A few moments passed by as I reached the exit of the palace where Tanya and the others were waiting, immediately, the Duchess ran towards me and looked at me at all places with worry on her face as she asked, “Are you alright? Did the Queen do something to you?”
I shook my head and simply smiled, “Her Majesty is not someone that would do something to me, dear Mother. She is someone respectable and kind, the two of us only talked about certain details and so forth…” which caused her to sigh in relief as she stood up tired.
“Are you really sure about accepting her proposal, dear? Even your father was in disagreement with it because of how bad the situation is on Iana town, not to mention, you hardly learned anything about economics and politics to even know how to manage a town…” she looked at me with plenty of worries.
“No worries, dear Mother. The word impossible does not exist in my dictionary. There is only possible, success and failure,” I smiled with confidence before she looked a bit surprised but nodded anyway as she looked at Tanya with a sigh.
“I will entrust my daughter with you, Tanya. Please do take care of her, if ever the two of you need any assistance from the house, send us a letter and we will do our best in fulfilling that request. We also have to consider the benefits our family will receive if Ayumi succeeds,” she smiled wryly.
Indeed, the Windsor family would benefit a lot if ever I succeed on this challenge. Their status in the noble hierarchy would rise and more people would engage with them in trades and other industries, though I don’t have any plans on relying on them for the most part.
“It is my duty to protect the lady, madam,” Tanya said as the Duchess smiled at her before turning towards me as she asked.
“When will you leave, do you want us to pack everything in your room?”
I immediately rejected with my lips curled up as I said, “There is no need to pack anything, I only need my pocket money then I will start moving towards the town. I want to see the situation there and start working as soon as possible.”
“The quicker I can assess, the faster I can change the lives of the people living there which is the responsibility of a noble.”
She looked a bit more worried but nodded anyway as she gestured the drivers some signs before the driver grabbed something from their carriage, handing it to the Duchess who soon handed the leather bag towards me.
“What is this?” I asked while taking the leather bag.
“It’s around twenty gold coins which should be enough to sustain you for at least a month or three if you budget them correctly. You have grown a lot, Ayumi… if ever you can no longer handle the situation, don’t hesitate to tell us as we will immediately assist to our fullest,” she smiled.
For once, I felt like my heart was filled with an odd feeling. It was a feeling that I had lost ever since Mom died in the past, the feeling of familial love. It makes me feel guilty knowing that I am actually not their daughter but at the same time, I liked basking in this feeling. It erased all the loneliness inside of me like a spark in the dark.
“Thank you, mom…” I unconsciously said before she hugged me tightly, kissing my cheeks as she turned around with a wry smile.
“Take care, my dearest daughter,” she turned around and smiled once more before entering the carriage as they left soon after. Even though we only met each other for a little amount of time, it truly felt like I experienced a year's worth of family.
The falsified memories inside of me also contained a few memories of a false childhood that showed my life if I was actually born in the Windsor family. I knew of Tanya’s backstory and everyone’s story because of these false memories but it felt lacking… I really want to know them truly, I hope one day I can confess to them everything… one day when the world is in peace.
“Let’s go, my lady,” Tanya smiled as she reached her hand towards me while on the carriage. As always, I didn’t hesitate and took her hand as the two of us sat on the carriage and started moving towards the town of Iana.
Midway into the route, I looked out at the window before a bright lake could be seen at its fullest. The lake looked super fresh and warm; the color of the water was crystal blue which was rare to see in the modern world because of pollution. It looked super beautiful, the best picnic spot you could think of.
“Say, Tanya. Do you know of the situation in the Iana town?” I rested my elbow on the window, placing my head on my hand while staring at Tanya who was looking at me with a bit of a surprise.
“Yes, my lady. In fact, my family originally came from Iana town before the land became dry. The town was one of the major trading centers of the kingdom before the previous King took reign of the kingdom in which he offended some sort of peculiar person.”
“That peculiar person cursed the land just before he died in the hands of the king, no one believed his curse and thought of it as some kind of crazy mumblings of the man but not long after, news came of the town not receiving any form of rain straight,” she said with a wry smile.
So the situation of Iana town is really a curse and not some kind of natural occurrence from what Tanya said but for such a curse to occur for a long time, there needs to be some sort of mana crystal abundant enough to sustain the curse especially one that is of a wide radius. According to the mechanics of Solis, a curse cannot be activated without a power source.
That means, if we search far and wide enough, there may be some sort of giant mana crystal hidden at some spot that would be the power source of the curse. The issue left is finding the mana crystal which requires someone or an item sensitive to mana.
“When was the last time you visited the town and how was the food situation there when you last arrived?” I inquired before she tilted her head for a second.
“The last time I visited there was around a year ago and the food situation was super bad even then, people were starving on the streets, yet they did not resort to any crimes but instead helped one another as much as they could,” she replied.
“Who was the last noble who was responsible with the management and funds of the town?” I asked with a frown. The situation looked to be worse than I expected, we may need to resort to purchasing food from a nearby town of some sort nearby if there are any as a temporary resort.
“The last noble was Marquis Helena who immediately escaped from the town when everything started crumbling apart. Ever since then, Marquis Helena was never seen. It was said that she escaped the kingdom before news of the situation came to the public…” she answered.
As usual, no one wants to take responsibility for a decaying town. I could relate with the noble as well, how long do you think she can sustain the town with only her money, a decaying town with no crops and anything to sell. It was practically a goner at that point.
I could only stare at the lake, imagining the horrific situation I would be greeted by once I arrived at the town, gripping my fists together as I prepare myself for the worst of the worse. There could be dead bodies lying around, malnourished children—a world that could be called hell.
After some time, the carriage soon stopped as we reached inside a dusty old civilization. The entire land was like a desert—it was all super drylands, the smell around was so horrible that even without taking a step inside, you could tell the sanitization of the town was gone.
“This is what remains of the former glorious trading center, what a horrible mess,” I smiled wryly while looking at the entrance. There were still a few guards there watching over with exhausted expressions on their faces, they lacked any form of motivation to go forward.
I didn’t wait and instead called out to the guards who soon turned towards our direction with surprise. Their eyes glimmered as they ran towards us and kneeled immediately, “How long has it been since a noble has arrived here!”
“Excuse us but this should be Iana town right?” I asked.
“Indeed, miss… this is the town of Iana—if it could still be called a town,” one of the guards smiled wryly.
“Do you mind leading me to the town chief if that person is still here?” I asked before the two of them looked at each other and nodded, standing up as they opened the gates before the guard who answered approached us while gesturing us to follow.
Tanya and I immediately followed with caution. I could hear the whispers of people all around me as eyes lurked from the sides. There were buildings but most of which were in crumbles, super dusty, and a whole collateral mess.
“The situation here is indeed super bad… we need to do a lot of work to get this moving,” I bit my lips.
There were plenty of children who were all malnourished, some were dying on the corners while some desperately tried scavenging for food. It was like the end of the world here, there was nothing that really resembled a proper civilization.
After some time of walking, we soon arrived at the heart of the town where an old, dusty town hall could be seen with roofs of blue. It looked like an ordinary medieval house but a bit larger with a blue roof contrary to the usual red roofs.
“Chief, a noble has arrived,” one of the guards knocked on the door before an elderly voice replied.
“Please wait over there.”
The wait didn’t take long, only around a minute as the door opened, revealing an elderly man who was holding a wooden stick to balance himself. His face was all wrinkles as he looked at me with glimmering eyes before bowing down a bit.
“Forgive my insolence, are you perhaps the newly assigned noble for this area?” he asked before noticing the badge on my necklace as he paled a bit.
“Indeed, I am the newly assigned noble here according to Her Majesty’s orders. I would like to skip the long talks and instead immediately delve into details of the town such as the earnings if there are any, the current amount of funds remaining, the food situation, and all those other details,” I ordered before he nodded immediately, ordering the guards to follow.
“It may take a while to organize all the information, madam. How about taking a short break inside the hall and discuss over there?” the elderly man offered as I shook my head.
“I want to go assess the situation in the town first, do you have someone well-versed in everything about the town?” I looked at him emotionlessly before he nodded as he whispered a guard to call a certain person whose name started with ‘Liza’.
The guard immediately obeyed and rushed inside as I turned around and looked at the horrific state of the town. At this point, it would be better to call this town a loss—but there was still a bit of hope… a tiny bit of hope to bring back the glory of the town.