Chapter Eleven- New Master
Tae Jun had been at Lord Kim’s house for almost two days now.
Aside from his early morning venture the previous day, he had not done much more than read, and he had become bored.
Wearing an exquisite blue and red yungbok, he and Min So Yeon headed to the training grounds.
This did not go unnoticed by the female servants.
“Omo! Daegun must be going to train today. I just saw him looking heavenly in a yungbok!” Said one maid.
“Really? He is so divine!” Says another maid.
“Daegun looks good in everything! He and his aide, Min So Yeon Ssi!” Says yet another maid.
“Daebak!” They all sigh at the same time and rush to spread the word…
And so, Kim Dae Hyeon’s men in training, got the attention they had never particularly gotten before.
All the female house maids were present.
The Prince had not even arrived yet.
Meanwhile, Ju Won and Da Yeong were involved in an archery match. They had bet that the loser would be the slave of the winner for the next day.
This involved following the person around town and calling him ‘Daegam’, while carrying the person’s bag or any other items. They had played the game as children, Da Yeong winning most of the time (She was a really good archer).
Da Yeong had suggested the game, because Ju Won had been in low spirits recently, and she was trying to cheer him up. She had tried to find out what bothered him, but he constantly brushed her questions off.
Da Yeong drew back the arrow, then released it with a ‘twang’, letting it fly.
“Bull’s eye!” The target man shouted. She stepped away from the raised dais and watched Ju Won walk over to take his own turn. He took aim and shot the arrow.
“Bull’s eye!” The target man shouted again and Da Yeong went over to take her turn. Just then, the sound of unusual cheers erupted, making them all halt. It seemed to be coming from the sparring grounds.
“Ah, Daegun must have arrived.” The score keeper, one of her father’s men stated dryly. He wore an annoyed expression. “The kitchen boy I sent to the blacksmith earlier said all the servant girls have come to the training grounds to watch Daegun.”
They all laughed a little at that, then resumed the game. Da Yeong shot an arrow, deliberately missing the center by less than an inch.
“Miss!” The target man shouted. Now she had missed twice and Ju Won had missed three times.
Ju Won, was instantly suspicious of her second missed shot, and he cast her a curious look. She looked away, guiltily, suddenly interested in checking her boots. He took the shot carefully, aiming for the center…
“Bull’s eye!” He turned to Da Yeong, who pretended she did not notice and made her way to the dais. He shook his head, quietly laughing. Even if he had not suspected anything, her behavior would have given her away…
She was trying to lose deliberately.
Six rounds later, Da Yeong had carefully lost twice more, and Ju Won was the winner.
“Congratulations Hyeong-nim!” She told him cheerfully, throwing an arm around his shoulder, and he found himself smiling.
Looking at her happy face, he felt the recent gloom flow away.
“So, Hyeong-nim, to where do I have to follow you tomorrow?” Her question brought him out of his thoughts.
“Hmmm, since you let me win… You are sentenced to spend the whole day with me! We will go on and explore that hidden building together.”
She immediately brightened at the suggestion, then realized the first thing he had said.
“What are you talking about?” She suddenly could not meet his eyes. “Tch. What ‘let you win’? I did not do anything like that.”
“I understand.” He said stressing every syllable, then laughing at her expression. “Let’s go, Loser aghassi!” He grabbed her hand.
“Ya, Hyeong-ni~~m!” He turned to face her seriously.
“Just call me Orabeoni when we are alone.”
Da Yeong felt weird immediately. She gave a false shudder, removing her hand from his.
“Eeeeek. That would sound strange no matter what.” He was laughing at the grimace on her face.
“Is it that strange?”
“Of course! Besides, what if I say it in public by mistake?”
“Good point.” He said. To her surprise, he grabbed her hand again. “Let’s go.” He said simply, dragging her behind him.
The game had done something good for Ju Won.
He was not sure he stood a chance, but he had decided he would not let Da Yeong go so easily.
Breaking an engagement with any member of the Royal Family, was considered treason, but if that member of the Royal Family broke it himself, nothing would happen…
He would talk to Lord Kim first, then he would tell Da Yeong of his feelings.
If everything worked, he would approach Daegun himself!
Having renewed hope, he made his way towards the sparring grounds with Da Yeong.
They were both curious about the Grand Prince’s sword skill, especially since they both knew he was bluebird…
Tae Jun had received word from Lord Kim that his servants and residents were very close-mouthed. This meant that the affairs of his household were never discussed outside.
This was to be expected, as some of his men spied for the King, and the fact that the Palace guards came from him.
This was good news for Tae Jun, as he could be his true self, while he was in Lord Kim’s household.
Right now, he and So Yeon were sparring with Lord Kim’s men. At first, it had been obvious that they had heard all about his reputation as a lazy Prince.
The men underestimated both of them severely, foolishly approaching and landing on their backsides shortly after.
Now they were staring at them, especially him, with new respect, the more skillful ones, coming forward for a challenge.
Off to one side, what looked like the entire female servants of the household were cheering, their voices rising each time he or So Yeon defeated an opponent.
He studied his current opponent.
The man was big and well-balanced. His chosen weapon was a wooden spear, which he handled with a confidence that came with years of practice.
Tae Jun gave a false opening, briefly pretending to glance down at his sword arm. The man lunged at him.
He waited for the split second when the spear was mere inches from his head, then he ducked, spun and kicked his opponent’s feet out from under him. He swung his wooden sword’s tip to the man’s throat, holding it in place.
The men cheered, their voices almost drowned by the ladies’ cheer. Tae Jun took the sword away, and offered a hand to the man, helping him up.
He was about to face the next opponent, an older man, when he spotted Do Young and Ju Won coming to the sparring grounds.
Something about the fact that they were holding hands immediately annoyed him. Did they forget that they were men?
A memory briefly entered his mind. It was the first night in his compound.
Ju Won had endangered his own life so Do Young would not get involved. They seemed too close for some reason… and that annoyed him.
Tae Jun pushed the unbidden thought away, and faced his opponent, almost too late. He barely managed to parry the old man’s attack, sliding his sword against his own. This person was much better than the others.
Da Yeong met a magnificent sight when they reached the sparring grounds. The Grand Prince was sparring with Jo Sang Min, the third strongest of her father’s men.
There were five people that were considered the best amongst Kim Dae Hyeon’s men. These were the men that never left, either staying behind to train people, or in the case of Da Yeong and Ju Won, because they were considered the Master’s favourite aides.
Da Yeong and Ju Won were at the bottom of that list.
Jo Sang Min remained out of loyalty to her father. Her father had saved his life a long time ago, so he preferred the thrill of training the new men that Lord Kim selected yearly.
And the two eldest had studied with her father, the King and the late Queen, under the same master.
The two of them were nicknamed ‘The Untouchables.’
Now, Da Yeong watched the Prince and Jo Sang Min circle each other. She couldn’t help admiring the Prince’s form.
He carried his weapon like it was a part of him, and when he finally struck, she barely saw him move.
It was like the most beautiful thing she had ever seen…
The two slashed at each other with their wooden swords, the old man, seeming to have the upper hand.
Soon however, the Prince’s moves suddenly became erratic and unpredictable, and the old man was stuck with defensive moves. Then the Prince made an attack on the old man’s right.
Jo Sang Min made to block the attack, but Tae Jun veered suddenly left and behind him.
He could have ended it by bringing his sword up to the man’s throat but defeating the old man in this setting would be prideful and undiplomatic.
He stepped a good distance away.
Jo Sang Min turned to face him, surprised.
He realized what the young Grand Prince had done. So did Ju Won and Da Yeong.
Tae Jun approached him.
“Please permit me to fight you another time.” Tae Jun bowed, dropping his sword. The fight was clearly over.
The cheers erupted at once, and Jo Sang Min bowed back to the Prince. Both men shook hands.
“You fight extremely well.” Jo Sang Min told the young man. He was clearly impressed.
“Thank you Orushin. You fight extremely well too.” Tae Jun bowed back to him. “You were not fighting me seriously, or the results might have been different.”
“Modesty at your age is a rare value indeed.” He said, shaking his head. Then he turned and walked away.
Tae Jun was now surrounded by the other men, who were surprised by his skill.
None of them had ever lasted that long against Master Jo.
Da Yeong did not know what made her do it. One minute, she was standing with Ju Won and the next, she was standing in front of Daegun.
“Daegun. Please teach me to fight like you!”
This request was met with sudden silence. Kim Do Young was considered better than most of them. If they needed further proof that the Prince was not on their level, they just got it.
Also, none of them had dared ask the Grand Prince for training. Members of the Royal family were not so boldly approached.
Most of them were expecting the Prince to reprimand Kim Do Young. However, he simply turned around and walked off, Min So Yeon following behind him.
He stopped a short distance away.
Then, to the surprise of everyone, including Min So Yeon, he turned and asked Kim Do Young to follow him.
Of course, Lee Ju Won followed as well.
Tae Jun and So Yeon were headed back from the training grounds. A little way behind them, Do Young and Ju Won followed.
Tae Jun had been surprised by Do Young’s request. He was beginning to understand that the young man really had no fear when it came to positions and authority. He had asked the two of them to keep a good distance away.
Da Yeong observed the Grand Prince. She had regretted her request from the moment she made it, but thankfully, he had not seemed angry….just surprised. Currently, he seemed deep in thought.
“What were you thinking?” Ju Won asked quietly from beside her. She herself had no idea.
The image of the Prince fighting was still clear in her mind. He was lithe and light on his feet. She had barely caught his movements, but it had seemed more like a dance than fighting to her.
It really was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
And he could have won, but chose not to. That humble, yet deadly sword technique….. She fully understood why Blue Bird had never been captured.
One second, she had been wishing she could move like that. The next second, she had insolently asked him to train her.
“I don’t know what made-.” She was cut off, as the Prince turned suddenly. He walked back to her, towering over her.
“Kim Do Young. Why do you keep surprising me?” He asked
She bowed her head. “Daegun. Jeosonghamn-.”
“Yesterday morning it was the same thing. Saying and doing strange things. Then showing up in strange places.”
“Jeosonghamnida, Daegun.” She noted Ju Won’s surprise. She had not told him about their meeting at dawn, the previous day.
Tae Jun studied the young man.
“Why do you want to learn from me?” He asked after a while. “Your master should be better than me.”
Da Yeong was a bit surprised. She did not expect him to train her, so she wondered why he wanted to know. She answered without thinking.
“Daegun is indeed very beautiful with the sword.”
He took an involuntary step back in surprise, and she realized what she had said.
Her eyes widened and she turned red. “Ah! No. I meant, the speed with which Daegun moves his sword-.”
She let the words hang as the Prince started laughing at her.
Min So Yeon and even Ju Won laughed a little as well, but Da Yeong paid them no attention.
All her attention was suddenly on the Prince.
In all the times she had seen him, he had never laughed this openly. It felt as if the sun had come out amidst dark rain clouds.
Da Yeong looked away, suddenly embarrassed. She did not understand her reaction.
Being boyish, she naturally interpreted it as being drawn to his skill.
She had found a mentor.
Along similar lines, Tae Jun looked at the young man. He could not believe he had laughed so much. This person was indeed entertaining, plus he seemed eager to learn. He had never trained anyone before, but it might be interesting training the young man.
He had found an apprentice.