43 Chapter 42

I think I condensed what could be around 3 chapters of worth into one here, lol. May feel rushed.


[One Week Later]

Early in the morning, the warm sunlight enlightened the city of Veto. In contrast to what it used to be under the rule of Giancana family, the people were filled with joy as they lively moved, repairing the destroyed facilities and taking care of the injured ones.

"...How are you feeling?"

And currently, I was bedridden with my entire body having been wrapped around by bandages. From my side, there sat Robin, the girl who's been staying by my side since the battle against Moria came to a resolution.

"I think I'm good to go," I replied to her while forming a grin on my face, "So can I take these off now?"

"I'm not a doctor. Don't ask me." Robin, standing up from her seat and opening the curtains, let the sunlight enter the room, "From my perspective, it does seem that you're good to go, but it doesn't hurt to make sure."

Right now, two changes could be seen in terms of Robin's appearance. First, shorter hair. Second, rectangular glasses without lenses—for the sake of 'fashion.' After all, with Stainless and Momonga's divisions having confirmed that by the time they arrived at Suspiria, the unmoving corpses were scattered all around, and that they are to come here to investigate the situation, Robin had to prepare herself.

"...But are you sure that glasses and shorter hair would be enough to keep my identity hidden?" Robin, seeming reluctant, asked me with an underlying nervousness.

"Hm..." Staring up at the ceiling and chuckling over how Kuina and Tashigi from the canon were the exact doppelgangers of one another, I said, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. But if you aren't confident enough, there is one extra measure that you can take."

Robin leaned in, expressing her interest, "Which is?"

"Shave your head and embrace the bald," I shrugged casually.

Robin stared at me blankly before shaking her head with a light sigh, knowing full well that I was simply joking around. Then, she asked, "Is there anything else that I should be aware of?"

I nodded firmly. Losing my silliness, I stated as I thought over my experiences in Kuzan—now Stainless's division, "More than half the marines are the World Government's dogs. And the one whom you should be watching out for the most among the ones coming here right now, is the dude named Happy."

"...Happy? The name sounds awfully friendly," Robin deadpanned.

"He thinks he's kept himself hidden well. Unfortunately, Kuzan—the Vice Admiral whom you may get a chance to meet with—and I, straight away noticed that he's an eye implemented by the World Government." Lifting up my bandaged right arm and pushing the part of the bandage that kept sliding down on my eyes, I noted, "And then there's Gion. She may offer you a place in Vice Admiral Tsuru's division which only women get to join, but decline it. Though the striking similarities in the appearances of Orobi and Robin may be negligible, having the same devil fruit ability won't seem coincidental. If you were to stay with others for a prolonged time, it will nearly be impossible to keep your fruit ability concealed."

Robin, listening carefully in silence, then pointed out, "But the question is, will I even be allowed to be placed in your command?"

Having expected this question, I answered confidently, "Oh yes, for sure."

"By what basis?"

Making a cocky smirk, I claimed, "Do you know who I got on my back?"


"Marine 'the awesome' Hero, Monkey D. Garp."

"Garp... Monkey D. Garp...?" Robin placed her hand on her chin, before nodding to herself, "Ah, I think I've seen that name in the historical record before."

"And keep that history thing of yours suppressed as well." I shook my head in a feigned disappointment, "That, just now, was a blatant giveaway that you're a scholar."

Robin, looking at me, formed an O-shape with her mouth in realization.

And with that, the conversation has come to an end. Afterward, I placed my gaze on the table that lied on my left.

<In the mansion... we found this sword next to the corpse that seemed to a well-preserved. We have no use for it, so we'll leave it in your hands.>

Shusui, one of the 21 Great Grade Swords just like Gion's Konpira, as well as the 'Black Sword.' In canon, Zoro acquired it after defeating Shimotsuki Ryuma revived by Brook's shadow, before exchanging it for Enma during his stay in Wano.

'What will happen now?'

My actions up until now have begun to change the destined future. And whether they were for good or bad, I had no idea.

However, so what? The rapid heartbeats in me, they weren't based on fear of the unknown. Rather, it was an excitement; I embraced this change with anticipation. Heh, it seemed that I managed to adapt to this world quite well.


Robin, squinting her eyes at me, sweatdropped, "...Why are you smirking all of a sudden?"

With my smirk still intact, I replied, "I have a mandatory smile gauge that must be filled on a daily basis, and according to the research done by Dr. Spade, the well-known colleague of Dr. Clover, laughing makes you healthier. Why don't you repeat after me?"

"...Dr. Spade? I never heard of him—"

"This world is large, and there are trillions of scholars you've never heard of before. Now, come on, follow my suit." Then, filling my lungs with air, I laughed in a boisterous manner,


"...How about no?"

Robin's words brought me to cease my forced laugh. Coughing in embarrassment, I thought, '...Just how did Saul make this girl laugh again?'


Within the blink of an eye, another week has passed. Receiving many thanks from the civilians of Veto, the arrived divisions of Stainless and Momonga immediately investigating the scene and arresting the corrupted marines who ignored the ongoing injustice nearby them, and uneventfully sailing back to the Marineford with the newly joined 'Chore Boy' Orobi,


here I was, taking in the fresh air of Marineford.


Hina, Bastille, and all my other colleagues rushed at me with widened eyes, asking if the news about my victory over Moria was true. The superiors and seniors, who's noticed me as the rising 'prodigy' among the new generation, patted my shoulders in signs of respect.

"SMOKER—!!!" Maynard, being the same as always, recklessly charged at me with his huge fist ready to pound me,


before losing his consciousness from one punch of mine, much to my confusion and others' disbelief.

"My superiors are..." Robin, watching all this from my side, commented in a monotone, "Quite... unique."

"You're no different, girl," To which I replied with an amused snort of my own.

Time flew by quickly.

"Today, we are here to send away the bravest woman I have ever got to know... Admiral Anastasia."

One day.

"For the praiseworthy achievement of catching 'Nightmare' Gecko Moria, the notorious pirate who has tormented thousands of lives, I, Fleet Admiral Sengoku, hereby grant marine Smoker the promotion—to the rank of Captain!"

Two days.

"Smoker boy, I heard that you became a Marine Captain. Congratulations on being the youngest known officer with the authority to lead his own division..." Zephyr stood in front of me, chugging down a bottle of liquor, "...Now tell me, what kind of secret method did Garp use to improve you by this much?"

"Smoker! Where did you get that sword from?!" Gion asked in excitement, with her eyes on Shusui.


Three days. It all felt like a storm, being surrounded by people all around. But once again, it was days like these that made me feel alive, although deep in my mind, I wondered, 'In the future, will I come to fight with these fellow marines?'

It was already the end of February. With Robin still adjusting to her life as a marine, and my colleagues continuing yet another day of a training session under Zephyr, today, I stood in front of a door and gently knocked it twice.

From beyond the door, an annoyed groan was heard. Then, a lazy yet familiar voice was heard, "...Who is it."

"It's me, Smoker," I said casually, "Open the door, Kuzan-san."

"...Sheesh, go away. Let me sleep in peace, buddy."

Rolling my eyes, I then remarked, "You know, I met a sexy sister with a hot body recently. She seemed interested after I told her about you, so I wanted to introduce her to you, but... eh, I guess not—"

Boom. The door then slammed open, and Kuzan, who was wearing a blue-coloured pajama, spoke with seriousness, "My my, who am I to keep a privileged guest of mine waiting outside? Come in, Smoker."

Closing the door behind me, I followed Kuzan, who yawned while guiding me to a table. As I sat by, Kuzan, while bringing me a cup of cold water out of courtesy, asked, "So..."

"What's her name, you ask—"

"What are her three sizes?"

"...Wow," I found myself amazed, "You really are something, you know that?"

Taking out a picture from my pocket, I handed it to Kuzan. Kuzan took the picture from me and looked at it with anticipation, before... throwing it away with evident disappointment, "...Why are you giving me the picture of Gion?"

"What?" I shrugged, "She's hot, isn't she?"

Kuzan looked at me with a blank expression. Then, sighing,

"Smoker, why are you here?"

Kuzan asked sternly, "You are no longer under my command. If you are here to boast of your promotion to Captain, then great. Congratz, buddy. If you don't have a sexy sister to introduce, then leave, please."

"It isn't that. And it isn't about me congratulating your newly attained code name of 'Aokiji' either."

Kuzan, from my glance, no longer had the fire that I saw months ago. His 'Burning Justice' diminished until nothing remained, and if I were to describe the current man sitting in front of me, I would choose the word 'lazy' above all else. In canon, he would continue on this path, adapting to his newly developed ideal of 'Lazy Justice,' ignoring the deeds of the World Government until Gorosei promotes Sakazuki as the new Fleet Admiral to succeed Sengoku.

But... I didn't like the idea of it.

Gulping down the cup of water, I said solemnly, "When I heard that you left the division, I was shocked. The most hard-working superior I've ever come across, the one filled with the noble goal of making this world a better place to live—what happened to the Vice Admiral Kuzan that I knew of?"

Kuzan stayed silent for a moment. Then, he narrowed his eyes at me, "...Are you here to lecture me?"

"I simply wish to know what happened." Gazing at Kuzan's dull eyes with a firm expression, I spoke, "...I remember that the four other Vice Admirals sent were Sakazuki, Tensei, Tokikake, and Bayard. And we were aware from the start, that all of them are well-known believers of Absolute Justice... tell me, what did you see in Ohara?"

Ohara. Kuzan, upon hearing my words, initially attempted to keep his lazy facade on. However, such an attempt was futile, and eventually, he revealed a frown filled with anguish and helplessness.

Raising his head up and dazing off into the air, Kuzan finally opened his mouth, "...Smiles. I saw the World Government's lapdogs woofing just as their owner ordered, blasting away the entire island based on the information relayed from the Cipher Pols."

Placing his hand on his forehead, Kuzan continued, "And I asked myself, what would've happened if the civilians were present on the island? Would the World Government have decided to leave them out? After all, knowledge is invisible, and the only way to ensure that knowledge remains secret is to... wipe out all."

He sighed. Seeming mentally strained, he shook his head, "I was frightened that such a thought made its way into my mind. Marine's notion of 'justice' is questionable, Smoker. It's... corrosive, and I can't help but feel that there is something wrong about it. Yes, I knew that it was flawed from the start, but... not to this extent."

Leaning back, I reminisced over the Ohara incident. The work that I put myself through to reduce the casualties as much as possible. The struggles that I made, and the subpar outcome that came at the end—all of them came back to me.

"...I think the same as well." Agreeing with Kuzan's words, I stated, "And that's why we can't afford ourselves to stay lazy, you know."

Standing up from my seat, I walked over to where the curtains lied, and opened them. The light shone through the window, into this gloomy room.

"We are at the Great Age of Pirates. Pirates have been thriving endlessly, and marines have been facing a shortage of forces every day. In addition, talk about the justice, where the Celestial Dragons' atrocious crimes are gone ignored while a helpless child of a pirate gets mercilessly slaughtered... how ridiculous."

Turning to Kuzan, I spoke softly,

"And that's why you must to get back to the sea."

Kuzan didn't meet his eyes with me.

"I know that you tried your hardest. Sailing from an island to island, catching all the pirates whom we've come across—I've been seeing your hard works by your side."

Kuzan was amazing. Freezing all his enemies in ice, and not letting a single one escape from his sight and harm the innocents; though his fruit ability was cold, his possessed a heart warmer than anyone else.

"You may feel exhausted. You may have thought that your hard works are futile, and that as long as the World Government's reign continues, nothing will change. But... so what?" Grinning at the man who stared at me in wonder, I said, "Have you forgotten, those smiles that people made?"

Kuzan's eyes widened. Raising his head up, he met his eyes with mine. Then, the corners of his lips unconsciously curled up, forming a smile of his own. Kuzan, surprised by his own reaction, touched his lips with his hand.

Kuzan was not just a character from manga. Having worked under him for some time, he was my friend—someone whom I knew I could entrust my back to.

"You must not run away, Kuzan-san. We saw the dark sides of the Marine, of how inefficient our system currently is due to the World Government's involvement." So I spoke with sincerity, hoping that this man may change for the better, "At times like this, we must work harder. We must get stronger. If there is a purpose in one's life, it's to struggle until one's very end, and not to laze around in despair."

"...Even if you may get killed like Victorious did?"

"I'm not afraid of death." Clenching my right hand, I said with conviction, "If there is one thing that I fear, it's to live a worthless life."

I wonder if I was doing it right, but... I think I saw, the light in Kuzan's eyes.


[Mt. Colubo, East Blue]

It was early in the morning, where the wild animals were seen bustling through the lively forest.

"BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!" A loud laughter boomed forth, as the brawny man with spiky black-gray hair, Monkey D. Garp, read the newspaper in his hands.

"Ughhh... please keep yourself quiet, Garp-san!!!" From the back, a tired-looking woman with curly, orange-coloured hair and an obese body form, shouted in a plea, "The baby!! Think about the baby!!! We just managed to get him asleep five minutes ago, you know!!"

Garp, ignoring her words, brought the newspaper right under her nose, "Bwahaha!! Look at this, Dadan! My pupil's on the cover page!!"

"O-okay, I get it! So will you calm down now—"

"Dadan, I'm heading out now!" Garp, grinning excitedly, placed the newspaper into his pocket while walking out, "And as per our agreement, I'll be leaving Ace in your care. Make sure that by the time I return, Ace grows up as a child who dreams of becoming a marine!!"

"Y-yes! For sure!"

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