A/N: To old readers: some of the chapters in the beginning might seem the same-and they mostly are-but I've probably made one or two small edits to keep it in the continuum of my new plot. So I suggest you reread them anyway :D

You have no idea how many times I've tried to write "dawn" and written "damn" instead...and vice versa haha

No one proofreads these for me…so forgive spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, character discrepancies, the like.

When I say I'm going to update on a weekly basis assume I lied and I meant two hahaha I'msososorry I can't keep a schedule good.


The dawn came first, sending soft pink and orange rays of light shooting across the silky blue of the sea. Soon, the sun would rise, and bathe the world in light once more.

Mik quietly surveyed his surroundings. Completely drenched, they were essentially floating on nothing but pieces of wood and other debris, and if the sun rose and some pirate came along again, they would most likely be done for.

Miraculously, they were all still afloat, although he couldn't see why, as just Lily's suitcases weighed at least as much as ten-no, fifteen- marines. Though they were floating now, they wouldn't float forever. The wood would eventually break under the pressure and drown them all, or a particularly large wave would wash them all underwater. And he still couldn't see any sight of land, although according to the navigators before they had been attacked, they were very close to a merchant island, a place where people came to trade from all over.

And what would they do afterwards? Eyeing Lily's many trunks and chests, he sighed quietly. They would be under scrutiny and possible attack for the goods inside those chests, as well as Lily. Even the slightest query might lead to information about the only daughter of the Bloom family, were they to capture her and hold her for ransom. But without the wealth, they would get nowhere near June Island. He couldn't protect the two treasures by himself. He would need help. He smiled wryly as he wondered who of his friends might still be alive and willing to help him, after all these years. Flashes of colored hair, high pitched giggles, low throaty laughs amid scarred faces…all friends who had most likely forgotten him.

He was distracted from his thoughts by the tremor that ran through the woods beneath his legs. Something had bumped into them, from behind. He cursed himself and his dulled senses for not noticing earlier, lost in his thoughts.

He eased Lily gently off him and swung around as he heard some cursing from the small, plain boat that had slammed into the wood surrounding them.

His grip tightened on the handle of his blade as he saw a figure rise from the floor of the boat.

"Ugh, I must have fallen asleep. Even after I tell myself to stay awake…damn." The figure reached upward to rise into a sitting position and propped its elbow on a bent knee, hand rubbing the back of its neck. "What I'd slam into?" it murmured to itself groggily, raising its eyes.

The girl- for it was a girl, Mik saw- had black hair, messy from sleeping. She had dark brown eyes set in a plain, pale face. She wore an oriental, kimono-style top, sleeves growing wider from shoulder to mid-forearm, and the loose, flowing top ended mid thigh, a couple inches above her knees. The shirt was black, and had dark red edging along the ends of the sleeves and shirt. Underneath she wore simple black tights all the way down to her ankles, and black flats. Her whole outfit was very simple, mainly black, with the blocks of red edging. Around her neck a necklace glinted in the light - but what the pendant was, Mik was too far away to see. As she stood up, Mik noticed that she was not tall- 5'4", he estimated, maximum. The fact that he was significantly taller by half a foot did assure him, but it was a death wish to underestimate anyone just by their height on the seas. He did not let his grip on his blade slacken.


The two stared warily at each other. He was tall, Mira noticed, wincing. She was a bit irrationally sensitive about her height. She was 23, for goodness sakes!

He had short, wavy brown hair and grey eyes. She couldn't tell much else, because of his long, tan trenchcoat, but in the unbuttoned opening in the front, she saw a dark grey undershirt, stained with blood. Was he hurt? Mira wondered, debating whether she should go help him.

Well, he is precariously balanced on floating pieces of burned wood. I mean, you obviously have the upper hand-But look! There's a girl there! What if he killed her? What if you're next?-Calm down, she's probably only sleeping. If he had killed her, why didn't he just shove her underwater? It would remove the evidence and get rid of unnecessary weight-Look, he's bloodied, and even if it isn't his, it means he just finished a fight. He's balanced on little more than wood glue and ashes, and he has a young girl with him, who may or may not be injured. It's your duty as a moral human to help them, so-

Sighing, she made the first move.


"Hello, stranger." The girl said. He tensed, surprised at the sudden noise breaking the silence between them. She smiled carefully. "Need any, ah, assistance?"

He let out a deep breath. He was loathe to tell her anything- what if she took off with their stuff and ran as soon as he told her they were totally helpless?- but what other choice did he really have? It was either tell her, trust her, the first person he had seen all day, or wait for death or capture.

"Would you mind if we talked on the ship instead of shouting across the sea wind to each other?" he called over. He could see her smirk. "Well, do you promise not to steal my ship and kill me?"

Mik gestured broadly towards his sorry situation - at Lily, at the floating debris. "I'm not in much of a place to steal or kill anyone right now," he said carefully, seeing her think about this, as well as eyeing the girl at his feet.

At her nod, she quickly pulled a -stick?- out of her wide sleeves and deftly pinned her hair into a graceless bun. He nodded towards the chests of luggage. Some had floated off in the night, so only a few remained in the general vicinity. She followed his gaze and gave a mock salute. "I'm on it." she called before going back to the ship and steering until the boat was right beside the trunks. While she hefted them over the edge of the boat ("Whoa! What did you put in these, bricks? This better be pure gold you're having me carry. And how did these even float?"), he carefully lifted Lily and set her down in the boat, before then helping her with the rest of them.

Finally finished, (although the boat was tilting at one end from the weight of Lily's dowry), they sat on the other end of the boat, cross-legged. Mik could see that the girl was still worried and warily eyeing the sleeping girl and him.

"Wanna tell me what happened?" she asked with measured cheeriness.

"If you would like to tell me your name, certainly." he answered.

She glanced at him sideways and smiled. "Please call me Mira," she replied easily.

Mik wondered if that was her real , he returned the favor. "Mikhaael Lektav. I am pleased to meet you." He said before slightly inclining his head.

She stared at him with a furrowed brow, before asking, "Are you foreign?"

"I am." he answered.

She kept staring at him, as if she was trying to remember something. Shaking it off, she pursued her earlier topic. "So, go for it. Gimme all the sordid details."

Mik launched into a short, squared version of the details from his departure. As he neared the end, where he described how he and Lily waited until the pirates had left, as the ship was falling apart on top of them, Mira let out a soft whistle. "I'm impressed. I would've bolted outta there. You guys sure are lucky, though," she continued. "Miraculous, really, that you guys didn't get hurt, found, captured, or drowned, and you still have most of your things with you."

"It was quite a miracle." he affirmed. He was a bit unnerved at how she was staring at him so intently, but kept his facial expression relaxed.

She checked her log pose again before getting up and fiddling with her navigational equipment. "Do you mind if I ask you if you recall a woman named Cassandra Angeli?" she asked, casually. "Tall woman, dark blue hair, probably didn't speak all that much or very well. Blind." She paused, glancing at him as he sat in thought.

"I haven't been out at sea for a long time," he replied, trying to call back the memories. He remembered vaguely an elegant, silent woman with pleading blue-grey eyes that saw nothing yet looked as if she could see right into your soul. He remembered vaguely fire, and seawater, and...

"She was a devil fruit user." He said aloud, turning towards Mira sharply, suddenly on guard. "She couldn't swim in the water," he continued, "and I pulled her out of the ocean." Breaking the law in the process...He gripped his blade. Helping those who had eaten the fruit of the devil meant death. Was she going to arrest him? Attack him?

"You spared her life." Mira stated bluntly, staring back at him. "You helped her escape." Suddenly, there was a palpable tension between the two, as each tried to read the other.

But once again Mira broke the silence, turning away. "She was my friend. I am grateful to you from the bottom of my heart," she thanked him quietly, looking back at him to gauge his reaction.

If she was going to risk herself with this level of honesty, then he was willing to do the same. Hoping she wasn't a government spy, he wondered how much he could reveal without lying. "I do not regret it," he said honestly, and left it at that.

But it seemed this was enough for Mira for now, who had visibly relaxed that he also wasn't a government agent preparing to murder her on the spot for harboring alliances with a devil fruit user. "I meant what I said earlier," she restated, her tone noticeably less cautious. "I am truly grateful to you. She mentioned that she never got a chance to thank you-allow me to do so in her place. Whatever you need to continue your journey, I will do my best to help you for as long as you can." She glanced at the luggage threatening to overturn the other end of her boat. "At the very least, I can try to get you a reasonable ship at the next island, if you have no one you can contact to come pick you up."

Mik looked at Lily, still sleeping, then back at Mira, answering genuinely. "Then I will thank you in advance for your help."


Lily woke up to a sunny sky. She groaned and squinted against the bright sunlight. Who told the maid to open her curtains? And why was she so sore?

With a sudden flash of realization as the memories of last night returned to her, she sat up quickly, ignoring the pain in her head. Was she dead? Was this heaven? Where was Mik?

She nearly screamed as an unknown face appeared in front of her. "Hello, sleepy. Did you have a nice nap?"

"Who-who-who are you? What are you doing here? Where am I? Where is Mik? Am I dead?" She blubbered out, too terrified to think straight.

The girl raised an eyebrow. "Well…uh let's see. Who am I? My name is Mira. What am I doing here- it's my boat. Where you are- well, on my boat, I guess. And since I'm not dead, and I'm here with you, I'm guessing you're not dead!" She grinned. "And Mik is right there." she gestured towards a mop of brown hair rising from behind a smaller chest- full of his clothes, Lily presumed, as he was no longer wearing his bloodstained grey undershirt.

Lily breathed a sigh of relief as she catapulted into his arms, feeling safer that Mik looked okay. She peeked around her new surroundings. A small boat, but it was still large enough to (barely) house all her things.

She turned to Mik and began to open her mouth. She was almost exploding from the sheer confusion of the last few hours.

Mik anticipated this and interrupted her before she could talk. "Here." he passed Lily a change of clothes. "Go over there and put it on. I'll answer your questions as we go."

Lily quickly glanced at what he threw her and looked back up, wanting to ask him -

And then did a double take at the clothes in her arms. And then screamed.

"Are you serious? Do you honestly expect me to wear this? Do you know what this is?" she lifted the clothing and shook it in their faces. Mira had a confused look on her face and turned to Mik, as if to say "What's going on? Doesn't the girl know how to wear a dress?"

Before Mik could respond Lily steamrolled on, pointing and gesturing wildly at the offending article. "This isn't just a dress, okay? This is an OUTRAGE! You expect me to put this-this monstrosity on my body?"

Mik finally got a word in edgewise. "Lily, it's a fisherwife's dress."

"EXACTLY!" she exploded. "Commoner's clothing! Just LOOK at this material! It's practically made of a burlap SACK!"

"That's because it is…?" Mira said quietly, but with an undertone of amusement. Lily gave Mira a look of absolute disbelief, shocked and enraged beyond what words could express.

Mik quickly took advantage of the blessed temporary silence to soothe her. "We're going to a merchant town, and we don't want to draw any more attention than we already do, with those trunks with us. Just wear the dress and blend in. I promise it will only be for a little while, and then you can change."

Anticipating her further arguing, he gave her a warning glance. "Lily." He said her name seriously and a little exasperated.

Lily knew better than to argue with Mik when he was obviously so tense and worried. She walked away and began to try to unlace her nightgown-without any assistance, mind you- still stained with some random pirate's blood.

"I better get a bath after this," she muttered with a scowl.


"Look!" Mira exclaimed suddenly. "It's Mercor!"

Mik walked over beside her and squinted. "So it is."

Even Lily got up from where she was sulking on a trunk, to see. "It looks small," she commented.

"Well, we're still a couple miles away. Trust me, it will get larger." Mira answered, amused.

Along the way, they had recovered some of the rogue trunks that had drifted away with the sea current, but Mik didn't know what they had or had lost until Lily did an inventory herself.

As they approached the port, Lily was staring at the dock with a haughty expression. "It's not much, is it? Even the dock on our estate was bigger. But there are a lot of boats." Mira threw her a bemused expression and shook her head. Dock workers threw them a rope and help them attach their boat to the dock, and then did not spare them a second glance. Mira sighed and blew some hair away-which flew right back in her face with the sea breeze. "Well, this is a good sign. It's a busy day, so no one is likely to know or care who you are." She turned around and addressed them both. "Okay, so you guys stay here. You can come up on land, but don't go too far away from your stuff. Don't inventory it or anything yet, just wait here. I'm gonna go take a look around and see if I can find anyone I know to help you. I'll be back as soon as I can. Don't draw attention to yourselves!" she warned one last time before running off and disappearing into the crowd of people.

Lily bounced up immediately. "Please, let's just get on land. I'm going to be seasick if I stay on this stupid little boat any longer." So they walked to a stack of large crates right across from where their boat was stationed, and waited.


Lily was getting bored. They had been standing here waiting for Mira for the last quarter hour. Where was she? Lily was getting impatient. She had never had to wait FOR people before. What incompetence. She kept tugging at Mik impatiently. Or jiggling her leg, before remembering that that was unladylike behavior, and then thinking about how her mom would have smacked her leg, and then thinking about her mom, and then missing her mom, who really did try her best to be as loving to Lily as high-class societal etiquette could reasonably allow. She blew some hair out of her eyes- she had not had a proper bath in days and she was nearing the end of her rope, her hair was so unkempt- and looked at how Mik was occupying his time. He was a patient man, he had to be, to deal with Lily on a daily basis. He calmly surveyed the surrounding area for the woman they were waiting on. Lily shook her head. Couldn't he just find another person? What if the girl had ditched them and they were waiting on nothing?

Mik glanced down at his bored companion, smirking slightly as he guessed what she was thinking, with that scowl on her face. She wanted a bath, she wanted to leave, and she wanted him to get him a place to stay and some decent food, no doubt. However, he kept looking. He knew that the girl wouldn't leave them hanging. Well, he hoped anyway. He'd been away from the sea in so long…but that was another reason why he needed her, someone who knew what the present life on the water was like now. Lily did not seem to fully understand their circumstances, but Mik did. Being stranded on a rogue island, with no supplies or protection, but with trunks of wealth….this was not a good situation to be in. He had taken a gamble and trusted that girl, and now he would wait and see if his finely-tuned senses, dulled with the years of service to the Blooms, could still manage to make the right decisions.

Lily sighed and pulled her shawl tighter around her as a breeze blew past. She wrinkled her nose at the worn material. Mira had advised them against wearing their fancy silks and fabrics on the dock, instead handing over some fisherwomen dresses and plain clothes to Mik. It would do no good, she said, for them to be standing out at the pier, and just asking for trouble once someone realized they were rich folk with no real protection of any kind.

But still, to be degraded to this! The material was rough and worn, and scratched her tender, smooth skin that was used to being treated with high-quality silks and velvet. What happened to 'you are what you wear'? Her grandmother was most assuredly rolling in her grave right now. Plus, it smelled like fish.

She hated fish.

"Yeah, hey you!"

She looked down to see a tiny Chihuahua tugging at the hem of her dress. Confused, she looked around. No one else was around. Everyone else was either busy loading crates and not paying much attention to her.

"Hey! You! Yeah, you! I'm right here!" The Chihuahua, who had given up on tugging her dress, settled on sitting and looking up at her expectantly.

She twitched and turned cautiously to Mik. "Mik." she whispered.

"Hm?" The man didn't look up from scanning the crowd for their missing acquaintance.

"I think the dog is talking to me."

At this, Mik turned around with a furrowed brow and a confused expression. "What?"

"Look!" She pointed to the dog, who had grown bored with sitting and was now rolling around on its back, tongue lolling out, begging her to pet him.

Mik looked at her impassively. "Lily, dogs do not talk."

"Yeah, I should sure as hell hope not." The mysterious male voice sounded again. This time Lily clutched Mik's sleeve and tugged. "See? See? Did you hear that?"

Only to hear a quick double sneeze from their left. Once they saw him, perched on a nearby stack of crates, they were surprised they did not see him before.

He was differently dressed from most of the people on the pier. While most workers and fishermen wore plain brown shirts and shorts, this stranger wore pockets.

At least, that's what it seemed like.

He wore a dark green coat with pockets everywhere, and his black cargo pants were also covered in the tiny fabric storage devices. He had a belt full of pouches holding numerous supplies, and strapped to his bare, scar-riddled chest was a bandoleer containing- you guessed it, pockets. A yellow-orange fireball adorned his black cap that sat haphazardly on his near-shoulder length, dull black hair. The tips of his hair were yellow-gold, matching the flecks in his green eyes.

He was quite tall, Lily noticed, taller than Mikhaael, who she considered one of the tallest men she had ever seen. Spring Island was not really populated by tall men; aristocrats like her father (though she loved him dearly) did not really exercise as much as they ate; farmers were the ones who spent the days bent over plowing fields and weeding gardens and all grew up short and stoop shouldered, for the most part.

But the most important part of the stranger's ensemble was the somewhat worrying weapon strapped to his back: a large bazooka, a like of which they had never seen before.

Neither Mik nor Lily deigned to raise a hand in greeting. This didn't seem to bother the stranger, who seemed like he probably would not have bothered to return it. Instead he immediately launched into his own investigation.

"I've been watching you stand here for the past 20 minutes," he said, as he lifted a hand to rub his nose. On his raised hand Lily could see a white band circling his wrist. Three wide rings sat on his three main fingers. Lily's eye for gems and precious stones, honed after years of watching her father assess and analyze jewels, saw that they were no precious metal. They looked to be worthless scraps of tin. Confused, Lily shrugged. Perhaps commoners like him could not tell the difference between useless metals and valuable ones.

"What are ya'll doin'?" he finished with a steady stare at the pair.

"Who wants to know?" Mik asked smoothly. The man's lips twitched into a smirk as he relit his cigarette, dangling from his mouth. "No one just hands out their name that easily nowadays," he shot at them, testing the brown-haired man.

"Well, it seems to me that if you are strong enough to deal with trouble should it return your way, then you should have nothing to fear." Mik replied. "Are you so weak that you cannot give out your name?"

The man's eyes turned steely as his hands balled into fists at the insinuation. "Yeah, you calling me weak?"

Mik shrugged. " In my experience, only those who could not stand behind their name in battle refuse to give it, for fear of being shamed. Are you one of these people?"

Both men tensed, then the stranger relaxed and laughed, a gruff, enthusiastic laugh.

When he looked back at them, his eyes were smiling. He jumped down from the crates he had been reclining on, and walked towards them. He stuck out his hand. Lily noticed this hand had a black band around the wrist.

"Nguyen Quan Thao, or just Thao."

Mik walked the rest of the way to take his hand, showing that they were equals. "Mikhaael Lektav, or just Mik."

They released the handshake and Thao repeated his question from before. "So what brings you here? Because you two stick out like a sore thumb."

"How so?" Mik questioned. Lily echoed that question in her head, more indignantly. Wasn't the point of wearing this godforsaken dress so that she did NOT stick out?

"For one thing, your posture. Have you seen the people here? Stoop-shouldered and bent backed, from loading and unloading supplies, from fishing, squinting from the sun." He took this time to smirk at Lily. "Also, that girl is some sort of noble. She also has good posture, her hair shows signs of being taken care of, her skin is too pale for a fisherman's daughter, and she looks quite uncomfortable in those clothes. She's been squirming the whole time."

Lily blushed at being caught so easily and looked away. That stupid Chihuahua was still rolling around in the dirt.

"We're actually waiting for someone-"

"Mik! Lily!" A familiar voice sounded from not too far away in the crowd.

Finally, Lily rolled her eyes. It was about time.

As Mira's relatively familiar frame came into view, they could see two much taller girls following her. One was a very tall brunette, long brown hair pulled in a side ponytail, wearing a neutral expression. The other was slightly shorter, whose curly, orange-blonde hair was pulled up in a ponytail, wearing a smile. Both were dressed roughly alike. The brunette wore a dark blue t-shirt with Galley-La's signature design of a boat and oars, over green capris and boots. The other wore a red and blue flannel shirt, with long sleeves rolled up to her elbows. Underneath she wore khaki capris, and sandals. Trotting beside her faithfully was a large brown Irish setter.

Mira ran over while the other two walked leisurely. "So these are two of my friends-" she stopped abruptly when she caught sight of the new person, standing next to them.

Of course, after she finished internally pouting for being possibly the shortest 23 year-old on the seas, she asked politely, "Who is this?"

Thao stepped forward and introduced himself. "My name is Thao, and I was just making the acquaintance of your lovely friends."

Without missing a beat, Mira started ticking off what seemed to be a common and rehearsed response. "We're not looking to convert any of our beliefs, buy anything from you, join your cult, or help you find a missing person. None of us have disobeyed the law in recent memory so if you're arresting any of us we'll need an arrest warrant, and if you're a con man you can just give it up right now because we're busy."

Affronted, he responded, "No! No my dear, I am simply," at this he reached into one of the many, many pockets, and pulled out something concealed tightly in his palm. He held it out and unfurled his fingers. At once, a flash of purple fire flared in his hand and quickly extinguished. "An alchemist." he finished.

The two other women had reached them by this point, and looked vaguely surprised, if not impressed, at his performance. Mira examined Thao once again, and decided to deal with him later on. "Okay then…well as I was saying, these are two of my friends, Marieke," she gestured towards the tall brunette with grey-blue eyes, who stared and allowed a little smile. "Call me Kiko".

"And Ashling, with Aiden." she pointed towards the orange haired girl with blonde streaks and sea-blue eyes ("Ash is fine.") followed by her brown, shaggy furred dog.

"And this," Mira said, introducing the others to them, "is Mikhaael," who inclined his head slightly.

"Lily." who stood straight and stared, still sulking and uncomfortable, but refused to back down in the presence of so many older people. Why, if they were back on her estate, they would not be in the same room as each other. In fact, they would most likely stay outside. And her nose had still not grown used to the smell of fish that was lingering near the docks.

"-and uh, Thao, I suppose." Mira finished.

Taking the change in stride, the two women murmured pleasantries such as the usual 'Nice to meet you', 'and you also' to each other. "Marieke is here as a part of the Galley-La Company. She's quite skilled at her work, so usually she would stay on Water 7 and work on ships, but this year she's here mentoring Ashling, who's a temporary member."

Ashling smiled. "I'm not looking to settle down, but I'm quite good with tools and such, so I'm working at Galley-La for awhile until I can save up enough to travel again."

"Since they have graciously decided to hear you guys out, we're gonna take my boat and pull over to the section of the port reserved for the Galley-La people. That way, we can go somewhere else that's preferably inside the city, and maybe talk over what we're going to do." At their nods, Mira jumped back in her boat. "I would tell you guys to walk with Kiko and Ash to see the sights, but I'm assuming you want to stay with your luggage?" she addressed Mik, who nodded.

"I'm going with Mik," Lily announced to no one in particular, and stepped in the boat as well.

"Then me and Ash are going to walk to the port and wave you guys in." Kiko said, already starting to walk. Thao followed them, obviously having nothing else to do. From a distance, Lily could see the two girls talking to Thao, then made a slight shift so that he could walk in between them. Whatever he had said, obviously worked for the moment.

A tugging at her feet startled her. The Chihuahua from earlier was in the boat and looking up at her with large dark eyes. "What are you doing here?" Lily asked him. It whimpered.

Lily was never one for tiny dogs, but she sighed and relented. "Come here." She bent her legs and opened her arms, to which the puppy happily jumped into.


"Oh, I see it," Mira called, spotting the same oars and boat symbol that was present on Kiko's shirt. Steering towards the mass of the different ships that was the Galley-La display boats, to entice possible customers, she kept rowing until she saw a group of slightly less decorative boats, signaling the personal boats of the company. She could spot Ashling's bright hair and steered the boat towards an empty slot. Kiko caught sight of the watchman on guard walking over, and waved him away. "No, no, it's okay. They're with us." He nodded and went back to reading his newspaper.

"Why are you still here?" Mira asked Thao.

"Eh," he shrugged. "My shipment of chemicals is late, so I've got nothing better to do for the next 3 hours. Might as well join in on the first interesting thing I've seen the whole day. Otherwise, I might just start a fight in the bar for the hell of it." he said nonchalantly.

Still confused but apparently satisfied at his answer, Mira addressed Mik. "We're walking towards the center of the city, so Kiko and Ash and listen to your story and think of the best way to help us."

"Why are we going there? Can't we just talk here?" Lily asked.

Mira looked at her sympathetically. "Well, I assumed it would be best, as the smell of fish isn't as prominent there. But if you don't mind the smell, we can stay out here and talk-"

"No-no! It's okay. I supposed it's for the best, after all, even though you're making me walk." Lily hurriedly interrupted. Thank god we're outta there.

Mira gave a solemn nod and continued walking, surreptitiously grinning at Kiko and Ash.

Along the way, Mik explained his situation to the others, while Lily lagged behind and stared. As they entered the entrance to the city, however, she stopped and gaped at the sheer amount of color and people.

She had always grown up in a hazy, pastel colored world of quiet and peace and elegance and control. She had lived like a doll, she realized. THIS was life. Sheer, pounding life and color. The center of the town was low, so that standing at the entrance to the city was like standing on a hill, where one could observe everything that was going on below. And there was a LOT going on below. If she thought the docks were busy, she was wrong. Merchant stands and stalls stood along sides of walls, with colorful merchandise sparkling and glittering in the sunlight. People were dressed from different places on the ocean, so the difference in fabrics and styles were apparent. It clashed, but it clashed so right. And the noise. People had to shout to be heard from across each other, merchants were yelling about their wares, enticing people to come over and take a look, flyers were everywhere, litter was so prominent that it was difficult to walk without stepping on some form of wanted poster or marine notice or newspaper. The colors she saw were bold and flashy. Trying to navigate through a crowd was just asking to be pummeled by bony elbows, canes, and bags of goods. Children ran and shrieked with happiness around the legs of adults and the fountain in the middle of the town was so beautiful. The water was clear and sparkled with a crystalline light that refracted onto the walls and the stands and the ground and the small pieces of metal or coin that people had thrown in the water added to the reflected light, making it sparkle and glitter and clear and pure and oh!

This place wasn't just the washed out, staged world she had grown up in. It was vibrant, lively, noisy, lovely. It was so real that it made Lily's eyes hurt and senses tingle with the realness of the world. It was different from what she felt, living sheltered and protected at home. This place suddenly made her feel alive. For the first time, she could feel every fiber of her being, pulsing, responding to the senses that assaulted her. She wasn't sure whether the electricity shooting through her veins was terror or excitement- she had never felt anything like this before.

Mik glanced behind him when he realized that Lily was no longer following him as closely- and allowed himself to smile.

Lily's blue eyes were wide, as if they were trying to drink in every inch of the city. He tried not to laugh at her open-mouthed expression, face wide and gaping, at a loss for words. But it wasn't a loss of words for outrage. It was a 'it's-so-beautiful-I-can't-believe-it shock. He was glad she was so amazed.

The others had picked up on it as well. They did not outright stare, but the telltale glances and small smirks were more than enough to prove him right. It must be funny, he realized, to see a young woman be so amazed at something that they themselves were quite used to.

It was adorable really, Mira thought to herself. She had no idea what the others thought, but she herself thought it was sweet, and a nice change from Lily's usual haughty, sulking demeanor.

I expanded Mik and Mira's meeting, using it as an excuse to give yalls first inkling as to their society. And stuff.

If you remember reading this the first time you'll remember Mira's weird personified voices- yeah I got rid of that to make it less confusing. So instead, it's just going to be long, extended, italicized monologues with herself to represent her semi-schizophrenic mental state. You can skim over these if you'd like, they're just for characterization. I'm probably gonna stop doing it in later chapters if it becomes confusing.

I hope I did a better job with differentiating characters (I mean I did just throw like four new characters in at once). Right now you only know the surface of Thao and Kiko and Ash but soon hopefully I'll make their personalities more defined in the next chapter. It's a struggle because I don't want to outright say "Ash is adventurous" or "Kiko is a tomboy" or "Thao is crazy", but I'm scared that the nuances of their character that I try to show subtly is lost on casual, quick readers. Ah well. (Do you think it would help if I linked to a pinterest board for the characters or something? Just a thought.)