Ominous Rumors

The merchant Park Jongil visited our house after a long time.

“Young Master Kim[1], it’s been a while!”

Jongil-ajusshi had gotten quite close to me.

“That’s right.
It feels like it’s been at least three months.”

“Hehehe, thanks to Young Master Kim, I’ve been running around all eight provinces, so I couldn’t help it.”

Jongil had been doing his best for our project during that time.

Even if there’s groundbreaking technology to increase the production of fabric, the industry doesn’t grow overnight.

Especially in the case of secondary industries, stable raw material supply was more important than anything else.

The problem is that, so far, Joseon cannot escape from a self-sufficient economy, so there was a lack of surplus products.

Jongil managed to get silk by going around the wealthy households with some surplus.

During the process, the production of gwamegi decreased, but it had already become a product that was so abundant in Ulsan that it was difficult to handle.

It was thanks not just to our family but also to other wealthy families in the Gyeongsang Province showing interest in the fishing industry.

“But you look better?”

“Kahaha! Of course! Thanks to Young Master Kim, my hometown folks can get through the winter with full bellies! If cotton had grown well in Gangwon Province, we would have made more money, but…”

Unfortunately, cotton doesn’t grow well in cold regions like Gangwon Province.

It grows well in the warmer south, so Jongil recently traveled around the Jeolla Province.

“Our family is working hard to produce the cotton that Jongil needs.
Among the people in Gangwon Province, those who want to help our family’s work are always welcome.”

Of course, cotton cultivation was an industry that required a lot of labor.

But so far in Joseon, people were still starving because of the shortage of available jobs.

And we had plenty of fish from the fishing industry.

This meant that our family could still take in more workers.

“…Thank you for the kind words.
I’ll look for more people who want to move.”

This was a win-win situation.

I provide high-quality jobs for Jongil’s acquaintances, and he buys raw materials to maintain those jobs.

And he can even have a share of the profits!

But the generous Jongil also gives me another benefit.

“By the way, how is the world going? Are the barbarians still running around up north?”

He even asks for news of this era, playing the role of an informant!

Meeting Jongil-ajusshi was indeed a blessing.

“Ah, don’t even mention it.
A guy named Nitanggae led an army of 30,000 and attacked Isanbo of Gyeongwonjin, but the brave Joseon soldiers eventually fought back without fearing for their lives and completely broke the enemy’s advance.
Once this massive offensive failed, Nitanggae surrendered, but our king wouldn’t have been so naïve as to trust someone who had betrayed them once, right? In the end, Nitanggae’s group couldn’t cross Bangwonbo and scattered in all directions.”

“That’s truly a relief.”

Was history really unchangeable?

The Nitanggae Rebellion ended in Joseon’s victory, just as in the original history.

It proved how weak the scattered Yeojin tribe was and how strong the Joseon army was when they formed a siege mode on the walls.

The problem is…


Yeah, I know.

The Imjin War will inevitably happen, just like in the original history.

“…You must have suffered a lot at the royal court.”

“They say the procession of people carrying supplies for the war stretched from Hanyang to Manchuria! Inspector General Yi I requested so many supplies that it was said that the royal court didn’t miss a single grain of rice.”

What? Did this era also have a talent like George Marshall from World War II?

Well, the era of King Seonjo itself was a time when the talent pool was overflowing.

War may create heroes, but even without such wars, haven’t we heard Jeong Cheol’s The Song of the Sceneries of the Gwandong at least once while learning Korean?

I think the birth of Jeong Cheol, who embodied Joseon, alone proves how much talent overflowed in the Seonjo era.

It’s natural that waste is needed for the advancement of romantic studies like literature.

In an era with enemies like Jeong Cheol for all high school students, there’s no reason there wouldn’t be a supply genius like George Marshall during the Joseon era.

“What a great feat indeed.”

“Not only that, but I heard that General Sin Rip, who caught the vicious Yeojin tribe like rats, is making a name for himself in the north.
How fierce is his archery skill? Surely the Yeojin tribe trembled when they discovered that General Sin Rip would be there, right?”

Well, depending on the perspective, one could shout, “I object!” but there’s no doubt that Sin Rip is a great general.

Although his achievements would be later overshadowed by his foolish action at Tangeumdae at the outset of the Imjin War, the Nitanggae Rebellion was the greatest national crisis Joseon had faced so far.

“It’s truly fortunate to have such a person.”

But I hope he wouldn’t be in the Imjin War.

“Ah! If Hamgyeong Province had fallen, nine out of ten times, our Gangwon Province would have been bleeding.”

Well, if it were me, I would have targeted Hwanghae Province with a flat area after capturing Hamgyeong Province, but I don’t want to argue with the uncle all day.

“That might have been the case.”

And as the Nitanggae Rebellion was completely resolved, the name of a hero who might be the protagonist of the Imjin War came to my ear.

“Ah, and I heard some hot news recently that a man named Yi Sun-sin lured Wulgi, the leader of the last Yeojin tribe, to Geonwonbo after Nitanggae’s death and captured him as a prisoner.”

“…He is indeed a remarkable person.”

“Uh? Do you know anything about Yi Sun-sin himself? From what I’ve heard, he was just like an unknown nobody until recently.”

He will become even more remarkable in the future.

Wasn’t he the one who would save the country by being part of a team with King Seonjo and General Won Gyun?

The more I studied the Imjin War to write a novel, the more my respect for him naturally grew.

Hearing his glory makes my chest swell with pride.

Originally, the storyline of my novel was like this:

First, a farming revolution would develop to increase the health of the people of Joseon.

An industrial revolution to grow the economy was carried out simultaneously with the farming revolution.

As time passed and Joseon became wealthy, trade naturally blossomed.

At that time, fishing boats used for fishing will be transformed into trading ships, and gunpowder will be bought to wage war against the Japanese.

Sending historical criminals who have almost no sweet potatoes that readers want on a tour was the primary storyline of the novel.

And my storyline is proceeding without any hitch.

However, I’m only worried that if it goes at this speed, I won’t be able to improve the population’s health as much as I wanted before the Imjin War.

At times like this, I regret not making the protagonist a king.

But if that were the case, there’s a 99.99% chance that he wouldn’t be able to breathe among heavily armed ministers that would constantly be convincing him to do other things.

Didn’t France prove it? The agents of revolution were not monarchs but the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie stirred the masses through instigation, and in the end, even the monarch who held absolute power was proven to be part of the nation.

Furthermore, in Joseon, where divine power is strong, what are the chances of having a successful reformed-minded monarch?

The difficulty might be even greater.

Because ministers can always pull out the card of rebellion.

Of course, I’m also in a position to be careful about Seonjo’s purge.

Ah, there’s a long way to go…


“What are you thinking so deeply about?”

“Ah, it’s nothing.
Is that all the news you have?”

“That’s all the news about the north.
However, I recently heard an interesting story from Hanyang.”

“An interesting story?”

“They say that the Japanese bastards have been begging us to increase the number of trade ships this year.
Those guys have no shame.
They want to trade the fish that rightfully belongs to our land and then demand even more grain as payment.”

Japan wants more trade? That’s understandable.

In the present, Japan has become a very deformed nation with highly advanced skills to kill people because of their constant warfare with each other.

In the 16th century, Japan was a third-class country that couldn’t even dream of having semiconductors.

That was the true state of Japan that I had studied.

This might be a trivial matter that won’t even be recorded in history.

“But I can’t help but feel anxious.”

“You should be cautious, Young Master Kim.
Although we haven’t experienced a huge invasion like that during the Eulmyo year, dozens of Japanese pirates have consistently been invading Joseon.”

“What did the royal court say?”

“What else? We’re already lacking in military provisions because of Nittangae’s Rebellion.
Where would we get the grains to trade with those Japanese bastards? The royal court immediately rejected their request.”

“…We should be careful.”

Frankly, the food situation in Ulsan is not abundant either.

After the autumn harvest, the food situation will improve a little.

Other regions where the fisheries industry has not been properly established will still lack food.

This isn’t the time to be laid back.

We should quickly come up with a plan.

“Today’s conversation has been very informative.
Please continue to share interesting news in the future.”

“Ahahaha! A merchant’s ears are always open to hearing rumors, and a merchant’s mouth exists to constantly talk.
If we can win your favor through that, we’ll do it a hundred—no, a thousand times more.”

Whew, why do I suddenly feel suffocated just hearing news about those Japanese guys?


Yi I dragged his exhausted body back to his quarters.

“My dear sir, you’re home.
You’re late again today.”

“Madam, don’t worry too much.
I just had some urgent tasks to complete.”

“How can…? The fact that you don’t care for yourself and only care about national affairs worries me.”

“How could I not know that?”

Nittangae’s Rebellion was the largest-scale invasion since the founding of Joseon.

And Yi I’s contribution was significant in suppressing the rebellion early on.

In the original history, Yi I successfully prevented Nittangae’s Rebellion from growing by providing perfect supplies.

However, the aftermath forced him to make enormous efforts, and Joseon’s national strength was severely shaken.

Yi I, who had been striving to create a better Joseon by advocating for reform, eventually lost his life in January of the following year after suppressing Nittangae’s Rebellion early.

The reason for Yi I’s death was heart disease.

Yet now, Joseon’s greatest genius, Yi I, saw a different future.

In Yi I’s view, Nittangae’s Rebellion was just the beginning.

The Jurchen tribes were eyeing Joseon with greed, and the Japanese pirates were also targeting Joseon’s coastlines with the same lust.

However, instead of improving, Joseon was divided into factions, fighting among themselves, and the lives of the people did not improve at all.

In this reality, Yi I felt isolated.

He believed that his direction was right, but for the criminals, their party was a priority over the country’s future.

There was no political partner who shared his thoughts.

Yi I was a complete loner in factional politics and only recently gained the king’s trust.

“But don’t worry.
Until last year, I felt like I was walking in the dark, but lately, my head is clear, and my whole body is full of energy.
I believe Joseon will develop even more.”

What changed Yi I’s mindset was the news that fertilizer had been developed in Gyeongsang Province.

Yi I had tried using the fertilizer during Nittangae’s Rebellion, and he confirmed that the fertilizer actually had a tremendous effect.

“I’ve always advocated for reform, but I didn’t know how.
I knew we needed a hundred thousand soldiers to fend off the Jurchen tribes, but I didn’t know how to maintain them.
But now I do.
This country of Joseon will develop further.”

Yi I’s wife, Lady Noh, did not understand precisely what he was saying, but seeing his bright expression, her heart was filled with happiness.


“I just wish I could meet Teacher Joam, who developed the fertilizer, but….”

“Sir, to create a better Joseon, health is the top priority.”

Perhaps due to witnessing hope blooming out of despair, Yi I obediently nodded to his wife’s words, something that he would typically consider as nagging.

“Madam, you’re right.
I’ll listen to you and rest well today.”

[1] As mentioned in Chapter 11, Jongil referred to Sangseung as “Kim Doryeong.” 도령 (Doryeong) was a term used in the Joseon Dynasty to refer to the son of a high-ranking official, similar to the way we might use the title “master” in English.
When Jongil referred to Sangseung as “Kim Doryeong,” he did so to denote the MC’s noble lineage.
I decided to just stick with a literal translation of the name.

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