So this is an AU that I cooked up a couple of months ago and never posted because I had to debate with myself for a long while on whether or not to actually post it. I mean, I don't write much fanfiction as is, so a large AU's a pretty big jump for me and I'm just going to sit and blush in the corner now kay bye

If people don't outright hate this I'll probably continue it in the future, but I also have personal writing to work on so this—along with any other fanfiction/RP writing I do—gets a backseat.

SO YEAH, have the start of a rather strange AU where Nezumi is a merman. A bit of the dialogue is copied from the anime (tried to keep a somewhat coherent parallel?) but otherwise prepare for some strangeness.

XXX

It was a blistering hot day, one where even the shade felt stuffy and unpleasant. After working for several hours within the cluttered space of his mother's bakery, stuck near roaring fires and steaming ovens, Shion was beyond bothered. He couldn't wait for summer to be over; there was nothing pleasant about summer.

Well, perhaps saying that there was nothing good about summer was a bit of a stretch. For just past the market's edge, wildflowers bloomed in grand clusters. Vibrant purples, brilliant reds, breath-taking yellows, dazzling blues—there was no end to the beauty of those blooms. Despite the heat, Shion couldn't help but slow his pace to watch as bees buzzed, zipping from one flower to the next. He wished dearly that a summer breeze would pick up and cool down the day. Even walking beneath the shade of large trees, the heat continued to engulf him

Soon the flowers disappeared, giving way to rich meadows of green and hills dotted with stones. The grass gradually became littered with sandy patches until the loose ground overtook the landscape. One last hill and Shion was staring out over a large beachfront, one that stretched on either side until it faded into the horizon. There the wind finally came, whipping back Shion's deep brown locks with the scent of sea breeze.

Shion slid down the sandy hill, a new kick in his step. He wasted no time in rushing towards the shoreline, meeting the gently lapping waves. He kicked off his boots and set his bag aside, carefully placing it out of the tide's reach. With a contented sigh, he dipped his feet into the cool shallows.

There were very few things more calming than coming to the beach on hot work days such as this. The shop was always so busy now, the workload heavy and taxing. Shion was already covered with burns from bumping into hot pans, and there was a nasty bruise on his knee from taking a tumble over the cat. His mother insisted that he needed to get out and find work that would be better suited for his… less than graceful feet. It wasn't exactly easy finding somewhere else to work, however. He didn't want to leave his mother alone to the job and besides, things had been rather… chaotic recently. Security was much tighter, the guards were less lenient. Even now, Shion could see several army boats floating out in the harbor. Far off was the white line that marked the wall, which the boats prowled before as if hungry wolves. The wall encompassed the entirety of No.6, from the western sea to the eastern forests. He had heard stories of what lay beyond—fierce creatures, uncivilized men, unexplored territories filled with dangers untold—yet… Shion had never before left the safety of No.6. He wasn't certain that he ever would. Very few people had done so- and lived to tell of it.

Then again, there wasn't exactly much calling Shion, begging him to leave. He was quite content in No.6, despite the tense air which the town often held. No.6 was a large town after all, and it had much to offer within its walls. No matter how curious one could be of what lay outside the wall, there was enough within to keep you ever content. Just enough.

And the beach was perhaps Shion's favorite place within No.6. Not very many people cared to venture this way, leaving it open to explore on his lonesome. It was a peaceful spot, filled with the sounds of nature. The lapping of the waves, the whisper of the wind, the calls of stray birds nearby—it was all so… free. He had tried to explain his affinity for the spot on several occasions to people that found him tracking back, positively covered in sand, but no one else seemed to understand. Many would insist that the town and park held enough trees to interest any nature-loving body, or that if you wished to see animals that the farmlands were the route to take. Not to say Shion didn't appreciate either of these spots, but they simply did not hold the same charm that the sea did. It was as if, despite the wall that barred his view of the water's opposite edge, Shion were gazing out onto an endless world that offered much more than the minute one behind him. He didn't necessarily wish to visit this world, however. A simple gaze up at the cloud-strewn sky was enough to satiate his thirst.

Shion sat back on a boulder, one that had practically become his own personal chair. He dug into his bag and pulled out a sketchbook and several sticks of charcoal. Inside, the pages were positively covered with scribbles of all sorts. Shion was not necessarily a good artist—in fact, he was somewhat terrible, particularly at birds—but he greatly enjoyed jotting down whatever he saw. He had just about memorized every thistle plant and pebble at this point.

Today Shion spent a long time sketching. Two lizards passed his way, and even a lone gull that drifted lazily on the strengthening wind. Several hours flew by and he'd wasted away at the very least ten pages. Though he knew he ought not to waste so many pages in one sitting, Shion was prepared to sit there for at least another hour drawing. That is, before a drop of rain fell square on the top of his head.

Looking up, Shion was startled to find the sky blanketed with thick clouds, dark with the threat of a storm. Several more raindrops fell, starting to darken the sand around him. A far off rumble sounded and suddenly the storm was upon him.

Shion quickly stuffed his sketchbook into his bag, hugging the satchel close to his chest. He panicked, fearful that his hard work would be spoiled by the weather. His hair was already soaked, plastered down flat, and his cloak was beginning to grow damp. By the time he'd get home, he'd be completely drenched, his drawings spoiled.

Making a split-second decision, Shion quickly snatched up his boots and darted for the nearest shelter that he knew of. Just up the coast, not far from the boulder, there were many more stones, several of which were very large and jagged, sticking out to make a wide overhang in the sand. Throwing his bag beneath the boulder, Shion crawled into the sheltered space. He curled up with his arms clutched around his knees, watching as sheets of rain fell outside.

A wide smile curled the edges of Shion's mouth. Perhaps it was strange for someone stuck under a rock to be grinning, but the boy couldn't help it. It hadn't rained in such a long time, after all. The heat had simply been climbing and climbing, wearing down on the land very heavily for the last couple weeks. Yet here was the rain, washing a relieving touch over No.6. As the sand dyed a deep brown, and the ocean churned with dark navy waves and bright white sea foam, Shion's eyelids drooped calmly. He no longer felt overheated and miserable. Everything was so warm and peaceful. The patter of the rain was soothing beyond all measure.

In no time at all, Shion was asleep. Curled up in the sand, his bag acting as a rather lumpy pillow, his cloak a blanket, he began to doze fitfully.

Shion could hear a very faint sound through the steady fall of rain. It mingled with the crack of lightning, a harsh and violent sound that contrasted strongly with the roar of the waves. At first he assumed that the sound came in his dreams, the fictional shouts of a far off person that he knew would disappear the second that he opened his eyes.

Yet even as he cracked his eyes open and the weariness of sleep began to fade, the sounds did not at all. He found a much stormier scene before him, far more hostile than the sight he'd fallen asleep too. The sky was as dark as the sea, lit with bright scars of lighting as sparks forked through the clouds. A wild wind howled, partnered by drums of loud thunder. And then there was that shout—a frightening caterwaul that made the hairs on the nape of Shion's neck stand on end.

Shion sat bolt upright, suddenly frightened. He peered out into the storm, trying to pinpoint where the sound came from. It seemed to be from the shoreline, although the only thing that Shion could see through the downpour was the angry waves. All the same, he had to find out who—what—was making such a wail. He felt very little fear for himself now. All the fear he held was for some unknown injured child, or perhaps a trapped, frightened animal. The very idea scared him—he needed to help if he could.

Shion pulled his hood up over his head, tightening the cloak around his shoulders. He took a tentative step out into the rain and was instantly battered with several harsh, cold slaps of wind. Ducking down, he made steady progress to the shore. He gave up on keeping his head covered after his hood was whacked off four times in quick succession. Eyes narrowed, ears strained, he pinpointed the sound in the very location of his favorite boulder. Reaching the stone, what he found on the opposite side shocked him.

It was a young mermai—man. A merman, of all things. Shion had never seen a real merman in his entire life, but he'd certainly heard of them in folklore. Half man, half fish, he was truly a mesmerizing sight. The fish half of the merman was a stunning deep blue with long, elegant white fins, while the human half possessed pale skin and scattered raven locks. Other than two fins where his ears ought to be, the merman's face was entirely human. Though his eyes remained shut, the merman gave a pitiful groan, thrashing his tail into the tide.

Leaning closer, Shion reached out a hand to touch the strange boy, to prove that he was real. Before he could so much as tap the water-slick skin, however, the merman's eyelids snapped open, revealing dazzling grey irises. He waved his tail fervently, propelling his body out of Shion's reach. Hands dug into the sand, supported on his forearms, the creature glared up at Shion, brilliant eyes reduced to slivers. He made a sort of growling sound that seemed to start as a warning, but was quickly transformed into a howl of pain as the merman's left arm buckled and he fell into the sand heavily. The creature's arm, he saw, was red with gore.

Shion stepped closer, kneeling so that he was on level with the merman. He knew from experience that frightened animals were best dealt with on an eye-to-eye level, where they'd feel much less threatened. While this wasn't any regular animal he was dealing with, the merman was at least half animal and Shion thought that enough to make sense of the motion. "It's alright, I'm not going to hurt you," he said in as soft a tone as he could manage.

Rather than soothing the merman, however, his words seemed to infuriate him. His brow knitted together, eyes wide with disdain. He glared at Shion with a look that could kill. As Shion made another motion forward, the merman positively rolled to get out of his reach. He lay sideways in the sand now, hand clutched tightly on his bleeding wound.

"I just want to help; you're injured," Shion insisted. "Let me help you."

He managed to grab hold of the merman's wrist, but before he could get a decent look at his wound, the merman had effectively turned the tables. One moment Shion was upright on his feet, the next he was laying on his back looking up at the rainy sky, wind knocked clear out of his lungs. The merman had pinned him down by the throat with a bloody hand. "Don't move," he said in a husky voice that spoke of disuse.

Shion couldn't help but be surprised. A merman—talking? He supposed that he ought to have expected it, given that the creature did have a human face, after all. Nonetheless, it came as a surprise to hear his voice, an even bigger surprise than the creature's violent reaction to being approached. He didn't give much thought to the hand around his throat, to be honest. All he cared to pay attention to was the merman's still-bleeding wound. "Let me treat your wound," he said, holding perfectly still, hoping to keep the merman as calm as possible. "Treat your wound—you know what that means, right?"

Slowly, eyes still narrowed, the merman released his grip on Shion's throat. He warily backed away from the human, hand clutched across his wound once more.

"I have supplies in my bag," Shion said. He pointed towards the rocks where his satchel still lay. "But… I don't think it'll work very well wet."

"I can get over there," the merman said grouchily.

Shion watched as the merman did just that. It was an achingly slow motion, but he managed to wriggle his tail in a way that, coupled with his surprisingly strong forearms, moved him steadily across the sand. Shion had to resist the urge to help, certain that he would only become infuriated by the gesture. Shion instead walked slowly alongside, kicking stray debris out of the creature's path as he went.

Sufficiently soaked through to the bone, Shion slipped under his stone shelter once more and sat down beside his bag. Pausing briefly at the entrance, the merman seemed to think deeply over the decision before he too slid beneath the boulder. Exhausted, he collapsed.

Shion rooted through his bag for the supplies which he kept in case of emergency. He was far too used to freak accidents, falling and cutting himself in the most foolish of ways, to not do so. He quickly found a poultice which he carried to ward of infection, as well as bandages to wrap the wound. It wasn't much, but it would have to do.

He instructed the merman to sit up and brushed the sand away from the creature's arm, careful not to hurt the damaged flesh. "This might sting a bit," he said before applying the poultice.

The merman jumped, flinching violently as the substance met his wound. "Careful! Do you even know what you're doing?" he growled.

Shion couldn't help but grin as he unraveled the bandages. "Sort of," he said.

Seemingly unimpressed with his response, the merman sighed deeply. "You're strange," the merman then said after a very long pause. "You haven't even asked me my name." He sounded somewhat offended.

"Sorry, this is a lot to take in." Shion eyed the merman's blue tail, still mesmerized by the sight. "Not that you've asked mine either," he pointed out, still smiling despite the sharp tone that the merman spoke in. "It's Shion, by the way."

"Like the flower?" the merman asked, still quite unimpressed. If he noticed Shion looking at his tail, he didn't seem to care about it.

Shion nodded. "My mother used to be really fond of trees and wildflowers… and you are?"

"Nezumi," he said in reply.

Shion couldn't help but be a bit confused. He'd never expect a person to be named after a rodent, nonetheless a merman at that. He decided not to press the matter, however.

"What did this anyway?" Shion asked, changing the subject. He wound the bandages around the merman's arm several times as he spoke, making sure that it was tight enough.

"I was shot," the merman responded simply.

Shion balked. "Shot? Like with a gun?" he asked. He couldn't begin to fathom how a creature of the sea would manage to get shot with a gun in the first place, but then again perhaps it wasn't such a strange idea compared to the fact that he was sitting beside a merman at this minute.

"A harpoon, actually."

"Aren't those only used for hunting, though?" Shion said.

Another sigh escaped the merman. "They were hunting," he said with a smirk, eyes trailing away.

Shion found it difficult to imagine why anyone would want to hunt a merman. Perhaps previously Shion had assumed them strange creatures, perhaps more akin to animals in many ways than people, but it was clear to him now that this creature was very much alike him… in ways, that was.

As soon as he finished tying off the bandage, Shion replaced the supplies inside his bag and sat back. "You might as well stay here until it calms down," he said, observing the treacherous waves outside. He couldn't see the weakened merman doing well, fighting his way against the surf. Surely he hadn't decided to just crawl up onto the shore, completely exposed. "You'll be fine… er, out of the water for a bit?"

"As long as I don't dry out," he said quietly. "This rain will help."

Shion nodded his head in understanding. "Here, you can wear my cloak," he said. "It's plenty damp already."

Nezumi took the fabric into hand, running his digits over the soaked folds. "You have awful taste in clothing."

"You're one to talk. At least I wear something."

The merman muttered something about it being useless to wear clothes underwater, but trailed off. Shion could see large, deep scars on his back as the merman shifted his shoulders, draping the cloak over his body, but thought better of it not to ask.

Before setting his bag completely aside, Shion dug through it for some bread that he had packed away this morning. He passed half of it over to Nezumi, figuring that he ought to eat something to at least regain his strength. "Tasty," the merman said under breath, sinking his teeth into the bread slowly. Shion quietly ate his own half, closing his eyes as he reclined against the stony surface behind him.

"Are you always so unguarded around people?" Nezumi asked suddenly, drawing Shion away from his thoughts. "You're far too soft... Lucky you, able to afford a life without fear or distrust."

"That's not tru—"

"Then why help me?" Nezumi cut him off.

Shion frowned, frustrated. "It's because you're so little—you look like a girl. I even mistook you for a mermaid." It was somewhat true, after all. "Not to mention you were hurt. Even now you look like you could collapse…and…"

"And?"

Shion paused. "I… I don't know," was all that he could say.

The merman could only smile at this. "Thank you," he said.

Night began to fall, darkening the cloudy sky. Even still the storm raged on, loud and chaotic, flooding the beach with deep puddles. Shion had a difficult time seeing in the dark. There was just enough moonlight for him to make out the glare on the sea, the shimmering drops that struck the puddles, the slick scales on Nezumi's tail, and nothing more. Nezumi, on the other hand, seemed well adjusted to the night. Perhaps a creature of the sea, one who must dive to great depths at times to coast the sandy floor, would need good eyes for such a purpose.

Shion wondered exactly what his mother would think of his absence. Generally Shion's mother, Karan, was a very reasonable individual, but surely she'd worry with him out in this storm. More than once when he was small, she'd had to bother him to close the shutters as storms rolled into town. If open shutters were an issue, than this could potentially be something far worse.

Even still, a more pressing matter gnawed at Shion's belly. He found himself eyeing the bandages on Nezumi's wound, mulling over the merman's story in his head. He'd been shot with a harpoon. By humans. But why?

"You escaped?" Shion asked flatly.

Nezumi need not ask Shion what he meant. "Of course," he said almost proudly.

"And will they still be looking for you?"

"Naturally," Nezumi said.

Shion felt his heart skip a beat. "Then—"

"No worries," Nezumi cut him off in a tone that was, to say the least, worry free. "These people, their tracking methods are a joke. Then again, No.6 itself is a big joke." He said this smiling all the while. "Do you even know how this town came to be?"

Shion nodded his head slowly, heart still fluttering rapidly in his chest. "The Babylon Treaty… In the last war so much land was destroyed, so many human lives lost; humankind wished to ban itself from separate military power outright, to live together more peacefully and preserve what was left of the human race from the outer forests and its monsters. The six remaining towns formed collective states… No.6 is one of those."

Nezumi laughed once more, but said nothing in reply. He continued to nibble at the bread Shion had offered him. Taking the chance, Shion continued to speak.

"Why were they hunting you?" he asked more specifically. "Why are you even here? Did they bring you here?" He'd never imagined that a merman would be living just off the coast. When depicted in stories, he pictured such creatures to be far past the wall, far beyond reach. This was definitely not right—something was amiss.

"They wanted to bring me into No.6," the merman said. "They wanted to—but I escaped."

"They?"

Nezumi shrugged his shoulders. "The council, leaders—whatever you people call your higher-ups."

Shion still found it difficult to believe, hard to understand. "Take you where?" he asked quickly, a shiver running the course of his spine.

The merman gave him a hard look before turning his gaze away. "You're better off not knowing," he said, finishing off the remainder of his meal.

"But why?" Shion pressed.

Another sigh escaped the merman and he turned his back to Shion. "Just let me sleep," he groaned.

Growing frustrated, Shion thought it best to change tactics. "So you won't tell me then?" he said in a huff.

"Is it possible for you to forget something that you've heard of? Can you act like you never heard it before? Like you don't know anything?" There was a pause, and when the merman spoke again his voice had lowered to a hush. "You may be smart, but I don't think you're that grown up yet."

Shion was lost once more, unable to babble out anything more than a small "But…"

"Don't you understand anything?" the merman snapped, twisting to view Shion once more with those narrowed grey eyes. "You're assisting a creature from beyond the city, one humans don't care to be associated with. I'd say you're already in too deep for your own good."

Unable to argue with fact, Shion said, "I know."

"Then don't ask any more questions," the merman said immediately. This was the very last thing Shion wanted to hear, still brimming with so many questions. He had asked plenty about the circumstances that caused Nezumi's wound, but not a word about anything short of his very interesting existence.

"You're still not that much of a threat, stuck on shore like this," was all that Shion muttered, staving off his inquiries.

In an instant, the wind was again knocked from Shion's lungs. Nezumi had spun around, pinning him down into the sand.

"Don't underestimate me," he said, holding a flat stone to Shion's throat.

Although the gesture ought to have been frightening, Shion felt more amazement than anything. "How'd you manage to do that?" he said with genuine interest. "I knew that you were strong, but not that fast!"

The look that Nezumi gave him could kill. "You are very strange," he said.