What is it that makes him so anxious? Yihan kept thinking about it when he spent a long time looking at Hwawoon, who fell asleep again, and even after leaving Jeongan Palace. He wondered why Yeon Hwawoon was acting like a person who would get hated by Yihan again. Perhaps it was because Yihan recently did not visit Jeongan Palace for a while because he couldn’t control his mind. However, Yihan, who had seen Yeon Hwawoon’s face right in front of his eyes, could hardly excuse it simply like that.
“Is there something I haven’t realized yet…”
Yihan murmured to himself, looking deep in thought. At first, he did not believe that Yeon Hwawoon had changed, and then he admitted he had become a completely different person. But if there was something more to it. If he hadn’t simply lost his memory and changed. Then, what on earth made Yeon Hwawoon tremble in fear?
Yihan, who couldn’t find any plausible excuse, remained staring at the empty paper for a long time.
It was around evening that Hwawoon came to his senses. Although he still had a slight fever, he felt much better than when he woke up for a while in the morning. It seemed that the medicine he took as soon as he opened his eyes had worked.
It was at that moment that Hwawoon’s eyes opened wide as he moved around to look at his condition. He suddenly remembered himself being eaten away by the emperor’s passion. The sense of the hot flesh of another person invading his lips, a sense Hwawoon had never experienced before, was revived as if he had actually experienced it. Hwawoon raised his hand to cover his mouth, and then rubbed the neck where the emperor’s lips touched, and eventually held the wrist the emperor nibbled.
How could I have such a vulgar dream? Hwawoon jumped up and sat to look around because he was afraid that someone would peek into his dream, even though he knew it was impossible. The bedroom was quiet as if nothing had ever happened. Hwawoon touched his lips once again with his fingertips. The plump lips were unfamiliar as if they were not his.
Wondering why a dream could be so vivid, he felt like his body was heating up for no reason as he recalled the heat from the emperor, who had invaded deep into his mouth and blatantly tasted him. It might have been excused because of a slight fever, but Hwawoon knew that there was more to it than that. The excitement was palpable. As he remembered the moment when the Emperor’s big hand had pulled him hard to make him open his mouth, the tingling sensations he had never experienced before quickly penetrated his entire body.
Crazy. I’m really crazy. Hwawoon tapped himself on the cheeks with his palms and tried to shake off the sense of shame. Just then, someone came into the bedroom.
“Your Highness, you woke up just in time!”
Ahjin came in with porridge. Ahjin, who hurried to the bed, put down the tray carefully and said, examining Hwawoon’s complexion.
“How are you feeling, Your Highness?”
“… I’m all right. I got a lot better after a good sleep.”
“That’s a relief. First, eat the porridge and I will tell the others to prepare your medicine. You don’t know how worried I was…”
Hwawoon smiled faintly as he received the porridge bowl from Ahjin. He wanted to stop making Ahjin worry, but nothing went his way. Just as Hwawoon had put a spoonful of cooled porridge into his mouth, Ahjin said.
“Do you remember that His Majesty stopped by?”
Hwawoon almost dropped the bowl. Hwawoon, who had forgotten to chew and only blinked, soon swallowed porridge and opened his mouth.
“His-His Majesty… stopped by?”
“Yes, Your Highness. He said you came to your senses for a moment. Don’t you remember?”
“No… No, I…”
Hwawoon was sure it was a dream, but now he wondered if it wasn’t. Ahjin went on.
“His expression was so bad when he left… It seemed that he was really worried about you.”
Hwawoon lowered his gaze with a confused expression. He couldn’t believe that the emperor really went to Jeongan Palace. The heat, which had subsided for a while, spread again through his whole body.
Then, His Majesty really, His Majesty, to me.
Hwawoon immediately cut off the following thoughts and shook his head. It was impossible. Perhaps, when he opened his eyes for a moment, he saw the face of the emperor, and after losing his consciousness, he had such a dream. That led him to be more ashamed to see the Emperor. The Emperor worried about him and visited him despite his busy schedule, yet he had such a vulgar dream when he saw the emperor.
“Anyway, think about other things later. For now, eat the porridge before it gets any colder.”
In front of Ahjin’s worried look, Hwawoon collected himself and took another spoonful of porridge to his mouth. He couldn’t help but ponder about it. Why did I have such a dream? Have been I looking at His Majesty in that way? Without knowing my place? Have I been absorbed in being his concubine and now dare to covet his night?
Afraid that Ahjin would be surprised, Hwawoon swallowed a sigh inside and drooped his eyes. Hwawoon was in agony at how he would see the emperor’s face in the future.
“Greetings to Your Highness Yeonbin.”
“Get up. What brings you here, Lord Oh? Ahjin, get some tea.”
Hwawoon, who was preparing to go to the Empress’s Palace for the morning greetings, welcomed Eunuch Oh, who had come since early in the morning. Eunuch Oh hurriedly replied after raising himself.
“It’s fine, Your Highness. Anyway… I heard you were unwell, but are you feeling well now?”
“Of course. Thank you for your concern.”
“I’m here because I have something to deliver to you under His Majesty’s orders.”
“His Majesty… ordered you to go directly?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
A gentle smile appeared on Eunuch Oh’s face as he bowed his head in response. Although Eunuch Oh was in the position of eunuch, there was no one in this palace who could ignore him who served the Emperor from the closest, except for someone at the level of the empress dowager. Of course, some high-ranking ministers and the empress couldn’t deal with him recklessly, and asking such a person to deliver something directly meant that the emperor put a lot of mind into it.
Hwawoon, who couldn’t collect his mind because of yesterday’s event, pretended not to know his heart that ran wild, and looked at Eunuch Oh taking something out of his arms. Eunuch Oh handed a letter to Hwawoon.
“It’s a letter written by His Majesty before he went to the morning inquiry.”
“Yes, Your Highness. I have no way of guessing His Majesty’s will, but I wonder if it was a way of expressing his regret that he could not pay you, who are ill, a visit in person.”
Hwawoon’s hands trembled as he received the well-sealed letter. Last time, he had sent a letter and received the answer, but he never thought that the emperor would send a letter first. In the midst of the surprise and excitement, the corners of his mouth kept turning up.
“His Majesty told me to go back after seeing you open it.”
Eunuch Oh continued while Hwawoon stared at the empty outer envelope. Hwawoon, who let out a short exclamation, finally opened the envelope with trembling fingers and took out the letter contained inside and began to read it.
[You have no idea how I feel inside every time you get sick like this. We will soon be leaving for the summer vacation to Myeonghawon Palace, so make sure you get well soon so that there won’t be any change with the schedule. Just so you know, I will not move a step without you.]
The content of the letter was simple. However, it contained the emperor’s hope that Hwawoon would not be sick anymore and to go to Myeonghawon together without any problems. Only the Emperor himself knew how deep and heavy his heart was in those short, terse words he had barely written down after discarding several letters in which he had poured out his heart.
Hwawoon read that letter, which took less than a few seconds to finish, several times. Unlike his crude and insignificant handwriting, every stroke of the emperor’s handwriting was smooth, magnificent, and even elegant like a picture, revealing his dignity as a heavenly ruler.
“Will you give a reply right away, Your Highness?”
Eunuch Oh’s voice awakened Hwawoon, who kept looking at the emperor’s handwriting as if possessed. Hwawoon, who had been hesitating for a while, immediately replied.
“Can I do that? You will have to wait if I do that.”
“It’s not a big problem. His Majesty must be waiting for your reply, so I’m rather grateful.”
“Thank you. Ahjin, please.”
Hwawoon instructed Ahjin, who was smiling brightly next to him. Ahjin, who had already begun to move before Hwawoon’s words were over, hurriedly set the necessary things on the table and grounded the ink. Hwawoon, sitting in front of it, still held the brush awkwardly in his hand. It was a curious thing whether he knew that a subtle smile bloomed on his face while he was agonizing over what to say in the letter. Soon, the brush began to move over the white paper. The handwriting, which was so poor and crude, was no longer a problem.
A time of year when the greenery was lush, and the sun was hot enough to scorch the skin. The imperial family moved to Myeonghawon, a cool summer palace, filled with water everywhere. It was a place where they would spend the whole summer.