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an ode to love

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The arrow pierced through the bindings holding the bamboo wood together, dismantling it within a matter of minutes. From on top of the roof, he could catch the white of the assassin's clothes, stumbling on the edge, before the natural forces pushed forth his momentum till he came tumbling down in a painful crash.

 

Yi Eon had half a mind to wince at the clang, but instead the surge of pride, at the shot which was successful, surged through him. In that moment, he could remember the Crown Prince: his words, his advice, his care, his gentille, and his support for Yi Eon. Yi Eon was very satisfied with his kitchen knife, but His Highness, whom in reality, Yi Eon considered to be more of an older brother, hyung, would never accept it. He pushed Yi Eon further and further till even the Crown Prince had a tough time keeping up. Even now, he looks back on these moments with great fondness and reverence. 

 

He would have burst into applause could he see Yi Eon now.

 

He misses his hyung.

 

From the corner of his eye, he catches the swish of navy blue skirts and a surprised face.

 

Kim Jo Yi.

 

He does not claim to understand women, and this particular woman is far more peculiar than any other woman he has ever known.

 

While he rejoices in his moment of triumph, he does not catch her gaze soften.

 


 

Jo Yi really had no interest in relationships and men anymore. After her divorce, she had never "planned" for a remarriage. If it happened, and she had fallen in love, then Jo Yi would never be opposed to it, but she would no longer seek it out.

 

Her sham of a marriage and frankly, the abuse she suffered at the hands of her in-laws, made her more than wary of the institution of marriage. Don't get her wrong, she still believes in love, but she had held love and affection for her mother-in-law and even towards her husband, and look where that got her.

 

No, free from these shackles, she's free to reinvent herself without the burdens of a man or a patriarchal society that asks her to forget her family for her husband's.

 

But, something about this peculiar man. This peculiar Secret Royal Inspector tugs at her heartstrings.

 

His smile as he had granted her divorce vividly paints itself in her mind. And now, she looks at the sinful tug of his lips, filled with pride, as he gazes at the assassin.

 

But her eyes are on him.

 

He may not understand her plight, but he saved her from more than he can ever understand. 

 

Her gratitude towards him is eternal.

 

Perhaps, she shouldn't swear off love, just yet.

 


 

He turns to face her, her eyes wide, gazing at him with an emotion he can't quite discern.

 

Looking her up and down, he asks, "Are you alright?"

 

She blinks, and he finds himself captivated by the movement, "Pardon?"

 

Just as he's about to repeat himself, she smiles (he fears his heart had just skipped a beat - is it a medical issue? Should he see a healer?), and replies, "Oh, yes!"

 

Her exuberance lifts his spirits - here's a woman who can still be this cheerful despite having gone through such suffering, there's some deep lesson to be learnt there.

 

His ego as a man isn't fragile enough to deny her due praise and accomplishments for her achievements.

 

"With your quick wit, we were able to catch the assassin without any harm."

 

The woman, ever humble about herself, says, "I'm more grateful I could be of assistance. You got me my life back."

 

"Thank you so much," she continues, with a short bow.

 

He's tempted to tell her she need not be grateful. Doing his job and fulfilling the basic necessity and kindness as a human being isn't a cause for any special gratitude. 

 

Truthfully, he's happy to help her out, extract her from her misery and plight.

 

For some reason, he doesn't want to or like to see her unhappy. The thought of a frown on her face, her lips wobbling with unshed tears bring great sadness to his being.

 

Yi Eon's heart was beating wildly and he could discern no particular reason why. Was it the adrenaline rush from the chase? Or the way Kim Jo Yi had smiled at him when he granted her divorce? Was it his racing mind or her sparkling eyes? He could discern no reason.

 

Even now, as he gazes upon her visage, her soft dimples, her rosy cheeks, her cheerful happy eyes, he wants to speak up. He wants to say more, but his words and voice fail him.

 

How to explain this inexplicable feeling?

 

In response to her, he tells her, "No. You got it back yourself. With your courage."

 

She looks at him, confused, eyes fluttering ever-so-slightly, her lips parted, before a wonderous smile takes its place.

 

Without thinking, he asks, "I wish to reward you. Tell me what you want."

 

"Do you mean that?"

 

He nods earnestly.

 

With a slightly nervous look on her face, she continues, "If I may ask for something, I wish to ask for a favour."

 

Her eyes are lowered from his gaze, and he encourages her gently, "What is it?"

 

She takes a breath, before answering, "I want to bury my friend Bo Ri."

 

Bo Ri?

 

"Do you mean the woman who ran the tavern?"

 

Jo Yi nods, sombre, "Even though her body has been burned to ash without recognition, I want to bury her spirit in a nice, sunny spot."

 

He almost wants to laugh at this woman's generosity and selflessness.

 

She is newly divorced without any means of income whatsoever, and her first thought is of her dead friend.

 

"You are divorced and will need the means to survive," he tells her frankly, "I can submit a paper to have you rewarded. Why not ask for a prize?"

 

Her subsequent honesty shocks and humbles him.

 

"A prize?" She parrots. 

 

"You mean a monetary award?"

 

He nods.

 

She mulls it over for a second, and he can see the conflict flash on her face, before she smiles, again causing his heart to do jumping jacks in his chest, "It's fine!"

 

"I'll regret it for the rest of my life. I chose divorce because I did not want to live a life with regret anymore. I want to stop living with regrets."

 

A very peculiar woman, indeed.

 

Here he is, living a life he did not choose because he chose the least worst option, to "have no regrets" and similarly, she searches for a life without regret. A life of freedom.

 

He gazes at her, a mix of admiration and something else he does not want to name.

 

He wants to live in this moment.

 

And that's when a soldier cuts this moment in half, and he has to take his attention off her (no matter how much he may not want to).

 

When he's walking away to see the soldier, he does not catch her lingering gaze on him and attempts to reach him.

 

They are taken apart once again.

 

The red string between them is filled with more space than it could imagine, having been so close - close enough to touch.