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Etranger

Chapter 182: 182
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However, most families and clans didn’t want to bring on the emperor’s wrath or negative association upon themselves, so they agreed to the empire’s conditions. Furthermore, they were well compensated by the imperial courts for the rental and use of their resources.

The terms of the rentals spanned three years. The payments were made using a new, official currency. Needing something that stored value well, the families and clans readily agreed to this new form of payment.

Around six months later, the first war started.

During this period, the emperor greatly restricted the trading in horse and slave markets until the end of the war. The price of horses and slaves shot through the roof. However, no one was able to obtain large numbers of horses or slaves due to the empire’s restrictions.

The families, clans, and feudal lords were at a loss from the scarcity of horses and slaves. Though they possessed ample money, they weren’t able to obtain any horses or slaves. This lack of horses and slaves affected their ability to conduct long-distance attack operations. Furthermore, with the lack of these essential resources to defend their own areas, many great families, clans, and feudal lords became dependent on the emperor’s assistance, especially his large and well-resourced standing army. This cycle of dependence further allowed the imperial courts to bolster their military even more, creating a relationship of dependence that benefited the empire.

The emperor was thoroughly enjoying this development. It was a great feeling to plan something and see it actually come to fruition in front of one’s own eyes.

***

A year after Rain’s fateful report, the entire accounting system was revamped within the Office of Interior. Three hundred merchants were recruited to convert the old system and data into the new system of accounting. The imperial office’s spending was constantly compared to running averages and the periodic changes of a department’s assets and expenses were precisely recorded.

The audits that were conducted every three months were a terrifying sound that rang in the ears of the government officials who had taken bribes or were conducting illegal transactions.

An overall sense of reform was blowing through the empire. The third empress and fifth empress had given up their formal government positions within the Office of the Interior and their respective families, the Sa-Myung family and Yung-Mu family, were quickly losing influence and political power.

Additionally, every item that was purchased by the imperial courts was recorded, allowing everything to be transparent and aboveboard. The dark circles of high society who used government positions to filter through assets to their respective families were now unable to do anything but sit back and watch. 

A rumor started going around that the government officials who were previously associated with these bad actors were going to soon lose their positions as every one of their past deeds would soon become known. Thus, the imperial court was going through a drastic cleansing process.

***

The currency reform was upturning the economic markets. Even though the newest paper currency had only been out for six months, it had revolutionized how business was being conducted and the trend of business as a whole.

The imperial court had stated that they possessed the requisite gold to back the paper currency, and when this was shown to be true when people traded the paper currency for gold, the use of gold and other currency drastically decreased in the markets.

At the same time, many large merchants exchanged their gold to the empire for paper currency to better store their wealth. The convenience of the paper currency was such that the merchants didn’t even expect any interest on their deposited gold. Just the peace of mind that currency could be directly exchanged for the commensurate amount of gold at any time, merchants felt that this currency system was robust and dependable.

Of course, the merchants probably did not deposit all the gold in their possession to the empire. However, the amount of gold that was deposited overall was more than enough to firmly establish and entrench the new system.

The currency reform not only affected the empire but also the surrounding nation-states, territories, and other kingdoms that bordered and had dealings with the empire. In order to conduct any business with the empire, foreign merchants needed to possess the empire’s paper currency, so they too deposited their gold to the empire in exchange for the paper currency.

With an ever-growing reserve of gold, the empire increased the printing of paper currency. With this leverage and increased money supply, more gold started coming into the empire’s reserves.

Thus, when a war started, the empire had an ample reserve of gold to fund the war efforts. Furthermore, whenever there was turbulence and uncertainty in the markets due to war, all the merchants would turn to the empire for safety and store of value, often transferring the majority or all of their assets into the empire.

Through this currency reform process, the imperial court was able to leverage its issued currency and gold reserves at a five to one ratio. In more modern 21st century Earth terms, the BIS was at 20%.

Once gold was deposited, a greater amount of currency could be issued. As currency was no longer scarce and hard to obtain, the transaction of business accelerated. All of this was based on the trust of the empire’s currency.

The empire’s credit was strong, and as long as the empire avoided the situation of all its currency holders exchanging their paper currency to gold, the system would operate well. As the number and size of transactions increased, so too did the taxes collected by the empire.

Every passing day, the imperial court's coffers became more and more full. The imperial court could now operate independently of the large families and clans, from which the imperial court had to borrow to make ends meet in the recent past.

The imperial court was now independent, not beholden to any foreign or outside influence. Furthermore, the imperial court possessed the assets and financial power that eclipsed feudal lords and other nation-states. The emperor would not have the power to conduct large-scale commercial projects and invest in the development of imperial corporations.

No one knew that this was the start of capital investment and the money system of modern Earth capitalism.

Winds of Fortune – Chapter 4

San and Biyeon were constantly contemplating their next steps. The emperor would soon demand their allegiance by offering them an official title and estate as collateral. They’d have to soon organize their relationship with the emperor.

Furthermore, they needed to figure out what they would do in this world. Who would they be? The problem went beyond a simple calculation of how they would survive in this new world…

“Don’t you feel embarrassed? We’re not lofty, absolute beings…” San murmured.

This new world seemed to be asking the two what role they would play within it. Whether intentionally or not, the two had tremendously influenced the order and direction of the world and its people. Just by existing, they would continue their influence.

- Will you be the germ that destroys this world? Or will you be a vaccine that cures others of their diseases? Or, will you become a being that evolves with its own purpose? –

“We need to have a vision. Something we could risk our lives on…”

They had to first re-establish the rules of life and then plan out a grand strategy on how to achieve their goals. They needed to come up with a vision and then start missions to realize that grander vision.

Once they had these components in place, they would put their heads down and plow forward. Wouldn’t they only then be able to state with confidence that they lived lives responsibly and fully? Even if they were to die in their pursuits, wouldn’t that be a death filled with dignity and personal fulfillment? Wasn’t this what it meant to be ‘human’?

Their current efforts clearly touched on the grand themes of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘state’. They weren’t too sure themselves if this progression would extend to a ‘founding of a nation’. 

However, if they accepted the titles the emperor was to offer them, along with the territories, weren’t they already starting on a path of building a modern nation?


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‘We’ll no longer be strangers in this world. However, it’s also not the right fit for us, either. We’d have to accept an unsettling fate that can’t be predicted…’

The two soon came up with an idea. They arranged their own political ideas and terminology and decided to challenge themselves to form a new destiny.

If… if they survived, and if they had to live in this world, shouldn’t they try, at least, to live ‘well’?

Biyeon made an operational plan considering all the possibilities that she could think of. Their plans were currently being observed and overheard. Thus, they had to plan accordingly with that understanding in mind.

- Step 1: Get rid of the deadline and become free from all restraints.

- Step 2: Build a base and prepare for war with enemies, real and perceived.

- Step 3: A-pian reconnaissance and exploring the possibility of returning to Earth.

They were utilizing guerrilla tactics by nature. Guerrilla tactics relied on irregular warfare. It focused on striking the enemy in the back of the head and constantly maneuvering to the opponent’s rear.

One would constantly strike the enemy’s gaps, make countless escapes, and use whatever was available.

Then, they’d need a base camp and increase their guerrilla warfare soldiers. How long? Until the enemy was exhausted. Until the cost of suppression became unmanageable for their opponents. The few would tie the feet of the many.

Would things be different in this world because it wasn’t Earth?

“High wages are natural for hard work. We have to receive our bonuses.”

“Did I say we weren’t?”

“But what are you going to do with the titles?”

“I think we should accept it.”

“I don’t think the emperor’s intentions are innocent though, no?”

“Are there any other alternatives?”

“Furthermore… Are you thinking of receiving the lordship territories as well?”


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“If we get titles, of course, we should accept the territories. Did you do some research on that place called Gijan?”

“It’s a strategic point adjacent to the southern coastal area. If we resell it, we’ll be able to obtain some good money for it.”

“In which millennium?”

“If we work hard to develop it, 10 years should be enough.”

Biyeon laughed softly.

“Try it then.”

“We can leave it to Yekin and our Essen friends.”

“Yeah… they’ve done it once in the Essen estate, so I’m sure they’ll do well.”

“And then? What do you think they should do after placing them as the managers?” Biyeon asked.

“They’ll need to recruit people for the territory.”

“Slaves?”

“To be precise, they would be liberated slaves. They must be people desperate enough to risk their lives.”

Biyeon hardened her expression and then stated, “We have to consider that point very carefully. Freedom and equality are very dangerous ideas in the Empire. Since our opponents have already had a head-start…”

San turned his attention to the map and stated, “We’ll have to negotiate with the emperor. We’ll need to go through some very rough negotiations and make our demands and positions clear. There has to be something for us to gain as well.”

“Negotiations? How are we supposed to negotiate with such a powerful person? Do we have any cards we can play?”

San brushed his clothes and stood up. It was time for them to leave.

“Anyway, this is our last chance. There’s a lot to do, but little time. Let’s continue as far as we can go.”

“But the emperor has a lot of time and a lot of things he wants to do. If we don’t do what he wants…”

Biyeon stopped speaking as she saw San staring deep into her eyes. 

“When did we ever live like that?” 

“…”

“Why do you think we have nothing? If the emperor wants anything from us, that means he doesn’t have something that he wants. Are we so unworthy? I don’t think so.”

“…”

“No, if it’s not worth it for him, what will they do? We’ve fought gods and sages. If the emperor is so narrow-minded, if we can’t even talk and discuss, then we shouldn’t conduct any business with him in the first place. I can’t tolerate obtuseness. Do you want to live a boring life under the supervising eyes of everyone on this planet?”

“…”

“I try to respect the authority and rules of this place as much as possible. However, it’s only respect. If the authority established by the people here tries to restrain me unfairly, even if the whole world becomes my enemy, I will fight. How about you?”

Biyeon looked at San with a slight smile on her lips. San fixed his gaze on the map and nodded his head lightly.

A period of silence ensued. San suddenly raised his head and looked at Biyeon. Biyeon’s smile was widening.

San straightened his back as he felt that there was something Biyeon wanted to talk about.

“Then, accept Rain.”

San opened his eyes wide in surprise as his mouth dropped open.

“You… you, what did you eat for breakfast?”

“We ate tofu stew together, remember? Served with vegetable wraps…”

Biyeon responded calmly. There was still a smile lingering on her lips.