|| ORELLA ||

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The cold water embraced me like a child returning home after ages. As soon as my body sunk lower, the insanely comfortable shift happened. My waist tingled, legs cramped close, and the long blue fin sprouted out, making me sag with relief. The gills near my neck got me breathing like I would above the land. The water bubbled around me, and with one mighty push, I slipped deeper into the sea.

There was a war raging over the surface. The night, eerie and darker than a night should never be. But my waters were unharmed. Untainted. Fresh and teeming with life. Fishes scuttled past me, but none of the other merpeople were around. The chaos above had spread its deadly tentacles inside, after all.

Gliding through a narrow channel, swirling quickly through rocks, sweeping past buoyant greenery, I reached the destination where water made way to reveal land. The slaved Eclipses had absconded the water and a vast Spring Realm's army was stationed, ready whenever the portal would arrive to take them to the front line. This was Neo's den. A watery dungeon. In plain sight... in the Winter Realm. In my Realm.

And right then, the portal arrived. But why? He wasn't supposed to come back...

I covered my eyes against the brightness that shot through the water like the sun had dropped itself inside like a cannonball. My tail twitched as our eyes met, and we both smiled at each other.

"I love your mermaid form more and more so... is that weird?" Neo grinned.

"It is. Though I'd prefer you with my human... things." I smirked.

But I saw he was not himself. Had something gone... right?

"What is it?" I asked, as he flicked his fingers, and the tired and injured army behind him dispersed, to station themselves around, and to get ready for the next round. I noticed his prized slave wasn't by his side. And there was a burning mark of fingers around his neck...

"That smoky brat figured out the bond." He raked a hand through his golden hair and walked closer to me.

Of course, he did.

I sighed, "I told you, didn't I, that it'd be better if you had killed Doran before he faced Eleni? You underestimated him. This is all on you."

Neo took my palm in his and kissed the knuckles gently. "You did, and I didn't listen to you. This is indeed on me. But he won't see tomorrow's sun, so that's that."

You are still underestimating him. Good.

"I didn't expect them all to abandon their pedestals. Is there no reverence for the Throne anymore? Ungrateful morons." He scoffed, amused and unfazed.

I abandoned my pedestal, too, love.

A water-rid path led us to a discrete sea cave, for Neo wasn't much of an admirer of swimming and getting his clothes wet. Unlike his twin. I swam besides him, while he walked with a Water-Air Eclipse by his side, not a drop touched his body. Occasionally, he cackled his knuckles—looking calm and composed, but I could feel a dark storm brewing behind his cloudy silver eyes.

His broad shoulders taut with muscles, a jawline as though chiseled with utmost precision, straight illegal nose, firm muscles at the back, lips I'd lose myself into like a fine glass of red wine. Sans the golden curl, sans the hazel eyes, I still couldn't resist a thorough look, every single chance I got.

You look so much like your twin, it hurts.

"Say, Orella, you know your friends well. Who do you think planned their war strategy in a single day? Their defense seems... surprisingly strong." Neo asked, hands clasped at his back.

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