Chapter Thirty Six- Precious Bonds
Lord Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence, that same evening…
Da Yeong heard the stone on her window and rushed to open it.
“Hyeong-nim!” She beamed at Tae Jun, who scoffed at her.
“Ya! Do you just open your window to anyone at night?” He teased.
“Ani. I already knew it was Hyeong-nim.” She had somehow known that he would come, but she could not explain how.
“Hurry and come out.” He said, then turned away, walking a little distance.
Da Yeong ignored her maid, who wanted her to change into something more ‘elegant’ to meet the Grand Prince.
Earlier, she had refused to change out of her yungbok, so she could go out quickly when he arrived.
Tae Jun turned as she approached, drinking in the sight of her.
He had wanted to come and see her for a long while now, especially since, because they had seen her at his father’s past birthday, the young noble men of Nam Guk hung around Lord Kim’s residence, some actually venturing in, feigning interest in his guards.
This greatly annoyed Tae Jun, but his father had deliberately kept him busy.
“You’ve been too distracted recently! Members of the Royal family always have duties and responsibilities outside their private lives.”
Realizing his father was right, he had immersed himself in work, and had even gone on a few missions as Blue Bird, but he had drawn the line this evening.
He held out his hand for hers. She placed her hand in his and he smiled, noting her outfit.
“Aigoo! You have only been in Nam Guk for a while and you’re pretending to be a man again.”
“A- ani. I was just practicing what I learned from Hyeong-nim.”
Most of the men in training had been surprised to find that the ‘Kim Do Young’ who was leagues ahead of them, was actually the Master’s daughter!
Several had challenged her and she had delighted in teaching them a lesson.
“It’s been a while. Have you been well?” Tae Jun stated, looking her over.
“Ye.” She answered studying his own appearance.
He wore an immaculate blue and silver yungbok, the Royal family crest on his waist, lower-arm, and head bands.
His hair was packed up, and fell down his back, the shorter locks, falling to the sides of his face.
It was a look that reminded her of ‘Blue Bird’, and she briefly wondered why she had not recognized him them.
The cleanly cut outfit enhanced all the fine lines of his body, and she found herself thinking thoughts…thoughts a young maiden should NOT have!”
She blushed furiously and turned away.
Naturally, Tae Jun noticed immediately.
“Uh? What were you thinking about suddenly? Your face has become an interesting colour.”
He jokingly touched his hand to her forehead.
“Aigoo! We can probably boil rice on this-”
“Ya, Hyeong-nim!” She protested, punching his arm. “I was not thinking anything strange…”
“Really?” He teased, and she glared at him, but turned a deeper shade of red. “Ahem. At this rate, will you be able to wait till the auspicious date?” (Referring to the night they would consummate their wedding)
“Aigoo! I get it, I get it.” He laughed, then leaned down and kissed her forehead. He looked down at her seriously.
“How long are you going to call me ‘Hyeong-nim’?
“But Hyeong-nim said I should-.”
“Aish, the situation has changed. Call me ‘Orabeoni’ from now on.”
“‘Ora-‘?” She looked up at him surprised. “‘Orabeoni’?”
“Wae? You cutely call Ju Won-ah like that, while with me it’s always ‘Hyeong-nim this’, or ‘Hyeong-nim that’.”
This had bothered Tae Jun for a while now…
“Ah, I see…” She looked up into his face suddenly, smiling slyly. “Then, was Hyeong-nim jealous?”
“Jealous? Oh Ho!” He chastised, but suddenly was not meeting her eyes again. “I’m worried about you! You! What will people say if you are calling your husband ‘Hyeong-nim’?”
Da Yeong feigned sudden understanding.
“Ahhhh. So it was that?” She asked innocently, but mischief danced clearly in her eyes. “This servant thanks you for your graceful consideration!” She added, extremely politely.
“A……hem!” He cleared his throat loudly, then turned to face her.
“Anyway, give me your hand.” He said, and she looked at him, mildly curious.
“Wae?” She asked, but he leaned over and grabbed her hand.
She watched as he brought out a pair of beautiful gold rings.
They bore intricate embossed designs, and silver was woven into the edges.
Her eyes widened and colour rose prettily to her cheeks. He took her finger and placed both rings.
They were a perfect fit and she gasped softly.
He noted her surprise.
“Wae? Our parents originally arranged this marriage against our wishes, but now we both want it, right?” She nodded mutely and he kissed both rings on her finger, then smiled down at her.
“I’m giving you your very first garakji (pair of rings worn by married women).” He said. “Lord Kim said tomorrow is your birthday.” Da Yeong nodded up at him warmly, her heart thudding rapidly.
‘How did I get such a good fate?!’, she thought to herself, but aloud, she clasped the ring finger preciously and said simply:
“Thank you, Hyeo-.” He shot her a look. “Ah! Orabeoni.” She quickly corrected, then snaked her arms around him, embracing him again.
Used to this side of her by now, Tae Jun sighed in contentment.
“Aigoo! When will you ever be a proper lady?” He jokingly asked.
Da Yeong didn’t care. She thought she was the happiest person in the world.
A thought crossed her mind and she drew back examining the rings.
“But Hyeon-. But Orabeoni, how did you get the exact size?” He scoffed, grabbing her hand again.
“Tsk! Do you know how many times I’ve held this hand? What do you take me for….”
Lord Sang Yoo Min’s residence…
Being the personal guard of an adventurous master of disguises, who had the habit of sneaking into places, had its advantages.
You got so good at it, you could almost do it in your sleep.
This was the case for So Yeon, who easily bypassed Lord Sang’s guards, making his way to the household gardens.
Having followed his master to Lord Kim’s household, he had been sent off as usual, by his master, who wanted to spend time alone with Lady Kim.
So Yeon reached the gardens, and as expected, Lady Sang sat at its center, brush in hand, making simple flower illustrations.
He did not know why, but she tugged at him.
This had been the case since he and his master had first come to Nam Guk, and he had been asked to keep an eye on her.
At first, he had dismissed it as mere curiosity; she certainly didn’t act like most noble ladies.
Of course, that was before he had realized that Lady Kim was an odd noble as well.
Still, whenever Lady Sang was present, his eyes seemed to follow her of their own free will.
He had even been jealous when he thought she was spending a lot of time with ‘Kim Do Young’, and had been as relieved as his master to find that they were both ladies.
Now, he watched her silently, knowing that nothing could come of it.
She was the daughter of a high class noble, and he was a personal guard.
He sighed silently.
Still, he was content just watching her like this…
Hye Yeon was not as willing to be watched silently from the shadows. She tended to be so engrossed in whatever she was doing, that she was usually quite unobservant of her surroundings.
But this did not seem to be the case, when it came to Min So Yeon.
From her first day in Lord Kim’s household, she had known someone was following her, and what was more, as the days passed, she had somehow known it was the same person.
She had confronted him eventually.
“Excuse me.” She had calmly called out, while she was in Lord Kim’s garden pagoda.
She had not even looked up from weaving her flowers.
“I know you are there. Won’t you come out now?”
He had probably debated coming out, but eventually, his silent footsteps had stopped right in front of her.
She had looked up at him.
“Please sit.” She said, and he had.
She had handed him one end of the string she was weaving, and he held it while she finished the weave on the other end.
Hye Yeon had chatted away after that, but So Yeon barely spoke.
He openly followed her about, and even helped her do silly things like pluck flowers she could not reach.
Then he had laughed for the first time that evening, and even though it was because she had accidentally dropped a dish, generously soiling them both with food, she had felt the first tug of her heart.
Then he had defended her before the Grand Prince, and Hye Yeon had felt the second tug of her heart.
She had approached him later that night.
“Min So Yeon -Ssi.” She had called him back as he was about to follow the Grand Prince and Kim Do Young out.
He had come back, bowing slightly.
“Please, do not address me so formally.” He reminded her for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
“Ah, ye.” She said, waving it away, then continuing. “For helping me explain things to Daegun, Kamsahabnida.” She still used polite speech and even bowed a little.
“There is no need for Agashi to thank me. I-.” He seemed to consider his response. “I merely did what I wanted.”
“Wae?” She had asked hopefully.
He considered his answer again, then replied.
“Because I like Agashi’s cooking.” He bowed, then turned and left.
Hye Yeon had watched him go, fully intending to seek him out the next day, but he had become somewhat distant after that night.
Then she had returned home and he had returned to Gwang Guk with the Grand Prince.
And here they were again. Thankful that the guards were used to leaving her alone by now, she threw her brush down, ruining her unfinished illustration.
She got up, grabbing her full skirts, then faced the eastern wall of the garden.
“Ya! Min So Yeon -Ssi!” She called out, then waited a few seconds before adding. “I know you know I know you are there.”
So Yeon was impressed.
He had assumed the incident at Lord Kim’s house was caused by a small mistake he must have made without knowing.
But now, he had been much too silent to have alerted her in any way.
Not only did she realize she was being watched, but she also knew by who.
He smiled, scaling the wall easily.
“Greetings, Sang Hye Yeon, Agashi.” He said with a bow, then straightened. “How did you know I was present?”
“Did Daegun send you to watch me again?” She asked, ignoring his own question.
“No.” He replied without thinking, then turned slightly red when her eyes widened hopefully.
“How did you know I was present?” He asked again as a distraction.
“Tch! I could sense your aura from day one.” She placed her hands on her waist.
“I see. A useful ability. You will never fall into an ambush.” He said seriously, thinking about the possibilities, but she cut his thought short.
“It only works when it comes to you.” She said quietly, her own face reddening slightly as well.
So Yeon was clearly flustered, but he simply bowed.
“I apologize for sneaking in to watch you.” Then he turned to leave.
“Ya! You cowar-!” Hye Yeon had taken a step toward him, but had tripped on her full skirts and fallen spectacularly. So Yeon was at her side in an instant.
“Are you alright?!” He asked trying to help her up.
Hye Yeon, being who she was, was quite used to tripping often.
She was perfectly fine, but such opportunities came rarely. She grabbed his upper arms.
“Ahhh, my leg… It hurts!” She wailed in a pained voice.
Panicked, So Yeon leaned down and carried her, Hye Yeon smiling happily over his shoulder.
So Yeon gingerly dropped her on one of the wooden benches at the center of the garden.
“It hurts, it hurts…” Hye Yeon was still saying.
“Sorry, which leg?” He asked and she randomly pointed. He gently lifted her right, stocking-clad, foot. “Where is the place?” He was gently raising the foot, this way and that, trying to find it, then looked at her expectantly.
“Ah! Th- that’s.. my- my ankle!” Hye Yeon had not thought that far, and So Yeon had caught her shifty expression.
“No way…” He threw down the foot he held, then stood up, towering over her.
“Ya!” She protested.
“Ya!” He returned, clearly angry. “Are you supposed to joke about such things?!”
“Wae- why are you like this suddenly?” She innocently looked up at him. “It’s your own fault for trying to leave…” she muttered.
“Are you excusing your actions right now?”
“Ani! I’m merely saying it’s because you tried to leave that I had to resort to such sneaky schemes.”
“In what way is that reasonable?” But she merely beamed up at him.
She stood up and dashed to where she had sat earlier.
She picked the ruined illustration, then turned to face him.
“This is your fault. You should at least remain till I successfully finish another one.”
She sat down, looking up at him expectantly.
So Yeon looked at her for almost a full minute, then sighing, he went over to sit as well.
Of course, as time went by, she drew another, then another, then another.
Both of them had conveniently forgotten that he was supposed to stay for just one drawing…