His vision blurred as if a curtain was before him.
Mugeon blinked his eyes slowly.
There was a severe thirst in his throat, but he was too exhausted to utter a sound.
Only the sound of panting came from between the slightly parted lips.
Perhaps, someone heard that.
The door opened with a slow creak.
Mugeon moved his eyes to take a look, and his gaze met with a woman standing in the doorframe.
He had never seen her before.
The woman watched Mugeon, who heaved out a rough breath, and then turned her head.
Overshadowing the sudden and awkward situation, that person only confirmed Mugeon had awoken and then left without saying anything.
Mugeon stared in amazement at the door that had been closed again in the blink of an eye.
What was that? I was just about to ask her for some water…
Mugeon suddenly crumpled his expression.
The pain gradually intensified along with his consciousness.
Swallowing a breath, Mugeon grabbed his body with both arms.
He unwittingly rolled on the floor.
It was a dreadful pain enough to make him want to faint back.
Then, Mugeon saw that his hands and wrists were covered in bandages.
The tips of the fingernails were covered with a thick cloth, and red blood had seeped out from there.
Only then did he remember the memory before he lost consciousness.
He crawled on the ground as he tried to leave Eupju.
The sky and ground shook.
Blinding thunder struck down.
The ikjae he saw at that moment.
A monster with wings that resembled a woman, commanding the evil god.
He thought he could deal with the other ikjaes with his condition, so he was relaxed, but that was a mistake.
He was thrown far away before having a chance to fight back.
After that, he had no other thoughts but to escape.
His bones were smashed to pieces, and he only remembered one thing amidst the pain collapsing his whole body.
Only a strong will to survive kept him moving forward.
Suddenly, the door opened with a rattling sound, and Mugeon saw a pair of black shoes in front of him.
It certainly wasn’t a woman’s feet because they were very broad.
The moment Mugeon flinched at that sight, he heard an unfamiliar voice.
“Is it him?”
For a man, his voice wasn’t very deep.
Also, it was certainly a voice he didn’t know of.
In a low voice, a woman responded to him.
“That’s right, Your Highness.”
…… Your Highness?
Mugeon slowly raised his head as he heard the last words.
And then, his gaze immediately locked with the man, who was coldly staring back at him.
Like Jo Seoyeob, he could tell at a glance that the man had a high status.
However, unlike Jo Seoyeob, he had a more relaxed aura.
Looking at the wide-sleeved red silk that the man wore, Mugeon had a thought.
Am I back at the palace?
The owner of the black shoes suddenly lowered his knee.
He grabbed Mugeon’s face and met his eyes.
The pain that clenched his body put a strain on Mugeon’s forehead.
The man who saw that smiled faintly.
“Are you awake now? I think you wandered between life and death for around three days.”
Listening to that voice, Mugeon grabbed his consciousness, which was as thin as thread, and stared at the man before his eyes.
There was a strange overlap between Jin Ye and him.
His lines were rougher than Jin Ye’s, but looking closely, their features were very similar.
Enough for anyone to infer that they were blood relatives at a glance.
Still, Mugeon didn’t know what to call him.
Yeon Mugeon was originally a bumpkin who lived far from the capital.
He didn’t curious about how the Imperial Palace worked at all, and he didn’t think he had to know.
Those things did not influence his life.
Mugeon wandered around his chaotic mind for a while, and then finally spoke out.
Voice came out rough, scratching the vocal cords.
He spoke in a cracked voice, and when he finally lost his force and slurred the words, the man asked back, “What?”
He continued as the woman who brought him in grinned and added an explanation.
“I think he wants to drink water, Your Highness.”
The man who listened to the explanation seemed flustered for a while and then touched his forehead.
As he let out laughter, he ordered the woman to bring in water.
Moments later, she brought a bowl of water and handed it out, and the man took it.
The woman didn’t expect the man would help him personally, so she reached out to take back the bowl.
“I’ll give him the water.”
The man brought Mugeon, who oozed out sweat with a pallid face as though he was close to death, to his knee and then talked in a subtle voice.
“I’ll have mercy on you since you are unwell.”
Mugeon wondered if everyone from the palace spoke in that manner.
The way he talked was similar, so he kept thinking about Jin Ye.
Drinking the water that slowly flew in through his lips, Mugeon stared blankly at the ceiling.
Unlike the old ceiling of his house, it was clean and high.
The lattice door, where the man called Your Highness and the woman came and departed, was also neat and clean without any signs of yellow discoloration.
Jin Ye’s room that he saw back then was also like this.
He wondered if he could see her once again.
“What are you thinking about?”
The man asked as he saw Mugeon’s eyes turn distant.
Mugeon then completely regained his consciousness.
He pondered for a moment if it was okay for him to talk about his curiosity, but it was a futile effort.
He couldn’t think of how to bring it up.
Even more, because this was a confusing situation.
“Her Majesty the Emperor… Can I see her?”
The man smirked and responded.
“Is that your priority? Are you not curious about me?”
Mugen stupidly replied with an exclamation when he heard the man’s question.
The man introduced himself first, as he thought it was difficult to expect a proper question from him after seeing it.
“I am Prince Hwa.”
Prince…? (TN: Prince for Jin Pyeong didn’t use the normal 황자/왕자, but 친왕.
Used for the emperor’s siblings, differentiating it from the prince—the emperor’s son.)
Prince meant the member of the imperial family.
Someone with the same blood as Jin Ye.
Mugeon saw a possibility.
A chance for him to get inside the palace.
A chance for him to meet Jin Ye if he walked outside.
His heart trembled slightly when faint hope entered his heart.
For a moment, the pain felt like it was fading.
“Then, where are we?”
Still, it was a very faint hope.
Mugeon crumbled down at what Prince Hwa said.
“My private residence.”
Mugeon was disappointed when he heard the answer.
Also, he quickly realized what kind of situation he was in.
“Throw this guy away in Eupju.”
Jin Ye ordered that he be thrown.
Then, Jo Seoyeob threw himself—tied up—in the middle of Eupju.
There was no way that she, the emperor, who would have everything in the palace on her palm, would have simply brought himself back into the palace.
Logically, it was a straightforward inference.
Mugeon remained silent in the face of a cruel reality.
He felt a sharp pain in his chest as if someone had stabbed his heart with a giant needle.
It was difficult to find a place that did not hurt in his body, but the pain in his chest was the strongest.
Why am I like this?
He indeed fell for Jin Ye the moment he saw her, but she was a woman he had met once.
Then why did his heart hurt just thinking about her? Just like a pair that had been together for 10 years.
Was this the meaning of being drawn by fate?
Mugeon asked for the second time with a dispirited voice.
“… Then, this place isn’t the Imperial Palace?”
What came back wasn’t an answer but scolding.
“Do you want to go to the palace looking like that?”
Mugeon took a deep breath.
Breathing caused severe pain in his chest as he was injured severely.
Still, what hurt the most was his wounded heart.
The fact that he was rejected by her.
Even more so, the fact that he couldn’t get closer to her tormented him the most.
Nevertheless, there was only one answer that Yeon Mugeon could give.
“If I can, then of course…”
“You’re lucky if you don’t get beheaded as soon as you return there.”
Prince Hwa’s rebuttal immediately made Mugeon furious.
He was stabbed on the spot, but he was stabbed too deeply.
Mugeon slightly furrowed his brows.
“What kind of relationship do you have with the Emperor for you to say that?”
Then, instead of Prince Hwa, it was the woman behind him that fled into a rage.
She tried to pull down Mugeon, who was still lying on Prince Hwa’s lap without knowing his place.
However, Prince Hwa raised his hand and stopped her just before that.
Then he looked down at Mugeon, who was brazenly staring at him and parted his lips.
“I am the Emperor’s brother.”
Mugeon examined Prince Hwa in more detail.
Ah, that must be why they look similar.
A small alarm rose along with a strange relief.
As Jin Ye’s brother, it was more difficult for him to know why he brought him.
Jin Ye treated the existence named Yeon Mugeon as a nuisance.
Does it make sense that the emperor’s fated person is an ordinary man who has nothing? Objectively, Mugeon also thought that her fate was ironic.
Even so, Mugeon wanted to come closer to her, who rejected him.
Because he knew his place so well, he understood there was nothing he could do alone.
He didn’t know what Prince Hwa’s intentions were, but he was the only string of hope that Mugeon could hold now.
Prince Hwa smiled in satisfaction as he saw Mugeon’s eyes had changed as if his thoughts were exposed.
“I’m glad that you seem to value my expertise.
Then, I’ll ask you again.”
Waiting for his following words, Mugeon opened his eyes wide.
Does he know my name…?
It was challenging for Mugeon to judge whether it was normal for him to know his name, or if that was a sign that this person was dangerous.
“Do you want to go to the Imperial Palace?”
Mugeon wondered whether the person who gave him such a sweet offer was good or bad.
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