10 April, Aito Aoyagi

文字数 3,876文字

Hunting for Sea Hares


Hinoshima botamochi

was the only type of sea hare living in the Yatsushiro Sea in Kumamoto Prefecture. Professor Karidō had spent decades studying this creature that was unknown even to most specialists. It was only three days earlier that his report had surprised the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
  He had written that a substance extracted from

Hinoshima botamochi

, which he called Bota G, has the power to reduce the virus that is currently terrorizing the world. From the experimental data he sent, the effect was clear. There was one problem: only 0.1% of

Hinoshima botamochi

carried Bota G.
  According to the professor, at least 80% of the

Hinoshima botamochi

in the Yatsushiro Sea had this substance in the middle of the Edo period, but with each generation it had been selected against. He’d written: if only we could go back in time and collect about 20 specimens from the Edo period, we might be able to find a way to use aquaculture to create a stable supply of Bota G. So that’s why officials from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare came knocking at the door of the Nagata Graduate Research Laboratory at Nippon Technology University. And this research lab that specializes in space-time movement finally, as a result of its top-secret research, completed work on a space-time suit at the end of last year.
  And now here I, Eiichi Amabi, was, representing Nagata Research Laboratory, sitting across from Professor Karidō in his space-time suit on a boat floating in the Yatsushiro Sea at one in the morning.
  But what’s with this suit, anyways? Why’s it got all these scales and things hanging off it?
  They’re all necessary for it to work. Please understand.
  I hate it—the square goggles, this weird mouth-like mask and this helmet with hairs all hanging down from it—I hate it all.
  It’s to protect your face and head from space-time friction. Please be careful, because if you lose even one of the OT platinum fibers on the helmet, you won’t be able to return to these coordinates.
  You got a whole lot of orders.
  The professor was still complaining even as he stepped up on the side of the boat and jumped in the water. He floated in the water, only his face visible above the surface. I reminded him.
  You absolutely must not be seen by anyone from the Edo period.
  Got it, got it. And if any of ’em do see me, don’t worry—I’ll give ’em your name.
  The professor dove into the dark sea. In less than two seconds a column of light arose from the sea, bright as daylight.


  Every night a light shone from the sea in

Higonokuni

.
  When local officials went to look, there appeared a creature as in this drawing.
  I am Amabie,* who lives in the sea, it said.
  —Report from mid-April 1846

(From the Kyoto University Special Materials Collection digital archive)

(*Note: Amabie is a legendary Japanese aquatic creature that is said to appear from the sea and prophesy an epidemic. According to legend, seeing and distributing Amabie’s image can keep infectious disease away.)


Translated by Morgan Giles/Arranged by TranNet KK

Aito Aoyagi
Born in Chiba Prefecture, 1980. Graduated from Waseda University’s School of Education. Member of the Waseda Quiz Studying Society. Made his literary debut with

Hamamura

Nagisa

no

keisan

nōto

(Nagisa Hamamura’s calculation notes), for which he won the 3rd Kodansha Birth Award. His other works include

Nekogawara-ke

no

hitobito

(Mystery buffs of the Nekogawara family),

Kateikyōshi

wa

shitte

iru

(The tutor knows),

Mirai

o,

11-byō

dake

(Just 11 seconds into the future). His novel

Mukashi

mukashi

aru

tokoro

ni,

shitai

ga

arimashita

(Long, long ago there was a corpse) was nominated for the 2020 Japan Booksellers’ Award.

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