Day 2: A Conversation with Mary-san
‘Yes… it’s approximately two thousand kilometers from Aomori.’
“And you’re going to travel that distance?”
‘Yes. On foot.’
The next day. Mary called again at the same time, and I let a fed-up voice into the receiver.
“No. No no. No no no. That’s not how Mary-san is supposed to be, right? Isn’t she the wielder of some sort of smarter assassin-like style? In MMO terms, she’s got a job that specializes in search and movement skills, right?”
‘No, um, I’m of the same opinion, but…’
“And now what? On foot? You’re walking? Walkman? Are you alright with that, Mary-san?”
“A Walkman is something else… urgh, um. I’m well aware this is a horrible state of affairs for a Mary-san.”
Now then, I kept my word, and I’m having another phone conversation with this Mary-san trainee Mary-chan, but this Mary-chan is saying some considerably unreasonable things.
“No, I’m not particularly blaming you for it, but walking two thousand kilometers is really pushing it… in the first place, why are you walking? You’re supposed to be the urban legend Mary-san of all things, right? Don’t you have any inherent abilities? Like the ability to warp from phone to phone or something?”
‘Ah, I’m surprised you knew. The original Mary-san did have an ability like that. It was a power called Hide and Seek: Beware the Other Side of the Line.’
ESP! The source of eternal dreams and longings!
My tensions rose just a bit. For some reason, the title and subtext didn’t seem to quite go together, and I had a slight urge to retort that she just called her clairvoyance plain old clairvoyance, but this is this and that is that. Man is a creature who will long for ESP no matter his age.
But that doesn’t eliminate the question. The reason being, Mary has fallen to a terrible state of walking across the Japanese Archipelago.
‘It’s because I’m a trainee. I wasn’t able to learn the ability. I didn’t have enough skill points, so I…’
“It’s on a point system!?”
The elevated spirits I had from the word ESP were dropping somewhat… this sort of, that’s not how it’s supposed to be, ‘This forbidden technique concealed and passed down through my clan for generations…!’ I was hoping for that sort of thing. You get me? … You don’t? I see.
‘T-there’s no helping it! I mean, if I don’t have the clairvoyance, I can’t even do Mary-san’s duties… I used all the skill points I had on clairvoyance.’
“Yeah, I don’t think you’d be able to do anything if you just had the movement ability either.”
I mean, without clairvoyance, she would have to call and ask for their present location. She’d just be a shady caller.
Compared to that, perhaps clairvoyance really was more decent. As long as she knows her target’s position, for the time being, she’ll be able to do some Mary-san-ish things, I guess.
“… But does that really mean… walking?”
‘I-I mean… I don’t have any money. And I don’t have a vehicle.’
“Hmm… then couldn’t you just hitchhike?”
I just randomly threw it out there, but I get the feeling that’s a surprisingly good idea.
If Mary’s appearance was a muscular one with an intimidating aura, it might be impossible, but as luck would have it, Mary’s appearance was a refreshing little girl. I doubt there was anything preventing her from hitchhiking. I mean, it might be difficult for her to conveniently find a straight route to her destination, but even so, it should be leagues better than walking.
… No, ah, but I see. Is that precisely why such a simple notion was inconceivable? The world’s as it is. Precisely because she is a beautiful girl, there might be some whose minds wander where they shouldn’t. In that case, perhaps it was wrong for me to throw it out there.
I was thinking over such things, but Mary’s response betrayed my expectations.
‘No way, Akira. As a Mary-san in training, there really is no way I could ever hitchhike.’
“Hmm? By that tone, you sound like you’ve thought this through.”
‘Yes. Though from your point of view, it might be of little importance… Akira, are you aware of what urban legends like me are formed out of?’
“Oy, oy, are you mocking me? I’m a college student here, I at least know that much.”
‘As I thought, as I thought. To tell you the truth, urban legends are… wait, what!? You knew!? Are they teaching that sort of thing at colleges these days!?’
As Mary’s voice made clear her surprise, I shrug my shoulders.
“Hmph, this was self-taught. Listen well, the human body consists of 35L water, 4L ammonium, 1.5kg lime, 800g phosphorus, 250g salt, and–”
‘No, that’s enough. To start off, you’re wrong. You even said it yourself, that’s not urban legends, that’s the human body.’
“Don’t screw with me, little girl! I surpassed my limits to memorize it! In order to say it fluently if a half-way adequate scene came along, I did my best to remember it! At least let me say it to the end!”
“E-eh!? I-I’m sorry…?”
How cruel, for you to run someone’s efforts through the mud. Ever since I memorized it, I got the idea that after I listed off all the ingredients of the human body, I’d make a nihilistic face and say, ‘Humans sure are cheap’. I even practiced making a nihilistic expression. In the end, such a situation never popped up, so it had always been useless information.
By the way, when it comes to other pieces of trivia of the sort, I’ve also memorized Picasso’s full name. Though that’s never been useful either.
I took my time clearly reciting out the ingredients of the human body before asking Mary.
“And so? What are urban legends made up of?”
‘T-this man is…! … Hah, whatever.’
Mary let out a slight sigh and began to talk.
‘Starting from the top, urban legends… or rather, irregularities as a whole; those sorts of existences classified as occult are born from mankind’s power of imagination.’
“Hmm… is that how it works?”
‘That’s how it works.’
Honestly, even if you tell me that, hmm is all I can see. I mean, I can’t picture it at all.
But, for now, let’s just nod.
“I’ve heard, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary elegance,’ after all. Now that you mention it, that may just be right.”
‘You’re bringing a degree of fabulousness into the field!? Not evidence!? … T-that aside… Urban legends hold precisely the image of how humans think they’re ‘supposed to be’.’
“Well, otherwise, I guess an urban legend can’t be set up. If the Kuchisake Onna held a chainsaw instead of scissors, then she wouldn’t be the Kuchisake Onna anymore, she’d be Jason… ah, is that what you’re talking about?”
I hit my hands together in enlightenment.
I see, in that case, I think I understand why Mary-san can’t hitchhike. A Mary-san who hitchhikes isn’t Mary-san. That’s why she’s unable to do it.
But Mary’s answer was vaguely different.
‘Half right, half wrong.’
‘Yes… um, you see, it’s not like the hitchhiking in itself disqualifies me from being Mary-san. It would certainly be bad if too many people learned about it, but it’s fine as long as it doesn’t get out. And I don’t let it get out.’
“Sounds like a dark inside story of the industry…”
‘I mean, if you put it like that, then me walking is right out as well…’
“Mn, ah… so that’s how it is.”
She’s got a point. I mean, it isn’t as if Mary-san’s means of transportation is the main point of her urban legend, and hitchhiking and walking are similar enough.
“So why can’t you?”
‘That’s not my turf.’
I couldn’t help but cut off the words from the other side of the line.
“Are you a cat or something?”
‘By turf, I mean the implications, you know? … To tell you the truth, the details of the prohibitions placed on urban legends are decided by the Urban Legend Association.’
“… I was thinking of asking you since yesterday, but what exactly is the Urban Legend Association?”
‘It’s an urban legend mutual aid organization. See, ever since the internet spread, computerization has progressed, and the changes in trends are speeding up, so any half-baked urban legend will disappear before you know it. To make sure the light of a small, newborn urban legend doesn’t go out, urban legends began to cooperate and with their continued efforts to coexist, the Urban Legend Association was formed.’
“How should I put it, you urban legends have it rough too…”
In order to live, humans have to do plenty of things that are a pain, that they don’t want to do, but perhaps urban legends are in the same boat. No, perhaps it might be harsher. I mean, if they’re forgotten, they’re gone. Come to think of it, they’re like idols who have to keep vying for popularity.
‘We wouldn’t be able to survive otherwise… anyways, there are certain regulations and it’s been decided that ’violating another urban legend’s domain is strictly prohibited’. In the case of hitchhiking, that would be the Nure Onna’s field of expertise. I’d get a claim from that department, so I can’t take any careless action.’
“What a pain! … Eh, then what’s this? Does that mean running is out of the question too? With the Turbo Baba and such”
‘No, the turbo baba runs faster than motor vehicles, so at the very least, I won’t be able to trespass into her territory… but in local legends, you get a lot of, ‘little children wandering the streets in the dead of night,’ stories, so I have to avoid those regions when I plan a route…’
“You’re working hard…”
Taking all things into consideration, she’s still going to walk two thousand kilometers.
At that stage, I can’t even imagine it, but there are worlds out there an average human spending his days like me will never reach.
‘It’s not all sunshine and daisies, but… I want to become Mary-san. So I’ll do my best!’
“I see… then, well, have at it. If you need to kill time along the way, I’ll at least keep up a conversation.”
“Yay! Thank you!”
Ehehe, Mary leeks a small voice of delight.
That voice that enters my ears, why could it be. I lowered the call volume just a bit.
That bashful laughing voice, it felt just a little too cheery for me.
The original line here is 幽霊の正体見たり枯れ尾花 (Yuurei no shoutai wo mitari kareobana) When you look for the ghost’s identity, it’s usually just withered silver grass. When you try to find an explanation for the supernatural, it’s quite often unexpectedly simple. Akira mistakes the line as Yuurei no Shoutai wo Mitari Kureopatora (When you look for the ghost’s identity, it’s usually just Cleopatra).
 Kuchisake Onna
A certain young boy on the way home from school is called out to by a woman in a red coat.
“Hey, do you think I’m beautiful?”
The woman wears a mask, but she looks pretty enough, so the child answers.
“Yes, you look beautiful.”
He says. The moment the words escape his mouth, the woman suddenly tears off her own mask.
“Even like this?”
She cries out. The edges of the woman’s mouth have been sliced open until they extend from ear to ear. From inside her coat, she produces a pair of scissors, and starts towards him. The boy sprints off in fear, but the speed the woman chases is fearsome, and he’s caught in no time at all. The child’s hands are pinned behind his back. A scissor blade enters the fearful child’s mouth as its opening is sliced open from ear to ear.
 Nure Onna
A half-woman half-snake, splendidly beautiful baby-toting yokai… however she is probably referring to a different entity who is occasionally referred to by the same name, or otherwise called the disappearing passenger.
A woman boards the taxi. For some reason, no matter how many times the driver calls out to her, she doesn’t utter a word. She points for the car to go down the road. The road is dark, so the driver concentrates on what’s ahead of him. Once they’ve driven a while, he looks into the rearview mirror only to find she is nowhere to be seen, yet the place she was sitting is soaking wet.
 Turbo Baba
Strange things happen if you speed down a certain road in the Kantou region.
On that day, the youth was driving recklessly fast down the mountain path.
The moment the youth took a peek into his rearview mirror, his face turned pale.
From behind, someone, something was racing towards him at an unbelievable speed.
The youth grows scared, he presses harder on the accelerator.
He surpasses a hundred kilometers an hour.
But the running old lady races straight passed the car.
As she passes by, the old lady peers into the driver seat window and gives a mischievous grin.
TL: Just to clarify, the foot notes are not in the original. I’m translating source text on urban legends.