Chapter Twenty Five- The King’s Birthday
Jang Tae Yong, his father, and his grandfather, were known as the sage Kings that had brought Eondeog Mun out of darkness.
Before his Grandfather’s rule, Eondoeg Mun had been plagued by poverty, bad governance, famines, plagues, wars and foreign invasions.
His grandfather, Jang Tae Seo had at least taken care of the wars and invasions.
He and the General of the army, Kim Jun Ho (Kim Dae Hyeon’s grandfather), had come up with strategies to strengthen Eondoeg Mun’s military and they had succeeded.
Eondeog Mun was not as great as history recorded, but they were a lot better off.
His father, Jang Tae Yeon, had continued in his father’s footsteps, but had also diverted his energies to weeding out corrupt officials.
Of course, there was still corruption going on, but the system had become a lot cleaner.
This also fairly reduced the level of poverty amongst the lower class, as certain unfair laws had been reviewed.
Then Jang Tae Yong had ascended the throne.
While he had been Crown Prince, he had travelled to foreign prosperous kingdoms, looking into their methods of handling things like plagues, famines and other such problems.
He had brought this knowledge home and handed it to his father. But his father had not lasted long, so he had ascended and implemented the new policies and ideas as King.
Also, with the help of Kim Dae Hyeon, his friend from childhood, he managed to always have an idea of what happened around the kingdom.
The people loved him as King.
And today was his fifty-third birthday.
Which was why the Capital was the busiest it had ever been since his birthday the previous year.
The King stroked Sigan, then let him fly.
Yes, birthdays were good, but after years of carrying the weight of the overtly ornate throne on his shoulders, he was inclined to use trivial things like birthdays to achieve more reasonable goals.
He smiled to himself.
Today was a good day.
The day the Prime Minister realized the King was aware of who he was and what he was planning.
For years, he and the Prime Minister had silently battled each other.
He had lost his wife, and had had to banish his own son, because of the Prime Minister’s ambitions.
The Prime Minister had always been careful, never leaving any trace to himself, but Jang Tae Yong had always felt sure he was behind it.
Then the lady, Pal Wol, had confirmed his suspicions eleven years ago.
She had also revealed something else; something so utterly unbelievable at the time.
The Prime Minister, Sang Yoo Jin, had been his ancestor, the first Jang on the throne.
King Jang Yoo Jin.
At first, the King had refused to believe such an unbelievable thing, but Kim Dae Hyeon had reminded him of the events surrounding his daughter’s birth.
He had still been sceptical, but convinced she could find the truth, Pal Wol had unearthed the hidden Palace records, left by Jang Seung Jae, the so-called bloodthirsty King.
He and Kim Dae Hyeon had gone through the records, Pal Wol translating most of the strange words, and they had found more surprising facts that defied history as they knew it.
Unfortunately, Pal Wol had been murdered before the dark events stated, so she did not exactly know what had happened.
The hidden records had also left some important questions unanswered.
And so, here they were a hundred and fifty years later, trying to stop the same thing, or worse, from happening again.
In the past, for some reason, Jang Yoo Jin had died, and the Shadow beneath the Kingdom had not been released.
Now, the King knew the Prime Minister would stop at nothing to succeed…
The King’s birthday was looked forward to by people of all classes.
For the lower class and middle class, a mass celebration was held, and food was shared to everyone.
The streets were turned into a mini festival, and the King also put in an appearance, to visit the people as thanks for their good wishes.
This had not always been a tradition, but his father had started it, and he had no problems continuing it.
Most people only ever saw the King on this day.
But the celebration that carried the most weight was the one that held in the evening.
The celebration held within the Palace, open to only the nobles.
The Palace gates were extremely busy, as the guards tried to coordinate the arrival of the nobles.
The palanquins, which were usually accompanied by several guards and young maidens carrying colourful lanterns, were dropped a few at a time, and the nobles within were guarded through the gates, without any waste of time.
The lower ranked nobles who arrived without palanquins had things much easier as they and their guard merely showed their identity plaques and were let into a smaller gate.
All too soon, Da Yeong heard her father’s chief guard yell for their palanquins to be dropped.
The previous day, their palanquins had arrived from Nam Guk, with a disguised guard and kitchen girl pretending to be her and her father.
The ruse had basically gone unnoticed, as many other nobles had been arriving at the Capital for the event as well.
To the public eye, Lord Kim and his daughter had just arrived in Gwang Guk the previous day…
Lord Kim had wanted to arrange for Ju Won to arrive with them, but he had absolutely refused to enter a palanquin, arriving on a handsome horse instead, dressed as a stately noble.
Da Yeong envied him!
“Kim Da Yeong Agashi!” Her name was announced and the palanquin flap was opened.
One of the female servants took her hand and she stepped out of the palanquin.
The Palace hall was lavishly decorated, gold plated lanterns casting a warm golden glow surrounding the hall.
The hall itself was in a controlled kind of chaos, as the nobles sat around, holding light conversation and catching up with each other.
Tae Jun glanced around the hall from just outside the wide doors.
All the Ministers and high ranking officials, occupied the spaces by the left of the hall.
They were closest to the raised platform for the throne and royal family, and were dressed in their special official sangboks, reserved for occasions like this.
Their sons sat with them, and he saw Chun Hwa and his father.
Their wives and daughters sat slightly behind them, looking like beautiful flowers adorning the hall.
To the right side of the hall, were the high ranked nobles who had retired in service. They also sat with their sons.
Usually termed the ‘King’s favourites’, most ministers and officials guarded their posts extremely well, hoping to retire and join them.
Again, slightly behind them, sat their wives and daughters.
This was where Lord Kim, Ju Won and Da Yeong sat.
Lord Kim and Ju Won with the retired nobles, and Da Yeong with the other ladies.
He had watched her and her father go in after their names had been announced, and he had had to stop himself from going to grab her hand.
She seemed to be drawing the unwanted attention of most of the younger male nobles… Well at least, it was unwanted to him!
Tae Jun took a while to appreciate how beautiful she looked, as she sat serenely, observing the hall around her.
A beautiful flowery hairpin and adornment graced her woven hair.
She was wearing a uniquely designed hanbok, the full chima, a beautiful deep peach colour.
The jeogori (upper garment) was cream coloured, with intricate embroidered peach vines surrounding the white collar.
The sleeves were different from the shoulders.
They were a lighter peach colour, and the sleeve ends were white with contrasting red flowers.
These matched the red ribbon which bound the upper garment in place, and the shorter red ribbon at the tip of her braid.
At the door, Tae Jun looked away in disbelief.
“Aigoo…” He had never been one to note female dressing, unless it suited his purpose in some way.
He remembered the previous day, when he had first seen her in a hanbok. He and Chun Hwa had been drinking when she came.
Tae Jun had spat the drink out of his mouth in shock.
Chun Hwa had completely dropped his full cup…
Then both of them had hurriedly began trying to wipe away the mess, while she had watched them confused, till they motioned for her to sit.
Later, Chun Hwa had jokingly accused him of breaking their engagement deliberately.
As for Tae Jun, he did not want to admit it, but he was thankful that her previous suitors had run away.
Their foolishness had led Da Yeong to him…
Tae Jun looked back into the hall, his gaze finding her again. she looked like she couldn’t wait to leave already, and he smiled.
She must feel suffocated in that hanbok, but he couldn’t feel sorry about it…
She looked exquisite.
He finally allowed his eyes roam again.
Beside the High retired nobles, were the high ranked nobles who held no official post.
He saw Lord Sang, the Prime Minister’s brother, and among the ladies, he saw his awkward daughter, Sang Hye Yeon.
Further back in the hall, sat the lower ranked nobles and officials with their family.
And in a small corner, were the largest number of Gisaeng he had ever seen in one place.
They had outdone themselves, and he was sure several of them were famous and had journeyed to the Capital to perform for the King’s birthday.
A flurry of movement caught Tae Jun’s eye, and he turned to see his father approaching, his usual line of guards and eunuchs behind him.
The King wore the highest royal occasion robes of black, red and green. The square topped hat with dangling gemstones sat on his head.
Behind him, to his right, was Jang Tae Min, the Crown Prince, also dressed in his ceremonial gonryongpo.
Tae Jun wore his as well, the type reserved for regular princes, and he was supposed to join the procession beside his brother.
He wiped the smile of his face and ran to meet the King, bowing to the ground.
“Greetings, Appa Mama. This servant wishes you many blessings and hopes he finds you in good health.”
The King stopped and quickly hid his pleased smile.
He could not remember when last he had seen his son present at his birthday.
“Rise.” He said simply, then continued on toward the door.
Tae Jun rose and joined his brother behind the King. He bowed slightly.
“Greetings, Hyeong-nim.” He said then straightened. His brother completely ignored him.
The same thing he had done during the cleansing ceremony.
But Tae Jun was used to it.
He faced forward following his father.
At the doors, a loud gong was rung.
“Bow before the King!” Eunuch Eun, the King’s Personal eunuch, and Head of the Palace Eunuchs, announced loudly.
All the guests bowed to the ground, then the drums and the pipes began to play, the beats leading their steps.
Soon, they had passed the midst of the nobles, the King had sat on his throne, and he and his brother had sat on either side of him.
The occasion was officially beginning.