“Dad! Look!” A child frantically points out towards the sea to the splashing out in the waves.
Meng Yao straightens himself from working in his garden and goes to the dock to see what his son has to show him. When he gets to the dock, he loses his smile because of the reminder of his past life. He thought he could shield his six year old son longer from the truth but it looks like he will finally have to confess his past. If he doesn't, he might lose his son to the truth.
“Dad, why are there people with tails playing in the water? Who are they?” The child is genuinely curious and confused. Why wouldn't he be? He and Meng Yao are the only ones who live on the coast of Cyan Bay in this age.
Kneeling by his son, he explains, “Those are sirens, dear. They are people who live in the ocean... just like your daddy used to.”
The child is amazed, asking, “Really? You lived in the ocean?!”
Nodding, Meng Yao says, “It was shortly after you were born that I brought you to the surface to live as a human with me. You care for a story?”
Sitting down on the dock with crossed legs, the child nods eagerly. Meng Yao joins him in that position on the dock, starting the story. “I was called an Omega among my kind. I gave birth to you and realized I needed a better life than the ocean for you. It started long ago... in this very bay.”
The child knows better than to ask questions until the end of the story but also prepared for this story to last hours. Regardless, he scoots closer so his father can wrap an arm around him while telling the story and listen to what secrets that Cyan Bay holds.
With the melting of snow at the end of winter, the waters in Cyan Bay are still chilly and not quite ready for the habitation of sirens. Vast coral reefs, sinking cliffs, seaweed gardens, and plentiful of fish now that the humans have mysteriously disappeared from their coastal settlement, the bay has been reclaimed by nature. The water is fairly warm all year but even sirens are picky with colder waters that are not quite suitable for giving birth to young in the early spring. Most siren pods won't return to the bay until the snow melt from the mountains has waned.
Wei WuXian came back early to the miles upon miles long bay in order to establish his own territory away from the pod he left last autumn, having braved the deep, open ocean during the winter by himself. He survived the hardest thing a siren can do in their first year on their own; being alone in the open ocean usually means a siren is eaten by the gargantuan creatures that lurk in the depths. He is lucky to have survived. The Jiang pod raised him well but he had to spread his tail fins and do what he instinctively needed. Freedom, no matter the danger.
He's twenty now, of breeding age coming this summer with his first heat. One of the first things he needs to do is find an established territory for himself. That may be difficult in Cyan Bay because of how populated it will become in spring, meaning that coming back early is necessary.
Following the current at first, Wei WuXian tastes the water for scent marks left by other pod leaders. The lead Alphas and Omegas will reserve territory in the autumn for their families to return to in the spring so Wei WuXian needs to be cautious of where he decides to take residence. The last thing he needs is a mated Alpha with a bone to pick with him intruding. In the past, sirens would stay away from the shores because of humans but now that the humans disappeared, the shallow waters are fair game for territory for lone sirens... at a price. Single Alphas tend to know this and will search there first for Omegas who are without mates. Wei WuXian, who has no desire to find a permanent mate this early, wants somewhere he can relax.
It seems he has been riding the current for an hour, needing to breach the surface for air soon, when he notices the lack of a scent mark in this one area. Curious, Wei WuXian uses his crimson, scaled tail to propel himself to the shoreline into the seaweed garden that appears to be unclaimed. He quickly breaches for air, his long black hair tied back with a seaweed tie clinging to himself temporarily, before investigating the grove of climbing greenery protecting a soft seabed. Plentiful in fish, clams, crabs, and other prey, Wei WuXian is very satisfied with this piece of unclaimed territory. It's good, almost too good to be true but Wei WuXian is naive enough to pick this immediately for the time being.
He makes work of claiming the half-mile worth of seaweed garden. The scent glands in his cheeks and tail leave scent where he rubs them against smooth rocks and the sea plants themselves. Each mark has a single message in the scent; mine.
Relaxing with the quiet lull of the current and the lack of other sirens, Wei WuXian addresses his complaining stomach. He is hungry, very hungry since his last meal was early morning at the previous day's sunrise, at the hour of the lobster, and it's merely a couple hours from sunset at the current day. It's the sixty-third day of the year of the dolphin in siren time-keeping and it's in the hour of the shark. He has some time until sunset, the hour of the crab, to find food. It's not hard when he can see some reddish-shelled crustaceans already. Lobster is one of Wei WuXian's favorite delicacies but the crabs he sees will do just fine.
Wei WuXian uses an ability he has had since birth; he is able to change his pigment and appearance to blend in with his environment like the octopi he sees in the coral reefs, using it now to make him blend in with the ocean as he sneaks up on his prey. The pod that raised him thought he was a hellion for using the ability other than hunting, like startling the hell out of his adopted siblings.
The crabs don't suspect a thing. Wei WuXian is able to slowly close in on them before he strikes a hand quickly to grab one from behind. The action startles the other crabs and he lets his camouflage disappear as he uses his other hand to break the shell with brute strength. Wei WuXian slurps up the tasty meat of the crustacean and soon only a broken shell is left. Done and not needing the shell, he buries it in the sand so another creature won't confuse it for a live crab and be sorely disappointed. Also, it's only courtesy to bury the dead and return them to nature.
Just as soon as Wei WuXian thinks he can relax and see where he can make a den for sleeping, he tastes the scent of an Alpha on his tongue. He rolls his gray, double-lidded eyes. Oh great, another siren had the same idea he has. He feels the Alpha's movement in the water before he sees them. Using his camouflage, he hides from the Alpha so he can get a better look at them. The Alpha appears male, with dark skin compared to Wei WuXian's olive tone that he rarely sees unless he travels to far southern waters. The Alpha seems confident, very sure of himself as he tastes the water for Wei WuXian's scent. Amused, Wei WuXian watches him search after his scent in what Wei WuXian would interpret as desperation. Alphas without mates can be relentless, courting any Omega they see in hopes they'll sing for them and reveal they are that Alpha's soulmate.
That is how sirens find compatible mates, usually. It's common knowledge that Alpha sirens are literally deaf to every sound that isn't the singing of their soulmate. However, Wei WuXian is not naive that some Alphas only care about procuring offspring. That's the vibe Wei WuXian gets from this Alpha; he wants a mate but only to procreate and start a pod of his own, not a life partner to love and cherish.
As the Alpha visibly grows frustrated, showing visible vibrations in the water of some unknown hunting ability, Wei WuXian considers how to approach this. It's possible the Alpha will try to bully him into becoming his mate or won't take a hint with traditional methods that he's not interested. In his mind, the involuntary celibate Alphas tend to be the most gullible as well. He knows what he'll do; he will teach this Alpha a lesson. Call him selfish but he can make use of this guy for a short period of time.
Faking a smile, Wei WuXian reveals himself to the Alpha. The Alpha quickly feigns a smile of relief, obviously trying to put Wei WuXian at ease. I'm not that stupid. I know you just want to fuck me during my heat and start a harem of Omegas starting with me, thinks Wei WuXian.
“Hello, Alpha.” Wei WuXian uses his hands to sign flowing characters in the water. That's how sirens communicate most of the time since they live underwater and Alphas are born deaf. Only Omegas ever use spoken words to sing and talk to each other above the ocean surface. He continues, “What brings you here, sweet cheeks?”
The Alpha releases a sickeningly sweet scent into the water meant to allure Wei WuXian towards him. Wei WuXian keeps his distance but the Alpha still tries to approach him. The Alpha isn't taking a hint yet, replying with his hands. “Not much. Just thought I would investigate who left such an... intoxicating aroma.”
Wei WuXian wants to vomit. This Alpha isn't subtle. There isn't anything that says 'hey, I'm just here to fuck' more than telling someone you like how they smell. Ugh, Wei WuXian wants to gag the longer he's in this guy's presence. He manages to hide his disdain enough to flirt, “I see. Hey, you're a strong Alpha, right? I could use some help.”
The Alpha blinks in confusion and Wei WuXian internally smirk. Ha, gotcha, he thinks. As soon as an Omega asks for help with anything, the lower quality Alphas will immediately start to regret their pathetic attempts at courting. Wei WuXian gives him doe eyes and asks in sign, “Could you get me something to eat? I'm so hungry! I can't catch the fast tuna and slippery salmon. If you can bring me one, I would be very grateful.”
Now obviously floored that Wei WuXian isn't obviously rejecting his advances, unaware of Wei WuXian's tactics to get him uninterested in him by being needy, he replies, “I guess? I'll... be back then.”
Wei WuXian watches with hidden amusement as the Alpha swims back into the current to indulge the request. Now, two things can come of this. One, the Alpha could lose interest and not come back at all or two, come back only to find Wei WuXian is nowhere to be seen because he's using his hunting ability to disappear from sight. Either way, Wei WuXian will find it hilarious.
As the Alpha disappears from his territory, Wei WuXian relaxes and goes back to what he was doing before. He needs to find where he's going to sleep. When living in the deep sea, he did what most porpoises will do when they sleep; he would sleep for short periods until he needed to resurface to breathe. Essentially, he would get an hour of sleep at a time before waking up to breathe since he floats near the surface anyway. It's different now that he's in the relative safety of Cyan Bay because now he can float on his back on the surface and sleep like a floating land mammal, not needing to hold his breath. Or, he can even sleep on land in his human form.
His kind are the result of a human wizard casting a curse on a romantic couple they were jealous of to forever live in the ocean. The couple's offspring are supposedly the ancestors of every siren in the ocean. At least, that's the legend to explain why sirens can take human form but Wei WuXian isn't sure if it's true or just something that sirens evolved to be able to do.
Nearing the middle of the hour of the crab, sunset, Wei WuXian finds a resting place in his territory under the ruins of an old, rotting dock left behind by human civilization. The dock is huge, obviously meant for the gargantuan ships that were used by the humans to explore the vast seas to find faraway lands. In the distance, Wei WuXian can see the edges of an abandoned ghost town. Perhaps Wei WuXian will explore the town when he has time to take his human form but for now, he wants to rest.
Wei WuXian floats on his back, staring up at the bottom of salt-stained wooden boards. Lulling himself to sleep, he closes his eyes and thinks about calming things. He counts jumping swordfish until he falls asleep.
A week passes and the Alpha never returns. Good, thinks Wei WuXian. He has no interest in mating so early anyway. Having seen the aftermath of Alphas and Omegas who mate out of obligation instead of love, Wei WuXian has no desire to end up like that. Unhappy, angry, and only together for the sake of the children, that is the fate of Alphas and Omegas who let their lust or sense of survival of their species rule them. Jiang FengMian and Yu ZiYuan, his adopted parents, are the prime case of that.
They were pressured by their birth pods to mate since their parents were getting older and couldn't bear anymore children. As a result, Yu ZiYuan settled for being a the pod's Omega matriarch while Jiang FengMian settled unhappily to be a submissive Alpha under her. Wei WuXian knows the story all too well even further than that; his Omega mother's song had reached Jiang FengMian's ears long after the couple had their first child. It was too late for Jiang FengMian to try and court her when he was tied to a very jealous Yu ZiYuan who refused her mate to even glance at another Omega. Jiang FengMian had to watch as Wei WuXian's mother fell in love with another Alpha who could hear her voice. However, Jiang FengMian was civil, treating Wei WuXian like his own child after Wei WuXian's father died from being eaten by a sea dragon and his mother died from illness.
Now, Wei WuXian vows never to become like his adopted parents. He'll find a mate when he is ready and when the right one comes along. All these sex-driven, single Alphas can fuck off. Wei WuXian is his own siren, no compromise.
He notices the waters are starting to warm and can already taste the scents of sirens returning to their territories in the currents. Soon, Omegas and female Alphas will be giving birth in spring waters while mateless Alphas and Omegas will be preparing for their mating cycles in the summer. It's the seventieth day of the year, at least sixty to seventy more days until his first heat will set in. Wei WuXian has an idea what to expect since he helped care for his adopted brother, Jiang WanYin, during his first heat last year but he's nervous because he plans to spend it alone. He saw how desperate Jiang WanYin seemed during it that it almost scares him. Will he be that wanton and needy? He has no idea since every Omega is different.
Wei WuXian is hunting for prey when he tastes the scent of another Alpha but the scent is subdued, being the scent of a mated Alpha. Furrowing his brow, Wei WuXian wonders what a mated Alpha is doing in his territory. Swimming down to the sea floor, Wei WuXian blends in with the rock formations and watches for the passing Alpha.
Not just an Alpha but a pod of three appears. The Alpha in lead has long black hair and olive skin like Wei WuXian but is a lot bulkier with intense eyes. He is the prime example of dominance, most like able to break boulders and strangle sharks with his muscular body and large hands. He is at least a foot longer than Wei WuXian. The other two are Omegas; the first is graceful and a half-foot shorter than Wei WuXian with brown eyes. The second seems to be skittish and watchful but shares the trait of black hair and pale skin like his companion Omega. Wei WuXian has no idea why they're in his territory but he watches them signing to each other in conversation.
“I told you that you should have left scent marks before we left for the winter.” The graceful Omega has his Alpha's attention.
“I didn't think any other sirens would take our place. The seaweed is too close to the shore for most sirens.” The Alpha seems annoyed, his fierce eyes softened from pouting at his partner.
The skittish Omega chimes in with his hands. “The newer sirens aren't going to share that mindset, Nie MingJue. This Omega who took our territory smells new to breeding. They're probably a loner.”
“Not just new, inexperienced as well.” The graceful Omega seems amused.
The Alpha shakes his head and signs, “I'll mediate this. I'll make a compromise with them.” He gazes around the garden, suspicious. “We're being watched. Stay close to me, Meng Yao. You, too, Nie HuaiSang.”
The Omegas nod, staying close. That's when Wei WuXian decides to reveal himself. If he needs to forfeit his territory, so be it. Releasing a submissive scent, Wei WuXian reveals himself and approaches with caution. The pod regards him with some surprise at first but remain neutral, maybe even suspicious. Wei WuXian smiles to show friendliness and greets them. “Good day.”
“Hello.” The graceful Omega, Meng Yao, seems friendly enough but the brothers still regard him silently.
“Is there an issue? I thought this place was free to take.” It's better to be upfront with issues, he assumes. No need to chit chat.
The Alpha, Nie MingJue, narrows his eyes and signs, “Partly an issue. This is my pod's homeland. I forgot to scent mark last autumn.”
Licking his lips nervously, Wei WuXian can tell this Alpha means business. His gaze is like a spotlight on Wei WuXian, not letting him out of his sight but there's something hidden that Wei WuXian can only detect partly from the scent in the water. It's Meng Yao's scent of curiosity that seems to be calming Nie MingJue, his mate. As long as the Omegas are calm, Wei WuXian is not a threat.
“I apologize.” Wei WuXian decides it's not worth challenging this pod for territory. He'll leave. “I can leave. I didn't realize this was taken.”
Just as Wei WuXian turns to disappear into the current, Nie MingJue's strong hand stops him and holds him in place. Wei WuXian's eyes widen and a shriek of fear rises in his throat in warning. He's not strong enough to hold this Alpha off and he knows it just from the hand on him. What is he going to do? Surprisingly, the Alpha lets go when Meng Yao makes a growling sound in the water. The mates share a gaze, somehow communicating without their hands, and Nie MingJue does something that surprises Wei WuXian. He backs down. Instead, the Alpha calmly starts to sign. “... What is your name?”
“Wei WuXian.” He replies in sign quickly, not wanting to agitate the unpredictable Alpha.
The mates share a gaze and the other Omega watches with anxiety in his eyes. The moment lasts longer than Wei WuXian likes but soon the Alpha softens and offers, “Would you like to stay with us? We won't make you leave as long as you make yourself scarce.”
Now, that's rare but Wei WuXian will take it. He likes this territory and there's a benefit to sharing a territory with another pod. Single Alphas are less likely to court Omegas who seems to be apart of a pod. Nie MingJue must know this and is being very kind.
Nodding, Wei WuXian signs, “Sure! If you need anything, you can ask me!”
Perhaps signing that was a mistake because Meng Yao smirks and asks, “Anything?”
Swallowing, Wei WuXian sees the entire pod is staring at him. What could they ask of him?
“What did you ask of him?” Meng Yao's son asks.
Meng Yao snorts and says, “I'm getting to that. I'll tell you more at bedtime.”
Disappointed, the child complains, “Aww, that's lame.”
“Be patient. I promise to tell you more after you help me with dinner when you go to bed.” Meng Yao pats his son on the head and stands, going back to the garden.
The child doesn't leave the dock, pouting but distracting himself by watching the sirens still playing in the waves until they disappear when the sunsets.