Editor: Areth Kyntaul
Breakfast was actually really simple. I didn’t choose the yoghurt we used to always eat. Instead, I made some congee and accompanied it with salty-meat and two strange eggs.
The surface of the eggs looked smooth like candy. However, it tasted quite good and considerably similar to chicken eggs.
I served up breakfast to the table. Not even Leah could resist the seduction of the food, thus sitting opposite to Veirya.
I didn’t sit right down at the table. Instead, I walked to the window and took a look outside. I couldn’t see the city outside from here, but I could see the sky outside.
Leah ran up to me with a bowl in her hands. She looked out the window with curiosity, like me, and asked, “What are you looking at, Papa?”
From Leah’s perspective, the outside was but just a desolate flower garden. However, it wasn’t a desolate block of land to me. What’s truly desolate isn’t the land, but the sky. The sky was empty right now.
I crouched down and pointed at the sky. I softly explained, “I’m looking at the smoke, Leah. At this time, people should be beginning their preparations for the day’s work. In other words, there should be smoke in the sky right now. But look, other than us, there’s no smoke coming from any home. What does that prove? It proves that the people no longer have food to cook, and possibly not even firewood to light a fire. That means that without our food, they might not make it through this winter.”
Sitting behind the table, Veirya placed her bowl down on the table and calmly said, “Distribute it then. Distribute it equally. We’ll keep our share and distribute the rest.”
I shook my head and said, “Distributing it equally is not the best solution because the people aren’t equal, to begin with. Some families get more food than others and gain more from their hunts, while others may not. Some households have more family members, some less. Consequently, equality does not mean fair to them.”
While it would indeed be a very normal method to distribute it evenly, that would incur complaints from people as their harvest volumes are different without question. Some never had food, to begin with. If they get food because of this then it would be somewhat unfair to those who worked diligently. Although they would be very happy to receive food, once full and warm they’ll begin to complain.
Sharing evenly like that is only a temporary solution at a specific moment. For a lord, the people’s evaluation of them afterwards is what is most important.
‘It would be nice if I had a record book. I don’t think the group of deserters would have a record book or something of the sort prepared. As a result, we don’t know how many people received things. So we need to share it in a way that everybody can accept it and won’t complain about.’
‘Furthermore, I want to get some people to repair this place. Even if we ignore every other place, we at least need to clean up the main hall, right? There’s also the room on the second floor that needs to be tidied up. Then we need to fix the stairs and floor. It looks like nobody has been here in a long time.’
Though it’s very unlikely we’d be able to completely overhaul it in winter, we need to repair it a bit to survive this winter.
“… You come up with an idea then.” Veirya gave up thinking without any hesitation and passed all the work onto me.
I sighed. I don’t have any way of resisting since I’m just a slave after all.
Somebody suddenly knocked on the door.
Veirya stood up and pressed her hand on her sword handle instinctively.
I walked over and pulled the door open. Outside was a thin man dressed in a grey long robe with a thin red scarf. He had a few holes in his pants, while his shoes were badly damaged. His nose was red, due to the cold, and he sniffled every now and then. His grey eyes looked lifeless.
He saw me when I opened the door. He bowed and said, “Greetings, My Lord. Greetings. I am in charge of keeping records here.”
I shook my head, then turned around and pointed at Veirya, “No, no, no, I’m not the lord. This is the Lord Veirya, who’s also the heroine who slew the Demon King. She is also the lord of this town and the villages around.”
Veirya watched him vigilantly. She scanned him until she was sure he wasn’t a threat before relaxing. However, she kept her hand pressed on her sword handle.
The man before me looked at her astonished. He rubbed his hands together. He revealed an awkward smile and stuttered, “H-H-Heroine, I mean, My Lord, umm, I am the Record Keeper of this town…”
“Speak with him.” Veirya didn’t want to bother with him at all.
She instead sat back down and continued to have her congee. Despite it being boiled from plain water, she had a great appetite.
I smiled helplessly before looking at the Record Keeper and asked, “Speak with me then. Oh right, you said you kept records of the town, correct? So do you know about this food?”
“Ah, I do.” He sniffed then looked at the burlap sacks with envy and said, “Those soldiers snatched all the food away. That is this town’s harvest for the entire year. Fortunately, we still have lots of berries and beans as well as some food which wasn’t snatched off of us. We can make it through this winter.”
“No, no, no, no, I wasn’t asking whether you could make it through this winter or not.” I looked at him a little bewildered. His choice of words was really odd.
‘His food was snatched off him, so why did he say he could weather through this winter? Shouldn’t he be asking me for the food back? But he didn’t seem to think the food belonged to the townsfolk. He had no intention of asking for it back.’
“What did you mean then?”
I explained it to him bluntly, “Shouldn’t this food be redistributed? The soldiers snatched this food from you. We’re not bandits. We’re your landlord.”
I then followed up by saying, “Do you have some sort of record book? Aren’t you a Record Keeper? You don’t have an income record book, but don’t you keep records of income or harvests? I was going to redistribute this based approximately on your harvests.”
He looked at me awkwardly then smiled bitterly and said, “You are so nice… However, it will not be a problem if we do not get this food back. Perhaps more correctly, we do not want to take it back… because if we take it back it is done. We might as well use it to pay taxes instead… This food should be enough to repay ten years’ of debt, right…?”
I paused for a moment. I then pointed at the bags and raged, “You’re telling me the townsfolk owe ten years of tax?! Tell me how a town could drag out their tax debt for ten years!! Ten years! This town would be finished if they had an outstanding tax debt for ten years!!”
“No, it is a twenty-year debt. Everyone in the town has owed a twenty-year tax debt… Although we still pay taxes every year, it is insignificant in the face of interest and principal… We will be all right if you are willing to give up the twenty years of tax debt… because if you continue, then our debts will only increase with each year…”
“Bring me the books.” I was a little befuddled.
‘I’m getting more and more confused by the situation in this village. The weather could certainly impact a year’s harvest, but there’s a massive problem if a town owes taxes for twenty years and can’t repay it. How did they end up twenty years behind in tax payments? If you owe taxes one year, you just need to pay more next year. How do you end up with twenty years of debt?!’
He fumbled through his shirt pockets and took out a ragged book.
I took it and flipped through it. I froze up when I saw that taxes were up to forty-percent per annum.
If we had been talking about a scam loan-shark company, this number would be believable. But what can the town council levy, when they have their tax rate set as high as forty-percent? Even if you’re trying to pocket money, there’s a problem going about it in this way, isn’t there?
Only a moronic lord would suck his people dry like this. How rich could the townsfolk be? How rich would you get ripping them off for their spare change?
“These accounts have become useless.” I tossed the records into the fireplace far away.
I then scratched my head hopelessly.
“Do you really not want this food back, even if I just destroyed the records and don’t intend to continue to collect taxes that way?” I asked.
“Wh-What do we do about the taxes this year then…? How much do we pay? What do we do about the previous taxes? Also, I do not have any income records… how… how do we redistribute this?” He looked at what I had done, completely astonished, and then mumbled something he probably didn’t even understand himself.
I scratched my head and then responded, “What’s the financial situation of the village like? Where’s the money?”
“There… has been no money for a long time now…”
“Who are you trying to fool? You owe twenty years of tax, and taxes are collected every year, so where is the money collected? Did you pay for your taxes with food or wood or something?”
“It… it got taken away. We did not pay taxes this year…”
“… Who was the previous lord?”
“I-I-It was the army… the army…”
I get it now.
‘It looks like this was once the frontier. The army was stationed far away from the ruler, and so they took all the money from here. In other words, the issue that the town is facing right now is a money problem. The people have no money. The entire town is like a pool of stagnant water.’
‘Forget investments, being able to trade is a challenge in itself. But without money, trade is impossible. Without money, are we supposed to just exchange food? That wouldn’t make us any different to primitive people.’
‘I need to come up with a way to acquire some money and it needs to have value for sure, since money itself is just metal and paper. What’s truly worth money is the power of the nation behind it as well as the price of goods. Now then, what do I need to compensate for this situation where money lacks?’
‘We have a food shortage right now. The most solid product is food. All of the food is in the lord’s residence right now. That means that food is the true most valuable good right now. Money is just carrying the economy of these goods. In other words, they’re just the foods’ carriers.’
I suddenly had an idea. Well, I should’ve thought of it as a Chinese person.
“Food supply…” I suddenly reached my hand out and grabbed the shoulders’ of the man in front. In a loud voice, I asked, “Tell me, tell, how much flour is required to make a loaf of bread? How much bread does one person need to satisfy their minimum requirements?”
“That… umm… about… about… one person… five-hundred grams. One person will be fine with five-hundred grams…”
I clapped my hands and replied, “Good then. Come over for the next few days then. Right, call everyone… erm… actually, forget it. Tell everyone to head over to the vacant space by the town entrance. I have something to say to everyone, understood?”
“Yes… I understand… Tell everyone?”
“Of course. This has to do with all of your lives in the future.”
The man nodded, puzzled, and then left the building. I went and searched the entire residence, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I just pulled a bed sheet off.
Veirya and Leah watched me with confusion.
I cleared the table and then lay the bed-sheet onto the table. I looked at them and explained, “Come over you two. Unfortunately, I need your help. Help me cut this bed sheet into similar-sized strips of cloth, then write the numbers fifty and one-hundred on them. Then use that thing Veirya has to mark them.”
Veirya looked at me puzzled and asked, “What is this…?”
I looked at her. I chuckled a little and answered, “This is food, you know.”