The house of the elderly man, Nenjen, could only be described as simple both inside and out.
(It’s similar to mine.)
It was very similar to Maomao’s dilapidated shack in the pleasure district. Aside from a cooking stove, a bed and shabby table and chairs, he only had work tools. Where Maomao’s house was related to medicine, Nenjen’s house only had farming equipment.
(Just from seeing this, he’s a simple-hearted person, but…)
The scars on his body didn’t seem respectable in any way.
There were three chairs. Nenjen was the only one who remained standing. He poured goat’s milk into chipped teacups.
“A man called Rikuson certainly did come. It was around five days ago,” he said.
It was the day before Maomao met him at the western capital.
“What did he come for?” Maomao had thought about having Basen or Rahan’s older brother speak for her, but since she was the one who mentioned Rikuson’s name, she spoke.
“Even if you ask me. He just came to plough the fields for me.”
“Plough? Isn’t it too late for wheat? Or, was wheat planted in spring?”
She heard wheat is a crop that can be grown twice a year. A crop that when planted in winter can be harvested in early summer, and when planted in spring, in autumn.
“No.” Nenjen set the goat’s milk on the table and offered it to Maomao’s group. Basen made a face at the unfamiliar beverage, but Maomao gratefully decided to wet her throat. It was plain goat’s milk, with nothing strange inside, albeit lukewarm.
“If I were to say it with some airs, he came to help out with the ritual,” he said.
“Ritual?” Maomao tilted her head. Rahan’s older brother and Basen exchanged looks, unable to follow the conversation. “Is it to pray for a bountiful harvest?”
“Not that. More like, to purify bad harvest.”
“…sorry. It’s difficult for us to understand. Can you explain it in a much simpler way?”
At Maomao’s request, Nenjen sat on his bed while sticking his tongue out. Somehow he was exuding boorishness.
“What now. Chat with the old geezer. The villagers don’t even bother.”
“Old sir, we don’t have free time.” Basen was a little irritated.
“Ahh, is that so?” Nenjen fell back onto his bed.
Maomao got up from her seat and stopped Basen. “Excuse us. Please speak.”
It cost nothing to simply lower your head.
“Hmmm, what shall I do?” Rather than out of playfulness, he sounded sadistic. “I don’t feel like it, so I won’t.”
Troubled, Besen was going to step forward, but Maomao blocked him.
(You’re hotheaded. Stop it with the fights.)
She knew about Basen’s strength, and felt that he wouldn’t be beaten by the elderly man, but…
(This guy is strangely stubborn.)
Even if Basen were stronger, the elderly man won’t ever accept his loss. And he would probably clam up.
(That would be troubling.)
But she felt that Nenjen sounded like he was teasing. As he had let them into his home after talking about Rikuson, would he truly have wanted to talk?
“What can we do to have you speak?”
In the end, Maomao behaved modestly.
“…let’s see. Then, how about we play a guessing game?” Nenjen said.
“A guessing game? Can you tell me what we’ll be guessing?”
“It’s simple. Guess what I am.”
(I don’t get you.)
Basen and Rahan’s older brother exchanged glances again. Somehow, these two seemed to be getting along well.
“Then, I shall…” Basen raised his hand to answer, but Nenjen waved his hand that was missing a digit.
“I asked that lass. Not you, sonny.”
“S-sonn…” Basen grit his teeth. The babyfaced military official was no doubt a sonny in the perspective of the elderly man who was covered in scars.
Well then, if only Maomao had the power to answer, how should she answer?
(Nenjen… he has a fine name.)
It means reading the truth.
(Because of his fine name, I hope he isn’t bluffing though.)
She double-checked what he had said.
Nenjen had called himself “Locust”. For farmers, a nuisance pest.
(He devoured the crops?)
Nenjen didn’t have an index finger. Nor a right eye.
(For a farmer, he has a lot of scars. But he wasn’t in the military.)
He would have fought at least. It even looked like battle scars.
(Without the finger, he won’t be able to carry weapons. Bows especially…)
Suddenly, Maomao recalled the bandits that came to assault them yesterday. They, who had their arms shattered, had they been handed over to the authorities at about this time?
(Bandits would be hanged, at best corporal punishment…)
And he had said that it was a ritual that Rikuson helped him with.
The look Nenjen was giving her challenged her to guess if she could.
Although irrelevant, Rahan’s older brother was scowling at Maomao with some look of resentment. He might be displeased that she was calling the elderly man they had just met by his name.
(No, now’s not the time for this.)
Maomao spat out a deep breath. “Are you a human sacrifice?”
Everyone froze at Maomao’s response.
“W-what’s with that answer?” Basen flared up at Mamao.
“You don’t know? It’s a person who is sacrificed alive.”
“I know that much. It’s about why is this elderly man a human sacrifice? He’s still alive, you know.”
Human sacrifice, would be regarded as those who lose their lives.
But Maomao found this answer to be the most suitable.
“Even if you ask me.”
Maomao looked at Nenjen. The elderly man’s face, different to Basen’s reaction, looked somewhat accepting.
“Is that so, I guess so. A sacrifice. Was that what I am?” Nenjen sighed, then squinted his remaining eye. “The three of you. Will you listen to a certain stupid bastard’s tale?”
He spoke casually, but the depth of Nenjen’s single eye was filled with emotion.
This time, in a way not to offend, Rahan’s older brother and Basen also bowed their heads.