“Is there a reason that you didn't manage to secure your kill?”
Jeremy felt the fins flare on the side of his head, straightening up a little as his mentor addressed him. There currently seemed to be no hostility in Squip's tone - but rather genuine concern, and in some cases that made it worse.
“I messed up,” Jeremy answered bitterly, his voice shaking all the while. “I didn't know I was supposed to keep singing, and then I -”
“You let them go,” Squip replied nonchalantly. “I saw it happen.”
“Well, yeah,” Jeremy murmured uneasily, crossing his arms over his bare chest. “I couldn't just do it then, not when they looked at me like that…” He gulped, trying to keep Squip's gaze, as irritable as it was becoming. “You get what I'm saying?”
“I don't.” Squip circled back around, lowering himself to the younger Siren’s level. “How do you expect to be able to hunt if you give in to your prey’s fear?”
“I don't plan on hunting again. I'm not cut out for this.”
Squip sighed, softening upon noticing the distress in his voice. “Jeremy,” he managed, tone even and understanding as any parent’s, “it's not a problem to mess up on your first hunt. Plenty of other Sirens before you have managed to let their prey escape, even more experienced and formidable individuals than yourself.” Placing a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, he gave a soft smile. “You'll get the hang of it. Besides, you didn't do nearly as badly as you-”
“I said I'm not hunting.” Squip flinched as Jeremy slapped his hand away, shocked at this amount of hostility coming from the typically well-behaved teen. “And you're not going to convince me otherwise.”
Squip's eyes narrowed into slits. “You think this is a choice?”
“I've managed to live this far without killing anyone,” Jeremy scoffed in response. “I can just get what I can from recent wrecks, and when there’s nobody drowned I can just eat-”
“Sea life? Kelp? What - you think you're going to fit right in with the nearby Merfolk and they’ll be none the wiser?” There was a distinct sting of disgust in Squip's voice, body tensing with scarcely-controlled rage. “You are not one of them - you are a Siren, and like it or not nothing’s going to change that.” Trying avoid coming off as too hostile, he circled back around, placing both hands on Jeremy's shoulders. “You can have some time to think it over; there shouldn't be another wreck for some time. In the meantime, let us -”
Jeremy's gaze remained unchanged, rolling his eyes as he got up from the rock he was sitting on in their cave. “I'll figure it out, but I'm not doing that again. It's… H-Horrible.”
“You're not supposed to relent this easily. Those instincts still exist, and you won't be able to just get rid of them even if you do manage to stop hunting for a while. They'll get the better of you.”
“Then I'll fight back,” Jeremy replied, somewhere between desperate and determined. “I'll…”
“You are a predator,” Squip pressed, now bordering hostility, “and an apex predator at that. These seas are yours, so you might as well treat them like it. Humans die in these waters all the time and all on their own - much longer, darker deaths than you could even imagine. Why not make it quicker for them and cut down on their misery?”
“I hardly see how eating them alive and whole ‘makes it quicker for them.’”
“What was that?”
“Gyah - nothing!”
Jeremy swam back, trying to mask the fear and uncertainty which had grown in his eyes. It was hard enough to register what was going on, and he wasn't totally sure what would happen now. While Jeremy swore he wasn't fully grown just yet, he didn't like the way Squip towered over him; he'd always been pretty small for a Siren, but Squip was definitely not within normal range himself. It was hard to imagine someone three times the size of even a runt Siren could possibly be, and even the others Jeremy had seen on occasion were infinitely smaller.
There was no denying the rage that came with those words despite how quiet Squip's voice was, pointing in the direction of the mouth of the cave. Jeremy could detect a little bit of pain in those silver eyes as he swam past, not saying a word and not daring to make eye contact as he complied with this request.
Heaving an irritable sigh, Jeremy proceeded to swim off into open waters, deciding not to let this encounter get to him. He'd been aware of the possibility of Squip forcing him out if his progress continually proved unsatisfactory, and had prepared himself for that growing likelihood both physically and emotionally.
This didn't change anything. He'd keep going on just as he always had - surviving off of what he could find, and not worrying about the rest.
Besides, what’s the worst that can go wrong?