dropping to his knees besides him. "M-Morgan! Morgan, are you okay? Talk to me!"
Shifting on the ground, Morgan slowly opened his eyes with a deep and pain stricken groan. His body twitched, before slowly rising to a sitting position. Narrow and seething with a quiet rage, his eyes darted around the immediate vicinity. Despite being heavily wounded, Morgan looked towards Vance and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt: "Where are they?!"
Vance blinked in surprise as Morgan grabbed his collar, swallowing down as he quickly shook his head. "I... t-they left." He muttered, his eyes briefly moving slightly to the right, catching Avril's missing limb out the corner of his eye, before quickly looking away again. "We couldn't have stopped him..."
Selena blinked her eyes slowly, glancing from Morgan to Vance and then to Joshua. The green-haired cook placed a hand on her hip as she frowned, the wheels in her head turning as she began to deduce what had just happened.
"So... I'm going to guess that we didn't save her? No big deal, we just get up and try again, right?" Selena questioned.
"I thought that much was obvious" Skellen said, moving over to Vance and Morgan and essentially booting Vance out the way before turning to the Burning King. "Morgan, stop moving you dumb ass, you've probably got like a hundred broken bones."
Skellen proceeded to pull a thick bandage from his bag which he tightly wrapped around Morgan's torso where Crimm had clawed open his flesh. The wound was wide, but not enormously deep so thankfully nothing too important had been damaged. Poking around the rest of Morgans body though, it became clear that his muscles and bones were a different story.
"Right, well most of your ribs are broken - a couple basically shattered. It doesn't look like they've damaged your lungs, but you need to not move very much until they're better or you're going to be a bit too dead to participate in round two, especially because you've probably got damage to your spine too, although thankfully more limited."
Rummaging around in his bag, Skellen pulled a small vial of a familiar gold-coloured liquid.
"Right, I literally only have one vial left apart from the one Kuzo's got after this. That means we need to not be on the brink of death as much as possible. At a guess, you'll be able to move around in about an hour or so but the damage isn't going to be healed to full health for about three or four days, maybe more if I've missed something. Drink up."
Swallowing his pride, Morgan took the vial from Skellen and threw it down his throat. If he didn't loathe the taste before, he did now. Regardless, he knew it was going to help and he knew he needed it. Deep down, the pain he felt was not going to be cured by a miracle drug or a couple tight bandages. With the arm casually lying before him, Morgan's body tightened and a great amount of self control had to be exercised to not burst into flames at that very moment.
Kuzo pulled Skellen's coat over his shoulders to warm his damp body. All the while, his eyes traveled across his crewmates in silence. With the way they looked, especially Morgan, he couldn't help but feel like he failed them. He couldn't help but feel like he failed Avril as well. This was their chance to get her back, but he completely screwed up and allowed himself to get beaten, pretty easily too. He clenched his fists inside the coat and shook his head.
"Selena's right," He stated with determination as he began to stand. "I'm not giving up yet. They have one of our crewmates, and I'm getting her back. And next time... I'm not going to lose!"
The sound of heels echoing to Kuzo's left caused the captain to turn his head. There, he saw an elegantly dressed woman with a white, flowing gown embedded with the finest jewelry, including a prominent green pendant around her neck. She had shiny black hair tied neatly and delicately into a polished bun. She had big, bright eyes.
"Hello there," The woman greeted with a slight tilt of her head. "I do hope you are not with the men who held me captive. But I suppose given your current state, I would say that is unlikely."
Selena turned in the direction of the woman and tilted her head. "Nah, we're not with those other guys who were here... but um... Who are you supposed to be? You're dressed pretty fancy, a lot more than the other people we've seen here so far," she questioned and stated rather bluntly.
"Yes, just what is someone so elegantly and regally dressed doing here? Don't tell me you were held hostage by those ruffians miss." The momentary distraction helped Joshua act more calmly, even if it was a facade. He couldn't resist scanning her clothes studiously, hoping she wouldn't mistake his intentions. "I guess there aren't many possibilities, this is certainly no place to be in such finery, it's utterly impractical. At the very least I'm glad to see you're alr-"
It was only then that he got a good look at her face and froze. After a few seconds of surprise he stepped back and waited for someone else to speak, he had a few guesses who she was, but he'd wait and see. "My apologies for running at the mouth so much, my curiosity sometimes takes control."
Vance's eyes had gone wide and his jaw dropped at the sight of the woman suddenly appearing from somewhere within the cave. He looked like he could barely believe what he was seeing.
"It IS you! You're okay!" He broke into a broad smile and ran forwards, throwing his arms around the older woman, embracing her in a tight hug.
The elegant woman was about to reply to the two questions asked of her by Selena and Joshua, but she suddenly stopped and focused all of her attention on the navigator. "Vance?" She questioned as she widened her already large blue, watering eyes. "Vance!" She ran toward the man just as he ran toward her, and hugged him back. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe it!" She still held onto him as she moved away a bit to take a look at him. "Look how much you've grown, and changed!" She ruffled his hair. "And you cut your ponytail too."
"Yeah, he's adorable isn't he?" Skellen said in a dry tone, still kneeling near the moping Morgan.
"That's your mom?" Selena questioned, the cook glancing between the two. "She's dressed pretty fancy, so I'm guessing you must be from a pretty loaded family, huh? Not that there's anything wrong with that, but now I'm finding your lifestyle choice even more questionable, Vance!"
"Well, she is the Queen around here," Morgan said, with frustration mounting and his body radiating an aura of fire. "It would make sense that she dresses all fancy like."
Vance shuffled a little on the spot, his cheeks reddened due to his mother's words in front of his crew, picking a little at one of his sleeves. "Well, I, uh... it's... a long story." He turned back to the woman in front of them and sent her another beaming smile. "I'm really happy you're okay. Dad said you were... gone, but I never believed him. Especially after I got your letter."
"Your father would say that," The woman stated as she briefly closed her eyes and gently shook her head. "Edgar has said and done a lot of things. Including about you. Oh, Vance I was so worried. He had told me you had left, and then that you were long gone. He even hinted once that you had died!"
Frowning, Vance shook his head. "Well, I didn't. I went out to try and find you. But, uh, I didn't expect to find you -here- of all places, with these Blood Panther pirate-types. And someone said something about my dad taking over everything...?"
The woman nodded solemnly. "He has. Things are not the same in our kingdom anymore, Vance. It's not the land you grew up in. Or the land I love. It's a prison that Edgar has created as King. If anyone says the wrong thing, or does the wrong thing, they are taken to jail. The entire island is a jail now, it seems. And the citizens are the prisoners."
The captain of the Skull Pirates had been relatively quiet during the entire ordeal with the mom. He was mostly thinking about the loss he had just been dealt, but also figured he'd stay out of Vance's meeting with his apparent mom in the beginning. But as he began to listen to what she was saying, confirming what that thief had told them earlier, he decided to chime in.
"So then this King guy is a bad guy, right?" Kuzo asked the woman. The regal Queen glanced over to the bandanna-wearing pirate, examining his appearance before she spoke.
"Uhm, yes I suppose one might say that. And you might be...?"
"I'm Kuzo!" He replied as he pointed to himself with his thumb. "Vance's captain."
"Captain?" The woman questioned as she looked over to Vance again. "It seems much has happened in our time away, Vance." She stated with a small smile.
"But anyway, he's a bad guy, and these Blood Panther guys are also working for him, right?" Kuzo clarified again.
"That is correct, yes," Vance's mom answered with a nod. "Their objective apparently was to hold me for King Edgar here."
"And when they realize you're gone, where are they likely to go?" Kuzo asked.
"Hmm..." The regal woman thought for a moment. "Most likely... to the king. To regroup there. They did also lose one of theirs now."
"Then that's where we'll go!" Kuzo declared.
"What?" The queen asked in confusion. "You will try to stop the King?"
"I don't really know much about that stuff, but we're here to get our crewmate Avril back," Kuzo began to respond. "But if beating up Vance's dad is something he also wants to do in the process, then we'll do that too!"
"Well, you came up with that plan pretty quick," Selena replied, crossing her arms over her chest. She glanced over at Vance's mother before continuing. "But I'm still kinda curious about why Marines and pirates would wanna work together like this. I mean, isn't their job to more or less hunt pirates down? Not team up and be all buddy-buddy."
"I believe that King Edgar chose pirates specifically to carry out the task of taking me away because if they were ever caught, liability would never be placed on him," The Queen replied to the green-haired woman. "He has a strong hold on Jeroa now. Yet if it was discovered that I was taken by him for the Viceroy to become the King, I do not think the people of Jeroa would approve."
"He's worried about an uprising, typical power-hungry type really." Skellen shrugged. "Seems simple enough, we just go to the palace and rain all kinds of hell down on it."
"Then... that's where we have to go." Vance chimed in, albeit a little quietly. There was a flicker of an unsure look in his eyes, but he soon furrowed his brows and peered over towards Morgan, who was still sitting on the ground. "We have to... we have to bring Avril back. Now more than ever. And... I need to deal with my father."
The Skull Pirates- Jeroa Palace!
Looming before the Skull Pirates were the imposing castle gates of Jeroa, with exquisite outlining stable design meshing wood with reinforced steel. It only made sense to arm the castle with such stability considering the erratic weather patterns of the island. It was a surprisingly clear night with the sun crawling into bed as the moon began to rise. Few clouds danced in the night sky, slowly appearing to bunch up for another storm. The storm that just passed was the epic siege the Skull Pirates had laid upon the forces of Jeroa. Each member had their own reasons for fighting, with some more justified or passionate than others. The Marines barely stood a chance, falling one by one as if a tidal wave overwhelmed him. Though to Wright D. Morgan, that was just the calm before the storm and the gathering clouds were but an omen for the real storm that was going to sear through the castle that was mere inches before them.
The castle of Jeroa was among the largest buildings he had ever seen. In elaborate design and sheer intimidation, it paled in comparison to Kasumi's tower. Then again, she built the thing to serve as a quiet reminder of her sheer presence. No, the Jeroaian Castle was a building from another era transplanted to the modern day and appropriately carved to suit the coming times. The exterior walls were of solid stone, lined with steel reinforcements. Several towers sprouted out in seemingly random locations, with some along the perimeter while others seemed focused from the epicenter. Any windows that Morgan could see were barred, seemingly allowing the limits to come in, but he was confident this was likely just the outside windows. The others had to be more appropriate but that was a quiet observation. In fact, everything he had done in the past moments have been quiet. His usual quips were replaced with silent absorption of the facts around him. And while he had come to more than a hearty amount of conclusions, the one that was most apparent before him was this: the castle before him was a maze. All he had to do was open the door to be sure.
Placing a hand on the door, Morgan fired a pulse of fire through it and the wooden door shattered into splinters. The steel frame and hinges remained hooked onto the door frame for the most part, but barely clinging to the little life they had left. As the wooden dust cleared, Morgan stepped forward into a grand foyer that stood the test of time. The interior walls were a drab grey, being little more than well crafted brick. Two half circle brick staircases carved the room in symmetry as they wound up leading a platform that appeared to be the second floor of the castle. The plain feeling of the staircases was counter balanced by the wispy wooden banister that tried its best to mimic the feel of the wind and air in its artistic design. The stair cases encircled a proud bronze statue of the founder of Jeroa, a tall, broad man with a gentle but firm expression and an aura of pride about him.
The dim lights, provided by torches on the wall slowly illuminated the room as Morgan's eyes adjusted from the cool moonlight from outside. It was then that feeling of drab and must was pushed aside by royalty and appreciation for the culture of the island. Immediately Morgan felt the texture of the floor change from brick and cobblestone to cool tile as his footsteps echoed throughout the foyer. The tile was a plain white, but stable. The tiles had an air-like feel to them, with interesting staining that sought to capture the whimsical yet powerful wind of the land. An area rug served as the focal point, stitched with a rendition of the island proper with a teal and white border around it. Teal carpets with white and gold borders rolled down the staircases, with matching curtains and drapes scattered about the foyer, accenting the windows, banisters and anywhere else they could hang. The royal seal of Jeroa hung above the three wooden doors available to the Skull Pirates, designating the only places to leave: The two single doors to their left and right and a pair of double doors present on the platform before them.
"Hell of a place you got to live in, Vance," Selena commented with a low whistle. "If I was in your shoes, I'd probably have a hard time leavin' here after all's said in done."
The navigator stepped in behind Selena and Morgan, slowly glancing around the familiar setting, letting out a huff. "You wouldn't say that if you knew the books upon books of rules that followed with living here. Besides, it... wasn't as easy as 'just leaving'." He stepped further in, peering around. "Seems weirdly empty... wouldn't dad have put guards in place here?"
"Let's not jinx it!" Kuzo announced as he stepped forward. "We've already fought through so many, after a-" Before the Captain could finish his sentences, a group of soldiers who were chatting with each other entered from the door to the left. They were dressed in a long, teal and gold garb, and were equipped with swords on their sides and rifles along their backs. They also had some sort of backpacks on, and a miniature umbrella sticking out, probably something to shield them from storms that may pass by.
"What the- intruders in the palace, take them out!" The head guard announced as he brandished his sword and charged at the group, with his men pulling out their own weapons behind him.
For once, the Skull Pirates' tailor decided he'd be the first one to scrap. He'd long since decided to scrap his policy of claiming to be a pacifist until they'd saved Avril, a resolution the soldiers would surely suffer for. Joshua casually strode towards the soldiers as they bared their arms and returned the gesture with a devilish smile. "Gentlemen I must say your courage and loyalty to your king - however misplaced- is quite admirable. You must have heard the ruckus outside, rather clearly indicating how futile this resistance is, and yet you persist. It's a shame honor and bravado can't solve everything."
Before even one of them had a chance to rebuke or charge at him the scarlet-haired pirate dashed forward quicker than any of them were ready for. Instead of leading with a punch as-per-usual Joshua kicked out a foot, dropped, and slid underneath the swords leveled at him and right at one of the soldiers on the right side of the formation. As he passed between the soldier's legs he grabbed his left ankle and yanked it up into the air when he stood before casually whipping around and flinging the man at his comrades like a cannonball at a house of sticks.
"Honestly, why do these people even try?" Skellen said, sounding almost bored "I'm really half a mind to just let Joshua do all the work. But, then again I suppose that would be a bit inefficient and we do have a job to do." Whilst the soldiers were distracted by Joshua, Skellen essentially took a casual stroll towards the group, pulling one of his razor blades from the canister at his hip.
As the doctor reached the group of soldiers several turned, finally noticing his advance. Skellen flashed his enemies a wicked grin
"Too late, I don't have to worry about guns this close." The Taipan, living up to his namesake, lashed out with the blade, slashing across the front of the nearest solider. It was a thin cut, the soldier still able to swing his weapon, but that wasn't going to matter for long. Skellen nimbly dodged out the way of the incoming sword, swiping upwards in an arc as he cut into the next guard to attack him. The doctor then threw his weapon into the side of a more distant solider before turning and taking the sword from the first of his victims as they suddenly fell forward, he then whirled and launched that weapon across the room and into the chest of another soldier that had just turned into the corner.
Skellen eyed the pile of bodies next to Joshua and let out a whistle
"I'm getting upstaged, we can't have that in the future."
Selena quickly brought her elbow into one of the guard's guts before spinning around and shoving it up into his chin. The green-haired cook then quickly brought her foot down, swinging it under the guard's foot and causing him to fall to the floor.
"Should we really be going too hard on these guys, though? I mean... they're technically not Marines, right?" Selena questioned.
"They're still following orders from my dad." Vance replied, keeping in the background. Seemed like the others had things handled. "Some of them might be doing so unwilllingly, but they're still under orders. So just, uh... try not to hurt them too bad?"
Skellen looked out of the barely-alive guard he'd just impaled
"Uh... right... got it... oops."
Kuzo nodded to Vance's instructions, dove forward and floored the last of the guards. The tackle was enough to knock out three in a row while in his Tank Mode, but one managed to remain conscious. The Captain grabbed for the guard by his coat.
"We're looking for Avril," Kuzo explained to him in a much more serious tone than he usually uttered. "Start talking."
The guard coughed once and scoffed. "Even if I knew what you were talking about, I wouldn't say anything!"
"My friend over there made a nice request to keep ya'll from gettin' too hurt," Morgan said to the Marine with his arms crossed. He was calmer than he had been before, lacking much of the rage from before. It was unnatural in a way, but Morgan had also neglected to even look in the direction of Kuzo or the Marine, as if the majority of the thoughts in his head were elsewhere. "It'd be a real shame if the friend of mine right before ya had to ignore it, ya know?"
Well aware of who Morgan was and his reputation, the guard seemed to have sweat pouring through his garb. "I don't know anything about any Avril, honest! I don't know who it is!" He suddenly paused for a moment. "U-unless...."
"Unless?" Kuzo repeated.
"U-unless she was the injured woman that came in with Crimm's people..."
"That's her!" Kuzo shouted as he grabbed the guard and tightened his grip on his clothing. "Where is she?"
"S-she... th-they... the crew went toward the western end of the palace, where they are s-staying!" The guard answered nervously, making small glances to Morgan the entire time.
Kuzo nodded and dropped him on the ground. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Soon after Kuzo had finished his question, the Skull Pirate captain would find a familiar, anchor-shaped blade come crashing down on the floor in front of himself and the guard. Kuzo leaped out of the way of the incoming blade at the last minute, and glanced at the man who it came from. A somewhat tired sounding sigh could be heard in the room, one coming from a small balcony overlooking the room where the pirates had been fighting the castle guards. And standing atop the balcony was none other than Kratos, the white-haired swordsman who had made very easy work of Kuzo not that long ago.
"I was trying to take myself a quick nap, but there you all had to go and make a bunch of noise," he sighed. Glancing around the group, his visible eye caught sight of Kuzo and he grinned. "Oh, so you made it out of there after all. Hope you didn't get too soggy after your little dip."
Skellen looked up at the balcony, displaying a look of indifference to the sudden appearance of Kratos - although in reality he was rather irritated at the sudden interruption.
"Hey captain, it's that guy who beat the **** out of you before. Should we do something about that?"
"It's the anchor-guy!" Vance exclaimed, quickly crabbing his way over behind Selena, fists clenched. "He's gonna stop us from getting to Avril and the pirates!"
"Oh look who it is." Joshua said, speaking with absolute venom undermining a facade of his usual friendliness. "So, are you our first real roadblock on the path to Avril then?"
"No, he isn't," Kuzo stated firmly. As he walked past the rest of his crew and glared at Kratos. "This one's mine. We know where Avril is now, the rest of you go and kick that King and Blood Panther's asses and get back our nakama!" He yelled with fierce determination as he glanced across the faces of all of his crewmates behind him. "Leave him to me!"
Morgan looked over at the bold Kuzo, raising an eyebrow. The behavior of Kuzo was not at all surprising, but it felt different. The man's voice carried a different tone; one that Morgan had not heard in some time. "Are you sure, Kuzo?" He finally asked, taking a couple steps toward the Captain of the Skull Pirates, matching the bold pirate's eyes.
Without taking his eyes off of his opponent, Kuzo nodded at the Burning King's question. "Go save our nakama," He replied with the same vigor.
Kratos sighed, rubbing the back of his head as he glanced between the two pirates. "Don't I get any say in this? I mean, if I was gonna be spending any extended time with any of you lot, I'd much rather it be her."
The white-haired swordsman pointed in Selena's direction as he spoke, causing the cook to raise an eyebrow. "I... think I'll pass on this one."
"Aye, aye," Morgan said to Kuzo after the exchange between Kratos and Selena was an uncomfortable memory. Ignoring the pale attempts at boasting by Kratos was easy enough, as Kuzo seemed more than capable of taking care of his unfinished business. Morgan turned to the Skulls without needing as much as a reminder and looked at them with same intensity that Kuzo exuded. "Alright, ya heard the man! We got a crew to beat and a nakama to save!" Morgan yelled at the others as he made his way through the one door, without as much as glancing back.
"Right then." Joshua tipped his hat to Kuzo and slapped him on the back. "Good luck Captain, I'm sure you'll triumph, rest assured our crusade will be inexorable as well." And rushed after Morgan, not wasting a second.
"Uh... what he said." Skellen said before also taking off after Morgan. He figured he probably owed Avril a life-saving since he had been hell bent on killing her not that long ago.
Vance followed after Morgan as he took off down the hallway, but as he reached the doorway, he came to a stop. After a brief look after the others and one back at Kuzo, a small frown spread on his lips. Instead of following along with the rest of them, he turned on his heel and sprinted past the two pirates staring each other down, making his way up the spiral staircase instead, calling out to Kuzo before disappearing down a hallway. "Kick his ass, Kuzo!"
Selena glanced over her shoulder at the sudden call out. She could have sworn that Vance was running right behind her, but it did not take her too long to notice that the Skull Pirate navigator was no longer behind her. The cook came to a stop and curiously began to retrace her steps back a bit. When she spotted a spiral staircase, she noticed the man in question was running up those instead.
"Where's he going...?" Selena questioned. She seemed a bit hesitant at first. She knew that Avril needed saving, but... for some reason, Selena really did not feel all that secure in Vance running about on his own. Putting a hand on her hip, she glanced back in the direction of Morgan and the others, watching as they turned a corner. "I'm sure with those three... they'll be okay. Probably... I better go find out where he's going instead."
Smiling at her decision, Selena began to run up the stairs as fast as her legs could carry her. The cook even went as far as to skip a couple of stairs with wider steps whenever possible. As she neared Vance's retreating form, Selena quickened her pace before quickly leaping in his direction. She landed promptly on the navigator's shoulders, essentially getting a ride from Vance.
"Hey! Where ya going? Did you get lost or something?" Selena fired off.
"Gah!" he called out at the sudden weight, his run quickly turning into a stagger as he grabbed at the legs suddenly wrapped around his shoulders.
"... Selena?! I- no, I didn't! I know... I know we have to save Avril, but I can't let my dad keep doing this to the people here... if we all go after the Panthers, he'd run off, or get reinforcements. I know him." A frown came to his lips, his face scrunching up in determination as his slow trudge went into a full-on run once more, despite the added weight to his shoulders, albeit somewhat slower than earlier.
"I see..." Selena mused, looking on ahead as Vance ran. "Well then, I guess I'll just have to go along with you! I'm sure Kuzo and the others would agree to that!"
"I, uh..." The navigator paused. The reason he hadn't -asked- anyone to join him, was because he was worried they'd get hurt over a situation he'd created. But...
Turning his head as best as he could, he smiled up at Selena, nodding. "Alright. Let's go take down the king!"
As the rest of his crew left, Kuzo remained in place, facing off against the man who had earlier beat him so easily. He was determined not to let the situation repeat itself. He glanced once at the door which Morgan and the others left through, then looked back at his opponent, with the same, unwavering look of absolute resolve. He bent his knees and clenched his fists. The Skull Pirate Captain shook his head. “This time will be different. Trust me, you haven’t seen anything yet.” He stated boldly.
Kratos turned back to face Kuzo, a rather unimpressed look gracing his features. "Huh...? Sorry, did you say something? I was thinking about this girl I met in the bar the other night... She had it all going on in all the right places, if you know what I mean..." He crossed his arms over his chest, a look of deep thought taking hold. "You know what, how 'bout we just skip this whole thing. I'd like to see what she's up to... You could just lay down on the floor and assume the usual position that others take when they try to fight me... No one will even have to break a sweat."
“I realized something while I’ve been traveling the Grand Line,” Kuzo explained. “My crew and I are tough, as tough as they come, but if we’re going to get better, if we’re going to reach our dreams, then all of us have to take it one step further. And that goes double for me! I saw what kind of monsters there can be in the Grand Line: Koan, Vyne, and Ginokami. I saw them and I knew that there are too many people above me. So if I’m going to be able to protect my crew, if I’m going to have to take it to the next level!” Kuzo extended his clenched arms from down beside his hips, to the sides of his body.
Slowly, his body began to alter as it does whenever he would go into his ‘Tank’ or ‘Lightning’ Mode. However, he appeared to not go into either. His arms, shoulders calves, and chest expanded to about half the size of his ‘Tank’ Mode, while the rest of his body’s bones and density slimmed down. He appeared to be only slightly more bulkier than his normal form, but slimmed down in a lot of other areas in between joints. Kuzo glared again at his opponent once more.
“You won’t be able to stop me now. Cross Mode!”
Lotte and the ??? Pirates: Lost- and Found!
As Lotte would proceed back inside the Lost and Found, she would see the same man with red hair and a cloak proceeding to walk out. He appeared to be muttering and cursing under his breath, likely not being able to track down whatever he had been looking for earlier. Upon spotting the soaked Lotte walking in, the red-haired man sighed deeply and removed his hood, and then proceeded to take off his entire hood.
Removing his cloak revealed a surprisingly glistening outfit, with a colorful blue shirt-coat combo designed with one shoulder strap, while a white undershirt covered the other, a set of shining greaves beginning at his knees (which was odd because it gave off little sound), and a pair of odd, bright green eyes. He also had markings and tribal tattoos across his body, including on his wrist and across his right eye, and a pair of gold, expensive-looking, extravagant guns. He was a combination of ruffian and royalty all in one package.
The man extended his arm out with the cloak toward Lotte for her to grab. "If you're going to go out again, use this," He stated roughly, a stark contrast of his actions. "I was... kinda asshole-ish to your... others earlier and my Captain would probably kill me if he saw me behaving like that."
Appeased by Joshua's umbrella, she'd stepped back inside almost intent to wait for the others as a lost persons herself- but Lotte was startled to be addressed by the man who had been so abrasive earlier, looking at his cloak with an inquisitive blink before taking in his... incredibly ornate outfit. Too flashy, but not unstylish. And he seemed friendly enough- with more manners than her entire crew put together at that. With Joshua's umbrella still hooked on her arm, she accepted the red haired man's cloak with a smile and a curtsy, "Why thank you sir-" She replied cheerfully before observing, "Your Captain must be a very noble man to look after his crew's behavior."
"Yeah, it's his thing, err, our thing," The red-haired man replied with a shrug. "'If there's no honor among thieves, there we'll make it among pirates', he'd say. I'm Beck by the way."
She brightened at the idea of it, clearly impressed and clearly interested- "A pleasure to make your acquaintance- My name is Lotte! My Captain's a good man too, but he's not the cleverest of men." She giggled at Kuzo's inability to grasp numbers before glancing around excitedly, "Are the rest of your crew here too? Or are you looking for them?" Perhaps Beck was lost too..!
"Good to meetya, Lotte," Beck stated with a quick nod. "They're around, I was supposed to rendezvous with them as soon as I found some information on the Horse Cipher I was looking for, whatever the hell that is," Beck placed a hand through his red hair and scratched at his scalp as he let out a deep sigh. He then gazed back down with his piercing green eyes at the young girl. "You travelling alone?"
Horse Cipher? She hadn't the slightest as to what that could mean. "You don't know what you're looking for?" Lotte asked, clearly baffled by how one was supposed to look for something they weren't familiar with. It was already hard enough finding Avril, and they'd known her for quite some time! "Oh- No no," She shook her head, looking over her shoulder at the door, "I was with my crew earlier, but they all run too fast for me, so they were gone before I knew it!"
"So you're alone," Beck clenched his jaw and glared at the doorway leading to the outside, as if he was deliberating something. "... Do you want to tag along with me? Jeroa's a dangerous place to travel with their crazy weather alone. But with the crazy Marine-King here too? Probably not the best situation for you. You can hang with my crew while we search, and in the meantime maybe look for your own crew."
"I suppose I'm in the best place if I am," She joked, referring to the lost and found. But blinking at his offer, she brightened with a smile, "Can I?! I would love to! It's such a waste to sit around here just because everyone else ran off- Let's go!" She reached out for his arm, dragging him towards the door as she wrapped his cloak around her shoulders, somewhat swimming in all the excess fabric but quite pleased at having extra protection against the ridiculous weather, "And you can tell me who this Marine-King guy is while we walk-"
"What? Hey!" Beck cried out as he was led out the door. "Ah, whatever," He sighed and decided to just let it happen. As the doors opened back up to Jeroa. The pair was met with a surprisingly pleasant snowfall, nothing like the turbulent, tempestuous weather from earlier. As they walked the streets, Beck began to explain about the Marine-King. "He's the new King here in Jeroa. Nasty guy from what I hear. He became the viceroy after his wife the Queen disappeared a while back, and recently he's completely taken over by naming himself King. And he's been doing a lot of great things with that," He stated sarcastically.
Lotte flounced forward in the snow, quite a bit more pleased with this weather than the rain from earlier- especially since she had Beck's cloak to keep her warm now. She listened with only half an ear- she had never had much interest in the affairs of nobles, or else she wouldn't be here! But the gossip bit afforded her enough interest to at least hear him out, and she slowed to walk side by side with him as he continued relaying the tale of Jeroa.
"Go right here," He stated to her as he continued to be lead by Lotte by his arm. He hadn't even considered her letting go or him deciding to lead. Instead, he simply gave her directions as they walked. "Yep, he's definitely one of Kanaru's golden boys. His lapdogs, spreading 'justice' to all the good folk in the world," Beck snorted. "I've been through Jeroa a few times. These are tough, tough people," He explained as he looked around at the various townsfolk at work in their professions. Many seemed fairly happy, smiling and laughing. But something seemed off about the way they smiled, and talked. The two wandered by to see that there were Marines in the vicinity. Upon a closer inspection, it became apparent that as the townsfolk smile, they also sweated profusely.
"But I don't think I've ever seen them quite this miserable. Hiding behind smiles because they're too scared," Beck clenched his jaw again. "That's what King Hayden Edgar has done. He's turned a Kingdom into a prison."
Looking around at the seemingly carefree smiles, Lotte thought she had certainly seen a lot of these kinds of faces in her lifetime- but it was definitely a shame to see it on faces of townsfolk, the definition of what she thought were people who could choose where they wanted to go and do with their lives. "Who's Kanaru?" She asked, twirling about again to walk backwards and face Beck. Humming as though the corruption didn't bother her much, she brushed off the oppression and said instead, "The Marine-King sure sounds like a King to me- but how come you know all this stuff? Does he have something to do with what you're looking for?"
"Who's Kanaru?" Beck asked incredulously as he stared at Lotte in front of him. "Where the heck have you been all this time? Kanaru's the Fleet Admiral of the Marines! The one who started the War with the Kings! The most hated name in piracy!" Beck roared out.
She glanced up at the snowy sky, musing to herself, "Ooh I think I've heard that name-" She was entirely unaffected by Beck's indignant shouting, seeing no wrong in not knowing exactly who he was at first mention. "Well- more than the name I know who he is at least."
"In a sense," He explained. "What I'm looking, or what my captain is, is exactly what the Marines, Kanaru, and Edgar, don't want us to get. It'll turn their world upside down. Left here. We're almost there," Beck gestured again. "You musta not known some good Kings."
"The world?" Lotte looked interested now- something to turn the world upside down sounded exciting in every respect, except for the fact that it seemed difficult to find. "But you don't know what it is?" At once recalling his disappointing lack of information, she turned forward again and flounced ahead- "Hmm~ He was not a bad king but he was not a good king. As they say- It is far easier to be feared than it is to be respected!"
"I have an idea of what it is, I just don't know the specifics!" Beck spat as he pointed to a tavern in front of them. It was an older building, clearly worn out by the extreme weather of Jeroa, but sturdy enough to remain standing. It had a picture of a horse on it, with the words "Prancing Pony" under it. "It's called the Dancing Donkey, I believe. That's where they are."
Lotte stared at the sign- and glanced between it and Beck. Dancing Donkey.............. She didn't question it.
They opened the wooden door and wandered inside the tavern. What was expected to be full and rowdy with laughter ended up having only three other people inside. The bartender, who a thick man with a bald head and a large, unkept brown beard, leaned on the counter. Beside the counter, two other people sat, both in the same cloaks hiding their full features as Beck had.
The first was a woman, from what could be told of her voice. What from little her hood showed, she had medium-length hair with strange green bells at the end of different points in her hair. Her most prominent, and eerie feature, was her eyes. They were large, green, and creepy. The other was a man with a small goatee, and a large head of long, silky black hair. But he kept the rest of himself hidden quite well.
"Hmm?" The woman stared at Beck and Lotte as they entered. Her eyes creeped from each other them, the extended gaze causing Beck to become slightly uncomfortable. "Beck, why did you take off your cloak. It was intended for you to be hidden."
"Damn it, Mes, stop lookin' at me with those damn eyes of yours!" Beck shouted as he looked away.
"Answer the question," The woman identified as 'Mes' repeated. "And who is the girl?"
Getting the chills from the woman's gaze, Lotte was glad to avert her gaze to the slighter man with the goatee as Mes focused her eyes on Beck instead, drawing his cloak around her shoulders closer despite the fact that it seemed she wasn't supposed to be in possession of it. Normally she'd answer for him- but the woman seemed oddly intimidating, and the emptiness of the bar was.... certainly an added pressure to the tension of the situation. She glanced up at Beck, wondering if he'd stuck his neck out by bringing her along.
"She's with me," Beck stated to the woman with the mysterious gaze.
"You brought a young girl with you? Do you realize ho-"
"Mesmero!" The man with the goatee called out with a raise of his hand. His voice was forceful, commanding, but also quite cordial. The woman instantly quieted. "Why did you bring her with you, Beck?" The man asked curiously.
Beck shrugged. "I figure that's what you would have wanted, Cap," He explained. "She was alone and separated from her crew. Jeroa ain't the best place for her to be wanderin'."
"Isn't," The man corrected Beck as he got up from his seat. "Then good work. Pirates ought not to forget the unspoken code among us. Even though so many times we fight among ourselves, at our core, we are brothers and sisters of the sea."
"My name is Lawrence Beckel," The man with the goatee greeted with a curt, respectful lowering of his head. "What is yours?"
There was a code?! Why hadn't Vance or Skellen ever mentioned it to her? Or the Captain, at least! She resolved to ask first thing the next time they had some down time on the ship, curtsying neatly to Lawrence's bow. "Lotte. Pleased to make your acquaintance." She felt compelled to explain why she was by herself- as it wasn't as if her crew had abandoned her.... per say. "My crewmates are looking for a missing member of our lot- They'd all run off after something before I noticed, so Beck here was kind enough to lend me his cloak against the weather and show me around!" She resolutely avoided M-... Mesmero? Was that her name? In any case, Lotte refused to meet her eye or look anywhere near her, rather pleased that the Lawrence guy was a considerably more welcoming sort than she was. "It looks like everybody's looking for something on this island, no?"
"It's a pleasure, Lotte," Lawrence stated with another small nod of his head. He chuckled slightly. "I suppose a lot of people do end up searching for one thing or another on Jeroa. That's why many end up in the Lost and Found," He joked. "Our venture lies a bit outside of the main city, however. Or at least this is what I assume, Beck, did you uncover anything?" He asked the crimson-haired man.
Beck shrugged. "Couldn't find your horse ciphers, cap."
"Horse. Ciphers?" Mesmero repeated, clearly displeased. Her large, ominous eyes seemed to penetrate into Beck's soul with her sharp, creepy gaze.
"S-stop damn, God!" Beck yelled as he looked away from the woman.
"Hmm, no matter," Lawrence added with a shrug. "By the time Dorin finds out, I assume we'll have a good enough location in hand for Mesmero to track down," The hooded man with the goatee returned his gaze to Lotte.
"Madam, you are also searching for your crew, are you not?" He asked her. "If you would like, we could find them for you, and escort you to them. Assuming you do not mind tagging along with us for a while longer."
She brightened as much as she could with a lady like Mesmero so close, leaning forward slightly at Lawrence's idea. "That would be perfect!" The word ciphers seemed to be familiar somewhere in the back of her mind, but not enough for her to pass up the opportunity to turn to Beck and ask: "What are ciphers?"
"Excellent," Lawrence stated with a happy nodded.
"Hell if I know," The scarlett-haired pirate replied to Lotte's question as he shrugged his shoulders.
"It's not ciphers, you idiot!" Mesmero screeched as her ghostly gazed grew more fierce. "It's the Poneglyphs!"
"The Poneglyphs," Lawrence repeated as he began to ruffled through his cloak in search of something. "It's the reason why my crew and I have come here. It's a secret the World Government wants to keep hidden, and one we want to release to the world." He explained to Lotte as he revealed the item he was search for, a rather large, dark blue decorative hat with a cluster of white feathers across his side. He gently removed his hood to reveal his full head of long, flowing hair, and placed the large hat on top of his head. He then removed his cloak to reveal the rest of his attire.
Lawrence wore an ornamental blue captain's coat, with gold strands and buttons scattered and decorated across it. He wore a polished, stylish purple long-sleeved shirt under this, that was just as decorated as the coat over it, and a white linen ascot to complete the attire. The man seemed more of a nobleman than a pirate. Yet he was well-known as one of the most famous pirates of all time. "After all, isn't that what piracy is at its core? The freedom of all things?"
Lotte's interest had been waning at the mention of the World Government and it's secrets. All nobles had secrets, and she'd long learnt that dirty laundry was always better off unknown. But she supposed there were always people who wanted to know- and politely listened to his explanation, filing it away in the back of her mind in case it ever became useful knowledge. (AKA forgetting all about it in the next five minutes.)
But Lawrence's removal of his cloak brought about great interest in the girl, whose eyes grew wide as dish plates as she gasped and brought her hands to her mouth in surprise. Now this was a man she recognized-- For her father had told her stories of his power and might out on the seas, and how he was a far more respectable pirate than any of the other rag tag rats out sailing under the guise of adventure. "Oh but you're the Captain Beckel!" She exclaimed excitedly, grabbing Beck by his arm and shaking him. She hadn't recognized the name alone, but the face was unmistakable. "Wow you didn't tell me you were apart of the Gentleman Pirates!" Lotte positively squealed, having never in her wildest dreams believed she would ever meet such an important figure so early on in her journey. Indeed, she hadn't expected to meet him at all. Smitten with excitement, Lotte clasped her hands together to quickly hone in on his words- "Yes yes it is- Freedom from everything is exactly why I'm here too."
"Please, Lotte, you honor me too much," He protested as he smiled. "No man is worth more than another. I am just a pirate, the same as you," He explained, before he gestured her to follow him, as well as Beck and Mesmero. "Then freedom is what we'll seek! Come with us, Lotte, and after, we'll reunite you with your crew."
That was right- she was a pirate now too wasn't she? The idea was admittedly still jarring- but she was sure that with more time, it would start feeling more fitting with every passing day. Smiling at Lawrence, she nodded, following excitedly- "Okay!"
❝ the merry-go-round of life
Morgan and Joshua- An Old Obstacle Returns!
Leaving the site of Skellen's imminent battle with the Blood Panthers' doctor behind, Morgan and Joshua were left with a surprisingly long stretch of hall. Even with the battles going on in other parts of the castle and the direness of their goal, the silence was a companionable one, previous tensions gone. On any other day the two men seemed practically antithetic, but on this occasion both were bundles of cold determination hiding the blood boiling for justice and vengeance beneath the surface. The floor even in such a long hallway had a very ornate going all the way from one side to the other, the walls and ceiling were likewise covered in finery. Casting a sidelong glance at some of the thick, smooth pillars made from some stone Joshua didn't recognize, he couldn't keep quiet any longer.
"Even I must admit I'm surprised at the decadence we're surrounded by. Of course this is a castle and all, but on such a small island with such harsh weather conditions I expected something smaller and more utilitarian. It would seem Vance's father has a flair for the dramatic strong enough to toss practicality right out of his gargantuan, vista-overlooking windows. Sadly, this is what one expects from royalty who are already in their place, and don't have to fight for it." He let out a wistful sigh as he remembered the origin stories of various islands and ancient kingdoms he'd read.
"Well, ya know that the rich like to show off, don't ya?" Morgan said back. "I'm surprised Vance can manage to act like humble and the like when he comes from all these here riches. I guess we gotta congratulate him for that one." Morgan found it strange that he was agreeing with Joshua at the moment. Then again, part of him enjoyed the quieter moment, despite the peril they would soon face. Perhaps they were not as bad as he thought. Maybe he could see himself on this crew after all. "Nevertheless, we gotta figure out where the heck they stashed Avril. And sadly, I ain't seein' any hints of anyone."
Joshua gave a grim nod. "We certainly must. It's quite a shock that this wing of the castle has been so empty and quiet so far. The only reason I could think of i-" His words stopped dead at the sight of a bright light filtering down in front of them onto a wide tile floor. A few more steps revealed a large square room between their hallway and the next. The room was very tall, and surprisingly sparce besides a giant skylight for a ceiling, and some high up windows with large exotic plants on them. Joshua scowled around at the room. "That confirms my suspicions then."
"Eh, what do ya mean by that?" Morgan asked, completely lost at Joshua's remark. "This just looks like a big room that fills no particular purpose. God damn rich people and their egos," he complained under his breath.
"I've seen this far too many times before." The tailor answered. "This is such an obvious arena the only thing missing is-"
"If my memory serves me correctly, I had requested you pirates leave Jeroa," the marine with a pencil moustache, named Fosen, stated calmly. "Your friendship with the prince compelled me to give you a warning. A warning you elected to ignore," Fosen continued, drawing his impressive opulent rapier, laced in silver and gold. He pointed the blade at the two pirates. "You are under arrest...for crimes that don't particularly matter at the moment. I would offer you the chance to stand down, but..."
"It would be a pointless gesture." Joshua finished Fosen's statement for him. "I wouldn't be convinced to stop even if the entire combined forces of the marines stood with you, and my obstinance pales in comparison to the flames of Morgan's determination." He stepped forward and threw his suit aside in a manner easily as dramatic as Fosen's entrance. "I'll take this challenge Morgan, if anybody needs to get to miss Avril, it's you. Besides, sir Fosen still needs to be taught a lesson for protecting a thief." Very gently he took the ornate case off of his back and turned before kneeling in front of Morgan and offering him the case. "Please bring Belladonna with you, such prescious things are good luck, and may she carry the song of victory with you."
Both Morgan and Fosen seemed to pause for a moment and blink at each other, utterly confused by the dramatism excerised by Joshua. Morgan raised an eyebrow and pointed at the case on the ground. "Eh, do ya really wanna trust me with that?" He eventually looked over to Fosen, who regained his composure, and resumed his previous stance. "I mean, I'm gonna be tempted to crack it over the heads of guys like that."
Joshua smiled and kept the case where it was. "Normally my first thought would be that very same concern. But I think I can trust you with it, at least this time. And besides, not having to worry about breaking it myself will be a very big relief...And having yet another prescious thing to pursue will help me drive on. Please take it. And just know that if you DO break it you'll have to deal with a rage coming after you comparative to your own at Avril's treatment."
Morgan held in chuckle and picked up the case. "I ain't makin' any promises that your violin will make it....so I guess you and I may a fight brewin' later," Morgan smiled. "That's assuming you got enough fight in ya after this guy, then again, I ain't worried about ya." Morgan made his way across the room, with Fosen locking eyes with the Burning King. "I wouldn't even think about it, Marine. With Joshua lurking around, you got more than enough on your plate. Ya better let me do my thing. It may even help ya later." Morgan's words were not minced, but focused. The snark and sarcasm that formerlly seethed with every word was absent, in favor of dry humor. If it even could be called humor. "I'll see ya around, Josh. Try not to break the castle while you are it."
Joshua looked thoughtful for a moment, then cracked his shoulders and took another step towards Fosen. "I'll do my best, but no promises, things tend to get broken when I edjucate. Good luck, give miss Avril everyone's love."
"You got it," Morgan said with a half wave, advancing past Fosen to the far door, and with a slam, left Josh to his devices.