Arc 2 – Ninth Year of Eiroku Era, Owari Province Agricultural Reform
Early October, 1566
After surveying Nisaku’s village and the surrounding area, Shizuko came to the conclusion that her speculations had really been spot on.
There was a stream next to the village and another one further away, but both were filled with brown water despite being only knee-deep.
When she scooped some of the water with her hands, she could see fine grains of sand mixed in.
River water can become brownish for a couple of days after a rainfall, but it hadn’t rained for the past few days.
A river would only become brown if it was completely contaminated by earth and sand.
Thus, these streams can’t be used for drinking water.
Using this water to do laundry should be impossible as well, but it seems they didn’t have any other option.
(Since they didn’t do any thinning, there’s nothing holding the soil together.
With each downpour, the topsoil gets washed away and accumulates inside the river.
If we don’t deal with this soon, this forest will become a danger zone for landslides.)
After walking through the forest surrounding the village for a bit, Shizuko couldn’t find a single patch of dry ground; everywhere being more akin to sludge.
Even after just this short walk, her shoes had already been mired in mud and were unusable.
Wittmann, König, and Kaiser also had their feet sink into the mud and were unable to move freely.
In this state, it was no wonder no animals wanted to come close to this place.
“This is a lot more dangerous than I thought.”
Even at first glance, the mountain was in terrible shape.
In modern times it would be declared a landslide risk area by next year.
If they were really unlucky, a landslide could reach all the way down to Shizuko’s village and cause a large amount of damage.
Cold sweat ran down Shizuko’s back when she imagined the village she had brought back to life after two years could have disappeared in an instant.
“At the very least, we have to stabilize Nisaku-san’s village.
That will also ensure the safety of our village.”
And judging from the current state, there was no time to waste.
In the worst case, she would have to ask Mori Yoshinari to temporarily lend her some more workers.
They have to remove crippled trees or those with bare roots above the ground as soon as possible and restore the forest’s original function.
“Let’s go back.”
Giving a short command to Wittmann and his sons, Shizuko hurriedly returned to Nisaku’s village.
When she arrived, the food they had brought along was vanishing into the villagers’ bellies.
It might have been their first proper meal in quite a while as some of them were shedding tears as they stuffed themselves with rice.
Shizuko thought they might be overly dramatic, but then remembered that they had been starving for a long time.
(I hope they don’t upset their stomachs or go into shock…)
While thinking of that, Shizuko was looking for Nisaku.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there were only a few adults, so she was able to quickly find Nisaku.
It seems he was with his family: an elderly duo, which were probably his father and mother, his wife, and his daughter were next to him.
They were all starved to the point of being little more than skin and bones.
“(I need to do something about this.) Excuse me, Nisaku-san? Can I have a word with you?”
After she had spoken up, all eyes had gathered on her.
Having thrust all this attention on her so suddenly, Shizuko unconsciously backed away a step, but the villagers didn’t react to it.
Instead, they put their food aside, faced her, and put their hands together in gratitude.
““Thank you very much! Thank you so much!””
Shizuko was surprised by the people bowing to her, but she noticed that the majority of them were the elderly.
There was an obvious reason for this.
(It’s the same in my village, but this village also has extremely few children and old people.
They reduced the number of mouths to feed……)
When food becomes scarce, the elderly men and women will inevitably become the first targets.
If the situation gets even worse, the weak, those unable to work, and finally children will be culled.
There were a scarce number of the elderly and children around and the people were all one step away from starvation.
This could only mean that, despite having reduced the number of people to feed, they still couldn’t manage to procure enough food.
“Great Wolf Lord, please save our village.”
(…….Huh? Great Wolf…….?)
Those words, spoken by one of the villagers, had Shizuko tilt her head in confusion at first until she remembered that they were deep on a mountain.
The people living in the mountainous areas of central Japan and the Kanto area revered wolves as divine servants and retainers of the gods.
And the “gods” they worshipped were the living wolves in the Chichibu area and, in particular, around the Mitsumine shrine.
In Shizuko’s era, the Japanese wolves who had lived there had gone extinct though.
Remembering this wolf worship, Shizuko looked at Kaiser sitting next to her.
He was the son of Wittmann and Vultee, and held the highest rank among the wolf cubs.
It might be called a wolf cub, but after one year of age, it would already have grown to the size of an adult.
For it to sexually mature however, it will take around two years.
Yet Kaiser alone had already grown to the size of an adult.
The other cubs were all a small size, appropriately for cubs, but he alone had grown abnormally large, and Shizuko had no idea why.
But despite his appearance, he was spoiled and always stuck close to Shizuko.
Only a short while ago, he had been hanging onto his mother Vultee though.
“(Wolf worship, huh….) We should start working soon, so could someone please assemble the lumberjacks for me?”
The villagers were still prostrated themselves before her, but Shizuko decided to put that issue aside and focus on fulfilling her original purpose in coming here.
The food seemed to have done the trick as the majority of the villagers responded to her call for lumberjacks.
For Shizuko, who had expected a total of 20 people at best and realistically about 10 to come forth, this was a happy miscalculation.
“We will thin out the trees in this area.
This is called “Thinning”, but you don’t need to worry about that.
In short, we will make sure that there is a certain amount of distance between each and every tree.”
The villagers raised their motivation-filled voices.
Shizuko didn’t like relying on the “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” pattern of thought, but there was no other choice at the moment.
“Please carry the cut trees down to the foot of the mountain.
My villagers should be there, so please hand the trees over to them.”
To make use of the trees as firewood or timber, they first have to be dried.
But they couldn’t find a good place to store or process the wood in the mountains.
Therefore she had the trees that could be processed into timber cut to an appropriate size in her village with the rest being turning into firewood or charcoal.
While the wood was drying they would need to set up the environment to process it into charcoal, but as the drying would take several months there would be enough time for this.
The leftover wood scraps after everything has been sorted for processing will be used as fire starting material.
I will mark the trees, so please remove all trees including the roots which are marked this way.”
After saying only that much, Shizuko started marking one tree after another to be felled.
It would not really lead to regular intervals between the trees but just Shizuko mainly eye-balled it as right now it was more important to somehow get enough sunlight to the forest floor than to get an accurate result.
As a result, it looked like the forest was filled with holes, but it was necessary to remove these trees.
“This one is sturdy, so we will leave it.
This one is done for; let’s cut it down and be done with it.
The trees from here on…”
After quickly checking the trees’ condition Shizuko marked all trees which would need to be cut down.
After she had finished selecting some of the trees, Shizuko left the woodcutters to do their work and returned back to Nisaku’s village.
Did you finish the preparations?”
When Shizuko arrived back at the village, she immediately called out to Tagosaku and Daiichi.
Their next part would be setting up a filtration system for the stream and digging a well.
The filtration system wasn’t a very complicated setup, so she decided to get it done first.
Tadosaku answered accompanied by a thumbs up.
And as he had said, behind Tagosaku was a wooden bucket with the cloth fixed over the bucket with some slack.
“And this is the water from the stream? Uwa, looking at it again, it really is earth-colored–”
An uncovered bucket was filled with some of the muddy water.
It would probably take more than a day for all of the dirt to settle/precipitate.
And even then it’s questionable whether the water would really be clean.
“Now then, put charcoal, plant matter, and pebbles on top of the cloth in that order.”
What Shizuko had thought of was a quick to build filtration system that was also used during survival training.
Normally, you would use more finely grained material, but they had to make do with what they have.
If she built a complicated filtration system, people from Nisaku’s village would have to go to Shizuko’s village for help every time it broke down.
That would only be a waste of time for both parties.
Therefore, it was important that the system was easy enough to build that even Nisaku and the villagers could build and fix.
“The charcoal purifies the water while the plant matter removes the sand from the water.
The pebbles, well~, they have a similar effect to that.”
Even though she explained it like this, neither Nisaku nor Tagosaku and Daiichi who were building the system understood half of what Shizuko talked about.
For now, they just filed it away as “It cleans the water”.
They then poured the prepared water into the filtration system.
And while it may have been faster than waiting for the dirt to settle, it still would take around 1-2 hours.
In the meantime, Shizuko tackled the last task of digging a well.
“Now only a well is missing, but…… will I find a good spot for it?”
To find an underground water vein a well can be built on, you need the tools for it as well as perseverance The probability to fail is quite high, so without perseverance, it would be a fruitless endeavor.
Back in her village, Shizuko had also tried digging for a well and failed five times.
Yet the fact that the tools she had prepared at that time would find use here and now was ironic in a certain way.
“We can either look for trees with branches hanging to the ground or try looking for the magnetic field generated by the water vein with this natural magnet….”
Though she had failed at digging a well, Shizuko had accidentally stumbled upon a lodestone.1
It has been recorded at the beginning of the 6th scroll of the Shoku Nihongi, that magnetite and lodestone had been discovered in the Land of Oumi (Shiga prefecture) and then presented/offered as a tribute to the Tennou/Emperor in the sixth year of the Wadou Era (713 A.D.).
Later, compasses came to Japan during the Heian Era from overseas.
From this point onwards, Japan imported magnetite from overseas to make compasses.
Of course, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages for Shizuko who had obtained such a valuable thing.
First of all, she only had a single one.
If it breaks, she can’t just pull out the next one.
Searching for one is also impossible.
Digging through the earth to find a lodestone will most likely turn up nothing.
And as it was more or less a black sphere, telling north and south apart was already a challenge.
Since she had no other choice, Shizuko hung the lodestone from a thin string and wedged a piece of bamboo between string and magnet so she could tell north from south.
But it did look awful, so from an outside point of view, she just looked like a woman doing shady stuff with a pebble.
“Will I find anything like this? Well, let’s try it anyway.”
Shizuko sighed as she started looking for a water vein with her makeshift compass.
Shizuko’s group then searched for a place to dig the well, but sure enough, they didn’t find a suitable location.
Either the water was muddy when they tried digging for it, or the location was very inconvenient.
They didn’t find a single good spot.
The would surely find a place if the just searched long and far enough away, but then drawing water from the well would take a large amount of time for the villagers.
In that scenario, descending to the foot of the mountain would be faster, so it should be reachable by foot in around five minutes at most.
“……no good spot right, village chief?”
“Don’t put me under pressure…”
Anyway, we have no other choice but to continue searching for it right now.
In the worst case, we might need a machine that pulls the water up from the foot of the mountain……”
Saying this, Shizuko looked towards Kinzou, who hurriedly turned away from her.
He didn’t need to put it in words.
His back clearly conveyed the wish to not have to worry about figuring out such a mysterious device for now.
As she was wondering about what to do, Kaiser, who was by her side, suddenly howled.
She wondered whether an animal had appeared or something, but after his howl, Kaiser sprinted off in one direction.
Stunned by his sudden and unexpected action, she chased after Kaiser as soon as she did.
“Wait, Kaiser–! Where are you going—!”
Shizuko called out, but Kaiser didn’t stop.
He might just be a cub, but he was still a wild animal, and pulled ahead of Shizuko’s group in the blink of an eye.
But it didn’t seem as though Kaiser wanted to go far away as she soon caught up with him.
“Hey, don’t just run off suddenly.
Hearing these words, Kaiser howled while digging up a certain patch of earth.
At first, Shizuko was confused, but she quickly understood that Kaiser wanted them to dig here.
“Village chief–! What happened–!?”
As Shizuko was surveying the ground Kaiser was patting with his fore-paws, Kinzou, Tagosaku, and the others finally caught up too.
Daiichi and Nisaku were completely out of breath, but they didn’t collapse on the spot.
“Okay, let’s try digging here!”
Without further ado, Shizuko grabbed the hand-powered well excavator carried by Kinzou and started excavating the spot.
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