Chapter 247: Guilty Conscience
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Vinisha
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The villager had no idea what ‘advance’ meant in this context. However, since Su Nuan Nuan was confident that these things were edible, that was good enough for them. Come what may, they still needed to eat to survive. Therefore the villager, who had somehow appointed himself as the spokesperson for the Tu’er Hill people said, “If that’s the case, I shall get a few young fellows who are good at diving to cut a few loose. We have all kinds of knives and weapons up here, and since they don’t eat people, we’re not afraid anymore.”
Duan Tingxuan turned to Zhang Tianming, “How much more can our boats hold? We can’t be too greedy and end up sinking.” If they sank under the weight of too much food on board, that would be too tragic, ah. He’d said this warning so many times that it was probably engraved in his own heart by now.
Before Zhang Tianming could answer, the villager said, “Please don’t worry, my lord. The boats here are all meant for navy use and are made with the best design and good quality materials. They are meant to carry seven or eight tons of weaponry, cargo and men. Since there are no heavy weapons on board, we can still fit a lot of things. Look, even with all the people in the ships, the waterline barely went up. This meant the boat’s draft  is quite good.”
Duan Tingxuan followed the direction pointed and saw that the ships’ sides really were quite high from the water’s surface. He nodded and said, “If that is the case, let’s bring up some of that kelp. Catch a few more nets of fish too. We’ll go back to Jinzhou tomorrow. If the food situation did not improve, we’ll come back for more kelp.”
Zhang Tianming commanded the soldiers to carry out Duan Tingxuan’s orders. He turned to Duan Tingxuan again, “Lord Heir, even though the navy boats could take in quite a lot of things, it’s better to be prudent. The water route into Jinzhou has connected thanks to the floodwaters. If we carry too much cargo, we might not be able to pass the narrower areas.”
Duan Tingxuan smiled, “No need to worry. After all the villagers have already been rescued. If we encounter areas the boat could not pass, we can commandeer some smaller local fisherman’s boats and shift some of our cargo over. For now, securing food is our priority.”
With the assistance of the flood victims, they managed to collect several thousand catties of kelp in just one afternoon. They also managed to catch a few hundred catties of fish. In the end, the weight of these things was nothing for the navy boats. With so much food collected, there was no need to spend the night on the sea and everyone turned their boats around and headed back towards Jinzhou.
As the sun began to set, Su Nuan Nuan and Duan Tingxuan sat together on the deck, chatting with the villager. The villager mostly kept his head down, as though he did not quite dare to look Su Nuan Nuan in the eye. However, for every question that he answered, the less nervous he became. Finally, Su Nuan Nuan said idly, “Sturgeons are river fishes, after all, I wonder how this big fellow ended up in the sea? Do you know why?”
The sturgeon in question laid unmoving at the bottom of the boat, the villager stared at it for a while before shaking his head, “This humble one could only guess. Considering how frequent the rain is, and how serious the floodwaters are, it is not impossible to imagine the fish becoming confused and ended up following the river routes out into the sea. Although Jinzhou might look small on the map, we have large, interconnecting rivers ways.
After the lord heir chased away the sharks, we were a little afraid that they might sneak back and attack the boats, so we sent a few of our stronger swimmers to check the bottom of the sea and found this fellow entangled among the kelp. It must have managed to survive the sea water until now due to its size, but ended up almost dying anyway. The lord heir and madam really have great luck, we normally don’t see such a big sturgeon anyway.”
Su Nuan Nuan nodded, his explanations made sense. Then, she switched her attention over to the kelp and said, “Have there been a lot of ships from Korea and Japan lately?”
At this, the villager suddenly tensed up, his hands flashed to his waist and he turned terrified eyes at Su Nuan Nuan, “Why… why do you know this? You… what do you know?”
“So what if we know? Are you going to silence us?”
Duan Tingxuan narrowed his eyes. Killing intent flared from his body causing the thirty something villager to tremble in fear. Finally, he threw himself onto his knees and knocked his head several times on the deck, crying out bitterly, “Lord Heir, madam, it is all my own doing. If you want to catch or kill anyone, let it be me alone, ba. My old mother is already 60 years old and my wife is just a weak and delicate woman. They know nothing, ah.”
Su Nuan Nuan was confused now. Wait, what are we talking about again? Why are we talking about catching or killing people now? What do the Korean and Japanese ships have to do with your wife and mother? She was about to question this silly person when Duan Tingxuan’s cold voice sneered, “Nuan Nuan, do you know what a guilty conscience is? Heheh! It looks like your innocent questions have turned up some unexpected dirt. This fellow ended up confessing even without our prompting. How quaint.”
The villager suddenly looked up from his desperate kowtowing and cried, “Madam… madam isn’t questioning me over my having conduct business with foreign powers?”
Duan Tingxuan said mockingly, “Do you think that we have nothing better to do than go after small fries like you? Do you seriously think we’d have the time to look into petty smuggling when Jinzhou is suffering from a major flood disaster like this? It’s your guilty conscience that forced you to confess. Anyway, the madam has no time for your petty little crimes. You just make sure to answer her questions properly.”
The man lowered his head and said a little petulantly, “I really thought that madam had figured out my sins and was just questioning me to make me confess… To think that the madam is just toying with me.”
“Who’s toying with you?” Su Nuan Nuan did not know whether she should laugh or cry at this person’s ridiculousness. “I was just talking about kelp. They grow a lot on the shores of Japan and Korea, and almost none over here . Moreover, you did just said that there was a sudden increase in the amount of kelp these past few years, so I speculated that ships from those two places must have frequented this place more often. Your guilty conscience is the one toying with your mind.”
The villager was dumbstruck. He slapped himself on the head twice and called out in vexation, “Is that so, no wonder the lord heir said that I am suffering from a guilty conscience, I thought madam is on to me, ah! Alas!” He was so upset with himself that he actually slapped himself around the mouth a few more times…
“Enough, there’s no need for you to be so upset. Though I have not seen your suffering in person, I can understand part of it. You are merely providing for your family any way you can. It is only natural that a man wishes to see that his family members eat well and dressed warmly.” Duan Tingxuan said mildly. Then, he continued, “However, don’t do this kind of thing anymore. You listen to me. Jinzhou will be developed soon, in the next two years, construction for a port will begin. You just continue to work hard and save whatever money you can. Opportunities will come very soon. With the port, a marketplace will naturally be needed as well, when the time comes, there will be imperial officials to help regulate market prices, so there’s no need for you to suffer from having to sell your goods at a low price to cutthroat sellers anymore.”
“My lord, is this for real?”
The fear and frustration on the man’s sunburnt face disappeared. When Duan Tingxuan nodded, he fairly shone with delight. He patted his chest and cried out excitedly, “Wonderful, that’s too wonderful, ah. We pitted our lives against nature to hunt and fish in these lands, but we still have to worry about being discovered when trading with those foreigners. Even with all the risk, we’re barely making ends meet. If Jinzhou really becomes a port city, wouldn’t it be as prosperous as Suzhou and Hangzhou?”
Though these Jurchen were not formally educated, they have learnt and spoke the Chinese languages since young, and more or less knew what was happening with the world at large.
[Gumihou: T_T Seriously? Lol, I have to call out this wrong fact re the kelp, lol! Please see Note number 2]
 Boat draft – draft measures how deep the vessel goes below the water’s surface
… research also suggests that seaweed has been used since 2700 BC in China. In 600 BC, Sze Teu wrote that in China that seaweed was made for special guests or kings. In 300 BC, Chi Han wrote a book about seaweed. In China, kelp was used in the 5th century for food. In China, Laminara japonica(a specific species of seaweed) was imported from Japan in the 5th century.
By the way, there are about 145 edible species of seaweed, for those who are interested, lol. Also, the origin of MSG came from konbu, or kelp, where scientist Kikunae Ikeda isolated ‘glutamate’ from it.
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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