I'm back This one was written for fun, but it looks like it's going to be continued. The origional idea came from fengtianshi on LJ and she kindly offered it up to anyone wanting to write it. I hope you enjoy!
A crab was scuttling across the beach's sand, not yet warmed in the morning sun.
Its long black eye's flickered this way and that- watching cautiously- while its claws were busy searching the grains for any algae or molluscs to feed on. It continued this way for a while, pausing every now and then to check its surroundings and, once satisfied it was safe, going back to digging.
The crab was half way across the beach when a sound disturbed it, making it freeze in its tracks and prepare a menacing stance. A loud splash sounded behind it, the smack of something hitting the water and struggling.
As the sounds continued the crab quickly dashed for some nearby rocks, positioning itself safely under them; it was free to observe the cause of this commotion.
A long fin, azure and glittering in the light, was thrashing backwards and forwards on the sand. Attached the this fin – as the crabs edged out a little more to look- was a pale white creature, that the crab decided looked suspiciously like the two-legged things that sometimes tried to step on it.
But if this was so- and the crab was sure of it- this creature's torso matched, but that pale skin that looked like it hardly saw light, trailed down and blended with the blue scales of a fish tail, though admittedly, a larger fish than the crab had ever come across.
And that- the crab decided- was not normal.
Annoyed at this bizarre creature that had interrupted its breakfast, the crab scuttled off, leaving the fish-man to continue its thrashing upon the beach.
Fai stopped trying to turn around on the sand when a small red crab moved across his path – eyeing him guardedly. It moved off quickly however, leaving him once again stranded alone upon the sand.
It was true that he had attempted to push himself up on this arms and drag himself back into the shallow water that he has carelessly swum into, but now, in an accepting way, he flipped onto his back and lay staring at the morning sun. It felt strange – pleasant – on his skin, and he was able to breathe of course, though not as usual through the small gills behind his ears, but by inhaling the scent of salt through his mouth and nose. His eyes closed, the merman flicked his tail lightly, starting to feel dry and warm and mused to himself.
Fai hadn't deliberately beached himself- and yet- while if he had continued to struggle he might have succeeded eventually in getting off the sand, as he thought of the lonely and silent depths awaiting him to return, he found himself accepting, not upset with the prospect of dying alone in the air.
His eyes, as blue as his tail, opened once more to the sun; it was more glaring now; time was obviously moving on and his skin had begun to feel uncomfortably dry and slightly painful when he moved.
Fai smiled ironically to himself, noticing that the crab had returned to watch, and closing his eyes once more; began awaiting the slow death before him.
The castle was surrounded by ocean cliffs along its west side, while its gates opened to a grassy plain populated by the villagers there. This meant its defences were fairly strong- the cliffs were high and dangerous leading down to only a sandy stretch of beach below.
However, there was risk of frequent attacks and a well trained royal army could be seen upon the palaces walls during all hours, prepared to defend the two princesses within.
The head of the royal army however, was not that morning in the palace grounds.
Kurogane had risen routinely early while the sky was still dark and donning his sword; had made his way down the treacherous sea cliffs and down to the beach. As with every morning before the princesses had arisen, he unsheathed his sword and effortlessly slid through a number of stances and techniques – with no less ease than breathing. Once completed, and with the sun climbing over the ocean horizon, he set off at a run across the beach, his pace quick despite his heavy weapon and the giving surface of the beach.
He rounded the jutting edge of a cliff and out of sight of the castle, breathing the sharp tang of salty air. After an extensive run – satisfied that his muscles were warmed- Kurogane came to a standstill and glanced out at the horizon and the climbing sun. Aware that it was time he returned and made sure his men were in order, Kurogane made to turn and race back across the beach, when, out of the corner of his vision, he caught sight of body lying upon the sand – almost hidden behind a cluster of jagged rocks.
Immediately becoming tense, Kurogane felt his fingers wrap assuredly around his sword and he strode quickly across the sand to where the figure- small, pale and with face hidden by golden hair- was lying. Stealing closer, and sensing no other presence, Kurogane clambered over the rocks towards where the body lay half in-half out of a shallow rock pool.
It was not disbelief at seeing the body of a young man upon the beach – Kurogane was a solider after all, he was well acquainted with corpses- nor was it even the sight of that pale chest rising and falling with life still.
No, Kurogane's surprise came from the lower body of the man – not legs, not normal human features; but a glinting tail like that of a fish.
Disbelief and bewilderment clouded Kurogane's sharp reflexes for once in his life, and he found himself unable to move as he continued to stare at that strange body.
He had heard, as had everybody on the coast, of the strange creatures that the sea played host to. Stories were spread often among the villager's fishermen of people with the tails of fishes that were sometimes glimpsed from boats at unusual hours, but Kurogane had always known it was nonsense, superstitious folk lore.
And yet – here was such a creature, undeniably right before him.
Cautiously, still disbelieving, Kurogane moved closer to the still figure, his eyes tracing over that pale skin – which, closer up, was tinged a raw red from too long in the sun- and that golden hair, damp and sticking to that hidden face and lastly; that strange azure tail.
Kurogane was so close now he could make out the individual scales that were catching the sunlight; no disguise or trick of the eye, but the real tail of a fish.
Suddenly Kurogane's body braced and tensed, the man's eyelid had flickered; was flickering – was opening.
Blue eyes, somehow even more blue than that tail, found and fixed on Kurogane's red ones; though the gaze was unfocused, the lids still lazily half closed. Moment's passed, a bird that was wheeling overhead cried out and yet neither form on the sand moved, each holding the gaze of the other.
Finally, the shutters of the blue eyes closed once more, and a whisper of a sigh escaped the creatures delicate and sun cracked lips.
Still Kurogane did not move; waiting for the creature to stir again. It was not until sometime after that his shoulders relaxed minutely and he advanced once more towards the figure. The creature was still as he approached, and when Kurogane's eyes searched it's face he found no trace of awareness or movement. Slowly- ever so slowly- Kurogane gently pressed his boot against the strange tail. Through it, the tail felt exactly like that of a fish; soft flesh coated with hard, smooth scales.
Kurogane's dark brows contracted further and his intent glare never left the creatures face as he inched down and lightly traced his callous finger tips over those mirror like scales. When there was no movement, Kurogane cautiously lay down his sword and crouched by the body's side. More assured this time- he pressed his hand gently on where the creature's skin began to blend with scales, tracing down the pale, yet angrily sun flushed skin, to where it gradually faded to blue and finally where the soft skin became smooth and hard under his fingers.
Kurogane pulled back his hand, sure now, and stared intensely at the form. Whatever the creature was, it was not completely human, but it was definitely real.
And as Kurogane eyed that sun burnt skin, far too delicate to be exposed to even the early morning sun, and the shallow breathing, the creature was also definitely dying.
Hesitating for only a moment longer, Kurogane once more reached towards the being, but now moved more decidedly as he gently cupped and lifted the creature's head and slid a muscular arm under and around the tail; which war warm and dry from its exposure to the sun. Surprisingly light in Kurogane's arms, the being didn't stir, but as Kurogane rose from his haunches, its head lolled limply against the soldier's chest.
Wading outwards into deeper water, Kurogane glanced down into the creatures face with its delicate features and white skin, still unsure and distrusting.
When the water had come up to his knees, Kurogane carefully lowered the creature into the sea, letting it float on its back and withdrawing his hold on it to stand up once more.
The creature rocked gently and limply in the sea's waters, it's golden hair spread out and waving in around the pale face.
Kurogane grumbled darkly at it and glanced around, annoyed that creature didn't just swim off – or whatever it did- and make things easy for him.
'Hey.' Kurogane spoke for the first time, hoping the noise would rouse it. 'Thing.'
The creature didn't stir, continuing to float peacefully on the water's surface. Kurogane glared at it, resisting the urge to prod or kick it with his foot.
Growling under his breath, Kurogane bent down and gently shook the creature's thin shoulder.
Exasperated, Kurogane stood up and glowered down at the body, and for a while neither he nor the creature made any movement. Finally, furious with the strange man-like-fish and the absurd situation, Kurogane turned sharply and began wading back to shore. As the water fell to lap around his ankles however, he once more turned and looked back to where the creature still floated.
It's eyes were tightly closed, and even from there Kurogane could see the red burns the sun had left on its skin. The waves had made the creatures shallow breathing indistinguishable, and it looked already dead; given up completely to the waters movement.
For minutes more Kurogane hesitated before finally wading out again to where the being floated. Leaning down, he scooped the creature once more into his arms; its wet body soaking his shirt, and hoisted it head first over his shoulder. Grasping one arm around the tail; now wet and slick, Kurogane strode angrily to shore and snatched up his sword with his free hand.
Never slowing his pace, Kurogane, carrying the limp form over his shoulder, headed back along the empty beach.