At present, no one could say with certainty what factors were behind the appearance of special abilities. There were wielders of both genders, varied skin colours and ages, and in fact, not even one’s personal health played into whether they developed an ability or not. For example, it had been said that an extremely powerful ability user around the Bohai Sea was a legless old man.
That night, there was no wind or rain; the silence was almost foreboding.
Cities never used to be like this in the past as there would always be blinking neon lights, roaring engines, nearby active construction sites if one was unlucky enough, and the upstairs neighbours who’d be playing mahjong… Now, people had realised that even the noise and disturbances were something to reminisce over.
Their calm and peaceful lives had completely disappeared. Walking unprepared while outside at night would only result in another corpse on the streets by daybreak.
Ability users weren’t gods since they too could be killed by bullets, knives, metal pipes, and even bricks. Thus, they were very cautious; most of them checked any temporary residence multiple times before not only locking all the doors and windows, but also blocking them with heavy furniture in case attackers decided to unconventionally come through the glass. They often slept in the corner-most area of the house, with some going as far as resting under the bed or in a cabinet. By doing this, they ensured themselves at least a split second of reaction time if anything unexpected were to happen.
【You are leaving me?】
When a deep and menacing voice sounded right in one’s head during the middle of the night… who wouldn’t be scared to their wits’ end?
Infrasonic waves were sound waves below 20 hertz, completely inaudible to the human ear. When such waves travelled, they weren’t prone to being absorbed by water or air, nor did they have a fixed direction. If sound waves and frequencies could be properly controlled, infrasonic waves could travel up to twice around the globe.
And so… there was a group of unfortunate people. It was a small thing to bump into beds or cabinets, and no one could really care about that now. With fear in their eyes, these people looked all around themselves but found nothing out of the usual.
Still, that cold and terrifying feeling was still there, chilling them to their bones.
Was it a nightmare?
Though there existed many special ability users, only a number of them could hear the voice. Percentage-wise, there might not even be one out of a group of ten, and it wasn’t hard to understand that the few powerful ones wouldn’t all be gathered together. On average, only government-related forces could create such a situation, so they managed to deduce a frightening conclusion.
—It wasn’t a nightmare. How was it possible for several people to dream of the same thing simultaneously?
When the earthquake occured in the Pacific Ocean, the released infrasonic waves were jumbled and disorderly. These ability users only came down with migraines, so no one thought much about it. But this time, a cold voice suddenly sounded out in the middle of the night… The various hypotheses developed around the world were countless. In short, Li Shao was probably the only person on Earth who did nothing but turn around and fall back asleep.
After being startled awake, An Li and Na Lin were stumped for a short while before recognising the voice as that of the merman.
Women were often more meticulous in nature and couldn’t help but ponder over what in the world was going on. Did this have to do with Xia Yi? Or was it that the sea monsters were still lurking around the island? That would be terrible news!
Far away, in the underwater trench.
Xia Yi couldn’t tell if it was day or night anymore; his concept of time and seconds had been blurred.
【Day or night?】
Siren looked at Xia Yi in confusion.
Is that important?
The difference between the sun and moon was nothing but the density of plankton near the ocean’s surface, as well as the rising and receding of tides near islands and land. Other than that, ‘days’ had no significance to sea monsters.
Xia Yi paused for a moment before simply and straightforwardly saying, 【I need to sleep at night.】
【You are tired? Then we will stop.】Siren swam to Xia Yi’s side.
As the waters darkened, his anxiousness seemed to have been placated. Even his gaze towards Xia Yi had become much more at ease than before.
Xia Yi silently understood that ‘sleep’, in the vocabulary of Siren and the other sea monsters, was a synonym for ‘too tired to swim’, ‘too full to eat’, and ‘too bored to do anything’.
【Eh? Here?】Upon hearing that they were taking a break, the first to voice its opposition was the giant octopus.
They were in one of the trench’s long and narrow gaps. As mollusks, Abyss and Eurybia were forced to contract their bodies in order to pass through the available space. In simpler terms, they were wedged uncomfortably in the crack, no doubt annoyed.
【Make way! Your stomach’s blocking what’s up front, I can’t see anything.】
The oarfish bumped its head against the octopus’ body.
【Enough, Ceto. There’s still Eurybia in front of me, and that squid still has Gululu on its tentacles!】The octopus defended its innocence while making sure that the oarfish didn’t run into the Lion’s Mane jellyfish.
In order to pass through the narrow waterway, the squid had to stretch out its tentacles to allow the crab to crawl through first. It then moved all of its tentacles over before finally squishing its body through.
Luckily, though the crab’s body was big, it was very flat. Using six legs to support itself against the rocks, Gululu did its best to climb downwards. A good thing about the buoyancy of seawater was that it allowed nimble movements regardless of whether the creature was right-side up, upside down, or even sideways. Seeing the crab’s current movements, it looked like it was rock climbing.
Humans retained a very accurate term to describe the scene in front of them.
【Maybe we should pass this part first…】
Xia Yi finally understood what Li Shao meant when he said ‘black lines down my head’1The literal description/reference to how “awkwardness/shook” is presented in anime and/or animations in general. Eg. .
He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what he was supposed to say. If he turned away, he wouldn’t be able to help laughing, and if he laughed, he figured that Siren would get angry… These sea monsters were honestly so interesting.
Siren turned and took one look at the jammed disaster before shifting his gaze elsewhere and staying silent.
Frankly speaking, taking this path was a habit of Siren’s. It was a shortcut that the merman could swim right through. The oarfish also had no problem passing through the gap. However…
Anyways, it was totally the fault of the one leading the way!
The Mariana Trench, around 1300 metres deep.
Xia Yi heard a distant, barely-audible voice— no— he felt an airy sound wave appear in his head. With great effort, he eventually began distinguishing the syllables.
The voice was quietly calling, “Siren.”
The sea monsters clearly heard it too, collectively stopping and looking towards a particular direction.
If the sea monsters recognise it, then it’s not one of Siren’s kind.
Xia Yi didn’t know why he’d let out a breath of relief and was confused by his own actions. Theoretically, he should wish for Siren to meet another merfolk — that way, he could successfully leave.
【Siren, what are you all doing? I’ve been calling for a while…】
The voice was airy and weird. Xia Yi had an inkling that it wasn’t on the same frequency as the other sea monsters’ sound waves.
He was right— this sound wave wasn’t infrasonic. Rather it was ultrasonic. The pros of ultrasonic waves were that they had a good sense of direction and could travel far underwater. One rarely heard them on land because ultrasonic waves could easily be lost in the air; it was impossible for sound to travel around even half of the globe above water.
【Siren’s bringing us through a very difficult…】
Before Abyss could finish, Siren interrupted, 【Nothing. Abyss has gained weight.】
【Nonsense! I didn’t gain weight! I’ve measured with the bottles!】
【I said you have gained weight and that is final!】
【…Gu, alright.】Abyss flipped its tentacles, radiating an air of ‘you’re the boss, you can say that the ocean’s boiling and no one can do anything about it’.
(Wait, we need an explanation here. Phorcys is an oddball that’s very bad with sound waves, pretty much on par with ability users. It can hear infrasonic waves but has trouble using them to communicate globally. Thus, it uses ultrasonic waves, which are easier to send and have a better sense of direction. Meanwhile, Siren and the other sea monsters are still using infrasonic waves. This builds up a long-distance, underwater telephone… Let’s take a moment to offer our sympathies to the ability users who are forced to listen to SMB— Sea Monster Broadcastings.)
【What is it, Siren? Who’s leaving you? You woke me up.】
The airy voice was quite unclear, breaking up every now and then, but at least the meaning was received clearly.
This time, none of the sea monsters talked, all waiting for Siren’s reaction.
【Nothing, Phorcys, just keep yourself busy…】
【But no ships have passed by the sargassum sea recently, not even an inflatable one. I even fell asleep waiting. This is so unusual.】The voice in the distance sounded quite depressed as it continued to mumblingly ramble, 【Siren, come and take a look for me!】
【Phorcys, you’re so stupid. You didn’t even notice this big of a change!】The oarfish couldn’t help itself.
【What change? The humans haven’t gone extinct.】Nereus muttered quietly, complaining to no one in particular. 【Three of my fishies were killed by humans, boohoo. And now that we’re going into the deep sea, I can do nothing but leave them. What will my cuties do without me? They’ll get eaten by other fish!】
【Why are you crying when you don’t even have eyes?!】The octopus grumbled, before hanging up this time’s long-distance underwater telephone with a final sentence. 【Phorcys, I’ll come find you in the Atlantic Ocean after some time.】
Disregarding how stunned the powerful ability users were after listening in on this one-sided conversation, the sea monsters continued to behave as if nothing had ever happened. They kept on rock climbing, trying their best to disperse the traffic.
Having listened from the beginning to end, Xia Yi was still baffled.
Do sea monsters also have regional differences? They separate between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans?
Wait no… didn’t the squid say to the crab that it came from Antarctica? Of course, since there’s seas in Antarctica, and also the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean… Uh, there’s nothing in the Arctic Ocean. But why aren’t there any sea monsters in the Arctic Ocean?
【Do not let your imagination get too wild.】
Who said that all people (?) were idiots when they were in love? Siren here had just taught himself to guess Xia Yi’s initial suspicion.
【Phorcys is not a merperson. It is just a… It is not here because it does not have the ability to move.】
Good heavens, other than a slow crab, there’s another sea monster that can’t even move! What could that even be? A starfish? A sea cucumber? Wait no, both of those could move. They were just a bit too slow… It couldn’t be a sea anemone, could it? Corals are formed by countless dead or alive coral bugs… Or maybe shells? Hold on, do shells have any destructive power to begin with?
Xia Yi felt a bit dazed; he had no idea that many more ability users around the world were currently battling their own logic.
In a base on the outskirts of Beijing.
Those who’d just managed to catch a wink of sleep were all awakened, and with sleepy eyes, they sat down for a meeting. Due to the present reality, there were no strong teas or hot coffees. They could only brave through the reports.
“Only special ability users heard the voices?”
Everyone stared at each other, not quite understanding the situation.
That was a great question; almost nobody had heard the exact same phrases, but the meanings were identical. And though the grammar and vocabulary varied slightly, the weirdest thing was the way that it had been said. For some ability users, it had even been spoken in a dialect.
“They’re sound waves. Chen Yanping, who possesses a mind-related ability, is sure of it.”
“What’s complicated is that everyone heard the same few names in the conversation. This has to be infrasonic waves. Before the apocalypse, the state had records of these things.”
One of the ability users who was silently standing off to the side finally couldn’t contain his question anymore.
“Hold on… Phorcys, Abyss, Siren… who are they?”
They clearly didn’t sound Chinese!