Sangria Scandal

Week before the results

”Ill let you go but you have to answer a question of mine first… ”

I can breathe. This persons hand is covering my mouth too tight.

”Are you Mah Ri Sun? ”

My eyes widened. Who is this guy?

”You are Mah Ri! What are you doing here, going around wearing a mans hanbok? Whats your deal with the palace? Why did you come here? ”

I faced her and she took off her mask. Its Hae Cha. She recognized me at first glance. How am I to fool anyone if the person I just met twice recognized me off the bat?

”Sorry, I can tell you. ”

”Are you a spy? Who sent you here? ”

”A spy? No! ”

”Then why are you here? You look really suspicious. ”

She looks at me as if shes looking at a criminal suspect. I am a criminal but… who am I to admit it this early? I can put all my hard work to waste. Ive already started, I can stop it now.

”I… ”

”You
e doing something illegal! ”

She shouted. I immediately covered her mouth.

”No! I just want to study! ”

I hate studying. But if thatll shut her up, Id say it. Im going to study anyways whether I like it or not.

”You
e going to be a scholar? Oh, so you went inside to take the scholars exam? ”

Her eyes are gleaming, seemingly full of interest.

I looked around and there was no one aside from us, the wall, and the tall green grass. There are a handful of people talking on the other side of the wall but aside from that, the place is quiet.

I sighed.

”Yes, I did take the scholars examination. I dressed as a guy to take it. You know the rules, women are not allowed to study- ”

”And I get that okay? I just want to know whether you are here to hurt anyone or what but your intent seems harmless. Its all good. ”

”Even if I broke the rules? ”

”Everyone breaks a rule or two. Like me who… ”

She paused.

”Besides, what harm can studying bring? Just do what your heart tells you. ”

She stopped. The rule she broke wasn mentioned. I wonder what it is.

”Uh… are you busy? Want to walk around? ”

She scratched her neck while waiting for my answer. Lady San won be looking for me until after lunch. I guess I can use that time with her.

”Sure. I have until lunch to spare. ”

She beamed.

”Then lets go! ”

She hopped her way out while whistling.

Wait, Im going out in these clothes?

Sangria scandal*

I lowered my gat as I walked around the market.

”Can you still see things with that? Its too low, its covering your eyes. ”

”Y-yes. ”

My eyes hurt, this thing is too tight. Well, of course. Its not made to be placed at eye level but a lot of people are staring at me. I often cross this path when I was a kid, a couple mustve recognized me already.

”Want to go somewhere else? ”

”Yes please. ”

I answered instantly. I can focus here, I can even enjoy walking because I was being so cautious of my surroundings.

She took my hand and pulled me elsewhere.

”I know a place. ”

For the record, Ive been hit by branches countless times and She has never spoken unless shed apologize. The birds have been targeting my head the whole time and I think I stepped on poo.

”Where are we going? I hope its the bathhouse, I probably stink. ”

”No, but we can go there if you want? ”

”No, thanks. ”

After stepping on three more poo, or maybe the last was mud, we arrived at the place she was talking about. We are on top of the waterfall. The air is humid and there are so many butterflies and birds. Being so high up, I can see half of Joseon from where we
e standing.

”This is where my father used to take me when I was a kid. Whenever I have an achievement or when its my birthday. Pretty isn it? ”

”Yes, it is. Your father mustve been a nice man. ”

”Of course he is. ”

I sat down as I fed my eyes with how wondrous the place is. How can something this beautiful sit beside us yet we can feel its presence?

”Oh, look! Thats where you fell when we first met! ”

I looked at the place she was pointing at and she was right. It is where I fell, so the place my mother often takes me back then is close to this? I never heard the sound of water falling nearby before.

”Uh, your father… Does he still take you here? ”

Ive heard nothing but the sound of the water. What are we going to do, spend the time watching the view until its lunchtime? Topic, I need some topic here.

”No. He stopped visiting me when I turned five. ”

Her tone changed. She isn that cheerful Hae Cha she always was.

”What happened? ”

”He just… vanished. Thats all. I don even remember his face anymore. ”

She chuckled.

”Come on, lets not run the mood. Lets talk about you. Why are you so fond of studying? Isn that boring? ”

I highly agree. One of the things that I hate is studying. You do nothing but sit all day, no physical work. Thats tiring.

”Its not boring, its tiring. You don get to move and you just sit around, wheres the fun with that? ”

”Then why break the rules and join the scholars exam? You could die because of that, you know? ”

”I am not doing it for myself. I am doing it for someone else. And it makes all the tiresome sitting, worth it. ”

She looked at me the same way Ha Ra does whenever I say something.

”Whats with the face? ”

”Nothing, you just… look amazing. Doing something, not for your good but others… thats cool. ”

”Don get me wrong though, I am not a good guy, I literally don listen. ”

”Yeah, yeah, if you say so. ”

She looked at the misty end of the waterfall and kicked her feet.

”What do you want to do in the future? ”

”The future? I don know. I haven given it any thought. ”

”How about a dream? What do you wish for? ”

”Go back in time? Bring back the things Ive lost. ”

”Oh. For me, Id want to fast forward to the future. I want to see whether this place would change for the better, where there is equality and no lives are to be sacrificed just for egoistic reasons or greedy intentions. That can be avoided. I can see that but I don want to see Joseon still living in fear after a few decades. Im sick of seeing how pitiful people from below are and how people from high up think they are the only people living in Joseon. Its seriously sickening. ”

”Wow, thats deep. ”

And to think that I used my wish for personal reasons. Im ashamed of myself.

”Theres a festival in the next two weeks. Will you be able to come? ”

Shes talking about Jeongwol Daeboreum. Festival of the first full moon. Itd be nice to celebrate that.

”I- ”

”Wait! ”

She spoke before I could finish my sentence.

”Are you seeing someone? ”

”No. ”

Nope, too busy minding my investigation to do that.

She sighed.

”Okay, you may answer. ”

”Im not sure. But if I can, Ill tell you right away. ”

She frowned.

”And I expected a yes. ”

”If I get in and become a scholar, Im not sure if theyd let me out. ”

”They would. They are required to come. ”

”They are? ”

”So now that you know, you should go to the festival with me, okay? ”

”Uh, okay. ”

She beamed.

”Yay, thank you. ”

She stood up and helped me up. She ran off to the woods and left me.

She left me.

”Hae Cha… I don know the way back… ”

~

”My lady! Lady San needs you in her room! ”

I just finished changing my clothes after being lost in the woods and miraculously making it back. I adjusted my sleeve and walked to Lady Sans room. She has been piling books near the entrance so I don have a way in.

”Some of them are medical books. Knowing what to do with a minor injury would be safe. The rest are etiquette books often taught to Princes before they turn sixteen so theyd know how to act in front of other royals and ministers. Study them and Ill start your last exam tonight. If you miss three questions, Id make you study more next week while waiting for your results and teaching you how to train yourself. ”

I took one book entitled Kim Myeong-So. This is not an academic book. This is the life record of the past King. These books don belong here, they are supposed to be under the possession of the recorder or the historical records of the palace grounds. Why is this thing here? Unless…

”Are you a recorder from the palace? ”

She chuckled.

”Don be silly. I got it from one of the merchants in the black market. They probably stole it without knowing the purpose so they just sold it to the people. Itd be a waste to see this being used to feed off the fire for their food so I bought it without knowing Id use it like this one day. ”

She piled the last five books and exhaled before looking at me.

”Although at second thought, I think itd be more fun to see these things burn rather than using them this way. Such a waste of time and energy to read them thoroughly for no reason at all. They
e great, how amazing. Whats so fun reading how the King slept or how the prince drank his tea? Too full of bullshit, like nobody knew they
e living off the peoples fortune. ”

I took a pile and transferred them to my room. After finishing off, I dusted myself and swept the floor before sitting down and opening one of the books.

Lady San went to my room and studied me from the entrance.

”This is weird. Youd normally mumble curses or rant about how tiring this is yet you are silent along the way. Has something happened? ”

Do I do that?

”Its nothing. Maybe Im just tired from the exam earlier. ”

”What a lie. I heard from those who took the exams. Its just a single question. Whats tiring about that? ”

”Whats tiring? Oh, well, then try going to the exams, being prepared and all, only to find out that the King will ask you a hidden rhetorical question. I even licked my paper! ”

”Now thats more like it. ”

She shifted her position and her face rested.

”By the way, I heard someone almost recognized you. Hes been wandering around the town asking himself if hes seen someone named Chul. What did you tell him to make him go walking around like that? Hes gone crazy. ”

”I told him nothing. I didn even speak or hed recognize me completely. ”

”How would he? Those are sons of high-ranking officials. You wouldn have known- ”

”But I do. That person is my best friend. And since youve mentioned, I could really use voice training for the week. If both of us passed, theres no doubt hed know it was me. We
e so close he knew Ive hidden foams under my bed and wore them when we were kids because I was flat chested. ”

”Unfortunately, I can change the way your voice sounds. I have no idea how to do that. All we can do is hope he won recognize you or you shouldn speak at all. ”

”Okay… I guess thats that. ”

”Okay. Good luck with your studies. ”

She closed the doors and soon left. I exhaled and threw the book. This is not helping. No, not at all. Do I need to ace the exam by tonight? Thats only five hours away. These are like around twenty very thick books. What am I supposed to do with these? Read them or just scan them? Scanning it would be way more possible than the former.

I laid my head on the ground and sighed. This is wonderful. Just how wonderful. Can this day get any worse?

”Lady San! I think my lady just died! ”

Hara yelled.

”Thats interesting. How about we make that a reality, shall we? ”

I whispered.

”Shes fine, Hara. Just do the dishes. ”

~

”What kinds of sitting positions are not allowed if you are an educated man from Joseon? ”

”Its- ”

”Don speak, Mahri. Act. ”

I crossed my legs and sat up straight. This is killing my back, to be honest. After resting my hands on my lap and lifting my chin, I didn move.

”Mother, our lady has been paralyzed! ”

”Hara, are you high? Youve been overdramatic the whole day. ”

She faced me and smiled.

”Very good. ”

”What? I don understand. ”

Hara has been exchanging looks with both of us.

”This is the only sitting position allowed if you are an educated man. Hanging leg crossing, open legs, and curved back are all not allowed. ”

I explained.

”Don you feel stiff? Ive seen educated men in weird positions. This doesn make any sense. ”

”This is the formal way of sitting. Otherwise, feel comfortable. ”

Lady San said.

”Last question. Please be minded that if you fail this last question, you will be studying the same thing for the rest of the week. ”

I gulped.

”First and the last thing you do after being shot by an arrow? ”

”Check how deep it is and pretend nothing happened. ”

”Okay, thats all. You may sleep. ”

”Wait, really? ”

”You don want to? I can extend the exam until midnight. ”

”No, no. Thank you. Uh, have a good night! ”

I ran to my room before she could change her mind and blew my lamp. I laid down in bed, hesitant to close my eyes because Im sure that once I do, the next seven days would fast forward and I would no longer be staying here.

But I closed it anyway. I need to find the truth and this is necessary. Although I won lie, Id miss this place very much.

Sangria scandal*

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