Jan 29, 2017

Majo no Tabitabi V1 Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Before the Contest Begins

Part 1


Early morning, I have arrived at a certain country. It was a country I saw by chance while flying on broom, so I had no information about what kind of country it was.

It was unneeded for such small village that didn't even have gate, but normally when you enter the country that owns the land, almost always there is an inspection done by the gate soldier.

That said, aside from special cases, they would just ask pretty general questions.


"Who are you?"

"Elaina."

"Country of origin?"

"It's known as the peaceful country of Robetta."

"Reasons for entry?"

"Sightseeing."

"What's the duration of stay?"

"Probably around three days."

Usually, the questioning would end at this, if it was a country that required toll, you would pay the money and the gate guard would step aside saying "In that case, please take care."

"For breakfast are you in bread faction? Or rice faction?"

It seemed the questioning was still ongoing. And it was a vague question.

"......Excuse me?" I frowned and asked again.

The gate guard answered without changing his expression even a bit, "Again, for breakfast are you in bread faction? Or in rice faction? It's a necessary information when entering the country so please answer honestly."

Are there food competitions happening in this country?

But if it's a necessity, let's answer honestly. Though I do think that it's a little improper question for the formal procedure setting.

"I'm not in either faction. I am a traveler, therefore I change the faction to match the culture of the country."

I can't eat anything but bread! - You can't say that in the country with rice-centered culture right? Same goes for opposite. So, I have decided to maintain a neutral standing.

"I see...... That's unusual," Gate guard stroked his chin and said.

"I see, I understand. Then, let's put in both of them as your decision."

After that, the gate guard moved aside and said:

"Take care, Witch-sama."

I bowed to the gate guard and passed through the gate.


Part 2



I immediately understood the reason of that strange question.

It seemed that this was a country where two cultures had mixed together.

There was a giant waterway near the gate entrance. And centering on that waterway, there were eastern houses lined up on its left side and western ones on its right.

What's more, there were two roads before the gate. On the right, "Eastern district: People of rice faction, this way!" and opposite to it, "Western district: People of bread faction, this way!" were written.

Looks like the country is divided as rice and bread factions on the inside.

"...Hmm."

I hesitated. I don't really mind either of them.

But thinking about it, wouldn't this be the first time walking to the eastern townscape? It's always just western style.

Then, it's decided.

I turned to the right.

The road there was composed of well-arranged rectangular stones. Looking up from it, there were formal wooden houses lined up in a row. The Royal Palace was visible ahead. It seemed to be right at the center of waterway, so I guessed it was the center of the divided country.

The road leading to the Royal Palace had a bridge built about about halfway. The new bridge seemed mismatched when compared to the historic townscape. Below the bridge's arc, one could see the reflection of a small boat passing through.

".........?"

I ended up being puzzled because of the strange appearance of the person on top of it.

It was a boy having a breakfast while sitting on a handrail. It was obvious that he was a person of eastern district from the fact that he was clad in kimono, but no matter how you looked at it, what he held in mouth was bread. A person of rice faction was eating bread.

Next to him, there was a figure of a woman who was appetizingly stuffing her cheeks with onigiri. It seemed she was from the rice faction. Despite wearing a one-piece dress.

I became curious. Somehow, it was a very unusual sight.

"Um, excuse me."

I called out to the two.

Two of them exchanged glances, then the boy replied to me "Is something wrong?" Bread in his hand. But wearing a kimono. As expected, it's strange.

I asked after quickly introducing myself, "Just what kind of country is this?"

"What kind of country you ask.... hmm." after folding his arms, he asked to the woman next to him, "Hey, what kind of country is this?"

"Isn't it a lovely country."

"Yeah, that's right. It's a lovely country. Yes, Traveler-san, it's a lovely country."

What I want to know isn't that, it's more.....

"The townscape is lovely, but you are lovely as well."

"Oh stop it, you are even lovelier."

"Ufufu."

"Ahaha."

.........

Looks like I'm just a hindrance here. It would be better to leave at once.

Yes, I sensed that I wouldn't get any useful information from them, it's not that I wanted to wrap it up quickly or something you know? No, really.

In any case, I quickly thanked them and left.

I walked about the east and west districts, while talking to people to obtain the information I was seeking.

However, the more I walked around, the stranger I felt. I didn't notice it earlier in the morning as there were few people about, but once the number of people increased around noon, it became hard to differentiate between the two districts as the people freely intermingled between east and west using the bridge.

What was even strange, was that the shopkeepers whose stalls had notes saying, "We don't sell to people of rice faction," despite saying so, were handing over the goods to people dressed in fine kimonos.

It wasn't just the stalls. It seemed there was some official regulation in effect, as all stores, regardless of whether they were general stores or greengrocers had signboards saying that customers from the opposite side wouldn't be served.

But not a single person was minding that. It was as if the signboards held no meaning.

After I returned from the western side to the eastern district, I passed under the sign of the dumpling seller.

"Welcome. What would you like to eat?"

As I sat on the chair, Onee-san wearing Japanese clothes leaned over in front of me. Facing the "We don't sell to people of bread faction" sign that was outside,

"I am in a bread faction."

I said that.

"What kind of joke is that?"

After covering her mouth with hand, Onee-san started leaking the giggles. It was a refined gesture.

"What do you mean joke?"

Gazing up at me with narrowed eyes, Onee-san said, "There are no people who mind such decorations are there?"

Certainly, if you look at the situation on the streets, I can surely say that there are no people who mind the signboards. But if that's the case, then what's the purpose of the signboard?

"So, what is your order?"

"Ah, three mitarashi dango please."

"Coming right up!"

Part 3



While feeling uncomfortable, I searched for an inn at the western district.

Although there was an inn on the eastern district as well, it was no good for me there. I can't sleep if there's no bed. In other words, eastern inns are disturbingly difficult to deal with. the feeling of walking barefoot on grass just doesn't sit well with me.

I walked about in the district and finally entered the cheapest looking inn. "People of rice faction aren't allowed to stay." It was an inn with such signboard put on. Well, let's ignore that.

"Welcome."

When I entered, on the other side of the counter, there was a shopkeeper who seemed to lack motivation resting his chin with hands.

"I want to stay for a night," I said as I took out a silver coin.

"Thank you for staying. Now, fill out the form."

"Okay."

I'm already used to this. I finished writing really quickly.

Then, while I handed the filled paper back to the shopkeeper, "If it's alright, can you please tell me about this country?" I asked him.

"......Don't think I've seen your face before miss customer, are you perhaps a traveler?"

"Yes. That's why I can't help but be curious about this country."

To my question, the shopkeeper stayed quiet for a while––

"What do you want to hear?"

––and said so. Oh, he's easy to talk to. Still, it's just doing business with a traveler.

"In that case, please tell me the reason of different situations between east and west?"

The shopkeeper told me the things I wanted to know.

"Originally, this country was two countries who were side by side to each other across the waterway. The country on the east followed the eastern culture, and the one on west side followed western. Each of the two countries had a king controlling it. Those two kings were on good terms, and interaction between them was also popular──Well, the situation wasn't much different from now."

"Hmm, I see."

Easy to understand.

"One day, the two kings started discussing. On whether they should turn the two countries into one. There came no opposition to that, since both western and eastern countries had the same intentions. Rather, it felt like this took too long."

"Was the bridge connecting two districts built at that time?"

Shopkeeper gave a nod. "Yes, That's right. That's something those kings built to celebrate the merging."

"I see."

So that's why it looks unusually new.

"At around that time, each of the kings had a child born. The Eastern King had a girl, while western king had a boy. Just like the kings, they were close to each other and before long, they got married and ahead of the waterway──Or in other words, in the country's center, they built a royal palace and lived there. Even now, those two are the symbols of this country."

That's the kind of feeling this country has judging by what I know about it.

The shopkeeper spoke while putting the room's key on the counter. While taking it, I said, "Thank you. By the way, can I ask one more thing?"

"What could it be?"

I talked about the strange question they asked me at the country's entrance, about the strange banners put in front of the gate and stores, and also about the pair on the bridge.

"I first thought that the country was divided in two parts, but looking at the situation, it appears as if people don't care about things like signboards at all. Crossing the bridge, the exchange between them is strong. But that being the case, what reason is there for the signboards?"

Shopkeeper quietly listened to my talk and then nodded with affirmation.

"Those signboards are prepared for the contest."

He said that rather easily, so I doubted my ears.

"A contest? What the heck is it for?"

"It seems that those two want to unify the country to either eastern or western culture ──So, in any case, the reason of gate guard's strange question and the signboards is something like that."

A move to destroy the country which the previous kings unified while leaving their respective merits, is that how it is?

But, why?

"Those two don't know the word called compromise."

Shopkeeper laughed.

Incidentally, he demanded a fee for the information afterwards.

Part 4



After that, I stayed for a few days and then started preparing to depart from the country. The country which mixed western and eastern culture together was truly fascinating, but if I had to say it, that's all there was to it.

There's wasn't anything else particularly interesting, that's the kind of impression I had.

In the end, the most important parts were left unanswered, but well.... that's that? It's not something I would get bloodshot eyes over. But if someone were to tell me how the signboards came to be I'm all ears.

Well, that's that I guess──While forcibly coming to agreement, I passed through the gate.

"Ah, please wait a moment Witch-sama."

And I stopped. The spear held by gate guard was set up horizontally, blocking the path ahead.

"......Is something wrong?" I made a confused face.

"If possible, can I take a bit more of your time?"

"......? Why?"

Depending on the time, place, and circumstances, one won't be as reluctant to listen to what they're told. If it's just some trivial thing, I would just decline and depart from the country, but...

"His majesty the King and Princess have summoned you."

"......Eh."

It seems that it's not a trivial thing.

In the place far along the waterway. I was guided to the Royal Palace built as if to overlook the two cultures.

After walking within the ambiguous castle which was a mix of east and west, I arrived in the hall. The hall felt as if eastern and western rooms were cut in half and glued together.

It's quite unsettling...

Feeling the door getting shut behind me, I started advancing. Two thrones were visible just up ahead.

Man and woman sitting there were having a quarrel──And didn't even seem to notice my existence.

"Didn't I say that the contest method should be a shogi? Anything but that is impossible!"

"Isn't your side advantageous in shogi! It should be chess, how many times should I say for you to get it!"

"How many times should I say that chess gives advantage to your side!"

"Gununu...."

"Fununu...."

They gave off such a dangerous atmosphere that it seemed like they would start fighting anytime now. Sitting on thrones, the two of them glared at each other.

To make my existence known, I coughed once. It's purpose couldn't be clearer. But the two have noticed me.

"Oh? Are you perhaps..."

"The aforementioned traveler? oh my..."

I bowed. "I was told that you two had business with me, so I was invited here──that said, what business do you have with me?"

"Yes. Actually──"

King who opened his mouth to speak was stopped by the Queen.

"I will tell it to Witch-sama myself."

"What? from here, I will..."

"No. I will say it."

Either is fine so hurry up and start talking would you? Come on.

In the end, after they quarreled over and over, it was decided that King would be the representative to tell me everything.

"You see, presently this country is having a war──Because me and that woman are on bad terms as you can see. However, before having the match, we haven't decided its method. From what we heard, you don't belong in either faction and have a neutral standing right? That's why, we wish that you would decide its fate."

"...Won't you decide the method?" No, before that. "Why did you even decide to have a context in the first place?"

As I said that, the King raised his voice.

"That's because this woman insulted the people of west side saying 'People who don't eat rice for breakfast aren't even humans.'"

Queen instantly objected to King's words. "No. It's you who said 'Those who don't eat bread for breakfast are nothing but animals.'"

"Okay, that's already enough. Be quiet for a while you two."

"......" "......"

It's annoying so be quiet.

Then, as I got the grasp of the situation, I first addressed the King.

"Your Highness, the first thing that caught my eye when I entered this country were the signboards. They were strange things that divided into rice and bread factions, but just what kind of meaning did those have?"

"It was for easily seeing which side was larger." "Established to understand with our own eyes which of them was more prominent."

Why did Queen respond as well I wonder......

Well, it's fine. It's bothersome so I won't delve in it.

"So what was the result?"

To my question,

"People of west are more in number." King answered.

"The east had more influential people." Queen also said.

"So I said it's good to have rule of majority."

"No. As I said, we have to decide the match from investment."

"In the end, looks like you don't get it at all."

"Same goes for you."

"......"

"......"

Two of them started glaring at each other once more.

And there, I suddenly thought. What was the topic of their conversation at the start when I entered in this hall I wonder? I recall they were yelling chess and shogi.

They were fighting over majority rule and investment, so how did board games emerge there?

Without asking that question, they started talking on their own.

"It can't be decided after all, huh. Then, how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide how to decide, I think I want to decide it by chess, but..." "No. Shogi."

"........."

"What a thick-headed fellow. Shogi would be advantageous for you" "What a dull-witted person. If it's chess, you will always excel at it!"

"......"

Somehow, I have the feeling that I can totally see the bottom of it.

To make sure of it, I asked the two.

"By the way, when did this quarrel start?"

Two of them looked at me at the same time, gathered their voices and said.

"Two years ago."

That.

"Ah. I see."

Then it's already impossible so just give up please.

Saying that, I left the royal palace. Without detaining me, the two of them continued to make racket.


Part 5



I also understood why people got tired of the signboards and ignored them.

After they started contest about which culture should the country be unified to, already two years had passed. While the discussion wasn't advancing, only time had kept flowing, and perhaps there wasn't even a single person remaining who remembered that the signboards were put up for the contest.

At this point, they were just decorations.

But looking at it from the other way, it can also be said that King's influence had become meaningless to that degree. Because in this country, there is not a person who would earnestly listen to what king had to say.

"Aah, Witch-sama. How was this country?"

Gate guard welcomed me who came from the royal palace all the way to the gate. I passed next to him without stopping, and looked back as I took a step towards the world outside.

Then I spoke as I gazed at the strange country with mixed cultures.

"It's a nice, peaceful country."

That said, I don't know what would happen to it in the future.

Maybe those two will notice the time they spent so pointlessly until now and focus on the country.

Maybe at this rate, the country would be slowly dragged towards the wrong direction. Or perhaps, it will continue to stay this way.

Either way, that is something that no one knows.

"Isn't it? It's indeed a nice country."

The gate guard nodded with satisfaction.

3 comments:

  1. The contest is a lie.

    (rice-and-bread faction)

    ReplyDelete
  2. By the way, what would a steamed rice bun count as?

    ReplyDelete