In Death's Ground
A knock on the front door of his house let Kuzan look up from the tea he was sharing with Evermist, his youngest daughter. "Check who's on the door, please, will you?" It was late afternoon, and the weather was oddly gloomy, like the day Whitebeard sought and found his death, and the air smelt of rain.
"Certainly, chichiue," the teen smiled and got to her feet. Elegant as her mother (but cursed with his hair in a long variant), Evermist was strangely enough the odd-one-out of his children - she had a total lack of ambition, which accounted for the fact she was "just" a Warrant Officer who worked the map and compass archive of the Navy. But Kuzan had little time for the musings, for the teen returned with a box. "It was the mail, chichiue."
Flashing a smile, he accepted the delivery, and sorted out the letters. "Oh, they all wrote. Well, let's see what your siblings tell… are you sure you don't want an assignment at sea?"
"Who is going to keep track of you and hahaue then?" she countered. "By the way, when will mother come home?"
"Oh, you know her. Theo said they have a big operation to coordinate with some of Borsalino-san's troops, so it might be a bit later than usual." Sipping his tea, he handed her a small package. "Via apparently had something to show to you."
"I just hope it is not one of her ideas of a joke again. Olivia-nee has no sense of humor whatsoever."
Borsalino sat down in the small garden with a sigh, watching his son and daughter stroll alongside each other, joking along the way. "What are you thinking?" his wife asked from his side so he turned to smile at her. The dark haired woman's jet black hair was pinned elegantly and stood out sharply from her pale skin. The fine kimono she wore did little to hint at the strength she had to have in order to be the wife of an admiral, and the eldest of them at that. "I always know when something is bothering you."
As if to emphasize that it was obvious, his grandson tugged at his coat with a pout. Bending down to lift the tyke, he tossed him up quickly to amuse the child while he thought of an answer to give his wife. "We're at a turning point, Suikô-chan," he finally admitted. "And I don't know which road the world will take now. It just makes me… uneasy."
"Never knew you to enjoy the straightforward path that much," she teased him slightly. "It took you years to even court me after all." Shaking her head, she held out a hand. "Come. Let's ban the public from my bathhouse and wash away your troubles."
"That would take a while. Would you have the time, hmm?" he teased with a sly smile while his two children groaned at them.
"They are never going to stop," his daughter shook her head but she saw what she knew was her father's way to stop from being stressed out: laugh about something and let his wife distract him, lest he would go overboard about it like he did in the aftermath of Sabaody. Plucking her son from his arms, she waved him off. "Just do everyone a favor and use the door, dad."
"I am capable of using a door," the admiral whined before thinking of the last time when he had used a door but with his foot… And the door may have flown into a ship's cabin but they did not need to know that. Unfortunately for him, the thought made him wonder about her condition but he pushed it away for now. He could do nothing about it and would only be a hindrance for her health and for Sakazuki if he bothered with it, so he simply followed his Yamato Nadeshiko to the holy land of relaxation.
"Right, today's final exercise is the Three Times Round The Land!" Garp announced to the cadets. They had dubbed an instinctive fear to anything training related that Garp named. "Which means you have to do that with a nice, hearty song. Ensign Coby here will lead you, so don't fall back! Anyone who can't keep up runs three extra round the island! And then I'll be the one shooing you!"
Fear at the prospect of having to train with the boss himself - not his apprentices or his right hand man - had everyone quickly resolving to stick to the unit no matter what. "Sir, yes sir!"
"Good. Coby, set out."
"Hai!" Taking his spot at the side of the formation, the teen took a deep breath, and took off, the cadets on his heels. "I don't know but I've been told…"
I don't know but I've been told…
"Being a Marine will never get old." Coby did set a pace that was challenging enough to not bore himself, but easy enough to keep up for three entire rounds around Marineford Island for the others.
Being a Marine will never get old.
"HQ gotta keep things right…"
HQ gotta keep things right…
"Surrender or prepare to fight." At least that's what is best in the end.
Surrender or prepare to fight.
"If they're dumb enough to come near…"
If they're dumb enough to come near…
"Pirates always freeze with fear!" Usually. To his satisfaction, the class was apparently determined not to suffer Garp's version of the Round The Land.
Pirates always freeze with fear! they declared.
-Back at the Plaza-
Garp smiled after the class. In only a short amount of time, they had shaped up quite nicely (partially due to them witnessing his and Bogart's awe-inspiring training of Coby and Helmeppo, and partially at the prospect of otherwise serving Coby for target practice). What's next… oh, academics, right. Wish Senny was here. The thought however sobered the Instructor up. What's taking him so long up there? It should never take so long to turn in your hat. Are they really putting more hurdles in his way? Now?! There was no way to tell. Sengoku was still up in Mariejois. And don't get me started on my little Andy…
-Marineford Infirmary, ICU-
Andrea's body was surrounded by some of her greatest fears but she had no way to know, protest or even be able to look at them with her current state. The machines around her were humming as some of the screens flickered, remarking on her unchanged condition. Vegapunk looked over it all with a shake of his head before calling out to the staff, "Where are her blood results?"
His answer was as disrespectful as it could get - a clipboard in the face. "Read it yourself," Natsuko (who was also Chief of the Surgeons' school) grumbled, readjusting a liquid nutrient flow. "I have to keep her alive you know."
"And I've done that in the past," Vegapunk huffed before turning to look at the results and frowning. "This can't be right…"
"You know it's right since you did it yourself! And I did it again, you doofus!" the surgeon exploded with a hiss. "She's basically breaking down. A coma isn't about one's will to live, but the ability to, and you know it."
Flinching slightly, he looked over at the slumbering vice admiral, wondering not for the first time and hopefully not for the last about her hospital stays. "She's pulled through so much that thinking that she might not feels unusual. That willpower she displayed gave me hope she could power through this but it might have been too late."
"Tell me something I don't know. If I just had reached her with the dose of NHC10 before she went down, it would probably just have been a matter of extreme recovery, but she snuck out on me, and this is the result," Natsuko sighed, sitting down at Andy's side. "They just can't stay put for a whopping ten minutes."
"What did the admiral say when you got there?" Vegapunk did not know much about that admiral as most of his acquaintanceship had been with Admiral Kizaru, and Sôkanjisui Shiroyoru, but he had heard his share of stories.
"Basically nothing." Natsuko shuddered at the memory. "He was totally out of it. Kept on saying, 'I just came back' and other variations of that phrase. I had to fly-carry both of them up here."
"He's just sitting out there in the waiting room isn't he?" The doctor knew it would be good for Andrea to have someone not family there for her but would this be for the best?
"Please. Do you know anything about this man? He won't leave, even on pain of death. That's the kind of man he is," the Zoan sighed. "It was impossible to get him to let go. I had to knock him out with acupressure. He'd be livid to be left out any further."
"We need to make sure there are no disturbances. If he erupts at us, it would likely worsen and hasten her condition dramatically."
"Already taken care of. Put a kairôseki band on his arm. I do work with fruit users far more often than you do, despite all your research." She shook her head again. "I'll better get Aokiji-san to restrain him before you give them their options."
"They won't like it at all," Vegapunk knew for certain. "Vice Admiral Garp's reaction wasn't pretty either…"
"Why are you still alive then?" the surgeon murmured as she turned to leave. "Get that Privateer doctor here too. He might be of use."
"He does have potential and speaking of that, has her brother been alerted? Privateers tend to talk to one another and they did interact during that one mission quite a bit. There's a chance that once we contact that Trafalgar Law that he would assume that her twin knows."
"Just what we need… Another logia to come here and potentially disrupt things. From what I've heard about that man, he has a fiery temper so if he does know." Natsuko wiped her brow before looking over another sensor that started to follow the comatose woman's heartbeat. "We should leave it to Garp to inform her twin. The boy won't try anything against him. Well, later." And she was gone.
Glancing over the vitals, Vegapunk slunk into a chair to watch her breathe slowly. She always had puzzled him as a child but now, he was outright bamboozled. You picked a bad time to be so free with your life. He remembered how scared she was when he first came to examine her, the sniffling at the sight of needles, her forlorn expression whenever she would be checked up on by him. Children at that age shouldn't have to fear mortality so much. Even earlier that day on looking in on her, he saw her thin frame and knew but he did have an attachment to her. She was an interesting and genuinely kind child and it would be an utter shame to have her fail to brighten up someone's life. Treatments for you are going to have to be extreme if you want a semblance of a normal life.
Walking towards one of his research books, he pulled out his latest work on the Pacifista project he had recently put Bartholomew Kuma under and looked it over for some ideas or sparks of inspiration to hit him. It was not a preferred option but he preferred to have something to work with rather than nothing to hope for at all. Glancing back at Andrea's scarred palm, he thought of an option he had offered her as a child: amputation. Unfortunately, that would only solve part of the problem and not the major part such as her being in a coma so that was not a priority treatment to consider. He had barely heard Natsuko walk back in until her voice called to him with irritation. "Would you really do that?"
Vegapunk looked down and realized he was still grasping the book on his research before shrugging guiltily. "What would you do to save a patient?"
"Make sure they have a life and not a sham of one. You saw that Kuma… That isn't a life you should wish on anyone. I don't mind him having that done to him given who he is, but not to her. Anyway, I brought the chains for our restrained volcano." Behind her, the grim figure of Aokiji filled the frame of the door.
"Where is he?" the admiral asked with concern as he looked over at the comatose vice admiral. I can imagine how he felt having someone ripped away from him when he truly cared. There's nothing worse than not knowing.
"Right behind you," Sakazuki grumbled, still too out of it to bother snapping. Behind him, the nodachi and fur cap betrayed the attendance of one of the best surgeons on the Pirate side of the game. "Who knocked me out?"
"It was either that or her life, admiral," Natsuko replied neutrally. "Besides, I don't think you would like even more people see you like that. Hence the seastone band and the Ice person."
The words caused the magma man's jaw to set grimly as he looked over towards her. She looked peaceful in the sea of machinery but he would give anything to see her react or even freak out as that would mean she would be awake. She can't possibly stay like this… We've got some of the most brilliant minds here so they need to have a solution! "What's her condition?" he asked hoarsely.
Vegapunk shot his colleagues a look, then one to the only one in the room capable to stop the man from rampage, and nodded curtly. "Sakazuki-san. I am afraid it is not good news." He closed the door. "The basic truth is that she is in a deep coma, induced by a combination of negative factors that all amount to self-neglect. Unfortunately, with her having a lack of life force to begin with…"
"She is wasting away. Her system is slowly breaking down," Natsuko finished quietly. "And at the level of coma she's in, her will to live is of near-zero influence."
"What can be done?" Akainu asked as he felt like a hand was squeezing his heart. "There must be some solutions you've already thought of," he stated hopefully but after seeing her getting her nutrients from a machine, the hope felt incredibly hollow. "I don't want her to die or go on with this," he motioned to the machines and medicine surrounding her. "That's not a way to live."
"You might not like it but it may be nothing," Law spoke up as he nudged towards a book he saw on the table. Natsuko shot Vegapunk a hard glare for not putting it away but Law already had his hands on it and even held it out to the admirals. "Kuma is alive and…"
"No," Akainu hissed as his face grew red with barely contained anger. "This isn't what she'd want."
Vegapunk shuddered and was suddenly glad that his Zoan colleague had the foresight banishing the man's devil fruit powers while he still had been out of it, but he was even gladder for the ice that suddenly encased the man's feet, chaining him to the floor… Ice? Ice! That's it… but given her position on him, it's the king of long shots. "There could be a way but it is out of my hands if you go that route and even then, I cannot guarantee the success of even convincing this person to help you."
"Someone can help me where the greatest doctors of Marineford cannot?" The magma admiral's jaw was tense with the thought there was someone better than them. "Why would this person not help me? Do they have something against marines or is it something else?" He noticed Vegapunk and Natsuko give Aokiji a side glance which the admiral pretended to ignore in favor of glancing over at Andrea's condition but Akainu knew when it was an uncomfortable subject. "It's someone I pissed off, isn't it?"
Aokiji released him so suddenly that he stumbled. "Pissed off does not even begin to cut it in the case of my honored and beloved wife, Bakainu," he sighed, using the insistent derogatory puny nickname the man had earned himself over ten years ago as reminder just how bad the relation was. "There's only one person not a Tenryûbito whose face Theodora-hime can stand even less, and that's Dragon the Revolutionary. And Shiroyoru has a long memory."
The internal conflict within him did not last very long however in the face of the realization that not taking this option would leave Andrea like this for who knows how long until someone would pull the plug out of mercy. "She can do this?" Akainu walked slowly towards Andrea and touched her forehead gently. Vegapunk was about to say for him to be careful but a slight smack from Natsuko kept him quiet. "Aokiji, will she let me see her or will she just freeze me the minute I walk up to her to say something?"
"The best thing you can do is to ask the three people that made her who she is today," the ice user advised after a while. "With you personally, it's a lottery of which I don't like the odds if I may remind you of the last time you talked to her face to face."
"And why don't you help me?" The magma logia knew that his comrade normally would not help him so he could not help but wonder if the last mission the two of them were on changed anything.
The question should better not have been asked, for Kuzan's eyes turned hard as flint. "I am Theodora's husband, her consort, Sakazuki," he hissed icily, drawing the line. "In the end, my love and my loyalty are always hers. If you want something from her, ask her teachers, not me."
Sakazuki flinched, knowing that the man was speaking an essential truth. Abusing the trust between them for his own gain would not play in his favor and would only end up with him being burnt (if he was lucky). "I still need to take the chance," the magma logia insisted with his jaw set firmly. "Look at Andrea like this. She needs this. I must seize any opportunity I can to help Andy." He closed his eyes for a moment, wondering what lengths he would have to go to even to get an audience with her. Even without her not being here, she had backed him into a corner unwittingly… and the only way out was to fight. Death's Ground. That's what it amounts to. Asking her of all people in the world for a favor… "I need to think. Take this off me. Now."
"Gladly," Natsuko sighed, removing the band of sea-prism stone from the man's wrist. "But it is the condition for visiting, so I'll leave both here." She put the open band and key on the sideboard. "Your natural heat is not good for her just now."
He winced slightly as Andrea always found the warmth comforting and knowing that it would hurt her was more than enough motivation to use the band. "I'll prepare then. Keep her safe for me please." Sweeping out of the room, he felt no better than when he awoke without her near him, a headache and the draining feeling of seastone, in other words: He felt like hell. He knew however that approaching any of the three who to molded Shiroyoru to the woman she was today, while in such a conflicted and stormy mood, would likely not go well so he needed to calm down immediately. I should at least get her room in order and make sure she didn't leave anything like a plant to water or a pet fish she magically would pick up.
Finally dragging himself to the quarters, he unlocked them and blinked in surprise. Did she even get in here before going to the infirmary? There was a thin layer of dust on almost everything and it would have made him sneeze if he'd walked too far in without noticing. Sighing, he cleaned everything in the hopes that it would ease his mind enough to think of what to say. Words and politics were not things he excelled at but against those three, masters of it in different forms, he would have to try. Trust me to get the most difficult way. His "opponents" were naval legends, so much that older pirates called them the "Three Naval Demons": Garp the Fist, Sengoku the Great Buddha, and Tsuru the Great Tactician.
Glancing through her room, he cleaned the gaudy seagull that she had been given by the other two admirals, causing a sigh when he saw it. I really had gotten upset over this stupid thing before? It seems so insignificant now in light of things. Satisfied with the faint gleam it reflected, he placed it back where he found it and sat on her bed for a moment to think. The room felt so disused but knowing she could not sleep here but rather in the Intensive Care Unit hurt. She isn't going to be where she belongs… His heart clenched knowing that until she was awake and better, he would have to restrain his devil fruit otherwise he could hurt her.
Calmer and a bit more clear of mind, he gave a quick glance over the room. After making sure her few weapons were put in a safe location, he slipped out of the room, locking it with a key before sighing. He knew what choices he had before him and how difficult it was yet he already had his path selected for himself. He did not wish to bury her or watch as she faded in a coma, attached to a machine in a quasi-life. Out of the three he had to talk with, only two of them really knew Andrea that well and they would be the easiest for him to know but Tsuru would be the wildcard in this situation. I won't know until I try…
Going to ask for Shiroyoru's help without their advice would be akin to suicide given that the last time they had spoken, she had cracked his nose almost casually. Their advice would be absolutely necessary and hopefully the episode in the past between her husband and his woman would not cause too much of a problem but one would never know - Kuzan's wife was not exactly someone he really understood. This is a desperate man's gambit, he thought with a sigh as he trudged to his rooms. I can't let Andrea die. My Andy… I have a chance to help you so I can't give up! Knowing tensions would be too high to approach Garp, Sengoku was out of Marineford, and the fact that without the prior two it would be difficult to speak with Tsuru, he opted to attempt sleeping for the night. I hope your dreams are as peaceful as your face, my love. Reaching into the bed stand, he pulled out a favored bottle of sake and felt grim as he poured the alcohol into a cup.
Sabo's eyes ached as he felt the tears flow. He knew why he was drawn to this grave and while he had no personal connection with the great pirate buried within, he knew why he was there. "You're crying like a little girl," a familiar voice drawled. The blonde male tried to gather some of his dignity but it was lost when he looked upon his brother.
"Ace," he said softly as he sniffled. The flame logia seemed rather confused as to why Sabo was there and why he was crying but he shrugged. "I knew you'd be here."
"Because you're still practicing that weird psychic shit," the logia chuckled before setting out some cups of sake near the grave. "You never met Pops, did you Sabo?"
"No but I knew what kind of man he was," the revolutionary said vaguely as he wiped away his tears. He really doesn't know does he?
"What's up with your long face? If anything, I should be the one bawling like a baby." He took a sip of the rice wine and poured one out for the blonde while leaving two partially filled. "These are for Luffy and Andy," he explained simply.
"Ace… about Andy," he tried to begin but he felt a lump form in his throat. How do you tell him that his twin is dead?
"What about her? I can tell she's a bit under the weather but she'll be fine," he said dismissively as he sipped the alcohol serenely. "She accidentally ate the Old Man's fruit too. Pretty weird considering she coughed it out and retained some of the power still."
"I know she ate it… I was there." Ace did not show any surprise as he tilted his hat back.
"Surprised you two didn't have a better reunion considering how close you were." Sabo squirmed even more now before Ace rolled his eyes and slammed down his sake cup. "Ok, what the hell's up? This is awkward enough and it feels like I'm talking to myself."
"Ace… Andy's dead." Sabo knew the violent reaction he would get and did not flinch as he felt the logia pin him to Whitebeard's grave, his black hair flaming with rage as his devil fruit manifested.
"Never, ever, say those words to me again or you're no brother of mine." Sabo stared back but did not try to resist.
"Ace, I can't feel her anymore. The connection I forged with all of us, hers is broken." The impending headbutt hurt a lot more than he predicted, the fire singing his skin slightly.
"She's my fucking twin and I think I'd know if she was dead or not." Disgusted, he tossed his brother away from the grave, irritated to no end. "Your powers are weird as hell and aren't reliable all the time. Until you see her with your own eyes in the ground, don't you dare say that she's dead. I find it highly hypocritical in fact that you would say something like that considering how long you hid your death from us."
"Ace…" Sabo began, tentatively began to reach out but his flames flared across his body.
"This land is a restricted property in the territory of Marco the Phoenix where pirates may be granted leniency for visiting Whitebeard's Grave but that is through the office building located on the other end of the island. Under no circumstances are revolutionaries allowed." Ace's gaze hardened at the end of his spiel, knowing full well the fact it was almost word for word, the sign at the building. "Trespassers may be executed under penalty of law and a revolutionary that is trespassing definitely qualifies."
"I'll leave Ace," Sabo sighed sadly as he looked at the enraged older brother. He always was so protective of all of us… "If…" he stopped to correct himself when he saw the hard glint in Ace's eyes. "When Andy wakes up, tell her I'm sorry."
"I'll decide if I should pass on that message to Gol D. Andrea."
Sabo was stung by the cold behavior but turned away all the same, pain clenching his heart as felt the connection between the two of them weakening.
-Marineford, the next day-
Dreams were no escape for the magma logia and waking up to reality only made the sharp void of her absence even stronger. If she was awake… He groaned as he woke up, head aching slightly with the alcohol he had imbibed the night before. The pain and headache meant he was alive and if he was alive, he could still help her.
Glancing at the small mirror he had, he frowned seeing how his face seemed to show his emotional state all too easily and the gruffness of his face was not to his liking but he shrugged it off. I need to plan this day. I have no time to waste while her health is hanging in the balance. His stomach whined slightly at being neglected then fed alcohol the prior night but he scowled down at it, as if daring it to protest any further.
He heard the faint whistles in the distance, signifying the marine recruits were going to be trained. She would have probably been stuck out there by Garp to embarrass them into working harder. He gave a weak chuckle at the thought as he went to the window to see. Sure enough, Garp was shouting quite fiercely at the recruits with his subordinate, Bogart, watching over his superior carefully. The vice admiral may have seemed his normal, exuberant self but he saw more to the war hero. His motions were off, showing he did not sleep well either but there seemed to be an emotional weight he carried. I need to talk to him soon but the conversation must be private to everyone.
He frowned at the recruits, knowing that right now, there was no way he could speak with the vice admiral but he needed to formulate a way to try. Curry would have been a good way to approach him until he found out that being sent out to get curry was what distracted him from his granddaughter's side in the first place, only to come back with the food to find her gone. Having every marine's favorite food shoved in his face likely would bring up unpleasant memories and make the following conversations difficult. How would you discuss something important with your grandfather, Andrea? In an unbidden touch of humor, a memory of a certain series of pictures coursing for years through Marineford came to mind. The reason they were so infamous was the fact it showed the less-than-dignified antics of Garp and Sengoku together, usually when the latter was blowing a gasket and the former was laughing it up, but what most of these photographs had in common was showing the two elder marines' fondness for certain kinds of food (and he still didn't know where the surveillance snail was which did these pictures in Sengoku's office or who was behind that particular running practical joke).
I should be able to ask one of the mess hall staff about these foods. Donuts should be the safest out of them to pick and no one would dare ask me a question if I just scowl at them. Plan in mind, he decided to head to procure the sweet confection but mentally he was still buzzing with how exactly to keep the vice admiral's attention after the food would be gone. Despite how preoccupied he was with his thoughts, he did notice quite a few whispers and even a few people pointing at him. It took everything in him to not lash out at the people, particularly some of the marines who dared motion towards him with a shaking head. He did not want pity. He only wanted his girlfriend safe.
"Did you hear about his girlfriend?" one woman murmured softly, trying to be sensitive to the admiral's feelings but he could still too easily hear her question as well as the various people around replying. "It's a real shame but she's a marine after all."
"Aren't admirals supposed to be used to death?" a man questioned insensitively. "Like, wouldn't it make sense to be colder to the things around you?"
"Fools," a woman sneered as she looked at them all. "Have you seen how he acted before? This emotional display obviously showed the affection between the two. You'd be stupid to not see it."
The admiral did not know how much more of the murmurs and whispers he could take until he heard a voice stand out to him. "Admiral Akainu?" it questioned with a timid authority.
He saw the kid that Garp had taken under his wing, Coby, he remembered. "Yes?" he asked simply before remembering that if he was trained by Garp, he could possibly be of some help.
"I heard about Andrea-san," he said as he bowed his head respectfully towards the admiral. "I know she's in the ICU but…" He saw the people stare at him, some gaping at his bravery but he gulped as he knew it just had to be said. "She'll come back, I know it so please be patient with her!"
Akainu could not help the small smile that broke his tired face as he reached out towards the young marine with an extended hand. "Trying but I'm afraid she'll be the one who'll be patient with me." A few nervous chuckles broke out among them as the admiral motioned towards the mess hall. "Do you have a moment, ensign?" he inquired, to which Coby blinked owlishly.
"I do, sir." It felt unusual to be given attention from such a higher rank that wasn't on Garp's staff but Coby suspected it was not just to discuss the weather. "Is there anything I could help you with, sir?"
"Garp's favorite food. Donuts, correct?" Coby blinked, stupefied as he had often been subjected to the vice admiral happily talking about the joys of donuts and his glory days in a contest involving them but he never expected anyone to actually care about that knowledge.
"That would be a safe food to bring him," the ensign carefully replied. No need to give out too much information without any in return. "May I ask why you want to know? Any pictures about my superior and his food related hobbies I believe have already circulated around the whole base." Not like the Fleet Admiral is here to be provoked into another picture.
"I need to speak to him about something important," the admiral replied shortly, not in the mood to give anyone a detail they did not need.
"Ah… Andrea-san?" The admiral almost missed his step, causing the young marine to sigh. "It's fairly obvious sir, at least to me."
"The conversation I need to have with Vice Admiral Garp does involve her to a high degree," he confided finally. "I figured donuts would smooth this over and it would be appreciated if you assist in… helping me pick out donuts."
"I'll get them for you sir, no need to trouble yourself. When the chefs see me and hear the word donuts, I usually get enough," the teen admitted. "Garp-sensei is usually in his office at this time of the day, after the morning run."
Sensing the way out the young officer was offering, Sakazuki nodded tiredly. "Fine, I'll await him and you there."
For all his eccentricities, Garp has more in common with his best friend than one would like to think, Sakazuki mused as he sat in the man's academy office opposite of the "Hero of the Marines" and Grandmaster of the Meteor Fist style - there wasn't a single paper out of place, and the room was gleaming, like Sengoku's. He loves running a clean ship. Between him and said veteran, an absurdly stacked tray full of nothing but donuts would have blocked the view if not for his own height.
"You're here for a reason and not just to feed my habits," the vice admiral finally said after reaching for his fourth donut.
"That would be correct." The admiral was tempted to reach for a donut just to have something to bide some of the time but the dangerous way the vice admiral was consuming the treat as well as the fact he did not want to waste any time, told him it was best to refrain and just get straight to the point. "We rarely spoke to each other before I got to know your granddaughter."
The donut Garp held and was about to be eaten was spared the fate when the vice admiral put it back down onto the tray. "Very well then. Get to the point. When these kids get out of their academic classes, I need to get them to the firing range. You have until then."
"I have heard of a way that may help Andrea out of her state." Garp's eyes narrowed and he watched the admiral carefully before motioning for him to continue. "But I need your opinion on how to best talk to Shiroyoru."
"On your knees," Garp grumbled, his mood turning from sour to stormy. "Theodora's capacity for grudges is as legendary as her sense of justice. I am sure people told you already that the only person she can stand less than you is my good-for-not-much son, and he's the most wanted man in the world."
That's not a grouping I like to be lumped in with… Pride was a powerful thing that rarely relinquished hold over the people it held sway over but sorrow was an even more frightening concept. All it took was the thought of how eerie Andrea's breathing was with the machines, for him to take the man's advice to heart. "Thank you for your time," he said finally after realizing that the vice admiral would have nothing more to say. Sweeping out of his office quickly, he left the war hero alone in the office.
Massacring the donut from before, Garp spoke the moment Sakazuki crossed the threshold. "If you can wait until noon, then you should be able to talk to Sengoku. He is the one she'll listen to about things that she doesn't like. But really, stay humble or you'll regret it."
The admiral nodded his thanks with a brief glance and thought on Garp's words carefully. If it brings her back from this state she's in, I will be humble. Walking even further down, he saw Coby reading a book about some tactics he had been given. Akainu went over to him quickly, causing the youth to look up in confusion. "Thank you," he said simply, before walking away, to find his reasoning.
Everyone had been on high alert and more than aware of the fact that the volatile magma wielding admiral could possibly stop by and that proved true as he showed up to the entrance of the Intensive Care Unit, holding out his wrist so he could get the seastone restraint on and over with. "You really care about her," one of the nurses noted as she escorted him specifically to the room.
Akainu grunted in acknowledgement before he was left alone in the room, staring at the reason for his resolve. The various machines attached to her thin body hummed coldly as he glanced at the medicine being pumped into her body directly. He had made a point of learning what some of them did because although he did trust the authority of Dr. Vegapunk, one could not be too paranoid. Her body was lukewarm to the touch and unresponsive as he grabbed her hand to reassure himself of the path he would take. Her face was peaceful and not disturbed as she was unaware of his turmoil as she breathed softly, assisted yet again by machines. The admiral frowned as it had become second nature to warm the area around her with the innate heat from his devil fruit but he remembered that doing so at this time would endanger her health. I never believed I could care about someone so much, he thought as he ran his thumb over her knuckles before turning over her hand to look at the scar.
People should not be defined by a singular trait but glancing at the right hand of Gol D. Andrea revealed a lot about her. He traced over the calluses which were almost faded, from her work rebuilding Dressrosa before frowning at the starburst pattern that almost seemingly mocked him with their lack of light. The darker patch of skin surrounded the scar almost defiantly. He touched the scar barely and felt a slight increase of heat in response before it quickly weakened. I will fight for you, he vowed as he kissed her knuckles gently before sweeping out of the room.
"You can't keep visiting her like this. You'll disturb the healing process," a new medic protested but he was completely unaware of the fury that suddenly assaulted him. To the admiral's credit, he did not employ his normally overwhelming strength as he slammed the doctor against the wall. Only a small fraction would be necessary after all to get his point across.
"Keep her alive while I find the solution Dr. Vegapunk brought to my attention," he sneered as he pinned his darkest look onto the squirming medic. He was rewarded with a quick nod before the admiral released him and quickly shed the seastone that held back his nature. It's noon. Let's hope Sengoku is willing to help, he thought as he made way for the Fleet Admiral's office.
Thinking of what to say to the fleet admiral reminded him inherently of Monkey D. Garp and the protective nature that he held over all his grandchildren, blood related or not. Until recently, the concept of being so protective of one's family had been lost on the magma admiral. That's yet another thing that Kuzan had over me… Family is something worth it and that I see. I can't… No I refuse to go back to being alone! He knew his decision was made and if anything, his resolve was even more forged than it was earlier. He wanted a future with Gol D. Andrea, past and name be damned, but the only way that could happen is if she was able to pull through her coma. For her… I will sacrifice so much so that she can have a future she believed she would forever be denied. Looking up, he found himself in front of Sengoku's office and he sighed quickly, to clear his mind. Hopefully, he gives insight on how to appeal to Shiroyoru's nature. I just never understood how someone can have convictions that are actually older than one's own life, yet being stronger than through any of my convictions I could forge on my own. But if Andy can be saved by this, I'll just admit that defeat from my cadet days that I know nothing.
In those days, it was so easy to immerse himself with the justice he wanted to uphold. Any mistakes made along the way seemed justified with the results that they had achieved but looking back, was that right? He had no family to temper his more morally ambiguous actions and the only friend he really had was Borsalino but the man had his own family and duties to think of. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door.
I swear if anyone bothers me for something trivial again, I'll turn into my hybrid form and blast them into the sea, Sengoku thought bitterly while reading reports. His meeting with the Gorosei had not had the desired results, in fact, it had not yielded anything, so, in a desperate attempt to gain some time, he had pulled off a series of chaotic negative political stunts that rendered the entire Gorosei and Kong's staff so confused and infighting that his choice of successor was the last thing on their minds. Enough time to find out who exactly had the crapsack idea of suggesting Akainu as the next Fleet Admiral when the man couldn't even get along with his prize student. Who also happened to be the bloody head of the Kumori clan. It's amazing how short peoples' memories are. A knock interrupted his sour mood. "Yes?" he snarled.
Akainu blinked at the evident foul mood that the fleet admiral was in before clearing his throat. "It's Admiral Akainu," he began before continuing. "Is this a bad time, sir?"
"Come in. My day can't get worse, Sakazuki."
Tentatively opening the door, he noticed the foul temper was indeed evident when Sengoku's pet goat immediately fled the office in the short time the door was open. Walking in, he took a seat in front of the admiral's desk, noticing the slight amounts of paperwork but what stood out was the attitude the fleet admiral wore. "As bad of a time as this is, this needs to be said." The fleet admiral scowled but waved for the magma user to continue. "Is there some way for you to convince Shiroyoru to speak with me? It has to do with Andrea's current condition."
Sengoku's frown lessened slightly but his suspicions only increased. "I never knew you to value her opinion yet alone seek her out. Granted, you should have listened to her values a long time ago and now may be too late to even facilitate a civil meeting. Why would she want to listen and what would you have to offer her?"
"I'm different from how I was," he began slowly, sorting through his thoughts. "Andrea's condition is dire as you certainly know and humbling myself before her is nothing if there's a chance for Andy to emerge from the ICU, recovered and well." The admiral paused as he thought of the probability that Andrea would have wanted him to go through all this effort and he shook away the doubts that attempted to plague him. "Andrea just barely started to fight for her life and if supporting her helps… I will do anything."
Sengoku sighed bitterly. The man's humility was in a way extremely late. "That's not something you should say lightly. She'll take you by that word, and only if you are sincere about the situation. What brought on the ability to doubt your ways?"
"Punk Hazard… Having Gol D. Andrea as the person I want by my side… Seeing those drugged children then realizing and envying what a proper family is like has been an eye opener." He shook himself. "Seeing Marines more afraid of me than of the enemy was also not in favor of what I did so far," he conceded.
Look at that. He actually means to think about his past actions, the aging strategist thought grimly. Maybe… "You are aware that your actions in Dressrosa actually warrant calling in the Assembly to judge your misconduct? She was never one to overlook this, and it will be amongst the first things she'd tell me if, if I intervened on your behalf."
"So why was I not judged by the Assembly?" Things being done out of procedure did trouble him somewhat, even if technically, it was in his favor. Akainu knew also that over the years, he'd gotten away with a lot of things that usually called for the Assembly of the Flag Officers, making him wonder if there were politics behind most of his orders so far that ended badly. Is there another motivation behind just having the convenient, loyal marine? "Just because I actually performed excellently at Punk Hazard shouldn't exempt me from the prior failures, especially Dressrosa."
"It is refreshing to see you express doubt about what goes on in the world around you, but too little too late." He smiled bitterly. "I remember that until today, you fail to meet her eyes, ever since your horrid assessment by her as a cadet. Do you fear her judgment so much? If you cannot face her, she won't help her, and nothing I say will sway her."
"I want to face her because she is the only one that can help Andrea. I have failed to protect her before and now, I can't do anything. My powers aren't meant to heal. Maybe in the future, I can use them to protect a little more considerately but I can't refuse what has been done to Andy." He lowered his head. "I'd give anything if she'd help me."
You walked into it, live with it. I am sorry, Sakazuki, Andy. But for the sake of the world… I will play both of you, so we all may live. Sengoku felt bitter that he again had to make this kind of decision, especially with Andy's life on the line, but the admiral had given him just the tools to right a lot of things that were going wrong lately. "You say you give anything for her help? Then maybe, just maybe I can make her meet you, but I cannot promise she'd help. That is up to you making your case."
"But you know how she thinks and what she values more than anyone else I could turn to. Also I realize that the reverse applies. I don't understand the bond that goes beyond just that of a student… Hell I don't even know what that bond is like, but please, anything you can tell me to get an idea of how to even try making my case would help."
The Great Buddha was silent for a while, then, out of the blue, he asked, "Best of All the Lost Arts. Do you know that phrase?"
"Honesty. How could being honest…" He stopped. "You mean my feelings, don't you."
"I am quite sure Garp told you to be humble. Well, I tell you to be honest as well. Above all, leave behind all the doctrines that so far made up your life, they have no place in a talk with people like her, as you might have noticed in your regular confrontations with Kuzan," Sengoku advised.
"It's hard to cling to my doctrines too tightly with Andrea involved. The child of the infamous Gol D. Roger wasn't thought of as an ideal anything prior to her formal presentation. If anything, she placed herself out there to be used…" He paused as he thought of what came into his head immediately. Am I a victim of the government's manipulations as well?
"It seems you have a lot to think on. If you would leave my office, I have some work to do." Akainu nodded grateful as the fleet admiral had given him a great deal of information despite the relatively short amount of time he spent there.
Sengoku himself even felt like he gleaned a good bit of information but the thoughts were interrupted by the happy bleating of his pet returning upon the admiral's absence. Noticing the piece of paper stuck to the animal's collar, he snatched it, read it… and tossed his desk out of the window in rage, straight into the Courtyard of the Four Seasons, causing his pet to run in fear as he stomped out of said office. "Curse them!"