Curiosities of Lotus Asia/Chapter 16
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|Curiosities of Lotus Asia
|Kourindo, the shop that deals in items from “the outside world." And it was there that a type of shikigami called "a computer" happened to appear. But in order for the inhabitants of Gensokyo to be able to use these shikigami, an indispensable “something” was lacking… In this chapter of the popular Touhou Project serialization, an unusually troubled Rinnosuke tries to speak... but what is he keeping to himself?
|Not that I was expecting any kind of response from it, but I was dusting the keyboard I had for sale. The keyboard was part of an item called a computer, and the most I could say about it was that it was a tool with almost too many buttons. I always like to keep my merchandise clean, but these keyboards were particularly difficult to maintain, as they would soon become covered in dust. They definitely weren’t made in a shape that is convenient for people.
|Amongst my merchandise, the rate of arrival of computers, which is to say the number of them that were recovered in Gensokyo, was quite high. And as there were few who wanted one, they are quite problematic. On top of that, they are big, so they take up great deal of space. As of late, I’m not even picking up the ones I find unless their shape attracts my eye.
|Computers are tools that behave according to orders from their masters; you could say they are the outside world’s shikigami. But their strange and complicated construction, as well as their uninteresting appearance speak volumes about the culture of the outside world.
|In Gensokyo, a shikigami’s appearance is an important matter. They could be a fox, or a cat, or many other kinds of interesting forms. Which is only to be expected, since the shikigami already had their original forms before becoming shikigami, and became one after being given the necessary abilities. Of course, the tool facet of a shikigami is its most important part, but for a shikigami to look like a mere tool would simply be missing the point. I guess that in the outside world they only care about the contents, and not the appearance. But isn't that a little too impersonal?
|“Hey, it's gettin' pretty chilly, huh? Looks like the season of short sleeves is almost over.”
|“Ah, are you still wearing short sleeves? How long did you think summer was going to last? Soon it’ll get cold enough for me to have to bring out the heater.”
|“Nah, even though I’m weak to cold, I don't think ya need that yet... But hey! Isn't it strange to put coffee in a bottle with a small mouth like that?”
|The drink Marisa had just identified as coffee, while having a somewhat similar name, wasn’t actually coffee, but a drink called cola, a drink from the outside world. At least for drinks you don’t have to know how to use it, just what its use is, in order to drink it.
|“What? Cola, you say... But hey, ya shouldn't just drink things you find lyin' around, yeah?”
|“Don’t worry, this is for sale. Because here at Kourindou we sell the items we pick up.”
|While she didn’t entirely understand my logic herself, Marisa seemed to agree as she sat atop a desk.
|The days were starting to get shorter. The sky was already turning red, the kind of color that prompts one to head back home. It’s often said that in autumn the days fall as fast as a bucket. But since that means the speed in which the bucket falls, it doesn’t quite go match the idea of the sun setting earlier. Maybe this explanation is wrong, and there’s a more profound meaning to it. I’ll think about it next time I have time.
|“Oh yeah. Can ya give me one of those computers over there?”
|“Oh, really? You're saying you want to buy one? I’ll give you a bargain...”
|“Nope, don't got any money. I just thought havin' a shikigami would be fun.”
|“No money, you say... Well, I guess I can just put it on your tab...”
|If people who come to look at stuff they don’t intend to buy are called “window shoppers”, then what do you call people who come to get things they don’t intend to pay for? Maybe “Marisa shoppers” would be suitable?
|“Yeah, sure. That works.”
|“All right, I don’t even know what other choice I would have anyway... But make sure you pay it off later. Now then, I have many different kinds of computers, big ones, small ones... What kind do you want?”
|“Gimme a big'un. Bigger's stronger, right?”
|Marisa had already hefted a big computer in her arms and walked out into the evening with it. It was an unsuitably large item for such a small girl, but when watching her emboldened figure carrying it, it felt extremely Marisa-like. It was kind of mysterious. Tools were usually simpler the bigger they were. And Marisa’s big computer looked quite simple at first glance. However, its insides were surprisingly bizarre and complex, more than anything else in Gensokyo.
|Shikigami as complex as computers could only be created by the skills of the outside world. And not only computers, but from tableware to the sheets of paper used for newspaper, most of my items are the results of the technology in the outside world. And the humans that the youkai usually prey upon are humans from the outside world. As a closed space, Gensokyo seems to have warded itself against the benefits from the outside. They say that “If you can’t beat them, join them.”, but you shouldn’t join something stronger just because it’s easier or safer. It’s a moral in to train those that have become weakened by cowardice, scurrying into tiny spaces like mice. When you put yourself with something bigger than you are, your outlook widens and you have many more opportunities for learning.
|By shutting itself into a closed space, Gensokyo gradually forgets about the benefits it gets from the outside world. And this is not limited to Gensokyo, the smaller the place you put yourself in, the more you don’t notice the benefits from the bigger things. In this kind of situation, thinking that Gensokyo is somehow better than the outside world is but arrogance. When living in a small place, people get arrogant and lose the drive to improve themselves. By looking at Gensokyo today, one can understand how both humans and youkai are just carrying on with their degenerate lifestyles.
|Me, I think that, for the sake of my search for knowledge, I would like to go to the outside world someday. In other words, I want to join those I can’t beat. I dream of improving myself and putting my knowledge to good use there.
|The computers I've been collecting lately, amongst their various functions, seem to specialize in transmission of information – or so my ability tells. You wouldn’t think that this square box is a shikigami capable of moving on its own, but once it moves, it is said to be able to gather information at an incredible speed. However... this is something I find difficult to imagine.
|If one were to make a shikigami that collected information, it should be in the shape of a tengu, even if were just a fake. That way it would not only be a fascinating computer, but one that would certainly possess the ability to gather information. That was the universal way of thinking in Gensokyo.
|Before going to sleep, I took a look at the empty cola bottle. This ‘cola’ leaves a bit of an acrid taste in your mouth, but its bottle’s shape is certainly pleasant to look at. Maybe it's a drink very suited to Gensokyo. If the outside world shikigami had interesting appearances like this, they would sell a lot more at my shop. And so I spent the evening, thinking of these things.
|“Mr. Rinnosuke, are you there?”
|“Yes, I am.”
|“I just heard from Marisa... So you've been reduced to surviving by eating what you pick up now?”
|Even without computers, news travels surprisingly fast in Gensokyo. It was just yesterday, but it had already reached Reimu. However, this information had already changed into something different. I wonder if information gathered by computers also gets changed like this.
|“Eating what I pick up? All I did was drink some cola.”
|「コーラ？ なんだか判らないけど拾い物でしょう？ 余り得体の知れない物は飲まない方が……」
|“Cola? I don’t really know what that is, but it’s something you picked up, right? You shouldn’t just drink things you're not familiar with...”
|Reimu was holding the empty cola bottle with a suspicious look on her face. On the inside, it was just a dark liquid, but on the outside, its bottle was made in such an interesting shape that you couldn’t ignore it. I could sense a great wisdom in this. I wonder if the people who created computers and the people who created cola were the same.
|“So yesterday, Marisa was really happy about getting a computer. She got it from this store, right? If she just took one, you should have at least told me too...”
|“Actually, I sold her that. She didn’t just take it away. But I don’t think anything will happen just because she has one. I just recently realized, but these shikigami are a little different from the kind of shikigami we know”.
|“Can’t you tell just by looking?”
|“Well... I suppose you certainly can. But rather than just that, they are different in concept. What we usually call a shikigami is a ‘spirit made into tool by creating a pattern’. In other words, they are created by turning fantasy into reality.”
|“That’s why you see so many with one-pattern minds.”
|“However, I can’t really see these computers as having a spirit of their own. They were tools from the beginning. I imagine them more as a ‘tool made into spirit by creating a pattern’. In other words, they are created by turning reality into fantasy.”
|“I don’t get it. Like dolls that move on their own, you mean?”
|“In the outside world, things of fantasy don’t exist. Or rather, things that don’t exist are called fantasy. That’s why humans invented tools that can create fantasies.”
|“Hmm. And what do you think Marisa is going to do now that she has one of these shikigami?”
|“She will likely just neglect it like her metal scraps.”
|“I heard that. I didn't scrap it just yet.”
|“Ah, so you were here, Marisa?”
|“I wasn’t gettin' anywhere with the computer, so I took a break and came on over. Don’t you have any more cola?”
|“Cola tastes like medicine. It’s really not that good.”
|“I thought it'd at least be as useful as a doll or somethin'...”
|Marisa was standing in front of the door, looking just like she had let a prankster fairy escape. She had a clearly disappointed look on her face.
|“A doll? And since when are dolls useful tools?”
|“Hey, there are people that use dolls t'help around the house, right? Isn’t that kinda like using a shikigami?”
|“What are you saying? You couldn’t possibly make a doll realize what they're doing.”
|Seems like Marisa once again has a misconception. She made a dubious face as she sat on some of my merchandise. Reimu was very Reimu-like, fiddling with one of the small computers without asking. She seemed a little afraid that it would start moving when she touched it.
|“So you say that moving dolls are similar to shikigami, right? That might be possible, but the dolls in Gensokyo right now are not shikigami-worthy.”
|“I don't even know what shikigami are s'pposed to be in the first place. Ain’t they like familiars or something?”
|“Familiars and dolls have their similarities. And familiars and shikigami also have their similarities. But dolls and shikigami are very different things.”
|“Okay, so what? I’ve seen them move and work just like they've been told, y'know?”
|“But dolls, you see... are only being manipulated.”
|Marisa’s face was tinted red. The evening sun was already setting. From now on the days would get shorter; and the power of the youkai would only continue to become stronger.
|Yesterday, I spent some time thinking about the autumn days falling like a bucket. What if the “falling like a bucket” is not referring to “a bucket down a well”, but rather to the “youkai’s name”, the tsurube-otoshi, who attacks people from the top of the trees during dark nights. In other words, maybe it means that as autumn advances, the tsurube-otoshi become more active. In this case, there’s no problem regarding speed or time.
|“So if dolls are bein' manipulated, what's so different about shikigami? It looks like they're always bein' manipulated too...”
|“To make a doll move its hands, you have to pull a string attached to them. To make it look like it's walking, you have to pull the strings on its arms and legs. To make it appear alive, you pull all of them.”
|“But did those dolls have strings...?”
|“They don’t have to be physical strings. It could be magic or something else, but it’s certainly some kind of manipulating power. For a doll to move its right hand, someone must manipulate it into moving it. For a doll to help with housework, you have to manipulate it into doing housework.”
|“That sounds pretty handy. That should make doin' chores by yourself a snap, right?”
|“I suppose it would. If you can manipulate many at the same time, then not only would it become easier, but it would also let you do things you couldn't normally do by yourself.”
|“I get it. So that means if a doll is talkin', then it's just bein' manipulated to look like it's talkin'? Just a lame one-person act.”
|“And as for the shikigami, they are like servants who move according to orders.”
|“Hey, isn’t that the same as the dolls?”
|Reimu was in front of a computer, no longer trying to make it move and now drinking tea. She no longer seemed interested in it.
|“They're completely different. Shikigami move according to orders, and they can have other abilities. If we were to compare it to the dolls example from earlier, you could say that if you want the shikigami to move their hand you don’t have to pull it. Just saying ‘Raise your hand.’ would be enough.”
|“Because shikigami are alive, after all.”
|“Just because they are alive doesn’t mean they have to follow orders. If I told you to raise your hand, would you do it?”
|“Yeah, sure. Look!”
|“You really are a hopeless case...”
|“So then what? What do I have to do if I want to use the computer?”
|While we were talking, it had become just a little bit darker. Soon enough it would be the time for the tsurube-otoshi to go on a rampage. But in these girls’ case, it’s more like they would gladly go searching for the tsurube-otoshi even if they had no business doing so.
|“Well, in that case... You’d have to at least possess enough power to make the computer listen to what you say. In other words, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ ”
|Will there come a time when these computers could be used in Gensokyo? As far as I can see, it's not likely that the ones in Gensokyo could become used in daily life without the benefits from the outside world. In that case, the only way to employ computers would be to go to the outside world.
|Transmission of information in Gensokyo is fast. That’s because there’s a lot of curious people. If the people here are able to gather information themselves instead of using these outside world shikigami, then computers might not be needed in Gensokyo at all.
|While looking at the non-functional computers, I thought that for the sake of learning, I too would have to someday “join them.” “Them” being the outside world. Gensokyo takes the benefits of the outside world for granted, and that’s why everyone leads a freewheeling life here. I understand this only too well, since I deal in items from the outside world.
|Even though we shut ourselves inside Gensokyo, we take from the outside world only the things we deem convenient and pretend to be independent. But the truth is that if the outside world were to crumble, Gensokyo would soon follow. And on top of that, while being in Gensokyo you can’t affect the outside world in any way. The people living in Gensokyo are leading a life in a small place from which they can’t get out, and I understand that to be simply the easiest choice.
|Marisa was probably thinking of having the computer do her housework for her, but a tool from the outside world wouldn’t show its true nature to the indolent mindset typical of a small place.
|If I were to use a shikigami, I wouldn’t think of any other than a computer. But until the time I can give orders to computers and attain greater strength than what I have now, I’ll just continue studying about the outside world.
|「どうした？ 暗くなってきたしそろそろ帰るぜ？ コンピューターの動かし方は判らなかったし」
|“What happened? It’s already dark, so I guess we better get goin', right? Too bad I couldn’t figure out how to get my computer to work…”
|“Oh yes, and remember not to put things you find lying around in your mouth.”
|“Yes, it is quite late. Oh, yes… Wait a moment, you two. Before you go back I have a gift for you. Think of it as a sample.”
|I said that with my gift already in mind. Yes, something I could give to these people of Gensokyo who are lacking whatever makes these shikigami move, me included. Something that would convince them to proactively join something bigger.
|I gave a cola to both Marisa and Reimu.
- The original was a Japanese proverb that literally means “Be coiled around by a big thing.” The meaning is basically the same as the Western proverb – that is, that one should rather join the stronger side and take advantage of its strength instead of fighting it.
- Tsurube-otoshi, meaning something like “falling like a bucket”, is a Japanese expression referring to something that falls suddenly and fast. It’s also the name given to a type of youkai that lurks in the treetops to either fall upon an unsuspecting passerby or drop fire or buckets on him. They are represented in the Touhou cast by Kisume.
|Curiosities of Lotus Asia
|This page is part of Project Translations, a Touhou Wiki project that aims to ensure the quality of translations of all official material in the Touhou Project.