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Noodle bar east of Gaien Higashi Dōri

Scene 15

That only a few restaurants in Japan have a menu card in English is one factor; the other is that often the menu cards omit to mention the price of the items listed. The danger of taking a blind culinary flight is that what appears on your plate might just turn out to be fish gills in sake – but such things are no deterrent for audacious food adventurers such as Hektor Maille. But in Japan, it can also happen that one consumes some gruel or the other without giving it much thought and ends up having to pay the price of a small car for it. In such an instance, one might have ordered the spittle of a pregnant eel from a Tokachi mountain brook that has water flowing in it only once in 40 years. One might have consumed it with a laugh, in the firm conviction that it was a form of Japanese «Greeting from the Kitchen». With such poise, one undoubtedly wins the respect of the waite. But at the latest on the expense department of the Santa Lemusa secret service, the little eel-bill would probably cause a certain irritation.

So, in complete contrast to his culinary impulses, Maille had to limit his curiosity to places where such expensive eel-surprises were more than unlikely – for example, noodle bars. But that evening Maille found that one could make astounding discoveries even at such places, when he ordered Tonkotsu-Ramen, a speciality relished above all else on Japan's southern-most island of Kyūshū. The noodles were served in a cloudy-looking, archaic-smelling soup that had nothing to do with the elegant stock in which Japanese noodles normally come to the table. He promptly sent an sms to Kyuri, his teacher in matters of self-defence, requesting her to let him have a Tonkotsu-Ramen recipe.

After the meal, Maille unfolded the map from the plastic bag he had found in the rocks of Shirahama and looked at it again. For the first time he noticed that there were a couple of sentences scribbled in an untidy handwriting on the lower edge of the map – this time in French: «300 metres north of your hotel is a sushi bar that is open all 24 hours. Tomorrow, on the dot of 4 a.m. you will order Live Fish there.»

Someone had precise information about him – such as where he was residing in Tokyo, something that he had only just let Marie know. As if this were not enough irritation for the agent, there was also the peremptory tone of the instruction to reckon with. Aral's messages had thus far been restricted to information about the spot at which he would find the next message. But now it felt as though he was being told to execute a command.

Noodle Soup «Kyuri»

Menu Maille

Japanese restaurants have a few surprises ready for their guests – some are just a tad bizarre, others are, more than anything else, unaffordable. Those who, like Hektor Maille, have stretched their expense account to the hilt, would do well to eat at sushi or noodle bars. Surprising aromas can be found to waft out of a soup bowl in such eating places too: