*drops this and leaves, bowing profusely all the while, more apologies at the end of chapter*


They made the first stop at a small public communication room, where a lonely Transponder Snail sat bleary-eyed and bored-looking. Lily walked inside while Mik waited outside with the others as Lily made the call home. The booth wasn't soundproof, but whatever Lily communicated couldn't be heard over the din of the marketplace anyway. When she finally walked out, she shook her head and crossed her hands in an "X" shape. "Didn't connect," she explained. "Typical butlers being incompetent at their job," she quipped airily and followed Kiko as they headed down a small side street.

Soon the small group reached a small café, located in a little alcove off near the center of town, where business was moderate and the sound was much quieter. No longer did they have to yell to be heard. A waitress welcomed them inside with a kind smile and led them over to a partially enclosed side booth, large enough to hold all six people-and two dogs. They ordered drinks while the newcomers tried to understand Mik and Lily's situation.

"So you're saying you need to get to this June Island or something? I doubt you're considering risking Reverse Mountain as an option...but then you would have to be sailing from here," Ash asked incredulously as she pulled out a map and pointed to where they were located on Mercor Island, in East Blue, before trailing her finger a considerable distance to the left. "To your destination, which is all the way over here,in West Blue? Sailing around the world isn't feasible for three people like you—no offense," she apologized.

"How did that rich family get to Spring Island in the first place then?" Thao asked curiously.

To their surprise, Lily was the one who responded, though she had remained silent since entering the café, fiddling with her new chihuahua's dirty ears. Pointing to the map with what usedto be finely manicured nails, she traced an imaginary path. "The Rains tend to marry into high-ranking Marine families. With their credentials, they receive special permission to sail through the government passages of the Red Line instead of going up Reverse Mountain."

Thao pointed out the obvious solution. "Then why don't you just sail through that passage was well?"

Lily rolled her eyes. "Yes, well it's not like they will let through all the beautiful girls who show up and claim they're betrothed to Prince such-and-such, will they? Not to mention I don't even know where the entrance is. The Rains gave the captain of the transport ship some papers and maps with the whole procedure and signifying that we were related and all that. However," she frowned primly. "Those papers are presumably at the bottom of the ocean, after the pirate attack, so..." She trailed off.

"You have no way of proving that you are Lily Bloom." Ash finished. Lily sighed and nodded crossly. "If the ship hadn't been attacked by pirates though, we were supposed to be dropped off at Loguetown, and some relatives of the Rain family were supposed to pick us up. I'm not sure if they will still take me without papers, but it's not like I have many options right now," she explained.

"When were you supposed to meet them?" Kiko asked.

"Tomorrow morning," Mik replied, glancing at the two Galley-La females. "We could probably make it by then if we left as soon as possible and sailed as fast as we could all through the night, but for that we would need a ship." He let his implied request hang in the air.

"Are we even sure they will be there to get you?" Asked Kiko, ever the practical one. "Someone must have been notified by now that the transport ship got attacked with you on it. I'm sure any day now the Marines will gear up and come find you eventually if you just stay put."

Lily turned her condescending gaze to Kiko and scoffed. "Obviously none of you has any idea of how the world works. Nobility such as I face struggles that it seems you cannot even comprehend," she finished and turned her attention back to the chihuahua who had stuck its tongue out and was panting adorably.

A vein twitched in Kiko's forehead, and Mik coughed before Kiko acted upon her desire to smack an heiress. "What Lily means to say is that it is dangerous for us to stay out here—especially on such a populated island-with such inadequate protection. If word escapes that a very rich lady is stranded here with only one bodyguard, they may seize the opportunity to pounce on this vulnerability. That is why it would not be in our best interest to stay in one place with so many people. As of right now, it may be safer to just not assume anything, pretend that nothing has happened and remain on schedule—or at the very least be constantly moving and able to flee while on the sea."

"You all can't ask the Marines for protection?" Thao suggested grudgingly.

"We'd like to keep away from contact with the Marines if at all possible," Mik interjected before Lily could answer. "They do not serve us—they do not serve foreign nobility. They do not have any obligation towards our situation, and not all Marines are as honorable as we might have hoped. I'd rather not take the chance of getting tied up in needless bureaucracy." Mik finished, ending that thought.

"So we're going to go with the "race to Loguetown" plan, for right now. Besides the boat too, we could also use one or two people for extra safety," Mira offered.

"And actually, you'd probably even get paid for bringing me there. The Rains are very wealthy, after all. Then you all can do...whatever it is that peasants do with their time." Lily dealt the finishing blow.

Kiko was about to leap over the table and strangle the girl but caught herself when she saw Ash's face light up at the prospect of reward money. "No. Ooooh no." She pulled Ash out of the booth and dragged her further away. "Sorry, excuse us for a minute."

The two went across the room and Kiko quickly whispered to Ash.

"You aren't seriously thinking about doing it, are you?"

"Why not?"

"Leaving Galley-La? To go off on some silly transport mission?"

"Oh please, Loguetown is only a half a day away. Who said anything about leaving Galley-La? We're just gonna take a day off. No big deal." Ash patted Kiko on the shoulder reassuringly. "I'm sure all those poor, defenseless men can hold up the fort until we get back."

[***]

Waiting for the two to come back, Mira stirred the ice in her water with a small straw and stared at Thao. "So what are you planning to do? Will you join us for tonight?"

He took a big gulp of his alcohol and waved his wrist, stirred the remaining liquid in his mug thoughtfully. "I dunno. I didn't think much beyond getting my stuff and getting off this island. Going to Loguetown doesn't seem like a horrible idea. Say," he addressed Lily. "how much d'ya think your soon-to-be relatives might give for bringing you there in one piece?"

"Who knows?" she replied nonchalantly. "The Rains are very rich. For just tonight and tomorrow, let's say…500,000 beli, give or take a couple thousands."

Thao's eyes widened slightly as he sipped his drink.

Lily smirked. "That is a lot of money made overnight, don't you think? It might be enough for you to start saving for a lab of your own…"

She could see his eyes glaze as he thought about it. It quickly snapped back, as alert as ever, before giving Lily a quicksilver grin, which for him was as good as a handshake and a contract.

Still waiting on the others, Thao took another swig of his drink and asked Mira this time. "So how do you know the other two?" he inquired.

"I traveled together with Ashling once," she replied vaguely. "We ended up having to defend ourselves against an ambush ." she quirked a grin. "Maybe you'll get to see us in action."

He smirked too. "Maybe I will."

"I hope not," Mik spoke gravely in mock humor.

[***]

"Okay," Ashling said as she slid back in the seat and finished off her water. "We're coming with you."

Kiko still looked faintly reluctant, but nodded. "I can borrow a ship to get there. It'd be considered small if we had a full crew, but just for us six there'll be enough space for all of us. Plus, it's one of the faster models we have because of its smaller size. Ash and I will request a day off and accompany you guys there."

"Right then," Thao drank the remaining alcohol in his mug and set it down. "We can't leave until I get my shipment of necessities in an hour. How about we get our things together and meet up at your Galley-La place to leave?"

"Who said you were coming?" Kiko asked brusquely.

Fearing a confrontation before the travel even started, Mira held out her hand pleadingly as she rose from her seat, seeing the others do likewise. "Look, he's coming with us, and he might be useful. Kiko, you and Ash can help Mik and Lily grab their stuff and bring it to the ship, and Thao and I will go get his things—plus, I need to pick up some things along the way. Shall we meet up at the ship at around...six in the evening?"

They nodded assent and separated.

[***]

Kuron Rekka shook her head once again in disbelief. 20,000 beli just for a trip to Loguetown? Heck, she could probably swim there, it was so close! This was a highway robbery! She would've called for a bird or flying animal of some sort, but none were in the area that she could tame with her devil fruit. Strange. There usually were a few seabirds that were in the area and willing to help, but there were none today.

Oh well, she thought, writing it off to bad karma. And anyway, she wascarrying some merchandise that she would rather not get wet.

The fact that she needed to get off the island quickly may or may not have had anything to do with said merchandise.

But the fact remained that by now someone would have noticed the missing objects, and called for security, who were probably roaming around looking for it now.

She scanned the dock timetables. There were no public ships that were leaving right now that were cheap enough for her to pay for. Maybe I should smuggle onboard as a stowaway? She had done it before, although the ride was not comfortable at all.

She looked around for another option.

"I know I said I would help you, but why the hell is this so damn heavy?" she heard a girl hiss from her left. She looked over to see a black haired girl straining to push a cart loaded with crates marked with the words 'CAUTION: EXPLOSIVES'. By her side, effortlessly pushing his own, similarly stacked cart, was a tall man with a large bazooka strapped to his back. "That's how you know they're quality goods, don't ya know?" He laughed as the girl struggled and she changed the subject.

"So where's that ship Kiko said she would get us? We should have been there an hour ago!"

"Well we would if you weren't so insistent on buying those weird nail polishes."

"I beg your pardon sir, but those are an important part of my lifestyle," the girl sniffed, affronted. "And anyway, what about you? We spent at least three-quarters of an hour at that stupid alchemy-merchant's tent! And then you nearly got into anotherfight! With the merchant! Do you really want to get locked up for disorderly conduct before we leave?"

"I'd like to see them try!..." The man's voice faded as they passed Rekka.

A ship? Rekka wondered, drowning out the other fragments of the conversation. They have a ship, and they're looking for it, which means its privately owned. Maybe by them? Maybe they would let me hitch a ride? I'll say I'll be their maid or something. At this point, it's worth a shot...or else it's gonna be a long, wet night in the hold of some ship.

Please don't be pirates please don't be pirates please don't be pirates or oh no- slave traders or something…the thought pulsed in her head as she ran to catch up with them. She ran to beside the girl and smiled her most winning, tip-maximizing smile. "Hi! My name is Rekka, Kuron Rekka. I couldn't help overhear your earlier conversation—oh, and please allow me to help you." She reached over and grabbed the cart. Crap, thisis pretty heavy...oh well. Grin and bear it.

Stunned into letting go, Mira let her take the cart before walking and taking a few seconds to quickly observe this newcomer called "Rekka".

The new girl had very wavy dark hair with a red tint. Her eyes were a golden hazel color, set in a dark-skinned face with delicate features. Her ears were pierced and upon them hung large gold earrings. She seemed to be fond of gold, dangly jewelry, as they were everywhere on her body—necklace, bangles, and belts. Her body was very slender and her outfit consisted of a top and a skirt, with the midriff left bare. Her top was off the shoulders, with the shirt itself black, but the sheer sleeves were a dark purple. Thin gold edging and other small dangly accessories outlined the top of the shirt. The skirt was a black, with a dark purple sheer material covering over it. The belt that hung on her hips was gold, designed in a triangular fishnet pattern. On her feet she wore simple tan sandals. The golden jewelry on her body shined and reflected the shop-lights, the torches, and dock lights that glowed in the night.

"What's your name?" Rekka asked aloud.

"Ah, my name's Mira." After raising an eyebrow inquiringly towards the other companion, he answered. "Thao."

Rekka nodded and kept walking. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Mira broke it, saying, "Um, is there a reason you're helping us? Rather than being a good Samaritan, of course..?"

Rekka thought about the best way to proceed. After a few milliseconds of deliberation, she decided to just go and ask. They didn't look like the type to be fooled by sweet words and nice talk.

"Well," she flipped her hair back. "I couldn't help hearing that you guys have a ship. And I was just wondering if I could…"

"Hitch a ride?" Thao finished for her.

She smiled sheepishly. "Yeah."

Mira and Thao glanced at each other quickly. "I-I mean," Rekka watched the short girl stammer apologetically. "I do want to help you, but I don't really think that our leader would accept...we're on a pretty tight schedule. We're leaving as soon as we get back."

Rekka thought quickly. "Traveling through the night? Where are you headed?" She asked innocently.

"Uh, Loguetown."

Perfect. Thank you, lady luck."What a pity," the dark-skinned woman sighed dramatically, gold necklaces jingling with the rise and fall of her chest. "I was hoping you would travel further East. Oh well! Thanks anyway. Let me hope you carry this back, at least," she dismissed cheerfully.

"Ain't running from anything, are you?" Thao asked offhandedly.

Rekka blinked. The man may have been a little more perceptive than she had originally pegged him to be.

She put on her most dazzling smile and said, "No. I'm running towards something."

[***]

It had been a good day, Ash decided. Kiko had placed a call to the President of the Galley-La company, one of Iceburg's descendants whose personality closely mirrored his ancestor. She had successfully secured their day off and had promised him that she would be back to work and would return to Water 7 as soon as possible. The two had exchanged some more parting words, and ended the call. Personally, Ash had long suspected more than friendly feelings between the Kiko and the President, but she never said a word because Ash very much enjoyed her body parts attached and exactly where they were. She quite liked her face as it was, and wasn't looking forward to having it possibly rearranged by a certain muscled, tsundere shipwright.

The ship was a smaller sized model, with one bedroom for the captain and a crew's sleeping quarters that consisted of two bunk beds layered three high, and space to string a hammock if they preferred. The captain's study contained a desk and a wall with a large map of the world. The ship had two top decks. The lower deck was larger, taking up about two-thirds of the space in the front of the ship. The upper deck was considerably smaller in the back of the ship, with stairs connecting the two.

The three women—Ash, Kiko, and Mira—planned to sleep in the crew's quarters. Lily had steadfastly refused to share a room with the others and all but demanded that she sleep in the captain's room, which was also the only one with a closet large enough to house her remaining clothing. The two men took up residence in what appeared to be a workshop of some sort, temporarily stringing up two hammocks in the room.

Mik was nice enough, Ash thought to herself. He was quiet and helpful, and rarely spoke, only to help explain things as briefly as he could when she was confused about something or other. He kept to himself, but he never stopped keeping an eye on Lily.

Speaking of Lily.

Dear god, Ash was about to pull her hair out. The girl was driving both her and Kiko nuts. In fact, Kiko had refused to speak to Lily altogether after the fifteenth time she had demanded that they wash her clothes again because they still smelled like seawater. Well obviously it would smell like seawater—they were on the goddamn sea! And her clothes had been soaked and nearly charred. Of course it would smell like that! Kiko was so incensed she had nearly made a move to hurt the girl before Mik stepped in smoothly and took the clothes from her and said quietly, "It's no problem. I'll wash them," to which Kiko glared at him, shoved the clothes at him, and stormed off to punch something or carve a bunch of Lily voodoo dolls, maybe. Ash felt bad for the man, but she didn't understand him. Why put up with such a little brat? Even at seventeen years of age, Ash felt that she was older than the blonde princess two years her senior. Ash had seen more things, traveled more, knew more of the world...

But oh well, she thought. Back to wondering about Lily and Mik. The man was really duty-driven, maybe? Perhaps they were relatives? That was the only plausible reason she could think of. Kiko hated rich snobs like Lily. Ash disliked them too, but she was younger than Lily and anyway, she sort of felt bad for the girl, who had to marry someone she had never met. This seemed to be the norm among the higher-classed people, but Ash wouldn't know.

She had never been nearly that rich in her life, ever. She closed her eyes as she thought about winters with little food. She always had something to eat, even if sometimes her older siblings starved. She had never gotten along well with her older sisters, but they always let her have more, saying that didn't need it, that they were watching their figure. Her older brothers, with whom she got along better, always tried to give her something too. But they needed to eat, to keep up energy to find food the next day, so they could never afford to give as much as her sisters. She remembered being cold, even though the fire was warm. And at night, when the fire was not lit, they shivered in their threadbare clothing.

Yeah, being poor kinda sucked. She and Lily, though only two years apart in age, were worlds apart in their past.

She sighed and got up, intending to look for Mira and Thao. She had been waiting there for an hour. Where were they? They were late.

She cursed her luck that night had fallen so early and that Mira and Thao both wore dark colors, and had dark hair. In fact, she would have never caught them if she hadn't been so distracted by the girl with all the gold jewelry pushing a cart stacked with crates—because walking next to her was the silhouette of a much shorter figure and a very tall person. The lights of the pier glinted off the kanzashi stuck in Mira's hair and the blonde ends of Thao's near-shoulder length haircut.

The last two had to be them. She lifted her arms and waved them over.

[***]

Lily sat in a puddle of fabric. Her mind worked furiously to account the losses. She currently had nearly all her gold and jewels, but unfortunately, had lost more than half of her clothing. What she had now was about a quarter of what she had started with. She had been allowed to take a bath- finally- and change into something more befitting her status, but most of her clothes were waterlogged with seawater and goodness knows what else and required extra washing. She had chosen one of the more dry pieces of clothing, which was a plain light blue dress with a little ruffle along the neckline and ends, and settled down to inventory her things. She supposed she should be happy that she hadn't lost more, but come on.

Thao and Mira had returned, with another strange, exotic looking female that apparently disappeared into the night immediately, which was a good thing. Lily didn't like having so many women on the ship. She had never felt threatened before, and she didn't like it. She didn't like Mira's calm partnership with Mik, she didn't like the easy way Kiko got along with him, and she didn't like the way Ash smiled at him.

As an only child, Lily didn't like sharing her things. At all.

So with this much sudden femininity, she couldn't help but feel annoyed at Mik showing others the politeness and care he had usually shown only her. Even now, he was off somewhere, leaving her all alone in this empty bedroom—well, not entirely empty, the Chihuahua was still here, she hadn't decided what to do with it—to sulk and wallow in self-pity and doubt. Lily was in no way lacking in self-esteem and she was sure that Mik would never choose one of those peasants over her, but still...the Kiko lady was really tall and confident after all. Ashling was always exuberant and had such beautifully wild, orange curls. Mira seemed short and plain, but who knew what dangers she hid underneath that shapeless, flowy black top. Lily wasn't a good judge of people for nothing. And even the brief newcomer was darkly exotic and so slender and tall, almost a polar opposite to Lily who was petite and short and pale, like a doll.

She sighed and began hanging her own clothes. She supposed she had better get used to doing this kind of stuff on her own, unless they wanted to stop to buy a maid somewhere. Because she could bet every last beli she owned that no one on the ship but Mik would do it for her.

[***]

Thao was giddy with joy, as he found could use the long counter and sink in the workshop-turned-guy's room as a space for chemical experiments. Mik paled slightly at his roommate's almost manic joy; anyone sane would really, who wanted to get blown up by an accident in the middle of the night? But he just shrugged and laid on his top bunk, closing his eyes for a quick rest.

A short while later, they all met downstairs for a quick meeting about the schedule for the night and for the next day. "So who's first watch?" Ash asked, rubbing her sleepy Irish Setter behind the ears.

"Ah- I'm not sure. Who got the most sleep last night?" Mira asked jokingly.

"Yeah, I'll take first watch. I'm not that tired." Thao offered. "What?" He replied at the surprise of the others. Kiko shrugged.

"By the way, where's Mik?" she asked.

They looked around and sure enough, the tall, constant presence was not there. Lily felt a slight twinge of worry. Where was he?

Thao fiddled with one of the numerous pockets on his coat absentmindedly. "He was sleeping like the dead. Didn't feel right to wake him up." Mira nodded in acknowledgement. "We'll let the man sleep," she said quietly. "I don't think he slept the entire night before, looking out for Lily and for possible attack. At least I got a few hours of rest. He got none. Just let him rest for the night." She shot a look at Thao. "Be quiet when you're getting into bed after first watch." He gave her a lazy salute before heading off, cigarillo in mouth. The impromptu meeting adjourned, and the people ambled off to their respective sleeping quarters.

They were off.

[***]

Underneath the hold of the ship, Rekka listened as the quiet chatter of the group dissipated into the sounds of waves slapping against the sides of the boat. She pulled out the aforementioned merchandise from the folds of her clothes. I guess the less clothes you have on, the less suspicious you seem, she thought wryly as she breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn't spent all that time sneaking around in her life to be challenged by sneaking aboard someone's ship. And it was a nice ship too, looked like new. Even the hold wasn't as damp and dingy as she expected.

She gathered her scarf around her and huddled up, preparing to sleep through the overnight journey to Loguetown.


Yeah, my bad yall. I was sitting on this chapter for a while...lol. If it helps any, the next chapter is done too and just needs revisions! Won't be another months-long wait this time I swear on my (digital) life.

Also, just suspend belief with me and suppose that communication wasn't something that really innovated throughout the centuries between canon and this "future-AU" storyline, haha.

Also, sorry I suck at writing because I'm too lazy to not fall for the one paragraph description trap. It's just so much easier and simpler if I just tell you what the character looks like all at once. I mean, in real life that's what you do right? You take a first appearance all at once? IDK yall I know it might be forced at times so bear with meee kthxily.

Also, might be helpful to search up a OP map? Only for people who really care about geography and want to know why they (the group) is making this seem so complicated. Again, I don't have anyone who proofreads this for me, so if you notice anything weird or if you ave questions, let me know ASAP so I can fix it, thanks! 3


**THIS IS THE MOST RECENTLY UPDATED CHAPTER! NEXT CHAPTER IS CURRENTLY AN OLD UNREWRITTEN CHAPTER! PROCEED FORWARD AT YOUR OWN RISK. Please be patient until the next update! Thank you so much!**