The Hated Male Concubine - Chapter 54
It seemed like she had something to say by how she kept asking the obvious. In fact, Ahjin had sensed what Songhyun wanted to say ever since she started the conversation. She sent a questioning-like glance to Jooah, who was next to Songhyun, “why is your master suddenly acting like this?”. However, Jooah’s expression, which somehow looked like surrendering, couldn’t be interpreted more than “do you think I know?”.
In the meantime, Songhyun, who was fidgeting as if she was shy, said,
“Then… after lunch, may I… bring some snacks and visit Jeongan Palace?”
Hwawoon didn’t know it, but Songhyun wanted to say that to Hwawoon naturally, so she practiced all yesterday with Jooah. Hwawoon never expected that Songhyun would say that, even though she had talked to him before. He looked surprised for a moment but soon smiled softly again and answered,
“It’s for the palace owner to serve food, so you can come comfortably.”
“Ah… Really? I can really go there, right?”
“Yes! See you then, Yeonbin!”
Songhyun, who had been anxious all the morning greetings to the Empress in case Yeonbin rejected her, finally felt relieved and answered with a very excited voice. She instantly walked far with a happy step, which was obvious for anyone to tell.
Hwawoon knew he shouldn’t compare her, but she looked like a puppy running under the spring sun. When he was unconsciously smiling looking at that, a voice suddenly rang behind him.
“… Your talent is really awesome.”
The owner of the cold voice, which was different from Songhyun’s, was Sukbi, Biyoung. Hwawoon only stared at Sukbi for a moment because he couldn’t immediately understand what she meant, and Sukbi continued,
“I’m saying this because you changed Jeongbin, who used to detest you as I was, overnight. His Majesty and Her Majesty, then Jeongbin… Your force makes me afraid.”
Sukbi’s words outwardly sounded very cold. However, her gaze and voice as she said that remark had no other malicious sign, but rather seemed very careful. Hwawoon bowed his head lightly and answered,
“I’m trying not to repeat the mistakes I made in the past. I’m still lacking a lot, but everyone is generous enough to see me in a new light.”
It was clearly a neat and impeccable answer without any hesitation.
In fact, Sukbi didn’t want to criticize Yeonbin, who treated her with such good manners, but it was true that she couldn’t easily relax because it was Sukbi—herself—who would be called Yeonbin’s foe in this palace. If Yeonbin was actually sharpening a knife behind such a kind expression, it was none other than herself who could be hurt by the knife.
“I hope your determination won’t change.”
“Yes, Your Highness Sukbi.”
Yeonbin said so and bowed his head when he saw Sukbi walk past himself. Given that she sent incense when he was sick last time, he already knew that Sukbi also did not want to fight with him for no reason. However, she couldn’t fully trust the existence named Yeon Hwawoon, so she couldn’t completely let off her guard.
Yeonbin obviously understood her heart, and there was nothing for him to be hurt by, so he just waited until Sukbi had walked far and then slowly moved his steps.
“I finally saw that person too!”
“What do you mean by who? It’s obviously His Highness Yeonbin!”
The emperor, who had been quietly walking with a heavy heart, suddenly stopped by a familiar name in his ear. He was on his way out of the Empress Dowager Palace after visiting Empress Dowager, who was getting thin every day due to illness. What stopped him was the sound of court ladies talking beyond the large stone flower bed right in front of him.
The emperor hushed and stopped Eunuch Oh, who was about to walk forward and announce his presence, and stood there to pay attention to the voices he heard. Eunuch Oh almost looked at such an emperor in disrespect for a moment, but he was a very skilled person, so he quickly controlled his expression and stood calmly.
The voices beyond the flowerbed continued.
“You finally saw him! How do you feel?”
“Honestly, I’ve seen His Highness Yeonbin once before. It’s not that I didn’t think he had a beautiful face in contrast to his personality back then, but now, oh god…”
“See what I mean? He’s really like a blindingly beautiful gentleman, right?”
“I really thought it was someone else. How good the flawless face and the blue clothes looked…!”
The emperor’s expression as he listened to the story of the two court ladies who were excitedly chatting was strangely distorted, then he looked at Eunuch Oh. Eunuch Oh bowed his head pretending not to see the emperor’s face, who was at a loss, and asked him with his mouth, “beautiful gentleman…?”.
“There’s nothing more to say. These days, he always walks to Jeongan Palace after giving a visit to the Empress… No wonder all the court ladies and young eunuchs are always making excuses like going to the Department of Internal Affairs or anywhere else at that time to snoop around the road.”
“Why not? Now I understand why everyone was making a fuss about it. When someone approaches and greets him, he accepts it with a smile…”
The talking court lady seemed to be happy just by recalling it again, and the more he heard it, the more speechless he got. When the emperor’s forehead was furrowed so deep, Eunuch Oh quickly stepped forward and raised his voice.
“How dare you talk thoughtlessly!”
Surprised by the sudden roar, the court ladies rushed forward and saw the emperor’s face and fell to their knees. They couldn’t say anything more and were shaking their heads and bowing because they did a grave sin, but in fact, Yihan was not even looking at them properly because his mind was focused on the other thing. Taking advantage of that opportunity, Eunuch Oh said again in a hurry.
“You’ll get in trouble if you talk carelessly just because you have a mouth. Go away now!”
“Your grace is immeasurable!”
They would have nothing to say even if they were dragged right away and hit with sticks because mere court ladies dared to talk about Yeonbin in front of the emperor. The court ladies hurriedly raised themselves to the scolding of Eunuch Oh and moved their trembling legs to retreat. Meanwhile, the emperor looked at Eunuch Oh and opened his mouth in a dumbfounded voice.
“Were they just… addressing Yeonbin as a beautiful gentleman and acting that happy?”
“Your Majesty, that—”
“Where did they say they snoop around to see Yeonbin…?”
He had never heard of the imperial palace’s courtiers making a fuss to see the face of the concubine, even if the said concubine was a man.
Yihan couldn’t leave the place and just stood there with a dumbfounded face for a long time.
“You look like you have a lot in your mind today.”
Hwawoon quietly talked to Ahjin, who was unusually quiet. They were on their way back from the Empress Palace to Jeongan Palace, walking, as if it had become a natural routine now. Ahjin couldn’t answer yes nor no to the sudden question from her master, so she just kept her head down. Hwawoon then continued again.
“I know that you were very shocked because of me yesterday…”
Yesterday, Hwawoon himself was so tired that he couldn’t talk right away, but he could fully guess how surprised and flustered Ahjin as well as the Emperor must have been because of the appearance he showed. All the burdens in Hwawoon’s heart were completely a problem that no one knew, and he was the only one who was bearing it, so on the outside, it would be no different from him showing an odd attitude alone for no reason.
Even though I’ve determined to not do that. I’ve made up my mind to leave the things that I can’t resolve right away and focus on things I can do in my hands.
Yet he ended up making a fool of himself as he crumbled apart at the sudden mention of Yeon Hwawoon’s family.
“About yesterday… I think it was because I wasn’t feeling as well as I thought. I’m much better now, so I think you can put down your worries.”
Hwawoon, who opened his eyes alone at dawn, vowed as the night came to an end. Let’s not act weak. Let’s not act like I’m the only one in pain in this world. The person who should really cry is Yeon Hwawoon who died without anyone knowing, not me who is enjoying things that I didn’t dare dream of in his place. He vowed so.
Therefore, Hwawoon, whose heart was calmed down after the sun rose, was now comforting Ahjin. However, Ahjin didn’t brighten up after hearing it. Then, she breathed out a deep breath like a sigh, stopped walking, looked at Hwawoon, and said,
“Your Highness. I’m just a maid serving you, so I know I can’t give you much help.”
Hwawoon was surprised by Ahjin’s sudden words and opened his mouth to refute her, but Ahjin with a stern expression rushed to talk as if she wanted her master to listen to her first.
“How can I, who has and know nothing, understand what’s in your mind and guess the trouble you have? However, Your Highness, what I want to say…”
Last night was also a long night for Ahjin. She clearly saw that her master was enduring something psychologically difficult—not simply sick—but she couldn’t figure out the reason no matter how much she thought about it, so she couldn’t sleep at all.