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    The battle between Seo Seon’s remaining soldiers and the secret police was fierce.

    The remaining soldiers fought desperately to escape, while the secret police, seeking revenge for past grievances, fought with a do-or-die attitude.

    “Why are you blocking us?”

    “Didn’t I tell you? Debts must be repaid!”

    Clang! Clash! Crash!

    “Chase them!”

    “Catch them!”

    In the back alleys of Unjongga, a battle even more brutal than the one at Gyeongbokgung Palace unfolded.

    The martial skills of the soldiers, gathered by Yangnyeong as he roamed the country, were outstanding.

    However, the secret police’s members were no less formidable. They were either soldiers from powerful families or skilled martial artists who had not passed the military service examination.

    Moreover, the secret police had the advantage in numbers and knew how to fight dirty.

    Swoosh!

    “Cough!”

    “Still so tough after I’ve already killed three of you…”

    As Ki Nam, who had just slashed open a the secret police member’s chest, surveyed the area to find a way out, sharp throwing knives flew from behind, piercing his arms and legs.

    “Ugh!”

    As a knife struck his leg, Ki Nam staggered with a short cry.

    Seizing the moment, a the secret police member plunged a sword into Ki Nam’s chest.

    Clang!

    As the sword pierced his chest, Ki Nam’s sword fell from his hand.

    The the secret police member who had stabbed Ki Nam kicked him away.

    As the sword was pulled out, Ki Nam reached out his hands. He tried to speak, but with his pierced chest, his breath escaped him.

    Eventually, Ki Nam collapsed to the ground with a look of despair.

    The battle that ensued lasted for over an hour before it finally ended.

    “We’ve killed them all.”

    “Good work. What about our losses?”

    “Eight in Dadoong, six in Bukchon, and we lost eight.”

    “Tch… What a loss!”

    The head of Unjongga’s the secret police clucked his tongue upon receiving the report.

    The damage was more severe than anticipated. Adding to the losses suffered in battles against those cursed traitors, they had lost about half of their members.

    “What about these bodies?”

    “Gather all the weapons and dump the bodies in front of the government office.”

    “Yes, understood.”

    After issuing orders to his members, the head of Unjongga’s the secret police walked over to the other leaders.

    “Our losses are significant.”

    “Indeed.”

    The leader from Dadoong agreed briefly, but the leader from Bukchon looked particularly distressed.

    “At least the dead will be taken care of by our lord, but filling our ranks will be a problem.”

    The other two leaders nodded gravely at the words of the Bukchon leader.

    The leader from Dadoong, pondering the problem of replenishing their numbers, looked at the other leaders.

    “It seems targeting those who failed the military exams would be our best bet.”

    With the ongoing reforms of Sejong, the distinction between the literary and military branches became more pronounced. Positions nominally in the military branch, but actually held by literati, had disappeared.

    Consequently, the number of applicants for the military exams had significantly increased.

    Especially with the impending official confirmation of rumors about the establishment of a military academy, the competition had become even fiercer.

    With the increasing competition, the expansion of military recruitment opportunities had not brought much change.

    Hence, the leader from Dadoong suggested targeting those who failed the military exams.

    At this suggestion, the leader from Bukchon pointed out a problem.

    “The idea of targeting those who failed the military exams is indeed the best, but the problem is how to handle their stubborn pride, especially since they have attempted the exams. Don’t they see us as uncultured swordsmen?”

    The leaders from Bukchon voiced this concern, and the other two leaders responded simultaneously.

    “Weren’t we uncultured rascals until not so long ago?”

    “That’s what I’m saying…”

    “These people, really!”

    After some back-and-forth, the leaders eventually agreed to ‘recruit those who failed the military exams’ and moved on to the next topic.

    “What do you think will happen next?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The uprising in the palace has been quelled, but isn’t the south still in chaos?”

    At Dadoong’s leader’s words, the leaders from Unjongga and Bukchon fell into thought. After a prolonged silence, the eldest leader from Bukchon spoke up.

    “For now, we should lay low. Except for executing orders from our lord, we should not take any initiative.”

    The other leaders from Dadoong and Unjongga nodded in agreement to the words of the Bukchon leader.

    “That’s the best approach. We should preserve ourselves for the time being. A harsh winter storm seems to be brewing over Gyeongbokgung.”

    “There’s also the saying about being discarded after use.”

    The leaders believed that while they might be useful tools for Sejong, they could also become a nuisance politically.

    ‘Now is the time to stay low and just observe the situation!’

    * * *

    As the leaders had anticipated, a severe storm was brewing inside Geunjeongjeon.

    Seated in the council hall still in armor, Sejong glared down at his ministers with a fierce expression.

    The ministers, unsettled by Sejong’s demeanor, could only swallow their words in discomfort.

    ‘What should we say…’

    ‘It’s been a while since the last regular dismissal!’

    ‘I wondered why these past few days felt unusually peaceful!’

    The council hall of Geunjeongjeon was filled with silently protesting ministers, councilors, and senior officials.

    With the uprising in the south, Sejong’s attention had been focused solely on the Ministry of Military Affairs. While he had not completely neglected other matters, given the circumstances, all affairs of the court revolved around military concerns.

    Furthermore, due to the uprising, various petitions and administrative reports from the provinces had ceased.

    Consequently, departments other than the Ministry of Military Affairs had unexpectedly found some respite.

    As a result of this newfound leisure, officials in the Six Ministries enjoyed the rare pleasure of regular dismissal from court duties.

    However, this period of ease was disrupted by the unimaginable event of the palace uprising.

    Amidst this silent observation of Sejong’s mood, Chief State Councilor Lee Jik cautiously opened his mouth.

    “Despite the grave situation, Your Majesty remaining unharmed is truly a blessing from heaven.”

    “Indeed! It is surely divine protection!”

    Echoing Lee Jik’s words, the ministers unanimously praised the ‘heaven’s protection.’

    To the ministers’ words, Sejong responded briefly with a calm face.

    “I think so too. However, great credit goes to the Inner Palace Guards and the Golden Army, including the Crown Prince, who exerted all efforts to suppress the traitors.”

    Immediately, the Royal Inspector raised an objection.

    “As Your Majesty says, their contribution is significant, but the sin of allowing the uprising is also great. This must be scrutinized.”

    “It was my command.”

    “Your Majesty?”

    Confused by Sejong’s response, the Royal Inspector raised his voice further.

    “Then the sin is even greater! Regardless of Your Majesty’s command, allowing traitors into Geunjeongjeon is unthinkable! If Your Majesty were to be harmed, it would be a disaster shaking the very foundation of the nation!”

    “The commanders of the Inner Palace Guards and the Training Commander initially insisted on my evacuation. It was my unilateral decision, so they cannot be blamed.”

    Sejong, referring to himself as ‘I’, humbly protected the Training Commander and the commander of the Inner Palace Guards.

    “However!”

    As the Royal Inspector continued to object, Sejong’s voice sharpened.

    “Royal Inspector! Then, what would you have considered the right course of action? Should we have allowed the traitors to incite a street battle outside Gyeongbokgung Palace? Would it have been right to turn the many alleys of Hanyang into battlefields, using innocent citizens as shields and firing muskets at each other? If things had turned out that way, could we have suppressed the rebellion in such a short time?”

    Challenged by Sejong’s rebuke, the Royal Inspector fell silent.

    Sejong’s point was valid. If a battle had taken place outside Gyeongbokgung Palace to suppress the uprising, it would have led to a fierce urban combat. Such a scenario would have undoubtedly resulted in tremendous civilian casualties.

    There had already been a precedent for such an event.

    The urban combat in Gaegyeong between the armies led by Yi Seong-gye[1], who had turned back at Wihwa-do, and those led by Choi Young was one such example.

    [TL/N: Turning back the army from Wihwa Island refers to the 1388 episode in which General Yi Seong-gye of the Goryeo dynasty was ordered to march north with his army and invade the Liaodong Peninsula (northeast China, which was under the control of the Ming dynasty), but instead decided to turn back to Kaesong and trigger a coup d’état, thus securing the government. This was the first of a series of Yi’s rebellious actions that eventually led to the establishment of the Joseon dynasty, with him being installed as King Taejo. Read more on the Wihwa-do Retreat https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wihwado_Retreat]

    Finally, the Royal Inspector had to bow his head and admit his mistake.

    “Please forgive my short-sightedness.”

    “I understand that you said this out of concern for me, but it was a decision made after much deliberation, so let us not speak of it further.”

    “I will take your words to heart.”

    As Sejong silenced the Royal Inspector, Maeng Sa-seong, who had been quietly listening, spoke up.

    “Your Majesty, did you anticipate that such a treacherous and unfilial event might occur?”

    To Maeng Sa-seong’s question, Sejong responded briefly.

    “There was intelligence.”

    “Then, wouldn’t it have been better to apprehend the traitors beforehand?”

    “Are you suggesting I should have arrested my own brother without solid evidence?”

    At Sejong’s question, Maeng Sa-seong too had to bow his head.

    “Please forgive my short-sightedness! I was merely concerned for Your Majesty’s safety!”

    “I understand why you said so, and I will not fault you for it. However, know that I too had much to consider.”

    “I am profoundly grateful.”

    As the conversation with Maeng Sa-seong concluded, the Minister of Punishments stepped forward.

    “How shall we deal with the culprits?”

    “The unrest in the south has not yet been quelled. Once that is settled, we will handle the cases together.”

    “I shall obey Your Majesty’s command.”

    Not long after Sejong finished speaking, the Chief Eunuch entered to report.

    “The Training Commander requests an audience, Your Majesty.”

    “Let him in.”

    Shortly after, the Training Commander entered Geunjeongjeon, paid his respects to Sejong, and then spoke.

    “I have imprisoned the leaders of the traitors.”

    “Good work.”

    “Also, a message has arrived from the law enforcement office. A group of bodies has been left in front of the office. Judging by their attire, they appear to be traitors involved in the recent uprising.”

    “Is that so?”

    ‘Seems like the secret police has wrapped things up.’

    Sejong, having a rough idea of who was behind this, immediately gave an order.

    “Find out who has done this good deed and report to me.”

    “Yes. Additionally, reports have come from our soldiers sent to Bukchon. They have secured a list of the leaders and accomplices of the traitors.”

    “Those who have received training are at risk of fleeing. Apprehend them immediately and imprison them.”

    “I obey Your Majesty’s command!”

    “And what about the handling of the traitors’ family estates?”

    “According to the report brought by the messenger, the suppression has been completed.”

    “Send messengers at dawn to transport them all.”

    “Yes!”

    “And ensure the soldiers are given sufficient rest. They may need to move to the south immediately if required.”

    “Yes!”

    Having received Sejong’s orders, the Training Commander saluted and promptly exited.

    “The smell of blood is overwhelming…”

    “I feel like I might vomit…”

    As the ministers listened to Sejong and the Training Commander’s conversation, they were hit by a strong scent of blood, evoking a sense of nausea.

    It was a reminder of the gruesome political purges they had experienced during King Taejong’s reign, which had left a lasting impression of bloodshed and revulsion in their minds.

    * * *

    As soon as day broke the next day, a messenger rode swiftly to the Gyeonggi military camp.

    Sejong continued to conduct state affairs while still clad in his armor.

    “Your Majesty, isn’t it time to take off the armor now?”

    Chief State Councilor Lee Jik suggested Sejong should remove his armor, but Sejong decisively refused.

    “I will not remove it until the unrest in the south has been resolved.”

    The ministers had no choice but to remain silent in response to Sejong’s firm decision.

    Reports of the battle between the rebel forces in the south and the Joseon army reached the court on the sixth day after the uprising began.

    “Your Majesty! A report from the Chungcheong military camp! It’s a great victory!”

    Entering Geunjeongjeon breathlessly, Jo Mal-saeng announced the victory of the Joseon army and handed the report to the Chief Eunuch.

    After receiving the report from the Chief Eunuch, Sejong quickly read through it.

    Having finished reading the contents of the report, Sejong turned to the ministers.

    “This is indeed good news. The soldiers of the Chungcheong military camp have annihilated the rebels in Cheonan.”

    It was the first victory report that the court had been eagerly awaiting.

    1. King Taejo[]

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