[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] The Princess and the Shark Boy

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY.

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.


Midnight Star sat on the rock bench, leaned back against the warm stone. All around her seaweed of numerous shades of green swayed in the gentle ocean current, almost hypnotizing her to relax with their rhythm. Some of the leaves gentle brushed her from behind, tickling her shoulders over the fabric of her crop-top. Although her gaze was softened and her body calm, she moved to touch a long piece of seaweed that was draped over her shoulder. She held it in her hands, her fingers running over the varied surface of the green plant. The texture was like a bunch of cracks, similar to the stone bench she sat on, but much more uniform. 

Each time she ran her fingers over the seaweed, feeling every single detail, she further relaxed. Her breathing slowed and her consciousness seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the depths of her being. And her eyes weren’t even closed! But oh, did they want to close. The silence of the seaweed garden, the ocean currents moving like underwater wind, and the beauty of the small details all around relaxed her deeper with each passing moment. A peaceful smile slowly spread across her face as her shoulders fell. She slipped down from her seat – just enough to still feel fully supported and comfortable. 

Time stopped as her eyes flickered closed. 

Then YANK! 

Midnight Star jolted awake and jumped up, whipping around, seeing a boy around her age snickering at her. Midnight Star snarled at the shark merman in front of her, “NEN!”

Nen laughed. “You better wake up, otherwise some fishermen is going to think he lost his rope!” 

Midnight Star slapped his hand away as Nen tried to reach for her hair once more. Her mouth spread across in a straight line and she closed her eyes. “Nen, do you think that is funny AGAIN?” She then turned a bit, folding her arms, pouting, “And I wasn’t sleeping.” 

Nen grabbed one of her pigtail braids. “Every time,” he replied. He laughed again. “It really IS like a rope – do you see how big and long this braid is?” 

Midnight Star snatched it back. “I really don’t like when you do that…” 

“What? Touch your hair or call it a rope?” 

“Both.” 

The blue-gray shark merman swam up from behind the bench and lowered himself down onto it. He leaned back, one arm resting across the backboard. His other hand was halfway in the air as he spoke. “But have you looked at it though?” 

“…” Midnight Star pursed her lips. “All I see is questionable genes.” 

“I know, I know,” Nen threw his head back. “You wear them in braids to hide the fact you’re the only one in your family with straight hair.” 

Midnight Star took one of her braids in her own hand, gently stroking it. From her heart to stomach seemed to be swirling with nausea, she couldn’t help it either – every single time she sees her hair, she questions it. Brown and straight – was she really a member of the royal family? She lightly tugged on the braid.

“Rope hair.” 

Anger rose up from her stomach and spat out of her mouth. “If I’m rope hair, then you’re a curve-boy!” 

Nen flinched. Midnight Star, cheeks flushed from her anger, watched him hug his body and eyes glaze over. Nen, indeed, did have curves. He curved higher up than the average male. Something about his overall physic was much more androgynous and feminine than anything else about him. 

Nen’s eyes shifted around for a moment. Midnight Star watched him carefully. He’s about to do som–

With a twist smile and mischievous furrowed brows, Nen sprung up from the stone bench and yanked the blue star hair clip from her hair. 

Midnight Star gasped as a few lose pieces of hair swayed in front of her like a miniature seaweed garden. “NEN!” she gasped. 

Nen stuck out his tongue. “Come and get it, if you want it so bad!” 

Midnight Star grumbled. She lunged forward to grab the clip, but Nen gracefully moved out of the way. “Give it back! Ugh! I hate when you do this!” 

Nen’s only response to was to laugh. 

Midnight Star and Nen kept going around in a circle, zigzagging each and every way. Midnight Star grabbed and grabbed and grabbed, but Nen always managed to get the clip out of her grasps. Her stomach turned and the tightness of panic overwhelmed her chest. “I don’t want you to break it!” 

“I’m not going to break it. If it breaks, it’s YOUR fault!” 

“No, it’s your fault because if you didn’t take it, it would have been safely holding my hair back!” 

Nen laughed, swiping it away from Midnight Star once more. 

Midnight Star stopped and looked up, watching Nen bump into a gorgeous woman with mystical air about her. The half-swordfish merwoman looked down at Nen, unamused. 

“There you are,” she said. 

“M-mom!” exclaimed Nen, startled. He quickly turned around and looked at her nervously. 

Nen’s mother’s eyes darted to the clip in Nen’s hand, promptly swiping it. She rubbed it with the cloth of her arm band, cleaning off any grim that had been stuck to it. She then swam over to Midnight Star and presented it with both hands. “Princess Midnight Star, I am sorry that my son keeps doing these things to you.” 

Midnight Star leaned slightly over, seeing Nen’s nervous wide-eyes. His bottom lip was quivering. “He called my hair a rope again,” said Midnight Star, flatly. 

Midnight Star bowed her head in thanks as she took the hair clip from Nen’s mother’s hands. “Thank you, Lady Medeba.” 

“The pleasure is mine, Princess Midnight Star,” Lady Medeba replied, curtesying. Her attentiveness was soon shifted to annoyance as she turned to Nen with a forced smile. 

Lady Medeba yanked Nen by his upper arm fin. 

“Ow! Mom…” 

Lady Medeba’s forced smile never faded. A vein clearly popped out from her forehead. “My son, please stop harassing the Princess. I fear the engagement will be called off otherwise.” 

“What? No way!” objected Nen. “She knows I’m just joking around!” 

Lady Medeba turned to Princess Midnight Star. “Do you know he’s just joking around?” 

Midnight Star frowned. It doesn’t feel like it. 

Lady Medeba whipped her head back forward. “I’m going to take that as a ‘no’.” 

Nen attempted to protest, but no words came out from his mouth. Lady Medeba pulled him towards the garden exit. “Come, I need you to help me with something.” 

Nen slapped his mother hand on his fin, repeatedly saying, “Mom, that hurts, let go!” 

Lady Medeba, unmoved, turned her head to Midnight Star. “Oh, yes! I almost forgot – Princess, the King and Queen are looking for you.” 

Midnight Star looked confused. “Thank you,” she said to Lady Medeba. 

“See you for lessons,” replied Lady Medeba, dragging Nen away – moving her hand from his fin to his wrist. 

Midnight Star giggled, watching Nen shake off his mother’s hand and the two of them laughing. She could barely make out Nen nagging her for yanking on his fin again. Their voices faded off and once again the seaweed garden was full of silence. 

Midnight Star began to lull off where she floated. A jolt ran through her and her eyes popped open. “My parents!” she gasped, scurrying off towards the castle. I wonder what’s wrong? Did I get in trouble for something? I don’t think I did anything wrong…

***

Midnight Star sighed with relief as she swam out of the courtroom. I’m not in trouble…good. She laughed to herself. Of course I’m not in trouble, I didn’t do anything wrong, right? I don’t think I ever did…

“You look like you’re overthinking again.” 

Midnight Star looked up fom the ground she had been looking at, seeing Nen smirking at her. He leaned against the door frame, his blue-gray hair swaying in the ocean currents that ran through the castle. Midnight Star blushed. “Yeah, I guess I am…” 

“Come on, let’s head to class.” 

Nen extended his hand to Midnight Star and she took it. The two swam together down the hallways to the other side of the castle, where the study was located. 

“What did your parents want anyway?” asked Nen. 

“Oh, um…I thought I was going to get in trouble, but it turned out to be about Glitter Light’s graduation.” 

Nen chuckled. “Why would you get in trouble?” 

Midnight Star shrugged. She placed a hand over her beating her. “I don’t know. Maybe I forgot about something? I don’t always have the best memory…” She slightly trembled. 

Nen’s hand tightened around her’s. “I think everyone knows you need reminders, so I don’t think that’s a problem.” 

Midnight Star felt a stab in her stomach. Oh, I suck. No one should have to remind me…what’s wrong with me? 

There was a moment of silence as Midnight Star ran through her head. I have straight, brown hair. I can barely remember things. I don’t really have any majour duties. I get to marry the Official Court Witch’s son. I mean, that’s definitely not the worst and I love Nen and all, but aaaaaaaah, do my parents have any confidence in me? I’m such a disappointment…

“Um…what was it about Glitter Light’s graduation?” 

Midnight Star jumped as her line of thought broke. “Oh! Um…it was…it was about food. They were asking me if I had any special request for dinner during the celebration. It’s a small celebration and it’s not for me, so I don’t know why they’re asking me.” 

Nen laughed. “They should be asking Glitter Light!” 

“Right?!” exclaimed Midnight Star. She laughed too. “I thought the same thing! Why ask me? It’s her celebration!” 

The two laughed for a moment more before Midnight Star changed the subject. “Lady Medeba wanted you too, right?” 

Nen nodded. “Uh-huh,” he grumbled. 

“Uh-oh, what did she make you do?” 

Nen suddenly stopped and turned to Midnight Star, grabbing both of her hands. Midnight Star’s eyes widened and she glanced around, seeing the servants in the castle pass-by with only the slightest of glances. Oh no, they’re all staring at us. Wait…that’s okay. That’s fine. We’re engaged, it’s normal. It’s normal. “Um…” What is he doing? Why did we stop? Wait, what’s he doing with my other hand?? Oh, he’s just taking it…but why? 

“Mom chewed me out for making fun of you again,” replied Nen. His eyes darted to the side and he slightly blushed. Midnight Star held her breath, unsure where he was going with his actions. Nen tightened his grip on Midnight Star’s hands. “She’s really worried that one day I’ll take it too far and the engagement will get called off.” 

“No!” yelped Midnight Star. Nen jumped. She took one of her hands back and covered her mouth. “Ah! Sorry! I didn’t mean to make you jump. I just, um, know that’s not going to happen. I don’t think you could even take it that far. And even if you did, I don’t think that would happen.” 

A warm smile spread across Nen’s face. His eyes gazed at her lovingly. “You don’t think it would?” 

“No.” I don’t think my parents love me all that much to call it off…NO, wait! I’m fine with this arrangement, right? Midnight Star shut her eyes really tight. Yes, I am. I think…AH! I DON’T KNOW.

“Mid-Star?” 

“Ah, sorry.” 

“You don’t need to apologize…are you okay?” 

“Yeah, sorry…I mean…ah sorry! Err, um….” Midnight Star let out a sigh. She gave Nen an awkward smile. “I think I relaxed too much today because my head is freaking out.” 

Midnight Star flinched as Nen took her on both sides of her head. “I wish my head was freaking out! My mom had me rearrange her ENTIRE bottle collection in 20 minutes by size, shape, coloured, and design.” 

Midnight Star’s face scrunch and she stuck out her tongue.  “Ew, that sounds AWFUL.” 

One of Nen’s hands fell to Midnight Star’s shoulder, while her put the other on his head. “I was so bored and all I want to do is sleep, but then I had to come pick you up. Mom knew I had class today and she’s teaching!” He balled the fist that had been on his head in the air. “It’s her fault if I can’t think because she gave me something so boring to do!” 

Midnight Star giggled. At the same time, she became increasingly nervous. “Nen, we should probably get going…lessons are going to start soon.” 

“Ah, yeah, we probably should.” 

Midnight Star began to swim once more, but was yanked back by Nen. “Um, Nen…”

“Sorry.” 

“…huh?” 

“Um, I’m sorry for earlier. And any time before that. I’m really just playing around, but you didn’t really take it that way, right? Your hair is like how I feel about my body.” 

Midnight Star held up both of her hands. She felt her upper back and chest tighten and her stomach flipped. “Oh no! Oh, no, no, no! You don’t need to apologize! You really don’t! I don’t need an apology…you don’t need to apologize!” 

“But I hurt you, right?” Nen looked into Midnight Star’s eyes.

Midnight Star swallowed, staring back at him. Her heart winced. No words came out of her mouth. Only in the depths of her being could she even admit that yes, he did. But her mind’s response quickly shut her down: you obviously deserve it. 

Midnight Star cast her gaze back down. THe only thing to bring it back up was Nen gently taking ahold of one of her braids. She trembled a slight bit, nervous about what he was doing. His gaze was still soft and loving, no different from when she had been touching the seaweed.

“Nen, what are you doing?” she asked, holding her breath.

“…” He continued to gentle stroke her hair. His cheeks slightly flushed. “I…wish you would wear your hair down. They really do look like giant ropes.” 

Midnight Star could feel the fire of anger start to rise up from her stomach. She yanked her braids back and took in the biggest gulp of water she could. “Just ignore them,” she snapped unwillingly. Wait, was I too mean? But he just apologized and he said that. He..he wasn’t serious, was he? She threw the pigtail behind her. “Let’s…let’s just get to class!” Her anger made its way up to her eyes and began to push out as tears. She went to swim off once more, but Nen stopped her once again. 

“Crap,” mumbled. Nen. “Ugh, I’m not good at this, am I?” 

Midnight Star avoided looking him in the eyes.

“How do I…hmm…” 

Midnight Star cautiously turned to Nen, looking at his face. His cheeks were slightly flushed. Her gut twisted with anticipation. 

“I really…like your hair. It’s different and unique.” 

Midnight Star flushed herself, looking at Nen slightly covering his face. She looked around in a panic, relieved to see no one in the hallway at the moment. “N-nen! We’re in the middle of the hallway!” 

“What, I can’t compliment you?” 

“You can, but…this is the hallway? What if someone hears us?” 

“Does that matter?” 

“Um…I just don’t like it.” 

Nen grabbed one of Midnight Star’s hands and held it, keeping his other hand on his face, partially covering his mouth. “I just wanted to tell you I want to see you wear your hair down because I like it.” 

Midnight Star shook. “T-thank you, b-but I’ll still be wearing my braids.” She looked down.

Nen nodded. “I figured as much…” 

Midnight Star tightened her grip around Nen’s hand, who appeared to be startled by the action. Midnight Star took in a gulp of water and nodded. “Nen, I don’t feel confident enough to wear my hair down.” She pulled him off to the side of the hallway and leaned into his ear. “I used to hear all the time people question if my dad is really my dad because of my hair. I’m the only one who looks different.” I don’t want to have to go through that all over again…

Nen frowned. He nodded. “I know.” He then gave her a soft smile. “Hopefully one day, that will change.” 

Midnight Star cast her gaze down to the ground. I doubt it. 

Nen gentle pulled her. “Hey, let’s get to class before mom comes and finds us!” 

Midnight Star nodded and let herself be guided down the halls by Nen. 

The hand being held by Nen’s felt calm, but the rest of her body was tense and tight. A fear stirred up in her core – I am no good. 

***

“You’re late!” Lady Medeba exclaimed as Midnight Star and Nen entered the study. She whacked her pointed on the chalkboard behind her. 

Midnight Star jumped. “SORRY!” 

Lady Medeba cocked her head. “Why are you saying ‘sorry’, Princess Midnight Star? It’s okay for you to be late. I was more referring to my son.” 

Midnight Star turned to Nen, seeing him roll his eyes. “It’s part of my job, mom, to pick up Mid-Star.” 

Lady Medeba turned to Midnight Star. “Did the meeting with your parents run over?” 

“No,” replied Midnight Star. Her attention was brought to the light “slap” beside her – Nen had put his face to his palm. She turned her head to Lady Medeba, seeing her smirking.

“Aaaaah, so what were you doing? Hmmmmmmmm…????” she asked, almost sing-songy. 

“…nothing…” mumbled Nen. He grabbed Midnight Star’s hand and the two of them went to a desk. “You can just start the lesson, mom.” 

Midnight Star watched Nen sit down, who then gestured to her to do the same. Midnight Star looked back and forth between Nen and Lady Medeba in a panick. She balled her fist and scrunched her face for brief moment, turning to Lady Medeba. “Nen was just apologizing for making fun of me and told me he actually likes my hair.” Her whole body heated up in embarassment. 

“MID! You don’t have to tell her that!” 

Lady Medeba whistled. “My son, APOLOGZING? Didn’t think I’d hear that.” 

Midnight Star looked to Nen, who was covering his head on his desk and grumbling. Lady Medeba was cackling in the background. I…I did something wrong, didn’t I? 

Lady Medeba gestured off to the wall with the textbooks. A stream of sparkling yellow light left her hand and went over to the bookshelf, pulling off three books. One went over to her, while two more hovered over to Midnight Star and Nen. One plopped down on the counter in front of Midnight Star, while the other hovered in the air above Nen, whose head was still down and covered by his arms. 

“Let’s begin our lesson for the day, shall we?” 

Midnight Star sat down and nodded. She looked over to Nen, watching him sit back up with a bit of a stretch. The textbook dropped down to the spot where his head had been resting. 

Medeba flicked her wrist with her index and middle finger extended over to the side. The textbooks all flipped open. Inside displayed miniscule text and beautifully embrodieed images. The books were all made out of fabric – not just the covers, but each of the pages as well. The ink was perfeclectly fused to the fabric pages and the images were vibrant in colour, although some threads had come loose and threatened to unweave the intricate pictures. 

The most prominet illustration on the page took up half a page – it was numerous merpeople and human figures. The sun was shining down and some people stood on land, while merpeople were underneath the water. The ones closer to the surface, however, appeared to be in th midst of a transformation – they had a loose whirlpool around them and their fins were beginning to look a heck of a lot more like legs. It wasn’t the easiest to make out in the two-tone ocloured scheme of dark blue and gold, but it was noticible enough. 

Midnight Star gently touched the image on the textbook with her fingers, just like she had with the seaweed. She felt each individual thread and the tightly embroidered surface that helped to create such a tight illustration. She could feel herself glowing inside. “Ah,” she said under her breath. The gift Aquavians possess. Her eyes popped open and her chest lifted. A smile spread across her face. “Oooh.” The festival is soon, isn’t it? 

Lady Medeba pulled a small iron cauldron onto the desk in front of her. She filled it with slime and numerous other ingredients that had been in different shaped vials. After a stir and a puff of bubbles, She glanced at the textbook and began circling her hands over the cauldron. Out frrom the mixture came light. The light swirled and soon formed merpeople figures. 

“Aquavie has always traded with the surface. A long time ago, when it was but a mer small kingdom, still growing and expanding into the grandness that it is today, Aquavians traded with its nearby land neighbors. From shells to fish, we traded with the surface. One day, a terrible famine struck the land-neighbors and Aquavians were quick to aid them in their time of need,” summarized Lady Medeba. The lights moved around like a movie scene, explaining each and every word she spoke in detail. “After a year of aid, the land-neighbors greatly thanked the Aquavians for their help and gifted Aquavie a large piece of land. Brought closer together than ever before, many Aquavians and the land-neighors mated and bore a new race of shapeshifting merpeople. With the new ability, other merpeople throughout the ocean flocked to Aquavie for the chance their own offspring would be blessed with such a trait. The kingdom greatly expanded in numerous ways and became what it is today.” 

As Medeba gently closed her hand, the light faded and rained back down into the cauldron. “And that’s why every year, we celebrate both Aquavie’s unique trait and that our kingdom is both land and sea.” 

Midnight Star let out a romantic sigh. Wow – we wouldn’t have our legs if it wasn’t for our ancestors and their help with the land. I can’t even imagine how it would be without having legs! She looked down at her tail, rubbing her fingers over her shimmering blue scales. Oh goodness, I hope I can go up this year. It’s been… She began counting on her fingers, running through numerous events over the past few years in her life. 

POKE 

Midnight Star jumped, looking over at Nen. The shark boy was leaning on one hand, while pointing towards the chalkboard with the other. Midnight Star blushed, looking forward, seeing Medeba smirking. 

“Right on cue.” 

Midnight Star covered her face. “Ooooh, sorry, Lady Medeba!” 

Medeba chuckled. “You do this every year – it’s to be expected. It’s a lovely story and the idea that we wouldn’t have legs otherwise really makes you wonder.” 

Medeba flicked her hand to the chalkboard and began to draw a diagram. “The first encounter with the land-neighbors was by complete accident, when one of our people in the earliest of days had been caught in a fishing net…” 

*** 

Midnight Star and Nen both collapsed on their desk. 

“I thought she’d never shut up,” grumbled Nen. 

“Don’t say that about your mom.” 

“But she just kept yapping…” 

“It was…a perfectly timed history lesson.” 

“I know. It’s the same thing every year with slightly different wording.” 

They both let out a sigh. 

Midnight Star sat back up and placed her hands inside of her lap. She threw her headback and looked up at the textured ceiling of the study. “I can’t remember when I last when up to the surface. I think it’s been 3 or 4 years…” 

“6.” 

“Huh?”

“6,” repeated Nen. “You haven’t been up there for 6 years.”

Midnight Star leered at Nen. How does he know that? Am I missing something? It’s been that long?? 

Her cheeks mirrored Nen’s slightly pink cheeks. “I…I remember,” said Nen. “because I had wanted to go, but I couldn’t because my mom had a retreat that week that she dragged me along on. I still remember the date too: [August] 6, 20XX. I was so mad I couldn’t go.” Nen leaned on his hand once more, covering his mouth with it. “I wouldn’t stop complaining, so my mom had to use a silence spell on me.” 

Midnight Star’s mouth dropped. “She used what?!

“A silence spell.” 

“Really?”

“Really.” Nen hung is head. “That’s why I don’t complain too much around her anymore.” 

Midnight Star stifled laughter. Nen, being purposely silenced? Goodness, I would have loved to see that! 

Nen glared at Midnight Star. “I really wanted to go to the surface, alright?” 

Midnight Star grabbed the sides of her overskirt, hanging her head. “I’m sorry…” 

Nen hissed. “Stop saying ‘sorry’!”

“EEP!” 

After a moment of awkward silence, Midnight Star folded her arms and nudged Nen. Nen sat up and turned to her. The two locked eyes. “Did you get to go up afterward?” asked Midnight Star. 

Nen frowned. “No. I still haven’t been either.” 

“Huh?” 

“I haven’t been yet.” 

“Never?” 

“Nope.” 

Midnight Star gasped, mouth gapping open. She then grabbed his arm and leaned forward, into his face. Nen drew back the most he could with how he was seated. “Oh my goodness, we should go!” 

“Uh…yeah.” 

Midnight Star, realizing how much in Nen’s space she had been in, coiled back. She whispered a “sorry” under her breath and lifted up her shoulders. “The surface is really beautiful – I don’t get to go all that often because I’m expected to stay near the castle grounds, but I’m hoping to go back up soon.” She clasped her hands together. “I’m praying I get chosen to go up this year.” 

Nen gave her his shark-toothy smile. “I’ll pray I’ll go up with you.” 

Midnight Star giggled. She leaned a bit more into Nen’s face. “If we don’t get chosen, then did you want to go up together someday?” 

Nen lit up. “Of course! When we’re both free!” 

“Yeah!” said Midnight Star. “Hahaha…ha….” She frowned. “When will be free enough to go up to the surface?” 

“Hmm…well, we get to choose our honeymoon, right?” 

“Yeah, I think so. That’s what happened with Coral Kelp.” 

“Then if we can’t go anytime soon, we’ll go for our honeymoon.” Nen extended his pinky to Midnight Star. 

Midnight Star stared at it for a moment before jolting with realization at what exactly he was doing. She extended her own pinky and wrapped it around his. “Yeah, let’s do that.” The two nodded both their heads and hands in agreement with each other. 

After a few seconds, the two took their hands back. Midnight Star watched as Nen shivered with excitement. “Oh man,” said Nen. “I’d swim all around this place with how happy I am, but mom’s gonna be back —”

“Are you two lovebirds ready to start the next lesson?” Lady Medeba asked, swimming in from the doorframe. 

Nen sunk into his seat. “..now…”

Midnight Star let out a quiet chuckle before turning forward. She placed her chin in her hands and looked up at the ceiling. Her mind drifted off into fantasies of the surface world and all the places she would take Nen…and how he’d look with legs. 

*** 

Shell horns sounded throughout the large hall. Midnight Star was seated farthest to the right of the room if your back was facing the door. The large shell seat she sat in was well-cushioned and comfortable, but Midnight Star herself was not. No matter how many times she sat in front of the entire castle during one of these meetings, she could never get used to it. Her nerves shivered up and down and body and her stomach rolled around, albeit gently. The only person she felt worse for was Princess Etoile, her oldest brother’s wife, who seemed even more uncomfortable than she did. 

Midnight Star and her siblings all sat in order of their birth, with the lone exception to Princess Etolie, who sat just behind Prince Coral Kelp. From left to right sat her eldest brother Coral Kelp; her eldest sister Glitter Light; her second eldest sister Aqua Blue; her second eldest brother Rising Current; and her third eldest sister Peaceful Song. Behind them on the high-rise shell thrones sat their parents, King Ocean Sphere and Queen Naida. 

Midnight Star gave a glance over to Nen, who stood behind the thrones beside his mother. His normally naked top wore a ruffled shirt and vest in a style similar to his mother’s. Midnight Star couldn’t but giggle at the strange sight. Her eyes were quickly drawn to the rather mismatched, thready belt and pouch that hugged his waist. He couldn’t have taken that off? She asked herself. The thought, however, was only a momentary distraction from her nerves that were attempting to get her attention back. 

“HEAR YE, HEAR YE, KING OCEAN SPHERE AND QUEEN NAIDA HAVE SUMMONED ALL WHO ARE PRESENT IN THE KINGDOM TODAY! YOUR ATTENTION IS NEEDED BY OUR HIGHNESSES. THE MEETING SHALL COMMENCE!” shouted Lesia, one of the horn blowers. Her voice echoed throughout the hall, bouncing off the windows and walls. 

“Thank you, Lesia,” thanked King Ocean Sphere. He rose up from his shell chair and raised his arms. “Good day to everyone. I hope the morning and afternoon has been treating you well.” 

A wave of confirmation rose all around the room. A smile spread across her face. I wish I could turn around…dad’s always so casual. She held back her laughter and kept her head forward as she listened to her father continue his speech.

“Ah, yes! As far as I can tell, the day has been wonderful so far. My day has as well, thank you so much for asking.” 

Laughter erupted in the throneroom.

Queen Naida coughed. 

King Ocean Sphere lowered his arms. “As you know, the Annual Aquavie Land-Sea festival is in a month from now. We have been planning this event since last year, as it is to be the 2000th year, if the legend is to be accurate, that Aquavie has had land to call our own and the ability to walk upon the shore. Each and every one of you has an important role to play in this years event.” 

Queen Naida stood up from her own chair and opened up a book. “We are here to assign you all your duties for this year’s festival. Please pay attention, as some roles have changed. Roles will be posted on the bulletin board an hour after this meeting.” 

Midnight Star pressed her hands together in her lap. Please, please, PLEASE let me go up to the shore this year, pleeeeeeeeeeease…

“Prince Coral Kelp and Princess Etoile, you are to manage the shoreline entrance way.” 

“Yes, mother.” 

“Glitter Light, Rising Current – you both are in charge of ballroom festivities.” 

“Yes!” 

“Aqua Blue, you are to prepare the castle town festivities.” 

“Got i– I mean, YES!” 

Most of the courtroom giggled. Midnight Star wanted to giggle herself, but she didn’t want to break her prayer. Pleeeease the land, PLEASE! 

“Peaceful Song and Midnight Star…” 

Midnight Star tightly shut her eyes and bit her lip. She pressed her hands together has hard as she could. PLEEEEEEEEEAAAAASSSSEEEEEE! 

“You both are in charge of handling our foreign guests from the other oceans.” 

“Yes,” confirmed Peaceful Song.

“…y-yes.” Midnight Star hung her head. 

“Lady Medeba and Nen…”

Midnight Star glanced over her shoulder at Nen, watching as he quickly stood up straight. I’m going to be SO jealous if he gets to go up! 

“You both are in charge of facilitating storytelling within the town square.” 

“Of course, as we do every year! Right, Nen?” 

“Y-yeah.” Nen nodded. 

Midnight Star smiled. Good! She paused for a moment and looked back forward, staring at the ground in front of her. Wait, ‘good’? Why would I say that? WOW, something is wrong with me. I should be happy if he could go up…but wait, would they really have him go up? And hmm…huh. Now I wonder what our duties will be once we’re married??? I wonder what my parents used to do. Is it normal for us to do things together? 

Midnight Star’s line of thought continued to run off into a mess of unnecessary overthinking as her mother continued to rattle off the names of every single person present in the courtroom at the moment and the roles that they were to play in this year’s festival, celebrating the meeting of Land and Sea that Aquavie represents. 

***

Midnight Star and Nen let out an identical groan. Midnight Star pressed her back into the stone back support of the bench in the kelp gardens, while Nen hung his arms over the back of it, sitting sideways. 

“No shoreline again.” 

Nen let out a sigh. “I was looking forward to rubbing it in your face…” 

Midnight Star elbowed him. 

“OW!” yelped Nen. “Hey, I would’ve been just as happy if we both got to go up!” 

Midnight Star glared at him. Nen flinched and then hung his head. Midnight Star crossed her arms in response and the two fo them sat in silence.

Midnight Star watched the motion of the seaweed like she had done earlier that day, being pulled into their alluring dance in the ocean currents, no different from the two locks of hair that hung beside her face. She could feel herself wanting to fall asleep again with each movement.

“Hey, don’t sleep on me!” 

Midnight Star jolted awake. “Oh, sorry.” 

“You gotta stop watching the kelp.” 

“But I love watching it.” 

“Wouldn’t it be more interesting going up to the land?” 

Midnight Star paused for a moment. She grasped her chin and looked up into the sunlit ocean sky above. “Hmm…I never thought of that before. I think they’re both very different.” 

Nen threw his arms open. “If only we would have been assigned…” 

Midnight Star grasped her forehead. “I know, right?” She balled her fists. “I prayed SO hard, hoping they would, but nope…I got stuck greeting people.” 

Nen clicked his tongue. “At least you got to do something different from last year. I have to help mom entertain people in the town square. Again. I’m not even in the castle.” 

“Um, I’m not either.” 

“Wait, you’re not?” 

“No.” 

“Where do you have to greet people then?” 

Midnight Star began drawing a map in the air. “There’s five entrances to Aquavie, right? So, I’m supposed to like, stay at one of the entrances and Peaceful Song will be at the other one. I think it’s one of the ones with more people.” 

“Is it safe?” 

“Mmm…it should be. I think there’s usually guards that go along. I’m not entirely sure though, since it’s my first time doing it in like…10 years. And last time, I was with Glitter Light.” 

Nen pouted. “Shame I couldn’t be there.” 

Midnight Star lightly clutched her sheer pink overskirt, blushing. “It probably would be a lot better if you WERE there…” She lowered her eyes and turned her gaze to the sandy ground beneath her. Her vision blurred as she became lost in thought. It’s going to be really boring greeting people, isn’t it? I’m already not that great…I really wish we could have just gone on land…

Her thought was broken, noticing Nen’s hand on top of hers. She cocked her head, turning to him confused. She watched as Nen lifted up her hand and gentle kiss it, followed by a lightly clasping it between both of his hands. Before she could even register her heated face, her cheeks flushed red. 

“I was really looking forward to going up to the shoreline with you this year,” said Nen, softly. 

Midnight Star pulled her hand away and grasped her cheeks, turning away from Nen. “Aaaaah! Stop that!” 

Nen raised an eyebrow. “Stop what?” 

“It’s weird when you do stuff like that…” 

“Like kissing your hand?” 

“Yes!” 

“Why?” 

“B-because…” Midnight Star’s face flushed deeper and she buried her head into her lap. Because it makes you seem less like my annoying childhood friend and more like a charming prince and everyone’s going to hate me because you’re so charming and I’m not! 

“Becauuuuuuse?” 

Midnight Star scrunched her face. I can’t tell him that! “Um…b-because it’s embarassing.” 

“Oooooh,” sang Nen. Midnight Star glanced up at him, seeing a smirk on his face. “I guess I got a new thing to annoy you with, huh?” 

“Noooooo!” whined Midnight Star, just as Nen grabbed one of her hands. She sat up in response, turning to Nen. He gently kissed her hand once more, causing her already redden face to redden even deeper. Nen kissed up the back of her hand and ran his tongue over her wrist and up her arm.

Midnight Star shot backwards. I’M GONNA MELT, I’M GONNA MELT! “Aaaaaaah,” she managed to moan in response. She took her free hand and began to push against Nen’s head. “S-stop it.” 

Her eyes locked with Nen. In the moment of the lock, everything seemed to stop moving except for the reflect of the light in Nen’s eyes. Midnight Star held her breath. 

“I really wanted to go up to the shore with you,” said Nen. 

Midnight Star’s shoulders dropped and she stopped pushing Nen, but still grasped his head as she looked in his eyes. Half a frown appeared on her face. “Yeah…” 

She pulled her arms back to herself with Nen’s grip loosened and pushed her hands together. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Please let us go to the shore sooner than later…that would make us both happy. 

She reopened her eyes to see Nen in prayer himself. She took in another back and returned to the prayer, wishing she could go to the surface with him once more. 

***

“What are you going to do now?” asked Nen. 

Midnight Star turned and leaned back on the stone bench. She softly smiled. “Oh, I’m just gonna stay here.” 

Nen groaned. “You’re gonna fall asleep if you stay here.” 

“Is that a bad thing?” 

“…no, but I don’t want to be the one to wake you again.” 

Midnight Star giggled. “Oh yeah, that…sorry about that.” 

“You are terrible for waking up.” 

Midnight Star nodded and shurgged. She stared out into the vast and varied seaweed garden that surrounded her. Their quiet symphony seemed to sooth her soul. “Nen, I think I’m just gonna stay here. I wasn’t feeling well during the meeting and I know I’ll be more calm being here…” 

“Awww…I was hoping you’d play with me.” 

Midnight Star raised an eyebrow. “What are you, a kid?” 

“No,” replied Nen. He smirked and promptly swiped her hair clip. “But I’m bored.” 

Midnight Star gasped. “NEN! You already did that this MORNING!” she shouted, as Nen began to speed away. 

“Catch me if you can!” Nen yelled back. 

In the space bettween being entertained and raging mad, Midnight Star launched herself at top speed at Nen, who seemed startled by her sudden boost in speed. 

Nen lead Midnight Star out from the gardens and through one of the castle exits and out into the streets. The two of them dodged every obstacle in sight – people, animals, plants, and objects alike. 

“Nen, come back! We shouldn’t leave the castle this far!” 

Nen howled in laughter in response. 

“P-princess Midnight Star?” “AH! Hey, watch i – huh? Princess?” “WHOA! WHAT THE ––” were all common exclaims from the towns people as Nen and Midnight Star zoomed through the zig-zagging streets of Aquavie. 

The town’s streets started to become increasingly sparse the further they went and soon enough, they were surrounded by only rock and seaweed. 

Midnight Star honed in on Nen, her eyes focused solely on her hair clip he stole once more. She closed in on him, not noticing that he had suddenly stopped, and snatched back her hair clip. 

“NEN, I REALLY hate when you take my clip. You know it was a gift from my father…” nagged Midnight Star, placing the clip back into her hair. 

Nen just laughed. Midnight Star frowned. Her eyes followed where Nen’s hands were and finally noticed why she suddenly caught up with him so quickly – his tail was stuck in some kelp. 

Midnight Star took a glance around, seeing nothing but kelp for miles and miles. “Where…are we?” 

Nen unknotted himself from the kelp tightly wound around his tail. “The…ugh…Kelporal Forest…mph…ugh.” He yanked at the seaweed and fiddeled with it. 

“Kelporal Forest…” repeated Midnight Star. She looked around at the swaying kelp, watching it dance like the light reflecting form the surface above. There was an eerie silence about the forest. 

Nen finally freed himself. “Mom and I often come here to grab some since there’s just so much of it.” 

“You help your mother?” 

“Yeah, you knew that.” 

“I knew you helped with organization and stuff like that around the castle, but I didn’t realize you helped her gather stuff too.” 

Midnight Star jumped as Nen through his arm over her shoulder and gave her a shark-toothy grin. “What do you take me for? I’m the son of a witch! Of course she’d have me help her.” 

Midnight Star giggled. “I guess you’re right…”

Nen puffed out his chest. “I am right.” 

Midnight Star pushed his chest back down. 

“Hey!” snapped Nen. “You’re ruining my moment.” 

“Sorry!” said Midnight Star. She laughed. 

“Stop saying sorry!” 

“Sorry!” 

“WHAT DID I JUST –” 

Both Nen and Midnight Star started laughing hysterically. The two grabbed their own stomaches and leaned forward. Tears were coming from both of their eyes.

“What’s so funny?” asked Midnight Star.

“I don’t know – you tell me!” 

“I-I said ‘sorry’ for saying ‘sorry’!”

Midnight Star wiped her tears, looking at Nen. “Do you know the way out of here?” 

“Yeah, I think I do.”  

Midnight Star grabbed Nen’s arm. “I think you owe me a sorry.” 

Nen clicked his tongue, followed by a smile. “No way.” 

Midnight Star was startled once more as Nen tore himself away from her and stuck out her tongue. “Race you back!” 

“Wai–” 

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH

The cry almost the sound of metal on metal echoed through the Kelporal Forest. Midnight Star turned around immeditately into the loudest direction of the sound. And then she frozen.

Nothing in her seemed to be able to move. Her musles had locked into place and the only place she could feel a tremble was within her stomach. The only movement she had was from Nen lightly grabbing her arm. 

The pressure of Nen’s fingers sunk slowly into her right arm. Midnight Star’s breath paused for what seemed to be an eternity. 

And then out from the depths of the Kelporal Forest, as if awaiting her breath to leave her lungs, sprung a sepertine sea monster with bulging dark brown eyes, rows of pointed yellow teeth sharper than the sharpest razor, and spikes on its back. Its beautiful emerald-green scales contrasted with its appearance, glistening in the afternoon sunlight streaming from above. 

Midnight Star let out a shriek. 

She closed her eyes and covered herself with her hands in a feeble attempt to protect herself. 

Warmth. 

She felt warmth.

Fear clinged onto the depths of her stomach. Am I dead? No…I can’t be. Wouldn’t I have…wouldn’t I have felt it? 

As she had her thoughts, removing the thought of her own death from her mind, she opened her eyes and looked up, seeing Nen in front of her, waves of warm blue light radiating from his hand. On the other side of the light shield was the sea monster, attempting to bit its way through. 

Midnight Star’s mouth dropped, watching the rage and determination that radiated from Nen’s face. Why have I never seen that look before? A part of her fear was placed with disapointment. Her face scrunched. Ugh, what’s wrong with me? I was almost killed and here I am feeling bad I’ve never seen Nen look like that…

Midnight Star’s face softened as she watched Nen reach into his beat-up satchel and pull out a small vial filled with a composte of various sea plants and some slime. Midnight Star watched curious as Nen shook the bottle and began to chant: 

“Gods of Land, Gods of Sea, Gods of Sky, 

Please Hear Me

Activate this potion now

Protect us from the vile 

Protect us from the pain

Let us never see this beast again!”

Midnight Star gasped, watching Nen simultaneously put down the shield and throwing the vile at the creature. The sea monster caught it between its mouth and chomped the thumb-sized vial between its teeth. Within the first crunch, explosions popped within the creature’s mouth and it began to shriek once more. 

The sea monster’s head violent swung back and forth. Midnight Star gasped as Nen silently cautioned her to stay back, backing up himself.

He can… “You can use magic?” 

Nen, not once taking his eyes off the raging monster, nodded his head. “Yeah, I can.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” exclaimed Midnight Star. She immeditately covered her mouth, a shiver running down her arm. What if us being loud caused this attack? 

“I don’t use it very often right now,” replied Nen, almost monotone. “I’m…I’m aiming to be the next Official Court Witch, once my mom retires…or dies. Whichever one comes first.” 

Midnight Star’s shoulders dropped. Her eyes widened and her chest heightened. “Wow.” She took a brief glance at the sea monster, who appeared to be turning around, retreating back into the depths of the forest. 

“Thank you, Nen, for saving me,” said Midnight Star. Her voice was quiet and her face slightly flushed. She tucked the little bit of loose hair next to her face behind her ears and grasped the bottom of her light-pink mesh skirt. He’s my fiancé and I didn’t even know. 

Her hand was then grabbed by Nen, who had turned away from the retreating monster slithering back into the depths of the Kelporal Forest. “No problem – it’s a part of my job.” 

Midnight Star giggled. “I know you’re my fiancé, but that seems a bit much.” 

Midhight Star was taken aback but Nen’s sudden eye pop. “No, I mean it’s my literal job.” 

“Huh?” 

Nen raised an eyebrow. Midnight Star brought her shoulders forward and grasped the bottom of her mesh skirt, looking down towards the ground with flushed cheeks. Did I say something wrong? 

“You…were never told?” 

“Told what?” 

Nen clicked his tongue, startling Midnight Star. She looked up at him with her eyes, watching as he side-eyed the kelp. His frown made her nervous. Oh no, I did something wrong. 

“My job is to protect you and the rest of the royal family.” 

“It…is?” 

“Yes.” 

“Really?” 

“Yeah.” 

Midnight Star became flustered. “B-but why?! You’re gonna be a p-part of the royal f-family. Why would your job be to protect us?” 

Nen shrugged. “I don’t know that bit. All I know is my mom and your parents have been reminding me over and over that my job is to protect the whole royal family. Especially you, since I’m with you all the time.” 

Midnight Star grabbed her head and looked away. “Huuuuuuuh….” Why did I not know this?! This is so embarrassing!! Midnight Star ran through her memory, searching where she might have know that information, desperately hoping she just simply forgot and wasn’t completely ignornant to that. But…alas, she couldn’t find a single one. 

“Mid-Star?” 

“Huh?!”

Nen snickered. “You’re trying to remember if you’ve heard it before, aren’t you?” 

Midnight Star’s muscles tightened. “N-no.” 

Nen grabbed her hand. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t think anyone ever told you.” 

Midnight Star couldn’t look Nen in the face, afraid that he would call out her obvious lie. 

“Besides, even if it wasn’t my job, I would still protect you.” 

Midnight Star wanted to melt into a puddle. Her face flushed red and she looked at Nen, completly forgetting that just a few seconds ago, she didn’t even want to see him in the face. 

Midnight Star looked at Nen up and down, her mind going through everything she knew about him. It didn’t take too long before she realized how much she actually knew. 

Midnight Star placed a hand on her cheek. “I…I don’t really know much about you at all, do I?” 

Nen flashed her a toothy grin. “Maybe not enough.” 

Midnight Star gave him some rare eye contact. “What else do I not know about you?”

Nen’s lips curled. “Want to go back and find out?” 

“Ah…” Midnight Star looked down to Nen’s hand grabbing her’s. “Sure.” A soft smile spread across her face and she grasped his hand firmly. 

Midnight Star let Nen start to lead her out from the forest. The light seemed to shine on him in just the right way, seeming to make Nen glow…or perhaps it was the magic radiating through his body that she had never noticed before? Regardless, something about him was glowing and it was more than the excited smile that appeared on his face. 

“Is this the way out?” 

“Yeah, it should be. Just go straight and we should end up exiting somewhere to open ocean.” 

Midnight Star smiled, looking up towards the sunlight ocean sky . Wow…I can’t believe what I learned today. I wonder what Nen has to show me when we go…”…back.” 

Midnight Star felt as if her head slowly turned as Nen’s hand ripped out of her’s in slow motion. The colour drained from her face as she watch Nen get slammed to the ground, a large spiked tail through back and jutting out from the front. Her shoulders lifted as she gasped and placed her hands over her mouth. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. Even her tears seemed slow to well up. 

“M-mid-s-star!” 

She couldn’t move.

Midnight Star could not move. 

She could see blood rising up from Nen’s body through where the spike had penetrated. 

“M-mid-s-star!” called Nen once more.

Midnight Star could not get herself to move. Instead, she stared at her dying fiancé, pinned under the tail of a sea monster they thought had rushed off, its tail now stuck to both the ground and the body of the young shark merman. 

Midnight Star could barely hear Nen calling her name,  whose voice had turned into a whisper. 

“M-mid-s-star, t-take h…hold o-of m-m-me….” 

Midnight Star watched, still frozen in place, as a golden light surrounded Nen. His body became long and thin, while his hair became pointed. When the light cleared, lying in his place was a golden staff with a blue crystal start at the very top. 

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH

She felt her body MOVE. In the short distance in front of her, she could hear the sea monster’s metal-on-metal shriek once more. 

I’m going to die too. 

Without her usual second-thoughts, she grabbed the staff that had once been Nen. 

The sea monster lunged out from the thick kelp, snapping its jaws at her. Midnight Star forcefully pushed herself out of the way, watching the creatures head disappear into the kelp behind where she had just been standing. 

Tears finally rained out from her eyes and floated towards the surface. She clung, hugging the staff as she let out her own shriek of pain. 

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH

Midnight Star sat down on the ground of the kelp forest, hanging her head, hugging onto the staff tightly. I’m sorry, Nen! I’m so sorry…

She could hear the rush of the water in front of her…and then a BAM! 

She looked up, startled by the sudden, unexpected explosion, only to see herself being surrounded by a sudden blue and golden light. She watched the sea creature flying through the water at such speeds unmatched by anything she had seen before. 

She turned her head to the staff in her arms, then back to the monster flying backwards. The upper half of her stomach seemed to churn, but for once in her life, she felt emotionally clear: RUN

She sprung up from the ground and fled the Kelporal Forest, shooting straight through the thick kelp and into open waters, clutching the staff to her chest. 

*** 

Midnight Star’s body began to tremble. Although her mind had been blank as she worked her way back to the castle, that wall of being in unfamiliar and somewhat unfamiliar places crumbled. Her tears stared to stream down her face again as she passed through the front entrance.

“Good evening, Princess Midnight Star…” greeted the staff, their voices slowly fading as they witnessed Midnight Star’s eyes becoming increasingly red. Immeditately, three out of six of the servants surrounded her. 

“Princess, are you alright?” 

“What happened?” 

“Quick, go in form the King and Queen” 

Midnight Star’s voice cracked like a steel beam breaking. She didn’t even know what to say, what to speak. Heck, her thoughts couldn’t even clear up. She just. had to. CRY. 

“Lady Medeba!” exclaimed one of the servants.

A cold shiver ran down Midnight Star’s body, causing her to tremble even more violently for a brief moment. 

“Oh? It’s rare that you call out to me, what is it?” asked Lady Medeba, from a slight distance.

“Princess Midnight Star is crying. We have reached out to the King and Queen, but they are currently in a meeting.” 

“Ah…I see. What did my son do now?” 

Midnight Star’s eyes locked with Medeba’s for a brief moment, but Midnight Star immeditately tore them away. She knows! 

The warmth of Medeba’s hand touched shoulder’s and she watched Medeba’s other hand gently brush her fingers against the staff. She couldn’t hear what Medeba was mumbling through her own creaking cries, but she could just feel it was all-knowing. 

Midnight Star looked back up at Medeba. All the guilty that had been built up on Midnight Star’s shoulders dropped away and she was able to stop creaking her sobs and let them come out, unabashed. 

Midnight Star wailed loudly as Medeba hugged her and stroked the back of her head. Her shaking had stopped, but her wails bounced off the castle walls, running down every corridor. 

**END**

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