With the surprise of the Mermaid King's own participation, this year's WUWA Swimming Competition was a great success.
Even though the finals hadn't yet begun, the festivities had reached an all-time high during the preliminary round.
* * * *
The finalists are all here now, aren't they?
That's how far the matches had progressed.
Some of the preliminary blocks were already deserted with all the matches already completed, and the sounds of contraptions and shields hitting each other were much more sparse.
''Darling and boy, you've made it to the finals just fine.
Queen Sheila was right, His Majesty King Nargus and Prince Arowana made it through the qualifying rounds in record time.
Both of them finished all of their matches in the blink of an eye, so that's not surprising.
But King Nargus was the first to advance to the finals, and he was the first to get a run for his money.
That's not really the point of the competition, though.
It's a good idea to have the same group of regulars in the finals, such as General Shark and Master Tachi-fish, so the lineup will be the same as always...?
'Come to think of it, we haven't seen Master Samma this year, have we?
He didn't participate in this year's competition. "He didn't participate in this year," she said, "If His Majesty is participating, then he can go ahead and do it. I knew he would continue to compete with the prestige of the seniors.
It's a living legend of the mermaid world.
Prati and Queen Sheila were giving a general review of the qualifiers that had been digested so far, with a genial look on their faces.
I don't know much.
''How many people do the finals take?''
That means they're going to play four rounds in a tournament format.
For a tournament of this scale, it should be worth seeing.
It's because the martial arts competition is a matter of pride for male mermaids. The women use magic potion and the men use a spear. If that's the ironclad rule of mermaids' battle, then being inferior to the handling of a contraption is a disgrace to male mermaids.
"Except for the actual battle, this tournament is the best stage to show the strength of the pike. The men will be in high spirits.
It's a tournament that mermaids have a special place in their hearts.
I have to brace myself accordingly and watch the tournament.
How many slots do we have left, Mom?
There's still about four or five more. Oh, but now we're down to one.
Queen Sheila was right, one of those intense movements in the qualifying blocks, which were no longer few and far between, had converged.
'The match is over! Winner Hendler!
And I knew the winner.
'Isn't that Mr. Hendler? He's in the competition?
It's a good thing that she's a runaway, but she still participates in the martial arts swimming competition. In addition, he has a relatively high chance of making it to the finals.
Hendler kun used to come to our farm as a substitute for Prince Arowana when he left for warrior training.
So I know him well, but he was strong.
''I mean, if he's going to make the finals of this tournament, he must be absurdly strong.
I'm sure he's one of the top 20 in the mermaid kingdom. You're one of the best soldiers in the mermaid kingdom, and you're really making a splash.
But he's a debater, isn't he?
Your talents have been wasted.
By the way, there were several other brothers from Mr. Hendler's birthplace, the Betas, but he was the only one who made it to the finals.
Again this year? Isn't the Betta family's eldest son the captain of the Kingsguard? Are you sure that the fighting fish are all right?
I don't know what it is, but it means that without Mr. Hendler's presence, the face of a prestigious family would have been destroyed.
When I was paying attention to him, I noticed a beautiful red-haired mermaid running up to Mr. Hendler who had just finished fighting.
No, it's underwater, do you want to swim up to it?
Isn't that Lampwicke?
That's the same witch that works on our farm?
And he just snuck off the farm?
Everyone knows she's been seeing Mr. Hendler, but...?
I didn't know she was going out with Mr. Hendler and that Lampwick came to the show to support her boyfriend.
"So the only witch left on the farm is Gala Rufa.
She'll get her work cut out for her.
No, you can't. When you get home, you're all gonna sit down and apologize to Gala Rufa.
Oh my, little Hendler, you're old enough to be in the same boat. I can't leave her in the corner with such a pretty girl.
I know, Mom, I know it's a witch.
There are two players in this tournament who have witches in their seconds.
I hope this doesn't cause some kind of disturbance....
* * * *
And so the rest of the preliminary rounds were successfully completed, and the sixteen men and women who would advance to the finals were decided.
All of them were strong male mermaids.
This tournament was especially exciting because the Mermaid King and his successor, a prince, were competing at the same time.
It seems as if this tournament itself is a ceremony of succession to the throne. The anticipation of a battle between the king and the prince was growing.
However, a problem arose.
* * * *
My queen! My Queen, it's bad!
A soldier rushes to the royal seat.
He was the one who brought the urgent news.
Oh my, what's going on in such a hurry?
'It's a big deal! One of the players scheduled to participate in the main final.........................has changed his s*x!
What did you say? Are you related to the Harpies?
You are probably right.
Queen Sheila was so surprised and upset that I couldn't move from listening to her.
...What did you say?
My thoughts are freezing up because I can't understand what I'm hearing.
What do you mean by a s*x change!
''Totally, that clan from long ago........? We should have banned them from competing after all........!
But if we put a limit on their participation, they might say it's racist or something...! Didn't you end up having to let him compete, Mom?
"That's why it's so tricky!
While Queen Sheila and Prathi were growling at each other, I couldn't help but ask, so I interrupted them.
I don't know if I've misheard you, but I want to make sure I've heard you correctly............Didn't you say s*x change?
I told you.
My ears aren't even a little bit broken. That's what makes me sad.
"....The Ishidai are a very special clan of mermaids. In the beginning, they are all born as men, but half of them change to women in the middle of their lives...!
''One of the finalists is an Isidai tribe member who has just had a s*x change, of all things. The Wushuang Competition is a sacred martial arts festival that only male mermaids are allowed to participate in. Female mermaids aren't eligible to participate!
We're in a bind. It's not a good idea to have a newborn baby. This will spoil all the excitement in the game...?
The queens seemed to be worried that the finals would be incomplete because of the absentees.
No, before that.........
They all flushed it out smoothly.........
Mermaids change their s*x........!
'Hey mom, can't we get someone to compete instead? The person who played the last match of the qualifying round with that absent person...?
I thought about that too. I thought about that too, but the soldier said that they've already gone home. It's not a good idea to choose someone from the other preliminary blocks, but there will be a dispute over who to choose...?
Both Queen Sheila and Prathi had a troubled look on their faces, but one moment, their eyes suddenly met mine....
A bad premonition...?
''Oh yes, let's get the master to compete instead!
I knew it!
Your husband is going to be a great name for me as my husband. I've always wanted to make sure that Attah would know how awesome my husband is somewhere someday, so I'm killing two birds with one stone!
"Didn't that rock hit anywhere?
I didn't even hit a bird, it just sucked up into the sky!
I'm not even awesome! Not even mermaids! It's at a level where I would instantly drown if I participated in an undersea battle.
Well I hope I can apply to the Board of Appeals and get it through...!
How do you like it, Your Majesty?
As I said before, you will die of asphyxiation without a fight!
"But think about it, sir...! If your husband doesn't compete...!
Do you want me to fill in for you?
It was Mr. Ardhegg who came forward to say so.
''Only males are eligible to compete. If that's the case, the only other males in the field are me and Junior. Since babies are naturally excluded, there's no choice but me.
"No, no, no, no!
It's obvious that this is a bad idea!
DRAGON! Dragon Emperor!
If Mr. Ardhaegh entered the competition like that, it would ruin the tournament in a different way!
''Isn't it good? Show the inferior races how terrifying dragons can be.
And Marie, don't get agitated.
Don't let this happen! If I refuse to compete, Mr. Ardhegg will compete instead and the martial swimming competition will be reduced to ashes!
Everyone is working so hard........
What in the world should I do........?
I'm going to compete in a tournament...!
Are you watching this, Junior?
This is your way of life, Dad!