The walls seem far too close.
Most of the officers are assembled. Only waiting on Vinci. Herman’s staying up above, keeping us following the makeshift flotilla of pirates (and one rich guy willing to buy mercenary work like it’s going out of style) fleeing from Kuma’s rampage.
That leaves Jack, Lauren, and Gin, all watching me like I’m a half-tamed animal, sitting around a round table. I think this room was supposed to be an officer’s meeting room or something- it’s located in the central structure around the mainmast, and also holds the transponder snails, the maps, and several other books, most of them in cases and shelves lining the bulk of the mainmast that fills the center of the room.
The only sound is the ticking of the large clock bolted to the table, and the soft snoring of the quintet of transponder snails.
The door creaks open. Vinci walks in.
“So,” my captain says, very calmly, as he takes a seat across from me. “You seem to know a great deal about the Revolutionaries. Despite you saying you’re an amnesiac. Care to explain?”
Oh shit, he’s pissed.
Puru puru puru puru...puru puru puru puru…
Everyone stares at one of the transponder snails, ringing like mad. After a moment, Jack stands, picks up the mollusc, and plunks it down on the table, pulling the receiver off with a click.
The snail’s eyes go completely blank, and its features stretch and morph into a massive grin.
“Well, now,” it says. “I couldn’t just let you spill the beans like that. You’re terrible with people, little wyrm. Probably mess it up, and then all the effort I put into this little shell game will’ve been for nothing.”
“Who are you?” Vinci asks. “And what exactly have you done to my first mate?”
“Shishishininini...It’s simple. In his world, there’s a story. A one of pirates and seas and impossible tales, following a boy who’d be King of the Pirates...following a crew that shakes the world itself...but it isn’t this crew. I simply placed him in the right time, place, and body, to intensify the chaos that will result from that boy’s actions.” The snail’s grin widens. “It will be interesting, don’t you think?”
“You made him a ghoul?” Vinci asks.
The snail somehow shrugs. “The body was already wandering around, utterly mindless. I just shucked his consciousness out of his original body and put it in. Left quite a mess back home, too, shishishininininini…”
I snarl. “You utter bastard. I’ll-”
Pain rips through my body, hurling me out of my chair and leaving me curled up on the floor.
“Now, now,” the snail chides. “There’s no need to be rude, little wyrm. You should be thanking me. I gave you a chance to see more than you’d ever do in your previous life. Now you, little scientist...your first mate is quite a treasure. He knows far more secrets than you’d imagine, and for the futures that might unfold, knowledge is most certainly power. I could give you the same gifts…”
I raise my head from the floor, struggling up to hands and knees, and look up at my captain.
Vinci’s smile vanishes like a pricked bubble as he looks down at the snail, his eyes beginning to glow gold.
“You harmed one of my crew. You trapped my first mate in a jungle, far from aid, forcing him into a body that required him to become a monster to avoid starvation. You took him from his home and his family without even asking. You toy with his fate- with all our fates- and you think I will accept a bargain with you? No, daemon, I will not. ” The burning in his eyes flares so bright I can hardly stand to look at it, as golden liquid runs down my captain’s cheeks and burns the table where it falls. “ Now get thee gone from this world, unholy creature, and if thou ever touches one of my crew again, I will bring all I can bear to destroy thee until even history forgets you ever were, on every world that is, was, and WILL BE!”
The transponder snail bursts into flames.
There’s a small moment of silence as the flames die down, consuming the snail- and only the snail. Vinci puts a hand to his face, and pulls it away, examining the golden ichor on his fingers.
“Captain...did you just hate one of our transponder snails to death?” Jack asks quietly.
“No idea,” Vinci says absent-mindedly. “My eyes are leaking gold. That’s a new one.” His gaze snaps to me, and I get up as quickly as I can manage.
“Kaneki,” he asks quietly. “Who’s the one?”
I swallow. “‘Straw Hat’ Monkey D. Luffy.”
“Hmph. The one who’s taken the East Blue by storm. You sure he’ll succeed?”
I consider. “He’s got the will, and he’s got the power, for Paradise at least. And...yes. I believe he will.”
“Hm. Alright. This...story...followed him and his crew? Did we...ever appear in it?”
I shake my head. “No. You…” I stop, my throat closing for a moment, and take a breath. “Think, captain. I found you on the gallows. If...if I never came…”
Vinci nods. “Right.” He looks over the officers for a moment. “You got any concerns of your own?” he asks flatly.
Everyone shakes their heads, save Gin, who stares at me. “So you saw Krieg get his ass handed to him, and what happened to me?” he asks.
I nod. “Never saw you afterwards. You got on that tiny boat from the Baratie, and were never seen again. So...”
The Devil-Man sighs. “Alright, that answers that. I’m good, captain.”
“Right.” Vinci claps his hands. “Kaneki, not sure how good your knowledge is, but write it all down. Every scrap of information, no matter how small. Especially about the Grand Line, and how we’ll reach Raftel.”
“What’s your plan, Captain?” Lauren asks.
Vinci grins. “Straw Hat can be King, I don’t care. I just plan on going there. If that means I beat him there...well, we’ve already shanked Fate in a back alley with Kaneki being here, so it doesn’t matter what Straw Hat was originally destined to do, does it?”
“Korokorokoroko...you’re not one to think small, are you, Captain?” Jack says. “Should I tell the men?”
Vinci frowns. “They heard him admit stuff to Kuma...let them know that Kaneki has..unusual sources.”
I raise a hand. “Might be pretty easy to convince them. The mask salesman I told you about...well, he’s creepy enough, and the Oni have probably been spreading stories about him already. Makes more sense than the truth, anyway.”
Vinci nods. “Right. So, any other secrets? Anyone related to someone important? Or have a secret tattoo that makes them heir to an ancient power? Anything ridiculous like that?”
“The guy who you just banished through sheer hate branded me with some alchemy tree thing,” I say, semi-flippantly. “That’s about it.”
“I’m at least fairly certain my grandpa was the guy who invented the revolver and was murdered by Sam Walker for his designs,” Lauren adds, loading fresh bullets into her own weapon. “Take that with a grain of salt, though. Never proved it.”
“Hmph. Anyone else?”
“Right, now if there’s no further revelations-”
There’s a knock on the door. Vinci glares at it. “What is it?” he says, with a bit more growl in it than’s necessary.
“One of the other captains wants to call a meeting, sir,” Pravilno’s voice says, muffled slightly by the door. “He’s sent...well, you need to see for yourself.”
Vinci nods. “Kaneki, Jack, with me. Lauren, get to Herman, fill him in- quietly . Keep the boys quiet while we go to this...meeting.”