Smoker had a bad habit of smoking fiercely when his mood was sour, and it was clear that his mood was far from pleasant at the moment.
He had indeed set out to capture the Straw Hat Pirates, but he never imagined that he would meet Ian here.
The encounter was a bitter pill to swallow, as Ian was now one of the Shichibukai, a powerful figure within the Marines, while Smoker remained a mere Captain. Even though Smoker didn’t place much importance on military rank, the fact that Ian, who was still a swordsmanship instructor under his own command, is now someone he had to look up to was a humbling experience. Anyone would find it difficult to face a former colleague in such a position.
If there was one person Smoker wished to avoid at all costs, it was Ian. But fate had other plans, and he found himself standing before the man he loathed.
Smoker was highly suspicious of Ian’s presence in Alabasta. He had warned the Marine headquarters of Ian’s dangerous tendencies long ago, but his warnings fell on deaf ears. As a result, Ian caused a major incident in Marijoa, and the entire World Government had to bear the embarrassment of the situation.
Smoker believed that Ian was a troublemaker, and wherever he went, chaos was sure to follow. It was no wonder that he was on high alert as soon as he laid eyes on him.
Faced with Smoker’s questioning, Ian shrugged nonchalantly and said, “What kind of old friend are you? You’re so intimidating the moment we meet.”
Ignoring Smoker, Ian reached out and greeted Tashigi with a wave, “Hey, Tashigi! Long time no see!”
“Long… long time no see,” Tashigi replied, her voice quivering as she nervously tightened her grip on the sword in her hand.
“The one next to you, is that your sister?” Ian feigned ignorance, pointing towards Kuina and asking Tashigi.
“No… no! She’s Lieutenant Kuina, we just happen to look alike,” Tashigi quickly denied, waving her hand frantically.
Kuina also cooperated, coldly snorting at Ian with disdain.
The two obviously knew each other, but they pretended that this is their first time meeting each other. Smoker and Tashigi were both confused, or rather, they never thought about it in this direction. Seeing Ian casually greet his subordinates while ignoring him, Smoker couldn’t help but feel irritated and spoke out, “Ian, don’t think that just because you’re now a Shichibukai, I’ll forgive you! If I had known that you would cause such a big incident in Marijoa, I wouldn’t have let you out of the East Blue in the first place!”
Smoker couldn’t help but regret his decision, if he hadn’t authorized Ian for taking the Marine ship out to eradicate a Pirate Group, things might have turned out differently. If he had kept Ian in the Marines at that time, perhaps there would have been fewer incidents later on.
As he spoke, Smoker’s gaze shifted towards Ian’s back, and he couldn’t help but spot Ace.
At the moment he saw Ace, Smoker’s pupils involuntarily contracted. It was indeed the second-division captain of the Whitebeard Pirates, Fire Fist Ace. So, it turns out that Admiral Aokiji’s words were true; Ian and Ace were working together, hunting down the Blackbeard Pirates.
As expected! This was not a good development, as Smoker knew that trouble was brewing.
In frustration, Smoker grabbed Ian by the arm and growled, “Ian, are you hunting down the Blackbeard Pirates? Let me make one thing clear, the Marines will handle that matter. I want you to leave Alabasta, and I want you to do it now.”
Ian looked at Smoker in confusion and said, “Er… what do you mean by that? The Blackbeard Pirates are your responsibility, not mine?”
“Of course, they are!” Smoker nodded and said, “Maybe you don’t know, Lieutenant Kuina encountered the Blackbeard Pirates before, but unfortunately, she was not able to capture them.”
Upon hearing this, Ian couldn’t help but raise his head in surprise and look at Kuina.
Kuina had actually encountered the Blackbeard Pirates!?
This exceeded Ian’s expectations, so he couldn’t help but nervously look at Kuina, wanting to look for any signs of injury.
Kuina, noticing Ian’s gaze, shook her head slightly, assuring him that she was unharmed.
After confirming that Kuina was indeed unharmed, Ian asked Smoker in a serious tone, “Where and when did you encounter the Blackbeard Pirates? Tell me everything!”
Smoker didn’t suspect anything, and knowing that Ian was someone to be trusted, he relayed the events as reported by Kuina. As Ian listened, his eyes flicked over to Kuina, a hint of surprise in his gaze.
A headache so severe that it felt as though it would split her skull open? And yet, she was fine once she woke up? It sounded like the typical case of Haki awakening. Could it be that Kuina had awakened her Haki by sheer luck?
Ian couldn’t question her about it here, so he simply shook his head and said, “Smoker, we’re old friends, right!? Let me give you one piece of advice: stay away from the Blackbeard Pirates. The Marines have underestimated Teach. To be honest, even with me and Ace working together, our chances of capturing him are no more than 60%. In plain terms, you can’t beat him.”
Smoker was stunned, what?! The Blackbeard Pirates were that powerful?
He wanted to believe that Ian was joking, but the serious expression on Ian’s face left no room for doubt. Smoker’s heart began to race as the realization hit him: could it be that the Marines’ intelligence was wrong?
He didn’t want to believe it, but as he thought back on Ian’s opponents over the years, he knew that Ian was not one to exaggerate. All of them were formidable figures, marine admirals, Shichibukai, and top-ranked officers under the Four Emperors. None of them were pushovers. It was impossible for Ian to be making this up…
Smoker thought long and hard before making a decision. He looked at Ian and said, “Alright, Ian, I won’t interfere with your pursuit of the Blackbeard Pirates. As a member of the marine department, I am obligated to capture pirates of the Whitebeard group when I see them, but I’ll let this one slide and pretend not to have seen him. But in return, you cannot interfere with our actions on this island.”
Ian was just about to agree when a figure suddenly rushed in from the distance, pushing aside Ian and Smoker and charging into the restaurant.
“Food!!! I’M STARVING!!! I want to eat!!!”, the person shouted as he sat down at a table, frantically pounding on it and urging the restaurant owner to hurry up with his meal.
Smoker’s cigar fell to the ground with a thud. Ace recognized the figure and couldn’t help but exclaim, “Luffy?!”.
That’s right, the person who had rushed into the restaurant was none other than Luffy of the Straw Hat Pirates, but he was so hungry that he didn’t pay attention to Ian and Smoker blocking the entrance, nor did he notice Ace.
Ace called out to him, but Luffy didn’t hear him. Just as Ace was happily about to walk over to Luffy, he heard Smoker shout, “Straw Hat brat!!!”.
The volume of Smoker’s voice was loud enough for Luffy to finally hear, so he turned around and saw Smoker.
“Ah! it’s you, Smoker!” Luffy looked at Smoker with a troubled expression, sensing that it was going to be a hassle.
“Straw Hat kid, I’ve finally caught you!” Smoker pulled out his Jitte and was ready to rush forward and capture Luffy, while Tashigi and Kuina also put their hands on the handles of their swords, ready to move with Smoker.
However, at this moment, Ace suddenly opened his arms and blocked Smoker’s path.
“Ace!?”, Luffy finally noticed Ace’s figure, and couldn’t help but call out in surprise.
“Luffy, long time no see!” Ace faced Smoker, but turned his head and looked at Luffy from under his hat with a warm smile in his eyes.
“Haaa, haha Ace! What are you doing here!?” Luffy also laughed heartily, patting his straw hat.
But the conversation between the two, made Smoker angry, he frowned and said to Ace: “Fire Fist Ace, what do you mean by this?”
“I’m sorry, but Luffy is my brother, I can’t let you take him away like this!” Ace smiled and said to Smoker.
Smoker heard this and couldn’t help but turn around and glared at Ian, meaning that Ace is your man, you better come and control him!
Ian quickly waved his hand, indicating that he would not take the blame for this!
At the same time, Ian gestured with his hand and looked at Luffy with a strange expression.
Although this was Ian’s first real meeting with Luffy, he was still no different from the Luffy Ian had imagined. The reason Ian looked at Luffy with this strange gaze was because he felt that, for some inexplicable reason, he had gained another little brother, and it was really strange.
Don’t forget, he had drunk the brotherhood oath with Ace, calling Luffy “little brother” was not a problem…
But, Ian glanced at the expressionless Robin next to him. Robin was now following him, and it was impossible for her to become Luffy’s partner again. In this way, Ian had betrayed his own little brother.
Just like when he had betrayed Zoro, this was a very uneasy feeling…