Volume 5, Chapter 14: One Other Shadow

“They prefer to grow in barren well-drained soil. There won’t be replant failure even if you plant them every year.”

Maomao noted it down on paper.

The fields were expansive, dense with green leaves.

“To improve the taste, make sure the vines don’t get too thick. You can prune the roots that have grown vines.” Rahan’s father gave Maomao a demonstration.

The neighbouring farmers come to help at the end of the rice planting season. They were paid with last year’s potatoes. He had said that he sold them after processing them, but seeing the size of the field, he was bound to get excess.

“Why didn’t you sell them all?” she asked

“That ain’t my strong suit.” He gave an awkward reply. It seems the stock he processed and sold was originally grown for self-consumption, but he had sold them to spread the word to everyone when he realised they were more delicious than expected.

“People liked it, but they thought it was pumpkin or chestnut rather than potato. And not just the potato, you can also eat the stem itself.”

It certainly does resemble pumpkin as well. It was dry for pumpkin, sticky for chestnut.
From the looks of the stem, would it taste like butterbur(蕗, fuki. Petasites japonicus)?

Rather than getting a monopoly, it just seems that this man doesn’t know greed.

“Besides, I’ll get noisy people if I sold them in a grand scale. It won’t go well even if I get Rahan’s advice.”

He said it indirectly, but he probably meant his relatives. She didn’t know about Rahan’s brother but the elderly man and Rahan’s mother were completely against muddy work like this. And yet, they use the money earned from it so if he were to carelessly raise his profits, there’s no knowing of what they would use that money for.

It seems he corresponded with Rahan regularly, but his relatives checked the contents of those letters.

“So that’s why you called us this way. Have you not thought about what to do?” Rahan said in amazement. He was walking on tiptoes; he seemed to dislike getting his feet muddy.

“You should know that I’m not smart enough to go as far as to think about what to do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have moved to the countryside after my name got stained by Rakan-niisan.”

“It’s a nuisance for the people dragged into this.”

The weirdo tactician had driven the former family head and succeeding former family head, his father and half-brother, from the capital and succeed the family headship. Then he made his nephew, Rahan, his adopted son. That was all Maomao knew, but it had to be the case.
However, it seems that it was good fortune for Rahan’s father to be driven out.

“This place is good. The more you till the more fields you get. I could only grow potted plants in the capital.”

Rahan’s father was smiling so brightly despite being a middle-aged man covered in a shiny sheen of sweat.

“Isn’t it great? I might even save starving people, right? Let’s fill the country with potatoes!”

He was extremely enthused.

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“Is that why you sold out Grandfather?” Rahan asked.

“What sold out. The clan will be ruined otherwise. That person’s pride hasn’t changed for ten years. The heck, we’re just continuing our usual lives. The daily life is boring for Father, it’s like he swallowed a bitter bug.” Rahan’s father’s expression got strangely cold.

“Grandfather is accumulating ugly numbers,” Rahan said.

Maomao was between understanding and not understanding the meaning of Rahan’s words. She imagined that it was likely that it was just that man didn’t really have a clean financial standing.

After noting down most of the cultivation method, she put away her stationery.
Rahan calculated the size of the field and how many seedlings it can hold. The cut seedlings were already loaded onto the carriage. When they get watered, they’ll grow vines in a couple of days.

Honestly, if they grow them now, there’s no guarantee that they will get a good harvest this year. Like how there’s no omnipotent medicine, policies are not perfect. It’s only a weighing of the pros and cons and choosing what’s more beneficial.

Maomao squinted at the carriage that was loaded with seedlings. “How skilled.”

“Yeah, the manservant of Rokushoukan is truly skilled. Seems he borrowed horses from an acquaintance from the neighbouring village.”

Rahan was in admiration.
In other words, Ukyou had arranged for it, not Rahan.

“…” Maomao put away her notes and left the field.

 

 

 

Ukyou was speaking to the horse lender before the doors of the estate. The man, who was speaking intimately to the other man as he stroked the horse, was an old timer of Rokushoukan who had been around ever since Maomao was aware of the things around her.

When the conversation ended, he noticed Maomao and waved at her. “Doing well?”

“Yeah, doing well,” she answered.

He pat the bunch of seedings. The horse-drawn carriage had a sun-cover canopy, normally used for travelling with others.

“At any rate, is it fine to return Fox-dono while he’s asleep?” he asked.

“He’ll just be noisy if he’s here, right?” she replied.

The weirdo tactician was put onto the first carriage that arrived. It will head straight to the capital. Of course, the talks won’t progress with just the weirdo so Rikuson went along. Even though he’s still injured and tired, it was unbearable that he was being worked hard again, but he was the right person in the right place.

(At any rate.)

Maomao stared at the head manservant.
Ukyou noticed her gaze and scratched his cheek.

“Oi, oi, what is it? Is there something on my face?” he asked.

Medium build, capable, quick-witted. He’s popular with women, but if she remembered properly, he’s married. He had taken in a retired courtesan who’s past her prime.
He likes children and often plays with Chou’u and the kamuro. A long time ago, he also piggybacked Maomao many times.

I’m so used to him, so how did I not realise, Maomao thought.

Ukyou is too capable.

And he did really well this time as well, coming across Lady Pai who was being sheltered in this estate by chance.

“Fox-dono’s little brother is such a good person. He gave us this as a souvenir.”

Ukyou was carrying a small bottle on the palm of his hand. He removed the lid and stirred it with chopsticks. He pulled out a thread of something sticky.

“It’s candy made from boiling that potato. The kids will be delighted.”

He licked the candy with a carefree smile. He thrust the chopstick in Maomao’s direction, and she shook her head.

She thought that he was always soft on Chou’u, but was she unable to change her thoughts on this?

Chou’u’s existence is under the watchful eye of the imperial court. Maomao had met the watcher many times, but they weren’t around twenty-four seven.

Rather, wasn’t it Ukyou who’s around him for longer?

Then she recalled the time she treated Rikuson’s injuries.
Ukyou had taken over midway. He should have already known that Maomao was fine with looking at the bottom half of patients after all this time. Was he trying to cover up for Rikuson?  That was what she thought, but it was that case in a different meaning.

If there was something that cannot be shown to Maomao.

(……)

Speaking of interest, her interest piqued. However, she knew that it was a foolish plan to pursue that. But she couldn’t restrain her curiosity.

That’s why she tried toeing the line.

“Why is Ukyou working as a guard at Rokushoukan? There are better jobs out there.”

“Hahaha, what are you talking about now?” Ukyou said and let out a sigh. “I like this job. Let me keep going on with it for a bit longer.”

Maomao replied “yeah sure” at the words that could be taken either way.

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In short, it’s something like that.

The current emperor has a cunning personality.
It’s likely that the subordinates he has on hand aren’t just officials.

The ears of his majesty that have been scattered all over the country probably obtained information while living extremely normal lives.

It’s quite amusing to blow up this wild idea.

They might be in brothels that high-class bureaucrats frequent, and they might be among the direct subordinates of crafty high officials.
And depending on the person, they will take it upon themselves to keep that knowledge inside.

Working with a face of innocence in normal times, and moving only when the situation calls for it.

Well then, let’s stop here with the cheap plotline.

“What’s going to happen to that Lady Pai?” she asked.

Lady Pai was once again taken away to the capital. She had two guards escorting her.
However, Maomao was caught up on the fact that the lady was alone in this estate.

And Lady Pai had not said a word at all this time.

“Well, you know. It’s nothing I should know about,” Ukyou said, putting down the jar of starch syrup.

(What’s going to happen?)

Maomao sat in the carriage, then picked a sweet potato vine and bit into it. It hasn’t been cooked, so of course it wasn’t tasty.

 

- my thoughts:
I like Rakou. His enthusiasm for sweet potatoes makes me happy. (*^▽^*) Also, this is a relatively short chapter. Fortunately, the next one is too, which means I can release another chapter later this week :3 (27th Sep 2300 EST) And of course, this isn't the end of Lady Pai :>
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