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The sender of the letter was unknown. Well, on it was written –’Mysterious man and woman’, though.
They are calling themselves mysterious so it really is a mystery to me. Although it looked really suspicious but I had no choice but to open it and read it, as it could also be a clue to finding Eliza.
[Helan territory is in a pinch or something. Measures should probably be taken immediately. The great drought will come in a month or something! We are also trying to think of something but still couldn’t think up a breakthrough solution or something. Oh landlord, start preparing your residents to flee or something! Hurry or something! Helan territory is close to getting beaten by a curse or something!]
Umm, is it okay if I tear this to shreds?
There is absolutely nothing specific written on it and it kinda irritates me. Who is the person who sent this letter!?
I opened this hoping it was a clue to finding Eliza, or something! But all it was filled with was ‘or something!’.
We do get these urban legend type letters from time to time. This is the landlord’s mansion, for what it matters. There’s an abundance of these.
In the first place, if you’re going to send letters like this seriously, you should at least name yourself or something!
I can’t ask for the details even if I wanted now, can I?
Suppressing my anger, I closed the letter. I shall silently add it with the papers which needs to be incinerated.
However, the contents of the letter still remained in my heart…
How many days have past since then? There’s no progress. Will it be better to just stop searching for her now? The academy will also be opening soon. Will she come? No, she probably won’t.
I made Rahsa return to the capital.
Seems like prince Arch and Iris are also searching for clues in the capital. But they too have come up with nothing.
The prime minister’s post was still empty.
The memories of the Deauville family were starting to slowly disappear from the citizens minds. No matter how much power you may possess, when you decline, you fall real hard.
The Dartanel family has also not moved ever since.
They should be convicted soon but since their guard is really tough, doing that properly has also become a challenge. Everything had stopped.
And then, one day. The bad news came in all of a sudden.
Lotson-san came running into the house, with his face all pale. It was my first time seeing his face like this, as his face is usually the calmest of the calm faces. Did your wife run away on you?!
“Kururi-sama! …The hot spring… the hot spring has withered.”
He immediately led me to it.
The hot spring, which was the most popular among all the attractions in the Helan territory, had withered. This hot spring, which was the biggest one in terms of size, had dried up all together.
“When did this start happening?”
“It seems the change had occurred today. It had already become like this when I came to check on it in the morning.”
“Were there no signs or symptoms?”
“No… none at all. It really just happened all of a sudden…”
“That can’t be…”
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Can that really be possible? Is it natural for something like this to happen out of the blue?
The land which was damp just yesterday has completely dried, as if it hasn’t rained here for decades….
I tried grasping some of the soil. And they immediately crumbled and were carried away by the wind.
That isn’t any different than the sand in a dessert, is it? Even though there were tons of blooming pretty flowers all around, now they have all withered away and lost their vivid color.
What the hell is this?! Being bountiful naturally was the only thing good about Helan territory and now even that is taken away?!
“The other day, I received a weird letter. A letter which kinda predicted this. The letter seemed to inform about a big drought which was going to strike Helan territory. I thought it was a prank so I ignored it but it doesn’t seem like one after looking at this.”
“Who sent the letter, exactly?”
“I don’t know… We need to find that person. Lotson-san, I want you to gather the people before it’s too late. We should take preparations to evacuate so that the people don’t panic… I will head to the neighboring landlords and the capital to ask them to take the people in.”
“Kururi-sama, don’t you think that would be a bit too hasty? A hot spring drying up isn’t enough sign for a big drought…”
“That is true but I have this somewhat bad feeling. My instinct is telling me something. I don’t really understand it well myself but… I just somehow understand. We need to get on this as soon as possible or we can’t recover from it. Please, can’t you do it? If the people of the territory just survive, Helan territory can start over again.”
“…I understand. I, Lotson, was picked up by you. I shall accompany you till my last breath. The evacuation, as well as the provision supplies which will accompany it. If you provide the landlord’s wallet, we won’t have a problem regarding money. But as we lack the manpower, it might take a bit more time.”
“Leave the cash related problems to me. Also, bring back all the personnel on the Eliza search. We will have them evacuate the whole territory.”
“If that’s the case, we will probably have enough manpower as well… but will that be okay?”
“… It’s fine. I will leave it to you.”
It’s clear as day which I should prioritize. Searching for Eliza might just be for my self-satisfaction. I might be thinking of not wanting to search for her. I can’t afford to risk everyone’s lives in this territory for her alone.
I properly understand which I should prioritize.
Lotson-san got busy after that. His face, which didn’t know fatigue before, had clear signs of exhaustion all over it.
“Kururi-sama. Another hot spring has just withered…”
Lotson-san reported with a sour face.
“This makes it the 5th one, huh? There’s no doubt now…. We need to make haste on the evacuation…”
Things were advancing ominously.
It’s nature’s order that things will get even worse at times like this.
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And of course, that also holds true for this situation.
“Kururi-sama. About the evacuation, only 20% of the estimated value has progressed… We can’t do anything more than this with what power we have…”
“As I thought… I wanted to get that done as soon as possible…”
Rebellions were starting to occur in the Helan territory now.
There were a lot of people who loved this naturally gifted land, with hardly any strict laws and beautiful landscape.
Of course, the number of people evacuating will be low if we were to suddenly ask them to leave the land with next to no explanation in a short period of time. It is only natural. But it will be too late if the drought hits. It will be too late.
“The people are making a racket to draw you out. At this rate, they might even advance on to the mansion.”
“Alright, we have no other choice.”
“It might be dangerous. Let’s squeeze out the numbers and only explain it to a representative.”
“No, open up the Helan commemoration plaza. I will listen to everyone who wants to talk there. I will explain everything there.”
He does give his opinions but he’s a very obedient and useful man. I also want Lotson-san to evacuate soon but he probably will not listen to that.
It’s not like I have given up on this territory. I am full with enthusiasm to revive it. At all cost. And I need Lotson-san when that time comes. So, I would like it if he listens to me when it’s time to run…
Two days later. An enormous crowd of people gathered at the plaza. It seems like there are tens of thousands of them. It is an amazing view. Each and everyone’s voice felt amplified and the plaza was beaming with noise already.
The day before, I had already made my weak-bodied father and mother evacuate to the capital. It’s because I thought the people would feel a sense of danger if they had evacuated early. However, when I look at the people gathered today, it seems like that didn’t have much of an effect.
At the middle of the plaza, I got on top of the clock tower and looked down at everyone. They stared back, wanting for an explanation.
“People, I know what you want to ask. I would have also wanted to know if I were in your place.”
As I started talking, the noise subsided. It was proof that all of them had come to listen seriously.
“I am sure all of you know by now but, by today, 13 of the hot springs this territory is proud of have withered. This is, by no means, a coincidence. A big drought is about to hit this place, in this Helan territory. As a sign, the hot springs are dying off. It might seem like I am being hasty. However, if I were to be even a bit late, we probably won’t be able to recover from it. Please, could you all please cooperate with us in evacuating?”
A large wave of voices started off slow and began to get louder, rougher, turning into thunderous noise.
I put both my hands up to try and calm them down.
It took time but they finally settled down.
“It might be a life or death situation. Would you still not listen?”
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A man put up his hand. I pointed towards him, allowing him to talk.
“Do you have any proof of it?”
“I don’t have any proof. I called over specialists, researched history, but couldn’t find any proof.”
“You’re telling us to cast away this land for such an ambiguous reason?!”
“…Yes. Please escape before it’s too late.”
The plaza became wilder.
The noise got even louder, to the point they started throwing things.
Their faces were filled with rage. No one here wants to leave. But, I need to abide by my own justice…
I needed some time till the noise subsided. It really looks like a rebellion might occur.
Now that the noise had settled down, a boy raised his hand. Of course, I will take questions.
“Both my father and mother said that Kururi-sama is an amazing person. Then, why would he say such a terrible thing? Do you hate the Helan territory now?”
Me, hating Helan territory?! There’s no way. Even now, I will say that I love this land more than anyone else.
“That is not true. I love this land more than anyone. However, the danger is closing in. It’s not like I have given up on this land. It’s just that I am thinking of what’s the most important thing here. It isn’t the hot springs, neither is it the plantations. The greatest asset of the Helan territory is its people. If you all live, then surely Helan territory can restart once again. Please, I ask of you all to understand.”
As I finish answering, the noise started once again. That’s how serious they all were. They were all desperate. They couldn’t just run away. They couldn’t just abandon the land.
Next, an old man raised his hand.
“Say the big drought happens, and everyone lives by evacuating, how long do we have to wait to return to the land then? Can we return by the time I am still alive?”
“… I do not know. I am sorry. I can’t promise anything clearly.”
My first direct speech had ended in a failure.
After the old man’s question, it finally connected to a riot.
I listened to Lotson-san and decided to prioritize safety first here.
A day passed but the riot hadn’t settled down.
The situation only worsened.
“… Kururi-sama. All the hot springs in the territory have died. Although small, we also have reports of wells drying up, as well.”
“We might already be closing in on the end. There’s a need to talk once again, huh?”
“There’s no guarantee it won’t turn out like last time. Please stop.”
“But, there’s no other way to do this.”
Again, we opened the plaza and I tried talking.
More people had now felt the change with their bodies, and so more were willing to evacuate now. However, like last time, still tens of thousands of people were at the plaza.
“Be stubborn at something else. You should probably know it by now. The big drought will come, there’s no doubt. If you stay in this territory, you can’t all live.”
“We can’t live on other territories either!”
A voice came echoing from somewhere… It somehow, feels just too sad.
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“But, you will die if you stay in this land. Being outside is far better than that.”
“Helan’s lands can’t die!”
“Would you be satisfied after you see this land die with your own eyes? By that time, it would be too late to evacuate! It’s all over if you die! Everything disappears! Please. Run before it’s too late!”
“The situation is not that easy… There have been many dangers in the Helan territory till now. Just the other day, even when I was a child… During those times, we all worked hard and supported this land. However, the big drought will come. This… what do we do about this… How do we face this…”
There was no objections.
No protests, nothing.
Everyone was tired. They could see the reality but they were pretending not to.
This time, it didn’t end with a riot.
But, unlike the energy filled crowd last time, everyone left for their homes with a very sad and cold face. Everyone knows it by now. That the big drought will hit this land.
I wonder how many days have passed after that.
It was the first time I had stopped caring about the date.
I miss the good old school days…
“Kururi-sama… Apart from the people who are saying they will stay even if they die, half of the people have agreed to evacuating. Only you are left now, Kururi-sama.”
“… I want to stay here a bit longer.”
“That won’t do. Even this mansion doesn’t have water anymore. You can’t live that long like that. Please, evacuate quickly.”
“Lotson-san, thank you. But as you can see, the Helan territory you serve is nothing but an empty shell now. There’s no need to be loyal anymore.”
“That won’t do either. I must work for the Helan territory once it has revived again…”
That makes me happy.
But there will be no such thing.
It can’t happen.
“Lotson-san, thank you for everything up till now. This is where we part…”
“What are you saying?! The Helan territory can start again with your leadership!”
I… don’t have that much willpower anymore.
It was dreadful after that.
The condition after the reports came in saying that the wells had dried up…
The wells kept drying up one after the other and the Helan territory slowly became a deserted and isolated land.
The lushy green view visible from this mansion was no longer there.
I opened the window.
A dry wind blew over the sandy, level plains.
“Lotson-san, look at this. There’s no way. This is what happened to that beautiful Helan territory. The water dried up and the living creatures have gone extinct. This land… exactly how do we go about redoing it?”
“It’s possible if it’s you. Wasn’t it you who showed us the way till now?”
“But, it is impossible now. It really is. The Helan territory is done. The Helan family falls into ruin here. It’s fine. Lotson-san, you can do great at the capital. So… it’s fine.”
There was no reply.
Lotson-san, who was exhausted, left after a while.
I don’t even know what kind of face he was making at the end.
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I didn’t want to part like this. But I don’t have a choice, do I?
How do we even stand up to face this nature’s baptism? I have lost.
“…Ah, my throat’s dry.”
He told me so. If I had listened to Lotson-san, I could have been drinking to my heart’s content by now.
I will lay down my life here, dried out. I feel like that. I don’t have the energy nor the willpower.
I walked around the mansion.
There was no food or drink.
Ah, this mansion, which was always so clean ever since I was small is now filled with sand. Even the rooms are filled with clouds of dust. That clean mansion will never come again.
I looked around the mansion one last time.
I wanted to burn this nostalgic view into my eyes.
The library, eh… I came here quite a lot when I was small.
Old man Moran sure did teach me a lot.
“Arehh?!! Old man Moran?!! Why are you still here?!”
Old man Moran was still at the library.
I thought I had evacuated all the employees but I had forgotten about this man.
“Hohhoho, I am in charge of the library, after all. I can’t possible run alone, leaving the books.”
“There’s no time to be saying that! Only you and I remain here. You will die if you stay!”
“Old men can live long even without drinking or eating much, so it’s okay. More importantly, young master, why are you still here?”
“Me? I… Umm, that, I am tired. I can’t leave this pitiable Helan land behind. I will stay. Till the end.”
“Hohhoho, then I guess I will stay as well. I have also received my payment for the year too.”
He’s a carefree, old man through and through.
I had always assumed him to be a weird person but he really is a weird person.
“Haa, it’s too late either way now. Let’s stay here till the end together then, shall we? It would be nice if we don’t start attacking each other out of thirst, haha.”
“Hohhoho, as you can see, I don’t really have much water on me. I don’t want you attacking me.”
“It’s your fault for not evacuating. I will have you dry when the time comes.”
“It seems like you are feeling a tad bit better now. That’s fine, it’s the tough times when you should be smiling.”
“Really? You would smile even though it’s tough? That’s weird.”
“Something good will happen if you laugh. Here, try laughing. Something good will happen, ya know?”
What is that face, like you are comforting a child?
But, I somewhat felt good and laughed a bit.
“That’s right. Come on, more.”
“Ahahahahahahahaha!! How is it? Will this do?”
“Hohhohhohoho!! That’s good!! Well then, I shall tell you something good.”
“Oh what, you will tell me something good? Then I could’ve passed without laughing.”
“Don’t say that. Then, I guess I will tell you something good. Young master Kururi, genius of the century, I will tell you something good. The chances are low but… don’t you want to save this land?”
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What kind of a face am I possibly making right now?!
Just like when a flower blooms, my face had probably regained all life.
“Old man Moran… what did you say just now?”
“I asked if you wanted to save this land? Of course, by putting your life on the line.”
“Ahhh-! Of course! Is there a way? Hey! Old man Moran!!”
“Hohhoho, now, now, don’t rush. We still have time. For now, tag along with me for a folk tale.”
Folk tale?! If something like that can save this land, I will listen to as many as you would like!!