Lost Uzumaki – Part 3: Challenge

Small Banner created for the story Lost Uzumaki

Jan Ken Haki

With a loud clatter of metal, Naruto dropped the heavy bundle he had been carrying onto the ground where his uncle had indicated, and stared at him with a frown. “Why exactly do we need all this?” He asked, hoping his uncle wasn’t playing a prank on him after making him carry it from the ship. He looked up at their surroundings, taking note of the mostly barren terrain.  The beach itself had fine sand and would have been quite the find, if it wasn’t for the rocky and bare cliffs that stretched upward only a few dozen feet in. Atop the rocky crest, there was nothing but a few scraggly plants and bushes. Oh, and it was hot.

Shanks smirked, “Experimentation.”

Naruto frowned. “If you think I’m going to make you Kage Bunshin to test all those on…”

Shanks laughed.  “Maybe some other time; remember our discussion about haki?”

Naruto blinked and then his face lit up, “Oh you mean that stuff you showed me with Benn!”

Shanks nodded, his amusement plain. “That’s right. I thought we should test the strengths of it against your chakra abilities now rather than in a battle. These,” he said gesturing to the bundle of swords, maces, and other various types of weaponry, “are extra pieces we have picked up. No one will miss them if they become damaged or destroyed.”

“You want to destroy them?” Naruto asked surprised.

“No, I want you to try to do so.” Shanks then explained.

Naruto scoffed. “You don’t think I can?” he challenged.

Shanks lips turned up in a smirk. “Why don’t you prove me wrong?”

Naruto’s eyes sparkled. “You’re on.”

It took only an instant for the ringing clash of metal on metal to fill the air.

“Good!” Shanks said in glee as he held a sword pressed hard against the kunai Naruto had blocked it with, their eyes meeting steadily. “Now, you said you could enhance those little blades of yours with chakra, do so.”

Both pulled back and in moments rushed forward again; the sound of steel meeting steel ringing out once more before there was a snap and Shanks ducked sideways, dodging the kunai that flashed through where his head had been moments before. “Excellent!” he shouted as he dropped the now-broken sword and picked up the next weapon, the new blade shifting from the silvery gray of steel to a deep black tone, light bouncing off the metal.

“Again!” Shanks cried out and lunged forward once more. Naruto sprung back out of the way with a muttered curse as he dodged several more strikes before raising his infused kunai to block once more. He yelped and fumbled as his kunai fell to pieces and he nearly lost several of his fingers.

“Very interesting.” Shanks stated in a considering tone.

Naruto glared at his uncle. “What the hell was that?! You could have warned me!”

Shanks scoffed, “Where would the fun in that be? You reacted well enough; it seems your chakra enhancements are not enough to match armament haki, though I suspect they may do a bit of damage to a logia user caught unawares.”

Naruto grumbled and pulled out a new kunai. “Fine.”

This time it was Shanks who let out a yelp as his nephew took the offensive and he dodged out of the way just as several strands of red fluttered to the ground.

Shanks narrowed his eyes, “Oh, that was not nice…”

Naruto grinned cheekily, “and what are you going to do about it?”

The sound of steel on steel met once more. It took several blows, before the blade once attached to the hilt in Shank’s grip fell to the ground in several pieces, sheared clean though. “Very nice; what did you do differently?” Shanks asked as he studied the clean breaks while keeping a wary eye on his unpredictable nephew.

“Wind Chakra. It extends, sharpens, and strengths any weapon it’s channeled into. I can use it without a weapon to back it as well. Wind chakra is what makes a regular Rasengan into a Rasenshuriken as well.” Naruto offered in explanation as he watched his uncle study the damage before pulling a new blade from the pile.


Naruto smiled brightly and held out his hand, palm up. It took only moments for the blue sphere of whirling energy to appear.

Shanks eyed the sphere, leaning closer and studying the rotating energy with interest. “Very shiny, what does it do, exactly?”

Naruto smirked then took off at a run toward the nearest cliff wall, shoving the whirling ball into the cliff face. There was a loud grinding and a crunch before Naruto backed away, studying the cliff face. He nodded before stepping aside to let his uncle inspect the new scar carved into the stone.

Shanks stepped forward and hummed in appreciation as he studied the marks cut into the stone. It appeared the whirling sphere had somehow carved deep spiral gouges into the cliff face. “This was the normal form of this skill?” He asked.

“Right, as I mentioned before, I can only use Rasenshuriken in sage mode safely. If I try to use it otherwise… well, Sakura-chan said she’d rip my arms off for me and save me the trouble of self-mutilation if I didn’t promise to never try it again, after the last time I used it.”

Shanks blinked. “Sakura-chan?”

Naruto smiled softly, “She’s a medic nin, and my teammate. We graduated from the academy together and were placed on the same genin team.”

Shanks raised an eyebrow in inquiry and then smirked. “Girlfriend?”

Naruto stiffened and then paled. “Never. Ever. Suggest that to her. Ever.” He shuddered and glanced up at the cliff face. “She’d drop this entire cliff side on your head for it.”

Shanks chuckled. “Sounds like quite the woman.”

Naruto narrowed his gaze at his uncle. “Oi, what are you saying?!”

Shanks guffawed and waved his hand dismissively. “Nothing, nothing. So back to this wind chakra; it seems like it was able to cut through armament haki, but it took several precise strikes to do so.”

Naruto nodded, “That sounds right.”

Shanks studied the hilt of the most recently broken blade once more. “This was a relatively cheap blade, even with armament haki, it can only be reinforced so much. I don’t think the wind chakra would be enough to seriously damage anything of real quality that is also infused with armament haki. As for a physical body shielded by armament haki, that would really depend on your opponent’s strength of will.”

Naruto shrugged, he’d figure it out if it came to a fight, he usually did, after all.

“Now,” Shanks continued, “About this nature chakra, how does that affect your combat abilities exactly?”

Naruto hummed in thought, “I’m not really good at explaining this sort of stuff, easier to show you, I think.  I should practice gathering nature chakra here as well; it’s different compared to home. More wild, more potent, and the world here itself seems to be more heavily saturated with it.” With that said, he settled down onto the sand lotus style and closed his eyes.

Shanks blinked; well, this looked slightly problematic for use in a fight.

“You need charge-up time?” Shanks asked

Naruto did not answer for several long moments as the skin above his eyes slowly darkened to a deep orange. When he opened his eyes, Shanks found himself once more staring into the golden irises and black bar-like pupils.

“The balance of nature energy and my own has to be perfect. It is also impossible to gather nature energy while in motion.”

“How can you use this in a fight, then? Taking time to gather the energy leaves you completely vulnerable.” Shanks stated frowning.

Naruto gave him a foxlike grin. “I have my ways.” With that said, two more Narutos appeared flanking the original and then took off up the cliff edge before vanishing above it. “Ready for that demonstration?”

Shanks watched the two clones vanish, and wondered again just how many his nephew could create. He returned to the pile of random weaponry and picked up a new sword. “All right, kid, show me what you got.”

No sooner had the redhead spoke than the blonde vanished and the sound of steel on steel filled the air.

Shanks laughed brightly as his feet slid back in the sand creating furrows after several clashes. “Not bad, not bad at all!”

Naruto only grinned as a new clone appeared at his side and he raised one hand up in the air.

Shanks eyes widened as the air above his hand filled with swirling blue which then grew. The pirate cursed and leapt to the side as his nephew moved and his voice called out:

“Odama Rasengan!”

Sand flew and filled the air blocking all sight.


The Red Force shifted as the waves rocked unsteadily, the water itself reacting to the vibrations and shockwaves coming from the dueling pair on the shoreline.

“They’re going to destroy the beach…” one of the crewmen who stood along the rail, of the Red Force facing the island, said in shock.

“Shit… the kid is actually giving Captain a workout!” another one said, dumbfounded.

Benn exhaled, allowing wisps of smoke to slip past his lips, as he kept his gaze focused on the shoreline.  “Yasopp, what are the clones doing?” He finally asked.

The sniper shifted his gaze slightly from the shore itself to the cliff edges and hummed in thought. “They look like they are just sitting there… meditating.”

“Ah!” another crew member shouted. “I can sense the kid again!”

“He must have run out of that weird energy he gathered.” Another said. “Wait, he’s gone again!”

“So that’s what the clones are for.” Yasopp said and sniggered, “Clever rascal.”

Benn chuckled. “He’s using the clones to gather energy, then dismisses one when he needs a recharge?”

“That’s what it looks like.” Yasopp agreed. “Oh, looks like the captain has caught on.”

No sooner had the blonde sniper spoke than a huge section of the cliff crumbled and began to slide down; taking the clone that had been perched at the top with it.

“The kid is throwing another one of those big blue bomb things,” Rockstar called out, “wait, no, there are two of them! The clone is using one, too!”

Sand and rock filled the air once more, obscuring all in sight.

Benn smirked, “Seems the kid has run out, now things should really get interesting.”


Mihawk nearly growled as the island came into sight. He had not been here in ages, and why the Hell would Akagami choose this island to visit? There was nothing there but barren rock, no supplies of any use. He highly doubted Shanks had chosen it as a place to build a stash; much too boring for the Redheaded Pirate’s taste. No, the last time he had found Akagami here… ah yes, that was after he had first returned to the Grand Line and New World after losing his left arm; when Mihawk had refused to duel him ever again. The memory soured his mood even further.

He resigned himself to being annoyed as he spotted the Red-Haired Pirates’ ship anchored off shore of one of the more hospitable beaches. He frowned as he considered what he sensed. It seemed almost all the crew was still aboard the ship… although there was some sort of scuffle happening on the shore. Had some idiot chosen to challenge Akagami here? And yet, there was no sign of any other ships nearby.

He angled his skiff to come in alongside the Red Force and secured his own smaller ship to it. He climbed up onto the other ship, and with his lips stretched tight in a frown approached the First Mate. He was surprised that the gray-haired pirate had not turned to greet him. Benn was usually much more cautious, but both the First Mate and all other members of the Red-Haired crew were staring intently at the shoreline.

Mihawk stopped beside Beckman and looked towards the shore as well. His eyes widened and he inhaled sharply as what he was sensing began to match up with what he was seeing. He could sense the Red-Haired Captain, but he was lost under a sea of orange, black, and blonde moving bodies and wisps of what almost looked like smoke. “That is not…”

Beckman chuckled as he lit another cigarette without taking his eyes off the shore. “Captain has been running his nephew through his paces, checking his limits. The kid is a stamina freak and I don’t think Shanks has had this much fun since you refused to duel him.”

Mihawk’s gaze narrowed and his muscles all tensed.

“It’s not a Devil’s Fruit, by the way.” Beckman offered, bemused.

Yasopp snickered as the Shichibukai vanished from their side. “Now you’ve done it. Captain won’t be so happy about his fun being interrupted.”

Benn snorted. “As if I would worry about his dislike of sharing when it comes to dealing with Hawkeyes.”

Chuckles from several other crewmembers around them were the only answer.


Shanks chuckled as he weaved between blobs of blonde and orange, and then side stepped several more before raising his sword to slice through an entire set of them at once. The squawks of indignation that came from several of the still living only amused him further. The best part of it all, they were coordinating with each other in ways he had never seen any group of fighters manage. The closest to it were tight knit pirate crews that had been sailing together for years. Perhaps Benn, Yasopp, himself, and maybe two or three of the other oldest members of his crew could manage it, but even that he doubted.

The way the clones of his nephew coordinated, played off each other, and supported one another was something else entirely. Shanks had little doubt now that this, more than anything else, was truly his nephew’s signature move and strongest skill. The sheer number of the clones he could create was nearly unfathomable. He had mocked the blonde teen when he had run out of his special nature chakra and lost the edge it had been giving him. The teen had only laughed and given another foxlike grin before answering.

“You know what else I’ve been called besides ‘Konoha’s Number One Most Surprising Shinobi’?” The teen had asked, eyes twinkling. “A ‘One Man Army’.”

Shanks had stared, eyes wide and mouth hanging open at what happened next. The kid had gotten several very good hits in as Shanks struggled to recover, for not only were his eyes overwhelmed by the sea of orange, but just as the kid’s sage mode had all-but rendered observation haki pointless, so did the swarm of clones. The tickling sensation he had always attributed to his nephew’s clones until now, was in fact a burning itch and thousands of tiny prickling needles all at once as he tried to take in all the different spikes of intent at once. He had thought at first it would be like facing hundreds of marines at once, and in some ways it was, but at the same time completely not. They all resonated at the same frequency, the same voice in his head, and the sheer number of them all muttering and mumbled together making any single one all but impossible to pick out.

This was the true strength of the clones, despite their lack of durability. What did it matter if they only lasted for one or maybe two good hits, if they were lucky, when there were always at least half a dozen more ready to fill the space left by the one dispersed.

Shanks wasn’t even sure how long they had been keeping this activity up, as he had long ago lost count of the number of clones he had “killed”. He wondered idly for a moment if he was going to have nightmares about murdering his nephew after this.

It was at that moment that his observation haki alerted him to something new and he leapt backwards with a curse.

“Watch it with that oversized cheese-cutter of yours, Hawkeyes!” Shanks shouted at his long-time friend and rival. The raven-haired man was paying him no heed, however, as he instead focused on the now unmoving swarm of clones.

“How is this possible?” Hawkeyes finally spoke as his gaze continued to track across the identical copies.

Shanks snickered in glee; he hadn’t had anything to hold over Mihawk now in ages. “Why don’t you have a spar with him and see if you can figure it out?” He offered, obviously amused.

Mihawk spared a withering glance for the redhead before focusing on the blonde mass once more. “I wasn’t aware you wanted your nephew dead that badly.”

Shanks snorted as the crowd of clones all shouted out in indignation.  “Naruto, try not to cut up Hawkeyes’ sword. He’ll mope for months if you do.”

Feral grins spreading across the sea of blonde-haired teens was the only response. Mihawk raised an eyebrow, hardly able to believe what the redhead was implying.

Then, as one, the horde moved and Mihawk was lost in the midst of them. “Oi, Hawkeyes!” Shanks called out, laughter on the edge of his tone, “Meet my nephew, Uzumaki Naruto, Shinobi of Konohagakure.”

There were simultaneous cries of shock as a large patch of blonde and orange vanished. “Then just who did I meet the last time?” Mihawk snarled as he took the moment to meet Shanks gaze.

Shanks smirked. “A shadow clone, one of these fine fellows.” He offered as he gestured to the crowd.


It was hours later, when Mihawk stood staring intently at the broadside of his sword in stunned shock, that the fight finally seemed to draw to a close.  The mess of clones had finally stopped reappearing, leaving one grinning and slightly out-of-breath teen in their wake. Shanks approached his nephew and patted him on the back. “Good job kid, though Mihawk may hold it against you for a while.”

Naruto glanced up at his uncle and grinned sheepishly. “I only scratched it.”

Mihawk turned his eyes from his sword to glare at the teen. “If you were anyone else you would be dead, boy.”

Naruto snorted, but didn’t respond to the death threat.

Shanks chuckled. “So, Mihawk, what brings you to this lovely little bit of island?”

Mihawk huffed but pulled a small stack of paper from some hidden pocket in his jacket. “Monkey D. Luffy is making quite a name for himself in Paradise; his entire crew this time.”

Shanks’ eyes went wide as he took the small stack and stared at the paper on the top. His mouth slowly curved upwards and stretched into a huge grin as he suddenly ran towards the shoreline waving the papers in the air. “BENN! YASOPP!! Luffy! He—! He tripled it again!!!”

Naruto sighed as his uncle began wading into the ocean. He quickly jogged after his uncle, and reached out to grasp him by the shoulder before the pair vanished in a yellow flash.

Mihawk blinked.

Shouts and yells of excitement filled the air, soon followed by the unforgettable sound of the Red-Haired Pirates diving straight into full party mode.

Another yellow flash filled the air and the blonde-haired teen reappeared, scooping a strange tri-pronged short-blade up from the sand as he did so. The teen turned to him with a grin and walked over, “No hard feelings about the scratch?”

Mihawk glared, but before he could say a word, the boy grabbed his arm. He stumbled as he suddenly found himself standing aboard the Red Force once more.

Mihawk bristled and snarled. “Never. Do. That. Again!”

The crew went silent for several long moments before the teen spoke again.

 “Yeah, Shanks-oji got all grumpy the first time I took him along as well.”

Mihawk stared at the teen incredulously; did he have no sense of self-preservation at all? Then he groaned and let out an annoyed huff before turning and heading down into the Red Force.

Shanks’ laughter filled the air once more, soon joined by his nephew’s voice.

Beckman sighed as he watched the whole scene, then he glanced down at the posters that had been left in his care and smirked. Declaring war on the World Government, the kid wasn’t doing anything by halves. He flipped through the stack of posters, curious about the rest of the boy’s crew. His lips twitched at the nose of the one called Sogeking and idly wondered if Yasopp would recognize it. There was the so-called pet as well; Benn would bet good money that the pet was really a Zoan user. Then there was the mysterious Nico Robin… and there was something about the woman’s gaze in the poster. She lacked the hunted look he remembered from her childhood poster.

Benn glanced up at a loud crash and spotted Shanks and Naruto in the middle of a broken keg. Shanks had lost some of the lingering haunted look that always lurked behind his eyes lately as well. Benn chuckled a bit more at the similarities between the loud-mouthed seven year old they had seen all those years ago and the loud-mouthed blonde they now considered nakama.

Mihawk reappeared and came to stand beside the first mate, wine bottle open and in hand. “He is different.” Mihawk stated.

Benn only smiled. “Shanks keeps going on about the kid’s haki being warm.”

Mihawk snorted but made no further comment and before long, a small smirk graced the Shichibukai’s lips as he too watched nephew and uncle.  “He’s going to drive the Marines insane.” He finally stated.

“Which one?” Benn asked chuckling.

Mihawk’s lips curled in a smirk as he produced a second wine bottle and handed it to Benn. “Both.”

Benn accepted the bottle and nodded in agreement. He shuffled the stack of papers to the green-haired swordsman, “Seems your own apprentice is making a name for himself as well. Second bounty and just like his captain, already breaking the 100 million mark.”

Mihawk’s expression turned more serious. “I would hardly call him an apprentice. Stubborn and foolish idiot is more like it, he swore to never again be defeated to his Captain the day I defeated him. His heart will either get him killed or see him through to the end.”

Benn smiled, Luffy had found a good first mate. His eyes traveled back to Shanks and his nephew and he sighed. A drinking contest had begun. He supposed it had only been a matter of time, as Shanks had wanted a rematch ever since the clone had revealed the fact that it couldn’t get drunk the last time.

Mihawk raised an eyebrow as he realized what was taking place. “Akagami trying to kill his nephew with alcohol poisoning now?”

Benn snorted. “He lost to one of the kid’s clones and wants to put the kid in his place. Captain has a reputation to uphold after all.”

Mihawk smirked at that, “The mighty Red-Haired Captain, out drunk by a mere teen? He’ll never live it down.”

Benn grinned and offered his bottle in toast. Mihawk raised his own and they both drank and settled down to watch. After all, Mihawk was right about one thing, someone would have to make sure the kid survived the night.

Message of War

“Sir! The Lookout has spotted Hawkeye’s coffin-ship.”

The Captain of the Marine ship looked up at the reporting Marine with an expression of relief. “It’s about damn time. Bastard had to be off touring the New World instead of Paradise when we were assigned this duty. How far off is it?”

The reporting Marine fidgeted nervously. “About that sir…”

The Captain frowned, “Out with it!”

The Marine winced, “It’s moored with the Red Force offshore of the nearest island, Sir.”

The Captain froze and then glared. “Marine, I hope I heard you incorrectly. Did you just say the Red Force?”

The Marine gulped. “Y—ye—yes, Sir.”

The Captain snarled and sent papers flying off his desk as he surged to his feet. This was why he hated the Shichibukai. Damn pirates always did whatever they wanted and, because they were employed by the World Government, there was nothing the Marines could do about who they associated with. “Prepare a longboat,” he finally growled; at least there was no risk of being turned to stone by the whims of Hancock.


It was the sound of suppressed laughter and snickering voices that alerted Dracule Mihawk that he was not, in fact, alone on his own ship. It was the bits of conversation about Marines, and the state of one Marine’s trousers in particular, that tipped him off to the fact that something likely to be a great annoyance in the near future was currently seeking his attention.

He raised a hand and tipped his hat back from his face slowly before opening one golden eye to glare at those who were in turn staring at him. The crew of Red-Haired Shanks had all kept a respectful distance, though even now they continued to elbow one another, point, and make lewd gestures. Mihawk ignored them as his gaze swept over them and then settled on the very out-of-place-looking man in a white uniform with blue trim. Mihawk only just refrained from letting out a long sigh. “What could possibly be so important that you would dare to bother me here?” he growled as he slowly sat up, pausing briefly as something tickled the edge of his senses.

The Marine flinched visibly and then seemed to straighten while glancing nervously around.  The Marine’s gaze was distracted, frozen on something happening off to the side.

More snickers from the Red-Haired crew filled the air.

Mihawk ignored the pirate crew and turned to see what the Marine found so interesting.  His focus settled on the object of the Marine’s attention; he blinked and one eyebrow arched in surprise.

There, crouched on the deck, was Shanks’ nephew. The blonde-haired teen had a huge shit-eating grin on his face as he focused intently downward. Laid out on his back before the teen, snoring away, was the Red-Haired Captain, himself. Neither of these two facts alone were the cause of the snickers of the crew and the traumatized look now on the Marine’s face. No, the cause of such reactions was the black marker clutched in the boy’s hand as he giggled and doodled on his uncle’s face.  The oblivious Captain already sported whisker marks across his cheeks to match the boy’s own and Mihawk thought he saw what seemed like the start of a familiar spiral around the man’s right eye.

Mihawk twitched as he struggled to not let the ridiculousness of the situation, and his amusement at it, be revealed. It seemed that the drinking rematch against his nephew had backfired on the Red-Haired Pirate. He turned his focus back to the Marine, who had yet to answer his question.

“Well?” He asked, further annoyed as he fingered the hilt of his sword. It was at that moment he was forced to remember the hours he had spent polishing the blade to remove the blemish caused by his spar with the blonde-haired teen. Perhaps he should wake Akagami up to catch the teen in the act of his doodling. Then his head throbbed, and he also recalled the various bottles he had emptied along with the First Mate. No, adding Shanks’ shrieks to the current sounds would not be an improvement.

“A m—mes—message for you… sir.” The Marine finally stammered out nervously.

Mihawk sighed. “Let’s have it then, so you can get back to where you belong.”

The crew around them snickered at this and made various comments about the Marine running home to his mother. Mihawk ignored the Marine’s discomfort as he accepted the sealed packet of papers he was offered. The Marine however, did not move.

“Is there something else?” Mihawk asked and then twitched as something seemed to tickle the edge of his senses again.

“I—I am… I mean, I w— was o… ordered to wait for your response.” The Marine answered, finally getting that last bit out in a rush.

Mihawk stared.

“Sir.” The Marine finished weekly.

Mihawk refrained from letting out a snarl. There were times, when he really found the whole business of being Shichibukai more trouble than it was worth.

He opened the packet and scanned the documents within, stilling as he did so.

It was as if a ripple had spread across the ship and snickers silenced as eyes all turned and focused steady gazes on the Warlord.

“Return to your ship. I will join you when my business here is complete.” Mihawk finally said. His voice was cold and left no room for argument from the Marine.

The Marine gulped and nodded before turning to head toward the edge of the ship, glancing nervously at the now silent pirates who watched him go. He nearly tripped as he moved to climb over the rail, unnerved by how they had gone so suddenly from teasing him mercilessly to this sudden silence.

As the Marine vanished over the edge of the ship, Shanks began to stir and groan.

Naruto stepped away, the marker he had held moments before vanishing from sight.

Shanks blinked, and then groaned louder. “How…” he moaned. “How could you drink like that and feel nothing….” He whined as he took in the smirk on his nephew’s face.

Before the blonde could answer, however, Mihawk spoke. “Akagami.”

Shanks turned to meet Mihawk’s hard gaze and frowned. 

“The Marines are going to War with Whitebeard. I have been summoned to Marineford.”

There was a hiss of indrawn breaths across the ship.

“Ace…” Shanks whispered.

Mihawk gave a curt nod.

Naruto looked back and forth between his uncle and the warlord. “What does that mean?”

Benn came up to stand beside the blonde, “It means…” he began but then Shanks caught his first mate’s gaze.

“It means Ace has been taken captive by the Marines and they have announced his public execution date.” Shanks stated.

Naruto looked wide-eyed at the pirates around him and all the somber expressions.

Mihawk settled his sword comfortably on his back and moved toward the railing where his own ship was moored, then turned to face Shanks once more and paused. “The whiskers suit you Akagami, but the spiral does not.” With that said, he disembarked from the Red Force.

Shanks frowned, “Spiral? “

Benn stepped forward and offered the Captain a small mirror.

Shanks froze as he lifted the mirror to see his own reflection.  His gaze slowly shifted to meet that of his very fidgety looking nephew. “Naruto…”

The blonde teen chuckled nervously, “Yeah?”


“Ah you see… well… um, now we have matching whiskers!?”

The red-haired Captain stared at his nephew, “And why aren’t you sharing my pounding headache?” He grumbled.

“Ah, well you know, I’ve always had this high metabolism, so I’ve never really been able to get drunk. Not that I haven’t tried!”

Shanks sighed, shoulders slumping in defeat, as he accepted the towel handed to him by a snickering Yasopp and began to scrub at his face. “This had better come off…” he grumbled.


“So are we going to try to rescue Ace?” Naruto asked as he sat down at the navigation room table beside Benn.

“We are not.” Shanks answered.

Naruto stared in surprise, “But…”

Yasopp patted him on the shoulder as he sat down on the blonde teen’s other side.

“It’s not that simple.” Benn explained, “Whitebeard will be making his own move to rescue Ace. After all, Ace is the second division commander and one of his declared sons. If we intervened and prevented Whitebeard from saving Ace himself, it would be an insult.”

“The Old Man would be pissed, and it’s not our job.” Shanks added. “The real question is whether the Marines now know who Ace really is. No, I’m more concerned about what the other two will do.”

“Other two?” Naruto asked.

“Kaido and Big Mom, Charlotte Linlin, the other two Yonko of the New World,” Yasopp offered.

“So what can we do, then?” Naruto questioned, his blue gaze determined.

Yasopp and Benn glanced from the teen, to each other and then toward their Captain.

Shanks grinned. “We prepare to go to War with the Yonko.”

Incident Orange

Blue eyes twinkled in amusement as they watched another good-sized group of Marines disappear through the doorway of The Drunken Gull. It was just as Shanks-oji and the others had said: a bar that catered to the Marines stationed at the local base, but was not run by the Marines themselves. With a grin plastered on his face, he made several quick hand-signs before a hazy screen of air covered him for a moment. That task completed, he strutted out of the shadows and made for the bar’s doorway. It was time for The Gallant Jiraiya to make his appearance.


“Benn—” Shanks moaned and hung off the taller pirate’s arm.

Benn let out a long sigh, “what is it, Captain?”

“I’m a terrible uncle.” Shanks sniffled.

Benn arched an eyebrow in question.

“I sent Naruto to a Marine Base.” The Redhead said, his voice shaded with tones of horror.

“You have been planning to do so for quite some time, Captain.”

Shanks wailed, “But I sent him alone! How could I send him alone?!”

“You just realized this now?” Benn asked, remembering again why he was usually the one to plan out any attack that required strategy.

Shanks sniffled.

“I thought that was why you tested him with Mihawk?” Benn asked after a moment.

Shanks fidgeted, “It is… but…”

Benn suddenly felt sorry for the blonde-haired young man, “You are going to become a mother hen with him, aren’t you?”

Shanks narrowed his eyes and looked away. “Maybe.”


Metal plates clanged as the cell door was slammed closed; the sound of iron tumblers sliding into place as a lock was turned quickly followed. “Make yourself at home and sleep it off, Old Man.” The Marine who had just finished turning the key said. There were several chuckles from the other present Marines, who had helped escort the rowdy old man into the prison.

“You fellas are the best!” The white-haired man now behind cell bars exclaimed, grinning at the Marines. Then he blinked and squinted as he peered around. “But where are the girls?”

One of the Marines snorted as the group turned and left the corridor, the sound of footsteps echoing back to the cell.

“Well that was kind of rude.” The older man grumbled as he took a closer look at his surroundings, a bit surprised there was not even one guard left in sight. Well, that would suit him just fine. With quick practiced motions, the disguise was dispelled, and a blonde-haired, blue-eyed teen took the place of the larger white-haired man. “Thanks Ero-sennin.” He said softly, briefly remembering the time spent traveling with his godfather.

A moment later, it was a simple matter of a tossed kunai followed by a brief yellow flash, and the locked cell was empty once more.  Another flare of energy and five clones appeared in a semicircle around the teen. “Right then, time to get to work.” The appearance of brushes, ink and a large grin quickly followed. “Now, let’s get this place sound-proofed and secured to Shinobi standards.”


“Commodore, Sir!”

“Yes, what is it?” The older Marine asked as he kept skimming through the report before him. The Commodore glanced up as the recruit stopped before his desk, and frowned at the anxious look on the young man’s face.

“We have a situation, Sir.”

“What kind of situation?” The Commodore asked with a sigh and leaned back in his chair.

“At the main gate, Sir, it’s a woman; a civilian.”

The commodore frowned, “And what about her?”

“We seem to have lost her godfather, Sir.”

The Commodore’s eyebrow twitched, “Lost… her godfather. Explain, Recruit.”

The recruit fidgeted, “Well, that’s the thing, Sir. We arrested a man matching the description she gave last night at The Drunken Gull for disorderly conduct, but there are no release papers and no sign of the man himself now.”

Another Marine rushed into the room, “You better come down to the Main Gate, Sir.”

The Commodore closed his eyes and raised a hand to massage his brow before slowly rising to his feet, “Very well.”

The two recruits fell in behind their commander as he left his office and headed toward the Main Gate. His frown deepened as they approached the doorway leading to the Main Gate and he began to hear voices carry back to him. He rounded the corner into the open air and paused mid-step. There, surrounded by at least a half-dozen recruits, was a young blonde-haired woman. Her hair fell in two long pigtails waving gently in the wind on either side of her head. She sat perched on a stool someone had provided and clasped her hands around several tissues. Large watery blue eyes suddenly turned to meet the Commodore’s gaze.

He quickly composed himself and strode forward once more as he began speaking. “I’m terribly sorry for the confusion, Miss. There has apparently been some mix-up in the paperwork. Why don’t you come join me in my office until it can be sorted out; I’m sure your…”

“Godfather,” She quickly stated as she rose to her feet.

“Yes, your Godfather was released earlier and the paperwork misplaced. “ The Commodore explained.

The girl sniffled and clenched her tissue tighter as more tears began to fill her eyes.

The Commodore winced, “I promise you, we will find him.”

At that, the girl’s face brightened and the Commodore noticed the odd whisker-like markings on her cheeks. “You promise!?” She asked quickly.

“Of course, now if you would follow me.” The Commodore replied before turning his gaze to the clustered Marines staring at the girl. “You lot, find out what happened to her Godfather and report to me as soon as you have located the man.”

There was a staggered chorus of ‘yes, Sir’s as the Commodore turned and offered his arm to the young woman. “This way, Miss… I’m sorry, they didn’t tell me your name.”

The girl’s eyes widened and she hesitated for a moment before speaking. “Namikaze… Umi, Sir.”

“Lovely name; fitting for one who lives by the sea.” The Commodore responded as he guided her along. He led her into his office, and gestured for her to sit down in one of the waiting chairs facing his desk. “Now, why don’t you tell me a bit more about your godfather?”

“His name is Jiraiya. He’s an author and currently looking for a publisher here in the Grand Line.” She sniffed, “He… he said he was just going to the bar to ask around and look for inspiration. He often does that, and I wasn’t too worried when he wasn’t at the inn we were staying at this morning.” She sniffled again, “But… when I asked at the local bar… they said… he… he had been taken by the Marines!” At this, she rose to her feet quickly, tears falling freely down her cheeks. “He’s not a bad man, Sir! Please, you have to find him!”

The Commodore blanched and reached out for her hand. “Now Miss Namikaze, I’m sure your godfather is fine. Please sit down.”

It was at that moment that there was a loud thunk as the Commodore collapsed onto his desk unconscious.

“That wasn’t needed.” The blonde girl stated as she rolled her eyes.

“He was holding your hand!” The blonde teen, who had moments before been disguised as a potted plant behind the now unconscious Commodore’s desk, argued.

“I had it under control!” The girl grumbled. “I can take care of myself!”

The blonde teen rolled his eyes. “Too bad nee-chan. Boss is ready for the next stage.”

“I know that! Idiot, I am you!” She argued back before a brief whoosh of displaced hazy air covered her and then faded leaving an exact copy of the other blonde in the room. “I’ll take his place; you take him to the cells.”

The first blonde teen grumbled but grabbed hold of the unconscious Commodore before both he and the Marine vanished in a brief yellow flash. The remaining clone glanced around the room before crossing his fingers and being covered by a haze of displaced air once more, this time the form of the Commodore appearing. “Stupid overprotective clones, how they decided a female henge was their sister….” He trailed off as he stared at the piles of paperwork on the desk and groaned. “Why did I have to get assigned to replace the one doing paperwork…” he grumbled as he settled down behind the desk.


Blue eyes narrowed as they met the little beady eyes on stalks of the Den Den Mushi. “These things are still weird…” Naruto mumbled as he reached forward to poke one of the eyeballs causing it to collide with the one beside it, making a soft plock.

“Shut up and find the one Shanks-oji told us to find!” Another Naruto hissed at him.

The first rolled his eyes but continued scanning through the rows of snails, more than half of them sleeping.

“Found it!” A third chimed in as he held out a little black sleeping snail.

It was at that moment that a Marine entered the room and froze, blinking.

The three clones glanced at each other, back at the Marine, and then grinned and waved.

The Marine frowned. “Who are you? Unauthorized personnel aren’t allowed in he—“

The three clones watched as he slumped to the ground, a fourth standing behind him with a smirk.

“You knocked him out, you take his place.” One of the clones within the room said with a snicker.

The clone standing in the doorway blinked, and groaned, before quickly using a henge to appear as the Marine that now lay unconscious. One of those within the room stepped forward and disappeared with the unconscious Marine in a yellow flash.


A bright flash in the prison corridor attracted the attention of those within the cells briefly, before they all seemed to slump back once more. The clone revealed by the flash with an unconscious Marine snickered as he began to carry his burden toward a nearby office. “Hey, Captain Orange, I’ve got another one for processing.”

A familiar blonde head peeked out of an open doorway with a huge grin. “Great! Think I’ve got this about perfected now.” he stated as he came out and eyed the unconscious Marine.

He flashed through several quick hand seals and then slapped his hand on the Marine’s back. Scrolling lines of bright orange spread out from under his palm and spread across the Marine’s uniform and body until after only a few moments he was completely covered.

The clone holding the Marine let out a yelp and dropped the unconscious man as the seals tried to spread up his own arms. “Hey! Watch it! Orange is awesome but I don’t want to be dyed too!”

The first clone chuckled and scratched the back of his head. “Oops.”


“He’s still bellowing?” The nearly-dyed-orange clone stated in amusement.

“Oh yeah,” The clone designated as ‘Captain Orange’ replied.

“Relax ‘Commodore Orange,’ Boss will be back down here soon enough to have a chat with you.” The nearly-dyed clone called out at the imprisoned Marine.


Naruto shuffled through the stack of dispatch and recall orders quickly, but with care. Not once had he found anything that specifically talked about the upcoming execution of Portagas D. Ace, but instead there were dozens of orders relocating Marines from all over back to Marineford. Naruto didn’t need to be told what that meant. He had seen preparations being made for war before, only then he hadn’t realized what it all had meant. Now it left an uncomfortable knot in his gut. However, that information was not what he was looking for. He had already known from his conversations with Shanks-oji and the others that the Marines would be planning for war, so that was not what he was looking for at all. No, Shanks-oji had asked him to look for something else on this distraction and infiltration mission. Information on the Yonko was what he was looking for now.

 He had already found several reports about the Whitebeard pirates detailing all their known recent movements and projected futures movements based off those. He had found an entire file folder about Shanks-oji’s meeting with the older pirate, including reports about the fleet Naruto himself had helped destroy. He snickered as he read about the vandalism and the varied theories some Marines had come up with to explain it. Again however, this was not his goal.

“Here we go.” The blonde whispered to himself as he found two large files on both Kaido, The King of the Beasts, and Big Mom, Charlotte LinLin. He took a moment to briefly flip through the files and frowned wondering if he was interpreting what he found right. Well, he’d just have to see what Shanks-oji and the others thought of it and compare. He glanced at the file on the Red-Haired Pirates and then at the nearby goat that was eating paper from a wastebasket. He smirked as he dumped the file out into the wastebasket, and then grabbed a pile of the relocation orders to go with it. “Have a few snacks, buddy.” The goat bleated as it happily began chewing on the new piles. Naruto glanced up as a Marine knocked on the door and saluted him with a huge cheeky grin.

“All Marines stationed here have been accounted for, Boss. Communications also reported in saying there is some big official due in port this afternoon.” The disguised clone reported.

Naruto grinned. “Perfect; time I meet with Commodore Orange, then.”

The clone snickered.

Naruto raised an eyebrow; had the clones been up to something more that hadn’t been reported in yet? They did tend to get a bit weird the longer he used them, and it had already been a couple days since he’d arrived at the Marine station. “Something I should know about?”

The clone shook his head, “You’ll see, Boss.”

Naruto shrugged, and after sealing the files away in a scroll, which he tucked in his jacket, he reached out for the marker he knew lay in the prison corridor.


Naruto blinked and then turned around slowly in a circle as he took in the sight of all the imprisoned Marines. Not only were they all the most awesome color in the world; uniform, hair, and skin included, they all now bore a large spiral filled with red on their foreheads. He hoped the clones had made that mark more temporary than the dye; he’d hate to have his clan symbol tarnished by being associated with the Marines in such a way permanently.

“You guys have been having way too much fun.” Naruto stated as he glanced at the grinning clones standing in a row waiting for him. 

“Glad you approve, Boss.” One of the clones answered.

“So you are the one organizing all this?” an orange-colored man sneered from where he stood shackled.

Naruto turned to face the speaker and strolled over and crouched to stare the man in the face, then smirked. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“Who are you and what is it you want? You can’t expect to get away with all this.” The man demanded, while sneering at the blonde.

 Naruto raised an eyebrow, “Well, I will get away with ‘all this’ as you put it. What I actually want is none of your business. Now as to the first question, you really have no idea?”

The man designated ‘Commodore Orange’ by the nametag slapped on his suit jacket when he had been ‘processed’, glared.

“They really are clueless.” A clone muttered from behind Naruto.

The Commodore shifted his glare then returned it to the man in front of him. “Your appearance and that of your… copies matches the identity of Naruto, nephew of Red-Haired Shanks.”

“Should we give him a cookie?” another clone chimed in.

Naruto only smirked as the clones snorted and chuckled.  “Well, you have my first name right, at least, but let me give you a proper introduction.” The young man rose to his feet and stood to his full height before speaking with a grin. “I am Uzumaki Naruto, shinobi of the Elemental Nations and Sage of Mount Myouboku. Oh, and let me make this clear, I am not just some pirate’s nephew, I am the nephew of Uzumaki Shanks, Yonko, and Captain of the Red-Haired Pirates.”

The Commodore’s eyes widened slightly then narrowed. “And that is supposed to mean something to me?” he scoffed.

The clones all began to shout and curse. Naruto remained quiet though, a smirk on his lips as he stepped forward to speak directly to the Commodore once more. “If it doesn’t now, it will soon enough, that’s a promise.” And with that, he took a step back once more. “Well, I’ve got a few loose ends to tie up yet, and one of your superiors is due to arrive yet this afternoon. Make sure you tell them I said hello.”

“Boss!” A clone called out as it jogged up, a large scroll in his arms. “Finished raiding all their usable supplies from the warehouses, no ramen though.”

“What does he mean, raided the supplies?!”  Commodore Orange yelled.

Naruto ignored the Commodore and frowned as he accepted the scroll, sealing it into another that he tucked away as he dispelled the clone. Did no one in this world appreciate ramen? Moments later, all the blonde-haired clones that had been left vanished, leaving only copies of imprisoned Marines roaming the corridors.


Marines rushed from place to place as the large warship glided into the port and began docking at the well-maintained pier. The Vice Admiral scowled as he disembarked from his ship and began walking up the pier, ignoring the various Marines saluting him. There had been something off about all communications coming out of this way station base for the past two days and he planned to get to the bottom of it while his crew restocked their ship for the rest of their trip to Marineford.  A ranking Marine rushed up and saluted.

“Welcome to Way Station Base W-4, Sir!”

“I demand to meet with your Commander.” The Vice Admiral said quickly and continued to move forward without pause.

“Of course, Sir. Right this way, Sir.” The Marine quickly replied and began to lead the way back to the base’s central tower. The Vice Admiral’s lips tightened; there was something off about the Marines who were stationed here too, something ticking the edges of his senses. He remained silent, however, as he followed the Marine and took note of his surroundings carefully.  He couldn’t be sure, but something seemed to be going on towards the barracks, but again, he wasn’t certain.

“Right through here, Sir.” The Marine guide announced as he stepped aside and gestured through a waiting doorway.

The Vice Admiral didn’t spare the recruit a glance as he strode through and then froze. The office was empty. He whirled and strode quickly back into the hallway. “What is the meaning of this!? There is no one here!” He turned to glare but found the Marine gone. He turned toward his own men who now stared at the place the Marine had been. “Where did he go?!”

The Marines snapped to attention. “He… he vanished sir. Into wisps of smoke.”

“Impossible. The Moku Moku no Mi user is nowhere near this base and looks nothing like that man.” The Vice Admiral growled.

“It.. . it didn’t resemble a Logia smoke power, Sir.” The other Marine added. It was at that moment that two more Marines came running down the corridor.

“Sir!” They both shouted.

“What is it now!?” The Vice Admiral snarled.

“All the Marines who were here just vanished, Sir.”

“Our ship, Sir, it left the pier!”

The Vice Admiral’s eyes widened and he stilled. “Search the base. I want answers. Ensign, find me a secured Den Den Mushi.  There is something very not right here.”

“What about our ship, Sir?” one of the Marines asked.

“See if there are any other vessels in the port we can use to go after it.”

“Of course, Sir.”


The ‘Vice Admiral’ smirked as he received the memories of his clones left at the base. Oh that big wig Vice Admiral dude was not going to be happy. He glanced down at the helm and frowned, “We have shifted course Helmsman, correct it.”

The helmsman blanched and turned the helm to adjust the ship’s course. “Of course, Sir. Sorry, Sir. I have never sailed in the Blues, just the Grand Line and am not used to not following the log pose.”

The ‘Vice Admiral’ grunted. “This will be good practice for you. We’ve had an excellent tip off of pirates in the area and we are not going to let them slip away because of sloppy navigation.”

“As you say, Sir.” The helmsman replied, still apparently nervous.

It was at that moment the ship’s quartermaster approached the ‘Vice Admiral’. “If I might have a word with you, Sir? In private?”

The ‘Vice Admiral’ nodded and followed the man below deck toward his own office, then gestured for the Quartermaster to take a seat. “What is it, Quartermaster?”

“I must protest, Sir. We are not supplied to go sailing off to an unknown location at this time. If we had been allowed proper time to restock at W-4…”

“Quartermaster…” the ‘Vice Admiral’ interrupted.

“Y..yes, Sir?” The Quartermaster asked suddenly unnerved by the expression his commander now displayed.

“Are you suggesting we let pirates simply run free?”

“Of… Of course not, Sir, but…”

“No buts. Once the pirates have been dealt with, we will return to W-4 for our restock as originally planned.”

The Quartermaster sighed. “Understood…Sir, I will have to file an official record of my complaint.”

The ‘Vice Admiral’ chuckled. “Please do, you are dismissed.”

The Quartermaster blinked in surprise but then turned and exited the office, closing the door behind him to the sound of the ‘Vice Admiral’s’ continued laughter. Just what had gotten into the man?


The Vice Admiral stared and glowered. The entire prison cell corridor was filled with orange Marines.

“The Commodore is this way, Sir.” The Marine who had reported and led him here offered and gestured to the right-hand row of cells.

The Vice Admiral paced evenly down the corridor, stopping before the designated cell and stared, remaining silent.  The Commodore met his gaze for only a moment before looking away and fidgeting.

“Who?” The Vice Admiral finally asked.

The Commodore turned back to him and sighed. “He matched the description of Naruto, Red-Haired’s nephew. However, he introduced himself as Uzumaki Naruto, shinobi of the Elemental Nations and Sage of Mount something or other.”

The Vice Admiral’s eyebrow arched as he took note of the red circle and spiral marking the Commodore’s brow. “Uzumaki…”

The Commodore blinked, surprised. “You know of him, Sir?”

The Vice Admiral frowned and then turned to the Marine waiting nearby, ignoring the Commodore’s question. “Get them released and cleaned up. This orange is disgraceful.”

“Sir!” Another Marine rushed down the corridor. “We located the Den Den Mushi, Sir, they were all asleep and we are working at rousing them now.”

“Good. I need to contact Headquarters immediately.”


“Vice Admiral! Pirate sails sighted ahead! Sir! It’s the Red Force!”

The ‘Vice Admiral’ grinned largely. “Perfect. I must thank you men for all your work.”  At that moment, at least two squads worth of Marines vanished into wisps of smoke. “Try not to get yourselves sunk on your way back to the base. Oh, and you might want to check the rudder, I believe the chain has been broken.”

With that said, the man jogged to the edge of the ship and made a throwing motion as a haze of smoke surrounded him. For one long moment, a blonde haired young man was visible before he vanished in a yellow flash.


The crew of the Red Force all turned to watch as the blonde teen appeared in a golden flash and dropped lightly to land on the Main Deck. “Shanks-oji! I’m back!”

“Naruto! You’re back! Did you get into trouble?! Are you hurt! Do I need to go hunt Marines?!” Shanks rushed up to his nephew and immediately began to check the blonde over for injury.

Naruto blinked, a bit stunned and overwhelmed. “Uh… I’m fine, and no, I’m not hurt.”

Shanks paused and took a step back, “Ah, well that’s fine then.”

“Forgive him, Naruto, he started to worry after you left.” Benn explained as he approached. “Was the mission a success?”

Naruto grinned widely as he unsealed the packet of files he had found and handed them to Benn. “Oh it was loads of fun, and man, that Vice Admiral is going to be pissed.”

At this the crew all stilled, they had not expected the kid to run into any Marines of that rank. “You ran into a Vice Admiral?” Yasopp asked as he came out of shock.

“His ship had just docked, so while he went into the base I borrowed it.”

“You borrowed a Vice Admiral’s personal warship?” Rockstar asked slowly.


Shanks guffawed. “Well done kid; that will get their attention.”

Naruto’s grin matched his uncle’s, “Oh, but wait until you hear about the pranks.”

Laughter surrounded the ship as the crew began to change course and set sail, soon leaving the now disabled Marine warship out of sight as they listened to the exploits of their Captain’s nephew in what the Marines would come to call ‘Incident Orange.’

Pirate Politics & Old Legends

“That’s all of it.” Naruto announced as the last of a pile of barrels vanished into a scroll.

“That’s a handy skill.” Lucky Roo mused as he eyed the scroll. “Convenient; and you said anything you put in there will keep without spoil?” the large man inquired as he took a bite out of his sandwich.

Naruto chuckled. “That’s right. One of the most practical skills Ero-sennin taught me. Well, besides exploding tags, that is.”

Before Lucky Roo could ask any more questions, there was a loud crash from within the nearby bar, where they had purchased the barrels of sake. A second loud crash followed by a body flying out the back door. Naruto blinked and then frowned as he approached the crumpled form. “Oi, you all right?” he asked.

The crumpled figure clad in a pink suit hissed as it began to pull itself up.

A low chuckle came from the bar’s doorway as Yasopp stepped out. “He’ll be fine; would be a bit embarrassing for his Lady Captain if he really was that weak.”

Lucky Roo snickered. “Pekoms, isn’t it? Pretty gutsy to start throwing your weight around on one of Whitebeard’s islands with the Old Man still sailing; or did you really think no one would notice with all the fuss at Marineford?”

The slowly rising Pekoms growled as he adjusted his sunglasses, “As if what Big Mom wishes is any of your…” he paused as he took in the identities of those around him. “I see, and just what do the Red-Haired pirates plan to do here?”

Yasopp and Lucky Roo both laughed hard.

Naruto eyed the two, then rolled his eyes and decided to answer. “I had thought it was obvious: buy booze. Shanks-oji insisted we stop here for sake.”

The man identified as Pekoms snarled, “You— ”

“Oh, you didn’t think we would notice what Big Mom was up to?” Yasopp interrupted, “Did you really think Shanks would let her claim one of his favorite restock points without complaint? Whitebeard has never cared that we often restock on some of his islands and the Captain would be most annoyed if they suddenly stopped being able to supply us.” Yasopp explained as he idly twirled a revolver in one hand.

“Is that a threat?” Pekoms hissed.

Lucky Roo grinned and Yasopp smirked while Naruto looked on, amused.

“Consider it a warning from Red-Haired Shanks that Big Mom shouldn’t be too hasty.” Yasopp suggested.

“Ah! She’s one of the Yonko, right?” Naruto suddenly exclaimed.

Lucky Roo and Yasopp both paused and stared at the blue-eyed young man before groaning and shaking their heads. They kept forgetting Naruto was still relatively new to the whole pirate culture.

“You–! You–!” The feline-looking man spluttered, staring at Naruto.

Yasopp groaned, “Yes, he’s the Captain’s nephew, but don’t get any big ideas.” Yasopp warned, his eyes turning hard.

Naruto laughed easily, “Relax, Yasopp, I can take care of myself.”

“It’s not you I’m really worried about,” Yasopp told him. “It’s the Captain and Benn that worry me if we let you get into trouble.”

Naruto blinked and then a mischievous grin spread across his face as he turned to the staring pink clad pirate. “So, think I could meet this Lady Captain of yours?”

Yasopp cursed and Lucky Roo nearly choked as the man named Pekoms stuttered before answering. “Boy… do you have a death wish?”

It was Lucky Roo who managed to defuse the situation before Naruto could answer. “Some other time, Naruto, we need to get these supplies back to the ship.”

“Ah, right!” Naruto answered, as he scooped up the large scroll he had been using, slinging its carrying strap over his shoulder so it rested comfortably against his lower back.

The pink clad member of the Big Mom Pirates watched them go and gulped nervously. His Captain was not going to be pleased, but none of them had suspected Red-Hair’s interference.


“Naruto! Did you bring the sake?” Shanks asked, his eyes twinkling the moment his nephew set foot on the deck of the Red Force.

The blonde teen grinned, “Maybe.”

“Maybe?!” Shanks whined.

“Well, there was this lion-faced pink man—“

“One of Big Mom’s,” Yasopp interrupted.

“Yasopp! You ruined my story!” Naruto grumbled.

“Oh?” Shanks sat back with a smirk crossing his face.

“It was as we suspected, then?” Benn asked as he exited the navigation cabin on the deck above.

Lucky Roo chuckled. “The poor thing panicked once he recognized us. Didn’t help when Naruto began asking to meet the Big Gal, herself; think Pinky nearly wet himself.”

“I still don’t see what the big deal is…” Naruto muttered.

Shanks guffawed as crew all around them stilled and turned to stare.

Benn sighed. “Leave it to the Captain’s nephew to have no concept of politics and the dangers around them.”

Naruto wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Pirates have politics?”

 Puru puru puru. Puru puru puru.

All eyes turned to the little black snail sitting on a small stand next to Shanks’ chair.

The snail’s eyes snapped open as it began to speak. “Urgent Communication Line open, go ahead with your Report.”

“Emergency Report from Marine base stationed in Sabaody Archipelago, Grove 66.” A second voice began, “The Human Auction house is under Pirate attack! The Celestial Dragons are being held hostage. Unconfirmed reports indicate they have been assaulted by pirates within the Auction house. Requesting immediate assistance from Headquarters.”

“Identities of the Pirates involved?” The first voice asked.

“Five Supernovas: Captain Eustass Kidd and his First Mate, Killer; Surgeon of Death, Trafalgar Law; Straw Hat, Monkey D. Luffy; and the Demon Pirate Hunter, Roronoa Zora. The rest of the Straw Hat crew have all been sighted as well.”

“Report received.”  There were several moments of silence before the first voice spoke again. “Weapon Research is sending backup and Admiral Kizaru is being notified. Do not let the Pirates escape.”


Kerchek. The black baby Den Den closed its eyes and seemed to go to sleep, despite the eyes of all the Red-Haired pirates staring at it.

“Luffy…” Shanks breathed out quietly his entire body tense.

Naruto looked at his uncle, surprised by the sudden display of emotion. Sure, he had heard the stories about the boy, but Shanks’ reaction now hinted at something so much more than he had first thought.

“What happens if he’s caught?” Naruto asked quietly, almost afraid to voice the question.

Shanks grimaced. “At best, execution.”

Naruto flinched; execution was the best?

“Life imprisonment in Impel Down after that,” Shanks continued. Then his gaze hardened and he met Naruto’s blue gaze steadily. “Because the crime involves assault on the Celestial Dragons, the chances for the worst case scenario have become much higher.”

It was then that Naruto remembered what Shanks had told him previously about those known as the Celestial Dragons. “Human Auction house…” Naruto whispered and Shanks nodded slowly.

“Slavery. For one like Luffy, like myself, it is the worst thing they could do to him and his crew.” Shanks spoke, the emotion behind the words clear.

Benn appeared on the deck above them. Naruto blinked, not sure when the man had left.

“I put in a call to Shakky. She said He is watching out for them.”

Shanks relaxed visibly and chuckled as the tension eased away. Several other crewmembers smiled as they, too, began to relax. “Leave it to Luffy to find Him when no one else has heard from Him in months.”

“Him?” Naruto asked, now thoroughly confused.

Shanks grinned. “Old man Rayleigh.”

Naruto hummed in thought. “You’ve mentioned that name before.”

Shanks nodded. “I’d like you to meet him, sometime. The former first mate of the Pirate King is a legend himself, although, these days, I hear he mostly just drinks and gambles.”

Naruto snorted. The man sounded way too much like a couple of old legends he himself had known and still knew. Then he smiled. If this guy Rayleigh was anything like his own old drunk gambling legends, Luffy would probably be just fine.


Dracule Mihawk, the World’s Greatest Swordsman and one of seven pirates given the title “Warlord” by the World Government, was a well-known man. His reputation was justified, and his piercing golden eyes were known for seeing everything to those around him. Because of these facts, he had grown accustomed to nervous and calculating stares directed his way. It was normal, and he had come to expect it to some degree. What he was currently experiencing, however, was not.

He twitched as it happened again, tensing as he extended his senses, but refusing to look back over his shoulder. Instead, he shifted his golden gaze to the Vice Admiral who was approaching as they both walked down the corridor from opposite directions. The man stared, not at Mihawk himself, but at him none-the-less.

The Vice Admiral narrowed his gaze and frowned. He paused a moment, almost tripping as he realized Mihawk was studying him, and then looked away as he continued down the corridor and past the Warlord as if  nothing had happened. Mihawk was tempted to stop the man and ask just what he had been looking at but refrained; he would not be made a fool of so easily. He sensed it, however, when the Vice Admiral looked his way once more as they continued to move in opposite directions.

This had been going on for days. Mihawk was not absolutely certain when it had started, but he had a strong suspicion Akagami and his nephew had something to do with it. Just as he was sure they were also guilty for the summons he had received upon arriving at Marineford to a private meeting with some of the eldest Marines still in service.

“Mihawk, sir. They will see you now.” A duty officer announced as he approached the designated room.

Mihawk did not bother to vocalize a reply but just swept forward into the room and quickly surveyed the space, noting its occupants. This was going to be an interesting meeting, to say the least. The Fleet Admiral Sengoku “The Golden Buddha”, the Marine Hero Vice Admiral Garp “The Fist”, and lastly Vice Admiral Tsuru “The Great Staff”.

“You’ve been keeping some questionable company, Mihawk.” Sengoku grumbled as soon as the door closed behind the Warlord.

Mihawk raised an eyebrow in query as he let his gaze travel slowly from one to the next. Settling himself into the waiting chair, he propped his feet up on the table that separated him from the three elite marines.

“You know who I mean!” the Fleet Admiral snarled as Garp began laughing at his right.

“You’ve been spending time with that Red-Haired lad again.” Tsuru spoke, a hint of fondness in her voice as she mentioned the Yonko Pirate.

Mihawk refrained from any visible reaction as he noted her tone and choice of words in reference to Akagami.

“Red-Haired Bastard corrupted my grandson.” Garp growled.

Sengoku glared sharply at Garp and then returned his focus to Mihawk. Mihawk glanced from The Fist to The Buddha and then grinned, his eyes glowing in mirth. “Monkey D. Luffy is the grandson of a Marine Hero.”

Sengoku’s expression turned even more sour.  “Your duels with Red-Hair Shanks are well known, but there have been no rumors of such clashes in ten years. However, you continue to be seen keeping company with the Red-Haired Pirates. What is your association with them, Mihawk?!” Sengoku demanded.

Mihawk twitched once as his senses were tickled once more and he noted that all three of the elder marines all seemed to shift their gazes ever so slightly up and to his left before focusing on him once more.

“Well,” Tsuru spoke, “Are you allies with the Red-Haired Lad or not?” She demanded.

Mihawk was very tempted to roll his eyes. “No.” he answered, his voice clipped.

“And yet you were found on his ship.”

“A way to pass the time, only,” Mihawk replied idly.

“You were not given the position of Shichibukai so you could laze about with the Yonko.” Tsuru chided.

Mihawk did not respond.

“Give us one reason, Dracule “Hawkeyes” Mihawk, why we should not strip your position?” Sengoku said slowly, a hard edge in his tone.

“Whitebeard.” was Mihawk’s slow and single reply.

Garp guffawed and Sengoku sighed.

“Now, the blonde young man recently identified as nephew of Red-Hair Shanks…” Tsuru spoke.

And here, Mihawk mused, was the heart of the matter.

“What do you know of him?” The elder woman asked, the softer tones previously present in her voice now gone.

“Loud.” Mihawk offered.

A pencil snapped as Sengoku glared at him. “Is he, in fact, a blood relation to Red-Hair?” The Fleet Admiral demanded.

Mihawk studied the trio of Marine Admiral and Vice Admirals in front of him before speaking. “He is.”

“And does he answer to the name of Uzumaki Naruto?” Sengoku then asked, resigning himself to having to take a direct approach.

“He does.” Mihawk answered with no change in his demeanor.

“Does Red-Hair share the Uzumaki relation or is it from another?” Tsuru then asked, her gaze calculating.

Mihawk was almost surprised by this question; he had not expected it. Was there something to the boy’s family name then? “Uncertain.” Mihawk finally answered. Red-Hair had told him that the relation was through a long dead sibling, but not if that sibling had been an Uzumaki.

Sengoku raised a paper to show Mihawk the solid red circle outlined in black with a black spiral line winding through to its middle. “Does either Red-Hair or his nephew wear this symbol?” the man demanded.

Mihawk raised an eyebrow but answered, “The boy wears it in two places on his jacket. One just below his left shoulder on the sleeve, the second in the center of his back between the shoulder blades, only the one on his back is red.”

Garp straightened. “So, it’s true then.”

A flicker of feeling tickled Mihawk’s senses at the old marine’s words and Mihawk’s gaze shifted to the often-eccentric Vice Admiral.

Garp studied Mihawk carefully then grinned. “You’ve tested the boy. How is he?”

Mihawk barely refrained from blinking in surprise; he was not used to such perception from the man. Then he frowned: he would have no choice but to answer such a direct statement.

“He is strong.  Although his fighting style is unlike anything I have encountered before.” Mihawk answered slowly.

Sengoku cursed vehemently.

“You are dismissed, Dracule, but do not leave Marineford.” Tsuru ordered.

Mihawk did not move for several long moments, then gracefully rose to his feet and turned to leave. He paused before opening the door, “Red-Hair will go to war to protect his own.” He said quietly before opening the door and letting it close behind him. His own mind puzzling over the bits of information he gleaned from his polite interrogation. The blonde teen traveling with Akagami made the oldest of the admirals uneasy; this was both intriguing and unsettling. A war with Whitebeard was on the horizon and it would make the Marines very cautious for now, but after… well, it was not his problem.

He stopped as he found his path blocked by a large form.

“Bartholomew Kuma.” Mihawk stated.

“Dracule Mihawk.” The large man replied in a matching tone. “You have a delivery waiting.”

Mihawk frowned as the strange tickling sensation occurred again, but ignored it to focus on the other warlord’s statement. His gaze narrowed, the man wouldn’t have… yes, he would. Mihawk did not bother to answer, however, and moved past the man continuing on his way. There was nothing he could do about it now, he only hoped whoever it was that the Tyrant had given passage to would be gone by the time he himself returned home.


It had been nearly two weeks, and nothing. Had it gotten bored and fallen asleep? It wouldn’t be the first time it had happened. Sakura had screamed at him and then proceeded to beat him to a pulp when that kunai-clone suddenly dispersed in her hand. He’d been very careful about making sure he didn’t leave any henged clones lying around for a while after that. Two weeks… if there was one thing Naruto knew, it was that his clones could get weird sometimes. Most often, it was the ones that he had running around for extended time periods, although even that had gotten better with all the practice he had had lately; but two weeks and it hadn’t popped yet. He growled and muttered, if the bastard had found a place selling ramen and was off eating his favorite food without telling him again….

Shanks finally turned to his nephew and stared at him intently.

Naruto froze in place, sensing his uncle’s gaze. He looked up at the older man, eyes widening.

“What is it?” Shanks finally asked, amused.

Naruto fidgeted nervously, “Well, see… I … ah…”

Shanks raised an eyebrow.  “You…?”

Naruto glanced sideways as he continued to fidget. “IkindoftaggedMihawkwithaHiraishinmarker.”

Shanks blinked. “Say that again?” He asked slowly.

Naruto sighed, his shoulders drooping. “I tagged Mihawk with a Hiraishin marker.”

Shanks blinked again. “Isn’t that the…”

“Yes.” Naruto answered quickly.

“That might come in handy. I’m surprised he didn’t catch you at it.”

Naruto glared, “Oi! I’m a Shinobi!”

Shanks waved his hand dismissively, “Of course, of course.” Then Shanks paused as he noticed his nephew resume his fidgeting. “That isn’t all of it, is it?”

Naruto looked sideways again and began to mutter.  “I replaced the feather in his hat with a henged clone.”

Shanks blinked slowly as the words processed. He stared at his nephew eyes widening. “Clone.” He said pointing to Naruto.  “Feather.” He said his arm moving into a flapping wing motion. “Hat?” He said at last pointing to his head.

Naruto nodded.

Shanks mouth slowly spread into a wide grin and then, between one heartbeat and the next, the Red-Haired Pirate collapsed to the deck, his laughter ringing out across the ship.

Naruto blinked and then smirked as he stared at his uncle’s antics.

“Oi, Naruto. You aren’t supposed to break him.” Benn grumbled as he turned toward the noise, but smirked and began chuckling along with several nearby crewmembers.  “Hawkeyes is going to try to kill you for that.”

Naruto chuckled, “Ah, well it will be worth it to see his face.”

 “Clone, feather, hat.” Shanks mumbled and began giggling again.

Of Challenges and Promises

Ink flowed in smooth lines as a steady hand guided the brush across the paper; Up, down, across, lift the brush and touch down on the paper again in a new place; the movements smooth and well-practiced. With a final stroke, the brush was lifted and the ink covering the small paper tag glowed blue before, in a blur of motion, the ink retracted and shifted across the paper until a marking a mere fraction of the original size of the ink work remained visible.

Blue eyes studied the results intently for several moments before the now complete seal joined a nearby pile of similar slips of inked paper.

“Whatcha working on there, Naruto?” Rockstar asked as he approached the blonde teen and settled against the ship’s railing beside him.

“Stasis seals.” Naruto answered as he prepared the next slip of paper and began to apply the ink. Rockstar watched with interest and let out a quiet whistle of awe as the ink moved when Naruto finished.

“So, what’s it for?” Rockstar asked.

“Field medics use them to put patients into a suspended state. This gives the medics more time and freedom to move the patient off the field of battle and begin initial treatment.” Naruto explained. “I developed it with my teammate, Sakura. She’s one of the very best medic-nin Konoha has, and is always looking for ways to improve field medicine.”

Rockstar blinked. “Uh… sounds neat.”

Naruto glanced over at the dark pink-haired pirate. “You didn’t understand most of that, did you?”

The pirate chuckled. “It’s to help people get healed during a fight?”

Naruto grinned. “Basically.”

“So, this Sakura, she your girl?” Rockstar asked.

Naruto sputtered and ink went flying; there was a brief sizzle followed by a small explosion as scorch marks soon covered the deck space that had been serving as Naruto’s writing surface.

“Is that a yes?” Rockstar asked with a grin as the blonde turned to him revealing singe marks covering his cheeks and nose, his blue eyes open wide. “Don’t even joke about that!” the teen hissed.

Before Rockstar could comment further, the lookout began to shout.

“CAPTAIN! Ships to the Starboard! They look like Kaido’s fleet!”

Shanks rose to his feet from where he had been sitting comfortably under the large red and white umbrella on the quarter deck.  He surveyed the ship as crewmen all turned his way awaiting his orders. “Yasopp!” He finally called out.

“Captain?” The dirty-blonde-haired pirate responded, a smirk on his own lips.

“Make sure Kaido realizes we are here, and that as of right now, this section of the sea belongs to the Red-Haired Pirates.”

There were cat calls and jeers across the ship as Yasopp bowed with a flourish “Aye, Captain.”

It was several minutes, as the crew all began to gather and watch, before Yasopp finished his preparations. “Anything else to add, Captain?”

Shanks considered and then his lips quirked. “Naruto, could you provide Yasopp with one of your Tri-pronged kunai? Yasopp, plant it on the main ship, at Kaido’s feet, if possible.”

“As the Captain asks.” Yasopp responded before fitting the kunai onto a bolt with a red strip of cloth. Once he was done he turned back to the strange cannon-like contraption he had first set up.

Naruto looked on in curiosity, “That looks like—”

“Just watch.” Shanks interrupted, grinning. His sniper didn’t get much opportunity to show off like this, after all.

There was a crack and sizzle, as a fuse was lit, and then a crackle and whoomp as a projectile shot forth. An orb of red sparkling light streaked across the sky arching into the air above the ocean with streamers of orange and gold trailing behind. Meters before it reached the waiting pirate fleet it suddenly expanded. The form of a glittering red dragon filled the air and roared as its body made contact with the sails of the main ship, wings arching out to encompass the next two on each side. The form faded into glittering sparkles of light and crackles of sound, leaving flames across the sails and embers drifting down to the deck below.

No sooner had the dragon struck, than Yasopp fired the crossbow sending the quarrel into the sky, red cloth streaming a foot behind it as it flew.

Yasopp waited several moments then chuckled. “Message delivered, Captain.”

Shank laughed, “Well done.” He then turned to his nephew, “So, Naruto, how do you feel about making a visit to Kaido’s ship? I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see us.” Behind the redhead Benn sighed, but said nothing to argue.

Naruto arched an eyebrow and then snickered. “Yeah, as if you didn’t just try to set his ship on fire, thrilled for sure.”

There was a golden flare as the uncle and nephew pair vanished from the deck of the Red Force.

“Is it bad, that I was tempted to tell Naruto to take care of the Captain?” Yasopp asked suddenly.

Benn took a long slow inhale from his ever-present cigarette and then exhaled again before answering. “No, but then we’d have to remind Captain to look after Naruto and they would both pout.”

Yasopp winced and chuckled. “Yeah, good point.”


Golden energy flared then danced and swirled as it faded away, very like the flames now dwindling from sails and yard lines. No sooner had the golden light dissipated, then a wave of pressure spread over the decks of the ship, smothering in its intensity, as it covered ship and crew. Wood groaned, gasps filled the air, and in moments, men began to collapse where they stood, some even plummeting out of the sails and yard lines to fall and land in misshapen heaps. Dark eyes peered out from behind wisps of vibrant red hair, a sinister smirk gracing the lips below.

“Thank you for the hospitality.”

Eyes filled with rage and vicious intent glowed from within the dark shadowy den-like space that occupied the main deck.

“Red-Hair,” A deep, wild voice breathed out slowly, the rage its owner restrained texturing the words with sharpness. “I did not come here to fight you.”

Shanks did not let his smirk falter. “It is your unlucky day then, ‘Lord of the Beasts’ Kaido.”

“You think to tame me so easily, then?!” The man snarled and deep gouges appeared in the wood below the Yonko’s feet.

Shanks arched an eyebrow, “So, the great Beast can be tamed?”

The hulking form snarled from its shadowy den. “Why are you here, Red-Hair Shanks!?”

Shanks chuckled lightly, “Oh, I decided I rather like this section of the sea and wanted to claim it for myself. Then my cute and adorable little nephew wanted a bit of adventure, so you see—”

“HEY!” an indignant voice called out as annoyed blue eyes framed by golden hair stepped out from behind the redhead.

“Do not try to be sly like the fox now, Red-Hair.” The wild voice spoke once more, the tension ripe as the sound of wood creaking from pressure began to fill the air. “You wish to prevent my interference at Marineford.”

Shanks chuckled once more. “Now that you mention it; that is also true.”

“You will not be able to stop me as easily as this, Red-Hair. You are a fool to come here so unguarded.”

Shanks eyes sparked as he grinned ferally, “Who said anything about ‘unguarded’?”

There was a clash of steel on steel as several blades and claws were blocked and deflected by the blonde teen guarding his uncle’s back. “Eager bunch.” The blonde teen said with a grin to match his uncle’s, a hint of red flickering in his eyes.

“I will shred you for your interference!” The wild voice of Kaido snarled, eyes glowing with fury, and the sound of wood splintering spread as the shadowed figure dug claws into arm rests and started to rise, sharp teeth glinting in the shadowed light.

 “No, I don’t think you will…” Shanks said lazily in reply as he continued to watch the dark shadows. “And I don’t think you are quite grasping the situation.” The red head stated with a smirk. “Naruto, you said that skill of your father’s was incredibly effective on trees; there seems to be a few here that could be done without.” Shanks said casually.

Naruto chuckled. “How many?” The teen asked as pirates all around them snarled.

“Four.” Shanks said lightly.

At nearly the same instant that the blonde vanished in a series of golden flashes, steel was drawn and Shanks sliced his sword in one sweeping stroke. Pirates who had jumped at the chance to take advantage of what they thought to be an unguarded moment were sent flying; a handful soon landing with large splashes. At that same moment there were several impacts and the sound of screeching wood could be heard over the commotion.

 Shanks glanced back over his shoulder and chuckled as he studied the large hole now visible through the ships main mast.  Already, the thin edges left were bowing outward. “Nicely done; you were right about it being very impressive against trees.”

The blonde grinned. “Thanks.”

“Well then, I suppose we best head back before Benn begins to fret.” Shanks said lightly, sending another wave of foolish pirates flying. “Hmm, you should probably have someone fish those ones out. That’s the problem with so many Devil Fruit Users on a ship. You have to have enough non-Fruit Users around to fish them out when they fall overboard.”

There was a loud crack as the main mast began to buckle.

Kaido roared and lunged, his claws clashing with steel as Shanks blocked his strike. “Now, now, don’t be so hasty,” Shanks mocked, and his tone shifted. “Consider this your friendly warning. If you try to continue into these waters, neither you, nor your ships will survive it.” Shanks cautioned his tone serious and as hard-edged as his blade. “I will make this scheme of yours very costly for you, that is a promise.”

Kaido pulled back but continued to snarl. “You will regret this, Red-Hair.”

Shanks lips turned up in a dark grin, “Try to keep it interesting.”

Then both the Red-Haired Captain and his blonde nephew vanished in the same golden energy that they had arrived in. Creaking wood and the sound of snapping lines filled the air as all four masts of the large ship began to fall.


Benn exhaled slowly as he watched the destruction befall the main ship of Kaido’s fleet and felt his lips curl up in a smirk. Shanks could, and often did, cause all sorts of mayhem and mess all on his own. Combined with his nephew, however… he was thankful that their energy and enthusiasm had such a convenient target, even if this did mean the Red-Haired Pirates would likely be dealing with many more petty squabbles from Kaido’s subordinates in the coming months.

“You think Kaido’s fleet has problems with fleas?” Lucky Roo asked as he munched on a drumstick.

“With all those Zoan users… man you’d have to burn the ships and shave them all to even have a hope of getting rid of all the bugs. And the flea baths!” Yasopp answered with amusement.

There was a golden flash and laughter announcing the return of the Captain and nephew.

“So, Captain,” Yasopp drawled. “Did the Beast like our hello?”

Shanks chuckled. “I’m afraid he doesn’t appreciate your artistry, Yasopp.”

“Orders, Captain?” Benn asked, wanting to know if a fight was waiting for them yet today.

Shanks hummed in thought as he glanced back towards the singed-looking fleet. “I think we managed to deliver the message that crossing this sea will be far more costly than the grumpy Beast will really want to risk. We will maintain our position here and continue tomorrow to be sure; never trust a cornered Beast, after all.”

With that statement given, the crew returned to their duties and Shanks turned to his nephew. “Something he said bothered you; I could feel it in your haki. There was a moment of something dark threaded through it.”

Naruto glanced downward. “I… sometimes I can sense negative emotions, and there was a lot of anger on that ship. It… sometimes it resonates with Kurama’s energy.”

Shanks draped his arm over his nephew’s shoulders and tugged him close. “Well then, nothing to worry about.” Naruto blinked in surprise and Shanks smiled at him. “I already know you have that well in control.”

Naruto slowly smiled back at his uncle. “Yeah.”

“Now,” Shanks continued as he glanced around at the crew who still lingered nearby. “Did I hear something about fleas?”


Night enveloped the ocean slowly at first, and then shrouded it in near total darkness as no moon rose to highlight the waves and play upon the Great Water’s surface. It was calm and quiet; the only steady noise was that of waves lapping against the hull of the ship, which rocked gently with their lullaby. It was a night of soft murmurs and whispers of content. It was a night of starlight and darkness, of stillness and motion; and deceit.

It was the sound of lapping waves further out across the sea that first drew the attention of the Red Force’s night watch and lookout. It took only moments for the lookout to tap a rhythm out on the small spring-bound piece of wood. Shortly after the tapping sound faded, three shadowed figures converged on the main deck facing out toward the ocean on the starboard side of the ship. There was a quick scrape and hiss before the light of a lit match broke the darkness and then vanished quickly to reveal the soft embers of a lit cigarette.

“Wasteful Bastard,” a low voice stated quietly from the first of the three gathered as they stared at the large dark shadowy form drifting closer across the water.

“Did he really expect that to work?” another stated in disbelief.

The last only chuckled darkly. “Yasopp, you know what to do.”

The voice which had muttered in disbelief only moments before grunted, and then the sudden, unmistakable sound of a rifle being cocked and a safety being released was heard filling the night. A breath later there were two shots, so close together they were almost simultaneous. A whistle and whine filled the air followed by a distant thump and creak.

For several long breaths there was nothing, and then fire roared and exploded upward and out over the ocean, sending wood and pieces of debris flying. Screams and shouts carried over the water and were soon followed by noisy splashes into the waves.

More of the Red-Haired Pirate crew had appeared on the deck and now watched silently as the great ship burned hundreds of meters away from its intended target, but much closer than it had been when fiery dragon wings had kissed her sails that afternoon.

“He turned his entire ship into a bomb?” Naruto asked in surprise as he came to stand beside his Uncle, Benn, and Yasopp.

“Che.” Yasopp grumbled. “More than that, poor bastards.” He raised his weapon once more after reloading and fired out another set of shots. Far off to the portside and coming at an angle towards the aft of the Red Force, two long boats burst into flame and chaos. Curses and shouts of disbelief filled the air as living bodies abandoned the now-worthless wood that had been their transport.

Two more shots sounded and what had looked like floating barrels erupted into burning pillars of fire and light before sinking into the waves. “He must have used nearly all his booze supply to mine the sea between us. “ The sniper grumbled.

Shanks mouth twisted in a frown. “Unforgiveable.”

“Captain!” a crewman called out before the Red-Haired Captain could fall into a full rant about the wasted alcohol. “The Den Den is picking up another call!”

Shanks glanced to Yasopp. No words were said as the blonde-haired man nodded quickly and reloaded his weapon once more.

Shanks headed toward the cabin, Benn and Naruto following behind.

Puru puru puru. Puru puru puru.

The snail’s eyes snapped open as it began to speak. “Urgent Communication Line open; go ahead with your Report.”

“Critical Status Report Update, Impel Down.” A second voice began. “Identity of the intruder has been confirmed as Monkey D. Luffy. His motivations and reasons for his foolish attempt to invade Impel Down at this time are unknown. His status is currently considered terminal after receiving a full dose of poison when trying to face down the Warden. He has been incarcerated on level 5.”

“And the status of Portgas?” the first voice responded.


“Very well. Continue to report regularly as established previously.”


Kerchek. The black baby Den Den closed its eyes and began to snore.

A heavy tension filled the small space of the navigation cabin and wood began to creak in protest. No one spoke for several long breaths as all eyes focused on the Red-Haired Captain whose hand was wrapped tightly around his sword hilt.

“We are changing course.” The Red-Haired Captain finally spoke, his voice strained.

Benn sighed then seemed to ready himself before speaking. “We can’t do that, Captain.”

Steel sang as it was unsheathed and pirates cursed as they ducked. Benn remained calm as he blocked the incoming blow and waited.

“Luffy is—”

“Facing the consequences of his own actions.” Benn responded sharply.

“I can—”

“He would never forgive you. “

Shanks flinched physically at the accusation.

“He went to save his brother. If Ace dies when we could have stopped it, just to save Luffy…”

Frustration and anger rolled off the Red-Haired Captain as he struggled to contain his frustration with the situation and his wishes to help those he cared about.

“Everyone, get out.” was the quiet order that followed soon after. One by one the Red-Haired Pirates slowly vacated the room. Benn paused as he met Naruto’s gaze, the blonde teen unmoving. Benn tilted his head toward the door but the teen shook his head in response.

It was not until all the others had gone, leaving only Captain and nephew in the room, that Naruto stepped forward and approached the bounty posters proudly displayed on the wall. “He’s on his own adventure, chasing his dream. You made him a promise.” Naruto finally said quietly.

The angry energy suddenly seemed to wash out and the redhead drooped.

“I know.” The older man finally replied quietly.

“Do you believe in him?” Naruto asked.

Shanks blinked and looked up, “Of course; I didn’t give him the hat on an idle whim—“

“Then trust him to pull through on his own.”

Shanks let out a long breath and ran his hand back through his hair, a few weak chuckles slipping out in the process.

“Besides, if we left now, wouldn’t that Wild Beast just do what it pleased?” Naruto asked, smirking.

Shanks paused then chuckled. “All right, you win. Kaido is going to regret sticking around if he is still here come dawn.”

Naruto grinned. “That’s the spirit!”

Outside the navigation cabin the Red-Haired Pirates stared as the sound of quiet laughter drifted past the door.

“The kid is insane.” One crewmen breathed out in shock.

Benn and several others chuckled in response; it was why the kid fit in so well, after all.


It was only a couple hours past dawn when the course was set and the Red Force began its journey toward the Marine Headquarters. In the ship’s wake, signs of destruction lay scattered across the ocean’s surface as the remains of several ships floated amongst the waves. The battered and damaged hulls of two more ships could be seen further in the distance, moving away as many oars, reached out like spidery legs from each, to push the ships forward as there were no sails nor even masts left to guide the ships’ path.

 Warnings had been given.

 Promises were made.

A challenge issued and answered.

Observation of War

It had started as a simple prank, a way to ruffle the overly serious man who was an odd friend-rival of his uncle. When the news had come about the upcoming execution, mission parameters had changed. He had learned, whether he wanted to or not at the time, of the importance of information while traveling with Ero-Sennin. Information gathered now could save a life later.

At first, it had been rather boring as his hawk-eyed transport spent nearly all his time glaring at the Marines or sleeping. This had allowed him plenty of time to figure out how to flare his chakra in just the right way to irritate the man’s senses. He had nearly broken his henge and dismissed himself several times as the swordsman grew more edgy and paranoid. Then they arrived at Marineford.

Just by listening to those around the Warlord, he had learned quite a bit about the Marines and the upcoming war. He now knew who all the other Shichibukai were and some details about them. He also now knew, and would recognize, the individual energy signatures of the three Admirals; each of them gave off a unique aura and he wondered if it had to do with Devil Fruits or if it was just the Admirals themselves. He also learned that any Marine of the rank Captain or higher known to have any real skill had been summoned and relocated to the headquarter base. There was little-to-no doubt that all the nervous whispers about Whitebeard, Ace, and the daily arrival of these reassigned Marines were leading to something big; and now the day of that something had come.

As much as the Marines collectively seemed to scoff at pirates and the lives they lived, there was no doubt that the Marines took the Pirate Yonko Whitebeard very seriously. From where Mihawk now stood, he could see hundreds of Marines standing ready and waiting. The execution platform itself was guarded by the three Admirals, and right below them, the seven Shichibukai. He kind-of thought the Marines were stupid as the afternoon progressed and the time of execution drew near. Making such a grand spectacle just to kill a man that was the adopted son of such a figure was really asking for trouble. Although, he supposed, it was probably a good thing the Marines did not think like shinobi, or Ace would have been dead long before anyone could have a chance of preventing it.

He had just begun planning how he would infiltrate and battle this Marine-army himself, if needed, when Ace was brought up onto the execution platform. Tension crescendoed to a peak as all present waited for Whitebeard to appear and the execution to begin.

He felt his breath catch as he heard the question demanded of the raven-haired man shackled and kneeling at the top of the platform, and could hardly believe the self-righteous tone of the supposed Fleet Admiral as he announced, for the entire world, the young man’s bloodline and cursed him. They hated him, hated him for who he was, for something out of his control. It wasn’t even the fact that he was a pirate that caused them to hate so much. They hated him for something Ace had never asked for, never chosen, but that simply was. It cut through to his very center and he wouldn’t be surprised if even the Boss felt it. Then a shout rang out. The Gates of Justice were opening and the Control Room personnel were not responding.

Even in his current disguise, he could feel his lips twitch into a smirk. Ace was not alone; the Whitebeard Pirates had come for their lost son and brother. It was as Ace had said; Whitebeard was truly his father despite the Fleet Admiral’s Declaration.

Marines began to shout as sails were sighted and pirate marks identified, although the Shichibukai seemed bored. It was then that he felt it. The tell-tale tingles of chakra that indicated one of his markers. This was a short range one, not meant for long distance, and he realized it could only be the marker he had left aboard the Moby Dick. The great ship itself was not in view; however, he could feel it was close and getting closer.

If he had not been disguised, his jaw would have dropped as the sea swelled and the form of the Moby Dick suddenly appeared in the middle of the Marineford Bay from underwater. That… was cool. He would definitely have to ask Shanks-oji how a ship could sail underwater later on. Then the fighting began.

He watched in awe as Whitebeard shattered the air and the very Earth trembled. He watched, in growing excitement as one of the Admirals countered and froze the entire bay, including the incoming tsunami. He watched silently and with a keen eye to observation as the two forces, Marines and pirates, clashed. Already he was seeing all sorts of abilities that, if he had been back home, would have been marked as special bloodline or clan jutsu; but here, were most likely Devil Fruits. He was unsurprised though, when Mihawk drew his sword and launched a ranged attack. The attack, however, was blocked by one of Whitebeard’s Commanders. Similar attacks and blocks began to occur across the battlefield.

Then came the giants and he found himself amazed by the diversity of the people in this world. Normal people, Devil Fruit Users, and now Giants; all were here fighting.  Something shifted in the air; a new element had arrived. At first he thought it must be Shanks-oji, but he could not sense the Boss, and he could always sense the Boss when he was near enough.

A shadow spread and new screaming voices cut through the clamor of battle. Suddenly a large Marine ship fell with a crash of splintering wood and groaning people.

He gawked as he felt Mihawk tense and observe the new arrivals. A raven-haired teen, wearing a straw-hat stood tall amidst the chaos and called out.

“A~~~~CE~~~~!!! I finally found you!!!”

He listened in stunned silence as Mihawk confirmed the identity of the teen with a quiet, “Straw-hat…”

Monkey D. Luffy was in the middle of the war. Well shit, he thought, Shanks-oji was going to freak out.

If the battle had been confusing before, the arrival of Monkey D. Luffy and a bunch of other crazy-looking people caused the confusion to explode. He felt his heart twist at the shouted conversation between the two brothers. It reminded him strikingly of that day so many years ago at the Valley of the End, when he had chased after the teammate he thought of as a brother. He only hoped this day ended differently than that day had.

The Marines seemed to take a twisted offense to the arrival of the raven-haired young pirate as the Fleet Admiral began to speak once more, confirming for the entire world, that yes, Portagas D. Ace and Monkey D. Luffy were sworn brothers and raised together, grandsons of the Marine Hero, Monkey D. Garp, but they didn’t stop there. No, they went on to announce, that just like Ace, Luffy was the son of one of the World Government’s most hated enemies, the revolutionary, Monkey D. Dragon. Luffy himself, however, did not seem to care about what was being said as he simply began to charge forward, intent on reaching his brother.

He felt the shift in Mihawk’s demeanor and then heard his quietly spoken words.

“My apologies, Akagami; I will not hold back here. Now then, Fate, the next generation’s Golden Child, is he finished now, or will he somehow escape from my black blade?”

Oh, Shanks-oji was going to be pissed. There was no way he wouldn’t be telling his uncle of this. He watched as the straw-hat-wearing teen spotted Mihawk and changed his course, clearly not wanting a fight with the Warlord at this time. Mihawk almost seemed to sigh.

“You remain within my range.” The Swordsman stated without emotion and then attacked.

The speed of the movement alone was nearly enough to cause him to dispel. Yet, he was relieved to see Straw-hat dodge the attack.

Mihawk spoke again, “You seem unusually calm,” and launched another attack, slicing off the entire top half of the frozen tsunami wave behind Luffy.

Show off. He thought, watching carefully as Mihawk continued to target Straw-hat. He nearly panicked when Luffy used some other pirate as a shield, and then threw the pirate, surprisingly unharmed by the sword strike, so the body nearly collided with where he still sat perched atop the Warlord’s hat. He was quickly amused, though, as Mihawk’s attempt to continue after Straw-hat was blocked by a dual-wielding swordsman, another one of the Whitebeard Commanders. It seemed Whitebeard had ordered them to aid the sworn younger brother of their own brother, Ace.

He lost track of Straw-hat for a while after that, too busy keeping himself from getting dispelled as Mihawk battled the Whitebeard Pirates. If anyone noticed the feather atop the Warlord’s hat seem to duck, or suddenly shift one way or another to avoid being cut, or hit; there was too much else going on to give it much attention. He did notice, however, when the trap the Marines had planned began to be put into effect; additional forces closed in from behind and great steel walls rose up to enclose the bay where the large frozen waves had not already done so.

He felt a wave of dismay as he watched the Moby Dick as it was bombarded by fists of magma and begin to sink to the depths below the bay.  He had little time to do more than notice the death of the great ship, however, as Mihawk was besieged by pirates again now that the Warlord was trying to pursue Straw-hat.

With the trap in motion, the execution officially began; and then between one heart-stopping moment and the next, the execution was stopped. Within his disguise he stared in awe, it was that haki… like Shanks-oji, though it seemed wild and uncontrolled in comparison. 

He nearly giggled in glee as he began to notice pirates from all over the battlefield, even one of the other Shichibukai, began to support Luffy as he charged again and again for the platform.  He felt his heart twist as the older Marine, the two pirates’ grandfather, stood between them only to fall to his younger grandson’s fist. He watched with building excitement as the brothers were reunited. Then the Fleet Admiral attacked and the scaffolding collapsed. The platform was swallowed by smoke and covered in Marine fire. Smoke filled the air only to be overtaken by fire as the voice of an older brother scolding his younger rang out.

Portagas D. Ace was free, the execution itself was stopped, and both raven-haired pirates could be heard laughing as they began to run toward the bay. He watched them fight together in growing fondness, reminded of fights beside his own teammates when everything just flowed together. Then he heard Akainu’s voice and saw Ace stop moving. The Whitebeard Pirate’s back went rigid and he watched Luffy falter as his brother stopped running. He knew suddenly that it was time.

His disguise was dispelled as the blonde-haired teen suddenly appeared over Mihawk’s head. He rested his hand on the Warlord’s hat, seal work appearing from beneath his palm.  He landed on the Warlord’s shoulder, but was ignored for the moment as the entire battlefield froze for three long heartbeats, the attention of all, on the arm of magma that struck through the back and chest of Portagas D. Ace.

Before any could note his presence, the blonde teen vanished in a wisp of displaced air.

A Gutsy Shinobi

Naruto sat on the aft deck with his back against the cabin wall, blue eyes staring unfocused out at the ocean and sky behind the ship.  Resting on his lap, clasped between his hands with fingers gently running along the spine, was a well-worn book. I’m doing it again, Ero-sennin. I’m going to fight for your dream; I’m going to fight to find understanding. This world is so different, and there is such a rift between the people, it’s not even like they are all rival shinobi… its more than that. I don’t know what it is yet, but there is something really dark in this world. Some are fighting against it though, and I’m going to do what I can to make sure they aren’t lost… that Shanks-oji isn’t lost… that I’m not lost.

Suddenly, a tremor ran through the ship and shook the young man out of his thoughts. “What…”

“Whitebeard,” Shanks said as he came out onto the aft deck from inside the cabin. “The fighting has begun.”

Naruto blinked. “What’s his power?”

Shanks nodded, “The Gura Gura no Mi, ‘a Devil Fruit Ability that could destroy the world’.”

Naruto stared, “That’s… I mean, I’ve seen some crazy things done with Chakra, but this… that was the ocean floor?!”

Shanks smirked. “Right, there is a very good reason Edward Newgate has been recognized as the world’s strongest pirate. We should be seeing the effects of it, even here, shortly.” the redhead said as he moved to stand against the ship railing.

“CAPTAIN!” A voice from the lookout post called out.

“Ah! I see it.” Shanks called back as Naruto rose to his feet and looked in the direction his uncle’s gaze was focused.

“Tsunami…” Naruto whispered in awe.

Shanks smirked. “Whitebeard is setting the battlefield, but we will not be caught up in it just yet.”

The Red-Haired Captain rested his hand comfortably on the hilt of his sword, drew it slowly, and stood ready. The growing wave came closer and Naruto noticed the direction the Red Force faced was adjusted to bring the ship perpendicular to the large wave’s crest. Then, just as he began to think he should do something, his uncle moved and made a single strike. The wave rushed over and around the ship and then was past it; leaving the Red Force untouched, save for a fine mist.

Shanks chuckled and reached over to ruffle his nephew’s hair after sheathing his sword. “No use in rushing to the fight only to have the ship in pieces when we get there, right?”

“I guess.” Naruto grumbled as he ducked out from under his uncle’s hand only to get snagged around the shoulder and pulled up against the older man’s side instead. They stood there together like that for several long moments, both getting lost in thought as they stared out at the ocean behind them, the coast of the Red Line a constant dark smudge to the west.

“What was that book you were holding when I came out here?” Shanks asked, finally releasing his nephew and turning to rest his back against the rail.

Naruto turned to face his uncle and smiled, “It’s the first book Ero-Sennin ever wrote. It contains his hopes and dreams for the future. My parent’s liked it so much they named me after the main character.” Naruto answered, blushing a bit in embarrassment.

Shanks chuckled, “I thought you said your godfather was a pervert? Is it a dirty book, then?”

“NO!” The blonde teen exclaimed quickly in horror. “I’d never live it down…” he groaned, but then laughed lightly. “Ero-Sennin wasn’t just a pervert. He was a super-pervert. This was his first book; an adventure story about a gutsy shinobi. Everything he wrote after that was porn, though.”

Shanks blinked: he had been joking, “… seriously?”

Naruto snickered and looked at his uncle with a sly grin, “Why, Shanks-oji, would you like copies of them?”

The Red-Haired Pirate stared at his nephew in disbelief; had the boy really just offered to supply him with porn?

Before the redhead could reply, the lookout called out. “Gates of Justice are visible off the starboard bow!”

Uncle and nephew fell silent for several long moments after the alert. “You know, you don’t have to take part in this. This fight is between the Marines, the World Government, and the Yonko. You do not need to fight.” The red-haired man said gently after a while.

The blonde at his side turned to stare at him in shock. “What—”

“I know you can fight, but…” Shanks sighed. “This isn’t like the few fights we’ve had on the open sea, or your infiltration of that Marine base. This is going to be a war. There will be deaths; a lot of them I’m sure.”

Naruto turned back to the ocean and didn’t respond again for a while. “War… I hate it.”

“That’s why I wanted to make sure you had the choice. I won’t force you into something you hate.” Shanks glanced sideways at his nephew at those words.

“But I couldn’t live with myself if I stood by and did nothing while you and the others fought.” The blonde replied, his voice heavy with the weight of his decision.

Shanks smiled softly, he really hadn’t expected a different answer. “We should be arriving soon…” Shanks turned to face his nephew more fully as the blonde suddenly stiffened. “What is it?”

Naruto did not respond at first as he was suddenly overwhelmed with all the memories of a long-term Kage Bunshin returning.  It took precious minutes while he sifted through the memories quickly and then bit out a curse.  He turned to face his uncle, “You wanted to know what happens when I draw on Kurama’s energy.” He said quickly and suddenly was enveloped in golden energy.

The red-haired captain stared in surprise at the glowing energy slowly pulsing around his nephew with a life of its own, noticing the strange black markings that now covered the boy’s clothing as if they were tattoos. “What— ”

“I’m going ahead.” Naruto said softly, his blue gaze meeting his uncles own dark orbs.

Shanks frowned “I told you: this isn’t like the Marine base, the strength gathered together for this war… Even with what I know you can do, there are those who could—“

“Ace is dying.” Naruto said quietly. “I’m going,” reaching a glowing hand out to rest on his uncle’s shoulder, the golden energy swirling up to flutter in the man’s red hair, “I promise I won’t die.” 

Shanks met his nephew’s gaze steadily for several heartbeats, letting the feel of this new energy swirling around him sink deep, then nodded once to his nephew.  An instant later the blonde teen vanished, the golden energy that surrounded him blending in with the usual golden flash that accompanied his teleport technique.

Shanks looked down at the book he found himself left holding and chuckled as he read the title. “Tales of the Gutsy Shinobi… looks like you picked a perfect name, Kushina-nee.”

Fire and Ash

Red Dog, Mihawk mused, was not quite the right epithet for the Marine Admiral. He watched silently, almost lazily parrying those few pirates still foolish enough to cross blades with him, while the magma man stalked the two D. Brothers. Admiral Sakazuki truly was a ‘Mad Dog’. Mihawk noted that Sengoku was more than occupied with a nearly berserk Garp, and added moronic to the list of words that described the Red Dog. However, before he could dwell on the subject further, his sight and senses filled with gold. A young man dropped to the ground beside him, his normally blonde hair looking even more gold, thanks to the unusual energy that covered him like a cloak. Mihawk’s gaze narrowed and he growled, “You!”

The golden energy reached out and caught the arcing black blade with ease and the individual in the heart of that golden energy smirked. “You can be pissed at me some other time, Hawkeyes.” And then the golden form was in motion. If Mihawk’s focus had not already been centered on the teen, he would not have been able to track the boy’s movements across the battlefield; for just as suddenly as the gold-covered blonde had appeared beside the Warlord, he now appeared at the D. Brothers’ side.


From the instant the very familiar– but absolutely unique – chakra had flooded his system and shifted his senses, he had been able to feel the overpowering negative emotions covering the Marineford base. Hatred of pirates, hatred of Marines, hatred of so-called justice and so much more; this was the downside of using Kurama’s chakra. Even with Kurama working as his partner, it was nearly overwhelming in its intensity. He had learned to face the hatred and accept it for what it was; to not let it control him, but this…

It is like the warring clans of the Elemental Nations…you will have to be careful here, Naruto. A familiar deep voice echoed in his mind.

I know. Naruto answered, returning his focus to the moment. He quickly took in what had changed in the time it had taken him to sort the clone’s memories and transport to the marker the clone had strengthened on Mihawk’s hat. He sensed and caught the attack from the Warlord; there was no real hatred in it, and promised the man a fight later as he moved on.

He spotted the D. Brothers almost immediately, more from the attention of so many others on them than any physical identification. Particularly, it was the hatred being directed at them from hundreds of Marines and the potent waves of grief surrounding them that guided him.

He arrived at the D. Brothers’ side and quickly slipped a stasis seal onto Ace’s back beside the gaping wound and activated it. He began to face the younger brother but turned suddenly as he sensed movement, the glowing chakra arms reaching forward over his own shoulders to intercept the fist that had been aimed at both him and the D. Brothers.

“Haven’t you done enough damage?!” Naruto growled at the stone-faced Marine.

The Marine narrowed his gaze at the glowing young man. “Who are you, and why are you interfering with Justice?!”

“This is not Justice!” Naruto snarled back and the golden glowing limbs pulsed as swirling spheres appeared in his palms and he drove them forward into the man’s torso.

The stoic Marine’s eyes widened in shock as bits of magma were sent flying and his entire torso was almost destroyed. The man pulled back; though he seemed un-phased by the damage to his chest, he looked at his right arm in surprise. Where thick glowing molten magma had been clearly visible before, now there was black stone; smooth and glossy over what had been muscle, jagged and rough where joints should be. “What have you done?!”

A clash of sword on stone and the impact of blows filled the air before the boy could answer.

The Marine snarled at the newly arrived Whitebeard Commanders. “Damn Haki users…”

“Naruto, isn’t it?” Marco asked as he kept his gaze focused forward on the Marine Admiral.

“That’s right.” The glowing young man answered as golden energy swirled around him and the two D. Brothers then seemed to reach out and began dancing amidst the flames and feathers covering the First Division Commander’s arms.

“Taichou!” Jimbe called to the First Commander as he joined the group standing between Ace and the Marine Admiral.

“Get them out of here. We’ll handle Akainu.” The phoenix ordered, ignoring the odd feeling from the energy now playing in his feathers.

The Admiral cackled, “It’s too late for Fire Fist, take a look!”

Naruto whirled and rushed to Ace’s side as he spotted the seal paper burning up. “Shit! The seal isn’t sticking!”

Feed the fire our chakra!

What?! Naruto yelled back at the Fox.

I can’t explain it, just don’t let those flames go out if you want to save him!

Naruto didn’t bother to respond again as golden energy swirled forward from him to intertwine with the faint flames he could still feel deep within the wounded man. He pulled out another stasis seal and quickly applied it.

“It’s no use.” The quiet, subdued voice of Ace whispered, “I know I’m dying. My organs have all burned up inside, I’m not going to last long…”

Naruto could only watch and listen quietly as last words were spoken between the two brothers. A tug at his senses pulled his focus up and away from the two briefly, and he spotted Whitebeard facing them. Time seemed to still as his gaze locked with that of the old pirate.

Will you help him? The old pirate’s eyes seemed to ask. Naruto stood slightly straighter in response and nodded his head slowly once; trying to tell the old man that he would do everything he could.

“Thank you for loving me!” The final cry of Portagas D. Ace drew Naruto’s attention back to the two young men before him.  Naruto leaned forward quickly, catching Ace as he slipped from his brother’s arms. His attention shifted to a nearby piece of paper as it slowly crumbled into ash and vanished. Naruto looked worriedly at the younger brother – so close to his own age – that now sat in shock, his head tipping backward as a wail of agony left his throat and echoed over the battlefield. From all around them Naruto could hear the stunned whispers of shock saying Ace was dead.

“You’re next, Straw-Hat!” The voice of Akainu roared.

“I won’t let you take his life!” Marco answered as blue flames flared and he met the Admiral’s attack and blocked it once again. “Jimbe! Take Ace’s brother and go! It’s Ace’s last wish!!!”

The large fishman quickly scooped up the catatonic rubber boy and began to run as Whitebeard Pirates all around them closed ranks to defend the escaping pair.

“Marco! I’m taking Ace!” Naruto called out as he picked up the unmoving form of the Second Division Commander.

“I told you!” Akainu growled, “I wouldn’t let those two Brothers escape! Did you forget that?!”

At that moment, Whitebeard slammed into Akainu from behind, knocking the Admiral down to the ground. Akainu struck back, taking off Whitebeard’s left ear and mustache. Whitebeard grunted and smacked his left fist into the Admiral’s ribs. The sound of cracking filled the air as the ground crumbled and split, creating a chasm across the entire Marineford base, and the wounded and hunched over Marine fell into the newly formed depth.

Naruto stared wide-eyed as the Whitebeard Pirates around them began to cry out, the chasm now separating them all from their Captain. Naruto met the old pirate’s gaze once more before golden energy swirled up and both young men vanished from the battlefield.


Energy flared and pulsed as it appeared over the waiting seal matrix. One heartbeat, then two heartbeats and the seal glowed brightly before slowly fading back to just black ink; the energy that had fueled it having been spent.


Golden energy flared in waving tendrils as they unwound to reveal a glowing figure holding an unmoving man in his arms. Amber eyes snapped open as the pulsing energy that filled the room continued to flow over the two figures in rippling waves. There was another flash of gold and they vanished leaving faint wisps of power quickly fading behind in the small apartment.

Across the village of Konoha there were startled shrieks and gasps of surprise and shock as the glowing golden figure reappeared in the center of a corridor of the Konohagakure hospital.

“BAA-CHAN! SAKURA-CHAN!” He yelled, golden energy reaching out for the two he sought.

“Naruto!” Sakura yelled as she stormed out of a nearby room and froze mid-step as she took in the sight of blood covering Naruto’s torso and the figure he held. She stared, and almost seemed to whimper. He’d promised to be careful.

“It’s not mine, Sakura! He needs help! Quickly!” Naruto answered her unspoken thoughts and strode forward.

Sakura stiffened and then blinked. “Right, sorry. This way, the operating room on this level is open. Someone get Tsunade-shishou, immediately!” She snapped out and began issuing further orders.

“Put him here!” Sakura instructed as she quickly began a medical scan and then frowned.

“What the hell hit him?! He’s missing huge parts of his internal organs and the entire injury is almost completely cauterized.”

“I can’t explain everything, but from what I saw, he basically took a punch of pure magma from the back while shielding his brother.” Naruto offered as he kept feeding tendrils of golden energy into the comatose form.

Sakura didn’t question further but set to work. “I’m going to kill you for this later.” She hissed as green healing energies filled the room save for where the golden energy still pouring from Naruto continued to flutter.

“Just do what you can. He’s important to a lot of people.” Naruto said gently.

Sakura met his gaze and held it steadily for a long moment and nodded sharply.


Shanks stood atop the dragon figurehead of the Red Force and stared intently at the mess of ice and broken ships they were quickly approaching. He reached out, extending his senses, and began to read the events of the battlefield. Instantly he was flooded with a surge of feeling from his nephew as the teen disappeared from the mess ahead of them, and reappeared for just a moment below deck behind him and then vanished completely. He spared a moment of thought for him but let it pass; he could worry about his nephew later.

Refocusing on what lay ahead, he let his senses trace over the different voices he could hear, noting quickly those already gone that should not have been. Whitebeard has fallen, and Ace is missing as well. He mused quietly, and hoped that Ace had, in fact, been with Naruto. Akainu is on the hunt…the son of Dragon – Shit – Luffy! His voice is there I can just barely feel it…Mihawk, Marco… is that…

The Red Force slowed and Shanks leapt from the figurehead and rushed forward, not even needing to reach out with his senses to know his crew was behind him.

“LET’S STOP THIS!! STOP FIGHTING!! IT’S A WASTE OF HUMAN LIFE!!!” a voice rang out over the battlefield and everywhere across the bay both pirates and Marines paused.

Shanks made a dash as the pause continued: this was the moment they needed. He heard the young Marine’s voice crying for the continued loss of life and then felt Akainu’s focus shift to that voice.

Not today… Shanks thought as he drew his sword and slipped between the raging Admiral and the one who cried for the bloodshed to stop.

“Well done, young Marine. For better or for worse, those few seconds of courage will profoundly influence the fate of this world.” Shanks said as he met Akainu’s gaze steadily. He sensed Benn focus on the other Admiral hunting Luffy and inwardly smirked as he felt the ripple of change spread across the battlefield with their arrival. He took the time to pick up the old worn straw-hat that lay on the ice nearby. Hat… Luffy, to leave this, you truly gave everything trying to save your brother… He stood straight and let his eyes slowly cross over the battlefield. “I’ve come, to put an end to this war!”


Mihawk sheathed his weapon with practiced ease and began to stride away from the battlefield.

“Hawkeyes! Where are you going?!” a Marine shouted.

“I agreed to fight Whitebeard, but I never agreed to fight Red-Haired Shanks.” Mihawk responded, or his blasted nephew. Nor did he really have any desire to watch Shanks continue to grandstand over the remains of this battlefield. The brat was holding back before… He mused as he considered his rival’s nephew’s actions on the field of battle. He took Ace’s fallen body when he disappeared…was he sent to try and rescue Fire Fist? Had Shanks been willing to risk his nephew to rescue the son of his late captain? And yet, he considered as he walked away, the brat had blocked a blow from Akainu without batting an eye in that strange golden energy cloak. One thing was certain: this war had tipped the balance of power and the results of that shift would be felt for years to come.

Betting Hope on Luck

Naruto knocked gently on the doorframe before entering the room and approaching the bedridden woman. “Hey, Baa-chan. Sakura-chan told me you were awake.”

“Gaki,” the blonde haired woman grumbled but smiled gently. “What have I told you about calling me that?”

Naruto just grinned and settled into the open chair at her bedside. “You gave us a scare, Baa-chan.”

The woman snorted. “I’ll be fine.”

“You could have killed yourself!” Naruto argued, his face serious. “Sakura-chan told me.”

Soft brown eyes met blue and the woman was reminded of the moment she made her choice.

“The sealing array is almost complete. We need to apply suppression seals to restrain his bloodline ability” Shizune advised as she worked quickly, ink brush flowing smoothly across the surgery room floor.

“He resisted the stasis seals.” Naruto explained as he continued to hold the patient, golden energy still flowing steadily around both him and the unconscious man in his arms.

“It will take all three of us performing the surgery to keep him from burning up.” Sakura advised as she finished laying out surgery implements with nurses following her directions.

Tsunade finished her own preparations and then turned to the blonde teen and the man he held. She had heard Sakura’s diagnosis and done her own as well. The fact that the raven-haired young man had a hole through his back and chest, and for all practical purposes was clinically dead, had not stopped them from preparing the surgery. Naruto had asked them to save the man, and they had responded accordingly, but she reconsidered now, knowing what it would likely cost her. Her gaze met blue and held steady. “Tell me why you brought him here, Naruto,” She requested.

“He shielded his brother, who had come to save him, from a fist of molten magma.” Naruto answered simply, but his eyes spoke volumes more. Naruto saw himself in this man. She suspected that, like with his former teammate, failure to save this man would devastate the young man she had bet her own hope on.

“Array complete,” Shizune announced and Naruto immediately stepped forward to lay his burden down in the center of the array and then knelt above his head, continuing to keep a pulse of golden energy flowing from himself into the unmoving form.

“Let’s begin then.” Tsunade ordered. “Sakura, control his bloodline ability and monitor his heart. Shizune monitor organ and muscle regrowth. Begin.”

The sealing array glowed bright white before shading green with healing energies. Golden strands filtered throughout it all as the green glow spread from the array to the patient and was guided by the three medics at work.

The memory faded as she recalled the feelings that had been brought to the fore by his explanation as to why he had brought the patient home to Konoha for treatment. It was reckless and had reminded her very much of when Naruto had taken blows meant for her shortly after their initial meeting; when he had won their bet and she had agreed to come home. “I bet on your luck.” Tsunade finally said in response to her visitor’s accusation.

Naruto sighed and settled back in the chair. “Stupid Baa-chan.” He grumbled but reached out for her hand and gave it a squeeze. “I don’t want to lose you.”

Tsunade chuckled, “Stupid Gaki, I won’t go so easily,” she said in return squeezing his hand back. “You are leaving today?”

Naruto nodded. “Sakura is finishing getting it ready. She promised to use the Bunshin-scroll to send me a message if there is any change.”

Tsunade smiled. Her second apprentice and protégé had really flourished since taking over most of her work at the hospital. “I will be fine. Shizune and Sakura won’t let me do anything risky. They probably won’t even let me drink.” She stated, frowning; the two would be a pair of regular mother hens.

She rolled her eyes at the skeptic look he still gave her. “I won’t do anything to put myself further at risk.” She sighed. “I don’t even have the chakra to consider it.” The teen’s frown deepened. “Oh it’s not that bad!” She defended.

“Shizune-neesan said you won’t be able to work at the hospital anymore.” He said quietly.

Tsunade flinched and looked down at where her hands rested in her lap. “She’s probably right. I drained all my reserves, and they take longer to regenerate each time. Another strain like this would probably kill me and I’m not likely to ever regain as much as I lost this time.” She looked up then, her expression steady and serious. “I will not remain an invalid, there are still things I can do even without using chakra.”

Naruto smiled.

“What will you tell your uncle?” she asked.

Naruto shrugged. “I don’t know yet. There is so much about that world I don’t really understand yet…”

Tsunade smirked, “You say that like you understand this one so well.”

“Hey!” The blonde teen pouted for a moment before both blondes laughed. “Yeah, well, I’ll manage.”

“I know you will.” Tsunade told him and chuckled again as he fidgeted nervously at the praise. “So, did you bring me any sake?” She asked hopefully.

Naruto rolled his eyes but handed the woman a small scroll that had been tucked away in his jacket. “This is from Shanks-oji’s private stock; he doesn’t know I pilfered it yet.” He explained and then glanced nervously at the doorway for a moment, “You know Sakura-chan and Shizune-nee will kill me if they find out I gave that to you.”

Tsunade only reached over to ruffle his hair.  “Don’t spoil it now, Gaki. I’ll be fine.”

Naruto met her gaze and held it for several heartbeats. “You promise?”

Tsunade remained silent for several long moments, “Naruto… I cannot promise I will be here forever, you know that.”

The blonde teen looked down and said nothing.


The teen looked up slowly.

“I’m not going to leave just yet, I promise.”

The young man said nothing but then grinned and squeezed her hand tightly once more. “Good.”

The older blonde smiled, “I’m proud of you, you know.”


“That old pervert would be too,” She continued, smirking as the young man practicality glowed, “as well as Sarutobi-sensei and your parents.”

The teen blushed and fidgeted, “I just… I wish Ero-senin had lived to see the end of the war.”

Tsunade gripped his hand and squeezed reassuringly. “Wherever that old pervert is, I’m sure he saw you bring his dream for this world into reality.”

Naruto returned the squeeze and smirked, “I’m thinking of getting his books published in that world.”

Tsunade froze and looked at him in horror. “You…”

The teen snickered. “Come on, Baa-chan. I’m very aware of how he worked his information network with his publishers. To not make use of what he left me, especially with the chaos that world is in…”

Tsunade sighed in exasperation. “If I learn you have taken up his habit of spying on bath-houses, I will kill you.”

Naruto chuckled. “I think Sakura-chan would save you the effort.”

“Then I’ll have her heal you so I can kill you again.”

Naruto actually blanched at that. “I promise to not start spying on bathhouses, Baa-chan.”

“Better not, Gaki.” She grumbled.

Both fell into silence for several long moments. “You better not forget to come back and visit.” Tsunade said breaking the silence.

“Of course; who else would call you Baa-chan while I’m gone?”

“Gaki…” she growled in warning, but the teen only grinned.  Tsunade sighed, why did she even bother to keep trying to stop him from calling her that, when it had stopped bothering her long ago, anyways? “You will bring this Shanks to visit?”

Naruto nodded. “As soon as he is able to get away for a while without risk to those under his protection. He’s kind of like a pirate Kage, after all.”

Tsunade snorted at that. A knock at the door interrupted them as Sakura peeked in. “Sorry to interrupt, but it’s ready, Naruto.” She explained as she stepped fully into the room and presented a large scroll.

Naruto’s expression turned somber as he accepted the scroll. “Well, I guess it’s time then.”

“Remember your promise, Gaki.” Tsunade chastised.

Naruto smiled, “You too, Baa-chan.” And then in a golden flash he was gone.

“Idiot didn’t even say goodbye.” The pink haired young woman grumbled.

“Don’t worry, he’ll be back. The Gaki never goes back on his promises.” Tsunade said in response, relaxing back into her pillows once more.

Song of Sorrow

“RED-HAIR! What did your nephew do with Ace?!” one of the Whitebeard Commanders shouted as he was held back by his comrades. 

“Shut up!” Marco yelled back at his nakama before turning to face the Red-Haired Captain. “But, the question still stands. We trusted your nephew with Ace’s body and now you tell us he hasn’t returned to your ship?”

Shanks grumbled. “It’s complicated.”

Marco frowned, not impressed.

“He likely took Ace to try and get him treatment, but I can’t explain where or how.” Shanks finally offered and shrugged.

“Ace was… is dead!” another of the Whitebeard commanders shouted. “We saw him fall!”

This time Marco didn’t bother to respond to his crewmates’ shouting.

It was at that moment that the Red-Haired Pirates all turned their heads, almost as one, to look back at their ship anchored just off the cost. They ignored the muttered comments of the Whitebeard Pirates as they silently watched and waited. It became clear what, or rather who, they waited for moments later as an orange-clad figure appeared on the ship’s deck. They watched as the blonde-haired form walked down the side of the ship and then across the water to the shoreline, approaching the gathered pirates silently. His head remained downcast as he carried a large scroll in front of him.

“I took him to the best medics I know.” The blonde said quietly as he reached the group. “They tried… we did everything we could…”

“Naruto…” Shanks whispered. The blonde kept his eyes downcast.

“I’m sorry. I brought… I thought they might want…” he tried to explain as he slowly set the scroll down and began to unroll it far enough to reveal a large section of seal work. Without a word, he knelt and pressed his palm flat on the paper and ink. The lines glowed blue, then released their hidden content in a soft whoosh.

A heavy silence covered the gathered group.

“I’m sorry… I should have taken him right away, but I thought I had bought him some time…” the blonde said quietly. “the… he didn’t, I mean… and his brother was right there…” At that his head shot up and his blue eyes searched for his uncle quickly. “Shanks-oji, Luffy!  Luffy was—”

Shanks moved toward his nephew and crouched down at his side, resting his hand on the blonde’s shoulder. “In the middle of it all, I know. He got away and was with someone who could give him medical care. Ace’s last wish, to protect his brother, wasn’t wasted.”

Another figure crouched down across from the blonde on the other side of the body of Portagas D. Ace.

Marco closed his eyes tightly for a few long moments before looking up to face Naruto. “Thank you for trying to save our brother.” He said with sincerity. “And thank you for bringing his body back to us.”

Naruto met the First Division Commander’s gaze then quickly glanced away, fidgeting with unease, before he nodded and stood up, taking a step back, his uncle rising and moving to stand beside him.

Uncle and nephew watched silently as the Whitebeard Commanders gathered and took up the limp form, carrying it back to the group and then further inland. There they would prepare to say their final goodbyes to two of the most precious people in their lives: their Captain and adopted father, as well as their fellow Commander and brother.

“Thank you.”  Shanks said softly to his nephew when the Whitebeard Pirates had all moved away.

Naruto fidgeted, uneasy with the gratitude.

“You did not have to fight, and you did what you could. That is what matters.” His uncle continued.

Naruto simply nodded as he watched the somber crew mourn. He only wished he could do more for them. He glanced to his uncle and paused at the serious look on his uncle’s face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get Luffy out of there.” He said quietly.

Shanks turned to his nephew in surprise but then smiled softly. “Luffy had others looking out for him. That kid… you can tell me about what you saw there later on. I found my old hat laying on the ground when I arrived.” He looked skyward for a few moments. “Made sure it was returned to him. Would have been good to see Luffy again, but…”

“Your promise, right?” Naruto asked.

Shanks nodded. “What Luffy went through… what he did for his brother… was so like what Roger would have done for his crew; but to have Ace die right in front of him…”

“Luffy is strong. He’ll be okay.” Naruto stated.

Shanks blinked in surprise. “You got to meet him?”

Naruto shrugged. “Not really, but my clone saw his arrival at Marineford and everything up to when Ace took that hit. He will overcome this. Oh, and you will probably want to kill Mihawk, he tried to take off Luffy’s arms.”

Shanks stilled and the air filled with tension. “Hawkeyes went after Luffy?”

Naruto nodded, “Yeah; cocky bastard even mumbled an apology about not holding back before he did it.”

The tension rose further and then, just at the point where it seemed his uncle might snap, it was gone. Shanks sighed. “He tested Luffy’s luck, and it seems Luffy’s luck won.” The red-haired man chuckled. “Shouldn’t surprise me with his own interest in Luffy’s first mate; the fact that Roronoa follows Luffy and yet strives to surpass Hawkeyes means Luffy himself will have to meet Hawkeyes’ challenges as well. Mihawk never did like the obligations of a crew holding him back.”

Naruto remained silent, not sure what, if anything, he could say.


The various pirates who had called themselves allies, friends, sons, and daughters of the Yonko Whitebeard honored his passing in a myriad of ways that showed, more than anything, how rich Edward Newgate’s life had been with the treasure he had held so dear. For some, it was a somber, quiet affair. For others, it was lost in a sea of tears, cries of pain, and sorrow. For still more, it was the celebration of a life and all that they had shared. Throughout the event, the former Division Commanders of the Whitebeard Fleet could be seen drifting from group to group, or in turn having different groups drift to them.  There were noticeable holes left in the collection of Division Commanders and their subordinates, however, for not only had the Fourth Division Commander been lost to Teach’s treachery, but the more recent loss of Ace in the Second Division left an open sore that could not be ignored.

Off the shoreline and separate from the various gatherings, the silent form of the Red Force watched and kept guard, giving the children of the fallen Yonko the space they needed to mourn as they required, but honoring their fallen rival with their presence.


Marco’s heart ached as he watched the interaction between nephew and uncle. The family connection was obvious, and even though he still had hundreds of brothers from the crew, three incredibly close ties had been torn away in such a short time. He turned back to face the monument that had been made for Whitebeard, and the smaller one beside it that was still being finished for Ace. His heart clenched but he refused to break down; his brothers needed him to be strong. He glanced at the nephew and uncle pair who were standing a ways off, respectfully giving the Whitebeard Pirates the space they needed to mourn. They owed Red-Hair a lot for what he had done to help get them all out of the war; not just to allow them to escape, but to take the body of Whitebeard with them without fuss.

And then there was Ace… Marco had seen the look that passed between Whitebeard and the blonde teen. It had given him a bit of hope when the teen had stated he was taking Ace; hope that just maybe it wasn’t too late for the Fire User after all. He had known though, as soon as the blonde teen had appeared on the Red Force, his entire body showing a subdued sorrow, that it had been too late.

He wondered then about that golden energy that had surrounded the teen. He had felt it winding amongst the feathers and flames of his phoenix form. If he was to use one word to describe it, it was life. There was something bright and potent, even addicting about the feeling of it, and had it not been in the middle of a fight, the instincts of his Zoan would have likely drawn him toward it just as they often did with large fires. He wondered what that energy had made of Ace’s dying fire, if it had tried to keep it alive and been unable to.

Marco contemplated how that may have felt for the one the golden energy had come from, and if it felt anything at all like what it had for himself. He considered if, in those moments, Naruto had known Ace as well as any of the Whitebeard Pirates, or maybe even Ace’s younger brother. The blonde teen had looked so worried, so weighed down, and Marco found himself musing over just what the blonde had lived through before his sudden appearance at his uncle’s side.

He was reminded, in a way, of the weight he had often sensed lurking on Ace’s own shoulders despite his attempts to hide it and act carefree. He found himself thinking, had they had the chance, Naruto and Ace would have likely been close friends; brothers themselves, even. Yet another bit of life that war had killed.

The Phoenix watched silently as nephew and uncle finally approached the monuments themselves, and as the pair paid their respects, his attention focused once more on the pain of what they had lost. Oyaji… He had sailed so long with the pirate that was, in so many ways, larger than life. He would not be who he was today if Whitebeard had not taken him underwing all those years ago. He had known this day was coming. Had known going into the war that his adoptive father would choose death on the battlefield if it meant saving the crew… saving Ace. That Ace had fallen before the world’s strongest man had been the final piece falling into place. Marco knew as soon as Ace fell, that Whitebeard would die taking as many marines as possible with him in retribution.

Marco had been prepared for this possibility, and Whitebeard had made him promise beforehand, that he would not seek vengeance for him if he fell, that he would focus on getting his sons, Marco’s adopted brothers, out alive. Knowing of the likelihood of it ahead of time had not made the reality any easier. He had nearly failed. The loss of Ace and Whitebeard had hit him hard and the Marines had not been forgiving. Shanks’ timely arrival had saved hundreds of the Whitebeard Pirates and allies that day. He stepped forward to stand beside the uncle and nephew pair.  “I don’t know how to thank you, Red-Hair.”

There was a long pause before Shanks answered. “Don’t mention it. Rival or not, Whitebeard was a man who commanded respect. Even Sengoku felt that way.”

Marco said nothing as he studied the pair for a few moments. The blonde stepped forward crouching down, resting a hand gently on each of the two monuments for a moment before rising and stepping back.

“Well, we’ll be going now.” Shanks said.

“Yeah, Thanks.”

Naruto stayed behind a moment longer and met the gaze of the Phoenix steadily. “Take care of yourself, Bluebird-san.” Naruto said as he turned to follow his uncle, smiling softly.

Marco blinked and couldn’t help but smiling back for a moment. “You too, kid.”                           


It was after the Red Force had disappeared on the horizon when the suggestion was made to dedicate the two Commander-less Divisions to the island they had forever marked with their Captain’s memory that the wounds of loss began to heal.  Those who were ready to settle down could transfer to either Second or Fourth Divisions and provide guardianship and defense for the island against those who would seek to vandalize the memory of those now gone. Those who were not ready to retire from piracy would shift into the other Divisions to replace those staying behind. New purpose had been found, a hope for the future, and a need to honor and defend their own fulfilled.

It was the allies who were first to slowly split off and set sail once more, promising to remain friends, to call upon or be called upon in need, but that they would move on seeking their own riches. Those remaining watched them go, but were not yet ready to continue sailing on themselves, the wounds still too raw.  Then came the reports of territories and islands claimed by Whitebeard being overrun by others. The Division Commanders gathered and decisions were made.

By the end of the third day only the Second, Fourth, and First Divisions remained on the island as life on the sea known as the Grand Line continued on.


A loud slurping sound reached Shanks’ ears as he approached his nephew on the aft deck. The blonde teen had been casually avoiding him since they had left behind the Whitebeard pirates and the island where the famous Pirate Yonko now lay buried. It was time to find out what was bothering his nephew so much. He settled down beside the teen without saying a word and picked up one of the cups waiting at his nephew’s side.

“Cup ramen?” he asked, reading off the package.

His nephew finished slurping his mouthful of noodles and grinned. “Ramen’s the best!”

“Favorite food?” Shanks asked.

“Of course! How can you not know what ramen is?! Ichiraku’s is even better though.”

“You’ll have to take me when we visit, then.” Shanks replied.

“You bet!” Naruto grinned and continued to slurp.

“So, what’s bothering you?” Shanks asked after a small pause. The slurping noise slowed and then stopped as silence filled the air.

“Whitebeard… he trusted me to take care of Ace, he didn’t actually say anything… but I knew… and then I let the Whitebeard Pirates down…”

Shanks had been afraid the teen would answer that way. “Ace gave his life to protect his brother. That was his choice. Marco told me what happened, and you did what you could. You deflected a direct hit from Akainu, even, or so I was told.”

Naruto shrugged. “That magma guy? He’s an asshole.”

Shanks laughed. “That is true. Looked like someone had messed up one of his arms pretty good when I arrived, though; seemed like it had been solidified into volcanic stone.”

Naruto scratched his head, “His arm did look like it hardened after I blocked his punch… but then some of the others kept him busy and I left with Ace.”

“Interesting,” Shanks considered, and then frowned after a moment. “I’m disappointed by the way.”

Naruto flinched and pulled away a bit nervously. “About…?”

“That transformation of yours,” Shanks answered, “there were no tails. And could you even call those little gold flares ‘ears’? Looked nothing like a fox.”

Naruto sat stunned. “Oh.”

Shanks arched an eyebrow at his nephew’s stunned expression.

“Guess I never thought about it. Before Kurama and I started working together… the bijuu chakra cloak was as self-damaging as it was a power boost. That one had tails but was nearly impossible to control. I… I nearly lost myself to it completely, once.”

Shanks frowned. “What… what lead up to that?” he asked, though he had a few ideas.

Naruto’s eyes glazed over as he turned out to the ocean. “Konoha… was almost completely destroyed… Kakashi-sensei… Shizune-neesan… I could no longer sense them. Nagato… he… he was another student of Ero-Sennin… and the one who killed him… and then… she said she loved me, and Pein killed her.” He whispered the last bit so quietly Shanks almost couldn’t hear it.

“Naruto…” Shanks breathed out, half-wishing he hadn’t asked. The blonde teen turned to face him and then smiled softly.

“It’s okay, Shanks-oji, it was because of that that I learned who my parents were. Thanks to my Dad, I didn’t give up, I defeated Pein, and I convinced Nagato that there were other ways to bring peace. He died then, using an ability to bring back all the people he had killed while attacking Konoha. In the end he believed in Ero-Sennin’s dream… you know… Nagato was an Uzumaki.. I wish… well, it’s too late now, I guess.”

Shanks reached over to ruffle his nephew’s hair. “You really are strong, you know that?”

Naruto smiled, but then turned serious once more. “Shanks-oji, about Luffy…”

Shanks smiled sadly. “I just have to believe in him, right?”

Naruto blinked and then smiled, “Yeah. Wish I had gotten a chance to really meet him.”

Shanks chuckled, “I’m sure you will, eventually.”

At that moment there was a loud shout from the main deck. A crewman appeared shortly afterwards with a paper clutched in hand. “Captain! You’re gonna to want to see this!”

Shanks accepted the paper and quickly scanned over the headline. Several moments later he began to chuckle. “I think Luffy will be just fine.”

He showed Naruto the paper. “Seems Rayleigh-san has taken an interest in him, and if my guess is right, this was done to send a message to Luffy’s crew.”

Naruto studied the image and headlines and chuckled. “Wonder just how badly they freaked out the Marines with that.”

Shanks shrugged, “It’s good for the Marines to get a good shake up. They get complacent with the rookies in Paradise.” He chuckled. “Luffy sure has given them a few heart attacks by now though. That kid… assaulting Enies Lobby and openly declaring war on the World Government, then breaking into and out of Impel Down… it’s a miracle the Marines have managed to keep so much of it out of the papers.”

“Why would they keep it out of the papers?” Naruto asked confused: weren’t such events a big deal?

“Because it makes the Marines look like the buffoons they are.” Benn chimed in as he approached and accepted the paper from Shanks. “So, the Dark King is still up to mischief. Seems Luffy has befriended Jimbei as well; those are some big names he’s keeping company with.”

Shanks smiled.

“Then again, Luffy did charm the Captain when he was only seven, so this shouldn’t be that surprising.” Benn teased.

Shanks spluttered and then pouted. “Not like he didn’t have the rest of the crew enthralled as well.”

Naruto snickered, “So does that mean you would join Luffy’s crew if he asked?”

The two older men froze and then turned to look at each other.

“He wouldn’t, would he?” Shanks whispered.

Benn chuckled as he lit a new cigarette, “He aims to be Pirate King; would you not follow such a man?”

Shanks sighed and shrugged helplessly.

“But no, I don’t think he’d actually ask. He did say he would surpass you and the crew after all.” Benn offered after exhaling.

Shanks smiled softly, “He did say that, didn’t he.” The red-haired man said as he looked out over the ocean once more. “Keep growing strong, Luffy, meet us at the top. We will be waiting.”

Naruto smiled at his uncle’s sentiment and then grinned. “I might have to go meet him myself if you keep getting all mushy and stuff.”

“Oh, you would, would you? And just how do you think you would find him?” Shanks asked.

Naruto shrugged. “I’ve felt his life energy once now, I can find it again.”

“Life energy?” Shanks asked puzzled by the new term.

“Not sure what else to call it, but I got a good read on a lot of people at that war with my clone and when I was there in the nine-tails form.  It’s not chakra, but felt kind of like it. The Devil Fruit users were easier to pick out, almost like they were giving off an aura of nature chakra themselves.” He explained then wrinkled his nose. “Kurama’s chakra seemed to really like Marco-san in particular; would have wound itself around him all day if I let it.”

“So that golden energy is Kurama’s?” Shanks asked, “And it liked Marco?”

“I think it’s the fire. Kurama’s primary element is fire, after all.” Naruto replied. “And it didn’t like Akainu’s magma… but that’s more earth-based, really.”

“What about Ace?” Shanks asked quietly.

“I tried to feed my energy to the sparks of fire I could still feel in Ace when I took him…” Naruto trailed off and turned his gaze down toward the deck.

“So that golden energy is a transformation, then?” Benn asked to turn the subject away from the lost D. Brother.

The blonde teen nodded. “Kurama and I work together when I’m in that form. It allows us to pull off some pretty awesome special attacks,” he explained, then after a moment frowned, “though the waves of negative emotions it leaves me open to kind of suck.”

“You can sense negative emotions while using it?” Benn asked, surprised.

“Yeah, it’s a talent of Kurama’s that I share in that form.” Naruto answered.

“And you used it at Marineford? That place had to be nothing but a boiling pit of negative emotions.”

The teen shrugged again. “Yeah, pirates and marines really hate each other it seems. Never felt anything quite like it before. The fourth Great Shinobi War united the Elemental Nations against a common enemy, and the fight was about survival, not an opposing faction we just hated.”

“So your force didn’t hate your enemy?” Shanks asked.

Naruto’s mind whirled back to the fourth war and all the tactics used by Akatsuki and its shadowed leaders. Hundreds of long-gone shinobi brought back as glorified zombies to fight against the living. Friends fighting friends, family fighting family… How did you explain that your enemy summoned up immortal long and recently dead legends and then forced you to fight against them? “It’s a long story …and … well… really complicated.” He finally answered.

Shanks and Benn both raised their eyebrows, but didn’t press for details when the blonde did not continue.

“Captain! We’ve just received word, Big Mom has claimed one of Whitebeard’s territories. Smaller Pirate groups of the New World have been reported raiding several others!” a crewman called back from the quarter deck.

Shanks’ expression turned serious, and yet sad. “The vultures are descending; time to get to work.”

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Silver Dragonfly

reading ~ writing ~ doodling ~ that's me Working day by day to bring creativity back into my day-to-day life when it's been lost to the monotony of work and bills.

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