Soyong dreamed of warm summer nights. The paper lanterns were hung around the gazebo with a great view of the mountains against the starry night sky. She sat on the cushion with her gayageum on her lap playing her father’s favorite melody. Her dad as always proudly praised her skills and her orabeoni Kim Byeong-in smiled nodding in agreement. The next melody Soyong has chosen to play is for him, something very difficult so she can impress him even more.
“At this point, you’re just begging for compliments, Nu-i1Nu-i is how the brother refers to his sister.,” her orabeoni let out a short laugh before taking a sip of wine.
“This particular melody comes from the book you gifted to me last month, orabeoni,” Soyong smiled. Of course, she wanted to make him amazed with her skills and show gratitude for his thoughtful present.
Those were the nights Soyong missed the most since she left her natal home to become the next Queen of Joseon. Back then everything was so simple and she was the happiest but she realized it too late. She thought the position of the Queen would bring her happiness and it’s the only way for her to be more than just a wife of the nobleman. In a way, the whole country would become her home to take care of alongside her husband the King. She could have been so much more than just a wife and she dreamed of all changes she could have made.
Oh, how wrong she was…
Her dream turned out to be a nightmare and one day before her wedding she couldn’t bear it anymore. She refused to be a victim of her family’s greed or her husband’s revenge. Soyong realized how free she actually was back home with her father and cousin who loved and cherished her. In the palace, she was lonely, unloved and disrespected. The worst part, she wasn’t able to make decisions on her own. And so the only step she could have made is to walk into the dark cold water of the lake and finish her life on her terms.
The cold water however didn’t kill her but gave her something she really needed: hope and a lesson. When she opened her eyes the next time, she was a man in the 21st century. Not any man but a suspect in a big corruption scheme no less. Just like in the palace, she ended up to be in somewhere she didn’t belong but with her new chance in life, she took that opportunity to fight better this time.
And she did.
In a completely unfamiliar world.
In a new body.
It took her months to gather all possible evidence to protect herself. But as the big date of the court approached, she missed her home even more. There were a few instances when she and Chef Jang, the true owner of the body, almost switched back but they failed every time. She started to think that maybe her destiny now lies in this new strange world.
“Maybe some things are not meant to be,” Soyong sadly concluded and continued living someone else’s life.
The dreams of home were always the hardest part. Despite her anger at her father for pushing the dream of the Queen’s position on her or the sadness she felt upon discovering her orabeoni doesn’t see her as a sister but as a woman he desires to have and love. No matter how much more complex her life turned out to be, she still missed both of them.
And not only them but Hong Yeon, her loyal maid, and probably the only person in her life who didn’t want something from her. Her lovely friend only wanted to see Soyong happy. In Soyong’s dreams, she’s always there, serving drinks and snacks. The second their eyes met, Yeon always smiled at her and Soyong returned the smile back to her friend.
There’s another person who somehow always found a way to the dreams of her natal home: Choi Sanggung2Choi Sanggung – sanggung is the 5th senior rank court lady, Choi is her last name. Sanggung is the highest rank attainable by a court lady. – the strict fifth senior rank court lady appointed to Soyong at the palace. Behind the cold appearance, Choi Sanggung turned out to be a fair and very caring person, someone Soyong could rely on. Sadly, only after missing her two friends, did Soyong realize she was never truly alone at the palace. Maybe, instead of clinging to people who didn’t want her, as the King and other palace residents, Soyong should’ve focused on the people who were on her side from the start. Why did she understand such important things too late?
“Straighten your back, Your Highness,” Choi Sanggung calmly advised and Soyong immediately followed her command as she usually does.
“You know that you shouldn’t be here?” Soyong asked back, never stopping playing on gayageum and observing Choi Sanggung in her usual palace attire. “This is not the palace.”
“It’s your dream,” the older lady warmly smiled. “I’m here because you want me to be.”
It’s true, Soyong thought. She looked around at people she cared about until her eyes stopped on the figure hidden in the shadows. The music she was playing reached a dramatic heart-wrecking part and she felt desperation again as on the night she fell into the lake.
She doesn’t need to see his face to know that it’s the King, the man she fell in love with but who never will be able to love her in return. He must stay in the shadows, Soyong thought, until he vanishes and this is when his hold on her heart will disappear. When that day comes, she can finally breathe freely.
“When will you come back, agashi3Agashi – Young Lady / Miss, the is the term often used to address the daughters of nobles.?” Hong Yeon curiously asked and Soyong froze, unable to play anymore.
If I shut my eyes hard enough I can feel my own bed and smell of the wildflowers in my room.
Does she really wish to come back? Sometimes Soyong doubted it. As much as she missed her friends, even if she wakes up in Joseon it’ll never going to be her natal home. But she can’t stay either. Chef Jang’s family missed him too.
I survived the future almost on my own and even prepared a court case to prove Chef Jang’s innocence. I can come back and be happy in Joseon if I fight hard for it…
Soyong focused on her dream of Joseon and tried to recall the palace’s grounds or the busy streets of Hanyang. But despite her efforts, she still heard only the silence of her current bedroom. However, her bed felt a bit different. Without opening her eyes, on the edge between the dream and reality, she rolled to lie on her back:
“I knew I’d go insane one day,” she whispered to herself moving her hand under the blanket to scratch her chest. But instead of a flat muscular man’s one, she felt her own soft…
“Uh,” Soyong gasped sitting on her bed abruptly, and opened her eyes wide. She moved her hands in front of her and saw feminine ones with long slim fingers. And her nightgown is made from pink silk and underneath it is definitely a woman’s body.
Not fully believing her own perception of her body and what she observed so far, Soyong looked around the room and found a mirror. She quickly sat in front of it and saw her face in reflection. The one she used to have before she jumped into the water. With dark circles under her eyes and too pale but nonetheless, it’s her, Kim Soyong’s face.
Soyong tilted her head to the side and her reflection repeated after her. Then she lifted her hand and waved it in front of the mirror for a moment and then she suddenly slapped her own cheek.
“Ouch!” She instantly regretted her silly test, now it hurt and her cheek felt like burning.
“It’s not a dream!” Soyong exclaimed, happy to hear her own voice again.
There’s no doubt that she, Kim Soyong, left Jang Bong Hwan’s body from 21st century and traveled back in time to her own body in 19th century of the Joseon dynasty. She couldn’t believe her crazy adventure had ended but still felt uneasy leaving her future business unfinished.
For all those months that she lived as Bong Hwan, she worked hard alongside his family to prove his innocence. For the first time in her life, Soyong had a loving mother supporting her. Even though the said mother wasn’t hers and it would be unfair to deceive that kind but strict woman by pretending to be her son. She’s probably happy with her real son woken up right now instead of a strange Joseon-era yangban lady.
Soyong looked around the unfamiliar room that appeared more like a familiar hanoks4Hanok – a house. from Joseon with rich decorations but it was not a home or a Detached palace. If she’s back in Joseon it could be only one place: Daejojeon Hall5Daejojeon Hall – Queen of Joseon residence after the wedding.. And if she’s right in her guess then:
“I missed my own wedding,” Soyong concluded with a tiny bit of sadness.
Maybe it was for the best and she didn’t have to look at the King who always had that expression on his face as if it was a funeral that was planned whatever the wedding plans were mentioned. She was spared from seeing his cold eyes and emotionless facade on their wedding night. Or his fake ridiculous persona when people are watching closely.
Back in her before lake times, Soyong was obsessed with her future husband but after seeing how cold and neglectful he is, her heart got broken for the first time in her life. And she lived with that pain in the suffocating walls of the Detached palace while she was preparing herself to be the Queen. Eventually, she found solace in her books and studies, telling herself that she shouldn’t have expected anything from the King in the first place. Before she fell for him, Soyong was ready for a loveless marriage but she still hoped it would be based on mutual respect.
Her adventure in the future gave her a much-needed time to revalue her life. She will never let anyone look down on her when she worked so hard all her life to be the woman who is worthy to be the Queen. And if she had never ended up in that high position, she still would use her knowledge to help people as much as she could. She doesn’t need a King for that or his love.
With the wedding behind, she can calmly come up with a new plan. When she woke up in the hospital in the 21st century she got arrested and had to sleep behind bars. Planning the future in the palace is much more comfortable, she just needs to avoid the King who would be happy to be avoided by her.
The calm voice of Choi Sanggung, tugged Soyong from her deep thoughts. The older lady announced her arrival and stepped into the room with Hong Yeon by her side. Upon seeing them, Soyong enthusiastically jumped on her feet, shifting her gaze between her childhood friend and Choi Sanggung.
She missed Hong Yeon’s cheerfulness and hopeless romanticism about everything happening in Soyong’s life. In her short time living in the palace, Soyong became very fond of Choi Sanggung’s strict commanding voice because she discovered that constant nagging comes from a very soft and caring almost motherly heart.
“We brought you your medicine, Chef Jang,” Choi Sanggung said surprising Soyong about their knowledge of a soul-shifting accident. Not only did they know but they seemed to believe in the spirits’ time traveling.
“Does headaches still bother you?” Choi Sanggung politely asked to which Soyong simply nodded.
While she was living in the future, headaches accompanied her ever since she and Bong Hwan failed to switch bodies back. Looks like Chef Jang had the same problem here.
Soyong sat back on her bedding observing quietly as Hong Yeon lowered herself to her knees and put the tray with the bowl of medicine on the floor. Her friend didn’t look as cheerful as Soyong remembered her keeping Soyong wondering, what happened here while she was gone all those months.
“Why are you looking so sad, Yeon-ah?” Soyong asked ignoring the medicine and focusing on her friend. She not only looked sad but also quite cold, Soyong had never seen her like that before.
“How could you say that agashi will never come back, Chef Jang?” Yeon busted out almost crying. “Agashi would never abandon us, she will…” Yeon started sobbing, letting tears freely run down her cheeks.
“Chef Jang only meant that we must be prepared for the worst possibility,” Choi Sanggung interrupted the younger maid. “Am I right?” She strictly looked at Soyong moving her brows hinting she must confirm it.
Soyong only softly smiled in return, feeling the tears gathering in her eyes, ready to fall down her cheeks as well. But those are happy tears of seeing her loyal friends again and knowing they’ve missed her too.
“Did you miss me that much, Yeon-ah?” Soyong reached out her hand and gently wiped tears from Yeon’s cheeks.
“I do!” Yeon exclaimed passionately. “I miss you a lot…” She stopped mid-sentence with her eyes suddenly going wide as the realization sank in: “Agashi?”
“Yea,” Soyong nodded teary-eyed herself and immediately got Yeon’s hands wrapped around her in a tight embrace.
“I knew you would come back!” her friend exclaimed enthusiastically between sobs, burying her face into Soyong’s shoulder. Soyong gladly hugged her friend back, smiling happily.
“I never realized how much I could miss both of you but I did. So much that I saw you both in my dreams of home,” Soyong whispered, lifting her gaze at Choi Sanggung who still stood covering her mouth in shock. Soyong reached out to the older lady’s free hand and gently squeezed it. “I’m sorry it took so long…”
“How did you come back?” Choi Sanggung sat in front of Soyong and Yeon moved away from the hug. Both of them look so genially curious yet worried: “Was it the water after all?”
Soyong is surprised once more at how much they knew, apparently, Chef Jang shared with them how they exchanged bodies or about their one major failed attempt to switch back.
“The water was a big part of the transition but I’m not sure it was the main reason,” Soyong narrowed her brows, recalling all the events that led to her coming back. “One time I went underwater in the future and saw myself there. Did Chef Jang try to come back in a similar way?”
“Yes!” Yeon gasped, covering her mouth. “He almost drowned if it wasn’t for His Majesty…”
Soyong sighed, she remembered that too well. That painful moment when she saw the King swimming to another her gently checking if she was alright. By that time Chef Jang almost passed out but still reached his (or hers?) hands in her direction. The King however tugged him away, swimming to the surface. That failed exchange helped Soyong to realize how little the King thinks of her. He might hate her family for the right reasons but his hostility for her lies in something else. It must be her specifically that the King despised so much. After all, she saw with her own eyes how caring he could be with someone else appeared as her.
“After that, the headaches started,” Soyong continued, shrugging off unwanted sad memories. “It got so severe a few times that I swear I heard Choi Sanggung’s voice,” Soyong looked at the older maid directly. “Did something like that happen here as well?”
“Yes, Your Highness, Chef Jang swore he heard his mother’s voice when those headaches happened,” Choi Sanggung confirmed after sharing amazed looks with Hong Yeon.
“Of course,” Soyong nodded, “she was there by my side as you were by his side when that occurred.”
Soyong always suspected that maybe her future body rejected her as well but wasn’t sure if she would vanish or come back.
“I just drank my tea after talking with Chef Jang’s mother in the kitchen and went to sleep,” Soyong remembered that last talk. Chef Jang’s mother recalled her son as a little boy and Soyong felt so sorry for her. If she had a living mother, she would probably miss her as well. Maybe last night she wished to leave the future more than usual so this kind woman would finally meet her real son.
“Here is where you belong, Your Highness,” Choi Sanggung warmly said with Yeon nodding intensively in agreement. “Now everything will be back to normal.”
Soyong once again observed the room: “Am I officially a married woman now? It must be Daejojeon Hall.”
“The wedding happened after one day of delay,” Yeon confirmed. “And the day after that we found out about Jang Bong Hwan…”
“We didn’t believe it before but after the wedding the King confirmed it,” Choi Sanggung added. “His Majesty believed him first.”
Soyong let out a bitter chuckle. The King refused to see her as an individual but had no problem believing she was the man.
“You need to tell me everything, I’m not going to leave this room unprepared,” Soyong shifted closer to her friends to listen attentively to their story.
For the next hour, she heard the most bizarre things Bong Hwan did and she couldn’t stop laughing. The palace residents didn’t like Soyong even before she became a harpy who punished everyone for any however small misdeeds. With Bong Hwan’s free-spirited persona, they saw the Queen who lifted her skirts so high her knees were almost seen and threatened to behead people left and right. She hoped they really liked to deal with a new version of her but maybe she’s too petty in her vengeful thoughts.
As Soyong giggled at Yeon’s vivid description of the events, she wished she was here and saw it all herself. Or maybe ever befriend that crazy girl who became a breath of fresh air in the palace. Soyong herself was considered bold but she was never that brazen!
“Chef Jang made a deal with His Majesty,” Choi Sanggung continued a less amusing part of the story. “He helps to expose your clan and His Majesty helps fill the lake with the water…”
“Did they succeed?” Soyong gasped, not sure how she was supposed to feel about it.
Both her uncle and his older sister, Great Queen Dowager, scared her and hurt her badly. They were one of the reasons why Soyong felt so desperate to escape the palace, one way or another. Her family might have a lot of rotten members who see themselves above everyone but there are good people too. She wondered to what extent the King’s revenge spread on her family.
“Great Queen Dowager had to step down from her regency and was moved to the West palace,” Choi Sanggung says with a rather sad expression. “The scandal was huge but otherwise her brother would be punished more severely.”
“What about the others?” the fun mood completely vanished from the room as Soyong sensed nothing good would come from that news for her.
“Stripped from their titles,” Yeon said, looking at Choi Sanggung for a brief moment and Soyong realized that they didn’t know how to tell her about her father. He was definitely one of the corrupt family members. “They gone on exile or flee from Hanyang.”
Soyong took a deep breath before admitting: “My father gave bribes and took ones to promote people from other families. He isn’t an honest man but he’s my father nonetheless. Was he punished as well?”
Soyong eyes stung from tears again. She understood her father probably deserved punishment even though the family didn’t allow him to do much of their outlaw activity. But as small as he was, he still was a part of the system built by the Andon Kim clan.
“Your father is under home arrest,” Choi Sanggung confirmed Soyong’s worries. “But we don’t know much apart from this.”
Soyong could only guess and based on what she knew about the King’s hatred of her family: home arrest was probably a temporary measure. As the King noted in their last meeting, she’s part of her family and can’t be separated from them. With Bong Hwan helping the King as an ally within the Kim clan’s family, he probably didn’t want to punish the Queen just yet. Therefore, the Queen’s father couldn’t be punished as well.
“Did he wait for my come back to continue?” Soyong mumbled to herself, her mind jumped fast from one thought to another, trying to create a believable chain of thoughts the King might follow.
Chef Jang is innocent in the King’s eyes so he must have waited to finish his revenge. With the Chef’s departure from Joseon, both the Queen and her corrupt father could face the consequences of their bad decisions.
“No one must know I’m back!” Soyong concluded with confidence in her voice. She got up on her feet and started passing fast across the room, back and forth while calculating the plan. “At least not until I find how to save my father and myself… I need to buy more time… And I need to give the King something valuable in exchange for our freedom. But what?”
Her friends exchanged worried looks before getting up and trying to catch up with her.
“Your Highness must calm down,” Choi Sanggung tried to soothe her and suggested to sit down. She succeeded only in the sitting part. But as Soyong sat on the lower table, her one leg nervously ponded on the floor with her heel.
“The King is not that bad,” Hong Yeon suddenly said making Soyong abruptly stop and freeze.
“Not that bad?” Soyong looked at her friend raising her brows in bewilderment. “Don’t you remember how many times I cried since I met him?” Yeon nodded shortly, looking apologetic. “Or perhaps, I exaggerated it and it felt like a teenage drama from a side?” Soyong turned to Choi Sanggung who was the wise one among them.
“His Majesty treated you poorly,” Choi Sanggung confirmed. She sat by Soyong’s side and covered Soyong’s hand that rested on the knee with hers. “The palace is brutal to innocent young girls with pure hearts like yours. But I always saw strength in you; the buds of greatness ready to bloom. The palace crashed you and His Majesty not just allowed it to happen, he played a big part in it.”
Soyong smiled at her friend, feeling much easier that she didn’t delude herself and was in fact misjudged and mistreated.
“The King fights with a long-established system that refuses to change,” Soyong admitted. “Sadly, he became part of the problem in the process. And therefore, I cannot trust him, Yeon-ah…” Soyong looked back at her childhood friend.
“Your Highness must keep the distance from His Majesty then,” Yeon nodded. “I will find out His Majesties schedule for today to make it easier. Your Highness can’t stay here as His Majesty often came uninvited with questions about the future.”
“You must also avoid the places Chef Jang frequently visited: the kitchen, the gazebo at the lake’s east side, the royal villa with concubines…”
“There’s concubines already?” Soyong exclaimed probably way too loudly. She read of course about various concubines the King had over the years, they all were listed in the history books. Thanks to them the King straightened his power at court. But still, Soyong felt a jab of jealousy discovering the King started marrying other women so quickly after marriage to her. She wondered if maybe Hwa Jin felt the same. After all, the King cherished her for a full two years before he randomly started marrying more concubines.
“Yes, Chef Jang and Lady Hwa Jin selected them together,” Yeon reluctantly confirmed.
“Are you telling me, Jo Hwa Jin also knows about the Chef?” Soyong asked in disbelief. How many people she must deceive now?
That bowl with medicine for headaches was needed after all the new information Soyong absorbed. She was so stressed as if she didn’t come back home but returned to the front line of the war. At least it felt that way because there was no day without battle within palace walls. No cannons shot or people fought with blades like on the actual battlefield but nonetheless, the fight in the palace wasn’t any safer.
Everyone in the palace has a secret. Everyone has something to fight for. And too many people wished to harm Soyong.
Soyong was dressed up into royal attire for the first time and her braid was lifted in a hairdo as she’s a married woman now. Looking at herself in the mirror, Soyong had another moment of bitterness that she was absent on her final step to the position of the Queen. She dedicated all her life to this triumph and still missed it. It felt like she was robbed and left only with a broken heart and troubles to solve.
However, Soyong left her dark thoughts back in Daejojeon Hall as she stepped out. Overthinking isn’t helpful and all she needed to do for today is avoid certain people at all costs.
The library was sadly out of options because the King planned to spend a few hours there today, preparing for the royal conference. She remembers how eunuchs used to complain that the King was too lazy to read books pictureless but things have changed it seems.
Soyong took a long detour to the gardens through the least popular path that looked almost abandoned by the palace’s servants. She made a mental note to herself to change that. The palace is the cage but the least she could do is to make it as golden and pleasant as it could be.
The walk among bushes of flowers, tall trees, and chirping birds boosted Soyong’s mood. The overly noisy Seoul from the future lacked a bit of green gardens here and there. When she complained about it, Bong Hwan’s mother usually looked surprised, saying that the town actually has a lot of parks. But compared to Joseon it’s felt like nothing. Seoul of the future Soyong observed was made from solid stone and glass with flashing lights of billboards. It was a fascinating yet scary sight.
“It’s good to be home,” Soyong breathed out, stretching her arm to run her fingers through the bushes as she walked. In the gardens, she almost forgot of the high palace’s walls hiding the outside world from her.
The garden’s plants slowly lessened as she approached closer to the lake’s west shore. According to Yeon, no one usually chooses to walk here because bushes and trees are so close to the water. To get through this path, Soyong had to bend a little under the willow’s slim long branches that created a beautiful arc over Soyong’s head with tips of branches ending up in the water.
“Oh no,” Soyong heard Yeon’s high squeak. She followed Yeon’s gaze to the nearest unpopular, as she was told, gazebo and gasped, seeing the King sitting there reading scrolls attentively.
Soyong froze staring at the King’s beautiful profile. Her heart treacherously pounded fast the more she looked at the man who she was supposed to forget. The King narrowed his brows reading and making quick notes in a book once he put the scroll aside.
A slight smile appeared on Soyong’s face feeling an unexpected wave of joy that the King doesn’t have to hide behind the mask anymore.
But as much as she felt happy for him, she couldn’t forget how poorly he treated her. Soyong used to follow him everywhere, trying to find something in common and create a bond but he only avoided her or dropped witty remarks about her. The ones that sounded as if the King was dumb and didn’t know what he was saying because he spent so much time in poverty. But Soyong quickly understood it was only a mask. And his words should be considered as insults. The worst part, was Soyong was sure the King knew she figured it out.
“Right, we never meant to be,” Soyong whispered bitterly.
Another memory from the past appeared in her mind. The depth of the water and the King swimming towards another her and his gentle moves as he checked her face when Bong Hwan lost consciousness. The King was capable of kindness and could see people in another light. But not with her. Never with true her.
“Your Majesty the King,” Soyong’s servants startled her with their chorus greet to the King. Her eyes got wider as she saw the King turning his head in their direction.
Soyong didn’t think twice and jumped to the nearest bushes right before the King could spot her. She heard Choi Sanggung’s voice calling for her but she only hid further between leaves and branches. Soyong carefully peaked above the bush for a second and cursed under her breath, seeing how the King left the gazebo and now approaching her confused maids.
I don’t have time for this, Soyong thought and did something Choi Sanggung told her Chef did while was her: run with her skirts high above her ankles. She mentally thanked the Chef for the tip, that was really the best way to run with layers of skirts on.
Quickly, Soyong reached the nearest palace’s hanoks and as she turned around the corner she almost bumped into Hwa Jin. They both squeaked in surprise and Soyong dropped her skirts back down trying to give herself a more decent look.
“You startled me,” Hwa Jin let out a laugh, covering her racing heart with her palm with wedding rings on it.
Another jab of jealousy and bitterness found its way to Soyong’s heart but she tries not to show it. She reminded herself to act as unusual as she could or people would guess she did come back.
“Your Highness!” The voices calling for Soyong are heard, she could even see the King’s red gonryongpo6Gonryongpo – the scarlet dragon robe. flashed between bushes branches.
“Did you two have a fight again?” Hwa Jin curiously asked, peeking near Soyong and looking at where the noise came from. Soyong turned back to face Hwa Jin and surprisingly didn’t see the usual hostility in the concubine’s eyes. “Do not worry, the King forgives close friends easily.”
To Soyong’s another surprise, Hwa Jin smiled at her not out of obligation but sincerely. She doesn’t remember when they had a normal conversation without mutual hostility let alone a friendly one like right now.
The ridiculousness of the situation has angered Soyong for a moment. How could so many things change in a span of a few months? Nothing felt as before and Soyong was left with no other choice but to accept a completely new reality.
Soyong was saved from continuing the uncomfortable conversation by louder voices from the back. She didn’t even say goodbye, just ran away between hanoks and hid behind the corner. When she peeked from her hideout, she saw the King approaching Hwa Jin but she was too far away to hear them.
They exchanged warm smiles but something felt off. They usually looked so childish in their flirting. All the blushing and awkward waving on the spot are gone now. Soyong shook her head, whatever happened between love birds didn’t concern her anymore. She has her own life to think about.
Likely for Soyong, Hwa Jin showed the opposite direction for the King and servants to go. But before she left with them, Hwa Jin briefly looked at where Soyong hid and gave her an assurance nod.
As a result of Soyong’s sudden game of hide-and-seek, she spent her first day back in Joseon wandering around the inner palace. Across many yards and between hanoks, by various pavilions and gazebos. Soyong was amazed by how huge the palace actually was. When she used to sneak into the inner palace’s grounds, she always was in the company of the eunuch who showed her around. But she was so consumed in her desire to see the King that she barely remembered the path.
Her life felt so sorted out back when she was a naïve young girl who dreamed big and wished to marry the King. She knew who she was and who she wanted to be. By the time the day of her wedding approached, Soyong was completely lost. Her life turned out to be a lie and everywhere she looked, everything was so dark as if all the light left the world.
“I still don’t know who I am and this place is so unfamiliar,” Soyong whispered sadly.
The adventure in the future made her forget how somber her life actually was in Joseon. She thought she had changed but it seemed she couldn’t run away from herself. She came back to the same drastic fate. Would she be able to save herself?
And as if the melancholy needed even more reasons to envelop her, the rain started pouring. Soyong found the nearest roof to hide just in time before the rain got heavier.
“Lost is the right word for me,” Soyong sighed in frustration. How she would find her way back to Daejojeon Hall on her own? She can’t even ask anyone now.
“Here you are!” Soyong froze hearing the King’s voice all of a sudden. She slowly turned her head and saw the King jumping from the rain under the roof where she stood. His blue and gold cheolik7Cheolik – fighting garment. At the show, Cheoljong usually wore blue and gold one. reminded her of their first meeting and just like that, Soyong suddenly realized she wasn’t lost. It is the exact same place where they met for the first time in the palace.
She chuckled at the sudden turn of fate and how by avoiding the King she still met him and it helped her to realize a way back.
“Why have you run away before?” The King continued speaking casually.
He brushed raindrops from his attire not paying any more attention to Soyong. That was something new as well. He used to be hostile to her in the past but his attentive eyes almost never left her. Maybe he expected her to jab him with a dagger or other horrendous things she could do to him. But all she wanted was to be his support.
“Just… felt like that,” Soyong shrugged her shoulders and looked back at the rain. If he talks casually, she must too, Soyong concluded. If the King doesn’t give her much attention, maybe he won’t notice how nervous she actually is. Likely, he just chuckled at her response and also looked at the rain.
“It’s almost Chuseok8Chuseok is a major mid-autumn harvest festival and a three-day holiday in South Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon. As a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional food.,” the King stated all of a sudden. “I guess the star refused to grant my wish.”
All conversation today felt new but the casual talk with the King was the hardest one. It was easier for Soyong to push him back into the shadows in her dreams instead of acknowledging that no matter what he would appear in them because she herself couldn’t forget him.
For the first time, the King opened up to her as if they had been friends for a long time. She knew he was comfortable around her only because he thought she was someone else however she couldn’t help but memorize every single moment.
“What did you wish for?” She asked out of sincere curiosity as the sad undertone in his voice didn’t escape her. “I feel like all your dreams are coming true now.”The King was finally free from the Andon Kim clan’s leash and had his beloved concubine by his side, to Soyong’s knowledge it was everything he could dream about.
“You said it won’t come true if I say at loud,” the King let out a short laugh. “All I dreamed about I achieved with my hard work but there’s something I have no control over. So I made a wish on the fallen star.”
“There’s still time,” Soyong noted. The rain almost stopped and she stepped out of their hideout: “Who knows, maybe it came true already, Jeonha9Jeonha – Your Majesty..”
Instead of goodbye, she waved her hand, and the King, looking dumbfounded, waved back. Suddenly, Soyong felt so light as if she found her confidence again. Or maybe, she found herself at last.
==== POST CREDIT SCENE ===
Wonbeom breathed heavily as he used all his strength to push Bong Hwan out of the cold lake. The latter shuddered coughing the water out of his or rather Queen’s lungs on the ground.
“Are you alright?” Wonbeom asked worriedly, getting on the shore as well.
“Ya,” Bong Hwan furiously shouted pushing Wonbeom away from him. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I should ask you the same thing!” Wonbeom rose to his feet, and the wave of anger started building in him. “How could you be this reckless? We discussed you won’t try it without someone supporting you. What if you died?”
“Maybe then I would be back home,” Bong Hwan shouted back, shaking from anger or maybe cold because both of them were completely wet.
Wonbeom stopped breathing for a moment, the realization of how far this strange man was from him and Joseon finally sank in. He thought they were friends of some sort, working together to one goal. The way Chef Jang passionately hated corruption deluded Wonbeom that they were on the same page at least. But they wished for different things. Jang Bong Hwan would do anything to come back home, no matter the cost. And that meant putting the Queen’s safety in danger.
“What if she died?” Wonbeom quietly asked.
“Isn’t it what you wanted anyway?” Chef Jang annoyedly puffed out.
Even though Wonbeom knew the soul inside the Queen was different, still he felt as if he looked into her deeply hurt eyes. He remembers the tears in her eyes that night when he rejected her and turned his back on her. Only recently Wonbeom found out she tried to commit suicide after that and the thought of him being responsible for it has crashed him.
“I have never wished for her death,” Wonbeom’s voice broke with emotions. He was cold and hostile to her only because it would be safer for him. If he knew… if only he knew sooner, he would act differently.
“Well, plans of assassination Yeongpyeong talked about says otherwise,” Chef Jang snorted out crossing arms under his (or Queen’s?) chest.
Wonbeom felt so tired of everything. His brother’s nagging, his best friend’s complaints, the suffocating palace, and the Chef’s accusations, everyone and everything made him so darn tired.
“The assignation plan was… for Queen’s father. You misunderstood…” Wonbeom tried to explain calmly but was interrupted immediately.
“Ah, because that sounds so much better,” Bong Hwan sarcastically chuckled. “What’s your plan? Say you’re sorry?” He mocked Wonbeom further. “Listen here, Jusang,” Bong Hwan’s tone changed to serious, and even a smirk disappeared from his face. “No matter how much this woman used to like you, there are certain things that even a loving heart can’t forgive.”
“Even if she never forgives me, I must do everything to bring her back home.”
What mattered to Wonbeom was her safe come back home and if she would loathe him, he would accept it. He deserves it for the grave sin he committed. She just needed to live, that’s all he wanted for her now.
“Well, then you probably shouldn’t have interrupted me down there,” Bong Hwan rolled his eyes. “She was there when you pulled me out…”
“What?” Wonbeom looked back to the lake’s surface.
Without a second thought, Wonbeom dove into the water again ignoring Bong Hwan’s shouts: “Ya, she had already left!”
The water was muddy and Wonbeom didn’t see much but he kept diving over and over again. When he found Bong Hwan the water had mysterious dark blue lighting, maybe he really interrupted the magical switch? But all he wanted was for Queen and Bong Hwan to exchange souls safely. If the Queen’s body drowned, she wouldn’t have anywhere to be back. This is why he was so angry at Chef Jang, he not only risked his life, but he put the Queen in danger as well.
After countless attempts, Wonbeom finally gave up and came back to the shore. He observed the lake’s glass-like surface in the early morning light as he sat with both hands resting on his bent knees.
“You’ll catch a cold,” Bong Hwan said approaching him from the side. He got himself wrapped up in dry clothes he left before diving into the lake.
“Would you come back if you were her?” Wonbeom asked without looking at him. The answer wasn’t really needed. Wonbeom knew she would think twice considering her situation. And still, somewhere deep in his heart, there was a hope that maybe even if it wasn’t for him, Soyong would come back.
“Go to Huijeongjeon Hall10Huijeongjeon Hall – King’s residence. before Sangseon11Sangseon – the Head Eunuch. got a stroke seeing you like that.” Bong Hwan patted Wonbeom’s shoulder: “There will be another day and another attempt, Jusang12Jusang – the King, usually someone of higher rang could call the King like that, Great Queen Dowager for example. On the show, BH thought of himself higher and called him like that..”
Dear reader, if you’ve reached so far, then thank you for reading this fic. I don’t plan to make it too long (less than 20 chapters). I wanted to play with MrQueen’s ost “Like the first snow” or falling snow and this fic was supposed to be titled “Falling slowly” but… there’s nothing slow in this fic so I renamed it XD
Initially, I wanted to write Soyong’s adventure in the future with a bit of what happened in the past while CJ and BH worked together as a team but then realized I didn’t want to write so many chapters where SY and CJ are apart. So I started in the middle but there sometimes will be those post-credit scenes, like in some kdramas when the episode ends and there’s an additional scene that adds more character depth.
In this chapter, SY remembered her failed attempt to come back home a few times and the post-credit scene is here to show that she of course misunderstood everything.
Important note: SY and CJ will call each other “Jeonha\Jungjeon” while others will use “Your Majesty\Your Highness” but essentially it means the same.
What do you think is the wish CJ made? Something he has no control over? Hmmm, what can it be?
PS I mentioned a few times that JBH argued with Yeon or CJ but I want to point out that he did get along with everyone and they were friends. Just Yeon naturally missed SY a lot and BH felt desperate he couldn’t come back, so he said that out of desperation not to be mean. And of course, he had arguments with the King as well. This doesn’t mean CJ or Yeon, or anyone else liked him any less.
- 1Nu-i is how the brother refers to his sister.
- 2Choi Sanggung – sanggung is the 5th senior rank court lady, Choi is her last name. Sanggung is the highest rank attainable by a court lady.
- 3Agashi – Young Lady / Miss, the is the term often used to address the daughters of nobles.
- 4Hanok – a house.
- 5Daejojeon Hall – Queen of Joseon residence after the wedding.
- 6Gonryongpo – the scarlet dragon robe.
- 7Cheolik – fighting garment. At the show, Cheoljong usually wore blue and gold one.
- 8Chuseok is a major mid-autumn harvest festival and a three-day holiday in South Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon. As a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional food.
- 9Jeonha – Your Majesty.
- 10Huijeongjeon Hall – King’s residence.
- 11Sangseon – the Head Eunuch.
- 12Jusang – the King, usually someone of higher rang could call the King like that, Great Queen Dowager for example. On the show, BH thought of himself higher and called him like that.