The moment the human mans cold rough fingers reached the uneven surface of her Life Pearl, a myriad of emotions ran through Lin Meis head. Happiness, sorrow, bliss, agony, relief, despair, hope, grief. Her head was going to burst, she was sure. Her body started trembling slightly and she felt a great urge to escape the mans grasp.

”What did you do to me?! Let go! ” She demanded, pushing his hand away.

But even after he changed his position to sit next to her, no longer having any contact with her body, her mind was still spinning painfully out of control. She pressed her head between her hands and closed her eyes in pain. Her mind was dizzy and she could barely make out any sounds. It was unbearable.

”What is wrong with you? ” She heard him ask from very, very far away.

Mei tried her hardest to stand but as soon as she did, she lost her strength and crumbled onto the ground, losing herself to the darkness.

The man standing next to her observed her collapsed figure for a while and after taking a moment to ponder on what had happened, he decided to take her back with him. He scooped her up from the floor and carried her limp body with him to the entrance of the forest, where two men were waiting for him.

One was them looked young and tall, with tanned skin and wide amber eyes and the other was particularly thin, with skin so pale that it made the pink indented scar beneath his left eye all the more obvious. Both of them looked at their master with incredulous expressions. One was excited and amused and the other mortified and nervous.

”Your highness, who is this woman you are carrying? ” Asked the young-looking male, barely able to contain his curiosity.

”Your highness, this subject greets you. ” The other man uttered, bowing in reverence.

”This prince is taking this woman with me to my residence. Let us go back. ” The prince replied sternly, not leaving room for any more questions.

Both of the men knew they couldn ask anymore so they kept their questions to themselves as they watched their prince carry the drenched woman in the direction of his carriage. Still anxious, the frail-looking man offered:

”Your highness, it would be more appropriate for the lady to travel in our carriage. Your majesty can leave her with us. ”

”No need. ” The prince declared in one rigid sentence, refusing the suggestion outright.

Without another glance at the two stunned servants, he carried the mermaid in his arms to his spacious carriage and gently put her down on a long couch that could double as a bed that was covered with a dark fur rug. He sat on the seat opposite hers and watched her with a few thoughts on his mind.

Once his master was inside, the coachman immediately flogged the horses, hurrying them to start the journey.

♔ ♔ ♔

When Lin Mei opened her heavy eyelids she felt a vaguely familiar pair of eyes gazing at her. Even if they still appeared overwhelmingly dangerous and cold, the orbs now seemed somewhat curious and intrigued as well. She felt a shiver run down her spine and pulled herself into a sitting position. She returned his stare with a false unbothered expression, trying to maintain whatever dignity she had left.

”Are you awake now? ” Asked the man sitting loftily in front of her with his arms crossed.

”Im curious: how were you able to touch my pearl without suffering any consequence? And why did I faint? ” Was the bracelet he put on her that powerful?

But just as much as she was curious, she was also concerned about her current predicament, thus she added: ”Even if you belong to the royal family, you should think twice before harming me. I am still a noble lady, my absence will be noticed and once the truth is found out, the peace treaty that has been established only five years ago will be in jeopardy. ” She looked at him with stern eyes as she spoke.

The human man kept his eyes on the mermaids face, who tilted her chin slightly upwards and frowned as if trying to remain dignified despite being at an enormous disadvantage.

”What a sly woman. ” He thought, his eyes hiding his wish to laugh at the foolish creature.

”I was wondering the same thing. While you were asleep, I thought about this matter and could only come up with one answer. Isn there only one person that is allowed to touch a mermaids Life Pearl without repercussions? ” He inquired, his eyes intensely fixed on hers.

Mei was so shocked she couldn even respond for a few seconds. She opened her mouth to speak, but could only stutter: ”I-It can be… ”

Seeing her panic, anxiously clenching and unclenching her hands, he decided to continue for her:

”Even humans know that the only person who can touch a mermaids Life Pearl is their soulmate. ”

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