Trial by Error

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 1819
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

"I CAN'T PROTECT A SINGLE THING!" Luffy's crying only escalated, to the point that his screams scared away the wildlife in the area. He did his best to crawl out of Ace's lap, but his older brother had a firm grasp on him. "Luffy..."

"GO AWAY!" He didn't want his brother to see him like this. "LEAVE ME A-"

Ace clapped a hand over Luffy's mouth, and despite the anger he felt at Luffy's brush off, he was more worried for his little brother than anything. "Don't." His voice carried a bit of his anger, and he regretted it instantly at the look of pain Luffy gave him. "Lu, please. Please don't push me away." This wasn't the Luffy he had grown up with, and it was shocking to suddenly realize that he had grown even more since Alabasta. "I'm here for you, Lu."

Luffy trembled against his brother and sobbed into Ace's hand. When it was clear that he wasn't going to fight, or try to pull away, his brother wrapped the arm back around him and pressed his chin into Luffy's hair. "I still have you... Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky and Brook." He missed his friends, dearly. "We promised we would meet up again at Sabaody." At their current state though... The same thing would only happen again. "I want to see my friends."

Ace didn't say anything. He just kept rocking the young Captain while his own fellow crewmates let them be. Jinbe, sat down a ways away from them, and he couldn't help but recall a conversation he had with the Fishman in the depths of Impel Down. "We'll see them again. Together, Lu. Me and you, okay?" They both had to get stronger though.

Luffy nodded and sniffled loudly, his sobs having drastically quieted down now. The thought of seeing his friends, it made him happy. Still, he couldn't be selfish and risk all of their lives just because he wanted to see them. "We need to get stronger, Ace-nii-chan."

Ace hummed in agreement and glanced over to Jinbe. "Shall we go back to the ship and start making plans, Lu?" The Fishman seemed content to watch over them for now, not that there was anything in this forest that would attack them.

"Hai~. I need to go find..." Luffy frowned as he tried to remember the name of that old man that had helped them out on Sabaody. After a moment he remembered the name and grinned. "I need to find old man Rayleigh. I have a part of his Vivre Card!"

Ace and Jinbe had both stiffened at the mention of Rayleigh. They both looked at Luffy, who only grinned. Ace sighed and stood up, Luffy still very much in his arms. "Let's head back then." Maybe it wasn't that Rayleigh he was talking about. The odds of Luffy meeting the Dark King... Well, they were pretty high. Still.

On the coast of Amazon Lily, Law and his crew were watching the seas from the cliff of the area they were allowed to step foot in. A Sea King had appeared, and it was fighting something that they couldn't see. Seconds later it was dead, and they were commenting about it all the while wondering what had killed the Sea King. There was motion down on the beach that drew their attention, and to their amazement a man stepped out of the water.

"Dear me..." The man walked onto the beach quite calmly, as if he hadn't known about the Sea King out in the waters of the Calm Belt. He easily climbed up to where Law was, even a few of Whitebeard's crew was coming over out of curiosity. "Ah, I know you people... We met at the Sabaody Archipelago." Murmurs went through the gathered crowd of pirates, while Law just sat there in stoic silence. "Well, you see... I ran into a nasty storm out at sea. My boat sank, so I had to swim the rest of the way." There was a shocked silence as everyone processed that information. Rayleigh took it as his cue to add in, "My body doesn't move the way it used to... I really am getting old."

The silence was broken by one of Law's crewmen, who had come to a startling conclusion. "A storm?! There are no storms in the Calm Belt! Which means...your boat sank outside the Calm Belt, and you actually swam all this way?!" Startling indeed. "Then the one who was fighting with that Sea King... Was that you as well?!"

Rayleigh merely smiled. "Mm... Now then. I'm guessing that Luffy-kun is somewhere to be found on this island?"

In the center of the island, the Kuja whom had stayed behind in Boa Hancock's palace were chatting away. The latest topic, of course, was their Princess, who had left with a cart full of food for her beloved Luffy on the news that he had awakened. Elder Nyon, who was accompanying Hancock, had forbidden her to go visit Luffy when he had first awakened, and instead had her send a few of the Kuja with food. She had taken the time to try to explain a few things to the Princess, but she had found it to be like talking to a brick wall.

Now that Elder Nyon had finally relented, Hancock quickly made it her business to have a large meal prepared, just for Luffy, for her to take down herself. The Kuja were happy, and their talk soon turned to Luffy, whom they couldn't wait to have come visit again. It was more for the fact that they wanted to stretch him, and continue studying the oddity that was man.

"As I keep telling you, Hebihime. Just because the boy embraced you does nyot mean that you are married!" Elder Nyon felt like it was impossible to get Hancock to listen, her words generally falling on deaf ears. Thankfully the Princess hadn't heard of Luffy's late night foray into their city with his brother in tow. Oh what a scandal that would have been.

"Then what does one need to do to become married?!" There were hearts in Hancock's eyes, and her voice, though questioning, hadn't lost that dreamy quality to it.

Elder Nyon sighed. She should have figured that Hebihime would eventually ask that question. "Hmm... That's a difficult question." Feigning ignorance would put off this question for a while.

When they arrived to the cliffs where Law's submarine had been docked, alongside the Whitebeard Pirates' surviving paddle ship, there was a small crowd gathered. The crowd largely consisted of Ace's crewmates, with the remainder made up of the Kuja who had been standing guard at the curtain border. Ace briefly marveled at how ineffective the guardswomen were, seeing as quite a few men had just gone in and out of the forest beyond the designated border. He shook his head and made his way through the crowd with Luffy still in his arms.

"Whaaa?! Old man Rayleigh?!" was Luffy's outburst as soon as they made it through the crowd. Ace stopped cold in his tracks, Jinbe right behind him, when the man of legend turned to look at them.

"Ah! Luffy-kun. It's good to see you again." They were absolutely floored, and the Whitebeard Pirates had a similar reaction to the casual conversation that was being held.

"What are you doing all the way out here? I was just about to head back out to Sabaody Archipelago by following the Vivre Card!" Luffy wriggled a bit in his brother's arms, though it wasn't an indication of him wanting to be put down. He was quite warm and comfortable like this. He just wanted to be able to see Rayleigh better. "Where are the others?!"

"Well I doubt they have all been reunited just yet," Rayleigh stated, though he knew full well that they weren't going to meet up any time soon. "I left my own Vivre Card with Shakky." The old man grinned. "I could hardly move about freely otherwise, you see."

From behind Ace Jinbe trembled slightly, his gaze disbelieving as he tried to comprehend that Rayleigh was sitting in front of them. "Dark King Rayleigh... Are you truly him?!" His disbelief wavered when it became clear that the man in front of them was flesh and blood. "I am astonished!"

"Here... This hat means a lot to you, yes?" Rayleigh picked up the old straw hat from where it had been sitting on the ground by him, a slightly crumpled rectangle of paper tucked into the ribbon, and got up. He carried it over to Luffy, who took it with a small smile.

"Yeah, thanks..." Luffy held the hat to his chest and glanced up to Ace, who was looking around like they had forgotten something. The rubbery pirate blinked and glanced around too, as if noticing that something was out of place.

"Were there not a group of other pirates here?" The remaining Whitebeard Pirates were still present and accounted for. The Kuja that were supposed to be guarding the curtain border were also present.

"If you mean Trafalgar Law, he set sail just a short while ago. He told me to tell you to make sure you rest for another two weeks." Rayleigh let his gaze go back to Luffy as he relayed that last bit of information. The old man was still grinning though. "Looks like your life is out of danger."

Yeah. Sure. Ace glanced down at the seventeen year old pirate in his arms, who was almost completely wrapped from head to toe in bandages. Though his brother was quick to recover from most things, he had been through a hell of a lot in the past couple of weeks. He still wasn't fully healed from his trials in Impel Down. "Luffy still has a ways to go before he's fully healed."

Luffy, who wasn't paying attention to the conversation at hand anymore, was looking around and sniffing the air. He started to squirm in his brother's grasp as a wonderful scent drifted towards them through the air. Breakfast had been a few hours ago, but Luffy could eat until stuffed and then a short while later be completely hungry again.

It wasn't long before everyone present also noticed the wonderful aroma of food, and to their shock, excluding Luffy's, Boa Hancock and her sisters arrived with a cartload of food. "Rayleigh?! Is that..." Elder Nyon, who had walked the entire way, was the first of the newly arrived women to notice Rayleigh's presence. "Is that you, Rayleigh?!"

"Ah... Gloriosa! This certainly brings back memories!"

Sandersonia and Marigold also took notice of the man who had protected them in their younger years, after their escape from theTenryuubito. They greeted him while Hancock went to swoon over Luffy. She didn't even seem to see Ace, who recognized her from when she came to see him at Impel Down.

He frowned slightly and tightened his grasp around his brother, not sure if he could trust her, but then Luffy was out of his arms. Ace watched as Luffy went straight past the swooning Hancock, who was obviously in love with him, and over to Sandersonia, Marigold and Rayleigh. All around, the remnants of Whitebeard's crew were swooning over the Pirate Empress, who only had eyes for Luffy and was strangely enough running a finger over one of the melons packed into the cart of food.

He found himself scowling, though the why of it was beyond him. Nearby, Gloriosa muttered something about marriage that had Ace feeling a little baffled. Marriage? Who was getting married? His gaze flicked from the wizened old lady to the lovestruck Hancock and then finally to Luffy. No way.

Everyone, save for Jinbe and Hancock, turned to look at him, expressions of confusion on their faces, while the Fishman attempted to snag some food from the cart. Hancock snapped something at him, but it was lost on him as Luffy declared, "Sugoi, Ace-nii-chan is on fire! Hey, I didn't know you could turn blue, Ace..." Ace was on fire... Ace was blue?

"Huh?" Ace blinked and looked down to see that he was indeed on fire, the usually yellow-orange flames an alarming shade of blue. It wasn't the light blue that Marco's flames were composed of. It was blue, like the ocean. "Oh..." Why was he on fire? And why the hell were his flames blue?!

"Ne, Ace. I've heard of green with envy, but I've never heard of blue with envy, yoi," Marco commented with an all knowing smirk. He had been watching the brothers for a while now, and it was so very easy to read Ace. Luffy, though simplistic and straightforward, was unpredictable.

Envy! Ace scowled darkly and shot a blue fireball at Marco. The Phoenix Fruit User absorbed the fireball, but did so with a grimace and patted the spot where it had impacted. "That actually stung, yoi," he all but complained.

Ace felt a little guilty and his flames died out, going from blue to red and finally back to their usual yellow-orange mix before they vanished. "Gomen ne, Marco." He didn't mean for it to hurt his Nakama.

"Don't worry about it, yoi. I'll be fine." Marco's tone was lighthearted, and the Whitebeard Captain smiled as he did his best to get Ace to ease up. "Let's all eat."

"YOU WILL NOT!" Hancock stood between the crowd of men and the cart of food, her body bending back as she looked down upon the men standing in front of her. "THIS FOOD IS FOR LUFFY ONLY!"

Everyone blinked and backed away from the enraged Pirate Empress, except for Luffy who went from awing over Ace to stuffing his face. He paused and glanced at Hancock, his eyes wide and innocent. "Ne, Hancock?"

"Yes, sweetheart?" Hancock swooned and turned to Luffy with a full blush on her face. The Pirate Empress looked like a lovestruck girl, ready to cater to her crush's every whim.

"Can Ace-nii-chan have some?" Luffy sucked the meat off of the bone in his mouth and swallowed, his gaze still fixated on Hancock.


Once the food issue was sorted out, the Whitebeard Pirates cooking for themselves and Jinbe, Rayleigh called out to Luffy. "Luffy-kun, you said that you were going to head out for Sabaody from here, yes?"

Luffy looked thoughtful for a moment, then gave a slight nod. "I have to meet up with my crew!" No doubt they were all on their way back to Sabaody, from wherever Kuma had sent them.

"Are you absolutely certain about that?" The way Rayleigh asked that particular question made Luffy pause. The old man's countenance had changed completely, and his tone serious. "I am sure you remember what happened to you all on that island." Luffy did remember, and his upset expression was a very good indication of that. "Do you want to meet up with your friends, only to have that happen again?" Rayleigh waited a moment, so it could sink in to Luffy's mind as to what he would be putting his crew through, should they return to Sabaody. "I have a proposal for you, Luffy-kun." His gaze flicked to Ace, who was watching him closely. "And you as well, Ace-kun. Naturally, it is entirely up to both of you, whether to accept it or not."


Ace knelt in front of Edward Newgate's grave, slightly hunched over as he stared, unseeing, at the pristine white marble of the tombstone. He had been there since the funeral, and well after everyone had gone back to their ships. Marco had stayed after for a bit, before he finally left to rejoin their Nakama, but Akagami was still with him. The man had stayed silent for the entire time, his gaze never wavering from the brash younger pirate's form.

"I should have listened to you... I shouldn't have gone after Teach."

Shanks leaned slightly so he could better hear the soft spoken words coming from Ace. At the mention of Teach he became more alert and his gaze sharper. His scars tingled slightly and a scowl settled on his face.

"I didn't know what I was getting into...but when he told me that he had tried to go after Luffy... I..."

The Yonkou stiffened and his mood darkened dramatically.

"I definitely couldn't let him get away after that... Not when he involved my brother."

Something would have to be done about Teach. With the powers of the Yami Yami no Mi, and now the Gura Gura no Mi, Teach was going to be very dangerous. Luffy must have crossed paths with him once already, and would surely do so again. Shanks still had to repay Teach for the scars the man gave him.

"I'm joining Luffy's crew, Oyaji. I already talked it over with Marco, so when I leave here I'm going to go train with Luffy and Rayleigh."

Rayleigh? First Mate Rayleigh? Well now. Shanks started to grin a little and wondered just what Rayleigh would be teaching the boys. No doubt how to use Haki. That would certainly help them in the long run, but it would take years to learn the basics! He'd be an old man by the time Luffy got to him!

"Ne... Oyaji... I'm sorry I was such a troublesome and bratty son... Thank you for putting up with me and for loving me. You'll always be my father."

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