Confrontation and Compromise
There were only a few people in the streets as Bo and Leon approached the edge of the main town, but those few quickly dispersed once they caught sight of the pair. Soon, the streets were empty except for some abandoned carts and clotheslines as word of the strangers rapidly spread through the streets. For the next few minutes, Bo and Leon walked in silence through the center of the streets of the usually active town, until Bo whispered to Leon, "We're being followed." When he saw Leon's grin get wider, he warned him: "Wait until my command. We need information." Bo knew his words had gotten through when Leon's grin retracted slightly.
For the next few minutes, they had markedly slowed their pace and whispered nonsense between one another in an obvious manner, in order to attract whoever was following them into getting closer. Surely enough, the man following them gradually got closer and closer. Once he was almost in range, Bo whispered to Leon: "In ten seconds, stop and attack the position over your right shoulder." The next few seconds passed slowly, but just as Bo predicted, after ten seconds the mysterious man swiftly made his move towards the alley just behind the duo, but was caught off guard by their sudden stop. If not for Bo shouting "Now!" the man may have had his head cut off or at least been seriously injured.
Leon swung in a wide circle which Bo had to duck to avoid being beheaded himself while Tala flew up. The mystery man barely brought up his sword, a rapier, in time to block the strike, but he still had to use his left forearm to reinforce his block. Quickly recovering his balance, the man then jumped backwards to avoid being pinned against a building wall.
As he jumped back, Bo finally had a chance to get a decent look at him: he was taller than both Bo and Leon, standing what looked to be about 6'6 with neatly cut, blonde hair on top of very smooth-looking skin and soft, almost effeminate, features. He was wearing tight pristine white pants, shiny black boots, and a dark purple blazer-like top adorned with various medals on his chest and golden epaulets on the shoulders. He also wore a shawl-like accessory that was white with lavender fur lining, tied around his neck by a thick golden rope that kept it on his shoulders, covering his left shoulder and upper arm to about his elbow. What struck Bo was that in addition to the rapier, which Bo could tell had a slight cutting edge, being adorned with a variety of jewels and gemstones along the hand guard and three small gems (a ruby, a sapphire, and a diamond) embedded into the base of the blade, everything seemed to be made of the highest quality fabric, meaning that the person Leon was facing must have been very rich.
After jumping backwards, the man quickly lunged towards Leon pushing his sword forward with a mighty thrust, but Leon was able to bring his sword down with a slash strong enough to not only stop the thrusts, but to drive both swords into the ground.
Leon then used the position of both swords to slide his own blade up his opponent's effectively pinning his opponent's sword as well as aiming a lethal slash that left his opponent with no other choice but to release his weapon or suffer a grievous wound.
As Leon's blade was about halfway up his own, however, the man showed surprising strength for his lean figure and managed to toss Leon's sword aside and into the air, along with Leon's arm since his hand was still wrapped around the hilt, leaving Leon defenseless.
As the man prepared a thrust aimed for Leon's heart, Leon made an ingenious move and used the momentum of his arm being flung aside to pull his body to the side so the attack only left a small cut on his arm eliciting a sliver of blood while also allowing Leon time to recover and swing his sword at his opponent.
Due to his positioning, the man was unable to avoid the blow and settled for putting his left arm into the line of fire. Leon's sword connected with the shawl and cut through it, but somehow the fabric slowed the strike down enough to allow the man time enough to spin away from the blade before it could cut flesh.
After a brief standoff, the two combatants charged each other once again, Leon with his sword held high and the regally dressed man with a powerful thrust. The clash was interrupted, though, as Bo jumped in between them and used his shoes to push the man's rapier into the ground and caught Leon's wrist with the opposite hand and declared in an authoritative tone, "That's enough." finally deciding to stop the skirmish between the two.
As the two gradually calmed down, Bo lightened the pressure on the man's sword and loosened his grip on Leon's wrist, allowing both combatants to withdraw their weapons.
Leon stepped back and rested his sword on his shoulder, but the other man was more hesitant. He stood with his rapier at the ready until Bo spoke up again: "You can put your sword away. We only want to ask you some questions." The man merely scoffed at Bo's words, but finally complied when Bo uttered one more word: "Prince."
Though he was likely caught off guard, the prince didn't miss a beat as he put his rapier away, stood up to his full height, and spoke in a regal, though haughty, manner that seemed all too natural for the royal: "I am the second son of the great King Joseph Romanov, his Royal Highness, Prince Alex-"
"Yeah, yeah; we get it. You're royalty." Leon interrupted the prince's spiel as he waved his hand dismissively, ignoring the prince's growing rage at having his royal decree interrupted.
"You-" began the prince, anger shading his normal complexion with a reddish hue, as he clenched his fist so tightly his knuckles paled.
"Prince Alex, "intervened Bo, attempting to diffuse some of the tension so that he could get answers.
"Alexander." corrected the prince. When Bo raised a questioning eyebrow, he expounded, "My name is Alexander, Prince Alexander Romanov." still upset though his anger had been mostly distracted.
"Prince Alexander," Bo continued, though he was also getting annoyed by this pompous, royal brat, "we have come here to speak with the King, but first, where is everyone? I've come here before and it was lively, now it's a ghost town."
As if oblivious to Bo's question, Alexander asked one of his own: "Who are you and why did you arrive on a Marine battleship? You don't look like Marines."
Bo let out a groan of frustration as he ran his fingers along the bridge of his nose. He was getting tired of the prince's royal antics and he thought a better question was 'What the prince was doing this far away from the castle at the dock city, but he chose to ignore all of that for now and answer: "My name is Bo and this is Leon. We are part of a special Marine division." Leon quirked an eyebrow at the last statement, but just gave a menacing grin to Alexander while he watched the scene unfold.
Alexander seemed unsure at first, but after a moment's silence, decided to speak up: "The kingdom has been overthrown and the perpetrators have scared the people to the extent that they won't leave their homes most of the time. I contacted the Marines to send help a few weeks back."
"Why should we?" Leon chimed in. "We got nothin to gain from helping ya."
"You are Marines and we are a member nation of the World Government; it's your job."
"My friend here is right, though. We are a special division and from what I know, the king of this country is unjust, employs unfair taxes on the citizens, and owns a multitude of slaves-consistently enslaving more people-, etc."
Alexander, taken aback by Bo's words, had finally lost his haughty tone as he struggled for words. "My father may have his shortcomings, but under Hogg, the people are far worse off." he finally managed to stammer out. Seeing Bo's undecided expression, Alexander desperately added on, "I'll reward you handsomely: jewels, money, gold."
Bo raised an eyebrow at the latest proposal and mulled it over in his head before answering. After an extended pause to which both Alexander and Leon paid attention waiting on Bo's response, Bo smiled at the Prince and said, "Where's your older brother?" Leon just smirked as Bo manipulated the situation. He was used to it: both watching and being manipulated, but when it wasn't happening to him, Leon couldn't help but enjoy what extents Bo went to in order to control a situation as much as he could.
Caught off guard by the out-of-the-blue question, Alexander tried to regain as much of his dignity as he could before answering, ignoring the fact that Bo still hadn't answered his request due to not wanting to risk pissing off his kingdom's possible last hope: "He's currently on a trade mission with 20 of our Imperial Knights in the Grand Line. He's not aware of the kingdom's situation, but he should be coming back in another week or so."
"So what's he like; compared to your father."
"He's the greatest warrior this kingdom has. Though he often chooses to travel in the Grand Line to avoid my father, he never shirks his royal duties and always has what is best for the people as well as the kingdom in mind." Alexander practically glowed while speaking of his brother, though he was growing increasingly agitated at this line of questioning.
Bo smiled again, before declaring, "Then this country has a new King. Let's go!" as he finally resumed walking in the direction of the castle. Alexander was left speechless as his mind worked on figuring out what just happened, while Leon just smirked and followed after Bo.
Before he had time to fully understand what had just transpired, Alexander had to rush after the duo before they got too far ahead. "If you're going to help, don't you want to go get the rest of your Division?" he asked when he'd finally caught back up with them, "I'm not sure if you two alone will be enough."
"Ah, don't get ya panties in a bunch, Princess." replied Leon as the trio continued walking forward.
"Besides, it's not just the two of us; you're helping too." Bo chimed in as he clapped a hand on the prince's shoulder and smiled at his bewildered expression.
"Wha', ya scared, pansy?
"I'll have you know, I am one of the strongest men on in this island; second only in combat ability to my brother in the entire kingdom." Alexander boasted, the usual self-satisfaction and haughtiness returning to counter the offense made at his pride, as he stared down Leon who let his usual smug smirk grace his lips.
Bo separated the two and pushed them to continue walking before attempting to distract Alexander and learn about the current situation by asking, "What happened here; where is the kingdom's army? I want the whole story."
Alexander looked ahead into the distance as he contemplated where to begin. He knew he'd have to tell whoever came to help eventually, but he figured the Marines would send more than two people, especially on a warship that holds approximately 200 commissioned officers plus personnel and is usually led by a Vice Admiral, so that the details wouldn't matter as much.
Plus, even though he went to the marines for help, in keeping with his country's tradition, he wanted to divulge as little information as possible, that's why his brother still didn't know- he didn't have a reliable, covert way to quietly get him the information. More than anything he expected the Marines sent to simply help get rid of the enemy, not commit extortion against an allied kingdom of the World Government. Alexander let out a deep sigh as he started to tell the other two how things got the way they were now: "It started a few weeks ago."
As they walked through the expansive coastal town towards the gigantic castle looming at the center of the island- a trip that would take almost three hours at their current pace- Alexander told the tale of the man behind the coup, Tweed Hogg.
Alexander began with a mysterious hooded man that showed up and had a secret meeting with Hogg, one of the kingdom's top generals, on an isolated portion of the coast and supplied him with a chest, though the prince was unable to make out its contents from the spot up a hill in the midst of the forest he was eavesdropping from (it was after this that he alerted the marines because of what he suspected). Alexander tried to tell his father of his suspicions, but the King would never suspect a trusted general of his.
Next, he moved on to how over the next week or two more and more vagrants and other unsavory types started showing up on the shores of Torenai kingdom with even more visitors and new residents than the country had ever experienced at a single time in its history. Once again Alexander contacted the marines and his father wasn't worried because the guards quickly caught and arrested any troublemakers resulting in the castle's jails rapidly becoming overcrowded.
Up until that point, it had all been speculation on Alexander's part, and without his brother there no one would listen. However, after just over a month, everything came to a head when a pirate ship appeared at the coast on the poorer, rural side of the island. They attacked the clustered homes of those poor, tax-impoverished citizens, and because of the slow response of the kingdom's army (since it was only the poor inhabitants of the kingdom), the pirates, almost 50 in number were able to advance to the castle's rear gate before the Imperial Guard was mobilized.
The Imperial Guard tried to hold them back, but they were spread too thin due to an attack from many of the newer citizens from the more affluent portion of the kingdom on the front side of the kingdom as well as a prison riot inside the castle walls. The castle was under siege from the front, back, and inside all at the same time. Matters were only made worse when a select few of the kingdom's army turned on their comrades. The Guards continued to fight valiantly against the overwhelming onslaught even as many of them died one after the other, and eventually all of the turmoil forced Alexander onto the front lines to try and help quell an insurgency of such magnitude and strategy, but his departure allowed Hogg to enter the King's Court and easily subdue the King and force him to turn over the kingdom in order to save his remaining men's lives- more importantly, though, to save his own.
The Guard surrendered and Hogg became the new ruler with the pirates, the insurgents, and even the Imperial Guard (under threat of death) following his orders and executing his every whim to secure his newfound power and authority. Prince Alexander and a few others who refused to submit, or managed to escape, were forced into hiding, attacking from the shadows in defiance to overthrow Hogg and free the rightful king whenever they got the chance, but their numbers were dwindling almost as fast as their enemies.
"So, how many others are there now?" Bo asked once Alexander was through.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
A sudden ringing from inside Alexander's shirt jacket interrupted him before he could answer and instead he reached into his jacket and pulled out a small purple snail.
"What's that?" asked Leon
"This, you imbecile, is a Baby Den Den Mushi used for communication over short distances." came Alexander's indignant reply before he answered it while Bo held back Leon, "Hello."