By the time the fourth ship that appeared within two days has veered off course to avoid the Buggy Pirates, the crew becomes more than a bit suspicious.
“Maybe we’ve finally built a solid, albeit unwarranted, reputation for ourselves in the New World,” Galdino offers up. The group watches as the ship, one with bamboo on its Jolly Roger, completely circumnavigates the Big Top. He hands the binoculars to Buggy, though even Alvida herself from where she is sitting, can see the unknown crew frantically moving on the deck to sail away unaided. “Even if Buggy’s Delivery is defunct, they’d still know about it.”
The high ranking officers of the Buggy Pirates are on the main deck, away from the others. Alvida sits beside them atop a few barrels of supplies, picking at the few flecks of dirt underneath her nails. She looks up, shielding her eyes from the sun, out at the most recent ship avoiding them.
“First of all,” Buggy starts, snapping his attention away from the ship and toward his subordinate, “It is not ‘defunct,’ we are taking a temporary leave of absence while we move bases.”
Galdino says nothing in response, still watching the ship disappear along the line where the sky meets the water. Alvida recognizes the lack of a response from experience. In her time as part of the Buggy Pirates, she has learned that it’s best not to argue with their captain unless something is really, deeply wrong; argument can often rile him up even further and make petty arguments turn into days-long outbursts. Galdino learned the same within two weeks of joining — he isn’t a dumb man, after all. If he was, Alvida wouldn’t have tolerated his presence this long.
“And second of all, we already have a solid reputation from East Blue, and the Grand Line,” Buggy raises his voice to a decibel that makes Richie, lounging out in the sun, flick his ears in irritation. Alvida picks at the chipped polish on her thumb, unfazed. “What do you think our bounties are for? Just for shits and giggles? You are already fearless pirates, under a former warlord at that, and don’t need to build a—”
“Oh, for Gods’ sakes, you know what he meant,” Alvida finally snaps. She gets up, grabbing her hat and securing it on her head before joining Galdino. “Everyone here right now knows the situation we’re in. We don’t need to pretend we’re anything more than little fish in a big pond. Their avoidance is a little concerning, and Mr. 3 is right to point it out.”
Buggy’s face turns a shade of red that could rival his nose, bristling in equal parts embarrassment at being corrected by Alvida in front of the others, as well as shame in knowing that she is absolutely right. He opens his mouth, as if to say something more before snapping it closed again. Alvida keeps his gaze.
“Well,” Mohji starts, trying to defuse the situation before Buggy starts truly yelling and draws attention from the lower-ranking pirates in the decks below, “Whatever the reason, can’t we just be grateful? It’s less trouble for us. I say it’s better that people stay out of our way until we can relocate.” He rubs behind one of Richie’s ears, cooing softly.
“Adding onto Captain's point, Alvida,” Cabaji interjects (without anyone asking), “They likely know of our reputation through Captain’s former Warlord status and Buggy’s Delivery, and don’t want to start a conflict. We have to remember they don’t see what we in this circle see. I don’t see the use in excessively worrying.”
Mohji mutters something under his breath as Cabaji flicks his scarf over one shoulder haughtily. The man was always looking for a leg up over the other officers. Alvida tries not to roll her eyes at the childish antics. Richie, sensing the change in mood, gives a small huff and growl before letting Mohji rub his chin.
Buggy finally exhales through his teeth before giving out a sigh, red still dusting the apples of his cheeks. “No, Alvida’s right,” he concedes. “There is no logical reason for New World ships to avoid us — even with a good reputation, this is a different league. It especially doesn’t make sense now, when we don’t have the backing of the World Government or any nations that were using our mercenary forces. If anything, we should be even more of a target.”
Alvida finds herself slightly shocked. It’s rare for Buggy to admit he was wrong in an argument, and rarer still for him to admit weakness. Even after over two years together, Buggy was capable of surprising her; the clown was much more complicated than she had initially assessed, and it was still difficult to predict how he would react to different situations.
Back in East Blue, she had assumed he was little more than a lower rung pirate who had managed to build a name for himself through avoiding fights and taking the easy way out. But slowly, a different picture began to emerge: Buggy, like most others on the Great Blues, had no family to speak of, and told her he had been a pirate apprentice from a young age. As they sailed further, it became very clear that her co-captain, for all of his false bravado and weaknesses, had a large breadth of knowledge about the world and piracy in ways she herself still struggled to understand. He was very familiar with much of the Grand Line — he had clearly sailed under someone with power he himself still lacked. Buggy and the Firefist Ace had been able to briefly bond over stories and experiences that had flown way over Alvida’s head, proving the few things Buggy had said about the Grand Line weren’t mere lies: it was the honest truth.
When Buggy was taken to Impel Down, Alvida was thoroughly convinced he was never going to come back. But when he returned from Impel Down and Marineford against all odds, and transported by one of the Four Emperors no less, the inmates who joined the crew had told her more: Buggy had confronted an Emperor — Red-Haired Shanks, a man whose name alone made her stomach knot in fear — all by himself, even grabbing the man when anyone else who tried to get close was rendered unconscious by his near presence. They told her he was on Gol D. Roger’s crew — something Alvida had almost laughed at hearing at first. It was through weeks of applying pressure, pressing the still-growing bond between herself and her captain (co-captain) over plenty of rum, that she learned the truth. Buggy explained he was merely a cowardly apprentice under Roger (“If more men here could do basic math, they would’ve guessed that,” he’d laughed), and that Shanks would never hurt him, so confronting the man never carried the weight of real danger (“I’ll leave it at … we have a mutual understanding,” he’d slurred. “Is there more rum?”).
The drunken confession from Buggy that, deep down, he was the same coward she knew from before Marineford didn’t explain everything, though. Coward or not, his connection to an Emperor and his former status on Roger’s crew could still mean both an inflated rank and increased trouble for him, and by extension, the rest of the crew. But in sailing the world and establishing Buggy’s Delivery, Alvida had to admit that for all of his false notions of the greatness of himself and the crew — at least half of it a show to ensure their survival — Buggy was often much more competent than he let on.
Buggy watches the ship disappear along the horizon. “But as it stands,” he says, returning to his normal, somewhat combative disposition. “I won’t tolerate this kind of talk around the other crew. It could hurt morale.”
They are significantly stronger than we are, went unsaid, though all the officers present knew what their captain meant. Alvida watches Buggy look out at the skyline, his mouth drawn in a tight, flat line. I can’t guarantee what will happen when the crew learns the truth of our situation, of their captain.