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    Holding his letter of resignation, Hwang Hui returned to Hanseong.

    On his way back, he overheard the punishment meted out to his children.

    “Many argue that since these criminals are skilled enough in document manipulation to falsify records, they should be assigned to clerical work! However, they can’t be trusted with that! Send the criminals to the coal mines in Pyeongan province and make them labor for 20 years! Let them endlessly regret their actions while digging for coal! Also, confiscate all their assets!”

    Upon hearing King Sejong’s decision, Hwang Hui tightly closed his eyes.

    “Foolish ones… if you’re going to deceive, at least don’t get caught…”

    Hwang Hui, who had returned to Hanseong, immediately headed to the palace.

    “Hwang Hui, the Administrative Officer, is seeking an audience.”

    “Let him in.”

    Upon entering the hall, Hwang Hui respectfully bowed.

    “What business brings you here from afar?”

    “I wish to submit my resignation.”

    “Resignation?”

    “As the sins of the children are the sins of the parents, I request to resign.”

    “Do you understand that deceiving the king, is a high treason?”

    “Yes.”

    “Hmm…”

    At Hwang Hui’s answer, Sejong hesitated for a moment, then pointed at the stacks of scrolls beside him.

    “These are petitions demanding your execution. This stack only includes today’s submissions; if we include the previous ones, it would easily fill a cart. What should I do?”

    To King Sejong’s question, Hwang Hui replied while kneeling.

    “I will follow whatever judgment Your Majesty deems fit.”

    Hearing this, King Sejong quietly looked down at Hwang Hui.

    ‘What should I do?’

    As he looked down at the kneeling Hwang Hui, Sejong turned his eyes toward Maeng Sa-seong, who was standing on one side with a solemn face.

    To be honest, compared to his father King Taejong’s praises, Hwang Hui had not been impressive. Especially when compared to the Crown Prince, the difference was clear.

    However, when compared to the ministers currently in the royal court, Hwang Hui’s competence was exceptional, along with Maeng Sa-seong.

    Getting rid of him now would surely mean a difficult time ahead.

    “Sigh~”

    King Sejong, after a long sigh, came to a conclusion.

    “You have two paths. One, excluding the house you currently live in, return all your property, including your pension, to the national treasury and continue to work for the royal court for the rest of your life. Ah! Your salary will be forfeited.”

    “…”

    In response to Sejong’s words, Hwang Hui had nothing to say. Observing Hwang Hui’s silence, Sejong proposed a second option.

    “The second is to handle document organization until the day you die, owning only half of your house and property.”

    Upon hearing the phrase ‘until the day you die’ for document organization,’ Hwang Hui’s face turned pale. Still, he could not open his mouth.

    “The first option requires living solely on your official stipend, but you can survive with your influence in the royal court. The second option allows you to at least leave some assets for your children. What will you do?”

    After a long pause, Hwang Hui made his decision.

    “I choose the first option.”

    “Understood, then proceed as such. Minister, return to your post immediately.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    The Chief State Councillor and the Chief Justice, who had intended to impose capital punishment on Hwang Hui immediately, closed their mouths.

    Their eyes, once filled with ferocity, were now brimming with compassion.

    “‘Until the day you die!’ Although it’s called influence, isn’t it essentially the life of a servant working in the royal archives? Especially when under the king’s constant surveillance, what use is power?”

    The scribes who recorded all of this concluded as follows:

    – Thus, the punishment for Hwang Hui was decided. Among the servants in the royal archives, there was no one who opposed or advocated capital punishment.

    Then the scribes argued,

    “Considering the two recent incidents, only one conclusion was reached: educate your children well.”

    ***

    After opening the door to a career in public service with no retirement, Hwang Hui acted with a concealed bitter heart to wrap up the work at the Gahaksan mine.

    “People of this era may not know the risks of this issue, but I knew, didn’t I? This is my mistake.”

    Hyang felt a great sense of responsibility for the recent mining accident.

    To be honest, although Hyang had some expertise in mining, his knowledge about things like wastewater treatment was limited to basic skills learned in high school and setting up a workshop.

    So when the mining began, he took the issues of polluted and leached water lightly.

    “‘This land has been mined for ages, and nothing happened before, right?'”

    And the result was a large-scale pollution incident affecting farmland near the Gahaksan mine. Heading to the mine, Hyang firmly resolved,

    “We must move to minimize the damage, even if we only know the basics!”

    With that resolution, Hyang started constructing a large wastewater treatment facility in the mine. Although it was a primitive facility that heavily used sand, gravel, charcoal, and limestone, Hyang had a resigned expression.

    “Right now, this is the best we can do.”

    Due to the limitations of knowledge, the large-scale wastewater treatment facility was the solution they had come up with, and all that was left was to hope for a slight improvement.

    After returning to the palace, Hyang resolutely vowed, “We’ll have to conduct research using the experts from the lab and Area 51. We can’t afford any more delays.”

    ***

    Hyang, having wrapped up matters concerning the mine, moved towards the residential area near Area 51.

    “We have a long way to go, and yet you’re dilly-dallying.”

    Hyang grumbled as he quickened his pace.

    He was currently on his way to see Pietro and Raphael.

    After the incident was temporarily concluded with Seo Dal becoming a cripple, Hyang had been busy resolving the mining accident and had not visited them.

    Now that the mining issue was finally resolved, Hyang was visiting them for the first time.

    Pietro, whose right arm had been broken from being beaten by Seo Dal’s minions, was receiving treatment at his own home.

    “We need to fix this quickly. I’m not getting this treatment for free, you know.”

    Just as Hyang, who had personally intervened for Pietro’s speedy recovery, arrived in front of his house, a sharp voice reached his ears.

    “You wench! What are you doing here, you hussy?”

    “What did you say? Who are you calling a hussy?”

    “Ahh~ I can more or less guess what’s going on.”

    Tired of the women’s sharp and piercing voices, Hyang signaled to his servant.

    “Open the gate.”

    “Yes.”

    As the door opened, the scene that Hyang had expected unfolded.

    Two women were grabbing each other by the hair, wrestling.

    Sighing at the sight of the two women, who looked like lunatics, fighting fiercely, Hyang gestured to the escort officers.

    “Ugh, stop them.”

    “Yes, Your Highness!”

    At Hyang’s command, the escort officer yelled sternly.

    “You wretches! What kind of appalling act is this in broad daylight? The Crown Prince is present! Stop immediately! Do you really want to taste punishment?”

    The women, who had been fighting, instantly dropped to the ground, kneeling.

    “Your Highness, please spare our lives!”

    “Spare us!”

    “Hoo~.”

    Hyang let out a long sigh and pointed outside the main gate.

    “Get out, now.”

    “Yes, yes!”

    Obeying Hyang’s command, the two women scampered away.

    Watching their departure, Hyang turned to Raphael and Pietro, who were kneeling and showing respect, and asked,

    “Doesn’t the God you believe in teach not to commit adultery?”

    At Hyang’s question, Raphael replied in his still awkward Korean, pointing at Pietro,

    “Pietro is a damn, good-for-nothing adulterer.”

    “Huh….”

    Hyang then entered the room conducted a check on Pietro’s condition.

    “How is it?”

    Upon hearing Hyang’s question, the physician who had examined Pietro’s broken arm immediately answered.

    “It has set well.”

    “Really? Then he can return to work starting tomorrow.”

    At Hyang’s words, Pietro rubbed his arm and winced in mock pain.

    “My arm still hurts a bit… Can I rest a little more…,”

    “Really? Raphael is already working hard, doing your share too. The glass workshop is also ready to resume. That means we can get by just with Raphael, so…”

    Hyang paused, then glared at Pietro.

    “Then why should I keep both of you on a high salary? I might as well employ only diligent Raphael and have you resold or put to labor in the mines…”

    Before Hyang could finish speaking, Pietro quickly responded.

    “I will start work on time tomorrow!”

    “Don’t forget to come in on time. You have a lot to do.”

    After Hyang left, Pietro couldn’t hide his regret and clicked his tongue.

    “Good times are over.”

    “That’s why you should have stopped bragging. You still don’t know what kind of person that prince is?”

    “Tch!”

    Pietro still couldn’t hide his regret and clicked his tongue again.

    * * *

    With Pietro back to regular work, the glass workshop began to operate normally.

    “Are the materials ready? The ash is the most important, how is it?”

    In response to Pietro’s question, Raphael showed a barrel full of gray ash.

    “Ah, we’ve made some good ash this time.”

    After tasting the ash with his finger, Pietro nodded.

    “It’s good. It feels rewarding for all the hard work we’ve put in.”

    Upon hearing Pietro’s words, Raphael also nodded and accepted the compliment.

    “Right? It’s rewarding.”

    Thinking of the trials and tribulations they went through to make this ash, they were filled with mixed emotions.

    Melting silicon, the main component of glass, requires an extreme temperature of 1500 degrees Celsius.

    Since reaching such high temperatures was difficult, European craftsmen found a way to make glass at lower temperatures.

    What they discovered after numerous trials and errors was ash made from burning seaweed.

    “Seaweed? What type?”

    Upon Pietro and Raphael’s request, Hyang procured all sorts of seaweeds like seaweed and kelp from the market.

    “It’s a bit lacking…”

    “Let’s find it ourselves then!”

    After confirming the ash made from the seaweeds that Hyang had procured, both Pietro and Raphael shook their heads and headed towards the west coast with their escorts.

    Eventually, they found coral weed along the shores of the west coast.

    “So it exists in this country too!”

    “Let’s try it!”

    They immediately set the coral weeds on fire and checked the ash. Upon tasting it, both men looked at each other and smiled brightly.

    “Yes, this is it!”

    Finally, after numerous trials and errors—from preprocessing the seaweed, deciding how much to dry it, to achieving the proper flame temperature—they produced the ash they have now.

    Pietro, who was checking the barrel of ash, stretched his right arm and looked back at Raphael.

    “Shall we start now?”

    “Sure.”

    After checking the ingredients, Pietro yelled at the waiting Joseon craftsmen.

    The ever-smiling face of Pietro suddenly turned stern as he yelled at the Joseon artisans.

    “Light the furnace! Hot! Make it really hot!”

    “Understood!”

    Responding to Pietro’s shout, the Joseon craftsmen began to shovel coal into the furnace and started to turn the handle of the centrifugal fan with all their might.

    Hoo-woong~.

    Alongside the loud noise of air being sucked in, the coal in the furnace began to burn blue.

    “Put in more coal!”

    “More wind!”

    While giving orders to the Korean craftsmen, Raphael and Pietro inserted a crucible containing the mixed ingredients into the furnace.

    After some time had passed and confirming that the materials had properly melted, Pietro and Raphael took out the crucible and poured it into the mold, then connected it to the fulling mill. As the pipe was inserted properly, the two began fulling.

    It was the cylinder method, developed in Germany and refined in Venice. (Note 1)

    The Joseon craftsmen observed this entire process standing beside Pietro and Raphael. It wasn’t just the craftsmen.

    Clerks dispatched from the research institute recorded every move made by Raphael and Pietro.

    What they recorded would be made into a book and become a valuable textbook.

    * * *

    Finally, the test-produced sheet glass cooled down. Pietro and Raphael carefully lifted the sheet glass to check the result.

    Both burst into smiles upon inspection.

    “We did it! It’s a success!”

    It was the moment the first sheet glass was made in Korea.

    When the sheet glass was completed, a local official came in to check the final product.

    “Very well done! Good work!”

    “Thank you!”

    “I’ll grant a bonus of 20 silver coins!”

    Upon hearing about the bonus, Pietro bowed deeply and responded.

    “The Kingdom is in decline!”

    At Pietro’s words, the internal official beside him blurted out.

    “It’s not decline, it’s ‘manggeuk’ (greatly)!”

    “My apologies.”

    “Ah!”

    “Never mind.”

    The official who was about to say something was interrupted by the local official as he looked at Pietro and Raphael.

    “You’ve successfully made sheet glass. You can make vessels and bottles as well, right?”

    “Yes.”

    “You know how to add color too?”

    “Yes.”

    “And mirrors?”

    At the question from the local official, Pietro looked at Raphael. Raphael, unlike his usual self, confidently answered.

    “We can make it.”

    Hearing Raphael’s response, the local official grinned.

    “Is that so? Then let’s make everything.”

    ‘It’s finally time to reap the benefits!’

    ——

    Note 1) “The Roots of Glass. Kim Cheol-young. Ceramist. Vol. 11, No. 2. April 2008.”

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