After a month since Crown Prince Yoochun’s death, there were still no solid evidences to be found. I thought that wouldn’t bother me but it has been frustrating me more than it should. I’ve been waiting too long for any news and I do not think it will come anytime soon. Is the Police Bureau poor in doing cases such as this? Wouldn’t they have at least found some kind of evidence by now?
Despite the lacking evidence, what really bothered me the most was that Junsu, Yoochun’s brother, was helping solve this case. Prince Junsu’s specialties were weaponry and battle strategies as expected from a general-prince. So what exactly does he know about mysteries?
Since I am just an ordinary Soron (political official), son-of-a-concubine prince, I have no access in the Police Department. Good thing I have Officer Young-woon’s son, Jonghyun, as my close friend. He was nice enough to allow me to come with him to the police bureau.
As Jonghyun led me to the interrogation yard, he said, “Just to inform you in advance, we have found a few evidences in the crime scene and the King knows about it. Junsu-gun is just keeping it a secret from everyone in the palace since he wants to make sure his suspicions are true.”
“That’s a relief. Have they caught anyone yet?” I asked.
Before Jonghyun could answer, a man who was flailing about from two policemen’s grip was being dragged just a few feet away from us. “What are you going to do to me? I didn’t do anything wrong!” the man shouted constantly. The ragged clothed man suddenly got off from the police men’s grip and ran to me. He threw his hands heavily on my shoulders, startling me and Jonghyun.
With the man clutching my purple hanbok, he pleaded, “Hey you, you’re a noble with a father in the high positions in the government, right? Please help me,” he begged. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”
I didn’t know what to say. His hair was messy, his clothes were close to that of rags, and his breath smelled strongly of alcohol. He’s not the most innocent looking man around. Yet even though that was the case, I could hear the terror in his voice.
“We’re sorry for that sir,” the two officer policemen who I remember their names to be YongHwa and Minho, bowed their heads at me and Jonghyun as an apology for the ruckus, and yanked the man away from me. The man was dragged in the center of the interrogation yard and was tied up on a chair.
“…yep, Junsu caught someone,” Jonghyun replied to my question with his eyes fixed on the man. I guess this investigation was progressing after all.
“Who might he be?” I asked as we entered the interrogation yard.
“Oh, didn’t you recognize? He’s Han Geng, a major trouble maker in the black markets a long time ago from Qing.”
“The one the King released from prison just a few years ago?”
“Yeah, he’s the one.”
Soon, we were approached by Junsu. He glared at me then at Jonghyun. It’s obviously easy to see that he’s not pleased to see me. “What are you doing here?” he said with his arms crossed to his chest.
“Just checking to see how things are going,” I replied as I crossed my arms.
“Well, you don’t need to, kid, so go scram. This is none of your business,” he said with his hands shooing my like a fly.
“None of my business?” I felt an eyebrow rise. “Are you saying I have no right to know what’s going on with the investigation of my brother’s death? And who are you calling kid? You’re just one year older than me,” I snarled and walked past him.
Junsu is another brother I don’t get along with. As much I hated Yoochun, Junsu was much worse. No matter how cruel Yoochun was to me, he was still an upright, smart, and respectable man. He thinks about what he says first, unlike Junsu. Junsu just says whatever comes to his mind and he’s not exactly the smartest man around.
As the interrogation of Han Geng was started, I didn’t expect the King himself to show up. He literally sat in front of Han Geng. Han Geng looked like he’s never been more scared. He was throwing a tantrum just a while ago but the presence of the King just silenced him.
Jonghyun, Junsu, and I watched carefully. This was the first ever suspect going to be interrogated so how will things turn out?
“Han Geng,” Officer Young-woon started. “Two of this kind of weapon was found near the bu-yong pond of Seja Jeoha. Are you familiar with it?” he asked, holding up a rifle with its stock made of fine redwood.
“I-it’s… It’s a rifle,” Han Geng trembled. He was too scared to look up at the Officer’s face.
“Not just any rifle, but a sniper rifle,” Officer Young-woon said while running his fingers through the sniper rifle’s slender body. “I heard weapons like these are extremely rare to find, especially ones made from fine redwood. You were the main source of these weapons in the black markets back in the early reign of King Seojin, correct?”
“Y-yes,” Han Geng stuttered, “but l-look, I didn’t kill—”
“That’s not what I was going to ask you,” Officer Young-woon interrupted. “We all know a man like you who have been tortured and interrogated by the palace multiple times don’t have the guts anymore to do the job yourself. What I want for you to do is tell me who bought it from you. You’re a merchant. Surely you must know your customers, too.”
“I don’t!” Han Geng quickly responded as his hands trembled. He glanced at Junsu for a moment and looked away. I found that quite suspicious but Junsu’s expression didn’t change. It must’ve been nothing. Han Geng continued, “T-the only one who bought a sniper rifle from me was a mysterious man! He was wearing a cloak on him and he never revealed his face! He didn’t even allow me to write the purchase down on my records. I hesitated in giving it to him but he took out a large amount of money…you know, enough to make me live all my life!”
“When was it bought from you?”
“I-I… I don’t remember clearly…”
“Then what about his voice?” Officer Young-woon asked.
“He… he had a deep voice, but not too threatening or anything like that. That’s all I can remember.”
Officer Young-woon rolled his eyes in frustration. Han Geng’s description was obviously not good enough. Large populations of people have deep voices. He can’t possible interrogate every single person with a deep voice right now.
“Fine. We’ll ask you again another time,” Officer Young-woon said.
“You’re letting me off the hook just like that? I can go home now?” Han Geng’s energy lifted.
“No, we’re locking you up,” the King said. “Even if you seem to be innocent in my son’s death, you still sold illegal weapons when I have forbidden you. We are confiscating your items and we will lock you up so nothing like this ever happens again.” Han Geng was then dragged away and imprisoned.
I approached Officer Young-woon and took a closer look at the sniper rifle. The killer was pretty smart to use such a rare weapon. From what I’ve heard, sniper rifles are quite silent. This must’ve been the reason why no gunshots were heard so early in the morning. However, how could this sniper rifle just lie there near the bu-young pond? Doesn’t that mean someone wants it to be found?
Back in my palace, WooHyun, a noble whom I am good friends with, stood up when Jonghyun and Wu entered. We just finished discussing some matters so it was time to say bye for now.
“I’ll keep it in mind, Kibum,” he bowed with a smile.
“Good luck,” I bid him farewell.
Jonghyun then sat in front of me. “Who was that? I don’t think I’ve seen him before.”
“Oh, he’s just a friend I met from my previous travels. He came back from Jeju telling me about the prison systems there.”
“Is he like an official or something?”
“He was,” I chuckled. “Now he’s just settling down. He’s also trying to get some jobs around the area.”
“Maybe I could give him a position in the Bureau.”
“That’d be great. I’m sure he’d be an excellent addition to your team if you let him.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
After a few chats, the topic of Han Geng came up.
“Who’s the closest prince to Han Geng?” Wu asked. “Has anyone been acquainted with him years ago?”
“The only one I remember who was too driven to interrogate him was Junsu. After all, Junsu’s specialty is weaponry. From what I remember, he was desperate to know all of the weapons out there that Han Geng had been secretly selling in the black market.”
“Do you think Junsu could be the one who killed Seja Jeoha?” I asked.
“Possibilities are high with him. He’s a mysterious guy. Do you think so?”
“Hmm… a bit but I guess not if I had to think logically,” I pondered. “It’s too quick to catch him suspicious. He hasn’t done anything unlike him. Since Seja Jeoha is his brother from the same mother, it is understandable that he’d be forcing himself on this case, don’t you think?”
“Moving on then,” Wu said. “Putting Han Geng aside, how about JaeJoong-gun?”
“Yoochun-hyungnim and JaeJoong-hyungnim are very close. It’d be quite shocking if he betrayed him,” I said.
“But he can have an understandable motive,” Jonghyun snapped his fingers. “Isn’t he the previous King’s son? He was supposed to be the crown prince until his father died, making his uncle or your father, Lee Seojin, king. He’s just an adopted prince.”
“Seizing the title that was once supposed to be rightly his? It does make sense,” I said.
“How about Princess SooYeon?” Jonghyun said. “Is she of any suspicion at all?”
“SooYeon?” Wu laughed. “She’s not even in the palace anymore to even care of its affairs. Besides, she’s expecting a son as the royal shamans have proclaimed. I’m her twin and I would know if she’s up to no good or not.”
“Ah… of course,” Jonghyun nodded. “I guess the women really are out of the suspicion lists.”
“Mind considering Wu, too, in the suspicion list?” I said, earning a glare from Wu.
“Isn’t he already innocent or are you catching him on something?” Jonghyun asked. “I mean after all, you guys are really close, aren’t you?”
“Well, we should be open-minded without emotional ties when it comes to this situation, right? I hate to put him there but hey, we need to take our chances.”
“Okay,” Jonghyun nodded.
“How about you?” Wu turned to me. “Shouldn’t you be in the suspicious list too if I’m also there when I’m clearly innocent in this?”
“Do whatever you please,” I snickered. “I mean who knows, maybe there’s a ghost possessing someone’s body. Maybe the royal heirs were never involved at all or maybe they were—just without knowing.”
“Tch, ghosts sounds ridiculous but I’d like to see one just for the hell of it! Hahaha,” Jonghyun laughed. “For all we know, it could’ve been the ghost of Queen Il Hwa’s deceased son!”
“We better watch our mouths,” I grinned. “The ghost might be able to hear us and haunt us in our dreams.”
“Tch, whatever,” Jonghyun stood up and bowed his head. “I’ll be going. I’ll be sending both of you any news if we’ve found something out about Han Geng.”
“Alright. See you, then.”
A few days later, TaeYeon and I took a stroll around the palace. It’s been a while since we found time to spend with each other like this. We wished our youngest brother Jongdae would be here to share this little sibling moments here with us, but he’s a grown man now making a path of his own in Qing. Besides, it’s better for him to stay out of the trouble of the palace right now.
“So, how’s your relationship with Jonghyun?” I asked her with a big smirk on my face knowing she’d blush.
“It’s alright,” TaeYeon shrugged.
“What? Alright? You mean it’s not great enough? Should I give him a beating for that?” I joked.
“You know what I mean, Oppa,” she chuckled. “What do you want from me? Do want me to say every description of him I have in mind ‘cause I can totally…”
“No, don’t,” Key interrupted. “I might find myself falling in love with him too if tell me everything about him.”
“Ew, what?” she scoffed. “You’re so weird.”
“Why, so are you!”
We laughed and let a comfortable silence come upon us. It’s been a while since I saw that smile on her.
Then she said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if mother was still here?”
My mood dropped feeling sadness engulf me. “Jongdae, too,” I added.
“Yeah, Jongdae, too. Why did that rascal leave anyway? We used to be so close.” TaeYeon looked at the sky. “He hasn’t come back in years… he hasn’t even paid his respects for his mother in years…”
I stayed silent. Jongdae left because he knew better than to stay in the palace. Ever since our mother died when he was only sixteen-years old, he started hating the palace. He left with some guy from Qing along with some friends, never coming back ever since. He’s been sending letters to us still, but I don’t even know what he looks like anymore. It’s been five years…
“Kibum-oppa, you’ll never leave, right?” TaeYeon timidly said without looking at me in the eyes. “You’re all I’ve got of mother.”
I gulped down the lump that formed in my throat and closed my eyes in pain. I didn’t know what to tell her, really. If I say what she wanted to hear, I’d be lying… but if I say something else, I might break her heart.
“I’ll try to stay alive for as long as I can,” I managed to sigh, “for you.”
“You won’t die soon, right?” she looked at me. “Recently I’ve been having this bad feeling in the pits of my stomach that the year won’t end right… like I’d be losing everyone…”
“Why would you say that?” I tried to laugh even though I’ve felt that feeling before, too, ever since Seja Jeoha died. “I won’t die and neither will the twins; maybe not even JaeJoong-hyungnim and Junsu-hyungnim. Always remember that I won’t die until I see your first child.”
“My first child?” TaeYeon chuckled finally. “How about your first child?”
“Don’t mind that. I want to see yours first,” I snickered. “Don’t worry too much. I’m working with your fiancé to find out who’s behind Yoochun-hyungnim’s death. And who knows, maybe that upset stomach of yours is a child kicking or something.”
“W-what? I-I’m not pregnant!” TaeYeon stuttered as her face turned red.
“I really am not!” TaeYeon pouted and stopped walking. “In case you’ve forgotten, Jonghyun and I aren’t exactly married yet.”
“Fine, fine, I believe you,” I laughed. Then I gestured her to come closer, “Come along, then. Let’s go to Donghae-hyungnim’s place. I’d like to give my greetings to SooYeon. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. ”
“Aigoo…,” she rolled her eyes and caught up with my pace.
As we passed by the area of the King’s palace, we saw Han Geng being escorted—more like dragged—inside the palace. It has only been a few days yet Han Geng has already been frustrating everybody. He’s not always straight forward with his words and he’s not telling us what we want to hear. So what is he doing in the palace all of a sudden? No, scratch that. Why is he entering the King’s throne room?
“Who’s that?” TaeYeon stopped in her steps.
I wondered for a bit. I could just ignore it and go about my day but half of me wanted to know what was going on.
“You go on ahead, TaeYeon. I’ll catch up to you.”
As I entered the majestic throne room where the sun and moon folding screen resided, there were no one else in the room other than King Seojin, Officer Young-woon and Jonghyun, Prince Junsu, Han Geng, and a pack of 5 class guards. The King sat on his throne with his head lazily resting on his left hand. Han Geng kneeled in the center of the room with his hands tied behind his back. Jonghyun stood a few feet away from Han Geng, and Junsu watched from the right of the room. I marched to Junsu’s position and stood beside him to watch.
“What’s going on?” I asked Junsu.
“Han Geng requested an audience with the King.”
“Why? For what?”
“How should I know? That man is slowly going mad by the day.”
King Seojin fixed his posture though he couldn’t really cover the apathy all over his bored complexion. Seeing Han Geng more than his family for the past few days probably irritated him. He is after all a king who is also trying to be a father.
“What do you want?” King Seojin grumbled.
“I-I… I haven’t been completely honest,” Han Geng trembled. Jonghyun rolled his eyes. “The killer… I know who it is,” he said. I was taken aback by his statement while father and son, Jonghyun and Officer Young-woon’s eyes widened in unison.
“Who?” King Seojin’s curiosity rose.
“It’s… it’s me,” Reed Triston’s head dropped and his whole body shook in fear. “I killed Wang Seja. I… I was drunk and the rifles were newly furbished. I tested it and I didn’t know who I was shooting.”
Chief and I were beyond surprised. This whole statement was false and obviously illogical. In one look, anyone could tell Han Geng was lying. How could a drunken man enter the palace (packed with hundreds of guards) and just shoot a random person which turned out to be the Crown Prince in the bu-yong pond located deep within the palace before sunrise? It’s absurd to believe that he was the one who just got up and killed him. Han Geng’s not thinking straight right now. He’s not the killer with that statement, that’s for sure. Someone must be controlling him and I’m pretty sure it’s someone involved in the investigation close enough to relay his message to him.
Silence fell in the room until the King spoke, “Hang him.”
“M-my apologies…?” Officer Young-woon stuttered.
“Hang him, I said! Drag him away from my sight! I don’t want to see him again!” King Seojin roared. The guards immediately obeyed but Jonghyun just stood there frozen.
“But Father…” His anger clouded his thinking. I had to say something but he interrupted,
“I don’t want to hear any more from this. Han Geng no longer needs to live. Never mention this investigation from me again.” He stood up and left from the throne room. “You,” he pointed to his eunuch while his hands trembled in anger. “Tell them to prepare Yoochun’s funeral as soon as possible.”
Han Geng was dragged away as Officer Young-woon, Jonghyun, and I watched. When out of sight, Junsu sighed from his nose to calm himself from all this trouble and left. Jonghyun also left to tell our siblings the recent news. Meanwhile, Officer Young-woon and I stood there paralyzed. The case just can’t end there. There’s definitely more to Crown Prince Yoochun’s death.
The next day, early in the morning, Han Geng was hanged. I watched him struggle for air to breath under the cloth that covered his face until he was unconscious and dead. He was left hanging just like the rest of this investigation.
No one watched other than the police department, Jonghyun, Junsu, and me. We didn’t want the whole situation to spread throughout Joseon, especially in the palace for now. It might reveal itself a little bit later, but right now we had to lay things low. People’s insights and suspicions could hold us back because of the pressure. We didn’t want that to bother the King who’s already extremely stressed about the whole situation.
As Officer Young-woon sighed in frustration and was about to leave the place where Han Geng’s body still hanged, I stopped him. My hands fell heavy on his shoulder. I had to make sure he was not leaving this case. “Officer, you and I both know things aren’t making sense. Can’t you dig a little deeper?”
“I’d like to for the sake of the royal family, but you heard the King. If I go any further, and if the King finds out, what will become of us? You know your father hates plans behind his back.”
“But I know you,” I said trying to persuade him. “I know you’re going to look into it secretly anyway without the King’s permission. I’ve known you my whole life, Officer. Please let me help you. I can’t leave this mystery unattended.”
“Are you willing to help me?” Officer Young-woon sighed. I nodded. “Then send a message to Jongdae-gun telling him about my son and your sister’s engagement and marriage. Also, tell him to come back to the palace with Lu Han and his team because we might need them. Don’t mention any of this to anyone, especially the King.”
“Lu Han? Then I’ll get right on to it.”