A/N: Okay, it's a bit later than the others, but I've been really busy the past two weeks or so. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy!
Chapter Five: Predator and Prey
Just before he reached the city Ed stopped to collect a large handful of various plants for his mother. Izumi was currently experimenting in the kitchen. For the past week or so she had been adding in plants that reduced headaches, alleviated nausea, and gave your scales an extra sheen; trying to find a balance between nutrition and taste.
Ed had gotten lost the very first time she sent him to find the plants. He had asked for directions, been swept away by a current, and befriended a human. When he eventually found his way back the plants had been driven from his mind. Izumi had scolded him for returning empty-handed the next day and had given him very detailed directions before sending him off again.
For a few days after that she had watched him like an eel waiting for a fish to swim past. Ed was surprised he had gotten away at all.
With the errand for his mother now completed, Ed headed for his house. He was swimming through what could only be described as streets when a short giggle brought him up short. Before he could blink someone moved across his path. Two others, also giggling, flanked the first, blocking the street. He backed up an arm's length, instinctively giving himself more room to swing his arms or tail.
"You wouldn't hit a poor, defenceless girl, would you?" a female voice said in mock horror.
Ed rolled his eyes before frowning. In his path floated three mermaids. The one who had spoken was directly in front of him with two younger maids on either side. Ed instantly recognised them – there weren't many boys who wouldn't. Myranda, the one in the middle, was two or three years older than Ed and the other two girls, who followed her around everywhere.
Myranda was rather attractive, with dainty fins and tail and she knew it. The girl was not afraid to flash her light fuchsia fins or wave her brightly coloured tail to gain attention. Her main scale colour was a deep, vivid pink outlined with pale pink strips that faded to white on her tail's underside. Circles of dark purple, with spots of the same colour in the middle of each one on both sides of her delicate dorsal fin, ran down her tail and arms, flaring out on her tail like the eye pattern on a moth's wings. Her spines were half deep pink, half dark purple and her light brown hair, which was just short of being waist-length, hung like a silky curtain down her back. She wore a top of dark purple.
Ed thought she was pretty enough to look at, but her attitude stunk. Her parents were very well off and she had obviously been spoiled as she was snobbish, bossy and far too used to getting her own way all the time. Myranda was the leader of the trio and the other girls looked up to her as some sort of idol, though Ed couldn't for the life of him figure out why.
He recognised one of the girls as Millie's niece, Ashli. The ten year old girl was kind of plain for a maid although her light brown hair had natural streaks of blonde through it. Her colours and patterns were very similar to her aunt's, though her main colour was sky blue with pastel green fins. Her spines were half blue, half dark lime green, and her blue eyes reminded him of Winry's. A single thick band of dark lime green encircled the base of her tail while a stripe of the same colour ran down one third of both sides of her tail; her top was also this colour.
Ed had met Ashli before – her mother, Millie's sister, wished for her daughter to learn the art of healing from her aunt. Ashli could usually be found at Millie's, helping the older maid as best she could. Ed had always known her to be a shy girl, though she was quite nice if you could get her to talk, and he wondered what she was doing hanging around with the likes of Myranda.
The third he didn't personally know; Chloe was just another girl next door to him. She had light hazel eyes, dark brown hair that curled at the ends and bright green fins. The entire underside of her tail, instead of being white like most, was the same green shade as her fins. Her main colour was a deep, dark green with stripes of black in between each of the ten spines down her back. The base of her tail was black as was the tips of her spines, while two bands of black ran up the length of each spine. Her fin membranes were naturally jagged, giving the girl an unintentionally fierce look. Her top was the same deep green.
Maids, Ed noted suddenly, seemed to wear tops the same shade as their main scale colour, the hue of their fins or the colour of their defining pattern (if they were different).
Ed didn't answer her question, choosing to ask one of his own instead. "What do you want?" he ground out, his tone borderline rude.
"Why Edward, I simply noticed that you haven't been around much lately and wanted to catch up with you," Myranda said with all innocence.
Well, it would have seemed a lot more innocent to the merboy if she hadn't moved forward with a certain flick of the tail that was the mermaid equivalent to sashaying. Ed's frown deepened though he didn't move, not willing to reveal that she was starting to make him feel uncomfortable. 'It feels like a shark is circling me,' he thought, not taking his gaze off Myranda in case she made a sudden move.
"What's wrong, Edward? Aren't you happy to see me?" Myranda asked in an injured tone. "Aww, I feel hurt, but I know you didn't mean it," she said with a playful grin. She moved closer, swiftly shortening the distance between her and Ed while making a gesture with one hand.
Ed instantly backed up, feeling way out of his depth. His backpedalling didn't allow to get him very far when he felt a hand on his back in between his shoulder fins. He whipped his head around only to see Chloe floating there, looking a bit embarrassed as she retracted her hand and moved it to her face, twining her fingers into her hair. 'Wow, she's fast!'
He swung his head back around and let out a tiny squeak of surprise. Myranda's face was only a couple of inches away from his own and her light fuchsia eyes instantly captured his gold ones like a snake hypnotizing its prey. She was close enough for him to easily see the generous amount of light fuchsia eye shadow she had applied. A charming smile crossed her face.
There were many young girls in the city that coveted Edward. Not only was he cute, but his bright scales and bold patterns made him very attractive to any prospective mates. Myranda wanted him all to herself. She saw him as the only boy worthy enough to be her boyfriend and, in turn, he was the only one worthy of her beauty. Myranda was used to having the best and she would never settle for anything less. She could only imagine their children! Her beautiful feminine colours mixing with his strong ones...any children they had would be the most gorgeous children in all of merdom!
"Where did you get this?" she asked, trying to keep the jealousy out of her voice as she grabbed one waving end of the ribbon still tied around his wrist. The shade of blue closely matched Ashli's and she turned her head to stare meaningfully at the younger girl.
Ashli, eyes wide once she realised what Myranda was implying, immediately shook her head and Myranda knew she wasn't lying. Ashli was far too nice to do something behind anyone's back like that.
Ed, not caught by her gaze any longer, looked down at his wrist and Winry's present. He had become so used to it that he had completely forgotten he was wearing it. Ed's brain suddenly kicked back into gear and he cursed Myranda. The girl was more like one of those deadly sirens that used magic to lure men to their deaths with their sweet voices and beauty. Girls like her were the reason the humans thought merfolk were terrible creatures.
"My mum gave it to me to tie up the plants with," he said, thinking fast. "I completely forgot about it," he added truthfully. Ed knew that the best lies were usually half-truths. "And if you don't mind, I have to go give them to her."
Myranda stared at him for a moment but she smiled. "That's so sweet of you, Edward. But surely you can stay and talk for a few more minutes?"
Ed shook his head, grateful for the excuse the plants gave him. "Sorry, but she wants them as soon as possible. Excuse me," he managed to say politely. Ed gave his tail a powerful flick, boosting himself up and over Myranda. He wasted no time in swimming as fast as he could to his house, glad to put as much distance between himself and that girl as possible.
His move could be considered rather rude but Ed didn't care. If nothing else the encounter had reminded him of the ribbon. He untied it and held it scrunched up in his free hand, wondering where to stash it when he got to his room. He didn't want to put it with the bandages...
Before long Ed had reached his house. He pushed the screen of fronds aside and called out, "I'm home!"
"I'm in the kitchen. Did you get the plants?" Izumi called back.
Ed rolled his eyes and entered the kitchen. "Yeah, I got them. Here you go." He carefully deposited his handful of plants in a box on the counter next to his mother, making sure not to crush the delicate plants when he shut the lid.
"Thanks Ed," she said, glancing over and flashing him a smile. "You were gone a while. What else did you do today?"
Ed knew the question was not as innocent as it sounded; his mother was still suspicious. "Not much. Just swam around for a while outside the city to see if I could find more of those plants. I ran into Myranda and her little followers on the way back." His face twisted into an expression of distaste.
"Myranda? That delicate little pink girl? You know, she's always been very sweet when I've seen her, so why do you look like someone's forced you to swallow a puffer fish?" Laughter danced behind Izumi's eyes as she said this, though Ed didn't notice.
"Sweet?" Ed choked out in sheer disbelief. "Do you have any idea what that girl is really like?"
"Ah, so she's set her sights on you. You poor thing," Izumi said, her laughter bubbling up until it broke free for a few seconds.
Ed crossed his arms and glared at her, fighting to keep a blush off his face while maintaining a stony silence.
"I don't think I need to tell you to watch out for her. If she manages to sink her claws into you then she will not let you go," she said in a suddenly serious tone after her laughing fit.
Ed blinked at the sudden one-eighty her tone had taken. "No, you don't. I figured that out for myself, thanks. I swear the crazy guppy came this close to molesting me!" he said, holding up his thumb and forefinger a millimetre or two apart.
Izumi raised an eyebrow. "Should I give you the talk about the seals and dolphins?"
"No, no, no!" Ed swiftly said, waving his hands back and forth in front of him as if to ward it off. "You've got your plants now, so I'll just be going..." He backed away and quickly disappeared, retreating to his room at an indoor speed just below 'accidentally banging into walls'.
He let the screen that served as his door settle back into place and took a deep breath. The water down at this depth was pure and clean with a hint of ages past in its taste. Ed expanded his armfins and used only them to slowly propel himself over to his bed. He took a quick peek in the hidden niche at the end of bed to assure himself that the bandage and gauze he got from Al were still there. They were, so he cast his gaze around his room to find a suitable hiding spot for Winry's ribbon.
Ed frowned at the lack of hiding spots his room possessed. There was a small lip of rock above his door that created a tiny shelf he used to hide sweets in... With a sudden grin Ed gave his tail a light flick, reaching the door in one smooth move. The shelf was still there.
The young merboy scoured his floor for a decent sized rock or shell to tie the ribbon around or keep on top of it as a weight. His search yielded no results and he scowled at his mother for making him clean his room so often.
He didn't want to risk alchemy as the light from the transfiguration was sure to alert his mother. With a sigh he stuffed the ribbon with the bandage and gauze while making a mental memo to find a rock or shell the next time he left the house. He'd have to wait for tomorrow unless his mother sent him out again.
'I don't really want to go out again today... I'm sure Myranda is waiting for me to reappear so we can "catch up",' he thought with a snort. 'She's only two or three years older than me. Still, isn't twelve or whatever too young to start throwing yourself at guys?' Ed shook his head. He would never understand girls. Winry was completely different to Myranda and just as confusing...
Ed shook his head and sighed. He was sure males the world over had the same problem and had been trying, unsuccessfully, to figure girls out since the dawn of time. If one had ever succeeded then they had kept it secret. Or been mauled to death by a horde of angry females before they had the chance to tell someone...
Ed blinked sleepily, reluctant to rise from his bed. He heard his mother call out his name again and he groaned in response, letting her know he was now, however much he wished otherwise, awake. Ed rolled over onto his back and raised his tailfin, eyeing it dispassionately.
In the world of merfolk, as with humans, bright colours got you noticed. Bright colours were simply a much bigger deal underwater. If you were a brightly coloured fish you were either just very pretty or poisonous or both in some cases. If you were a merperson then bright colours signified beauty, whether skin deep or genetically. If one parent had dull colours and one was bright, then any offspring would be half and half or lean more towards the brighter parent's traits. If both parents were dull then it was incredibly rare for their offspring to possess any traits attributed to those with brighter colours. If both parents were bright then any children they bore would have dazzling colours and patterns and striking features.
There were times when Ed hated his vivid colours and bold patterns. They made him stick out like a sore thumb and were the reason a lot of girls made passes at him. The thought of girls suddenly made Ed remember the ribbon.
'Geez, I hope I can find a rock or shell just far enough away from the house so Mum can't see me. The less chance there is of me running into that crazy Myranda and her pilot fish the better,' he thought as he lazily stretched his arms over his head.
"Come on Ed, no breakfast until you spar with me," Izumi yelled teasingly.
"What!" Ed yelped in outrage. He shot up from his bed with his hands balled into fists. The golden-eyed boy wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to have a normal mother. He was sure no other merkid was put through the everyday trials Izumi forced him to endure.
He grumbled out what sounded suspiciously like a curse, but headed outside to meet his mother in a rocky clearing surrounded by hedges of seaweed and fronds that served as their backyard, rubbing the last traces of sleep from his eyes. She was floating in the middle of the yard and he came to a stop in front of her.
Izumi smirked at her sulky child. "Ready?"
Ed sighed and got into a fight stance, raising both arms to cover his chest and curling his tail under him slightly with his tailfin pointing up. He flexed his armfins before laying them flat and nodding, indicating that he was ready.
Izumi moved fast, bringing her left arm around as she dove low, intending to cut Ed's tail. He dodged backwards and her spines went slicing past, missing him by a hair. Using the momentum of the swing, Izumi twisted her body around to smack Ed with her tail.
Ed saw the movement out of the corner of his eye. He spread his armfins and hastily pushed them up, forcing his upper body to bend down, then laid the spines flat again, just in time to catch the edge of the blow. Izumi had flattened her dorsal spines for maximum speed and they screeched as they grated against Ed's before the strength of her swing knocked him to one side.
Knowing that she would take advantage of him being off balance, Ed swiftly swung his own tail in an arc to prevent her from getting closer. She parried the blow with the spines on her arm, much like Ed did, though his hasty swing had nowhere near the same amount of power behind it and she held her ground easily.
Thinking quick, Ed angled his body down as his tail reached the highest part of its arc and tried for a wicked slash across Izumi's brown, white and green-striped tail.
She quickly thrust backwards and Ed hit nothing but water. "Enough. You're finally improvising," she said with a nod. "Just watch out that any improvised moves you pull off aren't reckless and leave enough holes in your defence for a blind man to exploit. Breakfast?"
Ed nodded enthusiastically. "Yes please!"
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it. This chapter's more filler than anything, but a story can't be all whizz-flash-bang. Slow is just as good sometimes. Let me know what you think, okay?
Do you know how fun it is to come up with undersea versions of saying and terms? It's awesome! Also, if you don't know what pilot fish are, go look them up on Wikipedia. You'd be surprised.
No translations this chapter, but here's some pictures! (I forgot last chapter...) Just take out all the spaces:
ht tp :/ / fantomodrako. deviantart. com/ art /I-Salute-Thee-277548321
ht tp :/ / fantomodrako. deviantart. com/ art /Beyond-the-Sea-Ch-3-Scene-283195645
ht tp :/ / fantomodrako. deviantart. com/ art /Ashli-Myranda-and-Chloe-BtS-286841706
Also I have a forum now. It's a little community (there's only four of us at the moment) where you can share art – fanart or otherwise, fanfics and even poems and original stories! It's basically like here where you can give and receive tips, help and feedback. I aim to help people discover their creativity and to improve. It's free to join and I'd love to have more people. Go here if you're interested: ht tp :/ / fantomodrako. proboards. com/