Everyone has a favorite part of their day and for Cheoljong it is when the Head Eunuchs informs him that the appeals are finished for the day.
After that announcement, the King is free to do whatever he pleases. He may dedicate the rest of the day to training or studying, but today he has more important and enjoyable activities in mind. Today he has dinner planned with his Queen in Daejojeon Hall1Daejojeon Hall – Queen of Joseon residence after the wedding.. And maybe more than just dinner, he hopes.
Lately the Queen has been busy with inner court affairs and has barely had any spare leisure time to spend with him. She has agreed to finally take a rest from her duties tonight: mostly because Cheoljong has been whining to her about it for the past week.
“Straight to Daejojeon Hall,” the King directs his eunuch with a smile. Even though it is well before sundown, he wants to arrive early so he and Soyong could have more time together. If Soyong is still finishing her work for the day, Cheoljong is content to simply watch her without interrupting. The thought that maybe his attention will interrupt her on its own even if he stays quiet didn’t cross his mind.
When he finally arrives at her chamber, he hears laughter coming from behind the closed doors.
It seems like she’s not that busy after all, he thinks sulkily. The laughter ceases the moment the attendants announce his arrival and open the doors. The Queen sits behind a round table decorated with tea and snacks, with Court Lady Choi and Hong Yeon as her company.
At least it’s not other men, the King notes pleasantly to himself as he enters the room. Both of the Queen’s friends rise to their feet to bow and greet the King.
“You’re early today, Your Majesty,” Soyong welcomes her husband with a cheerful smile, while the maids refresh their drinks and snacks before leaving the chamber.
“What were you talking about earlier?” Cheoljong asks curiously as he takes his cup of tea. “It sounded like it was something funny.”
“It was nothing special, really. We were talking about first kisses,” Soyong replies coyly, causing Cheoljong to nearly choke on his tea.
“Oh my, are you alright, Your Majesty?” Soyong asks worriedly, patting his back to help clear his chest.
How can he be alright if his wife is sharing such delicate and private matters with her attendants?
Cheoljong can’t remember their first kiss in her father’s house without blushing. Even now he feels like his ears are burning.
“Why are you discussing such private things with your attendants?” Cheoljong asks with a frown, trying to hide the embarrassment in his voice.
“They are my friends,” Soyong defends herself with a pout. “We were just discussing first kisses and how they are rarely good. Even our first kiss was…” she pauses, searching for more delicate words. “Far from ideal,” she finally finishes.
Cheoljong regards her in disbelief, offended to his core at hearing this sudden confession. If that kiss was bad, what would she consider a good one? He always thought he had managed to perform quite well even though he was inexperienced at the time.
“I don’t want to hurt you, but you must admit, it wasn’t under the best circumstances,” the Queen reminds him. “I wish our first kiss came at a better time. I was just so angry back then!”
Oh yes, Cheoljong recalls it quite well. The way she spit and furiously rubbed at her swollen lips in disgust. She later explained that it was the foreign soul in her who hated that kiss so much (the spirit made less of a fuss about Soyong’s desire for later kisses though).
“It was so…unpleasant,” the Queen continues, not even noticing the look of wounded pride on her husband’s face. Was he really that bad?
“And it was so sticky too,” Soyong adds in disgust, scrunching her nose. “And I almost choked!”
Cheoljong doesn’t know how he is supposed to react to such revelations. Sticky? Of course it was! With the way their tongues moved together, it’s no wonder if some saliva was exchanged. She almost choked from that?
“And…” Soyong is about to continue her torture, but Cheoljong has had enough of it. He covers her mouth with his hand as he can’t bear to hear any more. He also detects some giggles and whispers coming from behind the doors of the room. Surely the whole palace will soon know the details of their first kiss with how quickly gossip spreads. Once Du Il catches wind of this, Cheoljong is sure his friend will never let him live it down.
“Please, my Queen, stop! It’s enough!” Cheoljong whispers through clenched teeth, his face blushing the same red hue as his dragon robe.
“Is something wrong?” Soyong murmurs, innocently batting her eyelashes in confusion. Her voice is muffled behind his hand and he feels her lips brush against his palm.
“I never thought you would remember our kiss like that. We recall it quite differently,” Cheoljong mutters dejectedly.
Soyong puts his hand away so she can speak normally.
“And what reaction did you expect?” she asks earnestly. “At the time, kissing was the last thing that crossed my mind, since you were in the middle of interrogating me.”
Cheoljong is hit with a sudden realization, as he finally understands that they are referring to completely different occasions.
“Are you talking about the time when I forced you to drink the special tea?” he laughs in relief. He was worried for a moment there. Now Soyong looks embarrassed and her cheeks start to gain a rosy color.
“I understand, it was your very first experience,” Cheoljong continues with amusement. “But surely you don’t have to count that as your real first kiss?”
Soyong pouts in a cute manner that only she can manage. But quickly, a wicked smile appears on her lips, and Cheoljong gets an ominous feeling from the expression on his wife’s face.
“Who said it was my very first time?” she asks, looking right into his eyes as she takes a sip from her own cup of tea.
“What do you mean?” Cheoljong’s voice suddenly becomes low and serious. Then his eyes grow round with realization at her words. “You mean to tell me you kissed another man before me?” he raises his voice, too distracted to keep their conversation private from the maids anymore.
Soyong only smiles, entertained with the effect produced by her admission.
“But when?” Cheoljong asks as he tries to calculate when it could have possibly happened. Before the wedding? No, she was locked in the palace for months before that. Before she entered the palace? It must have been that jerk Kim Byeong-in, Cheoljong concludes, suddenly feeling so much hate for her late cousin. But he does not voice it out of respect to Soyong’s feelings.
But Soyong is apparently not finished and gives him another punch to the gut.
“Do you mean my first kiss in general or all of the ones before you?” Soyong asks nonchalantly.
“There was more than one man?!” Cheoljong’s voice roars like thunder.
He is taken aback at the revelation and can’t seem to form any more words. His sweet and loyal wife found the opportunity to kiss multiple men while in the palace. That or while she was still living at her father’s home before the Queen selection. Surely her overprotective father would not allow her to meet with strange men. After all, her family had plans to make her Queen long before Cheoljong became King himself.
Cheoljong can’t help but wonder who the men could possibly be. He was certain one of them was Kim Byeong-in. He can imagine that smug bastard laughing at him from the afterlife.
But who else? A guard or a eunuch? No, they wouldn’t dare kiss a noble lady like Soyong. Perhaps a noble man? Cheoljong suddenly remembers how easily his wife can climb over the palace walls and considers it may be possible that she snuck away from home and met someone.
“Your Majesty?” Soyong’s voice interrupts his thoughts and he looks up to see her hand waving in front of his eyes. He had nearly forgotten her presence beside him.
“Are you alright?” she asks worriedly. Cheoljong makes a sulking face and wonders where her concern was when she revealed this information a few moments ago.
“How can I be alright? My beloved wife thinks our first kiss was revolting. And the worst part is you did it before. More than once,” Cheoljong says in a wounded voice. He looks at her, pouting and looking hurt. Soyong almost laughs at the sight of him.
She smiles brightly, and puts her hands on his pouting cheeks, squeezing them slightly.
“Wonbeom-ah.” His heart melts a bit, as it always does when she calls him using his given name. “It doesn’t matter who was first. What matters is what we have now.” She moves closer to him, almost sitting in his lap. Her face is now inches from his, and he can feel her breath on his own lips. “What matters is I intend to make you the man I’m going to kiss for the rest of my life.”
As those words drop from her lips, she closes the distance between them and covers his mouth with her own. Their lips brush almost shyly against each other, until without saying a word, they both deepen the kiss.
“Are you happier now?” she asks breathily as she pulls away slightly. She stays close enough to nuzzle her nose against his.
“Only if you don’t have second thoughts?” he asks half-jokingly, half seriously.
“I don’t know, Your Majesty…” she teases him, amused with his affronted look again. “I need to try it out again to be certain.”
“If that is the case, you leave me no choice,” he murmurs huskily. Cheoljong pulls her hand towards him and with a surprised gasp she falls right into his arms. Very much the same way she did that one time with that damned tea. But this time is different. This time he looks down on her with overwhelming tenderness, and she trusts him completely, waiting for his move with an affectionate smile. She has chosen to give him her heart and if he needs to prove she made the right choice, he will happily do that everyday.
I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I love plot where characters talking about different things without realizing it and all misunderstanding that occurred. It’s never get old.
Also, let’s say thank you to Sarah, for being not only my beta, but also for adding this line: She stays close enough to nuzzle her nose against his.
- 1Daejojeon Hall – Queen of Joseon residence after the wedding.