“Wind lady is here~~~ It has come~~~”
Songs filled with the wisdom of our ancestors to help forget the hardships of farm work, even if just a little, echoed throughout the village.
Watching people sing and harvest usually calmed my heart, but after hearing stories about Japan from Jongil-ajusshi all day, my anxiety seemed unable to fade away.
“Ah, isn’t it the young master?”
Gaettong, a slave living closest to our home, thew his sickle and rushed toward me.
How is the harvest this year?”
“Don’t even mention it! I’ve never seen a harvest like this in my forty years.”
Thankfully, the fertilizer had a definite effect.
…Wait, was Gaettong in his 40s? His face looked so aged; I would believe it if he said he was in his 60s.
Well, in this era without sunscreen, commoners who must face the sun all day long couldn’t avoid the ravages of time.
On the other hand, my father was known to be 37 years old, yet he looked like he could pass for someone in his early 30s.
“Actually, Samsik managed his farm last year so well that I can’t tell you how envious I was seeing his barn full of grains.”
“Ah, you and Samsik were close friends, right?”
“Hahaha, you mean testicle friends.
Yes, we were.
So, we agreed to arrange a marriage between our children when they’re born.”
Fortunately, Gaettong has two sons, while Samsik has three daughters.
How’s your son doing?”
Gaettong’s son was three years younger than me, a little child, but he already dominated the other kids and was the boss of the alley.
Usually, a boss would be a naughty kid who didn’t listen, but this one was smart, listened to his parents, and helped around the house, even though he was not even 10 years old.
“Ah, don’t even mention it.
That rascal was trying to catch frogs yesterday and almost got bitten by a snake, you know?”
“…That was a close call.”
In the Joseon era, commoners and slaves bitten by snakes could die if they were unlucky.
Not only was the medicine expensive, but the medical skills of the time were also unreliable.
“But that rascal caught the snake instead of a frog, so we could have snake soup yesterday.
That’s why I feel extra energetic today.”
A very ordinary conversation—a story about a 9-year-old child catching a snake.
It would be news in modern times, but in the Joseon era, it’s just a passing story.
“Now that the harvest is over, you’ll be able to rest for a while.”
“Whew! My son, Gaettong, has such a good appetite I have to pick cotton after the harvest to feed him.
That way, I can get at least one more bag of barley or gwamegi for him.”
“…I’m grateful for your hard work.”
“Aigo! Young master, don’t say that.
Our village can eat and live well because of the Kim family.
Especially these days, it feels like we’re living in a time of peace, so peaceful that it’s unsettling.
Did you think so, too, ajusshi?
No, there was no need to convey my anxiety to him.
If I was anxious, I just needed to find a solution.
“What could go wrong?”
“Hey! Gaettong’s father! Aren’t you going to work?”
“Ah, come on.
“Yes, young master, please take care.”
After saying goodbye to Gaettong, I headed straight to my grandfather’s room.
“Grandfather, it’s your grandson, Sangseung.”
“Oh, is it Sangseung? What brings my grandchild to me?”
My grandfather looked at me with a bright smile.
Although my father tried to show a stern face, my grandfather never hesitated to shower me with love.
And he also loved Soyul, who was snuggling in his arms without any discrimination.
“Grandpa! My brother won’t play with me!”
Didn’t we just go picking persimmons together yesterday? Of course, Kang Cheol was the one picking them!
But it was true that that was the best time to spend with her!
As an older brother for almost two years, I realized that giving in to the little ones was the real victory.
“Hehe, Sangseung! No matter how busy you are, caring for your sister is a brother’s job.”
“I’ll take better care of her.”
“Grandpa, did you hear? Oppa promised!”
“Alright, I promised.”
Only then did Soyul yawn with a smile.
“Yawn! Grandpa, I’m sleepy.”
“Hehehe! Alright, dear. Sleep tight~ Sleep tight~ Our baby~”
As Grandpa sang a lullaby, Soyul fell fast asleep in his arms.
“By the way, what brings our proud eldest grandson here at this hour?”
Grandpa lowered his voice in case Soyul woke up.
He must have felt a little neglected even though we saw each other every day while practicing archery.
“…From now on, I’ll also try to visit you at this time.”
“Hehehe! Well, I’d like that, but who will take care of the weaving and workshop? Don’t think too much about this old man’s tease.”
But I knew you were secretly looking forward to it, weren’t you?
“I came today because I have something to ask you, Grandpa.”
“Me? That’s interesting.
Go ahead and ask.”
“By any chance, have you experienced the invasion of the barbarians?”
“Why do you ask about the barbarians all of a sudden?”
“I thought the barbarians might invade since it’s a good harvest.”
“Ah, the barbarians.
It reminds me of the story your great-grandfather told.
At that time, hundreds of people died, and hundreds of houses burned down.
It was a huge damage caused by the short invasion of just 15 days.”
Ah, are you talking about the Sampo Invasion?
“After that, there were no major invasions, but occasionally, starving barbarians attacked the village.
The scale was small, and the damage was not as severe as before, so it faded into oblivion.
The most recent barbarian attack was, let’s see… about five years ago near Sulbari Mountain.”
“How many barbarians were there at the time?”
“As far as I know, it was a very small-scale attack by about twenty people, but the damage wasn’t severe.
It was the season when barley was being harvested in May.
The most difficult part was when the precious farming tools were stolen, making farming hard that year.”
“On the contrary, it means we’re in danger now.”
“Barbarians usually appear around April and May but not in September, right?”
“Why do you think that is?”
“I’m not sure.
This old man doesn’t know the exact reason.
But I think it’s because there’s more to gain by attacking the wealthy Ming Dynasty than the poor Joseon.”
Grandpa’s words were quite convincing.
Joseon was poor.
Iron farming tools might be all they could get from such a poor place.
They probably melted those iron tools to make decent weapons.
Or they could be reborn as weapons like the chain scythe seen in animations.
Then, they invaded the Ming Dynasty with those weapons to loot real goods.
It’s a pretty good strategy.
Especially around April and May, when the people of Joseon were starving, they were more likely to flee than fight, so it was a low-risk, high-return strategy for the barbarians.
But things have changed now.
From now on, fertilizer will be produced steadily, and the news of increased agricultural productivity using fertilizer will eventually reach the barbarians.
In this case, the Japanese didn’t need to go on a long voyage to attack the Ming Dynasty.
It’s because they could get more food by attacking the nearby Joseon, so there’s no need to go far for looting.
Moreover, the closer it was, the more often they could loot, and the logistics costs could be drastically reduced.
No matter how I thought about it, the more prosperous Joseon became, the stronger the reason for the barbarians to invade.
“So, how can we stop the barbarians?”
“Hehehe, don’t worry too much.
There’s always a way out, even if the sky collapses.
Our family has a good relationship with the local magistrate of Eonyang, so they won’t neglect us.”
“…How many soldiers are there in Eonyang?”
“Well, I think there must be at least five hundred, right?”
I knew that the population of Ulsan exceeded 100,000.
Five hundred soldiers for a population of 100,000 was far too insufficient.
Not to mention that the soldiers had to perform roles like that of police officers and firefighters.
Well, since Joseon was so poor, there was no existence of heinous crimes like murder, so this kind of manpower configuration was possible.
In the media and films, psychopaths killed people for fun, but most murder cases occurred because of economic issues.
Other than that, incidents with strong enough motives to kill were limited to political affairs.
“Is it impossible to ask the local magistrate of Eonyang to patrol with the soldiers right away?”
“It’s not impossible if we use our family’s power.
Shall this old man bring up the matter?”
“I would appreciate your help with this uncertain situation.”
“Hmm, I’ll meet with the local magistrate tomorrow then.”
After hearing my grandfather’s words, I felt a little relieved.
“If you step in, Grandpa, I think I can relax a bit.”
My grandfather chuckled with pride but cautiously so as not to wake up Soyul in his arms.
“Then, I will take my leave.”
“Are you going to the weaving workshop again?”
“Today, I plan to talk with Sudal.
I heard there was a minor problem on the Fair Wind.”
“Alright, go ahead.”
As I headed toward the pier where the Fair Wind was anchored, I organized my thoughts on the foreigners.
Was this enough?
As my grandfather said, we should be able to block a small-scale invasion of about 10-20 people.
This was no different from walking a tightrope with a long pole.
The moment our family was perceived as too powerful, we would be targeted by the king.
Jeong Yeorip, a representative figure targeted by the king, created an organization called the Easterners to repel the foreign invaders, but his family was wiped out by the king’s purge.
Also, an officer named Kim Bing, who suffered from severe dry eye, died after being brutally tortured for shedding tears because of the wind blowing during Jeong Yeorip’s execution.
Honestly, I was scared of the foreigners, but I was even more afraid of the king.
He was the first king with a background as a protector, so he had a strong sense of inferiority.
That’s why I think he conducted such an unprecedented purge.
But what was surprising was that even during the purge, he demonstrated an amazing sense of balance by eliminating the Easterners he had been nurturing, thus maintaining a balance between the two factions.
Didn’t the king actually issue an order to our family back then?
I was so shocked at the time that thinking about it still made the hairs on my head stand on end.
Living in this country was so difficult I regretted choosing it as the background for my novel.
While worrying, I had unknowingly arrived at the pier when I heard Kang Cheol’s voice.
“Young Master, we’re approaching the pier.”
But Kang Cheol, are you feeling very hot?”
Kang Cheol’s face was shiny with sweat.
Well, he must be tired after helping his father, Kang Jik, at the weaving workshop and carrying items, then rushing here.
“Yes, it’s strange.
The late summer heat seems to have come these past few days.”
The Native Americans in North America called this phenomenon an “Indian Summer.”
The Indians considered this time a brief blessing before winter arrived.
But why did the term “Indian Summer” suddenly feel ominous to me?
It felt like a warning that the current peace would be followed by hardships.
“…I hope this heat doesn’t end.”
“Young Master, you don’t like the cold, after all.
Hehe, I wish this heat wouldn’t end either.”
Not knowing my inner thoughts, Kang Cheol showed a bright smile.
Darn it, it wasn’t funny!
“Yeah, it’s better to be hot.”
I wished for this Indian Summer to never end.
 An “Indian Summer” is a period of unseasonably warm and dry weather in autumn.
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