448-<> Estella ~ Eventually, fate will defi...

Knock, knock.

After knocking, a voice comes from the other side of the door.

"Enter .......

A weak voice.
If I hadn't known it was me, one of my attendants would have returned the call.

'Excuse me.

I said in a clear voice and opened the door.

The room, which had been cleaned to the utmost limit to prevent dust from flying around, smelled a little like disinfection.
The lord's room, where only a minimum number of people are allowed to enter.
An emaciated man was lying on a large bed by the window.

The current Lord of the Forty-second Ward, Ortwine Cremona.
My father.

'Father. I got some fresh vegetables from the Agricultural Guild.'

I fill up a box with fresh vegetables from the Agricultural Guild and hold it up for your father to see.
Lying on the bed, your father's eyes narrowed.

I wonder if ...... he knows.
But that doesn't mean you can't stop here.

'I heard that the quality of vegetables is good this month, look at these carrots. They're so thick and brightly colored.
'...... I see.'

The breath in my throat makes a faint sound.
Your father was infected with an epidemic that hit the 42nd district a few years ago and has yet to be completely cured.
His body is growing weaker and weaker by the day.
I haven't been on the stage for almost a year now.

Because of ......, I have to be strong.

'I'll give it to the chef. Please eat a lot of food and be healthy. The people are all looking forward to seeing your father in good health.

He ended the conversation with a smile, taking care not to darken the tone.
Even if you are a father and a son, you have a limited amount of time to see your father. It is dangerous to exhaust your energy unnecessarily.

'...... Estella'.

I was about to leave the room when a weak voice called out to me.
When I turned around in front of the door, the father only turned his face toward me and moved his dry, chapped lips.

'...... hardship.'

I'm not sure what to say.
You'll be able to find a lot more than just a few of them.
I'm scared, I'm lonely, I'm anxious.

But I'm the acting lord...

'Not at all, sir. The servants are working very hard and the people are very friendly, so there's nothing to worry about.

It's not a lie.
It's not a lie, but it's not the truth either.
Still, I need to remove as many of your fears as possible.

This town still needs you, not this half-baked little girl, but a reliable lord.

'The Forty-Two Wards that your father created and protected is a wonderful city that is second to none. I've had a very easy time of it.

I think it was a perfect smile.
I can put a perfect smile on my face no matter what I'm feeling.
It's one of the noble abilities I've mastered. One of the aristocratic skills I've mastered, though I'm not sure I'll ever be proud of it. ......

'...... I see.'

And with that, your father dropped his head back on the pillow.
Again, a muffled sound escaped his throat, and no other sound could be heard.

I bowed my head deeply and left the room quietly, careful not to stir up any dust.

'...... haha'.

As I closed the door, I relaxed a little.
Sighing was not a good idea.

'My Lady.'

Natalia, the head waiter, comes over to me.
As the head waiter of the Cremona family, she is supposed to follow her father's lead, but she has been taking care of me since I was a child.
It is for this reason that Natalia, although she is the head waiter of the Cremona family, follows me as the acting lord rather than the lord.

'Natalia, can you give this to the head chef? He's going to ask you to cook something for your father that will give him energy.
'Yes, sir.

With a reverent bow, she takes the crate of vegetables from me and raises her eyebrows slightly.

'...... like this. You've pushed yourself too hard again, haven't you?

Natalia seems to see right through me.

'What your father needs is rest and nutrition. As a filial daughter, I'm willing to spend this much.'

That's right. Most of these vegetables were purchased by me with my own money.
Some of them were really given to me by the farming guild, but all of them were too thin to be seen by your father.

'Aren't these carrots magnificent?Mormat said he was confident about this one.'
'Also, did you approve the tax payment in kind?'
'Well, it's a difficult situation everywhere.

The agricultural guilds wholesale vegetables to the peddlers' guilds and are obligated to pay a set amount of money from the profits to their lords as tax.
However, the peddlers' guild only buys vegetables of good quality, and many of them are not worth more than a few pounds.

Naturally, they are troubled by the tax they have to pay, and plead with us to somehow substitute something in kind for the tax.
It happens all the time.
This is not limited to agricultural guilds.

'Since it's not a malicious overstep, shouldn't we be generous and accept it?
'Too generous, I would say.'

Natalia's tone did not change.
She had been lectured a lot since she was a child, but at her age, it was still the same.

'No one will buy the skinny vegetables that the peddlers' guild refuses to buy. In other words, they cannot be exchanged for money, right?
'But it's okay that we can eat the vegetables. Since we don't need to buy vegetables, we are able to reduce our expenditure.
'If we lose our income before we can control our spending, we'll go bankrupt.

I know that. I know that.
But you can't shake what you don't have.
You can't blame the farming guild or make them take responsibility.

'Many generous people are the virtue of our Forty-Two Wards.
'The most magnanimous are the lords' families. ...... at all. Even though they have taken in a large amount of vegetables that can't be exchanged for money, they buy additional vegetables of good quality to make them look better when they show them to the Lord. ......'
'Well, well, that's good. We're all on the edge right now. If those who can push themselves a little harder do so, there will be room somewhere. If you use that room to create room in other places, eventually the whole city will turn into a great city with room.
'It's idealistic, though, isn't it?

...... I know.
It's not that easy.

I'm acutely aware of that. The more I'm involved in the administration as acting lord, the more I realize the tragic situation of this city and how helpless I am.

I want to do something about it.
But there's nothing I can do with that thought alone.
My power is too weak to change this city.

I can't create the kind of power that could turn this whole city upside down.

'Maybe you'll just pop up from somewhere. An eccentric and charming hero who can break through this stagnation.

I know I shouldn't be talking about such wishful thinking, but I am.
But it's okay to dream about it.

I'm sure it's impossible for anyone to successfully break out of this deadlock.

One day I'll have to cut someone down.
To avoid killing the whole city, I'll cut down those who are weak and have no chance of being saved.
The small are left to die so that the big can live.

It's as brutal as abandoning your own father, who can no longer stand still long enough.

...... I wonder if I could do that.
If I could, ......

I'm not sure if I'll be able to be the same person after I do that.
Will I be the kind of person that my family and friends will be proud of?

If I were to become a frog, would I be able to escape this heavy burden?
Stay in the swamp, turn away from the world, cover your ears, and breathe low. ......

...... No, I can't do that.
I don't even know where the frog's ears are.

If I can't plug my ears, I can't pretend not to know.

If you can't turn a blind eye, go to ......

'When the time comes, I'll make the decision.

I'll sacrifice my life to save this city.
If the only way to keep the big alive is to cut off the small, isn't it appropriate that the first to be cut off is my tiny life?

'...... Thank you very much.

I wonder what expression I had on my face just now.
Natalia looked at me and stepped back with a sad expression on her face.
'I have nothing more to say to you,' was Natalia's attitude.

I'm sorry you're having such a hard time, my Lord.

'Well, I'll leave you to take care of the house.
'Where are you going today?
'A little further out to sea.

He pulls out a permit from his pocket and shows it to Natalia.
This was a one-time permit from the Lord that allowed them to participate in fishing together aboard the Sea Fishing Guild's boat.

'You're going fishing, young lady?
'I've been invited before. I'm going to make some money to put in our coffers while I get to know my old friend.

I've known Marsha Ashley of the Seafaring Guild since I was a child.
I asked her to let me accompany the Sea Fishing Guild on their fishing trips.
The deadline is from this afternoon until dawn tomorrow.

Even though it's my friend's boat, I'm still worried about going out into the world where forced translation magic is no longer effective.
The sea is said to be full of magical beasts and there are many dangers.

Even so, I need money for the 42nd district right now.
I'll do anything if I can earn it.
As long as the name of acting lord is not tarnished.

'My Lady, ......'
'Natalia, please.'

I know you want to stop me.
But there's only so much I can do right now, and this is all I can think of right now.
So let me at least do the best I can.

'Can you send me off with a smile?I'm sure I can do my best.'
'...... Thank you very much.'

With a clear face, Natalia thanked him, raised her head, and smiled slightly.

'Thank you. I'll be back.

Leaving the lord's mansion, they took a carriage to the 35th district.
As she swayed in the carriage, she remembered that Ginette liked sea fish.

Then I'll bring her one as a souvenir.
I'll ask Masha to exchange all the rest for cash.

The carriage soon leaves the Forty-second Ward.
As I watched the 42nd district moving away, I prayed to the spirit gods like a dreaming girl.

If my wish comes true, please let me meet a hero who can save us.
If such a person appears, I'm willing to devote my life to him or her.
As long as he can save my precious 42nd district, that is.

Soon, I'll meet a man.
For better or worse, he's eccentric, powerful enough to turn the whole of District 42 upside down.

I still don't know if my wish reached the spirit gods or not, but I felt something faintly. When I saw him, or even earlier, when I saw that handbill.
I can't really put it into words, but ...... at the risk of sounding cliché, I definitely felt a ray of hope, something like that.

I'm sure I felt something like that in his face, which was drawn with a 30% more evil face.