Taniyama Mai had always loved the water. Her mother had called her a water baby when she was young.
So when her sort-of adopted older brother had suggested going to the seaside, Mai had been the first to support the idea. Houshou's girlfriend, Ayako, had been harder to persuade. Fortunately for all of them, Ayako was weak to the large pleading eyes of Mai and had given in the moment Mai had batted her eyelids.
So one sunny Sunday morning in the middle of summer, the trio picked up Yasuhara, Mai's best friend, and started their journey to the nearest beach. Many people had assumed there was something more to Mai and Yasuhara's relationship, but it simply wasn't true. They were just the best of friends.
"I bet you an ice cream that Ayako complains about the sand within five minutes of being on the beach," Yasuhara muttered as they climbed out of the car two hours later.
"I bet you its three minutes," Mai replied, giggling.
Yet Ayako was quicker than either of them had imagined.
"Eugh, sand in my flip flops…" Ayako whined as they had no sooner stepped onto the sand.
"I think you owe me an ice cream," Mai said as she lightly punched Yasuhara on the shoulder.
"You said three minutes! That was barely three seconds!"
"I was closer than you!" Mai returned as she stripped down to her bikini. "Race you to the sea!"
Yasuhara pulled off his t-shirt and sprinted after Mai, his longer legs allowing him to catch up easily.
"You're so slow!" he yelled as he passed Mai, who was running as fast as she could.
"Oh shut up! You're just a giant!" Mai scowled and then squealed as she splashed into the water, which was freezing despite the summer day being the hottest so far that year.
Yasuhara took advantage of the momentary distraction and kicked more of the cold water at Mai, who screamed and jumped at him. She tackled him into the water so that they were both submerged. The pair broke the surface of the icy water together and gasped, then giggled and splashed each other like small children.
Meanwhile, back on the beach, Ayako was laying out a picnic blanket and Houshou was watching his sort-of little sister playing in the sea.
"How long have those two known each other?" Houshou asked Ayako offhandedly.
"Couple of years, why?"
"Why haven't they gotten together? Like, they obviously get along and Mai is utterly adorable, Yasuhara would be lucky to have her."
"As if you would allow anyone to date her," Ayako said.
"I trust Yasuhara!" Houshou replied indignantly.
"Sure," Ayako said sceptically. "But they are happy as friends, they don't have to date."
Houshou made an odd guttural noise before grabbing the picnic hamper and searching for food.
"It's not lunchtime yet!"
"But I'm hungry!" he complained. "I did a lot of hard work this morning!"
"You drove us here, that's hardly taxing work."
"Mean old bat."
Back in the water, Mai and Yasuhara were swimming at their leisure. They were both careful not to go too far out, but the sea was clear and beautiful. They swam for what felt like hours, but in reality wasn't all that long, before returning to the shore and running up to Ayako and Houshou.
"I think we should go exploring after lunch," Yasuhara suggested to Mai as he pulled his towel out of his bag. Mai, who was already wrapped in her own towel, nodded fervently as she popped a piece of sushi in her mouth.
"As long as you don't go too far," Houshou warned and Mai rolled her eyes.
"We'll be fine!"
"I was thinking we could swim round those rocks to the next cove," Yasuhara said, pointing down the beach. "You can't access it otherwise. The tide is too high to climb the rocks and we'd have to wait ages for it to go out again."
"Now that is just asking for trouble."
"Hey!" Mai protested. "I am a great swimmer!"
"Stop tempting fate," Ayako muttered, brushing some sand off of the picnic blanket.
Mai rolled her eyes again and grabbed some more sushi.
Once they had finished eating, Mai and Yasuhara returned to the water, intent on swimming around to the next cove.
"Be careful!" Houshou yelled after them. Mai waved an arm to show she had heard and appreciated his words.
"I'll follow you," Mai told Yasuhara as they reached the point where they could no longer touch the floor.
"Yeah!" Mai called and she watched Yasuhara take off with a powerful breaststroke.
She followed in front crawl, occasionally looking up to check on Yasuhara and their direction. On her third check, she spotted Yasuhara, corrected her direction slightly and put her head back down. She lost herself in the rhythmic movements of her body.
Then, against all reason, Mai opened her eyes under the water and in the murky water she spotted a flash of brightest blue. Startled, Mai recoiled and spluttered to the surface.
But as soon as she had taken breath, she stuck her head back under the water and gazed around for the flash of blue. But there was nothing. Frowning slightly, Mai began swimming again.
She couldn't help herself. She opened her eyes under the water again, and ignored the stinging sensation.
There was nothing but darky murky water until… There it was! The flash of blue!
Mai made for the surface, took a deep breath, and dove. She kicked her feet and forced her body down searching for the flash of blue. She spotted it again and changed course. Then it moved again. It had to be a fish, Mai thought. What else could dart about like that?
It wasn't until she was deeper than she ought to have been that Mai realised she was going to run out of oxygen. In a sudden moment of panic, Mai turned to the surface and began kicking her legs with all her might. Damn that fish for distracting her.
She could see the sun's light dancing through the water but it was still so far away.
She could make it though. She was a strong swimmer. She could hold her breath for ages.
She was kicking. But she wasn't getting any closer.
The sunlight was dimming.
Her legs were failing.
She was tired.
Then suddenly, she felt strong arms around her and oxygen rushing into her lungs. Mai spluttered and coughed; drawing much needed air into her body. She wiped her eyes, allowing the strong arms to hold her up.
But when she opened her eyes, she gasped. She had expected Yasuhara to be holding her, but it wasn't Yasuhara at all.
It was a very attractive young man with black hair and piercing blue eyes. If that wasn't astounding enough, he even had the audacity to look bored with the proceedings.
"Who are you?"
Does it matter?
She heard the reply, but his mouth hadn't opened.
"How did you?"
Then she noticed the things on his neck. Were they gills?
Are you okay?
The voice was inside her head. He was replying inside her head.
You were drowning.
The young man was still holding her up, with his large slightly webbed hands around her waist. Mai looked down and gasped, it was the flash of blue! But now it wasn't a flash but a tail…?
Merman, he finished in a bored voice.
"I thought merpeople drowned sailors."
The merman rolled his eyes.
You're not a sailor. But I can drown you if you want?
"Well no but…" Mai recoiled for a moment. "Hang on, you're a merman?!" The full realisation of what he was hit her. "But merpeople don't exist!"
You are just hallucinating then, let's swim you back to shore.
"You're really sarcastic you know."
The merman rolled his eyes and let go of Mai's waist. He turned around.
Get on my back.
Mai complied in a sort of weird piggy back that left her head above the surface. She glanced at his tail as he ducked his head under the water and began swimming towards the distant shore. How had she gotten so far out?
"Your tail is beautiful," she mumbled, convinced he would not be able to hear her. It was true; it was long and covered in iridescent blue scales that glistened in the light.
"You sure do think of a lot of yourself, damn narcissistic," Mai said, scowling. "I was distracted by it…"
You're an idiot.
"And you're mean!"
Is that boy your friend? You were swimming with him earlier. Mai looked up and saw Yasuhara floundering in the shallows, obviously looking for her.
"Yeah, that's Yasuhara."
You can swim from here.
Mai dismounted and began to treat water.
"Did I drown? Is this real?" Mai asked.
Does it matter if it is? No one will believe you.
"Yasuhara will," Mai said stubbornly.
Humans are idiots who can't control their thoughts. Mai didn't know quite what he meant by that, but recognised the insult nevertheless.
"I'll tell him! He will believe me!" Mai exclaimed.
Go ahead. Goodbye, Mai. And don't go into the cave.
Mai started towards him.
"Wait! I never asked your name…" But she trailed off; the merman was gone in the blink of an eye. "Narcissistic jerk." Then she realised something. "How did he know my name?"
She turned, shaking her head in confusion, and continued towards the shore, not daring to dip her head under the water.
"Mai! Mai! Where the hell were you?!" Yasuhara had spotted her and was swimming out to meet her.
"I might've drowned a little," Mai admitted as they staggered onto the shore of the hidden cove.
"Drowned a little?!" Yasuhara gasped incredulously. "How do you drown a little?"
"A merman saved me."
"You really did drown didn't you? How much sea water did you swallow?" Yasuhara looked concerned.
"I'm telling the truth!" Mai insisted as she flopped down onto the sand. "He had a blue tail and blue eyes and he saved me."
"We should head back, the tide has gone out; we can clamber over the rocks so we don't have to swim." Yasuhara knelt down beside her and seemed to be studying her body for injuries.
"Yasuhara! I'm fine! I thought we were going to explore!" Mai complained.
"We were until you half drowned yourself!"
"Spoil sport." Mai pouted.
"Fine!" Yasuhara threw his hands up in the air in defeat. "We can look round for a bit; I think I spotted a cave…" Yasuhara got to his feet and made to pull Mai up. Once standing, Mai looked around and spotted the cave in question.
The mouth of the cave was large, yet the light seemed not to penetrate it.
"No…" Mai muttered, shaking her head. "Let's go back." Yasuhara looked around and saw Mai's eyes fixed on the cave with a serious expression.
"But you wanted to look a second ago?"
"The merman told me not to go in the cave."
"Really Mai?" Yasuhara frowned, very concerned by Mai's behaviour. "Let's head back."
And the two teenagers began walking to the rocks.
Out to sea, deep under the surface of the ocean, a green tailed merman was scolding his young ward.
You let a human see you Noll!
As if anyone would believe her, the young blue tailed merman replied. He turned away from the older merman, but a strong arm turned him back.
She still saw you! What were you even doing up there?
Investigating. Noll wrenched his arm free.
Investigating what exactly?
Lin, Noll's tone was serious; I think Gene was taken by humans.
All the more reason to stay away from them! Lin was almost shouting.
If he is still alive, I can't just leave him!
You still didn't have to save the human, Lin spat. You know what they would do, don't you? What they are probably doing to Gene right now?
But Noll did not reply; of course he knew what the humans would do but he couldn't just let the girl drown. It would have been his fault and he couldn't let that rest on his conscience. She probably had a family. She was innocent. She didn't deserve to die.
Besides, a human ally might be useful.
Author's note: So AmyNChan challenged me to write some fluff to "get me out of my comfort zone" because I seem to like upsetting you all with my tragic one shots and the evils that will be in A Hint of A Deception! *cries just thinking about it* And so I tried and I managed 26 words before I gave up and deleted it. So I tried again and this happened. And it's not very fluffy at all but I liked it so thought I would post it! I have an idea for a plot for this if people like it!
So please review :)