Part 6: Osaka’s Auntie Meets Kyoto Lady
Chapter 29: To Eat Tofu
“Ano, Haruna-han… I’ve given you a lot of trouble today, ya. How about you take your time and have a look around here for a bit, ya…” Karen said after the tension filled lunch.
“Is that your real intention, ya? There are some people who like to say ‘Take your time for a bit’ when they really mean ‘Hey! Go home already!’ So which is it, na?”
“I meant what I say, na. If I don’t want you here, I’ll just say it!” A slight frown of disapproval appeared on Karen’s face.
Then, she leaned closer to Haruna to whisper into her ear. “To be honest, I actually have memories of my past life, wa.”
Only then did Haruna become interested in what Karen had to say.
Under the guise of showing them where the best picnic places in the estate were, Karen led them into the vast Yakomai gardens where ducks and other water birds swam about happily on a beautifully tended garden pond.
Haruna and Natalia followed their guide, listening intently as she spoke.
“I have memories of living in a town called Kyoto in my head, wa. I remember I fell from a bridge into a river called the Kamogawa and died. It’s something I’ve always known even as a young child when I was reborn into the Yakomai family.”
“That river exists. Kyoto university students on the way home from drinking parties would often mess around the riverside and end up falling into it. You might have gotten drunk like those students and drowned in the river.”
In fact, Haruna’s knowledge of the Kamogawa was flawed and biased.
The only time when the Kagogawa river is truly dangerous is when a typhoon hits, causing the river to swell with flood water. Otherwise, the river is relatively gentle and shallow. So shallow that you can cross it easily by stepping over exposed stones. More likely, Karen had struck her head against a stone when she fell down the bridge and died instantly.
“Ahh, as I’ve suspected. Haruna also has memories of a previous world, ya naa.” Karen looked rather relieved at the confirmation of this news. It’s only natural, to have someone to verify the authenticity of her memories meant she was still sane after all.
“I’ve always had these memories with me. However, after a long time, they felt more like dreams rather than actual memories. To have confirmation that the places I’ve dreamed of all this while had been real is great relief. I’m glad I called Haruna-han over. My anxiety has been eased, if only a little.”
“What are you talking about, ya? Don’t worry too much about it, ya. Isn’t it great that you’ve been reborn to live a carefree and easy life as a daughter of an aristocrat, yan?”
“No, most ordinary people would not be as bold and shameless as you…” Natalia played her role as tsukkomi perfectly with her timely interjection.
“About that, why do I get the feeling that you’re kind of hostile against Okonomiyaki and Ball-yaki?”
“That is probably my instinctual prejudice against all things related to Osaka, na. Maa, I guess it’s natural, but-”
Haruna heartily smacked Karen on the shoulder. “You don’t have to let little things like that get in the way of our friendship, just continue to depend on me. Think of it as part of my job as an Adventurer, na.”
Whenever she encountered a person in need, it was Haruna’s way to stretch out a helping hand towards them.
“I- I thank you…” Karen turned towards Haruna.
“Well, looks like everything has been settled nicely in the end,” Natalia said with satisfaction as she observed the two transmigrators from the side.
“It’s always good for people from the same town to get along, wa!”
“Same town? Who’s from the same town as you, wa?!” Somehow, Karen did not seem happy at the thought of being from the same town as Haruna. “Kyoto and Osaka are completely different cities, wa! I don’t want to be associated with a lower class goods like you, wa!”
“Well, excuse me, ya! Your straight shooting way of speaking is completely different from the locals here, nen!”
“I’m just speaking the truth, wa! Though I have to endure being geographically lumped with you as a Kansai person, we’re not the same wa! Osaka is Osaka! Kyoto is Kyoto!”
The noble people of Kyoto and Kobe often get upset when they are lumped together with the Osakan merchants as a set group under the Kansai umbrella. They are not the only ones. For example, people from Saitama and Chiba would often get angry when lumped together under Tokyo prefecture. ‘We’re not the same as Tokyo City!’ is the oft-heard complaint.
“Eh, why are you quarrelling?! Just what is going on now?” Natalia had no idea what culturally ingrained mine had been set off between these two transmigrated people.
“Maa, I guess it’s better to put all of this behind us…”
“That’s true… let’s just keep it between ourselves, na…”
With that, both sides agreed to disagree. Then, Karen turned to glance over at Haruna with a speculative look on her face.
“Well, I made something according to my past memories. If you like to try it, stay for dinner, wa.”
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Later at dinner time, Haruna and Natalia found themselves seated at the dining table again. The chef came out with a large earthenware pot. It appeared to be quite hot as the chef was carrying it with thick gloves.
“This dish has been done according to the Young Lady’s specification,” said the chef as he placed the pot onto a padded cloth in the middle of the table. The pot was still covered, so there was no telling what was inside.
When the chef finally lifted the cover, steam burst forth, obscuring their eyes for a moment.
Natalia leaned over to look inside with inquisitive anticipation. Within the pot was plain hot water, and a large white block of… a thing.
“I’m not sure what the words meant, but the Young Lady called it ‘toh-fuh’.
“It’s here, na! It’s the Yudofu. It’s worth coming all the way just to have this, ya.” Naturally, Haruna was the only one who had the faintest idea what was going on.
The chef did not appear to appreciate this dish much, and said, “It doesn’t taste very good, so please eat it with the accompanying sauces.”
“It looks like very soft cheese. But, wouldn’t cheese melt in hot water?” Natalia said wonderingly as she stared at the mysterious white block.
They scooped out a portion of the Yudofu with their spoons onto a smaller bowl, waited for it to cool down a little before nibbling at it.
“It certainly seems to lack flavour by itself,” observed Natalia.
“This thing is made from soybeans, ya na. Kyoto is a place with high quality underground water suitable for making Tofu, ya. They actually have quite a few famous wells in Kyoto . There is even a shrine right in the middle of the downtown area dedicated to a gushing spring there, na.”
“As expected of Haruna to understand all this, naa.”
Karen served the tofu with a little dribble of sauce on top. While the sauce and tofu were quite delicious together, there was still a slight discrepancy between the expectation and the taste. In short, there was something missing in the picture.
“Although it is I who invited you over, naa, this is the best that I can offer, wa…” Karen said with a slight embarrassment in her voice. Haruna immediately picked up on her true intention behind this invitation.
“Of course, I am very pleased to be invited to this dinner. However, I do feel that there is a better way to eat this dish.” Haruna brought out the rest of her precious soy sauce without the slightest hesitation.
She transferred a portion of the tofu onto a new dish, poured a little drizzle of soy sauce on top and sprinkled some sliced green onions over it. The effect was very pure and elegant. The green of the spring onions on top of a soft white wobbly tofu stained with a touch of soy sauce had a very refreshing and elegant air to it.
“This is the best way to eat tofu. It would nice to have shichimi  as well, but I guess we’ll have to make do with just this for now, na.”
Then, everyone slided a spoonful of the soy sauce drizzled tofu into their mouths almost immediately.
“What’s this!? The flavour is so intense, wa!” Karen immediately blurted out.
Natalia’s eyes widened in surprise as well. “This is the first time I eat them together, but somehow I felt that ‘This is it’, this is the best thing together. The harmony between the sauce and this tofu is unbelievable…”
“Isn’t it? While it is good, I must admit that I am part of the set that believes ponzu  goes best with tofu, na.”
When it comes to consumption of ponzu sauce, Western Japan consumption of the stuff is much higher than even Osaka, and it is often sold in large pots.
“Do you have more of this soy sauce? I do believe that we can broaden the range of cuisines with just this sauce.”
“I’m very sorry, but this is very difficult to mass produce, wa…”
For someone who was unable to deny other people’s request, Haruna could only smile bitterly as she gave this reason for not being able to provide more soy sauce.
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Once dinner was over, everyone felt more at ease.
It was during this time that the Head of the Family came to the dining room and cleared his throat pointedly.
“My daughter is clearly a problem child, but her heart is often in the right place. Do forgive her rudeness during lunch time.”
The apology was for his daughter’s earlier behaviour. For a high ranking aristocrat to apologize on behalf of his daughter for the second time… it was likely that he had something else he wished to say. Some serious headache he could not solve on his own.
“Aa, don’t worry about it, wa. We’ve already settled the issue just now. Okonomiyaki has its winning points, but so did other dishes, na.”
“Thank you very much for your kind words. However, the food battle earlier notwithstanding, I have one other matter I wish to appeal to Miss Haruna for assistance. No, in fact, I had intended to invite Miss Haruna over precisely for this matter…”
For some reason, it seemed very difficult for the Head of the Household to speak about ‘this matter’.
To be fair, Haruna herself never did suspect that there might be another reason why she was so welcomed into this household in the first place.
“Towards the Western Alpine Area, dragons had been reported to be acting violently for some reason. Lower ranking Adventurers did not even have the guts to bare their teeth against a single dragon… However, if a Platinum Rank Adventurer such as Miss Haruna joins the subjugation army…”
“Honourable father, what are you saying!?” Karen protested. Her voice was clearly angry. “It’s completely irresponsible to ask an individual Adventurer to subjugate dragons, you know? At the very least, the subjugation team has to also mobilize a team of 30 magic users before one could even think about stopping a single dragon, wa!”
Karen appeared very concerned about Haruna’s safety.
“Of course, there are plans to dispatch the Imperial Knights as well… Nevertheless, the chances of a successful subjugation is quite limited… Perhaps, if Platinum Rank Adventurer Miss Haruna were to join the subjugation team, the army morale would rise and…”
“Honourable father, even so- even so-!”
While it made Haruna happy to hear this girl express her worry—
“It’s like saying that everything will be fine even if Haruna-han is sent to hell once she dies, wa!”
“Who says I’m going to hell when I die, nen?! There’s still a chance that I could be going to heaven, yarou!”
That last bit of conversation seemed oddly funny.
“If that’s the case, if Haruna-han can enter heaven, then my good opinion of heaven is destroyed, wa!”
Beside these two quarrelling females, Natalia quietly agreed with Karen.
“That’s not the problem now, you know? Ah, whatever, fine, fine. Aren’t we supposed to be talking about a dragon now, na?” Haruna’s grin looked particularly vicious.
“Of course, I accept, wa. I am an Adventurer, aren’t I? Of course, I won’t be going by myself, Natalia will be going too. Oh, and we won’t be needing a subjugation team.”
The Head of the Family was stunned by this statement. Rather than confidence, it sounded more like bravado or suicidal instead!
“Um, no matter how one looks at it, the matter seems incredibly dangerous…”
“Compared to giants, dragons aren’t that hard to beat. This is my mission now.”
[Gumihou: I’m… somehow feeling sorry for the dragons…]
 Kamogawa River – The name literally means ‘Duck River’
 Yudofu – Very plain and simple dish, but could be very expensive. Kyoto is blessed with good quality water and has lots of tofu-based cuisine to choose from. I’ve never tried yudofu…
 One of the less famous attractions among foreigners, but very popular with local Japanese tourists.
 Shichimi – Japanese 7 Spice Blend. Contains chilli flakes, orange zest, Sichuan peppercorns, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds among other things
 Ponzu – Citrus based sauce. Very refreshing and often eaten as a dipping sauce for shabu-shabu or as marinade for grilled meats or salad dressings.