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- Chapter 45: Dream -


  Claire and travel companions decided to once leave the mainland of 'Whale-Eater Islands' and face to the Nansei Islands. They will not go against Kuroshio if they go south on the Pacific side, and on the way back they can use the current flow in the opposite direction if they go north to the East China Sea side. As it was, this time they intend to take a labor saving course to ride on the Tsushima current and escape to inland sea located on the northwest side of "Whale-Eater Islands".
  There was also consideration for Claire by the three companions that it is better to switch out a little in the south sea, which is far from "Whale - Eater Islands" where "Floating Rock" is high density. They thought that whether to restart Joey again after resting the mind and body carefully as it was close to winter.
  Although this choice was supposed to guide the four whales to the end point of the journey---
  After passed the east of Kyushu, the west end of the four islands of "Whale-Eater Islands", the party finally got out of the mainstream of Kuroshio. To the east of this island where small islands follow southwest like stepping stones, the Ryukyu trench, which deepest part is close to five miles, runs in parallel. There was those who waiting to welcome the adventurer whales where it came to its northern end.
"Fmm..."
  When Douglas found that shadow with a long distance sonar, he put his big neck on one side.
  Its shape was the ray fish race who is flat and has long width, but it was too big for their fellow. The wide fins like a triangular wing and the tail stretched thin like a thread clearly showed the characteristics of manta ray, the biggest race of them. Although ordinary manta ray has only eight feet and at most twelve feet wide with bigger one, this shadow's main body had a width of more than 15 feet.
  Manta ray living in the tropical ocean spends their entire life swimming, swaying the fins near the surface of the sea. As the big shadow passes over the ocean floor, it seems that a corner of the night got drawn into the day area, and a timid creature may be surprised and jump into the rock shade. However, they are easygoing creatures at sea. It is only small fish and plankton they eat opening big mouth with a small fin like odd ears. Instead of whale's baleen, they have a strainer in front of the gills, which filters the swallowed bait. It seems strange that large races such as manta lay, whale shark, basking shark and baleen whale eat only small foods, but it is better to take plankton who are high density, massive and relatively easy to obtain is much more economical to support the giant body than to catch big fish. Because of their eating nature, they are also common in terms of meek character, and when they meat in the ocean they exchange greetings each other.
  Manta rays also have plenty of similarities with whales. First of all, despite being fish, they pair up, females hat eggs in their belly and give birth to larvae. The number of children is usually one. A newly born baby already has a body length of 3 feet, and they born in such a way as to embrace fin rolling around like as the caudal fin of born whale. Although mothers do not give breast milk. Then, sometimes they gather in groups and chat, and hit the sea surface with a fin like a flippering of humpback whales. Besides that, they also do bleaching. Whales' bleach that draws an arc with a streamlined body is also dynamic, but Manta's bleach that jumps to a height of 15 feet by spreading huge wings to a full extent is also a spectacular look. Because they have a flat body, they creates a great acoustic sound like a sea surface tears down when falling. Since they have great wings as well, occasionally they want to jump to the sky as well as the sea.
illustration   However, the manta who the four whales came across had reminded the name of "Devil Ray" that is not really like their race. The gigantic manta ray who came to see the figure through indigo waters was not only abnormal in size. The eyes attached to both ends of the mouth was emitting an unusual red light like the giant Jaws whom they encountered in the ocean just opposite the place of the Pacific before. The monster manta ray who waves the black triangular wings and goes on the same course in opposition seemed to have appeared clearly with a request for Claire.
"Step back."
  Jansen instructed the other three whales and headed to the top of the party. Then suddenly Claire dashed out.
"Hey!"
"Sister!"
  Claire did not hear Jansen surprisingly and calling, headed for manta ray by herself.
  Why did she take such a rude behavior? Because she felt injured in the fact that she was kept helped by the three companions all the while, including when she was hit by "False Dolphin-Eater Rock". It was a source of heartache for Claire making other colleagues have a danger as it was originally a matter of herself.
  Since it is such a thing, I can not get hear Joey's voice. I should actively face difficulties; she thought.
  When she stopped in front of the red eyed ray, she spoke to the cartilage fish race while taking heart.
"Do you know something about my son and killer whales, Ray? If so, tell me where Joey is. And open the road and pass through us!"
  Ignoring the desperate request of Claire, the ray did not change the color of the red eye which were not unknown where he is looking at and straight forward to her.
  I'm gonna stay here unless you tell me; Claire thought. Even though the fish with a width larger than her length approached near, Claire did not move on the spot with patience.
  On the verge of collision, the manta ray bent his body forward and tried to pass under her. However, the gigantic ray did not give way to Claire's courage to give up.
  The tail wailing like a whip jumped into the eyes of Claire, who opened the closed eyelid again and looked forward. In the middle of a long tail that should have only a small dorsal fin, a sharp pointed sting was upright. Before she gave a cry, that tip cut through her belly. Scarlet blood spreads into the sea. A sense of numbness come as soon as pain. As she wrapped up in a huge fins, her eyes got dark and her consciousness has gone far away.

  Claire was drifting in the emerald water. The water temperature was not hot or cold and just comfortable, it seemed as if she was immersed in the mother's amniotic fluid. Ever since she was born, she had to emerge to absorb air every several minutes all the time, but now she do not feel the necessity at all.
"I never knew until now I could breath in the water! I was a whale with gills! How nice a whale with gills, he-he."
  As she swayed herself as ecstasy, she went leaving to the inertia. The resistance of the water was strangely small.
"Wow, I do not need the power to swim! I'm freedom!"
  Claire, who absorbedly closed the eyelids and was intoxicated by the floating sensation heard someone calling her name.
"Claire! Claire! Claire!"
  It seemed to the voice of Rex as well as the voice of foreign race whales whom she should know well, but she could not remember their names.
"I'm freedom. I'm with gills. Leave me alone!"
  She lightly pulled down and overtook the annoying voice clinging her like a bubble.
  Unexpectedly a torrent flowed and Claire was inevitably swept. The water got hot enough to boil or soon became cold like "Fertile Sea" in the midwinter contrary before. The emerald colored water turned dark purple and approached the color of the darker every moment. She was buffeted by rough turbulence and it was difficult even to keep her posture. In addition, the gills also became unfunctioning.
"Help me!"
  Her narrow scream by panic of suffocation was also swirled and sucked into the dark. A huge shadow emerged beyond the dark. It was the monster that has appeared many times in her dream. Not her son but Claire herself would be swallowed by the monster now.
"No! Please help me!"
  No matter how much she struggled it was only scratching the surrounding water indeed and the distance between her and the monster gradually shrunk. As the approach of a huge monster came closer, it became increasingly obvious. It was a big, big baleen whale. Both muddy eyes did not have light. She felt as though the white thing had peeled off behind the slow open mouth with baleen. Water flows steadily towards the throat of the monster whale.
  And then, the horrible whale's identity was Joey.
"!!!"
  Claire got instincts that the dreadful monster who is opening his chin to swallow herself quite different from a one-year-old baby whale is nothing else but her son Joey though she don't know why.
  Shivering, chills and heat, dazzling and darkness, silence and loud sounds were mixed, everything was covered with bubbles and whirlpools.
"I can't breathe! I can't..."

  Although white foam still covered the sight when Claire opened her eyes, but behind it there was not the mouth of the monster whale but the eyes of Cherokee who looked at her face anxiously. It was just the water surface as usual was at the eye level.
"Oh, you're awake, Sister?"
  Claire tried to breathe air greedy, but she could not make it as thought around because her spiracles somehow swollen. A dull paralysis still remained in the body.
"You do not have to worry, Claire. Your nerves are paralyzed by the ray's poison and the muscles of spiracles have been loosened. Because the wounds were shallow, you will recover soon if you wash it with a stream of water for a while and kept still. However, I did not think there was a manta ray with toxic sting. Pigmy manta ray, eagle ray and red stingray have poisonous needles, but they are much smaller. This is the first time for me not only about the size."
  Douglas who accompanied Claire at the other side of Cherokee said.
"She is a troublesome female at all."
  The voice of Jansen was heard from directly below. He pushed Claire up on his back to keep her from drowning. With this, he has also joined the ranks of the rare male whale, who demonstrates the spirit of compassion to other races, while complaining.
"How was the ray?"
  Claire tried to speak, but she slurred her words yet.
"Master Jansen crackled it whose fins round and round."
"I bothered a bit to avoid getting scratched by a poisoned needle, but it was not a big deal. Perhaps the attacking was the way of a greeting to us."
"I got it."
  Claire closed the eyelids murmuring with a gloomy voice. After all, she did not serve anything, ran into unreasonable behaviors and caused trouble for everyone.
"I'm sorry."
"Never mind, Claire. In any case, it is crucial to get well soon."
"You should exchange liver half with Youngster. Well, switch the roll, Youngster."
  Clair closed her eyes again leaving on the backs of her colleagues and thoughtfully wandered.
  Why did I have such a crazy dream? Even though the consciousness was stunned due to poison, no way to identify such a horrible monster whale and Joey; she thought.
  Unexpectedly Claire caught a certain kind of sensation. It was a trace of a faint existence such as incense of blood floating in the water, of Joey and the monster whale.
"I found!"
  Everyone was surprised because the seriously ill patient who can not squirting herself suddenly shouted.
"What?"
"I can sense. Joey exists near from here."
  The three male just looked at each face as Claire calls her son's name like a delirium. However, Claire was convinced that the connection which jumped over the space with Joey had reconstructed. At the same time, her premonition was telling herself that an incompatible situation is occurring in her son.
  Joey, what is going on in you!? What are you made to be!?


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