It was the third day of autumn. Exactly at the end of the late King Gwangjongs mourning period, I was allowed to wear colored royal hanbok again after always wearing mourning clothes. I can still clearly remember how the palace ladies rushed— delivering new clothes to every corner of the royal family pavilion.
My future husband has now ascended the throne to become a king. He is no longer a crown prince but a king. The third day of this fall marks the four years that my future husband will reign as King of Joseon.
After that painful encounter, I did not even dare to visit my future husband, King Uiyang. Theres a part of me that doesn want to get hurt again. I don want to be hurt when I hear someone I have to be with say that he doesn need me. I don want to remember the fact that he never wanted me to be by his side. Thats why I chose to spend time alone in the Byeolgung Pavilion.
That same day, I received news that my wedding and coronation would take place tomorrow. Honestly, I was surprised and didn expect that I would have to get married and become queen in such a short time. Four years is not a short time to wait for the process of establishing myself as a young queen. On that same day, I got an unexpected visit. My mother came to see me.
Dressed in a light green dangui, my mother looked very beautiful as she sat across from me. She gave me a gentle smile. However, my heart ached again when I realized that my mother could no longer call me by my first name. Tomorrow, its official that all documents that contain my birth name must be destroyed. Tomorrow, I will no longer be her little princess but a young queen of Joseon.
My mother came to congratulate me. Ah, mother, don you know that your daughter really wants to cry when she hears your greetings? Mother, do you know how painful it is to be someone sitting on a throne? Mother, if only you knew that the throne could turn your sweet daughter into a different person, would you still hand me over to the palace when you receive my letter of appointment as crown princess? Will you smile so broadly when you see me step on a layer of red cloth that will inevitably be like a sea of blood someday?
Mother, forgive me, who has to turn into someone scary while sitting on the throne. All of it was merely to defend myself in the palace. As I wish on the day of your mothers visit before the wedding takes place, Mother, please forget your little daughter. Because your little princess will no longer be seen when she sits on the throne. Because when she sat on the throne, she was not your daughter but Queen Seohyeong. Joseons Nation Mother
The door to the room opened and Court Lady Choi walked in, followed by several palace maids. Jung Eun did not divert her attention in the slightest from the palace ethics book she was reading. Her brown eyes continued to trace the rows of black ink written on the book.
Court Lady Choi and the palace maids bowed to Jung Eun before they finally sat down. Court Lady Choi raised her face before starting to speak in front of Jung Eun. A faint smile appeared on Court Lady Chois face when she saw the serious expression on Heo Jung Euns face. Heo Jung Eun has spent the last four years preparing to be Joseons future queen.
"Crown Princess, I congratulate you on completing your mourning time so well without breaking the rules of mourning. A few days ago, His Majesty the King gave orders to prepare new clothes for the entire royal family. Please take a look at your new outfit, Your Highness."
Several palace maids from the palace sewing section who sat behind Court Lady Choi now shifted their seats while carrying a tray containing Jung Euns new clothes. The palace maids put boxes of clothes right in front of Jung Euns table, so she could see her new clothes.
Jung Eun put down the book she was reading. Her brown beads had moved to a row of trays that held her new clothes.The whole new dangui—a royal hanbok— that was shown looked beautiful in hereyes. But all that did not make she feel happy. Heo Jung Eun looked coldly at the row of her lovely clothes.
"How is it, Your Highness? Do you like it? Is there one youd like to wear now?" Court Lady Choi ventured to ask Jung Eun.
Jung Eun did not immediately answer the question from Court Lady Choi. Her eyes returned to the row of clothes. Finally, she settled on a soft mint-colored dangui.
"I want to wear this." Jung Eun pointed at the dangui of her choice.
Court Lady Choi nodded. Soon, Court Lady Choi and several young palace maid rose from their seats to help Jung Eun change her mourning clothes.
Jung Eun did not speak a word. Even when Court Lady Choi says that she looks elegant in her new clothes, Jung Eun just stares coldly at her reflection in the mirror. Heo Jung Eun realized she no longer recognized the girl at mirror.
"Crown Princess, your wedding and coronation days have been set. The whole procession that you have been waiting for will be carried out tomorrow. I congratulate you because you will soon be crowned queen." Court Lady Choi bowed to congratulate Jung Eun.
Heo Jung Eun fell silent again after responding to Court Lady Chois congratulations.The girl now prefers to continue reading books. Meanwhile, the palace maids were busy tidying up some of Jung Euns clothing accesories and placing them in her jewelry box. Jung Eun did not budge. She kept her lips shut.
Court Lady Choi did not feel offended because Jung Eun did not respond to her. Instead, Court Lady Choi chose silence and continued to work to pay attention to the young palace maids who were cleaning up Jung Euns jewelry. Court Lady Choi can understand Jung Euns silence as a form of sadness because soon a heavy burden will be borne.
"Your Highness, Madam Min, came to see you."
The sound of the announcement at the door of her room made Jung Eun stop her activities. The girls hand rose to give orders for the palace maids in the room to leave. The palace maids nodded and left.
"Please come in." Jung Eun replied.
Madam Min couldn hide her happiness. A wide smile appeared on the womans face. She was wearing a light green dangui. Madam Min had no idea that her beloved little girl would soon be crowned the Queen of Joseon.
"Your Highness, you look very beautiful in royal attire. You are like a flower that fell from heaven. So gracious and dignified."
Jung Eun smiled faintly at the praise of the mother. But, deep inside, Jung Eun is currently being destroyed. She was in deep sadness. Soon, she will be forced to face a fate she never desired. Jung Eun will spend time alone in this great palace. Without a smile from the mother and without any wise advice from the father,
"Is everything okay at home?" Jung Eun asked in a low and calm voice.
"Thanks to you, our lives are very good right now. You are a very precious gift from heaven. I didn expect that daughter I gave birth to fourteen years ago would have the destiny of a queen. This is an unexpected stroke of luck, Your Highness. I hope the Crown Princess is always in good health and able to carry out her duties as first lady to the best of her ability. Please remember my message, Your Highness."
Jung Eun smiled bitterly. Her heart ached to hear the message her mother gave. Pain quickly spread in Jung Euns heart. Her life will not be the same soon. The palace had taken her life as her mothers favorite little girl. Jung Eun realized that one day she would lose her identity as an innocent little girl. The palace would later turn her into a different person. Jung Eun is sure that one day the throne will change her.
Realizing this, Jung Eun got up from her seat and stepped closer to where her mother sat. Madam Min frowned, seeing Jung Eun step closer. Despite being surprised by her daughters attitude, Madam Min didn say anything. The noblewoman was silent and watched her favorite daughters every move.
Jung Eun sat right in front of her mother. She grabbed her mothers hand. Despite knowing that her mother is very proud to have a daughter who will soon become a Queen, Jung Eun feels sad. If only her mother knew what a heavy fate would await her, Jung Eun wondered, would her mother still surrender herself to the royal family?
"Mother...." Jung Eun called softly.
"Yes, Your Highness. Is there something you want to say?"
Jung Eun smiled and nodded. There was a feeling she wanted to convey to her mother. The fear of the throne she will sit on and the anxiety that her future steps as queen might have an effect on her family. Until she realizes she can no longer be her mothers little girl, who can be spoiled by her mother every day. Her time to be a little girl had run out. Now all she has to look forward to is the long and responsible road ahead of her.
"Mother, I have one request. Can Mother grant my wish?"
Madam Min Jung Euns soft grip returned. The noble lady nodded and smiled. "I will try to fulfill your request. Just tell me, what do you want, Your Highness?"
Jung Eun raised her face to look at her mother. The brown bead stared right at the mothers eyes. Jung Eun hopes that her mother will fulfill the last wish she had.
"Mother, can you just call me Jung Eun for once instead of calling me Your Highness?"
Madam Min was surprised to hear Jung Euns request. The noble ladys little heart felt sad hearing that request. Madam Min wanted to grant Jung Euns request, but she realized can do that. Her daughter was no longer someone who could be called by her birth name. In fact, her daughters status was already higher than her own.
"I can do that, Your Highness. I can do it." Madam Min replied while shaking her head. When Madam Min says no to Jung Eun, a sliver of pain appears on the surface of her heart.
"I beg you, Mother. Just this once. I want to hear Mother call me by my birth name. Thats all I want for, Mother."
Jung Eun tried to persuade her mother to fulfill her request. Jung Euns eyes are now teary. She could no longer hide the tightness in her heart. Jung Eun was very sad because she had to let go of her childhood. Her happy time of receiving caresses from mother is no longer available. All of this is stifling Jung Euns chest.
"I no longer deserve to call you that. You are no longer someone to be called carelessly. By now, you are already a member of the royal family. Your status and mine are already different. Im sorry I couldn fulfill your wishes."