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Poor Unfortunate Souls

Chapter Text

Inko didn’t stir in her bed, sinking into the comfort of the blankets and warmth of her husband next to her. Toshinori stroked a hand up her arm, drawing her slightly closer as she drifted into the black, relaxed.

It wasn’t to stay that way. The world of dreams lightened if only to illuminate a darker threat, grey at the edges and a shadowy form approaching her. Inko realized she was underwater, but still wearing her legs, still breathing as she stood in it. It didn’t make sense, but dreams could do what they wanted, even more so when someone was enchanting them.

Sensei floated closer to her, closing the gap with something that might have been an attempt to not tower over her, but instead his large body, many swirling tentacles, curled up under them, a reminder of how encompassing he could be. How encompassing he thought he should be. Each arm fluid, strong, black as jet and decorated with gold and jewelry, cuffs and charms, as if to pretend the underside weren’t covered in suckers, in stingers, everything you never wanted to be caught by. A colossus of danger, looming over her, a very small human half.

She couldn’t believe how she’d once preened at the attention, the lessons. Counted his praise as more valuable than the gold- and more likely to get.

“Hello, Inko.” He broke through her thoughts, her regrets. Voice echoing slightly, the warm timbre of the sea softening it as it did in her childhood memories.

“Akkorokamui-sensei.”

The one that had taught her magic, as he had taught every mage of her maternal line, the ones in the Shimura Rookery. The one she technically owed her life to, having taught both her mother and her how to split, how to walk on land side by side with her otherself as humans did- for a price, Inko's hunger that burned even now, low in her stomach, never satisfied when split, human food never enough.

It had taken a while to learn how to get used to that, how to learn to sleep when her stomach ached, but just as she’d learned to walk on wobbling legs, she’d managed. And truly, she had barely even felt it in Toshinori’s arms.

But here, in this gaping space where only the Kraken and little mage floated, her stomach gaped empty too.

“My dear student.” A smile stretched across his ageless face, shining white and sharp against tan skin, against the soft dark curls fanning his head. A smile that was too wide, too tense at the edges, grey eyes hungry in a way she was not.

Inko did not think he was thinking of her very much as a student, or dear- or maybe he was too much one way or the other. Either way, she was wary. She’d seen him three times since her marriage to Toshinori- once not long after Izuku was born, then twice in the pools as the mages and her family gathered. Every time, dodging questions about her husband, offers and inquiries just this side of uncomfortable. Once, it would have made the girl pleased her teacher was so attentive, concerned that she ended up in a good place, but now the queen was wary of his looks, his closeness, what he would do if he knew the little pup he smiled at as Izuku wove between the pod was in fact Toshinori’s son. Now she knew of his politics, now she knew his wife had vanished so suddenly, without explanation. Now she had a reason she knew why his brother, Takohachi, avoided the classes, kept away from his brother as much he could while still tending to the boy-witch that was his quiet nephew.

“Sensei, this is a surprise.” She bobbed her head. A queen never bowed to anyone, but a student to a teacher was all right.

“I’m sure it is.” The smile still didn’t reach his indigo eyes, the sea at the bottom of the chasms, barely not black, barely not blue. Then he sighed. “Oh, Inko. How long did you think you could keep this from me?”

“Pardon?”

“Always.” One side of the smile pulled in, then fell. “Dear Inko, I mean what you have been doing these last nine years?”

She’d married Toshinori nine years ago, the move to the new palace, by the sea. She’d given a tie to the sea to one of the humans Sensei complained about the most, had helped facilitate trade, new agreements with Toyomitsu that benefited both the splendid underwater city and her new home on land. But she’d taken the trade the other king had with Akkorokamui, had helped create charms to protect their ships, kept him from sinking and taking any he liked.

She didn’t regret it. Inko couldn’t regret it, not her husband, not her sons, not being the queen her kingdom needed.

But oh, she would pay for it.

As surely as she paid to be able to split with her hunger.

As surely as the Kraken had made her mother pay for disobedience with her life, for all she’d never been able to find. Inko knew, had known for nine years.

“Akkorokamui-sensei,” She began, unsure of where to go from there. “I married after my time in studies was over, I had paid.” True, and true, and true the same he would not care. But Inko would have it said, at least. “What matter could you take with it, my life here?”

“You… had paid for your studies.” He nods, a hand going to his face. Not a whisker to speak of how old he must be, just ran a hand over his sharp jaw as his sharp gaze ran over Inko. “But dear student, don’t insult either of us that there could be no issue.” Inko couldn’t help stiffening, swallowing thick. If she weren’t under water or whatever this dream is, she’s sure she wouldn’t have been able to keep the tears from falling. “Still… I want to come to an agreement.”

An agreement? Inko wondered, something she refused to call hope stirring in her chest.

“Yes, of course.” Oh, she has said that out loud. Or not, who knew what he could do in these dreams. The point still stood. “The Shimura Rookery is dear to me too. Now, little Izukuma, I still am to teach. That has not been paid yet, Inko.”

The unfortunately familiar panic, that which she had shoved down each of the three times he’d happened across her with her family, the mages, since Izuku had been born. All she had done to slip away from any binding words, to keep him from looking too closely at her baby, little as it worked.

She was so glad, at least, that Mirio had no magic. He took so much after his father, if Sensei had seen him…

Well she wouldn’t have made it to nine years, that was certain.

“He is of one of my pods, I think… I could so easily forgive you both, teach him well, if you left, came with me.”

Inko blinked. “Come with you?” Forgiveness was far from easy for the elder Akkorokamui brother. She didn’t know if she could think of a single incident, expect perhaps for his family. And even then, his brother avoided anything suspicious, his son was too small to be blamed, and his wife… Well, she certainly hadn’t been spared either.

“Of course.” Sensei said oddly, well, he almost cooed, “He is such a delightful boy, and you, well, you…” He trails off, flipping a hand away from him but only finding Inko staring in confusion. “You don’t know.” He realized, all joking aside.

Then he moved, so fast it should have been sharp, but it was not, it was fluid as he dove through the water over Inko, arms and torso and then legs in an arch that cast her into shadow. The queen turned, to try and keep him in sight, but there was nothing behind her.

The light shifted again, and she faced front, jolting at the sight of Sensei, smaller. Not small, perhaps as tall as Toshinori, perhaps a bit more, but smaller than the titan of his true form, leaning close to her.

It was startling, to see his face like this, she never had before. The wavering mouth, the soft curls over his forehad, just-tanned skin warmer than a creature who lurked in chasms had any right to be. Gold chains sparking in his hair, shrunken down as he had been.

And too close, far too close.

Especially looking at her like that.

“Inko, I cannot say you did not…. Find a good place. But have a better offer, give me your hand. Izukuma will learn at no price as any son should, you can come home-“

Inko didn’t quite understand the words when he first spoke, didn’t want to believe them. But they bobbed down, and her mouth gaped at the idea of the Kraken’s cave being any sort of home.

“I- I’m married.” Slipped from her mouth, flat, confused.

“I know, that’s why we’re having this discussion.” Sensei reminded with a cutting look but the same sickening soft smile. “And I was married, once.”

Her mouth twisted from open surprised to pressed disgust. “Yes, and she vanished with no word or reason one day, what else would I expect for the next one?”

The smile finally fell. “Grave accusation, my student, but I could see it worrying a woman like you. You were… close.”

“She was my friend; I cannot do this.” Inko shook her head.

“I know… So I will offer a choice.” Sensei drifted backwards, away from her. He held both hands aloft, a silver dagger forming above them. “You can come with me, with Izukuma. You’ll still be a queen, two sons that adore you. Bring your son to the beach within a week, step into the sea and I will be there for you. Or, you can take this knife, and stab Toshinori through the heart.” Inko recoiled back. “Three days- three dawns to do this, cast it into the seafoam and I will consider no debt between us. You could do whatever you wished, after that.”

She was shaking her head, green hair as seaweed in a current, mouthing no no no, no she would not do that.

Sensei didn’t care, he just leant back, drifting further away but getting no smaller- growing back to his magnificent size to tower over her. The knife was pushed to her, pommel to her chest, as Sensei smiled. “I hope to see you within a week.”

And then he dove, disappeared, and Inko cried out with pain, sitting bolt upright in bed. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t-

Inko collapsed back onto the pillow, breathing evened and mind stilled for now, into something with no dreams until Toshinori would pull away from her as he rose, draw her from sleep. She’d remember the dream, then. She’d feel the dagger under her pillow. And she would do nothing, a spell to banish it whispered, no other mention made but to cast more protection on her son’s doors, on the castle, just in case. Toshinori would never know it was there, and she'd never go to the beach again, if need be. Never let her sons. The wonderful castle Toshinori had built was smaller than the older one, but this was near her home, had intricate water ways running through the rooms. She'd gaped at the idea of such a gift, for her wedding, but Toshinroi had only laughed, held her close. Patted her otherself's head, the ringed seal he'd named Lilypad. Inko thought it was a bit silly, but landfolk almost never joined into one being, so two names made sense for them. And when he'd suggested his pet name for her, with such a sweet smile, who was she to refuse.

And now she was going to try her best to refuse the sea to her sons. She'd banished the dagger, sent it far away. But she couldn't banish her fears.

Meanwhile, in the deeps, Akkorokamui Motoji knew there was no chance of the woman he’d taught turning to him, in either of the ways he’d offered. So he sighed, decided to act. An otherself, weakened from being split, easy enough to draw apart when he could feel the waters flowing through that oaf’s palace, drawn from the sea proudly as if they were his, to keep his ill-gotten seawife there.

He shook his head, ending the spell on the crystal bowl he’d drawn Inko’s dream into. The light dimed from it, casting more of the cave into shifting shadows. He turned, focusing on one, his brother. Up near a larger nook, watching him with tilted head, silvery hair drifting around his face. He never understood that choice, the long hair was a nuisance when not tied back, but his brother had plenty of other things to worry about than his hair style.

“Motoji?” He asked, “What were you doing?”

Barely a breath of magic in him, his little brother could not feel the strings, the world of dreams, how blood and magic mixed under his command.

“Nothing, just watching something.” he stretched out his arms, his shoulders. “I’m going to place a few charms and be back.”

“This late?” Takohachi asked, as if he had any right when he definitely was slipping off somewhere, sometimes too. For all he knew, to the same traitorous purposes Inko had.

“It won’t take long.” And it wouldn’t, not something a little slow to act like he hoped, to stretch out hours. The illusion would take more work without Inko’s blood but was necessary. “Go to bed, Takohachi, if he wakes tell him I’ll be back soon.” His son was, after all, so little. Takohachi was only half the size of his older brother, but the fry was only on his eight year. The cave was safe, too, he could trust it would protect both.

But, as he slipped out of the cave opening, his mind turned to ‘what-if-not’s, all the ideas, and he had the perfect idea.

No one could fault a father for protecting his son, after all.

The Kraken's grin could have sunk a thousand ships, then.

Chapter Text

Tamaki’s knuckles were white against the cord across his chest, flicking down deeper into the sea. It was dim enough he could see no colors, even if he had been wearing them, just the water and vague purple glow coming from inside the cave. Hundreds of ships, broken into pieces, lay on the seafloor between the cavern walls: a trophy hall that now was the entrance to a prison. Magically upkept, his duty to restock on his visits with all the other things: food from his bag, magic to keep the bars on the prison inside strong and sapping the prisoner’s magic.

He hated coming down here, hated it enough to fill from the tips of his pointed ears to the ends of all his tentacles. He hated those too, truth be told. Straighter, longer hair didn’t cover them for all he tried, white stripes on the many legs not much of a difference when everyone still knew. Everyone still stared.

Even Izuku stared, and the prince didn’t even know every reason to hate him yet!

Of course, Izuku stared at everything, still so new to living under the sea for his studies, rather than up on the land, in his castle. It didn’t mean anything, from him, a rational voice reminded him.

Unless it did, another more reasonable, snide, loud voice argued. Who knows what he thinks of you, who knows what he says. Always asking questions, it’s only a matter of time until he does know, and then he’ll avoid you. Interrogate you. Hate you, either one.

Tamaki, called Son of Amaji, pulled to a stop, shaking his head. He needed to stop, needed to focus on this or the prisoner, the Kraken, would pull out all of his weaknesses, examining them with a wide smile and tilt of his head, the only entertainment he got down here to torment the younger sea-witch. This was why he had warned Izuku to not follow him, why no one else came. No one would be staring, expect the centuries-old murderous enchanter.

He swallowed thickly, if he were on the surface, the rocks or the beach, he’d be gulping into his lungs. But instead he just had to will his gills to flair out, to calm him.

A shadow crossed, and Tamaki whirled around, eyes wide. Nothing, just more rocks. It must have just been a ship crossing on the surface, or a cloud, or something.

Or it wasn’t, a shark, a seal, a dangerous deep-sea fish with venom or stingers, something that could camouflage or hide or even turn translucent-

The cave, a voice raised, nothing would hurt you in the cave.

Well, nothing would kill him, at least, and so Tamaki did his best to not dash there as fast as he could, no need to announce himself when the Kraken knew when he was coming- and could have probably sensed him if he had no habit to follow anyway. Tamaki would only embarrass himself with an attempt at unnecessary words, clumsy and stuttering. Instead he stared at his bag, focusing on undoing the clasp and letting the top drift open, scent coming out now it wasn’t spell bound inside.

Tamaki was not going to swim into the deeps smelling like a three-course meal, thank you very much.

“Oh, there you are, little Tamaki.” The silvery bars glistened in the light from his side of the cave, total blackness behind them. The darkness stirred, shifting, as black tendrils pressed up against the bars, a torso appearing to lean through. Sharp teeth in an even sharper smile as Akkorokamui draped his arms lazily over the metal, gold cuffs a stark contrast to the rest of the dreary cave, leaning to look at him. “Something the matter?”

Of course there was something the matter, if he was asking that, and Tamaki’s heart raced even more than it had before as he stood in the middle of his portion of the cave. What did he know, what was he planning… or did he just want a reaction, entertainment the only value Tamaki had now.

“I- uh- I- no. Are you hungry?”

“Starving.” The Kraken pushed back off the bars into the shadows, one tentacle stretching out from another square in the cage to reach for the bag. Tamaki let him take it silently. The monster wasn’t starving, it would probably take years to get him to that point, but the weekly visits with the food Tamaki enchanted would fill him up well enough, and the lad knew that any unwise fish that happened to swim in the cave was his prey.

Whether or not that included him, well.

Wasn’t that obvious?

Tamaki forced himself to move forward, legs curling up and crawling across the stone, it was easiest to work on the bars when his father wasn’t right up to them, leering and watching and thinking him such a fool. Even if the sounds of the beast devouring the meal wasn’t exactly the most encouraging sound either. Flaring his gills wider, Tamaki placed a hand on the metal, and felt the buzz, the low hum that blocked his magic. He pulled away as if burned, then waved a hand, focusing on the spell. Something to suck magic out, a nifty spell that probably didn’t have to be maintained as often as he did, fueled by the power it drew from the prisoner, but Tamaki was nothing if not careful. He stuck a finger in his mouth, biting down with his fangs. Then he smeared some of the blood on the bars, muttering the enchantment.

Careful with the words, always careful, double and triple checking.

When it was sealed, his skin did as well, barely a thought of effort needed for something that minor. Safe, now, and his shoulders relaxed minutely. Now to just wait, take his bag back from the other sea-witch, keep the lanterns going, and go home.

Really, simple.

Except not, because the sea-witch was going to talk to him, and Tamaki was too cowardly to leave when he did, too weak to stop any consequences the next time if he tried.

Thought drifting in an anxious spiral, Tamaki stared at the bit of blood that swirled up into the water, remembering another time he had bled out, not long before these bars were erected, the chains wrought of the worst material he could think of.


Tamaki remembered when he was seven- one specific summer day.

At the time, he'd thought was the most terrifying day he could have had. Uncle hadn’t been minding him quite as much, slipping away with a finger pressed to lips, Tamaki shaking at what would happen if he was going as some co-conspirator or something. Even as a fry, he'd known his father's anger, tried to avoid that pain.

But that day had been surprising calm, more baubles of light in the sea around the cave, Tamaki would swim between them, trying to take the path with the most light between them, around and around.

And then a shadow passed over him, and he froze. Looked over his shoulder, even then hoping to just find a ship had passed overhead, wouldn't have been too bad that day. Father busy, wouldn't even have sunken them. Or a cloud, Tamaki had never seen a cloud, but liked the sound of the things all fluffy and floating near the sun, even if they caused some trouble for others. Or even just the lanterns shifting as Father stirred in thought.

It was not those things.

It was a large animal, grey and sleek and smooth. Three times bigger than Tamaki, it seemed, or maybe ten, or maybe a hundred. He drifted back slowly into one of the lanterns, locked on the gaze of the animal. The color of some of Father's jewels, Uncle said those were green, but these eyes were so dark they were almost black.

(On the surface, Inko had been feeling light headed all day. She blamed it on the nightmare the night before, seeing her Sensei. She assumed it was fear. She assumed she’d had at least three days to prepare, maybe a week.)

And then the animal lunged, sharp teeth in it's mouth reveled as it nice, latched on to one of Tamaki's tentacles.

(She’d looked out the windows, seen her other half in the pool in the courtyard. Nothing to worry about. If she’d been there in person, had reached out to touch Lillypad, to form into one, she would have realized it was an illusion, magiced seafoam with no life in itself.)

The young boy screamed, sharp and shrilly, but the creature then tugged him about, pulling, and Tamaki choked on the sound, silent horror instead.

A seal can swing her prey with the force to turn a penguin inside out. Tamaki knew that somehow, though he didn’t remember how. maybe seeing it in the visits to the rookery, vague things, maybe his father had told him. So many things he didn’t remember, except how to be afraid.

It hurt, it hurt-

(She would have wondered why her hunger had been worse today, if somehow her old teacher could tamper with it now, if he was enchanting her somehow to something near starvation.)

And then a bolt of hot white dashed past, too quick for Tamaki to even feel the warmth as it struck his captor, as it howled on its own pain. Teeth open, Tamaki slipping out, drifting down, almost faint. Another bolt, and he closed his eyes, willing it to be over, willing to wake up in his bed with his uncle tucking a blanket around him.

(Inko stopped still in the hallway, chocking. Her hands went to her throat, trying to find air, trying to magic it out. There was nothing, her vision went white. She fell to her knees, couldn’t hear the commotion, the guards rushing to her aid, the concerned shouts and questions.)

“My boy,” a low voice echoed against Tamaki’s chest as it spread out, filled the waves. He flinches, but his eyes open, turning as he drifts to see his father, looming now over the cave, skin shifting to its natural form as he ends his camouflage. Big teeth stretched wide in a smile that doesn’t exactly feel safe either, like the animal. “my boy.” He said again, and Tamaki whimpered in response. He wanted an answer, he knew, but Tamaki is small and stupid and doesn't know what, just hurting, just crying.

(“Inko! What is it, what’s wrong?” Toshinori called, pulled from his office. Aru, his otherself, bounded forward on four fluffly legs, barking in alarm. Sirs Nedzu and Sasaki were just behind.)

“I- i-“ he tried to draw his legs up, to curl into a ball, but moving one sent a sharp pain through it, all the way to the small of his back, all the way up his spine. With another whimper, he looked down on it, on the blood flowing from it. It was all he could do to not throw up, and his father shook his head.

(“Inko?! Inko, love, Inko? Somebody do something!”)

“Nothing to worry about now, my Tamaki, and you did so well.”

(No one could do anything.)

He'd done so well. Hah.

(Inko couldn’t hear him, not anymore.)

A larger black tentacle wrapped around him, pulled him to the man's hand reach. A finger stroked his head as the kraken shrank, until the large hand cupped his head and they could slip insider the cave.

(The seal in the water, and the queen in the castle, drew their last breath.)

“Let's take care of that injury… and my boy, I recommend you stay inside for a while, with your uncle.” The smile stretched out, to his open sharp ones, and Tamaki nodded before passing out, feeling the tentacles lift off him for a have to heal his, then press into bed. The last thought was that his uncle looked so mad, he must have gotten in trouble for letting Tamaki slip off, even if he hadn’t meant too.

(Lillypad disappears, lands without a sound next to Inko. Toshinori screams.)

But he couldn't say sorry either, just think it as he curled up and everything went black.


But now he was no child, scared, running through the casle. A man in his seventeenth year, instead, but not thinking of that.

He remembered the pain of the seal bite. He remembered clinging to his uncle when the mages came to retaliate, to put Father to a tribunal. Confusion as all he could say was what he remembered- the animal otherself that attacked him, and not a clue who the green haired boy, not a clue why he had tried to give him a little smile, called out his name. He was from the pods, another hurt by Father, and so there. He wished he could think about those more, but the older sea-witch had been clear, he was to not remember them, to put them out of his mind. 

Tamaki did remember the frustration of telling that he didn't remember, that he was sorry, didn't even remember Mama leaving, because Father had told him not too. He didn't know why she vanished, or when. Just fuzzy memories before, and so many of seeing her hurt, before something and an order.

It took an embarrassingly long time for Tamaki to realize the memories of Izuku had likely been taken the same way, try and mold him a useful tool when other's questioned. His father had already complained about protecting his precious only son, but that didn't hold up when you were the one to enchant the being, puppeting and dragging them down to attack him instead. 

Tamaki only realized he should have more memories when he was nine, when he'd woken up to a strange sailfishman, one Mustu, breaking into his bedroom. A scar down his face, calling him Akkorokamui. That was when he'd fled to the surface, delirious, afraid, to find a little inlet of water, rocks. He'd hidden there until morning, and been so shocked to find a mage, joined between a man and a white otter, watching him with suspicion before calling to the prince on the surface he could approach. 

“Tamaki? My boy?” something crossed behind his back, and the lad was thrown out of his thoughts. He blinked back to the dim cave in the present, shivering as a black arm slithered past him, tugging him slightly forward. He was back near the cage, impatient. “Oh, has this workmanship caught your attention?” The tone dropped, something angry, sad, hurting.

He always could make everything about himself, Tamaki shook his head quickly.

“No, no, just… thinking.”

“Oh? Share, then, I don’t hear any thoughts of yours enough.”

“Ah, ah, nothing.” Tamaki couldn’t keep looking up at the man anymore, dropped his gaze. He hated how his hands shook.

“Hmm. Nothing, what a waste of your mind then. Surely, something has taken root? A passing thought about whatever these strange, new things I’ve been sensing in my sea?”

Tamaki stiffened. “No, no, nothing new.” Except there was, except Izuku had been down for a few months, slowly gaining control of his magic, finding it helpful to train with Nejire and David and the other mages in the city rather than up on land. And with how temperamental the war mage’s elements were, no wonder it was making ripples. “I, uh, I have to-“ and then he turned, dashed to the stone wall of the cave. All he’d have to do is reset one magelight, really, that would be enough and his blood would have set into the metal, that would be enough-

“Tamaki!” his father's voice snapped, stopping the heart in his torso too as he froze, back hunched, afraid to look over his shoulder at him but he had to-

No, he didn’t. he didn’t have to, not anymore. He breathed out, forcefully. He could go back home, to the castle there. Other mages could upkeep the prison, even. They would be disappointed in him, though.

“Tamaki, you don’t have to go so soon.” His father sounded disappointed too, softer voice now. “My son, let me know what you are doing, you’re all I have left. Perhaps even a trade, to interest you? Any question you have of me, to tell me what new thing you are exploring.”

A trade. He specialized in those.

Tamaki never knew what he had traded his mother to get her hand, to get him. Uncle never said, asking father wasn’t an option.

Well, except now.

In return for telling him about how Izuku, the student he’d desired so much, was within the city walls, learning for others.

Tamaki had enough brains to know that was a terrible idea, at least. Shaking hands went to the light on the wall, pouring more strength into it. It flickers, then sets heavier in the back of his mind, where magic echoed. It would last a while longer, at least until he was next to arrive. Tamaki was not going to go venturing into a cave he couldn’t see, especially not one his father was in, bars or anything notwithstanding.

“There is nothing new to tell, Father.” His voice only wavers a little, because its true. Not that there is nothing new, but that he won’t tell him.

Father, clearly, is less happy with that answer than Tamaki was to have to composure to give it. He can feel him behind him, picture the annoyed cross arms, the disdainful look on his face, as, “Oh, truly? Than you are weaker and dimmer than I thought, to not sense it. Or willfully ignoring it like a fool- am I the only one telling you how important your powers are? Those petty scaled spanners in the city clearly know how to use you here, must know it has value.”

The boy ducks his head at the insults; they sting, yes, but they are far from the worse his father has done to him over the years. Even if the city was using Tamaki, better them than the Kraken. And besides, Izuku wasn’t, Mirio wasn’t.

His father scoffed one last time, and Tamaki realized something else Izuku wasn’t doing- listening to him.

Because the little sealboy appeared at the mouth of the cave, furious red under dark curls, the green muted by the water, the low light. But the clenched fists, tight posture, aggravated flick of his flippers was obvious. Tamaki had seen that, a few times before, it usually mean the boy was about to throw all self-preservation out the window and blast whoever was picking on a smaller kid or pretty fish away from them.

Tamaki might have been the smaller, weaker fish here but he wasn’t, not really, not with those cuffs on his father.

“Oh, hello,” The Kraken must have been smiling. “I see Tamaki must be even more negligent in his studies than I thought, if he didn’t notice you following him.”

He hadn’t. He’d thought he’d seen something, but then-

-and Father wans’t surprised, had been tracking him, had known he was by the door-

-had goaded him into coming in, if he knew he would be heard by more than just Tamaki-

-then he’d known it was Izuku, known him well enough to try that, wasn’t surprised at the new magic in the waters.

Tamaki’s thoughts tumbled over each other, crashing waves over a ship in a storm, lightning sparse enough it could hardly be seen by, just blinding.

“That’s not true- Tamaki is skilled, and very powerful. You- you don't get to tell him he's not, after all you've done.”

“I don't get to?” Father repeated, almost a laugh to his voice. Tamaki's tentacles curled up small, the threat of that tone clear even after so long. “Oh little Izukuma, I'm stuck in this cage, no magic behind these bars, and you would say I am not allowed to speak to my son when he chooses to visit me? You would add punishments and curses? When I spoke no lie? Tamaki, did you notice him following you?”

Dumb, he shook his head, words barely making sense. Why, why would father do it, it must mean he had a plan, but Izuku sneaking out to follow him was hardly something that could be orchestrated or depended on.

“See? He could have, if he were more studious. This is a simple lesson for him that you need not take so personally.”

“Why?” escaped Tamaki's lips, barely whispered, but they rippled in the water, out, drawing the attention of both of the other mages.

“Can I not teach my son-“

“Not you.” Tamaki felt he was floating outside his body. “Izuku, why are you here- you need to go, now- what are you planning?”

His head was spinning as he looked to the cage, he didn't understand-

A touch on his arm brought him back to Earth, Izuku’s hand, concerned face. “I was just- you always seemed sadder when you came back, and wouldn't tell me what you were doing, so I wanted to come and see if I could help.”

Oh.

Well that wasn't a worthwhile reason at all.

“You should-“

“What's that?” Father asked, leaning closer. “my son, mourning when he returns? Regret? Care for me that he never admitted?”

Go, go, he needed to tell Izuku that he should go, but the boy just looked around to snap at the prisoner.

“You’re tormenting and deriding him and now you just- act like you’re so proud of that?”

The seal mage drifted to put himself in front of Tamaki, between him and the prison.

And that's with it clicked.

“Izukuma, move-“ he reached for his friend’s shoulder to pull him back, but as he did Father lashed out as well. A blur of black, grabbing Izuku around the waist, pulling him in. In a blink he was torn out of Tamaki's hold, instead closer to the bars, Father leaning a bit around to see him, stretching to even get the boy.

Tamaki froze, hand still out where Izuku had been. Eyes wide, gills wider as he watched his friend struggle in the grip. He saw the glow, felt him reaching for his magic- and then cry out as he was slammed against the bars, held there.

The bars that would cut him off from magic. The ward that Tamaki himself had just cast, fresh and powerful.

And Tamaki had brought him here. 


 Izuku gasped, bubble of air rising as he tried to focus on his form. Aquatics could all draw breath from the sea, their mother. But now he could hardly think of that, caught instead on the tight hold around him, curling around his arms, pressing against his side. He couldn't move, but he didn't need to call on his magic-

And then the arm around him shifted, pressing the side of his face into the metal bar. Blinking, wincing, he watched as a figure rose up away from te darkens, closer to the bars. Leaning down a bit awkwardly, to touch his head. He flinched away, pulling, but to no avail as the hand tangled in his hair. He couldn’t feel his magic, couldn’t hear anything as the monster’s lips moved.

And then the kraken began to hum, a song that resonated in the water, thrumming in his ribs.

Izuku recognized that song.

 

(He’d been so young, in the nursery with his brother. They had lost Mama the day before, and Daddy had told them she couldn’t come back. Izuku didn’t understand why, just cried, and crawled into bed with Mirio. He did the same the next day, a day so quiet and blurry he wasn’t sure what else had happened. Snug under the warm blankets, Lemi and Kuma in the little pool their waterway swirled into, pulled up in the side. Warm, if not content, the sadess clinging to every stone of the castle like a thick mist.

And then he’d fallen asleep, eyes opening to find himself in the water,  floating, still. He blinked, and then sudeenly, felt a crushing weight. A pressure on his chest, it hurt, as if trying to bury him in the water. He thrashed, trying to get away from it, until with a jolt, he was free. His stomach lunched and he spun in the water at the release, but he was free. Panting, Izuku tried to figure out why. He was floating, Izukuma, in the sea. The sun shone down on the water above him, but when he moved to swim upwards, something crossed overhead, casting him in shadow. His heart froze in fear in the dark, he must have been deeper than he thought. Why? He was never this deep alone, when he and Mama visited her rookery-

Mama-

“Izukuma?” A voice echoed, his mother!

“Momma?”

“Come here, Izukuma.”

Why? Why wasn’t she here? She never let him too far away, always in sight at least in the rocks and waters. Had to swim himself, he wasn’t a baby anymore, but she was always there to help him.

Why not now?

“We’re waiting, take all the time you need, just come here.” Mama assured, and then began to hum, a lullaby for him.

Izuku did his best, clawing his way down, but then felt another shadow behind him. 

A look up showed a shark, outline cut by the sun, sitting still. And then it darted at him. Izuku dove out of the way, to the side, dizzy and out of breath for a moment but when it cleared the shark was nowhere to be seen. The boy bit his lip, nervous, looking around to be sure.

“Izukuma?” another voice asked, deeper, older.

“Huh?”

Up from the dark, another shadow rose- Akkorokamui-sensei, mom's teacher, the mage who was tied to the Shimura Rookery. Broad shoulders adorned with gold and broad silver smile sparkling in the light as he floated deeper than Izuku, looking up.

“Come on now, my boy.” He called up, the same as he directed the mages in gatherings, called the children out from hiding and playing on the rocks to listen and watch. “Your mother is doing important things for me right now, will you come join, learn magic here?”

Izuku’s hand stretched out, but then brushed something else, coarse rope.

A net, pulled up around him. Tugging him back up, he tried to fight, push it.

All he did was get more tangled.

Larger hands reach for him, picking at the rope.

“You are a brave boy, right, Izukuma?”

“I try to, Sensei.”

“Good.” He pulled the net off of the little sealboy, a pat to the head. “It is too deep to swim alone just yet, hold on to this. Keep following. If you don’t look back, you’ll be able to reach your mother and me.”

Izuku took the rope offered to him- silvery and soft, instead of the rough brown that scratched at him in the net. Careful, he winds it once, twice around his hand, nodding. When he looks back up, the Kraken is gone.

But there’s a gentle tug, a pull on the rope, and Izuku follows it down.

He can do this. He can be brave, for his mother. He doesn’t dare look around, just swims.

Something rams into his side and Izuku squeezes his eyes shut. It hurts, teeth tearing into his shoulder, his side, trying to bite and drag him back. Perhaps little fish, he’d heard some that were powerful predators anyway. He thrashed, trying to brush them off, and kept swimming down.

“Izuku!” He heard a voice, worry, Mirio’s. His brother’s. He stopped, not wanting to look behind him.

“Miri-nii?”

“No, Izukuma.” The string wrapped around his hand tightened, stinging on his skin. “Those are the deepstars.”

“The deep stars?”

“Nasty little beasts, the light up and mimic familar voices, to draw in unsuspecting pups.”

Izuku gulped at that, such a terrifying power. He held to the string, and kept swimming. He wouldn’t look back. Not even as the voices kept calling, Mirio’s voice, and then their father’s. Not even as the stinging fish and sharkes swamred him, nudging him every which direction, pushing and pulling and hurting him. Not even as the string jerked  a different way suddenly, wanting him to turn as he swam.

He just kept his eyes squeezed shut and followed it. down, down, do-

He can’t breathe he can’t move he can’t hecan’tbreathehecan’tmove-

“Izuku? My boy, please, Izuku, calm down, shhhhh.”

“Daddy?” Izuku felt odd, sounded odd. Cold, like he was in the air, instead of in the water. Throat rough, like he was breathing above the surface. Could deepstars do this? Was it another illusion? Another test? Was Mama waiting for him still-

He realized he couldn’t hear Mama humming anymore, no song at all.

“Izuku, I’m here, I’m here.” He felt something warm around him, leaned into it with a hum. It wasn’t a bite, wasn’t a dream-

Oh, had that all been a dream?

With some effort, Izuku opened his eyes, blinking at the light. When he focused, he saw concerned blue eyes and blond hair they joked looked like Aru’s ears, the two bangs hanging down. His father.

“Mm. Wha append?” the boy yawned, snuggling into his side.

Toshinori didn’t answer, just pulled his little sealson to his chest, hugging tight, not minding that izuku was soaked from fumbling into the waterway in his sleep. Of course, the attempts to drag him out had ened with magic lashing out and the nursry quite destroued and beginning to flood, so Toshinori was already wet and scratched up.

“What happened to him, Mirai?” He asked, dreading the answer.

The mage placed his hand on Izuku’s head, frowning. Toshi forced himself not to look away, not to think of how he’d done the same to Lillypad, feeling for the cause of magic in the starburst shaped scars on the seal.

“Who?” Mirai corrected softly, face drawn, eyes down. “Same magical source as the strikes and charms on the queen. I imagine he was trying to draw Izuku to the sea, and do the same there.”

The king swallowed through a thick lump in his throat.

“Nedzu can confirm it.” The mage went on. “But I suspect the Kraken. Your majesty,” he pursed his lips. “There may be in his bloodline a strong enough pact that he means to take him forcefully as a student, or servant.”

“Then we’ll sever that.” Toshinori said with finality, standing with Izuku, stroking his curls. Near the doors, a group of gaurds stood, and Aru with them, fur dripping, teeth on Mirio’s nightgown to hold him back. He scooped his other son into his arms too, leaving the room for later to worry about. His heart had almost stopped on coming in to see Mirio trying to keep him from swimming out of the room by capturing him in a blanket, both boys struggling in the water.

He didn’t trust even half his sons in the pool in his room either, the one so empty with Inko gone, but towels and blankets would be enough as he tucked them both into his bed, then watched them from his desk.

He had some letters to send.)

 

Izuku leaned back, looking at the monster daring to hum the lullaby again. He tried to ignore the sadness it stirred, the phantom bites along his skin, the panic.

"Well? Something to say to me, dear student?"

"Let me go!" Izuku twisted, writhed instead. It didn't help, the grip tightening.

The Kraken just tutted at that. "After so long? You could at least ask politely, say please."

The prince just glared at him. "I'm no student of yours, Akkorokamui. Let. me. go."

But he was no monarch commanding a subject who had to listen, he was no mage of the mind or body, like the other two witches in the cave.

The tentacle wrapped further around him, up, across his chest, the bare skin of his neck protesting the touch. The threat sat heavy there. It was getting harder to move. Distantly, Izuku could hear Tamaki saying something, moving, but he couldn’t focus on it.

“No student of mine? The only ones welcome in my home, dear boy, is my son, my students, and food. I’d think carefully about that before you try and speak again.” The Kraken’s voice was closer, not loud, almost whispered but with how close he was stuck, it didn’t matter.

Izuku tried to focus, clear his mind. He couldn’t move and couldn’t cast, but he could thing. The bars were just too close for him to be brought through like this, so he didn’t have to worry about avoid that. He couldn’t reach the dagger on his belt, his only other weapon-

“Everything can be a weapon,” Aizawa had advised him once, the mage-guard watching his lessons when pretending not to, little Eri in his arms. “I could even toss Ezaan as one.” The black cat otherself on the windowsill flicked his tail at that, annoyed. At the time, Izuku had just been put out because it seemed all his magic was good for was as a weapon, and he didn’t want to be a war-mage.

“That’s better, student it is.” Akkorokamui hummed, daring to sound relieved. “Good to see some lessons stick- my Tamaki, I do not want to see you draw magic like that against me again- you always were a clever boy, Izukuma.” The grip around his body loosened a bit, but didn’t draw away. A hand reached through the bars again, to pat at his hair- messy curls loosened slightly by the water, floating around his head. Izuku jerked backwards, trying to avoid it, he'd hated it enough the first time. “Powerful too, I could make you such a war-mage.”

Izuku’s head felt like a buzz at that, shaking away from the hand as he was trying to. “No, I don’t want to be.” He snapped. “You can’t make me.”

The hand drew back as the tentacle squeezed tighter again. The Kraken scowled at the outburst. “None of that, little pup, so disobedient. Your mother must have-“

“You killed my mother! You don’t get to talk about her when you-“

His mouth was covered, the kraken’s limb slithering up around his face, muffling his voice. Good, that was part one of the plan. Now he just needed a moment to-

“Izukuma. You were but a boy, I wouldn’t recommend speaking like that- Tamaki Amaji-ki Akkorokamui. Can’t you see I’m busy right now, wait or ask me later.”

Izuku didn’t know what Tamaki was doing or saying behind him, all he knew was he had a chance now, and bit down as hard as he could.

Merged with Kuma as a wholeself as he was, his teeth were pointed, sharp, ready. Anything can be a weapon indeed, and Izuku’s body was already one. He ignored the taste of blood, the gag reflex, to shake his head with the force needed to tear a penguin to nothing.

Or enough force to separate a chunk of flesh from the Kraken, tears down skin. The pain was a shock, and Izuku imagined the bleeding was too, because the hold on him loosened enough he could begin to wriggle out, and then hands grabbed him, pulled him all the way out, backwards. Tamaki, silent as ever, collaped against the back cave wall, then forced him to spin around, looking him over.

Izuku smiled at him to reassure, and on the recoiling, quickly tried to wipe the blood from his mouth and teeth, on his arm, wiped on his skirt.

“Sorry. You ok?”

“I should be asking you that, I’m sorry, I tried to keep you away from him, I should have-“

Izuku cut him off. “Hey, it’s all right. All done with your duties, so we can go?”

Tamaki shook his head. “No- no, one more light left.” He turned, hurrying to the corner, nervous looks cast over his shoulder at the bars of the cage. No tentacles or anything visible now, just a cloud of red floating in front of them, the Kraken must be licking his wounds inside.

With a long exhale, Izuku leaned against the rock. He wanted to get out of here, but he couldn’t leave his friend alone to that. Not after giving him the scare, not after knowing all the memories and happiness the monster had stolen from him.  The threats today, everything.

The magelight flared for a moment, and Tamaki walked back across the stone.

“Lets go now,” Izuku suggested with a small smile. “You- ah, hey!” Something stung him, and he looked to the side, confused. Then he saw it, a little silver needle stuck into his side.

His eyes trailed upwards, over to the cage, where a toothy smiled shone, face too proud and obvious in the new magical light, the cloud of blood.

Blood.

Outside the bars.

When Akkorokaumi and Tamaki were both witches, mages specializing in biological matters-

He pulled it out, holding it up to see, frowning.

“Tamaki, what is- AHHHHHHH!”

It hurt, it hurt, a wave throw his blood as if his hear was boiling now. His head screamed, he felt like he was being torn apart, he couldn’t breathe.

He was splitting, he could feel the tug on Kuma, but he couldn’t stop it, couldn't do anything but clutch his head and gasp. 


 Tamaki saw the spell, saw the bubbling along Izukuma’s tail. Like swimming through concrete, his head turned to the cage.

“I’d recommend getting your little friend to the surface, precious Tamaki.” His father sneered, then pushed backwards, into the dark.

The surface- he was splitting, forced into his two parts, Tamaki didn’t think, just moved. Dragged him out by the arms, trying to feel the magic curse spreading through his veins.

The Kraken hadn’t been totally wrong when he’d said Tamaki didn’t try hard enough. He feared his magic, feared becoming like his father, had only learned what he needed to help the court, keep everything in balance. The rest he hid, alone by the rocks, trying to piece the spells together while making them less terrifying, less monstrous.

But now he couldn’t force the curse out, there were none in the city to teach him to heal. He just had to get Izuku air.

The surface was a long way up though, and the green haired boy’s skin bubbled, a leg kicking out, then sucked back in as he tried to hold himself together too. His face was going red. Tamaki did what spell he could to make a bubble of air, but he was no elementality, no alchemist. He just had to keep going, even as his own legs burned, heart racing, exhaustion creeping into his arms.

He wasn’t strong enough to drag him all the way up, not this fast. He felt out of breath, shame at thinking that when Izuku was next to him, drowning, and kept going.

The water was lightening, the sun cast more across the surface, a glimmer of hope when Izukuma split fully, the sealself immediately nosing him, trying to drag Izuku upwards too.

That was right, Tamaki thought, alone, both needed air. Alone, neither could survive the sea.

He let go of Izuku, gills flaring for breath himself, a moment of reprieve. A moment for it all to hurt more when he swam upwards again, another little push, more and more until-

They broke into the air, the aquatic, the human half, and the seal.

Arm protesting, Tamaki lifted his dripping hair, looked to where land should be. The coastline, the castle, clear. With another breath, he raised one hand, sent a burst of magelight out. The little purple flare signal wasn’t much, but he had to try. Then he floated along, back on the surface of the water, looking at the sun. If he lay here long enough, would it dry him up? Would it take the harm from Izuku’s lungs, would it save either of them?

Kuma barked, a short little snort of a sound, and dragged Izuku on. He wasn’t moving anymore, not kicking, eyes closed. Tamaki’s heart filled with ice, spreading out to his veins, but he shook himself. Kuma still moved, so he was fine. Probably had water in the lungs, needed to get them out, but he had air, a few moments more of time now.

He began to swim to the coast, the little inlet of safety. The sea and sky and land blurred as he pushed himself, until he landed on one of the rocks. Kuma was trying to push Izuku onto it, and Tamaki heaved him up with a grunt.

Izuku’s face was ashen, and a light touch to his chest told Tamaki he did in fact have so much of the sea in him.

“Can you join back, Kuma?” Tamaki worried, tears joining the saltwater on his face unnoticed. Kuma just nudged Izuku’s face, of course not. His father would never make the answer so easy.

“What happened?” Another voice demanded, and Tamaki whirled around. Nedzu stood on another rock, eyes focused on the young prince.

Tamaki opened his mouth, tried to croak out that his father had done this, but his throat couldn’t manage it. his father had done this, he’d tried to use magic against his father, he’d never done that, not properly. His father had called him Amaji-ki, how did he know, what else had he heard of the city. They were supposed to have been all outed and collected after Mustu’s attack. But clearly not.

“He needs a healer, water in his lungs-“ came out instead, panicked blur of words.

The white otterman jumped into the sea, climbing up the other side of their rock in a moment, tutting.

“Yes, yes. Go, call for Chiyo and Mirai.”

Tamaki nodded, exhausted, but this was what he could do. Swiming to the sand, crawling up it into the shadow.

“Ay!” He called up, loud as he choked, quiet throat could. “Help, somebody send help! Izukuma- Prince Izuku needs healers, Sir Saskai, Magan Shuzenji! Anyone!”

A guard appeared around a rock on the steep hill up to the castle. Others on the wall were leaning over, looking down at him.

“What’s that- oh.”

“Send healers!” he said again, and when the woman nodded, turned back with a run, he collapsed. Siting on the sand, tentacles flared out under the water, under the sun. Striped, white and a red so dark it was nearly black. He wondered if under the sun his father would look red, like his uncle always had. The thought soured when he thought about the curse he managed at the threshold of the prison. It wasn’t the most impossible thing in the world that he could escape some day. Tamaki had never been enough to keep him in.

He focused on the rocks, on Nedzu as the mage kept one paw-hand on Izuku’s chest, one on his hand. The prince was shaking, but that meant he could, was still alive. Probably expelling the water from his lungs. He’d need treatment afterwards, keep infection out. Some way to undo the splitting curse and let him heal.

A pair of avian otherselves soared down, swooping to the rock. A white tern and brown screech owl, and looking back over his shoulders confirmed that the mages were coming. Half a step behind them, King Toshinori himself and Mirio ran, Aru between them. They gathered at the sand near Tamaki, concerned questions stacking over each other. He wasn’t sure how to answer any of them, lips locked.

“Here,” Nedzu called, swimming to join them as Kuma dragged a shivering Izuku up. In moments the mages and family were surround him. Tamaki stopped with one arm out, he shouldn’t intrude on them.

Something nudged a tentacle, and he turned back, seeing Lemi there. With a tense expression that might be a smile, he patted the larger seal’s head. “Kuma’s over there.” At the words, the brotherself swam around the group, flicking water at them in greeting.

He wondered how Lemi got there, must be the system that hid their water from his father. He’d never asked how it worked before. At the imagining of his father with himself in his grasp, pressed against the bars, powerless, he’s sure he never will. Safer that way, to protect them.

Finally Toshinori cried out, relief, the others backing away to show him gathering Izuku to his chest. Hand cradling his head, lifting him up with little thought, for all the king was not the imposing mountain of a man he’d been, before the trial, before the fight.

Something else hurt, a pang in his chest, and Tamaki didn’t know why. He looked out instead, the sun getting closer to the sea, warm and red.

“Tamaki?”

Speak of the sun, he turned around. Mirio stood, brows up in worry, before he crouched to meet his eyes at his level.

“What happened?” His voice tried to stay as strong as it could. Tamaki couldn’t meet his eyes, dark blue like the chasms but with light they’d never know.

“I- I’m sorry. I think we need to ask for Toyomitsu for more, ah, ways to guard my father’s cave.”

Mirio inhaled sharply. “The Kraken did this?”

“A dart. Enchanted in his, ah, his blood. That was drawn outside the bars- my ward. It forced Izukuma to split and…”

He couldn’t say anything more.

“We’ll speak to him as soon as we can, then.” Sir Sasaki said, Tamaki’s neck protesting as he whipped up to look at him, hadn’t noticed the mages getting closer, behind Mirio.

“And you should come inside boy, don’t catch chill.” The healer woman said, pointing at him with her staff.

Tamaki blinked.

Come inside? He’d just been planning to sit here until night fall, drag his way back to the city, warn Toyomitsu, and hide in his room for a week.

“Izuku… has been learning under the sea for some time now, offering you an apprenticeship with us would be fair.”

Fair, they said, but it felt heavier, as if they meant safe, as if they meant more than that, things he didn’t have words for. Fair, they said, as if Tamaki deserved any of that after what he’d done that day.

“I- I-“

“We’d teach you how to heal.”

His heart fluttered at that.

“Well, I, ah, i-“

“Please?” Mirio asked, smiling one of those smiles that normally were handed out like nothing, but had been missing since he’d seen his brother.

“Ok.”

And then he regretted the word that slipped out before he could think horribly, a wave of panic and fear at that.

“Great!” Mirio stood, offering a hand down. Tamaki took it after a moment, and stood up on his own, tentacles curling under him to support the movement. “Do you know how to split?”

Tamaki shook his head, another wave of ice down his spine at the thought.

“Try it first, witches normally have the easiest time with it.” Shuzenji suggested, and he nodded.

Right, just try to rip yourself in half, that was simple.

Tamaki squeezed is eyes shut, feeling for his magic, the buzz in his veins. The seawater, the air, that twisted inside. A thousand strings linking him together, and he was going to try and snap them.

The attempt pushed him off balance, he staggered, opened his eyes to see Mirio holding both hands.

“You’re too stiff, Tamaki. Think… of it like breathing, how you shift from gills to lungs when you surface. Stretching out your arms, not like breaking something in half.”

He nodded, closed his eyes.

Focused down to the thrum of his heartbeats. Felt the cling of all the parts of him that tangled up, power and weakness and fear and every thought.

Found the layer of something over his skin, like a layer of oil. It felt old, smelled like the cave. Like his uncle, like his father. He peeled it away, felt the disconnection-

And almost fell again. Mirio gripped his hands, Sir Sasaki stepped in to catch his side.

The world spun, Tamaki closed his eyes tightly.

He had to find balance, but felt something touching his leg- his- one of his legs?

He blinked the eyes open. Looked down, saw two legs, human legs. Around one, a little octopus, striped and thin tentacles, pure black eyes. Gills opening, and he hesitantly moved one hand to his neck- nothing, smooth. The octopus- him, that was him, patted his leg. Huh.

“You did it!” Mirio cheered, as Shuzenji clapped and Sasaki hummed in approval.

“Ye-yeah.” Tamaki felt out of breath. If he was tired before, that was nothing to now.

“Can you try to walk?”

It wasn’t easy, at all, Tamaki had no clue how anyone kept balance. His otherself let go of his ankle, began to crawl around on the sand. Show-off.

Mirio laughed, and Tamaki ducked his head, didn’t know he’d said that outloud. They kept going though, Sasaki saying something about taking his otherself into the waterways of the castle. He just nodded, focused on moving up. His tunic was damp, and left most of his legs exposed. It was colder than he thought, and he stepped on a sharp rock, then another.

But he’d learn to heal soon, and just grit his teeth, kept going.

The sun set on the horizon, the moon rose. Tamaki looked at the reflection on the sea. Nejire, Toyomitsu’s daughter, crown princess, mage, cousin, and occasional pain in his tail, he’d given a vial of his blood once. Layers and layers of protective spells, all thinking about Mustu and if another of his father’s followers would go after one of them. She’d be able to use it as effectively as he had, maybe even more.

And he’d return to the sea, he knew, once he’d learned more.

He’d have to. He’d want to, even.

But the feeling of the cave, of seeing his friend in is father’s grip, could have had his life squeezed out or neck snapped, before he’d managed a spell, nothing to heal.

He’d wake to learn his hair was blue when it dried, not black. He thinks his mother’s might have been blue, maybe a little less of his father, then. He’d wake to the sun and soft blankets and lessons in healing.

Before that, though, he’d stir and cry tears on his pillow, dried before he would wake. Father leering, fangs and stingers and burns and screams, his uncle’s dying moments, last magic used to bind the gold on his father, to seal him away. The seal, dying, the feeling of teeth tearing into tentacles…

Oh yes, he’d have nightmares that night, in a new place, another so far from a home.

What of it? Such is life, and to live, he’d go past that. He’d have to, and might even smile at the end of it.