crane

Fic: Adrift

Author's Note: This was inspired by [personal profile] aruarian_dancer's Adrift, about a mermaid that wanted to see sakura blossoms.
Rating: G. No warnings
Word Count: 1400
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to people living or dead or real situations is coincidence.



The mermaid swam near the rocky coast, at the edge of the waters she knew. For most of her life, she'd always stayed in the deep, dark depths, singing with the whales, teasing the glowers, and dancing with jellyfish billowing up toward the light. The silver shimmer of a cloud of anchovies flashing through shadows drew her, and as the school darted to and fro, frothing and billowing like a plume of sand in the water, she chased and snacked on the slow.

Sea birds broke the surface, diving into the water to snatch up their meal. Curious, she came close to see the sharp beaks, wide eyes, narrow heads, and gaping maws.

That was when she saw the swirl of what the tiny fish gathered to eat. Unlike the normal plankton or krill, the pale cloud of fragments that they fed on didn't run away. The color intrigued her. Not the cold pale whites of things underwater, these held a spark of warmth, a flush of heat unusual and therefore fascinating.

She caught one and she cupped its translucence in her palms. Round with a notch in the edge, it was a gorgeous pink, flushed like living corals, as distinct as blood in the water.

From the depths of her centuries-old memories floated the word: "Sakura."

For all her self-sufficiency, she enjoyed the two-legged ones that walked the land surrounded by sea. Those on Big Lands that polluted the waters and made too much noise were never as interesting as the ones that understood the proper importance of her home. Those she brought waves to ride or lower tides to allow access to the sweetest of shellfish. A boy, in exchange for her favors, told her stories every full moon until he had gone old and gray. He gave her names for many of the four-footed animals, the things that grew in the air, and had even given her a name as well. There hadn't been anyone capable of calling her by it for so long she'd forgotten it.

One of the things the boy had spoken of with reverence had been the spring blooming of the sakura trees. The tales of blood and bodies buried under their roots lending their color to the blossoms, of the swift absolute commitment to blossoming even under the threat of snow or freeze all played through the mermaid's mind.

A longing to see such a thing for herself seized her heart, and she followed the cloud of petals through the waters. When they ran out, she started to ask the various denizens of the sea if they knew where the petals came from. One fish swam in excited circles about her, leading her in all directions before she finally realized that the tiny thing didn't have enough brain to stay to a single task.

She looked around, saw another cloud of petals, and swam over. An old octopus undulated about a rock, one petal caught on a sucker.

Can you help me find more of them? she asked with her arms and the tendrils of her hair.

The octopus put the petal near its eyes, tasted it, and then coiled one arm about her wrist to tug her gently away.

She followed.

The water grew warmer as they moved closer to the shore. Silt, rock, plants, coral, and sand tilted up. The sea floor got closer than she liked, limiting the swing and play of her flukes, making her feel trapped. She didn't like the echoes of motions hiding the feel of the old octopus's undulating strokes through the water.

But there were more petals: a thin trail and then a pool of them as if a gust of air blew a cloud into the sky and they'd gradually fallen.

The fragile things danced about the stark square red structure of a man-made gate. It stood stolid, unlike the rest of her world the thing was regular, unyielding in line or motion. A shrine entrance, set in an ungainly pile of man-made rock on the ocean floor, the two legs of it spread in a stance of challenge to the sea. It didn't keep her from going through and she was relieved. Once past, she swam around the shine built on rafts that floated with the tides, so that the building always seemed to be right on the sea.

Flowing from the temple was the mouth of an old river, deep of bed and slow of current. The water there was sweet, too sweet for her guide. She stroked the smooth skin of the old octopus just under its bright eyes. It fluttered once against her hand, and then shot back the way they'd come.

Turning, the mermaid swam against the flow of the river, seeing sprays of blossoms, rafts of semi-transparent petals lit pink by the moon. She circled slowly when the moon's light was broken by the laced shadow of tree branches above her.

A mermaid could lose herself out in the air. When a mermaid lost the sea, dried out in the air, she would turn to mist if she were careless. So she had to take her courage in both hands before she could break the surface of the water to look.

Sakura trees towered over the shore, proud, huge, gnarled with time, reaching as far up into the mist-clouded sky as she could see. They bowed under the weight of buds, flowers, and half-open blossoms; and a rain of petals fell slowly from pink-clouded limbs, the wealth of flowers making the trees dance under the clear-cut crescent moon, that, for once, didn't waver with wind and wave.

She gasped in wonder, and water poured from her gills. Cuttingly dry air filtered into breathing tissues that hadn't done this for centuries. She coughed, retched water from her throat, and then took a deep breath that burned once, twice, and then was filled with perfume. A rich, profoundly wild scent whirled its way into her nose, mind, and memory. The sharp tang of floral and an underlying musk made her want to just float there and breathe forever. She made a soft trill of pleasure and sought a way closer.

The horns of the moon caught her attention. She laughed and followed a wave onto a weather-smoothed rock, sliding onto the sturdy surface. Once she was sure of her perch, she crooned a lure to the moon. She sang of the strength that could lift the back of the ocean, of perfect and beautiful curves, and of the shine of light on the edge of the clouds. She wove a petition for a little mermaid to see and swing in the night sky. The intricately perfect notes reached the aloof silver features, and they softened. The moon smiled down on the mermaid, and bright beams reached down, sparkling and sure, and wove about silver-blue scales.

Gently, as gently and inevitably as it pulled the tide, the moon lifted the mermaid into his arms, holding her gently over the pink clouds of sakura and cradling her close. She swung her flukes and laughed in delight. She made a love song to the moon and the sakura and sang it high and sweet, delighting in every breath, every petal that fell into the water, and every note as sharp, cool, and clear as the moon itself.

Breathing deep of the tantalizing scent, she swung on the horns of the moon, and he crooned low to her in return. Held safe after all the efforts she'd made to get to this place, sleep began to weigh heavy on the mermaid's eyes, which fluttered closed. Her hair, swinging free and drying in the late night breezes, began to drift away as mist.

The edge of the night sky winked gold at the sly old moon.

Then a vigilant cock crowed in the morning. His harsh, strident tones startled the mermaid awake.

Frightened by how near the sun was, she took a moment to compose herself before murmuring a soft refrain of regret and farewell to the moon. In return, he shimmered a ladder upon the wrinkled surface of the water, and she slid smoothly down, dropping back into the blessed coolness of the sea. She waved as the rim of the Sun touched the edge of the sky and slipped underwater as the dawn burned the surface with his fire. Water filled her gills again, and after so long without, it felt heavy, chill, and wet. She circled the river, letting its flow sooth her, before she headed back to the ocean.

The taste of salt in her mouth brought her back to herself. Satisfied with her adventure, she gratefully headed back to her echoless deeps, but as she swam she sang softly of blossoms steeped in blood and the shining crescent of the moon.


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