“Thou are ‘Yamada’, Touya-dono.”
“—Huh?” said Touya with a mystified face.
“Excellent. Ameno—thou are ‘Yamada’ as well.”
Subaru handed both of them brightly colored cotton kimonos.
“I feel like I’ve seen these before…” Touya tilted his head in puzzlement even after putting on the kimono.
Homura expressed her wonder and admiration at Ameno’s appearance.
“Ooh, you really do look like a Yamada~”
Ameno was suddenly in high spirits.
Floor cushions had been brought out for everyone to sit on.
A small stage had been set up in a spacious, hardwood room.
A single floor cushion was placed at the center of the stage. Touya stared at it fixedly.
Even he could grasp what was going on at this point.
“Ah, this is Yamada1! I’m Yamada-kun!”
“That’s what she said, isn’t it?” retorted Homura in a reversal of their usual roles.
The small stage was a Rakugo performance stage.
Yes—the condition that Subaru had made was ‘for everyone to sit and listen to the Rakugo performance Subaru had personally made’.
Naturally, they hadn’t had the time to prepare a name stand beside the stage, but if there was one, it would probably say ‘Subaru of the Misasagi House’ or ‘~Subaryun~ of the Iotsumisumaru House’.
While feeling strangely tense, all the club members had gathered in the room and sat down in front of the stage. Then, thrilling music—the instrument was a lute, but the melody was unlike the standard ones used by minstrels—began playing from the side of the stage.
Naturally, the lute was being strummed by Kamikoma, who Subaru had asked, or rather pleaded, to perform a piece suitable for Rakugo.
Janjaja, jajajaja, janjan—pepen!
Janjaja, jajajaja, janjan—pepen!
Rather than Rakugo music, the tune she was playing was more like the music from the Shoten2 TV program… “That’s the only tune similar to Rakugo music that I know, so it can’t be helped!” was the excuse Kamikoma had given.
Not knowing any of this, Subaru entered the room with a cheerful gait.
The audience greeted her with clapping, and today’s performance finally began.
Now then, the title of the story was—
“They say the path between men and women is distant yet short, while the path to the countryside is short yet distant3.
“There are various paths both short and long between the many tenement houses across Edo as well.
“And at one particularly unusual tenement, a four-way crossroads was expanded into a five-way crossroads.
“As thee can imagine, the view and visibility was poor there. After all, the streets were always so crammed and packed you couldn’t see ahead on the road.
“Oh, how inconvenient it was. Every day, there would be collisions involving wild boars, deer and horses, until finally, the beasts would crash their heads against the corner of the intersection and collapse there.
“One night, Toukira, who lived in the tenement house at the crossroads, came out, wondering whether he would have boar meat, venison or horse-meat hotpot tonight.
“But what is this? At the corner of the intersection, he found a collapsed woman.
“Beasts are naturally stupid, so they do not look ahead, but to think a human would crash here.
“Toukira shrugged. ‘This certainly does not look like it would cook well in a pot.’
“But at that moment, the woman’s eyes blinked open——”
Amazing… She’s really good at this.
—Touya was amazed by Subaru’s Rakugo acting.
Naturally, she wasn’t on par with professional Rakugo storytellers, and there were some scenes that were a bit embarrassing, which naturally made him and the other audience members feel embarrassed as well.
But the fact that she was able to perform so flawlessly was surely thanks to the education from her father, Misasagi Yoshizumi. She had also had the chance to practice in front of Suzuran as well.
Touya had brought along several Rakugo books at Subaru’s request during his last visit.
He had gone to libraries, researched on the net and personally chosen the books himself.
At the end, the books had been examined by their club’s director—Fujimori. But…
“Aren’t there different versions from other storytellers?”
Though some of his choices had been rejected for such highly subjective reasons, most of the books had been given the OK and brought to Nutella.
Rationally speaking, while Rakugo was a form of storytelling that came out in the Edo Period, the Rakugo that existed in modern times had been greatly rearranged and used very different vocabulary compared to back then, so it should have been vastly different from the Rakugo that Subaru knew.
This kind of modest present was apparently easy to handle and publicize as an episode connected to the famous Nutellan, who many were cautious about dealing with, so this matter was being actively endorsed by UNPIEP headquarters as well.
But on the other hand, there were also those criticized the present, believing that it was equivalent to destroying the precious Edo art and oral tradition that Subaru possessed.
However, if they religiously adhered to those concerns, they wouldn’t be able to talk with Subaru in the first place. After all, that kind of destruction had already begun the moment she had encountered the modern Japanese that Touya and the others spoke.
Also, Touya was shocked by how quickly Subaru absorbed it all. She could read modern printed texts without difficulty. It took Touya a whole day just to peruse a single Edo-era book.
The Rakugo she was currently performing used vocabulary that Touya and the others could easily understand, demonstrating the knowledge she had gained from books and conversing with them.
“—‘I’m sorry. I come from the stars in the sky, but I angered a god and was banished to Earth. I happened to see a familiar visage, and as I was giddily chasing after them, I heartily bumped my head against the intersection in the dead of night. But now that my true identity has been uncovered, I must disguise myself as a starfish of the sea’—”
Touya had never had much interest in Rakugo before, so he’d never visited those ‘entertainment halls’ where professional Rakugo storytellers performed their art in person instead of on a TV screen.
However, he felt his interest pique a little as he exchanged Rakugo stories and information with Subaru earlier.
When he listened to Subaru’s story, he could tell that she had the names of certain places in Edo jumbled together.
Subaru’s knowledge of old Edo was far more detailed than that of the modern Japanese person, but the geography she described was subtly off from the real thing, making Touya feel as if he was running around Edo on nimble feet as he listened.
Eventually, Touya figured out that Subaru’s story was based off the emotional story of the ‘Water God’ with her own unique modifications.
The ‘Water God’ was a story that began with a man, whose wife had left him and who now cared for his baby children alone, meeting a mysterious woman. The man and woman grew very close, but that woman was actually a messenger raven of the water god who had been turned into a human as punishment. And in the original story, the woman left the man after her true identity was revealed. And in the end…
“Toukira went to the sea and wept in sorrow. ‘Please give her back to me, o Star. I don’t care if you’re a star god or astray god, but don’t just separate us for some vague reason like this. After all, I don’t have enough hands to care for my five baby children. I don’t have enough hands. I don’t have enough hands. I need the hands of another4.’
“—And that’s all from me.”
Chapter 17 END
(1) Yamada: a side-role in Rakugo. I am unfortunately unaware of the details.
(2) Shoten: A Japanese TV comedy program that is broadcast on Sunday evenings.
(3) Old Japanese proverb meaning that men and women seem distant and different from each other, but actually join together easily, in contrast to the countryside, which seems close to the city yet is greatly separated by the difference in culture.
(4) This is a pun that acts as the punchline to the story, but it can’t be properly translated in Japanese. Basically, the kanji for the phrase “hands of another person” is the same as the word “starfish”.