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Chapter 7.1: Feet and Tail (1) “Very good. Everything is falling according to my plan. All that is left is to wait.” Someone was patiently watching the bubble floating ahead. Inside of this bubble, one can see the image of a mermaid, the Head Maayo, lying down on the huge shell. This someone was very pleased with this picture of sorrow. For a long time, it had wished to end the life of this mermaid being projected in its front. She was the very reason, the wick that ended and depraved its own fate. And finally, this someone can gradually feel the fulfillment of its greatest desire, revenge. Managat was still feeling distressed, so he fled away again from the palace and now he’s sitting on the rocky area where he previously talked with a mortal girl named Eda. Now that he remembered her, he can’t help smiling. That mortal girl has a unique allure. She has a different kind of beauty compared with the mermaids from their kingdom. He couldn’t explain but he thought that her attractiveness was of a special kind. At that moment, he also wondered if the girl was thinking of him, too. He smiled again and shook his head. What was he thinking? He couldn’t believe himself. A mortal and a merman like him can never be together. Instead, he reminded himself that their Head Maayo was still presently under a serious illness.
He laid his eyes to the horizon at the place where the sun was setting and unconsciously held the gemstone on the necklace that he was wearing. This was the gift given to him by Sarapay, Maalam’s lover, when Managat was still little. Just like Maalam, his father, she was also a healer and together, they both served the Head Maayo and the merfolks. She was a good mother, an ever thoughtful and always the understanding one. But she’s often inside the palace; if not, she’d be looking for and gathering materials and ingredients for the cure of various ailments. But though she couldn’t be with him all the time, he was still cared for as if she was his real parent. However, one day, a tragic news arrived to Maalam’s family. His father was summoned first to the palace and the Head Maayo was the one who delivered the bad news to him. Sarapay was killed. According to a witness, she was caught through a fisherman’s fishing net. And when the fisherman learned that he caught a mermaid, he deliberately killed her. No one was able to find the body of Sarapay afterwards. Only her fins’ remains were found when the rescuers reached the scene. Many believed that she was already devoured by the sharks. Maalam fell in great misery because of this tragedy and since then, he has been preaching Managat that the mortals were vile and ruthless; that they were all evil creatures and never again will there be peace between the Lawodnons1 and the mortals. However, Managat thought that there has been misunderstanding towards the mortals as the mortals have towards to his likes. Once again, the young merman’s fingers ran through the gemstone. Mother, please help me, he called in his mind. I couldn’t stand my second mother to perish, too. A rustle has interrupted his pondering. He suddenly became nervous. He was about to jump into the water when he heard his name being called. “Managat!” Chapter 7.2: Feet and Tail (2) “Managat!” It was a voice of a woman. When he looked around he found Eda, the mortal girl. She was smiling sweetly at him as if she was so happy to see him. She’s also carrying a paper bag. “You’re leaving so soon? I even just got here.” She greeted him while closing in to his seat. “I just thought…” the merman couldn’t continue what he’s about to say because the girl had directly sat beside him. Her feet was bared which she dipped into the water. “You thought?” urged Roselda as she looked at him intently. “Nothing,” was all he could say. “Nothing?” repeated the girl. “Are you sure?” He silently watched the mortal girl. “You’re no longer talking again,” Roselda said. “When we last met, you’re also very quiet. Is there any problem?” The young woman noticed that her merman friend has some heavy burden on him. Once again, he silently stayed next to her. Or was he really like this? She didn’t know the answer to that question. But she felt he needed some companion, someone to talk to, right now. “Whatever your problem maybe, I’ll always listen to you,” she said. A long silence followed her words. Only the waves hitting the rocks could be heard. In the distance, a predator bird could be seen. It was flying in circles over one part of the water and seemed to be surveying something. Shortly, it swiftly dived down and into the water. When it came up, a big fish was stashed by its beak. Only after that scene, the merman next to her finally spoke again. “What will you do if you found out that one of your loved ones is in the brink of her death?” he asked. Roselda was surprised at his question. She hasn’t thought of such event before. In fact, she felt frightened upon hearing it. She didn’t know what to say. “Maybe, if there’s any way I can save her, I’ll do it,” after a while, the girl answered. “What if you don’t know what that method of saving her is?” the young merman asked back. The girl thought once again, but she didn’t know what to say next. “If that’s so, then maybe I’ll try to find someone who can help me.” “What if no one can help and there’s really no other way?” The hopelessness in the merman’s voice was now being reflected. Roselda laid her hand on his friend’s own hands. They were like wet rubber under her touch but still she managed to squeeze it gently. “Managat, everything has a way. If something has really no way out then maybe it has a reason. But you need to always remember, everything has its way. Maybe this way is just a bit hard to find, but still there’s something we can always do.” The merman looked at the tender eyes of the girl. He saw from them the girl’s compassion; they were still full of hope. He secretly smiled to himself. A mortal was being sympathetic to him; of all of creatures. If these people were really vile, what was this girl showing him, then? “Thank you,” said Managat. “What you said is true, Eda. I have to try to find a way and help.” The girl was smiling once again. For the first time, the merman called her name and was no longer any honorifics. “Don’t be sad any longer then. Come, eat.” Roselda opened her paper bag. It has something inside and Managat believed it was some human diet. But the smell it gave off was really amazing and for a merman it gave a different feeling to him. When they were under the water, their sense of taste was their primary sensation. But over here, in the surface, it’s different. “Try it,” the young girl grabbed a piece from inside her bag. Its shape was round and elongated, and on its top were three long holes. In those holes, the merman could see something purple, its stuffing. He took it with wonder. “We call that bread,” Roselda said. The amazement was virtually visible with the merman’s reactions. “That’s really delicious. Try it.” Managat hesitantly drew the thing that the girl called ‘bread’ near to his mouth but then he stopped. He turned to the mortal. Roselda laughed. “Don’t worry; it has no poison.” She also took out some bread from the paper bag and ate it. He might be hesitant but the merman was still able to take a bite from the bread. It’s hard but also soft at the same time. He couldn’t understand how it could be like this but he was enjoying its taste. He bit once more and another one. He didn’t even notice that he has eaten the whole thing. Roselda was enjoying as she watched Managat’s reactions. On his face, the trace of great fascination with what he’s eating was deeply etched. He seemed to have just tasted such a wonderful food for the first time. “Lady―Eda,” he corrected himself, “do I have dirt on my face?” Roselda laughed once again. “There’s none, Managat. You’re just fun to watch. Here, it’s all for you.” The young woman handed over the paper bag which was accepted with great gusto by young merman. “Rabalya!” A masked merman rushed into the dark room. His body up to his tail was filled with marks, while on its head rested a huge head of a decapitated snake eel. He looked like a monster at first glance. “Well, your suspicions are correct; Head Maayo has really contracted a serious illness. The Dalit-Kamingawan. It’s the talk in the whole kingdom.” The mermaid took something from one of the container present there and then approached a wicker vessel made from mosses. That vessel gave a shadow of light. She threw inside the thing she was holding and the light from the vessel intensified. “It’s starting, Askala,” she said, looking at the merman that just entered. “But I still couldn’t understand how it was done. It’s contradictory to my investigations. I’m sure there’s got to be accomplices.” She wandered her eyesight around inside this small and dark room. In the dim light, one can find different shapes of containers and vessels stacking from the floor up to the very top. Inside these were various ingredients and materials for a particular cure. She spent a few years to gather all of them, but many were still missing. “Watch vigilantly, Askala! There’s worse to come!” She said gravely. She hoped she’s not yet too late. She have to gather the three final ingredients as soon as possible, she reminded herself secretly.