"Captain of the Four Knights..." Rink said. "So, he's the strongest of them?"
"Oh, no... there's one more of them, that fire was definitely her doing... Cabiru. They all have the same rank, but she's the most dangerous of them... never actually fought her before, though."
"My elder sister so dislikes being in charge of things, you see."
"Too many details to keep track of," a female voice said. From a nearby alley, a muscular woman with red hair in a long red braid and a toothpick in her mouth emerged and walked up next to Cacira. She was wearing a fuzzy light brown sleeveless jacket and shorts over a dark red unitard, holding a lit torch in her right hand and three unlit ones in her left. "So that's the one who broke Roland out of jail."
"That it is. The banshee, Rink Kazai. Or is that Sonya Martinson?"
"Is that- is that seriously what you call me? The banshee?"
"Not to your liking, is it?"
"Couldn't you have come up with anything better? Like... 'the singer', or... I don't know, 'harmony'? Around these parts, I'm known as the 'magic voice', how about that?"
"...you do understand that these epithets aren't meant to sound positive."
"Even banshee is too flattering!" another female voice said, followed by another two familiar people appearing from the adjacent alleys. A woman with blue armour, and a man in a brown leather jacket.
"Ah, yes, my younger siblings have some grievances to take up with you too," Cacira said as Cagizo and Carime joined him and Cabiru.
"All four of you are here? Roth must be really desperate."
"How so?" James asked.
"Usually they just operate one or two together at a time... even when they brought me in, it was only Cagizo and Cacira."
"Still, if they're only four, we've got the numerical advantage."
"Don't underestimate them, blondie... it took four of us to beat two of them at W4."
"Yeah, but that was their turf," Rink added. "This is my stage. And even more than mine... we've got someone who knows every nook and cranny of Avasine by heart with us."
"I'm not gonna let you hurt this city!" Mirise exclaimed. "You shouldn't even be here! Avasine has always been neutral ground!"
"Yes... it's been a safe haven for all," Cacira replied. "But as your little group has demonstrated, allowing safe havens for pirates to exist inevitably leads to problems. Avasine has been tolerated for too long... we have decided that enough is enough."
"Just... just leave! Leave my dad alone!"
"If you were all to come with us, then perhaps we could be persuaded to withdraw..."
"Fat chance," Allen replied.
"So, where's your other friend... Flint?"
"He is not here."
"A shame, I had looked forward to meeting him. But we'll find him once we've taken care of you, then."
"Big words," Rink said as she pulled out a tuning fork. Mirise started transforming her hair, as James and Muse pulled off their hoods and Muse took out her bow. "So how do you wanna do this? All out?"
"The archer girl is mine!" Carime exclaimed when he spotted Muse, and took a step towards her. "Don't anybody dare interfere!"
"Seems like he really wants you to deal with him," Rink said.
"Fine," Muse replied and looked at him. "If that's what it'll take to get out of here..."
"Attack!" Cacira shouted and did a running handspring towards Rink. Carime ran towards Muse, Cagizo ran a few steps before launching into a roll aimed at Allen, and Cabiru also seemed to have her sights on him.
"Here they come!" Rink exclaimed and held up her arm guard, striking it with a tuning fork. James remained next to her, pulling out a pistol and his dagger. Muse let an arrow fly towards Carime as she started stepping backwards, avoiding a strike from his whip. Allen managed to sidestep Cagizo's roll, so she went careening past him into the market square, crashing through some stalls on the way. Cabiru, however, managed to land a shoulder tackle on him followed by a swift swing of her lit torch, sending him backwards and causing some of his fur to catch fire.
"Allen!" Mirise exclaimed and ran after him, with Cabiru following.
Meanwhile, Rink had launched a sound bullet and let out a scream towards the approaching Cacira. It slowed him down only slightly, but Rink and James managed to dodge his leg coming down towards them, his heel loudly impacting and leaving a hole in the ground. With no pause, he thrust himself back up with the same leg, launching into a punch, which Rink countered by striking his wrist with her arm guard and pushing him back with another scream. He did a backflip and landed a short distance away from them.
"With you shrieking like that, how could we call you anything but a banshee?" he stated.
"You need to learn some manners," James said and aimed his pistol at Cacira.
"If you think I can't dodge something that obvious, go ahead and fire!"
"Hold on!" Rink shouted and held up her hands. "Both of you. Just for one second."
"Don't think tricks like that will work on me."
"I promise, I'm not trying any trick. Just... I've got one question, before we do this. A question that the Marines, if anyone, might know the answer to... and you probably want to hear it."
"What are you doing?" James whispered, still keeping his pistol trained on his target.
"Fine. Just make it quick."
"Now, about one month ago... an island here in West Blue was attacked. My... or, I mean, the mayor's wife was murdered. The person responsible was a large bear zoan, who escaped on a big, black ship and disappeared... I'm trying to figure out who or what that was. I have to know!"
"A black ship, you say... could it actually be...? Was there, by any chance, a thunderstorm at the time of the attack?"
"...you do know something! Yes! It had been storming for days, and on the night of the attack there was a massive thunderstorm!"
"So they've come to West Blue after all... where was this?"
"Somewhere outside of the Marine's influence, and I'm gonna keep it that way."
"Give it up," Cacira said. "Even if you could leave Avasine again, you should just count yourselves lucky for getting away with your lives after encountering the Demonkin."
"The- that's what you call them? Kinda over the top, don't you think? Were the Marines always this bad at names? But please, just tell me. Even if I lose to you here... they killed the person I loved the most. I have to know!"
"You'll have to take it up with them, since the Demonkin is what they call themselves. We don't actually know much about them, and we haven't confirmed the identities of any of them, but we do know that there is at least one zoan among them... and it's a bear. They have no consistent MO, but they always seem to strike under the cover of a thunderstorm... and they rarely leave any survivors."
"So even in the Marines, there's nobody that knows anything more about them?"
"Nobody who's faced them and lived to tell the tale was in any shape to remain in the force afterwards... with one exception."
"And who would that be?"
"You tell me where they attacked, and I'll give you the name... not that you'll have any use of it."
"Fine. But you have to promise that you leave the citizens of that island alone, they don't need you to come interfere when they're in mourning! And that none of you four, or your commander, ever go there!"
"You have my word... if only because they are a much higher priority target than you."
"I'm probably stupid for trusting the word of a Marine, but alright... it was on the island of Gondol."
"Gondol... that's not a place we hear much about."
"Now tell me!"
"If anyone knows more about the Demonkin... it'd be Rear Admiral Lydia Spaulding."
"Black Iron Lydia, a true prodigy among the Marines. The only soldier to ever have faced them and come out of it unharmed. After she had been promoted to Captain, she served on a base in South Blue that got attacked by them... and she was the sole survivor. Even with everyone else lost, she alone defended it until reinforcements could arrive and the Demonkin retreated, and she did it while pregnant!"
"So where can I find her?"
"Forget it," Cacira said. "She got a permanent assignment in the Grand Line five years ago. You're not even gonna be leaving this city, much less West Blue."
"Well, I gotta thank you for the information... so we might even go easy on you!" Rink said and struck her arm guard with a tuning fork as James pulled the trigger on his pistol.
"Are you alright?" Mirise asked as Allen stood up, patting out the fire on his chest.
"Yeah, just a little singe... but it's about to get worse," he said and glanced at the two attackers they were now standing in between. "I hope you're ready for this... we're up against a nasty pair here."
"I've never been more ready," Mirise replied and picked up a broken off table leg from one of the stands Cagizo had knocked down.
"Is this what you've sunk to, Roland?" Cagizo loudly asked. "Hiding behind little girls?"
"Stop saying that!" Mirise shouted back. "I'm not just a little girl! I'll show you that I can protect this city!"
"You wanna keep underestimating her, be my guest," Allen chuckled. "But you know that Flint guy you're looking for?"
"What about Flint?" Cabiru replied.
"She beat him in a fight once."
"Is that so."
"It's true, I did!"
"Is that supposed to impress me?"
"Just thought you'd like to know what you're up against."
"That won't change anything, and I won't show any mercy. But you're associating with the wrong types, kid."
"They're my friends."
"Do you even know what he's done?"
"No, but now I've seen what you are doing! You just walk all over people!"
"We're maintaining the peace."
"No, you're not," Allen growled. "You just want to force everyone to adhere to your idea of peace. Anyone who doesn't agree with you, even if they're not violent, you label as criminals. You try to convince the common people that pirates are the enemy, and then you abuse your position as the 'good guys' to do whatever you feel like, claiming that it's in the name of justice! Sure, there's violent pirates that have done a lot of horrible things... I've experienced it myself. But they don't do it under the shroud of a fake 'justice' that's only there to protect the already privileged!"
"Those are some big words from a murderer!" Cagizo shouted from behind him.
"You know damn well why I did what I did!" Allen screamed back. "But you're never going to admit that. Telling the whole story about me would mean having to acknowledge the corruption that goes all the way to the top. How you cover up the crimes of your own and pin extra crimes on the already disadvantaged. You're not maintaining peace. You're maintaining a status quo where you get to decide who's a hero and who's a villain. And there's no greater villain for you than the people who threaten to change that status quo. Like me. Flint. Kazai. Even this girl, who was just worried about her dad, is someone you consider an undesirable element now."
"We serve the World Government!"
"You're the World Government's lapdogs, you just don't want to admit it!"
"Enough!" Cabiru bellowed and pointed her burning torch at Allen and Mirise. "Ready, 'zo?"
"Ready when you are, sister."
"Then let's bring these undesirable elements in," Cabiru said and spat out her toothpick. "Alive, preferably..."
"Roth must really miss me," Allen snickered and went into his full hyena form, looking at Mirise. "Let's do this."
"Right," Mirise said as Cabiru and Cagizo charged towards them.
"Alright. Now it's just you and me, archer girl," Carime said. He had chased Muse into one of the side streets, where a group of Marines had set up a blockade further away.
"You and me and those guys," Muse said, glancing at the blockade while aiming an arrow at Carime.
"Oh, don't worry... they won't interfere. I'm not letting anyone stand in the way of the payback I'm gonna give you!"
"Still mad about the arm, I take it."
"Oh, I'm gonna make sure none of your arms can hold a bow after this, archer girl!"
"Okay, my name's not 'archer girl'," Muse said. "It's Muse. And that'll never happen."
"I've seen your tricks already, and this time you're on your own!"
"Seems to me like you won't have as much room to swing your whips around here, with these buildings around..."
"I've fought in tighter spaces than this."
"Let's just get this over with," Muse said and nocked an arrow on her bow, aiming at Carime. "So I can get out of here."
"You're not going anywhere," Carime responded.
Not bothering to reply, Muse let the arrow fly.