“Woah~! It’s so big!” Iris cheered with red cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes.
“Yeah it is; I hope it’s not too much for you,” Arylos said proudly while laughing.
“Phrasing, you two,” Bellona interjected with her arms crossed.
“Perverts,” Eir grumbled while hiding behind Bellona.
Iris took in the sights of the beach and the large southern ocean Minaumi stretching out to the horizon like an endless blue sheet. Down below on the beach, Iris saw the crowds of people and the forest of umbrellas and a part of her couldn’t wait to go down and enjoy some time of relaxation. She felt the warmth of the sun overhead and it contrasted with the cool of the ocean breeze that carried the smell of salt.
“Come on! Let’s go!” Iris cheered while pulling Arylos by his arm.
“Hold on now, girl, I need to set everything up and you need to change into your new swimsuit,” Arylos protested while pulling back.
“But I wanna play now!” Iris squealed while continuing to tug Arylos’s arm.
“You’ll get your chance,” Arylos said while stifling a laugh and turning to Bellona and Eir. “Where are you two planning to set up?”
“I’m thinking somewhere close to the water so I can keep my toes in the water,” Bellona answered while rubbing her chin.
“That’s fair,” Arylos answered while trying to ignore Iris tugging on his arm. “Oi, Iris, how about you go get changed so that everything is set up when you get back.”
Iris finally let go of his arm and crossed her arms. “Fine, but you better be done by the time I get back.”
“Okay impatient one,” Arylos said as Iris turned away and made her way to a series of changing rooms as Arylos, Bellona, and Eir made their way down the beach and began picking spots.
Arylos didn’t take long to find a relatively quiet area for him to set up; away from the bigger crowds but close enough to the beach. With a mighty heave, he stuck the wooden and paper umbrella into the warm sand until it wouldn’t move. With the umbrella in place and open, he began setting down the various bags Iris made him bring. He sorted through various oils and ointments for the water and the sun and moved the snacks to the other side. Finally, he set down a couple of towels and took off his shirt before he laid down on one of the towels.
With a comfortable sigh, the Titan rested his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, taking in the sound of the crowds and the crushing waves. As he rested, he could feel himself slowly drift into a relaxing sleep; a sort of meditative state where he was still aware of his surroundings but too relaxed to care. The relaxation was serene and the air was sweet with an oceanic smell and cool to the touch. The shade provided just enough for him to relax comfortably without the sun bothering him.
The peace tasted sweet and was like a full body aroma therapy for him.
Between his moments of relaxation, he could hear footsteps nearby. In one moment, he noticed the shade he was under darkened. Arylos opened his eyes and found himself looking straight into Iris’s brown eyes as she sat down in front of him and brought her head down to his face, close enough that her hair acted like curtains around his face.
“Yes?” Arylos asked with a sigh.
“You don’t plan to just sleep here, do you?” Iris asked with annoyance.
“I’m on vacation; I can do whatever I want,” Arylos answered while closing his eyes again.
“That’s all well and good, but I want to go play,” Iris grumbled.
“Then go play, I’ll be right here,” Arylos answered with a laugh.
Iris puffed up her face and poked Arylos’s nose. “Why don’t you want to come play?”
“I am relaxing,” Arylos answered, trying to stifle a sneeze brought on by Iris’s nose poking.
Iris snapped her fingers as an idea came to her. “I got it! You can play while still being able to relax!”
“I don’t see how that’s possible,” Arylos said while laughing to himself.
“It is!” Iris cheered. She suddenly got up and rolled up the other towel Arylos laid down and came back down to her knees next to Arylos. “Put your arms at your side; I’ll put this towel under your head,” she instructed.
Arylos let out a sigh and complied, moving his arms down as Iris set the towel just under his head like a makeshift pillow.
“Okay, now just don’t move, okay?” Iris instructed in a cheery voice.
Arylos chuckled before raising an eyebrow when he felt sand being poured on his body. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m burying you in sand,” Iris answered in a cheery voice. “I saw it in a book while I was shopping for a new swimsuit.”
Arylos’s interest had been piqued. He opened his eyes and looked at Iris. She had her classic happy smile as she poured sand all over Arylos, humming a tune all the while. Arylos lifted his head a little and saw the suit she picked out for the first time.
“Stand up for a second,” Arylos asked.
“Eh? Alright?” Iris said in confusion as she slowly got up to her feet and brushed the sand from her knees. Arylos admired her black one piece swimsuit with a summer skirt wrapped around her waist with decorative whie floral patterns.
“I like what you got,” Arylos said as his cheeks showed a hint of colour.
“W-Wait, you do?” Iris asked as her face went red.
“Yeah, it looks really cute on you and suits your style,” Arylos said with a smile.
Iris continued blushing as she covered her face. “Thank you,” she whispered softly.
Arylos chuckled as he set his head back down and closed his eyes. “That’s not the same design you got originally, is it?”
Iris continued blushing as she sat back down on her knees and resumed putting sand on Arylos’s body. “No, the other design just didn’t work for me.”
“You’re doing that thing again; stop it,” Arylos instructed sternly.
“Eh? What thing?” Iris asked.
Arylos sighed and lifted his arm to rub his eyes but Iris grabbed his arm and held it still before he could move it too much. “Let me guess; you wanted to get something cute and revealing and that’s what you got originally. But you got shy at the last minute and decided to get something less revealing because you’re too self-conscious about your body. Did I leave anything out?”
Iris stopped what she was doing and lowered her head in shame. “Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what happened. I just don’t look that good when–”
“Enough of that,” Arylos sternly cut Iris off. “I understand having lines you don’t cross for comfort but don’t you dare think that you’re not good enough to cross those lines. Don’t limit yourself by undermining yourself.”
“It’s true though,” Iris confessed while rubbing her arms. “I’m not like Bellona or Eir. I’m just a bland girl with nothing interesting about her. I don’t have a curvy figure, I don’t have a bold personality. I’m just–”
“You,” Arylos finished while staring down Iris with his glowing red eyes. “All that matters is that you are yourself. You are unique in this world of everyone being the same.”
“Unique and not in a good way,” Iris grumbled under her breath.
“Unique in the best way,” Arylos corrected while giving Iris a smile. “Unique in a way that a cold, unfeeling Titan can appreciate.”
“Do you really mean that?” Iris asked under her breath while clutching at her dress.
“Of course I do,” Arylos answered while closing his eyes. “I don’t keep you around just because of the promise I made your father; I stay with you because I want to.”
Iris slowly unclenched her hands and nodded, feeling some life brought back to her. She then continued burying Arylos in sand while trying to control a smile that was coming to her. “Thank you,” she whispered softly, unable to contain her smile anymore.
“You’re welcome, but you better put on that swimsuit and do it for yourself,” Arylos said while chuckling.
“I will, and I’ll show it off to you,” Iris said while sculpting shapes in the mound of sand.
“Oh you better,” Arylos said with a smile.
“Oh? Are you just a pervert who wants to see me half-naked in a swimsuit?” Iris said while her cheeks turned red once more.
“Sounds like your own fantasy; that you secretly want to show off to me while half-naked in a swimsuit,” Arylos said while laughing.
Iris growled and puffed up her face. “Only if you weren’t such a big idiot.”
“Tsundere,” Arylos chuckled under his breath.
“What the heck does that even mean?” Iris hollered as her face continued to turn red.
“It means you want love and affection but you’re too nervous or stubborn to ask for it,” Arylos explained while looking at Iris.
“Yeah, well, not from an idiot like you,” Iris said while puffing up her face.
“Yeah, tsunderes also use the word ‘idiot’ a lot to refer to the person they want love from,” Arylos said while continuing to laugh.
Iris felt something in her snap as her entire body went red and she jumped over to Arylos and threw her hands on his face to cover his mouth. “Shut up! Not another word out of you!” She squealed loudly.
“Oh boy, what did Arylos do now?” Bellona’s voice called out from a distance away. Iris looked up and saw Bellona approaching, obviously enjoying the spectacle.
Iris kept a firm grip on Arylos’s face to keep him silent. “Oh nothing, he’s just being a big idio– I mean he’s being an ass as usual.”
“Oh wow, Iris brings out ‘ass’ and she’s trying to bury you in the sand. What did you do to her, Arylos?” Bellona asked while laughing.
“He didn’t do anything!” Iris responded while making sure Arylos couldn’t talk.
Arylos’s eyes narrowed as the red in his eyes shone brightly and the air took on its characteristic hum. Iris caught on that he was doing something and looked around but found herself aware too late as she was pushed backwards by an unseen hand and sent flying into the sand.
“Hey! No magic!” Iris shouted while scrambling to get herself back onto her feet.
“Well, my relaxation mood is ruined,” Arylos said with a sigh as he slowly got up, lifting himself out of the sand. “I guess I might as well go out for a swim.”
“Wait, I thought you were going to relax?” Iris said while leaping back up, trying to contain her excitement.
“You’ll keep pestering me, so I might as well be social,” Arylos said while popping his neck and walking towards the water’s edge.
“W-Well, can I come in with you?” Iris asked in a shy voice while climbing back onto her feet.
“I thought you hated me?” Arylos said while stretching his back.
Iris rubbed her arms together as her face went red again. “It’s not that I hate you…I just…I don’t know…”
“Awe, isn’t she so cute that you just want to put her in your pocket?” Bellona cooed while squirming.
“Good, I’m not the only one,” Arylos said to Bellona while laughing.
Iris’s hair went on edge as her head spun in confusion. “S-Shut up,” she whispered softly.
“Come on then! Let’s go swimming!” Arylos called out while gesturing for Iris to come with him.
“Wait! Don’t go in without me!” Iris called out as she ran towards Titan. As she ran, she undid the belt on her skirt and threw it off of her.
“And why is that?” Arylos responded sarcastically while rotating his shoulder.
“I-...I can’t swim,” Iris said under her breath.
“That’s a lie; I’ve seen you swim before,” Arylos corrected with a soft laugh.
“Never in the ocean,” Iris grumbled while rubbing her arms together.
Arylos and Bellona looked towards each other and shared a moment of unspoken words. Bellona nodded and walked away to rejoin with Eir. Arylos then came closer to Iris and set a hand on her scalp.
“Do you want me to carry you?” Arylos asked softly.
“Eh? What do you mean?” Iris asked.
“Come on,” Arylos instructed while pulling Iris by her hand to the water’s edge, Iris’s heart pounding all the while. She felt the cold water touch her feet and it sent shivers up her spine but Arylos’s soft grip continued to pull her deeper into the waters until it came up to her waist.
“Wait, I really don’t know how to swim,” Iris said in a shy voice.
“It’s okay, I got you,” Arylos reassured in a comforting voice. Without warning, he reached over and picked up Iris in his arms as he continued to go deeper into the waters. Iris couldn’t help but to blush as she clung to the Titan as the waters came up to both of their necks.
As the water deepened, Iris clung to Arylos’s neck tighter, trying not to lose herself in the water. “I still got you,” Arylos assured as he went deeper.
“This is kind of embarrassing,” Iris whispered under her breath.
“Is it? You want to experience the ocean and I’m helping you,” Arylos said in a soft voice.
“Yeah, but I’m an adult who doesn’t know how to swim,” Iris confessed while blushing.
“You’ve never been this close to an ocean; it’s understandable, that’s why I want to help,” Arylos said while holding onto Iris tighter.
“I’m sorry to be a burden,” Iris said softly while leaning her head against Arylos’s shoulder.
“You’re not a burden to me,” Arylos said in a purring growl. “I want to do this for you of my own free will.”
Iris sighed as she loosened her grip on Arylos, trusting his hold on her. “I–...” she said softly, trying to make the words come to her but they were once again stuck in her throat. She gave up on trying again and closed her eyes, taking in the Titan’s presence.
Oh whatever; if he doesn’t know by now, he’s a bigger idiot than I thought, she told herself.