Chapter 24
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Chapter Twenty-Four

The Meeting

Amid the quiet table, Ong Sungjoon broke the silence. Knowing that the Emperor would at least hear him, not because they have a close relationship but because he is aware that the Emperor look after his people and truly care for them despite his cold facial expression, he opened up the topic about the town with both agitation and confidence.

Han Wangchul, however, did not let him speak more. He instead declared in a pressing tone, "Let us delay the discussion of the town's problem and move it for the next morning. We had just arrived from a long and tiresome journey, we would instead like to take the rest of the day as a time to breathe for air for the sake of my party."

Albeit the seriousness of his tone, it was not an order given by an Emperor. It was more likely from a young fellow who is talking to his father, convincing him to put it into consideration.

Hearing this, Ong Sungjoon smiled and accepted the Emperor's suggestion without protesting. The latter know Han Wangchul like the back of his hand. 

For the sake of his party? Aya! More like, he wanted to spend time with her Majesty before handling this matter! What a great husband!

Smiling, Ong Sungjoon raised his hands and spoke, "I offer the Majesties the pride of Gokhor Town, our very own rice wine." 

As he praised their product, the head maid poured both of them a cup of finely brewed rice wine.

Seeing the beverage presented, Haneul's eyes twinkled in excitement. It was a long time ago when she last tasted some delicious rice wine. What a piece of luck to have a toast of this delightful quencher. Wangchul, on the other hand, slightly arched his lips as if he remembered something with the wine.

Both of them reached the cup of wine and drank it without any hesitation.

Ong Sungjoon chuckled lowly with the sight of the two. "Your majesty, do you still remember the time when you were little? You drank a whole jar of rice wine at the thought of it was water." 

Hearing this, both Haneul and Wangchul spat out their mouthful of rice wine. 

Wangchul being embarrassed, and Haneul remembering the same memory. It happened one night when she was young. She woke up at the feeling of her dry throat, hence she decided to go downstairs to have something to quench her thirst. When she saw a water container inside a refrigerator, she shook it to see if it's not empty. After confirming, she immediately drank it and it was too late when she realized that it was Soju placed in a water container instead of water.

Mom should have labeled it with Soju! To be able to taste Soju at such a young age, of course, I bragged about it!

That was a truly memorable experience for Haneul and an embarrassing childhood memory for Wangchul. Did Ong Sungjoon honestly need to speak of it as if it was a funny memory?

He coughed lightly a few times before Haneul picked up two table napkins, one she handed to him and the other one was for her. 

She elegantly wiped the corner of her lips and commented, "Wangchul-ah, just how silly you were back then?" Haneul looked at him, giggling softly.

Seeing this, Wangchul did not mind that the aged man opened up that topic on the dinner table. If it made Haneul laugh, then why would he fret?

They ended their banquet with satisfaction. Albeit the rice wine was luscious, they did not let the temptation to rule over them and managed to stop after two or three cups. 

As a result, the next morning they woke, they did not have any side effects such as a hangover. 

After preparing at their shared chamber, both of them, together with the maidservants, huddled towards the meeting hall to furthermore discuss the town's problem.

Wangchul would not want to waste the opportunity to converse with Haneul on the way.

Hence, he started with a question. 

"Say Han-i, did you fancy the rice wine last night?" he randomly asked. 

Haneul nodded. "Yes, why do you ask?"

Wangchul was taken aback. It was like Haneul does not wish to converse with him with that kind of response. 

He replied confidently, however, "If you fancy the rice wine then, I shall learn to make them for you so that you could drink it anytime at home."

Haneul was surprised hearing that he would learn something. She was more like expecting him to confidently say 'I shall make one for you.' even though he, in actual fact, does not bother touching kitchen utensils at the palace. Wangchul would just claim with the utmost confidence that he would be making this and that for Haneul, only to make his image outstanding.

She looked at Wangchul and her lips stretched into a faint smile. She doesn't want to disappoint the Emperor, if it's the only way to repent for her lies, then she must bear with it!

"I would appreciate that very much, Wangchul-ah."

Hearing this, Wangchul can't help but smile from ear to ear. Just the thought that Haneul would love to drink his rice wine is enough for him to finish their business in the town and go back home immediately.

When they arrived at their destination, only the two of them stepped inside while the maidservants waited outside; their heads looking at the ground. Haneul silently looked around. Inside the meeting hall were the two representatives, Haneul, Wangchul, and Ong Sungjoon.

At the entrance of the two, everyone bowed and greeted in unison, "Blessing and Glory upon the Sun and Moon of the Han Empire."

 "Let us officially start this meeting." Wangchul declared.

Hearing this, Ong Sungjoon looked at Wangchul and smiled. "I thank everyone especially the Emperor and the Empress for coming into our humble town."

Everyone, except the Emperor and the Governor, were silently encompassing a wooden table. 

Wangchul schooled his expression and inquired with a staid tone, "Governor Ong Sungjoon, you stated in the help of your envoy that there was something important you wanted my help. It is about the monsters causing havoc, am I correct?"

Looking pallid and restless, Ong Sungjoon nodded with a weak smile. 

Ong Sungjoon answered with a small yet clear voice: "That is correct, your Majesty. The whole thing happened two weeks earlier. A noble lady happened to passed by the Gokhor Forest on a quiet night together with her swain."

Everyone remained silent, attentively heeding to the old Governor's story. 

Ong Sungjoon continued, "The young fellow reported that a monster dragged the noble lady away from him and shortly vanished into thin air. The next night, the same thing happened to two nobles. I pray his Majesty would look into this matter."

Wangchul pondered for a bit. "I will. However, it would not be simple, for I do not know what type of monster is attacking the town."

Hearing this, Haneul can't help but lightly scowl, "You've been into the demon realm and seen much. Therefore, you must have met a bunch of monsters, have you not?"

Wangchul immediately whipped his head to look at Haneul with a baffled expression. How did she know when it was a long time ago when that happened? Also, he doesn't talk about it that much it's questionable enough to learn that Haneul is also aware of this fact. 

Haneul immediately pursed her lips as if she said something unnecessary while the rest of the people inside the hall praised in amusement.

Wangchul cleared his throat and placed both of his hands behind before he replied, "I've met some. We will be checking the forest to see if they leave hints behind. Moreover, the thing about the demon realm. Han-i, I can't seem to recall a certain memory that I shared that certain adventure of mine with you."

Wangchul stared at her intently, making her shift her gaze to somewhere else. She chuckled nervously, "That... Haha. Would you be mad if I tell you I heard it from rumors? I never thought that was true."

And yet another white lie, ladies and gentlemen.

That is the sole reason she wouldn't want to participate in the meeting. She can't help but utter nonsense, like a girl who just finished a book and would want to spoil her friend who was still at chapter one. 

Haneul seems to be fortunate with Wangchul as he bought his excuse and lie again. In addition to that, the two representatives seem to know this rumor that they spoke up.

"Ah! I remember that rumor spreading years ago, your Majesty!" Kim Daehan verified.

"I, too, remembered that. Oho, to recall such dead rumor about the Emperor, her Majesty is truly an attentive and impressive Queen Mother and Wife!" Jeon Junsoo added merrily.

The inquisitive thoughts of Wangchul vanished when he heard the two representatives. It appears that Haneul only knew about it because of those baseless rumors scampering around. 

He secretly snickered. "Let us leave and scout the Gokhor Forest."

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