Chapter 4: Fundraising
"......Yea, this is quite bad."
It's a small country without any characteristics. The reason I sighed was not because of the stale townscape. It was because of the disastrous contents of my purse.
After paying three silver coins to enter the country, there was a lonely huddle of just three copper and one silver coins there.
Moreover, sadly, from the many years of lying there, you would have trouble distinguishing the silver from the copper coin. It was also unknown whether I could use it or not.
The value of a copper coin, in general, was that it could buy you one bread.
A silver coin could let you stay for a night in a cheap inn, but if it's the gold coin, you could get yourself a high-class one with decorations.
Speaking about my current possibilities, it would be to enter a cheap-looking inn with a noisy door, eat just bread, and sleep wrapped up in a thin sheet while enduring the hunger.
Simply put, I'll die soon.
"....What should I do."
I'm troubled over money but I have to spend it. I kept walking while holding my growling stomach.
From the lined up pastry stalls on the street, the fruit and vegetables were shining like jewels in order to tempt the starving me.
Aah, I want to eat......
I want to eat──
"Excuse me, a bread please."
Without noticing, I ended up standing in front of the stall that had a rich aroma of wheat drifting around it. The prices were not written there.
A lively granny, sitting at the opposite side of the bread looked at me and smiled.
"It's three coppers."
Whoops, that was impolite. I was mistaken.
It was a dirty old woman who was ripping money from the poor person.
"Eh? Excuse me. It seems I didn't hear well. Can you repeat it one more time please?"
"It's three coppers."
"I see, so three coppers for three breads right?"
"It's for one. Are you a half asleep or what?"
Are you yourself half asleep or what are you saying? Are you an idiot? How can you charge three copper coins for the crusty breads that seem to have been lying outside for a while.
Although I wanted to leave at least one complaint behind, unfortunately I didn't have enough energy to do so.
In the end, I left that place without saying anything completely exhausted.
Gulping air and saliva all together, I left the evil stall that tempted me behind.
As I advanced on the main street, I ended up on a plaza.
A giant fountain was stretching up to the sky. It was a totally ordinary sight that you can see anywhere. And on the bench at the side of the fountain, there was a couple merrily chattering not minding the surrounding stares, it was truly an ordinary scene.
For some reason, I got irritated and thought about burning them to cinders, but casting the thought aside, I started walking towards the fountain.
Then, I drew the flowing water with both hands and started drinking. Cold water went down my throat and filled my body with the moisture it lacked.
"Hey look darling! That Witch is drinking the fountain water."
"It's true, such a shabby appearance! Hahahahaha!"
I loaded magic in my hand and silently swung the staff I took out.
A moment later.
Along with a plain sound, the bench got split in half.
"Kyaa! What happened to this bench?!”
"It probably got too jealous from our passionate love! Hahahahaha!"
Somehow my anger also completely vanished.
My feeling of hunger disappeared a little, so I put away my staff and started walking.
After all, I needed to find the inn to stay for tonight.
"Inn cost? It's thee silvers."
"For three nights? Sorry, but I plan to stay for one night only."
"No, it's three silvers for one night."
This place was already the sixth one. I was walking around in hope of finding a satisfying hotel, but why did this happen? No matter which inn it was, the price was three times that of a general market price.
In this crumbling inn that had a hole in a wall and no bath, the innkeeper asked three silvers for the night. You have to be kidding me.
I hanged my head down.
"Can't anything be done about it? I only have a silver and three coppers with me....."
I turned my purse inside out on top of the counter. A Lifeless sound reverberated.
"Aren't there just 4 coppers there?"
"Ah, that's a silver coin."
".........It's true. It's too unclean."
"Can't there be done anything?"
"There's no way" - The innkeeper uncle let out a sigh.
"Please understand, Ojou-chan. This is also a business."
"Is ripping the money from a poor person a business?"
"Business is usually such a thing."
I can't deny it.
Somehow, it feels unreasonable to ask for the shelter in this inn.
I shifted my attention to the innkeeper while collecting the coins one by one.
"I have a question if you don't mind."
"What is it?"
"Aren't the prices in this country a little too high? The town scenery is also nothing extraordinary, and there doesn't seem to be things worth raising money for."
“Since you are a traveler, you don't know, huh, Ojou-chan?” ── The innkeeper said those words.
Looks like there are circumstances after all.
The innkeeper seemed to be worrying about the surroundings, so I lowered my voice.
"The foolish king that was crowned recently, started fabricating large quantity of coins."
"Fabricating? You mean making fake coins circulate in the market?"
The innkeeper nodded.
"Yes. And with the appearance of the money in the market, the value of coins was dropped. For you who are a traveler, the prices seem to be a bit high, but for the people living here, they are valid prices."
"Valid you say...... But, you are using fake coins right? Wouldn't you receive punishment for using them?"
"The one who circulated the fake currency was the king himself. There's no way that we would receive punishments."
I think I saw the true colors of this country. I don't understand what the king's objective was, but if he circulated the fake currency to liven up the country, then that would be befitting for a moron.
But there are no one who would oppose the use of fake currency in the country, huh?
"To us, it's not really important whether the coins we use are genuine or fake. If the money inside the country increases, then it would be fine even if the prices are raised, and whether they are fake or not, the citizens won't have a problem with it. The only ones troubled will be you travelers."
"......That's right. I think people coming from outside will have their hearts broken from such high prices."
Just like me.
The Innkeeper glanced behind me.
Looking back, there was another customer standing behind my back and holding three silver coins in hands── Seems like they plan to stop for the night here.
The prices that are three times higher than general, certainly do seem like they are valid prices for the people of this country.
"We should be done, Ojou-chan"
"Yes. Thank you very much for the important story."
I bowed and left the inn.
I decided to work in order to earn income for the inn charges.
I returned back all the way to the street where I couldn't buy the bread. Then I sat on the side of the street for a bit. Looking at the people passing by, they seemed to be shopping with completely carefree faces.
Their shamelessness knew no bounds even though they were aware of the fake currency.
Since I'm a traveler, my funds will hit the bottom sooner or later. It was not work in order to settle down here, but an essential thing to do.
That being said, I've had problems with fundraising many time until now. If money runs out, I won't even be able to enter the country after all.
Usually, I would save a person from merchant's shams and earn few coins from it.
But, I started to think.
But, since for this country, it's fine whether it's real or fake coins, then there are no disadvantages.
When I think that I would receive the threefold amount as well, then just like the people of these country, I also won’t feel bad in the least about using fake coins.
I called out to the youth walking along the road with sullen face.
His shoulders flinched and he looked at me, "Eh, me?"
I nodded and beckoned him.
"You seem to have troubles right?"
"Umm, who are you?"
"Oh my, I was so rude. I forgot to introduce myself. I am a traveling fortuneteller."
As I shamelessly declared that, I pushed up my tricorne and looked at the sullen-faced youth.
He replied without erasing the dubious expression.
"Troubled you say..... Do I really appear so troubled?"
"Yes. To me, you seem to be full of troubles."
"Is that so......."
I made an exaggerated nod.
From personal experience, wavering in the middle of business leads to failure. The moment I wavered──The moment I opened up, they would start to hold suspicions towards me.
In short, the number one rule is to make an impression.
"You yourself can't fully understand what you are troubled over. ──For example, it could be because you don't have confidence in your looks, or maybe something didn't go smoothly at work, or perhaps you feel anxious after being unable to meet your destined person no matter how much time passes──"
His face twitched just for an instant, but I didn't miss that.
I see, so he is worried about not having a lover, huh? I see.
"You are feeling anxious about not having a lover──Am I wrong?"
He said that to me while averting his eyes.
"I shall offer you a divination──About the day your destined person would appear before your eyes."
I took out my staff and loaded magic power into it.
Poh - With a sweet sound, fire was produced.
And immediately after being born, it was swept away by the wind and faded.
It seems the magic power was too weak.
Regretfully, I raised the staff that had smoke coming out even above. Truthfully speaking, I wanted to have a development where I tell fortune while looking at the flames, but that's already impossible.
After blowing off all steam from it with my breath, I put the staff away.
"I see, I understand."
"Eh? With just that?"
"Yes. The smoke divination just now was a method of divination where you look at the shape of the smoke and predict the fortune."
That's a lie though.
"I never heard of it."
"Even so, it's like that. After all, this fortune telling is a secret art that has been passed down in my family for generations. It's not possible for others to be aware of it."
I forcefully ended the talk in order to not let the lie be found, "By the way, about your destined person."
"Y-yes. What? When will I meet her?"
"Today it seems."
"Eh, Today? In other words, that means you are──"
"Tonight, your destined person will appear right before your eyes."
I feel like he was trying to say something ambiguous, but it's better to disregard it as nothing but nonsense.
Before he ended up saying another verbal slip, I opened my mouth.
"There should be a plaza with a fountain up ahead right? There should be a broken bench on it's side."
I took out something from the purse and started talking as I presented it to him.
"If you put this on your hand and stand near the bench, your destined person will show up before you without fail."
After he took it from my hands, he got puzzled.
"......This is? All I see is just a normal string."
"That is nothing like a normal string. That's a magical string that is loaded with my magic power. It holds the power to draw in the destiny."
Of course, I didn't do something like loading my magic in that string, and in the first place, even if I did, it wouldn't have power to pull in destiny.
Speaking of which, if I'm not mistaken, this is the string that I picked up near the stalls.
"If I have this string...... Then, the destined person...."
"That's right. You will surely meet her. Well then, it would be sufficient if you wait till night with a neat appearance. So that way you don't disappoint the destined person."
Somehow, the youth who was hesitating started to tightly grasp the string before long.
"I understand. I will wait near the bench while wearing this."
He tried to depart with a refreshed smile. But, I hurriedly stopped him.
"Customer, the combined price of the string and fortune is one gold coin."
I began saying magical words to the frowning youth. "Don't worry. If by chance you can't encounter the destined person, I will return all of it."
It was about one hour after the sullen faced youth left.
One woman passed in front of my eyes.
She was a plain woman with plain appearance and features. Her age was approximately same as mine. Her base features weren't bad, but her good points seemed to be killed by her unkempt hair and her attire looking as though it were just thrown together from her closet.
Just like that darkened silver coin.
Anyhow, I decided for that girl to be my next customer.
"Hey, you...... You are worried for being unable to find a lover right?"
I called out to her who was walking with her head down.
Her shoulders flinched and she turned towards me.
"Umm, who are you?"
"Oh my, I was so rude. I forgot to introduce myself. I am a traveling fortuneteller."
As I shamelessly declared that, I pushed up my tricorne and looked at the her.
While shivering just like a herbivore under the gaze of a predator, she asked me timidly.
"H-how did you know?"
"I understood it. I am a fortuneteller after all──I saw everything about you starting from your troubles to your destined person."
"E-even the destined person? Is that truee!"
"Yes. I saw it clearly with these eyes."
Obviously, it was a lie.
"Then, when will my destined person appear?"
"It seems today."
She who throbbed from the word "destined person" was also greatly shocked from such a sudden development. But I didn't panic. Because up to this point, everything was going according to my plans.
"There should be a plaza with a fountain up ahead right? There should be a broken bench on it's side."
Then, with extremely calm tone, I added.
"Tonight, a person wearing a string on his arm should appear there. He would be your destined person."
And so. Just like that.
While saying "For the improvement of fortune", I gave them a stone that I picked up nearby and arranged the fated meetings.
And the result of continuing such superb business for a few days: my purse is now crammed with lots of gold coins. If it's this much, then I can live next few month with enjoyment.
Oh no-no, I have to thank the king who fabricated the coins first.
Thanks to the fact that the prices in this country are high, the consumption of money just for staying is high, however in return, there are unusually high rewards in business so everyone is happily doing it.
In any case, money’s value in this country is lower than other countries.
"──Yes, so, in other words, if you decorate your store with this 『Half Price』 signboard that's loaded with my magic power, the bread will start selling like hot cakes."
"Really? I'll do it without delay!"
"Is that so? Ah, the signboard cost and consultation fee is 3 gold coins."
"Is that for 3 signboards?"
"It's for one of them. Are you sleep talking or something?"
Coins in my purse have increased yet again.
I forced a signboard onto the old lady from the bakery who came after hearing the rumors, and with that, my work for today is done.
Joyous clinking sounds were heard from the purse that became completely full.
Well then, time to return to that worn-out inn. I stood up and lightly stretched, then started collecting the luggage.
It happened suddenly.
Someone grabbed my shoulder from behind──I got surprised and turned my head around.
There was a soldier standing there.
No, it seems soldiers.
About ten soldiers of similar appearance slowly spread out and enclosed me. They had spears in hand and guns on their backs. It was a little out of place situation.
"You are a traveling fortuneteller right?"
Man who stood before my eyes opened his mouth.
"No, you are mistaking me for someone."
"No use lying. We were watching your trades with customers from behind the scenes."
Sweat started to pour down my cheeks.
This is bad. This is bad, this is bad, this is really bad.
What should I do. Looks like someone complained about my scamming work──But, still, I haven't really cheated or anything. But, ahh, what to do...... I'm surrounded so I can't escape. I could probably escape if I use Magic, but want to avoid making enemy of the whole country....
"Please come with us," the man in front of me declared it indifferently, "The king wishes to meet with you."
It goes without saying that I didn't believe my ears.
After I walked through the street of no real character surrounded by knights, I arrived at the palace without any special features.
Aside from the high prices, there wasn't anything peculiar in this country.
In the biggest room of the royal palace, a single young man was sitting on a tall chair of the throne.
The young king sitting above the stairs looked down on me and uttered:
"Are you the traveling fortuneteller? You look very young."
"King-sama is also very young. I was thinking king-sama would be older."
The soldiers sent cold glares at my words. No, I didn't say that with sarcasm at all. It's true.
King glanced at the soldiers and said, "That's enough, of all of you. Withdraw," and sent them off with hand motion.
After soldiers left the vast room and only two of us remained in it, the king started once again.
"There's a rumor that your predictions are very accurate, is that true?"
"Yes, well──Those who said that it's accurate are probably right"
"Are they effective only towards humans?"
"? What do you mean?"
"I want to hear whether it's effective on things in general."
He declared that in a completely calm tone──I don't understand what he's thinking at all. Does he believe in my abilities? Or is he suspicious of them? Or is it that he already saw through my lie?
I approached in a roundabout way.
"What object's future do you wish to see?"
"The future of this country" - the king immediately replied.
"Future of the country..... is it?"
That's right - he nodded with a humble expression, at that point I began to think.
Predicting the future of this country doesn't require something like fortunetelling. It's a simple thing.
No, in the first place, I don't have any powers for fortunetelling.
"Before I answer that question, there's one thing that I wish to ask you, king-sama."
"? What is it?"
I started by saying, "Please tell me the reason of spreading fake coins in this country."
After hearing that, he frowned and leaked a sigh "That's nonsense."
"Eh, are they genuine coins?"
I looked at the coins that were filling my purse.
If all of these are real ones, then I'm an absurdly rich person now. Yaay.
".......Indeed. What I spread were genuine, real coins──No, I'm not the one who spread them though."
"Was it by someone's instructions?"
Young King nodded.
"It was done by the right-hand man of the previous king. I have been crowned just recently, so I left all economic policies to him. It was the idea of that person to spread the newly made coins inside the country to stimulate the economy. Well, in the end it didn't go as planned."
I have a feeling that it going smoothly is out of the question though......
"Because the money inside the country increased all at once, the talks about fake currency fabrication started spreading, but that's complete nonsense."
"......Isn't there a possibility that that adviser has lied to you?"
"There isn't. I secretly summoned a specialist in palace without him noticing and made him investigate, but all newly produced coins were genuine without a doubt."
That's why, the rumors saying I spread the fake coins within the country are nonsense──The king stood up as he said that.
He slowly came down from stairs and approached me.
"That adviser truly did well. Truthfully, I even think that he should have become a king instead of me. ──However, that didn't come true because of the hereditary system. Before advancing the political measures, he would always come to my side with advices. If not for him, I would have been thrown down from the King's seat long ago."
He stood before me and made an unpleasant face.
"But, I just don't understand him lately──I don't think that the things he made me do are connected to prospering the future. I don't want to doubt him, but looking at the present situation, the economic state of this country is too grave. Although the rumors about fake coins appearing in the market aren't true, the travelers are growing distant because the prices are high. The diplomacy is also lost."
Hearing his troubles, there's only one thing that came to my mind.
This young king wants to have a peace of mind.
By looking at the future of the country, he wants to obtain a peace of mind. If the future of the country is peaceful. If the adviser didn't lie after all.
What an honest person──No, describing him by simple honesty might not be correct.
"That's why, I want you to show me the future of this country. Can you do it?" he declared.
My answer was already decided.
"It is possible."
He nodded with gleaming eyes, "Is that true!?"
After he forcefully grasped my hand, I withdrew my hand while stepping back and said.
"Yes. I do not say lies."
Telling lies like breathing is surely said about this.
"But before telling the future of the country, I have a condition."
"What is it."
I raised the index finger.
"First. Please let me stay here for a day. Telling the fortune of the country is very hard work. First, it's necessary to grasp the whole country from the royal palace that is located at its center."
"Yes. I understand. I will immediately make arrangements."
The young king made a big nod. I raised a middle finger next to the index.
Staying one night is just an additional thing. For the thing I will do after this doesn't require preparations for it to go smoothly even though I said so.
What is important is the next condition.
"And the second──"
After that, while thinking about my strategy, I've been lying on the bed for a while in the room King-sama gave me. Waiting for the time when I need to carry out my plan.
When the sun had finally sunk below the window and the outside was dyed by darkness, I finally opened my eyes.
It's about time it seems.
I took out my staff and hit my head with it's tip.
With silly pop sound, I turned into a single small mouse.
I temporarily changed my form by applying Magic on myself. It's a tiresome thing and I didn't want to do it, but there's no other choice.
Taking a form that's easy to move in, I recalled the blueprint of the royal palace that young king showed me and dashed towards the desired location.
If I go through the corridor, I might end up slaughtered by passersby, so I decided to move by attic. I advanced briskly on the attic that was so dusty that it it couldn't be compared to the dazzling interior of the castle.
And, I arrived just above the room of the adviser.
As I looked down from the gap, I saw an adviser with his elbows on put on the writing desk. Opposite of him stood a single soldier. He had an appearance similar to the soldier that surrounded me today.
I guessed from the atmosphere that they weren't having a friendly chat.
"So, how is it father?" - Said the young man.
"How you ask?" The adviser replied while scratching his head, "It's certainly going favorably. Soon that king will fall."
"Soon you say, and when is that? Isn't that what you've been saying for a while?"
The young man raised an agitated voice.
That last voice seemed to be asking about something──But thinking about it with this small head, only one person that sounds like that comes to my mind.
Perhaps, the young man who is having a conversation with the adviser is that soldier from daytime who grasped my shoulder. It might be my misunderstanding, but.
"That king has summoned the traveling fortuneteller to the castle. Surely, it's for predicting the future of the country. Our plan might be revealed to the king."
The advisor laughed.
"There's no way that the youngster who adores me would do something like that right? Most likely, he wants to hear about his fortune in the near future."
"What's more, the fortunes told by that traveler are also suspicious. She might be a little scoundrel that makes money by tricking people."
"......The fortuneteller is just a little girl."
"I want to see the person myself."
That's right. Everything is exactly like that. But I'm not a little girl. I'm a Witch you know? A Witch.
Perhaps he was tired to return the words, the young man just sighed and replied, "Keep the promise."
"Yeah, I will keep it. That's why you should also do your job properly. After all, your actions are essential in my plan."
Saying that, the young man decided to leave the room.
The ceiling broke with loud tearing sounds, and the ashen-haired Witch holding the staff jumped down from there.
Who in the world was that? That's right, it was me.
"......Haa, haa, fuuh......."
Aah, what an awkward appearance.
The Magic wore off midway. This situation was familiar.
It seems that the ceiling where I was peeking from was too narrow for my body to fit. It broke the moment I returned to my original form.
Or maybe it was rotten from the long age?
At any rate, it wasn't because I was heavy. ......Probably.
"W-Who are you!"
While I was standing up and brushing off the dust stuck to my body, the adviser was alert with a rifle in hand. He was probably hiding it under the desk.
"Nice to meet you."
I swung my staff.
In a moment, a flowers bloomed from the gun.
They were quite lovely flowers at that.
Because the flowers I made turned out to be so pretty, I completely forgot about the other person behind me.
But since turning around was troublesome──I tapped the floor with the staff and bestowed life to the scattered wood fragments.
The fragments turned into ivies.
And the ivies dashed towards them.
And it seized them both.
"You are the adviser of the king-sama right?"
The middle aged man whose limbs were restrained by the ivy looked at me. He directed eyes full of hatred and bewilderment towards me.
"Who are you!"
"Father, this is the traveling fortuneteller!" the young man replied from behind.
I frankly nodded, "That's how it is. I am the traveling fortuneteller."
adviser wriggled like a bagworm while unable to move.
"......What business do you have with me."
"Oh, you should know that yourself right?"
I turned around. The man who brought me here at daytime was glaring at me.
"What do you intend to do!"
"I intend to predict a peaceful future for this country."
After that, those two were seized by the guards that came after hearing the noise, and were made to spill everything in front of the king.
It seems that the father and son planned to seize the country.
And the coins that were spread inside the country turned out to be fake in the end. It seems that the expert who told the king that the coins were genuine was a dirty imposter who was bribed by that adviser.
In order to distort the hereditary system, he purposely made the country fall into crisis. He confessed that he put all the blame on the young king and planned to overthrow him. Probably after the advisor-san became a king, he planned to make his son succeed him.
But, it ended with a failure.
Right now, they are locked in prison, but I don't know what would happen to them from now on. It's not a question I should be concerned about.
Then after their questioning has ended, I was summoned to the throne and received the promised thing.
"Thank you very much"
I nodded as I confirmed the contents. Large quantity of old gold coins went inside my purse.
As a second condition for predicting the country's future, all earned gold coins were exchanged for the old ones. Fake ones were completely removed.
"Collect all fake coins that appeared within the country" The king weakly ordered. "The coins inside your purse are most likely fake too."
"As I thought."
The promise to predict the country's future was still not fulfilled. The problem that the young king was worried about already disappeared, therefore there was no need to predict it anymore. I feel relieved that I stopped telling lies.
Although the future of the country was weighing on my mind a little, I'm a traveler so I have to depart from here at once.
What kind of road would this country follow from now on? That question is not something that someone could answer or predict its future. The same goes for me.
"But, it's regretful. To think that he kept lying to me."
I replied to the lamenting young king, "A liar is someone who looks composed all the time."