Everyone was looking at her with tendentious gazes as they walked amidst the streets downtown.
"She must be a thief," she heard a murmur.
"Or a traitor slave," another said in a hushed tone.
Kang Mo Yeon knew that things would only get worse if she tried to defend herself. In their society, women like her had those kinds of stereotypes—especially with some random, high-ranking official-who-happened-to-be-her-patient holding her hand; the only reason why a high nobleman would get to hold a peasant's hand is more likely attributed to a grave offense committed by the low-class, as people would misinterpret it.
In fact, a person of the high class normally would not hold a hand that belonged to the lowest status...but this young minister was, at that moment, countering the culture.
She forcibly yanks her hand away from his grasp to his surprise. Si Jin's head turned quickly at the sudden movement, "Wae?"
"Naeuri, with all due respect," She bowed her head again, "Please don't hold my hand,"
Mo Yeon nervously looked towards the side without making any eye contact to either Si Jin or the crowd staring at her, "People are watching," she expressed in a soft voice, and Si Jin was also made to look at the hurtful stares and whispers they exchanged in front of her.
Si Jin nodded, "I'm sorry. I was just worried you'll run away from me again,"
Her head bowed down even more, "I will not run away,"
"You better not," Si Jin rested both hands on his waist, "I don't have that much time here, and I can't afford to let you slip away. If I do, then I might not get the chance to know you anymore,"
Mo Yeon blinked. What was he saying?
"You don't have that much time? Where are you going?"
He gulped. I shouldn't have said that. "Well... I was... What I meant was—"
"Do you have an urgent meeting later?"
"Ah, yes. A meeting," Si Jin heaved a sigh, as he felt his heart skip a beat when she almost caught him. He can't tell her about it; there was no need of telling her about his life, for Si Jin wanted this woman to come when he wanted her to, and go when he wills her to leave—without leaving any strings attached.
Even if she was really someone he wanted to get along with, Si Jin cannot afford to make commitments with his deteriorating condition. Whatever he shall be having with this woman named Kang Mo Yeon shall only be a fling. Nothing more, nothing less...
...or so he thought.
"If you had a meeting so important," Kang Mo Yeon’s voice stripped him out of his deep thought, "Why waste your time on thanking me?"
"Simply because I just wanted to," He moved to walk by her side, since she had requested him to not hold her hand in public, "I won't hold you anymore, but promise me you won't run away. Promise?"
"Yes," She pledged, and they continued walking; Yoo Si Jin occasionally glancing over her direction, while she kept travelling with her head down. Moreover, he had also noticed that there were people still staring at them, particularly on her.
Eyes filled with prejudices... The whispers were audible and clear to his ears.
They were hateful.
And here she was, bowing her head in shame for an identity she never was or the malefactions she had never committed.
He can't let this pass.
Irked at the people's shifting eyes, Si Jin stared at the crowd with a deadly look, causing them to freeze at the byeongjo's gaze. They bowed in apology.
"I can't help but wonder how a beautiful girl like you can live in a hideous place like this," He huffed, still not taking his gaze away from the crowd.
His remark, however, caught Kang Mo Yeon's attention.
He said I'm beautiful, her face blushed as she remembered his words.
Ani, Kang Mo Yeon! What are you thinking? He's the nation's byeongjo. I'm nothing but a lowlife. Why would I even let myself swoon over fleeting words?
Come to think of it, why would a minister want to spend time with a woman like her? It was absurd.
He must be playing around. She stared at Si Jin's side as they walked farther away from the crowd, he's too young to be a minister after all.
He's still a foolish boy. Mo Yeon thought, her eyes fixated at the man's side: she was left to stare at his pale white skin, his chiseled jaw and his well-built body.
He's a foolish boy....a handsome one.
Suddenly, the foolish, handsome-looking boy startled Mo Yeon when he glanced over her direction, "I talked to my soldier a while ago. He said you were good at handling needles,"
"Yes," She affirmed with a shy nod.
"But I heard from your head physician a week ago you aren't a nurse or a doctor by profession, are these true?"
"So... What does Kang Mo Yeon-ssi do in the hospital?"
"I do errands, to be honest," Mo Yeon confessed, "It just so happened that while all the physicians were gone and I was about to close the hospital for the whole day, you and your other companions rushed inside. But if I may ask, why were you unconscious when they sent you in that time?"
Si Jin's mind was quick to formulate an alibi, "Stress,"
"Work?" She asked.
"Yes, work," Si Jin nodded, even if it really was not solely brought about by his job.
I can't tell her.
Anything about Mo Yeon would come and go as I please.
I won't get attached. She’s just a woman from another world.
The words kept repeating in Si Jin's mind as they both walked in silence to his residence, and as Mo Yeon observed it, his house was excessively huge being one of yangban status. She would occasionally receive a few glances from him, as he would often motion her to move this way, or watch her step as they walked up the short flight of stairs to the mansion's entrance.
As they walked, she observed him huffing and breathing harshly as they walked inside, "Naeuri, gwenchanhayo?"
He nodded, "Yeah, I am. Come this way," The minister led the way, diverting her attention to something else, "You really won't call me by my name, huh?"
"I respect you, sir," She replied, which made Si Jin stop walking and turn around to face her. She was bowing down again, rather she had her head down the whole time. "I can't simply call you with no formalities," she calmly said, but felt nervous and uneasy when, as she bowed down, she could see saw his feet slowly move in step by step closer.
"I'm giving you the chance to call me by my name, Kang-uinyeonim," his warm, deep-toned voice resounded, and she felt his hand rest on her cheek, gently lifting her head up to meet him.
“Why does naeuri call me Kang-uinyeonim when I still am not one?”
“You will be one someday,” The smile etched on his face was priceless; she had not seen anyone smile encouragingly at her like that until he did.
Si Jin said with his hands tucking the stray hair at the back of her ear, "Hold your head up and be confident. It would be a shame if you don't bless this place with your beauty,"
How was she supposed to react on this? Mo Yeon did not have the answer at