As the sun begins to set, I sat down by the jetty, dangling my feet above the sea as I admired the beautiful amber sky. I enjoyed myself an interesting food item from one of the stands. Roasted chicken bits with lettuce, thin slices of carrot and turnip, wrapped in a thin piece of flat bread. The flavors were unique, different from anything I’ve ever had before, and it made for good dinner. I was left feeling content till the last bite.
It was the time that Selene mentioned last night. Yet, I don’t see any signs of her anywhere. Come to think of it, I had no idea how she intended to meet me. Would she disguise herself and come on land to find me here?
But as i had that thought, I hear Selene’s voice call out. “You actually came.”
I looked below me, and there she was, swimming just underneath the jetty. “I was going to say the same thing.” I said in reply.
“Don’t look down.” she immediately retorted. “I don’t want to draw attention here.” I immediately jerked my head back up, but from what I saw, she was fearful of being found and captured. She did not want to be found.
“Now, answer me,” she said. “Where are you up to in your dreams?”
“Hold on, Selene. I need to know what is going on.”
“Just tell me what I want to know.” she pleaded me.
After a moment’s hesitation, I answered her question. “I dreamt of my trial. When I was accused of being a demonspawn.”
“That was for surviving that high fall, wasn’t it?” she asked in surprise. “But you saved Haruki.”
“That’s Lady Mitsu– never mind.”
“Listen, I think I know what’s happening to you and me.” Selene explained. “I need you to dream again to be sure.”
At that point, I was infuriated. “Are you serious, Selene? Is it all a game to you?” I shouted, as I looked down to confront her. “All I want to know is what the fuck is going on. Do mermaids really get off at playing men lik-”
But before I could finish my sentence, I heard her sniff in sadness; tears forming up in her eyes. It only just occurred to me that even though she is a mermaid, she is still a sentient being, with feelings like any other person. And I hurt them, without thinking about how demanding I have been with her about this.
I looked up in regret. “I’m sorry that I didn’t realise.” I apologised to her, but then, there was the sound of a splash below me. I looked down again, and Selene was gone. She swan away, hurt by my selfishness.
As the night started to fall over, I felt irritated at myself, laying down backwards on the floorboards. I gazed up to the dark dotted sky and wondered. What has happened to me? What happened to that clueless and naive boy that I once was?
The environment I was may be new, but it felt familiarly cosy. White colored walls brightened the lights of the large enchanted chandelier, that hangs high above us. Nothing about the room was hidden from sight. The large bed in the back. The desk with short stacks of paper and stationery neatly organized right across us. This was Haruki’s quarters in Castle Crin. The same quarters that once belonged to her parents long ago.
She invited me in for some tea and as the night went on, we sat at the living area and shared stories; laughing over the more hilarious details. We were having a good time; and rightfully so. It was a night to celebrate. Haruki defended me in Nobles’ Court today and she proved my innocence; acquitting me of all charges. Not only that, in front of the entire Crin nobility, the King himself included, she named me her knight-protector, in fulfillment of Wilburt’s last wish, written in his letter to Sir Akio. It was a very eventful day.
Sitting next to Haruki talking, it felt more than just a chat between a Lady and her new knight-protector getting acquainted. To me, it was more like I was reconnecting with a long lost friend. Since the fall from the North Tower, we haven’t had a chance to catch up with each other and talk, very much like how we used to. Between recovering and the accusations, there was hardly a time that we could find like this. It was exhilirating to be in the company of my closest friend.
As we started to wind down from the story telling, the moment became silent. Both of us were pondering over what next to say. I didn’t want to leave yet, and I could tell she didn’t want me to either.
“How’s your shoulder?” I asked her.
“It’s fully healed for a while now, Fukuda.”
“Oh, right…” I felt so awkward after that, and my mind darted fast for a new topic.
“You were incredible in court today, Haruki.” I complimented her, recalling events from earlier today. “Calling out Lord Reidai on his claims about the Netherim like that. It was phenomenal.”
Haruki blushed. “Thanks, but I can’t help but feel like I got lucky there, Fukuda. The King hardly ever speaks up during a trial and cuts it short like he did today.”
“No, you shouldn’t sell yourself short.” I said. “I’m really being honest with you here. I’ve never seen you work before, and what you did in there today was really amazing.” She smiled again, looking down to her empty teacup in modest embarrassment. “And I’m not just saying that because you saved me from execution.” I added.
“Well, in the end, we got what we wanted, right?” she said.
I nodded in agreement. “Wilburt’s last wish. For me to become your knight-protector.” I looked down at my armor, neatly kept to the side of the room. I thought about my new role as knight-protector, and the joys and fears that it entailed. It put me in a great position to be close to Haruki. It’s what Wilburt wanted for us. It’s what Haruki and I wanted too.
“You know, I fought for more than just Wilburt, Fukuda.” said Haruki, as she put her teacup on the tray. “I fought for us, too.” She then wraps her arms around me and leans her head on my shoulder. “You’ve always been there for me, ever since we were kids.” Her tone started to soften. “You care, don’t you? You’ve always been my friend. Kind, thoughtful, never angry with me, no matter what I do. Where would I be here if you hadn’t come along?”
She snuggled her head into my shoulder. “You’re the only one I want to be with forever, Fukuda. No one else matters more.”
Her words were kind to me. It was relieving to know that she too wanted the same thing. I placed my arm over her shoulder, and leaned my head against hers, feeling her sleepiness. I thought of taking her to her bed, but I was feeling tired myself. And, for a reason I can’t explain, I didn’t want to move from this spot.
“Hey Fukuda.” Haruki softly whispers. “Do you love me?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I love you.”
My sleepy eyes immediately snapped open. Those words; they left me stunned. I’ve never been so shocked by words before. For the first time in my life, my mind was drawing a blank, unable to believe what I just heard. For the first time, I didn’t know how to react.
Haruki noticed my lack of a reply, and looked up to glance at my dumbfounded expression. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
I tried to play it off. “Nothing. Just that… I-I…”
“Come on, you know you can tell me anything.” She smiled, as if expecting something.
“I-I… I don’t know how to feel. You’re… in love with me?”
“Yes….” she said, concerned and confused. She only took a moment to realise what I was thinking about.
“No one’s ever told you that before, have they? That they love you.”
I shook my head, silent; still trying to make sense of things. I was seen as a monster my whole life. Hearing someone declare a love for me is the strangest thought that has ever crossed my mind. Even if it came from Haruki. I was lost in my thoughts, pondering intensely over the situation I am in.
“Hey.” She called out, turning my head towards her. The disappointment in her gaze was gone and the concern she had for me was irresistible to deny. Never have I felt so safe, having my head held like it is now, and I couldn’t help but be entranced, letting her have her way with me.
“Don’t think with your brain. I know it’s all new and confusing, but it’s okay not to think.” she assured me. “Love is simple. It comes from here, in your heart. Not up there in your head. When it comes to love, you follow your heart.”
Somehow, I was able to do as she said and started feeling with my heart. Suddenly, there was a wave of new sensations overwhelming me. My breath started to shorten. My body felt tingly, and I could literally hear my heart beat getting stronger and stronger. It was then I started to notice more about Haruki. I found myself admiring her radiant skin. Her blonde hair, no longer lengthy and flowing, cut to her shoulders now; a symbol of a promise to keep on living that she made to Wilburt and her parents after the North Tower.
The retina of her eyes were deep crimson, and it shimmered from the chandelier light. It was mesmerising to look deeper into them and see the pure soul hidden inside. Glancing down, I just noticed how cute her nose was, and how full and plump her lips were. Before I knew it, I was leaning towards them, close enough for me to feel her breath over mine. But I went no further. The thought of overstepping my boundaries loomed in my mind. She is a Lady of a House, and I’m just a knight, sworn to protect her. She is my best friend, and the thoughts of ruining that ran through my mind.
But the sudden feeling of a soft and warm kiss stopped my train of thought. Haruki didn’t care; she wanted this too. My thoughts melted away and I started living in the moment. This soft and warm feeling pressing on my lips; this was my world now. An impulse acted up in me, goading me on to go further, but Haruki beat me to it. She stuck her tongue in my mouth, and played with mine, gliding over and under it. It took me a moment, but I soon reciprocated her, reaching deep into her mouth. We made them dance around like two swords clashing and riposting, moving to the rhythm of our intense breaths. It was wet, sloppy and the sweetest thing I have ever had.
Haruki pulled away for a moment, both of us left trembling with desire. The thoughts I once had came back, but they became moot. I held her cheek, and caressed it, calming her. Haruki was all that I could think of, and I never wanted the night to end.
“Is this what love is?” I asked her. “I’ve never felt my heart like this, just from thoughts about you, Haruki.”
She gave me a wide smile. “Yes.”
“But i’ve always had you in my mind, Haruki. How do I know this is really love?”
“Say it, Fukuda.” she commanded me, still smiling. “Say it and mean it, with all your heart.”
I did as commanded from the love of my life. “I love you, Haruki.”
I just woken up from the best dream I ever had. The greatest memory of my life; one I never want to forget for the rest of my life. As I blankly stare into the night sky, I took in a deep breath of fresh air. But the strong scent of the salty sea snapped me back from my subconscious, and I realised I had fallen asleep on the jetty.
I rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes, and then I realised that there was a weight on my right arm. I turned my head slightly and the salt-scented blonde hair of a woman touched my nose. I slightly jerked, reacting from the sudden notice. The motion inadvertently woke the woman up.
“Woah, Selene.” I recognised her, as she slowly opened her eyes. “How long have you been back?”
She grinned with happiness, much like how I did just now. “I felt that kiss.” she said. “It was so sweet.”
“What?” I said, confused.
“I now know why this is happening, I know why you and I are dreaming of your past.”
“Hold on, hold on.” I sad as I sat up from the jetty. “I need things to wind back for a while.” I then noticed that she was bare naked, and I let out a sigh of disbelief.
“You came back.”
“Listen, I’m sorry for what I said earlier today.”
She shook her head. “It’s okay. You’ve more than made things up to me by letting me see you and Haruki together.”
“Okay, now please tell me.” I said to her, still flustered over the thought of her laying naked next to me. “How can you see my dreams… dream my memories, or… How?”
“That night we met, when I touched your heart with my magic. I left some of it in your heart by accident.”
“Okay then.” I accepted that she didn’t know about it. “Can you remove it and stop me from dreaming my past?”
“Aww, but I want to see more of you and Haruki.” she replied flirtatiously, touching the side of my head with her hand. “The two of you are so wonderful together.”
I immediately gripped her wrist and gently moved it away. “This isn’t a story you want to see to the end, Selene.”
Her elatedness dropped, as she realised the seriousness in my tone. “I can’t remove the magic. We need to go to Mermaid Rock and see what Mycerah can do.” She then grabs my hand holding her wrist with the other. “But you have to help me stop the Sirens.”