“What is it, Chue-san?”
This exchange already became routine.
However, it was unusual for the woman to come over when Maomao was in her room getting ready to sleep after her day’s work was over.
“What is it, at a time like this?” Maomao asked.
“Yes, yes, I reported about Rahan-san’s coal and stuff,” Chue said.
They had made a report about the matter of Rahan’s letter. However, there was a chance that Maomao’s group could be mistaken, so they left it to Chue to pass on the message.
However, with Chue visiting at a time like this, Maomao had an idea of what happened.
“Actually, there weren’t any letters from Rahan-san addressed to the Prince of the Moon,” Chue admitted.
“Is that so?” Maomao said.
“It probably came once or twice, but no matter how far, it’s odd to have half the amount of letters addressed to the Prince of the Moon being in an accident with the postage.”
In other words, there is a possibility that Rahan’s letter had been disposed of.
And Maomao could understand why Rahan, in wanting to convey a message, had sent the letter to her. As a spare, he tried to send it in a form that only Maomao’s group could understand, without anyone noticing.
“It felt like it was good luck that we realised it,” Maomao said.
“That’s true. Maomao-san and Rahan’s older brother won’t get it unless you two work together, and if Maomao-san eats Rahan’s letter first, it’d be pointless,” Chue said.
“You know I don’t eat letters.” Maomao didn’t understand Chue’s jokes sometimes.
“Yes, but Chue-san’s goat eats it every now and then.”
“Are you still keeping them?”
“Yes, I can drink fresh fishy milk whenever, you know.”
If Maomao remembered properly, Chue had bought the goats when she inspected the farming village, but Maomao didn’t think the woman would be keeping the animals as is.
(I was so sure she was going to have them for dinner.)
Goat meat is commonly used in western capital dishes, so she had arbitrarily thought so.
“Yes, mummy goat supplies milk after giving birth to lambs. Daddy went somewhere far away. But it’s okay, he lives on in Chue-san’s heart.”
So she ate one.
“Well then, shall we return to the topic?” Chue asked.
“Yes, please,” Maomao said. It’ll be morning should she join in with Chue’s idle talk.
“It’s about coal. In truth, it seems Isei Province produces coal, although at small quantities,” Chue said.
“Is that so?”
“Yes. However, this seems to be from nearly twenty years ago. There are no records in recent years about production.”
Nearly twenty years ago.
The topic bothered her.
“If it were twenty years ago, then could the punchline be that there are no records left?” Maomao asked.
The Ih clan’s purge was seventeen years ago. The documents of that time had been burnt up during that incident.
“That’s right. It’s likely there were people who managed the coal mine who were on the side of the purged.”
“That’s troubling. But wouldn’t there be people who personally mined coal?”
“I think that part is postwar vagueness. That they didn’t really take the production size of the coal into account…”
“In that case…”
“If we leave it as it is, it’ll be favourable,” Chue remarked in mock surprise. “Maomao-san, do you know why Gyoku’ou-sama called for Jinshi-sama and the tactician old man?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to know either.” Maomao refused firmly.
“Yes. It seems like he wanted to wage war or something.”
“In the end, you said it, Chue-san.”
“Yes, Chue-san shares information to the one who has to know.”
It was something Maomao really didn’t want to hear.
The reason why Chue came to Maomao’s room at night. If the quack doctor was here, he would probably kick a fuss.
“Well then, where does he want to wage war?” Maomao covered her ears.
“Yes, you can’t hear, can you–” Chue smiled and tickled her.
“Ah, that’s—” Maomao leaned against the bed, unable to bear the tickling. Chue had her pinned down.
Maomao couldn’t cover her ears.
Then, Chue whispered into her ear. “It’s not Hoku’aren, but Sha’ou.”
(I didn’t want to hear it.)
Maomao didn’t want to hear it, but she wanted to ask questions since she heard. “Why Sha’ou? I think normally, when you attack that country, there would be more risk. Of course, attacking other countries can only be described as foolish.”
“Let’s see… In terms of benefits, if we take the nearest city, it’ll come with a port. It’s a big thing if we can take control of the sea route. It’ll become quite easy to bring in produce,” Chue answered.
That alone wasn’t sufficient.
She continued. “Also, it’s easy to bring up a pretext with Sha’ou since they perpetrated last year’s incident with the priestess. Even more so with the Prince of the Moon as the banner, since he was the one most inconvenienced by it.”
They certainly have the pretext, but they should have made a backroom deal. However, they would have the upper hand to the invasion if they draw out intel from the former priestess, but does Gyoku’ou know about that? No, he shouldn’t.
“Again, people will turn ferocious in the frigid atmosphere. If the brunt of it shifts from powerful people to other countries, what will happen? People who lost their jobs from the locust plague will mostly turn to robbery and the like. Their treatment too; when they become a piece for war, the tactician old man will probably deploy them well.”
It wasn’t an unusual reason to start a war. However, Maomao wasn’t a fool. “But it’s Sha’ou. If we invade them, the other countries won’t forgive us, right, Chue-san?”
“That’s true. In particular, places like Hoku’aren would be troubled. If we take the port at one fell sweep, speaking of whether we’ll manage somehow, we’ll still be at a disadvantage. It takes a lot of money too.” Chue sprung up. “So then, what if I tell you that the mountain with the coal mine is at the western border?”
“The western border.”
So, a location that faced Sha’ou.
“Speaking of coal, we don’t really use it in Rii, but for places with little timber, it’s a great fuel substitute for charcoal.”
“Seems like it.” Maomao has never used it, so she didn’t know, but if there’s a rock that can be used as it is without making charcoal, it would certainly be useful.
Maomao sat on the bed, watching Chue.
“This is assuming they have a lot of coal deposits, and they are able to dig it out from the Sha’ou side. If they can also export it via the sea route, what do you think? Moreover, assuming if the value of the coal buried at the Sha’ou side is still not very well understood. Well, I doubt they don’t know of its value.”
It shifted from they have no choice but to wage war, to whether they can get gains or not.
“There’ll be greater changes if the coal mine had another use, but let’s put that aside.” Chue mimed putting something to the side with both hands.
“I understand why Rahan said to seek it out.” Maomao suddenly felt weary.
Rahan must have stayed behind in the capital to look for data pertaining to Isei Province. Old documents could be disposed of too, but he somehow found it. He sent it as a cipher through his letter to Maomao.
Certainly, this detail would be terrible if it was leaked out to the guests from the capital.
(Does that mean they excavated the coal mine without saying anything of it to the country?)
This should create the flexibility for them to merely offer charity to farmers with crop failure.
Maomao was sweating heavily, whereas Chue had a cool expression.
“What is it, Maomao-san?”
“Wouldn’t this just be a matter of speculation?”
Maomao’s favourite motto is you can’t act on conjectures. It was in times like this that she recalled her dad’s words.
“Yes, but it’s formed on a lot of questionable bases too.” Chue smoothly cut through Maomao’s wishes. “Coal mines are dangerous places. Which was why they commonly used slaves at the time. Yes, like the survivors of the Wind-reader tribe and such.”
Chue’s intelligence network might have already heard about it from people who used to be related to the coal mine. It was from that intelligence network that she learned about Gyoku’ou’s mother being a former member of the Wind-reader tribe.
“His brethren are in a predicament. Saving them would be a just cause, right? What an ally of justice.”
Maomao didn’t hear Chue’s words. Just that, the one thing in her mind was…
“Will Jinshi-sama wage war for gains?”
Chue merely grinned. “Do you think he will?” she replied with a question “The Prince of the Moon is an outstanding person precisely because we are in peaceful times.”
Maomao had no idea if the woman was praising or criticising him, but she was a little relieved.