If he was his younger self, he would be smoking right now. Not out of stress, or really any emotion, but it strikes him in the moment just how far he’s come. He kicked the habit over ten years ago. Ten years ago. Looking towards the horizon, he becomes pensive, thoughtful. Ten years ago feels like a blink to him now, but the person he was then feels so distant. A few things cross his mind about what he wishes he could say to the younger Jotaro Kujo. He shakes the thoughts away- none of it is important now. Instead, he focuses on how the sky changes before his very eyes.
The vast horizon spans forever in every direction over the dark plane of the ocean. Dawn lifts the sky into a soft pastel blue. He glances over his shoulder as the breeze brushes under the brim of his hat. In the opposite direction, fog blows through the city streets and rolls over buildings. He lets out a long sigh as he finally gets himself to stand. Long white cloak shifting in the mild ocean breeze, he decides on rolling up the sails and resigning to use the motor.
He hadn’t sailed far, as evidenced by the familiarity of the buildings along the coast. Restaurants and that one really expensive hotel stand behind one of the most popular beaches. One classic seafood stand rests unusually quiet, but Jotaro knows that as soon as the place opens, people will flock like seagulls. An open dock marks the beginning of a large harbor, a manmade bay hidden just behind it full of tall masts or massive yachts. A chuckle escapes him. Already at the end of the dock stands a figure, hands on their hips. Only a matter of minutes brings him close enough to recognize the man. Dipping his head, he cues the dockhand to start walking down.
As he swings the boat around, the man twirls a rope in his hands, as if he plans to use it as a lasso to bring him in. He acts as such, tossing the rope over the bow as he crouches low. He catches the boat as it drifts in. Jotaro throws the engine in reverse to act as a break before turning off the motor abruptly. The bow of his boat is already expertly tied down, the dockhand already at the stern.
How’s it looking today? the man asks. Jotaro hums, gazing back over the horizon. It’s brighter now, but still not quite warm with the orange of the sun.
Quiet, is all Jotaro replies, his low voice contrasting with the man’s light one. Jotaro regards the man, which for him is a lot, usually only showing people the shadows of his hat or ignoring them completely. The man offers a bright smile in direct contrast to his plain look. After helping him tie up the back, the two start down the dock. He bears his name proudly on a name tag reading
Jean-Pierre, his iconic silver hair already styled straight up. Jotaro scoffs. He can’t be more than 5 years older than him - even then Jotaro is only in his thirties - and yet he has fully accepted his aged hair.
Well, should I get this all docked up, or leave it here for when you inevitably want to go back out after hours? He gets this stupid grin when he thinks he knows Jotaro. Jotaro stops, turning to face the dockhand.
What do you think, Polnareff? It holds no malice, and instead a bit of friendly banter that lights up Polnareff’s silvery blue eyes. He puts his finger on his chin as he turns mockingly thoughtful.
Hmm, well, on one hand, he starts, gesturing out one hand to the side,
you might have a long hard day of work that pushes you to exhaustion, and on the other... His other hand acts as the other half of a balanced scale. As he trails off, the other hand begins to fall, garnering much more weight. Polnareff smiles.
You may go sailing because of it.
Jotaro offers a rare smile back, pulling his hat down against the growing wind and leaving the docks.
Just don’t forget to keep it close to the shop! Polnareff calls after him. At least he works with Jotaro bending the rules instead of inciting Jotaro’s cold intimidation. It saves Jotaro a lot of effort. He doesn't bother to acknowledge Polnareff, instead waiting for his ride, hearing the tinkling of a bell as Polnareff heads back into the harbor house.
At first, Jotaro did not take well to Polnareff, and nearly refused his harbor. Unfortunately, it's the closest and most convenient harbor besides being the most secure on the east coast of Japan. When he thinks back to a couple of years ago, he remembers just how close Jotaro was to punching the dockhand to death. He touched his precious sailboat, Star Platinum, without permission, taking it on himself to wash the entire thing bow to stern as a gift for being a new client. Needless to say, Polnareff learned his lesson. They found mutual respect out of this, too, that they had never expected. Polnareff would never let anyone take care of his Silver Chariot even if they thought it was for the better. He backed off, appreciating Jotaro for being one of the few to dock at his harbor and actually care about his craft unlike some lofty yacht owners.
Jotaro leaves the memories behind as he gets into the backseat of the company shuttle. Said company shuttle, with the blaring checkered pattern logo
SPW ironically over the wheel of the car, being one of the most expensive luxury brands on the market. To hell if Jotaro knows what, but it gets him where he needs to go. The time on the dashboard reads 5:41. Perfect time to get back home before getting ready for work.
Buckling in his squirming kid is one of the larger feats Jotaro makes in his life. The same courtesy shuttle had remained while Jotaro went in to grab his bags and complete the first most daunting task of his day.
Waking up Jolyne Kujo.
She's still young enough where everything is innocent, everything is inherently fun or a new plaything even if she's warned of it's danger, and there's a question for everything. However, with the Joestar line still in her veins, she retains some of the premature coolness of a Joestar. Just how it will manifest is still a mystery to most except Jotaro. All he can manage to do is barely shake her awake from a safe distance, and she's thrashing with baby punches out for murder. Not unlike Jotaro as a child, who broke more alarm clocks in frustration than not, Jolyne promises to have her father's temper. He regrets it most times, but thankfully it's not often.
Settled into her car seat, Jotaro walks around the car and takes the passenger seat this time. The Foundation employee doesn't bat an eye, already expecting the route to the school-might-as-well-be-daycare to drop off Jolyne. A relatively new employee that had covered this shift once made the mistake of asking why Jotaro didn't sit in the back with his daughter. The mistake wasn't the question necessarily, although pretty involved, but rather in asking it in front of said daughter. She caught onto her curiosity immediately, parroting the question. Jotaro gave the new employee a glare that would haunt his nightmares to come. When he answered calmly, it almost made it worse.
Adults sit up front.
When do I get to sit up front? Jolyne followed up. She got Jotaro's inquisitive nature as well. A slew of questions and answers had followed until Jotaro realized he was fighting a losing battle. It always came back to
Don't you love me, Daddy? Of course he did, but he could never explain why he didn't sit in the backseat with her even though that is where he just sat on the trip there. He ignores it ever since.
Today, however, Jolyne seems content on relative silence. She peers out the window, watching the buildings and people and birds. Idly she points to someone, but makes no comment. Jotaro wonders what she thought just then, but thinks better of asking. At least today she didn't prompt herself into a tyrad of questioning that always struck slightly too off key or slightly too deep. She always asked questions bigger than her.
Pulling up to the school, Jotaro obliges himself to help her out of her car seat, making sure she has her bag, her notebook, her dolphin pen, her lunch box, and double checking that he had indeed left a paper star in said lunch box. Leaning against the car, he watches as she bounds off to join her classmates, all bubbly tiny children that hardly reach the height of his knee. He would worry about sending her off on a daily basis if he wasn't so sure that one, Jolyne could kick their ass, and two, that Jotaro could kick them over. Still, he stands guard until the bell summons the children inside and he can see two pointy black buns disappear into the swarm. He returns to his seat in the back.
The next stop should be vastly different to the experience Jotaro just witnessed. Except for the unfortunate fact that the university is much the same. With not much more than a tip of his hat, Jotaro thanks the driver and collects his bags. He shoulders the cross body bag on one side and carries his stack of papers on the other. Damn it this took too long to grade, he can't wait to get rid of it all. Hat down, Jotaro plunges into the same chaotic mass as he had seen with Jolyne. All hyper, all chatty, all noise and sudden movement. God, Jotaro prays someone left extra coffee in the teacher lounge. It's his only reprieve to dealing with students all day.
All he can blame is himself however. After spending so much time in school and grueling classes wanting to shoot his own brains out or drown in Cola - because he thought that would be better than waking up hungover with alcohol like his lesser classmates - Jotaro came up with the brilliant idea to become a part time professor at the very school he received all his degrees from. The university cherishes him for not only being one of the few alumni to stay and educate future Morioh students, but also because all of his dedication to research and all his projects outside of the classroom has won him national recognition that reflected well on the university. Jotaro frowns. He could care less about all the awards and fame the university wins on his behalf, he just loves doing his fucking job.
Even if that fucking job is breaking up students nearly fucking in his lecture hall. The two students, thankfully not far along, immediately coward to him, collecting their bags and nearly running into the door frame to avoid even touching him. Crisis averted, Jotaro sighs. He'll have to call administration and ask about a new lock on the doors. The bag falls from his shoulders onto his desk unceremoniously. The papers he sets beside it he stacks a little more gingerly, not because he really cares but it would be worse picking it all up if he were too sloppy. Above his whiteboard, the analogue clock strikes 7:00. As a student he hated waking up for the first 8:00 am class, but he thanks himself for forcing motivation to get up in the morning. With afternoons free, ignoring most of his homework at times, he could find solace in the beach.
Turning in his desk chair, Jotaro faces in the vague direction of the sea. It's almost like he can sense it. As far inland as he is, he still remembers the exact path back to the sea, having walked it then driven it many times. The ocean is his home, more so than Morioh at times when he feels at a low point. The bizarre thought in his mind then becomes that he hasn't felt a low point in the recent past. It almost makes him smile at his own personal growth until the first few students start to wander in. With a snarl, he takes a sip of regrettably chilled coffee, before he stands and leafs through the papers. Sleep deprived self from last night was kind enough to organize the papers by class but not any further than that. He fishes for the first few names that walked in.
Slowly but surely, the dread that laced conversations as students walked in turned into either a sigh of relief or a cry of indignation. As per his policy, discussing papers with him is always postponed until after class if not addressed in his broad statement at the beginning. It saves him the headache of wasting a class hour on reviewing individual papers in front of the class. For the most part, however, the relatively easy assignment came back to him as expected - fairly decent, obviously not the best effort, but passing. Try hard students had the best scores, and the slackers with the most marks. With the clock reaching 8, the last student pulls the door closed behind them. They learned that lesson of courtesy day one thanks to Jotaro, but he learned to soften up after that.
Congratulations to the few of you who tried, Jotaro starts, slightly too rough. Damn the lack of coffee. He makes it brief then.
And thank you for those who did the assignment. It's not hard to see where mistakes were made, so I'll leave it to specific questions after class.
Launching into his lesson of the day, Jotaro is almost thankful for a study into his field of interest. Classifying starfish just happens to be one of the most perfect and relevant biological examples to use in Morioh. He turns his back to the class to allow a small smile over it. This was his very thesis, afterall. Regardless, by the end of the lesson, he feels a pang of disappointment judging the reaction of the class. Try hards being try hards, slackers being slackers, and the majority being attentive but not overwhelmingly interested. He huffs discreetly behind his hat when the class is dismissed by the bell. Most lessons kept their interest, but apparently not starfish. No one stayed behind with further questions, so Jotaro idly files homework, dreading the next class hour.
I'm testing the first few chapters before this work is finished. That's not usually my style - I like to finish before I post, but I would love to hear feedback before I got too far. Send me any comments or suggestions. And I promise this won't be an abandoned work ;) It will be long, but I will finish it one way or another.
With love, mwc
Chapter 2: Three's a Crowd
Lunch finds him on the pier. The same long white cloak from the morning snaps in the aggressive wind. Sheer willpower prevents his hat from flying off. He wondered this morning if the storm was due by noon or by night, and apparently the weather won the bet of roulette. Jotaro hoped the weather would have been more kind, with the wind and not the grey, that he might be sailing right now. Alas, it's just not the case today. Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jotaro strolls back down the pier.
Besides teaching, Jotaro found himself as one of the lead rescue and research teams at the
Speedwagon Foundation: Morioh Marine Rehabilitation branch. All of the Joestar bloodline found themselves one way or another at a branch in the Speedwagon Foundation, ever since their honorable ancestor befriended Robert E. O. Speedwagon back in the 1800s. Jotaro's own grandfather holds a minor position as an investigator for America's criminal investigation branch, but he doubts he has upheld that position long since starting his real estate company. Not like Jotaro cares, the old man always found a way to get on his nerves.
Regardless, the Foundation became his second home in Morioh besides the sea and his physical place of living. The advanced wealth of equipment and resources Jotaro coveted as an aspiring student are now at his disposal, and he can't help but feel a touch of pride in it. His vanity is well deserved, however, because Jotaro makes the most of his resources and has only used what he needs for his research or rescue missions. Nothing provided by the Foundation has even been taken for granted, and he has been nothing but grateful ever since being hired.
Except for when he was the one gifted with the interns. The title in itself makes Jotaro's skin crawl. It's already bad enough teaching students against their will. But interns who actively want to hang on his coattails? It would be less off-putting if it were anyone except-
Heeey! Jotaro-san! A chipper voice sings. Looking over his shoulder, he watches as two teenagers sprint to meet him at the front door. Their heaving breaths interrupt them from speaking further, and Jotaro is glad to lead the two inside the complex. Josuke, with the chipper voice, came as a package deal with his best friend Okuyasu. Despite one being even dumber than the other more than half the time - somehow they managed to limbo under their already low IQ at times - the Foundation was eager to throw both of them at Jotaro. Why couldn't he be assigned the more resourceful and dedicated interns like Rohan? Or even Shigechi? At least he’s good at collecting things for him around the center. Hiding his scowl in the shadows of his hat, Jotaro braces himself for the day.
So Jotaro-san, Josuke begins, having regained his breath.
We helped unload the truck already so we can get right into the pools, right? He asked as if by advancing the process along would make Jotaro any more keen on educating the interns. Okuyasu the Dumber finally speaks up.
I heard Hasiku may finally be getting over his cold! he blurts out, making their intentions clear. To anyone else, it would seem that they are keen to practice field work of rehabilitating one of the dolphins in their care. The poor thing had gotten worse after a day in the communal pool with the other dolphins, so they unfortunately had to isolate him.
Back to his original train of thought, Jotaro scoffs. The two boys really only wanted to treat Hasiku because they wanted to play with dolphins. He doesn't really blame them, because truly who isn't in awe and wonder over such magnificent creatures? It does, however, take away from their professionalism.
Still, Jotaro decides against being a total ass. He leads them in the direction of the medical wing to help collect supplies. He locks up his school bag along with his outer white coat and dress shoes, in favor of his grey work coat and slip resistant boots. Josuke and Okuyasu idly chatter as they change into athletic wear that most of the trainers wear, with the exception of the glaring neon yellow stripes replacing the soothing light blue on the sides to distinguish them from the professionals. Meeting with the lead medic, Jotaro gains quick permission for the sake of his interns.
He glances over, seeing two sets of starstruck eyes twinkling at him. His raises a brow. Did they not believe him? He supposes his cool attitude leads people to distrust his intent behind most things he does. It creates the side effect of satisfaction that he still retains an aura of mystery by actually doing something considered thoughtful or nice. Jotaro remains expressionless as he nods with the brim of his hat for the interns to follow the doctor.
I must say I feel bad for him, the doctor notes, standing after taking the complacent dolphins vitals. Jotaro's expression hardens when he sees Josuke still starry-eyed, but he forces his features to relax. He stands beside the doctor watching the trainer in the pool encouraging him to swim.
Not much we can do but wait, the doctor sighs. Jotaro nods. It's unfortunate, but they have the best treatment already in action for the dolphin. Exchanging nods, the doctor leaves the three alone with the dolphin and trainer. Jotaro's eyes follow Hasiku around the pool, observing every movement, every slightly weighted breath, and every twitch of pain. It's not immediately obvious, but years of study trained him. He crouches low at the pool's edge, and Josuke and Okuyasu drop quickly to match.
Morning, Dr. Kujo, the trainer formally greets.
Shiori, Jotaro returns. She guides the exhausted dolphin around the tiny pool one last time before coaxing him to stay at the edge of the pool with the three researchers.
Anything new? Her tone is flat, concerned on behalf of the dolphin. Jotaro shakes his head.
Can't figure anything more than what we're diagnosing now, Jotaro offers. Josuke turns and gives him a look.
What did you diagnose? Blinking, Jotaro remembers that half of the point of an internship is to learn the trade, not just experience it. He explains, but watches as most of it flies right over Josuke's head and completely missing Okuyasu on the way over. Their wide eyes blink. Tipping his hat, Jotaro mutters a quiet
yare yare daze, under his breath. Reaching his hand out face down, he silently commands the dolphin to show his belly.
With assistance, he turns over, responding well to simple training over the past couple of weeks. Nothing appears out of the ordinary from looking alone. Jotaro gingerly brushes his fingers at the tip of the dolphin's snout so it's aware of his presence, before skimming his hands down his underside. The initial blunt trauma healed well to his knowledge, but Jotaro wonders if the illness and poor swimming started to aggravate the area again.
He's pulled from his thoughts when Shiori clears her throat, unsubtly tilting her head towards the interns. When Jotaro looks over, their wide puppy eyes beg for either information or a chance to interact with a real life wild dolphin. An imperceptible nod, and Jotaro draws his hand back, elbows in his knees. The two interns let out a collective gasp.
When we found Hasiku, Shiori begins to explain,
he had several broken ribs. We believed it was in a fight potentially, but Jotaro investigated and realized it might have been due to the shipping incident.
No! They both gasp. All of Morioh knows of the shipping accident that happened just off shore a few months ago. Frowning hard, Josuke looks down at the dolphin with new light.
He's been sick? Okuyasu prompts, getting his turn to pet the dolphin, wisely following Jotaro's example as Josuke had by letting the dolphin be aware of his touch first. Shiori nods to the question.
He became lethargic, and we soon found out he was terribly ill. We don't know if it was from poor food or something spreading around all the dolphins, but he's the only one that got it. The interns nod, processing the information as if they could solve the problem themselves. Okuyasu starts filling the role of intern, asking about the processes of things and how they treat the dolphins. Standing behind them, Jotaro's attention focuses on Josuke, who seems lost in thought staring at Hasiku. The trainer nudges Hasiku to flip right side over, causing a small ripple in the pool.
The dolphin doesn't seem inclined to move further. It strikes Jotaro, and he can't help but feel trapped not having anything more to offer the poor creature. If anyone asked Jotaro what he was hired for, he'd tell him his doctorate, but everyone here knows it's mostly because of his love for the animals and how much he wants to save them from humanity's own careless mistakes. Jotaro could sooner swallow the idea that a gang of dolphins assaulted a penguin than he would ever like to see that penguin defeated by a plastic soda can carrier.
Josuke suddenly captures his attention as he gently pets the dolphin on his head. With the way Shiori watches him, it appears like Josuke asked for permission first, but something still puts Jotaro in a possessive lurch. He holds himself back until Josuke gasps.
What is it bro? Okuyasu pries. Jotaro kneels down in between them to get close and personal with the dolphin. Nothing changed in the dolphin, so Jotaro shifts his confused glare to Josuke. Josuke couldn't be bothered for how intense his eye contact is with one of Hasiku's black marbles.
He's so sad bro, Josuke murmurs just above a whisper.
I can tell, he hurts from being sick, but he's also just really sad.
The four sit in silence for a prolonged moment. Jotaro tries to process what is going on. Of course the dolphin isn't happy about being sick and in pain, and Jotaro is well aware of side effects of prolonged isolation, but why does Josuke's words ring like a new revelation? Shiori looks up to Jotaro for guidance, but turns back to Hasiku when he offers nothing in his blank gaze.
Bro, Okuyasu sighs in awe.
What's his name again? Josuke snaps out of his daze and looks up to the trainer.
Hasiku. Jotaro always names the rescues he finds, she states the obvious. The brooding man huffs at that, not really guarding the secret but not usually willing to offer the information. It's easier to keep track of things with names, and easier for Jotaro to console a stranded animal when he finds it.
Hasiku, Josuke coos, getting the dolphin's attention.
Don't worry Hasiku. They're working as hard and as fast as they can to get you back with your friends. It sounds so cheesy and idiotic, but the consolation seems to sink into the dolphin, as he swims off with slightly less emotional drag. Shiori smiles brightly up to Jotaro.
You might have a trainer on your hands, she smiles. Jotaro huffs, standing and looking away from the interns.
The two rise to follow him, waving their goodbyes to Hasiku and wishing Shiori luck for him. They bubble with excitement back inside as they share their first real internship experience with each other. Exhibit A of their idiocy, they describe the same event they both just witnessed and experienced to each other with detail, and exhibit B is their reaction to start changing out for the day at the lockers. Jotaro stops their conversation with a look, catching them before they take their shirts off.
Keep those on, is all Jotaro offers. He himself changes into form fitting professional swimwear, no longer wearing his green popped collar but otherwise not appearing much different than his dark underclothes to begin with, especially when he puts his white hat back on. He leaves both coats in the locker, only taking with him a small backpack with emergency supplies and a pair of keys. Dangling the keys, Jotaro watches their eyes light up once more.
More intern stuff! they cheer to each other, giving a ceremonious high five before realizing Jotaro is halfway out the side door to the garage. Jotaro pauses long enough to explain the basic run down of the rescue vehicle and what they need to check for before they leave before they're on their way down coastal streets.
Chapter 3: To Show He Cares
On the drive back, Josuke sighs against the van window, face half pressed against it. The AC provides relief from the heavy salty air just outside. He had hoped for something more interesting, but perhaps his expectations were too high. Jotaro-san had never taken them out before, the least Josuke expected was to see something or hear a story recounted. Still, he’s grateful for Jotaro-san’s openness to letting them see the healing dolphin today. It’s more than enough to talk about at home.
Jotaro-san flicks down the sun visor as they turn and face directly into the sunset. The sky all fiery yellow and orange is blinding this time of day without the cloud cover from earlier, but it promises to be a clear night. His excitement dwindles into exhaustion. Perhaps it’s better that they are wrapping things up. Glancing over his shoulder, Josuke’s face falls when he finds his friend already asleep. Great. Tired, bored, and no one to talk to.
Jotaro-san? Josuke pipes up softly, not sure whether he should really be talking to him. Jotaro-san usually doesn’t like talking more than he has to. This is confirmed when he doesn’t answer to Josuke. Pursing his lips, he presses his face back into the window.
What is it, Josuke? Jotaro-san prompts, his low voice not quite as hardened as it usually is. Josuke sits up. Now that he has Jotaro-san’s attention, it’s vital that Josuke take advantage of it. And of course now he blanks on his original question. Quick, think of something quick dumbass! Worried eyes glance out the window for inspiration.
Uh, well, he fumbles uselessly. He can feel the cold man’s gaze at him in the rear view mirror.
Um, actually, I think I was just going to say, uh, thank you. Great, now he thinks you’re the dumber intern. Josuke and Okuyasu can usually tell when Jotaro-san favors one or the other for the non-exclusive title. He frowns, resolutely looking away from the driver and avoiding his eye contact. He swears he sweats a little. With a deep breath, he forces himself to relax. Several long moments pass until it seems that Jotaro-san has dropped the awkward conversation.
We have to make one stop before we reach the Foundation, Jotaro explains, trying to offer something to the silent cabin. Shuffling fabric in the back reveals Josuke fidgeting. The boy doesn’t seem inclined to respond either. So be it. Josuke raises no objection, so Jotaro mentally plans his detour route.
Street signs and street lights become more prominent as the sunset falls lower. Behind them, the horizon is taken over by the darkness. The evening spurs an early night life brand of Morioh that Jotaro hadn’t entirely expected of such a quiet coastal town. In it’s defense, the shops don’t stay open particularly late, and the people are content retiring home at a decent hour. That’s why he is fond of the town, Jotaro realizes. It is literally the best of both worlds for him; a respectable town to live in, and a perfect ocean gateway to live by.
The soft click of a blinker barely stirs Josuke, as he had succumbed to the same fate as his friend in the backseat. Jotaro waits patiently for his turn in the right lane. Traffic rolls by at its leisurely pace. When there’s a sizable gap, he can finally make his turn into the empty parking lot. Yellow headlights flash inside the dark storefront as he makes a sweeping turn. He doesn’t bother to officially park, which just goes to show how comfortable this place makes him. Leaving the van running, Jotaro tosses the door shut and strides to meet Polnareff.
Never thought you were coming back, he admits with a chuckle. The shimmer in his eyes tries to cover his true exhaustion. Probably a lot of frustrated tourists wanting their money back for poor weather. Jotaro shakes his head.
Good day then? No threat to sea life? No plastic bags to tear up? I have a few in the back if you’d like, Polnareff teases, still having the energy to do such. Jotaro mutters a weak
yare yare. Out of habit, they find their way to Star Platinum idly tossing in the soft evening waves. Soft shoes make a hard thud with Jotaro’s weight as he hops onto the boat. All he needs to do is steer the rudder as Polnareff tugs him along. With shoulders as broad as his own, there’s no surprise that Polnareff can be his own tug boat. It helps, however, that his arms are accompanied by melons of muscle built up over years of hard labor. Jotaro honestly could work himself up to that, but he’s fine by looking like step three of Polnareff’s five step body build.
Shoving Star Platinum into its own dock, Polnareff meets Jotaro and offers his hand up. Jotaro borrows the grip to propel himself up into an already decent stride. The seasoned dockhand has the boat tied down before Jotaro can even make it back to the shop. Night having finally settled, Jotaro can easily make out the lights of the van even behind the shop.
You know, Jotaro, Polnareff starts genuinely,
do you ever think you’ll take on another big project? Like that one time you needed to identify the exact strength of the current far out? Stumbling over specifics, Polnareff brings up Jotaro’s research project into whether the fluctuation of the migrating whale population was due to any sort of environmental change, but Jotaro pulls himself out of that rabbit hole. Hardly facing the silver man, he gives a slight nod.
If there’s something pressing enough to research, I’ll do it. He leaves his tone rather open to Polnareff, knowing that they’re having this conversation for a specific reason. Hesitating, the dockhand scratches at the back of his head. Jotaro brings himself to stop. They stand in front of the shop as Polnareff works out whatever he wants to say.
Well, actually, there’s someone interested in offering a great investment for us, he smiles. Jotaro sees right through it, straight past the excitement to see the uncertainty. He holds his gaze long enough that Polnareff continues of his own accord.
They want to dock their yacht here, even rent it out as one of our own if we wanted to. It’s an expensive one too, très cher! Bon, if I was the captain, I wouldn’t let it anywhere near this harbor! Certainly they would’ve wanted the rich man’s posh club up north. Polnareff attempts to laugh it off, but the weight of it all still brings his expression back down.
What’s the catch? Jotaro can feel the uncertainty, too. Anything too good to be true cannot be taken lightly.
Well, honestly, I think it’s because they know you’re here.
Chills run down his spine. It’s not exactly like either of them try hard to keep Jotaro’s prefered harbor a secret. However, Jotaro knows what sorts of attention he garners, good and bad. The sorts of people who go out of their way to find Jotaro are usually the bad kind that he tries to get away from. Even as a respected professor, he can’t quite avoid the way some of his female students regard him, gawk at him.
So it’s a publicity stunt. Turning on his heel, Jotaro scoffs at the idea. In pursuit of his own personal goals in life, inadvertently he has made himself a more prominent figure. He hated being popular in school, and he almost wishes he kept all of his discoveries in his field to himself if it meant avoiding this. Still, he lets out the tension in his muscles with a mild tremor.
Jotaro. The heavy hand on his shoulder and the soft whine finally pulls Jotaro to look at his friend. The same cheeky nervous smile is still plastered all over his face.
Look, if it means that much, I can tell them no. They’re a bunch of pretentious snobs anyway, they might make poor clients for me.
No, Jotaro stops him. Frozen mid-thought, Polnareff closes his mouth to take his turn to listen.
Let them. They both know that it’s because of the well-to-do clientele that Polnareff could keep his shop open after all that had happened. As if reaching the same conclusion, they both look away from each other’s gaze. Hurricanes happen, it’s not like Polnareff was to blame, but he took all the weight of his sister’s death onto his shoulders. Offering a firm clap on the shoulder in return, Jotaro finally breaks away.
Bon, by your grace, I shall continue my business, Polnareff lightens up with an exaggerated bow towards Jotaro. He can’t help rolling his eyes, but the expression is softened with a slight upturn of his lips.
Ciaoooo Jotaro! Behind him, the dockhand waves largely, until Jotaro pulled the van back onto the street and disappeared into the night.
At some point along the last few miles of the road, Josuke jostled awake just enough for Jotaro to catch his attention.
Hey, Josuke. We’re nearly back. Wake up Okuyasu and gather your things. Yawning, Josuke lightly nods before shoving the heel of his palm into his friend’s shoulder. When that doesn’t work, the teen resorts to pawing at his face. Multiple times he calls his name until Jotaro pulls into the garage, braking just slightly too hard. Nearly falling forward, Okuyasu wakes up with a sharp breath. Josuke admonishes his friend, but Jotaro hops out of the driver’s seat before he can hear the full exchange. Soon enough, two van doors open and shut and Jotaro can finally let the garage door down.
The two follow him back to their temporary lockers. Jotaro pulls off the swimwear like shedding skin, and it feels just as relieving to put on normal clothes. He sits on the bench to tie his laces back up. He casts a dark glare at the interns as their conversation picks up momentum. After exhausting themselves to the point of napping, how could they still muster the energy to work themselves up into excitement again? Jotaro keeps an ear in their conversation, however, not being able to help but overhear.
I mean, bro, if I ever had to hunt a whale or somethin’ I wouldn’t use a wooden stick, Okuyasu shrugs. Despite his reservations, Jotaro lets the comment slide. They’re just being dumb interns.
I’m just saying, Josuke holds his hands up in surrender,
any of it is just mean.
Yeah, poachers are gross. They all respect the beat of silence, all in agreement as Jotaro listens to the true intent of the conversation. Keys in his hand, Jotaro lets the two head out the door first, tailing behind and turning to lock the front doors.
Hey, Jotaro-san, Josuke calls when Jotaro straightens. He turns towards the voice on the street.
See ya tomorrow then? Letting his mind process his schedule, it’s brought to the forefront of his mind that tomorrow is indeed Friday, which means that his whole day will be spent here at the Foundation. Consequently, with them two. He lets his head tip down, the brim of his hat acting as enough of a nod to satisfy their question.
Alrighty! See ya tomorrow, Jotaro-san! Josuke offers a short wave. Okuyasu mirrors him.
Nice work today! See ya, Okuyasu’s rough tone chimes. They both shoulder their bags and start to walk off in the direction of their houses not too far down the street. Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jotaro turns around to find one of the Foundation shuttles and the driver asleep in the front seat. He gives a sharp knock with one knuckle. Startled, the driver looks up to meet Jotaro’s stare, immediately falling submissive and apologetic as he starts the car.
Yare yare daze, Jotaro groans as he climbs into the back seat.
As the street lights pass and cast orange shadows into the dark car, Jotaro lets his mind and his gaze fall over the bleak horizon. It’s late enough now that the horizon blends together, making the line between ocean and sky indistinguishable. Still, it’s not what’s on his mind. He’s thankful that Polnareff warned him about the suspicious client, but something in him tells him not to be too worried about it.
He didn’t revisit that concern in the rest of the conversation or the drive home. Now that he thinks back to it, it still strikes him in an odd place, making him feel like he should be more concerned. Is he concerned for Polnareff that this may be just a scam? Is he guarding himself against the unwanted attention? Does he really think his name is threatened by someone trying to use it to their advantage?
Jotaro tries brushing it all off as sleep deprivation, despite it only being 8:17 pm. He’s too tired to processes the hidden intent of mysterious yacht owners. The night is still young, only freshly fallen over Morioh like a comforting blanket. Velvet darkness contrasts against the city lights in a pleasing way that makes every artificial light feel warmer and every cool breeze feel crisper. That’s not why Jotaro appreciates Morioh at night, however. His motivation is entirely different than the common populace.
The stars only shine when everything else is out of the picture. His cliffside villa is one of the few rejected for not having the perfect cliffside view or photogenic sunrises as the others do. However, secluded just enough on its own, Jotaro can walk down the hill just enough to find the perfect stargazing beach. It became his oasis to relax and let all the pressures of the day roll right off him like a nice cold shower. The stars alone kept him company, until he shared his past time with Jolyne. In a way, adding her along made it even better. His shining star among the stars.
Her inevitable questions would have a single focus for once, always on the stars and the shapes they made in the sky. She wanted to know the stories they told. She wondered where they came from, and why they were there. She wondered if starfish were named after the stars or vise versa. She tried to put together her own stories of heroic dolphins and evil octopi and that she was one of the
Queen Purpose’s - because even when her vocabulary grew, she could never correct her pronunciation of porpoise - knights, and that was why she had the star-shaped birthmark on her shoulder.
As the car pulls up to his porch, Jotaro answers the driver’s farewell with a
thank you. Tired legs carry him to the front door, unlocking it just in time to catch Jolyne running straight at his arms. He all but falls to his knees when he meant to crouch. With her arms around his neck, Jotaro lifts her as he stands, taking her back to the bed she ran down from.
Daddy, she mumbles tiredly,
it's late, again. The disappointment strikes Jotaro deep into his heart, but he doesn't let it show past the brim of his hat. His footsteps are surprisingly light up the stairs as Jolyne already starts fading back into her dreams.
Laying her down gently, Jotaro pulls the bright coral pink and pearl white bed sheets and cover over his sleeping daughter. Some would call it obsessive how much he pushed his love of the ocean into his daughter's life. However, she seems receptive enough. Her favorite comfort object, a green stuffed animal starfish named Charmy, lays beside her head. When she was a baby, it was the size of her body. Now, Jotaro's heart clenches oddly at the thought that it's smaller in proportion, and that she's no longer a baby. It's a normal reaction of a father realizing the years are passing, but Jotaro has never been a normal person. Instead of dwelling on feelings, he flicks off the light in the clamshell light switch cover and closes the door behind him.
Daddy? Her sleepy coo stops him in his tracks. He lifts his head as if to address her without the shield of his hat. She still faces away from him curled on her side as she is. A slight shift in her shoulders confuses Jotaro, as if she was going to say something further, but decided against it. Indifference has reigned over his life for so many years that he doesn't see it sliding between himself and his daughter. Yet with one request, it shatters the barrier for Jotaro, and he's glad to have the excuse to justify having emotion.
Can I have cuddles?
Obliging, Jotaro paces back over to the opposite side of the bed, coral faded grey in the absence of light. Legs settle on the bed gingerly. His back propped up against the headboard, Jotaro holds out a large hand to invite his daughter closer. She snuggles against his hip as she finds comfortable, curling her significantly tinier fist into his top purple layer and wrapping her leg over his thigh. It's as if she attempts to make herself a starfish and sticking her limbs spread eagle against him. A smile touches his lips. The tips of his fingers gently unwrap the buns in her hair, a task she had forgotten about while he was gone.
Don't leave, she weakly pleads as she drifts off back to sleep, only so that he would stay and cuddle until she was asleep, but he can't ignore the subtle undertone to it. Kids are not complex, which may be why Jotaro can tolerate Jolyne ten times more than the average person. Being his child, every thought, idea, and opinion is direct. She doesn't sugar coat anything, and even when she lies, her fib is nearly believable for the certainty in her voice.
However genuine she may be, Jolyne also unfortunately inherited Jotaro's lack of emotional understanding. She may very well be upset with him, and rightfully so, for how many late nights he stays away from his own daughter. His own emotion shield reminds him that he had to be out late, that he has to attend to other things in his life even if he has a daughter. Jotaro is notorious for being independent, and now it has reached the point of being a fault. He knows he should know better. Nothing in his mind tells him to care about it though.
Once he recognizes the deep slow pattern of breathing, Jotaro lifts Jolyne off of his hip and gently back into the bed. He spares half a second regarding her expressionless sleep before pushing Charmy into her arms as an offering. Or an apology; Jotaro isn't great at identifying it either. Still, he feels better when the fingers once curled into his shirt curl around one of Charmy's arms. The peace of the moment lingers as he closes the door softly behind him and heading to the master bedroom on the opposite side of the house.
Chapter 4: Emerald Splash
A sudden weight drops directly into his stomach, startling him from surprisingly restful sleep. With a grunt, he sits up to identify the unsubtle assault. His hand wipes over his face. In the darkness of the night, Jotaro can just make out the outline of his daughter now bouncing on the edge of the bed. She leaps again and Jotaro tenses, bracing for impact.
Daddy, daddy! The stars! You have to come see! she squeals, shooting through his eardrums painfully. A low growl escapes him as he lifts his daughter high into the air. Her squeals become laughter as she's held up and her father aggressively kicks the sheets off of him. Setting her down on the floor, she kicks off into a bouncing sprint out the door, every step falling heavy on the stairs enough to make loud thuds all the way down. He glances at the alarm clock on his nightstand.
Yare yare, he breaths, stopping himself from cursing. Pulling on his shirt from the evening before, Jotaro starts slowly down the stairs with the same loud thuds. 4:13 is too damn early to be awake. He had thought Jolyne was over the awful stage of waking up at the most inconvenient hours, but clearly he underestimated her.
At the bottom of the stairs, Jolyne already has on her pink windbreaker, Charmy clutched tight against her chest and secured by the zipper. Her dolphin-patterned onesie pokes out from beneath. The white coat by the door will have to suffice as he all but throws it on. He grabs his keys and opens the door from behind the excited girl. She bursts out in a rush, leading her father down the hill. Jotaro has half a mind to lock the door, but decides if he isn't likely to be up at this hour, then not many others will bother to be up to rob him. Besides, it's Morioh, Japan's quietest city.
They follow their familiar worn path down to their favorite star-gazing beach. It's as if he walks with autopilot, not remembering when he rounded the bend with the leaning tree but seeing it already behind him. Pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes, he tries to will away his exhaustion for the sake of his daughter. Yare yare, it better be important enough to drag them all the way out here.
Jolyne's footsteps dig into the sand with familiar sound of shifting grains. He idly remembers that she's only in pajamas and that it's going to be hell to shake sand from the onesie later, but can't muster the energy to be upset. She kicks up sand running around as she does. A decent pile kicks up into his shoe and he can't stop his lips from twisting into a snarl, so he turns his head away. Instead, he decides to sit down where he's at, finally looking up to observe the stars Jolyne seems to be so eager about.
Look look! She points at an angle at specific stars, as if he can tell exactly which one she's referring to.
They're green! Just like Charmy! See? I told you! I told you! Her pride gets the better of her as she drapes over his raised knee, getting right in his face. With a sigh, he looks back to the vague direction of her pointing. It's late and they're tired, but he'll humor her theory that starfish are really fallen stars again.
Squinting, Jotaro starts to take her a little more seriously. Jolyne falls away from his knee as he stands to get a closer look. Just as she pointed out, a few stars twinkle with flickers of bright green light, as if they had completely changed color.
What the… he trails off before be can misspeak in front of his daughter. As soon as he blinks, they return to being normal stars. Did he just imagine it? Was his subconscious seeing what he wanted to see for Jolyne's sake?
Aww, they're not green anymore, her disappointed whine tells him that no, they didn't just imagine it. She stares at the sky, transfixed. But with her excitement fading, she loses all her energy. He catches before she sits down to get comfortable in the sand. Large arms support her as she curls against his shoulder as he stands. He doesn't have to hassle with consoling her to sleep, because by the time he lays her back in bed, she has already been long out. He's grateful she was able to fall back asleep.
Unfortunately, Jotaro finds himself back downstairs, looking out the large windows over the back of the couch. What sort of phenomenon would cause that? He curses his intellect, wanting to have answers, wanting to discover. A frown slowly grows deeper into his face. Was it because of the ocean? A trick of the light? Why those specific stars? They seemed hand picked, as if those specific stars revealed a whole realm of secrets.
The urge grows stronger, and soon Jotaro can hardly contain himself. Thoughts race in his head. If yesterday was Friday, then today was Saturday, the start of the weekend. Jolyne will still be up just as early as she would for school, but expecting an easy casual morning. Perhaps he can call Josuke over to babysit as an extension of familial favors and not just as his intern turned.
With the landline pinched between his chin and shoulder, Jotaro summons a Speedwagon - as they so cleverly called their shuttle cars - to bring him straight to the docks. The only obstacle in the way would be if Polnareff was late. The insistent man usually arrived to his shop early, at first purely because he enjoys the ocean much the same as Jotaro, and it gradually evolved into being early because of Jotaro, just in case of situations such as this. Hanging up with the Foundation, Jotaro then dials for
Chariots of the Sea: Harbor and Rental.
‘Ello? Polnareff hedges cautiously.
Polnareff, Jotaro answers. He can hear the man brighten up.
Oi, Jotaro! Bienvenue! Out this early? The energy on the other end of the line is almost too much, still being before dawn.
I thought you liked to sleep in on the weekends. Alors, never know what to expect of you, huh?
I'll be over in ten minutes, Jotaro evades, knowing the Foundation shuttle to be on its way and arriving soon. He can tell Polnareff's shoulders slump just by knowing him long enough.
Alright, alright, I'll be here, Polnareff assuages, signing off with a
Ciao! As soon as Jotaro hangs up, he hears the crackling of rocks on the mountain path telling him the shuttle has arrived.
Snatching his light pack, Jotaro pulls his decorated hat tight on his forehead, and heads off, locking the door behind him but dropping the spare key into the crook of the window sill. By the time he reaches to the harbor, he should be able to call the Higashikata residence and have someone answer. The car ride is silent, the driver already aware of his destination.
. . .
A ringing from the telephone pulls at his conscious. His subconscious rolls in turmoil, fighting against the urge to stir out of his dreams. It's too late to go back, however, when he hears the ringing continue. If his mother's not getting it, and he doesn't get it, then she's gonna be pissed.
Rolling over, Josuke glances at the clock. 4:47 am. Who in the world is calling at 5 in the morning? Why is he the one supposed to answer it? Groaning, Josuke tosses himself out of the bed and picking up the nearest phone in the hallway.
Josuke's residence, Higashikata speaking, Josuke mumbles, rubbing his eye. Wait, he said that backwards, didn't he?
Josuke, Jotaro-san interrupts.
Jotaro-san? He shakes his head to clear the fogginess in his mind.
Hey, Jotaro-san. What's up?
Josuke, I'm sending a Foundation car to your house. Can you head straight to my villa? The spare key is in the window sill. His voice is serious enough, but Josuke isn't entirely sure if his lack of emotions means it's a simple request or an emergency?
Anything wrong, Jotaro-san? he asks instead. There's a pause on the other end, and Josuke's concern grows.
There's something I need to research. An odd event at sea earlier this morning. A chill runs down the teen's spine, and he isn't quite sure why. It's only Jotaro-san doing what he does best, research, but his tone about it sparks concern. That, and it's still not even 5:00 am.
I need someone to be at my house until I return.
Why? Are you afraid of anything happening? Another pause, even more tense than before.
Jolyne wakes up around 7, but I don't know when I'll be home.
You want me to babysit?! Josuke flinches. Trying to regain his courtesy, he calms his voice.
Not that I can't, but ya coulda just told me before. All he hears is a slight grunt before Jotaro abruptly hangs up. Josuke sighs, releasing all the tension from the awkward conversation. Well, turns out his weekend is starting bright and early.
Changing into his usual yellow shirt, he pulls his uniform jacket over it languidly. He supposes he should pack a few things, granted that Jotaro never gave him a time frame that he'd be home. He's almost out the door before he realizes he should probably let his mother know. Groaning, he scribbles a hasty note and sticks it to the door as he leaves.
The sky has no light to it besides the twinkling stars and the sliver of the moon. Otherwise, it still signals to Josuke that it's too early to be up. Sure enough, a dark green car with the logo reading
SPEEDWAGON on the fender is waiting just in front of his house. Josuke sighs, but climbs into the back seat.
Kujo Jotaro’s house, please, Josuke requests, unsure of what's expected of him from the company cars. The driver nods. The edge of the horizon separates between the sky and the ocean with a sliver of grey. Josuke hopes he can fall back asleep enough to make up for waking up this early.
Out in the black sea, Jotaro hopes he can find the stars before they fade.
Chapter 5: In a Hurry to Meet Fate
The night starts to give into dawn. Cursing, he picks up his pace. He frantically charts the stars. Any second, the starting edge of the sunrise will pierce the dark veil and cast the stars into hiding once more. The world goes ‘round. He hates how the simple things are the bane of his existence. If he were normal, he would enjoy the sunrise and appreciate the stars when he sees them. But instead, he is too curious, and when the stars are so intent on telling him something important, the sunrise is a nuisance.
Marking each green star before it fades into obscurity, he double checks each as he traces back the patterns. It spans a few different of the main constellations, and quite a few minor ones, but what does it all mean? What is it telling him? Shaking his head, he snaps out of his blank stare, focusing on the last glimpses of the dark canvas before the grey of dawn mutes the stars. He was hoping he could see the picture in the sky. Fate doesn't seem so kind, and now he will be forced to study the copy of the starmap in his notes. Glancing down, he hopes it will be enough.
A ripple of water up on the surface catches his attention. He wouldn't have thought twice about it, but it definitely didn't sound like a wave. In the entire ocean, he didn't expect to be alone, but perhaps he had hoped for a quiet morning without the disturbance of the ocean's surface creatures begging for his attention. A curse bubbles from his lips as he finds himself drawn to the noise. With his notes still in his firm grip, he glances about.
Kakyoin! A hushed voice yells up to him. He turns with a start, brushing a curl of red hair from his face. Poking out from the safety of darkness, a head of spiked white hair glances up desperately, willing the other to listen. All he gets in return is a glare. With the flick of a shimmery emerald tail, Kakyoin is slipping away from him and getting dangerously close to the slow moving vessel.
Kakyoin! he whispers again, swimming rapidly to catch up.
Koichi! You're supposed to keep back! You'll get us caught.
Oh I'm the one- he starts, but Kakyoin's hand clamps over his mouth. He resigns to his fate. Slowly, Kakyoin floats them up to the surface. The slight drip of water as he breaks the surface is near silent. Something stirs on top of the vessel languidly. Koichi glares around and tries to keep watch for others. A lone vessel is never without at least one more-
Apparently satisfied, Kakyoin plunges them back underwater.
A human scribe! he bubbles with excitement, still holding his friend close. Shoving himself away, Koichi finally breaks away from his grasp.
Yeah yeah, a real human, Koichi taunts, unimpressed and leading Kakyoin back into the darker levels of the ocean.
Maybe next time we can talk to him and compare notes. Behind him, Kakyoin pauses, as if actually considering it.
No! Koichi almost whines, grabbing onto one of Kakyoin's ribbon-like side fins. It pulls a mild grunt of pain from Kakyoin, but it gets him to reconsider. "We are not under any circumstances to encounter sailors. Scribes or otherwise."
But isn't that the whole point of the mission, Koichi? To study humans? Kakyoin returns to his studious tone. He seems calmer and more collected now that they return to the sea floor. They are already close enough to shore to be in a human's range if they aren't careful. The shadows of the underwater shelf only offering so much forgiveness at night as it is.
Yeah, I suppose, Koichi admits, scratching the back of his head.
But we have to stick to the plan. It's your brilliant plan, last time I checked.
The reminder isn't lost on Kakyoin. The whole point of this research venture was to prove himself worthy of commendation. Creating his own form of research was the only way he stood out from the rest of the curious intellects. He cursed his school, however. Of all schools, why must he be a fish-form? Sure, he didn't care to be the more militant whale- or shark-forms, but he could've been something better than a fish. His fins twitch idly at the thought, his determination reignited. He'll prove that he can rise above his rank, to become a true Hierophant and show them all.
You're lost again. Koichi shakes Kakyoin out of his musings. However, upon examining his features, Kakyoin finds no rudeness. His smile is evidence enough of an innocent jest. Kakyoin offers a smile back. Having a squid-form assistant was definitely a good choice. Koichi may be the only one to truly understand him, wanting to prove himself as more than just a small little creature with tentacles.
So, Koichi prompts. They float idly in the calm water. It's slightly warmer closer to the shelf than Kakyoin realized, but not unpleasantly so. Turning to their shared collection of notes, Koichi offers a small encouraging smile.
How about we go right into step one? Kakyoin nods, his curl of red hair bobbing along. Time to get serious.
. . .
Once Star Platinum is handed over to Polnareff, Jotaro hurries up along the dock. He sends Polnareff a short goodbye over his shoulder as he hurries to the Foundation shuttle. By the time he realized he was sitting there in the ocean staring at his notes, it was already getting late. The sun is almost fully risen. Jotaro curses himself. Hopefully Josuke had made it in time.
The Foundation employee dropped off Jotaro with a courteous nod, and drove off as soon as Jotaro closed the door. The excitement of the morning propels him straight from leaving the car up the front steps and straight in through his door. Still, his instinctual reserved personality resolved his features back into disinterest, and allowed him to step into his own house as calm as if he had simply been off on a morning stroll.
By the sounds coming from the kitchen, Jolyne is awake and awaiting breakfast. The true test would be to see if Josuke found Jotaro's quick notes and obeyed dutifully. Rounding the corner, Jotaro finds more than what he expected.
Ahh and the crowd goes wild! Josuke exaggerates with a breathy noise to mimic a large crowd cheering as the pancake flips perfectly back into the pan. He bows courteously when Jolyne applauds him with joyous laughter.
Do it again! she demands, so Josuke slides the pancake onto her plate before stirring the remaining uncooked batter. Jotaro steps into the kitchen silently. He lifts a finger to his lips when Jolyne notices her father.
Starfish or dolphin? Josuke asks without looking back.
A starfish would be nice, Jotaro drawls. He grins a crooked half-smirk as he watches Josuke seize up, every muscle in his back tense as he sets the batter back to the side.
Jotaro-san! Josuke turns around sharply, bowing in half out of fear of disrespecting his mentor.
I-I didn't hear you come in.
Too busy with pancake SeaWorld? Jotaro quips in his low monotone. Reaching over the bartop counter, he picks up the freshly brewed coffee that Josuke had started, pouring himself a cup. He watches as Josuke fights lifting himself up from his bow until he springs up to catch the pancake from burning. He flips the perfect star shape without ceremony this time. Jotaro can't help but notice Jolyne's frown.
She can have the starfish, Jotaro concedes.
I'll find something else. Taking the stool next to Jolyne, he unsubtly plucks a slice of orange off of his daughters plate. She cries out in objection, throwing a solid punch at his arm. He raises an eyebrow at her. Her cheeks puff as her ears turn red.
Ora! She tries again with a faster punch, shouting her battle cry. This time Jotaro flinches back as if he took substantially more damage. He smiles into his coffee cup as she giggles.
Josuke finishes a few more pancakes with quite the show for Jolyne before clicking off the stovetop. With a few failed extras on his own plate, Josuke borrows the bottle of syrup before sitting himself down at the kitchen table alone.
What did you find, Daddy? Jolyne bubbles with curiosity instead. He shouldn't be surprised that his daughter can figure him out so quickly, it's not like he's as guarded around her. Still, his usual wall of indifference feels frayed if she can see right through. Setting down his coffee, Jotaro ponders just how best to say it. He left after she woke him up in the middle of the night to identify a pattern of stars that mean nothing? Suddenly, as if the little girl read his thoughts, she gasps.
Was it the green stars? Jolyne whispers rather loudly to her father. Josuke perks up. Green stars? He passes it off as another inside oceanic reference that Jotaro shares with his daughter. That is, until he watches Jotaro-san's shoulders tense as he tilts his hat down.
They were there all morning. I was able to write them down, but I don't know what they mean yet, he explains as if he would explain to a lecture hall. Dang, Jotaro can switch so fast between his masks. It would concern Josuke if he didn't know Jotaro-san better. A soft ruffle of sheets of paper, and Jotaro has his notes open to a page with a bunch of dots connected by lines. He points around the papers, explaining each dot that must be a star, why they're connected, and the constellations they are a part of. Finished with his plate, Josuke starts to wonder if he should just leave.
Josuke, Jotaro catches him just as he stands.
Isn't today another internship review?
Uh-h yes, Jotaro-san! I'll be out of ya hair now. Thanks Jotaro-san! Have a good day Jolyne-chan! And with his stuff hastily thrown in his arms, Josuke is out the door.
He's half way down the hill before he realizes he doesn't have a more efficient ride. Dammit! Now he's either got to run the rest of the way and hope he isn't too late, or go all the way back up and borrow Jotaro-san's phone to call his mother for a ride. Glancing back up to the house, Josuke turns and starts sprinting. No way is he going back to disturb Jotaro-san, least he accidentally spur his wrath. He seemed okay enough with how well Josuke babysat Jolyne, though it was only breakfast.
He shakes the thoughts from his mind. He has to make it back to the Foundation or he's in trouble.
When his shoes finally hit the sidewalk, he is relieved, finding infinitely more traction than he had in the grass and rocky paths. Sprinting around corners, Josuke shouts apologies over his shoulder.
‘Scuse me, sorry!
Ah! Sorry, gonna be late!”
He glanced over his shoulder to make sure the woman still had a grip on her groceries as he turned the final corner. Just down the street should be the Foundation. He might just make it.
Tripping, Josuke stumbles to find his footing before falling into the street, all of his papers and notebooks scattering into traffic. His bag is rumbled when a car runs over it, in its haste not being able to avoid his possessions. With a flinch, Josuke scurries to his feet, waving and apologizing to honking cars as he gathers what he can. All of his barely-collected belongings fall at his feet once he reaches the sidewalk. Panting, he turns to apologize to the person he must've tripped over, his bow already low.
I am so sorry, I'm in a rush and I had no idea you'd be right there, ya know? Anyway, I'll make it up to ya, ‘kay? He lifts his head to see a purely quizzical look on the man’s face. He didn't have to look up far, however, the man being in a wheelchair. Josuke's initial thoughts ponder that the man is far to young to need use of a wheelchair - what, older twenties like Jotaro-san? - before he realizes he's staring quite rudely.
Sorry, sir, Josuke mumbles, embarrassed. He picks up his stuff and shoves it loosely into his crumbled bag as much as he can fit. Shouldering his bag, he looks back to the man in the wheelchair.
Strangely violet eyes stare back at him, wide and shimmering, as if seeing for the first time. Though Josuke could simply be misreading the sheer amount of horror the man must have for the stumbling buffoon he has been. Scratching the back of his head, Josuke becomes even more flushed with embarrassment.
Honestly sir, I do hold up to my promises, Josuke offers, gesturing with his free hand instead.
Do you need help getting anywhere? How dumb must that have sounded? Obviously the man is capable enough to get himself places if he's here on his own! The man simply gazes up to him. Another realization sends a cold shock straight down his spine. Maybe it's even worse, maybe the man hasn't been understanding Josuke at all; the man doesn't understand Japanese!
Uhh, Josuke draws out, trying to think. Think, think, his own father, for as much as that's worth, speaks English over speaking broken Japanese. Josuke steels his ego enough to attempt what he knows.
I can to help you? The man blinks in even further bewilderment. A bead of sweat rolls down Josuke's temple. That bad, huh?
Oiiii, Josuke! A gruff voice startles him out of his awkwardness.
Okuyasu! Josuke brightens up. Between the two of them, they should be able to figure it out.
Quick! What English do you know?
Huh? English? Okuyasu gapes, seeming to be in the middle of asking Josuke something himself.
Well… I know how to ask for the bathroom, I think, but… he trails off, quickly realizing his own limits.
Oh! You know who would know?
Who? Josuke jumps eagerly. He can feel the man's attention still fixed on him as if expecting an answer, and quick.
Jotaro-san. He should be at the Foundation soon, right bro?
Ahhh shhhh- Josuke stops himself from cursing in front of the stranger.
The Foundation! Dude, it's review today! A look of panic sweeps over Okuyasu's tense face. They quickly bolt down the street, Josuke waving bye to the stranger and shouting something in English he hopes means
someone else can help.
The man sits there, watching as the two adolescents sprint away from him. He could tell enough from their conversation that they genuinely wanted to help and communicate with him, but a more pressing matter called for their attention. Tilting his head, he tries to hear some of the conversation in his head. There wasn't much vocabulary to discern what they were trying to communicate, but he supposes the intent is enough.
With a sigh deflating his chest, he pulls the blanket higher up his hips. When the one with the interesting hair had zoomed around the corner, he must've pulled the cover a little. Part of him grows concerned that someone may have seen, but his fears are assuaged by the inattention people give him. A more relaxed sigh escapes his lips this time
Using his arms, he's able to push the wheels around and move himself forward. The smell of the ocean wafts over to him. It feels unfamiliar in this context, as far away from the sea as he feels. Curls of red hair fly in his face unexpectedly, as if an unexpected current brushed him.
The wind. He shudders, silently cursing Koichi, but mostly himself for coming up with this plan. He wheels past several transparent panes of what he assumes can only be material magic. They have scribes, certainly the humans have texts? A particular text catches his eye, featuring the human's written language in comically large font. It may just work. The sooner Kakyoin learns how to speak human, the better.
Chapter 6: No Need to Translate Your Feelings
It's a long while until he notices the same two people leave the separate building at the end of the street. Eavesdropping told him that it was the Speedwagon Foundation's Marine Rehabilitation. The book in his hands lowers to his lap as he watches the two men walk back his direction, accompanied by a much larger man in all white. He blinks. Perhaps he simply misjudged the distance between them? Being out of water for so long has turned his vision for the worse. His ears still ring, not shielded by a softer medium like water to interpret sound, and his eyes sting from the brightness of the unfiltered sunlight.
As the two approach, they seem excited to greet him and introduce their friend, half way into explaining until they remember their initial reservations.
Oh, huh, yeah, I forgot about that, the one with perfectly sculpted hair scratches behind his neck. He turns to face his first friend, the one with too many symbols on his torso for Kakyoin to interpret.
Huh, but look Josuke! He's got himself a children's book to learn Japanese! The other ever so obviously points to the bright yellow book in his lap. Turning his gaze slightly, Kakyoin avoids that one. Too bold and too brash - it makes Kakyoin wonder if he wouldn't be a shark-form. His gaze unfortunately ends up at the third man's hips, forcing Kakyoin to look up to meet his gaze.
Jotaro-san! You're good with English right? The first cheers excitedly up to the man as well. This
Jotaro-san must clearly be an outlier, but one they are familiar with. With his broad shoulders and sheer strength radiating from such a tall and muscular form, Kakyoin nearly shrinks into himself. Only the most fearsome of warriors have ever intimidated Kakyoin as much as this.
The instinct to blind the man and flee creeps up his sides, but he forces himself to relax. His fingers uncurl from the book in his hands. It proved useful in understanding how to interpret the human world, but he was still at a disadvantage trying to speak it.
The man still hasn't answered their question, instead still glaring down at Kakyoin with his adorned head shield - was that one of the classifications of hats? Or was it part of his hair? - casting dark, intimidating shadows over his features. He stares for a while longer until he softens his gaze. The blue eyes sparkle in the light once the shadows fall away, a deep soothing aura in them that causes Kakyoin's gut to wrench with homesickness for the sea.
No. The two smaller men seem to be shaken by his response. It's a simple response that Kakyoin doesn't think would require further explanation. No - simply, he does not.
Well, we told him we could help him after our review, I just-
Lost? The tall ocean-man asks Kakyoin directly, ignoring his friends. It causes him to blink. Another simple word, in the dialect spoken around him, Kakyoin presumes. The concern in his eyes is all that translates to him however. Concern not over what he is or what he is doing, but rather whether he is safe or if he's lost. Kakyoin may be able to retain loads of information, but there's certainly more vocabulary to learn.
Are you lost? The man seems to continue to ask with his long gaze. Violet irises quiver in response. How can he understand this human so clearly? Why does he feel so connected, and so vulnerable? Shaking the thoughts from his mind, Kakyoin flips through the pages to try to find something that would hopefully translate to them. Finding an image of a poorly sketched fish, Kakyoin turns the page towards the others.
Oi, Josuke! The gruff-voiced friend nudges the first.
He's just hungry. We should bring him to Tonio's!
Okuyasu, that's brilliant! Josuke turns to the other, raising his fist and punching the man's own curled fist. Was casual combat a motion of agreement or affection between two warrior type humans? The other, Jotaro-san, finally breaks his glance to hide behind his hat-hair again, muttering something beneath his breath.
The two seem to be discussing something delicious, for Kakyoin can nearly see the drool falling from their mouths. His lip curls. Turning back to Jotaro-san, Kakyoin again points to the fish, looking far too limp in the image to be alive. The blue-eyed shimmer returns as the man deciphers his true meaning.
You're looking for the marina? Jotaro-san asks, his low tone holding a sort of reserved warmth. Since when did that change?
The Foundation is the closest we have to wildlife preservation, unless you were looking to sail at Polnareff's. Though you would have found an image of a sailboat if that's what you meant.
Somehow most of those words made sense. Kakyoin supposes it's because he tried to read Jotaro-san's intent through it all. A fondness swept over him with the term
wildlife preservation that felt like it connected with Kakyoin's concern over a propagated dead fish. The twinge of annoyance around
Polnareff seemed sort of similar to whatever he muttered under his breath about the chattering smaller men.
Hey Jotaro, we've been meaning to show you Tonio's for a while now, Josuke proposes, and Kakyoin begins to wonder if the man's name isn't actually Jotaro and he simply misplaced a sound.
Wanna come with us? It'll be good. His voice lilts enticingly, but Jotaro-san- Jotaro shakes his head.
Bring him to the Foundation, is what he meant. I have to get home. Jolyne has to be to her mother's soon.
The sentence flowed with pain and bitterness and sadness that was so effortlessly cloaked behind the shadows of his hat-hair. Glancing to the others, they seem to have felt the same energy as well, for their joyous cheers died off and instead their shoulders fell. Disappointment.
Josuke lets his gaze fall to the side, avoiding Jotaro's, and accidently meets with Kakyoin. They share a surprisingly insightful look, both understanding exactly how to read past Jotaro's defenses. Kakyoin looks away to give the three the illusion of privacy. With short words, Jotaro separates from them, leaving Josuke and Okuyasu with the relative stranger. Noting for later, Kakyoin wonders if all humans are so easily sympathetic, or whether it's odd to be so trusting of a stranger. Regardless, the other two focus again on him.
I'm telling you bro, you have to eat there this time! Okuyasu demands with a tear in his eye. Looking over to Kakyoin, the stranger is able to read the sheer gratefulness of something life-changing.
You won't regret coming with us.
If you'd like, that is. I know you wanted to get over to the Foundation, but we can take you back after our lunch break with us? Josuke catches up, offering a gesture with his words of invitation. At least, Kakyoin thought that was an invitation. A rumble in his stomach demands he finds something to eat, and soon.
The other two take that as his answer instead, and grab onto his wheelchair. Suddenly, he's moving without having to move himself. Is this normal human behavior? To assist one that can't so readily get about? Are humans naturally so kind? Someone had boasted that Morioh is the friendliest city in Japan. Kakyoin smiles, taking a mental note to characterize humans as inherently compassionate.
Chapter 7: Who to Trust
While the chef seemed to recognize them and greeted them warmly, the meals he prepared had a different intent. Kakyoin didn’t dare try land food seeing the two of them nearly keel over in pain after one bite. Josuke - the one with the large hair - had cried his woes to his friend, Okuyasu, begging for his forgiveness. As they wheel Kakyoin back out of the unique food place, Okuyasu finally relents.
All you had to say was that I was right, Okuyasu shrugs but beams with satisfaction.
But it was so beyond that! Josuke insists for the billionth time.
I don’t even know what that food was! Dude, I’m never challenging your tastes for restaurants again.
The three of them share the light moment of laughter, as the two friends continue to joke together. As for himself, Kakyoin lapses into silence, no longer having to focus on the effort of navigating himself. Restaurants; a new word and an entirely new concept. He itches to write in his notebook, but knowing that trivial knowledge will fill the pages before he can get to solid research. Though, it wouldn’t hurt to take their little venture as a field review.
Soon enough, they’re back at the large building. People with long coats similar to Jotaro’s file in and out of the transparent panes. They each greet them in turn, starting with the familiarity of Josuke and Okuyasu, then down with a polite greeting to himself. The slim few exchanges taught him how to respond in kind. He offers small smiles back, and that seems to be enough.
They’re stopped by a worker seeming to guard the gateway. Josuke scratches behind his head, glancing down to him in the wheelchair. The apologetic gaze makes Kakyoin embarrassed with him. Apparently they hadn’t thought this far into bringing him along.
Can’t he just get a visitor pass? Okuyasu demands of the guardian. She shakes her head sympathetically.
Even as a visitor, we wouldn’t allow guests to the holding pools, she explains. A fire sparks in Okuyasu, and Josuke is quick to grab his shoulder.
Look, bro, we tried. Best we can do is show him around the complex. Defeated, the two turn around, wheeling him back they way they came. Off to the side of the gateway spans a larger area dedicated to pannels of text accompanied by odd displays.
Josuke reads off. He hums thoughtfully.
The Speedwagon Foundation started in 1910 as an environmental conservation foundation, dedicated to taking a stand in the new environmental movement,
Looks like they also helped with some eco-friendly alternative energy as far back as World War II.
No way! Josuke! Okuyasu points at protective container, eyes wide in awe. Carefully weaving around people, Josuke brings Kakyoin over. Immediately, the three of them are enraptured. In the case are bright sparkling gems, both necklaces, one with a smooth blood-red ruby, and another in direct contrast with a cool sapphire heart.
Duuude, Josuke breathes on the transparent container.
How have we not seen these before?
How has someone not stolen these yet? Okuyasu points out a rather darker truth. In all fairness, Kakyoin does remember the troves of human artifacts from ancient shipwrecks, comprised mostly of withering gold and gemstones carved into beautiful adornments. The longer he looks at them, however, the more uneasy he feels. Gemstones of that magnitude seem beyond simple fashion pieces, perhaps even their value in currency. He makes a note to ask Koichi of the importance of the
Hearts of the Ocean display.
Distracted already, Josuke and Okuyasu take turns dragging the other along the displays. Many containers housed skeletons. Skeletons of common sharks to compare to human proportions, and others of long extinct creatures of the deep. For as much as they avoid humans, Kakyoin is surprised by just how much of the ocean they seemed to have discovered. It’s not more than a dent in the complete understanding of the mysteries of the oceans, but it’s a solid effort.
Kakyoin has one of the most vast collections of knowledge of everything myth and fact about their water world. These humans won’t discover half of what he knows in his lifetime. Still, their fascination interests him. Projections of the ocean floor shown in artificial sunlight highlights the text beside it:
We know more about the surface of the Moon than the ocean floor. He raises an eyebrow. There isn’t much to the Moon, as far as Kakyoin is concerned, beyond its role in ruling Zodiacs and pulling the tides. At least humans recognize just how ignorant they are of the majority of their world hidden in the ocean’s depths.
More displays show projections of different animals particularly common around this land form. Kakyoin recognizes each species immediately, particularly fond of a certain rare starfish. He leans closer to read the text. It mentions mundane factoids. It isn’t until Kakyoin looks away that he finally notices the looming text beside the display. The figure startles him, a perfectly frozen piece of art rendering none other than Jotaro. The text beside his profile outlines whole paragraphs of information. It’s too much for Kakyoin to process, so he turns around to his human companions for assistance.
Josuke is already chuckling when he meets his wide eyes.
Yeah, Jotaro-san is kind of a big deal here, he gloats on the other man’s behalf. He skims over the text himself, seeing how to best summarize the passage.
He studied here locally at Morioh University. It says he devoted his entire thesis to distinguishing this starfish as its own species.
This lead to the species’ classification as an endangered species, and soon after publishing his thesis, Dr. Kujo lead a team of specialists to start conservation efforts.
Wow. So Jotaro-san like saved an entire species? Wandering over, Okuyasu too reads over the text on the wall. Kakyoin gazes back up at the rendition. Of course Jotaro would take such strong action, he seems like the kind of man to take matters into his own hands. Beyond that, even the rendition shares the same mix of fondness and intrigue in his eyes, and Kakyoin knows with certainty that he’s looking at the ocean.
They file back out of the building, satisfied with their own impromptu tour. Josuke and Okuyasu chatter about different tidbits they read separate from each other. They pause only for a moment to remember Kakyoin. If he’s honest with himself, they’ve helped him more than enough just paying attention to him and showing him around. Still, he wishes he could have gone beyond the gateway they seemed so keen on passing through.
Still a shame you never got to see the rescues, Josuke frowns. Folding his arms, Okuyasu snarls back towards the building.
Always rules where you want them the least. Both teens nod in agreement over his statement. Their link seems inseparable, even beyond verbal communication at times. While they hesitate, they seem to be forming a plan. It’s when Josuke suddenly rounds on his friend that they realize they have a way in.
We can just tell them he works for like Sea World or something! The mischievous glint in his eyes belies a whole new side to Josuke. When determination strikes, he can reach new levels of his own character. His friend lights up to meet Josuke’s spark.
Say he’s here to visit Jotaro-san about some research or something. We’re just showing him around while Jotaro-san is out! They have to respect Jotaro-san’s work! They both match each other’s toothy grins. Their cunning plan settled, they bring Kakyoin right back through the building.
Once again facing the guardian, they take a stance against her sympathetic coolness. Again, she warns them against their folly. That’s when Josuke steps up.
I forgot to mention earlier that this is no ordinary guest, Josuke mentions casually, keeping his fiery passion to a low boil behind his soft smile.
Jotaro-san has him visiting in town from his connection in Sea World. He sneaks a conspiring wink across to Okuyasu.
Yeah, Okuyasu leaps in,
we had heard Jotaro-san talking about a specialist from America. He wanted us to be sure that he got to see Hasiku.
The guardian finally relents. She seemed somewhat suspicious of the two, but apparently decided against fighting their higher authority. The gateway open as she passes them a slip.
Just make sure he has one of these. I’m not getting my ear chewed by Dr. Green if it turns out to be another one of your schemes, she warns with a pointed look. Both Josuke and Okuyasu jolt, failing to check their reactions.
Nah, no, of course not! Josuke dismisses.
When have we ever schemed at the Foundation?
Josuke’s absolutely right. We don’t have any reason to be scheming this time. His smile is large and beaming until Josuke elbows him in the bicep. They share pointed gazes until Okuyasu realizes his implications. They thank the guardian graciously before hurrying through. Safe from her wrath, they both release a sigh.
It probably would’ve been easier to have actually called Jotaro-san, he frowns, admitting his shame to his friend. With a grunt, Okuyasu seems to think on it as well.
Well, it worked. As I would expect of your clever thinking.
Aww, Oku. It’s nothing. Scratching the back of his head, Josuke lets Okuyasu lead ahead of them around odd lagoons.
Kakyoin gazes down into the water. Each lagoon is cut in perfect shapes into the floor. They each vary in shape, size, and depth. Since he can see clear through to the bottom, none of these lagoons replicate deep water conditions. Frowning, Kakyoin wonders just what the purpose of these lagoons are.
In front of them, a human breeches from the water, running her hands over her hair tied back tightly. She smiles fondly as they approach. Kakyoin ignores the human greeting, taking a closer inspection into the lagoons. He soon realizes this is exactly what he was looking for.
Most scholars believe coastal humans capture random creatures from their homes and family. Speculation fills in the rest, the most widely accepted theory being that humans perform cruel and unusual experiments on their victims for their own clumsy research.
Kakyoin never liked the idea much himself. Surely being close in intelligence to themselves, humans would have figured out better ways to conduct research? As it is, it’s easier for them to study their fellow sea brethren because they all live together underwater. The lagoons make more sense, trying to replicate a mere fraction of the ocean as they keep their captives.
The thought still jars with him. It’s obvious, all laid out in front of him, that humans have no care for the creatures they capture or the impact of removing them from their place in the sea. Kakyoin had hoped for the best, he supposes, being gravely let down. This particular lagoon holds a lone dolphin, only marginally larger than other lagoons but not even close to sufficient for his breed.
Fingers dip into the lagoon. He hopes the dolphin isn’t too disoriented by his overwhelming projection of calm. His call doesn’t go unanswered for long. Immediately, the dolphin is swimming around the perimeter to meet his hand. Relieved squeaks break the surface as he passes under Kakyoin’s finger tips. He smiles. At least it doesn’t seem like any harm has come to the dolphin. Still, he wonders why he’s kept alone.
Three sets of eyes watch him for a while before he snaps back to reality. He’s supposed to be pretending to be human, and he nearly panics at their stares.
Wow. Kakyoin is confused by Josuke’s wide eyes until he explains himself.
He has never been so friendly to anyone. Even Shiori took forever to gain his trust. Behind him, Okuyasu nods, affirming the statement. Kakyoin blinks back down to the dolphin. Another pass under his fingertips, and he reads the reluctant trust to the human in the lagoon. The human makes an odd click which summons the dolphin up to her.
He floats in front of her patiently, obediently waiting. Waiting for what? Dolphins have some of the strongest intellectual will powers, taking some of the most concentrated of projections to communicate to them. Unlike small fish or narrow-sighted sharks, dolphins comprehend a lot, and can recognize when something is forcing its will on it. For this dolphin to be so complacent startles him.
The human whistles and tosses something into the water. The dolphin is quick to fetch the snack before idly returning to the far side of the lagoon. The scene pains him, but what can he do? This is exactly what he’s here for. What do humans do to the captured animals? Kakyoin thinks humans may have mastery over some forms of healing, which is why some of the few captured animals that return arrive in better condition. Others that had no ailments return with strange human devices. Nothing seems to happen because of the devices, but humans always seem quick to replace their marks if mermaids help break them off. But the rest? They don’t return, and that’s the biggest mystery that they want solved.
Kakyoin wants to solve the mystery on behalf of the lost creatures, starting with this dolphin.
Chapter 8: A Lesson in Lying
Jotaro spends his break at the far end of the pier. He should be getting back to the Foundation soon - no doubt Josuke and Okuyasu have already figured out a way to get themselves into trouble, even if they aren’t caught yet. He can just feel it. Still, the sound of crashing waves is enough to whisk him away from reality for a moment, soothing his nerves.
Salt tinges the air adding a savory aspect to his visit. That, and the sandwich he bought for lunch is rather delicious. A mental note in his mind reminds him that it was those very two interns that told him of the
hip new place to go for sandwiches in the town, but he lets that go in the ocean breeze as well. Not a thought in his mind as he takes another bite.
Thought I’d find you here, Polnareff tactfully interrupts. Jotaro doesn’t acknowledge him. The dockhand sits himself down by Jotaro at the end of the pier anyway. It’s routine. Jotaro will sit cross-legged at the end, with enough room to his side that Polnareff can splay out, usually one knee up and one leg dangling close to the water.
I could chose to not eat lunch here. I do that sometimes, Jotaro reminds his friend. Polnareff laughs, taking the joke.
Oui, that may be true. But yet, with a grand gesture to the harbor, Polnareff smirks,
you are here.
They pass a few minutes in comfortable silence. Though, knowing his friend for long enough, Polnareff is soon wont to find entertainment or something to keep himself occupied. He tries to refrain from badgering Jotaro this time, which is a relief.
I think word is starting to spread about the harbor, he announces instead. Jotaro tosses him an inquisitive glance.
Ever since we brought in The World - do you know how much of a parade those snobs put on about their boat? It was ridiculous! Anyway, I think once people saw that we harbored such an impressive yacht that we must be a trustworthy harbor. Though I don’t know how people don’t think my efforts as a respectable business are enough myself, Polnareff complains. He’s prone to woe over his wounded pride, most often because of some offhanded jest Jotaro gives him. Still,
Chariots of the Sea is Polnareff’s pride and joy, second only to his own vessel.
The conversation reminds him of his own reservations about The World to begin with. Who would trust such an expensive yacht just on the account that Dr. Kujo docks his personal sailboat there? The harbor isn’t really meant for high volume nor high-end customers. It is partially a tourist rental service, after all. Jotaro wonders if in all of Polnareff’s rambling that he distracted himself from crucial details about the yacht's owners.
Who did you say owned The World? Jotaro brings Polnareff back. He stops in the middle of his thought before pulling a hard frown. He leans his elbows on his knees and seems very near falling forward right off the edge of the dock.
I can’t recall the name off the top of my head, Polnareff admits defeat.
But I know for certain they’re not locals. The main listing started with a company name, so I almost wondered if I should feel threatened about my business! Polnareff starts his hearty laugh, trying to play it off. It is a legitimate concern, however, and unintentionally gives Jotaro more insight.
Oh! It reminds me. They left a very specific handler’s note. Mostly just rates for different lengths of trip at sea, and the caveat that they handle their own insurance claims.
So they really planned on renting out their yacht? Jotaro scoffs. The serious nod from Polnareff counters his disbelief, however. Jotaro gives in to voicing his thoughts.
Why? Who would be so…
Stupid? I don’t know. Again, they settle into a beat of silence. Perhaps it is genuinely an advertisement, considering it’s harbored under a corporate name. He can only imagine a new company trying to barge in, finding no luck taking a brute force approach to opening a business in Morioh and instead sneaking in through the cracks. It puts up all different types of red flags. Curiosity gets the better of him, and Jotaro stands. Polnareff leaps to his feet to follow.
Where is it? Jotaro asks, as if it would be hard to find the most expensive vessel in the harbor.
I put it in the semi-dry dock. I didn’t think they had any intent to use it after they dropped it off. Polnareff turns the key, shoving open the gate so that Jotaro can pass through first. The chains rattle when it swings shut behind them. With a hurried step, they reach the farthest dock in no time.
The multistoried yacht takes up the entire back corner of the harbor. Branded on its side in a rather bold, intimidating font reads The World. They aren’t subtle in the slightest. A quick inspection shows the vessel is kept in impeccable conditions, and likely dry-docked when possible. The engines are something of envy, and the sleek form seems like it could cut right through the worst of storms. Most particularly, however, Jotaro notices the sheer amount of radio towers. Against the open sea, it stands out like a mountain ridge. Why so much equipment?
The man who checked in did say that some higher-ups use it as recreation. As if reading his mind, Polnareff answers with a curious frown.
Though apparently it’s supposed to be used more as a research vessel. Something about a coastal meterologist’s dream.
I can see why, Jotaro sighs.
To a degree, he can consider himself jealous. He can only imagine long weeks out at sea, dedicated to nothing more than waking up early in the morning for research. The relaxing slope at the stern invites cruisers to lounge on the deck, but all Jotaro sees is the perfect launch for an amazing dive. He wonders where all the time went in his life that he no longer can spare for such diving excursions.
Thankfully Polnareff is there to snap him out of his fantasies. He turns back with a start, Polnareff clapping his shoulder and showing him back out.
I’m sure Josuke and Okuyasu are wondering where their mentor disappeared to, he jokes with an elbow to Jotaro’s rib. He sneers reflexively. Polnareff merely laughs it off, heading back inside his shop with some French parting. Jotaro can only imagine the chaos he might find because of the interns.
Sure enough, as soon as he steps inside the Foundation, the woman at the desk begs for clarification.
Dr. Kujo! I didn’t know when you’d be back, but I’m curious to know if Josuke and Okuyasu were-
I’m sure they’re up to something, Jotaro dismisses. He waves her off as she grants him access to the back pools.
I’ll handle them.
Changing quickly, Jotaro can already hear Josuke’s stuttering excuses. Yare yare daze. Just once, Jotaro begs, can they be respectable interns? Apparently his wishes go unanswered. Around the corner, Jotaro approaches the encounter between Josuke and senior staff. Josuke is defending his story when he jolts at the sound of Jotaro’s voice.
Josuke. His intimidating tone is deep as if it crawled from the very depths of hell to summon Josuke. Called out, the teen shrieks.
Ahhhh, Jotaro-san! Scratching the back of his head, he turns to Jotaro with visible sweat beading at his temples. Jotaro ignores him for now in favor to looking to his friend. Okuyasu proves more useful as far as breaking down their schemes in the shadow of Jotaro’s intimidation.
His brain apparently can’t process long enough sentences to explain other than
Josuke said he’s from SeaWorld. Lifting his eyebrow, Jotaro returns his glare to Josuke.
Well, yeah! He’s from SeaWorld. Ya know? That one guy? his usually bright voice falters.
Very specific, that one guy. Paling, Josuke fumbles in front of Jotaro to recuperate his alibi.
This Kakyoin-san does seem intent that he’s visiting from California, the head of staff turns to Jotaro. He gestures to introduce someone Jotaro never expected to see.
The man in the wheelchair looks up, his bright violet eyes searching his for assistance. He has a certain pout behind his expression as if tired of trying to communicate with them and failed. It makes a lot more sense why his Japanese was so poor.
Noriaki? Jotaro clarifies. Was that his first or last name? He vaguely recalls talking with a fellow research partner from America, but he never heard from him again and had nearly forgotten the name entirely.
I assume the one from SeaWorld’s animal therapy? The man in the wheelchair nods, seeming relieved. Next to him, however, Josuke sighs in equal relief.
That’s what I’ve been trying to tell them! Josuke exaggerates.
Huh? Yeah! he catches on.
As soon as we heard the name, Josuke remembered you having that research buddy from across the pond.
Across the pond is Europe to America’s east coast, Jotaro stops himself from correcting them. He has a hard time believing they actually remembered his American partner and figures it was probably just an extremely lucky guess. Josuke has an annoying habit of being accidentally lucky with his schemes.
As long as he’s with you, the head of staff shrugs,
then there’s no harm in letting him stay. Thank you for visiting us, Kakyoin-san. Addressing Kakyoin, the man turns away to wherever he intended on going in the first place. Josuke and Okuyasu turn to each other to rejoice, but Jotaro’s glare cuts them short.
Am I right? he decides to clarify for himself. He’s willing to let the story slide as long as he hears the actual truth. Seeing the distracted look in their eyes, Jotaro instead turns to Kakyoin.
Kakyoin Noriaki, then, from Sea World?
Yes, Kakyoin decides it’s best to agree,
Jotaro stands tall above him. Kakyoin wonders if being looked down upon is supposed to be in poor taste, but it doesn’t seem like Jotaro has a choice with his stature. Crouching down, Jotaro dips his hand in to the same pool with the dolphin. The dolphin turns towards the sound. Curiously enough to Kakyoin, as soon as the dolphin recognizes Jotaro, he’s swimming over to meet half way.
His name is Hasiku, Jotaro explains. He runs his hands along the underside of the dolphin. Fingers hesitate over the same area Kakyoin found earlier, sensing the same thing he had. A frown pulls at Jotaro’s handsome features. Questions seem to flash in front of his eyes before he blinks them away.
He was injured, Jotaro offers simply. The radiating aura from him, however, belies his deeper sympathy. Kakyoin can only nod.
Josuke and Okuyasu step back and watch as the two apparently research partners make the bare minimum of small talk. Something about the dolphin and seaweed. Still, Jotaro and small talk? It doesn’t seem possible, and yet here they are. Josuke has half a mind to ask why they’re including sea weed in the conversation, but he drops it all together.
Do you think Jotaro-san actually knows him? Okuyasu asks in a low whisper. He averts his gaze when Josuke puts a finger to his lips.
Just sayin’, bro. He looks like he’s known the guy all his life, but we made up that story on the spot.
You’re right, Josuke wonders himself.
It wasn’t a complete lie - he had heard some discussion over the phone once when he accidentally walked into Jotaro-san’s office. The memory creates an awful twinge of embarrassment, and Josuke managed to almost completely erase the feeling from his mind. He’s thankful he even remembered what he heard.
While it wasn’t like he saw anything he shouldn’t have, walking in on his mentor while his daughter ran around in his oversized coat and hat pretending to be him sailing was definitely a personal moment. Still, he could have never anticipated that he would need that information.
With a sigh, Josuke gives in to his friend’s suggestion to go see what bargains they can find at the store.
Chapter 9: The Dream
This is where it starts, my dear readers. I hope you have been enjoying the simplicity of the story so far, because it's not going to be from here on out. Enjoy~
Slamming his head down on his desk, Jotaro falls into a moment of weakness. A package of name brand cookies sits dangerously close. It doesn’t matter, he brought them over with the intent of incentivizing himself through grading papers, but it quickly devolved into comforting himself through horror. How can these children, almost adults, be this- this-
He vents his frustrations with a growl. Another cookie is gone in a bite. Pen in hand, he marks the top of the essay with a generic review. If the thesis was that bad, he has no hope for the rest of the paper. The small packet makes a soft fluttering sound as he tosses it to the floor. The rest of the ungraded stack still glares at him. He’s made good progress, but it’s still not enough. Nighttime outside signals to him that it’s way beyond bedtime.
He benchmarks his day with the various tasks he has to get through. About half an hour ago, he would’ve put Jolyne to bed, interrupting his grading with a thankful excuse for a break before returning to face the rest. Sometimes he wonders if he’ll ever get used to the continuous cycle every two weeks. Shaking his head, Jotaro deems the grading process a lost cause, capping his pen. When he goes to return the cookies to the cupboard, Jotaro takes the last two and tosses the package into the garbage. No use wasting the space.
The running mental list of everything he needs to focus on builds. Clearly he’ll have to find time to finish those papers before Monday comes around, but the very thought repulses him. Dr. Green still wants him to call other local marine veterinarians: whether they have seen similar symptoms or whether anyone else can help Hasiku more effectively than they have. Then there’s the internship. The review apparently went well, according to the email he received that night. He has mixed feelings about the praise and whether or not he believed they deserved it. Something in the back of his mind reminds him that they earned their review, they just also happen to be complete idiots outside work.
Lastly, there's Kakyoin. They had only met twice now, but there's something about him. He just seems to understand. He understands Hasiku like Jotaro does. He understands the importance of the sea like Jotaro does - not like a fanatic environmentalist, nor an obsessed researcher, but with a respect only found in those who find their home in the ocean blue.
Thoughts of crashing waves and curly red hair follow him to his dreams.
A harsh gasp yanks him straight up. His chest heaves as he glances around, trying to make sense of the darkness around him. It's no longer the bottom of the ocean, as he suddenly fears. Blood rushing, Jotaro groans, pressing his eyes into the palms of his hands to force reality back into his mind.
Something calls him down to the shore. His feet lead him with unconscious effort. He knows where his heart is going. Sand shifts beneath his bare feet, though he doesn't recall taking off his shoes. Wind caresses his hair. Years of adjusting to coastal life takes the sting out of the salt. He wades into the lapping waves.
The call again pulses up through his feet and shoots up his veins. The very ocean has a voice, singling out Jotaro of all people. It feels reassuring, welcoming, seductive. Sounds wash over each other until it feels like the overlap of wind and waves creates an audible tone.
He follows the call blindly, pulling at his sleeves only to find his jacket already missing. Instead, he pulls his black sweater over his head. Bare skin welcomes the salty chill. An odd vulnerability grips him, but just as suspiciously, Jotaro doesn't care. He wants to expose himself to the raw force of nature. He dives in.
Water strikes him from all angles, filling his ears and popping them. The voice of the sea is all around him now.
It's warm now, and Jotaro doesn't know when he started simply breathing underwater. He doesn't bother to question it. All thought is replaced by need. The ocean needs him, craves him. Currents like large arms taking him further into the abyss's embrace. Light becomes muted in his free dive. A pang of jealousy strikes him when he remembers this isn't necessarily reality, and that he could never explore the full extent of these depths. As it is, he's more shocked at his endurance than the fact he's flowing freely in the ocean without the use of scuba gear.
Thrusting his arms and legs are inefficient. Shouldn't Jotaro just be able to swim? As soon as the thought passes, his entire body flows freely, no longer held back by the friction of pulling his arms against water. His body is streamlined, his hips gently swaying back and forth. Water parts around him so naturally he feels nostalgia for a world he has never been fully part of until now.
Whatever allows him to see in the jet black darkness snaps into focus, suddenly enraptured. A soft spot of rose red stands out like a blot of paint on a dark canvas. With a shimmer in the sourceless light, emeralds join the mix. The only thing connecting the two is an expanse of pale skin.
His initial reaction clashes with his instinct. The ocean has called directly into his soul this whole time, seeming to radiate through the entire world just to hone in on him. When the red-headed figure turns towards him, all that warm welcoming enticing intent focuses on him and only him. It wasn't just the ocean calling his name.
Jotaro.The word echoes around him as it's spoken through soft quiet lips.
Kakyoin,Jotaro finally returns the call. His soul finds its home in the ocean, but his heart stutters at the intrusion. It's not unwelcome, meeting Kakyoin yet again makes his cheeks hot and his tips his head down, only to realize his hat never followed him. More exposed than ever, Jotaro tenses when Kakyoin swims up to meet him.
Amethyst eyes fill with wonder as the sparkle in the same light as his elegant tail. Long and winding, emerald scales catch every soft shimmer that draws Jotaro in even closer. The gentle graze of fins against his own rough skin and finger tips against his chest send jolts of energy racing from each point of contact. Somehow he doesn't need to look down to understand while Kakyoin embodies the perfect fish-tailed mermaid, he himself has taken on a much more rugged and intimidating shark-form.
Kakyoin circles him a few times, examining Jotaro as deeply as Jotaro studies Kakyoin. They regard each other, but Jotaro isn't sure how. The darkness in the depths of Kakyoin's eyes bely a personal intent behind his surface innocence. On the other hand, he seems to pierce right through Jotaro. His own darkness is forward, creating a thick shield that no one can see through blue eyes. And yet Kakyoin sees straight through to his guarded softness.
They float in the water, breathlessly for how effectively he was able to breathe before. Chests pressed together, Jotaro knows he can feel Kakyoin. This is more than just a dream. It has to be. He can feel the warmth off of Kakyoin's skin, the sleekness of his tail, the tickle of his bangs as they float up to his nose. He can feel the ocean around him as real as he has for any dive. He can feel the pressure around him but he repels it as if it was as simple as willing it away. He can see the slight blush in Kakyoin's cheeks. The way his bangs curl towards him, then away. The look in Kakyoin's eyes as they suddenly shift.
Shoving him away, Kakyoin looks frightened jettisoning himself away. Jotaro reaches for him. His arm feels slow, sluggish, dragging through the water. Pressure builds in his chest until he feels like his lungs around going to burst. Instinctively, he takes a breath.
Whatever he was able to do before his gone. Salt water fills his lungs and he chokes on a cough. He claws his way back to the surface, his entire body tossed around by the sudden currents trying to drag him down. He fights, he fights. It doesn't feel like enough, like the very life and strength is being sucked out of every limb.
The harder he tries to move, the more he loses grip. The harder he tries to focus, the darker the green spots of light above the surface turn. The harder he tries to hold his breath, the weaker he becomes. He feels his life leaving him, crushed right out him. Every vulnerability rushes back in, naked, bare, exposed, weak, seduced-
It was a dream. So why does his heart ache? Why does his chest hurt? More importantly, why are his arms and legs sore?
Part of the problem is the fact that the blankets are wrapped around his legs, tying them together. He flings the sheets around aggressively to untangle himself. With a sneer, Jotaro sits up on the side of his bed. Fuck, that was weird. Everything felt so… real.
It takes Jotaro a lot of deep breaths and several minutes for him to get it into his mind that he's now awake, and that the dream wasn't real. Whatever he felt in the dream was obviously just his subconscious being manipulated. In a way, he still feels guarded against something, as if his own mind had plotted against him that night to pervert his view of the ocean.
Standing up, Jotaro finds himself in the bathroom to splash water on his face. The icy chill slaps fresh reality into him. He wipes his face roughly with the hand towel before meeting his own gaze in the mirror. He stands tall, his eyes slightly dark from the past few nights of poor sleep, but otherwise looking like a normal human. It was only a dream after all. However, his body seems intent otherwise.
It was only a dream, but the closeness, shy touches. Damn it! He constantly questions just what this dream had against him. As much as he hates it, he can’t really deny the certain ache down there. He sneers between his legs before deciding it's best just to take care of it.
He sits back down on his bed with a groan, thoroughly exhausted by all the mental energy he has processed in the last few hours. It felt like hours, anyway, walking down to the beach below his house, plunging into the ocean's depths, facing Kakyoin as a mermaid, fighting against drowning-
The clock reads 3:05, and Jotaro nearly throws his alarm clock across the room. He falls back against the pillows, snatching the tousled sheets and pulling the lightest underlayer up to his chest. With a huff, he curls on his side, scowling each surfacing thought to oblivion, facing away from the pattern of green stars in the window.
The next morning, he has nearly forgotten all the events of last night. A cold shower erases the last phantom touches of salt he still insists clings to his skin. He wears a new, but very similar, dark navy blue turtleneck, matched with his white slacks. For breakfast, he sits down with a hot morning tea and a muffin. The morning's newspaper is likely right outside on his porch, but he doesn't feel like grabbing it right now. The book on the table offers plenty of entertainment.
Just a few sentences in, however, and he's already interrupted. He rolls his eyes at the phone, but stands to fetch it regardless.
Oiii, bonjour Jotarooo! someone sings on the other end. He knows he regretted picking up the phone.
You know me, he teases.
Jotaro leans against a wall with his tea in hand. He's glad he hadn't taken a sip.
Actually, I called because I have some interesting news about the yacht. The Foundation sent that one intern - I can't figure how to pronounce his name, but the one that has that green headband?
Kishibe Rohan, Jotaro nods. Polnareff just agrees, not bothering to repeat the name.
Right, him. He's here because the Foundation wanted him to check out the yacht. He said that the Foundation is interested in leasing it out for research expeditions. Josuke has been pestering him for details this whole time - he seems intent on reserving a spot for you-
I'll be right over, Jotaro interrupts. Josuke's heart may be in the right place, but he needs a reason for an expedition, plus a sizeable grant, to even consider renting the yacht.
Remind him he's only an intern.
Mais oui, Polnareff signs off, hanging up for Jotaro as he sets the phone down. Leaving the tea would be a waste, so he pours it into a thermal cup, throwing on his lab coat and hat as he locks the door behind him. As if on cue, a Foundation charter waits for him. Jotaro takes the back seat.
Jotaro simply prefers not to drive. It's much easier to think, or write down notes, or complete last minute grading, when he's not focused on the road. The only time he volunteers to drive is the emergency response van in the case where there's a younger crew. Nowadays, that mainly means the group of interns as well as two more practiced young nurses. Being only 30 doesn't make him much older than many people he works with, but his doctorate lobs him into the group of experienced doctors and researchers many years his elder.
As the charter pulls up to the harbor, Jotaro strides out. Josuke is first to hear the sound of a car door closing, running back down the dock to wave Jotaro in. He tugs his hat down.
Yare yare, Josuke, he instills patience with an annoyed tone. The intern doesn't even notice.
Rohan just doesn't listen! Jotaro-san, please, you gotta tell him you get the yacht first. Ya saw it first, it's your harbor, he rants, arms flailing.
It's Polnareff's. The reminder is useless.
Already, Josuke is back down the dock, screaming something in Rohan's face. The other intern, in his early twenties, meets Josuke's empassioned flush with a cool, unamused glare. With a smirk, Jotaro wonders why he hasn't simply requested Rohan to assist him? His intellect isn't clouded by flights of passion like Josuke and Okuyasu are prone to. As it is, Okuyasu throws all his weight backwards, trying to pull Josuke away from biting off Rohan's nose. Polnareff, ever helpful, laughs at the boys' antics.
Oi, Jotaro! Did Josuke tell you? That is, if you didn't hear it from the clifftop already, he jokes. Josuke tenses, his eyes growing dark beneath furrowed eyebrows.
Jotaro-san deserves it. The Foundation will gladly give it to him first! He's Dr. Kujo for f-
Bro, save the throat punching for later, Okuyasu growls in his friend's ear over his shoulder, looking tempted to release his friend. His biceps flex with the sheer strength of holding back Josuke's punch. Seething, steam slowly dissipates from Josuke's nostrils, taking a step back and nearly sending both Okuyasu and himself toppling over the other edge of the dock.
With impossible reflexes, Polnareff grabs Josuke by the sleeve. He pulls them steady, Okuyasu still desperately clinging to Josuke's shoulders. Rohan scoffs.
Dr. Kujo, Rohan steps away to address him directly. He presses a hand to his chest.
I am Kishibe Rohan. I assume the university made a mistake - these two can't be your interns?
Unfortunately. Jotaro offers his hand. Over Rohan's shoulder, Jotaro watches as Okuyasu and Polnareff form a blockade between Josuke and Rohan. What does this kid have against Rohan?
I came to file a full report of the yacht to the Foundation. Pulling a clipboard from his flat bag, Rohan passes the information over to Jotaro. At a quick glance, everything seems as it should be. Any questions to its quality or maintenance are void in the face of this report, and it's extensive. He thumbs through several pages. Some are copies of boat registration and a few receipts of detailing, others are filled in with neat orderly handwriting. Jotaro lifts a brow.
You are more than welcome to apply to the Foundation for a research grant, Rohan offers.
They've been talking with the owners. If they receive a great enough sum, they'll lease it to the Foundation for a year. The Foundation, conversely, wants to reserve that offer of a special occasion. Externally, Jotaro nods. It's a tactful way of pointing out that there may be many aspiring marine biologists besides Jotaro seeking for a big project to prove themselves. Maybe even evidence for a thesis, such as Jotaro had done.
It's not lost to Jotaro that others think he's done his fill once he completed his doctorate. It's an unfair assumption that the accomplishment of a degree, several research expeditions, and a groundbreaking thesis that awarded his name on the Morioh's branch, means that Jotaro is done. He's far from finished. His passion for the sea keeps him at the Foundation, and his experience keeps him as a professor at the University he graduated from. The thought of everything simply being done, no longer available to him, irks him. He checks his emotion effortlessly under the brim of his hat. Applying for grants it is then.
Chapter 10: Hotels Aren't His Thing
Just a slice of Kakyoin's point of view in the human world
The Morioh Grand Hotel houses many interesting humans. The first kind nearly startled Kakyoin when he entered, uniform in dark velvety colors, uniform in greetings and responses. They ushered him in and offered him his own room on the first floor to accommodate. Kakyoin tried to insist he didn't need accommodation until he picked up the hint that humans in his supposed condition do. He let them relax as they wheel him to his room.
The second type made him more curious than anything. When the uniform first type - he assumes at this point they are niche workers here - asked for his room, and Kakyoin in turn responded as Jotaro had instructed him, other humans turned to gawk at him. Like a school of fish, they all had similar reactions of awe to the title
Dr. Kujo. The third type, conversely, are more resolute in not caring, pretending as if they never heard. They have more important things on their mind, apparently.
A worker leaves him to his own devices. He didn't come with much, and now he realizes there is much more to the human world that he didn't prepare for. He wheels himself to the small room off to the side. Bathroom, he recalls the word. There's a basin occupying most of the middle, two smaller basins raised on a shelf, and a separate room for even another basin. What do humans even use these for?
A knocking sound startles him. He slowly wheels back over, wondering if the sound came from his room. It knocks again, seeming to be on the closed gateway (a "door"). Kakyoin tilts his head. The intent is to see if anyone is in, so should he let the human in? He opens the door to one of the niche workers.
Hello, Kakyoin-san, she smiles warmly.
I came to see if you needed any assistance? Perhaps to the bathroom? She had a knowing look in her eyes, not of pity, but of pure compassion. He nods, backing up to let her in, only for her to gently wheel the chair back to the bathroom.
I suppose you may want a bath over a shower? she asks him, already sitting on the edge of the largest basin and turning one of the silver spokes. Instantly, water gushes out like a blowhole expelling water. But once started, it doesn't stop.
The basin slowly fills, and Kakyoin starts to get the idea. Humans need water too, they know this, but he never realized the scope of how much they used. Steam fills the room as she splashes the small puddle. Satisfied, she stands with a more hesitant smile.
Do you need help into the tub? Her tilted head seems to give him two options - yes, he needs help, and she would see him; or no, he doesn't need help, and she would never see him. He shakes his head no, and she takes her leave.
Wheeling close to the water, Kakyoin nearly burns himself testing the temperature. Damn, what did humans do to keep water this warm? He's already curious enough about their forms of sound magic, do they have water manipulation capabilities that he isn't aware of? No one seems to be attempting to physically control the ocean. Perhaps it's a consequence of human technology then.
Kakyoin recalls the woman plugging a hole in the bottom of the basin to seal it. Pulling it free, he stares in wonder as a miniature twister sucks away all the water down the hole. Where does the water go? Back into human circulation, or back to its original water source? Everything seems to turn up more questions, including whether or not he could find cold water.
Two silver spokes stick out of the wall at the front of the basin. Maybe if one was heated water, the other would be cold? Sure enough, the opposite spoke bore icy water from the spout. Water gushes, none of it staying in the basin until he remembers to plug the hole. Gradually, the water level rises.
Ohhhhh thank merciful Neptune, Kakyoin praises, finally tossing off the itchy green cover he bought to cover his gills and scales on his torso. Human convention seemed to have it that everyone wears different colors over themselves. Most of it seems functional, more layers for warmth, more exposed naked human skin is for cooling down. Others seem to stick out from the crowd - a group of humans is usually called a crowd, interestingly enough - wearing either cuts or colors not seen in anyone else.
It took Kakyoin an embarrassing long time to realize that the patterns and colors weren't natural coloration on a human. The relief of taking off the disguise is unparalleled to anything he has ever experienced. He supposes it feels closest to freeing an animal caught in human waste.
Finally, tossing off the blanket and turning the spoke so the water stops, Kakyoin spills right over into the basin. The soothing chill over his body begins to loosen his muscles, cooling down every agitated nerve.
While it's not ocean water, it still feels better than the bare wind and dry air dehydrating him. He pours water over his shoulders and the edges of his fins where he doesn't fit. Though small, the basin will have to do for his research trip. He can only hope he can find a better way to clean his hair.
A loud chirping causes his tail to flash brilliantly in defense. The harsh chirping continues periodically, and Kakyoin tries to calm himself down. With no immediate threat, his scales tone down to their muted green. The chirping doesn't seem to stop.
He keeps meaning to research into human sound magic - it's one of the main points of his expedition. A lime green line snakes out towards the source of the noise. What good comes from becoming a Hierophant if not to learn effective light magic?
The green tendril extends towards the table, the source of the chirping unrelenting. The magic takes over. Whatever the human sound device wants, his magic will figure out. The chirping stops, and the device clicks.
Is this Kakyoin Noriaki's room? It's Dr. Kujo Jotaro.
Kakyoin stares in horror. That's Jotaro's voice. That's definitely Jotaro's voice. It seems to be awaiting a response. Is it really Jotaro? Is Jotaro really communicating with him? He didn't know humans had long distance communication, though he doesn't know how he hasn't figured it out, considering how much humans have surprised him.
Hello? Jotaro calls. The tendril retreats. Does the device work both ways? Can Jotaro hear him through this device? Frozen, Kakyoin just sits there silently in the water. Idle noises coming from the device makes it sound like Jotaro is in the very room with him, pacing and otherwise restless.
Listen, Jotaro prompts, so Kakyoin does. What else is he doing?
Well. They think Hasiku is doing better. They wanted me to plan on releasing him by the end of this week. You… seem to know what you're doing, so I wanted to extend a formal invitation to you, if you wanted, to visit.
More silence. Kakyoin can’t tell why he isn’t responding, or why Jotaro isn’t stopping. He seems insistent to give Kakyoin information.
Around 7:00 am, we'll have him loaded in the van. We're going to release him from The Chariots of the Sea harbor. Kakyoin nods, mentally collecting the information. Jotaro pauses, and Kakyoin isn't sure why. Is he disappointed? It’s hard to tell when Jotaro isn’t physically there despite how real he sounds.
Have a good day, Kakyoin.
The voice of Jotaro stops. Slowly, Kakyoin turns in the shallow water. That was probably one of the weirdest human interactions he has had so far, but he can't pass up this opportunity. Eager, though not sure what for, Kakyoin sets his plans accordingly.
I can't believe we're already close to the half way mark. It all really starts going downhill from here, plot thickens, questions answered, and conflict to arise.
Chapter 11: Out to Sea
Okuyasu stands next to Jotaro's friend Polnareff. It was hard to grasp the idea of Jotaro having a friend for the sake of just having someone to hang out with, but Okuyasu likes him. He subconsciously copies the insanely ripped man's stance. Both of them stand to the side where they tied down Jotaro's boat, arms crossed, slight scowls of concentration.
The van pulls up, the lights flashing ceremoniously, but otherwise indicating no alarms. Backing up, the van slowly makes its way down the dock. Josuke leaps out of the passenger side and Okuyasu trots up to meet him. In a hurry, Jotaro opens the back doors to the two teens, and the three of them lift the cot.
They lift the dolphin directly over the side of the dock. Jotaro steps onto his boat, cradling the dolphin from underneath. Gently, they lower him into the back of Star Platinum where Polnareff set up a secure net-like a hammock to keep him in place. At this rate, the drugs will wear off at some point after a few hundred meters off the coast. Their plan is to wait until he starts waking up to release him so he isn't vulnerable.
Jotaro glances around the dock while Josuke and Okuyasu crouch close to the dolphin, making sure the resting creature is secure. He squints at the sleeping city. He had thought… Shaking his head, Jotaro meets Polnareff's gaze.
Aren't you waiting for your research partner? Polnareff asks. A look passes between them, where Jotaro tries to communicate indifference. He had only just met the guy that he called maybe once or twice before. Noriaki seems quieter in person, probably trying to be respectful on top of not understanding Japanese fluently. Still, Jotaro has to focus.
Hasiku took well to his final recovery week. His schedule when they first took him in was set to end this week until his illness came along, but just as suddenly as he got it, the illness was gone. Jotaro frowns. As much as he still wants to study Hasiku, he knows if he stays much longer, he won't be able to be rehabilitated into his wilderness home.
With a sigh, he offers a short wave to Polnareff's sweeping arm, boating out with Josuke soothing the dolphin and Okuyasu at the bow. Polnareff helps Star Platinum shove off, the three of them waving farewell.
As soon as the vessel starts off, Kakyoin is chasing after it. He knows better than to follow too close to any human or vessel, let alone interact with the human world, but his curiosity gets the better of him. Is this when humans put on their devices? Is Hasiku really recovered? Well, Kakyoin can answer that himself.
All he needed was a little medicinal kelp and a touch of healer's light to finish restoring his broken bones. He can't heal much more than small injuries, but his light magic can do enough to heal cuts and bruises. With as great as the humans seemed to heal the dolphin, Kakyoin was able to speed up the final step in the healing process. That; and kelp solves everything.
The vessel makes its way out, far enough away from shore where human eyes can no longer see. They reach an unmarked point in the horizon. Suddenly the propulsion of the vessel is cut, the twisting fins slowing to a stop. Waves lap at the vessel, rocking it back and forth. Otherwise, the humans seem in no hurry to move. What are they waiting for? Kakyoin can only imagine they probably willed the poor dolphin into a submissive calm to make it this far out of water.
Idly floating beneath the vessel, Kakyoin doesn't notice the sneaky squid-form approaching him.
His scales flash before he turns to spot Koichi. Effortlessly, he covered the brilliance in Kakyoin's scales, knowing where Kakyoin is likely to expel his defensive light tricks. They are far too close to a human vessel for Koichi's liking.
I know this is the same vessel as before, Koichi reasons,
but we can't let our guard down. What did you learn on the surface? Is there enough data?
Hardly. Kakyoin stares up at the white underbelly of the vessel, determination turning his eyes into sharp crystals.
There is so much to analyze about the human world. Basics just don't cover it anymore. Their intelligence, their devices, technology, magics! Twirling in place, Kakyoin lets out an excited bubble.
So, you're saying you're not done? Raising a suspicious but mostly concerned eyebrow, Koichi floats up to Kakyoin's eye level. The redhead shakes his head.
Koichi, I have too many questions that need too many answers. But first and foremost… Stalling, Kakyoin realizes that too many thoughts beg for priority in his mind.
Do you have a place to sleep or rest? Accessible water? Koichi prompts, taking on his dutiful role. It touches him, actually, knowing how paranoid Koichi can be and yet, in his own way, supporting him.
Koichi shows his support by offering his service. It's typical of a squid-form, but not what anyone would expect of Koichi. His curiosity gets the better of him at times, and he's prone to stepping out of line from all other more subservient forms. Kakyoin doesn't mind. It's the reason the two were paired in his studies to become a Hierophant. Only Kakyoin seems to be able to tolerate Koichi, and Koichi seems to help quench his insatiable curiosity.
I have a place to sleep, Kakyoin affirms with a nod.
It also has an odd basin that humans use to store water, so I should be able to last longer between trips to the ocean. In all fairness, neither of them knew what would happen to Kakyoin on land, but none of the effects seem immediate. It still nags in the back of their minds.
Humans have niche workers that make other humans food. I still haven't figured out their hierarchy, nor any sort of differentiation in human types. They're all rather… Flipping through all his examples and all the humans he has meet, he almost hates to call them:
all rather common.
You can't find any hierarchy in the niche workers? Koichi's eyes brighten up despite the fact that he pulls a curious frown.
Not on the surface at least. Maybe the hierarchy is more complex. That's besides the point, Kakyoin waves off. His fins twitch in excitement.
I have a place to sleep and recover, and I am sure to find a human food that's palatable. All I need is more notebooks, and probably some of my notes. Oh! There's that one that-
A book is shoved into his face. It magically appeared from Koichi's sachel, but Kakyoin knows better. He gives his friend a soft look, holding the book against his chest. They don't need to say anymore. Koichi's soft smile is enough to tell him that he knows exactly what Kakyoin needs. It's a gift of being a dutiful squid-form, he supposes.
The two creatures watch the vessel as the humans move around, sending even the slightest of ripples and vibrations into the water. Koichi focuses his magic, concentrating on the sounds through the ripples. Sometimes, if he focuses just right, he can catch the sound bouncing off the surface. He can distinguish voices, but otherwise listening doesn't reveal anything. Maybe Kakyoin can lend him a book of sounds from the surface.
Hey, Kakyoin, Koichi turns. The other spares him a glance before turning keen on the vessel again. He nods for Koichi to continue.
You said human magics, right? Again, another nod.
What kind of magics?
They have all the same kinds that we do, it seems. They have sound magic controlling sound devices, light magic nearly everywhere - I wondered if they use it for communication mostly, because most of the time it's either to illuminate a dark area because their eyes are so weak, or to indicate something to another human - and some sort of gate magic or even material magic. He realizes afterwards that maybe the extra information was a bit much, and that he might've just been rambling.
I thought humans had to do everything physically or with their technology, Koichi frowns humoring Kakyoin’s rambling. It prompts Kakyoin to think, distracted, until a loud splash startles them from above. True to their forms, Koichi dives deeper into the darkness, and Kakyoin rounds on the sound, tail flexed defensively. The dolphin flails around before he realizes he's in the ocean.
Kakyoin sighs in awed relief. The dolphin clicks and squeals happily, circling the vessel. It keeps bobbing its head up to the humans, all happy squeals. He almost feels bad projecting a call to the dolphin. It turns, noticing Kakyoin before seeming to say goodbye to the humans. It swims on over, and Kakyoin leads it down to Koichi. The kelp and healing light fixed all his wounds. Now it's time to figure out just what a captured creature goes through in human hands.
With a soft smile, Jotaro can rest easy, knowing that Hasiku already found a way home. He turns immediately, as if someone called to him, and dives down after a little goodbye wave of his flipper. Josuke leans over the edge. Okuyasu looks over his shoulder, and Jotaro starts the motor. Okuyasu nearly falls over onto his friend with the sudden acceleration.
The sonar on the dashboard shows three dots rapidly leaving his scope. For a moment, he wonders if the two others that approached Hasiku are part of his pod or a random passing tribe that's directing him home. Another dot passes underneath as Jotaro takes a wide turn. The dot registers onto his monitor, but he can't quite make out what it is.
Uh, Jotaro-san? Josuke calls from behind him.
Sharks don't usually attack boats do they? Okuyasu blanches.
That movie… I totally watched it bro. Sharks take down anything!
Hey! Jotaro defends, sending the two into immediate shock.
Sharks are misunderstood. They mistake surfers for seals sometimes, but otherwise leave people alone.
Well, then, why is one following us? Okuyasu scowls back at Jotaro. The wind whips across his face, threatening to pull off his hat. The monitor is still too dark, and the dot hasn't left the sonar. In fact, it has stayed directly underneath Star Platinum's rutter. There's no way a shark would be that-
The entire boat pitches, waves crashing and spraying right into Josuke's eyes. Okuyasu trips over his foot, but runs into the side of the boat instead of toppling Josuke. On his feet, Jotaro kills the engine and throws open the lower compartment of the sailboat. In the cozy space, Jotaro stores all his spare personal equipment. Such equipment including electromagnets.
Snatching up some tow rope, Jotaro ties the electromagnetic ring to the end, snapping at Okuyasu to tie it to the boat. Josuke is already manning the sonar and monitor. Nothing. The dot circles them, but Josuke can only hardly make out the shadows underneath the surface.
Another hard thump against the hull of the measly sailboat. The boat pitches again to the other side. Jotaro stumbles, but is able to catch Okuyasu's wrist before he falls face first into the water.
Okuyasu. Get the life vests. Jotaro hooks up the electromagnet to the boat's battery as Okuyasu dives back into the storage. Another bump from the shark sends him into the wall. The bins jab painfully into his side, but it's a minor injury. Above, Josuke complains about hitting his head and Jotaro snaps at him to do something.
What can I do? Josuke snaps back.
It's a giant shark. I'm not a shark whisperer, and I still can't see him!
Nevermind, Jotaro grits between his teeth. The two interns don bright orange life jackets as Jotaro starts sending a current to the magnet. He wastes no time dropping the weight into the water nearly 100 meters. They turn to stare at the sonar, watching the dot quickly vanish from the screen.
Yes! Josuke shouts, punching the air. Okuyasu meets him and they share goofy relieved grins.
How did ya know that'd work, Jotaro-san?
Sharks have a sixth sense that detects-
All Josuke hears is the crash of water hitting his ears. The entire boat has vanished from beneath him, replaced by sharp chill of salt water. He chokes, but doesn't dare try to breathe. Someone grabs his arm as he reaches up. His world is flipped upside down as he's dragged deeper into the water. The blurry vision of Okuyasu starts to vanish from the surface as he attempts a strangled cry.
Chapter 12: Things Are Not as They Seem
Josuke is yanked down into the ocean. Okuyasu screams Josuke's name into the foam. The shark jumped the entire sailboat to snatch Josuke, ripped right out of his life vest. Jotaro meets the intern on the side before rounding on the electromagnet. How that shark doesn’t have a massive headache by now is beyond his knowledge. But right now, they need to find a way to stop him. Damn it, didn't he teach Josuke how to punch a shark?
The foam begins to dissipate on the surface, and Okuyasu keeps careful watch for air bubbles. There was a burst, one that he recognizes if he's already choking on water. So far, nothing has surfaced. He vaguely hears Jotaro instructing him to get a visual on the monitor, but at his lack of response, Jotaro stops trying. Loud footsteps pace back and forth as Jotaro hurriedly assembles equipment. If he can set up the microphone quickly enough, he might be able to call Hasiku's friends.
Under the waves, Koichi pauses. The dolphin, too, picks up on something and turns, facing the direction they left. Kakyoin is last, turning only to try to discern what the others are picking up.
Hear that? Koichi breathes. Kakyoin strains. He knows Koichi's magic allows him a greater range of hearing, so he abandons his ears. He shakes his head. The sound must pass again, because Koichi looks like he's shocked by an electric eel, and the dolphin clicks a sympathetic noise.
Let's go, Kakyoin! Koichi shouts over his shoulder, already darting back the way they came.
What is it? Kakyoin asks, easily keeping pace. The squid-form hooks an arm around him and Kakyoin matches the dolphin's faster speed.
A distress signal. And this one's strong. No lost baby dolphin should be this loud, but he's extremely scared. He takes the explanation and hurries.
They trace the sound back to the vessel, and they freeze. The dolphin circles the vessel, equally confused. Kakyoin stares up. What sort of trickery are the humans up too? A splash at the surface summons the dolphin, and Koichi detaches himself from Kakyoin’s side. His ears strain to discern the origin of the sound, but sure enough, the strange sound is coming from an even stranger small dark disk suspended in the water.
Kakyoin, Koichi turns to him hesitantly.
Why are the humans using sound magic to replicate a dolphin calf's distress?
Kakyoin himself is just as lost. He knows humans have a much greater capacity for magic and devices than they could have ever anticipated. But mimicry? Kakyoin glances around, as if searching for answers in the deep.
That's when they sense it. A shark-form growls proudly far beneath them, taking his prey straight down into the abyss. They instinctively chase after it. Air bubbles escape the human in his arms, and Kakyoin's chest lurches.
Koichi picks up on Kakyoin’s determination, but snatches at his fin before he chases after the human. The larger form rounds on him, fins flaring dangerously and tail shimmering. He hasn’t been on land for more than a few days. There’s no way Kakyoin can be attached to humans he hardly knows a thing about. He shakes his head, and Kakyoin struggles against his surprisingly strong grip. Protesting, Koichi desperately points to the surface.
Something breaks the surface. He listens intently as the shark-form growls at the human resuming his struggle in his arms. Above them, another human has dropped in, exuding such a strong presence that it even starts to give Koichi a headache. He blinks against the sensation, only to find Kakyoin unhindered.
With the advantage, he darts out of Koichi’s grip. Frantic arms grapple at empty ocean. No, he can’t let Kakyoin go, he can’t let himself get caught. They’re too close as it is, and who knows what the hell the shark-form is after, capturing a human so brazenly. His thoughts become muddled as he tries to fight against the increasing headache.
Kakyoin spares Koichi one last glance before tearing after Josuke. With Jotaro in the water, it makes everything worse. Another witness, besides whatever magic he’s using against Koichi. Still, he effortlessly glides through the water, albeit a bit slow with such a clunky form.
A strangled scream of bubbles floats up, and Jotaro redoubles his efforts. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, is the sole repeating thought in his head. What shark takes a human with it to the bottom of the fucking sea? One bite of Josuke’s arm, hand even, would have told it enough that he wasn’t food. He forces his panicked thoughts from his mind. Whatever fucked up instinct grips the shark doesn’t matter if he shreds Josuke to pieces.
He strains against the growing pressure at his temples. A free dive any deeper will certainly spell injuries, despite wearing his diving suit which conveniently has shark-repelling magnets in his shoulders.
He can only imagine what Josuke’s going through - if he’s still conscious to register just what his happening. Eyes straining, Jotaro glares into the darkness, trying to distinguish where the shark went. Why couldn’t he have his scuba gear? Didn’t Hasiku’s pod hear his own distress signals? What happened to the two that greeted him?
A long fish darts just beside him, a shimmery flash blinding him before diving straight down deeper right after the shark. Jotaro chokes himself back, pausing in the water right as he feels the pressure in his head level out. The flash of scales still presses dark spots into his vision. Blinking doesn’t fix the problem. Instead, it cements the image in his head. Green scales, more like emeralds, but a flash of red. Not blood red, but like the color of hair, like Kakyoin’s hair.
The memory of the ocean dream hits him square in the chest. He feels the heat of piercing violet eyes turn and look up to him from the darkness. It invites him deeper. Is this the dream? Has he passed out from the threat of getting the bends? Is this all a convoluted nightmare?
It begins to feel that way. Bright green lights pierce the darkness like aurora borealis, highlighting angles of the shark’s body. Dark liquid pools around where the light suddenly ends. The shark is suspended in the depths, pierced by solid beams light.
Josuke seems just as lifeless. His eyes are shut and something covers his face. Something pushes him forward towards Jotaro, and he reaches out instinctively to meet him.
Josuke is settled into his arms, but Jotaro’s eyes meet violet orbs and red hair. It’s only a moment where Jotaro sees Kakyoin in the darkness. As soon as he blinks, the vision is gone, and reality returns. The weight of Josuke in his arms snaps him back. Shaking the pressure that must be screwing with his mind, Jotaro pushes himself towards the surface.
They breach with a gasp. Okuyasu claws and yanks Josuke up by his clothes, taking the weight off of Jotaro. He lifts himself up with his arms and flops into the boat ungracefully. Coughing, he tries to relieve the pressure from his chest, choking on nothing but air.
Josuke? Okuyasu calls to his friend in his arms. Sitting up, Jotaro takes a moment to look him over. The force of the encounter destroyed his highly stylized hair, now all streaming down his face. Jotaro frowns as Okuyasu starts to pull the strands away.
What the fuck? Jotaro breathes. Okuyasu notices it moments later, parting Josuke’s hair to find a small starfish stuck to his face. More specifically, right over his nostrils. The frightened intern glances over to the expert, unsure of how to proceed. If his eyes could roll back in his head further, he would, but now is not the time. Jotaro leans over to scratch at the starfish. If he finds just the right spot-
The starfish’s arms curl upwards, recoiling as if offended that someone tickled him. Jotaro plucks the tiny creature from Josuke’s face. Immediately, his eyes snap wide open, bolting upright so suddenly that he clacks his skull against Okuyasu’s. They both sit for a moment, hissing and groaning in pain, before Okuyasu grips Josuke’s shoulders.
Josuke! You’re alive? he shouts at his friend excitedly. Josuke blinks, opening his mouth to respond before strong arms strangle him and stifle him against his chest. Sighing, Jotaro finally brings himself to stand.
He ignores the interns as he glares back into the depths. No mysterious green light, no impaled shark, no mermaid Kakyoin. Something nags at him in the back of his mind, not unlike how he felt the call of the ocean in his dream.
Hey, Jotaro-san? Okuyasu calls, hovering near the motor with Josuke propped up in a bundle of towels like a stranded animal. Jotaro can’t pull himself away, however, from staring at the surface of the ocean that seems to stare right back at him.
Kakyoin doesn’t move, Koichi a feverish mess pulling at his arm. He doesn’t budge. It’s a sheer miracle that they haven’t been spotted yet, and Koichi doesn’t want to push their luck.
Kakyoin, he begs. It feels impossible to pull his gaze away. There’s a keen look that he has rarely seen in his friend. Only one other time has Kakyoin been so transfixed, and it was when he realized his true calling to become a Hierophant and break the standards of his form. To compare his ultimate life’s calling to how starstruck he is with this human? Koichi pales, feeling decidedly sick.
Jotaro, Kakyoin breathes instead.
He swears he hears the ocean call his name once more, but he finally turns away, giving one last look to the waters that once felt so comforting. After this, they have never felt so foreign.
Chapter 13: Close Call
They force Josuke to stay home for the next few days. Okuyasu visits him after school, bringing him little snacks to share as he plays video games. Despite all the distractions and the victory of not going to school, Josuke can’t shake the incident from his mind. All he remembers is being suddenly tossed into the ocean, struggling against someone, and then blackness. He rubs at his nose. Something prevented him from drowning, and he wonders if he still feels the phantom breath of a scuba mask.
Today, however, Josuke complains to his friend about being stuck at home.
I can’t take it much longer, Oku, Josuke groans, leaning his head back against the couch.
But bro, Okuyasu passes a bag of chips,
you love this game! You always said you wanted to practice to beat the world record. While what Okuyasu says is true, Josuke has a hard time finding that drive at the moment. He needs to be working back at the Foundation. It always helps to take his mind off of things.
Do you think we could just go visit the Foundation? Josuke asks, turning towards his friend, ignoring the previously offered chips.
I mean, I don’t think they’ll let me work. And Hasiku is gone now… His voice trails off when he realizes that he’s stuck in more ways than one. Still, going out anywhere feels infinitely better than sitting around in snack wrappers thinking about nearly being mauled by a shark.
Okuyasu picks up on his cabin fever, and claps his shoulder. The determined glint in his eye is all the encouragement Josuke needs. He grins, both of them leaping off the couch in a flurry and running to the door.
Bye Mom! Josuke shouts vaguely to the house. He hears her shout a response, most likely reminding him to not push himself too hard.
Just going to the Foundation. See ya!
Bye, okaa-san! Okuyasu calls courteously as he pulls the door closed behind them. Josuke feels like he could sprint all the way there. He keeps his steps light on the balls of his feet; he's not the type to be forced to sit still for too long. Beside him, Okuyasu meets his pace, and they make it to the Foundation in no time.
The volunteer at the front desk smiles up to them in greeting, distracted from listening to the man next to her. Josuke starts wishing them a good afternoon until he realizes just who is filing through reports.
Higashikata. You're alive, Rohan drawls, caring less about Josuke's well being than the paper he’s trying to find. A fire boils in his veins at Rohan's intentional indifference. He finds just the right way to crawl under his skin.
Before he can spit something back, Okuyasu interrupts by flirting with the volunteer - she's about their age, perhaps she even goes to their school. Over Okuyasu's shoulder, however, Josuke keeps his dark sharp glare pointed at Rohan. He matches Josuke with a more calculated and mischievous glint. The tension snaps between them two until Okuyasu is bodily shoving Josuke away.
Dude, Rohan means nothing. He doesn't know how scary that was for you, bro. For all of us! He's just a jerk, Okuyasu placates his fuming friend. Josuke sends a sharp glance over his shoulder for good measure.
We can toss him in Meg's tank at feeding time and see how he feels, Josuke mutters darkly.
Huh, yeah we should, Okuyasu chuckles along. Distracting Josuke with his favorite things always works.
But hey, isn't Meg one of those gentle sharks?
Yeah, for the most part, Josuke sighs. He's not really disappointed, in fact he's rather fond of the nurse shark in their care. They're fostering her until she makes her journey across the sea to her new home at SeaWorld. He shakes his head, letting the tension fall from his shoulders. He turns to Okuyasu as if to prove to him that he has regained his calm.
Too bad the shark didn't take a nice chunk out of you. That ridiculous hair would've been nice. Rohan's deceptive tone rounds the corner, meeting them from a side employee entrance.
Okuyasu takes a step back, then one more. A few visitors take note of Josuke and make a wide berth to evacuate. Rohan, ever the idiot, stands there in the doorway, baiting Josuke as if he doesn't realize he just signed his life away. Josuke's hair casts a dark shadow over his eyes as he tilts his gaze down. All attempts at remaining calm are useless now, even when he thinks of the consequences of exploding here. It has to be at the Foundation, of all places, doesn't it? He draws in a long deep breath.
Someone approaches Josuke, and he rounds on them, blind to his target anymore. Rohan dares get closer, but only to throw his arms out and warn the stranger to stay away. He's too late, however, noticing Okuyasu leaping out to stop the stranger as well, but both fail to stop him. It's Kakyoin, and against their warnings, he lifts his hand and grabs Josuke's fist lightly.
Everyone is frozen, like featured statues in the ancient exhibit around them. There's a long moment while Josuke's breathing grows tense, blowing steam through his nostrils. Rohan and Okuyasu flinch reflexively. They know the consequences of Josuke's blind rage - once provoked, there's no going back, and no one is safe. Even Okuyasu can no longer restrain his friend. Kakyoin is so kind and innocent that it makes Okuyasu tear up at never being able to see him again. There's no way he'll come within 100 meters of them after this.
Josuke's chest heaves, fist clenching in Kakyoin's gentle grip. How dare he? He has the audacity to try and stop him? But the touch grows warm. His pulse stops pounding, and even begins to slow down, cooling his heated blood. Steam no longer flares from his nostrils.
Kakyoin's presence grows softer, expression relaxing into a kind smile that Josuke imagines only a guardian angel can possess. It… calms him. The warmth from the gentle touch seems to urge him to be calm. Josuke wants to fight it, he wants to exact revenge on Rohan for so grossly offending the very core of his character. Even Kakyoin frowns as his shoulders rise again.
It hits him like a crashing wave. Pure tranquil bliss overwhelms his senses. He blinks for a moment, trying to remember what he was even feeling before. The thought escapes him. Turning, he sees Rohan standing defensively braced against the door and eyes wide in horror, like he's seen a ghost. Oh yeah, didn't he insult his hair? A pulse of the tranquil wave lingers in his system, so he lets it go.
Kakyoin relaxes when Josuke heaves out the last of his rage in a sigh. He immediately takes his hand back, not risking over-stimulating Josuke with his projection of calm. It astounds him, however. Humans are intelligent creatures and usually extremely impressionable, but clearly this was an exception. It takes that much effort for Kakyoin to direct the most intelligent octopus or dolphin. He shakes the thought from his head; the crisis is averted. The one in the doorway doesn't hesitate in his escape, which leaves Josuke and Okuyasu to hover around Kakyoin.
I'm glad to see you back, Josuke beams at him. Kakyoin returns the smile, but focuses his attention immediately back to the
Hearts of the Ocean plaque. He glances between the stones and his notebook. Whenever Josuke tries to sneak a peek, however, Kakyoin effectively shields the information with his hand. It looked like a diagram, from what Josuke could tell. With only a few more glances, Kakyoin seems satisfied with his studies and turns away.
Wait, we didn't get to tell you! Josuke stops the man from wheeling away.
We were finally able to release Hasiku!
That's great news, Kakyoin replies a little flatly. It's clear he's distracted by whatever is on his mind. Unfortunately for them, however, Josuke is bored.
Yeah, Okuyasu tags along, trying to further Josuke's cause.
He made full recovery right after you saw him! It was like magic!
Kakyoin tries not to jump at a human using the word, but perhaps they are more in touch with their magic than he could have ever anticipated. Afterall, they seem quite adept at sound magic beyond even Koichi's comprehension. Still, Kakyoin feels like it's best to keep the information to himself. He changes the subject to avoid further prodding.
What about Jotaro? He was the one in charge of the dolphin, right? The two teens glance at each other, and it's impossible to determine just what their intention was. They both nod to answer his question. He can't help but feel like their mischievous smiles mean something more, however.
Oh dude! I totally forgot. Shit! Josuke slaps himself both for forgetting and for being impolite.
What, dude? Okuyasu prompts.
We're supposed to babysit again today!
Again? Okuyasu processes, then a second later.
Wait, we? Josuke nods, seeming frantic about his lost duty.
Duuuude Jotaro-san will have my head if we don't pick up his daughter from school! What time do the younger years get out? Soon? Babbling to his friend at least distracts him from Kakyoin's own plotting. Irregularities with the gemstones that they only thought were myth aside, learning more about human culture is his goal. If these two are in charge of Jotaro's young, he cannot pass up the opportunity to learn.
I'm heading out anyway, Kakyoin interrupts the two, nodding outside of the building.
Would you mind if I tagged along with you? Thankfully the request doesn't seem too weird as Josuke and Okuyasu immediately agree to the plan. With more affectionate combat, punching each other in the arms, they hurry out, pushing Kakyoin along.
They reach a new building further away from the sea than Kakyoin has ventured yet. He can hear it and smell it and sense it, but it's too far to see anymore across the jagged horizon. Humans have no respect for wide open space. Still, Kakyoin simply logs away the mental note that the ocean isn't as important to humans as it is to mermaids. It's to be expected of them, which is why most mermaids have an inherent disdain for humans.
Josuke leans against a pole, checking his wrist for the time more and more frequently. Okuyasu pokes at the wheels of his chair, making sure everything is in working order. He may not have the quickest wit, but he has good intuition, Kakyoin observes. Josuke, on the other hand, has a limit on his patience.
We shoulda just asked someone, Josuke groans,
instead of wasting our time out here. I'm so sorry again, Kakyoin-san, for putting you out like this.
It's no bother. I have no other plans today and was trying to figure out what else to do myself. He half lies. At some point soon, Kakyoin must return to the ocean. But for now, he can spare the time to go with the flow. The more he can learn about humans, the better.
Excitement bubbles in his chest against his will. The two teenagers referenced the person they’re looking for as Jotaro’s daughter. His daughter. It’s more than a miracle. Not only will Kakyoin now have a chance to study each stage of human growth - hatchling, adolescent, adult - he will meet some of Jotaro’s own kin.
The building suddenly lets out a piercing cry, a sort of ringing not unlike the device in the hotel room. He flinches against the pain. When he looks up to judge Josuke’s and Okuyasu’s reactions, however, he’s even further confused. They lit up at the sound, standing tall expectantly. Is this particular noise something that gets people's attention? The ringing is thankfully short, and as soon as it’s over, multitudes of human children pour out from the building.
Kakyoin blinks. They’re like a horde all spreading out, seeking their kin, supposedly. Thoughts race in his head again - do you humans have communal education as opposed to learning through apprenticeship? - but he’s interrupted by gleeful cheers.
Josuke-san! a small and high-pitched voice calls out to them.
Jolyne-chan! Josuke chimes back, arms out as he sweeps the tiny hatchling up into the air. She giggles as he temporarily releases her, only to fall right back into his hands.
How was school? Did you learn anything new?
Yeah! I learned a lot! We studied stars today! Jolyne, as she’s called, grins ear to ear in excitement.
I already know a lot about stars, though. Daddy taught me about them. Oh! Is Daddy home? I have to ask him about the green stars.
The three males freeze. Kakyoin feels his heart stop in his chest. Thankfully, the humans don’t seem to notice; Josuke and Okuyasu glance at each other nervously before dismissing her comment. But how can they? Do they write it off as childish wonder? How does this hatchling even know about the mysterious star map? Did she hear it from Jotaro? How does he know?
Kakyoin rips himself from his panic enough to smile at Jolyne when she points up at him. Josuke hums as he looks over his shoulder, suddenly remembering that they brought Kakyoin along. The teen sets the little hatchling down. Instantly, she darts up to him, dangerously close.
Oi, careful Jolyne-chan! Okuyasu warns. He reaches out to pull her back, but Kakyoin shakes his head. He can do this. With a deep breath, he locks away all his worries to obsess about later. Can he even pick a child’s brain? Is she still to early in development for a comprehensive understanding of her world?
Hello. I’m Kakyoin, he introduces himself. Smiling, Jolyne stands right up against the large wheel of his chair. She meets his gaze with stunning green eyes. They seem too keen for such an innocent human.
I’m Jolyne! Are you a mermaid?
Survival instincts begin to kick in. He feels the blood rush from his face. His tail tenses under the blanket and in his state of panic, he’s sure that everyone has noticed. Again, Josuke tries to laugh it off, sweating at his temples as he bites his lip.
I’m so sorry, Kakyoin-san, Josuke tries to make up for it.
I forgot to warn you that she likes to ask questions.
Like, a lot of questions, dude, Okuyasu adds on.
Not even Jotaro-san can get her to stop. She asks anything and everything. She gets a little too deep sometimes, ya know?
Seeming to commiserate with him, the two resign to leading them off back home. Much to his dismay, however, Jolyne insists on riding in his lap to interrogate him further. Fear rises in his chest. What is she going to ask next? He can only play it off for so long. What is he going to do? Is he expected to not answer, given Josuke’s and Okuyasu’s warnings?
Daddy told me if mermaids were real, Jolyne continues shamelessly,
that they’d have to be in a wheelchair. They’d probably hide their tails with magic! He doesn’t think mermaids can use magic to turn their tails into legs.
Surprisingly, Kakyoin agrees with Jotaro’s hatchling. Instead of mindlessly following what their parents teach them, human hatchlings seem to develop a mind of their own fairly quickly. The comparisons would be mind boggling to sketch out, but Kakyoin sets in his mind to do just that tonight.
Are you a boy? she asks next. It causes Okuyasu to burst out laughing and for Josuke to blush. They give up on trying to defend her.
What makes you say that? Kakyoin asks instead. She blinks. She’s not used to being interrogated back. He smiles and Jolyne pouts.
Well, why do you have long hair then? Her eyes gleam, outwitting him at his own game. Or so she thinks.
Why do you?
Because I’m a girl, Jolyne asserts, pouting harder. Josuke and Okuyasu lend an ear to the conversation, but don’t dare to interrupt.
Does having long hair make you a girl? Kakyoin delves.
No… But… Her own instinct seems to be failing her; she can’t think of a question back.
Then why do you think you’re a girl?
‘Cause I wanna be.
And I want to be a boy, Kakyoin resolves. He can’t say he understands the two males’ discomfort on the topic. Humans, he thought, would be the one land species to be as socially adept as themselves.
Where are you from? Jolyne thankfully redirects their attention. This time, Okuyasu steps in.
He works with your Daddy, but from SeaWorld! he instills a sense of wonder. Jolyne’s green eyes twinkle.
Do you like dolphins? She bounces in his lap.
As if there’s ever such a question. Kakyoin loves everything about the ocean, inherently in their culture, but also born out of his own respect of all creatures of the sea. He has to be if he wants to be considered as a Hierophant. Still, it feels natural to find more kinship with intelligent species such as dolphins. Even dolphin-forms are more energetic and outgoing, and Kakyoin wishes he was closer to more as friends. As it is, he really only has his assistant, Koichi. He sighs, and Jolyne, ever astute, catches on.
Do you like other creatures too? What’s your favorite? Her questions become an onslaught.
I like starfish the most, and so does Daddy. Do you like starfish?
They’re nice, Kakyoin admits. They’re more useful than anything, but they’re simple and nice enough.
Do you like octopi?
Ewww, no! Shoving herself away from his chest, Jolyne whines and pretends to gag over the side of the wheelchair.
They’re gross! They have black ink and it stains everywhere! she squeals in discomfort.
What if I told you, Kakyoin becomes hushed, ready to blow her mind; she’s rather intelligent for a human it seems,
that octopi are smarter than you?
What? That’s not true! Jolyne giggles. Her initial disbelief soon gives way to her curiosity for she rounds back on him with a new question.
Is that true?
Josuke sighs, thankful that someone humors Jolyne’s odd questions. Through their fifteen minute walk back to Jotaro’s house, they’ve all learned something new and profound just by listening to Kakyoin and Jolyne’s conversation. It’s all rather… cute, Josuke realizes. He wonders how Jotaro usually handles all of Jolyne’s questions, whether sometimes he doesn’t need help. He follows a dangerous train of thought down the line of whether Jolyne’s mother knows what to do any better than Jotaro, then so far as to think - even if for a brief moment - that Jotaro needs someone like Kakyoin to help balance them out.
Snapping himself out of it, Josuke dismisses himself from the group to find the spare key. Behind the plant, this time, he said…
Chapter 14: We're Going on a Trip
More Jolyne, domestic life, and starting the embers of a slow burn
So since you're a mermaid- Jolyne has been relentless with her theory
-can I paint your nails?
Josuke sighs, dropping his face into his hands. The wheelchair-bound man seemed to accept his fate of being considered a mermaid in her eyes. Slowly, he nods, causing the noodle of red hair to bob. Kakyoin returns her question with a simple
Practice. She learned to keep her answers short if she didn't want to be questioned further. In a way, Josuke's impressed. Although, he might be more afraid of the consequences of whittling a sharp mind so young - any child of Jotaro-san's is bound to be extraordinary, however, in any shape or form. Still, Josuke pities the visitor. Not even a few hours with Jolyne and he's already been subjected to 20 Questions, coloring starfish, playing board games with Josuke and Okuyasu, telling stories, and now painting nails. Apparently.
I'm surprised he tolerates her so well, Okuyasu points out. His head tilts to the side as he studies them, Kakyoin parked next to the table so he can offer his hand out flat to Jolyne. Both Josuke and Okuyasu watch suspiciously as Kakyoin mildly observes Jolyne. He seems to study her as well, not sure what to make of the unique child.
Yeah, Josuke agrees. He sits up on the barstool to glance over at the oven clock.
Hey, Oku. What do ya think about makin' dinner here? At the offer, Okuyasu nearly salivates. Like a dog, any mention of food gets Okuyasu excited. Nodding, the two scavenge the kitchen to see what options they have.
He takes his eyes off the small child for a moment to observe the teenagers. They open and close different compartments, searching for something. Various boxes and bags pile onto the open surface. Kakyoin wants to dismiss their idle activity, but finds himself so keen on what they're doing.
After some preparation and heated debate between the two, a delicious smell wafts into the air. It takes Kakyoin a long moment to realize he’s smelling raw fish. He frowns. Humans don’t usually eat any sort of meat raw, if his memory serves him correct. Maybe they have yet to cook it?
Jolyne-chan! Josuke calls over his shoulder as Okuyasu finishes up.
Do you mind clearing the table? I’ll help you set it.
Excited over the thought of food, Jolyne caps the colorful containers and piles them into her arms, leaving Kakyoin with bright greens and purples and blues all over his fingernails. He anticipated as much given her recklessness in coloring in their starfish drawings, but he leaves the messy substance on his nails to please her. Usually he would hate not having any color on his body that he cannot willingly change, but the green might be permissible.
The two work in tandem, transfering wooden sticks and large flat disks to the table. The custom unfolds before him, and Kakyoin nearly shivers in excitement. A human custom acted out before his very eyes! If only he can find a way to discreetly jot down some notes.
Each of them sits before a combination of large flat disk and wooden sticks. Eyes focused, Kakyoin attempts to perfectly mimic the humans. In the center of the table is a mound of food. Bites of raw fish stuffed with something white and wrapped with nori. All four of them eye down the food hungrily, desperately. Kakyoin respectfully holds back until he can follow someone’s lead.
Jolyne-chan, you go first, Josuke waves towards the little girl with a bright smile. Putting the two sticks between her tiny fingers, she pinches the bite-sized foodstuffs one by one onto her large disk. He tries placing the two sticks between his fingers just as she does.
The permission to take his share falls to Okuyasu next, but not without a round of bickering with Josuke over who should concede the turn to who. It strikes Kakyoin as rather affectionate, nearly forcing the other to be more accepting of their offer. They both stops themselves when they notice Kakyoin. Josuke scratches the back of his neck.
Dude, sorry. Kakyoin-san should have next pick, Josuke concedes. While he had hoped to watch the other two use the sticks, Kakyoin supposes he’s only got one shot anyway. Unsteadily, Kakyoin wills his fingers to be dexterous. His polite smile fades, however, and his brows furrow in concentration. All three of them watch, and Kakyoin is very aware of their gaze. Damn it, how is this so difficult?
Ohhhh! We- uh, Jotaro-san has forks for Joestar-san, Okuyasu points out helpfully. He takes initiative and stands, shuffling through more compartments until he returns with a slim silver tool. Passing the miniature pitchfork to Josuke as he sits, Okuyasu apologizes.
Sorry, bro. Forgot you’re American.
Kakyoin lifts a brow when he’s handed the tiny pitchfork. Humans have tiny forks? They’re tools for eating? The whole scene strikes Kakyoin as odd - especially the fact that humans seem to do everything communally like a pod - and he feels even more exposed using this fork. He supposes if the wooden sticks are used to pinch the food, then surely the pitchfork is meant to stab?
Hesitantly, Kakyoin pokes the prongs into one of the fish bites, bringing it back to his large serving dish and letting it fall there. Judging by the child’s serving and appetite, he supposes five bites is more than enough. Finished, Josuke uses the sticks to transfer bites to his plate after Kakyoin, and Okuyasu soon joins in, impatient. Now that everyone has their share, they dig in.
. . .
Heaving a sigh, Jotaro shuts the car door behind him. A full day of lectures followed by a full day of research is, quite fairly, a pretty long day. The driver offers a smile that Jotaro doesn’t see. Light pokes through the windows of the dining room and living room. Jotaro glances down at his watch, but is reminded of the time more by the low rumble in his stomach. He forgot his sandwich in the teachers lounge, Jotaro realizes, gritting his teeth.
As soon as Jotaro opens the front door, he hears Josuke’s and Okuyasu’s loud voices, matched by Jolyne’s excited questions. She prods at whatever story the two seem intent on sharing.
Surely the worker would’ve been a little suspicious? an unfamiliar fourth voice adds.
Yeah! Who even collects those? Jolyne accuses.
Rounding the corner, Jotaro notices a full sushi dinner shared by the two interns, his daughter, and none other than Kakyoin Noriaki. He has half a mind to scold Josuke for inviting Kakyoin without his permission, but the accusation dies on his tongue when Kakyoin glances over his shoulder. He’s the first to notice him, Jotaro realizes.
Ah, Jotaro, he calls invitingly. Jotaro swears he catches a slight blush on Kakyoin’s cheeks, matching the soft red of his hair.
Ah, Jotaro-san! Josuke echoes, startled. He stands to offer a bow, and Jotaro dismisses it with a wave. The exhausted man looks towards his seat, now occupied by his daughter, bursting with energy. With a smile and open arms, Jotaro excuses Jolyne from the table to rush to him. He keeps his pride hidden in the shadows of his hat - for as vivacious of a child as she is, she took well to table manners. Unlike some. Jotaro lifts his eyes to scan the table with a mild glare.
Josuke shifts in his seat, scratching behind his head. He mumbles something about just trying to whip up something quick and simple. Okuyasu tags along with his opinion that they should have had soup. Jotaro ignores both of them when Jolyne pulls away from her embrace.
Daddy! Look at what Josuke made! she jumps excitedly, scrambling back to steal her father’s seat. Smirking, he amends the situation by lifting her up and replacing her on his lap.
He’s really good at making sushi rolls!
Oi! Okuyasu slams a hand down in the table, sticking a thumb at himself.
I helped too!
It was very generous of both of you, Kakyoin placates. The same warm smile graces his features, and Jotaro can’t help but wonder why he hasn’t seen more of this man since his arrival.
Th-thank you, Kakyoin-san! Blushing, Josuke beams back at the guest.
Here. I’ll take the plates. Taking all the plates and chopsticks, and Kakyoin’s lone fork, Josuke brings the dishes to the sink.
We learned about constellations today, Jolyne starts. Rolling his eyes, Jotaro prepares for her inevitable questioning.
Did you know some stars are actually further away, even if they’re in the same constellation? Why is that? Do they know they’re all part of the same constellation? Oh! And we got to make our own constellations with our names! Where’s my notebook?
Jolyne-chan, let your father breathe, chuckling, Okuyasu offers the girl her notebook that she shared with them earlier. All but snatching the notebook from his hands, Jolyne flips to the most recent entry. Jotaro skims her sloppy writing over her shoulder, amusing himself. Most of the notes seem organized, and extra notes are crammed into the margins. Just like him, Jolyne must be too curious for her own good, and wants to absorb every word the teacher speaks.
See? Here! Shoving the open page into his face, Jolyne watches his reaction with glittery green eyes. He breaks eye contact to examine the sketch. Resting the notebook against the table, Jotaro reads her notes as if he would be reading a paper.
Her diagram is meticulous, guidelines erased in various areas, bold lines connecting the dots in a seemingly random pattern. The constellation is supposed to be a wolf, but he struggles to decipher the jagged angles. Maybe the forwardmost point is the snout?
Very nicely done, Jotaro applauds, handing back the book. He glances up to the interns, entertaining themselves with their own conversation. Now might be as good of time as any. With a grunt, Jotaro catches everyone’s attention, interrupting their likely-meaningless conversation.
The Foundation accepted my grant, Jotaro starts. Josuke and Okuyasu blink blankly. Apparently that means nothing to them. He continues slowly,
Which means, you two, that I’ve been given a couple weeks to lease out the research yacht. If you’d like, I need a research crew that-
YES! Both of the interns jump up and high five. They turn to each other, barely missing each other’s fists as they resort to literally punching each other with excited fist bumps. Jotaro rolls his eyes; they act like they won the lottery.
Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!
Daddy? Jolyne twists around in his lap to point giant round eyes up at him. Anyone would have to be blind to not see her desperate begging. She doesn’t even need to ask. Jotaro concedes the point - he was already planning on it, afterall.
Before, Jotaro would have to be heavily persuaded to even think about bringing Jolyne along for something as small as a day trip. Mostly, Jotaro believed she would be bored, but after bringing her along for whale watching, his theory could never be more wrong. Jolyne insisted ever since that she wanted to go on every research expedition with her father for the rest of eternity. Her words.
Now that she’s older, Jotaro reasons, a week at sea wouldn’t be too terrible. The idea of spending so much consecutive time with his daughter fills his chest with a sort of longing. He already hates how little he sees his daughter, he feels like he owes this much to their little family.
Yes, Jolyne, you can come with us this time, Jotaro smiles, patting between the buns of hair on her head. Just like the older boys, Jolyne jumps excitedly in Jotaro’s lap, leaping into his arms and constricting his neck in a viper-like hug. A soft chuckle escapes him, gently squeezing her back.
Yay! Jolyne cheers. Dropping down from his lap, Jolyne joins Josuke and Okuyasu’s revelry as they collectively move towards the living room. Standing, Jotaro glances over to Kakyoin, whose gaze seemed most recently fixed to him. A strange jolt runs down his spine, and immediately he questions his sanity.
Where did that come from?
Violet eyes turn concerned the longer Jotaro stands there silently. Clearing his throat, Jotaro slightly bows to address Kakyoin.
I don’t suppose… Kakyoin trails off. He fiddles with the edge of the blanket, trying to find the words.
It would be rude to impose, but I do know my way around the ocean. Regarding the redhead, Jotaro realizes he didn’t even need to think about his offer.
Of course, Jotaro is going to need as much help as he can, and he briefly considered asking for a full research crew. But filling up the yacht with people he can actually tolerate might be preferable. Jotaro supposes he should think this through more carefully - though Kakyoin is a reliable research partner - but it's the look in Kakyoin’s violet eyes that call him out. A wave of confidence in his choice seems to sweep over him before he nods. Kakyoin can be part of the crew.
Do you want me to wheel you over? The question feels reasonable, but equally idiotic as soon as he voices it. Of course Kakyoin doesn’t want to be wheeling himself everywhere. However long he’s been in a wheelchair, he likely enjoys not having to push himself around if he can help it.
Still, Jotaro isn’t entirely sure whether the responsibility of bringing Kakyoin around is an assumed responsibility, or whether its more polite to ask. Kakyoin, for his part, seems more amused than anything, hiding his soft smile behind a delicate hand.
If you’re offering, Kakyoin smirks,
then I think it would be rude to refuse. Jotaro is thankful he kept his hat on, retreating into the darkness when a foreign heat touches his cheeks.
In an all out sprint, Josuke and Okuyasu race each other to get to the Foundation first. They stumble over each other, knocking into each other with their clumsily heavy bags. Josuke smirks. He takes the corner wide yet sharp, forcing Okuyasu to slow down to take the inside or avoid Josuke’s pack. Vicious shouts follow him as Josuke laughs his way all the way to the Foundation.
Haha! I won! I won I won I won! Take that dude! Josuke lords his victory over his friend. Catching his breath, Okuyasu doubles over, bracing his arms against his knees. Josuke continues to punch the air as they step inside.
C’mon bro, Okuyasu frowns,
let up will ya? It’s just a race.
That I won, Josuke smirks wickedly. It earns him a harsh punch to the arm. He rubs the spot sorely with a whine, and meets Okuyasu’s glare with a scowl.
That’s a new look for you two. Really completes the tough boy delinquent look, a coy voice drawls. A flash of heat runs down Josuke’s back.
Rohaaan, Josuke growls warningly. The accused merely dismisses the teens with a flip of his hair. Before they can start their usual repartee, a firm hand falls on Josuke’s shoulder. He glances up to Jotaro’s warning glare. Sighing, Josuke tries remembering that one time Kakyoin managed to calm his nerves. Someone, in fact, does grab his hand, and it’s little Jolyne tugging on his wrist.
Hey ya, Jolyne-chan, the teen smiles. She raises her arms and grabbing hands as a signal. Rolling his eyes, Josuke passes his traveling pack to Okuyasu before lifting Jolyne up into his arms. She giggles on the way, and Josuke laughs along.
Good. Besides Polnareff, we’re all here and packed, Jotaro observes, glancing around at the people in the lobby. They met before the Foundation officially opens in the morning, wanting to get an early start. At least the sun is up, or else Jotaro knows for a fact the teens would never be able to get themselves out of bed. Shaking his head, Jotaro goes over a mental checklist.
Wait, Okuyasu interrupts, glancing around at the head count.
Josuke, Jolyne-chan, Jotaro-san, Polnareff-san, and Kakyoin-san. Why is Rohan here? Unsubtly pointing at the young man, Okuyasu turns to Jotaro for clarification. He doesn’t supply any answer, however, occupied with helping Kakyoin gather his stuff. Realization settles in the two boys. Their scowls darken over their faces again, this time directing their aggression towards the older intern.
No, Josuke growls. Jolyne glances between them curiously, so Okuyasu covers her ears just in case.
You’re dead, punk, Okuyasu threatens. Rohan just laughs.
You think you can do anything to me? he gloats, shrugging his shoulders.
We’re all going to be stuck together on a boat. In the middle of the ocean. For a week.
Kakyoin waits patiently as Jotaro starts taking some bags out to the larger vehicle outside. His tail twitches in excitement. The sea calls out to him - it has already been too long. He already goes over plots to slip into the water when the humans are all sleeping.
His pondering is interrupted by the sudden dark presence around the males. Tensing, Kakyoin’s tail shifts under the blanket before he identifies the source of aggression. Thankfully, it’s no one new to deal with. Unfortunately it’s a sudden show down. Setting down Jolyne, Josuke rolls up his sleeve threateningly.
Oh, wow. Threatening. Most classic delinquent move in the book. I’m so scared, Rohan teases. He finishes sorting out his books in his crossbody bag. Larger papers fill the rest of the space in his bag, just in case there’s a lull in the research that he can fill with some sketches. He ignores Josuke and Okuyasu as they grapple each other. It’s like they’re both trying to restrain each other at the same time as they test their strength.
Temae. Josuke growls as Rohan blows them off.
Passing by the man in the wheelchair, Rohan gives him a long look. They regard each other. Rohan raises a brow. He’s new, but according to Jotaro, he’s a respected researcher back in America from SeaWorld, and a helping hand. With a nod, he signals his approval of the redhead. The redhead nods back.
The van is all packed. At Jotaro’s announcement, Jolyne pulls on the hem of Josuke’s jacket to point him towards the van. His eyes flash open wide for a moment, Rohan and Kakyoin already in the van as Jotaro shuts the driver’s door behind himself. The two idiots catch up and jump into the sliding door before it shuts them out.
Vacation! Jolyne cheers. Josuke and Okuyasu laugh along. Rohan rolls his eyes, and Jotaro spares him a nearly approving glance, thankful he won’t be the only one to handle the chaotic teens. Kakyoin watches out the window, trying to adjust to the acceleration of the vehicle. He smiles as the ocean spreads out before them.
Pulling up to the pier, Polnareff waves the group into the parking lot. His excitement radiates off of him and catches everyone in his contagion. Even Rohan breaks a smile shaking his hand. Polnareff doesn't hesitate when Jolyne asks to be carried, lifting the girl and setting her on the back of his thick neck while taking three other bags. His own sack is tossed casually over his shoulder.
Aren't you going to need more than that? Okuyasu points out Polnareff's rather lacking supplies. He answers with a short laugh.
I used to be stuck at sea for months! I learned how to travel light.
Months? What do you mean months? Josuke prods skeptically. Turning, Polnareff sends a deep look over his shoulder, nearly making Josuke fall back into Okuyasu.
I used to be a captain in La Royale for my homeland when I was younger, he addresses the younger men and a now attentive Kakyoin with a sober tone. He strikes his fist over his heart as he recites:
Honneur, patrie, valeur, discipline. The motto of the Navy still teaches me today about the man I want to be. Sure, it's great to be honorable and have valor and love for your country, but it's nothing without discipline.
The three are left to ponder his token of wisdom. Glancing up to the interns, Kakyoin tries to discern Polnareff's nature. He's familiar with the idea of human navies and their invasive vessels, but not to this extent. He thought it was simply another niche to be filled. The reverence Polnareff seems to hold for his service tells him otherwise - it's more than just an assignment, it's a duty, and apparently transformative. It leaves Kakyoin to wonder just how many types of human natures there truly are.
Josuke helps wheel him over to the smaller vessel at the end of the pier. Their destination is the much larger vessel already far out in the water. Kakyoin frowns, glancing down at the water as everyone piles into the small vessel. If Kakyoin had any opinion, it's that the vessel isn’t big enough to carry all seven of them. Someone picks up on his nerves and settles a large warm palm on his shoulder. He jolts initially, looking up to the owner of said hand.
Jotaro resolutely doesn’t meet his gaze, as if he’s trying to play off his warm gesture as simply using him to balance. The strange hat he wears conceals his emotions from the others. However, from Kakyoin’s angle, and with his own keen sense of people’s moods, he can see the faintest of smiles flash across his lips for half a second. He turns to the others, giving them instruction as the vessel starts off.
I apologize it's been so long wonderful readers, and I realized I'm becoming one of those "I'm sorry it's been so long, i'm in school now." But that's why I wrote chapters in advance. So here's another parcel while I figure out how to finish this bizarre adventure ;)
Chapter 16: Fluffy Clouds and Angsty Storms
The journey to the yacht was rather uneventful. As soon as they lifted Kakyoin onto the back of the yacht, he seemed slightly more comfortable on a more solid foundation. Other than that, it hasn't been more interesting since. Of course, Jotaro would beg to differ, that being on the open water was more than enough of a thrill for him. The others soon discovered the bane of human existence: boredom.
Jolyne sleeps in her father's lap as he watches the waves crash against the sides of the yacht. From the main deck, Jotaro can feel the cool dampness of the sea instead of the harsh chilled wind. Polnareff offered to be the captain of The World - he was a little too enthusiastic about the whole ordeal, but Jotaro conceded the role to the former navy man.
As soon as they saw Morioh disappear over the horizon, Josuke and Okuyasu went to settle their portion of the intern's room. Immediately, Josuke flopped onto one of the beds to claim as his own, and Okuyasu took a seat by the circular window, babbling in wonder over the yacht, the ocean, sailing trivia, what they're going to find…
Rohan sets up a large sketch pad on a collapsible easel. It's never too early to get in a good sketch. If the rest of them are succumbing to boredom, it isn't going to be his fate. Frowning, he taps the end of the pencil against his bottom lip. The eraser presses against his lips, then his teeth, until he pulls the pencil away to twirl between his fingers and tap rapidly against his temple.
Has it always been so hard to find inspiration? He has always been able to draw inspiration from his surroundings, and figured something as grand as the sea would fill him with great images. Still, as he turns to look back over his shoulder, all he finds is Kakyoin staring straight down into the water, and Jotaro resting his chin on his hand as he gazes at the horizon. Rohan imagines Polnareff at the wheel, and Josuke and Okuyasu likely doing something idiotic.
He doesn't have to imagine for long. The picture now forming in his head strikes an impression on him. He turns the pad of paper sideways to work in a landscape setting, imagining the yacht from an omniscient perspective as it looks across the deck. Though they may all be in different places physically, it isn't hard for Rohan to transcribe the figures all along the line of the deck. A few lines already designate the foreground from the background, and a few marks reminds him where to place each figure.
Involved as he is, Rohan doesn't immediately notice the two annoying teens in the scope of his vision, mistaking them for his mental image of them in the scene. He glances back up a second time, squinting at them. Josuke slaps his hand over his smirk, doubling over with Okuyasu as they both struggle to contain their giggling.
Rohan rolls his eyes. Ignore them. Channel their stupidity into their sketched forms. Perfect. Okuyasu's arm draping across Josuke's shoulders as the other waves grandly begins to encompass their loud and boisterous natures.
The outlines take form easily enough, but soon leaves Rohan stumped once more. He bites the metal at the end of the pencil, avoiding the rather disgusting eraser. Sometimes his art utensils fall prey to his thoughtful nibbling, so that's why he keeps an awful set of glaring yellow standard writing pencils to start his sketches. Later, in a more concentrated environment, he can go over his crude outlines with proper sketching utensils.
For now, Rohan resorts back to twirling the yellow pencil between his fingers. Something's definitely missing, but what? He has the yacht, the ocean, Josuke, Okuyasu, Jotaro and his daughter, Polnareff, and Kakyoin. What's not there in his third person sketch?
Ah! Himself! How could he forget his own lovely image? Rohan would never conceit himself to ever compose a self portrait, but he won't exclude himself from a scene if he's in it. A little rectangle in the background denotes his own easel. Should he be facing away? Then he might have to bother with copying his sketching process in miniature on the miniature canvas. Deciding to skip the effort, Rohan adds lines to the back of the rectangle to show the back of the easel. If his hair swoops to the left on top of his head, then if he's facing forward in the painting, his hair should be swooping to the right…
Hey Rohan! Josuke shouts right next to his ear, causing Rohan to jolt. The artist rounds on the teen, who unfortunately already retreated back a few steps to rejoin the equally mischievous Okuyasu.
The commotion catches Kakyoin's attention, raising his head to the three on the deck. The three adolescents are at each other again, this time the more mature one - Rohan - enraged by the two younger boys. He shouts at them about disturbing his concentration, gesturing wildly. Josuke and Okuyasu seem to find the whole situation more hilarious than threatening.
Kakyoin tilts his head curiously. So casual confrontation between humans, be it affectionate combat that Josuke and Okuyasu are wont to do or playing off another's rage, seems to be rather quite common, if not expected. Jotaro doesn't even acknowledge the chaotic scene behind him. Perhaps the three are simply prone to sparking aggression in each other, because certainly Josuke is too kind to start a fight with anyone else, and Rohan is too cool to get fired up.
Kakyoin can't help but smile as Rohan finally manages to dismiss the two and return to his drawing. For as different as human’s culture is from their own, they share some similarities, particularly in documentation. Rohan seems to have a niche in capturing the images with art, while Jotaro fills in the role of scribe studiously with his own notebook close at hand. He tries to discern the image beginning to form by Rohan's hand. He can't make out much, however, for Rohan worries himself searching around his art for his utensil.
Missing something, Rohan-sensei? Josuke lips draw up into a smirk. Immediately, Rohan glares over his shoulder at the two, seeing right through their scheme.
Don't even think of playing games or little tricks on me, Rohan warns with a cool air as he crosses his arms.
But certainly you know better than to mess with my art supplies. Hand it over now, and I might actually forgive you.
The two boys stare at Rohan's offered hand, waiting for them to return his pencil. Okuyasu glances over to Josuke, who's brow furrows in concentration. They didn't take it. At least, Josuke is sure they didn't.
Don't keep me waiting. Give me back my pencil. Rohan quirks his fingertips, demanding the pencil to be returned to his hand.
I'm sorry dude, we didn't take it, shrugging, Okuyasu admits plainly. Josuke nods nervously next to him.
Yeah. Don't blame us for misplacing your pencil.
Misplace- the artist blinks incredulously. He shakes his head, snapping out of it,
Look. It's not that hard, Higashikata. Just hand it over.
Pfft, even if I did have it - which I don't- Josuke clarifies, crossing his arms himself,
- why would I bother? It's just a school pencil, it's not the end of the world or nothin'. You have plenty of pencils and crap for art stuff, why do you need that one so badly?
Because! Rohan snaps again, not wanting to explain himself further.
You simple minds wouldn't understand the creative process I go through if it hit you in the face. Still, it's not an excuse to mess with my stuff even if it seems worthless to you.
Valid point, Josuke concedes. However, the wicked smirk returns as he quips,
if it weren't a stupid Ticonderoga pencil.
It's not a stupid pencil! Rohan stomps his foot, ready for a new brawl when they all hear it.
At the back of the yacht, a slight clacking sound of a pencil rolling and bouncing catches their attention. All three watch as the pencil rolls to the open ended porch off the back of the yacht. Before they can even react, the pencil slips off the edge, diving into the sea, never to be found again.
A sudden uproar of laughter startles everyone. Clinging onto each other, Josuke and Okuyasu can barely stutter out what's making them laugh so hard. Josuke's fist clenches into Okuyasu's windbreaker as Okuyasu leans his weight back against him.
What's funny now, huh? Rohan steams, poking Josuke in the shoulder. Wiping back tears, Josuke tries to catch his breath enough to repeat what he said to Okuyasu.
'S nothing! Just, it's a pencil, and the middle of the ocean- Relapsing into laughter, Josuke defers the story to Okuyasu.
Bro, it reminded us of that American cartoon Jolyne-chan watches! His gravelly tone bubbles with laughter again before he reigns himself back in. He starts again in a ridiculous excuse of a French accent:
'The artist has learned the first lesson of the sea: Always bring a spare pencil.’
'Noooo!' Josuke recites afterwards, his pitiful cry falling short with his own contagious giggles
Both resign to laughter again. They collapse trying to support each other and fall onto the deck to clutch their stomachs in pain. Tears stream down their faces at Rohan's expense. Before they know it, Rohan's art supplies are packed up, and he's storming to their shared room. He plots along the way how to rig the room to prank the two idiots - he can't even begin to imagine how they're going to share the room anyway.
From the front of the boat, Jotaro spares a chuckle. He remembers that episode.
. . .
Night falls plunging them into an existential darkness - with no distinction between sky and sea, it’s difficult to find their barrings, let alone their sanity.
Okuyasu retires to their bedroom early with the curtain closed tight, along with Jolyne who, besides being up past her bedtime, can’t handle to oppressive darkness either. Jotaro tucks her in with Charmy clutched in her arms tightly. She wills away the darkness, imagining Charmy as one of the glowing green stars after Jotaro leaves her alone in their shared room. Closing the door gently, Jotaro returns to the inside lounge area.
The lounge area was converted into a research lab for the sake of the charter yacht becoming a research vessel. As such, Jotaro uses it as his makeshift study. All the data from the day pours into here through the various machines and monitors. He lifts a brow as he reexamines it all. Whoever ordered The World certainly spared no expense. It almost makes Jotaro suspicious. Mentally, he scolds himself. There can be nice things in the world, he reminds himself, though sometimes it’s easy to forget with all that he’s experienced.
Sitting down in one of the plush chairs - they kept most of the yacht’s luxury qualities, afterall - Jotaro turns back to his own notes. He thanks his past self for bringing along his old reports. It might all turn out to be useless depending on whatever they find, but it doesn’t hurt to have some other comparison. Jotaro sits silently. He prefers it that way sometimes.
The darkness is a familiar comfort to him, making him feel, if even for a moment, that nothing else matters and nothing else exists. For a moment, he can nearly forget he’s Dr. Kujo, or Jolyne’s father, or even Kujo Jotaro that has done some awful shit in the past. His hand digs around in his bag for a chocolate bar before he bites his cheek and thinks better about it. Addictive habits are hard to kick, though he’s glad it’s less destructive than smoking or drinking.
A soft noise interrupts his thoughts. With a snarl, Jotaro glances over to the door. Kakyoin pokes his head around the corner tentatively. Jotaro sighs. Willing the tension to fall from his shoulders, Jotaro meets Kakyoin’s inquisitive gaze and offers a nod. He takes that as invitation enough. The redhead wheels around closer to the table. Conveniently, the table isn’t too tall for his chair.
Kakyoin’s fingers run over a random chart. His flawless skin wrinkles as his narrowed eyes dart across the lines, processing everything but still trying to understand. It draws his brows in, and Jotaro can’t help but want the scowl to go away. Violet eyes skim over the rest of the papers before abandoning his attempt to interpret it all.
It’s just my previous notes, Jotaro explains, suddenly embarrassed by his lack of organization. Kakyoin wants to delve deeper. Perhaps it’s just his inquisitive nature, but there’s something more alluring to Jotaro. How can a human have such a strong passion for the sea? The way Jotaro’s deep sea eyes sweep across the papers, Kakyoin can only imagine what’s going on in his head.
Dark brows pull together thoughtfully. Strong jaw tightens as he faces an inner struggle. Jotaro practically radiates conflicted energy, but the intuitive fish-form can’t pinpoint exactly what.
Jotaro’s thoughts can’t stay straight for the life of him. Crossed between exhaustion and distraction, his mind seems to repeatedly stray from his research over to the man next to him. He can only hope that Kakyoin ignores the growing heat in his cheeks. The longer Kakyoin’s eyes linger, the more certain Jotaro becomes that he’s gazing straight into his thoughts, trying to sort them out with him. He locks his thoughts down even from himself. If he doesn’t think about Kakyoin, his traitorous mind has no excuse to delve in deeper into the soft frown on his perfect lips, or his long fingers resting daintily on his papers.
We should probably get to bed, Jotaro announces, standing suddenly. He spares Kakyoin a glance before offering to take him to the room he shares with Polnareff.
Shaking his head, he regretfully declines Jotaro’s offer. Why? Regret floods Kakyoin’s senses as the tall figure walks away. He disappears around the corner. It’s exactly as he planned, where he would insist he could handle himself so he can slip into the water for the night. Still, there’s an odd hole in his stomach that churns with a sort of longing he can’t quite understand himself
Chapter 17: Ocean Requiem
Feelings! This chapter is basically Jotaro has feelings
Sitting up with a gasp, Jotaro sucks in as much air as he can force down into his lungs. The dream lingers fresh in his memory, meshing with reality. As dark as it is, he still can’t tell which way is up or down, and he doesn’t care to. He rubs at his chest just below his shoulder. He swears he feels the faint irritation of salt, but it could just be from travelling.
Something calls him down to the deck. There’s a vibration in the pads of his bare feet, as if the yacht’s engine is churning, but there’s no movement. He knows the vibration isn’t from the yacht. He doesn’t know how, he just. Knows. It’s the ocean again, seeking him out to draw him back in.
No waves nor wind disturbs the silence. There’s no ethereal voice made out of the natural sounds of the ocean to call out for him. He feels the need nevertheless, the desire to meet the ocean and find out what it wants of him.
There’s a twinge of pain in his chest, and he stops. Blue eyes glare down at his own body to demand an answer. There is none. The pain wasn’t physical - no, it was empathy, something so foreign to Jotaro he doesn’t know how to process it. Darkness surrounds him. The slightest glint of emerald light shines in front of his eyes and hurries off.
He takes after it, running from one end of the deck to the other, until he feels like he’s running straight across the water. Green pinpricks of light show him each step of the way. The stars above all point to the exact spot. The guiding emerald light hesitates, then with a flash, dives deep down.
What other choice does he have than to dive in after it?
Water parts before him like nothing more than silk sheets tossed away. There’s no resistance, almost like the ocean is opening up to Jotaro, helping him along. The heavy pain in his chest grows stronger, deeper.
This. This is where it is. The origin of the ocean’s suffering. The calls before that dragged him in were to grab his attention. This. This is a cry for help.
The emerald trail that led him to the depths of a dark trench pauses. It waits for Jotaro to catch up. He blinks. It’s not just a random swath of emerald light. It’s glittering emerald scales, and fiery ruby hair. It’s amethyst stones glaring up to him in desperation.
Jotaro,the voice of the ocean echoes around him through Kakyoin’s lips. With a flick of his tail, he rises up to meet Jotaro face to face. The fire in his violet orbs begs him. Pleads with him. But Jotaro doesn’t know what to do. He shakes his head, clueless of whatever answers he may or may not be able to provide. Kakyoin’s face falls, and the light in his eyes dim. It strikes Jotaro in the chest.
The wound stings as saltwater fills his chest. He feels the intense pressure of the leagues of water above him fall onto him. His body starts to quiver with weakness, and his extremities start to go numb. His lungs strain to pull oxygen from anywhere in his body. Choking, Jotaro fights against his throat closing up.
No. He has to tell Kakyoin he can do it. Whatever it is, he’ll figure it out, he’ll help. The ocean needs him, needs him badly enough to send its angelic messenger to bring him here. Right here. Where the path of the green stars intersect. Where the trench rumbles with an otherworldly force. Where the pressure of the ocean forces him deeper.
I-Jotaro chokes out. Salt water burns his throat, and his lungs shout against the pain. He can’t. He needs air.
Instead of letting him surface, however, Kakyoin darts up to him. Arms wrap around his chest as his tail coils around his legs. Claustrophobia begins to seep into Jotaro’s skin, and he hates it. The warmth from Kakyoin’s touch calms him. Waves of pure tranquility roll over him, penetrating through his skin, trying to reach as deep as his bones. His body protests from the inside out. Fire burns in his lungs so hot it burns off the tidal tranquility.
Holding him at arm's length, Kakyoin desperately looks up and down Jotaro’s body. Tail still wrapped around his legs prevents him from escaping. Jotaro panics. He knows this must be a dream, just like the last time. But he can feel his very bones burning and his blood running thin, heat rising to his temples to combat the pressure from the outside. But he can’t leave yet, he just can’t.
Jotaro presses close to feel Kakyoin against every inch of skin of his upper human torso. Chest to chest, arms wrapped around each other, Jotaro switches his determination. Whatever it is, he needs to stay down here with Kakyoin. Violet eyes dart around, searching for answers, before falling on his stoic expression. His eyes blow wide for a moment before realization hits him. Jotaro is going to drown if it means obeying the ocean’s guardian angel.
It must’ve been the right thing to do, with Kakyoin’s thin lips pressed to his own. It's like taking a breath of fresh air, his whole body filling with something… pure. Jotaro’s eyes fall closed, succumbing to the comforting darkness. This darkness is new, different, making him feel protected, clothed, secure, strong, encouraged-
Gradually, his mental state sharpens into focus. He forces himself to switch to reality and transcribe his senses into a logical frame. His chest hurts and lungs burn from breathing too hard. Likely, he was breathing heavily throughout his whole dream. Weakness in his knees can also be attributed to his muscles straining in his sleep to obey his actions in the nightmare.
The phantom touch across his lips takes much longer to shake off. Cold air brushes his skin, no longer protected by the bedsheets, contrasting with the warmth in his face. His lips quirk. He flicks his tongue over his lips, trying to replace the feeling. Nothing works, not even keeping his lips separate as he licks his teeth. If he wanted to, he could close his eyes and disappear right back into the-
No, he won't even think about it. He won't acknowledge what it was. Maybe that's better. It was a dream - it didn't happen. It’s only after Jotaro has splashed cold water on his face and rinsed out his mouth twice that he finally cannot feel the presence. A shiver rakes down his spine. Even after all that hard work forcing the sensory aspects of the dream away, it still haunts him like a twisted memory. Jotaro growls, shaking his head. He really needs to clear his mind.
Often, when Jotaro needs a good deep distraction, he’ll turn to one of a few things. A good book, Jolyne, a walk, research, or grading papers. Snarling, Jotaro banishes the thought of grading papers and abhors the thought of pouring over notes at this hour. Yet he can’t wake up Jolyne. Cursing, Jotaro tosses his pack back onto his bed. How in the world did he forget to pack a book? Sure, he’s got magazines and articles as back-up, but a solid good book is what the doctor ordered. With that option no longer viable, Jotaro is left to pace the deck until he wears himself out.
Throwing on a long sleeve shirt and his jacket, Jotaro leaves the room silently to not disturb Jolyne. He observes her for a moment. At least Jolyne hasn't had twisted nightmares. The door closes with a soft click.
Slowly, Jolyne cracks open one eye. She strains her ears, listening for any indication of anyone catching her. Where did Daddy go? Is there something going on? In her head, she can hear his voice scolding her to go back to sleep. But he's not here right now. And it's kinda dark and lonely. Where did he go?
The yacht has two main floors above, and one below. Up the stairs takes her to the main deck level, the bedrooms below sea level. Immediately, she's struck with the chill of the night. Pulling her sweater tighter around herself, Jolyne nervously glances around every corner before continuing further. She wants to call out to her dad, but something stops her.
A splashing sound grabs her attention, and she whips around, baring Charmy as a defensive shield. Kakyoin-san’s wheelchair sits at the edge of the boat, empty. Blinking, Jolyne begins to panic. Did Kakyoin-san just fall in? She can’t help him; she’s too small. However, her feet are frozen when she tries to move. Her voice is trapped and she can’t call for help. Seconds become extremely long as she waits for something else to happen.
With a larger splash and a giant spray of water, Kakyoin-san surfaces, leaping onto the end of the boat effortlessly. Just like a movie, he tosses his red bangs in the air, running his fingers through his hair. It feels like a dream as Jolyne notices more than just his hair. A bright shimmering green tail flicks idly, the large tailfin still dipped into the water. Her mouth falls open, and soon she loses grip on Charmy.
Kakyoin-san looks her way before she can hide. His bright purple eyes widen in fear, freezing the both of them where they stand. Jolyne can hardly breathe. A slight wind picks up, causing goosebumps to break out down her arms despite wearing a jacket. A mermaid. Kakyoin-san is actually a mermaid. She was right.
Staring at the child, Kakyoin debates his options. Either he can slip back into the water and disappear forever, or he can try and persuade her this was all a dream. She may have a strong will similar to her father, but with enough persuading intent, he might be able to convince her. Shakily, she takes a step towards him.
Kakyoin-san? her tiny voice calls out, strained against her own panic gripping her throat. Shaking his head aggressively, Kakyoin raises his arms to try to motion her away. She doesn’t listen, instead getting closer. He desperately puts a finger to his lips. He has seen other humans do it to quiet others. Jolyne gets the message enough to pause. Lifting himself up, he coils back into the wheelchair, carefully arranging the blanket over his tail before Jolyne comes bouncing over.
I knew it! I knew you were- she keeps her voice low in an excited whisper-yell. Still, Kakyoin covers her mouth his hand. She pouts against his hand and stomps her foot in defiance. The hand relents to her glare. With the determination in her green eyes, Jolyne stares up at him until he gives up the truth.
Jolyne, he starts hesitantly,
Can you keep a secret? Jolyne’s eyes fly wide open, nodding vigorously. With a sly smile, Kakyoin leans down to her eye level. He extends his hand. A trickle of emerald light flows down to his palm. Her eyes follow as his other hand puts her hand in his.
An oath. Jolyne blinks up at the man, a new glint in his eyes. He sees no harm in swearing a mild oath that she won’t ever think of. Instinct drives him to protecting himself, even if it’s only Jolyne. He hides his frown in the air of mystery that has the hatchling’s attention enraptured.
I, Kakyoin, swear to you, Jolyne, Kakyoin starts reverently, Jolyne’s eyes sparkle,
I will not tell another soul that you were up late.
And I, Jolyne, she giggles, trying to keep up her act,
swear to you, Kakyoin-san. I will not tell another soul that you’re a mermaid. Her voices falls conspiringly low. A flash of green seals their fate, though she hasn’t noticed.
A soft noise freezes them both, and they both glance down the hallway where Jolyne had come from. Jolyne knows, its her father. She glances up to Kakyoin for guidance, but he doesn’t know any better himself. Leaning down, Kakyoin forms a plan quickly.
Can you play along? It’s a question that neither really needed to ask, for they both understand the gravity of the situation. Jolyne offers a simple nod before lifting her arms to be lifted into Kakyoin’s lap.
Frowning, Jotaro pauses and turns in the opposite direction when he hears a loud sniffle. While he never believed others before, he knows with certainly he can distinguish Jolyne from anyone else miles away. She’s out of bed, but he ignores that fact for the moment, afraid. Concern begins to seem under his skin.
Rounding the corner, he finds Jolyne pressed against Kakyoin’s chest, sitting in his lap in the wheelchair close to the water's edge. His curl of red bangs drapes beside her head, helping conceal her face from the outside world. There’s a loud sniffle again, and Kakyoin’s arms wrap around her gently. He lifts his eyes to Jotaro softly, and it stops Jotaro’s heart.
Years ago, when Jolyne was born, her mother had held her just the same way. She was rocking her to sleep, pressed against her chest, cradled in her arms. Jotaro walked in after a long day of work - he was still working on his thesis at the time - exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to collapse right into bed and ignore how she demanded she at least say goodnight.
But he froze. Jolyne’s breathing was deep and easy as she slept. Her mother looked up to him, expecting something. He didn’t know what she wanted, but he did know that all that he felt at that moment was how much he loved his daughter.
He had always wanted to hold her, to rock her to sleep just once. It pained him when he’d come home too late from work. Even the days he was on time, Jolyne’s mother always held her close. Something about a mother’s touch, she said. It pissed him off, but he never argued. Apparently, he never did it right, never held Jolyne right or held her bottle wrong or whatever it was that time.
A rare emotion washes over him as he observes Kakyoin holding his daughter. Guilt, maybe? Guilt for seeing Jolyne now leaning into Kakyoin’s chest, looking up to him innocently, and wanting to place a kiss on both of their heads. Guilt for never having feelings strong enough for Jolyne’s mother and yet feeling his stomach flip as Kakyoin brushes away Jolyne’s tears. Before his daughter can see him, Jotaro pull his hat low. He clears his throat.
She had a bad dream, Kakyoin attempts to pass off for Jolyne’s sake. Jotaro sighs.
It’s late Jolyne, he explains, holding no real threat in his words.
You should be in bed.
Slowly, she slips off of Kakyoin’s lap, giving him a long look before padding over to her father. He nudges her along down the hallway with a large palm. He hesitates, however, glancing back over to Kakyoin. His focus has already shifted back to the stars. How long has he been out here? How much longer will he evade sleep?
As if hearing those very questions, Kakyoin turns towards Jotaro. The look in his eyes is new, insightful, and understanding, as if he could read Jotaro’s mind and understand the pain of those memories. Kakyoin dismisses everything just shaking his head.
I’ll be in bed soon, I don’t usually sleep for long periods of time. But somehow his words to Jotaro mean
Don’t worry, I’m here whenever you need me. Taking a breath feels shaky for some reason, but he nods back to Kakyoin.
Goodnight, then, Jotaro mumbles. Kakyoin smiles brightly back at him.
My apologies probably can never add up to enough about the wait for this fic. But seriously, thank you all for the patience. I'm just tying up the loose ends that ended up getting too tangled, so as soon as I fix it, I'll dump literally all the rest of the chapters.
In the mean time, here's a few more!
Chapter 18: Deciphering Signs
Rohan first meets Polnareff bright and early in the morning, the sun still clawing its way out of the ocean. The Frenchman offers him a nod in greeting before gesturing to the coffee pot.
I’ll make my own tea later, Rohan dismisses, taking a cushioned seat in what was supposed to be a lounge area. It was converted into a lab, but fortunately for them, it kept it’s luxurious charm. With a casual gesture, Rohan points out to the idle machines.
None that I can tell, Polnareff shakes his head, swallowing another gulp of his coffee.
Maybe some fine details, but that’s Jotaro’s job. I’ll have The World up and out of here soon. He seem so fixated on getting to this specific spot… Whining his complaint, the captain leaves Rohan on his own to start preparing for their last stretch of ocean.
He isn’t left alone for long, though Rohan is immeasurably grateful that the intruder is Jotaro’s daughter, and not one of his annoying interns. Jolyne stretches with a wide yawn. The yawn turns contagious, and catches Rohan next. Chuckling, Jolyne hides her mischievous smirk behind her hands.
I got you, she points. Somewhere, Rohan finds it in his heart to offer a slight smile in return.
It won’t happen again, he teases,
I assure you.
Anything happen last night? Jotaro’s voice startles both of them. Rohan shakes his head. Jolyne jumps before being scooped up into her father’s arms. Squealing laughter fills the small lab as Jotaro carries her about, checking the equipment for himself. Whatever he’s looking for, however, he doesn’t find. Heaving a sigh, Jotaro sets Jolyne down to run on her own as he takes up his notebook. He starts taking dutiful notes.
Do you ever stop? Jotaro looks up to meet the curious apprentice in the eye. There's nothing malicious nor particularly disgusted. Simply curious. Jotaro almost applauds Rohan's excellent dissociation from his own emotion in research, but on the receiving end of such a calculating stare, he straightens to defend himself.
Ever stop researching? No. A spark reignites in his chest, feeling the burn of nearly being denied even this trip.
I can't let questions go unanswered. There's a reason for all of this, we just have to find it.
At what cost? Again, Rohan means nothing more than to satisfy his own questions. And yet, something stings about the comment, so casually thrown at him as if the cost itself were meaningless.
The cost is always high. His time, his efforts, his health when he forgets to sleep and relies on coffee and cookies for sustenance. His lack of personal life is evidence enough, throwing himself back at the University to fill the time between the Speedwagon Foundation and raising Jolyne. The very mention of his daughter already feels like sand slipping between his fingers. He was warned. Parenting is difficult at best, and heartbreaking at worst. The idea of Jolyne already growing up and getting further and further away from him hurts. So, to avoid the pain, he ignores the thoughts all together.
That's what Jotaro tells himself as he ignores Rohan instead. The intern cocks his head, realizing he won't ever hear his response. He sighs, picking through his own giant notebook until finding the right page.
I suppose once we get there, we'll start charting? Rohan lifts a brow to the professor. A gruff hum follows a slight nod. It's the most he'll likely get out of Jotaro anymore. Standing, Rohan stretches his arms with a groan.
I'll wake up the idiots. Make them useful.
By the time they reach Jotaro's specific coordinates, it's just past lunch, and the crew seems anxious to actually begin. At least, the adults start to work. Josuke and Okuyasu drag their feet, enjoying the idea of a vacation more than a valuable research venture. They fall into the gaps at the table. With all the chairs taken, Josuke crowds around Rohan. He planned on being obnoxiously oblivious and asking stupid questions until he notices the skewed data.
The two graphs in front of Rohan compare the usual current flow and temperature of the area. Far from on track, Josuke squints at the sheets, making sure that they are indeed graphical representations of the same area.
There's no way this place could ever get that warm, Josuke scoffs. Perhaps the sensor was broken? He has half a mind to ask when Rohan shakes his head.
I checked the equipment constantly, even restarted the whole damn thing. This isn't a malfunction. The concern laced in Rohan's usually cool, level-headed tone frightens him. He takes the next page diagraming the paths of the currents. Unless there's suddenly a hurricane that they can't feel, or a twister underwater, the currents should not be shaped like that.
Okuyasu, too, grunts in frustration next to Polnareff on the opposite side of the table. Both men stand around Jolyne, who pretends to be helping with her school notes depicting childish constellations. Weather like this would be noticed by both the Japanese and American coasts, and yet the air is still and silent around them. He glances up to the taller Frenchman. The captain's eyes are wide, and it causes Okuyasu to steel his expression. If even the seasoned veteran is confused, then this is a problem that needs to be solved.
We'd be in the eye of a storm right now, according to this! Polnareff shrieks, lifting his paper into the air and flapping it around. The others glare up at him. Clearly they aren't keen to the interruption.
That's why we're here, Jotaro growls, frustrated at the mixed signals from the equipment and not at his friend. The seismic activity is off the charts, literally, which would have definitely garnered international attention. They’re right above the epicenter, as well as the eye of a theoretical storm, as well as caught in the middle of a whirlpool. Jotaro carefully scans the horizon. A salty breeze tugs at the windvane outside, but the lab is carefully shielded against the wind. It wouldn’t help having to scrambling after papers every two seconds.
Kakyoin carefully follows Jotaro’s gaze. The wind outside of the room isn’t abnormal as the humans seem to suggest from their data. He gives up trying to understand their diagrams of each event, but he recognizes the significance of each. All these supposed phenomenon. The ocean rolls beneath them gentler than he would expect.
Why here? Surely Jotaro had a better intent than to stop at a random point in the ocean’s vast canvas. His only hint were the dreams. He had no clue, instigating the projections towards Jotaro, that humans could lucid dream so well. The first shared dreamscape startled both of them, and Kakyoin was too far from Jotaro to meet up with him in time. The second time the other night gave more insight into Jotaro’s soul.
If Jotaro is any indication, humans are so ill adapted to lucid dreaming, have little control over their soul in the dreamscape. And yet, Jotaro had understood without questioning the logic of it all. He, too, found the path laid out in the stars. The emerald constellation revealed nothing more than their destination. Jotaro took the chance, and directed the entire vessel into the heart of the constellation. If they could see it now, they would be completely surrounded by the marking stars.
What startles Kakyoin more, however, is despite how loose Jotaro’s control over his dream form was, his soul adapted to the ocean as if he were born in the wrong world. His soul even took a shark-form the first time he transferred to the dreamscape. He glances over at the man beside him. He can almost see it within him, his passion running so true and so deep that his own soul betrays his human form.
Feeling the pressure of a lingering stare, Jotaro lifts his head. He finds violet eyes seeming to gaze straight through his soul. A shiver itches his spine, but he keeps his posture straight and resumes to his task at hand. It won’t do to be distracted now. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that Kakyoin knows all his secrets.
A thought flashes in the forefront of his mind. Images of his bizarre dreams interrupts his train of thought. When he tries to examine Kakyoin out of the corner of his eye, their eyes meet, just as they had in the dreams. Shaking his head, Jotaro forces himself out of the memories. He cannot afford the consequences of thinking too hard about Kakyoin in the frame of his subconscious’s traitorous desires.
Thankfully, Jolyne seems to capture Kakyoin’s attention away. She offers her notes to him. As she points out her scattered thoughts, the man seems entirely captivated, listening to his daughter’s every word. Lips twitch up into a smile on their own accord. It doesn’t last long before he returns to scowling at the diagrams.
Josuke is first to break, giving up helping Rohan and listening to Jolyne explain how stars aren’t actually flat in the sky, but are at varying distances between each other. It’s intriguing to listen to, especially from a kid as young as she is. Josuke kneels beside Jolyne, offering his gentle suggestions. Out of all of them, Josuke is best in regards to engaging Jolyne, matching her curiosity but still keeping her childish innocence and wonder.
Soon, Polnareff even sits up away from pouring over papers. Okuyasu keeps his determined scowl, as if by looking closer the answer will jump out at him. With a subtle gesture, Polnareff offers a cigarette to Jotaro. Their gazes lock for a moment before glancing over at his daughter. Nodding, the Frenchman puts his cigarettes away. Another time, perhaps, he can bait Jotaro into revealing his trick.
So what do these stars mean? Josuke prompts Jolyne. Unbeknownst to most of the table, Kakyoin fears the message in the copy of the star map. He should have known better that it was Jotaro Kakyoin saw the night the stars charted themselves in the night sky. Nothing but an instinctual drive sent them to follow the path.
But Kakyoin knows by now. Anything written in the stars is fate. However, the new pattern throws him off. If fate were reminding them of mistakes of the past, the stars would have outlined an existing constellation. This pattern is entirely foreign in every book and to every scribe. Whatever destiny the constellation depicts has yet to happen, a premonition, not an old tale.
Um, Jolyne ponders.
It sorta seemed like there were letters hidden in here. See? The ones we did in class used our initials. Jolyne flips over one of the seismic graphs to poke dots into the paper with bright green ink.
J looks like this,
k looks like this. See?
Very nice, Jolyne-chan, with a warm smile, Josuke applauds the child.
Ya think these stars are actually letters then?
Well, I guess. I can’t see it though, and it wasn’t from our activity. Her pout nearly crushes Jotaro’s soul, especially as she continues,
I just thought I could help by seeing if maybe these stars were telling us something. I just wanted to help.
You’re being very helpful, Kakyoin offers before Jotaro can admonish her guilt. He remains silent as the man pats her shoulder gently.
If you can find a message in here, I’m sure it will help explain something.
What, Rohan scoffs.
Don’t tell me you’re one of Zodiac freaks that believes all of our destiny is written in the stars? The disbelieving lift of Rohan’s brow fades with Kakyoin’s solid seriousness. Either he’s got the greatest poker face, or he’s dead serious. The longer the silence hangs, the more he favors the latter.
I have researched a wide span of cultures all across the land, Kakyoin prides himself.
I have to understand every myth from every angle. You’d be surprised just how similar everyone’s stories truly are.
Humans are unoriginal, I’ll give you that. But it’s still all just myths. They aren’t real. Suddenly, a shadow falls over Rohan as Polnareff steps closer into his personal space. The artist shrinks in his seat but keeps his eyes fiery and defiant.
I have seen too many things back in my day, Polnareff’s grim tone belies no room for doubt.
A sailor’s tale is never to be taken lightly. We all see things as we want to see them. For us, it’s graphs and charts. For Kakyoin, it’s constellations.
Don’t go waxing philosophical on them, Polnareff. Jotaro tilts his hat down.
It might fly over some of their heads.
I’m not an idiot! Josuke insists, clenching his fists and rising to his feet. A few raised brows aim towards him; no one was specifically mentioned, but Josuke unintentionally outed himself being overly defensive. With a shy look and a slight blush, he kneels back down next to Jolyne. To further prove the point, Okuyasu still hasn’t lifted his head to pay attention.
Still, even if Jolyne happens to find a coincidental reading of the stars, Rohan continues, folding his arms,
what would it even mean? Just because we have a random star map doesn’t mean it’s related to all of this. His hand gestures around to the scattered pieces of paper.
The humid air falls heavy between them. Jotaro halts himself before expressing his agreement with Rohan. To him, nothing is certain unless it is proven. It’s how he tackled his entire thesis, and discovered an entirely new subspecies. Yet, something in the hopeful look in their eyes makes Jotaro hesitant to shatter their hopes. The heat in Josuke’s blue eyes dares him to crush their dreams, and even Kakyoin seems insistent to share his opinion. Jolyne’s green eyes pierce his own, and he has to look away.
I think this might be this, Jolyne distracts herself by finding patterns. Pointing between her notes and the star map, Jolyne aligns the figures together.
And if this is that one, then…
Suddenly, she gasps, everyone’s eyes snapping to her. They should be working. Distracting themselves with myths would be a waste of their time. Frowning, Jotaro stands to collect the most recent measurements from the equipment.
Nothing has changed except for the fact that everything is still wrong. According to the results of each, they shouldn’t be here. Polnareff wasn’t kidding with The World being a meterologist’s dream. Something still strikes him like the image of diving into the heart of the ocean, wishing to soothe its great ache. Maybe Jolyne is rubbing off on him, but Jotaro almost wants to believe that the ocean is sentient and calling out for help. Help that only Jotaro can give. It’s a selfish thought, but born out of the desire to protect the oceans, not to be a hero.
I got it! Jolyne shouts, and Kakyoin and Josuke crane their necks to read her translation of the stars.
Dio? Josuke frowns.
Blood rushes out of Kakyoin’s face, as if he had seen a ghost. If Rohan and Jotaro didn’t believe him before, they almost do now. The fear gripping his very heart frightens Kakyoin away. He rolls his chair back as if to avoid the very letters.
What the hell is Dio? Rohan insists, glaring down Kakyoin directly. The red curl bounces as he shakes his head.
No one knew where he was. We didn’t even think he existed, Kakyoin hardly breathes out. The tension in the air begs him to explain.
Even our wisest of scholars and oldest artifacts can no longer read the prophesies about DIO. Out of fear, we respect the name and its power, but it’s so dulled in our society, its just a simple taboo. To think it’s real, been real all this time…
Just because Jolyne had a class assignment doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, Jotaro groans. He doesn’t realize that his insult misses its mark, bouncing off of Kakyoin’s paranoia and striking his own daughter deep in her chest.
Blinking, Josuke looks up to Jotaro, baffled by how unaware his mentor can be. Before her sobs break out, Josuke takes Jolyne into his arms to calm her. He says anything she needs to hear to not cry.
You don’t understand! Kakyoin pleads.
Clearly! Leaping to his feet, Rohan takes Jotaro’s side, glaring at the strange man. How did Jotaro even know him anyway? Why did he get to tag along? And the man has the audacity to tell them no.
It’s no coincidence. It would’ve taken our team of most fluent scribes to even begin deciphering this message. Myths are based in reality. This force, DIO, however he chooses to manifest, will indeed be the end of the world. Violet eyes raise to meet Jotaro’s desperately. He seeks the reassurance the tall man was able to give him before. They can communicate without speaking, have met most intimately in the realm of lucid dreams, and now Jotaro stands against him? His heart quivers, afraid of the fate to befall them, but even more pained by betrayal.
Listen, Polnareff redirects their calculated fury. He raises his hands in surrender as he explains.
Call it Dio, call it a really weird hurricane. Whatever it is, we need to find out where it started and how to stop it.
That’s impossible, Jotaro spits.
We can’t change Mother Nature, Rohan voices.
Even if we found the source of all this weird shit going on, what can we do about it?
The best we can do is study it and try to come up with the best way to defend against it. Settling back into his professional coolness, Jotaro regains control of the group. This is his research trip, afterall, they came here to observe and theorize, not fight an apocalypse.
The drained atmosphere weighs heavy on each of them. Upon closer inspection, Okuyasu is found asleep until Josuke shakes his friend’s shoulder. He leads Okuyasu with a nudge out of the room, Jolyne still clinging to his neck. She buries her head into the teen’s shoulder when Jotaro looks back to her. Polnareff shakes his head, clicking his lighter as he steps down to the main deck. With a huff, Rohan gathers his stuff and turns on his heel towards his room.
It leaves Jotaro alone with Kakyoin, neither one conceding into the awkward silence. The glare of sunset casts the entire room in molten orange light. His mind thrashes, conflicted with itself. They’re just dreams, only dreams. It means nothing more to him to have found the ocean’s open wound or meet a mermaid version of Kakyoin. It simply doesn’t make sense. He imagined Kakyoin rescuing Josuke from the shark attack. What is concrete is the data before him, and yet it makes just as much sense as kissing Kakyoin.
With heat in his cheeks, Jotaro turns himself away from the deflated Kakyoin. Whatever either of them may have expected of each other is shattered. Their eyes don’t meet as Jotaro sits back down in his chair, taking full responsibility of cataloguing the changes.
Chapter 19: A Worrying Storm
Dinner releases the tension from everyone. Crisp nighttime air carries the now-familiar tint of salt and humidity. It runs through Kakyoin’s hair pleasantly, though he still misses the gentle massage of a current around him. Everyone else settles into their places. Jotaro takes the lone chair on the shortest side, which almost seems to hold a position of highest rank. Kakyoin idly wonders if humans set up their communal eating in such a way - an alpha is alpha afterall.
He sits between Jotaro’s hatchling and the unamused Rohan. Under any other circumstance, Kakyoin believes he would find much more in common with Rohan intellectually. Besides, of course, the natural talent Rohan possesses as an artist. If Kakyoin had any other calling, he knows it would be close to art. Otherwise, the two boisterous adolescents have regained their full loud personalities despite the shadows hanging on them from earlier. Polnareff, even, seems to have bounced back to his bright character just as easily.
As they all start taking their share, Polnareff lets his eyes fall closed, slightly bowing his head over clasped hands. He mutters to himself almost like a mantra. To end his ritual, he taps his finger once to his forehead, center of his chest, and each shoulder. A quick glance towards Jotaro tells him that Polnareff is solitary in his ritual.
Jotaro glances up to meet his gaze, chewing. Tilting his head, Kakyoin wonders if Jotaro even knows what Polnareff just did. Jotaro shakes his head.
He’s Christian, Jotaro briefly explains.
Catholic, Polnareff amends, finally digging into his food.
I apologize, it’s mostly out of habit. You’re not French if you’re not Catholic. None of it makes sense to Kakyoin, but he makes a mental note to delve into the topic later.
Light conversation begins to stir between them. The lapping of the waves behind them on the porch releases the tension in Kakyoin’s shoulders. He can feel the freedom of slipping back into the ocean tonight. From the corner of his eye, he notices Jolyne watching him with wide eyes, barely chewing her own food. Kakyoin raises a finger to his lips, and like magic, Jolyne drops the subject.
Frowning, Jotaro lowers the bite he was about to take, watching Kakyoin’s head snap towards the ocean. It was sudden, as if he heard a suspicious noise. In his memories, Jotaro can’t recall hearing anything, or even seeing anything out of the ordinary. The sky is a dark navy blue, barely distinguishable from the black sea at the horizon. Shivering, Kakyoin tries to return back to his meal as if nothing happened.
Again, Kakyoin’s head snaps back towards the sea. Jotaro clears his throat this time. The redhead shifts nervous eyes down to him, uncertain. For a moment, he can even see the flicker of betrayal in his eyes from earlier. Just what was it about Kakyoin that made him so clairvoyant to the curious storm the equipment has been freaking out over?
Jotaro has half a mind to ask what’s wrong before Kakyoin rolls his chair away from the table.
I apologize, but doesn’t one of the machines detect sound? The question is simple enough, but panicked.
Yeah, Okuyasu answers, wiping his face free of food.
I tuned it up earlier to detect even the slightest of creature’s movement.
After I showed you how it works, Rohan reclaims his credit. A flash of tensing muscles bulges under Okuyasu’s jacket, but Josuke grips his arm to hold him back. Kakyoin doesn’t seem to even care at this rate, hurrying back towards the lab.
Jotaro stands immediately hurrying after Kakyoin. Whatever has got his attention needs to be addressed. He’s still stuck on just how Kakyoin seemed to hear anything, his head tilting and ears perking up like a dog, but he ignores it for now. If anything has happened they need to know.
The redhead fumbles with the machines, not understanding anything before him. With a gentle hand on his shoulder, Jotaro steps up beside him, waking up the sound equipment out of its idle cataloging. Something quivers in his muscles, anticipating the dread to follow. His intuition is infuriatingly accurate sometimes, but he refuses to believe it until he sees solid proof.
Josuke runs in, throwing open the door just in time to watch Jotaro fall into the chair beside them. Kakyoin rounds on Jotaro as Josuke hurries over. Both of them hurriedly check his vitals and state of awareness. Jotaro is awake, but stares off into space in thought.
How? Jotaro offers, weakly passing the printed readings to Josuke before holding his head in his hands. It’s Kakyoin’s arm on his shoulder now. A radiating warmth attempts to soothe his nerves, and nearly succeeds until Josuke shrieks.
NANI? his voice breaks as the paper shakes in his hands.
How did we not hear this? What does this mean? What happened? Is it the apocalypse thing? Josuke turns to Kakyoin for guidance. He finds only a plain paled expression, all blood gone from his face replaced by porcelain fear. Slowly, Kakyoin nods.
I want to hear it again, he asks curiously. Did Kakyoin hear it just now at dinner? Were the rest of them too ignorant and missed it?
Please. I need to hear it again.
With a nod, Josuke dutifully obliges. The door opens to Polnareff next, followed by Rohan, and Okuyasu pulling Jolyne behind him. Her eyes glisten with fear as soon as she spots her father slumped in the chair. Okuyasu doesn’t dare hold her back as she runs to Jotaro.
Daddy? What’s going on? Is it Dio- the storm? she tries to catch herself, but she glances over to Kakyoin, seeing the answer in his eyes. It doesn’t take long between Josuke and Okuyasu to rewind the recording back to when they sat down for dinner. Each of them brace in their spot, waiting, listening.
Josuke shifts out of the way of the machine, as if to not block anyone’s view, standing close to Okuyasu. The two teens share a glance, seeing determination in each other’s eyes resolving their own confidence. Whatever it is, they can face it together. Rohan leans back against the door frame with his arms crossed. Polnareff glances around the room, unable to sit still and eventually trying to ground himself. He grabs the back of Jotaro’s chair and leans against his arms. Jotaro doesn’t bother lifting his head, focused as he is trying to strain his ears.
A strange strangled noise causes them all to jump. To Jotaro, it sounded similar to a whale’s pained cry, if a bit gargled like it was drowning. A hard scowl grows on his face. How dare the noise that spooked them be as simple as a passing whale? He stands, ready to turn off the equipment before he realizes everyone staring his direction.
Didn’t you hear it? It’s just a whale, Jotaro huff. Josuke shakes his head slowly as he gestures behind him. Snapping his glare over his shoulder, he finds Kakyoin curled up on himself, whimpering and seeming close to tears.
I heard it. I heard it. It was him, he breathes out like a cultish maniac. If Jotaro let his thoughts be spoken, most certainly he would’ve accused Kakyoin of being delusionally superstitious.
Oi, that was you! Polnareff accuses.
Whatever that whine was, that was you. Did you- did you really not notice?
It’s because Kakyoin-san is-! Jolyne insists before cutting herself off. They already anticipated her mantra,
Kakyoin is a mermaid, because she has taken her own theory to heart. The pointed look she gives the redhead, however, seems much more genuine than before, as if she now officially knows it to be true.
Kakyoin’s right, Rohan interrupts, increasing the confusion around him. He struts up to the recording, rewinding it again and keeping his finger pointing at the decibel indicator. They watch as there’s a sudden spike, reaching numbers higher than what the small screen can display. A vessel nearly bursts in Jotaro’s forehead. There’s no way there was a noise to that magnitude that they didn’t hear, even if it was at the bottom of Marina’s trench.
Play it back again. Watch the frequency this time. At Jotaro’s command, Rohan turns back the recording once more. They would be able to hear it for how loud it was, but not if it was in a different register. As they wait, Jotaro keeps a careful eye on the redhead beside him, watching him brace himself for whatever sound he can hear and they cannot.
He can hear it echo in his head, painfully loud as they seem to observe with their sound device. However useless, Kakyoin covers his ears, shaking his head. If he hears it one more time, he might jump out of his very scales. He has to reach Koichi. He has to warn him, to tell him to warn the others.
The recording cuts all of the sudden. The entire machine shuts down, and soon the others beside it. Multiple groans from the research crew begin assuming a black out. Jotaro whips his head around. If this were a simple black out, the emergency back up lights would be on above the door. Polnareff notices this as well, already hurrying towards the yacht’s main power supply.
What’s going on? Jolyne whimpers, being pushed to the side. Josuke quickly scoops her up into his arms and wrapping them defensively around her.
It’s just a black out, we’ll have power back soon, he hushes.
At least, that’s what Josuke hopes. Not even the back up generators seem to be working. With a nod to Okuyasu, they head to find a safer place to hunker down with Jolyne. The girl cries, reaching for her father as he hurries about to check the connections between the equipment. Josuke keeps walking.
This is more than a black out, Rohan clarifies with Jotaro. The professor bares his teeth. No shit it’s more than a black out, but why? There’s not even static in the air to blame. As soon as he lifts his head to looks outside, his jaw tenses.
Dark rolling clouds surround them, dense fog touching the ocean not even a hundred meters out. It qualifies as a total blind fog. Though he should already know this, Jotaro has half a mind to remind Polnareff to drop anchor and pull up the engines. If this storm has formed around them without them even knowing, they must be in the eye of it. Their best bet is to not move.
Roaring thunder shakes them to their core. Covering his ears, Rohan glances around, surrounded by nothing but metal, electronics, and tall towers that poke into the sky begging to be struck down.
They’re sitting in a giant death trap.
So much for the greatness of The World.
Waves pitch the yacht at staggering angles, rolling pens off of the table and even stacks of paper. The wind howls as it whips around the ship. With another sneer, Jotaro abandons the equipment, turning to Rohan to craft a new plan.
There’s a lower rumble, something that freezes them all to their core. It’s something so deep and low that they can’t ever hope to hear it. But they can feel it. Polnareff’s stomach drops at the noise, finally understanding his navy commander’s story of the ocean’s stomach growling. Jolyne shrieks, burying her face into Josuke’s right shoulder while Okuyasu clutches onto his left. Rohan shudders, feeling the low rumbling through every bone in his body. Jotaro can almost just barely hear it, like the cry of an ancient creature finally stirring to life.
The call is clear as day to Kakyoin, his consciousness slipping away to the deafening cry and overwhelming projection:
The boat pitches into the air, the bow pointing at least 45 degrees into the air before crashing back down. Jotaro grunts as he’s thrown against a window sill. He snatches for Rohan, hoping to catch him before he lands against the actual window. The glass cracks threateningly when he falls to the floor.
Rohan, Kakyoin. Pointing next to him, they both notice Kakyoin separated from his chair, blanket tangled hopelessly around his useless legs. The two both crawl over to the unconscious man. They have to get him out of the blanket, just in case it gets further tangles around him, getting him caught in something or worse, strangled to death.
The stern is lifted into the air, as if an hundred meter wave rose from underneath, again sending the yacht crashing back down. Were these storm waves? Did they miss the mark of the eye of the storm? Jotaro tries to think of anything else besides the shooting pain in his ribcage and the sting of shards of the window piercing his skin. Rohan received the brunt of the glass shower as the second impact knocked the pieces loose.
Kakyoin managed to roll right towards Jotaro when the world righted itself. He pulls the redhead into his lap, pushing back his curl of bangs to examine his face. There isn’t much damage, thankfully, and his breathing seems to be relatively normal. With any luck, he isn’t as injured as they are.
They’re able to get their feet beneath them despite the yacht pitching left to right beneath them. The waves roll beneath the yacht, wanting nothing more to knock them off of their balance. Hissing between his teeth, Jotaro hopes against all odds that Josuke has Jolyne somewhere safe. Safer than the lab, at least.
Carrying Kakyoin down to the main dock, Jotaro realizes their best bet may be the lower deck underneath sea level. With the yacht’s center of gravity so low, they may experience the least amount of violent turbulence here.
Another bout of thunder and lightning, thunder and lightning, and another rumbling noise that seizes the sea around them. Kakyoin jolts awake in Jotaro’s arms. He nearly drops him as he squirms around in his arms. Wide eyes look up to his desperately as they try to navigate down the stairs carefully.
Let me go.
Breath catching in his throat, Jotaro’s sharp eyes snap down to Kakyoin in utter disbelief. No matter how sincere his gaze is, Jotaro is not about to trust his judgement. There’s a violent storm around them, the very idea of letting him go-
WRRRRYYYYYYY! The cry seizes Kakyoin again. Wincing, Kakyoin bares through the overwhelming darkness in the powerful projection. The ocean summons them, but not for a good reason.
Jotaro, please, Kakyoin begs in Jotaro’s arms, clutching into his jacket. The man’s arms tighten underneath him, his eye twitching in exertion and lips twisted in a snarl.
The last fucking thing… I’m going to do… is let you go, Jotaro huffs, finally making it to the main deck. Somewhere behind him, Rohan scampers to safety, running into Polnareff on the way. Jotaro turns to his friend, who offers his arms to help carry Kakyoin.
There’s a window of opportunity if the two attempt to carry him away. The instant Jotaro’s arms slacken, he can make a run for it. He’s not quite close enough to the edge of the vessel, but it’ll work. A second pair of arms loop under his armpits, and Kakyoin tenses.
Before any of them can make a move, the bow pitches up into the air again. There’s a haunting cry as the sea thrashes with a monsterous force. The three are thrown mercilessly into the water, sinking several meters before orienting themselves towards the surface.
Salt dries his lungs, making his breathing even shallower as he surfaces. He spits water from his mouth and wipes dark hair from his eyes, hatless. He glances around, finding Polnareff surfacing just after him. Silver hair drapes around his face, and if it were any other circumstance, he’d find it hilarious.
Polnareff! Jotaro calls. The other’s head snaps towards him, before swimming over.
Where’s Kakyoin? he has to shout over the continuous thunder and the foaming ocean waves. Each breaks in the dark fog around them at least twenty meters high. It’s a wonder The World hasn’t completely gone under yet.
Didn’t see him! Polnareff shouts as he shakes his head. They both glance around before the reality of the situation hits them. Kakyoin has been wheelchair bound this whole trip. Without effective use of his legs, he can’t keep himself afloat.
Kakyoin can’t swim.
Without a second thought, Jotaro dives back down into the ocean. Each wave pulls his entire body this way and that, like ever changing currents. He presses on, deeper and deeper. His lungs feel close to collapse. His eyes strain in the darkness for anything he can take as a sign.
A shimmer of emerald stops his heart. Kakyoin emerges from the darkness, speeding towards him. He’s launched into the air, breath ripped from his lungs, as he falls back down and lands on the yacht with a painful crunch. A choking wheeze escapes his lips as he presses his hand against his side. That’s several ribs, if not his entire ribcage, shattered.
The bob of silver hair reappears periodically. Between the rising water and the thrashing ups and downs of the yacht, he can barely spot Polnareff between the crests. Each wave brings more water on board. A flash of red light blinks against the fog around them, signaling nothing more than S.O.S.
Jotaro pulls himself back towards the edge of the yacht. Clutching his side, Jotaro takes agonizing sharp breaths, pulling in air when he can and stifling his need to breathe when the pain grows too much. Distracted, he can’t find his friend in the water.
Polnareff! Polnareff! He shouts twice before his lung tickles painfully. Another wheezing cough drags up blood.
Polnareff is launched towards the yacht as well. His trajectory is less forgiving, landing chest first into the side of the yacht instead of on deck. Nails dig into the floorboards as Jotaro rolls to offer his free hand.
The yacht pitches forward again, lifting the back into the air. For a moment, Polnareff’s breath is shoved out of his lungs, but his momentum begins to carry him forward. He claws against Jotaro’s arm as he begins to fall back down the deck, holding on for dear life as the stern comes crashing back down.
The impact sends them both flinging back into the ocean. The impact of the crash takes just about the last of the energy Jotaro has left. A grunt escapes him as he realizes his craving to breathe. He just wants to breathe. He needs air. The ocean has air right? Trapped in the molecules around them. If fish can breathe underwater, surely he can?
His senses snap back straight in his mind. Jotaro turns himself over in the water, glancing back down to the familiar flash of emerald green deep beneath the waves. Kakyoin spares him the barest of glances, and Jotaro can practically hear his voice.
Jotaro. Jotaro! Stay awake, Jotaro!
It’s the voice of the ocean. He’s heard it before. Kakyoin’s voice, and yet not, reverberating in the sea until it surrounds Jotaro from all angles. Those dreams… were they real?
He has no time to think about the fact that what he witnesses is likely another dream. Sleek silver streaks dart two and fro in his vision. Rough skin brushes his foot, and he rounds on his legs. A flash of burning pain explodes in his chest, and with a breathless grunt, he clutches his ribs again.
Bad idea. No sudden movements.
It’s generally a good rule to follow regardless where there’s an apparent horde of sharks surrounding them. Their sheer size, however, belies something far more devious than a simple great white. The span of a whale shark passes beneath him, skin still a sickly grey color. Large dorsal fins churn the surface of the ocean. Whatever psychotic dream he is having, Jotaro shuts his eyes tight, willing it to all be over.
Finally, survival instinct kicks in, and Jotaro pushes through all the agonizing pain dragging him into darkness to make it to the surface. Above him, he can barely make out pinpricks of green light in the sky. The stars seem aligned in a perfect image right above their heads.
This is it, the center of the green star constellation. It was a road map to their destiny all along. This is where Jotaro in his dream vowed to protect the ocean at whatever cost.
His lungs strain, burning in protest to not breathing. How much can he think about breathing? Not thinking about anything is much more effective, his only goal to reach the surface.
Something pulls down harsh on his ankle. His eyes snap open in pain and another grunt is yanked from his throat. It might’ve been his last bubble of air that escaped, and he watches it float to the surface as he’s dragged into the dark depths.
Another projection of determination hits him, and Jotaro manages enough to try freeing himself. He hesitates for only half a second to realize a ghastly grey hand is dragging him to his demise. Shaking the thought aside, Jotaro bends in half to bite the hand, seeing it as being the only effective way to deter such a strange creature.
He can feel the roar of pain more than he hears it. Piercing red eyes strike his soul as the beast turns around. The face of the devil meets him, a human mouth but rows of shark teeth emerge from an unhinged jaw.
As the creature approaches, he realizes his original perception was vastly skewed. With a jaw as large as a great whites, the humanoid charges him, large shark tail thrashing to propel itself forward and ready to devour Jotaro whole. He pulls his arm back, ready to punch the thing square in its grotesque face.
A sudden flash of blinding light reflects in the shark creature’s eyes, causing it to roar and turn in the last moment. The giant maw snaps shut, teeth grazing Jotaro’s shoulder and ripping hot blood from his limb. This cannot be good. While the shark rejoins its horde, following the flickers of blinding light, Jotaro floats limp in the water.
His shoulder stings, his vision entirely black. He vaguely remembers watching his blood disappear as it mixes with the salt water. Every point of pain is now numb or searing hot. Each bloody wound burns with the salt and each broken bone vibrates with pins and needles.
His lungs finally give up their shrieking protest, taking in a gulp of air from the water. He’s a fish, like in his dreams, a mermaid with gills for lungs and stars in his eyes…