17 Autumn Leaves

"THE EMPRESS REQUESTS AN AUDIENCE WITH THE EMPEROR!!"

The man, probably in his late forties, looks up from his scrolls, waving his hand.

"Let her in."

Putting down the scroll, on the table, the Emperor prepares to greet the Empress.

A couple seconds later, the Empress rushes in and runs over into the Emperor's open arms.

"Good Morning, Darling!" The Empress says. "I'm sorry to bother you when you've got so much to do."

The Emperor shakes his head, as he looks into the Empress's dark chocolate eyes.

"It's fine, I was almost done anyway."

The Emperor looks towards the door, to find Miyoung hobbling into the throne room.

"Who's this?"

The Empress claps her hands.

"Please help the poor girl."

The servants rush over and carry, Miyoung over and set her down right before the Emperor and Empress.

Miyoung's legs quiver. She's like a newborn deer, unstable and clumsy.

Bowing, she greets the Emperor, "This commoner Miyoung, greets the Emperor."

"Rise," the Emperor says. He turns to his wife, "Why did you bring her here?"

"This is the injured Hwarang you have been asking to meet," the Empress replies.

The Emperor's eyes narrow.

"You mean to tell me that this woman, was the Hwarang Park Jun, who was injured on the battlefield?"

The Empress nods.

"Why were you dressed as a man?" The Emperor asks his tone harsh.

Miyoung bows her head, "I was having a hard time walking with a woman's hanbok, so I decided to wear men's clothing. I traveled from an area outside the capital, and it's easier for a male to travel alone. I was also looking for a job and a roof over my head, thus I entered the palace and joined the competition. Had I known that I might have been unwelcome, I would've stayed away from the palace."

The Emperor laughs.

" I like you."

"Excuse me?" Miyoung says, hardly believing her ears.

"Empress let her stay here. I think she would be a perfect match for one of our sons."

Miyoung shakes her head.

"Oh, no, no, no, no. Your Majesty, I'm not fit to marry into the royal family."

The Empress nods.

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"I agree. I think she would be a perfect match."

Miyoung sighs.

"Is there any other reason why've you've kept me here?"

The Emperor nods, the tassels on his crown swaying.

"I'm sure that you're aware that there's a killer amongst the palace servants."

Miyoung nods, her expression grave.

"I want you," the Emperor continues,"To find the culprit."

Falling down onto a knee, Miyoung puts a fist over her heart.

"This commoner is at your service. I will do as the Emperor commands."

The Emperor smiles.

"Future daughter-in-law, what is your real name?"

"Jeon Miyoung."

The Emperor is silent for a moment.

"You're the daughter of the deceased General Jeon, right?"

"Yes," Miyoung whispers, her voice barely audible.

The Empress's eye furrow, her beautiful face becoming serious.

"Wasn't the whole Jeon family killed because of a deranged servant?"

"No," Miyoung says, her tone harsh. "They were killed because of Choi Goowon."

"The Prime Minister?" The Empress says, her voice rising to a trill.

The Emperor's face pales, "Impossible! Do you have any proof?"

"Yes," Miyoung says as she pulls a hairpin out of her hair.

She places the hairpin in the outstretched hand of the Emperor.

The hairpin, made of the finest white jade, is carved with an intricate design. The design consists of a spiral that warps into a sharp, pointed end.

The Empress gasps, putting a hand to her mouth.

"Isn't this the Prime Minister's hairpin?"

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