From: Oregon, USA
May 12, 1945
Location: 40 miles north of Hakodate
Attached to: TF 21
Mission: Surface combat
System Damage: 3
Float Damage: 0
Orders: Evade pursuit
Seaman Shoji stands at the port rail amidships and gazes down at the water streaming past the ship. It is actually the other way around, he knows, the ship moving through the water, but the illusion Is persistent. Shoji is off duty and is looking at the water because there isn’t actually much else to look at. There is the ship, of course, and the other ships in the task force, but there is nothing there that is new. The ocean is at least always moving, always changing.
Shoji is thinking deep thoughts about nothing in particular when a head emerges from the water right below him, not ten meters from the ship. Surely, he thinks in astonishment, this is the head of a dragon. It is fantastically ugly and topped by an amazing reddish crest. The head loops out of and back into the water and he is sure it is a sea serpent, for the body that follows goes on and on and on. A dorsal crest runs the length of the body. The creature is huge and it seems to Shoji’s stunned gaze that the thing must be almost as long as Hibiki, though he only sees a few meters of it at a time.
By the time the tail breaks the water and then vanishes Shoji is gazing astern. He finally finds his voice and yells, pointing. Instantly there is a hue and cry as lookouts swivel binoculars astern and feet come pounding along the deck towards him.
“What?” snaps Petty Officer Okubo. “What is it? Talk, you idiot!”
“Is it a submarine?” asks someone in concern.
Shoji can only stammer. “U…Umi-kaibutsu!” he blurts out. “It was right there! A dragon from the depths of the sea!”
“A sea monster?” says Okubo in disgust. “A tuna or a floating shoe, you mean. What few brains you had left have finally leaked out your ears, Shoji.”
There is conversation and laughter from the men gathered around as word spreads that Shoji saw a sea monster.
“Hey Shoji!” calls one sailor. “Was it Ushi-oni?” Japan, like all seafaring nations, has many legends and tales of sea monsters and Ushi-oni, a thing with the head of a bull and the body of a crab, is one of the most famous.
“No, it looked more like a dragon,” says Shoji. There are more comments and laughter at Shoji’s expense but then the men fall silent as Chief Shun approaches. The men part automatically to let Shun through. The big man looks out at the water and then at Shoji.
“Describe it,” he says in his gruff voice. Shoji does so and Shun nods.
“You have been favored,” he says. “It was ryuguno-tsukai*. A sea monster in truth. A man might spend his entire life in ships and never see one. I have seen one only once, long ago and far from here. But I have never forgotten it.” He looks out at the water again and then sweeps his stern gaze at the assembled men.
“Well?” he barks. “Have the rest of you nothing to do?” The assembled men disperse as if wafted away by a magic breeze. Shun grunts and starts to leave as well.
“Um, Chief Shun?” says Shoji in a tentative tone. Shun stops and turns.
“Did anyone believe you?” Shoji says. “When you saw the ryuguno-tsukai, I mean?” Shun shakes his head.
“Not a soul,” he says. Then he smiles grimly. “Not that anyone dared say so to my face. But I could tell no one really believed it.” He leaves. Shoji turns and gazes out once again at the ocean, seeing it with new eyes and wondering what else might dwell down in the depths.
*An oarfish. They were almost unknown prior to WWII and even today relatively few specimens have ever been found. They are known to reach a length of 11 meters but some species may reach 15 meters, or more. It is possible that oarfish sightings were responsible for many legends and tales of sea serpents.