“Hey, hey! You two sure took a long time!! Was it hard to find the bathyal shard? I bet it was! Yuyu and I had a really hard time, and tracing it was even harder! I almost passed out! Outside of us four, no one else was able to find the shard, you know! Apparently, even professional shard chasers have a hard time…” The bubbly mermaid rambled, before being interrupted by Mirio.
“Sorry Hadou! Tamaki’s feeling a bit drained after all of this, so I’m going to take him to the nurse. It would shardly be fair to keep him waiting!” Mirio chuckled.
“Haha! Nice! Well, I’ll let you get to it! Feel better soon Amajiki!” Hadou piped up, waving enthusiastically as they turned to find their school nurse.
Before they could make it far, however, their teacher stopped them in their tracks. His tired eyes seemed to bore into their thoughts and straight to the back of their heads. His stare seemed to be more inquisitive than disapproving, but it did nothing to calm Tamaki’s overworked nerves.
“You two, come here.” Aizawa instructed. His gaze turned towards the shard Tamaki handed to him once more. Tamaki flinched. He suddenly didn’t feel tired anymore. He and Mirio approached the teacher. His hand found Mirio’s, which he gripped with heightening anxiety. Mirio squeezed his hand in response and flashed him a reassuring smile.
“Did you find this?” Aizawa asked in a low tone, his eyes glued to the shard. He turned it around, inspecting it with precise eyes. Tamaki suddenly felt vulnerable, as the teacher inspected his work right in front of him.
“Yep! I found the mana well and Tamaki traced it!” Mirio cheerfully explained, but Tamaki could tell he was nervous as well. His voice had raised its pitch so slightly that Tamaki would have missed it if he hadn’t known Mirio for as long as he had.
“I see… I’m wondering if I should fail you for this assignment, because this isn’t a bathyal shard.” All heads turned at the revelation, and the entire area fell silent.
Mirio was speechless and Tamaki felt the voice in his head nagging at him once again, chomping away and threatening to consume him whole until there was nothing left. He paled and could feel himself shake. When he looked down, he could see the color of his octopus arms turn from their usual purple and red to sickly shades of gray.
The silence stretched until Mirio broke into a nervous laugh, “I really thought I tracked down a bathyal mana well! I guess we got a pelagic shard instead, huh?”
“Haha—wait, huh?” Visible confusion painted the faces of not only Mirio and Tamaki, but the rest of the class as well. The water became thick with confusion, everyone waiting for Aizawa to cut through it with an explanation. Tamaki trembled as he felt his classmates’ eyes land on him and Mirio. The attention was eating him alive. He just wanted to go home…
Aizawa looked up and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as if he was trying to chase away an oncoming headache. “This isn’t a pelagic shard either. You somehow managed to find an abyssal shard.”
The confusion was soon replaced with disbelief, and it soon became too loud. The students whispered to one another, voicing their thoughts to the nearest mer. Tamaki winced. He still felt drained, lightheaded, and cold. All the attention wasn’t helping him calm down either. He wanted to go home, or crawl in a cave where he could just hide for several days without anyone bothering him. Except maybe his parents. And Mirio. And Hadou depending on his mood.
“Hey! Aren’t abyssal stones, like, major hard to find? How did they do it?” Hadou turned to Mirio. “How did you manage to find it? I want to know!” Hadou’s question managed to gather everyone’s attention and create a growing anticipation for the answer.
“Well… I just followed the mana trail, I guess! And practice, lots of it!” Mirio answered. Several students were visibly deflated by this answer, no doubt wanting to know the secret of how to find rare mana wells easily.
Tamaki knew that wasn’t all there was to it, and that there was no “easy” way to find rare mana wells. He was there when Mirio first began training to find mana shards. Mirio’s tracking skills as a child were admittedly worse than average, not to mention light magic was a naturally weak type of magic. While others may have thought it pure luck that Mirio found such a powerful well, Tamaki knew otherwise.
Mirio trained endlessly, using his free time to track down various mana wells and honing his skills to surpass those of anyone else’s. That determination was what drew Sir Nighteye’s attention to him in the first place, and it was what allowed him to get to where he was. If people weren’t aware of that, well, then it was their loss.
“Abyssal stones are difficult to find because they rarely even make it out of the abyssopelagic zone! And for one to disperse its mana? Wow! The stars must have aligned for you today…” One of Tamaki’s classmates praised, her eyes lighting up as she looked up beyond the waters where the fiery sky hovered above the surface.