Updated: 5 hours ago
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In which Tara figures something out and Preston's new well causes a few issues...
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Episode 192. About 10 months (69)
"Now, why did you come to see me?"
I put the question that came to mind aside for a moment at the Baron's inquiry, and immediately explained the purpose of my visit here.
"There was an error in the documents related to the Central Axis project, so I came to check that."
The Baron, who had put down his glass of water, slowly lifted his head and looked at me.
"Let me see. An error. What error are you talking about?"
What? There's no doubt or surprise!
His gaze remained unchanged. The Baron looked me in the eyes critically. As if he was trying to read my mind.
“The total amount of the construction execution funds has been the same so far, but the amount paid for each part has been adjusted because you've been arbitrarily modifying the documents.”
"Ah... The corrections. You've seen them."
The Baron nodded as if he'd expected it. I picked up my glass of water, realized something, and then paused.
He was naturally accepting it. Why?
"It's a serious crime to randomly revise and execute documents approved by the Military and the Ministry of Finance. If you know the court procedure, why would you make such a reckless mistake...!"
I stopped talking abruptly because of a thought that popped up in my mind.
"Wait a minute!"
"Oh. What's wrong?"
"It's a little complicated... Please give me some time to think."
After asking for his understanding for a moment, I closed my eyes and pondered.
I quickly organized and combined my ideas in fear that the fragments of thoughts that suddenly came to mind would crumble into dust.
It felt like the puzzle didn't quite fit together!
As time passed, I slowly opened my eyes. And I finally realized why the questions kept running through my mind until now.
That was what happened. That was it!
The small town of Preston. Edge of town.
She only had to wait one more day, but the nasty old man ordered her to go to the well and fetch some water. Katie, who would turn nine next month, was living alone with her cranky grandfather.
"It's been a while since I went to the well. Starting tomorrow, I can go down to the main square's well. So, I'll pick it up tomorrow. Okay?”
"What a rude thing to do. Are you doing this on purpose because you want to see your grandfather die from thirst? Come on, come on!"
"That's because you keep drinking all night...!"
"That's it! Go and get it before I kick you out!"
Katie had no choice but to rush out the front door after he threw the broom.
"Ah. Why did you leave me and die, mom..."
She didn't know her dad, and her mom went to heaven two years ago. Her grandfather, who always drank, took care of Katie, and raised her. No, it would be more accurate to say that Katie took care of her grandfather.
Katie, who lived in the most eastern part in the small town of Preston, trudged towards the well in the far west.
While walking, she cursed her grandfather, who only drank alcohol every day, and missed her mother, who went to heaven prematurely, and she resented her body for not growing up quickly.
As she passed the main square, a wide wooden board around the new well caught her eye.
Around a 2m radius of the new well wall, stood a prohibition plate taller than Katie herself.
Because of the wooden boards, the well could only be seen in a slightly open space in the middle.
"If they said we could use it tomorrow, wouldn't it be full of water today...?"
The new well was large, and she couldn’t see it, but it seemed to be full of water. Additionally, because it was a new well, the water must be very clean.
Katie, who had checked the well today and was told it could be used tomorrow, stood still, and stared at it.
"Can't I just pretend I'm going to the market and slip into that small open space? If I crouch, the wooden boards may be too high for me to be caught..."
Saying the thoughts solely confined to her head out loud, it seemed quite plausible.
Katie naturally looked around the well.
"Why are there so many people today...? What's going on?"
In front of the well in the square, stood a sign with its name written on it, and the villagers laughed and said something about it each time they passed the sign.
"Tomorrow, I won't have to go to the old western well."
"Some high-ranking official paid for the well in Preston and secured funding for the Central Axis project."
"It's been a hassle because it was too far, but I'm going to feel more comfortable from now on. My son always complained about it."
There were quite a few people passing by, but no one seemed to care about Katie, who didn't even reach up to an adult's waist. She thought that was good.
The thought that no one would see her if she slipped inside surrounded by grown-ups soon turned into certainty.
Known for being agile amongst her peers, Katie immediately mingled with the people in the square. Then, moving around and proceeding in the desired direction, she crept closer to the crack in the wooden board in front of the well.
Nobody noticed Katie, and she, who was so agile and skinny, was able to slip through the wooden boards and hide herself safely.
'Alright... Let’s hurry up and go.'
Perhaps thanks to the overcast sky, the square quickly darkened. So, she put her hands on the well's ledge and lifted her face to look inside , but it was all black.
The well was a little higher than Katie's waist and almost touched her chest.
'Huh? It's so dark I can't see anything... Is there no water? No way. I can use it tomorrow, but I still can't do without water.'
After thinking about it quite logically, Katie grinned and picked up a large silvery bucket.
The noise of people passing by will also block the sound of the bucket falling.
She looked around. The square couldn't be seen at all because it was hidden due to the wooden boards, but the upper bodies of the passing adults were very visible.
If they decided to look this way, Katie would be caught.
'Let's hurry up.'
Katie loosened the pulley and threw the bucket into the well.
Usually, the sound of a bucket hitting the water curtain should be heard immediately, but it was not until after a while that she heard a creaking sound.
"... What is it?"
She placed her hands on the well's ledge, lifted her heels, and looked down
She couldn't see much, but she saw the silver bucket at first glance
When she grabbed the small handle attached to the pulley and shook it back and forth, she heard a creaking sound and the sound of the bucket moving around, filling with water.
"There's water. That's enough!"
She stretched out her arms and began to pull at the thick rope tied to the well.
It was definitely new, so the pulley was good. In the past, she used to push herself deep into the well, but now all she had to do is pull the pulley rope up
She was having so much fun pulling the rope. An unexpected event occurred.
"Oh! Is that an arm?"
It was an arm. Katie, who was hidden by the wooden board, lifted her arm to pull at the pulley rope, and only her arm was sticking outside the board.
"Oh, my. It's a girl."
"Oh. Isn’t that Katie?"
"Who told you that you could use the well without permission?”
Adults passing by without interest approached the wooden boards and watched Katie as if they were looking at some kind of spectacle.
'Oh my god... What do I do?'
Suddenly, the tip of her nose stung so much that tears welled up. She was short of breath and instantly felt stuffy, and her arm ran out of strength.
A dripping sound.
She lost grip of the rope in an instant and her palm was swept away by the fast-moving thick cord. And then her feet trembled.
Surprised, she quickly put her hand on the well's ledge, but missed it.
Construction manager Boyle led the inspection leader, along with the escorts, Walter, Mark, and Edman, to Preston's main square.
Everyone in the party left their horses at the public stable by Preston's entrance and continued on foot.
Boyle was very uncomfortable with the leader of the palace's inspection team who visited this time.
'Crap. He’s so strict, and so picky!'
Before him, the inspectors that came down from the palace only checked the construction progress and the working conditions of the workers, and then directly went to the tourist spots around Preston.
At night, they would unwind at the sulfur hot spring tavern, the most famous place in the central region beyond Preston, where history and tradition lived [Central Province's favorite hot spring - secret bath].
However, the inspection leader, who was as handsome as a young nobleman, seemed to have no interest in such a place, and immediately raised his hand to prevent him from talking about the hot springs.
Instead, he was so strict that it was not enough to tour the entire fortress wall under construction, so he checked the workers' personal records, workloads, shift times and safety equipment.
'I'd leave it to the Baron, but I didn't even see him.'
Baron Charles Berg, who'd worked hard to guide the inspection team when they arrived from the Palace in the past, didn't even show up to this inspection.
'Damn... I thought I'd go to the secret bath after a long time, but thanks to this inspection it’s ruined. By the way, being the inspection team's leader at such a young age, he must've had pretty good connections. How can you be so strict when you're a newbie with a bribe behind you...?
They were almost at the new well.
"Can we use it today?"
Boyle, who was immersed in thought at the inspection leader’s question as he walked, felt nervous and explained it in as much detail as possible.
"We were going to do that. Previously we tried to raise the wall one more level and open it today, but we couldn't because of the heavy rain of the last few days. When the rain dries up, we'll build more walls so we can open it next week..."
The Palace’s inspection leader lifted his hand to cut off Boyle's words.
Boyle had been suffering because of him all morning, so he could take this level of rudeness lightly. But he couldn't help feeling bad.
"Why are you doing that again...?"
"Oh, my. It's a girl."
"Oh. Isn’t that Katie?"
"Who told you that you could use the well without permission?”
A few people were looking over the barrier around the new well. And then, he heard a girl's sharp scream.
"Oh my god!"
Boyle, who was still surprised, was once again startled by the energy he felt at that moment and had no choice but to halt.
Instantly, the force that wrapped around his whole body suffocated him.
'What is this energy?'
When he looked where the energy that he’d felt right next to him came from, the person who should've been there was gone, and only the afterglow of that energy remained.