With the Mermaid King’s sudden appearance, this year’s Martial Swimming Competition is extra lively.
It’s not even the finals yet, but the revelry has already reached its peak in the prelims.
“It’s time to announce the finalists…”
That’s how far the games have come.
Some of the preliminary blocks were already deserted after the games were completed, and the sound of spears and shields clashing against each other has become quite sparse.
“My two lovelies made it to the finals without a hitch.”
As Queen Mahi said, His Majesty Nagus and Prince Arowana have the decisive lead.
It’s no wonder, since both of them finished every match instantly.
However, King Nagus advanced to the finals faster, so he’s like one step ahead of the rest.
Not that that’s what they’re competing on.
“General Shark and Master Beltfish seem to have advanced too. I guess there’s not much of a difference in this year’s lineup…”
“Speaking of which, I don’t see Master Pike around. Do you?”
“He said he’s not participating this year since Darling’s present. He must’ve kept competing to uphold his senior’s prestige.”
“As expected of the living legend of the mermaid realm.”
Platy and Queen Mahi give a comprehensive review of the preliminary rounds like expert commentators.
Me? Well… I don’t understand much.
“How many people will be in the finals?”
That means four rounds played in tournament style.
For a tournament this size, it’s worth the watch.
“The Martial Swimming Competition is a battle of pride among mermen. Mermaids use potions, mermen use spears. If such is the ironclad rule, it’s a disgrace for a merman to be inapt with his weapon.”
“Even without the battles, this competition is the best stage to display their spear mastery. That’s why the men are so worked up.”
I must spectate their games seriously since they hold special sentiments to this tournament.
“How many blocks are left, Mom?”
“I think there are still five left. Oh, that’s one less now.”
As Queen Mahi said, one of the intense fights in the dwindling number of blocks had concluded.
“Game, set, and match! The winner is Hendra!”
The winner was someone we knew.
“Hey, that’s Hendra. I didn’t know he was participating too.”
“He turned his back to his family, but he participates in the competition without fail. He actually has a rather high chance of making it to the finals.”
Hendra frequented our farm as Prince Arowana’s substitute when he went on his pilgrimage, that’s why I know him. Still, he’s strong.
“Wait, if he can make it to the finals, he must be really strong, right?”
“Well, probably one of the top 20 in the nation. He’s from one of the best military families in the Mermaid Kingdom, so it’s kind of like he’s living up to the name.”
But didn’t he choose to become a controversialist?
What a waste of talent.
“…By the way, several other of his siblings also participated, but only he made it to the finals.”
“This year too?! But Isn’t his eldest brother the commanding officer of the Imperial guards?!”
So if it weren’t for Hendra, his family’s prestige would have been completely ruined long ago?
He sure has it rough.
And then, out of nowhere, I see a beautiful red-haired mermaid swim toward Hendra after his battle.
“…Is that who I think it is?”
It’s Lampeye, the Witch of Hellfire!
She’s supposed to be working on our farm!
“She sneaked out of the farm too?!”
It’s no secret that she’s dating Hendra, but…
I wasn’t expecting her to come and support her boyfriend!
“That leaves Garra Rufa the only witch left on the farm!”
They gave her all the work again!
Those ladies better apologize to her when we come back!
“My, even little Hendra’s at that age now. He’s not to be underestimated to charm such a pretty girl.”
“I know, Mom. She’s a witch too.”
Now, two participants in this competition have witches as their helpers.
I just hope this won’t cause any disturbance…
The rest of the prelims went smoothly, and the sixteen finalists were decided.
This tournament is especially exciting because the Mermaid King and his successor are both present.
It’s as if this tournament is a ritual of succession to the throne.
The anticipation of the showdown between king vs. prince is enthralling.
But then, a problem arose.
“Your Majesty! Your Majesty, we have trouble!”
A soldier came rushing to our seats, bringing urgent news.
“Is something the matter?”
“It’s an emergency, Your Majesty! sir! One of the players scheduled to participate in the finals…has undergone a sex change!!!”
“What?! Was it a beakfish?!”
“Affirmative, Your Majesty!”
Queen Mahi is agitated while I sit still, listening to their conversation.
…What did he just say?
My thoughts froze at the incomprehensible phrase.
What do you mean, sex change?!
“Ugh, they’ve always been a bunch of troublemakers! knew I should have banned their participation!”
“But if we restrict them now, they might say we’re being racist… Isn’t that why you let them participate in the first place, Mom?”
“That’s what makes this burdensome!”
Queen Mahi and Platy fluster about, but I can’t help but intervene.
“Um… I may have misheard things, so I just want to make sure. Did the soldier say ‘sex change’?”
“Yes, he did.”
My ears weren’t mistaken in the slightest.
“The beakfishes are a very special race of mermaids. The young are born male, and as they grow up, some become female.”
“One beakfish finalist just had to undergo a sex change now of all times… The Martial Swimming Competition is a sacred festival in which only mermen are allowed!”
“Wonderful. Just wonderful. If we void her participation, it will leave a gap in the tournament. We can’t do that now that the audience is hyped up…!”
The queen and the princess seem worried that the finals will be unbalanced because of one player’s absence.
No, before that.
Everyone just brushed it off, but…
Mermaids can have a sex change?
Even if it’s only limited to a certain group of their kind, it still comes to me as a shock!
“Hey, Mom, can’t you get someone else to fill her gap? Like the person she fought during her previous match or something.”
“I thought about that too, but the soldier said he had already left. Even if we were to move up from the other qualifying blocks, there’d be a dispute over who to choose…”
They both look troubled, but at a certain moment, their eyes suddenly meet mine and…
Uh-oh. I have a bad feeling about this.
“I know! We should get Dear to participate instead!”
“I knew it!”
My hunch was right!
“You have a good reputation as my husband, so I’m sure this will make things even more interesting! I’ve always wanted the world to know how strong and great you are, so this is killing two birds with one stone!”
“But that stone didn’t even hit anywhere or anything!”
It’s more like you blindly hurled it into the sky!
And I’m not someone incredible! I’m not even a mermaid! I’d drown instantly if I participated in an underwater battle!
“Hmm… I hope the board agrees with this idea…!”
“Even you agree to this, ma’am?!”
As I said, I’ll die of asphyxia!
“But think about it, Dear… if you don’t enter…”
“Shall I take your place?” says Ardheg. “Only males are eligible to compete. The only other males in this room are me and Junior. Babies are naturally excluded, so that leaves me alone.”
Of course, you can’t!
You’re the Dragon Emperor!!!
This tournament would be chaotic in ways more than one if you participated!
“I’m fine with it. Show the lower races how terrifying dragons can be.”
Please don’t instigate things further, Miss Mary.
If I refuse to enter, Ardheg will take my place, and this competition will be burnt to ashes!
Everyone has done their best so far…
What to do…
Are you watching, Junior?
This is how Dad lives his life!