The discussion was to be held in an eating-house in that landowner’s village. The place wasn’t that far from the papermaking village. It didn’t take more than one hour by foot. The dreary eating house was a moderately large building. As it also functioned as an inn, it probably dealt with travellers from the high road rather than the locals.
There was the quack’s brother in law, his two sons, and three men from the village here. And with the quack and Maomao included, it made a total of eight people. The opposition had more than ten old well-built men, and there was an important looking middle-aged man with a beard who had plonked himself down.
The boss and the boss lady of the eating house regarded that group in aggravation.
They must have chosen this place since they might break out into a scuffle with the talks being an unreasonable demand. That kind of troublesome talk.
The quack was trembling. Maomao peered at the boss lady of the shop and felt out of place by being the only female here. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be interested in a girl who was like chicken bones. “Why is someone like this here?” they shook their heads and snorted.
It had been hard work for her to follow along.
The quack aunty had stopped her. She was told that even if she was like this, she was not married, so it would be dreadful for her to go through some danger. And above all, she would stick out too much.
Even if she was told that, on the other hand, there was the quack who was looking at Maomao miserably, and Maomao was also interested in that contract or whatever it was.
Can’t be helped. She voiced an adequate response.
“I have a distant relative that knows much about this. Is it no good for me to hear it and tell him that there is this kind of thing?”
She had said.
After she said that, as if the aunty had thought they were an Officer of the Court (as in the judicial court), she reluctantly relented.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have an Officer of the Court as an acquaintance. If there is a pseudo-eunuch who does something similar, then there is, but that’s another thing. The distant relative that Maomao had mentioned is the short man whose speciality was flipping the abacus. If she consulted that guy, she could know any methods of making money where the law cannot touch.
And so, Maomao sat on a seat a fair distance away and accepted the tea from the shop’s boss lady. Perhaps it also functioned as a bar, the smell of wine was intense, involuntarily making her want to order some, but let’s endure.
The wine looked to be unrefined rice wine. There was a large barrel on the side of the kitchen – she could see white wine from there. Clear wine and distilled liquor are preferred in the capital, so there was that impression with the typical countryside wine.
While Maomao got preoccupied with the wine, the discussions were started by the opposition. Just in case, let’s listen in.
“Have ya prepared the money?”
Of course, the one who spat out the lines like a third-rate villain was the bearded middle-aged man who was sitting like he was important looking. The people around the landowner man, she wasn’t sure if they were tenant farmers or bodyguards; they were all tough scoundrels.
The physiques of the husband’s people were good, but their numbers were at a disadvantage no matter how she saw it, Maomao thought.
“There should still be the deadline. Can we consider it for a bit longer?”
The husband said meekly. Laid out between the landowner and the husband was a sheet of paper. That must be the written contract.
“Ya have no liberty to consider. There’s no way we can do it with good intentions. If ya can’t pay up, the only way is to leave.”
They were thrown upon their own resources. They must have been told many times, from the looks of it.
“Even we think of wanting to have some convenience. That’s why, we told ya we’ll wait until this winter, didn’t we? We just said that we wanted ya to teach us some during that period, didn’t we?”
Do they leave immediately? Or do they leave before the end of the year? Even if they were given the grace period, that would be the period for them to teach their own craft to the opposition.
There was no way they could have chosen their next place of residence, and the craft could be leaked at the latter’s discretion. It was probably so that they could snatch away the appearance of being the purveyor to the imperial court as it is, with the extent that only the personnel had been replaced.
It’s irritating, but there’s no way that would pass through normally.
And above all, the evidence was on the table.
However, she thought it was strange. Rather than going out of his way to make them go away from learning the work of farmers, he should have just made them work as his servants in a way to balance out their debt. Does he hate outsiders that much?
Maomao trotted over to stand behind the husband. The quack was beside him. His moustache was quivering.
Despite the fact that the contract had been written more than ten years ago, the quality of the paper was beautiful. Crude products would get tattered in a couple of years.
Written there, was the purport stating the monthly repayment sum and that it had been paid for in twenty years. A signature was properly marked in place of a seal at the end.
Even though it was a reliable thing as it is. What was he haughtily getting upon his high horse for? She tilted her head, and the younger son stealthily told her. He could be telling the quack, but Maomao would hear him too.
“He said that the contract is invalid.”
And furthermore, the text on it was said to be written by a scribe.
“Even though there is a signature?”
“That’s the genuine article though.”
It seems he can’t read the previous landowner’s writing.
“Can he not read it?”
Isn’t that strange? Maomao tilted her head. The landowner should have scanned over the document, and he should have received that kind of education foremost.
“It’s because he’s the son-in-law.”
If he’s the son-in law, she understood. He would have to be a tenant farmer who had worked hard. In that case, there was no way he could get educated, and even he thought of learning after becoming the son-in-law, it wasn’t something he would do easily.
“The previous wasn’t the scribe. His wife had done it.”
Seems the contract was written up after the wife’s death.
She wanted to believe that the contract is real. Since the signature was said to be the real thing, it must be true that the contract had been written up before the previous landowner’s eyes.
“Are there no people who stood with the scribe during that occasion?”
“All of them died.”
The contract was from fifteen years ago. All of them seemed to be old aged.
(It really is unreasonable.)
While Maomao was scratching her head, the landowner thrust the two narrow choices at the husband. As the farmers around them gave unpleasant smirks, the paper artisans could only shrink down.
Only that eldest son bit his lip with a complicated expression.
“If ya don’t leave immediately, there’s nothing we can do. From tomorrow, hand over your young’uns. If you assist us, teach us the job until the end of the year.”
The paper artisans’ fists trembled. Although the quack had come along, he really is a blockhead. There’s no way he would be useful.
Only Maomao looked at everyone nonchalantly.
As expected, she was interested in the wine.
She thought of drinking one cup afterwards, but doing that here would be not reading the atmosphere.
However, the landowner’s side was brimming with that atmosphere. They started to order for wine in a good mood.
“Oi, order for these guys too.”
The farmers who came along to the landowner’s splendid banquet clamoured. This side, on the contrary, was like a funeral.
The boss lady of the shop unwillingly placed the wine and cups onto a tray and brought it over.
She looked at the contents of the cups the farmers were holding. It wasn’t unrefined sake, it was clear wine. What the landowner man was drinking, was something else – an amber liquid she knew to be distilled liquor. It seemed to be considerably strong for wine.
The landowner she understood. It was a given for him to drink his wine of preference. However, she felt it was a very big treat to go as far as to give refined sake to the tenant farmers. This eating house had a lot of unrefined sake that was one step inferior.
Maomao, as she felt sorry for the boss lady who was carrying wine like it was a bother, raised her hand and called out to her.
“One cup for me too. Of that wine.”
Can’t be helped then, the boss lady brought the wine over to her.
“Lass, in this kind of time…”
Not just the quack, the paper artisans also watched her in shock.
Maomao enthusiastically sculled the wine.
The flavour was a good sweet taste. It wasn’t as refined as the wine of the capital, but as you have it, this wasn’t bad. It’s just that the mildness of the taste of alcohol content was strong in comparison.
If this was exceptionally bad – she reached the reason.
Maomao licked her lips.
The eating house, that was unable to bar out troublesome guests, had a large volume of refined sake. Furthermore, even though he is a high-handed landowner, he treated the farmers to a different wine.
(Hmm, I see now.)
Maomao looked at the amazed husband.
“Excuse me. Is there a winery in this area?”
“…no, I don’t think there’s something like that.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Maomao curled her lips. She picked up the wine and the cup, and went to stand before the bustling landowner and his people.
Maomao slammed the cup on the table and gave a smile that gave the impression of a bird of prey.
“What is it, lass? Are ya pouring me a cup?”
The landowner gave her a mocking smile, suddenly making her laugh.
The quack clung onto Maomao, trying to quickly get her away from here. But Maomao ignored him, and said to the landowner as she laughed.
“Shall we have a drinking contest?”
Saying that, Maomao thumped her body.