**the picture will make sense when you read through lol**
AUTHOR’S NOTES:Baetssi daenggi: a Joseon-era, women’s hair ornament widely used by little girls. It is placed on top of the head.
A beautiful garden.
Mo Yeon opened her eyes to see her welcomed by a pleasant sight, specifically a memory hidden deep within her mind. She was in the middle of a garden, an open glade with the rays of sunlight seeping through the swaying branches of the willow tree. It gentle rays faintly blinded her sight as she walked through the path made for her by the peonies, moonflowers and shrubs.
Before walking any further, she remembered being called by a voice—her mother's voice—and so she turned around and skipped back to where she heard the warm, sonorous sound that felt like home. She looked up on the woman, and found her as beauteous and as radiant as the garden; her chima and jeogori contrasted the cool colors of the plants in an appealing, delighting way.
"Hold onto this," The woman gently placed a gold, binyeo with stones and other coral gemstones designed on its side.
"What is it...?" Mo Yeon asked her, in which the older woman replied with a warm smile as fixed the flower-shaped baetssi daenggi on Mo Yeon's head
"A beautiful hairpin," The woman's voice was so refreshing and pleasant to listen to; she smiled at Mo Yeon as her hands reached for the latter's cheek, "For my beautiful daughter,"
Her eyes blinked open at the memory that dwelled in her unexpectedly. It was a dream.
Eomeoni... She called her in her mind as the dream slowly dissolved and faded away, the lucidity of it quickly extinguished from her head when she realized that she was not in her room. Not in her brothel, not even in the shack that she shared with the commoner family that adopted her.
Her eyes stared up at the alien sight of a simple yet elegant roofing, and then towards the left side of the room: on the small table by the window, there were two books stacked on top of each other, along with a bottle of wine a few inches beside it. Mo Yeon squinted her eyes to see what was written on the books' rim cover.
Though she couldn't read the book's titles from where she lay, she was certain that they were all military material after seeing the words 'war' and 'battle' in the covers.
“War…” That made her wonder, as though the three-letter word reminded her of someone, “Battle…”
Her heavy eyelids made her eyes weakly shift their gaze from the stack of books to the bottle beside them.
“Bottle…” just by beholding its sight, flashes of memories skimmed in her mind.
She remembered drinking from that bottle after the events that had taken place last night. Admittedly, everything all happened in an instant; in just a duration of a week, Mo Yeon lost her job, and her personal belongings, got captured by gisaeng, lived and danced along with other courtesans, performing in front of so many men as a female entertainer, alluring men with her dancing, being saved by a young minister and…
…kissed a man for the first time.
She had been at her highest and lowest in one full week, but her mind dwelled at the thought of the young minister’s lips against hers.
“His lips were so soft,” ...as though they haven't tasted anybody's lips until hers. Mo Yeon's fingers reach for , gently touching the tip of her lower lip while her head played the entire scene over and over again. She vividly remembered how it began as the tender, gentle touch until he leaned all the more kissing her in such manner that was forceful yet comforting, giving her that palpable sense of relief from the cruel world she put up with.
It was bliss, so ravishing, so breathtaking that though she never knew the minister personally or intimately, and despite his vagueness, she can’t simply brand that kiss as a futile moment.
It meant something, that is what she thought.
And after the kiss...what happened?
No matter how much Mo Yeon would squeeze out her thoughts, she can't remember.
"Did we perhaps…do it?" She gulped while her hands slowly lifted the thick sheets that covered her body and saw that she was no longer wearing her clothes, but her white undergarments.
She was horror-struck at the realization that she had yet lost another valuable possession which is her chastity; now she was feeling all the more violated and foolish for letting herself be swooned and think he was honest about saving her from becoming treated as a slave.
With the assumption of being just recently deflowered, she’s bound to be a gisaeng forever.
"And he tells me he's not one of them. What a hypocrite,” her long, broody hour thinking of how unfortunate she had become at last night's events were cut short when the door opened, and two lady servants came in with a basin of water and some towels. "You're awake," they smiled when they saw Mo Yeon's eyes wide open as she lay.
She heard their soft steps nearing to her side, and as soon as they found their place on either side of the mattress, one of them placed a hand on her forehead, "Your temperature is back to normal,"
"We're glad you're feeling better, agassi,"
Ani, I'm not! Your master is a jerk! Her disappointment was evident with the surly frown she showed. She remained on the bed while the servant ladies dipped a hand towel in the basin, squeezed it and gently placed it on her forehead, but no amount of towel drenched in cold water could extinguish her heated mind.
"Where is your master?" She asked the ladies in her distraught state.
"Both left early this morning,"
"Ne," The other servant politely replied, "Yoo-uichangseong and his son
"The younger one, is he headed to the palace?"
They two of them nodded, but one of them gave an answer to follow, "The young master told us he would be going downtown, and he wishes you to go back to your place as soon as you leave. He asks you to wait for him there,"
Soon after the kind servants prepared her breakfast, she was bedecked with a beautifully-embroidered hanbok—something which made her wonder how the minister could even spare her women's clothing. Before leaving, Mo Yeon expressed her deepest gratitude to the ladies for taking good care of her and immediately travelled back to the brothel to be greeted by one of the haengsu gisaeng with a smile.
She’s probably happy because she still has me to earn money from, though she was feeling off that day, Mo Yeon hid her infuriated character with a calm smile.
"Agassi, you are now a free maiden," The older gisaeng bowed politely to Mo Yeon, something which she thought bizarre; the haengsu gisaeng was normally never this friendly and respectful towards her, much more even capable of bowing her head towards her! "We apologize for mistreating you, a noblewoman, and for making you live among us vulgar women,"
Taken by surprise at her trainer's respectful gesture, Mo Yeon helps her up, but the woman forcibly kept her head down.
"You don't have to bow," Mo Yeon told her in a sad note, "My patron sent me back,"
"You are mistaken," The gisaeng looked up to meet Mo Yeon's bewildered gaze, "Your patron set you free,"
She was dumbfounded. "He did? But I thought…he sent me here, you must have understood things incorrectly,”
"He visited this morning and paid a hefty amount to relieve you from your duties," She explained, gently clasping on Mo Yeon's hands, "I never expected him to be the byeongjo! He looks really young to be a minister," While the gisaeng went on telling how thrilled she was to meet the minister, Mo Yeon spaced out, staring catatonically in one corner after hearing the surprising yet confusing news.
He freed her though he had taken advantage of her for the night…or did he?
"Mianhe, I arrived late," Si Jin apologetically said as he gaited his way to the Yukjo assembly hall.
"It's okay, we all understand why," The Minister of Taxation giddily replied, while the others shot Si Jin a mischievous smile. The young minister, upon seeing the suspicious smirks from his colleagues, felt a little confused as to why they were behaving that way.
He raised a brow in question, "Is there something wrong?"
"No, not at all," The Minister of Rites, who was seated at the far end smiled as his hands tapped nervously on the long, wooden table, "How was your sleep last night?"
"I slept well," Si Jin replied nonchalantly as he sat on the only empty chair in the room.
"With the gisaeng?"
"Ani. She slept in my room, while I spent the night at the office,"
Now the tables have turned with their expressions. Si Jin was the one smiling casually, while the rest of the ministers looked at each other with perplexed faces. "Waeyo? What's wrong?"
"But... You just got yourself a beautiful gisaeng," The Minister of Personnel quipped.
"I know that. She is indeed alluring," Si Jin spoke, still not understanding why the rest of the old men were asserting a shared thought.
"So...you did not do anything last night?"
"In individual quarters?"
Si Jin nodded, "Should I be doing something else?"
They all bawled at Si Jin's reply, thinking how absurd his question was. "Yoo-byeongjo, you may be the youngest among all of us, but you don't have to play innocent and naive. You know what gisaeng women do for a living,"
Oh, so that’s what this is all about, he finally understood. He pondered on their opinions before he crossed his arms and gave them his say.
"But do they really want it? Do they, in their power, have control over what society dictates upon them?" He looks at each and every minister with a muddled expression as he asked a question collectively, "They're simply using their bodies as a means to an endgoal. They are not just simply lustful, vulgar women. Aigoo. You never get to know one if you don't get to talk to them,"
And Si Jin knew that Kang Mo Yeon was by no means one of those women.
As soon as silence clammed up in the room, Si Jin realized he had given the other ministers a short lecture on his own philosophy about gisaeng, and he was surprised to see their faces filled with guilt and contrition after hearing his statement.
He heaved a sigh as he straightened his red sleeves, "Let's just focus with what is supposed to be discussed in this meeting, shall we? The controlled struggle in the northern boundaries was executed successfully, but claiming victory is still uncertain," Si Jin commanded, attuning the council of ministers in today's gathering; his gesture only proved that despite his young age, Yoo Si Jin was the wisest and most sagacious among them. "I've been receiving a lot of news about the Northern Invasion twenty years ago,"
Glances accompanied with whispers were made by the other ministers when they heard the word from Si Jin; he noticed he finally got their attention on the much more serious matter.
"The whole incident has been instilled in everyone's minds for years since the first siege. With threats rampantly spreading all over the kingdom, people are deluged in fear and anxiety." He could see nods of agreement from the older men that surrounded him as he continued talking, "It is not only a matter that affects the ministry that I lead, but it would certainly create an impact to the other ministries. Kim-yongjo, what would happen to the public works if our people live in fear?"
Everybody glanced at Minister Kim, the head of the Works Ministry, "There would be no development at all,"
"Precisely, and the response will surely be the same for other ministers. Am I correct?" The youngest among the six asked, and was given nods for an answer.