Perhaps it would have been better if he had ignored her pleas of help and walked away that day. Then maybe he wouldn't be finding himself in such a tragedy that would later affect him so deeply he couldn't even dare to forget what happened. How was he supposed to know that the actions of helping one person out of the kindness of his heart would later be his own downfall? Nobody could've predicted it.
It was a very windy day, on the eve of the winter solstice, just a few moons after her marriage to the infamous Lord Jaehyuk of the Gyeongju Choi clan, Seol brought the entire nation good news of her pregnancy. She was only 18 years old and had been betrothed to his older brother's closest friend after reaching a consensus that the latter would continue to support his reign in exchange for her hand in marriage. How would the news of one young woman's pregnancy shock the nation? It would only be a day to celebrate if they were famous amongst the people or if they were held high in regards. Lee Seol was exactly a mix of both; being the only daughter of Crown Prince Lee Yeong and twin sister to Lee Won. Both the male figures of her life were greatly received and loved by the people, and her mother the Crown Princess Seorin was not lacking either.
She came from a prestigious family with a good background, it was to be expected that the good news of her bearing an heir for the second minister's eldest son would be the talk of the country. The union between the two families was strong, and while it was a marriage done for mutual interests from both parties, Seol and Jaehyuk did love each other immensely. They were childhood friends that grew together alongside her twin. The three of them were practically inseparable when they were younger and that friendship lasted for another 12 years.
But the marriage did not go through easily. There were still other forces conspiring to overtake the current monarchy and put one of their own inside the root itself, specifically the Southern Party. 20 years ago, they were the party that almost succeeded in crowning a queen from their ranks after the previous queen was deposed. Of course, it only lasted a while as the king later unveiled their evil plots and provided the evidence needed to sentence the leading family to death and some to be exiled. The fact that the king decided to even spare some of the household members' lives were considered a benevolent act in the eyes of many..
About two moons before their marriage was to be scheduled, the king fell sick and died from a mysterious disease. He was only able to fight for his lifeline for a week before breathing his last verdict. With his passing, her father, Crown Prince Yeong succeeded the throne, which meant her twin, Won, is now the Crown Prince. The pressure they never felt since birth came washing over them like the cold chilling winter waves of the sea. Everything changed over the span of one week.
While it was to be expected for her husband to be present during her labor but unfortunately, things didn't always go well for Seol. Jaehyuk had been with her brother, Won, when it all happened. The two of them were going hunting with only a few guards standing by, they were no match for the paid assassins that were sent with one mission and one only; to bring back the news of the crown prince's death with them. It was a swift attack carried out under an hour and the 'threat' to the throne was no more. The public did not suspect anything foul regarding their deaths, considering the number of beasts and wild boars residing within the forest they were hunting in. But the same couldn't be said for their family who knew it was no accident. Seol was in distress, she lost a husband and her other half, and suddenly all attention was now on the unborn child kicking inside her, not aware of the evil lurking in the corner.
Without a loving husband by her side when she delivered her baby to the world, the birth of Seojun was considered a miracle. Seol's family clan originated from the Northern Party, who then later perceived Seojun as the rightful heir to the throne since the King had no other children except the twins and wouldn't dare take any concubine in his rule. It was decided by his grandfather that Seojun would be sent away to live with his mother in a land far away from the threats looming in their own home. They could no longer trust anyone.
With the princess and her son sent away to China, the target was reduced to only two; the King and his strong-willed Queen who didn't dwindle even after the death of their beloved son. Seol was settling in with Seojun when she heard the news of her parents succumbing to a mysterious disease and giving up after 7 days. The throne was left empty and the next in line successor was a sea away. She exchanged letters with her in-laws and told them to be careful. The Choi clan was exiled and many thought they lost. She knew when to give up on a losing fight, but she promised Seojun, "You're the only one that matters. You have to live… your survival means the success of our family and the failure of theirs." She was willing to lose a battle in exchange of winning the war in the end. Under the orders of Seol, it didn't take long for her in-laws to fabricate the news of her death alongside her son over a shipwreck. And people forgot about them once again.
20 years later, Seojun had grown up into a fine lad, he was a businessman, training under a renowned Qing merchant from China. He was fluent in the language and was very perceptive, thus ensuring his long term business deals with plenty of people. Ahn Seojun was smarter than his peers and was well-versed in the arts of arithmancy. His mother decided not to follow him as he traveled to Joseon with his mentor, claiming there were too many bitter memories. It didn't hinder the male of course, he knew exactly what to expect once he set foot there, in a land where many had forgotten his family.
He didn't pursue the throne, he had no interest in it whatsoever. That didn't mean he had forgotten all their wrongdoings, he still wanted to give them a taste of their medicine either way. He didn't care what happened to his family, for he had no memories about them since his mother wouldn't tell him anything but he remembered the promise he made to his mother when he was just a mere 7 year old boy. He promised she would never cry again. While she lived a comfortable life in Luoyang, he wanted to secure her a safe passage to return to Hanyang, for she wished to be buried there after her passing. And in order for him to fulfill said wish, he had to make sure the Southern Party can no longer rise to threaten his mother. It was impressive to see how strong a son's love for his mother could be, seeing as it led Seojun with the motivation fueling his ambition to cut off the head of the current ruling party and leave nothing behind for any chance for a coup in the future.
Under a new identity where he is known as Yiren, a wealthy merchant who came to Joseon with imported goods, nobody suspected a single thing about him. Only that he is incredibly clever and sharp-witted, with humor befitting his tall and handsome appearance. His efforts to dismantle the power of the current ruling party was already underway.
Until one night, he came across a pitiful woman crying out for help. Hayoon was her name, she was only two years younger than him and he would lie if he didn't find her strikingly beautiful. Even in her tattered clothes and dirt covering her face, whenever the moonlight illuminates the girl, Seojun couldn't help but find her glowing. It was unlike him to pay attention to a girl, all his life he had been busy with taking care of his mother, he had no time to even pursue a love life. He was going to send her away after giving her a place to stay for the night but she had broken her leg and couldn't move. How could he be so cruel to force her out when she told him her village had been pillaged and burned to the ground from an attack led by the Southern Party? In his eyes, they both suffered from the same people.
Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months. His circle of friends grew and so did his affection for the girl he saved many moons ago. He had grown closer to Hayoon and even began to court her, promising her a better life once he succeeded in taking the ruling party down. Marriage was also another thing he had promised the girl once everything was over and when he could finally bring his mother to see her. He was a man in love, and those are the kind of people many would not dare to trifle with, especially if they had a significant amount of power on their side. Though he was just a merchant there, Seojun was very much still wealthy and he had all the means to provide her with anything necessary. He successfully managed to land a critical hit to their financial situation every month, slowly moving towards them and offering the Kim clan a remedy for their problem. As expected, nobody suspected a thing about him. Or maybe he had been too cocky and didn't realise he should've looked closer into home.
What Happened After
He was going to wait until his mother could return to Hanyang to marry Hayoon but lost himself in a night of passion with the girl he loves. So he quickly made her his wife after a premature decision, while being under the guise of a fool in love. Love really does make or kill you, everyone ends up being a slave to it. Little did he know, the day he abandoned all thoughts, caring very little of what would follow them in the future if he impulsively married her, was the very day he trapped himself. Seojun did try to convince himself it didn't matter because weeks later, he became a father.He was going to wait until his mother could return to Hanyang to marry Hayoon but lost himself in a night of passion with the girl he loves. So he quickly made her his wife after a premature decision, while being under the guise of a fool in love. Love really does make or kill you, everyone ends up being a slave to it. Little did he know, the day he abandoned all thoughts, caring very little of what would follow them in the future if he impulsively married her, was the very day he trapped himself. Seojun did try to convince himself it didn't matter because weeks later, he became a father.
By the time Hayoon was heavily pregnant and couldn't even move that much, Seojun successfully managed to infiltrate the Kim clan's family, he became both their secret benefactor and the one who loaned money to them. Money was everything, you couldn't pay your soldiers with loyalty or sincerity, especially when you had none. It was the reason why they were able to betray the previous royal family, because of how easy it was to bribe the guards and ministers, threatening them with money they once had. It was the perfect revenge he could ever plan for. He devised the same route as the Kims did to his family. Bleeding them dry and hitting their financial weak points until they could no longer sustain themselves with the sudden inflation in the market, and then offering to be their savior when he was the one who cut their legs off in the first place.
Just when he was ready to land the last hit that would really ruin the party as a whole, he was betrayed. He really should've looked closely into home indeed. It was late at night when Hayoon went into labor all of sudden, and Seojun rushed home. Everyone was alarmed, especially him, who had to wait outside since he wasn't allowed inside while the midwife tried to assist his wife with her delivery. He couldn't remember how long it had taken but the attendant rushed outside saying there was another. Twins. How could he have forgotten the possibility of that? When the physician came to check her pulse, he didn't feel another heartbeat so this was news to all of them. After hours or waiting, he could finally come in to see Hayoon who had already passed out with a girl and boy wrapped in their bundles, sleeping at her side.
Seokhoon and Seokyung.
He delayed his plan by a few days but despite his wife's pleas to just stay home and take care of the twins because he had a family to look after now, Seojun was adamant to cut both the Southern Party's head and tail that very day. That way, he no longer had to look back and worry if anyone discovered his true identity. However, before he could depart for Kim's house, Hayoon requested that she be granted permission to visit her old village due to tradition and he allowed her to do so by sending a few guards with her. Imagine his surprise when he came to end his long feud with Kim Jinwoo's family, only to be greeted with his own wife standing next to him.
It was the worst day in his entire life. When Kim Jinwoo revealed that it didn't matter that he had already bled them dry when he's a part of the family itself, Seojun felt like his entire world just crumbled beneath his feet. Hayoon was planned. Seokhoon and Seokyung were also planned. Everything was planned from the very beginning by the man himself. He revealed that Hayoon was his youngest daughter, and that Seojun, being the foolish person he was, had married into the family he swore to ruin. He threatened the lives of the twins and said he should thank him for working so hard for his already deteriorating family. Prior to Seojun's return to Hanyang, the Kims were already suffering from financial crisis due to their excessive spending and when they found out a young and smart merchant was coming from Qing, they had targeted him from the beginning, to use him to build up the wealth they lost. It was only by chance that they found out his true identity from Hayoon after she was pregnant because he had confessed to her who he was and what he came to do.
He felt like the stupidest man to have ever existed. He thought he was playing their game at them but it was the opposite. And according to the laws, since the current King is of their own blood, they now possess the twins who had both the previous family's relation and the current one; the very solution to their problem to appease the public who still rejected their rule. But the twist was that… they no longer needed him. They had his children and it was more than enough to suck everything he possessed here and back home. All they need is to get rid of him and they did. They beat him up severely and left him to be eaten by the wolves in the same forest they killed his uncle and father.
With the injuries he sustained, he knew he wouldn't last. Was it selfish if he wanted to live a while longer? To see his children grow up and know their father the way he wished he would've known his father? Those were the last thoughts he had before he blacked out.
When he woke up, he thought he was dead and was just in a plane where the dead passed. But it was really warm, he could hear the fire crackling nearby to keep the place warm and the room was well furnished. His sight was really clear but as soon as he got up on his feet, he fell back to the bed because of the pain in his neck. It felt very sore there and it was then that he realized there's a bandage around it and that he was not dressed in his clothes, it wasn't even hanbok. He was very involved with the other merchants though so it didn't take him long to realize he was wearing something western. Seojun could see some of the things he had seen being sold in the markets when he was back in Luoyang, he was definitely not in Hanyang. Later he was startled by a presence who walked into the room, it was a petite redhead who looked surprised that he was up on his feet or even conscious.
He would later know her as Argent Ailward, and after she had told him what happened, he couldn't help but see her as his savior. Of course he was indifferent with others and even a little bit jumpy because the distrust is still deep rooted in him after what happened but the male eventually warmed up to the Aspect of Light. Apparently he was saved by one of the guards who was coincidentally in the same forest he was abandoned at, she happened to be an ailuranthrope who took pity on his dying state and brought him over to the Isle of Skye after biting him. He spent weeks staying there with the generosity Argent extended and learned a lot of new things. Even after months of staying on the Isle, it didn't make sense at first, how could he digest all of the information about the supernatural?
This was his second chance. He could've left after he had fully recovered and knew the rules on how to live his new life but he saw the solidarity and cooperation the other guards had ingrained in them, Argent was also very nice to him even when some of the others were still wary of him. He understood their worries, it was warranted. He's a stranger. Who knows what kind of trouble he would cook up? But Argent never once discouraged him, and he realized that he didn't want to leave it at this. He had to repay her kindness for giving him a place to stay, always encouraging him with the positive words while he tried to keep himself in control every full moon. She became his friend. He grew to be extremely protective over the years of staying on the Isle.
So when he was offered to join the guard permanently, he didn't see the harm in it. He still had a long way to go to repay Argent and it wasn't as if he could even go back to his old life. He should focus on not wasting his second chance and protecting his mother from a distance. News of his death spread across the sea and found its way to his mother who was also stripped of every penny he had contributed to her livelihood because of Kim Jinwoo's greed. He became her secret benefactor and helped her without her knowing, he couldn't fulfill her wishes but he could keep his promise to be a good son who would care for her until the day she breathed her last. His rage grew over the years as he watched the greed in that family expand and hurt others, while Hayoon used it as a reason to raise the twins in a life filled with lies. It took everything in him not to intervene and if it wasn't because of the promise he made to Argent, he would've fallen victim to his own anger.
She reminded him of his own mother's words, to live because it means the survival of their family because so long as he lives on, their legacy will never be tarnished. After a while of serving as a guard, he was offered the chance to be promoted into another rank; personal guard to the Aspect of Light herself. Though he would never admit it, she was probably the only one who truly knew and understood him. There was no reason to reject it. Some even playfully called him the big cat guarding the sweet looking Aspect of Light. During the tragedy that befell the Isle of Skye, he was away on a mission. He didn't know what happened until it was too late. Initially, Seojun refused to report back to Evermore in person ever since, because he couldn't see the eternal city as their home but perhaps it was time to come back to his Aspect before she decided that her personal guard should be replaced.
No way he was going to be thrown away like that and Argent knew how he would react the moment she sent the text saying "You have 2 days."