Prince Arowana has come to visit.
The most delighted to see him is, naturally, his fiancée, Puffer.
“I missed you so much, hun!”
“My dear future wife! I missed you too!”
I watch them with a cold gaze as they hug each other and spin round and round on the spot.
“Wasn’t he just here three days ago?”
“Still, it feels like an eternity to them,” says my wife, Platy, next to me.
I’ve come to realize that mermaids love hard as a race.
“Long time no see, Lord Saint!”
The prince greets me after wrapping up the intimacy with his lover.
“Yes, but it’s only been three days.”
“I hope my nephew is doing well! By the way, I have something interesting to tell you today!” he excitedly says.
So, he actually has something to share with us and didn’t randomly come to hang out?
“Martial Swimming Competition?”
I feel like I’ve heard of that before.
“Don’t you remember, Dear? It’s that.”
“Ah, that! I get it now. It is that!”
Platy told me secretly later.
The Martial Swimming Competition is a festival held by the mermaid race where they compete in an armed struggle.
Proud and confident mermen participate in the event and fight, fight, fight until they’re the last one standing.
This is how they determine the strongest.
“Oh, I remember now! Didn’t we talk about this last year?”
And Prince Arowana won.
“Yes! Well, it’s that time of the year again! I’m participating as the defending champion! Kind of pressuring, really!”
“No one in the Mermaid Kingdom can compete with you, hun!”
This couple is really hyper.
Has the festival mood taken control of them already?
“…The Martial Swimming Competition is one of the most exciting events in the nation. The mermen are especially excited about it.”
Only mermen are allowed to participate.
In other words, it’s a competition where a man’s pride and dignity are at stake, so they get pumped up even before the event starts.
Prince Arowana, in particular, is last year’s champion.
It’s understandable he’ll get fired up.
As I recall more clearly, he went on a pilgrimage after he won.
He has changed a lot after that.
I’m deeply moved by the fact that this competition started it all.
One year has already passed since then, huh…
“A year has passed, and the tournament will be held again?”
“I have a proposal regarding that, Lord Saint.” Prince Arowana scoots forward and says, “Would you like to come to this year’s tournament?”
“I thought of inviting you last year too, but it was held in the middle of the ocean. It’s not a realm for land-dwellers, nor were you in the position to leave the farm at the time, so I gave up on the idea…”
I didn’t know he was being considerate.
“However, it seems that you’ve been going around a lot lately, plus you’ve even visited the Mermaid Kingdom. How about showing your son to my parents again?” he says.
…Hm, I do want to maintain a good relationship with my in-laws, so I should visit them as often as I can.
A grand festival.
I think that’s good enough of a reason to visit.
“Sure, let’s go.”
Since it’s Platy’s parents, she and our treasure, Junior, are also coming.
“Isn’t this nice, Junior? You get to see granny and grandpa again,” says Platy to her son.
Junior, not yet old enough to understand, just stares blankly back.
I mean, he’s still a baby.
How can he understand a word?
“…You really don’t understand, do you?”
What is it with babies and their sometimes-all-seeing expressions?
And then, as if to say, “I wasn’t making such a face,” he quickly shifts his attention to something else.
“Well, I’m happy to accept your invitation anyway!”
“Wonderful! As before, the entire nation will welcome you with open arms!”
With this promise, Prince Arowana proceeds to enjoy himself on the farm.
After chatting with me and Platy, he gobbled up pickled cucumbers and wrestled.
He also gave a lesson to the students about the Mermaid Kingdom, and then he ate cucumbers and wrestled again.
Then, after flirting with Puffer for a while, he went back home.
The day to visit the Mermaid Kingdom a second time finally came.
We board the magical steamship Helcirce and cut our way through the waves.
The road from the farm to the Mermaid Kingdom starts out at sea.
We’ll go to Paradise Island, the diplomatic window the Mermaid Kingdom has secured on land, and from there, we’ll enter a magic bubble and go underwater.
“It won’t pop again, right?”
“I’ve enhanced it. Don’t worry.”
The group consists of me, my wife, my son Junior, and Veil.
Now, it seems like Veil’s wherever Junior is.
When Junior grows up, will Veil, of all people, be able to learn to let go?
I’m a little worried about that.
I wonder what kind of incident awaits us on our second visit to the Mermaid Kingdom.
“How come I don’t see that giant fish yet?”
Mermaid Kingdom, the home of the mermaids, is inside the body of a big fish, like some kind of fairytale.
It’s about time we should at least see its outline on the ocean floor, but…
“We’re not going there today.”
“Today’s the competition. It’s a festival where men’s spears, muscles, and fighting spirit collide. It’s not something that can be held in the city.”
“You mean the festival’s that extreme?!”
“That’s why it will be held outside… Oh, I see it now.”
A faint light on the dark ocean floor and the presence of countless people.
The closer I get, the more I understand it’s an open space set up just for the competition.
Many fighters are gathered, and dozens of times as many spectators.
The place is enveloped in a strange enthusiasm.
This scale, this intensity.
It’s no wonder they say it can’t be contained within the giant fish’s boundaries.
“This is the Martial Swimming Competition?!”
The largest-scale combat tournament in the Mermaid Kingdom.
Mermen put their pride on the line and exchange blows on this event to determine the strongest…?!