When Wonbeom decides something he becomes unstoppable…and maybe a bit too diligent. At least this is what his wife told him at one point in her second pregnancy. She had asked him to go all in and not skip anything related to the prenatal activities, but she still ended up complaining he had overdone it. His never-consistent wife sometimes reminds him of a cat, one that asks for a pat and then bites the hand.
And still, Wonbeom followed his word and accompanied her during the whole pregnancy, from day one until now, when they expect labor to start any day now. He had even attended the meeting with the midwife where Soyong was told what she can and cannot do during pregnancy and how the delivery would go. He sat behind Soyong, being her support as she caressed her large belly and listened attentively. The midwife didn’t like his presence at all, passive-aggressively hinting that men shouldn’t know about these things.
“Maybe if men knew how hard pregnancy is they would be more considerate of their wives and show a little more involvement,” Soyong dryly noted to the midwife before Wonbeom could open his mouth and defend himself.
His overprotective wife would never let anyone disrespect him and he absolutely adores it. He rubbed her lower back in gratitude and listened until the end. Now he possesses the important knowledge of how Soyong should breathe and the importance of measuring the time between contractions.
All that effort was only for Soyong to ask him to concentrate on work more.
“You have the kingdom to look after. I’ll be fine, Your Majesty,” she had said just this morning.
He didn’t wish to leave her even for a moment, but he understood her urge to rest without anyone fussing around her. So he gave her a kiss and left. Luckily, Court Lady Choi promised to keep him informed about Soyong’s condition.
Everyone is worried about her lately. Both the midwife and the royal physician pointed out how large her belly is and predicted a difficult labor because it looks like the child is not a small one. Wonbeom had noticed it too, as Soyong needs more help with her daily routine. She has trouble sleeping and needs help standing up. He recalls that she was much more lively and used to go on walks all the time during her first pregnancy. Now she usually sits in a gazebo, embroidering a blanket for the baby, as she did for Hyun-ki before he was born. She made a few with flowers and another with butterflies.
Wonbeom sighs, not able to concentrate on his work. He has tried to read the scroll in his hands for half an hour already, but the words just keep slipping away from him. How can his work be more important than his wife?
“I’m sure Her Highness is alright, Your Majesty.” The Head Eunuch snaps Wonbeom from his troubled thoughts. He hadn’t even noticed when the man came back into the room.
“Did she receive the flowers?” Wonbeom asks. It’s the least he could do and flowers usually put her in a good mood.
“She did and she sent her gratitude to Your Majesty. She was in a rather good mood enjoying the fresh air,” the Head Eunuch politely answers.
Wonbeom lets out a relieved sigh — at least she left her room, unlike yesterday. To be fair, rain was pouring down the past couple of days, and it was understandable why she wished to stay home, wrapped in blankets and listening to Wonbeom read her favorite novels to her. But the rain has never stopped her before if she wished to be outside. If she was in the mood for it, they could spend hours on the wide terrace of Huijeongjeon Hall1Huijeongjeon Hall – King’s residence., looking at the summer rain. It is early in the season and the weather is quite warm despite the occasional thunderstorm.
“I’m so worried for my Queen,” Wonbeom confesses, putting the scroll down on the table. “I must see her, even from afar.” He stands up abruptly, scaring the old eunuch.
But before he can leave his study, he hears a noise in the hallway, and soon the doors open and Hong Yeon rushes into the room:
“Her Highness…” She breathes heavily, looking worried. “Her Highness is…”
Wonbeom doesn’t need the end of her sentence; he runs out of the room and sprints to Huijeongjeon Hall.
He knew it! He shouldn’t have left her side today, even if she asked. He should have stayed closer, watching over her in case she needed him immediately.
In Huijeongjeon Hall everything is in chaos. Attendants are running back and forth with sheets and basins of hot water. And of course, Wonbeom hears the strict voice of the midwife behind the closed doors. Again, he must wait in the hallway listening to Soyong wail in pain.
Last time, he didn’t appreciate the company of his father-in-law enough. Although he had annoyed Wonbeom, he was a good distraction from what was happening. Now his father-in-law is taking care of Hyun-ki, in part of an effort to give Soyong more free time in recent days. Thankfully they both are not here, as the boy shouldn’t hear his mother yell like this. Hyun-ki is 16 months old and he is already forming simple sentences and understanding much around him. When his mom is upset, he always hugs her. Hearing her now would frighten him, and Wonbeom is happy his father-in-law is keeping the prince occupied outside in the fresh air.
But…Wonbeom would also love a little company right now.
Time goes by torturously slowly while Wonbeom paces back and forth in the hallway. In the rare moments when someone leaves the room, he can see Soyong briefly. She looks so exhausted, covered in sweat, and the vein on her temple is pulsing from high tension. He wishes to rush into the room, but the attendants don’t let him. At least Court Lady Choi and Hong Yeon are there: the young maid holds Soyong’s hand while Court Lady Choi stands by a midwife and encourages Soyong, telling her she is nearly done.
But the doors always close before Wonbeom’s eyes and he’s left alone in the hallway again. He nervously caresses the red bracelet Soyong gifted to him. They both wear them everyday and he hopes she has it on right now as well. At least that way he can be with her.
Another hour passes before Wonbeom finally hears a baby crying loudly. He doesn’t wait for an invitation and opens the doors himself, rushing into the room.
Soyong’s skin is still flushed from her hard effort and she is breathing heavily. However, a slight smile appears on her lips.
“Soyong-ah.” Wonbeom falls onto his knees beside her, taking her hand in his. “Are you alright?”
“Dropping all formalities in front of everyone, are we?” she quietly jokes. Her voice sounds hoarse from all the yelling before. “I’ll be alright soon…”
She smiles as she looks up at him and he tugs her into an embrace, letting her head rest on his shoulder. He lifts her hand, kissing it tenderly, happy the labor is over for her now.
“Your Majesty, Your Highness, greet your son,” Court Lady Choi declares and Hong Yeon hands over a baby wrapped in blankets. The maids had quickly washed him, but he still looks quite pink, and of course, he is screaming to announce his arrival.
Soyong reaches out, taking the swaddled baby into her arms and showing him to Wonbeom. He helps hold his head, caressing his son’s black hair. He barely holds back his happy tears as he thinks about how they have come a long way to this moment — from their reunion and decision to have another baby, and now all the way to here.
“I’m sorry Wonbeom-ah. I know you wanted a girl,” Soyong whispers to him.
“Are you kidding? Look how precious he is!” Wonbeom smiles at her and gets a bright smile in return.
“You can continue braiding my hair until our next attempt,” Soyong teases him. “But let’s take a few years of a break before that. I’m a bit tired…”
Wonbeom starts to worry; despite her smile, some signs of pain are showing on her face. He knows labor was hard, but after delivering Hyun-ki she was more sleepy than in pain.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” He peers into her face and notices how she is holding back from wincing. “What’s going on?” He now addresses the midwife who lifts the blanket at Soyong’s feet. He sees how her hand moves around Soyong’s lower belly.
“Your Highness must prepare yourself. Another baby is coming,” the midwife announces to everyone’s shock.
“I’m sorry, what?” Soyong suddenly raises her voice. “No, no… We just agreed that another baby could come in a few years, maybe a decade. I didn’t decide yet…” she rambles, looking at Wonbeom and nodding as if asking for his confirmation.
“Your Highness is mistaken. The baby is coming now, so be ready to push,” the midwife orders. “And Your Majesty must leave. We aren’t finished here…”
Still in pure shock, Wonbeom sees Hong Yeon take the baby from Soyong’s hands as everyone in the room gets ready. He glances back at Soyong, who looks terrified. She looks at him pleadingly, begging him to stay without voicing it.
“I prefer to stay with my wife,” Wonbeom declares, taking Soyong’s hand in his more firmly. “Please continue.”
“It is not allowed. The rules…”
“Fuck the rules!” Soyong harshly cuts off the midwife.
“Excuse me?” the midwife asks again with her eyes widening in shock.
“She said ‘Fuck the rules!’” Wonbeom, Hong Yeon, and Court Lady Choi repeat in unison.
The midwife freezes, unable to form words, but when she realizes she is the only one opposing Wonbeom’s presence, she has no choice but to agree. Wonbeom smirks to himself at the midwife’s shock from hearing Soyong using obscene language. It’s actually surprising it took Soyong this long to curse this time around. The midwife from Hyun-ki’s birth wouldn’t have been surprised like this midwife.
“Remember to breathe,” Court Lady Choi reminds Soyong, demonstrating a series of quick short breaths in and out.
Wonbeom watches it attentively before turning to Soyong and repeating the motions. It was in the lessons they received from a midwife, and they practiced it a lot, but somehow in the moment of actual labor Wonbeom had completely forgotten. Soyong looks at him with a pitiful look on her face but nonetheless repeats the breathing technique.
“Now push!” the midwife commands. Soyong stops breathing for a moment, and then with a loud wail, she lets all the air out of her lungs. She squeezes Wonbeom’s hand so hard that for a second he thinks the blood has stopped circulating there.
“Breathe, please breathe,” Wonbeom begs her once she relaxes. His beloved wife looks so red, sweaty, and exhausted, but there’s nothing he can do for her. If he could, he would take all the pain away from her.
“Breathe…” he whispers, kissing her temple. “It’ll be over soon…”
Soyong continues the series of short breaths before she starts pushing again under the midwife’s command. Meanwhile, Wonbeom holds her hand tightly and wraps his other hand around her shoulder. He’s not sure if his words are helping her, but if she didn’t like his presence, she would shout for him to “get the fuck out of here” — in those exact words. Instead, she whines that he owes her immensely now:
“You need to discover something and name it after me, for my contribution to this country,” she mumbles before wailing and pushing again.
Wonbeom thinks he’s ready to rename the whole country in her honor, or perhaps all of the stars in the night sky. Anything for her! Just let it all end with Soyong and their babies being safe.
After a few more rounds of pushing, they finally hear a baby cry. Soyong falls back into Wonbeom’s arms, completely exhausted, and he wipes the sweat from her face with the sleeve of his red dragon robe. She looks so pale against the red fabric, worrying Wonbeom even more. Her eyes flutter before slowly opening and looking back at him:
“From now on you will always attend my labor,” Soyong whispers with a crooked smile.
Wonbeom laughs and hugs her tightly, whispering his gratitude for her overcoming everything.
“Your Highness, Your Majesty…” Court Lady Choi draws their attention. In her arms is a crying baby in a blanket: “Greet your baby girl…”
Words leave Wonbeom’s mind as he freezes with his mouth open. He blinks and turns to Soyong to be sure he heard it right.
“Breathe, please breathe,” Soyong repeats the words he used not long ago.
Court Lady Choi places the baby girl in his arms and Hong Yeon gives back the baby boy to Soyong. The two beautiful, precious children are slowly calming down, and they start yawning before falling asleep.
“Min Jun,” Soyong whispers to their son, kissing his forehead.
“Min Su,” Wonbeom greets their daughter. “Welcome to the world.”
They sit like that for a while, shoulder by shoulder, looking adoringly at the two babies in their arms. However, they receive company soon, as the attendants announce that Kim Mun Geun and the prince are here. The doors open and the prince is led into the room, held by his grandfather’s hand. He has his favorite toy rabbit in his hands and his thumb in his mouth.
“Hyun-ki-ah,” Soyong softly calls him. “Come here and greet your brother and sister…”
The prince freezes on the spot, shifting his gaze from one swaddled baby to the other. He looks completely lost and flustered. Finally, he moves, but not towards them; instead, the prince turns around and runs out of the room.
“I guess he’s not ready yet,” Wonbeom admits. They had tried to prepare him for this day, but maybe it’s impossible at such a young age. Yesterday his mother had a big belly, and now two infants are here instead. If he was older maybe he would understand better.
“He looks so much like you.” Soyong shakes her head. “When you’re shocked, it’s the exact same expression,” she says, laughing.
Wonbeom gives her a side-eye; she keeps telling him that, but he personally thinks Hyun-ki takes after Soyong the most. They always argue about how much their firstborn son took from each of them. It sounds like a real competition between them sometimes.
“I can’t believe I have more grandchildren now.” Kim Mun Geun walks around Soyong’s bedding and sits on the floor. “A granddaughter and another grandson!”
“Abeonim, you should be reasonable with the amount of gifts,” Soyong warns him. “You could go broke because of it!”
“Money is needed to spoil children.” Father-in-law waves his hand, unbothered by her words.
Their joyful laughs are interrupted by soft steps in the hallway. All of them know those quick and short steps very well, and soon Hyun-ki comes back into the room. Only now, he carries two stuffed toys in his hands: a rabbit and a cat. Wonbeom and Soyong exchange looks and soft smiles, now understanding why he ran away before. He had seen two babies and came back with toys for them both.
“What a good older brother you are,” Wonbeom praises him, making Hyun-ki blush.
“Come here.” Soyong moves a bit, clearing a place for Hyun-ki.
Hyun-ki runs towards them and jumps into the spot between Soyong and Wonbeom. He looks at his brother first, and then at his sister. He then looks down at the toys and takes a moment to decide which toy to give to whom. Frowning, he slowly places the rabbit on top of his sister and the cat on his brother.
“You’re very generous, Hyun-ki-ah.” Soyong moves his bangs out of his eyes. “Are you sure you are not going to miss your toys?”
Hyun-ki shakes his head: “I’m too old…” he softly says, making everyone smile.
“Well, I’m sure Min Jun and Min Su will take good care of your gifts.” Wonbeom leans down to kiss the top of the prince’s head.
Their lovely moment is interrupted by his father-in-law’s sobs. He whimpers and wipes tears from his eyes with his sleeve:
“I’m so happy.” His voice shakes and he lets out another loud sob. “You have no idea how much you all mean to me. Ever since I changed my life as you suggested…” He pointedly looks at Soyong, reaching out to caress her hand. “My life as a father has been fulfilled. This is a real dream come true…”
“Abeonim…” Soyong softly whispers.
“I want to imprint this moment in my memory,” he continues emotionally, looking around at all of them.
Wonbeom softly smiles: he fully understands his father-in-law. The moment Wonbeom had become a father, a new dream was born in his mind. His kids must grow well and be healthy, happy, and loved. And as a father, he would do anything in his power to make sure they succeed in their lives.
His eyes shift to Soyong and he sees his wife’s confident look. Of course, with a mother like Soyong, these children are blessed in every way.
Wonbeom kisses Soyong’s cheek and wraps his hand around her shoulder. He softly presses their heads together, looking down at the babies in their arms and a confused Hyun-ki now squeezed between them.
Now, this is a picture Wonbeom will carry in his mind for a long time.
The total family just got bigger but you need to read the next chapter from Jang Bong Hwan’s pov to know how their lives went after that.
Min-Jun – from Sino-Korean 敏 (min) meaning “quick, clever, sharp” or 旼 (min) meaning “gentle, affable”
combined with 俊 (jun) meaning “talented, handsome”.
Min-Su – from Sino-Korean 民 (min) meaning “people, citizens” or 旼 (min) meaning “gentle, affable”
combined with 秀 (su) meaning “luxuriant, beautiful, elegant, outstanding”.
Source for names. As I read somewhere (sorry, I didn’t save the source but asked a Korean co-fan), the whole generation of kids usually share one name, could be first, could be second. Therefore, as I choose to name their firstborn Hyun-ki, I would have to pick or Hyun-something names or Ki-something names. But decided not to go with that tradition.
- 1Huijeongjeon Hall – King’s residence.