Once upon a time there was a mermaid. He didn’t have a brightly colored tail fin, his hair didn’t resemble golden silk, and his eyes weren’t as clear as seawater. He was just an ordinary mermaid. His scales were dark and his hair was long and damp.
The mermaid only had one friend. His friend was a human, a youth whose name was Gerald. He had fiery red hair.
The mermaid didn’t have a very good memory. After all, his lifespan was extremely long, and after such a long time he’d forgotten many things in the corners of his brain. The mermaid couldn’t even remember his own name. Naturally, he’d forgotten how he first met Gerald.
When the mermaid realized the youth’s name meant “brave warrior”, he understood this youth who looked like a little girl was actually a boy. By then, the youth had developed the habit of walking through the forest every afternoon, if the weather was right, to chat with him.
The afternoon sun was perfect. It wouldn’t burn the mermaid’s delicate skin. The wind was also very pleasant, with the scent of trees and vegetation blowing from the forest.
At this time of year the mermaid would lie on the warm stones that had baked in the sun all morning, listening to Gerald tell him about things he’d never heard of and didn’t understand at all.
Gerald would sit on the edge of the lake, dipping his feet into the water.
As he teased the water, he talked to the mermaid about trivial daily life. Sometimes it was the teacher who taught him swordsmanship, sometimes it was the bakery that opened on the street, sometimes it was the little girl next door who got a new dress.
More often than not, Gerald would talk to the mermaid about the outside world, and his goal of going out into the world to make a difference.
Gerald told the mermaid that his dream was to become a hero.
When the mermaid was in a good mood, he’d ask a question in reply: Why do you want to be a hero?
Gerald would smile, and the corners of his eyes would slightly crinkle. The mermaid thought that Gerald’s golden eyes were warmer than the sun.
Gerald told the mermaid: As for me, I want to be a champion of justice.
The mermaid didn’t know what a hero was, and he couldn’t understand what justice was.
He had never left this place.
The mermaid’s world was no more than this mirror-like lake, hidden deep in the forest.
His only visitors were the animals that sometimes visited the lake to drink water.
And his boy, Gerald.
Gerald brought the mermaid a lot of things he’d never seen before, because the mermaid didn’t understand what Gerald meant even after hearing his descriptions.
But the mermaid was satisfied just listening to Gerald. He enjoyed it very much.
He thought that if it was possible for the rest of his long life, he would like Gerald to come from the forest every day, sit by the lake, and talk to him about various meandering things.
The mermaid liked when Gerald arrived. It made him think of a food called cake that Gerald had once given him.
The feeling was exactly the same as cake, delicious and sweet. After tasting it, the warmth of the afternoon sun appeared on the tip of his tongue.
Sometimes Gerald would talk to the mermaid about the ocean.
He said the sea was blue and boundless. The ocean was alive with fellow mermaids, and they would poke their heads out of the water and sit on the rocks. They groomed their scales while singing songs that humans couldn’t sing.
At that time, Gerald would ask the mermaid, What about you?
The mermaid shook his head, answering in a low and soft voice:
I’ve always lived here, and I’ve never seen the ocean.
Then Gerald smiled.
What I want to ask is whether you’ll sing like they do.
The mermaid tried to produce a few notes, but it sounded nothing like those beautiful songs.
He shook his head, but he was eager to explain.
He didn’t know what a mermaid’s singing sounded like, but if he went there, he could learn how to sing to Gerald.
Gerald’s smile was sweet like cake, and he replied to the mermaid: Then we’ll go to the sea together. We’ll see the mermaids living in the ocean and listen to their songs.
After Gerald left, the mermaid dove into the water. He lay on the soft white sand at the bottom of the lake and gurgled out several bubbles.
The moon shone through the mirror-like water of the lake on the mermaid’s body.
Suddenly he wanted to see the ocean.
He wanted to go with Gerald to see the blue and boundless water.
He wanted to sing to Gerald and see one of his favorite smiles on Gerald’s face.
But there was no way for the mermaid to leave the lake, and Gerald didn’t have the power to send the mermaid to the ocean.
Going to the sea together was an unattainable dream.
The mermaid pushed this dream to the bottom of his heart, and waited daily for Gerald who arrived on time every day in the late afternoon.
The mermaid watched his youth, little by little, bit by bit, grow up.
Gerald grew from a boy who looked like a little girl into a handsome-looking young man. His eyes were still clear and beautiful, but he no longer looked like the girlish little boy from the beginning.
Sometimes the mermaid felt that Gerald had changed a bit, but when Gerald talked about his ideals, the mermaid saw that Gerald was still his youth and hadn’t changed.
Finally, one day, Gerald ran to the lake in the late afternoon. He excitedly told the mermaid he was going to become a hero. He was about to embark on the adventure of his dreams.
Gerald was overjoyed. His golden eyes shone as brightly as the sun.
The mermaid didn’t know why, but he suddenly felt lost. It felt like the sun had burned his skin and caused him pain. Even the deepest parts of his body began to ache.
Gerald promised the mermaid that he would embark on his adventure and wouldn’t forget his agreement with the mermaid.
Gerald would become a champion of justice, and then, together with the mermaid, he would go to see the ocean of their dreams.
The mermaid slumped listlessly on the stones, watching Gerald walk away.
With his long, fiery red hair combed behind his head in a ponytail, the new hero was full of boundless enthusiasm and high spirits.
The mermaid was full of sorrow.
If only Gerald were still the youth he used to be.
But his boy had grown up.
His young man was leaving.
The mermaid lay on the rocks, waiting for the sunrise, waiting for the sunset, waiting for the stars to gather in the sky, waiting for the lake to flood with moonlight.
He waited and waited and waited.
Until he stopped waiting for the young man who was like the sun.
The mermaid’s tears condensed into transparent pearls and fell into the lake, lying quietly on the white, soft sand below the surface.
His young man never looked back.
The wind with the fragrance of trees and vegetation had a song in it.
It was muffled and low and tender. It was a mermaid’s voice.
The mermaid who couldn’t sing was tirelessly singing a ballad.
Subtle and lingering, it seemed to be a song about foolish love and a dream beyond anyone’s reach.
The next time he saw Gerald again, the mermaid had no idea how many years had passed. The mermaid sang until his voice was hoarse, and his lake was full of tears.
The mermaid’s young man had grown up.
Gerald’s hair was still bright red, but his eyes no longer resembled the sun like in the mermaid’s memory.
Now, Gerald’s smile was gentle and restrained, and in his golden eyes were many things the mermaid couldn’t understand.
His eyes were filled with the sky, the sea, the stars that gathered above, and the moonlight that flooded the lake.
He no longer appeared on time in the late afternoon; sometimes he came early in the morning, and other times he came clothed in the night.
The waves of the lake distorted Gerald’s reflection when the mermaid lurked at the bottom of the lake. He couldn’t see Gerald’s face, only a murky smudge of red.
The mermaid couldn’t help but miss his young man.
Gerald sat by the lake as before, and the mermaid leaned on the rocks heated by the sunlight.
Gerald said he wanted to be a champion of justice. He said he’d seen the ocean that he wanted to see with the mermaid.
His smile no longer carried the warmth of the sun, nor did it taste as sweet.
The mermaid sang in a muted voice.
Gerald’s tears were the same color as lake water. They weren’t like the mermaid’s tears that condensed on the white sand at the bottom of the lake. His tears fell into the water without a trace.
Gerald wept and spoke of his childhood ideals.
The mermaid quietly sang. His youth had grown into a man long ago. And the ocean remained an unattainable dream the mermaid pressed into his heart.
The mermaid didn’t know what the ocean looked like, so he paved a path for his young man with his flesh and blood. He offered his heart to the man, and achieved the ideal of justice that Gerald had cherished for many years.
If you eat it—if you eat the heart of a mermaid—you will live forever.
The mermaid gave his heart to Gerald, and as he gazed at Gerald’s weeping, panic-stricken face, he remembered the delicate boy who looked like a little girl all those years ago.
This is the only gift I can give you.
The mermaid died while singing a song.
The afternoon sun was shining, and the wind blew in from the forest with the smell of greenery.
In the mermaid’s memory, a young man smiled like the sun.
—Once upon a time, there was a mermaid who had never seen the ocean.
The author has something to say:
This is a short story in the style of a fairy tale that ends in one shot.
It’s the origin of my pen name, 不知海, The Mermaid Does Not Yet Know the Sea.
Initially the story was a brainhole of a western fantasy novelette, and the protagonist is Gerald. He dreams of becoming a champion of justice but becomes the demon king by mistake.
Gerald’s ending is to eat the heart of a companion to gain immortality as the demon king. A thousand years later, a new hero will crusade against the demon realm.
With the tip of his sword pointed at his neck, the new hero asks him if there’s anything else he wants to say before he dies.
Gerald crinkles his eyes in a smile.
“I want to be a champion of justice.”
人鱼 – mermaid, merman
杰拉尔德 – JiéLāĚrDé – Gerald. Per Wikipedia, this Germanic name means “rule of the spear” from the prefix ger- (“spear”) and suffix -wald (“rule”).
少年 – youth, teenager
魔王 – demon king