Because the weather had become incredibly odd, with great temperature differences between night and day, Xia Yi didn’t encounter any diving fishermen as he approached the shore late into the night. As he avoided the fishing nets, he saw a few paddle boats – the kind one would find in a park – floating nearby. There were obvious silhouettes aboard, and upon noticing the splash over on his side, they quickly moved in.
Diving down again, Xia Yi grew more and more uncomfortable the closer he was to the beach.
Countless garbage littered the sea floor, and things like abandoned shoes and aluminum cans bobbed in the water, causing Xia Yi to bump into them if he wasn’t especially careful with his movements. The worst thing was the plastic bags— all black-ish and tangled in brown seaweed. More random items were scattered around, entirely covered in rust. A startled fish dashed past Xia Yi’s eyes, and he couldn’t tell what species it was, but its scales were matted in darkish gray, clearly suffering from severe pollution.
So the waters near the shore are like this…
Having been to the deep sea at a depth of over two thousand metres, as well as to the regions around an inhabited island, Xia Yi’s heart was heavy.
Previously, the sea monsters had said that the spider crabs originally lived around 4000 metres deep underwater, yet they’d been plaguing shallow seas in recent years. Their constant migration somehow gave them the audacity to set foot on the Mariana Trench, throwing this part of the Pacific Ocean into chaos. Their reason? Likely because humans had thrown harmful substances into the waters that the spider crabs once inhabited; even approaching that area would induce a headache.
Having – unfortunately – watched Godzilla and The Host, Xia Yi was fairly frightened.
The violence of the killer crabs, combined with their large numbers, was already terrifying, and they were just crabs… What would happen if an even more dangerous sea creature were to be affected by nuclear radiation or heavy chemical pollution? Just the thought of it sent chills down his spine.
Well, since he was on the topic… weren’t the origins of Abyss and the other sea monsters strange? If they didn’t evolve from nuclear pollution or radiation, where did their gigantic sizes come from? Were they naturally prehistoric monsters?
Scrambling up the shore, Xia Yi couldn’t help but shiver in the cold wind.
It felt much colder out here than when he was back in the water.
After staying in the deep sea, Xia Yi’s greatest improvement was that he now swam much faster. At the same time, he no longer needed to meticulously build a layer of water around himself in shallow waters to maintain his body temperature. In truth, he was having a hard time adjusting to the fact that he was no longer in the ocean.
It wasn’t until he started feeling a sense of suffocation that he finally took a deep breath.
Having not used his nose to breathe for so long, even this supposedly innate action felt foreign… =___=
Since the wind was harsh enough to feel bone-piercing, there weren’t many people on the beach. Crawling to his feet, Xia Yi wobbled as he took his first few steps and almost collapsed back to the ground. Umm… thinking back, it had been a long time since he’d last walked on dry land— an ipsilateral arms and legs motion was inevitable. All in all, the feeling of stepping on solid land more or less made it seem as if he was in a dream.
“Who’s there?” A harsh voice pierced through the air.
Before he could look up, Xia Yi was kicked to the ground.
“Chen-Ge, it’s another idiot trying to find food on the beach.”
“Oh wow, this guy’s starved nuts, diving into the sea in the middle of the night! He’s drenched all over! Just wait and watch him burn up with a fever by tomorrow morning. Ha! I bet he’ll kick the bucket in three days!”
“Toss him aside if he’s got nothing. It’s not easy for us fellows to guard the beach at night, all freezing to death. Don’t waste time on this idiot! These days, even giving some brutes a good beating costs a ton of energy!”
The other gangsters laughed in agreement as they dragged Xia Yi away and threw him down by the dyke.
Xia Yi didn’t move, nor did he resist the rough manhandling as the men searched his clothes. His outfit was in an absolutely terrible state and there was literally nothing of any value on him— so much so that the men spat at him out of frustration when they left.
This area seemed like it was once a field for something like a seaside park, but now the ground was covered in dying human beings.
Low sobs echoed against each other. Xia Yi laid silently to recover his strength— his swim all the way here was quite tiring. The mumbles of those beside him trickled into his ears, allowing him to just barely figure out that this city was on the brink of collapse.
Almost nothing edible could be found; the death toll of those who’d died in ‘battle’ was actually higher than those of starvation. Yesterday, horrifying news came from a city over: there were monsters in the sea that would crawl onto the beach and consume humans. The person ruling this beach somewhat believed the message, yet he didn’t want to give up the only reliable food source. He continued claiming the land as his own, and then dragged all the half-dead people from around the city and threw them here. With that being the case, even if the monsters did come, he’d have time to escape.
And so, other than those who were unconscious, everyone gave their lives to crawl away— even if both their legs were broken.
Below a streetlight in the distance, a burly man was leaning against the pole and nodding off to sleep.
With the darkness of the night and the nimbleness of his movements, it wasn’t too difficult to escape from here.
Having rested enough, Xia Yi pushed himself up and promptly felt a pull on his ankle. Turning around, he was met with a pair of malicious and devastated eyes. Unfortunately, Xia Yi wasn’t on the brink of death as the person had assumed and didn’t fall down with just one push.
This person was severely injured at the waist. If it wasn’t for the fact that they couldn’t move at all, there’d likely be a bite mark on Xia Yi’s ankle.
Death; the scariest part of it was the wait for its arrival, while the most twisted thing was seeing someone who was also waiting for the same death suddenly receive hope.
The stench of blood and other odours permeated the area. Xia Yi didn’t feel sorry for this person – he lacked that kind of empathy – nor did he understand the true reason behind the person grabbing his ankle. He thought they were just trying to seek help, and that the intense emotions in their gaze were only because the person was aware that there was no point in seeking help.
“I’m not a doctor, and I have no food…”
After a momentary silence, Xia Yi quietly explained his situation before pulling away from the darkened, bony fingers, and continued forward without looking back. Soon after, a woman with boils on her face latched herself onto his leg.
“Please, I’m begging you! Take me to a safe place! The people from a city over came and said that there are monsters! The monsters will eat humans!!”
“The spid… the monsters are already dead, they won’t be coming anymore,” Xia Yi quietly explained. However, the woman continued to keep her grip tight and refused to let go. Her entire visage was twisted (honestly, one had to be blunt when speaking with people like Xia Yi. His thought process wasn’t that of the average joe and he would only consider any frustrations mentioned as an excuse to instead hide the true problem).
Upon realising that Xia Yi wasn’t going to help her, the woman gave up all hope and started screaming. “Someone’s escaping! He’s going to escape—”
The burly man who was dozing off to the side was startled awake, but he didn’t come over. Rather, he swore at the noise, “It’s fucking midnight, what’s with the ruckus? Isn’t it good that he can walk and move? Proves that he isn’t useless scum. At least he can help move and carry things. Oi! The dude there…”
Seeing that it didn’t work, the woman yelled again, bitter and resentful, “I saw him hide food! A shell! I saw him dig it out from the sand!!”
It was like throwing a bomb into a beehive— in seconds, a number of the dozing men close by swarmed over while the people lying on the ground all stared menacingly at Xia Yi as if they wanted to swallow him whole.
Xia Yi didn’t move; he was barefooted, and not even the sleeves on his shirt were still attached. His pants were also shredded, leaving nothing but strings of fabric dangling around. Though no one here was in good shape, not many looked as miserable as he did. Not even a body search was needed to see that he was completely broke, much less hiding food. Was there really a need to pay attention to a useless coward who couldn’t so much as find a proper piece of clothing??
Though disappointed, the men didn’t do much to Xia Yi and instead angrily kicked at the woman, who wailed as she rolled down the dyke. Seeing the way she was lying afterwards, she was probably dead.
Everyone here only had a number of days left to live due to various injuries and illnesses. Staring at the woman’s corpse, the people had nothing but apathy.
“You better behave well, brat!”
A punch was thrown at Xia Yi, knocking him to the ground. He didn’t fight back and stayed silent. The men didn’t bother him further, for they as well didn’t see too much in the idea of ‘living’. It was the middle of the night and they were also starved out of their minds.
“Nan-Ge, we can’t keep going like this. Even if there’s anything to eat, the higher-ups have split it all. How about we run? To the south or west— living in the mountains or lakes, we can eat there! We’re all living people! We can’t just die like this!”
Is the land truly uninhabitable? After the men left, Xia Yi crawled back up and thought to himself. This is definitely terrible news…
Xia Yi didn’t like living amongst a crowd, and was even worse at guessing the underlying meaning behind people’s words. The earlier woman’s sudden and strange behaviour made him realise that he’d said something wrong and really provoked her. However, he couldn’t figure out where exactly the issue was with what he’d said.
From the looks of it now, not even Shen’nong’jia1 Hubei province’s Shennongjia was listed as a World Heritage Site, the 50th World Heritage Site in China, because of its exceptional floral and faunal biodiversity and its protection of many rare, endangered, and endemic species. would be safe. At this point, the more rural the area, the more it had become a treasure island!
The city was almost in ruins, with litter thrown everywhere. Rows upon rows of dark buildings, of which none of the windows below the third floor were well intact— clear results of break-in robberies. Surprisingly though, no corpses could be seen. Perhaps the ruler of this region of land wasn’t too stupid and knew that in order to prevent epidemics, bodies must be disposed of. Maybe it had been a long time since then, but the thick and irritating smell of smoke still drifted from a square not too far away.
Under the black night, the only aura in this city was the scent of death.
Xia Yi carefully approached a messy storefront, hoping that he could find clothes.
He was starting to shiver. When he was in the ocean, his ability prevented him from feeling much of the great temperature differences between night and day. Now, his teeth were chattering and he estimated that it couldn’t be more than ten degrees celsius outside. Given the way he was barely covering himself, it was impossible for him to withstand it.
Digging through a dump of shelves, mannequins, and other trash, Xia Yi had no idea that an odd event was taking place out at sea.
—Aren’t these such dark, fearful, and hopeless scents!
Staring towards the direction of the beach, Siren quietly broke through the surface.
Since the Thalassa Goddess cruise… no… more accurately, after meeting An Li’s group of castaways, the merman had yet to come across any other humans. Thus, he’d obviously been unsuccessful in satiating his desire for food. In this moment, the most perfect, delicious temptation was right there— even Xia Yi was there!
Taking a deep breath, the merman could feel the enticingly devastated mental waves even more clearly.
There were a lot of humans, and at least tens of them were letting out their silent, dying howls and curses. Behind them, the entire city felt as if it was covered with this scent of hopelessness.
Xia Yi was right— There are indeed necessary things on land that shouldn’t be missed!
Ripples gently spread in the water as Siren’s silver tail soundlessly sliced through the waves, rapidly propelling the merman forward. As for all of his injuries? Thanks to both Xia Yi’s ability and the merman’s natural healing speed, all the gashes had been reduced to red lines of various thicknesses. Also, marine creatures never had the habit of resting after being injured and delaying their hunts.
“It looks like a big fish— AH!”
A scream was heard from one of the small boats.
Ignoring the sound, Siren cleanly ripped through the fishing net. Even when more and more obstacles presented themselves the further he swam through the water, all the merman needed to do was to reach out and exert force. He didn’t even need to slow down… It was only when a plastic bag wrapped itself on his fingers that Siren paused and took a look around.
There were piles of strange things that looked like they belonged to humans, and the water’s smell also wasn’t quite right…
This does not feel like the ocean at all!
The closer he was to the beach, the slower Siren’s speed. He could already feel the beautifully alluring scent.
The spider crabs preferred to hide underwater and use their protruding eyes to spy at the surface, only moving and knocking down fishing boats when they came close. Despite the merfolk’s preference of directly chasing after their prey and engaging in violent battles, this didn’t mean that they were unaware of how to set up an ambush.
The lack of light was working in Siren’s favour, because this way, he wouldn’t be exposed by his tail and hair.
At around three in the morning, the people guarding the beach were at the weariest moment of their shift.
Slowly, a voice that seemed like it came out of a dream began to sing. At first, it was like a hallucination, but it gradually grew clear. For all those who were tired and hungry, it sounded like heaven’s calling; it was as if all the pain and devastation that the apocalypse had brought was leaving them.
Everything was a mere nightmare; they were still lying on soft, spring mattresses, covered in feathered blankets and in well air-conditioned rooms. There were plenty of edibles in the fridge, food stalls were everywhere downstairs… or they were in a luxurious restaurant, listening to the melody of a pianist as they sat before their long-time crush and stared down at the knives and forks, considering how they shouldn’t make a fool of themselves… Even the demanding bosses, harsh parents, bird cage-like apartments, and all that which they had complained about before were now beautiful memories… Oh how they wished to go back—
Suddenly, a flash of lightning struck down, churning up a large wave. The shock took hold of Siren’s entire body, temporarily paralysing him from the tip of his tail to his fingers, which caused him to sink right down to the bottom and naturally cease the singing. The merman angrily stared at his surroundings, alarmed— There shouldn’t be electric eels near the shore!
“Ah! What’s that? What just happened?!”
The men on the beach were startled out of their trance. Jumping up, they felt that their arms and feet were sore and numb, like they’d been carrying a large bag for a whole day without rest. They were also quite dizzy.
As for the ones lying on the ground, those who were already on the brink of death would never open their eyes again. The rest who couldn’t move because of broken bones or waist injuries were frightened out of their senses.
That was a song that felt like it was tipping them towards death, pulling their consciousnesses out of their minds!!
“Monsters! There’s monsters in the sea!!” An old man croaked, his voice laced with terror. He was the ability user who’d released the previous lightning bolt. Before the apocalypse, he was an elderly man long past his prime, meaning that he was more sensitive to the scent of death than anyone else.
“It’s the song! Dammit, that’s the monster! Everyone cover your ears! Make sure you don’t hear it!”
The merman didn’t understand the chaos and shouts— he only knew that things like electric eels were somewhat dangerous… but he didn’t want to give up on these delicacies. If that was the case, then he’d leave the water. When he wasn’t in the ocean, the eels’ electricity wouldn’t be as worrisome. As for the possibility of getting stuck on land, the tides would rise in a few hours!
Siren swam noiselessly to the shore. Since he needed to find a place that had plenty of shoal rocks to hide himself, his tail was inevitably scratched in several places. Except compared to being attacked by spider crabs, these scratches were only split seconds of pain; not so much as an injury was visible, and Siren paid them no mind.
The darkness of the night provided the best camouflage, allowing Siren to swim up to where the water was so shallow that not even his tail could be submerged. The waves continued slapping at the sand behind him, covering his trail as he progressed.
Being so close to his destination, the merman could only crawl the remaining distance.
Since there weren’t any flashlights or searchlights, it was incredibly difficult to look for the supposed monster.
In fact, many people wanted nothing more than to run upon hearing the word ‘monster’.
“Mr He, let’s just leave!”
The sound came from what was previously the seaside park’s toll house, which also sold things like drinks. There were metal doors and bars on the windows, made of aluminum alloy, to prevent theft. It was very sturdy and was now inhabited by the city’s powerful and influential figures.
“No, maybe the monsters will crowd the beach the moment you leave through this door!”
The nervous and terrified atmosphere reached its peak; the subordinates who stood guard outside were discreetly retreating. Nobody was stupid enough to use their lives as the price to investigate— staying alive was the most important thing!
This flavour… even more splendid!
Siren breathed in deeply, drunk on the scent. All of a sudden, he didn’t want to consume it just like that. He’d just wait here and eat it all in one bite after he finished enjoying it. Wouldn’t that be much better?
Xia Yi said he will return at daybreak… Then I will just wait for him here.
- 1Hubei province’s Shennongjia was listed as a World Heritage Site, the 50th World Heritage Site in China, because of its exceptional floral and faunal biodiversity and its protection of many rare, endangered, and endemic species.