"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
-
Abraham Lincoln

He's been around for ninety years, though fifty of them could barely be considered living.

Technically he's been dead since age thirty-eight, lingering as a literal dead-man-walking.

How ironic, that he'd been granted a second life and yet it was far more painful than any death. Half a century of waiting in the dark, not sure if, not sure when, hanging by nothing but the shadow of a promise, the shadow of a dream. But even his own shadow had been taken from him. There was nothing, nobody but himself and his own heartbeat, and not even literally. The music was now his heartbeat, the one thing keeping him alive, even when life had long since left him, voices only survived by the single recording held by what was now a skeleton of their former crewmate. And for many years, it was those long-dead voices that bought him through the cold, misty nights that seemed never to end.

He thought it would last forever, this miserable curse of an afterlife. But then, without any warning, they showed up, kindling a flame in the darkness. An enchanting and enriching harmony to his ever-dulling heartbeat, new life and dynamics that had been absent the moment he and his old crew had passed on. They bought melody to his song, and now, for the first time in fifty years, he knows what it means to truly live.

He's changed a lot over the years. By now, he's probably more machine than man, on the exterior at least. But none of that matters. His heart was human when he last checked, and will remain to be so as long as he can keep it.

In his thirty-six years he's seen many things. Some of which he may have once wanted to un-see, but not even he can create something to remove one's memory. Though even if he could, he probably wouldn't; all his memories are the materials, the bolts, the welds, the fibres that make him who he is. Every one of them is vital in creating the finished product. But even with all this in place, his dream was still a far cry from becoming a reality. He had a dream, but nothing to assist its fulfilment. He had sails, but no wind to take them. For years he ran the underground, unable to move forward, unable to move back. Stranded and beached. But happy enough; he was alive, and that was more than what he probably should have been.

But unannounced, they showed up and he thought nothing of them. However, the architecture of life is so complex that it can't be predicted or often anticipated. By coincidence or a crazy twist of fate he joined them, and was able to move forward, given a chance to reach his aspirations. No longer stranded, no longer beached. Now, they are the wind in the sails, the force that has given him the chance not only for his dream become a reality, but for him to liveit as it happens.

She's seen more death in her thirty years than she can bear to count, most of which occurred before her age even reached its second digit.

She'd spent so long running and searching, for more meanings than just one, that there were times she barely noticed the years passing by. Her childhood and teenage years had escaped her. Yet there were other times when days seemed to last an eternity, with nothing but darkness and uncertainty waiting at the other end. And at the back of her mind, she was always searching. For the meaning between the lines. For people who could give her a reason to exist.

When she was younger, it was always on her mind. But so long as she ran, there was none she could trust, and that meaning would always fade before she had the chance to understand it. She was a demon child after all; no one out there could possibly call her 'Nakama' before inevitably betraying her. She began to lose hope, and the prospect of a meaning between the lines slowly began to escape her as her childhood had done, until she may have forgotten about it all together.

Until they'dstumbled in. Right when she'd least expected it, right when she'd finally given up on the waking nightmare that had been her entire life. Her life had been filled with lifeless years, and just like that they'd charged right in and given her something worth living for. And something worth dying for. Whether they'd ever intended to or not, they helped her understand the true meaning between the lines. And now, for the first time she can remember, she can dare to dream.

Because she now knows her mere existence is not a sin at all.

At seventeen years of age, he is the youngest. He is also the most naive, though in his own field he holds intelligence far beyond his years. Many of those years, he spent plagued in fear.

It was like a sickness without a cure. He had nothing to shape his judgement but his own personal experiences, none of them good. 'Monster', they had called him, outcast from both societies he almost fit into. 'Almost' wasn't good enough. His loneliness ailed him, and the cure was far out of reach. Should he search for it, he'd be misguided to toxins that would only make his condition worse. And so they did. Until he met someone who was different, who made him see otherwise. But nothing can last forever. However, a man will never die so long as he is remembered, and remember he will.

In the years that followed, his illness seemed to relapse, and so much as he studied, no matter how many medical procedures he researched and perfected, he could never find a cure for the disease. Until things changed in what an instant.

They came along and his eyes were opened to the truth. They accepted him in all his otherness before he even knew what was happening, and now, he knows what it means to truly belong in a herd. For in their own various ways, they are just as strange as he. For them, he isn't afraid to be himself. And if that means being a monster, that's okay. Because whether they know it or not, they were the cure to the first incurable illness he dreamt of overcoming. His own.

He waited.

It seemed as though he'd been waiting his entire life, and he was in danger of waiting his entire life more until it over-fermented. Forever trying to pay off a debt, a debt that didn't necessarily need to be repaid a life over. A slave to obligation, at risk of wasting away the dream he owed that debt for in the first place. And he hated letting things go to waste.

When the opportunity to live his dream came along, he was at risk of simply letting it pass, only to wait for another one that would never come. He would have waited forever. He was in danger of letting the opportunity before him overcook, letting it burn to a dark crisp, far beyond being salvageable. Letting it waste, letting it rot.

But now, while he's twenty-one, he looks back immeasurably glad he made the right choice those few years ago. He knows he did. Each early morning, midday and evening, he is constantly reminded that they need him just as he needs them. And it's a two-way street; because of them, his own personal boundary between himself and his dream has been taken away. He can know what it means to focus on his aspirations and just live the way he was meant to. What they've given him is something far beyond anything he could whip up with his own two hands; for what is a recipe without its most important ingredient?

For years he stayed in a single location, only ever travelling elsewhere in his head, only ever dreaming of what adventures could await him on the open sea. In his mind, he had already lived out many of those possible adventures, all of which he would often spiral out into some sort of ridiculous story in effort to make them seem all the more real.

His aim was for adventure, but the range was so far off, and his target was obscured by obstacles that continuously got in his way, so much so that it was barely in sight.

But then they'd sailed into his life, on a day that had just seemed like any other. And from that day, the obstacles standing between himself and his target were shot down and cleared. Suddenly, the adventures that had only seemed possible in his mind were in plain sight, as sharp as the bullseye on the shooting range. And now, he can do things he only ever used to lie about.

He's nineteen now and with each passing day he's experiencing his dream become a reality. Little by little and more and more. Because of them, he can finally go out and live all those adventures he used to only experience in his imagination. Some of them have even crossed over into reality. Because of them, his true target is now in sight.

Right now the weather is fine, and the rest of the day looks bright. There's a chance of a shower towards the late afternoon, but you can't get a rainbow without a little precipitation, right?

She's twenty years old now, and sometimes she finds it hard to believe. Especially what the past few years have meant for her. She remembers a time when she would look upon the uncaring ocean with envy. Particularly the waves; the way they tossed about so freely, without a care in the world. How she wished to be like them, but the only thing they shared in common was a name.

But all that changed when they entered her life, sudden and unprompted, and changed her outlook completely. Because of them, she is now like the waves she once envied, free and unrestrained, following her aspirations. Sometimes, she fears she'll wake up and it will all have been a dream, and she'll still be stuck in the nightmare that plagued her village. Because her life has never been as perfect as it is now, far better than she ever could have imagined. But one look up at the flag that billows strongly and reassuringly and she knows that those nightmares will never return. On the surface, it is she who navigates them. But a little deeper down, it is really them who give her a sense of direction. They are what direct the ocean's currents. Because of them, she knows what it's like to truly be alive, to truly be free. And she wouldn't trade it for all the treasure in the world.

He's twenty-one years old. Still young. But far older than she ever managed to be… Still, the promise he made with her resounds just as boldly as it did on that night all those years ago when they made it. And he will live to see that promise through, as she no longer can.

For a while he wandered about from island to island, wherever the next boat he hopped on would take him. Often he'd have no idea where he was or where he was going. His aspirations were large, yet there was no drive behind his swords other than the means to survive and desire to surpass all who he crossed blades with. That was all. There was no one to look out for but himself. No attachment to anyone else, only the incentive to survive to see another battle through until the day he could cross blades with that man, if only he could find him.

But then when his life seemed its bleakest, an uninvited stranger came crashing in and changed it forever. Now, his life has been cast in the right direction, and the promise he once made is stronger than ever before. He now has the chance to fulfil that promise; there is purpose to his blades. Now he has people worth fighting for, who have given him that extra determination he needs to one day achieve his goal. Thanks to them, he can become stronger. Because there's something worth protecting.

In his nineteen years, he's come far. He's been many places, he's met many people and he's fought many battles, yet he knows that the greatest battle is still to come.

Like other members of his crew, he made a promise long ago. A promise that went hand-in-hand with his dream, a dream that's yet to fully play out. And since then, he's been no stranger to loss. Both of them had been young. Far too young when they'd left forever. But each had lived fully, and long enough to mould him into the person he is today. As the last of them remaining, he's going to make them proud, wherever they are now.

In his journey, he's gathered some amazing people, and he's come to realise that theyare a part of his dream; a captain without Nakama must be a very sad person. Were it not for them, he would have ceased the will to press on long ago. While he's supported them through all circumstances and charged in, drastically changing their lives in many ways, it's been themthat have kept him from dwindling, kept him from succumbing to the harshness of the world around them. Without them, he could never even have made it a fraction of this far, let alone accomplish the ridiculous, far-off fantasy that has always been his dream. But with them, he knows it is possible.

And as he looks back on his journey so far, he sees the people in his life, who've lived many years, or not many at all. They've each contributed different meanings to his years, and if it weren't for them he would be nothing of what he is today. He owes his life to them. They were, are, and will always be his inspiration, his reason for taking on the high seas. Though some have gone, he will never forget them and the lives they lived. And he'll always be proud. No matter how many oceans or years stand between them, because the same can be said about his dream, and all their dreams. He'll get there someday. They all will.

So long as there's melody in the song, wind in the sails, and meaning between the lines.

While there's a cure to the illness, the most important ingredient, and the target is in sight.

So long as there's direction in the currents, while there's something worth protecting, and till he sees a promise fulfilled,

Whether he lives three more days or ten more decades,

There will always be life in his years.