Side Story: Eva in Wonderland (Part 1)
There were many strange things that could be seen in Izakaya Nobu.
One of them was the miniature altar that decorated the wall by the counter.
Even though the task of cleaning before the store opened was left to Shinobu and Eva, Taisho was the only one who cleaned this wooden shrine everyday.
Once, when Eva accidentally came on an off-day and peeped into the store, she saw Taisho cleaning the altar alone. Even though Eva did not understand what was happening, she watched as Taisho touched and paid special respects to the shrine.
Near the outer wall where Eva lived, there was also an old, small shrine that enshrined the deity Aruvu.
The elderly in the vicinity of the neighbourhood would place bread and fruit there as offerings. Similarly, offerings were also placed on the altar in ‘Nobu’.
There were high-quality and near transparent slices of salmon, similar to those that were served in the store. There were also fresh tree branches with thick and lush leaves, and a piece of fried bean curd.
Eva had not known what fried bean curd was until she came to ‘Nobu’.
Since her mother also had not known what it was when asked, Eva assumed that it was food from Taisho and Shinobu’s hometown.
There would always be a piece of it on the altar, without fail. Once, when they ran out of stock by mistake, Taisho flurriedly prepared something different.
Why was fried bean curd placed as an offering at the altar?
Eva, who had been concerned about this for a long time, asked Shinobu for the reason.
「Eva-chan, well that’s because…God’s messengers like fried bean curd the best.」
Speaking of God’s messengers, they would probably look something like the angels with wings that were depicted on the ceiling fresco of the church. It was somehow strangely interesting that fried bean curds were the favorite food of those solemn angels in the fresco.
Even though Deacon Edwin didn’t seem to follow it much, the church had certain days when meat was not supposed to be eaten. It was funny to see the deacon run away to Nobu on those days.
Surely, the angels who didn’t eat meat would find an alternative, such as fried bean curds.
Even angels would get tired of just eating bread, wine, and vegetables.
When Eva opened the sliding door, broom in hand, the spring breeze felt comfortable.
Even though it had felt like it was still winter a few days ago, spring had finally completely arrived. There were even times when she sweat under the hot sun.
Since Taisho had left to stock up on supplies and Shinobu had gone for a casual stroll, Eva was left alone in ‘Nobu’.
Eva almost wanted to take a nap in this pleasant weather. She carefully swept and cleaned the store.
Eva diligently cleaned under the counter, the tables, and corners of the store, places that one might easily overlook. She believed that if the store was clean, one’s spirit would also feel cleansed.
Even though the task of cleaning the store before it was opened was serious business, she enjoyed it as well.
Some rice balls that Taisho had prepared were on the counter.
Since they knew Eva did not have breakfast before coming here, Taisho had prepared it specifically for her.
Everyday, there were always three big rice balls that were prepared and wrapped in seaweed.
The fillings differed depending on the day, but all of them were delicious. Eva’s favourites were the ones filled with salty-sweet stir fried beef and onions, as well as the baked cod roe. She also liked the ones with tuna and mayonnaise inside of them.
Even though Taisho was reluctant to make a seemingly blasphemous rice ball filled with tuna and mayonnaise, he still made them, since it was Shinobu’s favourite.
Since Eva had finished sweeping, she was trying to take a chair down to wipe it when something white crossed her line of sight
What appeared in front of Eva, who was still holding a broom, was a little white fox.
The fried bean curd offering that had been placed on the altar was in its mouth.
When the white fox glanced at Eva, its nose twitched and it ran away, towards the back door.
That fried bean curd was something important to ‘Nobu’.
She did not know what would happen later if the offering was taken without the angels’ permission. Among the stories that she had heard in the church, there were many that talked about divine punishments that were brought upon those who had neglected their offerings to God.
Eva leaned the broom against the table and chased after the white fox.
The white fox went under the counter, past the refrigerator and ingredients, and through the back door.
Even though it was usually properly locked, Shinobu had opened it a little for ventilation.
‘You absolutely must not go out through the back entrance.’ Taishou and Shinobu had repeated that many times. Even though they had not given a reason for it, it must have been because the back alley was not safe.
Although the Old Capital was a city that had many guards, there were still many areas that could be considered dangerous.
There could even be kidnappers who would abduct young, little girls like Eva.
‘Should I chase after it? Or not?’
‘It would be dangerous if I chase after it. If I am unfortunate, I might be caught by a kidnapper.’
‘But, what will happen if I do not chase after it? It would be a serious matter if the angels of God were craving fried bean curd all of a sudden. Won’t divine punishment fall upon Nobu?’
It would be extremely dangerous if Izakaya Nobu ended up facing the wrath of Heaven. It wasn’t difficult to realize which one was more unpleasant.
‘There isn’t any more time to hesitate.’
‘As I stand around, the fox will just keep on running. I have to catch up to it and get the fried bean curd back.’
Eva made up her mind and opened the door.
The first thing she experienced was a strong odor.
No, this wasn’t an unpleasant smell. It was just somewhat stifling.
Eva abruptly stopped when she saw a horseless carriage pass by at an unbelievable speed in front of her eyes.
The atmosphere of the place was quite different from that of the main street.
There were many hollowed out stone buildings that didn’t have any connection points or joints at all.
There was glass where windows would be on the houses, and the ground was made of neither gravel nor tiles. It was a plain grey road that seemed to continue on endlessly.
(TL: Wood houses have connection points like this.)
Was this really the back alley?
Eva suddenly felt uneasy, having been thrown into a completely different place or world, instead of the usual Old Capital.
However, this was not the time to be worried about such things.
She faintly caught sight of the fox’s tail and started running after it.