Friday, December 2, 2022 @

Chapter 24, Part 1

 Water and sewage systems are a kind of lifeline for any city. Water is necessary for daily life, and if a large population lives in one place, the amount of wastewater is naturally enormous. Then, if a large amount of wastewater is simply poured down without a plan, it will become a source of epidemics, so how to purify and dispose of it in a place far from urban areas has been considered important even in the cities of my previous world.
 Fortunately, the capital of Fuso-kuni has the most well-developed water supply and sewage system in the country. Thanks to the blessings of the spiritual veins, the capital has succeeded in securing safe drinking water and water for daily use from underground water and rivers. The water resources are so abundant that even the common people can bathe in public bathhouses in the inner part of the capital.
 On the other hand, the treatment of wastewater is also surprisingly advanced. The sewage is disposed of through a vast sewage system made of lead, stone, and bricks, which is separate from the water supply system, to a place far from the capital.
 Wait, isn't that just a drip? Well, no need to say that. It is true that there are some parts of technology that is comparable to modern technology, but on average, the technology level of this world and this country does not exceed the medieval level at best. Advanced filtration and purification technology are not absent, but it is still in its infancy. Frankly speaking, people should consider themselves quite lucky to have a water supply and sewerage system as good as that of Rome. At least there is no sewage spraying from above when walking around.
 But then again, managing the water supply in such a city has a certain profit motive.
 The use of well water is taxed by the city, and public bathhouses are also taxed by both the owner and the user. In fact, there are even publicly operated bathhouses. Of course, this is not for the public welfare but for revenue. There is even a tax on flush toilets, and in order to increase the tax revenue, the Imperial Court even made a ridiculous plan to convert all the toilets in the capital to flush toilets at one time. The management of waterworks is a money-making tree.
 ...At the same time, the cost of managing a too-vast water system was also enormous.
 Fuso-kuni is a rather small nation, just as most of the undemocratic nations in the previous world in the middle to early modern period were small governments like a night watchman state. In other words, if the budget is not allocated to defense and food production, the country will be destroyed by the monsters. Therefore, the government doesn't care about the welfare of the people...
 Anyway, Tachibana Trading Company is one of several organizations that leased the water rights of the capital from the Imperial Court. Together with other nobles and merchant associations, they hired laborers and mercenaries to manage and operate the waterworks. The problem is that in the past few months, some of them have gone deep into the sewers for cleaning and repair and have not come back. They sent out a group of mercenaries twice after that, but they were not heard from again.
 "Since they are in control of the project, they wanted to solve the problem themselves without crying out to the imperial court..."
 At the entrance to a river on the outskirts of the city, a sewer that drains relatively unpolluted water into the river, I blurted out the story behind this request.
 The head of the company, who was entertaining Fat-mon and Gorilla-sama at his mansion, seemed to be a merchant who did not miss the opportunity. He immediately tried to use the power of the Kizuki family, with whom he had formed a friendship, to solve this little-known problem. The fact that the Kizuki family had just caused a little commotion at the Oumi family's mansion may have been a factor in their decision.
 Meanwhile, Gorilla-sama also took advantage of the head of the company, who was trying to take advantage of them. She volunteered to solve the problem of the underground water supply, which she mentioned casually, and after a moment's hesitation, Fat-mon followed suit to take advantage of her interest.
 (Having said that, I don't think I expected her to come in here...)
 I glance at it from a corner a little ways away. A girl with a few escort servants and a few menial chores were riding on a horse with an unpleasant look on their face.
 "Princess, please stop! The daughter of the Ako family should not set foot in such a filthy place...!! If word gets out, your family will be furious!!"
 "No! I've made up my mind, don't interfere me!!"
 Ako Murasaki, who wears light clothes and brought a sword, reprimands the flustered words of the middle-aged servant and dismisses them. Because of the strict status system, the servants could not object any more strongly to such a strong reprimand. Instead, they glared at me hatefully.
 (Hey, isn't that just taking it out on me...?)
 Unreasonable hostility attacks me! Sadly, this is the reality of a feudal society with a status system. It can't be helped.
 "Oh my, oh my, aren't you making a lot of noise? Murasaki, can't you even discipline your own dog? They're barking so loudly."
 Her venomous tongue echoes like a bell, and I look closely at her. There was Gorilla-sama, who was smiling a little wryly as she pulled open the curtain of the oxcart. ...Still, shouldn't you stop pouring fuel on the fire? There's a good way to say things, you know?
 Aside from my worry that I am inwardly worrying, the servants of the Ako family are frightened by Aoi's words and their faces are turning blue. It's only natural that they would get scared before getting angry if they are provoked by a person who could turn them into a lump of meat in a few seconds if she wanted to.
 "...Hime-sama, I beg your pardon, but it is true that their words have a point. I think it would be better for her to appoint someone to represent her."
 I offer my opinion based on the common sense of this world. What started out as a gorilla's mean-spiritedness has turned into something more and more serious. It was a crazy act just to make the exorcists and the servants compete with each other, and for the daughter of a famous family of exorcists to go into the underground sewers by herself... even if she had been appointed by the imperial court, it was a very unusual situation for Ako Murasaki herself to go underwater in such a situation.
 Besides, for me personally, and for the sake of the gorilla's reputation and the honor of Murasaki herself, it was best to cancel this job. I mean, I don't want to go into the underground waterway, okay? After all, the main character will be defeated in the end anyway, so why don't we just stop poking around in the bushes here?
 "Just get ready to go under the ground. Are you trying to ruin my face for helping the merchant out of trickery?"
 With a smile full of mercy, the gorilla princess pronounces her merciless sentence. Oh, as expected, she's a gorilla. Gorilla, gorilla, gorilla!
 "Tomobe-san... Umm, please be careful...!!"
 On the side of the ox-drawn cart was a white figure dressed as a servant. Her tail and ears were wagging as she looked at me with deep concern. I'm a little shocked if it was an act.
 "...yeah. I know it. If I sense danger, I'll just gather information and come back. There's nothing to worry about."
 I really wish I could have convinced Gorilla-sama rather than worrying about it, but I'm not a kid enough to press the issue. Her position is one of absolute superiority to mine, and so is Shiro. And perhaps it's my role as an older person, so I'm supposed to take this white girl's words of concern in stride and say something to reassure her. Though, to be precise, this little half-youkai girl is older than me.
 With a small sigh, I turn to face the front. Ako Murasaki, who had gotten off her horse, also noticed my gaze and opened her mouth with a strong look in her eyes.
 "So according to my cousin (itoko-sama), the winner is the one who completes this task. Well, youkai who hide in the underground waterways are not my enemies after all... but you can hide behind me if you think it's dangerous. For a servant, even a small youkai can be a challenge."
 The girl snickers and provokes me. However, of the harshness of her words, I didn't feel so much disgust or discomfort. She seemed to be somewhat inexperienced in the way she said things. Perhaps she rarely speaks ill of others in her daily life. Somehow, I felt innocent. Like a child trying desperately to grow taller...? No, in fact, she is 13 years old, so she is a child.
 I wonder if the fact that she looks older than the children of the same age in her previous life is due to her strict family training and the severe values of this world itself...? While I was thinking about such an unimportant matter, the guides shouted out to me.
 "Are you ready? We are about to leave, but do you have any regrets?"
 Through their light clothing, I could see that they were thin, but their bodies were toned and fit for manual labor. There were three guides to the underground tunnels, who were hardly ordinary people with scars on their faces and parts of their bodies, each of them holding a Wakizashi (a Japanese long-handled bamboo sword) at their waist and a lantern in their hand. Clearly, they are not serious.
 "I'm ready whenever needed. And you?"
 Ako Murasaki declares in a stately, but slightly grim tone. I look at my lord behind me. She smiles at me, covering her mouth with her fan. It is a declaration of execution. In other words...
 "...yeah. No problem. We can always go under."
 With nothing but problems, I responded with resignation.
* * *
 The inside of the sewer was much larger than I had expected. There was a brick semicircular or arched passage, in the center of which domestic wastewater flowed, and at each end of the passage, there were footholds with enough room for three people to stand side by side. There seemed to be no lights in the passage, so a few men in charge of guiding us around with lanterns in their hands illuminated the ceiling in front of us, behind us, and around us so that there would be no gaps or shadows.
 "It doesn't smell so bad, does it?"
 Ako Murasaki asks the guide ahead of her. Apparently, she expected a worse smell from the sewers.
 "Well, the wastewater here is mainly from the baths and so on. And it was sprayed with disinfectant before it got here. So, it's still not as dirty as you might think."
 The lead usher says sarcastically. The others follow suit with scornful laughter. In other words, it was as if he was saying that the place was even worse from here onward. Murasaki looked uncomfortable at this attitude and muttered quietly.
 "Even though you're just a lowly person...!"
 For Ako Murasaki, who was born into a well-known exorcism family but naturally looked down upon those who were outside the class system as a matter of common sense, the guides' attitude of making fun of her was quite nerve-wracking. Of course, it was rational for her not to cut them off and spared them on the spot.
 (Well, from their point of view, it's not so strange.)
 As I accompany them, I recall in my brain the knowledge of the original story that comes from the setting book.
 Many of the exorcists who claim themselves to be the descendants of the gods of mythical times, along with the imperialists and the court nobles, have kept a secret that they actually originated from the oppressed class.
 The answer is easy to come by if one thinks about it. Like me, the early exorcists are weak, even if they have spiritual power, their power is so weak that even a small youkai can kill them if they are not careful. No, considering the fact that at the time of this original work, there is a lot of knowledge on how to fight and train against youkai, without such knowledge, it would have been even more hopeless in those days when the quality of weapons was even poorer due to the low level of technology.
 In those days, when there was no concept of a country but only a village or a hamlet with a population of tens to thousands, they were discriminated against and ostracized as unclean beings who brought disasters or were attracted to monsters. In a sense, it is reasonable that they were discriminated against and ostracized.
 Their treatment was extremely miserable. Of course, they were killed at the moment of birth, but there were also cases where entire families were expelled from the community, or where villages and settlements that surrendered to the intelligent calamity youkai regularly offered up their children with spiritual power raised as sacrificial offerings. In fact, a spin-off novel published five years after the release of the game, which was set behind the establishment of Fuso-kuni, revealed the details of the situation in great detail.
 As mentioned in the spin-off novel, those with spiritual power who were expelled from their communities gathered together with their friends, defended themselves against the attacking youkai, and left offspring among themselves. They rapidly grew in power, and eventually became a wandering clan of people who were discriminated against and feared by villages and towns when they began to work as mercenaries for the extermination of youkai. This is believed to be the earliest clan of exorcists.
 Then, about 1400 years ago, a man appeared out of nowhere in a hellish region where calamity youkai, which is now called the Central Land. He invaded some villages and villages that are scattered in various places as if they were hiding. Then, with his powerful words, they united and seized the lands with the most powerful spiritual veins from the monsters and built cities to establish a country. This was the half-mythical first emperor, the founder of the court nobles who supported the emperor, the capital, and Fuso-kuni.
 At that time, there was an overwhelming power gap between Fuso-kuni and youkai... and yet Fuso-kuni was able to seize the spiritual vein partly because of the overwhelming charisma of the first emperor, and partly because of the information manipulation by the secretive activities of the first Minister of the Right and his subordinates who risked their lives and thereby crushed all the influential youkai, There were also the activities of a good Tengu girl who was raised by a human, but the most decisive factor was that Fuso-kuni brought together the wandering and discriminated exorcists clans from all over the country.
 By incorporating them into the ruling side and mobilizing them on an unprecedented scale to fight against the youkai, Fuso-kuni barely succeeded in wresting the capital and the spiritual veins that flowed beneath it from the youkai, and the exorcists were incorporated into the ruling side with land, status, and honor in their hands.
 And when Fuso-kuni entered a period of stability, to maintain their authority—There is no way to say that they originally are a discriminated class—So, the knowledge that the exorcists were originally a discriminated group has been erased by the information control except for a very small part. In fact, even the exorcists themselves have forgotten the fact, as have most of their families, and even the nobles have forgotten the fact, except for the most prominent families of the third rank or higher, who have been in power since the founding of the country, and it is not uncommon for new families of the lower classes to marry into the exorcist lineage.
 Well, the few who know the truth are those who belong to the same discriminated class.
 Or more precisely, most of them have only heard about it from folklore, most of them are skeptical and only a few of them have proof. However, it is convenient and pleasant for the discriminated people to hear the 'truth' that the snobbish exorcists actually oppressed people just like them, so they 'believed' in their lore deep down in their hearts. And in an age where freedom of choice and prejudice and discrimination are the norm, the man who serves as a guide to the underground sewers is...

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