C63: Land as Seen from the Seas

I consulted Prince Arowana right away about the matter at hand.

“You want to hire mermaids?”

Prince Arowana reiterates our wish as he munches on the pickled radish offered to him.

“Yeah! We don’t have enough staff to make the pickles you’re snacking on right now! It’s made with the help of pharmaceutical magic that we mermaids specialize in!”
“…”

Prince Arowana rummages through his satchel and takes out a starfish.
…Does he literally carry that around with him?

“I’m not talking about that!!!” says Platy as she knocks the starfish off her brother’s hand.
At this point did I first feel like they were actually siblings.

“Anyway! Even I have my own limits on producing this pickled radish you love! So please, use your authority as crown prince and do something about this! Otherwise, Sensei’s portion will be the only one prioritized, and you’ll have whatever is left of it!”
“That won’t do, Platy. If you’re going to favor someone, won’t you favor me, your blood brother, instead?”

Despite being her real brother, Platy rarely ever shows up to welcome Prince Arowana whenever he drops by.
Most of the time, I’m the one who’s in charge of welcoming him, whereas Platy would either be holed up in the brewery or out in the dungeons to hunt.

I suspected that she hated her brother, but the fact that Platy broke the norm just to welcome him in person was more than enough to convey the urgency of the matter at hand.

“Platy, I understand your predicament, but… Hmm, recruiting personnel, huh?” says Prince Arowana as he makes a difficult expression while filling his mouth with pickles.
“…Lord Saint. Are you aware of what the shore means to us merfolk?”
“Huh?”

As in, what mermaids think of the surface?

No clue.
I know nothing definite, nor have I ever thought about it before.
But seeing Platy live here just fine, shouldn’t it be a trivial thing for the rest of them?”

“As her relative, this is hard for me to say, but Platy is among the weirder mermaids…Gah! Don’t kick me, Platy! You dare kick your brother?!”

Yep.
I can somehow imagine that.
In other words, the case of Platy, an eccentric mermaid who prefers settling onshore, is extremely rare.

“Any normal mermaid would perceive the shore as…a hellish place.”
“Wha-?!”
“Mermaids can never survive on land in the first place. They must turn human by using magic potions. Such is the basic premise for them to be able to lead a life on land.”

I guess so.

Platy and Prince Arowana can transform into a human as they please and go back and forth between the land and water. It’s easy to interpret it as being the norm.

“Um… Pardon me for asking this, but is the medicine used by mermaids to transform into humans valuable?”
“Yes, it very much is.”

Looks like it.
Platy and Prince Arowana are royalty, so even if they consume the medicine frequently, they probably wouldn’t face any problems with it.

“But it can be said that the humanizing potion isn’t that valuable to our family. More precisely speaking, to Platy.”
“?”
“Until she developed a newer drug, the humanizing potion was but a crude concoction. There used to be a time limit to your human form, and even had side effects of losing your voice. It was even such a strong poison that if you fail to turn back into a mermaid, you turn into bubbles and vanish.”
“Huh? Wait a minute…”

By Platy making a newer drug, that means…

“Exactly. The results of Platy’s research developed a perfect humanizing potion that has zero side effects and no time limit. If you want to return to your mermaid form, you just have to drink a separate drug to cancel the effects.”
“So that means the surface is completely uncharted territory to mermaids?!”
“That’s right,” responds Prince Arowana calmly. “I would use the imperfect, time-limited drug if I needed to do something onshore, and whenever I ran out of time before I returned to the sea, it was always the worst. Platy’s new drug still hasn’t been released to the public, so the surface is still considered the realm of death for the vast majority of mermaids.”

I guess it makes sense if you think about it that way.
On the contrary, if we told the other humans to try living underwater, they’ll definitely retort to our suggestion, saying it’s outrageous.
The moment I thought about this, I understood the mermaids’ mindset.
And Platy’s drug easily made the irrational, rational.

“Are you some kind of genius, Platy?”
“I am. You can praise me more if you want, Dear.”

Nevermind.
Prince Arowana continues his story.

“Therefore, even with Platy’s drug, no mermaid prefers to live on land. Do you know what drugs like what Platy developed are most commonly used on?”

W-What?

“Banishment.”

Quite the extraordinary answer I got.
It seems banishment to land is the severe punishment ranking next to the death penalty given to mermaids who have committed heinous crimes. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago when Platy perfected the humanizing potion, so this system was recently established only.

They are forced to drink the perfected potion without being given the drug to cancel its effects and are left as is on land.

Even if they wanted to return to the sea, they couldn’t. And since the surface is considered the realm of death for any typical mermaid, they have no relatives to rely on. As a result, they can only spend the rest of their two-legged lives all alone in a vast and unknown land where knowledge and skills fostered under the sea do not apply.
Upon hearing these words, I felt how dreadful the punishment was.

The surface is scary!
Very scary to mermaids!

“Now comes the question of whether there are any willing mermaids who would like to be recruited to work at such a place.”

Probably none.
It’s already a rhetorical question in itself.

“Not to mention, what Lord Saint and Platy require are pharmaceutical magic users of a certain level who can make pickled radishes or help in compounding, right? But if we send personnel to a place where they’re not sure whether or not they’ll be able to leave, there’s no way they’d be personally willing to.”
“I thought so…”

Is this place really something you’d need to prepare for in case you never return?

“Well, there is one other way… But this is a little…”
“What is it?! Do you have a good idea?!”

If there’s an effective way, there’s no room to be picky about it anymore.

“As I said earlier, banishing mermaids to the surface is a form of severe criminal punishment. Many mermaids become corrupt owing to their extremely potent pharmaceutical magic and use it to manufacture illegal drugs or use offensive magic to commit acts of violence.”

Oh.
In other words, if he sends them here under the pretext of banishment, the concerned persons wouldn’t have any problems with it?

“No, no, no! Treating Lord Saint’s residence of all places as some kind of penal colony is too disrespectful!” says Prince Arowana as he devours the pickled radishes. “Please pretend you didn’t hear any of that, Lord Saint! I’ll say this as many times as needed; we are greatly indebted to you! We’ll be sure to fulfill your requirement with the mermaid race’s pride on the line!”
“It’s fine,” interrupts Platy.
“What is?”

Platy spoke without any context, so we can’t quite understand what she meant.

“Like I said, it’s fine if they’re banished criminals. People like them are bound to possess extraordinary ability, making them more useful than the good-mannered doctors at the royal court.”
“Platy? Don’t tell me you’re…”
“For now, send three of them here, brother. Only the most atrocious ones. That way, I can work them to death without showing any mercy.”

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