Three days have passed since Yoo Si Jin left for the Northern boundaries with his most trusted soldier, which signified that Kang Mo Yeon only had four more days to recall and harken back every single detail that the young war minister has to know about the siege. Apart from that, three says also meant she had been apart from him for that long, and would have four more days to wait for his return.
Strangely, despite the assurance of him returning after a week, three days felt like three months for her. It felt like waiting for forever; his absence only made her anxious of a lot of unnecessary things, like if they would have a safe journey to the northern side of the country with the snow slowly getting thicker day by day, or if five men riding on their horses deep in the forests was even a good idea, or worse—if they come across enemy camp. Where he and the others went, and why…she had no clue. Kang Mo Yeon was left to wonder about it.
She could only feel more secured whenever she saw him physically, and when he was away, she felt like every arrow was pointed on her, reminding her how vulnerable she was without him. During these past few days, Mo Yeon only had Yoon Myung Joo to share her uncertainties with.
"They're royal soldiers, and Yoo Si Jin is the best battle strategist the King could ever have. He's the byeongjo, remember?" Lady Yoon calmly said as she and Mo Yeon had another one of their lessons on medicinal herbs, plucking the leaves one by one from the branches the former had just recently bought in the market, "Those guys have the clearest of judgements. They would know how to get there because they do travelling a lot."
"But considering the weather, it's too inconvenient to travel, isn't it?"
"It is," Myung Joo was also getting tired of playing confident and nonchalant about it because she herself was just as worried thinking of the minister; even she could not believe he agreed to travel during the start of the cold season. She knew for a fact that Yoo Si Jin felt groggy when the temperature reached its extremes: whether it was too hot or too cold. Even his late mother felt the same thing back when she was still living.
She would've wanted to tell Mo Yeon about it, but she chose not to.
"You worry too much. Yoo-byeongjo knows what he's doing, and he has his own reasons for traveling in such bad weather. If it's for the safety of the nation, he leaves his comfort zone,"
"Poor guy. Sometimes I think he has been deprived. He seems to get busy even at times he was not required to be," Mo Yeon mumbled as she plucked a leaf from the small branch of an herbal plant, "Doesn’t have time…comes and goes just like that… Did he ever have the time to treat you back when you were still engaged?"
“What?” Myung Joo shook her head immediately, "What are you even saying? He has never even kissed anyone,"
Mo Yeon felt her face heat up at that, "G-Geureokuna,"
"Waeyo? You're blushing,"
"Why, did he kiss you?"
The pink blush extended from Mo Yeon's cheeks to her ears. "Well, we actually—"
"How many times?"
"Did you two...you know, did Minister Yoo take your—"
"Aniyo! That did not certainly happen!" She squealed, her face pink from all the embarrassment she felt (particularly with the weird, ual scenes that never happened but for some reason popped in her mind). Wait, why am I even thinking of such thing?!
"So what happened really?"
"He took me out on a boat ride to the royal palace, and brought me to the library,"
Myung Joo raised a brow, thinking that it was the most absurd place to bring a girl in. "He's weird,"
"Then he showed me the princess' beautiful garden, the one that bloomed beautifully during nighttime. That's where it happened,"
"He..." The scene repeated itself in her mind, and she remembered how warm his lips were when it touched hers, "...kissed me,"
"He's really weird," She mumbled with a snobby face.
"Why, you ask?" Myung Joo slammed her hand on the table, "Who on earth would even have the decency of mind to bring you to a place where his dead, former bride-to-be spent most of her time in back in the day? Aigoo, what a man,"
"Probably because he found it beautiful," Mo Yeon replied, remembering how Si Jin told her about it that night, "He even said that it was a wish-granting garden. When you stand in the middle of those night-blooming flowers under the blue moon, your wishes come true,"
"Heol, he told you that? Just because the late Princess says so does not make it a wish-granting garden. And besides, with the seasons changing to winter, the flowers shall disappear eventually," Myung Joo scoffed, placing the plucked leaves on one side of the table while she gave Mo Yeon a few instructions on how to boil them out. However, while Myung Joo was talking, she observed Kang Mo Yeon staring blankly at the small pile of leaves they both made on the table. “For all I know, Yoo Si Jin went there oftentimes wishing for her to come back but it never came true.”
“I heard differently,”
Mo Yeon's mind was still on its own, recalling how she saw Yoo Si Jin standing in the middle of the garden when she exited the library.
"For two hours, I stood here wishing for wishes as numerous as the flowers in this garden," she remembered him say; he named a few, but not all.
“I wished to free myself from holding back. I wished that I could finally move on and put the past behind, I wished I could finally say this straight right in front of you,”
Perhaps that night, he started wishing for different things other than seeing her again.
He gave up on a wish as soon as he realized it can never be granted.
On top of that, he whispers wishes on flowers and not on the stars...
…Lady Yoon was right: he indeed is weird but he really is one of a kind.
"Ya, are you even listening? Kang Mo Yeon-ssi," Myung Joo waved her hands above her face, causing Mo Yeon to blink. "Place everything inside that pot and let it boil for an hour,”
“Ah. Y-Yes, right. I will,” She blinked.
“You have to know the process. Who knows you'll need to boil this for someone in the future,"
Mo Yeon nodded and eagerly placed all the contents in the boiling water. So much for daydreaming, "If I may ask, what is this and what does this plant treat?"
"Ah, this hawthorn plant? Its leaves, flowers and berries are used as an anticoagulant and medicine for heart diseases," Myung Joo narrated in an intellectual, scholarly manner, like how an educator would, “You can find lots of these planted here in the estates,”
“I see… Someone here must be using this plant’s healing abilities,”
“Correct,” Myung Joo exclaimed, only to realize that her answer could cause suspicion.
"Jinja?" Before Myung Joo could even save things, the clueless, innocent Mo Yeon already asked, "Is someone sick? Nugu? Is it Yoo Si Jin's father?"
"A-aaah, it was Yoo Si Jin's mother! She died of a heart illness, you see,"
"But why make this when she already passed away?"
"Well, I mean..." Myung Joo was itching for excuses, "...you never know when this'll come in handy, right?"
Mo Yeon peered at the boiling pot and nodded her head, "I see. Well, even if I still know no one who might need this, I am glad that you have taught me well," she grinned at Myung Joo, who gave her a nervous bow.
"A-As I was saying…” Myung Joo heaved a sigh before she continued, “One of the most crucial parts in tending to your patient is making them drink this awful-tasting medicine, and it is one thing I can't teach. It is a technique you yourself should know," She teased Mo Yeon, "By the time it has finished boiling, you will begin to smell its unpleasant odor. It tastes bitter too,"
"Then I hope I succeed at that when the time comes," Mo Yeon clasped on her hands as she waited for an hour until she could finally open the pot, and it did smell awful.
If medicine was supposed to help make patients feel better, this couldn't be counted as one considering its smell, she thought with her hands pinching her nose. "No wonder making patients drink this is a crucial thing, as you would describe it. I doubt even Si Jin’s mother is able to stand this smell,"
"She’s obedient, but her son is stubborn! Trust me, Yoo-uichangseong has been on it for a long time, he just passed the burden onto me—“
Another slip of the tongue. Myung Joo's eyes widened in realization but noticed that Mo Yeon had her full attention in studying the freshly-boiled plant, dipping a ladle on the boiling pot.
"Aish, it smells,” She steps away from the pungent-smelling pot and to a safer distance, “Ah, I am sorry I didn't catch what you were saying, what was it again?"
"N-Nothing," Myung Joo obviated, "I think we've had enough for today,"
By sundown, Myung Joo went back home before the snow would start to fall. At around this time, Si Jin summoned her to his office when they would begin investigation.
She was surprised to find herself walking to the direction of his office. “Has it become a routine?”
Ever since Yoo Si Jin took her in his house, she had two main tasks for the day: lessons with Lady Yoon, and investigations with none other than Si Jin himself; with the two of them gone, there was nothing much to do, and she, being a former errand lady, somehow missed working and running about. Mo Yeon missed taking out the laundry, cooking food, and cleaning floors, but people in this place only wanted her to rest.
For the past three days, Kang Mo Yeon wanted to help out in the kitchen, and for every try she made, she failed in doing so.
“The servants should at least take me in right now,” Mo Yeon turned back and scurried to the kitchen where the house servants were busy preparing food. She again approached them, telling them how she desperately wanted to help the servants clean and cook for dinner but they politely declined. "Agissi, you may be in a servant lady's clothes, but you are not one of us. Please make yourself comfortable instead," they bowed.
“What should I do then? I am bored, and Yoo-byeongjo asked me not to go beyond the courtyard,”
“We’ll send you something to do in your room. Would you like to do some embroidery, agissi?”
Embroidery is not bad at all. Mo Yeon said to herself.
"It can't be helped, then. Arasso, at least I have something to do," She greeted them with a bow before she strolled out of the kitchen. The cold air was seeping down even in her thick clothes that she decided to run down the hall when she bumped into someone as soon as she made a turn at the corner.
"M-Mianhe, I was running—omo!" Right when she lifted her face to see the person she collided with, she just wanted the ground to bury her in an instant.
It was the uichangseong, Yoo Si Jin’s father.
“The floor must be cold, young lady," Yoo Young Geun stared, studying her from head to foot as he stood right in front of her. Seeing him was something Mo Yeon least wanted to happen after her first encounter with the middle-aged man; she recalled hiding behind Si Jin as the two bickered at each other.
"I'm sorry, daegam. It won't happen again," Mo Yeon trembled, stepping aside with her head down while she waited for the Right Minister to walk and pass by, but instead she saw his feet staying where it had always been.
"I should be the one asking for forgiveness," Young Geun said something she least expected him to say, "For tarnishing your name and for calling you a malicious woman,"
"I actually was a gisaeng for a week, daegam,"
"But you aren't. You are a virtuous noblewoman, am I correct?"
"N-Ne," She looked up with a nod.
Young Geun smiled—and it was probably a rare thing to be seen—walking a few steps forward before he turned to her again. "Agissi, have dinner with me,"
"I wish to have a word with you," The man said before he started walking again.
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