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March 14th, 2015 (05:54 AM).
1 Week Ago (06:31 PM).
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!"
Paired with the Epic Raikiri
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