Chapter Six- Da Yeong’s story
The Central Palace, Gwang Guk…
Tae Jun didn’t like coming here.
His summons to the Palace, were the few times he could see his father’s face. It was like being able to see the sky, after spending months hidden away in some cave.
Still, he hated the Palace. The Palace itself held too many memories.
Tae Jun had come to the Palace after he had returned from Dong Guk and had been handed the Royal Summons.
Now, he followed Eunuch Eun, who was his father’s personal eunuch and current Head of the Palace Eunuchs.
Eunuch Eun, for some reason, always personally waited for him at the Palace gates, so each time he came to the Palace, he followed Eunuch Eun straight to the Throne room, which was also the Government Hall.
Tae Jun found this a blessing. Since Eunuch Eun led him straight to the Throne room, he wouldn’t be tempted to head to the east of the Palace, where the empty Moon Palace waited…
The place where his mother had been killed in front of him.
He wouldn’t even think of heading to the west of the Palace, where the Sun Palace waited. It had been his palace in the past. Now his brother occupied it.
A brother who kept sending assassins after him…
He shook himself out of his thoughts, when Eunuch Eun and the accompanying guards stopped.
“Jeonha! Daegun is here to see you!” Eunuch Eun announced loudly from outside the elegant sliding doors, which led to the throne room.
Tae Jun subconsciously straightened the dark blue gonryongpo he had to wear, whenever he entered the Palace. It was to mark him as a Prince, despite his banishment.
He dropped his arms, as the doors slid open. It was time for another battle of wills…
Tae Jun sat before his father. The height of the throne and it’s platform, clearly pointed out the difference in their positions, and as usual, Tae Jun felt a bit intimidated by his father.
He never showed it, however… He and his father stared at each other in open stubbornness. His father had just told him that he was to marry Lord Kim’s daughter…
Tae Jun had come here fully prepared to refuse any of his father’s usual requests.
Unfortunately, he had been presented with a proposal he couldn’t exactly refuse.
He remembered the episode in the Dong forest and briefly wondered if Ju Won and Do Young had reached Nam Guk.
He had ordered them not to tell anyone who he was, but they seemed too loyal to their master, so he did not have much hope.
To think that their master was to be his new father in law… He looked up at his father in frustration.
King Jang Tae Yong, his father, reclined easily on his throne. He was a King loved by his people, comfortable in his own skin. Tae Jun had never met anyone as confident and powerful as his father, and he had always looked up to him.
He was still a handsome man, though advanced in years, and he was particularly striking in his traditional red gonryongpo with the jaded belt (The robes worn by kings). His feet were in exquisite heukhwa boots, and the Ikseongwan (crown) sat grandly on his head.
Tae Jun was aware that he had gotten himself in trouble this time. What was worse was the smug look on his father’s face.
In Tae Jun’s memory, that meant his father had made up his mind, and nothing Tae Jun said would change it. He wasn’t going to give up without trying, though. He bowed fully, his head to the ground.
“Appa Mama, please permit your servant to correct his mistake. This is a simple matter of talking to Lord Choi’s son. He can…”
“Nae Inom! Breaking an engagement and reinstating it at your own whim. Just what type of careless behavior are you exhibiting right now? How shameful for a Royal, from my bloodline for that matter. The Jang bloodline have always taken responsibility for their actions.”
“That’s enough!” The King had risen. “You selfishly stopped your friend’s engagement, ruining his reputation. The lady’s father was very impressed with the young man, but that is no longer the case. He will no longer accept him as a good match. Ahem!” He cleared his throat.
He swished his robe aside in feigned anger and sat down, watching Tae Jun, allowing the information sink in. He could already see signs of the guilt on his son’s face. Then he dealt the final blow.
“Besides, there is the young lady as well. Now she is seen as someone who can be discarded over a mere wager. Someone to be toyed with. You will take responsibility and marry her. That way, it will seem like you broke her engagement so you could have her for yourself. She will go from being a plaything to being a highly desired woman.”
He left it there. If he knew his son, he would be filled with even more guilt, and his sense of responsibility would never let him refuse.
True enough, Tae Jun bowed a few silent minutes later.
“This humble servant will do as Appa Mama wishes.”
After that it had been fairly easy. Tae Jun had wanted to live outside the Palace with his wife, but the King had refused, stating that a man of Kim Dae Hyeon’s status would not want his daughter married to a banished Prince. In the end, the King had won, and Tae Jun’s banishment was lifted.
Prime Minister’s residence…
The Prime Minister, Sang Yoo Jin was in another angry fit. He collected the book from Chung Jae angrily, recognizing it as the only good that had happened so far. At least the book had arrived safely. He had arranged for Chung Jae to follow it, just to make sure of that.
He was still seething at the way the King had finally succeeded in lifting the Grand Prince’s banishment. He had known, eleven years ago, that the King had only banished the boy to protect him. He also knew the King intended to find a way of reinstating the boy as Crown Prince.
For Sang Yoo Jin’s plan to succeed, however, he needed Jang Tae Min to be the Crown Prince, not Jang Tae Jun. He had already began to put his plans in motion.
The Shamans he had been meeting secretly were already silently finding their way to the Capital. The King’s distrust of Shamans would be his downfall. The only threat to his plan was the Grand Prince, who always seemed to know things he had no business with.
Sang Yoo Jin became angry again when he pondered the news he had received the previous night. The Grand Prince had either not taken his bait, or he had escaped through some other means.
Everyone that had attacked the false envoy had been killed, but the Grand Prince was not amongst them. The Grand Prince had always slipped out of his fingers, right from an early age.
He also knew that the Crown Prince, Tae Min had also been making attempts on the boy’s life over the years, yet somehow, the boy always escaped…
Sang Yoo Jin slammed his hand down in frustration.
“I cannot allow Daegun to become the Crown Prince!” Sang Yoo Jin whispered furiously to himself. He was going to become more determined and bolder to get rid of Jang Tae Jun. The boy was too much of a threat.
The Grand Prince, Jang Tae Jun, reminded him of another Prince, a very long time ago. A Prince that had done next to nothing, but had reaped all the profit.
Jang Seung Jae.
Jang Seung Jae had been the Fourth Prince of Eondoeg Mun, the Son of a sick, Low-rank, royal concubine. Then he had suddenly become King… Eondeog Mun’s historical bloodthirsty King….
He shook away the unpleasant memory.
He was going to put Tae Min on the throne.
It was easier to deal with Tae Min, who foolishly held on to his hand to gain power. Tae Min, the current Crown Prince was even engaged to his daughter. Yes, when he made his move, Tae Min would still be crown prince. He would make sure of that. He must succeed. Ruling was his right.
When he remembered that night, eleven years ago, he knew that for once, fate had brought him close to achieving his goals.
That night, when he had recalled everything that had happened a hundred and fifty years ago, and had seen all his past lives since then…
The thought of all his past lives, dying early in a life of disgraceful servitude, made him furious. Before that incident a hundred and fifty years ago, he had held immense power.
Yes. The current King and that brat, Jang Tae Jun, were merely descendants of his.
A hundred and fifty years ago, he had been King…
Kim Dae Hyeon’s Training Grounds, Nam Guk
Lee Ju Won swung his sword, easily performing the set of moves Kim Dae Hyeon’s men had nicknamed sword dance, because it was quite entertaining to watch. Despite it’s beauty to watch, it was a difficult set of moves to master, and the techniques brought most grown men to their knees.
Ju Won had mastered it at the age of fifteen…
Presently, he fell into each step smoothly, the lethal weapon he held occasionally coming dangerously close. All the other men had stopped their training to watch him awe. Finally, he fell into the last step, falling to his left knee and jabbing the sword straight forward with his right.
He got up, ignoring the cheers from the other men, and headed to the bigger training grounds. In one of these, there were straw and wooden ‘opponents’ (dummies) that he could practice on.
He needed to pour his frustration into something…
Ju Won had been training almost none stop since he and Da Yeong had returned from their mission. Too many thoughts swirled around in his head, and they were all things he would rather not think about.
First, there was the Grand Prince being the famed Blue Bird.
Then there was Da Yeong’s engagement to the same Grand Prince.
Then the SAME Grand Prince had accepted a wedding proposal, for the first time in his life.
Then there was the fact that Ju Won had realized his feelings towards Da Yeong…
Ju Won did not know how or when, but somehow he had begun to see Da Yeong as a woman. He constantly found his thoughts wondering toward her, like wondering what running his fingers through her hair would feel like, or if it was possible to drown in her deep wide eyes…
It was frustrating because, well, she was Da Yeong! He had been with her almost every day, since Lord Kim adopted him.
Why had he never noticed. How beautiful she was… No.
Adorable. Adorable was the word for Da Yeong…
He shook himself.
He realized now, that his mild irritation, each time Da Yeong had an arranged marriage meeting, had simply been jealousy.
Now, the thought of her marrying someone else hurt him in ways he did not even understand, so he distracted himself the best way he knew how. He worked himself harder and harder.
Still, the thoughts came. He thought of the first night in the Prince’s residence. Of the way the Grand Prince had reminded him of his late elder brother. The grudging admiration he had felt for the Prince.
He thought about finding out the Prince was Blue Bird. He had felt happy that he had bested the Prince in some way, and that the Prince had been genuinely impressed. He had silently looked at the Prince as a challenge and a goal to surpass.
Now it turned out the Prince was his rival in more ways than one…
Da Yeong sighed heavily at the thought of leaving her father’s house. She had been dejected, when she and Ju Won had returned, to find that the King had accepted her father’s proposal of marriage between their children.
She was to become the Bubuin!
She had attempted a protest, but she didn’t bother… If the engagement was broken from her father’s end, it would be a direct insult to the King.
Her father would become a traitor overnight.
This was also the reason she couldn’t run away.
She pushed her hair back in frustration. She had left it carelessly down, after her training, and it was slightly windy. She looked at the trees, which were rustled by the wind.
She briefly wished she was free to just follow the wind… Fly east when it blew eastward. Fly west when it blew toward the west. Like a bird…
But no one was that free. Certainly not the young daughter of a High Noble.
She tossed a particularly large pebble into the lake, wishing all her problems would follow and drown in the inky blackness of the lake. It had been a habit of hers since she was little.
She had always been drawn to the lake, and she had always thrown pebbles in it when she was unhappy. Right now her only consolation was that the marriage was five months away.
She intended to use that time to enjoy her last bit of freedom in every way possible.
Da Yeong was about to turn and leave the lake, when an odd sight appeared before her eyes. She blinked several times in disbelief, marveling at what she was seeing in broad daylight.
It was a lovely couple, surrounded by light, and so engrossed in each other’s company that they did not seem to notice her.
They were standing on the water.
She shook her head several times, rubbing her eyes as well, but they didn’t go away.
She looked closer and realized she recognized them. She had been seeing these people in her dreams, since they had returned from the Grand Prince’s house.
“Ah, that must be it. This is a dream, right?” She assured herself. “I must have fallen asleep beside the lake.” She stepped closer.
“Ahem! Look over here!” She shouted at them. “Can you tell me why I keep seeing you?!” Her voice echoed across the lake, but they paid no attention to her. It was as if they were in a different world.
So Da Yeong did what she always did in her dreams… She studied them.
The lady was extremely beautiful, even with the wide brimmed hat and white veil covering half her face. She had long white hair which fell freely to her waist, and the colourful blue and yellow hanbok she wore, though simple in design, was of an exquisite quality.
It was the first time Da Yeong had seen her wear something other than white.
The man was dressed in a similar fashion. Simple but expensive hanbok, with a light blue dopo and baji and a purple sleeveless dapho (vest) that fell past his knees, over the baji. It was bound around his waist with a brown cord, and there were blue embroidered flowers on the vest, to match the dopo and baji. It was also the first time he wasn’t wearing all black. The lower half of his face was covered with a black cloth.
He was tall, and his long black hair was bound at the top of his head and falling down his back.
It instantly reminded her of someone… But she was too distracted to bother.
Da Yeong shook herself mentally. This happened every time she saw them. She always paid more attention to every little detail about him. Maybe it was because she herself spent so much time dressed as a man.
Every time she saw them, they were like utter opposites that still seemed to fit perfectly. She wondered who they were, and why she kept seeing them.
Then time seemed to stop.
The breeze which blew at the trees, suddenly came to a halt.
She could hear every sound, ten times louder. The last ripples of water, fading to a stop. The trees which were silently falling still. Her own strands of hair falling into place…
The woman suddenly looked away from the man and straight at her. The moment their eyes met, Da Yeong felt blood rush furiously to her head. Her nose began to bleed, and she glanced down to see blood blacker than night, dropping to the brown vest of her yungbok.
Then the man turned to look at her as well.
Their eyes met, connected and held.
It was at that point that she felt herself fall, losing all consciousness…
Nearby, Ju Won, who had been watching her silently from afar, had heard her shouting out at the lake. Amused, he had debated heading over to her, but he opted for studying her silently.
Suddenly, after she had stared at the empty lake surface for a few seconds, the wind had suddenly stopped, and she had fallen into a faint.
Ju Won had run over to her immediately…
Later that night…
Kim Dae Hyeon sat by his daughter’s bed that evening, watching her sleep. He wondered, not for the first time, why his daughter had such a fate.
The doctor had come and gone, saying she was fine and would awaken at any moment. But he knew that what was ailing her was not something a regular doctor would recognize.
For many years, Kim Dae Hyeon had tried in his own way, to protect Da Yeong, but he knew his efforts would only go so far. He and his wife were worried even before she had been born, because strange events had kept happening at the time.
In the sixth month of her pregnancy, his wife, Lee Da Yeong, had fallen off a cliff one night.
Kim Dae Hyeon had rushed from the Capital to Nam Guk when he had heard, but had found her, surprisingly, unharmed. The man who had witnessed the accident, a passerby, had said he thought she would have died immediately.
Later, his wife had told him that she had been following a strange shadow in her dream.
She did not even remember rising from her bed.
Panicked, he had taken her to the major doctors in Eondeog Mun, even secretly meeting the King’s doctor (with the King’s permission of course).
She seemed physically fine, but the man had said he thought black magic was at work, so he had taken her to the main Gwang Guk temple.
The head monk, besides offering to pray for her, had said there was nothing he could do. He however, told him that all hope was not lost. The shamans could help, if he could find them. They had been banished from the Capital a hundred and fifty years ago, but they were still active, and in hiding, in other regions.
Kim Dae Hyeon did not trust shamans, so he had ignored the monk’s advice at first, but when the same thing happened twice more, each time the effects worsening, he knew he had to act.
He had first asked the permission of the King, because it was treason for a government or military official to meet with shamans. Then he had set out looking for a shaman.
Finding the shamans had not been easy, and it had taken him almost a month to find one. By that time, the incident had occurred three more times, and his wife got worse each time.
The shaman they found was a young woman hidden in the mountains with her little daughter.
The villages surrounding the mountain considered her a witch, and she had suffered discrimination from an early age, so she was very weary of strangers.
The first time he had gone there, she had threatened to curse he and his men, if they returned. Luckily, he had seen her daughter peeking out from behind a rock, so he had returned the next time, bringing his fully pregnant wife with him.
The woman had taken one look at his wife and welcomed them into her solitary home.
The shaman, named Pal Wol, had begun to speak, before they had even settled fully.
“This child was a blessing to the Kingdom in her past life.” She had said. “There are dark forces that do not want this child born.”
At this point, she took his wife’s hand, placing a seal on it. The seal began to burn. He Tried to jerk his wife’s hand away, but the Shaman held it still, continuing calmly.
“Attempts are being made on this child’s life. She has a strong protective force around her, so she keeps protecting her mother. But she is an unborn child, so she is losing power quickly.”
Hearing all this stated to him without having said a word, Kim Dae Hyeon knew he had come to the right place, and he had asked for the shaman’s help.
Pal Wol had been hesitant about trusting outsiders, but she had eventually agreed to help. She and her young daughter had followed them back.
Da Yeong had been born after the tenth month of pregnancy.
“This child is an important party in future events to come.” Pal Wol had told him, studying the child the day after her birth.
The baby had been born with pure white hair, but by the next day, it had turned completely black.
Pal Wol advised him to get her married before she turned eighteen, as that would be the year her past would merge with her present.
“She is one side of a card. Without the other side, she would need a husband to depend on…”
“Her name was Hayan. There was a time when deities blessed Eondeog Mun, and she was one of them.” She said this when she and her daughter were leaving his mountain home. She had handed the child back to him.
“That is all I can see, but I know she will be in danger when she awakens….” With that, she had left with her daughter, temporarily disappearing from their lives.
Less than a week later, her mother, his love and best friend, had died.
In defiance of her fate, Kim Dae Hyeon had named his daughter Da Yeong, after her mother. Then he had gone to the Capital, with the child, to tell the King everything that had happened…
After that, Kim Dae Hyeon had become watchful of his daughter. He retired from his post, agreeing to train the King’s guards from Nam Guk, just so he could be around more often.
At first, he had been too restrictive, demanding that guards follow her everywhere, but Da Yeong was a smart little girl, quickly learning to out-maneuver her guards and escape. Being a military man, he decided to train her, instead, so she would be able to protect herself from danger.
When she was seven, the King had requested to meet her again and he had taken her to the Palace. The King had liked the child, amused at her total disregard for all things ladylike.
It reminded him of his wife In Hee, the Queen, who had trained with him and Dae Hyeon under the same master.
The Queen was also impressed by the child and had introduced the girl to her eleven year old son, the Crown Prince.
That had been the first mention of marriage between the two families.
Kim Dae Hyeon and his daughter had remained in the Capital for a few days, then left for Nam Guk.
Before they had arrived back home, Queen In Hee had been killed, and the Grand Prince, banished.
Kim Dae Hyeon had been grateful back then, that the Grand Prince had paid no attention to his daughter. It allowed him escape with ignoring any more talks on marriage from the King.
He did not like the idea of his daughter being the Queen anymore.
Now, it somewhat amused him, that his determination to get her married had indirectly led her straight to the Grand Prince again… He was pulled out of his memories when Da Yeong shifted on the bed before him.
She was finally awake.