Aquas watched from behind the rock as the new merman aimed poisoned arrows at the fishes swimming by.
“Not bad,” Yanus, Aquas’ brother said as he pat the shoulder of the merman in praise. The merman surprisingly stumbled forward from the force. Yanus laughed at him, retrieving an arrowhead from his waist bag. “Grow some scales, you’re easily taken by surprise.”
The merman nodded, taking the new arrowhead from Yanus before attaching it to the arrow he retrieved from the belt he had around his waist.
“You said your name is Jeffery?” Yanus asked, striking a conversation with the merman who was now aiming his arrow at a slowly moving fish.
“Yes,” the merman replied, releasing the arrow. It flew across the water, missing the unsuspecting creature by a few inches. The surprised thing seemed taken aback before swimming away hurriedly.
“Hmm...” Yanus trailed, stroking his near skin short beard. “I haven’t heard that name before.”
The merman just smiled at Yanus’ words, silently refusing to offer an explanation. Yanus and the merman stayed like that for a while, hunting indefinitely as they made casual discussion. They’d become rather close since the council had paired Jeffery with Yanus to learn to gather.
Aquas sighed. His tail was starting to go to sleep from staying in one position for too long. He wasn’t even sure why he was watching them. The new merman just seemed oddly familiar.
Like my human.
He thought, biting the inside of his cheek. Of course, he knew there was no way his human could now be a merman that was just a swim in front of him, but the merman looked like him with his blonde hair and slim body build. The longing to be in close proximity with the new merman was pounding in his chest, the idea young and raw.
“What was that?” Yanus asked all of a sudden when the rock beside Aquas shifted and rolled a few meters away from him on the sea floor. The tiny fish that had been hiding beneath is scattered with the cloud of moss and sand.
Aquas paled when he was met with curious gazes from Yanus and the new merman. He swam to a standing position, picking at his slightly webbed fingers in nervousness.
“Oh, it’s just my brother. Did you want to see me Aquas?” Yanus asked, putting aside his bow. Jeffery was giving Aquas a fixed gaze. It was as if his whole heart has stopped at the sight of the merman. He’d kept his eyes peeled throughout his stay here and was greatly surprised at the fact that he was just seeing him.
“No,” Aquas admitted, not being the one to lie.
“I had a feeling I’d seen him before,” Aquas explained as he noticed towards Jeffery with his head.
“It’s very likely. You wonder beyond the cove often.” Yanus pointed out, making Aquas give him a small nod. He didn’t seem sure about that, but was happy to go with his older brother’s suggestion. He’d never told Yanus about the human, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to explain that now.
“Where are my manners? Aquas this is Jeffery and Jeffery this is Aquas,” Yanus introduced them as gestured to the both of them. Aquas gave Jeffery a small smile, muttering a small greeting afterward.
“If you haven’t heard, Jeffery here lost his memory so we don’t want to bombard him with questions, now do we?” Yanus said, noticing his brother’s mouth move. Yanus knew his brother was still as curious and full of questions like a small child. It was what made his appealing.
Aquas shut his mouth before puffing out his cheeks like merpeople did when they fudged being upset.
Jeffery just thought he looked undeniably adorable.
Yanus and Jeffery continued to hunt as Aquas watched them from his seat on the now displaced and upturned rock. They directed small comments his way, Jeffery’s ears perking up not to miss even a little detail of his eventual response.
One of the interesting things he found out was Aquas hadn’t been given a position yet like the other merpeople, and Jeffery couldn’t help wondering why. He didn’t ask though, believing his question might come out as prying.
Yanus called an end to the hunting practice soon after. He beckoned to his brother the tag along before all three set back to the cove together.
The colors and variety of plants and animals beneath the sea fascinated Jeffery. He watched as corals of strange plant life opened up to let in food particles. The fishes swam close to them to show their comfort and lack of fear around them.
Jeffery stole a handful of glances at Aquas who was swimming close to his brother. The two looked similar, both possessing green gold freckled eyes and tails. Jeffery wondered why he hadn’t made the connection before.
Aquas stopped swimming abruptly and let out a sound that was a cross between a small sneeze and a mewl. Yanus pat his brother’s back affectionately, while Jeffery paused to give him a worried glance.
“I’m fine,” Aquas tried to explain, a little bit startled when Jeffery reached out to feel his forehead.
Jeffery withdrew his hand from the silky skin his own body now also possessed since the transformation. He realized that particular gesture of checking if someone was well was probably not common among merpeople.
After an awkward apology, they continued their swim and soon reached the cove’s entrance. They swam past the guards, letting out polite greetings.
Jeffery looked on as Yanus bid his brother goodbye. Jeffery watched as Aquas returned the wave, swimming through the dwellings that were carved masterfully into the rock.
Jeffery’s eyes softened as he watched the merman swim away. He still had a lot to learn about this place in other to get home — if that was even possible. Jeffery didn’t want to dwell on the fact. He wanted to believe he could, so he made a promise to himself to thank the merman for what he did for him when he was injured; without disclosing his identity of course.
Jeffery shook his head as a thought of the slim possibility of him returning home plagued him. He didn’t want to dwell on the thought and decided to concentrate on swimming towards the dwellings specific for gatherers with Yanus.
“Tell the captain to give us two more weeks—”
“A month,” Ethan chirped in, altering John’s sentence. John
looked over at his friend that was sitting next to him at the bar counter with a beer in hand and tired eyes. They’d been looking for Jeffery for the past two weeks and there was still no sign of him. The phenomenon was worrying. A dead body was better than none. How were they going to explain to the young man’s family that Jeffery fell overboard and never returned or washed ashore?
“I’ll tell the captain,” the small servant boy said with a worried tone. It was obvious he was scared to report back to the captain. The man was known to be irritant and easily angered, but he had to deliver the message as his superiors asked him to.
The little boy left the bar soon after with Ethan and John looking on.
The bar was a filthy old harbor place. The wooden floor was drained to the extent that they couldn’t be cleaned and the place always smelled of cheap beer apart from late in the evening when the women from the nearby brothel visited to get costumers, mixing the smell of their cheap perfumes with that of the bar.
“I think he’s dead,” John said, looking over at his friend. Ethan sighed, rubbing his tired eyes with the back of the hand that wasn’t holding a mug of beer.
“I’m not sure,” Ethan started, looking over at the female bartender who was cleaning out mugs and glasses at the moment. She looked indifferent, like she wasn’t listening in, but that was rarely the case in regards to people of her profession. “We should have seen a body, or at least parts of it if he was. Dead bodies float, they don’t sink.” Ethan continued, making his point.
John nodded, taking a gulp of his beer. “So, what do you think? Do you think he washed up ashore somewhere?”
“Maybe,” Ethan reasoned, letting out a low belch. John gave him a disgusted look, but Ethan just shrugged it off.
“I know a witch you can see,” the bartender offered, slipping into the conversation on the classical way all bartenders did.
“And what now do we need a witch for?” John asked, clear irritation in his tone. He didn’t have any regard for anything that fell across the line of magic and voodoo.
The plump woman shrugged, dropping a now clean glass to pick up another. “I figured you’d want to locate where your friend is a lot quicker, seeing as you have a time limit and it might not be long enough.”
“And where does this witch stay if I might ask?” Ethan questioned, eyeing the plum woman with his green eyes.
John gave him a curious look. “You’re not considering her offer, are you?”
“It’s the only thing we’ve got,” Ethan countered, eyeing John now. “We should be able to say we tried our best.”
“Where is this witch?” John asked with a sigh as he saw the point in Ethan’s words.
“Down at the local whore house,” the woman said with a nonchalant shrug. “Part witch, part whore that one.”
“A whore who’s a witch,” John said, letting out his first sincere laugh since his friend fell overboard. The possibility was amusing.
“We’ll check it out when we’re desperate enough,” John concluded, sitting up on his stool.
Ethan took the statement as an indication that John did not want to meet with the woman. He tapped the sole of his boot against the wooden floor in thought. He’d let his friend be, but if they didn’t find Jeffery in another two weeks he’d have to convince John to meet with the woman.