HOMECOMING

The Woodalchi barracks were buzzing with excitement. Most of the younger recruits watched confused as their commanding officers ordered them to clean the barracks from the top eaves to the lowest wooden planks but all complied quickly to the orders.

The vice general was overseeing them, pointing here and there from time to time as two young Woodalchi, still wet behind their ears, busied themselves to remove any cobwebs from the corners of the center chamber. Deokman and Dae Man had hurried upstairs, checking the Daejang's quarters only to return with a nod of their heads. Trust the General to keep his own room in perfect order.

When the shout came that the Daejang and his woman were approaching, Choong-Suk gathered all Woodalchi in front of the barracks and waited.

"Will she be living here, or why did we have to clean everything?" One of the newer recruits asked loudly and Choong-Suk already had a reprimand on his lips when Deokman turned towards the young man and tapped him on his head.

"Of course she will live with us," he said. "She is after all Daejang's woman and a Woodalchi."

"Her?" another asked in surprise.

"Before she left, she was appointed by the King himself," Dae Man explained and turned to watch the approach of his general and the High Doctor. Words couldn't describe how he felt about the return of the High Doctor. Four years back it had pained him to see his general suffering silently and stoically after she disappeared through the Heaven's Gate again. Always Daejang's shadow he had noticed many more tell tale signs than the other of how much the general missed the woman and even though he was yet to experience such love as well, his heart had responded in kind. He, too, had felt saddened by the sudden disappearance of the woman who had all treated them equally and with soft but assured hands when wounded. He was glad that she was back and seeing the smile on his Daejang's face, his heart felt much lighter than before.

The Woodalchi bowed their heads reverently when their Daejang approached, flanked by the High Doctor on his right side and Choong-Suk joined him on the other side, smiling at Eun-Soo by doing so.

"Some of you remember the High Doctor, some of you don't know her at all," Choi Young addressed his men. "She is an honorary member of this regiment, staying by my side, show her the same respect that you show me … or you will answer to me."

Eun-Soo looked up at him at his words. Four years back, he had not warned his men to behave and she was surprised to hear these words now.

Ignoring her inquiring gaze he nodded towards Deokman and Dae Man. Both men nodded earnestly upon the silent request. Both would become the shadows of the High Doctor and protect her with their lives if necessary.

"High Doctor," Deokman approached her and smiled. Even now with that beard on his chin, Eun-Soo could still see the boyish features in his pretty face, and Eun-Soo smiled warmly at him.

"Deokman-ssi," she replied just as seriously which teased another mischievious smile from the man.

"Would you like to see the barracks?" he asked. "We made a lot of changes in the last years …"

Eun-Soo nodded at that and with linking her arms with Deokman and Dae Man she threw Choi Young a smiling gaze over her shoulder before she let herself be led inside the barracks.

Choi Young watched as she disappeared into the building, before turning back to his vice general.

"Choong-Suk, the King has delayed any plans concerning the Japanese Pirates until tomorrow," he said and the other man nodded his head in reply. "Tonight he invited us to celebrate the return of High Doctor. So get cleaned up and tell your wife to be prepared."

Choong-Suk looked up in surprise. "I shall attend?"

"Are you not my second in command?" Choi Young replied drily. "The King requested you specifically, so you better hurry."

"I will, Daejang, thank you." Choong-Suk inclined his head and couldn't suppress a smile. Choi Young shook his head slightly and patted the other man's shoulder companionably.

When Choi Young entered the barracks, he frowned at the throng of Woodalchi surrounding his woman who talked to them excitedly. With a wave of her hand here and a smile there, she had completely captivated the seasoned warriors who did not notice the approach of their general.

"YA!" he shouted after they had ignored his more subtle ways of capturing their attention. All snapped to attention, even Eun-Soo and he had to grin.

"I think you still have duties to perform," he snapped out and watched as over half of the warriors scurried off. The rest pretended to inspect the top rafters of the hall while trying to eavesdrop on their Daejang and the red headed woman.

Closing his eyes for a short moment, Choi Young snorted softly and grabbing her hand, he made his way up to his room.

Deokman and Dae Man smirked at the familiar scene. It was so good to have High Doctor back.

After entering through the double door, Eun-Soo slowly turned on her heels to take in the room. It was in perfect order, just the way she remembered it from the last time she stayed there and with a contented sigh she took in the small chests where Choi Young kept his keep sakes, the small wardrobe where she knew his hanboks and tunics were stored. Even the small cot in one corner was unchanged.

Some kind warrior had brought up her bundle and had placed it on the small table and with a smile she lovingly caressed the gleaming surface of the wooden table, remembering the last time she had stood in front of it. Back then the table had held jars and medicinal bowls in which she had tried to grow a special fungus to counteract the poison that was raging through her body.

The jars, now empty still stood as silent reminders on the table and when she looked up inquiringly, she met Choi Young's intense stare.

"These were one of the last items Imja used before …" he paused and Eun-Soo could see how much it still affected him.

"I'm sorry you suffered so much from the very beginning because of me," she whispered softly and with two steps she approached him and walked into his opened arms. Hugging each other, Choi Young buried his face in her hair and held her tight.

"Don't be, Imja. I'm not sorry that all this happened," he closed his eyes for a short moment and breathed her in. "It had to happen and now you are back and we are together. It all happened because of this, right now."

Eun-Soo so desperately wanted to believe him and she couldn't ignore the fact that maybe due to her very presence here, Choi Young would become the man the history books of her time knew. Perhaps their love helped shape the man, she was not sure. The only thing she was sure was the fact that she loved him, just as much as he loved her and that nothing – neither Gods, nor time or space – could ever separate them again.

Closing her eyes, she rested her head against his shoulder, marvelling in the familiar scent of him and the strong beating of his heart underneath her ear.

"I'm home," she said and these few words made Choi Young smile.

end