Translator: Kenar Editor: Monk Preston Proofreader: Isalee
Arc 1 – Eight Year of Eiroku Era, Fateful Encounter with Lord Nobunaga
Year 1565, Early June
The season changed from spring to the rainy season. The planting of sweet potatoes was finished by that time and cutting weeds became the priority.
The crops they were currently growing like sweet potato, pumpkin, and tomato had enough water from the rain, so there was no need for them to water the crops directly and they only had to remove the weeds. Because they had tilled and ridged up the soil before harvesting the crops thrice, there was no need to do it frequently. And because the sugarcane had undergone selective breeding, there was no need for pest control. Only the sweet corn needed a lot of water, but rain and river water were enough.
There was little farm work to do these days. The main priority was making the water wheel  and creating measures for pest control. However, Shizuko got a new secret weapon besides traps for dealing with deer.
“Incredible… such a thing as taming a wolf… as expected of our Village Chief!”
“Haha, you are so great, Chief!”
“Awawawa. Yo, you’re welcome.”
Shizuko could only smile bitterly at the villagers’ overwhelming respectful gazes towards her. Their gazes were directed next to Shizuko, at a proud-looking wolf.
The wolf, which was lured by the smell of the deer’s meat, was supposed to leave after eating the meal Shizuko offered. However, the wolf didn’t leave her side, contrary to her expectation.
Experts have a notion that wolves are dogs’ ancestors. It could mean that the dog’s behavior was inherited from the wolf. This wolf thought that Shizuko was the leader of the pack and the wolf itself wanted to be a member of the pack.
“Well, that’s fine~”
Shizuko decided not to think about it deeply and assumed a carefree attitude since she had kept a dog before. More importantly, information obtained from her exploration revealed possibly thousands of deer coming from around the mountains.
It was easy to figure out how the deer increased so greatly. The sunshine reached the forest floor because the forest had been cleared halfway. Because of that, weeds under the trees grew more thickly, changing the area around the forest floor. There were also no carnivores such as wolves to be their natural enemies. It was a perfect environment for deer to grow in large numbers since there was a farm nearby and food was abundant. Furthermore, it was said that the deer population could double in size in the next four years. Even if the number of the males declined, with polygamy, their proliferation wouldn’t decline.
(The cause of the increase in the deer population is the extinction of their natural enemies like Japanese wolves and the depopulation of low upland areas even in modern Japan. There are other reasons as well such as an increase in abandoned cultivated lands and the decrease of fallen snow in winter due to global warming.)
Shizuko thought, however, that the cause of the increase of deer this time was a little different. In her era, deer increased exclusively in the low uplands. Now, the flat cultivated land was scarce, the condition regarding agricultural production was worse than in her era, and the crop yields from the area around the low uplands had been bad from the very beginning. On top of that, the rural area around the mountain region had a low-density population, so there were not many cultivated areas left unattended. There were also no natural enemies and people to exterminate them. It could be said that the mountain regions in the modern era were a perfect environment for deer to increase.
Nevertheless, the deer remained as troublesome pests even in the modern era and the Sengoku period. It wasn’t a trivial effort to overturn the environment once the growing environment for the deer was ready. In all likelihood, the deer would eat the newly-planted, budding trees.
A moderate thinning was necessary considering the plants eaten by the deer. But there weren’t enough people for that purpose. There were around twenty people who could do labor but only ten of them were adept at farm work because this was only a small village. There were five people for blacksmithing and wood processing and the remaining five were for making compost. In other words, this village couldn’t spare more people to hunt for deer.
“Hmm, that means… the way to deal with the deer’s increase for the time being is… none other than that, right~”
Shizuko tried thinking of many solutions while putting her hand on her chin but there was only one realistic plan in the end. That was a plan to prevent the increase… by focusing on… targeting the newborns and fawns, and the females over the males. This was her plan to thin out the deer.
“If it’s like that, Wittmann needs to have a pack soon but… have you ever seen a female before?”
She crouched down before the wolf beside her that she’d named Wittmann. Shizuko became its godparent as a matter of course, but she thought to herself, “Why a German name?”
Shizuko asked such question while patting Wittmann’s head. Of course, there was no decent reply. Wittmann made a face that looked comfortable from the head pats.
“There are none, right~. I thought that you were a Japanese wolf, but you’re a gray wolf… you can’t find your wife, eh~”
I will explain Wittmann’s appearance again. Ignoring his initially thin appearance, his head and body length is around 140 cm and his body weight is up to 50 kilograms. The proud, dignified wolf’s figure is successfully regained. The Japanese wolf’s size can’t quite reach 140 cm because it is assumed that the Japanese wolf is close to one meter. In other words, there must be someone who brought gray wolves from another continent.
(There is no law restricting animal imports in the Sengoku period, right~. I guess they brought animals as they pleased.)
Someone from Europe or China brought gray wolves as an offering. Then, they were handed over to either a shogun, famous people, or a wealthy merchant of Sakai. However, some wolves escaped by looking for a chance and ran to the mountain unharmed. Shizuko thought that Wittmann was one such wolf.
“Perhaps the other wolves are still alive. And maybe they are deer hunting near here unexpectedly?”
The gray wolves lived in groups of seven to thirteen heads with a male and a female as the center of the group. A group like this could be called a pack. A rank was determined for all of the individuals in that strict, vertically-structured society. The highest-ranking male was called the Alpha male and similarly, the Alpha female for the female. The other female wolves didn’t give birth to new pups if the alpha male and female were mated. There were rare exceptions but the basic wolves’ ecology was like that.
“Well, as if that would happen.”
She didn’t find a better solution even after thinking a lot of difficult things. The conclusion Shizuko came up with was to leave the farm to the villagers and take Wittmann to the mountain.
Let’s target the fawns – though Shizuko said that, they couldn’t be met so easily. At any rate, the opponent was a wild game so they were very alert. The deer would run as soon as they noticed her smell even if she luckily came upon one from upwind. Shizuko didn’t have the hunter’s skill to shoot from downwind without being noticed by her prey. So, was there any reason for Shizuko to climb the mountain?
“So, maybe this area is the feeding ground?”
The reason was to find the deer’s feeding ground. The mountain wasn’t overgrown enough to all be feeding grounds for the deer. Places with abundant weeds beneath the trees to feed on were scattered around the mountain. If that was the case, the deer were very likely to come to those places at meal times.
“I can set up the rope this time. Wittmann, please stand still for a bit.”
Shizuko unraveled the ropes wrapped around her belly as she crouched down near Wittmann. The rope hadn’t been used to constrain or strangle a wolf nor it would be used to tie Wittmann. The knot could be easily untied and the rope could be separated into four coils eventually. She tied one end to a tree which was sturdy and thick enough and tied the other side to another nearby tree.
“Well, it is better than nothing. It is a rope soaked in the smell of their natural enemy.”
Shizuko muttered this with a sense full of accomplishment after she finished tying the rope.
She set up the scent of the deer’s natural enemies, or the wolf’s, on the feeding ground. The deer feared the smell and would avoid the feeding ground. However, Shizuko thought it wouldn’t have that much of an effect.
“They will definitely come to the feeding ground if they know that there are no wolves there.”
The deer would come to the feeding ground if they figured out it was only the smell of a wolf, and none were actually there. It was a gimmick to buy some time and somewhat meaningless.
“Well then, I shall go back.”
She couldn’t help but worry about the things from before. Shizuko said it loudly as if to clear some unnecessary thoughts from her head.
The work outside nearly stopped due to the downpour during the rainy season. To put it simply, the villagers including Shizuko had a day off from having nothing to do. There were various tasks that could be done, but Shizuko boldly decided that it was fine to slack off. In a word, she wanted to laze around. However, Shizuko’s lazy time abruptly ended in the afternoon.
“I’m sorry for the sudden visit.”
The reason for this was because Mori Yoshinari came looking for Shizuko’s house in the afternoon. Shizuko was drinking tea from the chameleon plant while eating some dried venison. Perhaps her appearance was rude if you thought about it, but Mori Yoshinari didn’t particularly mind it.
“Ah, no… I have shown you something unsightly.”
Shizuko, who blushed from embarrassment, coughed to gloss over the awkward situation.
“Anyway, what is your business today?”
“Umu. First of all, this is regarding the hot spring made by Shizuko-dono.”
“Yes? Um… What about the hot spring?”
“The Lord is really pleased with it. There is a plan to greatly remodel the hot spring. Therefore, I would like to Shizuko-dono lead the project.”
Shizuko almost spat out the chameleon tea from her mouth without thinking when she heard that. But she endured and swallowed it back somehow. Still, some of it was still in her throat and she almost choked.
“*cough cough*… What do you plan to do in the remodel?”
“The Lord is, of course, thinking about using it as a kind of prize. Although he said so, he won’t say that it is a suggestion from Shizuko-dono. The point is I want you to particularly separate the hot spring used for the reward and the hot spring used for Shizuko-dono’s everyday use.”
“Yes… that is fine if that’s the case. But the detailed remodeling will take time. And you’ll have to split the hot spring into four parts.”
“We wish Shizuko-dono take over the lead in that aspect too. Of course, my Lord said that there will be suitable reward for Shizuko-dono when you have completed building it”
Even if Mori Yoshinari said so, Shizuko only had one choice. However, it wouldn’t be an easy task even if she took the request. There would have to be an increase in the amount of hot spring water anyhow.
The hot spring she had right now simply removed the impurities in the hot water through a simple filter at the water source. The filtered hot water would be carried to the bath through a wooden pipe. In order for the hot water to stay warm, there would have to be some method to retain heat at the spot where the hot water poured out. Shizuko took account of that. Well, there wasn’t a method to confirm if that would be possible.
“I understand. Consider it done.”
“Is that so? Much appreciated.”
Mori Yoshinari slightly lowered his head while saying so. As humble a person as ever, Shizuko thought.
“These are only sample materials, but I managed to collect the rest.”
“Ah, is that so? I’m grateful for that.”
“But what are you going to do with such things?”
“Well, for various reasons… I can’t say it for now but we should see the results in at least three years.”
“I understand. However, I want to ask you a question. Is that for the Lord’s sake?”
Shizuko nodded at that question without hesitation. If it succeeded, besides just Nobunaga Oda, it was desired by all countrymen. Moreover, it was a thing which was thought not to be available in Japan.
(It is trivial information in the modern era but it’s secret information in this era. I can’t say it easily. Only 30 kilograms can be made from the requested material but… it should be enough.)
“I understand. If that is true then I will believe in Shizuko-dono.”
“Thank you very much.”
Shizuko lowered her head deeply at Mori Yoshinari’s words.