The little girl looked at Ian and called him. Though there had been nothing wrong with his countenance, his behaviour had been strange today. There was a rumour that Ian was different from usual today, but she did not realise it would be to this extent.
It was only then that Ian understood Chel’s attitude.
In the first place, the mother’s life was held as collateral, so such vicious remarks were popped out. Ian chuckled and thanked the girl.
“All right, I have nothing to tell you.”
The girl’s eyes were wide open for the first time. Was Ian not the one who gave her all kinds of story bundles every time she went out? The servant also could not write, so he would draw roughly to bring some life to his memory.
“My father is out.”
Today was a special luncheon with Lord Moline. The Count’s schedule strayed from his normal routine. The servant, who went out at a certain time, seemed to have overlooked it.
“It will be difficult if you run into each other by chance. Besides, aren’t we on the same side? I have to go.”
Apparently, she was referring to brothels, which were dangerous even in Ian’s era but would have been even worse 100 years earlier. Even a sober man who would have gone bankrupt due to the misfortune of the aphrodisiac. Of course, a child would be unable to go to such a place.
“Are you okay?”
“Don’t you cry late every night?”
Does she know that Ian cries late? Is there someone he shares a room with? Otherwise, it meant that there was a person outside Ian’s room during the night.
It seems there is surveillance.
Relief washed over Ian. He had found this out before making a mistake. Ian answered with a smile.
“It’s okay. I don’t cry anymore.”
“Well, then, the price of an errand…”
“The price of an errand?”
On the contrary, it was the servant who was about to cry. She looked troubled, wriggling his fingertips. Ian unwittingly rummaged in his pocket, but nothing was in it.
“If I don’t bring food today, my younger siblings might starve. I’m really okay, so let me run an errand for you. This time, I will bring you a word without a mistake.”
The price of the errand was not money. Indeed, in the past he was a child born and raised in poverty, now a child semi-confined in a mansion. He would not eat a single penny and try to die.
So what is given to Ian in this mansion? It was a rich meal of three meals a day.
Ah. No wonder you were so skinny.
The people of the Cheonryeo tribe were sturdy and strong barbarians. Beings so strong that even one could fight against dozens. Thanks to this, the tribe as a community alone was the bane of the Bariel Empire.
The standard of robustness is the difference between heaven and earth, and it was clear that if the Count sent a skinny child like Ian, there would be uproar.
Thanks to this, Ian’s meals were equal to those of the Count’s family.
That was all Ian was given that could work as currency on the outside.
“I have a total of five siblings. If I don’t get money for an errand, they’ll have to fill their stomachs with gruel.”
The servant even reached out her hand, begged. Ian had guessed that the financial situation of the estate was tight, but he had not expected it to be so severe.
However, Ian could not even guarantee his own safety now. He could not just accept the child’s situation, either. Ian pondered for a moment and nodded.
“Good. But on one condition. This time, you’ll owe me an advance: I’ll pay for the errands money first, and you can do the work for me later.”
Perhaps it was a really good offer, but the girl just bowed her back.
But there was someone here who had been helping Ian. It may have been intertwined with a deal, but it was there nonetheless. It is better to have a helper in any form than nothing at all.
“And I want to call you comfortably.”
Ian should know the name of the girl he thought and hinted at. He thought he may have a lot to ask her from now on.
The girl, realising what he meant, smiled and replied.
“Call me Hannah! Everyone in the mansion calls me that!”
Previously, Ian had called her “there” or “you know.” As if waiting, Hannah had finally properly introduced herself.
* * *
Ian’s room was at the end of the corridor on the third floor. The smell of mould came up as soon as the door was opened, and the small window seemed to fall short of providing ventilation. It must have been a servant’s room that was vacated, not a guest’s room.
The old chair creaked, but it did not interfere with Ian’s concentration. Fortunately, there were cheap papers and pens in the corner. The child seemed to have been practising writing. The handwriting is more aptly described as drawn than written.
It’s the year 1,100 of the imperial calendar.
Ian was able to get the exact date from Hannah.
He was from 1,198, so he was almost a century back in time. He was right to expect it to be roughly 100 years. Ian exhaled a tired breath and swept his golden hair from his face.
Where should I start and what should I do?
It may not have been Naum, but it was clear that Ian had fallen victim to someone’s space-time magic. Otherwise, it could have been an illusion brought on at the moment of death.
For now, I have the same name as the possessed.
However, it was difficult to attach great meaning to this. The name Ian itself was neither precious nor special.
Ian scribbled down the details on a piece of paper to empty his head. If this were an illusion or another world, things would be different from what he expected.
Ian wrote a chronicle of Bariel’s history that would happen in the future without difficulty. There were gaps in between, but it did not matter. The fact that there was no memorable event in a given time meant that it was peaceful.
“By the way, why is there no paper on the desk of the studying child?”
The clean paper quickly filled with distant letters. The only paper left were full of the curvy and curly handwriting of the bastard son, Ian, full of things that he did not understand. Ian sighed and tried to read what it was. He did not know if he would be able to recognize it.
It’s a letter, right? Judging by the pattern, he wrote something, but… it wasn’t in Bariel?
It was then. When Ian heard someone outside, he secretly put the paper back in a drawer and turned around. Even if he did not know who it was, he could be in trouble if anyone were to read it.
“Come on in.”
“I’ve brought you dinner, Ian-nim.”
Oh, it’s Hannah.
He secured the crumpled paper in the drawer and looked out of the window. The sun was already setting. It was early spring, so the evening sky was thick with traces of the departing winter. The luminous stones on the ceiling began to glow.
Luminous stones were much cheaper than candles. They glowed ever so faintly that one could only recognize vague shapes in the dark.
“Can I ask for a candlestick?”
“Ah. The thing is, everything that goes into Ian-nim’s room requires permission from the Countess.”
The girl’s troubled answer came over the door. Seeing the condition of the small and shabby room, it was impossible to give anything. It must have been the very ‘mistake’ the husbandman had made outside. Ian could guess how much trouble this had been.
Should I be thankful that I do not starve?
“…Shall I ask?”
The probability of receiving the candle wax versus that of being interrogated as to why he needed it. Which one was higher? On the day her proud son, Chel, made a mistake in the drawing room.
“No, it’s okay. You can go now.”
“Then I’ll leave now.”
I could hear Hannah’s steps receding.
Ian picked up the pen again. He tried to write again but it was so dark that he could not even see the ink bottle anymore. He leaned his back against the chair and looked toward the door.
There was a small tray in front of the door. Two loaves of rye bread, a piece of cheap ham and water.
It was the meal that Hannah had left behind after taking the fee for the errand. Ian did not have energy because he had been eating this. Ian clicked his tongue and took the tray.
Ian was not satisfied, but what could he do about a hungry stomach?
He mumbled, wetting the bread in the water. Come to think of it, not even the war orphans ate like this. Then, Gula soup…
It felt like a breeze blowing through his fog-filled head. Everything became clear, and Ian felt refreshed.
Yes, Ian had looked at the kitchen and knew something was wrong.
It was a rich luncheon, but he felt something was missing.
There was no Gula.
Gula was a vegetable that was rich in nutrients and a substitute for meals. The taste was second to none, and it could be used in a variety of dishes. It was an essential ingredient for all Bariel citizens.
Gula’s “discovery” was such an important event that it was a turning point for the empire. With nearly 85% fewer deaths from starvation each year, Bariel’s history would be divided before and after Gula’s discovery, economically and socially.
Originally, Gula had not been discovered until fifty years after this time.
A discovery, not an invention.
It was not about making something that did not yet exist but about finding it. Gula from the East was entirely toxic besides the seeds, so it was considered inedible at this time. It was just dumped into the mountains and fields and naturally became indigenous.
No one knew how to eat the unfamiliar food of the East. For a whopping 50 years.
Only Ian knew how to eat Gula. In other words, if he “discovered” Gula, he could erase Bariel’s famine from history.
Ian suddenly wanted all of this to be real.
That it was not a magical illusion, but that he had really come to Bariel in the past. So that he could change history.
Ian-nim, it’s okay. There’s always, always a chance. God doesn’t give you questions without answers.
Naum’s last words drifted into his ear. Though he still did not know the details, he strangely felt that he could find an answer. Whatever it was.
For now, let’s try my best to survive.
And to look for traces of Naum in the Imperial Palace. That was Ian’s solution.
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