Volume 3 Chapter 3 (1/2)

The Sea Woman Hot Springs Manager

“Oh, right….  I have to return the hair ribbon to the hot springs manager, Shizuna.”

After returning to Yugao, I suddenly remembered that.

When I went into the hot spring, I’d borrowed a hair tie from the hot springs manager, Shizuna.

I guessed that the number of guests at the hot springs would be decreasing soon.  I’d go return that hair tie. 

When I entered the courtyard, an inner stairwell led straight to the second floor.  It was a shortcut to the Waxing Moon Baths.  As I took these inner, employee-only stairs, I heard the sounds of a conversation coming from somewhere.

A conversation, or a lover’s quarrel?  The voices were heated, as if they were arguing.  I felt a little curious.

One step from the top of the stairs, I peeked around the wall.

“…Huh?”

Continue reading “Volume 3 Chapter 3 (1/2)”

Volume 3 Chapter 2 (3/3)

Tenjin-ya’s Hospitality (continued)

In the sky above Tenjin-ya was the skyship dock.

At the dock, the skyship that the Odanna would board, the Kokutsuru Maru, had already been prepared.

With its black hull, it was a very attractive, medium-sized ship.

“Well, Ginji, I’m entrusting affairs to you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

You could see the trust between the Odanna and Ginji, the Young Master.  After that simple exchange, the Odanna addressed me.

“Aoi…well, I’m leaving now.  I beseech you not to do anything rash.”

“Okay, okay.”

“In addition, I am entrusting everyone at Tenjin-ya to you.”

“…?”

Everyone at Tenjin-ya?  What did that mean?

I didn’t think anyone should be entrusted to someone like me…because there were far more qualified people.

However, could this be the “request” that the Odanna had started to make of me?

Continue reading “Volume 3 Chapter 2 (3/3)”

Volume 3 Chapter 2 (2/3)

Tenjin-ya’s Hospitality (continued)

“Co-come in, come in!  It’s dinner, Odanna!”

“Calm down, Aoi.”

In my excitement, I was tugging on the Odanna’s sleeve.  With a smile, he let me do it and called towards the sliding door, “Enter.”

At once, the sliding door opened and several hostesses, who were carrying large trays loaded with dishes, quietly entered the room.  We took our seats cheerfully and waited for them to set the dishes on the table.

One especially charming hostess with full lips came up to me, placed her hands together, and greeted me.

“Thank you very much for your patience.  I serve as the Young Proprietress.  My name is Kikuno.  I look forward to making your acquaintance…Lady Aoi.”

When I heard that the hostess who’d brought the food was the current Young Proprietress, I tore my eyes away from all the kaiseki dishes lined up in front of me.  I was startled.

“In fact,” said the Odanna, “Kikuno was also the Young Propriestress before Oryo.  As it is not easy to select a successor, she has taken the position for a second time.”

“Huh?  Really?”

“Oh ho ho.  Because I got married, I decided to resign from my position as Young Proprietress and settle down as a mere hostess….”

The woman named Kikuno had a very calm, smiling face, which seemed to be the exact opposite of Oryo’s boisterousness.  That was the impression I got.  And finally, a married woman….

What kind of ayakashi could she possibly be?

“Today’s courses are the Tenjin-ya `Leaf Moon’ kaiseki dishes, offered during the eighth month only.  They primarily use summer vegetables and fresh fire chicken, and they have a summery flavor.  Here is the menu.”

“Wow, thanks.”

The menu I received looked the same as the one the Odanna had given me before.  It was written on beautiful traditional Japanese paper.

Tenjin-ya Kaiseki “Leaf Moon”

  • Aperitif: Kabosu citrus wine
  • Appetizer: Eggplant soup
  • Starter: Cooked beans, bitter melon salad dressed with miso, corn tempura
  • Sashimi: Sashimi of the day
  • Cold plate: Shiso somen noodles, hot springs egg, condiments, dipping sauce
  • Grilled dish: Summer vegetables and fire chicken grilled on a ceramic plate, grated sudachi citrus soy sauce
  • Fried dish: Pacific flying squid tempura
  • Rice dish: Edamame rice, pickled vegetables
  • Final soup: Summer miso soup
  • Dessert: Fruit jelly

“Oooooh…what a summery menu!”

Just looking at the words on the menu was enough to make me happy.

“Well, let’s get started, Aoi.  These are the flavors that the chef has guarded for years.  You probably want to try them for yourself.”

“Yes, of course I do.”

“Shall we have the aperitif, Aoi?”

The Odanna held up a small sake cup.  I yelped.

“What is it?  Aoi.”

“Hey, Odanna, I, actually, this will be my first time drinking alcohol.”

“Aaah….  Speaking of that, Ginji did tell me.  Now, I’d like to celebrate your drinking debut or something.”

“….”

“Hmmm?  By any chance…are you a little scared?”

“N-no, tha-that’s not it!”

I denied it at once, in a shrill, unconvincing tone.  The Odanna turned away and suppressed a smile, as if he found me amusing.

“I don’t think this is a laughing matter.”

“No…you’re a meek, well-behaved, honest young lady…or so I’d thought up until now.”

“Now just a minute – where, what, how do you think I’m meek?  I’m being open here.”

Again, I tried to press the Odanna to explain his smile.

“Fine.  I should be honest….  Yes, I’m a little scared,” I admitted.

“Why?  Well, I do understand that when you drink for the first time, you should be cautious.”

“Because, Odanna, you know this too, right?  Grandpa – he was a really awful drunk.”

“…Ah.”

At that, the Odanna’s face grew serious.  He stopped smiling.  It served him right.

“I think of Grandpa as an example of what not to do, and I intend to lead a life that is the opposite of his, but I can’t deny that his blood still flows through my veins.  If I drink alcohol and turn violent, Odanna, can I trust you to stop me…?”

“I don’t think you’ll be affected by just one sip of kabosu sake, but…hmm, however, I can’t quite deny that something like Shiro’s affair could happen.  I understand.  As your future husband, I want to show you that I accept everything about you.”

“What sort of annoying talk is that?”

After that, we raised our sake cups and clinked them.  As if we’d just sworn an oath, we drank the kabosu sake.  I only took one sip, which slid down my throat in a refreshing way.

To an exaggerated degree, my first time drinking alcohol was over in a flash, with no effect on me.

“Oh…what was that?  It was much easier to drink than I thought.  Like delicious kabosu juice.”

“Kabosu sake is that.  All right, let’s eat now….  The appetizer is eggplant soup.”

It was a thick soup made by pureeing eggplants, potatoes, tofu, and other ingredients.  You could call it a Japanese-style cold pottage.

This cold dish was perfect for the summer.  I took a mouthful of the white-and-green soup and heaved a deep sigh at how the subtle seasonings brought out the flavor of the summer eggplant and how nice and cold the soup felt on my tongue.

“…Wonderful.  There’s a note of plum.  It’s not just eggplant soup.”

“You look so contented after just one dish.”

Without wiping the smile from his face, the Odanna observed me.

“Yes.  But there are still lots and lots to come.”

Next, we ate the three types of starters.  The cooked beans were black beans, a starter served as part of any season’s kaiseki meal.  Their sweetness had a luxurious feel, and they were plump and springy.  On the other hand, the bitter melon salad used summer bitter melon dressed with white miso, so the flavor was more for adults.

Finally, the corn tempura was served as balls inside beautifully colored Chinese lantern plants.

“Wow, hey, this is so cute!  They’re using Chinese lantern plants as the containers.”

With the corn kernels, the balls resembled round, bite-sized, mixed seafood-and-vegetable tempura.

I ate mine at once.  They were very light, and I finished them all in a few crunches.

“Wow…what is this – it’s sweet and amazingly good.”

The indescribable sweetness danced on my tongue.  Even though the tempura only had corn kernels in the outer layer, that alone was extremely delicious.  This was an unexpected discovery.

“Hey, Odanna, this corn tempura is great!”

“Oh?  That suits your tastes?  The chef will undoubtedly be pleased.  It’s one of his prized dishes.”

“I see….  I’d like him to teach me how to make it next time.  I wonder if he would.”

“You might as well try asking him, just in case.  He might tell you that it’s a trade secret, though.”

“Aww….  In that case, if I can just taste it again, I’ll be happy.  They really disappeared in one bite.”

All right.  As I contemplated the corn tempura, the hostesses arrived again and set an impressively large platter of sashimi in the center of the table with a thud.

Whoa!  It was Pacific flying squid sashimi, which was in season in the summer, arranged in the shape of the original animal.

“A–amazing….  It’s moving.  I never thought I’d get to eat squid sashimi arranged like a squid at Tenjin-ya!”

“You got lucky,” the Odanna told me.  “Today, we were able to obtain fresh squid.”

“By any chance, was it shipped over from the market in the Eastern Land?”

“Ah, yes.  The Eastern Land is a port where you can obtain every kind of seafood product.  Their squid is especially famous.  However,  many luxury restaurants and hotels want squid, and there are always days where they can’t catch much.  Because you have to have a sashimi course for the kaiseki meal, the chef goes to the market in person and selects the best seafood for us.  That’s also why the menu says ‘sashimi of the day’ and not what kind of seafood it is.”

“I see….  If the chef gets up early to go to the market, he’s a true artist.”

I looked at the squid, whose tentacles were still moving even though it had been turned into sashimi.  Its firm, translucent flesh was beautiful.  Without hesitation, I dipped a piece into the sweet soy sauce and popped it into my mouth.

“Aaaah…how luxurious…the squid sashimi is unbearably luxurious.  I really, truly love it.”

The firm texture of the flesh, together with the sweetness of the raw squid that seemed to melt in my mouth, the scent of the seashore that followed – without realizing it, I broke into a grin.

“You seem happier than anything.  Almost certainly, the chef would also want to see your reaction.  He said that if he weren’t so busy, he would have liked to explain the dishes in person.”

“Groups of guests arrived today, right?  Akatsuki told me there are a lot of child guests, and I also noticed a bunch of them in the hot springs.”

Or, rather, I didn’t so much notice them as get hit by the sweet Chinese citrons they were throwing.

“Different meals are also prepared for the child guests.  If we served the same kaiseki dishes to the children as to the adults, they would not be received well.”

“I can imagine….  When I was a kid, I didn’t understand this sort of refined cooking at all.”

More than that: As you’d expect, I’d liked foods such as omelet rice, hamburgers, fried prawns, and curry rice.  But, because my grandfather preferred simple, refined, Japanese dishes and was always eating that type of food, my tastes gradually changed.  Or, rather, I turned into a kid who’d eat anything.  Because eating made me very happy.

While I talked with the Odanna, I ate squid sashimi to my heart’s content.  The parts of the sashimi that weren’t used for the life-like squid presentation were cleared away.  It seemed like they might show up later in the fried dish.

All right.  Next, a cold plate of somen noodles was set in front of each of us.  Fine white noodles with shiso leaves kneaded into the dough were served on white ceramic plates that were refreshing to look at.  They were accompanied by Tenjin-ya’s hot springs eggs.  When you added the dashi broth and ate them while mixing in the egg, the dish was a cool reminder of summer.

The grilled dish was naturally this month’s kaiseki meal’s main course.

It was summer vegetables and fire chicken grilled on a ceramic plate.

Demon’s Gate was known for its fire chickens, and many tourists came just to eat this chicken.  It was grilled with eggplant, kabocha squash, bell pepper, okra, and other vegetables.  When you heated a ceramic plate and cooked meat and vegetables on it, you could make rich, tender grilled fire chicken.

I carefully and properly grilled a piece of skin-on thigh meat until the Odanna said, “It’s about ready, isn’t it?”  Then I dipped it into soy sauce with grated sudachi citrus and ate it.

I could immediately tell how fresh the chicken was.

The instant I chewed, its juices spread throughout my mouth.  It didn’t have any meaty stink at all.  The only taste that remained was the flavor of the chicken.

“Is it because of the ceramic plate?  The annoying grease has completely run off, and the aftertaste is really great.  Besides, the meat is so rich.”

“Chicken tempura is also good, but fire chicken grilled on a ceramic plate is especially so.”

“Yes.  The summer vegetables are sweet and delicious too….  Oh, the squid tempura is here!”

The parts left over from the life-like squid sashimi from before had been transformed into deep-fried tempura.  Now it had arrived.

A different flavor from squid sashimi was concentrated in squid tempura.

With its tender, elastic flesh combined with a crunchy coating, the more you chewed, the more flavor you tasted.

“Aww, it’s all gone already.”

Dish after lavish dish made generous use of seasonal ingredients.  After we’d eaten them all, we savored the final, lingering aftertaste.  The rice and final miso soup arrived.

The rice had generous amounts of edamame beans mixed in, and with their bright green color, the dish looked really pretty.  Steaming hot, it definitely smelled delicious.  When I took a bite of it along with the chopped perilla leaves, I felt a soft, refreshing sensation.  The subtle saltiness and the crunch of the small, round edamame beans created a playful mouthfeel.

The flavors of the miso soup, which contained Japanese ginger and deep-fried tofu strips, complemented the edamame rice beautifully.

Even though neither the edamame rice nor the Japanese ginger miso soup had bold, punchy flavors, I could reflect contentedly on the flavors of the many delicious dishes while I ate them.  They had a serene deliciousness.

Tinkle tinkle.

All of sudden, I noticed the tinkling of the wind chimes on the balcony.  Although they’d been ringing the whole time, now they seemed to tell me with a particularly striking tone that my summer meal was coming to an end.

“Aah….  This fun meal is also nearly over….  It comes as a shock.”

“It’s just the end of a meal at the inn.  From your expression, it’s the end of the world.  I wonder if it is that to you?”

“That’s not true!  …Oh, but I’m so full.  Ah, bliss.”

“Oh?  There’s still the fruit jelly.  Will you skip it?”

“No, I have a second stomach for dessert.”

“Haha.  I thought so.”

The hostesses brought us a combination plate of dessert jellies: sweet Chinese citron and watermelon and peach trapped inside gorgeous kanten jelly confectioneries.

They sparkled like jewels.  A piece of fruit was suspended in the heart of each bite-sized jelly cube.  The fruit really looked dainty….

“Wooow…this is amazing.”

Was this something else that I lacked the artistic skill to reproduce?

I didn’t have the slightest idea how to make fruit jelly this beautiful.

“The firmness and flavors of the kanten jellies vary depending on the fruit.  These are the fruit jellies that the chef obsesses over.”

“Ah…truly.  What is this?  It’s amazing!”

Take the sweet Chinese citron, for example: It had a high water content, so the kanten jelly was sweet and firm.  Then take the peach, which itself was sweet: It was encased in unsweetened jelly with peach syrup drizzled over the top.  As for the watermelon, the kanten jelly itself had a subtle red ombre effect, recreating the transparency of watermelon.

Here again, we got one bite apiece of this luxurious sweetness.  I savored each properly and felt how cool and refreshing they were.

I wanted more.  That meant the amount was just about perfect.

Everyone would remember the strong impression from the first bite and feel reluctant to part at the final bite.  Already, I longed to eat more.

This must be why Tenjin-ya’s kaiseki dishes preserved their unchanging flavors: for the sake of returning guests.

“Was it satisfactory, Aoi?”

“Yes….  It really conveyed the chef’s obsession and devotion.  Lately, I’ve only been eating my own cooking, but it’s very important to eat food that has different flavors from mine, after all.  Being aware of new kinds of deliciousness…I can draw inspiration from them.  I just can’t wait to get back to cooking.”

“You’re as straightforward as always, Aoi.”

The Odanna smiled broadly and looked at me steadily with those red eyes.  He seemed to want to say something.

Then, with the memory of the meal still lingering on our tongues, he rose.  Caught up in the mood, I stood as well.

“By any chance, are you leaving for Utsushiyo already?”

“Yes.  Feeling lonely?”

“…No, not really.”

“Oh dear.  As cold as ever, Aoi.  And after we just had our long-awaited meal together, too.”

“Those are two different matters.”

Seriously….  Continuing to frown, the Odanna took something out of his pocket and held it out to me.

“I want to give this to you.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a correspondence pad.  Each guest room is also furnished with one.”

When I looked in the direction that the Odanna was pointing, an identical, shrine-shaped sheaf of papers was indeed hanging on the wall.

“The model I’m giving you is specifically for communicating with other worlds.  When you post whatever you want to tell the receiver, the contents will cross the boundary between worlds and be delivered to their correspondence pad.  My contact information has already been entered into your correspondence pad, so if you have any notes for me, they will be delivered at once.”

“Whoa!  What an amazing product!  So it’s basically like sending letters?”

“In Utsushiyo terms, it’s probably similar to email exchanges.  There’s no delay.”

“…No delay.  So you’re saying that with this, I can send emails?”

“Huh?  No, that’s…for contacting me at any time if you’re in trouble.”

“…I wonder if I would.”

When I let that slip absentmindedly, the Odanna flinched with really inexpressible sorrow.  So I reassured him, “I will, I will.”

After all, I was grateful to have a convenient tool for contacting him if anything happened.

“By the way, was this correspondence pad the thing you wanted to talk about after dinner?”

“Hmm?  …No, well, that too, but…I have a request….”

You do?  For me?”

What in the world could it be?

“Please excuse the interruption.  Odanna, sir, it’s time to leave.”

Right at that moment, we heard Ginji’s voice from the direction of the sliding door.  When the Odanna signaled with his eyes, Ginji opened the door himself.  His bowed head and furry, silver ears appeared.

“The skyship Kokutsuru Maru is ready at the dock, sir.  We have made arrangements for you to cross directly from the rock door to Utsushiyo’s sky.”

“Ah, thank you for your hard work.”

“Oh, I’ll come see you off too.”

“It’s fine if you relax in your room.  Even if it’s summertime, the dock is chilly.”

“Uh-uh, but I want to come see you off.”

In the middle of this perfect evening, if the Odanna of Tenjin-ya were leaving for a business trip, I had to go.  After all, I was more or less an employee of Tenjin-ya.


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Volume 3 Chapter 2 (1/3)

Tenjin-ya’s Hospitality

Summer days were long, so even in the evening, it was still light out.

The hostesses, the three Noppera-Bo sisters, came to pick me up.

“We apologize for the hassle, but let us enter from the front, Lady Aoi,” said O-Matsu.

“From the front?  You mean Tenjin-ya’s main entrance?”

“Yes,” replied O-Take.  “After all, if you enter from the front, you will best be able to enjoy Tenjin-ya.”

“It is probably all right if we go through the courtyard,” said O-Ume.  “Well then, let us go, Lady Aoi!”

O-Matsu, O-Take, and O-Ume herded me out of Yugao.  Their order never changed.

We walked along a little path in the courtyard that I’d never used before, and crossed the arched bridge over the pond.

Continue reading “Volume 3 Chapter 2 (1/3)”

Midori Yuuma just announced another short story collection!

Midori Yuuma has announced on Twitter that a collection of Kakuriyo short stories will be published Spring 2022!

Volume 3 Prologue

“You came today too?”


In the dark room, among the darker shadows, stood that ayakashi.

Only the vague shape of its expressionless white Noh mask floated out of the gloom.

Counting from the night of the thunderstorm, today was the fifth day that it had come.

Eat this.

From the darkness, the ayakashi held out something to me.  I was lying on the floor where I’d fallen.

Although it brought me food every day, the thing it held out that night was a little different from normal.

Even as a young child, I sensed it.

It was surrounded by a strange power.  And it looked unbelievably delicious.

Eat this.

My mind was fuzzy.  I took the food and nibbled on it as I was told.

As soon as I took one bite, I couldn’t stop eating.

Was it sweet or salty or sour or bitter…?

Even that, I couldn’t tell.  Instead, I felt as if I were completely focused on enjoying the deliciousness that came from it.

Oooh, so delicious!  Even though the food I’d received up until now had also been tasty, today’s was especially so.  For some reason that I couldn’t understand, it spread throughout my body.

Without my realizing it, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  I couldn’t stop them.

Warm, tender.  They healed my weakened body and my lonely heart.

Somehow, that flavor felt like something fundamental was breaking apart and remaking my entire being, like a secret attack.

Is it good?

“Uh huh….  Uh huh, it’s very good.”

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I ate.  The ayakashi in the Noh mask gently stretched out a hand.

What I could see were beautiful white fingers.  The ayakashi’s fingers gently brushed my eyes and wiped away my tears.

Then it began to disappear into the gloom.

For some reason, I had a premonition that after it left this time, I would not meet it again.  Today wouldn’t be the last time it ever came to see me, would it…?

“Are you leaving already?”

I will not come again.  There should be no further need to.

“….”

In the ayakashi’s words, I sensed strong resolve.

Although I felt lonely, I didn’t feel abandoned.

After all, the food that it had given me was very warm, and I felt as if I’d been filled up with something big.

“Can we meet again?”

Now I asked for my wish.

By that point, I was no longer expecting to die.  I believed that I was going to live.

…Eat well, become healthy…live….

As the ayakashi melted into the darkness, it turned back for a moment and took off its white Noh mask.

When you have grown up, we can certainly meet.


That ayakashi — who in the world was it?

Also, that time, what in the world did I eat, that most likely saved my life?


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Table of Contents

Volume 3 Chapter 1

Ayakashi and Japanese Bread

Summer was well under way in Kakuriyo. 

My name is Aoi Tsubaki.  I was in the back of Yugao, taking baking sheets with rows of fresh bread out of the brick oven.  In this morning heat, no less….

“Aargh…oh, mmm, but the bread has a great color!  Plus a great smell.”

Compared to steamed buns, bread that was baked in an oven had an especially fluffy and springy texture.  It took a bit of work, but right now I was making “Japanese” bread.

I put each type of bread, hot and steaming from the oven, into a bamboo basket and lined them up on the counter.

Oooh…  I definitely looked like a baker.  Even if my selection were on the small side.

“Wow, Aoi.  You’re up early again today.  Even though it’s your day off.”

“Ah, Ginji.  Good morning.”

Ginji had showed up.  He was the Young Master, one of Tenjin-ya’s managers, as well as Yugao’s supervisor.  A “nine-tailed fox” ayakashi, he was also the person who was closest to me and who supported me.

“I baked bread.  Maybe today’s my day off, but every day is fun so it’s just another ‘ordinary day’!  So I got up early.”

“Haha.  That’s just like you, Aoi.  We’ll have fun for sure today, like always!”

Definitely.  For me, today was going to be a special day.  So I was also in a good mood because of that.

“Hey, Ginji, want some bread?”

“I’ve been waiting for it.  I could smell it all the way across the courtyard in the passageway.  I was walking along, thinking, ‘What a great smell!’”

Clapping his hands and waving his nine majestic fox tails, Ginji came over excitedly.

He looked at the bread in the bamboo baskets that I’d lined up on the counter and then asked, “Is this stuffed bread?  Which one would you recommend?”

“Hmmm, I’d recommend…the braised-burdock-root bun.”

I went to get the bamboo basket at the far end of the counter.  In it were three flat buns topped with chopped burdock root braised in sugar and soy sauce.  I’d added sharp sweet-and-salty konjac jelly too.  I’d shaped the dough into disks, topped them with the braised burdock root, and baked them.

“Braised-burdock-root buns – this will be a first for me.”

“You sometimes see them in Utsushiyo.  Even if it’s not braised burdock root, you’ll find canned-tuna-and-burdock-root buns, burdock-root salad sandwiches….  They’re not fancy or trendy, but places like little downtown hole-in-the-wall bakeries will sell these…simple stuffed breads.”

“That’s good.  They look very delicious, and they fit Yugao’s theme perfectly.”

“Hurry up, eat it eat it.”

Carrying the bamboo basket of braised-burdock-root buns, I walked up to Ginji and held it out to him.  He studied the buns, then picked one up and took a bite.

“Mmm!  This is…oh, it’s delicious!”

Ginji rarely acted this shocked.

“So, it surprised you, right?”

“Yes.  The combination of the soft bread and the chewiness of good braised burdock root is perfect.  Pairing bread with a Japanese side dish…to make a bun you can hold in your hand, it looks like something the ayakashi of Kakuriyo will accept.”

“Yes….  I was thinking that soon I should study what kinds of bread bakeries typically sell.”

Deep-fried buns with a marinated, soft-boiled egg in the middle.

Rolls with sesame seeds and matcha green tea powder kneaded into the dough.

Basic loaves of milk bread that you could keep eating day after day, and so on.  I wanted to try making many other kinds of bread too.

Since I was also a little hungry, I picked up a small, ball-shaped bun and ate it.  It had a filling made from mochi and thin strips of kelp that had been cooked in soy sauce and then dried.  The elastic texture reminded me of dango dumplings and was really good.

However, as I chewed, I started to worry.

“But…I can’t sell bread if I’m constantly running out of wheat flour and dry yeast.  I used up all of our dry yeast for this experiment.”

“…For sure.  It’s not readily available here.”

As we groaned over that, we kept picking up and eating more buns.

Even if eating while standing up were so rude…well, this was a food tasting, just a food tasting.

“Something smells good….”

At that moment, a team of three very young whirlwind security guards peeked into Yugao.

Because the security guards were split into morning and night shifts, the morning whirlwind guards all had to get up early.  They were often hungry and would show up at Yugao.  Especially the little kids.

“Mornin’ – good morning, Young Master, sir.”

“Yes, good morning.  It’s admirable of you to get up so early.”

“Yes – it’s admirable of us, milord.”

All of them bobbed their heads at Ginji, who was, after all, the Young Master.  These little kids hadn’t quite figured out how to address him properly yet, and once again they sounded funny and cute at the same time.  The whirlwinds were small, green-haired, adorable, sprite-like ayakashi.

“This smell, what might it be, Lady Aoi?”

“Well, this is the smell of bread.  Have you had it before?”

The whirlwind kids gave me totally blank stares.  Their faces said that they had no idea what bread was.

“It’s fluffy and delicious.  Sweet or not sweet – which do you prefer?”

“We would prefer sweet, milady.”

The young whirlwinds all swarmed me.

“I – I got it, so please calm down!  Hmm, let’s see…well, let me give you the fresh buns with sweet red bean paste filling.  They’re red bean buns with condensed milk.”

My version of red bean buns had the classic round shape.  However, I’d cut the sweetness of the red bean paste and also filled the buns with condensed milk made from rich cow’s milk.  The bread itself was slightly salty, and I’d topped its glossy crust with toasted black sesame seeds.

When I gave everyone a bun, the whirlwind kids’ faces lit up at how round, shiny, and soft it was.  The smallest girl opened her mouth wide and took a big bite, which was the signal to everyone else to follow suit.

At the unfamiliar, magic-like texture, their eyes flew open in shock.

“‘S fluffy.”  “‘S soft.”  “‘S packed with red bean paste.”

They all talked at the same time, completely forgetting to use polite language around Ginji and me.

But, then again, eating red bean buns first thing in the morning was a special situation.

Red bean buns were a bread that anyone born and bred in Japan would be familiar with.  Even if bread itself had come from abroad, red bean buns were supposedly inspired by traditional Japanese confectionery.

That was why I was sure that the ayakashi of Kakuriyo, who weren’t familiar with bread, would also accept red bean buns.

Looking excited, the whirlwinds pestered me for more and more.

As they mobbed me, their older brother, Sasuke, arrived.

“Hey!  Stop harassing Lady Aoi!  How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Sasuke was a whirlwind who looked like a middle-school student.  He was an ace security guard.

“Sasuke!  Lookie, ‘bread’!”

“ ‘Bread’…?  Hey, Hachibe, you forgot to be polite!”

“Oh, ‘look, there is bread’.”

The whirlwinds who’d gotten scolded by Sasuke all murmured the “there is” part only.

How much longer they’d remember that….

“Sasuke, do you want some bread too?” I asked.

“ ‘Bread’….  I prefer white rice, milady.”

Sasuke folded his arms, furrowed his brow, and made a grim face.  How cute he looked!

“Ah, you know what bread is, then?”

“In the past, Lord Shiro said that it was an Utsushiyo souvenir and brought me some, milady.  It was hard and dry….  Usually, unless I added water, I couldn’t eat it.”

“…Grandpa, what kind of bread did you bring?”

In the first place, my grandfather hated bread.  For him to have brought it as a souvenir….

“I agree,” I said to Sasuke, “rice is great.  No matter how delicious bread is, I think very few Japanese people would stop eating rice.  For me too, white rice is what I want to eat every day….”

“Ayakashi are especially fond of rice,” Ginji told me.  “It’s said that that is why the spread of bread has been delayed in Kakuriyo.  Even though bread itself came to Kakuriyo a fairly long time ago.”

“It did?”

“Yes.  But it’s by no means widespread.  Certainly a portion of society is anti-bread.  Many hate it and refuse to eat it.”

According to Ginji, there were one or two bakeries in the capital, Youto.  As a type of cuisine, bread wasn’t entirely unknown, but it seemed like there weren’t enough bakers to make it widespread either.  I’d heard that the motto of the Kakuriyo ayakashi was “Rice for the main meal, Japanese traditional confectionery for dessert.”

Since I was the same way and liked rice too, I had no intention of arguing against Team Rice.  So I wanted to make Sasuke something else for breakfast.

However, he was already staring at the fresh bread lined up on the counter.

With a serious look, he said, “What the heck….  This is different from the bread Lord Shiro gave me….”

“You’re forgetting to be polite!” pointed out Hachibe at the same time.

“Well, that’s because these are stuffed breads.  Sasuke, I’m not sure what kind of bread you had, but I tried to make my bread in a Japanese style.  Are you interested?”

“…What’s this?”

Sasuke pointed at a big, round bun.  I’d cut off the pointy top so you could see stewed carrots and potatoes peeking out of it.

“Ah, that’s a meat-and-potato-stew bun.  I stuffed it with leftover meat-and-potato stew, so it’s very hearty.”

“Meat-and-potato stew….”

“You like meat-and-potato stew, right?  Want to try it?”

Holding the bamboo basket up in front of him, I urged him on.

At first, Sasuke showed considerable wariness about this so-called “bread” for sure, and he put out and pulled back his hand multiple times, but in the end he lost the fight with his empty stomach and picked up a bun.

Then, boldly, he took a big bite.

“…Oh!” he exclaimed for some reason.

“What is it?” I asked.  “Does it taste better than the bread you got from Grandpa?”

“Ye–yes….  It’s unexpectedly delicious, milady.  It’s soft….  Huh?  This is bread?”

Sasuke was acting unusually confused.  Still, he gulped down the meat-and-potato-stew bun he had in one hand, then buried his face in both hands.

“Are you okay?” I asked, peering at his face.  “Hey, what kind of bread did you get from Grandpa?”

“It came in a tin and was very small….  It was a hard…much too hard…and rectangular…kind of bread, milady.”

“Huh?”

Could it possibly have been hardtack…?  Ginji and I exchanged sidelong glances.

“Well,” I told Sasuke.  “That wasn’t normal bread, so don’t worry about it.  Hardtack is a type of emergency ration.”

That was definitely Grandpa being cruel.  I stroked Sasuke’s head.

“Even though this is the first time I’ve had meat-and-potato stew with bread,” he said, “it has such a nostalgic flavor….  Does bread really have such a gentle taste?”

“Did you like it?  You’re right, meat-and-potato stew plus bread are an unusual combination.”

After a day, the flavors had really soaked into the leftover meat-and-potato stew.  I’d wrapped it with plain bread dough alone.  However, when you put the fragrant bread and the soft, crumbly meat-and-potato stew into your mouth together, you got the most incredible feeling of indescribable warmth and fluffiness.

Turning to his little brothers and sisters, Sasuke ordered, “Hey, you guys, no matter how good the bread is, you can’t eat it all.  Get back to work at once.”

“But Sasuke, I still want more bread….”

Covering their mouths with their hands, the whirlwinds pulled gloomy faces. 

“It’s no use,” Sasuke told them sternly.

“Oh, well then, how about just one more bun?” I suggested.  “You can take whichever you like to go!”

“Wow!  Thank you very much, Lady Aoi!”

The young whirlwind kids raised both hands happily.  One by one, they each chose a bun they liked and ran out of Yugao.

“I am grateful to you, Lady Aoi, Young Master.  For always, always putting up with these kids.  I will pay for them…how much was it?”

From somewhere, Sasuke produced a purse with a metal clasp.

Ginji and I looked at each other.  I hadn’t thought about what the price should be.

“No, that’s fine,” I said.  “It was a necessary survey to determine the kinds of bread that ayakashi will accept.  This time it was just food samples.”

“That won’t be possible, milady.  Yugao is a business.  The ingredients for these buns are almost certainly luxury items here in Kakuriyo.  I would also like to support you.”

“Sa–Sasuke….”

Touched by his thoughtfulness, I covered my mouth with my hand.

Sasuke was truly a kind, earnest boy.  I wanted to make him my little brother….

“In that case, how about the usual five hundred ren for an all-you-can-eat?” suggested Ginji.  “Plus your impressions of the food.  There’s no need to pay for the children.  Your share will be sufficient.”

“Yes,” I agreed.  “So, Sasuke, have as much as you want!  There’s a lot of bread!”

“Really, milady?!”

Sasuke broke into a grin, paid me a five-hundred ren coin, and then floated over to the bread lined up on the counter as if he’d been bewitched.  I’d just told a big eater to eat as much as he wanted, so there was barely any chance that I’d have leftovers, even if I’d made too much.

“…By the way, Lady Aoi.  Somehow you’re even more cheerful than usual today.”

“Oh, you’ve noticed too?  That’s right, as a matter of fact, today is –”

“Ooooh!  Just like I thought – here you are, hiding and eating something that looks delicious!  You’re all so sneaky!”

“Oh, Oryo.”

Just as I was about to tell Sasuke about my “fun thing,” Oryo planted herself in Yugao’s doorway.  She was in a huff for some reason.

Oryo was a snow woman who was one of Tenjin-ya’s hostesses.  She was also the former Young Proprietress.

“Since it’s your day off, I was restraining myself from expecting you to serve breakfast as usual…but when I peeked into the courtyard a liiiiittle, an amazing smell floated over…so I just knew something was going on.”

“What are you angry over?  Or, rather, how do you have a sense of restraint?”

“Because…because because!  When you cook things like this, call me first!”

Oryo stabbed a finger at me.  Then, with a “humph,” she flounced around and turned her back on me.  What the heck?

However, she noticed the bread on the counter and kept darting glances that way as if she couldn’t help herself.  That was our Oryo.

“This is bread.  Feel free to have some.  Five hundred ren for an all-you-can-eat.”

Oryo listened to me, sullenly pulled her wallet out of her pocket, put five hundred ren’s worth of loose change on the chair of the table next to her, and dashed over to the counter.  She acted as though she were pretty hungry.

“What kind do you want?”

“The hearty kind.”

“This early in the day?  That’s our Oryo….  Well, how about this bun?  It’s full of onion and mayo teriyaki chicken.  You like mayonnaise, right?”

As its name suggested, the mayo teriyaki chicken bun was a flat, oblong bun with a hollow in the middle, where I’d put pre-made teriyaki chicken and thinly sliced onion, followed by mayonnaise and finely chopped dried seaweed.  I brought this bamboo basket over to Oryo.

“…Mayo teriyaki.”

Seizing a bun with both hands, Oryo bit into it without hesitation.

The bite she took was heartier than the guys’, but it was better not to point that out.

I’d paired sweet onion with a teriyaki sauce that had a soy sauce base.  When I added the strongest dashi and finely chopped dried seaweed to the tartness of the mayonnaise, then I ended up with an even more unmistakably “Japanese” combination.

“Mmmm…this is delicious….”

For some reason, Oryo tilted her face up, looking annoyed.  However, she polished off the whole bun and licked her lips.  Yep, she’d gotten every last crumb.

“So bread tastes this good….  It’s a soft and fluffy and fascinating food….  Mayo teriyaki is the best.”

“You’ve cheered up completely…Oryo.”

Ginji pointed out something truly rare.  For sure, she seemed to have forgotten that she’d been angry just a moment ago.

Now she seemed to be competing with Sasuke, eating one bun after another.

This was awkward….  At this rate, those two were going to finish everything!

“Hmm, Kasuga and Akatsuki usually come around this time…I wonder, aren’t they coming today?”

I was worried about them.  If they didn’t come soon, all the bread was going to disappear.

“Oh.  I think Kasuga most likely won’t come,” Oryo told me.  “It looked like she was going to help out at the hot spring baths from the morning on.”

“The hot spring baths?”

“Yes.  She’s roommates with the hot springs manager, Shizuna, and they’re close friends.  One of the bath attendants is suffering from heat exhaustion and is taking a sick day, so Shizuna was short-staffed.”

“Really?  And so Kasuga is helping….  So she and that hot springs manager girl are roommates.”

Shizuna, the manager of the hot spring baths.  I’d gone to see her once.

It was back when I’d just come to Kakuriyo and was looking for a job.

She was a sea woman ayakashi for sure.  She was extremely timid and shivered and trembled, but with eyes the color of Japanese chestnuts, she was strikingly cute.

Since then, I hadn’t run into her at all.  I didn’t go to the baths in the main building.

However, maybe “today” meant that I’d see her again….

“Aoi, you were looking grumpy.  Why are you grinning all of a sudden?”

At Oryo’s rude question, I came back to myself and coughed.

“Um.  Well.  I wonder what Akatsuki’s up to?”

“Oh….  Lord Akatsuki has been busy all morning.  You see, starting today, the Odanna will be going to Utsushiya for several days,” explained Sasuke while stuffing a matcha-and-sesame-seed roll into his mouth.

“What?  …I mean, starting today, the Odanna is going to Utsushiyo?”

It was Ginji who answered my question.  “Yes.  Were you not aware of this, Aoi?  Well, once in a while, the Odanna goes to other worlds and handles various affairs there.”

“Whoa, really?  He goes on business trips?  Does he investigate Utsushiyo inns or something?”

“Yes.  He also networks with ayakashi who live in Utsushiyo.”

“…Huh.”

Because I didn’t meet with the Odanna every day, I didn’t know things such as whether he stayed at Tenjin-ya all the time.  Unsurprisingly, he also left the inn to conduct business. 

“Is that so….  The Odanna…goes to Utsushiyo.”

“By any chance, will my absence feel lonely?  Aoi.”

“What?  No…not in particular….  Huh?”

Huh?  Whom did I answer just now?

When I yelped and looked at Yugao’s entrance, there stood the Odanna, looking as he always did in his black Japanese formal coat, or haori.

That haori…wasn’t it hot?

“Oh, Odanna, you’re here.”

“I’m here, or, rather, I came to see you.”

“You came to eat breakfast?”

“…Well, you could also say that.”

The Odanna’s expression looked slightly unconvincing.  At their master’s arrival, his employees dropped the bread from their mouths at once and bowed their heads deeply.

“Odanna, you’ve had bread before, right?”

“Of course I have.  I quite like bean bread.”

“Bean bread?  You’re just as traditional as I thought.  However….”

With a meaningful smile, I returned behind the counter.  Then I produced a basket of bean bread and carried it over to him.

They were baked salted-bean buns, plump and balloon-like, with large Hokkaido red peas mixed in.

“This is bread made with Hokkaido red peas that I boiled in salt water.  Because I baked them last, I left them in the kitchen to cool.  They should be about ready to eat.  They taste best after cooling down.”

This was a good time: while the buns were still slightly warm, but the bread’s springy texture and aroma had stabilized.

I thought that the best way to enjoy beans’ flavor was to bake and then cool them.

“But we’re on the same side, Odanna.  Bean bread is my favorite too.”

“Is that so?  That is good.  I hear that married couples with the same tastes get along well.”

“Uuuuh.”

“…Well then, thank you for the food.”

The Odanna took a bun from the bamboo basket and tore it in half.  The bread had a delicate crumb, with big, puffy Hokkaido red peas scattered throughout.

At the sight, everybody there perked up.

The Odanna said “Oho,” narrowed his eyes, put half of the bun in his mouth, and chewed.

“Ah…the saltiness of the beans is effective and pairs well with the flavor of the bread.  This is delicious.  I’m not getting tired of it.  I feel as if I could eat many of these.”

“Really?!  Ooh, I’m glad.”

“I’ve eaten a lot of bean bread, so if I say so, it’s definitely true.”

I filed away the revelation that the Odanna was such a huge fan of bean bread.

I also believed in bean bread.

Even though it was a little plain in terms of both name and appearance, I’d always liked it.  Since even Grandpa had enjoyed it, I considered it my forte.

“I like all salted beans,” said the Odanna.  “However, this is the first time I’ve had this kind of bun, where the bread itself is slightly sweet.”

“I got the idea from salted-bean mochi cakes.  I have many types of bean bread in my repertory, but this is the best one.  It’s the kind I like most.”

With a broad smile, the Odanna praised, “It’s good that you always put extra effort into your cooking.”

Somehow, just a little, motivation welled up inside me.

“Hey, that bean bread, I want to eat it too.”

“Me too.”

“Actually, I do as well….”

Unnoticed, Oryo and Sasuke, and even Ginji, were peering into the basket of bean bread.

“You were eating up until just now, but you can eat again?  Ayakashi really eat a lot….  Somehow, I want another bun now too.”

We each picked up a Hokkaido red pea bun, found a comfortable seat, and ate busily.

In the middle of that, the Odanna addressed his employees.

“Sasuke.  Starting today, Saizo will leave for several days to act as my bodyguard.  Since that means you will be managing all the security duties on your own, I am entrusting Tenjin-ya to you.”

“I accept the responsibility, Odanna.”

Who was Saizo?  As I thought that I’d never met him before, off on my side Ginji explained, “He is the Head of Security.  He is Sasuke’s father.”

“Oryo.  In terms of hostess skills, you are far and away the best.  I ask you to support the Proprietress and the Young Proprietress in order to offer our guests the best hospitality.”

“Ye–es.”

Oryo seemed somewhat embarrassed and averted her eyes.

Almost certainly, she felt bitter over the part about supporting the Young Proprietress.

“Ginji.  While I am absent, you will be my proxy.  Therefore, you might say that I am asking you to carry out your duties with the same deftness as usual.”

“I understand, Odanna.  In your absence, I will show that I am watching over Tenjin-ya.”

Looking reliable, Ginji bowed his head firmly to the Odanna.

“And now, Aoi.”

Finally, the Odanna addressed me.  I was in the middle of raising a bun to my lips, so I hurriedly stopped eating.

Was he going to entrust something to me?  What in the world would he entrust to a newcomer like me…?

“Aoi, you….  No, let’s talk after dinner tonight.”

“Huh?  What is it?  Did you want to discuss how Yugao is in the red or something?”

“No no.  Today is not the time for such unromantic talk.  Anyhow, today is….”

“Yes, you’re right!  Today is the special day when I get to stay at Tenjin-ya as a guest and eat this season’s kaiseke courses!”

Before the Odanna could finish speaking, I blurted out today’s “fun thing.”

Whatever else today was, it was that promised day when I could eat Tenjin-ya’s kaiseki meal for free.  “For free” being the key point.

On top of that, I got to stay in one of Tenjin-ya’s guest rooms for free.

“Moreover, you will enjoy our new accommodation package.”

“Huh?  I haven’t heard of it.  What’s the new accommodation package?”

“Recently it has become fashionable to travel alone, so Tenjin-ya has created an ‘exclusive singles package’.”

“…Singles….”

Well, it was true, I was single after all.  However, when the Odanna, who was always insisting that he was my future husband, said that, an indescribably complicated feeling rose in me.

“Certainly, I hope to hear your thoughts on this package.  When I return to Kakuriyo.”

After saying that, the Odanna rose.  It was about time for the inn’s work to begin in earnest.

Sasuke and Ginji left Yugao together to see the Odanna off.

“Uuuuugh, I don’t want to work.  Summer is so hot that it’s really unreasonable to….  Uuuugh.”

“Chin up, Oryo!  Even if it’s hot for sure.”

Sighing listlessly, Oryo was preparing to leave.  She was hunched over, so I clapped her on the back to encourage her.

“Next time, I’ll make sherbert for you.”

“What’s shur-burt?”

“It’s a cold Utsushiyo dessert.  It’s kind of like ice cream.”

“Really?!”

“Yes….  I’m planning to try making it with a bit of a twist on the flavor.”

When I whispered that in Oryo’s ear, she perked up at once.  In a flash, she transformed into the image of the consummate skilled hostess, and she left Yugao buoyed by visions of sherbert.

At any rate, it looked like everybody was busy.  I’d heard that summer was the inn’s peak season.

“For now, I guess I’ll work on Oryo’s reward.”

I decided to make a frozen dessert for her as I’d promised.

The main ingredient was the tomatoes I had in the fridge.

“Haha.  Oryo’s probably going to be surprised.  Because it’s tomato sherbert.”

Since this was just a simple dessert, I made it and then, while it froze, cleaned up the shop.

If I moved around a lot, maybe I’d be at my hungriest when it was time for the chef’s kaiseki meal.


About half past two in the afternoon.

I’d finished the hardest part, cleaning the brick oven, and washed everything, including the steel cooking plate.  I was cooling off and drinking tea next to a block of the icicle women’s ice when a visitor showed up at Yugao.

It was Akatsuki, the red-haired Head of Reception who always had an unpleasant manner.  He was an earth spider ayakashi.

“Huh?  Akatsuki?  What’s wrong this time?”

“Food…food….”

I mean, he was literally wobbling on his feet.  His usual energy had vanished.

“Did you skip breakfast by chance?”

“…Oh.  I had to take care of some things very early today.”  Sitting down at the counter, Akatsuki asked, “Do you have anything?” in a hopeless voice.

“Anything….  Up until just now, I had a lot of stuffed breads and you could have eaten your fill, but…unfortunately, Sasuke and Oryo ate them all.”

“Bread?  Ah, I have fond memories of it.  Bread, huh….”

“So you know what bread is too.”

For a while, Akatsuki had lived in Utsushiyo with my grandfather.

Because of that, he was also reasonably familiar with Utsushiyo foods.

“But Akatsuki, when you were in Utsushiyo, Grandpa hated bread, right?”

“Well.  Shiro said that bread was evil and stubbornly refused to eat it.  But when he was away from home, Suzuran and I would sneak out to the bakery together.  Suzuran…Suzuran liked bread.”

“Whoa!  So even you went through a cute phase, when you’d do things like sneak out to the bakery with your little sister.”

How adorable it was to picture Akatsuki, who looked like a hoodlum, going to buy bread with his little sister because he loved her!  As if he’d said too much, Akatsuki glared up at me.

“This story isn’t worth bothering with.  Food is.  I haven’t eaten anything all day.”

“Yes, but still, what should I do?  There’s no bread left, except milk bread….”

However, even as I spoke, I had an idea.  “Oh!  Got it.  I can make a Japanese-style egg sandwich!  I do have eggs today.”

“A Japanese-style egg sandwich?”

“The egg sandwiches I make are kind of big, but if you’re hungry, you can eat a lot, right?  Or are you not in the mood?”

“Whatever, as long as it’s edible, anything’s fine.  Whether it’s eggs or sandwiches or whatever.  I’m starving here….”

“Okay, okay.”

Heaven forbid that the Head of Reception of Tenjin-ya should starve.  That meant I should get to work on the egg sandwich at once.  My egg sandwiches weren’t the so-called “normal” egg-salad affairs, but ones with a fluffy omelet inside.

I took out a loaf of the milk bread I’d baked this morning and cut two thick slices.  Then I slathered them with a special mix of mayonnaise and mustard.

After preparing the bread, I immediately started heating oil for the eggs in the frying pan.  In the meantime, I efficiently cracked and beat three eggs.  The omelets in my egg sandwiches were flavored with sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, salt, and milk.

I poured the eggs into the frying pan.  Without pausing to admire them as they sizzled merrily, puffed up, and turned golden-yellow, I stirred with chopsticks so they wouldn’t overcook.  Deftly, I shaped the light yellow eggs into a square, put one slice of bread on a plate, and placed the entire omelet on top of it.  After topping the slightly sweet, jiggly, still-runny omelet with the other slice of bread, I finished by cutting the sandwich in half to make it easier to eat.

On the cut side, you could see the thick slices of bread spread with mustard mayo sandwiching an even thicker layer of fluffy yellow eggs.  It looked beautiful.

All set.  I arranged the sandwich on the plate, added pickled cucumbers on the side, and thumped it down in front of Akatsuki.

It must have made a strong visual impact, because Akatsuki couldn’t speak for a moment.

“This isn’t the egg sandwich I know….”

“I didn’t say it was.  I told you it was kind of big.  My egg sandwich is an omelet sandwich.  Well, try it.  Dig in.”

With a wave, I urged him on.  Even though he knew what egg sandwiches were from living in Utsushiyo, it seemed like he’d never seen one this size before and was pretty shocked.

Still, as the aroma of freshly cooked eggs wafted up, Akatsuki, who’d skipped breakfast, couldn’t stand his empty stomach any longer.  He seized the sandwich in both hands and took a big bite.

Chewing silently, he gulped it down.

He didn’t say anything in particular, but he did take a second bite at once and chewed energetically.

The egg sandwich might look big, but the bread itself was soft and the eggs also had a light texture, so Akatsuki ate quickly while licking his lips.  The mustard mayo had a tingly effect, so the sweetness wouldn’t be overwhelming.

“How was it?”

“Good.”

That was our usual exchange.  Akatsuki never said much about my flavors, but since he always came here to eat, I figured that I could say they suited his tastes.

As a customer, he might come here the second-most often, after Oryo.  Although he might be doing it to support Yugao.

No one else was here, so the clink of the chopstick rest and the crunch as he munched on the pickled cucumbers rang around out the restaurant.

“Hey, I heard you’ve been busy all morning.  Is it because the Odanna will be away starting tonight?”

“That’s part of it, but starting tonight, entire families of longtime regulars who use the inn as their summer vacation home will begin to arrive.  We’ll get hit with the Proprietress’ relatives, the one-eyed demon clan.  On top of that, there will be a lot of child guests.  That’s the worst.”

“Child guests?”

I brought a refill of cold-brewed green tea to Akatsuki, who’d polished off his egg sandwich.  He drank it in one gulp and then let out another depressed groan.

“It’s their summer vacation.  Well, because of them, I’ve also had to remind the employees to be extra careful.  I’ve been running around Tenjin-ya dealing with that all day.”

“Really?  But up until now, we haven’t had any child guests.  Why do you have to be extra careful about that only for today?”

“You don’t understand what brats these children have been in the past.  Every year they come to Tenjin-ya and get into some kind of mischief or other.  We have to be careful because they’re the Proprietress’ relatives.”

“Ah, I see.  They’re kids with a criminal record.”

“…That’s why I hate them.  Those kids!”

Akatsuki chugged his chilled green tea refill and banged the cut-glass cup down on the counter.  Then he stood up.

“It’s your day off, but you’re working hard.”

“Oh, no, it’s fine.  I have something fun coming up today!”

“Oh, right.  Today you’ll be one of Tenjin-ya’s ‘guests’ too.”

Akatsuki put back on the haori with the circular “Ten” on it that he’d taken off.  As he left, he remarked, “In that case, it’s good that you can thoroughly enjoy Tenjin-ya’s hospitality.  More ayakashi around Tenjin-ya recognize you now.  You’ll probably receive good service.”

“…I will?”

“Uh huh.  You forgave the chef’s apprentices and kept the chef from leaving Tenjin-ya.  The people who work here weren’t expecting that from you, so they were very relieved.”

I hadn’t realized that people might still remember that affair.

But come to think of it, I didn’t feel the employees’ hostility and hateful stares as much these days, even when I went to the main building.  I’d simply assumed that I’d gotten used to them….

Akatsuki walked briskly out of Yugao.

I went out of Yugao again too, to send off that black haori with Tenjin-ya’s circular “Ten” crest.

“How wrong it feels for me to relax and enjoy the inn’s hospitality on such a busy day!”

But since no one had changed the plans for my “fun thing,” I wasn’t going to hold back.

Ah, it really was hot!

Wiping away my sweat, I surveyed the courtyard.  The sun was beating straight down on it.  As I listened to the noisy clamor of the cicadas, I gazed upwards.  As far as I could see, there were only blue and white and towering clouds in the fierce midsummer sky.


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Welcome!

Welcome to my fan translation site for the light novel series Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi, or Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits!

This project started as a promise to my sister, who first found the anime and manga, that I would translate the light novels for her to read.  Since Volumes 1 and 2 are basically covered by the anime and manga, I have decided to start from Volume 3.  (Also, I am not a professional translator and work at a speed that a glacier would put to shame.)

Here’s hoping that the light novels will be translated and published professionally one day!

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