Trial by Error

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 1975
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

Sabaody Archipelago: Grove 35

"Robin!" He raced through the streets of Sabaody, hoping to find traces of his Nakama. "Robin! Where the heck have they taken you off to?!" He couldn't find her scent, no matter where he searched, and it was truly worrisome. What if… No. He couldn't think like that. He would find her! "Dammit! Dammit!" How could they… "What's wrong with every one?! Luffy, and Zoro, and Nami and Sanji and even Franky!" It was so unlike them. "You all used to care so much about your friends! But now Robin gets kidnapped, and all you can say is 'Leave her'?!" That wasn't what friends did. "You're all terrible!" He would rescue Robin by himself! "What have I worked so hard for these two long years?! For who?!"

"Heyyy! Choppeeeer!"

Chopper halted at that voice and looked around, confused as to who could have called him. "Ah…?" In the distance he spotted the person who had called out and relief filled him as he walked towards him. "Usopp!"

"Well, look at you! You sure have grown!" Usopp exclaimed as he hopped down off of an expanded bubble bicycle holding a lot of purchases, most likely for the ship. "I bet that back of yours would make a ride and a half!" He observed as he looked over Chopper's original reindeer form. He had gotten much bigger! "How've you been?"

"You're right! He's even fluffier than before!" Nami exclaimed, suddenly appearing at his side and pressing her face into the fur of Chopper's muzzle.

"Hm?" Now Chopper was confused.

"It's been a while, Chopper!" Nami exclaimed as she took a step back to get a better look at their youngest Nakama. She moved from his side to stand in front of him, her hands still lingering in his super soft fur.

"Huh?! Nami?" Chopper stared down Nami, utter confusion in his tone and his expression. Hadn't he just run away from Nami not even a few moments ago? Nami, of course, gave him a questioning look and an equally confused 'Yes?' The reindeer shook his head and stamped a hoof as he said, "No, forget that! I'm happy to see you guys again, but this isn't the time!" They had to hurry. "Something terrible has happened to Robin!"

Nami and Usopp both exchanged a look, and the Navigator frowned before she returned her full attention to the distressed Doctor. "Why don't you explain what happened to me." She motioned for Usopp to get back onto the bicycle then patted a spot in the back for Chopper.

The reindeer gladly transformed into his usual chibi-esque form and got onto the float with Nami's help, quickly explaining everything that had happened to her while Usopp began pedaling. After a long moment of silence, she finally let the truth slip out and Chopper loudly repeated, "They're all fakes?!" It took a moment for that to process, and when it did finally click he went slack-jawed. "So that's why there were two Namis! Oh dear…"

"Look," Nami began, glancing down at Chopper. "Robin has been on the run from the World Government for twenty years, remember? Do you really think anyone could just stuff her in a bag and run off?" This was Robin they were talking about. Unless they used Kairouseki on her, there was no way they could effectively capture her.

"Of course!" When he actually thought about it, it did make sense. "I thought something didn't seem right… She didn't smell the same as she used to." And taking a discreet sniff, Chopper found that Nami smelled almost exactly the same, with the addition of a few new ones which smelled kind of like a mixture of different types of weather to him. This was probably due to her use of her Clima-Tact. "Hmph! Now I'm starting to feel really pissed off! What's up with those guys pretending to be us like that?!" It was maddening. "It's just disgusting! Those filthy copy cats! Why, it's almost as though we've gone and become proper celebrities, dammit!"

Nami looked a bit cross and smacked the brim of Chopper's hat. "What are you so happy about?!" After a moment of watching the tiny Doctor happily wriggle about she sighed. "I suppose it was inevitable, though, now that the whole world knows Luffy's name."

"Eheh… I've gotta come up with an autograph!" Chopper exclaimed suddenly, no longer thinking of the imposter crew.

"I've already got mine," Usopp all but sing-songed.

Nami grimaced and shook her head. "You two do realize that we're famous in a bad way, right?"

-TbE-

Grove 40

They ran as fast as they could, hoping to catch up to the strange creature that was the Mugiwara's pet. Once they had explained everything to their ingenious Captain, he had yelled at them for letting it to get away. They needed that thing to make their claim legit. If anyone did find out that they weren't the real Mugiwara Kaizouku, then there would be hell to pay. Of course, finding the damn pet was going to be quite a task, as Sabaody was quite large.

Up ahead of them, walking in the middle of the road was a cloaked figure wearing an extremely stuffed pack. "Hey, isn't that the 'brat with a cape and a giant rucksack' the Captain was looking for?" The blond asked.

"You call that a brat?"

As they got closer the brat paused and stared at them, a grin alighting his mustached face. "You guys!"

-TbE-

Grove 41

Zoro stared blankly at the cook, his mind set on one thing and one thing only for the moment. "I want…" he began, his expression becoming quite serious. "…to go to the coast. I want to do some fishing…" He had been hoping to pass the time by getting some good quality fish to make some sushi with. Instead, he had gotten on the wrong boat, took a nap and upon waking slashed it in half. Now he was following the cook around, who seemed rather irate over nothing, while he went about purchasing food for the Sunny.

"Forget it, you big dumb brute!" Sanji yelled out, a muscle in his forehead spasm-ing while his face was a nice shade of, dare he say it, pink.

The swordsman honestly didn't know why the cook was all flushed like that, and the yelling had been a near constant thing as soon as they had met back up. "Why?! Why do I have to listen to the likes of you, anyway?!" He had been just fine on his own. Really.

"What, you think I'm hanging around you 'cause I want to?! Hah! I just don't trust you enough to leave you wandering around this damn island again, you brainless marimo!" Sanji had leaned in close, his cigarette clenched firmly between his teeth. "We're all meeting up pretty soon, so just shut up and follow me, got that?"

"Tch." Follow him. He didn't want to follow Sanji anywhere. He simply wanted to do some fishing before they left out. What was so wrong with that? "I'm Number One. I don't need this kind of crap from you, Number Seven." Zoro could see the rage building in Sanji from that statement and turned away just as the cook's pink flushed state darkened to a rage-induced red. It was so easy to mess with him.

"What, are you turning the order we arrived into some sort of ranking?! Don't get all high-and-mighty just because by some miracle you actually managed to get here first!"

"Sure, whatever, Seventh." Zoro started walking away and Sanji angrily stomped after him, obviously not finished yelling at him. Whatever training the cook had gone through had really gotten his boxers all twisted up, so getting him to unwind by directing anger towards him would help in the long run. Plus, it helped keep his own skills sharp.

"Oh, that does it! You're going down! It's time you felt the force of this leg I've been training to perfection in Hell for the past two years!"

Zoro turned to face the cook, noting he had lifted a leg up and was prepared to kick him. Grinning savagely, he grasped Shuusui's hilt. "Bring it on! I'll slice you in two!"

-TbE-

Grove 46

Sanji and Zoro walked ahead of him, leading him towards a large crowd of people gathered before a stage with some more people up on that. They were talking to each other, soft enough that he couldn't hear them, which they had been doing the entire way here and it was starting to get on his nerves. Still, he was excited to see everyone, and he was supposed to meet up with Ace at the Sunny. Was the Sunny nearby? "I'm looking forward to seeing everyone!" Maybe the Sunny was docked elsewhere. "Still, you guys sure have changed these past two years! Do you not talk anymore?"

"It looks like this mustachioed freak has some kind of connection to the real Straw Hats… Who the hell is he?" The imposter Sanji whispered to his crewmate standing in for Zoro.

"I dunno, but our best chance of not giving anything away is to keep our mouths shut." The imposter Zoro whispered back, for fear of losing whoever this person was. He fit the boss' description, so losing him when they weren't able to find the original pet of the Straw Hats wasn't an option.

"I don't remember you two getting on so well, either...but it's been two years, I guess! Your faces have changed too! Are you guys in disguise too?" Luffy looked at them both curiously, but they still continued to ignore him.

"We're almost there. Once we give him to the Captain, that'll be that." The imposter Zoro concluded.

As they drew closer to stage the imposter Sanji waved to a large man up on the platform. "Captain!"

"Call me Big Boss, ya numbskulls!" The man snapped as he turned to look at them. A frown twisted up his face, making it quite unsightly, which it already was to begin with.

"We didn't manage to find the original pet, but is this the guy you were looking for?"

Luffy looked up at the guy on the stage, a slightly clueless expression forming on his face while the portly man scrutinized his form.

-TbE-

Grove 33

"I see... So the Marines. Very well." Brook calmly looked out across the stadium, his gaze resting on the Marines standing near the entrance. "But I cannot leave right away. My fans are calling for an encore." Indeed, the chanting of 'Encore' was very audible, and so he would give them an encore worth remembering. Music was on his side, as were his adoring fans. "They're very persistent, you understand. I must return to the stage."

The Marines readied their rifles and aimed them towards the stages, while the one in charge fired a shot into the air. "This concert is over! Stop the music!" A silence fell over the crowd and everyone turned their attention to the Marines. "Acting Captain of the Rumbar Pirates, known as Humming Brook! Bounty thirty-three million Berri! We have reason to believe that you and this Pirate are one and the same!" The Marine in charge held up a Wanted Poster of Brook from his years in the Rumbar Pirates. "We have information to suggest that you are currently an associate of the Pirate Straw Hat Luffy! Soul King Brook! No… Pirate Brook! We are placing you under arrest!"

The members of the crowd looked positively shocked, many of the women covering their mouths, and looked from the Marines to Brook. Some of them began crying out that it wasn't possible, and someone even shouted out that Luffy was supposed to be dead.

"It's all over Brook!" A voice called out, drawing Brook's attention to stage left.

"Mr. Manager. I thought this might be your doing," Brook stated calmly, despite the Marines aiming their guns at him a fair distance away.

"When you told me that you wanted to quit the business… It was a real shock. Just when your popularity had really taken off and we were all set to make a killing!" Behind the head manager were his assistants with guns, most likely given to them by the Marines they had sold him out to. "You betrayed us, Soul King. Our business is doomed. So ain't it just fair that you go down with us?"

"Drop the guitar and put your hands above your head!" The Marine Captain shouted over the slight din of the crowd.

Brook ignored them and turned to the people who had come with him to Sabaody for this final performance. "My backing band... My chorus! My dancers!" He turned to each of them in turn, their expressions a bit startled as he addressed them. "Would you join me… in one last performance? Worry not! For my music has become powerful!" He exclaimed, and they all slowly nodded.

"Are you crazy?! It's all over for you, Brook!" His head manager shouted as he aimed a pistol at him.

"I thank you for all you have done for me over these two years! And I thank you for bringing me here, to this island!" Brook went on, ignoring his managers and the guns that they were now aiming at him. It was no different to the Marines aiming their guns at him, and he wouldn't let them stop him from performing for one final time. "This is an Isle of Regret for us, home to painful memories of defeat…but it is also an Isle of New Beginnings! And it is my duty to my crew to make our adventure an enjoyable one!" He turned back to the crowd, the lights shining down on him brightly as he grinned. "Straw Hat Luffy… Dead, you say? Utterly preposterous. Tell the world from me! The Pirate Straw Hat Luffy is alive!"

His statement, his declaration that Luffy was alive, stirred the crowd and the reports that were in the midst of it began calling to tell the news. "That man will one day be King of the Seas!" Brook continued on, pushing his sunglasses up onto his forehead. "How could his embarkment on this new journey possibly be a quiet affair?! Oh, baby~!" The crowd was no longer panicked, and they only needed a final push. A message to my Nakama… "Listen, my friends! To this final Soul Melody! Yeah!" The crowd went into a frenzy and when the Marines tried to get them to stop, calling out the concert was over, they silenced the Marines and held them back. "You see? Music is my ally! One, two, three, four! New World!"

-TbE-

Grove 17: Anchorage of the Thousand Sunny

Franky made his way back to the main deck of the Sunny, leaving Ace and Sabo to put their belongings in the Men's Quarters. And to talk. It looked like they had a bit more talking to do from what he had witnessed. Stepping out into the sunlight, he blinked when he saw two familiar faces then broke out into a grin and posed. "Chopper! Usopp!"

"Awesome!" Chopper cried out with stars in his eyes as he caught sight of Franky.

"I know, right!?" Usopp exclaimed next to him, much in the same state as the tiny Doctor at the sight of their Shipwright.

"Check out this incredible body!" Franky continued to pose for the Doctor and the Sniper, grinning as they praised his upgrades. The three of them carried on, to the point that they were pretty much oblivious to Ace and Sabo re-emerging from the men's quarters and even Nami calling out to Robin.

The brothers went over to the railing where Robin stood leaning against it, their gazes going up to Nami who had been waving to the archaeologist only to falter at the sight of one familiar and one unfamiliar person. She squinted, vaguely recalling the orange hat and the red bead necklace. The blue waistcoat and top hat fitted with goggles were foreign, but they suited the blond that wore them, she supposed. She would need a closer look. Gathering up a good portion of her purchases, she boarded the Sunny only to have the bags whisked out of her grasp by the blond man and… "Oh my god! Ace! You're okay!"

This outburst immediately stopped the antics of Chopper and Usopp, Franky grinning as the two turned their attention to Ace, as well as Sabo. They rushed over, making their own exclamations, which had the Mera Mera no Mi user flushing a bit under the attention. He glanced over to Sabo, as if looking for help from the blond, but Sabo merely smiled and shook his head.

"Oh! Who is this?" Chopper looked from Ace to Sabo, more following the gaze of the dark-haired male, and sniffed. He smelt a little dangerous, but there were lingering traces of Robin's near floral scent on him, as well as Ace's fiery scent, and if those two trusted him then he must be safe.

"That was precisely what I was wondering," Nami mused, giving Sabo a rather puzzled look.

"Ah, well… I'm…" It was Sabo's turn to flush a little, and it looked like he didn't know what to say. He rubbed at the back of his neck and shifted on the spot, looking at the somewhat curious gazes of Nami, Usopp and Chopper. "I'm Luffy and Ace's brother."

"What?!" Usopp and Chopper cried in unison, while Nami merely looked a bit thoughtful.

"We're not related by blood!" Sabo stated quickly, to which Ace nodded. "But we're still brothers just the same," he added, his tone a little softer as he smiled fondly. "I haven't seen either of them in a very long time, because of something that had happened when we were kids."

"Would it have anything to do with the fact that neither Luffy, nor Ace when we met him at Alabasta, never mentioned you?" Nami asked, though in truth none of them ever really pried into Luffy's past. They had been so shocked to hear that Luffy had a brother, even though it was later revealed that they weren't related by blood thanks to the announcement Sengoku had made at the attempted execution of Ace.

"Well, they did think I was dead for all of that time," Sabo said in an even softer voice. "In fact, Luffy doesn't even know I'm here or that I'm even alive." At this news, both Chopper and Usopp broke out in a dramatic display of tears and wails, while Nami had something akin to understanding on her face.

"Luffy's on his way back to the ship right now. He said that he had wanted to walk through Sabaody." Ace informed them, at which everyone's expressions lit up and the dramatic duo immediately stopped their tears.

"And we were just on our way to tell you that." A voice called out. "Well, that and that the situation has become a bit complicated."

"Rayleigh-san! Shakky!" Nami called out as the group turned their attention to the newcomers.

-TbE-

"The Marines?" Nami asked, a look of confusion on her face. Sabo and Robin both looked interested at the mention of the Marines, because they had been aware of the World Government being involved here somewhat, thanks to one of their Cipher Pol agents carting off the imposter posing as the Hana Hana no Mi user.

"Yes, they've mistaken the fake Monkey-chan's crew for the real thing…" Shakky informed them, taking a drag from her cigarette. "And they are mounting a serious operation." She smiled in an amused manner, her gaze taking in pirates before her. "I've been tapping their communications, so there's no doubt about it."

Robin and Sabo shared a glance, for though they too had been tapping into the communications of the World Government, they had gotten signals from the Cipher Pol agents and not the Marines. While it wouldn't necessarily spell trouble for the crew, the Marines would be something of a nuisance should they figure out that they were poised on ambushing a crew of fakes.

"I've informed Brook-chan of the situation as well, through the Den-Den Mushi in the stadium. He should be joining us shortly," Shakky added, which made the original crew members rather excited. Ace and Sabo, who had heard of Brook from Luffy and Robin respectively, weren't familiar with him and so were looking forward to meeting him. They knew a bit about him, that he was a skeleton, resurrected by the Yomi Yomi no Mi, and that he was the Musician of the crew. Ace hadn't gotten much more than that out of Luffy, but Sabo knew that the skeleton was a capable fighter as well.

"Oh…? So he's abandoning his life as a star… That skeleton sure has guts." Franky commented, Chopper carefully balanced on one of his broad mechanized shoulders.

"Nami-chan, I believe you are the Navigator?" Rayleigh's gaze briefly flicked to Sabo, whose own gaze went to the orange-haired woman's form. "It seems like we have someone else also familiar with navigating."

Nami turned and looked to Sabo, a look of surprise on her face. She didn't know anything about Sabo, aside from the fact that he was Ace and Luffy's brother, but Rayleigh apparently knew about him.

"I already know how to steer a coated ship, so I can show Nami-san how to do so." Being that he had worked with the Revolutionary Army and had been Dragon's right-hand man, he had of course been to the New World as it was called.

"That takes care of that then. Everyone should be on their way here. Sanji-kun and Zoro-kun are together. I gave Sanji-kun a Baby Den-Den Mushi when he stopped by, so Luffy is the only one that we haven't made contact with." Shakky explained, pulling out a small folded up piece of paper. "Monkey-chan is sure to be following this, so I'll give it to you."

Ace came forward and took the Vivre Card, which belonged to Rayleigh, and put it in the pocket of his shorts. "Knowing Lu, things don't ever go down quietly once he's involved. So which grove do you suggest we set sail from?"

Rayleigh grinned. "Grove 42."



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