"Infirmary!" Dae Young shouted once he saw the flickering lights of the torches perched at the surrounding outposts of their base. He was still too far for his voice to be heard, but he persisted, desperate for someone to quickly attend to them. While the horse galloped straight towards their destination, Dae Young looked back. "Yoo Si Jin, don't close your eyes!"
He incessantly warned the man who remained slumped on his back, with only one hand weakly clinging onto the rope that tied him onto the soldier.
Damn it. We're almost there!
We're almost there!
Knowing that he was getting nearer and nearer the barracks, Dae Young had found it necessary to call their attention again. "Help!"
"Seo-gunkwan, you should go ahead!" Ahn Jung Joon, who was travelling behind him, said to the man, "We shall arrive shortly,"
"Please do come quick. She is with you," The soldier replied, and instantly kicked his horse to gallop faster to the base. It did not take long for him to arrive, and thankfully, the assigned infirmary volunteers and nurses were quick to run to meet them. Seeing the captain half-dangling behind Dae Young made them jolt in surprise.
"What happened, naeuri?" One of the stationed infirmary volunteers asked as they helped untie the ropes and take the byeongjo down from the horse. "What happened?"
Even Dae Young did not know what to respond; Yoo Si Jin would surely get mad if he disclosed his illness to the public, "He fell unconscious and needs medical attention. Please be quick,"
"Ne," Three of them helped in carrying the man inside one of the huge infirmary tents. Once they entered, they quickly placed Si Jin on one of the makeshift beds inside. While watching the physicians skillfully take off Si Jin's armor and other thick clothing, Dae Young was standing a few meters away, waiting for the other group of soldiers to arrive.
At this rate, Si Jin can no longer wait, he figured. "Is anyone of you knowledgeable of acupuncture needles?"
The three of them paused, looking at each other with clueless faces, and then towards the soldier. "We...specialize in battlefront aid--"
"I'm not asking that. Do you know how to handle needles?"
Softly, all of them shook their heads and continued to take Si Jin's clothes. They noticed the wound that struck him and quickly treated it when one of them noticed something strange. "He's no longer...."
One of them examined by putting two fingers at the crook of Si Jin's neck, and then on his wrist. "I feel nothing. His chest...no longer rises."
Dae Young clenched his hands, "Check again,"
Moments later, the sound of gallops invaded the entrance of the infirmary tent and true enough, it was the rest of the soldiers, along with the lost princess, who marched inside.
"Do you need help?" The soldier, Ahn Jung Joon asked Mo Yeon, who seemed to be in pain while walking wounded and barefoot, but she brushed him off.
"I'm fine naeuri. We have to hurry inside,"
Right when both Jung Joon and Mo Yeon arrived at the premises, they first spotted Seo Dae Young stably waiting just a short distance away from the inner tent flaps. She quickly paced towards the man, since she could not help but have that hint of agitation in her when she saw the sullen look on his face.
"Eodi? Where is he?" Mo Yeon asked with her eyes inspecting the tents and its patients until her eyes cocentered on the right, where there were physicians staring and watching an immobile body resting on one of the beds.
"Your Highness," Dae Young said before she could even make it to his location, "He's..."
"Is that him?"
"He's no longer breathing,"
He's no longer breathing.
The words the soldier said ultimately sent shivers down her spine. With haste, Mo Yeon sprinted and pushed her way inside the infirmary; she no longer cared how her bare feet shivered as it touched the cold ground, nor how the wounds that streaked her leg and the side of her neck ached and bled—all she knew was that Yoo Si Jin needed her help. He may have told her to leave, but she knew, deep down, he needed her.
Walking past injured soldiers and attending lady nurses, Mo Yeon skidded towards the second bed to the right where the unconscious minister lay motionlessly.
"Excuse me," Her voice conveyed a sense of urgency as she gently pushed aside the infirmary physicians left standing idly by, as if they already did not know what to do. Behind her, Seo Dae Young and Ahn Jung Joon walked and watched as the princess took something small out from her tattered frock—a little wooden box, something which surprisingly survived the whole duration of the kidnapping and war.
She quickly placed that wooden box right next to Si Jin's body before taking his dagger out from his scabbard and soon later, stripping him entirely off his upper garments.
Kang Mo Yeon was doing everything in a fast-paced manner; she knew she did not have that much time to spare.
Her fingers, though they were shaking, immediately landed on his neck, and then on his wrist, searching for the faint throbbing within his veins. Please breathe. I am here now. Please breathe for me, her thoughts where clattered as the thought of losing him broke the dam of tears in her.
After a few moments, and with her persistent finger-crossing, she finally felt the faint, irregular thumping rhythm right in the middle of her thumb. "His pulse is still here," Mo Yeon was even surprised herself when she signaled the soldiers who were standing behind her.
Though they wanted to help, Seo Dae Young and the rest of the soldiers could only watch and wait while Kang Mo Yeon was left to find a way to revive the minister; it was a battle only someone like her could fight, but even she was praying and wishing hard just as much as they were.
"Stay with me," Mo Yeon whispered to Si Jin's ear fretfully, that it sounded more like a desperate command. As she repeatedly mouthed the exact same words, her hands reahed for the small wooden box, which turned out to be filled with thin acupuncture needles. If she could do this quickly and accurately while his heart still beats, everything would be fine.
Stay with me.
Yoo Si Jin-ssi, please.
She took one needle after another and pinned them on his wrists, a few of his toes, and some parts of his feet and legs up to the bow resting on top of his lip, his neck, his shoulders...
...until she pinned the last one in the middle of his right thumb. Quickly, she placed her ear against his chest.
"Anieyo. Ani..." She whispered as soon as her ears nor her skin could still not hear or feel his heart beating. "His heart..."
Around her, the nurses as well as the soldiers stood in the deafening silence as they watched the scene.
"Princess," Soldier Seo solemnly walked towards Mo Yeon.
"This can't be," She sobbed with her eyes agape, as though she could still not believe what was happening.
"He's not. He can't be," Mo Yeon said, this time rapidly taking out the needles off his chest, "He must live! Yoo Si Jin-ssi, you can't do this!"
"He's not responding with the needles anymore," Dae Young said with a low, yet firm voice, "It worked before, yes. But now, he's just too weak—"
"Be quiet!" Mo Yeon shrieked and in an instant, lifted her fist and with force, she struck Si Jin's chest--it was one heavy blow. Everyone was surprised at her sudden move.
"What are you doing?!" Dae Young and the rest of the soldiers attempted to restrain the weeping princess until they were silenced by the faint groaning that came from someone.
"It hurts..." Everyone glanced over Yoo Si Jin and were surprised to see him respond to that blow. Even Mo Yeon was left speechless.
Did that desperate move work? For real?
She hovered closely towards Si Jin, and was undoubtedly surprised to see his eyelids faintly fluttering open in the candle-lit room; his dark irises shifted towards her instantly, as if the pair of dark orbs were restless until it finally saw her face. He found solace the moment his eyes met hers.
"You...re okay," He croaked, observing the beautiful mess in front of him; Mo Yeon's dress was torn, her neck wounded and her hair untidy—but she was safe.
"Babo! I was worried of you, do you know that?" Mo Yeon cried as she caressed his hand gently, "I thought... I thought I was already—"
I thought I was already losing you.
She slumped her head on the soft sheets, trying to hold back the tears and sudden surge of worry that rushed in her veins while she suddenly felt the yielding warmth of Yoo Si Jin's hand on her head.
"Treat her," he rasped at Seo Dae Young while wearing a disappointed look, "She's hurt..."
"We're at it, Byeongjo," Dae Young responded, putting his hands on Mo Yeon's arms and lifting her up, but she softly jerked her arms away.
"Let me stay here," The princess said wearily, "He needs help,"
"Your Highness, you have to get treated.," Dae Young asserted, "Your wounds are severe—"
"Your commander and friend was at the brink of death just now!" She shouted in her frustration of everyone trying to pull her away from Yoo Si Jin. She then looked back at the man. "All of you had already given up! Had I not been persistent enough, he could have not lived!"
Si Jin barged in, "Princess--"
"Ya, Yoo Si Jin-ssi! How can you tell me to just go when you need help?"
"How could you give orders casually when you're in pain? You nearly died!"
While she cried her heart out, Si Jin closed his eyes, as though he was implying her to stop, but he felt her sit back on the chair beside his bed.
"Let me stay, please. I want to help you," She wailed with her hands brushing off the warm tears that fell from her eyes. Regardless of her cry, Si Jin remained silent as he maneuvered his right hand to his left arm—taking one needle off his skin and then another.
"My mission is to save Joseon, and more importantly...to save you," Si Jin breathed before biting his lip while taking out a needle that dug deep on the fold of his arm, "You said you wanted to help me...then keep yourself safe,"
"It's the best help you can do for me,"
"The greatest that I can do?" Mo Yeon hated how he could still influence her mind despite him being weak and frail. Standing up from her seat, she helped him take the rest of the thin needles out from his arms and legs while restraining herself from shedding more tears. Somehow, she thought at the back of her mind about pushing those sharp things back in his skin after receiving a letdown.
"Insensitive," she muttered.
As she gathered the needles back in the thin box, she felt Soldier Seo's hand tap her by the arm, "You need to rest. The nurses are waiting at the other tent,"
"Insensitive," Kang Mo Yeon mumbled yet again in dismay, but still she quietly padded away from Si Jin's side, while Ahn Jung Joon trailed behind her. Seo Dae Young remained where he stood all this time; his eyes darted towards Yoo Si Jin.
Before Dae Young could even speak out, the man reclined on the bed told him something highly important.
"Please take her home. Gyeongbokgung was where she lived." Si Jin said in a very tired and weary tone, his eyelids barely opening from exhaustion. "When she arrives home alive and well, then my mission is finished."
"I can't believe you would go this far for a woman,"
Not just some woman, Si Jin tilted his head, his mind dwelling in the truth that she was more than just a pretty face; deep in his heart, Kang Mo Yeon had more value. She is the lost Princess Jeonghyeon, his lost lover...his mission.
His unreachable star.
He wished he had enough energy to make that clear to Seo Dae Young but instead, he slowly pulled out a long jade hairpin out from his sleeve using his hand. With his fingers slowly wrapping around the smooth, long ornament, he slowly moves his hand towards the direction of the soldier.
"What's this?" Dae Young asked, and it took Si Jin a long time to answer. Finally, after a few seconds of tranquil in the room, the minister found the right words to describe what his intentions were.
"A parting gift. There's something in... She knows where I'd hide it," He said it rather wearily, "Swear you would keep her safe,"
"What are you talking about?" Even Soldier Seo was confused, and moreover, peeved in the manner he would speak words, as though he was leaving, "Ya, Yoo Si Jin—"
"Don't let her in this tent...until she leaves. Leave at daybreak," Si Jin commanded, handing the hairpin over to the soldier. Knowing that Si Jin implied him not to ask any further questions, Seo Dae Young slowly moved away and exited the infirmary, leaving the minister in the hands of the waiting infirmary physicians. As he walked out of the huge tent, he looked at the hairpin which he kept safe in his hand.
In front of him was the other infirmary tent, where Kang Mo Yeon—the l