Flevance. From an outward appearance, it was a snowy country similar to the Polar Island that I previously came across.
However, there lacked a sense of hostility and caution that the civilians of Polar Island held, with the country itself having been placed under the jurisdiction of the Ghetsis dynasty—the members of the World Government. Though the Flevancians' bodies were covered with specks of dust from the mining works, they worked without a grunt, for they didn't starve at the very least.
"...North Blue is the harshest sea for a reason," Said Senor Pink, the man whom I brought with me. The two of us were currently walking atop the snowy path, with brown cloaks to cover up our appearances. Senor Pink, with his signature sunglasses intact on his face, grimaced, "Out of all four blues, this sea is the region in which the gap between rich and poor is the largest. In contrast to the well-known countries such as Deul kingdom and Whiteland kingdom, people who live in places like here barely survive throughout the day."
I stopped and turned back to gaze at Senor Pink, who paused his locomotion and lowered his head in guilt.
"Donquixote Doflamingo, my former boss. He, along with the Germa 66, worked as the 'mercenaries' who fused many wars in the North Blue. For profits alone, thousands were unreasonably plundered and killed, worsening the already harsh situation of the North Blue. In that sense, Flevance—this place—must've been akin to heaven to many. Not only was this place officially announced to be under the exclusive protection of the World Government, but also guaranteed a stable income for the weak."
"In a sense..." I muttered in comprehension, "Flevance was an oasis in midst of a desert."
Bringing Senor Pink was the right choice to make, I thought. After all, he, having stayed an extensive period in this sea, was quite knowledgeable in this department.
The two of us walked through the empty street; all workers must've gone to the mine, and their family members probably are in their shelters due to the cold and harsh weather.
"Pink," And now, as we stopped in front of one particular building that was covered up by the snow, I asked, "What's today's date again?"
"January 21st, year 1506."
I chuckled, "Three days late, huh..."
Without any halt, I opened the unlocked door and entered the building along with Senor Pink. And from the gateway, I noticed that many patients were bedridden, to the extent that some beds contained two patients instead of one.
Just then, one black-haired man with rectangular glasses swiftly came downstairs with dark bags under his eyes.
"Hello. I'm sorry if you're here to register a patient, but we are currently out of space—"
The man, who robotically spoke with dazed eyes, then stopped his words as he saw my face. He, seemingly noticed my identity in an instant, gulped while taking a step back.
"Dr. Trafalgar?" I, unbothered by the man's antic, asked calmly. The man slowly nodded while heading his eyes to the ceiling with visible concern.
Raising my arms up, I revealed no intention to harm him, "No need to panic. My arrival here was pre-destined prior to the release of my bounty poster. Here."
Within my cloak, I took out a piece of report, "I've read your article regarding the invalidity behind the idea that the newly named 'Amber Lead Syndrome' may potentially be contagious. I haven't come here to harm anyone, but to see if I can be of help."
"...You are aware of the fact that words alone can't earn one's trust. Whatever you say doesn't change that you are a wanted man." Dr. Trafalgar said without dropping caution. However, he then sighed before turning around, "But... cough... beggars can't be choosers. Even if it's a devil who's offering a hand…please come up and I'll explain further."
Before he began walking upstairs, he rang the bell that lied by the side, three times. Though the slight noises of footsteps from the above floor entered my ears, I decided to pretend as if I haven't heard them.
Following Dr. Trafalgar, we eventually stopped in front of a messy table. Scuffling through countless papers, Dr. Trafalgar picked one out and laid it on the table.
"The esteemed doctors of the Drum Kingdom, Isshi-20, recently announced the discovery of the crucial evidence that confirms that Amber Lead Syndrome is contagious. However, they refused to disclose the specific information for an unknown reason. I, along with my associates, attempted to refute the claim, however, was rejected due to our own claim supposedly being 'biased.'"
On top of the paper that Dr. Trafalgar selected, a hand-drawn pedigree tree—the diagram that depicts the genetic inheritance of a trait or disease—was drawn.
"Flevance, known as the 'White Country,' used to be a popular place for tourists prior to the emergence of the Amber Lead Syndrome. However, in contrast to many Flevancians, not even a single tourist was found to have acquired this disease. In addition, no member of the Ghetsis family was diagnosed with this disease either; we came to determine that this disease is incapable of transmitting from one patient to another through the air, water, or any other medium."
Dr. Trafalgar then pointed at the pedigree tree, "And then, we found that all patients' ancestors were the regular miners who dug out the Amber Lead for an extensive period of time. Upon studying the characteristics of the Amber Lead, we finally came to deduce three days ago, that..."
I watched as Dr. Trafalgar bit his lips with a pained expression. He, taking a deep breath, continued,
"...That Amber Lead can enter through the skin and accumulate in one's body. Furthermore, continuous exposure to Amber Lead makes oneself more susceptible to Amber Lead accumulation by genetic alterations, and this altered trait is passed down to the subsequent generation and hence on—ultimately reducing the life span of each succeeding generation."
Senor Pink, who had his arms crossed, commented, "...I don't get a single thing, but it sounds hella serious." He then turned to me and asked, "Then who do we need to punch, Smoker?"
I, ignoring Senor Pink's question, said, "...Therefore, the disease is hereditary."
"Yes, it is—" Dr. Trafalgar nodded, "—Cough... cough cough!!" before abruptly coughing uncontrollably. He, breathing heavily, raised his body back up with vivid exhaustion, "The situation isn't good. I believed that it will take at least a couple more months before the World Government releases the official statement, but..."
"Is there a way to extract the Amber Lead out of a patient's body?" I, though knowing the answer already, asked solemnly.
"...No. Unfortunately not."
I sighed while raising my head up thoughtfully. I ran through my mind, thinking of what options there were for me to choose.
'Recently, the Op Op fruit was released into the world with the death of Deadend Frankenstein. However, its whereabouts are unknown, and finding one small fruit in this vast world without a single piece of information... it's inefficient and unlikely to succeed. If so...'
Lowering my head and gazing at Dr. Trafalgar, I said, "...Drum Kingdom. I'll personally go there and get the supposed 'evidence' out of them. This won't resolve the situation, but I may be able to provide you with more time at least."
Dr. Trafalgar, in response to my offer, narrowed his eyes in suspicion, "Why are you going so far for us? Not to offend you, but... you are no longer a marine. You are currently a wanted man whose primary interest should lie in his own survival."
Hearing his words made me chuckle.
"What a miserable world we live within," I muttered while turning back, "Since when did one require a reason to help others?"
I knew that I chose a difficult path. Perhaps, if I went into hiding and found a way to circumvent around the current situation, I would've secured my safety. But... I couldn't bear to do that, when I knew just how urgent the situation in Flevance currently was. Having my subordinates safe was enough for me.
"Continue your research. Find a way to cure this disease. And... take care of your health."
Dr. Trafalgar was about to say something, but I didn't bother. Without looking back at him, I walked out with grim resolve.
"...It's too late for that." Dr. Trafalgar muttered as he stared at the staircase in front of him.
"I am quite familiar with the way of the Paradise, so I don't need your guide," I said to Senor Pink while walking on a snowy path, "And considering that you lack means to travel as quickly as I do, bringing you along will simply be inefficient."
"You will stay here, Pink." I stated seriously. Senor Pink narrowed his eyes behind his sunglasses,
"...You want me to protect that doctor?"
"A necessary measure."
Senor Pink stopped on his way. He then asked weakly, "...Do you trust in me, Smoker?"
"That depends on you." This time around, I didn't stop. Walking still, I said, "Show me that you are trustworthy, that you are worthy of the title of 'Senor.'"
Senor Pink didn't say anything. But judging by the noises of a foot stepping on the snow, he was walking in the other direction, away from me.
"Hu..." I let out a light breath. On my right wrist, a mini Den Den Mushi was attached. On my left hand was the roughly drawn map of the North Blue by Senor Pink. With this tool at my hand, I planned on reaching the island of Kuen, the southeastern island of the North Blue. A long flight it will be, and afterward, I will have to cross the Red Line to the East Blue,
'From which I will cross the Calm Belt and reach the Drum Kingdom.'
Overall, it was one hasty and arduous journey that I planned for myself. And considering how long the distance of planned travel was, there wasn't even a second of time to waste.
So I took a step forth, and—
—before beginning my flight, the odor of nicotine entered my sense of smell. Shifting my eyes, I came to see one blonde-haired Marine Officer with a cigarette in his mouth, Cancer, walking toward me, along with the orange-haired teenage marine, X Drake, by his side. I stopped myself from beginning my flight, quite surprised by their appearance.
"...Cancer," Knowing that he recognized me right away, I greeted him in a monotone, "So you were waiting for me, eh."
"Oi, Smoker...!!!" Cancer, straight off exhibiting his confusion and concern, gritted his teeth, "What in the hell is going on—"
Upon Cancer entering my arm's range, I swiftly snatched the cigarette out of his mouth and burned it away,
"How many times have I told you not to smoke?"
"Answer me, alright?!" Cancer, uncaring of the burned-away cigarette, shouted, "What's with that bounty on your head?! I mean, Hook died when he's Warlord and that, but you aren't the type to make a choice as idiotic as chasing down the ally of the World Government!!"
"You!!" Drake, on the other hand, trembled in rage, "You are just like that scum of a father, aren't you?! You betrayed—"
Cancer, slamming his fist onto Drake's cheek, barked in anger, "Shut up, kid!!! Why the hell did you follow me in the first place when I clearly order you not to do so?!!"
I looked at the two of them with a light smile, finding amusement in the current situation. Then, as two pairs of eyes looked at me with expectations, I answered, "It was the other way around. Hook tracked me down and assaulted me. And on his back,"
Reaching into my cloak, I took out a picture of the deceased Hook's back. Cancer and Drake, upon looking at the picture, widened their eyes in disbelief.
"there was the Hoof of the Soaring Dragon. Three conclusions can be drawn from this," I raised three fingers up, "One, there are the World Government's loyal agents in the ranks of the Marine. Two, they relayed the information regarding my route of travel to Martini Hook. Three, they found my purpose of travel to Flevance irking."
"Wh...at..." Drake whispered while half-embedded in the snow.
"Now, get out of this country before they get suspicious of you," I said while walking past Cancer, "But do relay this info to our colleagues, Orobi, Garp-sensei, Zephyr-san, and Kuzan-san, will you? Be careful of them, and you focus on your task of catching that Diez Barrels."
However, I then found my right wrist caught by Cancer's hand. I found myself pleasantly surprised.
'…Since when did you awaken your Haki?'
Cancer didn't say anything, but hurriedly read the number written on my Mini Den Den Mushi, before dropping my wrist back down.
I, with a grin on my face, shook my head before speaking for the final time,
"This country is sick. And the World Government plans to accelerate its death."
My walk resumed,
"If you... happen to come across any piece of information regarding the Op Op fruit, do give me a notice. People here need it more than those riches do."
Cancer stood silently with his head dropped. Drake, on the other hand, whispered,
"...I am sorry."
but I was long gone by then.
[One day After; Kuen Village]
Is was on a dry and lifeless island, where the scrawny and bony civilians hid within their poorly built huts and warily gazed outside. Every day, these people would search for food in this barren land filled with nothing but dead trees, however, things were different this around. After all, in the middle of the island was one cloaked man, surrounded by hundreds of marines who arrived here a few days ago.
"Traitor... to think we'll encounter you in this place of all possibilities..." Onigumo, who held his sword against the cloaked man with a murderous grin, stated, "how fortunate for us."
"Yet another man who's fallen into his bias, thinking that he's the 'justice' above the law itself." Tensei, shaking his head in disappointment, put on his black gloves, "And I thought you are different, former Vice Admiral Smoker."
"...Needing to face yesterday's comrade truly pains my heart." Bayard, while feigning sadness, unsheathed his sword, "I'll make this quick and painless for you, Smoker-san. That's the least that I can do."
Three formidable Vice Admirals, along with tens of Marine Officers and hundreds of foot soldiers under them. Smoker found himself in quite a troublesome situation.
'...I should've gone to Rubeck Island instead,' Smoker thought dryly, 'Sorry for neglecting your wish, Garp-sensei.'
Onigumo, Tensei, and Bayard. The three of them were known as some of the stronger ones within the rank of Vice Admiral. And Smoker, based on his Observation Haki, knew that this won't be an easy escape.
But nonetheless, Smoker masked his emotion and provoked the three Vice Admirals,
"Lots of barking there. Spider dog, black dog, orange dog… wow, I see three dogs in front of me. What are you guys, a rip-off Cerberus?"
And just when Smoker said so, he found Onigumo's Haki-imbued blade right in front of him.