Weeks before the arrival of the Regal Pirates on Drum Island
It was a typical morning in Drum Island; the snow was falling, the sun was shining, but the temperature was so low that could freeze anyone to death. Wearing nothing more than a complete set of black leather clothes, Lauren, a tall and large man, stood out in the crowd of people with their heavy coats with lots of fur. He walked his usual path, left his house in the Bighorn Town to go work in the docks, when an uncommon view caught his attention: groups of men wearing white uniforms and lots of ships that were not the ones used in the Sakura Kingdom; it was the Marines.
At first, Lauren just kept walking in their direction, despite the weird situation. His work was important and he had no other way to keep his house and feed himself without it. It was not long until their eyes focused on him; he could hear their whispers, "That's him?", "I think so...", "He is so charming". What he felt was not fear, but a sudden need to protect himself and escape of that situation, even though he had no idea what was going on. He stopped walking and turned his back to the docks.
Back at the docks of the Sakura Kingdom, an uncommon sight could be seen as the Marines dressed in their full attire, emblazoned with the writing for absolute justice on their backs stepped out of their ships with purpose, causing the formation of quite a large number of persons some distance away from the white-clad protectors of Justice. Their ship in pristine condition, the Marines, stood on the docks, a few metres away from their ship, seemingly repeating the briefing process one more time before they would go out. They would go out, get their target by any means necessary, and return. An Ensign, seemingly wishing to earn the favour of the Lieutenant, suddenly cried out, the excitement and eagerness flowing with him overflowing and intermingling with the saliva that left his mouth with each word, having secured a glimpse that matched the visual detail sketched back at Headquarters.
"U-uhhh Sir! I think he's actually heading this way!" he spat, drenching the whole division in his mouthwater, much to the dismay of every last one of his colleagues, who's outfits were now drenched with "just water". However, this over-exuberance, while only temporarily affected by the vocal complaints of his fellow Marines, would suddenly turn to surprise and utter disappointment when the man turned his back! How dare he! He dared attempt to cost him of all people a promotion! He'd sure give this chap a piece of his mind, that's for sure. Stupid target.
Without hesitation or thinking, telling his division to wait right there, the man would walk right up and grab Lauren's arm, pulling his body to face him.
"You! Come with me right now, we need to speak with you." were the words that left his mouth, the sound almost drowned out by the sound of spittle leaving his lips and covering his body with the produce of his "fertile" salivary glands. This target would pay, and give him back his promotion too, he thought , tugging on the large man's arms in an attempt to coerce said man that he should be following.
Lauren was caught by surprise when he felt the man's hand grabbing his arm. His head was full of thoughts of what could be wrong and he didn't expect the Marines to act in such way towards a common citizen, as he labeled himself. Instead of resisting, he went with the flow of the man's strength, even though it wasn't much, fearing any kinda of uproar or misunderstanding. He slowly gave up, with his body turning in the man's direction, facing him. From this point, his body was rigid as a rock, and he didn't move a single inch from that place.
"Excuse me, sir" He said. His eyes were slightly closed, mostly because of a big smile that he had on his face, but it didn't stop him to see the despicable figure that was in his front. "I don't think this is a proper way to address a citizen like me. It feels like I'm some kinda of criminal or did something wrong, which is not the case. Could you, please, release my arm?" His tone was that of a gentle person, but it hid a malicious intent.
Resisting the authority of a Marine soldier whilst being inappropriately rude and indecent!? He might have very well been a criminal, in the eyes of the Ensign, for how dare he, a common dockworker refuse to be taken by him, the very incarnation of Justice. He was a Marine, for crying out loud! Still, the man was kind of scary...he was a large man, and he could feel that his pulls only worked because the man allowed them to work, something which utterly terrified him. Caught tangled and perplexed in the seat of an emotional rollercoaster, shivering, yet attempting to shout with all his might, "I don't like your tone..." While the Marines were staying back to see how first contact would have worked out, the Lieutenant had no faith past this point, and rightly so, making his presence known.
"Mr. Graff Lauren, is it?," taking a while to enunciate each letter in his name, "I am deeply sorry that you had to put up with this kind of behaviour from my subordinate, it was never my intention to treat you like this civilian. However, I need to speak with you, urgently, this is an important matter, and co-operation will be very appreciated. Please, do come along." With the civility his subordinate lacked, the Lieutenant attempted to diffuse the situation, building up a series of hissing from the Ensign, who released the man's arm quickly.
"Finally, a polite man", Lauren shouted with his deep voice. There was nothing that Lauren appreciated more than politeness towards him, as he was a man of strong moral and liked to be treated with respect. "If you all were just like this little man", He said, keeping his big smile, but with his eyes slightly more open, showing the gelid glare of his blue eyes towards the Ensign, "it would be a lot harder to deal with you, but I'm glad it turned to be the other way around".
He walked two steps foward, stopping just before where the Ensign was standing. "However...". The movement of his hair followed the cold breeze of the ocean, floating as silk. His smile was gone and his attention was directed to the man that adressed him by his name, "I'm sorry to disapoint you, but I have to work. In fact, I'm late. It would be good if we could settle things right here as fast as possible".
Annoyed by the man's impatience, though keeping it hidden under a smile. "Well then..The Marines would like you to enlist due to your skill with navigation, a skill that should, theoretically surpass that of even the New World Log Poses. We know of both you, and your Devil Fruit, Lauren-san, so we're asking nicely. Your abilities should work perfectly on the seas and allow us to accurately navigate from position to position at all times, as well as enable us to always know precisely where each island that you have visited in the past lies." As the man said this, the soldiers spread out, pushing civilians back so they could not hear this information, though, he seemed to lack some competence, as any potential person enhanced could theoretically hear the conversation. "So, what's it going to be? There's perks to taking this up, the World Government themselves offer to pay you, as well as several other policies which even involve training. These faciltiies come free with your job...if you accept, of course. If I were you, I'd join up, there's nothing to lose."
"That is quite an interesting offer, but I have to refuse. I'm here, just like my father, to serve the people of this island with my knowledge. Not mentioning that it would be a disgrace to his name if I joined you, especially after what the Marines did to both him and my mother", Lauren was overly serious after this last sentence. He had no sign of the gentleness that he tried to show at the beggining of their meeting; in fact, his eyes were consumed by hatred and an overwhelming aura of pure kill instinct that he emaneted raised the tension between him and the Marines. He slowly walked towards the Lieutnant and his man, with both fists clenched, stopping not so far from them, continuing his speech. "Then, if you excuse me, I have things to do".
The Lieutenant sighed, and muttered. "Bad move kiddo."
Relative Time: A few weeks after the Pirates cross the Grand Line
In the middle of the Grand Line, there was a pirate crew consisting of only three people at the time, who were well known for their activities within the Blue Sea, easily being considered one of the rising stars of the particular region before crossing over to the Grand Line. Upon arriving, the trio seemed to have gone silent, though there remained rumours of the crew's ship, a former marine vessel titled "The Burning Night", sailing in the waters of the Grand Line. In reality, however, the crew had always been sailing..and in their eyes, for far too long.
There were only a few weeks since the Regal Pirates had made their way over to the Grand Line, having gone silent from the moment they crossed the Calm Belt, something considered to be impossible for anyone who was not a Marine to achieve, due to the vast numbers of Sea Kings that lay under these waters. In fact, the pirate crew with a considerable influence on the Blue Sea suddenly vanished, something which a certain underwater kingdom shiver in apprehension. Yet, here the crew was, or rather, the triad, the first three members of such a crew, making a toast to the Grand Line and all of the journeys that lay ahead for them. As "ghosts", the crew celebrated in the only true way a crew of pirates should, a method popularized by the former Yonko of the age of the late Pirate King, Shanks, drinking. Ingesting copious levels of alcohol, it would seem that the tolerance each crew member actively portrayed was inhuman. Across the rippling blue waves of the oceans, loud cries and shouts could be heard, echoing themselves all the way back to an island they were rapidly approaching.
Akihiko's, the brown haired, golden eyed captain of the crew's voice could be heard, as if he was about to make a joke, when he was suddenly cut off by his counterpart, and nakama-in-arms, Andreanna.
"So I told 'em, get your own cre-", the captain said, before being cut off. Snickering, he would let the First Mate speak.
"Oi! Captain! We're heading earthwards!" , the scarlet-eyed women retorted, shouting over his snickering as if only to annoy him.
However, this was not the only reason.The crew automatically stopped whatever it was they were doing, the celebration immediately pausing as they came to the island. Akihiko had always wanted to visit the Drum Islands for the mere fact that they housed the Ishi-100, an organization consisting of some of the greatest doctors in the world, said to be capable of curing any ailment. Due to his interest in the island, Akihiko would simply look towards the island, a few miles away, rendering it to his mind in full detail. He could see the heat signatures of the civilians, the colour of the roads, the radiation soaked up in the blood of an injured patient, he could see the Drum Island as if he was in each region. In fact, if he looked hard enough, he could see something on the tops of the Drum Rockies, though he could not make it out for sure. However, what he came across in an amalgamated usage of both his eyesight and his mind's eye, as a more pressing matter, was the presence of the Marines. Lots of them.
"Andreanna, Amaya. I think we're running into a few issues here. You know the drill. They don't seem to be too strong, but there's too large a number of them. I'll cloak us, you disguise." Akihiko said, slowly bending the light around the ship so that to anyone looking at them from the position of the island, they were invisible. Since most persons lacked the ability to passively utilize Kenbunshoku Haki as Akihiko did in his eyes, having trained and continuously training himself in it's usage through the use of a blindfold, the crew should have been, atleast for the most part, safe from perception. Changing their clothing into outfits more befitting the Drum Island despite their accumulated resistance to such weather conditions, the crew continued with their ordinary drill: blend into the general populace, jackets and snowhats wrapping their figures, with the intention of finding out what was going with the island. Emerging at the docks, the crew left to find the crowd of Marines they detected while on their ship. "Such a strange place, this island..", Amaya muttered under her breath.
The large group of Marines was right at the front of one of their ships, filling the docks not only with their presences but the chaotic symphony that echoed from their mumblings of impatience. Over the ship, a man standing in its prow looked in the direction of the road that divided the docks from the rest of the island as he mumbled with concern. "Why are they taking so long?" He said. Another voice coming from his back answered; it was a man of lower stature and features that would make anyone disgusted. "Sir, maybe they're in trouble, we should send more men and..." For every word that he said, lots of saliva were spilled from his mouth. Before he could finish, though, the other man interrupted him "That's impossible. We sent twenty trained soldiers, they're more than enough to handle that single man; even with his powers, he shouldn't be a big treat. You see, he spent the past ten years locked in this island with nothing but snow and ice".
As he talked, a soldier with a spyglass shouted "Lieutnant Sir, they're back!". With a smirk on his face, the Lieutnant took a spyglass from his pocket and put near his right eye, looking in the horizon. "I told you it would be easy, Ensign!" He said to his subordinate, but it was not long until the smirk on his face completely disappeared. What he saw was not the group he sent, in fact, it was just a small portion of it. Six men, barely standing on their feets with lots of bruises on their bodies made their way to the docks. The fellow soldiers that were near helped them walk until they were right in front of the ship. With fear in their eyes, one of them started talking "Sir, we weren't able to do anything. We ambushed him in his house, but that man... HE'S A MONSTER!" His speech was cut by the trembling in his body, but he managed to keep talking "He killed at least six of us and the other ones were knocked out in an instant". The Lieutnant bit his lower lip, "And where he is now? I can't let him get out safe!". The soldier answered, "We saw him running to the Drum Rockies".
"Prepare yourselfs!" The Lieutnant shouted. "We need to find that damn navigator no matter what!" His words echoed in the docks, "We're going to the mountains!". He left the prow of the ship and entered in one of its rooms. The Ensign followed him, while the soldiers armed themselves with fur coats and lots of weapons.
Walkng into the streets at the same time this conversation was had, the band of pirates managed to conveniently overhear the loud Marines, who managed to pique their collective interest.
"A navigator? ..Sounds suspicious. Anyone in the mood to mess around with the Marines today?" , the captain pondered, wondering what were the opinions of his crewmates.
"He seems important." Amaya responded, indirectly avoiding the captain's question, or atleast, not giving a definite answer as to affirm her position.
"I'm definitely down, they seem to want something, so we'll take it from them." Both the captain and first mate had spoken, so there was already an overwhelming majority despite Amaya not giving an affimative answer. In fact, she never seemed to give an affirmative answer to anything.
Akihiko recalled seeing something at the top of the Drum Rockies, and putting two and two together, assumed it was the man they were searching for. Signalling once again for his crew to follow him, the atmoshphere of Drum Island momentarily changed, the ice around the area melting into water almost instantly before reverting to normal. In that split second, Akihiko wrapped his body in the power of his Devil Fruit, solar radiation, and self-exerted a force which enabled to propel himself at incredible speeds. Andreanna, upon noticing that Akihiko had done it again, used her Kenbunshoku Haki to track the captain's incredibly fast movements. Harnessing the power of teleportation, Andreanna followed their captain, constantly reappearing red mist. However, she also was in turn followed by the Fishwoman, who, employed a unique application of Fishman Karate. Since Fishman Karate enabled one to utilize the water vapour in the air to utilize techniques, Amaya simply does the inverse of the application used by former Shichibukai, Jinbe. By striking back at the air, she forces the water vapour to suddenly contract and expand, creating a shockwave. The difference, was in the object being propelled, however, as Amaya dashed forward with great speed, though not on the same level as the captain.
In a twinkling of light, Akihiko would suddenly release this shroud of solar radiation in mid-air, hovering high above the mountains with Geppo, one of the Six Powers. Casually looking down to see if his eyesight had been mistaken, Akihiko was not surprised at all to see that he arrived far before the Marines even mobilized, judging by the presence of a lone individual. Awaiting the man at the top of the mountain's acknowledgement of his presence, the captain would remain to hover there, observing him in silence. "Excuse me there, but are you the man the Marines are looking for? They're causing an awful lot of commotion." Timing his words perfectly for the wind to dramatically blow his hair in the wind, Akihiko gave Lauren a stern look as his tone slowly deepened with each successive word.
It had already passed a couple of hours since the commotion caused by the Marines in the Town. Just as usual, Lauren left his house to work, but was surprised when he was suddenly surrounded by a large group of soldiers; he couldn't tell their numbers, but it was around twenty men. They were direct in their demands "Surrender now and go with us, or we'll be taking you by force!", said one of them.
"Hm... I think I already have adressed this matter with your superior, but if you don't remember I'll repeat: I won't be joining you" Lauren said with his deep and gentle voice, followed by his usual smile.
"Then, we have no other choice but to take you by force! MAN, PREPARE YOUR WEAPONS AND ATTACK!". As soon as the man finished talking, the soldiers went in a full onslaught against Lauren. But, before they could reach him, they had already lost the battle. The ones that survived could only listen the scream of pain of their fellow mates as they were impaled by obelisk-like constructs that emerged from the ground surrounding Lauren like a sprouting flower. It was almost translucid, if wasn't for its light purple color and the blood that dripped from the dead bodies of six soldiers caught by them. The remaining soldiers run in fear, proclaiming "WE'LL BE BACK WITH REINFORCEMENTS!", but, before they could leave safe, small shards of the same substance flew in ther direction, cutting and harming their bodies. The six men that remained made their way out, as they saw Lauren running in the mountains' direction.
Lauren made all his way to the top of one of the Drum Rockies using his devil fruit powers to create steps made of crystal that allowed him to climb safely. When he reached the top, it was not late until he heard someone voice talking to him. At first, he tought he was losing his mind due to everything that was happening as no one besides him in the island could reach the top as fast; but, as soon as his eyes encountered the figure of the man hovering right above him, one thing he was sure: it was the Marines again and their reinforcement. He completely ignored his words, raising his right arm in the man's direction. "I'm tired of you", he said with an irritaded voice, as his arm deformed itself into an uneven construct of small shards of sharp crystals. These were projected just like bullets against his target, propelling themselves in a constant motion as Lauren followed the man's movement in the air with his arm.
Now, to Akihiko, a man who had been trained all his life for an incredible amount of speed, first by his parents, the Marines, then by the World Government as an enitity after joining them, and then by himself as a pirate, the truth was, time seemed to move so slowly, as well as everything else along with it. Marking himself amused by the display of ability Lauren attempted to make. A crystal attack, would mean this person was a Logia judging by the transformation of his arm. Already beginning to hypothesize the reason they needed him, Akihiko decided he would humour the person who managed to amuse him. Shifting out of the way of the attack by using his unnatural mastery of Kenbunshoku Haki, Akihiko slided past the attacks of the man who mistook the former Marine for a current one, seemingly fitting in between the cracks of his opponent's assault.
"Relax, I'm not with the Marines..but why are they looking for you?" Specifically using one of the most radiant forms of solar radiation, light, Akihiko fired off a powerful beam of light from his fingers in a similar manner to the Late Pirate King's blood brother, Fire First Portgas D. Ace, slamming into Lauren with the immense force of an object travelling at the speed of light. While he did not wish to cause the man to come to harm, Akihiko could not help but wonder if what the Marines wanted him for was for his martial prowesss, hoping to see something spectacular.
"Light, hm?", Lauren could sense the electromagnetic spectrum of light as it was concentrated in Akihiko's finger before he shoot the beam. He, as a crystal man, had this unique feature, being able to feel the disturbance of electromagnetic waves and polarizing them in his body; and that's what he did. Before the beam came in his direction, his right hand stopped projecting crystals and reshaped itself into a flower-like construct, big enough to cover Lauren's upper body. As the beam of light touched the said construct, it vanished; to be more precise, it started to travel inside Lauren's body. As the flower closed and his right arm turned to its normal form, Lauren pointed his left arm to the opposite direction where Akihiko was hovering, releasing an even more powerful beam of purplish light.
"I think that answer your question", Lauren said, as he gazed at the hole that the beam made through the clouds. "They're looking for me because of this power".
Despite being aware of the fact that he could just as easily have changed the form of the solar radiation within said man, Akihiko allowed him to display his abilities. As the man was allowed to demonstrate his own power, Akihiko believed it should be quite fine for him to do so as well. Raising his hand as if to grab the solar radiation being emitted by the sun, as well as that of his own, a pitch black dome surrounded the area as everything within it became invisible. From the perspective of an outsider, the two had vanished, as the light around them bent and refracted to seemingly blend in with the surrounding scenery. Seemingly ripping away the "light", the energy that he seemingly assimilated and was capable of redirecting, Akihiko then cancelled the act. "And I have this power. They seem to synergize quite well..don't you think? Considering what you did there is my specialty, I'll assume they want you for your power's other, application."
Sighing, and taking a deep breath, Akihiko looked at his imaginary clock as he waited for the others to arrive. In that same instant, Andreanna and Amaya appeared behind their captain, the air ringing out a sharp boom from the shockwaves generated by Amaya's unique method of transportation. Suddenly, however, the captain and the first mate stared directly at each other. The air grew increasingly warmer as the ice would melt once more underneath them, the rocks sizzling and hissing due to being constantly heated and cooled. Almost as if ignoring who they came for, they spoke in a deep, aggressive tone towards each other.
"You're late.", the captain said, the ground rippling as they spoke.
"No, you're early." retorted the sassy individual that, despite not having the official title of Captain, was considered an equal (if not slightly less) in terms of jurisdiction to Akihiko.
This bickering would continue for about five minutes, before a little call of "Guys!" was sounded by Amaya. Immeditately regaining focus, Andreanna took it upon herself to be faster than the captain for once, immediately proposing a deal with Lauren. "How about this, I don't know what our here captain told you before this, but we get rid of these pesky bastards, preferably with your help and then you can do whatever you want." A childish grumble of "Make him our navigator! I want a navigator!" could be heard, as the rumbles seemed to come from Akihiko's mouth, seemingly displeased at the fact that Andreanna didn't bring it up and going so far as to pout like some spoiled brat. However, the muttering was clearly audible, with Akihiko recomposing himself in attempt to preserve the initial impression he had with the man. "They'll be coming soon. It's up to you, we don't really want you to be taken by the Marines, who knows what they'll do to you..run experiments on you maybe? They tried to recreate the Pika Pika No Mi and I can damn well tell you that they'll try that with yours. They've done something to tick off every member of my crew, and that'll probably be the same for all of us in the future. I understand if you don't want to join the crew, it's a tough life out there, but you must atleast understand what will happen to you. Accept our help, we don't want them here anymore than you do."
"There, I still indirectly asked him to join, take that mum." Akihiko thought, waiting on his reply with an outstretched hand in a position best suited to greet the grip of another in a shake, playfully one-upping his crewmate mentally.
"I have to say that I'm impressed with your abilities. It's the first time that I have met someone like me", Lauren said as he watched the light on his surroundings fade away with a rather sad expression on his face.
He was surprised when two more persons reached the top of the mountains with very unusual techniques; two woman acquainted with Akihiko, apparently. He was concerned at first, but could only giggle watching their display of affection. "Very well, I shall accept your help!", he said, recomposing his smile and gripping Akihiko's hand with a strong grasp. "Then, when this mess is over, I shall help you in compensation!".
"Ehhh? Sake on me tonight!" Andreanna muttered, seemingly finding any reason to drink.
"...Sake is always on you." Amaya still seemed to be a meek, rather timid girl, and this was reflected in the way she responded to her direct superior, despite being allowed to open up. In fact, amongst the three, this was generally assumed to be her nature.
"Still!", Akihiko and Andreanna would go on to say; Akihiko because he wasn't in the mood to pay for the amount of alcohol Andreanna needed to consume to feel even the slightest tingle, and Andreanna because she wanted sake. There were two things most important to Andreanna, the crew, and sake. "Welcome aboard! ...Although we're not on the ship yet." the captain would say.
However, shortly after the pirates managed to reason with Lauren however, and even turn him into one of their own, one could hear the Marines, their loud footsteps echoing through the air due to the relative silence of the mountains. That is, for those with an enhanced sense of hearing, of course. "Looks like they'll be coming to us instead of the other way around! Let's throw them a welcoming party, shall we?" Andreanna spoke, the pitch of her voice indicating her overwhelming eagerness, itching for a fight that wasn't the captain for the longest while.
Akihiko, looked at Lauren, his face replaced with the stern nature it held prior to the arrival of his crew members. "But first..we'll call you, Sunstone, due to the nature of your abilities, if that's fine with you." Leaving before he could respond, a hint that this would be his codename regardless of if he liked it or not, the trio immediately assembled to meet the oncoming Marines with the captain in front. Waiting for Lauren to join them, the three stood in anticipation of either the Marines approaching first, or Lauren's joining of the crew's little dramatic gesture.
"Sunstone...", Lauren thought for a moment. It was the first time someone nicknamed him, and he couldn't handle the sensation of having friends; he was overflowing with joy, and his big smile was even bigger than usual. But he had something to do, and his big body was consumed by the determination of ending things right there.
He pressed one of his feets in the snow, bending his knees before launching his body with extreme force to the air, leaving a trail of snow and shattered ground beneath him. He was flying various meters above his former spot when he adressed the three individuals right below him: "That nickname... that'll do. But, if you excuse me, I'll be going first". His body glided above his new crewmates. As soon as he passed the border of the mountanin, every piece of fabric and hair that was moving with the wind suddenly hardened, as well as his entire body, taking a translucid and crystaline aspect. His height increased, changing the course of his body straight down the mountains. He landed in the mountain's base in a loud crash, making the snow and rocks beneath him fly in various direction. He stood up with not a single scratch, facing a large crowd of scared Marines in his front as he waited for Akihiko and his group.
"That's quite a big crowd, I have to say. It seems you learned your lesson, Sir", Lauren said, addressing the Lieutenant that was leading the group with a sarcastic tone.
"DAMN YOU, NAVIGATOR! YOU'LL PAY FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE!", said the Lieutenant, consumed by anger. "MEN, ATTACK! I DON'T MIND IF HE IS DEAD IN THE END, JUST KILL THAT BASTARD ALREADY!", He pointed his finger in Lauren's direction, sending the soldiers to battle.
Noticing his new crew member float over him, Akihiko simply sighed, as in a flash of golden light, he reappeared next to the fledgling navigator. Some newcomer, thinking he could go without the rest of the crew, thought Akihiko, suddenly tapping the man on in his shoulder as if to say, "We'll have to talk about this later." With the relatively immense speed of the current crew members, the original three found it quite easy to catch up with Lauren who had the brilliant idea to rush ahead. When the pirates stood behind their newest member, despite the chill of the island, one could feel the mountain air harden as if ice from the sheer level of tension. As Akihiko adjusted his eye patch nonchalantly, seemingly reducing his vision on purpose, the young man simply observed as the Marine soldiers felt their legs gradually get heftier with every step they took. For most Marines, this was a sight that struck fear directly into their hearts due to several reasons, as, for example, the crew supposed to be dead suddenly reappeared in the Grand Line, and apparently allying their target. Having a Supernova, Mistress of Fishman Karate, and the power of a uniquely powerful mistress of Qi, all rising stars within the Bounty books, standing before them, the Marines took every step with far more caution.
"What was that? Kill who now? You know what I do to persons who hurt my crew membe-, wait! It's this punk! You're a Lieutenant now? I guess nowadays the Marines are really desperate to promote anyone nowadays, it's been a while! ", Akihiko would exclaim, as if meeting with an old friend once more, the situation seemingly dispersing itself. Whilst he infused some sort of confusion within the Marine ranks, he took a single step forward and smiled as the infantrymen took a step back. "Yup, just like a real Marine should be. Spineless. I'm proud, you guys have actually gotten better since I left." Insults to the infantrymen of the Marines was something that was quite common on the Burning Night, and their captain was no exception. "But," he said, with the wind growing continuously colder as if temporarily going back in time, "I'm going to give you a simple solution, just for the sake of old times. Run back,and leave my new buddy here alone...or you can choose to die. I'd choose the first one if I was you." Akihiko said, unknowingly paralleling the words of the Lieutenant back at him. Andreanna bared fangs..literally, as if telling them that if they took a single step further, they'd have to face something worse than death. As an ex-marine, Akihiko waited for his former subordinate to take notice of who he actually was, his finger subtly pointed at the Lieutenant.
Lauren stood behind Akihiko and the other two, listening carefully to their conversation. He had nothing to deal with their past, so it was better to not interfere.
As Akihiko approached the Marines, it wasn't clear for the Lieutenant what was going on. He was supposed to be dead! Not only him, but his entire crew. What they were doing there? Especially now, with his target right in front of his eyes. The Lieutenant recomposed his posture, screaming from the top of his lungs, "MEN! HALT!", which the soldiers responded quickly to by stopping their charge, although they already did when they saw Akihiko. He cleaned his throat, talking with an apprehensive tone in his voice. "You were supposed to be dead, you three. I guess life is full of mysteries, hm?". He didn't respond Akihiko's threat, trying to buy more time with the hope of leaving the island with Lauren under his custody.
Akihiko was surprised, it had been the first time in years since he had seen the Lieutenant, and while the infantrymen were still as spineless as ever, the Lieutenant actually seemed to have grown a pair of testicles, something he was sure he never showed prior. However, he would not forgive the Lieutenant for not properly addressing him. It wasn't right not to address your superiors incorrectly. "Is that how you greet your old captain? By telling me I'm supposed to be dead? I'm hurt." Suddenly, Akihiko reappeared in front of the Ensign, inches away from his face as he locked eyes. From what his mind's eye was picking up, there was clear animosity between him and his fledgling crew member. Akihiko would not tolerate that in his presence, especially towards a new member. Whispers of words of death and ruin seemingly surrounded the two of them in a dome, Akihiko's killing intent being clearer than the cleanest of glass prisms and the purest of diamonds. Akihiko slowly raised his fingers in a gun like position, right between his eyes.
"But, as you can see, I'm clearly very much still alive, and as a great man once said.. this here pistol shouldn't used for making 'threats..so I'll use it for action'." Upon saying this, time seemed to stand still. In the next instant, the man seemingly suddenly combusted in a yelp of agony, and then later disintegrated inexplicably, leaving the Marines in a mixture of apprehension, terror, and confusion. Turning his head to face the Lieutenant with his finger still drawn as if about to target him next, the captain of the crew simply turned his head and muttered "I have no more patience for you. Leave."
The Lieutenant was terrorized at this point. The body of his Ensign, now, a pile of dark ashes in contrast with the white snow of the ground was the sign of his end, at least he thought. There was no meaning in capturing Lauren anymore if he couldn't make it out alive. For a moment, he felt a warm sensation in his body as he was about to be disintegrated, but, before he could scream or something, he was relieved to noticed he just had pissed his pants in fear. With his mouth open, it took sometime before he could form any word. What came after through a shaking voice was the final act of his mission.
"M-m-m-me-me-men! We are le-le-le-leaving", as he stopped talking, they all retreated in such a hurry that the high snow surrounding them wasn't an obstacle. But, before they could escape, an immense wall of crystal surrounded the soldiers, forming a circular prison.
From the back of the group, Lauren started talking with a calm voice. "It's ok to let them go, but I don't want any hindrances before we leave this island too. I can only imagine if they go now, we would be in a bad situation if another ambush was prepared in the docks, even with our powers". He walked a few steps, putting his right hand in Akihiko's right shoulder, "And a I need to get some stuff in my house before I can leave with you, so it may take some time".
Akihiko felt the man's hand on his shoulder, but even before that, he saw the man walking towards him, despite looking in another direction. If it was anyone else, Akihiko perhaps would have reacted a tad bit more aggressively. Akihiko sighed. The man had a point. While it was true that only a few individuals would have been able to differentiate his current ship from that of a regular Marine as of the present moment, this Lieutenant in particular definitely would have been capable of doing such a thing. In fact, Akihiko would not be surprised if this was actually happening as they spoke. Conquering his own ego and taking several steps backwards, Akihiko let his new crew member trap the fleeing Marines. "We'll be back at the ship. Your words just reminded me of a particular possibility...", he said before pausing. "..You'll know the ship when you see it, please do hurry."
In that instant, the trio vanished successively to head back towards the ship, leaving their crew member to his own means.
The atmosphere was gloomy and frigid, but what was new in the lands of the Sakura Kingdom? In the midst of the night, over the drum shaped rock formations that constituted some of the highest points traversable within the Drum Island, over the Winter Island's numerous villages and within the Bighorn village, could be heard the sounds of cannon fire, screaming, and the sounds of a metallic clash every now and then. At Bighorn Port, mass pandemonium ensued as shortly after leaving from the Marine ambush, Akihiko and his crew was surprised to notice that the Marines had planned a double fake-out, intending to leave the pirate crew stranded on this island. After the first cannonball struck the ship of the pirate crew right after they had arrived, three figures could be spotted on the wooden docks for only a fraction of a second before the current moment.
The Lieutenant and his men stepped in a situation way too dangerous from what they expected. First there was Lauren, a man supposed to be weak due to his monotonous life in Drum, but that showed a side that wasn't different from a beast; and, if it wasn't enough to deal with him, Akihiko and his crew, that shouldn't be even alive allied with the said man. Safe from them inside the crystal walls that surrounded him and his men, he felt some kind of relieve, but he couldn't give up now. His reputation and destiny were on the line, and he wouldn't throw them away because of a small obstacle.
He took from one of the pockets of his heavy coat a Den Den Mushi, covered with small icicles in its shell, eyes and mouth. With extreme difficulty and only after warming it, the Lieutenant made it work.
In the docks, a large group of soldiers was waiting for orders. The Lieutenant wasn't that strong when compared with Akihiko, but he had numbers, and was with that that he hoped to end him right there, in the island, as well as taking Lauren in his custody.
The "purupuru" sound coming from a Den Den Mushi on a wood box caught the attention of one of the soldiers. He took the speaker, but, before he could even say anything, the Lieutenant started talking with his voice being transmitted loud enough to every single person in the docks to hear. "Be prepared, men. Lauren is not our only target. Akihiko is alive, somehow, and his crew is here too. Find and destroy their ship, we we'll cause some terror... and send someone to help before I freeze to death!"
In spite of the valiance, or rather the sheer tenacity that the Lieutenant had suddenly found boiling up deep within him, as if developing the vertebrae to meet the "spineless" insult to the Marine ensemble, regardless of his attempts, within the Lauren's crystal prison he was penned up like an animal who was awaiting a trip to the abbatoir. As with all creatures born to be slaughtered, the ill-fated Lieutenant who attempted to fix the natural fault in his stars would quickly come to realize just how impotent, and ineffectual his every action was against then. Thanks to the Marines who had decided to attack the crew's pirate ship, and thus, had evacuated the citizens of the Kingdom, there was no real reason for the crew to need to hold back.
A congregation of 'henchmen' were only as powerful as the one pulling the strings, the puppeteer who hid behind them, or atleast was only as strong as their image would seem to portray. However, with the Lieutenant currenly imprisoned, the disheartenment of the unfortunate man's forces was practically tangible, with whatsoever vigour that pushed them forward whilst their former captain stood before them evaporating as if water under the presence of the Sun. An analogy that was quite fitting, considering the power of their ex-captain and the current captain of the quartet. They had just heard that a man was completely disintegrated. Disintegrated. Not a single part of him was recognizable as he had been completely destroyed and lay on the sand as nothing more than a bit of dust. Not even the most battle-heartened veteran, unless possessing a similar power himself, could come out of a situation where that was something that could happen to himself without being even the slightest bit despirited. And so it would be that when the Regal Pirates arrived at Bighorn Port to witness that the Marines had arrived and had attempted to play them for fools, despite being only seen for less than a second, a powerful sense of consternation dispersed itself through the atmosphere, inducing feelings of discomposure.
Their current crew member could not afford to be stranded on this island, and the ship was their only method of escape. While the Marine soldiers would have been ignored if they were not told to attack the ship, their deaths today were on the Lieutenant's hands. After that moment, however, to consider what happened to be even killing would be an understatement, as the Regal Pirates, or atleast their First Mate, waged what could only be considered a blitzkreig against her opponents, truly demonstrating why she had been given such a ghastly epithet. Despite the incredible feminality of her figure, the lass was a cold-hearted killer who was warm only towards her crew and around her crew, and the utter butchery that ensued afterwards would emphasize on this. After two decades of possessing her Devil Fruit, Andreanna was quite talented in it's usage, and had even come around to managing the potent bloodlust that had came along with it. However, ever so often she would "cut loose" once she had the opportunity, and with Akihiko and Amaya on clean up duty, she was safe to engage in whatever she pleased. Even justified for reasons related to the crew as well as the attacking of their ship, a bonafide member of the crew, Andreanna began her retaliation.
In every passing second one could hear a bloodcurdling scream come out from one of the infantrymen or artillerist as their ichor depicted upon the frosty canvas of the winter island's waterside a sanguineous crimson, albeit, only temporarily. Alongside these screams, was a certain red mist associated with a certain blonde haired member of the current quartet of piracy As if displeased with her artwork, the scarlet eyed and carnivorously fanged Andreanna of the Regal Pirates seemingly coerced the gory pigments to orbit around her as if gravitationally attracted to a body of greater mass. Then, in the next instant, it was simply no more, assimilated into her being as her eyes shut for a small period of time and reopened. She was revitalized, replenished. This had been what she was waiting for, she would finally be allowed her time to feast. While awaiting the use of the arrival of their new navigator, Andreanna was having the most fun she had ever had in a long time, forcing her opponents to bleed before stripping them of their vitality in every sense of the word. Leaving them devoid of life, and incapable of continuing to exist through an only temporarily sanguinary approach, the woman licked what would appear to be claws that she possessed, which shortly after vanished and revealed normal if not especially tender hands. "Atleast I haven't left them bleeding," she thought. After all, that would have been a true waste and a mark of disrespect to their corpses.
The soldiers weren't fast enough or had any knowledge of Andreanna's skills to catch up with her actions. The lack of preparation and experience was what put they in that situation, as well as the tenacity of the Lieutnant that was up to fight with everything he got to end up as the big winner. But his plan was a complete fail from the beggining to the end; and now, his men were not but pigs in a slaughter in the hands of the most sadistic butcher.
As soldiers and more soldiers began to die, the ones around their corpses were confused and scared; there was no sign of blood and whatever killed them was too fast to their eyes to see. The fear of the unknown turned on their primal instinct of survival, and they couldn't do nothing but run. The docks soon were filled with screams of fear and the sound of steps in a chaotic symphony. Although some had no way to handle the situation, it was not the end of the soldiers' actions. The fartest soldiers, holding their guns, saw what happened. At first they were clueless, but as they analysed the battlefield, they saw a figure of a blond woman that wasn't a citizen, because they were already scourted out of there, nor one of them. They acted fast, "Artillery! Target the woman!", said one soldier, pointing his gun to the direction where Andreanna was standing. All of them did the same and, after the sound of the first shot, they all started shooting.