155 A Good Match Pt.3

    Just as Namjoon was about to enquire what Mr Feng meant by that, the sound of hurried footsteps suddenly interrupted them.

    "I'm sorry to disturb, but we've run out of cinnamon bark and liquorice root, Master Namjoon."

    Namjoon was surprised to find Gyuri within earshot. He stumbled, "Have you- have you checked the medicinal box?"

    Gyuri nodded. "It's not just those two. We're also running low on a lot of the other medicinal herbs."

    As the pair discussed the state of the sanatorium's supplies, Mr Feng quietly observed them from the side. It was clear to him, despite his poor eyesight, that the pair were as harmonious as tea leaves and water. Yet, why have they not realised this? He cleared his throat. "I do not believe we have been properly introduced," he addressed Gyuri before quirking an eyebrow at Namjoon.

    Taking the hint, Namjoon proceeded with acquainting the pair.

    "Gyuri, may I ask, how many summers have you lived?"

    Noticing Mr Feng's squint, Gyuri stepped forward. "I am fifteen summers..." Her brows knitted together. "Or maybe sixteen?" With no familiar calendar to go by, Gyuri couldn't tell if her birthday had already passed.

    Mr Feng let out a sound of acknowledgement. "You are older than my granddaughter. She will be of marriageable age this year."

    "Marriageable age, huh?"

    "Yes. If all goes well, she will have many offers for her hand. After all," Mr Feng boasted, "she is a rare beauty. So much so that I am confident even the emperor would fall for her."

    "Speaking of which," Namjoon chimed in, making Mr Feng pout, "I hear there will be a royal wedding soon."

    "A wedding?" Gyuri repeated. "Whose?"

    "The emperor's," both Namjoon and Mr Feng answered. The pair exchanged impressed looks.

    Namjoon continued, "It was announced that His Majesty will be wed to a princess of a foreign kingdom. I hear negotiations for an alliance have been going on since the time of his coronation."

    Gyuri cast her memory back to Minseok and the princess' wedding. If she recalled correctly, the coronation happened on the same day. "But it's so soon!"

    "It is actually quite late," Mr Feng cut in. The pair turned to the elder as he explained, "Previous emperors normally marry when they are still princes. When His Majesty acceded the throne, many, including myself, thought he would take in a bride almost immediately as dictated by custom." The elder shook his head as he tutted, "The fact that he has not addressed this until now is most unusual."

    "Oh, if that's the case then I wonder why he took so long."

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    "I suspect it is because of the negotiations," Namjoon suggested. "Being a bachelor, His Majesty is the most sought-after marriage candidate in Asia. It must have been a challenge deciding on an appropriate match."

    Gyuri's eyes wandered to the ceiling as she imagined what the emperor's bride might look like. She must be smart, rich and gorgeous to be chosen out of all the other candidates, she mused. "The future empress is lucky."

    Namjoon noticed the wistfulness etched on Gyuri's features as she spoke.

    "Indeed," Mr Feng concurred with zeal. "And if we are fortunate, there will be a selection soon after. My granddaughter would make an excellent candidate!"

    Gyuri turned to Namjoon just as Mr Feng began to ramble. "What's a selection?"

    "It is when His Majesty chooses eligible women of the kingdom to join his harem," Namjoon said matter-of-factly.

    Gyuri blinked. Oh.

    "Every family must offer a candidate," he added, "regardless of social class."

    "I see." Gyuri's voice was small. So, the selection is for choosing concubines. She shuddered. Like everything else in Saim, Gyuri realised that life as a concubine would not be as romantic as how K-dramas portray them to be. I guess I got lucky when I woke up as a peasant.

    "I wager that if the emperor saw my granddaughter, she would be chosen immediately," Gyuri heard Mr Feng boast.

    Namjoon turned to the elder and politely agreed. "However, that is only if there is a selection."

    Mr Feng's smile fell in an instant. "What do you mean?"

    "Why, His Majesty may follow in the late emperor's footsteps," Namjoon answered. "He may not have a selection at all."

    While Mr Feng and Namjoon debated on the likeliness of a selection occurring, Gyuri pondered over how marriages worked in Saim. It's still common to practise polygamy, she thought as she considered how the Kim brothers were only related through their father. Since they are part of the nobility, it won't be unusual for them to have many wives in the future... As Gyuri followed this train of thought, her eyes settled on Namjoon.

    Would he take on multiple wives too?

    Both Mr Feng and Namjoon turned to Gyuri, their mouths agape.

    Damn, did I just say that out loud?

    "Well, Physician Kim must find one first before he can take on others," Mr Feng quipped, much to Gyuri's mortification. The elder teased further, "Might you know of a good match?"

    Before Gyuri could say anything, the sound of crashing wood echoed around the sanatorium causing everyone to jolt. Gyuri looked at the entrance immediately.

    "Sorry," a familiar, bronze-skinned man uttered as he straightened his back. Gyuri's eyes widened as she took in his vibrant turquoise robes that surrounded the green imperial crest of flowers. "This stuff's heavy."


    Namjoon watched as Gyuri ran up to the imperial guard, her face glowing with glee.

    His hand balled into a fist as the unthinkable slithered into his mind again. Could he be the person Gyuri was searching for?

    "Pretty lady!" Zeren nervously spoke. "I- I didn't expect to see you here."

    "What's all this?" Gyuri asked before searching behind the imperial guard. "Where's-?"

    "They're gifts!" Zeren exclaimed.

    Gyuri watched as he crouched down and gestured to the array of parcels, coloured vials and bottles, briefly distracting her from what she was about to say.

    "They're gifts from His Majesty. He wished to thank the physician responsible for providing his esteemed guests, the Waekugin, hospitality when they first arrived."

    Gyuri reached into the crate and pulled out one of the bottles. "These are acupuncture needles." She reached for another. "And this is liquorice root. Master Namjoon, come and see!"

    "His Majesty is very generous," Namjoon murmured as he inspected the bottle Gyuri had given him. From one glance at the crate alone, Namjoon could tell the medicines were of the finest quality. "This is more than I deserve. I cannot possibly accept all of this-"

    "His Majesty insists," Zeren replied firmly.

    A glimmer of recollection sparked through Namjoon's memory at Zeren's firm tone. Was he not the guard that aimed a sword at my neck some time ago?

    Sensing that Namjoon's demeanour had changed, Zeren tactfully spoke, "It is his way of thanking you for your hospitality," he peered at Gyuri before meeting Namjoon's eyes as if communicating a hidden message, "and for also taking care of his people."

    Zeren broke away from their stare, leaving Namjoon puzzled by his cryptic message. Before he could ask him to elaborate, the imperial guard had already joined Gyuri, who was crouched down taking inventory.

    He spoke softly so that only Gyuri could hear, "We need to talk."

    Gyuri gaped at Zeren's unreadable expression.

    "It's about Chim," he murmured solemnly. "There's something you need to know."
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