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Chapter 113: Bookstore (5)

Was earning someone else’s money really that easy?

From part-time gigs to the daily grind of a full-time job, the challenge of making money was a common refrain.

Earning money through honest work was just as tough today as it ever was, not to mention the added burden of business debts.

Could one truly stand before an audience unprepared, relying solely on their modest speaking skills? Some might pull it off, but I certainly wasn’t among them.

“What should we have achieved today?”

I asked Tang Hwarin, wearing a slight smile.

“What we aimed to gain was the Green Forest. What we intended to lose were the chains?”

“No… That’s the bandits.”

This woman said things that could cause trouble if overheard.

“Hehe. No? Then, was it to make the creditors agree to take on half of the bookstore’s debt?”

Tang Hwarin laughed as if she had nailed the punchline of her joke, catching me off guard with her words. She seems to be in a good mood today, likely because things went well.

“No.”

I shook my head, gently dismissing her suggestion.

“Then what?”

“Our objective today was to have the debt documents officially stamped.”

“Isn’t that essentially the same thing?”

“It’s different. Verbal agreements can be altered at any moment. We needed documents that hold unchangeable responsibilities and promises.”

Verbal agreements were too easily shifted. That wasn’t our goal. You must have misunderstood. That’s not what I meant.

No. Chief. When did I say that? Why are you misinterpreting my words and getting upset? Please, let’s change the manager. Just through words, faces are suddenly unrecognizable, and previously spoken words are denied.

Documents not acknowledged.

In any era, stamping a document was a way to prevent such misunderstandings and to assume full responsibility for the written content.

Today, our mission was to secure the stamps from all the creditors to solidify Tang Hwarin’s inheritance of the bookstore and her assumption of half the debt.

But there was a hitch.

The challenge was to review the documents and stamp them right there and then.

Even in modern times, where various remedies exist, rashly stamping a seal on a relative’s blank promissory note was enough to be criticized on the internet, let alone in this era.

That’s why we needed to do some preparatory work today.

“Hwarin, how many years would you need to pay off the debt with the earnings from this bookstore?”

I broached a somewhat heavy topic.

“For…life?”

Tang Hwarin answered in a slightly powerless tone.

“Exactly 150 years. I calculated it based on the net profit. So, Hwarin, you need to practice martial arts diligently. You have to live long to pay it off.”

“Tch. Mocking it as someone else’s problem.”

Tang Hwarin’s lips protruded sharply, appearing to sulk at my playful tone.

“If the ledger is accurate.”

“Huh? Don’t tell me you tampered with the ledger? Did you insert fake records?”

Tang Hwarin’s lips quickly retracted, and she looked at me with a surprised face, slightly opening her mouth.

“No. What was written there was transferred from the original ledger.”

No false records were noted in the simplified ledger made into a booklet.

“Then how?”

“I tampered with the net profit.”

“Net profit?”

“Net profit is ultimately the amount left after subtracting the spent money from the earned money. No matter how big a store is, if it spends more, it’s worse off than a small store that earns well.”

“If you didn’t use fake records, how did you tamper with the net profit?”

“Your maternal grandfather. He owned many businesses, didn’t he? On the other hand, he managed them with a single ledger. When Uncle Manager said he needed to write separate ledgers for each business due to sales, suddenly, a good idea occurred to me.”

“What idea?”

“The method of significantly increasing the bookstore’s expenses without touching the earnings and expenses of other businesses.”

We must make what they were giving up seem insignificant by tempting the creditors with the prospect of debt repayment. This involved tampering with the bookstore’s ledger to show that the annual earnings were negligible.

The issue arose when other businesses were sold, and their ledgers were transferred.

If it’s discovered that we had disguised the bookstore’s expenses as those of other businesses or used fake records, it could lead to significant problems later.

“What’s that?”

Tang Hwarin asked, her curiosity piqued.

Hwarin, it suddenly occurred to me. There’s a way to drastically reduce the bookstore’s net profit just by manipulating the records in the ledger.

“Your grandfather’s good deeds.”

I revealed the nature of my idea to her.

“Good deeds…? Ah!”

Tang Hwarin exclaimed, her realization dawning. It’s good that she caught on quickly.

“Yes. Donations, sponsorships, contributions. The numerous amounts spent on good deeds by your grandfather. That money wasn’t attributed to any particular business but was recorded in the ledger as expenses. I asked Uncle Manager to transfer those expenses to the bookstore’s ledger.”

一 A brilliant idea! Appropriately reallocating the expenditures for good deeds without detection will significantly decrease the bookstore’s net profit. Of course, a great deal of expertise, time, and effort would be required to insert it into the ledger undetected.

Uncle Manager nodded in admiration of my idea.

一 Then, please take care of it.

一 Ah…

Indeed, Uncle Manager, with decades of experience, was exceptionally skilled. The creditors didn’t notice the ledger that had been skillfully ‘massaged.’

Simplifying it further to the level of a booklet made detection even more challenging for experts.

“There was such a method.”

Tang Hwarin looked at me, her eyes wide with surprise at my ingenuity.

It’s too early to be surprised. There’s more.

“The challenge was that we had to stamp the booklet before anyone, sensing something was amiss, could ask to see the original ledger.”

If someone became suspicious and asked to see the original ledger, they might notice something was amiss. Securing the stamp quickly was essential.

“That was thanks to Yun-ho. You managed to talk them into stamping it.”

“How can you persuade money-crazed fools to stamp it just by talking nicely?”

I gave her a look that clearly suggested there was a trick involved beforehand.

“That doesn’t sound like something a revolutionary would say… What did you do?”

Tang Hwarin asked me, her expression one of disbelief.

Feeling the sting of her gaze, I briefly looked away before revealing the second scheme I had prepared for today.

“I hired a stirrer.”

“A stirrer? But everyone there was either a creditor or a bodyguard.”

“I turned those creditors into stirrers.”

“How, exactly?”

“Not all creditors feel the same level of resentment or anger. I introduced myself to companies that have had good relations for decades with your grandfather, promised them priority repayment, and asked them to act as stirrers.”

The second scheme:

Turning a few creditors into our allies. They, rightfully present, acted as stirrers without arousing suspicion.

一 To say I was groveling would be an understatement! How dare this debtor act so brazenly!

Someone drag her by the hair over here!

Encouraging creditors who relish exerting violence on debtors, inciting applause, and sparking fights during the auction.

I tantalized them with the prospect of bearing the debt and creating a sense of urgency. The stirrer kept the other creditors from thinking deeply by maintaining a chaotic atmosphere.

The creditors lost time to doubt the ledger deeply, and in the end:

一 I’ll stamp it!

Once the stamp was obtained, the stirrer’s role concluded.

I nearly had a heart attack when Master Jang Noya noticed the situation, but fortunately, Jang Noya was a close friend of her maternal grandfather.

He ended up playing a crucial role as a stirrer, enabling us to obtain stamps on all documents.

“Roughly 20 years. If you live modestly, you can pay it all off in that time. As I mentioned before, if you work as a broker, it could even take less time. It’s much better than being out on the streets, right?”

Broker.

Even if the Baek Family’s businesses disappeared, the Baek Family’s personal network remained intact.

It’s not a world where contracts, like silk deals, were automatically transferred just because you bought a fabric store.

Using the status as the sole heir of the Baek Family to connect people and earn a commission could further reduce the debt.

In a world where even buying an apartment involves pulling together a credit loan for a 30-year long-term mortgage, thinking of this building along the main road as bought with a loan, it could really be considered a profitable business.

Rather than blaming everything on Tang Hwarin’s disappeared mother and ending up on the streets with the bookstore gone, this situation, leaving a building and a manageable debt, is ideal.

“You really are…”

Tang Hwarin’s eyes trembled as she looked at me, understanding the entirety of the situation.

How’s that for moving? Wasn’t this a perfect resolution? Then, how about hiring me?

I approached her, took one of her hands in mine, and covered it with my other hand.

“It was good that you reached out for help instead of giving up in despair, right?”

“Y-Yeah.”

Why was she avoiding my gaze? Was it because she’s about to cry? Tang Hwarin lowered her head and averted her gaze.

“I’ll continue to help you in the future. Let’s do well together.”

I gently coaxed her into a hypothetical employment contract with a reassuring voice.

“How much will you help?”

“For a while?”

“…For 20 years?”

No. Shouldn’t she have become famous before that? Didn’t she have confidence in paying off her debt?

“Do you think it will be hard to pay off the debt?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“I’ll help indefinitely. If it becomes unexpectedly harder, let’s just abandon everything and elope together.”

If repayment became difficult over time, fleeing together was an option. If we worked hard and ‘copy’ fame using a printing press, we might strike gold.

By then, it would be okay to roam the world with Tang Hwarin as a bodyguard.

“Do you understand what you’re saying now?”

“Did I say something wrong?”

Just asking for help with my work since I’d be helping diligently. Was that too hard to understand?

“Sigh. No, that’s not like you. Just my wild imagination acting up again.”

Tang Hwarin, who had lifted her head, was no longer trembling in her eyes. Instead, she looked at me with a complicated and somewhat troubled expression.

Why was she like this?

“Haha. Yun-ho.”

Tang Hwarin chuckled at my puzzled face and called me.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you. Really. I’ll continue to repay this favor.”

Tang Hwarin placed her remaining hand on the back of mine, gripping our hands firmly together.

In her face, I saw not the despair and frustration of a few days ago but hope for moving forward.

“Aren’t you sleeping?”

In the cleaned-up bookstore attic, Tang Hwarin, lying in bed, called out to me sitting at the desk.

“You sleep first.”

I answered while grinding ink.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to write a novel.”

“A book? Don’t tell me, ‘The Tale of Hong Gildong’?!”

Tang Hwarin hurriedly threw off her blanket and asked me.

“No. Trying to write a storybook that might sell.”

“Hmm… Since we have to work tomorrow, don’t stay up too late.”

Tang Hwarin, losing interest upon hearing it wasn’t ‘The Tale of Hong Gildong’, covered herself with the blanket again and lay down.

I set the ink aside and started dipping the brush in ink.

It had been a long journey to get here.

Now that the case was settled, all that’s left was to manage the bookstore and continue writing.

‘What should I write?’

If fame was important, starting with popular genres seemed right. But what should I write? There was a commercially more popular genre in this world.

Erotic stories.

Should I write erotic stories, then? Would it be better to start with those modern, provocative erotic tales?

No.

I, Kang Yun-ho, had not forgotten the day I was writing ‘The Tale of Martial Heroes’. Nor had I forgotten the day I cried out to the world. Unless there’s no printing press left, I refused to completely abandon writing martial arts novels in this world.

Should I then write a martial arts novel?

Was it truly the mark of a genuine writer to tackle a genre doomed to fail once more?

No. As a writer, my duty was to pen something that not only fulfilled me but also resonated with the readers of this world.

I had pondered over a genre for months, and I made my decision.

Erotic stories, yet not quite erotic stories; martial arts novels, yet not exactly martial arts novels.

That was,

‘Let’s write erotic martial arts novels.’

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