The halls of the castle were abuzz, merpeople from all across the ocean coming for a visit to the capital. It was an annual tradition that royal birthdays brought most citizens to the capital to celebrate, popular among the common folk as it was one of the few days that permitted them into the castle. Her majesty, Otone Jinnai, loved to throw parties aplenty and spoil her people, a true social butterfly-fish that loved to be surrounded by friends, family and even strangers. Not being afraid to show off herself, her talents and even her own family.
Unfortunately, her brother did not share that same sentiment.
As much as Otone tried her hardest to force it to be, she could never manage to get her younger brother, Enta Jinnai, to connect with anyone outside of his immediate family. She wasn't sure what, but something about him just didn't click with other people, not like he went out of way to. Preferring to spend his time alone, at least Otone thought he did, which brought her to getting him a personal advisor to keep him out of trouble and make sure he hasn't disappeared.
Otone's focus was helping her servants prepare for public celebration of her brother's birthday, even though it was in a few days, it was custom for them to hold and display it a few days in advance so that a royal birthday could be spent with only immediate family and friends. She prided herself in how her subjects saw her, so spoiling them and showing her undying love would be the only way for them to continue to favor her. Keeping herself busy in the past few weeks with preparation for the banquet, the concert and the public proclamations and speeches, but she was more than happy to help where she could.
"Your Majesty, people are starting to file into the concert hall and we ask for your attendance," Her personal assistant entered the room in which Otone rested in until someone was to inform her that it was time to make her appearance in the hall. Passing many doors and getting looks from any common bystanders that could get a look at her through the wall of servants that followed around and behind her.
Following along in the halls and through some back doors to a place only she and her closest servants could go. Going up and quietly following behind her assistant into the high doors of the concert hall and resting in her designated seat. Looking down upon all of the people that had come to the celebration she had worked hard to plan, feeling happiness bubble up inside of her at the appreciation from her people.
"Are you excited for the performance Your Majesty? After all, you were the one that planned it." Otone's assistant leaned over and quietly whispered to the queen, keeping their voice soft as to not cause too much of a disturbance and people were already starting to stare at the quiet entrance of the royal. Usually she would make an extravagant entrance, but she chose to hold back as the day was not about her, even sometimes the queen knew when to lay low.
"Am I ever? Of course I am! I think everyone's going to love it, Enta's singing lessons have been going really well!" Otone chirped out, visibly excited for the events to commence, her hard work being put on display for everyone to see and anything that happens in the castle is a reflection of herself, so her image was always on the line when any outsiders were in the castle.
Otone sat in hushed chatter with her assistant for what seemed like an age, looking up every other moment to view the stage. Lights still brightened and not looking like they would dim any time soon and orchestra sat still in waiting. It made the queen slightly on edge and nervous, even though she had planned out everything perfectly beforehand. Trying to peer into the wings of the stage and see if there were any troubles that she could see from her seat, other merfolk caught onto her nervousness as she wasn't exactly in hiding and seated on a throne that is easy to see. It sent the audience on edge themselves as everyone assumed that if the show wasn't ready then they wouldn't have been let in yet.
Otone heard the door open behind her and another mermaid hurried through the door, panting slightly and face red. They looked as if they struggled to form some words, grabbing onto the arms of the queen and still trying to articulate a proper sentence.
"Calm down, you found me, is something wrong?" Otone pulled the mermaid up and looked at them with sympathetic eyes, waiting for them to slow down and breathe for a moment so they could talk to her. Stopping to take a single deep breath and looking back up at the royal.
"Y-your Majesty, he- The prince disappeared!" The servant managed to force out their sentence, with the queen's eyes widened in a state of shock and desperately looking around the room to see if anyone else had overheard.
"What do you mean he disappeared?! Are you sure he's not here?" Otone's voice echoed with alarm, yet anger at the same time. Rage burned deep within her eyes, threatening to rise up to the surface of her composed demeanor.
"We can't find him anywhere! We've checked everywhere he could be!"
The fallen planks of the shipwreck shielded Enta's vision, rocks and growing moss on the planks kept them from crumbling under each other even more. Passing through small crevices and cracks to grab at any shiny objects he could find. His bored assistant, Toi, following quietly in tow and not speaking as it always brought down the prince's mood. Opting to silently follow Enta in another one of his mindless ventures.
The sound of fish passing by created slipstreams in the water, blowing about pieces of floating planks and splinters. The prince absentmindedly following the small fish until he couldn't go any further, checking for any hidden goodies they might be trying to hide, ones that he would get to put away for safe keeping in his special treasure trove. Small additions to the ones he was already carrying in a bag that was slung around his shoulder and across his chest. The brown strap brushing over a small scar on Enta's chest, a scrape with death when he nearly got impaled by a speeding harpoon.
The prince leaned down and grabbed at another object he had no clue about, reaching down and tracing his fingers over the plastic and wood. Picking the object up and examining it up in front of his face, white rings circled around the edges of the wood in some places and it had a strange white slope on the tip. Enta ran his finger over the white ridges before pushing it into his bag for safe keeping.
"I still have no clue why you keep some of this crap, it looks like random trash." Toi slipped in his comment out of nowhere, seemingly fed up with the prince's spontaneous outings and being forced to go along as to make sure he didn't do something stupid and end up dead the next day. As much as the merman detested his job sometimes, he wouldn't lie that he much preferred following around someone that was close to his age, even when they were extremely insufferable most of the time.
"Hey! You don't know what they do anyway! You never know if it does some cool stuff!" Enta gave a quick retort to his advisor, sticking his tongue out in arrogance in the direction of Toi who had a bored and distant look on his face. The prince continued forward further into the shipwreck to try and find any new trinkets within the fallen pieces. Toi following in a dull manner behind.
The further the two traveled, the heavier Enta's bag seemed to get, not having enough space to fit any more strange trinkets he found in the wreckage of the sunken boat. Stopping for a moment to rest his arms on a piece of wood to relax for a minute, Toi stopping to sit beside him, sparing small glances up at the edges of the water, where the sunlight split the waves. Examining their angle and power so he could keep a check on the time.
"We gotta get back before my sister notices we were gone, if we go now then I'll have a bit of time to drop my bag off at the cave then we just have to slip back into the castle unnoticed! Seems pretty easy." Enta straightened out his heavy bag across his chest and the strap was starting to become uncomfortable, pushing off of the plank to swim off in the direction of the castle.
"Y'know, according to the sun, your concert would've started about twenty minutes ago" Toi kept his voice flat, not seeming to care about the oncoming reaction of the young prince, who was startled into stopping his swim and looking up at the top of the waves and letting out an audible gasp.
"Dammit! Why didn't you tell me?! Otone is gonna kill me when we get back!" Enta pushed right off from his position, Toi hurriedly following behind in an effort to not lose the prince if he turned away for just a second.
"It shouldn't be my damn job to remember the week of your own birthday for you." Toi was nonchalant about the situation, he was only going to get in on the blame if he showed up with the prince, but he could easily throw him under the bus to save his own scales if he really wanted to, so he had nothing to worry about.
"You could've at least given me a heads up or something!" Enta avoided Toi's look, feeling slightly betrayed by the lack of communication between the two, even when they have never really gotten along.
Otone ended up moving all of the guests out of the concert hall, having given up on waiting for Enta to arrive. She could practically feel her reputation crumbling around her, seeing the small side eyes from the citizens and her embarrassment was starting to overtake her. Retreating to a place where she could hide but still peer out of the castle windows when her brother finally decided to show up.
When all of the guests had made it out of the castle, they were immediately directed to the festival taking place down in the nearby city. Otone firmly shut the door behind the last mermaid, taking a deep breath and giving her assistant an apologetic look. Rage still burned in the soft emerald of her eyes, looking like she was ready to kill someone and not even care about it and everyone was pretty sure that Enta was on the top of her hit list.
"I can't believe him! I had been reminding him for the past week and he still ended up forgetting!" Otone tried to contain her rage in front of her closest servants and guards, not wanting to make a fool of herself in front of them. Being slightly surprised when another servant came rounding the corner into the group of merpeople that were waiting in front of the door.
"Your Majesty! The prince has returned! He's coming around the back end of the castle." The servant had to quickly move out of the way before Otone went speeding into them, trying to make her way to the back of the castle to get to Enta before he made it into the castle and disappeared. Rounding every corner into the back door that only the servants and royals knew about, waiting right on the other side of the door.
Hearing the knob of the door slightly turn and the door being quietly pushed open, Otone put on her best glare and crossed her arms over her chest in disapproval. When the door fully opened, she was met with the very nervous expression of her little brother and his advisor in tow.
"So, would you mind telling me what you've been doing all morning?" Otone's voice was stern and cold, not her usual charismatic and soft self and instead showing off her proper serious side that she was trained to have as a queen.
"Yeah... I was- We were just-" Enta fumbled around in his head for an excuse as to why he had skipped the entire morning's celebrations even after being reminded of it prior to the day. Otone's stone cold gaze was pressuring her younger brother heavily, Enta trying to avoid her gaze by looking down and playing with thumbs behind his back.
"Enta! What you did was careless and put a black mark over my reputation! I can't believe you, managing to forget something I had been reminding you about." Otone's voice turned from cold to disappointed, trying her hardest to convince herself that their was a good reason why Enta wasn't present, but with the consequences his absence brought, she couldn't sympathise with him.
"You're always making me do things I don't wanna do! I can make my own choices, I'm not a kid anymore!" Enta looked up and yelled in his fury, standing up for himself with a defense that he was old enough to make decisions for himself. Feeling slightly controlled by Otone, knowing that most likely in his lifetime that he will never be king, so he found no reason for him to have to be groomed to one day assume to the throne.
In a flurry, Enta turned and shot off in the other direction. Hurrying off out of the sight of the two merpeople, tears starting to well in the corners of his eyes. Thinking that the only think he wants is freedom, all the prince wanted was to be free from his responsibilities as a royal, he wasn't a king so he saw no need to have to follow his sister's strict rules. Enta only wanted to make his own choices, to be his own self and to not have the pressure of holding up the expectations of everyone, even when he disregarded their opinions anyway.
"Toi, go after him for me, don't want him to disappear again,"