This time we finish up 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》). In chapter 3, we catch up to Ralph sitting by the fire in a shop where he is doing something with decorative ornaments made of a silver chain and black fur. Perhaps the hair is designed into some sort of pendant, but whatever type of jewelry it is, it seems to be of some importance. Shin comes in and gives him 4,000 marks. They discuss business, then Shin talks about how the war between the bear and wolf clans sort of petered out without a clear victory. Ralph is surprised by this.
Shin returns to adjoining guest rooms at an inn in Turku where Kazura, Rea and Gustav are having a meal. Gustav questions him about finding a weapons transaction in Hannes’ account ledger for the bear clan – Shin stole the ledger to look at it – but upon examination, they find no such transaction. Gustav gets angry, wondering if Hannes or Ralph hid evidence of the sale. Shin just thinks Hannes doesn’t know about the sale, but Gustav is suspicious. Shin asks Kazura if she saw weapons when they were in the bear clan village. She replies that she did, but they were worn out and not likely to be purchased recently. Gustav then gets angry that the bear clan was sold inferior goods while the wolf clan got new weapons. They change the subject to Rea and Gustav’s romance, which is embarrassing enough to make Rea blush and avoid looking at Gustav.
The next day, Shin and Rea are walking on the road to Turku. They arrive at a human slave market where they meet Hannes. When they recognize a child slave, it comes out that Ralph’s family was killed 9 years earlier by beast men, leaving him an orphan. Shin is very shocked and uneasy about Ralph. They talk with Gustav and Kazura about this discovery back in their rooms, and they note the difference between someone selling them weapons versus providing them with weapons. They deduce that Ralph’s aim wasn’t to make money, and Shin suggests that Ralph wants to annihilate the bear clan. Gustav thinks he must be joking. He wasn’t clan henchman 9 years earlier when the tragedy befell Ralph’s family. As the discussion continues, Kazura turns into a fox and disappears down Turku’s road.
Shin goes out spying later, and Rea and Gustav go along, too. At one point, Rea notices Ralph has arrived in the area with his group, all carrying burning torches. Rea can see them with her animal night vision. Ralph sits on the cart platform seat, and Rea sees he is staring at a small chain. Shin thinks back to when he was in the shop with Ralph and remembers seeing the chain with black fur. They sneak around and try to capture Ralph’s group, though the terrain is difficult to walk on. Ralph’s people start to prepare a campsite in the forest, while Shin and his friends plan their attack.
In chapter 4, we continue with the same scene from Ralph’s perspective. Ralph is sitting in front of the fire, wiping away tears as he talks to his dead sister Alma. He is facing the wolf clan village and hears the wolf men howling in the distance. Since everything seems quiet in the forest, Ralph sleeps near the fire. He has a dream, a string of images relating to two children fleeing, a huge bear claw attacking them, Ralph grabbing his sister’s hand, and more. All of these are distant memories. As he thinks of his family, his hatred of the bear clan surges. Ralph later studied business under the shopkeeper Hannes. Then the opportunity came along to help the wolf clan against the bear clan after the wolf clan head died and his young daughter took over.
Shin calls out to Ralph. He asks what Shin is doing there in the dark forest, and they talk about his work as negotiator, but Ralph says nothing further needs to be discussed, he’s decided to sell his goods to the wolf clan. Shin tells him to drop the pretense because he knows the whole story, that his aim is to annihilate the bear clan. Ralph asks cagily why he would do that since there’s no problem. Shin insists there is a problem. Ralph says he only felt bad for Rea because she was young and pretty. Shin says there is something wrong with his reasoning, that the war has ended and the two clans have settled their differences. Ralph is speechless hearing this. He laughs, vowing he won’t give up. His eyes are full of fire. Ralph says he saw his enemy 9 years before, and Shin asks if it really was the beast men. He saw them kill his sister Alma, he says in a trembling voice. Their attention turns to the chain ornament with the fur. Shin asks if it is a fake, but Ralph laughs coldly and says it is actually bear fur. Rea and Gustav arrive, and Gustav pulls out a knife, captures Ralph and grabs the chain decoration in his free hand. He confirms that it is bear fur while Ralph angrily glares at Shin.
The situation develops from this into a second, full blown battle between the wolf and bear clans that needs to be negotiated back down to cooperation levels again. I’m not going to get into the details in this part, but it resolves when Hannes, Ralph and Kazura discuss whether Ralph’s sister Alma really was killed 9 years earlier or if she was sold into slavery. Checking an old ledger, Hannes does find a 6-year-old girl named Alma sold as a slave nine years earlier in Ralph’s old hometown. Ralph wants to search for Alma and asks Shin and Kazura to go with him.
It’s early summer, and there’s a wedding between Rea and Gustav. They are gathered by the lake shore for the celebration, which is Yaruno presides over. Everyone is happy, and Rea even wears a white wedding dress! There is an evening banquet with drinking and talk of mixed blood descendants between the beast clans. Kazura wonders if humans and beast men should get married. After a merry time, Gustav and Rea thank Shin and Kazura for their help before the negotiator and his fox mistress continue their travels.
In the Epilogue, which is only a few pages, it seems we are back to the beginning with the deep snow and the fox deciding whether to help the youth. They weigh the positives and negatives of the situation. She explains it will be a way of life where every day he has to deceive people to eat, deceive everyone. It mentions his wounded back again, how he may die from loss of blood. She comes closer to him, and he asks her to teach him. That’s pretty much the gist of the final scene, though it is longer with slower pacing and more dramatic description.
It’s a nice frame for the beginning of the book, though I’m not sure why we’re going back to that moment. Maybe there’s some significance to it as the series continues. But one thing I like about it is that it shows more intriguing interaction between Kazura and Shin, whereas through the main body of the book Kazura is just a secondary character, the voice of wisdom and a helper. Her interactions with Shin in those scenes don’t really develop that relationship for the reader to understand what is going on between them. Not that it has to do that since it is the first book in a series, but I think glimpses like the epilogue hint at something much more nuanced that I’d like to read more about.
Part three of a three part series.
Next time: Classical Korean Poetry!