I may have to give up on being astounded. We have arrived at the city Komae, halfway to the Imperial Palace and I am feeling less and less that I understand this world. Uta, the wolf who halfway took the Princess in as her cub – everyone here is greeting her as “Your majesty”!!! I don’t know what to make of it, except everyone here seems to recognise her as a figure of great deference and honour.
It seems not to be a case of mistaken identity, either. No, Uta hasn’t started speaking to us, but she has body language and responds that way to the Princess’s questions. That’s a relief. I would hate to be executed because someone realised the wolf we travel with isn’t the same wolf as the wolf they thought she was.
So far we have been ushered into the city, guided to a ‘rustic’ inn which is as well-appointed as any I have stayed in, been let into Komae’s famed Mermaid Gardens at no charge, and been allowed to take our pick of bathing suits, again with no charge. It all feels too good to be true, but perhaps the Princess is accustomed to such treatment. I am not, even when I have looked out for her in the Imperial Palace – the other Imperial Palace, the one back home – before.
And I ought to note that I say the Mermaid Gardens are famed on the word of one Asai, proprietor of the Sakura Roots. He under whose roof we stay this night.