Young Girl’s Thoughts
“So that was what made you feel lost.” Lin Dongqing earnestly listened to Irena’s woes despite his poor health.
Irena had finally calmed down. Voice trembling, she questioned, “I do not understand why tax officers are now doing this! This was not the aspiration you had in mind when you created tax officers. Why? Why have they become robbers who want to destroy families…? Why? You clearly detailed how to resolve such cases, but they now ignore it and skip straight to confiscation… Why? Why? Have they all forgotten their original intent?”
Lin Dongqing gently scrubbed Irena’s head. She leaned on his chest similarly to a kitten. He felt himself choking on his words – maybe tears – as he looked as his daughter he couldn’t acknowledge.
“In the past, the nation’s taxes were paid via actual goods. Farmers would offer a portion of their provisions. The problem was that lords could use all sorts of excuses to extort the people, claiming their quality wasn’t good. You had to pay taxes even when you served in the war. Later on, people were asked to pay in money, instead. Alas, civil servants still found all sorts of ways to extort people. Further down the road, officials were assigned to specific areas. They were given a goal they had to achieve annually. Unfortunately, the people leading destitute lives were still forced to pay taxes. In the end, I suggested having tax officers. My purpose in instating tax officers was for them to help those who couldn’t pay taxes resolve their problems, while also punishing tax evaders and enterprises. Sadly, tax officers have completely veered off track. Nowadays, they try every method possible to force aristocrats and enterprises to pay taxes whilst ignore the ordinary citizens who pay less. They’ve stopped following my intent as you pointed out.”
Lin Dongqing smiled helplessly, but it seemed as if he was ridiculing himself for being so weak when he was daring and energetic.
“What can I do, though? I’ve always been doing pointless things. I created tax officers to try and protect those struggling in life, only for it to become the hammer that destroyed them. I created the prime minister role and parliament, only for a group of inexperienced and hot-headed kids to instigate a world war. I started factories, only for the nobles to create a tycoon corporation as a means of monopolising factories and oppressing smaller businesses, making it an extreme struggle for them to stay afloat. I always wanted to make the world a better place, but it was all in vain. I provided limitless hope, only for it to become the ruins you now see. In the end, I have to ask myself what I did….”
Irena forgot about her own woes. She had never seen Lin Dongqing so miserable. He gritted his teeth tightly and shut his eyes. Tears even began to form in his eyes. His sorrow and despair scared her. She wondered what a man had to experience to feel so hopeless. The man who single-handedly expanded and developed the empire into a powerhouse that ruled half of the globe was in utter despair and grief. Everybody experienced the confidence and happiness the prosperous empire gave them. In contrast, the man who was the source of the empire’s power was already in immeasurable agony.
He wanted to create a perfect world. He wanted to make the empire a better place. His original intent was commendable, and he managed to rapidly lead the nation to prosperity, but it had crumbled. His daring and energetic self had to watch everything he personally created wither. Even though Irena couldn’t accept that despair, the empire’s most brilliant man was beaten down until he was completely exhausted because of it, leaving her with no alternative.
Irena gently held onto Lin Dongqing’s hands: “Leave it to me, Count Lin. I will not let you be disappointed! I know how much effort you put in and how correct you are! I know very well. I promise to return everything you established to the way it was supposed to be no matter what it takes! Count Lin, I love you and this empire you built, so I will walk the path you set out to create this nation accordingly!”
Lin Dongqing opened his eyes and scrubbed Irena’s head: “Haha, I’m glad to hear that, Irena. I feel assured having you take my place. I know how brilliant you are. You will become a Queen who won’t lose to your mother.”
“But please do not go, Count Lin. I still need you… so please do not leave. Please…”
“I won’t go; don’t worry, Irena. I won’t go. So many people need me, so I won’t leave. Give it your best. At the very least, be a dutiful and righteous tax officer to start.”
During their conversation, a maid lightly knocked on the door, but somebody who couldn’t wait forced their way through. Irena instinctively got off Lin Dongqing’s chest. Before she knew it, a red tornado leapt into Lin Dongqing’s arms.
Sisi tightly hugged Lin Dongqing and wept loudly. Irena was shocked with what she saw. She always knew that Lin Dongqing and Sisi were on very good terms. Sisi was never so intimate with Lin Dongqing, though. In no capacity did they resemble a Queen and her vassal.
The scene of the two sent a chill down Irena’s spine as she pondered: Is that really how a Queen worried about her vassal would cry? I-I-Is… my dream going to come true?!
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