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    At Gwanghwamun Gate.

    The main and smaller gates of Gwanghwamun were firmly closed, and the gatekeepers on watch were intently observing the approach to the gate.

    “Gate Captain, sir!”

    “What is it?”

    In the guardhouse beside Gwanghwamun, the gate captain, who had been reviewing documents, stood up as a soldier from the Inner Palace rushed in.

    “Urgent news from the Inner Palace Guards!”

    “Urgent news?”

    “Sir, there are villainous individuals planning to revolt today!”

    “What?!”

    Shocked by the urgent news, the gate captain hurried out of the guardhouse and scrambled up to the watchtower.

    The soldiers on duty at the watchtower looked puzzled as the gate captain hurried towards them.

    “Sir, what’s the matter?”

    “It’s an emergency! Keep a close watch!”

    “Sir?”

    At the captain’s command, the soldiers leaned out of the watchtower to survey the area.

    Likewise, the gate captain, who had been observing the road leading to Gwanghwamun, turned to look inside the palace.

    He saw a considerable number of soldiers gathering in front of Heungnyemun Gate.

    If following normal protocol, a significant number of soldiers would also be gathered at Geunjeongmun.

    The gate captain bit his lip as he assessed the situation.

    “We’re short on troops. It’s regrettable that the Golden Army has left the city.”

    Currently, only 200 soldiers from the Inner Palace Guards were defending Geunjeongjeon.

    Usually, in addition to the Inner Palace Guards, additional Golden Army troops would be stationed, but most had left two days earlier to suppress the uprising.

    The total number of defenders in the palace was now barely 250.

    “Sir!”

    As the gate captain was surveying Heungnyemun and organizing his thoughts, he turned his head at the sound of someone calling him.

    “What is it?”

    “There are suspicious individuals, sir!”

    Upon the soldier’s report, the gate captain stood up on the watchtower to survey the outside.

    From the intersection where Yukjo Street meets the south of Unjongga, a group was rapidly approaching Gwanghwamun.

    “Sound the drum!”

    “Yes, sir!”

    Dum-dum-dum!

    At the gate captain’s order, a soldier began to beat the large drum behind him.

    While the drum was being played, the gate captain counted the approaching group, clenching his teeth.

    “At least 500… seems today might be the day of my demise.”

    The sound of the emergency drum alerted not only the palace but also the nearby residences, which began to light up.

    * * *

    As the sound of the emergency drum spread, people working in the palace and residents from nearby neighborhoods lit their homes and hurried outside.

    “What’s happening?”

    “I don’t know. Suddenly there’s some trouble.”

    As the residents gathered in the alleys, large explosions started to erupt from the direction of Gwanghwamun.

    Boom! Bang! Bang!

    The unexpected drum sound and explosions caused panic among the people who had come out, leading them to run frantically.

    * * *

    “Halt! Who goes there!”

    At the gate captain’s shout from the watchtower, Yangnyeong, positioned behind the soldiers, turned to Seo Seon.

    “Let’s begin.”

    “Understood. Advance!”

    “Yes, forward!”

    At Seo Seon’s command, Nam Jun-seok began to lead the soldiers forward.

    Rattle, rattle, clank!

    As the large shields at the front began to advance, the soldiers crouched and followed behind them.

    “This is your last warning! Stop where you are and identify yourselves!”

    Upon the gate captain’s warning, the soldiers waiting behind the shields raised their muskets.

    “Muskets! Get down!”

    Chi-chick! Boom-boom!

    At the soldier’s shout, the gate captain and soldiers on the wall quickly ducked down.

    At that moment, the muskets thunderously discharged their rounds towards the watchtower.

    “Keep firing! Don’t let the enemy raise their heads!”

    At Nam Jun-seok’s command, the soldiers with muskets continuously fired.

    While the soldiers suppressed the watchtower, Nam Jun-seok ordered the soldiers carrying large bags.

    “Now is the time! Blow up Gwanghwamun!”

    “Yes, sir!”

    Following Nam Jun-seok’s order, the soldiers with the bags rushed towards Gwanghwamun’s closed main gate.

    Reaching the firmly closed wooden gate, the soldiers stacked the bags carefully against it.

    After piling up all the bags, a soldier who appeared to be their leader used a dagger to pierce a hole in a bag in the middle and inserted a fuse he had unwound from his wrist.

    Once the preparation was complete, the leader opened a small wooden container at his waist. Inside was an ember. He blew life into the ember with his breath, lit the fuse, and quickly retreated.

    “Everyone, retreat!”

    “Retreat!”

    Bang! Bang!

    As the soldiers retreated, the gatekeepers on the watchtower fired their muskets through the loopholes, causing screams as some of the retreating soldiers fell to the ground.

    Boom!

    Shortly after, Gwanghwamun’s main gate burst open with a loud explosion.

    “Argh!”

    The shock of the explosion knocked the gatekeepers on the watchtower to the ground.

    As the flames and smoke cleared, the broken and collapsed wooden main gate of Gwanghwamun was visible.

    Seeing the gate breached, Nam Jun-seok swung his sword forward and shouted,

    “Charge! The gate is open!”

    “Uwaaah!”

    At Nam Jun-seok’s command, the soldiers let out a battle cry and charged towards Gwanghwamun.

    Bang! Bang!

    Some of the soldiers on the watchtower, regaining their senses, opened fire, but the fallen soldiers were quickly replaced by others.

    “Uwaaah… Huh?”

    The soldiers who energetically vaulted over the broken gate slowed down as they saw about twenty soldiers arranged in two horizontal lines in front of Heungnyemun.

    “Fire!”

    The front row knelt while the back row stood, all aiming their long muskets. At the command to fire, they pulled their triggers.

    Rat-a-tat!

    “Ugh!”

    “Argh!”

    The unified gunfire of the Inner Palace Guards decimated the ranks of the attacking soldiers.

    “Shields!”

    Rumble-rumble.

    Upon Nam Jun-seok’s command, the large shields that had passed through Gwanghwamun came to the forefront and began to advance.

    As the shields moved forward, the Inner Palace Guards pulled out their muskets and began to fire at them.

    Bang-bang-bang!

    Despite continuous firing, the thick iron shields withstood the gunfire.

    Observing this, the squad leader ordered a retreat.

    “Retreat! Fall back!”

    Following the leader’s command, the Inner Palace Guards quickly retreated over Heungnyemun towards Geunjeongmun.

    “Chase them! Push the shields!”

    “Uwaaa!”

    At Nam Jun-seok’s command, the soldiers pushed the shields forward.

    As several soldiers pushed together, the heavy shields quickly advanced.

    While advancing, the soldiers lifted the shields over the threshold of Heungnyemun with a combined effort.

    After all the shields had crossed Heungnyemun, the soldiers started to move in formation behind them, not wanting to become easy targets for the Inner Palace Guards’ muskets before the crucial moment.

    As the soldiers breached Heungnyemun and approached Geunjeongmun, the Inner Palace Guards continued their musket fire.

    Most of the shots were blocked by the shields, but they still gradually reduced the number of attacking soldiers.

    The attacking soldiers weren’t just passive targets.

    Though their archers fired diligently, the Inner Palace Guards’ armor repelled the arrows.

    Ultimately, it was the aimed rounds from the soldiers’ muskets that brought down the defending Inner Palace Guards.

    “Retreat!”

    Outnumbered, the Inner Palace Guards eventually fell back over Geunjeongmun into the courtyard in front of Geunjeongjeon.

    “Those fools! Are they planning to surrender Geunjeongjeon?”

    Grand Prince Yangnyeong, following the soldiers, was furious at this sight.

    “So these are the weaklings Chungnyeong (Sejong) has raised! Was I cowering all these years in fear of such feeble men? Let’s go!”

    In his frustration, Yangnyeong grabbed the reins of his horse. Soon, the horse carrying Yangnyeong crossed the threshold of Geunjeongmun and entered Geunjeongjeon.

    Beside Yangnyeong, Seo Seon immediately issued an order to the soldiers as soon as they crossed Geunjeongmun.

    “Attack Eastern Palace!”

    “Yes!”

    At Seo Seon’s command, a group of soldiers, led by two large shields, rushed towards the palace gate leading to Eastern Palace.

    “Is this about revenge?”

    Observing this, Yangnyeong asked. Seo Seon replied with a cold voice,

    “He too should understand the pain of losing a child.”

    “I see…”

    * * *

    “Finally, it’s happening! Attendant!”

    “Yes, Your Highness!”

    Startled by the emergency drum signals, Hyang sprang up and hurriedly donned his breastplate.

    “No need for the lower part!”

    “Yes, Your Highness!”

    After putting on the breastplate and helmet, Hyang opened a chest and handed rifles to his attendant.

    Lastly, taking out a large bag filled with ammunition, Hyang looked at his attendant.

    “You know what to do, right?”

    “Yes, Your Highness. I will hand you the loaded muskets, and Chamberlain Jang will load the bullets into the muskets.”

    “The direction of the bullets?”

    “The pointed end goes in front.”

    “How many bullets per musket?”

    “Eight.”

    “Good.”

    Satisfied that his attendants knew their tasks well, Hyang took the rifle and went outside.

    “Your Highness!”

    As Hyang opened the door, the Crown Princess, Yangje, and Yangwon also came out from another room with their court ladies.

    Seeing the Crown Princess holding the modified musket, Hyang asked worriedly,

    “Are you determined to join us?”

    “As I said before, if anything happens to Your Highness, our lives would be meaningless.”

    Accepting her firm response, Hyang could only agree.

    “Understood. Be careful.”

    “Yes, we will. The second and third just need to do as I told. Understand?”

    “Yes, sister.”

    “Yes, sister.”

    “Huh? Sister?”

    Hyang expressed his surprise at their conversation, to which the Crown Princess simply replied,

    “Living together, we have become sworn sisters.”

    “Huh…”

    “What? The Gwanghwamun Three Princesses Faction? No, the Three Queens Faction? Or the Crown Prince’s…”

    “What are you doing? Time is of the essence!”

    Lost in thought over the unexpected term ‘sworn sisters,’ Hyang was snapped back to reality by the Crown Princess’s rebuke.

    “Right. Let’s go!”

    Hyang and his group, including the Crown Princess, joined the waiting palace guards.

    “Your Highness, you should flee now. If His Majesty arrives…”

    Seeing Hyang and the ladies-in-waiting dressed in armor, a palace guard expressed concern. However, Hyang’s orders were firm.

    “Shield bearers to the front.”

    “Your Highness!”

    “Should I just sit and wait while my Royal Mother is in danger? Shield bearers, forward!”

    “Yes, Your Highness.”

    At Hyang’s resolute command, the palace guard responded with a somber face.

    Rumble.

    The iron shields, slightly larger and thicker than those made by Seo Seon, rolled forward with a heavy sound.

    “His Majesty will be furious.”

    The attendant’s comment was met with a scowl from Hyang.

    “I can’t just put the Royal Mother in danger, can I?”

    Though there were various options, this was the best under the circumstances. Avoiding immediate danger could lead to unforeseen risks, especially if there were traitors among the rebels.

    It was better to stand firm with proper firepower. Another reason was to signal the severity of the situation, justifying the crown prince’s direct intervention. This could lend more weight to the subsequent cleansing of traitors and the progress of the reforms.

    “By the way, the Royal Mother has taken refuge, right?”

    * * *

    “Your Majesty, please!”

    “Enough!”

    King Sejong reprimanded the attendants and guards blocking his way.

    “There’s no need for panic! Now is the time for me to act!”

    King Sejong deemed it the right moment for his direct involvement, to show that the situation was critical enough to warrant the king’s personal action. This would serve as justification for the subsequent suppression of the rebels and the continuation of reforms.

    The attendant, with a worried face, remarked,

    “The Crown Prince will be shocked!”

    But King Sejong looked sternly at the attendant and retorted,

    “Isn’t that why I told you not to inform the Crown Prince?”

    As he picked up a musket and walked towards where the rebels were coming from, King Sejong paused momentarily and cautiously asked,

    “By the way, the Crown Prince has taken refuge, right?”

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