“A drinking contest, how gutsy of ya.”
The landowner said to the impertinent maiden who had appeared before him. The farmers laughed derisively.
“Oi, you serious?”
The artisans looked at Maomao in concern. It was too much for the quack – he became dazed and just collapsed. Just as his head was about to hit the ground, his younger nephew caught him.
“There’s no problem. That aside, a question. How much debt do you have left?”
“…a thousand notes of silver in a year. Since we’ve paid for half this year, there is four thousand five hundred left.”
Hm, that wasn’t something even a moneylender can easily lend to them. They were purveyors to the imperial court, but they were not fit for mass production, so they cannot easily make money.
“Is that so?”
Maomao fwumped onto the chair.
“While we’re at it, shall we make a wager?”
“A wager, ya say. What a huge pitch.”
The landowner seemed greatly confident in his drinking. He was totally mocking her.
“Ya have something ya want to wager?”
“Indeed, as I said, Didn’t I already indicate that before?”
Maomao pat her own chest.
“I can go for three hundred if you sell me to a procurer.”
Buhoh– The scoundrels spat out wine one after another.
“Hahahaha! Three hundred, ya say. What a huge pitch. Lass, ya know about the market price of things?”
It’s because she knew that she said it. She thought of seeing the many maidens who had been sold off.
“No matter how pretty a woman, they won’t manage a hundred either way, and yet, and yet…”
Seemingly like he hit the spot, he laughed, spittle flying everywhere. It was convenient as the surrounds of the wine was also good.
“Puh”, seeing those guys, Maomao laughed. Half the drunk men glared at her, understanding that they were clearly being scorned.
“I mean, isn’t it a given that they won’t manage fifty silvers even if you hand over a soil-covered daikon as it is? To think you don’t even know that common sense.”
Maomao’s body swayed. Her nape was grabbed, and she was pulled up to her tiptoes.
It seems a daikon being the ridicule of a country girl was well circulated.
“Oi, try saying another piece!”
Number one of the red-faced farmers had seized Maomao up. The fist that was raised overhead was blackened with dirt – if she got hit, she would have no resistance.
(It can’t be helped if I get hit though.)
She can’t withdraw here.
The quack had fallen flat. The artisans were all stiff-faced.
“You can’t even read and write properly. Fufu, in that case, you can’t ever use paper in your lifetime.”
Although the hand moved to strike Maomao, it didn’t hit her.
“Stop that. If she becomes damaged goods, her value would decrease.”
Told by the big landowner, farmer number one put her down.
The landowner said that her value will decrease.
In other words, he indicated that he will be taking up Maomao’s wager.
“Well then, who’s starting?”
The shocked artisans dumbfoundedly looked at Maomao.
The eating house’s boss and boss lady had expressions of suspense.
The quack was lying on the floor.
“I’ll be your first opponent!”
The man who had come to seize Maomao said.
It was, superbly convenient.
How many empty wine bottles had fallen to the ground?
And the number of jerks who were dead drunk on the floor was four. Five now.
“…are you kidding me?”
It was the quack’s nephew, who was looking after the quack, who said that in a shocked voice.
“Oh my, is it already over?
Maomao sculled the rest of the wine in the cup. It was a distilled liquor that burned her throat. An item that was too high-class for such an eating house in the countryside. But, for Maomao who was used to drinking much stronger wine, it was no big deal.
It was a mistake for them to try to crush down Maomao quickly by putting out high proof distilled liquor. The men rapidly got smashed at the high strength wine they were not used to drinking. They were passed out, but it shouldn’t be to the point of death. And above all, Maomao found it intolerable to be sold off, so she had no intentions of going easy on them.
“It’s a hundred and fifty.”
That was said to be Maomao’s value.
Since she overcharged with three hundred silvers at the start, she thought that was adequate.
By the way, there were cases where procurers, who stroke hard bargains, also acquire village girls for about twenty silvers.
She won against the first person with those funds. Once she did so, the second person came up. He must have been drunk from the start as he didn’t take it seriously, downing the strong wine in one go, and got wrecked.
The third and fourth person challenged like so. For as much as remaining from the previous portion of wine, Maomao was at a disadvantage. That was common sense, but unfortunately, Maomao didn’t cross their anticipation.
(It makes five people with this huh.)
The first person was a hundred and fifty, the second person three hundred, third person six hundred. The two thousand four hundred silvers with the five people were the amount Maomao earned.
Perhaps they realised that part, the jerks were glaring at her with flushed faces.
There were still half remaining on the side of the opposition but Maomao had no problems if she won in the next single bout. There should be four thousand five hundred of debt remaining.
It was a relief that her opponents were drunk. By saying what came to head, she got the draft of a simple contract. That was five sheets. In any case, these guys must be thinking that contract is mere scrap paper. She understood that from the part where the large landowner who took the leading position was going to throw it away like it was scrap.
While his face twisted in vexation, he finally brought out his favourite wine bottle.
“Shall I to be your opponent?”
The bearded landowner smiled, but his eyes were sharp.
Maomao rubbed her belly.
(I wonder if I can keep going.)
As expected, to have five opponents, you somewhat get filled.
As the landowner was drinking his usual distilled wine, the wine seemed strong. As he smiled at the sight of Maomao who looked like she was suffering a little, he scanned over the contract.
“Don’t lump me together with those guys.”
He scribbled on his signature and slapped the contract onto the table.
“Shall we have the procurer come for us tomorrow?”
“I know that much.”
Can’t be helped. Maomao took out a small bottle from her bosom.
“Oi! What the heck is that!”
The landowner’s followers lunged towards her.
“I had enough of the taste of this wine, so I just thought of changing the flavour for a bit.”
Saying that, Maomao triumphantly poured the contents of the small bottle into the cup where the amber liquid was drifting.
The landowner, seeing that, twitched.
“Wait up. In that case, can I have some for my share too?
Since he said that, Maomao passed the small bottle over to the landowner. The landowner studied the small bottle and poured all of what was left into his cup.
“This ain’t medicine that makes one harder to get drunk or something, right?”
In response to the grinning man, Maomao gulped down the cup expressionlessly.
The landowner confirmed Maomao’s sober face after drinking it all up, and then gulped down his cup with a grin. He swallowed it all down, and then—.
The followers rushed up to wake the landowner, but his lights were out.
“Oi! What did you serve him?”
“Serve what. He drank the same thing I did.”
The reason he was entirely out, was none other than alcohol.
“The wager is my victory.”
While everyone present was dumbfounded, Maomao stood up and took the contract. Without staggering, she passed that over to the artisan husband, and went to stand before the eating house’s boss lady.
“Where is the toilet?”
“Go outside. It’s on the right.”
“Thank you very much.”
Maomao headed to the toilet with a partial jog.
If you were to have several bottles of wine, you’ll have to get the urge to urinate at least once.
Even Maomao was unable to shamefully leak in public.
“Hey, my dear. What did you do?”
The artisan husband said as he carefully folded the contract.
“Nothing much. I just wanted to change the taste of the wine and added alcohol.”
Maomao had put in plenty of medicinal herbs and medical instruments in the collar of her outfit. She also had disinfectant alcohol.
Since it was for disinfectant use, its strength was different to normal wine. A normal guy would collapse with a sip, and yet the landowner had filled it to the brim.
“…Can I, ask one question?”
“What is it?”
“You also put in that alcohol or whatever and drank it, right?”
He said as his face stiffened a little.
“Yeah. Since I know that I would still be fine with much. I just thought that it would be better if I could end this quickly.”
If Maomao were to act suspiciously like that, she had gathered that the other side would get sucked in. It was relief that they got into a fortunate state.
She might have won even if she went on with it normally, but honestly, she didn’t know how long she could hold her bladder.
“It’s a relief I got to the toilet in time.”
“…that is the best thing. Just because you have that much confidence, to make a wager with your body as collateral, I think badly of it. And to say nothing of it being for our sake.”
“Do we have some misunderstanding?”
Maomao took the folded contract from the husband.
“This is my portion.”
In place of the husband who was in mute amazement, the quack finally woke up.
“Don’t say such cruel things.”
“Even if you say that, I don’t have that much obligation. Besides, the talk hasn’t finished completely.”
Maomao glanced away. The landowner was there, getting up with the assistance of his follower as he held his lolling head.
From the fact that there was spew scattered on the floor, he must have returned to sobriety by forcing the wine up.
“Wouldn’t it be better if you slept a bit longer?”
“The previous wager is invalid!”
Oh, his reaction was as she expected.
“The drinking bout was something like a sideshow. I wasn’t serious from the start.”
“But, the contract is here. It’s drafted with your own handwriting. Don’t tell me that you are going to say that you can’t read this too?”
“As if I know about that sort of thing! It’s scrap paper, scrap!”
Maomao crossed her arms and went to the wine barrels that were left in the eating house.
“Then, it can’t be helped.”
She slapped the wine barrels.
“Then I have no choice but to report to the officials that you are falsifying taxes.”
At Maomao’s sentence, everyone became as still as death.
The landowner gapped his mouth. The farmers who were still awake were blatantly agitated.
The bosses of the eating house looked a little uneasy, but at the same time, made expressions of relief.
The artisans exchanged glances, and afterwards, looked at Maomao.
The quack only tilted his head.
“What do you mean by falsifying taxes?”
The one who first opened his mouth was the rebellious eldest son.
“You need the permission of the country to make wine. It’s a different matter if it’s for private enjoyment but selling it in shops like this is a subject of liquor tax no matter how you consider it.”
Upon trading it, it will come under some taxation. And the tax rate is higher for luxury items. The tax for wine ships are higher than eating houses, and when it becomes a brothel, the rate jumps up. The madam had always muttered about it.
She considered the question why this shop lent its place as the place of discussion to the landowner. She also considered that it was because they were tenants, but the large volume of wine was what caught her eyes more.
If the store was to stock a lot cheap, reasonably tasty wine, it would have to be helpful for it. They cannot disregard a bit of trouble even.
When the landowner ordered wine, the reason they didn’t take out this unrefined sake, she considered it was there. They would have to be brewing wine for the farmer’s use. There was no reason to request the wine they have gotten tired of drinking after all this time here.
“Could it be, that the ingredients for the wine have also been rejected?”
Wine uses a large volume of rice and wheat. This wine seemed to use rice.
Suddenly, she recalled this landowner’s accusation.
“The yield of rice had decreased because you b*stards have contaminated the water. If there’s not enough water, you can’t grow rice.”
“Isn’t this a lie? Rather, isn’t the quality of the rice better than before?”
Rice crops, through the flow of water carrying rotting leaves and soil nutrients from upstream, the soil won’t become barren. It’s a different matter if it’s poison, but what dissolves in the water from papermaking is glue made from rice and wood shavings that are the source of paper. Rather, it functioned as good fertiliser, Maomao considered.
The previous landowner deciding to sell the plot of land instead of a lease contract, would have to be because of that part?
Whatever the reason, the other side probably didn’t really know, but there was no mistaking the rice harvest has increased. She judged that having them stay here for long will be useful hereafter.
And so, at some time, they had covered up the part where their harvest has increased and turned it onto wine or whatever, she arbitrarily presumed. It’s going to be quite grave to have double tax evasion.
Voicing up to that point was against her dad’s teaching so she remained silent, but as far as she saw the expressions of the landowner and the farmers, she didn’t seem to be mistaken either.
“Yo-you have proof?”
One of the farmers voiced.
“That’s right! Do you have proof?!”
In agreement to that, the other farmers also spoke.
“It’s fine. If you’re innocent, nothing will come out of it even if the officials investigate your family.”
Maomao said, purposely pasting on a smile.
The farmers who were energetically protesting shut up. Could it be bullseye?
“You’re quite firm, lass.”
The landowner said as he held his still woozy head.
“You think that it’ll end as it is by doing this?”
“Those words, I’ll return them back to you. At least, please look at the current situation.”
Maomao stood in a position to look down on the landowner.
Half of his helpers were out from wine, showing no signs of moving, the landowner himself too. Speaking of the rest, though they weren’t to the point of collapsing, they drank a lot of wine. It was hard to say they were sober.
In comparison, there were six sober men with good physical builds here. The quack was not on the team, so she didn’t include him from the start.
The owners of the eating house seemed to want to be unrelated for as much as they could. They should be wanting to absolve any knowledge about the wine as well.
She had no plans of settling this with violence, but if the opposition had that intention, this side would have to do the same.
From the repeated accusations, the artisans would have to get mad too.
Maomao gave an immensely vulgar smile and fluttered the contract on the forehead of the landowner.
“It’s fine to call for help–. Since this side will dispatch a fast horse all the way to the officials in exchange for that.”
Maomao sang, in a good mood.
“Lass, isn’t your atmosphere somewhat different than usual?”
The quack mumbled that.
Amid that, the door of the eating house was opened with a loud bang.
What is it? when she thought that, there was a maiden clad in a trim dress standing by the doorway. And as soon as she saw the state of the interior, she paled. Contrary to running to the fallen landowner, she went down to her knees and lowered her head.
“I know that Father is making an unreasonable request again. But, please stop with the unnecessary force.”
She lowered her head deeply.
Not at Maomao. She lowered her head towards the artisans.
“No, it’s not us.”
The second son shook his head, but the maiden kept her head lowered. Her forehead touched the floor, no signs of paying heed that her hair was messy.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive him. Please forgive my foolish Father.”
Not hearing the voices around her, the maiden only apologised. Amid that, the one who moved was the rebellious eldest son.
“Don’t do such a thing. To your father.”
He slowly hugged the maiden’s shoulders, and raised her head as he calmed her down. The maiden, as tears rolled down her cheeks, nodded when she saw the eldest son’s face.
The one who was in a frenzy from seeing that, was the landowner.
“Oi! Don’t get close to my daughter, you b*stard who don’t even know where you came from!”
He yelled, and when he tried to stand up – his legs seemed to be still wobbly – he crashed to the floor.
“I have no intentions of being your father!”
What is it, this atmosphere.
The second son watched his older brother and the others in amazement.
“Could this be-“
“It’s mostly as I have guessed.”
The reason the eldest son was close to the farmers, the reason the landowner hated people from elsewhere and tried to chase them out, she felt she understood the two.
It’s good that she knows, but it was better to not know anything about it, she thought.
From the foolish comedy-like negotiations that were spread out before her eyes, she honestly had no mood to describe it.
“Older brother does it all the way.”
“It’ll be unbearable if one village gets ruined from that.”
Maomao spoke for the other artisans. Uh huh, she nodded. For the most part, she thought that it would have to be a mistake to bring the eldest son to this place of discussions at this time point, but when she thought really hard, she had forgotten that he was the quack’s relatives.
It can’t be helped since he’s the quack’s relatives. It was a given that he’s lacking.
Maomao plopped down on a seat in the absurdity of it.
She raised her hand and called for the boss lady.
“You still want to drink?”
“I can keep going.”
At her words, gazes of shock were gathered on her, but she didn’t pay mind to that.
The wine might have been unexpectantly effective.
When she noticed that she was more talkative than normal, was after she sobered up.
“You were a really bad person.”
The quack told her many times.
In the end, the four thousand eight hundred silvers didn’t come into Maomao’s hands. Of course, it was easy money that she got. The strange feeling of discontent would have to be bigger.
Instead, for a decade hereafter, they promised to deliver a hundred and fifty koku (1 koku is 180.39kg) of rice free of charge to the Rokushoukan. For the most part, the amount of rice consumption in a year in the Rokushoukan is around three koku per two people. It was considerably large for several person’s serving, but since rice can be exchanged for money, it’s no problem.
She was lending it to the madam. She didn’t have to pay for the rent of the pharmacy for fifty years.
Furthermore, the contract with the paper artisans was unchanged from before. It was big that their brewing of wine out of their own accorded was exposed. As the farmers were scared of the officials, they were unable of say anything imprudent. For now, after that, they were told that the quack was one who works in the imperial court.
For the time being, the quack did not lose face.
After this, whether they falsified their taxes or not, was unrelated to Maomao.
Moreover, she didn’t know what happened to the eldest son of the paper artisans and the landowner’s daughter. Even though if they quickly split up, they would tie closer relationships with the farmers. Shall I tempt him by bringing him to the pleasure district once, Maomao considered something evil.
And so, Maomao finally returned to the pleasure district, but-.
Why is it here?
Even though it wasn’t that calm on the way to the place, it was wandering about in the horse-drawn carriage.
The luggage that had the highest grade paper she accepted as souvenir. It went inside there. The topmost layer of paper was tattered, used to grind its claws.
“Oh, it’s maomao.”
The sharp-sighted Chou’u turned up and swung the cord of a sash without delay, playing with the cat.
The quack returned to the inner palace in haste, and even if Maomao was once again wishing to send maomao to him, a lot of medicine prescription requests came in her room.
Maomao exhaled and started to look for the medicinal herbs she needed for the prescription from the shelves.