Chapter Five- Blue Bird
Lord Kim’s Residence…
Kim Dae Hyeon fumed silently, furiously writing letters in his chambers. It was the night Da Yeong and Ju Won had returned with Chun Hwa from the Capital.
Lord Kim was still angry at the broken agreement between he and Lord Choi’s son, and he had unleashed his anger on Da Yeong and Ju Won, berating them for being careless.
“Of all the irresponsible things you have done, this is the worst!” He had told them. Of course, it did not match his disappointment in Choi Chun Hwa.
Then again, he had never really believed it would be that easy…
Da Yeong was stubborn.
He sincerely believed that she had willed the Heavens against this marriage.
‘Still, to have the wedding cancelled for such an embarrassing reason…’ He thought to himself. ‘And I have to get her married before she turns eighteen! Why can’t she understand this?!’ He sighed, dipping his brush into the ink pot.
‘Then again,’ He reminded himself. ‘I can’t tell her why it is necessary…’ He had hidden the truth from her. The truth surrounding her birth…
“Aigoo…” He finished addressing the letter he had been writing, pressing his seal to it and rolling up the scroll…
Then an idea popped into his head.
He hastily reached for a new, expensive piece of paper.
He was writing to the Palace…
Lord Kim Dae Hyeon’s training grounds, the next day…
Da Yeong stabbed the training dummy angrily, scattering debris everywhere. The memory repeated itself in her head. How her father had told her this morning about what he had done…
“I have sent a message to Jeonha, offering you as a bride for Daegun.”
“Stop it right now! Since he destroyed your engagement, he should be responsible. You should also pay the price for bringing an embarrassment to the family.”
Enough! You should prepare for marriage now…”
Da Yeong snapped out of her thoughts, facing the dummy with a renewed focus. She slashed at it over and over again, unleashing the full extent of her anger on the training dummy.
“Heol. I almost feel sorry for Daegun.” Ju Won stated, easily catching the next swing of her sword. “This guy won’t give you the satisfaction,” He nodded at the dummy, “So spar with me instead.”
Blades crossed, they circled each other, then she ducked suddenly, spinning in a wide arc to slash at his legs. He jumped, almost effortlessly, bringing down his own sword. But she rolled away, to a safe distance, standing up to face him. Then she stabbed the sword into the ground.
“Tch! There’s no point in sparring with you… You always win.”
“Ani. I win when you get careless. Like now…” He was behind her suddenly, but she yanked her sword out just in time, blocking his attack. Still, her sudden defence was weak, and she couldn’t block his next attack.
“Ya, Hyeong-nim~~” She whined, when she felt the sword at her throat. “That’s cheating!”
“Don’t you know enemies cheat?” He withdrew the sword. “Besides, we shouldn’t spar with real swords. I wanted to end it quickly, before Master comes back.”
“Tch! Why are you bringing him up? I was already depressed.” She dropped the sword, crossing her arms.
“How could he arrange my marriage to Daegun? That lazy, overconfident, tricky and unpleasant-.”
“Da Yeong-ah!” Ju Won warned. Yet, a part of him wanted to call the Grand Prince names as well. He walked over and picked her sword. Then he grinned.
“This is not the first time Master has planned your engagement. You always find a way out of wedding arrangements. I’m not even worried right now.” He turned and walked away, lifting one sword in a wave. Then he sighed, when he was a good distance away.
He would never show it, but for once, he himself was worried…
Still on the training grounds, Da Yeong sat on the floor, drawing comfort from the sandy ground. Would she be able to give up the freedom of her current lifestyle. She trained, she fought, she went on missions, she wore yungboks…
She didn’t think she was ready to get trapped as a woman… She shook her head.
“Daegun is notorious for turning down proposals.” She reminded herself. Nam Guk might be a small province, but the Grand Prince’s scandals reached the whole Kingdom.
“There’s no reason he would accept mine.” She assured herself…
Unfortunately for Da Yeong, the King, had other plans.
Jang Tae Yong, King of Eondoeg Mun, read the letter his eagle had just delivered to him. He laughed heartily, which caused his head Eunuch to cast him a questioning glance.
“Finally.” He said, gently placing down the letter. He looked up at the Eunuch.
“Summon Daegun to the Palace.”
“Ye, Jeonha.” Eunuch Eun bowed, heading out of the King’s Chamber. The guards slid the doors shut, after he left, and Jang Tae Yong reached for the letter again, a smirk on his face.
Eleven years ago, He had suggested that their two children get married. However, after the death of the Queen, Kim Dae Hyeon cleverly avoided all talks of marriage.
He didn’t want his daughter in the Palace…
But now, thanks to the Grand Prince’s innocent mistake, Kim Dae Hyeon was actually suggesting marriage…
Jang Tae Yong, had two other reasons for wanting this marriage. He had known, eleven years ago, that the young Crown Prince had nothing to do with his Mother’s death, but he had exiled him from the Palace anyway… For the boy’s own protection.
The boy had been the target that horrible night, but somehow, he had survived. The King had wanted to keep it that way.
He was aware that the young Crown Prince knew the criminals behind the murder, but he had refused to speak, obviously protecting someone. Since he was still too young to protect himself, the King had used his silence as an excuse to banish him from the Palace, demoting him from his Crown Prince status.
With a heavy heart, he had protected and watched him grow from afar, proud of his many hidden accomplishments.
When Tae Jun turned seventeen, Jang Tae Yong had summoned him to the Palace.
“You are old enough now.” He said after his son had performed the traditional bows in greeting. “It is time for you to re-enter the Royal Palace.”
Tae Jun had been stunned at first. But then he had bowed, replying without hesitation.
“Appa Mama is indeed as gracious as the skies. This lowly son, however, is content to remain where he currently is.”
The King slapped his hand down hard on the table before him. He had known Tae Jun was stubborn, but he did not expect an outright refusal.
Still, he was partly impressed- and happy. He would have felt worse if Tae Jun had been completely afraid of him.
“Inom-ah! Listen to your father when he is talking.” The Prince bowed quietly, and the King continued talking.
He outlined tasks the Prince could do, so the King would have a reason to officially pardon him. Tasks like volunteering his help in humility to one of Gwang Guk’s health offices, or helping the soldiers- since he was so good with the sword, or helping the central hall of scholars, since he liked reading so much- or even to marry the daughter of a high rank Minister.
Tae Jun had given a slight smile in surprise that his father knew he was a good swordsman, or even liked reading. It made him feel happy, even though he would never admit it.
Still, he was not interested. He didn’t want to reenter the Palace.
Every bit as stubborn as him, the King had tried ordering him to do at least one of these, but the Prince had just politely refused, saying while bowing lowly:
“For refusing Appa Mama’s task, this humble son will receive any punishment!”
The King knew Tae Jun was trying not to be a threat to his elder brother, the current Crown Prince, but he did not understand why.
In his opinion, his illegitimate first son, Tae Min, had never displayed admirable qualities. Even as a child, Tae Jun had easily begun to overtake him in studies and behavior. Besides, there was only one person Tae Jun would have been protecting, eleven years ago.
It was his older brother, Tae Min
In the end, Tae Jun had left the Palace, politely refusing the King’s demands, but promising to think about them.
Now, after five years of trying, the King had the perfect excuse. He summoned the important government officials, to make his intentions clear.
He had also decided to revoke the Grand Prince’s banishment, to support the marriage and so the new Princess Consort, could live in the Palace.
The Prime Minister and his inner circle were fully aware of the King’s plan. They did not dare point it out or object. Once the King had made up his mind, it was too dangerous.
The King watched their inner conflict in silent amusement. He knew they had no say in the matter. The Prince would have no choice either, since he would be taking responsibility for breaking the young lady’s engagement.
He had finally gotten his way.
The second reason he wanted this marriage was the young Lady herself. It was a reason he wished didn’t exist, but it did.
He was going to need her to play an important role…
Three days later.
Dong Man, Dong Guk area…
Da Yeong and Ju Won found a good spot on higher ground, where they could watch the Dong forest route. They had scouted the area earlier, to determine the best point of attack on the route, and they had found it. They had sat at their hidden spot for a few hours testing their ability to shoot arrows from that point to the road. It seemed like they were planning an ambush, but they weren’t.
Their mission was very simple.
To warn a certain person.
Three days before, Da Yeong’s father had summoned them and asked them to warn the famous vigilante, Blue Bird, who was about to walk into a trap.
Blue Bird was rumoured to be a rogue soldier who had become a vigilante. People guessed he was a soldier because his sword skills were renown. He was, however, wanted by the law because quite a few noble men wanted his head. He had been taking back what they had stolen from other people and silently giving it back to the victims.
He also released the family members of wrongfully accused nobles, who had been reduced to slave status and were being carted off for sale or service. Girls secretly talked about him dreamily. Young men, especially those interested in combat, looked up to him.
Some people still thought he was a myth, especially since people used terms like ‘faster than the eye’ to describe him.
Da Yeong had always admired his rumoured swordmanship, but felt he should be smart enough to avoid traps like these…
Kim Dae Hyeon, a firm believer that Blue Bird was a good person, had instructed them to warn him. He had warned them not to get involved in anyway, but to simply shoot a warning arrow. The arrow with a cloth tied to it was a known warning amongst military men.
This time, they were to use a blue cloth, since the blue bird always wore a blue outfit when he attacked. After waiting for a little more time, arrow at the ready, they finally heard the approaching envoy.
Tae Jun watched as the envoy made slow progress toward Dong Guk. Since it was already high afternoon, the envoy would be stopping at Dong Guk for the night, where they would be joined by even more guards to head to the Capital. That meant, he had to get the book before it reached Dong Guk… if at all it was here.
He fully expected it to be a trap.
What he wasn’t sure of, was whether the book was actually here or not. He had asked his spies in Dong Guk and they said the Prime Minister was planning to move something important, but he did not think the Prime Minister would risk it. He was here to make sure and to find out more if it wasn’t.
He quietly watched as a lone man came out onto the road in front of the envoy, looking hungry and disheveled. His plan was unfolding…
Three days earlier…
Since Tae Jun suspected the Prime Minister’s trap, he silently entered Dong Guk and found a bloodthirsty group of thieves. Men with no morals and barely any hearts. He had let them “overhear” the Prime Minister’s plan to transport something important. The men did the rest on their own, even finding out the route through the Dong forest the envoy was going to take.
The disheveled looking man walked toward the envoy, which had stopped. The guards had drawn their swords, making it clear they were protecting something. The man had not taken two steps, however, when an arrow landed at his feet. At the base of the arrow was tied a piece of brilliant blue fabric, waving silently in the breeze.
Tae Jun recognized it at once. It was a warning, but the colour of the cloth bothered him.
Someone knew he was here…
Meanwhile, not knowing what the arrow meant, both sides, the envoy and the thieves, thought they were under attack and charged at each other. But Tae Jun glanced in the direction the arrow had come from.
Whoever shot it, must know his identity, and had even known he would be here. Torn between finding the person and finding the book, he looked back at the road, but saw an answer to his question.
The book wasn’t here.
The Palanquin was filled with a soldier as well. It was customary for whoever held transported treasure items to silently run off and hide with the help of a few soldiers while the attackers were distracted. These men however, where remaining behind to fight, the palanquin now abandoned. Arrows flew into the scene, not caring which side got hit.
Deciding that protecting his identity was more important at this point, he took off, swiftly but silently, in the direction the warning arrow had come from. It wasn’t far from where he himself had hidden.
Da Yeong and Ju Won had easily slipped further away from the fighting, letting the trees engulf and hide them in the forest. They moved quietly, their feet making soft sounds on the forest floor. They had reached a denser part of the forest, and were about to start descending the slope that led to a hidden shortcut, when Ju Won felt a sword tip to his neck. “Don’t move.” A voice said behind them. Her sharp instincts made Da Yeong draw her sword immediately, spinning around. Ju Won turned slowly to face the attacker.
He guessed it was the blue bird.
As the rumours said, he was wearing what looked like a blue military yungbok, bound round the waist with a black sash, and black corded strips of fabric around his wrist. On closer inspection, he actually wore an exquisite black yungbok, with a blue dapho (vest) over it, which fell past his knees. He wore simple black boots. Most of his long hair was bound at the top of his head, falling down his back.
The shorter strands neatly fell down the sides of his face, covering his forehead and almost covering one eye.
It was a fairly common look for young talented warriors. The lower half of his face was covered. Luckily, their faces were covered as well.
He spoke. “Who are you and why did you warn me?” He scoffed. “I should also ask how you know who I am, and how you knew I would be here.”
Da Yeong spoke, sword at the ready, observing him closely.”You ask a lot of questions. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers…. We are simply following orders.”
He seemed taken aback by her reply, and his sword lowered a little. She saw the chance for an attack and lunged, but he dodged effortlessly, simultaneously raising his sword back to Ju Won’s throat and drawing another sword to her now exposed throat.
She had barely even seen him move. The term ‘faster than the eye’ insolently came to her mind.
Ju Won breathed in sharply. He did not like the idea of a sword at her throat. He was about to move his hands to silently pull out a hidden knife at his waist, but they were surprised, when the blue bird removed both swords and leaped back a good distance.
The reason why he had been distracted was that he had recognized Do Young’s voice (he wondered why). He now knew who they were.
“The weapon you are trying to get won’t help you.” He stated calmly. Ju Won’s hand stilled in its progress. He switched tactics immediately and drew his sword instead.
“That’s more reasonable.” Blue Bird said. “However, I never intended to kill the people who tried to help me.”
“We did save your life.” Da Yeong said.
“It wasn’t in danger, but thank you.”
“If we had not-” Ju Won raised a hand, cutting her off. He spoke for the first time.
“You suspected the trap, so you had common thieves attack the envoy first.” It wasn’t a question.
“I suspected you might be the clever one. That’s why, after observing you two, I attacked you first.” Da Yeong felt her face go red at his insinuation that she was no threat. She silently fumed and he continued.
“Tell me how you knew who I was and where I would be.” Ju Won suddenly found him familiar, and began to observe him closely. He responded.
“We don’t know anything… We are just following orders.”
“Whose orders? Lord Kim?” They were shocked by this, looking at each other quickly, then back at him. They did not understand how he could have made that connection. They were far away from Nam Guk. His eyes shone with amusement. “Maybe I should pay him a silent visit…. Tell him how easy it was to catch you two.”
“Do what you want.” Ju Won said. The two of them were slowly retreating from him. “All we know is what the rumours say. We still don’t know who you are, so leave things be.”
“Hmmmmm.” He sheathed one blade, putting his fingers to his chin and annoyingly acted like he was deep in thought. “But I know who you both are, Lee Ju Won, Kim Do Young. Lord Kim’s men. Is he committing treason? Helping a criminal?”
“Do Young-ah!” Ju Won yelled, as Da Yeong was about to attack him. He merely shrugged playfully.
“So hot tempered!” He looked at Do Young. “How careless. It was because you spoke first I recognized you.” He insolently put his sword away. “Thanks for the intended help.” With that, he turned around and started walking away.
Ju Won watched him walk a little distance. That pride and brimming confidence. It reminded him of the Grand Prince. “You. You’re Daegun, aren’t you?” All of them were silent for a few seconds.
Tae Jun had stopped a short distance away with shock and unwilling admiration.
Da Yeong broke the silence, looking up at Ju Won sharply.
“Ya Hyeong-nim, what are you-?” But she never completed her question as the blue bird turned and walked back toward them. He raised his hand and pulled down the mask covering half his face.
“So you really are the clever one.” Da Yeong noted his usual smirk, her eyes widening and her face turning red again.
The Grand Prince, her husband to be, was bluebird…