This deal's signing amongst the Essen Estate, Han-Sung Clan, and Dark Guilds had great diplomatic significance over the next fifty years. It was the first example in history where a traditional Absolute Clan faction, the Han-Sung Clan, cooperated with a non-traditional faction, the Dark Guilds. However, no one could foresee how much their cooperation would exert an influence on the transformation and power structure of this world in the future.
Also, it was the day when the Dark Guilds became the premier guild faction. They would soon become the most important characters who would shape society. This was all due to the two people who made their first appearance in the ‘historical literature' of this world. Their names were starting to be recorded in the annals of this world's history…
They gathered again.
The Goddess’ protection opened up everything
that the humans had hidden,
Firm, to be firm, and firmed faith supported their feet,
Strong, to be strong, and willing strength to work
helped raised their hands.
When I came, I came shabby,
but when I went, a grand procession followed.
The northern world took notice of them,
and the northern world feared them.
Han-Sung Clan stood in front,
and the slender Dark Guilds stood stealthily in the rear.
They walked the human land again,
cleared out five hundred enemies,
Destroyed one thousand mercenaries three times.
After passing through the Akum’s realm again,
they killed hundreds of contaminated Akums.
In the land of the Avian people, they met the angels again.
The angel blessed the living,
And comforted the dead.
They removed five hundred blood demons,
The captain killed the demon of the north, Norian.
Six months after they left,
they reached the land where they should be.
They kissed the ground
and rejoiced with the Count.
But how would one know…
About the fate of those
who were enraptured by the Hero!
Having already become a ‘warrior’ and a ‘people’
The day they leave will surely come...
** As recorded by Cecil, the bard, in his memoirs “The Story of That Time”. **
[End of Episode 2]
Happiness – Chapter 1
The sound of the boys’ horns as they herded the goats rang throughout the mountain ridge. It was time to go down after a full day. The prairie that wound down from the hillside and the vast forests were covered in the red glow of the sunset, predicting a warm and comforting evening. Hungry shepherds hummed, sang songs, and herded the beasts while heading home.
It was springtime, a time when people were usually in need of sustenance as their stored foodstuff would usually run out, but there was plenty to eat, so the workers' movements were easy and carefree. The streets were safe and lively, and people were friendly and neighborly towards each other.
The estate was bustling, and there seemed to be much to do. The people were full of vitality and life. This was a place where peace and rest, which were not common concepts to this world, had established firm roots. In recent years, it was called the ‘Northern Territories’, and its name was increasingly becoming known as Count Essen’s Estate.
“Huh- It’s a really interesting town.”
A young warrior neatly wearing a sky-blue hat entered Count Essen's estate entrance on horseback. Behind him, a light carriage and four horses followed leisurely.
“It won’t be as great as the rumors stated. Rumors are always inflated,” a woman in a sleek yet comfortable dress replied back lightly. She looked tired from the long trip. As they arrived at the entrance, their eyes were gradually filled with vitality. The appearance of the Count’s estate had a different feel from the beginning.
The entrance was decorated with a well-furnished garden instead of an overbearing wall or guard post, and a unique entrance office building was built on the wide bridge that crossed the garden’s many streams.
“Limiting the entrance of even nobles…”
“It’s a strange garden…”
“It’s a defense design that doubles as a moat…”
The six were looking at what they wanted to see and interpreted the visible designs in their own way. They got off their horse with the guidance of the estate manager and walked toward the entrance office.
The entrance office was situated in a three-story wooden structure above the bridge, but the interior was surprisingly spacious and well-lit, so it was quite bright indoors. The visitors slowly looked around the room with an unhurried gait. The decorations looked very peculiar in their eyes.
Painted maps showed the entire territory with brief descriptions written in with a charcoal-like substance. Numerous poems were left as commemorative works by famous writers all along the walls, and crafts that the local artisans seemed to have made were strewn across the many displays. Furthermore, artworks engraved with abstract patterns were exhibited openly, encouraging viewers to become more curious about the intent of the creator and of this place.
‘In this way, one can decorate the physical and cultural boundaries between provinces…’
The first thing they saw was a paper notice written in oil affixed to a large wall. A guide was standing next to the notice to assist people who couldn’t read.
“It’s said to be an open town…”
“No slaves, no attendants… If necessary, one would have to sign an employment contract?”
“What’s a membership system?”
“What is this about an entry process?”
They walked with their heads tilted in confusion. At the end of the hall, there was an entrance passage, where they were asked to follow the necessary entrance procedures.
“You must write your names in this guestbook here. You’ll also receive a name tag.”
The stylish and neatly dressed receptionist greeted them with a cheerful voice.
“You don't check our identification?” asked the man in the sky-blue suit.
“We do not. Even if we did, it wouldn’t matter,” the receptionist replied with a light smile.
“Ho… you don’t care about our identities, but we need to write our names in your guestbook? What does that mean?” another one of the young men in the party asked.
The young men were tilting their heads as the procedure seemed counterintuitive. Something was weird, but they couldn’t quite put their fingers on it. The attitude of the guides? They were polite, but it didn’t mean they were overtly obedient. Entry and exit procedures? Born as noblemen, they had never done such a thing.
They felt that they needed to do what they were told. Things went on naturally, but something was nagging and annoying them for some reason. They felt like they were losing out somehow…
“It’s a name tag lanyard. You can put it around your neck. You’ll receive one in the name you wrote down in the guestbook.”
“Do I need to put it on? I don’t really want to reveal my name to others…”
“Then you can do it anonymously using a pseudonym.”
“And if I don’t want to use a pseudonym either…?”
“It doesn’t matter. You may still enter. However, you may have to endure a rather inconvenient and uncomfortable life within the estate.”
“Inconvenient and uncomfortable life?”
“You won’t be protected. You can think of it as being treated like someone who doesn’t possess anything. Also, you won’t be able to purchase most items. You’ll need your signature to buy something, but your signature is based on your name tag.”
“We’re not people who need protection… Are these the rules of this place?”
“No. They’re just recommendations. It’s closer to the basic etiquettes for enjoying life in this area. For reference, there’s a respectful atmosphere here where we don’t recognize the social status people have in the outside world. Of course, it doesn’t matter if you don't want to disclose your identity, but if you want to buy something, signing the slip with your name is a rule you must follow. It has to do with taxes.”
The man, ‘Gibin’ looked straight at the guide.
There were two guides. One was a man and the other was a woman. They were too carefree and happy to be called civil servants. Their strange style of clothing looked fresh and neat, and it went well with the bright spring weather. Obviously, even though they were commoners, there was no feeling of difficulty in their words or actions when interacting with nobles. There seemed to be no fear either. Thus, for Gibin, they seemed pompous and stuck-up.
“Can you dare do that? A rule without power would be useless?”
“It’s possible because there are many people who want to obey the rules and have the strength to enforce them.”
“Really? As far as I know, there aren't many people like that.”
The man stared at the guide, waving a blank name tag in front of his face. He then turned around to his party member behind him.
“Hey! What do you guys think? I don’t feel like giving out my name…”
“We can’t do such ridiculous things. I won’t put one on. We’re not going to follow the rules set by a Count who rules over a countryside estate! No matter how interesting or fun it is, I don’t want to follow such recommendations and lower myself to others. I don’t like being called by my name by strangers either, even if it’s a nickname,” a woman, ‘Giyoung’, said as she shook her head.
‘Dongha’, a woman who accompanied another man, ‘Dongyoung’, also shook her head with a slight frown. She’d been to many places and faced many different entry procedures, but she especially disliked this seemingly rude and outlandish countryside rule.
“Do you two think differently?”
Gibin looked at the last two people.
“Well, I think it’ll be fun. Anyway, isn’t it unusual?”
A woman dressed relatively modestly took a piece of paper and wrote her name. She wrote her real name. Wearing a beige-colored dress, the woman looked modest, but if one saw the finest dye of ultramarine blue on the cuffs that she wore on her wrists, one might have noticed that this woman was not a common person.
“If ‘Rain’ agrees, I’ll follow along. It’s original, so it seems like it’ll be fun…”
A man named ‘Gun’ smiled brightly as he also wrote his real name on a slip of paper. He did so because he believed that no one would recognize his real name…
The guide went through the last few procedures.
“If you want to exchange money, you can use the ‘bank’ over there.”
“Aren’t you here to buy something?”
“Yes… but wait… that’s not what I meant…?”
“Some items cannot be traded, bought, or sold with certain currencies here.”
“The bank is a place that converts your money at an appropriate rate.”
The six young people looked at each other and tilted their heads.
“What is he talking about?”
“I don’t know… Turning money into money? Why would one do such a funny thing?”
The receptionist looked at them silently with a light smile.
‘Well, none of us understood in the beginning either… even the first time they explained it…’ the receptionist thought as she awaited their response.
“This is embarrassing… Have you ever come across a situation like this?” Gibin asked, huffing and puffing with frustration and anger.
Giyoung was biting her lips firmly while quieting seething. Their other companions, Dongyoung and Dongha, had similar feelings.
However, the circumstances were very different for Rain and Gun, as they had name tags around their neck.
“You won’t sell things to us? Why?”
“It’s not meant to be sold to someone without a name. We can’t help it.”
“Even if we give you money?”
“It’s better to not accept your money than be deported for ten days on charges of tax evasion. My business will also be shut down during that time. Furthermore, I don’t need imperial currency.”
“Also, why are you speaking to me like an equal…”
“You're not speaking to me with respect as well…” the shopkeeper quickly retorted with a huff.
The conversations stopped for a while. They had run around a few places and found that they couldn’t purchase any goods without name tags. And then, at an inn…
“I am the Gibin of the Ki-Jang Clan. I’d like a room.”
“The rooms here are only for visitors with nametags.”
“I’m sorry. There are separate lodgings for unnamed visitors.”
The innkeeper’s fingertips pointed towards a large house atop a hill.
“Go to the group accommodation over there. There are public baths and toilets. It’s not too bad.”
“Why can’t I stay here? I can give you more money!”
“When a person’s identity is uncertain, the money he has is also uncertain.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter