Hey! if you've read my other new fic, "Hours Passing Like Minutes," you might have taken notice of the fact that I briefly stated I was going to start another Sharkbait fic. Well, I am, and here's boring set-up chapter number one. I liked writing this, but I felt very nervous and anxious as I was, so please read the note at the bottom of this when you're done reading just so that you can understand... how I'm currently feeling towards this, I guess? Yeah. That. Anyway, enjoy reading!
Summary: Haruka had been travelling for just under a month when he was pointed northward by a mysterious stranger at sunset. "Go north," The stranger had said, "you'll find a seemingly endless amount of water there." Haruka followed the stranger's advice and not only did he find all the water he could ever want, but also a new home for himself, new friends, and a dark, wicked romance.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything! Not Free! Iwatobi Swim Club or it's characters!
[CHAPTER ONE: "A GHOST AT SUNSET."]
Heat. Sun. Wind. Sand.
This was all Haruka could register as he walked along, having to drag his feet out of the deep sand with each and every step to continue to advance forward. The sun was beating down on the young man — had been for weeks now — and he inwardly found himself wondering just how many days it had been since he had left home. When he'd first set out, he'd made it a point to keep track of the days, but had slowly lost the willpower to do so. Now the number of days was lost to him and he could only make guesses to help himself find it again.
Twenty-three... Twenty-five... The male counted as he walked, his baggy pants making a soft swishing sound as the inside of his thighs brushed against each other with every step. Had the number of days perhaps hit twenty-eight already without him knowing? Was the week count four?
No, not that long ago, Haruka shook the possibility off the tip of his mind, so to speak, wincing and squinting his eyes as a harsh wind, like many others he'd endured so far, swept across the landscape. The breeze kicked up sand into his eyes and Haruka hissed, stopping to rub them.
As soon as he let go of the rope that he'd been using to pull his camel along, his large, humped companion dropped down, scattering more sand as it hit the desert floor. Good thing Haruka was still rubbing his eyes; still had them covered. He heard the loud noise the camel made as it collapsed and knew — had known for about an hour now — that the animal was exhausted. He felt bad, really, but he had to push them both forward. If he didn't, they'd never make it to the next town and would very easily die out in the middle of the desert, be reduced down to nothing more than food for the buzzards. Haruka didn't want that, for either of them.
Finally, once he deemed it safe, Haruka dropped his hands from his eyes and looked to his furry companion. Underneath the cloth he wore around his face to help shield it from the sun, the black-haired boy gave a small, sympathetic smile and bent down beside the camel.
"We'll rest for a minute, Baa-chan," Haruka said quietly, reaching out and rubbing the animal's side. The camel made a soft grunting noise, butting her head against Haru's hand. It wasn't really all that normal, but this camel, he had noticed, liked to be rubbed on the head. A reason as to why was beyond him.
Sighing, Haruka followed through on his promise and turned away from Baa-chan. He plopped his bottom down into the sand, carefully leaning back just a bit to rest against the animal. The young man shut his eyes, his hands coming up and pulling the cloth around his face tighter and the medium-sized garment he wore for protection around his shoulders down some to help shield his torso as he rested.
He'd never planned to go to sleep. Not long after stopping to break, however, he felt it's familiar haziness, felt his body relaxing. Haruka had a strict "No sleeping between towns." rule for himself, one he'd obeyed very loyally until now, but as sleep crept up onto him, he hardly found himself resisting it. That was when it came to him.
Twenty-six. The number flew at him like a bat out of hell as he was drawn into unconsciousness by slumber's fine caress, his head tilting to the side against Baa-chan and his breathing slowing down. My birthday was twenty-six days ago... He reminded himself just as he was overtaken by sleep and it's strong forces, officially clonking out. That was when he'd had to leave; no, that was when he had chosen to get out and find his place in the world. Or at least... That's what he told himself.
Haruka woke up hours later to the sound of heavy laughter and rummaging, as well as Baa-chan sitting up, alert, and beginning to cry out. The young man's eyes opened slowly, squinting out of habit at first, but he soon found there was hardly anything to squint at. The sun was setting, painting the sky a variety of different, beautiful colors and taking it's brightness with it.
And inviting thieves to prey on him, who they considered an unsuspecting victim.
Haruka sat up with a start as he felt something brush his arm, becoming fully awake and alert as his head whipped to the side. Upon doing this, he came face-to-hip with a gruff looking old man who stank of alcohol and reeked of body odor. The male scrunched up his face, wrinkling his nose before getting his game face on. Haruka leaned to the side, away from the male, and raised his right leg. The bottom of his shoe made a good impact as he kicked the man away from Baa-chan and his supplies.
Watching the man stumble off to the side, Haruka quickly stood, facing him. His right hand began to reach across his pelvis, moving for the dagger located in a strap situated against his left hip. He reached up, removing the cloth from around his face, from overtop of his mouth. He wanted to make sure the man could hear him; he wasn't just whispering comfortingly to Baa-chan now.
"You— who are you?" Haruka asked, hand resting on the hilt of his dagger, ready to draw the weapon if needed. His voice caught the man's attention, who appeared to have been looking around aimlessly, wondering what the hell had just happened. The bearded man slowly turned to look at him.
It was then, taking in the older gentleman's roughed up and messy appearance, the way he held himself in a slumped over sort of fashion, that Haruka realized he was drunk. That'd also explain the stench of alcohol, The blue-eyed beauty thought, removing his hand from his dagger. He wouldn't need his weapon; he could very easily fight off a drunkard, should the man get violent. A weapon was needed to fight off bandits, not drunk, elderly men.
"A-Ah," The old man stuttered, looking nervous as he fiddled with a decently-sized shred of cloth hanging from his shirt, once a part of the garment. "I-I wasn't stealing from you," The man promised, causing Haruka to scowl. He hated when people lied, especially to his face. He didn't question the old man or point out his fib, however, and instead sighed. Taking a step towards his companion, causing the old man to jerk and take a small step, as if ready to run away, Haruka reached inside a bag located on Baa-chan's side. He pulled out an apple and the old man's face seemed to light up.
"Ah! A-An apple," The older man said, smiling as he looked at the fruit like he'd never seen one before, or perhaps just hadn't in a very long time. Haruka nodded, rubbing the piece of fruit against his pants, before tossing it to the old man. The elderly man caught the red orb clumsily, almost dropping it into the desert sand. Haruka was glad he didn't; these apples had been very hard to come by.
"T-Thank you," The old man stuttered again, leaving Haruka to wonder if he wasn't just anxious, but instead had a speech impediment. The old man watched as Haruka reached back into the purple bag he'd pulled the first apple from, pulling out a second for himself. "C-Can I sit with you?" He asked, smiling as Haruka nodded. The two sat down beside Baa-chan, who'd been strangely quiet and frigid during the whole incident, and the old man gave a content sigh as he bit into his apple, chewing with the few teeth he had left.
"Ah, this is good!" The man exclaimed, smiling. He took another bite before he had even finished chewing the first, managing to grin from ear-to-ear as he ate. Haruka watched him in silence, taking out his dagger and skillfully and with practiced accuracy began to peel his.
Just like Baa-chan used to, The young man commented to himself, stealing a glance back at the camel he'd oh so nostalgically named after his late grandmother before turning back to his work. Once he'd successfully peeled the apple, Haruka cut the piece of fruit into two before putting his weapon and part-time food utensil away. He offered one half of the apple to Baa-chan, who took it happily, and then bit into the other half, chewing. The old man watched the younger all the while, smiling.
They sat in silence for quite a while. Neither seemed to have a lot to say to the other; they were just two strangers sitting down together to snack after one had tried to rob the other. That was all. Totally normal.
Right, Haruka thought sarcastically to himself, taking his last bite of his slice of apple before throwing the stem — which he'd made it a point not to give to Baa-chan, she didn't need it — away into the sand. Then he stood.
"So," The old man finally decided to strike up a conversation just as Haruka stood to continue on his journey, beckoning Baa-chan to rise with him. "Where you headed, stranger?" The old man asked. Haruka took note that he was no longer stuttering; okay, so maybe it wasn't a speech impediment, after all.
"Wherever the next town is; that's my destination," Haruka answered the old man, turning towards Baa-chan and beginning to fasten some of the things she was carrying for him, making sure the supplies were all strapped in tight and set in place. The old man nodded and stood, arching his back. Haruka heard a few chilling pops from the old man's bones.
"If you keep heading the way you were going, you'll run into a small village just like all the others you may have seen so far." The old man watched Haruka intensely; the young man could feel his eyes boring into his back. For a moment, he felt like shivering.
"And if you turn a bit and go north, you'll find the same sort of place waitin' for ya," The old man continued with a nod, "but there's a catch!" He persisted, causing Haruka to turn back towards him, pausing in his actions due to curiosity. "Catch?" The young man repeated. The old man nodded, smiling.
"If you go this way," He pointed to his right, somewhere far off in the distance, "the town you will stumble upon is surrounded by a large gate and is home to a towering, magnificent palace!" The old man exclaimed, causing Haruka to frown. The black-haired male turned back towards his camel, having lost interest. He didn't care about big palaces or gated communities; those things did not interest him. And the old man took note of this. He readjusted himself, eyes still on Haruka, then grinned, trying again; continuing on as if he knew what would strike Haruka's fancy.
"And in this palace, they say there's a magnificent waterway. It runs all throughout the royal palace— the royal family lives there." The old man paused, smiling, watching as Haruka's hand seemed to stop for a moment, resting against Baa-chan. The camel grunted and the old man continued.
"The water all starts at one small point, but it's pathways branch off and can be seen tunneling water no matter where you are in the palace. Then, on the opposite end of the palace, all the water comes back together again into a large body of water, where the royals spend their free time and have big celebrations. They also say that, beyond the palace, there's even an osasis waiting for anyone who is not of the royal family to indulge in."
That sounds nice, Haruka couldn't help but to think, back to fastening everything on Baa-chan to the point where it'd stay on. North, he thought, nodding to himself just as the old man asked, in a breathy voice just in his ear, "Interested yet?"
At the sound, so up-close and personal in his ear, Haruka's breath hitched and the young man whirled around, about ready to push the old man away or tell him to back off.
But there was no one there.
Haruka blinked, a deep frown settling into his face just briefly before he looked to Baa-chan. "You saw him, too, right?" He asked the camel, who grunted in response. He took that as a yes and looked back to where he could have sworn the old man had been standing all this time. A ghost?
A shiver racked through Haruka's body and the young man squeezed his eyes shut briefly before opening them again. Slowly, he moved back to Baa-chan, reaching into a small, red bag and pulling out a compass.
North, the old man had said, whether he'd been a ghost or not. Haruka glanced down at the small device. I've been going west, He noted, looking off to the side, towards north.
"They say there's a magnificent waterway. It runs all throughout the royal palace." The old man's words ran through Haruka's head repeatedly as he tried to imagine this palace and it's waterway. He felt himself beginning to get anxious. He loved water; always had, always would. There'd been a small oasis where he was from, but over the years it'd dried up as the periods of drought got worse and worse, longer and longer.
I wonder if there really is a great body of water there, Haruka wondered to himself, getting genuinely excited and curious at the thought, his cheeks flushing slightly. It'd be great to swim in water again. He thought.
None of the places he'd come across had had any sort of oasis or large source of water; there'd been no place for him to see if swimming now would be the same as it had been back when he was a child. Then it had been wonderful, fun, exhilirating. It made him feel joyful and at peace all at once. Haruka longed to feel like that again; longed to feel water's smooth caress all over his body, gliding against him. The heavens knew he needed a way to let go of all the stress he'd built up since leaving home; if swimming turned out to be the same now as it had been as a child, this place could actually be a good source of relaxation for him.
I'll go north, The young man decided, turning his eyes back towards north before putting the compass away, taking hold of the rope he used to guide Baa-chan along and beginning to go north, changing directions.
I will feel that sensation — those feelings — again.
[CHAPTER ONE: "A GHOST AT SUNSET." END]
Ahhhh, okay, so it wasn't horrible, right? Sorry it was really just a chill first chapter, but I'd already had a time gap when I stopped to look the chapter over. I didn't want some time to have passed and for Haruka to have made it to the town. You know? Also — and here's what I'm so afraid will throw some people off of liking this fic — I'll warn you all now that Haru is the main character of this and even though there's going to be a lot of Sharkbait, Rin... isn't coming in for a few more chapters. I would honestly say two more chapters, at the earliest. Yeah, see— I bet a lot of you just said, "Oh, forget this, then." Yeah, well... I want this to be realistic, and Haru meeting Rin super early on, first and foremost... would not be realistic. So yeah.
I have a certain pattern I want this story to follow and I hope most of you will be able to accept that and will still read and follow and review and all this stuff... even if Sharkbait is on the backburner for right now. I hope you guys will all still like this story and follow it, because I'm so scared that most of you are going to not take interest in it because of it's slow pacing. I just... yeah. PuddinPie out.