Vol. 4, Chapter 1, part 2
The next day I got a request from the proprietress of the inn I was staying at. And now I’m going through the streets of Ichigatake to fulfill that request. And there are so many food-specialized stalls. Beginning with dango, sushi, Japanese sweets, udon and soba, and even oden, lots of different dishes. Why sushi stalls though? Although having some reservations about this, I nonetheless am in the middle of the Edo-period food stalls.
(Let’s grab a bite while I’m here)
I take the smallest portion of everything to enjoy the variety of tastes. There is a popular opinion that Japanese people didn’t eat much meat before the Meiji era, but there were things like raccoon dog soup. Pikasha also seems to be in a good mood because of the variety of edible stuff.
(Let’s finish at the next soba stall, I believe that stall was the one in the request)
My stomach was blissfully full. Time to stop. The taste of the dishes implies there could be soy sauce sold somewhere, let’s stock up on it later.
We were greeted by a sturdy, yet not a very energetic man.
The price is 160 glo is probably because in the edo era 2-8 soba noodle cost 16 mon. By the way, there are 2 theories why it’s called “2 to 8 soba”. One of them is that 8 parts of buckwheat flour and 2 parts of thickener was used. Another one is that the price was 16 mon, which is 2*8. I don’t care though.
I pay my 160 glo and wait till it’s done. He boils it for 30 seconds, puts in the rest of the ingredients and it’s complete. This kind of soba isn’t boiled for a long time.
“Thank you for the wait.”
Then, while slurping my soba, I ask him casually.
“Could I ask you one question?”
The stall owner jolts a little
“Do you know what the “Ryu ceremony” is?”
Hearing that, the shopkeep turns to face me.
“–yeah. The “Ryu Ceremony” is a battle trial, which the Ryu people, who are born in this country, can challenge only twice in their life, and the outsiders like you only thrice.”
“Could you please tell me where I can take it?”
The shopkeep stopped his work, put down the tools, and continued.
“Well, to begin with — an outsider would need to get a “Pine” inner pass. If you complete tasks given to you and show your ability it will be granted naturally. Should not pose a problem.”
“After that, in the dragon castle that only “Pine”-ranked people can enter, you challenge the Ryu god with your companions. That is the “Ryu ceremony”. You should bring up to 6 companions with you.”
“And if you win, or your abilities get recognized by the Ryu god, ryu people get a “complete ryu transformation”, and people from the outside get “power on par with the ryu”, or so they say.”
“I see. So the rules are simple…… So, I suppose you have to face them head-on.”
While I’m stroking my chin, the shopkeep continues.
“Right, no poison works against the Ryu god. Only pure strength.”
Hmm, that would be the first priority aim for the players who came to this country.
“And have you ever tried it, shopkeep?”
At that instant, the shopkeeper’s face turns sour.
“–do you have some time to talk? It happened quite a while ago, you see……”
There used to be a young ryu, stronger than anyone around. That man rampaged using his excessive strength and paraded the streets with his gang, making countless fights, so-called duels.
And the problem was, he’d never lost a fight. Often, a losing opponent attacked again with more weapons and people, only to have the tables turned on them.
This much rampaging around, naturally, wouldn’t be written off as simple tomfoolery, so he was dragged before the magistrate time and time again.
And he thought nothing of being given a hundred sticks. His sturdy body barely felt any pain from it.
And so, after being in this position for a while, he decided to undertake the “Ryu ceremony” to be transformed into a complete ryu and have a laugh with his gang. He thought, he just had to have enough strength to knock his opponent off their feet.
And so, that man decided to challenge the “Ryu Ceremony” by himself…… just to be one-sidedly crushed. No, just crushed wouldn’t do it justice. All it took was a flick of Ryu god’s finger on that sturdy body of his for him to lose consciousness.
And when he woke up after a while, the Ryu god slowly opened his mouth and spoke.
“…Laughable. A mere child, unaware of being protected from its surroundings, a big-headed fool. In the end, this is all your strength amounts to. Leave, ryu like you are not even worthy of being killed.”
As soon as the Dragon god finished, the man was ousted from the castle.
That overwhelming defeat was a shock, his self-confidence up to that point was broken cleanly in two. And he left the castle, stupefied…… and years later he is now going around with his soba cart.
“… thus goes an old tale of a man of ryu. How do you find it?”
I see … The aforementioned man of ryu is the shopkeep in front of me. He’s probably trying to tell me that if you face the “Ryu Ceremony” with a half-baked strength, you’ll get out of it with your pride in shatters.
“May I ask you one more question concerning the story?”
I take a deep breath and continue.
“You said that a ryu person can take the “Ryu Ceremony” twice in their lifetime, right? So, shouldn’t the ryu man from the story try again?”
The shopkeep shakes his head slightly.
“He probably won’t even try. And I don’t mean only the ryu man from the story but most of us won’t try it more than once.”
That’s how it is, I wonder if something can be done about it…… I thought about that, when I caught a glimpse of the sad shopkeep’s eyes and made up my mind.
Because of our talk just now, his eyes looked like he’s given up. But then I thought I caught a slight glimpse of unwillingness to give in in them.
— I know it’s rude but I’ll try asking a leading question.
“Well, nothing doing than…… but, you’ve told me a great story, I’ll tell you something of my own. The words I’ve heard long ago from my master “Before giving up on something, ask yourself if that is really fine to give up on”. Later you might regret not that you failed but that you didn’t try your best.”
Upon hearing that, the shopkeep’s body gave a jolt.
So, he still regrets it. The reaction gave him away clearly. I guess, although he is convinced himself, his heart doesn’t want to accept it…… something like that.
It’s as if he touched another life of his with the tips of his fingers, it is sure to leave a bad feeling in his heart. Let’s try and take it a step further.
“Excuse my rudeness but let me ask you. That ryu man…… no, you, did you really give up on the “Ryu Ceremony” completely, from the bottom of your heart?”
The shopkeep utters “I……” and got stuck. Let’s try another approach. It might be a little rough though.
“Then why don’t we have a duel? It’s not about winning or losing this time. It might help you understand something if we cross our fists instead of just talking.”
The shopkeep finally unfroze.
“Excuse me, wait a minute, you are a human, aren’t you? If you fight a ryu, it won’t end with simple scratches you know!? Besides, why would you go this far? There should be nothing in it for you.”
I answer him with a smile.
“You see, I hit a dead-end like you once. And then other people helped me to recover. So, when I see someone in a similar situation, I just can’t leave it alone.”
The duel with this ryu would predetermine my course of action in this country…… unbeknownst to me, that is.
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