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Chapter 35: Sparring and New Mission

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The city was ablaze, a roaring inferno that seemed to claw at the sky with fiery fingers. Amidst the chaos, Sakazuki emerged, his figure silhouetted against the conflagration, carrying the unconscious form of Katerina Devon over his shoulder like a hunter would a prize catch.

The heat from the flames was oppressive, and the air was thick with ash and the scent of destruction. He estimated grimly that it would take a full day, if not more, to quell the fiery beast he had unleashed.

Brontes, standing a safe distance away, watched the city burn with a mixture of awe and frustration: "Can't you be a little more considerate when you use your magma abilities? Don't you know how destructive your Devil Fruit powers are?" He chided, his voice barely rising over the crackling flames.

Sakazuki's response was a venomous glare, his eyes reflecting the flames that danced around them.

"Shut up." He said in a cold voice.

Brontes sneered, unimpressed by the display of temper: "Got carried away, didn't you?"

"You know the nature of my Devil Fruit powers. In the heat of battle, how can I be mindful of everything? Katerina Devon was no easy foe. Had she escaped, who knows when we would have had another chance to capture her?" Sakazuki retorted, his sneer as cold as the fire was hot.

Brontes sighed, conceding the point: "Alright, you have your reasons. You go ahead and arrange things on your side; I'll handle the aftermath here. This island falls under the World Government's jurisdiction. I suppose they've been notified by now."

"I've already reported to Marineford. A special transport warship is en route to take her to Impel Down." Sakazuki said to him.

"And the flames?" Brontes inquired, his gaze returning to the city that was now little more than a funeral pyre.

"I'm not a Flame-Flame Fruit user." Sakazuki replied coldly, turning away.

Brontes was left to contemplate their helplessness. Without the powers of Kuzan's ice to counteract the heat, they could do nothing but watch as the city succumbed to the flames.

...

By midnight, the warship arrived, its arrival heralded by the sound of heavy anchors and the bustle of marines unloading supplies.

"Tong!"

With the city in ruins, the provision of food was a necessity to prevent a second tragedy from unfolding.

The Marines had caused this disaster; it was only right they bear the consequences and stave off the inevitable outcry that would follow in the newspapers.

As Katerina was taken away, the city continued to burn, though the flames had begun to wane. The destructive power of their Devil Fruit abilities was a stark reminder of their own limitations in the face of such devastation.

In a rare moment of camaraderie, Brontes turned to Sakazuki with a smile: "By the way, congratulations on becoming a Rear-Admiral."

Sakazuki's response was terse, his voice as cold as the night air: "What's there to congratulate? You've been a Rear-Admiral since we left the Elite Camp. And you've already taken up the position of Chief of Staff at G-2 Base."

"It's just a title. Garp-san always puts his responsibility on my shoulders, which means I have to read and sign documents all day long." Brontes said helplessly.

...

The evening air was thick with the salt of the sea as Sakazuki and Brontes stood across from each other, the quiet between them as comfortable as the old coats they had shrugged off.

They had not laid eyes on one another for six long months, yet the bond of camaraderie, forged over two grueling years of shoulder-to-shoulder combat, needed no words. Sakazuki, a man who often regarded others with a cold indifference, held a deep-seated respect for Brontes, whose strength rivaled his own.

As the night wore on, their silent drinking session neared its end. Sakazuki's gaze, sharp as a hawk's, cut through the dim light to fix on Brontes.

"Come on, let's fight!" He said, his voice a low rumble of challenge.

Brontes raised an eyebrow, a smirk playing on his lips: "Without using devil fruit powers?"

"Yes." Came the simple, affirmative grunt from Sakazuki.

"Fine." Brontes agreed, his smile widening: "Let's see how much stronger you've become."

They stood steadily, two figures in the moonlight, and stepped toward the coast's edge. Their coats fell to the ground, revealing the formidable, battle-honed physiques beneath. The night air seemed to charge with electricity as they prepared to clash.

"Armament Haki!" Sakazuki's voice boomed, his body now sheathed in the visible manifestation of his fighting spirit, a dark armor that shimmered with latent power.

Brontes responded in kind, his own body cloaked in the black sheen of Armament Haki, though his seemed to absorb the light around him, a shade darker and more intense.

"Let's start!" Brontes said loudly, the air around them crackling with anticipation.

With a growl, Sakazuki used Soru, vanishing from sight only to reappear with the force of a cannonball.

"Bang!"

The sound of his strike was like a clap of thunder, resonating through the night.

Brontes's hand shot up, intercepting the blow. His arm shook with the aftershock. Yet, Brontes stood unyielding, a monolith of strength in his own right, unmatched among his peers save for Sakazuki himself.

The two marines, stripped of their devil fruit abilities, relied solely on their physical prowess and mastery of Haki. Their battle was a pure test of skill and power, a spectacle that left the watching marine soldiers with their jaws slack in awe.

The combatants' movements were a blur, their strikes resonating with the force of cannon fire.

In the hearts of the onlookers, one word resounded with the clarity of a struck bell: Powerful!

The duel raged on until the first light of dawn began to streak the sky, neither combatant willing to yield. Finally, as the new day broke, they stood, breathing a little heavily, yet neither close to defeat.

"It seems your half-year of combat experience in the sea has really made you stronger." Brontes conceded, his voice carrying a note of respect.

"You're not bad either." Sakazuki replied, a grudging recognition in his eyes: "After half a year without action, you've still managed to train your Armament Haki to this level. It seems you're not just sitting in the office all day long."

Brontes chuckled, his breath still coming in heavy gusts: "Don't forget, I'm one of the three freaks of the Elite Camp like you. If I don't train hard, I wouldn't be able to keep up with you."

...

As dawn broke over the vast expanse of the New World, the sea mirrored the fiery hues of the rising sun.

The waves whispered tales of adventure and the unknown as Brontes prepared to part ways with the aftermath of the Katerina debacle.

His warship, a formidable galleon of justice, cut through the waters.

Along the journey, Brontes and his crew encountered numerous pirate groups, each one a small but necessary conquest to maintain order.

The New World was a haven for pirates, a chaotic symphony of lawlessness where nearly every island harbored those who defied the World Government.

For Brontes, capturing these weak pirates were akin to a monotonous chore, like a parent wearily disciplining their children on a dreary, rain-soaked day.

Despite the constraints and red tape that some times entangled the operations of the Marine, Brontes was not one to squander an opportunity to enforce justice.

 

His mission soon took an unexpected turn. Orders arrived, directing him to the enigmatic shores of Wano Country.

The name alone evoked a sense of awe and mystery; a land steeped in legend, where the way of the samurai was not just a practice but an art, and where shadows whispered of covert ninjas.

Wano's might was renowned, yet it remained shrouded in self-imposed solitude, its samurai seldom seen beyond its borders.

The World Government viewed Wano with a wary eye, for it was a nation untethered by their influence, a rogue state by their standards. Yet, even as it stood outside their jurisdiction, Wano held a treasure coveted by all—the rare and powerful Seastone.

Seastone, the ocean's crystalline bounty, was a marvel with two distinct properties.

Its unparalleled hardness was legendary, rumored to be the very material from which the indecipherable Poneglyphs were carved. More importantly, it possessed the unique ability to nullify the powers of devil fruit users, a trait that had revolutionized the Marine's approach to incarceration.

In the past, such pirates were subdued by the crude method of submersion in seawater, as evidenced by the chilling depths of Impel Down's Level 6, where the formidable Byrnndi World was once confined in a prison of ice-cold seawater.

The secret of shaping Seastone, once an enigma, was a closely guarded secret of Wano's masterful blacksmiths and artisans. Ordinary tools and machinery faltered against its resilience.

However, the tides of fate changed with the enlistment of Dr. Vegapunk. His groundbreaking research led to the innovation that allowed the processing of Seastone, transforming it from an untouchable resource to the linchpin in the World Government's arsenal against devil fruit wielders.

Now, as whispers of Seastone smuggling reached the ears of the World Government, the need for secure transportation became paramount.

Brontes, entrusted with this vital mission, was to lead the convoy from Marineford, ensuring the safe passage of Seastone back to the heart of the Marine's power.

 


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