Atlas stared at the partially blind Undine Queen with shock as he stupidly replied; "Don't you have enough friends?"
A solemn expression covered her face as she replied; "Honestly, I only have two I actually call my friends. Everyone else is basically being nice to me because of who I am.. Everyone puts on an act in front me, but you seem to be genuine.. Do you not like me because of who I am?"
Atlas sighed heavily. Ultimately, it would work in his favor to befriend her. The glow from his necklace was a harsh reminder that he needed to get to know her before they wed.
'But how?! I've never been the most social to begin with, and No One can relate to what I've been through.. How the Hell am I supposed to befriend my future wife?!'
As Atlas internally struggled, Iris stared at him expectantly. She watched his face remain stoic, except for his eyes. His brow creased as he thought about her offer, which annoyed her a bit. What was there to think about?
"Hey! Will you help me or not?" Iris yelled as she yanked on his arm.
Her sudden closeness surprised him, but was also familiar to him in a way. As was the pout on her face. Staring at the Undine Queen, King Atlas couldn't find a way to say no. He sighed deeply before shaking her off of him, then motioned towards the wall.
He swam within a few feet from it, then ducked behind a large, random rock to avoid a guard seeing him. After he passed and the coast was clear, Atlas waved his arms at Iris to go for it. She had to have that swimming start to get over the enormous wall.
Flicking her tail with all her might, Iris reached the top of the wall with incredible speed, surprising Atlas. He knew Undines were fast, but he didn't think the pampered Queen would be. Quickly waving each other off, Atlas swam away with a smile.
'Well, that was eventful.. Guess I should research what happens when two rulers marry here.. She's no Serenity, but if I Have to marry someone while stuck here; at least it's to someone who reminds me of her..'
After Iris waved off 'Trident', she turned and swim back into her courtyard, then froze. Selena and Levi were standing in the middle of it, staring at her with angry worry written all over their faces. As she swam closer, she rubbed the back of her neck nervously.
"Beautiful night for a swim, isn't it?"
The pun only made her situation worse as Levi chastised Iris; "Where in the ten seas have you been?! We were two seconds away from sending out a search party for you! Do you have any idea how badly you scared us?! We thought that you might've been taken! Or killed!"
"Sorry dad," Iris replied in a sarcastic tone.
Levi's anger hit a new high, instinctively making him grow in size. His voice sounded almost sinister, and he was now the size of a komodo dragon instead of his usual iguana-size.
"This is NO joke, Aquarian Candidate! You could've gotten hurt, killed, or kidnapped while out for your little swim! There's spies for every kingdom stationed around the palace. What if one of them had caught you? Or killed you?! Did you even Think about the consequences of your actions?!"
Iris was at her limit. She didn't like being told where to go, or what to do all the time. She hated being constantly locked up in her quarters to avoid suspicions.
"No, I didn't! Because at this point I couldn't care less! I've been locked away for Weeks doing nothing but studying! I thought you said you would 'gift me the basic knowledge of this world'.. If I would've known that that meant a million lectures, I would've told you to fuck off!"
The Leviathan sighed heavily; "Tell me, Queen of the Undines: did you know all of the names of the creatures you passed?"
Levi smirked; "And did you understand everything about them? From their eating habits, to their life cycles?"
Levi began to shrink back to normal as he continued; "And the plant and coral life: did you recognize each one?"
Iris knew where he was going. She hadn't realized it until then, but she did know the names and biology of everything she saw. Even fish and corals that didn't grow in Earth's oceans.
Looking abashed, Iris apologized to Levi; "I'm sorry for taking off on you guys, and thanks for the knowledge drop. I didn't even realize it because I was studying my oceans back home. It didn't even register with me that some of the things I'd seen wouldn't be found on Earth."
"Is that the name of your world?" Selena asked curiously.
Iris had a contemplative expression as she answered; "It's the name of the planet I live on, so I guess the answer is yes."
"Oh, so your people have discovered other heavenly bodies already?" Levi inquired with amused surprise.
Iris quirked an eyebrow at him; "If you mean other planets, stars, cosmic gas clouds, black holes, comets, moons, and the vastness of space in general; then yes."
Levi chuckled at Iris' response while Selena looked at her like she'd been speaking in another language. Aside from the words 'stars', 'moons', and 'planets'; she had no clue as to what they were talking about. She didn't really care, so long as the two had stopped arguing.
To tell the truth, Selena didn't mind that the new Iris had snuck out. The original had done it on occasion as well. Whenever the pressures of her crown started to get to her, Iris would sneak out and go into the city to be amongst her people. She said it helped give her perspective whenever she had a hard decision to make.
The day she'd decided to do the ritual, she and the original Iris had spent hours among her people. They were the reason she gave up her life for the Aquarian Candidate. 'It's kind of comforting when she does things my Little Flower used to..'
After cleaning her eyes while talking about her world for a good forty minutes or so, Iris asked if it wasn't too late to eat something. Selena chuckled lightly as they went back into the room, and said; "Actually, it's common for the Queen to eat something around this time."
"Really? Huh.. I would've pegged Iris as one of those 'I need my beauty sleep' types."
Selena quirked an eyebrow at the new Iris; "Is that all your people have to do to be considered attractive? Must be nice.."
Iris laughed so hard, she doubled over while gripping her gut. When she was Serenity Espoir, her bathroom sink was lined with beauty care products. Facial wash, exfoliators, masks, creams, sunblock, various kinds of makeup; the works. She only had a few friends that hardly ever wore makeup, but they all still had a skincare routine.
The Undines had a version of makeup, but it was nothing like the layers humans did. A jelly-type substance for the face to smooth imperfections, eye makeup, and lipstick. They didn't even have a concept for blush.
Humans literally spend billions of dollars on various ways to beautify themselves. Even going as far as to surgically alter themselves in their pursuit of perfection. The idea that humans needed to 'just sleep' to look good was too much.
Because she was laughing so hard, Iris had to explain why to Selena. She was horrified that humans would do such things to themselves willingly, but lost her opinion when Iris replied; "If Undines had the same technology, do you honestly think they'd be any different?"
Selena did not have a comeback. There were a few Undines she knew that would love to be able to alter their ears or fins if they could. 'Guess it just seems extreme to me.'
Their conversation went back and forth until a guard brought up a tray of bubble bites. Iris had gotten used to the lack of texture, but she did miss the wonderful flavor variations of her world. 'What I wouldn't give to have a taco right about now.. With extra salsa and cheese, Mmm..'
After they finished eating, Selena outlined what chapters she wanted Iris to finish in their current book, then left for the night. Once she did, Levi practically pounced on her.
"So what happened while you were out? I can see the sand in your hair, and don't give me any excuses. I want the truth."
Knowing that the talk was coming, Iris explained everything. From the glowing fish, to the coral reefs, to the Selkie's attack; even her full conversation with 'Trident'. By the time she finished, Iris had eaten away most of her reading time.
Levi had been swimming in circles as soon as she'd mentioned the Selkies, but had been surprised when Iris explained the Merman's rescue. Levi knew that their king was pushing for control over the ocean currents within his own kingdom.
'Why didn't the guard take her prisoner? He would've been handsomely rewarded by his king for handing her over.. Maybe he was smitten with her? No. Even if he was, it wouldn't have mattered.'
Not seeing another option, Levi turned towards Iris and stated; "I wish to meet this 'Trident' friend of yours.."