PROLOGUE 1 : Good bye, WADATSUMI / He and a little witch of Tokyo Bay

 Because the shining lights from the city are passing through the surface of the river, unexpectedly it is not so dark in the water of the night. In the middle of underwater, if you looked over the vast bottom, you can imagine a huge desert made of gray, fine-grained sands. In the sky, something is twinkling, but it’s not stars, is a herd of sardine. It is not quiet, as well. It’s being filled up with really many sounds. Creaking of bones of swimming fish, noisy footsteps of crabs, the calls of the rising tides from the estuary, whispering of sands dancing up by waves, the night river is so lively and noisy. In the first place, when you dive into a big river and silently listen, you must find soon the tidal moving itself is a huge musical instrument of the earth. This estuary area had over 100 meters in width, but it’s cramped between shore protection dikes made of cement, so the currents are strongly pushing each other and making mysterious sounds as if singing as a chorus almost all the time. In addition to that, if you observe them well in the water, you can understand that currents themselves are also rich in great diversity. Yes, without a doubt, all of these are clear water equally, but each current which is a part of the one big river has each personality. Some current is very clear and thin like the air of high mountains, another one is refracted and thicker than shimmering air clods at a corner of a side street heated by a summer sunbeam. Of course, each current has a personal speed too. As same as humans, it is never that one river consisted of just one flow. A very great number of flows are getting intertwined with each other, and are making the one river.

 5-meter depth, a big tiger prawn which had been walking on the sand bottom suddenly stopped steps. For a while, its long long and fine antennas were moving carefully and gracefully, in the next moment it hopped up high and vanished from the sight in a flash by busily moving many belly legs. Crabs raised their claws overhead and warned. Herds of sardine made a sharp turn and bumped to the cement walls and scattered themselves.

 Something ominous was approaching.

 Appeared downstream. It was had a distance from here yet, but, no, it was not ‘something’. It looked like a mermaid. But looked like a goblin too. This mermaid had skin like dead leeches, and this goblin had a fin tail like a tadpole. In short, it was an ugly white mermaid. Within an instant, the creature had reached very nearby. But didn’t stop yet. It was pushing away flowing aside, rapidly coming closer and closer. The white face, the white throat, the white chest, the white belly. When we recognized the ominous paleness of the skin, the creature had already passed through our side. And swimming toward upstream more and more. Yes, it was running away. This uncanny mermaid was desperately running away, from the pursuer.

 Above it, on the surface of the river, there was the pliant shadow of a hunter chasing the target. The person was wearing all black dive-skins, so the outline of the slender body was looking thickly darker than the night. And the black frame goggles were being put on, so we couldn’t watch the hunter’s face well. But from the kind shape of the jaw, a small pointed nose and pink lips and lively white skin being shined with lights from the city, we could notice the hunter was probably the huntress, a young woman, maybe was a young girl. Tearing the night, letting the not long dark hair powerfully stream in the warm salty wind, she was chasing the target. Her line of sight was being fixed only forward, and her hands and the one knee were being put on the water surface directly. So, she looked to be flying over by sliding on the surface of the river.

 Was this by the power of witchcraft?

 No, of course, it wasn’t. She was riding on a machine running just under the surface of the water, so it was merely that it was being looked like so. She seemed never to care about the warm salty splash violently hitting her whole body from her head one after another. Closing lips tightly, breaking through the waves wildly, her visual sense like a lance never lost the target escaping in the other side of the dim reflection.

 Then, gripping a fishing spear with her right hand, she stood quickly on the surface of the river keeping the body in balance. The bamboo spear shaft was longer than her height a little, and the spearhead which was nicked notches had been inserted to the tip of it. And a tip of long cord extended from a reel hanging on her hip belt had been tied to the root of the spearhead. It means that this spear has a separation system. When the spear pierces a target, the head leading the cord will be separated from the shaft while staying in the body of the prey. At the same time when the notches of the head grab the flesh from inside, the tugging battle starts. This is an idea to reduce the resistance by the water against the shaft, and is well known as the best way of spearfishing for fighting with big fish.

 Her spearhead made of milky white material like bones was containing water enough and glistening as if breathing in the night. She decided the positions of her both hands on the shaft and raised the spear overhead. The eyes being fixed on the target were so clear and powerfully shining at the inside of the goggle. Next, small lips started quietly to sing the purifying words. This was the sign. Her hounds which had been swimming along the river bottom stopped tracing the wave motion track of the target running above themselves and began driving it up to the surface.

 The ghost in the water was forced to make its own outline vivid just under the waves. Of course, the target had noticed the aiming of the pursuer, so changed the course from straight to zigzag. The frantic trick to make the aim turn away was tried again and again. But there was no hope at all that such a poor scheme could cheat the human. Her arm’s muscles rapidly got tense, the gripping of hands seemed to be getting stronger and stronger, and,

 “Don’t move!”

 The offensive voice abruptly echoed and froze her all motion. In the next instant, the high-power LED ray from big searchlights captured the huntress, so her eyes lost the view sight for an instant. Of course, the fugitive never overlooked this chance. The creature immediately changed the course 180 degrees and fiercely tore the surface of the river from the underwater. Spreading webs between fingers of front paws, showing uneven fangs, scattering rotten-fishy unpleasant smells, the water goblin very highly jumped and attacked her. She quickly dodged and keenly beat the opponent’s belly with the shaft, but one of the sharp evil claws grazed her left arm at the same moment. Her sleeve got split, and a thin vividly red line appeared on the skin. Biting the under lip, she quickly retook the fighting posture, but everything had been too late. The target had already gone, and only the white afterimage was making fun of her from between the dark waves.

 Now what the hunter could do became one. She faced the next opponent and glared at it strongly.

 It was a boat, a patrol boat of TMPD (Tokyo Marin Police Department). Because of too strong backlight by searchlights, she couldn’t see the boat name, but,

 “This is patrol ship HARUMI, do follow our leads, do anchor immediately!”

 The jarring noisy voice was a familiar thing. It was gradually closing to her from upstream. Immediately she pulled the spearhead out and throw away the shaft to the river. Because the long shaft becomes an obstacle to run away. She could prospect almost all directions of currents and places where the shaft will reach, so could take back it every night after she got wins on the game. Put the spear-head back into the sheath of the sharkskin being attached to her hip-belt, and,

 “Run!”

 Her horse in the water quickly responded to the order and accelerated. Keeping the first course they headed almost straight to the patrol boat in full throttle, violently passed the left side as if licking the edge of the ship, and earned distance during the patrol boat was turning its bow. Now the hunter changed herself to the target of others. The white and dazzling LED lights were tailing her, red and blue patrol lamps were revolving, the big engine sounds were swollen under the water like insisting stickiness and,

 ”Do anchor! Immediately!”

 Under the night sky the roar which seemed not to care at all about the residents sleeping in their houses on both riversides echoed.

 (This is the end!)

 Into the tone of the warning, the strong determination was being appeared clearly. But, of course, the fugitive did not care about such prayer at all. Accelerating more and more she was spurring her horse, slashing waves, never showing any sign to stop. The patrol boat has more advantage against her, especially in speed. But in the skill of sharp turning and the reading ability about surface-streams, she was the best. Because of tricks by her, HARUMI was caught by ditches between currents many times, lifted up, and each time the screw miserably idled in the air. The belly of the boat was hit by waves strongly, and the sounds like beating an old drum repeatedly echoed on the river.

 But HARUMI also never gave up. Though the girl chose the course which was closer to and along with the shoreline as possible as she could, contrary to that, the boat chose to ride the center currents while keeping the appropriate distance as parallel against her. The mainstream has enough depth, so even if the boat will lose its own course a little, anxieties about stranding are not needed. But on high-speed chasing, if the boat will mistake currents what they should ride on, there is a possibility that the belly of the boat may lose gripping power, too ride on surface waves and they will slip aside and crash to the shore. The steering of the fugitive was inviting the patrol boat to this result very well. About this skill, she was a real witch, indeed.

 When they got close to the Tsukuda big bridge, she suddenly shifted the course and took a position just in front of the police officers. Would to change the course or would to reduce the speed, which was the better way? The operator’s agitated made the nose of the boat shake for a flash as if being at a loss, but the engine didn’t show any sign to stop at all. The fugitive and the pursuer went through the shadow under the bridge. But it didn’t need even for twenty seconds to the next bridge.

 At that moment, she suddenly sensed that a stormy atmosphere was rapidly swelling behind, so,

 “Net, coming!”

 Just after the horse going under the water surface changed the course with powerful side sliding, a light plosive sound happened behind her. In the next instant, a big cast-net gracefully and quickly spread out over the forward sky of her former course and widely grabbed the empty sky. A net launcher is the favorite nonkilling weapon of TMPD officers but had never brought a good result to them in cases about her. Because the burning aura of police officers just before using the secret weapon was openly leaking to their target.

 (Why you, adults never learn it from a game of every night?)

 They passed through the under of the next bridge ‘the Central big bridge’ in an instant. She glanced behind over the shoulder and smiled feeling relieved tension a little. And then, made the face toward her front again…,

 “Stop!”

 The emergency order worked very effectively. Just after when she stopped the five personal watercrafts jumped out from the shadow of a canal corner together with the roaring of engines. They violently landed on the water surface and wildly splashed the water to their prey as if threatening. Red and blue dazzling revolving lights were the emblems of the special watercraft team of the Tokyo Marine Police Department. Yes, these impolite waves around the lady meant that the cops had been ambushing to arrest the existence, who was called ‘the witch’ from them and who had been gracefully succeeding to escape from them every night.

 The personal watercrafts were proudly making engine sounds louder and louder and wildly drew the wakes with white waves repeatedly. The formation to arrest the target spread out in front of her as showy, so the witch moved backward a little.

 “Do anchor, please.”

 The sticky laughing voice was approaching from behind. The satisfaction of the captain was clearly appearing through his loudspeaker. There was no doubt that this TMPD unit had been pretending as serious pursuers. The true plan had been the ambush and to capture her from the completely unexpected direction. Probably they had been losing their coolness by the perfect escaping show of every night of the witch. So it seemed that these tough guys had decided to throw away the attitude as the knights of the water surface which directly fights from the front and to take the more practical plan.

 Being shined from any direction with high-power LED lights of the patrol boat and of five watercrafts, the girl who was dressed all in deep black looked like a shadow locked up in the bright light. From her front, behind, the encirclement was making itself narrower and narrower, the situation seemed really serious for the girl…, but that was only a situation which was seen from the cop’s eyes. …She looked around calmly and sighed deeply. Then,

 “As you like, but modestly.”

 Soon after whispered so, the witch dived into the dark water while showing off the healthy silhouette. Smoothly toward deep, finally her figure dissolved in the river of the night and completely vanished.

 The people being left couldn’t take any action for a while. There was silence only…, in the next moment, the surface of the dark water swelled from under their feet like a huge hill. The eruption of the water. The five watercrafts danced in the night sky.

 Ⓒ 2016 Takagi Tokio

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