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?”
“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?”
“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!
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!”
“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!”
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.
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.”
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?