A peach aroma fills the room as the Queen and the three concubines sit down for some tea and snacks in the Queen’s chambers. Usually, they meet outside in the gazebo or in the garden, but today is a special day and they want some privacy.
Suk-ui1Suk-ui – the junior second rang concubine. Hwa Jin was Bin – the senior first rang concubine, the highest rang possible. The Queen doesn’t have a rang as she is a superior lady in the palace.
Read more about the rangs HERE. Min requests the meeting to announce that she has made the decision to leave the palace.
They are drinking peach-flavored tea and eating her favorite cakes from back home in honor of her request. Apparently, Suk-ui Min already had a beloved one before she entered the palace. They did not stop caring about each other and exchanged letters almost every week. As the King never visited any of his concubines, no one minded her business, and her provocative letters were never inspected.
Soyong and the other concubines welcome the news quite warmly. Thanks to the Queen’s changes in inner court rules, deposed concubines could remarry and Suk-ui Min planned to be the second one to use that opportunity. The first was Lady Jo Hwa-Jin, who left the palace before the rules changed. She married Prince Yeongpyeong shortly after the new rules were established. Soyong was very happy for her former enemy, as they were childhood friends, and they decided to let go of their resentment toward each other moving forward.
Soyong listens to Suk-ui Min’s lovely story with a soft smile. It was worthy of being the subject of the next Cha Eun-Woo2Cha Eun-Woo is a singer from k-pop group Astro and an actor. In the bamboo forest episodes, we found that Jo Hwa Jin uses it as a pen name to write fanfics. No one knows it’s actually her. novel. It was a love that grew from a fond childhood friendship and did not end when she was forced by her family to marry the King.
But Suk-ui Min also regrets that she has to leave her friends in the palace behind, and the mood in the room shifts from being happy to sad.
“I’ll be missing our walks in the gardens!” Suk-ui Yoon starts to whimper a little.
“Hey, I’m still staying!” Suk-ui Hong pouts light-heartedly. But Soyong knows behind that irritated appearance hides a soft and kind girl as the cutie always cared about the youngest and most innocent of them all.
“I hope you two don’t have any plans?” Soyong asks out of pure interest. It would be sad to be left alone in the palace. Of course, she always has Hong Yeon and Court Lady Choi as her closest friends. But Soyong has grown fond of the concubines as they became friends over time as well.
“We are planning to stay by your side, Your Highness,” Suk-ui Hong answers with a small bow of her head, while Suk-ui Yoon nods by her side in agreement.
“What a relief,” Soyong sighs. “I’m not ready to lose all of you at once.”
“Now I feel a bit guilty,” Suk-ui Min pouts, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. Soon the room is full of whimpering sounds as the four women can’t enjoy their tea anymore. They reminisce about stories they shared in the past and promise to write letters to each other at least once a month.
But this is not the only unfortunate event of the day. As Suk-ui Min leaves the palace, Soyong now has to meet a person she has avoided for a long time – the King himself.
The palace is huge and they could conceivably live here without crossing paths unless it’s needed.
But somehow they always bumped into each other. It happened so frequently that Soyong started to suspect the King did it on purpose despite her insistent requests to keep a distance. She eventually asked the Head Eunuch to share His Majesty’s schedule with her, so she could make plans to avoid him. Since then, they met only when both of their appearances were needed and they were usually in the company of other people.
Suk-ui Min could’ve asked the King herself, but Soyong felt responsible for her as she and Bong Hwan had selected her as a concubine.
“Her Highness the Queen!” the Head Eunuch announces her arrival before opening the doors to the King’s study. He sits on his raised seat with an open scroll in his hands, pretending to read it mindfully. Soyong knows him well enough to spot pretense as they used to spend nights discussing politics and Joseon’s future, so she knew when Cheoljong was truly consumed by work. Back then, they were comfortable being alone together late at night. Well, they weren’t alone, as the spirit was present and she wasn’t herself completely.
“Your Majesty,” Soyong greets him with a bow.
“Ah, my Queen,” Cheoljong makes a face of surprise, setting the scroll down on the table – as if he wasn’t aware of her presence until he heard her voice. “To what do I owe such an honor?”
“I have come to speak on behalf of Suk-ui Min, Your Majesty.” Her formal tone is emotionless and neutral. “She wishes to be deposed and go back to her hometown.”
Cheoljong sits quietly, looking at Soyong as he waits for something. The silence awkwardly goes on too long.
“This is all you wish to tell me, my Queen?” Cheoljong finally asks.
“It seems as if you have something to tell me, Your Majesty,” Soyong counters, frowning as she recalls the familiar conversation. But now the roles are reversed.
“I visited the heir this morning,” Cheoljong starts.
I’m aware of that, Soyong thinks to herself.
“But you of course already know that,” he continues.
So he knows that the Head Eunuch shares his movements with me, Soyong concludes but does not comment on the insinuation. She also notes that he avoided referring to the prince as their son – perhaps in an attempt to escape acknowledging they have someone to share. The last time Cheoljong called the prince “our son” was on the day he was born. On that day they forgot about any troubles, they were just the happiest parents in the world. They both deeply love their son, and the fact that he avoids using words like “we” or “our” did not change that.
“I was thinking, for the prince’s sake, it would be preferable if both of his parents would visit him together from time to time. Don’t you agree, my Queen? I think that would be better for…”
“I agree with your observation, Your Majesty,” Soyong suddenly interrupts him to his evident surprise. He probably prepared more points to defend his proposition.
Soyong has also been thinking lately that it’s time for them to stop avoiding each other’s company. She needed time to cope with Bong Hwan’s absence and figure out who she is without him. While the King needed time to process that the woman he loved so much is gone.
There is only a shell left from her, Soyong thinks glumly. I am the shell, the living reminder of the woman he once loved.
But they can’t live like this forever. They have to form a new type of relationship in their marriage, not the same one they used to have. And Soyong decides she’s ready to try.
“I think we need to reconsider our marriage…” Soyong starts carefully. “Our son shouldn’t suffer just because his parents do not love each other anymore.”
The King’s face is a stoic mask, and only his stormy eyes show what he feels inside. Soyong is thankful he holds himself together.
“Besides, we still share a common goal, to make Joseon a better place,” she continues. “There are some ideas I can’t establish without your support.”
“Is that true?” the King asks sharply.
“Yes, Your Majesty. I only rule the inner palace, but I want to do more for people outside…”
“I wasn’t asking about that,” he interrupts her. “You do not love me anymore?”
Ah, about that… Soyong doesn’t know how to answer. Her love for him has not changed, even after more than a year of living separately. His feelings, or lack thereof, were always their problem. Before the spirit and after.
“It’s enough if one of the two parents lacks feelings.”
“And who is it from the two of us?” His voice is low and tense as if he’s ready to snap at any moment.
“Your Majesty, with all due respect, I suggest we don’t start a fight in our first conversation in months.” Soyong’s voice is firm and cold, displaying that she’s not going to elaborate on the topic today.
Soyong is glad Cheoljong lets it go for now.
The timeline is: since the banquet CJ was hosting on the show happened in May, SY got pregnant soon after, and then the final battle happened in late June – early July (with anomaly snow lol). So the prince was born around early February. And this story takes place in late August. So it was more than a year, and the prince is around 7 months old.
SY thinks CJ never loved her. CJ is still confused about his feelings, but because SY asking for distance, he can’t figure out anything.
We going to see in CJ’s pov chapters what happened and how they drifted apart post-finale and how things didn’t get better after the prince was born. And I hope you won’t hate SY in this story because she’s going to be in denial and stubborn a lot. Hey, but you all requested more suffering for CJ, so here it is.
The next chapter is longer and action-packed, I hope you will like it!
- 1Suk-ui – the junior second rang concubine. Hwa Jin was Bin – the senior first rang concubine, the highest rang possible. The Queen doesn’t have a rang as she is a superior lady in the palace.
Read more about the rangs HERE.
- 2Cha Eun-Woo is a singer from k-pop group Astro and an actor. In the bamboo forest episodes, we found that Jo Hwa Jin uses it as a pen name to write fanfics. No one knows it’s actually her.