It’s already been a year since I fell into the Joseon era.
In other words, only nine years are left until the Imjin War.
I had the busiest year of my life.
It was rare for me not to smell like manure, as I was busy making fertilizer and working on improving it. I checked the condition of the rice plants every day, visiting the fields where I had sprinkled the fertilizer.
I also met with Su Dal once a week to discuss ways to increase the harvest from fishing.
Thanks to that, Ulsan has changed a lot.
Now it’s hard to find starving children in our village.
As I expected, once people in the Ulsan area started eating anchovies rich in protein and fat as a side dish, there was a surplus of grains.
Naturally, the news that Ulsan was rich in grains spread throughout the country’s eight provinces. Markets opened, where goods were traded and exchanged for food.
Indeed, the economy needs to be well-fed in order to grow.
Even in the self-sufficient Joseon era, buying and selling necessary goods has existed since ancient times.
Naturally, peddlers existed, and as stories of Ulsan households overflowing with grains spread among them, the frequency of peddlers visiting Ulsan increased.
There used to be a small market at the five-day market in Eonyang County, with only a few merchants in attendance.
However, as the purchasing power of the people living in Ulsan increased, the market grew larger.
Before, you could only buy cattle or calves at Eonyang County’s five-day market, but now dried fish and grains have become another specialty of Ulsan.
Especially, gwamegi has become a very popular product.
In addition to the usual gwamegi dried in the sea breeze, anchovies placed near kitchen cabinets and dried with smoke could be preserved for over a month. In contrast, completely dried gwamegi could be eaten even after a year.
Merchants took advantage of this, supplying gwamegi to people in the inland areas and making more profits through price differences.
In Joseon’s still underdeveloped currency system, gwamegi was used like money.
Honestly, this was an unintended side effect when I started promoting the fishing industry.
Who would have thought gwamegi would become a currency!
Anyway, our house has become like a mint, so it’s time to flex.
Both fully dried gwamegi and our Kim family’s sea breeze-dried gwamegi were popular, but the latter was considered a luxury item in the gwamegi world, so merchants gave better prices for it.
“Young master, are you going to the market again today?”
“Yes, I’m trying to get some otter fur that was caught in the north.”
“What will you use the otter fur for?”
“I’m thinking of making a fur coat for our Soyul as a gift.”
Of course, the main purpose is to use the excuse of making a fur coat to check on the progress of Ulsan.
At the same time, earning points with my younger sister
is a bonus.
Walking from our house to the Eonyang County market area takes two hours, so Kang Cheol and I must walk quickly.
Even though we left early, it was almost noon when we arrived at the market.
When we arrived at the market, I saw the small miracle I had created.
Unlike the despair-filled Ulsan a year ago, I had a small hope when I saw the lively market.
“Kang Cheol, let’s hurry up since we have little time to return.”
“Yes, young master!”
Kang Cheol busily moved around the market on my behalf.
” Young master, there’s a merchant selling fur over there!”
Indeed, coming to the market with Kang Cheol was the best choice.
Led by Kang Cheol’s hand, animal skins were spread out on straw mats at the place we arrived.
Yes, this is a 16th-century shop!
“Oh, aren’t you the Kim family’s young master?”
“…Do you know me?”
“Where would there be a merchant traveling around Joseon’s eight provinces who doesn’t know Kim Sangseung?”
Unlike ordinary merchants, this person’s eloquence is extraordinary.
But among the merchants in the market, only a handful know me.
“It’s strange. There’s no way I could be that famous.”
Standing out in the Joseon era is like submitting a petition to King Seonjo, who loves to execute people, asking if this delinquent can have his neck cut or not.
Naturally, I didn’t want to do such a crazy thing, so I hid in the shadows of my family.
Is this why web novel protagonists hide their powers?
But how does this merchant know that I’m responsible for changing Ulsan?
“Ahaha! The Kim family of Gimhae has a treasure in their house, and the rumor is that the adults in the family are taking extreme care of it. I heard Confucius himself shows his face at that house every day.”
What does this person do? He found me with just those small clues when I was trying to hide my identity?
Is he not a spy with a name like Kim Jeonil or Namdoil?
First of all, getting involved with such an ominous person would bring no good.
“Ahem, I’m looking for otter skin. Do you happen to have any otter skin?”
“Oh, I happen to have a nice one. Would you like to see it?”
The merchant took out a well-processed otter fur from the load on his back.
Even I, who knew nothing about it, could tell it was medium or high quality.
It seemed to be worth at least half a bag of rice.
No, if it found the right owner, it would be a product that would require a full bag of rice to buy.
Though the one or two bundles of dried fish I brought were worth nearly half a bag of rice, isn’t the charm of this market bargaining for products?
If I’m lucky, I might be able to get some paper from a nearby merchant by giving them one dried fish.
“Um, I only have dried fish. How many would I need to give you? If the price is insufficient, I will bring more valuables to my family.”
“Just take it.”
“Excuse me? What do you mean by that?”
What kind of novel nonsense is this? It’s impossible for a merchant to give away products for free, even in the 21st century.
At the very least, the product must be defective or, most likely, a bait product.
Moreover, this era has not yet developed commercial techniques like bait products.
At first glance, giving away top-quality otter skin for free does not suit a money-chasing merchant.
“I’ve heard that Kim Sangseung developed a product called dried fish. I was half skeptical about that rumor, but through this conversation, I could deduce that the rumor is true.”
What? How did you verify the truth about the rumors from that brief conversation?
“How can I just take this excellent skin? Our house’s dried fish is especially thick and dried with a sea breeze, making it very tasty. If you sell it in Daegu, you can make quite a profit.”
As I was cautious about the merchant, he waved both hands and said,
“There’s no other intention. I just have a few questions to ask, so I wanted to show my sincerity.”
As expected, there’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world.
I became increasingly curious about the merchant in front of me.
He invested in leather worth nearly half a bag of rice just to ask me a few questions? This means that the merchant before me was not an ordinary merchant.
First, let’s ask the most important thing.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Park Jongil. My relatives call me Myeongri.”
At least it’s not a name famous for being a messenger of death.
Okay, the name passes!
Hmm, it doesn’t seem like a merchant from a yangban background, but rather a character with some sort of story behind them…
“Do you have a place to stay tonight?”
“Hehe, would a merchant who chases money and travels all over the world decide on a place to stay?”
Well, there was no way for me to know if he was staying at a nearby inn, but since he has piqued my interest, I should offer him a place to stay.
“What a relief. If I receive such a valuable item without repaying the favor, wouldn’t the gentlemen of the eight provinces of Joseon curse our household? Please, stay at our house tonight.”
“Then, I’ll shamelessly stay for the night.”
That day, I went to the market with a light heart and met a new acquaintance.
It was also the first time I would bring a guest to our house. I then proceed to introduce Jongil to my father.
“Father, on my way back from the Eonyang County market today, I met a valuable person and invited them to our house.”
“A valuable person? How do you do? I am Kim Hyeonmyeong, the 55th head of the Samhyeon branch of the Gimhae Kim clan.”
“It’s an honor to meet the head of a well-known family throughout the Gyeongsang region. My name is Park Jongil from Chuncheon. Feel free to call me Myeongri.”
“Hmm, Myeongri, you can call me Joam.”
Joam is my father’s pen name, meaning morning rock, and it is said that he got this name because he climbed the Rocky Mountain behind our house every morning.
“It’s an honor to meet Teacher Joam.”
“I, too, am truly grateful for this day, as I have met a new friend called Myeongri.”
“Please feel at home and rest.”
After introducing Jongil to my father, the elder of the house, I was able to have a more in-depth conversation with him.
“Kim Sangseung, despite your young age, you have an eye for commerce, so I believe you won’t stop at just fishing. Am I right?”
This man deduced from a few facts that I am a conspiracy theorist leading the change in Ulsan.
Most conspiracy theories are dismissed as nonsense, but this conspiracy theory is close to the truth.
At the moment, Joseon is in a state of peace, almost like the Golden Age, before the fake leader, who is really a dark horse, starts trolling.
No, in fact, after founding the country, King Taejo, backed by a strong military, kept foreign forces in check and Joseon did not experience any major wars for 200 years.
The most that happened were minor incidents like Eulmyo Waepyeon, where Japanese pirates raided, but there were no major events like the Imjin War.
Usually, when peace lasts for a long time, commerce naturally develops. Still, unlike the Goryeo Dynasty, Joseon had a reduced trade with China because of the latter’s seafaring ban policy.
Trade had naturally declined because of the absence of foreign exchange, and the majority of logistics in Joseon were handled by cargo ships.
“May I ask why you think that way?”
“Are you not considering other products besides the salted fish, young master Kim?”
What on earth is this person up to? Is he some kind of Joseon version of the Illuminati?
Or did he sneak a peek at my notes where I wrote down my future plans?
“Could you perhaps tell me your next product, young master Kim?”
As this gentleman had anticipated, my second product was already well-prepared.
Who am I? Am I not the writer who had to cut back on sleep and research to persuade those fucking readers?
I had already completed my research on the “items” needed for industrialization after securing food sources before I landed in Joseon.
“Actually, I do have another product in mind.”
To be precise, it’s not a product but a technology. A technology so incredible that it could bring about the industrial revolution.
“A good product… that piques my interest.”
However, it’s also true that it’s a bit burdensome to reveal this technology to just anyone.
So, I plan to ask this conspiracy theorist gentleman a few questions.
Shall we say a Joseon-style pressure interview?
“But before that, I’ll ask you three questions. If I like your answers, you’ll also hear about my next product.”
Inside the cozy sarangchae, tension filled the air.
“I’m not sure if I can provide the answers young master Kim is looking for, but I’ll do my best to give you the best answers I can.”
“First, if you’re interested in my product, I can’t help but ask this question. What are you able to do with my product?”
“What can I do…”
Jongil took a sip of tea from the table, seemingly parched, and began speaking.
“I may sound boastful, but I run a small organization.”
Is this gentleman the leader of a trade organization?
Being a traveling merchant in early Joseon was a very dangerous job.
First of all, this era in Joseon is very vicious, with one or two tigers in every neighborhood.
Moreover, the tigers in the Korean peninsula, called Joseon Tigers or Baekdusan Tigers, are distant relatives of the Siberian Tigers, which are known to be the largest and most ferocious of all tiger species.
Although I’ve only spent a year in Joseon, from what I’ve heard, stories of villagers being attacked by tigers are quite common, so it must be a huge threat to traveling merchants who move goods by land.
Not just tigers but also moon bears, wild boars, Korean wolves, and even the supposedly extinct Ussuri brown bears are said to roam the north.
Even in this era of peace, there are bandits targeting travelers, so traveling merchants could be considered an insurable 3D occupation in modern times.
It’s only natural to form a trade organization in the face of external threats.
“My organization mainly handles the logistics of Gangwon Province, including Hanyang and other parts of Gyeonggi Province to the west, Hamgyeong Province to the north, and Gyeongsang Province to the south. There are over a hundred traveling merchants in my organization alone. And we work together with street performers, where we help each other.”
I know that street performers have difficulty making ends meet, as they don’t have many opportunities to perform except during spring and autumn.
They seem to work together with merchants, taking responsibility for escorting them.
“The first question is a pass. However, with just over a hundred traveling merchants, I doubt you’ll be able to handle all of my products.”
Come on! Just a hundred people? Not a chance.
“There are no products worth selling in this land of Joseon. At best, the craftsmen from each village showcase their skills to sell to high-ranking officials in Hanyang or risk their lives crossing the Imjin River for trade with Ming. There’s no other way to obtain proper products. More traveling merchants would find me if there were products, so you don’t have to worry.”
“Then I’ll ask my second question. What do you intend to do with my product?”
“Although the goal of a merchant is to accumulate wealth, I know that’s not the answer you want, so I’ll honestly reveal the true intentions in my heart. Do you know about Gangwon Province, young master Kim?”
Gangwon Province? Even in my numerous novels, there’s not a single episode about Gangwon Province. How could I know about Joseon’s Gangwon Province?
At this time, even the potatoes that Gangwon Province is famous for are just beginning to spread from the American continent to Europe.
“My knowledge is limited, and I only know about Ulsan. Would you kindly enlighten me?”
“Young master Kim may not know, but Gangwon Province is a very barren place. It’s a highland area where farming is difficult, and even if you do farm, the crops are often lost to wild animals. Winter in Gangwon Province is so cold and long that it falls as high as a person’s height when it snows. The reason I gave up on advancing in society and started a trade organization to make money is because of this. I just want the people of my hometown to eat and live a little better. That’s why I sell the abundant leather in Gangwon Province and send the overflowing goods from the rest of the country to Gangwon Province. Most of the people in my organization also became traveling merchants to support their families.”
Oh, he’s not only capable but also desperate? This feels like the author giving the main character a much-needed asset, like a plot convenience.
It’s like the situation in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms when Liu Bei gained Zhuge Liang and learned of the Shu-Han Confederacy from his brother.
“I really like your second answer.”
In the web novel genre, “hunter” stories are major works.
However, many hunter stories tend to utilize concepts such as Necromancer or Summoner].
As a former web novel writer, I know these concepts are popular because they create a consistent plot that doesn’t betray the characters.
As soon as the characters called “comrades” start to act on emotions, readers will likely develop the “sweet potato syndrome” and keep saying “sweet potato.”
In that sense, characters like summoned creatures are perfect for utilization in novels, as they have no personality and are easy to manipulate.
But there’s no such thing as a summoned creature to comfort me in this damn world.
People in the real world each live to achieve their desires.
In that sense, Jongil’s motivation is perfect.
At least if he’s that desperate, our relationship will continue as long as I bring him benefits.
“Last question. Can you provide me with something?”
 The eight provinces of the Joseon Dynasty were Gyeonggi, Gangwon, Chungcheong, Jeolla, Gyeongsang, Hamgyeong, Hwanghae, and Pyeongan.
 Technically, the merchant called Sangseung by a different name, Kim Doryeong. However, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with Kim Sangseung.
 조 (Jo) can mean “morning” and 암 (am) is “rock,” hence morning rock.
 선생 can be translated to “teacher” in English, but it is also used more broadly to show respect to someone who is esteemed or accomplished in their field, even if they are not a teacher in the traditional sense.
 A traditional Korean living room
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