Before the dawn of time, man and shark had already become nemeses. Gory scenes of bloodshed painted the sea red, as well as every one of their hearts filled with hostility. The beating of their hearts desired to shy away from the stench of hatred. Yet, it instead pumped hatred into every vein by accident, contaminating every blood cell of theirs.
Sharks and humans scattered every corner of the world. Where there were sharks, there were humans, and vice versa. Both parties waged war against each other for centuries, and they were neck to neck with each other. In the end, one of them retreated to the land, while the other swore on their lives to guard the ocean. Everything happened overnight. Both parties felt that they had lost something, even though they didn’t know the reason behind. It was neither because of war, nor because of fatigue. It was as if a piece of them was missing that night, and they suffered greatly from the searing ache that tortured them. The leaders of the two sides were puzzled with the reason, shedding tears and announced their retreat as if their minds were in sync.
The world became much more peaceful that night. The rumbling of sand and the beating of waves were the only things left behind.
The seawater was heavily polluted. The sea bed was as black as the ink of a cuttlefish. Sea creatures who lived deep under the sea never knew what the colour white was. Yet, the little white speck of miracle appeared in a corner of the deep sea. There were so many fish around, but none of them noticed the little white speck. Maybe they were already used to it. Hunting, escaping from predators, reproducing… What a load of nonsense! They were only leisurely chasing after the bubbles they had blown themselves.
That was what they did for the whole day. It wasn’t for entertainment, but serious, important business. It could even be considered a matter of life and death. They hunted so as to procure enough energy to blow bubbles. As for escaping from predators, this was to fight for more chances to blow more bubbles. Reproducing was important, because blowing bubbles as a collective was a joyful and spectacular event.
The fish got along well with each other, much more than humans did. They loved to partner up with others to blow bubbles whenever. This was why humans would often find schools of fish. Among them, sharks were the greatest of them all, as their bubbles were considered the most beautiful. Round, large, and transparent. By so, sharks reigned over fish. Every shark was treated as a noble. They were proud of their sharp and dense teeth. The pattern of their teeth could produce bubbles of peculiar forms. Nothing else could compete with the holiness of the sharks’ bubbles.
Ngan Yu the shark were hunting. Like all other sharks, he exclusively picked out creatures that made hideous bubbles for food, as they disrespected the divinity of bubbles. Ngan Yu looked down and examined the sight. Seaweeds, shrimps, starfish, abalones, sea cucumbers… He ate them all. Look! Another prey! It was a krill, and although it was nearly transparent, Ngan Yu’s vision was at the top of the heap. He chased and chased and chased after it, swimming several nautical miles.
Almost there. Right before catching it with his mouth, white droplets entered his eyes. He was in great pain, as if his eyes were stung by tentacles of countless jellyfish. He could distinctly feel the level of pain each of his body cells bore. Never had he experienced such pain. The unprecedented torment held as much shock as the time he found something more important than bubbles. He fought with the pain with all his might.
‘Can you fall in love with a human?’ An extremely soft voice came through.
All of the pain disappeared without a trace.
Ngan Yu opened his eyes, and his eyes fell on a creature he had never seen before. Besides the hair positioned on its head, it had two hands and strange-looking respiratory organs, but it had no dorsal fin… Was it a human? Without hesitation, he darted towards it and bit it. How many fish had lost their lives because of this creature? It was the nemesis of all fish!
The creature did not dodge Ngan Yu’s attack and let blood flow out of its body. It uttered the same words over and over again, ‘Can you fall in love with a human?’
Ngan Yu was dumbfounded. That wasn’t a normal shade of red blood, but instead, it was a special tint of white. It set off as a contrast with the environment around, sparkling in the dark. It was like the only bright star in the night sky. Human blood should be red. ‘Who are you?’ He asked while calming himself down, and he found himself gazing at the creature which was beaten black and blue. Its skin was so smooth that no fish could ever possess it. It had a long and flexible fin, and it swayed in the water, creating a torrent.
‘I am a mermaid.’ A smile like that of a human grew on its face. ‘Can you fall in love with a human?’ Blood was still trickling out of its body as it brightened up the deep sea.
Although Ngan Yu’s heart could not stop pounding because of its shocking beauty, he recovered quickly and gave a simple answer. ‘No, I can’t. The only thing I love are bubbles.’
‘You cannot not fall in love with a human.’ The mermaid didn’t give up on it.
‘I only love bubbles.’ Guilt washed all over him.
The mermaid’s face turned white, and blood gushed out of it more ferociously, causing it to pass out.
‘Mum! What is a mermaid?’
‘It’s just a legend.’
‘Legend says that the mermaid was a brave seeker for love. Its existence was birthed out of love. To it, love was as important as bubbles are to us. But it was strange. Its blood was white. Only creatures who didn’t have hatred had white blood.’
‘It’s hard to describe it… You’ll understand when you see it. This colour will warm your heart, will light the world up, and will help you find something even more important than bubbles.’
‘Something even more important than bubbles?’
‘Well, even I don’t know what that is. That’s not really important though. It’s just a legend anyways. Silly child!’
Being next to the mermaid, Ngan Yu was pondering what could be more important than bubbles. The mermaid woke up, interrupting his thoughts. He beamed, hoping to set the mermaid at ease. It smiled back, revealing its shiny, white teeth.
‘Why are you looking for love?’ He tried to test the waters.
‘Love wins over everything.’ It gave a firm answer.
‘Is it even more important than bubbles?’ Doubt arose in his mind.
‘Bubbles… I don’t know how to make them.’ Insecurity grew over the mermaid.
Seeing the mermaid’s sorrowful face, a sense of dejection grew within him as well, and it began to blow bubbles. This was the first time he blew bubbles out of sorrow, and they seemed to have added a sense of melancholy to them. ‘I’ll bring you home!”
‘No.’ It swam away.
A sense of loss dawned on Ngan Yu once more, influencing other fish passing by. They cried and their hot tears heated up the sea. Strings of air bubbles started to appear and rose to the surface. They were like pearls. They were like hope. It was a spectacular sight. It was the pinnacle of the dream of every fish, yet why was it such a depressing sight? Could it be that this was the thing that was more important than bubbles?
Following the trail of the mermaid’s white blood, Ngan Yu went after it. The argent gleam from its blood shone through the bubbles, refracting a myriad of colours. He was even sure now that the mermaid was the thing more important than bubbles. He swam faster, as if he were to chase after his childhood dream—the thing more important than bubbles. At that time, many laughed at him. They didn’t understand why he was so serious about a ludicrous legend. Meanwhile, he didn’t compromise on that matter. In the end, after many failed attempts, he found himself in vain and his dream vanished.
How enlightening it was for his dream to be awakened once more! He wholeheartedly chased after it, delivering his prepared words once more. ‘I’ll bring you home!’
The mermaid couldn’t describe how to reach its home after all. It only spoke of the scenery—the remains of an ancient city. Gigantic stone pillars stood tall as they witnessed the old ages of wisdom. Desolate streets delicately exhibited the prosperity they once held. The colossal piles of bones glowed dimly like a night garden.
‘Where is your family?’ Ngan Yu asked.
Sorrow written all over the mermaid’s face, its large eyes conveyed everything with affection.
There existed no mermaid at first. Before the dawn of civilization, man and shark had turned against each other. Yet, during this time, a shark and a human fell in love. They left their homes behind and started a new home of theirs at the ends of the earth. Unexpectedly, their love angered the gods of fate who were conformist. The gods of fate cast a curse upon the couple. Their love could be accepted only if another romance between a shark and a human could be found. Only by so, they could reproduce generations of offspring. From then on, they both sowed their blood as seeds, waiting for mermaids to grow out of them day after day. The mermaids would then travel to different parts of the world to seek love.
The mermaid before Ngan Yu was the last of its kind. Its brethren, thwarted by fate, had all taken their last breath. All of them knew they couldn’t come into contact with another human. It was a dangerous thing to do. Thus, it shifted its target and tried to seek help from the sharks. Yet, it realised that bubbles were the only thing sharks loved…
On their way, Ngan Yu insisted on teaching the mermaid how to blow bubbles.
‘Why do you have to blow bubbles every day?’ The mermaid asked curiously.
‘Because bubbles are beautiful’, Ngan Yu answered naively.
‘I think I’m more beautiful than bubbles.’ The mermaid’s serious expression made him laugh. ‘We are beautiful, aren’t we?’
Come to think of it, Ngan Yu had never found anything more beautiful than bubbles. He had never appreciated others’ beauty. His heart was only after bubbles. He didn’t feel remorse nor frustration, just emptiness. He never stopped for anything apart from bubbles. When his life disappeared like bubbles, what would be left of him?
‘Yes… we are…’ Ngan Yu stuttered out and learnt how to say praises. It made him open up. Not one fish knew how to do this. Everyone was in shock. A noble shark giving praise? How peculiar! Yet, it was this little manoeuvre that made Ngan Yu yearn for the bubbles coming out from the mermaid’s mouth. Its bubbles would be more perfect than those made by sharks! He longed for this moment to happen!
Sadly, not even the mermaid knew the true nature of the bubbles. It was death.
Destiny said, ‘The bubbles the mermaid blew were more beautiful than bubbles blown by any creature! They were so beautiful that even the most beautiful creature forgot about their own beauty and was infatuated by them. Could we just forgive them?’
Fate replied, ‘No! It’s still a cursed creature after all! It doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!’
‘Come on! Have mercy on it! It’s the last of its kind!’
‘I shall cast a curse upon it…’
‘No! Please! I beg of you!’
‘I shall curse it not to blow its one hundred and first bubble!’
The skies and heavens rumbled, and the earth shook from the oddity.
The mermaid suddenly felt weak. It still held up a smile and continued to blow bubbles, so as not to let Ngan Yu worry about itself. Blood flowed out of its body for every bubble it blew. Its face grew paler and paler, resembling that of a dead man from afar. It half-wittingly asked the important question again. ‘Can you fall in love with a human?’
Ngan Yu zoned out, his heart aching. Could it be that the mermaid didn’t get my message? The bubbles had long lost their meaning. Its only purpose was to hide his shyness away. He could resist no more and asked rhetorically. ‘Can you fall in love with me?’
Ultimately, the mermaid was as naive as a child. It was still unaware that the situation had escalated and was way out of its hands. Its only wish was to save its clan. It didn’t reply, since it only treated Ngan Yu as a friend. Never would it have thought about being more than friends. ‘I…’ After blowing out its hundredth bubble, it crumbled into dust and faded away. Everything happened in less than a split second.
Ngan Yu threw a hundred kisses to his mother before leaving his hometown and setting off to the human world. As it reached near the shore, it said with all its strength, ‘I love you!’ But the curse of the mermaid remained unbroken, as humans didn’t understand a word he spoke, the heavy words he used every bit of his energy to speak out.
Fingerling asked, ‘Is this the end of the story of Ngan Yu and the mermaid?’
Mummy fish said, ‘No. Both their souls soared higher and higher, until they left Earth and went into the depths of space, blowing bubbles together. Don’t you think there are more and more stars in the sky? In fact, most of them had been the bubbles they blew out before they became stars. Look! That cluster of stars is where they resided!’
Fingerling said, ‘Do they have a name?’
Mummy fish replied, ‘No. How about this? Let’s give it a name, so as to pass their story down to generations to come.’
‘Ngan Yu and the mermaid… A shark and a mermaid… Two fish… How about “Pisces”?’
‘Yeah! “Pisces” it is then. That’s a really good name!’