Chapter 08 – The Medicinal Tea
One day Ruri, now pretty adjusted to life out in the woods, decided to get Chelsie to teach her how to make medicines out of plants. When they’d gone to the city a few days before, they’d sold medicinal plants and fruits as is, but Chelsie informed her that you can also sell them as jams or medicine.
The idea of Chelsie making medicines and whatnot made her seem more and more like the traditional idea of a “witch.” Ruri’s heart was pounding in excitement to see what process she used, but it ended up being as plain as plain could be.
You would chop the plants, toss them into a mortar and crush them, or use pre-dried plants and boil them in hot water, et cetera, et cetera. There wasn’t a single fantasy-like element to the whole thing. It felt more like a cooking class than a sorcery lesson.
“This is so boring, Chelsie-san. Isn’t there a more magical witchy way of doing this?”
“And what is this ‘magical witchy way’ you speak of? These are all folk remedies that I’ve learned through my long years of experience, and anyway, I’m not a ‘witch,’ so I can’t make medicines like they do.”
“…So there are real witches.” She meant her question as a joke because she knew that Chelsie was a dragonkin and not a witch, but there apparently were real witches, leaving Ruri to marvel over the wonders this fantasy world had to offer.
“Somewhere, yes. You’ll probably never meet one because they put up barriers so people won’t find them. Anyway, keep your hands moving. We’re going to be making a lot more.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ruri replied, doing as she was told and using the kitchen knife she was holding to dice up the green leaves, move them to the mortar, and crush them up.
They were apparently making a medicine effective against bruises and muscle pain that you rubbed over the afflicted area.
“You can do it, Ruri~” “Bmoooo!”
The spirit riding on Ruri’s shoulder cheered, and Kotaro, poking his head in from the kitchen window, followed in kind, letting out an earth-trembling cry.
Ruri smiled in response to their shouts and went about her uneventful work, but as she did, a cold sweat gradually formed on her brow.
(Wha? How did it turn out looking like this?) She was simply mashing the plants; it was a straight-forward task. There wasn’t anything to screw up.
Yet, the plants she had in front of her, which had completely changed in appearance, said otherwise. Ruri started to panic.
“Chelsie-san… what do I do about this?”
“Do about what?” Chelsie stopped her own mashing to peek at Ruri’s work from the side and froze in place.
“…Ruri, what did you do?” Chelsie asked, assuming that Ruri must have done something. Ruri’s eyes widened in surprise. “Don’t blame me! I was just mashing them up like normal, that’s it!” Even if she did have a track record of similar incidents, pinning the blame on her was cruel. Ruri pleaded her innocence.
“Normal mashing doesn’t make them look like this, child.” The leaves that Ruri had been working with were green, but, for whatever reason, as she was turning them into pulp, their color had gradually started to change. Now they were a pink so bright and vibrant that it seemed completely outside the realm of reality.
“Did you add some other plant in by accident?”
“No, I made sure that they were all the same leaves before I put them in.”
“Well, even so… try it once more.” She moved the plants that were in the mortar and gave it a thorough washing. The water spirits scrambled to offer their services and made a little kerfuffle over who would get to do the job, but they decided through rock-paper-scissors, a game that Ruri had taught them.
They seemed to have some doubts over why paper beat rock, but this choosing-method game struck the right chord for the spirits, and rock-paper-scissor competitions started up now and then. She’d asked Chelsie if there were any games like rock-paper-scissors in this world, but, apparently, there wasn’t anything of the sort. It probably seemed fresh in the spirits’ eyes as it was something a tad different than usual.
This time, when Ruri added the leaves to the bowl to mash them up it was under Chelsie’s careful supervision.
“Okay, now try it.” “Right.”
Chelsie stared intently as Ruri worked, determined not to let the change slip by her. And, sure enough, despite simply crushing the green leaves, they started to change color. However, this time it wasn’t pink; it was a yellow ocher color. This was completely baffling.
“Chelsie-san?” Ruri asked, hoping that Chelsie would know the cause, but Chelsie looked just as confused as she did. As a test, Chelsie started over, mashing the plants from scratch, but she produced a mash that was just as green as when she put the leaves in. This basically proved that Ruri was the cause but didn’t narrow down why that might be.
“What in blazes is going on here…?”
“You don’t know the reason why either, Chelsie-san?”
“I haven’t a clue.” As the two pondered over this phenomenon, Kotaro gave a few bmoos to get Ruri’s attention while poking his head in through the window.
“What’s wrong, Kotaro?”
“Bmoo-mm, bmoo, bmoo!” Kotaro cried, poking his nose at the container that held the transformed plants and then pointing it toward the spirits engaged in their rock-paper-scissors competition.
“…Do you mean the spirits are the cause?” Ruri replied, and Kotaro nodded his head repeatedly as if to tell her yes.
“Well, that makes sense. After all, the differences between you and me lie within both our mana and our differing attraction for spirits. I’ve never heard of the amount or quality of one’s mana causing changes of this sort, so the cause here must be the spirits.”
Ruri called them over from their rousing rock-paper-scissors session. “Hey, guys? I’m sorry to break up the fun, but could we talk?”
“Sure, it’s fine~”
“Ooh, about what?” As soon as Ruri called them, they dropped what they were doing and huddled around her.
“The color of these medicinal plants changes whenever I mash them, do you guys know why?”
“Yup, we do.”
“’Cause everyone is trying their best for you.”
“Once they heard that you’re making medicine, the tree and flower spirits loaded the trees with their blessings.”
“Also, Lady Lydia is the highest level of spirit, with the greatest amount of power. Since you’ve made a contract with her, it might be easier for you to draw on the power of spirits now.”
“Um, that’s a lot to take in, but basically all of you spirits bestowed the plants with special powers? And it visibly changed for me because I have a contract with Lydia but won’t for Chelsie-san because she doesn’t?”
“Well, there you have it, Chelsie-san.”
“So you are the cause after all. These spirits were working on your behalf,” Chelsie said with a weary sigh.
“Wait, but I didn’t ask for them to do this,” Ruri retorted, waving her hands in front of her in denial.
“Are we causing trouble?” Ruri looked as several of the spirits, who’d apparently given the plants their alms, started to look glum with sad, shivering eyes. They were clearly hurt by Ruri’s blunt phrasing, which made it sound as if their help was unwanted. The adorable spirits’ distraught expressions filled Ruri with intense regret. Although her words had been born out of reflex, she admonished herself in her mind, wondering why she’d been so insensitive.
“No, not at all. I was just a little surprised. Thanks for working so hard for my sake, guys.” Ruri pasted on a smile and thanked them, which brightened up their little faces.
Next to the relieved Ruri, Chelsie stared at the enchanted plants with an uneasy expression. With the spirits’ moods now lifted, Ruri questioned their explanation further.
“So, I’m just wondering, what is this ‘highest level of spirit’ you all mentioned? You said that Lydia was one of those, right?”
“Spirits get levels based on their power. And the highest level of spirits are literally the most powerful of all spirits.”
“There are twelve spirits of the highest level and Lady Lydia is one of them.” “High level spirits are the big shots!”
“Wow, so Lydia is actually amazing.” Ruri was still quite new to things concerning spirits, but she had more or less understood that Lydia was a powerful spirit.
She marveled at these events to herself before turning her attention back to Chelsie. “…By the way, Chelsie-san?”
“What is it?”
“I noticed that whatever that is that you made has a rather abnormal, um, aroma.” It had been bugging her for a good while now. She thought that some odor would come with the territory, since they were dealing with medicines, and she thought that it would be bearable. But the more time that passed, the more the nose-wrinkling, foul odor permeated the room.
“Aah, I’d almost completely forgotten,” Chelsie replied, checking and stirring her smelly pot that boiled with medicinal plants and fruits. She poured the contents of the pot through a strainer, removing the plant matter, and placed the resulting broth into a bottle.
“So what is this?”
“A medicinal tea. It’s a big seller.”
“Huh? That sells?! I mean, you can drink that?!” Ruri asked, stunned to hear that it wasn’t a failed batch and that you’re supposed to put such a foul-smelling concoction in your mouth. She gave Chelsie a dubious look, clearly questioning who would buy such a concoction.
“Wanna give it a taste?” Chelsie offered with a sly smile, pouring a mouthful of the brew into a cup and passing it to Ruri.
(Ugh, it stinks! But it’s apparently drinkable, so it might be tastier than it seems) Ruri thought, enduring the horrible smell. She took a quick sip while pinching her nose and…
“Mm-ugh~!” The taste was, astonishingly, even more putrid than the smell. No, “putrid” didn’t even begin to describe it. This was a deadly weapon. It was hazardous material.
As she suffered from the agonizing impact of the drink climbing up her mouth and into her nose, Chelsie handed her some special honey juice, which she chugged down in one swig. However, it still couldn’t help wipe away the horrible taste radiating through her mouth.
“Urk~! What the heck is this?! This isn’t something people should be drinking!” Or maybe demi-humans had non-functioning taste buds?
“You’re in luck, since you’re a human. There are some demi-humans with sharp taste buds who pass out.”
“I don’t see the point in drinking something with such a side effect!”
“It may knock you out, but it’s benefits are extremely potent. It can cure a cold with one shot.”
“I feel like you’d still be getting worse if the medicine makes you pass out, though…” If she was given the choice between catching a cold or drinking some extremely rancid medicinal tea, then she would, without a shadow of a doubt, take the cold. There had to be other medicines that weren’t like this, anyway.
That being said, she didn’t know how far the medical technology of this world had come, so if it wasn’t on par with her world, then she could understand the reasoning behind relying on such rancid-smelling cures.
Ruri swore in her heart that she would never ever catch a cold again.
The following day, they took the finished medicine off to the city and, as per usual, Ruri had her brown wig on her head.
Ruri couldn’t fly on her own yet, so she was riding on Chelsie in her dragon form.
The trip took a few hours so they left early in the morning, and, by the time they arrived, the city was bustling with people.
It was only her second trip to the city, but it seemed that word of Ruri had already spread throughout the town, so few were surprised as Ruri walked around with her spirits in tow, at least not to the degree they had been last time.
Once they started setting up their shop space in the city square, groups of people began lining up, not only for Ruri but for Chelsie’s medicines as well. Although Chelsie’s medicinal teas were selling, not many people were coming to buy Ruri’s medicine.
Everyone seemed bewildered. Their reactions stood to reason, however, looking at her assortment of strange orange-yellow and pink-colored medicines.
An older man seemed as though he wanted a bottle, but was too afraid to buy one. He came up to Chelsie, inquiring.
The last time, he’d asked every question through Ruri, but he was probably so astonished that
he forgot to this time—even though Ruri was the one who made the medicine in question. “Lady, did you screw up a little with the medicine today? What’s with this color?”
“I didn’t screw up. Ruri made all the medicine with the weird colors.” All eyes fell on Ruri, so she nodded in confirmation.
Chelsie took the opportunity to tack on an addendum. “Apparently, the spirits added some of their power to the medicinal plants to appease her. I know it looks odd, but the effects have the spirits’ seal of approval and they’re in limited supply. First come, first served,” said Chelsie with a sly grin, and not long after hearing her explanation, all of the customers came to grab Ruri’s medicines. Unsurprising, since they had the extra value of being endowed by the spirits. The fact that Ruri found more unbelievable was that Chelsie’s rancid medicinal tea was also flying off the shelves.
“Yikes, this crap does sell…” Ruri muttered to herself in a tone of deep disbelief, questioning her customers’ sanity.
A purchaser of the rancid tea overheard her and gave a wry smile. “Come now, don’t say that. The old lady’s medicinal teas work really well. …Even if some do taste bad.”
“Yeah, so bad that you see your life flash before your eyes,” added a customer, who had also bought some of the medicinal tea.
One sale followed another and the medicine eventually sold out. Ruri went to pack things up with the spirits’ help when the last customer, a girl, addressed her.
“I hear that there’s been a lot of pickpocketing around these parts lately. You two should be careful.”
“Right, thank you very much for telling us.”
Since they put all of their stuff into the pocket space right away, Ruri assumed pickpocketing was a non-issue. The customer’s warning went in one ear and out the other.
Once they finished packing up, their next course of action was buying some groceries in town.
“Let’s see… seasonings, vegetables, milk, flour, and butter. And this meat means we’re done, right?” Ruri confirmed with Chelsie, pointing at each item they’d planned on buying as to make sure she wasn’t missing anything.
“Indeed, that’ll do it for today.”
Ruri took the bagged meat from the shopkeep.
Unlike the butcher shops in her world, the poultry and other carcasses were visible in the store front, hanging upside-down. It was a considerably shocking sight for Ruri, since she’d only seen meat in packages. She tried her best to avert her eyes.
“’Ere you go. And I knocked the price down a li’l, too.”
“Thank you, mister!” Unlike when she came to the city last time, they seemed to be accepting her money, but Ruri suspected they were giving her more than just what she’d ordered. Since she could just put it in her pocket of space without fear of it rotting, she gratefully accepted the package, extras and all.
Without the pocket it would probably spoil since there were no refrigerators in this world. Three cheers for magic! She took her goods and was about to pull out her purse to pay with her earnings when someone bumped into her.
A shock ran through her body and she almost fell to the ground, but she steadied her legs and regained her footing.
“Quit gettin’ in the way, girl!” “Pardon?!”
It was a young man. Despite the fact that he was the one that came crashing into her, his remark was framed as if Ruri was the one at fault. She thought about giving the man a piece of her mind, but, faster than she could even blink, he had already hightailed it out of there.
“What was his deal? I swear…”
“Ruri, are you okay?” The spirits were so concerned that you’d think it’d happened to them. Their concern helped to soothe her.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Should we get him?”
“Pummel some manners into him?”
“Thank you, guys. But that won’t be necessary.” The spirits seemed raring to go on Ruri’s command, which she did not give. The dissatisfied looks on the spirits’ faces were adorable, but what they were trying to do would have been far from gentle.
Although she was peeved, a little bump between two people wasn’t enough of an ordeal to enlist the spirits’ help.
Recalling what Chelsie had warned, about the spirits being dangerous, she figured that something like this might happen. Though, it seemed like they were less dangerous and more quick to pick a fight, but that was neither here nor there.
She felt secretly pleased, though, over the spirits getting so riled up on her behalf, and over something so trivial. Ruri quietly considered that this might just be the type of actual friendship that she’d always wanted. The feeling of being so genuinely concerned for someone that you’d put yourself in harm’s way in order to stick up for them—
A feeling that she’d never had with Asahi…
“Anyway, back to paying for… paying for… huh?” Ruri said as she tried to pay for her goods, but the purse she’d been holding a second ago was now nowhere to be found. “Huh? Wha?!” She looked around, thinking that she must have dropped it when she took her bump, but she didn’t see it anywhere.
“Aah, it got swiped, li’l miss. There’s been a lot of pickpocketing here as of late,” said the butcher, looking at her pityingly.
“No doubt that man from earlier, I take it,” Chelsie calmly discerned.
“Why are you taking this so nonchalantly?!” exclaimed Ruri. “That guy is not getting off on my watch! Guys, help me find that guy!” She had her sights set on eating Chelsie’s famous beef stew tonight, but that wasn’t going to happen if she couldn’t buy the meat!
“Ah, now hold on, Ruri!”
Ruri brushed off Chelsie’s attempt to stop her and chased after the man, the spirits trailing after her. Beef stew was the only thing on her mind.
Not only did the spirits that had been following Ruri rally together, but spirits that lived in the city joined in as well, forming a huge dragnet. Through the spirits’ unique information network, the man’s description had already been circulated around to all of them.
There was no way he could escape under these conditions. They quickly confirmed the man’s location. He was smiling jovially, Ruri’s purse clutched in one hand. He was clearly human and either had little or no mana, as he didn’t seem to notice the spirits floating over his head, matching his walking speed. It was the demi-humans around him that were looking at the man, and the space above his head, in wide-eyed shock. They didn’t know what had happened, but they figured from the spirits’ expressions that the man had clearly done something to upset them all. The demi-humans gave the man a wide berth so as to not get involved.
Ruri used the huge cluster of spirits as a landmark and made her way over. As soon as she caught sight of the man who’d stolen her purse, she shouted at the top of her lungs.
“There you are! Give me my purse back now!”
Ruri’s shout made the man jump in surprise. The second he turned around, the massive swarm of spirits started to dogpile onto his body.
“Huh?! What the hell? I can’t move!” Although he himself couldn’t see them, the mob of spirits were clinging to his body like invisible weights, so, of course, he couldn’t move. Though, the spirits had neither weight nor physical bodies, but they could touch and pull on things that had traces of mana.
With his entire body immobilized, the man couldn’t run away even if he weren’t shocked into stillness. All he could do was watch as Ruri approached him.
“How… dare… you…!”
Ruri approached him with the face of a raging demon, making the man pathetically yelp in response.
And while the face was scary, it had to be noted that it was still being made by a young girl. However, the fear from being unable to move just made it that much worse.
Ruri’s eyes stopped at her purse, clutched in the man’s frozen hand, and she effortlessly reclaimed it from him. She checked inside to see that no money had been taken out. It seemed as though she’d caught him before he had a chance to spend any, which was a relief.
That was around when Chelsie finally caught up with Ruri, so the girl raised her reclaimed purse in the air for Chelsie to see.
“Look, Chelsie-san, I got it back! Now I can buy the meat.”
“…I already paid for the meat; none of this was necessary. Did you even think about what would happen when you pulled off something so dangerous? I swear…” Chelsie said, exasperated at Ruri’s desperate escapade to reclaim her purse.
“Huh? You had extra money on you this whole time?! But, wait, that doesn’t change the fact that I had my money stolen. And, besides, catching this guy was for the benefit of society. After all, I’m sure he’s caused plenty of damage to others.”
“I can’t help but be paranoid with you acting before you think, y’know,” Chelsie commented with a sigh. “In any case, turn that guy over to one of the guards.”
The man jumped in fear at the word “guards” and struggled to get away, but it was to no avail; he was still being restrained by the spirits.
Meanwhile, the guards had heard that a huge mob of spirits was chasing after a single man, so they came to see what the trouble was.
Once the guards arrived, Ruri handed the man over to them, releasing him from the spirits’ grip and allowing him to move freely, much to his relief. She explained the situation to the guards, wrapping up the whole ordeal. Or so she thought…
The man looked at Ruri and spat a resentful comment under his breath. “Tch, snot-nosed li’l brat.”
“Looks like he’s not the least bit sorry for his actions…” Ruri’s sharp ears picked up his comment and she turned to Chelsie. “Chelsie-san, you still have some of that medicinal tea left, right?”
“Yeah, I have some for use back at home.” “Would you let me have it?”
“Sure, I don’t mind, but what are you going to use it for?” Chelsie pulled out a bottle about the size of a 500 ml travel-sized bottle from her pocket in space. It was filled to the brim with the putrid medicinal tea.
Ruri popped open the bottle’s lid and had the spirits restrain the man once more.
“W-What are you doing?!” Held once again by some invisible force, the man quaked in fear as he watched Ruri.
“Since you don’t seem to be sorry for what you’ve done, I’m going to make sure you never do something like this again!” Ruri placed the opening of the bottle into the man’s mouth and slowly tilted it.
“U-Urk!” he choked in discomfort, but Ruri made him drink every last drop in the bottle.
Back when Ruri taste tested the concoction, a single mouthful was enough to send terrible shockwaves down her spine. Chelsie told her that the proper dosage was about a small medicine cup’s worth. If he were to drink a whole bottle’s worth, then the shock he’d take would be immeasurable.
Fortunately, drinking it in mass volume wouldn’t have any damaging side-effects; in fact, it would help improve his long-term health. However, the effect on his tongue after drinking the swill was pure trauma and would serve as a painful reminder whenever he would even consider pickpocketing in the future.
“You’re pretty ruthless, Ruri.”
“Tee hee hee, I bet he won’t ever think about trying to steal money from other people again.”
Perhaps the guards also knew about the taste of Chelsie’s tea, because they looked at the man, now passed out after being unable to bear the taste, with pity in their eyes and mouths screwed up in sympathetic distaste.