Prince Arowana came to visit.
He’s the older brother of my wife, Platy, so he’s like a brother-in-law to me.
Still, we’re close in age and get along well, so we’re pretty much good friends now.
It feels like it’s been ages since we last saw him, but it hasn’t. He actually comes to our farm almost every three days or so.
I used to worry about him coming so often. I mean, do merprinces really have that much free time on their hands?
But lately, I’ve been worrying about that less and just welcome the prince whenever he drops by.
“I won the Martial Swimming Competition,” shares Prince Arowana with me one day.
“What? Seriously? That’s amazing!”
Platy, who usually doesn’t receive her brother, happens to be there by chance and joins in on the conversation, which is quite a rare occasion.
“…’Martial Swimming Competition’? What’s that?” I ask as I munch on the bowl of vegetable pickles after serving them some tea.
“It’s a martial arts tournament passed down from time immemorial among our race. Mermen challenge each other with their arms, er, rather, tail fins.”
From what he told us, the fighting methods of the mermaid race differ significantly between the two genders.
The mermaids use their characteristic pharmaceutical magic to create attack potions and use them to fight.
This is how Platy and the other mermaids battle and is probably one of the reasons why they’re called witches.
On the other hand, the fighting methods of mermen are in stark contrast.
First of all, they do not fight by relying on magic potions.
They rely mainly on their sharp harpoons and their bodies.
Using their tail fins, they swim through the water and use their momentum after gaining a certain speed to pierce their opponent with their harpoon.
This is a surefire-winning strategy for the mermen.
Various auxiliary techniques have been researched for this purpose—faster swimming techniques, skillful harpooning, and even secret techniques to manipulate the ocean currents to assist their movements and obstruct their opponents’.
“Competing by putting one’s skills and efforts to the test is the significance of this competition. It’s a one-on-one match where you pierce each other with harpoons! The one who dies loses!”
Wait… It can’t be that severe, can it?
You only lose when you surrender or are half-dead or something, right?
“The competitors will fight each other as they progress through each round until only one of them is left! It’s a great honor for any merman to emerge victorious in this competition!”
“You’ve been a regular finalist every year, so you’ve been able to maintain your prestige as a prince, but you’ve never won before, right, brother? You must have gotten lucky and hit the jackpot this time.”
“I knew it, sister. You don’t think it’s because of my ability, do you?”
I’m sure these siblings don’t get along too badly, but what exactly is the cause behind Platy’s indifferent attitude towards her brother?
“Just so you know, I didn’t win the competition by luck alone! After all, my opponent in the first round of the final tournament was the defending champion, General Shark!”
“Huh? You won against that savage general?!”
“Then, in the semifinals, it was the previous defending champion, the master slayer, Beltfish! And in the final round, it was the living legend of the mermaid world, Master Pike! How’s that? Can you still say that I won by pure luck after hearing that I fought to the bitter end against this lineup of competitors?”
“Brother, what kind of cheat did you use?”
“Why won’t you believe me?!”
As an outsider, I’m not very familiar with those names, but from what I can understand, it seems Prince Arowana has accomplished a remarkable feat.
He’s a bit on the modest side compared to Platy and the others’ flamboyance, but he’s probably still a great merman.
“Well… I wouldn’t call it cheating or anything…”
“So, you did cheat! Come on, out with it! And go apologize to the organizers!”
“I didn’t break any rules! The secret to me winning was this!”
And with a loud thud, Prince Arowana brings out a huge turtle shell.
“Ah, is that what I think it is?”
It’s a lotus’ shell, a tortoise monster we defeated in the mountain dungeon some time ago.
After multiple attempts to make good use of it, we decided to turn the shell into a shield because of its perfect size and shape.
I think I vaguely remember Prince Arowana taking it home with him because he liked it so much.
“This shield is marvelous. The shell’s characteristic round shape is another merit on top of its sturdy build. Thanks to this shield, I was able to withstand General Shark’s death-bite saw, Beltfish’s decapitating technique, and even Master Pike’s killer pierce. That’s how I was able to seize victory by countering right after enduring their special attacks!”
Prince Arowana was all hyped up as if the adrenaline rush from that time was coming back to him.
“As Platy said, that was my first victory, and I owe it all to this shield I got from you, Lord Saint. My long-cherished wish has come true. I came here today to thank you for it!”
Oh no, not at all.
From what I’ve heard so far, the competition that pits the prestige of the merfolk against each other doesn’t sound so easy that a single secret weapon could take out the strong opponents.
I’m sure Prince Arowana’s assiduous efforts also played an essential role on top of it.
At the same time, I signaled with my hands to the orcs passing by to mass-produce the shell shields.
We’ve now proven that it is indeed effective.
“Winning the competition helped me prepare to follow in my father’s footsteps and succeed him to the throne. I want to keep taking my duties as seriously as I can.”
“That sounds promising.”
“…However, I have been feeling uneasy about something lately.”
Prince Arowana’s tone of voice suddenly drops.
“I’ve been wondering if I have what it takes to be the next ruler. Now that I have won the competition, I am one step closer to becoming the Mermaid King, but it also made me realize that there are still aspects I’m lacking in…”
On a side note, I asked Puffer, the Witch of the Bitter Cold, who has a crush on Price Arowana, why she was so unresponsive to the feat he accomplished.
And her reply was…
“I went to the venue and watched the match in person. I used up all my excitement there.”
Aren’t you supposed to be a prisoner prohibited to go back to the sea without permission?
How could you just show up at a public place like that?!
“I wanted to root for the prince no matter what. I made sure to disguise myself and keep a low profile. Surprisingly enough, no one ever found out it was me.”
I then heard that a mermaid helped Prince Arowana win the competition by supporting him with magic potions to heal his injuries and keep him in good shape in between his matches.
Apparently, he was so happy winning the competition that he even hugged her in the heat of the moment.
However, her identity remains unknown, and word has spread among the merfolk about the prince’s mysterious romantic partner.
…As it turns out, the reason behind Prince Arowana’s first long-sought victory wasn’t just his secret weapon, the tortoise shield, or his hard work and training, but that he also had the inside help of a woman who adored him!!!