Ray's ability to kill monsters that even the Force wouldn't care about only applies without his Nensaber at the moment due to the Divine Script on the handle.
Chapter 61 Entering the Grand Line in Style
The little wimp and his two bodyguards took Rayleigh to a restaurant to discuss the deal, offering to pay for the meal just for listening. Rayleigh wasn't a pauper anymore, but that didn't mean he'd turn down free food.
After sitting down and ordering their meals, the little man who asked for protection introduced himself. "My name is Gaston Ivanshore. These are my bodyguards, Ruiz and Soulette. They have served me for many years and I trust them with my life."
Rayleigh pointed out, "But you are still looking for another bodyguard?"
The elder of the two sword baring bodyguards sighed and added, "It is as you say. My own skills have carried me far in the South Blue, but I fear they will not carry me far enough if the young master were to encounter the real dangers of the Grand Line."
Gaston continued, "That's not the only problem. Although my father has a way for me to enter the Grand Line, I can only take one person with me and we cannot travel while armed."
Rayleigh asked, "That sounds kinda suspicious. You have a way to head to the Grand Line, but you can only use it without any weapons?"
Gaston chuckled lightly, "That's an understandable reaction, but it's as safe as can be. If you agree, I can take you to my father and he can give you the details."
Rayleigh asked, "Why me?"
Soulette, the same elder swordsman answered, "If I were to journey with the young master, I would have to acquire a sword immediately upon arrival. There is no guarantee I would be able to get anything worth its weight in metal. You, on the other hand, do not seem to be impeded by the lack of a sword at all, from what I heard."
Gaston's eyes seemed to shine, "That's right! The Marines who gathered up the wounded pirates yesterday talked all about you and what you did! Fifty pirates, all with precise sword wounds, yet made without a sword! You are a devil fruit user, right?"
Rayleigh shook his head, "I'm not actually. I can swim just fine. As for my ability to cut without a sword, that's just my style."
Gaston's eyes widened again in surprise. "That's amazing! I've never heard of a sword style that doesn't use a sword before. Would you be willing to listen to my father about this offer?"
Rayleigh asked, "Can't you tell me yourself?"
"I'm sorry. I actually don't know all the details. This matter is very important to our family's future."
Rayleigh answered, "Sure, but after our meal."
No one disagreed with that and a small feast was brought out and enjoyed before they paid the bill and headed out to the Ivanshore manor on the island.
The house could be considered opulent, but not tacky, a fine line, but refreshing to see nonetheless. At least the man had a sensible sense of style.
They passed six more guards as they made their way from the front gate into the manor's guest receiving hall. Rayleigh was served some decent tea he enjoyed for the few minutes it took for Gaston's father to show up.
Rayleigh honestly could not help being surprised at the figure of the man who came in with Gaston. If it weren't for the fact that the man wore an extremely fine suit, Rayleigh would have guessed this man was another highly paid bodyguard. Although the hair color was different and he wasn't mostly bald, Rayleigh still wanted to ask, Major Armstrong, is that you?
"Greetings! Thank you for listening to my selfish request! I understand you are willing to listen to my proposal?"
Instead of answering, Rayleigh asked, "Is Gaston adopted?"
"Hahaha! That is not the case, he just inherited more from his beautiful mother. She'll be down shortly."
Rayleigh shook the confusion away and answered the prior question, "Yes, I am interested in hearing about this bodyguard position of yours."
"Splendid! Please follow me to my study. I'll explain the details for you."
Rayleigh got up and passed a few halls through the manor. The interior walls were bare of decorations and furnishings, implying they had either been removed or that this house was recently built.
The pair entered another room that had a shelf of books and several cartographic maps. A few of the bookshelves had little miniature ships in glass bottles.
The Major Armstrong look-a-like sat in a large chair on his side of the desk and gestured for Rayleigh to sit in a cozy looking one opposite him.
After Rayleigh did so, the man introduced himself. "My name is Oscar Ivanshore. First, I would like to profusely thank you for not only saving my son and his bodyguards, but for bringing those loathsome pirates to justice."
Rayleigh asked, "Why did they target your son?"
Oscar shook his head, "Those damnable sea dogs raid two or three villages a year for supplies, and the survivors of those raids were only those with fates worse than death. My wife's little sister was one such unfortunate soul, and I could not stand by anymore. I paid a few bounty hunters to look for the Six Claw Pirates, but only one found them and he didn't make it. He likely told them that I privately hired him to kill those pirates."
A heavy voice came from outside, "Those filthy fucking bastards deserve Death!"
Rayleigh turned back, expecting to see another bodyguard or something, but the one who entered looked almost exactly like Oscar, except without the mustache and with longer hair. Was this his brother?
Oscar got up and shouted, "Honey! Please meet the fine young man who saved our son."
Rayleigh used every scrap of self control granted by his eighteen Wills not to start convulsing at the thought of the sentence that had just been spoken. This was the beautiful mother Gaston inherited his looks from? How did they both look so much alike but nothing like their son?!
The 'woman' stated harshly, "I heard about him already. He should have fed those roaches to the sharks!"
"Now, now, honey. Since each was captured alive, they can get what they deserve, and what they deserve is far from a quick and merciful death."
He hugged her and she hugged back, lifting her leg into the air like a delicate woman while stating 'softly,' "You're right. I love you."
Before this could escalate into anything worse, Rayleigh coughed once and asked, "So, about this bodyguard request to the Grand Line?"
Oscar perked up at that and replied, "Ah, yes, of course." he opened up a drawer and took out a folded piece of paper, looking over it once before stating, "I received a letter from a distant cousin of mine, Demalo Black. Some years ago, he married into a wealthy family, but recently, they were all killed by pirates. Black claims that he was able to hide away all of their furnishings, artwork, and jewelry. He asked if I could provide the money needed to ship if from their island on the Grand Line back to the South Blue in exchange for half of everything. The letter included pictures, and much of it seems genuine, but I cannot be sure. The line Black claims to be from was not one I am familiar with."
Oscar then gestured to his house, "If it were money or weapons, I would not care for it at all, but such furnishings are incredibly hard to come by, and I owe it to my beautiful wife to give her only the best, so I wish to send our son to check on the furnishings and artwork. You see, my son is quite the artist himself. This house was designed by him, and even the pickiest of merchants and fallen nobles have had nothing but praise for our son's eye. If he says it is genuine, then I am willing to pay Mr. Black the funds needed to transport everything out of the Grand Line."
Rayleigh got the gist of it and asked, "How exactly do you plan to get us in and out of the Grand Line?"
"Ah, that's simple. My family is from a long line of Marines. Although I chose to be a merchant, I did so with the Marine's best intentions in mind, and I have greatly benefited them. In exchange, I am afforded their means of traversing the Calm Belt when needed, in and out of the Grand Line."
That surprised Rayleigh a bit. He asked, "The Marines can cross the Calm Belt?"
The Calm Belt was a long territory of sea on both sides of the Grand Line. It was named the Calm Belt because there was no wind, meaning you could not use sails to pass it. Oh, and it was also the territory of Sea Kings. Your average Sea King was a monstrous sea beast that could be anywhere from half a kilometer long to five kilometers long. It was said that some were even longer.
Crossing the territory of Sea Kings was a sure fire way to end up dead, so it was assumed that the only means of entering the Grand Line was Reverse Mountain.
Oscar answered, "It's a new development actually. It's only thanks to this that I can even consider this deal. You'll sail to the South Blue's Marine HQ. From there, you'll travel on a specialized ship that can cross the Calm Belt and arrive at Enies Lobby. From there, you will take a Sea Train to Water 7. And from Water 7 you'll take a ship to Banaro Island. Its quite close to Water Seven, so it won't take very long."
Rayleigh considered it. He had no idea what any of those were, but at least it seemed to be a pretty direct route. He could get the fine details later.
Rayleigh asked, "Would it be okay if I wanted to stay in the Grand Line?"
Oscar looked surprised for a moment before he started laughing, "Hahaha, of course, you would. Young men like yourself should be out there living it up. As long as you can escort my son back to the Sea Train on Water Seven once everything is finished, that will be fine."
Rayleigh nodded, "Alright, then we have a deal."
"Eh? But you haven't even asked about your payment yet."
"I have enough on me. What I really need is a way to enter the Grand Line."
The 'lady' of the house laughed like sandpaper being scraped together and said, "He's just like we were all those years ago."
Rayleigh didn't want to see any more intimate moments, so he excused himself out of the room and found Gaston waiting outside.
Rayleigh said, "I agreed to take you there and make sure you get back."
"Really? That's great!"
"Yeah. By the way... Your parents..."
Knowing exactly what he was talking about, Gaston let out a long sigh and exclaimed, "I don't know either. A friend of mine from school once thought my mother cheated on my father. He apologized for his mistake when he saw her for the first time."
Rayleigh patted Gaston's shoulder with pity. The wimp had led a hard life it seemed.
The ship leaving for the South Blue Marine HQ would take two days to come, so Rayleigh shamelessly asked for something as a replacement for pay. At the moment, he still wore what were basically the martial rags from the old Boxing Gym and he needed something a bit finer.
That led to a meeting with the family's tailor and by the time they were set to leave, Rayleigh have three sets of travelers' clothes and two sets of handsome formal attire that didn't make him look like a beggar. All of this was folded and placed into a nice backpack for him to carry around.
On the day of their departure, Ray wore one of the sets of traveler's clothes and returned to the Marine Outpost to catch a ride to the Marine HQ. All the arrangements had been made ahead of time and the only hassle was the act of checking their belongings for concealed weapons. Rayleigh was told this would be done every time they entered a new ship, so there was no way to smuggle something dangerous aboard the Marine Vessel.
Some of the Marines onboard looked at Rayleigh with eyes of admiration while others looked at him with skepticism. Both had heard of his recent deeds, but while some believed it, others did not.
The ship's captain did not care about it either way. He was told to allow them on board and to take them back to the South Blue HQ. His opinion on the matter was irrelevant and he didn't spend longer than a moment to look over the pair before returning to his duties.
Once the ship set sail, things were less tense and a few of the more curious Marines started up some conversations with Rayleigh and Gaston.
Some tried to start arguments or insult him, but Rayleigh wasn't affected by anything they said, and since escalating the issue beyond words would not benefit them, they usually walked away, leaving Ray with just the Marines who were not assholes to talk with.
From them, Rayleigh learned a bit more about the world. It really did seem cartoony.
The best resources in the world were usually minerals, metals, and species found specifically in the Grand Line, so it was where most of the wealth outside of the World Nobles was located. A few decades ago, most of the Grand Line was somewhat stable since travel anywhere was complex and dangerous. This made changes slow to occur which was how people liked it.
Things changed with a Pirate the Marines called Gold Roger successfully sailed from one end of the Grand Line to the other. Before him, there was no record of anyone making it all the way to the end. For this accomplishment, this pirate was given the title of King of the Pirates. It was said that he accumulated the greatest treasures in the world. The problem started with his execution.
Rayleigh asked, "Wait, he was executed? How did the greatest Pirate get caught by the Marines?"
The Marine he asked answered proudly, "Don't underestimate the Marines. Pirate King or not, we are the greatest power on the sea."
Rayleigh nodded with understanding. These guys were obviously delusional, so there was no point in asking further.
The Marines continued and told him about Roger's execution. The man was brought to the island he was born on to be executed in public, in the center of town. Before his head was cut off, someone asked where he left all the treasures he collected.
There were different stories for what he said. He either said that he left everything in One Piece, or that he left everything in That Place. In either case, people basically assumed that he left all of his greatest wealth on the last island of the Grand Line, the one that Roger's crew was the first and last to find. Everyone referred to this assumed treasure horde as One Piece.
This final message ignited the greed in the heart of every man in the world and started the great Age of the Pirates.
This story also made Rayleigh want to find this final island. Once he got there, he'd toss the One Piece into the sea and replace it with a treasure chest containing a scroll. The scroll would have written on it, "The real treasure was the friends you made along the way."
Rayleigh couldn't help but snicker at the idea of turning that meme into the greatest trolling prank on the planet. Even if he didn't do that here, he would definitely try to pull that on someone someday.
The arrival at the Marine HQ was followed by another bag search. The middle aged woman also asked, "Are either of you devil fruit users?"
Rayleigh and Gaston both answered, "No."
She then asked, "Would you mind jumping into the water to confirm it?"
Rayleigh asked, "Will we have time to take a shower afterward?"
"That won't be a problem."
Travelers clothes was made to dry easily even after getting submerged, so he had no problem with jumping into the water, swimming a bit, and confirming that he did not sink like all Devil Fruit Users did.
The woman wrote a few things down and said, "Thank you. I'll show you to where you can stay tonight. The ship to Enies Lobby will be leaving tomorrow morning."
Every Island with a sizeable Marine population had a town attached to it and this one also had a hotel for guests. The rooms did in fact have a shower and Rayleigh could pay to have his sea water soaked clothes washed and dried by the morning.
After the sun rose, they were led back to the Marine's docks where they met a man who stood out more than they did. The man wore what looked like a designer shirt but his face was partially covered in metal plates and he had messy hair and a perpetual sneer. Said sneer did not wane as he looked over the pair and said, "You two had better not cause any trouble or you'll have to swim through the Calm Belt."
Rayleigh briefly entertained using telekinesis to remotely throw this guy off the ship in the middle of the night. Using telekinesis and clairvoyance at the same time was a new skill he'd picked up thanks to the greater mastery of the Force he gained in the last few years. What was even better was that his clairvoyance was no longer impeded by doors and walls. Rayleigh could, potentially, use his Clairvoyance to peek into the man's room at night, open his window with Telekinesis, and toss the man out the window. He could also use Force Choke through Clairvoyance, but he didn't think anyone deserved that.
Still, the man had not done anything but say some unfriendly words. Cutting his life short just because of that was not something he was willing to do. Rayleigh almost hoped the man would antagonize him more though, since he had a gut feeling this was the kind of guy who enjoyed kicking puppies.
The ship set to traverse the Calm Belt had a different shape than the normal ones. Using Clairvoyance, Rayleigh could see that the underside of the ship was flatter and it had some paddles to propel the ship through the windless region of the sea. What caught Rayleigh's attention though was that the underside of the ship seemed to be coated with something, but he didn't know what.
The quality of Marine on the ship heading into the Grand Line was noticeably higher than the ones he met on the way to the HQ. Even if they were still cannon fodder, the cannon fodder on this ship would probably have been able to deal with the cannon fodder from the Six Claw Pirates.
Another noticeable difference between the Marines on this ship from the ones on the prior ship was the discipline. On the negative side of that, this meant that no one bothered to speak to Rayleigh or Gaston, leaving the pair only able to chat with each other. Rayleigh told random stories about things that happened in the Circus while Gaston told him a few stories from his childhood and some more details about this world. In the four Blue Seas, Devil Fruits were rare. Maybe a half dozen or so Pirates in each Sea had one. This meant there were probably less than twenty-five Pirates who had a Devil Fruit outside of the Grand Line, yet inside, there were more than two, three, or four times that. Most people in the Blue Seas were lucky if they saw a single Devil Fruit user in their life. Inside the Grand Line, as long as you didn't live under a rock, you'd be lucky not to encounter someone with a Devil Fruit who didn't want to kill or rob you.
One of the Marines walked up to them and said the first words they heard from a Marine since getting on the ship. "We're about to pass through the Calm Belt. Don't make a sound or try anything funny until we're through."
The sails were raised and everything that could make sound was secured. The paddles at the side of the ship were pretty quiet all things considered as they drove the ship forward.
Having been on a ship for the last few days, Rayleigh felt it was quite eerie when the wind just stopped. The paddles moved the ship slowly to avoid disrupting the surface of the water as much as possible. Without a fast moving vehicle or the wind, there was no breeze to pass their faces as they moved forward. Tension rose in the ship and fear could be felt from just about everyone.
It was obvious that some ships didn't make it past the Calm Belt, so he wondered how the ones that did make it through. Was it good luck for them or bad luck for everyone else?
Rayleigh was the only one who was not worried. If a sea king appeared, he'd try and say hi. If it wanted to fight, he'd give it a fight. Worst case scenario if it sank the ship, he'd try beating one into submission and making it take him to an island. Well, the worst case scenario was death, but he didn't feel that he would die on this journey, so that was never a problem.
After two hours of tense silence, the wind returned and a collective breath of relief was heard from everyone on board. The sails were lowered and they practically flew forward.
Rayleigh was officially in the Grand Line now. He wasn't sure at first, but now he did feel that there was a difference. It wasn't a physical thing, more of a spiritual issue. Like the background music of this part of the world was different from the rest of the world.
Enies Lobby wasn't too far from the Calm Belt. The only thing they had to pay attention to was the strange and random weather and the Log Pose. From what he learned of Marines that had been to the Grand Line, Compasses didn't work here. You either used a Log Pose to get from one end to the other, or an Eternal Pose which always pointed to the same island. This ship had one for Enies Lobby so it wouldn't get lost.
It only took another few hours to arrive. Like the South Blue Marine HQ, Enies Lobby was a massive Marine Base with a town built into it. That's where the similarities ended. Around the territory of Enies Lobby was a fence that went from above sea level all the way to the sea floor and surrounded the entire island. This was not to guard the island but for the protection of ships that got too close.
For some inexplicable reason, Enies Lobby was above what could only be described as a hole in the ocean. Rayleigh's Clairvoyance made him doubt his abilities since the town sized island had nothing below it. It was held aloft above the hole in the ocean by a single strip of land.
Rayleigh had no choice but to ask one of the smarter looking Marines, "How the hell does that work?"
The Marine smiled, most had the same question when they reached Enies Lobby for the first time.
"At the bottom is the source of the Tarai Current. It forms a massive whirlpool. Enies Lobby, Impel Down, and the Grand Line Marine Headquarters are built around the Tarai Current, since it allows us to sail from one to the other at the fastest speeds."
Rayleigh's Clairvoyance confirmed his words. At one end of the hole was a port that led to a massive door. That door led out to a swirling current. Their ship was heading for the port on the opposite side, the one that had the strip of land that seemed to hold up the whole of Enies Lobby on its own.
The swordsman in him wanted to sever that strip of land, sending the whole of Enies Lobby down into the hole. That would probably seal up the source of the Tarai Current and screw over the Marines in a bunch of different ways. If he left some survivors and let them take pictures, he might be able to get on the front page with that.
But that would also require him to kill several hundred innocent Marines and their families that lived on the town sized island. Yeah, he'd find a different way.
After getting off on the port, they waited at the train station. The Sea Train traveled from Enies Lobby to Water 7 over a floating set of tracks and was quite reliable. Apparently, the train made noises that Sea Kings didn't like, so they would avoid the trains and until now, they had a perfect safety record.
Thankfully, the Marines joining them on the Sea Train journey were considered off the clock and could speak with him leisurely. Thanks to this, Rayleigh could ask them about the various Pirates in the Grand Line who made a name for themselves, what they were doing, and where they were doing it.
The biggest names he guessed were Players at the moment were the Lightning Pirates, Dragon Pirates, Bomb Pirates, and Wonder Pirates. They were the loudest and messiest, though they weren't the only ones playing around. Captain Jack of the Black Pearl had successfully defeated several Marines that attacked them. Apparently, their only crime was flying the Jolly Roger. Their crew didn't even have an official name or bounty at the moment.
The Lightning Pirates and Dragon Pirates seemed to be working together, but the Dragon Pirates were having a few issues. One of the Strongest Pirate Crews in the world, the Beast Pirates, wanted the Captain of the Dragon Pirates dead since the latter had the same devil fruit as the captain of the Beast Pirates and Dragon Chef refused to join him. It seemed that Dragon Chef was taking this in stride though. Every Pirate who came after them was defeated, strengthening the Dragon man himself and his crew with every victory.
The biggest and noisiest problems were from the Wonder Pirates and Bomb Pirates. Both had strong crews and have given the Marines a Bloody nose. Wonder Woman, the captain of the all-female Wonder Pirates, had a bounty of 83 Million at the moment, but it would probably rise with her string of victories. Dyna Might, captain of the Bomb Pirates, already had a bounty of 105 Million berries, but that was not so much due to his strength as the amount of damage he caused.
The whereabouts of both crews were known at the moment, making Rayleigh wonder if he could get an Eternal Pose at Water 7 to head ahead of them and play around a bit.
Anyone know what I should call Captain Jack's Pirate Crew?
He doesn't have a devil fruit by the way.