“Captain? Are you awake?”
Bepo's soft voice broke through his thoughts, and Law simply opened one eye to indicate to his navigator he'd been heard.
“There was a delivery for you,” the mink went on to explain, holding out a neatly wrapped parcel. It was thin, enclosed in a layer of waxed fabric to keep the contents safe from water. Rough twine kept the whole thing tied shut.
Law uncrossed his arms, both eyes open now as he reached for it, tucking it into a pocket in his jacket before he spoke. “How are the supplies?”
“Ikkaku and Shachi are almost finished loading everything. The log pose should be finished in a few hours, too,” Bepo explained, tilting his head as he glanced at Law's chest, where the item he'd delivered rested in it's hidden pocket. “What is that, anyway?”
There was a pause as Law considered the question. It wasn't important, really, just a curiosity and he wasn't particularly in the mood to explain. “Captain's business. Let me know when we're ready to leave.” His fingers closed around Kikoku's hilt, the sheath finding its usual place across his shoulders as Law turned and retreated to his own quarters without another word.
Behind him, Bepo nodded seriously, turning to monitor the rest of the crew as their supplies were loaded below deck.
In his own room, Law leaned his sword against the wall next to the door after shutting it, reaching into his jacket to retrieve the wrapped parcel. Each time they reached a new island, Law spent time tracking down the World Economic Journal, setting aside time to keep caught up on the events of the world. It wasn't a surprise to him that as they neared the Sabaody Archipelago, there were more and more articles centered on what the journalists had dubbed the “Eleven Supernovas.”
It was a bit over the top, but Law was amused anyway. Sure, call him a supernova; his plan was to keep getting larger until he consumed everything in his path and burned up along with it in the first place. It suited him just fine.
In the meantime, though, he'd been keeping an eye on the other ten he'd been lumped in with. He wasn't at all surprised there were others with higher bounties than him. He and his crew had kept more or less to themselves, not going out of their way to gain any sort of attention or recognition. Not that the rest of the world could confirm, anyway.
Still, to attain such a high bounty with relatively minimal effort was something he was sort of proud of. At the very least, it was sure to catch the attention of certain underworld leaders he had his eye on.
However, in spite of how often he and the other Supernovas were front page news, there was surprisingly little of their pasts that was ever discussed. Law didn't consider himself particularly philosophical, but there was something to knowing one's past to understand where they were headed. His own motives would likely be easy enough to discern to anyone who knew enough about his past. And who knew? It might be important for blackmail purposes if nothing else.
Law didn't bother locking his door, and instead sank down into the chair at the desk. He propped his feet up on the corner of the wooden desktop before reaching into his jacket to remove the fabric-wrapped parcel. It had been easy enough to track down the island each of his rivals originated from; that much had already been reported. From there, he simply wrote to the local newspapers posing as a budding journalist looking for more information on the infamous rising stars of the pirate world. This was the fruit of that endeavor.
Each collection of articles was separated by an index card bearing the name and affiliation of each Supernova. Some stacks were markedly thicker than others and they were sorted from lowest to highest bounty. He saw his own name on one of the cards – it'd be interesting, at least, to see what had been written about him from a time before he paid attention to the newspapers.
Urouge “The Mad Monk” - Fallen Monk Pirates – 108,000,000 Berries
There was little that he was unable to uncover about Urouge other than what he'd already known. The Mad Monk hailed from a sky island – interesting to have that confirmed, considering the dubious plausibility of a sky island's existence in the first place. This particular rival captain must have the same idea as Law, considering the scarcity of information available.
A wild card, then.
Roronoa Zoro “The Pirate Hunter” - Straw Hat Pirates – 120,000,000 Berries
Roronoa Zoro had plenty of articles about him. He had been a famous pirate hunter in the East Blue, and even Law had heard his name before the WEJ had named him one of the Eleven Supernovas. Law glanced at his own sword and let himself smile in amusement; most others he came across who considered themselves swordsman and tried to challenge him to a duel and were disappointed. Kikoku was a tool, more like a scalpel than a true sword, at least in his hands. He never lived up to their expectations as a swordsman himself, but that was their own fault for assuming they wielded their weapons similarly.
Law wondered if Roronoa would be similarly disappointed or if he'd even care to challenge him in the first place.
The oldest article in that particular batch came from a place called Shimotsuki Village. A grainy black and white photograph captured a group centered around a grave; judging by the size of the disturbed earth, Law knew it to be a child's grave without needing to read the article. A boy, no older than ten, was at the forefront, similar unkempt hair giving his identity away. A tragic loss spurred him into action, then – Law's eyes narrowed in recognition.
Capone “Gang” Bege – Fire Tank Pirates – 138,000,000 Berries
Capone Bege's history was similarly storied; judging by the fact that he'd previously been part of one of the five families that ruled West Blue, Law could only assume he'd gotten greedy or bored and wanted more power than he already had. Amazing how powerful men's appetites could never be sated. Law had seen enough of that already; it made for a boring story.
Jewelry Bonney “Big Eater” - Bonney Pirates – 140,000,000 Berries
The articles that had been dug up on Jewelry Bonney were unremarkable. One of the younger children out of a brood of 12, she'd left her home in the South Blue at some point before turning up as a pirate. There was little else that had been dug up on her prior to becoming a captain, which led Law to believe she'd been bored and lacked attention, being one of such a large number of children. A brief image of starving, hollow eyed children flashed in his memory, and Law shook his head; she was an unfortunate girl with a modicum of skill and luck who was looking to escape the poverty of her youth. Most likely. Another boring story.
“Massacre Soldier” Killer – Kid Pirates – 162,000,000 Berries
Outside of the articles that named him the right hand of the Kid Pirates and detailed the destruction he'd caused since entering the Grand Line, there was nothing to be found on the eponymous Killer. Law was aware it wasn't his real name, so he'd expected little. Still, there had been some hope someone had been able to uncover more than what he'd already read. He clearly fit in with his crew's reputation, though, eyeing the hooked blades clenched in both fists that featured prominently in the photo that dominated the first article of the three he'd been sent.
Another wild card, then.
Scratchman Apoo “Roar of the Sea” - On Air Pirates – 198,000,000 Berries
Law wasn't sure what to make of the Long Arm Tribe captain. He looked... foolish, his grinning photo greeting him with a mouth full of piano keys on the first page behind the index card. It was difficult to take a face like that seriously, but the other captain had a bounty very near his own so Law knew not to take him lightly. Apoo hailed from the Grand Line, so he'd had a head start on the rest of them who had to claw their way in.
There were about as many articles detailing Apoo's story as there were Urouge, which was to say there were almost none other than the two that described the events that gave him a bounty in the first place. Law had just entered the Grand Line when Apoo made his bounty, so they were articles he'd read and discarded nearly a year ago.
Trafalgar Law “Surgeon of Death” - Heart Pirates – 200,000,000 Berries
His own set of articles were the most uninteresting of the bunch. Of course there was nothing prior to his becoming a pirate captain. What really happened to Flevance had never made news in the first place, and he hadn't been important enough to be a known part of the DonQuixote Family. There was an article about the Sea King he'd dropped on the Marine outpost of an island in the North Blue with a high population of starving people in spite of the booming fishing trade. He remembered the smug Governor, sneering at the line of beggars in the street begging for food, for work, for money. Back then, using such a large Room to move such a huge beast had him laid up for nearly a month, but seeing the chaos as the starving people swarmed the outpost with plates and butchers knives had been worth it.
Law set aside that article in one of the drawers of his desk for posterity.
“Red Flag” X Drake – Drake Pirates – 222,000,000 Berries
Two words caught his attention immediately after he set aside the index card. Minion Island. Law's body jolted slightly as his feet fell to the floor, the two heavy thuds ringing hollow in his ears. At first he wondered if the article had been shuffled from his section to Drake's in error, but as he leaned forward to take in the first few lines, it became clear that wasn't the case.
Young Boy Found On Minion Island Following Assault by DonQuixote Family
Minion Island was attacked a fortnight ago by the up and coming DonQuixote Pirate crew, helmed by Captain DonQuixote Doflamingo. Previous reporting from this paper has documented the attack and aftermath, but new information has come from the nearest Marine outpost since then. What was previously reported as an all out slaughter has actually shown a bright spot - one lone survivor, a young boy named Diez Drake. Having been taken into protective custody the night of the slaughter, Diez's survival wasn't announced until the Marines could be fully assured of his continued safety.
Law could hear his heart pounding in his ears, vision tunneling until it was black on the edges. A phantom ache in his hands reverberated up his arms – the feeling of pounding against unmoving wood and metal, a feeling in his throat like he'd swallowed glass from all the screaming, six sharp thunderclaps followed by silence, silence, silence...
By the time Law remembered to breathe, he was hunched forward in the chair, the carefully sorted articles spread out like fallen snow under his desk. Law shivered in spite of the humid air, feeling like a black hole had just opened in the center of his chest. He hadn't had such a visceral reminder of that day outside of his nightmares in a long time.
Vaguely, he could remember Baby5's soft voice relaying to Doflamingo that she and Buffalo had heard reports of the Marines taking a boy into custody mere moments after Corazon's explanation that Law had escaped to their aid. At the time, he had more pressing matters keeping his attention, but he was sure he heard her now that he had a reason to think about it.
What was the likelihood that the two boys who escaped that day would both be captaining their own pirate crews in the Grand Line at the same time? Law didn't believe in providence, but he didn't believe in coincidences either. He made it a point to seek Drake out if their paths ever crossed, curious what the other man remembered about that day.
After catching his breath enough that his chest no longer ached from lack of air, Law dug his heels in and shoved the chair back, giving himself enough room to kneel and gather the index cards and articles that needed to be resorted. He was in no mood to continue at the moment, wondering if a soak in some sea water would weaken him enough to let him drift to a hopefully dreamless sleep like it usually did.
His research on the other Supernovas lay in a haphazard mess of a pile on his usually empty desk and Law sighed as he looked at it. It seemed like a lot of work for nothing all of a sudden and he was tempted to Shambles the whole pile of it into the ocean until an intriguing headline caught his eye.
Inexplicable Murder Shocks Centaurea.
Only Capone Bege had any articles relating to murder before coming to the Grand Line, but such was to be expected from a former Mafia Don. Pushing the other papers away, Law plucked what looked to be an older article from The South Blue Herald from beneath them, smoothing the wrinkles out before scanning its contents.
...husband and wife found dead in their home, alongside their 10 year old daughter... Law almost stopped there, the scent of charred human flesh that never quite left his memory filling the room just long enough for him to feel sick. It was too much of a parallel to his own dead family on the heels of the Minion Island article. Had he not been so pissed off at himself for having such a physical reaction to words on paper, Law would have torn the damn thing to shreds.
As though to prove a point to himself, that his constitution was stronger than the ghosts in the room, he continued reading. The parallels ended there, thankfully. Eustass had two other sisters, one older and one younger, that were apparently still alive. At least they weren't both the only surviving members of their families; that'd be too much like fate.
The biggest difference between them was the cause of death. For Law, it had been genocide. For Kid, however, it was some good old fashioned familicide. Though he had to wonder...
Eustass Herbert was discovered stabbed to death in the family kitchen by his oldest child, Eustass Lyssa, 16. Preliminary autopsy reports show a minimum of 28 individual wounds had been inflicted upon the victim, primarily to the face, torso, and groin. Further into the home Eustass Beatrice was located in the marital bedroom by local police, deceased in the same manner as her husband. Preliminary autopsy reports show 42 stab wounds, primarily across her face, chest, and hands. In addition, her eyes had been gouged out, likely with the same weapon used to kill her. They were found lying by her right hand.
Collectively, he'd stabbed his parents 70 times. Both Law's eyebrows raised as he read on, intrigued – he couldn't think of a single reason to stab a person so many times unless there was serious hatred there. Unless he was seriously unhinged – which wasn't unfounded considering the rumors already circulating – all signs pointed to some sort of abuse. His mother's missing eyes were pretty strong evidence in that regard, too. If he was truly unhinged, he wouldn't have left them behind – Law wouldn't have, anyway.
No, Kid had been leaving a message. The placement of the stab wounds were too precise to be random.
...Finally, the most tragic victim of all was located in her bedroom. Eustass Katrina suffered a single cut across her throat...
Strange. Had he gotten tired after stabbing his parents so many times? Law scanned the article again before deciding no, it couldn't have been that. The attack on his parents was meant to hurt or to be symbolic. Or both. This was quick, clean – almost merciful.
Until he'd gotten his hands on this article, Law was certain he'd had Eustass Kid pegged. He was ruthless, fearless, amoral – just a beast trying to devour as much as he could stomach before his end caught up with him, no finesse or thought other than his next meal.
For once, Law was glad to be wrong. There was more to Eustass Kid after all. He'd never met the redhead, and he wasn't sure if he was ever going to. But if he ever did...
His intrigue wasn't enough to shake the feeling of unease that had settled over him like a cloak and Law left the article resting neatly in the center of his desk as he turned to leave - there were more details he planned to muse over when his head was clearer.