Chapter 15 What was her Wish?

Alex.

I stand in the battle ground gripping two newly owned katanas. They didn't give me the same sensation as my most precious broad sword but it wasn't the time for me to use the sword that chose me yet. That one I kept in a safe place. On the other end of the field was my opponent, Balboa. He was a broad sword carrier as well. He was a wanted criminal who was known for destroying whole towns with nothing but his sword. He wasn't exactly a pirate. At least he didn't belong to any crew. He was a rogue swordsman thirsty for blood. He was wanted dead or alive and was worth 58 thousand bells. He was pretty high on the bounty list which means he's strong. But that didn't mean I couldn't take him down.

"So you want to challenge me?" Balboa said and puffed up his chest confidently.

I didn't speak to him and kept my head down under my hood to conceal my face. I pointed one of the katanas at Balboa challengingly.

"If that's what you wish but I don't think a shrimp like you can beat me," He chuckled before taking out his sword. "You may die, you know."

I wanted this fight to be over with as quick as possible. I showed interest in him since he was known for wearing tiki masks whenever he would destroy a town but after getting a good look at him, I knew he couldn't be the one I was searching for. This was another dead end. With one quick movement I threw my katanas like discs. They cut through the air in two circles and flew right passed Balboa as he dodged.

"What kind of swordsman throws his swords?" Balboa exclaimed. "What a waste. This is going to be all too easy for me now that you've tossed your swords a—"

Sving! My swords circled back cutting both his arms from his shoulders off. As the swords came back to me I caught them with one in each hand. Blood spilled out of the stumps on Balboa's shoulders. His face turned pale and he fell to the ground.

"How disappointing," I whispered before grabbing him by the foot and started dragging him to the closest Hunters Collect place.

"Who… are you?" Balboa asked his voice now shaky from the loss of blood.

"Just a common, everyday bounty hunter," I replied without looking at him.

Balboa stopped talking after that so he either lost consciousness or died. I wasn't concerned with either scenario. At the Hunters Collect, he was given immediate treatment to stop the bleeding in his arms so he wound up living. He would no longer be a menace now that he could never hold a sword again and was sent out to Portsmouth where he would eventually get the death penalty.

"You're strong but you ought to join a group I reckon," The reward distributor said as he handed me a sack of bells for Balboa's capture. "Even the Mori twins had each other to work with."

"Thanks," I muttered before leaving. I didn't want to join another group because then I would have to register my name. Since I joined a pirate crew I was no longer granted access to bounty hunter information or group registration as long as my name remained as Alex Mori. To keep our identities hidden, Nick and I decided to go in separate ways. I was nervous that Nick might just end up going in circles on his own but he's strong. I'm sure he can take care of himself even if he ends up getting lost. We also changed hairstyles and wore hoods. No longer did we have our hair up in spikes but now I had it smoothed down and bobby pinned one side to keep it from falling in my face. Nick had cut his hair shorter and wore it down as well but parts still managed to stick up like some strange bed head that could never be cured. We also bought new generic swords and set off in different directions in order to gather information about the swordsman who murdered Sensei and the whereabouts of his sword. For me this meant getting back in the bounty hunter business but this time as a rogue hunter. It would be too dangerous to travel in a group of other bounty hunters.

Since I now had a history of piracy I also was a wanted criminal and with a bounty of 140 thousand bells. If I were to be discovered, a group of bounty hunters would turn on me for sure no matter how close I got to them. Though my wanted poster did confuse me because my name was written at the top as Alexander Mori but it was Nick's face that was on the poster. Same went for Nick's poster. My face was on the front of his. I know we're twins and all but couldn't the poster boy had done a better job at distinguishing our faces?

After Eblinier I traveled South West to the island of Mercer. This was a gathering place on the South side of the Black Line for Bounty Hunters. Even though many Bounty Hunters gather here, many criminals run rampant here as well. Some would think the criminals were just being gutsy and strong by continuing their crimes at such an island but the truth was, Mercer was a large enough island that criminals and hunters could gather in the same place and still have difficulty spotting the local criminals. Regular citizens still lived on this island as well because they believed hunters would always be there to save them. So here was an island that had five different towns that would be destroyed and rebuilt again over and over due to the habits of the criminal occupants.

Although this was a great place to hunt it was also good for gathering research on other criminals. There were intelligent operational domes that were built for hunters. A hunter's ID had to be used to get into one. I still had my hunter's ID but it would probably send out an alert once I were to use it. When a hunter becomes a criminal to a certain degree, their license is revoked and ID scanners were supposed to pick up on the tracer in the ID to alert its use to other hunters. This way I could be easily found and/or captured by groups of hunters. But even with security to that measure, the system was still flawed. To get in and use their systems, all I had to do was use someone else's hunter ID. It didn't call for some fingerprint or any other means of hereditary identification. I had spent an entire month cheating the system this way. I would usually wait in a pub for a hunter to drink himself to unconsciousness before swiping his ID. To keep me from being found out, I would always return the ID's to their proper owners without being found out that it was taken in the first place. I even ran into Abe without realizing it until I used his ID. I didn't want to deal with him then so I treated him the same as the rest of the hunters and escaped out of his sights unknowingly.

This time I came across a young hunter who looked like he was barely over 18. He had reddish-brown hair and kept a pistol clipped to the side of his outer thigh. In his right ear dangled a black rounded triangle earing. He had been causing a ruckus inside the pub declaring that Captain Corey Rogers wasn't dead and that he would be the one to find him. The rest of the men inside the pub laughed at him and eventually kicked him out leaving him sprawled on the rocky ground outside the pub. He was very intoxicated and could barely keep his eyes open. He was an easy target so I took this chance to look as if I was helping him get home. I put one of his arms around my shoulders and helped him stagger into an alley way.

"You laugh now," he muttered. "But you'll see. I'm gonna catch 'em."

I sat him down against the wall in the alley. He started snoring the moment I set him down. He was out like a light. Even with him sleeping safely I couldn't help but hesitate to swipe his ID. His odd behavior reminded me of someone. Declaring such a strange and unreachable dream. I couldn't help but think of Pancake or Johnny Lynn as she's really called. Their spirits were similar. I felt a sharp pang in my gut. Now isn't the time to dwell on such things. I have to move forward. Without another moment lost I swiped his ID.

"I'll be borrowing this for a while," I whispered. "Don't worry, I'll give it back."

"Ok," the young hunter sighed before going back to his steady snoring.

I was startled for a second hoping he wouldn't wake up and find me out. I really didn't feel like I wanted to kill him to keep him quiet. I probably wouldn't be able to kill him at this moment. Not when he reminded me of her.

When he didn't stir I quickly escaped out of the alley and headed toward the intelligence dome. I swiped the ID through the scanner and the door to the dome clicked open. I then went to the closest intel box and stuck the ID inside the slot at the bottom. The screen blinked on and letters formed at the top that read: WELCOME, ALAN ROGERS before six columns appeared on the screen that read: SETTINGS, PROFILE, SEARCH, REPORTS, CONTACT, and MAP. I was taken aback by his name though. Alan Rogers… Could he possibly be related to Captain Corey Rogers? The legendary pirate who attained the secret treasure? But Rogers was a common surname. I could just be making assumptions. Just because he was passionate about capturing Corey Rogers doesn't mean anything. He could just be a strange young rookie. Besides… I'm not interested in Corey Rogers or his treasure anymore. I had to focus on avenging Sensei.

I clicked the REPORTS column and digital documents written by other hunters appeared. I was about to click the filter button so that I would only find reports written on swordsmen but an alert flashed on the screen and a picture of a once famous bounty hunter appeared. His name was Koa but was nicknamed as the Tiger because of the scars on his cheeks made it seem like he had stripes. He was a swordsman and recently turned rogue. He fell out of the hunters' registration and was rumored to have turned into a criminal. By the looks of the alert, the rumors had to have been true. The new report stated that he was destroying towns in neighboring islands and was last seen heading to Mercer. There was one bit of information that caught my eye though. The report stated that Koa had declared that he had found a legendary sword known as the Sword of Retribution and was using it to cast judgement on every human being. His bounty was 200 thousand bells.

The Sword of Retribution… Is the legend true? The Sword of Retribution was said to have been a myth. Its legend was born way before the pirate war and originated around the last King and Queen. I don't really know much about it but only that it brought upon great destruction and great restorations. I also heard that its shape can change depending on the holder. Could something like that really exist? It's definitely possible. Who is to say that Sensei's sword isn't a legendary sword as well? I would have to see it with my own eyes. The report said he was heading toward the westernmost part of Mercer. That part is covered in desert. A town was built near there. That must be his target. With my next move decided, I headed out of the intelligence dome and went back to the alley in hopes of returning the ID but the young hunter was nowhere to be found. That's strange. His condition should have kept him out cold until the middle of the afternoon the next day. Did someone carry him off? I never liked to keep the ID's I'd stolen but I didn't want to throw it away either. Maybe I would pass by him later on the island. I doubt he would leave without finding his ID first.

It was late in the evening but I knew if I wanted to catch Koa the Tiger then I would have to start my journey to the desert right away. I knew a carriage that usually took a route from here to the farmland. A farmer used it to carry his crops to the marketplace. The horse knew the route it usually took so it could pull me at least a part of the way then I could leave the carriage in the farmland. The farmer stayed at an inn near the marketplace and I knew the stable where he kept the horse. Calmly I was able to get the horse out of the stable and attach it to the carriage. Everything went according to plan until I got to the outskirts of town. There was a group of four hunters that stopped me. Three were men and one was a woman. What seemed to be the leader approached me. He had long dark hair that was tied up and had scraggy facial hair. He was really skinny but I could tell he had a little bit of muscle. He had tired old eyes that retired assassins usually had.

"You aren't the usual man that pulls that carriage are you?" He asked.

Not knowing what his angle was, I kept quiet.

"You're a hunter too, right?" he asked. "The alert was only posted half an hour ago. You're going after The Tiger, right?"

"So what if I am?" I challenged.

"It's dangerous to face that guy alone," He said now crossing his arms over his chest. "If you want you can join our group or at least give us a ride on the way there."

"I don't do well in groups," I replied.

"Then why not just give us a ride," He suggested.

"What would I gain by giving you a ride?" I said. "It's a bit counterproductive to bring another group to capture him."

"That's why I said you should join our group," He said.

"Please sir, you can higher your odds of capturing him by joining us," another guy who seemed to be the youngest with reddish brown hair piped up.

"Alan! Who said you could speak—" the girl in the group said agitatedly.

My eyes widened when I realized who the guy was. The young rookie from the pub!

"You're a swordsman correct?" Alan said as he glanced at the katanas around my waist. "If you're interested in The Tiger's sword, we could let you have it."

"Who said you could do the negotiations," The other man in the group said and hit Alan on top of the head. The man had a shining bald head and a strange goatee. He wore sunglasses even though it was dark out. "A hunter who lost his ID has no authority to talk."

"But I tried searching for it," Alan said covering his head from the bald man. "It probably fell out of my pocket in the pub. But I even searched all over and still couldn't find it…"

"Fine," I said. "As long as I get to keep the sword, you can have the rest of him including the reward money."

"But what if the sword happens to be a fake?" The leader asked.

"Then it's a dud," I sighed. "My goal wasn't the reward money or him for that matter to begin with. If you want to hitch a ride, now is your chance."

Without another word, the group of four entered the carriage and we were on our way. To be honest I still didn't like the idea of traveling in a group. If they watch me long enough they could figure out who I am and try capturing me as well. But there was something in that young rookie that intrigued me. Why does he make me think of her? It left a pang in my gut but I couldn't help but want to be near him. I wanted to get to know him. Was he a descendant of Captain Corey Rogers? Was he even perhaps related to Pancake? But he doesn't look a thing like her. His personality or maybe it's just his naïve nature that is similar. My gut is telling me it's a bad idea to bring these guys along but I can't ignore this feeling in my chest. Hopefully some good will come out of this.

I whipped the reigns and the journey to the farmland continued. In case this alliance gets messy, I had to figure out how to ditch them in a way that they won't figure out who I am or spread information about my whereabouts. I also needed to slip the rookie hunter's ID back to him without him noticing. If he finds out I have his ID some trouble could go down. As I was in thought I felt the carriage bob as a new weight was placed next to me.

"Hey, I'm Alan, I didn't catch your name," the young rookie said as he looked over at me expectantly.

"You didn't catch it because I didn't give it out," I said feeling slightly nervous that he was sitting so close to me. If he sees my face he might recognize me from my wanted poster. Even if I had changed my hair, my face is still the same. I pulled my hood down further over my head slightly and kept looking at the road instead of meeting his eyes.

"Sorry for being so intrusive," He said with an awkward laugh. "This is my seventh group I've registered so I'm not very good with groups either. I thought maybe we could understand each other."

"You're a rookie right?" I said. "How old are you?"

"I'm nineteen but I started being a hunter two years ago. I guess you can say I'm not very good at it," he said with another awkward laugh.

I didn't say anything. Why did this guy of all people feel the need to start a conversation with me? Maybe if I ignore him he'll give up and go away.

"Are you really a hunter?" Alan asked. "You don't really seem like one. You look more like a rogue with your own hidden agenda. You even said you weren't interested in capturing Koa The Tiger."

This kid talks a lot, is what I was thinking. He was pretty spot on though. I'm technically not a hunter anymore so I guess you could say I was just a rogue. This kid is sharp.

"You're pretty young, why did you decide to become a hunter?" I asked to try to change the subject. "Not many people as young as you join this dangerous business."

"I was a fan of the Mori twins," He said. "They started out young too but they captured many criminals in their time and even broke some records."

Crap! This was not where I wanted to take the conversation at all. I was trying to keep him away from me not lure him closer to my identity!

"I say WAS though because even they became criminals themselves," Alan said with a pitch of agitation in his voice. "I can't forgive a pirate no matter what their reason was for becoming one."

"Is that so?" I said feeling a bead of sweat run down my face.

"Do you feel differently about them because they are swordsmen like yourself?" Alan asked.

"Not really," I said trying to say the right thing to not get me caught. "I don't really have an opinion on them."

"Then why are you a hunter?" Alan asked. "I don't get the feeling you're doing this job for the justice, glory, or even the money."

I paused for a moment to try and collect my thoughts. What could I tell him without revealing too much?

"I'm searching for someone," I finally said. "He took something that I would like to get back."

"Does what you want to get back have to do with the sword of Retribution?" He asked.

"It could be," I said. "I'm not a hundred percent sure."

"How much do you know about Retribution?" Alan asked.

"Not much to be honest," I replied. "I know it's legendary so it may not even be a real thing and that it can change shape depending on the holder."

"Well that's half right," Alan said leaning back against the carriage. "It changes shape depending on the intensity and resolve of the holder not because of who is holding it but why the wielder is holding it."

"How do you know so much about it?" I asked intrigued now looking at him properly this time.

"I know some people that may have actually seen it once upon a time," He said looking towards me. I gasped when I noticed for the first time looking at his face. His eyes had the same familiar golden hue as hers. I looked away quickly and tried to remain calm. Why does this rookie keep reminding me of her? I thought I could try to forget everything but she keeps showing up. Why did she have to make such a face when she was the one who betrayed us? If I'm not careful that face will pop up in my mind.

"So do you think it's real?" I asked to try and shoo those thoughts away. "Do you think Koa has the actual Sword of Retribution?"

"I'm not sure but it could be possible," He said. "Though if anyone were to have a legendary sword I would think it would belong to one of Seven Sea Lords."

"The Seven Sea Lords?" I wondered. Is this another legendary group of pirates or something? There seems to be a lot of legendary groups. Was it that easy to become a legend then?

"The government doesn't really talk about it but they are a group chosen by the military to do certain clean-up jobs," Alan explained. "Kinda like an assassin group. They're supposed to be wicked strong so they are also used for military crisis."

"That sort of group exists?" I said skeptically.

"Well, I know that it sounds like I just know a bunch of myths and legends but I really believe in them," He said with a slight blush.

"Damn! Why do you act so similar?" I exclaimed with frustration.

"Wh-what?" Alan jumped. "Did I say something wrong?"

"Alan, are you bothering people again?" The bald headed man yelled from the back of the carriage.

"Well… I… uh," Alan stumbled.

"Forget it," I sighed and whipped the reigns for the horse to travel faster.

I knew he probably thought I was strange but I couldn't get it out of my head. The impossible dream, legends, the golden eyes. Just who exactly is he? Is this just the devil torturing me with her memory?

"You remind me of someone I once knew," I finally said. "I don't know if that makes me like you or hate you."

"Well, I really hope you don't hate me," Alan said and scratched the back of his head nervously.

When we finally reached the farmland it was about midnight. We had to hurry if we wanted to intercept Koa in the desert.

"Why don't we just keep the horse?" The man with the tied up hair and scraggy beard asked.

"I'd rather not steal anything that I don't have to," I replied. "We're hunters and not thieves, right?"

"But the carriage would help us get there faster," the bald man argued.

"No he's right," The man who I had assumed was the leader said. "If we can't trek our way through a desert, we shouldn't be able to hold our heads up confidently as hunters."

"Fine but whoever drags us down, I'm going to give them a swift kick," the girl in the group said.

With that settled we started our journey on foot towards the desert in the westernmost part of Mercer. If we stop Koa at the desert and he does happen to have the Sword of Retribution, will my weak generic katanas be strong enough to defeat him? I wasn't too sure but being a warrior of the sword meant more than just the strength of your sword. Skill, strength, and endurance plays a bigger role in sword fighting than just the quality of the sword. I felt confident in my skill and strength but was I really strong enough to face a legendary sword? What powers does it possess? Retribution itself means distribution of rewards and punishments in a future life. According to the alert, the sword can bring destruction or restoration. How does the sword decide whether something deserves destruction or restoration? Does that mean the sword can actually make decisions? Or is it all just the will of the wielder whether something should be destroyed or restored? How can a sword restore something?

"Um sir," Alan said walking up next to me. "Since we are traveling with each other and will fight The Tiger together I thought we should probably have a proper introduction."

"Well, I guess it would be nice to know all of your strengths so we have a better idea of how to attack," I said.

"Okay! To start off, the gloomy guy with the ponytail is Tony," Alan said energetically. "He used to work as an assassin but switched to the Hunter business a few years ago. He fights with knives."

Just as I had thought. He was an assassin. Since hunters and assassins have similar jobs we often run into each other on a job. Assassins go after more important people with power instead of just lowly criminals though.

"The baldy over there is Chuck," Alan continued. "He seems like a swindler con man but his schemes make him a pretty good strategist."

"What are you saying about me you group hopper?" Chuck hollered.

"And Laurel is our sweet-tooth boxer," Alan said referring to the girl who was licking a lollipop. "She seems like a cutie but she's actually not cute at all. She's a brute."

"What was that?" Laurel growled before executing a quick kick to Alan's head. "You just don't understand mature women."

"This is why I said you were a brute," Alan said rubbing the knot in his head.

"Your weapon is a pistol right?" I asked Alan.

"Yup," Alan said with a new energetic smile and patted his pistol on his thigh. "So what about you? What's your name?"

"Johnny," I said saying the first name that came to mind. Crap! It had to be Pancake's noble name that I thought of first.

"Johnny?" Alan said while looking me up and down. "Johnny doesn't really suit you."

"That's what they say…" I said with an awkward laugh.

"Hmm, you seem familiar somehow even though I'm pretty sure this is the first time meeting you," Alan said.

"You've been in seven groups, Alan," Tony said. "Maybe you were grouped with him once upon a time."

"But I thought this guy likes to work alone," Alan said.

"Well it's possible to have crossed paths without knowing it," I said quickly. This guy has probably seen the wanted posters and he even said he was a fan of Nick and I when we were the Pirate Hunter Twins. "I don't remember ever meeting you though."

"Maybe I'm over thinking it," Alan shrugged.

Whew! That was close! I'm going to have to take extra care in keeping my distance from that guy. He acts somewhat of an air head but he's actually pretty sharp. I get a feeling he'll figure out my identity before this job is done. When that happens will I be able to kill him to keep my location hidden? I don't want other hunters to know I'm secretly joining them again for the time being. If hunters were to know it won't be as easy to trick them anymore. They'll probably raise security at the intelligence dome. I won't be able to use the intel boxes to gain information on the man that took Sensei's life and his sword. But when I see the rookie, all I see is Pancake and the hurt look she had on her face as she was leaving us. I don't want to have to kill him. What if he really is related to Pancake somehow? Why can't I help but miss her? I want to hate her so much but I can't find it in me to do that. Even though she didn't tell us she was a noble I feel like all the time we spent together couldn't have been an act. I can usually tell when someone is lying but I felt like Pancake was really being true to herself. I hate nobles for their arrogance and greed but I don't hate Pancake. I can't take it. Why did I ever doubt her? Why did I ever let her leave us? I'm sorry Nick. After this job I think we'll have to put our mission on hold. I want to meet up with Nick and bring Pancake back. If anything I want to understand her. Why did she leave her life of nobility? There has to be a reason. I don't believe she would leave a luxurious life as a noble just to play pirate. She wanted to be the one to find Captain Corey Roger's treasure. Finding that treasure meant you get your wish granted. What was Pancake's wish?

"Hey guys, he's here," Alan said pointing at the distance.

I stared at the point seeing nothing but sand for a couple minutes before the outline of Koa the Tiger appeared walking calmly towards us. That rookie could see Koa that far out? What kind of eyesight does this kid have?

"Should we hide behind some sand dunes and ambush him?" Chuck suggested.

"There's no sneak attacks on The Tiger," Tony said twirling one of his knives in his hand. "He may have already sensed us even from this distance."

"Should we all attack him simultaneously then?" Laurel asked. "Do you think he'll be able to take all five of us at once?"

"I think if we focus on disarming him, he'll be easier to capture," Alan said. "If he really has the Sword of Retribution, it'll be pretty difficult to defeat him."

"Doesn't that mean the sword is basically indestructible?" Chuck asked. "How the hell would we be able to take it from him?"

"You can leave that to me," I said as I unsheathed the katanas from their holsters on my sides. "If you can distract him so that he keeps his focus away from me, then I can do it."

"What makes you think you can beat the Sword of Retribution?" Laurel asked

"I have a feeling," I said with a smirk. For once my intuition was giving me a good feeling about this.

"Well, I don't have any other ideas," Chuck said.

"Then let's go before he figures us out," Tony said.

"Ready… GO!" They shouted together and took off at the same time toward Koa. I stayed back to wait for an opening where I could separate Koa from his sword.

Chuck stopped in front of a boulder and lifted it up out of the ground. His muscles were bulging. Then he spun around and threw it in a projectile toward Koa. I wasn't expecting Chuck to be a brute. I thought Alan said he was just a schemer. Alan stopped a couple feet in front of Chuck and started shooting bullets at Koa's legs and arms. Koa dodged Chuck's boulder and used his sword to deflect the bullets away from himself but before he had time to counter, Laurel surprised him with a kick but missed. As Koa was dodging away from Laurel's leg, Tony lunged at him with a knife.

"So you thought you could defeat me if you all came at me at once eh?" Koa said after catching Tony's arm that held his knife. "You'll soon see you were sourly mistaken."

Koa punched Tony in the face with the hilt of his sword knocking him unconscious and caught Laurel's leg as she tried to send him another kick. Laurel tried to squirm out of his grip but with no avail.

"Let's see how you fight with no feet," Koa said before raising his sword above his head readying it to strike. "I wonder what kind of retribution you deserve."

Just as he was about to lop off Laurel's leg, Alan shot Koa in the arm. He dropped Laurel and glared at Alan menacingly.

"Who dares stops my divine judgement?" Koa said. "Are you against the holy works of God?!"

Enraged Koa came sprinting toward Alan. Chuck took a step back to keep himself away from the mad swordsman. Seeing that Alan was in danger I came running to his aid. Alan didn't flinch. He stood there rooted to the spot but he didn't look like he was immobilized by fear. He had a fierce look in his eye instead. Just as Koa whipped his sword to cut off Alan's head, I jumped in the way and instead Koa's sword collided with mine.

"Who do we have here?" Koa asked amused.

Koa jumped back and eyed me carefully. I stood protectively in front of Alan. I don't know why Alan didn't think to dodge Koa's sword but I wasn't going to have this rookie die on me just yet.

"There's no use using all your strength against that sword," Alan said just loud enough for me to hear. "That sword is a fake."

"Is that why you decided not to dodge it?" I growled. "Even if it was the legendary sword or not, it could have still killed you!"

"Sorry, I had a feeling I wouldn't die just then so that's why…" Alan said. Seriously what is up with this kid? Just because he had a feeling he decided to banish all of common sense and gamble his life?

"How are you sure that the sword isn't the Sword of Retribution?" I asked curiously.

"The crest on its hilt is different. The legendary sword had a black diamond symbol in its crest, not a cross," Alan explained. "But though it's not a legendary sword it's a cursed sword. It tricks the wielder and turns even the most righteous men into crazy killers."

"Enough talking," Koa said with a deep voice and gave me a piercing look. Whoever Koa was before, I don't think he was there anymore. His eyes held nothing but bloodlust in them. "It's time to reveal your fate."

Koa gave the air a hard slash sending over a sharp wind in my direction that can surely cut me in half. I grabbed Alan's arm and spun him around and out of harm's way. Then I quickly slashed at the air with three strikes that formed a triangle that canceled out Koa's slash and turning it into nothing but a gust of harmless wind.

"Impressive," Koa said with a straight face. "Not every swordsmen knows that trick."

That's not all I know. I slashed at the air in patterns with my two swords and created many sharp winds then sent them hurling toward Koa. I called this attack 900 BLADES. Koa slashed his sword in a figure eight pattern and managed to deflect my attack winds.

"How about we stop the airborne attacks, shall we," Koa said and with one quick step he went from being a few feet away to standing directly in front of me. He was fast! On instinct I moved my swords in a circular fashion to attack and defend at the same time. Forward flower… Reverse flower… upward flower… downward flower… I did this over and over again as Koa attacked me with quick slashes. I kept at it until Koa knocked my right katana away from my left stopping my flower patterns. With this one instant he powerfully hit my left katana out of my hand and sent it soaring a few feet away from me. He lunged for my throat but I defended myself with my one katana I had left. For a moment we stood there pushing on each other's blades knowing that whomever let down their guard first was the one to die.

As we pressed against each other's blades I heard a crack. It was my blade. His sword was so strong it was able to break my sword like it was glass. Sensing the danger I pushed him back with my whole body and jumped away to create enough distance between us. I had one move left that could lead either to my victory or my utter defeat. I had to gamble on this last move. I usually use this attack for ship killing but it may be powerful enough to win.

"Looks like you're out of moves huh," Koa said in a disappointed sigh. "This move is going to finish you."

Koa charged toward me. I grounded my legs readying all my strength to go into this attack. Koa leaped into the air with his sword high above his head and brought it down towards my right shoulder. With all my strength and using my entire body, I whipped my sword in an upward slash. I felt the impact of both of our blades. The blade of Koa's sword snapped in half and the blade to mine completely shattered. Koa eyes widened in shock and I used this moment to punch him in the face and grabbed what was left of his sword out of his hand. Koa fell backward and looked up at me with a look of surprise. With the cursed sword in my hand I felt my mind going to a dark place. Looking down at Koa I had an overwhelming want to kill him. The objective didn't exactly call for death. I knew that. But I wanted to cut him so bad.

"The sword… of Retribution… You…" Koa muttered.

"It was a fake," I said quietly. "You killed all those people fully knowing that, didn't you?"

"What? No, I carried out God's will—" Koa argued.

"With just half a blade left and the hilt, I can hear the sword's will," I said. "It screams for blood. That doesn't sound like the Sword of Retribution to you now does it?"

Without saying another word Koa's face changed from a look of fear and surprise to a crazed smirk. Without being able to hold back any longer, I gave in to the swords bloodlust and plunged what was left of the sword's blade into Koa's chest. The moment I let go of the sword I could feel a weight be lifted off of me and the light returned to my eyes.

"You… killed him," Alan said.

"The job is done," I said.

I went to turn back toward the farmland to get back to town but was instead greeted with a knife to my throat and my arm held tight behind my back.

"No, the job isn't done just yet," Tony said into my ear. When did he recover from being unconscious?

"You thought we didn't notice who you were?" Chuck said before forcefully pulling my hood off of my head. "Only a fool would be deceived by your disguise."

"Mr. Mori twin," Laurel giggled.

"Wait… Johnny is…" Alan sputtered.

"Seriously, Alan? You couldn't catch on that the dual katana user with brown hair and green eyes wasn't a hunter but a well-known pirate?" Laurel mocked with a hint of agitation to her voice.

"Now we have not just one bounty but two bounty rewards," Chuck grinned and rubbed his hands together. "With both their bounties put together that's 340 thousand bells!"

"We could buy our own private island with that money," Laurel said excitedly.

"Without your swords, you aren't much of a threat now are you?" Tony said. "Why you separated from your brother in the first place is beyond me but that only makes you that much easier to capture."

"Heh, you think small fry like you can capture me?" I scoffed. I grabbed the knife at my throat and forcefully moved it away from me as it cut deep into the palm of my hand. I spun around out of Tony's grip and kicked him in the stomach. I then ran toward the katana that Koa had knocked out of my hands earlier. I dodged away from Chuck's hands trying to grab me and Laurel's punch. Just before I could reach my katana Alan stood in my way and pointed his pistol at me.

"You seemed like such a cool guy," Alan said. "But I can't let you have your way."

"That's right Alan, stop him in his tracks!" Chuck shouted.

"He's wanted dead or alive," Laurel said. "If he's going to be so much trouble, might as well bring him back dead."

"I actually liked you," I sighed.

Alan shot his pistol to hit me precisely in the forehead but I dodged it and grabbed his pistol so that he couldn't aim. Then I punched him on the side of his head. I made sure to hold back a bit so that I wouldn't crush his skull but knocked him out instead. With Alan out of the way I picked up my one katana and gave a piercing glare toward the rest of the group.

"Now I can't have you guys squealing about me," I said.

"What bloodlust," Tony whispered as he stared into my eyes.

"Goodbye," I said before delivering one fatal slash that would silence them all at the same time.

I flicked the blood off my sword before returning the blade back to its scabbard. I felt a strange wind pass over me and I could tell a sandstorm was about to blow over. I looked down at Alan who was still unconscious on the ground.

"I really can't let you die, can I?" I said with a sigh before picking him up to carry him on my back. I took him back to town and left him at an inn. There I slipped his ID card back into his pocket and whispered. "I'm sure we'll meet again, Alan Rogers. You're going to be a great bounty hunter."

This encounter opened my eyes to something. I can't forget Pancake and I can't hate her. Since joining her crew I should have known I was bound to her for life. I may set my mission to avenge Sensei aside for now but that doesn't mean I wasn't closer to uncovering the assassin who killed Sensei and why. Alan was a great help. I have a feeling the swordsman Nick and I was searching for was a Sea Lord. For now, I'm going to rejoin with Nick and get our Pancake back.


A/N: hey guys! Another month, another chapter! I've been keeping to my new years resolution so far haha. I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter and thanks so much for reading and reviewing. Love all you guys! -Pancakegirl