Nightmares of death.
It was the only thing that shackled her to the darkest of her thoughts; it dragged her into the deep slowly, and then later on all at once. Kang Mo Yeon had never felt such fear in what has been deemed the most fortuitous variable in the life of a human being, and despite her yearning to take this certain awareness of being mortal away, this was a part of her life.
This has already been a part of her.
She had been long exposed to circumstances which threatened her life and tarnished her sense of security; her childhood was a series of different messes which worsened each time. Her mother was murdered. Silver, blood-stained blades of the Jurchens threatened her life. She fell of a cliff and lost the most important of her memories. Yes, she had been long redeemed by those unfortunate events, but the nightmares never stop. They creep in unexpectedly.
Dreams would come, sometimes not in bliss. They would sometimes come in the form of a hideous creature that evolved through time. It haunted her. Visions of her mother's hand slipping away from her tight grip, the cold blizzard, the screaming and the ceaseless laments of a thousand voices screeched through her ears. She felt her hands and feet tighten up in an invisible bind, her eyes wanting to cry out tears but could not possibly do so. It was sad, unfortunate and horrifying--all at once--that she could never do so much but to let the loud, white noise consume her.
And then, later on, the nightmares would take image of a man--Yoo Si Jin--running with her towards the cliff in the Northern Boundaries.
Come with me, he screamed amidst the snow that tried to keep them apart, I will save you.
The Jurchens were closing in, and she had no other choice but to run towards the young man inviting her. As they ran further, the distance in between slowly began closing in. They were headed for the ravine.
There's no way out, Mo Yeon cried out as she reached for his hand, but Si Jin kept running.
There is a way out! He looked back, tears flowing down his eyes. They were a few steps away from the high cliff, and countering their initial trail would only mean having themselves killed by the invaders. Before either of them could even make the decisive move, Si Jin grabbed hold of her hand. We have to jump.
Have you lost your mind?!
It is the only way out of this. You have to trust me.
What was even more frightening was the fact that Si Jin sounded as calm as he always was. His hands were not shivering. His legs stood firm, in a particular stance ready to jump off the high cliff.
You will be safe. I promise. Words were uncertain, but it was him telling her these.
And then she decided.
Mo Yeon lifted her feet above the ground, allowing Si Jin to fully take control. He pulled her towards him.
He ran, pulling her behind until his feet no longer stomped on snow-covered ground. They were on air.
Si Jin pulled her to a tight embrace, instantly taking her weight in with him, and they fell down fast that the blizzard brushed their skin frozen. She caught one glance of the river closing in as they were freefalling, and her lover's lips whispering something before turning into a contented smile.
When they fell, they dropped with a boundary in between. She fell safely on the water, while Yoo Si Jin crashed on the ground.
"No!" Mo Yeon screamed loudly, her hands shivering in fear as she tried to flee the hallucinations brought about by her mind.
Her constant crying came to a halt when she hit on something hard when she turned to the side. Her head took the impact, but it was not as hard as she expected it to be. It was rather soft, as though it was a thick wall covered in warmth and the familiar scent of the fragrant musk and a hint of hawthorn. All at once, the shrieking disappeared and faded, only to be replaced by a different, unusual sound of troubled calmness. She could hear it. She could feel it.
She was in bed, waking up at the sound of his beating heart. Kang Mo Yeon felt the screeching seep through the crevices of the voided space made by the calm morning. Every beat, albeit arrhythmic, was like a turbulent wave that met the shore, pushing rocks after rocks away.
And then, all of a sudden, everything was gone, except for the muffled thumping that enclosed her from any threat. When Mo Yeon opened her eyes, she realized she was not inside the nightmare, no boundary, no river nor rocky land. Gravity was on her left side, acting upon her horizontally, but her head rested upon, indeed, a thick wall in the form of Si Jin's chest. The calming pounds came actually from him.
He's here, she felt her chest loosen up in relief, knowing that she was resting her head against a living being. He was breathing. He was alive.
Did I...have a bad dream again?
With utmost caution, she pulled away from her rest against his chest and looked up to see Yoo Si Jin sleeping soundly beside her, looking much more like an angel enjoying his slumber. He had been spooning her during their sleep, as far as Mo Yeon could remember him wrapping his hands around her waist last night, but she somehow made it a habit to snuggle close and lean onto him as she would listen to the involuntary sound he made beneath his chest. It was his arrhythmic heartbeat that lulled her to sleep, and it was the same which perked her up from any horrible dream she would have. Perhaps, it was his body's way of reminding her that fearing was not an option with him around.
Mo Yeon always thought her husband would not want her to remind him of his flaws health-wise, and so she kept it to herself of how she found the sound of his heart oddly comforting. It sounded peaceful and chaotic, like a brewing storm.
"Just stay with me," She whispered as she snuggled her way back to Si Jin's embrace, while her mind travelled back to when she started wishing for him to live each day. Despite the struggle of having nightmares at times, waking up beside him was enough to tell her that everything was going to be fine.
Kang Mo Yeon, after about three days since their wedding, finally moved in with her husband to the house he had once took her in—the house which she felt much more like home. The Yoo estate's servants and Si Jin's father were the only people who occupied the vast estate other than him, but nonetheless, the vast abode was warm and welcoming because everyone showed their utmost hospitality to the princess. Even the servants could not contain their joy, seeing that the young 'witness' that their master Si Jin had asked of them to take care and protect would finally come back to the manison as their young master's wife.
"Does this house suit you, Princess?" She recalled him asking her this as soon as he guided her out from her carriage back then, and likewise remembered herself replying with an ecstatic nod.
Si Jin smirked, "This your home now. Welcome home," He looked at her with a thoughtful smile on his face, his charms ever putting a blush on her cheeks that she had to look away and face on the side.
I'm putting up with this face for eternity, she bit her bottom lip while her heart was pounding. How was she supposed to keep herself calm and composed with his face? Every single time she would catch him focused on her, she instantly blushes pink from her cheeks to her ears.
"Am I that irresistible?" He suddenly asked her after moments of not getting a response from her. It was an awkward situation they were at since the couple were still underneath the gate arch of their home while the servants were standing and waiting for them inside. Si Jin instantly knew this had something to do with him.
However, Mo Yeon wanted to convince him otherwise, "No,"
"Then why are you looking away?"
"I don't know," She mumbled, while the sound of her jade garakji rings clicked beneath her hands. Si Jin could not even believe this was happening: his wife acting bashful even with them being lawfully married to each other. He could do nothing but chuckle and cross his arms in amusement.
"We have spent three nights together, making love all over, but still you can't look at me straight in the face?"
"Ya!" Mo Yeon shrieked, flustered at how Si Jin could be so casual about certain things she thought was only kept for themselves. She quickly turned towards his direction and clasped her hands over his mouth worriedly, while Si Jin gazed at her eye to eye; her face totally red and flushed in snap embarassment. A few meters away, the lady servants could be seen forcing in a smile while they waited for them to come in. "You're too loud, they can hear you," Her pupils slightly moved towards the direction where the servants were.
"It's fine. They've already assumed it the moment we married, it's nothing to be worried about,"
"Come, jagi," Si Jin took her hands off his face and placed it above his arm before they began to walk further inside, "Just remember, from here on out, you're no longer a witness I'm taking in this house. You are my wife, so what is mine will likewise be yours," He sounded firm yet comforting, that Mo Yeon could only do nothing but to release the stiffness of her arms and lean towards Si Jin's side as they walked. Nothing felt more assuring than to have him tell her everything was perfectly fine, albeit occasionally finding herself lost and bedazzled whenever he looked at her. Looking straight at Si Jin was going to take a lot of getting used to, and perhaps their new life as a wedded couple would help her with it.
Sleeping and waking up secure beside him was one of the many things she had been doing--and loved doing--consecutively for four months, ever since the day they had sworn to face forever as one. Days turned into months in a fast-paced yet detailed motion; she found herself standing in the place of ideal which she never thought she would reach, for it was unfathomable to be with a person she had forgotten by mind, but remember by heart.
During the past four months of being wedded to him, Kang Mo Yeon never felt anything else but joy. Despite seeing him being busy at times, it was indeed a joy to be with someone who knew exactly how she wanted things to work. It was a joy to be with someone who would tell her that the meal she first made solely for him was the most delicious he had ever tasted even if she knew she overcooked it. It was a joy to be with someone who would tell her stories at night about her forgotten identity, telling her that apart from her losing her memories, nothing else had changed. That she was still beautiful.
Today, Kang Mo Yeon just wanted to hear him talk about her. She wanted her husband to tell more stories about the princess he knew two decades ago--the woman she was but she would never possibly remember. Keeping that in mind, she stayed beside him, waiting for him to wake up from his sleep. She did not want to disturb him; he looked so peaceful that she did not wish to intrude his dreams, if he was even really dreaming at that moment.
He was taking pretty long to wake up than what she expected that she felt herself being back into her slumber when Si Jin groaned and moved his head to her side. The lids of his eyes slowly fluttered open, and upon seeing her, his lips curved into a smile.
"How long have you been staring at me?" Yoo Si Jin asked her, his voice tired and husky as one's usual voice when they had just woken up.
She blushed instantly, "Just a while,"
"How long is a while?"
That made Mo Yeon pause for a few short breaths before she could come up with an answer, "Probably long enough for you to realize I have been staring while you were asleep,"
He chuckled, "You're witty. What is it? Is something bothering you?" His voice was filled with so much empathy and concern as he brushed her hair with his fingers, knowing she was preoccupied by an unknown commodity just by touching the strands of her long, black hair, "Or you wanted to tell me something?"
Of all the many things that Si Jin continuously impresses her, Mo Yeon would always be surprised whenever he knows how something was bothering her, or if she plans on telling him something without her actually telling it. Just now, he somehow had a clue about her being troubled. Was he that good in reading minds? Or was he just plain lucky?
"I..." She did not even think of asking him how he knew; it was just how he was, perhaps, but she did not want to tell him about her recent nightmare. She thought he would not want to hear about it either, "...actually thought of something,"
"Mm. What about?" Si Jin crinkled his nose.
She nodded, her hand snaking through the slight curves of his waist, "Can you tell me stories?"
"Even if I've done it before?" He said after a chuckle he had attempted to conceal, as though he was trying to point out they have been through the storytelling during the past months of their marriage, "You want me to talk about you?"
"I want to know more," Kang Mo Yeon pressed herself closely to his side; she could feel his hands moving beneath to wrap her to an embrace, "Yes, I know. I know you have talked me through before and I am very thankful of that. Because of it, I have known myself in a different mirror. You have made myself known to me. I've known how I've once lived in the palace; my parents are the king and one of his favored consorts. I learned I was actually shy, but I loved reading books and playing on my own at the garden. I already know you first saw me crying, and then we became good acquaintances, not knowing we were actually betrothed. I know that. But want to know more. I want to know it from you,"
She sounded more interested than desperate, and Si Jin was amused that even if she was living in what seemed to be a blissful present, she would still want to delve deep into her dark past, moreso the things he thought she rather would leave untouched and forgotten as it was. He tucked some of the strands of her hair behind her ear, endearing her.
"I remember back then," Si Jin spoke, "Long ago, when you were a witness I took in,"
"What is it that you remember?"
"Well, you know. I used to ask you one question after another that time, but we cannot seem to gather information that smoothly," Si Jin laughed as he reminisced the days when all he worried about was war and victory, the time when he first took Mo Yeon in as a witness. Truly, his days being preoccupied at work has finally come to pass, "You could remember a few things, all thanks to the note inside the hairpin left by your mother. I guess it had helped you recall. But you could never remember me from your past,"
"Ne," Mo Yeon answered albeit confused at how he threw her the sudden query. Wasn't she supposed to be the one asking at the moment instead of him?
"You've forgotten quite a lot, huh,"
"Pretty much," Even she felt the guilt and disappointment of losing the most important, core retrospections in her, "Waeyo? Why did you suddenly ask?"
"Ani. I was just curious as to what extent have your memories been erased,"
"It is sad,"
He paused and looked at her, eyes filled with curiosity, "Why so?"
"It is sad and likewise a shame, that I only come to know you as the man I nursed in the infirmary. This is unacceptable. You are more than this," Every word she said filled with remorse and self-resentment, that was at least how he felt it. He couldn't blame her for feeling such emotion; had it been him in her shoes, he would have felt the same thing she currently was.
It took Si Jin a little while to process things before he decided that the most inimitable thing he could give her was a hug. "As much as I would like to tell you about your past, I just would want to emphasize that you don't have to feel discouraged. Live in the present. You found yourself again, isn't this what's important?" Si Jin was trying to make sure she understood every word he said, "Us. What we have is more than who I was supposed to be. We found each other,"
Even if it feels too late for everything, and even if it took us long, we still found each other.
Mo Yeon felt his sincerity, "Thank you, Yoo Si Jin-ssi. But to put things in the right and accurate perspective, you actually found me,"
"Wah," He responded with a playful shrug while he crossed his arms, "Ani. Ani, Jeonghyeon-ah. I have to make things clearer: I actually found you first before you could even find yourself,"
"You just said that didn't matter anymore,"
"It doesn't matter, but it's still the truth," He quipped.
"What is this, are you trying to engage in an argument with me?"
In her response, Si Jin quickly shook his head, while his hands released from their firm lock around his arms. He immediately straightened up as his expression went from insistent to innocent, "I would not want to argue with you," He finally reckoned curtly, and heard her giggle timidly right after, making him chuckle as well. There was something in her presence—her laughter—that made him stronger, more resilient, and all the more joyful. Every tone, every vibration and breath she made captivated him that sometimes he would not mind finding all possible ways to make her laugh, and today was just one of the many other times he led the conversation and made her end up getting twisted. However, after the short, few seconds of basking in the goodness of the tone of her laughter, Si Jin finally set things straight.
"With all sincerity, I don't think it is still necessary for me to tell you about you,"
"Why not?" Her face exhibited a frown all of a sudden, contrary to the confident and thoughtful smile Si Jin gave her.
"I don't think I should be reminding you of who you are. No matter what had taken place before, this..." His hands gestured towards her, pointing her from her head down to her waist as she sat, "This... Everything... It is still you. And I love you, every speck and every ounce of your being. Both the pieces of you lost, and the pieces that make you whole now. You are still the same, carefree, adventurous, humble woman I have come to know. There's no much difference to it,"
"Is there none, really?"
"Oh wait. There is one thing that changed,"
"You're prettier," His words, and his extremely playful smirk did not let the flushing of her cheeks cease. Flustered just as how he always makes her, Mo Yeon slapped his shoulder in annoyance and got up from bed, but in truth she wanted him to keep catching her off-guard with the way he spoke spontaneously. As she ambled farther from their room and to another door leading her outside, she could hear Si Jin calling her back to the room.
"Why would you leave when I just complimented you on how beautiful you are?" He yelled from inside their quarters, "I don't understand you," A few moments later, from inside the room, Yoo Si Jin could hear the creaking of the quarters' door once again, and later on revealed her as she quietly walked back to where he was lying. She looked pretty much annoyed and flushed with the faint tinge of scarlet on her pale skin. When she refused to speak, Si Jin initiated.
"Say it again,"
"That I'm pretty,"
"Wha--" Si Jin paused, quite amused at the reason why she had been blushing like crazy. Mo Yeon loved being complimented; had he realized that earlier, he would have spoiled her with all the words and compliments he could throw on her. His hand reached out to pinch on her cheeks, which made her blink in surprise. "Aigoo. My wife is too materialistic, isn't she?"
"I have a deep inclination for books, Yoo Si Jin-ssi. You should have known how words mean a whole lot to me," She tried to avert her gaze from him, however she did not react with his cheek-pinching.
"Arasso. I will keep that in mind," He got up from his recline and leaned towards her, their faces slightly sealing the void in between them. "You're extraordinarily pretty today,"
She gulped, aware that somehow her face was blushing the whole time.
They have spent their time individually during the day, just as how they wanted it to be. While Yoo Si Jin had told her he would be just inside his office and be busy with a few things left before he finally lifts his hands off his duty as the kingdom's military leader, Mo Yeon decided she could keep herself busy with a few books right after helping out with medicine. She did not even bother asking him what was keeping a retired man like him busy; she simply nodded and walked away when her husband told her he needed to take care of a few important workload. All she had was his word he would be done by sundown, and he truly did finish before the sun could even bleed through the sky.
That night, right after the sun descended to a twilight glow and the moon graced the night with its faint shine, Si Jin invited her for a little walk outside town. It was somewhat unusual, since it was the first time he had invited her to go outside after four months of keeping her inside the house.
As for Mo Yeon, she truly loved the idea of walking, however she thought Yoo Si Jin was not the kind of person who should be walking distances as far as walking the distance in between a span of a kilometer, "I'd love to go for a walk, but what about you? Geundae, what is the occasion?"
"We'll be meeting some people tonight. And what are you talking about? I love walking. I love walking especially with you around," Si Jin replied when she asked him what were his intentions this time. Having no clue who they were going to see during their night stroll, Mo Yeon followed her husband outside the house and later on walked beside him. Once they had arrived at the most crowded place downtown, Si Jin led her to one of the small, well-lit taverns where a few people lounged in. From afar, Mo Yeon could see a familiar woman seated opposite to a man wearing a familiar crimson clothing, similar to what Yoo Si Jin had worn before.
Before she could enter, the woman inside smiled and got up from her seat "Kang Mo Yeon-ssi,"
"Myung Joo-ssi?" Mo Yeon's eyes squinted towards the woman, and was taken aback by what she saw; indeed it was her—more radiant and beautiful. She had not recognized her after four months of not seeing nor hearing from anyone, and if she were to point out something that was remarkable, it was that Myung Joo seemed happy.
Mo Yeon turned towards Si Jin, "Who is she with?"
"Who else would she be with?" Si Jin r