Wonbeom’s hideout from the heavy rain reminded him of Kim Soyong. Their first meeting could be described as an accidental encounter from a typical romance novel with long stares and a surprising connection formed between the two.
Now Wonbeom was stuck under the same roof however the woman who stood by his side only appeared as Soyong but in fact was someone else entirely. Wonbeom used to be a powerless puppet King, now he reigns in full strength yet he can’t bring Soyong back. Some things even the Kings cannot do. That led him to make a wish at one starry night when the skies looked like falling:
“I wish Soyong could find her way home”
Chuseok would be a good meaningful reason for return. The celebration usually meant visiting the hometown and paying respect to ancestor’s spirits. That was Wonbeom’s little hope that she would wish to follow the tradition.
“There’s still time. Who knows, maybe it has come true already, Jeonha1Jeonha – Your Majesty..”
Wonbeom froze on the spot hearing the familiar endearing notes in her voice when she referred to him. In disbelief, he looked her way, and all the doubt he could have disappeared: Kim Soyong was back. Shocked he looked as she left their shelter and waved her hand as she walked away. True, she doesn’t act as her usual self but she’s definitely not Chef Jang anymore.
“Your Majesty!” Director Hong and Yeongpyeong ran towards him.
“Exactly!” Wonbeom couldn’t take away his gaze from Soyong’s leaving figure. Jang Bong Hwan never referred to him as Jeonha. He was Jusang2Jusang – 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. when Bong Hwan was angry at him or Jong-ie when he was friendly.
“What?” Hong asked blinking in confusion. “What happened while we were away?”
“She’s back,” Wonbeom let out a slight laugh, still not fully believing his discovery. “Kim Soyong is here in Joseon.”
“Wait, the Queen is back? When? Did she just say that?” Hong bombarded Wonbeom with questions.
Wonbeom only shook his head: “No, for some reason she doesn’t want me to know.”
“Is she planning something?” Yeongpyeong scratched his chin narrowing brows deep in thoughts.
“You always suspect the worst, hyeong-nim3Hyeong-nim – a male addressing to the brother.,” Wonbeom rolled his eyes. “She must have her reasons and I will find out why she hides her return.”
Wonbeom canceled everything for a day and headed straight to Huijeongjeon Hall4Huijeongjeon Hall – King’s residence.. He felt so overwhelmed with emotions that he couldn’t think about anything else.
For months he was drowning in regrets and misery thinking of all the things he did wrong. And no matter how hard his older brother tried to justify their actions, Wonbeom couldn’t simply forgive himself. If he knew his actions would hurt her that deeply he would be softer. There was no need to be that cold and cruel. Perhaps he should have talked with her openly about how he couldn’t have any sort of feelings for her even though it would be a lie.
Wonbeom passed across the room, pondering what could be the reason for Soyong’s actions. Her maids were surely aware of her return and most likely told her everything they knew. Then Soyong already knows about the friendly relationship he and Bong Hwan had.
Did she want to capitalize on their friendship to be closer to him? No, Wonbeom brushed this thought away. If that was the case, she wouldn’t avoid him for the whole day. She tried to act strangely and talked casually but still, her movements and softness in her voice were too apparent. Soyong is a smart woman, she would know something like that was impossible to fake at a bigger run.
Wonbeom stopped in the middle of the room: whatever her reasons are, she should know her lie can’t last long. Still, she chose to try to deceive everyone. That meant she must have felt desperate.
Wonbeom was tugged from his deep thoughts by the sound of doors opening: it was Yeongpyeong and Director Hong. Both men entered the room bickering about the latest news. Yeongpyeong never liked the Queen and sometimes he and Bong Hwan chatted about her as the latter had his own grudge against her for the whole soul-shifting mess. While Hong couldn’t find anything common with the Chef and naturally sided with Soyong simply because she never forced him to exercise to the point of almost losing consciousness.
“Did you find anything?” Wonbeom cut the bickering between his brother and best friend.
“Her lovely maid said that Chef Jang ran away today because His Majesty annoyed him with questions lately,” Hong smirked knowingly as if he could have related to that. “While it sounds believable, she was obviously lying.”
Wonbeom nodded, trusting his own judgment and Hong’s hunch when the Queen’s young maid was involved. She didn’t strike him like a cunning liar so even Hong could have guessed whether she said the truth.
“Last evening Chef Jang spent in the kitchen and multiple cooks attested he behaved as usual…” Yeongpyeong added to Hong’s report. “The transition must have happened during the night.”
“But the Queen didn’t leave Daejojeon Hall5Daejojeon Hall – Queen of Joseon residence after the wedding.,” Hong looked confused. “All this trouble with the lake and then what, they switched in the sleep?”
Wonbeom shook his head: “Anything is possible, I doubt there are certain rules for soul shifting. I read everything I could on that matter. The description of the shift is vague if it’s even mentioned.”
Wonbeom pondered if there was still a possibility they change back again while they slept. He hopped not. Their failed attempt last time brought severe headaches for Chef Jang. Wonbeom doesn’t want to think about what symptoms the new exchange would bring to both the Queen and Chef.
“I shall visit the Queen tonight and try to figure out why she pretends,” Wonbeom already ordered the servants to prepare everything for tonight regardless of the report his brother and friend give.
“Ah, I knew you would try that,” Hong smiled and pulled a small vessel from his sleeve. “The fly mushroom powder,” he presents the vessel to Wonbeom. “It has no scent and no flavor. Make her drink it with something and she confesses everything.”
“She’s not our enemy to drug her like that,” Wonbeom disagreed with this plan refusing to take the suggested vessel.
“But…” Hong blinked in confusion. “We initially prepared this for the Queen. Remember? Just in case.”
“Oh-ho, that was a long time ago!” Wonbeom lost his temper mostly because he yet again felt ashamed of himself. They thought Soyong would cause all sorts of trouble for their plans and if that happens, they would have to be ready for any measures.
“How will you make her talk then,” Yeongpyeong asked ignoring Hong’s attempts to argue with Wonbeom.
“Alcohol,” Wonbeom smiled. “We just going to have a drink together. It’s hard to keep a lie when you’re drunk.”
“How that is better?” Hong sarcastically asked. “She will be still drugged, just with alcohol.”
“The difference my friend is that while she will accept the wine it will be still just a wine,” Wonbeom rolled his eyes at his friend’s stupidity. Of course, there’s a big difference and he doesn’t want for her to resent him even more. And alcohol won’t raise suspicions.
“You sound overly excited for a husband who is about to drug his wife,” Hong shook his head.
Wonbeom knew he chose the drastic measure and he must be ashamed of his thoughts, especially for his treacherously good mood. From the side, it must have looked just awful. But his excitement comes from being happy seeing Soyong again. He imagined their reunion many times. Mostly he expected for her to give him a deserved slap. But even if it had happened he would be still happy to simply have her back.
He sent everyone away and changed to his white sleeping attire and white and gold robe. On his way to the Queen’s residence, Wonbeom couldn’t help but whistle a random melody. The servants behind his back carried kettles with wine and a lower table with snacks. Everything was prepared for his plan he just needed to pass the last fortress.
“Your Majesty?” Choi Sanggung observed him from head to toe in surprise. “Wh-what…”
“Please tell the Queen,” Wonbeom emphasized the word as if he thinks the Queen is still the Chef. He can’t openly mention Bong Hwan in front of other maids in the hallway. “I need company to share drinks. She usually doesn’t hesitate to join me.”
Choi Sanggung nodded, still looking shocked. She couldn’t drive him away because she knew he was telling the truth. This is why Wonbeom’s plan was so perfect in its simplicity.
“Her Highness doesn’t feel well,” Choi Sanggung still attempted to save her Queen from exposure.
“That’s unfortunate,” Wonbeom clicked his tongue. “Headaches?” Choi Sanggung nodded. “I know one Chef,” Wonbeom winked, “who said that alcohol is the best remedy for everything. Might not help it but at least you feel fun trying.”
Choi Sanggung looked almost miserable trying to come up with a new excuse but she knew it was pointless. It’s hard to refuse the King and he in a way admired her loyalty to the Queen.
With a smile, Wonbeom bypassed all court maids and opened the doors to the Queen’s quarters himself: “Jungjeon6Jungjeon – Queen or My Queen.!”
Elegant as ever, Kim Soyong walked from the deep of the quarters in her pink nightwear with an embroidered top. For a second Wonbeom got lost in words peering into her beautiful features. She took his breath away by simply being here and being her. He waited for so long for the day they met again that he wished to look at her face for the rest of his life.
She looked surprised at first but quickly got hold of herself or rather relaxed and stopped taking care of her posture.
“What brings you here?” She casually dropped her question, looking away at the servants with food and drinks. “Isn’t it too long past midnight for food?”
Wonbeom chuckled, she was adorable in her attempts to pretend someone she never properly met. He found her so intriguing right after they met for the first time. Interestingly, even when Chef Jang appeared as her, he thought it was another weird spin on a character from Soyong. She once appeared as a perfect lady and then turned into the palace’s witch. Her new outspoken rudeness surprised him but he could find an excuse for this as well. After he discovered the truth he couldn’t stop noticing differences, not only in actions but also in his own perception of her.
“There’s never too late for a drink.” Wonbeom approached her close enough to lower his voice to a whisper: “Chingu7Chingu – a friend..”
“Chingu?” She raised her brows repeating after him. “That’s an unexpected visit, can we plan it for another day?”
Wonbeom made a dramatic deep sigh, looking away and shaking his head sadly.
“I’ve worked so hard today and all I wanted is to spend time with my precious friend,” he shifted his eyes back to Soyong’s confused face. “Do you want to break our tradition?”
Soyong coughed, clearing her throat before reluctantly agreeing: “Traditions should be honored. We of course can share a quick drink,” she gestured to servants to put a lower table with snacks and alcohol down.
Smiling happily, Wonbeom sat at the lower table and the moment they were left alone, he poured a wine for himself and her.
“You seem very cheerful for an exhausted person who worked the whole day,” Soyong noted suspiciously. “Did I miss a cause for celebration?”
Wonbeom took his time to answer that carefully without giving his real reasons away.
“I was very concerned about things I cannot control but it got resolved on its own,” Wonbeom raised his cup. “Isn’t it wonderful when your wishes come true?”
Soyong raised her cup too: “It’s good to be the King, even stars favorites you.”
She smiled and drank the whole cup in one gulp, flinching at consuming strong alcohol at once. Wonbeom’s joyful mood sank a bit sensing a light bitterness in her voice. He must brush aside his own feelings and focus on his plan. Her reasons to keep her pretense should be serious and Wonbeom should discover what stopped her from telling him the truth. There’s no time for flirt.
“My apologies chingu, I must have forgotten about your difficult situation,” Wonbeom sincerely said. “My lack of sensitiveness hurt you.”
He reached out to the kettle to pour another cup of wine for her but Soyong got the hold on it faster. He looked at her in surprise but she only smiled widely.
“No need for your apologies,” she filled his cup up to the edges. “Chingu,” she added emphasizing the word.
What a fool, Wonbeom thought about himself. He was overjoyed so much that she returned to him that he forgot how bad their last encounter was. And how he pushed her away instead of discovering what kind of person she was. Wonbeom looked at her smiling face that he was sure was masterfully faked and realized what a long path was ahead for them.
“Still, Jungjeon, I wish to change my wrongdoings and become a better person,” those words came from the heart as a sincere promise to her.
Soyong froze for a moment, looking puzzled but shrugged off suddenly and put a mask back on.
“You came to celebrate, remember? What is this gloomy mood all of sudden?” She poured herself a wine and took a small sip hiding her apparent awkwardness.
Wonbeom followed her and drank the whole cup and the moment he put the cup down Soyong already poured him another. He smirked bitterly now understanding why she agreed to share drinks with him so fast. He already has his third cup and she barely finished the second. They had the same plan for different reasons.
“You need to drink too,” Wonbeom offered his cup to her but she pushed it back to him.
“No, you must have it,” she insisted. “Please celebrate your granted wish.”
“Only if you celebrate with me,” Wonbeom tried to push the cup forward.
Soyong gave up suddenly, almost spilling the wine from the cup. Wonbeom could guess her chain of thoughts, as she sighed, made a miserable face, and finally took a sip. Then her mask was back on.
They continued tricking each other into drinking more and Wonbeom started to fear she would outdrink him.
Wonbeom felt hot and dropped his robe from his shoulders while the Queen said her braid felt too tight and she loose it free. Feeling dizzy with the all alcohol he consumed, Wonbeom found it hard to hold back his pleased smile. Because, how could he not smile when Soyong looked so cute with her rosy from all the wine cheeks and sudden hiccups?
“Why…” Wonbeom for a second wanted to ask why she was so cute but stopped himself. There’s no time for this, he shook his head and continued with a different question: “Why don’t she come back?”
“Huh?” Soyong tried to focus her eyes on him, waving from side to side on her seat. “Who’s she? Ah… Her?” she clapped her hands laughing.
“I’m serious right now,” Wonbeom pouted his lips. “Why would she escape from me, one way or another?”
Soyong hummed narrowing her brows in deep thoughts.
“Her family getting punished as we speak,” Soyong started slowly. “I don’t think she’s thrilled to discover how her father is suffering.” She raised her eyes at Wonbeom: “Even if he’s guilty.”
Wonbeom remembered how Kim Mun Geun used to visit Soyong at Detached Palace when she was selected as the future Queen of Joseon. He always brought many gifts with him and at the time Wonbeom found it hard to feel anything but despise for him. Those were items bought on stolen from the common people’s money with all the corruption Andon Kim clan was guilty of. And she couldn’t possibly be oblivious to her clan’s deeds because no matter how lowly Wonbeom used to think of her he also knew that Kim Soyong was a bright woman with a sharp mind.
Chef Jang was the first one to point out that family ties are much more complicated. There was only one way to test Kim Mun Geun and where his loyalty lies. And to Wonbeom’s surprise, Kim Mun Geun chose his daughter over wealth.
Of course, Soyong misunderstood the whole home arrest news as it was secret why exactly the guards were placed at her natal home. It was the needed measure to protect a whistleblower until the danger from the Kim clan would be neutralized.
“Why do you think so lowly of me?” Wonbeom sadly asked. The guiltiest ones from her clan were punished but her father still wasn’t. Why instead of asking the difference between him and others she think the worst of him?
Soyong let out a long sigh lowering her eyes down: “Because you were never nice to Kim Soyong.”
The unshed tears sparkled in her eyes: “You didn’t give her any reasons…” The rest of the sentence was mumbled quietly but Wonbeom understood what she meant.
“I promise you I will treat you better,” Wonbeom whispered. She raised her eyes full of tears peering into his. He wished he could read minds so he could know what she thought at that moment.
Wonbeom thought she would say something else but she only blinked and she started falling forward as she passed out. He barely had the time to catch her head before it hit the table. Moving slowly so he wouldn’t disturb her sudden peaceful dream, Wonbeom moved around the table and shifted her into his embrace. He gently hooked his other arm under her knees and lifted her up. Soyong mumbled something inaudible and moved her head to lie more comfortably against his chest.
Wonbeom smiled melancholically watching her peacefully sleep in his arms. If only things would be so easy and she could trust him when she’s awake too. He walked to her prepared bedding and gently lowered her onto the mattress. Carefully he placed her head on the pillow and covered her with the blanket.
“Welcome back, my Queen,” Wonbeom whispered, putting away the lock of hair off her cheek. In response she whined in her sleep, turning away from him and taking the whole blanket with her.
Wonbeom smiled warmly looking at her serene expression as she slept. Since she occupied the whole bed, Wonbeom could only leave back to his residence but he refused to. Instead, he took cushions on which they sat and used them as the pillows and his robe as the blanket. He fell asleep looking at Kim Soyong’s sleeping form on her bedding and with hope in his heart that when he woke up, she still be her.
==== POST CREDIT SCENE ===
The smell of alcohol made it hard for Wonbeom to focus on the military book he was reading. All because Chef Jang hated to drink alone and needed company. Even if Wonbeom shared a few cups before going back to his studies that wasn’t enough.
“Ya, you forbid me to visit Oktajeong8Oktajeong is a kisaeng house.,” Chef Jang whined. “Take responsibility, I need a drinking buddy!”
Wonbeom took a deep breath, begging for a bit more patience because he seemed to run out of it.
“We agreed that using this body that way is inappropriate,” Wonbeom explained yet again.
They had a massive argument regarding this when Wonbeom spotted him in a kisaeng house last time. After a failed attempt to switch bodies in the lake, Bong Hwan started to act more erratic. When Wonbeom got angry after finding him among kisaengs9Kisaengs were women from outcast or slave families who were trained to be courtesans, providing artistic entertainment and conversation to men of the upper class. with lipstick all over his cheeks and neck, Chef Jang pointed out how it was unfair. How long he must live in the Queen’s body to finally consider it his own? The point was valid but nonetheless painful for Wonbeom to admit. That reminded him about the devastating possibility of Soyong never coming back.
“That’s right but if I can’t spend my time flirting with women I can at least drink in the company of my friend and discuss women,” Chef Jang poured Wonbeom another cup of wine. “What would Lady Jo Hwa Jin would say if she knew you visit places like that.”
Wonbeom shut his book close, it’s impossible to learn anything when someone so chatty is around.
“I would tell her the truth,” Wonbeom turned fully to face Bong Hwan across the table. “I wasn’t there to meet women, it’s simply a good place for secret meetings.”
“Your loyalty to each other is admirable,” Bong Hwan made an annoyed face. “How did you two even meet?”
Wonbeom smiled softly remembering their first meeting as the kids. She was the only memory from that period of his life that put a smile on his face. He experienced some horrendous mental torture when he got stuck alone in the well. His mother promised to return and took him somewhere safe but she never came back. Later he found out she was executed shortly after hiding him in the old dry well.
“We first met when my whole family were named traitors and executed…”
“How romantic…” Bong Hwan sarcastically whispered.
“I survived because I hid in the old well and by the time I escaped, Andon Kim clan decided to spare my life,” Wonbeom continued ignoring Bong Hwan’s comments.
They tortured him first and Kim Jwa Geun loved to subtly remind him about this from time to time. Wonbeom shook his head, brushing away bad memories, it’s not what his story with Hwa Jin was about.
“She was a strange girl I met at the well. She said she came there to die… so young but so despaired already.” Wonbeom chuckled in his memories: “Despite her words, she brought food and water with her, and the bamboo mat,” Wonbeom continued his recollection. “She even took a book with her. How would she read it in the pitch darkness? I could barely see her features!”
Wonbeom laughed, remembering how he refused to eat her food but she tricked him and he ended up eating everything she had. She even sang a song while he was eating, which puzzled him even more.
“Poor Kim Soyong,” her voice pulled him out of his memories. It was still so bizarre to Wonbeom to see her and hear her voice but know she was a completely different person inside.
Chef Jang shook his head: “She wouldn’t waste her time developing feelings for you if she knew about sageuks10Sageuks are historical kdramas. cliches.”
“Sageuks cliches?” Wonbeom asked confused by what those words meant.
“Yeah, if two met as kids, it’s basically a sealed deal,” Chef Jang explained with more confusing words. “You meant to be, no one can fight against fate like that.”
“Now you understand how useless are your attempts to woo her?” Wonbeom laughed.
Hwa Jin knew about Bong Hwan and his intense flirting bugged her. At least that is what Wonbeom heard from her. But she never asked him to interfere and dealt with Bong Hwan on her own.
“The girl you described doesn’t sound like Hwa Jin though,” Bong Hwan suddenly noted.
“Years passed since then,” Wonbeom rolled his eyes, annoyed he had to explain obvious things. “She matured of course.”
“You know who didn’t mature well?” Chef Jang pointed to himself. “This woman. Hwa Jin is perfect in every way. Beautiful, noble, elegant…” Bong Hwan sighed dreamingly.
“But this woman is not. Spoiled, cruel…” he wrinkled his nose. “She doesn’t even look that pretty…”
Wonbeom suddenly felt so offended on Soyong’s behalf: “I think you’re going too far, Jang Bong Hwan!”
“Am I?” Chef moved closer to the table, squinting his eyes.
“She might be from the Kim clan and maybe she has a short temper but nonetheless, Kim Soyong is a lady. And a beautiful one for sure.”
“Ah, I knew it!” Bong Hwan hit the table with a palm. “You like her!”
Wonbeom laughed at this ridiculous accusation: “You couldn’t be more wrong! I simply don’t see her as a woman. But there’s no need to deny obvious and…” Wonbeom pointed at Bong Hwan’s direction: “She’s an attractive lady.”
“Sure,” Bong Hwan waved his hand obviously not buying Wonbeom’s words.
“Oh-ho, you’re accusing the King of lying?” Wonbeom gasped in offense. “Why would I like this strange woman when I have a kind and noble Lady Hwa Jin!”
Bong Hwan shook his head chuckling.
“You know what’s strange Jong-ie?” Bong Hwan asked smiling widely. “The words you use when you talk of Hwa Jin are noble and kind. But when you talk about Soyong, it’s strange…”
Like that girl in the well, Wonbeom finished the sentence in his head.
If it wasn’t clear from this chapter: Cheoljong is madly in love, it’s kinda of cute and creepy in a way from her POV because as she remembers he hates her. And yes, Wonbeom intentionally switched to calling her Queen and directing his questions to her instead of “chingu” but she’s too drunk to notice.
I hope you like post-credit scenes because it’s really fun to write about Jong-ie’s and Bong Hwan’s friendship and teasing. In those flashbacks, BH is more of a modern man than So Bong was on the show. Because So Bong still was a mix of female and male and no one believed who she(he) was. But here he’s alone in this body and everyone knows it, so BH is more relaxed and himself.
Since SY was absent while they communicated that close, it’s natural that WB doesn’t feel that connection with her and can’t recognize her as a girl from the well. So I wrote BH pointing out some things to WB so he would figure this out in another way.
The description of what happened in the well was taken from the script where this scene was longer. Soyong really gave him food, tricked him into eating, and sang a song. In the show, they had only a scene where she gave him water and you still can see her bamboo mat in the well. The girl got there prepared.
In the next chapter, WB continues teasing SY and SY still will be so confused.
- 1Jeonha – Your Majesty.
- 2Jusang – 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.
- 3Hyeong-nim – a male addressing to the brother.
- 4Huijeongjeon Hall – King’s residence.
- 5Daejojeon Hall – Queen of Joseon residence after the wedding.
- 6Jungjeon – Queen or My Queen.
- 7Chingu – a friend.
- 8Oktajeong is a kisaeng house.
- 9Kisaengs were women from outcast or slave families who were trained to be courtesans, providing artistic entertainment and conversation to men of the upper class.
- 10Sageuks are historical kdramas.