For Love, For Country
Sadness (“Faith” OST)
Young has just heard that twenty-four of his Woodalchi died- fighting to protect their king…fighting and dying in his stead. He sits alone in the dark silence of his room as the smell of incense fills the air. He doesn’t cry in mourning for his men. No, he can’t cry. He thinks to himself, “I do not deserve to cry.”
Gongmin comes in with heavy footsteps and asks, “What have you been doing here?” Young can only reply, “I’ve just been sitting.” He knows how guilty Gongmin feels and he can’t add to that guilt. He can see it in Gongmin’s eyes and his heart wells with pride at the king he chose to serve- a king capable of empathy. But the same heart is burdened by his own shame; for the death of his men was not the king’s fault but his.
Young can’t allow Gongmin to suffer in guilt any longer. He says, “It was my fault. I wasn’t where I supposed to be.”
Gongmin swallows hard as his heart breaks for his most trusted servant and friend. He knows how much he has asked of Young- asking Young to give up his peace to protect him, fight for him, and even die for him.
Young turns to face his king who sits with heavy shoulders. “You asked me once- what is the order.” Gongmin replies without looking at him, afraid of the answer, “Yes, I did.”
Young states in an unfaltering voice. “That person was always first.” In response, Gongmin’s face hardens with hurt and disappointment.
Young continues with words that he knows is cutting through Gongmin’s heart but he cannot hold back the truth. What has transpired over the past few days has undeniably proven to him where his heart lies and to keep back that truth in the face of the death of his beloved men and the guilt of his king would be wrong. “I am unsure of my loyalty to Goryeo, Your Majesty. It’s dangerous to have someone who has started to think such thoughts by your side.”
“That person was always first.”- Oh, how this phrase has haunted me all week.
My heart wept for Gongmin as he quickly left Young’s room in denial after hearing the answer to the question he had asked him in his most vulnerable moment. He had confessed to Young how tempted he was to just hand over Eun-soo to Ki Chul so that all the battles can end. He had fought so hard to be different from the kings that preceded him but Deok Heung’s simple comment on how Gongmin was copying Deok Heung’s father brought back his fears and doubts. He had asked Young if he chose him because of Eun-soo and Young had replied, “Is the order important?” He knew Young chose him because Young trusted him to keep his promise to protect Eun-soo and he knew that Young would leave him if he didn’t honor his word. He already knew Young’s answer somewhere deep in his heart but to hear it out loud and with such finality, it must have shaken Gongmin very deeply.
Forever (“Carry On” Piano Version)
“That person was always first.”- This phrase marks the end of the journey of Young’s heart. Young protected Eun-soo initially out of duty. He swore an oath to send her back to her world and he needed her safe and alive to fulfill that oath. In order to do that, he remained with Gongmin to help him grow stronger and fight Ki Chul. In the process of fighting off the threats to Eun-soo, he came to understand and love Gongmin and he chose to serve him for his own merits. At the same time, however, Young began to love Eun-soo and his mission to send her back transformed from an oath of words and honor (i.e his life) to an oath of his heart.
“That person was always first.”- Why did I ever doubt it? Even in the beginning when Young didn’t love Eun-soo, he ran to find her instead of staying at the inn to guard Gongmin and Noguk at the Yuan border. After Eun-soo saved his life, he ran to Ki Chul’s house to rescue her when Gongmin allowed Ki Chul to take Eun-soo. After Gongmin asked Young in prison to teach him how to fight against Ki Chul, the first thing Young wanted to know was if Eun-soo was safe. He needed to know she was before he could fully become Gongmin’s person. He let Eun-soo go even when he knew she would be useful to Gongmin in gathering the scholars. He was ready to die to protect the scholars so Eun-soo could be free to leave. He even stole the royal seal and gave it to Deok Heung- the person trying to take Gongmin’s throne- so he can get the antidote for her. Eun-soo was always first for Young. Always.
“That person was always first.”- This phrase marks the end of the journey of Young’s heart. I describe it as the the end because Young has been lucky so far that protecting Eun-soo meant he needed to help Gongmin become a better king. Young fought desperately throughout the whole drama to save both Gongmin and Eun-soo, his heart divided by loyalty to his country and his love for a woman. My heart weeps for how hard this must have been on Young; how much he must have doubted himself and trembled when he walked away from Deok Heung to go to the palace or sat in prison while his men fought to protect their king. Young’s answer to Gongmin reveals to me that now, Young’s heart is one. Young will choose Eun-soo no matter what, even when there is no other way to save Gongmin too.
“That person was always first.”- How powerful is that statement? Young says this to his king and friend without any hesitation and with a certainty that cuts the air with its significance. Young is a warrior who has just told his king that he puts love before loyalty to his country. It disavows everything that Young has sworn and lived his whole life for.
But Young…our dear Young. Even if he said that Eun-soo was and always will be first, I know that he would give up his own life before he let Gongmin fall in danger. That’s why he asked Gongmin to let him go because he doesn’t want to have to make the decision again to save either Eun-soo or Gongmin. He learned a hard lesson through the death of his men and that guilt will always tinge whatever decision he makes. That guilt will make it harder and harder for Young to put Eun-soo above country. He asked Gongmin to let him go so he doesn’t have to make that choice but Gongmin doesn’t let Young go, not allowing him to give up being a warrior.
Yet, I think Gongmin will let Young go soon. Noguk, our wonderful Noguk, showed him what it means to follow the heart, that home is where the heart is. When Young asked Gongmin to give up the royal seal so he can save Eun-soo, Gongmin couldn’t believe that Young would ask him such a thing for a mere woman. So Young asked Gongmin, “Don’t know you know why we need a king?” Yes, I think Gongmin knows why now- to allow his citizens to love and live in peace so that they can build a home around where their heart lies.
Will Young have to face that question again- for love or for country? What will his answer be? Perhaps it will be:
“Eun-soo is my love and my country.”