Episode 58. Territorial Development (1)

There was once a time when Seon-Hyeok was put in the ridiculous situation of being a dragon rider in a dragon-less world, and he had faced many difficulties on the way, but he was ultimately only able to reach his current status because of his class. Therefore, he made sure to never forget his identity. The only solution, then, was to commission a new spear.

“There aren’t any sufficiently skilled blacksmiths in this area. If you would like, I will look into craftsmen located closer to the capital.”

His new spear would naturally require significant time and money to make. After all, it was not easy to produce a cavalry spear 1.5 meters longer than normal, let alone one worthy of use by a lord.

“Ugh. My precious money.”

Seon-Hyeok was thriftier now than before he became a noble, but he nonetheless handed over the necessary funds with trembling hands.

Frustrated by this unexpected expense, Seon-Hyeok left his residence with the burdensome Goldrake. By now, the residents were no longer terrified at the sight of the drake, but they still kept a healthy distance.

He smacked his lips as he saw the residents retreat while bowing. He recalled the rumors surrounding him and Goldrake.

‘Prisoners and troublemakers are fed to the monster. The monster likes virgins the most.’

These were baseless rumors. However, it was difficult to pinpoint where the rumors originated, and just as challenging to dispel them. However, there was one rumor among them that he could not ignore.

‘Not a single blade of grass grows where the monster has stayed. The monster curses the land.’

Bothered by this, he revisited the place where he found the earth vein. The rumor was true. The previously unexceptional land had completely changed. Now, the ground was parched and crumbly, and not a single weed could be seen. He panicked, seeing even robust-looking stones crumble at the slightest touch.

It was clear that Goldrake was not the only one benefitting from these earth veins.

Thanks to this, Seon-Hyeok had to venture further from the village and away from potential farmland to search for sources of earth energy. However, the earth veins, which were abundant near the village, were less so as he moved further away.

“No. I can’t go through that stress again.”

A hungry and complaining Goldrake was truly an unbearable source of stress. Seon-Hyeok wasn’t married, but it felt like he had a baby constantly crying for milk.

“Just one. Please.”

And so, he traveled across the plains, climbing and searching every hill. After several weeks of this, Goldrake finally showed signs of smelling something nearby.

“Huh?”

However, his behavior now was different from the other times he had discovered earth veins. After stampeding to the source, instead of sprawling out over the area, Goldrake began to dig into the ground.

Seon-Hyeok stared at Goldrake blankly.

What does he think he is, a dog?

After some time passed, Goldrake put his head into the now sizable pit and began to chew.

Munch. Munch.

“You crazy thing! You’re eating dirt now?”

It seemed Seon-Hyeok had forgotten he had once done the same in a futile attempt to increase his earth attribute control. He approached his drake and smacked his head. Surprised by the sudden blow, Goldrake recoiled and spat out the unidentifiable object he had been chewing on.

Thud. Roll.

The object that fell out seemed unusual. It was far too beautiful and shiny to be a common stone. After staring closely for a moment, Seon-Hyeok smacked Goldrake once again as he tried to put his head into the pit.

“No! That’s not food!”

He held the shining rock closely and headed straight back to his residence.

“I, it’s silver.”

The village blacksmith was terrified that he had unknowingly committed a crime when he was dragged in front of his lord by the soldiers. However, he did not dare to ignore his lord’s request. After closely examining the stone for a while, he answered with conviction.

“Are you certain?”

“Yes. Unless my eyes are mistaken, this is definitely silver.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It is.”

Seon-Hyeok asked the blacksmith several times, but the old man’s answer remained the same.

“Ahem.”

He forcibly held back his smile. Seeing this, Julian sent the man back.

“Hell yeah! Jackpot!”

“Viscount, please maintain your dignity…”

“That’s why I held back until now! There’s nobody here!”

“I’m here.”

Julian reprimanded Seon-Hyeok telling him to remain dignified as he jumped up and celebrated. However, he was too excited to listen, and she finally gave up.

“You really found a silver mine?”

“That’s what I’m saying? If you don’t believe me, we can go see it together.”

“If true, that’s wonderful news. It means our financial situation will be slightly less dire.”

Seon-Hyeok stopped celebrating. His excitement cooled off significantly when Julian didn’t even show a hint of a smile as she said it was great news.

“Are you actually happy?”

“It’s great news. I’m very happy that you will have one less matter to worry about and that the land will be more prosperous.”

Julian’s matter-of-fact response wasn’t out of disappointment that she wouldn’t be the primary beneficiary of the discovery. Seon-Hyeok knew well that she was devoted.

“I’ll have the royal family send an examiner right away.”

“The royal family?”

“The royal family has the right of first refusal to anything that originates from the kingdom’s lands.”

Seon-Hyeok’s expression as he heard Julian’s response was that of a person who had just lost everything.

“So this isn’t mine, but the royal family’s?”

“That’s not the case. You’ll just have to pay the mining taxes levied by the royal family.”

“How much is that?”

“It depends on the size of the mine, but it is normally around 30 percent.”

If he had known about the mining tax from the beginning, Seon-Hyeok would have complained that he was being robbed by the royal family. In his current situation, however, he felt as though he had gained 70 percent rather than the reverse. Then again, nobody could know how long he would feel that way, as he could swing both ways.

“This arrangement could actually be favorable for poorer territories like ours. We can pay the 30 percent mining tax and have the royal family cover all the mining and smelting expenses. After all, we have neither the financial wherewithal nor the ability to develop a mine on our own.”

Julian explained that building a mine and smelting the mineral resources obtained would be burdensome to even a well-off earl.

“In addition, as you’re officially a vassal of Mangsk… Earl Mangsk, you will have to pay about 20 percent in taxes there as well.”

“I have to give up even more?”

“It shouldn’t be considered a loss. Legitimate taxes are a mechanism to prevent future disputes with other lords. So long as they’re receiving taxes, they won't be able to ignore you if you find yourself in trouble.”

When explained from that perspective, it sounded quite reasonable. It was true he would surrender half of the mined silver by the royal family and Earl Mangsk, but the Rheinperle territory did not yet have the power to develop and guard its own mines. The taxes, though burdensome, were costs he could afford to pay.

“Contact them right away. Tell the examiner to hurry.”

“I will do as you say.”

The royal examiner arrived less than two weeks after Julian placed her request. In the meantime, Seon-Hyeok waited like a man anxious to cash in his winning lottery ticket, afraid his earnings might be taken from him.

“Welcome!”

Finally free from his anxiety, Seon-Hyeok warmly welcomed the examiner as he showed his courtesy with a puzzled expression. However, the official did not come alone.

“What’s this?”

“His Majesty and the royal princess…”

To his surprise, the royal examiner brought two royal letters with him. Adhering to customs, he checked the king’s letter first.

“Hut.”

Seon-Hyeok smirked as he finished reading the letter, and this soon devolved into raucous laughter. When she got the opportunity, Julian read the letter and stared at it in surprise.

The letter, minus the rhetoric, was as follows.

‘As you are close to the border and at risk of foreign invasions, the royal family will not impose any tax obligations for five years. Use this opportunity to strengthen your forces and become a steadfast pillar of the kingdom.’

“It looks like His Majesty has high expectations of you. Being exempted from not just mining taxes, but all taxation for five years is an incredible benefit.”

“Is that what His Majesty wrote?”

Seeing the official’s shocked expression after hearing Julian’s words, it was clear that he had not been aware of the letter’s contents. After receiving Seon-Hyeok’s permission, Julian handed the examiner the royal letter.

“Oh? To think that the king would make such a decision.”

After letting the examiner’s admiring words go in one ear and out the other, Seon-Hyeok opened the royal princess’ letter. Her handwriting was that of a young child attempting to imitate an adult, but the content was simultaneously more solemn yet flowery than the king’s. However, he once again skimmed through the letter to get to the point.

“How did the royal princess know I needed a new spear? She said she’d commission a famous craftsman herself in order to have it produced. Not only that, she says she’ll be giving Goldrake a new set of armor.”

She had felt enough affection towards the giant monster to name him, and it seemed she had not forgotten about him.

The threat she made in the letter, saying that she would not accept a rider unworthy of Goldrake, was her way of saying she would have him properly equipped. Seon-Hyeok couldn’t help but laugh. It was like the royal princess to say she would be giving a gift in a manner that was so difficult to understand.

“Oh…”

By now, the old examiner’s attitude had completely changed. The lord in front of him was a person so valued by the king that he was exempted from paying taxes. He was also so valued by the princess that she would personally have him and his drake properly equipped. He felt immense pressure trying to address this foreigner who had so suddenly risen to power.

“Will you be taking a rest first? Or will you go check the mine right away?”

It was most likely because of this. The examiner wanted nothing more than to rest and recover from the fatigue of travel, but he couldn’t easily rebuff the highly expectant lord. In the end, he lifted his weary body and followed behind the lord.

“Then please give me a moment…”

Seon-Hyeok thought the examiner was an average old man, but in reality, he was a mage. A flash of light emerged from the man’s fingertips as he waved his hand over the pit Goldrake previously dug. With that, he stared into the hole for a while.

“It’s clear that there is silver here. However, further investigation is needed to determine the extent of the silver deposits.”

After a long wait, the inspector finally confirmed the presence of silver. Seon-Hyeok clenched his fist and cheered inwardly. He could now forget about the times – however recent they may be – he had to worry about his financial stability.

Following the discovery of the silver deposit, Seon-Hyeok took Goldrake and searched through his entire territory, hoping to find additional sources of valuable ores. Unfortunately, however, the land he owned was sizable, and it wasn’t easy finding a new potential mine in the span of a few days.

In the end, he had to be satisfied with finding a few additional earth veins and pushed back his search for later. There were many more things he had to do right now.

“Ah. I shouldn’t have become a lord.”

These days, he almost longed for the days he spent as a rider lounging in the barracks when there were no ongoing operations or training. However, at the same time, he was also finding enjoyment in managing his territory. Now that he wasn’t constantly burdened by financial concerns, he was finally able to go around and see the land he ruled over.

When he did so, he noticed that the residents of this territory lived dirty, dangerous, and difficult lives. He wasn’t able to make sweeping changes at once, but he felt he could help improve their living situations using his knowledge of the other world.

Those thoughts did not last. As it turned out, the knowledge he did have was fragmented and inapplicable. He lacked the fundamental understanding to implement new technologies or advanced systems of the other world.

In the end, the changes he could help bring about were small in scale. For example, he could improve the people’s understanding of hygiene to prevent the spread of diseases or dispel superstitions. Perhaps he could think of something more dramatic in time, but this was about as much as he could do at the moment.

But even this proved difficult. The hardworking people considered washing bothersome and unnecessary, and they were hysterical when he tried to discourage belief in superstitions. Considering how challenging it was to implement small changes, it would be an incredibly arduous task to instigate change on a grander scale.

“But there must be something.”

Seon-Hyeok did not let his frustrations stop him. As a person unknowledgeable about being a lord, he believed that his path forward to developing his territory involved implementing aspects of life taken for granted in the other world.

Was the saying, ‘when there’s a will, there’s a way’? 

After pondering the situation, he was able to come up with some potentially implementable changes.

For example...

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