“I am looking for the village hidden in the east.”

Ito fell as silent as the people in the Amuramaro inn, though he did not regard Takenaka with the same mixture of fear and hostility. “You are not a stupid man, Takenaka-san,” he said. “Surely you know by now we do not speak of it here.”

“Surely you know by now one of my maxims: uncooked vegetables and uncut fish fester. It is hard work, but sometimes these things must be confronted.”

Considering this, Ito looked to the east. “We have never been there, never seen it,” he whispered. “They come into town for supplies, and they only ask once. We are warned not to speak of them, and some gossips have been killed.”

“Have you not brought this to the attention of the authorities?” Takenaka said.

“They killed a man sent to investigate in a rockslide.”

Takenaka stroked his chin. “It seems if I am to have my answers, I have but one choice.”

“To be as an avenging spirit, and cut them down?” said Ito hopefully.

“So many legends about the men I have cut up, and so few about the vegetables that met the same fate, even though one causes far more weeping than the other,” Takenaka said. “Except onions, of course,” he added with an impish grin.

“No, Ito-san, it is clear to me that if the village hidden in the east is stealing your food, they are in need of a genius chef. I suppose that I will have to do until such a genius arises.”

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