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  #226    
Old March 14th, 2015 (05:54 AM).
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The Hunt Continues… Slowly


Who the hell decided to live here!
Skellen had formed various incarnations of the same thought in his head throughout his travels in Jeroa, most using much more colourful language. At this moment he was forcing himself forwards down a street through a furious sandstorm, his arm covering his face and his eyes narrowed for a reason other than fury for a change as he struggled against the sand barraging him and the strong winds buffeting against his thin frame.

Considering that for several years Skellen had made it his purpose to track down people and see to it that they ended up dead, he was giving a pretty poor showing in his attempts to locate Avril. He had stopped in at several taverns and stores around Jeroa, but had yet to hear very much of interest at all. Normally he would have been able to observe the people on the streets for information too, which was often an incredibly useful source of intelligence, however the wild and erratic weather of Jeroa had made that practically impossible.

Still, even as Skellen fumed the sandstorm begun to subside and the Taipan was finally able to blink the stinging grains of sand from his eyes.
Finally, now maybe the weather will stay static for long enough for me to find something out. It was at precisely the moment that Skellen’s thought concluded that the first thunder clap boomed, a flash of lighting illuminating the suddenly darkening sky.
“You have got to be kidding me.” For what seemed like the hundredth time in the last thirty minutes, the criers began yelling out warnings and instructions, the denizens of Jeroa reacting immediately to the weather, many before the criers said a single word “What kind of hell have I stepped into.” The rain began to pelt down. There was no drizzling beforehand, immediately as though God himself had decided the citizens of Jeroa were all assholes and dumped a heavenly bucket of despair over them, one of the heaviest rains Skellen had ever experienced begun. Within seconds Skellen was drenched and his vision obscured, a thick mist rolling in to join the downpour. Skellen now trudged forwards over muddy terrain, cold and wet and practically blind because of the rain and mist. He strained his ears, but it seemed clear he’d have to find another building to take cover in and scour for information. Which would have been fine… except he was currently standing in the middle of an open-air market.
I’m beginning to understand why people say I have bad luck.

The torrential rain only persisted for a few more minutes, however the inexplicably sudden halt to the deluge did not lift Skellen’s spirits. He was thankful that he could finally see a tavern not to far away, but he’d grown to expect that whenever Jeroa’s weather became calm again it would soon be followed by something extremely unpleasant. Which explained the drastic drop in temperature.
“Oh good, what fresh hell is in store for me now.”
“Blizzard!” a crier shouted, his voice sounding hoarse from constant shouting
What did he just say? flakes of snow were already falling from the sky, the water covering Skellen freezing almost instantly and leaving him practically coated in a sheet of ice. You know what Jeroa? Screw you. Just screw you. I hope you fall into the sea once I leave.
The blizzard quickly hit its full force, the gale force winds seeming the only constant in Jeroa to Skellen as the snowstorm all but totally obscured his vision; the icy temperatures chilling Skellen to the bone and stinging his skin even in his cloak-like jacket. Skellen forced himself forwards in the direction of the tavern he had seen, the wooden door coming into view several minutes later.

Skellen ran through forwards and burst through the door into a pleasant warmth and furiously loud din. The sudden change in temperature from cold to warm leaving him slightly dizzy.
“How the hell am I meant to find anyone on island where the weather hates everyone!” Skellen raged openly, before sighing and beginning to wander the crowds listening carefully as he moved through the crowd.
Well, better make the most of it. It’s only a matter of time until the building is struck by a freaking meteor or something.

Mostly Skellen didn’t hear anything of note, although some conversations did pike his interest. One person mentioned that there was rumours of a yonko being in the area… and perhaps more concerning was a conversation about Skellen’s crew.
“Seriously, I’m sure I saw the Burning King!”
“Wright D. Morgan? From what I heard his crew caused an uproar on Dinas and he was last scene getting his head beat in by an admiral; you don’t escape an admiral, no way is he here.”
Don’t bet money on that… Skellen thought concerned that his crew were clearly on the move about the city I have to find her first…
“Excuse me sir –“ Skellen was almost whirled around and stabbed the old man, surprised that someone had chosen to speak to him. He’d gotten good at being inconspicuous, but it seemed even his skills wouldn’t make up for his entrance.
“Can I help you?”
“Well no, but I can possibly help you. I think I heard you say you were looking for someone.”
Asshole…
“Oh yeah, I am. A… friend of mine. She’s short, wears goggles, has weird blue hair and is constantly causing trouble. Have you seen her?”
“No, but if you’re looking for someone you should try the Lost and Found nearby. Because of our erratic weather people often get lost so you can usually find out about missing people there.”
“Erratic is something of an understatement” Skellen said, shaking half-melted snow and sleet from his hair.
“You should see a bad day” the old man chuckled
“I would really rather not actually. Thank you for the help.”

Skellen took directions from the laughing man and headed out the door… and right into a blistering heatwave. Steam was actually rising up from melted snow in some places. As he removed his jacket, only one thought was on Skellen’s mind.
Seriously, psyduck you Jeroa.

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  #227    
Old April 13th, 2015 (06:31 PM).
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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.

Spoiler:




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!"

Spoiler:


"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!"
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Old 2 Weeks Ago (10:26 AM).
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Soree




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.
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Old 2 Days Ago (05:05 PM). Edited 2 Days Ago by Himika.
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The Blood Panther Pirates - ????? - News From The Front


Away from all the chaos that was starting to form on the island of Jeroa at the hands of Kuzo, Morgan, and the rest of the Skull Pirates, a rather impressively sized ship sat docked within a rather dim, yet expansive alcove. The ship was dark in color, painted in varying shades of black and blue, setting it vastly apart from a ship that would belong to the Marines. As if the color was not enough to do this, the ship was decorated with spike-like objects protruding out of the wood. At the top of its tall mast, waved a large black flag. Painted in the center of the flag was cat-shaped skull with blood-red eye holes and red of the same color painted in such a manner that it was dripping from the fangs of the skull. This ship happened to belong to a group of pirates,the Blood Panther Pirates to be exact.

For the most part, the ship and the alcove both seemed to be void of all life. However, were one to inspect the ship further, they would find that the more "important" members of the crew happened to be gathered inside the galley of the ship.

"I still dinnae understand why we're doin' this!" a rather loud, boisterous sounding voice boomed. The owner happened to be gorging away on a rather large table of food.

He was a large and round man, with a thick, full brown mustache and beard. He was dressed in a pair of copper-colored shoulder pads, with a black leather belt strapped across his rather rotund figure. A pair of blue slacks graced his legs, with black boots on his feet and fingerless gloves of the same color over his hands. For some reason or another, a brown helmet with goggles adorned his head, which his hair popped out of in almost a pigtail-like fashion. His name was Cid Drogen, and he served as the official shipwright of the Blood Panther Pirates.

Spoiler:

Without wasting a single breath, he quickly grabbed another leg of lamb from the table in bit into it, spewing crumbs all over as he began to talk once more. "Ut shums tuh me luk wuh should buh guttin' outtuh huh and guttun mur wumun und munnuh!"

Across the table from the shipwright, a tall and lanky man glared at the shipwright. He raised a gloved hand to his cheek, flicking off a slobbery crumb that happened to land there. "If you vould be so kind as to think with more than your gut, you vould know dat we are here for that very reason, you blubbery buffoon."

Hans VonYeager shivered in contempt as he had been forced to watch Cid fill his large mouth with food for quite some time now. Compared to the vastly overweight shipwright, Hans looked to be quite the gentleman. He was dressed neatly in dark blue slacks and a matching coat, with a yellow dress shirt underneath. The shirt itself seemed to be quite ruffled and was offset with a dark blue necktie that matched his suit coat. His hair stood tall and spikey, save for one long strand that fell in front of his left eye. Knowing that the shipwright was pretty slow in terms of intelligence, the doctor of the crew decided to take it upon himself to explain once more.

Spoiler:

"Our captain is doing some... undercover vork for the king, narr. Vith this push, we have been promised more than enough Beli und men to carry us further than ve have ever imagined... not to mention to fuel his vish to become even more unstoppable," Hans explained.

Cid paused, giving the doctor a curious look. A slab of beef was hanging from his lips. "So like... we get more money and power. Why didn't ya just say so when I asked earlier."

The doctor grumbled under his breath, his hand clenching into a fist. However before he could act in retaliation of Cid's... mental weakness, the sound of some rather hearty laughter filled the room.

"Ease up on him, Hans!" Kratos called out, swinging a mug of beer in his hands. "You know Cid is a special case. Stop letting him get ya so worked up!"

"That's easy for you to say... You have just about as much in that skull ov yours as he does..." Hans grumbled, raising from his chair. He glanced over his shoulder at Kratos, a sudden though entering the doctor's mind. "Vat are you doing down here anyways? Are you not supposed to be keeping watch over her?"

"Ya mean Avril? I passed that job off to my sis," Kratos replied in a rather nonchalant manner. "Didn't quite feel too comfortable after what Crimm did to her... not that she didn't have it coming, but... I guess she needed more of a lady's touch."

"You mean ya just wanted some more grog! I can't blame ya!" Cid's voice boomed.

The sudden door to the galley swinging open caught the attention of all three men. Standing in the doorway was a tall and stocky man. He wore a blue overcoat with with a strange, silver chained necklace draped around his neck. He had long, brown hair that reached down past his shoulders. From beneath his coat, one could make out a strange pair of claw-like tattoos on his chest. He had strange colored, yellow eyes... or rather one eye. The other was kept concealed behind a red eyepatch.

Spoiler:

His piercing, yellow eye scanned the room as Cid and Hans both came to attention. Kratos seemed content to simply greet the man with a small wave and nod.

"Yo, Cap'n. How ya been?" the white-haired swordsman greeted.

Captain Haimon Crimm stepped his way further into the room with a smirk on his lips. "Pretty well, I must say. I've been discussing things with our pleasant host... Things seem to be going rather well. I do believe we should be getting our hands on that ponyglyph. A reward most fitting since we're having to more or less play babysitter for these idiots..."

"A ponywhat...?" Cid asked, giving Crimm a rather clueless look. "Ya mean we been sittin' on our duffs here so we could get a horse? I dinnae think ya could even ride them on the ocean!"

Hans sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose in disgust at the shipwright's comment. "That's not what he means..."

"Don't worry about it, Cid. I assure you, you'll be thinking this trip will be well worth our time," Crimm replied. He brushed his way further into the galley, taking a seat beside Kratos. A full mug of beer happened to still be seated on the counter, so he wasted no time in claiming the mug for his own. "This object will help us along to finding that treasure... and with it, the world will finally bow down at our feet, I assure you that."

"But how do you know that glyph is really gonna help us?" Kratos replied, casting a curious glance towards Crimm. "Ain't the glyphs supposed to more or less be some sort of rumor? How do you even know it just ain't some rock and these guys have been playing us as saps?"

"Trust me... That's gonna be the last thing they would want to do, Kratos," Crimm chuckled, he downed the contents of the mug, before slamming it down on the counter, essentially crushing it with little to no effort. "The government knows how much of a threat my crew is... our host especially. He would not go through the effort of hiring us just to double-cross us. It would be his final mistake if he did."

The gloating captain was cut short from his celebrating by the annoying ringing of a Den Den Mushi. Glancing over at the snail, he quickly scooped it up and glared at the creature. He had never really had much use for these things... and truth be told he found them absolutely detestable. However, his host more or less insisted he keep the thing around in case of an emergency.

"What do you want...?" he sighed, speaking into the Den Den Mushi.

"U-u-h, I-I have some information that m-m-may concern you," a scared marine spoke from the other end, clearly rattled and unable to maintain any consistency in his voice.

"Just get to the point..." Crimm grumbled. "If you're going to drag it out, you can complain to someone who cares or has the time to listen to you stumble for words."

"R-right!" The Marine replied, feeling a shiver crawl down his spine. "Some pirates, I think led by the Burning King, if I recognize him correctly, are heading towards you. They aren't h-happy."

Crimm raised an eyebrow to this declaration. "Towards me... How do they even know I'm..." He paused, a sudden thought entering his head of a certain clown. "Gonzo... But wait, pirates wouldn't stumble here for no reason... Did you happen to catch what they're coming towards us for?"

"N-no!" The Marine quickly stated. "If you want my best guess, they are looking for someone? Two of the pirates seemed pretty invested in whole looking for you. Maybe they know about the King's plan?"

"Looking for someone..." Crimm repeated. His eyes narrowed. Without any warning at all, he threw the snail device across the room with great speed. Its eyes widened in horror, bracing itself for death... only to be saved by Cid's rather large gut. "Cid, clean that food out of your beard. Kratos, gather yourself and both of you meet me back on the deck."

Without speaking another word, Crimm stormed out of the galley and made his way up towards a room on a higher story of the ship. Standing outside of the door and leaning against the wall, Viola watched with her usual stoic expression as Crimm brushed past her... and then suddenly kicked in the door without so much as a single word.

His yellow eye scanned the room as he stepped inside, eventually falling upon a somewhat familiar looking, blue and white haired woman... one who happened to be none other than Avril. The woman looked somewhat surprised and then worried to see the captain enter the room, and for good reason as well. Dark bruises happened to be lining her tanned skin. She even had a rather swollen and discolored circle around her eye. Without even a warning, Crimm grabbed Avril by the arm and swung the woman roughly over his back. He then exited the room and jumped down to the lower section of the deck where Kratos and Cid were waiting. He gave them both a quick nod before the three men exited the ship and began to walk towards the exit of the alcove.

"Cap'n, what's this all about?" Kratos asked.

"Seems like some uninvited guests are giving our clients some trouble. I really don't want to lose our pay, so I think we should go give them a proper greeting..." Crimm responded. "Perhaps my dear Avril will recognize them."

"G... Guests?" Avril mused silently. Her eyes widened as a sudden thought raced through her mind. "They wouldn't..."
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