The journey to Water 7 was uneventful, well aside from some funky weather but that was just par for the course on the Grand Line. Markus was driving the small, overly cramped feeling, boat up to the massive water fountain island. Kureha was standing near him and staring at the island through her round frame sunglasses. She let out a soft sigh and spoke with a tone of nostalgia, "It's been a long time since I've been here. The place has changed."
Markus looked up at Kureha a little intrigued. He never assumed that she spent her whole life on Drum Island, so hearing she had been to Water 7 before only confirmed that. He looked back at the island while asking, "How long ago was your last visit?"
Kureha hummed a bit before replying, "About eighty or so years ago. It wasn't as populous and prosperous back then." She took a good look at the island, "I think it was bigger back then too."
Markus nodded at that, "The Aqua Laguna is slowly sinking the island deeper and deeper into the ocean. The one that struck while we were here was unbelievable. The waves towered over the entire island. The damage was pretty bad but the people here are pretty tough. The very next day they were out doing repairs."
Kureha looked at Markus and grinned, "You really like this island, don't you."
It was more of a statement than a question but he still nodded. He did like Water 7 and the people on it. Especially the old bastard building his ship. The ride returned to companionable silence until Markus docked them on the small spit of land as usual. He waited for the three women to pack up their clothes for a stay of at least one night. The full length of their stay would be determined by whatever progress had been finished on their ship.
Once his boat was stored away, he handed out around a million Belly to the three women. Bonney and Rei still had some money and now Kureha did as well. The four of them went to a hotel and once their rooms were booked, Markus left them to their own devices.
He wanted to meet with the old bastard making his ship. A quick scan of the island pointed him to a large warehouse near the shipyards of Galley-La. There were other men around him and they all seemed to be working on the ship. Sadly, his Gravity Sense didn't have a high enough level to 'see' very good through it. Just lumps really. All of them were working on one large lump. So, it seemed like the ship wasn't finished quite yet.
Markus quickly made his way to the dry dock where his ship was being constructed. Once he entered the sight, he saw that this ship was only about half constructed. The keel and some siding were finished but he could still see the bare ribs for most of it. The entire thing was still raw wood with no painting having been done yet. Still, Markus could see the general shape and design of the ship and he was happy with what he saw. The whole thing would be over seventy feet long from stem to stern.
In the middle, there were four tall masts where the sails for the ship would reside. He was a little surprised to see four masts but had no complaint against it. More sails meant more speed... right? While he continued to look over the work in progress, the old man spotted him and came over quickly, "Good! You're here!"
Markus watched as the old man scrambled over to him. By the time he arrived, he was out of breath and bent over with his hands on his knees. Markus waited patiently for the old man to catch his breath. Once he had the old man spoke up, "We need more money to finish the ship!"
Markus slowly crossed his hands over his chest while his eyes narrowed. Yes, he'd told the old man that money wasn't an issue and he was very willing to pay for quality work. However, he was also not willing to be ripped off. He'd left fourteen bars of solid gold with the old man who had assured him that it would be more than enough for what he'd ordered.
Seeing the look on Markus's face, the old man lifted his hands in a placating gesture, "Now now, before you get angry, let me explain. First, great news! I managed to get my hands on a wonderful piece of Adam Tree wood! The bad news is, I wasn't the only one interested in it. The other party and I got into a bidding war over it. You'd made it pretty clear that you really wanted some for the keel and since this is probably going to be the last ship I ever make... Well, I really wanted to make it with Adam Tree wood as well."
Markus nodded in understanding but continued to wait for the old man to finish speaking, "So, the keel alone ended up costing five hundred million Belly. I was pretty sure you wouldn't be too thrilled with that so I managed to get a couple of my men to act as witnesses when I paid for it."
Markus appreciated that, but it was easy enough for him to tell the old man was telling the truth. He made a gesture for the old man to continue to explain. Sure, five hundred million would eat a lot of the gold he gave out but not all of it. Depending on what the current market price was. From his, admittedly low, knowledge of the market and the size of the bars, they should have been worth about fifty million each. That gave the old man a budget of seven hundred million. There was still, at least, two hundred million unaccounted for
The old man continued, "I turned some of the gold into cash to rent this dry dock, fifty thousand a day for two weeks now, and hired the boys for the work. But, that's not where most of the gold went. My friend, the one who helped make the motors in the boat I built you, he kept playing with the motors even after you left. He took what I told him and your little motor and went crazy! He started to experiment with the idea and discovered that by turning the motor manually, he could generate electricity himself! Crazy bastard almost fried himself when he made a big one and had an animal spinning it!"
He waved his hands, "That's not important. What is important that after some experimenting he found that gold was able to be used to make the motors. He was thrilled by this because you gave me so much gold and it was easier to use it instead of finding copper. Not to mention, copper corrodes and gold doesn't so on the sea making your motors and wires out of gold would make them more resistant to the saltwater. The bastard took almost all of the gold to make you a bunch of different motors for the boat! He's lost his damned mind... but he's also a goddamn genius. Some of his ideas would make it possible for just a couple of people to run the entire ship! It's crazy! You're going to have the most technologically advanced ship on the sea... Uh, that is... if we get enough money to finish it. Otherwise, we need to scrap the motors to sell the gold and import copper."
After listening to everything, Markus lets out a sigh and uncrossed his arms. It seemed like a lot of the gold hadn't been spent and had instead turned into construction materials. He raised his hand and started to pull out cash this time. As he was, the old man spoke up, "Ah, if it's not too much trouble and ya got more gold, the guy making the motors would love to have more for his work. Or we can finish it with copper."
Markus nodded and pulled out another dozen gold bars. He had a metric fuckton of it inside of his inventory and it was just sitting there. Putting it to good use to make his ship run wasn't something he was against. He'd been filthy stinking rich for months and frankly, if he ran out of money within the next century it would be a miracle. He still had well over a hundred billion Belly in cash plus tons more gold and all the expensive items and entire ships he'd stolen. A dozen gold bars were hardly more than pocket change.
After giving the old man the money and gold, they proceeded to discuss the details of the ship and the construction process. The old man explained that the ship was a bit bigger because the piece of Adam wood was just that long. It didn't seem right to cut it shorter to make a smaller ship. Markus agreed. He had no complaints about a bigger boat. He also learned that the fourth mast at the front of the sip would sport a square sail while the other three would be lateen sails. With the sterncastle planned for it, the ship was sounding more like a galleon than a caravel.
As they were talking, Markus noticed a gleam of pride and fulfillment in the old man's eyes. It got him thinking. He definitely needed a shipwright. Although his ship wouldn't be likely to take all that much, or any, damage from storms and battles, it still needed to be properly maintained. He started to look closely at the old man. The old guy clearly knew his stuff and clearly loved to do it. So, as their discussion of the ship was wrapping up, he asked, "Have you ever thought of going out on the sea old man? I could really use a good shipwright."
The old man laughed, "Me? On the sea? At my age? No way in hell kid. Maybe I would have taken you up on the offer thirty or forty years ago, but now? Besides, you're a pirate with billions on his head, if I sailed with you I'd be dead in a week from Marines coming after you."
Markus grinned, "If you're really worried about your age, I know someone who could do something about that. I'll have to ask her nicely and probably bribe her but, if she agrees, she could help with the age thing."
The old man scoffed, "Yeah? What's she going to do? Make me young again?"
Markus nodded, "Exactly."
The old man froze and stared at Markus, "Bullshit. Are you serious?"
Markus nodded once more, "You wouldn't be the first old timer that had their age reverted by her. Hell, you wouldn't even be the oldest person on the crew. The doctor is over a hundred years old."
Elsewhere, Kureha sneezed. After rubbing her nose, her eyes narrowed dangerously, "Some little punk is talking rudely about me."
The old man looked at Markus for a while, "Why would you want an old washed-up drunk like me on your crew?"
In reply, Markus waved his hand in the direction of the ship under construction, "Washed-up? Look at that ship! It's gorgeous. You're even incorporating technology you probably hardly understand into it and making not only the fastest ship on the seas but the most advanced! Washed-up my ass. ...You're definitely a drunkard though."
"Gimme some time to think about it kid?"
Markus nodded but added a few parting words, "There will be plenty of funds for liquor, as long as you're not too drunk to perform your duties. Oh, and that crazy friend of yours making the motors, I want to meet him and make him the same offer."
With those words, Markus left the dry dock and walked through the city. He wanted to hire on the old man's friend because he seemed to be something of a genius. Not only making the original motors in his cigarette boat but now even improving them and using gold in their construction. The friend even discovered that the motors could turn mechanical energy into electrical energy on their own. It seemed like an impressive individual and he would love to have someone on board to make new and interesting things that could be abused to hell and back. If that friend just happened to be able to understand and use the complex components from the Pacifistas in his inventory... Even better.
While pondering about these things. He headed in the direction where he could sense his other three crew members. The ship would take another two weeks to finish. Mostly because of the machinery and motors that the old man's friend wanted to install in the ship. Thinking about the old man, Markus really needed to ask him his name sometime. He couldn't call him 'old man' after Bonney turned him into a twenty-something... or could he? He smiled at that thought.
It didn't take him long to find the three women. They were all sitting around a small cafe table enjoying tea or coffee, with little snack sandwiches and cookies. Markus happily joined them and ordered himself a cup of tea. When you spend so much time with nothing but women you tend to get a little more in touch with your feminine side. Also, teatime was awesome. Once he had his drink and munched on a few sandwiches, he broke the news, "The ship is only around half done and will take another week or two to finish. On the bright side, it will be the fastest ship on the sea. So we'll have that to add with the fastest boat on the sea."
Markus focused on Bonney, "I'd like to ask you a favor though Bonney."
She perked up and gestured for him to continue, so he did, "The old man making the ship is a hell of a shipwright. But, he's an old man. I want to bring him into the crew to maintain the ship and I was hoping you could give him the same treatment you gave Kureha. Only, he'd not nearly as old as her."
As soon as the words left his mouth, Kureha was swinging her hand at the back of his head, "I knew someone said something rude about me!"
Markus ducked under the swing and smirked at Kureha, "Man, Old women's intuition is frightening!"
She scowled at him but didn't try to smack him again. She knew she couldn't no matter how many times she tried. With his Observation Haki and speed it was impossible for any of them to hit him unless he allowed them to. Bonney had let their little skit play out before speaking, "I don't have a problem with making this guy you want to recruit younger but you'll owe me one."
Markus nodded, expecting as much so he decided to push on while they were on the subject, "I also asked to meet another friend of his, the one who designed and built the motors only I can use on the boat. I want to invite the friend as well and will probably need to de-age them too."
Bonney looked a little annoyed as she snorted, "Two favors then. And don't get used to this! I didn't join your crew just to be a beautician for all the old folks you pick up."
Kureha quickly looked at Bonney with narrowed eyes prompting Bonney to continue quickly, "Not that there's anything wrong with older people. Many of them greatly contribute to their communities."
Kureha continued to stare at Bonney causing the latter to sweat heavily until the gaze was withdrawn. There was a clear hierarchy among the women and Kureha sat firmly at the top. During his time with her, Markus didn't think Bonney was really all that old. While she could, potentially, be the oldest member of his crew, she didn't act like it at all. She still acted like a young woman. He had a few theories on that but none that he was sure of and had any proof for.
As they continued their meal, Markus spoke up, "Tomorrow we'll start training again. Not like there's much else to do around here while waiting for the ship."
All three of them groaned but didn't offer any further complaints. Markus just smirked a little and left them to their own devices after getting the name of their hotel. He walked through the city and did a little shopping. He purchased more clothing and placed a few orders for custom made clothing while he was at it. He also picked up an Eternal Pose for Dressrosa, no point in looking for it the old fashioned way.
Once he finished up everything he needed to do, he went to the hotel and booked a room for himself. All four of them would be staying here. He gave Bonney the food she needed to not feel starved and called it a night. The next week or two would be much like the last month had been. At least after that, they could get back to sailing the sea properly and have some fun. He was looking forward to striking Dressrosa and dismantling everything Doflamingo had built there. He was looking forward to adding a new island to his list of territories.
Just a self-plug! Read ahead, if you want.
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