This is flashback chapter after the confession about the spirit and before the labor. Set in December.
Kim Hwan knows he’s not the brightest member of the family, and to some degree, he likes that since no one expects much from him. But he also knows he’s a man of many talents. When he helped the King and Queen win their battle he was finally noticed. He received a government post that allows him to travel often and do what he’s best at – make friends.
When the Queen asks him to join her for tea, he isn’t surprised at all. Besides the fact that they are cousins, they also share fond memories about their late cousin Kim Byeong-In.
Overwhelmed with pride, Hwan greets the Queen in her chambers and takes a seat on a cushion beside her table. He exchanges awkward smiles with Hong Yeon, who thankfully no longer looks wary at the sight of him. He hopes they may be friends someday. Just because they could not be lovers did not mean they couldn’t enjoy each other’s company.
“My dear cousin, I have an important task in mind for you,” the Queen declares and Hwan can’t hide his excitement. Finally, a new mission!
“I am at your service, Your Highness!” he says eagerly, bowing his head with respect.
“I need you to organize the very first wedding ceremony inside the inner palace between a royal chef and a court maid.” At first, Hwan is puzzled by this turn of events, but after considering it for a moment, he decides that if the Queen has requested it then it must be important. And if it’s important, he must do his best.
“I will handle everything to the best of my ability, Your Highness,” Hwan promises, smiling brightly.
“There is no need to go to such trouble, Your Highness,” the Queen’s court lady interjects beside them.
“How can we celebrate an important event like this without going through all the proper rituals? Court Lady Choi, you are going to be the first court maid to be married inside the palace. This is a big event!” the Queen explains while Hwan nods in agreement. As far as he knows, allowing court maids to marry was one of the first rules the Queen established once she took over the inner court. It’s understandable why she feels so passionate about this.
“Do it for me,” the Queen says in a softer tone. “I didn’t exactly have my own wedding…”
“What do you mean?” Hong Yeon and Court Lady Choi protest in unison.
“After the lake incident, I wasn’t myself,” the Queen reminds them and Hwan feels his heart ache with pity for his poor cousin. He of course remembers all the rumors about the Palace Witch turning into the Mad Queen after a near-death experience. “I felt like someone else when I got married…”
The Queen’s voice is so pitiful that her maids start tearing up and Court Lady Choi agrees to have any kind of wedding the Queen fancies. At that concession, the Queen’s sad expression instantly disappears from her face and is replaced with a pleased look. Hwan may not be the smartest person in the room, but he can recognize that his cousin has some impressive acting skills.