Episode 57. A Leader’s Knowledge (3)

A large mansion, beautiful maids, and other servants attending to his every need were luxuries Seon-Hyeok had never imagined having. However, he wasn’t able to fully enjoy these benefits. After all, such luxuries were maintained using his own financial resources.

“Ugh. I’m going to go crazy.”

Maintaining the mansion cost money. Paying his servants cost money. It seemed as though even breathing cost money. He was able to pay the upkeep costs using the financial rewards received from the royal family, but he had no other sources of revenue once those resources were drained.

His ambition to rule over a prosperous territory faded away, and he was in such a desperate situation that he couldn’t even afford to walk around his territory.

“Damn it. It’s always money.”

Fortunately, the hundred members of the Drake Cavalry assumed much of the responsibilities that a local militia would have, and as a result, he wasn’t pressed to recruit soldiers right away. Even so, there were countless expenses involving maintaining a territory.

How could I have known being a lord would be so expensive? 

No, it wasn’t specifically that being a lord was expensive. The real problem was being a noble. A noble’s everyday expenses were enormous.

“Ugh. I need to find a source of income.”

Julian looked at him with an absurd expression as he stressed about his dwindling resources.

“I’ve never seen a noble worry about money like you do.”

“How could I not worry when there are so many expenditures I need to take care of myself?”

“Well, you were given administrative control over the area, so even though there isn’t anything established at the moment, you should be receiving tax income soon.”

“How much would taxes even be? There aren’t many people here, and they seem to be struggling to make ends meet.”

“We’ll only get a clear answer once the currently dispatched tax collector returns. I expect we will make around 400 gold a year after mansion and servant expenses.”

Seon-Hyeok wasn’t sure how much 400 gold was. When he served as a rider, he used his earnings to pay his royal debt and thus never saw a single coin for himself. Considering he wasn’t even aware of how much he was getting for his salary, there was no way he could have a firm grasp of how much gold was worth in this world.

“The average tenant farmer earns about 70 silver a year, which is slightly more than half a gold. A normal infantry sergeant makes 3 gold. While you served as a cavalry rider, your salary was 30 gold per year. If you include the extra allowance provided for fighting in the war, you probably earned about 60 gold. Of course, that does not include the cost of maintaining your warhorse and equipment.”

Julian continued on to explain that her calculations did not include the rewards provided by the royal family. Seon-Hyeok stared blankly. He still could not get the hang of things. After struggling to figure out finances in this world, he ultimately decided to use the cost of maintaining a single rider as a basis for comparison.

“So 400 gold is roughly enough to support thirteen cavalry riders or 100 infantrymen?”

“If you consider the cost of feeding them and other miscellaneous expenses, it’s closer to three riders or thirty foot soldiers.”

“Is that a lot? Or a little?”

“It's a very small amount. Considering that the average baron earns about 800 gold per year, you would be considered very poor. I still don’t understand why you chose this place. If you ruled over the first territory we visited, you would earn at least twice as much in taxes.”

There was no use in lamenting his decision. At the time, the most important factor was not money, but rather finding earth veins. From that perspective, Rheinperle was the obvious choice.

“If you don’t feel comfortable with that amount, I can try to increase taxes.”

“Additional taxes?”

“If you really want, it is possible to tax residents for trivial things like having windows or for the right to start a fire. You can even tax people for using the river or having a beard. There are actually nobles who collect taxes in that manner.”

What kind of nonsense was this? 

Seon-Hyeok immediately refused. He was short on money at the moment, but even so, he did not want to become a cruel lord and exploit his people.

“A 400 gold profit isn’t much, but it should be sufficient to run the territory.”

“That’s a relief. I was afraid there were so many expenses that I would have to go out and earn money by myself.”

Seon-Hyeok said it as a joke, but Julian looked at him as though she had heard something absurd.

“However, whether or not you levy additional taxes, you will need to find additional sources of income. We cannot rely on the Drake Cavalry forever, as they are under military jurisdiction, and having twenty or so soldiers is not nearly enough in case of emergencies. Rheinperle may not be on the border, but it’s not that far from it.”

“Right. That’s all true. But.”

Seon-Hyeok’s eyes lit up as he listened to Julian speak.

“You’re really good with numbers.”

“Well, the men in my family were all military-oriented ever since I was young, so we needed someone to manage our lands. I managed my family’s tax affairs since I was eight.”

Seon-Hyeok wondered what he had done when he was eight. He was probably busy running around his neighborhood with a runny nose. Hearing Julian had managed such complex finances from a young age, he saw her in a new light.

“Wow. That’s great.”

He was now truly thankful for her presence.

“Julian, you can manage the finances here from now on.”

Even now, Julian had a hand in all the happenings in the mansion. She made a rare uncomfortable expression as she thought about the additional financial responsibilities she was being given.

In the end, Julian was tasked with managing the territory’s taxes. Whether or not he trusted her, there was nobody else capable of assuming such responsibilities. Seon-Hyeok felt sorry for burdening the young child, but Julian’s expression brightened when he did so.

Perhaps because she had been ignored and excluded at Mangsk for being a woman, Julian seemed to prefer having her talents be recognized.

Seon-Hyeok hadn’t seen the new cavalry accommodations in a while, and when he visited, it was still undergoing construction.

“Oh. The lord’s here.”

Hansen and the new recruits were clad in heavy armor when they greeted him. It seemed they had just been on patrol duty.

Instead of answering, Seon-Hyeok looked up and down at Hansen as he mumbled.

“80 gold for heavy cavalry armor, 50 gold for a horse, and 20 gold for miscellaneous weapons. 150 gold in total. On top of that, a salary of 30 gold per year.”

Ignorance had been bliss. Now that Julian had taught him about the economics of this world, everything he saw looked like money. The heavy cavalry, each using 150 gold worth of equipment, seemed extravagant.

“What are you talking about?”

“Five cavalry riders, so that’s 750 gold. That’s more than what I make in a year!”

Hansen and the other riders looked blankly at Seon-Hyeok as he spat out numbers like a madman. However, regardless of how they reacted, he continued going around the camp to calculate the value of the entire cavalry unit. Though they weren’t knights, the level of equipment required by the heavy cavalry wasn’t that much different. The equipment cost for the hundred cavalrymen was astronomical.

“15,000 gold.”

He would need to accumulate 30 years’ worth of taxes without spending a single penny in order to gather that much money. Now that he thought about it, how wealthy was the royal family that they could afford to maintain over a dozen of these units on top of all their other troops? He could not help but marvel at the thought.

He almost even felt a sense of loyalty. Of course, that did not mean he intended to devote himself to the royal family. He simply admired their vast resources.

“Well, I know what you’re thinking, but there’s nothing to be worried about for the time being. There’s no reason the royal family would suddenly dispatch the Drake Cavalry somewhere else. Rheinperle is an ideal location from which we can support troops on the border or suppress rebellious lords.”

There was nobody else around other than the riders, but Clark nonetheless spoke respectfully. Since Seon-Hyeok was now the company commander and the lord of a territory, Clark must have felt he could no longer treat Seon-Hyeok as he did before.

“Any other lord would have never permitted royal troops to enter their territory in this manner out of self-preservation. Of course, since you’re a cavalry company commander, you might feel a closer connection to the riders than your territory and have a different perspective.”

“Ah…”

Seon-Hyeok hadn’t even considered the politics involved. He had only focused on the financial savings resulting from having troops paid by the royal family.

“To put it plainly, it could be considered an abuse of power for us to patrol this territory. There’s also no reason for us to.”

“Even between us?”

Clark and the others burst out in laughter at Seon-Hyeok’s cute remark.

“We’re loyal because it’s between us.”

Seon-Hyeok forgot his worries and smiled. Although Clark’s tone towards him was different from before, Clark's friendly attitude remained the same.

“But just in case, don’t try to fight against the royal family. If anything happens, we won’t be able to ignore the royal command. All things aside, we all have families to worry about.”

Seeing Clark’s unwavering sense of duty, Seon-Hyeok was able to understand why the kingdom had been open to making a lord the commander of his own company. It seemed he had really become adjusted to this new reality, as he accepted the line Clark drew as natural without being disappointed.

“Don’t worry. I plan on living a long life.”

“That’s why I like you so much!”

The riders laughed loudly when they saw Seon-Hyeok lightheartedly pass over a potentially serious conversation.

“Oh, and about Emma. If you’ll permit it, I’d like to send a couple of riders to escort her here. Would that be all right?”

“Are you asking me for a vacation?”

“Yes.”

Seon-Hyeok smiled at the brazen answer.

He soon approved of the vacation, and Hansen, Jonasson, and Jackson once again headed for Mangsk. Sending Jackson was an act of generosity, as he chose him out of consideration for Jackson’s feelings towards Emma.

“Thank you. Thank you!”

Seon-Hyeok left Jackson behind as the rider thanked him over and over again, and headed back to his mansion.

***

Goldrake shed once again after they arrived at Rheinperle. Since the area was full of earth veins, Seon-Hyeok had been able to feed him whenever he had the time. As a result, Goldrake, after once being skinny and on the verge of death, now looked like a real monster. He stood over 3 meters tall with his head upright and was nearly 6 meters long.

“Ah. I can’t reach! I said I can’t reach it!”

The shaking when Goldrake moved was worse, and targets were now further away when he was on the saddle. As a result, even with the nearly 4-meter long cavalry spear, it became nearly impossible to strike his target without being dangerously close.

There were two potential solutions. He could either commission longer spears, or he could forego riding Goldrake and use Stella as his primary mount.

“Ugh. Even so, I’m a dragon rider. I can’t give up on Goldrake that easily.”

It was now difficult for him to train with the other cavalry because of the unexpected penalties incurred by Goldrake’s growth, but he couldn’t give up on him.

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