It was early morning on a cool spring day. Maomao, trying to work at the medical office as usual, had received a package. No matter what spin you put on it, the delivery could hardly be called refreshing.
“Are you, by any chance, being bullied?” Yao, looking pitiful, was facing away. She darted backwards, face stiffening.
“There’s no wa…..”
It wasn’t unreasonable to doubt her. The package contained a large number of dead insect.
Maomao twisted her expression as she studied the insects. They were locusts.
Normally, it’s not easy to gather this many. However, it must have been made possible through certain conditions.
“It was left here because it was brought in by the higher-ups, but hurry and take it away now.”
It was the elderly Court Physician Ryuu(劉, Liu) who spoke in a curt tone. He, who held a high position in the medical office, was strict with others no matter who they were.
(Even if you tell me to take it away.)
She didn’t want to return with a basketful of locusts either. As she could guess who the sender was, she was at a loss.
Even Court Physician Ryuu seemed to realise it was unreasonable. Come here, he beckoned to her. “You can use the empty room in the next building. It’s normally outside of our jurisdiction, but bring anyone who’s free with you and take care of it quickly.”
This matter seems to be prioritised over the odd jobs around the medical office.
In that case…
She tugged Yao’s sleeves.
Maomao smiled and decided to guide the stiffening Yao to where the bugs are.
With a pale face, Yao loaded the insects onto the scale.
En’en observed Yao with flushed cheeks.
Maomao silently measured the wingspan and leg length of the locusts.
“Wh-when is this going to end…” The insect hater Yao timidly set one down with a pair of chopsticks. She placed fourteen of them on the dish to find the average weight.
“I don’t think we need to measure all of them. But, the more we count the better it is.” Maomao measured the size of the insects and sorted them by colour.
“Milady, I can do it if it’s too hard.” En’en acted worried when she spoke to Yao, however…
“I-it’s fine. So-something like this, is also work…” For a sore loser like Yao, this would set off her competitive spirit. Of course, En’en probably said such a thing with this in mind.
“Milady…” Heart pounding, she watched goosebumps rise up on Yao’s skin as she picked up an insect.
Maomao narrowed her eyes at the two as she continued on with her work.
When they cleared away one-third of the insects, a visitor showed up.
Grinning, was a small man with round glasses and unruly hair. Needless to say, it was Rahan.
Maomao continued working sullenly. Ignoring this, Rahan started reading the numbers they were checking over.
“Hmmm, Maomao, can you explain some of this to your brother?”
“….” She ignored him.
“I brought the reward I mentioned last time, but perhaps Maomao has forgotten?” he whispered into her ear.
Maomao glanced at Yao and En’en. Yao hadn’t noticed. En’en had, but pretended not to. If memory serves her right, it was regarding the secret investigation of the Western Priestess between the two of them. The deal was suspended due to the priestess’ attempted poisoning incident, but it appears he remembered.
Maomao’s hands stopped. “There are around three hundred and four so far. In addition to wingspan, leg length, colour, and weight, we’re also checking for the number of eggs in the females’ abdomens… I think the locusts have flown in from somewhere far away.”
“Uh-huh.” As he flipped through the pages, Rahan seemed to be considering something. At a glance, it was a collection of plain, uninteresting numbers, but it must be more intriguing to this man.
It seems Yao, looking haggard, had finally noticed Rahan—she greeted him in her fatigued way. Maomao wanted to take a break in order to prepare tea, however, doing so in front of Yao right now would probably be too cruel.
“Here you go.” En’en only set down the tea in front of Rahan. Rahan took a sip, still engrossed in the numbers and taking no notice of the mountain of dead locusts.
“Maomao, what do these numbers mean?” Rahan indicated the values that had been segregated from the rest.
“Those are the locusts here. Based on colour, shape and weight, I don’t think they’re of the flying variety and were probably originally landbound, so I separated them.”
When locusts cause damage, their bodies undergo morphological transformations. Locusts flying in from distant places had developed lighter wings.
“I thought so–. Then, how much distance do these locusts cover when they fly?”
“….” It was outside of Maomao’s field of expertise. Yao and En’en also joined the discussion, tilting their heads.
“They can’t fly that far, right? It would be a few ri at most. They’re insects,” Yao said.
Rahan continued on with a nod. “Interestingly, there has been no locust damage in the vicinity of the village with the outbreak. With such a large number of locusts, they’d need a place to eat and grow.”
However, the villages in the vicinity did not suffer locust outbreaks.
Rahan took out a map from his breast pocket. It was a large, complete map of Rii. “Just then, you claimed they can only fly a few ri, because they’re insects, right?”
“Yes. Even a couple of ri is a generous estimate.”
“However.” Rahan took out a cord and set it on the map. It seemed that he didn’t want to draw on the map directly, so he used a cord to produce a line. It was placed diagonally from the northwest, extending to the region of the village. “This is the direction of the seasonal wind.”
“Are you saying that they rode the winds?”
“I guess so. In that case, not just a few ri, even dozens of ri is not out of the question.” This time he placed a Go stone on the map.
“What does this Go stone represent?” En’en pointed to the white stone.
“The area with locust damage. Using this as the relay point, would it be fair to assume that the locusts travelled from further northwest?”
“It’s in the direction of Hoku’aren.”
“…” Uneasy sweating ensued.
Merely speaking logically, Yao had not realised the implications of her words. What Rahan was suggesting was a few steps ahead, in the future. En’en seemed to understand, but she had no plans to meddle, choosing to earnestly adore her young lady.
Rahan bundled up the papers with the collection of numbers. “For the most part, with this many, it shouldn’t pose as an issue. I’ll take over and arrange for someone else to deal with it in your place.”
“…you should’ve said so earlier,” Maomao grumbled.
Rahan waggled his index finger. “You can collect figures, however, if they’re not exact, you’ll lose sight of what’s apparent. You have to make accurate measurements from the start.”
She understood what he was trying to say. He probably already obtained the useful numbers.
With that, Rahan made to head back, so Maomao grabbed onto his sleeves. “You haven’t forgotten, right?”
“Ooh, that’s right.” Rahan took out a package theatrically. There was a single root vegetable in it.
“!!” Maomao found herself sniffing the air.
“Then, I’ll be heading back.”
Once she received it, her business with Rahan was settled.
“What’s that? A carrot?” Yao closed in for a peek.
“It’s certainly a carrot, but that is…”
Apparently, En’en knew what it was.
However, Maomao could only stare intently at the carrot. “Ffufufufufufufufufu”
“En’en, Maomao is kinda weird!”
“Milady. Maomao is normally weird.”
Their words went in one ear and out the other. It wasn’t anything important compared to what’s in front of her.
“It’s indeed strange! That thing you received, isn’t it some kind of strange medicine!”
“Milady, it’s okay. It’s medicine, but it’s not anything strange.”
Maomao raised the package of carrot high into the air and twirled around. “It’s ginseng—“
Despite being called ginseng, it wasn’t mere ginseng. Medical ginseng, from ages past, cannot be cultivated and can only grow and be found in the wild. It is also known as bangchui(棒槌).
Red ginseng that has been steamed and dried with the peel intact. Something of this size was certainly a high-class item.
In a room filled with dead insects, under the scrutiny of a flustered Yao and a calm En’en, Maomao danced her happy dance for the first time in a while.