25 Chapter 24

"By the way," Leaning down on the unconscious and heavily injured Hustleberry, I asked Gion without looking at her, "What happened to your sword?"

I've been with Gion for a month. And if there is one thing that I can tell you for sure, it was the fact that she despised the idea of eating a devil fruit; I mean, she claims herself as a gourmet!

With her body now relaxed, Gion pointed her finger sideways while sighting. Following her finger, I saw... a sword that was broken in half. It seemed that right when the battle began, Gion's sword broke upon her first swing... yet again.

"...At this point, you may as well use something else like a club." I suggested truthfully, "Just how many swords have you broken so far? Forget fighting an enemy—any katana of average grade will simply break after you swing it once against the empty air."

For the past month, I've seen Gion breaking the countless swords, being unable to hold her strength back. A simple problem it was, but for some reason, she wasn't able to fix it even now...

"Mind your business, Smoker," Gion said with a frown, "It isn't my fault—those swords were simply too weak for me."

...probably due to her mentality.

"By the way, what was with those gums you shot?" I asked with curiosity, "I mean, I don't recall you ever eating a devil fruit."

Gion, in response, opened her mouth and peeled out a flat device.

"…It's some sort of gum-like substance dispenser. Using the body heat as the energy to operate, this device somehow converts a person's saliva into a sticky gum-like substance... from what I heard." Gion said while inspecting the said device, "This is given by Vice Admiral Kuzan, and he told me that he received it from Dr. Vegapunk during his latest visit."

She seemed to have completely forgotten all the 'anger' from me pulling her into the battle just previously.

"According to Vice Admiral Kuzan, the archaeologists of Ohara initially found and brought this to Dr. Vegapunk, who managed to restore it. Their analysis concluded that this is a weapon that was used by the people from the past... fascinating, isn't it?"

"It actually is." Agreeing to her words, I then asked, "But why would Vice Admiral Kuzan give it to you?"

"We... made a trade," Gion's expression darkened, "In return for me being forbidden from the armoury, he handed me this."

"You can't really blame me for that, you know," Then, the third voice entered my ears. Gion and I turned our heads to the direction where the voice came from, and was met with the sight of Kuzan, who had Stainless and many other marine soldiers running from behind.

"Vice Admiral Kuzan," Gion immediately lowered her head in a respectful manner.

"At this point, I think the only way for you to yield a sword, is to find a sword that can handle your strength, or learn Haki. I swear, I think that's the reason why Tsuru-san sent you to me." Kuzan said in a friendly manner, before turning his attention at the fallen pirates around us, "Nonetheless, well done, you two."

On the other hand, Stainless was seen to be giving orders to the marine soldiers, "Make sure that every single of one of these scums are identified!"

"""Yes, sir!"""

Subsequently, Stainless turned at me with a stoic expression and reluctantly spoke, "...I suppose that I was wrong. Nice work, Ensign."

I bowed with respect, "Thank you, Rear Admiral Stainless."

Kuzan, who was now standing next to me, crouched down and stared at the unconscious Hustleberry, "I admit that you were quite a clever fellow, Meister, using your own subordinates as baits to lose our chase. However, that, along with your baseless hubris, was the reason why you were left with only forty-nine in number, ultimately leading to such an anti-climactic ending to your piracy."

Then, one marine soldier, who was holding onto the Den Den Mushi, suddenly came in running.

<<Purururu, purururu,>> Said Den Den Mushi was crying, which indicated that someone from the other side was calling.

All marines temporarily stopped whatever they were doing. Some of them groaned, knowing what was about to come.

Kuzan reached his hand out to the dial of the Den Den Mushi and lifted it up,

"Moshi moshi?"

<<This is Marineford. This is Marineford. Vice Admiral Kuzan, do you copy?>>

"Yes indeed, and you called at the perfect time." Kuzan stated with his eyes on Hustleberry, "Hustleberry the 'Meister' has just been captured with all his remaining crew members; I request that the ships are sent here at Doomcount island, as soon as possible."

<<Roger that. But more importantly, higher-ups issued you an urgent order just now, so listen well.>>

Kuzan raised an eyebrow, but replied nonetheless, "Go ahead."

<<An hour ago, the Marine Base G-2 reported the abrupt appearance of the pirate who should be in the New World: 'Goldtooth' Vane. Currently, the base is unresponsive, and the headquarter dreads for the worst.>>

...'Goldtooth' Vane. I have seen the bounty poster of this man before; he was an infamous pirate with the bounty of 1,174,500,000 Beli on his head.

But question is, why would they travel all the way back to G-2?

<<Marine Base G-2 has currently gone unresponsive. We require you, the closest division to G-2 location-wise, to investigate the site and engage if necessary—in an immediate manner. Other backups will also follow up as quickly as possible.>>

Kuzan stayed still, with his face shadowed by his hair. Then, he raised his head back up, expressing the serious gleam in his eyes, "Will do."

<<The headquarter wishes you the best of luck, Vice Admiral Kuzan.>> With such, the Den Den Mushi closed its eyes.

All the marines fell to silence. The Goldtooth pirates, where the captain alone had a bounty of over a billion—though Kuzan already was an individual who's experienced the New World, it wasn't the case for the rest of us.

"Hey, Kuzan-san," And in this tense atmosphere, I spoke up jokingly, "If we win, are you finally getting your own code name?"

Kuzan shrugged, "I doubt it. Many old-timers don't want a youngster like me to stand above them, after all."

"That's unfair," Gion commented with her arms crossed, "Your feats up to now should be more than enough to become an Admiral candidate."

"It's fine~, rank doesn't matter to me anyway."

Chuckling lightly from Gion's words, Kuzan turned back. His justice coat fluttered magnificently as he walked with his hands in his pockets and his head fixated forward. He then commanded seriously,

"The sub-division under Commodore Monic will remain here and await the backup from the Marineford. Make sure that Meister is immobilized with the seastone."

"""Yes, sir!"""

I stood back up and slicked my hair back with my hands.

"The rest of you, brace yourself, cuz we're heading out right now."

"""Yes, sir!"""

This was a task of an entirely different magnitude when compared with the case of Hustleberry. Those whom we were about to face now weren't mere rookies, but notorious sharks of the sea.

'The pirates with the proficiency over Haki...' In this state, I found my heart thumping fast,

'Is it that I'm nervous, or that I'm... excited?'

I wasn't sure. But one thing was sure, as I began to move as well, following Kuzan from the back—

—I was grinning for reasons unknown—

"W-wait, please wait for me," From my back Gion suddenly talked. Turning back, I saw her… uh, carrying the pile of swords with her arms.

She then looked at me desperately, causing me to sigh.

__________

[Marine Base G-2]

Under the mighty, metal-walled base that serves as the embodiment of justice, the blood dripped.

Plop.

It was a sunny day. Yet, the view underneath was gruesome, filled with the corpses of marine soldiers and the heavy metallic scent; how ridiculous it was, for marines to be defeated at their own base.

This talked a lot about the strength of this tall, black-haired man: 'Goldtooth' Vane.

"I still remember the humiliation you've given me on that day, the utter defeat that resulted in me sacrificing my past crew mates just to survive." Vane growled as he gazed into a corpse of a Marine Officer, "Up until today, I patiently waited, and waited for more. Oh, how sweet it is, to finally achieve my vengeance..."

He then grinned as he leaned in to the face of the corpse, revealing a golden canine tooth that was distinguishable from the rest of his teeth,

"Isn't that right, Vice Admiral Victorious—"

"Captain," Then, another man—characterized by an eyepatch on his right eye and a sword sheathed on his waist, entered the scene. He was the Vice Captain of the crew, who went by the name 'Bruiser.'

"What?" Vane frowned in annoyance, "Didn't I tell you not to interrupt my happy time before?"

However, disregarding Vane's complaint, Bruiser stated stoically, "The marines have entered our sight."

"Yo, capt!" Then, another voice was heard from above. Raising his head up, Vane came to see the view of a goofy-looking teen, who dangled around a slim metal pole that usually served as a tool for the marines to quickly descend a floor.

Said teen had wild, unkempt, blue-coloured hair. His similarly blue-coloured eyes sparkled vibrantly, reflecting his eccentric demeanour. Upon a glance, one may get a feeling that something was off about this teen.

"Do I get to kill all of them by myself, just like how you allowed me here?" The teen laughed crazily all of a sudden, "LAHAHA!!! I mean, these ones here were far too weak to give me an actual entertainment, ya know?!!"

"Shut up and get down here, Avery!!" Vane angrily shouted at the teen, causing him to shrug before jumping down from high up without any hesitation.

Tap. Lightly landing right in front of Vane, the teen named Avery suddenly stood strictly and grinned with his eyes wide open, "Aye aye, captain, Avery at your service!"

BOOOM! Without bothering to suppress the anger that stemmed simply from watching the teen's antics, Vane smashed his fist into Avery, sending the latter to crash into the metal wall at the back.

"...I must admit, that he certainly is different from the rest." Looking at the site where the dust arose from his lone eye, Bruiser asked, "Where did you even manage to find a monster like him, captain?"

"Tch, he may be annoying as hell, but," Vane spat on the floor as he snarled, "he's at least useful when it comes to fighting."

Turning around, Vane walked out of the room full of corpses, to the outside of the base. Bruiser followed him from the left, and Avery jovially caught up to Vane's right. Upon the three of them exiting,

"Heya, captain, that Marine ship is awfully close to us, hahaha!"

"Let's shoot it down, just like any other!"

they were granted the sight of their crew members, who were drinking and laughing out loud on the beach, all while having their weapons out, ready to engage at any moment.

Shifting his gaze onto the approaching Marine ship, Vane's eyes met the eyes of the commander of the Marine ship: Kuzan.

__________

"Vice Admiral Kuzan and I will handle Goldtooth and Bruiser," Stainless, who stood in front of Gion and me, stated firmly, "Stay out of our ways if you don't want to get hurt."

Gion, who had a stockpile of swords on her left, nodded strictly, "Yes, sir!"

"Of course, Rear Admiral Stainless," I replied, with my eyes focused on the blue-haired teen who seemed to be of a similar age as me,

"...By the way, do we have information on that one?"

Noticing my gaze on him, the blue-haired teen suddenly turned his face to look at me, and made a... crazed smile. Then, he raised his hand up and waved at me, as if looking at an old friend.

"...No, that teen is an enigma," Stainless replied with his eyes still on the pirates, "there isn't even a single file of information about him—I assume that he's something akin to Goldtooth's apprentice."

Then, briefly shifting his eyes at Gion and her pile of swords, Stainless sighed and shook his head. Gion, who was still looking forward, acted as if she didn't notice his gaze.

Another Marine Officer named Happy, whose rank was Captain, now shouted out, "READY—!"

Many marine soldiers simultaneously loaded their rifles, which were pointed at the pirates. Some others placed the cannon balls in cannons, ready to be fired at any moment.

"Ah... now I see who you are," The supposed captain of the pirates, Vane, grinned as he walked casually, revealing his golden tooth, "Vice Admiral Kuzan... I've been hearing a lot about you recently. Aren't you quite a busy one?"

"Not really," Kuzan replied coolly, "I'm simply catching a few sardines here and there, that's all."

Vane shook his right hand casually, before clenching it into a fist, "Then why don't you test out and see whether I'm a sardine or not?"

"Will do."

At the next moment, Kuzan stretched his hand out just as Vane jumped up from the sand,

"Ice Block: Pheasant Beak!"

The huge, majestic pheasant of ice instantly blasted out of Kuzan, toward the rapidly-approaching Vane.

Vane grinned before punching forth to the ice pheasant.

BOOOOOM!

Then, with the ice pheasant shattered,

"FIRE!!!" / "ENGAGE!" Rear Admiral Stainless and Vice Captain Bruiser commanded at the same time, beginning the battle at Marine Base G-2.

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