It was often said that the ebb and flow of the ocean was determined by the moon. Was it always that way? Was that just how the world was made?
Or maybe it was because the depths of the water fell in love with the keeper of the moon.
Water and its tides were tended to by the goddess Nejire. She was beautiful and had hair as blue as the sea. She was sculpted from seafoam in an elemental plane far above the earth, where everything within it was constructed solely of water. Her personality was as bubbly as the foam she had been forged from.
She was created by Selkie, ruler of the Water Element. And she was not the only one. She had a brother named Shoji.
Shoji was made of deep, still water. He balanced her out. Nejire was flighty like a pleasant stream wandering over the land. Shoji was steady and constant.
He was there when she wasn’t.
When Creati, ruler of the Element Earth, approached the other Elements so they could unite them all on one globe, Selkie refused to go. He was comfortable where he was, so he sent his children in his stead - Nejire to oversee all aspects of water, and Shoji to pick up the things she let fall wayside, being as distracted by everything as she was.
When she was off wandering the land, he remained in the water, taking over her duties of tending to the waves, making sure they didn’t creep too far into the shore. As well as making sure they ebbed and flowed at all, which was something it wasn’t doing that night.
Curious, Shoji made his way out of the ocean depths towards the surface. It was black where he dwelled. The light of Mirio the Sun God couldn’t reach him down there, and he would be entirely alone had he not collected the souls of the drowned and housed them there, turning them into ghostly mermaids so they could maneuver. He also created a strange array of creatures that could thrive in such a place.
It was still dark as he got closer and closer to the surface. It would have been slightly disorienting but he could tell it was night time, when the Sun was being dragged across the other side of the earth and the moon shone overhead.
Not that he had seen it himself. But he had heard Nejire talking about it, gushing over how vast the sky was, how tiny lights were hung there by Yagi of the Air, known on planet earth as the All Might, God of Gods. Their leader.
Shoji called out to Nejire, but wasn’t surprised that she didn’t answer. She was predictable in her unreliability, if nothing else. So he broke to the surface to see what was amiss.
There was nothing nearby.
He was alone surrounded by endless ocean. And it was dark, which was easy on Shoji’s eyes which had adapted to his life in the depths. He had adapted his body to suit his realm. From his arms sprouted webbing, and each tip could be morphed into any appendage he chose. When he had realized it’s convenience, he created his favourite sea creature - octopi.
He didn’t look like any of the other gods anymore, not even his sister. But out there, in the cover of darkness, he had no reason to hide who he was - not that he had ever cared to in the first place. So he floated on his back, webbed arms spread out around him as he gazed up at the stars.
There should have been a moon, he recalled from Nejire’s stories, but it didn’t seem to be in the sky that night. Maybe that was the issue. The stars were beautiful though - tiny flickering lights unlike anything he had ever seen before. He created little waves to pull him towards the shore some distance away.
It wasn’t until he neared it that he heard the lull of a low, soft voice. “I would give it all up if I could,” the masculine voice lamented.
“Why?” an eerie, rougher voice answered.
“I have you, Dark Shadow. But this existence, with nothing but darkness -” The voice fell silent and the air grew tense. They had sensed that the God of the Depths was close by.
Shoji shifted his position so he was partially submerged. Only his head, torso, and part of his arms remained above surface.
Dark Shadow. Shoji recognized the name. When the world was being formed, Air was ruled by Yagi and Abyss - ruled by Eraser - came together and created a being that would lord over the night. But Dark Shadow had been too wild, too uncontrollable. So Air and Abyss came together again. They changed the ratio so Air outweighed Abyss and that created Tokoyami, God of the Moon and Keeper of Dark Shadow.
Despite the fact that they were both gods, they had never met. In most cases, the gods had all met each other at least once but Shoji preferred to stay by himself, interacting only with his sister and Eraser, ruler of the Abyss Element. And from what he heard, Tokoyami tended to stay by himself as well.
From where he bobbed in the water, he could see a dark wispy presence stretching across the sky. It let out a shriek that could make any mortals blood run cold. Dark Shadow was hunting.
Dark Shadow was dependant on the moon, Shoji recalled Nejire telling him. It was unruly if the moon left the sky. It could be controlled, but it was more like a rambunctious dog pulling on its lead. It had agreed to be kept on Tokoyami’s leash though it was given one day a year when it was allowed full freedom. The longest night of the year, it could hunt as it wished and anything caught out of their homes come nightfall could become its prey.
Shoji wasn’t concerned. He had created nightmare creatures out of boredom, so he was sure he could handle this Dark Shadow.
As it swooped down over him, he stood still, neither cowering away nor attacking. It was like being in the center of a tornado, the wind screaming around him and threatening to tear him apart. Gods - beings created by Elementals - and Muses - ideals of mankind given corporeal form - could wound each other, but only a pure Elemental could truly kill. Having come from the realm of water, Shoji and Nejire were considered Elementals.
Dark Shadow couldn’t harm him.
Nevertheless, shouts were vaguely heard from outside the whirlwind of shadows. Little by little, Dark Shadow eased up until it had pulled back entirely.
Hovering in mid air was a god smaller in stature than most, with the head of a crow - a being correlated with death and Dark Shadow took a similar shape. A cape blacker than the night sky whipped around him as he faced down Dark Shadow. They seemed to be communicating through their minds, as Shoji couldn’t hear anything despite having morphed the end of a webbed tip into an ear.
Dark Shadow nodded and loomed menacingly behind Tokoyami as the Moon God drifted down to hover just above the water in front of Shoji. He bowed in respect before speaking, his voice settling over Shoji. Nejire who had wandered across the land would have likened it to the soft but chilled breeze of autumn that kicked up fallen leaves. But of course, Shoji wouldn’t understand the reference.
“My deepest apologies for Dark Shadow’s behaviour, Shoji, God of the Deep.”
But Shoji only shook his head. “He didn’t hurt me, so there is nothing to forgive.”
Tokoyami’s head inclined as he straightened his back. “Ah yes. You are one of the founding Elements. Nevertheless, I apologize for any inconvenienced he caused you.”
“He didn’t. But tell me, have you seen my sister?”
Tokoyami nodded and pointed inland. “She was headed far inland when last I saw her.”
“The waves stopped altogether so I came up to see why,” Shoji explained. Tokoyami noticed that he never spoke out the jaggedly shaped mouth on his face, preferring instead to speak from a mouth formed from his webbing. Though he didn’t comment on it.
“Ah. That is our fault. Nejire is afraid of Dark Shadow and leaves to go inland. He likes to splash around in the ocean and his playing keeps the waves moving. But tonight we did not feel like playing.”
Shoji watched the Moon God scratch the head of the wildest, most volatile creature to ever exist with a tenderness he had not expected. “Is something the matter?”
“No, tis just a lonely world when you only have your Shadow.”
“Did you,” Shoji began slowly, cautiously, “did you want to sit with me for a bit?” It wasn’t that he was afraid of Dark Shadow but more that it made him unsure. He simply didn’t interact often with anyone. Tokoyami looked around at the water surrounding them. He opened his mouth to retort but Shoji quickly waved in the direction of the shore. “Over there, I mean.”
“That would be nice. Thank you.”
And so the two spent the remaining hours of the night sitting on a large rock looking out over the ocean. Shoji was long enough that his feet dangled into the water and some of his webbing did as well. He didn’t want to risk not touching water, as he had never left it before. Nejire could, but she crashed to shore like a wave. He didn’t.
Tokoyami didn’t seem to mind though. His words were eloquent and musical as he told tales of things he saw as he circled over the earth. Shoji found himself trying to imagine creatures he had never seen before and when he struggled, Tokoyami shaped some of Dark Shadow’s wisps into the shapes of different animals.
Tokoyami seemed to have his own issues imagining the creatures of the deep that Shoji had created, but Dark Shadow wasn’t willing to let the other God touch him. Which was fair given that Shoji could destroy him.
As the night passed and they continued to talk, Shoji found himself shaking his dark blue hair out of his face. He wasn’t used to it being dry and covering half of his face as he tried to look at Tokoyami as he spoke. Dark Shadow was wrapped around him, resting what would be his chin on the Moon God’s shoulder.
As the sun began cresting over the horizon marking the arrival of Mirio and the sun, Shoji found he was reluctant to say goodbye to his new friend.
“Will I see you again?” Shoji asked, trying to keep the lilt of hope out of his voice.
“When the moon closes its eyes next.”
Shoji opened a mouth from the tip of a nub to ask what that meant, but Tokoyami couldn’t prolong leaving anymore than he had. Dark Shadow was starting to cry softly, the faint light already feeling like he was beginning to burn. Tokoyami reached up and ruffled the shadows on top of his head comfortingly.
“Farewell, my friend,” Tokoyami bowed.
“Until we meet again.”
As fast as shadows, they flitted into the darkness to escape the impending light. It was beginning to hurt Shoji’s eyes as well, but he lingered a moment longer to return the greeting Mirio called out to him before he sunk back into the ocean. He sunk down lower and lower but before he was able to reach the usual depths he dwelt at, Nejire swam up to him.
“Good morning, brother,” she chirped. “What are you doing up here?”
“It’s nothing, Nejire.”
But there was a flush to his cheeks that he didn’t normally have, and she immediately demanded to know who he saw. When he admitted it was Tokoyami, she fell backwards, hands clasped together as she let out a dreamy sigh. She immediately began talking about how cute they would look together and to save himself further embarrassment, he sunk further down into the depths of the ocean where she tended to avoid.
Time was a strange concept under the sea. Humans could determine the passage of time by how long they could hold their breath. Shoji didn’t need to breathe. At the bottom, it was harder to tell night from day when no sunlight reached him.
But he learned to pay attention, to listen to the changes he always knew were taking place. When creatures settled in to sleep, why ones from the depths made their way towards the surface to feed at the time where brightness wouldn’t hurt them.
He began swimming up to the surface with them, wondering if he would catch a glimpse of the mysterious Moon God. He had enjoyed speaking with him and was eager to do so again.
When the moon closes its eyes next .
Shoji still wasn’t sure when that was. It was poetic, something more expected from a Muse. It sounded beautiful.
But it was vague to someone who had never seen the moon before.
Every night Shoji made his way to the surface. Little by little, he saw a white shape growing in the sky until one night he breached the water to find the moon in all its splendor hanging over the sea.
He was speechless. He had never seen anything so beautiful. He found himself following the water as it was drawn towards it though never being able to touch it. He swore he heard Tokoyami’s voice on the wind calling out not yet. And so he did, resurfacing every night to see if it was time.
Every god that contributed to the creation of earth did their best. Not every creature was beautiful, as Shoji could attest. He had fun creating creatures of nightmares. Every god contributed in their own way to create one thing of beauty for everyone to share.
In Shoji’s opinion, the most beautiful thing to ever be created was the moon. He couldn’t wait until he could see Tokoyami again to tell him.
The Moon God’s dark eyes were more expressive than Shoji would have considered. They lit up as he told of different wonders he had seen, or when he had been able to show Shoji exactly how different creatures were shaped using Dark Shadow. He wondered if he would be as happy to know his most famous design was so beloved.
Days later when Shoji broke through to the surface, the sky was dark save for the stars overhead. He looked to the shore and upon the rocks stood a familiar shape. Tokoyami was waiting for him with Dark Shadow hovering over one shoulder.
Shoji made his way over quickly, though tried to seem as though he wasn’t rushing. Tokoyami gave his typical sweeping bow despite Shoji assuring him it wasn’t necessary.
As they settled onto their rocks, the Water God looked up at the sky. “Is that what you meant by the moon closing its eyes? When there is no moon in the sky at all?”
Tokoyami nodded, his voice washing over him. “Yes. I’m pleased to see you here. I was not sure if you wished to see me again.”
“Why would I not? I came to the surface every night,” Shoji admitted, “because I didn’t know when you were referring to. I got to see the moon, and it was far more beautiful than you described. I have never seen anything like it. It’s the best of our creations.”
Tokoyami grew shy at his words, and had his face been more like any of the other gods, Shoji was sure he would have blushed. “Thank you. I did see you look for me each night. It’s why I hoped you might meet me on the shore.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Shoji told him honestly. He had enjoyed their time together the month before and was looking forward to talking with him again.
Their meetings continued. Every month when Tokoyami had his break from leading the moon across the sky, they met on the rocky shore. They sat and talked the entire night each time and Shoji found himself looking forward to his company more and more with each passing month.
Tokoyami occupied his thoughts. So much so that he found himself creating a sea creature inspired by their moments together. It was a little fish that could fly above the water for a short time. He wasn’t sure that Tokoyami would like it and he wasn’t even sure what kind of gift it was. An offering to a fellow God? A gift between friends? A gift of courtship? He decided it would be however Tokoyami accepted it. Shoji was fine with any option.
Or rather, he wanted the other to accept it as a courtship gift, but he would accept the other two.
He was excited to give him the gift and made his way to the surface with the little fish securely in his hands. When he broke through the surface, the moon was high overheard.
Tokoyami startled when he saw Shoji, but a smile was clear despite his beak. He swooped down, his cloak fluttering around him.
“Shoji! The moon’s eyes are wide open tonight, we did not have a meeting planned.” He seemed confused, but it was a welcome confusion nevertheless.
“I know. But I couldn’t wait. I have something for you.”
“A-A gift? For me?”
Shoji nodded and held up his cupped hands up to him. Tokoyami reached down and held Shoji’s within his own. His hands were so much smaller than the other god’s and it was strange to see them cupping his own. Ever so gently, Tokoyami pried his thumbs away, slowly opening his hands.
Cupped in the Water God’s hands was a fish. Unsure of what to make of it, Tokoyami glanced at Shoji.
“I made this for you,” the larger God admitted before pushing his hands up to give it a little boost. The fish’s fins spread out from its sides like bird wings before a draft of air caught under them and carried them. The fish soared across the air for a distance before dropping into the ocean with an elegant splash.
Shoji heard Tokoyami’s soft gasp as the fish touched the water and swam off, fully submerged, for a short time before taking to the air again. His eyes were wide as he looked at Shoji, momentarily speechless by the gift.
The Moon God hadn’t let go of his hands and Shoji became immediately aware of how wet and cold his own were as they were warmed by Tokoyami’s.
“Shoji,” Tokoyami breathed softly before pressing his beak to Shoji’s mouth. His eyes widened as he realized his actions and tried to pull away but Shoji morphed a tip into a hand and brought it up to cradle his head as he closed the distance between them with another kiss.
Tokoyami relaxed into the kiss, bringing his own hands up to cup Shoji’s face, his fingertips reaching the wet strands of his hair.
As they pulled back they gave each other soft smiles. Shoji tended to speak and smile with a mouth on the tip of a tentacle, so it was rare for Tokoyami to see the jagged lines of his mouth turn up into a smile.
“That’s the greatest gift I could have ever received,” Tokoyami murmured, though it didn’t seem as though he were talking about the fish. But then his brows furrowed. “I'm so sorry. Your hair…”
“My hair?” Shoji morphed a tentacle tip into an eye to look at his head. He had had blue hair. Unlike Nejire’s, his was a deep blue. But it had turned white with shimmers of silver in the moonlight. He made a noise of mild surprise but didn’t seem bothered by it.
“You look as though you were kissed by the moon.”
“Does it bother you?”
“Not at all.” Shoji wasn’t sure if he was referring to the kiss or his newly whitened hair. But it didn’t matter as the answer was the same either way. If anything, the kiss emboldened him. “I wanted to offer the flying fish to you as a courting gift.”
“I accept it as such,” Tokoyami told him without hesitation. “But I must go. Mirio is on his way and I need to keep Dark Shadow away from him.”
“Of course. I’ll see you on the shore.”
“Until then, my beloved.”
Tokoyami was gone in an instant, his posture shy as he and Dark Shadow raced across the sky to escape the impending light of Mirio and the sun.
Beloved. That quickly became the name Tokoyami used for Shoji, and it made the larger man incredibly happy. During their time apart, Shoji did his best to think of a name worthy of Tokoyami, though when he mentioned he hadn’t found one worthy, the bird headed god didn’t seem to mind.
“I suppose I shall continue to visit until you find one,” Tokoyami had told him with a smile.
Shoji wasn’t the only one to be giving gifts. Tokoyami brought one of his own for Shoji. It was a little bag, tied shut with a string tied with a bow. He untied it and opened it slowly, pouring some of the contents into his hand. Glimmering flecks twinkled up at him.
“What is this?”
“Dust of the stars,” Tokoyami answered. “You told me you loved them, so I collected their dust as I went past them.”
“This is a beautiful gift and I will treasure it for all time,” Shoji told him as he dumped them back into the bag before taking Tokoyami’s small hands in his own. One of the tips of his tentacles morphed into a mouth and he pressed it against Tokoyami’s cheek in a kiss.
When he returned to the depths of the sea when dawn approached, Shoji gave specks of stardust to various creatures in the depths, to brighten his home, to be a constant reminder of <s>what</s> who was waiting for him above the waves.
It wasn’t just Tokoyami he had grown fond of. He looked forward to seeing Dark Shadow as well. The creature was almost like a pet, albeit and unruly one. Every time Shoji met them, Dark Shadow got more and more comfortable until one day it let Shoji pet it. It was a small scratch under the chin. But each time it became longer and longer until Dark Shadow rushed to see Shoji faster than Tokoyami could. Often times it got so excited that it knocked the Water God back into the sea, nearly falling in himself.
Little by little, small moments here and there, Tokoyami let Shoji hold onto Dark Shadow for him, trusting his Beloved with the fate of the world. Dark Shadow always behaved itself, something no other god thought possible. It was just because Shoji and Tokoyami had become so close and the Moon God wanted his pet to feel as comfortable with Shoji has he himself did.
But it worked out well for other reasons. Once in a while, Night and Day needed to meet to discuss the intricacies of their domain, but it had been hard with the intensity of the sun burning Dark Shadow.
And so Shoji took him down to the water, angled behind rocks where he could sit in the shadows and splash at the water.
Of course none of the involved could have imagined that the humans would create their own tales as to why the Moon blocked the light of the Sun in the middle of the day. Surely it had to be Dark Shadow’s doing. Surely the shadow of death and destruction was blocking the sun from reaching the earth as part of a plan to destroy the world. But Mirio’s might won out every time and he continued on his path, bringing light and warmth to the world.
No one would have ever suspected it was as simple as Dark Shadow simply splashing in the water like a child as two Gods spoke to one another for a brief moment.
In the same vein, when the Moon was blood red, it was because Dark Shadow had attacked Tokoyami and left him to bleed out and die so he could begin his murderous rampage around the world. But the healing goddess Chiyo got there in time and saved Tokoyami so that he may bring the world another peaceful night.
Though in reality, it was because Mirio was on one side of the earth, and Tokoyami on the other. The blood red was simply the shadow of the earth when Tokoyami lingered too long in one place when his Beloved came to the surface for a kiss. Of course, they never told Dark Shadow the stories being told of him. He was happy with them and they wanted to keep him that way - and not just to avoid total destruction of the world.
And so continued the tale of Shoji, God of the Depths of the Ocean, and Tokoyami, God of the Moon and Keeper of Dark Shadow. Forced to spend their lives apart, save for nights when the moon closed its eyes which would become known as the New Moon, when they could be together once again and renew their love for one another.