There were many incredible sailors, but none were as incredible as Watanabe You. She was a legend among the kids on the island, especially anyone within range of Haruka.
Haruka was an ordinary girl in an ordinary town. She hated school, she spent all day playing in the grass, she ate eggplants from the farm she lived on but she preferred candy whenever her parents would buy it for her. Haruka had never been to the city, so she didn’t have any cool stories like her best friends did.
Until that day she met the most Captain You.
The fateful day started out terrible for Haruka. She and her best friend Kanata, who was born in a hospital, were tossing a ball between each other. Each time they threw, they aimed the ball higher and higher, making it more difficult to predict where the ball would land. It was great for running around and feeling the wind until Haruka slipped and let go of the ball halfway through her throw.
The ball landed in the Akuma Mansion backyard. Both girls drooped. No kid was dumb enough to knock on the door of the Akuma home (The family owning the mansion was actually called something else, but the kids of the island never could remember their real name). The mother was a bony rich lady, and there’s no reason for a rich lady to be bony. They say any kid who dared knock on the front door was dragged in, never to be seen again.
Haruka’s friend wandered home after that, but Haruka just couldn’t. She hated feeling like she had messed up their day. There weren’t many hours of sun these days, and she wasn’t gonna waste the time she had just cause of an unlucky throw.
Looking for anything to occupy her time, Haruka found a dirty orange fur cat. She watched it for a bit, and it watched her. Haruka slowly held out her hand, to which the cat gave her a gentle lick. Once it figured she wasn’t a threat, the cat ran into a cave. One that Haruka was familiar with.
The maw was just wide enough for an adult to get inside if they ducked their head. It was so black inside you may as well be blind, not even Haruka’s mama who could see dirty cookie crumbs in the dark could see in there. The kids here called it the nightmare-cave, people said if you went in you would only come out in the dreaded Mifune’s basement, which is probably where they kept all the kids they took.
Haruka was about to back off until she saw it. A boulder. A big rock on top of the clip, teetering off the edge begging for a push. If she could throw a rock at it, it would surely fall.
Swooping down, Haruka grabbed a rock. She figured with a good throw she could topple the boulder and cause a crash loud enough to make her dad freak out from his home office. Haruka wound up her shot. She aimed, stretching her arm ‘till her bones ached. She threw, fast as lightning and harder than the professionals she’d see on TV, nailing the rock and sending it teetering over the edge.
Haruka jumped for joy watching as the massive boulder tipped off the edge, till it dropped right on the entrance of the cave. The boulder rolled like the cap to a toothpaste bottle, perfectly sealing up the hole-and the friendly cat inside it.
Haruka couldn’t believe it. Not only did she ruin her evening, she ruined some dumb cat’s day as well! Heck, that cat might be trapped forever, alongside all the kids in the Akuma basement. Mama was going to make her run laps from the house to the shrine just so the spirits don’t ruin the year’s harvest.
Haruka ran up the hill to the nearest phone booth, but she didn’t know any phone numbers except her own and nobody was in the house this time of day besides Haruka’s grandma, and grandma couldn’t move a rock like that. The houses were far, so Haruka ran down the beach to see if anyone was nearby fishing or swimming.
A short run led Haruka to a boat. It was a small one, could fit a party of 3 but a party of 3 was all she needed. She yelled and hollered, jumping on board to find an orange-haired woman passed out on the wood floor holding a bottle.
“Yousoro!” came a voice. It didn’t sound like a cityfolk.
Haruka turned and that's when she first met captain You. A woman with a sailor’s hat and a baggy shirt.
“You need somethin’?”
Of course, at that point, Haruka didn’t know who the captain was. She blabbered uselessly, just happy to see an adult. The captain didn’t fully understand what the 12-year-old girl was saying, so instead, she held out her hand and let the kid pull her along.
“Where we going?” She asked, a bright smile on her face. She didn’t know the challenge that was coming, and even when Haruka had brought them to their destination the captain didn’t understand. The rock blended in so nicely with the cliffside nobody who wasn’t part of the island would know the cave hiding behind it. Haruka struggled to explain what she needed, and was quick to despair that this lady would write her off.
The captain was more clever than she thought. She didn't know who this kid was, but she could tell something was wrong. That kept her alert, and her senses were sharp. She stood close to the rocks, eyeing the structure until she could hear panicked mewls of a growl non-feral cat begging for help. From there, she managed to find the cave pretty quickly by just knocking around.
Haruka had no idea how, but this stranger had located the cave. But it didn’t seem like she could move the boulder. The captain couldn’t get a good grip, and rock wouldn’t budge. It was no surprise, the rock was as big as she was.
“What are you doing here?”
Haruka looked up and spotted her worst fear. The Akuma mother, bony hands and all, was standing on the cliffside above them watching. She hoped her new friend was smart enough to run, for she didn’t know anyone who could stand a conversation with the woman.
Apparently not. You lifted a hand in a sailor’s salute. The old lady huffed.
“Don’t waste your time.”
This seemed to surprise the captain. Watanabe You had met many elderly people in her life, and they were often kind and encouraging. This woman was something different.
“Is something the matter?”
“You’re wasting your time with that,” the old bat said, pointing to the rock. Indeed, to unseal the cave would be a struggle, but the captain loved a good challenge.
“Sorry ma’am, but I think a cat is stuck in here,” You said, throwing a look at Haruka. She went back to the boulder, but she was fighting an uphill battle. “Is there another way in?” She called.
The elderly woman didn’t respond, so You did the only thing she could think of. She hummed. It didn’t do much for the rock, but it did something for her spirits. The captain hummed, and she got to work. She positioned herself to the side, and pushed the rock with her arms. When they got tired, she switched around to her shoulder, then to her back.
A minute passed. Then five. Then ten. Then thirty. The whole time the captain kept pushing. She didn’t have any machines or pulleys or cranes to help her, so this was all she could do.
Haruka tried to cheer her on, praying to god this woman could pull off a miracle. As she yelled, Kanata came by and learned about the situation. Kanata left and came back with their teacher. Their teacher was a man, but a pretty puny one. He saw what the captain was trying, and walked away deciding he didn’t need to be a part of it.
After an hour of pushing, the rock had budged a tiny bit. The grumpy Akuma mom came back just to watch the failure. Haruka was counting her sins, ready to run 100 laps to make up for it. As if to revitalize the young girl’s spirit, the captain took off her shirt.
Now, the captain was pretty fit but she wasn’t dressed to show it. Her sailor uniform was a bit too big on her, and her arms didn’t look that big at a first glance. Now that she only had an undershirt on, the captain’s toned stomach was in full view and Haruka was a growing adolescent. The young girl couldn’t look away until Kanata nudged her.
Watanabe You flexed, partially to get the blood pumping and set off back to work. Her biggest supporter cheered her on.
Suddenly, a gap appeared. Haruka saw it, and if she wasn’t hollering as loud as she could already she would have turned it up even louder. Kana joined in too, both of them believing in the strange sailor. There was definitely a chance.
The captain shoved and shoved, she was getting really sweaty now. As she worked, people from the town started to come down. Maybe the teacher had spread the word, maybe it was the Akuma mom’s presence, but all of the nearby neighbors had gathered at the beach and watched. They were all good-natured people, but none of them lifted a finger to help. Perhaps they sensed the legend that was being born in front of them.
Two hours passed. It seemed the work wasn’t getting easier. The boulder was heavier than any weight one could get at a gym, and it was beyond what any normal person could move.
But the captain was no normal person. Inch by inch, the boulder moved. Person by person, the townsfolk came. watched as the hole opened wider and wider. Nearly two and a half hours of pushing later, and the hole widened. It wasn’t big, and it wasn’t impressive, but it was enough. As soon as it could, the cat squeezed itself through the opening and plopped itself right into the captain’s arms.
The town cheered (or at least the half that was there). Kanata ran over to touch the cat, only to discover the animal was very done with this whole affair. It leaped away from any more distractions and ran inland, leaving only it’s savior behind. Kanata made do, touching the captain’s biceps instead. Indeed, a crowd began to form around the young woman, much to her embarrassment.
Among the praise and compliments she received, one of the mothers offered to have You over dinner (as well as a shirt). She politely declined, and in a shock twist she revealed that it was her birthday.
“My friends made me a cake and everything. I need to head back soon,” she said. The town wasn’t hearing any of it. To see someone so selflessly spending their birthday helping out an animal, it warmed their hearts.
Haruka knew the captain was strong enough to move a boulder, but strong enough to refuse the hospitality of their small country town? That was something the spirits weren’t strong enough to do. Eventually, the captain was allowed to leave, on the promise that she come back and try some food with the various folks inviting her.
So Captain You left, with the well wishes of a crowd seeing her disappear into the sea with nothing but a bag of eggplants and some water for her drunk friend to show for her troubles.
Her story was told time and time again, Haruka herself becoming a minor celebrity as the one with the first-hand experience. She went from house to house, spreading the captain’s tale and how impressive and kind this stranger was.
She tried at the school too, but there Kanata stirred up trouble.
“Haruka dreamed of her last night.”
“Ya, she did. She told me this morning, she was dreaming the captain picked her up as her first mate and kissed her on the lips!”
“Shut up!” Haruka punched her best friend for that one.
It was embarrassing, but Haruka couldn’t deny it. After all, she was waiting for the time the captain would keep her promise and visit the island again someday.