Chapter Thirteen- The Jealous Royal
Tae Jun watched Do Young train. The young man was unaware of his presence. He silently observed Do Young’s steps and way of handling the sword.
‘He is not bad’. He thought to himself, admiring the way he moved.
Do Young was all clean lines and precise movements.
He had learned how to use his slight figure to his advantage, making his offense dominant, and slashing out with the sword at unpredictable angles.
It was pleasant to watch.
In Tae Jun’s opinion, all Do Young needed was an improvement in speed…. That, and increased carefulness.
Tae Jun shook his head, remembering all the times his carelessness had put him in trouble…
The day had started to brighten, so he began to approach…
Da Yeong executed a string of moves, bringing the sword slashing down in a wide arc. Immediately, she spun on her right foot, slashing round her right. She was bringing the hilt of the sword toward her middle for an outward thrust, when she saw the Grand Prince approaching.
He was dressed in a brown yungbok, the sleeves, his boots and the sash around his waist, black. Despite the dull colour, it looked impressive. If there was one thing Da Yeong knew about the Prince, it was that he could dress extremely well.
A little too well, in her opinion. What type of man spent so much time on his appearance.
“Daegun!” She ran over to him and bowed. “Greetings, Daegun.”
“Rule number one, he said without breaking stride. He went right past her. “Do not refer to me as ‘Daegun’.” He stopped and spun to face her, as she came up to him.
“Daegun. Your title is the respectful way to addre-.” He held up a hand.
“I do not like the address.” He stated simply.
“But we have been calling you ‘Daegun’ all this while.” Da Yeong pointed out.
“That’s because I had no reason to hang around you.” He said. “Now, I am supposed to train you. I refuse to hear ‘Daegun this, or Daegun that’ follow me about all the time…. especially since you are so talkative.”
Da Yeong scrunched up her nose at the mild insult. “Ah… That’s why you allowed Choi Doryeonnim to call you by name.”
“Ye.” Tae Jun shook his head. Do Young had dropped proper speech again.
“But why, Daegun? Why do you not like your title, and how am I to address you?” Da Yeong asked curiously. “Master?”
“Why I do not like the title is not your concern, and I’m a little too young to be called ‘master’ by you.” He flicked her forehead again and she stepped back.
“Besides you are my first student, so I have not earned that title.” He thought about it, then… “Call me ‘Hyeong’.”
Da Yeong secretly glowed at being his first student, but she shook her head at the idea of calling him ‘Hyeong’.
“Er- Daegun, that- that would be too stran-.”
“You don’t want to? Ok… Find another master then.” He made to leave, but unthinking, Da Yeong grabbed his arm.
“Hyeong-ni~~m! There is no need to just leave.” She looked up at him. “Hyeong-nim. I can call you Hyeong-nim.” She said nodding enthusiastically.
Tae Jun looked at Do Young’s nodding head and started laughing, looking down meaningfully at his hands grasping him.
Da Yeong followed his eyes and gasped loudly, realizing what she was doing.
“Jeosonghamnida, Dae- Hyeong-nim!” She said bowing. She had touched him again! This time deliberately. “I’m sorry Dae- Hyeong-nim!”
She glanced up at him. He was laughing that full laughter again. She blushed and looked down at once.
Tae Jun stopped laughing and looked at the top of Do Young’s head, which was facing him.
“Well, at least your carelessness is amusing. Rise.” Do Young straightened up and he continued. “We are going to be training, so you cannot keep apologizing, whenever you touch m-.”
“Ne, Hyeong-nim!” She yelled seriously, cutting him off. He ignored it. He was pacing in front of her, his hands behind his back.
“Put simply, even in the most basic form of combat, there is no such thing as a Royal or a Commone-.”
“Ne, Hyeong-nim!” Tae Jun gritted his teeth, but continued.
“There are simply two equals, fighting with each othe-.”
“Ya! Stop interrupting, while repeating the same thing! At least change the response or just listen quietly till the end!”
Da Yeong gave him a bright, innocent smile, her eyes wide.
“But Hyeong-nim, I was just trying to be ‘careful’ and ‘un-amusing’.” She said sweetly.
“Ya! Are you making fun of me me right now?”
“A-ni-ibni-da, Hyeong-nim.” She said stressing each segment of the word, trying hard not to laugh.
Tae Jun glared at Do Young, partially impressed. He had not realized it was deliberate. He looked into Do Young’s face, which was desperately fighting back laughter, and he began laughing again.
This time, Da Yeong joined him, laughing freely as well.
Tae Jun stared at the young man laughing, then paused.
It was strange. Extremely strange, but his heart began to beat a little faster. He lifted his palm to his chest, feeling the rapid heartbeat beneath, then caught himself and pretended to double over in laughter.
He stood up, threw his arm around Do Young’s neck, and trapped him in a headlock.
“Aigoo!” He said spinning round with him. “You are this type of person originally, so I guess I have to accept it.”
“Daegun!” Da Yeong screeched.
“What did you say?” He asked, playfully.
“Hyeong-nim! Hyeong-nim!” She breathlessly said, hitting his arm. He released her suddenly, and she fell, ungracefully, to the ground.
“Hmmm. We are going to work on your stamina first.” Tae Jun said, jumping right back into business.
“Ya! After spinning someone around like that, falling is only normal!” Tae Jun pretended he had not heard.
“Hmmm, ye. Stamina training first…”
Da Yeong looked up at him in disbelief. Had the Prince, a Royal who should not be touched, actually given her a headlock? Now he was back to discussing training.
He offered her a hand, and she took it, allowing him pull her up.
From that moment on, the two of them were more like companions, getting along easily…
That same morning…
Lee Ju Won followed the Prime Minister and his men from a safe distance. He blended into the street crowd easily. Taking inspiration from the Grand Prince, he was dressed as an old man with a straw hat.
He also turned and ducked whenever it seemed like the Prime Minister’s men might look around.
Finally, he saw the Prime Minister enter a compound. It was the residence of Lord Sang, the Prime Minister’s older brother.
Ju Won waited around the compound for a while, in case the Prime Minister re-emerged, then he went home to report to his Master, Lord Kim.
The previous night, Ju Won and Da Yeong had returned from training, to find that the Prime Minister’s niece, Sang Hye Yeon, had arrived at Lord Kim’s residence in her palanquin, earlier on that evening.
They were both surprised to find that Lord Kim had welcomed her as an important guest.
They never particularly thought the Prime Minister’s brother was a bad person, but still, they were related!
Shortly after that, one of Lord Kim’s men had brought the news that the Prime Minister was in Nam Guk.
Now, this morning, there was also news that one of the old monks in the temple, had vanished without a trace.
Lord Kim didn’t believe in such coincidences…
The old man, called the ‘Silent Monk’, never spoke and never left the temple. The Prime Minister had been seen going to the temple the previous day.
Lord Kim had immediately asked Ju Won to follow the Prime Minister quietly, and report on his movements. That was exactly what he had done.
Unfortunately, all he had seen was the Prime Minister and his men, going around Nam Guk, to visit other nobles.
It was as if he knew he was being watched…
Tae Jun, Do Young and Ju Won sat before Lord Kim in his room.
Ju Won had just told all of them what he had seen. Other men had been sent to investigate the temple, but they had found nothing.
Lord Kim had sent for the Grand Prince and Da Yeong after Ju Won returned. He wanted the three of them to go and investigate the temple again.
“Daegun, I would not bother you with this. You are my guest. But I know you-.”
“Would want to be involved.” Tae Jun completed for him. “I would go and investigate even if you did not ask.”
“Yes I thought about that.” Lord Kim said. “Besides, you know how Lord Sang thinks, so you would be an immense help to these two.”
Later that day, the four of them (So Yeon had insisted on following them) arrived at the temple.
Tae Jun and Ju Won had dressed like nobles, Tae Jun providing one of his exquisite hanboks for Ju Won.
Do Young and So Yeon dressed like their guards, Do Young, looking smallish in one of So Yeon’s regular yungboks. At first, Ju Won had been sceptical.
“Daegun, will we not draw too much attention in these?” He had asked, holding up the green dopo of his green and silver hanbok. The dapho was completely silver, with pink and green patterns, embroidered at the edges.
Tae Jun answered him.
“Ani. The Prime Minister’s men would also be watching.” He tied a braided brown cord over his own yellow and white patterned dapho. The dopo and baji underneath were light blue. He continued.
“The men would be looking for suspicious people. Any body middle or low class would probably be watched very closely. They would ignore two young nobles and their guards. They will not even dare approach.”
“Daegun is indeed smart.” Ju Won stated in grudging admiration. “No wonder we lost the wager. What kind of Prince goes around playing dress-up?” He mumbled to himself.
He refused to like the Prince. He was a rival.
“Also, are you going to keep calling me ‘Daegun’?” Tae Jun asked.
“Tch. Then am I supposed to call you Hyeong?” Ju Won asked scoffing.
“Ye. That would be best.”
“Jeosonghamnida, Daegun, but that is impossible.”
“Wae? Do Young-ah is already calling me ‘Hyeong-nim’ adorably. Why can you not?” He adjusted the gat on his head, the gemstones which made up the gateun swung, as he turned to look at Ju Won.
“Ye, Hyeong-nim.” Da Yeong put in from the open doorway, where she and So Yeon stood, already dressed. She had arrived in time to hear the last part.
Ju Won looked at her in surprise and she shrugged.
He shook his head, a bit jealous. Da Yeong had only ever called him ‘Hyeong-nim’. He adjusted the silver dapho and tied the black cord around his middle.
He asked suddenly.
“Jeosonghamnida, but what month was Daegun born?”
“Wae? Why ask?”
“Master said Daegun and I were born in the same year… I do not want to call you Hyeong if I’m older than you.” He himself could not believe he was being so bold with the Grand Prince, but he could not back down.
He was surprised when the Prince started laughing.
“Wah! And I thought Do Young was the one with no respect for boundaries and hierarchy.”
“Ya! Hyeong-nim!” Da Yeong protested, but she was ignored.
“I was born in the first month of the year…. Inom.” He added the last word cheerily. (Inom means fellow. Tae Jun is deliberately talking down to Ju Won).
Ju Won looked away embarrassed, facing his clothes. That put the Prince several months ahead of him in age. He thrust an arm into the dapho, angrily…
When they were done dressing, Da Yeong nodded her approval, noticing Ju Won specifically.
“Wah, daebak! Hyeong-nim! You look magnificent!” She exclaimed. Ju Won smiled, happily and she continued.
“Hyeong-nim should dress like this more often. Wait.” She suddenly paused. “If those ladies in town recognize you, they will start chasing after us with renewed energy!”
“Ya! Stop it.” He said, poking her arm, but he secretly enjoyed her admiration.
Tae Jun was suddenly not happy at all…
“Ya! Both of you.” He gestured toward them. “We do not have time for this. Do Young-ah. You will be my guard. Hyeong.” He referred to So Yeon. “You will be Ju Won’s guard.” He finished and started going out.
“Wae? Why is Do Young your guard suddenly?!” Ju Won asked surprised. “Both of us are used to working together!”
Tae Jun turned to face him suddenly.
“If I were doing things normally, you would be So Yeon Hyeong’s guard, not the other way around! However, the role I want to play, you will be better as the noble. Hyeong can’t act to save his life.”
Min So Yeon had the grace to turn red. Tae Jun continued
“But when it comes to the guards, we will split up eventually. I don’t trust you to keep this person in check.” He gestured to Do Young. “So you and So Yeon Hyeong will go together.” He turned and stormed out of the room.
Looking at the Grand Prince, Min So Yeon choked back a laugh. The Prince was jealous! He recognized his master’s sudden desire to annoy whoever he considered a rival.
He wondered why his young master was jealous because of someone like Do Young.
Through out the trip to the temple, it was more of the same. The Prince and Ju Won childishly kept trying to get Do Young’s attention. It was always something like:
“Aigoo! Do Young-ah, do you remember that field? We used to play there as children.”
“Do Young-ah. How good is your climbing. I think we will train on those cliffs over there.”
And on and on they went.
So Yeon privately thought the Prince won the game, as the young man was hanging on to his every word anyway.
Either way, So Yeon breathed a sigh of relief when they finally reached the temple.