I should update from time to time.
Chapter 106: People’s Anger
Salaria State, the capital city of Leararat.
This was once an oasis in the desert, but it became the most prosperous city in Salaria State after being established as the state capital.
From my perspective as someone who came from the Imperial Capital, it was just a rural town, and even with my memories from my past life, I couldn’t deny the feeling of being run down.
However, the appearance of the buildings was completely different from the towns I had visited before, perhaps due to a style suitable for the desert.
Although it was a state of the empire, it felt like I had arrived in a foreign country, giving me a strange sensation.
Furthermore, the facial features of the residents were different.
Most people had cheerful personalities that seemed to be proportional to the strong sunlight that poured down, but at the same time, most were too thin and their faces were full of wrinkles.
I found it interesting that this is what happens when living in such a harsh environment like the desert.
“Well, let’s first look for a place to stay.”
“Yes! Leave it to me, Master!”
Peiyu responded and ran ahead.
I followed behind with Ivy.
Peiyu stopped in front of each building and looked around before finally entering the third one.
When I caught up, Peiyu had just come out.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Master. There are two rooms available.”
I nodded and entered the building.
I couldn’t tell from the outside, but it seemed to be an inn.
When we entered further, a middle-aged man greeted us.
He was thin and his face was full of wrinkles.
This was a standard facial feature for this town, so he might be younger than I guessed.
“Customer, will you be sleeping in your room right away, or would you like me to prepare something to eat?”
“Hmm, let me think.”
I looked inside the building.
Once I was released from the sun’s rays, the room was pleasantly cool.
However, the fatigue from walking in the scorching sun hit me all at once, and my body was craving water.
The place where I was standing had a lobby-like structure, with tables placed to create a bar-like atmosphere. I thought that the layout of the inn was not much different from other towns.
“After something to eat and drink, bring our luggage with you, Peiyu and Ivy. If you’re tired, feel free to rest.”
After I gave the order, another man appeared from the back. He was a young man, probably in his early twenties.
The young man guided Peiyu and Ivy up the stairs, while I sat down in one of the empty seats. An old man who had momentarily retreated to the back in exchange for the young man returned with a tray of several snacks and a ceramic bottle.
He placed it on my table.
The snacks consisted mainly of dried food, and there was nothing particularly noteworthy. A plump aroma wafted from the ceramic bottle.
“Is this sake?”
“Customer, you’re from out of town, right?”
“You see, sake is cheaper than water here.”
I had already realized that water was precious on this journey, but I was surprised that sake was cheaper than water.
“Water can be used for anything, but sake can only be used for drinking.”
“I see, that makes sense.”
I picked up one of the snacks and put it in my mouth. As expected, the taste was nothing special.
“In that case, how do you wash these dishes, for example?”
“People in this area who don’t serve travelers don’t use the word ‘wash.’ They sprinkle sand on them and use that to clean them.”
I laughed and took out 10 reens from my pocket, which was the official currency of the Empire. I knew it could be used in Saralaria before I arrived.
When I handed it to the old man, he smiled broadly.
“Is it okay to take this much?”
“Yes. It’s a tip.”
“Thank you very much. Is there anything else you need?”
The old man asked me with a smile that made his eyes narrow and his face scrunch up as well.
He seemed to recognize that I was a high-class customer, and he became more friendly at once.
“Well, has anything changed around here lately?”
“Recently… the biggest change was probably the replacement of the various governors around here.”
“Yes, when the lord changed, all of his governors were withdrawn.”
I nodded in agreement.
It was true. That was to happen.
But for just a governor who wasn’t at the level of a retainer, their matter won’t be reaching me, the emperor.
By the way, even for retainers, there is no legal requirement to report to the Emperor, but those who left the prince’s residence are expected to somehow inform the Emperor.
I listened to various stories from the old man at the inn and then waved him off as Peiyu and Ivy returned.
Ivy tried to sit next to me, but Peiyu didn’t.
Ivy froze as she was about to sit down, looking at Peiyu.
Both were wrong, but in hindsight, Peiyu was more so.
“There are people around, sit down Peiyu.”
“Y-Yes! I’m sorry, master!”
Peiyu hurriedly sat down next to me.
I also told Ivy to sit down.
“It’s okay to sit now.”
“Y-Yes. For now, right…”
Ivy muttered something under her breath and seemed to be reminding herself of something.
As the Emperor, I and my servants were not supposed to sit in the same seat.
Even prime ministers or princes are not allowed to sit together without permission.
Therefore, it was natural that Ivy, who had tried to sit next to me, was wrong.
On the other hand, Peiyu, who had come out incognito together, was also wrong not to sit with me.
Although it is not uncommon for wealthy merchants or lords not to let their servants sit together, they didn’t want to stand out that much.
I thought I still had a long way to go in this area.
As an emperor with little experience in incognito, I had room for improvement.
“Peiyu, get me some paper and a pen.”
While commanding Peiyu, I made a Fuwawa box.
I let the pen run on the paper I received from Peiyu. Ivy stared at me as I wrote.
“By the way, can you read and write?”
“I’m in the process of learning from Lady Mary.”
“Is that so.”
“I can read the characters, but I don’t understand the content at all.”
“Fumu, I see.”
I stopped my hand and pondered.
“Did I say something wrong?”
Ivy asked hesitantly, interrupting my thoughts.
I found it a little interesting that this was an area that she wasn’t yet experienced.
“Well, you made me realize something important.”
“I tend to use unnecessarily complicated language in official documents. For example,”
I said, drawing a line through the first three lines of the sentence I was writing to indicate the deletion.
“The modifiers here have nothing to do with the text, they’re unnecessary. Depending on the situation, plain language–spoken language–is sufficient.”
“In that sense, you helped me realize something important. Thank you.”
“Eh? I just didn’t understand.”
Ivy was perplexed, not understanding why she was being thanked.
“Master is always like this.”
“He listens to the stories of people like us with lower status and sometimes adopts them.”
Ivy was surprised and impressed, apparently understanding Peiyu’s explanation.
“People in high positions never listen to others’ stories at all…”
I wasn’t sure if that perception was entirely accurate, but it wasn’t entirely wrong either.
As an experiment, I continued writing the document in plain language without modifiers.
It was for my trusted confidant Don.
And the contents were about strengthening intelligence activities and keeping a closer eye on the personnel of the governor.
It is not unnecessary, but I had seen my father.
He built an overwhelming information network.
Information is a weapon. And regardless of whether or not it is used, it is always useful to gather information.
Realizing that I had not fully grasped the personnel of the governor, I issued an order to Don to also keep an eye on that–that was the content of the document.
Intelligence-related matters are not official documents as the Emperor, so I don’t use the official seal. Instead, I put it in the Fuwawa box that only Dong can open.
After that, my focused mind returned to normal.
Suddenly, I noticed the noisy commotion outside.
It seemed to be a noise mixed with anger, and both Peiyu and Ivy were looking toward the entrance with curiosity.
“Ivy, find out what’s going on.”
Ivy stood up and went outside the inn.
A few minutes later, she returned with a severe expression.
“The exchange tax rate has gone up.”
“A new governor came and announced a thirty percent increase in exchange tax compared to before. Everyone got angry and went to protest at the governor’s office.”
Exchange tax is one of the local taxes, especially for rural areas.
Commoners–, particularly farmers, pay small amounts of taxes every year.
These payments accumulate in the hands of the local governor.
Then the taxes are collected and distributed once they reach the central government.
Naturally, it’s impossible to transport a large number of small coins from the local areas to the capital.
It’s common to exchange them for gold coins or promissory notes through merchants.
Fees and losses occur during the exchange process.
Exchange tax refers to the fee added to the normal tax, considering these losses.
By the way, it’s up to each local governor, but it’s usually accepted at face value.
In reality, the further away from the capital, or depending on weather conditions, the necessary exchange fees can vary, so they allow some leeway.
The governors take advantage of this to line their pockets as much as they want.
“That’s a terrible governor! Not everyone can survive if the tax suddenly goes up thirty percent!”
Ivy was angry.
She probably empathized with those suffering from the tax increase, being protected by John.
I took a sip of my drink, wetting my lips.
Ivy glanced at me.
“What is it?”
“Can’t something be done about this?”
“That’s legal, and even if I reveal my identity here, they can argue that it’s within legal limits, and I won’t be able to say anything.”
Ivy was disappointed.
Of course, there’s no such governor.
No governor can push through with “this is legal” when the Emperor says to stop.
So in reality, if I show up, this situation will be resolved.
This situation, that is.
Ivy’s expression changed from disappointment to disillusionment.
It was clear that she was thinking that in the end, nothing would be done for the people.
“Don’t worry, Master must have a plan,”
Ivy’s disappointment was so obvious that even Peiyu could read it and remind her.
“Um. Right Master.”
“But legally, it’s correct…”
“Then we should just change the law.”
“There’s no rule that says you can’t change the law. In fact, it changes daily based on the situation and the state of society.”
“Let’s go back to the room. Peiyu, prepare the seal.”
“I’ll write a letter to Oscar, the Minister of Finance. It’s too late for this year, but we’ll make the exchange tax a national tax starting next year.”
Make it a national tax and then distribute it.
As I climbed the stairs with the two of them, I was devising a plan in my head.
“I can’t say for sure, but I think the governor’s injustice will come to a stop, for sure.”
“Is that possible…?”
“It’s easy for you if you’re Master.”
Ivy was amazed by Peiyu’s boasting as if it were her own achievement.
It is not as easy as it sounds, since we are talking about cutting the interests.
But if it was left alone, it could eventually lead to a big wave of rebellion among the people.
I thought I needed to do something about it as soon as possible.
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