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Luckily, Matt dodged those dangerous teeth in the nick of time, and flitted away from the opponent, swimming over to face his back and with all his might - the same thing he did with Shiro, though he figured the effect wouldn't almost be the same - he slammed him with his tail, planning in mind for it to burn or at least knock him down.

His hands came up to the cuts on his stomach, hissing a bit, surrounded by crimson water. It hurt him to no end, but he wasn't going to stop until the opponent was done for.

Wherever he was right now, Matt hoped Shiro was going to be okay.
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Allura normally never came to the trenches. Her magic and her body depended on the sunlight and warm waters of the more shallow seas and rivers, but this time she had come. She had always known about the terrible fights and gladiator matches that happened, but it hadn’t been until recently that she had known how bad they were and how much they affected sea life throughout the oceans. She had made her way here to help.

She swam carefully, shivering as she felt the waters getting colder and darker. She could hear and feel the crowds nearby as they yelled for blood and she heard the cries of the defeated. She searched for any sign of warmth around her and saw a light emitting from a tiny cave. She bit her lip and followed it. When she arrived she immediately felt safer, if not immediately heartbroken. There were so many broken merfolk that she could have broken down into tears, but she put on a brave face instead.

In one of the beds, a great, muscular male was being restrained by several mermaids. He was calling out the name ‘Matt’ and fighting them with several obviously serious injuries. He was still high on adrenaline it seemed, and he hadn’t seen the extent of his wounds. She approached quickly. She touched his shoulder gently and a sent a wave of calmness through her touch. He was huge and terrifying in his state of panic, but she managed to calm him down.

“My name is Allura. I’m going to help you, you’re going to be alright.” She assured him, her voice echoing and soothing.
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"Come and get me!"

Matt continued to taunt the opponent, trying to hold on to his brave stance and his seemingly fearless taunts as he dodged and fought back, holding his stomach where the cuts were. The opponent was knocked down, and while he took some time to get up, eventually he did just that and lunged at Matt once more, who fearlessly dodged. The adrenaline kept him extremely careful and even his attacks were precise, hitting certain parts of the opponent's body. Places he studied as vulnerable in his body. He thought of his parents, thought of Katie for what felt like the millionth time. Then, he thought of Shiro.

Not only did he fight for himself at that moment, he fought for his family, for the brave man who protected him when he needed it most, and if it weren't for both of them he wouldn't have been where he was at that very moment. With a final claw and slam of his tail, the jeers and shouts of the crowd turned into white noise as the opponent's life was finally taken away from him by some grand miracle. Panting heavily through his gills - which screamed at him to calm down - he looked back at everyone, then looked down at his hands. Bloody and very painfully hurt.

He was done here.

He guessed Shiro was taken to the cave he was taken to in the past when the roles were reversed, and as he reached the cold, familiar waters he saw the light and followed it. The sight of merfolk swimming around clicking frantically entered his field of vision, and as he let his eyes adjust to the sight, he heard his name be called with a familiar voice. He followed it immediately, until it led him to one of the beds where Shiro was laying. Who he identified as a magical healer stood beside him, and while the mermen that kept Shiro restrained turned their concerned attention to Matt's injuries, he brushed them off, instead looking straight at the other merman.

"Shiro!" He exclaimed. "I actually did it. I beat him!"
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Shiro strained against the mermaids holding him back. His whole body aches and he could feel his own wounds opening and closing as he squirmed but he had to go, he had to get to Matt, he couldn’t just leave him. He heard a soothing voice trying to reassure him but he couldn’t focus on it. Then he heard Matt.

He stopped struggling and looked for Matt, then sighed in relief. It was real, there he was. He was okay. He saw how excited he was and felt relief wash over him. He chuckled softly, “Well done Matt... you did well to get back here. You’re injured though, are you okay?”

Allura sighed and gently readjusted the pillows behind Shiro to allow him to sit up for now. She looked over the new merman before her. She already knew his name and this was clearly the Matt that Shiro had been calling out for. She hoped that he might relax now. She addressed Matt, “You are hurt, can I help you at all? It might help Shiro to relax too. We’re having trouble getting him to settle down but he might listen to you.”
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Matt easily grinned through the pain he was feeling at that moment and shrugged, hand coming up to touch the cuts on his stomach. They burned once more, and he groaned out in a fleeting second, swimming a little closer to the bed next to the other merman and sitting down, slowly lifting up his worn out tail onto the bed, realizing a part of it was torn off by his opponent. At least he still remained in one piece throughout the entire thing.

He glanced over at the other merman. "Yeah, yeah I'm fine! But I guess I should stop being stubborn and actually get myself checked out.." He mumbled, turning his head to the mermaid as she directed her attention to him. He took a moment to study her. Elegant, poised, as healer as a healer should be. Her voice was calm but still had the power to shoot through walls and the sternest of hearts. He wondered where she came from, and was thoroughly curious to know about her as she wasn't there the last time he needed to be taken care of.

"I guess, yeah. Everything burns," he laughed weakly, before turning to look at Shiro once more. He supposed he had no other choice but to take this opportunity to settle down and heal himself. After all, there was nothing else to do. "Don't fight her, Shiro. I think it's time for us both to take a breath and heal ourselves.. speaking of," he began, trying to distract the other merman from any anxiety he could still be feeling. "Where have you been the past few days? I thought I'd see you around, but you went off the radar. I almost thought something happened."
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Allura was happy when Matt settled and noticed that it calmed Shiro too. She murmured to the other mermaid nurses, who nodded quickly and rushed to get the medicines that she had asked for. She then started to look at the wounds covering both Matt and Shiro and cleaned them gently.

Shiro felt the adrenaline in him ebbing away and being replaced by aches and pains. Every muscle was screaming and he could hardly bare it. He looked to Matt and Keith’s face suddenly rushed into his head. He hesitated, reluctant to share his new friend only because he didn’t know who was listening.

“I.. I met someone.” He started, looking up and starting to picture that raven hair and those dark, troubled eyes, “He’s a land man... I went to the surface to rest and heal.. and he was there. It was a nice break from reality, I felt safe with him. Though I realise I can’t go back now - not if I want him to be safe from Zarkon. His creatures are getting ridiculously strong, I think he must be using magic from sea witches. I don’t want to put Keith at risk.”
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With some trouble, Matt sat up a little as he got surrounded by mermen and mermaids who brought the healer whatever she would need to look after them, and sighed a little out of relief. As stubborn as he sometimes was, he couldn't deny that he needed some serious help.

As he looked back at Shiro once he started speaking, he expected to hear that he found a new ship to explore, was collecting shells, the usual mundane tasks merfolk set off on when bored or when they simply have nothing else to do. But when he heard the words 'land' and 'man' right next to each other, his jaw almost dropped.

"Shiro, are you serious!" He couldn't keep in his surprise with the matter no matter how hard he tried, but at least he didn't grab anyone's unwanted attention, but if Allura didn't focus on what they were saying, she would definitely hear bits and pieces now. "We do not speak to la--wait, you even know his name?" He asked, still shocked by the matter, but he brushed it off.

"He's a land man. How dangerous can the sea be when he could be miles away from it and still function properly? He'll be fine, but they're still dangerous. Land men have always done horrible things to the ocean. You sure you still even trust him?"
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Shiro looked at Matt, almost ready to spit a defense at him before he caught himself. Merfolk had every reason to be wary of land folk. They were slowly breaking the boundaries between land and sea and they were constantly disturbing the merfolk. Their vessels and machines, their rotten waters and liquids that leaked into the sea made some parts of the ocean inhabitable and merfolk were beginning to struggle. More illnesses and injuries were happening because of the changing habitats and the things that the land folk left in the waters than the nurses could cope with and fewer and fewer children were being born. Of course Zarkon was another threat within the sea itself, but it still didn't help that the land folk were so blind to their destruction. Their nets and fishing rods had also begun to kill several merfolk and their methods continued to get bolder and deadlier.

He sighed and looked down, still thinking of Keith's face, "I trust this one, Matt. He helped to heal my injuries and he's trying to communicate. He's not like the others." Shiro sighed and winced as Allura started applying ointments and muds to help his wounds start to heal. She used magic to help the muds settle on his skin and stay there, so that the currents wouldn't wash them away. She looked doubtful, still. She did the same for Matt, flitting between the wounds along his body, her tail waving behind her like silks in the wind. Shiro watched her. She was fast and precise, but her eyes were restless. They looked between Matt's wounds and Shiro's and her face was full of concern. Perhaps she had been listening to their conversation after all.

"Don't worry though... I won't risk giving Zarkon something to make me panic. I won't go to him for the same reason you won't go home to Katie. He can't know anything that might be a weakness. Not until he's gone for good." He lay back, focusing on breathing carefully. The pain was stretching out across his body now and he wanted to sleep. He was grateful that Matt was being treated too, he just hoped that he could heal fast and get away.
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Although he was still a lot suspicious of land folk, from the way the other merman spoke about the land man, Matt began to doubt what he knew about them. He never got in contact with one up close, but he always saw what they left behind. Some parts of the water turned pitch black because of the liquids their large vessels left, some small turtles were stuck in strange bags called - by way of rumors - plastic until they would stop breathing and die. It was a lot painful to bear, to even think of, but maybe.. just maybe, just like there are other evil mermen like Zarkon, there could be good land folk who aren't as bad as the rest.

Matt was still thinking about. Shiro believed it, and the chestnut-haired merman couldn't bear making him doubt his trust in the man. If he trusted him, then maybe he was meant to be trusted. He just hoped the merman knew what he was doing sometimes. He didn't want him to hold yet another burden on his shoulders because he didn't want to hurt others.

He opened his mouth to speak, but for a second his eyes flitted over to study Allura. Yes, in all honesty it was hard not to stare, but that wasn't why Matt looked at her for a moment. She looked concerned, more concerned than one would be taking care of injuries. Maybe she was paying attention to what they were saying after all. It made sense that she would, yet Matt didn't tread any further. He laid back as well, thinking a bit. Katie and her parents didn't deserve to think he died out there. They deserved to know he was still breathing.

But that was his own problem. Under the sea.
A human was still under less danger than merfolk were, right? They could always just up and leave the beach, yet merfolk couldn't.

"But when it comes to Katie, we're both mer. We're talking about someone else, someone different. You can't just leave him like that without a word. Even if he's.. foreign, a friend is still a friend. Zarkon wouldn't hurt a land man too, would he?"
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"Maybe you're right.." Shiro said, closing his eyes slowly. Something Allura had used on him seemed to be making him drowsy and it was hard to keep his eyes open anymore. "Maybe Zarkon can't get to him.. maybe he'll be safe..." he drifted slowly into a dark slumber filled with both nightmarish creatures and the calm, tranquil feeling of sitting out on the beach with Keith. Shiro hadn't thought about the fact that there was a lot of land to cover and that perhaps Zarkon could never reach Keith even if he tried. He just couldn't bring himself to risk it - he had already lost someone so dear to him, that he didn't want to lose anyone else again.

Allura looked to Shiro, with a furrowed brow as he drifted away into sleep. She looked to Matt and hesitated, before she swam closer to him. "Your friend... I'm worried that my magic isn't strong enough for him down here." She said, wringing a bag of ingredients in her hands. "I gave him some ointment that should have sent him to sleep straight away, but he was still able to talk to you for a good few minutes. I know he's rather big, which is why I gave him a lot, but it still took a long time. I'm worried that being so close to Zarkon and so far from the sun is weakening me." she explained with a worried expression. She had been listening to Matt and Shiro speak though. She had tried hard not to say anything because she was familiar with the humans and she had communicated with them a great deal. In fact she liked to think that she might consider some of them her friends. She had learnt a lot about them and had used the things she had found on land to help her before. She bit her lip.

"Do forgive me but, did I hear you correctly? That Shiro has a friend on the surface?" she asked Matt, keeping her voice low deliberately.
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Matt watched with a small frown as the merman spoke drowsily. He realized he probably wasn't completely focused on what Matt was saying but at the moment the merman thought nothing of it. He was just happy to see that he was getting some rest after what happened. The merman only fought one opponent, but Shiro had to fight many as he survived through the arena. It was a pretty tough day for both of them.

His eyes snapped up to the mermaid once again, wanting to thank her, before he found that her eyes were already on Matt. She was going to ask him something, no doubt. He listened to her words, and from just her voice he could tell she was feeling quite drained. Shiro was obviously a lot to handle, and she didn't seem to be used to this tense atmosphere. No wonder he didn't see her before when he last came here.

Nobody would love being around here either, Matt thought. He couldn't really blame her. But he felt like she wasn't completely done, with the still concerned expression lingering on her face. "Alright, thank you so much for your help," he said in the short silence that was between them, before he heard her speak again. Of course she would ask about the land man.

"Yes, according to him. I never even met the guy before, but he seems to mean a lot to Shiro." His voice was low as well, as even the small shells surrounding them had eyes. "Why do you ask?" He perked up a little.
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Allura checked over her shoulder before she spoke again. She knew full well that it was difficult to trust anyone this deep in the ocean. Matt, however, had a kind and welcoming face that put her at ease. Shiro had eventually shown that he too had this caring side, but initially he had scared her. Matt was a calm and friendly face that she was grateful to know.

“If he really does have a friend.. it might be a good idea to take him there. I know it sounds absolutely mad, but I think it’s possible that I’d be able to heal him much faster if I was closer to the sun. I’d be able to heal you too,” she added, gesturing to Matt’s injures chest and tail. “I would just need your help to take him there - i’m not strong enough to carry him on my own.”
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Matt listened to her suggestion, and although she was right about it being an absolutely mad, he realized it might be better for Shiro to be up there with his friend. Not just for them to see each other again, but to also help Allura help him properly. And heal Matt too. There was no other choice but to do this. Everyone would benefit.

Though he expected Shiro being quite tough to carry, he and Allura would mutually depend on one another.

So, with that thought in mind he studied her expression a bit, as if expecting her to back out of her idea, but he could tell she was serious. Matt was as well. With some pain, he stood, injured tail weakly flitting underneath him as he nodded firmly at her. With newfound determination, he slowly and gently slung Shiro's left shoulder around his own, trying to support him.

"Okay, I'm ready. It'll be best for all of us if we took him to the human," he said lowly. "Come on, let's go. Lead the way." He wondered how they would find this human on their own. Would Shiro wake up throughout their trip and tell them the way, or will the currents of fate make them stumble upon the land man? Only time would tell, Matt supposed.
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Part of Allura had expected Matt to disagree and tell her that it was an awful idea. She was shocked when he picked up Shiro immediately and began to move him. She shook her head and gently touched Matt’s shoulder. “Not right away, you should rest first. You’re incredibly injured and you shouldn’t strain yourself. Rest for a few hours and then we can go. I’ll need some time to work out where we are going too. Perhaps we should wake Shiro to help us...”

Allura had several ways of finding people who needed her help. She could use her telepathic ability almost as well as a siren to help her locate creatures and folk just by listening for them. She knew that they were deep down in the middle of the ocean and that it might not work, since her powers weren’t as strong down here, but it was a starting point.
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In all honesty, the adrenaline that still filled Matt had him rushing towards grabbing Shiro so they wouldn't waste much time as well as help Allura regain her energy, but his spontaneity had reminded him of the ache he felt in his stomach. He gave a short grunt as he gently placed him back, softly propping down his arm.

"Yeah.. I actually think I need to get some sleep," he gave a small smile, swimming back to his bed and laying himself down, holding his stomach. Before he actually went to sleep, though, he wanted to ask one last thing before he fell asleep.

"Have you ever been close to a land man?"
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Allura smiled and she carefully helped Shiro get comfortable. He had looked fierce and terrifying when she had first seen him - his eyes crazed and his body thrashing and tense like a fish caught in a net. It was amazing how different he was now - the transformation was unreal. He looked almost peaceful as he slept, though his brow was furrowed and his hands worked in his sleep, clenching and unclenching. He muttered in his sleep - nonsense mostly. He uttered clicks and soft murmurs and said names. Some were recognisable; Adam, Keith, Matt; others weren't so recognisable and she wondered whether they belonged to Zarkon.

She tucked him up into his bed tightly, so that he wouldn't fall out if he started to toss and turn. She hoped that he wouldn't. Then she turned to Matt and smiled, seeing that he had gotten into bed. She carefully and gently smoothed some of her healing sands and muds across his stomach to help them heal whilst he rested. Thankfully they hadn't done anything but cut into his skin, so it was just a matter of waiting for them to heal. She tucked him in too, carefully wrapping the sheets around him and then placed some healing rocks and anemones around his head. They would release scents and oils into the air to help him sleep and heal. His question caught her off guard a little and she settled on his bed, rather like a mother would do with their child.

She nodded, "Yes, I have been close to several. I have several good friends on the surface and I trust them with all of my heart. They help me and I help them.. I have treated their wounds before - one of them stepped on a particularly nasty sea urchin once, so I had to settle the argument between him and the urchin, then helped him heal it. He told me a lot about medicines on the surface and what they do to heal one and other. I have learned a great deal and returned the information they gave to me with information of my own about healing under the sea. We have been friendly ever since. The little boy that stepped on the sea urchin is now a grown man, so we have known each other for some years," she explained, expressing her fondness for her friend with a smile.
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As he laid down, he closed his eyes only slightly, back leaned against the bed. He let out a soft, relieved huff, glad to have been able to both survive and come here on his own. He felt shuffling right next to his head, and soon a nice, comforting scent entered his nose. It was - no doubt - caused by some of the rocks and anemones the mermaid had with her. It wasn't a popular healing method merfolk usually use, but he was still familiar with its effects. Slowly, it began to feel like he had no cares at all. Like he was aimlessly floating away, lulled by the sounds of the water.

But although it was a comfortable feeling, it didn't last too long. Soon Matt heard what the mermaid beside him had to say as she settled on the bed, tucking him in safe and sound. He wished that were the case.
So, not only was this mermaid familiar with land men, she even went so far as to say she had human friends. It didn't seem like she was too different from Shiro in that case, and he began to understand why she offered to help. Perhaps there are nice land men out there who aren't out to hurt them.

"For years, huh?" He asked drowsily, but still trying to focus. "You seem like very good friends. I just hope Shiro's friend is as nice as your friend is.." his voice trailed off sadly, only slightly listening to the names the merman said. Adam, he knew. Matt was his name. Perhaps this Keith - if he even caught the name correctly - was the human? He could barely know, because soon his eyes began to droop on their own. "Thank you. For offering to help and all." A smile was directed to the mermaid, who was the last person he saw before he began to lose consciousness.
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