The office of Mainichi Press was a blur of activity. The sounds of rustling papers and ringing phones filled the air, mingling with the scent of cigarette smoke and the sight of countless employees rushing from room to room, from desk to desk, from phone to phone. It was an environment that would overwhelm most men.
But Jun Arota thrived here.
This was his kind of world. As the Chief Editor at Mainichi Press, the hustle and fast pace of the newsroom had long ceased to bother or distract him. There was an energy to it, a kind of manic intensity that fueled him, kept him motivated. The fact that most of the staff was afraid of him also helped.
Arota prided himself on running an efficient newsroom, and if that efficiency blurred the lines between fear and respect in the minds of his staff, then so be it. Fear was every bit as much a powerful motivator as respect, and as long as his staff’s motivation remained powerful and fruitful, Arota reciprocated that respect. It was a simple formula for success, and it had seen Mainichi rise to the top of the journalistic game in Japan. In rapidly-changing times, the people needed a beacon for truth and trustworthy voices to listen to.
And on this day, there were plenty of patient ears waiting to hear what Arota’s team had to say.
The typhoon was obviously the big story, but Arota had left its coverage in good hands. Even as he spoke, the people of Japan were reading Ichiro Sakai’s report on the incident. In a day, Typhoon #8 would be old news. Something else would come along to pique the interest of the public. Some other terrible tragedy or marvelous mystery would surely rise to…
Arota’s train of thought was interrupted by the ringing of his phone. His desk sat in what could only be described as an angular “circle” of desks, each with a phone at its head. This created a ring of phones in the center of the combined desk space, one for each worker to answer. Arata had grown quite adept at telling his ring apart from the others. With barely a delay from the first ring, he had reach forward and scooped the phone to his ear.
“Arota speaking, who’s this?” he said quickly. “The Shizunoura office?”
As the voice on the other end of the line continued to speak, Arota felt his eyes grow wider and wider.
“Hmm? You saw…”
As he continued to listen, Arota leaned forward and out of his chair, flipping through a pile of papers on his desk with one hand while fumbling for a pen with the other. A few seconds later, and he was writing feverishly, his body visibly tense as he continued listening.
“Got it! I’ll send someone right away.”
With a swift motion, he returned the phone to the center of the desk and rose from his chair.
“Sakai went to Kurata Beach, Boss.”
The voice had come from behind him. Arota spun to find one of his reporters, Jiro, looking his way. Their eyes met for only the briefest of seconds before Jiro looked down, returning his gaze to a single, hard-boiled egg that lay clenched between his fingers.
“Wire him!” Arota snapped as he sat back down. “What exactly are you doing, anyway?”
“Don’t take it out on me,” Jiro retorted. “I’m just trying to enjoy my lunch before-“
“Get off your backside and go to Shizunoura!”
Jiro blinked a few times. “What’s so important out there?”
Arota leaned in toward Jiro, his body still tense.
“Some kind of ‘monster egg’ has been spotted at sea.”
It was now Jiro’s turn to rise from his seat.
“A monster egg?”
As Jiro’s eyes darted down toward the egg he had just been preparing to eat, he felt his appetite slip away.
As the residents of Shizunoura rushed from their homes to the shoreline of Nishi Beach, a great and mystifying sight befell their eyes.
The strange object drifted calmly in the cool Pacific waters, appearing to stand still against the horizon. Even though a kilometer or so of water separated it from the beach, its size was almost overwhelmingly tremendous. Its form was clearly that of an egg: a large, rounded end that tapered to a smaller tip on the opposite side. Through the bright sun of the midday, patterns of blues, yellows, and whites could be seen across its shell.
For the people of Shizunoura, the sea was life. The sea was the source of their food, their money, and their honor. But while the sea had certainly provided its fair share of surprises over the years, this was unlike anything they had ever encountered before.
As incredible – as unbelievable – as it was to consider, there was no doubt about it: a monster-sized egg had appeared in their waters.
And it was slowly heading toward their beach.
As the crowd continued to grow, one group of men stood together. The fishermen of Shizunoura had been the first to spot the massive egg in the distance, and they now stared as one out at the horizon, too stunned to know what to do. Even their leader – the head of the village and the man to whom all the fishermen reported – had spoken very little since arriving at the beach.
“Boss… what kind of egg is that?”
A fisherman at the front of the crowd had spoken, desperate to break the tense silence that had overtaken the group.
“How should I know?”
His boss’ response had been brisk and flustered. The middle-aged man was obviously as bewildered as the rest of his crew.
“We have to do something!” another fisherman had spoken up, a look of intensity on his unshaven face. “It’s floating toward Nishi Beach!”
Silence returned to the group. Each man waited for the next to speak. But there were no words for something like this. This was beyond any…
“Launch the boats!”
The sudden command caught the fishermen of Shizunoura by complete surprise. It had come from their boss, and his tone of voice had transformed from confusion and fear to determination and confidence.
The group began to murmur among themselves, first quietly and then progressively louder.
“Launch the boats?”
“What’s he thinking?”
At the far left of the crowd, a young man turned toward an older fisherman. “Dad, he says to launch the boats! What could he…”
“Launch the boats?” The old man raised his head. Within seconds, he had navigated through the crowd to his leader’s side.
“Boss, are you insane? It could be dangerous! Why send out the boats?”
The murmuring stopped. With every man now listening, the Village Leader spoke.
“Fishing’s been poor lately. We’ve gotta do something or we’ll starve! This could be the opportunity of a lifetime!”
Stunned silence returned to the group as each man realized what their boss was asking of them. It was certainly true that the village had been suffering from poor fishing lately, and that a find like this could being some much needed money into their community. But would the egg even be worth anything if dragged ashore? Could it be eaten or used in any kind of practical way? What would happen it were somehow dangerous? What if it carried sickness or, even worse, a terrible curse of some kind? Perhaps it was the vessel of some great god that fell from the heavens into the ocean. Perhaps it was the egg of a great demon or the spirits of men lost at sea. Perhaps it…
The voice snapped the group out of its collective fearful silence. Standing before them was an old man, clothed in white robes and brandishing an Onusa wand. When the egg had first been spotted, the Priest at the local shrine had rushed to the beach to purify the area. The old man had moved down the shore quickly, and now stood facing the fishermen, a sly smile on his face.
“You ever heard of an egg hurting anyone?” he said, walking closer to the men. “I’ve offered prayers to protect you from any possible curses. The waters are pure, and your path is clear!”
It seemed that this was all the Village Leader needed to hear. He stepped forward and turned to face his men.
“Then it’s time to launch the boats! Anything we catch in this bay, whether fish or egg, belongs to us. Let’s go!”
After a few moments, the murmuring began again.
“We should try!”
As the men grew more excited, their voices grew louder. Before they knew it, they were running toward the waterline, their fishing boats within their sights.
High above the waters of Shizunoura, Jiro felt his stomach rumble.
Mere minutes after being ordered to follow up on Arota’s “monster egg” story, Jiro had found himself rushed into Mainichi’s news helicopter and whisked off into the skies. When his boss wanted a story, time was never wasted. Even when it was technically still lunchtime.
As the helicopter finally caught sight of the ocean, Jiro shrugged his shoulders. Being rushed into quick reporting was nothing new to him. It was just the way Arota worked. He tried to never take it personally, although it was sometimes difficult to shake off the feeling that he was being singled out. It seemed that whenever Sakai or any of Arota’s star reporters were off doing something else, he threw the latest scoop at Jiro to handle. It felt less like being entrusted with a special assignment, and more like punishment for being the only reporter left in the office that day. And these assignments always seemed to come during a snack break…
Jiro couldn’t figure it out. Maybe his boss had something against healthy eating. Or maybe he got some kind of pleasure out of interrupting his staff every time they tried eating an…
“There it is!”
Jiro could hardly believe his eyes. There, floating in the waters below him, was a gigantic, colorful egg. It was just as his boss had said. No wonder he had been so anxious to get a reporter on site.
As Jiro stared at the massive orb, something else caught his eye. A group of tiny fishing boats – 12 in total – were sailing toward the egg, each filled with men, nets, and hooks. It was clear that they intended to haul the massive object ashore. Soon, the egg would be on the beach for the whole of Japan to see.
Jiro could feel an excited smile creeping over his face.
Perhaps this story had been worth giving up his lunch, after all.
Chapter 3 Coming Soon!