Black and White Ch. 7

Chapter Seven- Father in law

The special envoy from the Palace arrived at Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence at dusk. The moon had just emerged, but was completely ignored, as almost everyone gathered at the sides of Nam Guk’s major road, to watch the Grand Prince’s first arrival to Nam Guk.

Inside the royal palanquin, (at least the one for princes- The King’s palanquin was on another level), Tae Jun laughed silently at the irony.

He had secretly entered Nam Guk many times.

Right now, he actually looked forward to meeting his father in law. Kim Dae Hyeon, from what he had seen, was a wise and impressive man, known for his military strength and sword skill.

He was also the person who had tried to help blue bird, his alter ego. He wondered if Ju Won and Do Young had told him about blue bird’s true identity. Either way, he was sure he was going to enjoy his visit…

.

Kim Dae Hyeon’s Residence…

The household of Kim Dae Hyeon had been preparing for the Grand Prince’s arrival, and the excitement amidst them was palpable. Said one maid to the other:

“I heard he is the most handsome man in the Capital!”

“Aigoo! I heard he looks like a girl!”

“Yes! But a tall and well built girl!” They all laugh and giggle, going about their chores. Then among the men…

“Jeonha(the King) must still care for his son.”

“I heard he is a useless, lazy Prince.”

“Yes, and a womanizer…. Always in the gyobang!”

“Hmm, we will have to see for ourselves…..” And the talk usually went on until….

“Ya! Inom! Won’t you concentrate on your work?!” The head of the kitchens or the head of the general servants usually interrupted.

They weren’t immune to the excitement, however, and several maids had caught both of them either brushing their outfits up, or, in the case of the head of servants, practicing what he would say, and how.

Finally, as the day grew dark on the third day, they had spotted the Grand Prince’s envoy.

.

Tae Jun stepped out of the palanquin, straightening up and taking in the magnificent compound. Min So Yeon, his personal aide and guard, had rode beside the palanquin almost throughout the journey.

Min So Yeon had told him Lord Kim’s residence was more like a small village, the buildings extending well into the mountains.

The household guards and servants bowed to him and his host, Lord Kim, came forward.

“Greetings, Daegun. I welcome you to my home.” They bowed to each other.

“The pleasure is mine, Kim Daegam.”

“It must have been a long journey. Please dine and drink with me.” Lord Kim politely gestured toward the house and Tae Jun followed.

He noted that, though Lord Kim was polite, he was not the least bit intimidated by him or overtly eager to please. He instantly respected him more.

.

Kim Dae Hyeon led him into a big hall set for a large dinner. The one-man tables were loaded with food, surrounded by plenty side-dishes to choose from, and Tae Jun noticed that what looked like all the noble men in Nam Guk were present.

“Greetings Daegun!” They chorused. They all rose, bowing politely and he bowed back. He noted the Information Minister, Lord Choi, and his son, Chun Hwa, who gave him a hidden wave.

He also noted the Prime Minister’s brother, Lord Sang Yoo Min, who was rumored to be smarter than Sang Yoo Jin, but not as ambitious.

There were a few retired government officials, but most of the guests were lower ranked nobles.

The only women present were well dressed, beautiful young women, probably Gisaeng from the gyobang. They were there to pour drinks and provide entertainment, several ladies already playing instruments.

Lord Kim obviously knew how to throw a party.

.

After acting polite and entertained through the meal, Tae Jun had had enough. He was however, stuck, as the food was taken away, and fresh wine was brought in.

It would be impolite to leave, when all the nobles were still present.

“Please let us all enjoy ourselves. This wine was brought specially from the Eastern Kingdoms. Drink Well!” Lord Kim addressed.

The nobles cheered and the lighthearted drinking began. Tae Jun was not in the mood.

Well versed in pretending to drink a lot, while actually drinking very little, he picked an urn full of wine and headed over to Chun Hwa, challenging him to a drinking match to pass the time.

As predicted, his move quickly divided the guests into two. The younger men were interested in the drinking match- most wanted to see the Prince beaten…

The older men discussed their glory day, politics, the younger generation’s irresponsibility and even Eondeog Mun at large.

Soon, Tae Jun had won a lot of battles, challenging other young men to contest.

When the men started to get drunk and misbehave, their fathers, uncles or guardians noticed and insisted they leave and go home. Once a few people started leaving, the rest followed.

And so, soon enough, his plan worked and everybody had gone home (he had said a quick good bye to Chun Hwa, who had acted drunk and gotten his irate father to take him home. He had been aware of the plan from the start).

.

Kim Dae Hyeon sat with the Grand Prince, the two of them drinking wine and playing baduk in his garden pagoda.

He had had the garden made for his wife, who had loved flowers and had spent most of her time in the pagoda.

He studied the Prince over his cup, as the Prince placed a white stone on the board. He was certainly a clever young man. He had never been challenged by the game before, but against this opponent…

He had also been impressed by the Prince’s quick and efficient way of getting the guests to go home. He had avoided being rude by asking to leave or acting bored when he was the guest of honour.

On Tae Jun’s part, he had been surprised when Lord Kim had commended him on the fact, and even commended him on managing to drink so little throughout the occasion.

For once, he had not noticed he was being observed so closely.

Then he had laughed, and he and Lord Kim had become fast friends immediately!

Lord Kim reminded Tae Jun of an older, more seasoned version of Chun Hwa, silently sharp and witty, surprising you when you least expected it. He had always respected Chun Hwa’s ability to read him accurately…

Tae Jun reminded Lord Kim of a young version of the King, his father. The two were more alike than either of them knew…

.

The two men played in silence for a while, the Prince taking in the gardens and admiring some of the rarer plants. Then they began to discuss important matters relating to the marriage, and Lord Kim apologized for his daughter’s absence. After the formal issues were covered, Lord Kim asked.

“I always wondered, why it was that you broke my daughter’s engagement.” It wasn’t accusatory. It was genuine curiosity. And it wasn’t even a question…. The Prince could choose whether to answer or not. Tae Jun smiled, considering.

He could lie and say it was just for amusement….on a whim. That suited his carefully painted reputation. In the end, however, he settled for the truth.

“It was a selfish reason. I did not want such a marriage to happen. It causes problems.” He refilled his cup, refilling Lord Kim’s as well.

“The head of the family finds another woman, because he doesn’t love his wife. Has another child who, in the eyes of society, has no claims or rights in that household, unless it’s an only child, which is rarely ever the case. These children can’t even call their fathers ‘Abeoji.'” He placed a piece on the board, then continued.

“Also for the fathers. Either he favours the illegitimate child and causes hatred and suffering to his wife and legal heir, or he favours his legal heir and causes hatred and suffering to the illegitimate child.

“In most of the cases I’ve seen, it never favours all parties. Lord Choi’s son is smart and responsible, but he is also adventurous and impulsive. He agreed to the marriage on a whim. How do you think it will turn out?” He drank his wine. “I was merely protecting my friend.”

Kim Dae Hyeon listened quietly, considering all the young man was saying.

“It’s a valid reason. I myself think quite a few laws are unkind to illegitimate children.” He picked the small cup and downed the contents, paused, then asked suddenly. “Then, is Daegun someone I can trust with my daughter?”

Surprised, Tae Jun asked him.

“If I said no, would you break the engagement?”

Lord Kim did not hesitate.

“Immediately.” He picked up the wine vessel and refilled both their cups, picking his to drink. “It will be treason to cancel the marrIage, but Jeonha and I have an understanding. If Daegun wants, this engagement can be broken. There are… certain circumstances surrounding my daughter’s birth. I would not hand her over to someone unserious.”

Tae Jun studied him. He did not seem to be bluffing. He was seriously going to break the engagement. This baffled him, as he wondered why Lord Kim desperately wanted his daughter married in the first place.

He watched Lord Kim place a threatening black piece on the board. He countered it immediately, while he answered.

“I’m marrying your daughter because, by intruding on your agreement, I made it my responsibility. That means I will take care of her to the best of my abilities. That isn’t likely to change.”

He refilled both their cups and Lord Kim smiled at him.

“Then I think you and I need to talk. I had decided to reveal a few things to you, based on your answer.” He paused dramatically…

“To begin with, I know you are the vigilante, Blue Bird.”

He was taken aback when he realized the Grand Prince wasn’t shocked at all.

On the contrary, Tae Jun drank from his wine and spoke calmly.

“Hmmm, so they informed you. I assumed they might.”

It was Kim Dae Hyeon who was surprised.

“Who informed me about what?”

“Lee Ju Won and Kim Do Young. Are they not the reason you know I am Blue Bird?”

“Hmmm. I did suspect they were a bit evasive when they returned. They saw you? No wonder Da Yeong-… Ahem!”

Kim Dae Hyeon stopped himself, picking his own cup.

The Prince did not yet know Do Young was his future wife.

He had planned to tell him this very evening, but Da Yeong had risen hell, stating that she wanted to enjoy her last few weeks in her father’s house.

He mentally shook his head…

In a moment of weakness, he had agreed.

He had told the Grand Prince Da Yeong was visiting relatives.

He continued smoothly.

“Needless to say, I suspected something. However, they told me nothing.” He downed the wine, and made another move.

Tae Jun was surprised.

“If it wasn’t Ju Won and Do Young, then how-?”

“Jeonha and I have known for several years now.” He laughed at the Prince’s expression. “You don’t have to look so shocked or worried. It’s not that you weren’t careful. Jeonha has always watched you closely. Besides, you and Jeonha have a common enemy. Watching the Prime Minister led us to you.”

“I did suspect I was being watched, but I assumed Seja Jeoha (Crown Prince) sent-.” Tae Jun caught himself, changing direction immediately, and making his own move on the board to distract. “I nearly followed the person several times.”

Lord Kim knew exactly what he had almost said.

The King had found out a long time ago that the current Crown Prince kept trying to kill his little brother, the Grand Prince.

He however, did not bring it up, and pretended he had not heard.

“Ye. Eunuch Eun (The King’s Eunuch and head of the Palace Eunuchs) nearly got caught by you a few times. He was always frustrated.” He studied the board. “Did you never wonder why I tried to help you? I had the King’s permission.”

Tae Jun could not believe he had been followed around by an old man.

Then again, after decades of handling the Palace, and private errands for the King, Eunuch Eun must be good…

He pushed the thought from his mind and focused on something Lord Kim had said.

“Appa Mama is also watching the Prime Minister?”

“Jeonha suspects he is up to something. No, I should say he has suspected him since before the incident eleven years ago.” The Prince slammed his cup to the table, but Lord Kim went on as if he had not noticed his discomfort.

“He has his eyes on the throne, but we don’t see how he plans to achieve it. He is not in charge of the Military, nor is he the head of a major faction.”

“He has been secretly meeting Shamans outside the Capital.”

“Yes, about that. There’s a lot to the story that you don’t know. I wonder if you know why Jeonha wanted you to marry my daughter.”

“Isn’t it because he wanted me back in the Palace?”

“No. That came later.” He placed another piece on the board. “My daughter was introduced to you eleven years ago. Marriage was mentioned at the time, even though you dismissed her almost immediately.”

Tae Jun searched his memory. He vaguely remembered a loud disrespectful girl that paid no attention to hierarchy.

Omma Mama had introduced the two of them, but he had not been the least interested.

He pushed the memory from his mind. A few days after he met her, something really bad had happened.

“You mean the person Omma Mama introduced to me? I had forgotten.” He lied simply. He made his move, threatening to close in a black group on the board.

“That’s to be expected, considering what happened several days later.” Again, he ignored the Prince’s look, placing his black piece to counter his attack and continuing.

“I refused the request of marriage after that event, because I could not trust the Palace with my daughter. That’s why I was amused that you cancelled her engagement without knowing anything.”

“Hmmm. Some people might call it fate.” Tae Jun said, amused as well. He played another move, blocking in a few black pieces.

Lord Kim looked surprised, but impressed. he placed another piece on the board.

“Fate is exactly what it is.” He picked his cup and drank before continuing. “Allow me to tell you an interesting story of the past…”

.

Da Yeong paced in front of Ju Won. The two were in front of his quarters, having just finished a lighthearted spar with each other. Ju Won sat on the wooden floor before his chamber. He told Da Yeong to sit down for what felt like the hundredth time, but she rounded on him again.

“Hyeong-nim, don’t you think they are discussing for too long. What if Abeoji tells Daegun who I am?”

“For the last time, stop worrying.” He replied calmly. “Master always keeps his word.”

“Really?”

“You know better.” He swept his hair to the top of his head, securing it in a top knot. “Besides, considering how many times you’ve asked those same questions, we can have this conversation in our sleep.”

“Ya Hyeong-nim!” She went over and sat beside him clearly restless, only to get up shortly after again. She looked down at him. “Fight with me again… It would take my mind off things.”

“I’ve already beat you five times.”

“Yes, but out of nine rounds. I beat you four times.”

That was because, two of those times she had gotten really close, and he had lost it for a moment. She had genuinely won twice, however. She was careless sometimes, but when she was determined, she was a formidable foe. He kept these thoughts to himself. “Instead, why don’t you just go in and sleep.”

“That’s impossible!” She said immediately, and she kept pacing. Ju Won sighed, looking up at the moon. It was going to be a long night…

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