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Stranded

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He hears the strong waves of water hit against something hard, and a crash is heard not long after. He hears familiar voices yelling, sounding desperate, scared and panicked. There's the splashing of water as something breaches it. Then all he hears is the echoes of the ocean. Something hard hits against his head and his lungs burn. The taste of salt is unbearable on his tongue when he closes his mouth.

The voices grow quieter as the seconds pass and soon all he hears are the waves crashing above him. Muffled by the ocean water. He feels heavy. Like hes sinking. And the distant roll of thunder beyond the waves is the last thing he remembers hearing during that moment. Along with the sloshing of water next to him.

□●□

When he gains some relevance of consciousness he hears two voices again. But their not familiar to him like before. He's not able to move his body, feeling numb and cold.

The voices argue for a bit but it doesn't last long. Eventually he hears a splash of water and everything is silent after the echoes die down. There's shifting beside him. The sound of sand moving around as something moves.

Finally, he's able to gain more control over his aching muscles and he slowly opens his eyes.

The sight he's greeted with makes him freeze in place. Horror dawning on his face when his view is full of a shark and its rows of very sharp teeth.

Zenitsu screams and despite the soreness in his muscles, he frantically crawls away backwards from the monster.

When he takes a good look at it from a distance, he thinks he must be crazy because what he was seeing could not be real.

It was a creature with a shark for a head, a man for a body and a tail of a fish, at least he thinks its a fish tail because half of it is in the water at the edge of the beach. The tail was a beautiful indigo grey and the dorsal fin was shaped like a crowntail betta.

Zenitsu suddenly hears something breach the water and he turns around to look. There's a face staring back at him with wonder. But when it looks at the other creature on the sand its eye brows furrow.

"Inosuke, I told you not to wear your mask! He's already going to be confused seeing us. Humans are very spookish creatures" the other lifts the rest of his head out of the water to scold the one with the shark head. He sees fins where ears should be on a human and three lines on each side of his neck. They looked like slashes from here.

Zenitsu hears a grumble from the one with the shark head and he seems to begrudgingly take it off. What he sees is a… girl…!?

Oh god.

He feels lightheaded.

This can't be real, it can't! He has to be dreaming that or he's gone crazy! Mermaids don't exist! There just old sailor tales crewmen would use to scare people! He rubs his eyes with his hands and winced a bit at the grainy sand scraping against his skin.

He opens them.

Nothing changes.

The girl scowls at him. Taking the shark head and lifts her body from the sand to- wait it's a guy!?

Eh?

Ok, he's sure he lost his mind.

His eyes go back to the other creature as he hears it move in the water, coming closer to the edge of the beach. Zenitsu's heart starts to pound again and he stumbles on the soft sand as he tries getting up quickly.

"Wait, don't get up so fast" the burgundy haired male said as he reached the shore looking worried.

Zenitsu ignores the comment and takes this opportunity to look at his surroundings quickly to find somewhere to run or hide. And dread coils in his stomach when he glances left, right, up and down.

He's in some sort of underground cave. The only entrance he sees is a large hole at the very top of the cave as it acted like a sky light, lighting half of the area in a warm orange hue. He could see at the edges that there were plants, trees and other greenery but that was about all he could see from here. It was a really large cave but most of the area was filled with water then land.

He shoots a hand to his head when it throbs painfully. Zenitsu's footing becomes unsteady as he tries to righten himself. He hadn't known the side of his head was stinging until now.

"Are you alright?"

Zenitsu flinched at the voice and looks at the red haired creature. It had crawled its way up on the sand, most of its body submerged in water. He was laying there patiently with something green and wet in one of his hands as water dripped from it. It almost looks black.

That was seaweed wasn't it? Was the Mermaid going to try and strangle him with it?

He didn't answer so the creature continued.

"You have a wound on your head, if it's okay, will you let me treat it?" He asked softly. He didn't sound pushy nor deceiving but Zenitsu kept up his guard. You never knew if it could be a trick. Zenitsu only walked back a few more feet away and yelped when his back came in contact with a hard wall.

"What a guppie" The other with black and blue highlights snickered at Zenitsu's show of skittishness from the water.

The other gave him a stern look.

"What?"

The Mermaid looked back at him worriedly.

"I know your probably scared and confused, but it would really be a good idea to treat that wound you have there. You hit your head pretty hard on a rock"

Zenitsu didn't know what to say. Or do really. There was nowhere to go. And he doubted he could escape their clutches if he tried. He's heard tales from sailors and crewmen about creatures that had an upper human body but sported a fishes tail from the torso down.

There were plenty of stories and rumors about people being thrown off ships or in wreaks during storms that mysteriously disappeared and were never seen again. Most say they were eaten, bones and all with nothing left but maybe a few articles of clothing.

And to those that do survive, say they saw such creatures. Detailing about the sharp rows of teeth they had, claws and sharp fins that could slice through the toughest of currents to create whirlpools. Some sailors even believed they controlled the sea and harsh storms, using these powers to purposely throw people off board to feast upon them.

He stares at the Mermaid before him wearily in fear.

"Y-you won't eat me r-right?"

"Of course not! I just want to help you" The burgundy male said as he hoisted himself more from the water and onto the sandy beach, careful lot to let the seaweed touch the sand. Zenitsu could now see the color of the Mermaid's tail. It was black, but when the light shone on it at the right angle it was actually a deep crimson red.

The creature gives a smile and pats the sand next to him, encouraging Zenitsu to come forward. Nothing in his voice sounds like he was trying to deceive him, Zenitsu stays where he is for a moment before hesitantly walking to the Mermaid. The creature makes no sudden movements to grab at him once he is in reaching distance so he relaxes slightly.

Sitting down in front of the Mermaid, Zenitsu doesn't know what to expect so when the creature lifts its arms he flinches. The Mer reals his arms back at this reaction.

"Sorry, I'm just going to wrap this around your wound" he says as he suggests the seaweed in his hands. The Mermaid only moves again when Zenitsu nods and he resumes what he was going to do.

Zenitsu feels his hair being parted by cool fingers and he feels the slimy, cold texture of the seaweed pressed against his temple. Then the creature in front of him starts to wrap the slimy plant around his head.

Zenitsu watches intently as the Mermaid treats his wound. Staring at red eyes as they focused on their work. Oddly enough Zenitsu relaxes more as he takes in the hum from the Mermaid.

He gives off such a kind tune.

Zenitsu was so caught up in the sound that came off the creature that he almost missed what the Mer said to him.

"It should heal properly now, since you were in the water the salt should help heal it faster" He gives a kind smile to him.

"Zenitsu" the blond haired boy blurts out suddenly.

"Hmm?" The creature tilts his head the earrings he wore swaying with the movement.

"Ah- m-my name" He stays as he looks away nervously, staring at the sand beside him "It's Zenitsu"

"Oh, I'm Tanjiro"

Tanjiro smiles ever so brightly, he can't understand why such an odd creature, one that definitely was a completely different species, could be so… pretty? Zenitsu can only compare Tanjiro's smile to the radiating sun that was not even in his view.

"I'm Inosuke" a deeper voice next to him causes Zenitsu to jump and he scrambles to hide from the shark headed Mer which ends up being behind Tanjiro. He peeks over Tanjiro's shoulder to see the Indigo grey hue of the other mermaids tail and the laughter the other made at his expense.

Zenitsu's still scared of the guy, but he feels a bit of irritation towards him. Why was this guy so mean?

"Inosuke" Tanjiro hisses. Though it sounds more like he's trying to scold him rather than show he's annoyed.

"What?" Inosuke growls at the red haired male. Irritated about how much Tanjiro was ordering him around. He's done nothing but tell Inosuke what to do around the tailless creature since they saved it and kept his attention on the aforementioned boy. Inosuke was getting real fed up with it and he wanted to mess with the other to see what he's capable of. And so far all its done is scream and run away like a coward.

Tanjiro can't see the scowl on his face because of the mask but he knows it's there. Inosuke leans back on the sand, using his arms to prop himself up and he turns away.

He gives a hopeless sigh at Inosuke and he turns his head to look behind him. Zenitsu was eyeing Inosuke nervously and he looked up at Tanjiro with uncertainty. Tanjiro makes a scratching motion to his cheek with a clawed finger.

"Sorry about him, he can be pretty stubborn sometimes"

Zenitsu quirks his brow at him questionably and Tanjiro explains what he means.

"He really likes his mask so it's hard to get him to stop wearing it, I've already tried explaining it to him twice that you would probably be scared of it when you woke up" Tanjiro shifts on the sand to inch closer to the water's edge to sink his drying tail into the water. The sand drying up on his scales made them quite itchy.

"It's not really something you want to wake up to first thing, after all"

Zenitsu nodded as he eyed the mermaid laying on the beach. The cold, beady, lifeless eyes of the shark head bore into him and he felt uneasy as the seconds grew.

A growl was heard under the mask and this made Zenitsu jump in his spot at the threatening sound that came from him.

"What are you staring at sardine? Wanna go?!" The creature turns the shark head to look at him fully and he puffed his chest.

Zenitsu's heart starts racing in his ribcage at the implication.

"N-no way!" Zenitsu waves his arms like mad in a display that shows he truly didn't want to.

Inosuke huffs, his tail swishes on the sand irritably, pushing the miniscule grains, due to erosion, away. Tanjiro looks up worried at the two's exchange.

He should have guessed Inosuke wanted to fight him at some point. He was very determined to fight just about anything and anyone to prove to himself and others that he was the strongest thing around.

Zenitsu stands up again, slower his time and he looks around his environment once more. He brings his arms to wrap around his frame and it's then that he realizes how cold and wet he is. He shivered in place and questions how he hadn't noticed before. Why were his clothes damp with water?

He furrows his brows as he looks around again for the third time and he starts to panic a little.

How did he get here?

As if reading his mind Tanjiro answers him.

"We brought you here"

Zenitsu turns to look down at the Mermaid who's torso was half on the small beach and the rest hidden in the dark blue waters.

"H-how? There's no entrance besides the hole in the ceiling and I doubt you can fly...r-right?" Zenitsu voice questions at the thought of them flying but the idea didn't ease him at the horrifying sight his mind produced for him.

Tanjiro gives an amused shake of his head and points to the water, but Zenitsu feels like he may be pointing below the water's surface and not the water itself.

"There's an entryway near the bottom of the lake that leads to a small tunnel and into the sea, that's how we brought you here"

"Why? Couldn't you have just left me on a nearby beach instead?"

Tanjiro shook his head.

"I was worried if I left you on the beach by yourself that some animal might come around and find your unconscious body, I didn't want you to get more hurt than you already are"

Zenitsu blinks at the Mermaid's thoughtfulness.

"Why are you so nice?" Zenitsu questioned. Tanjiro tilted his head as if not understanding what he met, but the smile he wore never faltered.

"Do I need a reason to be nice?"

"Well… I guess not…" Zenitsu mumbles quietly looking away, he spots a few rocks and seashells littering the ground, and an occasional crab here and there.

Tanjiro's lips curled down, unsure why Zenitsu's mood had suddenly changed to something so somber. He looks at Inosuke but the other Mer just shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. Had he said something wrong?

"Being nice to others feels good, and I'm happy knowing I helped someone, I don't think there's much else on how to explain it, it just is"

Zenitsu turns to him again and Tanjiro sways his tail in the water creating small gentle ripples that evened out the further they went. His eyes were quite beautiful for a human Tanjiro thinks. Fondly staring at the golden pools that reminded him of the beautiful conch shells he would find at the bottom of the ocean, along with other rocks and stones that humans called precious.

Tanjiro then notices that the human is making a weird motion with his body. He thinks about what it could be but his mind comes up blank.

"Why are you vibrating like that?" Inosuke says for him.

"Vibrating? You mean my shaking?" Zenitsu asked back.

"Well obviously I'm cold, wet and there no heat in here, at this rate if the temperature drops anymore i'll probably get sick or worse…hypothermia" he shivers again.

Tanjiro's eyes widened and he stumbles as he drags himself a little onto the small beach.

"Oh gosh, i'm so sorry! I forgot that humans are more sensitive to temperatures than us" Tanjiro apologizes, he looks around frantically. Damn, maybe he should have found a better safe spot? There was nothing around to make a fire like he'd seen humans do countless times with sticks, rocks and grass.

It was already late in the afternoon too, so he didn't want to drag Zenitsu into the cold water right now to set him up where the nearest beach on the island was that was really risky.

He could easily contract some sort of illness and Tanjiro didn't want to get him sick. He was trying to nurture Zenitsu not make him worse. He had to think fast. Tanjiro racked his head for a good minute trying to come up with something. He looked up to look for any twigs or leaves that may have dropped from the top of the hole but disappointment greeted him at the clear area.

Maybe he could try to us his heat to light up wet wood? He's never tried but he might as well if it will work in the end.

"Inosuke," Tanjiro called the shark headed boy, who turned to him curiously.

"Could you get some rocks about this size" he makes a size estimation with his hands to show the other.

"Why should i? If he's cold in this temperature that just proves he too weak to live, why bother?"

"Please Inosuke, just help me out? I have to go find some wood and leaves farther out"

The male didn't make any motion to move so Tanjiro sighs and slumps his shoulders.

"Alright, I'll do it myself just keep an eye on Zenitsu okay?" Suddenly Inosuke springs up from his laid back position and he growls at Tanjiro.

"Wait a minute- you don't think I can do it huh?"

Tanjiro blinks at the other Mermaid.

"Uh, I didn't say-"

"Don't think you'll beat me Gonpachiro! I'll get more more rocks faster than you!"

"Oh! So you'll help?" Tanjiro says with a smile at the change in schedule.

"Forget that! I'm gonna beat you at whatever game of fetch this is to prove I'm better!"

"Okay, so you'll help, great!"

"Uh, guys…?"

"I'm not helping this is a challenge!"

"I'll get the twigs and stuff you find some rocks okay?" Tanjiro says before his head disappears under the water.

"Hey!" Inosuke yelled after him as he dove into the water after Tanjiro.

Zenitsu watches the water as the rippling ceases and is left with nothing but stillness. He stares at the unmoving lake in front of him. Zenitsu's voice comes out quiet and timid in the empty cave.

 

"Guys…?"