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'm not going to die!"

The flames raged on around them and grew hotter with each passing minute. Ace didn't seem bothered by the oppressive heat in the least. He was still leading them through the burning trash heaps when they came to a dead end.

"Do you think the guys from the trash heap made it out in time?!"

Leave it to Luffy to worry about others at a time when he should have been worrying about himself. Ace even shouted as much, then followed it up with how difficult it was to pinpoint where they were in what had been the trash heap. They were both coughing from the smoke, pungent and black, and even though the heat didn't bother him, this did. Running into Bluejam ("And who gave you permission to run, you filthy brats?!") only angered him. "Huh?!"

Luffy was shocked to see the despicable pirate, enough so to say the man's name. He quickly took a defensive stance, and didn't have to glance at Ace to know that his brother had done the same. They had the worst of luck to be meeting up with Bluejam and his men in the sea of flames, especially with the pirates being armed to the teeth. "Why are the people who caused this fire in the first place still hanging around here?!"

"Surely they should have made their escape ages ago," Ace gritted out angrily and took up a defensive stance beside Luffy. Even though the pirates were looking worse from tramping through the burning trash heap, they were still every bit as dangerous.

"Shut your faces, brats! We're suffering through the depths of despair right now!" And whose fault was that? It was most certainly their own fault, trying to burn the trash heap in an attempt to better themselves. "Who'd've thought things would turn out like this? You know, humans are a strange kind of creature, don't you think? When we hit rock bottom, we can't help but stand there and laugh!"

The pirates had lost it. Ace certainly thought so, and part of him knew where this was going. "Luffy, let's get out of here!" He turned and started running from the group of pirates, his little brother hot on his heels. Two more pirates from Bluejam's crew appeared in their path as the captain shouted out orders to not let them escape.

"Don't you remember? We're pals, we are! We pulled off this whole job together!" Regardless of the fact that they had been tricked into it. "So it's only right that we should die together, an' all!" Bluejam smirked maliciously as the boys were surrounded. "You never did tell us where that treasure of yours is hidden..." Now that they had nothing left it was only the treasure that mattered. Treasure that they might not get to use. "We'll take it off your hands before it goes up in flames. So tell us where it's hidden!"

"You're worrying about treasure when your lives are in danger?!" Ace knew that their stash of money wasn't far enough away from the roaring flames raging through the Gray Terminal and the forest flanking it. By now it was probably all burned up.

"By that logic, why wouldn't you tell us, hm?" As the boys remained silent, Ace with a harsh look on his face, Bluejam chose to move closer to them. "If you're not gonna go collect it, then it'll all go to waste."

Ace stared at the pirate, his expression darkening while Luffy collected himself and angrily retorted, "Don't be stupid! That's the treasure that Ace and Sabo-" "All right. I'll tell you," Ace interrupted, causing his little brother to yell, "Ace!" Luffy turned to his brother and despite his shock shouted, "But you and Sabo worked your asses off for-" "I'm sure Sabo will understand!" Ace interrupted a second time, his grim expression set. "All that matters now is our own lives!"


Luffy, in the end, finished off Ace's plate of food once it was clear that the older pirate wasn't going to eat anymore. They had eaten a lot of food last night, thanks to the women of Amazon Lily. Even though many of them had been wary of Ace they had been happy to feed both of the brothers and watch in amazement as the two practically inhaled their food. It had been a lot of fun, too, and now, at least, he got to listen to Ace tell the story of how they grew up together. Remembering it all, it brought a faint smile to his face while tears threatened to fall from his eyes.

Ace absently tightened his grasp around Luffy while the young captain rubbed the salty liquid away before it could fall. Even though he hadn't gotten to that part in the story yet, the part he dreaded telling most, he couldn't help it when his mind jumped ahead of what he was saying. The memories of that day...of that moment, were playing on a constant loop in his head now.

Marco took all of this in while Ace gazed off into the distance, partially reliving the memories as he retold them. Luffy, on the other hand, had been attempting to keep himself busy by picking through the remainder if Ace's food. His eating pace had slowed down dramatically until there wasn't a morsel left for him to occupy himself with.

"Sabo asked me to look after you, too... So I'm not gonna die, no matter what! That's a promise!"

"What d'you think you're doing?!" Ace shouted as he struggled against the pirate holding him. Next to him was Luffy, also in the grasp of another pirate, who was forced to stay still from the threat of the knife in his face. "I told you where the treasure is!"

"And what if you were lying to me, eh? You're coming with us." Bluejam wasn't going to let them get away, even if they all died trying to reach the treasure.

"Don't be ridiculous! If you try to reach the treasure now, we'll lose our only chance to escape!" Ace was angry, more so now because he had told them the exact location of the treasure. The damn pirates had gotten what they were after in the end, so it was only fair that he and Luffy should be free to go! "If you want it that much, go after it yourselves!"

"Don't make me any more angry than I already am!" Bluejam shouted at them, gun drawn and aimed at Ace. "I've sworn that I'm not only going to live through this godforsaken mess, I'm going to take revenge on those stinking Nobles - even if I have to steal treasure from a couple of stinking urchins to do it! That so-called brother of yours is ust the same, you know! Every last one of them think that they're better than the rest of us! They don't think us common folk are any better than trash!"

That pissed Ace off like no tomorrow. He damn near got free of the pirate holding him as he tried to kick out at Bluejam. "Sabo isn't like that, you damn-"

"Oh yes he is, you brainless fool! He only hung around the two of you so he could enjoy feeling all superior! With parents as rich as his, what torments could he ever have had to face?!" All Nobles were the same, or so Bluejam thought. The idea of someone of Noble blood hating everything they stood for was impossible for him to imagine. "Face it! You were just being used as idle playthings for a Noble kid's amusement! Deep down, he was looking down on you, pinching his nose and laughing!"

"Don't you dare say one more word!" Sabo wasn't like that at all! Ace knew it deep down in his very soul that Sabo meant every single word he had said about hating the Nobles. It was the Nobles who were the trash!

"That's right! All Sabo ever wanted was to be free!" Luffy yelled out, just before he bit down hard into the arm of the pirate holding him. The pirate dropped him with a curse and Luffy immediately turned around, his pipe staff raised to defend himself with, as the pirate drew the sword strapped to his back. A single swing of the sword rendered the metal into halves and Luffy clutched at his forehead where the tip of the blade had knicked him.

"Luffy!" Ace watched, helpless and angry, as the pirate went in for the kill. His body trembled as something built up with his anger and the desperate need to save his otouto. "DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH LUFFY!" That something flowed out of him in an unseen wave and everything, everyone was still for a few seconds. Ace, weakened by this strange outburst, suddenly found himself laying on the ground, surrounded by fainted pirates. Bluejam was the only one left standing.

"Like hell I could die and leave my weak little brother all on his own!"

The remaining Whitebeard pirates seated around the tables started to whisper fervently as Ace described using Haō-shoku no Haki. Marco looked gobsmacked. He had known Ace was very strong physically, and that his Mera Mera no Mi powers were an added bonus. That Ace was able to use Haō-shoku no Haki was news to him. With Luffy able to use it as well, if that display at Marineford was anything to go by, then the world was going to be in trouble once they learned how to master it. Luffy had a lot more to work on, and he didn't know how proficient Ace was with that type of Haki.

"Oi. Be quiet, would y'all." Ace was scowling at the whispering pirates, though he understood why he still had to finish telling them about his and Luffy's past. He was dreading what came after that night at the trash heap, but the memories had already been stirred up.

"Uh-huh... Uh-huh...!"

"What did you just do, you filthy little urchin?!" Bluejam pressed his booted foot down into Ace's chest, to the point that it hurt to breathe. His gun was aimed at the boy's face while Luffy, still conscious, cried out for his brother. Someone, maybe the rubbery boy, shouted out 'Stop!' And then an axe was fending off his sword.

"Give it up already, you stinking sea monsters!" Curly Dadan, with a cigarette of all things firmly clamped between her teeth, knocked Bluejam the pirate back away from Ace. "Get your hands off our Ace!" She disengaged her axe from the pirate's sword and stood her ground while Ace rolled to his side, gasping for breath.

"Dadan!" Luffy looked up at Dadan first, the slowly took notice that all of her bandits were with her. "What are you all doing here?!" Dogra stood over him, inspecting his wounds to see he bad off he was. He was turned onto his back and Dogra said something about the wound the sword had made. "Dogra!"

"Isn't that Sabo kid with you?!" Dogra asked as he eased Luffy up into a sitting position.

"Sabo's safe... He's not with us...!" Luffy said weakly. A few feet away Ace got up, swaying slightly before he steadied himself.

"Why, you... You're the boss of those ruffians from Mount Corvo." Bluejam looked from Dadan to her bandits and then to Ace. Even though he was severely outnumbered, the bandits were weak. The only one that would give him a little difficulty was Dadan herself.

"I'm Dadan the Bandit! And for better or worse...I happen to be the guardian of these here brats!" She looked like she hadn't wanted to admit to that, but she had forced herself to declare it. "Now then... RUN FOR IT!" She turned and started running while one of her men took Luffy for Dogra and they all followed after her with a 'YES, BOSS!' The bandit that had Luffy glanced back and called out for Ace to follow them.

"I..." Ace started off, Magra the only one who had stayed behind to grab Ace, if needed. "...WON'T RUN!"

"I'm not all that smart, so I can't figure out what was really responsible for Sabo's death."

"Ne, Ace-nii-chan," Luffy interrupted softly from his side. The young captain started to pull away, his expression blank. "I'm gonna go for a walk." He got up from the table and started walking towards the forests where none of the men were allowed to go.

"Okay, Lu." Ace watched as the Kuja stationed at the border stepped aside to let Luffy through, which floored nearly every man present, since majority of them were unfamiliar with Hancock's love-obsession with the young pirate.

"Is he gonna be okay, yoi?" Marco asked, concern written into his eyes as he looked from Ace to Luffy's vanishing back.

"He's stubborn, probably more stubborn than I am," he responded in a soft tone, his gaze growing distant again.

"...but whatever it was, it must be something totally opposed to freedom! Sabo died without ever becoming truly free..."

"What d'you think you're saying, Ace m'boy?!" Dogra shouted at him, having halted in the retreat because of the little brat. "You can't face these guys! Bluejam's strength isn't just for show, you know!" The bandit was hoping that Magra would just scoop Ace up and hightail it out of there. "He's beyond the level a kid like you has a hope of taking down!"

"I... I'm going too...!" Luffy struggled in the band it's arms, an attempt to dislodge himself so he could go help his brother. The bandit kept a firm grip on him however, which wasn't easy even with how wounded the boy was. "Oh no you don't, Luffy!"

"Men... You take Luffy and go on ahead," Dadan ordered, much to their surprise. They tried to argue with her, but she stopped them with a hard look. "I'll take full responsibility for Ace and see to it myself that he gets back safe and sound!" She made her way over to Ace, a white-knuckled grip on her axe. Magra ran past her to follow the rest of the bandits as she shouted at them to go. She stood beside Ace as her men obediently fled, with cries of 'You better be coming back, Boss, you hear me?!' on their lips.

"A woman and a child..." They could hear the conceited laughter in Bluejam's voice. A malicious grin broke out over his face. "If you start getting overconfident just because you're a little handy in a fight, you could end up a bloody mess." Much like that little brat being carried away currently was. "The only people who survive on the battlefield are the strong and the cowards." These two were neither, in his opinion. "The brave meet with early deaths... That's just how this world works!"

"Bluejam was so sure of himself... He never did escape to get the treasure..." Ace shook his head slightly and put the thought of the long gone treasure out of his mind. "Come morning, the people assigned to the clean up of Gray Terminal found only the bodies of Bluejam and his pirates. Even though we didn't get to warn the residents of the trash heaps, they escaped. Every last one of them."

"I heard that the Revolutionary Dragon, Luffy-kun's father, was there that night," Jinbe supplied from the end of the table. Several of the Whitebeard pirates nodded in agreement, being they had been in the crew longer and recalled hearing about the fires outside the walls of the Goa Kingdom that night.

"So, did you and Dadan beat Bluejam, yoi?" Marco asked and leaned on the table, his half-lidded gaze focused on Ace.

"No... We put up a hell of a fight, but we didn't beat him." Ace scowled slightly and propped his elbows on the table, his hands folded together so his chin could rest on them. "We barely escaped with our own lives..."

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