139-Episode 121 Three-Party Talks

'I have been underestimating the fact that I have been given preferential treatment in various aspects as described above. In that regard, ......'

District 41.
Currently, a three-way meeting is being held at Ricardo's residence.
The attendees are Ambrose Demilly, the lord from District 40, and Stuart Javier, the head of the Woodcutter's Guild. From District Forty-One, Lord Ricardo Siegenthaler and Medora Rossell, the head of the Hunting Guild. And from the 42nd district, the acting lord, Estella Creamona, and the Sunshine Pavilion employee, Oba Yashiro. ...... I'm the only one who's clearly out of place. ......
In the event that you have any questions regarding where and how to use the internet, you can call us at the web site. These three are only there to listen, and are not allowed to speak unless asked to do so.

'...... So, Ricardo. I'm really sorry. Here we are.'

Estella bows her head deeply.
As I told you in my previous letter, I'm taking the time before the tripartite meeting to apologize in person for my past rudeness.
If we don't do this, we won't be able to discuss on an equal footing.
Well, since Estella has volunteered to apologize, I have no intention of interfering. If she had been forced to do so, I might have interfered in any way I could.

'And now, Mr. Demilio, Mr. Javier, Ms. Rossel. Thank you for making time for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.'

Estella puts her hand on her chest and thanks him.
Then she turns to Ricardo again and says with a refreshed expression.

'Ricardo too. Thank you for listening to me.

You can find a lot more information on the web.
But ......

'It's not 'hmph', Ricardo!

Medora shouts at Ricardo. ...... Well, he probably thinks he's just giving you a hard time. ...... Ricardo covers Medora's ears in an annoyed manner.

'...... Your voice is too loud, Medora.
'It can be big!I'm not sure if it's a good idea, but it's a good idea.If that's the case, don't you have some words to say?Yeah, what do you think?
'...... Shut up ......, I know what you're talking about.'

After a glance at Medora, Ricardo sat down and looked at Estella.
After staring at her for a few seconds, ...... she sighs lightly and averts her gaze in the opposite direction.

'Well, that's fine ......'.
'I see. I'm sure you'll be happy to hear that, Ricardo.
'.................. ah'.

I think Estella wins this game.
I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I'm not the only one who's a bit of a jerk.

'I would like to make a formal apology to you as well.

After Estella's story was over, Medora now said something like that.

'The reason why rumors spread that were not good for both sides this time was the fault of my young people, in other words, my fault. It was an ill-considered, short-sighted action. I'm sorry.

Medora folds her large body into the shape of a "ku" and bows her head deeply.
This should clear up any tensions between the 42nd and 41st districts.

After raising his head, Medora twisted his body slightly and looked back at Ricardo.

'I'm sorry, Ricardo. I'm sorry I took the liberty.
I'm sorry. It's because of your selfishness that things have gotten this far. If you're an old geezer, why don't you just retire?
'When you retire, I'll serve you as your maid.
'...... Even if it's a joke, don't say such a bad omen.'

I'm not sure what to say.
...... I wish I could have shown you the apron I wore the other day. ...... I've been dreaming about it, you know.

'Miz Rossel is the only one who can lead the hunting guild. You can't retire. I suggest you reconsider, Ricardo.
'Look at that!Miss Estella seems to have a better eye for detail than you do, Ricardo.'
'Shut up, you old hag.'
'Ricardo!How dare you call me an old hag when you've come all this way to visit the acting lord of another place?
'I was talking to you, you f*cking hag!What are you so casually blaming others for?

This is a great way to make sure that you'll be able to get the most out of your vacation.
...... I guess this is what he's really like.

That's good, isn't it?

Demilly said, trying to mend the situation.
I guess he's good at smoothing things over. As expected of a monk.

'Thank you for keeping it smooth.
'Yeah, let's shut up, Oba.'

Demily smiles. But his temples are twitching.

'But, well. Just because I received an apology doesn't mean I'm going to tolerate the city gates.
'Eh, why not?You'll go bald if you're too stingy.'
'Hoho, Estella. That's doing a lot of damage to me too, so be careful.''

Demilly, you're in trouble.

'I'm not going bald.
'Hmm~, I think I'll go home now~!
'Well, well, Ambrose. It's okay to be bald. It's not like it's decreasing.
'It can't get any worse than this!

Javier adds fuel to the fire.
It's Ricardo's fault for saying something that provoked him, but Demilly's too mature to take the foolish provocation.
I can't help it. I'll tighten up the atmosphere a bit.

'Come on, you guys. Grown man, you've got no hair.'
'Why did you cut it there, Oba-kun?
'Don't encourage baldness, you...'
'Yashiro, I can't defend you either.
'Darling. You're too much of a nerd.
'Yashiro. You're in a serious place, you should know better.

They protested furiously. All-out assault.
What's with people being so nice to me, ......?

'Anyway, if the 42nd district is going to build a city gate, the income of the 41st district will be reduced in no small measure. You'll have to make up for it somewhere.

In light of the current situation in District 41, Ricardo's argument may be unavoidable.
Even now, the economy is not running well in the 41st district. Wealth is skewed to a few, and many are left behind. The current 41st district is a den of the working poor and NEETs.

We can't afford to lose any more revenue, even a little.
That is the sincere desire of Ricardo and the other 41 wards.

But that doesn't mean we can't cancel the city gate.
I don't hear any accusations that he's only thinking about District 42, that he's selfish, or that he's just trying to get customers to come to the sunlit pavilion after all.
This has to do with the 42nd district and also the 40th district.
The Woodcutter's Guild is looking for a city gate that allows easy access to the forest on the 42nd district side.
That's why they even created a branch. The facilities are already seventy percent complete. We can't back out now.

That said, if a toll tax is introduced to make up for the decline in the 41st district, Assunto and the other peddlers' guilds will suffer the consequences. Of course, this is a matter of life and death for us residents of District 42.

Oh, no, what should I do?

If Ricardo had been a real jerk, a bottom-feeder, the worst kind of scum like sludge settled at the bottom of a swamp, we could have put all the burden on District 41 and had a 'So Very Happy! The ending wasn't so bad either. ......

But now that I know about him, that's not going to happen.
Estella must be uncomfortable with the happiness built on Ricardo's dead body.

And if I let Medora go, I'll be in serious trouble. ......
The best thing for him is to stay with Ricardo and let him take care of himself!

That's why I'm going to make a small contribution again.

'Why don't we put together a list of requests from each district?It's just a waste of time, isn't it?

As I moved, everyone's eyes gathered.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we're currently in the reception room of Ricardo's mansion.
In a large room, desks are lined up in the shape of a mouth, but the desks aren't attached to each other, so it looks more like the top of a rhombus than a square,......, but anyway, each person is sitting facing the center.
Ricardo is at the far end of the room. On the left from the entrance is Demilly. Estella is on the right. The attendants are seated in chairs diagonally behind the lords.
And there are three desks in front of the entrance with three attendants sitting in a row.

I walked out to stand next to Estella with a leisurely gait, just like in Shakespeare's play.
I get looks from three directions. That's it. Listen to me carefully. I'm about to tell you something very important.

But first, let's do some prep work.

'District 42 would like to set up a city gate and open it up to lumberjacks, hunters, and adventurers as a new source of income for the district. Naturally, we would like to stop the toll tax in District 41.

Ricardo sniffs, a look of displeasure on his face.
This time, looking at Ricardo, I speak as if to confirm.

In the event that you have any questions regarding where and how to use the internet, you can call us at the web site. Is that okay with you?
'...... Well, that's about it. But if you give up on the street gate, I'll consider a toll tax.

'Hmmm ...... that seems to make the discussion parallel ......'.

Hearing Ricardo's opinion, Estella crossed her arms.
The desires of the 42nd and 41st districts clashed beautifully. No compromise is likely to be found.

Finally, I turn my gaze to Demilly, who is sitting across from me, for confirmation.

'What the forty wards want is hair growth, is that right?
'I don't know where I got that idea!No, that's what I want, that's for sure!
'Ambrose, calm down. Don't get too excited or you'll go bald.
'You're getting excited!I've been attacked from behind by my friends!

Well, the hope of District Forty is that the quarrel between District Forty-One and District Forty-Two will cease, and this neighborhood will be at peace.
If they start a war, there's a good chance they'll get hit by a stray bullet. And trade will stop.

Well, the truth is that you want to be able to use the city gates of the Forty-two Wards,...... but if you say that here, it will give the impression that the Forty Wards are supporting the Forty-two Wards, so I won't say anything about it.
It would be better if Ward Forty remained neutral.

In order to catch Ricardo.

'If I dare to say what I want, I hope that this discussion will end peacefully and amicably for both ...... and all three districts, including us. There may be some dissatisfaction, but ...... I hope you can somehow find a compromise.

Demilly, with his good-natured face, gives an exemplary opinion.

But that's not good enough.
Even if it's good now, the compromise will leave you dissatisfied, and the dissatisfaction will grow in proportion to the economic disparity. ...... It will flare up again in less than a decade. It's better if it lasts five years.
At any rate, a compromise means 'nothing is solved, but let's put up with each other'.

What's the compromise this time?
Is it just to make a door instead of a gate?That's a joke, isn't it?

'Well, then. How about we call it a 'large door' instead of a 'gate'?
'Are you kidding me, you bastard?
'It's a compromise!
'Then I'll stop the 'toll tax' and start the 'entrance tax'!

......?This is what will happen.
I mean, don't seriously propose something that I think is impossible.

'This way. This problem is not easy to solve. Because there is a reason why both sides can't back down. ......, right?'

I look at Ricardo.
I know. I know what's going on in your city's kitchen. ......


Ricardo leans back, looking unhappy.
Oh, Ricardo. You can't do that. It's a trait of people who've been wronged to want to keep their distance. And crossing your arms in front of your chest is the gesture of a mentally cornered person defending himself from further attack.
Now you're telling me with your body that what I've said is true and irrefutable.
If I had been trying to scam you, the game would have been decided at this moment.

Well, I'll give you a lenient judgment this time.

'After all, we've both come to the point where we can't compromise.

Ricardo turned away and said nothing, and Estella only looked up at me with an uneasy look in her eyes.
Demilly was stroking his bald head with a difficult look on his face.

'...... When you've come this far, there's only one thing to do.'

He removed his hand from the desk and raised his body from its forward leaning position.
I straightened my back and took a large, fluid step back.
Everyone's gaze follows me, and everyone, including Estella, is now facing me.

With all their faces in my line of sight, I say the only solution I can think of.
I spread my arms out, proud and confident.

'Let's go to war.

Instantly, the air in the room becomes tense.
Javier and Medora's gazes sharpened, and Demery's brow furrowed deeply.

'............ Are you serious, you bastard?

The first to open his mouth was Ricardo.
I was expecting Estella or even Assunto to take a bite out of it, but ...... they were both taken aback and dumbfounded.
Maybe the ones who are used to rough stuff can keep a level head in these talks.

'Of course.
'Oba-kun ......'

He raised one hand to restrain Demilly, who was slowly rising to his feet.
'It's all right. I know what you mean.

I know what you're going to say." As if he had understood her thoughts, Demilly sank back into his chair.
His expression seemed to soften somewhat.

...... Javier and Medora, scary. Don't be angry. It's just a necessary step.

I just wanted to make sure that everyone in the room knew that we had already gone that far, that we were trapped in a cul-de-sac with no way to go forward or back.

No one said a word.
But it must have crossed everyone's mind. The possibility.

You try to pretend that you didn't notice it, and you try to avoid it, and that's why you end up going around in circles, losing the main point of the story.

Once you recognize it.
We have ...... come one step closer to war in these three districts.

'But not everyone here at ......, and of course not all the people in the three districts who are not here, want that.

As I put my opinion into words, Javier and Medora's shoulders slumped.
The stance of war was lifted.
But Estella and Ricardo's expressions are still fixed.
Estella's expression is anxious, Ricardo's irritated.

It's simpler than that, you know.

'I don't want a war. But we have to settle this. ...... then what do we do ............?'

I know you're going to laugh this off as ridiculous, and of course it is, but let's do something that you've all ruled out as an option from the start, and do it seriously.

'Instead of a war, let's have each district elect a representative and have a fair fight!

He clenched his fists and raised his voice.
This is not a joke, a foolishness, or a mockery!

'We're going to fight fair and square, under terms and rules that are acceptable to all three of us. Are you ready?I'm not kidding. When you do this, think of it as a war!If we don't have that kind of determination, we'll never be able to solve this problem!

He walked briskly and came up next to Estella once more.
And slam the desk with all your might.

Bang!--The sound heightens the tension.

'This is war!This is a new era of war where no one's blood will be spilled!

Shin ...... and the room goes silent.
No one says a word, but is silent in thought.


In the midst of this, Ricardo snickers at me as if to mock me.

'Can you solve the problem with such childish trickery?If you lose the game, do you want me to allow you to set up a city gate?

Slowly, Ricardo stands up.

'The people's livelihoods are at stake here,......, and we're not running the government just for the fun of it like you!I'm not going to let you get away with it!

Ricardo kicks the desk away with force.
The desk collapses with a violent crash.
The bottle of ink on top bounces on the floor, spreading a black stain.

'If it's ......, negotiations have broken down.

You're in a position to look down on people.
You think you're in a position to patronize people?
I'll show you a real sneer.

'I'll let you build the city gates yourself. You've heard about the Hexenbiest Swarm, right?It's been determined that it needs to be defeated immediately, regardless of our city gates. Isn't that right, Medora?

I turned to Medora, who was giving me a difficult look.

'...... Ah. If we leave it as it is, hexenbiests will enter the city and ravage not only the 42nd district, but also the 41st district, the 40th district, ...... and all the districts beyond that.
That's right.

Hey, Ricardo.
How do you feel now?

An ally in your own camp has just 'agreed with me, the enemy' from behind your back?
Your back must feel lonely at once.
There's a psychology of place.
When the person behind and next to you is hostile, you feel very uncomfortable. The person behind you is many times more distracting than the person facing you.

Hey, Ricardo. Tell me, ......, how does it feel to be isolated?

'The hunting guild will take down the hexenbiest Swarm at the earliest opportunity. This is the will of this entire city. It's impossible to disobey. Do you understand?
'Very well. And once Swarm is gone, there'll be no reason to stop the construction of the city gate in District 42. ...... You know that, right?
''It's such a pain in the ass!What are you trying to say?

Ricardo is irritated.
But all you can do is stomp on the floor right then and there.
Just like you just did. That's all you can do right now.

You can't hit me, can you?
You're admitting in your heart now that you're wrong.
You got up in the heat of the moment, but you've lost sight of where you put your raised fist.

Think about the situation you're in right now.
Me and Estella are enemies, of course, and Medora is sympathetic to me in some ways.
Demilly and Javier are neutral, but I'm sure they've heard that the Woodcutter's Guild wants to use the city gates of District 42.

It's hard being alone, isn't it?

Even trivial things that normally don't bother us start to bother us, bringing negative consequences and filling our heads with negative elements.

'We've come to a point where we can't back down from each other. We can't stop now. If negotiations break down like this, we'll go ahead. Perhaps you will do the same. ............ then we're done.

It's over.
The thing we were unanimously trying to avoid just a moment ago will become a reality.


'd*mn it, ............, d*mn it!

Ricardo kicks the floor again.
In the meantime, Medora had raised the fallen desk and put it back in place.

'Are you ready to listen to me about this ridiculous game?

Ricardo glared at me silently.
But there was only one answer.

'...... Speak quickly.'

Averting his gaze, Ricardo returned to his seat. I'm glad Medora put the desk back so it looks nice. It's not cool to pick up a desk that you knocked over yourself.

'Now, before I go to ......, can I have a drink of water?
'Oh, yeah. Drink it slowly.'

Demilly answers me.
It's a way of saying, 'I'm going to ask you too. By showing a friendly attitude, he is implying that he wants to help in any way he can.

The worst possible outcome is clearly stated in advance, and everyone's consciousness is tied to it.
Then, by making them think "I want to avoid the worst case scenario," they are induced to compromise with a "better" solution.
It's an application of the door-in-the-face technique.

Thanks to Ricardo, the consciousnesses of everyone in the room are now aligned.
'One wrong decision and it's war.
This sense of urgency makes it difficult for them to interrupt or push for their own demands.
No one wants to be told that they are the one who started the war.

Slowly drink some water to moisten your mouth.
Now, let's do this.

Ohba Yashiro, solo performance.

'What I'm about to do is just a game. No one will die. But depending on who wins, you could lose your territory.'
'That's a ...... disturbing story.'

Demilly said in a cheerful voice, probably unable to bear the tension.
But the pleasant air was soon broken by silence.

'I'll continue talking. We're going to play by the rules, fair and square, and make things clear and black and white. A clear winner in front of the crowd, with no one to complain about afterwards.
'So it'll be a spectator game.'
'Yes. Because this game will be of great importance to the people of each district.

Estella's expression is more serious than ever.
She's familiar with me, so maybe she knows what I'm thinking.
I feel like I'm going to do it, but I'm also worried. He looks like a mixture of those things.

'What are you going to do now that you have a winner?

Ricardo leans back and asks in an arrogant manner.
But his gaze is serious.

'The winner can make the loser accept one condition of his choosing.
'...... Huh.'

Ricardo's face contorts horribly.
Oh, he's just thinking about what happens when he wins. Yes, that's the losing flag. Sorry for your loss.
But if Ricardo doesn't get on board here, it's no use talking about it, so I'll carry him on my shoulders for a little while longer.

'If District Forty-One wins, we'll honestly withdraw the plan to install the city gate.
'In return, if you win, you can tell us to build the city gates and not charge a toll tax.
'If that's what you want.

Of course, we can do more than that.

'That's a story with more disadvantages for the forty districts.
'Well, yes. There's not much to gain, and the risks are high.'
'Oji-sama. This is our district's problem. Please, take it easy on .......'
'No, Estella. We can't just stand in a safe zone and watch the battle for the second district from a distance. As long as we say we are neutral, non-interference is unreasonable. We participated in this issue from a position of 'neutrality.

The city is lucky to have such a person at the top.
If the forty wards here announce their non-participation on the grounds of neutrality, ......

'It's possible that the winner would have absorbed the losing district and launched a war of aggression.
'Yeah, I thought the same thing as you. There's no need to show mercy to those who didn't stand on the same field.

Annoyingly, Ricardo and I are on the same page.
Neither one likes the other. Even a child can understand that.
The best way for the riskiest forty districts to avoid risk is to stand on the same field.

It would be better to stand on the same field and lose in the least risky way.
For example, you could collude with one of the ...... and lose in a way that leaves no scars.
If you're going to win, that's one thing, but ...... it's still not very beneficial.

'Hey, Demilly. Don't worry about it.'

Javier got up from his chair and slapped Demilly on the shoulder.

'You've got the Lumberjack Guild with you. You may have trouble with the hunting guild, but we won't let you lose.
'Huh!What are you talking about, you bearded old man?Are you trying to beat my hunting guild by force?You have no idea what you're doing. Go train in the woods for a hundred years!
'What the hell, you old hag?
'You can't do this, old bearded man!

Javier and Medora.
The two big guys stand up and sparks fly.
It's like a monster movie poster.

'Oh, um, Yashiro-san, ......'

It was Imelda who raised her hand fearfully. She wants to have her say.
I looked at Ricardo and Demilly, who both gave me the 'okay' signal.

'Permission to speak.

I said, and Imelda stood up and said in a quiet voice.

'Under those conditions, District Forty-two is at too great a disadvantage.

Next to Imelda, Assunto and Use were shaking their heads furiously.

'The Lumberjacks' Guild and the Hunters' Guild are both full of skilled men. Even though there are branches of Magda, Delia, Use and the hunting guild in the 42nd district, the difference in strength is obvious. There is also a big difference in human resources even if the selected players are competing against each other. In the event that you've got a lot of money to spend, you'll be able to get a lot more than you can afford.

Assunto, Use, and even Estella seemed to agree, and they all nodded their heads in agreement.
If you look, Demilly, Javier and Medora are also looking at me sympathetically.

'Hey, you. What did you say your name was again?'

Ricardo closes his eyes and talks to me.
He folds his hands behind his head and crosses his legs comfortably.

'It's Oba Yashiro.'
'Yashiro. ............'

Ricardo raises himself up and sits back down, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.
He crosses his hands and stares up at me with a glare.

'......You think you can win a game with that kind of content?'

Is this a warning?
Hmm. That's quite kind of you.
Now you can say, 'Pfft, he doesn't know. That's easy! Maybe it's because he's been around Medora since he was a kid, who insisted on being reasonable.

'I'm not sure if I can win yet, but I don't think I'll lose ...... badly.
'Is there anyone who's quite skilled in the forty two districts?I'm not sure what to make of that.I'm sure you'll be able to figure out how to get the most out of it.

I'm sure he didn't like the fact that I called him that, but Ricardo glared at me with a very scary look on his face.
But I didn't care, I continued.

'What do you 'think' this game is about?

All you guys do is brag about your muscles and your strength.
How could I propose such a barbaric game?

'The game I'm proposing is perfectly black and white, yet safe and peaceful, not a drop of blood will be spilled, yet it's dramatic and moving.

It's a very popular content with great planning power, and when it's shown on Japanese TV, it gets good ratings.


Estella stands up, looks me in the eye and asks.

'What are you trying to do?

Thanking her for the nice gesture, I look around at all the faces, pause long enough to pontificate, and then say slowly and loudly.

'Let's have a gluttony contest, black and white!