48 Chapter 47

The large town within an island, having been burned to the crisp from start to end, generated a mass volume of smoke that traveled upward. Within this apocalyptic scenery, mixed with the crazed laughs from pirates and horrified cries from civilians, there stood one man with blonde hair and red-coloured eyes. This man, wearing a crimson-red cloak, seemed to exhibit a sense of charisma that distinguished him from the others.

"...That rock." The man, currently staring at the rocky mountain at the edge of the island, whispered in contempt, "How dare it tower over me?"

There existed no hesitation in his movement. Taking his right hand out of his pocket, the man aimed his palm at the rock.

"Hell Blaze."

The gigantic beam of flame then followed, vigorously bursting out from the man's palm. Pulverizing over the mid-section of rock with ferocity, the previously gigantic rocky mountain... was instantly separated into two.

The man, now smiling in satisfaction, turned to one old-aged woman of poor condition. Said old woman, injured and tied up by the rope, seemed to be nearing her death, however, she surprisingly exhibited nothing but calmness.

The man locked his gaze on that old woman and said in glee, "Look at that, will you? This is what I'm capable of, for I am the fire itself. No one is able to oppose me, and not even once have I lost in this vast sea. The throne of the Pirate King—no one deserves it more than I do...!

So say that again."

Crouching down and meeting his crimson eyes with the old woman's impassive eyes, the man growled, "Do you truly believe that this island is where my journey ends? Do you truly believe that I will fall here, 'Oracle' of Banaro?"

"..." The old woman didn't speak. However, she didn't avert her eyes either, much to the man's dislike.

The man, frowning in response, screamed at the old woman's face, "ADMIT IT!!! Admit that I will conquer this sea, that One Piece is in my grasp!! Woman, speak the truth already!!!"

"...I already spoke what I saw. And an oracle never goes back on one's words." The old woman, finally opening her mouth, stated, "Furthermore, in the eyes of this old woman, the seat of the Pirate King doesn't seem fitting to a fool like you."

The man impulsively latched his hand onto the old woman's neck, intending to strangle her. He, trembling in anger, reeked of murder from head to toe. Yet, the old woman, choking from the lack of air, didn't avert her eyes even once. And then, before he could finish the deed,

"Captain."

a voice entered his ears, bringing him back to reality. The man, widening his eyes, immediately let go of the old woman's neck, "...No no no, I can't let you die like this. No, your death is to come after I disprove your bullshit."

Standing back up, the man found that among the group of his crew members, one has stepped up in a serious manner. Taking in a deep breath to calm himself down, the man stated, "Speak."

"Watcher sighted a marine ship from afar, and it's heading our way."

The man shifted his eyes back at the old woman, and snorted, "Is that the so-called doom for me?"

Without waiting for the response, he turned back, and began to walk toward the shore triumphantly. His crimson cloak swayed as he walked, and behind him, his crew, amounting to hundreds in number, followed.

"Then stay there and watch. I'll show you," The man grinned maliciously, "my true destiny."

__________

'...What a cloudy sky,' I thought with my eyes headed up at the sky.

The thick layer of cloud, covering the entire area around the island of Banaro, darkened the entire surrounding around us.

Simultaneously, from the crow's nest, one marine soldier gulped with the binocular in front of his eyes, "T-the island..."

From below, Doll raised her eyebrow, "What's wrong?"

"L-Lieutenant Doll!" Placing the binocular down, the marine stuttered, "There is no sight of Red Hair pirates from what I can deduce! H-However,"

The ship was currently filled with a serious atmosphere. Even Aramaki, who was quite prone to laughing, seemed to have toned his grin down. After all, even without the help of binocular, everyone could see—the huge volume of smoke from the distant island of Banaro.

"The seven ships in total are found to be docked on the island! And the jolly roger engraved on those sails... it's the one that belongs to the Blaze pirates!"

"...We've been tricked by that Red Hair, didn't we." Gion, clicking her tongue in annoyance, gazed at the island that was now viewable by the naked eye.

"Does it matter, Commodore Gion?" Doll, standing with an equally serious demeanour, exclaimed, "'Hell Blaze' Diego. He's been well known to burn away every single island that he comes across, which earned him the sheer bounty of 448 million Beli. In terms of maliciousness, Red Hair can't compare to this man, and since we've ultimately ended up here, there's no reason for us to give up this chance."

'A smart outplay, Red Hair pirates,' I thought to myself, as I heard the ongoing conversations on the ship, 'You've successfully lost our chase, and presented us a bigger meat—ultimately making us give up on you.'

It must've been the idea of Ben Beckman, the Vice Captain of the Red Hair pirates.

"But something's strange." Cancer, who seemed to be in deep thought, voiced his opinion, "As far as I recall, the Blaze pirates are currently the target of Vice Admiral Sidecha. In terms of route, he should've located them before our arrival here."

"...It's too late to think about those details." Gion said solemnly, as the seven pirate ships at the shore of Banaro, began to move toward us. Narrowing her eyes, she then stated, "Call the headquarter, and notify them—"

She looked resolute. The other marines, having felt that a huge battle was about to begin, stood strictly, awaiting Gion's order. I, knowing what was about to come, leaned back in my seat comfortably. Not affected by the heavy moods of the others, I casually grabbed a cup of coffee laid out in front of me, and sipped on it.

"—that 24th division will proceed to strike the 'Blaze' pirates."

__________

The sea was calm, generating minor waves that crashed upon the shore of Banaro. The sky, filled with dark clouds, rendered the entire island and its proximity gloomy. And corresponding to such weather, the atmosphere spoke nothing but intensity, with one marine ship currently floating in front of the apporaching seven pirate ships.

The seven pirate ships, circling around the marine ship, contained numerous pirates who seemed giddy to fight. Among the seven, one ship of notably bigger size sailed forth, slowly approaching the marine ship.

On the deck of the said pirate ship, a tall man with blonde hair, red-coloured eyes, and a red cloak around his body, was seen stepping one foot on top of the ship's devil-resembling figurehead. Wearing a grin full of confidence and maliciousness, that man locked his eyes on the Marine Commodore who stood at the front of the marine ship with her arms crossed: Gion.

Smoker, silently gazing at the man from the seat at the back, touched the sheathed hilt of the sword on his waist, Shusui. Behind Gion stood Doll and Cancer; Doll was seen holding two pistols in her hands, while Cancer had an unsheathed sword leaning on top of his shoulder. Aramaki, cracking his knuckles, grinned ferociously.

Then, upon the Blaze pirates' flagship coming to a stop in front of the marine ship,

"...Pff—"The blonde man suddenly burst into laughter, "—Nyahahahaha!!!"

And with that as a cue, all pirates surrounding the marine exploded in the laughter of their own.

"""HAHAHAHAHA!!!"""

Many marine soldiers watched this scene with nervousness in their eyes. Though their guns were out, aiming at the pirates around them, those pirates didn't seem afraid, not even by a little.

"One ship! One single ship!" The blonde man then cried in amusement, "Is the Marine stupid? Do marines truly think they can stop me, 'Hell Blaze' Diego, with a force as petty as this?!"

"...Criminal 'Hell Blaze' Diego. Wanted for 448 million Beli." Gion, speaking coldly, then unsheathed her sword, Konpira, and pointed its blade at the blonde man, Diego, "For the past four years, you've tormented countless individuals. For the sake of your pleasure, you committed many unspeakable deeds. But no more. Today..."

Her cold words, booming loudly in this sea, served as words of encouragement to the marine soldiers. Though they were nervous, her words reminded them that they are the justice, that they are the protectors of the sea.

"...shall be the end of the Blaze pirates."

Smoker, still seated at the back, formed a smile upon hearing Gion's charismatic words.

"Nyahahaha, you aren't the first to say that to me." Diego then opened his right palm. On top of it, one ball of red-hot flame burst into existence, immediately brightening up the area, "And guess what happened to all the others who said that."

"...But yes, I'm aware." Gion, then lowering her sword and chuckling to herself, said, "I'm no different than those 'all the others' whom you experienced. Unlike certain knuckleheads I've come across, I'm not strong enough to charge into a dangerous scenario."

"Nyahaha, what's with this sudden honesty? Are you begging for your life?" Diego grinned in amusement.

"However—"

Then, without a care for Gion's statement, then launched his attack,

"Hell Blaze!"

BOOOM! The huge, intense blast of flame gushed over to the marine ship in an instant. Engulfing it whole, the marine ship disappeared from the sight of the pirates, and,

"Kekekeke... isn't this too easy?"

"Captain, you overdid it again! Hahahaha!!!"

the pirates, watching as the huge cloud of smoke burst out from the site impacted by Diego's flame, laughed victoriously. Diego himself wasn't an exception, laughing without control, "Nyahahahaha! My death? My loss? The end of my journey? You were wrong, oracle—"

before stopping upon noticing... the strange, wiggling movement of smoke. The pirates all stopped their laughs, for they too noticed this phenomenon.

Swoo... It was ominous. Within the gloomy sea where barely any light got through, the huge volume of smoke swirled in a bizarre manner, before,

"...we have Smoker."

the marine ship revealed itself once again from the smoke, with no indication of burn at all. Smoker, now standing in front of the ship, grinned at the dumbfounded Diego.

"Smoker." Gion, who stood behind Smoker, said with trust, "I'll leave Hell Blaze to you."

Smoker, locking his eyes on Diego, replied, "Consider him dead."

"...Nyahaha, I suppose that I've underestimated you just before..." Diego, placing his hand over his eyes, then laughed once again. Then, moving his hand back down, Diego glared at Smoker coldly, "But so what?"

Diego's hand blazed up once again, but to a greater intensity. With his arrogance still intact, Diego was about to blast another attack. Then,

Smoker, suddenly appearing in front of Diego, smashed his fist into the blonde pirate's exposed chest before the latter had the time to react. By the time Diego realized this,

"White Blow."

BOOOM!

He was blasted up high in the air by the heavy impact of Smoker's punch.

"All marines," And simultaneously, Doll, pointing her guns at the enemy pirates, shouted firmly, "FIRE!"

With her call, the battle of Banaro has begun—with the previous nervousness of the marine soldiers having disappeared.

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