Over ten small, silver fish floundered around beside Xia Yi, but no matter how hard they struggled, it was useless since they weren’t in water.
One of the fish jumped onto Xia Yi, who then reached out his hand to grab it. Due to its slippery scales, the little fish, which wasn’t even ten centimetres long, slipped right out of his hands. Xia Yi watched as it fell hard onto the rocks and its tail twitched one last time before it laid unmoving. The force of impact probably knocked it unconscious.
Xia Yi picked it up and poked the fish’s belly with his finger; it was plump and looked quite appetising.
Did the waves wash them ashore?
But he didn’t remember there being such strong winds last night, and none of these sardines were weak and skinny. The fact that these fish were able to keep flapping around for so long while out of water was a clear sign they were the best of their schools.
Xia Yi looked up at the sky in confusion.
It was true that there existed stories about tornadoes gathering up seawater from far away and then disappearing by the time they reached the shore, thus dropping various marine organisms from the sky. However, given the recent weather, it was a blessing just to have small breezes, much less anything close to a tornado. So then how did these sardines end up here?
Xia Yi was very hungry. In fact, he was woken by the twitching pain in his empty stomach.
With seaweed, he could dredge them up, break off the roots and pick out the thin, chewable leaves and stems to eat— but how on earth was he supposed to prepare a fish?
Make a fire using a bow drill? But even roasted fish weren’t meant to be cooked with zero preparation as the chef would have to properly gut them first.
At the moment, Xia Yi didn’t have any usable blades to cut open the stomachs of the fish. Even if he wished to eat sashimi, he’d first have to find a way to slice off the back and stomach sections. And what about the scales? If this was an apple, he could simply rinse and eat it, and then decide whether he wanted to spit the peel out or not, but this was a fish! Was there anyone who’d care to demonstrate the skill of eating and spitting out scales simultaneously?
The scales would probably cut open their mouths first!
Xia Yi felt the pain in his stomach intensify.
He stood up and knocked all the sardines out with a clean swing of a rock before staring blankly at said rock.
Earlier, he’d wanted to find a sharp shell to commit suicide with. Now, he needed to find something sharp to substitute for a knife in order to prepare food… Wandering out in the open seas amidst an apocalypse really did suck since the disappearing magnetic fields wouldn’t stop anyone on land from picking up knives and other sharp objects from any available kitchen.
Xia Yi’s mind drifted to the cat that belonged to the tenants living below his apartment floor.
It could nibble away at a fresh, little fish from head to tail and leave no traces of meat anywhere along the bones… Truly amazing. = __ =
The bright sun cast its light down to the sea, but the patches of silver reflected by the water didn’t catch Xia Yi’s attention. Even if there were still hundreds of sardines in the ocean, there was nothing he could do about them. What he currently needed to figure out was how to get the delectable seafood into his belly.
Since Xia Yi wasn’t underwater, he didn’t hear the infrasonic waves.
“Do humans not eat sardines?”
“…mmm… Never heard that… should be fine, gululu.”
“Do not blow bubbles when you are speaking!”
A certain merman couldn’t wait any longer. As the infrasonic waves travelled further through the sea, tens of panicked sardines swam blindly in the clear blue waters. “How long is it going to take before you finally crawl here?”
“It’s not my fault that my speed is like this… If it wasn’t for that giant squid and I was only coming over by myself, I’d take a whole year to crawl from the South Pole to the Pacifics! This is my first time in shallow waters! It’s so uncomfortable and I have to keep moving. I’m so tired! Stop rushing me!”
The merman had no choice but to turn around and focus back on Xia Yi through the water.
Under the assumption that humans couldn’t catch fish barehanded in the ocean, the merman purposely threw the sardines onto the shore.
But why was he not eating when food was placed right in front of him?
Humans did not seem to have things they could not eat, correct?!
Even though sardines didn’t taste as good as tunas or marlins, they weren’t poisonous. Considering the capabilities of humans, the merman pondered the possibility of driving all of the species living in shallow waters to this particular region.
“How odd… could it be that sardines are not to his tastes?”
Shouldn’t be… Everyone eats all that’s in sight when they are hungry. Why would humans be an exception?
Voices then echoed from faraway waters:
“Maybe he doesn’t know how to eat.”
“No way, humans aren’t stupid. They’re as smart as Abyss.”
“Gululu, right, what does ‘stupid’ mean?”
Xia Yi heard a sudden splash come from the sea and immediately turned around in alarm, fully prepared to climb higher onto the shoal rocks. The next moment, he froze.
Wet, silvery long hair draped over spotless, pale and naked shoulders; the water reflected a captivating luster against that pearl-coloured skin. Those dark, amethyst eyes were like the charm of a devil hiding in a purple aurora. Colourless lips were slightly parted and shaped like an exquisitely pure and luxurious crystal.
This wasn’t just beauty— this was an appearance far too bewitching to be human.
A small, delicate white conch was strung around the slender neck by a black thread. The person’s chest and lower half were still submerged in the ocean. The man looked over, causing Xia Yi to almost miss his step and fall right into the water below.
How are people still here?
Xia Yi felt as if he’d been exposed to some sort of danger. He didn’t think meeting another person under these circumstances was a situation to be happy about.
Instead of hoping for the other person to offer him a knife to cut up food, Xia Yi reckoned it’d be a much better idea to stay far away and not give that knife any chance of harming him. Given his personality, Xia Yi tended to expect the worst possible outcome in order to prevent himself from being harmed.
He was already antisocial and idiosyncratic… now, he was even more “different”.
Xia Yi actually really cared about his difference, and clearly he didn’t want it to be discovered by others. So without any hesitation, he turned and ran.
Upon seeing Xia Yi’s reaction, the merman in the sea seemed to experience a bigger shock. Almost instinctively, it closed its eyes and a melodious, echoing song spread through the air. But Xia Yi continued to run as if he wasn’t affected by the singing at all and reached the other side of the shoal within seconds.
The merman, also known as Siren— the extremely dangerous sea monster— in every legend and confidential file, was dumbfounded.
This was impossible. The song of the merfolk was a predatory skill used for humans. As long as the recipient possessed any form of fear, hatred, anger, or other negative emotions, they would hear this fatal song and collapse without a single ounce of strength left in their body.
Did I not easily catch this human because he collapsed into the sea?
Why is this happening? He still cannot hear the song?!
But if it is not from fear, then why did this human just turn and run?
This piece of shoal is so small, where could he possibly run off to?
Well if he enters the water… then things will only become easier!
Xia Yi ran to the other side of the rock. He didn’t take any of the sardines because, as he understood it, the person he’d just seen might’ve been catching fish underwater and then throwing them onto the shore.
This food didn’t belong to him nor did he want to have them; it was best to avoid unnecessary trouble. He just needed to leave this shoal, swim maybe ten minutes out, and there’d be plenty of algae for him to pick and fill his stomach with. He could then continue with the plan he’d made yesterday about leaving this ocean region.
Xia Yi looked awful after living on the ocean for the past four to five days. His hair was messy, his clothes were all wrinkled and stained by patches of evaporated sea salt, and since his shoes were long gone, there were several blisters on the bottoms of his feet. The sharp shoal rocks had cut into several areas of his shirt and sleeves, while his back was splattered with dirt and sand.
At this time, even someone who was familiar with Xia Yi wouldn’t be able to recognise him at first glance.
Frankly, it was easier to swim without the restriction of clothing, but Xia Yi— or really, any human being— would have a deep-rooted habit of keeping their clothes on at all times. That was why Xia Yi hadn’t thrown the wrinkled fabrics away yet.
But before he’d jumped into the water, Xia Yi saw a silvery white tail flicking out of the ocean surface and stirring up a splash of white spray.
Just as Xia Yi was moving back in alarm, he saw a human-shaped figure slowly rise from the depths of the sea. That was when he finally realised what was before him.
Since the translucent, light silver finned ears were the same colour as its hair, Xia Yi hadn’t noticed them before now. As the water was more shallow and transparent near the shore, Xia Yi could see chiffon-like silver fins growing on its pale elbows and wrists with water droplets rolling down between their creases.
An arm gracefully pushed the water aside and it immediately neared the shoreline.
The flat chest was half covered by its light silver hair, and small silver scales could be seen beginning from the slim waist— Xia Yi was close to suspecting that he’d been starved for so long that he was now hallucinating. He could believe in the existence of giant sea monsters, but a merman? Seriously?
He stared dumbly as this beautiful, legendary creature abruptly reached out and fished a struggling sardine out of the water.
The slender hand with distinct joints proceeded to then slice open the fish’s stomach with ease, causing dark crimson blood to flow down its captor’s arm; the thin fins around the merman’s elbow turned a silvery-red colour.
As it used its fingers to pick out and throw away the sardine’s organs, the streaks of red blood created a noticeable contrast against its creamy hand.
Of course, it knew which part of a fish was the tastiest. Its sharp nails effortlessly slashed the sardine’s back, cutting out the piece that contained the richest umami and the least bones. Placing the morsel in its hand, it swam close to the shore once again and slowly raised its hand towards Xia Yi.
The salty smell of the sea and the stench of iron from the blood gradually filled the air.
Xia Yi suddenly felt the dull, throbbing pain intensify against his temples. A basketball-sized ball of water appeared out of nowhere, and due to Xia Yi’s lack of control, it fell right on the merman.
The merman stared blankly at Xia Yi. It wiped the water away from its lips and licked its fingers with its light pink tongue.
Why is this not salty?
The merman’s sound of confusion pulled Xia Yi back to reality.
Merpeople weren’t dangerous creatures… (Our protagonist has been deceived by fairy tales and popular culture)
Non-human creatures wouldn’t have complicated thoughts and undertones. Out of curiosity, Xia Yi attempted to reach out his hand and touch the palm in front of him.
It’s very cold. The smooth skin felt as if it was physically pulling Xia Yi towards it.
It wasn’t a temperature humans ought to have.
For a long time, Xia Yi desired to pet the little cat downstairs, but the feline was quite cold and never spared him a glance.
Before him wasn’t the hand of a human. It had an extra knuckle, which made the finger appear both slender and powerful— strangely charismatic. The nails were oval-shaped, long and sharp. Though they were still stained with blood, the water had now caused it to slowly run down the creature’s wrist.
After confirming that this merman wasn’t his hallucination, Xia Yi felt like he should be saying something, except he was at loss at what to say.
But it should be alright? Since only humans would communicate with their established-languages.
As long as enough kindness was shown, even a cat wouldn’t randomly scratch a person.
Xia Yi released the merman’s hand as he took the piece of fish. Although he needed some courage to eat raw fish, there was nothing he could do when being stared at by those deep, violet eyes. Luckily, the morsel wasn’t big enough to choke on, and Xia Yi could ignore the fishy scent even after eating mostly algae for the past couple of days.
Perhaps he was imagining things, but Xia Yi did feel the burning pain in his stomach alleviating.
Due to the fact that he couldn’t control his facial expressions well, Xia Yi had to recall the last time a character he’d played had smiled in a show. He had to remember what the plot that caused him to smile was and put himself in the character’s shoes before a smile could appear on his own face. The only downfall to this practice was the process being a little long.
The merman was watching Xia Yi attentively this whole time and was confused when it saw him smiling.
Merfolk indulged themselves in energy generated by all types of negative emotions. Positive emotions, on the contrary, would make a merfolk lose their appetite. Yet why did this human not have the ‘right’ emotions, neither when he was running away nor when smiling?!
Definitely worthy of collecting!
T/N: I can finally post one of the cover arts for SMA’s hardcover book! *confetti throwing* Cheers to Xia Yi’s first conscious meeting with his gong~~