What does that mean?
Maomao tilted her head and strolled through the village. To describe the place in a single phrase, it was tranquil and empty. It had no shops; mostly self-sufficient. Apparently, a peddler would come by once every ten days.
The villagers were nice people. It didn’t look like they were doing anything bad.
(The children might have misunderstood and we read too much into it.)
But aside from Maomao, there was one man here who wasn’t being clear.
“Bro, why the long face. Smile, smile.”
Chue flared up at Rahan’s older brother.
Rahan’s older brother, squinting, went around looking at the fields in the village. He had a cloth bag in hand. It contained seed potatoes.
Although he said scouting, Rahan’s older brother came to spread the new product if it went well. It was probably desirable to have people who have some motivation to grow new crops.
Even though he denied being a farmer, he was a normal person who was paradoxically serious about farming.
No, he was normal if you say so.
(Eldest sons who don’t want to succeed in the family business are commonplace.)
However, if she pointed that out, he would get angry.
Honestly, it would be more efficient for Maomao to go off on her own to make her own investigations, but there was no way she could. The patriarchal mentality is strong even in Isei Province; a female outsider walking around on her own would be frowned upon. Even with an escort, it probably won’t be good for Maomao to move independently.
(With that said, Chue-san is going off on her own, though.)
That free-spirited person had gone somewhere for some other job. Suiren had acknowledged her, despite her eccentricities, so Maomao believed the other woman wouldn’t mess up.
The best option would be for Maomao to lead Rahan’s older brother and Basen in her investigations.
Even if Maomao didn’t lead, Rahan’s older brother was already doing what Maomao wanted him to do on his own accord.
“About insect damage…” the farmer said.
“Yeah. Was it not severe last year and such?” Rahan’s older brother asked.
“Yup, there’s insect damage every year, you see. As a matter of course, there was some last year and the damage was also substantial, but we managed. We didn’t stave thanks to the territory lord.”
Territory lord. Would that be Gyoku’en?
Although the insect damage was great, it wasn’t bad to the point of a locust plague, huh.
“Hohh. I want to ask one more thing. That field over there, who grew it?”
“The one over there? Ahh, that would be Nenjen’s(念真, Nian Zhen). He’s the old man who lives in the house on the edge of the village over there. It’s right next to the shrine, so you’ll find it easily.”
“Got it. Thanks.”
“Oh, though I did tell you, are you people planning to meet Nenjen?”
“That’s our intention.”
“Hmm, that’s fine then. Although, I think you might be a little shocked about that old man. Well, he’s not a bad person. Should be fine if you people don’t mind it.”
His words were strangely worrying.
Maomao’s group headed towards the place mentioned.
“Excuse me.” Maomao grabbed Rahan’s older brother’s clothes.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Why are you interested in that field?”
“You can’t tell by looking? That over there is the only beautiful field.”
The descriptor was probably better off for something other than a field, but Rahan’s older brother looked serious.
“The others cut corners and yet that field is partitioned nicely. The wheat was even trodden on. The seedlings look strong.”
“Is that so?”
Now that he mentioned it, it seemed like it, but unfortunately, Maomao didn’t have much interest in wheat.
(I wonder if dwarf lilyturf(麦門冬) grows around here.)
She recalled the herbal medicine that resembles wheat. And yet, it has nothing to do with wheat, a plant root that is known as snake’s beard.
(Useful plants grow around here.)
Maomao seemed to be suffering from chronic herbal medicine deficiency. Her reaction was severe because, since becoming a court physician assistant, she had seen a lot of medicines.
(I, I want to see medicine…)
She immediately got an attack when she thought about it. Her breathing grew laboured.
“H, hey, are you okay? Your complexion looks bad.” Rahan’s older brother looked worried.
“S, sorry. It’s nothing maj…”
But, she wanted to see medicine. She wanted to smell it. At this point, even poison would be fine.
If there were any herbal medicines close by, would it be the goat that’s walking around carefreely over there?
(Can horns be used as medicine?)
If memory serves, there’s antelope horn. However, perhaps it was a different breed, the shape of the horn different to what Maomao had seen before.
(It’s on a similar type of goat. It should have a similar eff…)
With ghost-like movements, she stretched her hands out towards the goat on the other side of the fence.
“Hey, she’s acting strange!” Rahan’s older brother pinned Maomao’s arms behind her back.
Maomao herself also knew that she was acting weird, but she couldn’t stop her hands at all. She wanted some medicine, any kind of medicine, so it can’t be helped.
“M-medicine…” Maomao begged Rahan’s older brother to take out some medicine.
“Medicine? Are you sick?”
“Medicine? That reminds me, Suiren-dono had given me something.” Basen took a pouch out of his breast pocket. “She told me to show this if the cat is being weird.”
The thing he took out was a strange dried good that was in the shape of a hook.
You’ll probably understand if you call it by its other name: the dragon’s illegitimate child. Not really a fish or an insect, a strange sea creature.
Basen hid the pouch from Maomao.
“Ah!” she cried.
“Umm, what?” Rahan’s older brother asked.
Basen read out the slip of paper that was in the pouch.
‘If Maomao is acting weird, show her the contents of the pouch. You can’t immediately hand this to her. Give her only one once she finishes one job.’
Although Basen was reading it out, she heard Suiren’s voice.
(As expected of the capable old woman.)
It was different from how the old woman of Rokushoukan handled Maomao. With that said, Suiren would also know, seeing how Jinshi would dangle bait over her.
The fact that it was Suiren who had passed it over and not Jinshi, meant that the old housekeeper treated Basen as a novice.
“So it said, but did your attack get cured?” Basen asked.
“Yes! I’m all healthy!” Maomao exclaimed.
“No way you’re all healthy? Is there even such a thing as a medicine that can cure from just seeing?!” Rahan’s older brother retorted.
Maomao won’t ever forget his words. “The illness is of the mind. Please don’t worry about it. Rather, let’s finish this job as soon as possible,” she said.
(For the sake of the seahorse.)
It’s a herbal medicine that can be used as a tonic, for the most part.
“No, I can’t accept it. Isn’t it odd? Isn’t it odd?” Rahan’s older brother said.
“Somehow, the way you repeat yourself reminds me of someone, Rahan’s older brother,” Maomao said.
Mainly the curly-haired glasses.
“Like I said, my name is not Rahan’s olde—“
“Let’s hurry. We don’t have all the time in the world.”
His name was interrupted as promised, but she felt that she nearly persuaded him.
The farmer had called it a shrine, but it was a little different to what Maomao was familiar with. It was built with bricks and had no window. Inside, cloth hung down, and instead of statues, illustrations of gods were mounted on the wall.
“Well then, here we go.” Looking like he couldn’t accept her explanation, Rahan’s older brother knocked on the house next to the shrine.
There was no response.
“Is he away?”
“I don’t think so? He could be looking after the goats or the field,” Maomao said.
Timewise, it seemed like when he would have returned from lunch, though.
“What do you want?”
They heard a deep raspy voice.
Turning around, they saw a tanned elderly man. He had a hoe in hand and a towel around his neck; his appearance without a doubt a farmer’s. His clothes were stained with black mud and had many patches. There was no mistaking he’s a farmer, but…
Basen reached for his sword and stopped. Maomao also knew why he was on guard.
“Hey, hey, why are you on guard against a farmer?”
There were many pigmented spots on his tanned skin. Alongside old age, it was probably proof of staying under the sun for long periods of time. However, that wasn’t what Basen was reacting to.
The elderly man was missing his right eye. From how the socket was caved in, he didn’t have an eyeball. The right hand that was carrying the hoe was missing the index finger. Exposed parts of his body also had a lot of scars from sword and arrow injuries.
She understood the reason why the farmer said that they would be shocked.
“Do you have military experience?” Basen asked respectfully.
“Nothing that grand. I’m just a locust that lays waste to the steppes.”
His words were interesting. There was one other thing Maomao was interested in.
“Have you been working on a field?” Maomao blurted out. There was mud on his hoe. She recalled another person whose clothes had been muddy.
“What else would I be doing?” the elderly man replied, paying no mind to her words.
Certainly, she asked the obvious. However, Maomao had noticed something from looking at the fields in the village.
“I don’t think you would get that muddy from normal farming.”
With the current season, you wouldn’t get that muddy even from looking after the wheat. The dirt in the fields was dry; as long as you don’t plough damp soil, you won’t get muddy.
“Could it be that a person called Rikuson came here?”
The elderly man blinked his remaining eye, then opened the door to his hut.
“You people, come in. If it’s just goat’s milk, I can serve you that.”
After setting the hoe against the wall, the elderly man invited Maomao’s group inside.