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Hippoyuan (Nobody Suspects A Thing)

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There was absolutely no way in hell Shen Yuan could have predicted what would occur after his untimely death.

 

Okay, yes! Perhaps it wasn't entirely out of the blue, as Shen Yuan had met his unfortunate end after having an asthma attack in the deep end of a wave pool, and yes that was absolutely humiliating and Shen Yuan had wanted to die– but then he did! He did die, an ugly, drowning mess, and no one had noticed until it was too late and that was fine but still!

 

Why! Was! He! An! Overgrown, over-glorified, stupid fucking seahorse!?!

 

Whatever deities out there that there were, they clearly had a vendetta against Shen Yuan. For, he can figure out no other reason for such a tragically ironic reincarnation.

 

And that begged the question, he hadn't even been reborn??? Shen Yuan had lost consciousness with water filling his lungs and had awoken to the same sensation, except nothing about the situation had felt wrong besides the fact that there had been water in his lungs.

 

He'd promptly freaked the fuck out!! He's certain he hadn't even had a single coherent thought in that panic bridled moment that seemed to last an eternity. The last thing he had remembered was himself drowning, so of course he was going to flip his shit and struggle up to the surface!

 

But then, the eccentricities of the situation had begun to set in. 

 

Shen Yuan’s body had felt… wrong. Irrevocably, undeniably wrong. Like every piece of himself had been stolen away and replaced with something new, as if he was Theseus’s ship, neither himself nor not himself.

 

It had been really, really weird. 

 

And it hadn’t gotten any better with time! In fact, it had only gotten worse as he came into more awareness of his then new body-form-thing.

 

But he’d had no time to worry about all that! He had been drowning, with fluid in his lungs and pressure against his lean body, and he had struggled upwards with all his might. Only to be faced with the fact that his struggles were not, in fact, difficult at all. In fact, it was quite easy to swim upwards, to the point at which Shen Yuan had reached the surface within a minute.

 

Which is very, very strange, as Shen Yuan had just drowned in a wave pool at a waterpark because he couldn’t swim all too well. So where did this sudden swimming prowess come from? It certainly would have been appreciated when he had found himself drowning in six feet deep water earlier!!

 

Yet once he’d reached the surface, he hadn’t felt any better. Actually, he had felt much, much worse. The water in his lungs turned stationary, to which Shen Yuan realized that it had been circulating throughout his lungs, as if the water had been the air he had been trying to breathe in at that moment, and with no more supply, he felt as if he was at the beginnings of yet another coughing fit, which had made absolutely zero sense. He should have felt better once he’d breached the surface, finally breathing in the air that his body sorely needed, so then why had it felt like the shift from inhaling water to air was far too rough? As if he had accidentally taken in a breath when drinking water, except in reverse. 

 

Strange feeling aside, it’d seemed to abide partially the more time he spent out of water. Shen Yuan had thought, ‘well, maybe this is a normal reaction to drowning. After all, hadn’t I just passed out due to too much water?’

 

Wrong!

 

With just one glance around, Shen Yuan had faced the fact that he was in the middle of fucking! Nowhere!

 

Surrounding him on all sides had been water, water, and more water! No land in sight, no concrete barriers or screaming children. Where was the waterpark? The wave jets? The lifeguards that surely should have come to his rescue much, much earlier? 

 

Maybe he was just going blind, he’d thought blearily. Or perhaps he was having hallucinations due to drowning.

 

And yet, as he floated in place (far too easily), nothing cleared up. Not the strangeness to his body, nor his surroundings of an ocean of blue, crystal waves that lapped against his skin.

 

All too suddenly, Shen Yuan was terrified to look down, because at this point, he was more than certain that he would not recognize what he saw. Unless this was some intricate, limbo style dream, then Shen Yuan was certain he was utterly, undeniably screwed. 

 

Without a doubt, he wanted to continue to swim in denial, within the waves of doubt that surrounded him on all sides. Surely it wouldn’t be that bad!! He could just stay floating until help arrived, or he could meagerly find his way to any sort of surface-land, which couldn’t be too far away! Certainly, certainly!

 

And then something brushed his… something (he didn’t recognize? This body part??), and Shen Yuan screamed. In a very manly way. In a deep, timber-like voice.

 

His head whipped down, intent on seeking out the offending intruder and fighting for his life, to which he saw many seaweed, leaf-like branches in close proximity to his body.

 

Shen Yuan had let out a sigh of relief. Ah, it was just plants! He had nothing to worry about, he had simply been too close to a patch of seaweed or something. 

 

He’d nodded to himself, content to figure out his peculiar situation further, until a thought registered in his head.

 

He was nowhere near the bottom of the sea. How in the world had plants reached him?

 

His head, for the second time in just as many moments, whipped down and he saw the leafy greens attached to a very scaly, very large serpent-like body.

 

Needless to say, Shen Yuan had screamed yet again. He didn’t even try to deny the hysterics to his tone, as panicked and high pitched as a fire alarm. His bout of mania led to many flailing limbs, too many limbs, in fact, and Shen Yuan had simply just lost his mind even more.

 

So! Here he was now, recovering from a very intense panic attack which took place in some ocean who-knows-where, surrounded by green limbs attached to his body-that-wasn’t-his, which was also a fairly light shade of orange, so please excuse Shen Yuan for his freak out!! As anyone could see, he simply just wasn’t ready for any of this.

 

He felt much better now, though! (This lie is one he tells himself in order to prevent yet another panic attack, because as prior experiences had shown, having any sort of attack, asthma or otherwise, was not wise when surrounded by (and submerged in) a body of water.)

 

“Haha, what the fuck,” Shen Yuan said– attempted to say. Instead, what came out was a series of whistles and clicks in a cadence unfamiliar to Shen Yuan’s ears. ‘What the fuck’ indeed!

 

After a… very long period of time, in which Shen Yuan furiously did his best at calming himself down, he felt stable enough to try to figure out his situation. And what the fuck was going on with his body.

 

As it turns out, dying in a waterpark led to getting reborn as some sort of sea creature! Ha, who would have known? Certainly not Shen Yuan!!!!  

 

Though to be fair (‘fair to what?’ He thought. If there was a deity he was supposed to be just to, then it could suck his ass for all he cares!!), “reborn” wasn’t quite the most accurate word to describe his situation.

 

“Displaced” seemed more precise, as the body he was currently… occupying… seemed fairly mature; as much as a human could judge the maturity of a serpent-seahorse-monster, that was. With a proportional body and long, well developed leaf-like fins, it’s really the only conclusion Shen Yuan could make. After all, what else was he supposed to base his assumptions off of? His face? The one feature that he couldn’t see, given that Shen Yuan didn’t have 360 degree vision?

 

With that clarity, Shen Yuan could only conclude that the gods hated him and were studying him like some melodramatic soap opera crossed with a new, mysterious hybrid in a lab tank.

 

Which. Shen Yuan had many, many words to say about that, and none of them would particularly land him a place in heaven– quite the opposite, as a matter of fact– but he’d save those for a later date, when he could actually articulate his thoughts. Aquatic squeaks and chirps did not count! They really didn’t! Even he didn’t know what he was saying! That was weird ASF, okay!?!

 

If Shen Yuan had the ability to curse out the heavens right now, oh, would he be abusing it to hell and back! Because WTF was this!?

 

With a downtrodden, heavy sigh, Shen Yuan decided that if nothing else, he must be adaptable in a situation like this. So what if he just got, fucking, transmigrated to some sea monster’s body? He could deal with this! It wasn’t the worst scenario outcome!

 

Well, it kind of was, but in a very different way than he’d expected. He knew reading trashy webnovel porn would always land him a spot in hell, but not like this! Who would’ve assumed that hell was some empty ocean? Where’s the fire, the brutal terrain and acidic air? The demons? The devil himself? All Shen Yuan could see was himself! What did that imply about him?!

 

‘Okay. This is fine. This is fine! Nothing to be worried about here, I’ve just been reborn as an adult sea monster. I can handle this! No problem! Just, y’know, adapt to the mindset of a fish. Or maybe a dolphin. Maybe I can make friends with the local sea life. That’d be fun, right?’

 

Even in his own mind, he sounded insane. Like hell he’ll just ‘make friends’ with the local sea life! For all he knew, they’d try to kill him! Shen Yuan had no idea what his social status was in this body! Was he a predator? A prey? Where was he placed in the ocean food chain? Was he even an omnivore?? These pretty green fins did not bode well with being an apex hunter! 

 

Oh god, if he had to live the rest of his pathetic life as a prey animal, he really might just let himself sink to the bottom of the ocean and die. He really might!!

 

So. Shen Yuan had a lot to figure out, about this new… body, and this new life, and whether it was even all worth it. Shen Yuan wasn’t above letting himself go! He really wasn’t! Sometimes you just gotta take that loss like a man. And besides, with his track record, he’d probably get reborn in yet another body if/when he died, so it’s not like there’s too much to worry about. Probably.

 

And thus, Shen Yuan’s trials of figuring out what, where, and who the hell he was began.

 

It… well. It was certainly a trial. 

 

He felt as if he was some ancient greek hero, cast into a dark pit of hell and tasked to find his way out while beating some impossible monster. Except Shen Yuan was the monster and the hero was nonexistent (for now. Who knew what would happen once someone inevitably finds him. Would he become the next Loch Ness Monster? God, he sure hoped not).

 

Shen Yuan, in typical over-analytic nerd fashion, created a (mental) list of all the things he had learned about his new self.

 

Unsurprisingly, it was fairly short.

 

The first item on the list was this: he’s a sea monster and now inhabited an ocean. This was fairly easy to discern! Just one study of himself, and this was undeniably true. How fortunate for him, that he had clue number one down and under lock!

 

But as he spent more time in this form, Shen Yuan learned more about exactly what type of sea monster he was. 

 

With a light, pale orange skin– scale?– color, paired with pastel green leafy fins (who designed this color palette?? It was so incredibly impractical!), it was kind of obvious that Shen Yuan was some… seaweed monster?

 

Well, maybe it wasn’t obvious, but it was certainly the clearest assumption he could make in this situation. The body he inhabited was lean and long, not unlike that of a mythical dragon. He had two pairs of legs, though the lower pair were much further down his body than he’d expected. How weird! He looked like some crossover between a seahorse and a dachshund. How… uncool!

 

If he had to be some sort of sea dragon, why couldn’t he be a badass one?! This body was as unthreatening as they came! The most intimidating part about him was the fact that his leaf-fins could turn razor sharp, and even that was impractical as hell! If some creature ever got close enough that he was forced to resort to that as a defense mechanism, then he was screwed! Absolutely screwed!

 

Not to mention the story behind how he found out he even had that ability… So embarrassing! So what, he got jumpscared by a sea snake?! It was terrifying! It had been green and he’d thought it was just another fin! It’d been barely a few days in this body, and if anyone expected him to know the ins and outs of it, then they were the crazy one!

 

But… RIP that sea snake, may it rest in peace. Er, pieces. Turns out, his fins can become quite sharp! As in, really quite sharp! That creature was ripped to shreds, and to be honest, Shen Yuan felt quite bad about it…

 

In a very similar fashion, Shen Yuan found out that this sea-dragon-monster body of his was also not too fond of eating other animals, if the way he forcibly regurgitated that sea snake (RIP) was any indication. 

 

What? Don’t look at him like that!! It was free food! An easy way to test if he was a herbivore or not! And now he had a clear answer: don’t eat sea snakes, his body will reject it like a pretty girl to the quote, unquote, ‘nice guy’ pursuing her. 

 

Good to know!

 

Very helpful, in fact, because now Shen Yuan knew better than to pointlessly hunt harmless creatures like fish. He really hadn’t wanted to hunt fish, so this was a great revelation! All he had to hunt were plants!! How plain and not dangerous!

 

If Shen Yuan’s diet had consisted of something like small sharks or jellyfish, he might have really gone through with that “sink to the bottom of the ocean and wait until death consumes him” idea. Maybe. Guess he’ll never know, now!

 

So! First bullet point of ‘things he’s figured out about being a sea monster’ down. Herbivore sea monster that’s built like a coral reef! Fun.

 

Second bullet point: where the hell is he?

 

This one was interesting to figure out, given that the endless vastness of the ocean gave him absolutely no clues. He could be in any ocean in the world! Of course the most likely answer was the Pacific, or the South China Sea, given its proximity to where he’d lived in his first life (??). But other than that, Shen Yuan was given absolutely zero hints as to where he was.

 

How annoying! He’d seen neither bow nor stern of any ship, which he really wasn’t sure was a good thing or not. For as long as he’s been in this body (a week, give or take a few days) surely he would have seen some sign of human life, right?

 

The water wasn’t nearly cold enough to be anywhere too far north or south (unless his body has some resistance to that…. But that was highly unlikely, given his supposed species (coral related sea creatures surely would be adapted to warmer waters, right?)), so he had to be in some body of water close(ish) to a body of land. Especially considering the amount of coral reefs he’s found near his habitat!

 

They aren’t too frequent, but Shen Yuan had found at least five separate reefs, so that’s surely to mean something about his location. Closer to the equator in some tropical zone. And if he’s seen so many coral reefs and colorful barriers, then why hasn’t he seen any land? Surely those two come together, right? How would one find comparatively shallow water without a land mass to accompany it?

 

This was a question that plagued Shen Yuan’s problem solving mind, until he eventually resolved this conquest with, “fuck it, I’m a giant sea monster. This ocean doesn’t have to make geographical sense, I’m already living proof that whatever is going on is statistically highly unlikely!”

 

So with that conclusion, Shen Yuan had come up with a resolution to bullet point number two: he had no fucking clue where he was. And that was okay. No, really, it was! In the grand scheme of things, in a situation like this, was his precise location really that important? He doubted that even if he came across land, he’d be able to do anything. Certainly not in a body like this! He’d just be hunted down and captured or killed or studied, because what else would humans do in the face of some rare, never seen before species?

 

So he’s found himself at peace with this newfound resolution, and therefore moved onto the next big question: who was he?

 

Now, certainly that sounded like a stupid question. After all, he was Shen Yuan! Ex-redditor who spent his family’s money to live life to the fullest, despite knowing he would probably die of some mild illness at some point or another. Shen Yuan, who was trapped in a big sea monster-serpent body, who cares who he was outside of that? He surely wouldn't have, given he hadn’t had a very particular experience with… some-thing? -One?

 

Whatever it was, the creature he came across was absolutely something that recognized him. And not him as Shen Yuan– him as the water creature he was pretending to be. And hadn’t that been the weirdest thing ever?

Initially, when he’d seen some big, long, antlered sea creature approaching him, Shen Yuan had… admittedly, not taken it well. Listen, he was used to being the biggest, fiercest creature in the area! A whole two weeks, and nothing bigger than himself had dared to occupy his area of living! He’d just, kind of, y’know, assumed that that would stay a permanent feature in his life… It really wasn’t his fault that he hadn’t expected yet another seamonster to come at him!

 

And so, he might have, just perhaps, let out a loud and long screech when he spotted the animal. And, through the sea-dragon language that his words exited his– …mouth? Snout? Anyways– it came out as a loud and long warning trill (the sound of which he’d figured out based on context clues), and the offending creature had almost immediately halted, its long, swirling tail thrashing back and forth through the water.

 

It seemed… Something between agitated and confused, though Shen Yuan would be honest, he wasn’t really paying all that much attention to its body language at the moment. He was much more focused on either getting the fuck out of there, or making it get the fuck out of there!

 

Before Shen Yuan could flee, though, the creature made– a noise? Which he supposed wasn’t odd, of course other creatures could also make noises, but it seemed as if Shen Yuan… understood it?

 

And hadn’t that been the weirdest thing ever. Not only did he wake up as some strange sea monster, he could also understand other sea monsters! How convenient for his social life!

 

–Not!! That’s weird as fuck!!!! Someone explain what’s going on, please, he’s really begging here!

 

He doesn’t even have a chance to process what the other creature said (though he was able to note that it looked less like a seahorse and more like a proper sea dragon… it had no legs, and it’s body was covered in silver scales, but it had the face of a typical Chinese dragon and the antlers of one too) before the dragon was backing off, almost… apologetically?

 

Fuck, knowing sea-dragon body language would be really convenient here!! Why hadn’t that been an inherent knowledge he’d been reborn with, too?! He needed all the help he could get here!

 

Once he’d been able to actually register what the other said, it was already gone, backing off into the blue waves of the sea, and Shen Yuan was left with his mind rolling. What the hell did that mess of a sentence even mean?

 

“Sorry-sorry-little brother mad-return later – sorry.”  

 

To Shen Yuan’s very much human brain–

 

–That made absolutely no sense!! Not a single part of it was coherent!

 

The words themselves had been said through the usage of soft growls and familiar clicks, to which Shen Yuan had somehow understood. That had been really weird! But nevermind that– the dragon had just talked to him. Like full on communicated! In sea-monster language!

 

To Shen Yuan’s very human, very nerdy brain, that had been an astounding development. So much had just happened, and he’d come to many new realizations!

 

He wasn’t the only sea-creature! Although that one had been very clearly of a different– species? Subtype?– it’d been unmistakably similar to Shen Yuan, for them to supposedly share the same language.

 

And it was also unmistakably familiar with Shen Yuan! Er, the body that he inhabited. The ‘little brother’ portion of the sea dragon’s words were less of a direct translation and more of an interpretation to the noise that the creature had used, but some part of Shen Yuan’s sea hindbrain knew what it meant regardless. Perhaps it had been a combination of a title and a name? A diminutive?

 

Whatever it’d been, the knowledge that that creature had recognized him was… something that took Shen Yuan multiple days to come to accept. 

 

And thus, Shen Yuan’s quest to figure out just who this body had been began. 

 

Turned out, that was hard as fuck!

 

With no human conventions– journals, home, any physical presence of what the body had done before Shen Yuan came to inhabit it– how in the world was he supposed to figure all that out? The only one that seemed to recognize him was the other creature, and Shen Yuan had absolutely no clue how to interact with it!

 

The moniker that the dragon had referred to him with implied that things were friendly between them, but could he really trust that? This was a random stranger, except the stranger was a sea monster practically twice his length! And– in Shen Yuan’s opinion– his own tail was already quite long! 

 

So. He wasn’t quite sure if he really wanted to see that creature again.

 

But on the other hand, that (person? No, that doesn’t really work–) individual(?) was really the only clue he had to… well, anything, really. Shen Yuan had learned absolutely nothing substantial on his own, besides the fact that he was now a sea-dragon and could not eat meat. Pathetic! Imagine what he could learn if he met with that other being– he could learn so much about this entire situation! Who he was, where they were, why he was a dragon.

 

And– oh. Oh! Maybe that dragon was in the same situation as Shen Yuan was, being reborn as a sea creature. Maybe all people who died water-related deaths were reborn that way? If so, that would be quite convenient! He’d find someone who was just like him, who he could talk to and find company in! That would be so wonderful–!

 

…Assuming that Shen Yuan wasn’t just special in his own right. If Shen Yuan was the only one like himself, ignorant to his ‘fellow’ sea creatures, and incapable of communicating with humans, then…

 

That’d be… quite the miserable life. 

 

He supposed that meant he was betting on being able to find a commonality between himself and this other being, then.

 

This plan of Shen Yuan’s, of course, relied on the creature coming back to visit, though he wasn’t all too worried about that. Its parting words had been “return later,” after all, so why should he expect not to see it again?

 

And at least next time he sees it- …them? He’ll be far more prepared, both physically and mentally. 

 

But, the pessimist that Shen Yuan was, he also must prepare for the worst case scenario! Which was, of course, the sea monster finds out he’s a fraud and fights him to the death, in which Shen Yuan will die horribly and miserably and never figure out the mystery of this new life.

 

Tragic! So he’ll just have to do his best to prevent all that, then! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. He could do it in his sleep.

 

-:-

 

So.

 

As it turned out, Shen Yuan was quite possibly… not born to be self sufficient.

 

Again, this was something that really couldn’t be blamed solely on him! He’d been sickly ever since childhood, and his parents had constantly had attendants looking after him for what was essentially every second of his life, and yes, Shen Yuan had been horribly spoiled but it kind of evened out! He got a life of luxury and splendor and in return he’d die at a young age to some stupid disease! That had just been his life, point blank period.

 

And… perhaps, that also came with the requisite that Shen Yuan, possibly, couldn’t take care of himself. Maybe.

 

Shen Yuan was able to recognize his privilege, even in his first life! He’d known he was horribly spoiled and didn’t know how to be a real, socially or economically productive member of society! He’d known that! But that didn’t change the fact that he didn’t know what the hell he needed to do to live as some sort of sea monster!

 

And– in his defense, he doubted anyone else would know what to do in such a situation, either! He wasn’t being stupid or ignorant, because he’s entirely certain that anyone would be lost in this situation, just the same as him. So!

 

…That defense, however, did nothing to give Shen Yuan any sort of foreknowledge on this type of thing, so…

 

In short, he was kind of screwed.

 

But Shen Yuan was nothing if not in a constant stage of denial! If he was determined to find his way through this god awful situation, then he would do it! Somehow! 

 

This started his (very professional and organized) plan of “How To Survive Being A Sea Monster In God Knows Where, A Guide For Newbs,” (Shen Y., 2016). It was quite creative, given his circumstances!

 

First and foremost: find a food source and secure it against competing organisms. This was fairly simple on Shen Yuan’s part, as he’d been doing it ever since he’d arrived in this body. As an herbivore, it had been somewhat simple to find a food source (plants), and figuring out which ones were edible was a simple trial and error process. Easy stuff, beginners level shit.

 

Seaweed was fine enough, even if it tasted bland and salty. He wasn’t sure how healthy any piece of vegetation was for this body, but none of it had been rejected so vehemently as the sea snake had been, so surely he was doing something right, yeah? That made a solid amount of sense in his brain, and so eat seaweed he did.

 

Once, he’d found a collection of red algae and had nibbled on it a bit, and had quickly discovered his new favorite treat. It’d tasted somewhat meaty, if undercooked (which… made sense, given it was… raw algae…) but tasted fine all the same. Sea grasses tasted well enough as well, and it had been that plant that gave way to a new discovery.

 

Shen Yuan’s monster body was… quite possibly not as ‘herbivore-y’ as he’d once thought.

 

As in, he’d taken a large bite from a bed of sea grass, and it had taken him a full moment that the grass had been far too crunchy for simply just that. He’d spit it out almost immediately, as one does when faced with unexpected textures in their meal, and had seen the chewed up remains of what had most likely been shrimp.

 

Shen Yuan… was slightly ashamed that, even after spitting it out, he’d gone back and taken a second bite. Just to see if it was an option! His diet had a severe lack of any protein, and he wasn’t sure if that was healthy or not! Shen Yuan had never been an herbivore before, okay?!

 

And, after swallowing and waiting for any disagreements with his stomach (did this body even have one? Did it have multiple? He really didn’t know!) Shen Yuan had come to the conclusion that small creatures like shrimp were safe to eat.

 

Perhaps he really was more like a seahorse than he’d once thought.

 

So! That was new, but not particularly unwelcome. Good to know! He’d pat himself on the back, if he could. 

 

Continuing to find a food source didn’t ever seem to come across as an issue, and so Shen Yuan resolutely affirmed that he had this first step down and crossed out! Being an (almost) herbivore had its perks it seemed, but it also meant that he was just eating grass half the time which had… an adjustment period, to say the least.

 

What were a few life crises in the face of being “transmigrated” into an overgrown sea lizard? Surely that was nothing new!

 

The second step to Shen Yuan’s guide to being a massive sea monster was finding a spot to safely rest at. 

 

This had taken quite a while for Shen Yuan to complete, but solely for the fact that he didn’t know what was a threat to this body and what wasn’t. Sure, that cave with an octopus hanging out on the ledge could be a perfect spot for him, but did he really want to die in his sleep via suffocation-by-octopus to find out?

 

No. No he did not.

 

Finding a permanent and reliable home took more than a few days, but once Shen Yuan had found a location he was satisfied with, it’d all been worth it.

 

A grove, partially covered by an overhang of a nearby seacliff, surrounded by tall seagrass on all open sides. Shen Yuan personally quite liked it! It was large enough that he felt as if he had enough room to spread around (and more so. He could certainly fit a whole few other sea creatures his size in this clearing!) and also felt protected enough that he could actually relax. The overhang did wonders; Shen Yuan was able to take catnaps during the day, laying in the shadow supplied by the rocky ledge and resting his head on a flattened bed of seagrass. It was a comfortable space!

 

And, curiously enough, once Shen Yuan had settled in the area, he’d found himself subconsciously fluttering to the edges of the area and brushing his tail fins against the grass with an unknown purpose. 

 

Given what he knew (er, could assume) of dragons, of the water type or otherwise, he assumed it was some sort of territory marking? He really had no clue as to how it worked, or what he was doing, but it just felt right in this body to do the action, repeating it biweekly. And, as he got more comfortable in the area (and as the creatures got more comfortable with him) he extended this ring and made yet another trail further outside of the grove, marking his territory as a bigger expanse of the area.

 

It felt… nice, satiating in a way that satisfied something deep inside of him, and he chose to ignore what that meant! No thank you, he didn’t quite want to know what it meant that he was submitting to his sea dragon urges! He’d move that crisis to a later date, thanks. 

 

And, as he found out, having a space that was his was both fulfilling and a bit stressful!

 

He had to make sure that all the creatures– big or small– knew that he was the one in charge. And that was scary! He didn’t want to start a fight with anything, bystanding jellyfish or otherwise!

 

The day he’d come face to face with a leopard shark was also, coincidentally (and surely unrelatedly) the day that he realized that other animals could also understand him, to an extent. 

 

It was also the day he set up a basic funeral for said leopard shark, after bursting its– eardrums?? (do sharks have eardrums?) due to screaming so loudly that it flopped over like a dead fish. This also resulted in every living being in the area making itself scarce.

 

So! That had been! Something.

 

And, obviously the animals knew to react to the ‘big scary dragon thing’ screaming its lungs (gills?) out, but later Shen Yuan had tested this reaction and found that the clicks and whistles that translated to “don’t worry, I’m friendly, I won’t eat you (because I physically can’t)” …kind of had the desired result. The fish didn’t run away from him, given that he didn’t startle them, and somehow, the larger animals had seemed less on guard, if that made sense.

 

He felt like a Disney Princess! How cool!!

 

Ahem. A manly Disney Princess, but one that could talk to animals all the same.

 

(Don’t get him started on the first time he met a pod of dolphins. That had been the most fulfilling moment of this new lifetime so far. He’d made a series of clicks that had, hopefully, meant “friendly, playful, be my companion?” and the dolphins had responded with the same clicks!

 

It hadn’t been anything like the legitimate “words” that had come from the other creature– much more similar to that of a parrot repeating your words– but the dolphins had swum around him and he’d been able to mess around with them for a good portion of an hour. How fun!

 

And then he’d chased them off once they got bored and started harassing his sea animals– his jellyfish, small sharks, even his octopuses! And after that, he’d remembered that, ‘oh, dolphins are actually assholes, forgot about that fact,’ and resolutely kept other dolphins away from his grove. Maybe he’d let himself mess around with them when they weren’t in close proximity to the creatures under his jurisdiction.)

 

And then that had led to the realization (one in the series of many he’d had ever since coming to occupy this body) that he felt some sort of innate sense of protection to the creatures he recognized and was familiar with that lived in his territory.

 

It was terribly strange, but it didn’t feel bad. It just felt like… having a mutualistic relationship with those animals. And that had been very, very weird to realize, but it also made a lot of sense. 

 

Perhaps commensalism was a more accurate interpretation? Shen Yuan protected these much smaller and weaker creatures, and they… didn’t bother him, and didn’t entrench on his territory. There wasn’t much of a “give and take” relationship, just one of it being Shen Yuan’s responsibility to take care of those of which were in his territory, and consequently his.

 

The possessiveness was something he was severely unused to, but it didn’t feel unwelcomed. It just felt like yet another natural thing of living this life– he ate plants and his fins could turn razor sharp and as a sea dragon, he was possessive.

 

When he looked at it at that angle, of course it made sense. Dragons were known (in certain cultures) to have hoards, or be insanely protective of their territory, or to have an innate possessiveness of their hoard. He supposed those rules now applied to him as well, in some way or another.

 

What an interesting development! Shen Yuan couldn’t be mad, besides the fact that he now had responsibilities outside of himself. But it wasn’t too hard to handle– just going on simple ‘patrols’ around his territory, making sure there were no unwanted predators or swarms of anything intruding. Easy enough, as much of his so-called chores were.

 

Now, if any swarm of sharks happened to intrude in on this area, Shen Yuan might call it quits and retreat the fuck out of there! For as much time as he’d spent in this body, he’d found that he really wasn’t the fighting type! Fight or flight who? Shen Yuan had already retreated several kilometers away! So long, predators!

 

God. He didn’t even sound like himself– had it been a group of humans, Shen Yuan probably would’ve stood his ground (probably. But only by a mixture of his lack of self preservation– due to his sickness– and also of spite) but sharks were not predictable! They were sharks!! Shen Yuan didn’t know how to face off against them, and he most certainly didn’t want to find out!

 

So sorry to that school of fish he always hangs out with when he does his patrols– you’re on your own! Big monster Shen Yuan can’t protect you from sharks! Dolphins, humans? He’s got your back! Sharks? RIP. You were nice companions; as nice companions as fish can be, that was.

 

Fortunately he hadn’t run into any sharks though! Or, at least none that could be a threat to his grove. Thank fuck for that!

 

However, that did mean that by the time the other dragon made its way back to Shen Yuan’s area, he still hadn’t faced any sea animal bigger than himself (though, to be honest, he had no intentions of doing so).

 

But he at least felt comparatively much more prepared for this meeting than their unfortunate first one. Shen Yuan had fish friends now! And he knew a hell of a lot more on how to swim fast as fuck, so that had also been really convienent.

 

He also hoped that he no longer looked like a human dropped into a sea serpent body, even though that’s exactly what happened. He’d like to think that he’d gotten a lot smoother with how he swam and moved through the water! Hopefully more natural, at the very least.

 

Meeting the sea-dragon for the second time had been… almost underwhelming, in a way.

 

Not that he wasn’t just as impressed! No, now that he wasn’t (immediately) terrified that this new and bigger creature was going to rip his head off, he could actually appreciate the beauty and fantastical appearance of the other. The nerd side of his consciousness was absolutely losing its shit!

 

The fellow serpent was probably close to 1½ the size of Shen Yuan himself, with the majority of its body length being its tail. Its silver scales looked mystical in a way that Shen Yuan knew he didn’t, and paired with a light, cerulean blue underbelly, this thing was clearly out of this world. (Well, obviously that was used as a term of phrase, as both this being and Shen Yuan himself were, evidently, of this world. Probably).

 

Shen Yuan was also able to notice that not only did it have silvery-blue antlers on its head, but also along its back, not dissimilar to how dinosaurs had spikes along their spines. How interesting! Shen Yuan only had one set of “dorsal” fins (entirely unlike those of a dolphin or shark– much more similar to a fish or hypothetical mermaid, if it was to be compared) but had many fins along the length of his body, especially along his tail. He thought he looked kind of cool, personally. And yet, this creature was much more captivating than he was, in both appearance and gracefulness.

 

Much to his disappointment, this was clearly a creature that had been a serpent its whole life, and was not the same as Shen Yuan. The way at which it moved through the water was proof enough of that, even if its speaking pattern didn’t prove just as much.

 

But still.

 

Shen Yuan was… a bit lonely. Surely having a friend wouldn’t hurt? This dragon seemed kind enough– that, or it was simply highly intimidated and/or scared of Shen Yuan(‘s previous body’s holder. Shen Yuan hasn’t done shit to intimidate this thing).

 

Shen Yuan watched it approach, and did his best not to give off any signal that its presence was unwanted. He was kind of freaking out, except this time, it was kind of a good thing! 

 

Because like, wow, this was a sea-dragon. 

 

And then, once it got close enough, it spoke to him– and Shen Yuan had the first conversation in what must have been months. 

 

“Little brother–mad? – I here – this one help”

 

The intonation of its clicks and grumbles were unfamiliar, yet Shen Yuan recognized them all the same. The specific tone of click that signified a question– he knew it on instinct, and that had been quite cool to understand!

 

This was a dragon, and Shen Yuan understood it. How fucking cool was that!!

 

In his mental geek out, Shen Yuan belatedly realized he’d been quiet for a moment too long. He hurried to respond.

 

“Not mad –” Shen Yuan said in that same, clipped language. He wasn’t quite sure if what he was saying translated to the dragon in the same phrasing that the dragon’s word did to him, but he’d felt too odd to shorten his words to basic sentences. “What does–” and at this, Shen Yuan gave a slight pause. He supposed, if he was ‘little brother,’ then this must be… “big brother need?”

 

The term caused an immediate reaction. ‘Big brother’s’ tail gave what seemed to be an involuntary swish, large and wide in its motions. Again, Shen Yuan belatedly realized that he possibly could have just misgendered this dragon and been immediately sussed out, but the dragon didn’t seem to be offended?

 

In fact, it– he? Do dragons have gender systems?– seemed close to elated.

 

Okay! Shen Yuan would keep that in mind. This was obviously ‘big brother,’ and this big brother liked being called big brother. Good to know!

 

“Big brother-here – big brother help-little brother – check on-little brother-yes?”  

 

Shen Yuan almost twirled right then and there. He was having a conversation! With a whole dragon!! How cool was that?! He doesn’t think he’ll ever get over how cool that is!

 

He wasn’t able to keep his tail from flicking pleasedly, nor was it kept from the other dragon’s notice. It seemed to spur on his fellow sea-dragon, who approached further and seemed to do little twirls of appeasement. Shen Yuan let him.

 

Wow! This was just too cool! Shen Yuan didn’t know if he’d ever get over how freakin’ cool this was.

 

Shen Yuan chirped at the dragon in response, delighted to be holding a conversation with something besides the fish that frequent his grove. “Little brother - is fine. Does not need - help.”


To Shen Yuan’s brain, this made perfect sense. He didn’t need help, because he’d been surviving just fine! And yet, at his words, ‘big brother’ seemed to deflate.

 

Internally, he panicked. No, no, he didn’t want to upset big brother dragon! That was the last thing he wanted!!

 

“No help-but – we talk? Chat? Brothers?” Shen Yuan quickly amended, trying his best to prevent any more hard feelings.

 

Big brother dragon seemed absolutely delighted. “Yes-yes-yes – I-stay – brothers-talk – brothers-chat-yes-yes.” Perfect! Oh wow, this was absolutely insane, in the best way possible! This mythical sea dragon was his friend now! Oh wow, Shen Yuan was freaking out! How cool is this!! Too cool! He couldn't handle this!

 

And thus began big brother dragon’s visit into Shen Yuan’s territory, which– as Shen Yuan was to find out– was certainly… an experience.

 

As Shen Yuan quickly came to learn– big brother is chatty! What an interesting characteristic of a dragon– certainly not one he’d been expecting, yet it wasn’t unwelcome. Having gone weeks upon weeks without actual socialization, Shen Yuan responded quite warmly to big brother’s chatting, doing his best to keep up and add to the conversation.

 

And then, even more oddly enough, he found that despite their language’s stilted sentences and words, it was actually quite easy to talk with one another. Shen Yuan had been worried that he’d miss out on an entire aspect of conversation, but that really wasn’t the case! Although their words were clipped through the means of clicks and whistles and soft growls, their meanings were concise, if not straightforward. It was unfamiliar, but Shen Yuan thought that he could easily get used to such a manner of speaking.

 

Shen Yuan was able to introduce the other dragon to the frequenters in his territory; the octopuses that lounged around the place quickly made themselves scarce at the appearance of such an unfamiliar face (...? Was that even the right phrasing? Ah, who cares), but they didn’t go too far. Shen Yuan hoped they returned later in the day– they were nice company, being the most intelligent creature that lived in this area.

 

The dragon cooed at his school of fish, which were easily enough tempered by a quick few soothing clicks and purrs, emanating the vibes of ‘safe, friendly, won’t eat you’ within his words. A few brave individuals even broke off from the school to investigate the new being! They were undeniably stupid for that, but hey, it seemed to make big brother dragon happy, so did he really care?

 

And wow, he really needed a name for ‘big brother dragon,’ didn't he? He really couldn’t just keep calling him that, could he? But at the same time, did dragons even have names? Surely they were a mixture of intelligent and sophisticated enough to at least have some sort of naming system, right?

 

Ahh, he didn’t know! But it’d be too awkward to ask the other, given that they’re supposed to know each other, after all… Aiyah, if worse came to worst, he’d just keep calling the dragon “big brother!” He seemed to like it well enough, from what Shen Yuan could tell.

 

Their meeting went well enough– it really did! Shen Yuan liked having company, and the dragon was polite and friendly, and this was really the most like himself he’d been able to feel in weeks, but then–

 

Well. To be honest, Shen Yuan didn’t know how to explain it. All of the sudden, the dragon had gotten too close to the barrier of his grove, and something in his chest had just… snapped, per say.

 

One moment Shen Yuan was listening to the dragon chat about, and the next his eyes locked onto the other's proximity to his grove and he was already lunging by the time any sense of reason set in. Which was– really bad! That had been so extremely very bad!

 

Now, Shen Yuan knew very clearly that he couldn’t compare much in terms of this dragon; he himself was rather lean and, as he well knew, built as that of an almost-herbivore who-sometimes-ate-shrimp. He wasn’t stocky or strong and bulky, and that much was obvious for anything that laid eyes on him!

 

But he was still a dragon, and he clearly had some hidden, inlaid dragon instinct, because something in him took over in that moment as he lunged for the other, a snarl ripping from his throat and teeth snapping like a bear trap at the other’s neck.

 

Wow!

 

On a list of worst decisions Shen Yuan had ever made, this one had to be a pretty solid contestor! The only thing that could compare was that one time he’d walked into incoming and busy traffic to attempt to rescue some puppy in the street. He’d landed himself in the hospital for quite some time– nevermind the amount of time spent in therapy, because everyone was convinced that it had been some type of suicide attempt and not a simple valiant attempt at saving some poor pup.

 

He’d never known what had happened to the dog, but considering– and mind his rather gruesome truth– that there’d been no stain or dead body laying on the road, he’d always just assumed that the dog… turned out fine. 

 

That, or he’d just hallucinated the whole incident. Which, honestly, wouldn’t be too surprising, since he’d started new meds at that time with a known side effect of hallucinations.

 

That had been a fun few months, until he’d finally convinced his physician to get him off that brand. Lots of fun, really.

 

But– back to the matter at hand. 

 

Shen Yuan was screwed! So screwed!

 

And yet-

 

The other dragon… didn’t attempt to kill him?

 

There was certainly a bit of resistance– no one would just sit back and let you attempt to kill them, after all– but there was no retaliation, either, which Shen Yuan thought was kind of really fucked up. Like, what gives? No way dragons weren’t territorial, defensive creatures. Shen Yuan would know, considering he’d just instinctively lost his shit when this guy encroached on his space! Kinda cringe if you asked him.

 

So. Shen Yuan had lunged for the dragon’s neck, had even gotten his teeth around it! And wow, was this big brother dragon lucky that Shen Yuan was an (almost) herbivore! His flat teeth had never been more convenient in his entire second life. Hell, throw in his first life for that too! He’d never been more thankful that his teeth weren’t even the slightest bit sharp!

 

His leaf fins however, could not say the same.

 

Shen Yuan definitely cringed back when he was able to sense the slightest bit of blood in the water– a sense of ‘oh fuck’ overtaking his mind, chasing out any of the instinctual protectiveness that’d been occupying it previously– and he saw as his tail had slashed forwards at the dragon, catching it in the hide.

 

Shen Yuan froze. The dragon, in a similar fashion, was also still as marble.

 

Well. This was all very.

 

…Whoops?

 

Ashamedly, Shen Yuan let out the tiniest, most regretful “sorry” that he’d ever uttered, because wow, was he about to grovel for his life! Big bro, please forgive him! He really didn’t mean that one!!

 

The dragon remained silent and frozen for a long moment further. He swayed in the rise and fall of the ocean waters, and even though dragons didn’t have facial expressions, Shen Yuan most definitely wished that he could see the other’s face, or at least his eyes, cause he had no idea what was going on!

 

And then, once his ‘sorry’ seemed to register in the other’s brain, the silver dragon kicked into gear.

 

Almost immediately, he backed off and far away from Shen Yuan’s grove (with Shen Yuan having detached his teeth the instant he’d realized what had happened), and in sync flooded out a series of words; most apologies, some begging for forgiveness, and quite a few words that sounded like the workings of a name that Shen Yuan didn’t recognize. Little– little nine? What did that mean-?

 

“Stop,” Shen Yuan said, because the other dragon’s words were becoming far too confusing and muddled for his entirely non-dragon brain. He really had no clue what was happening. 

 

If anything, that seemed to spur the dragon on further. “LittleNine-LittleNine – this-brother-sorry – please-forgive – didn’t-mean-to-trespass – sorry-sorry-sorry – brother-Qi-never-do-again”

 

If he thought about it a bit more, that first phrase seemed almost definitely like a name, but one that he certainly didn’t recognize. Perhaps who this dragon had been before? LittleNine? No, that didn’t make any sense– given context clues, surely ‘Nine’ must have been his name? And ‘little’ was some sort of diminutive? It wasn’t the same one used for ‘little brother,’ and so that fueled Shen Yuan’s theories that it was some cutesy sort of name?

 

God, he had no clue. And that wasn’t important at the moment! What he needed to do was figure out how to calm this giant ass sea dragon!

 

“Stop.” Shen Yuan said with much more force. The dragon stopped, but not without uttering a few many “sorrys” before he finally shut up.

 

Shen Yuan felt… kind of really bad. He’d bitten the dragon, flat out attacked him, and then told him to shut up! How rude was he being?! This was such a mess! Gahh, what was he supposed to do now??

 

“Brother-Qi,” Shen Yuan started with, hesitantly, because he only had an inkling of a hint that this was the name of the other dragon. 

 

He was rewarded with the perking up of the other’s head, his eyes seeming to sparkle with the name. Wow, it turned out he was right on the spot with that whole name business. 

 

He repeated it. “Brother-Qi,” he said. “Stop-fussing – calm. This is-fine – everything is-okay.” He said, expanding upon his reassurances, hoping to calm down brother Qi entirely.

 

(Brother Qi sounded awkward in his head. It sounded accurate and correct in their dragon language, but in his own mind… Would Qi-ge work better? It certainly sounded leagues better to his human brain…)

 

Thankfully– because Shen Yuan had no idea what he would have attempted to try next– Qi-ge calmed down, halting his frantic motions and anxious swimming. Oh thank fuck! Shen Yuan really had no clue what he was doing here! And how horrible it was that one of the first things he did was upset his dragon friend?! What a horrible friend he’d been! And Shen Yuan didn't even know how to make it up to him!

 

Agh! What a mess! How did he even fuck up this quickly?

 

Somehow though, Qi-ge was able to calm himself down the rest of the way, and with Shen Yuan’s stilted apology (which obviously hadn’t been enough! Not with how the other acted for the rest of their visit) they were able to resume their swimming. Far, far away from Shen Yuan’s grove.

 

Wow, he felt really bad about that! But at the same time… the other dragon entering his personal space had felt… absolutely horrible. Similar to when those dolphins had been harassing his sea creatures– he’d felt an innate sense of possessive protection, one that couldn’t be quelled until the offending being backed the fuck off. 

 

Huh. Shen Yuan supposed that he should expect this new and raw emotion more often; it seemed to come hand in hand with being a dragon. How fun. He loved uncontrollable possessive emotions and violent actions! Those were his favorite.

 

If he were still a human, Shen Yuan would have let out a long, drawn out sigh. Instead, all he could do was flutter his fins and let his forelegs kick back and forth in the water.

 

After that… incident, Qi-ge seemed much more inclined to leave, though Shen Yuan was fairly certain that was out of some misplaced guilt, and not because he actually hated Shen Yuan and never wanted to see his face again.

 

The silver dragon then left as soon as he’d appeared with a very simple goodbye, and Shen Yuan almost felt the same frazllement that he’d endured the first time the dragon had left in such a rush of panic and confusion. Yet, he couldn’t help but also feel a sense of relief.

 

Don't get him wrong– it had been great to meet and be social with another intelligent being! Shen Yuan had really enjoyed being able to talk and be talked to, and not hold one sided conversations with a sea turtle that just blinked at him lazily. It was really nice!

 

But there was also a bone-deep pressure that Shen Yuan couldn’t help but feel; one that told him he would never be able to fully connect with Qi-ge, because he would never be who either of them needed him to be, and wow. Shen Yuan had not been expecting another pair of insecurities developing in his time in the great blue sea! That had really come out of left field, he’ll admit! An entire plot twist for his character development.

 

As per typical Shen Yuan behavior, he elected to ignore it. Honestly, it was really saying something that he was able to identify the emotion in the first place! That was really big of him, and he thinks he deserved a pat on the back for it.

 

But he had no (extendable and rotatable) arms, so he had to settle with a pat via his tail. Which even after so many weeks was still really weird. 

 

Ahh, the joys of being a human in a dragon body. What a niche and highly specific personal-problem that was.

 

Did he really have any room to complain though? This all stemmed due to his pathetic death at the hands of one (1) wave pool, and that honestly kind of deserved a reincarnation as such, if he’s being honest. No– if anything, he’d deserved to be reincarnated as that one sea snake for his lameness. RIP sea snake, you were lost but never forgotten. 

 

But, whatever, either way, he was here now, and he certainly wasn’t going anywhere. Not if he could help it! (Which he absolutely could not. He didn’t know how to ‘help’ anything that he did. He really needed someone to keep him in check.)

 

And so, with Qi-ge gone, Shen Yuan was able to get back into the flow that he’d established prior, and he only somewhat hoped that it would be a bit until the dragon’s next visit, but that was just his internet-brain talking. At the very least, he hoped their next interaction would be much less awkward!