Chapter 254. If You Run While You’re Drunk (3)

Seol Jihu accompanied Hao Win to the door and bid farewell. Once Hao Win left, the personal guards that had followed him to Carpe Diem’s building went up to him.

Hao Win didn’t say a word and walked to the street with a somewhat stiff expression.

Tk. A raindrop fell from the sky. Hao Win abruptly paused and tilted his head up.

The sun was still in the middle of the sky, yet the sky was dark. Rain clouds had rolled in before he noticed, and it seemed it would rain any moment now.

Tk, tk, tk, tk. As if to prove him right, more raindrops began to fall in the next moment.

A man wearing black sunglasses glanced up before spreading open a jacket on his arm and approaching Hao Win.

“Ming Jie.”

The man who was putting the jacket over Hao Win paused at the sudden call.

“You once asked me why I chose Carpe Diem’s leader, do you remember that?”

“….”

“It’s simple. Because he shined brighter than anyone else.”

Hao Win continued while still looking up at the sky.

“A man who accomplishes impossible feats. A witty problem-solver who brings a solution when everyone else is lost and sees the ingenious plan to completion. That is the Earthling and Irregular, Seol of Haramark.”

Hao Win smiled faintly.

“I witnessed it clearly at the Banquet. He visited the minority faction, consoling them to join his cause. He persuaded the majority faction and subdued anyone trying to break the harmony with violence. And when he brought up the idea of exchanging the Dissonant Wish… I was deeply moved. He used his cards at the perfect timing. And I knew immediately that I could never do the same.”

Ming Jie who was listening carefully said.

“If you are trying to draw a comparison to Carpe Diem’s recent action, I would like to point out that violence is an employable method as well.”

“I acknowledge that.”

Hao Win agreed right away.

“Suppressing the enemy with your strength is a necessary method. I know that. But…”

Saying this, Hao Win looked back at the imposing building.

“He was drunk.”

“….”

“Getting used to something… is similar to being inebriated.”

He spoke with a hint of regret.

“The more you flaunt authority, the more you become addicted. The more you fall in love, the more you become enamored. And the more you use strength, the more you become drunk on it.

“Similarly, the more you fall into madness, the deeper you fall. Almost like getting more inebriated as you drink.”

The gentle drizzle was drenching Hao Win’s clothes before he noticed. Hao Win took his eyes off the building and sighed.

He wasn’t saying that it was bad to run while looking forward. There were certainly times when it was necessary.

The problem was the mental state of the person running.

Was he running while looking forward? Or was he unable to look anywhere else?

That wasn’t all. He had to tread carefully even if he was running with a sharp mind, but now he was rushing forward while intoxicated. He wasn’t taking breaks to look back, nor was he looking around at the people running with him.

Hao Win smacked his lips for a long time before turning his gaze back down.

“How are the remaining seven organizations’ movements?”

“Nothing seems out of the ordinary.”

“So they’ve decided to lay low.”

“For now, at least. But given their personalities, I doubt they’ll stay still for long.”

This couldn’t continue. An unjust attack could come flying at his back at any moment. In the worst-case scenario, he might even trip on an obstacle right in front of him.

The moment Seol Jihu fell, the hyenas biding their time would pounce excitedly and eat to their hearts’ content, not leaving behind even a single piece of meat, making sure that he could not stand up ever again.

Hao Win wanted to make Seol Jihu take a break, but the water had already been spilled. Just like Seol Jihu said, they were now in a situation where they had to see things to the end.

If they stopped halfway, it would be worse than not starting at all.

This was the cause of Hao Win’s dilemma.

“I doubt anything bad will happen with Miss Foxy by his side, but… I guess there’s no other way.”

Hao Win muttered under his breath. Ming Jie finally put the jacket over him and lowered his hand.

“Have you decided, sir?”

“Decided or not, we don’t have a choice. We’ve been forced.”

It wasn’t that they were in a horrible situation with no way out. They just had to help Seol Jihu so he could run while only looking forward until this matter was fully resolved.

In other words…

“The Triads will have to become Carpe Diem’s shield for a while.”

Announcing resolutely, Hao Win looked back at Ming Jie.

“Can you contact a few rogues?”

“I have their contact info… but may I know why?”

“Even as a shield, I’m not the type to sit around and take a beating. You can use shields to attack too. You know, bashing and striking.”

Hao Win cackled as he took out a pack of cigarettes. Ming Jie tilted his head, but didn’t ask any further.

“I’ll look into it.”

“Don’t look for them in Eva, but in Haramark… no, it’s fine as long as they’re not from Eva. Remember, they cannot be from Eva.”

“How many will we need?”

Ming Jie asked bluntly.

“Enough to observe all of Eva’s organizations. Bring them here as soon as possible. And be discrete.”

Hao Win revealed his teeth and smiled.

“It’s war.”

*


The Carpe Diem building had several meeting rooms as Kim Hannah had created one on each floor in consideration of creating multiple smaller teams in the future.

Today’s meeting took place in the grand conference room which was spacious enough to fit over 100 people.

“Eva’s organizations have split up their territories well, but that’s only when it comes to land. For business, they mostly operate together.”

Kim Hannah’s voice had enough force to fill the entire room.

“The only difference is which side is in charge and which side takes more benefits.”

Kim Hannah looked back at a chalkboard which contained three provisions.

“Eva’s organizations make money through three primary methods. The first is real estate, the second is slave hunt and trade, and the third is loan-sharking and prostitution.”

Jang Maldong furrowed his brows.

“Among these, Leader Seol Jihu recently led the charge to ruin the slave hunt and trade. It’s hard to say it’s been stopped 100 percent, but with the royal administrator’s declaration and the royal family strengthening their border patrol, the organizations should stay quiet for a while.”

In truth, Seol Jihu had more than ruined the slave hunt and trade as he had directly affected future prospects as well.

Everyone knew that the organizations suffered a great loss. Now, Eva’s organizations were choosing to lay low rather than take action.

But that didn’t mean they would let Carpe Diem do as it wished. They had to be scheming to make up their losses somehow. Since real estate was an asset they almost fully owned, they wouldn’t be able to milk any more money out of it.

“So, it’s highly likely that they’ll shift their focus on loan-sharking and prostitution.”

They were already milking this revenue stream, but now they would squeeze it dry. After all, even a dried squid would produce some water when wrung.

“People who aren’t familiar with Eva call it the City of Priests, but the ones who are familiar call it the City of Luxury and Pleasure.”

Kim Hannah placed her hands on the long table and looked around.

“Has anyone gone outside at night?”

“Mm, I have.”

Hugo nodded while smiling in satisfaction.

“Eva’s nightlife is well known. For one, it’s cheap. It’s also fun picking and choosing who you…”

Hugo trailed off, unable to finish his sentence, as Seol Jihu stared at him fixedly. Kim Hannah smiled.

“Right, Eva’s nightlife is flocked by Earthlings. Why do you think that is?”

“Isn’t that obvious? They borrowed money from loan sharks and failed to pay up, so they were pulled into prostitution.”

Chohong spoke apathetically.

“Yes, that’s right. Can you take a look at the paper I gave you?”

Kim Hannah said as she raised a piece of paper she had handed out earlier. After a few ruffles, her voice rang out again.

“I personally went out to gather this information. One woman couldn’t endure Paradise’s difficult livelihood and borrowed money from Eva’s organization. The amount was 30 silvers. Four years went by and now…”

Kim Hannah looked down at the paper and took a brief pause before looking back up.

“The amount she owes is 70.8 silvers.”

That was an annual interest of 34 percent. It was the same as borrowing 15,150,000 won on Earth and having to return 35,743,000 won four years later.

Seol Jihu gasped at the super high interest rate.

“For just 70 silvers…”

Yi Seol-Ah tilted her head and murmured carefully.

“Just?”

“Well, look at you, aren’t you a rich man.”

Kim Hannah and Maria glared at him simultaneously. Seol Jihu dropped his head.

“Listen, most men have been conscripted away and only women are left in the city. They can’t work as coachmen and no one will use them as porters. These women have to take care of their parents’ and their children’s livelihood by themselves. Can you still say it’s just 70 silvers?”

“No, I—”

“Don’t shoot your mouth off if you haven’t experienced it personally.”

Phi Sora also chimed in with a frustrated tone.

Thinking about it again, Seol Jihu had only become rich from the Pagoda of Dreams expedition. Before that, his entire savings consisted of half a piece of gold, several hundred silver coins, and three or four decorations.

And that was after he was successful in many other missions and made good money.

More importantly, Earthlings and Paradisians had vastly different ways of making money and vastly different earnings. With a long war that had continued on for dozens of years, the reality of Paradise was that Paradisians who were at the lowest social class found it difficult to even see a single silver coin.

There was a reason people said organizations were nobles, Earthlings were peasants, and Paradisians were slaves.

Chohong locked her hands and stretched them up.

“Uwaaaaah! So you’re saying charging so much in interest is illegal and we should go beat them up for it?”

Kim Hannah shook her head.

“No, that’s not true.”

“?”

“Lending money and receiving interest in return. That isn’t illegal in the slightest.”

Chohong paused and blinked in confusion.

“The annual interest rate of 34 percent, this amount has been agreed upon by the royal palace. They cannot and should not do anything to break it.”

Seol Jihu’s eyes narrowed.

“Even 34 percent is a lot lower than where it started. Originally, the amount was excessively high, being quadruple of what it is now, and when people failed to pay back the amount, the loan-sharks would take the right to their property and land. Administrator Sorg Kühne eventually got wind of it and did his best to protect the citizens’ interests. While he succeeded in protecting the land rights, he couldn’t do anything about the actual amount owed.”

In other words, even the absurd 34 percent interest was the result of hard negotiation.

“…I wonder what would have happened to this city if not for the Federation and Tigol Fortress.”

Marcel Ghionea muttered to himself.

But what Kim Hannah said next delivered a twist.

“That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to dig into.”

Seol Jihu and everyone else turned their attention to Kim Hannah.

“It’s nothing difficult. There’s a very simple and easy solution.”

“What is it? Get on with it.”

Chohong made an irked expression, and Kim Hannah tilted her chin slightly. Then, she spoke.

“We just have to buy out their debts. Simply put, we’ll be paying off their debt in their place. Then Paradisian women will be able to escape the cycle of pain they’ve gotten themselves into, right?”

In an instant, everyone made dumbfounded faces.

“This way, we can also shake the foundation of the gold mine the organizations have been using for the past several years. Without women, they can’t operate their business.”

“What?”

The first one to react was unsurprisingly Maria.

“Are you crazy, Unni?”

“No way, that’s bullshit!”

Chohong looked dumbstruck as well. They weren’t the only ones who objected as others also chipped in, saying things like, “That’s all you could come up with after all that?”

Only Seo Yuhui maintained her silence, her eyes closed in contemplation. Even Jang Maldong looked a little taken aback.

“Mm, I know you mean well, Miss Kim Hannah, but…”

He furrowed his brows, stopping short of finishing his sentence. Kim Hannah was smiling, enjoying the ruckus with her arms crossed. It was as if she expected this reaction.

“Miss Hannah?”

At that moment, Seo Yuhui opened her mouth.

“Do you think it’s possible?”

It was a question that was purely hypothetical. But Kim Hannah went, “Oh~” in surprise.

“No, we’ll have to try it to know for certain, but it’s more likely to fail.”

“Then—”

“It’s bait. It doesn’t matter if you sprinkle it or not, but it’s probably better to do it.”

“You mean there’s a real plan.”

“That’s still in the works. I’ll let everyone know when I confirm it.”

Seo Yuhui nodded. Kim Hannah looked around at everyone else.

“Any other concerns?”

“….”

“Feel free to speak your mind. I understand you have misgivings about the plan. But if you’re going to raise questions, can you do it now? I hate it when people cut in.”

Surprisingly, the mumble died down. Only doubtful gazes remained. It was unlikely that Paradise’s infamous scammer would have brought up a losing scheme, but Chohong was reluctant as she just couldn’t understand the true meaning.

“I mean… it’s not that I can’t do it. But it just doesn’t make sense. Even if we’re well-off, how can we pay off everyone’s debts? Maybe if it’s just a part of it…”

“Yeah, just a part is fine.”

“What?”

“Even a king is unable to take care of all the poor. So we just have to help a little for the sake of this plan. That’s more than enough.”

Kim Hannah took out a new piece of paper.

“I surveyed around 40 households yesterday. The sample size is small, but they each had around 87 silver coins in debt. Just by donating a gold coin, you can save about eleven people. Ten would be able to save 110.”

Kim Hannah smiled sweetly.

“And you all have gold eggs, gold coins, silver chunks, silver coins, gems, and more. Thousands in total.”

“I have a question as well.”

Jang Maldong raised his hand.

“Even if we pay off their debt, that won’t solve the underlying problem. These women have to use most of the money they make by prostitution to pay off the interest, but it isn’t as if Paradisians aren’t taking a single copper coin home. Of course, the organizations are leaving some for them so these women don’t die of hunger, but it’s true that this is how these women make their living.”

He was right. Just because the women would be relieved of their debts, it didn’t mean they would be free to live happy lives. Unless their livelihood was guaranteed, they would have to borrow money again or continue prostitution.

“That’s true. But that problem can be solved by temporarily donating food as well. With our money, of course.”

Maria groaned yet again.

‘Hm…’

However, Seol Jihu was thinking that this plan was entirely doable in the short term. Only the prices of land and High Ranker equipment were absurdly expensive. Other items’ prices were relatively normal.

In the past, although it was only possible with the Haramark Royal Family’s help, Seol Jihu had helped to accommodate hundreds of villagers from Ramman Village with a single gold bar.

Chohong sent a sharp glance.

“You’re not forcing us, are you?”

“Of course not. We’re planning to use a part of the organization’s funding. You don’t have to pay anything if you don’t want to.”

“Jeez, you make it sound like you’re being nice and giving us a chance to be generous.”

“Well, it’s rare to get opportunities like this.”

“Haha, you’re right, it’s hard to get opportunities to burn money like this.”

As Chohong commented sarcastically, Maria cheered her on from the side. Regardless, Kim Hannah raised two fingers.

“Even if you can receive two benefits from it?”

Chohong’s eyebrows went up.

“You’re not going to say, ‘Oh~ You can gain the favor of the public~’ are you?”

“That is important to us, but if you don’t care…”

Kim Hannah obediently folded one finger. However, she still had one finger up.

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