Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring

Walking around the town 3

"You must be Nobuko Uemura-san. Thank you very much for coming. Will you take my daughter to kindergarten? I don't feel well today."
"Yes, I will take good care of her. Please get some rest. I will pick her up and bring her home as well."
"Thank you very much. I will put a note on the network and send you a certification notice. For this work, I will give you three thanks-tickets. When you arrive at the kindergarten, show the thanks-tickets on RUICA to the teacher." Grandmother sent a message to the nursery school teacher to introduce herself. She also forwarded the certification notice from Mrs. Kishigami saying that she trusted Grandmother to take care of her daughter. Grandmother took the four-year old girl's hand and left the house.

IMAGE:illustration "What is your name?" "Yuri." "Yuri-chan, you will have a new brother or sister soon, isn't that nice?" Grandmother held the girl's hand and conversed with her happily. They walked comfortably together. Slowly following them, grandfather said, "This town has a mechanism for people to help each other. When they need urgent help, like this, they send their message through the town's intranet. In a few minutes, the message will be delivered to people who live near the requester and can meet the need. When someone replies to the request and their offer of help is accepted, the message is then eliminated from the system. I assume that Mrs. Kishigami will send RUICA the report right now that the request has been carried out." "And grandmother will receive thanks-tickets, won't she?" "Yes, I think she's accumulated quite a few thanks-tickets. She is always more than willing to work for others and to do whatever she can." "Can you do any kind of work on a voluntary basis?" "Basically, yes, if a requester and I agree on the work. For example, there is someone here in town who runs a souvenir shop alone. There might be a request for voluntary work to mind the shop while the person goes out for lunch. Or there might be a request to interpret for foreign visitors at a hotel. If the hotel understands the visitors' needs, they can make their stay here more comfortable."

Tsubasa began to understand why grandmother wanted to live here: she felt needed. She waved happily to Yuri long after she delivered her to the kindergarten. By now, the teacher would have reported to Mrs. Kishigami that Yuri had arrived.

Lively young voices rose from the elementary school next to the kindergarten. Grandfather said, "Ten years ago, as in many rural areas, this town was nearly depopulated. Mostly old people remained. As younger people left, and the number of children in the elementary school declined, the school was almost closed down."

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