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    “What has this boy been up to lately….”

    As Sejong was taking a brief break after dealing with his ministers and handling state affairs, he murmured to himself while gazing out the window. The ‘boy’ that Sejong was referring to was Hyang.

    After consuming a considerable amount of human resources, buildings, and not a small budget, Hyang rarely showed up at the royal court.

    “May I be excused from this afternoon’s contest?”

    “Do you absolutely have to?”

    “Yes.”

    “…Very well then.”

    In the face of Hyang’s firm response, Sejong eventually gave his permission.

    As soon as Sejong gave his approval, Hyang began to move busily with the people he had gathered. The problem was that he did not inform them of what he was doing while moving so busily. Actually, he did tell them.

    “I’m conducting research for the livelihood of the Joseon people and for the national defense of Joseon. However, there is a problem.”

    “A problem?”

    “Understanding arithmetic knowledge and converting experience into written documents is taking some time.”

    “Is that so? Hmm…”

    After gazing at Hyang in silence for quite some time, Sejong nodded his head, “As a father, I trust you, my son.”

    “Your trust, Your Majesty, will never be disappointed.”

    A few days after the Chuseok (Mid-Autumn Festival), Hyang and Jeong-cho made an announcement at a gathering of Sejong and the ministers.

    “The matter I and the staff of the research institute have researched.”

    “What is it?”

    “It is the formulas to adjust the ‘continuous-year-cycle’, a lunisolar calendar, that we receive from Ming to fit our Joseon.”

    “Really?”

    At Hyang’s announcement, Sejong and the ministers showed interest. Receiving the attention of Sejong and the ministers, Hyang continued his announcement, “You must have remembered the ‘Solar Eclipse Obsolete Ritual[1]’ from a few years ago. Due to an error at Royal Astronomical Bureau, the timing was wrong and the person in charge at that time, Lee Cheonbong, was punished. Your Majesty must have remembered such occasion well.”

    At Hyang’s point, Sejong nodded his head, “I remember.”

    The event in question occurred in the fourth year of Sejong’s reign.

    On January 1 of the 4th year of Sejong’s reign, a solar eclipse was predicted. As per the tradition, Sejong and the ministers prepared for the ritual in their ceremonial robes. However, the eclipse started one day later than the Royal Astronomy Bureau had predicted. As a result, Lee Cheonbong, who was in charge of predicting the solar eclipse at that time, was punished.

    Referring to past events as an example, Hyang continued his explanation, “The unfortunate incident occurred because the Chinese calendar did not match with ours in Joseon. To fix this, we have studied arithmetic formulas to revise the calendar.”

    Hyang, who had paused his words, gestured to the officers behind him. Upon seeing Hyang’s gesture, the officers presented a few thick books to Sejong and the ministers.

    Revision of the Calendar’s Calculation: Version One? Very straightforward indeed.”

    “If necessary, we are considering renaming it.”

    Sejong, having read the title, flipped open the book and examined the contents. The formulas for adjusting the solstices recorded in the calendar used by the Ming were complexly recorded, in accordance to the actual conditions in Joseon.

    “It’s not bad. It will be helpful in many ways.”

    “As you can see from the title, this is not the final version.”

    At Hyang’s words, Sejong scrutinized the title and contents again and looked at Hyang. “Indeed, the title suggests so. But, looking at the content, it seems to be already sufficiently useful, no?”

    Sejong, who had his own insights in arithmetic, evaluated the value of the formulas recorded in the book as excellent. However, Hyang shook his head. “There are still many errors. The content written in the book is only an approximate calculation. It needs to be corrected. Otherwise, there will be errors every year.”

    “Is that so?” Filled with regret, Sejong closed his mouth at Hyang’s reply. “Then I’ll wait for the proper one. Work diligently.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    With his response, Hyang once again shut himself in the research institute with his people.

    Since then, there was no news even though the end of the year was just around the corner. Well, it wasn’t completely silent.

    They increased their workforce by recruiting mathematically proficient members from the Huis as teachers of mathematics , brought in the Chinese astronomical calendar book from Ming, through regular trade routes, and sent people all over Joseon to measure constellations. They were moving busily.

    And whenever these things happened, Hyang always wrote a report and submitted it to Sejong.

    “Astronomical observation equipment? What is this?”

    “It’s literally equipment for observing celestial bodies.”

    “The report seems a bit sparse?”

    At Sejong’s observation, Hyang looked at the officials and ministers, and answered in a low voice.

    “I will submit a separate report later. For external purposes, this level of detail is just right.”

    “Huh?” Sejong, who was pondering what Hyang’s answer meant, sighed, “Hoo~. I understand what you’re saying.”

    That night, Sejong, who climbed up to the pavilion alone, sighed as he looked in the direction of the Eastern Palace.

    “Hoo~. You’re carrying a heavy burden because this father and country are weak.”

    The astronomical observation equipment Hyang mentioned were equipments to observe specific events such as ‘Ritual of Praying for Rain and Clear Skies[2]’ (Hocheonui), ‘Great Sacrificial Ritual[3]’ (Daejangui), and ‘Small Sacrificial Ritual[A smaller-scale sacrificial ceremony, performed on a regular basis, often in households or private settings.]] (Sojangui). To make these devices, Jang Young-sil and the craftsmen forgot the night and devoted themselves to their work.

    Until the results came out, the researchers at the institute traveled around the country with observation devices that were officially or smuggled in from Ming Dynasty.

    However, the reason Hyang did not report all this in detail was because of diplomatic relations with Ming. Observing astronomy could be a huge diplomatic issue considering the tributary relationship with Ming. For this reason, the calendar method was also expressed as ‘correcting the calendar given by the Ming Dynasty’, not ‘using an independent calendar method’, and the astronomical observation equipment was also reported as just simple astronomical observation equipment. In this way, Hyang made sure that even if Ming made a fuss later, Sejong would not suffer direct harm.

    It was because Sejong knew why Hyang did this that he sighed.

    For this reason, although he was holding back his curiosity, what Sejong was really curious about was the military field.

    Since the report that he was developing a new gun with Lee Cheon and Choi Hae-san, Hyang had not submitted a report.

    “Why is the Crown Prince not submitting a report?”

    “It’s a matter that is being carried out in the utmost secrecy, please give me a little more time.”

    “Don’t you know it’s hard to execute the budget without a report?”

    “Please give me a little more time. And since we’re on the topic, if we could just have a little more budget…”

    “You, rascal!”

    Even though Sejong was angry, Hyang was stubborn to the end. It wasn’t just Hyang. Choi Hae-san and Lee Cheon were the same. No matter how much Sejong and the ministers coaxed and cajoled, the two men’s mouths never opened.

    “Do I have to wait until that rascal reveals it?” Sejong forcibly suppressed his curiosity, but the work Hyang was doing was growing bigger and bigger.

    Due to major incidents in Ming between the Jurchens, Sejong accelerated the pace of the military reform he had been planning.

    As part of that reform, the existing Training Academy was expanded into a Training Institute, and Hyang asked Sejong for support.

    “Support for the soldiers and soldiers of theTraining Academy? Why?”

    “We need people to actually handle the newly created weapons.”

    “Hmm….” Sejong, who was looking at Hyang with his eyes wide open, made a helpless expression.

    “Ah! Can’t be helped. Granted.”

    “And a little more budget….”

    ‘You rascal! Get out!’

    So, a considerable number of the soldiers and soldiers belonging to the training institute were seconded and assigned to Hyang. With the manpower supported in this way, Hyang built a training ground for them to train, which was under Namsan in the southeast, a place with a military atmosphere.

    The interesting thing was that the soldiers and soldiers who were assigned in this way also kept their mouths shut. There were those among the seconded soldiers and soldiers who liked to chat, but for some reason, they all kept their mouths shut about what Hyang was doing.

    In addition, the area where these seconded soldiers and soldiers trained was surrounded by high and dense wooden fences, and soldiers were strictly guarding it. From inside, which was hidden like this, loud explosive sounds could be heard every day.

    As a result, not only Sejong and the ministers, but also all the residents of Hanyang were focusing their attention on this forbidden place – the sign hung on the pillar blocking the entrance to the training ground read ‘Area 51‘.

    As time passed, rumors began to leak out little by little, such as ‘A great gun is being developed.’, ‘A weapon that is not one-to-many, but one-to-ten-thousand is being made.’ Along with these rumors, a new word became popular, ‘Game Changer[4]‘.

    Game Changer? What does that mean?”

    “It’s a phrase from the West.”

    At the response of the inner official who reported the rumor, Sejong unknowingly nodded his head, “It’s just like  the Crown Prince.”

    Sejong, guessing the source, looked at the clock. Confirming the time on the clock, Sejong lost his appetite. “It must be time for him to be at the military academy.”

    Various activities made by Hyang gave the Minister of Taxation a headache, but it wasn’t easy for Sejong or the ministers to say anything to Hyang. Sejong and the ministers were all tired from their busy schedules, but Hyang’s workload was also not to be underestimated.

    Regardless of whether it was summer or winter, Hyang got up at the precisely at 6 a.m., attended the morning meeting without fail, and received martial arts training in the afternoon. In his spare time, he went back and forth between the research institute, the military academy, and Area 51, dealing with work. To save time on this commute, Hyang began to ride a horse, and his busy movements along with his escorts became a new attraction in Hanyang.

    By the time Hyang finished his busy day and sat down, it was almost, just before midnight. Before the research institute was established, he used to sleep later than that, so King Sejong and Queen Soheon were rather pleased.

    “I’m relieved! You were not sleeping enough before.”

    “Yes.”

    Whether he knew the situation or not, every night before going to bed, Hyang measured his height leaning against the doorframe, content with his growing stature day by day.

    “It’s my crucial growing period, so I should sleep well! Anyway… horse riding has been helpful in many ways, hasn’t it?”

    The ministers also welcomed Hyang’s regular daily routine because it meant no more headache like to them..

    Of course, Hyang who used to visit the warfront diligently during the important incidents in the latter half of the Gabin year (a year in the 60-year cycle according to the lunar calendar), was a welcome event. However, as the end of the year approached, the ministers too found it hard to contain their curiosity.

    Because right after Chuseok, ‘the Royal Military Guard’ (one of the six ministerial posts in the Joseon dynasty) joined the group of the curious.

    Even Sejong seemed to notice that the ‘Royal Military Guard’ had known something, but the official too remained silent.

    “Your Majesty! It’s time we check the outcome of the recent projects carried out by the Crown Prince.”

    “I agree! A lot of funds are currently being directed to the Crown Prince’s research institute. We need to check if the budget is being used correctly.”

    Eventually, the curious ministers couldn’t contain themselves and stood up as December began.

    King Sejong nodded at the unified ministers. “I agree. Call for the Crown Prince.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    Shortly after, a horse carrying the royal command bolted from Gwanghwamun Palace.

    About half an hour later, Hyang, catching his breath, entered the ministers’ meeting. As soon as Hyang, who had paid his respects to Sejong, sat down, Sejong opened his mouth.

    “I know you’ve been busy since last spring. Among them, there were events like the correction of the calendar which, although incomplete, showed good results. I’m proud that you achieved such results at a young age.”

    “Thank you, Your Majesty.” Hyang bowed his head at Sejong’s praise.

    “But, that’s where the praises stop. There were many other events, but the ministers and officials have not received a proper report. This is different from the promise you made to the ministers and officials. What did you write in the plan you submitted when you first set up the research institute? Didn’t you promise to make the costs used in the institute fully transparent?”

    “I apologize. However, it was a matter that required utmost secrecy….”

    “Do the ministers and officials also have secrets they need to keep?”

    “It was a matter related to our Joseon’s defense, so we had to keep it as confidential as possible until the final product came out. Just in case.”

    “Hmm…” Sejong fell into thought at Hyang’s reply. Sejong, watching Hyang’s humble appearance, opened his mouth, “We cannot always execute the budget based on your word using secrecy as a reason. Even if it’s a work-in-progress, it needs to be examined. We must avoid wasting precious budgets on vain attempts. Therefore, I will audit the works you are carrying out. How long do you need to prepare?”

    Hyang pondered Sejong’s question and replied, “Please give me five days.”

    “Good. We will start the audit in five days.”

    1. A ritual that is observed by the King when a solar eclipse occurs. Since an eclipse is considered bad fortune, the king and his retainers will change into white garbs and perform the ritual, observing the eclipse until it sets.[]
    2. Ritual that is conducted during times of drought.[]
    3. A major sacrificial ceremony conducted to honor and pay respects to ancestors, deities or important figures.[]
    4. This is in English[]
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