For our new series, I’ll be looking at Hinata Mori’s Rhetorical Chronicle: A Lying Negotiator and His Fox Mistress (森日向の《レトリカクロニクル：嘘っき話術士と狐の師匠》) It only has four chapters and an epilogue and prologue totaling 350 pages. It won the 2015 Silver Award from Dengeki Bunko magazine and can be purchased here:
I just saw an ad for book two in this series, which is now available. They tend to sell out on this site quickly, and you can also get them at Amazon Japan.
The world, which is described in chapter 1, is a fictional locale with the main action taking place on its largest land mass Orugania. The kingdom of Marutia lies in the northwest corner of that continent, and one town the story focuses on is Turku. Turku is located in the kingdom’s center and is one of a few contested cities, but that problem isn’t elaborated on at this point. The kingdom is near the sea, and as the story begins, the water is frozen over, so the people are wearing fur coats.
The prologue jumps right into the action. There’s a small community in the mountains where fire and blood mar the beautiful snowy winter scene. People in the community are armed, and a fox is hanging around the area, aware of why the war is being waged. From what I understand of the backstory, a young man and woman fell in love and had a child, then years later that man or another – neither one are named at this point, so it’s hard to tell who is who – fell ill and returned to the neighborhood to be cured. There was some scuffle, a woman is attacked and a child killed, so the clan retaliates. There’s a shout of victory from the village, and the village leaders acknowledge their opponents won the war.
Meanwhile, the fox is taking in the cruel atmosphere. Her sharp hearing catches a sound coming from a burned-out house, and she finds a black-haired youth there. She cautiously approaches him, but he is very woozy and his gaze is unfocused. Getting closer to him, she smells blood and sees he was sliced along his back by a sword. His torn clothes are soaked with blood. The fox licks his cheek and asks about his family in the village. He opens his eyes and says his mother is dead, but he doesn’t know where his father is. He wants to know if she will help him deceive his enemies, but she feels that goes against her ethics. She refuses even though his mother is dead and his clan has been massacred, yet somehow he does convince her to aid him. The text at this point doesn’t explain how.
Chapter 1, titled “The Negotiator and the Wolf Girl,” begins with a man standing in a marketplace full of silk goods, glittering porcelain, jewels, ornaments, and displays overflowing with merchandise. The man stops to admire a carpet made of sheep hair, and the shop owner comes over to explain it was made by the lizard clan out in the desert. The man asks its price. It’s worth 10,000 marks. Most commoners only make 100 marks a month, and the man thinks the carpet is too expensive and tries to haggle it down to 5,000. The shopkeeper answers he’ll take 9,300. They go back and forth haggling over the carpet’s price.
While they negotiate the price of the carpet, the man pretends to not be interested and prepares to leave when the shopkeeper asks if he is from the northern lands as his clothing suggests. The shopkeeper has a friend who travels the merchant routes to the north and explains how a carpet like this one is hard to transport. Since it is so rare, the price is very high. He tells the man the carpet is a good investment. They haggle some more, and the man can barely get the shopkeeper to drop his price at all. They settle on 9,000, and the shopkeeper has one of his servants bring the carpet off of the display shelf to take out of the shop for the customer. The man who bought the carpet, Shin, finds one of his associates, Ralph, outside waiting for him, and they discuss how the sale went and how much money Shin lost on the deal.
Kazura the fox arrives, and Shin calls her master. They talk about his deal, and she asks if he knows anything about the wolf clan. Shin acknowledges he has heard of them but hasn’t had direct talks with them. The wolf clan lives on the main continent and generally deals in medicine, which they sell on the streets. This part goes into some detail about the wolf clan: they are half beast, half humans who in the intense cold have bearlike fur and fangs. They are very strong and have a sense of smell that allows them to sniff out hidden medicinal preparations. They sometimes gather with the lizard clan as one tribe at the kingdom’s border, and they do basic farming and hunting to live independently apart from humans. Beast men and humans don’t get along well, and they killed each other in a war at some past time.
As Kazura and Shin start to walk down the street, they come across a loud altercation in front of a shop up ahead. A bald, fat man is arguing with a girl with reddish-purple hair and eyes about secret clan medicine and how expensive it is. Shin gets the impression that she is the clan head though she is young, and he sees their dispute is over wholesale prices. Kazura asks Shin if he wants to intervene, and they move to the front of the crowd.
The girl’s name is Rea, and she is the head of the wolf clan as Shin surmised. Shin tells her that he is traveling with his younger sister and went through a region hit with an epidemic. His sister needs the wolf girl’s medicine immediately in order to be cured. The shop owner looks like he is about to lose his patience hearing this. The whole crowd is listening to the exchange and is uneasy knowing that they came from a plague region. Shin calls for Kazura to come forward. She appears as a little girl in white clothes and an elegant hat on her golden hair. Shin appeals to Rea to help them. Looking at the pitiful little girl, Rea gives Shin the medicine. Shin asks to take the medicine for free so they can quickly cure Kazura. Rea does, and Shin and Kazura thank her.
Back in an inn, Shin relates the situation to Ralph, and they laugh about it. Kazura is with them, and she no longer seems to be a frail child. She’s eating sweets, and her hat is off, revealing her animal ears. Now, she appears as an adult woman, and she hears movement. The wolf girl is coming. When she warns Shin, he wonders if she shouldn’t appear as a fox, but Kazura notes the wolf girl can probably already smell her. Rea enters the inn and sees them, glaring at Shin after glancing at Kazura. She accuses him of lying about his “sick sister,” but he doesn’t understand her anger since it’s just business and the epidemic was particularly bad that year. Ralph tries to explain that Shin is a negotiator in charge of haggling, so his methods can be a bit troubling even if his intentions aren’t bad.
Shin notes that Rea has purchased a lot of swords and armor, and he is alarmed, wondering if they are going to war. Rea tells them that the bear clan has started a quarrel with the wolf clan and that the situation is complicated. Ralph suggests they use Shin’s skills as negotiator, but Rea says the discord is not due to money or humans, and she calls Shin a fool. Yet Shin prepares to go with them, and Hannes the shopkeeper worries that it will be rather dangerous for Shin living in disputed territory. After getting a bag of candy for the children from Hannes, Rea leaves with Shin.
The story is kind of slow so far as all of the characters are introduced and the background world is fleshed out. The book doesn’t have any maps, and I’m wondering just how many animal clans we’ll see before we’re done. They sound rather psychedelic with the wild hair color on the wolf girl, so this should be interesting. Kazura sounds really cute, though very little has been said so far about a fox clan. I’m sure there must be one. She shows up as an actual fox in a few more pages, stuck in Shin’s bag with her red face popping out. What’s not to like about that?
Part one of a three part series.