The Hated Male Concubine - Chapter 53
“When the royal family brought in my wife candidates who could be the future empress… Mother showed the women to me one by one.”
Late at night, Yihan, who was drinking alone in his chamber, suddenly opened his mouth and spoke. Eunuch Oh, who was quietly watching him from the side as the emperor’s expression couldn’t be guessed, only bowed deep without giving any reply. Eunuch Oh easily knew that what the emperor wanted was someone to hear him out and forget what he said.
“As she introduced me one by one, Mother thoroughly checked my expressions as I looked at them. How long I look at their faces; if I perhaps smile while looking at their faces, if my eyes shake, if I make a face full of expectation.”
“Back then, I didn’t know the reason for that. I only thought that Mother’s gaze, looking at my face with a terrifically sharp gaze, was unfamiliar and scary.”
His mother didn’t only check on her son’s expression. She also sharply checked the expression of those who could be her future daughter-in-law and might be the only empress later. If they blushed. If they made a cunning expression, trying to get her son’s heart.
If they were wicked girls trying to snatch away her son from her. She tried to judge that.
“She must have been uneasy. Father’s love had been long poured to his concubine, so she worried if her last shield for her authority, her son, got lured by other women and neglected his mother. Therefore, the current empress, who was the quietest, simple, and hardly showed her emotion, was chosen to enter the imperial family at that time.”
“Do you think I thought my mother was cruel?”
The emperor asked while playing with the glass full of liquor. Eunuch Oh only listened to him as this time too, the emperor, who didn’t raise his gaze, didn’t want any answer. The emperor lightly shook his head, and said,
“No. I didn’t. I understood my mother. I also thought she did well. Mother had to protect herself because the concubine, who had Father’s love on her back, rose to the noble concubine position not long after and dared to oppress the empress’s authority by leading the internal court.”
“Father was the one I couldn’t understand instead.”
At that, Eunuch Oh carefully looked around. Everyone had been sent back from the moment the emperor began to drink alone, but he had to be more vigilant just in case. No one should know the inside of the emperor.
“Isn’t the emperor in a position where he has to take care of everyone without being swayed by any emotions? He could have his favorite concubine, but how could he let that concubine oppress the empress using the emperor’s love and plan to harm the crown prince?”
“If my father didn’t give such excessive love to them, then how could she dare to push her son and try to get rid of me?”
“This person doesn’t dare to hear the story of the wicked people, Your Majesty…”
Eunuch Oh, who couldn’t continue to hear the words said by the emperor, quickly kneeled and bowed his head. Despite Eunuch Oh’s attitude, Yihan brought a glass of liquor to his mouth once again.
“… The emperor’s lover? How absurd.”
The deepened pupils were full of moonlight that shone over Jeongan Palace. In fact, for a very long time, Yihan had disliked Jeongan Palace, the evidence of the emperor’s deep affection.
“The emperor has the empress, and he may also have concubines. He also may adore some of them a little bit more.”
It was fortunate that the owner of Jeongan Palace was very sickly and departed his life early. If he was healthy, or if he desired authority, could the emperor’s love for that male concubine be portrayed like a beautiful tale until now? Could it have been possible to remain as such a heartbreaking story without a single drop of blood?
“But romantic feelings…? That is nonsense.”
Yihan filled his glass with liquor again and shook his head. He couldn’t know why he was reminded of Hwawoon’s face looking at him with moist eyes, but he thought it meant nothing. It should mean nothing.
The emperor’s night continued on with his old scars exposed. It was such a night that no one would know when the sun rose.
“Unnie, what are you doing here?”
Seoseo, who was about to return after walking around the garden once, saw Ahjin sitting absentmindedly on the garden’s corner and quickly approached her. She knew that His Highness had gone to sleep earlier after coming back from Anjeong Palace while looking pale. Therefore, she felt it was curious that Ahjin was here instead of guarding the bedroom.
However, Ahjin, who looked up and checked Seoseo’s face once, just sighed and curled up again to look at the ground without giving any reply. Seoseo, who also had a serious face, immediately sat next to Ahjin and talked again.
“What’s wrong? Is this because His Highness is sick again?”
“Well, that too…”
“Did His Majesty… do something to His Highness again…?”
Seoseo lowered her voice and asked carefully. After His Highness went to Anjeong Palace, he didn’t seem to have any energy at all, so the girls were quite worried that His Majesty might have made him sick again. However, Ahjin shook her head at Seoseo’s question.
“Then why is His Highness in low spirit, and why do you look lifeless?”
Seoseo’s voice got a bit higher. She was sure something happened, but because Ahjin told her nothing, she felt frustrated inside.
Of course, Seoseo knew that she was still young and could not be trusted because she had no experience, but all the courtiers in Jeongan Palace were of similar age to her anyway except for Ahjin. Seoseo, who had a strong will to grow up diligently from now on and become His Highness’s hands with Ahjin, stared at Ahjin with an attitude that she would never back down.
In the end, Ahjin, who was frustrated and needed someone to talk with, opened her mouth.
“I think His Highness is a bit strange lately…”
“In what sense…?”
“That… I don’t know well either. I don’t know what is wrong… well… I also feel like His Highness is hiding something from me…”
That was what Ahjin was worrying about. Ahjin felt like there was something more to what she knew—like how His Highness got sick after having nightmares last time and how he suddenly collapsed in front of the emperor today—but she couldn’t grasp what it was.
In the past, Ahjin wouldn’t think about this. Her master’s worry was only about the emperor, so there was no need to think much about it, and Ahjin had no thought of figuring out her master’s mind completely. She was busy living everyday to avoid bad things happening and to be safe.
However, it was different now. Ahjin now thought that her master’s safety was the top priority, and she wanted to do everything she could for her master. Yet she felt that strangely, there were some walls surrounding her master and making her unable to get close.
“It’d be good if he shares it with me, whatever it is…”
What on earth is he so afraid of? What makes him keep collapsing? Why does my master sometimes look lonely as if he’s floating alone in the open sea when his relationship with His Majesty gets better every day?
As Ahjin’s expression got dark again, Seoseo heaved out a sigh with her. It was a sorrowful night as the path to being a power for her master was still distant.
“Come to think of it, soon will be Sukbi’s birthday.”
When the concubines were giving their morning greetings, the Empress spoke while looking at Sukbi as if she suddenly remembered it. Sukbi smiled, slightly curved her eyes, and answered.
“Since you don’t forget and take care of me, I think it is fine even if I don’t celebrate the day.”
“Even so, it’s your birthday, so we can’t just let it pass, can we? His Majesty also told me to prepare it nicely so don’t worry.”
“Thank you for your deep kindness, Your Majesty.”
“Alright, I have nothing else to say. Go back, everyone.”
When the empress ended the morning greetings with Sukbi’s greetings as the closure, everyone got up from their seats and left the Empress Palace in turn.
And the one who called and stopped Yeonbin on his way back this time was none other than Jeongbin, Songhyun. When Hwawoon, who looked back and saw Songhyun approaching him, naturally drew a smile, Songhyun also smiled unconsciously. She approached him hurriedly and continued,
“Are you heading straight to Jeongan Palace?”
“Yes, I am.”
“You’ll have your lunch after getting there, right?”
“Yes, I believe. Is there something you want to talk about?”