Chapter 1: One
Shao Fei felt the vibrations of something odd against his skin and frowned towards the acres and acres of algae and corals spreading out in front of him. He let his eyes wander over the Mer either floating at the edge of the seaweed field or slowly swimming above it, always cautious to not disturb the male seahorses. There wasn’t a face he didn’t know but the scales along his upper arms and the back of his neck didn’t want to calm down.
“What is going on?”
Shao Fei felt Zhao Zi’s tail against his own, comforting, and familiar and he shook his head. Nothing was amiss, the birth of the seahorses, as always, a peaceful spectacle.
“Nothing,” he murmured more to himself, but the water carried his words towards his best friend and he saw out of the corner of his eyes how Zhao Zi’s scales mimicked his own as always far more colourful than Shao Fei’s.
“Just a weird feeling,” he added and turned away from the algae field to smile at Zhao Zi.
“This area is so close to the surface, it makes me nervous, too,” Zhao Zi said as if he had worked out what bothered Shao Fei. They looked up, but nothing but darkness greeted them. It was night up above.
Shao Fei just nodded and went back to observe the big crater looming behind them. They weren’t here for the birth of the seahorses but to make sure nothing came out of that crater at least nothing that wasn’t a normal part of the deep sea. The last time a sea serpent had come out of there, sizzling, making the water around them almost boil, poison dripping from every opening of their body Shao Fei had been young, had been appointed a warrior only recently. Since then nothing and it bugged him that he felt something odd from the wrong side.
The birth of the seahorses happened as tranquil as ever, only the sighs and claps of the merfolk around them disturbed the water, nothing from the ravine behind them. When their replacement arrived Shao Fei and Zhao Zi tried to usher most of them towards home. Their tribe wasn’t keen on order their people around, which wouldn’t even be fruitful because the ocean had no walls, but Shao Fei would sleep easier if he knew no one was around the crater except the warriors appointed to guard it.
They formed a swarm without thinking about it and here and then Shao Fei felt a tail or a fin against his body and something settled inside him. Maybe miles away the humans had put something in the ocean again, had interrupted the natural flow of a stream and Shao Fei had felt the disturbance. It happened often enough.
His gills fluttered and he let water flow through them with purpose to try and flush the weird feeling out of his body. Everything was normal he told himself.
They swam deeper and deeper until they arrived at the part of the ocean’s floor they called their home. Rock and coral formations, seemingly unobtrusive but if you knew the secret entrance you would swim into a labyrinth of passages and holes wide enough to be a home. Shao Fei threw a last glance back and waited for everyone else to disappear inside the rock labyrinth before he made his way inside, too.
The movements, the words of everyone inside their home travelled through the water, changed into vibrations, into energy, bounced from the walls of the rock around them and brushed Shao Fei’s scales and skin in a comforting way, making the last of his worries disappear. This was home, this was safe. Everyone he cared about was here and safe.
Zhao Zi flicked his tail against him and threw him a cheeky smile.
Shao Fei just raised his hand and turned a corner before he would arrive at one of the bigger holes, mostly used as a gathering place for those who had just arrived home. Zhao Zi would want to complain about the boring guard shift, but Shao Fei felt like he needed some rest. He swam into the hole he had carved for himself and stretched his body to get the last kinks out from their shift.
Somewhere deep inside the rock, some fingerlings had the time of their life with blue clay, a substance they dug up to trade with, and it sounded like they painted their scales with it.
Shao Fei closed his eyes with a sigh and let himself ease into a slumber with the giggling of children on his senses.
to be continued
Chapter 2: Two
Shao Fei woke with a start and this time the odd feeling vibrated through his body, making every scale stand up in attention and his gills fluttered as if he had swum for miles and miles without a pause. He was out of his hole without really thinking about it and when he left the rock, he had expected there to be something. But… nothing. He distractedly waved back as a tribemate swam away over him and maybe he needed more sleep he thought with a sigh. He still felt a little bit drowsy from the abrupt awakening and turned to swim back into the rock when he felt the fast approach of someone before he even heard Jun Wei’s yell.
Shao Fei turned around quickly, ready to fight but there was only Jun Wei who almost collided with him in his hast.
“Strangers,” Jun Wei gulped, and Shao Fei’s tail automatically wrapped itself lightly around Jun Wei’s in an attempt to calm him down.
“There are strangers at the edge, they want to talk to our chief.”
“Get him,” Shao Fei said sharply and pushed Jun Wei towards the entrance, following him closely. He sent a warning pulse through the water and knew that everyone currently in the rock would feel it and would follow their security protocol. The tension was almost tangible after he sent out the warning and he grabbed the first warriors he saw.
“Position yourself at every entrance and make sure that the emergency exit for the fingerlings is clear, stay alert.” His fellow warriors nodded, and he left them to race through the tunnels to catch up with Jun Wei.
He met them in one of the gathering holes and Zhao Zi was already hovering in the background looking at Shao Fei in concern. Chief Shi listened to what Jun Wei had to say and then sighed.
“We shouldn’t automatically assume they are dangerous but…”
But they were all tense, still affected by past events.
“We will find out what they want,” Shao Fei said with grim determination. Chief Shi nodded and they quickly swam out of the rock, towards the edge.
The edge wasn’t physical. It wasn’t a place that marked their territory because merfolk didn’t believe that a specific part of the ocean belonged to them. But it was considered polite to not just swim through the home of a tribe without at least announcing your presence. The edge was marked through the little magic the merfolk possessed, not a wall that could stop someone, just a noticeable pressure against the sensitive skin of mer-beings.
Three figures waited for them and Shao Fei felt the anxiety rise around him.
“I told you they were different,” Jun Wei murmured to Zhao Zi, and Shao Fei exchanged a look with him.
Different put it mildly.
The first thing Shao Fei noticed was the gills on the hips of the merman at the front and the other two behind him. Big and there, spanning from the hips to the rib cage, fluttering lightly, unagitated, not protected by anything. They possessed no scales, just smooth grey skin, shark-like, their tails longer than those of Shao Fei and his tribemates. Sharp fins on their elbow and as they stopped a few metres in front of them Shao Fei’s eyes arrived at the face of what seemed to be the leader of the little group.
High, sharp cheekbones and his eyes… Shao Fei swallowed. Completely black, no trace of white, as dark as the deepest part of the ocean.
Shao Fei reared back internally from his own thoughts and couldn’t contain a frown. The merman in front of him was as beautiful as the deadly, poisonous creatures in the sea who lured their victims in with their appearance.
Predators, that was the word he should be thinking.
Still beautiful, a voice in the back of his head couldn’t be stopped to add.
He realized that he had missed the greetings while he had scrutinized the visitors and he quickly tuned into the conversation again.
“My name is Tang Yi; we would like to request to swim through your territory.”
Chief Shi nodded and Shao Fei knew what he was going to say next.
“We are not going to stop you from travelling on but there is no way you would be able to swim through our territory. Our home is bound by a canyon, its width and length are unknown. We have no idea how long it would take to cross it.”
Tang Yi’s tail flicked, and Shao Fei wanted to know if that was a telling. He didn’t seem to like what Chief Shi told them and the silence dragged on.
“We are pursuing a traitor,” he said finally, slowly, “he had crossed into your territory and if he’s not heading for the canyon then…”
Chief Shi snorted. “Then what? You are thinking we would hide a stranger?”
“How do you know the one you chase crossed into our territory?”, Shao Fei asked, and the black eyes turned towards him. And there it was. The odd, almost hot pressure against every scale on his body. His fins started to tremble, and he suppressed their movements with a huge amount of willpower. What was going on with him?
Suddenly, the water behind Tang Yi glimmered and they all gasped as another figure appeared, his red hair a shock against their senses.
“A sea witch,” Zhao Zi exclaimed.
to be continued
Chapter 3: Three
The first and last time Shao Fei had seen a sea witch had been when he was a fingerling and the Chief of his parent's tribe had had a very tense conversation with one, full of words Shao Fei hadn’t understood at that time. Now he knew that he had eavesdropped on a lover’s quarrel but since then he only had heard about sea witches from others.
Shao Fei flicked his tail against Zhao Zi who looked like he was going to swim forward to touch the sea witch and Shao Fei had no idea why but some of the tension bled from them. Sea witches were dangerous, yes, they worked for their own goals, but everyone knew that they also had a complicated codex that stopped them from crossing into the murderous creature’s category.
“I followed the trail of the traitor up to your territory,” the sea witch said, the red of his hair also present in the markings on his skin and tail, they were almost too bright to look at.
“The edge doesn’t alarm us to any intruders,” Chief Shi said and frowned towards Shao Fei.
“He could have circled around our territory and followed the canyon on either side, maybe he had no idea about the length of it,” he said and the sea witch shook his head and Shao Fei shrugged. “We only guard two points of the canyon, he could have entered it somewhere else easily, but if you think he’s hiding somewhere in our territory despite the canyon… no.”
“If he’s hiding in the canyon,” Zhao Zi added, and Shao Fei had to smile when he waggled his eyebrows at them. “There would be some places inside the canyons wall where it’s possible to survive for some time.”
The chief frowned at them but then his face cleared up. He almost looked pained.
“Ah yes… as if there wouldn’t be enough places for the youngsters to have a romantic get-away,” he sighed and rubbed a hand over his face.
“It’s the thrill that comes with it,” Shao Fei added unhelpfully and grinned. Chief Shi rumbled something incomprehensible, but Shao Fei had the feeling it was something about why they even bothered with guards when everyone did what they wanted anyway.
“If you would guide us to the mentioned places, we would be able to determine where he went next,” Tang Yi said an impatient undertone in his voice, and they all snapped to attention.
He definitely was the leader of his people even if he didn’t introduce himself as a tribe chief, Shao Fei thought. He had the aura of someone who was used to make an order and it being fulfilled. But they looked so different, so maybe their hierarchies were different, too.
“Sure,” Chief Shi said and for a moment Shao Fei expected something as they swam over the edge but of course nothing happened.
As they made their way towards the canyon - an unspoken agreement between them to swim around the area where the rock labyrinth was located - Shao Fei, Jun Wei and Zhao Zi formed a triangle over the others. Chief Shi swam at the head with Tang Yi beside him, the two silent mermen flanking them.
Shao Fei saw out of the corner of his eyes how Zhao Zi swam closer to the sea witch and shook his head in exasperation. Of course.
“My name is Zhao Zi, what’s yours?”, Zhao Zi asked the next moment and Shao Fei turned his attention back to their surroundings. Which was difficult because Tang Yi drew his eyes to him like a beacon. He had never met a Mer without scales… how would it feel to entangle his tail with Tang Yi’s? Would it be abrasive or smooth? And his gills. They were like a big daring sign, saying that Tang Yi and his people didn’t need to hide the most vulnerable part of themselves because no one was going to be able to come close enough to hurt them.
Shao Fei was a hunter too, but he had the feeling Tang Yi and his people were on another level altogether.
They didn’t lead their guests towards the guarding point near the algae field but the one closer and quicker to reach. Someone, and Shao Fei was sure it hadn’t happened naturally, had smoothed out the sharp edges of a part of the canyon wall facing their territory and had created some kind of platform, which flattened down towards the edge like some kind of invitation to explore the crater.
The two warriors guarding looked towards them, their eyes big as they saw their Chief swimming with strangers and a red-haired sea witch. Shao Fei didn’t blame them for gaping. He took off and swam towards them quickly to reassure them that everything was right.
“I have never seen that kind of Mer’s,” Yu Qi whispered, and Shao Fei shrugged. The ocean was big, maybe they would one day encounter someone who would think they were looking odd.
“They want to check something in the canyon,” he explained or better, he thought, the sea witch wanted to check something. He had no idea how he wanted to confirm that their traitor was inside the canyon, but he wasn’t going to try and pry the secrets of their magic out of a sea witch.
“This is one of the points we guard,” Shao Fei explained when the group reached him.
“This looks like an invitation to enter the canyon,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei had to smile because of their similar thoughts.
“We have no idea who did it but…” he waved them forward to swim with him closer to the edge. “It looks like something to bring attention to this.”
This was streaks inside the wall of the crater, illuminating in a greenish colour. They looked like fillings as if they were fixing the cracks in the wall, and out of the corner of the eyes, Shao Fei would swear they pulsated. They had only discovered the weird substance around the platform, nowhere else, but they had no idea how long the canyon was and the width… looking forward was only the depth of the canyon, which swallowed the light, colouring the water above the crater gloomy and dark.
Those streaks were fascinating. If you looked at them long enough Shao Fei always felt a pull to investigate them and most of the time it was safe to swim a little bit closer inside the canyon but… it also could end badly. They had to guard this part of the crater to hinder their fingerlings to satisfy their curiosity. Shao Fei couldn’t imagine one of them being able to suppress the urge to find out what those streaks were.
He took a glance at Tang Yi who looked down with a frown on his face, his black eyes unreadable.
“There are hiding places in the canyon?”, he asked, and Shao Fei was impressed that he still thought about the traitor and didn’t give a damn about the glowing substance.
“Yes. Holes inside the walls, big enough for two or more Mer’s to fit inside comfortable. We don’t know every one of them because it’s too dangerous to try and find them.”
Tang Yi looked like he wasn’t happy about that information but Shao Fei couldn’t produce a map of the canyon from out of nowhere, but Tang Yi was already turning towards the sea witch who stared down with a heavy frown on his face.
“He didn’t enter the canyon here,” he said after a while. “But he is here, but… I can’t pinpoint a direction.”
Shao Fei snorted at that. Down in that canyon were beings much more powerful than a sea witch, of course, they would throw whatever he was doing off its path.
“Can you lead us to the nearest holes?”, Tang Yi asked suddenly, and Shao Fei had to blink at him. He really wanted to investigate the canyon? How desperate were they for that traitor?
to be continued
Chapter 4: Four
“His name is Jack,” Zhao Zi provided when Tang Yi and his group discussed their further actions a distance away. Shao Fei raised a brow.
“His name is Crazy if they really want to explore the canyon.”
“But he has magic!”, Zhao Zi said and wiggled his fingers as if that was everything a sea witch had to do for their magic.
“A sea serpent has probably more magic in the tip of their poisonous teeth than he has in his whole body,” Shao Fei murmured, “which means he won’t be of much help against one.”
Zhao Zi frowned. For what it was worth Shao Fei would be much happier to explore the canyon with a sea witch than without one but he all but confirmed that he had no idea where they should search for their traitor. Shao Fei had the feeling that he wouldn’t even bother to swim down the crater if not for the weird impatience Tang Yi was showing. He looked like emotions were a foreign word for him, but Shao Fei was already able to read the tension in his face and the signs in his body language. His tail, with the sharp fin at the end, twitched regularly.
“It’s your decision if you want to bring them to the holes, but don’t let them persuade you to swim farther than you’re comfortable with,” Chief Shi said with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Yu Qi and Ma Zhen had resumed their position at the edge but if they were guarding something then Tang Yi and his people. The scowl on Yu Qi’s face was as big as the crater.
Shao Fei nodded. A school of fish burst from the edge towards them as Tang Yi looked like he made a decision and Shao Fei had to sigh at that omen.
“We will be back before you know it,” he said and Chief Shi snorted.
Their groups met each other at the edge.“You are willing to show us the holes?”, Tang Yi asked and there was some formal wording hiding in the way he said it. It felt strangely as if Shao Fei was agreeing to some pact.
“We would show you to the holes we know of, the deepest is simultaneously the one where someone could hide out the longest. Towards that hole we will position guards for good measure… if something happens.”
“Good idea,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei wanted to bristle at that. Of course, it was a good idea! They were the ones who knew what horrors are lurking in the deep!
“Let’s go,” Zhao Zi said with too much cheer for Shao Fei’s state of mind and they dived over the edge into the deep. Shao Fei tried to sharpen his senses as much as possible but the presence of so many Mer’s pressed against his scales and diluted the signals he got from the depth. And whatever Tang Yi was doing that sent that odd feeling through his body and made sure that his scales behaved like he was amid a maelstrom.
The streaks got closer and Shao Fei slowed down.
“This is the first hole,” he said and pointed towards an opening in the wall. It was big enough for two or three adult Mer’s and the green-glowing streaks marbled the inside in a pretty pattern. There was a reason why it was so popular for a romantic meeting. Tang Yi swam past Shao Fei to investigate the hole and the green glow of the streaks painted his face in the weird light. Shao Fei saw how Jack reached towards the streaks and touched the substance. He made a face. Yeah, it looked like it would be slimy, but it wasn’t as hard as a rock but not soft either. It gave away if you pressed against it hard enough, but it was almost impossible to break a piece out of the substance.
Tang Yi nodded after a while and made a ‘go-on’ gesture.
“Jun Wei, wait here,” Shao Fei said, and his fellow warrior nodded. They dived deeper and the streaks got fewer and fewer until they reached the next set of holes big enough to hide inside. Three next to each other, the walls smooth from the movements of the water and the number of Mer’s running their hands over the walls.
This time Jack swam forward and inspected the holes, one by one. He frowned but said nothing.
“The next one is much deeper, and the hole where someone could survive for a while. Sea snails are living in that one,” Shao Fei said and glanced towards Zhao Zi.
“I’m waiting here,” Zhao Zi said, and Shao Fei sighed in relief. He wouldn’t have liked to watch him diving deeper.
“Alright, let’s continue.”
Tang Yi and his Mer just looked at them and would it kill them to talk more? Shao Fei shook his head in frustration before he swam downwards.
to be continued
Chapter 5: Five
The sea snails weren’t the most delicious food to have in Shao Fei’s opinion, but they would do in terms of nutrition if someone was determined to hide out in the hole. It was the biggest one they had encountered, and the snails covered most of its wall. Empty shells laid on the bottom of the cave and maybe it was a sign that someone or something had hidden inside that cave, but sea snails were eaten by a lot of creatures.
Shao Fei didn’t say that, though. He had tried while they swam down to the opening to lighten the mood but it had been rebuffed by the stoic silence of the two mermen who had no names and Tang Yi’s frown; Jack had chuckled a few times but had refused to be part of any conversation.
“This is the last cave we know of,” he explained again. They hadn’t explored any deeper where it would just turn colder and darker and more dangerous. The pressure would be no problem, but Shao Fei had no desire to find out where down there they would definitely encounter a sea snake or some other unpleasant thing from the crater.
“You really haven’t dived deeper?”, Tang Yi asked, and Shao Fei felt trapped in a scrutinizing stare. He may have dived deeper, but he wasn’t going to tell that, or was he?
“A bit,” he said, and Tang Yi’s stare increased in intensity. Shao Fei wanted to squirm under it and only his training helped him not folding down like a fingerling. It was dangerous diving deeper! And even if their traitor had swum down here, he was now most likely dead. But he knew Tang Yi wouldn’t believe him because apparently if he himself didn’t see the traitor being eaten by a sea snake it wasn’t happening.
Shao Fei squeaked when something touched his back and then sighed in relief as a moray squeezed itself between the wall and him. Tang Yi raised a brow in him, and it conveyed every doubt he had in Shao Fei and his abilities as a warrior. Shao Fei petted the moray because they loved being petted and made a face.
“We dived deeper a while ago and found some caves.” They had looked like the miniature version of their home and Zhao Zi and he had meant to get back to investigate further but hadn’t found the time.
“Wait here,” Tang Yi said to one of the silent mermen and made an impatient gesture towards Shao Fei.
“This is really not a good idea,” he hissed but Jack went after Tang Yi and he should just let them be eaten by sea snakes but his protectiveness won and he really, really wanted to know how Tang Yi’s tail would feel against his own.
“They are connected,” he explained when they arrived at the new caves and Shao Fei swam into one to show them the narrow passage which led to another cave. “We don’t know how many are connected if you want to find out, be my guest.”
“We need more people,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei was looking forward to explaining Chief Shi how exactly they had found out about this. He didn’t feel the warmth at first when they swam out of the caves. He frowned because his scales felt weird in what should be cold water. He raised his arm and it felt like some kind of warm algae was wrapping itself around it… Then the heat and the sizzling sound. They all stared into the darkness, frozen to the spot and Shao Fei knew, he knew that feeling, he knew that they wouldn’t see anything until it was too late.
The sea snake coiled itself out of nowhere, sizzling, lighting up in blue and white, suddenly there as if it had been part of the darkness and the heat of the water started to clog Shao Fei’s gills. It looked sluggish and slow but that was a misconception and when it opened it mouth to reveal its fangs Shao Fei came back to life.
He surged forward as the snake shot out and screamed – “Watch out!”. He had no idea who he grabbed but he had an arm in his grip and then something hit him and he crashed against the canyon wall and darkness overcame him.
to be continued
Chapter 6: Six
Shao Fei had no sense of time or place, he swam, pressed against the body of someone unknown through the darkness and wanted nothing more than sleep for eternity. He felt something abrasive against his scales, felt rocks bumping into him and he wanted to say something, wanted to point out how tired he was, but it was so difficult to breathe, his gills felt swollen and they itched, his back burned.
He came to consciousness with a jerk and a voice that demanded of him to stay awake.
“I’m trying”, he mumbled and realized he was laying on the ground. Where was he? A face appeared in his field of vision and he tried to focus on Tang Yi’s face.
“Careful,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei felt his hand on his face, hovering slightly over his gills. They still were swollen, and Shao Fei had trouble to breathe.
“You hurt your back, you need to take it slow,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei frowned. He didn’t feel anything on his back he…
His thoughts slipped away like sand through his fingers…
“Hey,” a slap against his cheek, “stay awake.”
“Poison,” Shao Fei murmured. If there was a wound on his back and he couldn’t feel it then it was most likely from the sea snake. “Poison,” he whispered again and fainted.
The next time he woke he still felt weak, and now he felt a tenderness on his back, a pull and tweak. And… did he lay on someone?
“I thought your tail would feel smooth,” he said against the warm chest his cheek was pressed against and the hand over his shoulder tightened around him.
“You’re back,” Tang Yi answered, and the relief in his voice was almost tangible. A huge sigh made Tang Yi’s upper body move and Shao Fei instinctively held on tighter. He was wrapped around Tang Yi so thoroughly that he would blush if he weren’t feeling so exhausted. The skin on Tang Yi’s tail felt abrasive and rough against his scales and he wanted to move a bit to feel more, but now was most likely not the time, he mused.
“What happened?”, he asked, and Tang Yi huffed.
“I could ask you that, what the hell was that?”
“A sea snake, that’s why we guard the canyon.”
“We don’t have something like that where I’m from,” Tang Yi said and sounded like he was personally offended that the sea snake dared to exist at all. Shao Fei hid a grin against Tang Yi’s chest.
“You were lucky, that was a baby snake.”
There was silence from Tang Yi for a long time and then a rough curse. Me too, Shao Fei thought, me too.
“Where are we?” Shao Fei looked around and saw that they lay in a cave, “where are the others?”
“You were able to push me away before the snake got me and then I swam with you into the cave and followed the passages until it felt safe enough.”
There were more holes? Zhao Zi and his assumption that this was like their cave labyrinth at home were true after all.
“We got separated from the others, I have no idea where they are, and I was occupied with you.”
“The poison,” Shao Fei remembered and twisted around but of course he couldn’t see something on his own back.
“It’s not long, but the poison went into your system and you said that it had to flush out.”
Shao Fei frowned at that. “I did?” He didn’t even remember flashbacks, only a vague idea about swimming around and then he had woken up. He looked up and it was nice to see that Tang Yi’s face was able to produce other expressions than impatience and iciness and the smile almost made Shao Fei forgot about the discomfort from the wound when he tried to unbend.
“Easy,” Tang Yi said and helped him, “you were quite chatty in your feverish delirium.”
And clingy, too Shao Fei thought. He couldn’t imagine that Tang Yi had voluntarily played pillow for him. He flickered his tail against Tang Yi’s again lightly and it really felt like he was rolling around in the fine sand on the beaches. Rough.
“We don’t usually entangle our tails,” Tang Yi said but didn’t move away. It didn’t hurt it just was… different.
“We do it all the time,” Shao Fei said a bit distracted and then hoped that Tang Yi would file it under ‘normal for them’ instead of ‘he wants to feel me up’.
“I saw,” was Tang Yi’s ominous answer.
to be continued
Chapter 7: Seven
“I put mud on the wound to protect it,” Tang Yi told him as Shao Fei was almost upright again. “I’m not sure what the poison did exactly but you stopped bleeding quickly.”
Shao Fei tried to reach behind himself to get his hands on the wound, but he just turned around on his own axis and had to steady himself on the wall. Tang Yi judged him for that with a look but kept silent.
Once Shao Fei had encountered wounded humans from a shipwreck and it had been frightening how quickly they had bled out. They hadn’t been able to safe anyone and if Shao Fei was allowed to be honest: that wasn’t a good body construction for survival. Mer-People healed quickly because the tiniest amount of blood in the water could have worse consequences than a little cut. If something had followed them inside the caves because of his blood they would have had a hard time defending themselves in this narrow space.
“We should make our way out of here,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei nodded. “I entered the cave through this passage.” He pointed at the one closest to them. “Are you sure you’re able to come along?”
Shao Fei moved his body from side to side and while he felt a little tweak in his back at some movements, it didn’t hurt. It just felt tender.
“I’m ready,” he said, and Tang Yi looked him over but then nodded. Shao Fei doubted that he would leave him behind if he would start to get weak or sick again but maybe Tang Yi needed to appear as if he would. He had held Shao Fei until the poison had left his body… Shao Fei knew that he was safe with him.
They swam slowly and Shao Fei used his senses to analyse the water movements. The flow was coming towards them, so they were on the right way out of this maze.
“Why do you have that streak on your tail?”, Tang Yi asked out of nowhere and even though Shao Fei knew about the streak of black scales on the right side of his tail, he looked down.
“I was born with them,” he answered baffled.
Fingerlings were born with brownish colours on their scales. A mix of earthy tones so they would be able to hide against rocks or under the sand on the ground. Only later would their scales turn into something colourful. Shao Fei’s scales, though, never had changed much from the beige spectrum of his childhood. Only the streak on the side of his tail had gotten darker and darker over the years and now the scales there shone in an obsidian black.
Shao Fei wanted to ask why Tang Yi had asked about it, but they suddenly found themselves in a cave which had three ways out of it.
At least two of the passageways were a possible way to the exit Shao Fei thought after he sent pulses through the water, and as Tang Yi swam towards the third one, with a determined look on his face, Shao Fei quickly held him back.
“What are you doing? That’s not the right way.”
“I have to check something.”
“Check something? But…” It didn’t matter what Shao Fei wanted to say because Tang Yi just swam on with him hanging on his arm and he swore to himself that he would find a way to make Tang Yi stop and listen to him just once.
Tang Yi stopped suddenly, and Shao Fei slightly bumped against him.
“What?”, he asked and peered over Tang Yi’s shoulder.
“Is that?”, he asked and quickly looked at Tang Yi’s face. But yes, there were bones lying in the corner of the cave, bones, and empty shells. Shao Fei looked behind them. “This is a dead-end, this corridor is the only way to this cave,” he said.
“Someone is living in here,” Tang Yi declared, and Shao Fei felt suddenly a bit more worried than before and it wasn’t difficult to read the expression on Tang Yi’s face.
“You think it’s the traitor you are trying to find.”
Tang Yi’s eyes were as black and fathomless as always and he was quiet for a long time until he nodded.
Great, Shao Fei thought, simply great.
“Let me guess,” he asked, “instead of finding the way out of here you want to swim through these caves until you have found him?”
to be continued
Chapter 8: Eight
“This is a stupid idea!” And he wanted to add that he knew what he was talking about because he had stupid ideas very regularly. Tang Yi just hovered on the spot and stared at the pile of bones.
“We need to get out of here and find your men and Jack, you know, the sea witch with,” Shao Fei waved his hands around, “magic. And alert my people to the sea snake and that someone is living in these caves. More people, more chances of getting this Mer.”
Tang Yi didn’t appear as if he listened to him and Shao Fei wanted to shake him so badly his fingers itched.
“Look, I know how it is to—” but Tang Yi was still not listening to him and swam past him back into the bigger cave. Shao Fei flicked his tail irritated at the wall and followed him.
“I’m injured,” he called, “we don’t know what the poison might have done to my body? I could drop down dead any second.” Tang Yi, thankfully, turned towards him and maybe it was a bit dramatic to talk about his death and Tang Yi’s eyes said as much but he also squinted at him with the gears in his head clearly running and Shao Fei was relieved that Tang Yi had a bit of worry for him to spare.
“I know how it is to want justice, believe me, I do,” Shao Fei started carefully because he also knew how pointless it was to tell someone that in the midst of an emotional turmoil. “But we have no idea how far these caves go, how contorted they are. We need to find our way out of it and—damnit!”
Shao Fei had felt the pulse of something big moving near them, too and at least he was quick enough to follow Tang Yi who immediately started swimming in the direction of it. They raced through the passageways, bumping against the wall, scratching themselves on the rocks and Shao Fei contemplated tying them together because he had the feeling sooner or later Tang Yi would leave him behind. Thankfully Tang Yi stopped after a while and Shao Fei tried to stifle his heavy breathing. His body was apparently not yet ready for a hunt trough a cave maze.
“What—” but Tang Yi raised his hand to signal him to be silent and Shao Fei opened his senses. The stream of the water was different, something was disrupting its flow and it was bigger than a fish, but the signals bounced off the walls, so they were too imprecise to read. But at least they could say that it was near. Shao Fei surged forward and grabbed Tang Yi’s wrist.
“Let us check this out together.” He let the water bring his words to Tang Yi and Tang Yi first stared at his hand on his arm and then up to him and whatever he saw on Shao Fei’s face, probably his stubbornness, made him nod tersely.
“After the next bend,” Tang Yi murmured in Shao Fei’s ear and Shao Fei told himself that this was not the right time to get all hot and bothered because he had almost felt Tang Yi’s lips on his ear. The heat, nonetheless, settled down in his belly. He gave Tang Yi a little shove to show him that he was ready to face whatever lurked in the next corridor. Was that a huff he got in return, but Shao Fei had no time to react to that because Tang Yi pushed him away the next moment, and he fell against the wall, the pain sharp and hot. Something big tried to wrestle down Tang Yi and Shao Fei screamed ‘Stop!’ as he saw that Tang Yi wanted to use his elbow fins to strike out with a deadly blow.
Time stood still and then Tang Yi rasped out something in a foreign language, agony in his voice but also relief and he lowered his arm to cradle the body of the merman in his embrace.
“His head,” Shao Fei said horrified and swam closer to inspect the big wound on the mers head. One half of his face was swollen, his left eye was almost entirely gone between the purple flesh. He seemed to react on instinct as his healthy eye rolled around aimlessly. Tang Yi continued to speak to him in a language Shao Fei didn’t understand but it seemed to calm the other mer.
“He split his head,” Shao Fei said and then, “what is his name?”
“Chang Lin,” Tang Yi answered, and Chang Lin made a sound at the mention of his name.
“Okay, Chang Lin,” Shao Fei said, “I’m going to touch your head, and it might hurt a bit, but try to endure it.”
Shao Fei examined the wound and had to, more than once, push Tang Yi to the side who was blocking his view. The laceration on his head was already healing, Shao Fei noticed with relief.
“I think it looks worse than it is, he got a concussion for sure and the swelling doesn’t look pretty, but I think he’s going to be fine.”
Tang Yi nodded. “We should put mud on his face.”
“Attack,” Chang Lin rasped out suddenly, his face twisting in concentration to get the words out. “Attack… on … De… De…”
“What is he trying to say?”, Shao Fei asked and started to pet the shoulder of Chang Lin to calm him down.
“Zhi De,” Tang Yi said and his voice was full of ice and hate, “Zhi De attacked him.”
to be continued
Chapter 9: Nine
“Zhi De?”, Shao Fei asked, “is he your traitor?”
Tang Yi nodded and Shao Fei wanted to pet him, to calm him down, too.
“Okay, how about we move Chang Lin into a cave where we’re able to defend ourselves better, put mud on his face and wait until he doesn’t feel like crap anymore?”, he asked because Tang Yi looked like he could stare at Chang Lin while thinking about their traitor for a long time, all broody and moody. They didn’t have time for that, Shao Fei decided. Tang Yi nodded and together they brought Chang Lin into a cave nearby and propped him up against the wall.
“Here you go,” Shao Fei murmured and put mud carefully on his face. Chang Lin twitched now and then but he didn’t scream in agony, so that was a plus. “Do his gills look healthy to you?”, he asked because it was a bit unnerving how Tang Yi was watching him. And he had no idea how the gills of them needed to look like, they were just too foreign for him. He saw out of the corner of his eye how Tang Yi’s hand hovered over one side of Chang Lin’s waist.
“They are good,” Tang Yi said after a while and continued to watch Shao Fei closely. Shao Fei was on the verge of asking him if he wanted to put the mud on Chang Lin’s face, but then Tang Yi started to look at his face instead.
“You said you know about wanting justice,” Tang Yi said and let the words hover between them, not really a question but also not just a statement. Shao Fei frowned. Had Tang Yi memorized everything he had said to him and had just decided to act as if he wasn’t listening to him?
“Yeah… I do.”
He put a last handful of mud on Cheng Lin’s face and spread it over his neck for good measure then he turned to Tang Yi and realized that his silence was a request to continue talking. He pushed a hand through his hair and breathed through the pain the memories still caused him.
“One of our clan members killed our former chief,” he said, and his face twisted into something he couldn’t control. He startled when Tang Yi touched his face with a finger, a silent act of comfort, and an attempt to smooth out the wrinkles of grief. Shao Fei smiled.
“First, we thought it had been an accident but then… it turned out it was a fellow warrior and… he disappeared before we were able to get to him.”
“You caught him later?”
Shao Fei shook his head. They had no idea if Guan Zhi had used the canyon to disappear or if he just swam out of their territory, but he was gone, and they didn’t have the manpower to send search parties through the ocean. They had decided to concentrate on their clan, had tried to heal the gaping wound of Li Zhen’s loss and it had been one of the hardest decisions Shao Fei had ever had to accept.
“I could have gone, I guess, to try and find him, to get justice but… I decided to stay.”
Chang Lin groaned, and Shao Fei almost wanted to ask if Chang Lin was listening and didn’t approve of their decision. “Not that I think you shouldn’t be allowed to go after your traitor. Everyone has to decide for their own and I guess with Jack… you had more success from the beginning to find this Zhi De.”
“His skills help, yes,” Tang Yi said, and a dry voice reached their ears right after: “That is the nicest thing you ever said about me.”
Shao Fei was ready to get a heart attack on the spot. There were just too many surprises in this damn caves! He stared at Jack and Tang Yi just raised an eyebrow at him as if he had known from the start that Jack would reappear out of nowhere.
“That damn sea snake,” Jack said, and Shao Fei saw cuts and bruises on his tail. “A nasty beast.”
“It was a baby sea snake,” Shao Fei informed him weakly.
to be continued
Chapter 10: Ten
Jack’s magic felt like a weird sort of sand bath. Shao Fei decided that he wasn’t very fond of the feeling Jack’s magic left on his skin and as he tried to see what exactly he had done to his wound Tang Yi huffed beside him and prevented him from turning around on his own axis… again.
“I just want to see,” Shao Fei murmured, a bit embarrassed.
“If that really was a baby sea snake than you’re lucky. The poison is potent, a bigger wound and it wouldn’t have been as easy to flush it out of your system,” Jack said in a voice as if he was telling them about his fondest childhood memory and Shao Fei frowned at him. He jerked as he felt Tang Yi’s hand on his shoulder, digging into his skin. Tang Yi stared at his back as if he could ensure with his eyes alone that nothing of the poison was left in Shao Fei’s body.
“We told you the canyon is hosting dangerous creatures,” Shao Fei said and watched as Jack worked his magic on Chang Lin. The colour was returning to the face of the mer and the swelling on his face subsided noticeably in front of their eyes.
“We thought,” Jack said and had the audacity to shrug with his shoulders, “that you exaggerated.”
Shao Fei threw a glance at Tang Yi who, at least, tried to look admonished.
“Yeah,” Shao Fei said, and acid dripped from his words, “I hope you know now that there was nothing exaggerated about our concerns.”
“Zhi De…” Everyone’s attention turned back to Chang Lin and Tang Yi swam forward and laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Easy,” he said, “conserve your energy.”
Chang Lin nodded, and Shao Fei was able to see how difficult it was for him to speak but he nevertheless seemed to want to share his knowledge.
“It was Zhi De,” he said, “but… he was different.”
“Different?”, Jack asked.
Chang Lin nodded. “He… he’s deformed. He didn’t recognize me. He’s something different.” His strength left him, and Tang Yi pushed him gently towards the wall to rest.
“What could he mean with deformed?”, Jack asked, and Shao Fei shrugged when they looked at him.
“We don’t know if the canyon changes someone if you live down here long enough,” he said because while there was more pressure down here than in their territory it wasn’t something that would harm Shao Fei, even if he would be down here for a long time.
“We don’t feed ourselves from anything that comes from the canyon beside the snails… but it wouldn’t surprise me if stuff down here is dangerous to eat.”
They fell silent after that and Shao Fei watched the rise and fall of Chang Lin’s chest, the flutter of his gills. He didn’t know him for long, but he felt relieved that he was on the way to get better. He would have hated to lose someone to this canyon.
Tang Yi moved next to him, his tail brushed against Shao Fei and he didn’t think it was voluntarily. He looked towards the next tunnel, a faraway look on his face accompanied by a frown. Shao Fei glanced down where Tang Yi’s fin touched his scale and the feeling was back, the feeling of pressure against his scales, against his senses. His fins wanted to flutter in excitement, and it seemed like the reason really was Tang Yi. He opened his mouth to ask Tang Yi if he felt the same thing, but Tang Yi straightened up and disrupted his thoughts.
“I want to swim back to the cave where we found the bones,” he said, “maybe he will return there.”
“Bones?”, Jack asked, and Shao Fei nodded. “It’s a creepy cave.”
“You should stay with Chang Lin, Shao Fei can come with me,” Tang Yi said, and Shao Fei blinked.
“Shao Fei thinks we should stay together and don’t hunt danger,” he said but, of course, Tang Yi was already moving.
Jack smirked at him when he followed Tang Yi and he really felt the urge to point out to them that he was a high-ranking warrior in his tribe.
to be continued
Chapter 11: Eleven
“Can I ask you something?”, Shao Fei asked as he caught up to Tang Yi and because he had the feeling Tang Yi was someone who would point out that he had, in fact, already asked something, he barrelled on: “What did you say to Chang Lin when we found him? That was not a language I know.”
“It’s a code,” Tang Yi answered. “Where we are from… it isn’t as peaceful as it is here.”
Shao Fei frowned at that. But it was rather peaceful he guessed. It was very rare that they had to fight against something from the crater and the tribes who visited them were familiar tribes, connected mostly through mates.
“I told him he’s safe and that I’m someone he can trust. If I told him that in our language, he might not have believed me, but in our code, he knew that it was the truth.”
That was neat, Shao Fei thought, and he hoped no one would tell Zhao Zi because he would immediately want to come up with their own code.
“Do you know the way back to that cave?”, Shao Fei asked and almost bumped against Tang Yi who had stopped and turned his upper body back to him. His brows were raised.
“You ask a lot.”
Yes, Shao Fei almost said, because the thing he really wanted to ask seemed a bit inappropriate for the situation they were in. Do you feel the same connection as I do? Does your whole body tingle just because I’m present? Shao Fei hoped he could ask all these questions when they were safe and out of the canyon. He flicked his tail against Tang Yi’s to get him to move again and they made their way slowly through the tunnels, from cave to cave, always attentive to any kind of disruption in the flow of the water.
They recognized the cave with the multiple exits almost immediately and Shao Fei felt the tension like a tangible thing between them. He put his hand on Tang Yi’s underarm and Tang Yi nodded but didn’t let his eyes stray away from their way. Something or someone was back in the cave with the bones.
They were cautious, slow, ready for everything and in the end nothing Shao Fei had pictured for this encounter came close to the reality.
First, there was this sound. The sound of retching, of bones clattering against the walls of the cave and it sounded ominous, yes, but if there would have been a fish or animal in the cave Shao Fei wouldn’t have been surprised.
The sight in front of them, as they slowly reached the entrance of the cave, was… repulsive. Shao Fei was still behind Tang Yi and as he looked over his shoulder to the… thing that once had been a mer, he needed to reach out to Tang Yi, needed the connection and put his hands on his shoulders, digging his fingers deeply into Tang Yi’s skin.
The tail was swollen, ripped open on multiple parts, healed over, and ripped open again. Slime, black slime oozed from some of the wounds and his gills looked like they had been torn apart by fingertips, traces of scratches all around them and over the whole upper body of the mer. His face… Shao Fei couldn’t see his face, just saw that he dry-heaved, his whole body trapped in waves upon waves of tries to get something out of the body.
Shao Fei jerked slightly as he felt Tang Yi’s hand on his waist. He had put his hands back to lay it on Shao Fei’s skin, another part to connect themselves to each other and Shao Fei had to think about the scratch on his back and what could have happened to him if Tang Yi wouldn’t have been there if he would have been too slow to escape the sea snake.
“He’s not going to survive that,” Shao Fei said quietly. He looked at Tang Yi’s profile, his dark, dark eyes, shimmering with anger and grief. “I have no idea what he did, and maybe he deserves to be put out of this misery, but… if you want to punish him, this is punishment.”
Tang Yi slowly turned his head to look at him, their faces only centimetres apart and Shao Fei could feel the flutter of his gills against his stomach. He couldn’t stop his reaction to Tang Yi’s closeness and raised his hands to cradle Tang Yi’s face between them. He stroked with his thumbs over his jaw and tried to pet the tension out of there.
“Let us go back,” he said.
to be continued
Chapter 12: Twelve
Shao Fei held Tang Yi’s hand as they swam back. He had the feeling if he would let go something bad would happen, or he just needed to be reminded that they both were alive and well. Had this Zhi De been attacked by the sea snake or had he encountered something else? Had he eaten something that had provoked the decay of his body?
Shao Fei felt like in trance. He needed to talk to their Chief to warn everybody about the dangers in the canyon. This wasn’t some irrational fear, no if or maybe that could happen to someone who was too curious and wanted to investigate the caves.
Shao Fei turned around and directly into the arms of Tang Yi. One heartbeat, a second and as Tang Yi’s arms wrapped around him, he sighed in relief and hugged him back. It had been shocking, seeing the Mer that way. Shao Fei was sure that there was no turning back from that, only suffering and pain.
He wanted to go home, he realized with a sudden urgency, he really wanted to go home.
“Thank you,” Tang Yi murmured in his hair.
“For… being here.” There was a question in Tang Yi’s tone. As if he had no idea what here meant exactly. But Shao Fei felt the same way. He never felt like he waited for someone but then Tang Yi appeared, and it had felt right that he would cross Shao Fei’s path.
Shao Fei leaned back a little to look at Tang Yi’s face and the softness there astonished him. Had he once thought that he looked dangerous?
Tang Yi’s hands wandered down to the small of his back, to the little, sensitives scales, which immediately strained against the touch. Shao Fei felt a rush through his body and swallowed.
This was… different.
Tang Yi seemed curious about the reaction of the scales and blinked at him. Shao Fei was not explaining to him what that meant. He felt like the water around him was going to start to bubble soon because of the heat he was radiating. The rough sensation of Tang Yi’s tail against his own made little tingling flashes vibrate through his body and he felt how blood gathered in the sheath where his genitals were hidden and that had never happened involuntarily since he had been a young adult.
He was not going to embarrass himself like that in a creepy cave system in this dangerous canyon!
Before he could voice his mortification, Tang Yi took one of his hands from his shoulder and put it on the gills on his waist. Shao Fei’s heart stopped for a second. This felt… important. His fingers hovered over the most vulnerable part of Tang Yi. He felt the flow of water in and out of the gills, knew that the slightest injury could mean the death of Tang Yi.
A gasp escaped his mouth as Tang Yi lowered his head to Shao Fei’s own gills behind his ear and Shao Fei dug his fingers in Tang Yi’s shoulder, his body shuddering. He trusted Tang Yi, he realized with sudden clarification. Everyone else who would come near his gills would learn how Shao Fei had earned his place in the ranks of the tribe’s warriors.
But now, now he wanted Tang Yi to put his mouth there.
Tang Yi tipped his head back and Shao Fei was only able to stare at him. He had no idea what to say.
“How do you court in your tribe?”, he asked, and Shao Fei’s brain came to a sudden halt.
“What?”, he croaked and as Tang Yi wanted to answer he felt the sensation of a familiar body against his senses.
“Shao Fei!”, Zhao Zi yelled and a few moments later he swam around a corner towards them.
to be continued
Chapter 13: Thirteen
“I got nervous when it took you so long and then I wanted to ask Jun Wei to swim back to get help and then Zan Guo appeared and…”
“Zan Guo?”, Tang Yi asked, and Shao Fei knew he wanted to grab Zhao Zi and shake him. “He’s alive?”
“Yeah!”, Zhao Zi answered as they made their way back to the entrance of the cave labyrinth, “I mean, he’s fine. Not fine fine, but fine. He’s going to survive. Our healers said he’s going to be alright.”
Chang Lin swam on his own for the most part, but Tang Yi after and Jack before him had an eye on him. It was astonishing how Jack’s magic had helped the mer. Even between the time Shao Fei and Tang Yi had swum back to the bone cave and returned he had noticeably improved again.
Shao Fei was the last of their little group and while Zhao Zi told them what had happened outside of the caves, he stared at the back of Tang Yi’s head. Courting. What did that mean? Were there rules where Tang Yi came from? Didn’t you just make your intentions clear and wait for an answer? What did courting mean for Tang Yi? Was he going to court Shao Fei? Didn’t he need to go back to his home and report what had happened to the traitor? Was he going to stay? Was he going to ask Shao Fei to come with him?
They felt a surge of freshwater and the stream told them that the exit wasn’t far away anymore. Shao Fei couldn’t wait to leave this adventure behind him.
“Jun Wei!”, Zhao Zi exclaimed and the tall mer waved at them in excitement, behind him Yu Qi looked over his shoulder and smiled widely. The baby sea snake wasn’t around anymore, apparently, but Shao Fei would feel better if they had its dead body as evidence.
“Everyone alright?”, Jun Wei asked and as Shao Fei snorted Tang Yi glanced back at him with a small smile.
Zhao Zi was the first to swim out of the cave, Jack followed him, and Chang Lin hovered at the exist as if he wasn’t sure if he was able to swim up without support. Everyone reached out to him to help and Shao Fei felt proud of his tribemates.
So, this was it. He felt relieved that he was going to leave the caves, he felt relieved that everyone was safe and except from a few wounds everyone was healthy. They could leave this behind…
He saw how they took Chang Lin into their middle and he quickly grabbed Tang Yi’s arm to pull him back deeper into the cave again.
He kissed Tang Yi quickly, but heartfelt and before Tang Yi could react, he let him go. Tang Yi stared at him with big eyes, the confusion open on his face.
“That’s how we court,” Shao Fei said with a big grin and pecked him on the lips before he swam past Tang Yi to leave the cave.
to be continued
Chapter 14: Fourteen
The Chief stared at them with something alike to anger. He mostly looked tired, but there were anger and irritation too. They didn’t have an official meeting place in their home labyrinth, just a very big cave and while they talked to the chief in a corner of it a lot of mer from their tribe were there as well and tried very hard to not appear as if they were listening.
“They are going to stay?”, Chief Shi asked again, and Shao Fei nodded.
“I mean Chang Li and Zan Guo still have to heal. They can’t just travel back in their condition.”
Chief Shi looked at him as if he wanted to yell Bullshit. Which maybe was because since they had come back from the canyon some time had passed and that Zan Guo swam through the cave at that moment and waved at them before he swam along. Zhao Zi waved back, and the chief squinted at him in annoyance.
“And Tang Yi?”
“He’s not the boss of his clan, or he told me his sister is? They have matriarchal structures so there is no problem with him staying here… for… a bit.”, Shao Fei answered. He hadn’t told the chief about the whole courting plan Tang Yi had, because maybe then he would burst a blood vessel.
“What about the sea witch?”, Chief Shi asked Zhao Zi.
“Oh, he’s very interested in the canyon. Very… interested.”
Shao Fei suppressed a snort. Jack might be interested in the canyon, but he surely was investing his time in something or someone else than the canyon.
Chief Shi massaged the bridge of his nose. Zhao Zi’s tail touched Shao Fei’s for a second and they exchanged a glance. They almost had him where they wanted him.
“I guess,” Chief Shi said, “it wouldn’t hurt to let them stay for a little while longer. And if the sea witch can find out a bit more about the canyon… that’s not bad.”
Shao Fei and Zhao Zi high-fived when the chief was out of sight.
“This went better than I thought it would,” Shao Fei said and felt a shiver of excitement travelling down his spine. The truth was Tang Yi and his entourage had already made themselves home, with their own caves assigned to them and the Chief clearly knew that any kind of protest against them staying was just a farce to remind everyone that he was the one in charge.
“I have to find Tang Yi,” Shao Fei said, and Zhao Zi grinned at him and wiggled his brows. “Have fun,” he teased, and Shao Fei refused to feel embarrassed.
He quickly swam out and towards the algae field he and Tang Yi had agreed to meet. He spotted Tang Yi from afar and slowed down a bit to enjoy the feeling of the pressure against his scales, the wonder of what Tang Yi’s presence did to him. It was unknown, magical and a bit scary, but he also liked it very much.
Tang Yi turned and Shao Fei only stopped a few centimetres away from him. A wave most likely hit Tang Yi, but he didn’t budge. Shao Fei smiled at him.
“You do that a lot.”
Both looked down where Shao Fei had immediately wrapped the end of his tail around Tang Yi’s again and he blushed a bit.
“And? I like it.”
“I know.” And he really looked too smug for his own good but Shao Fei knew that if he would put his hands on Tang Yi’s stomach directly next to one of his gills, not, but almost touching the ends of them he would go still. And if Shao Fei would scratch at his skin there a little bit, with a little bit of pressure all bets would be off. It had been very pleasurable discovering that.
Tang Yi caught his hands before he could show him, and Shao Fei pursed his lips in annoyance.
“Not now,” Tang Yi said.
“Then what? Is this some part of the courting?”
Tang Yi nodded. “I’m going to hunt you something.”
“Do you want to prove that you can provide for me? I’m a warrior you know? I can hunt, that’s not something you have to do for me.”
“Even an octopus?”
Shao Fei opened his mouth and then close it. That, he had to admit, would be hot.
“Can I watch, or do I have to wait until you come back with your catch?” He knew he coiled his tail even tighter around Tang Yi’s and the way Tang Yi swayed towards him was a promising beginning.
“You can watch,” Tang Yi said, his voice rough and Shao Fei wanted nothing more than to hide somewhere and show him what that tone did to him but courting properly was important to Tang Yi.
“Okay,” he said happily, “then… please proceed.”
Tang Yi smiled that fond smile at him and pulled him back. “Can you show me your way of courting before I hunt?”
Shao Fei’s smile got even wider and he quickly kissed Tang Yi. For luck.