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I read a short story several years back. I remember most of the plot, but I can't figure out the title. Anyways, this is what I remember from the story, can someone help me find the title?

  • There are two men who are traveling somewhere, I think one of them might be a samurai, but I don't really remember.
  • The two get hungry and smell some good food
  • The two meet an old person and a young person
  • The two eat and get knocked out by some sort of drug
  • When the two wake up, they find an old and a young person who says they slept for half a century and are now telling them that some "saintess" can send them back if they give her money
  • The two find out it is a lie

Does someone know the title of this story? I've done many searches but I can't figure out the title.

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    It's a lie that they slept for half a century, or they really slept for half a century and the lie is that they can be sent back in time?
    – user14111
    Dec 13, 2022 at 2:23
  • @user14111 The lie is that they sleep for half a century Dec 13, 2022 at 2:49
  • Why didn't "old person" and "young person" (You don't remember if they were men or women?) just take the travelers' money while they slept? Were the travelers supposed to get money for the "saintess" from an ATM? How could they do that without finding out that they hadn't been asleep for half a century?
    – user14111
    Dec 13, 2022 at 11:33
  • @user14111 I apologize for not saying the gender, but when I asked this question, I did not know it. It was unclear to me because there was a change in the "old and young" during the story. As for the other questions, I believe that travelers didn't have money on them, but one of them was rich and could send for gold. But I agree with you - there are many flaws in the plans. Dec 15, 2022 at 1:50

1 Answer 1

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"The Inn of Lost Time" by Lensey Namioka

I'm trying to find a summary online (all I've found so far is an online copy), but there's a framing device of a man telling stories to children, including one supposedly involving himself.

It happened about seven years ago, when I was a green, inexperienced youngster not quite eighteen years old. But I had had a good training in arms, and I was able to get a job as a bodyguard for a wealthy merchant from Sakai.

....

We followed our noses. We had to leave the well-traveled highway and take a narrow, winding footpath. But the mouth-watering smell of the rice and the vision of fluffy, freshly aired cotton quilts drew us on.

....

The old woman’s next words confirmed my fears. “I recognize you now! You are two of the lost guests from our inn! The other lost ones I don’t remember so well, but I remember you because your disappearance made me so sad. Such a handsome youth, I thought; what a pity that he should have gone the way of the others!”
A high wail came from Tokubei, who began to keen and rock.

....

“There was a case of one returning guest who consulted the priestess at our local shrine,” said the man. “She went into a trance and revealed that there was an evil spirit dwelling in the bamboo grove here. This spirit would put unwary travelers into a long, unnatural sleep. They would wake up twenty, thirty, or even fifty years later.”

....

“The priestess promised to make a spell that would undo the work of the evil spirit,” said the man. “But she demanded a large sum of money, for she said that she had to burn some very rare and costly incense before she could begin the spell.”

....

And the purpose of the hoax? To make Tokubei send for fifty pieces of gold, of course. It was clever of the man to accuse the shrine priestess of fraud and pretend reluctance to let Tokubei send his message.

I saw it mentioned under Folklore at the TV Tropes entry for Faked Rip Van Winkle, which mentioned the detail of six fingers on one hand (both on the young girl and old crone), so I searched for japanese story samurai "six fingers". The samurai tie is that the innkeeper is a ronin, a former samurai, and that the teller is Zenta, one of a pair of wandering ronin, with Matsuzo, both characters in a mystery series by Lensey. At the end of the story, it is revealed that they are in that same house, with the family having given up the scam.

It may be an adaptation of an older piece of Japanese folklore, but I haven't found any proof of that yet.

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