The End

Steeling Resolve

Ray laid the food down and turned around to walk out of the room saying hardly a word to Rose in addition to flashing her a friendly smile. As he was closing the door upon leaving, Ray was surprised by a voice off to the side.

Bo was simply leaning against the wall outside the room and spoke without even looking at Ray: "You want to say something to me. What is it?"

"I just want to make sure you're not making a mistake. She's not-"

Ray was cut off by Bo who responded in a somewhat flustered, but forceful, tone: "I know that. I sense a strong will inside of this girl. She has nothing to do with this."

Ray didn't reply verbally. He just looked over at Bo for the first time during their chat. He and Leon both knew what was bothering Bo so much; they lost friends too, but it just hit Bo so much harder. He hardly did anything other than train since that day.

[Flashback]

On Todai Island, a lean, young boy, with black hair falling to his shoulders, around the age of 15 is sparring with a stocky, young man that looks to be a bit older, with spiky blond hair in a clearing in the forest. The two went back and forth exchanging blows and weapon strikes until the black-haired boy paused for a moment and said, "Wait, Leon, did you hear that?" Leon, however just continued towards the boy and shouted, "I'm not falling for that, Bo." as he swung his sword towards Bo's midsection. Bo managed to recover in time to block the strike with his metal staff, using his left forearm to reinforce his defense, and hit Leon with a jump kick to the left side of his face knocking him down.

Bo then stuck one of the bladed ends of his staff at Leon's neck as he briefly closed his eyes before speaking: "Some pirates are rioting and destroying the village. We have to do something."

"Well, where's the old man?" asked Leon.

"Master Ming's still not back from his trip. He's supposed to return today." responded Bo.

Leon grumbled before muttering, "Damn old man, it's his fault we've had this problem and he's not even here to deal with it."

Todai Island had always been a place that pirates raided or visited due to its location: it was on the path to the Grand Line and unlike many of the islands around them, it was not affiliated in any way with the World Government, which although they weren't particularly active in this part of the North Blue, many still feared the possible repercussions from the omnipresent power. But, ever since Zande Ming made this island his home, other pirates decided to retire to the quaint island, and that caused an increase in fights and violent action on the island as some of the pirates were a bit rough around the edges, but also because up and coming pirates either didn't believe the rumors or they wanted to make a name for themselves by taking down a pirate who'd traversed the Grand Line before even going there themselves.

"Stop complaining and follow me, besides, it could be fun." remarked Bo before asking, "Where's Ray?"

"That pansy? He spends all his free time cooking."

Bo knew Ray wasn't in the dojo, so he settled that he was already somewhere in the village and asked, "What about Emma?"

Leon once again responded indignantly: "Why would I keep track of your 'girlfriend'?"

Bo merely grumbled at Leon's comment and motioned for Leon to follow him.

Leon began to follow Bo, but first commented, "You don't even care about the twins, huh?"

Bo waved it off and stated, "Those two are always together; they can watch each other's' backs."

Leon and Bo then began to rush towards the village to help end the commotion. Bo knew the rest of their little group wouldn't be too far away. They all had their reasons for fighting- enjoyment, protect the village, protect their loved ones, or simply... an escape from reality- but each of them were among the best fighters on the entire island and they worked to maintain the peace.

On their way, Leon grabbed a man, who was running away from the scene, by the collar and asked him what was going on. The man hurriedly explained that the visiting pirates had gotten drunk and rowdy, but the real problems started when some of them lost money in a poker game and accused old 'Calico' Jack (a retired pirate) of cheating. A bar fight ensued and it soon spread throughout the village due to how big the pirate crew was. A smirk came onto Leon's face as he contemplated all of the people he'd get to fight.

Once they neared the primary fighting, they both immediately saw Ray fighting off a number of pirates using two kitchen knives. Bo also thought he heard Emma somewhere nearby, but before he could make a move, he and Leon were overrun by attacking pirates. Leon smiled widely at all the lambs just running to the slaughter. Bo meanwhile was deftly avoiding gunshots and sword slashes while trying to make it over to Emma. Bo knew she was a more than capable fighter, but he was most protective of her.

Bo and Leon managed to whittle down the waves of enemy pirates after a while as many of them became somewhat hesitant to approach the duo. The momentary lapse in constant fighting allowed Bo to finally search out Emma. She was surrounded by a large number of big, burly men and her baseball cap had fallen off allowing her ebony hair to flow freely. Still though, she was managing to hold off and take down many of the pirates. She was slightly more agile than Bo, and unlike most of the others, she learned how to effectively use almost any weapon as opposed to mastering just one. This combination made her capable of ducking under weapons, jumping over enemies, and making slight movements to avoid bullets, swords, and spears, all while taking the pirates' weapons and using them to stab, slash, and shoot the oncoming horde. But, judging by her location on the battlefield, she had likely been fighting longer than the rest of the group and consequently she looked as if she was beginning to tire and the mob of pirates could soon overrun her by sheer numbers alone.

From where he was, Bo could see that Emma clearly outclassed the sloppy pirates as a fighter, but their pride wouldn't let them back down from a female, much less a teenage girl. So, she wouldn't get even a moments rest like he and Leon, and possibly Ray, were briefly afforded.

Bo tried to move forward to help Emma, but as soon as he made a move that way, it seemed as if the battle closed in around him. Now, in order to get to Emma, he'd have to fight all of these pirates, and to top it off, he still had no clue as to where Taylor and Tyler, the twins, were. The situation was getting worse and worse with every passing moment.

Ray was backed into a corner just the way he liked it; if he could see them he could beat them and no one could attack from behind. Leon was surrounded swinging his sword like a wild man seemingly with no direction whatsoever, but he knew exactly what he was doing. Wide, sweeping arcs so no one could get close, yet he was able to put all his strength behind every swing. Meanwhile, Bo was making little headway as even more pirates swarmed off of the three galleon ships sitting in the bay. Bo jumped back to beside Leon and shouted, "I need to get closer! I need your help."

Leon looked to him and asked, "You want to do that?" When Bo nodded his head, Leon swung his sword in a circle around him to create room and proceeded to lower his center of gravity while spinning his sword by its handle like a baton, switching it from hand to hand so that the blade began to act like a buzz saw and would cut down anything in its path.

After clearing the pirates closest to Leon's back, Bo jumped onto Leon's shoulders and crouched to gather strength and energy in his legs as Leon ran forward carving a path through the pirates. Once Leon got to a mass of pirates too large to cut through, Bo jumped high into the air and forward over the pirates, though some tried to reach him with their swords. What worried Bo, though, was the fact that, even from his position above the chaos, he could no longer see Emma.

He came down spinning his staff so fast that the blades at each end of the staff cut down anyone unlucky enough to be below him as he screamed, "Dive Bomb". Once he'd cleared a landing spot, he stabbed one end of his staff into the ground and used it to balance and spin himself to deliver powerful kicks to anyone within range. Finally, he twisted his body in the air, pulling his staff out of the ground in the process, and made a final sweeping swing at the farthest distance his staff could reach before landing safely on the ground.

Bo hated using that move because of how sore it made his legs from concentrating so much strength and energy into a single point, but it soon paid off as after taking down a few more pirates, Bo was right next to Emma. But…Emma was lying on the ground, beaten. She was heavily wounded and bleeding profusely, just barely clinging to life as a large pirate who seemed far stronger than the others lumbered above her ready to bring his sword down to deliver the finishing blow, but before he could, Bo delivered a flying kick to the man's ribs knocking him away.

The man quickly stood up and glared at Bo. "First I have to step in because my men can't take down a little girl;" he said as he sent a chilling glare to each of his crew standing around causing them to shrink back before continuing, "now I'm bothered by another brat?" he finished, once again glaring at Bo.

Bo gripped his staff tighter as he snarled, "You did this?" motioning towards Emma's battered body. "You'll pay."

"Oh? What can a brat like you do against a man with a 30 million beli bounty?" boasted the pirate captain, with a wicked grin.

Bo responded by charging and jumping at the much bigger man delivering a powerful downwards swing, but was easily tossed back by the powerful pirate showing that trying to overpower the large man would prove fruitless. This left Bo with only speed, but due to his sore legs, Bo couldn't run around the pirate captain and attack his blind spots so he opted to attack with a flurry of thrusts aimed at the pirate's midsection and head. He caused a number of cuts and scratches, but the experienced pirate deflected any serious strikes and pushed Bo off of him.

Before Bo could launch another attack, the pirate jumped forward with surprising agility and used a variety of attacks to try and finish Bo. It took everything Bo had just to defend against the onslaught, and with the burning sensation in his legs, he wasn't sure he'd be able to get out of the way.

As the pirate launched a final downward swing of his sword, Bo readied himself and only managed to survive the strike due to the staff being made of highly resilient wapometal.

Before the pirate captain could deliver another powerful strike, he was distracted as two of his ships were suddenly cut in half by a massive air wave. Bo couldn't help but express relief as he released a deep breath and muttered, "Master Ming is back."

At this, the pirate captain towering over Bo was visibly shaken and paused before asking, "The Zande Ming?" Bo's knowing nod and arrogant smile told him all he needed to know. He'd heard that Zande Ming was on this island, but he didn't believe such a powerful pirate was actually in this part of the North Blue. He just figured the few who told the tales were weak and delusional.

After regaining himself, the pirate captain ordered his men to get back to the remaining ships just as Ming docked a ways away and began moving towards the commotion.

Bo's relief was short lived, though, as he finally spotted Taylor and Tyler for the first time during this whole ordeal. Unfortunately, the twins were peeking out over the railing of the pirates' main ship. Bo figured they took out a few before deciding this would be the time to make a quick buck. Those two usually avoided direct conflict if there was something greater to be achieved, usually money and gold to be stolen.

It was too far a drop from the large ship to the ground to land without injury (they were too self-absorbed to willingly put themselves in a situation where they thought harm was probable) and neither had learned how to swim so they were stuck. Bo looked around for Ray and Leon, but they were too far away leaving only Bo.

He ignored the pain in his legs and ran after the pirates, cutting down all in his path, to save his friends. He continued getting closer to the ships, but was stopped by an unexpected elbow and fist simultaneously hitting his face. He was knocked back and struggled to stand on his burning legs- they desperately needed a break- as numerous pirates ran past him, some over, while punching and kicking him as payback. He was just lucky they were in too much of a hurry to actually take the few seconds necessary to stop and kill him. With the pirates constantly pushing him back down, Bo was unable to stand up, much less continue forward. Once they were all past and Bo could get up, he could only look on as the remaining two ships sailed away and he saw his friends cornered by the pirates attempting to talk their way out.

In the following days, the village returned to normal shortly afterwards as people healed up thankful that no civilians had been injured, but for Bo, it would never be normal again- two of his best friends, family, had been taken away on the pirates' ship and were probably dead. Making matters worse, Emma died shortly after the conflict from the injuries she sustained in battle.

[Present Time]

Bo looked up and at Ray for the first time since they had started speaking and sounded remorseful as he spoke. "Hey Ray... what if I said it did have something to do with that? Would you leave me to deal with all of this on my own?"

Ray stopped and looked Bo in the eyes as he said, "You know I'll always have your back - me and Leon both. We owe our lives to you." Ray looked toward Bo for a bit longer to make sure he understood then turned around and started walking away.

When Bo thought Ray was out of earshot, he whispered, "Thanks." and let a small smile come across his lips. He was truly thankful for such great friends, but honestly, he figured Leon would stay if only for the promise of bloodshed and fighting.

Once that word escaped Bo's mouth, Ray stopped and asked in a low voice, "What's your goal?"

Bo simply responded, "...Revenge."

Ray could only shake his head before saying, "Be sure to dig two graves."

There was a short pause as Bo pushed himself off of the wall and started walking in the opposite direction of Ray, muttering, "Gladly."

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