Haku quickly led the way as he descended first, ropes being thrown towards him as he quickly wrapped it around the pier as the Kirin settled itself in the docks.
Gesturing a thumbs up to the crew, it was quickly followed as the Firstmate descended alongside the first party as they carried hammers, bags and nails before looking around for the one in-charge.
“Attention, citizens! We’re the 373th Marine of G-1 base! Due to the storm, our ship has suffered damages and requires supplies!” The Firstmate hollered and announced their intention as Haku looked around and fell behind them.
Looks like the storm also hit the area. Haku noted as he brought his cap lower to hide his face out of habit as he looked from the sides and studied the village. It didn’t seem there was plenty of damage, beyond the windows, unbolted furniture or smaller buildings, everything seemed fine enough.
Means they don’t have to stay here as long.A shame.
He wanted to see this so-called music specialty.
“We don’t expect you to provide it for free, so for the time being, we’ll render services in exchange for materials!” The Firstmate stepped aside and gestured to them, the ones that was chosen to go out were one in charge of maintenance and repair of the Kirin.
“If you need manpower, then simply ask for it and we’ll provide it!”
That had every marines stand straighter as Captain Cadog of the Kirin finally came down, wearing the white flowing coat of the marines and the word Justice emblazoned on its back. The smoky pipe in his mouth and thick beard showed the stony gaze of the man as each step he took rung loudly before leveling his look at his Marines first then the crowd
“Sir!” Each of them returned with a perfect salute and slammed a foot down at his arrival. Haku also did the same, as it was now in front of the civilians.
However, undercutting that image of most Marine captains looked like in the East Blue was the far more casual blue turtleneck sweater and a black jacket. Even the usual ship captain hat was black color instead of the traditional white.
In fact, some sharp eyes would find it hilarious when they noted he was wearing a black jacket underneath the white jacket of the Marines. Alongside a bandolier of metal flask all around his belt, and its content being obvious with the scent of alcohol wafting.
It wasn’t long after the landing that two folk of clear import stepped out, Haku spotting the shorter of the two elders waving his hand in front of his face, likely having got too strong a whiff of the captains ‘aroma’. His bald head shone under the dawnlight, his back arched and a cane in his hand
“All this formality is making me a bit nervous…” The village leader remarked. Adjusting his spectacles, he admitted, “We don’t exactly get a lot of company out here.”
Behind him was a surlier sort. Haku could sense an aura: far from killing intent, but certainly a rough, uncommon sensation in his time in the East. A quarterstaff was slung over the back of his long tan overcoat. It looked worn and well used.
“Just a fair warning: this isn’t lawless land. We pay out taxes to the Conch Kingdom.” His arms were crossed over his chest, defensively.
Haku's eyes went to the Village Leader first, looking quite normal but not out of the ordinary.
The second one caught his eyes immediately.
It was subtle but flowing. Confident and able to go into a fight, as he extended his senses and eyes studying the latter.
This one fought, and fought well. He narrowed his eyes, an unexpected find. Though then again, perhaps it’s sensible. After all, you either get protection from one of the Emperors, Marines, or strong enough to handle threats yourselves.
“Of course, only bottom feeders wouldn’t do their investigation nor abide by the law set out.” Cadog tilted his hat at that, the former already acknowledging the words before looking to the Village Leader again.
Cadog gestured his head to the crow’s nest of the Kirin. “We won’t be long, just some repairs and it’ll be done. We’ll handle our own food and water supplies, trade you some even if we get a big enough catch.”
Though something about the other person tickled Cadog’s memories, had he seen him before?
He hadn’t been stationed in the East Blue for a long time, ever since he had been promoted and transferred to the Grand Line before heading to the Devil Seas.
But it tickled him, nevertheless.
Staring for a moment longer, Cadog then reached for a flask, uncorked and took a quick swig of it. Heedless of how many actual procedures, lectures and disciplinary warnings he would’ve received if it was done by any other East Blue Captain.
Something for him to look into.
Letting out a sigh after his drink, Cadog gestured to the crew for them to get to work.
“We’ll need to clear the area first, most of my crew will handle that. Assign our carpenters and shipwrights alongside yours.” Cadog ordered as he looked at the area and was much more focused now. “Pile them up, those that can be reused, put them aside, sort the others out and see if the villagers want them.”
“Anyone missing or injured? How’s the supplies on your end-?”
Haku quickly went to his task alongside the other crewmates that started descending from the ship as Cadog was now discussing and ironing out the details with the Village Leader.
So many things to keep in mind, but still, he focused on his work and cleared the area.
Without much thinking, he cleared a particularly large tree branch sheared off from the wind. He was about to start breaking it for easier transportation until a twitch of his eyes glanced towards a particular direction out of instinct.Someone’s watching?
While the Captain was preoccupied, most of the townsfolk either moving off or engaging with the Marines, he recognized the touch of eyes on him and kept them in the corner of his own. Three sets half hidden behind a nearby building: the tallest blue, then a green one and a pink one, both much shorter. There was some shifting, a few hushed words.
Haku pondered for a moment even as he dragged the tree branch and continued pulling at the fallen branch easily before breaking it into smaller pieces with his bare hands, a work that usually requires small machetes
Then moving onwards, he placed the things that looked like it still can be used like chairs, parts of the wooden window shutters, tiles that are still in one piece, and scrap metals that had been sheared off. Minusing the occasional bricks that were torn from chimneys due to age.
He zipped around in the blink of an eye despite the leisurely body language.
It took a brief moment, but he was done. Most of the items that were to be disposed stacked in one big pile, next to the contrasting pile of neatly stacked items that can be reused again with a little cleaning.
Haku barely broke any sweat at all as he adjusted his navy cap, looking satisfied with his work even as the other marines from the Kirin had moved deeper in the village to see what else they could do to help.
With that done, he looked to where he felt the stares come from. Oh, the locals.
He spied, only seeing a bare glimpse of them from their position. One looked to be his age, dressed as a nun, while the other two were younger. “Hello.”
He bowed and greeted them politely, a habit from his days in Wano. “Is there anything else I can do to help?”
The nun held up her hands. “Oh, no! You’re working hard enough already.”
The other two girls were clinging to the skirt of her habit. Tapping her fingers together, she wondered, “Er, actually…would it be a problem if we…helped you? Or at least shadowed you while you worked. Not that we’ll get in the way!”“Sure, can you show the way to the next area hit by the storm? I’m pretty much done here anyways.”
Haku nodded along and stepped back before giving a small smile.
The young nun lit up. “Of course!”
As they led the way, Haku's head tilted to the sides as he looked at the two younger girls following the nun.“Are they your siblings?”
He started off wrong intentionally, since he didn’t see much familial resemblance and that the eldest one wore those clothing related to faith, similar to shrine maidens and priest, but he recalled it also dealt with those orphans.
That, or they could be from different parents.
Still, it helps to break the ice. He then addressed the two little girls. “I’m not that scary, so don’t worry.”
The green-haired girl shirked away, while the youngest bluntly commented, “Are you a girl or a boy?”
She promptly received a bonk on the head. “Rue, you can’t just ask that!”
The older girl gave a prompt correction. “I feel like a big sister but we’re not related. I’m Catherine Coriander. This is Angelica Rue and Asafoetida Peppermint.”
Leaning in, she whispered, “Peppermint’s just being shy, she really likes the Marines.” “It’s alright. Nice to meet you, Catherine.”
Haku waved before he smiled at Catherine first then lowered his knees slightly to meet the two kids at their level. “Same for the two of you, Angelica, Asafoetida.”“As to your question, it’s a secret.”
He placed a finger on his lips and winked Rue. It was amusing to have a little fun now and then.“But the marines? That’s unexpected, nowadays, I hear more people wanting to be pirates than anything.”
Haku joked but that sentiment wasn’t exactly misplaced.
After all, fate might have been very different to him if he had boarded onto a pirate ship instead of the marines instead.“Anything you’d like to know about?”
Rue whispered, “Who’s Assfooetida?”
Coriander insisted, “You can use our given names, it feels weird otherwise, uh…”
She stopped, wondering, “Wh-what was your name?”“Ah, understood. My mistake, Rue.”
Haku sniggered inwardly at that as he stood straighter and placed a hand on his chest when he introduced himself. “I’m Haku, 373th Marine, G-1 base.”
Peppermint jumped in, “And where are you from? How long have you been a Marine? How did you join? Is it hard? Is your commander strong?”“Oh! I’m from East Blue as well. It wasn’t that long, I just started a few months ago.”
He answered without missing any beat at Peppermint questions. “I applied at the Marine base, trained, and then graduated.”“But yes, being a marine is hard. Between patrol, lost ships, and pirates.”
At that last question, Haku glanced to the sides for a moment in thought before answering. “Well, he’s better than the average Captain.”
Cadog knows Ryuo, the three basics, and was given a devil fruit long before that.
Indeed, he was above average.By Devil Seas standards at least.“He does have a lot of experience however. So rest easy, there isn’t much the East Blue has that we can’t handle.”
Peppermint gaped. “W-what can’t you guys handle? Isn’t the East where the pirates are weakest?”“Hold up!”
Coriander butt in. Looking around, she wondered, ”Did the boys go home? I’ll bet they’ll want to-”
There was a growl from her stomach, the young woman clutching her torso as she turned pink. ”Er, w-would you like to join us for breakfast?”“Well, strong as the captain is, even he can’t do anything if the weather or sea wave becomes hard.”
Haku knelt a little as he addressed Peppermint outburst, inwardly kicking himself for his poor choice of words. “Like our ship when it got struck by lightning.”
He then looked at their current area briefly before agreeing to her offer. “I’ll be glad to, please lead the way.”
The place was pretty much done, and it was in good hands anyway. It was time for the other mission to proceed.
Information gathering on the geography.
“Now now, don’t think you’re going to be able to get away that easily,” said the Village Elder as he, the old fighter, and Cadog moved on, the elder finding a place to sit, taking a bench still firmly in the ground. “We don’t get many visitors here, and you certainly seem like you have stories to tell! I’m sure most of us would rather our town be a little messy for the rest of the day than pass up the chance to meet some new folk.”
Cadog moved the tobacco pipe in his mouth from one end to the other and resisted the urge to sigh.
He let the elder sit first before moving to his own.
“Well, what stories do you want to hear first? If it’s the world, then the seas are still full of pirates as usual. East excluded. Same with the Grand Line and Devil Seas, but we’ll take those back one day.”
“But for us, not much of a story. We were passing when the storm hit,” Cadog gestured to the mast and started out a little vague at first. “Then that lightning struck, and here we are.”
From his bandolier, he took out another flask, uncorked it and offered it to the Village Elder first. The scent of a strong and oak came, signifying its origin as whisky rather than rum.
“That can’t be all the stories you have…” the elder mourned.
From behind him, the other older man said, “For the best. I’m sure the Captain would much rather get the repairs done and move on than spend a day appeasing a bunch of bumpkins.”
“If you insist, The Grand Line and Devil Seas are as troublesome as ever, however, our Admirals are doing work. Though the third seat is still empty.”
A moment came as he’s reminded of his mentor and grumblings.
“But I’m getting ahead of myself.”
“The reason they’re posting me here mainly is that I’m overdue for rotation.” Cadog continued as he adjusted himself. “We’ve been inspecting Marines bases too. Make sure everything are in tip top condition. Good chance to show the recruits the ropes as well.”
Though mostly, just Haku. Cadog kept that to himself, most of his Marine crew were all veterans and came either from the Grand Line or the Devil’s Seas.
Granted, perhaps he can find a diamond in the rough here?
“It’s been awhile since I was last here. I’m from the East Blue originally,” Cadog intentionally left out which village he came from for obvious reason. “Helps to remind myself of why I keep doing this.”
“Oh, you’re from the East? I wonder-” the elder began, the man behind him widening his eyes in what Cadog recognized as a brief moment of alarm, “-if you ever crossed paths with the Commodore here?”
The other man grimaced. “Might’ve, might not have.” He rubbed his temple, clearly preferring this wasn’t brought up. “Commodore Ryu Burnet, 13th Patrol Division was where I operated as commanding officer, but I also spent a lot of time on the 16th, and at E-42 before the base was decommissioned.”A former commodore?
That changes things. Cadog lifted his hat, stood up and saluted more out of habit than anything. “I see, my mistake, sir.”
“But as to crossing paths, I don’t believe so. The 13th’s Commodore when I first served here was a different one,” He put back his hat and then sat back down, adjusting his shoulders to let the coat of his hang a bit. “And afterwards, I was transferred to the Grand Line.”
He’ll have to do some digging and a call later to find out more. This also meant parts of his original plan had to be altered as well.
“But what made you settle here? Your home village too?” Cadog asked as he looked at Ryu, he knew that’s what he’d do if he ever retires from the marines. Perhaps some gardening and fishing too.
Not alone of course. A kid appeared in his mind but he pushed it off.
“Hmm? Nah, I’ve only been here on Melody for a few years,” Ryu admitted. “I was looking for some peace and quiet.”
“Well, I hope we don’t disappoint,” Cicely said as he stood, cane digging into the dirt. He coughed for a moment before saying, “Well, I should let you get to your business. If you want quicker repairs done, we can spare some of our tradesmen. And if you ever feel like giving your men some downtime we can arrange something.”
“That’ll be good, thank you for your cooperation. Once everything is done, I’ll see if HQ is willing to part some down time with them.”
“Commo-Ryu Burnet.” He quickly corrected himself when addressing the former Commodore. “Can you walk with me a bit? I’m still unfamiliar with the area, and there might be places I need a guide.” The man looked to Cicely for a moment before giving a reticent nod.
It wasn’t an utter lie, he didn’t know the island well enough despite him knowing these water ways.
The latter being a former marine made things a lot simpler as well, since he could share some details.Also, I can kill two birds with one stone if there was a leak.
Cadog coldly thought, a bitter experience learned from his time on the Devil Seas.
Well, he’ll proceed with that in mind.