My name is Hendra, a merman living in the Mermaid Kingdom.
Proud to be an ordinary merman.
Lately, I don’t feel that way.
It’s because Prince Arowana, our future leader, keeps giving me special orders.
Once, I was sent to work for his sister, Princess Platy.
I also swam here and there to talk to the parents of Princess Angel, the second princess, and her friends.
Now, I’m being used as a military force to identify the anti-royalists and apprehend them all at once.
I had to command troops and round up the rash people who plotted to kidnap the princess during her return.
I thought to myself, “Why doesn’t he just leave that to the actual military?” But since he didn’t know where they were hiding, we couldn’t do the mission in broad daylight. In the end, he left everything to me, whom he trusts.
I appreciate it, but I have reasons why I’m not totally delighted—I’m a controversialist, not a soldier.
A controversialist is in opposition, analyzes trends, explains things to the public in a simple way, and debates with other controversialists to find a better course.
Sometimes we even act as advisors to influential people.
In other words, it’s a profession where you move your mouth but never your hands or feet.
Exercising force is just absurd.
But I understand why Prince Arowana ordered me to lead the troops.
It has something to do with my lineage.
I am the second son of a noble military family in charge of our nation’s army—the Betta family.
My father is the current commander-in-chief.
His children were also given a thorough military education and were promised to become elites from an early age. I, too, was one of them.
My siblings were eager, but I refused to follow the path that had been paved for me.
Instead, I left the government service to become a controversialist.
Naturally, I was disowned by my family and wasn’t allowed to return, even for my parents’ funeral.
It all seemed reasonable.
I had to pay the inevitable price for my persistence.
But now, I’m going back to my parent’s place after so long.
Of course, I’m going there regarding the capture of the anti-royalists.
I have to give a detailed report on the results and apologize that I, an outcast, commanded the troops without permission from the upper echelons of the military.
And that means my family.
I’ve been trying to report things for a while now, but they told me they’d listen to it in full detail at home, where I’m not even welcome.
“To think I’d be going home under such circumstances…”
All because Prince Arowana was returning from his pilgrimage.
Who would’ve expected such a coincidence?
“Oh, Hendra! You’re finally here!” greets Wild, my elder brother, at the door.
He’s the one I’m supposed to report to and is now the commanding officer of the imperial guards.
“It’s been a while, brother. Jumping straight to the business, I’d like to report the charges and treatment of the criminals…”
“You think that matters right now? Come on in!”
Don’t you ‘you think that matters right now?’ me!
It’s the imperial guard’s job to deal with royal assailants!
“Why the hesitation? This is also your home! Father has been waiting for you for ages! Hurry!”
Father’s home too?!
No, wait, I don’t want him to see me like this!
Please wait, I just came to report to you…!
“You’re the only good-for-nothing child I’ve ever had,” says my father, Traditional Betta.
He’s the head of the Betta family, known for its military prowess, and is the current commander-in-chief.
He best exemplifies our family tradition, and his name will be passed down for generations to come.
“You libertine of a son. Instead of following the path of a soldier, you choose a weak career as a controversialist and besmirch the family name.”
As soon as I showed my face, he thoroughly bashed me.
This is why I felt reluctant. It’s not like I have a heart of steel that doesn’t get hurt at all by such scathing criticism.
But I’m not so naïve as to keep silent, either.
“With all due respect, Father, it is misguided to say that we controversialists are weak. We put our life on the line to forecast the nation’s future.”
“It is not with one’s mouth, but with one’s hands that decides the future. At least, that’s what our ancestors did. That is our duty as a military family.”
“Which is why I cut ties. I’m no longer a member of the Betta family but just one person walking the path of a controversialist. Surely, you have no complaints regarding this?”
“Why would I have any, in the first place?” says Father discontentedly.
He hasn’t changed at all.
I had the same argument with him years ago, which ended in a fight and me leaving home.
I hadn’t returned since then because I knew this would happen.
“Now, now! Let’s put the arguments aside, Father!” intervenes my brother. “You didn’t call Hendra back here to do this, did you?”
Reminded by my brother, Father changes his attitude.
He’s always had a soft spot for him.
The first son is a role model; the second, a failure.
There will inevitably be a difference in the way we’re treated.
“…Hendra, the reason I allowed you to return home today was to praise you for your accomplishment.”
“You did a marvelous job apprehending the rebels.”
Ah, he must be talking about the anti-royalists.
“Well, it was an order from Prince Arowana, so I had no choice but to do it…”
“No need for further explanations. You have the blood of the Bettas flowing in your veins, the blood of a soldier who fights for his nation…”
Did I just see Father nod in satisfaction?
This isn’t what I had in mind.
“Your father has always been worried about you.”
You’re here? Oh, I guess you would be; this is your house, after all!
“Your father always said you’re a hopeless child, but he only meant that in an adoring way. He’s just sulking.”
“Because you didn’t go into the military. It was your father’s dream that Wild, you, Pragat, and Crowntail would join the army and take up important positions.”
She even mentioned my other siblings’ names.
Did Father always have such ambitions? But isn’t establishing a parental authority system in the military perilous? At least, that’s what I think from a controversialist’s point of view…
“…When you said you would be a controversialist, I felt betrayed, so I treated you harshly, but I guess you really are my son. I never knew you could accomplish such a feat despite being outside the military!”
“Like I said, the prince asked me to do it, so I had no choice…”
“You can get into any department with your achievement and my recommendation. Now is the time for you and your siblings to join the army and make a name for yourselves in Betta history!”
This is going nowhere.
My father has gone into full-doting parent mode!
I didn’t know he could quickly change his attitude by meeting expectations. I can see why, but how am I supposed to respond to this?!
“Please wait, Father,” says Wild. “I understand your desire to take pride in Hendra, but I think it would be best if he took less direct actions.”
“What do you mean?”
“Prince Arowana has entrusted everything to him because he is free to act independently, unlike the military. The prince has the qualities of a wise ruler and has connections with all sorts of people.”
“Ah… So you mean to say that putting Hendra will limit His Highness’ options?”
Am I a spy or something?
I’d rather concentrate on my work as a controversialist than do that, honestly.
“I see. You can look at the situation from a different perspective. I guess that means I’m getting old…”
“Hendra. It’s hard for a warrior to be unable to demonstrate his valor, but to endure it is a sign of a true warrior. For now, support Prince Arowana from the shadows.”
“Um, that’s not it…”
“The Bettas will spare no effort to assist you. If you need help fulfilling a secret mission for the prince, do not hesitate to turn to your brother or me.”
No, thank you.
I don’t do that kind of work in the first place.
The only reason I’m listening to Prince Arowana’s favors is that he’s my best friend, who’s about the same age as me!
“A controversialist on the outside, but a secret agent working under orders from the royal family on the inside. Well, isn’t that cool!”
“I told you, that’s not ittttttttttttt!!!”
I tried raising my voice, but my point didn’t go through.
My family is just in the mood to celebrate their prodigal son’s return.
“Dear… So, disowning Hendra is…”
“Invalid from now on. He can come back whenever he wants. I knew he was my son from the very start! I’m proud of you, Hendra, as I am of all my children!”
I can’t correct them now if I’m made to feel at home like this.
This is unfair.
And so, this is how I ended my trip home, feeling as if a heavy burden had been lifted off my chest.