“It’s not like I haven’t met any other graduates of the Imperial Clairaut, but it’s the first time I’ve seen someone who talks like you.”
“It’s because the Clairaut has so many different fields, and there are only a few individuals who are interested in ancient times.
As for me, I’ve been going back and forth a lot because the history building was so close, that’s how I picked up a thing or two.”
Lil, who had her arms crossed, stroked her chin as she was agonising over something.
There was one more thing that came to mind, so Lil pointed it out.
She stared intently at his calm side profile, but shortly after Ed frowned and grunted.
“Why do you keep calling him ‘my’ Admiral We weren’t close.”
“Anyway, he’s said to be passionate about ancient art.”
“Then off I go.”
When Ed’s tall body slid into the water, Lil reflexively knelt and shouted at the tank.
But the only answer to her cry was a splash of water.
Lil watched Ed submerged into darkness while foreshadowing the possibility that just came to mind.
‘The Admiral is said to be enamoured with ancient traces.’
Until now, Lil thought that the term ‘ancient traces’ was referring to works of art or relics.
But when she heard Ed’s words, it seemed to her that life itself could be a trace of antiquity.
When the white light suddenly faded, Lil leaned over the edge of the tank.
And at that moment, she realised she was frantically concerned about Ed.
While she was suspicious of him, her worry that he might get hurt invaded her doubts like an intruder.
Two thoughts that shouldn’t coexist were tightly intertwined.
She couldn’t figure out what she believed in or whom she wanted Ed to be.
‘Just a moment ago, Ed would’ve been eaten had I failed to raise the pulley in time.
He was reckless.
Or maybe he knew I was trying to figure out a way to help him, and when he saw the pulley, he expected me to pull him up’
Lil sighed in frustration.
Suddenly, a light spread into her field of vision.
Lil raised the eyes she had fixed on the wound on her arm.
The mermaid’s eyes that had risen above the water surface were staring at her.
Lil was hit by the light in front of her and blinked her aching eyes before wiping them with her arm.
In front of her were innocent eyes, similar to those of a deer*, emitting a brilliant light.
The longer she looked into those eyes, the more the bright light faded.
Without giving the time to panic, the light slowly went out.
However, the pair of eyes were still on Lil, who suddenly realised that the mermaid was examining her.
Awkwardly, Lil repeated what Ed had said, causing the mermaid’s hair to swell once but soon calmed down again.
She didn’t know if she said it correctly or not, so she could only hope she did.
Lil was so nervous that she couldn’t feel her hands or feet anymore and Ed wasn’t there yet.
Suddenly, the fact that she couldn’t tell whether he was alive or dead squeezed her chest.
Lil looked at its hair, which was starting to swell again.
‘Seeing that it can stay on the surface for so long, the chains must have been unlocked.’
The dry saliva she was about to swallow got stuck in the middle of her throat.
When Lil rolled her eyes to search for Ed, she saw its tail pop up and vigorously sweep over the surface of the tank.
Lil was defenceless against the pouring water.
A shadow was cast over Lil’s head as she coughed towards the floor.
She raised her head in a flash.
The mermaid – If they even have a bone similar to a knee – stood on its knees, staring down at Lil.
Lil wasn’t sure whether she should be more shocked about the fact that the mermaid jumped out of the water, that its tail could support its weight, or that it was wearing clothes and trinkets.
It was also at this point that Lil realised the mermaid was a ‘she’**.
The mermaid was dressed in a sleeveless dress.
It was a dress that hung just above its caudal fin, with a folded neckline and decorated with lace around the waist.
When put on a human, it would probably end around the ankles.
The dress’ material seemed to be as slick as the body of a squid.
While its top was pale pink, the bottom was dark green.
It was an elegant and stunning combination with the mermaid silvery bluish skin tone.
Lil suddenly grasped the concept of ‘civilization’ that Ed had told her about.
Lil was surprised when the mermaid moved its hand in front of its chest.
‘I don’t know sign language…let alone know how to make that clear…’
Lil hesitantly raised her hands and shrugged her shoulders.
The mermaid then turned its upper body to look back at the tank.
Surprisingly, a voice popped up out of nowhere.
“Hok im pugit.”
Lil turned her head towards the voice and saw Ed, who had his chin propped up on the edge of the tank, smiling gently.
Lil exclaimed, feeling her anger rise like a fever.
“You! Ugh, since when…”
“From the very moment you realised you were hopeless.
It was fun to see you bewildered, so I was quietly watching.
What a rewarding day.”
Lil bit her lip and endured the irritation.
‘In any case, the mermaid must be in a sensitive state, so it’s common sense that startling the mermaid by screaming at him will be foolish.’
Lil asked, squirming only inwardly.
“What did you say”
“That you don’t know sign language.”
“Okay, now hurry up and come out of there.”
While staring at Ed, something damp touched Lil’s cheek.
Upon feeling the cold sensation on her face, Lil slowly rolled her eyes and checked her side.
It was the mermaid stroking Lil’s cheek.
The mermaid was probably curious about her.
It poked her cheek, then raised her arm, and held her hand.
Holding hands with a mermaid for the first time, Lil realised its skin was smooth and scaleless.
‘Is this what it feels like to touch a dolphin’
Lil turned completely toward the mermaid.
The face she met right in front of her nose was a far cry from the legendary Bell Rock.
Its facial features were not a perfect copy of those of humans, unlike how Bell Rock was portrayed.
It has eyes, a nose, and a mouth, but its features had less curvature than those of a human.
Above all else, its eyeballs were shining black with blue irises, followed by three thick hairs that rose out of the brow.
It was what Lil thought kept moving like a snake.
Unlike her other hairs, these three strands were thick and strong, and they were still swelling and wriggling over her head.
“Those are sensory hairs.
They help with touch, smell, and hearing.”
Ed’s explanation suddenly came from her side.
Lil gave her hair to the mermaid and nodded her head stiffly.
In exchange, the mermaid gave Lil its hair.
Lil was perplexed when she grasped the smooth, fluffy texture in her hand.
At the same time, the mermaid kept smiling and twitching its mouth in surprise at the difference in texture between its hair and Lil’s.
“Sensory hairs are like an otter’s beard.
Well, hers are pretty long, though.”
For Lil, this situation was very strange.
Ed was watching the mermaid, but the mermaid was more interested in her than Ed, who could speak with it in both sign language and Goe.
She couldn’t figure out why the mermaid was so interested in her.
The mermaid lowered its guard thanks to Ed, but Lil couldn’t shake the feeling that she was putting her head in the maw of a beast that had tried to eat her not long ago.
For a brief period, time passed slowly.
Just as they were gasping for breath from their overabundance of curiosity, a trumpet could be heard.
Lil and Ed immediately looked at each other.
Lil, of course, rolled her eyes first.
“Tempori parsendum est. We don’t have time for this.”
Ed made himself their interpreter as he spoke both languages.
The mermaid who was rubbing Lil’s legs gently raised its head while Lil, pulling out her legs, quickly stood up.
The mermaid looked up at Lil as she stepped back behind Ed.
Lil pointed to the window on the stern and looked at Ed.
“Eripies de ex periculo. We’ll get you out.”
– – – – –
* Eyes of a deer: the eyes of deers are completely black with brownish irises, so for the mermaid you can imagine black eyes with blue irises similar to a deers.
** ‘She’: Even though it was just established that the mermaid is female, we made the choice to keep using the pronouns ‘it’ in the text.
This is because it has a lot of interactions with Lil and if we use ‘she’ it can be unclear who’s doing what.
We will use ‘she’ when talked about in dialogue or thoughts.
We apologise if it sounds a bit rude or insensitive.