The Crescent Bulb, the ship of the Bluebell Pirates, was on fire.

Dandelion wasn’t the perpetrator and she doubted that Cade would have gone that far…in this case. Cade had burned down many ships in the time since Dandelion had become his partner, but she had never seen him do that to a captain he acknowledged, such as Bluebell.

Whatever the case, the api, kebakaran that raged across the deck didn’t faze Dandelion in the least. She continued to face the approaching pirates with clenched fists, trying to push down her violent disgust as she saw their ugly, lecherous, male faces grinning at her.

“You ain’t going nowhere, girly. anda and your partner are both going ta die here!”

“Sis berkata that we could do anything to make sure anda both go down. That means we got no reason to worry about the ship!”

Figures. The crewmates of one of Cade’s Friends were a bunch of idiots. They’d already tried to attack her several times, which had left them with broken ribs and shattered knee caps, but their enthusiasm never dropped. They were stupid, but loyal. They’d even burn down their own ship just to help their captain with her revenge.

No wonder Cade had asked her to be merciful.

But even if she didn’t kill them, they were enemies. Dandelion calmly took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she clenched her fists once lebih and lowered her stance. Her posture was odd—with her knees bent and one arm raised in front of her with the palm facing down, her defense was full of holes. Even the stupid pirates could see that and happily charged ke hadapan to take advantage of her weakness.

This proved to be a mistake.

With a single push with her legs, the wooden deck of the ship shattered beneath her as Dandelion made a small, yet forceful hop in the air that only brought her half an inch up and about five inches ke hadapan before she landed once more. However, the momentum wasn’t stopped. Even after landing, Dandelion continued to shoot ke hadapan with her feet digging through the deck of the boat, sending splinters and broken planks flying in every direction, leaving two trails behind her to tunjuk her path. She was like a train barreling forward, and the pirates were standing directly in her path.

A few of the pirates in the back were smart enough to jump out of the way, but the pirates leading the assault had no chance. Dandelion rammed mercilessly into their numbers and sent them flying in every direction, sending several overboard while others slammed hard onto the deck a few feet away, groaning in pain. Even the few who managed to get out of the way in time had to cover their faces with their arms to protect themselves from the wooden shrapnel that flew at them.

Dandelion finally slowed to a stop after skidding straight through the flames without even flinching, easily brushing it off as she stood on the other side of the boat, further away from the sound of gunshots being fired rapidly through the air and deflecting off of something. Dandelion took a moment to listen to the sounds around her, noting what she did and didn’t hear. From what she could tell, the Sea Train was long gone and Cade was still messing around with the captain of the ship.

And as for the other pirates…

“You…Just what kind of freak are you?”

Dandelion turned slowly and frowned at the pirates who circled around the burning flames to approach her once more, all of them bruises and bleeding, but none of them lacking in determination.

“You should have ripped your own body apart doing that! Just what kind of freak of nature are you?”

Freak of nature, eh?

Dandelion almost scoffed at that. It was typical of a man to think that way when a girl showed such strength. They were all shallow and superficial. Perhaps she should just ignore Cade's request and beat them all to death? With weak Bones like their, a single flick to their forehead could shatter their skulls.

“Wait, anda guys. Let me handle this.”

A voice spoke up from behind the pirates, who all had surprised looks on their faces as they quickly parted to make way for someone. Dandelion’s eyes narrowed as she focused her attention on the unimpressive man who was glaring straight at Dandelion. He didn’t emanate any impressive aura, but he did wear eccentric grey armor that looked as if it were made from iron. It looked far too big for him, swallowing up his entire body and sitting right under his chin, forcing him to keep his head up and chest out. He also had a double sided spear sitting across his back with ends shaped like Arrow tips. His eyes held a certain determination in them, but there was no hostility. It seemed as if he was prepared to fight, but against something other than the enemy before him.

He was probably a very idealistic person.

“A-Aniki!” One of the pirates cried out in surprise. “What are anda doing here? I thought anda didn’t agree with Sis’s decision to ambush Longshot?”

“I don’t!” The man responded firmly with a shout, both of his fists clenched tightly at his side. He took a deep breath and started again with a somewhat calmer tone. “I still don’t agree with her decision, even now. I get that she’s mad at her friend for joining the World Government, but that doesn’t justify violence. Attacking her friend just because she doesn’t like his choices makes her just as much of a traitor! She should have taken a minit to cool down and think about it before sailing all the way back to Paradise for this absurd revenge-driven voyage! But…But still! I just can’t sit back and do nothing either! If Bluebell’s going to fight, I have to help her out. I made a promise that I would always have her back when she does reckless things, no matter what. I never agreed with her reckless decisions before, but I supported her nonetheless. This time isn’t that much different.”

“So anda intend to fight to, Aniki?!”

“Yeah. I definitely can’t let anda guys fight a losing battle against this girl. I’ll handle this. anda guys need to find some way to get us to the nearest island so we can get off the bot before it completely burns away and sinks. Break out the oars and start rowing. We can always fix the ship, but not in the middle of the ocean. Bluebell’s a devil Buah user, after all.”

“Yessir!”

The pirates all gave proud smiles—some of them even sniffled a bit to hold back tears—as they all hurried off, probably to find a way to get the ship moving again. Dandelion let them all go, keeping her gaze on the young man in front of her who was giving her the same hard and determined look as before.

From what Dandelion could tell, he was probably the second-in-command of the Bluebell Pirates. Young and kind, he must have tried to stop Bluebell when she decided to attack her friend. Now that things had escalated to such a degree, he couldn’t continue to stubbornly remain neutral and he decided that he had no choice but to fight in order to uphold his own sense of justice. Rather than helping Bluebell out, he probably rationalized his decision as ‘forcing an end to this misunderstanding that we can all accept’.

Dandelion had never actually met this kind of person before.

“Those guys really trust you.” Dandelion noted as she folded her arms over her chest. “Are anda the first mate?”

“Not really. Most of these guys were here before me. My name is Johan Pesaro. Bluebell made me her right hand against my will, but I still treat these guys like my family. They’re all good people with dreams. That’s why I won’t let anda hurt any of them anymore.”

“That’s a baseless claim. anda saw how freakishly strong I am. If anda want to protect them, you’ll have to take punches that can reduce boulders to dust. Can anda even handle that much?”

“I’ll be the crew’s shield.” Johan Pesaro responded firmly with eyes that supported his resolve. He wouldn’t be budging an inch. Not willingly, at least. “I will be Bluebell’s shield, too. Until she works out her problems with her friend, I’ll make sure she still has a family to return to.”

Dandelion had to snort at that. Was he determined to make sure he was the good guy in all of this? This was why men were so…

“Zero stance.”

Dandelion’s eyebrows twitches as Johan spoke abruptly while she clenched her fists once more, preparing to attack..

“…What is that?”

“Zero stance. That’s what you’re using, right? You’re not using any martial arts when anda fight with your bare hands. anda just react and alih at the last moment to match the situation because it’s lebih practical than limiting yourself with an actual prepared stance. Even an expert martial artist would have trouble against anda because your attacks can’t be predicted.”

“You’re close.” Dandelion admitted bluntly. Well, it wasn’t like she had been hiding anything from the beginning. “I’m not thinking ahead as far as ‘what’s most practical’. I just punch because I want to punch my opponent. I kick because I want to kick my opponent. I’ll grab, scratch, head butt, strangle, atau bit my opponent because I feel that’s what I should do. There’s no rhyme atau reason to it. It’s completely intuitive. And my intuition is usually right.”

“You fight completely on instinct?”

“That’s right. And it works, not because I’m talented, but because I’m strong. Stronger than you, your captain, atau even Cade. The blood of a giant runs through my veins, giving me a body that can lift battleships and tunnel through mountains if I exert myself enough.”

“You’re…mixed?”

“That’s right. I’m a crossbreed between a giant and a human being, though I don’t know whether it was my parents atau my grandparents, since I was sold into slavery right after I was born. Your crewmates had it right. I’m a freak of nature.”

“But you’re kind of short, even for a normal human girl! You’re only five feet tall, aren’t you?”

“Like I care what anda think of me.”

Dandelion rocketed ke hadapan with her fists clenched tightly, aiming to mercilessly beat the person in front of her into submission. Johan Pesaro managed to recover in time to alih and try to evade the powerful swings aimed directly at his head, barely managing to evade the oncoming attacks sejak shifting his torso to the side in time with Dandelion’s punches. Dandelion continued to push ke hadapan and threw her body on bahagian, atas of Johan, attempting to bungkus, balut her legs around his body to his movement. Johan took several quick steps back to avoid being caught and rushed ke hadapan as soon as Dandelion landed on the floor, attempting to take advantage of the moment she couldn’t immediately alih in any direction. Dandelion reacted with a forceful punch forward, but it lacked any of her weight behind it, making the hayun, swing relatively weak. Johan brushed it aside with one hand and brought his other fist around, aiming to slug Dandelion across the face.

Dandelion easily avoided this sejak twisting her waist slightly to alih her body out of the way. The punch was skillfully executed, but also very straight forward. Dandelion had no trouble seeing through it with her Kenbunshoku. But it seemed that Johan had predicted that response and continued to alih closer, bracing one foot on one of Dandelion’s rock solid legs, and used it as a foot najis to jump into the air over Dandelion.

“Lucha Style: Blind Bat!”

Johan’s voice rang out as he moved his body horizontally, letting himself fall in the air right seterusnya to Dandelion. As soon as he was parallel with her head, one of his feet swung out in a wide arc, aiming for the blind spot behind Dandelion’s head, forcing her to turn in order to block the attack sejak catching his heel in her palm. The attack had been well executed, but it was both complimented and hindered sejak the heavy armor Johan wore. Despite knowing nothing about martial arts, Dandelion could intuitively grasp the reason for the armor. He sacrificed flexibly for power. Even someone like Dandelion, with a giant’s strength, felt herself being pushed back sejak the force of the kick.

“Lucha Style: Spearfish!”

Johan’s hands hit the ground first as he brought his other foot up to be seterusnya to his other one, and he pushed off of the floor as hard as he could so he shot ke hadapan like a spear. Dandelion caught his legs under one of her arms and gripped him tightly as she skidded back several lebih feet, right into the flames that were still spreading across the ship’s deck. Dandelion gritted her teeth tightly as she felt the heat begin to eat at her body this time, attacking her exposed skin.

“Lucha style—”

“Enough with your stupid ‘style’!!!”

Dandelion roared out as she gripped the legs of Johan’s armor tightly with both hands and began to spin violently on her heels, performing something similar to a wrestling alih before suddenly releasing Johan and sending him flying through the air, crashing into what was probably the captain’s quarters. Without waiting for him to recover, Dandelion took a running start before jumping into the air, sending herself flying onto the spot where Johan had landed. She felt the satisfying sensation of the armor being crushed and flattened under foot as she completely destroyed the furniture and walls of the room without a saat thought, reducing it all to splinters.

Without wasting any time, Dandelion grabbed the now exposed body in the armor and raised a clenched hand to sink into the face of her enemy. Only then did she remember what she’d been told—her fist came to an abrupt halt an inch from Johan’s face as she remembered Cade’s explicit orders.

She wasn’t supposed to kill anyone, huh?

Dandelion sighed as she released Johan’s kolar reluctantly and prepared to hop off of him. Then her eyes narrowed as she finally focused on the face of the person she’d been about the punch.

When did Johan manage to switch himself with a body pillow?

“Lucha Style: spearfish IV!”

Dandelion bent ke hadapan just in time to avoid the spear that was swung violently at her neck from what would have been a blindspot. Had she used her Kenbunshoku a moment later, she might have sustained a serious injury.

“Looks like your vision narrows to the size of a pinhole when anda focus on attacking.” Johan noted while taking several steps back to distance herself from Dandelion. Without his armor, he was now left with a simple leotard that bared a lot of his skin. He must have used his agility to slip around Dandelion while she was focused on destroying the armor. “But anda didn’t have to destroy Bluebell’s room.”

“It was an unfortunate coincidence. It’s not like I did it on purpose. Not that I care either way.”

Dandelion responded without much interest, but Johan was distracted sejak something else entirely. His eyes were focused on something behind Dandelion—a mirror that happened to be placed just right to reflect Dandelion’s back. Some of the white cloth Dandelion had tucked into her gladiator armor to hide some of her exposed skin had shifted during her last attack, so her back was in full view for Johan to see. What he saw was enough to completely surprise him.

The tattoo burned into Dandelion’s was hard to mistake for anything else.

“When anda berkata anda were sold into slavery…just what did anda mean?”

Johan’s voice had dropped to a hush as his head lowered, letting her bangs shadow his shocked eyes. His hands trembled violently and he tried to stop the uncontrollable shaking sejak clenching them, but it hardly helped. Dandelion watched this silent rage with acute interest.

“It’s exactly as anda see. This is the Hoof of the Flying Dragon. Its proof that, as far as the government is concerned, I’m simply an item—a possession without any human rights. I used to belong to a Celestial Dragon before finally escaping.”

“You can’t be serious!!! Don’t anda know that the World Government works for the Celestial Dragons?! They’ll send anda back to the nobles the moment they find out! Why would anda be partners with a Shichibukai—”

“Quit yelling—it’s annoying.” Dandelion cut Johan off crisply with a pitiless glare. “You think I don’t know who the government works for? They already know who—or rather, ‘what’—I am. It doesn’t change anything.”

“Why?” Johan demanded furiously, his eyes alight with righteous fury. “Why are anda okay with that? Don’t anda want freedom? Don’t anda want to live as a human being?!”

Huh. This was interesting. Dandelion could have sworn that she’d heard these words before.

“You don’t have to sell yourself just because anda can’t think of a better way to live! There are other ways! You’re not a slave now, right? anda managed to get away! So there is hope!”

Wasn’t it when she was a tavern some time ago? That’s right; Cade had been drunk and was teasing Dandelion, making fun of the mark on her back.

“…That warlord is threatening you, isn’t it?”

Of course, she’d punched him. Hard.

“I can’t believe one of Bluebell’s Friends would do such a thing! It must be true that Shichibukai sell their souls to the government when they make those deals. It’s just not human!”

That was when he’d shown Dandelion true freedom. It had nothing to do with obligations atau what other people expected of you. So long as she could speak her mind and go where she wanted, then she was happy.

“I can help you. Bluebell wouldn’t stand for this either. I’d hate to give her another reason to attack her friend, but if we tell her what’s going on, she’ll protect you, from both Longshot and the government. What do anda say? Will anda sertai us?”

It was for that reason that Dandelion had decided that she owed Cade Locksley her life.

“It seems like you’re misunderstanding a lot of things.” Dandelion sighed as she pulled on the white cloth stuck between the plates of armor on her body, making sure they covered her tattoo properly once more. “And I don’t really care if anda are. It doesn’t really affect me either way. But anda should probably know; I don’t necessarily dislike men, but I have every reason not to like them. Similarly, I don’t particularly dislike pirates, but I’ve already decided that I will never become one.”

Johan’s expression was mixed. He seemed confused sejak Dandelion’s answer, concerned for her wellbeing, and angry at some evil enemy that he had probably created in his mind. He seemed determined to believe that someone was causing Dandelion pain and suffering.

“I guess I have no choice.” Johan sighed reluctantly as he held his spear in front of him and gripped it tightly. “I’ll have to defeat anda and force anda to see reason. This is for your own sake.”

“Like that was ever your decision to make. This is why men are so…”