When the tossing waves finally stilled, Li Shao’s knees gave out and he collapsed on the boat.
“An… An-Jie? Was that Xia Yi?”
“You’re his assistant, can’t you tell?” An Li retorted. She was still thinking that she may be dreaming… Stranded out at sea with no other boats in sight could be due to many reasons, but nothing could explain why she’d just met a legendary merman…
Right, and that song!
It appeared on the Thalassa Goddess… That bewitching tune, despite being melodious, reeked of the chilling stench of death. The sea monsters also appeared around the cruise ship around the same time, so did Xia Yi jump into the ocean whilst knowing all that?
An Li didn’t know if she was overthinking things, and as she stared at the ocean, nothing disturbed the gradually-calming waves.
Since when could humans stay underwater for a prolonged period of time without needing to rise for air?
The deeper An Li’s mind went down the rabbit hole, the more unreadable her expression became.
Due to the damage caused by the sea monsters’ infrasonic waves, as well as the merman’s song, only An Li, Li Shao, Na Lin, and the middle-aged man with a wind ability were still conscious out of their entire group of twenty-or-so people. Even though none of them could believe what they’d just seen, they realised that they should be safe now.
“So… we somehow angered that jellyfish?”
But what were the jellyfish’s ‘babies’?! They’ve only been catching fish all this time!
Nightfall arrived, and the moon was covered by clouds. Out on the pitch black ocean, the only sound heard was the steady echoing of waves. Li Shao and the others couldn’t calm their nerves; they forced themselves to stay awake for no one dared to close their eyes.
Without any light, the sea was like the mouth of a giant beast laying in wait to swallow up innocent prey.
When an icy drop of water landed on Li Shao’s face, he didn’t think too much of it.
Maybe the waves were tossing a bit more due to the winds.
Soon after, An Li touched her cheeks and looked up in confusion; another drop landed on her eyelid. Excitedly, she exclaimed, “It’s raining!”
“Oh my god! Yes! It’s raining!”
The people scrambled to find any and all containers to collect the rainwater, but because the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish had previously half tipped their boat, many things had fallen into the sea. They didn’t have time to think of a well-rounded plan since the rain was already pouring down, so they opened their mouths and drank straight from the sky.
“Wait, would there be radiation in the rain?” Na Lin asked in alarm.
“You’re still thinking about that? Well, would you prefer to die from thirst then?” An Li wiped some water out of her eyes and bent over to check on those on the lifeboat who were still unconscious. The captain, surprisingly, was still alive, and A-Min, despite how sickly she was, hadn’t heard the merman’s song because she’d fainted at the beginning— thus, she was still breathing.
One by one, they were awoken by the rain.
It’s raining and we’re still alive! These two realisations were enough to make them weep with joy. As for how the sea monsters had left, they really didn’t have the energy to ponder that.
Tens of metres underwater, no one could tell that it was raining above the surface.
Xia Yi felt like he was carrying something really heavy that restricted the movement of his limbs. If he went any deeper, the pressure would probably prevent him from moving altogether.
Nereus and Abyss’s fight carried on somewhere below Xia Yi, and they probably angered another sea monster named Eurybia for both of them were kicked back up; Nereus had many broken tentacles while Abyss was sporting a new, gruesome-looking scratch mark on its head. The jellyfish and octopus were now sulking off to the side, far away from each other, and neither was making a sound.
When the ‘Oarfish Rollercoaster’ arrived in all its glory, its eyes practically glowed upon seeing the big octopus. Tossing the crab in Abyss’s general direction, the oarfish complained,【You can carry the crab. This thing is so damn heavy!】
Abyss reached out three tentacles to grab the giant crab.
The crab gave no reaction.
Nereus curiously swam over and tried to sting the crab with its tentacles, but sadly, its shell was too hard for the jellyfish to poke through. To Nereus’s surprise, even this brat’s stomach was hard and caused it to snap a few more of its stingers. With a ‘humph’, Nereus swam away, annoyed.
Abyss pulled one of the crab’s pincers up with its tentacle and dropped it with a splat.
Still no reaction.
With another flick of its tentacles, the octopus slapped the brat. Still, the crab’s pincers and legs remained limp right where they were; on the contrary, the black eyes that protruded from the edge of its shell were tirelessly spinning 360०. Confused, Abyss picked the crab up and shook it.
Xia Yi almost laughed, but having learned from his previous mistake, he didn’t want to choke on water again.
The crab is probably carsick, Xia Yi thought to himself. That’s kind of pitiful.
【Huh? Carsick? What’s that?】
Several voices appeared simultaneously in Xia Yi’s head, including that of Siren. Startled, he turned around and found both the oarfish and octopus staring at him with wide eyes. Though the jellyfish was eyeless, it also came closer towards him.
With a wave of Siren’s arm, a jet of water detached itself from the currents and slammed into the sea monsters’ foreheads, knocking them away.
【Stay away from Shayi.】
【Oh? He has a name?】Abyss dumbly asked.
【I’m going to name my little cuties too! Every one of them!】Nereus followed suit.
【Then my bottles too— wait, hold up!】Abyss flipped itself over beneath the water in bewilderment. Like a pianist, its tentacles tapped rhythmically on the crab’s shell… Well, it’s normal to have a thinking habit… right?
【How can this human understand us? And I heard his infrasonic waves just now!】
Xia Yi could feel Siren’s gaze on him growing more dangerous by the second.
He wanted to say something, but ‘drawing a blank during crucial moments’ had been a problem of his since forever.
【Can stay underwater and can talk to us…】Abyss looked at Xia Yi’s legs with clear skepticism. It then turned towards the merman and questioned,【Siren, is this really not one of your kind?】
To Xia Yi’s shock, Siren actually hesitated before answering.
【I do not… believe so. He can’t hear my song…】
Before Xia Yi could sigh in relief, the merman went on.
【Except I do have an odd feeling when I see him. I am drawn to him, but if I am too close, a strange urge is telling me to eat him…】
Xia Yi’s hair stood on end. If he wasn’t surrounded by sea monsters, he’d be running for his life right now.
【Hmm? Eat? Yes, our kind would kill each other upon sight.】
Siren heard Xia Yi’s infrasonic waves and responded, clearly puzzled.
Intraspecific competition was innate in some creatures, such as octopuses and squids. Of the same nature, that was one of the reasons why merfolk were so rare.
【You’re not going to eat him now, right, Siren? He doesn’t have a tail.】Abyss continued to study Xia Yi.
Merfolk were violent creatures, and when they met one of their own kind, they wouldn’t stop fighting until one of them died. For them, reproduction occurred during a special period of time that occasionally appeared during their long lives. There was no reason as to how it happened, and sea monsters were no scientists. They wouldn’t try to explain where or how this reproduction period came to be— their inherent knowledge only told them that the time when a merfolk’s tail transformed into legs was when they were at their fiercest. During this period, the only one that could approach the merfolk and wouldn’t be mercilessly attacked would be another merfolk. There was no schedule or reason to the merfolk’s reproduction cycle, and no patterns had been observed to inform sea creatures when it would appear. Merfolk were truly the most willful beings in the ocean.
But… what floats in front of us is clearly a human! He’s practically harmless!
The sea monsters stared at Xia Yi and mumbled under their breaths.
However, Siren had yet to connect the dots, and the more its amethyst eyes raked over Xia Yi, the happier the merman became. Reaching its arms around Xia Yi’s neck again, Siren figured that it had finally solved a mystery: the reason why it had been having odd impulses was because it had met another merman who happened to be in the ‘special period’ =___=
Meanwhile, Xia Yi was still in disbelief over how he could produce infrasonic waves and the fact that Siren apparently wanted to eat him.
Defeated, the octopus knocked its head with its tentacles. It had a feeling that Siren wasn’t at all listening to what anyone else was saying.
An infrasonic wave sounded feebly.
A certain crab twitched its legs weakly, with white foams still spitting out of its mouth.【Gululu… Ceto is going to kill me… Help…】
Another moment of chaos passed before the poor crab was finally placed onto a coral reef and had a chance to take a breather. It was furiously waving its pincers at the oarfish when, out of the corner of its eyes, it spotted Siren and was promptly scared by the merman’s aura.
【Si… Siren? What’s going on with you?】
Mental waves… infrasonic waves… nothing felt right. This is terrifying… I’m getting the urge to crawl for my life!
Abyss dragged the oarfish along with its tentacles and swam away with a poker face.【They’re in heat.】
Nereus trailed behind them like an idiot.【Mmhmm, heat.】
【…gululu!!】The poor crab was so shocked that the only thing it could do was blow more bubbles.
Behind them, Xia Yi was in no mood to pay attention to what the sea monsters were saying; Siren’s hand had moved beneath his clothes and cold fingers were trailing down the shallow dip of his spine. Perhaps the merman had spent too long next to and on him, for its skin was gradually beginning to warm up. This caused some discomfort for Xia Yi. He wasn’t used to physical contact, and when Siren’s body temperature had been colder than even the seawater, he wasn’t as resistant to the merman’s touches.
He reached out his hand and hesitantly felt Siren’s cheek.
Honestly, Xia Yi couldn’t understand why the sea monsters were even questioning his species. His ears weren’t elfish fins, and there was no translucent webbing between his fingers.
【In what ways do I even resemble a merman? How could they mistake me for one in the first place?】
This time, Xia Yi clearly heard his own sound waves. When his concentration was interrupted by his surprise, the infrasonic waves immediately disappeared. It seemed like he could only produce these waves when he was thinking hard on something; at the same time, these sounds wouldn’t bring splitting headaches like those of the sea monsters.
Xia Yi’s assumptions were quite right. Not all infrasonic waves were harmful. For example, the sound made by a fluttering butterfly was light, calming, and much more pleasant than the frequencies that sea monsters spoke at.
【I have never seen one of my kind during this period… nor have I undergone it myself…】
Siren grasped Xia Yi’s fingers in its hand. They were a little rough, but very warm and comfortable.
Hmm… I have made my decision. He is mine. I will not let anyone steal him from me.
【I can’t go deeper.】Xia Yi glanced at the dark, bottomless sea below, a nervous tremble filling his heart.
Gently squishing Xia Yi’s fingers, Siren frowned.【Your bones are so hard!】
Organisms dwelling in the deep sea had very thin and flexible bones, allowing them to move with exceptional agility. Their skin and muscles were smooth and pliable, containing a lot of moisture in them. These features helped them balance the external and internal pressures. Although Siren had never met any of his kind before, he vaguely remembered something about the average merfolk not being able to swim in the deep sea.
【You can. Just like how last time, you used the ocean water to pull Ceto off the island!】
Siren spoke while using a lot of gestures; that couldn’t be helped because the concept was too difficult to describe and the sea monsters never concerned themselves with such complicated theories in their conversations. But thanks to the merman’s explanation, Xia Yi finally understood the general idea that Siren was trying to convey despite his terrible comprehension skills.
If he layered a thin bubble over his skin and filled the space in between with enough water to form a certain density, he could withstand the pressure of the deep sea.
Of course, this required an insane level and control of his ability. If he relaxed even slightly, he’d be flattened to smithereens.
Yet what left Xia Yi speechless wasn’t the daunting plan.
He was just a little at a loss.
More often than not, Xia Yi didn’t know what he was doing and why he needed to do it. Though, the reason was that he couldn’t leave human society entirely and live in the middle of nowhere all by himself. He needed to work, to eat, to sleep! For these three simple goals, he was somehow required to do even more things: shopping in the supermarket, listening to people that didn’t make sense, and attending innumerous pointless activities, such as boarding that luxury cruise ship. However, during these times, because these tasks were supposed to be responsibilities, he didn’t question too much and just went along with them. In a way, they were ‘understandable’ despite him having no other choice.
But why did he have to go into the deep sea?
All that he hoped for was to find somewhere devoid of other people…
Wait… technically speaking… there’d definitely be no people down there.