|Role-Play Name: Cubs and Alphas|
A Proud CubEdit
There were six of them. Six armed guards stood at attention, protecting the entrance to a strange looking building. According to others, the building was supposedly a large warehouse, with insane amounts of expensive technology. Technology that would sell for millions in the Underworld. The plan was simple; jump down and take out all the guards, kill them if needed. Simple in theory, a bit more difficult in actually following through with that plan.
Harlan stood on a nearby watchpoint, staring at guards, his wolf ears and white hair being blown around by the cool wind. They simply stood there, not even glancing in other directions…they were far too disciplined. Harlan carefully pulled out his shotgun from his back, making sure he could still see the guards. All he needed now was a way down to the ground. He looked around from where he was, searching for anything he could use as platforms to quickly get on the ground. Eventually, he found a way to get down. Across from where he was, there was a flagpole. Harlan decided that he would jump to the flagpole, and land on it. From there, he’d jump down to the hole in the building he was on, and continue to jump from platform to platform.
Harlan acted on his plan and managed to eventually get onto the ground. Next, came the fight against the guards. Harlan slowly approached them, trying to make out the weapons they had on him. Once he saw what they had, he was taken by surprise. These weren’t humans or anything like that; these were cyborgs. Machines with weapons on every part of their body. Harlan should have run away, that’s what anyone else would do. But not Harlan. Harlan had that natural lust for fighting, he always wanted to break out into combat. And that was what he would do.
Harlan charged towards the cyborgs, and they snapped their heads towards it. The first one prepared its shoulder gun, ready to fire at Harlan. Harlan kept charging at that cyborg, imbuing his shotgun with electricity from his Electro. He jammed the shotgun barrel through the cyborg. That not only caused damage to the bot, but it also caused for it to short-circuit due to the sudden surge in electricity. Harlan proceeded to pull the trigger of the shotgun, firing at another one of the cyborgs. This again broke through the other cyborg and caused for a short-circuit.
Harlan turned towards the remaining four, as they took note of the damage Harlan had caused to their brethren. The cyborgs aimed their shoulder guns at Harlan in unison and fired away.
“Busoshoku: Koka!” Harlan exclaimed, right before the barrage of bullets made contact with him. He surrounded himself in Haki, the bullets clanging off of him. The bullets kept hitting him in the face, which was getting annoying. On top of all that, Harlan wouldn’t be able to maintain the aura of Haki around him for long.
The hybrid began to take steps forwards, all while concentrating the electricity from his Electro at the end of his shotgun. He slowly brought it up towards the cyborg standing in the center and fired away. The bullet released from the shotgun was surrounded with more electricity than the other ones he had fired. The bullet broke through the center one, quickly short-circuiting it. But that wasn’t all, the electricity spread to the other cyborgs, short-circuiting them as well. Harlan’s cloak of Haki vanished just as the remaining cyborgs collapsed to the ground. Harlan exhaled, placing his shotgun back on his back. He looked up towards the sky.
“Booyah!” Harlan exclaimed, pumping his fist into the air. “Who just took down six cyborgs? That’s right, I did!” he continued, obviously proud and content with his victory. Just then, a loud blaring alarm began to ring. Harlan looked around in surprise, a look of anger and worry appearing on his face.
“Oh, shit nozzle.”
"WARNING: UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO THE WAREHOUSE 3K-45. LEVEL OF DANGER: 2. IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE IS REQUIRED".
That metallic command came hidden alongside the cacophony of the siren, sound which spread across the island. Each time an alarm was activated it would send an island-wide electromagnetic pulse to advise guards and nearby soldiers of the intrusion. The standard protocol in dealing with intrusions was to send specialized in catching the intruder while he hadn't even laid a finger on the precious technology stored in the warehouse. The Iron Legion was efficient in dealing with robbers and hooligans, overly so and ruthless to boot.
Something, however, deviated from the standard. The three cyborg the mink had neutralized with his indirect application of electro started to make ominous, high pitched sounds; a red glimmer on their eyes indicated a recovering of their functions. They returned back on their fight, surrounding the young wolf-mink.
"REQUEST: ACTIVATE SYNCH MODE LEVEL 2. MODULE REQUEST: VNR-696. PERMISSION FOR SYNCH MODE GRANTED".
The strident blaring stopped abruptly. A black rectangle emerged from the left thigh of each robot: a short-sword scabbard, resembling a tanto. Electricity crept from the black box, giving the blade cold luminescence. A change of posture followed the unsheath, more flexible on their joints and seemingly faster. There was some animalistic quality to this switch: the trio had begun acting like a pack of hyenas on a hunt, cutting their prey from any chance of escaping before the real assault could begin. To top everything off, white haze poured from a nozzle near on their mouth, a concoction of urticant powder and narcotic gas which surrounded Harlan in a debilitating fog.
“Holy shit!” Harlan exclaimed as the cyborgs gingerly rose to their feet. Their gleaming red eyes stared into Harlan’s own stormy gray eyes. When the cyborgs went to pull out their newly acquired tantōs, Harlan noticed that their movement was much more fluid than he had expected. This usually didn’t happen, especially after being struck down by his Electro. Although, to be fair, all those fights were against humans, and they didn’t have whatever these cyborgs had.
As the cyborgs leaped into the air, bringing their blades up to strike down at him, Harlan was quick to react. He pulled his shotgun off of his back, imbuing it with the electricity from his Electro. The electricity that Harlan had generated and imbued resembled a sea-blue colour, contrasting from the ice-blue the robots had around their own blades.
Then came the gas from their mouths. If there was some shred of common sense that Harlan had, it was to not ingest random gases produced by others. He managed to call upon his Busoshoku: Koka technique, every inch of his body being surrounded by his crackling willpower. As such, the gas didn’t do anything to him, it simply went around him. But Harlan knew he couldn’t stand here surrounded in his Haki for too long. He had to end it soon, a quick yet lethal strike.
The cyborgs still hadn’t completed their stroke yet, although they were dangerously close to Harlan. The hybrid jabbed his shotgun upwards, straight into the neck region of the cyborg. But Harlan didn’t push it all the way through, he instead only jammed it through slightly. The electricity on his shotgun crackled against the cyborg, creating visible sparks. He pulled the trigger and caused severe damage to the cyborg. As it shut down due to the damage caused to it, Harlan swung his shotgun to the left. With it being jammed into a cyborg, the robot followed, crashing into one of the other cyborgs. The head of the first one came clean off and flew off. Fortunately for Harlan, that had freed up the movement of his shotgun, and Harlan quickly fired a bullet straight through the cyborgs head. Before it could even move, he fired another one.
The last cyborg finally brought its sword down against Harlan’s body but collided against the minks Busoshoku Haki. Harlan spun around, bringing his shotgun down as a diagonal slash across the cyborg's chest region. While mid-stroke, Harlan fired another bullet through the robot, destroying key components of itself as well as electrocuting other components within it. The cyborg stumbled back, before collapsing like the others.
“Booyah!” Harlan exclaimed. Another victory for him, he was even prouder than before! He ran towards the doors, escaping the cloud of gas the bots had generated, just as his armor of Busoshoku Haki faded. He fired a flew of bullets at the door, the bullets piercing through. Eventually, there was just enough space for Harlan to squeeze through.
He absentmindedly refilled his shotguns barrel as he looked around the warehouse. He whistled out of respect and awe. There were countless amounts of cannons, guns, and even tanks. It was quite frightening, but also mind-blowing at the same time.
“I’m gonna make so much off of this.” Harlan murmured to himself, as a smile appeared on his face.
"I am afraid your little escapade has to end here, boy".
A graveling voice broke the match between man and cannon before it had even begun. Metal as black as coal pressed against the young half-mink skin, cold as death itself. The young warrior was engulfed with a slightly less dark shadow, belonging to a man looming over twice time his height. The colossus clad in obsidian black had grabbed Harlan's hand with one of his claws: his gripping wasn't overly painful but did not leave the Pirate any room for wrestling his way out.
"Have you really any idea of the people are you messing with, boy? No one can take a piss out of the Iron Legion and live to tell the tale. Especially when its Supreme Commander is here to deliver due justice". Vánagandr's voice was a booming and graveling as a human pitch could be, a rasp coming out from an angry chthonic deity seeking vengeful retribution for the profanation of his shrine. Deep down, however, the Black Wolf was pissing himself out of laughter. That stock of weapons was just one among hundreds, thousands, most of which were much better guarded and contained far better merchandise. Monsterous machines capable of annihilating entire crews like babies were guarding the spots which really mattered: had the boy really wanted to go ahead of himself, they would have cleaved his head off before he had the time to make the first bark.
However, that didn't mean that the Imperator wasn't impressed. As weak those models of androids were, he had piggybacked to one of his best students; yet the shotgun-wielding Mink was able to deal with most of them with zero effort, including those who were piloted by the Legion SYNCH system. The boy was foolish and impatient, but he had got a somewhat unique fighting style and some genuine skills to back up the bravado. Swarms of red lights pointing at Harlan's turned off, and so did the resting blaring noises. The warehouse had become a calm place where the two wolves, young and old, white and black, could talk without being disturbed.
“What the…” Harlan murmured, taken back by surprise. A behemoth of a shadow had loomed over him, its presence dominating over Harlan. A claw grabbed onto Harlan’s wrists, and Harlan attempted to yank his way out. This was to no avail, he could feel the seastone on the warrior's armour seeping away at his strength.
The name ‘Iron Legion’ rung a bell in Harlan’s mind. He had heard of them before, an organization with great wealth and military presence, similar in power to the greatest of Pirate Crews. And here Harlan was, being confronted by a member of the Legion, the supposed Supreme Commander. That obviously meant that this warrior was someone of great importance within the Iron Legion. And to be quite honest, Harlan was scared.
Harlan shook his head, trying to push away the fear. He was the one meant to command and control fear with his powers, not the other way around. “I guess I’ll be the first to tell the tale,” Harlan began. Despite the situation he was in, Harlan was confident in his abilities. He had been his entire life, and for him, nothing would change that.
“I’m not scared of you.”
"Oh, you are scared, boy. With very good reasons, I may add". Vánagandr rebuked, his metallic tone belying an inner smile. The boy heartbeats were like open books to the cyborg: he could sense their echoes beating more and more frantically. The boy's yanks were getting weaker as well. Vánagandr deduced the boy had ingested some Devil Fruits, has there was adrenaline hadn't strengthened his instinct of survival and doubled his labors. He was more and more amused by the boy: maybe something exciting was to come from this confrontation.
Still grabbing the young man, Vánagandr came out of the warehouse. The boy groaned and protested, pointed his feet on the ground to prevent being dragged like some dead weight; though the two were more akin to a parent driving his snotty, bratty kid to his first day of school. Vánagandr released Harlan only when the two of them had come outside.
"Now boy, I have deactivated the alarm system of the warehouse. Now, you can choose between two courses of action: robbing everything stored behind us, or walk away and forget everything that happened here".
Vánagandr swung his sword downwards as it made his proposals. It merely grazed the ground with its tip, but Kingbreaker sheer weight made the pavement bump and hobble.
"Both paths, unfortunately, have to pass through me". He snorted as a sign of challenge. "Ready to dance?"
"You are scared."
The words rang through Harlan's mind, earning a growl from him. As Vánagandr practically dropped Harlan to the ground, the boy spun around, snarling. "You wanna dance, giant robot man?!" the hybrid roared at the warrior, anger exuding from him. Harlan pulled out his shotgun, imbuing it with his Electro. "Let's dance!"
The Dominating AlphaEdit
A stomping sound signaled that the Black Wolf was ready to battle, the echo of his tendons and transistors powering up themselves. The mere shockwave of this warmup boomed through the air, billowing clouds of coom around the two wolves. As if it had somewhat broken the barriers between our world and an immaterial plane of existence, Vánagandr vanished. No sound, no trace. His jet black frame materialized behind Harlan, towering over the boy; Vánagandr drew near the half-Mink temple his free hand. The index and thumb had joined in a ring form, ready to flip.
"Right on your side, boy". Then he flicked to Harlan's head.
"What the shit?!" the boy thought to himself in surprise as the tall dark-armoured warrior suddenly vanished from sight. All that remained were clouds of dust that had been kicked off the ground from the warrior's movement. It was bewildering, and most people would have felt fear. But a different feeling arose in Harlan. He felt excitement and awe instead, and he broke into a smile.
Harlan's keen ears picked up on the incoming strike before Vánagandr had spoken, feeling the sudden change of the wind current behind him. Harlan managed to avoid the attack, leaping elsewhere and landing on all fours. He got to his feet, grabbing his shotgun off of the ground. "Nice try, robot man!" the boy snarled, aiming his shotgun at Vánagandr.
Two bullets were fired from the chamber subsequently, each of them imbued with Electro and were blitzing towards Vánagandr. They crackled with electricity. If Vánagandr went to slice the bullets, they would release a large discharge of electricity, which in theory should shock him or temporarily stun him.
That wasn't half bad: many would just be left flabbergasted by Vánagandr flanking maneuver and just accused the flicking blow on their head. Instead, the Black Wolf felt new vigor and passion in the boy, which translated to sharper reflexes. Definitely, something to be pleased of. Would that be all the youngster had got?
"Here is an important lesson in a battle, boy", he said to Harlan "every time you use ballistic weapons, beware they can't be shot back to you".
Those projectiles didn't pose the slightest danger to the Black Wolf, electricity or not. With his hand coiled again in a flicking position, he flipped the incoming bullets. The electricity they were infused with crept on the Black Wolf, a blue shroud which hid, for a moment, the jet-black of his armor. Despite the common weakness androids share to electrical currents, he was unfazed through and through. Their physical mediums, however, weren't destroyed: the pair of projectiles bounced back to Harlan's legs, cutting through with speed over ten times higher, so fast they blurred in a trail of fire.
If Vánagandr hadn't said anything, Harlan would have been hurt badly. The way Vánagandr had spoken had raised a red flag in Harlan's mind, and the boy realized that Vánagandr had some sort of counter to his attack. He manifested an armour of Busoshoku Haki around himself, and as the bullets that Vánagandr had flicked back towards him blazed towards him, they collided into his Haki sheltered legs and crumpled.
"I have a lesson for you too, robot man," Harlan responded, smiling arrogantly. "Don't talk too much. It helps the other guy out."
Harlan turned his palm upwards, and tendrils of black energy began to swirl around. Earlier this day, he had swindled a man who had been deathly afraid of large animals. And using the power of his Devil Fruit, the Ifu Ifu no Mi, he could now manifest that fear into reality.
The black energy swirling around Harlan's palm shot upwards, moving around sporadically before settling onto a form. A large creature, with feral fangs and claws, mottled grayish blue fur, and jagged horns by its ears. It resembled a wolf, a creature meant for combat; meant for killing. It roared, an ear-shattering noise. It pounced towards Vánagandr, bringing both of its claws down at such great speeds, the began to crackle around it, creating sparks of electricity.
Vánagandr looked at the manifestation right in front of him, being perturbed by its violence. He had yet to figure out the specifics of his Devil Fruit power but looked like to be a very dangerous one, if in potential. For Harlan himself, more than anybody. His master, Dr. Weil, was one with a penchant for uniqueness, a lust for power with no bounds. Once he'd have known about the young boy and his skills- and it was nigh impossible for him not to know: Iron Legion's islands were littered with drones, and God knew what unholy means the man had to discover things- the doctor wouldn't leave the boy a moment of peace until he surrendered to him.
Vánagandr's heart was touched with sorrow. So young, the boy had stumbled in the devil's den, a place where no one has ever managed to get out from. To spare him from a fate of being Weil's tortured puppet, Vánagandr had to make Harlan an ally to the Legion by himself. Easier said than done: his Kenbunshoku found a strong trace of stubbornness, an angry, rebellious spirit in the wolf-mink. The just summoned proved there was plenty of violence bottled inside him.
While doubting on the inside, Vánagandr exterior brimmed with stoicism. He didn't bother avoiding the blow nor slaying the beast with his sword: to fell it, it slipped onto his guard and threw a devastating thrust. Half of the monster's thorax was obliterated the moment the fist impacted on its sternum; it banged violently, then blood and chunks of meat poured down the street.
"If you want me to act wise and shut my mouth, it is at your risk and peril," the Black Wolf said in response to the pretty solid retort the young warrior had given before. "The only thing you are giving to me right now is some measure of entertainment. You have to fight a lot fiercer than this to prove me I don't need to babysit you throughout our confrontation, boy". The last word was uttered with particularly emphasis: to remark the vast gap in years and experience between the cyborg and half-mink, and to spur him to do better.
Harlan snarled, his wolfish qualities showing. He sheathed his shotgun and threw off his leather gloves. Upon their removal, it revealed claws where the fingernails should be, a strange feat. Despite being a hybrid, Harlan retained more Mink-like traits than most individuals like him. The claws were an obsidian black, the sunlight gleaming off of them. He flexed his fingers, showing them off.
Electricity began to crackle around his hands, surrounding them and his claws completely. It created a loud and irritating noise, small bolts striking the ground and leaving singes. Normally, that much electricity would harm him, but due to his cloak of Busoshoku Haki, he would be fine for now. Adrenaline spawned from his anger was what had allowed him to generate this electricity.
Using the powers of his Fruit, Harlan began to generate more adrenaline by creating fear within himself. More power, more strength. After, he let out a guttural roar, and launched forwards. It was a blur, a large cloud of dust having appeared where he had been. He halted in front of Vánagandr and feinted an attack, pretending that he would strike him with his claws. However, mid-swing, Harlan launched forwards yet again, bolting through Vánagandr's legs, and going to his left side. He leaped upwards, going to slam his powerful claws into Vánagandr's throat.
Vánagandr knew when the wolf-mink would have attacked him, he had witnessed it in clarity with the power of his Haki. The Black Wolf could sense great beastliness from the boy: to muster this heightened power, he had sacrificed part of his sanity and self-control. Continuing to fight, at those conditions, was nothing but a waste of time. His hand reached Harlan before his claws had found their mark, the back of it whipping against the young mink's face.
That powerful, nonchalant slap hurled Harlan away like a cannonball. The boy traveled past the warehouse, past the island shores, in the distant sea. Water split at his passage, leaving a miles-long trail of froth spanning through many landmasses scattered on the ocean surface. The Iron Legion, its deposit, Vánagandr himself were nothing but tiny dots in the horizon for the flying thief. Which did not stop the Imperator from reaching Harlan, catching him and jump back to the warehouse before the boy had fallen on the lethal sea currents.
"Here is another lesson from you, boy". Vánagandr said to half-mink, once again fallen in his clutches. "Don't fall for your enemies provocation. Unless you have really a well-thought-out strategy to back yourself up".
Harlan was speechless. His breath had been taken away with that strike, he had flown miles with a ringing sound in his ear. The winds blew past him, the sea split beneath him. It was mind-boggling. Then it all came to a stop as the large man grabbed him mid-flight, earning a whelp of pain from the young boy.
As they landed, he croaked in pain, grabbing his sore neck. Then Vánagandr spoke, another one of his lessons. "...Here is...a lesson for you..." he began to murmur. "...Use the showy part...of an attack to...lay out the framework...for the next one..."
Harlan gestured to a small capsule he was holding, and he went to pull its pin. But then the effects of his Devil Fruit wore off, and he fainted, exhausted from what had happened.
Vánagandr took the capsule from Harlan's hand and examined: an EMP-like grenade, to take down electronic device and enemies designed on electronic, robots like Vánagandr himself. It wouldn't have worked against the Black Wolf; but against lesser enemies, it might have been an ace in the hole. Had the boy been stronger... there was always time for improvement. First things first, the boy needed to get back on his feet. Vánagandr carried the young warrior over his shoulders and brought him to the closest infirmary.
Law of the Pack Edit
Harlan's eyes snapped open and he began to pant heavily. The hybrid looked around, trying to get a grasp of his surroundings. He was in a bed and was covered in bandages. Was he in an infirmary?
Then, Harlan began to remember what had just occurred, how he had been so easily defeated. For the first time in a long time, Harlan had experienced defeat. Ever since he had begun his journey, it didn't take much for him to take others down, he was loud, unpredictable, and powerful. This defeat had broken all illusions of grandeur that Harlan had.
He tried to sit up, but winced from the pain. He felt a gash beneath his bandages, covering his left side. Harlan groaned in pain, his entire body ached with pain.
Numerous high-pitched sounds signaled that the patient was awake. Robots other assistants were ordered to step aside, given that the conditions of the patient were not critical. The only in the room alongside Harlan was the who send him to first place: Vánagandr stood near the entrance, his back laying on the doorjamb.
"You know, boy, you were very lucky I was there to clean up your mess and give you some well-deserved spanking" the Black Wolf addressed the white wolf drily. "Many of my subordinates are usually far less lenient than I am. They would have gruesomely killed you on the spot, no room for mercy".
The robots surprised the hybrid. They scurried around rapidly, as if they were looking for something. One of them proceeded towards Harlan, helping the boy sit up in the bed. Harlan spotted Vánagandr and flinched out of reflex. His mind may not fear the warrior, but his body certainly did. They still ached from the damage the warrior had caused him. He felt anger bubble inside of him.
Harlan rolled his eyes at Vánagandr's words, and despite the condition he was in, a cheeky smirk appeared on his face. "It's not like your 'subordinates' would have been able to hit me. I would've won against them."
A been came from the medical bots, soon silenced by a thought from the Imperator. Vánagandr stepped closer to the boy, sitting near the bed on which the latter was resting. "How can you be so sure about that?" He asked: his tone wasn't as imperious as when they met, but still carried out gravitas and authority. "The only warrior from the Legion you have ever met is me, whereas I know both how you and many high ranking subordinates. Compared to men like Dazang or Vrag you would fare no better than a toddler". He exhaled, turning more patient.
"The Blue Seas are a merciless place, boy. Try to act too big for your shoes and they will swallow you whole, not even bothering leaving your feeble bones behinds. However, I also believe that youngsters are somewhat supposed to be reckless pains in the ass. They need to make dumb mistakes, in order to grow as men, women, and warriors".
Those words crushed Harlan's soul. Did he really stand no chance against others? Were there really other powerhouses in the world? Harlan didn't want to believe it, but it made sense. Compared to the rest of the world, he wasn't really anyone. He was a no-name, a boy searching for his biological family. He looked away from Vánagandr, observing his bandaged claws. He wiggled his fingers, his mind lost in thought. Harlan had realized something, that compared to people like Vánagandr, he was weak. A scrap of metal no one needed.
"Whatever, robot man." Harlan murmured, now looking up at Vánagandr. "So what if you kicked my ass today? And so what if I'm no better than a toddle compared to your subordinates or any of that?" Harlan began, ranting. "Just watch me, I'll become stronger, and stronger until everyone including you fare no better than a toddler against me!"
Harlan stared into Vánagandr's eyes, a burning determination gleaming in his eyes. Then, Harlan realized something. He couldn't do any of that if the Black Wolf decided to end his life this very instance. "Er, you're not going to kill me, right?"
Vánagandr looked back. "If I really intended to kill you, boy, why would I have brought you to a hospital to mend your wounds instead of finishing you off when you were right at my mercy? We don't waste our time and resources on thieves and hoodlums unless we have a good reason to do so".
The Black Wolf sighed; beneath the front of bravado the boy was putting up, he was teeming with pain and insecurities. Vánagandr had seen a lone soul behind his eyes, someone with nothing to lose and nothing to hold back, seeking a place where he could belong. The older wolf knew that feeling: he was grappling with hopelessness every day of his day. And he knew there was one way to ease the burden: companionship.
"The good reason is, boy, what you have actually expressed by yourself: I want to watch you grow stronger. I don't know if you'll turn more powerful than me or anybody else, but I see potential in you. A potential which, let me be frank, you are currently pissing all over.
Stealing from an Iron Legion's warehouse is as stupid as shit. Everybody knows is a one-way ticket to hell; even pirates from Yonko crews are wary of robbing us. We did you throw your life away like that? You don't seem to be an idiot from the way you have dealt with me and the robot guards. I am sure you could find better things to do with your time and skills".
"I'm not pissing on my potential or whatever..." Harlan responded, fidgeting around with his claws. In all reality, the words struck a chord with the hybrid. Was he really wasting his potential? Could he become even stronger than he currently was? He looked back up the Black Wolf, and sighed.
"I thought no one like you would show up." Harlan answered. "I knew I could take on any guards you had in place, I just wasn't expecting you to show up and kick my ass." he ranted.
Harlan moved to the side of the bed, and gingerly got to his feet, using the bed as a support. He slung his coat onto him, pulling out another pair of gloves from the inner jacket pocket. He placed them on, wiggling his fingers once he had put them on. He took a few more steps forward before grabbing his shotgun, and he used it as a cane of sorts. "How do I get out of here?"
"Just walk out of the door, go left; the exit of the hospital is two floors below us". Vánagandr answered, placing his hand on the side of the bad. "I wouldn't advise getting down from bed that soon, though. You can barely walk on our own, and the port is a bit far from here. Moreover, you can't take a vessel without my permission. I could grant it. But you have to tell me one thing:"
Vánagandr's gaze fell on Harlan like a hammer. Dr. Weil had built his eyes to perceives wavelengths beyond human comprehension, so they always looked, weird, unnerving, glowing of flashy, stark colors even when they were toned to more subdued levels of luminosity. To avoid Harlan averting eye contact, Vánagandr had diminished their glimmer, but not their intensity. Sharp and inquisitive, authoritative yet benevolent, they followed every minute changes in body-language of the boy, every faint light passing on his face. It felt like Vánagandr eyes could pierce Harlan's soul, bringing all the most uncomfortable parts naked on the operating table.
"Have you even got a home you can return to? Is there a place where you are awaited?"
Harlan snarled in response, but even that hurt, stinging at his abdomen. He staggered forwards, leaning against the wall as support as he turned his head slowly towards Vánagandr. "So what if I don't?" he questioned. "I don't need one, I've lived this long without one. It's not like I actually need one."
To be honest, Harlan had been yearning for a family, it was why he had set off to find his actual one after his adoptive family passed. But he wasn't going to let anyone know that, especially not the man that had just tossed him around like a rag doll. He stumbled forwards, pushing the door open. He held the door open, pushing it against the wall to lean on it. "Why would you care?"
Bullseye. That was the reason behind the pain, the reckless bravado. Appropriately to the place they were having this heartfelt talks, Vánagandr had just to cut through the scars like some barber. He got up and leaned closed to the door, close enough to Harlan that the latter could have hung on him like a crutch, if he desired.
"I've just told you: I want to see you grow. You won't grow if you keep throwing your life in suicidal escapades. And you will squander everything away if you care about nothing. You are little more than a stray animal now- no friends, no family, no greater cause".
To make himself more trustworthy, he offered his arm for the boy to lean on it. "Men are not made for such lives: we are social animals. And so are wolves. Everybody needs a pack to get through the worst days of his life. Sometimes it's more a trouble than a joy; at its worst, it feels like an authentic thorn stuck in your ass. But there is no other way around. Fighting for the mere sake of surviving..." his tone turned more paternal as ever, almost soft given its signature metallic rasp.
"Will make you wither inside. Make you die alone, with nothing accomplished, nothing built left behind. Is such empty existence what you are yearning?"
"Then I'll find a pack." Harlan responded sarcastically., wincing in pain as his left side began to throb, as if something was trying to burst through his skin. "It shouldn't be too hard, just have to find a rag-tag group of morons." he continued, pushing the door back open, despite it causing a pain in his arms.
"I don't need help, I don't want a pack. Every time I think I've found a home, shit happens to them. I'm a walking pile of bad luck. Doesn't matter who you are, if I care about someone or anything like that; they get hurt, sometimes they even die. Being in a...pack as you call it...it'd just hurt others, and I'd be safe. And that hurts even more than being alone."
Harlan staggered past the door, groaning in pain as the door stayed open and he walked out. "I'm a stray. And that's fine with me."
Against every prevision and report about Vánagandr, a man who seldom smiled and was even less used to joke, begin laughing with sincere transport, shaking the room and resounding through the entire hospital. There was no sign of mockery from the elder men to the younger; just a déjà vu of a lecture he himself had received in the past, when he was younger and believed he could live all alone with himself in fear of hurting those he cared about. A foolish illusion, which had passed a long time ago.
"The more we talk to each, the more our superficial similarities turn deeper. Well, to be honest, I don't know if I can provide you with the family your heart longs for or the emotional support you need. What I can surely give you is an outlet for your rage and a way to live up to that potential of yours. Do you want to get stronger? Stronger than me? There aren't that many people who can help you with that, and those who can are surely less well-intentioned than I am".
"No. Just say no."
That thought kept echoing around Harlan's head, trying to make it so that it would be the only answer. But for the first time in months, Harlan felt...safer. Despite the fact that it had been Vánagandr that had given him all these wounds, he felt a kinship with the warrior. It was unexplainable, considering how different they seemed. One of them was an arrogant brat with great potential, and the other was a season warrior capable of taking on armies at a time.
And the most surprising bit of all was that Vánagandr was offering him a chance to learn. Every time Harlan had done something stupid on this scale growing up and in recent times, he'd always be ridiculed and cast off. But Vánagandr hadn't. Sure, the warrior had scolded the hybrid, but he wasn't casting him away. He was instead offering him a chance. A chance that Harlan had to seize. First, he had to make sure.
"You're offering me a chance to...learn under you?"
Vánagandr's inner mouth had a grin plastered all over it. "Precisely, boy. Your use of Haki and fencing moves with your bayonet are exceedingly amendable. You have scratched only the tip of the surface when it comes to swordsmanship and, probably, Devil Fruit powers". He winched. "I know you got one from the way you squirmed under my grip".
"Besides, if you are so thirsty for money, the Legion will pay you handsomely. We can provide you with anything you desire: riches, personal power, information... anything you want, as long as you prove to be loyal and valuable to us. The Iron Legion is many things, but a rag-tag group of morons ain't one of them for sure".
It wasn't the concept of money that enticed Harlan, no. It was the idea of becoming stronger, and being trained to do so by one of the most powerful individuals Harlan had ever met. A man who had been able to toss Harlan across the sea with the greatest of ease. The thirst for power and strength ran rampant through Harlan, and now he was being offered a chance to gain strength.
Harlan nodded, coming back into the room. He looked up at Vánagandr and smirked. "So," Harlan began. "When do we start?"
"When your body has fully recovered". Vánagandr hoisted the weakened pup with one hand; before Harlan could fell the debilitating effects of the seastone, his back was already placed on the bed.
"Take a nap and leave the robot-doctors the rest. Your training will begin as soon as you get in good shape. And don't think I'll ever be that kind to you ever again", Vánagandr wriggled his index. "Infirmaries are gonna be a staple of your life, I assure you. How much, it will depend on how cocky you act in front of me, and how much time it will take for you to get stronger. Every of my discipline takes my orders as holy writs, and every one of them is in for a world of pain. That's the way I get shit done properly. From now on, you will be referring me as "sir". Do you understand me?"
"Pfft," Harlan snorted. "We can start right now, I can deal with whatever you have in store." the pup continued, being the arrogant brat he usually was. "Let's start this thing right now, robot man...sir."
"If you insist..." Vánagandr's innocent request belied a sadistic intent. After crunching his fingers a bit, the started vanishing in out of sight. Blurs of black claws drummed on where Harlan had his bandages, each of them hitting a precise point. An old application of acupuncture's principles in martial artist: striking chakra point to stimulate the flow of energy, fastening the body's natural healing process to a considerable extent. The only side effect was to put the patient in a long state of excruciating pain and total paralysis on the struck limb.
"Once you stop whining like a pussy", the Black Order instructed his whelping disciple. "You'll find me on the outside. Try to scream not too hard, ok?"
Vánagandr strolled past the infirmary room. Harlan was being left weeping, growling, screaming and cursing; as a background, a choir of nurse robot would explain him: "THE PATIENT WILL FULLY RECOVER HIS OPTIMAL NEURO-MOTOR CAPACITY IN ROUGHLY TWO HOURS".
"Here is a final lesson for you, boy", the Black Wolf said. "Don't fuck with me, ever".