After Senator Arlong left in a huff, Iris, Levi, and Selena all sighed in relief as Selena commented; "He's going to make getting the council on our side difficult.."
Iris quirked her head up; "What can the Council do to me? Lock me up in the palace? Not allow me to see anything or anyone?"
The level of sarcasm in her voice was poignant. Selena hadn't meant to keep her locked away, but anyone who knew the original Iris would know that she was completely different. The senator was most likely thinking the same thing.
'Iris wasn't known for voicing opinions unless she had to. My Little Flower didn't like conflict in any way, and most certainly wouldn't have told off a senator like that.. Once the initial shock of the night wears off, he'll realize something is different about Iris..'
Before her thoughts could delve further, Selena replied; "I only kept you isolated so no one would realize that you aren't the real Iris-"
"I know, I'm sorry for being snippy. It's been a long night, and I'm Very tired now.. I know you only wanted what was best for me. We're cool."
Levi quirked an eyebrow in confusion; "What does body temperature have to do with it?"
Iris laughed so hard that she'd forgotten how exhausted she was for a split second. Once she calmed down, the reality of the damage she'd caused set in. Looking as the outer wall to her room, she sighed.
"At least I only damaged my quarters, hehe. Not that's helpful to me right now.. Guess I'll have a nice view of my courtyard while I sleep," Iris stated with unconvincing optimism.
Selena flashed a look that was akin to her being slapped in her face; "You're Not sleeping in your room! What if that Merman comes back while you're sleeping?!"
Iris smiled at her friend's concern; "I'll be alright as long as Levi's there, right? ... Right, Levi? Levi?!"
"Oh, right. Yes, Iris will be fine.."
His distraction obvious, Iris and Selena looked up at the top of the wall where Levi's line of sight was locked on. Only seeing darkness, the two shrugged, then went back to arguing over the Queen's sleeping arrangements.
The Great God Leviathan had sensed a couple of people right outside of the wall when he'd intervened. One he was sure was the Merman that Iris knew. He smelt his scent in the Queen's bedroom..
Levi was going to ask about it, but knew better than to do it in front of Selena. The female Undine fretted over Iris almost as much as the original, whom she loved like a daughter. It'd be like telling her mother that she'd hid a boy in her room.
The other.. Levi honestly wasn't sure about. It smelled like a Siren, but there was something off about it. A heavy, dark aura lingered at the far edge of the wall, and was the same place the smell was coming from.
'Was it just a spy? Or was there going to be an attempt on Iris' life due to the rumors? ...Either way, it's probably best that she doesn't sleep in her room tonight.'
On that thought, Levi stated; "Actually, it might be best if you slept in Selena's room tonight. I have a bit of investigating I'd like to do.."
Iris pouted, but didn't argue. Levi had been spending all night and day with her ever since she had showed up. He deserved a break if he wanted one.
After saying their goodnights; Selena happily led Iris over to the door, explained everything to the guards, then departed for her quarters. Once they left, Levi immediately went to the corner of the wall where the dark energy was fading.
The trail was growing weaker by the second, so if Levi wanted to track whomever it belonged to, he had to leave now. 'Good thing Iris didn't argue with me. I might've lost the trail if she had.'
Shrinking down to slightly bigger than he'd been while with Selena before; Levi began tracking..
After swimming for several nautical miles, the ground started to delve deeper and deeper as he went. Levi already knew where it was going to lead him, but he had to verify his theory. As the sea floor disappeared completely, and the dark aura faded into the depths, Levi pondered whether or not he should continue.
Taking a deep breath, Levi plunged himself into the darkness...
Levi didn't return for nearly four days straight. The wall had been mostly repaired by the time he came back. Both Iris and Selena were extremely worried about him by the time he'd finally popped back up.
First, Iris hugged him to the point of choking him while Selena smiled and nodded at him. Then, Iris shook him like a rag doll as she chastised the tiny god.
"What were you thinking?! All you said was some cryptic bullshit about checking something out, then Disappeared! Do you have any idea how worried we've been?!"
Levi smirked; "Isn't this how parental figures usually act? I'm Far older than you-"
"You dumbass! This is just how people that care about you react! We thought you'd died or something!"
"Technically, my old vessel did die. This is a new one," Levi said like it was a natural thing.
Both Iris and Selena's jaws dropped. They'd never heard of a god dying before, but how he had worded himself made Selena curious; "Your vessel? You mean your body?"
Levi nodded; "Yes. Because of the size I was at the time, I wasn't able to react in time, and... An angler fish got me.."
"Wait a minute. Did-did you get eaten?! Bahahahaha!" Iris exploded with laughter when Levi nodded in the positive with a surly expression.
Selena wanted to chuckle along as well, but she maintained her cool; "An angler fish? What were you doing in the Deep?"
Levi told them about the two presences he'd felt the night of Iris' little epiphany. The Queen blushed prettily at the mention of Trident, but didn't tell them about her inviting him into her room. It was better left unsaid..
Once Levi got to the part about the Deep, Selena jumped in; "So the Sirens were spying, too? It shouldn't surprise me, but why outside of Iris' room? Wouldn't it make more sense to try and bribe a butler or guard for information?"
Levi chuckled; "Oh, I don't know.. That Merman seems to keep getting lucky with information by doing it."
Iris knew the barb was directed at her, and that she had no defense against it. 'Levi's right. I've told Trident too much, but.. I can't help it! He's got this weird calmness about him that reminds me So much of Matt..'
Thinking the sad expression on Iris' face was his fault, Levi apologized; "I'm sorry. I was only teasing.. Who knows? Maybe he can be convinced to spy for us?"
Iris shook her head; "No, I couldn't ask him to do that. I get the feeling that he's already uncomfortable being my friend.."
Selena scoffed; "How do you know he's your friend at all? He's a merman, for Poseidon's sake! All they care about are themselves! It's how they've always been!"
Iris stared at the usually serene Selena with a questioning look; "What is with your animosity towards the other Aquarian races? You've talked smack about most of them in some way. Why?"
Selena looked abashed a moment before she replied; "It's because ever since I can remember, the Undines have been attacked by the other Aquarians in their pursuit of something they can't have. I lost my father to a Gorgon raid when I was a hundred and fifteen. I lost my mother to a Merman raid.."
I have plenty of reasons to hate them, but I still sue for peace.. You'd think that the others would be sick of all the fighting by now, but they're not. As long as they're driven by greed, nothing will ever change.."
Iris hadn't realized it until that moment, but she didn't know much about Selena. The Undine woman had been by her side and helped her the entire time.. Why was she judging? 'Is it because Trident was included in her insults?'
The more she thought about it, the more Iris realized that all of the information she knew about the Aquarians was current, and general. She knew that the Greae gave their blessing to the Undines during the Draconian War, but she didn't know what the war was even about really.
'They both said that Poseidon made this world, but why? Is this like a garden, or a Petri dish to him? Why are the Aquarians in this world, but there's stories in my world about most of the things here? And why am I the only one who can stop the Charybdis?!'
"Not to jump subjects, but I think it's time you explain some things to me."
Iris stared at Levi and Selena, who had been engaged in a conversation about the Siren's possible motives. They looked at her with confusion for the sudden change in her mood, but nodded in acknowledgement for her to continue.
Taking a deep breath, Iris asked; "First and foremost: what is an Aquarian Candidate?"