Kimyona & Kaiteki – Continued
by Danny Wall
At the Inn, Mochiba the innkeeper and his wife greeted Onēsama and her party. Shiromei shared the news, and immediately thanked the innkeeper’s family in advance for their gracious hospitality. Oh watched as the priest explain with colorful gestures and adjectives of ever-growing magnitude.
She stayed to the corner of the small entryway and dismissed her retinue to scatter to their various duties about the inn. Then, as she waited, she noticed the slippers in near the shoe locker were shaking their heads slightly. The handle of the umbrella back near the entrance scowled a bit. That’s when Oh took a second look. She noticed the Innkeeper’s wife had sidled up to her husband’s side, had now almost imperceptibly gripped his hand, without either of them taking their polite attention from Shiromei’s idle chatter. Onēsama, and the slippers and umbrella, seemed to be the only ones who noticed.
Before dinner, the innkeeper’s son tapped on the paper doors to Oh’s room, announcing his forgiveness for delivering tea. Oh allowed him inside, and he kneeled to deliver the tray on the low table in the middle of the tatami and pour the honored cup from the kettle.
He rose and walked to the door, then turned completely around. “Dinner will be in the grand hall in two hours time. If it pleases the honored guest, the house will prepare the bedroll in your absence. If there is anything else the honored guest wishes?”
Oh smiled softly. So formal! She regarded the slender frame of the innkeeper’s son, how stiffly he walked, how deliberate were his movements.
“Thank you, Young Mochiba. It’s Toribo, yes? Can I call you Toribo?”
“No, that is not necessary. If there is anything else the honored guest wishes?”
“Ah. Well, no. Thank you for your service, Young Mochiba.”
Toribo gave a deeply formal bow then stepped backward, sliding the doors shut. Oh sighed as she completed the process to lower herself to kneel for tea.
“Hmm. Is something the matter with him?”
“That I cannot say, ma’am,” the teacup said.
“Ah! Good evening, Little Cup. I wouldn’t expect a cup to be so articulate. You must be well-cared for.”
“Yes, I am very well-cared for, ma’am.”
Oh took the cup with her left hand and supported the bottom with a flat, upturned right hand. She could just make out some small mark that moved like a mouth, but it was really just the texture of the hand-molded clay. “I would expect the teapot to be the eldest among you. You young things are often not so filled with such spirit.”
“There are a few old teapots in this place, but this one like many more are very new, ma’am. The innkeeper-master has been buying many new things recently, as the inn grows and grows very much lately, ma’am. I’m sure its spirit will also grow very quickly, though. “
“Do you think Young Mochiba is mad at me?”
“That I cannot say, ma’am.”
“Perhaps he is mad at another?”
“That I cannot say, ma’am.”
“But you can say if you have seen much anger in the house of late?”
“Yes, ma’am, but no, ma’am. I think I have seen more pride than anger. You can drink from me, ma’am. I am happy to be your cup.”
“Ha, ha! Forgive the gossip of an old human, little cup, but… *How* have you seen pride lately?”
“The innkeeper-master-family. They are buying many new things as I’ve said, ma’am, and they are making new parts of the property into guest rooms. Many compliment the innkeeper-masters, and I have seen them smile at me and us many times.”
“Deservedly so! But, again I fear to gossip, why do you not say there is, well, say, happiness, then? Let me guess. The old master speaks firmly with the young, and the young master works very hard.”
“Yes, ma’am. Although, the young master does more working very hard than the old master does speaking with him.”
“I see. Thank you very much, most articulate of cups!” Out of courtesy, Oh turned the cup 180-degrees so its textured mouth would face outward before lifting it to her own lips. Also out of courtesy, the cup kept its spirit silent as Oh enjoyed her tea and her thoughts.
She thought about the Mochiba family’s inn, and how it already seemed quite big for such a small town. She never would have guessed they would have more ambitions to grow. It did make sense, though. This was a land far removed from the Shogun and the capital, and as people were becoming more and more mobile these days, it was only a matter of time before the larger concerns of state would reach even here, and such concerns certainly needed places to rest. Perhaps that’s why her search for the governor’s son’s match took her here. Perhaps all signs were pointing for things of import to this town.
Still, that didn’t explain Toribo’s curt behavior earlier. If the family was truly ambitious, then treating customers with dismissive courtesy was simply not acceptable. No, Toribo couldn’t be resenting her as a customer, so there must be another reason. And in her experience, the only other cause for reason would be in regards of her profession. Ah! Such is the occupational hazard of a matchmaker!
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