There had always been much ambiguity and mystery about the prestigious Oh Family—a long legacy of powerful merchants and politicians, with a history weaved intricately into the tapestry of kings, courts, and power. The family estate, an old manor with red walls and green tiles and golden carvings from the era of the great Joseon Kings. The hallways and rooms were filled with a troubling history, an ugly inheritance passed down from generation to generation, with secrets and lies built between the brick and mortar.
That was how the House always remembers it. And that was how Soojung always remembered it—secrets and lies.
There was nearly a five hundred year history of the ancient Oh Estate, a vast piece of land north of the city of Seoul. Built sometime in the late 1600s, it was the gift of the King to his most prized concubine and their illegitimate children. It was a rather large manor running hundreds of acres of land, all by now supremely valuable. The estate was well looked after by its heirs, maintaining much of the same appearance as it did during its days of glory. There were gardens near the back, with hundreds of different variety of flowers. The insides were rich with great red columns, emerald jade, and sinful paper doors, and hundreds of rooms, each more intricately lovely than the next. It was indeed a place of great beauty and magnificence, a sort of elegance that was unmatched. Legend says that the estate came to embody the King’s beloved concubine when she met a tragic end so early in life.
But of course, there is no beauty without dark secrets—Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Salome, they who were beautiful had only bitter skeletons in their closet. And there weren’t as many stories in the entire history of Korea that could compare to the history of the Oh Estate. Each of its many rooms told a tale, each of its paintings had a memory, and each of its lowly obedient servants had a secret wedged between their teeth.
Tales of the dark history of the Oh Estate had been passed down since the construction of the grounds, carefully traded between the servants, all of them guarded by the head butler, the ever faithful watcher of the household. The servants knew what had happened in each room, in each hallway, the time, the day, and the sinful deed—murders, scandals, affairs, scattered across the floor like shards of glass.
It was, of course, of no surprise that young Soojung would learn of those secrets too.
Soojung was a rather vivacious young girl, barely thirteen at the time. She was a rather pleasant child, willful and bright, a strangely juxtaposing figure of purity and innocence against this estate that was constantly shrouded in ebony robes. She was the niece of the Oh Estate’s head butler, and the daughter of one of the maids. Throughout the majority of her life, Soojung had spent her life working alongside of her uncle and her mother in the Oh Estate, so she grew up with her ears filled to the brim with stories.
But Soojung was just a simple girl, and she had no comprehension for what the grown-up women often gossiped about as they did the daily laundry. But nonetheless, these rather peculiar yarns often found themselves tangled in Soojung’s simple mind.
It was around the time of the former masters of the estate, the late Mr. and Mrs. Oh’s death, that Soojung had heard this particular narrative in the warm laundry house of the old estate.
Young Master Suho had just returned from school to take care of his family’s empire and younger brother Sehun. Soojung remembers eavesdropping on her mother’s gossip for the pure fact that it concerned her dear friend. As she washed the sheets and covers, her ears became infested with the women’s words.
How lovely it was to have Young Master Suho lead the estate than his foolish father and spiteful mother, they said, derision abloom in their voices. The late Mrs. Oh had been a rather painful woman to deal with for all the servants. She treated them as if she walked on water and they were no better than the stone steps outside her room. But this was of no surprise; after all, Mrs. Oh herself had come from a very prominent political family and carried the air of a woman born to sit upon a throne. The maids of the House seemed rather glad that the late Mrs. Oh had died. Then, that was when Soojung remembers hearing something very bizarre, just as she dipped her hand into the dirty water of her basin.
It was terribly queer, said the maid admonishingly, how Madame always seemed to adore the Young Master Suho, yet seem to despise the little one. It was well known that Master Suho had been the more intellectual and gifted son of the two, but the younger brother, Sehun, was a deathly sweet child. The servants all regarded him with some sort of pleasantry—the adorably beautiful child, whose smile seems to make their work so much more bearable. Sehun had always been a lovely little boy—polite, caring, tender, with the most infectious smile.
How could she not love such a sweet boy, how could she hate her own child, the maids had chattered, their voices like the sound of bees in Soojung’s ears.
It was a rather mysterious matter, how biased Mrs. Oh was to her eldest son. Soojung remembers well how the maids speculated that Mrs. Oh wasn’t the natural birth mother of Sehun—maybe darling Sehun’s actually her stepson and she’s nothing but a wretched evil stepmother. But that rather ridiculous theory was thrown out the window—I was there when Sehun was born, one of the older maids of the house spoke rather stiffly, and that boy is most certainly her son. Unfortunately, of course.
It was then, that a rather disturbing allegation had arisen.
The older maid, who had worked in the house since the late Master Oh’s birth, had revealed something quite disturbing she had always found. Mrs. Oh was eminent for being very partial to her eldest son—showering him with affection. But, the maid had said, the kind of affection that Madame used to give to Master Suho wasn’t the type of affection a woman gives to her first born; it was never a look of motherly love that that cunt used to give her son.
It was a look one would give for a lover.
There was booming silence as this piece of information was digested.
Exhibit number two, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.
Then, the rumor began to tower with mud and stone, how they had always seen Madame regard Master Suho in rather inappropriate manner, never hold and touch him like no mother ever should, and her kisses never seemed to be for the corner of the mouth.
Of course, none of these women ever spoke out loud of what they pondered in their minds, but it was well threaded into the conversation. Although Soojung didn’t understand too well what the women were talking about, she was smart enough to understand what they seemed to have understood—there was never an innocent relationship between the late Mrs. Oh and her eldest son.
Madame was always such a wrathful woman, said one maid. She did not need to continue, for all the maids thought the same thing—it wouldn’t be a surprise if she had done such a thing.
But Soojung wondered how this would affect young Sehun and his cold, cold Mother, but that empty thought was quickly trampled by another conjecture from the chattering crows.
Suddenly, a young maid openly gave out an idea—what if Sehun wasn’t the late Master’s son, but another Master—a new Master. A shroud of silence fell over the women as each of them began to twist that bit of hearsay in their hands, and by the time they were done, it had woven something ugly over their minds.
For a long time, what seemed like an eternity, none of them spoke. Soojung remembers that it was a moment of frightening silence. But it was shattered by sound of her uncle coming into the laundry room, telling the women off for talking too much and not working enough.
That matter of gossip was never spoken of again.
Speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.
Of course, Soojung didn’t understand what those words meant at the time. Of course Sehun was Master Oh’s son, and Sehun was definitely an Oh . So how could Sehun be an Oh if he wasn’t Master Oh’s son? Who else could Sehun be the son of?
It was a child’s reasoning—there was no poison lingering in it.
But even without the full understanding of such a matter, Soojung had thought of things much like how she would think if she knew the truth—that Mrs. Oh and Sehun were like Snow White and her evil Stepmother.
And for every fairytale, there had to be a Princely savior. And when Kris came, that’s what Soojung thought he was.
From the moment the silver-haired man had entered into the estate, he created a spur of rumors and other speculations. The House deemed Kris as someone whom didn’t seem appropriate to be the temporary guardian of the old ground, much less be the guardian of the young Sehun. All of the women that worked in the house found Kris to be rather strange, but handsome nonetheless. He was regarded as an enigmatic figure, a man so bizarre and charming, unlike anyone the House had known before. He had a Devil’s tongue, the women would say, he’ll steal your soul.
But Kris was also kind, courteous, and never seemed to trouble anyone, and soon the House found itself wrapped in the force of his personality. He kept the estate in the standard condition that Suho had done. But those were only Kris’ exteriors—because the House knew that Kris was, like all those before him, a man with many secrets and many lies, as many as the House has known through its five hundred centennial.
The House also knows that from the moment Kris Wu took that step beyond the gate, he never had an innocent gaze for the young Sehun.
But the House chose to say nothing of it.
Ne voir aucun mal.
Ne parle aucun mal.
N'entendez aucun mal.
Nous sommes aveugles, sourds et muets.
It was just in the manner of the Oh Estate to keep everything hidden and tucked in place, to keep everything in that picture perfect condition, to keep everything in beauty, to keep everything smothered under the surface of the water.
Which may be why Soojung thought nothing of one particular evening.
It was a Saturday evening, the one night that the servants of the estate had a break from their duties. Normally, Soojung would be free to go into town with her mother or friends from school to visit the cinemas, but she had skipped her laundry duties the day before, and was now forced by her mother to make up for them. She was probably the only one in the house, she had thought, since everything was deathly still, without the normal arias of footsteps and hushed tones. From each of the many rooms, Soojung collected the bedding and pillow sheets for washing. From each room she went, unnoticed by the walls of the House.
The last room she was supposed to collect sheets from was one of the rooms at rear of the estate, where all the rooms were large and grand. This particular room was often used by Kris as his study, to do his readings or to paint, and where he was not be disturbed. Often, Sehun would be in this room as well, to read poetry and watch Kris paint. For Soojung, she didn’t know whether or not that Mr. Wu, as he was known, was in his bedroom, his study, or was he out in the city with Master Sehun, as they had habitually done on Saturday nights for the many months that Kris had been in the house.
So when Soojung came to the hallway of the grand bedrooms, she saw that Kris’ study door was open—and that was odd, for all the doors of all the other rooms were closed. When she approached the door, she didn’t know what to expect. Then, she heard the voice of Sehun, reading what seemed like poetry.
Helios makes his overture beyond the horizon,
and sings of the symphony long lost to the ages.
Tomorrow, we shall forget the finches in the trees,
and the blue bird upon my windowsill.
The storm would have long past the morning dew, and
whatever is left of our past history has been shattered
into bits of ash and mold.
Would you then finally take my hand and lead
me into our garden of roses, for only
with you can I walk the road I did once before.
And Soojung saw an image through the crack of the open door.
Kris leaned back in a loving rosewood rocking chair, with Sehun seated on his lap in nothing but one of his brother’s large dress shirts, bare legs dangly off the side. Soojung had found the position of where Sehun sat to be rather odd—he seemed almost perched, his hips risen, back curved like a bow. The boy had a rather splendid smile on his face as he flipped through the pages of the book of poems, skimming through some of them rather quickly. He read one after another, and one more—his voice singing the words. But Soojung knew that Sehun did not read those poems for himself, but rather for the man holding him in his large hands.
And then, she saw Kris’ foot, pushing against the floor, and the rocking chair creaked as it began to tilt back and forth. Soojung saw Sehun move along with the chair, his breathing suddenly heavy. His lovely hazel orbs closed, and he lowered his hands, gripping the handles of the chair, the book nearly falling to the floor. And Soojung saw, the odd rhythmic movement and sound of the rocking chair swaying back and forth, and the look of adoration in Kris’ eyes as he gazed as the boy before him, his hand clutching at his small hips. Sehun’s cheeks were slightly tinged with pink and his back arched in a crescent, and there was a rather odd expression upon his face that Soojung could not understand. And in the violent silence of House, there came a soft moan of pleasure.
And the rest is rust and stardust.
It would be years later that Soojung would once again remember that day, and the house she had grew up in. It would be years later that Soojung would remember that quiet Saturday evening when she saw something she knew she never should have seen—something forbidden, something so ugly in its beauty. And it would be years later that Soojung would truly understand the magnitude of what she bared witness to and how things may be different if she only opened her mouth.
But the Soojung of the moment was just a little girl, growing up in a House with many secrets and many lies. And so, she thought nothing of what she had seen.
Here we are, this princedom by the sea.
Author's Note: Oh my god, sorry again for the really awful French, because it's been a while. As well as the really horrible poem I jutted into the story. I wrote it on the spure of the moment. I don't really know what I wanted to achieve with this chapter except to create the mood of secrets and lies, which is, I guess, the theme of the story. I hope people get what I was trying to imply here, that Suho got molest by his mother, so basically Sehun is both his brother and his son. Whether or not this is actually true, I'll leave it up to you. This chapter is told kind of being told from two perspectives, that of Soojung and the House itself. There's about two or more parts to go, and they are both super long, but I hope to get at least one done before I go on vaca. Hope you guys enjoyed this!
And as always, comments are epic ♥