Nobleman Ryu’s Wedding (if it was a serious drama with hour long episodes)... Part 1: The Wedding Night
“Presenting, the bridegroom! … Presenting, the bride!”
Ki Wan could feel his heart beating in his throat, and pools of sweat were soaking into his layers of bridal wear. The sun was blistering, his hair was pulled too tight, his face itched from the make-up and it took all his strength not to lower his hands and scratch at it. He kept his arms raised, and angled his face down as much as possible, looking only at the ground instead of the man in front of him. This was absurd, how did he end up here?
The night before, he had gone to visit his sister, only to find her room empty, her wedding robes laid out across the bed, and a note which simply read; “I’m sorry.” He knew immediately that she had run away, and he could not blame her. He’d wanted to run himself so often from their home. Since their mother’s death, the Choi house had remained a desolate and cold place. His sister and himself both kept to themselves, busy with laundry, cutting firewood, mending clothes, cooking, cleaning. Endlessly, day in and day out. In the evening, they were both so tired they would simply sit in companionable silence, reading.
Though the Choi family had always been a noble family, it seemed their father was determined to end that legacy. After their mother passed, he took to drinking and would disappear to the city for days or weeks on end, leaving the teens alone. At first, the house without him was preferable, with their servants around, they didn’t feel the loss of their mother quite so badly. But soon the servants began to leave, first the caretaker, then the cook, then his sister’s handmaid. It became clear their father was gambling away their fortunes. He would arrive home, stumbling out of a carriage, cart, or palanquin blind drunk. Ki Wan knew circumstances were truly dire the night he came home without a footman or transport, simply riding through the gates on horseback, slumped over like a bag of rice.
Without warning one spring morning, he announced that Hwa Jin was to be married into the Ryu family. Ki Wan knew the name, a long standing and large noble family from the neighbouring province. Every business and manor home in those mountains bore the name “Ryu”.
“A nobleman named Ho Seon”, proclaimed their father between mouthfuls, “He needs a young wife, I believe his mother is sick.” He gulped down some soju. “I have made arrangements with his great uncle. He will come for you next week and take you to the Ryu estate to be wed.”
Ki Wan expected an outburst from his sister, she was no wallflower and had always been braver than him. He expected shouting, violence, smashed crockery. Nothing. She sat quietly staring down at her bowl of rice and the measly scraps they were excusing for dinner. She mumbled an acknowledgment, and picked at her food.
Later that night, Ki Wan took a lantern, and went to her room. He knocked gently, and she called to enter. He found her pulling a set of bright red and blue robes from a wooden trunk.
“It was mother’s.” she said. “I don’t even remember her giving it to me, I feel as though I’ve always had it. It just never occurred to me that I might actually have to wear it one day.”
Folded up with the robes were beautiful jewels and hairpins, that seemed to glisten even in the dull flickering candle light.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t sold these.” Ki Wan observed, as he gently held a hair pin made of smooth jade.
“I don’t think he knew they were here.” Replied Hwa Jin.
They both sat staring at the blood red robe. As usual they barely spoke, yet Ki Wan felt he knew what Hwa Jin must be thinking – for his own mind was a tangle of thoughts and flooded with emotion. He thought of the enormity of what was to come, what that dress meant for Hwa Jin, the bitter resentment and sadness she must be feeling toward their father, and how beautiful their mother must have looked herself in that dress.
Their mother had been a true beauty, smiling and warm, she was always full of light and colour. Perhaps he was imagining her more radiantly in his memories. But he will never forget how wrong it was to see her so pale. When she became sick it was as if all the colour drained from the world, and before he knew it, she was gone. Their father began to change. At first, he just seemed sad, but it was as if the sadness became a sickness in itself. He had once been a chubby and jolly sort of man, yet he became spindly and skinny, his skin almost grey. He never hugged them or laughed with them anymore, he barely acknowledged them at all. They felt like ghosts in their own home, each floating around aimlessly, slowly fading away.
Ki Wan opened his hand, the jade hairpin he was holding was now warm. Hmm, it seemed he was still warm – not a ghost after all.
Over the next few days, his sister seemed to retreat even further into herself. She barely left her room or ate, she began neglecting her share of the duties – though Ki Wan couldn’t blame her. If he was to marry some strange man, he would feel fairly distracted and nervous too. In fact, he imagined his sister must be even more scared. As a young man, Ki Wan was afforded certain liberties that she was not, he had accompanied his father before on business through the nearby towns, and had even once been to the capitol. He had attended Seodang school as a boy, been invited to aristocratic gatherings and meetings with his father, he’d slept in inns and toasted with strangers. His sister, as far as he knew, had barely left the house. She grew up completely within the confines of their walled property, took lessons in the garden, and had (perhaps) been into town a handful of times with their mother to buy dresses. But since recently, she had no handmaid to accompany her and was confined to the walls of the Choi residence. Ki Wan suddenly felt a deep sense of regret, for in his own grief, he had never thought to offer help to his sister in this way. She must have felt like a prisoner for years.
And so, when he found her missing, and the note left with the dress, he was not surprised. He felt anger at himself, he had failed her. He had been selfish and blind to her strife. Though he was somewhat fearful for her safety out in the world on her own, he also had faith that she could survive on her own, as she had always been smarter and braver than him. Now, all that remained was to break the news to his father. But should be wait, to give her a head start? Would their father go after her? With what resources? He had no men or horses to chase her, and no clue as to the where she would be headed. Did she have connections they did not know about? An old friend somewhere, or a lover perhaps? Ryu Ho Seon’s great uncle would be arriving in the morning to collect her, should he raise the alarm before then, or feign ignorance of her disappearance? His mind was whirring, but he found himself diligently heading toward his father’s chambers.
He found his father asleep, sitting on the floor slumped over the table. He imagined his father’s shame in the morning, facing some nobleman demanding to know the whereabouts of his daughter. What if he thought Master Choi had been lying about the existence of such a daughter? Ki Wan realised how pathetic his father had become, and yet, he was still his father.
“Father! Wake up. Father!” He jostled him awake, by shaking his shoulder.
“Hmmmm?!?? Wha, what?” Ki Wan waited for his father to wake properly and look at him.
“Hwa Jin is gone. She has run away.”
“WHAT!?” His father burst upright, waving his arm up frantically and catching Ki Wan on the jaw. “WHAT!? GONE!?!? WHAT DO YOU MEAN!?”
“She left a note. She has run away.” He tried to explain, holding his jaw, checking his lip for blood.
“STUPID SELFISH GIRL! DOES SHE KNOW WHAT SHE’S DONE!!?” He was yelling at no one in particular, gesturing wilding around the room. Ki Wan waited for him to calm down. Eventually, after some incoherent swearing and mumbling, his father sat back down, unsteadily, at the table. With his head in his hands he mumbled again …
“She doesn’t know what she’s done.” He sounded completely crest-fallen. Through deep breathes, he was fighting back tears, mumbling again “She was meant to save us… the marriage … going to save us….she ….left … abandoned us.”
“Father, what do you mean? Father?” His father’s passionate outburst seemed to have drained him, and he was beginning to fall asleep once more, Ki Wan kept gentling jostling his arm trying to keep him conscious.
“The deal…” he murmured into his sleeve. “…money… we’re finished… I… failed you.”
As his father fell asleep, Ki Wan wiped the tears and alcohol off his face.
Sitting in the cold room, whilst his father snored, Ki Wan tried to put together what his father had said. A deal. Of course, why else would he suddenly marry Hwa Jin off now, so suddenly. He must had brokered some sort of deal with this great uncle Ryu, perhaps an old acquaintance or friend of his father, or more likely, a gambling buddy to whom he had lost one too many wagers. A young, energetic, pretty, fertile, noble bride for his great-nephew in exchange for what, a set price, an amount of gold, an annual living wage? Whatever the price, his father would have no choice but to take it, they had nothing and all three of them would soon be starving.
But what was the catch? Young, eligible noble women were normally married off with a dowry themselves, and even though the Choi family had fallen somewhat into disrepute, Hwa Jin was still a noble woman by birth. So, this begged the question, what was so horribly wrong with Nobleman Ryu Ho Seon that he could not find a bride himself, that his family were so desperate they were essentially marrying HIM off with a dowry instead?
As dawn broke, Ki Wan sat in his sister’s room, carefully applying make-up and attempting to fix his hair into some upright fashion. This was a disaster, what was he thinking? But the faces of his mother and father from a decade ago, smiling happily at him was all he could think of. Perhaps it was some sense of lingering loyalty to his mother’s memory, or misguided pity for his father – but he had decided the only way forward, to save himself and his father, was to keep up his father’s end of the bargain.
He attempted to style his long hair into a low bun as he had seen his sister do, but his skills were limited, and the bun kept falling out, he couldn’t get the pins to sit in the right places. He looked a mess, but it would have to suffice, he would have to rely on the illusion of the clothes and hope that no one looked too closely.
A group of men carrying a set of palanquin came into the courtyard, and a middle-aged woman climbed out. She was very brisk and formal, she greeted him curtly.
“Miss Choi Hwa Jin, I presume? I’m Master Ryu Jin-Yeong’s secretary. It’s a long ride back, so you’d better hop in. Have you relieved yourself this morning? You should do, the road up to the mountains is bumpy and will take many hours.”
Ki Wan was taken aback by her manner, but nodded politely, and kept looking at his feet. He figured, if he could hide his neck he might pass as a woman. People had often commented on how he and his sister could have been twins, and when he was younger he was teased for being too small and dainty. His sister had once said that it was a shame they weren’t sisters, for he would have made such a pretty girl with such a small face, yet instead he looked awkward as a spindly sort of boy, and would never be considered truly attractive to noble women, who liked men with broad shoulders and strong bone-structure. These sort of rude comments and confused compliments never bothered Ki Wan much, as romance, courting and marriage had never really appealed to him in the first place. He never imagined himself marrying a woman, though he certainly never imagined himself marrying AS a woman either.
Before climbing into the palanquin, his father came down from his quarters, and pulled him in for a very stilted but tight hug. He had told his father his plan this morning, though he wasn’t sure how much of it his father fully comprehended. He looked even sadder than he had the night before. Ki Wan hated to think of his father left alone here, drinking away his sorrows without anyone left to watch over him. Though, at this point, the alternate prospect, of staying - only to slowly starve to death together - was far worse. Yet, when he came down to bid Ki Wan farewell, he seemed completely sober. He grasped Ki Wan tightly, then let go just as quickly, and gave him a look that seemed to convey such gratitude and depth of desperation that Ki Wan had to look away, and quickly climb into the carriage to prevent himself from crying.
The ride was indeed bumpy, and after an hour or so Ki Wan began to feel exceedingly nauseous. He didn’t want to ask to stop, for he feared his voice would give his disguise away. He also suspected they were on a strict time schedule, and that Master Ryu’s secretary would not allow it. Finally, after yet another hour or so, they came to a stop by a ravine. The men clambering down to splash themselves with water and relieve themselves by some trees. Ki Wan tentatively stepped out to stretch his legs.
Though he tried not to look towards his chaperone, he could feel her gaze upon him. Suddenly she moved toward him.
“Tsk! This is what comes of no mother or handmaids. Your hair is a mess. Stay still.” She then vigorously took to re-styling his hair. Once she was satisfied, she ordered him back inside the bridal palanquin and they set off once again.
~ ~ ~
“Presenting, the bridegroom!”
Ki Wan could feel himself shaking. It had been hours since he had anything to eat or drink, and the fear of getting caught was worsening by the minute.
“Presenting, the bride!” He forced his legs to move and stepped forward.
The ceremony passed in a blur, all he felt was nausea and all he could see was the endless enveloping dancing colours of his dress sleeves as he tried to stay focused on not being sick. At some point his hands were washed, he was plied with alcohol, poked and prodded by Ryu family members. The ceremony was blessedly short, considering there was no Choi family represented, many of the traditional customs were skipped.
The wedding felt very business-like and rushed, perhaps the Ryu’s themselves were all aware that this was somewhat of a sham wedding. The only person who seemed particularly enthusiastic was the mother of the bridegroom, who was buzzing around attending to important ceremonial elements and guiding Ki Wan around. At one point, she put a reassuring hand gently on Ki Wan’s back as she quietly instructed him that he needed to bow six times. He felt calmed by this small gesture, and a pang of guilt ran through him for tricking this nice old lady, who seemed so excited about getting a nice young daughter in law.
~ ~ ~
In the evening, Ki Wan found himself alone for the first time with the bridegroom. His new “husband”. What was he to do? In the intimate space of the bridal house, there was no way Ho Seon wouldn’t notice that there was something wrong with his bride. They sat in silence.
Ki Wan could hear the sounds of his own breath, his arms ached from holding them above his face for hours on end – he desperately wanted to lower them.
“밥 먹었어요? Have you eaten?” Ho Seon broke the silence. “It’s okay. You can relax. Would you like something to eat? I’m starving.” Ki Wan could hear him fiddling with the plates of food at the table, and pouring liquor. He sounded…. young. Younger than Ki Wan had assumed. So, he wasn’t too old to be considered eligible… hmmm it must have been something else. Perhaps he was hideously disfigured, or scarred? Graphic images flashed around Ki Wan’s imagination. He would have to look, eventually…
“It’s a bit strange isn’t it.” Ho Seon continued, keeping up his one-sided chatter. “Marrying someone you’ve never met.”
“Mmm,” Ki Wan agreed, giving a quiet murmur and nod of the head.
“I’m sorry this has all been so rushed. My family seemed determined that I should marry, and before I knew it they said they had found me a bride!” He took a swig of alcohol.
Ki Wan was still frozen, craving food but not wanting to let his guard down.
“I mean, not that I don’t want to marry you … I mean, I’ve never met you… it’s a bit… you know…” He poured himself another cup.
Perhaps, Ki Wan thought, if Ho Seon drank enough, he could avoid a confrontation entirely! Maybe he could lie, and tell Ho Seon in the morning that they had consummated their marriage, and that Ho Seon was simply too drunk to remember?
“Ughh. Sorry I feel like I’m making this worse. I don’t know what to say.” Another drink. “Could you… I mean… you can show me your face now – we’re alone. If you want to, I mean. You seem scared. I hope you’re not scared of me. I promise I won’t… do anything.”
Ki Wan steeled himself, and slowly lowered his arms just a fraction, so that he could see Ho Seon. Their eyes met for a moment, and Ki Wan quickly averted his gaze down again. No scars, no disfigurement, Ho Seon was the picture of health. Handsome and youthful, his warm brown eyes glimmering from the alcohol.
Another pang of guilt. Ho Seon looked so innocent. Evidently, he knew nothing of his family’s under-hand dealings, or that his bride had been bought for him. He was like an overexcited puppy, full of nervous energy. Ki Wan’s initial plan, to manipulate or swindle his new husband into either ignorance or compliance started slipping away. He felt the urge to suddenly come clean, to let everything come tumbling out.
He lowered his arms completely, and felt a wave of relief wash over him. He expected Ho Seon to suddenly jump back in fright, or exclaim “NAMJA! A MAN!” But his reveal inspired no such reaction. He looked up at Ho Seon who was gazing back at him.
“Oh.” Ho Seon sighed through a tipsy smile, “You’re beautiful.”
Ki Wan’s breath stopped in his throat. This was not what he planned. Was Ho Seon so drunk that he could not tell Ki Wan was a man? Or was Ki Wan’s disguise more convincing than he had thought it would be? Perhaps it was the bridal make-up and adornments?
Before he could properly regain his breath, or think of something to say, Ho Seon was reaching out a hand toward his face. Ki Wan wanted to swat it away, but something in the earnest look on Ho Seon’s face stopped him from moving. Ho Seon gingerly reached across the table, and his fingers softly brushed Ki Wan’s cheek, just near his ear, and only for a moment. But the touch was enough to send goose-bumps shooting down Ki Wan’s neck and arms. He must have made a noise, because Ho Seon quickly drew back his hand to the table, and poured himself another drink.
~ ~ ~
Authors Note: Sorry this is unbeta’d atm. So this started as a bit of fun and has already gotten out of hand. As you can see I have completely re-written my own reasons for the wedding because I couldn’t stand the lack of explanation or logic in the show haha
So far this is all just like filling the blank plot-holes of the first episode. But I’m excited to get to the cute stuff, and can’t wait to write some heavy sexual tension and mutual pining as their marriage develops.
Let me know if you guys enjoy it, and I will try to write more asap! Feel free to send prompts too if you want!