Chapter Eighteen- Emotions…
Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence…
Ju Won watched Da Yeong pace in front of her chambers. Despite the fact that she was in the main house, she still wore a yungbok.
He took a step toward her, then stepped back immediately.
Earlier, he had found out that they were supposed to escort the Grand Prince back to Gwang Guk the next day.
Da Yeong had requested that they go with the Grand Prince to the Capital, but Lord Kim had not wanted this.
The Prime Minister had left for the Capital the day before, and there was no telling what traps he had set in their paths.
Lord Kim however, trusted the Prince with his daughter. He was also not in the mood to battle a fully determined Da Yeong.
He knew his daughter too well so, he had let them both accompany the Prince.
Ju Won was not particularly happy about it.
On one hand, he liked being around the Prince. He was nothing like what Ju Won imagined a Prince to be. From being a secret vigilante, to being an expert swordsman, to randomly disguising himself to go out, to hating his title… The Prince was surprising at almost every turn.
He had even agreed to train Da Yeong, and then Ju Won, who had swallowed his pride and asked recently.
On the other hand, Ju Won had wanted the Prince away from Da Yeong. The Prince did not even know she was a woman, and yet…
Ju Won had not gotten over the library incident. It had hurt too much, seeing Da Yeong embrace the Prince. Or even the Prince’s reaction!
Now, they were supposed to spend more time escorting him.
Emboldened by the thought, he walked up to her. She spun around to face him when she heard him approach.
“Hyeong-nim!” She said in greeting, smiling up at him.
“Da Yeong-ah.” He said, taking her hand. She looked a bit surprised, but did not pull away.
“Da Yeong-ah.” He repeated. “Come with me.”
“Hyeong-.” She began, but he had turned, pulling her with him.
A few minutes later, he had led her to a small cliff. The cliff overlooked the whole of Lord Kim’s vast compound, the lake and parts of the town. As children, Ju Won and Da Yeong had come here a lot.
He stopped suddenly and turned to face her.
“Da Yeong-ah. Do you want to marry the Prince?” He asked directly.
Da Yeong was surprised by the question. She peered up at Ju Won, stepping closer.
“Hyeong-nim. Why are you asking that?” She asked, studying him curiously. He took a step back, but continued, looking at her squarely.
“I’m asking if you want to marry the Prince… You never wanted this marriage. You would be giving up everything to live in the Palace.”
Da Yeong looked at him curiously. He was voicing her fears of the marriage. And yet, some part of her had begun telling her it may not be so bad. Still, she worried.
“But Hyeong-nim, whether I want the marriage or not, there is no way out. Just yesterday, Abeoji had a talk with me about how I should live and act in the Palace.”
She shuddered at the memory. She would have basically no freedom in the Palace!
“Tch! Why is Hyeong bringing up the marriage?”
“I have always spoken directly, so I will come out and say it. I like you.” He said with a rush of breath. She looked slightly confused.
Da Yeong was weighing her thoughts. Whatever he was trying to say must be important. They had not come here in years. She answered frankly.
“I like Hyeong-nim as wel-.” He rose a hand cutting her off.
“I don’t mean feelings between brother and sister.” He watched his words sink in, and her eyes widened. She tried to take a step back, but he caught her hand, gently, but firmly holding her in place.
“I don’t know when it started, but toward you, I have developed feelings. At first I did not notice, but I knew for sure, when I heard you were to marry Daegun. Please come over to me.”
Da Yeong’s thoughts were reeling. It did not make any sense to her. Or perhaps it did…
She remembered his low spirits and his moods around the Prince sometimes.
But, Her? Of all people? She was careless, loud, plain and did not care about things ladies should care about. She glanced away.
“Why me?” She found herself asking, not even aware she had spoken out, till he answered.
“Because you are Da Yeong.” He answered without hesitation. “I find you attractive and I find every aspect of you perfect. With me, you will never need to change anything.” Her wide eyes had darted back to his, stunned.
Da Yeong thought it was the sweetest thing she had ever heard, and her heart briefly skipped a beat…
But then a face, another face, swam before her eyes. She blinked, and the spell was broken. Thoughts of the Grand Prince filled her mind at once…
Him dragging her to his kitchens… Him leaning in close to her face… Him breaking her fall that early dawn… His obvious discomfort while trying to lie that same morning… Him flicking her forehead… The way he moved with the sword… Him training her… Him giving her a headlock, then helping her up when she fell…
The last thought was the image of her embracing him in the library.
It made Da Yeong jerk her hand away from Ju Won. She turned slightly away from him.
“Mianhae, Hyeong-nim.” She said. “I can’t accept your feelings… Not till I have settled my own heart.” She studied him out of the corner of her eyes, fearing his reaction. She suddenly felt bad, and hoped he would not hate her.
Ju Won sighed as he gazed down at her.
He had seen the emotions flickering across her face before she had turned away. She had always been fairly easy to read.
He also sensed her fear… She thought she had offended him. He took her hand again, and she turned to face him in surprise.
“Da Yeong-ah, did you think I would give up so easily?”
“Hyeong-nim” He smiled and she seemed to relax a little.
“I don’t accept your answer… Yet. Sort out your feelings and think about it.” She tried to remove her hand, but he caught it.
“Da Yeong-ah, regardless of your answer…” He poked her forehead then released her arm. “I’m still the same.”
“Ah! Hyeong-nim!” She protested and he chuckled, moving past her.
“Let’s go.” He said, already heading back.
“Ya, Hyeong! Let’s go together!” She said, hurrying to reach him.
Despite his words, she suspected he could not be fine. She felt like an invisible line had been crossed.
Ju Won walked quietly beside her. Deep down, he was hurt, but he would never show that to Da Yeong. He did not want her to be worried or pressured.
Her reaction earlier had confirmed his fears after the library incident. Her heart must have been moved by the Grand Prince.
He wondered if he still stood a chance, but he refused to give up easily. There was a small ray of hope. He knew she was still confused, so he would wait and see.
The Royal palanquin left Lord Kim’s household at dawn. The roadsides were crowded with spectators, especially ladies, who wanted to get a glimpse of the Grand Prince.
Over night, the Gisaengs in Nam Guk had been spreading tales, making a big deal about the Grand Prince’s perfect features, and the crowd wanted to see for themselves.
Over the past few days, Tae Jun had kept feeling attracted to Do Young at odd moments. Especially when the young man smiled, or laughed, or even did something silly…
Even with his worry over Chun Hwa, the pull had been there, and he had subconsciously found he was seeking Do Young’s company to distract himself.
After what had happened in the library, Do Young had become a lot more quiet. His smiles and laughter had become rare.
Angrily, Tae Jun realized he missed the lively personality and partly berated himself for reacting so harshly. Then again, he did not want to encourage such behavior…
Feeling confused by his strange attraction to a fellow man, he had gone to the gyobang in Nam Guk the previous day.
This had delighted the Gisaengs.
Most of the older ones had heard the rumours over the years…
“Daegun is extremely handsome!”
“Daegun is truly like the sun!”
“Daegun is amazing to look at!”
“Daegun’s features are daebak!”
…of course the women had flocked around him to see for themselves.
Throughout his stay in Nam Guk, the Grand Prince had not ventured out of Lord Kim’s compound. (At least they thought so. He, Do Young and Ju Won had gone around the town disguised several times).
To the Gisaengs, this was the only opportunity to get a good look at him, and they were not disappointed.
“Omo! He is divine!” One had stated openly, her hand flying to her throat. Then it had become active chaos, as they had all vied for his attention.
Used to such reactions by now, Tae Jun and So Yeon had handled them efficiently, selecting a very pleased few for drinking company. He had left the gyobang a little later, still dissatisfied. He was obviously still attracted to women, and yet…
Now, thanks to the Gisaengs, the roadsides were lined with curious spectators, hoping the Grand Prince would look out of the palanquin.
They did not realize it was a waste of time.
The Grand Prince was not inside it…
Da Yeong looked up at the person riding ahead of her. They were all riding, using back roads and going through the woods. They had set out very early, the Prince going with only So Yeon, herself, Ju Won, and another guard.
She had been pleased when he had chosen not to go in the royal palanquin, or to take the usual route.
Da Yeong had explained her terrible dream to him, but he had ignored her completely, even when she reminded him of the silent monk.
To her surprise that morning, they had left without the palanquin in a smaller party.
“Don’t think it’s because of you…” He had said at her surprised look. Then he had mounted his horse, looking down at her. “And don’t slow us down.” He smirked, turning the horse away.
They had all mounted as well and were on their way. The Prince was going back home…
Joo Chung Jae watched the palanquin pass, the guards on high alert, looking around them. The Prime Minister had asked him to kill the Grand Prince, but for once, he had not felt like blindly obeying.
He drew an arrow and fired it at the palanquin, throwing the guards into their defensive states.
Right now, Chung Jae was making a show of attacking the Grand Prince.
He knew the Prince was not in the palanquin. He had always known the Grand Prince was secretly clever, so he had been going to watch Lord Kim’s gates before dawn over the last few days, in case the Prince was heading back to the Capital.
Very early this morning, he had seen them leave separately in a smaller party.
He could have followed, but then he kept remembering the silent monk… His father.
Even though he was not his father in this life, the bond had still been there.
He had not needed to die!
Angrily, he had allowed the Prince’s small party to go and had waited for the palanquin instead.