It's about a few weeks after her confusing time-travel dimensional paradox accident that Hae Soo fully realizes the severity of her situation.
"Oh god," she says as she blankly stares down at the book in her hand. It, like all the other books in the room, is written in hanja, the needlessly complicated and indecipherable Korean alphabet of ye' olden days. "I have literally no applicable life skills in this era. I'm illiterate. I can't even read."
It wasn't like she was ever the smartest kid in class- but it wasn't like she had ever been the proverbial uneducated village idiot of the school either. It really sucked that an entire lifetime of standardized schooling wasn't even enough to puzzle through a freaking book title. Sure, she had future knowledge. And yes, at 25 years old she was very much an independent working adult. But probably 90% of her ability to adult was dependent on her having a cellphone in her hand, because she still needed to ask her mom if she was washing her curtains correctly.
The Goryeo era didn't have phones, and it certainly didn't have her mother either. This era didn't even have working indoor plumbing. When was the last time she ever peed in something that wasn't a sanitary, nicely-flushing toilet? Probably when she was a diaper-wearing infant. God.
She didn't estimate her chances of surviving without technology or her mom to be very good ones.
"Fuck." She said with emphasis, throwing the book onto the floor because her life was now just that awful.
A horrified gasp from the maid who just entered the room. Fuck, again.
After a horribly guilt-inducing lecture from her cousin Myung Hee about proper ladylike language and another concerned interrogation about her health and overall vitality, she decided it was about time to see what they did have on the market. She needed to find something she could do. Right now she was technically living under the grace of her cousin's wealthy husband Wang Wook, but it wasn't like she could just mooch off him forever.
She didn't know what future prospects were like for women in this time period, but they probably were along the lines of 'get married off, pop out a few kids, stay at home to raise the kids, and try not to die from the plague.' Which sounded like an awful thing to do with her life, really. She definitely needed to find something to do with herself before someone else tried to.
Hae Soo managed to make her way to the outside marketplace through a skillful combination of stealth and physical dexterity. And by that, she meant that she ran out the gates when the guards weren't paying attention and threw herself behind the nearest empty cart when she saw Wook and her cousin coming from around the main building.
But she prevailed! Now all she had to do was find a nice place where she could get a job. She doubts that the Goryeo dynasty had the local equivalent of a job-searching agency, but maybe there would be a nice restaurant or market stall that needed to hire someone as a waitress or counter girl. Or something.
After visiting the first merchant stall though, she realizes another incredibly important life skill she was lacking. She had no idea how the currency system worked. Was money even invented yet? Did people trade with sacks of rice or did they use pieces of gold and silver? How could she leave the house without knowing how money worked? This was such an important thing to know. She was such a moron. It sure was a good thing that her new lifestyle included a bevy of servants that took care of her, because she was obviously doing a terrible job of it on her own.
"What are you doing?"
Soo actually felt her heart jolt. Shit, it was Wang So. The very last person she wanted to see at any given point in time, ever.
Animal instinct at this point indicates that she should run away, but her fool mouth opens up and tells him to stay out of her business instead.
Now would really be the time to make her escape.
"I asked what you were doing," Wang So grabs her by the wrist and drags her back closer to him. Damn it all.
"I'm on a mission." She says, on the off-chance that the lunatic currently holding her down would be satisfied with a vague answer. He stares.
"Are you talking about how you ran into that cart and fell over? Your cousin asked me to go see if you were okay." Wang So gives her a look that clearly demonstrated that he in no way, shape, or form thought that she was doing okay. Jerk. For a guy who covered up half his face with a mask, he was surprisingly good at showing some seriously judgmental disapproval.
She tries to take her wrist back. He remains unmoved by her pitiful efforts.
"Will you let go already?" She growls.
"Answer my question. Or better yet, tell your cousin yourself so she doesn't get worried about where you are. Again."
Hae Soo gives him the meanest look she could. "I don't need you to tell me what to do."
"I told you that you were mine. Why are you being so difficult?" He asks, amused.
There's a lot of things she wants to say to the bullshit he's spouting, but she takes the high road instead and lunges forward with her teeth in a last ditch effort to bite his hand. He moves to her side smoothly, and somehow ends up holding her by the waist.
He gives her another expectant look.
The sick son-of-a-gun. "Fine. If you must know, I'm looking for a job." Failing that, she thinks, I can at least learn how to buy my own damn bags of rice.
Now Wang So looks confused. It wasn't often that his face showed anything other than distant amusement or bloody murder, so this expression really ought to be preserved for posterity. It was all about small victories with the Fourth Prince, really.
"I want a job." Hae Soo repeats herself slowly, because all evidence so far showed that it was a real struggle for him to understand her.
"What can you even do?" He stares at her like he was trying to discern what exactly it was she was talented in. Maybe if her resume and previous job experiences were pasted onto her forehead like a divine sign of being a competent adult he wouldn't look like such a weirdo, but as it was his face was currently way too close to her own.
"I can do a lot of things," she snaps while leaning her body away, as much as possible while he was still holding her against his side.
"What do you even need a job for?" Wang So asks. "Isn't the household of the Eighth Prince taking care of you?"
"Yes, but that's not the point. I don't need anyone to take care of me. I'm my own person. And I don't belong to anyone." At this she gives Wang So a pointed look. So much for that high road.
"Where were you planning to go?" He shrugs. The movement jostles her closer to him. "I'll take you there."
"I was just going to take a look around to see where my skills might be needed. I don't need you to take me anywhere. Totally fine on my own." She starts smacking him with the one free hand she has left. "Completely fine. Will be perfectly okay. Can do this by myself."
One thing Hae Soo still remembers vividly is the day when she first met the Fourth Prince- how he had gone through the crowded marketplace at a full gallop, looking oh-so dangerous. Ignoring the part that had come afterwards, she also remembers how everyone had been screaming in fear and over-dramatically throwing themselves down on the ground.
Anyways. Turns out that everybody else at the market also remembers the day when they first met the Fourth Prince.
People saw them walking by and would look like the gates of Hell themselves opened up.
Needless to say, Hae Soo did not find a job that day. Nor did she get to find out how money worked. Insult upon injury, upon returning to the Eighth Prince's compound Myung-Hee gave the Fourth Prince her "sincere thanks for looking after her."
The man had the gall to look gracious about it.
Hae Soo's next visit to the markets is on an unreasonably hot day. It's even hotter as the Fourth Prince, once again, insists on plastering himself to her side.
"At least wear something that isn't black," Hae Soo pleads. "it makes me feel even sweatier just touching your clothes."
"Then let's go shopping together. We're already here, aren't we? Choose some new silk for me." Wang So says, pointing to the stall next to them. The stall owner, much like the rest of the market, is already cowering away from the duo.
"I'm not here to go shopping for you!"
"Do you like this color?" He points to a bolt of bright, lurid pink silk instead of responding to her.
Hae Soo tries to imagine the man standing next to her wearing anything made in that color. Yikes. His face might have a scar but the man still had both his eyes, didn't he?
He must see her expression- though who knows what kind of face she was making- because he simply points to the next roll of cloth. Still pink, just a lighter shade. It's lovely, but… "I don't believe pink is your color. At all." She guides him towards the back of the stall. "If you want color, how about this?" She points to a shade of demure green. "I think it would make a nice shirt for you."
He nods agreeably. Well. At least he's agreeable when he gets his way.
Paying for their silk- the bolt of green she pointed out and the second bolt of pink that he was strangely insistent on getting- was an experience.
In other words, Hae Soo was reminded of why the Fourth Prince was widely known as "the Wolf-Dog." The man seemed to operate on a different level entirely. Apparently with him, heaving the materials onto the counter and walking out of the stall was sufficient. The merchant himself just about fell over himself when thanking them for their patronage and looks now to be weeping with relief.
Which? What just happened? Did they even buy anything?
The next day, the bolts of silk showed up at the front gates of the compound. The green silk presumably found its way over to Wang So. Meanwhile, Wook was gracious enough to deliver the pink silk to her directly.
"It's yours," Wook tells her gently in the face of her obvious confusion. He holds it out for her to take.
The Fourth Prince had bought this for her? Hae Soo stares at the pink silk that's now in her hands and recalls the ridiculous counter-dump. "How?"
(She ignores the unasked question—the Fourth Prince bought this for her? Why?)
The seasons have changed. Hae Soo still had not found a job. The intricacies of the economy and exchange of goods still confuses her. And every time she tries to sneak out to the marketplace, Wang So is always there.
"I can tell this is becoming a habit." Hae Soo says grimly to Wang So, who just nods serenely back.
"Well then." She sighs and extends her arm. He takes it. "Let's go. Maybe this time no one will start crying at the sight of us."