Claire and her three colleagues, who lost sight of Joey and the orca's wake again, decided to go north and aim at "Turtle Continent" located on the east side of the North Pacific Ocean. They thought that it was easier to obtain witnesses' testimonies.
They met several herds of dolphins on the way and asked if they did not see an abnormal killer whale group, but they did not respond to expectations. After a while, the four whales encountered about a dozen of gray whales.
When Claire and her party first found them swimming forming ranks, whose length were around forty to fifty feet, they had jumped to conclusion that they came across the killer whales for a moment. Cherokee was astounded too much, so the hiccup did not stop for a while. But soon they realized that the opponents are cheerful gray whales in line with the humpback whale race. Claire immediately sent a greeting of "Interlanguage for Blowers" towards them, and they stopped according to her call.
The gray whale race have unique points with the races of Claire or Cherokee even the same baleen whale. First of all, they do not have a dorsal fin. Instead, lumps lined up on the bottom side of the back in a row, this point is rather like Jansen and his cachalot whale race. The curvature of the mouth running almost in the middle of the face is gentle, there are only two ridges on the throat.
In addition, their gray body is covered tightly with barnacles and whale lice, so Cherokee and his humpback whale race do not extend to their numerousness. Barnacles external parasitic in humpback whales are commonly found on the edge of fins and the head, but in the case of gray whale they are infesting the whole body. They do not prefer filthy particularly but they are late swimming and living near the shore.
Gray whales mainly feed on crustaceans and lugworms who live in the mud of the ocean floor, tilt their bodies obliquely, scoop up with mud using one side of the mouth like a shovel, and filter them with baleens to eat. Interestingly, the majority of them are right-finnedness.
After they have had a meal, there are many shallow holes in the ocean floor. Since gray whales dig up, the sand and mud on the bottom of the sea are stirred constantly and so Suitable environment is maintained for small animals who are also their food. Also, because young larvae of those small animals pass through baleens and were spit out, the supply of bait never stop. In addition, sediments sprinkled become nutrients for plankton which are also feeds of animals whales themselves eat. In other words, they are exceptionally very excellent "Farmers on Ocean Floor" who can do it from harvesting to sowing, manuring, and cultivation for harvesting the following year at the same time.
Cherokee, who never came out of the Southern Hemisphere, has never met a gray whale. But the opponent is the same coastal race as him, and also their body length is not so different from him. Besides, they seemed to be slow-witted and less clever than him at first sight. So he approached the gray whales at the head of fellows and greeted them with intermittent hiccup blow which is aftereffects when he was surprised a while ago.
"Hello, good weather, hic. We came from 'Back Side' all the way, but can I ask a moment, hic? Did you see a group of killer whales with minke whales on this neighborhood, hic?"
The gray whales were surprised to see the four whales with combinations of minkey, humpback, blue, and cachalot, but they responded to Cherokee's question friendly.
"Well, killer whales with a minkey? Is anyone who saw such a strange thing meh?"
"No lah, Never met a killer whale neither strange one nor not one recently."
"It's a strange story than this one's face."
"Not your concern lah!"
"The son of minkey already dead anymore, right? Or maybe he still have a breath meh?"
"Siao! You should not ask such rude things. Of course not alive lah. Huh? He may live meh? Alamak! I have made a slip of the tongue. Because my mouth is honest lah."
"I don't care, but I don't want to see killer whale lah."
"Don't worry meh. You can not be eaten since you have a strange face first."
"So I said not your concern lah!"
Gray whales do not sing like humpback whales, but they seem quite a chat no different than Cherokee. When Claire briefly described the circumstances, they brimming with curiosity actively discussed with wonder and admiration. But after all, they did not seem to have any useful information about Joey's whereabouts.
"We jalan-jalan with fins from the Gulf of Cortez, but not encountered like that lah."
"Not jalan-jalan, but tap-tap lah."
"No lah, tick-tick."
"You don't ting anything lah!"
Claire thought that it was a waste of time even listening to the chatting of the different race forever if they do not know whereabouts of Joey and the killer whales, so she judged that she have better to say thanks and good-by to the gray whales who only exchange a boring joke. However, they asked for suggestions for four whales before she opened her mouth.
"We going to the north from now, so would you join us if you come from the south?"
"Oh yeah, do so lah."
"If you come with us, not be bored because there are a much-valued event which we planned."
Cherokee, who is prone to be caught by this kind of story, put himself when he heard there was an event. Apparently it seems that hiccups have stopped.
"Oh, it looks interesting. Let's go with them on this occasion, Sister."
Claire did not take interest in it and hesitated, but Cherokee had promoted the engagement arbitrarily.
As a result of that, Claire and colleagues have decided to go along the way with the eleven gray whales.
Cherokee and the gray whales seemed to fit quite well even though it was first meeting, so he spoke to them as much as he wanted to talk to this favorite race like spitting out that he had not talked about until now.
The gray whales listened enthusiastically to the appearance of "Fertile Sea" in the "Back Side" hemisphere where krill gushes, or the QuestBK of 4 whales, and then they blew with admiration and put various questions on the way.
However, because they show the impression exaggeratedly in the same way both to Cherokee's stories more than half of fiction and to prestigious tales, Claire could not make a decision as to whether they were simply ignorant, they were teasing them, or they were not really interested in Cherokee's talk.
Either way, they are all absorbed in chatting, so she did not think that they seriously intend to help searching of Joey. More than anything, since the gray whales swim very slowly while talking, she felt anxious whether she would be late for the killer whales if she was tailored to their pace.
In contrast to the Cherokee, Jansen silently ignored the gray whales talking to him. While the habitat of the gray whale race is limited exclusively to shoals less than three hundred feet deep, the cachalot whale taste ten times more deep sea area. It is not unreasonable that mutual compatibility does not suit.
After a while, Douglas asked them questions.
"You seem to late fairly to journey to the north, don't you?"
It is not surprising that the gray whales enter the extreme north waters where the "dining area" is located, in the middle of spring now. Their flock consisted of males and infant-accompanying females who do not need to anticipate nutrition for fetus, but the vicinity of California where Clare is now is still included in their races' "Embrace Sea" in winter.
"We had too much relaxation at the Gulf of Cortez lah."
"Well, anywhere off Alaska or off Mexico, we not be bothered lah."
"You are OK even gravel can be stuck in a stomach lah."
Claire was astonished and sighed to the gray whales who were playful with each other while picking and hitting by pectoral fin.
She thought; There is no such a small-time "Comedian" in our "District". Cherokee's boasting is far better.
A relatively serious whale in the group explained the situation to Claire.
"We had a observation session during the winter. Since the season is over soon, we are thinking of closing events."
"What on ocean is that event?"
Before the whale answer to Cherokee's question, another one interrupted.
"Siao, don't say any more lah. There would be no pleasure to surprise lah."
"What? You might give me hints as well."
"Well, keep pleasant later lah."
Cherokee was still more aroused his curiosity and importuned the gray whales persistently to tell him the contents of the event. But they just looked at the four whales and did not intend to reveal the trick until arriving at the site.
Soon the four whales and the eleven gray whales came to the base of the long California peninsula protruding 500 miles like sea pen at midnight. The gray whales sometimes stretched out from the surface of the water and got their heads out to see the topography of the coast. They often look at the land and check the current position like this when they are migrating.
"We are close to the 'nest' soon lah."
A male looking at the west bank of the continent with his right eye looked back and said to everyone.
"What is the 'nest'?"
The male silently looked into Cherokee's eyes and told him with a direful voice like as telling the secret furtively.
"It's of 'Furless Seal' lah."
Cherokee was surprised and had one more hiccup. Claire also frowned at eyebrows.
While laughing at the amazement of the travelers, the gray whale added explanation with an intention of a persiflage.
"Well, nothing dangerous at all lah. We have been doing 'Furless Seal Watching' for ten years. We made a start 'Association of Furless Seal Watcher in the East Pacific Large District'; short for 'AHSWEP' in year before last. Now the number of members is about seventy lah. Especially fanciful members in 'AHSWEP' are here."
"Once start can't stop lah."
"We have forgotten to go makan like this and stayed until late."
"Huh, look over there lah. there are strange 'nest' of them lah. If you get close to the shore while blowing, it will come from there soon."
"This is the last time of watching this year lah."
"Let's watch splendidly as we are also with rare gests lah."
"Let me see."
Claire strongly pulled Cherokee's fin trying to put head out on the water surface.
"What is it, Sister?"
"Don't run risks! You had terrible experiences on account of 'Floating Rocks'!"
"But the gray whales are also saying that."
Claire reproached down the younger companion with a lower voice, but Cherokee seemed to be unable to give up since he has also rubbernecking.
"How is everyone together meh? The only word to describe our future is 'surprising' lah. I guarantee that your view of life will change certainly lah."
At that time, Jansen, who did not say a word before, muttered lazily.
"I don't like it."
All the members who came present turned around to him at the same time. Jansen said like roaring while keeping sharp eyes on the gray whales.
"Where is it interesting to watch such fellows? They are our enemies. In addition, they are dirty."
"But that is totally different from 'Floating Rock' of 'Whale-eater'. We have never been harmed by them lah."
"'Rock' has neither good nor bad. Even while you are playing with them here, our colleague is slaughtered by the same guy in different sea of the world. Yesterday they tortured and killed whales in 'Fertile Sea', today they are fascinating by watching whales for fun in California, 'Furless Seal' is such a faker. You ought to know their tricks. Both time and place don't have means as them. There is no guarantee that they will not attack us with baring fangs tomorrow. Either way, I dislike such insidious one with a dual personality who masking with harmless. I flatly refuse to blandish such guy with my fin shaking. I beg to leave off."
After saying so over his fin and glancing at three company whales, Jansen turned his tail on all.
Claire shouted at him dive into the depth, but only silence came back.
"It can't be helped lah. Well, I will not force you, but fear overruns the danger."
"I'm sorry but---"
Faster than Claire refuses, Cherokee volunteered to participate in "Watching".
Cherokee lightly shunned Clare's worry. Cowardly he was interested in watching "Furless Seal" who was a conspirator of "Floating Rock" or perhaps a shadow director, because he thought that it was relieved since the gray whales who seemed to be more drunk than him approach and came back without trouble.
"What will you two do meh?"
Claire responded feebly to the invitation of gray whales.
"I also decline. We the race live in the open ocean, don't have the habit of going to the shore to watch at the creature on land."
Only Cherokee among four whales decided to challenge "Furless Seal Watching" for the first time under the accompanying gray whales.
"I'll surely verify what kind of living thing 'Furless Seal' is with my eyes, so please look forward to."
He left word so with Claire and departed gracefully with the gray whale towards the "nest".
While Cherokee went out to "watching", Claire and Douglas stayed offshore and waited for his return to be able to burn. Claire was beside herself with worry that "Floating Rock" changed its attitude and attacked Cherokee and let him experience same as Rex. Also, She was worried about Jansen who disappeared without telling the destination. She repeated to go and back in the same place.
"It can not be helped to be so irritated, Claire."
Claire tried to protest against Douglas while lifting both pectoral fins, but she could not find the word to return and swung down to throw it in the middle.
"Well, you may not worry about Cherokee."
"However, Jansen said that it is unknown when 'Floating Rock' turns to become an enemy and attacks us."
"Hmm... There is some truth in what he says. Do you know fish called bluestreak cleaner wrasse?"
Claire could not understand why Douglas had talked about such a long name unknown fish, Claire shook her head bemusedly.
"Bluestreak cleaner wrasse is a kind of small wrasse who is commonly called 'Sea Barber'. They follow about big fish such as grouper and eat parasites stuck to their gill holes and oral cavity. Looking at its 'barber' with white and black vertical stripes, the customer fish waits them with his mouth open. However, there is also fish named false cleanerfish with a black and white pattern that looks exactly like bluestreak cleaner wrasse. When a big fish opens a big mouth to ask for cleaning, the "Fake Sea Barber" bites meat and runs away quickly.
"Is there counterfeit even in 'rock'?"
Claire looked up at Douglas as astonished.
"Please don't hurry. Of course, it does not apply to 'Floating Rock' just as it is. Perhaps, 'Rock' that the gray whales say harmless will not attack Cherokee. However, there are many kinds when saying 'Floating Rock' in one bite, and it seems that there were several types with different personality even in the same 'Whale-eater Rock'. They seem to have rules somehow, for example, some waters where no whales are currently attacked as the Indian Ocean. Besides, the blue whale race and the humpback whale race are no longer considered prey from shortly before. 'Rock', which had been attacking first when they looked us in the past, does not even see if we come across inadvertently. Of course, there was nothing as earlier, and it is sorry for Claire.
"Nevertheless, a sacrifice by 'Rock' sometimes occurred even if it was in such forbidden sea area or time, or the race who should have been excluded from killing target. There are 'Rocks' that disguised 'Fish-eater' or 'Dolphin-eater' among those outsiders 'Whale-eater'. A fake appears in the innocuous 'Watcher Rock', and when they are careless, the gray whales may be killed easily by those 'False Watcher Rock' who are visited confused in the dark.
"Although I am not familiar with the history except my blue whale race, the gray whale race around here has been actively killed by 'Floating Rock' for about one hundred fifty years ago, and it is said that thirty thousand whales fell to less than one hundredth or less in the blink. Since then, persecution by 'Rocks' has continued for a hundred years, but after that they finally got exempted from the target of food and has recovered to twenty millions miraculously now. It is said that the resurrection of their race is miraculous because of the fact that even 'Large District' of the same gray whale in the western side of the Pacific Ocean still does not recover from the 'Rock' that was received in the past and on the verge of extinction. Their 'Large District' on the east side of the Pacific Ocean is often delivering replenishing personnel to the west, but it is far from reconstruction of 'District'. The gray whale race lived in the Atlantic Ocean a long time ago, but they had been destroyed by the old type 'Rock'. This is what I told you when I first talked about history. Within such a short period of time, 'Floating Rock' attacks and stops attacking, it changes so quickly. Even though it is safe now, we can never feel secure until the future. In that sense, Jansen's saying that never let your guard down to 'Furless Seal' is also right."
When Douglas just finished talking, Cherokee's cheerful singing voice came to her ears. Apparently he came back with pectoral fin and caudal fin safely. Claire felt relieved and awaited impatiently for him to come back, intending to give him a piece of her mind at the same time.
"Yah, thank you for waiting. I wish you could have come with me. It was quite interesting."
Paying no attention to Claire's worries, Cherokee spoke to two whales in quite high spirits. She responded to him with a very sullen voice.
"Oh yeah. That's fine."
The gray whales also came running excitedly while talking in whispers. Claire can not understand mother approaching just beside "Floating Rock" with a little child unscrupulously.
"Well, you are a skillful observer lah. We will make you an honorary member of 'AHSWEP' this time. "Oh, I'm honored. Perhaps I'm the first 'Seal-watcher' of the humpback whale race. It is also good to switch from 'Vocalist' to 'Watching Instructor'."
"Yeah Yeah. That suits you better."
"What's wrong, Sister? You seem to be in a bad mood."
Cherokee asked with a stupid look as Claire's snappish tone of voice.
"There is no alternative! I have talked you my tongue weary about Rex's tragic end and you have also seen the deeds of 'Death Wall', 'Noisy Rock' and 'Circular Moored Ghost' more than much, but you went to watch 'Furless Seal' quickly without care. Put yourself in my place! Even Jansen don't come back since that. I'll have trouble, too! If you lost you two now, how can I search for Joey in the future? You had better to cease attending me anymore and be naturalized in the gray whale race. You'll end up result in becoming dessert of 'Seal'!"
Since Claire's saying was intense, Cherokee became a confused face.
"Claire had been worried about you while you were out."
Whispered by Douglas so, he became silent.
"We intend to hang around here a little more, but what do you do meh?"
One of the gray whales told him.
"I'm sorry, but I have to go already."
The three whales were apart from the gray whales who are laughing noisily, and moved towards the open sea.
Claire did not try to speak a word with Cherokee in a huff for a while. Cherokee had become lighthearted as seeing rare things and let Claire tell a story of his experience, but he completely got depressed who received since received her unexpected reaction. Now his blow was low and there is no momentum like as a sigh.
Although Claire was hard to get angry, she became feeling sorry somehow when she saw Cherokee's depressed state. He meant no harm particularly, and there are rare opportunities to watch "Furless Seal" safely. Even though Claire herself also did not have the curiosity of seeing what kind of living thing "Furless Seal" was once with her own eyes though the fear surpassed.
"OK, Cherokee. Since you have watched it all the way, please tell me how it looked like."
Cherokee corrected his mood prompting so by Claire, and detailed explanation what he had observed. The following is a record of "Furless Seal Watching" he told Claire and Douglas.
Initially, Cherokee and the gray whales stayed blowing near the shore, but soon two shadows appeared and approached to the place where they are. That "Floating Rocks" were smaller than "Fish-eater Rock" or "Noisy Rock" he saw so far, and it progressed at a very slow speed. When two "Rocks" stopped a little away from the whales, they spewed out small "Rocks" like a reduced version of the relationship between "Giant Rock" and "Rock". "Mini Rock" were floating on the waves unsteadily, and they looked like unreliable enough to be turn around easily with a single chuck. Of course, he could hardly believe that they could hit and taken away whales. In fact, it was a small thing that seemed to fit comfortably into his mouth.
The gray whales went closer to those "Rocks" as they were welcoming. After approached the "Mini Rock", they touched it and rubbed its bottom lightly in jest.
Cherokee was looking on the intersection between the gray whales and "Furless Seal" for a while. As Claire perceives, he probably was staring at them timidly far from at the beginning. In the meantime, they seemed to notice the existence of a humpback whale alone in the gray whales, and rush for Cherokee without attention to the regular customer whales. He tried to distinguish the figure of "Furless Seal" riding on "Mini Rock" while spy hopping.
"Then, there were genuine "Furless Seals."
Cherokee said with empathy as reminded of the fresh surprise at that moment.
"How was it?"
Claire asks in a half faint voice.
"Well, there were a few 'Seals' riding above one "Mini Rock". It was gangling and seemed very delicate. It did not look like a kind of seal for me. It was constricted between the torso and the head, and both forelimbs and hindlimbs were slender and not suitable for rowing water. Also, although body hair grew only at the tip of the head, the colors and textures of the epidermis were all different from one to the other. I wonder if there are various kinds of 'Furless Seal', and they were hybrid group. When I just blew or play flipper performance, they frolicked with a strange voice chirr or yip. They seemed to be emotional instability. In any case, I definitely recommend 'the theory that "Furless Seal" is parasite'. I can hardly believe that such weak creature have the ability to attack and kill us."
Claire has completely confused when listening to the Cherokee's report. How can she connect the miserable history of the blue whale talked by Douglas and Janssen's distrust to the image of weak tiny creatures appeared in Cherokee's story now? Cherokee does not seem to lie particularly. If he would be dressed, he would have described "Furless Seal" as very strong. However, she did not think that the words of two elder whales are wrong. The more she think about it, the less she understand it.
"But even though it looks weak, 'Furless Seal' may be manipulating 'Furless Seal' with magic power somehow."
"If so, we already ought to be killed, don't we? But, I came back without any problems even though closing to them. "I and Old male's colleagues and the gray whales race have not been attacked these days, the world is surely heading for a good direction as a whole. 'Floating Rock' is like a temporary natural disaster after all. If they eat a lot of whales forever, they shall become a stretchy spreading. Someday you are also---"
"We minke whales are killing more and more while doing this! Rex had died only three months ago! I can never say such a thing that the world is getting better! Even if we whale can get along with 'Furless Seal' temporarily here, they will keep chasing and struggling us forever in 'Fertile Sea'."
Cherokee's opinion was too optimistic, so Claire insisted with a violent tone.
The conversation was cut off there, and the three whales kept swimming quietly. Cherokee came back, but Jansen remain to disappoint. Considering the outlook, Claire felt dark.
It was almost time for sunset. The sun lowered in the west sky dyed the sea surface gold and the light that came under the water through the prism of the wave reflected the color of the twilight. When the three baleen whales was swimming to the north being depressed, they saw a figure of a cachalot whale going forward at a slow speed.
He was Jansen.