83: Making the Map
I reported that the Kind Hottie was the next boss of the slum, Most Dark to His Highness Ludens.
As I thought, there was a guard stationed at the entrance of Most Dark, and government officials, who went there to do their work, were chased away. Therefore, even though they had wanted to find out who Way was, the only thing they learnt was that he was an influential person in Most Dark. They were removed from Most Dark when they were trying to find out who he was.
Having said that, it’s not like no one can enter the slums, the Royal Capital residents who are trusted by those who live in the slums can enter. Well, and those who have connections.
I might be protected by Way’s power a little, but that place has the worst security out of all the places I’ve been to, and I have to be more careful than usual. I left the most valuable thing I owned, the ring with the red jewel that Furore-sama had given me, at the government residence. I removed the ring from the fur string necklace I had and hid it in my socks. I packed a set of clothes for an overnight stay, including socks, and put them into the big black bag. I also put my extra cash in the bag, and then I stuffed it in a closet, and I was done. I hope people won’t notice it like this.
I put the sketchbook that I would use to draw the map in my backpack. I will look at the streets with my own eyes, make notes of how the roads are and sketch the actual landscape. I’m not a professional cartographer, so I can’t create beautiful maps that allow people to imagine the area like seen at the Royal Capital Library, but I want to at least draw the streets correctly.
I only took enough money for food and the carriage fee. If it gets stolen, then I would have to walk home and miss a meal.
I went to Most Dark again.
As soon as I entered, I called out to the scary looking fella on the stone bridge, “I want to see Way.”
As soon as he heard my request, I was reunited with Way at the big mansion.
“Hello, Ayesha. I hadn’t expected you to see you again so soon.”
“I have to strike the iron while it’s hot. Hello, Way.”
His gentle and soothing aura was drifting about… It’s incredible that you can still feel his aura in a dangerous place like this.
“I have a favour to ask you Way since you are the most influential person in Most Dark. Please let me make a map of Most Dark.”
I bowed deeply.
“Making a map means that people will know all the areas around here? It’s more convenient for us if they don’t. What advantage do we get if we give you permission?”
“Your streets will certainly be known. In other words, the existence of Most Dark will become clear. The Royal Capital won’t be able to ignore it any more. The Royal Capital wants to obtain a map of this place so that they could protect this Kingdom. Do you know about this? The map in the Royal Library has the slums blackened out. It’s like you said Way, it doesn’t exist. Until now, both sides know that this place exists, but one side has been ignoring it, so why don’t you take advantage of the map and interact with the Royal Palace? It’s impossible for the Royal Palace to suddenly take control of the slums. They need your cooperation to do so. For example, how about negotiating with the map in exchange for maintenance of the roads here in Most Dark?”
I don’t know much about the infrastructure in Most Dark, but there were a lot of dirt roads, and they were in a mess. It didn’t look like the residents here knew how to service the roads.
“It’s impossible to ask them to service all the roads with just one map.”
“Then what if you could pay taxes and use a part of that to construct it?”
“You do know that people live here because they can’t pay tax in the Royal Capital, right?”
“Then, you can collect money and use that towards building roads, can’t you? You all do work that you can’t publicly announce, don’t you? I’m sure you have quite a bit of money. If the roads in Most Dark become beautiful, then the security around here will also improve, and you’ll be able to do different work.”
Haahaah, I’m tired from saying it all at once. Way urged me to sit on the sofa.
“The existence of Most Dark, which has been treated as non-existence because it has been blackened out on the map, will become evident. The Royal Capital can’t ignore the existence of Most Dark. Doesn’t that feel good?” I declared.
The shady smile from Way disappeared.
“I will feel better.”
“… Even if the map is complete, I don’t know how the interactions and negotiations will go. Still, if you want to make the map, then I want to help you. I’ll make the arrangements so that you won’t be harmed here.”
We firmly squeezed each other’s hands.
We’re comrades, aren’t we?
I began making the map at the beginning of autumn when the heat was still lingering.
Every day, I went to the street where Kicker lived by carriage and walked to Most Dark from there.
In winter, I wore an old, thin coat, with layers of socks, a pair of boots and my hat and scarf; I sketched with my numb hands. I couldn’t understand how the streets were connected, and I walked around them many times to double check and draw.
I was chased by stray days and driven away by spiteful residents many times; but the residents who weren’t interested in outsiders, slowly began talking to me as I continued to loiter around. I didn’t walk around with Way much, but I didn’t have restrictions on where I could go.
Once, I was caught by an organisation that was hostile towards Way and them, but Captain Weller went to look for me since I hadn’t returned home. They had long unkempt hair, and I was astonished when they had appeared because I didn’t know who they were. I once again realised how strong Captain Weller was and the number of connections he had. Afterwards, Cafule-san-san was officially assigned to me as my guard. The memory of introducing Cafule-san to Way and having Way say, “He can enter as long as he’s by your side,” was still fresh in my mind. Way had given his approval because he had deeply regretted that he hadn’t been able to protect me.
I didn’t tell anyone in Most Dark that I was a noble. I couldn’t use my power as a noble. It might influence the map making if they distanced themselves from me if they found out I was a noble, and I would be troubled if I was kidnapped and a ransom note was sent to the Thousand House.
During the time that I went to Most Dark, I became close enough to the residents that they would coax me for small change and they would put presents into my coat while I wasn’t looking. I was especially close with the women. There were a lot of people who lived strongly, but there were also infants and those who were barely scraping by. There were no family registers for the infants. These children didn’t exist like Way. When I saw a single mother with her child, I was reminded of my own childhood. I knew that charity wasn’t salvation, but the parents and children have experienced temporary help from someone else.
I worried about the residents when I went to Most Dark when it snowed. I worried about the residents who could not see doctors if a bad cold were to spread widely, and I shed tears for those who couldn’t overcome the harsh winter.
I went to the Royal Capital’s Public Order Consolation Room once a week, and I anguished over the gap between wealth and poverty while travelling to and from Most Dark for about five months.
I had even learnt the foul language of the slums.