“Please,” the village leader said, above the wails of grieving mothers. “I know these are tough times –”
“Tough times!” a woman screamed. “You haven’t lost a child!”
“Fifteen!” a man screamed while comforting his wife. “Fifteen children!”
“What are you going to do!” the crowd started chanting.
The village leader looked at the pain and grief that has consumed his village. It used to be such a peaceful village. Everyone was happy. He had to do something, but what? He raised his hands, patting empty air. The crowd hushed and village mothers tried their best to calm enough to hear their leader. “I will send for Asahi!”
The crowd cheered. The village messenger ran fifty miles to the village where the famed fisherman Asahi lived with his wife and three sons. Two weeks later, the village messenger and Asahi returned to the village with nets, line, spear, and hooks the messenger had never seen the likes of before.
“I hear you have a problem,” Asahi said.
“Oh, yes,” the village leader replied. “Thank you for coming. We have lost fifteen young children to the river monster. You are the best fisherman ever known. Please catch the monster so that we never fear for our children again.”
Asahi nodded and began asking the parents of the killed children questions about where they were at on the river, what they were doing, what they had eaten, and there were no connections between the deaths except the river.
In the morning, Asahi set out on a small boat owned by the father of one of the victims and piled all his equipment into the boat and rowed into the middle of the river. He lowered his line and waited.
“Ah, got you,” he said when a fish took the line, but when he pulled it up, it was much too small to have eaten a child.
A second fish was also too small. And a third, fourth, fifth. They were all too small. It was getting late in the evening, but Asahi would not give up. Suddenly, his line lurched this way and that. It tugged as he pulled. Whatever was on the end of the line was fighting back. He wrapped the line around him for extra leverage.
“I have you now!” Asahi stood in his boat, pulled out a reed net that he could use to slip under the fish and catch it while still on the line, but no sooner did the fish sense a decrease in Asahi’s tugging, it heaved one last pull, sending Asahi head first into the river.
As Asahi was being pulled under the water by his line, he started flapping his arms and kicking with his legs trying to get back to the surface before he drowned. Sinking faster and faster, he decided that he must already be dead because at the bottom of the river in a little grotto filled with air where he was being pulled to was a kappa holding a fishing rod, smiling.
Asahi tried the best he could with what little air he had left in his lungs to bow while still being pulled down. The kappa saw his attempt at politeness and bowed deeply in return, spilling the water from his sara into the river. Released from the kappa’s hold, Asahi swam quickly back to the surface, gasping for air.
“You have a problem,” he told the village, as he returned to shore. “There is a magical grotto in the river. A kappa has taken it for its home.”
Gasps and muffled screams filled the air until the village leader started laughing.
“Thank you, Asahi,” he said. “You have proven yourself to be a great fisherman indeed.”
Asahi was confused, but graciously accepted the compliment and began heading back to his village and family.
“Why are you laughing?” the villagers asked. “We are doomed to more deaths.”
“Fear not,” he said, picking up a plate and cup then climbing into the boat and paddling out to where Asahi was. ”
When the village leader returned to the surface, the kappa climbed into the boat with him. Once back on land the kappa began cleaning up the village. The villagers were shocked, but the village leader just laughed again.
“What?… How?” the villagers asked.
“I simply refilled his sara from the water, bowed, and politely asked him to help the village rather than stealing our children.” The village leader smiled.
This short was inspired by the photo prompt for WATW.