Hometown (Part 2)
Since the name sounded unfamiliar, Marco took a peek into the basket again and realised it was indeed not chestnuts.
A part of the burr was broken apart, and there were lumps that looked like orange coloured fruits enshrined within.
Why is this…? Marco remembered a nostalgic feeling somewhere in his heart when he looked at the dish that he shouldn’t have seen before.
「And this is Rashomon Reshu (cold sake).」
「Rashomon Reshu?」(TL note: Rashomon is a sake brand name)
Similar to ‘Toriaezu Nama’, it was the first time he heard of this name.
The sake that was as clear as the water from the mountain springs filled the sake cup with a pleasant ‘glug-glug’ sound.
This was amazing. Marco had never seen such clear liquor.
It was a clear and transparent drink in a clear and transparent glass. Marco’s curiosity couldn’t be held back anymore.
Any sort of liquor should have some semblance of colour. Marco heard rumours about some strong liquors (wassar) that were clear and transparent, but he hadn’t drunk them before, at the very least.
When he brought it to his mouth, he was surprised by its smooth texture.
What kind of liquor was this? It was not made from wheat nor was it a fruit wine.
While he was traveling, he’d seen people brew various kinds of liquor, but never had he seen such clear and transparent sake. In terms of taste alone, it was similar to the liquor using rice that was cultivated in the south, but that liquor would have been cloudy.
While he was thinking about how the sweetness resembled the taste of fruits, he had already emptied the cup.
It was delicious.
This liquor was never just about its appearance. This was a liquor that was completely different from ale or apple wine (apfelwein). The alcohol content was strong, but he was able to drink as much as he wanted.
This Rashomon would sell.
Marco’s intuition as a travelling merchant told him that.
Marco’s birthplace, Earl’s Sistinemarc’s territory, was particularly poor among the Three Northern Territories.
It was a narrow territory sandwiched by the northern and southern territories, and surrounded by steep mountains and rough seas, where the people catch fish for sustenance.
The Northern Sea waves were rough, so a fisherman’s life was short. Marco hated such a life, so he abandoned his hometown.
Marco, who was forced by his poor parents to practice reading, writing and arithmetic, had followed his relatives connections to become a traveling merchant and had built up a little fortune.
Just a bit more. He needed just a bit more.
If he could save up just a bit more money, he could open a small shop somewhere in the Empire. There were many types of businesses he could start, but alcohol might be good.
Fortunately, he had a network of contacts with the Sommeliers, the Empire’s liquor brewery, and he could make good business with this shop’s Reshu.
At last, he felt like he could fit in like everyone else.
It was necessary for him to be more than average because he had abandoned his parents and hometown. That was why he worked so hard till this day. The success of today’s business must have also been because God saw his efforts.
He looked at the sea urchin while immersed in the afterglow of the Reshu.
He still felt like he had seen it somewhere.
As he was searching through his hazy memory, someone beside him called out to him.
「Oh? How admirable of you to order sea urchin.」
Marco turned around and found an old priest drinking alone. His dish seemed to be deep fried fresh spring sprouts (yukiwari me). (lit TL: buds that sprout from the snow)
The fresh spring sprouts, which were the size of a dice, were considered precious spring flavours in the North, and was also something Marco enjoyed as well.
「That’s because… I asked for something unusual.」
「I see, you can order like that too. You seemed to be used to traveling.」
「Yeah, for a traveling merchant, traveling is like my home.」
「A life of traveling, huh? What about your hometown?」
「No, there’s nothing much there.」
He wanted to say there were no good memories but he held his tongue. There was no need to say that much.
He looked like a good-natured old man, but his eyes held a mysterious power.
Marco felt like he was being seen through somehow, and gulped down another cup of Rashomon.
He asked a lot from the old priest, whose name was Edwin, about the menu in this shop called Izakaya Nobu.
The more he listened, the more interesting it became. He wondered if this was also fate too.
It was good to open a shop like this in Aitheria. Surely, the profits would be high.
Marco thanked God in his heart. He was still lucky today.
「Liking sea urchin is a matter of taste, but I think it’s rather fitting for you.」
After the old priest said that, he smiled and returned to his own world.
Marco faced the peculiar sea urchin again. Where had he seen it before?
He took a bite, and a rich fragrance spread in his mouth.
It was the ocean.
The next moment, the memories of his hometown were suddenly jolted awake.
The strong scent of the seashore that felt a little excessive to him made Marco’s heart quiver. The taste was more nostalgic than delicious. Marco had eaten this food called sea urchin before.
He remembered the humble straw bed and the feeling of his mother’s hands.
When Marco was in bed because of a cold, his mother stroked his forehead and cheeks with her hands, rough from working at the fishing grounds.
At that time, he had eaten the sea urchin. It wasn’t as a meal, but as medicine.
His mother’s voice, who didn’t speak much, resurfaced in his ears telling him that his father had caught them from the rocky areas where children shouldn’t approach.
He remembered it was called ‘uni’, but the burr that he saw in his sickbed was definitely the same as this sea urchin.
That was the taste. However, something was missing.
「May I ask if there are still some fresh spring sprouts?」
He asked the black-haired chef who was standing behind the counter.
「Harumachi Me… The ones that looked like butterbur. Yes, we do have it. A customer picked them up this morning from a nearby forest.」(Lit TL: Harumachi Me = buds that sprout early spring)
「Oh, I would like to order some, please.」
The blanched spring sprouts were cut into appropriate sizes and mixed with the sea urchin. In his hometown, these wild mountain herbs were used as medicinal herbs too.
「Hou, so it can be eaten like that too, huh?」
Old man Edwin looked into the small bowl curiously.
Marco nodded, and took a bite. It was this taste.
The taste of the sea urchin joined with the bitterness of the fresh spring sprouts, the flavour from that time was reproduced in his mouth.
He held in his nostalgic tears that threatened to spill and downed a cup of Rashomon.
It was amazingly delicious.
He did not know whether the combination of sea urchin and fresh spring sprouts was effective for colds, but it sure was an excellent dish to accompany liquor.
The taste that he only thought was bitter when he was a child now tasted so sweet.
This was his hometown.
When he travelled, the only thing he saw when he looked back were the sorrowful sceneries such as white waves crashing against the rocks and barren farmlands.
Now, it was totally different.
He remembered picking up edible wild plants during springtime in the hills, and his friends who sat side by side and studied together. He remembered the gentle sea that was seldom seen and the voices of the birds.
Now, he missed everything.
He asked for another serving of Rashomon and savoured it slowly this time.
He wondered how his father and mother were doing now? When he first started as a travelling merchant, he had written letters to his parents who couldn’t read, but he had stopped doing that after a while.
As if pulling a rope, memories of his hometown emerged one after another from deep inside his mind.
「I want to go home…」
After swallowing the last bite of the sea urchin, the words slipped out naturally.
He wanted to go home. Was that really the case?
He had abandoned his hometown. Marco was surprised at his own words too.
If he saved a little more money, he could have bought a shop. Until then, he should have decided to not return no matter what.
Then, Marco suddenly realised.
No matter what, he had refused to go back. Didn’t that mean that deep down inside, he had thoughts of returning home right from the beginning?
Marco chuckled at this ironic revelation.
「Taisho, this is a good place.」
Taisho, who was filleting a fish, made a bashful smile.
「Thank you very much. It motivates me.」
The desire to sell liquor by exploiting the sales market of this shop had vanished completely. It felt like he had been bewitched or something. No, maybe he had really been bewitched.
It was a foreign-styled shop, and had enshrined a foreign God.
Even so, Marco wanted to offer a prayer of gratitude to this God.
Ever since he found this shop, he had a new goal in his life.
He would return to his hometown to start a small company. He would gather the products of this territory and sell them in the town. That way, he would build a strong and sturdy shop with his earned money, and develop his hometown a little at a time.
It was a bigger dream than having a small shop in a city.
Nevertheless, Marco had confidence he could do it. He was able to leave his hometown that he loved so much and worked hard to reach where he was today. There was no way he couldn’t do it again.
「Thank you, and thanks for the meal. It was delicious.」
He expressed his gratitude to Shinobu, and she returned a pleasant smile.
「Did the sea urchin suit your taste?」
「Yes, very much so. I’m really glad I came to this shop.」
It might have come across as flattery. A travelling merchant was an occupation that required him to speak well, but he found himself unable to convey his true intentions at this crucial time.
「Thank you very much. Please come again.」
He was going to be busy from now on. It might be difficult to come again. Even so, the words that came out of his mouth said otherwise.
「I’ll come again. No, I’ll definitely come again.」
He stepped out of the sliding door and looked back again.
The name of this shop was deeply etched in his mind.