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    Chapter 118: Made in Joseon (1)

    Tension soared among the crew, the captain, and the head of the Otaibi family as a mysterious fleet approached.

    “Enormous…”

    As the unknown ship drew near, the crew of the merchant ship became increasingly disheartened.

    Though the Dhow they were on was a large ship also known as a Baghlah (a type of dhow), the approaching ship was even more massive in size.

    [TL/N: A type of ship usually used by Arabs a long time ago. 

    ]

    To be precise, their own ship was longer, but the approaching ship was noticeably taller.

    “This is definitely not a ship from Ming. The design is entirely different.”

    “Then is it from the Western Barbarians?”

    “The Western Barbarians don’t have ships that big.”

    “Then whose ship is it?”

    The increasingly restless leader vented his frustration, but even the captain had no answers.

    “I don’t know.”

    Shortly after, a small boat detached from the mysterious fleet and came their way.

    When it got close enough to distinguish the uniforms of the people onboard, an elder among them shouted excitedly.

    “It’s the Joseon army! Leader! It’s from Joseon!”

    “Joseon, you say?”

    At the leader’s question, the elder nodded vigorously.

    “Yes! I am certain; it’s the uniform of the Joseon army that I saw when I visited Joseon last time!”

    “Then why didn’t we recognize the ship?”

    Faced with the leader’s question, the elder replied with an awkward expression.

    “I didn’t see such large ships back then.”

    Upon hearing the elder’s answer, the leader looked at the ships presumed to be from Joseon with surprised eyes.

    “Have they constructed such ships in just a little over a year? Enough to form a fleet?”

    Adding to the leader’s monologue, the captain spoke.

    “As soon as those pirates saw that ship, they fled. By the looks of it, those ships must have dominated these seas for a while now.”

    At the captain’s words, the leader nodded.

    “That seems to be a fair assessment.”

    While the leader and the captain were talking, a Joseon soldier on the boat that had drawn near shouted through a peculiar device.

    “Identify yourselves!”

    Responding to the soldier’s question, the interpreter onboard replied in Ming language.

    “We are merchants from Aden! We have come with goods requested by the Prince of Joseon!”

    After hearing the interpreter’s shout, the Joseon soldiers onboard the small boat discussed something among themselves and then shouted again.

    “Stand by for a moment!”

    “Understood!”

    After that, the small boat went back and forth a few times for a short verification process, and the decision of the Joseon naval forces was made.

    “Follow us! We will protect you!”

    “Understood! Thank you!”

    As the small boat turned back, everyone from the commanders to the captains and the crew members let out a sigh of relief.

    “Phew~. We’re safe now.”

    “That’s right.”

    In this way, the merchant ships of the Otaibi and Azram families—fortunately without a single loss—began to head back to Joseon, escorted by three Joseon naval ships.

    Of course, during this process, all the Arab crew members were dumbfounded when they saw the Joseon ships making a turn on the spot.

    “Is that even possible?”

    “I’m seeing it for the first time as well…”

    The captain answered with a stunned expression, to which the commander mumbled to himself again,

    “What kind of country is Joseon?”

    ***

    Meanwhile, as safety was assured, the more relaxed crew members were observing the Joseon fleet that moved parallel to them at a distance.

    “The ships are quite unique.”

    “They’re shorter in length than our ships, but much taller.”

    As the crew members said, the “panokseon” (a type of ship) operated by the Korean navy were indeed quite tall.

    [ (Panokseon)]

    Judging by the position of the Joseon naval forces behind the walls attached to the sides of their ships, the top of the cabin at the stern of the large “Dhow” merchant ship that the Arab merchants were on was almost at the same height as the first deck of the Joseon warship.

    Among the crew observing the Joseon fleet, the older and more experienced ones nodded their heads.

    “It would be difficult to give up their ships without a fight.”

    “Captain, aren’t those protruding things on the side of their ships large arrows?”

    “Arrows?”

    Upon the younger crew member’s point, the one referred to as ‘Captain’ narrowed his eyes and observed the Korean fleet.

    “Indeed… those are arrows… but why would they have something used in sieges?”

    Observing the loaded large arrows, the captain showed an expression of further incomprehension.

    “What kind of crossbow could use arrows spaced so closely?”

    ***

    Not only the crew but also the leaders and captains of the Otaibi and Azram families were observing the Joseon fleet and discussing the objects that looked like crossbows.

    “It’s not a crossbow.”

    The captain, who had been observing as closely as possible, concluded.

    “The spacing is too close for it to be a crossbow, and the position of the arrows is too low.”

    “Then what is the most likely?”

    Upon the leader’s question, the captain thought for a moment and then answered briefly.

    “A cannon.”

    “A cannon?”

    The leader briefly responded to the captain’s words and bowed his head.

    “From what I can see right now, there are at least 10 arrows visible, which means that there must be at least 20 cannons on that ship. Even those Catholic heretics don’t carry that many.”

    At this, the captain retorted.

    “Aren’t they not Catholic heretics?”

    “Heh…”

    The leader muttered, taken aback.

    “Are there any people crazy enough to carry more than 20 cannons on each ship? Is there an excess of gunpowder or something?”

    ***

    Meanwhile, a similar discussion was unfolding on the Joseon front.

    “Do you think those people are really merchants authorized by the court?”

    Mokpo’s naval chief, who led the fleet, posed the question, to which the officer in charge of civil affairs replied.

    “The trading license has been verified.”

    “The problem is that we have never seen merchants with such licenses in our jurisdiction in Jeolla Naval District, isn’t it?”

    At the naval chief’s point, his subordinate officer answered.

    “That’s true, but licenses with the same names have already been issued to traders traveling to and from the Shandong region, and the official seal on the documents was indeed that of the court.”

    Hearing this, Mokpo’s naval chief sighed softly and concluded.

    “Let’s send an investigator after we return. Besides…”

    Mokpo’s naval chief changed the topic.

    “It’s a pity that we missed those damn pirates. They are becoming increasingly difficult to catch lately.”

    “As soon as we fire the ‘small-signaling cannons,’ they run away.”

    “Small-signaling Cannons are quite useful, but they have this side effect.”

    “Exactly.”

    To Mokpo’s naval chief’s complaint, the subordinate officer nodded and added,

    “There’s also the issue with this ‘Panokseon’ ship.”

    ***

    In a world influenced by “Hyang”, not only were there rapid advancements in weaponry.

     

    “We should make and use useful things!”

    According to Hyang’s decision, weapons that originally existed in history were also made.

    Of course, they were not replicas.

    A prime example was the “Small signaling cannons.”

    ***

    Hyang developed the “Small-signaling Cannons” for two purposes within this new weapon system. 

    One was a long-range suppression weapon that used gunpowder as a propellant, and the other was for signaling.

    By loading the front compartment of the paper cylinder attached below the arrow with gunpowder, various minerals, and dyes, it could emit various colors of smoke during the day and various colors of flames at night. 

    They created it so that various situations could be quickly understood based on the type and order of the colors exploding.

    The newly born signaling cannons were highly favored by the military. Moreover, the combination of the telescope made by Hyang by grinding Pietro and Raphael’s work and the signaling cannons greatly expanded the operational range of the Joseon Army.

    It was particularly useful for cavalry engaged in skirmishes with the Jurchens tribes. 

    However, where the signaling cannon was most usefully deployed was in the navy. 

    It wasn’t just the small-signaling cannons that were useful.

    Excluding the fact that its body was made of paper instead of iron, the warheads were made to be identical to non-traditional torpedoes, which were masterpieces. 

    Though its power was half that of the non-traditional torpedoes, its range was 250 paces (approximately 300m) longer, becoming a monster with a frightening range of 800 paces (approximately 960m).

    ***

    The subordinate officer mentioned the “Panokseon” they were aboard, and Mokpo’s naval chief nodded.

    “Exactly. I like everything about this Panokseon, except for one thing – its slow speed. Thanks to that, pirates now run away as soon as they see either the signals from the cannons or the Panokseon itself…”

    The Panokseon that Hyang had advanced was satisfying to the navy.

    Initially built for mass artillery deployment, its tall and large hull made it difficult for the ships of Westerners or pirates to approach and board. Moreover, its high altitude made it possible to destroy enemy ships from a farther distance using arrows and cannons.

    Also, the hull had been reinforced as much as it had grown in size, making it possible to even destroy the ships of Westerners or pirates through collision.

    However, the Panokseon had the fatal flaw of being slow.

    The rectangular-shaped hull was useful in coastal waters but problematic when taken to the open sea due to the speed issue.

    Because of this, Westerners and pirates who initially underestimated it ended up fleeing as soon as they saw a Panokseon.

    Of course, there were those among the Westerners and pirates who believed in their own speed and attacked anyway, but after seeing their ships destroyed by cannonballs flying in from a distance farther than that of arrows, none dared to do so.

    Mokpo’s naval chief turned his head, muttering.

    “We need a ship that is faster and sturdier more than we need good artillery.”

    “The Crown Prince and the elites are in Area 51; we’ll have good results soon,” said the subordinate officer.

    Mokpo’s naval chief lowered his head, saying, “Area 51? There are many obsessed with artillery there, but none obsessed with ships. That’s the problem.”

    However, this was a misunderstanding on the part of Mokpo’s naval chief.

    If Hyang had heard this, he would have replied, “Why don’t you try and get a budget allocation from His Majesty! I’m getting cursed out once a day saying ‘You brat!’ these days!”

    ***

    The ships of the Otaibi and Azram families, after a five-day voyage, dropped anchor in Jeolla’s port.

    “A message has been sent to Hanyang. They said to wait a few days.”

    “Very well.”

    “Ah! They asked if we need anything.”

    At the interpreter’s question, the chief looked at the captain. In response to the unspoken inquiry, the captain immediately replied.

    “Ask for provisions first.”

    “Understood.”

    While waiting for a reply from Hanyang, the chief of the Otaibi family and the captains of the merchant ships took the opportunity to explore the area around Jeolla’s port.

    “Do not wander around the military base carelessly.”

    “Understood. May we go and explore the market outside?”

    “Hmm… today happens to be the market day, so go ahead.”

    With permission from the Commander of the Left Navy, the chief of the Otaibi family led people out to the market.

    A look of disappointment filled the chief’s face after seeing the marketplace.

    “Is this all… It’s nothing. It can hardly be called a market compared to the one I’ve seen in Ming before.”

     

    The chief, who was grumbling while browsing the market, suddenly stopped in his tracks.

    “What’s that!”

    The chief’s eyes landed on a small guesthouse. On the dining tables vacated by diners, white porcelain and glass cups were sparkling.

    “How could such extraordinary items be found in such an underdeveloped place?”

    Caught off guard by the unexpected incongruity, the chief was thrown into confusion.

    “What on earth is this country of Joseon?”

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