【No wonder Thaumas always ranted about how ‘the ocean is a different place now’… but now that it’s old, it’s refusing to move and talk a lot.】Eurybia floated on its back in the water and scratched the crab’s shell with its tentacles out of boredom. The noise was sharp and grinding, startling plenty of fish and other life in the deep sea; the sea monsters helped themselves, enjoying the lavish feast.
【Ah, I forgot that you, Eurybia, live where you rarely see humans!】
【There aren’t many humans, but there’s been much less food around since Gululu came!】
The sound of the squid tormenting the crab’s shell grew shriller by the second, until the crab couldn’t stand it anymore and voiced its complaint.
【Stop it, Eurybia! And that’s ridiculous! I definitely don’t eat more than you!】
【You don’t eat much, but you’re not a lone crab.】
Thousands of king crabs had migrated to Antarctica and formed a battalion on the ocean floor. Since they had very few natural predators, their journey could be described as one of ‘ecological destruction’.
【Well, you’re not a lone squid either!】Now the can of worms had been opened. The crab furiously snapped up the squid’s tentacles in its pincers and began pulling harshly, as if it wanted to rip them right off the squid’s body. 【It’s all because the humans are too terrifying, stopping at nothing to catch my kind for food… That’s why the little ones were so scared that they followed me all the way to Antarctica.】
Honestly, humans had such weird tastes! King crabs were gigantic and looked threatening enough that not even the usual predators dared to take them lightly. Yet these humans seemed to be deliberately hunting them for food!
【Eh? Nothing of this sort has happened in the Ross Sea!】
Now that it had brought the subject up, Eurybia was scolded once more.
【Like I said, your flesh is old and tough. See?! Not even the humans want to eat it!】The oarfish considered itself justified.
【Oi, stop arguing!】
【Shut up, Nereus! You taste awful, too! Only Abyss enjoys eating you.】
Countless ‘murders’ took place every day in the ocean, just like how it had played out with the sperm whale and the giant squid.
Other than Thaumas and Siren, the rest of the sea monsters all had those of their own genera. Despite being much larger in size and appearance, the sea monsters wouldn’t do much for their kin. ‘Life’ and ‘death’ were both ordinary occurrences. The average Lion’s Mane Jellyfish lived a very short life span; whenever Nereus swam back a little later than usual, it was likely that a whole new batch of jellyfish had taken the older group’s place.
‘Emotional ties’ to their own kin was something that still hadn’t developed in the minds of many animals.
Take the African safari for example: a buffalo herd would calm down and resume gnawing at grass or drinking from a river once the lions had dragged off their target. The buffalos could ignore the sight of their companions being ripped to shreds behind them; in the eyes of humans, wasn’t this cruel behaviour?
But it was merely just a survival tactic.
【Really? Do you mean that you taste good, Ceto? Or perhaps you’re talking about Gululu?】Siren peered dangerously at the sea monsters— he was simply worried about not being able to find much food around. Anywhere those spider-crabs roamed, there’d be almost nothing but jellyfish and a few fast-swimming fishes. It was, in the words of mankind, like trying to scavenge the fields after the passing of a locust swarm.
With that, the sea monsters collectively remained silent and obediently swam further out in search of a meal.
As for Siren?
Of course he stayed behind to keep Xia Yi company.
Nereus also stayed where it was.
It had now been proven that the ‘old saying’ was far from true; one did indeed need a lightbulb1Lightbulb: Chinese slang for a “third-wheeler” when on a date. If it wasn’t for the glowing Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, they’d certainly be enveloped in complete darkness— Xia Yi wouldn’t even be able to see where Siren was.
It had been extremely difficult for Xia Yi to eat in the past few days. First, he had to create a perfect layer of water around the food, and then melt it together with the layer around him. By the time the food actually reached his mouth, an hour or two had usually passed. However, the good thing was that he was becoming more and more adept at using his ability. Surprisingly enough, he could now create thin, blade-like ice for grooming messy hair and stubble. As for waste, he perfectly encapsulated it within a water ball before throwing it away in a remote area of the trench.
Currently, Xia Yi was concentrating hard on a ball of water tens of metres away.
【Honestly couldn’t find anything edible…】The crab mumbled as it climbed back.
Following a quick thought, Xia Yi waited until the creature was at a certain point before releasing his control on the water. The sudden rush of waves threw the king crab onto its back.
【What’s this? Whirlpool? Help! Come back! Those spider-crabs came and it’s an a-attack!】
The crab cried frantically. Since its body was heavy to begin with, it meant that a lot of pressure was pushing down on it. After much effort, it finally pushed itself back up with its pincer. Its spinning, black eyes were immediately graced with the scene of the rest of the sea monsters surrounding it on all sides and staring mercilessly.
Abyss shoved its head down and menacingly asked, 【Where are the spider-crabs? Find one right now. I’ll eat you if you come up with nothing!】
The crab glanced around dumbly, subconsciously tucking in its pincers. But the problem was that even when it tried to tuck its pincers in, they could only rest in front of its body— or in other words, its mouth. Overall, it basically looked like it was miserably covering its mouth, with its face appearing all pitiful.
Xia Yi was stunned for a moment and rubbed his head.
He felt that his standards for both visuals and logic had been messed up… The deep sea is indeed not a place meant for long-term stay!
As much as Siren didn’t want to go back, given that Xia Yi couldn’t continue much deeper and the sea monsters couldn’t find enough food, they had no choice but to change direction and head up again.
As long as we stay far away from humans and land… that would be good!
【Where’s the nearest island?】
Siren snapped back, staring at Xia Yi with a complicated emotion brewing in his eyes. The sudden, dangerously murderous aura shocked Nereus into rapidly retreating. The jellyfish shrank far away, but Xia Yi didn’t notice it at all. He even proceeded to gaze at the trench under his feet after asking the question.
It was eerie and dark. According to the octopus’ words, they could arrive at Challenger Deep after passing through the long and narrow waterway.
It was an abyss that was over ten thousand metres deep; the phrase alone already implied the terrifying pressure.
【For what purpose do you need an island? Are you looking for an island inhabited by humans?】
Xia Yi still hadn’t realised the danger that was hidden in Siren’s expression. Since there were layers of water separating them, he didn’t feel much of Siren’s touch. After all, having spent several days in a ‘traffic-jammed’ waterway meant that he was confident that these sea monsters wouldn’t decide to see him as food when they grew hungry. Still, Xia Yi stayed as far away from the jellyfish’s stingers and the squid’s barbs as possible. In comparison, Siren was much more harmless.
Xia Yi was never good at distinguishing underlying messages from the actions and hints of others.
When Siren suddenly swam close and hugged his shoulders from behind with an odd posture, Xia Yi was only a little confused by the strangeness in Siren’s infrasonic waves. Except he couldn’t quite pinpoint why it sounded odd. Thus, he continued his train of thought.
【It’d be the best if we could…】
Beautiful, pale fingers with translucent webbing stopped in front of Xia Yi’s throat.
【And if I do not let you go?】
Siren lowered his head, his silver hair flowing gently in front of Xia Yi’s eyes. Under the faint light, that bewitching allure and emotionless face caused Xia Yi to be a little dazed. Subconsciously, he replied, 【It’s alright if there isn’t an island… There should be some at sea…】
Siren drew closer, almost kissing the human’s ears. In a strangely cold tone, he asked, 【Some of what?】
【A cruise… or some other ship…】
【As long as there are humans?】Siren’s infrasonic waves grew stranger with each word, sending the sea monsters into a fleeing mess. The merman’s fingers pressed against Xia Yi’s neck. Though the dense layers of water stood between them and he couldn’t penetrate his throat in a swift motion, it was still enough to cause fatal damage.
Xia Yi finally figured out that something wasn’t quite right. He tried to struggle out of Siren’s arms, wanting to turn around to look him in the eye.
Obviously, his strength was no match for the merman. Giving up, he explained, 【I want clothes. How else am I going to find them if I don’t go somewhere with people?】
Xia Yi’s mind was still stuck on his previous concern. Having been in the ocean for countless days – and actually suffering through a tsunami in the meantime – he only had what he’d been wearing since the beginning. It was uncomfortable wearing the same clothes for so long, even more so when they were all torn up.
This is why we humans are such troublesome creatures. If I didn’t have food and water, I probably wouldn’t have the energy to worry about these things.
Xia Yi laughed at himself a little. It wasn’t as if he could just decide to not wear clothes at all. He wouldn’t be able to do that.
【Clothes?】Siren repeated blankly.
【Yes. I’m different from you guys. Humans need to wear clothes.】After so many days of failed communication, Xia Yi realised that whether it be the sea monsters or the merman, they all knew next to nothing about what should be common sense. That was why his explanations had become more straightforward, which was the best solution. Anything too complex or implicit didn’t treat Xia Yi kindly anyway.
【The nearby islands may have encountered the tsunami too, so they might not work as well as ships. People usually flee with only food and fresh water, thereby leaving things like clothing and blankets on their vessels!】
The more Xia Yi thought about it, the more certain he grew. While this was meant to be his inner thought process, infrasonic waves had projected them out, making it easier to communicate. If Xia Yi actually needed to say everything aloud, he’d certainly have a more difficult time.
【This way… we won’t run into other people.】
Words and infrasonic waves could both be lies, but emotions were a solid truth.
Xia Yi is very satisfied with this plan— Siren could tell because emotions opposite of what typically lured him in were felt. He was supposed to be disgusted by such emotional waves, but now—
An odd and intense heat spread along his tail.
Surprised, Siren released his arms and glided away. Sure enough, the strange heat receded once he was distanced from Xia Yi; his silver tail remained just as it was. Afraid of Xia Yi noticing, Siren panicked a little.
【Are you hungry? I will go and find you something to eat.】
【…Huh?】Weren’t we just talking about clothes? How did it jump to food?
Xia Yi watched Siren swim off, completely baffled. That was when he noticed how dark his surroundings were; the sea monsters had all disappeared somewhere. A wave of nervousness washed over him. Even though he enjoyed his quiet time and preferred to stay undisturbed… imagine the deep sea, where there was nothing but the sound of one’s own beating heart… Staying put was definitely not a good idea!
He didn’t have to swim far before he heard Abyss talking.
【Siren? You’re so fast?】
【Yeah, didn’t Thaumas say that merfolk would battle amongst themselves like Eurybia? Once they mate, they’d no longer be in heat and might kill each other! What did I say? Of course Siren would win! And where are we going now— Ow! Siren, what are you hitting me for?! That hurts!】
T/N: Huge thank you to my amazing friend, our very own THISBRO, for drawing this fanart for SMA!!
- 1Lightbulb: Chinese slang for a “third-wheeler”