⁃ haengsu gisaeng: highest tier among all gisaengs, was special (allowed to sing in front of the yangban and the royals but only until 30). She was also responsible in training new gisaeng
⁃ Dopo: overcoat in joseon men's hanbok apparel. Commonly used by noblemen.
⁃ Daesaheon: Inspector General
Mo Yeon, along with the other young gisaeng, walked in the lantern-lit streets downtown; she was one among them after one whole week, exposed and trained in the life of an entertainer.
Right after being captured somewhere near the riverbank, Mo Yeon was immensely trained to the life of a female entertainer: wearing huge wigs, elegantly-designed dresses and practiced different kinds of dances throughout the whole day. She remembers being disciplined to do one whole routine for twenty-four hours flawlessly, despite having sore feet and a tired body after countless rehearsals.
The haengsu gisaeng took favor in Mo Yeon's beauty, which is why among the ladies, Mo Yeon was the well-groomed and exceptionally trained with traditional dances and musical instruments. With her charm alone, the older gisaeng knew they can get a lot of praises and money from the yangban men and other government officials.
All these simply explain why Mo Yeon is the gisaeng wearing the jade hanbok; she was, with no doubt, the most alluring woman among the new maidens, the one who would make the most fortune. And even if it was a compliment one should take positively, Mo Yeon did not like the attention and the glamour.
"Your beauty will surely allure every man in this coming performance," the words of their head gisaeng resounded in her mind; it was the very words she said before tomorrow's festival, "You will make a fortune with your charm, so never falter with every gesture you make,"
Even if she was the haengsu gisaeng's favorite, Mo Yeon never saw this as a title that she could be proud of; she never wanted to live a life being seen as nothing more than a mere object of pleasure and . Every night before she slept, she never missed the chance to cry in silence, fearing the day when she would be chosen by one or the yangban men as a slave to their carnal pleasures.
She feared this day to come; after a week of grooming and training, Mo Yeon along with the other gisaeng were sent to a banquet feast, with the ministers and other government officials as their audience. While the other girls were excited to get picked by any of the men in that celebration, Kang Mo Yeon felt silent, anxious and fretful of the possible things that would happen.
Just when she lost so much, she was sure to lose her honor and chastity tonight.
"Ladies, please get ready," the head gisaeng called from up front, "Make sure you'll look good in front of everyone. Remember your positions and don't trip during your performance,"
The female entertainers, including Kang Mo Yeon, bowed softly, not wanting to mess up the huge wig they were using.
"My lords, my ladies, please sit back and relax as we entertain and please you with a festive dance," The announcer's voice can be heard from where the gisaeng were gathered before their entrance. Mo Yeon, who was positioned at the end of the line, noticed that the other gisaeng were peering, whispering words with giddy and euphoric faces.
"There's a young man seated far away," A gisaeng quipped
"He looks very young to be a government official though," another replied, "I hope he'll choose me,"
"Ani, he'll surely pick me!" one joined in.
Look at them, Mo Yeon sighed as she walked when the line moved, excited to get themselves deflowered by men they never know.
The gisaeng group made their way to the center of the festive banquet and quickly moved to their beginning formation, while the audience applauded and cheered. As soon as the music started playing, they all began to move in a synchronized manner, both hands and feet moving in such graceful motion; each sway of their hand made the audience swoon, and in no time, the men looked at them with mesmerized eyes, whispering at each other while pointing one woman from another.
Mo Yeon observed and knew that this was something she had dreaded to happen; most of the ministers were now looking at her intently, their faces getting more and more mischievous and lustful with every gesture and move she made with her body.
When the dance formation made Mo Yeon move to the side close to the row of ministers, she vividly heard a whisper from that where she was dancing, "I'm getting that jade gisaeng for the night,"
She gulped, her soul engulfed in fear despite having her mind still focused with the dance. The formation changed, and Mo Yeon swiftly swiveled to the center with her hands gracefully flailing in the air and as soon as she made it to the middle, she found herself staring at one of the ministers.
The only minister among others who never looked at her with lecherous gaze.
Just when all her hopes evanesced, Yoo Si Jin showed up out of the blue. He was seated on the left side of the banquet stage, wearing a purple dopo with a lavender-colored topcoat. She felt her heart skip when she saw his surprised expression, but even so, Mo Yeon kept dancing.
She would often glance back at Si Jin whenever the position permitted her to face him, since he was the only person she considered safe staring at; she could see his dark, innocent eyes focused on her as she would sway and move in a graceful manner.
He's watching me. She thought to herself, finally realizing that she still had another reason why she wanted to meet his gaze whenever she turned to see him; it was not only because Si Jin was the safest person to stare, but it was also because she felt safe whenever he was watching.
She wished he could save her from her current predicament, but was also too ashamed to ask him; to his eyes, she assumed that he now sees her as a fugitive after his loyal soldier caught her suspicious with the hairpin, and other than that...she lost the book he gave her.
Saving her was too much to ask from him.
Leaving that miserable thought aside, Mo Yeon and the rest of the ladies danced their way to the final formation, and gladly ended the dance with a beautiful applause from the crowd. The men stood up, clapping their hands to the young female entertainers as they all bowed in the middle, and then quickly moving to the exit when one of the local officials groggily stood up from his seat. It was the Daesaheon Han Suk Won, the Inspector General.
"I'll be a patron..." It was easy to tell that the daesaheon was already drunk by the sound of his voice and his manner of lifting his finger to point at one of the gisaeng—particularly Kang Mo Yeon, "...of the lady in jade hanbok,"
Mo Yeon stopped walking. This is it, she bit her lip, fearing this time to come, but who was she to say no? A gisaeng had no chastity to protect; anyone who was a patron would own her.
She watched the other gisaeng being called by the other men one after another, and they gladly turned to meet their private customers. One by one, they brought along a man to the exit as they would be going who-knows-where.
All her companions have disappeared with their men, but Kang Mo Yeon was still standing at her exact location.
"Ya, gisaeng," the drunk inspector general yelled behind, "Turn around and come entertain me,"
Mo Yeon had a lump on ; she felt like she could cry anytime.
Until another voice resounded from behind.
"I'll be her patron,"
She quickly turned around to see Yoo Si Jin standing from his seat with eyes focused on her.
"Naeuri..." She was appalled and left with no words as she faced him. Si Jin smiled, reaching out his hand.
"Come with me,"
"Ya. Yoo-byeongjo," Inspector Han interrupted, walking past other ministers left seated and towards the young Yoo Si Jin. He pointed his finger to him, "I was the first to bid on her. You're no longer welcome,"
"She turned around when I called her," Si Jin calmly replied, crossing his arms, "I believe that ousts you from this argument immediately,"
The heated argument between the two intensified, while the other men in the banquet hall were left to watch. The rest of the six ministers, though they also favoured Kang Mo Yeon, chose to give way to the byeongjo; they knew they could never win an argument with Yoo Si Jin.
And they knew that Inspector Han Suk Won was the next person to feel the wrath of Joseon's best battle strategist. It was a fight between Han Suk Won and Yoo Si Jin—and if the Minister of War and Defense is involved, you would rather not want to meddle with it.
"Well," Si Jin rested both hands on his waist as he glanced at Kang Mo Yeon, who was already looking more worried than she was a while ago, "We'll just leave the decision to the woman,"
Without much further ado, Inspector Han took out a bag of coins out of his pocket. "Two hundred bronze coins, for one night." He threw the bag towards Mo Yeon and as soon as it landed on the ground, the bronze coins spilled out, shocking all the spectators. That was a hefty amount, one that could buy a farmland and an estate.
Si Jin stared at the coins scattered beneath Kang Mo Yeon, while Inspector Han laughed in triumph. "What? Cat got your tongue this time, byeongjo? It seems like you did not bring that much money tonight,"
Si Jin smirked, "You're right. In fact, I only have two bronze coins in my pocket right now,"
"So it's a clear decision, isn't it? I won this battle," He laughed, giving the young minister a thumbs-down before looking at Kang Mo Yeon.
"You're thick-minded to think that you can get everything with money, Daesaheon Han Suk Won. The woman has not decided yet,"
"What are you talking about?" Inspector Han chaffed as he walked towards Kang Mo Yeon, "What women like her want is fortune. All that matters to them is the money and fortune they get out of the fleeting, short-lived pleasures,"
"I beg to differ," Si Jin replied in a more serious, nerve-chilling voice. He faced the Inspector, "To fit the puzzle pieces together, you give her money because you treat her as a slave. Am I right?"
"Well, what else is she? This woman," He yanked Mo Yeon's hand with force, "Is a slave! A ! A dirty, vulgar object of pleasure!"
The harsh words the man said pierced through Mo Yeon's fragile heart; she felt degraded. Ridiculed. Depreciated to nothing more than a pest animal. She felt her knees weaken and eventually knelt to the ground after hearing such words.
If only words could kill, she would've been dead by now.
Si Jin, from his place,