Author's notes: I love CY. I think he is a complex and multilayered character. His personal journey deserves special attention. This story is my vision of how he was able to sustain his undying love despite uncertainty and pain of separation from Eun Soo. How he lived without her, what it was like for him - waiting. The heights and the lows, the various sides of him.
This is a revised and reedited version, I hope you will enjoy it. Whether you are a new reader or just somebody returning back for a dose of "Faith" and "Youngspirin", leave a comment. Offer your opinion, or just share your response with others. We have a wonderful community of people who were all touched by "FAITH". I for one, look forward to all the reviews and appreciate them very much.
Tears of the Warrior
The field was drenched in cold rain. There, on the cool ground lay a lifeless body of Choi Young, frozen, colder than the earth underneath him, chilled to the heart from the powerful and deadly attack by Ki Chul. The usual warmth in his eyes and the passionate light illuminating his face had gone out. Dimmed and frosty, Choi Young's almond eyes reflected the grey stormy skies, like a glossy surface of a frozen lake, any signs of life buried deeply beneath it.
His mind as still as his body, focused on one thought, still linking him to the world of living, Imja. Was he too late?
The raindrops washed over his motionless features urging him to wake up from the chilling stupor. Rain. Her favorite. Little droplets insisted to be noticed, knocking on the doors of his consciousness, calling out with all their might on the power of his memories, begging for him to get up.
His fingers moved and his eyes reflected a flicker of will. He had to believe. If not, then what was the meaning of everything they had been through?
It was not physical prowess or inhuman strength that brought him to his feet, it was his longing to see her face again and to hold her in his embrace. Each step took unimaginable effort, while the icy force of life started to thaw slowly and his trickling KI, warmed up the frozen passages of his blood vessels and moved the pumping chambers of his heart, resuscitating his body to carry out his intent.
A glimmer of hope moved his stiff body toward the Heaven's gate, where Eun Soo was taken last. He struggled with the burning realization that if she had not returned for him yet, she was transported away on a journey through time, landing in some faraway place, out of his reach, lost and alone. Yet, he needed to make sure, only willing to believe his eyes. So he dragged his shivering limbs, still dizzy and weak, each step heavy with fear that what he understood in his mind, might actually come true – she would not be there.
As he approached, Choi Young stopped before a sharp rocky turn, leaning on the wet stone ledge to catch his breath. In a moment, the site of the Heaven's gate would appear before him and there would not be any room for doubt or hope. Memories crowded him, as the ominous weather with its cool wind, grey skies and the smell of rain in the air, transported him back in time when he volunteered to bring a doctor for the injured Queen. This was the place where it all started.
General Choi Young of Woodalchi was a very different man then. He entered a strange world filled with loud noises and harsh brightness, with flying carriages and lights in the sky. To him, that world was foreign and unwelcoming. But that world bore the most precious gift, which could not be found in the whole of Goryeo, High Doctor. She was a woman from the future, whom he kidnapped on his trip through time, a woman who was bound to leave, and who by some miraculous leap of faith gave a chance to the man she called psycho, saving him countless times.
It was by the loving touch of her hand that he was transformed from a ghost of a man into a person, who understood the meaning behind living. By seeking her heart, he gained the will to love and to fight for his love. By having her next to him, he found himself wanting something solely for himself, instead of giving his all to dutifully follow orders. By allowing himself to love Eun Soo, he made a conscious choice and became a stronger and better warrior, proudly serving his king. General Choi Young, gained the strength to wield a heavy sword with unshakable faith and a wise mind because he was truly living and loving. Having become one with her, he was graced by the beautiful miracle of her existence, and finally, he liked who Choi Young was.
Now he had come full circle. The dreaded moment of truth, one more step, and the Heaven's gate would be in plain view. He braced himself for the inevitable. In front of the mysterious portal, which now looked like a simple alcove carved out of stone, there was a frozen corpse of Ki Chul, no Eun Soo in sight.
"She is alive, she escaped him" was his first thought of comfort. His second one of devastation - "She is gone. Will she be able to return?"
With a groan, he smashed his fist against his chest, trying to blunt the emotional pain in his heart with a primitive physical one. The strength he collected before, escaped him; his legs gave out, and he collapsed, kneeling on the ground, still facing the portal in disbelief.
In this drenching rainstorm, his only witness was the grieving heaven: there he was, vulnerable and alone, streams running down his cheeks. Normally, the General was not given to shedding tears, and in this shower, one could not tell the difference, yet, his reserved tears could flow freely, drowned in the nature's outpour.
… Finally, he reminded himself that SHE would be worried if he got sick. He could feel her warm hand on his cheek and see her smiling at him as if saying, "You are better, you are OK."
"Imja, I will take care of myself, I will eat well and sleep well, and I will be healthy for your return." So without hesitation, he got up and walked away.
He stopped briefly by the inn, where he found Dae Man, sent by the Vice General. The kid did not ask a thing, he just looked at his commander and stuttered, "I have a change of clothes." Choi Young was grateful that there were no questions about High Doctor. After quickly changing into dry robes, he rode home alone. Upon his arrival, he was notified that the King was waiting for him, troubled by his long absence.
"Please let His Majesty know that I will inform him in the morning."
When the Walls Can Talk
He could not bring himself to return to the room freshly holding her presence. He was afraid of seeing the remnants of her – the floor which recalled her steps, the medicine jars she touched, her Woodalchi armor, her hair brush, clothes, jewelry, and worst of all the bed where she slept, which still held her warmth and the smell of her body, topped by the pillow filled with the fragrance of her hair.
He went directly to their special place. Sitting down by the railing, weary from the journey and the emotional exhaustion, he fell into a deep dark sleep, only to be awakened by somebody's touch.
"Imja," bright and hopeful he opened his eyes, quickly turned to disappointment, finding his aunt next to him.
She had the most concerned expression he has ever seen on her face. "How are you? They told me I might find you here."
He could not answer, disturbed by the blunt reality, after instantly remembering everything.
"The Queen has sent me… She gave me a day off. Anything you need, anything at all, just let me know." She sat down nearby, respectful of his space.
He knew that it was her way of comforting him, more than a hug, or a pat on the back, her quiet support spoke volumes.
"She was cured. She was healthy, and I asked her to stay with me." He added faintly, "She was going to stay with me."
He closed his eyes, with a slight smile remembering. "We spent time together, just the two of us. I never felt that much at peace before. Like you are home, exactly where you belong and there is no doubt about anything…" He looked at his aunt, his eyes holding sadness and hope, "She went through the Heaven's door and I could not do anything to stop it. All I can do now is wait and be ready for her to return."
Lady Choi, looked at him intently and confused.
"I know she will come back. I do not know when, though… " With understanding, he added, "Don't worry, I won't turn into the walking dead again, not ever. I live for HER now, aunt."
When I lay there dying, I remembered your face, your voice, saying everything will be fine, our promise to be together. Rain washed away all the doubts, I knew that you will never stop till you find me again. So I have to live in order to be here when you return.
The General did not return to his room for a month. He never lost the ability to sleep anywhere any time, so the compound and the palace garden became his refuge. He was never disturbed, as Woodalchi made sure of that. Even the King arranged for him to have time to himself, citing the need for the General to recover after the injury and the current stable situation at the palace. Although everyone was worried about his condition, nobody dared to ask, especially when he was more withdrawn than usual. Then one day, after it started to rain again, unexpectedly he came back to the barracks announcing, "You can find me in my room."
Pledge of Faith
He stepped through the threshold of the door. It was not as bad as he expected. In fact, both happy and painful memories were his friends. He welcomed them as they would be his only companions for a while. That first night, he did not sleep in his bed, he sat on the floor, only resting his head on the pillow. "Imja, good night," he whispered.
With time, it became easier and easier. He developed habits and routines that balanced his solitary activities with affairs of the state. Somehow, he naturally started having daily conversations with her; going to their meeting place, he would tell her about his thoughts, feelings and worries, consult about his decisions, and overall just to keep her upraised of his life.
Since then, he truly began learning how to live without her, to live in a way that she would approve of. The King offered to provide any assistance and later on when the opportunity presented itself, the General led the forces, which successfully conquered the land where the Heaven's door was located.
It was during one of his daily conversations at the meeting place that he decided to frequent the Heaven's door.
"Imja, I know that you are trying to find your way to me, it must be hard to come through the door without anyone standing at the other end. I will go to that field, that place where yellow flowers grow and an old tree marks the spot. I will go there and wait."
Choi Young was a changed man. He continued to be reserved and isolative, but he spent more time with the guys at the compound and even shared a story or two. At times he could feel the joy that camaraderie provided, surrounded by people who loved and respected him. A few, who still remembered High Doctor, would slip and sometimes bring her up in a conversation, but quickly retreat after a smack from the Vice General. Choi Young at first was glad to avoid the topic, but after a while, wanted to hear about her from others, to see her through other people's eyes, to know that she made a difference. The next time the conversation landed itself on the Heavenly healer, he gave an implicit permission with an approving nod and a smile.
Waking up in my room without you, it's lonely. I know what you meant calling out "Are you there?" I want to call you, too "Imja, are you there?" I feel the emptiness to the core, it reminds me of how you make me whole. I will not crumble. I will be stronger than I was ever before. Every day we are apart, I learn to be more like you: to never give up, to work diligently at everything. When we meet again, you will be proud.
Because he knew, she would be asking "Are you there?", each morning once he opened his eyes and each night before falling asleep, without fail he'd say "Imja, I'm here," believing his answer would find her across the tangled web of the cosmic time.