All the team members stared at Astra expectantly. Even the typically calm and reserved Jiyu had reddened eyes, feeling sorry for the mermaid princess as she bore the pain of learning to walk despite every step feeling like she was walking on blades. He felt especially terrible when he heard Astra describe the mermaid’s sorrow at being forgotten by the prince. Wen and Linus were already pretty certain that the story wouldn’t end very well, but the two of them chose to remain silent and watched as Simon bawled his eyes out instead.
“The sea witch gave the mermaid princess a dagger and said, so long as the mermaid princess killed the prince and used his heart’s blood to wash her legs, her legs would turn back to a mermaid tail and she would be able to return to the sea.” Astra decided to bring a little interaction into his story-telling. “What do you guys think she would choose?”
Wen and the rest of them acted as if they were thinking deeply.
In reality, they had all guessed the mermaid princess’s choice, but none of them wanted to be the one to say it.
Suddenly, a timid voice asked, “Will she kill the prince?”
The small voice was soft and silvery, and it clearly belonged to a child.
The circle of people, who were all immersed in the story, suddenly came to their senses and looked towards the direction that the voice came from.
More than a dozen mermaids surrounded them. Some of them were quite close while others remained far away, looking at them with reddened eyes and dejected expressions.
The mermaid who interrupted looked more like a cherub than a mermaid with his bouncy curls and the seaweed wreath on his head. His large, puppy-like eyes were brimming with unshed tears as he looked at Astra with a hopeful expression. From the looks of it, this small mermaid was still a child. This small mermaid’s use of the Empire’s common language was not very accurate, and he was trying his hardest to hold back tears. “Older brother, can you make her go home pwease?”
So freaking cute!
Astra suddenly realized that he actually had a soft spot for cute things. Even though mermaids didn’t have fur, Astra’s hand still itched to rub that cute, fluffy head of curls.
He coughed a couple of times to regain his composure, so that he didn’t come off as a pervert and scare away the little bun. Several dozen pairs of mermaid eyes looked at him expectantly. From the reddish edges of their eyelids, it was evident that the sensitive mermaids already had a crying session.
“The mermaid princess didn’t choose to kill the prince.” Astra suddenly regretted choosing this particular story, he shouldn’t have picked a tragedy that would make the little cutie sad. “When the sun rose the next day, she turned into foam at the keel of the ship…”
“WAAAH!” The small mermaid’s sobs were even more heart wrenching than before.
Sniffle. Several dozen adult mermaids cried softly.
“So tragic,” Simon joined in, “waaah!”
Astra’s head hurt.
Astra rubbed at his temples. He peered at the mermaid’s tears as they fell into the ocean in great big drops, and absentmindedly wondered if they’d really turn into pearls.
But the small and chubby mermaid looked really pitiful when he cried. The corners of his eyes were red as he sniffled, he even started to hiccup.
The other mermaids were too busy wiping at their own tears to console the little mermaid.
Wen, Linus, and Jiyu all looked accusingly at Astra, their gazes made it seem like he was a heinous villain.
All that was missing was accusatory fingers pointed his way. His teammate’s expressions all seemed to say: “Astra, you made this mess, so it’s yours to clean up!”
Astra chanted in his mind, sorry Anderson, then he took a deep breath and continued courageously, “Just as the mermaid princess was about to disappear completely, the sea witch appeared out of the water and angrily snatched the dagger from the mermaid princess’s hands. The sea witch forced the little mermaid to drink the antidote, and in the end the little mermaid returned to the sea and lived happily ever after with the sea witch…”
His voice trailed off as the feeling of guilt built up.
The small mermaid was interrupted mid-hiccup, and he looked up at Astra with an adorably dumbfounded expression. The small mermaid’s jewel-toned eyes were filled with tears and confusion, as if he couldn’t understand why the story would have this sort of ending.
The teammates regarded Astra as if he were a dead fish.
At the last moment, inspiration sparked in Astra’s mind as his thoughts jumped to Bai Tong.
“…The sea witch was actually the prince of a neighboring country.” Astra’s expression radiated confidence, which made his words seem especially convincing. “He had been cursed by his evil stepmother, that’s why he became the ugly sea witch. The curse can only be lifted when he meets his true love.”
Then- then- then the evil sea witch was actually a handsome prince!
The small mermaid and the adult mermaids all stared, wide-eyed with awe: “…Wow!”
Okay, so, there were a lot of plot holes but at least he finished the story.
Once again, Astra chanted in his mind: I’m really sorry good ol’ Mr. Anderson.
Linus gave Astra a look of contempt, the beginning of the story started off pretty good, but the forced turn of events killed off any sense of tragic beauty that the story might have had.
But… he still uploaded the video of the story onto the Starnet.
He kind of liked this sort of ending.
Wen, who was watching throughout Linus’s internal conflict, suddenly laughed out loud. “Linus, you’re really one adorably awkward guy.”
For a moment, Linus’s expression twitched. “When did you start talking like Astra?”
Telling people that they’re cute or adorable out of seemingly nowhere.
The satisfied mermaids gave them a lot of marine delicacies from underwater. The freshly caught gifts were still dripping with water, and what’s even more unexpected was the wild gray ocean fish wrapped in 50 water source-stones. These were all gifts from the mermaids.
After finishing the mission from the school quite easily, they were still in shock over the mermaids’ generosity. Their arms were laden with ocean produce as they spoke with perfunctory politeness, “This is too much, we’d be embarrassed to accept it all.”
Several dozen mermaids tilted their heads and regarded the humans curiously. They couldn’t understand this roundabout way of being thanked.
The chubby little mermaid really didn’t want them to leave. “Gege, next time you have to tell me more stories about the sea witch gege, okay?”
His large, jewel-toned eyes were sparkling with the expectation of hearing more stories on the ‘sea witch gege’.
The sea witch gege is so awesome! He’s still so powerful even after experiencing the hardships of being cursed and forced to live at the darkest pit of the ocean.
He’s just as awesome as the mermaid princess!
Astra nodded, feeling a strange twinge of guilt as he did so.
They didn’t leave Ganymede immediately after saying goodbye to the mermaids. Instead, they decided to have their meal on the planet before embarking on their return journey. After eating nothing but nutrition packs, all of them were positively drooling at the sight of fresh seafood. The teammates rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The cooking utensils were prepared in an instant and neatly displayed in front of Wen.
The boys whined and begged, “Wen, we wanna eat seafood barbequuueee~”
Wen had never been so good-tempered. After he took the cleaned seafood from the boys, he looked at the backup energy source from the ship that Linus had remodeled into a makeshift heat source for the barbeque. All of a sudden, Wen thought that he had changed quite a bit.
He had never had such friendly interactions with anyone.
Wen had no need for partners or friends. There was also nobody that could qualify as his friend. He never felt lonely; rather, he enjoyed his own power and the solitude that it brought about, like a lone wolf. But now, maybe it was the lack of spiritual energy, or the fairytale-like scenery of Ganymede, but his frozen, impassive heart had begun to melt just a little.
It’s as if the Wen from before was slowly becoming more humane.
Astra controlled a little bit of spiritual energy to cut at the hard shell of the seafood. The de-shelled seafood was white and pink, and entirely tempting in its tenderness. After Wen shook himself out of his thoughts, Astra had already finished preparing a lot and piled all of the seafood on the tarp in front of Wen.
Wen laughed out loud at Astra’s antics. “How much can you eat, eh? Number one?”
Astra’s grin revealed a lot of white teeth before he pouted and spoke in a high pitched voice, “The little ol’ me is still growing, Winnie.”
His wet hands still had the characteristic fishy scent of seafood as he flapped his hands at Wen’s face, pointing with his pinkie curled like a dainty lady. “The little ol’ me has unique tastes, so put in lots and lots of flavoring, ‘kay?”
Wen hurriedly took a step back. Goosebumps crawled up his back. “Don’t do that, it’s so ugly.”
But almost immediately after saying so, Wen began to laugh. The more he laughed, the funnier it seemed. Finally, he had to turn his face to the side and cover his face. His usually fair complexion looked beautiful with the flush of laughter.
So the protagonist could laugh uncontrollably like this, be embarrassed to the point of trying to cover up his own laughter, and jostle around with his teammates childishly…
He’s so cute, Astra thought to himself.
Linus suddenly shouted from the side. Before Wen could fully process what was going on, the camera recorded his shocked expression. The corners of Linus’s lips curled upwards in a sly smile. Finally, he had blackmail material.
Jiyu peeked at the picture over Linus’s shoulder. “Send me a copy too.”
Wen really didn’t have that much blackmail material. This guy’s appearance was too flawless, no matter what angle or what pose, there wasn’t a single moment when Wen didn’t look like a male model.
This sort of guy made people even more disgruntled than Astra ever could.
—After all, it was too easy to take blackmail-worthy pictures of Astra.
The seafood skewers were stuck into the sand, beside the improvised cooking fire; Linus adjusted the setting on the energy source’s output, making it produce heat. The air over the energy source rippled with heat, carrying with it the warmth of a bonfire.
The same seasoning, when applied by Wen, tasted better than when other people used it. To the members of Reverie, Wen the ‘Master Chef’ was like a god. As Wen occupied himself with preparing the food, the rest of the team squatted around him, staring at him as he worked and drooling at the sight of the seafood.
“Looks scrumptious.” The person beside Astra elbowed him, before swallowing audibly.
“Mmhmm,” Astra replied and elbowed them back, all without taking his eyes off of Wen’s hands. “Looks delicious.”
Seeing that they were all so eager, Wen didn’t have the heart to bully them. He worked hard to finish the food for the scenic barbeque.
At last, the delicious scent drifted towards the sea. To prevent the mermaids from coming back to steal their food, the boys shoveled the food into their mouths as fast as they could, eating as much steaming-hot seafood as possible.
“Mmmn, sho good.”
Someone was nearly moved to tears. “Wen, you’re too awesome!”
The mermaids were very generous. Their gifts weren’t just commonplace seafood that could be found on the other planets. Most of the mermaid’s gifts were these long aquatic animals called ‘whitefish’. It had no bones, and its entire body was soft and white like fresh butter. Its flesh was also juicy and tender. Each bite into the cooked whitefish meat came with a burst of flavorful juices as the meat all but melted over their tongues. The food was fresh and finger-licking good.
This sort of thing was hard to find even on Ganymede itself, much less anywhere else. The mermaids had been very generous indeed.
Even though there was a lot of food, it still wasn’t enough to satisfy the palates of five lively young men. After fulfilling their desire for delicious food, they had to supplement their energy with nutrition packs. Finishing their hearty meal, the youths flopped onto their backs on the beach. The powder-like sand underneath them was so thin and soft that it felt like they were lying in the middle of a sun-warmed ocean.
After an entire day of resting, Wen was finally able to regain control over a little bit of his spiritual energy. NK-03 made his spiritual energy much more resilient than that of normal people. After this little thread of spiritual energy sprouted, his recovery speed would surpass Astra’s. It wouldn’t be long until his powerful spiritual energy fully recovered.
As the entire planet sunk into the darkness of night, the team finally sat up and longingly looked at the place where they had dallied for quite a while. They filed aboard the ship.
“We’ll be back!” The youths waved at the direction of the sea and the beach, at the mermaids that had disappeared a while ago without a trace. “Bye bye!”
The latch on the door closed. Linus took up his seat at the cockpit and typed in the coordinates for Topia as he programmed their path back to school.
As if sensing that they were about to leave — that, or the mermaids finally caught a whiff of the barbeque — several of the mermaids resurfaced. Among them, the chubby little mermaid hugged a conch shell to his chest. The conch shell was an ice-blue color, and looked as if it was carved out of the depths of a glacier. The small mermaid hurriedly raised the conch up and waved it about in their direction, as if trying to tell them something important.
The five people on the ship were very confused. Astra’s seat was closest to the door, so he opened the latch and jumped down onto the beach once again. “Do you still have something to tell us?”
The small mermaid nodded enthusiastically, his chubby little face looked comically serious as he looked up at Astra with eyes the color of a clear, moonlit sea. He gave the conch to Astra. “This is for gege.”
“Why are you giving this to me?” Astra couldn’t resist the cute little mermaid. He bent down and rubbed the dark green curls on the small mermaid’s head. “Is it because this gege is the most handsome one?”
The small mermaid’s eyes were half-shut in bliss as he enjoyed Astra’s administration like a little cat. “I’m giving this to gege so that gege can come and tell me more stories next time~”
Astra still couldn’t understand. But before he could ask more questions, the small mermaid had already dove back into the ocean and darted away with a surprisingly fast flick of his chubby tail.
The only thing that Astra could do was carry the conch back to the ship. It looked like an ice sculpture, but it wasn’t cold to the touch at all. In fact, the texture was closer to high quality jade. The entire shell was inexplicably detailed and beautiful, like a work of art.
The other team members were also very intrigued by the conch. Once again, they marvelled at the friendliness and the frank generosity of the mermaids. This trip to Ganymede was really worth it.
The ship’s engines ignited and brought them out of this beautiful planet in an instant. They reported the status of their mission to the school via Starnet, selected the return-home option on the aircraft’s controls, and filled in the number ‘50’ under the label ‘water source-stones’.
They were able to gather more source-stones than they initially set out for, so they were very excited by their success. On the way back to school, the teammates chatted and jostled about with each other. They also didn’t forget to ask Astra about Bai Tong’s Starnet account ID.
Astra: “I’ll give it to you guys once we get back to school.”
They were in the middle of their return-trip, why were they still thinking about flirting with girls?
“Then why don’t you tell us another story?” Simon was nearly bored out of his mind. “Tell us another one, c’mon.”
Even Wen looked towards Astra with a bit of anticipation.
Astra grinned mischievously. “Sure.”
He looked towards the galactic scenery outside of the window as he thought about the type of story he should tell them. All of a sudden, his spiritual energy-enhanced sight picked up on the giant ship rapidly drawing closer to theirs.
The hull of the ship was decorated with a large red skull. The sight of the ghastly decoration was especially jarring to the eyes.
The Red Skull Pirates.
Astra looked at Jiyu, and could already feel a headache pounding at his temples.
Easy? They’ll get back in two days?
…Astra just knew it.
At this point, all Astra could hope for was that the author’s ‘gift’ wasn’t just as unreliable as the author herself.
The last thing he needed was for the author’s ‘gift’ to come out and wreak havoc on an already disastrous situation!
The author has something to say:
On the pirate ship –
All the pirates looked at Astra, nodding among themselves in approval: “Okay, this guy has a talent for being a pirate. I want him as my underling!”
“No no no! I want him as my underling!”
“You dare try to steal someone from my group?”
Astra: (— _ — ‘)
T/N: just a reminder, the ‘gift’ that Astra received from the author of the book he transmigrated into is – ‘all the villainous characters will feel an automatic sense of liking towards Astra’….Also wassup guys! Guess who’s back! From hell! 😀 Satan sends his greetings :))))
A big big thanks to everyone who has been patient with me so far. I’m studying for the MCAT this summer btw. How am I going? Procrastinating and dying (ooo that rhymes). I’ll be easing my way back to doing TL stuff once I get used to studying. I’ve got this (ง •_•)ง