Although there were no reviews for the last chapter, I still wanted to post the ending to this fic—so here it is. Now, hopefully I'll actually get around to working on a few of those other fan fictions of mine...
I wandered through the hallways of the Altar of the Sea. When I had originally walked through the passageways with the other Ferines accompanying Shirley, I hadn't taken any time to absorb my surroundings. When I took the time to look at everything closely I was truly amazed by how beautiful the altar was. There were intricate patterns engraved into every inch of the floors and walls, coral naturally spouted from place to place, and there were pools of water scattered around everywhere.
From before the time that we arrived at the altar, I had remained at Shirley's side. I had been sitting nearby as Shirley struggled to move on to the next stage of the Rite of Accession. The process had been taking so long, but I was not willing to leave. Eventually Maurits had approached me and insisted that I take a break, stretch my legs. I had refused at first, but Maurits was very unrelenting. I gave in, told Shirley that I would be back soon, and went to explore the altar region.
Walter and I had been avoiding each other again—no surprises there. We had had another awkward moment, so of course we decided to take the easy way out and not address the matter at all. We both may have had rather tough and confident exteriors, but we could prove to be absolute cowards at times.
I walked over to one of the tide pools and gazed down into it. It looked much deeper than I had expected. I sat down by the water and skimmed its surface with the tips of my fingers. It was an ideal temperature, neither unbearably cold nor grotesquely hot; a little on the cool side, really. The corner of my mouth turned upwards into a smile. Maurits had advised me to stretch my legs, but he hadn't specified that I had needed to do so by walking. I brought my right knee to my chest and reached down to the bottom of my dress. I brought my hand up to the top of my boot, unzipped it, and then slipped it off of my foot. I removed my second boot, and then dipped both of my feet into the water. I swayed my lowers legs lightly, enjoying the resistance that the water offered. I briefly wondered if it was possible for a Ferines to dislike the water, or worse—to fear it. I would have actually been interested in seeing a Ferines who was scared by water. It would be entertaining. But that's certainly a mean way to think, isn't it?
I soon felt my skin adjusting to the water's temperature, and so I dithered no longer and simply let my body slip into the deep pool. I let the water take deeper and deeper slowly; my lungs continued to fill with air in a way that only sea creatures could manage. That is what us Ferines truly are—creatures of the sea. I always felt so at home underwater, even in strange seas that I had never swam in before. The particular body of water that I had been in at that time was different than any I had been in before. When I first entered it, the wall surrounding me was very narrow, barely fitting my upright body through the tunnel-like passage. Soon enough, however, that tunnel dispersed and I was surrounded by an open space that seemed to extend endlessly, like the ocean.
Once I lowered into that open area, I began to swim around and explore. There was not too much life in the region; in fact, most living things there were plants. I saw a few schools of fish traveling through the waters, as well, but they appeared to be on a mission. I figured that perhaps this was an underwater cavern within the larger ocean that probably served as a safe shortcut for some animals.
I continued to swim around, carefree. There may not have been too many fascinating things to observe, but it was such a serene area that I could not possibly leave after such little time. I even managed to let go of my thoughts of the challenge that Shirley was enduring at that very time.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the movement of another human-sized being. I immediately assumed that it was a very large fish passing through the area, or perhaps a shark. I looked towards where I saw the shadow to find that it had swum from that general area. Curiosity taking over me, I swam in that direction and scanned every corner that I could see. It was only when I looked upwards that I saw the silhouette again. It was swimming up into one of the tunnels that led to the surface. Oh, it's a Ferines, I concluded, knowing of no other being that could breathe both on land and in water. The presence of another Ferines reminded me of Shirley's ordeal. I decided to follow them aboveground to ask if they knew how things were going for Shirley.
I propelled myself up the channel that I had seen the Ferines swim up through. I broke the surface of the water soundlessly. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the new lighting and thinness of the earthly environment. Once I could see clearly, I lifted myself up onto the land and began to wring out my soaked hair, not even bothering to consider the fact that the Ferines who had already surfaced was not expecting someone to be following them—my mistake!
"Aah, Walter, don't kill me!!"
I opened my eyes which I had squeezed shut at the sight of Walter's bleak purple teriques. With open eyes, all that I found within my vision was my arm being held over my eyes, still shielding myself from Walter's impending attack. I lowered that, and finally the Ferines boy could be seen by me. "Yeah. It's me," I recovered from my speechlessness, "Please never do that again." Walter simply turned his head away from me in response. I don't think that he could have made it any more obvious that he was still feeling extremely uncomfortable around me unless he came right out and said it. I wasn't particularly concerned with his apprehension, though; I had no problems waiting to see how this confrontation was going to turn out. "Shouldn't you be guarding Shirley?" I asked him, interrupting the silence.
"There are other fighters with her right now," he answered straightforwardly. I guessed that he wanted to get this conversation done and over with as quickly as he could. "I was given a break. But I should really be returning now." He tried to walk away from me right then, however there was no chance of that happening. I reached out towards him and got a hold on his trailing cape. As a result of being pulled back in such a manner, Walter stumbled, but managed to remain on his feet. "Fenimore, let me go."
I shook my head in defiance, "Oh, no no! You're not getting away this time." I tugged back on the cape, forcing Walter to either come a little closer to me or to fall down. He chose to move with the force. Without letting go of him for fear that he would run away childishly, I attempted to make conversation once again, "So how was Shirley doing the last time that you saw her?" The deepest corridors of my mind were elsewhere; He looks really, really good when he's wet like that... Wait! What am I thinking?! Stop that!
"She was still in the same state as earlier. For some reason she's showing no change." He had answered very seriously with a lot of disquiet in his voice. I felt guilty for having been thinking about Walter's looks instead of the trial that my friend was undergoing. "We don't know what more we can do to ensure the completion of her transformation."
I finally released the hold that I had had on Walter's cape. He actually seemed to be interested in talking with someone. Once he felt that I had released him, he turned around to face me. "You can't do anything else," I told him, "At this point it's entirely up to Shirley. If deep down she doesn't want to do it, then she won't do it." Sometimes I felt as though I was the only person with common sense in that entire altar region. Walter shifted his eyes to their corners with an air of uncertainty. He knew that I was making sense. The entire Merines matter was clearly taking its toll on Walter; all that he was concerned with was her safety and the transformation being completed. He was supposed to be taking a break from his duties, so what was he doing venting about his duties? I had to change the subject, whether he thought that he wanted to or not. "I couldn't help but notice that you've been avoiding me as of late."
"Oh, please don't..."
I stood up to look at Walter evenly. "What?" I retorted, narrowing my right eye slightly in an inquisitive manner, "So you have been?" my heart began to beat noticeably quicker than usual; I realized that I was on one of my overly frank rants and that I wasn't stopping before I was done, "Why is that? Oh, I know. It must be because you spontaneously kissed me and assumed that by lying about how it meant nothing to you, you had hurt my feelings." I took a couple of steps towards Walter; he took a couple of steps back. "Fess up! You liked it!"
Walter fumbled for words, but could not get any out. What could he say to that outburst, anyway? I doubted that he could even interpret whether I was being serious or not. I couldn't even tell if I was being serious, or just teasing him senselessly. I decided to take that mixture of seriousness and joking and run with it.
"So..." a light smile played on my face as I remembered how I used to act when we were children; before Walter was consumed by his duties, before our village was attacked, before I was captured, before I felt the way that I did right then, "Do you want to go swimming?"
Walter looked at me solemnly. "Fenimore," he sighed, "No..."
I bit my lower lip, embarrassed for myself, but not giving in. "I know, I know!" My voice cracked slightly every few words as I spoke. I felt ashamed of myself. "It's so ridiculous, isn't it? I always thought that it was just a stupid cliché, falling in love with a childhood friend..." there was no turning back, "But I guess that some clichés can be true, can't they? And I can't help what I feel, or what I've said to you since we were reunited." I looked down at the ground and watched as a tear fell from each of my eyes. "I had pushed Shirley so hard in her pursuit of love, but I could never gather up the straightforward courage to help myself until just now," I lifted my head and held a hand over my eyes to pitifully hide the fact that I was finally crying, "I'm not expecting you to return my feelings in any way, but I won't take back everything that I've told you, or the meanings behind my words. I..." I stroked my tears aside. No one should have tears in their eyes as they say words that are meant to be happy, "I really believe that I love you."
"I can't say that I return your certainty, Fenimore," Walter spoke honestly, and even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear, I was grateful. Tears streamed down my cheeks again. "I don't know that I'll ever be able to fully see you as something more than that childhood friend."
I nodded slowly, "And I can't say that I'm surprised by that," I admitted sullenly, "It's... okay."
Walter stepped forward in the direction of the pool of water that led into the vast, open sea. As he passed by me, he grasped my hand tenderly in his. I was absolutely perplexed. He looked down into the water, and as he did he let go of me. "...Try and catch me, Fenimore."
"Huh?" My eyes widened in disbelief as Walter dived straight down into the underwater passage. For a moment I was unsure what to do, but I couldn't afford to hesitate too long. "Walter..."
I leapt in after him, swimming as fast as I could manage to catch up. When we reached the open area, Walter looked back at me for an instant before swimming away with all of his energy. I still followed, closer than I had been previously. I stretched my arms out forward, trying desperately to reach him; I was so close, but couldn't quite touch him. I gathered all of the determination that I had and sped up until we were side by side. We both slowed down and looked at each other, panting from the exhaustion of the race. I swam closer to Walter and brought my arms around his neck; I felt his arms encircle my waist and his hands rest on my back. We leaned closer to each other and let our lips meet without any reluctance. I closed my eyes and left them that way as we parted in unison. I held onto Walter tightly, refusing to open my eyes and perceive the sea's judgment. "Walter," my voice quivered, "Is the water glowing...?"
Walter held onto me just as securely as I held him. I felt his lips gently brush over mine before he answered me, "...No. It isn't."
At this, my eyes snapped open. It was true; the water was absolutely dull, empty. It was only us as we would be on land. "Wh—Why not?!" I shouted hysterically, looking up at Walter with frantic eyes, "Why won't it glow for us?!" I gripped onto Walter's forearms firmly, "Walter!"
He shook his head at me as he was prone to doing when I was being pathetic and desperate. "The sea won't grant us its blessing," as though accepting that fact, Walter calmly slipped his arms out of my grasp, "This isn't meant to be, Fenimore."
As Walter began to drift away from me, I grabbed onto him again. "No!" I objected, "Why do we have to listen to the water?!" I couldn't tell whether or not I was crying again because the water would have concealed my tears, "Wouldn't we know and feel who we are destined to be with? These are our lives!" My throat was stinging and felt unbelievably thick. I couldn't understand how I could still speak coherently. "Shouldn't we be the ones controlling them?!"
"In some ways we just aren't," Walter spoke so evenly that it seemed as though this turn of events didn't perturb him at all. I was actually growing enraged with his attitude, but I couldn't bring myself to express it. "I believe the sea when it tells us that somehow this isn't our fate."
I looked at Walter at that instant and found his eyes completely void; he wasn't upset. With a gasp, I let go of him and watched as he swam away from me. I hated what the sea had told us, and I hated that Walter accepted it with such ease. I wouldn't accept it, but... Walter already had. There was nothing that I could do to change that, or to change the fates that met us both.
When I met my fate... when I felt that sword through my gut and heard Shirley's cries for help... And after then, when I watched in terror as Walter met his fate as well... I knew that the sea had been truthful. We were both ill-fated; together and apart, doomed to begin with. That was why we could never be together in the way that I desired so much.
Who could have predicted that?
Harsh ending, I know, but I really like how this story turned out. If you've taken the time to read this story, then please review! I'd really love to hear any feedback that you have. Until my next story, I bid thee farewell.