1 – 2 : Chapter 1 ALMOST PARADISE : Good bye, WADATSUMI / He and a little witch of Tokyo Bay

 “It should give you the chance to recover your career. And of course, will give the honor to our office.”

  The words, which his boss had said from aside, merely made Ho’ori’s mind colder and colder. Moreover, because this was a secret operation, he couldn’t even make a phone call fiancée for getting encouraging words or to leave his last words. But,

 

 Kohada: You know? The hostages are including pirate members of this area!!!

 

 When he read the received message on his own mobile device, he felt joining this mission might be a thing like destiny to himself. In less than two hours since the beginning of the case the criminals had killed a famous commentator chosen from the hostages, recorded that scene, and uploaded it on some public movie sites on the Internet. The Police were thinking this behavior showed two possibilities. First, the possibility that they were warning against taking a solution in rush. Second, the possibility that they were being in a very unstable and violent mind situation in panic. And if the second was right, it could be considered that the criminals had lost the ability to think about the later things of them being arrested. That was meaning the children in the ship were facing a serious menace.

 

 Kohada: I really want a peaceful ending will come immediately!

 

 Ho’ori: Just now, police officers are seriously making efforts for your hope can get real.

 

 Of course, without letting this girl know that he would join the mission Ho’ori had a short talking on the personal device with her, who seemed to be being glued to the TV News.

 

 Ho’ori: I heard, there was a phone call to the police operation center anonymously with a young female voice. It heard that she said ‘because it’s so dangerous, cops must solve the case before the night will come.’. This lady was you?

 

 Kohada: No, I’m not. I didn’t. She really said such a thing?

 

 Ho’ori: I heard that the police operation center and my office received the same phone call in the same voice. And on both, the young lady warned them so.

 

 Kohada: In the first place, I don’t know the phone number of the center. So, I can’t do it at least to the police. But, yes, the night river is so dangerous. That is true without a doubt.

  

 Ho’ori: I always hear the kids say so. Why? What is dangerous in the night river concretely?

 

 Before received the reply, he was called to the briefing, so talking with her ended there. But Ho’ori was wondering about the odd message from the mysterious person for a while. Certainly, the night river was a general taboo in this location and not an allowed theme especially between children of this area. They were always saying they must avoid the dark water completely. If thinking based on these facts, it could be considered that the phone caller also might have been a kid of this area.

 But even if the young woman was really a kid living here and have a strong belief about such taboo, why she had needed to convey the message being based on local superstition to adults on purpose? Especially, despite being in the midst of this serious vortex. She had had some special reason? If so, that reason was what?

 “That’s our target.”

 By the team leader’s voice, Ho’ori brought back himself to the reality again.

 The buildings on land seemed shining than usual and giving lights even for every corner of the bottom of the river. So, except the stagnant thick water clods which were made of many tiny currents intertangling with each other, or dark shadows which were printed to the bottom by the shore protection dikes, the blueish liquidly sky was giving clearer sight than the air on land in the night without the moon.

 And, though some distance was there from them yet, the belly of TOYO floating in that sky was being looked well clearly beyond the huge gray desert. The room lights had been perfectly turned off and the surface of the hold was irregularly reflecting the city’s light. Moreover many currents keeping the thermal diversity were streaming and covering around the belly. So the attacking team couldn’t clearly see the inside of the yacht even using infrared or night vision system of their goggles. The yacht had an emergency auto system to keep floating at the one point and must have already started it against streams or tides to avoid collision to the island. However, because the engine of the ship could move very quietly, so TOYO and around it looked to be completely staying in silence.

 On the bottom of the night river, the team shorted the distance little by little against the target, like gobies living in a stream. The warm water licked the skins of Ho’ori’s face exposed between the goggles and the hood of the wetsuit. Suddenly a light got turned on at the inside of the clear belly of TOYO and that sharp beam started slashing the water around the yacht. The team members made their postures lower and lower like clods of seaweeds growing on the sea bottom and carefully stared at the root of the glittering long spears. In the belly, a shadow of a man was walking holding a hand- light. There was probably no doubt that it was one of the criminals. It seemed that the man got suspicion against the outer world, and around of the team was poked with the high-beam from the yacht repeatedly. What Ho’ori could do was only seriously praying that the man would overlook them.

 After a while, the light was turned off, but of course, relaxing wasn’t allowed for the attacking team yet. Because they had finally reached here as a result of overcoming great difficulty. Any mistakes would not be forgiven anymore. They slowly approached the target while paying the deepest care. Moved ahead carefully like the crawling shadows, and at last, arrived at the final checkpoint. The leader rechecked the blind spots of the yacht and started to read the currents to take the timing. Other members also didn’t use transceivers, was using hand signs with a minimum only.

 “You, Go downstream.”

 The leader ordered Ho’ori with the left hand, and Ho’ori nodded to him. Some members thumbed up to him. It was probably a sign of thank. Though the working time had been short, his work as a guide seemed to be admitted by the team. Ho’ori also nodded and thumbs up to them, and prayed smooth victorious of them.

 In this plan, it had been made arranged that at the same time when the team would storm into the yacht, Ho’ori would ride on a current and move toward downstream in high speed, and would be salvaged by another team waiting for him at the estuary.

 There was not any dubious moving at the inside of the clear belly, the final check of the team was smoothly over. And at long last, the leader started to count down to give his team the attack order.

 In the next moment, they noticed the shadow which started covering themselves and the bottom. They looked up and saw it. Bellies. A large number of bellies were dancing and glowing in goldish whiteness. Stingrays. All of them were the bellies of stingrays. It was a tremendous number of mature stingrays. Before the member clearly knew what was happening, the stingrays had taken an ordered huge formation just under the surface of the water and had been started blocking off the lights from the city.

 And then, as if drawing a circle, the crowd of the fish started moving downward keeping postures horizontally. In other words, the stingrays were making themselves close to the humans like enclosing from all sides from above. Stingray has a venomous spine on its tail. This is a very sharp weapon that easily pierces through the thick cloth of wetsuits. If someone makes them surprised and be injected this venom as vengeance, especially in the case that it happens in deep depth, that human will be directly exposed to the danger of death at high odds soon. Almost all people who are familiar with the ocean and fish even a bit generally well know the danger of making stingrays surprised in the water. So, no one on the team could take any action at all.

 In addition to that Ho’ori noticed the water started gradually getting muddy like the smokescreen of whitish brown. Probably for the silt accumulating on the bottom was being stirred by the stingrays.

  “Don’t move…”

 In the view-sight getting turbid more and more, Ho’ori could faintly see the hand-sign of the leader. But soon after, it also was covered with the screen and vanished. Unintentionally, he watched the oxygen meter on the left wrist and frowned. After all, the gill system was breathing equipment specialized for being lightweight and small-sized. So, it’s a minimum tool. It pulls out oxygen dissolving in the water by a special filtering film and gives it user, but because the filter’s lifetime is short, it can’t keep working not so long as other breathing mechanisms for example which rely on an oxygen cylinder. Moreover, especially in this circumstance…

 In the water getting muddy more and more, the first outer filter had already begun getting the limit by the silts which were stubbing into micro-openings of the tissue one after another. The using limit of the whole also must come soon. But what the team members could do was only to save breathing to the least. They just endured. Because of the mission in the river mouth area of cities, nobody had brought chemical repellents for anti-cartilaginous fish like sharks and stingrays, used in the open ocean. So, what they could do was only to endure the fear of running out of oxygen while trying not to move their bodies like statues.

 Now the water muddiness had gotten heavily thick, Ho’ori felt as if himself being brought into a heavy sandstorm. No, it was the storm of mud. The silts obstructed his view-sight completely, in the end, he lost all of the team members.

 (But…, is it possible to make this situation only by stingrays…?)

 He asked himself. The field of vision had been already less than 1 meter. Of course, Ho’ori had no way to know the outer looks of this muddy storm. But he thought that if someone watched at this from outside, the circumstance would probably seem that a huge twister made of fish and mud or sand had suddenly stood up, on the vast gray desert.

 The terrorists in the yacht also would be noticing this accident. And they might try to watch the inside of the storm with their powerful hand-lights, but after all, they too should not get sight even just outside of the hold because of the mud.

 “My vest got a trouble!”

  Abruptly the silence was broken by the shouting of a teammate.

 “Emergency system started automatically! I can’t stop floating up!”

 Just after the officer reported so through the radio communication, Ho’ori heard someone’s tongue sound. Maybe, of the leader.

 Layering over their wetsuits, each member was wearing a marine tactical vest which had proofing function against knives or bullets and had the emergency floating system by a tiny gas cylinder. If a wearing person fell into some difficult states to swim, the system would be started to change the vest to a floating vest. When the person’s heartbeats get under standard level it was started automatically, and of course, in another situation, it can be started manually. At that moment the tactical vest will change itself to a floating life-vest which can repel even shark teeth, and quickly pull up the wearing person to the surface of the water by very strong buoyancy.

 “Move downstream silently and join the salvaging team. Take care not to attract the eyes of that garbage or stingrays.”

 Even though this situation, the leader ordered very calmly. But his effort got destroyed very soon. In the next instant, another emergency sign was conveyed to the whole of the team again and,

 “My system started working, too! I’m floating up!”

 “What?” “I started floating too!” “Damn!”

 “It’s not! This is an attack! Someone like a shadow turned on my manual switch!”

 “Shit!!”

 The radio communication had gotten confused perfectly. Almost within an instant, almost same shouting was repeated many times by other members, and,

 “Guide, it’s aiming at you!”

  “What? Excuse me, leader, what you said…”

  “Sorry! I can’t help going up too!!”

  “…What!?”

  His attention had been made for radio communicating, so an unguarded moment was born. But Ho’ori succeeded to dodge the black hand which aimed his switch from the other side of the beige curtain. As the counter, he tried to capture that wrist, but that escaped as if slipping out from his hand. At that time, he sensed an existence, which was there beyond the mud storm. It was slowly moving the limbs, keeping itself at the one place in the currents, watching at him with eyes containing strong will. That was giving off the aura of a human clearly.

 In the next instant, it very quickly moved, so his sense lost sight of the aura. There was not any time to get relief. The black hand attacked Ho’ori’s switch very quickly from outside of the expected direction. Ho’ori could dodge that again, but it was more barely than before. He felt that this opponent was very good at swimming and probably could be watching him clearly even in this muddy water. But he couldn’t spend any time thinking about the ability of the shadow. Ho’ori too was proud of his own swimming ability, but the owner of the hand attacked him continually while taking distances freely by the light movement which he could never keep up at all. What Ho’ori could do was only to dodge that attack desperately again and again.

 “A mate of the terrorists?”

 But it seemed not to be such. From the shadow, Ho’ori felt a strong pure resolution and contrarily never felt an evil mind or a hostility at all. But on the other hand, the aura which seemed to be stemming from an irritated mind was clearly insisted on and conducted through the water and kept continuously to beat him from beyond the thick smokescreen.

 “Ok, I’ll catch you…”

  Somehow, he didn’t think to run away. He was just an ordinary guide. So, of course, he did not need to conscious of becoming a hero by arresting this existence. Especially, in this case, all special cops had floated up and gone downstream already. Why only he had to keep himself alone in the dangerous underwater? What he should do was simply the only one, to start a floating system and to ride on a current toward downstream. In fact, this was not his true job.

 But oddly, Ho’ori couldn’t notice these options at all.

 While expecting that the stingrays were not in their moving range, he deeply breathed in last air from an oxy-battery, then took the all equipment away from his head. In the next moment getting the attack again, so he completely lost the breathing tools and the communicating equipment including a wearable video camera, but from now, to be able to move his neck lightly and smoothly for getting wide view sight should be the most important. At this moment what he must do was only to catch this commando, to bind it, to ride on a current together with it toward downstream within breathing limit. About this attacking plan itself, in any way, would have to be started over again from the first step, so he need not care about this.

 (Come on!)

  It was clear that the shadow could watch and read his movement. And it meant that Ho’ori could take advantage of that on the contrary. When he intentionally looked away from the front, the black hand came out from the inside of the muddiness as his expectation and tried to reach for his floating switch. But this was the just very moment which he was waiting.

 Ho’ori succeed in catching the right wrist of the shadow and held that tightly. The wrist sent to him the feeling of bone’s squeak as if fish was struggling to get free from the net.

 The captive tried to escape from binding by skillfully using buoyancy and twisting its own body, but in a valuable circumstance like this, there was no reason that Ho’ori could easily allow it. He had an advantage over the prey in that he was much bigger and much stronger. At last, he twisted the shadow’s arms up and dragged out that whole body from the mud smoke, and succeeded completely to catch it by restraining both arms onto its rear.

 When dodged a headbutt, the dark hair waved as if dancing under his nose. Ho’ori thought he needed to restrict its violent action more strongly, so while keeping both wrists of the prey like a bundle with his one hand, and tried to bind the whole upper part of its body more tightly with another arm. At that moment, suddenly, he noticed the true character of this shadow.

 Into the arm, he found the slender body, which was being in a growth phase and breathing youthfully. The inside of the thin chemical cloth for diving which had a touch like shark skins was being filled up with the freshness of young flesh. Adding to that, as if this fact was new knowledge, he noticed also that the wrists being held in his palm had the grace outline as well.

 (This is, my job…)

 He muttered in the mind.

 A girl. A certain girl. He groaned, unconsciously added more power into his arms a little. After the moment suddenly a powerful wind blew largely. No, it wasn’t. Wind doesn’t happen in the water. To say exactly, a shock wave like a gale on land had passed through within an instant. Or, countless tiny eddies had passed all together at once. Leaving the two persons, which were tangling up with each other in the middle of the water, only the world had left. After a blink just once, Ho’ori noticed it. The water had been clearing up completely. But still more, the view sight was limitlessly getting clear and clear, and the silence hurting ears than loudly noisy sounds was getting sharper and sharper. The bottom of the water shined by the lights of the town seemed like a huge gray desert endlessly spreading, and…,

 “What’s that?”

 At the edge of the desert far from him, beyond the vast gray waves, Ho’ori noticed that the sand bottom was lively changing its color from monotonous gray to pale white or bluish pink. No, that was not the color change of the sands. Watched at well, and he understood that something like tulips which have only petals and a stem, without leaf, had started rapidly sprouting out here and there.

 One after another they quickly appeared from the bottom and were spreading petals gracefully. While painting the whole of the river bottom in pink and white, the great flower bed was about to be completed. Spreading itself at astonishing speed, it was coming close to here too. Swinging their flower parts so lively, and overcrowding itself also seemed to be getting thicker. Yes, its habitat density was becoming richer and richer, being filled up with great joy.

 Eventually, the edge of the whitish-pink alive carpet reached also just beneath Ho’ori and the girl.

 Suddenly Ho’ori noticed a sound, which was ringing in the deep of his ears. That was a lightly pleasant rhythm like being made by a small toy drum. Tam tam tatam tam tam tatam tam tam ta ta tam…., And, between them, someone was saying as if singing,

 “Lead the way! Prepare the way!”

 Under the water, onto the surface of the desert, sprouting out was spreading steadily and rapidly. It seemed that they were perfectly enjoying conveying the happy gospel, the great peace of mind, and the deep mercy of being held by the sea. Something was coming close more and more from something, something was growing more and more to something, the bodies and minds were about to sing in concert with each other. Now the greatest joy was about to flow out explosively…, tam tam tatam tam tam tatam tam tam ta ta tam…,

 “Ouch!”

 Ho’ori felt a sharp pain on the back of the left hand suddenly, so unintentionally let his arm loose. The shadow never overlooked the chance. Her elbow sharply beat his belly and that was enough to make his arm unfasten perfectly.

 Now she got free under the water, took some distance, then immediately looked back to him with the whole body. In her hand, there was a white knife looking like made of bone. He didn’t notice that the air leaked out from his own mouth little by little, but could understand what was the material of the knife. That wasn’t bone. A prickle. A stingray’s tail prickle. In her hand, there was a thin dagger that had gotten shaped from a big prickle with detoxication by removing the gland.

 He had known who she was. He wondered why she was here, but at the same time, was feeling it’s not so unnatural. Already he noticed who had called to the command center and his office before the beginning of this mission. And on the other hand, he was being attracted by the strong brilliance in her eyes at the inside of the goggles and was being perfectly captured. He couldn’t get his eyes off the shine of the will. Suddenly, but very naturally, the view of the silent night ocean which was lighted by full moon appeared in his mind. He was fascinated by that glisten being filled up with the peaceful power holding the deep affection.

 “Oops!”

 The illusion immediately disappeared as same as the time when that came. He could notice her fingers aiming and approaching his floating switch, but it was already too late. Because she pulled down it, his vest was swelled by gas in no time and started to bring him up to the surface of the water. His body, which had been added powerful buoyancy, started being pulled up rapidly and strongly.

 While going toward the surface, Ho’ori was continuing to look down at the girl. The girl was standing alone with dignity in the middle of the thick water. And, she also was looking up to him. Her eyes were clear with limitless, didn’t have any wicked color at all. She was pure and being filled up with a strong will.

 “Lead the way! Prepare the way!”

 Ho’ori heard the song again. At that moment, he was very startled by the one truth, which suddenly sprouted up into his mind. That flashed just for a split second, but it was enough for him by only it. When he reached and tore the water surface, Ho’ori even wished to dive again. If he didn’t wear the floating vest, he would have given himself to the desire. But, at that moment, he couldn’t do so for the real physic forces.

 The crime case itself was ended by the sudden surrender of the villains. According to investigation after the arresting, despite them knowing that the police attack team had failed.

Ⓒ 2016 Takagi Tokio

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