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The Emperor's Apprentice

Chapter Text

"HE WHAT." Shanks roared, gripping the sides of his head. "But we check every time!"

"Sorry Cap'n, he squeezed into the space between two of the big crates in the storage room." One of the pirates said, ashamed.

Luffy giggled, putting up a peace sign. "Rubber man."

Shanks sighed and bent down. "Luffy, what have I told you about sneaking on board?"

"That you'd throw me off the boat all the way back to Foosha village." Luffy said. "But even you can't throw me this far!"

"Oh yeah?!" Shanks growled, grabbing him.

"Aah! Don't really throw me!"

Shanks sighed, looking at the amused faces of his crew mates. "Guys, this is serious! What does it say about us that we have a stowaway?!" 

"What does it say about Luffy that he got through our security?" Yasopp challenged, almost laughing. "Come on Captain, let Luffy get a taste of the pirate's life." 

Shanks frowned. "It's dangerous!"

"It's just the East Blue." Lucky said. "What could happen?"

The captain dropped Luffy and crossed his arms. "Exactly. It'll send the wrong message. Luffy needs to understand that the ocean is dangerous. That being a pirate is hard. If he comes along with us in our little adventures in the East Blue, he'll be unprepared every time he reaches for something greater." Shanks said. The crew became more serious at this. Luffy looked around, beginning to get worried. A second ago, it was everyone on his side, to let him stay, but now it seemed they were more on Shank's side. "Luffy..." the captain looked down at the boy. "I thought you were going to become the Pirate King? Be a captain yourself. Why do you want to join my crew?"

"Because I like you guys! I can always get my own crew when I get bigger!"

"...Luffy, don't you want to start being a pirate as your own man? With ambitions like yours, you shouldn't start small!"

"Start small?" One of the other mates giggled. 

Beckman walked forward. Usually the first in a new situation to speak out, he seemed to think a bit about this. "Luffy. Shanks is worried about your safety. Being a pirate is amazing, but it's also dangerous. Don't let these joker's smiles fool you. We've all almost died more than once, and we've all lost friends. Shanks doesn't want to lose you." Luffy looked down, nodding. Then Beckman turned to Shanks, to the captain's surprise. "Captain, you know better than anyone that being part of a big-shot's powerful crew won't hamper his own ambitions. If you do take him with us this one time, he won't appreciate the danger. But if he keeps sailing with us... we've all had our own experiences that teaches us what the world will do to us. And Luffy will have his. Regardless of whether you let him come with us or not. But if you take him with us, that experience will happen when we're here, to smash whatever caused it."

Luffy and Shanks blinked, and glanced at each other. The captain bit his lip a little bit, meeting eyes with his first mate. "Do you think it's a good idea?"

Beckman gave a small grin and shrugged. "I'm not against it. If we're deciding it on Luffy's sake... he's a reckless, dumb, kid. We watched out for him in Foosha, why not on the Red Galley?"

Shanks glanced at the stitches under Luffy's left eye. "We didn't exactly do our best even in Foosha."

"Well, it's your call." Beckman said respectfully. 

Shanks narrowed his eyes, and then turned down toward Luffy. "One trip to prove your worth." He announced loudly to the whole crew. "For you to prove you're worthy of being a Red Hair Pirate!"

"Yes!" Luffy cried, jumping up and down. The whole crew was caught up in the emotions, and began celebrating, as it was prone to do. 

"Everyone give a warm welcome to our newest nakama!" Lucky cried. 

"He's not part of the crew yet!" Shanks cried, but it was laughed off or ignored, and Luffy was pulled into the celebrations. Huffing, he put his hands to his hips and went to sit next to Beckman as he smoked, lying against the railing. "Look what you've done."

"Sorry Captain." Beckman said, smiling. 

"He really does fit in with them, doesn't he."

"We've been based in Foosha for nearly a year." Beckman said lazily. "All of us love him Shanks, he's part of the family already, whether he's sailing or not. Him being onboard just makes the bond deeper."

"...The grand line's no place for a kid."

"You did okay." Beckman said. 

"..."

Beckman nodded. "You really care about him, don't you captain?"

"He's weak."

"We'll protect him till he's strong enough to do it on his own."

"Then how will he learn?"

"He'll want to be strong." Beckman said. "That scar of his-" Shanks tensed up slightly. "-... was a stupid idea, of course. But the intent behind it... the boy's not afraid to get hurt, and he'll push through pain. He wanted to show you that he's brave and strong."

"..." Shanks closed his eyes and tipped back his hat. "...We'll see. We'll show him the ropes, and go on a normal trip. And if he can't handle it..."

Beckman nodded. The two were quiet, watching the festivities. Someone had broken out a violin and after a confused burst of sound from the crew, they more or less seemed to agree to a single song, and began singing along to the strings. "How will you judge him handling it?"

"I don't know." Shanks said. "Honestly, I can't see any way he couldn't handle it. He's too determined, especially for a kid. I have a feeling he could get himself half-killed, and still want to be a pirate."

Beckman nodded, grinning. 

"Damn it." Shanks swore. "He's going to be part of the crew, isn't he?"

"Your decision, Captain. Even if he thinks he can handle it, you can always send him back. Either way, this'll be a good experience with him. A taste of real piracy."

Chapter Text

"Shishishi~!" Luffy laughed, sitting on the simplistic dragon's head attached to the prow of the ship. He was finally a real pirate! He had been waiting for this day his entire life. Or at least the past ten months. But all the same he was overjoyed.

"Oi, Luffy!" called Yasopp. "Get down from there! I've got some pirate jobs for you to do." Excited, he rushed down, and stood at attention in front of the crew's sniper.

"I'm ready Yasopp!"

"Good, because we've got a big day ahead of us." The sniper grinned evilly, but Luffy didn't notice. Taking him down to the lower levels of the ship, he came to a large closet filled with cleaning supplies. "Now then, the most important job of a pirate is-" He began, before looking to Luffy.

"To have fun? No wait! Being a pirate is the job!"

"No. To be a successful pirate, we need to take care of our equipment! And the most important piece of equipment is the ship! We eat on it, sleep on it, it carries us and everything else we own. The ship is a precious nakama, as important as the captain or the crew. Without the pirate ship, there can be no pirates."

"Yeah, cause if we were on land we'd just be really cool bandits."

"Exactly." Yasopp nodded, smirking. "And so, we must take care of the ship. We need to keep it clean, check it for damage, and keep everything in good condition." He shrugged. "Now, these jobs aren't very fun. And so we don't like to do them, even though we need to. Thus, they're usually assigned to whoever doesn't already have a job. People like you." Smiling, he handed Luffy a mop and a bucket.

Luffy looked as if someone had shot him in the heart. "I need to mop the whole ship?!"

Yasopp raised an eyebrow, amused. "Of course not. You're definitely too weak to get the whole ship done in one day."

"What!?" Luffy shouted, outraged. "I can do it!"

"No, no, we should find something easier for you."

"No!" Luffy grabbed the mop, eyes bristling with determination.


 

Luffy bristled with anger, cheeks red with embarrassment. Shanks had never really stopped laughing. "Hey, anchor, you missed a spot."

"Shut up Shanks!"

"Hey!" Shanks said, raising an eyebrow. "I'm your captain now, aren't I? You have to treat me with respect."

"Shut up Shanks." One of the passing crew mates said good-naturedly. 

The captain gave a laugh, and then knocked him into the floor.

Luffy huffed and continued mopping. He wasn't exactly very good at it, using too much water, not enough soap, and either pushing with the mop too hard or too little. But he was determined, and trying his best. The deck wasn't particularly spotless by the end of the day, but it was covered. 


 

"So, where are we going? Looking for buried treasure, fighting the marines, robbing a giant merchant ship?" Luffy asked excitedly, once the day's work was done and the crew held it's daily party at evening. 

"Well, the captain's taking a vacation of sorts at the moment." Lucky Roux said, chewing on a roll of meat on a bone. "Y'see, we're normally based in the second half of the Grand Line, the New World,  but the captain's been sticking around the East Blue for a while. We've been doing light work, wandering and making attacks of opportunity when the chance comes." 

"A vacation?"

"Yeah, the East Blue's empty of any serious threats or serious gains." He grinned. "Just the occasional trading vessel of some minor kingdom for prey, small-time pirates for rivals, and the threat of the marines in the East Blue is so small, that besides the waters around Logue Town, they're basically nonexistent."

Luffy frowned. "But you've been here for almost a year."

"Well, the Captain found something he wanted to stick around for."

"What?"

"Foosha village of course." Lucky said happily.

"One specific part of Foosha village." Yasopp said, a knowing smirk on his face.

"The bar?" Luffy asked. 

"One specific person at the bar." Yasopp said, he grin getting wider. 

Lucky laughed, and Yasopp joined in. "The poor captain Shanks! Red hair gets all red faced!" The two began to sing. 

"What are you guys talking about?"

"Oh, nothing you have to worry about Luffy. But the sea is calling." Yasopp said. "We'll probably leave Foosha for good soon, at least for a long while."

"And you're taking me with you when you go, right!"

"Well that's up to Shanks. But~ I have a feeling if you pester him about the song and the person at the bar, he'll be more willing to let you stay, if only so you don't go causing rumors in the village."


Luffy's first day as a pirate ended in a party, as it seemed every night on board the Red Galley did. But overall, he was somewhat disappointed. They hadn't fought anyone all day! He explained as much to Shanks, and the captain laughed it off. "Don't you worry! The East Blue is full of idiots and full of ships! Tell you what, first ship we spot tomorrow, we'll raid for supplies." 

"Really?!"

"Sure. What kind of test of character would this be if you never actually do any pirating." Shanks grinned. "But, if anyone has to rescue you, you'll have to stick to only cabin boy work for the rest of the trip! It's part of being a pirate too, you know. Just the less fun part."

"...Deal!"


 

"Hmm, let's see." Shanks said, looking out through the spyglass. "What do you have for Luffy's virgin raid?"

"Small passenger ship. Hired guards manning cannons. No big deal. No real risk or gain."

"But it could be fun. Give the passengers a story to tell, eh?"

Beckman nodded at that. 

"Then let's go! Luffy! Wake up!"

A minute later, the sound of the kid's feet striking against the deck brought Luffy to the two of them. "Are we ready?"

"Yep!" Shanks handed over the telescope. "Your first victim."

"Wow!" Luffy looked up, grinning. "Don't worry! You're not going to have to save me. My punch is as strong as a bullet!"

"So we've been told. By the way. Falling into the water counts as 'needing to be saved' in my book."

 "No fair!" Luffy pouted. "Fine! I'll prove that I'll be a great pirate!"

"Good!" Shanks turned to address the crew. "Now then boys, I know that life in the East Blue is getting a bit too easy for you all. But put some enthusiasm into it today! Let's give these passengers a story they'll be telling their grandchildren about!"

"Aye!"

Chapter Text

"Now then boys, should go without saying, but no one gets hurt, alright?" Shanks said happily as the first cannonball whizzed by their ship.

"What about the cannoneers?" Yasopp asked, raising a pistol. "They're crap shots, but still."

Shanks patted his sniper on the shoulder. "Actually, I was thinking you should stay behind today. Can't be making it too easy." He leaned forward and whispered "And I'd like you to keep your eye on Luffy, make sure he doesn't really fall off."

Yasopp nodded. "Fine, fine. Back on lookout duty again. Guess that's what I'm here for after all."

Shanks grinned, "Borno, bring us alongside those guy's boat! Let's take out the cannons, and then go on board! Our priorities are same as always: take whatever's useful or interesting, but enough for them to make it to the next island okay."

"AYE!" Came the agreement from the crew. The Red Galley turned so that they sailed face-fist toward the smaller vessel. The cannons, already not very accurate, missed even further, unable to hit the now even smaller target. Within a few minutes, the two ships were still a distance apart, when Shanks stood on the railing of the Galley

"Let's go!" He shouted, and jumped the distance between the two ships, over forty feet, easily. Luffy grinned, and gripped the railing tightly, taking a few steps back, then a few more, letting his arms stretch and stretch as it became harder for him to walk backwards. 

"Gum-Gum~" He began, grinning. Realizing too late what Luffy was about to try to do, the other members of the crew rushed to grab him. "~Rocket!" Firing himself from the deck, he was gone with a flash, flying faster than the pirates would have thought. Beckman sighed, pulling off his shirt and preparing to dive, only to see Luffy crash into the outer wall of the passenger ship, and then through it. 

Blinking, the first mate glanced to Yasopp, already climbing the rigging to get a better angle. "Did he punch through to the other end?"

"Nah!" Yasopp shouted back down. "Looks like he got aboard fine."

"That what are we waiting for?" Lucky shouted, tossing himself over and landing on the deck of the passenger ship. "Let's go wild!"


 

Luffy pulled his head from the floor and dusted himself off. "Rocket: Success." He said, pleased. Pulling out a loot bag provided for the occasion, he glanced around the room. Anything useful or interesting the Captain said. The boy looked around the room he had punched through into, and sighed that it was full of nothing but boring stuff.

Now, Luffy had been taught by his grandfather that stealing was wrong, but at the same time, his grandfather had taught him how to properly dine and dash. All in all, Makino had been his moral center, but even she never had problems with Shanks or what he did, right?

As long as he didn't take anything precious, they'd forgive him, right?

It was a passenger ship, and the suitcases in the room were full of nothing but clothes and papers. Opening the door and rushing into the hall, he ran along, opening doors at random and peaking inside. The first four or five he passed up. Just clothing and more boring-looking cases. But on the next one, his eyes lit up, seeing something definitely interesting. Jumping inside, he went for the coat hooks, taking a big green and gold cape, and a large tricorn hat with big feathers sticking out of it. Tying the cape around his neck and placing the flashy hat on his head, he rushed out to continue his looting. At this point, there was definitely a commotion in the upper decks. People shouting, feet stomping. 

He briefly wondered where everyone was on his level of the decks, and with a start, he realized that they would be all eating lunch right around now. With that startling thought, he began to follow his nose to where the real valuables were kept. 


 

"Greetings, passengers! This is a raid!" Shanks said, hamming it up. "Hand over valuables, drink of your finest vintages, and anything else you think we might want! And absolutely no one gets hurt? Understand? I'm a man of my word." 

"Pirates!" Was the general response. 

The crew went to work, holding open bags and looking intimidating. Shanks walked over to where Beckman was, watching the raid-in-progress. "So, how do you think Luffy's doing?"

"Do you want to check on him?" Beckman asked. 

"Nah, I don't want to embarrass him."

Beckman smiled. "You love embarrassing him."

"True. But not over something like this. Besides, he'll turn up soon enough."

"STOP THAT KID!" Came a scream from the kitchen. 

"See?"


"You'll never stop me! I'm a pirate!" He laughed, diving to the side as a cook jumped at him. 

"Kid, don't go out there, we're under attack by real pirates, you know what they'll do to a pretender like you?!" One of the chefs pleaded. 

"And put back those steaks! Those are for everyone, you thief!"

"I'm a pirate!" Luffy shouted back. "Why would I share my meat with everyone else?!" One of the cooks jabbed a knife into the cape, pinning the cloth to the floor and catching luffy by the neck and nearly knocking him to the ground too, but Luffy's own momentum kept him moving forward. Stretching his neck behind him, his head snapped out of the cape and nearly flipped him forward. Stopping, he reached back to grab his hat before it could fall, and took off once more, fleeing the chefs with his bag filled with lots of food. 

Breaking out onto the deck followed by a storm of angry cooks, it momentarily distracted the passengers on board from the threat of the pirates. Pushing his way through the crowd, he grabbed plates still full of food and silverware, tossing them into his bag as he passed, ignoring the protest of the passengers until he broke through to where Shanks and Beckman stood. The chefs, upon catching sight of the pirates among the crowd collecting jewelry stopped their rampage. 

The head chef, the last to come out, however, pushed angrily through the crowd himself, grabbing Luffy and giving a deep bow to Shanks. "Hey! Put me down! I'm a pirate!"

"I'm so sorry about this idiot! Please, just, continue doing what you were doing, we won't make trouble."

Shanks gave an evil grin down to Luffy. "I-I don't need to be rescued!" Luffy protested, to Shanks, but saying so only made the chef grab him harder. 

"Quiet you fool! These are pirates, they'll kill you as soon as look at you, don't make a scene!" Growling, Luffy kicked off the chef, sending the older man backwards onto his butt on the floor. 

"Sorry! But I really am with these guys! I'm stealing all your food! And I stole this hat and- oh god! My cape!" He turned to Shanks, "This is my loot, Cap'n!" He said proudly, before turning to rush back through the crowd, "Excuse me!" A minute later, he was back with his cape and his knife. "Damn. There's a hole in it now."

The chef stared at Luffy in growing confusion, before glancing toward Shanks. "This stupid tiny thief... he's your cabin boy then?" 

"Yep." Shanks said, sighing but smiling a moment after. "He's a real pirate."

Luffy took on an expression of shock, before beginning to laugh. Running to the railing, he jumped up and put his hands into V-for-Victory signs. Displaying his hat and cape proudly, he shouted "I'm a pirate!"

The crew in response stopped their looting and began celebrating. Within ten minutes, there was a full-fledged party on board the deck of the passenger ship. 

"We have a lot of parties, don't we Shanks?" Beckman asked. 

"We seem to have a lot to celebrate." Shanks replied, grinning and giving Luffy a thumbs up as he showed off his cape and his hat. 

Chapter Text

"We were so worried!" Makino said, wrapping her arms around Luffy. "How could you do that to us?"

"I'm sorry." Luffy blubbered.

"Hey, men don't cry." Shanks chided. 

"Oh hush." Makino said in response. "There's no shame at all in crying a lot, so long as you don't moan and whine about things."

"I'm still a little kid!" Luffy protested. "When I'm an old man like you all my tears will dry up."

"Old?! Why you little-"

"Thank you Captain Red-Hair." The Mayor interrupted. "For bringing him back safely."

Shanks took a deep breath and shook his head. "But... I'm going to be leaving soon, probably... and when I do I'll be taking Luffy with me."

The Mayor's eyes widened, and his face began to turn red. "You wouldn't dare! That's kidnapping, Garp'll flatten the whole place!"

"Oh please." Shanks said, rolling his eyes. "Garp the Hero, smashing up any other town in a rampage, sure, but Foosha Village? Never." The captain looked over to Makino, and his eyes softened. 

She considered his face for a moment, thinking. "Garp will be upset. He left Luffy in the village's care."

Shanks frowned. "I didn't want to pull this card, but... honestly? Luffy will be safer with me on the Grand Line than he would be once Garp comes back to start his 'training'."

Luffy pulled away from Makino and shivered. "...Balloons." Was all he said. 

Makino winced, and turned back to the captain. "...All right. But you better keep him safe, understood Shanks?"

"Of course. I'll protect him with my life, just like every other member of the crew."

"That might not be good enough." Said the bar tender. "The Grand Line... from everything you've told me, it's dangerous. More dangerous than Garp."

He looked toward Luffy, who had managed to calm down, and was wiping his face. "I'm going!" Luffy said, confident and determined. "Shanks said I was already a member of his crew! I'm already a criminal!"

The Mayor scowled. "Don't say that!"

"I raided a ship and looted it!" Luffy said proudly, the words causing the Mayor to wince. "Shanks! I'm going to show Makino my cape!"

"And don't forget the hat." Shanks added. "You look good with something on your head."

The boy ran off back to the large ship, and Makino watched him go, worried. "You know, every time you go out, I worry something will happen, and you're the strongest man in the world!"

"Hmm... I'd say... Maybe the fifth, actually. Possibly sixth." He seemed to think about this, counting on his fingers.

"Shanks!" Makino said, bringing his attention back to her. "Please. Take care of him. I mean it. He's meant for something grand. You can't let that end in the middle of his childhood."

Shanks straightened up, and held out his left hand. "I promise, Makino, I'd sacrifice this arm before I let anything happen to him. I'd die before I let him get killed. He's my crew mate, now. Part of our family. But... he also needs to grow, and he has a few tons of potential. He's going to be a great pirate, whether I take him or not... but if he wants to come, I should do my best to prepare him, right?"

Makino nodded, grabbing his left hand before pulling him into a hug. "You'll take care of him. I know. I knew that before too. But thank you for promising."

"I'll be staying another week... but then we should head back to the Grand Line.... maybe we'll take the long way around, show Luffy the sights."

"You don't think it'd spoil it for him?"

Shanks grinned, looking up into the sky. "There is something to be said for climbing Reverse Mountain for the first time captaining your own ship..." He turned his eyes back down to Makino. "But there are many paths in the Grand Line. He'll have a grand adventure when he does it with his own crew, too."

"Makino~" Luffy called, trailing the cape behind him and the hat on his head. 

"Ah!" Makino said, letting go of Shanks to bend down and get a look at Luffy. "How handsome." She complimented. 

Shanks met eyes with the mayor, who still stared him down, uncomfortable. "He's just a kid."

"It's too late, old man." Shanks said. "Sorry, but he was always going to be a famous pirate, no matter what Garp had planned for the poor soul."

"You really did take him on a raid?" The mayor asked seriously. 

"Yep!" Luffy replied. "I jumped onto their ship-"

"You flung yourself through the wall."

"I got onto their ship, and took this hat and cape from someone's room! And then I went into the kitchen and grabbed everything that looked good!" Luffy proudly brandished a knife, the same that had pinned his cape down on the passenger ship. "And this!"

Makino tensed slightly. "Luffy, the last time I saw you holding a knife-"

"Don't worry." Shanks said. "There won't be any more of that kind of 'bravery', will there Luffy?" He said, pointing sharply under Luffy's eye.

"No." The kid said, looking down. 

"Good." 


 

There was of course a massive Take-Off celebration for the Red-Haired Pirates when it came time for them to say their final farewell to Foosha village. Luffy was the talk of the town. Left there, nearly abandoned, by his grandfather in the hands of the Mayor, Luffy had in a way become the child of the entire village. They were sad to see him go, but the last year had taught the townsfolk to trust the Red-Hair Pirates, and they knew how much it meant to Luffy that he got to go with them. 

All the preparations had been taken care of, and the whole of the town was gathered at the harbor to see them off. Shanks was the last pirate standing on the shore, the Mayor coming up to him and holding out his hand. "Take care of yourself Captain."

"You too, Mayor, I'd like to thank you, and everyone here for your hospitality this past year!"

The Mayor nodded in acceptance of the gratitude, before frowning. "...What happens when Garp comes for the boy?"

"We'll handle that hurdle when we come to it." Shanks said dismissively. 

"What happens to Foosha village when Garp comes for the boy?"

Shanks smirked. "Don't worry about the old man. He'd never take out his anger on- okay, he might normally, but never on Foosha. Never without staying to rebuild whatever he broke. He won't hurt anybody. Besides, he'll know you couldn't stop Luffy, and can't stop me."

The Mayor shook his head sadly. "That boy... is it really right to make him a criminal so young?"

Shanks gave a happy smile. "What are you talking about, he's going to be one of the free-est boys in the world!"


 

"Bye Makino! Bye old man! Bye fish seller lady! Bye mister Mayor! Bye-" Luffy continued, waving and shouting as the ship made way in a different direction that before. Luffy stood on the railing, shouting and waving toward Foosha village, for nearly ten minutes even after the house on the shore were too far away to be seen.

 He stared at the land as it got farther and farther away. 

When he had snuck aboard, he didn't think at all what it would be like to say goodbye to everyone. At the time, he didn't even wonder whether or not he would be staying on the ship permanently, or if he'd be coming back to the little town. But now... knowing that he wouldn't see the village for a long time, maybe not ever, it got to him. Just a little bit.

Shanks said men didn't cry.

But Makino said that he could.

The tears fell freely, but he was smiling, and once more, he threw his arms up in the air and waved them fiercely. "I'll come back someday!" He roared. "I'll pay my tab!"

"Good on you." Said Lucky Roux. "That Foosha village is a nice place." He said simply. "Lots of villages like that. Little places, with little people. Every island is its own story, Luffy. Every island has people you'll come to love on it." He clapped the boy on the shoulder, nearly sending him tumbling into the water. As Luffy pedaled his arms trying to regain balance, Lucky broke out laughing. "I'll show you the island where I grew up, Luffy!"

"Me too!" Shouted another member of the crew. 

"I want to take you to my island!"

"I'm keeping the hell away from the island I was born on!"

A good number of the crew that was on deck came to comfort the boy in their own ways. Luffy nodded to himself. It would be amazing, he knew it would be. He wanted to see the world, more than anything else. He was smiling, and he waved off the other crew mates, watching the sea where Makino's bar and the Mayor's house were somewhere, even if he couldn't see them. Turning around, he looked forward, past the figurehead on the bow, out onto even more ocean. Where more islands, ones he hadn't seen yet, were waiting for him.