"Daejang, let's go on a date."
"On a date? What is a date?"
"A date is a time when people, who like each other, spend together doing fun things, enjoying each other's company and getting to know about one another. Usually, you go to a nice place to eat, maybe watch a movie, maybe go shopping, and just hang out."
"Yes. Just spending time together."
"Is not it what we do anyway?"
"Not where walls have eyes and ears, just the two of us, privately."
"I do not think we can do that in the palace and it is dangerous for you outside. Why do you want to do it, anyway?"
"Please, please, please… Pretty please."
"OK," he could not refuse her.
"Dae Man," he called.
"I need to escort High Doctor. I will be gone for a few hours". She tugged at his sleeve, her eyes begging, longer, longer. He corrected himself, "Well, it might take longer, I'm not sure, so just let Vice General know to take over things while I'm gone."
"And do not follow us!"
"Great," she jumped, clapping. "Now let's get ready for a date. First of all, you have to clean up, dress up nicely and come up with a surprise for me. OK?"
"What kind of surprise?"
"You know, something special that I might like, but do not expect. I'm going to the Queen's quarters, be back in a half an hour." Eun Soo ran off to get a nice dress and make up.
Queen's maidens and lady Choi did not ask, but everybody was smiling behind her back.
"You must be going somewhere special, High Doctor."
"Yes, Your Majesty, a date. I can teach you about it later, so that you can take the King also."
When she returned, Choi Young was sitting at the table, checking his hair in the mirror and quickly put it away in embarrassment, making a stern face. He got up and straightened his clothes. When he looked at her, he could not speak for a second. She was so pretty. She was wearing a pastel colored caftan and had her hair framing her face in waves. She also wore a pair of beautiful pearl earrings, courtesy of the Queen and embroidered pair of shoes.
"I'm ready. Where are we going?" She was curious.
"You'll see. Follow me."
Her face went sour at the sight of horses. "You know I do not like riding. Can't we simply walk?"
"No, not where we are going. It will be fun, I promise."
They rode through beautiful scenery, green pastures, fields, covered with flowers, under the shaded canopy of fur trees, then toward an expanse of the river. It was a pleasant and leisurely ride. They were smiling at each other and Eun Soo chattered away, with Young laughing at her strange heavenly talk and jokes.
Suddenly, the horses slowed down at his sign and he turned to Eun Soo, who began to look tired, "We are here."
He helped her dismount. They were next to a small house, facing the river. There were some old fish nets hung and a fire pit outside that was not lit in a while.
"This is my place. This is the place my father built for us to stay when we went fishing. We used to sit by the river, watching the water run, my father would talk to me about life, about everything. Although I did not like to seat still as a child, being with him like that made me happy and I did not get bored… For a while now I really wanted to teach you fishing. "
She laughed, "Hey, I'm not just a city girl. I grew up in the country. I know a thing or two about fishing…"
Sitting down on the riverbank, they put their feet into the water. It was pleasantly cool. Young was expertly explaining about the fishing rod and the bait he used. They held the rod together, hand in hand. It was very peaceful. After they caught a few fish, he took her to a nearby village. They walked through the market, checking out trinkets, getting some vegetables and fruits to go.
Choi Young was amused at Eun Soo's love for shopping. She browsed through the stalls, looking at a lot of things, and a lot did not even begin to cover it. She tried to pick outfits, but could not choose, asking his opinion. His only opinion was that everything looked good on her, so he got them all. Then she moved onto shoes. The shoes were even worse than clothes! Choi Young followed her faithfully and patiently. He waited while she struggled with some of the hardest choices in her life: blue or grey; leather or fabric; simple or fancy. He bought her all the things she liked, and she was so excited with her presents that he was surprised at how easy it was to make her happy. He even carried a huge bundle, containing all of her purchases!
As Woodalchi was trying to present an aloof front and not embarrass himself in front of the whole village, holding tight onto his hand, Eun Soo intentionally teased him a lot, till finally, his cool expression broke into his most infectious smile. They continued along the dusty streets, till he stopped. "You are hungry, aren't you?" He looked at her knowingly. Her stomach grumbled for an answer and Choi Young suggested to get a quick bite at a small tavern. Eun Soo ordered alcohol and he drank with her, knowing how much she liked it. In his eyes, her little quirks were adorable and even in her drunken state, she was very beautiful. Her porcelain cheeks turned rosy, she talked nonstop and flirted with him. Time magically did not move, allowing them to enjoy this respite from the storm that awaited back at the palace.
When they returned back to the fishing shack, Young grilled fish for them and they had it with some vegetables, ending the meal with sweets and fruits they got. "I want to know everything about you. Every little detail… What was it like when you were growing up? What about your family? Friends? What is your favorite food? Color?" Eun Soo was asking during the dinner.
"There is not much to tell. My mother died when I was young. She was very kind and I remember her singing me songs to put me to sleep. She had warm hands, like you. And she laughed a lot. I think we were happy then. After she died, my father was always busy, so my aunt took care of me. She was strict, but she let me play with other kids and I started learning martial arts then. I was good at running and fighting and I'm a very good swimmer… I like water… Whenever my father would have time, he'd take me fishing. It was our time together. He was very smart and read a lot; he made sure I got good education. I was on my way to becoming a scholar, when he died. After that, you know the story… And here I am. Oh, my favorite food." He grinned happily at the thought, "I like chestnuts, roasted, and cherries. I do not have a favorite color, but I hate red. So, what about you?"
"I do not have any siblings, it was lonely, but I had a lot of friends in school. I was a very good student and got bored easily, so I would always get in trouble for pulling pranks or speaking up in class out of turn. I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to make money, I wanted to live in a big city, have a good place, nice car, and pretty clothes. I wanted to send money home, so that my parents are comfortable and they would not have to work so hard…"
"I'm sorry, I know you miss them."
She rested her head on his shoulder, "I do, but you are my home now. I would not change it for the world."
They laid down on the grass, looking up to the sky.
"You know, sky looks the same everywhere, any time. The same blue, the same white fluffy clouds, the same sun shining on us."
"I know, Imja. There is one more place I'd like to take you, but it's getting late, we have to return."
"We do? Can we stay here for the night, please? It's just so good, I forget about everything. For me?"
Young sighed; he made a face and then agreed. How could he say 'no' to her, how could he stop this magic when it was so perfect?
"Can I use my knife to carve on stone?" She wondered.
"Of course, why?"
"You'll see." She ran down to the river. She carved out Young + Eun Soo and circled it with the heart. "Come here, look."
He stared at the strange drawing, surprised at another Heavenly thing she did.
"This is me and you together, and this is a sign for heart. This way, even hundreds of years from now the world will know we were here."
"You certainly are a strange woman," he chuckled.
The couple stayed in the house for the night. Embracing each other, they had the best sleep in a while. They were at peace and together, away from the crazy world.
In the morning, Young guided her to a mound, overlooking the river, where they were fishing yesterday. He picked up a few flowers and put them down on the ground in front of him. He took three deep kneeling bows and said, "Mother, father, I want you to meet Yoo Eun Soo. My woman. She saved me countless times, she is difficult and stubborn, she is smart and skillful, she is the best doctor in the whole Goryeo. She cares about me more than I could ever imagine I can be cared for. Please take care of her."
"Hello, I'm Yoo Eun Soo. It's very nice to meet you. I will take good care of your son." She bowed respectfully. She also gathered a few flowers and put them next to Young's.
He turned toward quiet Eun Soo, "I have not come here in a while and I never took anyone here or to the fishing shack. Besides our family estate, which I don't care for much, this is all I possess, all I can share with you".
"This is more than enough," she smiled tearfully and clung to him. Of course this was more than enough for her. She looked around the valley with the lazy river and the vast fields blooming with life. She felt normal, as if death was no fear imminent death hovering behind her shoulder. This was true happiness.
When the time came to return, Young said, "I like going on a date. Maybe we can do it again sometime."
"Yes, Daejang, we will."