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Leaden Rain Clouds


Chang-Min stood tall and imposing over the walls of Hanyang, capital of Joseon, gazing into the night as it spread deep across the outskirts of Kaesong. It's a silent night today. Maybe it wouldn't be tomorrow. He puffed a breath into the cold and patted General Bu-Ji on the back. "Bu-Ji, have you ever been defeated?"

"It depends on your opinion of defeat, Your Majesty."

"Cut that out; no one's here. 'Chang-Min' or 'Brother'. Pick one."

Bu-Ji eased a glance at him, then smiled. "Brother."

He waved. "Good. Speak on."

"I've been a soldier all my life, brother. My blood has never dropped anywhere else but on the fields of war. If you speak of defeat in battle, I have none." He faced Chang-Min fully and rested his elbow on the wall. "You aren't asking about this kind of defeat, are you?"

"If I asked a 10 year old the same question I asked you, he would think of something else other than war." He sighed again. "Defeats are of different measures, all depending on where we find ourselves."

"You're right. But we both have found ourselves on the fields of war. Though you do less sword play, the battles of the Royal Court are bloodier and exhausting than the gore of war."

Chang-Min clenched his jaw, tapping on the bricks. "I . . . have a hunch, Bu-Ji."

Bu-Ji leaned forward as if to pry. "What's it about?"

"I got some intelligence from the hidden guards." Chang-Min dropped his head back, eyes shooting into the starless skies. "Jurchen invaders have joined alliance with Ming and the Japanese Pirates. I heard the rebels of Khitan are making their move too."

"Your Maje . . . er, Brother, rest assured—"

"How many is left of our cavalry?"

"About 78, but—"

"Infantry?"

"Er . . . that . . . we are—"

Chang-Min broke into a fit of laughter. "I heard they are less than a thousand. So alogether, the military capacity of my own Joseon is barely a thousand soldiers. How do we even face an allied force of over 150,000?"

"Your Majesty!"

"Cut it out."

"Brother."

"Speak on"

"I understand your worries, brother," Bu-Ji said, his eyes unblinking and resolute. "You didn't lose hope that's why you asked if I've ever been defeated. You always entrusted me with the most dangerous missions and I've succeeded even in almost . . ."

At that moment, a shade of light spread across the vast fields, accompanied by trotting of horses and heavy marching of infantrymen. Drumbeats joined in the crack. Chang-Min squinted a gaze into the approaching host. In a few seconds, a swarm of men screened his view, spread out in battle array to both ends, torches above their heads. He rammed his fingers into his palm, almost drawing blood. "Holy Dangun, don't forsake us. Holy King Jumong, fight for us."

He turned to General Bu-Ji who also clenched his fist, fuming at the invaders. "Bu-Ji."

"Brother."

"Can you not lose again? Can you win again?"

Bu-Ji shivered, his mouth hanging loose. "Brother . . ."

"Are you afraid?"

He dropped to his knees and grabbed Chang-Min's feet. "Brother! I'm at your service. Let Your Majesty pass on the Royal order!"

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  1. The story feels like a history relived. I love Changmin's character too haha.

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