Hometown Limited Edition
Rachel was enjoying the taste of a fresh cup of tea while snuggled under her kotatsu.
Satisfied with the fragrant aroma of her tea, she then picked up a toothpick and took a bite of the thumb-sized abekawa mochi hanging off the end.¹
“Mm~, tea made from the first leaves of the season and an assortment of abekawa mochi. So good……..the best. Campbell has really outdone himself this time.”
Rachel was in high spirits, and so she decided to share some of her extensive knowledge with Haley who was waiting for his own tea to cool down while underneath the kotatsu as well.
“Is it good Haley? The size of the mochi is really important. They say that the first abekawa mochi was made by a tanuki as a gift for the gods. It was powdered with golden flakes the Abe river had carried down from a nearby mine. Supposedly there wasn’t any type of flour added, just mochi with gold flakes sprinkled on top.”
“In other areas along the Abe river they sell abekawa mochi as big as the palm of your hand, but that’s too big you know? That playfulness derived from its origins is important. Do you understand?”
Hearing Haley’s lifeless answer, Rachel insisted on her point while playing with her toothpick inbetween her fingers. For the record, Haley had no interest in food that he wasn’t able to eat anyway.
“And surely mochi that finds its roots with the Abe river is best served with motoyama tea from the Abe river basin. That’s the one thing I refuse to compromise on. That’s a historic production area for motoyama tea, and it is said that it is the birthplace of Shizuoka tea after an esteemed monk brought the first seeds from his home country to the region.”
Rachel’s extensive knowledge spread even to vague foreign countries. However, more importantly………..
Haley wasn’t saying anything back. Having listened to Rachel’s long speech, he was now looking at the new bag of tea Rachel had just opened.
“What’s wrong Haley? Curious about something?”
Haley was transfixed by the brand name printed across the front of the bag.
Kakegawa Deep Steamed Green Tea
Haley shook the bag. The only noise in the room was of the leaves in the bag being jostled around.
Haley turned his head demanding an answer, but Rachel continued to silently sip her tea.
Haley inched himself closer and tried asking again, but Rachel quietly turned her head away.
“………….It’s only about fifty kilometers away from the basin.”
Haley walked over, forcing himself into Rachel’s line of sight and tilted his head again.
“………….okay so it’s fifty-five kilometers.”
Haley grinded the bag of tea into Rachel’s cheek.
“………….Nearly 75 percent of Japanese tea is Yabukita tea! Even if the area it was produced is slightly off, it’s still coming from the same plant!”
Haley shrugged his shoulders and shook his head while his owner started angrily yelling at him after being backed into a corner.
“Are you thinking, ‘My oh my, what a stubborn little kitten,’ right now? I don’t want to be condescendingly called a little kitten by a baby monkey!”
“What kind of conversation are you trying to have with a monkey!?”
One person and one animal turned their heads after Prince Elliott made an astonished tsukkomi.
“Oh, if it isn’t the little puppy.”
“You two, how are you able to act like everything’s fine after a conversation like that!?”
Rachel pulled up the covers on her kotatsu up to her shoulders and started grumbling her complaints to this prince who keeps showing up day after day with nothing to show for it.
“Here I was greatly enjoying my tea, and now I’ve got a chill after seeing your ugly mug. It’s so cold now.”
“B-Bastard……..how dare you always take such an attitude with me!?”
Enraged, Elliott stuck his thumb towards his face.
“No matter how you look at me I’m the most handsome man in the capitol!”
“Your Highness, that’s not the problem. Did you really come here to get Sis to reflect?”
Elliott answered honestly to George’s tsukkomi……….
“However this is exactly the type of attitude that needs to come to an end!”
Elliott did his best to act as menacing as possible to his prisoner.
“Tell me Rachel! What part of my face are you dissatisfied with!”
“Asking something like that to your ex”
“Don’t say it Sykes. This is really important to His Highness.”
“And you two be quiet!”
Still almost completely embedded in her kotatsu, the noble daughter took a sip from her tea looking as if the taste had been completely ruined.
“Haa……….do you really want to know?”
“If you have a good reason then say it! You’re talking about my greatest charm point! What fault could there be!?”
While making a deliberate sigh at the Prince’s fit, Rachel looked directly into Elliott’s eyes.
“Whenever I am forced to act politely to Your Highness, I automatically associate you with Duchess Somerset because of my queen’s education.”
“P-Putting that aside Rachel!”
Elliott tried readjusting himself in order to restart his sermon.
………but whatever he was going to say was suddenly cut off.
The monkey suddenly started patting Rachel’s upper arm while pointing at something.
“Ah, that’s right! Thanks you Haley!”
“Hey!? Rachel, somebody is talking……….”
The Duke’s daughter rose up from her seat while the Prince was talking and hurried over to a pot that was resting on a fire. She moved the pot to an already prepared pot stand on top of the kotatsu before pulling off the lid.
There was a mixture of different ingredients in the pot……….and several skewers conspicuously sticking out as if they were swords lodged in stone.
“………Oi, what is it this time?”
“What you ask? It’s Shizuoka oden no matter how you look at it.”
After Haley added on some toppings from a jar and they both said a prayer, Rachel started sorting through the ingredients and piling them on to the plate Haley was holding out. Truly a beautiful scene between pet and owner.
“Don’t start eating when the prince is in the middle of giving you a sermon!”
“Come now Your Highness, what are you talking about now? We aren’t eating yet.”
Brushing off Elliott’s angry warning, Rachel thanked Haley for bringing her over a small cup of sake. She gulped down the alcohol in a single swig, “Mm~” and let out a pleased moan.
“A piping hot pot of oden with a cup of sake during cold weather! Irresistible!”
The noble daughter and her monkey shared a nod while the seething prince was about to boil over.
“Don’t have a mid-meal drink when the prince is in the middle of giving you a sermon!?”
“But the oden was done cooking?”
“Do you think that reason justifies such disrespect!?”
Why was Elliott so angry? Haley thought it was strange at first, but realizing what the problem probably was, he pulled out one of the skewers from the pot.
Haley brought over the oden he had picked out over to Elliott.
“………..no, I’m not telling you to give me some of your oden.”
Saying he understood, even though it was quite clear he didn’t understand at all, Haley pierced a round slice of daikon with the skewer and held it out.
“You’re supposed to go, ‘Thanks, Ahn~’. Letting you have some of his food, Haley is so kind.”
“He’s not being kind though!? He’s not using his head!”
“No I don’t hate daikon radish! Think about how hot that food is right now!”
“Don’t just go, ‘okay, eggs then,’ when there’s the exact same problem, monkey!”
The monkey twisted his head completely mystified on what to do. He stared at the egg hanging off his skewer for a moment before thrusting it in a different direction.
“For me!? Thank you Mister Monkey!”
The Baron’s daughter didn’t hesitate for a second, gobbling up the piping hot oden the monkey held out for her.
“Wait!? Margaret, you’ll burn yourself eating it like that………”
“Mm, Mm, Mm! Yeah, this is pretty good………..Elliott, what’s wrong?”
“No……….as long as it’s safe………”
A young girl raised in the slums, Margaret was confident in the strength of her tongue and digestive system.
Elliott peered into the pot of oden.
“By the way……….why is all the food skewered?”
Every ingredient in the pot had been pierced by a skewer. There was a ladle resting on the side as well to help pick anything up.
Looking back up after asking his question………..Elliott was greeted to the sight of Rachel, George, and Sykes all shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads as if to say, “Hah, what an amateur.” Even the monkey was doing it.
“Wha- What’s with you guys!?”
The Prince winced as everyone, with the exception of the Baron’s daughter who was ravenously going at the oden she had been given, all joined together to ridicule him at once.
“Your Highness, isn’t it just common sense that everything is skewered?”
“You wouldn’t be able to call this Shizuoka oden if it wasn’t like this.”
“Hahaha, Your Highness is really ignorant.”
“What!? What’s with this!? What’s with everyone!? Especially the monkey!”
Elliott was getting upset, so Rachel acted as the group’s representative and explained things to him.
“Originally this stuff was sold as an easy-to-eat snack at small candy stores and stationary shops. The skewers were really convenient because they could be eaten just as they were, and the leftover sticks could be counted up to find out how much the bill would be before they leave.”
“………..Rachel, what did you say just now?”
Rachel looked proud of her abundance of useless information, but Elliott had to stop her after hearing something a little strange.
“Huh? The skewers were convenient……….”
“Before that! Where were these being sold!?”
“That’s, small candy stores and stationary shops.”
“Why is a hot meal like this being sold in places like that!?”
Rachel, Sykes, and George all shared a look.
“Because children love to buy snacks, they were being sold in candy shops and stationary stores.”
“Isn’t that natural?”
“It’s not like kids could visit a tavern after all.”
“Isn’t it weird!? That, it’s not natural at all!?”
The Prince was scratching his head, trapped in the weirdness of it all when Rachel gave him an answer.
“Isn’t it normal for each region to have their own unique customs?”
“That is, sure………..but isn’t it too different from what the stores are actually supposed to be selling? Is there something wrong with their heads?”
“Your Highness, that the pot calling the kettle black.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you!”
Rachel made a gracious smile with Elliott’s point.
“Your Highness shouldn’t worry.”
“I’m not worried about some region in another country.”
“Strange people live all over the place, not just in this one region.”
“The story got worse!? Now I suddenly am worried!”
Ignoring the prince that was shaking at her words, Rachel clasped her hands together and made a dreamy smile.
“Shizuoka is such a wonderful place. It’s full of such incredible and inspiring people.”
“………..there’s no way they’re good people if you’re saying something like that. What did they do?”
“What is it, are they a bunch of mob bosses”
Rachel put her finger to her lip…………..and made a cute yell when she thought of some examples.
“That’s right, for example………a certain irrigation channel of theirs.”
“What’s with that?”
“They didn’t have enough water, so they dug an irrigation channel to a lake in a neighboring country by hand. The person in charge of the construction was apparently arrested at one point when he tried to illegally cross the border.”
“………..that, wouldn’t that be a major diplomatic issue?”
“It was, and because it was a source lake that they traditionally had water rights to, the neighboring country held a grudge for the next one hundred years.”
“Of course they did! What was that official thinking!?”
“That official? Hmm, ah, was he the person who built a steelworks in his family garden because he wanted a cannon?”
“What is with this official!? Why!? What reason did he have for doing something like that!?”
“No, or as I hear………..they weren’t being sold anywhere, so he had to make his own.”
“Of course nobody was selling one!? And why would a local official build a steelworks just so he could have a canon!?”
“If you can’t buy something, make it yourself. That’s the basic rule of ‘Do-it-Yourself’ living.”
“That’s not the problem!?”
“That’s just the kind of place it is. A certain rail company had a vehicle inspection on a steam engine while storing it in a garage.”
“Incidentally, by the time they were finished, they had a diesel locomotive on their hands.”
“What kind of, and how much of an inspection did they do!?”
“They said, “Right now, Diesel is hot!” or something along those lines.”
“You can’t just remodel something like that because of a feeling! And how do you nonchalantly switch from a steam engine to a diesel!? What were the blueprints like!?”
“They didn’t know enough to be able to make a blueprint.”
“………….Just a moment. This story is too strange. You write a blueprint to guide your work; it’s not something you make after all the work has been done.”
“Isn’t that natural?”
By now Rachel had already managed to finish off her hot sake, so Haley grabbed a regular bottle of alcohol and refilled Rachel’s cup.
“An engineer’s can-do spirit let’s them make all sorts of new things.”
“I can understand that. I can understand that, but this is still way too strange.”
“Besides that……..there were some people who thought it too tiresome to peddle their bikes, so they made a market for bicycles with engines strapped on.”
“That’s not a bicycle anymore.”
“As long as you design it in a practical way, it won’t break even if you handle it roughly, and it could still run even if you were to drop if off the roof of a couple story building.”
“Would that kind of sturdiness be necessary normally? Hey?”
“So going off that momentum, a president of a successful company participated in a motorcycle race in a foreign country, but he went into a turn too fast and was blown away from the centrifugal force.”
“That’s not what it’s for at all!? And why is the president of a corporation going himself!? Couldn’t he hire a professional driver instead!?”
“The company president had so much fun flying through the air, he decided his company would start building airplanes after that.”
“What happened to the bikes!?”
The drunken nobleman’s daughter turned a nostalgic face towards the ceiling, recalling even more tales as the distressed Prince was getting left behind. The monkey, who had been drinking with her, was already dead drunk, doing the jitterbug on top of the kotatsu as the Baron’s daughter continued crying “Cute, So cuuuuuuuute!” as he went.
“But really Mister Trask has to be the best!”
“There’s still more!? So this guy…….”
“He was a watch maker with a store that repaired medical equipment, and”
“And the story is strange from the very beginning! Rachel, how drunk are you right now?”
“He received a call from the nearby elementary school asking him to ‘fix their organ’.”
“Why is a watchmaker running a medical equipment store being asked to fix a musical instrument!?”
“There were no other craftsmen who could fix instruments in the region because this was the first organ imported to the area. So it was a, ‘You know how to handle delicate equipment right?’ sort of situation.”
“The people around this guy seem pretty weird in the head too. How many people who are like this are out there………..”
“After looking it over, he was able to understand the organ’s structure.”
“So he was able to fix it then?”
“Thinking that he could now build his own, he decided to become an organ carpenter on the weekends.”
“Is he an idiot!?”
“He started work with the assistance of his friend the jewelry store owner, and thanks to a few suggestions from the local fish monger, they were able to finish building their first organ after two months.”
“Why are they taking suggestions from a fish monger!? A watch maker, a jewelry shop owner, and a fish monger, there isn’t an expert among them!”
“Like I already said there aren’t any people in this region who knew anything about organs! But the fish monger had been taking lessons about how to use a shamisen.”
“Just because he was learning about a completely different instrument!? In other words, the other two didn’t know the first thing about music to start with!”
“That’s a good deduction Your Highness. So they were able to finish their first organ, but they quickly realized they had a problem.”
“What? It’s probably something stupid isn’t it.”
“As you’ll recall nobody in the region knew anything about organs, so nobody knew if the one they built sounded right.”
“How many times have I wondered this by now? Why didn’t they think of this while they were building it!?”
“Isn’t it because they were only thinking, ‘I want to try building this’ at the time? But so the two men put their heads together and had a thought. ‘Surely someone in the capitol will know'”
“It’s no good. Something smells here……….”
“And so the two men packed up the organ into a crate and carried it by resting poles they attached to the sides onto their shoulders. It took them seven to ten days to carry that organ all the way to the capitol over unpaved roads in their search for ‘somebody who understands music’.”
“Are these idiots going on a religious pilgrimage or something!?”
“They arrived at the capitol safely and started asking around. ‘Is there someone here who understands music?'”
“Running around without a plan………”
“And yet they were successful in finding the perfect person? And that person asked them, ‘Are you aware of what a musical scale is?'”
“What are these guys doing………it makes me want to cry just hearing about this.”
“And so, while one of the men went back home to begin preparations on building another organ, the other man stayed in the capitol to learn the foundations of music from his new excellent teacher, and they would try again after two months! On their retry they managed to get a passing grade and successfully started a new business!”
“Hey, just because they’ve learned the basics of music doesn’t mean they can start building perfect organs without a blueprint right?”
“The people who live in this region really prefer to run before they walk.”
“They’re not really bad people, but every single one of these guys are just way too weird……….”
“You write it as ‘calmly odd people’, but it’s read as the people of Shizuoka.”²
George leaned over and whispered into Elliott’s ear.
“Your Highness, you’re going to look like an idiot if you respond to everything Sis is rambling off.”
“R-right. Indeed, there’s no way anything she’s saying is true.”
Rachel frowned and made a completely dissatisfied face as Elliott confusedly nodded his head and muttered aloud his thoughts.
“Well Your Highness, do you doubt me?”
“There’s no way anything this absurd has actually happened! You almost tricked me.”
“Well, then allow me to give Your Highness this book on their local history as a gift.”
“What kind of stuff are they putting in their history books!?”
“Your Highness. She’s just drunk, extremely drunk.”
Sykes furrowed his brow and gave a wary glance to the suspicious looking history book of a foreign region that Rachel was trying to pass along.
“Why were you reading this anyway? What were you trying to confirm?”
Rachel let slip a small, erotic giggle. She was completely drunk.
“Nfufufu, then I’ll let you in on my special little secret. I, want to enhance the education of the commoners for the sake of our country’s future.”
Elliott and George took a long, hard look at the book they had been given before sharing a look with Sykes.
“………….really though, I don’t think there’s anything educational about those stories you just told.”
“Rather, I think all those stories would do a lot more harm than good.”
“All of these guys sound like they’d be able to relate really well to you though Sis.”
Rachel ignored the negative commentary from the peanut gallery and made a grand declaration up to the ceiling.
“In the future, I will make this country full of people just as wonderful as those in Shizuoka!”
Elliott moved his gaze from the book Rachel had given him to the woman herself who was now stuck striking a pose with a dream-like expression on her face.
“You’re more than enough for this country as it is.”
1. My teacher always just called this powdered mochi, but since she goes into some explanations of the name, I left it as is.
2. Calmly odd = ‘shizuka ni okashi’. So not too far off from Shizuoka. Puns are the height of comedy even in Japan.