Her first night in the palace was nothing but restless.
Ever since she set foot at the grand Gyeongbokgung Palace, Kang Mo Yeon did nothing else but isolate herself from the world—not because she thought of it as necessary in the war protocol, but because she had nothing but sadness inside her.
She locked herself up in the room they had prepared for her and remained curled up in bed for the whole day; her rest was supposed to be comfortable with the soft cushions and the fragrant sheets made of finest silk, but it was in no way close to that state of ease.
Court ladies would often knock on her door, calling her to come out of her room, but Mo Yeon would keep silent. She did not want to go out just yet, afraid and worried and horrified of everything that was happening, and what could happen next.
She only had Si Jin in her mind as she lay.
For hours, she would think about him, and what caused him to falter that night. For this woman, it was not enough to know that he was ill. What was it that caused him to be in his current state? Was it something that could be treated, or was it something that could eventually take away his life?
And if that was the case, then how much time does he have left?
As morning came, her eyes remained fixated by the neat of his handwriting on the letter he wrote. His words and every bit of heartache he had placed on that sheet of paper, that she could feel.
Your life is far greater without me in it, so please live on and don't hold onto me for too long.
"Did you mean it," Her fingers traced on the smooth surface of the letter, "Or were you forced to make this decision?"
A few heartbeats passed when someone knocked at the door.
"Gongju mama, please open the door,"
It was the same court lady that has been ceaselessly calling her since yesterday; she would constantly as her to come out, and then would disappear for awhile. After an hour, her voice would start ringing once more.
She had been going on for one whole day, and still she has not given up on calling her. With guilt surging in, Mo Yeon finally decided to get up after keeping the letter back in her hairpin.
"I'm sorry for locking myself the whole day," Mo Yeon spoke right when she opened the door. The young court lady bowed down before her.
"Gwenchanha, Your Highness. I'm sorry for intruding, but you need to be taken good care of inside the palace. Jeonha is worried for his daughter's well-being,"
"I'm fine, actually,"
"That is delighting to know, Your Highness. But please, let us serve you,"
Once the court lady bowed before her, a line of them marched in her room with their heads down; each of them holding different things: new and extravagany clothing, furniture, beddings, and even a small table filled with dishes. Though she found it pleasurable to be entitled to live such life, she just did not feel content. Or was it just because she was at her saddest at that point?
Either way, she never found relish on this.
The next few days were a series of the same, colorless events, such moments which ought to be great and grand were just simply dull. By the time she had finally recuperated from her wounds, Kang Mo Yeon decided to take her first morning stroll within the fortified walls of the palace. It was oddly peaceful and quiet inside, as though the entire place was sacred; even the brushing of one's foot on the concrete resounded loudly at how tranquil the royal place was. Truly it was nothing compared to the noise she would often encounter downtown.
"...you are now back to where you belong. Not with me. Not anymore,"
Though she would want to put her trust on Yoo Si Jin's words, Mo Yeon found it unconvincing, since this place never felt like somewhere she found belongingness in. Yes, her eyes would marvel at how beautiful her home was, however it never called her, nor gave her a sense of home.
It was uncomfortable, being followed by a line of court ladies everywhere she would walk; her sense of privacy was being disrupted with the multiple padding of feet behind her.
"What is wrong, Your Highness?"
That too, the term used to call her, made her cringe.
"I... I just want to be alone,"
"Very well," The head court lady leading the group politely bowed, and the rest followed her as well, "We shall be staying behind the corner, should you have any need,"
"Ani, I can walk back on my own," Mo Yeon further insisted, and the ladies were left with no choice but to walk away in an orderly manner. By the time they were all out of sight, she finally heaved a sigh as she continued to walk.
"Alone at last," Mo Yeon walked slowly until she came across a familiar place: standing in between a huge library, and a vast garden of white flowers.
As her eyes raveled towards the place, she remembered the night when he sneaked her inside the palace once and look at the exact same place. She recalled how he walked in the middle of the garden covered in white, and the way he looked up the moon to make a wish.
She remembered the feeling of having his lips touch her.
What could he possibly be doing right now, she whispered in her mind as she walked in the middle of the garden.
Was he being taken good care?
Did he arrive home already?
Is he still suffering?
She could only wish that her worrying would finally come to an end; Mo Yeon wanted to at least see Yoo Si Jin again in person, or to be at least assured that he was doing fine.
Just then, the familiar, ground-thumping sound disrupted the peace within the palace, and even she heard that from where she was standing. Curious as to what have caused the sudden noise, Mo Yeon walked towards the corner of the humongous library structure and peered from behind it. From afar was the huge, open space that laid in between the inner gates and Geunjeongjeon, the King's main hall. It was filled with men—all of them wearing the exact same armor Si Jin's men wore at the North.
"Could it be...?" Mo Yeon rushed closer to the venue, hiding from one structure to another. Once she got closer to the main hall, she had a better view of the men in armor, but neither Si Jin or Dae Young appeared in sight.
However, from where she stood waiting, she could hear two people conversing inside the huge hall. One of them, surprisingly, sounded familiar.
"The byeongjo has initiated your commands in building garrison forts along the North, Jeonha,"
Mo Yeon moved further to the left to get a clearer grasp of the issue; she hated eavesdropping, but this was an important conversation that could lead her to know how Yoo Si Jin was doing.
Just by putting her ears close to the wall, she could vividly hear what was seemed to sound faint.
"I shall be making a personal visit to see the current situation. Although, I cannot disclose it now,"
"Ne, Jeonha," Seo Dae Young replied. Seconds passed before the king spoke once more.
"Speaking of the him, is he not coming back yet?"
"I'm afraid not yet. Yoo-byeongjo thinks he still has a lot of work to do,"
"Would he still be working well given his situation? It has been a week since the end of the siege. It's about time he delegate the work to someone else,"
Seo Dae Young fell silent at that.
"Or is the war minister avoiding the Princess, is it not that?" The King asked, "Keeping himself away to protect her? Does my daughter love him that much that he has to maintain his distance?"
"He has been a potential target to both alliances and enemies since the siege. Other than that, Yoo-byeongjo is slowly suffering. He does not want to drag anyone with him, especially Kang Mo—" Dae Young paused, realizing that was not her name, "Jeonghyeon Gongju,"
"Do you think my daughter will understand that? She has not stepped out from her room ever since she was transported back here,"
"Forgive her, Your Majesty. I have been told she lost her memory, and has been accustomed to the life of a mere commoner,"
"That does not make any difference at all. She only trusts no one but that man," The King spoke, "Bring him here as soon as possible,"
Bring Si Jin back to the palace? That surprised Mo Yeon as she listened by the outer walls.
"That would be too impossible as of this moment, Jeonha. However, I shall inform him to return at all costs and as soon as he can," the clanking of armor was heard from where Mo Yeon was listening, as though Dae Young immediately knelt down in respect in front of the throne. "I shall inform him once we go back to the North,"
"Extend my wishes of good health to that noble man. His father also wishes to send something. Stop by his doorstep before leaving,"
"Ne, Jeonha," Dae Young said, and finally after that, it was quiet.
Kang Mo Yeon padded quickly towards the huge doors of the hall, and waited until the soldier would emerge from inside. She could sense the group of soldiers staring amazed when she peered from behind the wall, and their surprised faces made Seo Dae Young look towards the same direction.
"Kang...er, Your Highness," Dae Young bowed down, "What are you doing all on your own?"
"Please take me with you. Sneak me out of the palace,"
Dae Young blinked, "I cannot do that,"
"I have to see him,"
"You will eventually, Your Highness," Dae Young replied, "But now, everything is too dangerous—"
"I've been through a lot of dangerous events,"
"Then he does not want you to experience any of that anymore. Please excuse me," Dae Young walked away, but she pulled his sleeve before he could walk further away.
"At the very least," Mo Yeon spoke, "Please take me to his father. Then you can send me back home. Please,"
Dae Young wanted to object still, but something convinced him that her week-long stay at the palace was more draining than happy. "Okay, I will do that,"
Later that day, Dae Young dismissed the war battalion before heading off outside, although he noticed that Mo Yeon had not changed for travel. Dae Young made her borrow his coat instead, so as to cover her identity as they ride across the city. She knew they were getting closer to Si Jin's house because she could remember the long stone wall that guarded the estates.
"Joesonghabnida, Yoo-uichangseong is not here," The house's head servant said when they asked, "He was out for a council meeting, but he left a bag of medicine at his office,"
"He endorsed it to me, we will take it," Dae Young replied, and the servant left to get the bag. He then turned to the princess, "He is not here. What else do you plan on doing?"
Without delay, Mo Yeon replied by running inside the house, picking and uprooting some of the plants in the garden. She skillfully plucked the leaves and pulled some plants in a way that you would not know some were gone missing.
"Your Highness, what are you doing?"
"I need to get some of these," Mo Yeon told him, "Come back every week, or send someone to visit the palace,"
"Why so?" He asked, but she did not respond as she was busy taking some of the plants out from the ground. Soon later, Mo Yeon tightly held onto them as she walked back outside. It was only then when the servant also emerged from the room with a silk bag on her hands.
As promised, Dae Young took her back inside the palace after the short trip to Si Jin's house.
"I shall take my leave now, Your Highness," he said as he assisted her down the horse. "Don't go missing. The servants here are liable if something goes wrong. It could cost their lives if you're gone,"
"Just go and keep yourself safe within the palace," Dae Young was to maneuver the horse around when she walked to face him once more.
"Please come here after a month, and from there, come here every week," Mo Yeon continued, "If Yoo Si Jin-ssi cannot personally come near me, then please make me reach him,"
Mo Yeon did not wait for him to agree to her proposal; Dae Young watched as she walked further into the palace, while worried court ladies appeared from one of the hidden corridors.
"She really expects me to do it, doesn't she?"
"Your Highness! Where have you been?" The head court lady of the group asked her, while others were busy brushing off the dirt on her silk frock, "We were looking everywhere for you!"
"Sorry," She bowed to them apologetically, "I was busy looking for something,"
"We had to tell His Majesty the King that you finally stepped out of your room. He wishes to speak to you,"
"Him? Well, okay," Mo Yeon said.
"Please give us those plants first," The court lady replied with her palms open. Mo Yeon realized she was still holding onto the hawthorn plants she took from the Yoo estate.
"N-No, I prefer holding them,"
"But your father is the one you'll be talking to—"
"It's fine. I'll hold onto this," She feared they might misplace them, or even mistake it for garbage and immediately get rid of them. The court ladies had to respect her decision despite not knowing why she treasured those greens that much, and they accompanied her to the main throne hall.
True enough, her father, King Sejong, was sitting atop the elevation. Unsure of what to do, Mo Yeon did the safest thing and that was to walk further in the throne room and as soon as she had secured a safe and respectful distance between her and the leader of the land, she bowed before him.
"How are you?" He sounded authoritative, yet doting.
"I'm okay, Jeonha,"
"Is it true that you lost your memories back when you were here?"
He paused, "What is that in your hands?"
"Err, this.." She her hands shuffled and tried to hide the plants behind her, "They're hawthorn, Your Majesty,"
"Medicinal, I see. It's for him to use isn't it,"
How does he become too omniscient on things?
"I do not understand how you have lost everything that you can possibly remember, but you could still trust someone like Yoo Si Jin. Have you forgotten about him?"
Yes, she did forget about him. She never knew him back when they first met, however there was no explaining as to how she had trusted him that easily, how a part of her was somehow convinced that the stranger was someone she would devote her time to; it felt as if her soul knew she had encountered this person many years ago, despite her mind not knowing.
And she was not sure if the King would comprehend such thing.
"I was just convinced that he was someone I could put my trust on. But I never knew him then,"
"But do you now know who he really was to you before?"
Yes, she could only nod in reply, because she felt too foolish to have known that and have things turn out this way; now that she knew, Yoo Si Jin himself began to push her away. For what? For her safety.
It was because he loved her too much that he had to keep his distance. And it was because she loved him just as much that he was forced to do such. Now she was confused as to whose fault it was that they should be kept apart; it seemed like Si Jin was to blame, but Mo Yeon would be very much convinced that it was because of her that things turned out this way for them--and most especially for him.
He risked his life for her...how could anything be more cruel? She had done wrong, she thought.
While she stood in the middle of the great hall, King Sejong could only look at her with pity; the strong emotion made him stand up from his seat and walk towards the princess, and as soon as he was standing right in front of her, he wrapped her inside his arms.
"What father could be so foolish to give his daughter nothing but this," The King told her solemnly, "You have lost a lot in the process. Your mother, your memory, and even the man you have placed your heart on...and I cannot do anything to bring any of that in my power,"
"Why can't you? Not even the only person you can possibly bring back?"
"His distance entails the safety of Joseon, and your own safety," The King spoke as he let go of the embrace, "It will take long before the siege threats will clear out. In time, he will come back,"
Mo Yeon could no longer argue and decry the King's word. She stood there in silence, but her mind was thrashing, dissatisfied and disappointed with what was going on.
"Everyone is doing everything they can to keep you safe. You may be on tough grounds, but you are alive. That is what matters,"
"Ne," She nodded, after receiving a pat on the shoulder; she had never had a memory of a father consoling her, at least for a long as she could remember, but this felt comforting.
It helped her somehow.
Later that day, the King requested court ladies to her, and to give her a 'little freedom' in her little corner in the palace; he figured it would help her cope with the tension she had gone through. After knowing about her gathered interest in medicine, King Sejong himself gave her a gift: a new set of acupuncture needles which were handcrafted in the palace.
With the warm welcome she was given, Mo Yeon felt herself slowly opening up to the place she ought to call home, but the feeling of worry and emptiness still dwelled in her.
The following day, what she was doing early in the morning surprised the court ladies. They came to her quarters before the sun could even rise, but they were flabbergasted to know their princess woke up earlier than expected.
She was outside, digging the garden's soil with her bare hands.
"Your Highness!" The court ladies dashed towards her, "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to save someone's life," Mo Yeon muttered, finally making a hole on the ground huge enough for replanting. Beside her were a few sticks, and some hawthorn shrubs which were distinct from what grew in her garden.
If I can't get him back, I want him safe, she thought of him as she continued to burrow the ground with her bare hands.
"Your Highness, you shouldn't be doing this—"
"Moonflowers are poisonous," She said with an obvious stoic voice, "Please take them away and plant them someplace else,"
"But these flowers have been maintained since your disappearance,"
"I am knowledgeable of that. Now I've come back, I have made a resolve. I want them taken away," Mo Yeon firmly insisted, "The King has ordered to give me my own freedom in this small patch of land, hasn't he?"
"Your Highness..." The head court lady bowed before her, "We do understand and we know what you a