Sorry this is a little late; I thought this world would get easier to write, but… it didn't. I don't know if it's the songs or what, but it's been particularly difficult for me for some reason. It might also have to do with Demyx doing confusing things in the last chapter that I'm going to do my best try to explain… next chapter… Eh, who knows.
This chapter has girl talk, dun dun dun! Hopefully it's not like, boring… there'll be more action next time!
Thank you to everyone who favorited, followed, and reviewed the last chapter! I love love love the response this is getting; each review makes me so happy!
Okay, that's enough of that. Onward!
"I wanted to tell her that I loved her, and not in the complicated way I loved our parents, but in a simple way I never had to think about. I loved her like breathing."
― Brenna Yovanoff, The Replacement
Chapter 28: L-O-V-E
"Where the heck is she?!" Donald squawked, at his wit's end. The gang (along with Flounder) had been searching for Ariel for what felt like forever, but no matter where they looked, she was absolutely nowhere to be found. It was like she had vanished off of the world completely.
"Gosh… I wonder where she could be?" Flounder pondered nervously. Aila was beginning to wonder if they'd somehow missed Ariel's transformation into a human and was trying to figure out how to suggest that maybe they should start searching on nearby shores without explaining why she thought that was a good idea. Thankfully, Goofy's sharp eyes saved her the trouble.
"Gwarsh, do ya think that could be her?" he asked, squinting off into the distance. They followed his gaze and saw a tiny, bright red dot a ways ahead of them. It was easy to spot against the dark blues and greys surrounding it, and it did indeed look like it matched Ariel's hair color.
"Might as well check," Sora said with a nod.
"Isn't that back where the statue was in the first place…?" Aila asked as the group began swimming toward what they hoped was their missing friend.
"Think so," Flounder said. "Good thing we got it when we did, or she woulda ruined the surprise!"
"It might have saved us some trouble though…" Donald grumbled. Aila elbowed him lightly in the side, not wanting Flounder's excitement about surprising his dearest friend be quelled by Donald's sour attitude.
"It is her!" Sora announced as they got closer, relieved that their search was over. Ariel was a little ways off from the sunken ship, gazing up at the surface sadly. Her head drooped, and the gang swam a little faster, hoping that what they had to show her would pull her out of her funk. "Ariel!" Sora called, getting the redhead's attention as the gang swam the final few feet to meet her.
"We'd like you to come with us, Ariel!" Goofy said happily.
"Have we got something to show you!" Sora added with a huge grin.
Ariel cocked her head to the side. "Huh? What is it?"
"It's a surprise," Aila said mysteriously, grabbing the redhead's hand. She pulled Ariel forward a bit, urging her to start swimming with the rest of the group. Ariel looked extremely confused, but allowed Aila to pull her along for a few feet anyway.
"It's at your secret place!" Flounder said, swimming quick laps around Ariel in his excitement. "C'mon, I just know you're gonna love it!" Flounder lowered his voice then, leaning in toward his friend and adding in a whisper, "It's something from the surface."
Ariel's eyes lit up at this, her curiosity piqued. "Really?!" she gasped. Flounder nodded, and suddenly Aila was the one being pulled along behind the now extremely excited mermaid.
"Whoa!" Aila gasped, wrenching her hand free and spinning amidst some bubbles before finding her bearings again.
"Is that what happened when you were on your own? Cause that was a little embarrassing," Sora said with a smirk, he, Donald, and Goofy waiting for their friend to regain her composure.
"No," Aila scowled. "And I told you, I'm not gonna tell you what happened, so stop guessing already!"
Sora rolled his eyes. The boys had decided that their new favorite game was trying to figure out what had happened to Aila to make her face so red earlier, much to Aila's chagrin. She got the feeling that it was all in fun; they seemed to trust her enough that they didn't really care whether she told them or not, but that didn't seem to quell their curiosity on the matter. That, and apparently her face would turn red again every time they mentioned the mysterious incident, which they found highly amusing.
"It's definitely gotta be something to do with her poor swimming skills," Donald mused as the four of them set off after Ariel and Flounder once again.
"Oh, totally," Sora nodded in agreement.
"You guys know I can hear you, right?" Aila muttered, glaring at her friends. Sora and Donald chuckled. Aila sighed. "Ugh, I shouldn't have said anything…"
"Aw, you didn't have to. Your face said it all for ya!" Goofy grinned.
"Am I really that easy to see through…?" Aila mused, somewhat to herself. It was a little worrying that the boys had figured out she was hiding something so quickly; had they known that she'd been keeping other secrets from them all along? She had slipped up more than once around them about various things…
Sora shrugged. "Kinda."
His answer did not make Aila feel better.
"Guys, hurry up!" Flounder called, waving to them from the entrance of Ariel's grotto. Ariel was already tearing the giant rock door out of the way, eager to find out what was waiting for her inside.
"You heard the fish!" Aila exclaimed, rushing off toward the grotto.
"What's the rush?" Sora teased with a laugh. It was clear that Aila was thankful to have something to distract the boys from asking her any more questions.
"What? I can't hear you!" she bluffed, rushing into the grotto after Ariel and Flounder before the boys could add anything else.
Ariel gasped when she saw the statue sitting in the middle of the grotto, and Aila thought for a moment that the girl might faint. The redhead swam up to the statue, very lightly touching its beautifully detailed face as if unable to believe that it was real.
"It's a pretty cool statue, huh?" Sora said as he and the boys joined the rest of them inside.
"It looks like some kinda prince," Donald added.
"A prince?!" Ariel breathed, excitement coloring her voice. The gang grinned at one another.
"It goes great with the rest o' yer collection!" Goofy commented, looking around for the first time. "Gee, you sure do have a lot o' stuff in here."
"Yeah, looks like even more than last time," Sora said with a nod.
Ariel beamed. "Thank you! I've searched all over to find these things!"
Aila was looking at the music box on one of the lower shelves again. It was quite beautiful, with intricate golden patterns etched into the top of it.
"Don't encourage her," Sebastian fretted, looking extremely uncomfortable amidst all the illegal contraband.
"Oh, Sebastian," Ariel sighed.
"So now that you have the statue, you don't really need to go to the surface, right?" Flounder asked innocently. "I mean, you have so much from up there in here, I'm sure it's practically the same thing!"
Ariel smiled sadly. "Oh, Flounder… I really appreciate you getting this for me, I do, but… it's just not the same as the real thing."
Aila couldn't help herself. She lifted the lid of the music box, and immediately a tinkling tune began to fill the grotto. She almost slammed it shut again, feeling embarrassed about the music making it so obvious that she'd been messing with Ariel's stuff, when suddenly… she recognized the tune. "Isn't this…?"
Ariel sighed wistfully, listening to the music coming from the little box as she no doubt had hundreds of times before, and after a few moments she began to sing along.
"Look at this stuff, isn't it neat?
Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?
Wouldn't you think I'm the girl,
The girl who has everything?"
She arranged a knife, a fork, and a spoon on a three-pronged candlestick and smiled fondly. Aila giggled quietly, Ariel's misunderstanding of such simple items rather endearing. The boys, meanwhile, were curiously looking around at everything Ariel had collected; it really was an impressive collection. Sora circled a globe, seeming fascinated by the details it showed about this world, spinning it as he went.
"Look at this trove, treasures untold,
How many wonders could one cavern hold?"
Goofy had found a box full of very pretty coins and was oohing and ahing over them, and Donald was inspecting an interesting looking square box.
"Looking around here you'd think,
'Sure… she's got everything.'"
Donald knocked on the little box a few times and then screamed as a jack-in-the-box popped out at him. Flounder shushed him angrily, not wanting Ariel's song to be interrupted, and Donald rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
Ariel grabbed Aila's hand and led her over to a collection of smaller knickknacks, showing them off to the other girl proudly. They ranged from smoking pipes that she'd hung up like ornaments…
"I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty."
…A collection of reading glasses hooked together like some sort of makeshift chain…
"I've got whozits and whatzits galore."
…And a case full of about twenty or so corkscrew wine openers.
"You want thingamabobs? I got twenty!"
Her face fell and she closed the case of wine openers sadly.
"But who cares? No big deal…
I want more…"
She swam up to the higher shelves, spinning wistfully as she went. Aila couldn't help but feel her heart ache for the girl and she followed her, wishing she could do something to ease the mermaid's longing. The boys followed as well, and they all stopped in front of a shelf filled with little figurines. Ariel gently picked up a figurine of a man and a woman dancing together and showed it to her friends.
"I wanna be where the people are.
I wanna see… wanna see 'em dancing,
Walking around on those… what do you call 'em?"
She placed the figure down once again and looked puzzled, searching for the word. Goofy flipped over and wiggled his bottom flippers, hoping to help her out.
"Oh! Feet!" Ariel giggled. Aila saw Sebastian roll his eyes.
Ariel grabbed Flounder and spun him around, dancing with the little fish as best she could.
"Flipping your fins you don't get too far,
Legs are required for jumping, dancing!
Strolling along down the… what's that word again?"
She looked puzzled once again, placing a finger to her chin in confusion. After a beat, she snapped her fingers, her eyes lighting up as she remembered.
She then took off as fast as she could go, shooting toward the top of the grotto. She stopped right in front of an opening in the ceiling, gazing out toward the refracted sky above her with a longing so strong that it almost hurt Aila just to watch.
"Up where they walk!
Up where they run!
Up where they stay all day in the sun!
Wish I could be,
Part of that world…"
She swam back to the gang, circling them excitedly, grabbing Donald's shoulders from behind and leaning in as if telling him a huge secret.
"What would I give if I could live out of these waters?"
She let go of the duck and floated down to the floor, sprawling out in a relaxed manner as she imagined what her life would be like on the surface.
"What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?"
The group followed her down, Flounder burying himself in the sand happily beside the redhead, trying his best to join his friend in her fantasy world. Ariel sat up and frowned suddenly, looking distraught.
"Bet you on land,
Bet they don't reprimand their daughters…"
The boys frowned at one another, their eyes shining with concern, and Aila bit her lip. Sebastian, meanwhile, was looking more and more frustrated by the second. Ariel took Aila's hands and looked into the other girl's eyes as if imploring her to listen.
"Bright young women…
Sick of swimming…
Ready to stand!"
Aila smiled, allowing Ariel to pull her up toward the top of the grotto once again. Ariel let go as they neared some books, grabbing one and flipping through it eagerly.
"I'm ready to know what the people know!
Ask them my questions, and get some answers."
She handed the book to Aila eagerly, pointing to a passage that was absolutely impossible to read, seeing how the pages were hopelessly waterlogged. Ariel didn't seem to realize that though, thinking that it had some sort of amazing wisdom etched there that Aila needed to see. Ariel then swam up to the boys, genuinely wondering if they knew the answer to her next question.
"What's a fire,
And why does it… what's the word… burn?!"
She grabbed Sora's hands now, squeezing them desperately, her eyes filled with agony at the idea that she'd never know the answer to her question. Sora looked positively guilty, as if wrestling with the idea of maybe giving Ariel some of the answers she was looking for. Donald seemed to sense this and shot Sora a warning glance, though he too looked torn. Ariel released Sora and swam to the top of the grotto again, singing her absolute heart out.
"When's it my turn?!
Wouldn't I love,
Love to explore the shore up above!"
She reached out through the hole, which was just slightly too small for her to fit through, seeming pained that she couldn't get to the surface from there. The tempo of the music box slowed, and her voice quieted to just above a whisper as she began to sink back to the bottom of the grotto.
"Out of the sea…"
The group watched her sadly as she sank, her eyes closing as the reality of her life and the unlikeliness of her dream coming true came crashing down on her.
"Wish I could be…"
She stopped in front of the statue, brushing her fingers across its face sadly.
"Part of that… world…"
The music tinkled to a stop, the silence deafening after such an emotional outburst.
"Ariel…" Sora began quietly. "We're here to help you… you know?"
"Oh no – you four stay out of it!" Sebastian chided, indicating Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Aila and shattering the somber tension filling the grotto.
"Look who's talking," Sora replied, crossing his arms.
"Yeah! You were gonna tell her dad about it!" Donald chimed in.
"Oh, please don't, Sebastian!" Ariel pleaded. Her eyes then flashed dangerously. "I'll never forgive you if you do!"
Sebastian looked like he might be sick as he battled with his options. "Oh, what am I gonna do?" he fretted.
"Speaking of King Triton, aren't you supposed to be in a meeting with him right now?" Flounder asked his crustacean friend.
Sebastian gasped in horror. "Oh no! I'm late!" He zoomed out of the grotto without another word, leaving the rest of the group in his bubbles.
"Uh, you don't think he'd really tell King Triton about all this, do you?" Goofy asked Sora, Donald, and Aila quietly.
"I hope not…" Sora said, sounding unsure.
"Hey, so you guys are staying here tonight, right?" Flounder asked, changing the subject.
"I think so," Sora said, looking to the gang for confirmation. They all nodded. "We signed up for the musical, so we'll stay until it's over."
"Awesome!" Flounder exclaimed. "I'll show you to the guest rooms in the castle then!"
"Guest rooms?" Aila asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well sure! Where else would you sleep?" Flounder giggled.
"Um… you know, I don't know," Aila said. She hadn't thought about sleeping on this world at all; it seemed confusing. Would they float?
"Let's go! You coming, Ariel?" Flounder asked.
"Oh… sure," Ariel said with a halfhearted smile.
"Whoa," Aila breathed. She was floating in the doorway of a massive room, easily bigger than the entire control room and her bedroom on the Gummi ship combined. There was a large, plush looking circular bed nestled inside a giant clam shell in the center of the room with lavish décor lining the walls, making the room feel like it was intended for some sort of royalty, not some silly visitor like herself. "Are you sure this is my room…?" she asked, dumbfounded.
"Positive," Ariel giggled. "What do you think?"
"Hey, how come she gets her own room?!" Donald squawked.
"Because she's a girl," Flounder said matter-of-factly, "so she can't stay in the boys' hall with you guys."
"The girls' hall seems nicer than the boys," Sora mused. Aila thought he sounded a little jealous.
"My sisters helped Daddy design the guest rooms," Ariel explained. "They tend to only invite their girl friends to stay here, so they made the girls' rooms nicer."
"No fair!" Donald whined.
"Uh, I thought our room was nice too though," Goofy said, scratching his head.
"Yeah, but it's nothing like this," Donald said, rushing into the room and examining himself in a grand, fancy mirror on the wall.
"I'm so glad I'm not a boy!" Aila taunted, swimming over to the bed and flopping down onto it. The material swallowed her up like a cloud, and she sighed happily. "Let's never leave!"
"Ah, so here you all are!"
The group turned to the entrance to see Sebastian swimming into the room, looking relieved at having located them.
"Hey Sebastian," Sora greeted warmly.
"What's goin' on?" Goofy asked.
"De King wanted me to invite you all to de feast tonight," Sebastian said importantly. "I assume you'll all be dere?"
"Of course!" Sora said.
"Oh boy, a feast!" Donald exclaimed.
"Fantastic!" Sebastian replied. "Now den, it will start in half an hour, so don't be late! Ariel, please tell me you'll show up dis time!"
Ariel looked unsure. "I dunno… I'm not really that hungry…" She looked away, and Aila frowned. She was sure that the girl was hungry, but that she just wasn't too keen on seeing her father. It seemed like those two were a little rocky right now.
"Aw come on Ariel, it'll be fun!" Sora coaxed.
"Yeah! Maybe we can even tell ya some stories about our travels," Goofy added, hoping that would tempt the girl enough to get her to join them. It seemed to work, because Ariel's face immediately lit up.
"Okay!" she agreed, and Sebastian sighed in relief.
"Great!" the crab exclaimed. "Well den, I'll go let de chefs know to make enough for all of you! See you soon!" He zoomed off, as if worried that if he stayed a moment longer Ariel would change her mind again.
"So uh… what kind of food do you guys have here?" Aila asked, hoping she sounded nonchalant. She was little skeptical about going to an underwater feast; it would be just their luck if it turned into a Timon and Pumba-esque dining situation…
"Don't worry, it's all really good," Sora assured.
"You've tried it?"
"Duh! We have been here before, remember? This isn't our first feast at the castle."
Aila smirked. "Well then how come you weren't aware of how much better my room was gonna be than yours?"
"Well we never had a reason to see any of the girls' rooms, did we?" Donald pointed out with a huff.
"Oh yeah…" Aila mused. It was so strange to think that the boys had stayed overnight here on their last visit, that their entire adventure hadn't been one very long, very eventful day. But of course she should've known by now that it hadn't been. Heck, she'd been off her world for months now and had only barely made it to half the worlds the boys would travel to.
"So Aila, what happened earlier?" Sora asked, and Aila realized with a jolt that he was inches from her face. She yelped, tripping backwards over the bed and spinning head over fins away from him. Sora laughed, and Aila glared at him.
"Nothing!" she insisted.
"What're you guys talking about?" Flounder asked, glancing back and forth between Sora and Aila.
Aila blinked at the little fish. "You haven't heard them badgering me all day about this?"
"Nuh-uh," Flounder said, cocking his head. "And what's a 'badger'?"
"Nothing," all four visitors recited at once. Ariel and Flounder exchanged a confused look.
"Somethin' happened to Aila while she was scoutin' ahead of us earlier," Goofy explained. "Somethin' embarrassin'!"
"Really?" Flounder asked, suddenly just as interested as the rest of the boys. "What was it?"
"She won't tell us," Sora said dramatically. "It's so unfair."
"I will punch you in the face," Aila deadpanned. Sora just grinned.
"Oh you guys, leave her alone," Ariel said sweetly, swimming up to Aila and wrapping her arms around the smaller girl from behind. "Don't you know better than to 'badger' a girl about her secrets?" She seemed particularly proud of her use of the new word, and Aila had to hold back a giggle.
"Do all girls have secrets, Ariel?" Flounder asked genuinely.
"Oh yes," Ariel said. "It's just a part of who we are."
"Ohhh," Flounder breathed, fascinated by the information.
"It'd do you good to let a girl keep some things to herself," Ariel continued, wagging a finger at Sora, Donald, and Goofy, "unless you want to get yourselves into trouble!"
Aila grinned triumphantly at the boys. "Ha ha," she taunted, sticking a tongue out at them.
"Aw man!" Sora whined. "It's gotta be something really juicy though!"
"You will never know," Aila said in a singsong voice.
"Now get out," Ariel said suddenly, waving her hand at all the boys in the room and motioning for them to leave. "Aila and I have some girl talk to get to, apparently."
"Huh?!" the boys gasped. Aila just blinked. She hadn't been expecting this.
"I'm a girl, so I'm allowed to hear her secrets," Ariel said with a wink.
"That's no fair!" Donald protested. "We've known her longer!"
"Yeah! Aila!" Sora said, trying to get Aila to agree with them.
Aila looked back and forth between Ariel and the boys. It would be fun to spend some one on one time with Ariel… She shrugged. "Hey, I didn't make the rules of girlhood, but… I gotta play by them." The boys glared at her, and she grinned.
"See you at dinner boys!" Ariel said, she and Aila pushing Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Flounder out the door amidst jumbled protests. Ariel slammed the door and locked it, grinning at Aila.
"You know I can open that, right?" Sora called through the door.
"Go away, Sora!" Aila and Ariel chorused together.
"Aw phooey," they heard Donald pout.
"Come on fellas, let's give them some time to themselves."
"Ah, Goofy, lemme go!"
"Shhh you guys, I can't hear!"
"Uh, isn't it not nice to listen in like that…?"
"Sora! Stop hogging the keyhole!"
Aila summoned her weapon and pointed it at the door. "Freeze!" A ball of frost shot out of the end of her staff and hit the door, instantly encasing it in ice. She heard Donald and Sora yelp on the other side.
"Okay, we're going, we're going!" Sora called, and Ariel and Aila finally heard the boys amble away dejectedly.
Ariel giggled. "Thanks for agreeing to spend some time with me. Don't get me wrong, I love the guys, but aren't you just dying for some girl time sometimes?"
"I guess," Aila said with a smile. She had sort of missed hanging out with another girl she supposed, though she hadn't really felt like it was anything she needed to do. Ariel, on the other hand, seemed absolutely giddy at the idea of getting some girl talk into her day; her eyes practically glittered with anticipation.
"So, where should we start?" Ariel asked, pulling Aila over to the bed and sitting on the edge of the clam bedframe. "Do you have a boyfriend? What do you think of the man in the statue? Do you want me to do your hair?" Her voice was fast and excited, and Aila grinned nervously, feeling a little out of her element here. She'd never really had a girl friend like this before… In fact, she really only had one girl friend back home, and she had never seemed interested in talking about boys or doing Aila's hair. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself aren't I. It's just, I've never been that close to my sisters, they're all a bit older than me, and I don't get the opportunity to do this that often. Flounder's so great but you know, it's just not the same talking to a boy about this kind of stuff, right?"
"It's cool! I get it!" Aila laughed nervously, running a hand through her hair. "To answer your questions… No I don't, he's cute, and umm sure?"
"Great! Wait right here," Ariel said, dashing over to a coral dresser across the room and rummaging around for something or another. "And you really think the man in the statue is cute?!"
"Oh, I think so too," Ariel gushed, zipping back to Aila with an armful of what Aila assumed were hair supplies. "Okay, I'm thinking a side braid with some of these woven in," the redhead said, picking out some tiny, glittering shells. "What do you think?"
"Sure," Aila said with a shrug. She never really did anything more to her hair than throw it into a ponytail herself…
"Okay!" Ariel said, turning Aila away from her and beginning to work on the younger girl's hair. "Where did you guys find the statue anyway?"
"At the shipwreck," Aila replied.
"I knew it!" Ariel gasped. "That's his ship!"
"The man's!" Ariel sighed. "That's why there was a statue of him. Oh, imagine if he really is a prince!"
"Slow down," Aila giggled, playing along. "Are you saying you know the man that the statue is made to look like?"
"Well, not really," Ariel confessed, gently separating Aila's hair into sections. "I found him after the shipwreck and brought him back to shore."
"Ohhh," Aila replied. "So you have a crush on him, then?"
"It's much more than a crush," Ariel said, sounding a little embarrassed. "I know it's kind of silly, but… have you ever met someone, and you just… know that there's something between you?"
"Like… love at first sight?"
"Nope," Aila said, shaking her head a little.
"Well it does exist, you know," Ariel said dreamily, holding Aila's head to get her to stop moving. "I looked into his face and… that was all it took! Ugh, I just can't stop thinking about him! …Do you think that's crazy?"
To anyone else, Aila would have said yes, but seeing how she knew that it wasn't crazy for Ariel to love Eric, considering the fact that they were going to end up together, she was torn on how to answer. "Well…"
"I know it's a little silly," Ariel admitted. "It's just, whenever I think about him… my heart feels like it's about to burst out of my chest and I just… I miss him."
Aila was silent for a few moments, thinking about that. "That sounds really nice."
"It would be nicer if we could be together," Ariel sighed sadly. "I know humans are dangerous, but… he has such a kind face…"
"I mean, I'm sure not all humans are bad," Aila said with a shrug. "There's bound to be some good ones."
"Exactly!" Ariel exclaimed, pulling on Aila's hair a little harshly in her excitement. "Oh, sorry!"
"It's okay," Aila said with a wince. "So what're you gonna do?"
"I have no idea," Ariel sighed. "I can't exactly tell anyone about this… Daddy would freak out if he had any idea that I'd gotten as close to a human as I did." She grabbed Aila's shoulders suddenly and turned the younger girl around so they were face to face. "None of this leaves this room by the way, right?"
"Of course," Aila said, holding up her hands peaceably. "Girl code and all that, right?"
Ariel smiled in relief. "Right." She released Aila's shoulders and allowed the younger girl to spin back around, continuing to work on her hair. "Speaking of secrets, what exactly were the boys trying to get out of you?"
"Oh, that," Aila sighed, her shoulders slouching. "It's nothing, just… an awkward… thing…"
"Go on," Ariel coaxed. "It won't leave this room." Aila hesitated, but the promise of Ariel's silence on the issue was very tempting. Demyx had confused her. A lot. And it would be really helpful to talk it out with someone…
"Well…" she began slowly, choosing her words carefully. "I… ran into this guy I know…"
Ariel gasped excitedly. "Oooh!"
"No no, nothing like that!" Aila said quickly. "He's just a friend! Although… he did kiss me…"
"On the forehead!" Aila finished as fast as she could get the words out. "It was out of the blue and super weird…"
"This is so romantic!" Ariel sang.
"No, it's not. Again, he's just a friend."
"You don't love him back…?"
"Whoa whoa, slow down, I don't know if there's even a back to love him, but uh…" Aila thought for a moment. Did she feel that way about Demyx? She'd never really thought about it before now… "…I don't think so? It wouldn't matter if I did anyway…" Aila mumbled the last part to herself, but Ariel didn't miss a word.
"Uh…" Aila said, caught off guard. "Well he's… really, really, really different from me… it just doesn't make any sense. People would be like… super angry."
Ariel had stopped doing Aila's hair, sitting perfectly still as Aila spoke. It was silent for a good thirty seconds, and right when Aila was starting to worry that she'd done something wrong, Ariel whispered, "I knew you and I were similar."
"Huh?" Aila croaked. Ariel's hands began moving again, braiding Aila's long hair almost as if they were on autopilot.
"It's just like me and Eric…" Ariel was saying, her voice quiet, but the tempo quick and stilted. "We're as different as can be, and being from two separate worlds, no one would understand what I feel for him… but you do, don't you?"
"Uh… I mean…"
"You at least care about this boy, don't you?" Ariel implored.
"…Yeah. Yeah I do," Aila admitted.
"Then you see, we are similar," Ariel said seriously.
"But I don't like… want a romantic relationship with Demyx… at least, um, I don't think I do…? I-I mean, I don't…"
"Romantic love isn't the only type of love," Ariel cooed. "Love has so many different faces. The way I love my father is different than the way I love my friends, and all of that is different than the love I feel for Eric… I can tell that you feel some form of love for this boy, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. But it's like something's holding you back from opening your heart to him. Why is that?"
Aila frowned, remembering the story the minnow had told her. "…I guess maybe because… I don't know how much I can really trust him…"
"Ah," Ariel said knowingly. "Without trust, love can never grow in your heart in any form, be it friendship, romance, or whatever."
"But he is my friend," Aila disagreed.
"If he's truly your friend, then you should trust him." Ariel thought for a moment. "When will you see him again?"
"Um, he wanted to meet me tomorrow…"
"Perfect! You're going to go, aren't you?"
"I… don't think so," Aila said, biting her lip. "I have no idea how I'd get away from the guys… They definitely wouldn't be on board with any of this."
"Don't worry," Ariel said. "I'll take care of it."
"You'll what?!" Aila asked.
"I may not be able to be with whoever I love. But I'm going to do whatever I can to help you be with whoever you love."
"Uh, again, I don't…" Aila turned to look at Ariel and saw a very serious glint in the redhead's eye. It struck Aila that this was very important for the mermaid; maybe it was because of the parallel she'd drawn between the two of their situations, or maybe it was merely because it was something for her to focus on. Whatever the reason, Aila decided that she needed to let Ariel help her out, whether she wanted the help or not. "…Thank you."
"You're very welcome," Ariel said with a kind smile, looking relieved that Aila was accepting her help. "You're done, by the way. What do you think?" She held up a mirror for Aila to see her reflection in, and Aila gasped.
Her hair was in a beautiful fishtail braid that fell over her left shoulder, sparkling shells of every color woven into the inky black strands and glittering in the light of the room. Holding it all together at the end was a delicate looking hair tie adorned with turquoise stones. It was all so beautiful that Aila was almost scared to move, for fear that the work Ariel had done would fall apart.
"I love it," Aila breathed, grinning at her friend. "I would offer to do yours, but I… could never do something like this…"
"That's alright," Ariel beamed, "we don't have time for that now anyway. I'll just wear this." She grabbed a purple flower and placed it in her hair above her ear. "What do you think?"
"Super pretty," Aila complimented.
"Great! We'd better get to dinner, Daddy'll be mad if we're late." Ariel grabbed Aila's hand and began pulling her toward the door, grinning from ear to ear. "Oh, I can't wait for tomorrow! This is so exciting! I can't remember the last time I felt this excited about something!"
"Well uh, I'm… glad I could help then?" Aila said, unsure of exactly what Ariel had planned to get her and Demyx to meet tomorrow. Ariel stopped right in front of the door and spun around so she and Aila were face to face.
"Secrets safe?" she asked, holding out her pinky. Aila smiled and locked her own pinky with the redhead's.
Ariel beamed. "Let's go!"
They swam through the corridors until they arrived in a beautiful banquet hall, some of the servants finishing setting the place settings around a grand, wooden table as they entered. The servants bowed and greeted the girls warmly, Ariel immediately striking up a friendly conversation with one of them about the menu. It seemed the chefs had made some of her favorites, including some sort of exotic seaweed dish that Aila was feeling a little nervous about.
Aila turned to see the boys swimming up to her, still looking a little miffed about earlier. Aila grinned sheepishly. "Hey guys!"
"Gwarsh Aila, your hair sure looks nice!" Goofy complimented, seeming the least upset about having been kicked so unceremoniously out of Aila's room.
"Thanks! Ariel did it for me."
"While you were gossiping?" Donald asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Oh, we weren't gossiping," Ariel answered for Aila, swimming up to the group. "We were bonding!" She grabbed Aila's hand excitedly. "Come on Aila, you can sit by me!"
"Uh, sure!" Aila said, being dragged off to the table before the word had even left her mouth.
"Hey Ariel, wait up!" Flounder said, swimming up to his friend. "Can I sit with you too?"
"Of course, Flounder!" Ariel giggled.
"Well now, you're certainly in a good mood."
They all turned to see King Triton swimming into the room, a smile pulling at his lips. Everyone other than Ariel bowed.
"I am!" Ariel said, wrapping her arms around Aila affectionately. "I've made a new friend."
King Triton looked into Aila's eyes, as if searching them to make sure that she was worthy of such a reception from his daughter. After a few moments, he broke into a grin, apparently satisfied with what he saw. "That's wonderful, dear. I'm so glad."
"What exactly did you guys talk about in there?" Sora asked Aila quietly, sounding rather baffled by the sudden closeness the two girls now appeared to share.
Aila rubbed the back of her neck. "Oh you know… girl things?" And she was pulled off by Ariel once again, leaving three very confused boys in her wake. Donald pouted.
"I knew we should have stayed and listened in."
Ariel and Aila are in cahoots! Though Ariel seems much more into this potential romantic meeting than Aila does… that could be an issue…
I wasn't really planning on this world taking up a lot of chapters, but at the rate this is going, it seems like we might be on Atlantica for a while. I'll probably do the world's whole storyline in one shot, since it doesn't really make sense outside of the videogame why the boys would leave in the middle of a task… at least to me it doesn't anyway. I'll try to keep it confined to no more than five chapters total though, so if you are like, "UGH get to freaking Twilight Town already!" don't worry, we won't be here forever! Besides, the things that happen to Aila on this world are going to be REALLY important in future chapters, so I don't wanna rush things…
Anyway, thank you for reading! Please leave a review to let me know what you think~! Love you all!